A Pedestrian's Response to Corporate Abuse
I am twenty-two years old. I finished my University degree last summer and went on a fine little trip to Europe in the fall and I felt my financial ease reach its peak somewhere in the south of England. Suddenly I was running out of money, my friend was urging me to borrow money, and I foresaw what awaited me when I returned to Toronto. A student loan on top of several scattered debts and living expenses. When I returned I began to fall steadily into debt, and the only solution being offered was the Capitalistic system. I had to get a low paying job since my Liberal Arts Education and Fine Arts applications didn’t give me many financially viable "skills", and I was supposed to put my morals aside for "a good day’s work". So I did it, and I learned that the capitalist system is a stage of actors playing roles that echo those of prostitution and indoctrination, and I don’t want to work for a system I don’t believe in, in a world where I am one of the few who still has ideas, and most people tell me not to voice them.
So I must say it’s been quite tough. The money and responsibility thing. But the harder blow was the advice and words I’ve been finding everywhere in the business world: pay your dues, start at the bottom, wither away in vice and servitude to pay your rent, and subsist. After many years you won’t have to worry about subsisting and may have free time, but by that time you won’t know what to do with your freedom, having forgotten all your ideas and ideals, and entered yourself into a contract with the state to take your blood for little payout, so long as you cash out your ideas at the concession stand. This is the world of business. We don’t look lightly on thinking.
Nevertheless, I am living in the business capital of Canada, Toronto, and possibly the most hollow place in the world according to a lot of people (most of whom have never been here). At the moment there are fiberglass moose all over the city - some tote advertisements for powerful stores, some are emulations of the places they’re put in, and some are just bad art. Wall Street, I mean Bay Street, has a suited moose, Pizza Hut has a moose covered with pizza toppings, and Mount Sinai Hospital has two moose wearing paper mache diapers in front of its doors. And all this was Mel Lastman’s great idea to attract more money, I mean tourists, to the city. As if there isn’t enough money in this Megacity. Big business thrives here. The mega stores, office towers, condo living magazines, juxtaposed with a shameless attitude toward the homeless, with people being hypnotized everywhere by the new televisions popping up all over town, with the speakers blasting homogenizing music, with the public brandings on every corner, hosted by the last man, Mel Lastman, who has brought to life the golden calf of the Bible and calls all folks to step up and become... "Nooooooooobody." Business is about branding. Turning people into a "nobody" as they embrace an image other than their own selves, thereby disconnecting themselves from themselves, which is totally convenient to big business, as its aim is to impose its own image upon mankind and to dominate the world by a sick kind of fashion brainwashing. Business created the mass consumer audience. Though many selves, it wants us all to be one self, so were easier to target and market. And technology allows all this.
McLuhan talked about how the new mediums being introduced into society would retribalize man, and that seems to being occurring, but is it the mediums, or the business, or isn’t it true that most things transmitted through mediums are business? Sure, we’re given some cookies of attempt at art and communication amidst television commercials, squeezed beside ads on the internet, as a reward for eating awful popcorn and overpriced sugar water and watching trailers at the movies... But it seems there is nothing devoid of business. It’s getting harder and harder to find clothes not draped in logos. I’ve given up on public transportation all together because of the imprisoning ads and McDonalds stands emitting manipulating smells throughout the crass system of pushing the cattle around. Commercials are longer and louder than every before, and slowly the busses, subways, streetcars, trains, cabs, lamp posts, construction sites, sky, sidewalk, flesh, and flowers are losing their identity in our minds, and thus their utility. You no longer take the street car to get home, you take the Starbucks streetcar; it shows everyone in sight pictures of over priced ice coffee drinks in front of a greeny bluish background that illuminates sight for the captives inside, and there are child like drawings of people and things on the ad too, just to remind you, in case you haven’t noticed when you see your hand writing... this modern world is retarding us in the abstract sense of what it is to be human. The body is becoming a prosthetic. Companies are threatened by the body capable of expressing.
There is too much. There are a thousand things I want to do, half as many obligations, a quarter the amount of time required, and the world spinning around me makes me sick. I’m ever so glad that I learned all about our little western history, but it’s not doing me much good now... in fact it’s making life sort of difficult. Before I went to University, I thought the real world was a square and I had to fit into it some how. I salvaged some ideas of myself in my head, and willed to go along with the charade I didn’t understand since I didn’t have much choice. But then there were the Greeks... the first real burst of art into misery. Life’s, and my own. As for me, the Greeks expressed freedom, not only in discussing the concept, but that in discussing the concept they were free. Freedom will always be an abstract idea that can never be fully realized as the idea comes from our unfree brains, but discussing freedom is a freeing and powerful activity. For in discussing freedom we have to look at the things we are bound to in order to become unbound. But today we are so woven up that undertaking such a task is far too difficult and no one has the time. What people don't realize is that freedom, as an idea, and thereby an extension of our brain, only has a life of its own in its utility. Freedom must be exercized to be realized. And when we stop thinking about freedom, the idea dies. But luckily it can be risen, and I’m hoping that people will turn around and think. As soon as I started thinking about freedom, the closed-system world suddenly opened and I felt free. Life was no longer a square, but instead it became an expanding circle, like the universe itself.
