Monday, 8 August 2011

My Own Small Act of Refusal


It has been a month since Corporate Constraint was launched and, even now, I feel it necessary to restate my purpose -- if by doing so it serves only to keep me grounded.  But fear not dear reader, this is not mere self-indulgent navel-gazing; as always, there is much wisdom here to nourish you (grin).

Let me begin with a stark admonishment from Martin Luther King Jr, a man I greatly admire:
"Passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil."
This, my friends, is why I now write, why this blog exists -- it is my own small, defiant, act of refusal.

King's profound warning should serve as a clarion call to anyone who feels even the slightest notion that something's not right.  And, to be clear, it is a clarion call to anyone, anywhere -- even here in Canada, where we too seem to be rushing headlong over the cliff. 

My own journey to rejecting an unjust system began with 9/11.  At the time, I found myself seeking in the alternative press explanations for seemingly incomprehensible events, for the many incongruous circumstances that had collided so fortuitously.  Such inquiries have become grist for all manner of conspiracy theories.  But not all can be dismissed as mere ravings of the off-kilter.  

The drive to war with Iraq was Dubya's goal long before 9/11 -- it was incubated with Leo Strauss and the noble lie, the rise of the neocons, and the Project for the New American Century.  It was a policy focus in the first days of the administration, and was initiated within hours of the attacks.  All the administration's assertions to support it were lies. Cheney's group marketed the sentiment for war; it fed information to The New York Times' Judith Miller, then pointed to it in her columns as proof of its veracity.  Raw intelligence data was stove-piped directly to the administration, by-passing the professional wisdom of the intelligence community.  The administration contorted itself over Sadam's supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction -- the smoking gun that never was a mushroom cloud.  There were fabrications over Niger Yellow Cake, aluminum tubes, and the connections between Iraq and al Queda.  There was the fixing of facts around the policy by the Bush administration and there was Ahmed Chalabi and Curveball.  And the Patriot Act, already written and waiting on the shelf (lucky break, that), breezed through Congress without review.  

In the end, 9/11 "justified" a blatant crime of aggression -- the ultimate war crime that became Afghanistan and Iraq -- a crime that grinds on there still, as it expands into Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and soon, perhaps, Iran.  It also spawned the largest internal security apparatus the world has ever seen.  The State made the most of a crisis to further its own ends, both at home and abroad -- a tactic employed by Bush then, and by Obama today.

Even this brief recap would bring Dr. King to tears, but if it all seems a bit removed from the function and focus of Corporate Constraint, consider the following.  The winners in all this creative destruction are, as always, the monied interests that drive the political decision-making -- directly, in the windfall profits claimed by business, and in the pervasive corporate culture that now dominates most every public institution.  It is a condition emphatically described by Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff:
"What we have today is a corpratocracy.  We have the President and Congress in the hands of Big Food, Big Pharmacy, Big Oil, Finance, Insurance and Real Estate...the President doesn't run this country; the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State don't run these people, and God help us (!) the American people don't run this country!  Big Money runs this country."
And while America has become overtly corporatized, it has become less equal, less secure and less free.  So too, in Britain, and here, in the true north strong and free, my own Canada.   

Perhaps you can hear the faintest whisperings of MLK, "you are becoming a participant in its evil".  

And this does bring us back to the creation of Corporate Constraint.  It is Big Money, the multi-national corporations, that so completely control the key issues affecting the human condition.  The multi-national corporation is the vehicle by which money and power serves money and power, the mechanism through which the elite influence (read: buy) policy makers for their exclusive benefit.  Money and power also has the nasty habit of coalescing into extra-governmental bodies, unelected and unaccountable, that exert more profound and unseen influence -- both nationally and internationally -- than is possible by even the largest single corporate entity.  As a group, multi-national corporations have become the most dominant economic and political force the world has known, and they have become perhaps the greatest threat to mankind in its history.   

Corporatism represents an ideology, a set of values and a particular orientation to the world that is out of balance with the norms of human civilization.  It has set in motion the trends that have come to reflect the human condition: 
 - Staggering wealth is amassed by the few, at an alarming and accelerating rate, while the permanent and growing underclass becomes increasingly irrelevant to those in power. 
 - A state of perpetual war now exists, both at home and abroad. 
 - The health of the planet is increasingly at risk and, with it, our survival. 
 - Representative democracy has long-since ceased to reflect citizens' will, as politicians openly cater to the demands of a tiny elite.  

We are responsible for our calamity.  We have set these trends in motion by creating an entity that we then failed to control.  This most successful form of human organization exists and endures only through human effort, created entirely of the human imagination. And, by endowing it with the legal mandate to maximize shareholder wealth, we have baked into the corporation's DNA the potential for corrupt and criminal action.  If there exists even the faintest hope of redress it is precisely because the corporation is an invention of the human mind.  It follows, then, that we need not be held hostage by a creature of our own imagination.  We can rethink the corporation! 

Were we courageous enough to do so, we would take the following actions:
 - Eliminate the farcical status of "personhood" for corporations;
 - Break the hold of money over politicians and the political process;
 - Check the power of unelected and unaccountable groups and individuals;
 - Return to public discourse the notion of the commonweal
 - Reinforce the concept that corporations are servants of society, not its masters.
   
You have by now fallen off your chair in uncontrolled laughter.  I'll give you a minute...

It is true that the present realities are solidly aligned against the kind of change described above, the infrastructure firmly ingrained.  Money and power, in the service of money and power, is an insurmountable force.  The status quo relies upon our ingrained sense of learned helplessness, based on a strategy calculated to suppress any concerted response.  This idea that we can redress our errors is a fantasy -- to imagine that corporations could be subordinated, that elected representatives would actually reflect the will and serve the needs of the many, that our looming catastrophes could be averted.  As Chris Hedges has said,
"The war is over, and they won."
Still, for now I'm gonna hold to this crazy notion that since we made-up this thing called the corporation, we can just change it.  And, from far away, I hear Dr. King whispering...
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

And so dear reader, should you ever find yourself with that sinking feeling that something's not right, if you cease to accept this unjust system, what small act of refusal will distinguish you?

By David.

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Your musical accompaniment for the day: Johann Sebastian Bach, Goldberg Variations BWV 988; Glenn Gould, Goldberg Variations (1981 Recording).  Take the time, put on the headphones, close your eyes. Enjoy.  

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