The US presidential debacle is rolling out like hyped up reality TV. Scandals of Trump’s graphic sex talks and Hillary’s leaked Goldman Sachs speeches add to the sensation. The captains of this managed democracy are pulling high ratings on their show, successfully distracting people from real issues. Multinational corporations behind the scene have now captured not only economic, but also political power. Through gutting regulation and guiding government policies, unbridled greed has made fraud a normal course of business and plunder a way of life.
From cradle to grave, commercial interests infiltrate every aspect of our lives. Education has turned into vocational indoctrination. With predatory student loans and standardized testing, this schooling trains youth to become obedient debt slaves who would never challenge the prescribed answers to ‘happiness’ as defined by corporate values. Health care systems have become insidious profit-making machines, where our bodies become a new frontier for exploitation. While low income people and those of color are disproportionately sent to privatized prisons for minor offenses, those who manage to escape police brutality at home are often sent overseas to combat on the front lines of rapacious imperial wars.
Behind a crumbling façade of democracy, predators hide their claws and teeth and plot their next move. Two mega-corporations Bayer and Monsanto are now uniting to conquer the food chain with the doublespeak slogan of ‘bringing solutions to the lives of growers around the world’. Trade agreements that change the rules of the global economy have been negotiated in secret. Rich countries behind the three big Ts, TPP, TISA and TTIP are pushing for radical cross-border imposition of power. In this, an alarming provision called the ISDS, Investor-State Dispute Settlement would give corporations power to sue governments for the loss of future profits made by public interest policies.
As the false opposition charade politics of the Hillary/Trump hate-fest triggers reptilian reactions, a new cold war is turning hot in Syria, and the ticking bomb of the 2008 financial crisis that was swept under the rug is about to explode at a much larger scale. What is behind this corporate power that chews up our humanity and seems to be expanding to conquer the globe?
Colonization of the Heart
This force that aims to exterminate all that stands in its way evokes a kind of Déjà vu, something that has escaped our sight. At the foundation of modern American culture lies a deep denial of the past; the violence and its own savagery that was covered up with legends and glory.
In The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, philosopher Jacob Needleman (2002) reminded us of the encounter between Western man and indigenous people of America and what has happened at this turning point:
In the blink of an eye, a great civilization was crushed by American guns and cannons, by overwhelming numbers of American soldiers, by incomprehensible modes of warfare—scorched earth, sustained siege, even the intentional spread of disease. It was crushed by the American sense of manifest destiny, fueled as it was by the peoples of Europe who were pouring out of their own native lands in search of a new life away from the Old World which was convulsing in the intellectual, political and economic cyclone of modernity. (p. 200)
Before they had a chance to tell the world who they were, the Natives of the American continent were brutally slaughtered. Those who survived were defined by European’s grandiose sense of superiority and assimilated into their one-sided reality. Back then, a true meeting of cultures did not occur. The door was shut for creating a civilization through dialogue, by opening and integrating other perspectives did not occur. There was one way to knowledge and the path of ‘progress’ was made on the colonizer’s terms.
In his autobiography, psychologist Carl Jung (1961/1989) recollected his encounter with the Pueblo Indians in his visit to New Mexico. There he met a chief of the Taos pueblos, named Ochwiay Biano. Biano shared with Jung his observation of white men, saying how “the whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless” and that “we think that they are mad”. When Jung asked him why he thinks that way, Biano said “they say they think with their heads.” Jung asked him with surprise, “Why of course. What do you think with?” He replied, “We think here …indicating his heart” (p. 248).
In Columbus’s Discovery of America, terror was unleashed, with the white skins looting and killing indigenous people in order to enrich themselves. What was conquered then was the heart of humanity – the feeling that precedes thinking, that remembers our connection with the earth. Thinking in the head moves fast, defining the world without giving others an opportunity to speak. This lost sight deceives us to think we are separate and denies the deeper knowing that whatever is done to others is done also to our own selves.
Mad Cowboy Market
This thinking divorced from the heart put civilization onto false footing. In the callous eyes of these cowboys, natives of the land were ‘discovered.’ Their cruel piracy commodified nature. With this crude state of mind, a new map was drawn with dripping red blood, erasing the contour of Turtle Island and the faces of these ancestors.
Colonizers who are devoid of empathy and remorse in their internal landscape moved on to institute a new form of government with a promise of ending the monarchy of the old world. The new Republic bound by the Constitution once appeared to restrain the unruly savage within through checks and balance of government. Yet, this unaccounted moral madness had morphed into commercial interests and disguised itself as a spontaneous force of the market.
Behind the supposed civility and rule of law in this new land, hungry wolves sit upwind and strategically approach their prey. They employ covert manipulation through the art of propaganda, engineered through Edward Bernays’ insights into the power of the unconscious that he gained by studying his uncle Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis.
Bernays (1928) saw how unconscious drives could be manipulated, making people perceive things in certain ways. He argued that “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society” (p. 37).
Through PR and ads, the ruling elites began to package their self-gratifying motives in alluring images to disarm people. In her book No Logo, Naomi Klein (2000) critiqued the effect of marketing and asserted the brand “as the core meaning of the modern corporation, and of the advertisement as one vehicle used to convey that meaning to the world” (p. 5). She explained the steps of mass marketing: first companies had to “change the way people lived their lives.” They create ads that “inform consumers about the existence of some new invention,” then convince them how their life would be improved or fulfilled through acquiring those products (p. 5).
