So the wild west was won by the forces of law and order, lo and behold the US became, well the US. It saw how good was idea of private enterprise when backed up by muscle prepared to do violence and decided to dress it up as democracy for the rest of the world. They even erected a statue supposedly symbolising the eternal nature of individual liberty. Then they gave us Facebook.
Well to be fair they also gave us Microsoft, Apple and Google, as well as Oracle and IBM. Bastions of entrepeneurial success and validation of the system of private enterprise. Yay team! So confident was the US in its model they even believed that modernising China and sending all their hitech comapnies over there to make even more money would only ever be a good thing. The rest of the world couldn’t wait to join the party.
But somewhere along the way, the government of the people by the people and for the people got lost. Maybe it was never there, those were just some nice sounding words a politician used to “connect” with the people. But at least there did exist the idea that in a democracy people had some agency in deciding what affected them, even if it was reduceable to a simple choice between tweedledee and tweedledum.
Lately there has been a bit or talk about so-called antipolitics, a apparently widespread phenomenon whereby voters in modern democracies are apparently not interested in voting for either tweedledee or tweedledum, opting instead to vote for the jokers in the pack or not voting at all. Democracy is apparently in crisis with our political institutions seemingly irrelevant to the rest of our lives.
Still life goes on. People eat and sleep while the wheels of industry keep on trucking. Last time I looked belief in the institution of money was pretty strong. It seems to have no problem in convincing people of its relevance to the rest of our lives.
And then there are the new masters. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple. These companies are effectively above the laws created by the rest of us, their wealth largely untaxed and their capacity to do things that affect us grows every time someone likes something or asks a question or connects to a friend. Not only do we have no power in this relationship, the state which one could argue is supposed to protect our interests is instead only interested in exploiting the modern panopticon in the interests of law and order. The regressive nature of such actions should be obvious to any child over the age of 5.
We need to be utterly clear about this. Google is not our friend, it does evil. Facebook likewise. They have graduated from the hardware/software moguls like Microsoft and Apple that merely tried to lock us into using certain things. Now not only do we have to battle what we use or how we use the tools of the so-called information age, we also have to do battle with those who seek to control how we think and about what we think.
And just in case this is seen as some kind of extremist libertarian ratbaggery, consider the views of Jay Rosen or look at what happens when Greenpeace crosses the mighty Shell. The internet age heralds no new dawn for freedom.
Worse still, the demise of the idea of democracy in the mind of people reinforces a prevailing sense of powerlessness. There is some connection between the rise of companies who are effectively beyoond our control and the demise of democratic government although its exact nature is obscure. My suggestion is to follow the money. Look at who wins even if the method is odscure.