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Follow the money - a week in sharp focus

By James Fairbairn - posted Friday, 16 October 2009

If there was ever a week where following the news brought into crystal sharp focus the real nature of our society and its penchant for greed and avarice over simple humanity, then this was it. Never in the two years of running Open Your Eyes News has the elephant in the room been so clear for all to see. And yet, the vast majority choose to ignore it or simply cannot see what it is, because we are programmed as a society to view every story in splendid isolation without ever looking at the jigsaw around us as a whole.

The elephant I refer to is the single biggest driving force in our entire civilisation. It feeds our greed and avarice, it controls every aspect of our entire lives, and yet, despite its protestations, it is completely devoid of all human emotion, reason and compassion. It is the limited liability corporation, the public listed company, and it is the cornerstone of everything we see around us.

It can be argued that by channeling the aspiring profit motive in a mutually serving (for the shareholders) structure run by a professional management class, that mankind has achieved its greatest technological and lifestyle leaps forward. In some ways that is the case; at least for the lucky half of the human population who reap its benefits. It has also led to our civilisation’s darkest actions. According to its legal obligations a corporation has but one function in life; to maximise return on investment for its shareholders; nothing more, nothing less. As a result, the corporation is singularly self interested and unable to feel genuine concern for others in any context. If it means that human beings will suffer, so be it; as long as the corporation remains unharmed.


For the last five months every media outlet and every government on the planet has warned you of the terrible impending danger of swine flu. The World Health Organisation declared a “Pandemic Level 6” the highest category there is. In modern parlance it is “Black Death 2.0”. And yet, where are the bodies lying in the streets or the black crosses on the doors of the infected? In reality the incidence of flu deaths in the southern hemisphere’s 2009 flu season was below average, while incidence and virulence rates in the northern hemisphere are also falling. How and why could this happen?

One very large clue could be in GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) financial results announced this week, which showed that, so far, they have sold swine flu vaccines worth some £2.2 billion since the panic began. The Australian Government alone has spent AU$200 million of taxpayers’ money on buying enough vaccine for every man, woman and child in the country, and yet the annual flu season is over, and infection rates are dropping like a stone. And let us not forget that GSK are just one of a number of massive pharmaceutical corporations to profit from this pandemic.

So if money is the motive, how could they pull this off, despite the evidence you can see with your own two eyes? Well Adolf Hitler explains this a little in Mein Kampf when he said “The broad mass of a nation … will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one”.

Every corporation strives to make extra sales. That is its job. Fear is the easiest sales tool there is. By dint of a thousand press releases, hundreds of lobbyists, employing professional bloggers and “opinion formers”, and by multi-million dollar public relations campaigns, they can, and do, sway the tide in their direction.

When you also appreciate that corporations are not just individual structures, but are inextricably linked through a web of cross ownership, multi-board directorships, bank loans and advertising budgets, you realise that in all their self serving desires, logic, humanity and compassion will get trampled underfoot for the taste of a quick buck. Imagine how much leverage you will seek to exert for £2.2 billion of extra sales? Then imagine that this is only one small cog in a big wheel, and you will gain a greater understanding of how the system around you operates.

The politicians you elect are supposed to be your insurance policy against what Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of in his farewell address to the nation in 1961. “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military Industrial Complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”


Eisenhower may have been referring solely to the rising power of the USA’s armaments industry, however, that industry operates no differently to any other, and is merely a part of the corporate web.

How easily this vast influence can corrupt was clearly demonstrated by the actions of Australia’s Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, this week when he spoke on the subject of the now eight-week ongoing Montara oil spill off the north west coast of Australia. Here was a man who, as lead singer of the band Midnight Oil, used to be Australia’s most vocal campaigner against uranium mining (which he now signs off on), Tasmanian logging (which he now signs off on) and all environmental destruction by corporations. Yet this week, in virtually the only media coverage this week for Australia’s worst ever oil spill, he actually said that the spill has had “minimal environmental impact” and “only killed some 13 birds”.

This is an oil spill that is 15,000 square kilometres in size and can be seen from space! So how could a once principled man betray all he stood for so dramatically? Potential investment into Australia’s multi-billion dollar North West Shelf oil and gas sector probably had considerable influence over his, and the general media’s lack of reporting.

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About the Author

James Fairbairn, "The Historian", is co-Founder and editor of and is also Vice-President of The Humanist Society of Western Australia. A historian by training, prior to emigrating to Australia he was a parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party in the UK (2005 General Election).

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