MANN TALK: Profiting From Human Weaknesses

by Perry Mann
Perry Mann
Perry Mann

Cleve Benedict, a former Republican Congressman, is a resident of Greenbrier Co. where a referendum on casino gambling at The Greenbrier is scheduled in the fall. He is opposed to it on the ground that it is unconstitutional and that it gives advantage to one hotel over others. Further, he is opposed to it on moral grounds. He believes that a standard of behavior of a society “is a system of governance that does not encourage government, business or individuals to profit from human weakness.” And he opines also: “Whether a society’s moral code is based on humanism or religion, I believe that each shares the view that we should not deliberately put individuals in harm’s way or take advantage of a frailty.”

Both quotes brought my reading to a screeching halt, my eyes to take a second look and my mind to registered the thought that surely this man of the world could not have lived so long and still believe that the standard of the system under which he lives does not encourage anybody to exploit another for profit or that each shares the view that one should not put another in harm’s way or take advantage of the frailties of others. How could it be that he thinks so when from every media, daily and nightly with no relief on weekends and holidays, no relief ever, come “messages” from state entities, church organizations and corporate hirelings designed directly and explicitly to exploit for profit and to take advantage of frailties.

It is not far from the truth to assert that the whole thrust of this society’s economic and political endeavors and enterprises is to pander and cater to the weaknesses of others for profit and advantage and to seduce and entice the naive into the snare of debt for superfluities and vanities.

For generations the state has subsidized tobacco farmers and still does, and tobacco farmers sell tobacco to companies who have for generations used every cunning device, every bit of the knowledge of the weaknesses of human beings, to sell to them for profit an addictive product that even the companies now admit is lethal if used long enough. Moreover, the state taxes cigarettes, cigars and snuff and uses the revenue just as if it were taxes on milk or apple pies.

The state sends the message to youth that a few of the good ones are needed; and its message has swords flashings, heels clicking, hands saluting, flags flying and all other manner of means in it to appeal to the weaknesses of machoism and tribalism in order to get men to train to kill and to put whole nations in harm’s way, if it comes to it. For what, does Mr. Benedict think, this country spends a quarter of a trillion dollars or more annually on the military but to put millions of people of foreign lands in harm’s way, if this nation’s decides its national interests are at stake?

The church would be a shadow of itself if it did not play upon the weakness and fears of man when confronted with his mortality. Instead of the church preaching to man that the kingdom of God is within him and that salvation is living in accordance with the teachings of God’s Son, it holds itself out as a God-appointed intermediary through which one can have eternal life simply by believing and observing certain rituals and by supporting a hierarchy of ecclesiastical bureaucrats.

TV evangelists strut upon a stage before thousands in a sweat and fever of religiosity preaching nonsense to the gullible; and before a mass of mankind in Jesus’ name they lay hands on the halt and lame, the crippled and cancerous, and proclaim cures on the spot. And the widows watching dig out their mites and send them in to the addresses listed below this contemptible and comical spectacle.

This government’s constitution supports capitalism, laissez-faire enterprise, and free markets. But it has learned that it is a form of suicide to allow capitalism to have its head with no bridle at all -- to wit: 1929 -- so there are regulations. But even with regulations one can see daily everywhere outrageous incidents of entrepreneurs making profit from human weaknesses , deliberately putting others in harm’s way and taking advantage of frailties with astonishing impudence and hype.

Fast food merchants peddle gross quantities of fat, sugar and salt in no end of enticing variations, a steady diet of which can cause no end of diseases. The result is a nation of diners that are grossly overweight and beset with all kinds of ailments caused by the ingestion of the junk, thus giving rise to a medical system that with marvelous ingenuity treats and remedies them for big bucks and to a pharmaceutical industry that designs for profit a cornucopia of costly drugs and pills to relieve the pains and enhance the pleasures of the obese and other victims of gluttony. And traders on the misery of the obese dress up quacks in white coats and publish advertisements in which the doctor states seriously that the overweight can lose 30 pounds in thirty days and eat all they want, if they just remit $19.95 plus H/L for a package of magic pills, omitting therefrom that the side effects might be much worse than a bulging waistline.

One can name every cardinal sin and find some entity someway appealing to it for profit or advantage. Hollywood without sex would be as impotent as the church without a hereafter. And Madison Ave. without the use of sex to sell would be a ghost street. One cannot look or listen for a minute without having his or her weakness for sex exploited. Every ad, every movie, every TV segment, every song exploits the appeal of sex; that is, the creators cater to lust for profit.

Capitalists justify their profits wrung from the labor of the workers on the ground that they take a risk with their capital; that is, they gamble with their money. Capitalism is a gamble and that is why capitalists are always looking for ways to reduce the risks and still have the profits. Insider trading and monopolies they love. But it is all a gamble. The stock exchange is a gamble; venture capital is a gamble; the corner grocery store is a gamble; the state lottery is a gamble. In fact, most of life is a gamble.


And Mr. Benedict is in a moral anguish over the prospect of a gambling casino at The Greenbrier because he thinks that no entity, either public or private, should profit from the weakness or frailties of others. As the hip say, Gimme a break!


Editor's Note: This is a repeat Perry Mann column. The referendum passed. Link to The Greenbrier:


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Perry Mann is a former teacher, a lawyer, a former prosecuting attorney of Summers County and a columnist for Huntington News Network. He lives in Hinton, WV. He was born in Charleston, WV in 1921. For David M. Kinchen's review of "Mann & Nature," a collection of Perry Mann essays, click:

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