Wednesday, June 30, 2010

[Insert Descriptive Post Title Here]

A long-time blog buddy (yes, four years is a long time in blogworld!) and Facebook friend took issue with my use of the word "slavery" in yesterday's post title. This morning he wrote in a Facebook message:
Sorry, it doesn't work even as hyperbole. It's an absurd word choice, and it makes me cranky as hell when someone uses it in an anti-corporatist rant. There are many things wrong with our society and its relationship to corporations, but we are all quite free to choose to live differently.

True, it wasn't a great choice of words, particularly if you interpret it literally in the context of American history. We aren't literally owned and sold like chattel at an auction. We still have our constitutional rights, more or less. We are free to pack up and move where we want, provided we have the means, and to pursue an education and any employment for which we are qualified.

However, I was at a loss for words in attempting to convey my rage at the level of influence held by corporations, and I still struggle to find a better word. Beholden? Nah, definitely not strong enough and still conveys some of that slavery essence. And I certainly didn't want to venture into deeper waters by suggesting that we are being raped by corporations, or resorting to disturbing visuals and crass bluntness by saying corporations are fucking us up the ass. I mean, come on! This is a quality, family blog!

Yes, we are all "free to choose to live differently" which differentiates the situation from actual slavery. And therein lies the problem, and I alluded to this in yesterday's post, that "we" aren't making that choice, either due to ignorance, or indifference. A whole bunch of us seem ok with the invasive corporate cancer, preferring instead to whine about it, and blaming our political leaders while clinging to the two-party pendulum as it swings back and forth, gathering millions of corporate dollars along the way which, ironically, we are helping fund each time we choose to do a business transaction with them.

We are free to choose to take corporate power away by making a personal decision to buy local and support small businesses. Absolutely true, but not a very realistic solution on which to hang a hat. That relies on trusting our fellow Americans, at least 80% of them in order to have a loud and meaningful impact, to be astute and make major changes in their purchasing habits. At least those fortunate enough to live in an area where there are choices, and have the ways and the means to do so, have that possibility.

In the thousands of small towns which have been decimated by the presence of Wal-Mart, the choices are extremely limited.

We are also free to throw our support behind any candidate and any political party we choose. Sounds good in theory but the best possible scenario never seems to pan out. Special interest groups with corporate funding can and do toss enough money behind their preferred candidate to drown out any alternatives. And why anyone would decide to vote for candidate A vs. candidate B based on a 30-second radio or television advertisement is beyond my comprehension, but it happens.

Despite all this freedom, and the power we have to radically change our politics, it's rather hard to accomplish when we can't even manage to get 40% of registered voters to turn out in mid-term elections, and a 55% turnout in presidential elections is considered a pretty good year, not that it matters if all those extra voters will vote no differently than the ones who bother to show up routinely.

Our energy policy and dependence on oil is another good example. To say we are slaves to oil might not be true either. We are free to break away from that dependence. Some of us take steps to reduce our consumption, others are able but choose not to, and another segment of society simply cannot do it for financial reasons.

This is precisely why we need government to devise a plan which inflicts pain and cost (yes, there is going to be some of both, so get ready) as fairly as possible in reaching the desired outcome of reduced dependence in the short-term, and green replacements in the long-term. This is not something we can sit around and wait on the private sector to do, nor does it make any sense to have individual states working independently of one another in this endeavor.

Call it what you wish, but we are under an oppressive thumb with the objective being to squeeze us dry to benefit the obscenely wealthy, and some of us are, strangely enough, shaking our pom-poms in fervent support for those groups.

(Off-topic blog note: The Echo comment system is misbehaving badly. FYI.)

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