Thursday, March 23, 2006
WE? US? THEM?
Has anybody noticed that when heads of corporations and governments speak publicly after their corporate decisions have caused some disaster, that they become so fond of the pronoun "we?" And how in their utterances of defense for their choosing profit over human lives that somehow their "we" becomes "us, the public?" How by their careful use of the pronoun "we" corporate and governmental messages gets translated into the public being responsible for whatever horrible thing that has occurred? That we, the public, are somehow responsible (through the public election of former governments less crazed by privatization if nothing else) when newly privatized ferries sink, when newly privatized trains full of toxic materials fall off their tracks into pristine lakes and rivers, when newly privatized provincial record keeping results in records being found in dumps, and most ghastly of all, when serious government cutbacks results in the deaths of children in care, loggers and truck drivers, not to even mention deaths on the street. Oh, yes, when disaster strikes, all of our corporate managers, including Gordon Campbell love the pronoun "we".
Politicians and corporate heads are studiously aware of the power of language. Just last year, Gordon Campbell tried to privatized the public forests of BC simply by changing the name of our public forests to "Working Forests". And he'll be back with this. He understands language very well. And while I acknowledge the argument that maybe the public is to blame for the disasters following privatizations because they elected the government doing the privtizing and therefore agreed to it all, I don't buy that argument. But it sticks in public consciousness. I hear people say things like "Oh yes, I know we're logging out our kids futures in our public forests, yes, we're killing our fish stocks in the process along with ruining our water supplies, in fact, we're killing the earth by just getting up in the morning, in the eating, breathing, trying to regulate our body temperature, trying to get our kids an education or get one ourselves, or a job, any kind of a job to pay the bills, trying to just live we're doing terrible things to the environment."
And my heart sinks when I hear this self blame. Because while it is true that much human suffering has resulted from using the chemicals of industry and just from the very proliferation of products it isn't true that the public has made informed decisions, even made important decisions at all. The public does not make the important decisions that are killing the earth. Not yet. Heads of government and corporations make them. And these are a peculiar kind of people.
The Bushes, the Blairs, the Gordon Campbells, the Stephen Harpers, the Ralph Klines simply trust money and power more than they do actual humans, especially ones outside their own economic and social class. And they have no feeling or connection to the natural world. Even their games are played on golf courses heavy with insecticides and herbicide, or on cemented squash and tennis courts, or enclosed gym rooms. This is a peculiar way to experience the world. And these people are also peculiar in that they have no scruples about using humankind's own best impulses against humankind. In doing so right wing corporate and government heads do not represent the highest type of humanity. Yet they wield this power over us. But let's get it straight. It's not "we" who are trashing the world. It's "them." Our responsibility, in my opinion, is to resist "them." And we can best do this when we realize fully who "them" actually are, and who "we"are.