In my mind, I keep coming back to Michael Moore’s movie, Sicko. Although the movie was about the U.S. health care system, the point that has really stayed with me is something much bigger. It was something that was said by Tony Benn, a former member of British Parliament.
“I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all, frighten people, and secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern”.
I think this single statement crystallizes for me the entire sum of my thinking on what’s gone wrong with the US. Americans, quite simply, have become afraid of their government. And U.S. government, in turn, has become the servant of multi-national corporations which increasingly have no allegiance to any single nation.
Corporations control U.S. government which controls the people.
It didn’t have to be this way.
In his farewell speech in 1961, President Eisenhower foresaw the coming dominance of what he termed the “military-industrial complex”. He warned Americans to stay vigilant.
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. . . . We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.”
Apparently, Americans fell asleep at the wheel of government. They have woken up to find multi-national corporations sitting in the driver’s seat.
We now live in a country whose top leaders share close ties with Kellogg, Brown & Root, Halliburton and the oil industry. Congressional representatives are regularly sold to the highest bidders. And perhaps not surprisingly, the U.S. is mired in a war that few Americans support and that all told is expected to cost taxpayers a staggering $1.9 trillion. Ever wonder into whose pockets all that money is going? President Eisenhower would have known the answer. President Bush and his circle of friends definitely know.
In the case of multi-national corporations versus U.S. government, I declare the undisputed winner to be: multi-national corporations.
Back in the hippie era of the ’70s, American democracy was stronger than ever. Americans viewed it as their patriotic duty to stand up to the government. President Nixon resorted to illegal methods in his attempts to tame his enemies, which comprised just about everyone. Eventually, the Watergate break-in proved to be his undoing, leading to revelations of destroyed illicit tape recordings, warrantless wiretapping, illegal investigations, secret slush funds, political espionage and sabotage on a massive scale.
Today, we have a sitting President who has engaged in warrantless wiretapping, illegal torture, suspension of habeas corpus, systematic suppression of scientific research, and on and on. Sound familiar at all?
Something has changed, however. Americans no longer have the will to hold rallies and protest against the government. And a government that used to serve and fear the people now controls them. As Mr. Benn observed, people who are frightened and demoralized are easier to control. Americans today are shackled by mortgages, credit card debt, poor or non-existent health insurance, declining job opportunities and a weak economy. Newspaper headlines sow fear by sensationalizing plane crashes, terrorist attacks, Columbine-type massacres. Perhaps this helps to explain why Nixon was impeached in 1974, but Bush remains in office in 2007.
In the case of the Government versus the People, I declare the undisputed winner to be: U.S. Government.
I find myself wondering all the time, when will Americans say, that’s it, we’ve had enough! After a short 230 years, are the curtains already coming down on the Great American Democratic Experiment? I’ve got my fingers and toes firmly crossed as we head into the next Presidential election.