For good and bad, the family with which we must now identify is the global one. Few communities operate in isolation in a world interlinked by technology, trade, and politics. Some would argue that globalization, as was chronicled in Part I of this series, has so far primarily served just the powerful multinational corporations. As national economies increasingly intertwine, we may legitimately worry
that the corporatocracy will only gain in strength as a worldwide force and continue to do little to alleviate human suffering, poverty, and inequality. Several influences, however, are coinciding and may
allow for significantly better distribution of power and resources. At a time when a monstrous gap exists between the haves and have-nots, we may have reason to believe that benevolent change is store.
Polarizing Agendas Across Industries
Before I document the various influences that may help reorient power, we must gain a sense of what is at stake besides disparity of wealth. Currently, a huge polarity of agendas coexist. On one end of this
spectrum lay an efficient, yet old form of operation influenced greatly by the need to maximize corporate size and profits. On the other end exists a tide of mostly grassroots interests intent to meet
the needs increasingly ignored by big business and politics, as well as to help alleviate the dire ecological costs resulting from the industrial revolution.
Let us first look at the food industry. Over the course of the last few decades, the industry has been overtaken by huge corporations that have made farming a manufacturing machine of profit. Its overuse of preservatives, pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones, in conjunction with marketing and political lobbying, has resulted in a convenience store and super market society selling much unhealthy,
addictive, and nutrition-starved food. With a growing worldwide population, this business model is not without merit. Corporations have maximized the efficiency of land by producing products larger in
size while decreasing overhead costs. But while quantity has been on the rise, wealth has been concentrated and quality has alarmingly plummeted. Meanwhile, farmers have been exploited, underpaid, and often put out of business.
To forward these trends, agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture, have been seduced by the corporatocracy, and often fail their responsibility to act as
independent advocates for American citizens. For example, “nine FDA scientists appealed to then president-elect Barack Obama over pressures from management, experienced during the George W. Bush presidency, to manipulate data.”
Meanwhile, an increasing number of people are educating themselves about such things. A growing consumer tide is choosing and even demanding organic and nutrition enriched products in local and
national food markets. In response, more nutritionally sensitive small businesses are springing up. Progress, however, remains slow while governmental subsidy programs are supporting conventional, not organic, farming.
This kind of polarization exists in most other industries as well, such as in health-care, energy, education, and the media, all of which tend to be greatly under-served by the corporatocracy. Although the tide of grass roots and citizen empowerment grows, popular beliefs are still greatly guided by conservative ideology and corporate special interests. The fields of medicine and health-care, arguably institutions that should not be in the hands of the private sector, have been increasingly overtaken by big business as well. This has resulted in a delivery of services heavily dependent on the increasingly controversial medical model.
“Out-of-control” costs of procedures and prescription drugs exist, while medications are often over prescribed and effectively pushed onto the populace through heavy marketing and the wooing of
physicians. Very little attention is paid in formalized education about affordable forms of practice and treatment that can be preventative and life-enhancing. On their own, more people are adopting lifestyles based on healthy nutrition and the incorporation of mindfulness and energy based practices such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong, reiki, ayurveda, massage, acupuncture, polarity therapy, herbal supplements and remedies, and meditation.
Incidentally, the FDA continues its attempt to up its policing of natural products and supplements. Currently, such products cannot make health claims (about treating, preventing, or curing diseases).
This effectively keeps ”legitimized” medicine safely in the hands of the pharmaceutical industry. For decades, serious conflicts of interest claims have been leveled against the FDA. USA Today report
concluded that large percentages of FDA “experts,” who serve on advisory committees to shape drug policy and treatment have financial interests in the drug companies that manufacture the drugs being
Fortunately, the Western field of medical research and practice, which includes the use of harmaceutical agents, continues to is make important strides. This is creating hope for a world desperately in need of services to address physical and mental health issues and maladies. Such promise will be less realized without significant shifts in the way in which services are rendered and the way private interest groups operate. Certainly the field of mental health has benefited from the development of psychotropic medications to help stabilize psychosis, mood disorders, and anxiety. But many of these medications, like other Western treatments, act aggressively to suppress symptoms. Therefore, they do not cure and typically provoke adverse side effects.
