Who Owns America? Americans or Corporations?
Right now, judging by who wields the most power, I’d say corporations own America. But they say possession is nine-tenths of the law and maybe the Occupy Movement is a chance for all of us to step up and take our country back.
As a person struggling to make a living in the arts, I never had the opportunity to witness the workings of a corporate structure until recently when I became a member of the inner sanctum of board meetings and company decision making processes. This experience gave me an inkling of extensive corporate ethical and moral decrepitude.
In my opinion, wanting to make money is totally natural – as a means to an end – but pursuing money for no purpose is an illness. The pursuit of profit is devoid of an ethical or moral point of view, so when a corporation’s main goal is to make money, it too is acting without ethics or morality. If corporations were human, I would consider them entirely dysfunctional, but despite what some judges think, they aren’t human. Yet, they have tremendous power over us, not only on our social policies, governmental structure and political races but on so many aspects of our lives. We work for them, buy their products listen to their ads, rely on their money for our social and culture activities, our education, our entertainment, even our sports.
It also seems clear that any organization whose only goal is to make money will be impervious to attempts to enforce moral or ethical behavior on it. Laws or protestors can’t change the corporate goal to profit. Until corporations are founded for reasons other than making a profit, the energy of the company will always be focused on getting around any obstacle between it and money.
The only chink I see in the armor of corporate America is that people keep corporations going. However, as long as we, the people of America, place money before people, corporate America won’t change. I have long believed that the worship of money and consumerism, and therefore the corporate structure, was so deeply entrenched in the country (and in myself too) that it couldn’t change. I’m frankly shocked –and thrilled – that anyone has the energy and idealism to think otherwise.
The people who ran the company I worked for had over 150 administrative staff and well over 3000 workers. Those in positions of authority pursued profit (and its sibling power) without any sign of moral guilt. The higher up the person was in the corporation, the less concern they seemed to show for people. Those who did voice moral or ethical concerns didn’t stay long.
I witnessed people routinely abuse, manipulate, lie and take advantage of employees and clients. I am convinced they were so indoctrinated into the corporate model that they saw their actions as their duty and as normal business practice. I suspect that my company’s owner and his henchmen saw profit as proof that God loved them and approved of their actions. Perhaps they believed that it was their obligation as businessmen to take advantage of every “opportunity”, whether it was their fellow human’s weakness, a gap in the law or a problem in society.
When I expressed my dismay to outside people, I was most often told that all companies are, at their core, like the one I was working for. My company was just a bit more obvious than most. There was a general sense that if I wanted to make money, which I did, I best accept this because it wasn’t changeable and no better system existed.
With the serenity prayer, I ask for guidance to have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, which, until recently I decided was the case with corporations, the government and the political system. However, the Organize Movement isn’t demanding anything, they are simply gathering together. It’s so counter-intuitive to the way things have been done in the past that I find myself both smiling and, wait… feeling a little bit of hope.
I also request in my serenity prayer the wisdom to recognize the difference between what to accept and what I can change.
Is it wise, I ask my post-hippy-era cynical self, to believe that a group of people can make fundamental and positive change to our society? If so, will my prayer to have the courage to change be granted to me? I’m not sure. Meanwhile, I watch the Occupy Movement and cheer every one of them on.