So, on a practical front, Joke decided to give up her residence in Antwerp, for now, to put her full weight behind the HA!road. It is such a vulnerable thing to do. Just as it is to improvise words the way she does. Last night, here near the village of Elim in the Netherlands, she stood up in a wooden cabin in front of a cozily gathered audience and gave her feelings on what she read in the news earlier the day.
What she read was that Obama, “the most powerful man on earth,” signed into law full exemption of any responsibility for personal harm caused by the genetically modified seeds of the multinational giant Monsanto. In other words, Monsanto has become untouchable. Just as the big banks were declared “too big to fail,” Monsanto, and a growing number of multinational companies, are now becoming too powerful to be responsible for their actions. Europe are in it too with a proposal for strict rules, making it virtually illegal to allow a diversity of seeds to grow and distribute themselves in a natural way. Why? Because it is going to hurt the profits of those corporate masters who work tirelessly to “own” all means of food production. Of course they do this under the guise of good intentions, even serious ones: that “we need to provide for the nutritional needs of a growing world population.” Not mentioning, of course, that these modified seeds deplete soils and wreck ecosystems. Short term gain. Long term disaster.
Not even long term. Anyone keeping count of the suicides amongst Indian small scale farmers? Last i heard it ran above 200 000. As Monsanto gets richer, it empowers the few to gobble up smaller farms in service of mass production. In service of quantity over quality. In service of monocultures..
Now that rings a bell: monocultures. We had a period in the story of humanity, not long ago, that political “rule by divine right” was practised widely. No one could question the monarch. No one had a say in who the rulers should be. No one could check the monarch’s powers. One King. One God. Rule by divine right.
Humanity corrected itself from that, if only partially, by fighting – revolution by revolution – for democracy: rule by the voice of the people. A check on power. A system of questioning power. Yet silently, while enjoying political rights not known before, we all have been allowing another divine right to establish itself: the divine right of money. Have money, have power. Today, Monsanto and the likes are ruling by divine right: they can hardly be questioned (they are the champions of the “free market,” they have the divine right to make endless profits – the untouchable “bottom line”). And we have less and less say in who should manage material resources as companies scheme and succeed to buy up ownership of anything from the arts, education to seeds and even water (Nestle, to call it by its name). And who is checking their powers? Those who should be able to – our democratically chosen leaders – are caving in to this divine right, hence Obama’s capitulation to the “right” of Monsanto to own and profit from what should be a natural and basic domain, shared equitably by all. In this case, it goes further than depleting human rights. It assumes ownership of nature itself. Money, henceforth, shall even dictate how Nature works: Monsanto the Divine.
We say that power corrupts. And that absolute power corrupts absolutely. So then, what about: wealth corrupts, absolute wealth corrupts absolutely? When will we wake up to this? Not so long as material wealth is still regarded as a sacrosanct value of itself by so many of us. We know by now that political power corrupts. We do not know that of wealth (material power) yet. Not until the day we, like the starving masses storming the Bastille, are pushed right to the edge of existence.
Monsanto is well on its way of getting us there.
In the meantime, Joke let her words roll, as she was shocked by the nightmare unfolding around natural seeds. And I, along with thousands of others recently, add my weight to it. (As artists, our feelers need to stay alert. And alive. To create our bit of awareness around what seems to be untouchable. Perhaps that is one reason why Joke dared to make herself more vulnerable).