It isn’t the sum you get, it’s how much you can buy with it, that’s the important thing; and it’s that that tells whether your wages are high in fact or only high in name.
— Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
If we have ever had a chance to stand back and take inventory on what exactly it means to be an American, Westerner, North American participant, first-world-post-industrialized human being – someone who pays taxes for a trillion dollar 2013 US military budget (not counting black ops and secret outside the lines militarism and spy operations) and is expected to accept the same fiscal year’s funding of $64 billion for US federal total expenditures for education – now is the time.
This is the land where everyone is looking for a deal, looking to sell hoarded unopened Pez dispensers on e-Bay for just the right customer, for just the right “killing,” waiting for days in tents and using gutters for defecation and urination for the next X-box to roll out, pushing and shoving people to death at Target or Wal-Mart or Best Buy for that $79 laptop on Black Friday (the day after National Day of Sorrow – AKA, thanks and no giving where food, more food, washed down with Red Bull and Miller lite gusto, after more tortilla chips and nacho stuff come bubbling out of the Hello Kitty microwave, are the communal national event of the year).
If ever there was a time to sit back and smell the Columbia-sweatshop roses or Ivory Coast little boy slave picked coffee, now is it.
If ever there was a time to just have that nasty conversation with each and every person around so jaded that any amount of push back or campaigning or letter writing or occupying public space or blogging or revolt is considered treason in the US of A (A for Acquisition, Atomized-thinking, Acquiescence, Amorality, Agnotology, Army-of-merchants, Anorexic-functioning, Anti-intellectual, Amoebic-running), now is the time.
Can we live in this new skin, with this new morphing DNA that is evolutionarily motivated by lifestyle-ism, food-ism, me-ism, consumer-ism, expansion-ism, entertainment-ism all pulled and pushed by that ever lobotomizing media with a small “m” and anchored to the American corpus that has always believed their very existence is so special that there is no limit to the amount of self-gratification and self-actualization we deserve?
Think about how soft we have become and how tied to the buy-buy-buy hamster wheel, how fixated we are to the next credit card transaction bonus buying points. Think about how the super-sized cups are now 64 ounces and fit into our bed-liner-outfitted, scratch-less pick-up trucks; how the Club Med resorts have introduced reinforced wicker chairs for Size 20 women and those Deep Fried Fellas; how United Airline bills us for extra luggage and charges two tickets for those diabetic-drenched triple-decked asses.
Amazing how the Western diet, Western screen-saver view of “the other,” how hyper-caffeinated our dreams are, how we do endless extra job after extra job to not stay too idled, how we demand live streaming cock fights and survivor shows 24/7 … 365, how we demand electricity for every transistor-fed machine and electronic device, how we freak out with more than 20 minutes of electrical storm black out, how all those toilets and faucets are motion activated in a mentally motionless society where, when things get tough, today’s generation and all the others will die of thirst while wading through their own excrement.
Think hard. That’s what I have been doing.
I have been with Tarahumaras (Copper Canyon), with Seris (Tiburon Island), with Highland Maya (Guatemala), with ethnic tribes (Vietnam, Laos) and with any number of First Nations people in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and even with poor white trash in the backwoods of New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington. Absolutely amazing how resourceful, how sharp with their hands, how deft with tools, and how in-synch with how to grow and prepare their own food they still are, how smart they are about plants and avian creatures, and how they can read the wind and even the wrinkles on any man’s or woman’s face.
Yet, they are doomed.
Doomed to the dust bin of those left behind or pushed aside or forced into isolation – all because Homo Anthropocene is building the next new thing and getting it rushed shipped next day delivery.
This is a world made by and for every commercial transaction and all things digital.
It’s that reverse Darwinism – you know, a Dick Cheney living until the nuclear isotopes in his mechanical heart and that virgin’s blood split in half and finally coagulates. His huffing and chubby days as a 30-something have been transferred to his 71 year-old felonious self, while African tribes and powerful jungle people in the Amazon just melt like fire-spitted pig skins during this unending pathogen that is capitalism and consumerism.
It’s happening in Canada, and in Australia, and the EU – spurred by US of A Super-sized.
