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Monday, May 7, 2012

The VIOLENCE In Our Midst

Are you a violent person?  Most people aren’t, but some may become such, depending on the circumstances.  Strange, then, that most of us go along day-to-day without violence as a part of our living.  At least, we probably see it that way.

Let’s look at the topic from another angle.  If you aren’t a violent person, and you basically abhor violence, do you tolerate violence being done to you and to others?  Well, you probably react in such a way as to protest against any possibility that you would tolerate violence against yourself, your family, or someone known to you in your community.  But where does that leave those unknown to you?  Let’s focus a bit more.  Do you tolerate violence perpetrated on others with whom you are unfamiliar?  I suspect most of us would have to answer a reluctant yes, because we have all experienced episodes of violence upon others that have not fallen within our sphere of life or been close enough to us to move us to protest.

Think now of that rather famous quote from Pastor Niemuller of Germany that goes:

 “First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

So, the question becomes:  are there forces out there that are perpetrating forms of violence against members of our communities or our nation that we are ignoring?  And, to be more focused on ourselves: are there forces of violence that are being perpetrated upon me and my family of which I am basically unaware because I have gotten used to ignoring it when it falls upon others because I don’t recognize it’s nature?

Before we answer, it’s necessary to take a little detour to explore that word “violence.”

Of course, we are probably most familiar with the definition that has to do with the use of physical force to injure, damage, or destroy.  Undoubtedly, most people think of that when they use the word.  Or, perhaps, they think of a devastatingly or explosively powerful force like a hurricane or an active volcano.  But what about that definition that deals with another whole side of violence in the realm of feelings, rights, or propaganda.

However, here’s what I’m talking about:

“unjust or callous use of force or power, as in violating another’s rights or sensibilities and the harm done by this“;

Now we are in a realm that affects us all.  And, surprisingly enough, we are in the arena of politics, with a vengeance.

Women, the disabled, the elderly, union members, government workers, the unemployed, the poor and homeless, children, minorities, and each one of us are all the victims of this kind of violence.  We are already targets of the violent misuse of power and wealth, and yet the voices against this form of violence are too quiet.  Thank God for the Occupy Wall Street folks who have had the courage to speak out and protest these forces, but they have been ignored, unheard, beaten, arrested, and removed from their locations so that their protest can be kept “under control.”  That is always the way with those who disturb the status quo, the comfortable, the complacent.  They end up being put down, put out and put in some sort of detention.

Therefore, you ignore and eschew the following at your own, and your family’s and your community’s peril.  They are coming for the others, and what have YOU chosen? Silence?  They will come for you next….  Here’s what I’m talking about.

The Power of the One Percent.  There is nothing more dangerous than an elite who believe in their right to control, manipulate and coerce those considered somehow having  less value or worth than they believe they themselves possess.  The Koch brothers, Charles and David, are the epitome of this attitude, and the poster boys for the very rich right-wing radicals who want to take over our government, our society and our lives.  They believe that their ideology and beliefs must hold sway no matter who objects.  In Fact, the billionaire brothers bankroll a vast network of organizations that work to undermine the interests of the 99% on issues ranging from Social Security to the environment to civil rights.

Here are a few examples of their background and activities from the website that promotes the video:  The Koch Brothers Exposed.

Koch Industries, which the brothers own, is one of the top ten polluters in the United States -- which perhaps explains why the Koch's have given $60 million to climate denial groups between 1997 and 2010.  Koch Industries has an annual production capacity of 2.2 billion pounds of the carcinogen formaldehyde. The company has worked to keep it from being classified as a carcinogen even though David Koch is a prostate cancer survivor.

The Koch's are the oil and gas industry's biggest donors to the congressional committee with oversight of the hazardous Keystone XL oil pipeline. They and their employees gave more than $300,000 to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2010 alone.

