We are inundated every day by a vast stream of communications meant to influence our decisions. Unless we make a specific effort to shield ourselves, it is nearly impossible to avoid exposure to a tidal wave of information, nearly all of which is designed to sway our opinions, votes, buying habits, or perceptions of ourselves and others. The media outlets that deliver a preponderance of this information all operate for profit and so have a vested interest in maintaining certain perceptions that allow business to continue as usual, even while that same media promulgates a culture of fear, bigotry, and ignorance that serves to channel public opinion toward the agenda of the true power behind the throne -- the elite class who own, effectively, everything.
Primarily, that agenda is to prevent the majority of the population from accumulating enough power and privilege to actually steer the course of its government, and fear is one of the most effective ways to accomplish that. In this atmosphere of heightened fear, the population readily accepts restrictions to their liberties "for their own protection". We trust that our government will not abuse the powers we grant it and ingrained normalcy bias supports this trust. Tragedy and terror, and the resulting outrage, are seized upon as opportunities to further restrict our liberties and the public at large simply acquiesces to what they are told is a necessary evil. It seems a painful irony that the contraction of our basic rights has been approved by the populace as a measure that is needed to protect freedom and democracy when the end effect is to restrict our freedoms and thus, democracy itself.
While we are distracted by our
fears and the prejudices they instill, bills drafted by panels of corporate
lackeys are quietly passed to members of congress and pushed through to
become law. Gradually, environmental and health protections are being chipped
away in order to pave the way for larger corporate profits. In exchange we are
able to purchase less expensive products, but this belies the hidden costs of
our corporate-run systems. Corporations, by their nature, seek only to maximize
profits and a large part of this equation is supported by externalization
of costs. Any item purchased has an actual cost to the world economy and
population that exceeds the purchase price and in many cases the externalized
costs are not a fraction, but a multiple of the supposed cost. People around
the world, including here in the
sentiment is gradually seizing our society and most do not seem to notice.
Between the flames of xenophobic and paranoid fears fanned by our television
screens and the liberally applied anesthetic of consumerism and hedonism, there
is simply not enough personal, demonstrable impact by any of the individual
metered attacks on our rights and choices to shake us from our reverie. While
we enjoyed our iPods and Hummers and wallowed in profligate debauchery, much of
of rights was publicly invalidated. Our leaders proudly crowed about how
they were protecting us and we clapped and cheered as they dismantled our
rights to due process, our protections against illegal search and seizure, and
our ability to speak freely on any subject not sanctioned by the righteous, McCarthy-esque
mob that stands ready to point a finger and scream "Terrorist!" at anyone
who even looks like they may be from the
When considering all of this, my first inclination is to question the validity of these views. My greatest desire is to believe that I live in the country that was described to me in school; a country that met every challenge head-on and fought its way free of autocratic rule to establish a safe haven for ideas, faiths, and peoples of all stripes. In many ways, that is the country we live in. It also now seems to me as fact that these very truths have blinded us to what has been happening. Inexorably, relentlessly, and with no regard for the common good, business interests have bought up the influence they need to ensure their future profits by way of elevating the "free market" above individual human rights.
I find it hard to believe more of us are not utterly incredulous at the idea of big business winning the argument between environmental and human rights protections and their "right to do business". When a business can even have a chance of convincing our government that it should not enact laws designed solely to protect humanity and their collective interests we have indeed entered a new age of corporate ascendancy. It is as if the primary goal of all the biggest movers and shakers is to create a captive market within a citizenry that is obligated to consume their products. We are dangerously close to that point already. If you do not agree, make an earnest attempt to buy no products that are manufactured by a major corporation for one week. Even our basest needs are difficult to acquire without dealing with a multinational corporation. An individual who takes action and actually lives free of corporate products becomes an outcast to society at large.
This is not to say that all
corporations are evil. Indeed, a great many innovations that have improved the
quality of life here in the
Conspiracy theorists the world over
have posited that events such as the horror that occurred on
Fear is the greatest weapon in the history of the world and can be publicly used to great effect. For example, ask yourself this question: If 9/11 had not occurred, would you be ok with the idea of our government conducting targeted killings that can legally be aimed at American citizens? Would you be willing to allow the government inscrutable powers that allow it access to any and all personal information about us? Would you remain quiet and compliant while knowing your mail and personal phone conversations are freely available to any government agent that speaks the words "national security"?
Yes, fear is a powerful weapon. But you can turn it around to make it work in your favor. The way you can do this is to not hide from your fear. Do not let anyone else take responsibility for resolving it -- not your government, or your employer, or your parents. Make it your own responsibility. When you speak with your friends and families, tell them about your fears. Engage them in a dialogue about the things that are truly frightening, such as losing our rights to pursue our lives without disinformation and terror being used to control us. Isn't that what we are all really afraid of: losing the American Dream? It's time we actually started fighting for it.