Monday, July 20, 2009

The Corporation (movie review)

In theory, at least in my own mind, this was a dry run for the shared viewing model I'm encouraging among Wanderers: borrow something from inventory and watch it as a group, of two at least, and then file something electronically, so we have something more searchable and world-readable. You might even watch the same vid in different groups, gaining different perspectives thereby.

In practice, we watched a commercial DVD, not one of the ISEPP tapes, a lengthy documentary I'd seen at Cinema 21 years ago. You could consider this a sequel or prequel to This Land is Your Land.

My viewing partner felt the movie was effective in inspiring outrage, wanted to purge the ranks, cull the herd, but then these high caliber designing engineer types easily transmute (sublimate) such urges into melody and/or sculpture, performance art, are too professional to indulge in gratuitous violence. Our Silicon Forest is blessed with such beings.

She had other cogent comments, having read some of the related literature (as had I). She appreciated Chomsky for his grounding influence, for getting her off her higher, more purely bred horse (probably faster than his too, but then we're all getting older).

From my angle, this highly spun documentary was a self parody in some ways, as it includes some of these wildcard creepazoid "spies" who say all the right things, yet seem just a tad on the slick side, plus the film itself is superbly edited and branded, a really tight package i.e. it typifies "corporate" in the sense of "high production values" (very Madison Avenue). Inevitably, there's some mirroring going on. We all use consumer goods from time to time, are a part of the same food chain, may even engage in nagging (badgering), other media manipulation.

I could just imagine a moneymaker CEO on his knees, begging these filmmakers to please please sell his snake oil, if only money could buy such a stairway to heaven.

My partner made the core point that it's a matter of who has the best, most compelling story. Like most CEOs only have flimsey economics to fall back on as a rationale and peddle their product or service in predicatable ways, are cast in a merchant's mold. Pro scholars, on the other hand, have the benefit of painstaking research with lots of dot connecting (especially in hindsight). As a result, their stories win our hearts and minds more than either empty denials or mea culpas, other salesman type ploys (gotta hand it to that rug seller though: he's good at his job).

Also, I think there just wasn't time, even in the two hours or whatever it was, to introduce all the main players, let alone all the extras. Corporations fly by, lots of 'em, including a defense contractor or two, but as we're focusing on that specific legal structure known as "the corporation" we're thereby not looking so much at brands of religion, some of which run hospitals or other NGOs, or organize big ticket festivals, attractive to tourists and/or pilgrims. Like Bhutan's military bottles and sells booze to the Bhutanese public to help sustain itself. No time for that design pattern here, nor for the technicalities of banking, micro-lending, Sharia's non-interest based approach.

People enjoy being ethical and/or ethically subversive and we had many species of subversive in this film, including some maybe reaching out into the theater, recruiting for their home teams. Maybe Shell has netted a new loyal employee or two, or a least a few fans, as a result of this movie? The CEO and his wife seemed an endearing couple. Arcata looked homey and democracy-minded (aren't cities and townships sometimes "incorporated" -- just means you have papers to wave around right? -- a charter of some kind, like a school has).

IBM certainly got its head handed to itself on a plate, another item for processing, a topic I delve into in my Chicago workshop as well. Fox also gets it in the neck in Florida, after like 83 chances to show some backbone around that "what's in the milk?" question.

Because of our intrinsic propensity to live ethically, to have integrity, I think we're going along with what this film proposes we do, are in the process of redesigning many of our commercial business institutions, somewhat from the ground up, most probably in software (law books too slow, not self executing enough).

GM is maybe trailblazing in this direction, given its new lease on life as a public/private partnership, although I'm not claiming any special insights at this point.

I'm more hopeful than that the guy towards the end, predicting a lot more darkness, but then we've seen a lot of water under the bridge since then. We have more reasons for hope than he did, see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Anyway, there's no point saddling any of these people with the views they express, if they've since come to more refined and/or evolved positions in the meantime. Sure we might say "I told you so" in some cases, but then hindsight gives us an unfair advantage perhaps.

A lot of us have been thinking a lot about this stuff, so let's not pretend like today is just a repeat of yesterday, just more business as usual, even if we still start it with FMV Cornflakes, end it with a Rogue Ale or one of those. Although commerce is ancient, the rule space for doing business is not. What Bucky Fuller called LAWCAP is already a dead language (not evolving). We're in the process of morphing into something new, and not a moment too soon.