It’s a dismal Saturday in November. Pumped up on optimism and coffee, our little posse of 38 Degrees members head to the office of our local Labour MP to hand in hundreds of petition signatures, imploring our government to ‘Say “No” to TTIP’.
En route our only umbrella is blown inside-out but we soldier on, handing out flyers we hope will raise the local residents’ awareness of this secretive and shady trade deal. No one’s really interested. It’s raining cats and dogs, they are weary of yet another stranger who is probably trying to get money out of them some how, and I suspect they are far more concerned with the immediate matter of procuring their cornflakes from the local supermarket and getting in out of the rain.
No matter. We care, and according to some of the group who do this sort of thing regularly, it’s a good turn out. Evidently putting a stop to TTIP matters very much to a lot of people.
The meeting room only seats three, so Labour MP Alan Whitehead graciously begins assembling chairs in the building’s reception so we can all be involved. Our semi-circle of expectant faces must have resembled a class of primary school children, waiting for our favourite teacher to tell us a story.
Poor Alan. It must have felt like he was kicking a puppy.
At this point in my story, I feel it only fair to give you the option to keep your head firmly planted in the sand. So, if you’d like to pretend that all is well in the world and carry on with your endless rounds of working, sleeping, shopping and TV watching, click HERE.
Still with me? That’s great. I knew you weren’t like all the rest.
So enough with the preamble. I’ve set the scene, I’ve painted the picture. Time to get to the real meat.
We were looking to our MP to tell us what we need to do to stop TTIP. But he couldn’t tell us. He couldn’t tell us because he didn’t know. He doesn’t want it either. But no one is stopping it, and the reason it’s not being stopped because of ‘lazy politicians’.
What I realised is that the politicians don’t give a shit for the same reason the man on the street doesn’t give a shit. They don’t care because they can’t afford to care. It’s too big to be stopped; it’s beyond their ability to do anything about.
The simple fact of the matter is that TTIP and all the other innocuous sounding, dodgy trade agreements that have been put together in secret for the past few years will be going ahead, and there’s nothing I, you, your local MP or even our national government can (or will) do about it.
Think I’m exaggerating?
We didn’t want fracking in our National Parks, they’re doing it any way.
Australia didn’t want fossil fuel companies destroying the Great Barrier Reef, they’re doing it any way.
Are we ever asked if we want to send our military to kill and be killed, in wars that are rarely (if ever) started for the reasons we are first given? No, but they do it any way. And we pay for it.
Our democratically elected officials don’t represent you, they bow down to the mighty force of big business. We don’t live in a democracy, we live in an empire, and it doesn’t matter what you want. You don’t have a say any more.
Capitalism has a law built into it that business must put profit above all else, and by all else I mean you, me and every other living entity gracing this majestic planet (including the planet it’s self). That law is as real and indisputable as the law of gravity.
Slowly but surely, the cage which contained this selfish and destructive beast is being eroded, and TTIP is the hacksaw that will finally free it to consume us all.
We don’t want to give industry giants a green card to do what the fuck they want with absolutely no accountability… Guess what? They are going to get it any way.
What is TTIP, and why is it bad?
I’m not being lazy when I ask you to watch this TALK BY DAVID MALONE. He’s an expert in the subject, and he’ll just explain it better than I can.
Put very simply, TTIP is one part of multiple agreements which are being negotiated right now that will remove all barriers to free trade on a global scale.
You’d be forgiven for the opinion that this is a good thing. And the official websites are at pains to show that this will be a positive move for commerce, which it will.
But let’s examine what is meant by ‘barriers to free trade’.
Things which currently stand in the way of corporations being able to trade without impingement include Tariffs, which are taxes levied upon corporations to protect things like domestic employment and start up and infant industries. Then there are regulations and standards which are in place to protect our health and well being, by ensuring that the things we grow, the things we eat, and the medicines we take are grown, reared and produced in a safe, non-harmful way to us, and to our environment.
The official EU page about TTIP states that these things would be unaffected and that each member state will maintain their own standards and regulations. However, to quote David Malone, if this is the case then why does industry need TTIP in the first place? It’s either a lie or it will ultimately mean that competition from overseas corporations whose standards are lower and therefore cheaper than ours, will eventually put our companies out of business. This will inevitably see the EU forced to lower standards in order to compete in the market.
Either option isn’t great for me or you.
The really scary part of these trade agreements is something contained within them called Bilateral Investment Treaties.
These are pieces of international law (which therefore fall outside of the province of any democratically elected government), which state that if a nation wants to, say, pass a regulation to protect its citizens, which would have an impact on a company’s ability to make a profit, that said company can legally claim compensation from that country, not only for current loss of earnings, but for projected future profits too. This is facilitated by people called Arbitrators, who are essentially just international corporate lawyers. No court, no judge, and no jury, no right of appeal, and their decision is final and BINDING.
In short, corporate giants have your government bent over a barrel with their pants firmly around their ankles. If your country does anything which will have an impact on their bottom line, they will financially ruin that country. They’ll get shafted – no lube, and no mercy.
None of this is new, by the way. But it’s about to become (to quote Hillary Clinton) “the gold standard of trade”.
What is relatively new, however, is the sheer scale on which capitalisation can and will destroy our planet.
Things aren’t going to get better and this isn’t going to magically go away. It’s going to get worse, and that’s a fact.
Depressed yet? Well don’t be, we don’t have time for that.
