By Ahmed Tharwat
Harry S. Truman once said: “The ‘C’ students run the world.” That was a long time ago, and now the world is run by “Generals” – still “C” Students – in two different camps.
The first camp is usually run by military generals like Saddam, Gaddafi, Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, Al-Sisi, Mugabe, Barre, Al-Bashir, Idi Amin, and the list goes on. The other camp is run by a different kind of general, corporate generals, like General Motors, General Electric, General Food, General Mills, General Dynamic, General Union, and the list goes one.
\Where are the similarities and differences between these two camps of generals? The military generals usually run undemocratic oppressive regimes, and they enforce their will on people’s lives through guns and security measures. However, the corporate generals run more ostensibly democratic systems, and they enforce their will and control over their people’s lives and institutions thorough money and influence.
\While the mechanisms of both wildly differ, the end result comes down to the same thing: A highly disengaged and by extension disenfranchised public.
The military generals specialise in their undemocratic style and lack of political freedom, and they don’t respect human rights or the rule of law. Because corporate generals don’t have this luxury, they control people by different means. They control people’s minds, and take the political process to the market place, creating a culture of consumerism where citizens become consumers and political freedom moves from the ballot box to the shopping malls. Military generals may rig elections to stay in power, but corporate generals rig the election process and electorate’s minds.
\Brendan Geoffrey reported in Forbes magazine: “There may be 147 companies in the world that own everything… But it’s not you and I who really control those companies, even though much of our money is in them. Given the nature of how money is invested, there are four companies in the shadows that really control those companies that own everything.”
\Today, corporations have become the dominant institution of business, and impact practically everything on this planet, from people, animals and plants, to the quality and availability of water, food, energy and resources (eg fossil fuels, timber, metals, gems, chemicals) to transportation, housing, media, education, communications and the shaping our socio-economic-political system, which was shown when the Supreme Court ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations.
Mark Chasan, CEO of AWE Global, wrote in the Huffington Post: “Prior to the 17th century, the first corporations were created as not-for-profit entities to build institutions, such as hospitals and universities, for the public good. They had constitutions detailing their duties overseen by the government. Straying outside the constitutional boundaries was punishable by law.”
For example, the world’s first commercial corporation was the East India Company, set up by merchants to get spices from India. The East Indian Company expanded into a vast enterprise, conquering India with a total monopoly on trade and all the territorial powers of a government. At its height, it ruled over a fifth of the world’s population with a private army of a quarter million.
Nothing has changed that much; here in America, where we have our military industrial complex, with a $555bn budget, which is spent mostly on Corporate generals.
Here is Mark Chasan again, on how our institutors are rigged to provide corporate generals the (legal) support: “A substantial amount of today’s regulatory environment is couched in public interest, but provides great economic benefits to large corporations that can afford the lobbying and sponsorship, while often causing significant damage to the public, entrepreneurs, small business and innovation.”
For example, a study by the Sunlight Foundation, which used tax data to correlate corporate investment in lobbying with tax cuts, found that between 2007 and 2009, Exxon Mobil, Verizon, GE, AT&T, Altria, Amgen, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing in total invested approximately $540m in lobbying, which resulted in aggregate tax reductions of approximately $11bn.
Similarly, Wall Street analysts predict Apple could earn up to $45.6bn in its current fiscal year, but could manage to avoid paying billions of dollars in tax.
Now corporations run the government and make the laws. The corporate generals’ camp will develop its own institutions, and would produce the cultural and legal framework in which they operate and flourish.
Consumerism controls the average American, who is exposed to 20,000 marketing messages a day, 7,000 of them advertisements alone. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go back to bed, corporate generals tell us what to eat, drink, wear, what to think, and what is beautiful and what is fun. Consumerism fills our culture and consumer values replace our human values. The average American spends just 15 minutes a week on politics and six hours a day watching TV.
At the end of the day, we may have the freedom to select between 300 different kinds of water or beer, but we only have two parties to choose from, one is the Republican Party and the other is the Republican “Light” party, and both are in all actuality controlled by corporate “generals”.
Ahmed Tharwat is host and producer of the Arab American TV show Bel Ahdan. He blog at Notes from America www.ahmediatv.com and his articles appeared in national and international publications. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube: ahmediatv