Visions for humanity in the 21st century and beyond:
Long term, short term and immediate goals
“The future holds ominous portent, and signs of great hope.
Which result ensues depends largely upon what we make of the opportunities.”
– Noam Chomsky
Before we get into any discussion about possible visions for a better future, or any future, we need to make sure that our feet are properly planted firmly on the ground. We should, therefore, quickly re-iterate an overview of just what is going on and where we stand, in this early part of the 21st century. Humanity is in a state of shock, a protracted state of numbed paralysis, induced by on-going unrelenting crises. It is contextualization as well as solidarity – the gaining of clarity as to what is going on, along with a joining together with others in common cause – which overcomes this state of numbness, paralysis, shock and disorientation. We must discuss and reflect upon the state of our world, in order that we may understand it better, and also, that we may more truly and fully live, and not merely drift along in what has become the “profoundly abnormal norm,” as social psychologist Erich Fromm put it, of quiet and unacknowledged desperation. The state of frozen paralysis, numbness and shock is now lifting across humanity, and we need to further that process of awakening, now, before we destroy ourselves and all future for humanity.
In a nutshell, after just over 200 years of what is, in all honesty, a very gestational and early form of democracy, the corporate elite have now fully taken over, after having been dominant for over two centuries, and are running us headlong into a dark age of neo-Dickensian technocratic feudalism, and also off a cliff of ecological self-annihilation. Global polls show the people are very well aware of this fact, and a profound, world-wide crisis of legitimacy grows daily for the ruling global elite, who are terrified of losing their power – and with good reason.
“These are the money-changers. This is as old as history.
Look at the facts and look at the numbers.
The money-changers have taken over. That’s all this is about.
Look for a real hot summer of discontent [in 2012],
raging across Eastern Europe, Europe, and, that’s right,
you guessed it, the United States.”
– World’s leading trend analyst, Gerald Celente
The media pundits and politicians don’t tend to mention these obvious truths, but then, you wouldn’t expect them to, when they are the bought and paid for, hired servants of big business, and big business wants to maintain the charade, the veneer – however thin -the pretence of democracy, because that makes it easier to rule over a hopefully compliant and docile public. But the people know what’s going on, and many intelligent, well-informed writers, activists and commentators, outside the mainstream press, have spoken about the obvious facts.
As Chomsky put it, “tossing around the term conspiracy theory is a way to poo-poo institutional analysis.” The fact is that our economic institutions, political democratic institutions, and also many of our cultural institutions, including, glaringly, the mass media, have been taken over by a silent, creeping corporate coup. And everybody knows it.
What is shocking is that more people don’t discuss it, although many do. Everybody knows it. But few dare to speak it. Many people, I believe, are simply shell-shocked, and behave like deer in the headlights, or rabbits, frozen stiff with a paralysis of fear, choosing the self-numbing option of denial and avoidance of the obvious and unsettling facts; and often engaging in magical thinking, telling themselves that the politicians and business elites, in whom they have lost all confidence, or someone else, will miraculously save us. This self-disempowering, self-deluding, quasi-messianic and regressive mode of thinking is extremely dangerous, as Erich Fromm and others have pointed out. Denial, and the disavowal of our power, our hearts and our common sense, is by now extremely perilous, and in fact deadly. Fortunately, the people are waking up.
Not only have we been conditioned to be docile and deferential towards authority in our behaviour and our actions, but far worse, to defer to authority in our thinking, and to essentially mistrust our own judgement and common sense – even to the point of utter absurdity, of sheer insanity and self-delusion, denying what is right before our eyes. C. Wright Mills, Paulo Friere, Erich Fromm and Noam Chomsky, among others, have talked about this pattern and its great dangers. Such habitual and conditioned deference to authority furthermore leads naturally into a chronic state of denial of the obvious, to a denial of what is before our nose. A chronic, conditioned attitude of self-disempowerment, docile acquiescence to power, and denial of the very serious problems we all know to exist, is the single greatest problem we face, and the single greatest obstacle to creating a decent society, or any viable future for humanity.
But this is changing, the denial is breaking, and the numbed state of paralysis is wearing off. Thankfully, the people are waking from what Eleanor Roosevelt called “a sleeping sickness of the soul.” All around the world, the people are beginning to awaken, as even the intellectual in residence to the global elite, “Zbig” Brzezinski has lamentingly pointed out.
