Culture vulture

Corporate America or pandemonium: You be the judge
In his ground-breaking 1941 book on the subject of psychopathology, The Mask of Sanity, Dr. Hervey Cleckley writes about the psychopathic (or, as is more commonly used today, sociopathic) personality thus: “[The psychopath is] a subtly constructed reflex machine which can mimic the human personality perfectly. … So perfect is his reproduction of a whole and normal man that no one who examines him in a clinical setting can point out in scientific or objective terms why, or how, he is not real.”

Cleckley was trying to come to terms with a human phenomenon that he felt had been overlooked in the documentation and treatment of personality disorders or mental illness: the person who outwardly is charming, perhaps even gregarious and socially adept, but whose motivations are all centered around the satisfaction of his own personal desires and needs, often at the extreme expense of others, and who feels absolutely no sympathy for his victims or anyone else. An extreme example would be Ted Bundy, who worked at a suicide prevention hotline service and was regarded as a fine upstanding young fellow even while he was plotting and carrying out the abductions, rapes and murders of random young women in the Pacific Northwest.

Recently I read a review of a new documentary film, The Corporation, which is a study of the rise of corporate culture in history, and I was struck by a passage which said that a group of psychologists had done a personality profile of the social traits of the average large corporation: a willingness to sacrifice others to attain its goals; a drive to deny responsibility for any harmful results of its actions; a tendency to try to get others, including its victims, to pay for and or repair any damages it causes; and a lack of genuine remorse. Their conclusion: The corporation by its nature is sociopathic. The article does not go on to make the logical conclusion that the people at the top of major corporations are more than likely to exhibit the previously described traits that comprise the sociopathic personality, and therefore Culture Vulture will not either, though we are sorely tempted to do so. Because legally corporations are entities with individual rights and as such they must be judged as autonomous individuals and not as amalgamations of human beings bound together by a shared motivation, generally to make as much money as possible.

To recognize and give individual rights and authority to a non- or suprahuman entity strikes Culture Vulture as a weird and probably risky thing to do. An individual entity that cannot be seen—that has no specific human body—but operates through the agency of its human servants and that has no qualms about allowing its servants to be punished or even killed to satisfy its drive to attain its goals, that asks for or demands sacrifices that benefit itself more than the people who carry out its wishes, is not a benevolent entity. To devote one’s life to serving such an entity seems from our perspective destructive of the innate benevolence of the human personality.

Perhaps it’s time that corporations as legal individuals be dismantled and organizations of personally responsible human beings step in to take their place.

It’s something to think about.