When I was in high school, I specifically remember one of my first encounters with a corporate take-over, even though I didn’t know what was happening at the time. Suddenly the local radio station that had a real, live D.J. and played a variety of music and even took requests, disappeared into the night. No more Jane’s Addiction or The Black Crowes. No Nirvana, Soundgarden or Pearl Jam.
It was replaced with a nation-wide, mainstream music station with hosts from somewhere far removed that played the same songs over and over again on a nauseating loop. And growing up in the mid-west, this was the only rock-ish station, and I mean only, that we could get. Depressing. Maybe this is what prompted my strong dislike for top 40 pop music.
Regardless, in the 90s, things were pretty mild. We barely noticed what was happening. But things were happening. When President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was more or less paid for by corporate media lobbies, thousands of media outlets were snatched up by giant corporations. The result has been a free falling disaster, and yet has happened so gradually, many of us today have barely noticed the shift. Or have we?
Six, yes six corporations, control the majority of media we are exposed to. General Electric, News Corp., Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS. In 1983, there were fifty. This is dangerous. Information is too easily manipulated. Private agendas based on greed are pushed to the edge and we are flooded in consumerism.
But it doesn’t stop with media. Healthcare (McKesson, CVs, United), telecommunications (AT&T), technologies (Google, Facebook, Apple), Internet sales (Amazon), general merchandise (Walmart), pharmaceuticals, and banks are led by giant corporations. So while we think we have a lot of choices, and sometimes it appears overwhelmingly so, the choices we are given are dictated by larger entities.
Is this the essence of capitalism, which is to produce goods and sell them at a profit, or the collapse? A capitalist society is supposed to allow anyone the ability to make money through sales or service with the opportunity for social mobility and improved livelihood. It is supposed to encourage freedom and individualism. And yet, roughly 90% of Americans work for someone else. They don’t have a choice, particularly if they rely on health insurance.
Capitalism and democracy have to work together in order for society, as we have known it, to thrive. Unfortunately, the Hunger Games of the corporate world does not align well with democratic, or capitalist, principles. If you’ve worked for a corporation, or even within the confines of an institution such as education or healthcare, there is a set of strict expectations, standards and rules. Everyone is expendable. Individualism, for the most part, is not valued.
So what about those of us who want to work for ourselves and embrace the freedom of a capitalist society? My dad, my grandfather and his father, a Prussian immigrant, were all self-employed, as am I. But this is becoming more and more difficult.
For example, my husband is a chef at a small, quaint, independently run French restaurant in Boulder. Across the street are two restaurants that I believed to be in the same boat…until it was discovered they are owned by Chipotle and have a $100,000 marketing budget per year. Who can compete with that? Well, I know he can because he’s awesome, but it isn’t easy. Especially when so many small businesses are getting pushed out because of the incredulous high monthly rent of $45-$70 per square feet that only corporate owned restaurants and retail operations can afford. And a bank. Let’s not forget that the historic Boulder Café is now the Boulder One Café - One as in Capital One.
Now. I realize these things may not bother other people. I’ve never liked trends, and Pearl Street is obviously all about the hip and trendy. But it’s exactly these small-scale problems that feed larger ones. In some way, all the suffering of late, is interconnected, though easily disguised. Even as I write this, I think I’ve only skimmed the surface and honestly, feel as if I have no idea what I’m talking about.
But I do feel that the problems that exist, be it environmental issues, gun control, health care, income inequality, opioid addiction, corporate media, racism, sexism, violence, (the list goes on), are all part of a larger, systemic issue. A sickness. Bandaging a broken finger won’t stop a bone disease. How to pinpoint the problems leading to this sickness aren’t clear, but we can start by asking questions and examining the role corporations play in each of these issues. We can read reliable, *fair news and turn off corporate media. We can support one another. And we can be aware of the tides that try to pull us apart, separate us and manipulate our thinking. We can investigate. We can be aware of how labels are used against us. We can access the great music out there and turn off ad-infested radio. We can support small businesses. We can fight for a better quality of life for all. We can tune into our own creative individual power that transcends the problems of this world. And we can appreciate that sometimes small really is beautiful.
*A good place to start is by signing up for FAIR - https://fair.org/