In my career as a former state Senate leader, County Council member, and community advocate, I have shaken the hands of countless adversaries after a skirmish – political, legislative, and even legal. It’s not always an easy interaction though it is warranted in the interest of maintaining open communications and the simple courtesies of life. It’s also not easy because of what is left unsaid.
You see, I so very much want to ask: “How can you possibly represent a particular cause or company that is clearly doing harm to the community to which you belong?
On the heels of the hearing which just took place on the lawsuit against BLNR and Syngenta, I find myself struggling with the same question as I watch competent, talented professionals, good people, place themselves at the service of corporate wrong-doers. I say corporate wrong-doers because I have witnessed first hand, and heard enough reports from the community to be dismayed by the constant illegal behavior and actions of Syngenta.
Why would a good man choose to support the actions of a bad company?
Even murderers and rapists deserve legal representation, and I am sure the attorneys representing Syngenta will likewise argue that the company deserves the best legal representation money can buy. But why would they want to sell their expertise and their intelligence and skills to aid and advance the agenda of a company that is causing long lasting harm to the community in which they are choosing to operate?
How can anyone feel good about helping a company like Syngenta do to the people and land in Hawaii what Syngenta is forbidden by law to do in in its home country, Switzerland?
Some of the signs held by protestors who successfully persuaded regulators in Europe to stop Monsanto and its use of dicamba in its tracks said: “Our children are not your lab rats.” We might say the same to Syngenta. The children and infants on Kauai are not your lab rats.
Syngenta is an international chemical company doing very bad things around the world. While evil will perhaps seem an over-the-top description to some, that is the word that comes to mind (that and criminal as well) when I think about their conduct and impacts around the world.
Do the attorneys representing a company like Syngenta share in the moral responsibility for the companies conduct? Or is providing legal representation just a job with no moral or ethical implications?
This question I am sure has been debated extensively in universities everywhere, as it relates to the ethics of law and business. The answers are never simple. But shouldn’t we be asking the question at least?
It seems that there are at least two or three categories of workers who face the same ethical and moral questions. The entry-level uninformed worker perhaps not aware of the harm their company is doing to the health and welfare of people and the planet, I would think get a pass on this. Likewise, the worker struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent, also should probably not be blamed for the sins of their employer.
But the wealthy, educated and informed who actively promote and defend the agenda of a company that causes great harm in the world, surely they must bear some responsibility?
My guess is the attorneys and other well-paid corporate executives who help the bad guys of the corporate world do bad things around the world, stop asking themselves these questions. Instead they accept the profits that come their way, and to compensate for helping corporate criminals such as Syngenta pollute the water, poison the people and in general pillage the planet these high paid executives might join the boards of nonprofit organizations, donate their legal expertise on occasion to help poor people and perhaps even attend church on a regular basis. But can you really whitewash complicity or tacit approval?
To be clear, Syngenta is a very bad actor around the world, which I suppose is a useful and profitable thing if you are a lawyer being paid to defend their harmful actions.
I have no easy answer and each of us must at the end of the day, look ourselves in the mirror and be comfortable with the person they see.
If you have read this far, and are perhaps unfamiliar with those harmful actions of which I allude to, I’ve outlined a few below:
- Syngenta and other chemical companies manufacture products that are killing farmers in India and other countries. http://www.financialexpress.com/market/commodities/mncs-syngenta-bayer-monsanto-blamed-for-farmers-deaths-in-maharashtra/897043/
2. Syngenta lies and attempts to mislead entire countries as to the safety of their products, some of which are banned in their own country but which they use by the ton in Hawaii and around the world. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/24/business/international/a-pesticide-banned-or-not-underscores-trans-atlantic-trade-sensitivities.html
3. Syngenta is one of the largest polluters of ground-water in the world. https://environmentaldefence.ca/2016/11/01/atrazine-drinking-water-pollutant/ https://www.bna.com/syngenta-water-systems-n12884909659/
4. Syngenta attacks and smears the reputations of scientists who challenge them. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/02/10/a-valuable-reputation
5. Syngenta mislabels and mismanages its pesticide products. http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/09/19/epa-fines-syngenta-1-2-million-for-selling-misbranded-pesticides-failing-to-keep-study-records/#sthash.H2hOXdRk.dpbs
6. Syngenta misleads farmers. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-26/syngenta-said-to-pay-more-than-1-4-billion-in-corn-settlement
7. Syngenta does not protect its workers. https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-files-complaint-against-syngenta-farmworker-safety-violations-kauai
8. Syngenta security guards kill peasant activists in Brazil. https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/two-killed-in-shoot-out-at-syngenta-gm-farm/6208040
I may never understand the motives or ethical considerations of the adversaries who shake my hand, but I know that I along with many others will continue to fight the wrongdoings of companies like Syngenta that they choose to support and serve.