“Everybody knows that the ship is sinking. Everybody knows that the captain lied.
Everybody’s got that sinking feeling, like their brother or their dog just died….
Everybody knows the deal is rotten; old black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton,
for your ribbons and bows, and everybody knows…
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded…
– Leonard Cohen
The emperor has no clothes, and everybody knows it. Democracy has been gutted by a pack of greed-driven corporate cannibals, who hide inside its rotting carcass, pulling sinews like strings on a puppet. No wonder the people tune out, and watch sit-coms or “reality tv” – reality is terrifying. Moreover, they are bored and disgusted by what they see in the arenas of power, and turn their faces away in revulsion at the banality of the evil they witness daily, in that box in the living room that connects them, however indirectly, and however much as mere passive spectators, as they are intended to be, to the fetid corridors of power, or at least their reflections. The many turn their faces away, while the few rob and plunder the earth, and engage in an orgy of unrestrained greed while actively destroying all future for humanity. But this is not the end of the story, much less the end of history. There is more day yet to dawn.
I’ve referenced and quoted Chomsky a number of times, not because I want to worship at his feet, not because he is infallible, which, by the way, emphatically, like everyone else, he is not, but simply because he has a lucidity and an understanding and a courageous honesty with regards to political-economy, that is rare. He put it very plainly: “If you want to understand a society, look at where power lies.” Pretty simple, straight-forward – should be obvious to everybody. And his answer, which any reasonably intelligent twelve year old should know by now: we live in a business-run society – the business elite own the country. And the grand old dissident also quoted John Dewey, who said “government is the shadow cast by business.” And he made the equally obvious remark, that if you want to change the society, you don’t focus all of your efforts on the shadow: you address the real power, which are the economic structures and institutions, and the business elites who control them and who own the country and most of the world.
To do otherwise is to engage in the kind of banal, although necessary, but almost idiotic rear-guard action that has come to pass for activism and progressive politics: a kind of battle-weary reformism that is constantly losing ground, and constantly yielding ground. That kind of “damage control” politics is vitally necessary, but we should recognize the facts and be honest with ourselves: the corporate rulers keep making gains, keep rolling back the gains won by people’s movements over the past few hundred years, keep “leading” – or corralling us – into a dark, neo-Dickensian feudal era, keep hollowing out democracy and crushing human rights, civil liberties, freedom, and the power, solidarity, hope and voices of the people – and we are fighting an advancing forest fire with a garden sprinkler, and running backwards as fast as we can. A more serious set of strategies is needed. Clearly what we are doing is not working! We need reform, we need damage control, and by now it should be painfully, plainly obvious, we need democratic revolution.
Chomsky was simply saying what is by now obvious to just about everyone, as the Occupy movement and the widespread, pervasive public indignation show: that the business elite, the international corporate elite, have high-jacked democracy and now effectively rule the world. Everybody knows this.
Look at the systems analysis that came out of Switzerland recently and was published in many places, including Popular Science, or Popular Mechanics, whichever it was, showing that a handful of about 40 corporations, mainly banks, control the world's economy – a case of science confirming the obvious.
Or look at the simple math, the simple figures: by 1994 the Fortune 500 biggest corporations controlled 60% of the U.S. economy – and concentration of wealth and real power has grown only staggeringly more concentrated since then.
The IMF, World Bank, WEF, WTO, CFR and Trilateral Commission are simply organizations that serve and are controlled by these same corporate elites, and these organizations are what the Financial Times called "the de facto world government." Everybody knows this. It is a question of what we are going to do about it.
I’d like to make clear from the start as to what my views and values are, if that is not clear already. I believe in democracy. I believe that history has shown clearly and abundantly, that if you do not have democracy, you have tyranny of one kind or another. I believe in rule by the people, and in the people having the power to shape their own future – and not just in order to avoid tyranny, but also for the greatest happiness, creative self-empowerment and unfolding of the highest aspirations and potential of human beings.
