Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Corporate Dystopia Clouds Our Future

Magicians are often not very politically motivated since they have their feet in both the physical world and the spirit world, and attempting to manage both can be an arduous challenge at the very least. This might not be true of all magicians, but it is probably true of many of them, and this includes me. However, sometimes I find that I do stir from my self-absorbed catalepsy of occult ruminations and take a hard look at the world around me. I have to say that I often don’t like what I see going on in the US, or for that matter the world. It might even make me want to disengage and go back to my little private world. Yet sometimes I just have to express my outrage at the mendacity, moral myopia and ethical dyslexia that seems to be shaping our collective future from behind the scenes, that is, unless the common people wake up and realize that they are being slowly and certainly enslaved by greedy corporations and the wealthy power-elite.

The middle class of this country is being rapidly eroded and weakened to the point where it might even disappear. Even though I have a good paying job, I still don’t have the purchasing power that my father had when he was my age. This is the first time since the end of the depression where the sons and daughters of working class families have achieved less than their parents. I cannot even begin to talk about some of these changes because they are so sufficiently complex, subtle, long-term and so overwhelmingly ubiquitous. Most of these changes do not bode well for the middle class.

Pensions, which once were the financial foundation ensuring that those who had retired would be guaranteed to have something to live on, have become nearly extinct, and corporate sponsored healthcare benefits are merely insurance policies against catastrophic illness, if even that. Our much ballyhooed 401K retirement investment accounts, which were supposed to replace pensions, were not the protected assets steadfastly accumulating for our day of retirement. Once pensions became market driven retirement “investments,” they became nothing more than ready cash for the ultra-wealthy Wall Street power brokers to use in their greedy manipulations of the market. The debacle of the 2008 real-estate bubble collapse caused trillions of dollars to evaporate from those investment portfolios, leaving the common masses with little or nothing. The bankers were bailed out by the government and never prosecuted, and we, the little people, were screwed out of our retirement investments. Many of us will not be able to retire until we are older than 65. I am not planning on retiring until I am at least 70 in the hopes that I can regain what I lost and keep myself out of poverty when I am no longer employable. As a contrast, my father retired early when he was just 60, and is still living comfortably off of his pensions and retirement accounts. (I will turn 60 next year, and I am far from being able to retire.)   

What many of us younger folk have forgotten is that what built the middle class and empowered people of modest means were a combination of the unions spearheading the labor movement along with a government that was friendly and aligned with them. This relationship was cemented in the FDR administration during the great depression, and it was that relationship (via The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938) which gave the workers a five day, 40 hour work week, paid vacation, overtime pay, pensions, health benefits, and most importantly, a living wage. When I was a child, the unions were considered the “good guys” who kept corporations from rolling over and dominating the working class. Sometimes the unions seemed too powerful and a few of them became quite corrupt, having been infiltrated by organized crime syndicates. Yet despite these problems, the unions were once so important that both the Democrats and the Republicans courted them and sought their help in electing their anointed politicians.

Now in the 21st century, unions are steadfastly declining, and so, I might add, is the ability of the working class to negotiate with large corporations. I might also add that whole job categories that were invented after WWII have been able to omit any union representation. This is particularly true of the IT profession, where whole companies could exist without any union representation whatsoever. It may have seemed superfluous during the boom years of the 1990's when IT pay advanced more rapidly than nearly any other job class, but that boom ended later in the next decade when whole company departments were off-shored to China and India. Suddenly, scores of IT professionals became part of the hosts of the chronically underemployed, and those who were lucky, sufficiently advanced in their career or too invested in business processes to be off-shored managed to survive. Would unions have made a difference in what happened? Probably not, but the unions of the 1950's and 1960's would have been able to beat back the trend. Unions today have been successfully reduced in power, prestige and have lost many of their allies in government. 

Corporations are responsible for the demise of the unions, that is, corporations and their bought and paid-for allies in both the national and local governments. Some States in the US have enacted “right to work” laws that have helped corporations destroy unions and keep non-union factories and businesses from forming them. They are using propaganda, fear of job loss, or sometimes just simply off-shoring an entire manufacturing plant to Asia where the labor is cheap and unions non-existent. Corporations have rigged the economic system so that they receive massive subsidies, legalized tax evasion schemes and even compelled their labor force to augment their earnings with food stamps and Medicaid. They have also made it more difficult for individuals of modest means to join their ranks. The great upward mobility of the 1950's through the 1980's has essentially ended. Some might still make it, but only at the behest and inclusion by the corporate power-brokers. The rest of us are locked into a system that keeps us from ever being able to better ourselves. We are blocked from attending the prestigious high-priced universities and colleges because of the crushing debt that achieving these higher degrees now entail. The various avenues of mobility that once existed no longer exist. We live in a time that is differentiated by the consolidation of the “haves” at the expense of the “have nots.” Correspondingly, income inequality is now at an all time high not seen since the late 19th century.

Do you think that I am making all of this up just to attack free market capitalism and thereby show my socialist underpinnings? Just read this article, part of which I have quoted here, and see the evidence that large corporations are gaming the system and engorging themselves on government subsidies. They, instead of the poor, are the real welfare queens. You can find that article here.

