War budgets booming, drills and nukes reviving, health insurers hooting, agro-biz bloating, privacy invasions through the roof - any progressives or patriots out there not ulcerating yet?
Give Obama credit, the man has been a great civics teacher. Millions of us now understand a lot more about American government than we did just two years ago. Skin color doesn't matter. Nor does cool and IQ. Neither do promises, party labels or soaring oratory. Governance as we now see is largely about golden strings and the corporate hands that pull them in our body politic today.
Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse. -Sophocles
Things have, in fact, moved way beyond string pulling to full-blown systems engineering. The reign of big corporate bodies has delivered us a health system that profits from our ills, a security system that thrives on our fears and a defense system that prospers from our peril - not to mention a financial system that fattens off our debts and dwindling solvency. In front of our unfocused eyes, the Big Bodies have redesigned America so completely that all rational social incentives have been suicidally inverted. Indeed, the nation's entire economy could be easily devastated yet again by a single, sudden outbreak of health or nerve or peace.
This leads some of us to believe that the central conflict of our century, the final showdown for social justice and ecological redress will not be between left and right, North and South or even rich and poor. It's a contest between the rampant Big Bodies on the planet and a world of human scale, a fight for planetary dominion between our biped species with its quaint holistic values and vast corporate organisms obsessed with cancerous growth.
Most concerned citizens are no doubt aware of recent skirmishes between these skyscraping leviathans and human beings on the ground. Nestles, Monsanto, Walmart, and their ilk have become rogues gallery regulars for countless civic groups trying to protect local water, food and commerce from predatory corporate suction. Ditto for Halliburton, Raytheon and McDonnell Douglas among the antiwar crowds and Marubeni, Shell and Weyerhaeuser among the ecological rape-prevention crews.
Even when citizens target the harms of one of these monstrous firms and occasionally win a victory, its sweet savor is fleeting at best. As long as serious money is at stake, the Big Bodies keep coming back and coming back like the zombies in B-movie horror flicks.
The few activist successes we do celebrate always consume a lot of donated cash and a vast amount of volunteer time. Conversely, Big Bodies reap huge profits from their wins and can often deduct their failed attempts, so the playing field is steeply tilted in their favor from the start.
Electoral activism, legislative lobbying, judicial appeals - none of our traditional tools of recourse seem to be in working order anymore. Perhaps, it's time to lay aside the political toolbox for a moment and borrow some tactics from life science, particularly living systems theory and immunology.
The task is not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees. - Erwin Schrödinger
If we look at big corporate bodies as legal fictions, artificial persons or simply special interests, it's hard to know what we're really looking at, let alone what to do. But if we look at Big Bodies as super organismic living systems, a wild variety of fresh insights and tactics heave into view.
Taxonomically, the Big Body species includes the monstrous conglomerates, multinationals and banking firms that control most of the world's economy and determine the policies, media content and conventional wisdom of our age. They are the primary drivers of war, pollution, overconsumption and eco-devastation as well as intensifying oligarchy, tyranny and human rights abuse worldwide. Most are publicly listed corporations, many are global in reach, but all are dangerously oversized and out-competing human beings for planetary control.
In response, our most important strategic clue is that Big Bodies actually do fulfill all the criteria for living beings. Even though they are only animated a third of the day, their constituent cells aggregating in their urban shells each morning form highly visible and energetic creatures that are single-minded and explicit and whose sole agenda is to grow. It is almost impossible not to observe their daily activities, digesting resources in the countryside, learning new behaviors, communicating, excreting - lots of excreting, reproducing and engulfing or merging with other bodies to grow even more. And it is also pretty apparent that wherever the biggest bodies focus their attention on the planet something noxious usually happens on the ground; and that they can remain at it and dangerous for a very long time.
