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Follow the Roots: a brief study of profit and liberation Printer friendly page Print This
By Mankh (Walter E. Harris III)
Axis of Logic
Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

There's a modicum of improvement with the horrific caging conditions of both chickens and human beings; (see “Inmates Credited for 'Effectively Ending' Solitary in California” [1] and “Why the Era of Cruel Extreme Confinement of Animals Raised for Food Appears to Be Coming to an End” [2]). Yet, I'm still left to wonder at man's penchant for locking up fellow travelers, and one's that some think are sub-human, hence chickens, and – accentuating but not to restricted to minorities – citizens aka human beings. Liberation and profit are the keys to the locks.


Decades from its mass debut in the Watergate scandal film, “All the President's Men,” the phrase “follow the money” is now frequently used in articles and conversations as a means to identify the root reason behind or beneath a host of surfacely-smiley-faced corrupt activities. Thus, 'profit' is clearly identified as part of the prison-industrial complex (which includes chickens, pigs, et al.). The following headline and article quote give a clue for understanding how entrenched this has become, “Private prisons threaten to sue for more inmates for free labour”:

The private prison companies, well-known for profiting off of incarceration and crime, are now saying that the state’s they have contracted with aren’t keeping up their end of the bargain. The private prisons rely on a certain number of inmates for free and virtually-free slave labor. That labor is used for a variety of trades, including making uniforms for popular restaurants like McDonalds and Applebee’s. But if the private prisons don’t have enough inmates locked up then production goes down correlative with the decrease in free labor (i.e. slavery).” [3]

Those who extol, with jingoistic pride, the so-called virtues of their country always fail to notice that their so-called hard-earned privilege rides heavily on the backs of African American slaves, Indigenous slave-labor in Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere, and the assimilation or confinement of Native Peoples, many of whom live on reservations, some of which are officially called prisoner-of-war camps.


In the modern vernacular of two- and four-legged food producers being treated as sub-human, the treatment of Native Peoples could be labeled as “cage free,” a phrase highlighting what one is not, rather than what one is (connected with Mother Earth) or can become (liberated from the chains of neo-colonial oppressors).


Meanwhile, a large proportion of Blacks, Latinos, plus Natives and other minorities are restricted to the literal pens of the prison-industrial complex. Whether pigs in crates (unable to physically turn around), or chickens in cages, all of the above cited examples reflect, along with means of profit, the shackling of the potential for another being's self-liberation.


Michelle Alexander's NYTimes best-selling book “The New Jim Crow” gives a detailed account of the prison-industrial complex and its societal side-effects. From directly within that system comes a powerfully and insightfully written book, “Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal.” Read it and not only will you be educated on many levels, you will also learn of a man unjustly convicted yet inwardly liberated while having survived 30 years on death row. Mumia knows about roots, and not just the Alex Haley/Kunta Kinte kind. From a 2006 essay:

“The roots of Guantanamo, of Abu Ghraib, of Bagram Air Force Base, of U.S. Secret torture chambers operating all around the world, are deep in American life, in its long war against Black life and liberation.


“Is it mere coincidence that the most notorious guard at Abu Ghraib worked right here, in the United States; here, in Pennsylvania; here, in SCI-Greene prison, for over six years before exporting his brand of “corrections” to the poor slobs who met him in Iraq?” [4]

Jingo is not a game

The root of “jingo” is traced to: “'mindless, gung-ho patriot,' 1878, picked up from the refrain of a music hall song written by G.W. Hunt...” [5]
 & “Jingoism also refers to a country's advocacy for the use of threats or actual force, as opposed to peaceful relations, in efforts to safeguard what it perceives as its national interests.” [6]

And the ugly parallel continues; according to a Washington Post article based on a video:

Chickens used to make McDonald's McNuggets were beaten with a nail attached to a pole, tossed alive into buckets meant for the dead and suffered from leg deformities at a farm under contract with Tyson Foods, according to an animal rights group.


“Tyson Foods quickly cut its ties with the Tennessee farm after a video showing the alleged abuse was released Thursday by Mercy for Animals, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles that employs workers to infiltrate farms and record animal mistreatment.

“The video shows "birds painfully beaten, stabbed, and impaled on makeshift clubs" at T&S Farms in Dukedom, Tenn., a statement by the group said.” [7]

Alexander's “The New Jim Crow” highlights how the prison system is punitive rather than rehabilitative. The book also reveals that, “...violent crime rates are at historically low levels, yet incarceration rates continue to climb." [8]  Hmmm, anyone?

Add to that these quite telling statistics: “According to the ACLU’s original analysis, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana. Nationwide, the arrest data revealed one consistent trend: significant racial bias. Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.” [9]


While many are “in” for minor offenses (for example, a White mother who stole baby food; watch “Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals: Live at Brazos County Jail’ [10]), some are deservedly locked-up for serious offenses. Yet it is the opinion of many, including this writer, that solitary confinement is a form of torture.


While gaining more acceptance for its medicinal attributes, is the liberal change of perspective regarding marijuana retroactive? Those already in jail for minor amounts will most likely not be suddenly freed if a state allows for medicinal marijuana and/or minimal amounts usage.


How else does society and the system at large promote slavery and de-liberation? One example is drugs. Marijuana is essentially as escapist as liquor, yet liquor is society's approved drug of choice – an approved usage that is within the advert-mantra parameter known as “drink responsibly.” But, as the statistics show, no such parameter exists for smoking weed, notwithstanding the Declaration of Independence (“and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them...”).


Meanwhile, let's take a look at the big leagues. While recreational/relaxing/consciousness-raising drugs risk punishment by so-called law enforcement, the pharmaceutical industries' wares are not only approved, they are shoved in the faces of TV watchers across America. The reported markups of many legal drugs are astounding.


