9.1 Miglets and the Corporations

Cultural transformations are primarily led by youth, since adults and senior citizens are usually too habituated to change easily. But the Miglets and the children have been systematically programmed and manipulated to believe that it is the brand of products that they possess and consume that define their self-identity.

Babies are born butterflies. But from the moment they are born, babies become the embryo of the consumer society in our modern industrial culture, with the result that a reverse metamorphosis has been taking place. The children are taught to aim for impossible ideals.

They are bombarded with messages on TV, through the internet, in video games, via text messages and twitter feeds, to the tune of over 3000 messages a day for an average American child[1]. The child has now become one of the most influential demographic for the modern corporation to capture.

If a corporation does not spend advertising dollars to ensure brand loyalty with the child, then that corporation will likely not survive. Especially if that corporation is peddling sugary beverages, processed foods, gadgets, bling and products that disconnect the child from reality.

Therefore, the corporation has no choice but to plunge into this psycho-social battle to capture the mind of the child, so that the child grows up to be a Pepsi drinker or a Coke drinker even as an adult.  In the late seventies, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a ban on all advertising to children[2], but in response, Congress took away the power of the FTC to regulate such advertising to children[3]. And in the eighties, with the deregulatory fervor of the Reagan era and with the advent of cable television, the targeting of children began in earnest.
The Miglets and the children are the victims of this intense marketing blitz. Professional child psychologists and sociologists are employed by corporations to push all the buttons that influence their minds. Child marketing has now become a knowledge discipline with conferences to disseminate information on how to use modern media to target children, how to make age-appropriate graphic violence for the boys and sexualized imagery for the girls.

Writes Prof. Joel Bakan, a law professor at the University of British Columbia[4], "Throughout history, societies have struggled with how to deal with children and childhood. In the United States and elsewhere, a broad-based “child saving” movement emerged in the late 19th century to combat widespread child abuse in mines, mills and factories. By the early 20th century, the “century of the child,” as a prescient book published in 1909 called it, was in full throttle. Most modern states embraced the general idea that government had a duty to protect the health, education and welfare of children. Child labor was outlawed, as were the sale and marketing of tobacco, alcohol and pornography to children. Consumer protection laws were enacted to regulate product safety and advertising aimed at children.

By the middle of the century, childhood was a robustly protected legal category. In 1959, the United Nations issued its Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Children were now legal persons; the “best interests of the child” became a touchstone for legal reform.

But the 20th century also witnessed another momentous shift, one that would ultimately threaten the welfare of children: the rise of the for-profit corporation. Lawyers, policy makers and business lobbied successfully for various rights and entitlements traditionally connected, legally, with personhood. New laws recognized corporations as legal — albeit artificial — “persons,” granting them many of the same legal rights and privileges as human beings. In an eerie parallel with the child-protective efforts, “the best interests of the corporation” was soon introduced as a legal precept.

A clash between these two newly created legal entities — children and corporations — was, perhaps, inevitable. Century-of-the-child reformers sought to resolve conflicts in favor of children. But over the last 30 years there has been a dramatic reversal: corporate interests now prevail. Deregulation, privatization, weak enforcement of existing regulations and legal and political resistance to new regulations have eroded our ability, as a society, to protect children".
And the Miglets had to grow up in this predatory environment. Corporations appear to be winning this battle. And it isn't even a fair fight as corporations have cornered the political arena through their lobbying and through their control of the financing of elections.

Besides, corporations aren't the only Caterpillars that are preying upon the Miglets. The system itself has been rigged to continue the Caterpillar culture worldwide. In some countries, autocratic rulers usurped absolute power and used that power to amass wealth for themselves and their kin. Even in democratic countries such as India and the US, corruption has become systemic and even legalized. In India, it became next to impossible to get anything done without bribing the government bureaucracy. And in the US, a revolving door between the government bureaucracy and corporations even makes corruption perfectly legal. Governments of the 1%, by the 1% and for the 1% have become firmly ensconced throughout the world to promote the Caterpillar culture[5].

It might appear that it is "Game Over" for the Miglets. That the Caterpillars have won. And the Miglets now have to learn how to survive in a desolate, "Mad Max" world.

