Bill Totten's Weblog

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Oil Addiction: The World in Peril - 22

by Pierre Chomat (Universal Publishers, 2004)

translated from the French by Pamela Gilbert-Snyder

Part III. The Power of America: Rooted in Dependency

Chapter 22. Corpocrats in Power

The human adventure or, to put it in terms more appropriate to the industrialized world, the human enterprise, is placing our future at risk. The insulating blanket we have installed around the Earth, the widening economic gap between the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and the prospect of future energy wars are only a few of the many risk factors that we face. These problems must be addressed now if we are to have any hope of solving them; tomorrow it will be too late. We are in the situation described by San Francisco writer Harold Gilliam: "The explosion of scientific knowledge and invention had given virtually infinite power to humans who were totally unprepared to control it, with catastrophic results. Too much energy, too soon." {31}

Awareness of the risks associated with the human enterprise is growing in most parts of the world, but the American president who came to power in 2001 is a champion of unfettered free enterprise. This entrepreneurial president urges corporations to produce as much as possible, without considering the effects on the environment or worrying about Americans' excessive energy consumption. Never before has a US government contained so many members who had recently occupied positions of power in industry, particularly the oil industry. The United States has elected a government of corpocrats.

Until now, major oil companies have been a powerful influence, to be sure, but government still managed to have the last word. Since the beginning of 2001, however, the roles have been reversed: the new corpocracy is bent on subordinating the entire country to big business. It is almost as if the government has been privatized and deregulated! How did America get here? Although George W Bush actually lost the popular vote in the 2000 presidential elections, his philosophy is not entirely out of harmony with the American mainstream. The United States, after all, is built on the principles of free enterprise.

In almost every country in the world, the companies that develop and distribute energy are public utilities. In Europe, moreover, most public services are provided by government agencies, including transportation, health insurance, hospitals, museums, universities, and retirement homes. In the United States, it is just the opposite. From universities to industries, from medical schools to hospitals, from natural resources to public utilities, almost everything is supplied by private enterprise. Even most health insurance is provided by private companies that pocket their profits before dispensing reimbursements and select their customers from among the low-risk. For the United States to do well, private enterprise must do well: business is the heart and soul of the nation.

Because of their omnipresence and their special legal status, corporations occupy a very different place in American society than they do in Europe. This dates back many years. In 1886 the US Supreme Court, citing the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, granted corporations the same rights as living persons, with the same protections under the law, including the presumption of innocence. {32} This principle, which is still applied today,
allows corporations to decide for themselves whether their products and processes are harmful to society. One might think their status as humble individuals would encourage them to behave more responsibly toward their fellow men. But for the most part that has never been the case. Corporate directors like to have it both ways and they hide behind their status as private companies to avoid personal liability whenever they feel the need.

The American entrepreneur is urged to march boldly onward without looking back to see the damage that he causes. People can seek redress only after the fact, once the entrepreneur has made his profits. According to the "trickle-down" theory {a}, profit makes the world go around. Environmental damage resulting, for example, from the greenhouse effect and global warming, is not a corpocrat concern. Sport Utility Vehicles, SUVs, are built heavy, wide and tall; it does not matter that this makes them a danger to people in smaller vehicles. They are good for industry because they use lots of steel and plastic, consume lots of gas, and are filled with electronics. In California, SUVs account for half of all private vehicle sales. Who cares if they are classified as trucks and need not meet the environmental standards applied to cars? That they physically endanger everyone on the road? President Bush's stimulus plan gives a $100,000 tax credit to business owners who purchase vehicles weighing 6,000 pounds or more.

From the beginning, the Bush administration has taken every opportunity to enhance corporate profitability regardless of the impact. And, of course, the recession that began in 2001, the terrible attacks against the World Trade Center on September 11 of that year, and the invasion of Iraq have served as powerful arguments for promoting such policies. But this administration has also instigated a rollback of health and environmental protections that is astounding in its scope. Consider the decisions made during just the first two years of the Bush corpocracy {33}, as enumerated by a character from the comic strip Doonesbury, by Gary Trudeau. The voices come from within a well-known white building flying a star-spangled banner in Washington DC:

"Let's move on to our contributors from the extraction industries - is everyone happy there?"

"Very, sir! With all the National security distractions, we've been able to quietly gut one environmental protection regulation after another. For instance, we've produced new rules to speed up logging in national forests, rolled back protections of 58 million acres from roads and developments, eased pollution controls for power plants and factories, rejected new fuel-efficiency standards, sped up permit-granting for power companies, lifted a ban on snowmobiles in parks, proposed 51,000 new natural gas wells, removed limits on coal producers for dumping mountaintop fill in streams, reduced EPA fines of polluters by 64%, opened up Padre Island to drilling, halted funding for several superfund sites, replaced scientists who don't support our views, rejected the Kyoto global warming treaty, and much, much more!" {34}

Gary Trudeau's list, though partial, lays out the corpocratic vision of the future. The American government never admits to its citizens that the Earth's resources are limited and are quickly being depleted. And yet the United States has already exhausted much of what Nature had accumulated on its own territory. There are still mountains that can be reduced to bricks and concrete, but even the waters of the mighty Colorado River do not make it to the Pacific Ocean anymore: they have been entirely diverted for agricultural irrigation and urban use. Oil derricks will eventually become tourist attractions, ghosts of the "Golden Age of Fossil Fuel", just like the ruins of the California gold mines. But the future, even short-term, is not a corpocrat concern either. Dwelling on the future is considered negative thinking that might actually impede progress.

