The Corporation, a 2003 Canadian documentary film examined the behaviour of big business towards society and the world at large as a psychiatrist might evaluate an ordinary person. The power structure in government is equally susceptible to this behavior, mostly as a result of how specific public functions are influenced by corporations who then influence government. All corporations have one defining characteristic that allows them to survive. To maintain and increase profits, those chosen to run these corporations all must exhibit psychopathic tendencies and consequently are not neurally equipped to have any concern for human beings.
The Corporation is today’s dominant institution, creating great wealth but also great harm. This 26 award-winning documentary examines the nature, evolution, impacts and future of the modern business corporation and the increasing role it plays in society and our everyday lives.
“Given what these big corporations routinely do, we have to ask, are they filled and peopled from top to bottom by ruthless monsters who care nothing about others, and also nothing about the world that we live in? Are these CEOs and CFOs and COOs and managers and researchers and stockholders so beyond human that, let’s say, the deaths in Iraq and the destitution of the farmers and the tumors and allergies and obesities of children, and the melting of the Greenland ice cap and the shifting of the Gulf Stream are, to them, just the cost of doing business? Or are they just beyond stupid and blind, so that they, alone among humans, have no understanding of the interconnectedness of all natural systems?”
As an alleged person a Corporation is a non-biological entity, without the need to breathe air, drink water or eat food, notably without the obligation to die and — without a conscience. According to psychological analysis criteria, the corporation’s legal “person” is diagnosed as being a psychopath. The film goes through the characteristics of this personality disorder, showing point for point (see list, below) how they correspond to the typical behavior of businesses.
It looks at the rise of the corporate body as having the legal status of a “person” and its collective psychopathic raping of the planets’ people and resources due to a greed-based bottom-line motivation. The film also touches on more recent trends within the corporate world to awaken morally and infuse ethics into the equation, to halt and then reverse the past damages that have been inflicted.
Why Do Corporations Lack Concern For Others
“A marked lack of empathy is a hallmark characteristic of individuals with psychopathy,” said Jean Decety, the Irving B. Harris Professor in Psychology and Psychiatry at UChicago. Psychopathy affects approximately 1 percent of the United States general population, 20 percent of the prison population and 100 percent of large corporations. Relative to non-psychopathic criminals, psychopaths are responsible for a disproportionate amount of repetitive violence to others.
In scientific studies, participants in high psychopathy groups exhibit significantly less activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, lateral orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala and periaqueductal gray parts of the brain, but more activity in the striatum and the insula when compared to control participants.
The diminished response in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and amygdala is consistent with the affective neuroscience literature on psychopathy. This latter region is important for monitoring ongoing behavior, estimating consequences and incorporating emotional learning into moral decision-making, and plays a fundamental role in empathic concern and valuing the well-being of others.
One of the problems with corporate run entities is they do not directly witness the harm they cause to others. The neural response to distress of others such as pain is thought to reflect an aversive response in the observer that may act as a trigger to inhibit aggression or prompt motivation to help.
We’d like to think that if we met someone who was completely without conscience — someone who was capable of doing anything at all if it served his or her purposes — we would recognize it. In popular culture, the image of the psychopath is of someone like Hannibal Lecter or the BTK Killer. But in reality, many psychopaths just want money, or power, or fame, or simply a nice car. Where do these psychopaths go? Often, it’s to the corporate world.
Corporations Don’t Empathize
The brain is hard-wired for empathy, however some of us express it more than others.
Very few women in their 50s run large multi-national corporations and the reason is that women in this age group have the most empathy of any other.
Women in their 50s were also more prone to engage in meditation which has a profound impact on emphathetic states. In a 2008 study published in the journal PloS One, researchers found that when meditators heard the sounds of people suffering, they had stronger activation levels in their temporal parietal junctures, a part of the brain tied to empathy, than people who did not meditate.
“They reported that they were more likely to react emotionally to the experiences of others, and they were also more likely to try to understand how things looked from the perspective of others.”
Part of our modern day society is teaching children to unlearn empathy by immersing them in technology environments that remove and condition the brain to suppress our innate hardwiring to express empathy. Children between the ages of seven and 12 appear to be naturally inclined to feel empathy for others in pain.
A child’s healthy brain and emotional development are being hindered by social practices and cultural beliefs of modern life, according to an interdisciplinary body of research presented recently at a symposium at the University of Notre Dame.
If we don’t stop and shift gears from a world intending to constantly exploit the poor to feed the rich, we will never realize our true potential as a species–one which can create so many wonderful things when children are empowered to grow as morally responsible, empathic and loving adults, rather than status quo so pervasive in our corporate world.
About the Author
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.
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