Okay, I admit that I’m prone to dark pessimism and apocalyptic thought, but with today’s Supreme Court decision I can’t help but feeling that we’re witnessing the beginning plot points of some dark, dystopian cyber-punk novel coming to life. In effect, the Supreme Court has now granted corporations the freedom to use unlimited money to support and oppose candidates and legislation of their choice. Tell me I’m over-reacting here. With this decision it is now going to become exceedingly difficult for individuals and small activist groups to get any representation whatsoever as they simply do not have the economic means to compete with these forces.

But the situation is worse than this. Many, I’m sure, will grant that Obama has been a tremendous disappointment in this first year of his presidency. On just about every issue he has advocated center-right policies that disproportionately benefit large moneyed interests. Many are feeling as if he was a Trojan horse, but I’m not sure this is entirely the case. The issue seems to be less about Obama the person and whatever ideology he advocates (who knows what that might be at this point), but about certain constitutive structural issues organizing Washington. Reflecting on the failure of Hillary Clinton’s attempts at health care reform during the 90s, this administration and congress, I suspect, have felt as if they’ve had to walk on egg shells and make crap deals with the private sector lest they unleash the dogs of war in the form of ad campaigns that destroy any legislation whatsoever they attempt to pass. This is a good deal of what happened under Clinton’s watch with the notorious anti-healthcare ads.

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If my read is right, this situation is going to become exponentially magnified as a result of this new ruling such that all politicians will constantly have to walk on eggshells lest they earn the wrath of these extremely wealthy interests. Yes, yes, this is nothing new, but it’s going to get much worse. In my view we’re living in a critical time with respect to the environment and energy issues. Changes need to be made now if economic, environmental, and military disaster is to be averted in the not too distant future. This now is going to be exceedingly difficult to accomplish in any sort of meaningful way. Folks will say “but we haven’t lost our freedom of speech, we can still use the internet, we can still organize.” However, keep in mind that the communications corporations have been working diligently to control the internet and internet forms of communication and that with this ruling this task will become all the easier for them. Venues such as this might not be available as means of organization and spaces of countering reigning distortions of facts in the near future. But perhaps I’m just exaggerating, blowing things out of proportion, and it’s not as bad as all this.

Nonetheless, I keep thinking about how the change from feudal economy to capitalist economy took place during the Enlightenment. You had the emergence of a new class that accumulated massive wealth as a result of trade while meanwhile the aristocracy increasingly lost their wealth. As in all cases where groups get a bit of money in their pocket, they wanted a bigger piece of the pie where governance was concerned and the aristocracy and church couldn’t argue as their wealth had become so deflated and they were now relying on this class for their own livelihood. The great democratic revolutions were basically just the dotting of the i’s and the signing of the papers in a process that had already been well under way for a long time.

Are we witnessing something similar today with the corporations? With the rise of the multi-national corporation the nation-state has increasingly become an endangered species as these institutions are fluid and porous, being tied to no particular geography, and therefore becoming sovereign entities in their own right. Because they are tied to no particular geography (being multi-nationals and all), they also are bound by no particular constitution or set of legal constraints. Additionally, should state based officials attempt to heavily regulate these institutions they find that their days are numbered because the corporation can just pick up its ball and move elsewhere, thereby taking away jobs as well and thereby imperiling the re-election of the official. Their only choice is to suck it up and eat the shit-sandwich of the corporation. So increasingly the notion of representative politics disappears or becomes erased altogether. Hell, these institutions (I guess we’re supposed to call them “persons” now as they have free speech) even have their own private armies. Blackwater, for example, is 20,000 strong in Colorado, with its own artillery, helicopters, armored vehicles, and so on. And perhaps one of the most frightening things I’ve ever heard about Blackwater is that they only contribute to one political party, the Republicans. What kind of corporation doesn’t hedge its bets? It’s not unlikely that all these institutions, at some point, will all have their own private armies. I remember clearly visiting my father at his office one day, a highly placed pharmaceutical research institution, and encountering a swath of guards with menacing looking automatic weapons hung from their shoulders. “What’s your business here son?”, a hand resting lightly on the dark, well-oiled device of destruction. Later, when I finally got to my father, he said “you can’t just come here like this, it’s dangerous.”

With the end of constitutional orders, should this occur, what will our new world look like. We won’t, for example, be citizens of anything any longer. Perhaps instead of being citizens tied to a geography we will instead become share holders, members, or workers of corporations that form a new type of politics that we can scarcely imagine or understand within the framework of our current traditions and assumptions and where political conflict becomes some strange conflict among corporate entities attempting to maximize their share of the market and the resources. In some respects this could be a promising future as perhaps it would lead to something like international law and representation, allowing for the founding of a new common where we no longer thought in terms of national interests (“it’s good for ‘Merica, who the hell cares if it screws the rest of the world!”) but instead think in terms of global interests. But somehow I doubt it. Call me cynical. Most fundamentally, however, when such powerful and wealthy groups control the flow of information, what gets heard, are capable of drowning everything else, or, at the very least, are capable of making us believe that all information is already contaminated and false, representing some disguised nefarious interest such that we can trust nothing, are capable of criminalizing forms of organization like unions, and when they control governmental representation, how is it possible to fight back in any meaningful way. I remember that really awful science fiction film with Emilio Estevez and Mic Jagger, Freejack. In this dark future the corporations controlled everything. The people at the feet of the great sky scrapers scurried about with no representation or power whatsoever. Whereas the people in the sky scrapers controlled everything. Is that where we’re heading or do I need to lay off the cyber-punk dystopian novels?