Thursday, December 15, 2011

Persons of the Year

Persons of the Year-The Oligarchs

This was the year in which it was confirmed that corrupt politicians come in all flavors; ethnicities, colors, sexual orientations, and educational attainment levels. For anyone paying attention, the self interest of world leaders reached a level of such proportions that even the most docile acted up and out against them. It is yet to be determined if the activists have changed anything. The continued reliance on the processes of governance, without structural change, forebodes that where uprising happened, the net effect was to change the faces of the players, but not the game.

"Peanuts", first year psychology courses, ad-men and comedians all extol the truth of negative reinforcement, "don't care what you say about me, just say something". GM execs used to say of Nader, when he was busy critiquing the safety of their autos, he wasn't knocking the use of autos, (which claim 1 million lives annually), he was worried about them rolling over. Nader was occupying their space. He was critiquing them. He was not out advocating for something like public transportation.

As long as we validate the brutes, the greedy, the killers, by occupying their spaces, we insure that we are not contemplating what the alternative might look like.

No better evidence can be cited than the results of the COP 17 on global climate change that just ended in Durban, South Africa. There the players from all perspectives, pro-business, big oil,, or reps from the so-called 99%, pointed at "governments' policy" to increase, limit, change, control, or modify behavior by the imposition of rules. As if large third parties, can by the force, control the inclination of individuals to destroy their world. Evidence to the contrary abounds: speed limits, FDA's inability to regulate the food and drug industries, anti-smoking regulations, the SEC, are just the tip of a list, exclusively American, that would give credence to the observation that humankind is it's own worst enemy, and they are ungovernable.

Naomi Klein wrote a piece for the Nation that she discussed with Andrew Revkin here. "The piece begins with Klein’s conclusion, reached after she spent time at a conclave on climate sponsored by the libertarian Heartland Institute, that passionate corporate and conservative foes of curbs on greenhouse gases are right in asserting that a meaningful response to global warming would be a fatal blow to free markets and capitalism.

She challenges the environmental left to embrace this reality instead of implying that modest changes in lifestyle and shopping habits and the like can decarbonize human endeavors on a crowding planet."

These are statements well worth reading, within the context of seeing the world as left/right, corporate/individual, or as organized or randomized. What neither Andrew or Naomi can say, they do make their livings being pundits in mainstream media, is that the revolution, if you actually want it, is within our means. It is not dependent on powerful governments, or NGOs, or corporate reform.

What Gandhi knew, what MLK knew, was that margins are razor thin. The boycott is the easiest and most effective weapon for change. Outstanding examples are the refusal of American colonials to buy British goods after the passage of the Stamp Act (1765), the Chinese boycott of U.S. goods (1905) because of the poor treatment of Chinese in America, the refusal of Gandhi's followers to buy British-made goods in India, and the Arab League boycott (1948) of all companies dealing with the state of Israel.

The "market" and specific targets within it, cannot withstand a withdrawal of even 10% of their customer base. Here's a list of net margins.

Want to integrate a bus system, stop riding. Want to bring a consumer driven economy to its knees, stop buying. Want to change the global demand for carbon, stop driving. Don't appreciate one or another corporate policy, find out what they produce and stop buying it. Koch Industries is in the news a lot and produce many consumer goods. The Wonkette had some advice on the subject.

There are some very dedicated boycott organizers out there. Scan this site for inspiration. The point is to stop being driven by "their" agenda. That was the anti-message the OWS tried to deliver. The irony was that they validated (by occupying) Wall Street as the power center. What if all those college students prevailed on their institutions to stop dealing with the street? What if they implored their parents to move their money off "the street"? What if, like the example of these young Canadian delegates to COP 17, they turned their collective backs on the systems that oppress them?

"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."

Mahatma Gandhi.

1 comment:

  1. Will, I agree that citizens should really pay more attention to the cost structure of bad actors and find multiple ways to drive up costs and drive down sales - boycotts and more.

    The reason corporations game the system through lobbying is exactly because, as you point out, margins are thin. It's incredibly difficult to create a profitable business, especially over the long term. Combine this with the fact that lobbying offers a dramatically higher return on investment than honest work.

    The ironic thing for me is that while the right decries the supposed laziness of the poor, the corporate class is the laziest of all. Lobbying is easy theft, perfect for lazy thieves.