“ I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. … corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. “
The quote has an ominous tone to its predictions, and its relevance is startling considering it was written nearly 150 years ago! Abraham Lincoln worried that corporations gilded with powers by the state in order to progress the new fledgling sovereignty of the united states, would suffer that all so human condition, greed…
In our parents life time we’ve seen the rise of corporation from a good old family success story, to its ubiquitous all conquering, more powerful than government position it holds in our society today.
Capitalism’s golden age was really only a short period in the fifties and sixties. Growing out of post war exuberance and cheap fossil fuel. Jobs were plentiful, housing affordable. Brief as it was, its a period that’s has carried so much weight of influence in the way we see ourselves.
How we define our happiness and our success. The new car, the new kitchen. The lifestyle created for us by the corporation and the thriving new advertising industry .
We were sold the dream first then the product, your house and car in suburbia, all sponsored by the stuff you must buy and need to buy again.
Amazingly its still the same dream getting pushed to us today.
It was that period when everyone had a job and the scars of our planets most grotesque war healing and fueling optimism ( how did the paranoia of the cold war fester into the insanity of the arms race during this time then fella?.. Americas war industry needed a market? *reaches for a Chomsky’ essay)
Society was warmed by the presence of good cooperate citizenship, strong values were important in the success of a company (then).
Dad would work all his life at the same company, build a life, a house and a family.
If you look at pay rates during this period, working at the company did see you alright. Hell American workers even had company paid healthcare!
The western world had booming manufacturing industries, the US with its all dominating motor car business, the UK built everything from ships, to ovens to high end electronics. Australia’s manufacturing growth although small compared to other countries peaked in the early sixties to 30% of GDP (12% in 2007)
But into the late sixties and early seventies inflation began to climb, the oil crisis and the rise of third world manufacturing with its low labor cost began to bite. Workers could no longer rely on the company man life as right of passage.
The corporation as the entity we know today came to being, born out of a dog eat dog free market survivalist environment that was a product of first world manufacturing atrophy.
The great paradox it is, blindly serving the faceless share holders with sub servant-like obedience whilst seeking no other goal except to increase profit ,maximize growth at all costs and secure dominance over competitors.
The rise of the corporation in the last fifteen to twenty years is frightening. Of the largest 100 economies in the world, 51 are corporations!
Between 1983 and 1999, the profits of the Top 200 firms grew 362.4 percent, while the number of people they employ grew by only 14.4 percent.
The Top 200 corporations’ sales are growing at a faster rate than overall global economic activity. Between 1983 and 1999, their combined sales grew from the equivalent of 25.0 percent to 27.5 percent of World GDP.
Its all happened rather quick too .
The epoch of the digital age has a quickening pace to it, the amount of data produced, the sheer scale and size of information that we are exposed to ,for most of us anything beyond a brief summary is not possible.
Its about keeping up,not looking back. We don’t have time to look back and reflect.
Reflection is how hot we look tonight.
This overwhelming age of information saturation has helped the shadow of the corporation to move slow enough through out the day of our lives, that we’ve failed to see its takeover. De-sensitisation has allowed our surrender and rendered the masses blind, bumping around the mall grumbling maybe, but putting up very little argument.
But its happened make no mistake..
We are all on the payroll. We drive its strategies and product growth, when you really really crave those adidas shoes, what are you craving? The logo of a company? Why does that make me feel good about myself?
Retail Therapy ..its part of our lives, we don’t buy stuff just to satisfy our needs, we buy to relieve ourselves from the pressures and drudgery of the modern life. And to pay for our stuff we have to head off to mind numbing jobs all day that create pressure and drudgery, so we go to the mall…
Australian credit card debt has increased a staggering 42% in the last four years? Work hours have gone up exponentially to the rising rate of household debt.
The luxury brand offering an entry level product to make the poor punter feel like they are in the affluent world. The democratization of luxury has been hugely successful for brands.
