Anti-Corporatism and Modern Life: Why Simple-Minded Anti-Corporatism is So Common

To say that anti-corporate rhetoric in the modern world is cliched is to state the blaringly obvious. I am 23 years old, I attended college at the supremely left University of Colorado at Boulder, and I freely engage in political debate and constantly keep my ears tuned to the political prater that floats in the background of everyday life. These facts may explain why I feel surrounded by anti-corporatism. Furthermore, I live a divergent lifestyle – musician, philosopher, “indie-rocker” – that finds me nearly perpetually surrounded by groups of young, idealistic, coffee shop denizens who purposefully make contrarianism a method of living and non-conformity a reason for being.

However, I do not feel my interest in the topic, my iconoclastic political viewpoints and the company I keep adequately explain why I feel that such simple-minded, anti-corporate leftism pervades modern life. I think this is best explained by the fact that simple-minded, anti-corporate leftism does pervade modern life.

And, to put it quite plainly, it sickens me. In addition, it intrigues me, befuddles me, and demands an explanation. This essay – in which I will try, with every progressive philosophical bone in my body, to keep from being an incensed rant – will attempt to provide an explanation.

To attempt to reconstruct the position which I am attacking in a succinct philosophical argument is doomed to failure. This position – although held in a somewhat more philosophically cogent manner by the likes of Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenrich or Michael Moore – is not usually represented by such thinkers. Instead, these opinions are usually voiced in a half-assed manner by equally half-assed people: rhetorical questions, vivid appeals to anecdotal stories, name-calling, and absurd moral reductionism. In the latter, the categories are made clear; the rich are evil, the poor are good; the bosses are exploitive, the workers are victims. I am, however, getting ahead of myself. Back to the simple problem of anti-corporatism.

In this form, anti-corporatism often seems to be a knee-jerk response. First of all, corporations are not judged as distinct entities each deserving to be praised or damned on their own accords. All corporations are bad. It seems that a business only need to cross an evanescent line of popularity and all bets are off. Once Starbucks moved from being a local, well-loved Seattle coffee shop to being a national powerhouse with an ubiquitous presence its moral status was downgraded. The same fate will hold for Berkeley’s “Pete’s Coffee,” which now can be found in most national grocery stores.

Damn these businesses. Damn them for succeeding in supplying affordable, high-quality goods. They used to only make a small number of people happy. Now they’ve gone and spread that happiness to the country and, perhaps, the world.

I am clearly being facetious. However, the idiosyncratic person who reached an esoteric pinnacle by “discovering them first” would never hold this enlightened world-view. No, they want it for themselves, and perhaps a few others who “deserve” to be a part of their exclusive coterie.

In the last five years anti-corporatism has received a significant amount of fuel to its fire. Enron, WorldCom, and the other corporate scandals seemed to prove their “evilness” by demonstrating what the activists had always known; corporations don’t care about anything or anyone but themselves. Furthermore, corporations will stop at nothing to make money. This essay is not about why corporations are great (that is for another essay) it is about why people hate corporations so much. However, it is worth mentioning that I don’t think Enron and the others indict all corporations anymore than Ted Bundy and Adolph Hitler indict all humanity. Also, it is worth saying that the recent corporate scandals are certainly not why people hate corporations so much. This belief existed before the scandals and would be just as prevalent if no corporate scandal ever happened.

I will make myself as clear as possible: one of the central cruxes of anti-corporate rhetoric is the belief that corporations are able to make people want things they don’t want, need things they don’t need, and eventually buy things they don’t really want or need to buy. The emphasis on “make” is essential. In order for such rhetoric to make sense a high level of invasive, omnipresent, and nearly complete control must be assumed. If such choices (things to buy) resulted from free people simply choosing what appealed to them, buying that thing, and proceeding on in a happy and fulfilling existence then it is hard to see how anyone would have a problem with whatever entity sold the product. The business simply supplied a justly needed and desired product. Heck, they were just making someone happy.

Values and Desert

This discussion of such ideological slants is no different than any other. In the end I am talking about our sense of Justice; that transcendent gossamer of a thread that connects so many of our daily discussions. Specifically, these debates boil down to our ideas of desert and value. Do you have what you deserve? Do others have what they deserve? Do the non-deserving keep things from the deserving? And secondly, is what you have valuable? Do you value what you have and don’t have correctly?

The latter question is incredibly important to the matter at hand. Although the question is quite strange, it is one that all of us, in one form or another, continually ask ourselves. We criticize others based on the answers we form to this question. In many ways much of our internally constructed hierarchies of individual moral worth are built on our inner dealings with the questions: what are the correct things to value, what are the incorrect things to value, how can we make decisions that create proper valuing, and how can we demonstrate to others that we value correctly?

I’ve opened a huge bag of intellectual statements here. To simplify: If a friend comes up to you and tells you that she recently purchased a fifty thousand dollar food processor you (and certainly I) would probably roll your eyes and feign excitement for her bizarre choice of expenditure all the while wondering if this action is sufficient grounds for beginning commitment hearings. Why does she value so incorrectly? Another friend tells you that his kitchen is simply not big enough so he has decided to form a small militia group in order to invade and forcefully annex his neighbor’s property thereby increasing the available space for his kitchen. What is wrong with his system of values? He has decided that the size of his kitchen is more important than the sanctity of personal property, the importance of privacy and desert, and possibly his neighbor’s lives?

Many of you may be thinking that the hypothetical crazy people mentioned above wouldn’t even be your friends; therefore you would never have to deal with these contrived problems. This is probably true. However, the pertinent question is why they wouldn’t be your friends. Personally, they wouldn’t be my friends because they clearly have a skewed system of values that is difficult, if not impossible, for me to understand and even harder for me to forgive. If such people have shown such a blatant misunderstanding of the correct values and how to act on those values they couldn’t be any sort of friend who would be deserving of my friendship.

And here we have it. Imbedded in this specific discussion of individual people valuing incorrectly we find a near constant connection between the concepts of value and desert. If you donÔø?t value correctly you donÔø?t deserve; or perhaps, you deserve bad things. If you kill because you don’t value human life then you deserve to die; you do not deserve a massage and a box of chocolates.

Corporations and Values

Several hundred words ago I was writing about anti-corporatism. I stated the contention that much of anti-corporation leftism hinges on the belief that corporations make their customers buy things they don’t actually want or need. This is the oft-mentioned idea of “sheep.” Anti-corporate ideologues will often refer to the masses as “sheep” who are under the yoke of a domineering corporate/government structure that controls their desires and needs. Advertising is an insipid and hidden hegemonic device that manipulates the “sheep’s” brains into desiring falsely and valuing incorrectly. If you value incorrectly you don’t deserve. Furthermore, the suppliers of what you value do not deserve the rewards they get.

Who actually wants a new workout machine? Who really needs a new SUV that can conquer the roughest mountain terrain? Who actually wants the new Britney Spears CD? Sometimes they seem like commands: a refreshing can of Coke, “Enjoy.” “Fly the friendly skies.” “Drivers wanted.”

Iconoclastic corporation haters scoff at these people. They realize that there are large amounts of people who value in an entirely different way than they do. These people want gilt candlesticks from Pottery Barn, not a Chinese rock garden. They want leather couches, SUV’s, and the new John Grisham book; not beanbags, Jettas, and a copy of the Tao Te Ching. After this sort of values dissonance is realized it must be account for in some fashion.

