The Appeal: Ugly Tentacles of Corporate Tyranny

    “A blatant page-turner… I guarantee you will hate reaching the end.” – Sunday Express
    What should a company’s billionaire owner do when ordered by court to pay a grieving widow $41 million in damages? Why, buy over the juridical system, of course.
Meme caption: www.memes.com

The jury finds Krane Chemical Corporation guilty of water contamination that allegedly caused the death of Chad and Pete Baker, husband and son of plaintiff Jeanette Baker.

Not just the death of this father and son pair, we learn. As the story progress, we discover that the fictional Cary County is cleverly nicknamed “Cancer County”, and not for lack of substantiation. In fact, the cancer rate in Bowmore of Cary County is 15 times the national average. (Pg 32)

In light of that startling revelation, the people of Bowmore, Cary County blame Krane Chemical Corporation. They attribute the abnormal cancer rate to the illegal chemical dumping that polluted their water, and ultimately, killed countless innocent lives.

And we learn that Krane Chemical is indeed guilty on all counts.

“Ratzlaff had a memo under lock and key. It was eight years old and had been prepared under his supervision. It ran for a hundred pages and described in gruesome detail the company’s illegal dumping of toxic waste at the Bowmore plant. It summarised the company’s elaborate efforts to hide the dumping, to dupe the Environmental Protection Agency, and to buy off the politicians at the local, state, and federal level. It recommended a clandestine but effective cleanup of the waste site, at a cost of some $50 million. It begged anyone who read it to stop the dumping.” (Pg 25)

In other words, shameless and calculated abuse- blatant negligence.

And yet, Mr. Trudeau, billionaire owner of Krane Chemical Corporation, vowed that “not a dime of (their) hard-earned profits will ever get into the hands of those trailer park peasants (residents of Bowmore and casualties of the irresponsible chemical dumping).” (Pg 26)

    This fictional tale is a reflection of real world events, or so I gather, reestablishing my suspicions about this wicked and crooked world.

 

THE RICH AND POWERFUL EXPLOIT THE POOR AND HELPLESS

Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org
    Mr. Trudeau’s driver, Toliver, chauffeurs Trudeau’s black Bently to his Central Park penthouse worth $28 million, $38 million if you include the additional interior work.

His trophy wife is perched in her dressing room of the master suite while hairdressers fix her $1000 hairdo.

Draped on her size 2 physique (achieved with a daily routine of an hour with a trainer- $300 per, private yoga- $300 per and nutritionist- $200 per) is a $25,000 Valentino dress. (Pg 33-36)

Oh, and she’s eyeing Abused Imelda, an intriguing piece of “art” that Mr. Trudeau eventually does purchase for $18 million (Pg 63).

    In other words, the Trudeaus are not exactly lacking financially.
    On the other hand, the Paytons- a husband and wife lawyer team that dare sue Krane Chemical Corporation- live in a 3 bedroom apartment of an old complex, and are at least 4 months behind with rent (Pg 46-47). They own a “battered Ford Taurus with a million miles, at least one low tire, and constant click of a sticking valve” (Pg 19). Life was once financially liberating, but then this Baker case with Krane Chemicals sucked away their BMW, the Jaguar, the credit cards, their house… Eventually they took a bank loan of $400,000 to finance the case.
    For the Paytons, money is tight, and every dollar matters.
    And legal battles require money.
    So when the Paytons manage an impressive win over Krane Chemicals, Trudeau appeals to the Supreme Court, then pull every dirty trick in the book to ensure a heavy tip in his favour.
    Firstly, he’s aware of the Paytons’ fragile monetary position, that a slight jolt will send them down bankrupt-street. And push, he does, buying over the Paytons’ bank- with his mountain of cash.
    Next, why take a chance with wild cards like random Supreme Court judges, when you can rig the judicial election, strategically place a friendly judge, then sway the final verdict to your advantage, all for only $8 million.

Money talks.

Photo credit: www.dreamstime.com

 

RELIGION IS A CONVENIENT POLITICAL MANIPULATION TOOL

Ron Fisk is a small town lawyer from Brookhaven, Mississippi. Fits the good Christian mould perfectly, we gather, and ideal choice for Supreme Court judge candidate in conservative Mississippi.

The idea of running for judge is pitched to him by a low profile yet highly effective firm called Troy-Hogan, who are in the business of “reforming courts”.