Meanwhile, big oil, big auto, and energy companies operating as monopolies continue their entrenchment in the economy. Such industries have worked in tandem with state, national, and
international politics. Such industries, however, are experiencing severe identity crises. The auto industry required a massive bailout, unfortunately with not enough requirement for reform. I personally
have a very difficult time believing that, with the human level of technological know-how that exists on this planet, we can only ask auto makers to update their 2015 pollution-creating products to provide 31.6 miles per gallon. And yet, conservatives continue to complain about the high costs of such policy. At the same time, high fuel prices, which temporarily aid the private companies, are stimulating consumer and business hopes for cost-effective, if not cleaner, alternatives that have been long resisted by the establishment.
The Establishment’s Pyramid of Power
We can characterize the imbalance of world power as operating as a large hierarchy with stratified classes up and down a pyramid. Through this, a small minority, existing behind the scenes and at the
very top, have controlled the moves in the game of power politics, military might, and worldly commerce. Such decisions significantly impact all levels but primarily benefit those at the top and near the top, such as as the super wealthy with “old” money and connections and the more visible national and world leaders of politics and industry.
Much of the masses exist in slave-like fashion at the bottom rungs of this pyramid. As its name suggest, the middle class, which has significantly diminished in America, lies somewhere in the middle or
even lower. Because those at the top of the hierarchy have built and maintain their power through established industry, change is slower than needed. Instead of adapting, progressive agendas are not only ignored, but even demonized, by the chain of establishment.
With considerable influence and wealth, celebrities represent an interesting aspect of this hierarchy. They operate at a higher level than the middle class but lower than the established, super wealthy
middle to upper, upper class. Celebrities are often used as marketing tools for the corporate world. When they became progressive or radical in the eyes of the establishment, their names are often
tainted and their exposure diminished. Popular culture, as a result, is now a hodgepodge of attractive, sometimes talentless, faces with little creative inclination. Movies and and television shows are
often over-formulaic so that profit can be better yielded and predicted and risk minimized.
Some, but still a relatively few, in the limelight serve as teachers, leaders, public television and radio reporters, comedians and talk show hosts, and independent artists to help enlighten the masses.
Most truth-telling and avant-garde folks, however, tend to go virtually unnoticed, as they exist somewhere in the fairly powerless middle class or even at the fringes of society.
Fortunately, the economic crisis has illuminated for many the ingrained problems of Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, and the agendas of the powerful. Arguably, the attitude of infallibility,
which has existed within these walls, is showing increased vulnerability. As one can witness, the fiscal stimulus responses have in part reflected desperation to patch, with golden-laced band-aids, the corporatocratic structure. While action may have been necessary, one can argue that such response has done little for long-term reform, appropriate investment, job creation, and middle class support.
The seeds of real reform, however, may have already been planted. Such reform may be helping to supplant or at least significantly reorient the structure of power this planet has experienced for centuries. Of course, certain hierarchically-arranged dynamics will remain appropriate and viable. New structures, though, are developing that may be more appropriate for humanity’s increasing empowerment as empowered individuals within a greater global family.
For example, Michael Bauwens calls the emergence of more horizontal interactions as a component of a peer-to-peer (P2P) paradigm most visible in social (internet based) but also economic relations.
Fortunately, the internet has been allowed to develop, in the “free-world,” with limited censorship. Its rise and horizontal reach may be one component of a yet-to-be formed global structure that might
be more flexible, flowing, and transparent. Although much of what we are exposed to on the internet remains heavily laced with “let me sell you what I have” consumerist energy, the world is being given a gift of freedom never before experienced.
Internet Cafe in China
The boundary-ignoring and ever-strengthening world-wide web is helping to facilitate new relations with greater potential to dissect previously segregated lines of culture, class, discipline, and institution. Access to information, the control of which has always been an integral means for the elite to maintain power and segregation, is loosening. This is despite attempts, many of which are still quite successful, to keep information secret and disinformation strong. Conditioning the masses by the established structures of power—through traditional forms of media, religion, education, and governance—is now more difficult.
Long standing and deeply entrenched businesses have been forced to restructure and appease an increasingly savvy consumer, whose power to seek has increased significantly. This has been interrelated with a severe blow to the economy that has reoriented the value of the dollar and encouraged citizens to sharpen the ways in which they consume. Old and new business are now more than ever challenged to be consumer efficient and friendly, while arguably less able to “fool” the populace with general, false, exaggeration, and/or fear or other emotion-based marketing.
New International Relations and the Inevitable Strengthening of Global
Bodies of Politic
Many are aware of the unbalanced relations between the more versus less powerful groups and nations during the advancement toward greater interrelatedness. Larger nations have given aid to third world
nations but have insisted on trade and political relations that could forward special interests and the opening of markets. This practice has been exploitative in many instances. This does not prove,
however, that globalization is without potential.