To return to some previous statements: imagine a world without such strongly stated and codified values dissonance. In this world we are all okay with others choices and let them proceed with such choices unimpeded. Of course, this world is unthinkable and countermands certain basic human qualities. However, the thought experiment is valuable. Imagine a corporation that succeeded by providing genuinely good products that many people want. They advertised to tell people about what they have. The possible consumers justly examined their monetary status and the possible trade-offs of their purchases. Then they decided to make the purchase and became genuinely happier because of it. In a world without intense, interpersonal values disagreement there would be little room for criticism of the consumer’s actions. As stated before: if such choices (things to buy) resulted from free people simply choosing what appealed to them, buying that thing, and proceeding on in a happy and fulfilling existence then it is hard to see how anyone would have a problem with whatever entity sold the product.

Such problems develop after some of the descriptions of the situation above are the objects of disagreement. Do the people “really” want what the corporation offers? Did the advertisement unjustly affect their opinions? Did they understand their monetary status and the trade-offs involved? Did they become “genuinely” happier because they made their purchase? An indictment of the corporation may be justified if such questions are answered skeptically.

Perhaps one can simply accuse the corporation of the crime of providing “worthless shit” and move on. However, we have come upon an important line. The difference between believing a corporation offers “worthless shit” and deciding not to personally support the business and believing that the corporation offers “worthless shit” and believing no one should be allowed to support such insignificant and non-contributing aspect of society is huge. It is the difference between honest, liberal pluralism and dominating totalitarianism.

Once again, repeat readers of my essays may find a common vain. My personal political and moral philosophy centers on the importance of personal choice. If an individual’s ability to make choices is to be curtailed then the onus of proof is upon the person wishing to impede that ability. I don’t believe in anarchistic freedom. I believe that the best society is one that has the highest level of the individual’s ability to make choices that make him/her happier. I also believe that those choices are always best left to the individual in question. All of these statements exist within rational parameters (such as controlling the choices of children and the mentally handicapped who may not know what is best for them) but can at least be illustrative of where I am coming from.

I am not a corporate drone. Personally, I find much distaste with the quality and desirability of most corporate goods i.e. music, clothes, books and art. I don’t understand the “Abercrombie and Fitch crowd” and I am not a part of it. However, I have absolutely no desire to curtail others choices to be more like mine. These people have made the best choices they can about what makes them happy – just as I have done with my choices. What sort of elitist asshole would I be to call their happiness “ungenuine” their choices “inauthentic” and the corporations that supplied the goods not as companies that found a demand and filled a desire in people’s lives, but companies that manufactured the demand and made the weak-minded members of society purchase their “worthless shit?” I may be an elitist but I am far from being able to cross that line.

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31 Responses to Anti-Corporatism and Modern Life: Why Simple-Minded Anti-Corporatism is So Common

  1. madne0 says:

    Seeing that i found your site through somethingawful.com i was definately not expecting something so well thought out. I think congratulations are in order.

  2. Josh Fessel says:

    Good points, all, Trevor. I agree with you. A couple of things that came to my mind whilst readingÖ.

    I was reminded of the bitching that constantly went on in the dining hall when I was in college. I always found it really humorous that we were bitching about the food WHILE SITTING IN THE DINING HALL EATING DINNER. I finally decided that it was simply because people need something about which to complain. Conflict is energizing. Plato (I think) tells us that only in the midst of perplexity are we truly thinking. ìWhat are you rebelling against?î ìWhaddaya got?î Corporations make for a nice target, much like the college dining hall.

    Thereís more, though. I think people are wary of unusual success or affluence. Never was I more heartbroken as a kid than when a favorite band ìsold outî and had a video on MTV or something. (Incidentally, I could only know that because I was watching MTV.) The presumption was that now they would start to suck, and sometimes they did. What I didnít realize then was that some of them continued to be really good, and some even got better with some cash behind them. I didnít realize because I stopped paying attention. I think many of us are put off by wealth, education, fame, or status far outside our own experience, perhaps out of jealousy but more likely out of intimidation. Itís the dark reflection of being starstruck.

    Iíll close with a grudging admission. Iím famous among my circle of friends for my anti-Disney rants. Do I really hate Disney? Well, some of what theyíve done, yes. Theyíve really messed up some of my favorite cartoons and stories (Doug and Rugrats being two of the most egregious examples). But theyíve also done some stuff that I really like. If youíve never seen the Recess episode about the purpose of art, itís really wonderful. I guess even Darth Vader has his Anakin insideÖ.

  3. McZen says:

    The problem with individual choice is that not everyone has your education, your knowledge of the media, your ability to analyze and think a problem through, etc.

    Johnson and Johnson is running a new campaign called “Having a baby changes everything.” The campaign shows a variety of black and white glamour shots of a mother and baby. When I see the commericial I think, my god, they’re probably targeting young women who tend to be emotionally dependent on others, don’t really have their lives together, and are thinking a baby might change all of that (if you can think of a more likely target for this type of advertising and message, I’d love to hear it). Having had a lot of education and been made aware of various media biases, I can see through the advertisement. But when the women I’ve described above see it I’m sure they’re much more likely to think, “Yeah. I bet. Having a baby must be wonderful.” Otherwise Johnson and Johnson wouldn’t bother.

    People without your ability to analyze and think and consider are much more susceptible to their emotions. Most people don’t make rational decisions or advertising wouldn’t be the big business that is. I guess what I’m saying is not that I don’t think corporations shouldn’t exist because they’re too powerful and can “make” us do stuff. It’s just that I don’t think individual choice is a sufficient counter without a lot of education. Many people don’t have that kind of education.

  4. josiah gibbs says:

    I endorse McZen’s comment. It is thoughtful and intelligent. It is a good example why it is dangerous to link anit-corporatism and simple-mindedness, something that despite his attempts to avoid it, Trevor treads very close to.

    But to get to the point; in my youth I worked as a rental radiation safety technician at a series of nuclear reactors in New England. I got to know quite well the head of radiation safety and chemistry at one of the plants. Over coffee, or was it wine, I suggested to him that the introductory class on radiation safety that all newcomers to the plant were required to take was only half the education necessary. Specifically I was referring to the fact that we were taught to read our radiation dosimeters and to get out of the hot areas when the dosimeters reached 100 mRem. I suggested that “newcomers” be given a follow-up course after a few months that plant, after they had gained a sense of how fast the needle could climb toward 100. The point of the second class would be to explain to the workers why keeping the needle below 100 was good, why 80 was better than 90, and why the lower the reading the better for the worker. I was told that the company would not let him do that because it implied that radiation at all levels might have some danger and there was fear that if the workers became aware of this, then they might consider asking for higher pay to compensate them for the risk. He was expressly forbidden to offer any knowledge about radiation safety, beyond what was in that first course. I later passed this story on to colleagues who I had served in the US Army with, who ran nuclear power plants for the US Army. They had heard similar stories before and related their distrust of private industrie’s ability to handle nuclear power plants safely because their training programs were so superficial and “economically efficient.”

    The point of the above story is that nuclear power is impossible without corporations, but corporations are only as safe as they perceive it to be in their interest to be, just like people. Education, introspection, and critical thinking are the most powerful tools we have to protect and promote our way of life. Being thoughtfully critical about how and why people (and corporations) behave is not the same thing as being anti-people or anti-corporation. Let us not confuse the two.

