Looking back at the last fifty years, we see protests against deception and injustice: the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, feminism, the gay rights movement, environmentalism, the animal rights movement, the Occupy movement.
What’s left? What should be the current generation’s crusade? Big Business. Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Media.
“In 2011, a think tank in London called the Carbon Tracker Initiative conducted a breakthrough study that added together the reserves claimed by all the fossil fuel companies, private and state-owned. It found that the oil, gas, and coal to which these players had already laid claim—deposits they have on their books and which were already making money for shareholders—represented 2,795 gigatons of carbon. … [W]e know roughly how much carbon can be burned between now and 2050 and still leave us a solid chance (roughly 80%) of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius … 565 gigatons. … [A]s Bill McKibben [author of Oil and Honey] points out, ‘The thing to notice is, 2,795 is five times 565. It’s not even close. … What those numbers mean is quite simple. This industry has announced, in filings to the SEC and in promises to shareholders, that they’re determined to burn five times more fossil fuel than the planet’s atmosphere can begin to absorb.’ … In other words, the fossil fuel companies have every intention of pushing the planet beyond the boiling point” (Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything 148, 353-4).
And BigAg? “Billions of people on the planet are supported by farmers who save seeds from the crops and replant these seeds the following year. Seeds are planted. The crop is harvested. And the seeds from the harvest are replanted the following year. Most farmers cannot afford to buy new seeds every year, so collecting and replanting seeds is a crucial part of the agricultural cycle. This is the way food has been grown successfully for thousands of years. With Monsanto’s terminator technology, they will sell seeds to farmers to plant crops. But these seeds have been genetically-engineered so that when the crops are harvested, all new seeds from these crops are sterile (e.g., dead, unusable). This forces farmers to pay Monsanto every year for new seeds if they want to grow their crops.” (Ethical Investing: Monsanto Terminator Technology http://www.ethicalinvesting.com/monsanto/terminator.shtml
Big Pharma? The average price of the fifty drugs most used by senior citizens was nearly $1,500 for a year’s supply. In 2002. And now they’re creating the disease so they can sell the cure. Halitosis was just the beginning. Now we’ve got erectile dysfunction, female sexual dysfunction, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), restless legs syndrome, osteoporosis, social shyness (also called social anxiety disorder and social phobia), irritable bowel syndrome, and balding. We’re all sick. We all need drugs. (Larry Dossey, “Creating Disease” The Huffington Post Jun18/10 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-larry-dossey/big-pharma-health-care-cr_b_613311.html)
But this kind of information isn’t screamed in the news because—BigMedia. A mere six corporations own 90% of the median in the States.
So this is my call to this generation: protest against the veneer of respectability that has enabled ‘business’ to proceed ‘as usual’–unchallenged. Question progress. Question profit. Question the right of way that’s been given to business merely because it wears a suit and tie and provides jobs. (Like ‘I’ve got a family,’ ‘I’ve got a business to run’ is used as an all-purpose legitimizing excuse. Youcan get away with anything ifyou’re doing it for your kids. Ditto if you’ve got a business to run. As if merely by employing several people, business becomes some sort of social service. It’s not.
You’ve got fifty years to learn from. The greater one’s youthful idealism, the greater one’s middle-aged bitterness. So, yes, many of us over forty are worse than useless: we are infectious with cynicism. But we were once young. Study what we did and what we didn’t do. Figure out what worked and what didn’t work–then. Figure out what’ll work and what won’t work—now. Take a good look at Kent State, Birmingham, Greenham Common, Tiananmen Square, Seattle… It’s not as easy anymore (if it ever was) as offering a flower or sitting in the way. They will shoot you. They will run over you. And you can’t depend on media coverage–your local station is owned by some fat cat in LA or NY who doesn’t want the world to know. DIY. Use the internet. Figure it out.
As is the case with movements, little bits here and there gradually add up to something that makes the structure collapse and the veil of naïveté dissipate. Utopia doesn’t rise from the rubble, but we never see things in quite the same way again.
A special note to those in business—with great power comes great responsibility. You’re in the driver’s seat. Get us out of here. Use your intelligence, use your imagination. Find a way. Change the way we do business. And save your world.