From 1998-2008, Koch-controlled foundations gave more than $196 million to organizations that favor polices that would financially enrich the two brothers. In addition, Koch Industries spent $50 million on lobbying and some $8 million in PAC contributions.  A Huffington Post source who was at a three-day retreat of conservative billionaires said the Koch brothers pledged to donate $60 million to defeat President Obama in 2012 and produce pledges of $40 million more from others at the retreat.  The Koch's are also suing to take over the Cato Institute, which has accused the Koch's of attempting to destroy the group's identity as an independent, libertarian think tank and align it more closely with a partisan agenda.

Since 2000, the Koch's have collected almost $100 million in government contracts, mostly from the Department of Defense.  The Koch brothers' combined fortune of roughly $50 billion is exceeded only by that of Bill Gates in the United States.  The Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs accused Koch Oil of scheming to steal $31 million of crude oil from Native Americans. Although the company claimed it was accidental, a former executive in this operation said Charles Koch had known about it and had responded to the overages by saying, "I want my fair share, and that's all of it."

The Power of Multi-national corporations  Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations while only 49 are countries, based on a comparison of corporate sales and country GDPs.  Adam Smith, in his famous book the Wealth of Nations, saw corporations as working to evade the laws of the market, trying to interfere with prices and controlling trade.  It is that tendency toward control that needs to concern us all. 

According to an article from global issues.com, in September 2011, an analysis of over 43,000 transnational corporations (TNCs) identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.  An even tighter 147 (about 1%) of these were described as “super entities” that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network.

This combination of Corporate wealth and influence can reach various parts of societies through various means, which many other entities don’t have the ability to do, since others lack the financial resources that corporations have: 

  • Influence on general populations via advertising and controlling the mainstream media.
  • Influence on public policy and over governments. This can range from financing large parts of elections, to creating corporate-funded think tanks and “citizen” groups, to support from very influential political bodies such as the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Influence on international institutions, such as the World Trade Organization, as well as international economic and political agreements. 

Corporations have used and expanded the human right of free speech to mean the unlimited right to put corporate money into politics, and have thus taken control of our major political parties and politicians;
Military contractors grew to enormous size as a result of WWII and a permanent arms industry came into being, what Dwight Eisenhower called “the military/industrial complex.” It now lobbies our government to buy its products and use them in wars around the world. 
Corporations have used the 4th Amendment’s human right to privacy to keep out OSHA, EPA, and to hide crimes.  Why do you think that their shills - the Republican Right - keep denigrating the EPA?
Corporations have lobbied states to change corporate charter laws to eliminate “public good” provisions from charters, to allow multiple purposes, and to essentially be guaranteed an eternal existence.
Corporations claim the human right to economic activity free of regulatory restraint.

Violations of human rights, control of trade negotiations and treaties, large scale tax avoidance, hiding profits in off-shore bank accounts, often fighting social causes and policies not only in this country but elsewhere -- the pressure to compete and to realize ever-increasing profits is driving many large companies to the lowest common denominator of operation, thus doing violence to the well-being of people and nations.  These corporations and even some nations actually seek out places where poor labor regulations can be taken advantage of in an unfair way, or by not supporting—or even opposing—international or national bodies and policies that could help to ensure fairness.
 
Wal-Mart is often cited by critics and some mainstream media as the quintessential prototype for what this “culture” tends to create (from alternet.org): 

  • A downward pressure on wages
  • Discrimination against women in particular
  • The lack of adequate health care coverage
  • Using illegal immigrants to do menial work
  • Workers illegally fired for trying to form a union
  • Wal-Mart spends millions to thwart workers' basic rights, giving its union-breaking staff priority on resources (like corporate jets) over even higher-placed managers
  • Wal-Mart is in cahoots with the Chinese government, raking in profits by condoning the violation of basic international labor standards.

The U.S.consumer is unwittingly supporting a process that is leading to more exploitation, not only of people in other countries, but of tax payers and consumers in this country.  If you don’t like violence done to you and others, then beware the culture of rich, multi-national corporations.  Their basic interest is not in your interest. Violence?  Again, a definition for you to consider very carefully:

“unjust or callous use of force or power, as in violating another’s rights or sensibilities and the harm done by this“