  5. Trevor Burrus says:

    I love all of these comments. First, I would like to welcome all posters to the site. Aaron and I have tried, and are continuing to try, to create just this type of respectful and productive debate of controversial topics.

    McZen’s comments are interesting and good. The points are valid, to an extent. However, trying to create a thin line in which a certain amount of education and awareness lead to “authentic” choices is a dangerous bag to open. Advertising is usually about trying to appeal to a set of people who have a certain manner of believing. Whether those beliefs are objectively true or objectively false is a different question entirely.

    For example, Aaron and I run the business portion of this site, the “idiot shirts” seen in the store section. Our top seller is the G.W. Bush shirt and, despite Aaron and I both respecting and, to some extent, liking Bush (with the respective libertarian provisos, he is still better than the democratic alternatives), we are nevertheless interested in pushing this product. Therefore, we buy ads to appeal to those whom we know probably dislike Bush and may buy our shirts. To a large degree we believe these people are wrong and misguided for their hatred of Bush but we are willing to sell the shirts and advertise accordingly. I often feel strange in this regard. I have remarked before that sometimes I feel like I understand this misguided ideology so much that I can package it and sell it back to them. I don’t feel that most of our buyers have the “education” and ability to analyze the world in order to understand that it isn’t the Bush shirt they should be buying but the Nader, Stalin, Che Guevera, or Howard Dean shirt. However, I do not feel explotive or coercive – just that I have the awareness to spot a demand and fill it.

    This doesn’t, however, make McZen’s point moot, but rather opens the debate somewhat. There are probably meaningful cases in which corporations exploit stupidity in a deplorable way. However, the line between “educated enough to make good decisions” and “not eductated enough to make good decisions” is a scary one to define.

    With regards to Josiah’s post: everything I would say is astutely stated in his final paragraph. I particularly like: “Being thoughtfully critical about how and why people (and corporations) behave is not the same thing as being anti-people or anti-corporation. Let us not confuse the two.”
    Well said, and if I continued writing for many thousand words more I may or touched on that point.

    Thank you for posting gentlemen! Keep the high-level of discourse up!

  6. Pointyflakes says:

    Well, here’s my complete failure to maintain the high level of discourse. I just want to say I admire your ability to sell to idiots what they want, and have both parties walk away happy. They get their anti-bush propoganda, and you get your money.
    Of course, I think it could be problematic to do this if your site were big enough to be noticed. If you were one of the only outlets selling anti-Bush propoganda, and it is against your own personal beliefs, doesn’t that work against your better interests? People are willing to copy what they see around them (mostly subconciously…an evolved response to make life in general easier?), and a visible statement such as a t-shirt is complelling to many. Many people that do not have firm beliefs will simply copy the pattern set up for them by their peers, and propoganda helps to achieve this. And, as it is often said, a lie repeated is a truth believed. The more exposure people have to a statement, true or not, logical or not, the more likely they are to believe it. Even logical, intelligent people.
    Lucky for you there are only thousands of other outlets selling the same thing. I guess pro-Bush (or anything besides anti-Bush, really) stuff doesn’t pay the bills, does it? I might have wandered off topic slightly, but I do think that people will believe what they are told when it is told often enough. Propoganda does work, and commercials are propoganda..although I admit most commercials are not well-crafted enough or repeated often enough to really matter at all. I always seem to lose focus nd try to play devil’s advocate to my own arguments when I get tired, so I will stop now and sleep, and maybe post again sometime.

  7. Aaron Powell says:

    Regarding Pointyflakes’s comments:

    It should be noted that Symbolic Order doesn’t limit itself to Bush. I’m working on a new version of the store now that will allow all our products to be displayed, but you check them all out at

    http://tinyurl.com/2j7k8

    We have Bush, true. But also Clinton, Marx, Kant, Jesus, etc, etc, etc. We’re merely supplying people with shirts. Who they choose to criticize is up to them.

  8. Marks says:

    All I have to say is that I agree with the essay, and also with the comments. The “choice” philosophy may be limited by the educational problem mentioned above, but people can be educated. I have faith.

  9. Aaron Crossen says:

    Lots of things I agree with, some I don’t. Trevor’s attacks on simple minded leftism are genuinely well crafted and, for the most part accurate. People are psychologically geared to blame things they don’t like on other people/entities/deities. Wealthy, wildly successful corporations are an easy target because they are wealthy and successful. A detistute person, a lazy person, or a failure of a person might be inclined to blame his or her problems on the corporation. This is sickening, to an extent.

    Is there a such thing as justified anti-corporate leftism, though? If a StarBucks provides a high quality product at a low price, it might push other, locally owned and operated coffee shops out of business. This isn’t a bad thing, from a habitual coffee consumers point of view. But, the people who owned the local coffee shop are out of business. While it’s easy to say, ‘Too fucking bad, you should of stopped serving sewage’ the damages of that coffee shop going out of business become present in the long run. The people who owned that coffee shop can no longer purchase goods in the city they were in from other local businessman – car dealerships, local insurance, local real estate. Some would say the employees at StarBucks would be able to provide the purchasing power that the sole proprieters of the coffee shops no longer have, therefore stabilizing the local economy. But, if you are acquainted with the service industry, you should know that the majority of employees are paid close to minimum wage to keep profits high. The employees of StarBucks will not be able to provide real stimulation to the local economy. They will not be able to buy houses or finance automobiles and otherwise make a living off of their current wage, whilst the owners of the local coffee shop kept profits high by operating their business hands on and therefore were able to finance their living and purchase local goods and services.

    Now, we can multiply this scenario multifold in the case of Malls. If a mall moves into a city like Flint, Michigan, can potentially drive out local businesspeople that made their living by peddling their goods downtown in their own stores. The low to mid wage employees at the mall cannot provide the purchasing power the people who owned the shops could. The local economy dwindles as the money is funneled out of Flint to corporate owners of the shops in the mall.

    Local economies depend on local businessess.

    I’m sorry if that came off as rant-like, and feel free to critcize the argument however you like. Flint is a shitty city and there are some shitty reasons as to why it’s so shitty, I’d like to know them.

  10. Pointyflakes says:

    Haha. Of course I entirely missed the rest of your store. But then again, clicking the “store” link leads to the cafepress site, which contains only the Bush stuff. I’m curious if you’ve ever sold some of the more obscure shirts, like that “Idiot: Franklin Pierce” one.
    If all the little shops of Flint, MI are put out of business by competing chain stores offering high-quality, cheap product, then doesn’t everyone end roughly where they started? If all products and services uniformly become cheaper, and wages lower, then isn’t purchasing power roughly the same, at least domestically? Of course if the money is all flowing to some other country through these corporations then our purchasing power against theirs declines…but I won’t talk about that right now because the room is spinning, and I need to finish typing. The problem is getting all goods and services to fall in price in a uniform fashion…if they don’t then of course the employess of the new chain stores will have little purchasing power, and they will do less good for their communities. So maybe we should encourage the growth of chain stores offering cheap, high-quality product (not that I consider Starbucks especially cheap…)? Mandating that older, less competitive businesses should be kept alive through the miracles of taxes or protests or whatever hurts us in the long run as we compete against others who are more willing to experiment and change in favor of efficiency. I don’t have a solution to make us richer and more competitive in a fast and pain free manner…I don’t think there are any magic diet pills for the economy, either. Damn, I think I’m rambling again.

