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Re: <nettime> Re: AW: AW: Urgent inquiry for Paper bags!
RTMark admin on 14 Aug 2000 13:28:57 -0000


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Re: <nettime> Re: AW: AW: Urgent inquiry for Paper bags!


> > Policy-making is what government is for, and sometimes it fulfills this
> > calling. In Europe, citizens decided, through their governments, to buy
> > bananas not from the criminal Central American regimes called Chiquita
> > et al., but from their former colonies in Africa, at higher prices.
> > This decision having been made, citizens didn't need to be confronted
> > with the daily choice of decent but expensive versus evil but cheap.
> > Unfortunately, the WTO has other plans, and democracy (and foreign
> > policy decision-making) is just in the way....
> 
> are you not suggesting that an electoral democracy is needed in order to
> protect us from a direct democracy? 

What direct democracy do you mean? The one in which "consumers" are
allowed to make "choices"--if they can figure out what store the choices
are available at, which "green" labelling is actually meaningful, whether
"organic" still means something, etc.? 

Or is there a direct democracy in which people can create state policy,
establish laws protecting themselves, etc.? If there is such a thing, I
haven't heard of it. And it's awfully hard to figure out how it could
happen. 

> > The European gas taxes are another example. Although never chosen by
> > voters,
> 
> who chose it? i thought you were arguing for electoral democracy.

The voters never chose the European gas taxes, as far as I know. I wasn't
saying that was good, it's just history, a fact. 

> > the taxes that make gasoline twice as expensive in Europe as it
> 
> > is in the U.S. are quite consciously accepted and maintained, even
> 
> > when there is no longer a strict need for them, out of awareness
> > that cheaper gas would lead to larger, more polluting cars.
> 
> do you really believe this?

Sure. I've seen quotes in newspapers by politicians stating exactly that. 
At least some people are aware of it--perhaps just elected
representatives, I don't know. 

> > Imagine
> > if everyone, daily, were faced with the choice whether or not to pay
> > those taxes.
> 
> if it is quite conscious then why would it be so hard to face the choice?

Elected representatives sometimes are able to make decisions that
transcend each individual's immediate appetites. I might be unable to
resist buying cheaper gas, just as I am unable to donate my hard-earned
money to buy supplies for the destitute elementary schools in my city
(music, art, and after-school sports programs have been entirely
eliminated), etc. But if my government increased my taxes to better fund
elementary schools (and hospitals, help for the homeless, etc. etc. 
etc.), I'd be overjoyed. 

> > The market would sort it out?
> 
> the market is not responsible? consumers are not responsible? it is only
> the pusher, never the puller? should we just continue to be blind addicts?
> (the government focuses on the war on drugs on supply because it provides
> it with a way to blame someone other than its constituency...) are not
> disney and starbucks only the symptoms of a culture which refuses
> responsibility for its leisure, for its consumption? 

No they are not. They are taking advantage of a situation. Part of that
situation is that people basically just want to live well and be happy. 
This is the way people have always been. To ask people to be supermen is
not realistic. Suddenly people will change? 

> i do not believe the line between someone who buys stock in a company and
> someone who buys a product from a company is so easily drawn.  is it ok to
> not know anything about susane feminine concept and buy their product as a
> person, but not as a company? 

I never suggested a company could be expected to know about Susane
Feminine Concept. Company behavior can only be legislated. Corporations
cannot be expected to behave responsibly, just as people can't be expected
to take on the role of government. 

> why are shareholders and not consumers responsible? (for example mutual
> fund shareholders who probably know less about the hundreds of
> corporations they invest in than someone who buys sneakers knows about the
> sneaker company) just because its too hard to be a good consumer? you
> could use the same argument to defend a corporation requesting paper bags
> - it is just too hard to know the other corporations on a first name basis
> - it could easily take hours per week to sift through and understand... 

That's what legislation is for.

> following the logic of being personally responsible for corporate crime,
> should not the punishments proposed for corporations also be extended to
> consumers who support these corporations by consuming their product? 

If you think that's more feasible, more decent, better, and easier, than
by all means, vote for that solution. 

> for example, from gwbush.com: (replacing shareholder with consumer) 'but
> if each' consumer 'is personally responsible for corporate crimes - from
> safety errors all the way down to lies about quality - then you've got
> market controls, just like that.'
> 
> but instead of utilizing fear of personal responsibility, i.e. reprimand,
> why not get over that fear and realize that, not only as a citizen, but
> also as a consumer, you already are personally responsible. and i am
> personally responsible. 

I disagree.

> > The choices have indeed already been made, often as not, or not made--
> > by governments increasingly in the clutches of giant corporations.
> 
> if the choices are already made, why are we even discussing this?  does
> this really mean that we are justified in using cars to go protest gas
> companies?

If it's the only way to go to the protest, yes, certainly! Imagine living
in a society so deeply woven with criminality that almost everything you
did supported some nasty entity, directly or not. Would you go live in the
woods? An excellent option for some, not for others. 

> this 'the choices are made for us' reminds me of the
> unabomber's manuscript. the unabomber used the very technologies and
> corporate giants he abhorred to spread his message, thinking this was
> subversive. but all along it was they that were subverting him, making him
> into a press icon with blow-out news coverage. 

Okay.

> media loves media, the content is irrelevant (so long as it does not
> result in action). same with gas companies, you can go ahead and put big
> stickers and megaphones on your car decrying gas companies and pollution,
> so long as you keep driving. 

Of course you can.

> > Often, indeed, the best we can do is fight,
> 
> couldn't agree more. 
> 
> > even while hypocritically
> > continuing to feed our addictions.
> 
> we can fight our addictions too. 

But that's not the main battleground. There are these big nasty entities
that are creating our addictions, feeding off them and augmenting them. 
Sure, poor people should stop eating 99-cent hamburgers that are killing
them, they should (a) feel self-confident enough to learn to cook and then
go buy vegetables every day, or (b) find a *healthy* restaurant they can
eat at for 99 cents. Neither of these is going to happen; that's why
legislation can come in handy: sometimes "choice" is entirely illusory. 

As for the middle class, in many U.S. cities people have been made to feel
responsible for the environment, and to feel they can do something by
recycling glass and aluminum and paper. They have conquered their
addiction to throwing everything away. So now there are all these people
feeling pretty good about the way they do things, and does recycling
actually do anyone any good? It's the tiniest, most insignificant drop in
the bucket compared to the environmental wreckage perpetrated by
corporations every day. *That's* where saving/fixing the environment
starts: controlling corporations. 

Corporate crime can be fought through legislation. That's what government
is for. Sometimes it actually does serve to control corporate interests!
This has happened many times in the past. 




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