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Corporatism (A story for teenagers)

by Stephen DeVoy Saturday, Dec. 18, 2004 at 4:07 AM

Students learn about corporatism first hand.


Mussolini (Father of Fascism, a philosophy that led to the death of millions):
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the
merger of state and corporate power"

Author: Stephen DeVoy

Holly was the president of the Spanish Club.  Some people fall in love with languages and Holly was one of these people.  She was so enthusiastic about the Spanish language that she would listen to Salsa and Meringue rather than rock-n-roll.  Outside of her small group, the other students in her English speaking town thought she was strange.  This did not discourage her.

The Spanish club was hoping to raise money for a trip to Puerto Rico.  They wanted to try out their Spanish language skills and learn more about Latin American culture.  It would be an expensive trip.  They lived in a working class town and few families could afford to send their children away for such a trip.  Holly and her friends knew that they would have to work hard and long to raise the money.  At this year's first Spanish Club meeting, they decided to make it first priority and begin raising funds right away.

It was fall in New England.  They had decided to have a collective yard sale.  Winter would be upon them soon.  It was important to have the yard sale before the first snowfall, so they made this their first fund-raising event.

The children had decided that either all of them would go on the trip or none of them would go.  All of the earnings from their fund raisers would be placed into one single account.  They would all work together and if they raised enough money, they would choose the hotel and tour that would fit their budget.  If they earned just enough, they would have a modest trip.  If they earned more than enough, they would have an even better trip.  Whatever the case, it would be all for one and one for all.

Each child collected their unneeded possessions.  They asked their parents to do the same.  One family had a large garage and a large driveway.  They agreed to allow the Spanish Club to hold their yard sale there.  On the night before the yard sale, they worked hard together and brought all of the items for the sale over to the garage.  In the morning, they opened the yard sale early and took turns negotiating with customers.  At the end of the day they raise 0.00.  There were nine students in the Spanish Club.  0.00 was a good beginning but not enough.

Next the children held a bake sale.  From the bake sale they earned another 0.00.  Two of the members of the Spanish Club offered tutoring to students that needed help.  Over the course of the year, these two students raised another 0.00 for the club.  Three of the students shoveled driveways over the summer and raised 0.00 for the club.

The students got the school's permission to use the gym for a Salsa Night where other students could join them dancing to Latin Music.  They raised 0.00 from that event.

All was going well.  One by one they were putting to practice their plans for raising money and it was working.  However, an unexpected event threw things of course.

The Spanish Club members decided to show a Spanish language movie every Thursday afternoon.  Their Spanish teacher granted them use of her class room.  They brought in a DVD player and a wide screen television set.  Students were charged a .00 donation to see the movies.

The first two weeks it was a hit.  They made almost .00 each time.  They had more room in the class room, so they printed up leaflets advertising their Spanish movie program and posted the leaflets around town.  They posted them in the town square.  They posted them in the mall.  They handed them out in the halls of the school.  This Thursday, they thought, they would earn much more money for their trip.

On Thursday, after school, twenty students came to see the movie.  This would be the best showing yet!  As they started the movie, the school's principle came barging into the room, ordered them to shut off the movie and told all of the students to leave.

Holly stood up and ask, "Why are you doing this?"

The principle looked angry and frightened, "Because you are competing with local businesses.  I got an angry telephone call from the owner of the movie theatre in the town square and he demanded that I stop this, this, this abuse of school property."

The students were silent.  They all looked at each other in shock.

"This is a school, isn't it?" asked Holly.

"Of course it's a school," said the principle.

"Then how is expanding the cultural horizons of students an abuse of school property?"

"This isn't a movie theater," he retorted.  "Don't question my authority.

Holly was miffed.  The students were now demanding their money back.  "Look," she said, "is there a law against this?"

"Not that I know of, but I don't want to have to find out," the principle said.  "We have an angry business owner threatening to take action.  I don't need this."

Holly raised her voice, "You mean you would put the profits of a business owner over the welfare of your students?  This town has no Spanish language movie theater.  We aren't in competition with him!  You know that."

"I don't care," he said.  "I don't need the headaches.  Now, all of you, go home."

Holly handed the money back to the students.  They left, mystified at the power of some businessman they didn't even know.  Holly was not about to give up.

Holly and her friends wrote up a petition demanding that the school permit them to show the movies in exchange for donations.  They went from house to house and got over one thousand signatures.  Holly herself brought them to the superintendent of schools. The superintended gave in and ordered the principle to allow the students to hold their movie events.

