“F*ck you, I won’t do what you tell me”. So said, the anarchistic rock group Rage Against the Machine as there single “killing in the name of” spiralled to number 1 in the UK Christmas charts. Wow. People really must really hate being told what to do. You think it was a grass-roots facebook group that made this happen? Think again!
In response to previous blogs I have had a variety of chats with different friends and family. Some highlights have been…Vegetarianism = “you can’t tell me what to eat”, Climate change = “you can’t tell me how to act” and BNP = “you can’t stop me waffling on for hours about something I know nothing about”. People just do not like being told what to do, whether it is for their own detriment or benefit.
Why is it then that we unquestionably will jump through loop holes to serve the every command of the corporation (Yes this includes the music industry). We will do anything to buy our latest products. George Monbiot (Ok, I am slightly in love with the man) recently commented that even anti-consumption consumption is rife in our markets; for example the lucrative books on how to live without money(http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/04/standard-of-living-spending-consumerism) . Or, closer to home an “anti-establishment” Christmas number 1. You must be able to see the irony here!
I am personally holding out for the “Teach yourself anarchism series”.
From fashion, to food; from travel to clothing; from holidays to houses we are dictated to buy whatever it is that corporations wish us to. Yet, as soon as someone points out a very good reason to act in a certain way, we go crazy about our liberal right to act as we wish! If someone tells you that if you change your behaviour today you could help save countless lives in the future, people are put off. Yet, if someone tells you that you might contribute to Rage getting to number one you jump at the opportunity. You can see the contradiction here.
The corporation does not always work in the interest of people. Remember the badly placed fuel tanks that Ford designed (the ones that blew up upon impact). Ford deemed it cheaper to cover the legal costs than to redesign the car. It took a high court ruling to stop that one. What’s the similarity between this and Rage? Both actions are motivated by the pursuit of money.
Our conservative friends over at The Economist commented that, ‘Like all psychopaths, the firm is singularly self-interested: its purpose is to create wealth for its shareholders. And, like all psychopaths, the firm is irresponsible, because it puts others at risk to satisfy its profit-maximising goal, harming employees and customers, and damaging the environment. The corporation manipulates everything. It is grandiose, always insisting that it is the best, or number one. It has no empathy, refuses to accept responsibility for its actions and feels no remorse. It relates to others only superficially, via make-believe versions of itself manufactured by public-relations consultants and marketing men. In short, if the metaphor of the firm is a valid one, then the corporation is clinically insane’. (Economist, 6 May 2004). There nothing inherent about making money and harming people. More, the corporation will not stop if this is the consequence. This is highlighted in terms of climate change, labor conditions and warfare to name but a few consequences.
We judge our governments by how much money they can move, not how satisfied they make people. Have our government succeeded in satisfying our annual GDP growth? Is it any wonder then that we can see governments working for the good of corporations rather than its people? Derek Wall coined the phrase of “corporation welfare”, where a government taxes its citizens to then re-distribute this wealth to the poor and needy corporations! Ring any bells? This is surely backwards. The corporation, has grown to such power that it dominates every aspect of lives, from our universities through to government (See Monbiot’s book “Captive State”).
We have to remember, that making money is not the same thing as making things better for me and you. When GDP goes up or down, do you feel happier? Do you smile every time you think about the stock markets ticking over? There has to be more to life than this. The sad thing is that I think we all already know this. We all already know that the material excess of everyday life is not what makes us happy or sad. Yet, it is this throw away consumerism that makes our economy tick.
Jose Bove, Farmer who demolished a McDonalds in Protest. Thanks to Desfilhejm (Flickr)
So what can we do? Do we have to recreate Jose Bove’s demolition of McDonalds? Do we have to all start using freeware on our computers to break the Microsoft monopoly? How about buying fair-trade coke (it does exist, http://www.fairtradevending.co.uk/fairtrade-vending-ubunto-cola-vendor.htm) instead of our branded coca-cola? Well, perhaps the latter two are not a bad idea. We can all start by being aware of the branded nature of the world we live in. Klien’s “No logo”, Alissa Quart’s “Branded” and Monbiots “Captive State” are all worth reading. If you are an economics buff have a look at Derek Wall’s book “Babylon and Beyond”. Is this enough though, to learn and to think… or should we be doing something? Let’s first understand the devil we are fighting.
Without realising, we are all singing from the neo-liberal hymn sheet that is forcing millions into destitution, causing wars, famine and destruction. We are sponsoring child-labour and sponsoring entrenched inequality. You think this has nothing to do with you? Check the label in your t-shirt, the packaging on your food and the brands that are all around your house. Take the ultimate step of defiance and think before you buy!