Posts Tagged ‘El Salvador

02
Mar
11

A Breif Note on Liberation Theology

For a college theology class, I had to watch the 1989 film Romero– the story of Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador and an advocate of Liberation Theology. In one particularly poignant section of the film, just after a brutal massacre has taken place by the Salvadoran Army on left-wing peasants and priests, a young woman asks Romero “Will I go to heaven when I die? It’s so bad here… I’ve got to have something I can look forward to…”. It reminded me of Marx’s comment “Religion is the opiate of the people”.

Now most people, even many communists, understand this comment to be Marx’s denouncement of religion as nothing but myths concocted to keep the have-nots from rising up against the haves. I don’t believe this was the point Marx was trying to make. Yes, Marx was a committed atheist, but after studying his discussions of religion, what I have found is that Marx doesn’t actually have an issue with concepts of faith and spirituality. Marx’s attacks on religion aren’t so much attacks on the ideas of the supernatural, but attacks on the use of religion by those in power to subjugate those who they were exploiting. “Religion is the opiate of the people” doesn’t speak so much on the nature of religion as it does on the predicament of the poor and oppressed. Going back to that scene in Romero, what is shown is that there are those whose lives are so utterly miserable, that an existence beyond death is the only thing that makes existence bearable. Again, Marx doesn’t decry the idea of life after death, but the conditions of life before.

Now evolving out of that criticism, or at least, out of similar views, was the concept of “Liberation Theology”, a perspective of Christianity (specifically Catholicism in South and Central America) that focused on alleviating the suffering of poor and oppressed peoples and bringing about fundamental changes in society that were the root causes of poverty and exploitation. Another scene in Romero probably gives the best example of Liberation Theology doctrine, in which the bishop leads a number of locals in prayer “Lord, you created us for freedom… Christ, you made us to live in dignity… Lord, you strengthen us in the struggle for justice…” and further commenting “The mission of the church is to identify itself with the poor and to join with them in their struggle for justice….”.

Naturally, Liberation Theology, directly attempting to improve life and the advance the rights of the powerless was embraced by the poor, and not just a few Marxists as well. Indeed, some of the goals between Liberation Theology and Communism were so similar, that governments accused local clergy of colluded with Marxist rebels (which was, in some cases true) and others to denounce Liberation Theology as Christian Marxism. Indeed, one of the most outspoken critics of Liberation Theology was a German cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict the XV. Sadly, while Liberation Theology does still exist (as well as variants of it), a its precepts were rejected by the greater Catholic Church and for many still, religion remains an opiate to many of the poor and disenfranchised.

29
Dec
10

Corporations To Boycott (Part I)

While we’re increasingly aware that the majority of products in stores are the results of sweatshop labor or other unethical practices, we tend to be not aware of which corporations are responsible. To help combat this, below I’ve listed some major corporations and a couple descriptions of their more heinous crimes.

 

Nestle:

While you probably wouldn’t associate a company whose logo is a nest of baby birds with anything but sunshine and joy, Nestle will probably make the top ten of anyone’s list of evil corporations. Among Nestle’s major crimes are:

  • Marketing infant formula to developing nations, despite the fact that many water sources (water being used in the preparation of the formula) in the third world are polluted or otherwise unfit for drinking. Many third world women are either illiterate or unable to read the language the formula instructions are written in, leading to babies essentially being fed toxic formula. Nestle has been aware of this since the late 70s but continues to aggressively market it’s products to the world world, even in the face of the 1981 World Health Organization regulations on infant formula advertising. Even with formula that is properly prepared, non-breastfed infants are at a much higher risk of disease.
  • In addition to marketing infant formula to the third world, Nestle has also begun to “freely” offer it’s infant formula in some maternity wards and hospitals. Once new mothers start their babies on the formula, the lactation process in interrupted and the babies must continue to use formula, even after they leave the hospital (and the formula, no longer free, must be bought).
  • Buying dairy products from farms seized and controlled by the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, despite the country being under international sanctions.
  • Contributing to the deforestation of Borneo in order to attain palm oil, used in a number of Nestle products.

