Democracy and the Corporation

“The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.”                   Edward Dowling

Of late we have been seeing many articles lamenting the role of the Press and Media in today’s society and complaining how it is no longer objective and principled but seems to be more a propaganda machine than anything else. I thought it therefore necessary to try to put things in perspective so that we can recognize what is really happening to our world. That way we will either take the trouble to change matters or at least see how entirely expected and appropriate the role of the media and press is, under the circumstances.

The play Mouse Trap is the longest running play in history. It has been going on since 1947. But strangely the ending is always the same. Now isn’t that very peculiar? Or is it really quite understandable because though the actors have changed since 1947, the script is the same and so no matter which actor comes, he or she is forced to speak the same lines and so the play begins in the same way and the ending is the same.

I would like you to remember this analogy while I recall a quick history lesson. Once upon a time there was a multi-national company, run from a warehouse in London where its Board sat. It sent out its managers at first to trade with Indian kings. They took permission to build trading posts, then permission to recruit a small force to secure their goods. Gradually these trading posts metamorphosed into forts, the security guards into a private army and the country managers into Governors. The enslavement of India was well on its way, before the Indian leadership such as there was, even woke up to the fact. That India was more a geography than a political reality at the time was no doubt helpful to those who had a more global view. Robert Clive, Country Manager, British East India Company, waged war, annexed independent states and assassinated their legitimate heads and installed his own Agents to administer what had been in effect independent countries in their own right.

Beautiful mausoleums

It was the so-called ‘Mutiny’ of 1857, which only the last of the Great Mughals, Bahadur Shah Zafar had the courage to call by its real name, ‘The Indian War of Independence’, that brought in the British Crown. The slavery of India did not end; however, we just changed our owners. Bahadur Shah Zafar was accused of treason and banished from the land of his forefathers. He defended his position and pointed out that it was he, who was the king of the land, not the British East India Company and so he could not possibly have committed treason against himself. It was the Company Sahib (note the address of respect, enforced on India) which was the intruder into a land where they came to trade and stayed to rule. Of course, the plea fell on the deaf ears of the British East India Company’s judge and Bahadur Shah Zafar was banished from the home of his forefathers forever.

Cut to 2020; a century and a half later and what do we see? The names have changed. The actors have changed but the script is the same and so the play continues. The objectives are the same and so are the methods; grabbing raw material, fuel, land, labor, power and markets in any way possible using any means at one’s disposal and treating any attempt by the rightful owners at self defense as rebellion, to be crushed mercilessly with overwhelming force. The foundation of this method is of course even more ancient. The industrial-military complex and its methodology for global domination is first recorded more than 2000 years ago in the annals of the history of the Roman Empire. The Empire is long gone, but ideology outlasts its proponents and so the lessons have been learned and are being practiced. The centurion replaced by the present-day soldier performing the same role; following orders from on high.

The world however has changed in some ways in that public opinion does have a bigger say in things, than used to be the case with the Romans or the British Empire. So, thought-steering evolved to a fine art. That and the art of influencing others by means of repeating a lie over and over. Lessons once again learnt from a master, the head of Hitler’s Propaganda Ministry, Goebbels. Only, we are not silly enough to call it Propaganda Ministry. Instead we call it the Free Press. The lie becomes the truth. The victim deserves to die, and the law is a handmaiden of the tyrant, designed to give his every action the veneer of legitimacy.

The New World Order is well on its way to achieving its aim of global domination, called by yet another harmless, even benevolent sounding name, Globalization.

Just reflect a bit on this: what differentiates a Corporation from a Democracy?

Seattle, Bezo’s …..

Corporation

1. Hereditary or nominated head

2. Absolute authority of leadership

3. If people don’t like the leader, they have to leave

4. Attempts at asserting equality, freedom or questioning decisions are seen as Opposition = Rebellion = Treason = Punishment = ‘Death’: Firing

5. Master plan for everyone. Others must align to it

6. Freedom is anathema except for the top leadership. Everyone else is free only to follow orders, couched in nice language.

7. Test of success = alignment to values.

8. Mark of a leader = Can break unions.

9. Mark of a trouble maker = represents the people = Union leader.

10. Inequality is accepted even expected

11. Corporations seek to influence consumers

12. Media/Press = the PR Agency. It sings the official tune, its success lies in its ability to influence minds by interpreting (not reporting) facts, it invents language to ensure that all official actions appear good and all opposition to them appears bad: Freedom fighter = insurgent/terrorist; dead civilians = collateral damage; genocide = ethnic cleansing; murder = encounter.

