Sacrifice Zones

I wrote this one over the weekend.

I bought another book. Surprise! My son told me about this book, it sounded interesting, so I bought it. We are camping this weekend, so I thought it would be a good read during this time, and it is. I have  one chapter left, and have experienced many emotions while I have read.

Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco wrote about sacrifice zones located through out the United States. The phrase is defined as cities that have been sacrificed to the god of capitalism, “areas that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress, and technological advancement.”

Chris Hedges stated in the introduction, “The rise of corporatism began with the industrial revolution, westward expansion, and the genocide carried out in the name of progress and Western civilization against Native Americans.” This identifies the author’s first sacrifice zone, PineRidge Reservation. The other zones include Camden, New Jersey; Welch, West Virginia;  Immokalee, Florida, and Liberty Square, New York. I am enjoying their ideas, but I disagree with their implied conclusions. Hedges and Stacco blame Capitalism for all of the evils of these areas.  don’t get me wrong, forgetting these sacrifice zones is a travesty, but the problem is not with the economic system, it is with the people within the system. The people who are excessively hungry for power and wealth.

The people in PineRidge told me they are getting tired of the continued bad press. Hedges and Sacco are no different than Diane Sawyer. They paint a bleak picture of the rez, one that represents little hope. I have been to the rez the last three years, and the people are wonderful. The Lakota’s dilemma is exasperated by the lack of economic development in southwest South Dakota. This is a system that is broken, and should not be ignored. We must recognize the pain associated with being Native American and the plethora of examples similar to the Cherokee trail of tears. We must not forget, but work along side the Native to figure out how to repair a culture rather than write them off as a sacrifice zone.

The people in Welch, West Virginia have been devastated by coal mining. The pollution and devastation of the mountains while people claim the coal veined through the mountains in West Virginia is horrific. This demonstrates the importance of a triple bottom-line, not a business model focused just on profit, but one focused on profit, people and the environment.

In Days of Destruction; Days of Revolt, Hedges and Stacco describe several areas that are horrific. However, they are willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I am not willing to do that. Capitalism is a system that can work well, if our motive is not just profit, but to make profit and do good.

And that is my thought for the day!


2 thoughts on “Sacrifice Zones

  1. “Capitalism” cannot operate in support of the moral good, not because it is immoral, but because it’s amoral. The unregulated markets are largely insensitive to broad moral consequences, their guiding light being short term, individual profit-taking. Long term benefit to “the commons” simply plays no role in the calculus of individual market transactions.
    So, how is it that the solution for areas devastated by corporate profit taking, at the expense of local communities, is MORE unfettered profit-taking?
    This is mindless faith in “the invisible hand” and flies in the face of historical, empirical fact.

    History offers a different lesson” long term community impacts can only be biased towards the good when long-term community interests are favored OVER short term, individual, profits. And markets never, by themselves, embody such priorities.

    • In this comment you only look at what is and not what should be. Rather than be descriptive I would rather be prescriptive. The tragedy of the commons is a very real phenomenon that we must pay attention too. Your derogatory implication about the invisible hand dismisses its power. Business does not tell us what to buy, business responds to what we demand. Walmart thrives because we tell the market we want lost cost items. If we tell the market we want small businesses that may charge a little more then that is what we will get. Long term community impacts are best when business, community and government work together. I think East Lake Community is a great example of that.

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