Saturday Night Live did some of its better writing this weekend on the SNL skit ‘Corporate Nightmare’ that illustrates the dilemma of activists, community organizers and others fighting the corporate structure. This blog post is an analysis of that skit. If you have not watched it yet, I have a condensed version in this post that you should watch before proceeding.
Over the years, corporations have progressively acquired more power. We have even granted them personhood. In other words, legally, many times they have more rights than flesh and blood humans as an entity. Corporations skew our elections.
Corporations are effective in moving public opinion because they can use their virtually unlimited supply of money to purchase think tanks who frame false but plausible narratives that convince many to vote against their own interests. The biggest example is Medicare for All. They are able to convince many that math is invalid. In other words, somehow they claim that a medical bill paid by one entity with very few expenses as opposed to being paid by various entities with exorbitant expenses (multiple CEO pay, shareholder dividends, advertising cost, database, and many more) is not less expensive.
Consider reading the Powell Memo which is the document that details the roadmap laid out by Lewis Powell to ensure the indoctrination of the public to completely submit to the corporate structure. It has clearly been effective as over the last 40+ years, the willful acceptance of the corporate pilfer has been near-universal and ran unabatedly.
But the above is the external interface for the corporation to the masses. There is another side.
The corporate structure must be populated. Most importantly it must be populated in a manner that ensures its survival. As, those working for, ‘the man’ feels the abuse internally, some method, a technique must be found to ensure its survival. After all, there is only room for a few at the top. The SNL skit ‘Corporate Nightmare’ in a really funny manner, shows one of those techniques.
The SNL skit starts with the boss admonishing one of the low-level employees in the office to conform to the norm by removing his lip ring. It was just the catalyst to the anti-corporate protest.
All the low-level employees join the protest against the corporate structure. They are defiant.
The boss chooses one of the low-level employees, commending them for their work and inviting her into the real corporate fold. Human nature kicks in two ways. First, she attenuates her protesting nature as the acknowledgment she receives gives her a feeling of belonging. Second, the friends show their concern as they see her being absorbed by the system.
She keeps her feet in both realms. She loves her friends but now defends her boss. She cleans up behind the more radical doings of her friends. Some of her other friends are brought into the fold. As the one who did not get in continued his protest, he is easily neutered when he is finally brought into the fold.
These new no-longer-lower-level employees are now a part of the system. Their entire philosophy changes as they think they see a pathway to the top. In other words, manipulating human nature ensures the survival of the corporate structure.
Recently one of our Houston activists took me aside to discuss our modus operandi with a particular corporatist politician. My statement was, ‘We are good. That politician now has one of us on the inside so we will know stuff.” The activist then said, ‘You don’t get it. As time went on he was absorbed. Things we scoffed at is OK with him now.” Human nature? Yes. Does that mean we are doomed? No.
Here is the reality. The reality we are striving for is being taken because so far we ave been unable to show that it is possible for most and not just the chosen few. We have got to be intentional, bold, and persistent in not telling the story but telling the “how do we get there” sooner rather than later.