AskWHYBlog: Carol Harvey In San Francisco

As Sentient Beings We Have The Right to Relentlessly Ask WHY --- And Demand Answers! PLEASE ASK WHY!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

WHY DO PUBLIC CORPORATIONS CAUSE SUCH HARM?










THE CORPORATION: "BAD" VERSUS "BAT"

Two charming gentlemen gazed at the blue San Francisco Bay.

I asked, "Do your watches tell the correct time?"

They laughed, "In the Netherlands and Germany. Yes."

Ever the diplomat, I divulged I was writing an article about Bad Corporations taking over the world.

"All corporations aren't bad," said the man with the German accent.

"I am CEO and founder of PAION, a good company. We're not a 'Bad' company. We are a 'Bat' company," he kidded. "We developed a drug derived from the saliva of vampire bats to treat acute stroke. You have high responsibility, especially when you develop a drug for stroke patients who have a fragile artery system."

ARE ALL CORPORATIONS BAD?

As the corporate corruption trial of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling begins the week of Monday, January 31, 2006 in Houston, it is a critical question to ponder. Lay and Skilling, ENRON chiefs, stand accused of lying to investors, stripping employees of 401Ks and retirements, and profitting hugely as stock bottomed out and the company went bankrupt. At the end, out-of-control traders made ENRON millions in "empty profits" driving up prices playing sections of the power grid against one another, causing rolling blackouts, fires in California, and the ultimate recall of Governor Gray Davis.

We are defined as humans by a balance between competition, using others' skills to test our own, and compassion, sharing and caring for each other.

Joel Bakan, Canadian Law Professor, wrote "The Corporation, The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power," co-producing a companion video with Mark Ackbar and Jennifer Abbott.

Bakan states, "No social and ideological order that represses essential parts of ourselves can last. We only have to remember who we are as human beings to reveal how dangerously distorted is the corporation's order of narrow self-interest."

Corporations were constructed as abstractions, what physicist, ecologist, and seed activist, Vandana Shiva calls non-human "Legal Fictions."

Corporations' are specially designed to engage in predatory, aggressive competition to make money and profit.

An apt metaphor is "Raptors," or "vultures," the name Andy Fastow, ENRON'S CFO and financial wizard, cynically gave a shadow corporation hiding the company's nonexistent profits.

Like a vulture, Wal-Mart feeds from the poor. "Associates" are paid too little to buy the company's health insurance.

A LEGAL PERSON

MIT institute professor, Noam Chomsky, defined the original corporation as subordinate to people, "a group chartered by a state to perform a particular circumscribed function," like building the Golden Gate Bridge.

The modern corporation was born thirty years post-civil war which spawned railroads, banking, and heavy manufacturing.

Clever corporate lawyers hijacked the fourteenth amendment which gave newly freed slaves equal rights. Applying these rights to capital and property, Supreme Court judges transferred to the corporation the rights and protections of a "Legal person."

In 1864, shortly before his death, Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend of an "unnerving" crisis approaching which "causes me to tremble for the safety of my country" more than even in the midst of a civil war that "enthroned" corporations. "An era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working on the prejudices of the people until all wealth is concentrated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed."

Like people, Corporations were allowed to buy and sell property, borrow money, sue and be sued in Court, conduct business, and be a member of society.

The corporation became the kind-faced, but deadly, serial killer neighbor with bodies buried under his house.

Joel Bakan describes a special kind of non-human person. The Corporate Citizen has no moral conscience. Because it believes in nothing, corporate media promotes Michael Moore's lucrative books even though he savagely criticizes it.

Corporations are structured legally to be concerned only for their stockholders, placing profit above competing interests, even the public good.

Vandana Shiva advises we "Re-Embody the Corporation."

Says Shiva, "The Corporation as a legal fiction, given human personality, is really the beginning of all the treachery of our times. We need to relocate these institutions back in the people who run them, gain from them, make their millions out of them, who destroy people's lives by their location in these corporations."

EXTERNALIZING MACHINES

Corporations show "loyalty" to stockholders getting others to pay their bills, expanding their bottom line by forcing sometimes unaware external entities to bear their costs.

