April 12, 2017 (San Diego) Many years ago cyberpunk emerged as a literary field. In many ways, this fiction described whererld were corporations were more powerful than nation states, and people had essentially no rights when facing them. Nothing but profit mattered and at times corporations went to war with each other with the use of their own armies, or mercenary forces. Lets just say, a hostile take over takes on a new meaning.
We may very well live on the leading edges of that fictional world What happened in that United flight in Chicago was ferrying. The airline essentially refused to transport a passenger and had Airport police beat the living daylights out of a 68-year-old doctor who had to see patients the next day. He is now a patient, in a Chicago hospital. Barrels of ink have already been spent on this particular incident, and I doubt we can add much to the specifics of that event. However, we can add to the overall picture.
United acted the way it did because they are one of the three largest air carriers in the United States. They almost have monopoly power, and as such know that they will not be punished for long. Yes, we all can say that we will boycott United, but there is a chance that they are the only airline flying to a destination you need to be at, in a specific time frame. So at that point, you will fold and fly the not so friendly skies.
This is not dissimilar from the cable systems. I would love to try another service provider, but no other service provider serves my area. So if I want cable, even internet service, I am stuck. I live in a large city where you would think there would be competition. Alas, they split the city early on and the two major providers do not cross areas. Therefore, the illusion of competition is maintained, until of course, you try to contract with the other guy. Never mind that two providers serving different areas are a monopoly.
These are but two examples They are the most obvious since they affect people regularly. The most obvious are your utility company. Go ahead, try to get your electricity with somebody else. Why utilities regularly pad the pockets of politicians to prevent alternative ways of delivering energy.
What other areas are we getting close to that dystopia? Mercenaries is another good example. The modern world used to have a problem with mercenaries, but since 911 their use has exploded, especially by the United States government. Groups like Blackwater, founded by former SEAL Eric Prince, has renamed itself Academi are still used by the government. Then you have the others. Some as old as the 19th century since they started as a security company to protect businesses from striking workers. This is Pinkerton.
And if you were wondering about Wackenhut, they are now known as G4S solutions and are just behind Walmart in the number of people they employ. Chew on that one, A security company is the largest private employer in the United States. We are not talking Ford or Chrysler, but a security company. The largest is a retailer. Did I mention both pay their employees as low as they can?
GS4 was also behind the complaints in Kabul of wild parties involving prostitutes and alcohol, which led to the change in name, that and being bought out. There were is Triple Canopy which is the closest you can get to the fictional world of mercenary armies presented in any good dystopian novel. They are all veterans of the military most elite forces. Whether this is DELTA Force, Navy SEALS or U.S. Army Rangers. They will hire top rated service members as well, for other roles.
Many of these companies were present in Iraq during the occupation. This led to some tension in many a chow hall in the green zone. The military guys were doing the same jobs as these people, but getting paid a fraction of what these guys were paid. Also, the military is still more or less, playing by the rules of the Geneva Convention, which penalizes Mercenaries, since they are seen as more reason for conflict. However, no mercenary company has signed the Geneva Convention. They were also used as interrogators at Abu Ghraib.
Could any of these companies ever serve as private armies for corporations? Anytime you go to the supermarket and see private security, they essentially already are. The security guards at the Trolley in San Diego, are part of one of a very large company. Universal Protection Services, with a few employed by the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). They are not police officers, even if they look, and at times act, as if they were.
However, many people who come in contact with them will rightfully think they are officers. The distinctions that those with a gun are employed by MTS and those without are employed by the security company are not ones that enter most people’s mind. This is not widely known Nor does the fact that they all have been named in federal lawsuits over the years for excessive use of force. This is part of the dystopia we accept it willingly. However, as the Trolley system expands, they will have to finally get actually certified police officers. My question will not only be about jurisdiction but whether the use of force incidents will go down or not? What is known is that MTS has settled lawsuits from time to time.
These are but two areas in our lives where corporations get to do whatever they want. Another area, which is far less known, is the rise of private prisons. They are named from time to time in press coverage. However, they still operate mostly in the dark. They do depend on the continued flow of prisoners to fill their beds, and they will be against any effort to reform the prison system. That is any efforts that will reduce that flow.
Recently a lawsuit emerged where detainees will sue private prisons over conditions that were described in the lawsuit as slavery. Yes, it is illegal, but prisons really do not care.
The true goal of these prisons is to make money. In fact, many prisons in the United States, if not all, are behind many of the services you and I enjoy. This does not matter if they are private or public. Why are prisoners hired? And does this betray a certain level of chutzpah on our part? After all, the Federal Government has been critical of China using prison labor. First the reasons:
Prison labor in the United States is referred to as insourcing. Under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), employers receive a tax credit of $2,400 for every work-release inmate they employ as a reward for hiring “risky target groups.”
The workers are not only cheap labor, but they are considered easier to control. They also tend to be African-American males. Companies are free to avoid providing benefits like health insurance or sick days. They also don’t need to worry about unions, demands for vacation time, raises or family issues.
Some companies that use these services are Whole Foods, McDonalds and Wendy’s. So next time you go shopping think about that. And if you think you are talking to somebody on the outside when you call a service center, now that bringing back jobs is all the rage. You might be calling a prison based service center.
Why? It is far cheaper to use prisoners working for cents on the dollar than to pay people on the outside.
These are but some of the ways that those cyberpunk worlds are becoming very real. Where corporations, in their effort to cut costs, will do anything they can to assert their rights over yours. We are being trained to accept this.
United’s response early on was textbook to this social engineering. The passenger was disruptive you see. It was his own damn fault, and under the rules, they could kick him out for being disruptive. This is why they tried hard to create that storyline. Oh never mind there was video. They wanted to enforce the idea that when flying the not so friendly skies, you the passenger really have no rights. We have a few, not that asserting them while in transit will help anybody but the airlines. Until the airlines lose some of those unwritten rights to do whatever they want, this dynamic will not change. This is also why people, everywhere, were pissed.
But we still have a government. For the moment. The goal of many of these corporations is to have no limits to their actions, except those of the free market of course. Never mind that none of these mega corporations works within a free market. When you are the sole provider for a service, there is no market.
I have to add a note of caution. Many people blame Citizens United for this. That Supreme Court Decision was the last step in speech becoming equal to money. It was not the first. There were many signs before that which pointed to the rise of this corporate state. However, Citizens United needs to go to start to change the course of this ship of state. Those corporate shoals are very real, However, that money is like a drug to politicians from both parties, who need to raise millions to keep their jobs. Most of them also come from the same environment and social class. So that will be difficult at best, to do.
Now my other question is how long until corporations go to war with each other and employ those mercenary armies, and after defeat put their corporate enemies in those private prisons? And just to add to the full picture, we now have full-fledged cyber wars that are occurring faster than we can type, and not just between governments. We are now living in a new world, that is quickly evolving into the reality we once read in books. It is a terrifying reality.