On Conscious Business

unnamedIn college, Arthur Egendorf stumbled into economics.  The summer after freshman year Arthur had no job option other than selling encyclopedias door to door.  Each day he’d be dropped off in a residential neighbor by a manager who drove a car full of college students “out to the field.”

Before and after hours knocking on doors, Arthur would hear the others discussing “ec.”  Arthur didn’t know what they were talking about.  But while it seemed important for “making it,” Arthur could tell it wasn’t anything he would study on his own.  The solution: choose it as a major.  In doing that, Arthur Egendorf would be forced into it.

Inspiration didn’t come right away.  Sophomore and junior years Arthur Egendorf just plodded through. Then he heard a professor give a talk on his research funded by the Ford foundation.  He was studying multi-national corporations, a new term for him then as it was for most people in the early to mid-1960’s.

Arthur’s professor excited him by saying that corporations of the 20th century were achieving a feat only the utopians had imagined. They were doing something he called “confusing national identity.”

On the eve of World War II, he recalled as one example, the chief executives of the major subsidiaries of IT&T (International Telephone & Telegraph) – from the U.S., France, Germany, England, Italy, Spain, Russia, Japan, China – met with the purpose of exchanging powers of attorney.  They knew war was coming.  So they wanted to make sure that no matter which country won the war  IT&T would remain intact.

That was a “wow!”  Yes, Arthur Egendorf was a dreamer and found “one world” ideas appealing.  But without exactly saying as much to himself back then, “confusing national identity” had a personal appeal as well.

From early in life Arthur Egendorf felt as if he wouldn’t fit anywhere in the world exactly.  He’d sort of need to be able to go and be anywhere, maybe everywhere.  Not that he had figured out how that could work.  But here was that idea in some kind of form – an economic entity that was making being at home all over the world more of a reality than he had ever considered.

A few years later Arthur found himself in the bowels of U.S. Army espionage, in Vietnam and Washington, D.C.  Among the many unsettling discoveries he was especially disillusioned to learn that the very corporations that were “confusing national identity” also complied with U.S. intelligence in ways that would horrify the public if word got out.

After the war, Arthur Egendorf testified to just such doings in a Congressional hearing occasioned by the march on Washington by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in March, 1971. Now, decades later, life, world and business remains a mixed bag.  But part of the mix is that the idea of “doing well by doing good” remains alive and well.

Athur has since learned that this idea has ancient roots – in both the Hebrew Bible and Buddhist teaching on “right livelihood.” And many in  the generation emerging into adulthood, peers of his children, openly dream of earning their living by doing worthwhile work.

After spending decades as a solo professional, Arthur Egendorf recently has sought help in retooling to launch an effort he hopes will do well by doing good – carrying a message and set of teachings that have come as the culmination of a lifetime of seeking ways to foster world healing.

Here on this site Arthur Egendorf wants to acknowledge the people and their businesses who have gone before, are now leading the way, and have provided inspiration and aid to me and many others with similar aspirations.