On Thursday, January 12, The Maryland legislature, responding to criticism that Wal-Mart forced state governments to pay employee medical benefits, passed a law requiring the conglomerate to pay more for their employees' health insurance.

CORPORATE HISTORY

Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal was meant to counteract robber barons' corporate power, restoring economic health to the middle class and poor.

J.P.Morgan, Dupont, and Goodyear Tire heads who hated the New Deal contrived a failed fascist plot to overthrow this Democratic President. Since then, Republicans have waged a stealth campaign to reconfigure national government into a corporatocracy.

Ronald Reagan unleashed Free Markets upon the world giving corporations expansive powers.

In speech after speech he repeated, "Government is not the solution to our problems. Government IS the problem. The societies which have achieved the most spectacular broadbased economic progress in the shortest period of time ... What unites them all is their willingness to believe in the magic of the marketplace."

STEALTH PLAN TO CORPORATIZE THE WORLD

How reversible is the 30-year Republican stealth plan, beginning with Reagan and ending with Bush, to reconfigure national and international governments into a worldwide corporatocracy? With complete allegiance to Free Market profits, corporations respect no national boundaries.

The Bush family's long connection with Bin Laden oil is well-established. Some speculate that the illegal Iraq war was launched not just for money, regional power, or oil but to expand Corporatocracy (disguised as Democracy) throughout the Middle East. Halliburton's construction of 17 military bases in Iraq underscores this probability.

CLASS WAR OF RICH ON POOR

A wealthy class needs the poor. The corporatocracy appears to be waging a foreign and domestic class war of rich on poor. Poor young Americans are encouraged to enlist for an education, Hispanic youth to earn family citizenship upon death in battle. Poor Iraqis are murdered in homes and streets as "collateral damage."

SOCIOPATHY

Bakan holds that, as fictitious non-human entities, corporations display psychopathological traits on the DSM IV Personality Diagnostic Check List. Using this list, however, to stereotype or label has caused great harm. Everyone displays these qualities at times. The point is these behaviors, especially when they clump together in an impersonal corporate entity, can be incredibly damaging.

1. Callous unconcern for Others' feelings
2. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships
3. Reckless disregard for Others' safety
4. Deceitfulness: Repeated lying and conning others for profit
5. Incapacity to experience guilt
6. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors.

Abstract entities lacking moral conscience, corporations have perpetrated greivous destruction upon human life and the environment.

Corporations hurt workers through layoffs, union busting, and sweat shops.

Global Exchange, a locally-based anti-corporate activist organization, attempts to counteract damage from sweatshop labor serving the rapacious Free Trade system through Fair Trade stores making people-to-people connections, providing Third World products direct from maker to buyer. The Noe Valley Store overflows with silver-flecked handbags, subtly colored place mats, wind chimes, housewares and jewelry artistically crafted.

Andrea Buffa, Global Exchange Communications Director, related, "I got to stay with a Nicaraguan Fair Trade Coffee farmer last month. It's amazing to see the impact Fair Trade can have on the life of a farming family. They are getting more income which means they are able to eat more of a diversity of food, keep their kids in school, get different kinds of training they didn't have access to before. They are able to organize in their community to get health care...very basic things."

Corporations further damage human health through toxic waste, pollution, and dangerous products. They degrade the biosphere with poisonous chemicals, nuclear waste, and habitat destruction.

CRISES OF CONSCIENCE

As entities without conscience, corporations conflict with their human participants, forcing them to behave in inhuman ways. Sir Mark Moody-Stewart, former Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, couldn't look at Bakan's camera, unable to discuss Shell's complicity in the murder of Nigerian environmentalist, Ken Saro Wiwa.

CORPORATE QUALITIES

INSTANT GRATIFICATION

Corporations destroy the ozone layer and the polar caps for profit. Corporate heads, including the President, do not envison their own progeny's future, child abuse deferred.

ALL-PERVASIVE

The corporate octopus has suckered tentacles which reach into daily life. Everywhere pummeled by corporate logos on ads, T-shirts, signs, equipment, people don't remember a time "before" and think it's normal.