“… That’s what we do, and we do it very quietly. When our clients need help, we target a supreme court justice who is not particularly friendly, and we take him, or her, out of the picture.” (Pg 117)

In the case of Krane Chemicals, at a price of $8 million, they place in the supreme court a judge that is willing to protect corporate liability at all cost. One that would vote in favour of overturning the $41 million dollar jury verdict, freeing Krane Chemicals of their lawsuit.

They already have a target- Judge Sheila McCarthy. They will replace her on the supreme court with one of their own. All they need now is a candidate.

And an angle of attack- religious values.

Unaware that he was meant as a pawn in a bigger game, Ron bites the bait. “… change the judicial landscape of this country. And if we do that, we can protect the rights of the unborn, restrict the cultural barrage that is consumed by our children, honour the sanctity of marriage, keep homosexuals out of our classrooms, fight off the gun-control advocates, seal our borders, and protect the true American way of life,” (Pg 152). In other words, a series of religious-aligned jargon.

Ron is convinced. He will run for supreme court member to uphold Christian values at the juridical level.

And play the religious cards, he does, with his campaign manager as a conductor.  He kicks off his campaign at the pulpit of the church he worships. “I seek to serve on the supreme court because I cherish the values that we share. Values based on the bible and our faith in Christ. The sanctity of the family- man and woman. The sanctity of life… I am frustrated by the erosion of our values. They are under attack by our society, by our depraved culture, and… by our courts. I offer my candidacy as one man’s fight against liberal judges…” (Pg 277)

Of course they advertise his opponent, Judge Sheila McCarthy as a liberal (although she is not).

And the churches rally firmly behind him, completely oblivious to the corporate interest of Ron’s puppet masters.

The Christian support is obvious. At a political rally, his supporters hang huge ‘Save The Family’ banners, an attestation to Ron’s primary selling point.

The event begins with a prayer (religious), followed by gospel songs (also religious), and more sermons (very religious). And repeat. (Pg 421-422)

Photo credit: www.dailyherald.com

Pastor Denny Ott (pastor to many of the cancer victims) tries to warn Pastor Ted of the danger of endorsing a political candidate, given their status as a non-profit organisation (church). “Mr. Fisk is being used by a conspiracy of big business interests to stack our supreme court with judges who will protect corporate wrongdoers by limiting their liability,” he writes in a letter. (Pg 414)

Yet, blinded by religious convictions, they are unable to see past the marketed package (Christian judge) to the manipulative forces behind. They are unable to separate church and state.

Picture credit: www.reddit.com

 

GOOD DOES NOT ALWAYS OVERCOME EVIL

    This book has one certainty- the good and evil.
    Unlike books that reveal both the light and dark of its characters, John Grisham’s figures belong to either extremes of the good vs. evil spectrum.

The Paytons are good; Mr Trudeau and Krane Chemicals are evil.

Pastor Denny Ott is good; Pastor Ted is evil.

The people of Bowmore are good; The employees of Troy-Hogan are evil.

Other than Ron Fisk, who has pure intentions, but plays devil’s advocate to the evil Trudeau’s cause, the antagonists of the story are obvious.

The Paytons (good) fought with everything they had, putting at stake their finances, their firm, their family, their reputation, in an effort to liberate the oppressed people of Bowmore (good).

But Krane Chemicals (bad) couldn’t care less about the cancer clusters, the dying people, the pain, the suffering… all that matters is money.

And fight justice with money, they do.

And succeed.

Good loses. Evil wins.

    Mr. Trudeau gets his wish. Not a cent is paid to lawyer or plaintiff.

Ghost of Chinese Past

Writer’s note:

Fun fact- I can trace my lineage to Princess Ping Yang’s brother, which makes her my great grand aunt, thousand times removed.

And this is how I imagine her- witty and quoting Shakespeare.

I apologize for any feathers I may ruffle with this piece, though indeed that is my intention, but not offensively. Although elements of this writing are (obviously) not 100% historically accurate, the keynotes persist.

I must emphasise that I do, and always have admire China as a nation. So rich in history and talent- fascinating to say the least. 

Yet, as I examine the social mechanics that surround me, I must return, to my roots, where it all begin.

P.S.: This is a work of fiction… or is it?


Photo credit: www.genstockphoto.com

BHAM!!

