People across the political spectrum are talking about getting corporate money out of politics. I've come to realize, though, that corporate influence is ubiquitous throughout American institutions--it's not just in politics. It can seem tricky to figure out who is funding what, but once we get past the misleading maze of independent- and beneficent-sounding organizations, it's pretty simple: the pool of wealthy people and companies have shrunk down to a few mega-conglomerates and uber-rich individuals. What's been more tricky for me to figure out is how my behavior as a voter, as a citizen, and as a consumer can counter this corporate takeover of American institutions.
A facebook friend recently posted this essay by Chris Hedges. Hedges states that, "There are no longer any major institutions in American society, including the press, the educational system, the arts, religious institutions, and our dysfunctional political parties, which can be considered democratic. The intent, design and function of these institutions, controlled by corporate money, are to bolster the hierarchical and anti-democratic power of the corporate state. These institutions, often mouthing liberal values, abet and perpetuate mounting inequality. They operate increasingly in secrecy. They ignore suffering or sacrifice human lives for profit. They control and manipulate all levers of power and mass communication. They have muzzled the voices and concerns of citizens. They use entertainment, celebrity gossip and emotionally laden public-relations lies to seduce us into believing in a Disneyworld fantasy of democracy."
Hysterical and doomsday-toned pieces like this often turn me off because they are dire to the point of making me feel utterly hopeless, i.e., we're all screwed, so why bother? I understand, though, that such a style can often demonstrate the actual direness of a situation and can light a fire beneath readers. No matter the style, I couldn't help but think that Hedges' piece had an enormous grain of truth to it.
Corporate takeover of American democratic institutions and the development of an American ruling oligarchy is one the defining issues of our democracy's time, if not the defining issue. With this as an introduction, I plan to write a series of blog posts about increasing corporate power over American democratic institutions. Let's just hope, although Hedges might claim otherwise, that it's not the final challenge to face our dying democracy.