Saturday, February 28, 2009

What's a Meta For, Indeed

Finally, I just watched "The Corporation", a fairly ambitious documentary film whose first half traces the history of the "legal person", of much more recent vintage than you'd think. It was, I'm proud to say, a former student of mine who arranged the screening, for a (very very) small assortment of lefty thinkers and, apparently, homeless people who might have been attracted by the goulash. As one might expect, the screening was held in an old warehouse space - I think this one might have been the old Kittinger factory, or maybe the Pierce Arrow automobile factory, both centers for pride gone by in this "We're Talking Proud" community.

I'd been looking for the film - no surprise that you can't get it at Blockbuster - and so made a point to go. For some unknown reason, I can't seem to spring for the monthly fee to get those NetFlix discs, even though living out in the country without even a phone line now to do the Dish Pay-per-view, you'd think I'd make the perfect candidate.

So this film traces some sort of elaborate figure of speech, whereby a precise likeness is traced between a corporation, which has legal rights and standing as a fictional person, and a psychopath - a person, like my oft berated brother in law, without a conscience. Without a heart, in my own very precise terminology.

This, of course, sets out the very dangerous form of argumentation used in all conspiracy-type films. You paint a kind of picture, generally by editorializing on how you present the evidence, and then allow the congruence of this picture with the pattern of your proposed explanation to provide the force of your argumentation.

Gone are standards for evidence gathering. Gone are trails of proof. It's all circumstantial evidence, matching likely opportunity with likely motive, say, and leaving the blanks all but filled in.  It's what Michael Moore gets accused of, and it's what left me cold after watching about how the Bush administration brought down the World Trade Center towers deliberately. I had no way to assess the validity of the pictures and the information as presented. Like watching a magician on stage, I trust that what seemed to have happened cannot really have happened, and behind that trust is some solid sense of what can and cannot happen in the wide wide world.

So, when I watch some overheated documentary about how Bill Clinton arranged the murder of all his opposition, I'm only reminded of that numerologist I once did watch with gape-mouthed awe at some Rainbow Homecoming (I swear I was quite the outsider there). The coincidence of his math seems so unlikely that you wind up being convinced that there must be some occult meaning to the numbers, as assigned to letters of the alphabet, names like Reagan (hint - it ends up 666), or whatever. Like a really good magic act, you end up almost tasting the in to that secret key, to unlock all the secrets and leave you somehow what? Zoned in? Harmonically on some wavelength with all like minds, and not deluded like all the other unenlightened? In the presence of someone with real power?

Well, but then you're left with what these days goes by the shorthand MSM, to provide your better evidence against these slants???? Where editorializing is hardly even disguised, as though the magician were to expose all his sleights of hand before the show, so why would you even watch?  Perhaps in admiration of his talent, but not for the same reason that most do watch (to test their own credulity, I guess, and to address a puzzle beyond solution).

So, the argument at the heart of The Corporation is not quite one that can be tested. It urges a coloring on the way we find the world. A king of gestalt shift to where the old lady in the picture is young, even though there may be some other, editorially perverse, way to construe those lines.

A likeness is made, then, between the corporation and a person, but that a person acts with conscience and a corporation, qua corporation, never does. Evidence is presented that corporate behavior regards the laws and norms of society as so much new information for the calculus of the bottom line. And most compellingly of all, there is a tracing from enclosure movement, through fabulously edited outtakes from interviews, to a kind of exuberant celebration of the privatization of absolutely everything, from among those shilling for the wealth-generation point of view.

Most horrific and on the face of it beyond the pale of absurdity, are the claiming of patents on genetic codes, so that now not only has evolution been violently thwarted by wanton destruction of species along the way toward wealth generation in obliviousness of the externalities of living systems; but now to the extent that it can be consciously guided by genetic engineering, the course of evolution will and must be made profitable. So, presumably, we can progress and generate more wealth. Or rights to sell the water, and next the air. Because the commons has been so fully now enclosed. Natural systems will and should get replaced completely, so that we can move right in to the cartoon world of Disney.

Another presumption gets mocked, that the miserable of the world are and should be glad to earn a few cents per hour, as improved alternative to starvation. That this somehow lifts them up. But from what?? Can this be any better than coursing through the wild with spears to chuck and snarling jaws to outsmart? So that subsequent generations can be removed to Disney life? Wall-E?

Now, here comes the hard part again. There is, between metaphoric and literal truth, a divide not unlike that I claim between perceptual and conceptual reality. Of course I further claim that there is no way to privilege one from the other in any ultimate sense, but generally and in the local sense, there is no significant issue to distinguish what's meant literally from what's meant by indirection.

A person is a person, and a corporation is like a person, and everyone is meant to understand that the differences are writ large enough that no-one gets confused. But a person, acting without accountability, will generally devise a chain of deniability such that his actions have only local significance and that externalities are quite, and literally, beyond his comprehension. Such a person, now, is like a corporation.

