THE BIG EMPTY
BY NORMAN MAILER
Corporations are stifling our lives. Not only economically, where they can claim, arguably, that they bring prosperity (and, frankly, I’m certainly not schooled enough in economics to argue that point pro or con), but aesthetically speaking, culturally speaking, spiritually speaking. They flatten everything. They are the Big Empty. One of the virtues of Fahrenheit 9/11 is that you could see all the faces of the Bush administration, those empty faces, those handmaidens and bodyguards of the Big Empty. And then Moore contrasted them to all the faces of American soldiers over there: innocent, strong, idealistic or ugly, but real faces, real people. Plus all those suffering Iraqis. Obviously, people in such torment are always dramatic and eloquent on film. Still, most of those Iraqis had different kinds of faces. That shade of alienation from natural existence had not yet gotten into their skin. They might be hard to live with but they were alive.
The war against the corporations is profound. They are deadening human existence. That, I think, is the buried core of the outrage people feel most generally. There is, after all, a profound difference between corporations and capitalism itself, at least so long as capitalism remains small business. The small businessman is always taking his chances. He leads an existential life. He’s gambling that his wit, his energy, and his ideas of what will work in the marketplace will be successful. He can be a sonofabitch, but at least he’s out there in the middle of life. He could be creating something that’s awful, but at least, he’s taking chances.