Big Eco-Social Symptoms (Partial)
The only good corporation is a small corporation - 500 people tops. -Wilbert Gore, Inventor/Founder of Goretex
When a corporate body's members surpass a few thousand there is inevitably pathology; when they exceed tens of thousands there are plagues. Big Bodies are the principal or abetting disease agents in:
- consumptive fevers
- ecological devastation
- political corruption
- health care profiteering
- media deceit/distraction
- climate policy paralysis
- resource wars and plunder
- financial crimes and fraud
- national insolvency
- homelessness and hunger
- human rights violations
- prison industrialization
- ubiquitous surveillance
- sweatshop exploitation
- Main Street decline
- family farm destruction
- omnipresent pollution
- debt and impoverishment
- immigration pressure
- middle class evaporation
Beyond Single Issue Dissonance
Let us raise our vision high enough to dominate the problem. -Teilhard du Chardin
Traditional activism attacks these maladies piecemeal and symptomatically, thus, spawning legions of single issue (SI) groups. SI activists grow expert in their chosen symptoms, but they must also be urged to raise their sights and target common pathogens as well.
Most large SI groups spend more time competing with each other than collaborating and, thus, yield few synergetic effects. When these organizations respond to corporate harms, they usually counterattack in legal, political and media arenas where Big Bodies are the most heavily armed and well entrenched.
New remedies are needed that target mega-corporate vulnerabilities in places they have never been attacked before. These would home in on common qualities that are naturally repugnant to most everyone like their uniform authoritarianism, their underlings' arrested development and their cancerous commitment to blind endless growth. Thanks to video, the Internet and Google Earth we can also now clearly visualize the spreading warfare, misery and ecological havoc they wreak wherever they sense a source of cash.
For better or worse, Big Body life is not only hazardous to outsiders, it destructively retards its incorporated members as well. Years of enforced obedience, subordination and invasive oversight cause pathological levels of stress and fatigue in most adults. These are the same tools used to "break" men to compliance in Guantanamo, military basic training and cult programming. Chronic stress undermines our self-assertiveness, vitality and sexual potency. It literally unmans incorporated males, turning adults into dependent children for whom relentless obedience is more "natural" or at least less humiliating and fraught with caustic stress.
The patriarchal family imagery of many large firms and autocratic churches makes this juvenalization quite explicit. The objective is to regress adults to a childlike state or repress their maturation, so they will reflexively respond to orders from father figures on high. This is the enterprise of anthroculture or corporate animal husbandry, which psychosomatically diminishes humans for lifelong submission and terminal incorporation. Males especially can be conditioned to docile compliance by anti-androgenic exposure to stress, fat, anxiety and feminizing environmental hormones, both in synthetic molecules like Bisphenol A and pesticides, as well as natural sources like soy and hops.
SI groups rarely promote the empowerment of their adversaries' employees, but this could be a big mistake. Big Bodies cannot function without uniformly belittled underlings, and helping them grow up should be a crucial strategic goal. Prescriptions to heal corporate insiders' stress-induced sexual and maturational disorders, for example, could simultaneously enlarge them as adults, empower them as citizens and increase their willingness to move beyond degrading corporate restraints.
The new field of biomimicry uses nature's models to solve technical problems, but it can also teach astute political lessons. For example, activists can learn priceless tactics and strategies from their own immune systems. When our immune cells face dangerous incursions from outside or mutations from within, they respond to both in similar ways. They first identify and publicize the nature of the threat, then tutor attack cells to probe and exploit its fatal vulnerabilities. Once immune scout cells find weaknesses in a disease agent, a variety of specialist cells are dispatched to dismantle and dissolve its entire kind throughout the host body. These cellular activists then record and remember their tactics should the same antagonist reappear.
Immune cells don't focus on symptoms. They seek out and disable the causal agent behind the entire symptom array. If immunogens patrolled our body politic, they would undoubtedly be busy tagging, probing and melting down Big Bodies all across the countryside. If enough activists followed this lead and moved conjointly, a hundred eco-social ills could be alleviated all at once.
Symptomatic fixes don't help. Tactically defeating Wellpoint or PG&E, for example, doesn't protect us against any of the harms of Blackwater, Pfizer, Exxon or Citibank. Broad spectrum measures to subdue Big Bodies as a pathological class, however, will empower grassroots activism on every front.
