Friday, October 15, 2010

Cutting Edge Research, like Columbus Washing up on the Virgin Shores of Intellectual Property

Total control led to total cruelty. The Spaniards "thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades."
--- Howard Zinn quoting Las Casas

If you want to find drugs in a city you've never been
in before, she said, ask for a street
named after Martin Luther King. The legacy
of civil rights parodied by America's
automated response to demands
for economic justice; assassinate,
commemorate, obliterate. She had been running away,
tried every illegal drug
she could find; heroin, cocaine, both
powdered and crack, PCP, amphetamines
she was losing her mind ever
since Robert died of AIDS. I remember him
joking about the pot he was smoking being the only good
that ever came out of the North American Free Trade Agreement,
back in the days before marijuana was medical,
when the disease still possessed the
je ne sais quoi of terror, the fear that it might spread,
might not remain just a disease of
gay men.
There was nothing like it
again until a short few weeks in the shadow
of the anthrax attacks on Congress
when no one knew if there would be enough
Cipro to go around, and its German maker Bayer
insisted on upholding its patents, its so-called intellectual
property rights. There was this palpable fear,
it was openly frightening, not just that this
new man-made plague
was being epidemically spread,
but that the heads of business and politics would
profiteer on disaster. For a brief time,
middle, upper-middle, maybe even some
upper class Americans felt a hint of what
millions of Africans have been exposed to
as the disease that killed Robert devastated
their continent, and the multi-national conspiracies we call
corporations, continued to press for
blockbuster profits from their research
investments. Needing to become addicted
to live, but denied such addiction by patented
science, and its chairman of the board addiction,
to cash. Substance
abuse, but which substance, and whose? Maybe,
maybe, if they promised to become good
slaves, very, very, good slaves,
we could save their lives,
a free trade of intellectual for human
property. As if some new middle passage
returning to African shores
spread the Faustian spores of an
ever stranger fruit. This is what America and
its hereditary plutocrats stand for; extending the scientific
horizons of ownership. Like Columbus washed up
on the shores of the new
virgin territories of intellectual
property (the preferred substance of profitable abuse),
conquistadores deploying tactics that remain unchanged:
assassinate, commemorate, obliterate.
And you wonder why she was running away,
trying to find every street named for
King, in America.

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