The next Thursday, only 15 students showed up.  Word had passed around about the previous fiasco and some were hesitant to show up.  The movie started and all seemed to be going well for about 15 minutes when the principle burst into the classroom again.

"Do you have permission to show that movie to a public audience?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" asked Holly.  "We rented it.  Here, I have the receipt.  Why are you doing this?"

"I just got a call from the owner of the movie theater," he said.  "He told me that if you didn't have permission from the copyright holder of the movie, he would be calling the FBI and demanding that they prosecute us for violating the license under which you rented the film.  I can't risk it.  The movie is cancelled, permanently!"

Holly once again passed back the movie donations.  All of the students were getting very angry.  She asked the students to gather at her house.

On the way home she passed by an office store.  She purchased a large package of poster-board and markers.  When she arrived at home, 12 students were there waiting for her.  She took at a copy of the petition.  It was 20 pages long.  She asked for five volunteers.

Each of the five volunteers was given four pages of the petition.  They went home and began calling those who had signed it.  There was to be a protest that evening in front of the movie theater, starting at 6:30.

The other seven students began making signs with various slogans denouncing the owner of the business.  One sign read, "Who are you to silence us?"  Another read, "Education over profits!"  There were many signs and they came up with a large array of slogans.

At 6:30 they gathered outside of the theatre, passing out signs to the 100 people who showed up.  They marched back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the theater, chanting slogans against the owner of the business and asking movie-goers to go elsewhere to see a movie.  Some movie-goers still went in, but many did not.

As would happen at any protest, some people insulted the students.  "Get a job!" and old man yelled.  The children responded, "We're children, what do you mean, 'Get a job?'"

Soon the police arrived.  They told the protesters that they needed a permit.

"No we don't," said Holly.  Just then the press arrived.

"We don't need a permit," she said.  "According to the laws of this state, we need no permit to gather on public land.  We are staying."

"You are interrupting a business," the police man said.

"Too bad," she replied.  "He's interrupting our education and now you are interrupting our rights."

The students began to chant, "We have rights.  We have rights.  We have rights."

Soon, many parents came to stand with their children.  More members of the press showed up.  A television news program sent a reporter.  The police could see that they were being watched and that they would be seen in confrontation with children.  The order went out to stand down.  The police retreated to a distance and watched.  One police officer had a conversation with a member of the news crew.

The news crew member came over to a few of the students and said, "Hey, do you want to be on television?"

"Sure," said one of the students.

"OK, then.  We need some action.  This is getting kind of boring.  Why don't you guys fake a fight.  I'll put it on the TV."

The students looked at each other, turned to the reporter and said, "Sorry, we're not stupid.  Take a hike, asshole."

The protest continued.

At 9:30, when the second batch of movies were starting, the business owner looked at his numbers for the day.  Only half the normal number went into the theater that evening.  About half had turned and gone somewhere else.  He was angry.  He did not predict that bullying his way into monopolizing the showing of movies in the town would harm his profits.

The movie owner came out of the theater.  "I'd like to speak to the president of the Spanish Club!" he called out.

Holly walked over.  "I'd like to speak with you in private he said."  It was his hope to cut a deal with her.  Maybe he could give her free movie passes or something and she would end the protest.

"No," Holly replied.  "You speak with us in public or not at all!"

"What can I do to stop this?" he asked.  "I have a business to run!"

"You should have minded your own business and not ours," countered Holly.  "This is all your fault."

"OK, OK, he said.  Play your stupid movies.  It's not like people will stop coming to my theater if you do," he said.

"Then why did you try to stop us?"

The business owner was silent.

"Why," she demanded!

"Don't get smart with me," he said.  "I have influence in this town.  I suggest you take my offer and shut up."

The students were unsure of how to respond.

Holly said, "You have influence?  Look around you and see the influence of the people!  Don't threaten us!  We will have our movie program whether you like it or not.  Keep to your own business if you don't want to alienate the people who keep you in business."

With that, the protest ended.  Holly arranged for a private location to view the movies.  They never heard from the movie theater owner again.  He became unpopular and some people began to drive to the next town to see movies from that day forth.

By the Spring, the Spanish Club had raised enough funds to send the entire group to Puerto Rico.  As they plane landed in San Juan, they raised a cheer.  They were proud of themselves for persevering.  Most of all, they were proud of themselves for fighting for their rights.

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