Sunday, January 12, 2014
Poking the Corporate Hologram
The late and truly great Joe Bageant once wrote that Americans exist inside a nicely crafted “hologram” of interwoven “self-referential illusions.” It's a bit of an abstract thought I admit until you really decide to have a peek behind the proverbial curtain. Then, like a person walking around a Hollywood movie set, you discover that not only are some of our most cherished ideas about ourselves just clever facades built to keep the public happily numb but that in reality our proud nation is really structured to protect those with money and power. Right now I figure there are two general reactions to this last statement. The first being a huge and condescending “Duh” from those leaning to the political left and the other being thoughts that I am a sorry ass, seditious traitor to this glorious, God-fearing, and righteous nation from those on the right-wing.
I might be living in my own little hologram but I have always liked to think that true Reality—yes, I meant to use a capital R—defies the preconceived beliefs of political idealists on both the left and right. My problem though is that as I continue to examine the workings of our society I find that the situation is far worse than we could ever have imagined.
To nearly everyone in my family and to South Carolinians in general I could already be classified as an evil socialist. First of all I am agnostic, a certified tree huger, then there is my disdain for the proto-fascist, militaristic nature of American patriotism that rules the local scene. As for corporations, well, in my mind they belong to a whole other classification that at the very least is nightmarish and that is the point of this latest rant.
God bless Netflix because once you view a certain type of show on its internet-streaming service its nifty software starts suggestion similar items, in my case documentaries. The one I viewed yesterday was called Food Inc. and it taught me many horrific things about how not only food in this country is produced but how the massive agribusinesses resort to Orwellian tactics to protect what must be billions in profits.
Case in point was the interview with the mom of a two-year old child that had died from eating hamburger meat tainted with E. coli bacteria. She is pushing our spineless and soulless politicians to pass a bill called Kevin's Law which would allow the USDA to close down processing plants that produce contaminated meat. Now while I may live in my delusional hologram that seems a great idea! But no, the meat industry is fighting her like a rabid dog saying the law is unnecessary and would raise the cost of food.
The interview took a turn into Orwellian territory when this heroic lady started carefully choosing her words over fear she might say something that would bring down the wrath of high-paid lawyers comparable to squadrons of flying monkeys coming down hard on Dorthy and her entourage walking the Yellow Brick road. What she feared was something called “veggie libel laws” or know formally as Food Libel Laws. These monstrous examples of authoritarian power that would curl the toes of Joe Stalin in orgasmic glee make it easy for food producers to sue their critics. Apparently these laws restricting free speech vary greatly from the thirteen states that currently have them on their books but just the idea that a mom who lost a child due to crap mixed in a fast food hamburger has to carefully chose her words and not the meat producer responsible boggles my tiny mind.
But honestly, this is what we Americans ultimately deserve. Not only do we demand cheap food and manufactured products like electronics and clothes we go ballistic like spoiled children when such items become scarce. I heard more verbal crap on the news lamenting the death of the Twinkie snack cake than the fact that the company called it quits chiefly because they could not get the union to agree to a contract that gutted benefits and pay for the workers.
It really sucks to play the part of some half-assed Cassandra in a society so narcissistic that we get upset when the rest of the world refuses to sniff our poop and smile but America will pay an increasingly high price for being willing slaves to our comfort. Cheap food is seen as a God given right these days even though the large-scale practices that enable it are hugely destructive on the environment and unhealthy. We love to buy cheap clothes and electronics but they are only that way because the corporations moved the factories, that use to pay Americans enough to plan a future for themselves, to countries that offer slave wages.
So while the middle and working class folks sink because we are on a cycle that is attempting to keep “always low prices” with unsustainable practices and shipping jobs overseas the rich continually maneuver to protect their positions of power and privilege through methods that make this country hypocritical at best. Somehow in all of this the phrase “karma is a vicious bitch” keeps bouncing around in my head.