Every last cardboard, bubble-wrapped item coming to us via overnight shipping; every single cargo jet- delivered and container ship-unloaded thing coming at us through a global electronic catalog that would have caused instant cardiac arrest for Sears (Richard) and Roebuck (Alvah) had they been given the chance to meet that pre-congealed buck named Jeff Bezos will be the death of the planet (that’s another essay).
Bezos – one of those super-computing wunderkinds who might last a week humping 100-pound sacks of spuds in Peruvian mountains, given the right Bow-flex workouts and personal training coaching – wants to rule his world, and the world of Western and global retail sales, rule us all.
He is the new mercado, the new digital Mall of the Globe, the new rag man, the new voice and brain behind instant purchasing and immediate shipping.
His enterprise – and the Faustian bargain the majority of us have made with his ilk – will guarantee pretty much the complete homogenizing of anything interesting, good and sustainable about economic transactions.
We need to kneel to this Princeton graduate, this all-American Rockwell portrait of a kid who traveled in Air Stream caravans with his grandparents as a young whipper snapper.
Bow to the new algorithm – the new math – the new philosophy – the new nano-engineered human.
Here’s what he told a graduating class of underclassmen at Princeton in 2010. While on one of those middle class RV rendezvouses, the young Jeff calculated the mortality formula for smoking cigarettes, a past-time of his grandmother. He blurted out –
“At two minutes per puff, you’ve taken nine years off your life!”
Here’s what he told that rapt audience in New Jersey waiting to leave the graduate ceremony to get back to some virtual urban exploring and shopping on Amazon.com:
I have a vivid memory of what happened, and it was not what I expected. I expected to be applauded for my cleverness and arithmetic skills. ‘Jeff, you’re so smart. You had to have made some tricky estimates, figure out the number of minutes in a year and do some division.’ That’s not what happened. Instead, my grandmother burst into tears. I sat in the backseat and did not know what to do. While my grandmother sat crying, my grandfather, who had been driving in silence, pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway. He got out of the car and came around and opened my door and waited for me to follow. Was I in trouble? My grandfather was a highly intelligent, quiet man. He had never said a harsh word to me, and maybe this was to be the first time? Or maybe he would ask that I get back in the car and apologize to my grandmother. I had no experience in this realm with my grandparents and no way to gauge what the consequences might be. We stopped beside the trailer. My grandfather looked at me, and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, ‘Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.’
On May 24, 2012, in downtown Seattle, Jeff Bezos in that 50- minute shareholder meeting was neither clever or kind. Let me explain.
Osama got that “blow-back” thing, but will Amazon.com’s smile turn into jagged Hunger Games Vampire teeth?
What is the blow-back to a country that has been so corporatized that almost each member of this society’s working class, poverty class, elite class, one percent class, and all those falling out of the great middle class and even those in the revolutionary class, even the class of the Una Bomber kind, every nickle and dimed person has been colonized by the viruses and parasites tied to capitalism and consumerism in a world of complete deregulation chaos and self-torture, self-flagellation, impotence, fear, and “see, hear, speak no evil” mentality when the devil is not just at the doorstep, but has water-boarded us into a frenzy of checkmate after checkmate from the industrial military, judicial, education, surveillance, finance, media, energy, political and religious complex thugs that are shells of people afraid of each and every new proviso by these new mafias?
Whew, a mouth full (thanks, Gabriel Garcia Marquez). I know — and I was just trying to get to the meat of the matter, that pink slime of a human whose genetically modified mentality and super-charged computing soul is doing what many Americans fought hard to prevent – fascism.
Corporate-political-consumer fascism. The facilitation of the hostile monopolizing of every x, y, and z widget or service. The vultures stealing patents and fleecing any inventor’s or entrepreneur’s profits.
This alien project is headed up by a pre-fetal alien who stares right through people at his company’s shareholder meetings; he can’t even recognize the trillion-cell sentient being before him asking him direct questions about corporate responsibility.
