Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Corporation

The Corporation is a film/documentary that looks at the past, present and future of a giant we collectively call The Corporation. The film is witty, serious, informative, thought provoking and bone chilling. Not recommended for dinner time viewing. And I am positive it will give all the right wing free marketers a rash.

From the time a corporation was declared "a person" to the present time, the film looks at the rise, the influence and the power large corporations of today wield.

The film is based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan. If a corporation is indeed a person, what kind of person is a corporation ? That is the question the film tries to answer. Going by history, the corporation has not been a picture of piety. The single minded pursuit of profit has led to illicit and uncanny behavior.

From the use and promotion of rBGH a synthetic hormone to boost milk production at the expense of health hazards to humans and extreme pain to cows, to spending billions of dollars influencing young minds to nag their parents into buying products, to utter disregard of environmental standards, to patenting plants, animals and even DNA, to sweat shops, to genetic manipulation of agriculture crops preventing farmers from saving seeds, the corporations of today have done and are doing things far from the norm. They have become powerful.

Such is the pursuit of profit that every single thing on this earth is being pushed to be privatized. In Bolivia, the World Bank forced water supply to be privatized and the US company Bechtel gained the sole rights. Even rain water harvesting by individuals were made illegal. In a poor economy, people were made to pay a significant portion of their income to buy water. People revolted.Many died. Many injured. Many tortured.

The film tells a story. A story of our times. Worth listening to. Worth thinking about. And it is specially relevant today in the context of recent WTO free trade negotiations in Hong Kong. Many protested outside the WTO summit. A BBC correspondent covering the protest had this to say, "Many protestors feel that no decisions made is better that bad decisions being made". A study released by the campaign group Friends of the Earth titled The Tyranny of Free Trade looks at present danger to people and their environment. It looks at the damage to forests, fisheries, food, minerals, water and biodiversity caused by current free trade policies.

Having said all that, I am in no way advocating a government regulated overly protectionist economy. I have seen the ugliness of bureaucracy, inefficiency and corruption under a license raj. But I am definitely not in support of free market pyrotechnics either. Clean air, water and hormone free food are basic human rights. It is not a property of a group of cigar smoking golf playing board of directors.

I completely agree with curious gawker's assessment. Today's debate on free market economy is unfortunately about ideologies and not about issues and facts. I feel free trade has the potential of elevating the quality of life of many in the developing world. It also has the potential of making small farmers into 3 cents an hour sweat shop workers at a Nike factory. Governments need to ensure that the people, the culture and the environment are not abused.

Quote of the day
"International trade needs to be recognized for what it is: a means to an end. A coherent system of global governance in which trade regulation was firmly embedded in an improved UN system could significantly improve coordination and help to stop trade negotiations from undermining efforts to eradicate poverty, protect biodiversity, prevent climate change and ensure food sovereignty, at both the national and international level. Importantly, the myth of unfettered free trade as a solution to poverty needs to be exploded."~The Tyranny of Free Trade, Friends of the Earth


Mridula said...

And I agree with you. I have to read the book though, on which this movie is made.

ஜேகே - JK said...

I watched this documentary long back. What a terrific, thought provoking one! I wrote a post on this in my Tamil blog. People in developing countries like in India are still struggling for survival. A lot of corporations use that struggle to package and sell their crimes as growth to gullible public.

One More Reason said...

Hi Jk,
I agree. We need to make sure that we don't fall prey.

Amit Kulkarni said...

Thanks for posting some useful links, and your skill as a photographer is superb!