Friday, December 17, 2004

the corporation

I went to The Showroom to see a film I've been meaning to see for a while now. Gordon Lynch mentioned The Corporation, in his talk at FEED.

Corporations are legally defined as people, so this film sets out to discover what sort of person corporations are. Apparently there are six particular characteristics which define someone as being psychopathic.

callous unconcern for the feelings of others
incapacity to maintain enduring relationships
reckless disregard for the safety of others
deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit
incapacity to experience guilt
failure to confom to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours

This film gives examples of how Corporations demonstrate all six characteristics.

Now this may not be the greatest film ever made, but as Michael Moore points out towards the end of the film, corporations will do anything as long as there is money to be made. They'll even put out a film that is slagging them off.

There were a couple of other points in the film that have lodged themselves in my mind. First, there was a brief discussion about the monstrous nature of 'the system', where capitalism was compared to slavery. This is something that I'm kind of thinking about in one of my essays for university at the moment. How was slavery overcome? How might capitalism be overcome? This also reminded me of some stuff Walter Wink talks about in his Powers books.

The second thing that stuck in my mind, was the story of
, in Bolivia. I'd first read about this place in One No, Many Yeses. Its a fascinating story of how water was privatised in the city of Cochabamba. It got to the point where it was illegal to collect rainwater! But the people, together, rebelled, and told the particular corporation, and the authorities who had allowed this to happen, where they could stick it. Fantastic.

Monday, December 13, 2004

it's all in the timing

Last week was hardly what I'd call fun. Having exhausted myself at our church Christmas fair on Saturday (GNVQ in Grotto construction and decoration successfully obtained), I was then given a whole 40 minutes warning that I was doing the talk at church on Sunday night. "Oh! Did you not get that message?"

The fun continued on Tuesday when, having caught some joyous strain of stomach bug I found myself unable to hold down a cup of water, and so tired that moving was genuinely a real effort. This all happened in Birmingham, which meant that while I missed a couple of lectures at uni, my Mum and Dad had to trek down to rescue me.

The car went into the garage for a service on Thursday. We eventually managed to get a courtesy car once Direct Line's computers had stopped crashing.

On Friday I met up with my pastoral support guy. He's pretty cool and I find meeting up with him really helpful. He asked me whether I have a system for dealing with frustration. "Does bottling it up count?" I asked.

Sometimes life just seems to save up various irritations, and hurl them at you all at once. It sucks. Ah well, at least I can get on with writing my essays now.

understanding theology and popular culture

A couple of weeks ago I went to hear Gordon Lynch at FEED. He was talking about the role of popular culture as a religion

He began by briefly commenting on the recent change in religious landscape in Britain before moving on to discuss the way in which popular culture could be considered comparable to religion. He explained two ways in which it is possible to view religions, as substantive or as functionalist.

Religions can be seen as substantive where they (nearly) all contain certain basic elements, eg. sacred texts or an oral tradition, a sense of ritual, a sacred space - church, temple etc. (there were more but I can’t remember what was said). It is possible to view popular culture as being made up of these elements – for example football, where the pitch is the sacred space, turning up the same time every week constitutes a sense of ritual. However Gordon said that in trying to draw these comparisons, inaccuracies can enter in, the analogies can easily be stretched too far.

Religions can also be seen as functionalist – religions all share certain functions. For example they provide a set of communal, shared values and they help people make sense of life. Has popular culture replaced more traditional religions in serving these functions, eg. Clubbing as some kind of mystical experience?

Gordon then moved on to discussing the link between popular culture and capitalism. He stated that there is more to this link than just people’s love of shopping. Consider the role of advertising in the media, and in football. Culture has become an industry. It is something that people are buying into, but this choice to buy in, is within the constraints of the capitalist system. However this capitalist system relies on injustice, not only in production, but also in the consumption – are we ALL free to participate?

He referenced George Ritzer’s McDonaldization theory, discussing how the “enchantment” of the system makes us feel easier about buying into the system. Have we reached the state where “being human” now equates with being cogs in the capitalist system?

So what should we be doing? There are no set answers, no 10 step programmes, no ready-to-use courses. Rather we need to engage in critical thinking. How does this link with the role of the church? Gordon concluded his talk by referring to The Corporation. The capitalist system will fund people to critique it, as long as there is money to be made. Can we use this fact? Can we work within this system?

I bought a copy of Gordon's new book, Understanding Theology and Popular Culture. I've yet to really start reading it, but I may well comment in the next few weeks, once I've had a chance to get stuck in.