I slam a shot glass on the table; the force sends shock waves up my right arm.

My armpit fats are flapping violently.

I throw my head back, disheveled black curls bouncing. The tequila shoots right through my nasal canal and explodes in my brain like Merdeka fireworks.

“Oooohh, babeh!” I shriek, not unlike a hyena, simultaneously releasing what I hope is a silent burp. A burping hyena.

A few empty shot glasses sit before me in single file.

The bar counter where I’m perched is nearly empty, because what idiot waste away at the bar on a Wednesday night. The bartender looks amused as he places a new batch of shots before me.

“Your shots, ma’am.” He says with an air of professionalism. “That will be RM109.90.”

I fix him with a pointed look. “You!” I wave a finger at his distinctively oriental features. My wedding band is gleaming under the yellow fluorescent light. “Walking embodiment of Chinese male privilege.”

I pause, finger mid-jab…

Then everything went black.


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“Babe, wake up. Babe!” Somebody is shaking my shoulders like an Osim massage chair.

I grunt.

The voice’s owner circles around and plops unto the stool next to me.

“Rough day?” she asked. I note her attire of black spaghetti straps and denim shorts.

My head feels heavy. I prop off the bar top with a mighty splurge of strength, not unlike a constipated dump.

I gather enough consciousness to study my new friend. There’s a scar on her left cheek, but not enough to taint her sublime Chinese beauty. Her long black hair flows all the way down her rich blossoms; her voice lined with sweet authority.

“Meiii aii elp youu?” I manage.

She helps herself to my shots. “Ooooff..” She blinks twice, then swirls her head around to face me. I notice a dark penis-looking tattoo on her left wrist.

She follows my stare. “Like it?” she says. “I got it last week. Reminds me of good times.”

“So, pray tell, of the affair that thrust you into this alcoholic rove.” She continues with a powerful gaze. Enchanting, even.

“I fought with my husband.” I say simply.

“Ahh… the opening to every good story ever.” She downs another shot. “How did he screw up? Obviously, it’s his fault.”

I relax a little. All hail the sisterhood. “Our first Chinese new year as a married couple is looming. And we can’t agree on where to spend new years’ eve reunion dinner.”

My fingers grip another shot glass, transferring its contents into my system. “Chinese tradition dictates we grace the male’s home. Obviously. Penis-ownership and all.” I don’t miss a beat. “As we know, the Chinese culture is one big tribute to the patriarchy.”

“He’s like, ‘why can’t we stick to the status quo?’ and all. And I’m, like, ‘I couldn’t care less where we eat. It’s the principle behind the gesture. We can’t allow another generation of gender-dictated policies’.”

I’m hyperventilating. And burping again- not so silently this time. But I don’t care. Rage is bubbling in my stomach, or maybe it’s the gas. It’s all pouring back to me. My friend who cares for her elderly father doesn’t get a cent of inheritance, while her useless brother gets all the land, on pure virtue of cock-entitlement. The other friend who slaves like Cinderella so her brothers can laze around like the douchebags they are, except Cinderella is a brainless masochist, while my friend has the misfortune of a vagina.

I’m seething with fury.

A balding uncle is eyeing me curiously. He’s either illiterate or a blatant jerk, judging by the cigarette in his mouth despite the striking “no smoking” sign.

My verbal diarrhea does not halt. “New years’ eve dinner seems minute, pick your battles and all. But these are the foundation to more palpable sexism. Rid the base, rid the peak, and rid the patriarchy.” I spit with fervor.

My new friend widens her eyes at me, a smile plastered on her lips.

She raises a shot glass. “Cheers babe. Death to misogynist.”

“Cheers.” I shadow her actions, chugging the glass down my throat.

A shot of adrenaline rockets through my body… and all went pitch black again.


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I open my eyes, and then close them quickly again. Sun is beating down, right through my eyelids and cornea.

“Arghh… my pancreas.” I moan, still lying flat on what appears to be grass, flapping my arms like some pathetic grass angel.

I hear a snort to my right. “Babe, sit up. Check this out.” It’s spaghetti-straps-with-scar girl. She’s sitting with her knees to her chest.

“Where are we? What…” I begin.

“Sshhh…” she interrupts. “Look!”

I drag myself up and discover we are perched on… a hill? Below us sits a city, a prominent pagoda in sight. China? Despite our beaming sun, the city is covered in darkness.

