Opinion

Yaka pries open the hampers

Summary

Hampers belong to a larger system of graft that corporations excel at. A conspiracy so commonplace worldwide, it escapes Transparency International’s see-through gaze. They prefer ‘state corruption’.

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We are a prize-giving nation. Unfurl any newspaper, click on the TV, you see people bending over and under.  One giving, another receiving: Prizes. Prizes Galore!

CEOs, Bankers, Ambassadors, and others are every day celebrated by a foxed media. Always handing out and receiving awards.

The origin of the English noun ‘prize’ is from piracy, referring to booty stolen by pirates. Hence, the verb ‘to prize’– to forcibly open. 

Multinational banks, corporations and their governments are constantly pirating, forcibly opening public treasuries?

The Grease

 The word ‘hamper’ is indeed overdosed with irony. Hamper’s meanings range from baskets used for ‘dirty laundry’ to ‘hindering progress.’  Hampers will this week be piled high at ‘leading’ supermarkets in Colombo. These envy-inducing hampers made of ventilating wicker carry the names and imports of large corporations in the country. 

Hampers are  delivered by corporate salesmen to government officials, from the ports at sea level to estates at cloud level. They grease doctors, officers and ‘gentlemen’ to secure contracts, avoid taxes. All to prevent a flourishing industrial impulse by ensuring ‘imports’ monopolize retail space.

Hampers are usually publicly distributed to functionaries in full view of subordinates. They instil a culture of what lies in store for them at Christmases to come. They “stimulate the sight, taste and smells’ of officials’ spouses and children. 

Judging from the advertised categories, hampers bribe about 15 layers of officials in Sri Lanka. They range from ‘VIPs’ whose hampers, fully imported, include ‘Olives 375 gm,’ to those not-so-important who get ‘Peanuts 50g’ plus.

The hamper, a percentage of the loot slipping in as ‘luxury’ imports, are written off by tax magicians as ‘goodwill.’ Hampers belong to a larger system of graft that corporations excel at. A conspiracy so commonplace worldwide, it escapes Transparency International’s see-through gaze. They prefer ‘state corruption’.

A System of Perks

Hampers are ye good olde English tradition. The French say hamper is from ‘hanapier’ – cases for goblets, taken to England by the Normans. The late 18thC Romantic Movement promoted the English countryside, and hampers for picnics. Hampers were sent secretly to privileged army officers during 19thC English wars. 

Wealthy English families gave baskets to servants for Christmas in Victorian times, from their plunder of Lanka and India. Hampers joined the system of perks to maintain class loyalty or contain disloyalty, on the battlefield and among factory overseers. One English company still sends hampers “from the slopes of Everest to the Epsom Derby and the battlefields of Iraq to the grassy lawns of Glyndebourne.” 

In the US, hampers are called ‘care packages.’ In 1945, CARE (then, Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe) sent US Army CARE packages to manage starvation after World War II. To prevent emergency aid costing US taxpayers, Japan’s economy was refashioned as an industrial bulwark against a rising Asia. West Germany was marshalled against communism in Eastern Europe.

Wielding Alms

Hampers are also traced to the dhana aka almsgiving offered by ordinary people to Buddhist priests, most of whom do not depend on corporate fraud. The 19thC Anglo-Indian compendium Hobson Jobson claims the Sanskrit Bhikshu became the ‘beggar’ of English: ‘Bhikshu’ traveled Asia first a priest, literateur, scribe, surgeon and teacher, returning as a high offical, Bakshi, under the Moghul (Mongolian) emperors of India. 

Bakshi then became baksheesh – a bribe! – with the English Army Paymaster in India called the Buxee. Later, a proverbial ‘box’ of gifts, and the ‘buck’ of the US dollar, with the ‘Borah’ merchant, “sellers of all small wares” European in Bombay, called Boxwallahs!

Calling a Bhikkhu an English ‘beggar’ shows how ideologies “change when they no longer accord with the economic demands of the age.”

Sri Lankan economist SBD de Silva, wrote in The Political Economy of Underdevelopment about mendicants in Europe:  “The ‘magnificent impulse of Christian charity’ which the Church had inspired in the Middle Ages came to an end.  The mendicant lost the halo of sanctity, and began to be chastised for idleness.” 

Thousands of English vagrants were hanged by their Henrys and Elizabeths, who pushed people off the land to generate landless workers!  ‘”The classical economists’ dislike of unproductive output, including Ricardo’s impatience with the extravagance of the Catholic Church and Adam Smith’s abhorrence of standing armies and large bureaucracies,” says de Silva, “developed during a crucial period in capitalism’s growth.”

Corporation accountants won’t brand their image as ‘unproductive’ charity? They are green, socially responsible, fair-trade loving humanitarians, dispensing prizes, gifts and hampers. But theirs is not charity at all. 

The main employers of poets and artists is the advertising industry, whose whitewashing billions are stolen as tax breaks, off the sweat of workers in the fields, factories and warehouses.

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 Indeed the greatest charity known to the human race so far are the recent bailouts given to banks and businesses by government to save the capitalist system.

Banks pay billions for ‘public relations’ to whitewash their underwear. Our ruling Anglomaniacal merchants led by Unilever insist on this ‘new, washes white’ culture. Their ‘sponsorship’ industry brands everyday life, not just the arts and sports.

A circumpolar Arctic Inuit hunter demurs, “Up in our country we’re human!  And since we’re human we help each other. We don’t like to hear anybody say thanks for that. What I get today you may get tomorrow. Up here we say that by gifts one makes slaves and by whips one makes dogs.”

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