July 25, 2008

Conspiracy theories

A work-in-progress policy proposal on Simpol's discussion forum resulted in me listening to David Icke's Illuminati conspiracy theory in his tour-de-force address to a public meeting at a recent by-election in the UK.

Personally I think the pursuit and entrenchment of power is transparent enough without having to see secret societies behind everything. It struck me listening to the talk that if the Illuminati was behind the first and second world wars and dictated the outcomes then why did they not make Hitler the victor if their long-term plan is the creation of a global fascist state in which we are all enslaved? No doubt there is an answer, perhaps one involving the shape-shifting reptiles who are behind all human history according to Mr. Icke, though he didn't mention that theory in his address.

That is not to say that conspiracies do not exist. Just in the past two days we have seen the junk food industry's strategy for avoiding controls on its practices unfolding a little more. Rather than tackling obesity by taking action to improve food quality and stop marketing to children, the government has decided to pursue an advertising campaign encouraging us to exercise more, funded to the tune of more than £ 200 million by Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, Mars, Nestle and Tesco.

Monitoring the activities of Nestlé, particularly with regard to its baby milk pushing, is something that occupies much of my time. Rather than abiding by World Health Assembly marketing requirements for baby food, Nestlé uses strategies of denials and deception to try to continue with business as usual, despite the impact this has in terms of contributing to needless death and suffering of infants denied the protection provided by breastfeeding. Nestlé often opens its cheque book to gain access and influence. It has also apparently admitted to sending someone to spy on a Swiss campaign group. The spy infiltrated the group for a year when it was researching the company for a book launched at an event where I was a guest speaker. Finding my emails to the group may well have been sent directly to Nestlé does not really come as a shock. A multi-billion pound businesses that puts its own profits before the health and well being of babies is unlikely to have qualms about using underhand tactics.

In the past Nestlé has hosted international meetings bringing together the Chief Executives of corporations with members of United Nations organisations. Mr. Brabeck once told leaders of developing countries he was addressing on behalf of the International Chamber of Commerce that : "Business...should not be lumped with the many single-issue NGOs, but be accepted as an interlocutor of a different stature, as the engineers of wealth."

The self-serving hegemony of business leaders are doing what the system demands of them and they try to manipulate the system to benefit themselves. Perhaps that is simply the nature of power and the solution is to have checks and balances. Certainly these are limited in their effectiveness at present. That is why we need to pursue strategies such as creating the World Transnational Corporation Regulatory Authority, which I have put forward for inclusion in the Simultaneous Policy and explored in greater depth in the book 'Global Obligations for the Right to Food'.

What drives Nestlé is, I think, a little more obvious than Mr. Icke's view. It is greed. Mr. Brabeck promised shareholders 5 - 6% annual growth and at the last shareholder meeting I attended it was clear that the majority of shareholders did not much care what had to be done to achieve it, as they booed anyone who dared question the board of directors business practices.

If the company was held accountable and fined a proportion of its turnover, rather than the trifling sums that have been levied against it, then behavour would change because shareholders - and insurers - would demand it in their own best interest.

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