February 7, 2012
I wrote this open letter to corporate America a little over two years ago as a “new year’s message,” at a time when I had been unemployed for 10 consecutive months. I present it here exactly as I wrote it then because it seems that “the light that…may someday overcome your darkness” (see below) has finally dawned, and its sun is Occupy Wall Street. May the full heat of its high noon quickly rise to restore a sick, weak, and benighted nation to its true and original self.
A resuscitated orthodoxy, so pervasive as to be nearly invisible, rules the land. Like any religion worth its salt, it shapes our world in its image, demonizing if necessary, absorbing when possible. Thus has the great sovereign territory of what Nabokov called “unreal estate,” the continent of invisible possessions from time to talent to contentment, been either infantilized, rendered unclean, or translated into the grammar of dollars and cents. (Mark Slouka, Quitting the Paint Factory, Harper’s, November 2004)
Dear Corporate America,
I don’t have to wish you a happy new year, because the current one has been fine for you, and your prospects are even better. Yet for those of us that you have cast aside in favor of profits this past year, prospects are somewhat different. You have treated me, and millions of others, like throwaway lovers: we are a legion of three-time losers to your dark and flippant indulgence.
You are utterly without feeling, and not anywhere near as intelligent as you imagine. Your heart is dry, your brain is poisoned. You are a pathetic, tragic, and lifeless consumer of the living Earth.
Perhaps you are expecting another rant on greed. You will be disappointed: greed is the least of your problems, merely the symptom of your disease, the relentless plague that has become your identity.
Your disease is fear. I have seen it in the eyes of boardrooms everywhere I’ve gone in your realms. I have heard it, like a faint death-rattle, in the voices of your executives and your political appointees. I have sensed it in the petty aggressiveness of your speech: there are few things so sad and silly as aggression fuming from the red face of obesity in a three piece suit.
What, then, do you fear? I think you fear exposure: the light that you know may someday overcome your darkness. For your darkness is different from the darkness in Nature. In the living universe, darkness attracts and transports light; in Nature, dark matter supports and bonds form with its source, the way glial cells in the brain hold together the neurons that carry the formless and noumenal abundance of energy and information.
But your darkness hides from light; it resists the very thing that might nourish it; that might restore it to some semblance of life. So you built three high, triangulated walls of fear around you, leaving only a tiny opening for money to enter. You are a parasite: you live in secrecy and feed off the lives of others; you consume us all and demand that we follow your example. You are the attack-drone of a God who creates everything in His own image: suspicious, aggressive, hateful, insatiable, grasping, jealous, vain, and destructive. And always quietly, insidiously ravaged by that fear of light, of recognition, of exposure.
Over the past year, every time someone has asked for openness from you; every time someone has suggested pointing a light upon your morbid body; you have sealed the windows of your monument of shadows, rigidly closed the blinds of your darkness. And when we insist — when we march and raise our voices on your golden street of silence; when we demand a true accounting, a glance beneath the shells that slide along your dark tables — we hear your government plants and media drones informing us that we are irrational, dangerous, mad. This is how your fear drives you and perpetuates itself: by reversing figure and ground, cause and effect, criminal and victim. And it infects us, too.
Now you fly like a flock of vultures over a vast field of corpses, with statistics written upon your wings that say, “recovery” and “Dow 10,000.” For you, the feast has resumed, and gluttony must once again be your driving, defining force, your psychotic impulse; because you deeply believe in lack, in want, in the inadequacy of Nature — it is the cornerstone of your monument, the foundation tablet of your Law, the primal energy of your fear.
Your religion is desolation; your philosophy is jackbooted uniformity; your image is malignant increase — the crawling, omnidirectional spread known in medicine as carcinoma. Cancer, too, resists the light of detection.
How long will the shroud of your dark ignorance blind us, consume us, oppress and ruin us? Perhaps for as long as those whose energy you steal, whose life you suck with your parasitic mouth — workers, customers, journalists, government officials — can withstand the fecal stench of your fear; the blinding glare of your toxic and shallow self-imagery; the icy, trapping darkness of your shadowy temple. For as long as we fail to hear the lesson in your own failure — that, in fact, when you are “too big to fail,” you already have.
What, then, can you teach us, you foul-breathed, cancerous, obese, fear-riddled troll? I can only say what I have learned from you, in 20-odd years amid your fear-carpeted halls and dread-mossed cubicles. I have learned that fear is a swamp, a fetid pool of semi-liquid darkness. I have learned that for as long as you accept the reality of the swamp; for as long as you believe the lie that says this fear is your world; then the only escape from its depths is by climbing toward its topmost surface, where a feeble, artificial light glimmers and you can look down in the sanctity of comfort upon all the swimming, consuming darkness below.
Yet even at those heights, I have seen and heard the fear; it never leaves because it is the essence of your swamp, the substance of your illusion. The fear pervades equally in the boardroom and the mailroom. You have taught me that; you have shown me that reality.
So I have chosen to stop seeking you, to stop courting you. I have bent my knees at your door long enough; completed thousands of your forms; opened myself to your pimps and let them answer me with suspicion or ignorance. I am tired of your game; I cannot play anymore.
But I am not leaving you forever: you can come and court me when you are fit to do so. Before you can do that, however, you must learn what truly matters to living people, to the strangers whose essence you suck, to future generations of these people, and to their living planet.
There are three treasures of life that your corporate beliefs deny or shunt off to a neglected corner of the “offline” or the personal. These three treasures are themselves the breath of joy, the sine qua non of our human potential. The first is health; the second, maturity; the third is love. Together, they create another phenomenon of Nature of which you know little, if anything: it is called human dignity. Where these three exist, nothing is wanting, because it is they that make money, possessions, and all the other things you value above all else arrive. They are worth more than all your wealth, all your power, all of your marketing allure.
And so I have decided that I can live without you. It is a private decision, which I recommend to no one; for if I must live without you, I must also live without insurance, 401k’s, bonuses, and the other perks and privileges of corporate servitude. To me, it’s a no-brainer of a trade-off, because what I also give up as I break that inner bond, which you have had upon me for so many years, is fear. To learn to live without fear: is it not a greater accomplishment than all your mergers, acquisitions, power plays, and profit-takings bundled into a single, glutinous, swampy mass? For this is more than a mere undertaking of personal development: to learn to live without fear is to enter the dance of democracy in the great hall of human evolution.
If you should ever reach a point in your own development (unlikely as that may seem) where you value a person who has learned to live without fear, do get in touch. I may still be around to consider your offer…