One example: Paxil listed as having a 2,898% markup, while Xanax clocks in at 569,958%! [11] also lists the % chart and states:

This chart is of dubious accuracy and has little relevance (other than an inflammatory one), as far more goes into the retail pricing of drugs than the raw cost of their active ingredients. Pharmaceutical companies expend money on the research and development costs of creating the drugs, plus the overhead costs of manufacturing, marketing, and shipping them; as well, pharmacies must sell drugs for more than their wholesale prices in order to cover the overhead costs of store operations (including pharmacists' salaries).” [12]

But remember that much of “research and development... marketing...” is often part of a bloated public relations program, and besides all that, the advertised side-effects alone virtually scream, “buyer beware.” Herbal remedies, anyone?

Bottled water is also known to have huge markups. As example:

“The deal would hand Nestlé millions of gallons of some of the cleanest drinking water we have, despite a huge drought. Even worse, Nestlé will only pay one cent per 40 gallons of water. Then, it will sell the same water back to the public for $2.63 per gallon.” [13]

What a world where, in order to feel better or improve one's health by simply swallowing a pill with water, the cost is more bloated than a hippopotamus at a Super Bowl Sunday buffet.


I'm no economist or mathematician but am venturing a guess that the deliberate effort to squelch one's ability to self-liberate is in direct proportion to the profits of the corporate-state/predatory-capitalist system.


A look at the root of the word “liberate” teaches us a lot. From “leudh – to mount up, to grow”. [14] Thus personal liberation requires hard work, a continued effort. Sermon on the Mount, anyone? “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”


A deeper look at the roots reveals that liberation is both personal and collective:

leudh-ero-, probably originally 'belonging to the people' (though the precise semantic development is obscure... and a suffixed form of the base *leudh- 'people' (cognates: Old Church Slavonic ljudu, Lithuanian liaudis, Old English leod, German Leute 'nation, people;' Old High German liut 'person, people').” [15]

Also, liberate, “to free an occupied territory from the enemy.” [16]

While jingoism goes hand-in-hand with “national interests,” what of Native Nations, Black Nations, Chicken Nations, et al.?


Follow the Roots

“In Norse mythology, is the World Tree, a great ash tree located at the center of the universe and joining the Nine Worlds of Norse cosmology.” [17] This tree highlights both above and below ground level.


The ancient Chinese pictograph for “tree” shows, equally, the branches above the ground and the roots below.


Brush calligraphy by the author.

We are, in effect, half-blind unless we learn to look beneath the surface. And if we truly looked more, we would mine for resources less.


Some five centuries ago, when Europeans 'picked up their roots' so as to conquer the Americas for profit, they left something behind – their connection with Mother Earth. The current resource wars and efforts to preserve what's left of clean land (to grow foods), air (to breathe), and water (to drink, cook, clean, etc.) are direct results of this rootlessness which is now franchised via global corporate empire.


This rootless franchise has pseudo-managers. As Pepe Escobar explains in his epic “Globalistan” (2006, 2009): “For the moment, in the world economy, what we have is a dizzying speed virtual circus orchestrated by Bauman's nomad elites of global liquid modernity – a circus providing unheard of mega-profits for those able to speculate in highly leveraged, mega-risky derivatives.” [18]


Saddest Poster Boy for Compassion

Current world events pose a fascinating counterbalance. While many are unjustly imprisoned in the various forms noted above, many are being forced to flee their homes and homelands; “refugees” are suddenly all over the news and the maps! As Escobar shows in his recent article “Blowback on a NATO beach,” the root cause of these mass exoduses is, in essence, the over-extended greed and chaos of empire.


The photo of a dead three-year-old, Aylan Kurdi, washed ashore on a beach is raising awareness of the refugee crisis.


As Escobar explains:

Aylan was also one refugee among millions fleeing “liberation” bombing and the convoluted ramifications/unintended consequences of GWOT – the global war on terror – in the “arc of instability”, from Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan to Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Mali. [19]

While there are news stories of refugees being taken in and cared for, some countries, such as Israel and Hungary, are building fences to keep the refugees out.


Such unfettered geo-political chaos . . . such inhumane shackling of human beings and so-called animals . . .  Somewhere beyond or beneath these linked extremities is a world where basic comforts and the opportunity to live a liberated life – not the tortuous and violent acquiring of profits – are the norm.




1. “Inmates Credited for 'Effectively Ending' Solitary in California

2. “Why the Era of Cruel Extreme Confinement of Animals Raised for Food Appears to Be Coming to an End

3. “Private prisons threaten to sue for more inmates for free labour” 

4. Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal, edited by Johanna Fernandez, (City Lights Books, 2015), p.214.

5. “Jingo

6. “Jingoism

7. “Video shows abuse of Tyson chickens used for McDonald’s McNuggets

8. The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, (The New Press, 2010, 2012),  p.101.

9. "Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers

10. “Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals: Live at Brazos County Jail” 
& 7-minute clip “Jeff Ross Roasts Female Prisoners

11. “The TRUE Cost Of Your Prescription Drugs!

12. “Generic Drugs” 

13. "PETITION: Boycott Nestlé for stealing American citizens' supply of fresh water

14. The American Heritage® College Dictionary, Fourth Edition (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002) p.1618.

15. “liberal

16. “liberate” 

17. “Yggdrasil

18. Globalistan, Pepe Escobar, (Nimble Books LLC, 2006, 2009), p.309.

19. “Blowback on a NATO beach




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. His recent book is “Drive-thru Theofascism & The Hero's Journey” and the newest is “Dear_______, poem-letters to friends and enemies.” You can contact him via his literary website.




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