By Cecelia Zamudio
September 26, 2019
Translated by W.T. Whitney Jr
The true environmentalists of this world are people who struggle against plunder on the part of multinationals. They give their lives for their communities, for the mountains and rivers. Every month dozens of these true environmentalists are murdered. Transnational capitalism relies on the bullets of hit men to remove lives of honesty and struggle. The victims, whose hands were clean, would never have taken the hand of someone from the infamous International Monetary Fund (IMF) or of other vampires of the planet. The exploiting class and its capitalist system are perpetuated on the basis of alienation, violence, and extermination – and of lies imposed through their massive media system.
In a flurry of photos, Greta Thunberg is exalted as the new hyped-up media personality created by capitalism’s cultural apparatus. There she is next to IMF director and would-be president of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde. (The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is that institution of transnational capitalism that steals from nature and starves whole peoples). It’s a handshake that illustrates very well the gratification of the bosses of the world as they greet those who serve them in the important task of insinuating Trojan horses into every conflict.
Such devices channel energies down dead-end roads and trick the many into joining fake struggles that don’t get at the roots of our problems and therefore don’t solve them. The Greta fable raises no questions about the capitalism that is destroying nature. The planet is dying while bread and circuses continue. Absolute cynicism!
Under capitalism, television, the press, and the cultural industry are in the hands of private monopolies. Those monopolies characteristically invest capital in the military-industrial complex, agro-business, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, etc. That’s why the mass media don’t televise anyone who really raises questions about capitalism or continuation of the system.
The plundering of nature results inevitably from the capitalist mode of production. Industrial agriculture poisons the soil. Giant mining projects devastate mountains and rivers. Overconsumption is a remote-controlled phenomenon mediated through the cultural apparatus of capitalism, mainly bombardment with advertisements. Programmed obsolescence represents a perverse mechanism by which things age prematurely. It stems directly and intentionally from capitalism’s particular style of production. It also reassures the bourgeoisie that the masses will consume too much. That’s the way the bourgeoisie fill their coffers; they exploit the workers and destroy nature.
No solution for the devastation of nature exists within capitalism. We know about the palpable tragedy of continents of plastic floating in the oceans, of dizzying deforestation -thousand year-old forests disappear – of glaciers shrinking, of groundwater and rivers contaminated and drying up, of mountain ranges sliced up by mega mining, of entire regions bombarded with depleted uranium employed by the military-industrial complex, and of CO2 levels that are definitely rising. The cynicism of the rulers of the world is colossal. It’s as if they propose the following:
“You can’t cover the sun with your finger. In other worlds, the devastation of the planet that we big capitalists are carrying out can no longer be hidden. Therefore, what surely can be done to continue pillaging and accumulating wealth is to lie about the deep, systematic causes of the problem. What’s important is that we don’t identify ourselves as the ones responsible, that we don’t let the owners of the means of production know that we are the ones who decide what they produce and under what conditions and at what rate, that we enrich ourselves by means of plundering nature and taking surplus value from workers, that we decide how the population must behave. We are the ones who steer them to overconsumption that enriches us and who induce them not to question this system that suites us so well. We are the minority that controls everything. To pretend we are concerned about the planet will yield good results. An effective, worldwide propaganda operation in which we are seen as paying attention to some symbol we’ve created earlier would suffice as long as it raises no questions about us as the dominant, exploiting class and ultimately about this system.”
But band aides can’t cure gangrene. And obviously placebos offered by the system itself to channel social discontent down blind alleys won’t end pillaging of the planet.
Greta and her group appeal to the supposed “moral qualities” and supposed “good will” of the bosses of the world. Once more we are swallowed up in the anesthetizing fable that says nothing about capitalism and the accumulation of wealth, which in fact comes about through the exploitation of workers and the plunder of nature. In this fable of “green washing” (lavado verde) they falsely suggest the existence of a supposed “green capitalism,” something totally impossible according to the logic of the system itself. ”Green capitalism” isn’t possible, just as “capitalism with a human face” is not possible, just as a vegetarian lion is not possible. That’s simply because when we speak of the economic, social, political, and cultural system that is capitalism, we are speaking of mechanisms inherent to its logic, which is to accumulate.
