|In his short story “The Lottery in Babylon” Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian man of letters, curiously revealed an essential part of the global corporate empire.
Lotteries, in general, while allowing a select lucky person to strike it rich, provide a long shot hope for the masses.
In the realms of belligerent empires and their faux democracies, the stakes are higher and the carrot of success is dangled as an appeasement for the police state’s stick. If you play by the rules the stick is subtle; if you challenge the state directly – by protesting, for example -- the stick may become literally blatant.
The narrator in Borges’ story is unnamed, somehow knows a good deal about “the Company,” has at some point sold out, yet has enough of a conscience so as to divulge information and insights:
“lotteries” failed. Their moral virtue was nil. They were not directed
at all of man’s faculties, but only at hope. In the face of public
indifference, the merchants who founded these venal lotteries began to
Many corporate-governments are claiming loss of monies, what with austerity measures being all the rage. Yet with weapons, surveillance gadgetry, and other purchases and investments, The Powers That Bank continue to throw money around like baseballs at spring training.
One thing is clear, though – many a country’s masses are no longer buying the purported carrot and many Indigenous Peoples are standing up for from whence carrots come – Mother Earth.
One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read is Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. The Uruguayan writer’s eloquence and compassion amidst his reporting of brutal history convinced me in no uncertain terms that the System is rigged and that much of the world’s standards are an ornately veneered illusion, (with part of that illusion being to convince people that their troubles are the fault of their own inadequacies).
insinuates that the Company has not existed for centuries and that the
sacred disorder of our lives is purely hereditary, traditional."
Then there’s the so-called American Dream. If you weren’t already convinced, a wave of recent articles highlights a fresh rash of riggings and corrupted lotteries.
Of the aerospace company Boeing, Kenneth Thomas reports that: “ . . . despite being highly profitable, it pays virtually no taxes; it accepts billions of dollars in government subsidies; it is trying to eliminate pensions and cut salaries for its highly skilled workforce; and it is trying to move production away from its unionized workforce, something it has already accomplished in part.” & “As Greg LeRoy highlights in a recent post, Citizens for Tax Justice has shown that over the decade 2003-2012, Boeing made $35 billion in pre-tax U.S. profits, yet paid negative tax to Washington state of $96 million and a whopping $1.8 billion in federal income tax refunds over that same period!”1
|"Boeing made $35
billion in pre-tax U.S. profits, yet paid negative tax to Washington
state of $96 million and a whopping $1.8 billion in federal income tax
One of the most visible sectors of protests in the USE (United States Empire) is coming from fast food workers. One article’s title sums it up: “Fast Food Giants Gorge on Subsidies: Thanks to a loophole that subsidizes CEO pay, McDonald’s, Yum Brands, Wendy’s, Burger King, Domino's, and Dunkin' Brands trimmed $64 million from their tax bills in 2011 and 2012.”2
And, “As another report from UC Berkeley recently showed, low-wage fast-food jobs currently cost the American public nearly $7 billion a year, as 52% of fast food workers, including those who work full-time, are paid so little they must rely on safety net programs.”3
Fat cats making big deals while selling the cheapest of meals to the hungry and typically poor masses, yet not even paying the workers a living wage. Strange lottery, indeed!
But wait, there’s more:
“Almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by, according to a report…. Researchers say taxpayers are doling out nearly $900 million a year to supplement the wages of bank tellers, which amounts to a public subsidy for multibillion-dollar banks.”4
Some more examples from Paul Buchheit’s article, “7 Rip-Offs Corporations and the Wealthy Don’t Want You to Know About”5
But wait, is that a sane voice heard rising from within the System?
- "Lotteries Pay for Corporate Tax Avoidance: This means revenue comes from the poorest residents of a community rather than from billion-dollar corporations.”
- “Almost 70% of Corporations Are Not Required to Pay ANY Federal Taxes.”
- “One of the most profitable organizations in America, with billions in tickets, TV rights, and merchandise sales, and with an NFL Commissioner who earned more money than the CEOs of Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and AT&T, is considered a non-profit. It has a tax-exempt status. It gets even worse. While the individual teams themselves are not exempt from federal taxes, they enjoy multi-million-dollar subsidies from their states for new and refurbished stadiums.”
- “Nestle, for example, pays about two dollars for public water that produces about 100,000 plastic bottles of water.”
Warren (D-Mass.) introduced legislation on Tuesday that would ban the
widespread practice of employers using prospective employees’ credit
ratings as a basis for hiring, a practice she said is “one more way in
which the system is rigged.”6
Think and Act Globally and Locally
In his book Globalistan, Pepe Escobar echoes Galeano: “As an angry African delegate told me in a 2002 OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] meeting in Paris, the whole system is ‘a bloated exercise in hypocrisy.’ No spinning by any government or multilateral organization can disguise the fact that the system is ‘Europe and the U.S. against the rest of the world’— as recognized by an infuriated U.N. official: ‘And this is even more incredible when compared to the project of reducing poverty in the world by half until 2015.’”7 p35
|"the system is ‘Europe and the U.S. against the rest of the world"
Fast food isn’t even feeding many of the world’s hungriest of citizens.
