Our world today is politically unstable with dictators ruling over dozens of countries, with corruption rife in many governments and with the needs of the people being brushed aside. While there are more democracies in the world than dictatorships, even the freest states can draw political criticism. In a democracy, the people are given the freedom to elect a leader, typically every 4 years, and do so by voting for their preferred political party and political candidate. The people of a democratic country are free to do as they please, to a certain extent, and are allowed to freely express their opinions in public. To add to this, democratic countries prize equality and all citizens exercise the same rights and liberties. The freedoms and liberties of a country and normally protected by the countries constitution.
While democracy is far better than alternative forms of government like absolute monarchy, oligarchy and autocracy, those that live in democracies are still bound by many restrictions. In a true democracy, every single individual would share equal wealth, equal power and equal freedoms. In reality, there are significant disparities between rich and poor as well as between powerful and powerless. In many western countries, governments tend to have vested interests in corporations and companies that generate huge profits. Governments tend to place these corporate interests above the interests of the people.
In the United States 43.6 million people live in poverty, according to the US Census Bureau, whilst a far smaller number of people live lavish lifestyles driving fast cars and sailing in luxury yachts. Wealth in the United States is unequally distributed with 25% of the population in possession of 87% of the countries wealth, according to the US Federal Reserve. In the year 2000, the World Institute for Development Economics Research found that 1% of the world's richest individuals owned 40% of the world's wealth. The research also found that 10% of the world's richest individuals owned 85% of the worlds money and resources.
Those that live in poverty have lower standards of living and less opportunities which can lead them to crime. Studies published by Ohio State University in 2004 suggest there is a direct link between poverty and crime. In a study by the Department of Justice which surveyed state prisoners across the United States, 65% of prisoners had not completed high school, 53% earned less than $10,000 before their imprisonment and almost half were unemployed or working only part-time prior to their arrest. If the world's wealth was distributed fairly, equality could thrive and everyone could have an equal share in the worlds resources. Similarly, everyone would be given equal opportunities in life and the high crime rate in the United States and other countries could be significantly reduced.
The modern corporation first emerged in the early 17th Century with the Hudson Bay Company and the Dutch East India Company being some of the first major international companies. Since this time, corporations have expanded their sphere of influence and now offer consumers a vast array of products and services that are regularly seen advertised on television, in print media and online. The scope of corporations has become so vast that people and governments can be held hostage to corporate greed and power. Almost every single politician in the United States, with the exception of Ron Paul and a few others, have their campaigns financed by rich corporations who expect their needs to be fulfilled when the politician is elected. As a result, the financial needs of a company become priority whilst the needs of the people are ignored. In the United States agriculture, education and national defence are just some of the government departments becoming increasingly influenced by powerful corporations who wish to sell and market their products.
In democratic countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, media is becoming increasingly controlled and more responsive to the demands of governments and corporations. Traditionally, the purpose of media is to paint an unbiased picture of current events in the world and to represent the views of the people. However, the majority of media in the United States today is owned by a select few corporations including Disney, CBS Corporation, News Corporation, TimeWarner, and General Electric. Concentrating so much media power in the hands of these five corporations can not only lead to bias but it can also lead to the promotion of certain corporate and political agendas. Major media corporations, like the five outlined above, also portray a negative view of the world, often making terrorism seem like an ever present threat. Whilst terrorism is a cause for concern, news broadcasters like Fox News consistently exaggerate the threat whilst promoting the governments unpopular and invasive anti-terrorism tactics against the people. One example being, the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) new invasive scanners and invasive pat downs. Many airport goers have reported feeling extremely violated and have also criticised the government for treating them like criminals.
News Corporation, owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch, owns hundreds of the worlds newspapers, magazines and media companies from the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom to as far as Papua New Guinea and Fiji. Possessing such an enormous media empire can be considered dangerous as many corporate and government interests can be promoted and placed in a positive light. One such piece of information to suggest the dangerous level of power News Corporation possesses is the fact that the companies CEO Rupert Murdoch met with President Obama, the British Prime Minister, the Canadian Prime Minister and the former Australian Prime Minister before they were elected. Many of these meetings were kept secret from the people until reporters uncovered them. It is thus clear that media can have an enormous and often negative influence over people as it can promote biased stories in favour of governments and corporations.
