Be The Truth, Vote Nader

During the past summer I was lucky enough to hear a speech given by Ralph Nader on National Public Radio. It was not the first time I heard him, but his ideas still intrigued me. In the speech he spoke about the faults of the two party system, the war in Iraq, and the crisis in Israel. But the most interesting topic focused on the role corporations play in shaping American culture by penetrating our psyches via media and advertisements.

Nader stated that never before in the history of the world has any single entity been able to shape government policies or the mores of societies as influentially as corporations do today. In the past, people have been subjected to religious and political oppression, have slaved for kings and queens, and have even died protecting the wealth of the rich and powerful. It is sad to say that at the beginning of this new millennium things have not changed. Although values of democracy such as religious, economic, and political freedom are at an all-time high, governments, democratic or not, still serve the wealthiest interests. Government-backed corporations effectively undermine these values, obscuring our freedoms with an unperceived screen of deception. Both the Democrat and Republican parties are subservient to the interests of corporations.

It is obvious that large corporations whose lobbyists endorse or reject certain initiatives have bought much of the American political system. A simple example of the government helping corporations is that corporations receive tax breaks and are subsidized by the government. Basically, firms are given money, make large profits and then are not taxed. Meanwhile, the average American is forced to buy products that they have already paid for with their taxes. For instance, the drug industry is highly subsidized with taxpayers’ money yet many of these same taxpayers cannot afford these same drugs. If you’re interested enough to be reading this paper you probably are already aware of these discrepancies, but more is coming.

Not only do corporations have power over the government, but they are able to shape the way in which people perceive the world and themselves. Fundamental aspects of society are twisted and misconstrued by media and advertisements. They demand that all women must achieve the same unrealistic physical ideals, and tell man that the car he drives defines him. They have subvert influence in our daily decisions and guide the way in which we live. An example is how the cosmetics industry makes women think that there is only one definition of beauty- the image they choose to use in their advertisements. Further, corporate America literally gets inside of us by selling and advertising more basic objects like food and drink.

An example is how massive food industries supply our nutritional needs with grotesque amounts of sugars and saturated fats. Of course, Nader chooses only to describe the bad products and influences that corporations supply to us. He fails to present how much higher our standard of living is because of corporations and the benefits of having lower prices on general goods. Without these giant multi-national corporations, our day-to-day activities would be more difficult because food would cost much more and fashionable clothing and apparel would not be affordable, as well as automobiles, which would be confined to the truly wealthy. Having noted some of the good aspects of corporations I still think Nader is correct, raising a very interesting concept that is seldom-mentioned in national politics.

Corporations use advertisements and media to meld our perceptions in a way that makes us always want more. Generally people want more material objects, seek the type of romance portrayed on TV and in the movies, and yearn to look a certain way. By making us want to achieve unreachable goals, corporations are able to keep us in the malls and away from more serious and respectable pursuits. Corporate America limits much of our liberty very subtly. It enslaves and corrupts our inner desires and subconscious to corporate whims. I am a victim of these corporate American trappings. I want my body to look and perform a certain way, I need those sunglasses with the Gucci label on the side and I want to fall desperately in love with a beautiful woman whose undying love will be proven to me within our first encounter. Does this make me shallow? Or am I just a victim of circumstance? The answers are complicated because the two are not mutually exclusive. Instead, it’s a little bit of both and it is very hard to fight the urges which are culturally imbibed into my psyche. But I digress- there is no easy answer to solving the problem that has been created by corporations and their media outlets.

It is ironic however, because when people defy the status quo by wearing dirty clothing, letting their hair grow natty, avoiding fast food chains, and driving ugly fuel-efficient cars they become the butt of jokes and are criticized by the people around them. Maybe it’s just because a less corporate lifestyle causes others to feel resentment. But then again, maybe these neo-hippies just shop at stores like Threads of Zion, wear Birkenstocks, and spend the majority of their money on herbal remedies; who really knows where this stuff comes from, let alone the conditions people work under to grow the stuff. So either way, hippie or not, we are all part of target markets.

No matter what, I still think it is important for individuality, and that people should be free to dress and act as they please- otherwise, what’s the point? Nader raised some important ideas during his speech on NPR. He seems to offer the only genuine criticism of corporate America in the realm of national politics. It is important to remember that if he receives enough of the vote (5-10%) then some of these views will have to be heard in the national political forum. I think this is vital. Either way, Kerry is going to lose, so why not use your vote to make a real difference. By voting for Nader you can help change the current paradigm in American politics and help shift political agendas in the future.