Its job is to ensure that the establishment always appears to be noble, good, pious and kind; no matter what it does. It can never be objective.

Democracy

1. Elected head

2. Participatory authority

3. If people don’t like the leader, the leader must leave

4. Collective bargaining & decision making is encouraged.

5. Citizens participate in leadership. Questioning & Opposition: Signs of a healthy democracy.

6. Participatory master planning open to change as necessary

7. Equality and freedom are sacred; supported and defended by the constitution

8. Constituents are citizens, equal participants in the future of the collective. Citizens are free, even encouraged to influence the government

9, Democracies seek to consult citizens. Media/Press is the agent of the people. It gives them a voice, it encourages debate, it provides space for dialogue, it encourages divergent ideas and ideologies, it reports facts and it questions authority and official decisions.

10. It is the interface between the government and citizens and by its role it tells the government what the people really want . It keeps authoritative tendencies in check by its ability to expose them and redresses the wrongs committed by those in power.

Corporations see people as consumers. Democracies have citizens

I can go on, but I won’t. I will leave you to add to this list as you wish. Those of you who have read Collins & Porras’, Built to Last will recall the reasons for greatness that they cite for what they call ‘Visionary Companies’. Among them, ‘Total Alignment to a Core Ideology and Cult-like Cultures’ are most critical. The single most critical need for a Cult-like Culture is a profusion of mindless followers, who will do what they are told, without question. That is what alignment is all about. And incidentally that is what the fascist state also needs. The success of the corporation is measured by how it can increase shareholder value. This is a direct result of high profits through good margins or high volumes or both. Everything else is subordinate to that goal.

That is the reason why in British India, the British rulers forced the farmers of North India to grow indigo instead of food and precipitated a famine that resulted more than two million deaths. But the commercial success of the venture justified the cost in human lives. Especially when they were not British lives but those of some nameless poor black people in ‘that colony of ours’. Similarly, to create a market for the produce of the cloth mills of Yorkshire, the vibrant textile industry of Northern and Central India was deliberately destroyed including the smashing of looms and the amputation of the thumbs of master weavers. Millions of small weavers were reduced to penury overnight. And the cloth from Yorkshire had a free entry into the huge Indian market. After one must wear clothes, no matter their origin. It is not an accident that Gandhiji took Swadeshi as his slogan, burnt his British clothes, and donned the dhoti. He used the spinning wheel as his symbol and spun thread and made khadi cotton cloth.  Unlike many today, he knew his history very well and was a master at putting his finger on the nerve that hurt the most.

[Suggested reading: Anarchy, by William Dalrymple]

Corporatizing of Democracy: The Totalitarian State

The ideal situation for the corporation is when the state becomes a corporation. Then the head of state is proudly called a ‘CEO’. Productivity is at a peak, trains run on time, there is no disruption of work, students study, workers work, teachers teach their subject exclusively, parents condition the next generation properly and all government is left to those who walk the corridors of power. Indeed, this is as it should be and all is right with the ant colony. It is not accidental that countries like China, Israel and even Pakistan have long had most favored nation status with the US/Europe but India (when we were part of the Non-Aligned Movement: what an appropriate name it was!) did not. Those were the days when the trade union movement was vibrant though for those who worked for corporations this was something of a problem. Then came the criminalization (totalitarian control) of trade unions by political parties who floated their own unions and eventually trade union activity became a memory.

The Corporation is interested in one thing only as I mentioned: maximizing profit. Social, religious, or political ideologies are of no interest to it in any way except in terms of how they support its goal. In most recent times, Afghanistan was invaded because the Taliban were too dumb to play ball and insisted on giving the rights to build a gas pipeline to a South American company. Iraq was invaded because Saddam refused to play ball and insisted on selling his oil for Euros and not dollars. Consequently, he met a fate the purpose of which was to also put the fear of god into his brothers who are also sitting on oil reserves. Nobody can accuse them of being slow on the uptake, so they welcomed the killer of Saddam with open arms, dancing girls, falcon hunts, gifts of jewelry and what-have-you. In return they got promises of arms aid for which they pay first and then wait to see if the arms do come. Arms to do what, you may ask. Take 3 guesses, I will reply.

