Power

Putting mega-corporations back in their box

Global elites are concentrating power in multi-national corporations like never before. It has reached critical levels. Corporations now regularly overpower democratic governments and set their own terms of trade and taxation. Why? Because they are given special status by an economic system that prioritises money and profit over life. Private enterprise is a vital source of wellbeing but it must always be servant to the people, never master.  Equity and fairness will only win out over the single-minded hunger for profit when people regain democratic control over corporations.

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Balance private and public power

Right now, people who see their job as being to attract and protect material wealth, primarily to satisfy a need for social status and power, make more of the important decisions in the world than people whose job it is to protect and promote the public good. In other words, private interests trump public; the interests of the few trump the interests of the many. This is why we can’t get a global deal on climate change. It’s why military spending is so high; far higher than logic or even practicality demand; it’s why, in some places, there is such public turmoil over the minimum wage but near-silence on very low rates of capital gains taxes. Indeed, it’s why the system is bending ever more in favour of capital over people and the environment.

What governance structures could do to balance the equation is limit the size of private power. And they need to do it quickly because very soon the power to do so will be stripped from them entirely. If we wait too long, the only power left will be public revolt, and that will be a lot more dangerous, disruptive and bloody than the alternative we probably still have available to us.

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Trump: Join us in connecting the dots

The election of Donald Trump has left millions, maybe even billions of us in shock. Although we may be looking with bewilderment at the US today, we should remember that he is not an isolated phenomenon. He is a symptom of a sickness that is raging all around the world. People are hurting, disillusioned with mainstream politics and increasingly angry at a neoliberal economic system that is destroying lives and the planet with increasing ferocity. And in their desperation they are willing to consider extreme measures to make themselves heard.

Demagogues thrive amid fear and insecurity, which is why they paint the world in such dark terms. It’s a strategy that has put right-wing populist leaders in power in an Axis of Egos: from Brazil to Turkey, the Philippines to Russia, authoritarian strongmen like Trump are on the rise. Meanwhile, many centrist liberals, like the Democratic Party in the US, have been so intent on rejecting left-wing populist solutions, and so sure of their ability to beat anyone running on a white supremacy platform with its misogyny and homophobia, that they opened the door for Mr. Trump to walk straight through. Their preference is always to maintain the status quo that has served them so well.

As dangerous as the election of Trump is for the world, we can also see in this moment the truth that we simply cannot rely on the electoral political system to save us, because it is designed to prevent the fundamental change we need. Its own survival is at stake and it will marshal all its champions and resources to defend itself and stop the emergence of a new system. But when we work, or continue working for change from the ground up; when we build or keep on building new ways of living and being with each other where we live; when we construct or keep constructing the future we know is possible with our own hands, rather than hoping distant leaders will build it for us, we find our true power. Finally, when we combine that with the unbending hope that has powered change through the ages, we know our power has meaning.

A 400-year-old economic system is dying and another is struggling to be born. Change on this scale is not going to be smooth or easy. We should not be surprised, then, that moments like this — where the establishment is dealt a body blow — become more and more common. We can despair when that blow comes in the form of right-wing extremists, or we can step-up. We are the ones we are looking for, who can and must grasp the opportunities in these crises that are undoubtedly there.

So it’s time to come together, taking time to remember the earth. Remember all the successful struggles for justice that came before us, and imagine all those to come. Remember that social movements are growing all over the world and realising the common struggle. Remember life. Then, organise. Find each other and help midwife the inevitable transition that brings forth from the ashes of neoliberal capitalism a system that works for the good of all life on Mother Earth. This is not just activism; this is our responsibility as human beings alive as this all unfolds.

This is why we are here.