Protests in times past were usually aimed at the government who was seen as the only power that threatened perceived liberties by some. Many of these protest often pitted landed gentry and dominant white male interest against the governments efforts to extract a measure of equality for the “general welfare” as it did with slavery and women’s suffrage . But there would be a turn around in government’s role coming to the aid of the common citizen as the nation’s economic muscle began to flex in the 19th century. More and more of what has become known as the “corporate citizen” saw politicians currying favor with wealthy industrialists to the detriment of personal civil liberties.
Today this disparity with “equal justice for all” has watched the income gap between the haves and have-nots grow to its widest levels ever. Corporations have worked diligently to reconfigure our self-expressions from one of citizen to one of consumer, creating any real sense of freedom to exists only in the market place and not in the policy-making sphere. Laws were written in ways that most people can’t understand them so power moves by wealthy interests go unchallenged.
Today the collusion between many in our government and the global corporate wealth that funds their political campaigns threatens any genuine semblance of what democracies were intended to represent. This has been brought home plainly in a recent, real life event; the case of bidder #70
Bidder #70 is actuality a real person named Tim DeChristopher who at 27, single-handedly put a temporary stop to a runaway train created by unscrupulous people that threatens to inflict serious injury and even death to its passengers. The runaway train is anthropogenic global warming, the unscrupulous people are big oil interests and the train passengers are everyday citizens.
Tim DeChristopher sacrificed his freedom to expose a back room deal in late 2008 where the Bush team, who was then running the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), attempted to rush through an illegal auction to sell off public land to private oil interests. These were valuable public lands that were near national parks in southern Utah as well as residential developments.
Many BLM auctions are often giveaways of public land at fire-sale prices with little public notice and competitive bidding. But what this particular auction was in violation of was establishing a human resources plan, something that often takes years, that would establish legitimacy or not as to whether this public land could be sold to private commercial interests. It was fast-tracked in order to allow the deals to go through before a new administration came in that was not likely to support them.
DeChristopher was one of many protestors that stood outside the arena that the auction was taken place in to draw attention to oil’s contribution to high CO2 levels in our atmosphere. Increased CO2 from fossil fuels has been demonstrated to effect higher global temperatures that threaten to melt ice sheets, raising sea levels to dangerous elevations and killing off species at a rapid rate.
He felt they would have more of an impact if they were inside instead. He was told that they would be blocked by security guards but as it turned out, they not only let him in but asked if he wanted to be a bidder. The illegality of his act began when he consented, took bid card #70 and signed a statement that he would not bid on the property with no intent to pay.
The $1.8 billion he bid on 14 leases was money DeChristopher knew he didn’t or ever would have and when this was discovered at the auction he was taken into custody for further questioning. His plan was to ultimately delay the sell of these properties long enough to allow the incoming Obama administration to determine whether this process was legal or not, which their pre-inaugural team had already indicated they thought wasn’t. This in fact turned out to be the case and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar nullified all other sells at this auction, deeming them illegal.
But DeChristopher had in fact broken the law however and it took over two years for his case to come to trial. When it did and concluded last week, February 28th, Tim was found guilty and could serve up to 10 years in prison. Sentencing has yet been handed down. But what makes this entire ordeal seem surreal is that here’s a single person acting in the interest of the public domain who can go to prison for aborting an action that was found to be illegal.
As I pointed out in an earlier article that quoted from Mike Taibbi’s piece, Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?, “the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth “ saw no one going to jail. NO ONE! But the Obama Justice Department can find cause to send DeChristopher to jail?
Tim DeChristopher was not part of the wealthy club that “impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions”. His act of civil disobedience was seen as an obstruction to these people and clearly they intended for him and anyone else thinking of interfering in their attempts to grab more for themselves, to serve as evidence of what they would do to prevent this from happening in the future.
There are those who support the corporate interests in this country who would paint as a conspiracy the view of a corrupt alliance between big business and government. If DeChristopher’s case were the only example of such evidence, then a logical person would agree. But the abundance of evidence is clear, from the outsourcing of high paying jobs, favorable subsidies to profitable corporate industries, tax loop holes that allow the wealthiest to avoid their fair share of taxes, and now the blatant attempt to undermine unions.
These are only some of the more obvious examples to indicate that there is a move to not only weaken our positions as voters in a democracy but to change our status from citizens to mere consumers; people who vote their pocketbooks, NOT what’s in their own self-interests When we only vote in ways that we feel impact our current financial circumstances we fail to ensure a better future for ourselves and our children with jobs that provide a decent, livable wage, higher education attainment and an environment that won’t implode from the fossil fuels and their waste products that are enriching those wealthy few.
Tim DeChristopher was willing to sacrifice his freedom to prevent such a future. The question is, will it have been for naught? To find out more about how you can help Tim and allay his legal fees go to www.bidder70.org. Here’s Tim DeChristopher’s own account of his civil disobedience here at solve climate news.