Jeff Bezos is the new coin of the realm, the new Time magazine boy of the year, the new “in” thinker of the Century. And there are a whole lot of young Turks and digitally creative types who want that Midas elixir running through their own guts. No amount of grumbling about how Amazon should not have stopped serving Wiki-leaks after Joe Lieberman ordered the boss, Bezos, to end that free speech venture, (and what many of us see as an heroic whistle blowing service to humanity); and no amount of hand-wringing or anonymous blogging will help these grads of our elite and not-so-elite institutions of higher learning (sans higher reasoning) erase the Faustian deal they made with this devil-angel.
Those tens of thousands of Amazon workers may come from hacker roots, but Bezos and his Super-computation world – he has the 42nd fastest computer on Earth – but those roots have been doused with a dose of spiritual- and ethics-killing Round-up Ready. Latent memories now, and these college graduates and genius-level computational whiz kids can only think of how to zip-drive their passions now toward helping Bezos and Company gain supreme domination of what still is just a five and dime enterprise (but without the Italian soda counter, blue light specials and all that stuff to physically wade through … oh yeah, and those cool old men and women associates).
His goal is to funnel, filter and financially-foment every single thought elicited, word typed, song sung, idea presented, necessary and unnecessary product and service invented, all our personal credit data and Facebook rants and consumer ratings ranked, all those things that can’t be captured by the swatch of DNA the government and corporations seem to want test-tubed, labeled and cryogenic-archived in a vault in Utah or Nevada or wherever their carnivore programs and servers are bubbling their memory banks to capture every last gasp of innocuous and revolutionary zeroes and ones these bloody typing memory machines produce.
Shareholders are following Kurtz into the Heart of Darkness
We are peddling freedom to the world and daring them to oppose it and bribing them kindly to accept it and dropping death on those who refuse it.
— W.E.B. Du Bois, scholar, educator, author
Two shareholders – seventy-somethings, Caucasian, full of that golfer’s melanoma – rose up at this shareholders meeting, two of three lone voices supporting Amazon. I am not sure how many shares they hold, but the reality is that one percent of most shareholders of any corporation hold at least 50 percent of all the common stock. Bezos has around 19.9 percent of all shares in Amazon. When the voting happens, there is no popular vote, or Electoral College thing. You have 88 million shares, you get 88 million votes. One share, one vote.
Most of the so-called 99 Percent do not have stocks, especially in companies trading each stock slip at $239. Think in aggregate form – 99 Percent in the USA owns 39.4 percent of all stocks. That’s not the lower half of the 99 Percent, for sure, but as we have this rallying cry of, “We are the Ninety-nine Percent,” I’ll have to lump us all together.
It’s Bezos and company I’m trying to “guillotine” or cut to the bone now, but just replace Jeff Bezos with blank _____? (no, not with Jesus or Gandhi). Koch brothers, anyone? Think hard. The former head of HP, or that Steve Jobs kind of Apple maggot guy. Sam Walton’s begotten and their green team (sic); Monsanto’s CEO; or how about NYC Mayor Bloomberg, the Murdoch gene pool, or T Bone Pickens, Warren Buffet, or Alan Greenspan? US Supreme Court?
Or… every graduate degree-holding land grant school attendee working to prop up the dirty digital dealings of all manner of DARPA-inspired wet dream imaginable leaking from the paranoid factories that once bred that bulldog of a man paranoia zygote, J. Edgar Hoover?
Jeff Bezos and his legions of supporters, his backers trolling on the blogs and news comments threads, add those into the mix, and they are in the 99 Percent, at the top, sure, but in the game we collectively rally as Us (99 Percent) against Them (One Percent).
What about his shareholders, small and large? Or all of us with retirement mutual funds with Amazon stock mixed in? His politicians who glad-hand him?
This is the way of corporatization – infect every transaction, every movement, every social justice campaign, every environmental measure, each and every commerce law and civil tort claim, every human transaction, including sex and death, with the bottom line logic that all corporations have a right to make any decision or do anything that adds to the stockholders’ chances at 5%, 10%, 20%, hell, 50-percent increase in original invested value.
This is what occurs at Amazon.com’s meeting, at other meetings. Amazon, like Exxon, is trying to carve out a niche whereby special laws and special politicians and special maneuvers and special economic principles are used to move their companies’ leveraging to a level where there will be no competition, just a semblance of dog-eat-dog business – in a world of Free Trade and off-shore banking and magnificent tax evasion through every sort of legal and illegal system of gaming the system possible.
