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Government via Fear

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Message Stu Sass
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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 USA, are effectively subsidizing these cheap consumer products and they are paying by living with degraded air, polluted water, infertile land, cancer and other grave health risks, birth defects, and toxic wastes that wait as uncounted fulminating environmental disasters. The grip on our collective psyche formed by the seemingly opposed forces of fear and apathetic hedonism is a strong one and before an individual can break free of it, they must first perceive the contradiction and then must also have a strong desire to change it. Few are willing to give up their lives of comfort to do what is right when what is right is derided by society at large as being childish and idealistic.

A corporate-fascist 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 the bill 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 Middle East. The end result of this atmosphere of conflicting forces is that we become paralyzed by the burdens of our society and so instead, we focus on our own personal lives.

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 US and across the entire globe have been the result of corporate research and development. I am not promoting an anti-corporate agenda. I am, however, promoting ideas that are strongly opposed to corporatism. For the purposes of this discussion I define corporatism as a government and culture in which the rights and desires of corporations take precedence over the rights and desires of the common man. free markets are a good thing, but corporatism most definitely is not. I do not aspire to be wealthy and do not resent the wealth of those who have earned it. I do not want special rules to apply to me so that my life will be easier than the lives of those around me. What I want, and what I think we all want, is a fair game where the rules are not rigged. To put it differently, the rich are not winning the class war -- they are cheating.

Conspiracy theorists the world over have posited that events such as the horror that occurred on September 11th 2001 have been orchestrated to create fear. But this view seems to me to be based in unhealthy paranoia. That being said, I believe it to be absolutely true that the powers that be, from our politicians at the very bottom of the chain of real power, all the way on up to those actually in charge -- namely big money interests -- have seized upon such events time and again and used the resulting nationalistic sentiments and widespread terror as opportunities to solidify their positions.

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

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I am 47 years old, a non-partisan liberal, a deeply spiritual atheist (yes, you CAN be spiritual without believing in any deity), and a firm believer that freedom, compassion and unity should be the guiding principles of this country, not greed, (more...)
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