I've been thinking about what I believe to be is one of the greatest challenges when it comes to the constant struggle for social justice between those who hold economic and political power, and the citizenry: Leverage.
What do I mean by that? After years of analyzing this issue, I've come to the conclusion that aside from the manipulative effects of corporate media conglomeration on the population, the biggest leverage the ruling class has over the citizens is their control of the means of production, and capital.
This means that the system has been rigged to transfer wealth and power from the citizens to a tiny ruling class, which in turn uses that wealth and power to buy off government officials and the legal system, helping them consolidate their control over the population.
Given these dynamics, when the oppression and exploitation gets so bad that the citizens find it necessary to rise up in protest (i.e., Occupy), their options are very limited because their very survival depends on the capitalist system controlled by the oppressors.
Again, after thinking about this seemingly intractable problem (for the average citizen) for many years now, I've come up with the following ideas, for your consideration.
The keystone of this economic arrangement revolves around the idea of applying the concept of democracy to a new type of marketplace.
Before I elaborate further, let me assure you that I have thought carefully about the issues related to incentives, and rewards for hard work and excellence, which many economic theorists believe to be very important.
To make sure you are comfortable with what I'm about to describe, I'll ask you to think of a typical business you may be familiar with. It could be a clothing store, or a pizzeria, or a high tech company, or a bakery. You're standing across the street from this business, and everything about it looks typical, common; just another business...
Now let's go below the surface. The business is employee-owned, and is also a member of business collective (similar to a chamber of commerce). The employees own the business; it has managers and executives, who were selected by democratic vote.
The compensation for the rank-and-file employee owners, the managers, and the executives was defined by vote also, taking into consideration competitive market conditions.
As the company grows and becomes successful, the employees may decide to increase the salaries of the managers and executives, and will also define the compensation and benefits for the rank-and-file employees, always taking into consideration conditions in the marketplace.
In the final analysis, expenditures in salaries and benefits may, as a whole, be in line with similar types of companies in the industry, but income and profits would be more evenly distributed, which would result in better working conditions for the rand-and-file employee owners.
A very important component of this type of business would be the concept of sustainability, both, in being socially conscious, and in the environmental impact of the enterprise.
Some of the main advantages of this type of business is that it can easily be started within our current economic framework, while at the same time it could deeply transform our entire economic system (if it was implemented broadly).
The only thing necessary for this type of labor market economics shift would be for average people to accept the proposition that they could do this easily; that it is not a radical and difficult idea. They would have to consider a new paradigm.
And speaking of new paradigms, the concept is a great segue to the issue of the impact mass media has over the citizenry, especially when is under the control of a tiny group of corporate conglomerates.
We all know the problem this situation has created in our society, with the rapid homogenization of culture, thinking, and news, all of it designed to benefit the ruling class.
We also know that because the politicians are pretty much on the take, mass media conglomeration will continue apace, unmolested...
But here again, I propose we can do a workaround. And I argue that because what I'm about to propose is not expected by the powerful business interests running things now, we could blindside them and get up from under the propagandist effects of the corporate media conglomeration. By the way, the reason they don't expect it is because they don't think people are sophisticated enough to figure out a way to get around their control.
In a nutshell, the situation we find ourselves in is one where because of the control of the mass media by a few corporate conglomerates, and after having developed advertising, marketing, and public relations techniques based on over a hundred years of mass psychology research, these seemingly hidden (but very powerful) forces/interests are able to manipulate a very large segment (some say, the majority) of the population into acting against their self-interests, or irrationally.
My proposal consists on forming a highly sophisticated and effective advertising agency owned by the people. The agency would operate just like a typical professional ad agency, but instead of peddling unbridled consumerism, lies, misinformation, and propaganda, it would focus on messaging meant to influence average citizens into acting in favor of their own interests, and that of society at large, as well as the environment.
Ironically, if people acted like this, national income would be more evenly distributed, people would be happier, and the environment would not be ravaged by voracious and unquenchable greed.
An initial idea to launch this project goes like this... We target a city and launch an ad campaign announcing a day of activism that would include a rally (against corruption), and a seminar on how to start employee-owned businesses and collectives.
Again, the ad campaign would be very high-quality and sophisticated, designed by experienced, advertising and marketing professionals.
I have designed a prototype project to test these concepts, as follows. I set up a "Crowd Funding" account with gofundme, with a goal of raising $2,000 within 30 days.
Here's what we're (everybody that contributes) are going to do with the funds: We're going to order about 30,000 4x6 flyers (see image below), and about 100 posters to use at a rally in San Francisco in mid-March.
We'll also budget advertising buys on local, mainstream newspapers, and radio. And in addition, we'll do online advertising with GoogleAdwords, and Facebook.
On the day(s) of the "activities" we'll follow the "flash mob" and the "murmurations" approach. All of the sudden, a flash mob appears in the financial district, and people start passing out flyers. Everybody would be asked not to break any law, regulation, etc., but the sheer number of people in itself would attract the attention of the "authorities." When they get "there," and ask individual people to obey a request, people would comply immediately. Then people would disperse.
An hour later, the flash mob would appear at another busy location, like the Metreon (is that still the name, or is it Target?), and pass out flyers, carry posters and protest signs. When the "authorities" show up, people will disperse. An hour later, people show up at another location, so on and so forth. There would be a lot of coordination via social media, twitter, etc. I won't disclose all the details here...
Before all this happens, the media would have been contacted, press releases would have been sent, letters to the editor (at local newspapers) would have been submitted.
All funds collected would be used for the project, and the accounting for the expenses will be posted publicly (at my website, www.raypensador.com).
Everybody that crowd-funds this project will have a say in the planning. I'm thinking of maybe putting a planning committee of about 10 people (about the first ten people who submit $20.00?), and then we'll plan the "project" and maybe the rest of the people who contribute can vote on the ideas submitted by the planning committee.
If this prototype project is successful, then we'll plan many others around the country. We'll make use of media, photos, videos, testimonies, art, music, things to inspire and motivate people.
Below is a link to the crowd-funding account for this prototype project for those interested in participating.
I also welcome any ideas or suggestions. I'm also very interested in hearing from business owners, and career professionals in advertising and marketing (confidentially). I can be reached at email@example.com.
I will start a project section on my website, www.raypensador.com, where we will be able to share information about the progress.
This organization Evergreen Cooperatives is a great example of the concept of employee-owned enterprises.
Some energy driving us... Murmurations
The current state of affairs. Let's change it!
Here are other resources:
- The National Center for Employee Ownership: The NCEO is a nonprofit organization, established in 1981, whose mission is to provide the most objective and reliable information possible on employee ownership at the most affordable price possible. Our members include companies, professional practitioners, government officials, academics, and others. Although we are a membership-based organization, our outreach is not limited to members. Many people buy our publications and attend our events without becoming NCEO members—they simply pay higher prices.
- The Employee Ownership 100: America's Largest Majority Employee-Owned Companies
- Green Bay Packers: The Green Bay Packers are an American football team based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They are members of the North Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). Green Bay is the third-oldest franchise in the NFL, having been organized and playing in 1919. The Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the United States.
- Institute for New Economic Thinking: The Institute for New Economic Thinking’s mission is to nurture a global community of next-generation economic leaders, to provoke new economic thinking, and to inspire the economics profession to engage the challenges of the 21st century.
- The Permaculture Institure: [Thanks to OPOL for sharing this information] Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities and much more.