Okay Capitalism, Bad Apples

It is no wonder the clever new documentary The Corporation won the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It draws much-needed attention to the practices of the huge companies that have taken over the world. The film explores the idea that if corporations can be defined under the law as individual persons, their collective behaviour can be described as being consistent with that of a psychopath, according to the DSM—psychology’s manual for diagnosis.

It sums up an incredible range of viewpoints, and lays out a convincing argument against the institution of the corporation in general, for one simple reason: it is not in their best interest to do anything that negatively effects the bottom line. That fact alone makes them irresponsible citizens of earth, in principle and definition. It conjures images of the film American Psycho, the title character being an attractive, well-dressed and successful individual, at his core a deranged killer, cold and calculating.

Just like the concerned masses destroyed the ‘cool” of big tobacco in the 70’s, a growing number of people are working toward crippling the dominant corporations that have a stranglehold on the world’s citizens. Corporations are destroying the environment, taking advantage of underprivileged countries and their desperate labour forces, using fraudulent tactics to increase their wealth, and lying about all of it through the magic of advertising. People are beginning to get fed up, as they should be.

They are collectively throwing away their designer labels, walking instead of driving, consuming less. People need to be aware, and the documentary works hard to make it so. Here in Waterloo, showings at the Princess Theatre have been selling out, necessitating additional dates. The documentary’s showing on TVO, in three parts, has been well received. It intends to prove that the misdealings of companies like Enron are due to institutional ills, and not a few ‘bad apples.’

The filmmakers employ very effective interviews with such luminaries as Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, and Naomi Klein, as well as with current and former CEOs, none more engaging than former Interface CEO Ray Anderson. Mr. Anderson speaks of having a revelation during his time as CEO. With regard mostly to environmental concerns, he has come to refer to those of the corporate world as ‘plunderers,’ taking from the earth and giving nothing back but waste. It leads to an important discussion of sustainability, something no corporation currently has any way of achieving.

Corporations are everywhere, and the average person doesn’t know everything they should about where they place their money. Did you know that the Alpine deck sitting in your car was made by a near-slave who earns a whopping 31 cents an hour? That tasks in the sequencing for manufacturing Nike sneakers have been broken down into thousands of a second, in the interest of peak efficiency? The undiluted information contained here cuts close to home. It’s easy to ask: “What can I, as only one person, do to help?”

We need to wake up and start making some smarter choices. See this documentary for some solid arguments and run with them. There are many actions that our culture deems acceptable that simply aren’t. The first step to any real change is education, and this film is a good place to start. Awareness has to be the first step toward a critical assessment of this corporate-influenced westernized world.

Only once we know why things are askew will we be able to exact change.