Thursday, May 04, 2006

Life v. Profits

Which of the two following statements do you agree with?

1. The resources of earth should be used primarily to sustain life.
2. The earth's resources should be used primarily by businesses to make profits.

Choose your position and be ready to fight for it because this is the struggle we are in now. How our finite planetary resources are used is the core issue that is driving everything else.

Multi-national corporations want to obtain and control resources for profit. Their greed has extended to the determination to have control over water, agriculture, and plant and animal life that sustain life. They are also working hard to reduce wages and labor to subsistence levels. Humans are considered expendable if their presence interferes with profit.

Our government has not acted to protect us from this plan but has made laws to favor corporate control of those resources and how they are used. NAFTA and GATT have advanced the corporate agenda world wide. Countries who resist are threatened by loss or reduction of US aid, trade and the knowledge that the US will use military might or covert activities to obtain resources and suppress any opposition.

NAFTA has allowed corporate interests to expand control in Mexico for example. In Mexico the people have even lost the ability to stop rampant corporate pollution. In one town, the people took a corporation to court to stop them from polluting their water and the court found in favor of the corporation claiming the corporate needs trumped those of the people! Wages have been reduced to such low levels that the people are desperate and flow over our borders in an attempt to make enough money to save their families.

Around the world, land previously used for growing crops for the population has been usurped by corporate interests to grow cash crops for export. Haiti is starving yet they have become a major food exporter.

Countries in debt have been forced to sell their water rights to corporate interests. Water for profit while denying its use for drinking and crop production by people is surely immoral and unethical.

Improper use of resources results in global warming, starvation, pollution, poverty, desperation as well as the diminishing ability of the earth to provide clean water and air and healthy food to sustain life.

From the beginning of human awareness mankind has recognized the dichotomy between the need to revere and preserve life and the need to take life to survive. In many societies this awareness resulted in self monitoring behavior in which life was taken in moderation to meet survival needs. Animals which were killed and plants which were harvested were honored for their lives given that allowed humans to continue to live. Those societies attempted to consume only what they needed and to maintain the balance of their environment as best they could. For thousands of years these practices allowed mankind to pass on to their children an environment which would sustain them.

Consumption of resources is necessary for the continuation of life. Responsible stewardship of those resources is essential to maintain the ecological balance that allows the earth to keep providing the clean water, clean air, animal and plant life that sustains life.

All life on earth and the health of the planet itself are threatened by the increasing control of resources for profit.

The United States currently is the most powerful military force in the world. The US government is the strongest supporter of corporate interests. As citizens who pay the taxes that support this system, it falls to us to change it. If you doubt that our government supports corporate interests over our human interests, just look at how our laws have been changed to benefit corporations at the expense of our quality of life. Through eminent domain business can take our homes. Environmental laws have been gutted. The rich and the corporations pay less tax and their wealth increases while we have fewer jobs and suffer stagnating wages. Our schools are falling apart and we still have no health program while billions go for war. Who is making record profits from the war? The corporations.

Who has more influence in Washington, corporate lobbyists or citizens? We get to vote every two years but they are there every day. The corrupt campaigning system allows corporations to leverage the votes of our representatives through huge contributions which we are unable to compete with. resources that were formerly protected because they benefited society have been 'privatized to allow corporations control them for profit. Communications, water, electricity, energy, food production and the harvesting of public lands in the form of oil, gas, minerals, timber and land use represent a few.

Look at the history of workers striking, demonstrating or organizing for fair wages and better working conditions and notice that time and again the government sent police and military forces to quell those voices and protect the corporate interests.

Look at the history of our military and covert entities being used to overthrow governments that were attempting to use their resources for the betterment of their societies thereby threatening corporate control of those resources. Democratic governments that have been destroyed in this manner include Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954 and Chile in the early 70's.