Notice that no one writes Utopia’s anymore? People won’t even indulge in such concepts anymore, because most people don’t question the state they are living in, let alone dream of another one. We are fed left right and center that the system in place is good. Even in our "free" time we are bombarded by images so that even then we can’t take our mind away from the working world and the system in place, its venom is everywhere. Pretty people, ironic sexual undertones, bastardized covers of once good rock songs, puns and catch phrases, all to induce rapid eye movement. In commercials and ads, just like with the Starbucks St. Car drawings, we are spoken to and related to like children. Like the biggest concept our little brains can handle is old people having sex. Because television ads are targeted at the mass consumer audience, they are trying to conquer everyone from eight to eighty. We are all dehumanized to the lowest level of intelligence so that we all hear the same tune, but somehow people actually think that this is the way it ought to be, since we are not in power. I would go so far as to say that we, the mass consumer audience, are being abused by advertising and the media. Women are told to be thin and corpse-like, men to be tight and tanned, to always think of sex and just be happy breeders and workers proliferating the grooves in the the skipping system. We are targeted like wanted criminals by companies that have hunted us down , bought and sold information on our buying habits as if we were chips in a poker game, and the worst thing of all - we are charged for the experience for the experience. We are being fucked every each way. Living is so goddamn expensive and the only way to afford it is to sell your soul and work for the spectacle of the society: a distopian production of the Theatre of the Absurd. A dystopian production of the Theater of the Absurd.
I began this somewhere. I think as soon as I said it’s tough I went off on this raging tangent as it’s more heart wrenching than tough. It’s not the physical sacrifices of being poor and having to start at the bottom too, it’s that feeling once again that the world is a square and I must fit into it. I must commodify myself, and ad titles to my name, have as many numbers and addresses as possible, smile to every well dressed person I meet, and pretend just like the rest of them that life is peachy. In order to get a job I must make an elaborate advertisement for myself - the resume; in which how much you bold and underline is far more important than the content in the thing itself. You have to carefully design and manipulate your resume to be absolutely fabulous at first glance, the first beams to the eyes of the judge must be titillating, or at least impressive to someone familiar with the working world, which I am not. I am absolutely hopeless with the resume, and I feel resentful that I must make the awful thing to go after an even more awful thing - a job.
I tried one of these start-at-the-bottom jobs and it was a disaster, but a great learning experience and shock of what the majority of the world cares about: cheap business and fancy propaganda. I was just thinking about a conversation I recently had with someone in one of the companies - he kept going on about how the companies they brand are trying to communicate to the mass consumer audience... and the thought or rage that just came to me dumbfoundedly is that I don’t want them to talk to me. Just like those poor pathetic crazies on the street that come stumbling up to you, companies do the same thing, but remember - they don’t have bodies... so in one sense they are invisible, controlling us blindly. Brainwashing us, when we’re not even dirty. We should tell them that we don’t want them to communicate with us. It seems so simple and I know people will laugh at me. But that’s just because they are ashamed and in denial like abused children.
So we must stick up for ourselves, against the Corporate Dictatorship of the Soul. When companies were given natural person status in 1886 in the United States, in the case of Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, they acquired all the rights and privileges of a natural being, with limited liabilities. So naturally, they slowly began raping people for all their money, time, and attention. And people haven’t yet realized that they are being abused, its too shameful to become undone by the forces of society itself. And they all want in on the cake. What makes it hard to take on companies is that they are not an individual. We have no one target. We have complicated spider web infrastructures. And the spiders build as we speak. They integrate more and more modules and systems to make the capitalist system invincible. They are making loopholes everywhere, and copying the engineering of the world wide web. They are making it so there is no center, no effective target. Business is the ultimate phantom power. A lurking rapist, enforcing themselves upon us and we can’t even see them. We should charge the companies with all the crimes they have committed as if they were one person. We can charge them with harassment, psychological abuse causing harm, ie. anorexia, patronizing demeanor leading to brainwashing effects of the dictatorship of culture, using people as pawns in a war despite being dependent upon us (just like they're doing to our planet), and finally mutilating and brainwashing them into just that role: a pawn in a game. Mass consumer audience pawns, on sale at Walmart. But the thing is, as the mass consumer audience, we are more powerful than anyone. The people are power, not money. We can effect society directly, companies can only do it indirectly by going through us, the mass consumer audience. But we can say "No", reprimand these chauffeurs to homogeny, and stand up for ourselves. We can tell them to stop abusing us.