  11. Pointyflakes says:

    Oh, I forgot to add: is there any reasoning behind the people you pick for your idiot apparrel? I don’t think any of the ones listed are idiots, although Robespierre and Guy Fawkes are certainly not admirable. Idiots are people who act without reason, and expect good results. They often repeat acts that have always failed, and reasonably always will.
    I will admit that a few of those individuals might be called idiot savants.

  12. Aaron Powell says:

    Pointyflakes: “Oh, I forgot to add: is there any reasoning behind the people you pick for your idiot apparrel?”

    Sort of. We pretty much pick anyone and everyone. There are a bunch there I consider genuine idiots — Jesse Jackson, for example — and others I don’t. In fact, Trevor and I decided long ago that there is a VERY short list of people we won’t do. MLK is one of them.

    As to the obscure ones selling, obviously I’m thrilled when that happens, as I find those much funnier. While Bush and Ashcroft (the easy ones) are our top sellers, the top ten also includes Nietzsche and Marx. And we even sold a James Buchanan. So there are some people out there, at least, who “get it.”

  13. The Screaming Muse says:

    Since I haven’t the time to respond to Mr. Burrus’ entire essay, I’ll be picking out the parts I find most interesting asn responding to those. Please feel free to inform me if I miss anything.

    “Once Starbucks moved from being a local, well-loved Seattle coffee shop to being a national powerhouse with an ubiquitous presence its moral status was downgraded.”

    Even though I live in an area saturated with the disease known as Starbucks, I admit what I know about it is thin. I know that they charge $7.50 for an overblown, ridiculously-sized cup of coffee from dubious origins. A cup I could easily get at the aforementioned small, nameless coffee house for $2.00. Let us never again marry the two words “affordable” and “Starbucks” again.

    One of the reasons people tend to dislike large, franchised chains, especially those involving food preparation, is that whatever personal taste, ambiance and ingredient method is present is generally lost in the growth spurt. I’m sure McDonald’s hamburgers tasted a lot better when only 3 people knew how to make them right and you could see them mixing the hamburger. Now, they have timed fat vats for that purpose. In essence, the more popular a food provider gets, the more the accent is put on quantity, not quality.

    Quality control issues aside, I personally take issue with the hundreds of acres of Rainforest that have undoubtedly gone missing since Starbucks first started ordering double latte cups by the trillions.

    “…one of the central cruxes of anti-corporate rhetoric is the belief that corporations are able to make people want things they don’t want, need things they don’t need, and eventually buy things they don’t really want or need to buy. The emphasis on “make” is essential. In order for such rhetoric to make sense a high level of invasive, omnipresent, and nearly complete control must be assumed. If such choices (things to buy) resulted from free people simply choosing what appealed to them, buying that thing, and proceeding on in a happy and fulfilling existence then it is hard to see how anyone would have a problem with whatever entity sold the product. The business simply supplied a justly needed and desired product. Heck, they were just making someone happy.”

    Not to expound on areas that are, again, out of my realm of knowledge, but unless your university campus is nestled into the gently rolling hills, completely cut off from any comunnication from the outside world, or you grew up on Mars, or you are incredibly insensitive to outside stimuli, I cannot imagine how you missed 23 years of the invasive, psychologically-plotted and -placed placed pressures of the American media. Their job is to poke point in your psyche that open your wallet. It’s their job. It’s what they go to school for. Perhaps being a philosopher and musician has distanced you from having any kind of empathic (and therefore understanding) relationship with people whose values do not match your own. You do not NEED a 50′ plasma TV. Buying one may not even make you happy. But it’s a nice TV and you may feel better about buying it becuase of the media culture that has conditioned you since the day you opened your eyes to Sesame Street to see the way you purchase things the way they want you to.

    The beer will NOT make you more attractive. In fact, if you think about it for more than a milisecond, the opposite is more than likely true. But to recapture the feeling of belonging and style the man in the commercial gave off when he drank that beer may prompt you to choose his beer next time you buy, or to start with his beer if you haven’t drunk before.

    I often listen to a piece of a musical score again and again to be reminded of the emotions it elicited the first time I heard it, whether in a good scene from a film, a well-made video, a first dance. The more I want to listen to that song, the more I want to have it. Likely, the more I want to buy it. The song does not make me re-dance that first dance. It may even remind me, as time wears on, of what once was but will never be again, saddening me.

    But who cares since I’ve already paid for the album?

    I find your slightly podunk-y “Aw, shucks” take on the plight of large companies being smalltown boys done good vaguely nauseating. These companies survive and thrive on their ability to convince you to buy their product. Have you never taken a Marketing class? Who buys is largely irrelevant outside the necessity of demographics in the realm of funds available.

    Think of it as a trick; You may not be able to afford the product, but these people, who may resemble people you admire or wish to be, have this product and are happy with it. Well, why wouldn’t you want to BE LIKE THEM, in any sense of the phrase. It’s a subtle but simple manipulation of crossing different yet related wants.

    It is not even necessarily a question of values; rather of base, unchangeable human psychoses. Regardless of background, wealth, position or origin, the hierarchy of needs is still in place. Convincing you that your needs are synonymous with your wants is the golden goose of the philosophy of marketing.

    “If such people have shown such a blatant misunderstanding of the correct values and how to act on those values they couldn’t be any sort of friend who would be deserving of my friendship.”

    The question is, can your (former) friends rationalize their actions sufficiently? I find most people will not explore this general avenue of questioning. Because if they did, they could find their judgements wrong. If you asked your friends to rationalize and explain their crazy behaviour, and they did, and you said to yourself, “My god! They’re right!”, that would mean your judgement on something seemingly simple and almost instinctive was off, which would likely lead to your questioning of other easy, basic points of life view.

    “Iconoclastic corporation haters scoff at these people. They realize that there are large amounts of people who value in an entirely different way than they do. These people want gilt candlesticks from Pottery Barn, not a Chinese rock garden. They want leather couches, SUV’s, and the new John Grisham book; not beanbags, Jettas, and a copy of the Tao Te Ching. After this sort of values dissonance is realized it must be account for in some fashion.”

    I agree by mentioning someone’s previous point in another post about the knee-jerk contrary nature of a good deal of the human race. But I would also like to ask; the world (or at least the continent) is not made up solely of these two groups of people. What about those who buy expensive vacations in socially beleaguered countries, yet recycle daily? Or those that bike to work yet will only drink at Starbucks? What about those who are half (or other fractions) in both worlds, or in neither? Where do they count in our story?

    “…imagine a world without such strongly stated and codified values dissonance. In this world we are all okay with others choices and let them proceed with such choices unimpeded.”

    Welcome to Canada.

    “I believe that the best society is one that has the highest level of the individual’s ability to make choices that make him/her happier. I also believe that those choices are always best left to the individual in question. All of these statements exist within rational parameters (such as controlling the choices of children and the mentally handicapped who may not know what is best for them)”

    A question; How do you know “normal” people know what’s best for them?

    Your philosophy is very generous; you assume all humans start with a basic level of intelligence, insight and wisdom into even such simple things as their own minds. I however, submit that there is more than ample evidence supporting the idea that the majority of people have a decided lack of a consistent level of intelligence. the concept of bankruptcy should be enough evidence of that.

    I see your meaning; why should (or do) people devalue those who choose things they do not? I suggest they see something in the other person they dislike, either from ignorance, jealousy or contrariness. Unfortunately, concern for those living outside their means also seems to get sucked into the previous category.