Solutions sound good on a Day of Action when Goliath tells David that no more ALEC support and new A/C units for some warehouse are the orders of the day
So those two proud old shareholders that got to speak waxed poetic about how Amazon saved their families’ lives, how the Kindle is the next best thing since holy water, and how it isn’t fair that Amazon buckled under demagoguery and pointed anti-ALEC lobbying.
“ALEC does some wonderful things,” the one seventy-something stockholder said.
Really, how hard is it for those multiple million shareholders whose multi-million votes probably voted down a majority of individual shareholders’ wishes to be more transparent in terms of corporate structure and supporting x, y, and z political “thing”/measure as well as more work on climate change to understand they are really a minority – one percent of one percent – dictating to a majority?
History will repeat itself with those sorts of odds and hubris running Amazon.com.
We know the solutions are there on EVERY level – Chalmers Johnson, Howard Zinn, Alice Walker, Marion Nestle, David Suzuki, Janine Benyus, Woody Task, Zoe Weil, Wes Jackson, Wangari Maathai, Vanadana Shiva, Wendell Berry, Manfred Max-Neef, the genuine progress index, permaculture, slow food, slow money, voluntary simplicity, even voluntary extinction, James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Winona LaDuke, Arundhati Roy, James Francis, Tm Flannery, Post Carbon Institute, Architecture 2030, Via Campesina, and countless others.
Do those One-Percent-of-One-Percenters not realize all of those paradigm busters and grand thinkers listed above – their writings – are shilled at Amazon.com?
Seeking signs of extraterrestrial life – journalists as jesters
I’ve been to dozens of alternative being events in my lifetime before Amazon.com’s shareholders’ dog and pony show – more like slug and snail show – at the Seattle Art Museum May 24, 2012.
I was there as a reporter when Arizona Governor Ev Mecham tried to explain his racist self away – you know the guy: he canceled the Martin Luther King holiday, told reporters that hard working women cause divorce, and thought calling black children “pickaninnies” was just fine. I was told to sit down when I asked him questions about what he might call Hispanic children and what he thought of the world’s oldest profession as a righteous job for women.
So much for humor in the ranks of the Press.
I won’t go on and on about Texas Governor George W. Bush’s stupidity in El Paso during several press conferences (he visited 18 times during his presidential runs and never got the Hispanic vote). I will say when I asked him twice about why he, the governor of the Lone Star state, was smirking on TV when asked about putting to death a mentally retarded black man. I asked him both in English and in Spanish (he was fooling around in Span-lish with reporters) but two fellow journalists (sic) told me to give it a rest, even grabbed my elbow while Guv Bush said: “Where are we all eating tamales today? Or is it enchiladas this time?”
What about another order of ulterior existence extreme species at another press conference during the Texas governor’s race with Ann Richards. Ann’s main opponent, Clayton Williams, had produced this grand bit of stupidity when the oil and gas man’s true brothel colors got the best of him: ”If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” What alternative life form was Williams referring to? A “joke” likening rape to bad weather — just relax and enjoy it.
I was told to shut up, but didn’t, thanks to my own lack of recognition of alternative life forms like Williams, who, by the way, narrowly got beat in Tex-ass by Ann Richards.
I’ve been with a County Sheriff in Arizona – a Mormon whiskey drinker – who took me to the infamous “first” drug tunnel between Douglas and Naco. Hell, he told me his department knew about it for a year, but DEA told him to let it go.
I’ve been with other alternative life forms – like Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy. I spoke up during his spiel at UT-El Paso on that famous circuit of paying felons like Liddy tens of thousands of dollars to do a one-hour song and dance at a state college. When I stood up, I said, “You’ve made a lot of fun of the Watergate prosecutors, heroes like Daniel Ellsberg, Judge Sirica, but, honestly, you’re a convicted felon speaking to young students who really need those role models you just defamed to set your make-belief history straight.”
