If The Corporation were a person, it would be
Review by Ed Hernandez | August 6, 2004 | Page 13
The Corporation, a documentary by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan.
THE U.S. global justice movement that made its mark during the 1999 World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle suffered a serious setback with the September 11 attacks in New York City. The movement that denounced corporate control went on a temporary hiatus, but corporate scandals continued to unravel. The contracts given to Halliburton and Bechtel to "reconstruct" Iraq are but another sign of the dominance of these corporate institutions around the world.
The Canadian documentary The Corporation takes us through a thorough study of what a corporation is and the implications it has for people inside and outside of them. Based on Joel Bakan's book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, the film assembles interviews with a diverse spectrum of people. Among well-known leftists such as Howard Zinn, Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky are CEOs and high-ranking corporate cronies.
The filmmakers begin with news clips of familiar corporate scandals like Enron and WorldCom. In a humorous bit, commentator after commentator asks if these were just "a few bad apples" in the world of otherwise good corporations.
The film begins its analysis of these institutions with a mid-1800s U.S. court decision that made a corporation a "legal" person, despite the fact that corporations are actually groupings of people. What makes this decision more disgusting is that it is made possible by employing the 14th Amendment, which was supposed to be the basis of equal rights for Blacks.
Using the idea of the corporation as a "person," the filmmakers seek to diagnose the obviously sick "patient." With the pursuit of profit being the ultimate goal of this "person," they show the devastating effects of this pursuit on people and their communities--such as pollution, poverty and illness.
Their diagnosis: According to the criteria of the World Health Organization, this "person" is a psychopath. The pursuit of profit shows itself to go to any lengths. For example, the film looks at the early days of IBM and its alliance with Nazi Germany, where IBM data entry was used to keep track of those killed in concentration camps.
The most inspiring moments come from the interview with Oscar Olivera, a leader of Bolivia's Coalition in Defense of Water and Life. The details of the Bolivian struggle against water privatization shows where real change comes from--mass struggle.
More time focused on people like Olivera or Indian activist Vandana Shiva would have been appreciated. That said, it's a great thing that films like this and Fahrenheit 9/11 are in the theaters, because they show the growing opinion against what is wrong with this system.