Corporation – n. “An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility”
– Ambrose Bierce
The Radium Girls.
Sounds like an all-girl punk rock band, right? Well, unfortunately, it describes the murderous actions of an American corporation; the willful disregard of the disposable human beings working for the company: US Radium.
In 1922, a bank teller named Grace Fryer became concerned when her teeth began to loosen and fall out for no discernible reason. Her troubles were compounded when her jaw became swollen and inflamed, so she sought the assistance of a doctor in diagnosing the inexplicable symptoms. Using a primitive X-ray machine, the physician discovered serious bone decay, the likes of which he had never seen. Her jawbone was honeycombed with small holes, in a random pattern reminiscent of moth-eaten fabric.As a series of doctors attempted to solve Grace’s mysterious ailment, similar cases began to appear throughout her hometown of New Jersey. One dentist in particular took notice of the unusually high number of deteriorated jawbones among local women, and it took very little investigation to discover a common thread; all of the women had been employed by the same watch-painting factory at one time or another.
Check out the whole agonizing story.
In 1925, three years after Grace’s health problems began, a doctor suggested that her jaw problems may have had something to do with her former job at US Radium. As she began to explore the possibility, a specialist from Columbia University named Frederick Flynn asked to examine her. Flynn declared her to be in fine health. It would be some time before anyone discovered that Flynn was not a doctor, nor was he licensed to practice medicine, rather he was a toxicologist on the US Radium payroll. A “colleague” who had been present during the examination– and who had confirmed the healthy diagnosis– turned out to be one of the vice-presidents of US Radium. Many of the Undark painters had been developing serious bone-related problems, particularly in the jaw, and the company had begun a concerted effort to conceal the cause of the disease. The mysterious deaths were often blamed on syphilis to undermine the womens’ reputations, and many doctors and dentists inexplicably cooperated with the powerful company’s disinformation campaign.
What sane VP would masquerade as a doctor to befuddle some poor, ill women? What else could make a man act like this?
The organizational structure of the corporation allowed and even encouraged these individuals to act in a criminal conspiracy to protect profits for the shareholders.
Certainly, the individuals involved are responsible for their actions, but look the role of the corporation in this. They were all acting for the benefit of the corporation. Why do we set up amoral, profit-driven corporations and then act surprised when their employees do awful things in the name of greed?
But here’s another question for you: What penalties did the VP and the toxicologist face for their subterfuge? My guess is: NONE.
These ladies died because of the coordinated action of a group of people. If we accept that one person engaged in such behavior is immoral, what do we call a group of immoral people acting the same way? A corporation.
Corporations concentrate power in the hands of a few (management and shareholders) so that the average joe (or jane in this case) has very little leverage.
Corporations have unique powers which enable them to escape prosecution for repeated lawbreakings. Nobody goes to jail because you can’t put a corporation in jail, only people. In that way, a corporation is superior to a mere human. It is a master of humans, not subject to laws that normal humans must endure.
Only individual officers and henchmen (management & staff) can be prosecuted for individual crimes that the corporation conceived and covered up. A corporation lives forever and can replace the personnel lost to jail in little time. Corporations are made of humans, but humans are abundant. Humans are irrelevent.
Those humans within the super-human corporate personhood are excempt from the law, and can’t help but feel a bit superior. Hiding behind a squadron of lawyers and a phalanx of security guards is easy for the VP of US Radium, but that’s not the case if he’s just some unemployed guy. Corporations grant humans power, not the other way around. Because they 0wn.
The special powers granted to the corporation make it damn near impossible for the individual human to stand against the mighty corporation in court or even in the public sphere, like the halls of Congress. Corporations rule the roost there, too. Everywhere there’s power or leverage, the corporations are already there. Their power and reach is such that corporations are superior to mere mortals under the code of law. They can’t vote but they can do pretty much anything else.
The conclusion is awful, but unavoidable.
Corporate Man is Super-Sapien.
If corporations decide that we “normal”, non-corporate-officer humans are too plentiful (oversupply lowers demand), they will simply draw up plans to wipe us out, buy the necessary politicans and carry out the fiendish plot.
We live in the corporations’ world. We who are not of the corporate body (“blessed be the name of our CEO”) are infidels in this land.
It’s a Corporate Holocaust©®™!!!