CREATING A MINDLESS MARKET

Corporate propaganda attempts to shape us into mindless consumers. Susan Linn, who launched "The Nagging Project" measuring the numbers of times a child pesters the parent for a toy and scores a buy, insists if you can get children to advocate for your product, you've got them as an adult.

IN LOCO PARENTIS

The corporation has become a parent figure teaching mommies baby care with the "right" wipes and diapers. Oral-B teaches there is a pulse to life and their toothbrushes.

MORAL ARBITERS

The corporation is the arbiter of morals and values, says Bakan. Corporate propaganda displays a way of life, thinking, and values in which it takes credit for "Progress" and "The Good Life."

FAUX RESPONSIBILITY

Corporations feign social responsibility as a tactical response to their markets.

A blue-eyed, red-haired 20-ish man leapt up the Lyons steps wearing a T-shirt announcing, "International Tractor-Pulling Association, Monsanto," that corporation's promotion of some tractor-pull near Champaign-Urbana, when he attended The University of Illinois. He couldn't recall where he got the shirt.

He expressed surprise on learning of Monsanto's horrendous human rights abuses in India.

THE COMMONS

The Commons is publically shared earthly wealth --- land, air, water, food, public service institutions providing mail, fire, power, phone, housing, health care, even research into the building blocks of human life.

The Human Genome

According to Jeremy Rifkin of The Foundation of Economic Trends, companies are busily mapping the human genome. "If this goes unchallenged..., within less than 10 years, a handful of global companies will own... the actual genes that make up the evolution of our species."

USURPING THE COMMONS

Through multinational legal entities, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and The World Bank, corporations control, regulate, and buy the Commons.

Corporations attempt to steal water rights in Latin America, Africa, the Philippines, and India. Buffa's Global Exchange website report cites French Company Suez Lyonnaise. "Many countries have been required to open up their water supply to private companies as a condition for receiving IMF loans, and the World Bank has approved millions of dollars in loans for the privatization of water systems."

Stated Buffa, "Through the World Trade Organization, countries challenge other countries' laws. Any regulation that a country puts into place to protect its workers, (and) the environment, can be gone after through the World Trade Organization. (and) (the regulation overturned) so these huge multinational corporations can get access to international markets everywhere in the world. It has ended up destroying local economies and overturning environmental regulations.

"(Monsanto's) corporatization of agriculture... is actually making extinct, ...probably thousands of types of seeds that Indian farmers have traditionally used. Monsanto, (are) the marketers of a pesticide called "Roundup," which they have sold to small farmers all around the world. Roundup makes the plants infertile. Instead of producing new seeds, the farmers, then, are forced to buy seeds that are resistant to Roundup, also developed by Monsanto. It creates this huge dependency on this company, and people can no longer just grow the plant, collect the seeds, and plant (them) the next year. They actually have to buy the seeds every year, which they can't afford."

Buffa, recently visited Shiva's "Seed conservation project," in Deharun, India. where this Indian ecology activist encourages farmers to save natural, non-biogenetically engineered seeds. "

DISLODGING CORPORATE POWER

1. Litigation: Reverse the "Legal Person" Law.

Elaine Bernard, Director of the Harvard Trade Union Program suggests we "...look at the very roots of the legal form that created this beast."'

Noam Chomsky agrees "They're not graven in stone. Most of the States have laws which require that they be dismantled."

Two Pensylvania townships' ordinances eliminated a corporation's ability to claim any constitutional rights as a "Person."

2. Direct Action. Grass Roots efforts and Boycotts: Buffa sees students nationwide earnestly committed on many fronts to challenging any human rights abuses which directly affect them.

She offered as one example success by students, concerned about Indian water thefts, in kicking Coke machines off their University of Maryland campus. The University will monitor Coca Cola's progress toward redressing the situation.

3. Global Exchange: Since 1988, GX has attempted to create a far-flung world-wide economic counterforce to powerful global corporatization.

Its website offers programs, speakers, international reality tours, and information.

4. Do No Harm. Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, the world's largest commercial carpet manufacturer, is working toward sustainability. Bakan offers Anderson as a model corporate ex-pirate committing his organization to "Do No Harm." I believe my friends at the Bat Corporation have the heart and will to follow suit.