We owe support and allegiance less and less to our government and more and more to corporations. Most Americans today know much more about consumption than citizenship.
Among other things is our attitude toward the central collection of personal information. Many of us resist vehemently a national database run by the government of information such as our names, addresses, habits, political affiliations, employers, income, debts, preferences for books and movies, etc. It reminds us of George Orwell's novel, "1984."
But while we resist the collection and maintenance of a file or dossier on our personal lives by government for fear of a dictatorial state, we actively participate in this data collection when we create online identities. In other words, we don't seem to care that Amazon.com collects this information or that EquiFax does. At least, it doesn't stop us from buying products online or participating in the system that allows this data to be accumulated and maintained.
I read a book recently (Life, Inc.) which had a variation on the Toynbee quote that I posted earlier (http://historicalaccident.blogspot.com/2008/09/title-explanation.html) . This one went something like this:
in the past 500 years, since the inception of state-chartered corporations, people have gone from subjects to citizens, from citizens to workers and most recently, from workers to consumers.In the 1940s and 50s, the United States experienced a wave of paranoia due to anti-communist sentiments in Washington. A U.S. Senator held hearings recklessly accusing public figures of being communist sympathizers and it ruined several careers. It was common in those days to call a communist an enemy of the state.
But today that label would have to be revised. Given that the U.S. Congress and the White House of either party feels that it is their job to keep America employed, the stock market rising and corporations earning a profit, they would likely consider any threat to those efforts anti-American. But today we have a growing simplicity movement which advocates consuming less among other things. And policy makers in Washington, although they may not admit it openly, would consider the voluntary simplicity movement an enemy of the state in that its end result is to reduce consumption and therefore production, employment and investment.
So it will probably become clear in a short time to everyone that we owe our allegiance not to the U.S. government but to the U.S. industrial state which provides us with much more than Uncle Sam does.