Our community will not stop in this effort until at the very minimum they: Fully disclose what pesticides they are using in our community, agree not to use them next to schools, hospitals and homes, and follow the same reasonable regulations they are required to follow in their own country.
Please join us in this effort if you can.
Urgent – Please support the HAPA Legal Fund today if you can. Your help is needed now, prior to December 1 if at all possible to ensure the HRS343 State/Syngenta appeal, plus to support future and ongoing legal actions, communications and administrative support pertaining to pesticides use by industrial chemical companies, water diversions and the general protection of health and environment. Any amount is helpful and greatly appreciated, our goal is to raise $20,000 by the first of the year, but at least half must be raised by December 1 in order to move forward with confidence on the matter now before the courts. http://www.hapahi.org/donate/ All contributions to HAPA are tax deductible.
Gary Hooser http://www.garyhooser.com
The Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A,) http://www.hapahi.org/take-action/
You are Kauai’s/Hawaii’s steadfast advocate. I stand with you unapologetically and am so grateful. Great blog Gary. There is no pono in poisoning our waters and earth. We need to feed the people not corporate profits.
Some people seem to have no conscience! Or are in it strictly for the money! Selling one’s soul to the devil is NOT the way to go!
Big Seed (B.S.) also contributes to political campaigns and have gained tremendous support with payback coming to them in ineffective, unenforced or lax regulation. That influence also makes it hard to make effective changes to laws and regulations. Keep on keepin’ on, Gary!
A friend who wishes to remain unnamed sent me this comment via email:
“I’m always asking myself the question you raise about Syngenta attorneys. In so many cases, the attorneys on the other side seem smart, usually, or at least logical, so why are they helping the people in the wrong? Debt? Restricted options? Limited imaginations? Delusion?
It also struck me that I should be asking friends and family why they work for A&B, Hawaiian Dredging, banks, etc.
Anyway, thanks for raising the question. I don’t think there are any good answers though.
Do the lawyers have no morale fiber when it comes to doing their job? Or is it all just for the money? I feel as humans, we all have a responsibility to do the right thing. This is just my opinion though. Poisoning adults and children will never be the right thing to do no matter the financial gain.
From poisoning a nationality or religious group as with the Jews….to poisoning whoever is in the way or useful. Still acceptable behavior as long as it happens to the ‘others’ Notify your representatives they lose your vote in 2018 unless they show they can be trusted to support the health and safety of the people of Hawaii. Let all candidates know your vote depends on their caring for the good of the least of us. Corruption is caring less for the people than for the corporations who use our children as their lab rats.
Gary, you write: “It seems that there are at least two or three categories of workers who face the same ethical and moral questions. The entry-level uninformed worker perhaps not aware of the harm their company is doing to the health and welfare of people and the planet, I would think get a pass on this. Likewise, the worker struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent, also should probably not be blamed for the sins of their employer.”
Bless you for the compassion that you show for struggling workers, but sadly, it is these very people who are already suffering who will need to rise up and just say “no” to working for Syngenta, et al., if the tide is to be turned. Labor is the source of all wealth. It is labor that enables evil and makes the evildoers wealthy. Until labor stands up nothing can stop the abuse of people, land, water, law and ethics that is the inevitable result of unbridled greed, which is always blind to morality.
Is there a union representing the Syngenta workers? ILWU? It is the role of the union to provide a collective safety net to allow workers to defend themselves and their communities, to speak truth to power, without having to sacrifice every last shred of their safety and security.
This will be a long, hard battle. Thank you, Gary, for leading the charge. I am carrying your kahili.
Thank you so much Marsha for your thoughtful comments and words of encouragement. The ILWU in the past has attempted to organize the workers for the various gmo/chemical/seed-corn companies, but without success. It is my understanding that a majority of the field workers are contract laborers brought in from out of state for limited periods of time. My commitment is total and your thoughts and support is greatly appreciated. gh