Cynicism is Corporate America's Greatest Weapon: It's Time to Disarm It
Cynicism is Corporate America's Greatest Weapon: It's Time to Disarm It
By Richard Eskow / ourfuture.org
Aug 22, 2013

September’s coming up fast, and we know what that means. Soon Congress will be back in session and we’ll be inundated with fresh evidence that our democracy is broken. That makes this a good time to reflect on the powerful forces arrayed against the public interest – and to remind ourselves that they can still lose.

If you’re a citizen who’s willing to take action, you have more power than you realize.  As the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington approaches, it’s a good time to remember that, too.

Granted, my perspective may be a little skewed. I spent several years of my professional life working primarily behind the Iron Curtain – before, during, and after the fall of European Communism. That experience, for someone interested in economics, was something like what an astronomer might feel at the birth of a star.  And for anyone who believes in political activism, it was inspiring and enlightening.  In a few short months the impossible became the imaginable, the imaginable became an opportunity, and an opportunity was turned into the event that transformed the world.

The cynical view says that there were hidden forces behind that transformation. And it’s true: when it comes to the course of world events, the unseen is often far more significant than the seen. But who knows what we’re not seeing right now? How will we know how broad our horizons of opportunity are today unless we test them?

It’s easy to retreat into the idleness of the cynic, to become the kind of person essayist Sydney J. Harris once described as “prematurely disappointed in the future.” It’s easy – and it’s a mistake.

That’s not to deny the deep corruption in our system, or negate all we’ve learned about the hijacking of democracy and the loss of personal liberties. A small cadre (less than 0.01 percent of the population) contributed more than $1.6 billion to political campaigns last year (per the Sunlight Foundation), and probably provided the lion’s share of $350 million in campaign “dark money” as well. A mere six corporations control 90 percent of this nation’s media, leading to a frightening uniformity in the misinformation the public receives on everything from the social safety net to national security.

We’re not saying the situation isn’t dire. We’re saying we’ve overcome dire situations before. The forces arrayed against the public’s interests are frightening. But it’s worth reminding ourselves: They’re frightened of us, too.

That was reinforced by remarks Robert Johnson recently made in a video conversation with Dr. Cornel West. Johnson, an economist who leads the Institute for New Economic Thinking, described a recent meeting with some very senior Wall Street bankers who were well aware of the public’s hostility toward them. Added Johnson: “They are scared.”

Anyone who doubts that should read this report from DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy on the use of the national security apparatus to suppress the Occupy movement. The Department of Homeland Security created a number of anti-terror “fusion centers” around the country to integrate the Federal government’s various law enforcement and intelligence services.  The DBA/CMD report details the misuse of one such fusion center in Arizona, in collaboration with security officers at JPMorgan Chase, to forestall public demonstrations against Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

The report suggests that our national security system’s definition of “terrorism” has become so broad that it apparently now includes lawful and peaceful protests by citizens exercising their constitutional freedoms of speech and assembly. That seems like a sign of totalitarian behavior.

But it’s also a sign of fear.

Remember, the Occupy movement transformed the political landscape in just a few short months, shifting our national conversation from deficits to economic justice. Suddenly the president and his party were on fire with populist rhetoric, a move which may have ensured their electoral victory in 2012.

That demonstrated the power of mobilized citizens.

Earlier in the Obama Presidency, citizens flooded the White House and Congress with calls and emails objecting to Social Security cuts. Reports (later confirmed) had said that the President planned to announce Social Security cuts in his 2011 State of the Union message, but popular resistance put an end to that plan. So did interventions from unions and other groups representing the public.

That was a demonstration of citizen power, too.

Popular support for this nation’s independence was forged with demonstrations from the Boston Tea Party onward.  Demonstrations gave rise to the labor movement – and to the minimum wage, the forty-hour work week, and workplace safety laws. The Bonus Army’s Washington D.C. tent cities moved public opinion, and even helped inspire a strange Hollywood movie. They may have changed the outcome of the 1932 election and given us the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Pioneering feminist demonstrators, belittled by cheap entertainers in the 1960s, proved to be the leading edge of a transformative movement which altered our public and private lives.  The Stonewall “riots” of 1969 signaled the start of a gay rights movement that has profoundly affected both our culture and our politics. (A majority of Americans supports gay marriage, according to polls, up from 27 percent less than twenty years ago.)

Each of these dramatic outcomes was made possible by committed citizen-activists.

That’s why they’re frightened. That’s why they deployed the national security apparatus against the Occupy movement. That’s why they’re taking draconian steps against North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement.

