Democracy = Choosing What Soda to Buy

“What remains of democracy is to be construed as the right to choose among commodities. Business leaders have long explained the need to impose on the population a “philosophy of futility” and “lack of purpose in life,” to “concentrate human attention on the more superficial things that comprise much of fashionable consumption.” Deluged by such propaganda from infancy, people may then accept their meaningless and subordinate lives and forget ridiculous ideas about managing their own affairs. They may abandon their fate to the wizards, and in the political realm, to the self-described “intelligent minorities” who serve and administer power.” – Noam Chomsky on the Death of Democracy

Democracy ought to allow citizens to choose between right and wrong. Citizens of a representative democracy  like the United States ought to have the power to choose between war and peace, between prosperity and ruin, and between hope and fear.  Yet it seems now that corporations and private interests dictate whether we go to war, whether our economy will thrive, and whether we will have a bright future. The tiny fragment of democracy that the people still possess is the ability to choose between different products. We can’t choose war or peace, but we can choose Coke or Pepsi.

Multinational corporations are no longer satisfied with control of our wallets, they want our hearts as well. Chomsky is no wild-eyed lunatic, he is an esteemed professor who writes with reason. He argues that there is a kind of conspiracy to trick the public into thinking that their only purpose is to consume the goods and services that corporations provide for a fee. Any desire to grow as an individual, to raise a caring family, or to inspire goodness in the community should be nipped in the bud before it interferes with materialist goals.

One would expect Americans to protest against such an insidious threat to their collective freedom. Yet we are exposed to mass media beginning in infancy that manipulates the very process of our thought. Chomsky uses the metaphor of a deluge or flood to illustrate how widespread and all-encompassing this problem is. Another metaphor that might serve to bolster the point is that of a virus. A virus is tiny enough, subtle enough to sneak through the pores of our skin. It docks on the surface of innocent, healthy cells. It assumes control and direct cells to generate more viruses. The cell produces more and more viruses until it bursts open, sending viruses of in all directions to repaet the process on more healthy cells. Advertising affects us so much that after we hear a commercial and act on it, we become the commercial, telling our friends to buy this new product that we like so much.

Chomsky says, “they accept their meaningless and subordinate lives.” This is nothing less than hell on earth. When we live lives of slaves, toiling endlessly without purpose, how can that state be called freedom? It might be noble to suffer for the sake of some worthy cause or ideal, but what about suffering with no meaning? I would argue that such a state is even worse than Hell because at least in Hell, one is atoning for past misdeeds. To toil endlessly in servitude for no purpose is torture.

“And forget ridiculous ideas about managing their own affairs. . .” People have ceded control over their lives to government, corporations, and others. The idea that an American adult should make her own decisions and accept responsibility for them is not just passe, it’s absurd.

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