But we should tell them soon, before they really screw up the planet and screw us into each other like the Borg. It’s only a matter of time, and I think the Borg thing is already here with internet cell phones, but every tool can be used for good or bad, so we could grow a healthy connection. It’s going to take more than protests to change things, protests are as widespread as street lights these days. It is very cool that people have shut down Political events, but if we want to change things we have to grow with support, and support is generated by communication. It’s not good enough to just hate Corporate America, we have to understand why and how it is. My western history knowledge allows me the privilege of knowing the steps that lead to the present. I don’t blame, contrarily I want to show people that there is a better solution to life than consumerism. Things have not always been this way. We have finally hit a high literacy rate for the masses in western society, but knowledge and understanding have now been replaced with information and memorization, so we are lost once more. Rather than consuming we should be emitting ourselves, our unique personhood, drained of all branding and identity injections. We have better things to say than the Corporations... Don’t you think?
So what do I want to do about it, and where am I on the square/circle world thing? I still think the world is open to variations in the square, but the people inhabitating the world are very far from the circle. People I met at this past job told me that caring about the world is a phase everyone goes through at my age, the anti-corporate big brother "ha ha ha" phase, that I walk around with a halo on my head niave and optimistic with the assumption that I should do what I want to do in life, as long as I’m good at it. And if I’m good at it, I should be doing it now, without having to pay all my dues and tunnel the corporate sewer system to corporate popular slather.
I go through my aching existence like everyone else, but fight and try to be witty as much as I can so that I can record it and make my own propaganda - "thought" pieces. Thought pieces are Pieces of listening that consist of thoughts and sound painting or setting of scenario in the background. Actually these recordings are conversations that in most cases I have with people, where the discussion raises good points, points worth developing, and hopes even. Because we think, and thinking makes us free. But people don’t hear many free thoughts any more. Television is complete formula. Sure there are several formulas, but within each one there is a unifying order and logic that forbids magic and surprise, and the raising of those lurky things called thoughts. Movies are just as bad if not worse. Hollywood has the mass consumer audience on a hook, as collectively all the industries control them apparently. We’re learning that once again newspapers are going the route of right wing fascism, and music is like playdough. The popular right controls mass consumer culture with one model. Though they have different faces, Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez aren’t that different, are they? Society is set up so nothing really suprises us, everything is a rigemented system where to walk through it we barely have to be conscious. And I want to show people that. Because I am aching with the knowledge and frustration that the water still flows, even if it’s too toxic to drink or swim in.
Thoughts are as free as the concept of Freedom, though also as vacant. Just as Freedom must be realized in actions, thoughts must be realized in the medium of speech, or print, or print based media, but once again the concepts cannot be realized, only bridged. You cannot think directly with another person. You have to turn thoughts and feelings into speech or text or song. In my activities, I record conversations with people who I think might express items of interest to other people. To go along, I also record beautiful natural sounds, and awful urban soundscape nightmares to use as visual connectors. Because sound as symbol is also a tool. Even sound has been branded by the same part of the brain that created language, and sounds are connected to objects in the visual field and they can be called up by the imagination and used to complement the speech, dialogue, or narration. The idea is that the listener thinks, and forms their own opionions and ideas in the process, and by thinking and critically listening and imagining the society and system and life we live, maybe that tinkling of freedom will shake in a few people, and people will realize that it’s a square, but the square consists of thoughts like these ones, which are discouraged so as not to shake the capitalist boat, and have been all but crushed with the burning of history. The structure of society should always be open for suggestions, and maybe people should start thinking once again about Utopia... not that show Survival. Life is a circle, society is a square.
As for me, I am hoping to sell freelance pieces to the CBC that encourage thought and hopefully sound good too. I hope to do this and eventually get to the point where I can pay my bills doing this and working on my other love, the visual image. And if I can pay my bills, then I may get to the point of being able to buy more tools and keep building. I’d like to combine sound and image, though am working on them both separately right now. However, the computer is the master tool, and I am learning to use it, so should hopefully be wired soon, where the muse can float freely. As the ending of Voltaire’s Candide admits, the only solution to life is to cultivate one’s garden. So I’m growing big tomatoes... so I can throw them at office towers.
June 2000, Toronto