The activist/immune cell analogy may seem fanciful, but the parallels are intriguingly precise:
- Both activists and immunogens tend to gravitate toward trouble instead of rationally scuttling away.
- Very few of either exist in their respective host bodies, but if they are bold, healthy and accurately directed they are usually equal to their tasks.
- Both are totally dependent on the quality of their reconnaissance, since bad intel leads both activists and immunocytes to bad decisions and futility, if not self-destruction.
- Both have trouble recognizing malignant growths that wrap themselves in deceptive membranes and pretend to be useful if not vital to the host.
- Both can be systemically suppressed - immunogens by stress and antibiotics, and immunogentiles by stress, surveillance and suppression.
- And both can be disastrously misprogrammed to attack a phantom foe or even the health of the host they're supposed to be protecting.
Tea Party Psoriasis: An Immunogentile Aside
A plausible argument can be made here that the Tea Party Nation is an auto-immune attack upon its own children's welfare because its communication system has been expensively and expertly compromised. On the whole, teabaggers are responding viscerally and even admirably to a deeply felt sense of national peril. Lots of people know terrible things are happening, but few take distant pain personally enough to be moved to remedial action. Those few who do are the immuno-activists, the congenital immunogentry of our bodies politic. Most tree huggers, war protesters and whale lovers belong. So do most teabaggers, pro-lifers and even some populist patriot groups.
The teabaggers' problem is not their motivation, but the enemies they've been trained to see and target by the media powers that be. Strategically misinformed, they march out to defend freedom and find themselves assailing the few remaining obstacles to total Big Body supremacy. Anybody with rheumatoid arthritis, MS or psoriasis can appreciate the painful irony here and knows how much damage can be wrought by misdirected self-defense.
In immunogentile thinking, therefore, the answer to tea partying is not ridicule or repression, but offering better recon and a more persuasive Big Picture view of the true pathology we face. This is not about capitalism, communism or socialism, after all. It is about toxic organizational scale within any socio-economic system, and how Big Bodies inevitably turn malignant when they exceed a certain size. Just as neo-cons can love Israel's kibbutz communism, and hardcore Kremlin officials cheerfully abided the little capitalist shops that enlivened Moscow streets, everyone seems to viscerally sense the innocence of the small.
This won't divert racists, Fox or the wing nuts, of course, but it does open hopeful new collaborative horizons for the congenital immuno-activists who are responding almost involuntarily to their world's obvious disease and trying to take citizenship seriously.
Achieving Critical Mass
In sum, we confront a new class of gargantuan living systems that are rapidly destroying our cultures, governance and the natural world. If this intuition is correct, the imminent endgame for immuno-activists on the left, right and Aquarian heights is the swift downsizing, decentralizing and democratizing of all Big Bodies across the board.
As outlandish as this may sound, this is both necessary and possible. Our tools are adequate and our timing auspicious. "We, the People" still do possess the constitutional right to determine and revisit all the terms of corporate being. Corporate codes are Big Bodies' DNA, and excising their malignant powers and shrinking them back to human-scale will prove the biggest socio-political, economic and evolutionary confrontation of our age.
Fortunately, 80 percent of all Americans left, right and center say they reject the Supreme Court's recent endowment of Big Bodies with personhood rights and electoral free speech, so there already appears to be an awakening constituency. Workplace satisfaction is also at an all-time low, and public fear and loathing of corporate giants is at an all-time high. Vast sectors of the public now recognize the Big Body elite as a democracy-usurping ruling class. All this suggests there are now many millions ready if not anxious for new ways to understand and escape generations of corporatist rape, pillage and misrule.
Recognizing huge corporate entities as an emergent new life form allows us to view their strengths and weaknesses in a very different light and see that broad spectrum remedies are indeed quite feasible. The quantum awakening we require to achieve this could likely be ignited by refocusing just 10 percent of activist attention away from the symptoms in our face to the Big Bodies upstream.
A planet-healing breakthrough really does await us if we can just biomimic our own immune cells and learn to think Big.