Thursday, September 22, 2011

Le Monde 100: The Grapes of Wrath

A corporation just got ta eat, right? You wouldn't stop a poor old corporation from eating, would ya?

In 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was passed giving corporations the same status as people, which it previously had only in the limited capacity of being able to sue and be sued. The ruling that just came down the pike last has given the corporations vast political power by allowing them to make unlimited campaign donations. 

It's as if the Supreme Court Justices never read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

Since the Industrial Revolution started, there has been no lack of regret and sadness and outrage at the ability of society to operate completely contrary to the needs of the individual members of that same society. Ralph Waldo Emerson shot an enormous blast of humanity right in the face of business in his essay "Nature", when he realized that when we start viewing men in terms of dollars and cents that that vision will strip man of his essential humanity. 

This is the crux of the problem for the family in The Grapes of Wrath. The banks realize that by hiring one man with a tractor they can replace whole families of sharecroppers as they raise their bottom line. When I say banks, though, I don't mean the people who work at the bank, I mean the collective unconscious of the CONCEPT of a bank, whose undead non-soul is animated by taking a little part of every member and worker of that bank. The bank, not only is not have its own conscious, but it also does not have its own CONSCIENCE as it doesn't have the ability to see right and wrong from a human perspective. 

Steinbeck relates it this way:

"But, you see, a bank or a company can't do that, because those creature don't breathe air, don't eat side-meat. The breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don't get it, they die the way you die without air, without side meat. It is a sad thing, but it is so."

So, banks and corporations aren't to blame for being hungry. But, Steinbeck says "Men made it, but they can't control it." To be mad at a corporation is like being mad at the polar bear you keep in your pool for eating your little nephew that came over for a swim. It's just following its imperative. 

This is why Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is a ghoulish proposition and  the sheepskin that wolves will wear to dinner.

The Grapes of Wrath does everything it can do show the humanity of the individual to the point of a woman breast feeding a fully grown man. That's really the ultimate in caring for another person. But, how long before The IceCreamists have an IPO?

I'm going a little out of order because I didn't get my copy of Man's Fate. Next up, Journey to the End of Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine.

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