There are those who say,”The Nordic countries are great examples of a capitalism that is good and green.” It’s a fraud. Better, we say, to ask one of the women victimized by huge massacres that the wonderful Nordic companies fomented in the Congo in order to loot all the Coltran and other resources they could find. What do the names Ericsson, Saab, Volvo, Bofors (arms), Nammo (arms), Kongsberg (arms), Ikea, H&M, etc sound like to such a woman? Everything about them actually has to do with exploitation of workers and devastation of nature; they are neither “green” nor “humane.”
But maybe the Nordics can go outside their countries and succeed in externalizing the entire cesspool of practices used by multinationals to get rich. Then the cesspool would no longer bother you. And what about the fabulous quantity of arms sales those Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish companies are responsible for? What about their lucrative participation in every new NATO invasion? None of this shows up in the fable.
A “green capitalism” is not possible, just as “capitalism with a human face” is not possible and a vegetarian lion is not possible. That’s because exploitation and plunder are inherent to capitalism. But it’s very possible with tons of makeup to put a mask over that inhumane and by no means green face of capitalism so that it looks like what it isn’t.
But a lion with a zebra mask will never be vegetarian despite what the mask suggests. Likewise, a system like capitalism never be “green” despite the masks created for it. Enormous multinational energy corporations – robbers of nature par excellence – display logos like a humming bird or marine wildlife. BMW and a Swiss bank finance the boat with which Greta sails the seas. Does association with BMW or a Swiss bank make a boat any less polluting or less wicked?
Nevertheless, green-washing rhetoric assigns blame equally. They seem to be saying: “if we are all blamable then no one bears specific blame.” A way is thus found for diluting responsibilities, for not identifying the principal parties responsible for the barbarism: the big capitalists and the transnational bourgeoisie.
Over-consumption, it’s true, isn’t limited to the bourgeoisie. They are quite ready to consume a huge amount and to squander things with abandon. But the exploited class has been alienated through advertising pressure, and its members are pushed into overconsumption, even at the cost of indebtedness. Once more, however, there’s the question of class. The exploiting class, owners of the means of production and propaganda, can impose ideological and cultural hegemony throughout the planet.
Through their alienating mass media and a flood of advertising, the exploiters push overconsumption and paradigms aimed at imposing the cultural apparatus of capitalism. The latter involves individualism, consumption presented as “compensatory,” and success portrayed as possessing rather than as being. Programmed obsolescence, or the premature aging of things, serves as a guarantee for the big capitalists that the masses will consume too much. That way the capitalists fill their bank accounts while they devastate the planet.
In 2019 the 26 richest persons in the world had the same wealth as did the 3.8 billion poorest people. That’s half the world’s population (Oxfam). They struggle to get by. A handful of multimillionaires own the principal means of production and the means of propagandizing. One percent of the world’s population owns 82 percent of the world’s wealth. The data base on electric energy consumption per capita reveals that Europe, the United States, Canada, and a few more capitalist countries by far consume the great bulk of all energy consumed in the world.
Talk from behind the “green mask” equates big capitalists and gigantic corporations – those plunderers and hijackers of whole rivers for mega-mining – with peoples who are their victims. In that abject verbiage of “we are all guilty,” victims are likened to victimizers. No distinctions are made as to social class or in usage of the resources of the planet. The United States Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, and a few other capitalist countries consume 80 percent of the latter. The remaining 20 percent is left for the world’s other countries.
With the “green mask,” there’s no differentiation between over-consuming capitalist countries and the many countries in peripheral regions viewed by transnational capitalists as mere “warehouses for resources.” In fact, the peripheries are pillaged through and through; the ecological and social impacts are devastation and impoverishment, respectively. There’s no mention of plunder being accompanied by the assassinations of persons or communities who protest.
