Monday, February 4, 2008

Classism & Corporate Greed Devalue People Power

A number of recent news stories have highlighted the fact that people power is a thing of the past. In fact, it is becoming clear that corporate greed, consumerism and classist polarization of the world (developed vs. non-developed nations) have resulted in the largest, wholesale devaluation of individuals and families in recent history. That is a strong statement, but consider the evidence.

A recent news article reports that indigents in India are being kidnapped, sedated and surgically relieved of one of their kidneys - destined for the black market in live human organs for transplant. Another article documents the worldwide threat this trend represents. In the US, patients are being denied life-saving surgeries, procedures and treatments due to lack of adequate insurance coverage and exclusion from dwindling public health programs. This, while large Pharma companies like Roche, Wyeth & Bristol reap record profits.

Profits over people, a theme that appears in every market in every country on the planet. The current financial crisis, initiated by the sub-prime mortgage loan meltdown in the US, is evidence of what happens in an age of corporate excess and regulatory permissiveness. The real outrage is that we're bailing out business, and leaving the very real people and families involved drowning in a financial whirlpool.

Now comes the news of a worldwide uptick in poverty, just as food prices are on the rise. In the US, according to the Census Bureau, 36.5 million people live below the poverty line. Worldwide, 2.8 billion people live on under $2US per day, and 25,000 die each day of hunger or hunger-related causes. In the poorest of poor countries, Haiti, the locals have been reduced to preparing and eating dirt cookies. That's right. Check out the video below.

I've posted here about the work of Partners in Health and Dr. Paul Farmer in Haiti. My family offers modest financial support to this Herculean effort on a regular, quarterly basis. You can do the same by following the link above.

Human life is being devalued across the globe, in a variety of ways. Certainly corporate greed is driving some of this phenomena.

"...citizens' anxiety, however, centers on the transition of society to corporate rule, where the concentration of economic power rests in the hands of a select economic elite... In short, citizens are realizing they no longer control their local areas or life choices, but are disposable economic units or serfs of the corporate empire." (source)
Another example of the stunning devaluation of humans is the explosion in worker exploitation across the developed and rapidly developing world. In China, vast armies of migrants are preparing Beijing for the Olympics though they enjoy no protections, no benefits and no health care. Dubai, a Middle-Eastern oasis that is often called the world's largest construction project, relies on over half-a-million migrant workers who are paid about $6US per day and housed in crowded camps far away from the gleaming high-rises that are evidence of their labor. Closer to home, the US labor force is being transformed by globalization in a variety of negative ways. What were once high paying professional jobs are being outsourced. Plants and jobs are going overseas, where worker and environmental protections are often non-existent, at an alarming rate. In their place, low-end jobs with restricted benefits are now offered.

There is, however, no greater devaluation of human life than pointless war. We are reminded, with the news yesterday that the American military accidently killed 9 Iraqi citizens including a child, of the human costs of war on a daily basis. International agencies agree that legions of Iraqi citizens have been killed since the US invasion. And there are many American families, especially in rural America, that have experienced the loss of a young son or daughter in this conflict as well. In Afghanistan, whole villages have been mistakenly targeted and bombed. It is no wonder the Taliban are back in even greater numbers than before. In Africa, tribal and post-colonial animosities are driving holocaust after holocaust. I feel quite comfortable using that term, as millions of lives and families are involved.

Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator

The US was founded by patriots who envisioned a government "...of the people," using authority " the people" and "...for the people." We've come a long way from that idealistic notion, as now it seems we exist only to consume and enrich corporate oligarchs. Our own government has become "by the lobbyists," "for the corporations," and "...of the very rich." As my friend Jeff Golden says, " is time to take America back." It is my hope that individuals everywhere can take back their rights, their respect and their financial dignity from those who would oppress the masses for personal gain.

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