Monday, November 30, 2009

The morality of owning “life”.

Over the course of my time in the “freedom” movement I remember very clearly being drilled on the importance of “private” property. (They usually quote the founding fathers, who's concepts of private property included the right to own other human beings...)I still believe that what I call “personal” property is something that people should be entitled to. Your basic needs of life, clothing, etc. Basically meaning that these items for one's personal use are not something you should be asked to share. Not that it should matter as it should be relatively easy to deal with getting those items for everyone. What I am talking about in this article is the morality of owning life. Lets consider for a moment the various aspects of this.

Owning ideas:

We developed the patent system to protect the little guy who came up with a good idea from having his idea being taken from him by someone with more money. This band-aid solution to one of the glaring problems with capitalism was well intentioned originally. But the definition of what a patent is, and what it's applications are has been changed to benefit those on top. This shows itself in many ways. But as Jacque Fresco points out, one does not really “invent” anything. To say that you do implies that the capacity for any effect your invention produces was not present beforehand. I remember as a young boy believing that Ben Franklin “invented” electricity. He didn't invent it. It was already there. Imagine for a moment if Ben Franklin went and patented electricity? There is of course merit to a person benefiting from the work that went into their research, but they still have an incentive. If you invent a device to solve one problem or another you still get to use this item. Your life will be improved significantly because of this. This could be something as simple as inventing a TV remote so you don't have to get off the couch to change the station. How does it hurt you not to give this invention away? Now, consider that if society at large considers giving one's inventions to all of mankind for equal distribution and use how many more ideas will be openly exchanged? Your TV remote design given freely and your neighbors better mousetrap design given freely?

Now the dark side of this notion of one having a “right” to own their ideas is when these ideas could be used to save lives. Or when withholding these ideas would actually lead to the deaths of other human beings. Should someone be able to “own” someone's ability to live or die? Let's look at some ways this manifests in our society.

Owning freedom:

So how does one own freedom? I was checking my mail the other day and I keep getting mail from Ron Paul's “Campaign for Liberty” which is a well intentioned movement despite it's devotion to “Free Market Capitalism”. I donated a good amount of money to Congressman Paul's campaign during his time running for President. He pulled out of the race and took the money he had left (reportedly about four million dollars) and started a new organization to assist freedom minded candidates. What started to annoy me is that every publication I get from them involves them asking for still more money. There are pre-addressed envelopes in every letter with suggested amounts of money to donate. Why do we have to invest in civil rights? Why should any effort involving the rights of human beings be something one has to spend their money on? Shouldn't such efforts be an “inalienable right”?

But they are not. Corporations own the media. The media is a tool to push their agendas towards whatever profits them. Whether this is brainwashing kids to want to eat McDonald's hamburgers or Halliburton influencing the people to vote for politicians who will take us to wars where they will profit for feeding the troops. The Patriot Act proved that civil rights go to the highest bidder. As the government moves towards fascism in preparation for the collapse of the system, our rights are eroded away. The flawed capitalist system needs fascist laws that take away the freedom of people to be educated as to the truth of what is going on to protect itself from what will happen when the poor finally wake up to the truth of their own slavery. The notion that we should have to “donate” to people like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul in the first place is totally absurd. The fact that unless the supporters of these exceptional politicians happen to have enough money to push the agenda of civil rights and basic freedoms those ideas will not even see the light of day is absurd.

So should people be able to “own” the government? Of course not. But anyone who doesn't realize that the poor results experienced by politicians like Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, and even Ralph Nader is a glaring example that out governmental system is owned by the monetary system is naive And as long as there is a money system wherein the means by which people are exposed to given candidates and their ideas can be bought and sold someone will always “own” freedom. Take a moment and seriously consider the implications of what this means. With the right money, you OWN the government.

As a further manifestation of this problem, lets again consider patents. Originally the concept of a patent was to protect an inventor from someone with more money capitalizing on their idea without giving them some form of compensation. This was a band-aid to an inherent flaw in the capitalist system that did serve a purpose at one time. There were restrictions on patents. At one time it was illegal for example to patent living organisms. Then someone was permitted to “own” freedom in the form of helping politicians get elected or stay elected who loosened patent laws on living organisms. And many other things including genetics. Lets look at some ways that this manifests.

Owning food:

So, in our monetary system people often support themselves by selling food. On a smaller scale the resource exchanges for this can be quite good for a local community. When this gets out of hand you end up with companies like Monsanto who will settle for nothing less then patenting all of the world's seeds. And therefore could eventually own all of the produce in the world. At first your thinking: “Well what's wrong with that? I mean they patented it right?” How did this start? Well Monsanto started genetically modifying seeds for profit. Eventually they were able to lobby (with money given to politicians of course, “owning” freedom) to gain the right to patent their work. This lead to eventually legalizing the patenting of living organisms. The story with Monsanto just gets worse, as they have been allowed to sue farmers who had the misfortune of Monsanto's patented genetically altered crops finding their way onto their land by way of cross-pollination. In other words, carried by bees. The farmers in many cases were bound by court order to destroy their seed stores. Which for a company like Monsanto that makes their money from selling seeds is of course good for them. Farmers retaining their own seeds and therefore not needing to buy more is of course not good for Monsanto. Right now Monsanto is trying to lobby for international patent laws so they can also sue people in other countries whenever their patented work finds it's way into their fields.

Now, the Monsanto stuff aside, break it down to the most simple levels. Jacque Fresco described the great depression as a time when people were lying in the streets. The stores were still full of products but nobody had the money to buy them. Consider for a moment the morality of allowing people to die of starvation when your sitting on a stockpile of food? But it's “your” food right? Obviously I don't advocate that people should just be able to take food from someone who took the time to make it. However, I would say that we need to heavily consider the notion of making the basic needs of life into any profit making venture. Because as soon as we allow it to be “private property” it can be denied to people for any reason that person sees fit.

