Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Revolution, Incorporated

It's a peculiar flavor combination, or so it seems to my palate.

On the one hand, the American left wing.  The focus of that portion of our nation's political spectrum lately is racial justice and justice for Elgeebeeteecue folk.  The classical understanding of leftism tends to also include a distaste for the profiteering oligarchs of consumer corporatism.  Decadent capitalist swine....

On the other hand, global corporations.  The transnational entities create systems of profit and production that leap across boundaries of legal structure and accountability.  They control both the means of production and the media through which all communications occur.  They have been immensely, triumphantly successful in the era following the collapse of radical socialism and with the globalization of trade.  Their triumph has come with a radical cost, a deep polarization of wealth in the hands of the corporate elite.

These would seem unlikely partners.

And yet, lately, it seems that there's a peculiar synergy between the two, or at least an effort on the part of the latter to co-opt the former.

Like, say, when the CEO of a major tech firm makes a big splash by coming out.  And sure, he's the one who designed and spearheaded the transfer of all production to China to maximize profits and minimize wages.  But gosh and golly, he's so brave!  Wow!  Such a progressive corporation!

Or, say, last year's Confederate Battle Flag hubbub.  Having picked up on a spasm of social-media consensus, major corporations dropped products (t-shirts, memorabilia, the...um...Dukes of Hazzard) with that emblem within a single day of it getting legs.  And then they made sure, through their communications/public relations departments, that the world knew about it.  Such warriors in the battle for racial justice!  Such bold progressives!

Or this year's corporate embrace of transgender rights, as the remarkably stupid "bathroom laws" cause one conglomerate after another to abandon the benighted states of America that have chosen to single out one tiny minority.

Or, say, the corporatization of Pride Parades.

Or the tendency of progressives to glom on to the media narratives of industry, as obviously manufactured "controversies" are used to pitch both products and celebrity culture.  Did you know that a couple of racists on twitter had an issue with there being a black stormtrooper?  Did you know that our latest ad campaign featuring a same sex and/or interracial couple caused a couple of trolls to write mean things in the comments?

See our progressive film!  Buy our progressive clothing!  Fight the power!

On the one hand, corporate responsibility is...um...I guess it's a good thing.  But on the other?

I wonder if, perhaps, this trend is not entirely as pure as the driven snow, or as wondrous as the night sky.


And I wonder more, and more deeply, about the commitment of corporate America to LGBTQI/Q+ rights.  It's not so much that I don't share those values, although I'm increasingly troubled by the clumsy and amorphous acronym that defines fairness towards those whose gender identity falls outside of the statistical norm.

Instead, I find myself thinking that perhaps the reason queer-folk politics are so quickly heaved front and center into our national conversation is that they pose no threat whatsoever to the heart of power.  They hold bigotries and biases, sure.  But the tiny minority of individuals who hold economic sway over our culture are not challenged or threatened by gender issues.  Not at all.  So long as you can sell folks things, and keep wealth concentrated?  It matters not at all.

Let's talk about bathrooms, and marriage, and keep progressives and traditionalists at one another.  Let's not talk about globalization and the scrambling desperation of a gig economy.  Let's not talk about the displacement of farmers from the land, or the end of crafts, or the destruction of American industry.  Let's not discuss the way the 'net economy has accelerated wealth being drawn to power.