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Human Insecurity in the Twenty-First Century


HUMAN INSECURITY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST

CENTURY

EDDIE J. GIRDNER

 

*

ABSTRACT

The spread of neoliberalism around the globe in the last quarter

century has greatly increased human insecurity. The United States became a

provider not of global security but rather insecurity. The destruction of the

environment under the established regime is often seen to be the major source

of human insecurity. At a deeper level, however, it is clear that the underlying

malady is neoliberal capitalism, the logic of which precludes addressing the

demise of the global ecosystem, poverty and hegemonic wars. Mainstream

academics have characteristically saluted the neoliberal agenda and

proceeded to reinforce and propagate the ideology underlying the deceptive

mantra that there is no alternative. Human security is sorely lacking in a

world where people are being vaporized by increasingly horrible forms of

bombs, where about half of the population make less than two US dollars a

day, where urban slum colonies proliferate, and where war budgets eat up

ever larger portions of national state budgets.

KEYWORDS

Environment, Financial Terrorism, Global Poverty, Human Security,

Neoliberalism, United States, War

*

 

Eddie J. Girdner, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Political Science

and International Relations, Ba

 

skent University, Ankara, Turkey.

THE TURKISH YEARBOOK 2 [VOL. XXXIX

The socialist dream was the faith that human kind would have

the wisdom not to destroy itself through capitalist greed. So far, we

cannot say that there is very much evidence that this is the case. What

we have seen in the last three decades is the unleashing of that greed

through the forcing upon the world of a system of so-called

neoliberalism. Some aspects are new but it is not liberal. Under this

regime, no effort has been spared to crush the utopian dreams, to

make sure that this faith has been discarded beyond repair never to

rise again from the ashes of its demise. The only consolation is that

the global powers pushing this new vision of global totalitarian rule

are themselves reaching their demise as history passes their

collapsing empires by. Most notably, the United States, whose power

grab on an unprecedented scale, has blown up in its face and

strengthened rival powers.

 

1 In late 2008, rather than provide security

to the international community, the excesses of greed on Wall Street

brought down the global financial system. After preaching to the

entire world about the need to nationalize their banks, the

Government of the United States of America was seen scrambling to

nationalize its own banks. The lesson should be obvious to

policymakers around the world.

The post World War II myth was that the US would be the

provider of global security. In fact, what history has shown is that

global empires cannot provide security even to themselves. A

superpower on the decline may become a provider of global

insecurity as its historical global declining.

Human Security and the Environment

Human security, or the security of the people, is sometimes

seen to be focused upon the environment, particularly the effects

associated with global warming from greenhouse gas emissions such

as nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, and methane. The polar ice caps

are melting faster than anyone previously imagined. Storms such as

catastrophic hurricanes are more frequent and many types of unusual

weather patterns are occurring. Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient

Truth” has brought these phenomena to the attention of the world.

1

 

Eddie J. Girdner, USA and the New Middle East, New Delhi, Gyan

Publishers, 2008.

2008] HUMAN INSECURITY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY 3

No doubt these effects constitute serious threats to human

security, but of course more often to the very poor around the world

than to others. They are seriously important, but this paper will not

focus upon the environment. This is because it is a problem that in

my view is not going to be solved, although there will be a good deal

of tinkering over the problem.

This approach is quite pessimistic, but in my view, the problem

simply cannot be addressed under the present system of neoliberal

capitalism. This is because preserving and protecting the environment

contradicts the fundamental logic of profits and significant economic

growth.

 

2 Just to stabilize global warming, emissions would have to be

cut by some 50 percent. This is simply not going to happen under the

present global economic system. Even the most efficient countries

will not do this, much less the greenhouse gas champion of the world,

the USA. Nor will China and India significantly cut greenhouse gas

emissions, as they need a high rate of economic growth and have

massive populations. Corporate profits will always win out as long as

the present system of global economy based upon profits and

capitalist accumulation is in place.

Nor will citizen action make very much difference. Big

corporations will act quickly to neutralize efforts by more

environmentally aware citizens. Green-washing ads now paint oil

corporations, such as Shell and Exxon, as pioneers in environmental

preservation. The public relations industry has proven to be highly

effective in spreading corporate lies and business propaganda. Big

corporations cannot kill the environmental movement, but they can

partially co-opt it, using it to conceal some of their sins. When they

really meet serious challenges, they sue in courts. They move into

every niche to pollute more and increase their profits. Governments,

for the most part, act in complicity with big corporations,

encouraging them to move away from highly polluted areas and into

clean areas, so as to pollute even more. In the same way, polluting

corporations exploit ignorance and lack of environmental awareness.