I’m about to crack some Kungfu Panda related joke when a girl sprints out through the huge city gates. She’s clad in a ruqun and white shawl, running like her life depends on it. In fact, she looks like Mulan at the 100m event of the Olympics, with the skirt pulled right up to her boobs.

Ancient China?

Her hair flowing behind her, she’s running and running. She’s a good 3km or so out of the city before she slows into a brisk walk.

“She’s fleeing from Imperial assassins,” scarred-face chick commentates. “Her father and husband are heading a rebellion to overthrow the emperor. The emperor is a dick head and medical wonder- born without a brain. He poisoned his dad for the throne, then aspired genocide through attempts to expand the great wall and great canal. And you’ll think a nincompoop of that magnitude would lose interest and switch goals, but no, he gathers an army to invade Korea and Vietnam, and we all know how that went. ”

She continues. “Along comes her dad, who rose through ranks from peasant to general, pretty kickass story. Emperor Moron sends him on a series of dimwit missions, and he doesn’t even complain. In fact, he’s so freaking legit that the enemies submit to a peace treaty with him- they won’t attack Chinese land as long as her dad is in charge. Problem is, Emperor gong-gong decides its…” she rolls her eyes and raises her fingers in air quotes, “a threat to national security or some crap along those lines, and orders his execution. Hence, rebellion.”

“Wow…” I manage. Our hill has mysteriously trailed the general’s daughter.

“A few days later, she arrives at her home province.” The landscape before us fades, only to be replaced by a village, acres of sweet land and yummy topless men.

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“The saga unfolds.” My raconteur gaze into the distance. “Our heroine sells her  family home and land for monies, which she uses to purchase weapons, equipment and tonnes of other badass shit.I watch as Mulan in the white shawl makes numerous exchanges. House. Land. Money. Bazooka. AK-47.

Next, she gathers every Tom, Dick and Harry Lee, Wong and Tan to aid her strive.

“Babe, keep in mind that this is the year 617, when men wore their egos like hair gel. The patriarchy then make 2017’s look like kindergarten play.”

The general’s daughter chick is so hardcore, she shaves her head and whips her homie peasants into shape, then proceeds to offer the surrounding warlord tribes 3 options: (1) bandit leader gets officer commission in her army, (2) gets bribed with food or money, or (3) get a serious ass-whooping in battle.

Photo credit: www.badassoftheweek.com

They usually say yes to army-membership. Soon, the army grows to an impressive 70,000.

I’m engrossed.

My companion’s face grows serious. She stretches her feet and arms out in front of her. We’re still sitting on the grassy hill as battle after battle, negotiation after negotiation flash before us.

“Not long after, she joins forces with her dad. Together, they beat the macam-yes Sui army into sorry, rotting pulps. Papa claims the throne, declaring himself Emperor Gaozu, first emperor of the Tang Dynasty.”

I pause, and my gaze falls on her penis-tattoo, then the bald newly-crowned princess at the foot of our enchanted hill. A wave of revelation traverse through me.

“You are her, with hair. You are Princess Ping Yang, daughter of General Li Yuan, aka Emperor Gaozu.” I point at her tattoo. “That’s the Tang Dynasty, which you helped forge, because only a badass feminist like you can form an empire shaped like a giant male organ.”

Picture caption: www.badassoftheweek.com

She smiles good-naturedly and folds her legs. “The tale progress,” she says slowly. “As you know, I died 2 years later at 23 years old.”

The scene before us transforms into a throne/ administration room. Emperor Gaozu is sitting on his throne with a determined look etched on his face.

“… But she’s a girl. With a V-jay-jay. How can we allow this??” Says the ugliest guy I’ve ever seen.

“… Does she have Y- chromosomes? Huh? Huh?” I take it back, this one’s uglier.

Wú huáng, wàn suì, wàn suì, wàn wàn suì! Your majesty, we simply CANNOT allow this! Our customs and traditions simply disallows martial music at a woman’s funeral! ” This one looks like the offspring of an Orang Utan and Frankenstein’s monster, except deformed.

I’m watching with dropped jaw. “What’s their problem? You rallied the rebellion troops and helped form the empire! What’s their contribution? Other than comical relief with their faces?”

