One of the ways people in the U.S. become anesthetized to the suffering of the very poor in both their own backyards and abroad is through the mass of cheap goods provided to them through gigantic corporations who span the globe. What most people in the West
fail to realize is the ubiquity of these corporations. Since they exist in more than one country, the common term for them is “multinational”. The difficulty of multi-nationals lies in regard to government regulations. They carry out business in more than one country; under whose laws are they subject? In order to deal with this, countries forge alliances known as “free trade agreements”. Free trade agreements deregulate trade so that multinational corporations function more smoothly. Imagine a
giant corporation paying taxes to trade with itself in a different country; free trade agreements prevent that. Multinationals benefit immensely from these agreements. It limits their taxes, and it opens up new markets where easily exploitable workers live. Meanwhile, countries, primarily developing countries, suffer greatly.
When a multi-national operates in a country where it did not originate (i.e. Colombia with its headquarters in the U.S.), 95% of the wealth produced leaves. The resulting equation looks terribly unequal. The developing country contributes its natural resources (also known as capital) such as wood, agriculture, oil, natural gas, labor, etc. but receives only 5% of the money made off that capital. The same phenomenon happens within the U.S. People who own or are executives in the major multinationals take significant wealth out of the capital contributed by those who do the labor and grunt work. That is why 20% of the people control over 90% of all the wealth, and the top 1% possess 40% of the wealth. For obvious reasons, when nearly all the wealth gained off their capital leaves their country, people in the developing nations struggle to earn money and typically end up in poverty.
How I presented this is much too simple. It sounds as if developing nations simply hand over their resources in order to be exploited. This is not the case. On paper, the U.S.
spends well over $700 billion a year on its military. Included in that spending is between 700 and 800 military bases under U.S. control, internationally. 63 countries host U.S. military bases, and over 150 countries hold U.S. military personnel. Additionally, more than 250,000 U.S. military personnel occupy these bases in these countries. With the capacity to apply pressure, as in Pakistan or Yemen, the U.S. utilizes its immense expanse of military operations to create and maintain environments beneficial to Western-based multinationals. They use local military and paramilitary groups to enforce U.S. will, as well. By doing so, they displace people, take their land, and enable multinationals to exploit the capital. This displacement causes increased urbanization of unskilled laborers. Already overcrowded cities fill and expand with rural folks who do not have skills marketable in a professional context. Subsequently, they work unskilled jobs for very low wages in harsh conditions in order to feed themselves and their families. When the few angry enough to rebel against U.S. occupiers and the internal collaborators, they meet violent resistance and an excuse to keep troops in places where they are not necessary.
Naturally, as people crowd into cities, disease spreads much quicker. AIDS and other deadly diseases move like a wave through the increased density of people. The competition causes people to work for less and less money. Eventually, those who can and have no other way to earn income, begin selling their own bodies and become sex workers, which only proliferates spread of disease. Basically, the rise of multinationals and their military compatriots directly influence global health and global poverty.
By now, you may be wondering why. Why do developing nations permit multinationals and U.S. military forces into their countries? Why do U.S. politicians continue this psychotic system of military spending in order to maintain the interests of large corporations? The obvious answer is money and power. When people say lobbyists run the U.S. government, they are not lying. Over 30,000 lobbyists work in Washington D.C. attempting to influence and ultimately control U.S. politicians on behalf of multinational corporations. They offer politicians incentives such as campaign contributions and high-paying jobs after working in Washington. Likewise, in foreign countries, politicians benefit immensely from multinationals. Through bribes, gifts, campaign support, and other financial incentives, multinationals control politicians abroad, especially the leaders installed by CIA orchestrated coups or military interventions. Due to the beneficent relationship of multinationals and the military, these lobbyists press hard for high military budgets.
This whole rotten financial system is called “neo-liberalism” or “neo-liberal economics”. As it affects people internationally through corporations and militaries spread around the globe, more broadly, the entire operation is known as “globalization”. When you hear these phrases used, you will now know exactly what that means. It is the root cause of social injustice and the rapidly skyrocketing disparity between the rich and the poor. It affects the environment through agribusiness, deforestation, oil drilling, etc. which are the natural resources/the capital creating the wealth for the multinationals. In short, it affects everything.
Many people, especially young folks, in the U.S. grow tired of the foreign wars of aggression, the disconnect between the politicians and the people, the lack of affordable health care, the destructive force of climate change, and corporate bailouts. However, what they fail to understand is that it is all wrapped up in one complex system. Even this simple overview fails to take every piece of the system into consideration. The injustice of the entire system is intertwined into our everyday lives. Within it, we live and move and have our being. The food we eat, the movies we watch, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive: it all derives from multinationals and globalization. As a result, in order to be against war, one must also be against multinationals, and if one stands against multinationals, one must be an environmentalist working against the industrialized exploitation of the earth propagated by the corporate giants. It is all connected, and our activism must be, as well.
How do we end this corrupt, dehumanizing system of oppression? We cannot do it by voting. We cannot do it with legislation. The multinationals and their lobbyist slaves controls who gets elected and the legislation they write. Barack Obama never promised
to stop it, and he never will. Neo-liberalism is a bi-partisan exercise. Old political avenues no longer exist. Only one way will stop poverty, destruction, wars, and death: resistance. We must resist the enticing comforts produced off the backs of the global poor. We need to say, “No more!” to the system in its entirety not just its parts. Globalization cannot last; ultimately, it is unsustainable. It will fail. As it does, people will begin to create new realms of solidarity and autonomy within the shell of the old. We must begin this now. Within this hell created by systems who care more about profits than people, our resistance must embody ways of being totally different from the destructive powers who seek to rule us, and in that resistance, we must create a heaven here and now. The longer we wait, the longer it will take to recover. The time to act is now! Wake up!