I’d like to put forward a theory. Our beloved corporations, which exist to feed themselves, which are fiercely self-protective, which despite being abstract entities, can effectively steamroller over the feelings and rights and of individuals and indeed, of whole communities, which are a force composed of human will, but which do not have a pro-human agenda, are not stupid. I also doubt that the warnings about peak oil, climate change and environmental collapse that have become part of everyday background noise since the 1970s, have passed unnoticed by the ears of the world’s richest individuals. However they are not, as Ben Elton suggested in his 1989 novel ‘STARK’, preparing to abandon the planet. So what are they planning?
Well, one clue is that through the Trans-Pacific Partnership they are seeking to ‘enshrine new rights and privileges for major corporations while weakening the power of nation states to oppose them’*. That’s right; bodies that by the conventional wisdom of what constitutes a ‘free-market’ should be in healthy, excellence-promoting competition, are actualy cooperating to repurpose world-wide legal systems, ostensibly intended to protect us, in order to protect their own interests. In a world that has moved from domination by force, to rule by democratic vote, to an uneasy partnership between democracy and commercial interests; governments are promoting public/private co-operation as the way forward whilst the power brokers of the private sector seek ever greater power with ever greater audacity.
Corporations do not believe in sustainability. Sustainability is a soft word. A hippy’s word. A do-gooder’s (and just feel the contempt there for those naive enough to attempt to do good) word. But sustainable simply means ‘able to continue’. We have become blasé about this can say things like:
‘Of course, our way of life is not sustainable.’
Without collapsing in a weeping heap on the floor. But those corporations, that must predict and forecast and plan ahead cannot afford to blinker themselves in this way. They are here because they are good at surviving and growing, and promoting themselves as symbiotic benefactors, rather than parasitic pests.
Imagine that you are a huge, powerful super-organism, able to look ahead and see that resources such as fuel, food and water in your ecosystem are being used at unsustainable rates. What steps can you take to ensure your survival? How about grabbing as much access to these resources as possible. Constructing a fortress. Arming yourself with whatever weapons you can for the coming conflict. What you are imagining is what is actually happening now. The corporations don’t have the creative vision to imagine a positive future, they are getting themselves in the strongest position possible before our quality of life takes a dramatic dive and more and more of us wake up to the realisation that consumerist capitalism is not a wonderland of opportunity, where anyone can make it if they work hard and believe in themselves.
But we humans are more subtle than that. We can see past the conventional narratives of eco apocalypse, nuclear apocalypse, even zombie apocalypse, to a better future for humans. We can see that scale and complexity are dead ends. In terms of biomass, bacteria rule the planet. Humans and other animals fit into smaller, more limited evolutionary niches. The corporation super-organisms rub shoulders in a still smaller niche and we can see now that allowing then to die can only leave more space for humans.
The necessity of the move towards a more local, communal, supportive, approach to living, one driven by cooperation rather than competition, is not a step back into a dark, limiting, depressing past, but a leap forward into a far happier, less stressful, more companionable world than the one you live in today. Look forward to it. Plan for it. Strive for it. Every time you see a television advert, a billboard or a politician pushing profit, growth and corporate interest as the only way forward, call it a lie. Every time you measure your success, whether favourably or not, by the stuff you own, the property you inhabit, the car you drive, the designer you wear, the TV you watch or the holiday you take; realise that this is simply a measure of how far you have bought into the corporation’s definition of a useful human being. Your successes are the friends, the family, the neighbours who value you, who trust you, who can come to you for help. Your net worth is the happiness you bring to others. Your pension is the community that you have loved and supported, loving and supporting you.
I’m not kidding people. It’s right there in front of us if we dare reach for it. You can start by signing the petition to oppose the TPP here