The role of monopoly in undermining community, local wealth, health, and our national budgets. Building peaceful globalism by restoring local holism and protective family.
And a response to COVID-19.
As we have lived through violence for many years, we have begun to see some of the underlying causes. One is the disenfranchisement of youth, often through lack of care, corruption, and lack of investment in infrastructure that gives youth an education and employment opportunities. When there is no hope for the future, there is nothing to lose in destruction and violence. It can be hard for many of us to understand this because hope for tomorrow has always been a part of our lives.
Another main underlying cause of violence is the rise of monopolies. An early starter in this was the global chemical farming industry. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides have broken down both biodiversity and human relationships, bringing about a poverty in farming conditions and a deterioration of interethnic relations between animal herders and crop farmers that once characterised local living in northern Nigeria. The introduction of patents for corporate seed ownership has further increased local poverty.
The answer to this problem now being pushed is satellite technology, or digital sensors on tractors, to analyse the chemical structure of soils for chemical fertilization. This involves further centralisation of agricultural power in large companies, further killing off local farming resources and community, e.g. local soil analysis laboratories and local agronomy advice. It further depletes our soils, as soils rely on microbial life, which these chemicals do not encourage. The process kills both local community and local soil fertility. That is, monopolisation is a major factor in the deterioration of interethnic relationships, community development and thus life and hope at the local level, while all the time peddling science and technology as its authority. But these monopolies don’t know anything about hope, community and holistic local living.
The pharmaceutical industry is another area in which these monopoly powers function. In securing repeated patents for medicines, prices are far too high for the people who need them the most. It is said profits are needed for research, but much of the research is financed by government and the prices of meds can be extortionate, massively, and brutally higher than production costs. Millions of people die because they can’t access highly priced meds, far more than will ever die from COVID-19. The pharmaceutical industry today is the most profitable industry in the world and spends more on lobbying government policy in America than does any other industry. The industry in is bed with government and has the funds for the legal network to protect its interests.
In all industries we have seen unethical struggles in securing patents for personal profit. We have also seen legitimate science thwarted by those who have an interest in the status quo. The more profitable the industry the more transparency and accountability are required. In the vaccine industry, utility and ethics are compromised when patent holders are in the driving seat (or even navigating from the passenger seat) of public health policy. When government staff also profit from patents, and when education and research are financially controlled by patent holders, a conflict of interests exists. Independence must be verified in scientific research and treatment strategies, to include traditional knowledge when genuine. Pharmacology originally developed from community tradition, which is now routinely discredited. There is a “superiority” in Western culture, a sense of exceptionalism, or “fitness to govern” that subjugates others to its industries. The real motive is greed, patenting what belongs to God.
The regulation of monopoly, and the return of democracy to the local level, is not possible until political campaign financing by vested interests and the lobbying industry is stopped. And not just in America, sponsored politicians can receive lucrative positions in pharmaceutical industries and pharmaceutical staff can also switch to become politicians. The pharmaceutical industry needs to work in regulated corporation with “government for the people,” with the medical fraternity and with local community, and not work in its own monopolistic interests responsible only to its own shareholders. Then we could make huge progress in pharmacology as well as in overall personal and community health, even for the poorer nations, significantly changing the world.
Our agricultural practices today, in large-scale corporate farming, with the growth of urbanisation and the depletion of local diverse rural community, has resulted in the increase of unhealthy and processed foods. This is harming health at a large scale. Immunity issues and mental illness from urbanisation (as well as mental illness from rural hopelessness), are also ravaging our societies. This in turn is placing too much demand on our medical institutions and on our welfare systems and national budgets. It has also impoverished many local farmers in developed nations, as large grocery intermediaries take the profits. There has been a breakdown in community infrastructure that connects rural farming communities with the urban public (producer directly with consumer) and that educates urban populations to enhance their rural awareness. We have allowed large agricultural companies and grocery organisations to replace our community interconnectivity.
As COVID-19 ravages our world, we notice that it is urban regions where people live on highly processed convenience foods, with the resultant underlying poor health conditions, that people suffer the most. We should treat COVID-19 like we treat every major flu outbreak, not by locking-down services the vulnerable need, or jobs that wage earners need, but by protecting the vulnerable, aged, and nursing homes. Locking-down necessitates government bail outs that favour the rich (trickle-down economics, higher costs and more debt for the poor) and richer nations, while risking economic collapse and the wellbeing of millions. Treating our underlying health conditions with improved nutrition, by returning biodiversity to farming and by connecting to local primary food producers, significantly reduces our vulnerability. Our lack of interconnectivity as a way of life and our reliance instead on the larger corporate powers is placing us most at risk from disease and from the social disharmony that characterises our world today. Monopolist solutions to our world’s problems aren’t working but are enhancing them. Instead of top-down economics we need the bottom-up reconstruction that Jesus taught. We are enjoying “sabbath” during this lockdown, but in the bible “sabbath” means prioritising the poor and rebuilding natural ecosystem.
