“Live free or die: death is not the worst of evils.”
— General John Stark, 1809
If you’re a defender of human rights, the news can be a hard thing to read and/or watch. Every day, some powerful piece of crap wearing a suit (or powerful pieces of crap wearing suits) are trying to take someone’s rights away. Great progress has been made in some places and on many human rights issues, while things have either not improved or gotten worse in other places and on other issues. It’s a constant battle, and there’s no end in sight.
At the same time, human rights don’t exist in a vacuum. We also need to make a living, both collectively and individually. It’s easy to squawk on the internet about human rights, but it’s harder to spend a bit more on an item that comes from a more ethical source. It’s even harder for a company to resist the temptation to do business in markets that don’t respect human rights, because if they don’t, their competitors will. It’s even harder to think about physically fighting for human rights, or sending one’s family members off to fight in some war to protect the vulnerable in some faraway land.
Balancing all of these issues leads to many evils remaining in the world. We could solve many of them this year, even, but the cost of actually doing it gets in the way. We keep hoping that the problems somehow get solved without paying heavy prices, and we keep trying to do that, but it doesn’t always happen.
This sort of conflict gets especially troubling when human rights come up against something truly important, like protecting the environment. In many ways, that’s where we are at in parts of the EV market right now. Do we support all automakers’ efforts to build more EVs, even if they’re making a deal with the devil? Or, do we stand up for human rights, even if that means the EV market may be set back?
Exposing Today’s Totalitarian Collaborators
This scenario (human rights vs. supporting EV companies) is not hypothetical. It’s something we’re starting to see more and more, but it’s an easy thing to miss if you’re not following the market closely. I’ve written about this before, but I’m not seeing things get better, so it’s something I’m going to keep covering until it does.
I’m not going to harp on Lucid’s Saudi ownership or raise more questions about battery production, because I’ve done that before, repeatedly, and nothing new is going on right now for those things. I’ll come back to them at the end, though.
The thing I want to highlight today is the collaborators we’re giving a pass to. By collaborators, I’m not talking about people who work together, I’m talking about the people who work with humanity’s enemies just to make a quick buck or avoid the wrath of evil people with power. The term “collaborator” is usually associated with World War II, but it’s very fitting today.
A low-intensity example of this would be Tesla’s recent move of headquarters to Texas. I know many Texans don’t support their legislature’s efforts to curtain human rights in the state. Women, the LGBT community, and any minority person wishing to exercise their rights under Texas’ recently expanded gun laws are a target. When Greg Abbott was asked whether this would hurt the state’s business prospects, he told CNBC, “Elon consistently tells me that he likes the social policies in the state of Texas.”
I wrote a lot more about this here, but I think this is something we need to keep talking about until we get a solid denial of support for Abbott’s anti-freedom policies from Tesla and Elon Musk.
But, as I said, this is small potatoes. What not only Tesla, but most manufacturers are turning a blind eye to in China is becoming a much bigger deal. Texas uses anti-abortion laws to deny women some of their bodily autonomy, but China harvests organs from political prisoners, often while they’re still alive. Others who aren’t so unlucky only get put in concentration camps or get arrested and held for making the wrong internet comments online.
Things like representative government, due process, and other common rights elsewhere haven’t been a thing in China since 1949, which is bad enough, but their government is doing what it can to physically stamp those rights out in places like Hong Kong and Taiwan. In places they can’t hold at gunpoint, they work to undermine democracy through fear and intimidation.
Even in the United States, our own government officials are afraid to even pass non-binding resolutions calling for an end to China’s violent anti-human practices. Once someone receives a letter from the Communist Party saying that they’re a “terrorist” subject to arrest if they step foot on Chinese soil, people lose their bravado.
If none of that fazes you, China’s state-controlled media recently called for a “final solution” on the Taiwan question.
The CPC's warning against secessionism is not just talking the talk, and whether the final solution of Taiwan question will be peaceful or not, the secessionists will be judged, condemned and punished. This is also a promise to all Chinese people: expert https://t.co/cjB6ERsIrQ
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) October 12, 2021
While I know many people writing for Chinese state-run media are likely not using English as a first language, we do know that they’re also not so stupid as to throw around a known Nazi phrase referring to the Holocaust accidentally. Even a quick Google search of the phrase makes it pretty clear what one means when they throw it around:
What have we heard about any of this from companies like GM, Ford, and Tesla who do business in China? Obviously nothing. Their companies would be dead in ten minutes (at least in China, but perhaps worldwide) if any of them spoke out, so I get why they’d feel like they have to stay silent. Sure, it’s one thing to speak up about Texas, because there are limits on government power and Greg Abbott can’t destroy you, but in a state where nobody has rights, it’s another thing entirely.
But, even if they don’t want to speak out, would it not be prudent to at least stop expanding in China when they’re fooling around with playing the Nazi’s part in World War III? Apparently none of these faceless corporations think so. It’s all about making money, no matter how many blind eyes must be cast to do it.
If We’re Going To Save Humanity, We Can’t Lose It In The Process
Building EVs is important to saving the planet and humanity. That much is true.
What isn’t true is that we must give up our humanity to accomplish that. We can’t let bloody authoritarian regimes set up toll booths on the highway to zero emissions, or we’ll end up with a cleaner world that has far less freedom in it. The more strength we give these evil people, the more we’ll regret it later when we have no choice but to physically stop them.
If we give up humanity in the effort to save humanity, then in the end nothing was saved. Humanity is more than just the existence of our species, but our instinctual knowledge of basic right and wrong, compassion, and a desire for freedom.
If calling these companies “collaborators” sounds extreme, so be it. I’d rather be despised by the despicable than admired by the admirable. I’d gladly hang any letter from the CCP calling me a terrorist on my wall. I’ll even provide the address to mail it to upon request. Why? Because I not only stand for a future where homo sapiens survives as a species, but one where we don’t do so as cattle for the wealthy and politically connected to abuse and trade as property to be used and eaten.
Featured image: A screenshot of the beginning of the Magna Carta, one of the first historical documents protecting human rights, that led to more comprehensive and universal respect for those rights today. (Public Domain)