She sniggers. “The lizard-looking one had the audacity to harass my handmaiden? Pinched her ass. Male chauvinist pig.”

“Jerk,” I agree, leaning over our magic hill for a closer look.

“We value her contributions, and are eternally grateful. However, we cannot discount the fact that she’s a woman!” Lizard man is still talking.

I’m about to launch a chain of choice words when the emperor raises his hand. Silence follows.

“The princess personally beat the battle drums and aided my ascend to power. There WILL be martial music.” He relays with authority.

There may be hope yet.


Photo credit: www.timeout.com

I blinked, and the bar shimmers into sight. Princess Ping Yang is still perched on the bar stool next to me.

She has a shot glass in her clasp. “Cheers, babe,” she says, a twinkle in her eye.

I mirror her move. “Cheers, princess.”

We down the shots simultaneously.

And the bar plunge into darkness, again.


Photo credit: www.gettyimages.com

I snap my eyes open. We are back on the sunny little hill.

I study the view before me. I know a modern Chinese village when I see one.

“It’s the year 2017. Look through that window.” Princess Ping Yang gestures.

I obediently trace her pointer. A family sits around a table for dinner… it IS a family?

“The man is entertaining guest, the elderly couple. Miss his wife?” Her focus shifts and I follow. “She’s in the kitchen. She doesn’t have the ‘right’ to dine with guest at the table.” I’m horrified.

The panorama changes. A similar scene unravels. “Same shit, different home.”

And another. And another. Gosh… another?

Suddenly, we arrive at an unexpected scene. The husband, wife, and three guests are seated at the dining table, chatting and being merry. I’m so surprised I gasp aloud.

“That’s Li Xiaomin. She’s an elementary school teacher. She is this village’s only married woman who eats at the table with guest.” Princess Ping Yang relates. “She also earns 1000 yuan in monthly wage, way higher than the village’s average of 170 yuan. In northern rural China, a woman’s status is directly proportionate to her earnings.”

“The sexism in this village might seem like the exception and not the rule, and while the law may dictate that each child share equal inheritance, misogynist dies hard.”

She tilts her head and gathers her hair behind each ear. “For exactly this reason, girls must be educated, to raise the female status, everywhere. On top of improved status, education brings forth urbanisation, which entails independence and equality.”

“Every revolution begins with a tiny change- our individual role to play.


We are at the bar again.

“So, I should NOT oblige social norms, shut up, and follow my husband to his parents’ home?” I asked confused.

“Not exactly, I suggest you give the situation serious thought, fully informed. There is no handbook for feminism. Instead, we strive for generations of thinking woman. Woman who understand the ultimate goal- female empowerment. We must right the system, but be cautious not to, in the process, lose our soul.

I rest my chin on my palm and pout.

She winks. “I’ll leave you with that for now,” and raises yet another shot glass. “Parting is such sweet sorrow that I say goodnight till it be morrow.”

I clank my glass against hers with a grin. “Goodnight! Goodnight!”

We down.

And darkness envelopes me. Again.


“Baby, you okay?” A deep voice meets my ear.

I wrestle my torso off the bar top. Where Princess Ping Yang was, now sits my husband.

“I’m fine.” My voice is coarse. I eye his expression- slightly concerned, yet brimming with purpose.

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He holds up a 50 cent coin, turns it so I glimpse the Bunga Raya and Wau at alternate intervals. “I have a solution. I’m going to flip this coin. Heads, we spend new year’s eve at your parents. Tails, mine.”

I grip his hand just as he’s about to toss the coin into the air. “And then next year, we alternate.”

He shoots me that smile that turns my insides to agar-agar.

The coin leaps into the air, lands on the bar counter, and spins for a few seconds.

Then it settles- flat and stationary.

We bend over to determine the verdict.

Slowly, our gaze raise and meets. Smiles escape the corner of our lips.

“Amorous congress?” He asked.

“You bet.”

Then we beeline for the toilet.


P.S.: I am thankful that my parents raised my siblings and I strictly equal, regardless of gender. Some close to me will argue that I was raised as a boy, a claim with gravity given that (as far as I remember) the most feminine purchase my father has made for me are sanitary pads. However, many around me do not share that good fortune. I may not change the system, but I hope to do my part, because, at the risk of sounding like a broken record- every revolution begins with a tiny change.


References:

Princess Ping Yang

Rural North China