The Institutionalizing of Greed

I loved the concept of Fat Albert, and I applaud Bill Cosby's ability to turn the fat kid into the hero of his inner city community. But there was something about the timing of the movie that perplexed me. Why didn't it come out 10 to 15 years ago in the heyday of the Bill Cosby TV era? Why did it come out now?

Writers often do that to themselves. We take a small thing and turn it over and over until we find the small cracks and read them like the ancient Chinese read the fissures in oracle bones. Fortunately, in the case of Fat Albert, the cracks were in proportion to a rather large body and easy to read.

I am talking about corporate greed and how it is seeping into every crack and crevice of American culture, and it may be as institutionalized as American apple pie.

Hold it, man. How do we get from Fat Albert to corporate Greed?

Okay. I have a theory that everything we see on television is aimed at pushing society in a particular direction. I don't believe in random programming. When you program someone you are leading them somewhere. That's why it's called programming.

With this in mind, corporate America is actually telling you what they are doing, and I believe that the programs we see are part of a larger corporate agenda to educate us to accept certain things. Within that context Fat Albert is brilliant programming.

During this same time Bill Cosby even spoke out against some of the things he doesn't like in the black lifestyle, and he was able to give us his alternative vision simultaneously. Fat Albert and his friends do things the way Cosby believes Black children should act. But look, he doesn't get to do this if it does not also accomplish the agenda of the capitalist who created and run our capitalistic nation.

Let's be clear. I never saw the movie, but I saw the concept. After that, the script is irrelevant. Fat Albert is big, real big, and he takes a lot to feed, but you don't mind feeding him because he is the protector of all of his little friends. He is respectful, he doesn't curse or steal and his need for feed is his only handicap.

But he also helps solve that problem by doing things that bring in enough to feed himself and everybody around him. That was the official story of the American corporation before Enron and World Com showed us differently.

Now we realize that we are feeding the large corporations and they are stealing from us at the same time. The little man under their protective wing becomes the new working poor or homeless.

In the meantime we discover that corporate greed is running rampant, but TV grabs it and shapes it to make it palatable. We end up with Donald Trump, the quintessential greedy man, with his own reality TV show trying to find people as greedy as he is, and "The Apprentice" ratings go through the roof.

Fat Albert works within this culture because it helps keep a large African American viewing public laughing and locked into corporate America as content, Jell-O consumers. Where is the Beef Bill?

Everywhere you look someone is stealing from the workplace, over-billing clients or straight-out embezzling funds from governments, corporations, Boy Scouts and churches. People are killing their spouses and children for insurance as the greed seeps through the television and into the hearts and minds of all of us.

I recognized this as I talk to people over coffee at the Silver Fork restaurant or over drinks on Thursday nights at the Royal Esquire Club. Our perception of America and our perception of us as Americans have changed. It's no longer about what is in the best interest of society or the village, and it's increasingly becoming every man and woman for himself or herself.

Greed will choke America to death before racism poisons it, if we can't stop it spewing from TV like molten lava and changing the landscape of the American psyche.

A capitalist country is still a new phenomenon, and when it masquerades as a democracy it becomes an ever-growing Fat Albert with a delicate balancing act between protecting the people who feed him or losing his balance and crushing the life out of them.

As Enron and World Com crushed the hopes and dreams of so many of their employees and small investors, Bush kept saying that he had faith in the integrity of corporate America. What's that - Hey! Hey! Hey!

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