Toucan Sam and the military-industrial complex


I recently read that Kellogg’s, the cereal giant, is suing a group called the Maya Archaeology Initiative, because the MAI is using a toucan as part of its logo.



No lie.



The MAI is fighting back very shrewdly. They point out that the toucan in their logo (see the image at the head of this column) is modeled on a real toucan, whereas Toucan Sam is, well, a cartoon character.



Also, there is this charmingly insensitive commercial, using vaguely Mesoamerican tropes like step pyramids and feather-wearing witch doctors with high shrieky voices.



I point this out to Partner, and he grunts. “Corporations are the new nations,” he said. “Haven’t you noticed? They’ll probably win their lawsuit. They can get whatever they want.”



“Like ‘Rollerball,’” I said, catching on.



“Exactly,” he said.



I have been musing on this ever since. The other evening I was catching up on back issues of the Financial Times when I came across, on one single page, companies called Rotork, Spectris, Petrofac, Essar, and (best of all) Astorg.



What are they, daleks?



I am not frightened of corporations in general, any more than I’m frightened of nations in general. They’re abstractions, run by groups of rather silly people, no more intelligent than you or me.



But I think Partner is right. Nations are beginning to seem a little – hm – twentieth-century. Look at Libya! Look at Afghanistan! Borders are really meaningless. All that matters – from a global point of view, anyway – is what can be gotten out of a given geographical area: natural resources, manpower, strategic advantage. And corporations – oil companies, drug companies, mining companies, agricultural companies – can extract these things easily.



Mitt Romney, you may know, recently told someone at one of his campaign appearances that “corporations are people too, my friend.”



No, Mitt, they are not. They are legal entities created by people, for the benefit of a few people – owners, shareholders – through the employment of the labor of some other people. All the nice folks at Hewlett-Packard don’t get together at the end of the day and roll around in the vault; only a few people at the top get to do that. The rest of us – well, read this little tract by my friends Karl and Friedrich, if you haven’t already. Almost 200 years later, I still find it refreshing.



From Robert Bly’s “Those Being Eaten By America”:



The world will soon break up into small colonies of the saved



Soon, I hope. Soon.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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