Monday, July 24, 2006

The Corporation

"Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing rate."
-Victor Lebow, Journal of Retailing, 1955

"The largest one hundred corporations have incomes greater than half the member countries of the U.N."
-Betsy Taylor, Center for a New American Dream.

I grew up like many middle class Americans. If someone was at home, the television was turned on. The constant hum of the tv was part of what I knew - and grew accustomed to hearing. The songs of certain commercials the colors and images of ads infiltrated my childhood. I think I knew who Ronald McDonald was before I recognized almost anyone else.

Every Friday night is "Pizza Night" which means that we eat homemade pizza and watch a movie. Often there will be a kid friendly movie and sometimes a movie only for those over 13. The other night we watched a documentary entitled "The Corporation." Wow. This movie is something that I have not been able to get out of my mind. It has made me realize how deeply corporations have infiltrated our lives.

According to the movie, corporations have the same legal rights as people, however they do not have the same responsibilities. Because of this, corporations are a "dangerous mix of power and unaccountability". The traits of a corporation would be characterized as psychopathic if these same characteristics were found in an individual. Corporations don't have to think about what is good for society. Due to laws (such as Dodge vs Ford in the early 1900s), managers and directors have a responsibility to its stakeholders above all others including the society or the environment. They may “stand” for societal good, but the bottom line ($$) is more important and the sole responsibility of the corporation. Social responsibility is illegal for corporations!

The movie talks about the fact that corporations do not work for the public good, in fact they often demand bad deeds. Greed and moral indifference often are the defining elements in the culture of the corporation. The corporation believes in maximizing profits above all else.

A list of psychopathic traits:
• Irresponsible
• Manipulate
• Grandiose
• Lack of Empathy
• Asocial tendencies
• Refuse to accept responsibility for own actions
• Unable to feel remorse
• Superficial relationships

Some of the interviews showed that some corporations actually hire psychologists to study nagging in children and parents reactions to it in order to gain profits! If most parents give in to children in a certain place, then that is where they will advertise to children.

They also showed that corporations own advertising time from the media. Think about the ads that you see on tv - a corporation is paying for it. If the corporation pulls its ads, then the media outlet may not be able to give us the news. So, who is the media really working for? It was shown with an investigative report on BgH (Bovine Growth Hormone). The investigators found distrubing news about it, however, the new station would not air it, because the company who invented it threatened to pull advertising.

This documentary made me realize that corporations really do not have the good of our world in its agenda. If change happens, it has to start with individuals who refuse to accept what the corporations are trying to sell to us. Remember, corporations want our money above all else. That is why I think the Compact (choosing not to buy new and create and waste) and Simple Living are such a great ideas. We, many of whom are middle class Americans, are choosing for ourselves, rather than being told what we need.


Jane Kathryn Kolles said...

In Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, he shows young kids (about 4-6) pictures of some rather well-known, iconic public figures. Some of the kids are clueless about the photos of George Washington, George Bush and even Jesus...but they identify Ronald McDonald every time.


emme said...

That is one of my favorite documentaries. I showed it to my design students last year (the project focused on the obesity epidemic). We were all sickened by the marketing to children as well as the way that people became hooked on the food.

I am happy to say that my children rarely eat fast food (only if they are with grandparents).... I can't control EVERYTHING. :)

Anonymous said...

Very pretty design! Keep up the good work. Thanks.