The incomparable, determined, energetic, and radically incorruptible Ralph Nader has just put out a new book, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win. Here is Nader's intro:
Let’s start with a simple question. When you read about an injustice by a corporation against a patient, consumer, worker, taxpayer, or community, do you, like most people, recoil with dismay or disgust and then return to your workaday world? If that’s your reaction, is it because you do not have the power to do anything about it, don’t know how to do anything about it, don’t have the time to do anything about it or all of the above?
What do you think would happen to how you answer these questions if you read one after another about ten, twenty, one hundred or two hundred corporate abuses, harms and crimes, especially if you start saying, “This happened to my neighbor” or “my friend” or “my children” or “my co-worker” or “This could easily happen to me”?
Well, plunge into the following engrossing pages reporting the virulent misbehavior of big business in the pursuit of grotesque profits. The actions of these corporate outlaws are documented by mainstream media and well-regarded specialized publications. Even when these greedy over-reaching bullies are sometimes caught, the punishment is usually too little and too late. Moreover, their invidious practices often continue through other domestic or international companies in the same industry.
The aggregation of these outrages—all reported in just one year—2009—can spark your conscience and stiffen your resolve to speak out with other Americans or support much greater reforms and law enforcement against corporate crime. Or at least that is this experiment’s hypothesis. Each story helps you to recalibrate what is important to talk about with your friends, to think about and to challenge.
After all, the Wall Street orgy of crime, speculation, recklessness and self-enrichment looted or drained trillions of dollars from pensions and mutual funds, drove the country into a deep recession in 2009 that unemployed over 8 million workers. The repercussions continue to this day in insecurity, debt, deprivation, rising poverty, fifty million uninsured, and Wal-Mart-level wages for one out of three workers in the declining economy. Yet corporate profits hit record levels in 2010. Executive compensation for the corporate bosses has resumed its grotesque disparity with working Americans. Corporate lobbyists still dominate “our” federal government that bailed out the out-of-control companies big-time with your taxpayer money. There have been no apologies, no expressions of shame, just business as usual heading toward another climax of greed and abandon that will fall again on the taxpayers’ back. Cutbacks for necessities of the American people come before cutbacks for corporate welfare, while a bloated, corrupt military budget continues to nourish insatiable weapons contractors. A commercial culture runs roughshod over civic values and parental authority to expose their children to a 24/7 world of gross, often violent entertainment, harmful products and junk food.
Our country, our culture, our democratic heritage are all in decay, with no end in sight unless there is a sustained response from an aroused citizenry to stop the corporatists from blocking so many proven solutions for our country’s problems. First, we need to raise our expectations to realistically attainable levels so we can believe that a better country is possible soon.
Back in the 1950’s I, like many others in that era, lost several friends and classmates to motor vehicle crashes—horrific fatalities and injuries. At law school, I learned the truth about the auto industry bosses, who, in favor of styling priorities, restrained their safety engineers and scientists from installing long-known safety devices like seat belts, better brakes and tires, collapsible steering columns and interior padding. And, I got steamed. With the tragedy of so many people in preventable crashes and casualties always on my mind, I pressed the Congress month after month to pass the 1966 motor vehicle and highway safety laws, which have saved over a million lives and prevented many more injuries. What drove me and inspired my commitment was not just my knowledge of the industry’s cover-up, but an ample amount of informed indignation (the psychologists now call this ‘emotional intelligence’) and the best from America’s past.
Throughout our history, enough Americans finally became steamed against slavery, for women’s right to vote, for better treatment of workers and farmers, for protection of consumers and the ennvironment. That’s when conditions started changing for the better.
Did you ever see that movie NETWORK in which the leading actor got fed up enough to shout to all who would listen “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE?” The two times I saw this film in a movie theatre, the audience clapped vigorously after this line. Such is the built-up power of moral indignation conveyed to the viewers by the escalating frustration he was absorbing.
To get the full impact, don’t put this book down. Give yourself a chance to alter your mental routines and focus your energies. Read these jolting or jarring excerpts and comments through in as few sittings as possible.
After you finish, you may want to explore joining with others of like mind and sensibility for action that makes these big corporations (all brought into existence by state charters) our servants, not our masters. After all that is what is implied in our constitution’s preamble “We the People” (it’s not We the corporation) and implied in the free market’s slogan that “the customer is always right.” Thank you for taking this “test.”