By Lansing Scott • on July 4, 2012 12:55 am Eat the State!
Corporations were originally created to enable various types of large-scale, collective economic activity beyond the capability of individual initiatives. Corporations were created as tools to serve human ends. But over centuries, the scale, power, and reach of these entities has grown to such a degree that they have become the masters, and we, the servants. Through constant consolidation, concentration, and centralization, corporate entities have achieved colossal proportions beyond the control of ordinary humans. Our tools now make the rules and use us.When in the course of human events certain social constructs outgrow their original purposes, and instead serve to undermine the public good in myriad ways, it becomes necessary for natural people to reclaim their power usurped by such constructs.
These corporate colossi have become vehicles to enrich a small minority and enable this minority to rule over the majority. Corporations—via lobbyists, campaign donations, and other channels—are reshaping our society and our nation’s laws in their own interests. Especially after the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, ours is becoming a government “of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.”
The time has come for We the People to withdraw our support and consent from corporate rule in every way possible and redirect our resources toward strengthening local, human-scale, community-based institutions. Let’s declare our independence from big corporations and reaffirm our interdependence with our own communities and the natural systems upon which all life depends. There are many ways to do this, both individually and collectively.
Each time we spend money, we cast a vote for what kind of society we want. If no one spent their money with big corporations, big corporations would not exist. When we redirect our money to local community businesses, those businesses flourish. The latter is crucial: Withdrawing a dollar from a mega-corporation may impact it’s bottom line very little in relative terms, whereas that same dollar means much more to a small business. Additionally, that dollar locally spent is more likely to recirculate in the local economy, creating a “multiplier effect.”
Money—Let’s begin with where we keep our money in the first place. Let’s move our money. Let’s declare our independence from big Wall Street banks by instead banking with community banks and local credit unions, so that our money is reinvested in our local communities. And for those of us fortunate enough to have money to invest, let’s invest ethically.
Food—What we eat and how we spend our food dollars has enormous consequence. Let’s declare our independence from the big food companies (Nestlé, Kraft, PepsiCo, Monsanto, etc.), big restaurant and fast-food chains (McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Denny’s, etc.), and big grocery chains (Safeway, Kroger, Walmart, etc.), and instead support local, organic foods, farmers markets, food co-ops, and locally owned restaurants.
Energy—We know that our continued addiction to fossil fuels is creating climate crisis and other serious problems for people and our planet. Though it’s virtually impossible to live fossil-free today, we know that we must do all we can move in that direction and hasten the transition to clean and green energy sources. So, as much as possible, let’s declare our independence from fossil fuels and the mega-corporations that supply them. Let’s reduce fossil-based travel, favor vehicles running on non-fossil fuel sources, use public transit, bike, walk, buy local products (reducing embedded energy and transportation costs), and otherwise do all we can to reduce our fossil footprint. Our future depends on it.
Everything else—As with money, food, and energy, we can continue down the list of personal needs and expenditures: clothing, home appliances and furnishings, health care, media, entertainment, and so on. Of course, it may not be practical to support decentralized, localized options in every case (e.g., local artisan light bulbs may not be a practical solution any time soon), but in most facets of our lives, we can make choices that make a difference.
Let’s declare our independence from gigantic, centralized, profit-driven, wealth-concentrating, power-mongering, planet-destroying, soul-sucking corporations at every opportunity, and instead pledge our allegiance to local, human-scale, person-empowering, community-enhancing, planet-protecting, soul-enriching alternatives.
Many of us have already withdrawn our personal support from corporate Babylon in many ways, and have chosen instead to support local, sustainable, community-based options as described above. It’s always helpful to re-examine our choices, and look for new ways our personal choices can make a difference, but such “lifestyle activism” is hardly a novel idea.
However, in 2012, the crisis of corporate rule has reached such proportions that personal actions are not enough to stop its further encroachment into economic and political life. As large corporations (and the elite enriched by them) increasingly exert their power over both the marketplace and government itself, independence from corporate rule requires more than just individually opting out—it requires collective action to challenge the legitimacy of corporate rule itself.
Fortunately, many communities have begun in recent years to challenge the legitimacy of corporate rights and corporate rule and to assert their right to govern themselves.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a group based in Pennsylvania that has been helping local communities and municipalities to assert their rights to self-government. Communities develop a “community bill of rights,” asserting certain rights for both humans and nature, and banning any corporate activity that would interfere with the exercise of these rights. Such efforts are a direct challenge to the legal foundations of corporate rule.
CELDF has helped more than 100 communities draft such laws, including Pittsburgh, PA, and Buffalo, NY. In Washington state, similar effort are underway: Spokane has placed an initiative on the ballot twice now (narrowly losing the vote last time after great opposition from the business community), and efforts are currently underway in Bellingham and Seattle.
In Seattle, a group called Envision Seattle is currently collecting signatures for I-103, a citizens’ initiative broad in scope and deep in its challenge to corporate power. According to the campaign’s website, I-103 would do the following:
Eliminate corporate personhood and judge-made corporate “constitutional” rights
Ban corporate spending on elections
Ban corporate lobbying except in public forums
Close the revolving door of employment between elected officials and large corporations
Provide citizen oversight of the Seattle Police Department
Provide constitutional rights for workers
Provide neighborhoods the right to approve major zoning changes
Provide rights for nature
Provide equal access to a free and open Internet, known as network neutrality
Let’s join together in efforts like this to declare our independence from corporate rule and affirm our interdependence with our local communities and environment. Let’s return control of our governments at all levels to where it belongs: We the People.
Today let us enjoy a national holiday with friends and family, and let’s also recall that this holiday is based on an occasion when people risked everything to free themselves from an unjust and tyrannical force. Let’s follow their example.