Ahmad Saeid: Only as a society can we stand up to corporations
One of the very first things that attracts your attention as a newcomer from the Middle East to Canada is the individualist nature of society. As a general rule, societies in the West are not family-oriented. The individual is the building block of these societies.
In a place where people are not living as tribes, families, or any other groups, corporations form the biggest blocks and enjoy the biggest powers. Having the same legal status as citizens, while having more tools than citizens, corporations became undefeatable dominants of the capitalist world. People are bullied and manipulated by corporations, but people, as individuals, are unable to stand up to it.
With this going on for a very long time, corporations dug their way into media, and from there into the state. Society is left helpless. In the last 10 years, since the beginning of the “war on terror”, governments and corporations in the West have been becoming more and more powerful, while societies are becoming weaker and weaker. People are giving more of their freedoms to those who are controlling them, and when they want that power back, they don’t get it.
Ninety-nine percent of America couldn’t do anything to change its financial system. That’s how badly this control is applied!
The reason for that failure is that people are still thinking as individuals. The only force that can protect individuals from corporations is society. The sum of people’s strength and awareness about issues that affect each one of them is the only force that can stand up to the resourceful greed of corporations.
For example, corporations here act as if they are doing individuals a favour when they hire them, even though the two entities are exchanging favours; one is giving money for someone else’s effort. Corporations succeeded in convincing people here that they are in fact doing a favour to society when they hire people and create jobs. The reality is corporations are monopolizing money, therefore jobs, and are forcing people to accept their terms; otherwise they will just “hire someone else”.
The truth is an employer is doing an employee a favour as much as the employee is doing him a favour. They are in fact equal. However, although businesses need the services of employees as badly as the employees need their money, the latter cannot impose a fair and equal balance in this relationship. An individual employee cannot say, “If you don’t treat me fairly I will go,” because the corporation can afford to let him go and hire someone else, but he cannot afford to be let go.
Besides not being held responsible by societies for this abuse of power, corporations managed to convince people here that they actually deserve to be tax exempted because they are “making jobs”. This claim is morally wrong and financially imprudent.
It is a financial mistake because it basically exempts anyone who is making money from chipping in and participating in the building of his country. So, under the current system, if you make money, then you shouldn’t give it to anyone; it is those who are barely making money who should pay to build roads for your expensive car and infrastructure to deliver water to your fancy swimming pool!
It is morally wrong because society is the one who should be telling corporations, “See, this service is required here, and if you don’t want to do the business on our terms, there will be other corporations who would love to take the job.” Society is the one who should stand up for corporations. Instead, it is empowering them further and further.
The form of control that is practised in the West is mind-blowing! People actually pay to be controlled!
This control is being implemented through media, and through the manipulation of the political elite, which happen to be the only two tools that society have.
The sad thing is, although there are some signs of awakening, and some attempts to carry out reforms, there are many people who have given up. The majority of people in Canada have given up, and didn’t cast their votes in last year’s elections.
On a side note, I don’t think that any political party here dares to adopt legislation in the House of Commons to forbid any party to form a government if it got less votes than the silent voters who did not turn out for elections. If the majority of a nation doesn’t take part in an election then this election is not truly representative, and it should be repeated. This way people will be more willing to vote because otherwise elections will just keep going on and costing them money.
With a media that is both driven by profit and manipulated by profiteers, people have been convinced that they need to consume all kinds of information that is not important to them, and ignore what is affecting them in their daily lives.
Society is the only entity that can take individuals out of their struggle with corporations. People need to reclaim their voice, or at least stop the bleeding of their freedom. People need to protect the tools that enable them to act as a society.
At this moment there are two imminent threats to our ability to act as a society. The first is a bill that threatens to restrict our ability to communicate freely with each other through a form of media that is not yet completely corrupted. The second is a practice that puts a big question mark on whether or not our political system is really representative.
The online spying bill and robocalls are imminent and easily identifiable threats to our ability to act as a society. Taking a stand against those two threats will be a great way for us to practise acting as a society. It will help us reacquire the basic skills of acting as a group, and at the same time, it will extend our ability to enjoy the same amount of freedom and representation that we have now. If we fail to act as a society, we will continue to be defeated as individuals, and will continue to give up more and more of our freedom to those who will continue to abuse it.
Ahmad Saeid is a blogger, journalist, photographer, and aspiring filmmaker who moved to Vancouver from Kuwait. He blogs at The Orient.
Mar 9, 2012 at 1:36pm
It's interesting to note the difference between public (stock) corporations and private corporations.
By "going public", a corporation basically cedes control of its business to stock analysts. I've been there several times, and I've seen it. At every quarterly meeting, the question for the directors becomes "did we meet revenue and profit targets?" Nobody asks if the company produced useful, quality products for the end consumer. That's almost irrelevant, because stock price rules the boardroom.
