Friday, August 26, 2005

The Cure for Corporate Vertigo

We live in a corporate culture: our government, media, businesses, and even religious organizations (as we saw in the example of Pat Robertson) are guided by the same occupy-and-conquer action plan. Every occupation must begin with an invasion, so attack is the first movement in this corporate strategy; next comes conquest. And there's no better way to subdue a people than to feed them a steady diet of lies; the more they contradict both common sense and even each other, the more effective are the lies likely to be toward their purpose, which is total subjugation—the silence of apathy and despair.

At no time is this strategy more strenuously tested, or more rigorously applied, than in those moments where the corporate agenda is threatened with the mounting volume of popular discontent. The polls now tell us that the Bushies have reached new lows for approval ratings—and this runs the gamut of Washington vacationers, from Mountain Bike Flash himself (40% approval; 58% disapproval) to Cheney (35% / 60%) to the Republican Congress (32% / 64%).

But guess what—the Democrats in Congress are receiving the same treatment (31% / 65%). To me, it says that the scales are falling fast off the eyes of the People. We are beginning to perceive that it's not just a single party, group, or institution that is failing us—it is rather the hegemony of institutions per se that is killing and oppressing the people and the Earth. This is the point that I start from in my new book:

The times and the challenges that we face—both as a culture and as individuals within that culture—are painful and formidable. In many respects, our institutions have failed us. Our religions have failed us; our governments have failed us—they have brought us little more than guilt, oppression, global war, and the destruction of our Earth, which has now reached a point of truly critical and life-threatening mass.

We are, indeed, in a time of estrangement. What I mean by that is the psychological effect of the dizzying pace of predatory action and corporate spin; collective violence and media coverup; the insidious decrepitude and bland disguise that have infected our culture and our nation in particular. As the body counts mount higher and faster, we are told that "we are winning"; as the Earth heats up and becomes further poisoned by the pace of industrial greed, we are informed that we have a "clean skies initiative" that is already taking care of everything; as life becomes more and more difficult and painful for the middle and lower economic classes, we are told that the statistics tell a completely different and positive story of growth and expansion (see Krugman's column in today's New York Times).

It's a phenomenon that I call "corporate vertigo": we are meant to feel as if we're being whipped along on a hyper-paced treadmill, with not the remotest hope of stopping its motion anywhere in the near future. An even better metaphor might be that of being trapped in a blender with the puree switch engaged: we just leap about amidst the whirling, random spray of destruction and spin in the hope of avoiding being caught in the blades.

How can one survive corporate vertigo, let alone cease its pervasive motion? The first step is to arm yourself with facts—this is your defense against the FOX propaganda of our age. For example, as Krugman points out, the improving statistics on wages can be largely traced to an average 54% increase in corporate executives' salaries last year. What if you got a 54% pay raise today—how would your life change? Another good source of fact comes to us today in the Center for American Progress's "memorandum to President Bush", here. Read it through carefully—you don't have to memorize it or anything; just catch its direction, its feeling of urgency.

The main point now is that, as Congress returns from its month-long vacation, and while the President continues his never-ending Holiday of Death, we cannot indulge in complacency just because some poll numbers appear to be pointing in the right direction. Complacency is exactly what got us into this horrible swamp of occupation, deceit, spin, and economic stagnation: the slightest easing up now will only suck us further deeper into the pit of loss.

Bush's response to the overwhelming voice of the American people is to stick to the same old lies: we are winning the war, and if we stop now, Osama, Zarqawi, and his army of madmen will be in your hometown tomorrow, tossing bombs and spreading anthrax at the corner of Main St. and Maple. The only solution is to keep killing Iraqis at random, while ignoring Osama, wherever he is. Back home, let the tax cuts to the rich continue while the rest of us take the soaring national debt onto our shoulders, to be passed along to our children at the appropriate time.

The institutions of fundamentalist Christianity provide the same answers as those of fundamentalist Islam: KILL. Kill anyone who can be remotely perceived as an enemy, whether they're from Iraq, Iran, Cuba, or Venezuela. Jesus and his message are no longer viable in today's world: we must retro-write the Bible to give more credibility to the God of Vengeance and Slaughter.

The response of the corporations is similar to these others: send in your underpaid or outsourced labor force after the armies of death; make whatever profits can be collected for as long as the money's there; and then vanish while you reward the executives who direct operations from a cozy boardroom with another bag of millions. Meanwhile, let's get a few more pimple-faced burger-flippers working at Wendy's so we can point to improving economic statistics in countering those nay-sayers like Paul Krugman.

Once you're clear about the realities, form your own unique response to the various puddles of spin. Let your interests and your inner truth guide you: I spend a lot of my time and energy working with spiritual and psychological issues, so I am drawn in that direction in countering the spin. You may know a lot more about the economics, or the science, or the legal or sociological aspects of it: every voice is distinct, as long as it can be heard.

The fact of the matter is that this is not a time for wonkish debate or hairsplitting semantics. It's a time for straight-shooting, heart-rending facts, and those come from the lived experience of a free people, freely told. So even if you know nothing about international geopolitics or global economics, but instead have a family member who is in Iraq, or if you have ever worked at Wal-Mart or its corporate ilk, you are the expert we need now to speak up and be heard by the forces of Power.

Consult your experience and your feelings, and take it from there. Then use the Internet, the press, the mail, and your own social network in making yourself heard (for starters, you can check some of the links in the Blogroll at right, especially the AfterDowningStreet site and FAIR's media contact listing).

It begins and endures from within your heart. Cindy Sheehan was a seemingly powerless, anonymous mother who had no public voice, no place to stand and be heard. Well, the whole world is listening to her now. Yes, she was led by grief and desperation; but she also got her facts straight, and that's made her an insuperably difficult person to dismiss or to drown in spin.

This is not a matter of waiting till the next election—the urgency is too great, the danger is too pressing for us to hope that another November will bring us justice or even a little relief. We've made that mistake already, and we can't afford to make it again. Let your heart lead you; then follow its clarion voice to those places where it can connect with others and carry you to the center of consciousness and action that is immune from the disease of corporate vertigo.

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