A few claps, for sure, and hoots, sure, but his own security team came to my chair. I stood them down, and then two days later I was called into the provost’s office to have my talking to as an adjunct faculty. Sure, that was another bout with an invertebrate, but the point is, there are so many times I’ve met the ulterior, the masters of the universe creeps, the alternative human forms that unfortunately don’t just end up as funny asides by Philip Roth or Hunter S. Thompson.
Anything crazier than Bob Coors of the Coors Brewing dynasty telling me as a college reporter that journalists just “need to go out target shooting more … just to see what if feels like to plug a few illegals … just kidding now, kid … just kidding … don’t print that, son.” It was in reference to a question about Coors being hit with a discrimination suit against the company by various Hispanic groups.
Ha, ha, ha. These slick millionaires have their own gravity fields to worry about, and they certainly aren’t a species I recognize as fully-evolved Homo erectus.
Bezos and the four and a half pound Gummy Bear
Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
— Helen Keller, educator, socialist activist
As we learn in the other stories on Amazon printed diligently at Dissident Voice, the company is bankrupt emotionally, ethically and spiritually. Yet, is it the supreme model of success, as are Princeton graduate Jeff Bezos and his betrothed MaKenzie Tuttle, creative writing grad of Princeton who studied under Toni Morrison, by the majority of people in the USA?
Is the answer tied to letting your money do the talking/shopping? How the company started off as an idea by a financial worker named Jeff Bezos who wanted to think up something that could utilize his fun genius with numbers and algorithms tied to his interest in dominating something in the world dealing with economics, commerce, and digitizing humanity?
The American drive for the power of economies of scale to dominate any sort of business; or this drive to downsize for profit or cut public workers despite the negative consequences to communities; this respect of the vulture capitalism that ends up gobbling up the pickings after hostile takeovers have ended good wage jobs; monopolizing goods and services as a way to deliver 40 or 50 percent of all sales; socializing the costs of bad business (which is good business sense to economists) and privatizing the profits; using today’s workforce as the worker ants propping up the machinations of meglomaniacs who want more work for less pay, more stuff delivered from fewer messy employees (think warehouse wage slaves who are complaining about work conditions and wage so the master of the universe decides to get into robotics; or, think about those $300 K a year tech engineers who are developing more and more super-computing ways to replace human work lives for computing minutes).
In Seattle, the One Percent and their 29 Percent Petty Officer corps just love to bash anyone complaining about $12 an hour jobs, or those of us questioning the viability of more Amazon offices and “campuses” (500 foot towers) built in an already congested part of the city, or legions of people who think Amazon has a responsibility to pay taxes.
This is the order of the day in Blue Cities like Seattle propped up by the Red Politics of Corporations Who Pay the Ferryman and Torpedo-man equally. This Heckle and that Jeckel get the same bribe-lobby-war chest check equally.
It’s Amazon and the other Fortune 500′s hedging their bets and playing both sides of the football field.
So, let’s recap the economic model Bezos is proud of and most shareholders seem to demand of Amazon:
- Amazon treats its warehouse employees like dirt, from 12 hour working days, to $12 an hour temp positions with no benefits;
- the company is screwing with publishing big time, making it harder and harder for authors to make it without submitting to the bottom line loyalty oath Bezos extracts;
- the company pays less than most companies in federal taxes, at 2.6 percent last year;
- it’s a tax dodging model that puts the burden on cities and states and small and other size businesses to foot the bill of the costs it takes to get business into the business of doing bricks and mortar commerce;
- it’s monopolizing business; i.e., retail and not just on-line business;
- it is investing in technology that will take the worker out of work, reducing the number of employees at both ends of the chain, from warehouse pickers to high-tech engineers;
- it will not abide by a modicum measure to work on climate change and energy consumption and carbon emissions tied to its business;
- it will not abide by a pledge and working model of transparency in the company’s books – where money is going; and
- it supports the pathetic groups like ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council.
Venality, brutality, and hypocrisy are imprinted on the leaden soul of every state. But when a country ceases to be merely a country and becomes an empire, then the scale of operations changes dramatically. So may I clarify that tonight I speak as a subject of the American Empire? I speak as a slave who presumes to criticize her king.
