Norma Sherry: Once Upon a Time in America
Once Upon a Time in America (Not a Fable)
By Norma Sherry
What a conundrum we find ourselves in and depending on who's talking and who's listening, it would appear we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. One thing is for certain, there's only one winner.and it isn't us, you, me, and the rest of us working folk.
Nope. It ain't us.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine who that winner is - it's the mega bucks corporations. The corporations that rule the world. There was a time; however, when corporations knew their place. They didn't like that very much; hence, that is why we find ourselves in this predicament.
It's not as if we didn't have fair warnings. From as far back as the beginning of our nationhood there have been forebodings. Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, even as late as Dwight D. Eisenhower - they all forewarned of the tidings they feared.
President Grover Cleveland in his address to Congress on December 3, 1888, said, "As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people's masters."
Why, then do we find ourselves in such a pickle? Perhaps, just maybe if we all know the truth of it, if we all take it to heart we will be able to undo this travesty; we will be able to join together in an unprecedented conjoining of humanity and turn our destiny around. Here's the story, the long and the short of it. Listen well; read it until your eyes burn because our lives may depend upon it.
Once upon a time in America, after we won our independence from the disreputable dominion of monarchial England, our forefathers set about to write our Constitution. Foremost in the minds of our framers was the protection for its citizens and the deep-rooted concern to prevent the United States from becoming that which they fought so hard to free themselves.
When it came to corporations, our founding fathers had learned their lessons well. It is why our fledgling country was adamant to protect its people from the plutocracy and evil authoritarian rule aspired by corporations. Before you wince, consider just a bit of our history prior to our Independence.
Before our independence, the America's were governed by Britain. Two companies, the East India Tea Company and the Hudson Bay Company ramrodded their will upon the businessman and in actuality were the true rulers of the early colonists. As for Great Britain, it was distracted in numerous battles and wars with countries in Europe. Not until its victory in 1763 with France in the Seven Years' War, or the French and Indian War, did Britain give the Americas' the full weight of its attention.
The colonists, however, were unwilling and unresponsive to this control. Nor were they willing to bear the brunt of Britain's war expenses. According to Howard Zinn's, A People's History of the United States, "The war had brought glory for the generals, death to the privates, wealth for the merchants, unemployment to the poor."
The atmosphere was ripe for a battle. Grievances ran high. The wealth confined to the few; the hunger, beggars, and poor were many; Britain wanted to raise taxes and the colonists were fighting angry. It was in this temperament that Britain gave the East India Tea Company an edge that would be a defining moment in history.
In 1773, The East India Tea Company over-stocked with tea and struggling to fend off bankruptcy, used their considerable connections and succeeded in having Britain pass the Tea Act. This Act permitted their export of tea without the encumbrance of paying taxes. An advantage clearly over that of companies in the colonies, who prior to this occurrence, had acted as the East India Tea Company middlemen. Now the East India Tea Company had the benefit of offering the cheapest price and thereby monopolizing the tea business.
Furthermore, Britain ruled all tea had to be purchased through the East India Tea Company. The law enraged the colonists and put a stranglehold on the businessmen. This single event was the culmination of the colonies growing distaste for British rule and corporate shenanigans. On the fateful evening of December 16, 1773, Samuel Adams led three contingencies of fifty men each, to board the ships carrying the East India Tea Company's shipment. Disguised as Mohawk Indians they ceremoniously tossed the contents of 342 chests of tea into the Boston harbor.
However, the East India Tea Company was not the lone corporate abuser. Corporations conspired with the permission of British lawmakers and many obscenities befell the colonists. Indentured servants were one such abominable iniquity. As many as two-thirds of the colonists were indentured slaves. These workers owed their souls to the company store for seven long years for the promise of 100 acres at the termination of their servant-hood.
It is the accumulation of disgust for the corporate mentality that prompted Thomas Jefferson to proclaim, "I hope we shall take warning from the example of England and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our Government to trial, and bid defiance to the laws of our country "
Therefore, when our founding fathers deliberated on the text and content of our Constitution the despicable maneuverings of the East India Tea Company and other British corporations favored high in their collective memories. This new country was going to assure corporations would know their place.
In the finality, the decision was made to allow each state to grant their own charters for corporations. In the beginning and for many years, of the United States of America corporations could exist only if they were granted a charter by the state in which they would conduct business.
The Charter was a very precise and demonstrative agreement and the statutes within were strictly adhered. Charters were issued with the combined approval of the citizenry and the legislators. They were given for a limited number of years and only one at a time. Rules were clearly defined and any deviation would result in the revocation of the charter; likewise, if their operating conditions were unacceptable, this too would result in the loss of their charter. If the corporation was dissolved its assets were divided among its shareholders.
Additionally, corporations were held liable for any harms or injuries and were terminated if they caused public harm. Incorporated businesses were not permitted to land holdings or make any political contributions or attempt to influence legislation. They could not purchase or own stock in other corporations. They were strictly and explicitly charted for the purpose of serving the public interest.
All shareholders, large or small, had equal voting rights and the shareholders had the right to remove directors at will. Conversely, in Europe charters protected the corporation and not the citizenry.
Today, dear reader, we have mammoth, gargantuan, giant, mega corporations that rule our country. They rule our legislature. They rule our government. They rule the workers. They are ruthless behemoths conspicuously without conscience. They are led by their greed and their allegiance is to no one; their drive for profit has no national loyalty.
How else could one explain the avalanche of wealth built on the sweat and tears and broken backs of its workforce? After years of promising job security and pay commensurate with their work; healthcare for their families; decent working hours, equal pay for equal work to its American workers and its Canadian workers, they are leaving them high and dry in the midst of their departure to lands and new workers far from our shores. They're leaving for only one reason: money. The gold that lines their despicable pockets.
They care not that in their departure they leave our lands stripped, our forests barren, our water undrinkable, our earth diseased, our resources diminished. They care not that they have polluted our air, destroyed our farmlands, infected our cattle, poisoned our children.
Their malfeasance is legendary. They're a heartless and bloodless entity.
Their elitist thirst for more and more wealth is insatiable and in their clamor to hoard more of the world's wealth, they rape and plunder and leave destitution of monumental proportions in their wake. As they depart America for a workforce of starving, beleaguered peoples of the world their vision and determination is to own the world - to secure the wealth for a very few.
They care not that they're building vehicles that are recalled because motors are falling out or tires shredding. They care not that their drugs have side effects more deadly, more toxic than the disease they're supposed to cure. They care not that their garments are threadbare and fall apart. They care not that everything they build self-destructs after a few uses. They're only devotion is to fulfill their love for the almighty Yen, the almighty Deutsche Mark, the Almighty Euro; the almighty Franc; the almighty Rupee; the almighty Dinar - the almighty dollar.
They care not that they will destroy the will and the heart of every worker in every land in which they bring their belligerence, their haughty self-important ravenous avarice.
In the end, it is not just jobs they are outsourcing; they are outsourcing our corporate mentality and their complete and utter disdain and disregard for humankind. It is time to rope them in, turn back time and allow the citizenry once again to divvy out the corporate charters, oversee, monitor, discipline, and rule the corporate entity.
For, if we do not dear citizens, "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." - Abraham Lincoln 1865
© Norma Sherry 2003
Norma Sherry is co-founder of Together Forever Changing an organization devoted to educating, stimulating, and invigorating personal responsibility particularly with regards to our diminishing civil liberties. She is also an award-winning writer/producer. Norma welcomes your comments: firstname.lastname@example.org