Crude oil is considered vital to many industries from transportation to the energy sector. The world consumes 30 billion barrels of oil each year with 21% consumed in the United States (2007 figure). Due to the vast consumption of crude oil, corporations will go to great lengths to secure new oil deals and will bargain with even the most brutal dictatorships. Those living under the rule of a brutal regime or those living in poverty can often become victims of the oil companies drive for profit. In Nigeria, Shell Petroleum working in partnership with the Nigerian government had nine environmental activists executed for speaking up against the companies exploitation of the land and the people of Nigeria. In Myanmar (Burma) Total Petroleum built a large oil pipeline by using slave labour. To add to this, the company employed security forces to keep people away from the pipeline, those that interfered with Totals operations were physically abused.
Governments are also responsible for the exploitation and killing of others on behalf of the oil industry. For example, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom government invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in what has be described as an 'oil grab'. In Iraq, US army documents, leaked by Wikileaks, show the number of civilian casualties so far is 109,032. In Afghanistan, fatality statistics are harder to come by however it is estimated that tens of thousands of civilians have been killed.
To combat their often negative image, oil corporations like to give consumers the impression they are ethical and committed to ecological sustainability. However, the fact is a corporations main goal is to generate profits for the company and for shareholders. Oil corporations like Total, Shell, BP, Exxon and Chevron generate billions of dollars in profits each year yet choose to invest little in funding alternative energy and fuel sources. Companies have also been responsible for huge environmental catastrophes such as Chevrons dumping of toxic chemicals in the Ecuadorian Amazon and the BP oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico.
The modern day world is the epitome of inequality, poverty and exploitation. As discussed above, 1% of the world's population owns over 40% of the worlds wealth. With the influence and power of corporations becoming more widespread, more and more people are suffering from the effects of corporate greed. Governments are choosing to side with the profit driven corporations whilst the people and their needs are cast aside. As seen across the Arab world in 2011, people are starting to stand up for their rights, demanding change, political reform and an end to tyranny. In both Tunisia and Egypt, the people managed to overcome the state propaganda and power of the ruling elite and successfully removed their dictators. As President Thomas Jefferson once said ''When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty''. By understanding the power of people and standing up for our beliefs, corruption and oppression can be overcome.
Each and every one of us can take action to improve the political world by endorsing alternative political figures and parties that promise real reform and an end to government and corporate exploitation of the masses. To add to this, we can all demand governments change their ways by petitioning against unfair laws and policies, urging senators, governors and members of parliament to help improve politics and by raising awareness of government and corporate failings.
Advertising: A public promotion of a product, company or service.
Autocracy: A state governed by a single individual who rules with unlimited power and authority.
Capitalism: An economic system based on private ownership of capital such as goods and institutions.
Constitution: The fundamental law determining how a government rules and what freedoms a countries people are entitled too.
Corporation: The most common form of business organisation. Large corporations control huge amounts of wealth, stock market shares and resources.
Corruption: A moral lack of integrity whereby a position of trust or power is exploited for one's own personal interests.
Democracy: A state where the government is elected by the people for the people.
Dictatorship: A state where absolute power is exercised by a ruling leader. Elections are not held and the people are not allowed to exercise their rights.
Economy: The correct and effective use of resources including money, food and fuel.
Freedom: The condition of being free and being able to speak and act without the interference of governments and those in power.
Federal Reserve: The central bank of the United States with the primary purpose of regulating the flow of money and credit in the country.
Government: The governing authority of the people. The government makes important decisions that affect the lives of a regions populace.
Plutocracy: A political system whereby the rich few govern the masses.
Terrorism: The calculated use of violence against civilians used to achieve political or religious goals.