When McDonalds is stopped from using ozone- damaging Styrofoam

2

 

Eddie J. Girdner and Jack Smith, Killing Me Softly: Toxic Waste; Corporate

Profit and the Struggle for Environmental Justice

 

 

, New York, Monthly

Review Press, 2002.

THE TURKISH YEARBOOK 4 [VOL. XXXIX

containers in the US by environmentalists, the company rushes the

same polluting materials to third world countries to continue to

degrade the environment the same way there. In other words, these

corporations know they are killing the earth, but they proceed to

bulldoze their way forward to kill it ever quicker to sustain their

profits. They may post some pictures of green trees as a further insult

to people’s intelligence, as British Petroleum (BP) has painted its

petrol stations with yellow and green and painted flowers upon its

walls. But without some alternative economic system which is not

based upon the logic of capitalism, we can “kiss the environment

good bye.”

Rather, this paper will focus upon a somewhat different

contradiction. The deeper malady is neoliberalism. At the same time,

there is a contradiction between “national security” and “human

security.” This is seen in war and imperialism.

Today, to focus upon “human security” is seen as something

new, but I do not really believe that this is true. In the past many

writers have focused upon this issue but have simply been ignored.

The concerns of the lesser people generally have been pushed aside

throughout history. History seldom records how many innocent

people die in the fray. This is so, it seems, because history,

international relations, international politics, and so on, have

generally been viewed from the ruling class point of view.

The Pressure to Avoid the Truth in Academia

Academics and thinkers who focus upon the truth, rather than

serving the ideological needs of the ruling class, are generally

dismissed out of hand. They will generally not be able to easily

publish, at least not in prestigious journals and presses, which they

need in order to advance their careers. Those academics who do serve

the ruling class interests and ideology and are quite quickly proven to

be wrong, usually do not suffer any negative consequences. On the

other hand, those academics who were correct all along, but unable to

publish in prominent places, will get little or no credit for being

correct.

2008] HUMAN INSECURITY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY 5

A clear example comes to mind. Francis Fukuyama became one

of the world’s most famous scholars by pushing false and foolish

views about neoliberalism in the l990s. The new “liberal” was to be

in style from now on. “The End of History and the Last Man” had to

be mentioned by everyone as a work of great erudition. A decade

later, even the United States of America was seen to nationalizing its

major banks and the era of neoliberalism had devastated countries

and people around the world. Neoliberalism was failing in even being

able to sustain itself as a viable global economic system. It is a major

disaster economically, socially, and environmentally. It is a system

which cannot long work and is being challenged increasingly.

 

3 Yet,

academics like Fukuyama maintain their elite status at prestigious

universities, while those who were honest and correct in their

criticism never gain recognition. Actually, it was the Marxists who

mainly criticized Fukuyama and they have been proven correct. Yet

who has asked Professor Fukuyama to account for his predictions

which have turned out to be so erroneous. It is not seen to matter as

his ideas were put forward in good faith in his duty of shoring up the

capitalist ideology of the ruling class.

The Monthly Review school in New York very accurately

chronicled the condition of the American economy and the likely

consequences of the build-up of massive household debt in its

publications. Yet, the academic establishment, as a part of the ruling

class, often avoids acknowledging the truth about the economic

system. Economists often cling to an ideology of the free market,

when it has little to do with facts in the real world. Because of this,

universities and academics frequently neglect their duty and public

trust to make the public aware of the truth, even when it contradicts

ideology. Chalmers Johnson is one of the many exceptions to this

trend in his recent probing of the American Empire.

 

4 Noam Chomsky,

known around the world, but not very well in America is another

example. Joseph Stiglitz in his criticism of IMF programs and the

disaster of the inordinate costs of the American-led wars in

Afghanistan and Iraq is another example of honest scholarship,

3

 

Eddie J. Girdner and Kalim Siddiqui, “Neoliberal Globalization, Poverty

Creation and Environmental Degradation in Developing Countries”,

International Journal of Environment and Development

 

 

, Vol. 5 (1), 2008,

pp. 1-27.