Through the language of branding, big businesses flatter the target and create instant rapport. These invisible hands of the market then unleash unconscious desires, channeling them into mindless consumption. Images abstracted from experience are disseminated to entice the appetite of the masses to seek validation outside themselves. Fake images that were made to be delicious and pleasing to the eyes are then used to deceive, seduce and make us feel good and alive. Driven by the wheel of insatiable hunger, people chase after an American middle class lifestyle and fall into the material Maya of capitalism. Mesmerized by this narcotic flow of ever changing images of the product, we are hooked in and sink lower, becoming a narcissistic supply that responds to the demands of these hidden masters.
Through branding, corporations impersonate the soul. This invasion by Europeans into stolen land then reached new heights, with a pivotal event that quietly occurred in 1886. The case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company set a precedent to claim any private corporation to be a person, entitled to legal rights and protections the Constitution affords to the people.
The single eye of abstraction that failed to see the diverse pathways of civilization seized the heart. Minds were hijacked and railroaded into the twilight zone of this new corporate occupied territory. In modern America, corporations have become enthroned as the new kings, which took enlightenment ideas of individual rights and freedom and subverted them to narrow selfish aims.
Enslaved by personal desires, people are driven out of the civic arena, hollowing out democracy. The passivity created has conditioned our minds to be malleable to persuasion and manipulation. The people’s will trapped by deception is now conquered by the market and redirected by the elites’ political ambitions through ideology.
Narrow-sighted corporations in a sense have become machines that see everything in terms of this month’s profit margin. Within this limited spectrum, the native’s vision of a sustainable future was treated as naive and inferior. Their foresight of giving one’s heart to seven generations into the future, seeing those faces peeking through a cloud was viewed as a childhood imagination and ridiculed.
Ideology and the Rule of Conquest
In The Unconscious Civilization, author and essayist John Ralston Saul (1995) describes how the hierarchical nature of the corporate structure binds people into “an ideology which claims rationality as its central quality” (p. 2).
Monotony and rigidity of thought sweep us into a fixed perspective. By keeping the populace under their predatory stare, the colonizers maintain control. From President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act in 1830 to the Nazi-Auschwitz doctrine of “life unworthy of life”, slogans behind ethnic cleansing shift, yet the underlying drive of Anglo-European hegemony remains the same.
The rule of conquest has become entrenched with corporate limited liability, incorporating transgression and crime within our very culture and normalizing plunder. Now this colonization is systematized and attains a machine-like efficiency in its subjugation of the masses into ideologies that fuels cannibalistic lust for destruction and hatred.
With rhetoric of a global War on Terror, this heartless system creates imaginary enemies and raises artificial threat levels to justify invasions of foreign countries. It crucifies innocents in the cross-hairs of empire. With banners of neoliberalism, they legitimatize exploitation, making it rational, cool and brave to cheat and extract resources through sophisticated schemes of financialization and privatization.
Moral Desert of Corporate America
Aggressors brutalize anyone who stands in the way of their monotheistic quest. Ruthless colonists knocked down the totem pole and replaced it with a corporate ladder of ‘success’. Corporate personhood is fiction without an author. By sucking our unconscious desires and wishes, it has gained power and turned the American Dream into an ambition to build the world’s first global empire.
The corporate empire state is a total denial of our true humanity. As it expands beyond borders, parts of us die. First, we are seduced and mirrored by this strange ‘personhood’. Consumed by our own desires, we become unable to care for others and begin mimicking the system’s distinct lack of empathy. We slowly lose grip on the narrative of our own lives and enmesh ourselves with a disordered vision of humanity, being dragged into the valley of this moral desert:
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, ‘Is it good, friend?’
‘It is bitter—bitter,’ he answered;
‘But I like it
‘Because it is bitter,
‘And because it is my heart.’
— Stephen Crane, In the Desert
Hearts once spoke to humanity. They have become silent now. Becoming aware of this silence is painful for modern man. Corporate culture suppresses feelings with mind chatter, keeping us from memories of actual human events. In trying to avoid this emptiness, we dissociate and soothe our pain with drugs, workaholism and sex. We look for a fountain in places where there is nothing to quench our thirst.
At the Crossroads
True images of history that are buried beneath the hardened concrete of empire have not yet been completely destroyed. They are being resuscitated in a new web of life opened through the Internet. Waves of whistleblowers in recent years have begun bringing back the truth that was stolen from our original culture.
WikiLeaks’ publication of the Collateral Murder video, classified military footage of a July 2007 US Army massacre in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad, revealed the terror behind the glamour of the American Dream. In these honest images captured by the Apache helicopter gun-sight, American people were given an opportunity to see their past as unruly cowboys armed with military weapons, continuing to enact the same terrorism that Native Americans have been fighting against since 1492.
In this act of conscience of a young American soldier who was behind the largest leak in US history, a door was opened for the mind that desired its own will to be brought back to the heart. Sharon Staples, who cared for whistleblower Chelsea Manning when she was a child recalled her interaction when she visited her in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. When asked if she wanted anything, Manning said “Everything I want is in here and here,” pointing to her head and then her heart.
Taming the beast of corporate power and its vacuous hunger calls for each person’s courage to bear witness to something that has escaped consciousness and to be enlightened by the ways of life of those who were conquered. In order to heal the tormented world taken over by the fiction of corporate personhood, we need to first decolonize ourselves by following that trails of tears; to mourn the sorrow of empire.
Tasting the bitterness of our own bleeding hearts awakens us to the sins we have committed against ourselves and lets us rediscover our own humanity. Out of this dying empire that stretched out to the four corners of the Earth, paths that once diverged have come together. At the center of this crossroad, a new world is being born. We hear the silent pulse of our heart that has been guarded by Natives -the custodians of our future.