Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Musings: Corporate Creep

I awoke about 3:30, the way I sometimes do, briefly, and as I waited to fall back to sleep I was struck by the utter blackness and silence of the night: no bullfrogs or crickets or traffic, just a very faint hum of the surf, way off in the distance, and an occasional drip from the eaves. And I was reminded again of how lucky I am to live where it’s dark and quiet.

When I got up for good, and set out with Koko on our walk, a little sliver of light clung to the bottom of the moon, and the sky was varying shades of gray. The air was heavy and still, and the sun, pushing its way through thick clouds, looked like a porch light that someone had left on. Farmer Jerry, who stopped to chat along the road, observed quite rightly that it felt like rain.

He was on his way to Lihue, where he and others have been setting up the Farm Fair for well over a week now, in preparation for tomorrow night’s opening. As a College of Tropical Ag employee and Farm Bureau officer, he’s inducted for a sort of double duty, and will spend all day, every day, at the fair until it closes Sunday night, then help tear the whole thing down.

It’s amazing how much work goes into what is arguably Kauai's biggest shindig, but he doesn’t mind the break from his job routine. For him, it’s all worth it when he sees the little kids so excited they’re jumping up and down, and Jerry said he can still recall the thrill he felt as a child when the striped circus tent set up in Lihue.

Today it’s the Pacific Blue Construction exhibition tent and the Coca-Cola food court and the Hawaiian Airlines entertainment tent and the Big Save agricultural exhibition.

I found the last one amusing, because Derek Kawakami, the County Council candidate whose family owns Big Save, acknowledged to a local farmer attending his fundraiser that he knows nothing about agriculture, save that Big Save buys produce. Perhaps a trip through “his” ag tent will expand his education.

Of course, we’re also seeing this corporate sponsorship play out in a big way at the Democratic convention, which is being staged in Denver’s Pepsi Center. This doesn’t seem to faze most of those in attendance, perhaps because their hands are so deeply in the corporate pockets. But as Democracy Now! reports, Rep. Dennis Kucinich used the opportunity of his convention speech to blast the Iraq war and corporate dominance, which is apt, since the two go hand-in-hand:

In an afternoon speech, Kucinich said the Bush administration invaded Iraq for oil. He also warned of the looming threat of a US attack on Iran.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: “Wake up, America. In 2001, the oil companies, the war contractors and the neocon artists seized the economy and added $4 trillion of unproductive spending to the national debt. We now pay four times more for defense, three times more for gasoline and home heating oil, and twice what we paid for healthcare.”

It’s fascinating how this corporate influence has steadily crept into our lives, in both the overt ways that Kucinich describes and the more subtle trend toward “sponsorships.” It seemed to start with people wearing clothing adorned with advertising (what’s up with that?) and then steadily progressed to the point where corporations now dominate every facet of our lives.

Do Pepsi sales really skyrocket after people hear Pepsi Center repeated countless times in the media? Or is it all just part of an ingratiating effort by corporations to make us feel like we need them, that they’re part of the community, that they’re one of us?

Meanwhile, The Garden Island reports today that our own Gary Hooser, who served on the National Credentials Committee, is feeling all warm and fuzzy about the convention:

State Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, said the words of ailing U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy and Michelle Obama moved him to tears and “chicken skin.”

“Living on Kaua‘i I realized that one person can make a difference,” Hooser said. “The political process is open to all of us.”

Is it? I suppose so, if you interpret that to mean that we all get a vote — provided it’s not cast on one of those faulty and/or rigged voting machines. But as I continue to see who is on the streets at the convention, and who is inside, schmoozing with the delegates, I can’t help but believe the door is held open just a little bit wider to those carrying the corporate checkbooks.

Yes, one person can make a difference, a huge difference, but to me that's most effectively done by how one chooses to live one's life. And that's one approach that doesn't require any corporate sponsorship. At least, not yet.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Check out Ian Lind's pic from the DNC the other day:

Lockheed Martin was the first breakfast sponsor.

Think "spaceport." Probably, the tag line "Mahalo for you (sic) generosity" is not the only thanks they expect or will get.

I'll bet the Lockheed rep can fly right into Speaker Say's office. But if we want to see him? ...