Friday Flotsam: There’s Really No Through-Line for This One

1. As I understand the matter, modern corporations are descendants of the religious orders. The idea is that property does not belong to any particular member, but rather to the imaginary ‘corporate’ self. In the religious orders, this was to allow for a vow of poverty: yes, the abbey had a lot of property, but none of the brothers owned any of it, only the order as a kind of imaginary person (not that that stopped some of the monks any more than it stops some of today’s executives). In modern corporations, this is a liability shield: if the company loses money or goes into debt, none of the actual workers or executives are personally liable for that money. This incentivizes growth and speculation, among other benefits.

I’m not sure whether this idea of the ‘corporate self’ in economic transactions was ever employed before the Christian era or outside of it (be interesting to get info on that from an actual economic historian), but at least as far as the west is concerned, that seems to me to be the lineage.

(Modern banking even has its origins with the Templars: rather than carting sacks of gold all the way to the Holy Land, pilgrims would deposit the amount with their local Templar house, who would then provide them a bill of lending which, once they got to the Holy Land, they would present to the Templar house there to draw out that same amount of gold. But note that this is itself dependent on the ‘corporate self’, as the idea is that a house in England having gold is the same as the house in Jerusalem having the gold. The Order has the gold, and so it can hold it and give it out for the pilgrim at either end of the journey).

2. Anyway, a modern corporation operates on the same principle: it is the company that owns the property, it is the company that you serve, not any particular executive, and it is the company that provides the service.

This, I think, is precisely why the corporate experience is so miserable. You’re following a pattern that was created for the sake of subordinating the self to the Divine, and instead you’re subordinating the self to something thoroughly material and even mercenary. Of course it’s a dreary, soul-sucking experience. When someone says “I gave my heart and my soul to this company!” I just feel a great sense of pity for him.

On top of it all, we also don’t have nearly the same job security that the lay brothers (serfs) did. At least, as far as I can tell, they never got turned off their land in order to raise the stock price a few percent.

“Sorry Francis the Miller’s Son, but I’m afraid we’re gonna have to let you go….”

3. By the way, this is what I consider probably the stupidest point of Marxism, especially contemporary Marxists: “Corporations have too much power. The solution is to give absolute power to one corporation. That’ll fix everything!”

4. As both politics and the entertainment industry amply demonstrate, the advantage of having a majority population of amoral monsters is that any time someone ceases to be useful, it’s really easy to destroy him by hypocritically exposing one or two of his crimes and lamenting about how terrible it all is.

Another advantage is that it’s good practice for the members’ post-mortal experience.

5. I’ve started watching Cowboy Bebop. You know, a corgi in zero gravity is one of those things you don’t realize you needed to see until you’ve seen it. I now think that the entire space program will have been wasted if we fail to send at least one corgi to the ISS and just let it float around for a bit, trying to walk on air with its stubby little legs and getting nowhere….

“There are three things I hate: kids, animals, and women with attitude. So tell me, why do we have all three on the ship?!
“And we didn’t even get the bounty….”
(Few shows summarize themselves so well in a single exchange, at least so far as I’ve gone).

6. I’ve also begun reading Ivanhoe for the first time. Sir Walter Scott’s style of storytelling definitely takes some getting used to for a modern reader, as he will preface nearly every scene or even every part of a scene with long, precise descriptions of the setting, dress, and historical context of just about everything and every person he mentions. They’re good descriptions, but they do drag on and tend to bring the story to a screeching halt.

His depiction of the period is definitely mixed in terms of historical accuracy (he didn’t have very many good sources to work off of at the time), but in any case he’s clearly doing the best he can and one can see that a good deal of our concept of the Middle Ages proceeds from or at least through Sir Walter (the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood especially draws a lot from this novel).

In any case, barriers to entry aside, it’s a good story and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Besides which, of course, Sir Walter is an English writer of the old school and his style is as far in advance of the bulk of modern authors as the medieval mail-clad knight was in advance of his barbarian war-chief forbearer. Keep in mind that Sir Walter was a favorite of St. John Henry Newman, who developed his own style off of his, so that should tell you something.

7. And diverting into the completely frivolous and slightly obscure: one ‘Versus’ matchup or ‘Death Battle’ I’d like to see would be Saitama vs. Maple, One Punch Man vs. Bofuri, Unstoppable Force against Immovable Object. Of course you’d have to cheat a bit to get him into the game world with powers intact somehow, but it’d be worth it.

Honestly, I think I’d peg Saitama to win easy. Maple’s ridiculously powerful, but she isn’t invincible. Sooner or later, I figure he’d wear her down, 5-digit vitality or not. Though if I were writing it for my own amusement I’d probably try to find a way to give it to Maple nonetheless, because that would be funnier (of course I’d play fair: no random new abilities that she got just that morning and happen to be exactly what she needs. Canon skills only).

And the best part is that it’d all be inside a video game, so no one really gets hurt! I can just picture her inviting Saitama over to party at her guild house afterwards, and he’d be happy to do it because someone finally gave him a good fight….

3 thoughts on “Friday Flotsam: There’s Really No Through-Line for This One

  1. 1-2: The irony is that those medieval monks would have been the first to tell you that *of course* their corporate-ownership model couldn’t be applied to the world of secular business. In their world, owning one’s own shop, tools, materials, trading stock, etc., was the basic mark of a freeman; they’d given it up only because servitude to Christ is better than liberty, and they certainly wouldn’t have traded it for anything less. (They probably also wouldn’t have thought much of “limited liability” in general; to their simple minds, it would have seemed merely a license to do harm to others and pretend not to be responsible for it. Looking at some modern-day “terms of service”, I’m hard-pressed to say they’d have been wrong.)

    2: Well, of course not. You couldn’t turn a serf off the land at all; that was the whole point, the thing that differentiated him from a slave. As Chesterton said, it was as though a chair had struck root and turned into a tree. (Which is rather like something that’s actually happened on my family’s own land – but I digress.)

    4: No big surprise there, is there? It’s every villain’s favorite threat: “Don’t forget what I know about you…” (I have this image, suddenly, of some famous Youtube personality begging Arsène Lupin to break into Google headquarters and steal a compromising photograph. Except nowadays I suppose he would have to hack into their mainframe instead – which is probably why you don’t see new Maurice Leblancs anymore, because what kind of story is it where the dashing rogue spends the climax just sitting and typing?)

    5: I’ll take your word for it. It is a good exchange, I’ll give you that.

    7: As I know nothing about her and virtually nothing about him, there isn’t much I can say about this – but I do have to remark that, from what little I *do* know about him, the line about “finally a good fight” may well be the most perfect bit in this entire post. Kudos.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Still have, actually; as I say, it shares the serf’s privilege of being unevictable. Just a standard folding chair, probably fallen off someone’s truck who never cared enough to come back and look for it, so I set it up in a little thicket of pines as a place of rest and refreshment for when I went chasing our half-wild retrievers through our nine-tenths-wild back forty. Then moss and creepers did their thing, and now it’s pretty much embedded in the landscape; I’m not sure we could dig it out if we tried, and certainly no-one short of Samson could casually pick it up and carry it about.

        Liked by 1 person

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