The Twilight of the Imago Dei & the Rise of Global Corporate Power

June 28th, 2016 10:42 am

HadjeHadje Cresencio Sadje is an associate member in the Center for Palestine Studies-SOAS University of London UK. He is currently a master student at the Protestant Theological University-Groningen and has been working with various professional and faith-based organisation including, PhISO, Peace Builders Community Philippines, and the Foundation University-Amsterdam The Netherlands. 

 

“In a world of increasing inequality, the legitimacy of institutions that give precedence to the property rights of ‘the Haves’ over the human rights of ‘the Have Nots’ is inevitably called into serious question..

David Korten

At the beginning of the 21th century, the idea of neoliberalism had become so widespread in both popular and academic debates. In his book A Brief History of Neoliberalism a British Anthropologist David Harvey elegantly puts it this way, “neoliberalism is a political economic theory that proposes human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterised by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trades [1].” Despite its strong voice of individual freedom reiterated by a number of economists over the year, IMF and the World Bank admitted neoliberalism is wrong all along. Interestingly, it is not visible to us however, it is virtually assured. With grim repercussions to the present, what we see now on the global stage thus devolves from structural greed, materialistic, and utilitarian cultures.

In 1995, American intellectual activist David Korten published a book entitled, When Corporates Rule the World, offered a critical analysis of elite corporate power and its destructive global economic system. Korten argues that elite corporate power is destroying the world and has emerged as a dominant government [2]. In this book, Korten still looking for reformist stance against global economic system. In the following publication, The Post Corporate World, Korten seems to say that he shifted into a radical perspective that capitalism is to be an evil social force. In the end, the implication of this Korten’s perspective is that there is a possibility for a world to be without capitalism. Although this radical stance is debatable among economic technocrats and social scientist, nonetheless, there are people who attempt to offer resistance and alternative options to these unstoppable corporate-led globalization.

In this circumstance, these two important books reminds me of catastrophic aspect of the international trade triumvirate’s agenda: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and Trade in Service Agreement (TiSA). At its early stage the TPP is being negotiated by the government of the United State and eleven other countries, encompassing 40% of the global economy. The TPP is beginning to unmask its economic regionalist project known as TPP, TTIP, TiSA Triumvirate. The international trade triumvirate claims to be a “free trade” agreement. However, it is a Trojan horse of elite corporate power to advance corporate interests.

In addition, the international trade triumvirate’s agenda would instrumentalise to remove all of regulations that protect human rights. Critics contend that the rise of the international trade triumvirate is not just economic phenomenon but also a complex geopolitics of the conflict. After the TPP leaked documents’ secret agenda came out, it kept me worried about the future of humanity in the hands of a global elite corporation. Obviously, the impact of corporate power that is concentrated in the hands of a few elite is quite disturbing and alarming. I feel a deep sense that I am living in the end times. As a Christian activist, working on different social issues I never expected that this “outdated” socio-economic vocabulary will confront us again and again. It seems that neoliberalism is like an invisible enemy or foe working along with other social institutions.

Source: Sepponet

Image source: Sepponet

In this short article, I will focus exclusively on TPP’s corporate agenda and the rest will be carried out. Recently, democratic values, human dignity and sanctity of God’s creation have again been under attack by market ideology. The legality of the TPP’s agenda, and its procedures emerged in the wake of heated debate over Western states, grassroots movements, and policy makers. The debate erupts over the TPP’s legality and legitimacy of the use of force to implement its neoliberal policy that would protect those elite corporations is against democratic values. As it turns out, TPP overrule the state power. Noam Chomsky during his live interview in HuffPost in 2014, describes the TPP agenda as:

“…It’s designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity.”

It is clearly nothing new about the treat of elite corporate power that has plagued humanity since the beginning. Today, if I put it more controversially, elite corporate power is becoming more complex and aggressive. We are pressed on all sides knowing that this structural greed is eroding our human dignity. We will not be a bit surprised when, as faith-community, we circumscribed with this environment also known as structural greed.

Source: Polyp.org.uk

Image source: Polyp.org.uk

A decisive point for the broader understanding of disastrous terms and conditions of the TPP, Naomi Klein describes:

“This deal—the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP—has been called “NAFTA on steroids.” It’s the latest and largest in a series of international agreements that have attacked working women and men, fueled mindless and carbon-intensive consumption, and prevented governments from enforcing their own laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions. NAFTA-esque deals around the world have been a disaster for democracy, good jobs, and environmental justice.”