— Arundhati Roy
I will go into more detail about Jeff Bezos’ high school Power Point at the 2012 shareholders meeting – he seemed to think Shift Happens was his idea.
I will go into the huge force of Seattle PD dressed in SWAT gear, many on their black Volcano mountain bikes outside, and paddy wagons on all four corners, and the three dozen private security hired on to assist the 70 Amazon security.
Count 20 protestors inside plus another 50 clapping for us in the audience. Count 150 to 300 people outside with bull-horns and funny anti-Amazon signs.
Now add dozens of vehicles and maybe 75 Seattle Police added to the dozens of security. That’s probably one cop-guard-security-Blackwater type for every one Amazon.com protestor.
Interesting economy of scale and proportionality.
I will go into some aspects of this farcical event, really, where the activists – me, included – went through security checks then metal detectors then more screening, a few forms to sign, then kettled into an area where we were supposed to vote for all the board of directors the vote sheet insisted was recommended, and then vote against two initiatives around corporate transparency and climate change.
Then this small theater in the Seattle Art Museum, again, with cops all around. Small, in that Amazon is based in Seattle, and, well, if this is a shareholders’ meeting to beat the drum for Amazon, for all those new buildings planned and warehouses to lease; to conjure up positive things; to thank the public shareholders of the corporation for jockeying it in its $239 a share position as of April 29, well, then, this was the bum’s rush. I counted us – more than 20. I counted another 100 techie types – really, I recognized many of them from Whole Foods and bars around the Amazon campus. So, for a room holding 200, who else made up the 80 left?
Well, when I started the applause for the Calvert Social Investing representative who talked about the need to have Amazon at least begin reporting on and assessing climate change within the company’s many tentacles of its business operations; how there is over $10 trillion total worth of companies — 100 corporations total – already in the Investor Network on Climate Risk initiative or how companies like e-Bay, Google and 70 percent of S & P corporations are pledged to global carbon disclosure – more than 60 people applauded.
Lots of skinny white men with long faces, a few old geezers but mostly twenty-somethings (in Washington, if you are twenty-something, white, male, you already are old in attitude, old in thought, old in political bent by 26 years), careened their necks to see what all the commotion was about.
One urban and community planner technique I’ve picked up over the years, in Tucson, El Paso, Juarez, and Spokane, elsewhere, is to always find some grub and colored or carbonated hydration for the attendees and you might end up with less cantankerousness.
Bezos doesn’t have class.
Remember, people in the insider shareholder protest group had already stood up and complained about some of those Amazon points in the bullet points above.
Then Bruce Herbert, founder and CEO of Newground Social Investment, read aloud the political disclosure resolution he authored.
The resolution calls for this funny thing called transparency, you know, “disclosure and review of all corporate political contributions” and who they were paid to and other information to be posted on the Amazon.com website.
Of course, the Amazon board of directors declined to recommend its passage, just as they declined the Calvert resolution on carbon footprint disclosure and plans to go for renewable, more efficient and greener ways to go about fulfilling that Amazon smile.
Jeff Bezos was all pasty faced, the lasik surgery folded openings he possesses to contain these digital eyes were even wider than their normal bug-eyed gaze. He was nervous, not engaged, and almost deadened by the fact (I can only hope, heartened by and afraid of the protesters) his little shareholders meeting had to have so many cops in overt and covert mode.
Really, a company that did $38 billion in total revenues last year, and this was it? No high-rollers, no Maserati coupes idling outside, no helicopters landing on the Well Fargo building nearby?
I stood up and challenged Amazon – Jeff Bezos directly – to account to me, lone single shareholder that I may be – why Amazon is so behind the times, and outside the learning curve on both socially responsible investing guidelines and climate change action. I informed him that as a college instructor I actually worked on sustainability campus-wide and at a nationwide level through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. I reminded him that there is power in numbers, like those 1,450-plus institutes of higher learning. I reminded him that those 1,450 schools have this amazing power in getting young and older students smart about climate change and corporate responsibility.
I asked that Amazon not go by these two powerhouse votes against social responsibility and climate change action.
