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3 Keys to Becoming Compassionate Consumers

09/25/2012 06:40 pm ET | Updated Nov 25, 2012

You may not consider it a hugely political act to stop by the market after work and pick up some coffee beans, bananas and some chocolate. But in a world that is essentially run by corporations, as John Perkins, former economist and author of many best-selling books, including Confessions of an Economic Hitman, says, "The marketplace is the only democracy." In his recent "Open Minds" interview with Regina Meredith on GaiamTV.com, Perkins discussed how our buying choices -- such as purchasing fair trade bananas -- can have a huge effect on the reigning "corporatocracy." Indeed, it may be the only act that carries any weight.

For Perkins, "corporatocracy" refers to the recognition that governments, including our own, are controlled by corporate interests. The motto of these corporations, globally, is to maximize profits by any means necessary. Corporatocracy and neocolonialism are copacetic bedfellows in Perkins worldview. Similar to the traditional colonialism of the 16th to the 19th centuries, neocolonialism describes the current economic climate. Perkins contends that governments of developed nations, through strategically employed economic hit men, have aimed to control third world countries through indirect means. In lieu of direct military-political control, neocolonialist powers employ economic warfare -- namely deceptively attractive financial and trade policies -- to dominate less powerful countries.

Although the mirror he holds up to our own nation ain't pretty, he reiterates undeniable truths about the growing discrepancy, both nationally and globally, between the wealthy and the poor. Perkins bluntly tells it the way he sees it: We are a nation fueled ruthlessly by greed. But as dire as it sounds, Perkin's message is not without hope.

He suggests three key points to combat the global ravages corporatocracy leaves in its wake:

  1. Listen to the dictates of your own consciousness. If you know, for example, that Dole, one of the largest importers of bananas in the world, has a disturbing history of exploitation, would you still buy their bananas? Perkins wouldn't. And in addition to boycotting certain products, he suggests writing emails to companies telling them why you are refusing to buy their goods. "We have power with our buying choices: What we focus on and what we take action on can put significant pressure on companies." If the marketplace is the only "real democracy," shopping is the most powerful way we can vote.

  • Don't be blindsided by the manipulations of the press. Often the story picked up by the press eclipses the real issues as stake. Perkins noted the recent Secret Service men scandal over hookups with prostitutes in Cartagena, Columbia as a case in point. That coverage overshadowed by far, he says, the content of the international summit meeting that Obama attended, in which the U.S.'s expansionist policies came under attack. Perkins reminds us to ask ourselves to be vigilant about focusing on what matters most. He cautions us to be on guard for when gossip becomes more attractive than substance.
  • Get out of debt. By keeping us in survival mode, debt robs us of our creativity. When we have the space to tap into our own special constellation of talents, we can become a part of what Perkins calls a "revolution of consciousness." By tuning into our gifts, the voice of change naturally emerges and finds its unique expression.
  • Catch John Perkins' full-length interview on Sept. 25, 2012 at 7 p.m. EST only on GaiamTV.com.