As dejected and impotent as I felt coming out of that meeting with our MP, still clutching my soggy leaflets, I realised a very important lesson:
If our elected governments are becoming increasingly unable to do anything to protect us from the destruction of global corporations, then we have to do it ourselves.
You can’t rely of the government to protect you, or your family, or your planet any more. It’s time to man-the-fuck-up. This is war. And we need to get ready.
What now? Well, the next section deals with how you need to change your mindset and your priorities. I’m not telling you to buy a gun or build a bunker, but you absolutely have to take ultimate responsibility for your well being and the well being of your family and your immediate environment, because no one else can do that for you any more.
1. Get your shit together.
Get out of debt. Learn to live within your means. Mend and make do. You need to save as much money as you can, starting now. But don’t invest your hard earned money in stocks and shares. Those greedy piggies who work in the stock exchange are on the other side and are partially responsible for the mess we find ourselves in. Don’t work your ass off day in day out just to let them play roulette with your hard earned cash.
Put as much away in an ethical bank as you can, and then invest that money into bricks and mortar or precious metals. You need to think about what will serve you best when the entire monetary system collapses.
You may also want to think about investing some of that money in renewable energy sources for your house and a top notch water filter.
2. Get healthy.
Get into the best shape of your life. Not because you want a super hot body for summer, but because you need to be strong to fight the good fight. In time, society will split into two groups: those who were prepared for all of this and those who sat on the sofa eating Cheetos. When the shit hits the fan, the Cheeto-eaters will probably try and eat you, so you need to be able to out run them.
Of course, this is a joke, but you get the picture.
3. Spend your money wisely and with compassion.
Buying ethical products is not a fucking luxury any more, it’s your absolute obligation.
If you know a company uses sweat shops to manufacture it’s products, if you know a corporation doesn’t pay taxes, if you’ve heard that a certain business willingly and deliberately pollutes the environment and you still continue to buy their products and use their services… Well, you’re basically saying that you’re fine with that. You’re sending the message that you don’t care if this company kills people and hurts animals, because you get to buy a kick-ass pair of cheap jeans.
If we spend our money with ethical, green companies then we are boosting their power and simultaneously weakening the power of corporations who are hurting the planet. It’s called a one-two punch.
4. Donate as much as you can to hands-on charities.
If we can’t rely on our governments to stop corporations from destroying the environment, killing and injuring animals and people, and starting wars then we have to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty, because we are the clean up crew.
Now, you can holler and wail and wave your arms about saying “that’s not fair”, and you’d be right. It isn’t fair. There is no fair any more. This is where we find ourselves and these are the cards we have been dealt, so we either have to turn a blind eye (for as long as the mess isn’t directly on our doorstep that is), or we can say “Fine. If you’re not going to clean this mess up, then I bloody well am”.
Of course, most of us can’t jump on a plane to the Amazon or Borneo or Syria at a moments notice, and most of us don’t have the expertise for what’s needed. So find some charities and overseas humanitarian organisations who you really believe are on the ground making a difference, and give them as much money as you can afford.
And if you’re of the mindset that charity starts at home, that’s fine too. You’ll notice a gradual decline in public services (if you haven’t already!), so rather than moaning that there’s litter everywhere, or that the roads haven’t been gritted, or whatever – get used to getting out there and doing it yourself.
5. Don’t stop voting.
We’ve established that on a global scale, our governments are utterly worthless to us. On a local level however, they are still very important (as you’ll know full well if you live in the UK right now under Tory rule).
As such, your vote still has immense power to change the day-to-day experience of life for everyone, especially vulnerable people. So use it wisely.
6. Keep fighting for freedom of information.
Keep being politically active, especially when it comes to one of our greatest resources: The Internet. There is no real free press any more. Who do you think owns the media? You’re told what serves their best interests and anything that will inform and empower the masses is withheld if it works against corporate interests. Question everything you are told by the corporate media, don’t just blindly accept it. The internet is an amazing research tool. In fact, it’s so amazing I’m surprised we are even allowed it at all. Fight to keep it open and free.
7. Learn to survive.
Learn how to grow edible and medicinal plants. When this goes through, food labeling will be one of the first things to go, you can guarantee it. So if you can no longer rely on suppliers to tell you if your beef contains carcinogenic growth hormones, if you don’t know whether your milk is full of antibiotics, if you aren’t informed that your vegetables are Roundup Ready and smothered in pesticides, then the only way you can protect yourself is to make everything from scratch, and that has to mean from the ground up.
Learning first aid and how to treat diseases naturally will also come in immensely handy as our NHS is broken up and sold off to the highest bidder and you find you can’t afford healthcare any more, or if you don’t trust big pharma not to sell you a product with side effects that may include death.
8. Think local.
This goes back to getting involved in clean up operations and voting, but it also means being kind to one another, getting to know your neighbours, and forming proper communities. It also means supporting small local businesses, effectively galvanizing your immediate environment and those in it.
This is your way of saying that you don’t agree with globalisation and all of the destruction that comes with it. That you’re not having any part of it. After all, if every community behaved in this way, it would have a massive impact globally, wouldn’t it?
If you’re still not ready to accept that nothing can be done to stop these trade agreements, then you need to go over your government’s head. The UK isn’t even a full member of the EU, and that’s who is currently negotiating on your behalf. If you want to get involved with a European-wide coalition who are still doing all they can to put a stop to this, then you can find them HERE.
Me? I think it’s too late, so I’m getting ready. What are YOU going to do?