"Welcome, Glomart shoppers!"
About ten (or more) years ago, I thus opened a satiric piece (now lost, somewhere in my chaotic papers in the attic) in which I assumed the persona of a corporate tour guide, cheerfully introducing his customers to their new planet-sized mall called "Glomart" (an obvious sendup of names like "Walmart" or "K-mart"), where everything is for sale, and all unpleasant consequences of this fact (like pollution, extinction, exploitation, and poverty) are skillfully hidden from consumers' view.
The name "Glomart" stuck, however, and through my various internet correspondences and teaching since that time, has gained some currency among my friends and students, as a kind of shorthand for the Global Market Economy, the oligarchic monstrosity based on the zero-sum logic of money, consisting of multinational corporations and their client states (now including the USA) that has just about achieved its goal of turning our entire world into commodities for sale to enrich their stockholders.
I therefore define Glomart as the Order of Money, manifested above all in multinational corporations--a complex adaptive (or maladaptive) system of acculturation which operates according to four basic rules, which are the unspoken major premises of all deliberations in corporate boardrooms, and of all advertising as well:
- More is always Better. This rule is implicit in the logic of money--since one plus one always equals two.
- You Are what you Own. In order to keep making profits, corporations must constantly create new demands in consumers. They do this by conveying this message in all their advertising: that one's possessions are the basis of one's personal identity and value.
- Nothing has Value until it has a Price. Therefore nothing--including land, air, or water, biodiversity, or community, can possibly matter to any corporation, unless you can put a boundary around it and can sell it as a commodity for a profit.
- The Bottom Line is the Bottom Line. This is the sole criterion for any decision a corporation makes--by necessity and design according to the intrinsic logic of money. If it makes a profit, it is good; if it does not, it is bad--regardless of what "It" is.
I find this new term "Glomart" more useful than traditional terms such as "capitalism"--which is a misnomer on several accounts. First, it is not, per se, an "-ism" or consciously embraced ideology; rather, it is a natural and logical consequence of the profit motive, the desire for more that we all share. . It is also the direct manifestation of the inherent zero-sum logic of money: if I have it, you don't. And money itself is nothing but arithmetic--it is an arithmetical transform of information about the marginal value of commodities on the market.
Secondly, the term "capitalism" fails to distinguish between commerce per se--the process of making, growing, or procuring commodities and selling them to others--and the pathologies of commerce that result from both the scale of the enterprise, its power to suppress the truth about its harmful side-effects, and its lobbying power to prevent regulation in the public interest by elected officials or government agencies. Thus the term implies that the friendly clerk at one's neighborhood mom and pop store somehow falls into the same toxic category as Monsanto Corporation, as a potential planet-wrecking monster.
There is nothing wrong, however, with commerce per se--it does everything its advocates claim, by promoting competition and innovation, by providing employment, and by encouraging creativity, and--of course, by providing the goods and services we want or need at prices we are willing to pay. So we need to distinguish the pathologies of commerce from commerce itself, and the concept of "capitalism" muddles this distinction. (Incidentally, I have borrowed the useful term "Pathologies of Commerce" from a superb documentary that critically analyzes and investigates Glomart, entitled The Corporation, which is available on YouTube).The Corporation
So what are these pathologies? They all derive from the fact that corporate charters have one overriding legal obligation: to make a growing profit for their shareholders. For this reason, and since they are all in competition with one another for profits, they have no intrinsic basis for distinguishing between socially adaptive and socially maladaptive ways of making a profit. The socially adaptive ways I have already mentioned: providing ever-improving commodities at an affordable price, providing employment, encouraging innovation, and so on. We all want new and better products and services, and don't mind paying for them.
The socially maladaptive ways of making a profit, however, are often invisible to us, since making them known is bad for business. That's why we don't see them advertised or discussed on corporate-owned news programs. They consist of the following (as beautifully set forth in The Corporation):
- Exploitation of Workers. For any large corporation, wages and salaries are seen as a cost of doing business, not--as they often are--a benefit to the larger community. Therefore, multinational corporations must compete with one another in a "race to the bottom" to find the cheapest available labor--to bust unions, to ship jobs overseas, to lay off workers as they become superfluous, etc. High unemployment is destructive to society, but is beneficial to corporations, since those who get jobs are then likely to settle for less without complaint
- Externalization of Costs. Glomart has everything to gain, and nothing to lose, from passing on the long-term social and environmental costs of doing business to the public. Hence they have every incentive to oppose regulations on pollution or other destructive practices (such as corporate agriculture with fertilizers and pesticides, or real estate development to blot out forests, fields, waterfronts, and wetlands) and to finance politicians who will do their bidding in defeating any new legislation that promotes the public interest in clean air, water, or topsoil.
- Deception. Corporations spend billion on advertising, through which they influence and intimidate news outlets to prevent them from publicizing any information that puts them in a bad light, even if that information obviously serves the public interest.
- Corruption. Since governments and elected officials are the only available means the larger public has to regulate the behavior of the corporate sector, multinational corporations have collaborated worldwide to corrupt the political process by intensive lobbying and massive campaign contributions, with the result that today, any politician who dares to do his job of protecting the public interest against corporate profiteering will likely lose his job due to massive infusion of corporate money to his opponent.
- The Mandate for Expansion. Since money is nothing but arithmetic, and the number line is infinite, corporations must continue to grow in order to compete--there is no choice, and hence no concept of "enough" in the corporate world. Hence we currently have a global economy that is utterly dependent on the infinite expansion of production and consumption--in a finite world. This is a recipe for ecological catastrophe, which is already happening--though Glomart is intent to suppress this information as well, since such news as climate change, rising extinction rates, cancer rates from pollution, etc. are all bad for business. Nothing can challenge the major premise of Glomart--that "More is always better"--lest the whole system collapse.
So what is a Gaian to do? We can first recognize that the basic production rules of Glomart are the polar opposite of the sustaining values of a finite living planet--and act accordingly. So think of it this way:
- Whereas Glomart uses advertising, 24/7, to tell us that More is always better, we can begin--today--to act on the assumption that Enough is Enough.
- Whereas Glomart tells us that We are what we own, we can remember the truth: We are what we do.
- Whereas Glomart tells us that Nothing has value until it has a Price, we can embrace the priceless--love, friendship, community, but also protection of birds, wildflowers, forests, rivers, and oceans...knowing that Value is Incalculable, because it is implicit in relatedness.
- Whereas Glomart tells itself that The Bottom Line is the Bottom Line, we can remember that Life itself is what matters--our own, that of others, and of other beings and ecosystems, not only now, but for all future generations.
Only by embracing and disseminating these contrary life-sustaining values as antidotes to Glomart brainwashing can we hope to become agents for the Spontaneous Remission of the Cancer of the Earth.
So be it.