The Sum Of No Feels
How a bit of corporate maths made The Zero see Red.
I am a man of constant epiphany. I’ve seen infuriating shit all my day. There was that big Zero origin epiphany wot started this whole stupid thing, when Bush got re-elected, I got mad as hell and decided I wasn’t going to take it any etc. Then there was that big veggie epiphany, when I saved the life of a spider and realised I shouldn’t eat animals no more. There was that epiphany I nicked off someone else, when I realised I had to ditch petrol even if it was a colossal pain in the arse. And there was that embarrassingly overdue epiphany when I realised just because Smooth Criminal is a five-star bop doesn’t mean Michael Jackson wasn’t a big dirty bastard.
One of my biggest, eyest-openest sub-epiphanies came in the early days of The Grand Zero Awakening, when I read Joel Bakan’s The Corporation. In it, Bakan suggests modern go-getter corporations are merciless, conscienceless machines which, were they human, would be actual psychopaths. I’d do an Amazon affiliate link to it but it feels like it’d be missing the point.
There was one bit in particular which, if I’d had access to a craw, would have stuck in it. It told the story of the Chevrolet Malibu which had a nasty habit of exploding when other cars rammed into it from behind. It turned out its manufacturer, General Motors, was well aware of this, having positioned the fuel tank eleven inches from the rear bumper against its own guidance that fuel tanks should be at least seventeen inches from the rear bumper. Because of explosions. Once they started exploding GM started getting sued, and after a bunch of lawsuits it went full psychopath. One of its Patrick Batemans put together a report called “Value Analysis of Auto Fuel Fed Fire Related Activities” which would have prepped its audience nicely for its chronic lack of humanity. It reckoned if GM kept causing about 500 deaths a year and kept paying out about $200,000 dollars per death, they’d lose $2.40 per car sold. If they redesigned the thing, shifting the fuel tank further from the back bumper to include the advanced feature of not exploding, it would cost them $8.59 per car. So they kept the fuel tank where it was, knowing what it would do to people. The report had the audacity to show its workings:
Somebody did that. Somebody did the maths, typed it out, showed it to people, and people agreed. There was something about seeing the actual maths that turned a couple of cogs in my tiny little brain. This wasn’t a case of unintended consequences. This was a company – made up of human beings – doing this knowingly, deliberately, because it was cheaper to kill their customers than it was to keep them alive. This was dystopian satire turned real. This was ED-209 blasting fuck out of Kinney by design. And I don’t want to sound like a red-pilled Redditor edgelord here but once I saw it, it opened my eyes to corporate arseholery everywhere.
Because it is everywhere. Look around, you see cigarette companies killing their customers, covering up what they were doing to us. You see the horse meat scandal, when people discovered – to their horror – they were eating the wrong kind of dead animals. You see the diesel emissions scandal, where Volkswagen engineered their cars to under-report emissions in testing. You see blood diamonds and sweatshops and slavery. You see Nestlé bloody everywhere. You see energy companies gouging their customers, blaming inflation while raking in more money than ever. You see pharmaceutical companies getting rich from a client base just trying to stay alive. And you see oil and gas companies killing – and I can’t emphasise this enough – the actual planet. Doing it knowingly, in spite of their own research that tells them their business model will trigger the next mass extinction event and take us all with it.
You see all these things together and realise what they mean: That capitalism is dogshit. That these companies care more for money than for humans. That they do so by design. That the world is broken.
We need to get angry. We need to stay angry. We need to remember the sum that said human lives weren’t worth a few bucks per car. Because right now there’s another psychopath crunching some numbers that will see us gouged, poisoned, bankrupted, killed or extinctionised because their shareholders like yachts.
People, that ain’t right. Let’s see what we can do about it…
Having graduated from the Bond Villain School of Bastards and Bastardry, Nestlé, the world’s biggest food and drinks company, apparently set out to also be the world’s biggest contributor to infant mortality, aggressively marketing its baby milk substitute in countries where the water used to make it was so filthy it killed babies…
Say what you like about climate change, it takes a lot of hard work. Wilfully destroying the planet, triggering climate breakdown and bringing on irreversible mass extinction takes effort and sticktoitiveness. It takes constant vigilance, lest we accidentally find ourselves reducing our kamikaze carbon emissions. Fortunately, humans are always working, always innovating. Always coming up with new ways to wipe ourselves out.
Something big might possibly have happened, maybe. As climate breakdown kicks off and the sixth mass extinction continues, the genocidal capitalists behind it all might finally be getting what for.
Dumb as we are, humans are still finding new ways to wipe out life on earth. The latest wheeze is deep sea mining, in which genocidal capitalists hunt for minerals and metals by tearing up the seabed, demolishing fragile undersea ecosystems we’ve barely begun to explore or understand. Add to this our love of chronic overfishing, plastic pollution and coral bleaching, and we’re properly giving the oceans what for. Which is a shame, given they’re currently keeping us alive.
It was at six dark forty on the 13th October 2020 that there was a great disturbance in the Twittersphere, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in pissy consternation and were, unfortunately, not suddenly silenced. Then it was that Apple announced they would start shipping phones without power adapters and earbuds.
It feels like we’re about due an update on the No More Page 3 campaign. It’s been six weeks since I added my influential signature to the petition to rid The Sun of its tits and yet the quickest of flicks through the paper indicates up to ten nipples a week are still featuring prominently. Indeed, this week marked the beginning of 2012’s Page 3 Idol in which members of the public are invited to display their breasts in the hope of winning a grisly five grand and a shot at a long-term career in tit display. If ever there was any doubt that The Sun encourages its readers to judge women on the quality and condition of their breasts, here we have an competition in which its readers are actually encouraged to judge women on the quality and condition of their breasts.
So there I was, all ready to announce Kiva as the Chazza of the Month for a second non-consecutive time when what should appear but a classic spot of Zero angst? You’ll recall how Kiva is a microfinance outfit offering loans to people in developing countries and how I’ve bigged them up a couple of times already. But after that last rant about payday lenders being arseholes the worries I’ve had about microfinance went from being vague floaty things at the back of my mind to being slightly less vague, marginally firmer things on a list of other things to consider thinking about at some point in time when I can be bothered.
It’s fair to say I’ve been banging on a bit about poverty recently, what with all those articles about the government assault on welfare and charities covering the gaps and such and such, and while this sentence started out with the intention of apologising for all my banging on it’s looking more like ending on a justification for it because banging on’s what you get for me being around poverty all day and everyone else voting Tory. Poverty, as I was saying, is shit.
Half the adult population of the planet has breasts, a fact the other half’s been struggling with for quite some time. Now, I don’t need to bang on about patriarchy and the objectification of women in much detail, partly because I’ve done it enough already and partly because it’s obvious and everywhere. It’s there in our horrific record on domestic violence, in the difference in salaries for women and men, in the difference in pocket money for girls and boys, in the attitude that says a man’s a player and a woman’s a slag, in pornography that casts women as sluts to be simultaneously lusted after and looked down on, in the pornification of pop culture that has singers writhing in bikinis to sell records, in the mutilation of women’s bodies pumped full of silicone and collagen and numbed with botox. Turns out I needed to bang on about it all.