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Must we all become Corporate Homo-erectus?

Most, if not all, of our consternation regarding the economic crisis we are suffering and will continue to suffer for at least 10 years, is due to forces we are familiar with: globalization, technology, and corporate corruption, to mention but three culprits. While most of us are practically standing still in the face of these cultural and commercial dynamics, let’s face it, corporate economics rules the world.  Do we have viable alternatives?

Yet, as the cowboy would say to a newcomer, ‘this is not my first rodeo’.   We’ve seen or read about former eras and societies in transition; we’ve studied ‘booms and bust’ cycles, cultural shifts, and so on. We’re not unique. But now it’s our era’s turn to deal with these shifting sands; by the time we finally settle into the new normal, there will be blood on the floor, because as these shifts come with more brutality, too many will be left behind.  Economic Darwinsim, some would call it.

What’s novel for us is the pace and nature of these changes, in terms of a forced new lifestyle, signifying our modernity, acceptance, and therefore our corporatised survival skills.  Are you using the correct lingo? Are you subscribed to the latest techno bells and whistles? Have you morphed into the modern Corporate Homo-erectus?

In the meantime, our governments legislate to promote the corporate wish list: less regulation, small government, soft on environmental constraints, and allowing for more ‘skilled’ legal immigrants. Instead of going to bat for native-born Americans, our pro-growth politicos push for more non-Americans to take good-paying jobs, because it’s good for ‘economic growth’.  To add insult to injury, these are our ‘representatives’ who see themselves as upstanding ‘patriots’, with American flags on their lapels, serving as master deceivers.

If they keep this up, we’re going to see lines drawn in the dirt – like at The Alamo down the road from my home. We’ll see what real patriotism looks like. It works. We understand that as time marches on, we must adjust to new realities; we re-tool to earn a living. But complementing these social, cultural, and commercial adjustments must also come an attuned and cooperative government, which understands the inherent value of civilized economic public policies. Past and current policies are gamed for the easy wealthy.

In America, we do believe in a government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ (Abraham Lincoln). We believe in responsive, responsible government; we believe in the American Dream, which is the ability to reap the benefits from our hard, honest work ethic, without government constraints or abuse.

But our representative government has largely failed us. We don’t have that economic clout, or the ability to influence policy. Economic mobility has dampened greatly; wage and household incomes have not grown for over ten years. Public officials actively represent private interests, ceding to relocation or investment demands, at great public costs. Job creation schemes are costly, but fleeting and unstable as well. Automation continues to displace more and more positions. All that really matters to ‘the state’ is revenue collection, sufficient to pay today’s bills and keep social order, delaying the day when the chickens come home to roost.

To some, this situation calls for a populist, cross-partisan movement to repair our tattered democracy.  A leader in this call is Larry Lessig, Harvard Law professor, author of related ideas to address the common problems we share.  One such problem is the impact of private money in campaign finance reform, and Congressional lobbyists. With large numbers of citizens voting recently for President Obama to defeat the enormous financial contributions for corporate candidates, the basis is there to push Congress to ‘do something’.

If we are to have faith in our institutions, we must now see that elections have consequences. Not having to run for another term, President Obama may now find the courage to support a slate of Lincoln-esque legislation, suitable for our times, to match the grit of our former president, and the leader President Obama most admires.

While these legislative initiatives are important, we also urgently need to see our planning leaders articulate our most pressing needs, spelling out action and spending plans, and specific outcomes, for regions having the greatest needs.  A strong, central authority means nothing soon enough if it doesn’t allow for a strong centre, one which serves as a bridge between both ends of the economic scale.

Meaningful local engagement, building viable futures, sector by sector.  Easy to say, hard to do, but when life hands us lemons, we make lemonade, as we are left with our convictions to assure the best future possible.  Let us not look back with regrets.

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