November 26, 2013

The Cannibalism of Capitalism: New Technology, Same Effect.

 "Masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without [meaningful] work, without possibilities, without any means of escape ... Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded." ~Pope Francis

(Credit: AP/Gregorio Borgia)

Dear Pope Francis,

Ahem, there is nothing new about the cannibalism of capitalism. But thank you for trying to connect with the masses from your gilded tower.

The Global Masses

Pope Francis: Capitalism is "a new tyranny"

Pope Francis on Tuesday called capitalism “a new tyranny” and very explicitly called on global leaders to act on poverty and growing inequality.

Francis’ remarks are part of an 84-page document known as an apostolic exhortation, which makes official the platform for his papacy.

The document is incredibly direct in its call for specific, policy-level action to fight institutional inequality rather than speaking broadly and loftily about poverty as some kind of abstraction or something to be addressed exclusively by charitable giving at the community level, as some of his predecessors have been content to do.

How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and na├»ve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

Full article by Katie McDonough reposted from

June 25, 2013

Immigrant Women and The Agricultural Industrial Complex

The structure of the agricultural industrial complex fosters more than genetically modified foods that poison not only humans but animals and the soil. Like the industrialization of other industries, this commercial structure produces multilevel problems for societies around the world—each having serious consequences for individuals. An important negative outcome is that the agricultural industrial complex provides the perfect environment for economic oppression and physical abuse. 

If we don’t give a damn about the injustices suffered by “those people” whether they live in our neighborhood, in another part of the country, or a continent away we are all going to perish under the enormous weight of the unnatural structures constructed by oppressive forces. Maricruz Ladino's story of survival, poverty, rape, and industrialized farming will air tonight on PBS. Check your local listings. The article below by Neil Genzilinger is reposted from The New York Times.

Documentary Investigates Sexual Exploitation at Farms Across the U.S.

Photo Credit: Andres Cediel
Plenty about the ways that much of our food is raised and processed is dismaying. Tuesday night’s “Frontline” on PBS, “Rape in the Fields,” makes the picture considerably darker, exploring persistent allegations that female workers are often sexually assaulted and harassed by supervisors who exploit their immigrant status. 

The charges aren’t new — some of the cases investigated go back more than a decade — but the program gets a number of women to tell their stories on camera, some for the first time. It’s a damning accumulation. 

Not many of the cases seem to have resulted in consequences for the men accused, for reasons no officials seem able to explain. (The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has brought cases against the companies that employed them.) But the program’s team tracks down several of the men. One, asked point-blank if he raped a woman who has accused him of doing so, can’t stammer out a direct answer. Another denies even knowing any of the women who have accused him of assault, even though he was their supervisor. 

The structure of big agriculture provides the perfect environment for abuse. Huge growing or livestock operations are kingdoms unto themselves, secretive ones that no one wants to examine very closely. Many of the women who work in these places are not legal immigrants and are desperate for money. They fear losing their income if they report a sexual crime, and sometimes the law enforcers they would report it to are the same ones whose job it is to deport them. 

The program is a collaborative effort by the correspondent Lowell Bergman, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the graduate school of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. The broadcasting of it is a collaboration as well: it will also be shown on Saturday on the Spanish-language network Univision. That’s a little bit of light, at least, on a problem that has gone largely unpublicized amid the noise of the immigration debate. 

Mr. Bergman asks Representative Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat well known as an advocate for immigrants, what evidence he has to counter industry claims that the allegations are made up or exaggerated. “The personal testimony of those women that I’ve met with,” he says. “The tears in their eyes. The anguish in their face. The humiliation.” 

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