Curtain Raiser

The Illusion of Small Evil, Colltalers

‘Tis the season for shopping in western societies, and shop will be performed with abandon and savage zeal. Never mind supporting a retail industry that globally pays undignified wages to its workforce, or the need for restraining frivolous spending, as most of what’s being purchased over these few weeks depletes natural resources, takes precedence over food production, and will be sitting on landfills soon enough.
To another industry, though, shopping extends for more than weeks. Just in time for the holidays, a PAX report released last week found that financial institutions around the world are on a $27 billion spree since 2011. What are they buying? Stocks from companies that make cluster bombs, which are banned by international law because, like land mines, they remain active long after their purpose is fulfilled.
As big cities around the globe light up their Christmas trees, and genuinely well-intended people harbor feelings of goodwill and grace, their pension funds are busy betting their retirement money in the assumption that war is good for business, everything else be damned.
We’re not being naive here, or blaming investment managers for following the smoky trail of profits on the back of scorched villages and bodies burned to a cinder. But, as Hanna Arendt wrote about Nazi lieutenant Adolf Eichmann, the ‘banality of evil’ is that it’s done ‘by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.’ In other words, crimes committed in our name are indeed our responsibility.
What aggravates the study done by PAX, a Netherlands-based peace advocacy organization, is the already rising costs of the U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIL in Syria, the Iraq campaign’s daily costs, and the fighting in Afghanistan. As defense hawks have gleefully declared as inevitable, it’ll help engorging the Pentagon’s budget and boost consequent spending in homeland security.
The report names a who-is-who in the American pantheon of financial corporations, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, along with well known insurers Aflac, Fidelity Investments and MetLife, and defense contractor BlackRock, plus companies in China, South Korea and the U.K., among others, all acting as asset managers, banking-service or loan providers.
115 countries, including all of the above, signed the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, prohibiting multiple explosive-parts bombs. Nevertheless, their use has continued, if not increased, worldwide, and as recent as September, evidence was found that they’ve been deployed in Ukraine and Syria. To have an idea, cluster bombs dropped in Laos, 50 years ago, continue to claim lives.
But the strictly material costs of war, and consequent profit to be gained from it by people who haven’t ‘made up their minds,’ or just don’t care about it, can approachh Continue reading