Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Corporation Is a Psychopath

Okay, I'm a little unsteady on my feet this a.m., since every drop of blood in my system reached a boiling point last light while watching the documentary "The Corporation."

I know this movie's been out for going on two years, but I'm just catching up here in the documentary-deprived hinterlands, but thanks (natch!) to a corporation (Netflix), we've been able on occasion to see something beyond the CGI du jour.

You need to see this movie, especially at a time when corporation $$ have completely corrupted (or very nearly) our democracy, from top to bottom. To deal with the threat, it's necessary to know the anatomy of the beast, and "The Corporation" does anatomy very entertainingly.

Out of 450 hours of raw film footage (including some of the most amazing archival items you'll ever see in captivity), 70 interviews with CEOs and other experts, and 800 pages of transcripts, the filmmakers have put together a two-hour primer on "market fundamentalism," which it turns out is pretty much like Muslim fundamentalism and any other kind of fundamentalism: it's psychopathic in its single-minded pursuit of its goal, which in the case of corporations is ... well, you know! It jingles in your pocket and in mine.

Psychopathic? This film convincingly shows that whereas American law (now well established by precedent) views corporations legally as "persons," with all the rights thereunto appertaining, and whereas corporations have a well documented inability to feel empathy, remorse, guilt, or common human sympathy and lack all moral obligations to obey the law or social conventions (Enron, anyone?), they fit the textbook definition of "psychopath," a person that only acts in his own self-interest.

"Cost/benefit analysis"? It's a psychopath's game! Let's see, FIXING the automobile's tendency to explode in a fireball when tapped on its rear bumper is actually more expensive than paying damages to families who lose members to such explosions.

The term that corporations (and the economists who serve them) have developed for such problems are "externalities," that is, the costs and burdens of doing business that can successfully be off-loaded onto the rest of society or government. Polluted water is an "externality," starving workers are an "externality," maimed animals in factory farms are "externalities." The list gets quickly exhausting for its inherent callousness. But what do you expect from psychopaths?

As the legal device of the corporation is a means of relieving its owners from responsibility, the people in a (so-called) democracy must find the courage to take back control. There's hope. The film ends on examples to taking back control, and the writer Joel Bakan says in an interview that "dominant orders" (the omnipotence of corporations right now in our lives and our government) are most vulnerable when they seem most powerful because they forget to "legitimate themselves to the people," they become arrogant and rigid, and they CAN BE DEFEATED.

There's much more to be said. Go to "The Corporation" website for more information on what I consider a life-altering insight into the forces that manipulate us.

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