Brazilianization

Let me start with a recent dream.

I was seated in a cluttered waiting room, surrounded by families of small children and tired adults and suitcases filled with all of my worldly possessions. Stacks of documents and office supplies lined the walls. The room was in chaos- loud and muggy, there was no air conditioning. The children circled around and tried to open my suitcases. I looked to their parents, but they were too exhausted to try to stop them. They knocked down papers and threw pens and staplers. Finally, an orderly came with a clipboard and hands me some waivers to sign. She opened up a canvas bag slung over her shoulder and rooted around inside. She produced a small cardboard box, which she handed to me with a vacant look on her face. I asked her what it is, and without blinking, she told me to read the instructions. The box was labeled on every side with a different language- Chinese, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, and finally English on the underside- full of misspellings and grammatical errors. I opened the box and inside were two lightbulbs. I opened the instructions- they were simple, and lacked precision.

1. Insert the first lightbulb into a lamp.

2. Place next to head for twenty minutes. Alternate to other side of head for another twenty minutes.

3. Repeat with second lightbulb, for ten minutes only.

The next page unfolded to reveal all of the possible benefits of this treatment: destruction of cancer cells, improved cardio performance, improved eyesight, enlarged muscles, firmer bones, potent ejaculate, improved sexual performance, enlarged penile size. This was ridiculous- I just needed a simple treatment. I didn’t need this other shit! There wasn’t any way a lightbulb could have all of these purported effects.

On the next page were the possible negative side effects of the treatment: cellular mutation, brain malfunction, hallucinations, death.

This couldn’t be real- the descriptions weren’t scientific at all. How could treatments be distributed in such a way? The nurse would not answer my questions. She only shrugged her shoulders and moved onto the next patient. I had cancer, how would a lightbulb treat this? The answer was further down, in the fine print.

Warning: Gamma rays are extremely harmful in high doses. Results not guaranteed.

Northrop Grumman's new Dragon CorproTank - Overrunning a town near you.

Imagine a world where the state falls to the corporation. Imagine a world where something as essential as healthcare is administered and controlled by a corporate hegemony. Treatments would be traded on free, international markets, which would favor cheap products over quality or safety. There would be no incentive to properly test and ensure that treatments were effective or safe, since there would be little or no mechanism for the common global citizen to levy charges against corporations. Federal regulation would be a thing of the past- an impediment to the free markets.

The amount of hatred and resentment that many Americans hold against the state as an institution baffles me. Surely, as with all things involving power, it is a choice between the lesser of two evils. One can easily villainize the state simply by referring to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. Just open up George Orwell’s 1984 and you’re halfway there. However, these counter-state arguments were formed during a completely different time period than we currently reside in. The trans-national corporation was nowhere near as powerful or adept at bending the rules as they are today. However, they have learned to play the game. Massive deregulation and the establishment of neo-liberal instruments, such as the IMF and WTO have made it incredibly easy for corporate interest to survive over that of state or humanitarian interests.

Today we are faced with a crucial question- do we want states or corporations to be the ones in charge? This has been a question throughout the 20th century, and as we wade into the 21st century, it becomes even more pronounced. Stop for a minute and think about how much exposure one has to corporations on a daily basis. The news your read, the food you drink, the products you consume are all under a corporate umbrella. The Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding corporate campaign funding places them that much closer to the heart of the American political system. Humans have a short memory and a limited political imagination, but the ascension of the corporation is just as likely as the ascension of the nation-state seemed in the 15th century. However wicked the state has acted in the past, the operations of corporations are much more disturbing.

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