Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
July 8, 2020
(Part 1 of this series can be found here)
(Part 2 of this series can be found here)
Within the realm of activism, “corporate” is a dirty word.
Don’t get me wrong, corporations have done their damnedest to earn such vitriol and malice. It would take several volumes for me to even attempt documenting this catalog of criminality. But let’s keep things simple by summing up: Corporate power is, directly and indirectly, responsible for poisoning and destroying the natural world while simultaneously reinforcing cultural dynamics that lead to perpetual oppression, discrimination, and poverty across the globe.
The sins of Corporate America are no secret. People write books about them, make movies about them, create podcasts about them, hold signs “protesting” them, and file lawsuits related to them. Corporate malfeasance is so normalized that it’s regularly parodied in popular culture (thus creating more corporate profits).
Countless “movements” -- most notably Occupy Wall Street -- have sprung up to allegedly address this planetary crime spree. By relying on the same old failed tactics, these protests accomplish nothing more than a tsunami of social media posts (thus creating more corporate profits).
I’d like to share something I’ve witnessed over and over, through direct experience: A global event happens. It could be anything from an election to a police shooting to an environmental disaster or war crime… whatever. This event enrages a portion of the population. Some of those enraged folks feel a strong need to express their ire but wind up attending disorganized, futile gatherings called “protests.” At these gatherings, long-existing activist groups show up to sell their newspapers and hand out flyers about their next meeting. This propaganda lures in some of the recently activated dissidents and thus guarantees that nothing new will be tried and zero progress will be made.
It’s almost as if some “activists” are more concerned with gaining followers than garnering results (insert rimshot here).
My question: Why can’t new activists instead choose to learn from winners?
In every other venture in life, we look for positive role models. We seek out proven archetypes. We aim to find the clues left behind by the architects of thriving efforts. As much as you may justifiably despise what corporations have done to our society, surely you can recognize the value of dissecting their blueprint.
Corporations will brazenly co-opt ideas from even their most venomous enemies. They’ll sanitize those concepts and sell them right back to their hapless enemies as commodities. Why can’t this process be reversed? Why can’t activist movements co-opt proven corporate tactics to attain their diametrically-opposed goals?
By de-occupying black-and-white thinking, we can acknowledge the consistently winning record of Corporate America. Rather than demonizing and rejecting, we can figure out how that particular kind of culture continues to thrive and expand. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when industries all over the world have already created a tried-and-true template for progress.
For starters, I submit these 20 basic but essential questions the resourceful folks of Corporate America often ask before they embark on a new project:
Here are some follow-up questions of my own, directed at activists:
Let’s face it, with the almost non-existent win rate of social justice groups, isn’t it at least worth a try to appropriate something practical from the side that always comes out on top?
In the meantime…
When multi-national companies ask the 20 questions above at one of their copious meetings, they are not looking to make the world a better place. Their goal is to keep their shareholders happy in the next fiscal quarter. They waste no time talking about the small but urgent steps that must be taken all day, every day, to help humans and non-humans in need. Case in point:
One of the homeless women I helped the longest (I’ll call her G) had a regular panhandling spot in midtown Manhattan -- near the strip now called “billionaire’s row.” The building directly above her spot is home to many high-end businesses. Some employees of these companies got to know G and it was not unusual for me to find one or two of them sitting -- on the asphalt -- beside her during their lunch breaks. They’d chat, offer help and advice, and mostly, just treat G like the human being she is. Their employers were not pleased. The building manager and other local building managers saw the presence of a homeless woman on “their” block as a serious threat to the value of local real estate.
All of the companies in that building sent memos to their employees, warning them to not associate with homeless people during work hours (including lunchtime). Every single one of the employees complied. But one woman did get word to G to let her know why she had suddenly been abandoned. I can still see G’s face as she tearfully told me this story.
This is the nefarious side of corporate culture in action. We, as “activists,” can borrow winning tactics without behaving like the “enemy.” So, please allow me to introduce one more question for your next meeting:
What are you doing each day to make a difference while you work to increase the effectiveness of your activism?
This query will distance you from your corporate rivals. It will show that you are not just concerned with notoriety, power, control, and profit. You are aware of the humans and non-humans in need and you are willing to prioritize helping them over your personal gain and above your social media likes and follower list.
The protest community desperately needs to evolve. To achieve this goal, they can learn from winners without sharing their values. So, to all of you who see this as your time to rise up and make a difference, I offer two suggestions:
Living an open-minded life of service puts you in the best position to strategize and help at the same time. If it requires learning a lesson or two from Corporate America, so be it.
Remember, regardless of what your long-term, big-picture vision may be, the urgent question remains: What are you doing right now to fundamentally change the lives of those in need?
Mickey Z. can be found on Instagram here. He is also the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on the streets of New York City. To help him grow this project, CLICK HERE and make a donation right now. And please spread the word!