With regard to global protests and demonstrations, a key difference must be noted. There are perhaps three main categories:
- Corporate-state v. personal rights and fair treatment:
fast food workers; other low-wage workers, for example, at Wal-Mart; sweatshops, for examples, Bangladesh and China. Also, national borders are being transcended, as this headline shows: “Germany’s Striking Amazon Workers Take Fight To Company’s Seattle HQ”8
- Source v. resources:
strong presence of Native Peoples e.g. New Brunswick (Mi’kmaq – shale gas); Arizona (Navaho and Hopi – uranium/coal); South Dakota (Lakota – tar sands and water). Yet many non-Natives also standing up to protect Mother Earth from further devastation by the corporate-state e.g. South Portland, Maine (tar sands).9
- Overlapping issues, where personal and Mother Earth more clearly connect (though in reality that’s a given):
GMOs, as foods affect both big agri-businesses v. everyone who eats & the quality of the soil, plants, animals, insects, etc.; Fukushima, where: “Japan is ‘incapable’ of safely decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant says a panel of [nuclear watchdog groups and] experts who are calling for an international effort for the dangerous process, the Associated Press reported.”10
There are numerous cultural examples of the paradigm shift necessary for breaking free from empire’s lotteries but for the purposes of this essay’s limited space I’ll cite “Comunalidad - axis of Oaxacan thought” as presented in New World of Indigenous Resistance: Noam Chomsky and Voices from North, South, and Central America edited by Lois Meyer and Benjamin Maldonado Alvarado. The book features essays by Indigenous Peoples both agreeing and disagreeing with some of the perspectives of professor and linguist, Noam Chomsky.
In his essay, “The Fourth Principle,” Jaime Martinez Luna, of Mexico, explains:
|“In Oaxaca, the
vitality of comunalidad as it presents itself witnesses to the
integration of four basic elements: territory, governance, labor, and
enjoyment (fiesta). The principles and values that articulate these
elements are respect and reciprocity.” Comunalidad embraces
“spirituality, symbolism, and a greater integration with nature.”11
This is, of course, at odds with both global corporate empire’s wide-ranging domination and societies that favor the individual’s chance of making it big.
“Comunalidad is confronted by the individualism imposed as part of the logic of colonialism, privatization, and mercantilism, which are developed according to a philosophy centered to the individual as the axis of the universe . . . The communal vision of life transcends the labyrinth that presently entraps indigenous education. Community-controlled education starkly marks the boundaries that separate school-based, cloistered education from that which the community in its entirety provides.”12
|“Comunalidad is confronted by the individualism imposed as part of the logic of colonialism, privatization, and mercantilism"
|"They revere the
judgments of fate, they deliver to them their lives, their hopes, their
panic, but it does not occur to them to investigate fate’s labyrinthine
laws nor the gyratory spheres which reveal it."
Those who are willing to “investigate fate’s labyrinthine laws” are most likely to free themselves, as well as those they care for, from the confines of the colonial lottery.
In 2006, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez helped create Communal Councils, encouraging the voice and actions of the Venezuelan People. “In 2009 the government took a further step, promoting the creation of comunas (communes). In essence, communes were to encompass several community councils within a self-defined community so they could collectively tackle problems on a larger scale.”13
Between 2007-09, Cuban President Raúl Castro initiated a consulta (consultation), encouraging the feedback of the Cuban People.14
On the one hand the world is ripe with People wanting to be treated fairly and to earn, from their hard work, the basics of a decent lifestyle.
On the other hand are Indigenous Peoples similarly wanting, yet with a deeper sense of protecting Mother Earth and with a long history of community and communal ways of life.
May there be more and more genuine handshakes in an effort to rid the species of the destructiveness and false hopes of “the Company.”
were complaints. The Company, with its usual discretion, did not answer
directly. It preferred to scrawl in the rubbish of a mask factory a
brief statement which now figures in the sacred scriptures."
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an
essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a
writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. A new book,
“On Behalf of Those Who Speak Different Languages,” is in the works. He
also hosts an audio show "Between the Lines: listening to literature online." You can contact him via his literary website.
READ MORE POETRY AND ESSAYS BY MANKH ON AXIS OF LOGIC
Quotes from Borges’ “The Lottery in Babylon” are from Labyrinths, edited by Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby, New Directions, 1962/2007.
- “Boeing is a Greedy, Freeloading Corporation That Screws American Taxpayers and Workers”
- “Fast Food Giants Gorge on Subsidies”
- “Fast Food Giants Starve Workers’ Wages, Gorge on Taxpayers”
- “Low Bank Wages Costing The Public Millions, Report Says”
- “7 Rip-Offs Corporations and the Wealthy Don’t Want You to Know About”
- “Sen. Warren Aims to Fix ‘One More Way the System Is Rigged’”
- Globalistan, Pepe Escobar, Nimble Books LLC – 2006, p. 35.
- “Germany’s Striking Amazon Workers Take Fight To Company’s Seattle HQ”
- “Small Town Declares All-Out Offensive Against Tar Sands Port”
- "Experts: Japan 'Incapable' of Solo Decommissioning Effort"
- New World of Indigenous Resistance: Noam Chomsky and Voices from North, South, and Central America, edited by Lois Meyer and Benjamin Maldonado Alvarado, City Lights - 2010, p. 89.
- Ibid. pp 88-89.
- Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions: The Future of Twenty-First Century Socialism, Roger Burbach, Michael Fox, and Federico Fuentes, Fernwood Publishing/Zed Books – 2013, pp. 72-73.
- Ibid. p. 144.