Dawn of a New Age

The cultural paradigm shift to modernism swept through the Western world during the industrial revolution in the 19th century. In America, modern society glorified itself as the leading edge of progress in an homogeneous culture guided by Christian values. Manifest destiny and divine providence provided moral imperatives for colonialism and cultural hegemony, and set the stage for corporate expansion in the 20th century. The presumptions of modernism catapulted America from the horse and buggy era of the wild west to the gas-guzzling opulence of a superpower.

The imperialist economic model served post-war America well during periods of corporate expansion. With international interests protected by puppet governments and the US military, and with domestic interests secured by indebted politicians, corporate America courted the expanding middle class with cheap oil and cheap commodities on the backs of underpaid labor and commandeered resources.

In today’s global community there are few opportunities to exploit underdeveloped countries without repercussion. Without colonial nations to exploit, corporations focused on resources closer to home; they cannibalized other corporations and exploited the credit reserves of the middle class to generate profits. Free market capitalism, a euphemism for unrestricted corporate capitalism, has demonstrated a blatant disregard for the rights of the people, developing countries, the environment, and in 2008, the corporate banking industry defrauded the market itself. The collapse of the banking industry threw the global economy into a devastating recession from which the industrialized world is still struggling to recover.

Homes and life savings were lost. The public was betrayed by the economic institutions and political establishment responsible for securing the commercialized American dream. Corporate capitalism went from supporting the rise of the middle class to becoming the instrument of its demise. With the middle class in jeopardy and the political process undermined by the virulent rhetoric of culture war, we find ourselves at a critical juncture in history where the democratic ideals and humanitarian values of modernism are on the chopping block.

Corporate banking and oil companies, without remorse for the inflated profits and risk-taking that precipitated the economic collapse, continued to report record profits while middle and working classes carried the burden. Working class conservatives found themselves trapped in poverty by the free market policies and political obstructionism of their elected politicians. They were waiting for a trickle down of riches while the rich just kept getting richer.  

The reckless business practices of underregulated corporations and corporate subversion of the political process through electioneering are issues that have gone largely unexamined behind the culture war smokescreen. Under the spell of right-wing media, middle America continues to believe their corporate overlords are benefactors even as they forfeit their rights and privileges and live with the consequences of corporate controlled government.

In a political shell game, working class conservatives are duped by the misdirection of culture war into blaming the political opposition for the inequities of free market capitalism. They buy into convoluted reasoning and betray their own democratic ideals to protect their traditional way of life. In turn, conservative politicians, elected to protect the prejudices of the working class, betray their voters as they become proxies for corporate sponsors.

Subjugated politicians showed their true colors when they stonewalled the legislative process and impeded the economic recovery during the Obama administration. At the crux of the impasse, Republicans in congress rejected political compromise as they represented corporate interests under the pretense of preserving Christian values and traditional way of life. Tea Party politicians in particular made every effort to disrupt the political process and limit the ability of congress to legislate corporate reforms.

The era of corporate expansion, consumer hedonism and cultural hegemony is over. A new age is dawning as social media takes over as the voice of the people. In the post-consumer techno-social era, manipulation of the political process cannot so easily be hidden by the diversionary tactics of culture war. The pious personas of faith-based politicians have become transparent facades for wily opportunists willing to do whatever it takes to stay in power -- including selling out to corporate interests.

This realization has to be sobering for working class conservatives willing to look beyond the rhetoric of Fox news and hate radio. Do they acknowledge the hypocrisy of morality-based culture war and inequities of corporate-controlled government and look for reconciliation through the democratic process, or do they continue to support trickle down and laissez faire economic policies in a misguided attempt to recapture the prosperity and values of an earlier time?

As voters join in the struggle against corporate-controlled government, there will be opportunities for ideological change. If the corporate power structure that has taken control of government can be coerced into releasing its chokehold on the political process, a true free market economy is waiting to emerge in support of private enterprise in the global marketplace. This is in contrast to the long-standing ideology that equates progress with corporate expansion.

The priorities of for-profit corporations are based on accruing power and maximizing short term profits. Responsibilities lie with investors, not consumers. There is no underlying sense of fair play. The golden rule ethics of small business are missing. Small business capitalism, where proprietors court their customers and serve the interests of the community, integrates democratic ideals into its practices.

The goal is to nurture the internet-engaged culture that has surfaced in the confluence of culture war, recession and social media. It is the rising swell of a sea change that will redefine the modern world. It is America’s opportunity to establish the economic model for the new paradigm and ride the wave of prosperity through the 21st century. The transition is from a majority culture whose consumer myths have gone belly up to a global community with an internet-active marketplace where everyone enjoys a common range of middle class privileges in multicultural society. With the introduction of high tech and internet markets, small business capitalism becomes the model for an equitable capitalist society capable of supporting the needs of an increasingly diverse multicultural society.

The nature of the marketplace is changing in response to new technologies and consumer trends. As multicultural society expresses its identity through niche markets in the high tech economy, it has the potential to generate a renaissance for small business (the true engine of the American economy) and reaffirm our values as a democratic capitalist society. Let the innovation and competition of private enterprise, independent entrepreneurs and startups refocus the economy and serve as proving ground for corporatization in the future.

Consumerism and culture war played important roles in the corporate rise to power. They remain integral features of corporatized society. During the uphill battle we face today, consumerism will have less of an influence on the psychology of the swing voter. Culture war continues to be an effective political strategy for manipulating lower socioeconomic classes, but for the moment at least, the right-wing agenda has been marginalized. There is a chink in the armor of the corporate power structure; they are vulnerable to the vote as society comes together through social media.

Unfortunately, with the legalization of corporate sponsored electioneering (corporate personhood), it will be increasingly difficult to elect a government that is not controlled by corporate interests. Without a sustained effort to curb the belligerence of big business, the entrepreneurial spirit we so proudly attribute to the free market economy will continue to be suppressed, the disparity in wealth between the capital elite and the rest of society will continue to increase and our rights and opportunities will continue to be forfeited to quarterly profits.