    Another theory is that perhaps the 70’s was sucessful in instilling within us, its children, a valuable post-hypnotic command; don’t take more than you need. And perhaps this was followed up by the 80’s post-hypnotic suggestion; you need whatever you want.

    “I find much distaste with the quality and desirability of most corporate goods i.e. music, clothes, books and art.”

    I’d appreciate hearing an explanation of this opinion.

    “I don’t understand the “Abercrombie and Fitch crowd””

    My companion has a solid theory that people do, indeed, have some of the traits of sheep. They tend to band together for safety, whether it be social or practical, and this leads to them speaking, doing, and thinking in herds. There is such a thing as mob mentality – therefore there can also be such a thing as herd mentality.

    Society in general and perhaps humans as a whole tend to distrust and hate that which is unfamiliar. Something about thinking beyond themselves or somesuch. People not in my herd are unfamiliar and therefore a threat, since I don’t understand them. It takes strength to do what you want, and it’s so much easier and much more pleasant in life to at least do some of what everyone else is doing. Conflict comes when the schedules of two or more herds don’t match. Also, again, there is a pleasure that runs from vicarious to delusional reality when you can be as those you envy. In simpler terms, by wearing Abercrombie and Fitch I can, for a while at least, partially convince myself that I have something in common with the good looking, priviledged people who obviously live in a better world than I since they so easily get what I want.

    “These people have made the best choices they can about what makes them happy – just as I have done with my choices.”

    Ah, the idealism and accompanying naivete of youth.

    “What sort of elitist asshole would I be to call their happiness “ungenuine” their choices “inauthentic””

    I can answer that. Elitism and I are fairweather friends. One may call another’s choices ungenuine or inauthentic because when you ride the trends of a herd, how much of your own genuine desire is driving your need for these goods? And what kind manipulative asshole corporation would exploit peoples’ fear of being on the outside of the crowd and lack of confidence to reside there and slap a bandage on it?

    “and the corporations that supplied the goods not as companies that found a demand and filled a desire in people’s lives, but companies that manufactured the demand and made the weak-minded members of society purchase their “worthless shit?” ”

    Worthless shit aside, we are talking about wants and needs and motivations. As I stated eariler, companies market in ways that have been researched since the inception of money, but have been refined at an astronomical pace in the last century or so since living has become less a function of simple survival. Marketers know how to poske the psyche to tie together wants and needs in a neat little bow so they seem the same after a while. This also ties in with the herd mentality.

    One last example; if the “tall and blocky” look were in when I was in high school, I highly doubt I would have cared about buying ill-fitting clothes. But because I couldn’t stand how people made me feel when I didn’t look at least a little bit like them, I wore some of it just to be considered at least a basic human. If I wanted to get along happily, I would have bought many sets of ill-fitting, unsuitable clothes and gotten along better. But even I couldn’t handle being mis-matched to my society every second of every day.

    And let us remember, companies function to make money. They don’t know me, so it is very unlikely they have my happiness and best interests at heart.

    If one wishes to be kind, one may liken large corporations to Godzilla. Sure, he kicks Mothra in the ass and sends him back to whatever foul, B-movie hell he was spawned from. But Tokyo rarely survives the process.

    Muse

  14. blargh says:

    That was a pretty decent comparison. Tokyo sure as hell won’t survive this century.

  15. kid woof woof says:

    Boy, what a lame-ass debate. Here it is in a nutshell. Capitalism, systematically, has a logic. It is the logic of pathological cupidity and unconscious desire. In other words, it is wasteful, unanswerable and cranky. Economics is a form of voodoo practised at its altar. So, too, all human sciences posturing as natural sciences. Natural science, meanwhile, tells us absolutely nothing about what it is to be human. I’ll tell you why.

    Humans are sick, weak, terrorised and, pace Maslow, here’s the tragedy for such a pathetic creature, thrive primarily symbolically not biologically – which is to say most would prefer to starve to death than to lose face.

    Humans are the engineers of capitalism precisely because it best expresses via gimcrack pret-a-porter sublimation the vast ignorance that lies at the core of their physiologically-inclined psychological needs. This is a lack it fills, in the US and increasingly elsewhere, with cell phones, SUVs, Bar-B-Ques, Bratz dolls, Tom Cruise and assorted other dreck.

    Capitalism is a relatively recent invention because it required certain technologies (industrialization; refridgeration; mass transportation and so on) to make it possible. They are now with us and the logic proceeds. The media, as an extension of mankind’s capacity to weave absurd stories about ‘truth’ and ‘need’, make everything unimaginably more stupid and inescapable because they peddle thoughtless, sentimental garbage that stunted and crippled pseudopods try to live by because they have been trained under 16+ years of ideological constraint to be dutiful citizens, which is to say docile bodies and compliant consumers of applesauce and moonshine.

    There is no ‘conspiracy’ – and no need for conspiracy – because the pilots of late capitalism are all tutored under the system’s auspices. As with all fearful humans, operating within an inherited value/belief structure, they simultaneously adopt its foundational tenets as their own, if only antithetically [cf. Marx who reformulated economic relations, yes, but couldn’t imagine a world without WORK], while congratulating themselves on their ‘freedom of thought'(c) and perspicacity. This is a sop. The system thinks you, you do not think the system.

    You argue about it and feel aggrieved in the debate, no matter your position, because you live in horror of the utter meaninglessness of your worthless, pointless, wholly forgettable lives. And you’re terrified of pleasure. Boo-hoo.

  16. Pointyflakes says:

    “You argue about it and feel aggrieved in the debate, no matter your position, because you live in horror of the utter meaninglessness of your worthless, pointless, wholly forgettable lives. ”

    Hahhaa. I second that. Not the rest though. Systems can self-perpetuate to some degree, mostly through idiots and those unwilling to change as you say, but ultimately we decide if these systems live or die, and how they are modified. Everything must be delved into and questioned constantly…no one is up to the task, and we will all fail, but still it’s better than giving up and becoming slaves to these systems. Only through cooperative efforts such as this do we really amount to anything. Anyone who disagrees with me, go live your own life away from all humans and human efforts/creations and see what happens. You’ll spend nearly every waking minute merely surviving, if even that.

    Of course, if everything is really so pointless, why argue at all? If this is the case, then ultimately it doesn’t matter whether you argue or not, whether people are idiots or not, whether anything happens at all, it amounts to nothing. So, my question is why do you care? Why do you still bother to speak to us?

    And yes, using starbucks really isn’t a great example since they do charge more money for a cup of coffee than many small restaurants charge for a meal.

  17. kid woof woof says:

    Of course everything is “really so pointless”. Why does the Kid argue, then? Because he is quite as vain, stupid and terrified as you are: so, to the root of the human paradox – one can think existentially but must live experentially. Which is to say, you can theorise all you like but in the end you have to drag your inadequate, bruised, overstimulated psyche out into the world once more and defend it against the thousand shocks etc., etc..

    Let me give you a distinction to work with, Pointyflakes. Your life is Meaningless but schmeaningful – it has zero cosmic significance but seems terribly important to you because you’re a pleasure seeking symbolically rooted creature trapped in a degenerating hunk of meat whose instinctual drives for survival have been canalized into something gross, distorted, insane and, often, self-harming. When you discover your life to be not merely Meaningless but schmeaningless, you’ve simultaneously reached enlightenment and rock bottom. I hope you enjoy the view – don’t worry, it won’t last long.