4

 

See his trilogy on the American Empire.

THE TURKISH YEARBOOK 6 [VOL. XXXIX

reported in such a way that non-academics can understand what is

really going on.

When academics in the social sciences, who have the

responsibility to study society and be honest about the degradation

brought about by actually existing neoliberal capitalism, jump on the

ideological bandwagon and advance their careers by advancing the

ruling class ideology, they become guilty of contributing to human

insecurity. When they promote privatization of social security,

pension schemes, medical benefits, under the argument that all will

be better off, then they have the responsibility to show whether it is

actually empirically true. Millions of individuals under neoliberal

privatization schemes saw their pension plans robbed of value by

greedy capitalists across the world in late 2008. When academics taut

the market, as the salvation for society, they greatly increase global

human insecurity. The people are told to trust the market. Yet when

the market fails, Wall Street, stock traders, politicians, bankers, and

all the so-called free marketers rush to be saved by the state.

Academics have an ethical responsibility to tell the truth in the

textbooks. Yet the real function of universities is to reproduce the

ruling class and the ruling ideology. Students are not to learn that the

only way that capitalism can be kept afloat is by being rescued

periodically by the state. They are not to understand that the people

are being robbed over and over. They are robbed when the system

collapses and they lose what little wealth they have built up. They are

robbed a second time when they pay taxes to bail out the bankers

whose greed collapses the enterprises. How long will such a system

be considered to be “just?”

War and Human Insecurity

War has been about what happens to the state, not about what

happens to the people. Who cares about the people? For Robert Fisk,

war is really about what happens to the people, that is, the tragedy of

all wars. “War is primarily not about victory of defeat but about death

and the infliction of death. It represents the total failure of the human

2008] HUMAN INSECURITY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY 7

spirit.”

 

5 “We created a desert and called it peace.” This from a Celtic

Chieftain about the Romans illustrates the aftermath of war from past

history. The people have always been caught up in armies creating

deserts.

What kind of human security is it when one’s city gets

vaporized with an atomic weapon as with Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

What kind of human security is it when one’s country is drenched

with chemical weapons? One gets fried alive if that chemical is

napalm, which the US used in Korea and Vietnam and again illegally

and secretly in Iraq. What kind of human security is it when mass

graves are created by killing civilians who are suspected of having

communist sympathies, such as is now coming to light in South

Korea? What kind of human security is it when the US sponsored

death squads in El Salvador killed peasants who wanted freedom

from exploitation from landlords and dumped their bodies in ravines?

What kind of human security is it when villagers are bombed and

killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan under the name of a “war on

terror.” The dead are cynically referred to as “collateral damage”

while foreign forces in their countries claim to be providing

“security.”

The greatest inventor and the greatest user of weapons of mass

destruction (WMD) in history is a long way from being the late

Saddam Hussein. In fact, WMD represents prestige, power and

national strength in realist state logic. It is highly honorable to be a

warrior and to kill, as noted by Thurstein Veblen.

 

6 The napalm or

jellied petroleum which the US used massively in Korea and Vietnam

burns off people’s skin. And the US sprayed Vietnam with Agent

Orange, a form of toxic dioxin which is still killing people. The US

used napalm, burning people alive in Fallujah in Iraq, secretly and

against international law. The Balkans and Iraq are now massively

polluted with depleted uranium, which is far from being depleted.

Depletion takes some 4.5 billion years. People will be suffering in

both regions for a long time to come. Yet all of these wars were seen

to come under the category of providing global security.

5

 

Robert Fisk, The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle

East

 

 

, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006, p. xviii.

6

 

Thurstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, New York, Dover

Publication, 1994.

THE TURKISH YEARBOOK 8 [VOL. XXXIX

Notably, I.F. Stone wrote about the US carpet bombing of

villages in Korea with napalm during the Korean War.

 

7 He argued

that there was no compelling military reason for using napalm to

destroy people and kill innocent civilians. Many villages were said to

be “enemy occupied” and given “saturation treatment” when it was

thought that there were a few North Koreans in the villages. This is

really little different from the Vietnam War and the US occupation of

Iraq today. It is seen in the destructive Israeli bombing of residential

areas of Lebanon in 2006 and the killing by the Israel Defense Forces

of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

In the case of Korea, there was “a complete indifference to

non-comb

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