In my town, they – the corporate throngs – travel almost in unison every morning and every night, making their ways from the manicured suburbs to the shiny parts of the central city, and then back again.

They’re not particularly bad people, you understand. In fact, some of them are pleasant and smart. But they are all being slowly digested into the body of a larger host: the 21st Century Corporate-Hive Network.

They wake up each morning in their quiet bedrooms, go through the usual preliminaries, and climb into their modern cars. They turn on the back seat video to anesthetize their kids, drive on inoffensive streets to a well-guarded school, drop the kids and head to their quaint train station. At the station, their status and lifestyle are confirmed by all the other corporate cogs who live precisely the same way.

As scheduled, the train shows up and they take their seats. Here, a bit of individuality shows up: One will get predigested “safe facts” from his or her newspaper. Another his or her salacious gossip from People magazine. The more up-to-date will watch a show on their brand new smart phone. Perhaps one or two will plug-in to their iPhone, submerge their thoughts in songs provided by the entertainment corps. and recline, semi-comatose, till they arrive downtown.

Then, they emerge from the trains into a brilliant, cavernous station with wall-to-wall advertising: Buy the newer, faster phone! Take a vacation to a pristine beach, with happy, beautiful people frolicking in their swim suits. Give your spouse a new car for Christmas! Most importantly, these ads will feature people just like them: Happy, successful corporate employees.

They walk down the streets to their glistening offices past a sea of corporate logos: places to eat and drink, to buy clothes, coffee and cell phones, and past seemingly-eternal government buildings. All is institutional, all is certified, all is polished… all is hollow, all is homogenized.

The same goes for their McCorporate jobs and their McCorporate colleagues.

This world is a second verse of the 1950s: a little bit louder and a little bit worse.

The institution is back. It ruled in the 50s. It was dethroned in the 60s and 70s. It idled in the 80s then began its return. It is now back at the top of the heap. It rules from cradle to grave. Here, as we all know, is the script:

  • Do well in school (institution).
  • Rebel with music from the entertainment corps (institutions).
  • Wear the new shoes/jeans/etc. with the best corporate logos (institutions).
  • Get a university degree (institution).
  • Take student loans to do so (institution).
  • Take a job at a big firm with great benefits (interacting institutions).
  • Get a home loan (institutions).
  • Build a 401K (institutions).
  • Believe in democracy (institution).
  • Be a good citizen and vote (institution).
  • Send your children to daycare, then school (institutions).
  • Buy brand-named goods (institutions).
  • Watch the best in entertainment (institutions).
  • Conduct your relationships on Facebook (institution).
  • Trust in social security (institution).
  • Trust in Medicare (institution).

Residence in the corporate cocoon is not evil per se, but it’s a substitute for actual living. Corporate life takes place vicariously: in advertisements, movies and politics. Even its McChildren are prevented from interaction with the real world – rushed from one institution to another then safely back home: numbered, evaluated and surveilled the whole time.

The streets, offices and boardrooms of the corporate world are rich and shiny, but they are swept clean of real life. They are where souls go to die – albeit slowly and with continuous validation.

 

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