Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ray St. Louis: When Corporations Dominate, Bad Happens

When Corporations Dominate, Bad Happens
By Ray St. Louis article link article link
June 11, 2010 | North Florida Herald | Information Clearing House

One thing Americans generally agree on is that something is terribly wrong with the country even if they can’t agree on what that “something” is.

With the Gulf oil catastrophe getting worse and no end in sight, our government seemingly helpless to address the problem, our fragile economy in danger of slipping back into full recession, America has never seemed so vulnerable.

It’s a situation that leads to a lot of finger-pointing. The forward-looking America that could solve any problem with good old Yankee ingenuity seems to have disappeared, and people want to know who’s to blame.

Problem is, anytime there’s a lot of indiscriminate finger-pointing going on, a lot of those fingers are going to be pointed in the wrong direction.

It’s called scapegoating.

It like Rush Limbaugh blaming the Gulf disaster on eco-terrorists without a shred of evidence, or Sarah Palin claiming environmentalists forced the companies to go from shallow to deep water drilling.

Well, they’re wrong, just like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were wrong back in 2001 when they said September 11 was caused by the American Civil Liberties Union.

For the record, the current malaise of the American body politic is not the fault of any of the following groups or individuals: Barack Obama, immigrants, gays, environmentalists, feminists, the United Nations, socialism, the New World Order, ACORN, or the French.

It’s not even the fault of international terrorism; you can’t blame Osama bin Laden for the Gulf disaster.

So who or what is to blame?

Many times when I get into political discussions with friends and acquaintances, I make the observation that most people don’t know who the enemy is. I say that I may not have the answers to all our problems, but at least I know who the enemy is – corporations.

I have recently come to refine that answer. Corporations are merely social structures that exist for a specific purpose much like governments. Governments exist to rule; corporations exist to make money.

The real culprit is much more insidious. It effects the way we, as a people, think. It affects the way we see things.

The primary enemy to the health and well-being of the American republic is (drum roll, please)…corporate hegemony.

Hegemony means dominating influence. When a part of society is said to have hegemony, it means that sector has the influence to make the larger society see things their way.

Their point of view becomes the accepted norm; their way of thinking becomes the conventional wisdom.

Such a situation exists with corporations in 21st century America. Just look at recent developments.

When, in a decision titled Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, the Supreme Court gives corporations the right to unlimited spending on elections, saying the issue is one of free speech, and that corporations enjoy the right to personhood and thus free speech, that’s corporate hegemony.

When a major healthcare reform bill is passed, and the plan for a public option is scuttled because lawmakers worry it will create competition to the big insurance companies, that’s corporate hegemony.

When a financial reform bill starts making its way through the halls of Congress, and the idea of breaking up the “too big to fail” banks is taken off the table before the debate even gets going, that’s corporate hegemony.

And when an oil drilling company is allowed to ‘pencil in” its own oil rig inspection reports in an era when government regulation is seen as unwarranted interference with business, that’s corporate hegemony.

Once you become sensitive to it, you start seeing corporate hegemony everywhere, from TV commercials (little 30 to 60 second blasts of corporate propaganda) to naming rights on sports stadiums.

You can’t ride a bus, read a newspaper, watch a sporting event, or do a single thing in this culture without being assaulted by the corporate point of view.

Our government regulating agencies trusted BP to know what it was doing with regards to deep water drilling and believed the corporation’s assurances that it was prepared to handle an emergency.

Basically, they allowed the corporation to regulate itself.

That situation only happens in an atmosphere of total corporate dominance.

We are, as Ralph Nader says, one nation of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.

Ray St. Louis’ column, “Between The Lines,” is published in The North Florida Herald the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.

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