We are gathering to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy of non-violence as well as to recognize the 3rd year anniversary of the infamous Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Many times, especially in the aftermath of violence like the recent school shootings, it is difficult to see the big picture and the interconnectedness of events, as we are overwhelmed by sorrow and a marrow-deep feeling of helplessness, and at first blush, these two symbolic dates may seem unrelated. They are not.
We recognize Dr. King’s birthday because he is a powerful symbol for peace and non-violent protest and we recognize the anniversary of Citizens United because it is a symbol of how out-of-control corporate influence and the pursuit of violence for profit is in this country. The theme today is “Peace or Profit: Violence as Commodity.” We chose this title to highlight the fact that this is indeed the choice and that there is a bigger pattern at play that needs to be illuminated. We can choose peace, or we can choose to allow runaway corporate profiteering off violence in all its forms: endless wars, weapons, defense contracts, the war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on workers, the war on homeowners, the war on women and minorities, the war on the earth.
Some would say that we have peace here in America because we so aggressively protect our country from terrorism, but the truth is we are at war in the Middle East because of corporations protecting their oil interests and their profit margin and because they make billions from war itself. But corporations are also at war with the citizens of this country, and anyone is expendable in the pursuit of profit.
Achieving peace requires treating people and the earth with respect, a willingness to share wealth, and cooperation that can come from only a democratic system based on fairness, a level playing field, and the rejection of exploitation and violence, including economic violence, which today is being perpetrated by the 1% onto the 99% in a massive redistribution of wealth from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. The corporate elite have subverted our democracy for their own uses and have distorted it into a plutocracy.
The corporate world and the military-industrial complex profit greatly from, and are addicted to, violence, which has been turned into a commodity to be traded and sold for the profit of the 1% at the expense of the 99%. Violence, exploitation, and coercion are hallmarks of unbridled capitalism and greed, and corporate greed for profit is poisoning our society by nurturing sociopathy and turning the entirety of civilization and the earth itself into a perpetual war zone.
What are we to do about this? Many solutions are being proffered to address gun violence and campaign contributions, but while getting money out of politics and instituting some limits on the selling of any gun to anyone, are examples of how corporate abuse of our democratic system could be stemmed somewhat, there is a larger problem: corporate “personhood” and money as “speech.” This goes back much further than the 2010 Citizens United decision, to 1886 in fact, when the Supreme Court declared in Southern Pacific Railroad v. Santa Clara County that corporations are “persons.” Since that time, thousands of subsequent decisions have reinforced this misguided notion and allowed corporations to exploit this illegitimate status by claiming they have “rights” under the Bill of Rights, which was meant exclusively for actual people, not artificial entities like corporations, which are legal fictions. The end result is we now have corporate rule of every aspect of our lives. Let me give you an idea of the scope of the problem.
The Corporation controls:
- Our industry – small mom and pops and independent businesses have increasingly been taken over by large corporations like Wal-Mart and the laws have been re-written to favor them
- Our banks – small, independent, local banks have been taken over by huge multinationals who have engaged in criminal practices that have crashed domestic and foreign economies and who continue to illegally foreclose on homeowners
- Our energy sources and policy – big polluters fight greener alternatives, such as solar, wind, geothermal, rapid transit, while receiving government subsidies to continue to pollute
- Our healthcare –big pharma pushes Rx drugs, insurance companies and hospitals are run as for-profit enterprises, research is corrupted, biotech companies patent life forms, including human genomes
- Our food supply – agribusiness dominates with their use of GMO’s, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, preservatives=denatured, poisoned food
- Our natural world – oil drilling and oil spilling in sensitive, pristine areas, fracking and destroying aquifers, spewing CO2 from industrial plants, slashing and burning the rainforest, dumping nuclear waste in the ocean, toxic waste in landfills, clearcutting forests, mountaintop removal mining
- Our airwaves – corporate giants have taken over major networks: GE (NBC), Disney (ABC), Westinghouse (CBS), Time-Warner, individual media moguls like Rupert Murdoch control huge markets (FOX Networks, 20th Century FOX, etc.) and Pat Robertson (Christian Broadcasting Network) while simultaneously fighting to end public television and radio, which is one of the only independent alternatives
- The Internet – Internet Service Providers like AT & T, Verizon, Time-Warner track usage, attempt to curtail or eliminate access, pressure the FCC for authority to control online activity, back bills like SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA
- Our drug policy – corporate interests support the “war on drugs”, thereby perpetuating a black market and violent cartels and the criminalizing of substances like marijuana in order to maximize profits from legal drugs (alcohol and tobacco)
- Our foreign policy – big oil, industrial giants who produce fuel, weapons, and equipment foment and profiteer from wars as they receive giant government contracts
- Our commons – corporations bankrupt local governments, convert and take over public land, property, and infrastructure for private purposes and corporate gain; exploit natural resources—minerals, forests, oil, water–for private profit with no concern for environmental and health consequences while paying no royalties
Our government – Congress, the White House, and the Courts
1. Lobbying and the revolving door – corporations manipulate congress, regulatory agencies for the benefit of private enterprise to the detriment of the taxpayer and voter
2. Elections – corporations buy elections by funneling huge donations into campaigns while trying to suppress the vote of those who would oppose them
3. Representatives and justices – corporations buy influence by campaign contributions, perks, junkets
4. Legislation – corporations support and even write laws that benefit corporate interests rather than the interests of the people and fight passage of laws that would protect the citizenry
5. Ballot Initiatives – powerful corporate interests promote ballot initiatives that are often wolves in sheeps’ clothing that serve their interests at the people’s expense while dumping huge sums of money into defeating others like the tobacco industry did with Prop 29 in CA June 2012.