Now Nestle is by no means limited to the baby formula market- and has a vast array of subsidiary companies and brands, ranging from Wonka candy to L’Oreal cosmetics. Fortunately, Nestle has a habit of boldly displaying it’s logo on it’s various products, so it’s not especially difficult to figure which products not to buy.

 

Coca-Cola:

Like Nestle, Coca-Cola is one of the corporations you’d never suspect. Among their long list of crimes are:

  • The creation of a subsidiary company (“Fanta”) in order to continue selling products to Germany during WWII. Allow me to say that again, just to make sure you get it. Coca-Cola, an American company, created a subsidiary so they could continue to sell carbonated drinks to the Nazis, during the second world war! Forgetting the fact that Coca-cola advertised itself as a patriotic company and the choice soft-drink of American soldiers and then turned around and built manufacturing plants in country America was at war with, they sold to the Nazis. Even before the second world war it was common knowledge that Fascism wasn’t the greatest thing in the world.
  • A large amount of water is used in the creation of a number of Coke products. In Kerala, India, a Coca-cola bottling plant used so much water that a miniature drought was created, devastating the lives of the local farmers. The plant was eventually shut down, but it still demonstrates the companies lack of concern for the impact the manufacturing of it’s product has on the environment and locals.
  • In both Gautemala and Colombia, union leaders have been murdered by paramilitary groups- contracted by Coca-Cola– for attempting to improve deplorable conditions of the manufacturing plants there. Similar anti-union oppression has occurred in Turkey, China, and El Salvador.

While again like Nestle, Coca-Cola profits from a wide range of brands and products, it’s much more difficult to find out which. Some Coca-Cola products include: Dasani bottled water, Snapple, Heineken, Bacardi, Dr Pepper, Minute Maid, Powerade, and many others. You can see a full list here.

 

Monsanto:

Monsanto is the closest thing we have to James Bond villain’s empire. It’s a massive biotechnological agricultural corporation- in simpler terms, they study, manufacture, and sell genetically engineered crops, hormone growth treatments for animals, and herbicides. Most prominent in their long list of crimes and unethical activities are:

  • The creation of terminator seeds- seeds that have been genetically modified so that after producing a crop, the seeds that crop produces will be sterile (farmers will be unable to use those seeds to plant more crops). Essentially what this means is that farmers must continually buy seeds from Monsanto in order to grow crops. This isn’t so much monopolization as it is enslavement.
  • Monsanto’s animal growth hormones have been alleged to be linked to a number of a verities of cancer.
  • In Anniston, Alabama, Monsanto was documented to have knowingly disposed of mercury and PCB for forty years into creeks serving as the local drinking supply. Monsanto has similarly dumped toxic waste in landfills in Britain.
  • Monsanto was one of the creators of Agent Orange, a defoliation product used during the Vietnam War with horrific effects on both the Vietnamese people and US veterans.
  • In an attempt to escape investigation of the impact it’s genetically manufactured cotton had on the local Indonesian environment, Monsanto bribed a high level Indonesian official.
  • In France, Monsanto was found guilty of falsely advertising it’s herbicide Roundup as being biodegradable- however one of the chemicals used in the herbicide extremely bad for the environment.
  • Monsanto has both a very large and powerful lobbying group and a number of American public officials are former Monsanto employees, including (but not limited to): Michael Taylor- former Monsanto Lobbyist and now senior adviser to the FDA commission on food safety (if you look up “Conflict of Interest” in the dictionary, you’ll find this cited as an example), Donald Rumsfeld (former Secretary of Defense), Linda Fisher- assistant administrator for the EPA, and Clarence Thomas- a justice of the Supreme Court.

In short, Monsanto doesn’t even pretend to be anything but evil.

 

So what’s to be done?

 

While, as the title of the post suggests, boycotting products from these companies is ideal- stemming profits to these companies will give more ethical companies a chance to compete, and if nothing else makes a good ethical statement. Another good move is simply spreading the word- the majority of corporations build of a facade of PR so they can engage in immoral activities behind the mask of decency. The more the public is made aware of the actions of these corporations and Capitalism’s amoral nature, the more likely they will be to take action.

 

As with most lists, this post is by no means exhaustive and will be continued in the future- any comments or suggestions are welcome.