But someone forgot to tell the Miglets that they lost. They rose up and drove Hosni Mubarak and his cronies from power in Egypt through a non-violent civil disobedience campaign[6]. They organized and ousted autocrats in Tunisia and Yemen. When asked what they would do if the new rulers also turned out to be autocratic, a Miglet in Egypt said, "We will just come back to Tahrir Square. We did it once and we will do it again".

In India, the Miglets organized and marched in support of Anna Hazare and his hunger strike to root out corruption in the bureaucracy[7]. And the Indian government essentially caved in and acceded to their demands on the Lokpal Bill. Said another Miglet when asked what she would do if the new organization of Lokyuktas also turn out to be corrupt, "We will fast and march again." Likewise, Miglets have also been organizing a five-month long occupation in Madrid, Spain.

But the rebellion of the Miglets has reached a whole new level with the "Occupy Wall Street[8]" and its sister "Occupy Together[9]" actions. By centering the rebellion in Wall Street, the Miglets are confronting the very head of the Caterpillar culture that dominates the planet today. The declaration of the Occupy Wall Street movement reads like a modern version of the Declaration of Independence from 1776, except that corporations have taken on the villainous role that King George played in the original[10]:

"As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

* These grievances are not all-inclusive".

What is absolutely amazing about these actions is that they are occurring despite the fact that corporations systematically enhanced and manipulated the ego of the Miglets in order to get them to be loyal customers. They are occurring despite the fact that the Miglets were subjected to the quirky theories of the "self-esteem" movement during their school years[11].

The self-esteem movement in education was based on the idea that if children are constantly told that they are smart, they will become capable of learning more. But such unreal feedback only served to increase the narcissistic streak in our children and wound up manipulating and enhancing their ego. This made them acutely aware of their sense of separateness, their acceptance or their rejection from their social cliques, of whether they fit or not.

Says actress Thandie Newton[12], "From the age of about five, I knew that I didn't fit. I was the black atheist kid in an all-white Catholic school run by nuns. I was an anomaly. And my self was rooting around for definition trying to plug in. … We've created entire value systems and a physical reality to support the worth of the self. Look at the industry for self-image and the jobs it creates, the revenue it turns over. We'd be right in assuming that the self is an actual living thing. But it's not; it's a projection, which our clever brains create in order to cheat ourselves from the reality of death.

But there is something that can give the self ultimate and infinite connection -- and that thing is oneness, our essence. The self's struggle for authenticity and definition will never end unless it's connected to its creator -- to you and to me. And that can happen with awareness -- awareness of the reality of oneness and the projection of self-hood. For a start, we can think about all the times when we do lose ourselves. It happens when I dance, when I'm acting. I'm earthed in my essence, and my self is suspended. In those moments, I'm connected to everything -- the ground, the air, the sounds, the energy from the audience. All my senses are alert and alive in much the same way as an infant might feel -- that feeling of oneness".

One way to undergo metamorphosis is to train ourselves to feel that oneness, even if we aren't all inspired dancers like Thandie Newton.

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[1] George Comstock and Erica Scharrer, "The Media and the American Child," Academic Press, 2007. http://www.amazon.com/Media-American-Child-George-Comstock/dp/0123725429

[2]  Children’s Advertising, Proposed Trade Regulation Rulemaking, 43 Fed. Reg. 17967, 17969 (Apr. 25, 1978). See, e.g., http://www.law.indiana.edu/fclj/pubs/v58/no2/Ramsey.pdf

[3] From Susan Linn, "Consuming Kids," http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/consuming-kids/

[4] Joel Bakan, "The Kids Are Not Alright," NY Times The Opinion Pages, August 21, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/opinion/corporate-interests-threaten-childrens-welfare.html

[5] Joseph Stiglitz, "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%," Vanity Fair, May 2011. http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Egyptian_Revolution

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Indian_anti-corruption_movement

[8] http://occupywallst.org/

[9] http://www.occupytogether.org/

[10] Occupy Wall Street, "Declaration of Occupy Wall Street," Sep. 29, 2011. http://occupywallst.org/forum/first-official-release-from-occupy-wall-street/

[11] Jean Twenge, "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More Miserable Than Ever Before," Free Press, 2006. http://www.amazon.com/Generation-Americans-Confident-Assertive-Entitled/dp/0743276973

[12] Thandie Newton, "Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself," TED talk, July 2011. http://www.ted.com/talks/thandie_newton_embracing_otherness_embracing_myself.html