The Moment of Truth — April 21, 2001

Monsanto Clause

Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen, and this is the Moment of Truth, the only cell in the media body politic that ISN’T cancer.

Those of us codgers old enough to have been around during the war of independence against England remember the battle cry, “No taxation without representation!” Now, two hundred twenty-five years later, we’ve almost convinced the sovereign nations that they cannot avoid the pressure of popular opinion, so they’d better accommodate it in their constitutions, mission statements, charters, and what-have-you.

Yet, just on the cusp of the era when democracy truly does stand as the model for sensible governance, the most powerful anti-democratic system in history, the corporation, swoops down and snatches sovereignty from the clamoring beaks of the people. The corporations now demand that they be allowed to seek profit everywhere in the world under any circumstance, and if some obstacle should arise, like an environmental or labor law in some country or other, they have the right to sue until that obstacle goes away.

The corporations, who represent no one but themselves and their stockholders, are even now getting together to make laws that supercede those made by representative governments. Or rather, governments that are as representative as possible given the unfair amount of sway corporations already have over them. There they are, meeting and planning for this FTAA, without public scrutiny or input, plotting to rob the masses of what little power we’ve been able to secure ourselves since kings first started going out of style.

So what can the people do? Should we protest? If we, the human global society, preach representative governance, can we condone corporations attempting, non-democratically, to institute non-representative governance? And if they won’t let us into the discussion, what choice then do we have but to force our way in from outside, to do what made governments concede to giving people power in the first place, to demonstrate popular disapproval of law imposed on us without our consent. Make a bunch of noise and spectacle until it’s just too inconvenient for them to ignore us.

Well, now, wait a minute, say the Reagans, Bushes, Clintons and Bushes. The President is there, and the trade representatives from his cabinet. The President is a democratically elected official. The people voted for him, and so he represents… oh, wait. That’s right. The people didn’t elect him. The Supreme Court did. According to the way this last election was carried out, Bush only represents the consent of five judges. So that doesn’t really work out.

But hold on, says Nazi McFascist of the CATO Institute, a think tank that advises the government on policy and gets quoted without question everywhere, in every uncritical news venue, including what is sardonically called “public radio.” [See my last essay, “Pay for it again?”] The CATO Institute says, “Hey, don’t protest. Don’t you know how much these trade agreements between the wealthy help the poor? You silly, suspicious masses. Are you against helping the poor workers of the world?”

Oh, but don’t I remember… yes, that’s right. Labor associations from two of the largest countries in South America, representing millions of workers, are against the FTAA. Oh, and speaking of South America, the CATO Institute has gotten a lot of its labor policy work done by a former labor advisor of Augusto Pinochet, who, with the help of multinational corporations and George W Bush’s father’s CIA, overthrew the elected government of Chile and massacred thousands of people who voiced their opinion against corporate-backed fascism. So who are we to believe, the voices of millions of workers, or the institute getting advice from one of the most anti-democratic regimes in this hemisphere? I don’t know. Maybe we should take a vote on it.

Come to think of it, I don’t remember voting for members of the CATO Institute. I guess that’s how they like it. It’s a private club for the antidemocratic and pro-corporate, like so many other exclusive organizations. Except members of this weird CATO cult like to pretend for a few seconds each week on the radio that they care about poor people.

Or maybe they’re not pretending. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions. Maybe they’ve grown since a couple years ago and learned a different, more cautionary lesson from the Pinochet regime. Maybe they do care, and that’s why they’re so interested in making sure poor people don’t influence the destiny of their own resources and jobs. They don’t want the poor to hurt themselves by accidentally voting for the wrong things and then getting massacred for it.

In fact, maybe the entirety of global corporate overlord culture has changed its tune. Maybe instead of poisoning a huge city like Bhopal, India, with deadly chemicals and then hiding from the legal and social consequences, maybe some big factory in a poor country will explode and beautiful pink cotton candy will fly out, and then when the happy little children get cavities, the CEO will insist on being personally flogged in the town square. “Beat me, beat me,” he will exclaim, “I am not worthy to manipulate your politicians.”

And maybe it’s all part of their benevolent scheme that NAFTA has caused the wages of Mexican workers to go down, and US jobs to go overseas, and the gap between rich and poor to gape like a chasm. Maybe the rich are hoarding all the wealth, sucking all our money up into their bank accounts and stock portfolios, because they’re actually planning a big surprise for us!

Yeah, that must be it. They’re only pretending to be greedy, shortsighted maniacs. They’re destroying biodiversity, opposing safety and health legislation, funding disinformation about the ozone layer and global warming, enslaving poor people and children in sweatshops, and subverting local control of resources because they don’t want to spoil the surprise!

I’m sure that Monsanto and the other biotech companies are only pretending to try to foist that crappy genetically engineered golden rice down everyone’s throat in an attempt to take control of the food supply out of the hands of local farmers. They’ve read the work of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, they know that famine isn’t caused by a lack of food – the famine in Bangladesh took place during a year when food production was higher than in the previous fifteen years. They know that the real issue of poverty isn’t lack of resources, but a cruel system of overdistribution here where the wealth is, and denial of goods there where the starving people are. Yes, the corporations know that nothing causes poverty like profit motive. They know that the problem isn’t shortage, but capitalism.

I bet Monsanto is actually sitting on something really special, maybe something they call platinum rice. This magical grain will not only cure blindness, like golden rice, but also cancer, AIDS, spastic colon, Gulf War Syndrome, and decapitation. And it can be grown alongside local varieties of rice without supplanting them, and best of all, Monsanto will be giving it away free! And in every kilo there’ll be a prize: a little package of protease inhibitors.

I bet they’re just waiting till Christmas. Then they’re gonna unveil the beautiful new planet they’ve been working on using the all the money they’re sucking out of us. Monsanto Claus is gonna come down the chimney with a brand new rainforest and a new ozone layer and clean water and air! And all the species that we thought were going extinct? Monsanto Claus is just hiding them to surprise us on Christmas day. I want a lemur!

So of course we should abdicate our rights to the corporations. They know what’s good for us. Obviously we don’t, and that’s why it’s so important that we be kept out of the wheeling and dealing and divvying up of the booty. We’d probably just break something or fall down and hurt ourselves.

So you better not shout, you better not cry, you better not protest, cuz Monsanto Claus is coming to town, and if you ain’t been good he’s gonna put nuclear waste in your stocking!

I hope everyone gets what he or she deserves. Until that happens, I’m mejeffdorchen and this has been the Moment of Truth.