Photo: Garry Knight/flickr/cc

Photo: Garry Knight/flickr/cc

This critical insight is expressed in several reasons, in which, why we need to stop and challenged the international trade triumvirate: TPP, TTIP, and TiSA. The Human Right Watch (2016) summed up some key issues about the TPP’s corporate agenda: first, it is extremely exploitation of workers. Lower wages and job off-shoring will rise in the US and in all TPP member countries. Second, new intellectual property rules would give big pharmaceutical companies to extend their lucrative monopoly of drug sale. In short, it will raise drug or medicine prices. Third, it will threaten and reduce environmental protection policies. Meaning, it will increased water and air pollution to ensure continuation of the fossil-fuel production. Fourth, it will increase the volume of importuned and potential risky food or genetically modified organism (GMO). Fifth, the TPP Investor Rights will kill local industries and it will empower multinational and foreign companies. Finally, the most disturbing and controversial aspect of the TPP is their proposal to establish the Investor-State Dispute Settlement also known as the ISDS. The ISDS serves as mediator to settle disputes between states and elite corporations. However, the critics suggest that it would empower elite corporations to overrun the sovereignty of state members in the future. It also made it difficult for the state members to limit and regulate multinational corporations. At its best, the international trade triumvirate will instrumentalize the ISDS in order for them to be outside, immune, and above the law. ISDS will challenge member state’s sovereignty. It is unimaginable, for example, to see how elite corporations will sue member states for the loss of profits and removing those regulations that protect labor rights. In short, it is more on trading, profits over people. When I think of these future terms and conditions I cannot help but to think of the twilight of the Imago Dei (Human Dignity) and the rise of Antichrist—Elite Corporation.

Corporate school Hadje

Image source: Polyp.org.uk

The question for the Christian churches, then, is why the international trade triumvirate agenda matters? In view of this, I believe our world today stands in need of a serious moral thinker that would wrestle with problems which are not out of date, but which recur again and again in our life. For me, there are five indispensable reasons for Christian churches and activists to resist and condemn the international trade triumvirate general agenda. First, TPP’s corporate agenda is, however, not only a socio-economic phenomenon it also has theological, and moral dimensions. Second, I learned Christianity as a way of life is centered totally on serving God by loving and siding with marginalised community. It is not an option but it is a must. Third, neoliberalism is not an impasses subject in contemporary moral and ethical debates, it is a form of “Idolatry of the Market” which is at its root in spiritual matter. The recent TPP’s corporate agenda exposed the underlying scandalous corporate greed at the expense of our fundamental humanity. We are assured by powerful elite corporations that they were running the global wealth effectively that has not turned out to be the case. Fourth, we should remind these elite corporations that God’s creation is not owned by them. We are stewards not owners. God’s creation is intended to be justly, and equally distributed among people. TPP’s corporate agenda distorts and enslaves God’s intention for human communities and for all of creation. Fifth, TPP’s corporate agenda has deleterious effects on human dignity, democratic values, and sanctity of God’s creation. I was horrified at the corporate agenda of TPP, TTIP, and TiSA. It is clear enough that international trade triumvirate’s corporate agenda pushes human being subject for dehumanisation and exploitation. The global corporate agenda considered human being not as a human being created in the image of God but reducing human being to their economic value and destroying their lives to its commanding false needs. Treating human being as acquisitive individuals who must be seduced into materialistic, greedy, and utilitarian cultures is basically not of God.

Charity and trade

Image source: Polyp.org.uk

We, Christians should rediscover our prophetic role to challenge the modern day Babylon namely, the Wall Street. Being made in God’s image, we have fundamental rights that elite corporation should value, respect, and recognize. As Christians, God expects us that we should challenge individuals, communities, cities, societies, and countries to stand against TPP, TTIP and TiSA. We must stop worshipping this structural greed. We should condemn the prevailing structural greed and its materialistic culture which perpetuates suppression, exploitation, and dehumanize us. This is the task of the Christian community to live out of its theology and so to proclaim and enact the Kingdom of God.

References

[1] David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, (UK: Oxford University Press, 2005), 2.

[2] David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World, (United States: Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc, 2001).

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