Look at hip hop culture.
With its love of the brand and logo its become a highly evolved advertising platform of the corporation .Morphing hip hops art and culture into a highly desired and self promoting product . The socio-political ethos of the streets which is at hip hops core is the perfect authenticity which the consumer craves for that self defining purchase.
Our basic survival is at clear and present danger from the behaviour of the capitalistic consumer driven system. The planet simply cannot support the demand on resources that is required to support our current consumer based societies that make up the dominating western world. Despite all the writing on all of the walls, we keep running up the hill to our enviable lemming like demise.
How did this over-ride our core animal instincts? Blind us from such obvious danger?
How did capitalism side step and score such a resounding defeat to a highly evolved survivor such as homo sapien?
Why are we letting this madness continue?
This folly to produce a novelty, to keep having a new product to sell, driving us all to the brink of no return.
And to get some context of this mad mad world , look no further thanthe financial crisis of 2008.
Brought about by the greed of corporate wall street on a scale to huge to comprehend. Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them on the prevision they would default, bundled up then on-sold .Toxic parcels made from mid west debt ending up bankrupting local councils in Northern England and the complete sovereignty of Iceland.
Absolutely bizarre, incredible. All done without breaking any law?
Not one of those dirt bags from any of the investment houses of Wall street has been even charged of any wrong doing? After getting rescued out of their own mess with billions apon billions of tax payer dollars, they are free to continue their sordid business. Watered down almost token fines that have been handed out to some investment banks ,have probably been paid by investor dollars.
Bernie Madoff who’s enormous ponzi scheme collapsed as a result of the GFC is ironically the only Wall street crook to go to jail, his victims were his fellow rich one percenters.
Trillions of dollars lost, countries bankrupted, millions of houses foreclosed, the world financial system moments away from complete breakdown yet nothing has been done.
No major reform has happened in the US, you might say its hardly surprising given all the ex-wall street personnel making up Obama’s key financial appointments.
Who’s running the show now?
We seem to have a kind of detached disillusionment of our politicians these days .
The role they play in our lives is diminishing. We don’t know what we we want (or get) from them.
They no longer set the interest rates, they don’t control the world any more, governments don’t create jobs , build highways, control our prisons and hospitals.
The poor buggers now have to live inside the bubble of the 24 hour new cycle which demands blood daily, sound bites and self perpetuating media beat ups are far far better copy then creating or implementing good long term policy.
So what do we want from our politicians these days?
As long as they aren’t totally and completely shit, our needs are met by them? Kind of like service in Perth at the moment, long as the surly, disinterested waiter slams the “correct” order down in front of you, we are happy.
Far be it for me to say where in history the church lost its power over the masses? A slow erosion formed around the time of the counter culture movement of the sixties that broke the final grasp of power held by the church over society
In recent times the churches voice has completely eroded away with regular flooding and banks washed away with scandal after scandal after scandal of the most vile and cruel nature.
Outside the bible belts of Australia, it barely registers any influence in society. A grey haired priest might be wheeled out on the odd occasion to comment on some issue of society in a polite uncontroversial way, but let’s face it, the only time the church gets any attention nowadays is defending yet another case of, or cover up of, some form of abuse .
Gone the way of Queen and country as a form of salve for the nations heart. Religion is incomparable to what it was barely a generation ago.
So church and politicians are sidelined on the bench, and there must be a huge hole that needs filling right? Me thinks that the marketing based society we live in finds a lot of its needs for spirituality and belief in the consumer dream, the heavenly mall, and the high priests of celebrity.
Spending up will heal that hole in your heart right?
Has the corporation replaced god? The omnipresent, all seeing, all creating power in our lives aint the big white bearded guy in the sky any more.
The scriptures were written in the last century, and we study them daily, nightly with the whole family. That comfortable blue din in the lounge room, serving up a sermon every ad break. Hallelujah brothers and sisters, lets go worship in the mall!