He barely looked at me. He looked around at the techies, at some of the protestors. He tried looking past me or right through me. In the end, he deferred to another Amazon executive (or press flak) who just yammered on how Amazon was considering climate change initiatives.
Infantile Behavior, and Defaulting to Supersize Thinking
But back to the 72-ounce Gummy Bear – Jeff Bezos left that one number – 72 ounces – for very last in his goofy Power Point show of putting one number up, then following each one with a slide explaining the context and value of said number.
Really, it was sophomoric for a shareholders’ meeting. I have my personal belief that this event was a staged show wherein the news of our planned protestations and inside shareholding action had already been mitigated in this poor man’s/poor woman’s 50 minutes of rambling Bezos. I believe that we were all being filmed live and beamed into the penthouse where the high rollers, the big stockholders, mingled with those bottles of Old Raj and Hendricks at the ready for some late morning dirty martinis. Bezos and Company denies there is even a recorded archive of the shareholders’ meeting. Odd.
His “My Amazon Tour by the Numbers Presention” was a yawn –
89 = highest customer satisfaction index ever
14,000,000 = total number of items sold for free two-day shipping
17,000 = the number of on-demand streaming movies and TV shows available to Prime customers
45,000 = total number of people added to Amazon’s payroll since September 2008
#1 Rank = top GI (military) job hirer
500,000 = total items now offered by Amazon Industrial
30% = the percentage more Amazon pays warehouse workers compared to “industry standards”
Then, drum roll, with narey a Botox-pulled back smirk cracking, 72 oz. came onto the screen and then Bezos’ child-like voice — “I bet nobody can guess what this number means.” Dead silence. Then, giggles as the inspid slide of the Amazon.com site with the 4.5 pound gummy bear photograph projected overhead. This gooey thing sold at Amazon with free shipping, free gift wrapping and a hundred percent return policy thrown in was his big finale.
The 72 ounce Gummy Bear was his best shot at humor. His coup de grace?
Wow. I was floored with Bezos’ so empathetic, classy, and deep style. Princeton graduate and all. And not once did he talk directly to anyone standing up who were asking the company to pay fair wages, to pay taxes – 2.5 percent last year doesn’t cut it – and to make warehouse jobs better.
Instead, he threw that number up — $52 million – and then said:
The total number Amazon is spending to retrofit Fulfillment Centers with air conditioning. It’s completely unusual to do this to warehouses. And it’s not easy to retrofit old buildings.
Okay, so you get a C for the warehouses – I think maybe “102 degrees” isn’t a good number for all the electronics, foodstuffs, and yes, Gummy Bears (who wants a melted Gummy Bear that looks like a fluorescent cow pie for her birthday?).
Then, I guess “$14,000” isn’t a good number either, the total Amazon.com put into ALEC last year. So, Bezos had his communication gal read off the statement again – “Amazon is not putting money into the American Legislative Exchange Council next year.”
I wonder if 2013 is a good number. Or if POTUS and Romney is a good combination for libertarian Bezos.
Taken from the 2010 Princeton talk – frat-boy and all
This is not a done deal, final word, fait accompli – from Amazon.com or from me writing about them.
But I have to end with some of those final comments Bezos threw at the young minds sitting outside with their Princeton sheepskins in the 2010 Commencement (purchased, I am sure, from Amazon.com):
Tomorrow, in a very real sense, your life — the life you author from scratch on your own — begins.
How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?
Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?
Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?
Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?
Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?
Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?
Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?
When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?
Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?
Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?
Funny how words and actions come back in boomerang fashion. Sometime in life. Maybe at death’s door … or through the next generation. All those questions seemed so apropos for the gritty Somali tax-drivers and Latino baggage handlers and working class whites sitting in that bright Seattle Art Museum theater-auditorium just waiting for Jeff Bezos to spit out one act of kindness. To just directly answer one of their questions. To “be there” in this community – Seattle – which has given him the red carpet treatment.
Just there, in that 50-minute time span, those unionists and Occupiers and other activists did what Bezos asked his Princeton elite to do.
If he could have even once glanced at the humanity in the shareholders’ meeting – women, people of color, young students – and really feel their mettle, and absorb their passion for a just world – to listen to them give Amazon.com all the free advice money can’t buy.