Good Jobs First shows that the world’s largest companies aren’t models of self-sufficiency and unbridled capitalism. To the contrary, they’re propped up by billions of dollars in welfare payments from state and local governments.

Such subsidies might be a bit more defensible if they were being doled out in a way that promoted upstart entrepreneurialism. But as the study also shows, a full ‘three-quarters of all the economic development dollars awarded and disclosed by state and local governments have gone to just 965 large corporations’—not to the small businesses and startups that politicians so often pretend to care about.

In dollar figures, that’s a whopping $110 billion going to big companies. Fortune 500 firms alone receive more than 16,000 subsidies at a total cost of $63 billion.”

Mitt Romney told a heckler back in the 2012 presidential election that corporations were people, and the US Supreme court seems to agree with that sentiment. The implications of that cultural shift are pretty easy to understand if we think about them long enough. We are becoming a nation where the corporations rule and we, the people, are made powerless and disenfranchised. One billionaire recently suggested that the ultra-rich should be given more than one vote commensurate with their wealth. Maybe some day the wealthy elite will decide that democracy is too messy and unpredictable, and that laws, policies and decisions that affect the local as well as the national arena should be made by the ultra-rich and the corporations, and not the common people. If you listen to what some of the wealthy plutocrats are saying as well as what the corporate backed politicians of the Republican party (and even some of the Democrats) are promoting then it doesn’t seem far-fetched that a corporatist take-over of this country is not only possible, but is, in fact, already occurring.

One of my favorite TV shows is playing around with this idea. It’s called “Continuum” and even though it is basically a low budget science fiction series, it has some pretty interesting ideas. Here are a couple of quotations taken from Wikipedia that give an overview and an outline to the basic plot of this series.

The series centers on the conflict between a group of rebels from the year 2077 who time-travel to Vancouver, BC, in 2012, and a police officer [Kiera Cameron] who accidentally accompanies them. In spite of being many years early, the rebel group decides to continue its violent campaign to stop corporations of the future from replacing governments, while the police officer endeavours [sic] to stop them without revealing to anyone that she and the rebels are from the future.”

Every episode begins with the plot of the show narrated by a voiceover from the point of view of Kiera Cameron.

    ‘2077. My time, my city, my family. When terrorists killed thousands of innocents, they were condemned to die. They had other plans. A time travel device sent us all back 65 years. I want to get home but I can't be sure what I will return to if history is changed. Their plan, to corrupt and control the present in order to win the future. What they didn't plan on was me!’

City Protective Services (CPS) law enforcement officer Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) lives a quiet, normal life with her husband and son in 2077-era Vancouver. Under the corporatocratic and oligarchic dystopia of the North American Union and its ‘Corporate Congress’, life goes on in apparent freedom under a technologically advanced high-surveillance police state.

When a group of anarcho-socialist self-proclaimed freedom fighters known as ‘Liber8' escape execution by fleeing to the year 2012, Kiera is involuntarily transported with them into the past. Joining with Detective Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster) and the Vancouver Police Department, and enlisting the help of teen computer genius Alec Sadler (Erik Knudsen), Kiera works to track down and thwart Edouard Kagame (Tony Amendola) and his followers in the present day while concealing her identity as a time-traveller from the future.

Kagame and the members of Liber8 plot to alter the past to avert the rise of what they see as a dictatorial and Orwellian corporate regime to be stopped at all costs. Meanwhile, Kiera learns that Alec is none other than Alec Sadler, future corporate mogul and head of SadTech, one of the mega-corporations that dominate the world in 2077.

Fighting to return home to her family, Kiera finds that her presence in 2012, and that of the members of Liber8, may be no accident at all.”        

The really odd thing about this series is that the character Kiera is initially shown as being the typical good cop fighting despicable and evil terrorist bad guys. However, as the series moves along, it becomes clear that the future world that Kiera is fighting to preserve is really a terrible corporatist dystopia, where the working class has been completely absorbed and enslaved by corporations that hold absolute power. It is an artificial world where consumerism is captivated and kept solidly in place while the disempowered common working classes are forced to stay in line by an overpowering police state. Does this seem like a far-fetched science fiction fantasy or does it seem like a warning of what might happen in the next century? If we give up our rights for security and a piece of the economic pie then the future will be a lot like the TV show “Continuum,” but probably even darker.

Even though an occultist and a ritual magician has to balance two worlds against each other, and often seems to be absorbed in arcane studies and practices, it is important to also be aware of what is going on in the world. It is important for the erstwhile occultist to never give up his or her rights and privileges that made the middle class a great power in this country in the first place. Whatever you do in your studies and practices, make certain that you also stay tuned to what is going on around you and also vote in every election. Keep engaged with the world around you. Remember that even one vote might make the difference between a positive future outcome and one that is doomed. Otherwise, why would the rich and powerful be so adverse to any form of democracy? Because it is our one last power that we can collectively use to shape our own future.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. Wow, you hit the nail on the head! Good article. Continuum sounds great too, but not sure if it is available in the U.S. I'll have to see if it is available on DVD.

  2. Hi Nectanebus - the TV show can be viewed on Netfix, Huluplus, and also on the SciFi channel when the new season starts this month.