By Ranil Senanayake –
The word ‘Robot’ to signify a self-aware machine with the capacity to destroy humans was first coined in 1920 by the Czech playwright Karel Capek in his play Rossum’s Universal Robots (RUR) where these non human entities destroy humans and take over the world. These artificial constructs not only had intelligence but also could outlive humans. Interestingly this point was first raised by Thomas Jefferson when commenting on the 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution, which gave corporations the same legal rights as humans. He suggested explicit language to govern corporate entities, like requiring maximum life spans just like humans, but unfortunately for his concerns, the forces creating the 14th amendment, actually expanded, rather than limited, the scope of corporations’ power. As a consequence we have intelligent, artificial, constructs, which were immortal. To such constructs, the needs of ordinary mortals becomes of low importance.
A corporation today is allowed to poison humanity though the mouth, nose, skin and mind, in the name of their goal ‘economic growth’. To obtain our concurrence of this system, the faith of humans in their traditions and spirituality, is transferred to a faith in money, which is then translated into stocks and shares. Of course humans assist the process of growing corporations, but as the humans age and die, others are brought into the positions of corporate operation that facilitate the growth of the corporation. Growth is enshrined in the process of economic development. Unfortunately the leaders of nations ask the question ‘what type of growth’ only too infrequently. Economic development through consumption comes in many forms. The consumption patterns may be renewable, in which case they are sustainable or non-renewable in which case they are unsustainable. But the type of economic growth that is being promoted today is poisoning of our children (and ourselves) in a most inhuman and unsustainable manner.
The dangers that the TNC’s bring to Sri Lanka was elucidated brilliantly by Dr. Damayanthi Perera in her speech to the Medico Legal Society of Sri Lanka.
She pointed out that; “Due to globalization and ‘unrestrained’ free trade, healthy traditional diets are influenced negatively and the ecosystem is destroyed. TNCs (Trans National Corporations) use many unethical marketing practices such as undermining wholesome, natural food such as rice and milk as nutritionally inadequate to promote branded, fortified food products. They also create a fear psychosis in the minds of the consumers via the mass media to promote sales of fake milk, fake butter (margarine) and even soap. Currently, some brands of yogurt and soap are marketed via creating a bacteria-phobia (i.e., an unnecessary fear regarding bacteria). Gene-engineering is complemented with mind- engineering (i.e., brainwashing).”
Who pushes these poisons and even resorts to lies and brainwashing to further their growth? While individuals take on the ephemeral mantle of a ‘corporate head’, it is the corporations themselves, which create and promote the poisons to the unsuspecting public. They defend these actions as in the interests of the shareholders and strike back viciously when their profits are threatened. The behavior of Monsanto in promoting Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) knowing full well the health and environmental costs of their product, or the behavior of Bayer in defending their bee-killing Neoniconitoids is public knowledge, but the lawsuits that they engage in to block public concern are vicious and partisan totally ignoring public concern or health or truth. Culturally, these corporations get Muslim and Jewish people to consume what they have traditionally been forbidden, by inserting pig genes into GMO vegetables. They do not inform such consumers that the GMO tomatoes or potatoes that they consume contain essential pats of a Pig. They will have Hindus consume Cow genes disguised as GMO corn or wheat; there is no respect for culture or tradition by such TNC’s
As pointed above, the movement of the corporations into the legal space reserved for humans began with the interpretation of the fourteenth amendment to the constitution of the US. An article designed for the freed slaves was interpreted by the US Supreme Court in 1886, ipse dixit that the Fourteenth Amendment applied to corporations too. Since then, that Court has repeatedly reaffirmed this protection, giving rise to ‘corporate personhood’. In other words self-aware non-human machines with same rights as a human, it fits in well with description of a robot as expounded by Capek, and just like the robots in his play R.U.R. They do not care for the wellbeing of humanity and sees us as merely a tool for achieving their goals, growth and profit. Globalization being a process to strengthen their reach.
Can we escape this trap?
One hope is the new breed of corporations which work towards success with a Triple Bottom Line’. With Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CER) programs, a change has been made, and many corporations are starting to merge as responsible, global citizens.
The Medico Legal Society of Sri Lanka must be congratulated on their principled stand in defense of our children. Todays parents bear a great responsibility to ensure that the children are not exposed to ‘slow poisoning via ultra-processed food and mind- poisoning (via mass media advertising and irresponsible brand promotions). To quote Dr.Perera again; “The Food Industry engages in aggressive, unethical, ‘Brand Promotion’ via print and electronic media using trade puffery, legal loopholes and regulatory lapses to grab the biggest market-share. Ultra-processed food products are also promoted through direct and indirect, unethical medical and nutrition promotion and patronage. TNCs buy professional allegiance, collusion or silence via unethical sponsorships, research grants, etc. Consumers are duped into purchasing harmful and potentially harmful ultra-processed food products. Such organizations and professionals are betraying the public trust and are failing in their public duty.”
Some of these TNC’s are indeed evil robots hell bent on destroying humanity for their profit. They may not look like the fire breathing metal behemoths that TV screens portray as the killer robots, they are clothed in corporate clothing, protected by lawyers. But hopefully, we are now witnessing the emergence of the good robots, in corporate clothing and protected by lawyers too, but making profits in ways that do not compromise the health and well being of humanity. In some cases they wind up doing a great service to humanity. That we give them power the swamp over he killer robots is our choice.
We support them by buying or holding their stock. For a food industry that dupes consumers into purchasing harmful and potentially harmful ultra-processed food products,
Time to divest!
And, for a food industry that promises and delivers safe, healthy food,
Time to invest !