Sometimes it begins with a demonstration, sometimes just with phone calls or emails to an elected official. But from the Triangle Shirtwaist marches to Hoovervilles, from women’s rights marches to civil rights sit-ins, progress has always begun with a handful of determined citizens. As Fall brings us the resumption of Washington’s “Grand Bargain” talks, will you be one of the them?

It’s true that cynicism is still an option.  But, as Henry Ward Beecher said, the cynic “is the human owl, vigilant in darkness and blind to light, mousing for vermin, and never seeing noble game.”

Beecher knew something about fighting cynicism.  He was the New England clergyman who backed causes so hopeless he was mocked for supporting them, causes like the abolition of slavery or giving women the right to vote.

They want you to think things are hopeless. “A true revolution of values,” said Dr. King, “will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.” Today that contrast is greater than at any time in modern history. But history shows us that pessimism and cynicism are fatal – and unforced – errors. They’re also betrayals of our duty: to future generations, to our fellow human beings, and to ourselves.

“Cynicism,” said Norman Cousins, “is intellectual treason.”

They were afraid of Occupy. They’re afraid of you. That’s because citizens have more power than we think. Their greatest weapon, the one weapon that’s even more powerful than a corrupt political process or a blinder-wearing, misleading media, is our own cynicism. We need to disarm it before it disarms us.

A mobilized public can change the world at any moment. Those who oppose your cause know that.

Do you?

 

Richard Eskow

Richard (RJ) Eskow is a well-known blogger and writer, a former Wall Street executive, an experienced consultant, and a former musician. He has experience in health insurance and economics, occupational health, benefits, risk management, finance, and information technology. Richard has consulting experience in the US and over 20 countries.

 

4.0 ·
1
Trending Today
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 8,078 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Deconstructing Hierarchies: On Contrived Leadership and Arbitrary Positions of Power
Colin Jenkins · 7,334 views today · Bosses don't grow on trees. They don't magically appear at your job. They aren't born into their roles. They are created. They are manufactured to fulfill arbitrary positions...
Trump Is a Symptom of a Sickness That Is Raging All Across The World
1 min · 6,416 views today · This is why we are here. And this is what we need to remember. 
Baraka (1992)
97 min · 4,512 views today · Featuring no conventional narrative, this film presents footage of people, places and things from around the world. From chaotic cities to barren wilderness, the movie takes...
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: Bracing for Trump's Anti-Worker, Corporate Agenda
Colin Jenkins · 3,153 views today · Rich people don’t have to have a life-and-death relationship with the truth and its questions; they can ignore the truth and still thrive materially. I am not surprised many...
The Myth of Romantic Love May Be Ruining Your Health
Susanne Vosmer · 2,493 views today · Romantic love in Western societies is often portrayed in a stereotypical way: two yearning halves, who search for each other to find their complete, original state. Few find...
What Is My Activism Really About? to Love, Serve and Remember
Tim Hjersted · 2,485 views today · I have made a promise to this world that I will carry with me to my last days. It is my vow to lessen the suffering of the world while I am here - it is to ensure that every...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,468 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Prophecy Delivered! Martin Luther King Jr. and the Death of Democracy
Reverend Osagyefo Sekou · 2,130 views today · “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Democracy is dead. It...
Trump: The Illusion of Change
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 2,087 views today · “Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.” — Wendell Berry
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 1,803 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
Thoughts on the Eve of the Trump Regime
Mark Corske · 1,739 views today · A blend of dread, disgust, rage, and despair for the future, all in a state of shocked disbelief—if you feel something like this facing the Trump regime’s ascent to power...
Why I Think This World Should End
4 min · 1,611 views today · Sorry if this offends you. - Prince Ea
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 1,181 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Stunning Photos By Alexander Semenov Showcase The Alien Beauty Of Jellyfish
Earth Porm · 737 views today · Jellyfish appear like beautiful aliens in Alexander Semenov’s photography, calling a new attraction to a magical species of marine life. Alexander Semenov is a marine...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 700 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 602 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Looking Forward to the Day That Nationalism Is as Reviled as Racism
Tim Hjersted · 527 views today · Nationalism is a form of geographical racism that makes some lives matter more than others, and explicitly justifies that logic without apology. While today, not even lying...
Positive Thinking in a Dark Age: A Guide to Gracefully Losing Faith in a Collapsing Dominant Culture
Jim Tull · 475 views today · I recall a Buddhist parable involving a stick that appears from a distance to be a snake, causing fear to rise in the perceiver. As the perception shifts upon closer...
Living Through an Age of Unraveling: Reflections as We Enter 2017
Martin Winiecki · 438 views today · “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.” ― R. Buckminster Fuller
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Cynicism is Corporate America's Greatest Weapon: It's Time to Disarm It