Time of the Assassins: ‘The conversation’ about privatizing water needs to end NOW

“The purpose of my writing is to expose and arrest Nova Criminals.”
― William S. Burroughs, Nova Express

In the mid-1970s, William Burroughs wrote a monthly column for the rock magazine Crawdaddy called “Time of the Assassins” (which he got from a line of Rimbaud’s “Voici le temps des Assassins”).

Evocative, isn’t it? The “Time of the Assassins.” It has such a nice ring to it.

That we may soon be (or already are) living in an age that would require assassins struck me last week as I was watching the controversial statements made by former Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe (today he is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nestlé S.A.) who said that water should be valued like any other commodity. Brabek’s comments were made in a 2005 documentary, We Feed the World, and are today, eight years later, being scrutinized in horror and exchanged feverishly by lefties on social media. As a result, Brabek’s been on the receiving end of quite a lot of stick on Facebook and Twitter, and not without some justification, if you ask me.
 

 
Brabeck’s flawed “free market” remarks betray such a peculiarly evil “logic” that only an extremely wealthy man, far, far removed from the rest of humanity, could have conceived of it:

My name is Peter Brabeck. I’m from Villach in Carinthia. And for the past 7-years I’ve been head of the Nestlé Group, the largest foodstuff corporation in the world, with a turnover of around 90 billion Swiss francs or around $65 billion, and with around 275,000 employees working directly for us. So, it’s quite a large ship. We’re the twenty-seventh largest company in the world.

Today, people believe that everything that comes from Nature is good. That represents a huge change because until recently, we always learnt that Nature could be pitiless. Man is now in the position of being able to provide some balance to Nature, but in spite of this, we have something approaching a shibboleth that everything that comes from Nature is good. A very good example is the organic movement. Organic is now best. But organic is not best.

After 15-years of eating GM food products in the USA, not one single case of illness has occurred from eating them to date. And in spite of this, we’re all so uneasy about it in Europe that something might happen to us. It’s hypocrisy more than anything else.

Ah yes, if you overlook what that benevolent gangsta Monsanto is doing to the soil and the water in much of the country and the fact that our vegetables have mere fractions of the nutrients they used to (like apples and spinach), then, yeah, I see his point. LOL.

There’s that lovely old Austrian folk song: “The dear cattle need water, hollera, holleri,” if you remember. Water is of course the most important raw material we have today in the world. It’s a question of whether we should privatize the normal water supply for the population. And there are two different opinions on the matter.

The one opinion which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.

It’s an extreme position to expect… water? Wait, wait, come on, let’s let the man who is the Chairman of the world’s largest multinational manufacturer of bottled water define his terms, before we lay into him, shall we:

And the other view says that water is a foodstuff like any other and like any other foodstuff it should have a market value. Personally, I believe it’s better to give foodstuff a value, so that we’re all aware that it has a price, and then that one should take specific measures for the part of the population that has no access to this water and there are many different possibilities there.

Okay, folks, I’ve heard enough, go ahead get your knives out for this bastard.

And if that wasn’t bad enough already, then he really goes off into the stratosphere:

I’m still of the opinion that the biggest social responsibility of any CEO is to maintain and ensure the successful and profitable future of his enterprise. For only if we can ensure our continued long term existence will we be in the position to actively participate in the solution of the problems that exist in the world.

What.The.Fuck.Is.This.Guy.Talking.About? The obesity or diabetes epidemics he’s done his part for, perchance? Brabeck-Letmathe helmed goddamned Nestlé for seven years! It’s the largest foodstuff corporation in the entire world and just look at what their over-packaged, corn syrup-heavy product lines consist of! Nestlé, the corporation that ran a massive advertising campaign in Africa discouraging breast feeding and then sold African mothers powdered milk, which they diluted with dirty water resulting in the deaths of literally millions of infants? (The UN had to get involved!) Nestlé the corporation that turns a blind eye to child labor practices… That Nestlé?
 

 
I’d trust Peter Brabeck—who started working for the corporation in 1968 and was the 2007 recipient of a “Black Planet” award given for destroying the environment, monopolizing water resources and tolerating child labor—and Nestlé‘s shareholders with the water supply of a Third World nation like I’d trust a fuckin’ coyote to keep an eye on my Chihuahua. A Russian hacker with all my online banking passwords. A famished shark with my good luck ham.... (Sorry, I think I got carried away there).