So multinational predators present themselves as kindred spirits with the peoples they exterminate. But they aren’t, as evidenced by what happened when the Anglo-American, BHP Billiton, and Glencore corporations diverted the course of an entire river to obtain water for their mine, the world’s largest coal mine, the Cerrejón mine in Colombia. In doing so, they caused drought, death of the surrounding environment, starvation, and genocide against one of the principle indigenous peoples in Colombia, the Wayuu. More than 14,000 Wayuu children have died of hunger and thirst because of capitalist plunder carried out by these three multinationals. The tons of extracted coal are routed to the United States and mainly to Europe.
That’s why we say, “No, we are not all equally guilty.” A working class family is not the same as a capitalist. The Wayuu people subjected to extermination are not equal in guilt to the multinational Glencore Corporation. Social leaders in struggle and true ecologists die every day from bullets of the thugs of transnational capitalism. They are not guilty and they die by the thousands. The guilty ones are those who plunder the planet and who pay off thugs to exterminate all opposition to transnational capitalism.
For the sake of the victims, there shall not be a moment of silence in the face of barbarism and the pantomime used as cover-up. In Colombia over the course of five years, assassins have killed more than 1500 small farmers, indigenous people, African descendents, environmentalists, and political and social activists. Transnational capitalism is responsible. Thousands have been killed in Mexico and in other African, Asians and Latin American countries.
Yet they come at us with their fable of the girl with braids that NEVER questions the capitalist system. It’s media hype smelling of Eurocentric paternalism with a décor smelling of cynicism. The theatrics smell of the pretense that any and all share responsibility equally.
They are experimenting to see how long we, with a foolish smile, will go on swallowing all their pretenses, while they, members of the exploiting class, continue to pillage mountains and rivers, oceans and forest; keep on perpetrating ecocide and genocide; continue to push millions of dispossessed peoples into leaving; work at converting the planet into a trash heap and human beings into lost souls. (And for those who don’t allow themselves be alienated and who seek to struggle outside of the usual set-up, there are paramilitary or army bullets, political persecution and jail.)
“As long as we have capitalism, this planet won’t be saved. That’s because capitalism is contrary to life, ecology, the human being, and women.” These are the words of Berta Cáceres, an authentic environmentalist and fighter for social causes in Honduras. She opposed capitalist plunder and was murdered [in 2016].
Chico Méndes, another authentic environmentalist, social and political fighter, and a defender of the Amazon region was assassinated [in 1988] to silence his voice of class consciousness. They wanted to block any political organizing of the dispossessed. Before being killed he was already pointing to the fakery of “green washing.” (It wasn’t called that at the time, but it did already exist.)
Macarena Valdés also rose up in struggle against capitalism and its “green makeup.” She was the Mapuche [indigenous] ecologist assassinated [in Chile in 2016] for defending nature and her community, for confronting the multinational RP Global, capitalized in Austria. After participating in ecocide and in genocide of the Mapuche people, that company advertised the energy it was selling as “renewable and sustainable.” Fighters against the looting of nature number in the thousands. Their voices aren’t heard in the media. There lives are short, truncated as they are by repressive tools in the service of trans-national capitalism.
And if any country sets out to nationalize natural resources and no longer allow multinationals to steal them, they – the capitalist powers – bomb that country in their imperialist wars, invade it, let loose fanatically religious mercenaries nurtured inside the empire, impose torture, install bloodthirsty regimes – and in the process create martyrs. Where are the false “ecologists” of that system to be found when U.S. and European imperialism destroys nature and massacres peoples in Iraq, Colombia, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc? Even pseudo protests are lacking.
Of course, in the midst of all the cacophony, the hyped-up publicity, and fiction, the marionette theater fools the unwary. Even now they are silent in response to the thousands of persons assassinated by transnational capitalism, often on a daily basis. Those victims had been providing reliable first line defense of the planet. But the struggle against capitalism and its barbarism continues, mainly because many of us can’t stomach the cosmetics they use to try to cover up the smell.
Colombian writer, poet, journalist, and artist Cecelia Zamudio has a blog (www.cecilia-zamudio.blogspot.com) dedicated to the “battle of ideas” and to “critical thinking.”
Translated by W. T. Whitney Jr.