Friday, October 08, 2004

More, Moore and Yet More

The most powerful class of institution on earth, the corporation, is by any reasonable measure hopelessly and unavoidably demented. The corporation lies, steals and kills without remorse and without hesitation when it serves the interests of its shareholders to do so.
So reads the breathless blurb for the new book The Corporation. The book has also been adapted for the screen in a film coming to Europe directed by Mark Achbar "co-director of the influential and inventive MANUFACTURING CONSENT: NOAM CHOMSKY AND THE MEDIA". As well as Chomsky himself, other analysts known for their careful research, attention to detail and objectivity such as Howard Zinn and Michael Moore are also to be seen exercising their jawbones in the movie.

As for corporations being the most powerful institutions on Earth, that's a typical piece of paranoid globaloney. I'm not particularly worried about the power of states vis-a-vis multinational corporations or financial institutions. When is Microsoft getting a seat on the UN Security Council. Will BP takes the ultimate step in renewable energy and build its own hydrogen bomb? Sheesh...

Leaving aside my sarcasm, what institution proved itself to be more dangerous in the past century? Inevitably, it's been the nation state, and invariably those who made the most ruthless attempts to annihilate the private sphere in economic and social life. From the Ukranian famine of the thirties, Stalin's butchering many more millions in the great terror, mass starvation under Mao in the Great Leap Forward, or euthenasia and genocide under the Nazis, right up to the national suicide attempted by the Khmer Rouge - and that Chomsky still denies - all came of conflict against capitalism.

Napolean famously said that no man would sell him his life, but many would give it in return for a slip of coloured ribbon. As an emigrant, I'm constantly aware that these nation states define our identities, not only as the first thing anyone meeting you will note, but defining which community you feel yourself part of and indicating what spot on the Earth is irrevocably yours. The state can give and take almost any amount of money it sees fit. It can ask you to kill and your patriotism absolves you of any guilt. Especially in this age, no profit-making corporation can make such a powerful claim on us.