Owning Health:

Patents rear their ugly heads again in the form of companies who patent medicine. And worse, they patent the genetics of human beings who are immune to certain diseases! When this is done, if a researcher wants to use these genetics in their research they have to pay a fee to the company owning the patent or risk a lawsuit. For trying to make something to aid humanity. Consider the morality of “owning” a critical piece of data that could save lives and therefore being able to profit from it's use?

In an article published May 15th, 2000 in the New York Times by Gina Kolata entitled “Who owns your genes?” it was detailed that a few men were found to be completely immune to HIV because of a genetic mutation. As soon as this was discovered companies involved started getting patents on the genetics of these men. The men in question have to fight to get any of the money themselves that may arise from research using their own genes! So rather then coming together as a species to fight this threat to all of humanity, we are wasting resources and time on finding out who gets the paycheck?

Source Article:

Now, consider for a moment what this means exactly. A cure for a disease that is killing thousands of people could exist in your own genetics. If you are not the “owner” of your own genetics then you could even be sued for daring to use your own genetics in research. I doubt that people really think about what the implications are. How many researchers could be working hard on the cure for AIDS who maybe just don't have the money to PAY for the right to use what someone OWNS that could save lives? What kind of a person do you have to be to be willing to hold back vital information that could save thousands if not millions of innocent people to be sure you get money out of it? In this instance we are not even talking about someone owning the rights to their own research. These are just scientists or other institutions who were fortunate enough to get to the patent office before anyone else did to claim ownership of genetics that are not even in their own bodies. All in the name of profit.

So lets talk about health care. I don't even have to go into just how much money is made in the health care industry. Peter Joseph pointed out most eloquently the amount of money that is made in the Cancer “treatment” industry that made plenty of money causing my mother's kidney's to fail with chemotherapy leading to her death. It's the notion that someone can be denied care if they don't have the money. The notion that someone can “own” medical care as if it is something to be bought and sold. Once again, I don't advocate forcing doctors or other medical institutions to work for free. But I would say that we very much need to consider this sort of thing as a problem for all of humanity to come together and solve. Medical researchers shouldn't have to be fighting for grants to survive. They shouldn't be put in positions where they have to keep whatever company “owns” them in business by providing them with intentionally misleading research.

Owning the truth:

What I mean by owning the truth is owning the media. We approach our media as money-making institutions. We have already addressed how the profit motive basically turns to bile anything it touches. Consider for a moment how much money is made in the media industry. And also consider that people can “own” large quantities of the industries that bring us our news and information. This gives them immense amounts of power. They determine what politicians we hear. They determine what products we hear about. They determine what perspective on world events is shared with us. The ability to control what politicians are heard before elections ensures control over who gets into government. The ability to control what perspective we see in world events allows them to control the public's perspective on wars, the environment, terrorism, etc. Free Market enthusiasts will tell you that this is all balanced by the public. That we as consumers can ensure that the news is not fraudulent, because after all if it isn't we can just change the channel and that media outlet will be forced to shape up. I find this concept highly naive The average consumer is not going to be able head to the front lines in Iraq to verify whether or not troop deaths or civilian casualties are being correctly reported. The average consumer is not going to be able to personally investigate every company that released a dangerous product who happens to have the fortune of owning interest in the media. (Example: Watch the documentary “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism” for details of Monsanto covering up an investigative report into their use of harmful growth hormones on cows to enhance milk production through using their money to influence FOX.)

If you own a news station, do you have the right to lie to the public? The funny thing is in the example I just offered they took the matter to court and found that apparently it is not illegal to print or release false news. But if you happen to have the money to make your news outlet shiny and attractive to the consumer eye, they will trust you. So, is it moral for people to “own” the news? Or should events of interest to mankind be something free of the profit motive?

Owning life:

I remember one of the loudest opponents of my Resource-based economy caucus in the Boston Tea Party calling it the “death camp caucus” because of his feelings that any attempt to distribute resources would fail without the price mechanism. And that this would eventually lead to death camps when we would supposedly have to exterminate large quantities of the populace to make up for the lack of resources. I guess I would say that there are already death camps. These camps are not organized by fascists with guns (At least not obviously.) They are organized by medical institutions who refuse to treat people who cannot pay. They are organized by the food industries who refuse to feed people who cannot afford to pay. They are organized by rich companies who knowingly increase the wealth gap forcing people into poverty by eliminating jobs to maximize profits, intentionally rendering an ever-increasing portion of the population unable pay for the services I just mentioned. As I have always said before, the insidious thing about the evils of Capitalism is that these “death camps” are invisible. The agenda of the few being weighed over the many is not as obvious as Nazi's rounding up people and putting them in gas chambers. It is buried under mountains of red tape and other distractions in the media. And the funny thing is, they say that it's the only “fair” way.

I am reminded of the movie “Space Balls” where a group of fascists decided to solve the problem of a lack of breathable air on their planet by trying to take it from other planets. I was wondering the other day how long it will be before there is a new “utility” company in the form of a service that pumps breathable air into your home for profit because the environment was destroyed in the name of profit of the companies that saved money destroying the earth. Can you imagine getting your “air” bill in the mail along with your electric and gas bill? Can you imagine being unfortunate enough to not be able to pay it? Ah, but these “air” companies OWN the clean air! You can't ask them to just give it to you. The same is obviously true of clean water. As clean drinkable water becomes more and more scarce it won't be long before the profits in that industry skyrocket.

I say it's time for mankind to stop making the needs for survival into a profit-driven business. I say it's time for mankind to consider how this will inevitably lead to corruption of these institutions. And that if this cycle continues all the money they made will be useless when the earth is given over to the cockroaches.