Corporations, Scriptural Sacrilege and Saucepan Revolutions

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Every once in a while, I stumble across a bunch of links all at once that don’t quite have the coherence to link together in one story, but each offer a compelling perspective. Here are the links that caught my eye this week with brief summaries of the stories:

  • Life Inc: How the world became a corporation and how to take it back – I first became aware of Douglas Rushkoff last month after he published two of the best articles on the financial crisis I’ve read (here and here). Now he has a new book out on corporatism that lucidly illuminates the ruthless role of corporations in our economy as they extract maximum value while giving as little as possible in return. The article above includes brilliant excerpts from chapter 8 and chapter 9 of his book.
  • Onward, Christian Soldiers – GQ magazine got their hands on cover sheets from Donald Rumsfeld’s reports to Bush featuring bible verses superimposed on images of war machinery. I don’t use the term lightly, but these images are sickeningly sacrilegious. In the lower left hand corner you can see the dates of each report. They were used during the first days and months of the Iraq invasion. These images go along way to cement the invasion in people’s minds as the face of US Christianity.

  • Winning Hearts and Minds II: Drones and Human Terrain Teams – Gene Stotlzfus, former director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, draws on his experience from Vietnam to Pakistan as he looks at the reality of the “battler for hearts and minds”, the use of drones at a new US military tactic called “Human Terrain Teams” which are teams made up of “anthropologists, other social scientists, linguists and analysts”. Very informative.
  • Amazonian Indigenous Protest Provokes Peruvian Government Reprisals – in one of the the most undercovered stories of the last two month, more then 30,000 indigenous people from 65 tribes have been blockading roads in a nonviolent protest against laws this will open up their lands for oil and gas exploration. The lawas are partly a result of the free trade agreement between Peru and the U.S.
  • The Icelandic Volcano Erupts: A New Era of People Power in the Streets? – Rebecca Solnit tells the other story of another nation-wide nonviolent uprising you may have missed. The Saucepan revolution saw citizens gather around their parliament building banging pots to voice their displeasure with a neo-liberal government that led them into a massive economic crash. Five days later, the ruling coalition gave way under the pressure.
  • Tiny Art Director – On a much lighter note, check out this endearing illustrated dialogue between an artist and his daughter who serves as his artistic director. The 4 year old gives the instructions, the father draws them. And then comes the The Critique. A sample: “Daddy it’s not supposed to be like that! He has dog legs! I’m so mad at you! I’m going to erase those legs! Daddy why did you do those legs??? [collapses in tears]” in response to this image:

Dragon and Girl

Comments (7)

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Tiny Art Director (kleine Kunstkritikerin)

  2. Tim Baer

    I just have to mention this:

    The first article about corporations is just wrong. It declares some sort of seperation between small businesses and corporations. Obviously the author has no clue about the subject because most businesses in this country, both large and small, are corporations. In Maryland you can create a legal identity for a business in several ways:

    Sole Proprietorship
    And several corporate classes, the most common among small businesses being a Limited Liability Corporation, or an LLC.

    Being a corporation protects your personal status. You cannot be held liable personally if your company does something nor can the company’s credit help you. The assets are split.

    The attack on corporations by the left is just downright silly. “Corporation” has nearly become a four letter word in some circles. Yet the way they use it is wrong. It would be like using the word “Citizen” to describe only wealthy blacks from the North-East.

    Speaking of which, I have worked for companies and corporations small and large. By and far the large corporations I worked for provided me fantastic health care, great 401K, a company car, expense accounts, etc. While the small corporations I worked for worked me to the bone with no benefits and little pay. I’ve never worked for a small company that gave me great, well, anything. Some large companies surely don’t behave in great ways. But many do and they pay their people well and pay their manufacturers well.

    Whenever I hear someone begin to berate corporations in my head I start thinking “This person has no clue what they are talking about.” And, indeed, they do not.

  3. TimN (Post author)

    Tim B, your argument in support of corporations appears to be basically a semantic one. Of course you are correct that small business are also legally corporations. However, you may notice that many words have both legal meanings that are very different from common usage. For example, for example, the term “finding” in legalese means a court’s decision on issues of fact. But in common usage findings just means what you found somewhere. Making fun of people because they use corporation to mean a big business is like going around correcting everyone’s grammar: its elitist and pointless.

    If you want to make an argument defending big business, feel free to do so. So far, you’ve just argued that they pay really well and give you an expense account. The fact that some corporations pay their employees really well isn’t a good argument for their benefit to society as a whole. Those hurt most by corporations usually don’t work for them. They live in communities where those corporations are seeking to extract profits from while giving back as little as possible.

    If you want to try to make a serious argument against Rushkoff, take the time to read this longer article he has on the origins of corporations. He actually isn’t arguing against business as a whole, just the way big business has structured it.

  4. vera

    I can’t thank you enough for posting the stuff by Rushkoff. Right on the money. And Tim B. and others apparently misunderstood. He says: “Commerce is good. Commerce is not the problem. Monopolies are.

    Except in a few rare cases, corporate charters and centralized currency were never intended to promote commerce. They were intended to prevent locals and non-chartered entities from creating and exchanging value.” I would amend the last sentence to say… they were intended to prevent locals from exchanging value without some of it being skimmed off by the central entities.

  5. Tim Baer

    I am playing semantics because it’s important. Corporations aren’t to blame for all the world’s ills. There are good and bad corporations like there are good and bad people. Lumping them all together because a few do horrible things is bad policy.

  6. vera

    Ok, but why focus on that rather than the important message he has about monopolies? After all, we no longer live in a world of a lot of small companies competing… we live in a world of “engulf and devour” types of entities which privatize profits and socialize losses. What would you rather call them?

  7. Carl

    Tim, you’re missing the point. It’s not even interesting to ask (or answer) silly hyperbolic questions like “are all corporations evil?” or “are corporations the source of all the world’s ills?” If these are the questions you’re talking about, you’re talking to yourself; nobody else here, Rushkoff included, is even talking about that.

    The corporation is a particular structure for organizing human activities, and it’s now become one of the most pervasive and powerful such structures. The interesting questions are about what sorts of behavior the corporate structure encourages and discourages compared to other possible structures for organizing human life, and whether those actually match our values. Rushkoff has quite a few interesting and provocative thoughts to offer in that vein. Thus far, you don’t seem to.

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