What I see going on in the world right now is starting to seriously freak me out.
Every day personal freedoms are eroded further in the name of a second-rate version of Thatcher/Reagan-ism that allows those few with a huge amount of power and money to run roughshod over those who don’t have the same resources at their disposal.
We are the willing victims of media conglomerates that feed us only the information necessary to control us, overpriced monopolies that bilk us on cellphone charges and travel fees, huge tax cuts and incentive payments to industries that don’t need them, and governments and law-enforcement officials that turn a blind eye to crimes by the powerful and, in some cases, actually aid them. Not to mention the many draconian breaches of civil rights committed in the name of an expensive and misleading war on terror.
There has been a concerted attack on quality in the name of the bottom line and payments to shareholders, whether it’s government services, consumer goods, medical care or any number of other examples. We are paying much more for far less so a small percentage of management types can be paid obscene amounts of money well in excess of what any civilized person would ever need over a hundred lifetimes.
Meanwhile, the resources and opportunities for workers and consumers are squeezed ever more tightly. Unions are busted. Full-time work and benefits are withheld. Hiring people at slave wages is touted as a valid solution to unemployment. Sourcing out work to less prosperous countries is endemic, and if these decisions lead to the occasional disaster that snuffs out hundreds of lives or costs middle-class Canadians their livelihoods, well that’s just the price of doing business.
Unfortunately, this corporate mindset has infiltrated every level of society. Many of our theatres and other artistic institutions have become environments where the artists creating the work and the audiences they create it for are seen only as resources that keep administrative people in full-time positions – something very few artists will ever enjoy in their lives. Pride Toronto, after leaving its grassroots origins, is forced to deal with constant harassment, bribery and bullying from city council because it has accepted public money and people have jobs they need to hang on to.
All of this as our various governments preach austerity and discipline when, even by the lowest corporate standards, they are abysmal failures. What corporation would allow billions of dollars to go missing without proper investigation as the federal government recently did with its “anti-terrorism” fund? What corporation would allow hundreds of millions to be wasted on bad contracts and substandard equipment, as our own Department of National Defence recently did with planes, ships and, perhaps, now helicopters, without demanding accountability? What sort of corporation would take on the kind of debt our mostly incompetent governments are drowning in?
This whole model is terribly flawed. The arts are not a corporation. The government is not a corporation. Health and welfare issues are not corporate concerns. None of them are required to make a profit. They are required to enrich and advance all of our lives, regardless of our economic status, and it is the job of responsible business to use the excess of wealth they accrue to supplement and aid this process. That is the synergy of a cooperative society as opposed to the exploitative one we currently reside in.
Margaret Thatcher said, “There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families.” This sentiment, with its “only me and mine count” subtext, summarizes everything that is wrong with our system at the moment. Not only is it shockingly selfish; it is simplistic to a fault. If it’s only about individuals and families, then who do your junior family members pair with when it’s time to leave the nest? Who cares for them when they’re sick or provides any of the other needed services that a family member cannot? As usual with conservative “logic,” it never holds up to real examination.
These energy, media and financial companies spend huge sums of money and energy to keep people distracted and from asking any of the hard questions. They haven’t just influenced our governments; they are our governments. We are not their citizens; we are their debt slaves. And none of that’s going to change unless we make it happen. We are going to have to fight very hard to get the corporations out of our government. Let’s not put off the battle for another second.