The basic tenets of the corpocratic vision are simple:

1) Everything on Earth belongs to Man. Forget ecosystems! Other species do not matter! Do not even think about sharing our natural resources with future generations! Everything must be consumed immediately! It is not Man's job to think about the consequences and to repair the damage: In God We Trust.

2) The United States has the right to control any of the Earth's resources that it needs to run its free enterprise system. To exercise this right, it may use force, even preventive war. First in oil! God Bless America!

3) Money is a pillar of civilization. It makes the "development - production - consumption - waste" cycles turn as quickly as possible, all to society's good. Money is the best insurance for keeping any egosystem running. It is the backbone of the human enterprise. Greed is good.

These principles, which are also promoted by various interest groups in other countries, are nonnegotiable among American corpocrats.

To a true corpocrat, society is nothing more than the sum of its corporations; a good society is one whose corporations show a profit and make the economy run smoothly. The corpocracy rewards entrepreneurs who take risks and win big; they are considered the driving force of society. In this new kind of society, social services for the benefit of all are unnecessary government expenses that only make people idle. The individual must make his own way and work for everything he gets; he is responsible for creating his own safety net, too. As in the old Western movies, those who cannot keep up are considered losers to be abandoned to their fate. After all, anything can be used to turn a profit - anything the Earth produces, including minerals, energy, and forests; and anything that humans produce, be it agricultural or industrial. Education, children, even human handicaps and illnesses are markets to be exploited for profit. Since 2001, the American people have been held absolutely hostage to this corpocratic vision.

Corpocratic policies take the concept of the egosystem to extremes. In all of history it would be difficult to find a system adopted by any State that would generate more selfishness vis-a-vis the rest of the world, or more selfishness at home, among those who succeed at the expense of the "losers". Unfortunately, for the "winners", free enterprise, excess, and superfluity are not self-sustaining. They need an uninterrupted supply of low-cost energy in massive quantities in order to survive. Even a minor increase in the cost of crude oil would weaken corporations considerably. A tightening of the valves in the oil and gas pipelines would spell catastrophe for them and could lead to industrial implosion. The United States has been able to prevent this from happening so far. It did not build an imperial army for nothing.

This preoccupation with energy is obviously shared by all of the industrialized nations. But the great United States, which until now has always had fuel of its own in adequate amounts, cannot tolerate the predicament in which it now finds itself. Corpocrats were brought to power to deal with it.

Corpocracy is more than just a brand of politics: it is a doctrine. The American people's right to know and to make their own decisions is being trampled on by a media charged with proselytizing this doctrine. To gain acceptance for its policies, the American government reassures its people that their future is secure. All the while, however, it continues to foster the spirit of "Manifest Destiny" of the pioneers who settled the Old West, deliberately implying that there are no physical or moral limits to the application of its policies. This government is leading its citizens into the third millennium like a doctor leads his patients into the operating room: sufficiently anesthetized to avoid the pain and awareness of what is really going on. It lies to them about the content and consequences of its energy policy. It lies to them about nearly everything, in fact, because its policies favor corporations over people. No corpocratic government will ever tell the people that the country is on a slippery slope. Thus, excessive energy consumption continues its blind ascent; it is even officially recognized as an indicator of good economic health.

The bedside reading of the perfect corpocrat never alludes to the fact that gas, kerosene, coal, and heating oil are the nation's driving forces, despite the fact that the nation's egosystems could not do without them for more than a few hours, giving the "American Empire" no choice but to continually return to the ergamine market. The American government obfuscates the fact that its focus on the Middle East is motivated by the region's energy reserves. To disguise the true motives for sending its army to the world's petroleum fronts, it has been waging a disinformation campaign since 2001 to persuade its people that every Middle Eastern country harbors anti-American terrorists who must be destroyed - preventively! To add force to its assertions, it began issuing terrorist alerts designed to maintain a certain level of fear among the population at all times. And it should surprise no one that at the beginning of 2003, before the United States and England invaded Iraq, the public was being warned about threats that were described as having been conceived, prepared, financed, and organized at least in part by Iraq. The British government had no qualms about leaping into the fray to re-colonize Iraq!

Since 2001, it is safe to say that most of the political leadership in the United States has been co-opted by the corpocracy. This is a great blow to democracy! This American tragedy has serious consequences for the entire world, not the least of which is the dangerous disruption of relations between the United States and Europe, the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the "haves" and the "have-nots", and even between different cultures.


{31} Harold Gilliam, "Mind and Matter", San Francisco Chronicle, 9 February 2003.

{32} Editorial: "Natural vs. Artificial 'Persons'", Multinational Monitor (December 2000).

{a} The trickle down theory is an economic theory embraced by Republicans, who maintain that the money earned by corporations benefits all levels of American society - workers, small contractors, service companies, shareholders, retirement funds, et cetera ... This theory was used by the Administration to justify the tax break favoring those in the highest brackets, that is to say, corporations and wealthy shareholders.

{33} Electronic document accessed at: http://nrdcorg/bushrecord/default.asp

{34} Gary Trudeau, "Doonesbury" San Francisco Chronicle, 26 January 2003.

Bill Totten


Post a Comment

<< Home