Instead of working towards profits as the cure-all, monopiles should give way to cooperative solutions to local community rehabilitation. Local community fragmentation is producing far more danger than COVID-19. Each week, each year, every year, a far greater number of people die from the deterioration of our local communities than will ever die from COVID-19. Yet, there is no outcry, no “lockdown,” no seeking to turn these problems around. Just a continuing subservience to these monopolistic powers, to their non-democratic influence in government and in all our lives, and to “solutions” which just broaden their patent base and monopoly profits. Monopolies take away our local resilience to crises or pandemics, by depleting our biodiversity and relational connectivity and by stymying government investment in local education and health. The COVID-19 pandemic reveals that resilience is as important as profits. In an uncertain world, building resilience into our communities is a priority.
Another area where monopoly power is growing is in the internet sector. In Nigeria, Facebook sells advertising, both to account holders and to local corporations. But, as far as I am aware, Facebook doesn’t pay taxes in Nigeria on this income wealth it extracts from the nation. This is a modern form of corporate colonialization. It is taking out of the country the wealth that belongs to the common good of the country, that belongs to the health and education sectors. Many global companies do this, but the way the internet platforms do it, in collecting and monetising personal data, is blatant.
Amazon works globally also, it seems without paying local taxes, and Amazon’s wealth has grown massively during this COVID-19 pandemic. This is a reason why developed nations promote lockdown, when developing nations suffer lockdown’s worst consequences. Developed regions have home deliveries. News networks constantly show the rich in lockdown reporting on their webcams and drinking their coffee and wine. The misery of the poor in lockdown is not shown on the media in developed nations, but it will be shown when this is over. It was unbridled commercial interest that brought us into this COVID-19 pandemic without any preparation and now the poor are paying the price again. Governments are impotent to tax the most powerful monopolies to bring local resilience to our communities because governments are compromised.
Monopolists make charitable gifts to compensate, to help their public image. If they give $1 in charity, they only really give 50 cents. The other 50 cents is the tax they don’t pay. So the public gives that 50 cents without a say in how that money is used. The gifts of monopolists often enhance their own market share, or sectors they profit from, or enhance their massive economic control. Philanthropy is often used for political leverage, or to open markets and develop the kind of future they desire. So their giving and influence is undemocratic. We didn’t vote them in, and we can’t vote them out and they aren’t accountable to the public for how resources are used. This undermines the democracies of all our nations. It is ceding power to bodies we cannot control, and our children will live in a world that is less democratic than the world many of us have enjoyed in the past.
The modern concept of democracy began as a definition of the public’s relationship with government, to develop mutual accountability. Today, massive corporate (including internet) organisations exist without this mutual accountability with the public. They are largely responsible only to their shareholders and corporate owners. A serious breach of democracy is developing in the relationship between corporations and the public. Monopolising is responsible for this, limiting the ability of diverse corporations to devolve choice and control back to the local public. Not only are we losing holistic development in our local regions, but now also democratic ownership of our private data to growing commercial surveillance, with no guarantees for human rights. Government needs to return our societies to earlier democratic positions, where the growth of monopolies was prohibited, and monopoly control, wherever it developed, was restructured, so that power reverted to the local community. Only this can rehabilitate local and global relationships.
The loss of local determinism today is a reason for the proliferation of conspiracy theories, as people sense an encroaching centralisation. If we censor everything in agriculture, health, technology, or education that is not patented we will not arrive at the truth. Censorship is wrong in a democracy. The scriptures are full of examples where “patented powers,” from Pharaoh to the Pharisees, were self-serving. Power must not be centralised, but shared in local community, where family and local interests can best be served. Many of our ancestors gave their lives to establish societies of mutual responsibility and mutual accountability. (This is distinct from the often-used concept of “freedom.” Freedom is derived from mutual responsibility.) These societies need to be protected and restored once again. And this time, not just for us, but also for all communities in all nations, in local level, grassroots regions. “The fruit of justice shall be peace.” (Isaiah) Local justice, for global wellbeing.