Celebrating the Corrupted Company Man
I cursed. My son was startled and asked why.
I said: "People are dying and the first question is: "Is it appropriate?"
Suddenly going to an NBA game is like the kind of bland Sunday Dinner with Family where we pretend that the politically troubling realities of our worlds must be quietly ignored? In the interests of a good dinner?
The sports industry pundit being interviewed laid out the conflict in this way: These teams are owned by someone. All of us, when we work for someone have to realize that we are getting paid by that someone. When we're getting paid by them -- we must say what they want us to say. That's why we're getting paid.
His logic resonates with most of what we know. We are bound by good taste, the expectations of being a "company man," a culture of advertising, and all the substantive rewards of a good salary.
In his recent Frontline documentary, Generation Like, Douglas Rushkoff argues that contemporary young people are unaware of the negative connotations of the term "sellout" ("to prostitute one's ideals or talents") presuming that it simply has the laudatory meaning of filling a venue with paying customers. The focus of the film is on the ways that social media and big media collaborate to draw these young people into their whirlwind of publicity-inflected-optimism.
The film doesn't ask how or why or where that meaning drifted away. It's happened quite recently, though. The grandparents of these teenagers supported the civil rights movement, fought for gender equality in the second wave of feminism, protested the government's mishandling of Vietnam and then bought really big houses in the suburbs and focused on delicious Sunday Dinners where we Indulge in Some Delicious Pretending.
Just because selling-out has become normal, pervasive and expected -- doesn't mean that its okay.
With the concentration of capital, disparity of wealth, corrupt systems of politics and endless instruments of surveillance defining contemporary life? It seems to me that what's needed is a new moral discourse focused on the ways that we the people can put our best efforts toward corruption.
Maybe corruption will mean endorsing the "sellouts" who have the courage to ultimately bite the hands that feed them. Maybe when systems so steeped in actual corruption label their dissenters as "inappropriate" - maybe this is the corruption into which we should all lean?
When celebrity basketball players are willing to coordinate their efforts to give voice to those who have none in the choking, dying silence? Our journalists, our churches, our schools -- and everyone else who is posing as moral authority these days -- should embrace, laud and celebrate their courage.