Paul Cienfuegos’ August 11th, 2015 Commentary on KBOO Evening News
(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org/podcast, or subscribe via ITunes.)
Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. Today’s episode marks my one-year anniversary as a KBOO commentator – believe it or not! Thank you so much for your active listening!
So you want to stop a new big box store from being built in your neighborhood, but you can’t, because the big box corporation has more constitutional rights than do you or your neighbors.
Or you want to stop coal and oil trains from passing along the edge of your neighbors’ backyards, but you can’t, because those freight train corporations have more constitutional rights than do you or your neighbors.
Or let’s say you want to stop that new cellphone tower in your neighborhood, but you can’t, because the cell phone corporations have more constitutional rights than do you or your neighbors.
One more example….imagine that you’re trying to stop the further gentrification of your neighborhood, as you watch one new giant four-story metal and glass monstrosity after another getting built on the rubble of your previously beloved local businesses and small homes, but again, you can’t stop this, because the development and construction corporations have more constitutional rights than do you or your neighbors.
I hear my activist friends saying very unpleasant things about the politically disengaged people in the city where I live – which is almost everyone. Why aren’t they showing up to city hall public hearings?! Why aren’t they mobilizing their neighbors to do something?! What most of my activist friends still don’t understand is that pretty much all of the destruction caused by large corporations is perfectly legal. So it’s very hard to stop. If we fight these developments in court, we usually lose, because the law is on their side. And if we dare to commit nonviolent civil disobedience as a last resort to protect our communities, that too is illegal, and we end up with fines or jail time, because we have violated the so-called constitutional “rights” of business corporations.
The leveling of ancient forests is fully protected under law. The mono-cropping of our entire food supply is fully protected under law. The shuttering of our local businesses to make way for massive new corporate chains and shopping centers is fully protected under law. The mass enslavement of third world people to manufacture the goods that we take for granted is fully protected under law. The wasting of our precious topsoil and groundwater is fully protected under law. The drilling of oil in the Arctic, which is virtually guaranteed to cause a major ecological catastrophe according to our own Interior Department, … is fully protected under law. Whereas our activism to try to stop this destruction is either ineffective or illegal. Because the law is on their side.
This absurdity played out much more forcefully than usual, for all to see, just this past week, when our awful mayor, Charlie Hales, claimed that all sides had won, in the bridge blockade against the big oil company ship heading to the Arctic. As if opposition to catastrophic climate destabilization and a poisoned Arctic are just symbolic nothings that can be traded away by politicians. Charlie can act out in this way only because we live in a society where corporations have more constitutionally protected “rights” than does the entire population of Portland.
Imagine instead – city neighborhoods having the inherent right, under law, to define what happens there. Imagine instead – rural towns and villages having the inherent right, under law, to define what happens there.
Under our current system of law, ecological and social destruction is not only legal but required. While common sense visions for truly sustainable community are usually outlawed. How much longer will we allow such nonsense in our communities?
The only activism I can find here in Oregon and across the country, that focuses on challenging these absurd and unjust structures of law and replacing them with local community self-governance, is the Community Rights movement, which I have been a proud participant in for 20 years now. Since 1999, 200 communities in nine states have passed our directly enforceable Community Rights laws. Half a dozen counties in Oregon have active campaigns, including Columbia County just west of Portland, which is planning soon to ask the voters to prohibit coal and oil trains and export terminals Columbia-County-wide. I’m guessing that you must be as tired as am I in trying to fight one corporate development after another, when the law is always on the other side. We really can do better than this.
And now for something completely different…..
Every week since I began my commentaries exactly one year ago, you’ve been listening to some very sweet marimba music as well. Each of my commentaries is embraced with music arranged and performed by my dear friend Treothe Bullock and the Bliss Gypsys marimba band from a live 1999 recording at the Guru Java, in West Lafayette, Indiana. I am grateful to Treothe for allowing me to share his beautiful music with all of you every week. To find out more about Treothe’s music, go to TreeOathe.wordpress.com and link to the music page to hear more of his beautiful music, and to view his amazing nature photographs and writings.
You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. Today’s episode marks my one-year anniversary as a KBOO commentator. Thank you KBOO for giving me this awesome opportunity! You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.
You can subscribe to my weekly podcast via I-Tunes or at CommunityRightsPDX.org. You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. You can sign up for my twice monthly Updates at PaulCienfuegos.com. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for!