These represent only a few of the many times which the US government used the US military to force out governments which threatened the corporate control over resources. Plans were on the table in the summer of 2001, before 9/11, to attack Afghanistan to open it up for the building of an oil pipeline across that country. Iraq's huge resources were state owned and closed to foreign investment and control until the US invaded in 2003 and Bremmer announced in September of 2003 that "Iraq is open for business."

Our tax money is paying for a government which is promoting the interests of corporate entities through war and military force. Our budget allocates $500 billion dollars a year for the military. This does not even include the $10 billion per month ($120 billion a year!) we are spending for a war in Iraq that is destroying their country. Our government is building 14 permanent military bases and the largest US embassy in the world in Iraq - do you really believe they have any intention of leaving?

What to do?

First of all we must redesign our campaigning system to get corporate money out. Public financing for campaigns plus new forms of campaigning would be a good first step. Run off voting to allow the viability of third party entry into the system is also needed. We need an independent media system that is free of government and corporate control. This will enable information we need to be broadcast into every home.

The Federal Reserve, which is a private bank, must be taken out of our system and replaced by a monetary system which benefits the society.

Laws must be changed removing the corporate ability to mix in politics and interfere with policies. Profit making must be secondary to environmental responsibility and life sustaining needs.

To accomplish these and other changes we must recognize and organize our own power to impose the will of the people over our government to insure that our laws and resources benefit our society. We must also define how the military is used.

The obvious way to undermine this "tower of Power" is to stop funding the government and military which we currently pay for with our taxes. Here we are in the same position as those who are forced to pay "protection money" to a criminal enterprise. If we don't pay, the IRS is quite capable of destroying our personal wealth and life. We are told that our representatives are our voices in the system and manage our wealth for us but that is patently untrue except for a few who attempt to do that in spite of overwhelming odds. Corporate entities are able to use their wealth and influence to buy our reps. In addition to corporations, foreign governments also put money into Congressional campaigns. Why do we tolerate that? We have taxation without representation. I think these circumstances call for a class action lawsuit of the People vs. the US government/IRS/Congress/courts.

We also have the power of numbers. Currently our nation is divided by secondary issues like abortion, gay rights, immigration etc. Our first and unifying issue is to bring the control and management of resources back into the hands of people and societies for the health of the planet and the sustaining of life. Therefore, let us all combine our efforts to achieve that. Once we have secured the means to maintain life, we can sort out the other stuff.

Corporate wealth is maintained by stockholders who invest in the companies,workers whose labor keeps them running and consumers who buy their goods and services.

Investors who believe resources should be used primarily to sustain life, can use their power to take investments out of companies which don't act responsibly. They can use their power as stockholders to change the ways corporations do business. Many retirement programs are invested in corporate stocks. These groups can insist their investment is moved to companies which practice responsible behavior. The pressure of stockholder and trade boycotts of companies in South Africa who supported apartheid helped to change that policy.

Workers can refuse to participate in damaging corporate behavior if they are backed up by all the workers who will strike or quit in support.

Consumers can boycott companies that pollute, outsource for cheap wages, treat workers unfairly, put flawed or dangerous products on the market, don't pay fair taxes, exploit resources here and around the world and show profit as their bottom line at the expense to life.

You can really see people power at work in France. When the government tries to pass a law the people don't like, the whole country goes on a general strike. Everyone stays home and the whole country shuts down. Business comes to a standstill and no money is made during a strike. It is an effective method of protest.

If such a strike seems extreme, we could use a modified form of strike which would be something like choosing one day a week when we did not purchase any corporate produced products or services. If, for example, we chose Wednesdays to not buy gas, groceries, products, the businesses affected would definitely feel the economic effects and be forced to respond to our demands. Given the current gas prices, this would be an ideal time to have one no gas day a week. Using public transportation is also helpful.

I am sure, working together we can come up with even more ways to change these life threatening policies.

We must act as if our lives depended on it because they do.

Sue Dyer

Guest Essayist