Americans live in a country lorded over by corporate and banking power. Our big business culture is accompanied by a pervasive and extraordinarily expensive military dominating the globe, ensuring our economic hegemony and protecting our interests. Meanwhile, there is a steady push to privatize as much of the public sector for private profit as achievable, especially in the education sphere.
In addition, the intelligentsia, the hipsters and the most progressive people embrace the corrupt company that is Apple; we are seduced by the beautiful functionality and design of its products, ignoring the fact that Apple is a corporation that is not friendly to America. Despite its rank at the top of the most profitable corporations, Apple gives almost no money to charity—a legacy of Steve Jobs—and as Business Insider describes
: Apple avoids $17 million in taxes everyday "through a ballsy... tax avoidance scheme."
As consumers we often shop and eat at huge companies like Walmart, Dardens and McDonald's—companies that don't pay their employees living wages, or remotely what they could, given the historic profits they're earning
The exploitative power of the virulent strain of American capitalism is meticulously documented in countless articles, books and documentaries, capturing the thousands of ways the U.S. is an outlier compared with other advanced nations. Vast amounts of our federal budget is devoted to the military, instead of supporting people in need. American companies produce arms and weapons for people, ethnic tribes and countries battling and killing each around the world, while making and selling guns by the millions so people can shoot each other in unprecedented numbers at home. Our penal system by is far the largest in the world, and continues to expand — and privatize— so that our prison population is now over 2.4 million people
The American capitalist juggernaut seems to gather more steam every day, effectively using its Tea Party shock troops in Congress to stymie even the most modest and humane policies, and leveraging a vast array of resources and political influence to protect its interests at every turn.
The Power of Disruption
"Fighting the power," as people used to say, is no easy task. Victories are hard to come by and can quickly slide away because the power establishment of money, lobbying, lawyers, PR machines and out-and-out corruption are like Neil Young's rust: they never sleep.
Often the most effective approach people can take to make the system more equitable is to disrupt it—to force a temporary changing of patterns, expose wrongdoing and spread the word, so some of the contradictions are exposed. Then maybe a change can be achieved, or a harm mitigated, even if temporarily. There is a long history of disrupters of many stripes in America, more recent examples being the Merry Pranksters
and the environment warriors, Monkey Wrenchers
As we know, new technology has long had various disruptive effects on the status quo and brought vast new forms of communication (and unfortunately, spying), while creating a whole new gaggle of obscenely rich people. But the hope that many had for the democratization impact of technology has proven to primarily be a false one, as technology's primary focus seems to be watching everything we do, everywhere we go—there is no escape.
People often say that sunshine is the best disinfectant. Well, perhaps it can get the ball rolling. But knowing is not changing. Change takes resources, organizing and strong spines. Serious organizing in America has mostly disappeared, replaced by the mentality that signing a petition is effort enough. That may give people a sense of participation, but it rarely translates to systemic change.
1. Edward Snowden, chief disruptor.
There is little doubt that the chief disruptor of our system in 2013 was (and still is) Edward Snowden, whose treasure trove of memos, PowerPoints and classified documents has exposed an all-powerful technological spying machine. Working with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, and in turn journalists from many other media organizations, we now know amazing amounts of information about just how intrusive and widespread our government's spy system is.
Many other countries and their leaders are irate. Some American tech companies claim to be upset as well. We shall see whether all this exposure leads to any significant reform. Unfortunately, just letting the world know how screwed up things are can just as easily make people give up, get depressed, and become docile, as move people to some kind of action. The massive security apparatus of the U.S. seems to be far beyond any reform, if President Obama and the Democrats were ever serious about it, which they don't seem to be. What do they have to gain by reforming this system?
2. Bill de Blasio: mayor of potential disruption.