Of course, the PR (Free Press!!) was hard at work talking about the repressive regime of the Taliban and the well hidden Weapons of Mass Destruction of Iraq. The fact that among the ‘friends’ of the Corporate State are others who are even more repressive than the Taliban is immaterial and naturally goes unreported. That the Weapons of Mass Destruction were so well hidden that they were never found is brushed aside. The saddest part was to see how even the best and most noble prostitute themselves to be in the good books of the Corporate State, when none other than Colin Powell stood before the United Nations and lied through his teeth.

Above all the corporation needs order. It calls it by many names; peace, harmony, goodness for all mankind, but what it really needs is order. The fastest and surest way to create order is using overwhelming force. Zero tolerance. All protest, debate, demonstrations, criticism, and ‘confusion’ must be eliminated to get silence and order. Corporations and corporate language find immediate resonance in the military because many if not most of modern corporate thinking has roots in military command theory. That is the reason why if you read the history of the development of any fascist totalitarian rule, you will find that the first collaborators of fascist rulers are always industrialists, businessmen; in short those who run corporations. For it is they who understand and empathize with the fascist leader the best.

When Hitler took control of Germany it was the industrialists and businessmen who supported him. So also, Mussolini was supported in Italy and many others whose names you well know. Many examples are present in our time today and need not be mentioned as they are clearly visible and known to all of us. The question is what do we want to do?

Corporations are the most undemocratic structures in the world and stand for the exact opposite of all democratic values. However now we have a problem. And that is, what do we do with public opinion if we express the truth as I have done? The solution is language. Say the same thing but differently.

So the Voice of the Corporation (their Media/Press companies) talks of freedom (they mean freedom to obey), equality (you are exactly equal to the next man on the assembly line), meeting aspirations (provided you keep your head to the corporate grinding wheel for 30 years first), progress (corporate goals are being met) and welfare (good living conditions for the enforcers). Crime and patriotism are both redefined. Any action that seeks to slow down or change the corporate goal is a crime. Any opposition to official ideology is treason. Patriotism is not love of and loyalty to the country but loyalty to the government of the day. Criticism is defined as disloyalty. Curtailing of freedom and human rights are justified in the interest of security.

In order to get people to not just agree to their freedoms being curtailed and human rights being reduced and violated, terror is used by the state or its agencies so that fear crazed people will come running into the open arms of the police asking for protection and gladly ratify the most draconian laws which imprison their minds, tongues and actions. Security is inversely proportional to functionality. People are taught this valuable lesson so that they tamely accept hours of waiting for flights, strange security guards delving into their most personal belongings and their probing hands and eyes rampaging all over their bodies, ostensibly searching for hidden arms. 

People who have learnt these lessons also learn to keep their mouths shut even if they do not actively support legislation legalizing torture, murder, detention without cause and disappearances in the night. And those who do not learn this lesson become examples whose fate enables others to learn.

Freedom of expression is a very well rehearsed charade. The Corporate State allows you to say whatever you want and to hold demonstrations of as many people as you want. This serves two important ends: it supports the illusion of freedom of speech and allows people a way of letting off steam so that there isn’t enough buildup to bring about fundamental change. This also allows the Corporate State the opportunity to identify potential threats to itself and to take care of them later once the noise has subsided and all the demonstrators have gone back to their TV screens and popcorn. Then the Corporate State does what it intended to do anyway. The Iraq war, Tiananmen Square massacre in China, and many others are all good examples.

There are many others, but I will leave you to think of them. The same is the case of Judicial Enquiries where compliant judges sign on dotted lines and the case is always closed in favor of the Corporate State. Ask, when was the last time that the State was indicted in a Judicial Enquiry and its agents went to jail?

Seattle night view

The last thing that a Corporate State needs is a thinking, questioning, middle class that has options. So, it seeks to remove them and to change their situation where the people are completely dependent on the state which then becomes the best way of controlling them. Financial meltdowns, whether they are deliberately engineered, or the result of excessive greed are a very useful tool to bring the middle class down to earth. It is the middle class which loses the shirt on its collective back and has its homes repossessed and suddenly higher goals like freedom, liberty and human rights have to be subordinated to the immediate goal of putting food on the table or ensuring a roof overhead. After the meltdown, the Corporate State steps in with its bail-out plans, all neatly packaged with a veritable spaghetti of strings attached. All sensible people fall in line. Those who protest or worse, seek to show others the reality are struck down, often by their own badly frightened compatriots. If they escape that fate, the Corporate State removes them from circulation for the common good, silently watched by the mute majority.

