We, the common populace, are all too aware that corruption and exploitation happen behind the scenes of our society. Unfortunately, the vast majority of it is so obscure, hidden, and lacking in the detail we so want for, that it is difficult to ascertain just how much the machines of domination utilise their rotten means for a far darker self-empowerment. In a cruel irony, it is we—the masses of individuals of, at best, modest means—who have our lives scrutinised to the point of coercing us into observing etiquettes that those who apply that same scrutiny do not at all follow. One rule for us; another for that small minority—as it always has been since the dawn of 'civilisation.'
Every once in a very rare while, however, the figurative curtain is drawn aside for us, and we see some of the show for what it is—plain as day—no longer a concealed act so far removed from its audience. Groundbreaking revelations have come along as such, two examples of which were known as the Panama Papers, and then subsequently, the Paradise Papers. Now enters the newest addition to the roster, the Pandora Papers. The identities of whomever instigated this most recent leak are a mystery. Going by past treatments of whistleblowers, they will hopefully forever remain anonymous to the world. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a global independent non-profit journalist network, received the leak after a coordinated effort to amass information over the course of almost a year. The ICIJ then in turn gave access to the data to various major media outlets around the world. Said data comprises 11.9 million files, forming a collective of 2.94 terabytes that dates all the way back to the 1970s. This means it is larger than both the Panama and Paradise Papers combined, and the largest leak of offshore information in history.
In the course of its efforts, the ICIJ had to go to great lengths to ensure its investigations—and their findings—remained secure and secret. One aspect of this endeavour was some of those involved having to meet personally with sources to receive physical copies of the data passed over through storage devices, rather than relying on electronic means to send the information from one place to another. One cannot help but be impressed by the ICIJ’s ability to complete its task of properly presenting its findings: almost 12 million documents—often in hard-to-analyse states and file types—along with many of them being seemingly unrelated to any of the other documents. This was an ocean of data that would be difficult to sift through to find the meat of the evidence. To face up to this task, the ICIJ created its own software that would allow it an easier time to go through the files, as other widely-used programs, such as Excel, would not serve its needs in this manner. In a true indication that their investigation was creating anxiety for the guilty, there were at least two attempts to break into the servers that they used to store their gathered information. These hacks started as soon as the ICIJ had begun to approach politicians and businesspeople who were indicted by the findings for comment. It is further proof that neither law nor moral obligation will stop the global so-called ‘elites’ from their continued attempts at social control.
Within the leak, there is a mother lode of content detailing the actions of many companies around the world that were hired by their affluent clientele to establish financial trusts in tax havens—some of them already long much-in-use—such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands. Amongst the cacophony of names revealed are 35 world leaders, both current and former, and over 300 more other public officials. Unsurprisingly, more than 100 billionaires also feature, together with more cultural figures, such as celebrities and musicians. In these tax havens, which see very little to nothing in the way of tax collection and regulation, private assets are held by shell companies, in order to hide them from the oversight of the government of the country the owner actually chooses to reside in. Naturally, with the rich having an abundance of money to splash as they fancy, the assets take the form of a wide variety of things, including property, yachts, aircraft, investments, and even art (in this instance, ranging from Picasso to Banksy). The companies that set up these illusions for their clients are not adverse to collaboration: the more they work together, the more expensive it is for the client. However, the assets then become evermore concealed, in a web that stretches across the world.
