Ending an Epoch of Greed and Violence

First, watch Annie Leonard’s Story of Citizens United vs FEC. It may look like an animated cartoon, but the 8 minute video is NO JOKE.

Here’s my reaction after viewing it last night:

In the beginning, man saw himself as a part of nature, bound within its limitations, potential victim to it’s forces and its more powerful creatures, but also beholding to its bounty for his survival. He held nature in awe and reverence.

Within that last twenty generations, all that has changed.

Man came to see his kind as above nature, able to circumvent the limits of nature by his tools and technology–to move mountains, divert rivers, to make his own light and temperature environment; and he saw the resources of nature as a source, not of succor and comfort, but of profit.

Enter, the corporation. The term literally means “the collective body” and it was an aggregate short-term effort by a group of men to do a large task–build a railroad, dredge a canal–under a charter that ended when the job was done.

Following the inevitable path of fallen men, the corporation evolved to become a self-perpetuating and persistent beast, its power over nature became its bragging rights. Through mining, logging, or other extractive activities whose costs never reflected human privation or suffering caused by that activity, the corporation thrived. And it’s sole reason to exist became profit. Profit, at any cost. Might not be visible, might not be immediate, and hardly ever in THEIR back yards, but the extraction-to-wastestream way of making money had enormous costs. Fiddle dee dee.

But wait: there must be checks and balances for this power just like there were in government. The corporation’s ability to despoil must be offset by countervailing forces to prevent the destruction of the finite basis from which those riches were extracted (soil, air, ocean fisheries and such.) Hence, the advent of public and governmental entities like the EPA and other financial watchdog groups to see that the right thing was done. Mostly.

Those limitations imposed by health-welfare-environment regulations became limiting to maximum profits. The shareholders were not happy. So in a masterful slight of hand, the corporation, presto-chango, became entitled to the political rights of individuals as Citizens United.

And the final blow, once the power was securely in the hands of those who are fed by the corporations gained a controlling majority: the whining sissies who worried about silly things like mountaintops, streams, ground water, biodiversity and such are finally being silenced. EPA be gone!

And the Lorax devours what remains of nature, the richest few moving higher and higher up the mountain as the waters of unrest grow among those they have trampled on, impoverished, made sick, angry and–until lately–without hope.

The hope lies in the fact that even the most seduced and enthralled with corpo-consumer society are seeing the evil, seeing the vast wasteland where education and the arts, just social services, non-profit and personal health used to be. They are realizing where it has gone. They have been willingly duped. They want back what they had–in living memory. They want their children to have what they had.

Annie Leonard’s 8 minute explanation is part of the recovery process. It’s not going to be pretty–any more than other rebellions we’re witnessing now, many for similar reasons of dictatorial or corporate hegemony. In a world in flames, we can hope the gold of human decency will not be among the things consumed in the conflagration.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Yep, you know things have gone radically wrong when the top 1% of income earners control 99% of all the $ in the US, and, even worse, the wealthiest 400 individuals control as much money as the lower 50% of the income brackets (translated that means the top 400 control about the same amount of money as the lowest 150 million in the USA).

    Those wealthiest folks control media, government, and the military. Can you figure out a way of wrestling back the control, because I sure can’t?


  2. Oh, and you forgot agriculture. Sort of got us by the nads. Frankly, I see America becoming polarized just like Egypt (well sorta like) in which the ??% of the populace that supports the top 1% has control of the military, the media and the grocery cart. Eventually, things get really really ugly, with tanks running over young people on the Mall in DC.

  3. Well and beautifully said. Annie Leonard’s video is highly recommended. She has the ability to take complex issues and communicate them in a way that doesn’t patronize or over simplify. Thank you for bringing her message to a wider audience.

  4. Thanks for this, Fred. I have forwarded Annie’s video and petition to my e-mail address book, and I will join Public Citizen. I think the “Citizens United” case is one the most harmful legal opinions in our Supreme Court’s history. I was a lawyer, so I know something about such stuff.

  5. Check out the website of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. They offer a “Democracy School”, in which you learn new ways to combat corporate control of our lives besides beseeching our elected “representatives” to do the right thing. We have to fight fire with fire – our lives and our environment depend on us regaining control. It can be done.