The MATTL wire and tower system for conveying electricity from Montana wind farms to Canadian cities — and esp. the problem of where to site it — is both a small issue and a major issue, both an issue from the past and an issue for the future.
On the small end, where to put a specific tower is a problem to solve in terms of relationship to the whole line but also the particular footing spot, which may disturb elements of the prairie from archeology to wildlife habitat to agricultural strategy. Fifty feet, two hundred feet, might make a lot of difference. But too much time spent deliberating over the details and exact GPS is time and energy-consuming, which means it cuts into profit.
On the large end, nations have formed in part as a response to defining ownership, both as divisions between two allegiances and as the source of authority for actual land ownership by citizens and the profits derived from it. This is how the United States separated from the British Empire. It is essential to the nature of nations. Wars are fought to defend it. However, in recent years international corporations have challenged nations, imposing their need for profitable use over the top of simple citizen ownership and jurisdictions of the democracies in which they vote.
Something like that has also happened within the nations when the interests of the citizens as a whole are considered more important than individual ownership. At one time the ruling was used sparingly and for a popular good. More recently the issue of “takings” has caused individuals to sue the government for any action that has diminished either the direct value or the possibly profitable development of privately owned land. This has diluted the concept of formal condemnation in the interest of the greater good.
For Native Americans “takings” have been egregious from the beginning, most markedly when property in trust was treated like government-owned land or when the railroad was pushed across the reservation and allowed any raw materials it needed without even bothering with something so formal as condemnation. Therefore, sensitivity is high and there is talk about sovereignty to mark nation-to-nation status.
Condemnation or “takings” by a FOREIGN nation or by an international corporation licensed by a FOREIGN nation, is far too close to invasion and border-bending. This is not diminished when the body requesting condemnation is a coalition of international corporations, acting for their own profit while arguing a secondary profit to individuals along the route of the tie line. In fact, in this case it could be argued that by allowing the export of electricity, the cost of electricity within the State of Montana will be jacked up due to competing with richer, more powerful, more densely populated places. Once again we will be colonies, living on the terms of others.
In fact, ALL nations are beginning to have to live on the terms of these international corporations. threatening the very existence of their borders. And some nations collaborate, their government infiltrated by corporation executives.
But there is another tension hidden in this rather small issue. At one end are BOTH the corporations and the nations. BOTH forget that they are constructs, with their parameters and protocols existing ONLY by consent and on paper. It is not just democracies that exist by consent of the governed, as many a headless king can testify. Africa knows about “failed states” whose consent has disappeared. A lawyer advised me long ago that “you cannot force someone to stay married to you.” (Alas. But would you really want to?) And yet the Pope has not yet realized that you cannot force the world to be obedient Catholics, even if they believe in Hell.
Churches and nations exist either through voluntary consent or oppression and you can only oppress people if you have an army, which is what makes me VERY nervous about Blackwater Xi et al, which look to me like private international corporate armies. But you can only run an army as long as you can pay the soldiers, which the United States doesn’t quite grasp yet, even though they are running operations very like and in collusion with international corporations, openly and covertly contracting with their mercenary soldiers as we did notoriously in Iraq and covertly other places.
What I am saying is that both nations and corporations (regardless of their dimensions) are not REAL. If we sweep aside the curtain and take a look at Oz, we see two terrifying things: ourselves and our selfish interests — and chaos. THAT’s what all these apocalyptic scare books and movies are about. The nations and corporations are saying, “It’s us or nothing.” They have enlisted the subversive forces of terror.
The trouble with terror is that is means responses of both extremism and passivity. I see it right here in “Lake City.” The ones who show up at the meetings are the ones with some big
plan and glittering eyes or else no one shows up at all. Mostly the latter. “It’s ugly,” they say. “It takes too much time. I’m busy making money.” In an entertaining omission by both the eager leaders and the careless abstainers is that the State of Montana recently notified Valier that it had failed to re-assert its boundaries according to some rule on which every sort of funding depends. If the people who wanted to keep horses in Valier had been alert, some quick gerrymandering might have gotten them what they wanted.
Larry Salois is insisting on something quite different from all this: the actual nature of the real and existent land, places where ancient people have left traces and places where the soil and architecture of the terrain create ecologies that serve many interacting forms of life. This is what lies at the heart of human existence and underlies all true religion, however it is institutionalized, even as nations. Nations are, after all, institutionalized convictions that emerge out of frontiers, resources, and populations. If those conditions (drought, poverty) drive illegal movements of immigration or exodus, force and boundaries will in the long run have very little impact. There cannot be enough taxes to fund the necessary army.
I’m always straining to look into the future, which around here, where they still remember WWII, causes people to advise me, “Pull in your neck — the government’s looking for rubber.” The countervailing advice that a turtle makes no progress unless it sticks its neck out is not equivalent because it only applies to those who live fortified by a shell — like rich people in their walled enclaves. Like legislators in their limo and jet sheltered travels. They have none of the vulnerability of chaos. Yet.
A relevant article from the Atlantic is available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/the-rise-of-the-new-global-elite/8343/
(Cover Photo: Dave Morris)