Hello Cruel World
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
The modern Trojan Horse
Though people object to particular examples of how this "Free Trade Agreement" may affect us badly, I'd ask you rather to look at the ideology at its base.
This Trojan horse provides a legal way to lock us into an extreme economic kind of fundamentalism. The same as in a world trade agreement rejected a year or two ago.
The ideology also affects any government or charitable ("non-profit") regulation or involvement in almost any part of society, including public schools, hospitals, heritage, arts, the environment & natural resources or national parks, even parts of defence, and calls it "unfair" or "subsidies". Eventually things like the Trade Practices Act, and many other legal protections for the land & the people (PBS, OH & S, etc) are struck down as "anti-competitive".
It says that the basis of society and democracy, particularly the Australian version*, is wrong. That public good and public service should only ever be a by-product of the drive to private profit; that the "best and highest" use of human effort and intelligence is to serve that aim, not to improve the world, express humanity, or whatever.
Any improvement or service provided in order to make money is to be the least possible, produced as cheaply as possible - whatever this means for your staff, your providers or the natural resources you use - for the highest possible price (called "efficiency" and "productivity"). This, for example, drives farmers to poor long-term land management to meet short-term price & supply demands from a buyer with the whip-hand, a situation common in Third World countries and becoming more common in Australia.
Another example will be the future history of NRMA, originally set up as acommunity based, though private, non-profit service-provider. Most of its recent troubles have been conflict over changing from that to this other basis of operation.
The costs - human, social, environmental - may be dumped on whatever poorly-funded government services are left, or in an ironic twist, also used as a source of profit, say by setting up a services company to bid for tax money provided (because government responds to public pressure) to help with the damage, as government services are cut, corporatised or privatised to follow this managerial ideology.
In this belief-system representative government and accountability are, like following the letter of the law, perhaps necessary evils, but to be used as sparingly as absolutely necessary. Law-makers should be lobbied &/or "donated" to, to make the laws, including tax, as favourable as possible.
It is thought to be better to pay this, or lawyers, public relations firms and advertisers to give an impression of a "good company" than pay the same money on being a "good company". That might set an expensive precedent, and not be noticed by those consumers who would prefer to use a "good company". Sponsorship should similarly be not just tax deductible -- so tax money is either paying much of it or is reduced by that amount so public services are disadvantaged -- but the splashiest for the money, not necessarily applied in the most useful way, or to the neediest cause. (Sally's "spin doctors" will confirm this, but use their "spinning" language to justify it).
Don't let people tell you "it's inevitable". So was the Thousand Year Reich, so was the Divine Right of Kings, and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Those who say that do because they want you to believe it & give up. They say: "Don't ask 'Who moved my cheese, and who has it now?' "; just accept it & adapt. But remember evil can only triumph when good people do nothing.
It's taken between 500 and 1000 years of struggle to get a legally-bound and legally-removable ruler, representative government with voting rights for all adults, support for the mentally & physically ill, injured workers & their families, legal rights for women & ordinary people, and everything that distinguishes a decent human kind of society from the rule of "strongmen" & their enforcers - the human equivalent of a baboon troop, ruled by force,fear & furtiveness.
Why prepare to throw away all those blood-bought lessons? Why knowingly step back down that path when we've seen, over & over,how destructive & brutal it is? Yet this is just what underlies this kind of agreement, opening up our agreed social contracts to legal challenge.
[* Australian version - A Tale of Three Prison Camps. During the Pacific war (there's an oxymoronic name), perhaps in Singapore, the Japanese army set up three camps for prisoners-of-war from British, Australian, then Americanforces. They provided better supplies to the officers in each camp. The British camp kept its distinctions & privileges, with antipathy between officers & enlisted men; The American camp descended into 'free trade' of rations, medicine, etc, so that some ended up sick, poor, without help, andothers became "King Rats". In the Australian camp, the officers & men shared and each helped the other, so the survival rate at the end of the war was better than the others.
This is the legend, and I'm sure it's simplified, but it points to the best purpose & moral foundation of Australian society as evolved from the mid-nineteenth century until about the 1980s, when the "Free Trade" push --so reviled for many years for things like exporting wheat from Ireland during the Great Famine, because English markets could pay for it and starving Irish couldn't -- made a comeback.]
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