First it will be some country we’ve never heard of and will never visit in our lives. Next thing you know, a Republican governor will be proposing to privatize the water supply in a southern state… because, you know, the freemarket is more efficient than the private sector or perhaps just because a Swiss multinational food company donated a shit-ton of money to his campaign ....

We’re in the position of being able to create jobs: 275,000 here, 1.2 million who are directly dependent on us in principle. That makes around 4.5 million people in total—because behind each of our employees are another 3 people, so we have at least 4.5 million people who are directly dependent on us.

Because the world needs moar Kit-Kats! The idea that the notoriously predatory Nestlé is somehow “a part” of the solution to poverty at this advanced stage of capitalism’s life cycle is surrealism at its best. Brabek’s like a caricature of a crazed Bilderberger. I half-expect him to goosestep around wearing a paper Burger King crown and tissue boxes on his feet in his private moments. He is Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, incarnate. Ah Pook is here!

The part of the video clip that has nothing to do with privatizing water is actually the best bit, in terms of the off-the-scale absurdity of this privileged man’s blinkered 1% vantage point.. on the “little people”:

If you want to create work, you have to work yourself, not as it was in the past, where existing work was distributed. If you remember the main argument for the 35-hour-week was that there would be a certain amount of work and it would be better if we worked less and distributed the work amongst more people. That has proved quite clearly to be wrong. If you want to create more work you have to work more yourself. And with that we’ve got to create a positive image of the world for people, and I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be positive about the future. We’ve never had it so good, we’ve never had so much money, we’ve never been so healthy, we’ve never lived as long as we do today. We have everything we want, and still we go around as if we were in mourning for something.

The Japanese. You can see how modern those factories are; highly robotized, almost no people.

(Shakes head) You get the picture. I present to you, solely on the basis that he spoke these words (which he ostensibly seems to believe), that the man is a criminally insane psychopathic wanker. He has the worldview of a sociopath top executive of a large multinational, which of course, he is. If Peter Brabek were willing to share his nine million euros a year salary with some of Nestlé‘s rank and file workers in Bangladesh, I’ll bet they’d be JUST FINE with with cutting back their work week and spending more quality time with their kids instead of slaving in sub-human working conditions to make Hot Pockets that’ll be bought on a credit card at Wal-Mart by a morbidly obese couch potato living in Georgia… Just sayin’...
 

Image via The Yes Men

Naturally, seeing the consternation his words have unleashed, Brabeck tried to back-peddle furiously, limiting the damage that his 2005 remarks have caused in an essay that he (or more than likely a PR flunky at Nestlé) wrote for Huffington Post (Whose side are they on, anyway? Brabeck or humanity’s?)

At its heart, though, is still the kernel of the idea that it’s a good idea to put a price tag on water:

I do need to correct a misconception that has fueled a lot of the criticism on Facebook and elsewhere.

I do not deny that clean and safe water to drink or for basic hygiene is a human right. Of course it is.

However, I do not think it is right that some people in the world do not have access to a clean, safe supply when others can use excess amounts for non-essential purposes without bearing a fairer cost for the infrastructure needed to supply it.

When we give water a value, we use it more carefully, and this does not mean privatization.

Sounds almost high-minded, don’t it? I love this part, too:

Why does a company like Nestlé care about this?

Our consumers need access to clean, safe water and decent sanitation, wherever they are in the world, as do our hundreds of thousands of employees, their families and friends. As a good global citizen, we have a responsibility to be part of the solution.

And to skim a little off the top and then eventually skim a lot off the top... Hey, that’s capitalism, baby! The first sip is free!

Which brings us full circle back to William Burroughs: In The Naked Lunch, the author laid out a nightmarish vision of an out-of-control, planet-destroying consumer culture addicted to that which will most certainly kill it, with the metaphor of a junkie hooked on, and controlled by his metabolic need for heroin.

As Burroughs wrote to Jack Kerouac:

“The title means exactly what the words say: naked lunch, a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.”

“The little people” are what will be on the end of Nestlé‘s fork if elitist viewpoints like Peter Brabek’s hold sway over public debate. It’s an idea that should be stomped out with extreme mob violence, if you ask me. Eliminated from the conversation.

I think it’s fair to say that 100% of the human race is “addicted” to water and this is why, when I listened to what Herr Brabeck had to say, I thought of William Burroughs and wondered, if he were alive, what he would make of all this.

What chance does the human race have with enemies of Earth like this, when vast monied interests and multinationals start to have designs on our drinking water?

Time for the assassins?
 

 
Thank you Paul Gallagher!

Posted by Richard Metzger

 

 

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