It's also interesting to note that all corporations survive by feeding on "infrastructure" that is bought and paid for by individual taxpayers. School systems that produce workers, hospitals that treat them when sick or injured, roads that carry goods, etc.
Economic conservatives would have us believe that low (or non-existent) corporate taxes attract business and employment ... but that's only because the real costs of infrastructure are borne by the people who subsequently become employed.
It's a shell game that goes like this: "I'll pay for the infrastructure if you hire me!" Stupid, eh?
Mar 9, 2012 at 2:36pm
Corporations are government created entities, subsidized by taxpayers in the form of "limited liability" status.
Say I went to an insurance company and said "I'd like to buy a policy that covers me from all forms of responsibility, criminal and civil, so I can pollute, steal, and slaughter to my heart's extent."
They would either laugh me out the door, or quote me a rate so high that no one could ever pay it.
Ending this free insurance program, turning corporations back into companies, hence forcing owners/shareholders into taking personal responsibility for their actions, is something people from both the left and right political schools should get on board with.
I'm a fan of liberty, personal and economic freedom, and free markets, but the existence of corporations stands in the way of all these things. In a real free market, governments do not force you to buy insurance for billionaires through your taxes.
Those on the alleged "right" (or as DavidH puts it, economic conservatives) who believe their businesses should be exempted from all responsibility do not understand that responsibility is to be applied, required and demanded *universally*, not just foisted upon the poor.
re: "The reason for that failure is that people are still thinking as individuals."
That's completely wrong and insidiously dangerous. Group-think is not a solution, it is a burial of human potential and an appeal to slavery.
Mar 9, 2012 at 2:39pm
A couple of questions for you, Mr. Ray of Sunshine:
1. Ever had a job? I didn't think so.
2. WTF are you doing here if it’s so awful?
3. Oddly enough, you forgot to mention where women fit into your societal nirvana. Or in which other society on the face of the planet people are happier than they are here.
Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way back to the Middle East, oh wise one.
Mar 9, 2012 at 3:48pm
@ Art Vandelay
Home boys like you represent the strongest possible argument in favour of increased immigration.
Mar 9, 2012 at 4:17pm
@DavidH - Fantasy world utopianists like yourself are the strongest possible argument for having adults in charge for the levers of government. I’m of immigrants and know and have interacted with more than you will ever in your fantasy world life. Immigrants do not whine like yourself and Mr.Saeid, they go out and make it happen for themselves and their families.
Mar 9, 2012 at 6:54pm
Corporation exist only to make profit ALL other considerations are secondary.
"The corporation is compared to a sociopath. The sociopathic personality is irresponsible, manipulating, grandiose, lacking in empathy, has antisocial tendencies, refuses to accept responsibility for its actions, and cannot feel remorse....Many of the attitudes people adopt and the actions they execute when acting as corporate operatives can be characterized as sociopathic.
Moreover, by the legal way a corporation is set up, its only motive is profit. Every action taken, no matter how altruistic it looks, has to ultimately be a search for profits. Otherwise, the corporation is subject to litigation by the shareholders. The corporation is deliberately programmed and legally compelled to externalize (dump) costs (pollution, for example) without regard for the harm it may cause. Every cost it can unload onto the general public is a benefit to stockholders - a direct route to profit.
Many major corporations habitually engage in criminal behavior with records worse than even the most prolific human criminals. GE collected 42 heavy fines over 11 years - akin to a hardened repeat criminal receiving occasional hand slaps while on perpetual parole. Corporations don't mind chalking these fines up as a cost of doing business - then delegating a committee to figure out how to cover their tracks better in the future. Sounds a lot like a sociopath.
Within the past 20 years, corporations have really gotten in bed with government in the United States. Billions in PAC money is spent every year for lobbying and political contributions. Grateful politicians find reasons to vote for causes supported by their benefactors. How can virtually unfunded (by comparison) watchdog groups compete with this machine aimed toward sugar-coating their industries and de-regulation?"
Source...The Corporation 2006.
Mar 10, 2012 at 1:39pm
The world is experiencing the death of corporatism and the casting off of the chains of the Industrial revolution.
This guy is 100% correct about the employee/employer relationship. If you're a coder, you're spending 12hrs a day at least trying to push out the companies product to deadline which will make them MILLIONS. They will typically pay you 0.5% of the profits as thanks for helping to build their company, lay you off for a cheaper coder, pay the shareholders a tiny dividend, and blow the rest on themselves and making new skyscrapers across every city as statues to their company management. Then fill the skyscrapers with more low paid disposable drones.
Mar 11, 2012 at 8:02am
Whoop dee do. A 20 something that's discovered socialism. How original.
Mar 12, 2012 at 3:40pm
These conversations always degenerate so quickly.
The fact of the matter is we can have an open and free society where corporations make profits but are also responsible for the damage they do, abide by social and environmental regulations and pay their fair share of taxes. I can't even imagine what corporations would be like if they became criminally responsible for the disasters and misinformation they create. That one simple thing would change the world incredibly.