Corporate “personhood” and money as “speech” are at the core of this systemic sickness of profiting from violence, exploitation, and the stripping away of the constitutional rights of real people that has infected not only our nation but our world. There have been plenty of attempts to try to legislate campaign contributions, as well as environmental rights, workers’ rights, gun control, protect our food supply, and many other issues, all to no avail because the corporate world can and does litigate all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary on the basis of their supposed “rights” as “persons” being abridged or denied. “Personhood” was the prize they sought back in the 1800’s because they knew it would enable them to challenge every single law that local, state, or federal governments tried to pass to limit their abuses and protect the economy and the citizenry.
For example, money as “speech,” which was expanded upon in Citizens United, is based on the First Amendment, to which corporations have been enabled to claim they have a right because they have been recognized by the Supreme Court as “persons.” This decision allowed corporate interests representing the 1% to contribute millions of dollars in this last election cycle and will continue to allow the outright buying of elections and representation until we pass an amendment to the Constitution correcting this misappropriation of personhood standing to artificial entities, because any legislation that is passed will be struck down by the courts until “personhood” that was wrongly awarded to corporations is abolished.
People who are aligned with corporations will be the last to acknowledge the clear choice between profit or peace and that violence has been turned into a commodity by corporate greed, but eventually even their denial will be shaken I believe as the dark side of the corporate world is exposed to the light of day. The recent shootings reveal this to an excruciating degree as weapons and munitions manufacturers profit exponentially in the wake of these tragedies like Newtown, something they bank on and which they work to ensure through organizations like the NRA.
The TPP, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership “treaty”, also known as NAFTA on steroids, is another extreme current example of the insidious overreach of corporations and the extent to which they have infiltrated and control both major parties and run, and will even trump, government if TPP passes, as it will institute corporate world government where corporate tribunals will have the final say. It is vital that the public be made aware of these attempts to circumvent democracy and nullify the will of the people and the fact that nothing short of a constitutional amendment will remedy these abuses of power and unrelenting attacks on our freedoms.
Though the process is difficult and requires a sustained effort, the fix to the massive amount of problems we face is elegantly simple because all of them are traceable back to the abuse of the misguided notion of corporate “personhood.” Once this is corrected, laws can be passed to regulate corporate excesses and they will stick, because there won’t be any basis upon which to challenge them. Our non-partisan organization, Move to Amend, is building a grassroots movement towards this end, and keeps its eye singlemindedly on the goal of returning the power to the people via constitutional amendment to end corporate “personhood” and money as “speech.”
Our government has been bought and has allowed the corporate world to monopolize every sector of our economy and commit unspeakable crimes against humanity and the environment while escaping all accountability, paying no taxes, shipping our jobs overseas, and bankrupting our country while getting government contracts, subsidies, and bailouts. All of this has been made possible by the expansion of the unconstitutional concept of corporate rights. This insanity has to end.
Honoring peace, remembering our dead who are victims of all the forms of violence, and finding solutions means not only addressing the immediate crisis, but turning away from violence for profit and illuminating the clear choice between profit or peace by expanding the conversation to all of the ways in which violence is perpetrated, not simply by individuals with guns. We are either building peace and non-violence, or we are destroying it through pursuing profit through violence. As long as corporations and the profit motive rule, we will never have peace.
We must amend the Constitution to end the corporate takeover that has allowed the wealthy elite to ruin our economy, strangle our democracy, commodify and profit from violence and destroy our society, our country, and our world. Join us at Move to Amend in reclaiming our democracy by working for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate “personhood” and money as “speech” so that we may build a healthy society and world not based on profit, but on peace! Thank you.
This non-partisan event was co-sponsored by Veterans for Peace, Move On, Progressive Democrats of America, Occupy Coachella Valley, and Move to Amend Coachella Valley.