Poking holes in conspiracies has long been one of my more pleasant journalistic joys. From the Birch Society to the Kennedy assassination – and lots of points in between – there have been plenty to keep the more well-grounded busy. But maybe it’s time to put down the poking stick and consider what appears to be happening around us today.

While I can’t precisely define all of them, this nation is undergoing huge fundamental simultaneous changes in our society. The most in my long life. And I believe it’s no conspiracy theorist hallucination to say our status as a democracy or republic or whatever else it may be called, is being fundamentally changed into something else.

The other day, I heard a new word that might apply. “Corpocracy.” The definition I’d give to that description is a nation run for the convenience of – and under sponsorship by – corporations. The very large and the very rich. A definition underwritten, in part, by the recent tragic decision of the U.S. Supreme court to grant rights of individuals to multi-national corporations.

In just one election cycle, the results of that decision changed our system of free elections from outcomes representing the will of the electorate to those desired by corporate America. The ink of the justices signatures had hardly dried before hundreds of millions of dollars were turned loose. The voice of the electorate was drowned out by the noise of dollars hitting the collection buckets held by members of Congress and in the 50 statehouses.

While public education continues to teach the young the American virtues of “free elections,” “will of the people” and “majority rule,” none of those have the same meaning any more.

There is nothing “free” about national elections. More than 80% of incumbents are re-elected largely because their names are the most familiar ones on the ballot to too many electors often unaware of voting records or candidate philosophy. Incumbents are re-elected because corporations understand the value of congressional seniority and pour big bucks into who’s already there. It’s a lethal combination of apathy and mega-corp budgets that overwhelm by producing anonymous -and often false – ad campaigns to influence their desired outcome. “Free” they ain’t.

“Will of the people?” An informed “majority rule?” Doesn’t seem so. What we’re witnessing is “elections sponsored by…..”

Another change. Greatly increased worldwide economic interconnectedness. Some reliance on major nation’s economies has been around for many years but not to the absolute binding of each nation’s economy to all others. In the 70’s, if Greece or Ireland or Portugal had near-disastrous internal financial difficulties, would Wall Street nosedive? Might have been a ripple but no drastic reaction. Look at that same situation now – in 2011. Every bank and every investor in America is affected. Tokyo, Hong Kong, London and Paris, too.

And more. Terrorism. The world’s always had it. But now every city and town in every country in the world is vulnerable. And every citizen. From New York City to Moses Lake to Burns to Sandpoint. The most recent bloodshed was Norway. Hardly thought to be a prime target. But the terrorist came from inside the country. Like Timothy McVay and Oklahoma City. Six tons of fertilizer and any malcontent can murder and maim. In New York City, Moses Lake, Burns or Sandpoint.

How about drugs? Three or four decades ago, parents dealt with kids sneaking a beer or a cigarette. Now it’s cocaine, heroin and an international drug trade with tentacles into virtually any public school. A drug trade more well-armed than most law enforcement fighting it.

The Internet. One of mankind’s greatest inventions and one of mankind’s biggest problems. With power to educate and inform. It also has the power to mis-educate and misinform. With power to link brilliant minds to discover and build. And the power to link society’s most dangerous minds to distort and destroy. We have a technology that far exceeds our moral understanding of how to use it and the necessary safeguards.

Look at your own life 30 years ago. Think of what you have now that you didn’t have then. What worries you had then versus what concerns you today. Your own daily interconnectedness with your life in 1980 compared to today’s reduced emphasis on the individual and more on the corporate. The authority you felt then to have an affect on an election versus how you feel about that now. How you felt about the American political process – and politicians – and how you feel today.

While I still don’t subscribe to some vast international conspiracy, when answering those questions I am astounded at the change in my own life. When I see what has become of democracy as I’ve known it versus the lack of power of the electorate today, I’m afraid for the country I’ve always known. But a country I”m not comfortable in now.

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