The system is essentially made of three parts. It is important that you identify them, before you can free yourself from their combined action.
1. the GOVERNMENT. Many of us grow in a society where the government is considered something necessary, useful, worth a lot of attention. It’s commonly assumed that the politicians in the government have the most important role in the society, because they are seen as “the ones” who are responsible to produce positive changes, and to create better life conditions for the citizens. I think that these expectations are largely unjustified.
Yes, the politicians impact a lot of things with their decisions, but the nature of their role is commonly misunderstood, and the importance of their role is excessively emphasized.
The politicians are mere movers of resources. All they do is to gather public money through the taxes and, after keeping a fraction to pay their comfortable salaries, they redistridute that money to the various sectors, using certain criteria (for example they give 20% to army, 15% education, 16% health care, 17% tourism…). This is their job, simply explained. Similarly to internet routers that route data to various computers, the politicians route public money to various sectors.
So the important question is: what criteria do they use to assign the money? How do they decide which sector deserves more, and which sector deserves less?
If they have good intentions (they work trying to serve the citizens), they assign the money according to what they think it’s best for the citizens. But even in this case, their perception of what the citizens need is usually distorted. Many politicians spend long hours in pompous palaces, do massive paperwork, get lost in the bureocracy. The more time they spend inside the government’s machinery, the more they get distant from the citizens. And not only they get lost in the bureocracy, they also get lost in ideologies (“we are democrats and you are republicans“), and get lost in the ego (“we and right and you are wrong“), as result their action becomes highly ineffective.
Then there are those who don’t have good intentions, and this is not a rare case. Many politicians enter the government paid by the citizens to serve the citizens, but end up working to serve themselves, instead. So the criteria they adopt to route the public money is to get as many personal advantages as possible. They give more to the institutions who work damaging the citizens (for example financing lotteries, cigarette producers, food corporations that use harmful chemicals), subtracting resources to the institutions who work for the citizens (like hospitals and schools). This way they get “favors”, usually money and power, from the institutions who work damaging the citizens.
In both cases consider that the government works on the principle of group consciousness: there will always be a number of its decisions that will go against your interests. As consequence, shifting a lot of sovereignity from yourself to the government, hoping that it will make things right for you, is a losing strategy.
2. the MEDIA. Most mainstream media work in extremely deep symbiosis with the government. In fact, the reason why many of us tend to consider the government so important and useful is that, since we were kids, we have been watching its politicians in the news, constantly.
Think about it: when you turn on the tv, what news are given first? Usually it’s something about the government. The president said this. The prime minister said that. The opposition said that other thing. Debate over a new law. We are constantly informed about what the government is doing, and this implicitely creates inside of us the mindset “knowing what the government is doing is important”.
Mainstream media insistently put the government under the spotlight, and often using a very benevolent light: the government’s inadequacies are overlooked, its scarce results magnified. Why? Because they exchange favors, of course. The media that tailor the news in a way useful for the government obtain funds, jobs, favorable laws (all financed by the citizens with their taxes). In return the government can continue its action, as its politicians keep on appearing with suits and ties in the news every day.
Also in the other sectors, the events presented by the media are rarely depicted objectively to inform the audience, but are manipulated to produce a desired reaction instead, to carry an agenda. Most people watch the news on tv and get consequently indignant, scared, discouraged, without even realizing that that’s exactly the emotional response that the person who packaged the news wanted.
The process of selecting which events to show and which events not to show is crucial. Why wars that produce hundreds of deaths are shown and debated for months, while others that produce many thousands are ignored? Why studies that prove the safety of a food chemical are shown, while others that expose its health hazards are ignored? Usually it’s because some lobby makes more money with the first options.
It can argued that pure, objective facts don’t exist, and that everyone who would have to assemble the news would have to do a selection, inevitably adding his personal bias and carrying his own agenda. I agree with this, but then I think it’s very important to try to understand what is the agenda in each case. When you read an article or watch the news, do you see behind the lines the intention of informing the audience, or the intention of manipulating the audience? And in both cases, why? I encourage you to exercise your own critical thinking to answer these questions.
One final, important note: it’s a false myth that it’s important to check the news regularly “to stay updated”. I actually consider checking the news regularly as a very counterproductive habit. The reason is that most news by the mainstream media are about events that will only scare you, issues you can’t do anything about, or things that have nothing to do with you. In the best case they’re a source of distraction, in the worst case they’ll make you seriously depressed.
Corporations exist in almost every sector, from banks to food, toys, clothing, furniture, electronics, cars, tobacco. With a huge focus on making money and the power derived from their gigantic dimensions, many of these corporations developed a predatory behaviour and stopped seing people as people, but as “consumers”. They push a model of non sustainable development which is eventually destined to crash.
The corporations are deeply interconnected with the other two parts of the system: their executives have frequent meetings with the heads of the governments, and they buy plenty of media space to advertise their products.
It’s important to notice that most citizens of a nation don’t realize that behind the decisions of their government there’s frequently a corporation. They only see the government itself, which is the most visible part of the system, without considering that its politicians are often forced to deal with corporations for all the major decisions. Forced, of course, when they are not men put there from the corporations themselves.
Are there corporations powerful enough to control the governments of the nations? Of course: banks. Banks are the most powerful type of corporation without any doubt, and they built a complex financial system which is very hard to understand for the average citizen, and that gives them huge competitive advantages in the market. This without providing any useful value in return.
Of course not all the corporations are this powerful, and not of all them market products of such fake value as paper money. However, selling stuff of questionable value with the endorsement of the governments and using marketing tricks in the media is a common trait of many corporations in the modern world.
The endorsement of the governments explain why crazy things happen under a model of globalization. For example in my country, Italy (currently the world’s largest kiwifruit producer), I often encounter kiwis coming from New Zealand in the supermarket. There’s clearly someone who decided it’s more convenient -for them- to carry kiwis from the other side of the planet rather than from the farmer nearby.
And about the marketing tricks, you just need to turn on the tv to see the plethora of ads related to snacks full of refined sugar and flavor “enhancers”, clothes and shoes that make us “beautiful”, loans that allow us to be owners of houses and cars that are status symbols, latest versions of electronic gadgets that make our previous ones obsolete, and so on.
I think that this consumistic model, pushed by the corporations, will not last. But even until it does, it creates a lot of problems because it spreads the illusion that we become happy by adding objects to our lives. Instead, just the opposite is true: “the best things in life aren’t things”.
Notes: more about the non sustainable model of development pushed by the corporations is explained very well in the documentary “The story of stuff”.
Related: How to free yourself from the system