  18. Pointyflakes says:

    Haha. At least you attempt honesty.
    Assigning motivations to people is shortsighted, especially when you are so unfamiliar with any of them. Why do you assume I believe my own life is important? It really isn’t. I seek to prolong it, by eating, sleeping, and failing to seriously harm myself, mostly out of habit, but that’s about the extent of my “pleasure-seeking,” unless you count posting to discussions like this, and attempting to learn things. I agree that what should be instinctive drives for survival and propogation have been horribly warped in myself, to the point where it is unlikely I’ll ever carry out the most important function of biological life. It really doesn’t bother me though. I’m still deciding whether everything is pointless or not.
    So, why the smug attitude? Some philosopher has clawed his way through the void of this life, and returned to bring us wisdom? Or some smartass kid wants attention? Why argue in favor of a theory that you admit is useless? That is unproductive.
    You have a lousy copout. “It’s all meaningless but I’ll still argue because I’m just as flawed as any of you, however, I’m infinitely more enlightened.” Ego gratification, mostly. Say something useful in discussion. Or shall we discuss what is meaningful? If nothing is meaningful, there is no need for discussion, and you add nothing of value. This might as well be any forum anywhere, complete with “LOL OMG A/S/L!” messages, if you have nothing meaningful to add. Out of curiosity, what tract/pamphlet/manifesto are you quoting out of? Sounds very familiar.
    In case you were curious, the view never does change. I doubt that’s unique to me.
    And since you’ll ask, I suppose I should use your same lame copout answer of “I am just as flawed as anyone.”

  19. Hayder Al-Mohammad says:

    Pointyflakes, I in no way agree with the Kid, however, you seem to think he is stupid when he has argued more cogently than anyone else.

    He gave you a distinction (meaning / schmeaning) to work with and you ignore it totally. That’s fine, why do you have to take something on board if you don’t want to? you don’t. However, to call him superficial (which is what you imply) and childish is fine as well (slightly banal however), you don’t address his point which seems to be that without god the business of meaning is defunct, i.e. god guarenteed us reference, meaning, truth etc (cf. Descartes, Plato, Hegel, Kant – a sneaky christian to the end, see them all). What do we have after god. The answer seems to be very little.

    You deride him by suggesting that he is not original. Why does he have to be original? are you? is anyone? And to call his arguments a ‘theory’, well, seems to miss the point by miles. If the Kid is not trying to point out the stupidity of theories and those who take it seriously then I have misunderstood the Kid.

    The kid fails because ultimately he is a child. But what has he pointed out? we take ourselves a little too seriously and our noses are easily put out of joint. Oh, and the spectacle, with all its pretty lights, blinds us to any possible engagement with trying to understand our predicament. God may be dead, religion is not.

  20. Pointyflakes says:

    I do not think the Kid is stupid, as not just any fool can bandy words about the way he does. I’m saying what he says is empty. Big words do not contain big ideas. His arguments are not cogent, he merely asserts the same argument over and over, without ever bothering to explain/discuss it.
    I ignore his definitions of “meaningful” and “scheamingful” because they are empty and banal. He acts as if he hands out great knowledge nad wisdom to us, his clueless and idiotic audience, when he in fact says nothing new, nothing thought-provoking. All he provokes is anger. His smug arrogance is maddening, which I’m sure is the effect he wishes to create. I wonder if he’s ever had to fight for his life, with that sort of attititude. Most people who do, end up changing, especially after being badly beaten.

    I do agree, without God there is nothing. No meaning at all to life. That’s not a hard conclusion to come by. Kid woof woof sheds no new light on that subject. He asserts over and over that life is meaningless, but offers no solution, no new thought, no discussion, just the endlessly repeating message that life is meaningless and that we are all too stupid to understand that, which is insulting.
    And of course his arguments are theory. All arguments are theory. We don’t know truth, and cannot. There is more knowledge, more information than any of us could ever possess. How can we then say arguments, made without supreme knowledge, are anything more than theories? I agree that theories should not be taken seriously, since they are prone to constant change and revision. Most people take themselves too seriously, especially people like Kid woof woof.
    Yes, I do say his arguments are not original. I suppose nobody’s arguments need to be, but what’s the point of repeating common ideas without discussion? For all he brought, a program that cuts and pastes text from various manifestos and tracts could easily replace Kid Woof Woof and never be noticed. This website exists for discussion of ideas, and Kid Woof Woof is antithetical to that goal. At least so long as he participates. I agree he is an excellent conversation starter, though, and his postings were valuable in that regard.

    Let me give you a simple demonstartion: suppose a group of farmers were discussing the best way to plant a field, and a man came to them and insisted that rocks are all green. He screams and wails and rails against all opposition. Does that help plant the field? Does his insistence on green rocks advance anything? If the farmers spend much time listening to him, or accept his ideas, have they accomplished anything?

  21. Hayder Al-Mohammad says:

    Letís look at what you have written. It is, I believe, troublesome and incoherent.

    You say that big words do not contain ìbig ideasí, I agree with you. Big words tend to have more letters than smaller ones. I have no idea what relevance or how helpful this is to the discussion, maybe you can clarify?

    Firstly, you begin by saying that ìnot just any fool can bandy words about the way he doesî, thatís nonsense. Most fools sound very smart, you donít.

    You attack the Kidís argument (not plural because you believe it to be one argument repeated, over and over again ñ I disagree, but will overlook this) for lacking cogency and yet chose to ignore the most fundamental and central part of his argument, the distinction between meaning and schmeaning. You are either too lazy or do not understand the distinction – nor do I, probably, but I can give you a reading, one of many. Meaning, as I understand, is possible only if some unmoved mover (god) can authenticate, guarantee reference, etc. There is no god so there is no meaning. This is a simple argument.

    Now schmeaning is different. Without god how do human live their lives? There is no programme to follow, no end for them other than death, which is inevitable, painfully so. Schmeaning is that which sees you through to the end of each day, whether you have to go to work to put bread on the table, write comments on symbolicorder.com to discuss with people issues that are important and interesting, whatever. Schmeaning is the ëreasoní you live ñ these reasons tend to be to have sex, to read a good book, to go to work and make more money for your employer, etc.

    If you think this is ìemptyî and somehow beneath you pointyflakes, well, I think youíre not interested in what the majority of people who post comments on the site are interested in. I would be more interested in banning you than the kid ñ he was rude and he was offensive, he never, I felt, thought that the project of living is ìemptyî. Do you think what happened 9/11 is beneath you too pointyflakes? Thatís schmeaningful as well pointyflakes!

    You then ask if he has ever had to fight for his life? Have you? As I understand this web-site the point is to discuss various political, philosophical, social, issues in clearly formed arguments. There is no argument in your comment, there is hate and loathing. We do not need to understand the kid (do you think you are a psycho-analyst?), what we may be interested in is what he says, no more, no less. No one has the right to judge another human being, particularly not based on a few lines posted on a web-site.

    Then you construct (I use the word loosely) an argument that claims all arguments are theory, this is because (Iím using everything you say in the order you say it):

    1) ìwe donít know truth and cannotî

    2) ìThere is more knowledge, more information than any of us could ever possess.î

    3) ìHow can we then say arguments, made without supreme knowledge, are anything more than theories?î ñ how on earth did you get from knowledge being too vast to concluding that without supreme knowledge arguments are nothing more than theories?

