People, profit, and planet.
Sixteen years after author Joel Bakan‘s book The Corporation was made into a feature length documentary by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, the time to revisit his thesis and see how the market adapted has arrived. Joining Abbott in the director’s chair himself for the follow-up, The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel looks to introduce viewers to what was probably the only logical progression for a for-profit corporation to take after achieving the rights of a human being under the court of law. Anyone who’s been watching the state of the world economy shouldn’t therefore be surprised to learn that evolution was towards government power. Where else is there to go but the place that writes the laws under which you are now given freedom to operate?
Let’s face it. This is what’s been happening the past four decades as corporate influence has slowly but surely wrested control away from the people. We no longer vote for an elected official. We vote for the business interests that fund our candidates for the guarantee of legislative kickbacks. It’s how these entities were able to achieve the same legal status as a human being in the first place. And as regulations are eased and the road to monopolization is paved, their whispers into the ears of representatives become screams. Get someone like Donald Trump to dupe the people those corporations will ultimately harm into voting him in as president and it becomes less a road and more a slide straight down to an insane windfall of riches.
Bakan explains it all in what proves to be a dense yet fast-paced exposé on how it occurred. To see the vicious circle wherein the government has kowtowed to businesses in a way that defunded its ability to serve the greater good in order for those same establishments to swoop in like “saviors” in order to privatize our collective pain is quite the exercise in futility. As Anand Giridharadas states via interview and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez illustrates via a Congressional hearing, these corporations are more than willing to pick up the slack within a vacuum of their own creation as long as it means kicking back a little something their way for the trouble. Politicians get rich. The rich get richer. And the workers are left holding eviction notices.
It’s not just America either as Bakan and Abbott travel internationally to show us the self-gratification that goes on at Davos, the suffering that occurs in a corrupt government ruled by coal interests like Australia, and the global shift to socialist reformers moving from street activism to their respective legislatures so that change can actually be ratified. Is it any surprise that a company like Amazon will pay millions of dollars to fund campaigns for these radicals’ opponents? Not when you realize they’ve moved billions overseas to save on taxes and then graciously accept rebates that ultimately net them extra money while their employees pee in bottles so as not to miss a delivery quota. The dystopias of WALL•E and The LEGO Movie have officially become reality.
As the film moves from corporate takeover (there are actual tech ambassadors who lobby and meet with giants like Apple and Google as though they are sovereign nations) to a look at what we can do (and are doing) to hopefully turn the tide, however, we cannot help but see the carnage that has been created (environmentally and politically) and embrace a nihilistic attitude instead. When we live in a world that’s at war with the truth, what chance does a work as well researched and informative as this one have against white supremacists that proudly announce their intentions to always be right wing? The people who need to watch in order to understand just how badly they’ve voted against their own interests consistently refuse to see reason.
But maybe that’s me being cynical. Maybe there are more people like Chris Barrett—a whipping boy character from The Corporation who saw the movie, realized the error of his actions, and is now an elected local official running on policies popularized by Bernie Sanders—then I think because the media spends too much time highlighting the MAGA folks who’ve latched onto the fear-mongering that these corporations bank on netting them even more profits through privatized prisons and schools. We’ve known about the former for a while now, but the latter is investigated here in devastating detail as the colonialist propaganda machine it is. That’s what we’ve wrought by defunding the government through tax cuts and military spending. We’ve allowed companies to commodify and hijack our very identities.
The graphics, talking head interviews, and voiceover all come to this crucially objective realization. Bakan pretty much presents on-screen the unspoken handbook that these clinically psychopathic corporations have utilized despite their newfound pivots to “community building” and “saving the future.” This new angle is nothing but another marketing tactic meant to deflect blame and confuse citizens into willingly giving up their autonomy for a level of comfort that inherently renders them more pliable than they already were. And by injecting in a wealth of footage and information culled from our current COVID-19 pandemic, he and Abbott are even able to pull the curtain open on just how far we’ve let ourselves fall. The people are waking up. The fight is waging on. Maybe Goliath’s number is finally up.
courtesy of TIFF