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We, the people
Not the corporations

By Behrouz Vafa
November 2, 2000
The Iranian

I am an Iranian-American who has never seen Iran since 1978. For me, being an American is about advancing democratic principles. When I was reading Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" (published in 1835), I came across a couple of paragraphs in Chapter Three "Social Condition of the Anglo-Americans." These were written 170 years ago when America's democracy was all glowing, bright, proud but nevertheless humble. These hopeful, promising and encouraging messages of the past are now gradually evaporating:

"In America the aristocratic element has always been feeble from its birth; and if at the present day it is not actually destroyed, it is at any rate so completely disabled that we can scarcely assign to it any degree of influence on the course of affairs. The democratic principle, on the contrary, has gained so much strength by time, by events, and by legislation, as to have become not only predominant, but all-powerful. No family or corporate authority can be perceived; very often one cannot even discover in it any very lasting individual influence."

In the past two hundred years, Americans didn't shed blood in battlefields for the sake of big corporations' strong influence on people's choices and decisions. They fought with pride and sacrificed their worthy lives for preserving the sovereignty of the people, by the people and for the people.

Now, in the 21st century, we are the people, the future people for those who resolutely sacrificed for us. If we don't cherish and advance the democratic principles that have been passed on to us, we not only ungratefully abandon their worthy cause, but also the coming generation would never acquire any sense of democracy. As Ralph Nader said, "There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship."

While there is a general lack of people's participation in the democratic processes, there is a record high amount of money that corporations are pumping and flowing lavishly to the political candidates. In return, these companies receive lax environmental restrictions, tax breaks, free trade, a continued build up of the weapons industry and exporting weapons to other countries. The more cash that goes into candidates' pockets, the more they are expected to bow to the donors, and less to the people!

Of course, what makes all of this possible is the complicity of the mass media. To a large extent, big corporations control the mass media in a variety of ways: they not only hire journalists, analysts, economists and commentators, but also sponsor programs, advertise and even own the mass media. The media themselves are big corporations that have the ultimate influence on people's minds.

Neither de Tocquville nor the freedom fighters had envisioned that 'we the people' has been transformed into 'we the consumers.' We consume the messages from the mass media. Even the Presidential debates consist of two participants who willingly receive big money from big corporations; and the sponsors are again the big corporations. And the consumers have a profound and subtle choice between licking chocolate ice cream or vanilla ice cream!

In this sad sarcastic backdrop, de Tocqueville refers us to his last paragrapgh of Chapter Three: "The Anglo-Americans are the first nation who, having been exposed to this formidable alternative, have been happy enough to escape the dominion of absolute power. They have been allowed by their circumstances, their origin, their intelligence, and especially by their morals to establish and maintain the sovereignty of the people."

Democracy calls for more than ever not just Anglo-Americans but Native-Americans, Afro-Americans, Latino-Americans, Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Oriental-Americans, Indian-Americans, Arab-Americans, Iranian-Americans ... to use their creativity, intelligence and moral advocacy to revive, establish and maintain the sovereignty of the people. This requires you the people to abandon your ongoing habit of being complacent or detached from politics or feeling insignificant or powerless; instead, you need to embrace the democratic processes such as spreading the word of worthy materials through the internet.

Let me echo from Lincoln's last paragraph in the Gettysburg address that says: "...It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolved that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

November song,
Sing along,
Seize the moment - It'll soon be gone.
They think their money's gonna buy your freedom,
Rock the ballot box and show them they're wrong!

(By Mark and Matthew Henshaw)


Behrouz Vafa is the Upper Westside volunteer for Ralph Nader's Presidential Campaign.

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