    You see my point is you are anything but cogent. The above is not an argument (youíll still call it a theory!).

    You end by talking about green rocks and farming, they donít help you in any way, shape or form. They are interesting, however, and very amusing ñ I donít imagine that was the intention.

    So please from now on can we please have some clear arguments. Please. If the arguments had been clear and cogent the kid would have been starved of the matter that he thrives off: haphazard thinking and lazy argumentation. ñ Iím not saying Iím the perfect model, however, I am clear at least.

  22. Pointyflakes says:

    I don’t feel like we’re accomplishing anything.

    Part one. “You say that big words do not contain ìbig ideasí, I agree with you. Big words tend to have more letters than smaller ones. I have no idea what relevance or how helpful this is to the discussion, maybe you can clarify?”
    This is relevent, since my argument is basically that kid woof woof hasn’t got one. He uses big words to try to convince everyone that he has more to say than “life is meaningless.” That’s what I mean, and I would think it a fairly obvious conclusion.

    Part two. “Firstly, you begin by saying that ìnot just any fool can bandy words about the way he doesî, thatís nonsense. Most fools sound very smart, you donít.” What are you saying? That I am not very intelligent sounding and thus not a fool, or that Kid Woof Woof is a fool? All I meant by my statement is that Kid Woof Woof is obviously well-read and well educated, and no idiot, but honestly doesn’t have much to say.

    Part three. “(You) chose to ignore the most fundamental and central part of his argument, the distinction between meaning and schmeaning. You are either too lazy or do not understand the distinction.” I ignore it since it is not worth discussing. Maybe I have not made myself totally clear. If there is no God, no meaning, then this “shmeaning” is also meaningless, and therefore not worth discussing. If it has no end result, why bother? If there is no meaning to life, it doesn’t matter whether I make sense, whether we argue, whether we live or die. It’s a dead end, and thus useless. It doesn’t matter if we think our lives have meaning, because without God, there is no meaning. So, the distinction between “meaningful” and “shmeaningful” is useless.

    Part four. “If you think this is ìemptyî and somehow beneath you pointyflakes, well, I think youíre not interested in what the majority of people who post comments on the site are interested in. I would be more interested in banning you than the kid ñ he was rude and he was offensive, he never, I felt, thought that the project of living is ìemptyî. Do you think what happened 9/11 is beneath you too pointyflakes? Thatís schmeaningful as well pointyflakes!”
    As I stated in the last paragraph, if life is meaningless then so is debate. If there is no meaning, we have nothing on which to base arguments. Everything is equal, and all our arguments have no effect, no importance. This is empty, and this is beneath anyone, not only myself. If there is no meaning, and we all die, then what does it matter that we enjoy ourselves, or that we suffer? It doesn’t matter at all.
    I think the majority of people here are interested in debate. With this in mind, how are we benefitted by asserting that all our debate is meaningless, and that all arguments are equal? That doesn’t help with debate at all. We might as well stop posting, and go be hermits. That is my argument, and why I believe that asserting that everything is meaningless has no value in discussion.
    “I would be more interested in banning you than the kid ñ he was rude and he was offensive, he never, I felt, thought that the project of living is ìemptyî.” So, this isn’t about discussion after all, it’s about adhering to your worldview? I never said that life is empty. That is exactly my point. If life is empty, there is no reason to debate. I am debating. Therefore, what must I believe?
    “Do you think what happened 9/11 is beneath you too pointyflakes? Thatís schmeaningful as well pointyflakes!”” If you believe that ultimately life is meaningless, then yes, September 11 is beneath discussion, as are all things. If life is meaningless, then the fact that thousands of innocent people died is unimportant. All people could die, and it would have the same value, the same meaning. Like I said before, it doesn’t matter if we think something is meaningful or not if ultimately life is empty of purpose. I could personally slaughter and torture every last living thing, and it wouldn’t be any different than if I had saved millions of people from a life of suffering. It would be the same thing, in fact. The unborn would never suffer, but that wouldn’t matter either.
    My point is that life is not meaningless, and that if it is, why bother with debate? Kid Woof Woof can come up with as many definitions as he likes, but if life is meaningless none of them matter.
    “No one has the right to judge another human being, particularly not based on a few lines posted on a web-site.” You are correct, no one has the right to judge, since none of us are perfect, none of us have omniscience. But we are required to judge to live, and we do it every waking moment without usually realizing it. Have you ever avoided looking someone in the eyes? That was a judgement of that person. Have you ever loved someone? That is also a judgement of someone. Have you ever fought, for that is also a judgement that you are more deserving of life than your opponent? I’d kind of like to discuss this, actually. A few lines on a web site are not much to go on, but the attitude and thoughts are easily conveyed in those few words.
    The comment about him fighting for his life was mostly out of curiousity. More a research goal than anything else. I’m just curious how many people can go through being horribly beaten and still be arrogant? I think the answer is very few. But, I need data to back that up. Maybe I’m also concerned if he’s ever thought of the consequences of his actions and thoughts.

    Part five. “3) ìHow can we then say arguments, made without supreme knowledge, are anything more than theories?î ñ how on earth did you get from knowledge being too vast to concluding that without supreme knowledge arguments are nothing more than theories?” This seems fairly straightforward to me. We do not possess all knowledge. We cannot. So, we must conclude that there is knowledge we do not possess. Just because facts and arguments seem to work does not in fact mean that they do. For example, the geocentric theory. For many centuries, everyone accepted that the sun revolved around the earth, as did the rest of the universe. It seemed obvious, since it was appearantly what happened every day. When we assume all arguments are theories, we can use them as such: we can test them, and discard them if they fail the test. When new knowledge comes forth, we must discard theories (arguments) that do not fit the facts any longer. When thinkers assumed that the “set-in-stone” argument of geocentrism was false, they were able to prove that the earth in fact was not the center of the universe. The lack of knowledge had prevented our forebearers from making a good argument. Do you think this has changed since then? This sort of situation? We still don’t know everything, and it is therefore safe to assume that some things we think of as truths/facts now will later be discredited. Arguments are based on facts, or safe assumptions. At least good ones are. If facts change, so should our arguments. So, arguments are theories.
    “You end by talking about green rocks and farming, they donít help you in any way, shape or form. They are interesting, however, and very amusing ñ I donít imagine that was the intention.” It’s called a parable. Maybe you are familiar with them. My point was that you can argue about anything, we can listen to people like Kid Woof Woof, but if it isn’t relevant, it doesn’t help us. I am glad it was interesting and funny, that was the intention. Funny stories that are easily understood are better lessons than wordy books.

    I hope my arguments are now clear.
    1. If life is meaningless, so is this discussion.
    2. If this discussion is meaningless, you are accomplishing nothing.
    3. If life is not meaningless, which is what most people, myself included, believe, and we are trying to hammer out new ideas, someone who truly adds “nothing” is not helpful in creating arguments.
    4. If people who argue that everything is meaningless are here, and unwilling to discuss their ideas, then they do those of use who belive differently no good, and much harm. How can we accomplish anything if they are busily trying to destroy it all?

    That’s about it, I hope that clears things up. If not, I’m going to guess either you intentionally misunderstand me or english is not your first language. There is no reason for you to be so hostile.
    I am hostile because I was attacked unprovoked by Kid Woof Woof. I had no quarrel with you.

