Selling Our Birthrights
I see today that Wikileaks has leaked the draft chapter of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations that deals with intellectual property rights. The Guardian also reported on the leak in “Wikileaks publishes secret draft chapter of Trans-Pacific Partnership”
I don’t think many people really understand the import of these secretive negotiations and agreements amongst global elites. Conservatives often talk glibly about “Washington elites” or “Ottawa elites”, or about “transparency and accountability” while remaining completely silent or oblivious towards these secretive negotiations between global elites that have far more consequence for them in terms of potentially disenfranchising and dispossessing the electorate of their political rights.
“Selling your birthright for a mess of pottage” is an old saying that is very applicable. Probably few understand what it means. It comes from the story in the Old Testament about the brothers Esau and Jacob. Esau was the elder brother, and as such, had prior rights to his father’s blessing (which was not a trivial matter in those times). The story goes that Esau, having returned from a hunting trip, was starving and his younger brother, Jacob, seeing his own advantage in his brother’s weakness, offered to make him a bowl of lentil stew (“pottage”) in exchange for his birthright — the father’s first blessing. Esau, apparently witless from hunger, surprisingly agrees to this deal, and while momentarily satisfying his hunger he forfeits his rights as the elder brother. Hence, “selling one’s birthright for a mess of pottage” is considered extremely foolish behaviour.
But that is basically what many of these so-called “free trade” agreements amount to. In exchange for blithe promises of greater prosperity and facile mindless slogans like “a rising tide lifts all boats”, the consumer in the citizen, not the citizen in the consumer, is appealed to, and the consumer sells out his or her birthright as a citizen — the right of a democratic electorate, and not a techno-corporate elite, to determine and decide what will be public policy and the future — for a mess of pottage. It’s sometimes called “the appeal to the pocketbook”.
Unfortunately, the canard works in this decadently narcissistic, consumerist, and economistic age, when the electorate seems even to have become cynical about democracy and politics anyway, and of their own birthright of political and civil liberties. Why NOT sell your birthright for a mess of pottage? And so Esau probably told himself also, as he didn’t seem to truly value his birthright either.
Esau became disinherited and dispossessed as a result of Jacob’s shrewd trick and his own short-sightedness. This is called “short-termism” today, but the moral of the story remains the same. At the very least, we should insist that the politicians live up to their rhetoric about political “transparency and accountability” instead of using such cynical rhetorical tricks and slogans as a diversionary tactic — part of “perception management” designed to actually obscure our perception and confound clarity.
The politicians and their courtiers and “media handlers” (if not also their hair-dressers) count on something called “logocentrism” — the confusion of word and thing; of mistaking the word for the thing. And logocentrism of this kind is merely another aspect of narcissism, as are ego-centrism, ideo-centrism, anthropocentrism, ethnocentrism, etc.
All just other words for human narcissism.