by Steve Bivans
I have long thought that accomplishing anything through political means was a complete and utter waste of time.
When asked who I thought was the greatest president, for example, I would usually say, “None of them.” Then I usually retract that and say, “Jefferson,” because he might have been the last one to actually understand and pay heed to the Constitution, though even he broke with it when Napoleon enticed him with the Louisiana Purchase.
Instead of consulting Congress—which was the proper and legal procedure—he unilaterally took the offer of the diminutive Emperor, and handed over the money. Basically, he was following a rule that I tend to employ in my own life, “It’s easier to get forgiveness, than permission.”
When I study history—and that’s what I do after all—I see corruption everywhere I look. It existed in ancient Egypt, classical Greece and definitely Rome. It ran rampant in the middle ages—monarchs are by their very nature, corrupt. The Age of Reason was little better. And don’t think for a moment that the principled, democratic government set up in the New World was any better.
The Constitution was written by old, rich, white men, most of which owned slaves—including the illustrious Jefferson—who very much wanted to hold onto their property, and set up the rules to make sure they did. They did not, for instance, create a DEMOCRACY, which would have given every ‘male’ citizen a direct vote on all issues. They set up a republic, run by representatives, which is still—theoretically—what we have today. I say theoretically because most of us know, or at least suspect, that our so-called representatives do not, in fact, represent our interests anymore.
They seem to be representing the interest of old, rich, white men, or in some cases, old, rich, men of color from other countries that happen to have boatloads of oil. There is a name for that kind of government; it’s called an oligarchy, the rule of the elite over the non-elite: the haves, over the have-nots. The haves spend millions and millions every year to entice our ‘elected’ officials to vote against our better interests. This must stop. We need to raise the Shire, blow the horn of Rohan, and kick these Sarumans and orcs out of here! We need a Shire Movement!
But what would this movement look like? How can it counter all the money spent by corporations to corrupt the system? How can a little hobbit, or even lots of little hobbits ever hope to remove money from politics? I admit, the situations seems dire and impossible, but that’s because we tend to look at the effectiveness of corporate efforts and not to the SOURCE of their power. I was discussing this with one of my best friends, Monk (yes, that’s his name. Ok, it’s a nickname, but no one ever calls him anything else), so I asked him, “Ok, so corporations are corrupting our system?”
Me, “How do they do this?”
Monk, “They bribe politicians and pay lobbyists to argue for laws that benefit them and not us.”
“What do they use to bribe these politicians and pay lobbyists?”
“Millions of dollars, of course!”
“Where do all these millions of dollars come from?”
With the irritated voice of a Socratic student, “The corporations!”
“No, I mean, where do the corporations GET the money? Does it fall out of the sky?”
After a short pause, “They get it from selling their products!”
“Yes, and who buys those products?”
Monk, with the voice one gets when realization hits you like a ton of bricks, “US! WE buy those products, with OUR MONEY!”
“Yes, exactly. We are in essence bribing politicians to vote against our best interests, so that corporations can accumulate more profits, unbalance the distribution of wealth, corrupt our politics, pollute our environment, poison our food, water and air.”
So then I posed the obvious question, “So how do we stop this insanity?”
“Damn. I guess we should stop buying their products.”
“I reckon so.”
The solution sounds too simple, right? Einstein once said that if he ever found a unified field theory—one theory that explained all forces and particles—that it would be a very simple equation, you know, something like E=MC2 (though no one has found the theory yet). Well, I am arguing, as other have, that the actual solution to corporate greed is simply to take their money away, not via taxes—though I’m not opposed to that—but via an even simpler method: stop giving them our money to start with!
Me, to Monk, “What happens when we stop buying their products?”
“Hmmm? I guess they go out of business?”
“Jellybeans! That’s exactly what happens. And how many politicians can a bankrupt company bribe, with no money?”
Monk, “Not a damned one!”
That sounds good and all, but then of course people bring up the problem of finding all the stuff we need without spending money with the very corporations that are destroying our planet. This does seem to be a difficult problem, mainly because we are so brainwashed into thinking that the only place to find those things we need, and I emphasize, NEED, is to shop at Walmart, or any of the other huge corporate entities.
This is due to their advertising/propagandizing/public relations juggernaut. They have convinced us that they are the only place to shop for everything we need, meanwhile pushing out local businesses. But there is a resurgence of locally owned businesses thanks in large part to the financial crises in 2007-8. Many people started to look around and realize that money was leaching out of their communities and into the pockets of Wall Street and the big banks, where it mysteriously went up in a puff of smoke. So in response to that they started finding alternative places to spend their money: local restaurants, co-op grocery stores, local farmers markets, Craigslist and many others.
In order to reclaim our wealth from those at the top, we must start spending it with our neighbors, fellow hobbits just like us, who are likely to be concerned about more than just maximizing profits at the expense of the local environment, both the physical and political environment. But where should we start? We buy so many things, everyday. It would be a mistake to try to change our buying habits all at once. Don’t do it! It will lead to confusion and frustration, which leads to failure. Start small, and start with the most important place in your house first. For me, and probably you if you’re a hobbit, that’s the kitchen! More specifically, at first, the food you buy and eat!
In my book, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth, I go into much more detail about the hobbit pantry and the food we eat, but here are a few basic principles to follow:
• Buy organic/natural: Avoid, at all costs, products with GMO ingredients. This is hard to do, because high fructose corn syrup is in almost all processed foods. Just avoid processed foods to start with, unless they are labeled as Non-GMO.
• Buy local: Look for food that comes from your area, or at least from your state. This is one of the best ways to keep money out of corporate pockets. Local farmers need our support. Support is the only way we can convince more farmers to grow better products and practice more sustainable agriculture.
• Shop at the Co-op: There are more and more coop grocery stores popping up around the U.S. If you have one near you, join it! You won’t regret it. My coop is one of my favorite places. I’m getting to know the employees by name, and they are very much into finding better and more sustainable ways to feed me. If you don’t have one, get some people together and START ONE! That’s how they happen, after all.
• Maggot’s Market/farmer’s market: Now, i don’t know about you, but I’ve often wondered what the heck ole Tolkien was thinking when he named the nice, helpful farmer who’s mushrooms were a magnet to little hobbits? Really J.R.R.? Maggot? What an unfortunate name to be born with, especially if you’re going to be a farmer. But apparently, he was quite the farmer, and a friendly one to boot, so we’ll overlook his name.
One of the best places to find organic produce is a local farmer’s market. There are now 8,144 farmer’s markets in the U.S. alone, and they are even more popular in most European countries, where it’s always been a tradition, since at least the Middle Ages, and probably long, long before. The markets in the Twin Cities where I live, are amazing, and there are so many I can’t count them. We even have one like three blocks from our new house, which was one reason we purchased it. Make sure to take cash, as many do not take credit/debit cards, though some do. Some of the larger ones have ATMs installed. Also take your cloth shopping bags, non-plastic containers for bulk items (more on that later), and an appetite, because many markets also sell cooked food!
There are many, many other ways in which we can remove our money from the corporations who are abusing us. Stop shopping with them, A.S.A.P.! Find other sources for what you need and want. They exist. I cover more of it in my book, so make sure to look for it when it comes out soon.