Perhaps one of the more satisfying, yet by no means positive, aspects of a leak such as this is not just the exposition of the immoral dealings of the people named within it, but also of their absolute hypocrisy in their being involved with these acts. There have been a number of political leaders who have, in the past, declared their utter distaste towards—and presumed devotion to eradicating—the shadowy practices of capital. Now, through these revelatory outbreaks of data, they have been shown to engage in those very same shadowy practices themselves. These include Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelinskiy, who made tackling the country's corrupt oligarch-dominated economy central to the campaign that got him elected in 2019. Zelinskiy has been shown to be benefitting from said corruption in the files. The president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, also took on the persona of one opposed to economic corruption, and has—again—been revealed to partake in that which he vowed to fight against. While not being shown to be involved this time—because, let's be honest, it is far from beyond the realms of possibility—Joe Biden has previously declared it a mission of his administration to bring transparency to global finances. The irony here is that the Pandora Papers revealed that, over the past decade, the US has become a major tax haven itself, with over a dozen states moulding themselves into leading shelters for the excess of some very questionable sectors of capital—particularly South Dakota, Florida, Delaware, Texas and Nevada. All this has happened whilst legislation from around the world has focused on the more well-known havens: the usual suspects. One of these, the British Virgin Islands, has been indicated as the most popular location for these overseas hidden stores of wealth, with over two-thirds of the companies in the world set up in the territory, long-established as a haven. Typically, the Conservative Party of the UK has also been shown to be receiving funds from donors that are implicated in the data. It is almost as if these donors believe them to be the ones who will uphold such a status quo that allows these goings-on to happen. When Conservative MPs were questioned about the more-than-questionable donations being received, their reaction—or, lack thereof—would appear to confirm the faith these donors have in them hiding such practices.
To look at just these numbers is almost an exasperating act as, although there has been quite the ample group revealed, we know it is a mere drop in the seething ocean of capital that is completely beyond our sight and grasp. As there is an almost non-existence of large left-wing media, the few publications and outlets with a great following that will report on this leak are those that are politically right wing—the closest to our perspective only being, at the very least, liberal. The rich engaged in the practices indicated in these leaks will be made out to be only part of a minority. A minority in what is, in the eyes of said outlets, still a fair system that merely needs some reform. The reality is that what has been shown is just the microcosm in the macrocosm. They will not decry what is clearly the problem—capitalism as a whole—and instead either remain silent on this point, or put forward the typical view that it is only so-called 'unbridled' capitalism that allows this.
In our times of ever-growing authoritarianism and the hoarding of wealth by those already unfathomably wealthy, the Pandora Papers serve as a powerful reminder to the people of this world that this tiny minority of individuals—sad that we must count these most inhumane amongst our own species—were never on our side. They think of no one but themselves as the ones they would choose to dedicate their lives to aiding. The shroud that we are subjected to as everyday civilians remains intact, with events like these only temporarily breaking it. Indeed, one can be glad for and relish the revelations we have witnessed now and in the past, but they sadly fall upon almost powerless eyes and ears. That is, powerlessness in this system of supposed ‘liberal democracy’—and the very little and, ultimately, ineffective ways in which it allows us to address our problems as individuals and as a society, within its imposed laws. We have seen in the past how these instances only tell us what we basically already knew—and further cement, in most of our minds, the idea that it is almost beyond us to do anything about it. These leaks show that these havens do not—as most envision it—only exist on some islands, tucked away in corners of the world that very few of us visit or really even think about.
This corruption is, instead, rife across the globe, in large part hosted by the largest affluent ‘democracies’—ones which many of us call home. If things go the same way they did after the previous leaks, then we will only see a little reform, without results. Government officials will be removed from positions, business people will face legal action, and new laws will be put in place to convince the people that the State actually cares about corruption. But, the rich will only adapt to these laws, and find new ways around them, as has been shown by this new leak, years after the previous ones. The action taken will only be a fraction, a pittance, of what should truly be done.
With these revelations, there should be no clearer indication to the people that there is a strong marriage between the State, capital, and both their running dogs: our politicians. It is a union that only seeks to dominate, to give rules to us that they will not ascribe to. However, we must never allow this to dishearten us and steer us away from our cause. While these people will bend and break the law to retain and add to their wealth, we in turn will continue our efforts to bend, and eventually break, their grip on wealth and return it to those that created it in the first place. If the working class cries out to those in power for help, that help will not come. We should abandon the politics of politicians, and let their neglect stoke the fires of our desire to take power back from them, and change things ourselves.
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