health: the new prison

The prison industrial complex is based on the insight that bodies can be made profitable without their consent.

You just need the right regulatory framework.

Governments come in handy for corporate schemes.

Nutritionists’ longstanding warnings that processed food is unhealthy are beginning to materialize as public health crises. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Food announced this week that “unhealthy diets are now a greater threat to global health than tobacco.” The carcinogenic tendencies of agricultural chemicals have long been apparent. Corporations are pushing this food not only with advertising, but with retail strategies and Free Trade policy, which both secures market access, and reduces regulations on toxic agricultural and food inputs.

If they succeed in making more people chronically ill, pharmaceutical dependence could become a new prison. Our very bodies involuntarily become a source of profit.

This has been the trick lately. It’s called commodification. Marx carefully analyzed the significance of the shift from barter (in which both trading parties have an interest in the usefulness of the goods being traded) to a system of trade in which investors see goods only in terms of their exchange-value (how much margin can be made by buying low and selling high. It’s a clever trick to take aspects of life and society which were used but not traded in this way and turn them into commodities that can be priced, purchased, and sold.

Restaurants commodify cooking.

Cellphones commodify communication.

Biotech commodifies seed and medicine.

Hospitals commodify birth.

Some of these processes are more totalitarian than others. That depends on how much control has been institutionalized, how much the alternatives have been outlawed, discouraged, degraded, or derided. And how resolutely people are fighting to maintain the alternatives.

People are highly concerned about certain biotech processes, like the terminator and traitor seeds, because they allow corporations to turn on and off basic aspects of plant life, and by doing so, usurp the right to sell life to farmers.

If they can turn the health of humans off by contaminating the food, they will then be able to sell health to us as dependent consumers of pharmaceutical-based life.

What I don’t get is why corporations are also pushing to privatize health care? Wouldn’t it be more lucrative if governments were locked into payments, as they are for prisons?