Democracy of make-believe

In the Middle East, authoritarian leaders in power for many decades are being challenged by the young and disenfranchised. During their rule, these leaders enriched themselves, their families and their friends while exercising police-state control over ordinary citizens. This accumulation of wealth by the few has taken place in collusion with powerful multi-national corporations, a process that leaves the ordinary citizen poor and struggling to meet their needs at low-paying jobs with little future.

While America’s democracy produces elections and personnel changes within the political class, the corporate ruling class is never subjected to such democratic change. Corporations are authoritarian by nature, not democratic; the CEO is not elected by the employees but appointed by a small board of directors. The members of a board of directors are elected by shareholders, but shareholder votes are proportionate to the number of shares owned by each shareholder; those owning the most shares get the most votes.

Thus multinational corporations, the richest and most powerful players in the world’s economy, profoundly undemocratic and beyond the control of most governments or citizens, support authoritarian and democratic systems alike, secure in the knowledge that they are more powerful than any country. Accordingly, America’s political machinery has been corrupted and co-opted by corporate wealth through their control of mass media communication and the enormous campaign contributions they bestow upon their favored supporters.

As most citizens of the world are being reduced to wage slaves, power continues to accrue through an invisible hand to the world’s wealthiest individuals and institutions. In China, companies like Apple Computer use Foxxconn Technology Group to “employ” millions of poor citizens at slave wages to build their best-selling products piece upon piece by hand. In one facility alone, 450,000 workers hand-assemble Apple products 24-hours a day. Some of these workers are children, others jump from the rooftops in despair. Those that complain about working conditions are blacklisted. (Google: Apple workplace violations). And this is just one of many such operations.

We Westerners cheerfully support democratic uprisings, but like children in a land of make believe remain blissfully ignorant about the dominance of authoritarian multinational corporations. Such uprisings are merely a switch of governance within countries completely dependent upon the money, power and authority of the huge multinationals. So-called democratic revolutions are thus intrinsically confined within the over-arching power matrix of non-democratic multinational corporations. This applies equally to America, Egypt and the rest of the world.

Upending the present order would be no mean feat. It would require ending perpetual corporate charters, eliminating corporate “person-hood,” empowering corporate employees, changing international tax laws, and increasing corporate accountability to the citizens. The likelihood of this happening is low; however, should the world economy continue to decline, global warming accelerate, citizens become better informed and democratic activism increase, it’s possible.

Unless democracy radically expands and gains control over the world’s resources, which means control over multinational corporations, the ordinary citizen doesn’t stand a chance. A few among us will get wealthy and then be paraded before the public as examples to inspire those with nothing, but essentially it’s a fixed game and the outcome has already been decided. The wealth of the world will continue to accrue into the hands of a powerful tiny minority, and all the splendid democratic political uprisings will not change anything very much at all.

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