Dustin wrote a great piece yesterday about the nature of the corporation and how its core, legally mandated purpose of maximising profit at the expense of everything else leads to quite horrible consequences for…well, everything else! In that piece the focus was on the ongoing WGA strike and how entertainment corporations worsen working conditions for the people working in the creative industries, but it really is incredible just how much of what’s wrong with the world can be laid at the feet of this one very specific capitalist vehicle.
I remember reading the 2003 book, ‘The Corporation’ (its subtitle neatly summing things up: ‘The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power’), by law professor Joel Bakan, at the time it came out, and then watching the companion film of the same name (directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott) that same year, and having my still very much malleable teenage brain be given a firm shove further down a particular political avenue. One of ‘The Corporation’s’ central pillars was the account of how an 1886 United States Supreme Court Case granted corporations the same rights as human beings. Even relatively aware as I was back then, I was gobsmacked that something like that could happen. Bakan did a great job of tying that legal description of a corporation a description of what kind of a person a corporation would be if it was an actual flesh and blood human being: A cold-blooded psychopath, terrifying in their monomaniacal pursuit of profit and their complete disregard for any damage done in achieving that goal.
We need not rehash the story—although it is one that must never stop being told—about how Exxon had very clear scientific data on climate change and could see how its actions would lead the planet down a road to ruin, and of the effort and countless dollars they spent on making sure that no-one would stop them from continuing to make unimaginable profits while frogmarching the rest of us down that road. Though there are more examples than one could count, that remains perhaps the starkest demonstration of the underlying principle of the death cult that is corporate greed—and capitalism as a whole. Now, as the world scrambles to put in systems that might ameliorate the absolute worst of the disasters to come, let’s have a check in to see what the fossil fuel companies are up to, shall we?
Yep, they’re suing governments for trying to maximise the amount of people and flora and fauna that might survive the next few decades—or as the fossil fuel companies see that: ‘Obstructing their profits.’
On the recommendation of my fellow writers here I picked up Kim Stanley Robinson 2020 novel, ‘The Ministry For the Future’ recently. It’s a deeply compelling book that dares to imagine a (relatively) optimistic future for the planet, one in which governments and institutions respond to the suffering unleashed by climate change by banding together to actually try to do something about it. I’ve had a lot of feelings reading this book. Anxiety, hope, joy, anger, fear—but perhaps the strongest has been the visceral satisfaction in reading the accounts that Robinson has conjured up of people taking direct action against the people and the corporations that are responsible for the mass death that comes with climate change. ‘The war for the Earth’ it’s called in the ‘The Ministry For the Future’, and really that’s the most apt name that could have been used. This is a war. The most consequential one ever fought, and corporations (and capitalism, natch) are an unyielding foe that needs to be destroyed if there’s to be hope for life on this planet.
As a great man once said: ‘The Earth is where we make our stand.’