You remember The Corporation? Documentary movie released back in 2003, it put forward that if corporate personhood was a thing, then the corporation would be diagnosed a psychopath. Big favourite in charity shop DVD sections near universities all throughout the 2000s. It made you start reading and then swiftly abandon the book No Logo, remember?
This is ‘The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel’, of how corporations have rebranded in the past quarter-century to co-opt tackling social issues to deflect from scrutiny of their actions, and mitigate moral outrage at their relentless pursuit of profit at any cost to human life or the earth itself. This is not simply the greenwashing that takes place in advertising, although that is a massive part of their charm offensive, but how they have positioned big business as the solutions to the very problems they’ve created. So this means touting the idea that more investment is needed in massive fossil fuel companies so they can ‘carry’ us over the hump to where renewable energy is ready to meet all our needs. This means social enterprise and public partnership being the solution to underfunded public services, without mentioning that the tax avoidance committed by those companies is what is responsible for that deficit. It means shaking your head about how wasteful and incompetent governments have failed to create wealth for their poverty-stricken citizens, and suggesting that maybe government should be run more like a business, by business people, with as much privatised as possible.
Like most call-to-action movies, it’s really comprised of two parts. The shit stick, and the dangling carrot. The shit stick is when you are repeatedly whacked over the head with stuff that you already kinda know, but which is horrifying when you think about it all at once. The dangling carrot is the bit at the end where they tell you to recycle or whatever. This film’s shit stick is very well put together, if somewhat heavy-handed in its presentation, coz, you know, American. But its dangling carrot is maybe even more depressing. Coz it is so anaemic and underwhelming, and seems to divert the energy of groundswell grassroots movements back into the broken political system that failed to prevent this situation in the first place.
Bleak as it was, I was riding with this film all the way through the corporate manslaughter, and ecological devastation, and undermining of any form of accountable governance, and the creation of the pandemic through a reckless, destructive and dangerously intrusive food industry, and the breakdown of social cohesion after years of poverty and hopelessness. And what actually made me hop off the wagon was when at the end, the upswing of hope was for us to pour our energy and money into electing people like Bernie fucking Sanders. I was just like, “NOOOOOOOOO!!!” All the anarchists that live in the back of my head were screaming. Mate, you have just got through talking about 25 years of history where a revolving door of people’s faces on the front this machine, Democrat and Republican, have not changed one iota of the exponential expansion of corporate greed. Why, oh, why, do you think this will be different?
And I know it’s the American way, to pour your faith back into democracy, but the form of democracy you have is so archaic and insufficient. Why are you choosing what has not protected you in the first place? Also, you can’t go, “the answer is grassroots movements, grassroots movements, grassroots movements”, then be like, “Stop! Everybody pour all their energy and resources into this one person to represent us.”
I dunno. The older I get the less faith I have in representative democracies. People campaigning against poverty boasting about how they raised £10 million for Bernie’s campaign. Like, how much could that kind of money have done if it had been spent actually just directly on people in poverty? Like, stop electing people to solve the problem, and just solve the problem. If the schools are bad, organise to fix the school, don’t organise to collect money, to create a campaign, to elect someone, to sit on the board, to make decisions, to fix the school.
I mean, at one point one of the beacons of light to usher in this new dawn was the election of Sadiq Khan as mayor of London. Are you fucking kidding me? Is this how low we’ve set our sights? He’s a Labour MP, he sat as part of the government under Tony Blair, that grinning muppet you see at the Davos summit, rubbing shoulders with the billionaire CEO of JP Morgan Chase. That’s the outsider voice who’s about to turn the tables on this shit? Sitting in Scotland that elected Labour for a century, and a century on still has the highest poverty rates in Western Europe, you do just wanna ask, “What are you on about?”
It’s a decent enough movie for analysing the economic devastation that’s been wreaked the past few years. It’s gonna be a firm favourite of charity shop DVD sections near universities for many years to come, along with Feel The Bern tshirts.