Ask, in the last meltdown who suffered the most? Corporate heads who were responsible for the meltdown or the middle class who were their faithful employees? Ask, how is it that heads of corporations which went bankrupt went home with multi-million dollar pay and bonus packages? What are these rewards for? Ask, who are the direct and immediate beneficiaries of the bailout packages? Ask, how many corporate heads lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts or lost their homes in the financial meltdown? Ask, where were the decisions that created the meltdown taken, in board rooms or on the assembly line? Ask, yet who is the one who lost the shirt on his back and the roof over his head?

The Corporate State is a great supporter of technology. It funds and supports without limit all research that enables it to control the people better and more powerfully. The official line of course is that this is in the interest of the people themselves to better be able to protect them from harm. Anyone thinking of raising his voice against more and more invasive surveillance is silenced by his own people. Some amazing technological developments are being mentioned. Bugs with solar powered cameras which will transmit real-time images and audio to a satellite which will beam it back to a central console monitoring the doings of the target group. The term ‘fly-on-the-wall’ suddenly has a quite different and sinister meaning. Satellite maps that pinpoint your home, car, and yourself exactly and can track your every move. Cell phones, credit cards, ID cards, retina scans all to identify you positively and to track your every move. Once again, I won’t go on.

The point is that the vast majority of research and development that is currently going on is not in the areas of health, food production, environmental protection, education or economic development but in the area of what is euphemistically called ‘security systems. In fact, these are not security systems but surveillance systems, control systems and more sinister systems which all dovetail to focus on the overarching goal of enhancing the hold of the Corporate State on the world.

What can we do?

What the Corporate State cannot stand is the light of day on its activities. And so accurate reporting of facts, shining the light of enquiry on shady deals, asking the unasked, speaking the unsaid and raising your voice against injustice right at its inception. Technology today gives us the ability to do all of this without depending on the Corporate Media to give us space. We know they will never do that, but we don’t need them today. Thanks to the internet, camera mobiles, and the ability to upload images and text from almost anywhere, it is possible today to ensure that at least those who are interested can see the side of the picture that mouthpieces of the establishment have been hiding.

Ultimately to act or to sit and watch is the decision of the individual. We cannot force anyone to act. What we can and must do however is to ensure that people have access to correct information so that they can make good decisions. What we can and must do is to ensure that critical questions are asked and brought into the debate so that people can demand more and better information from the agencies of the Corporate State.

Whether they get that information or not immediately is not the issue. When they start asking the questions this in itself will generate positive trends where citizens will stop acting like consumers and start to exercise some of their rights. The right to information is one. The right to justice is another. I believe that as citizens of democracies, no matter how flawed, if we can enforce accountability by sharing information and asking questions we will have achieved a great deal in ensuring that men and women can still walk free in the land, long after we are gone.

Corporations run our world and so it’s no use talking about democracy, equality, human dignity and freedom when none of these are corporate values. Corporations are and promote autocracy, blind followership, and conformity while talking about the importance of freedom, dissent and innovativeness. Thereby they also promote and reward hypocrisy. If the world is to change, corporate culture must change. That’s the big challenge for us all. 

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Rosamma Thomas

This article deserves to go around more widely. I’m sending it around and hope that it will be read by students of economics, political science, sociology. And general readers.

Alastair and Sarah Craig

An interesting discussion, Mr Baig. Have you read the recently published Anarchy, by William Dalrymple? A very good account of the East India Company in India.

Arjan van Lit

Dear Yawar, My first reaction to this article was that is was picturing a dystopian world, which just like the opposite, the utopian world doesn’t exist. However after a while I started to recognize more and more aspects which you bring forward in the world we are living now. Your article should be part of a global wake-up call, it is not too late. Although in some parts of the planet it will be impossible to reverse the process of decay unless there are fundamental changes. In the poem The Village by Oliver Goldsmith you will find the following text:… Read more »

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