I am reminded of a quote I heard recently, given by Christopher Hitchens, where he states that to if one were to look at all politicians as ordinary people, one would find them to be thugs. But they are not ordinary people, he goes on, they are a wholly different kind of person; therefore, they cannot be judged as ordinary and cannot be classified as thugs.
The latest two movies in my Netflix DVD queue were Inside Job and The Corporation. The former discusses the 2008 financial collapse, whereas the latter discusses the state of the corporation in America. While they both seem thematically separate, they have a very interesting profound overlap.
I was angry watching Inside Job. It really pissed me off to see reckless behaviour without consequence and without remorse. To see the drunk drivers of the financial industry speak as though they had done absolutely nothing wrong, whether legally or morally, set me off. I usually don’t attempt to interact with movies much, save the laughter for comedic films and the statements of disbelief for the stranger films, but in this case, I was yelling at the screen, noticeably angry. These people had done wrong and couldn’t give two shits about it.
I think The Corporation was a movie more of disbelief than anything else for me. America classifies a corporation as a legal person? Seriously?! So much of the film’s content left me flabbergasted. The writer of this film knew I would think this and systematically itemized the qualities of a corporation that separate it from normal personhood – things like empathy, remorse, reckless disregard for the welfare of the environment. Ask any CEO what they call how their company affects the environment, and they’ll say one word: “Externalities.” They write it off like it’s someone else’s problem, accepting no responsibility for their actions whatsoever.
It is shockingly clear that our political and economic systems cater to the will and the benefit of these everyday thugs. Are they simply doing their jobs? Are we holding them to the wrong standards?
Ultimately, I disagree with Mr. Hitchens. All leaders, nay especially leaders, must be held to the same standard that the rest of our country’s citizens are. There are no excuses. The laws must reflect that whether it’s a CEO who caused the foreclosure of 200,000 homes through reckless trading and predatory loans, or an 18-year-old kid who boosted a car, everyone must deal with the consequences of our actions.
Think of the example this 2008 crisis sets: the key to being rich and (in)famous is to trade so recklessly that the government won’t let you fail, then at the right time, sail out with a multi-million dollar severance package. Next time I hear someone complain about the younger generations not having enough self-responsibility, I’ll ask them who it was that created the world-wide financial disaster of 2008 and whether these people have taken full responsibility for their actions.
No, Mr. Hitchens, these people are thugs, and deserve that title, raping and pillaging societal stability and equality for their own personal gain. Can humanity get more disgusting?