  23. Aaron Powell says:

    It’s great to see an actual debate going on. However, I’d ask that you guys move it to the forums, as it’s getting quite long and isn’t directly related to the story. Thanks.

  24. Pointyflakes says:

    Hahaa. I thought you’d say that. I apologize for getting so off topic. It shouldn’t happen again as long as no new “attention-getters” come by.

  25. Klotera says:

    I’d like to address The Screaming Muse on his comments. While the tone reflects a distinct disagreement with the original article, it seems to me that the facts of the case are not at debate.

    If I interpret correctly, what we are really debating is the role and responsibility of the consumer and corporations. Let’s say that most people are sheep and, for the sake of argument (though something I would not broadly proclaim as true), let’s say that said sheep mentality is always a bad thing. At what point, if any, does this become the corporation’s responsibility? What responsibility does a corporation have in regards to what reason a person chooses to purchase a product or service? While I would agree that corporations have certain responsiblities in regards to truth in advertising, full disclosure, and so forth, I do not see what is inherently wrong with trying to appeal to some aspect of consumer psychology. In fact, to me it seems like a natural step for any business.

    I also think we sometimes ignore the fact that small businesses market to human psychology, too. They just do it on a smaller scale. It doesn’t matter if I go to a local market here or a supermarket chain – both are going to put eggs and milk in the back corner so that you have to pass by all the other products on your way to these most commonly purchased items. The fact that corporations are despised by some for this behavior while small businesses are not, I think, goes back to some of the earlier arguments that people are intimidated or jealous with success. Many people are distrustful of success and, when someone or some entity is successful, feel that they must have done something wrong to achieve that. Hence, the association of marketing and wrong-doing.

    Interestingly, I think this natural human distrust of such success is only balanced by a similar ability to accept what works in one’s own favor, regardless of circumstances – the benefit being, in this case, often lower prices. Of course, this opens a whole other can of worms regarding whether the lower prices, in the larger scheme, are as beneficial. In most situations, however, people look at the immediate benefits and not the long term situation. Which, once again, brings up the question of whether this is really the corporation’s responsibility or the consumer’s responsibility. I vote for the latter – regardless of what we feel the average “intelligence” of people is.

  26. Pointyflakes says:

    Thank you for getting us back on track, Klotera.

    I agree: everyone is responsible for their own actions. No matter what happens, it all comes down to: will you buy product x, or will you not buy it? The corporations cannot force anyone to buy anything. At least, not with well-made legislation that prevents monopolies and strongarm/mafia tactics. If the corporations were able to warp the truth so badly, or threaten physical violence, or were a monopoly and controlled goods so that to purchase what was necessary, you must purchase other unnecessary products, then I would agree that people had no choice but to do what the corporations wanted.
    If we were to assign the blame to corporations for “forcing” people to buy their products, then couldn’t we also shift the blame from the corporations back to the people? I mean, these corporations are using strategies that are successful. People allow these abuses to occur, and in fact encourage them by doing business with the companies that use such strategies. Couldn’t this be construed as implicit encouragement? Couldn’t businesses make the argument that unless they adapt the unethical, “force” centered methods of their competiton, then they will be outcompeted, and thus out of work, leaving only the most unethical to compete? Can’t they argue that it’s really the people’s fault for doing business with unethical competitors, forcing all businesses to switch to unethical methods?
    I guess my point is, we have to asign blame somewhere, and the only place it really sticks is on the individual. Corporations are made of individuals. They are not faceless, and they are not all powerful.
    Damn…I had a point to make with that last bit, but now it escapes me. Must be tired.

  27. Hayder Al-Mohammad says:

    I agree with you pointyflakes, corporations are not all powerful, some of them, however, are all-powerful.

  28. mulalu says:

    Just a quick couple of comments re pintyflakes. First I am intrigued by what criteria he determines the people in 9/11 were ‘innocent’. Unlucky and unfortunate perhaps…but I for one have yet to meet someone who is innocent. Not only is ‘innocence’ an empty signifier in Laclau’s sense, alongside f-f-freedom and justice and other words banded around in political rhetoric (and which pintyflakes should not be taking at face-value) but as Camus suggested ‘how is it possible to be innocent in absurd world?’. Next; Hayder Al Mohammed writes well and makes his point clearly, I wonder if you would have made the snide jibe about English not being his first language if his surname had been ‘Smith’ instead of Mohammed. So please desist form making such comments in the future…and before you get in first…no English is not my first language.

  29. halfelvenarcher says:

    its not the fact that they bring this “happiness” to people everywhere with inexpensive, quality products and services, its the kind of people that are willing to give into the matierial=happiness mentalities that so many anti-corporate factions are against.
    the kind of lifestyles that they live just seem rather pointless.
    i do see your viewpoint.
    im not denying you have valid points.
    its not even about that.
    its not even about how most anti-corporate individuals are hypocrites.
    “not beanbags, Jettas, and a copy of the Tao Te Ching.”
    they still desire things just as much as the “sheep”
    noone here isnt guilty.
    the whole country is.
    love.

  30. Tanya says:

    Trevor:

    While your arguments are certainly well-stated and well-analogised, your description of anti-corporatism (and its followers) is incredibly simplified and rather misses the point.

    Marketing campaigns designed to exploit the consumer are one of many issues raised by corporations, but it can hardly be said that this issue is confined to the corporation. Small businesses and our culture as a whole aid and abet this dilemma. No, the true anti-corporatist is one who vehemently despises the growing link between government and big business, where the $1M Sam Walton vote goes alot further than the one cast by the citizen. The Waltons of the world multiply their billions on the backs of exploited and impoverished workers, while the (usually US) government spearheads this novel version of ‘globalisation’ calling it a ‘win-win’ situation (as though an impoverished country’s chances of ‘winning’ could come without the inevitable diminishing of profit. Tsk tsk — bad for the company.)

    American (and other) corporations have these workers, and their host countries, by the balls … holding all the power, they can tell them to ‘comply or we’re leaving.’ The US government, together with the WTO and the IMF foster profoundly inequitable distributions of wealth in order to exaggerate the corporations’ (of which many government officials are party to or bankrolled by) domestic profit.

    Your version of anti-corporatism does not begin to give voice to the real concerns of real people around the globe. If you’re going to criticise us, then at least know what you’re criticising.

    Tanya,
    Toronto, Canada

  31. E. says:

    What are corporations? They are legal enitities designed for one purpose; to garner profit. A corporation does not feel, it does not worry, it does not feel pain. It is not something that is comparable to a person in any way. It is merely a paper machine with human fuel. The problem with corporations is thus; when a corporation takes a hit, the entity itself takes no injury. All damage is felt by the employed in the form in lay-offs and pay cuts. When a corporation is found guilty of any illegality, the people who head the beast are not in any trouble. They merely pass on the responsibility to some scapegoat, who is then fired to make ammends, and replaced with another comparable lackey. As far as control of the emotions and thoughts of the consumer goes, corporations spend millions of dollars on their marketing departments, whose job it is to determine the most effective means of manipulation, and apply them. This manipulation has continually built on itself, creating a major cultural parasite.
    Corporations are the backbone of our economy though, and should therefore not be completely eliminated. There simply needs to be more moderation and controls in place on these economic superpowers. Corporations are not individuals, and therefore are not privy to any civil rights whatsoever.
    But then again, I am only human.
    – E.

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