Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
“One of the scariest things I ever did,” a long retired public school teacher (who was Caucasian) told me years ago, “was to name what I saw every single day in my classroom: racism. And once I said it, there was no turning back.” And then she grinned and added, “I lost that job, but I made some friends for life.” By that point, she’d taken her life partner’s hand, an African American woman she met in the aftermath of “naming” racism for what it is. Those two wonderful women told me stories that I recall frequently. I thought about them when I read Chris Hedge’s Colonized by Corporations and Larry Pinkney’s The 21st Century Political Plantations.
What Hedges, Pinkney, and many others are doing isn’t as scary as speaking out against Civil Rights era racism. It’s not as scary as when the women I mention above came out as who they were, a mixed race, lesbian couple. But talking about the U.S. as “colonized by corporations” and “political plantations” isn’t exactly popular, at least with a lot of people. Others, like Occupiers, are in agreement with the two “Lefties.” The “land of the free and home of the brave” is in some serious trouble. As Paul Craig Roberts put it, at Counterpunch:
Americans have lost control of the government, and governments that are not controlled by the people are not democracies.
I know that sounds extreme to some, and anyone whose read what I’m writing knows I’m among the “extreme,” though I respect different views. I think Hedges and Pinkney make very compelling arguments. Selections follow.
Regarding colonization, Hedges cites Robert E. Gamer’s book, The Developing Nations:
Gamer and many others who study the nature of colonial rule offer the best insights into the functioning of our corporate state. We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation … . They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. …
… we must first recognize ourselves as colonial subjects. We must accept that we have no effective voice in the way we are governed. We must accept the hollowness of electoral politics, the futility of our political theater, and we must destroy the corporate structure itself.
About plantations and slavery, Pinkney writes:
The single most potent and effective form of slavery is mental. It is this slavery that suffocates the potential and the aspirations of everyday … people in the United States. It is perpetuated by the most hypocritical and violent corporate government on the planet … the de facto Empire of the United States. …
The only way in which a slave can free himself or herself is to first recognize one’s bondage.
Both men make the same, broad point as made by “the 99%” movement: the only way the system will change is if enough people name it for what it is, and refuse to accept the framing from above, including our political / election corporate duopoly’s mockery of democracy.
More from Pinkney:
Institutional ‘education’ in this nation is overwhelmingly nothing more than a veneer of mythology and half-truths constantly reinforced by the lies, distortions, and omissions by those who own and control the corporate-stream ‘news’ media. ‘Democracy’ in this nation, in real terms, means dictatorship by the tiny corporate elite; embodied in the slimy machinations of both the Democrat and Republican parties. The so-called election process, particularly on the national level, is a complete and shameless farce.
Education is one key factor I see mentioned frequently. If you’re taught, from grade school to high school to college that the U.S. is the greatest, bestest nation EVER; and then you hear that same message repeated by Electeds and “reporters” … it can very neatly create the framing it’s designed to create, a national comfort zone that works to the benefit of those who designed and maintain it. As Hedges writes:
The assumptions and daily formalities of the old system are difficult for citizens to abandon, even when the old system is increasingly hostile to their dignity, well-being and survival.
Naming the problem, in other words, is scary. But what happens when things go so wrong that the “colonized” and “plantation” residence can’t help but notice?
The colonized are denied job security. Incomes are reduced … . The poor are plunged into desperation. Mass movements, such as labor unions, are dismantled. The school system is degraded so only the elites have access to a superior education. Laws are written to legalize corporate plunder and abuse, as well as criminalize dissent. And the ensuing fear and instability … ensure political passivity by diverting all personal energy toward survival. It is an old, old game.
Attention is also diverted by the accompanying “old, old game” of the latest election cycle that tells us that “the greatest democracy ever” can only manage two “viable” choices for the top position, and for most of the others at federal, state and local levels.
Without fail, the every four year corporate ‘election cycle’ rings the (Pavlovian) bell, and the majority of mental slaves retreat to their respective Democrat and Republican party mental/political plantations and reservations … .
My retired teacher friend took the scary step of naming the mockery of democracy which segregation created. Of course, it was safer for her than for African Americans doing the “naming” – and she knew that – but it cost her in terms of job, friends and family.
Agree, or not, with the analyses of Pinkney, Hedges, Occupiers or anyone speaking out against today’s enmeshed political / corporate system, surely we can at least “name” the fact that we have very big problems. Can’t we?
(Democracy: Some Assembly Required photo via Occupy Canada )