Once, a few centuries ago, the Catholic Church's agents stood behind every throne in Europe, advising, supporting and, when necessary, threatening. The Church held power that no mere earthly ruler could dream of: power over not just people's bodies but their souls, the keys to heaven itself, the threat of excommunication and eternal damnation for whole kingdoms. Kings ruled by the grace of God, and the Church was God's voice on earth.
This was the backdrop of Voltaire's enraged "Ecraser l'infame!" This was the backdrop to the revolutionary insistence, in America and elsewhere, on a radical separation of church and state. The crafters of the United States feared few things more than a return to the days when the political destiny of a nation was determined, not by the real interests of the country and its people, but by the dictates of an unquestionable, irrefutable, supra-political power.
Friends, we've today arrived at just what they feared, our nation ruled not by our elected officials but by an unquestionable Power just as insidious as that which the Founders sought to banish, but this time it has taken the form of the Corporation. Like the Church of old, the Corporation today stands behind every king, president and prime minister, every parliament, congress and diet. Like the Church, it has its one true dogma, Neoliberal Capitalism. All are beholden to it for their power, and all fear its wrath. None in its power would, even for a minute, consider defying its wishes for the sake of something as vague as the People.
Aren't there any honest companies doing honest business? Sure, just as the Middle Ages had decent, charitable churchmen. But it's the Corporation with a capital C-- the mega-banks, the giant military contractors, the callous traders in people's hopes and lives, embodied above all in the enormous power of the Federal Reserve--that's running the show. To these modern Richelieus, our democracy is a just game to be gamed, our elected representatives just tools to be used, the People just children to be distracted or punished, as the moment requires.
What we need today is a radical separation of Corporation and State, but achieving that will take a Revolution. It's up to us whether the beginnings of that Revolution, movements like Occupy Wall Street, movements that resist and expose the workings of the Corporate Church, succeed or fail. It's up to us whether we submit and take our assigned places in a new global feudalism, or take a lesson from the past and crush the infamous thing before it suffocates us. Remember, history only looks inevitable in hindsight; it's ours to make now.