The COMMUNITY SPEAKS – A Hillsboro Herald Feature Column
GUEST COLUMNIST And LOcal Resident – Chris Christensen
In 1892, the emergence of a new “third” political party known as the Populists took America by storm with a grassroots call for equality and justice. The Populist Party platform, among many other proposed reforms, warned Americans that there would be dire consequences of a country mesmerized into worshiping at the “Altar of Mammon.”
Fast forward to the present day, and it’s becoming increasingly evident that the Populist portent – and the corresponding unchecked greed and avarice that underpin this dangerous omen, is leading America – and Oregon – down a precipitous path.
As the proposed multi-billion-dollar Hillsboro expansion plans of corporate behemoth Intel come to light, it’s apparent that the pursuit of corporate economic profits in our own backyard may, indeed, “propose to sacrifice our very homes, lives, and children on the altar of mammon”, therein endangering the very existence of primarily rural, agricultural Washington County.
In the New Testament, in Matthew, 19:24, Jesus’ reminder to us that it is “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” reveals a profound and fundamental belief about the destructive nature of greed. This warning, rooted in all faith teachings, reminds us that overly excessive wealth and the limitless pursuit of material gain often lead individuals – and corporations – astray from ethical considerations and social responsibility.
Intel’s expansion in Oregon, which, admittedly, is a technological feat, perfectly exemplifies the pitfalls of unchecked corporate power. As one of the largest semiconductor manufacturers in the world, Intel’s growth has indisputably brought immense economic benefits to Hillsboro and the region. However, this expansion has not been without its costs. Reports have surfaced of environmental and climate concerns, including increased water and energy consumption and air pollution, that have been largely overlooked by Oregon legislators in the blind pursuit of economic profit.
By prioritizing the financial gains of influential corporations such as Intel over environmental sustainability and the well-being of local communities in Washington County, these collective actions reflect a dangerous trend of placing Mammon’s altar above the greater good of our State and its residents.
The roots of this unchecked corporate greed can be traced back to the heart of our society, where the pursuit of wealth has been steadfastly glorified and normalized. The media often celebrates the ostentatious lifestyles of the super-rich, perpetuating the illusion that material possessions equate to happiness and success.
As a result, the pursuit of financial gain is often prioritized above compassion, community, and ethical considerations, leading us further away from a harmonious and equitable society. It is up to our leaders in state and local government and the people of Oregon to hold the line on overdevelopment in areas such as rural Washington County.
The prophetic warning from the Populist Party platform in 1892 is a stark modern-day reminder of the dangers of worshiping Mammon’s altar. The health and well-being of Washington County and Oregon depend on a collective commitment to tempering our desires for profit with a strong sense of social responsibility; It’s not a call to abolish capitalism but rather, a plea to thoughtfully infuse it with ethical considerations, prioritizing the welfare of individuals, communities, and the environment over the unchecked accumulation of corporate and government wealth.
To address these issues, a multi-faceted approach is essential. First and foremost, there is a need for greater transparency and accountability within corporate entities. Regulations should be put in place to ensure that corporations prioritize sustainable practices, ethical decision-making, and their societal impact alongside profits. Executive compensation should be tied to performance metrics that encompass not only financial success but also social and environmental responsibility.
Additionally, education and cultural shifts are necessary to redefine success beyond the accumulation of wealth. By celebrating philanthropy, community engagement, and sustainable practices, we can foster a culture that values social responsibility as much as profit. Media outlets play a pivotal role in shaping public perceptions; they must emphasize stories that highlight compassionate and responsible business practices, inspiring a new generation of leaders who will prioritize the greater good.
In conclusion, the warnings of the Populist Party from over a century ago are just as relevant in society today. Worshipping the Altar of Mammon, fueled by unchecked political & corporate greed and avarice, poses an unprecedented and significant threat to the well-being and future of the region.
The proposed expansion of multinational corporate giant Intel in Oregon should serve as another grim reminder to Oregonians of the dire consequences that may result from prioritizing corporate profit over environmental ethics and social responsibility.
Hillsboro, it’s time to re-examine our values, look back to the roots of this region as a thriving agrarian community with rich, fertile soil, realign our priorities, protect our valuable Greenfields from unchecked or irresponsible overdevelopment, and work collectively towards a society that shuns the worship of Mammon, and instead embraces a more compassionate, equitable, and sustainable future for all Oregonians.
Pictured: Intel’s manufacturing facilities in Hillsboro, Oregon, are reportedly about to undergo a significant expansion in operations thanks to quid pro quo political policies such as a $90 million dollar handout from Oregon taxpayers, as well as the federal Chips and Science Act passed in 2022, which allocated more than $280 billion of taxpayer dollars for new funding in domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors in the United States.