There is an old legend relating to the end of the battle of Waterloo, which passed its bicentennial anniversary last week. The story goes that immediately following the battle in June 1815, Wellington's messenger to London was an agent of the Rothschilds, England's chief financial agents, who had already established themselves as one of the most important families in banking across Europe.
The messenger, on his way to deliver the news to the government, first raced to Nathan Mayer Rothschild with the news that the English had won. Rothschild wasted no time, and rushed to the London Stock Exchange where he immediately began selling his bonds, stocks & shares.
"Rothschild KNOWS", people began to whisper, "Waterloo is lost!" A flurry of selling began, and just at the last moment, Rothschild is alleged to have bought half of England for a song. Almost immediately, the news filtered through that the English had won the battle, the stocks and bonds shot up in value and the Rothschilds had increased their value manifold. There is considerable doubt as to the veracity of this story; the Rothschilds themselves having gone to great lengths to try to uncover it as falsehood, with research suggesting that it first originated in an anti-Semitic pamphlet in 1846.
Whether the story is true or not it has stuck with me, partly because we see similar stories everywhere today - where wealthy men will engineer any kind of advantage over the general populace to make themselves yet richer.
Take Dick Cheney, CEO of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000 before becoming Vice President. He handed them a contract for which only they were allowed to bid - Halliburton went on to make $39.5 Billion from the Iraq war, and Cheney himself received millions of dollars in stock options and "deferred compensation". There are even claims by some senators that Cheney pushed for the Iraq war to happen just to allow Halliburton to profit. Needless to say, many of the details are subject to long-standing gagging orders preventing their publication.
Take Nestle, who among a very, very long list of controversies are taking huge amounts of water from the state of California, which is suffering from the worst drought in its long history. They are doing this in spite of the fact that their permit to do so expired 27 years ago. In 2009 they stopped submitting annual reports to local water districts about how much groundwater they extracted for bottling. Year on year they have taken progressively more water from the stricken state (and they now plan to move on to do the same in Oregon). Figures provided by Nestle show that between 2011 and 2014 their water use in California increased 19 percent; they took 705 million gallons of it last year alone. Their CEO is on record saying that he doesn't believe water is a basic human right and that all water should be privatised. They, like many other companies, spend billions of dollars on "lobbying" politicians to achieve their ends.
Is it a coincidence that Tony Blair earns £2m a year from JP Morgan after they were awarded one of the biggest banking contracts during the Iraq war? Is it a coincidence that the person who profited most from the sale of the Royal Mail was George Osborne's best man? Is it a coincidence that, in spite of massive fraudulent and criminal activity at HSBC, no charges have been brought against people at the bank? Or is it because the Conservative party have raised over £5m from HSBC clients with Swiss accounts?
If a company or their representative can buy a politician's loyalty and influence then what hope does democracy truly have? These organisations and their representatives are quite literally pitting people against their already vast profits. In some cases, the politicians who protect these companies and many, many others like them have profited from the deaths of the very citizens they were meant to protect. Corporate interests have vast swathes of capital and influence; they are masters of subterfuge and obfuscation. They bankroll our politicians and then threaten them with replacement or worse if they refuse to tow the corporate line. Democracy has become a cipher, eroded further by the continuing handover of power from people to corporate interests.
As I write this, pressure is being exerted on government representatives the world over to pass the world's largest ever trade agreement - the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It is being negotiated in total secrecy by 12 countries, and even within those countries' governments only a handful of people have access to the full text. Large corporations however can see it, and are already generating a powerful lobby to bring it into effect. The beginnings of it were "fast-tracked" by the US House of Representatives last week, while the European equivalent, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been postponed after a number of MEPs vehemently opposed it because of "mounting public pressure".
If the TPP and TTIP pass, the handover of power from people to corporate interests will be complete. Experts say it will affect freedom of information, civil liberties and access to medicines globally - and that's only from the bits that have been leaked to the public. In short, our lives, our democracies, will no longer be our own. Corporations suing governments, as the Tobacco industry is already doing, will become the norm. The internet and its neutrality will be dealt a lethal blow as Internet Service Providers will be able to "police" user activity, take down internet content, and cut people off from internet access.
We are facing our own more sinister Waterloo. This is a battle against corruption, pure and simple, and unless it is fought against and beaten it will permeate & stifle our very futures. Only by banding together as one - across all political parties, ignoring organisational or tribal differences, can we ever possibly beat it. Together, for all our sakes, we must stem this criminal tide and bring the people who put profit before lives to justice, before all our lives are irreversibly affected. And at home it may start with this question: "Which company is paying for my MP?"