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The American Museum of Industrial History
May 4, 2001
by Susan Sigandres

What is all this stuff I'm hearing about industrial pollution and limitations of civil rights and abrogation of worker protection by corporations? I remember my grandfather speaking of these conditions that existed when he was a child and telling me how far we've come. Now, all of a sudden, everyone's talking about these things again, like they have anything to do with the here and now. Listen, all that's in the past, over, done with, finito.

But on second thought, it's too easy to disregard the past as we look eagerly toward the future. We should remember where we were so we know how we got to where we are. And we can carry with us whatever lessons the past holds in the hope they will be of some value to us as we move ever forward. For this reason, I embarked upon a study of the era that most recently drew to a close, the Industrial Age. And I found a truly marvelous source of information -- a most wonderful interactive exhibit in Washington DC.

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not a seat of government at the present time. Rather, it is the American Museum of Industrial History. It houses a collection of relics from an age that is past and whose creatures are daily proving themselves to be obsolete. They are unable to adapt to a new world in which they have far less control of the means to power and wealth ?- information -- and no elasticity of mind to comprehend the pace and rhythm of the world's new momentum.

Inside this museum are the curiosities of the past era. There are diverse and various displays. Listen to a Dick Cheney or a Donald Rumsfeld to hear the creaking gears of rusty old machines, kept around for sentimental reasons even though they have long since been fully depreciated. Catch a whiff of a Karen Hughes or an Andy Card and you can smell the stale must of an ideology so outdated it has no salvage value. Rove constantly recalculating the decline of the junta's goodwill. And Paul O'Neill, clinging to his current assets, despite the blatant conflict of interest with his government job, lest he have nothing of value to call his own in the future. Colin Powell, finally knows what "FIFO" means -- first in, first outed. And poppy, well, he's trying to close out his contra account.

Just as we see stuffed remnants of long-dead animals in an old-fashioned museum, the American Museum of Industrial Hiatory, contains representative samples of the population in question. The group is composed of animals called "corporate empire builders," whose grand purposes in life include trying to get us to watch their "news," take very long drives in our cars so we burn fuel, or buy plastic trinkets and rubber shoes made by impoverished laborers in sweatshops to our south or across the sea.

No thank you. I prefer the marketplace of ideas. I'm busy making connections through endlessly linked thoughts, dreams, rants, reports, and visions. I really don't have the need for too many trinkets or more than one pair of overpriced sneakers. And I'd prefer not to passively sit in front of the tube waiting to be spoon fed propaganda. I;d much rather be active -- go to forums and speak to people from all over the country and all over the world to find out what's happening. I have a "pen pal" in Singapore and we have so much in common! I'd rather hear what's on her mind than listen to some overpaid mouthpiece I don't know and could care less about.

For some reason, the museum exhibits remind me of the end of the Cretaceous Period, some 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs and other creatures followed the elephants in search of water to sustain them. As we know, those long, futile treks through a world grown alien ended in extinction for most.

Judging by that history, it's safe to say that these corporate empire builders will end up extinct as well. It's also doubtful they'll be passing along anything of immediate value to us. This includes their spawn, judging by the happy idiot now being served up as sustenance for the industrialist beasts to feed upon in their desperate attempt to hang on. But -- brains will out over blood, smarts over scions.

And just to underscore how dangerous to survival limited cognitive abilities are, consider that the corporatocracy of the Industrial Age actually dispensed with the one thing that might have saved them? Our loyalty. They discharged too many rounds of employees, fired off too many people. We laborers are all free agents now.

None of these "executives" means anything to us. We owe them nothing but what they are willing to pay for. And we are certainly not going to pledge allegiance to the legal fictions they are charged with overseeing. Yet, from having worked in these places, we know their operations, their weaknesses, their strengths, their plans -- their secrets. And we take that knowledge with us when we leave.

I urge everyone not to take the American Museum of Industrial History for granted. It is really most appropriate for our day and age because it's showing us events in real time. In a very real sense, we are watching our own evolution.

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