Consider the next-to-emerge, would-be-imperialist power, China. Theoretically, in an interdependent economy, one nation cannot act only out of self-interests. As recounted by economist Thomas Friedman, the world is now flat. He uses this expression in part the ”to describe convergence of technology and events [such as the internet’s rise] that allowed India, China, and other countries to
become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing, creating an explosion of wealth in the middle classes of the world’s two biggest nations, giving them a huge new stake in the success of
The expanding economies of China, India, and Brazil are depending heavily on the financial health of the West and will need to act in cooperative, not dominant, fashion. Of course, dominance has been a
visible trait across the risen and fallen empires of England, France, Spain, Germany, and many before them.
United Nations Headquarters 30/Dec/2005. UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto
Remember– economics precedes and fuels politics. It follows that as the world economy strengthens through interconnections, so should bodies of politic. As we evolve, old systems of handling problems no longer suffice. Therefore, economic and political relations must and will mature, albeit more slowly than many would like to see. Previously established global bodies, such as the United Nations and
its predecessor, the League of Nations, have had little influence over G8 nations. The interests of the United States, China, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, and the UK, and their internal puppet-masters, have overridden those of less industrialized nations and often even the general welfare of the G8 citizenry.
The tide of evolution and progress naturally produces a more expanded scope for humanity. As I have indicated, our species is now operating globally. Various philosophers, such as Ken Wilber, have convincingly argued that as a species evolves and develops more sophisticated institutions, it also develops more sophisticated pathologies. It is important to note that it is now common knowledge that we have manifested a severe global pathology known as the ecological crisis.
This level of awareness is still young but is increasingly difficult to disregard. In a segregated and hierarchical world, countries have little economic incentive to invest in change to help heal such pathology. This is so even when faced with the knowledge that the species might be threatening itself with extinction. It is only a matter of time before significant investment is made toward healing
global problems, as power goes beyond boundary and as responsibilities intersect. The question is how much damage will be done before such healing takes place.
The Psychological Catalyst
The structural changes described above are some of the many shifts that naturally coincide with the less visible psychological transition that might be taking place. I argue that the average level of human development is transitioning in an elevated stage. We may finally be moving out of a self-interested, ego-minded stage and into a more mature brand of awareness. If this is true, this collective evolutionary advance, with some individuals at either side of a spectrum of growth and maturity, elevates the center of gravity and allows for societal behavior with considerably more benign outcomes. If it is not true, there may not be enough reason to believe that the changes I listed above, such as technological and international political change and education, is enough to help alleviate global pathologies.
The simplest and most important difference between the two stages of development involves the varying sets of motivation that impact behavior. The stage under which the average earthly citizen has
operated for centuries, if not, thousands of years, has been at the egoic, or adolescent stage of development. With this orientation, people perceive reality individualistically and separately–with an
exaggerated level of individuation. When in its grip, egoic relating tends to lead to decisions that serve individual interests. While this can constructively promote competition, achievement, discovery,
and rationality, it can also lead to aggression, exploitation, waste, and greed.
As mentioned, humans have “higher” values when they advance beyond ego-development. If we are making an important evolutionary advance, then we can expect individuals, groups, businesses, and nations to act increasingly out of a motivation to do what is in the interest of the whole. At this level, we better recognize the interconnectedness of things and strive to find solutions that work for self and “other.” Our divisive polarized political ethos, with competing agendas on either ends of a spectrum, is an outward manifestation of the collective psychological transition from an old to a new stage of
This means that we have reason to believe that the more progressive agendas listed above and that have tended to exist just at grass roots levels, will inevitably be the more dominant and therefore
increasingly mainstream set of values. This will force businesses to change or will help supplant resistant ones with companies that are more mindful of employees; the environment; and the consumer’s health,
wellness, needs, and wants. With this kind of orientation, global bodies heal pathologies and respond to catastrophes, genocides, diseases, and other injustices.
As the century unfolds, popular beliefs will mature and the recognition of interconnected existence will be more commonplace. We should increasingly see the commonality across religious views and be
more tolerant and respectful of unique cultural expressions. And when mired in personal chaos, have faith that today’s suffering may indeed lead to days of greater justice for an increasingly interconnected
humanity that struggles to learn how to share wealth, resources, and respect. It, I believe, is the work of our generations.