But comprehension is itself a veiled metaphor, right? It means beyond his grasp. Beyond the grip of his hand, but in this case his mind is the thing doing the grasping. Metaphorically of course. And what is it that gives the mind this purchase? Well, a mental schema, of course.  A conceptual framework supposed to mirror or at best to idealize the perceptual world as it is, out there. It is what gives us confidence in our behaviors, or often what makes us shy.

It is indeed very very difficult to imagine our personal behaviors having much impact beyond our immediate circle of influence. And when they do, we must recoil in horror. Like when the cigarette so casually tossed from the window of a moving car lights up the forest, or a moment's inattention squashes a cat. But to be a trader on the stock market floor, you cannot pause to calculate the moral harm which made your trading day, as this film displays by interviews and examples of gold's value in response to the Trade Tower's collapse. Or how your purchase might stimulate some destruction by the socially misguided corporate power it encourages.

But how can you know?

You have to trust in some structure beyond your personal understanding, which rectifies these things together for the common good. Or perhaps you are a psychopath yourself, and there is some evidence, I guess, that market traders and lawyers are overrepresented among that crowd. You might only care about yourself and this very moment. But you have to trust that the pilot of the plane is not that way, and that its design represents thinking that is tested and trued.

The behavior of an individual in a corporation rehearses this very same sense of personal limitation, most excruciatingly portrayed in the film from the very top, where CEO's, whose legal mandate is so clearly limited to maximizing short term gains, have almost no discretion toward the common good. If they pilot a plane, then that plane is almost always on autopilot, perhaps until it is too late, and when the machine lets go the mere human is beyond his strength and reflex to respond.

Or maybe, like the captain on the spaceship ark in that dark and happy Disney film Wall-E, there is very little for him to do but uphold the appearance of being all he's worth. (Michael Moore claims it's greed which allows corporate powers to hoist themselves by their own petard, and I suppose he must be right)

It is this enclosure, of one from each other as we interact in response alone, to Main Stream Media and its collective framing, which enables deniability of one from each other, and each from the earth we do so collectively destroy - in this enclosure, there is nothing we can, individually, do. Metaphorically, the machines have already taken over, because there is no place for heart in the system. 

Although, to be absolutely sure, there will be no smiling and glad handing good cheer when Disney's world is finally complete. Psychopaths, I trust, when at the end of their hand's play, seem always and only to grow bored and off themselves.

Now, at land's end, I turn in tears toward my co-passenger. There is no return but afoot.

It is not only that conscience does provide a guide. It is not only that consultation with ones heart does provide for some accountability beyond the merely local. It is, for actual fact, that there are, by very design, as it were, true occult vibes which link us one to other. But the courage to let these be our guide is so far beyond what I for one can muster. It must be a common turning.

As Disney provides Wall-E, so the cosmos of corporate greed (and it is only that and nothing truly evil, since there is no heart to it) provides this Internet for my somewhat free amusement. Still, there could be a spark tossed off, and conflagration among myriad minds like thinking, aligned by words and images and thoughts.

There could be some resonance more powerful than that of MSM or the electrical grid. There could be some actual alignment of hearts along the vectors not of purchase power, but those more metaphorical vectors, arranged for systems quite beyond us and beyond our grasping control.

These evolved life systems have as their metaphorical ground our emotional caring, which is the meaning of their having come together in this particular way. A fated conclusion is what had to have happened, looking past, without even metaphorical access to why. So, looking forward, what is our fate dear hearts? Or do we even care?

I do know that particles, like money changing hands, must mediate the forces of the physical universe. I also know that waves describe seeming action at a distance, quantum collapsed to actual here and impossible now, by mind's perception. Waves, or their function more properly, pervade by inverse square attenuation, the entire cosmos depending on its population.

There must be some fair balance among the cancerous proliferation of minds on planet earth and its substrate which cannot support us. There must be some form of education which can lift our burden from this ecosystem, by the magic trick of courage to trust and to believe, but not in the Christ as metaphoric realization (I hedge my words). So Disneyesque now in ugly stentorian fascistic outline rules and awful commandments.

How about trust that there is some common good, or that self indulgence truly does become boring, and that aggrandizement is no longer sign of accomplishment toward anything other than hell on earth? Full wisdom is so common. So often childlike. So utterly thrilled to take off down a hill on a bicycle the moment the snow is melted even for a minute. 

And educated out from childhood is dull oblivion, grinding cogs, in corporate mass annihilation.

I must now screw up my courage to leave the Church, with whom I literally am employed. This quite dysfunctional embodiment of Christ on earth. A shell. A husk. A corporate structure of aristrocratic inertia, having at its center something no less absurd than a queen in Britain's heart. The child support winds down. The grasping after love is dulled. The care about endings or conclusions is narratively well away, and I shall attempt a turn towards poetry. (not for you, dear hearts, I would not torture the you so.  Merely for my passive taking in)

The world's a song, more like, than story with conclusion. Let's sing together full throated loud, a chorus against the booming. A song to carry the aching heart. A song to cheer full stop.

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