Warehouse K
Greed And Corruption
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The Insanity Of Owning Everything

By James Donahue

Before the Europeans arrived on the American continents the inhabitants already occupying the land appear to have understood the concept of territory, but the ownership of the land did not make sense to them. They perceived the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, the water and all living creatures around them as gifts from the Creator. The Mother Earth provided for their every need. They hunted for only the meat, and cut trees and branches for only what they needed for food, shelter and tools, and took no more.

The Europeans came as invaders, taking the land, claiming possession of it, and then divided portions off for personal ownership. The concept of surveying, to legally establish boundaries for land ownership, must have bewildered the aboriginal people. The invaders seized the land, sometimes by treaty and sometimes by merely claiming it the property of a foreign power. They slowly drove the native people like cattle unto reservations of “government land” as if they were, themselves livestock.

Then there was the introduction of owned livestock. The settlers freely slaughtered the buffalo, the elk, the deer and the other creatures that were once hunted by the natives for their daily sustenance. Ironically the practice of hunting and killing wild game is considered a sport today. States require hunters to purchase a license that gives them the right to kill wild animals and fish.

The concept of ownership was something that most contemporary people have grown up to know and understand, and we accept it as part of the capitalist system that dominates our lives. We were sent to school as children to learn all of the skills necessary to get jobs when we became adults so we could earn the money we needed to buy the things we believed would make us happy.

The “American dream” was to own a home, fill it with fine things, have a shiny car in the driveway, and be part of a family that lived in the home. If we hoped to own all of these things we were expected to work hard all of our lives, strive for advancement, and if we were clever enough, and perhaps lucky enough, we would achieve some degree of wealth so we could climb in social status. The more things we owned and the more money we gathered measured our success in life.

This capitalistic system never really worked as well as the people were led to believe. The problem has always been greed and corruption among those few clever folks who found ways to amass more wealth than the others, and then use it to manipulate and control those workers below them. They became the corporate owners, the bosses for whom the mass of laborers worked. And because of greed, those corporate owners, or shareholders, forced workers to hard labor for long hours without paying them enough to give them the life style they also sought.

The workers rebelled, and after long, hard-fought and sometimes bloody battles in the streets, won the right to form unions. The unions became a collective force, representing the workers, and for a while, won better working conditions, eight-hour work days, better wages, health insurance benefits, paid vacation time, paid sick time, and other benefits that improved life for just about everybody that had a job. For a few years, right after World War II, there was a better distribution of the wealth and many Americans actually lived the American Dream.

But something sinister has happened. It has been a long slow process, but the Republicans, beginning with President Ronald Reagan’s “voodoo economic” policies, have succeeded in breaking the backs of the unions, allowing American manufacturing plants to move overseas to take advantage of low cost and non-union labor and ship their products to big American department store chains without paying embargo costs. The capitalistic system that we thought we liked has been spoiled once again by those clever greedy power brokers that once more are in control of the wealth..

The passage of the Financial Services Modernization Act in 1999 during the Clinton Administration amounted to a recall of the Glass-Steagall Act. This allowed the big banks and lending institutions to gamble with the people’s money and set the stage for a financial collapse that some say eclipses The Great Depression. Millions are out of work, the price of property has fallen, and the power and big money has moved back into the hands of a very few.

In recent months we have been seeing something new occurring that boggles the mind. Instead of seeing a stabilization of prices and a renovation of jobs in America, just the opposite has happened. Investors have discovered that they can use hedge funds, or a coalition of wealthy investors, to buy agricultural commodities and force the price of food through the roof. They began with cocoa and now we are seeing the price of wheat, soybeans, rice and corn get so high it is seriously affecting the price of food in our grocery stores.

Farmers not only in America but around the world have been overwhelmed by the introduction of genetically developed seeds, legally owned by big corporations like Monsanto. This company is using the power of its wealth and a bank of lawyers to force farmers to buy its product and to pay for pollinated crops grown in nearby fields.

The latest example of greed and insanity has been the creation of RightHaven, a “patent troll” by Steve Gibson of Las Vegas. This guy is now buying the copyrights of newspaper content, then scanning the Internet for blog and websites that post the content of the stories or even link to the newspaper story on line. It is a blatant misuse of the copyright laws to extort money from Internet bloggers that haven’t the means to legally defend themselves..

We must wonder what new insanities are about to befall us? Who can imagine a corporation of wealthy men owning all of the food and all of the seeds? Who can imagine a greedy man in Los Vegas owning the content of a news story? This all makes about as much sense to us, I suppose, as owning land did to the Indians.

The big power figures have almost accomplished ownership of everything the Native Americans once believed was the Mother Earth’s gift to all mankind. Many people are even forced to buy fresh water. About the only free thing left is the air and that is getting so polluted we may all be buying air purification systems or oxygen tanks in the near future.

How could we have allowed ourselves to fall into such a pit of insanity?