Friday, February 08, 2008

Leland Stanford, Criminal

Stanford University is the Harvard of the West Coast - I didn't know it was supposed to be anything special until I lived out West. I'd heard some good quotes from Leland Stanford - stuff about everyone deserving an edumacation and all that, but I always felt that there was more to the story.

I try to tell my buddy, who is obsessed with making money, that all rich people are criminals. He doesn't believe me. I tell him about Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch - all of them - criminals to the core - vile people - the only thing separating them is how monstrous each is with respect to the other. He doesn't buy it. Too much hero-worship built-in over the years of his education indoctrination. That's OK - there's still time.

Today I read an article (can't find ref, sorry!) that mentioned a phrase I hadn't thought of recently:

Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.


(Origin of the phrase, here.)

And then I saw this book review of The Associates. Indeed, Leland Stanford was a criminal - a robber baron. This is no ordinary type of criminal, but a person whose crimes are so massive, so dreadful and devious, that they can hardly be comprehended.

When Leland Stanford's only son died and, on his death bed, implored his father to stop being evil, Leland Stanford went on a tear and 'found God' - that is, he became a socialist, started pimping for worker-owned co-operatives (like the Black Star Co-op).

Many folks seem to be able to look past the hideous things these rich criminals had to do to get all that money. That these criminals decide to find God later in life and start handing out all sorts of their illegally-earned loot to found hospitals and universities is nothing more than an exercise in vanity for them. They're hoping people like me won't insist on the truth. Not even Bill Gates expected Wikipedia and the global justice movement. It's not as easy to hide the truth anymore. We have the interwebs. We have the Way Back Machine. We have Stephen Colbert. Huh?

Even the subtitle of the book reminds me of the one-sidedness of history: How Four Capitalists Created California.

Right - it wasn't tens of thousands of imported Irish and Chinese workers who did the back-breaking work on the railroad lines - it was four fat, rich, white dudes.

Makes me think there really would be a place for an Anarchist or Lefty wikipedia - something that told the real story of the struggle of power vs. oppressed people. Wikipedia does a good bit, but it's very difficult to find out how truly awful some people really were - how coercion really works for people like Bill Gates and Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. For instance, the Leland Stanford wiki entry does not really talk in detail about Stanford's crimes. It'd be nice to see a listing of some of the actual pen strokes he made that condemned people to miserable work conditions, agony, death.

And, if Bill Gates is a criminal, then what of Larry and Sergey, of Google fame? I'd love this challenge. Start here. Or, try this. Who knows how many people have already been jailed/tortured/murdered due to Google's policies? Who knows how many people Google has sold out to the U.S. feds? Who knows to what lengths Google, a corporation, an immortal person, will go to turn a profit? Who knows at what point Larry and Sergey will stop - if ever - in their quest to attain more riches? The danger of Google as God should concern us all. It's one reason I've thought that it might be a good idea for us all to invest in Google so we can turn it into a non-profit, worker-owned cooperative - just like Leland Stanford would have wanted.

...correction: after Leland Stanford's son died, Leland had a dream, and it was in the dream that his boy uttered, "Father, serve humanity."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Behind every great fortuneis a great crime" is a chapter heading in "The Godfather". Medieval robber barons could buy heaven with indulgences, up until Martin Luther.