It is not just a matter of material living conditions, of who gets what or how much: it is, even more importantly, a matter of freedom and empowerment; versus disempowerment, oppression and exploitation. The question of the distribution of power has always been more central, more pivotal, and more fundamental than the question of the distribution of wealth: while the latter is a critical matter of justice, the former is what decides the issue of the latter. We either have substantive, real democracy, or we have, not only tyranny and the absence of freedom, but also systemic injustice, and the oppression and exploitation of the many by the few. This, by now, is becoming very clear to all.
Unless freedom and democracy and real and present, human potential is thwarted and stifled, while tyranny grows and crushes or suppresses the best in us all, and while the people and the earth are pillaged and robbed.
I believe in freedom, and in Constitutionally protected rights and freedoms for all individuals. Tyranny of the majority, or by a ruling elite – either one – lead to the crushing of human rights and well-being for all: that is why constitutions and charters of rights and freedoms were created, and are vitally necessary to any just or decent society, now, or at any time.
I also believe that for democracy to be real, much less for justice and freedom to prevail, power must be held close to the people, and not in the hands of any kind of ruling elite – be it a banking elite, a military elite, a religious elite or a political elite. Over-concentration and over-centralization of power in society undermines authentic democracy, destroys all possibility of rule of the people, by the people, for the people, and opens the door to tyranny and oppression. I we wish for freedom, democracy or justice, then power must be kept close to the people. (Thomas Jefferson was absolutely right on that point, while Thomas Hobbes was simply delusional, if not simply deceitful.)
In the mid- to long-term, personally I believe that some form of libertarian socialism is the best, freest and most just form for human society – where freedom, participatory grassroots democracy, sharing and cooperation are the foundations of our society. But we have time to debate that, so let no one get too agitated or flustered if they presently disagree.
In the short-term, as in right now, I would be happy with any government that seriously addresses the current hostile take-over by big business, that rejects that take-over, and that begins to restore power to the people; and to restore the rule of Constitutional rights and freedoms and of authentic democracy.
In that spirit, for the purposes of restoring democracy and returning power to the people, I would be happy with a left-leaning social democracy, or a more centrist liberal democracy, or even a fiscally conservative libertarian Republican government – so long as the new government is authentically and substantively committed to pushing back and rejecting the corporate take-over of democracy.
This would mean that democratic government sets the limits on the banks and big corporations, controls the currency, and determines the policies of the government in order to serve all of the people, and not just the super-rich elite. It would mean the rejection and overturning of the current practice of allowing the banking elite and other corporations to determine government policy in their interests, and at the expense of both the people and the environment.
To start with, and as a minimum, we need democratic control over the currency, controls on capital flight, serious anti-trust and election financing laws, the cancelling of NAFTA and other so-called “free-trade” agreements which in reality are corporate rights agreements, and strong regulations on the banking and financial industries in particular. Media reform, meaning, strong anti-trust legislation applied vigorously and unhesitatingly to break up the corporate media empires which now control virtually all the news, is also simply necessary and unavoidable, if democracy is to survive. Any democratic government that would support such policies of a genuine populist constitutional democracy, would have my support. You can call that government anything you like, but it would be a major step in returning real power to the people. It would be a step towards ensuring that democracy survives, and that democracy can thrive.
Whether a new and more genuinely democratic government is left-leaning or right-leaning, liberal, conservative, democratic socialist or libertarian, so long as it is genuinely populist, democratic, dedicated to Constitutional rights and freedoms for all, and opposed in action and not just rhetoric to the current high-jacking of government and democracy by the transnational corporate elite, then I would happily support that government. It may be imperfect, but it would be a major step forward for the people, for it would be a step towards the safeguarding and renewal of democracy and the rightful power of the people.
Most essentially, what we must realize now, is that in most countries, communities and regions, it will require a coalition of pro-democracy forces and movements coming from the grassroots populace, in order to defeat the ruling corporatist powers, and to restore and reclaim democracy, and make it real. Sectarianism and partisan politics will guarantee the demise of democracy, the vanquishing of the people, and the consolidation of all power in the hands of the transnational corporate elite. The people must unite, or they will be devoured by a monstrous and insatiable, anti-democratic, anti-ecological and anti-human global regime. Make no mistake. It is unity, or it is defeat.
In short, what I wish to see now, is democratic revolution: a movement of the people to reclaim and restore their democracy, and to take the power back from the corporate and banking elite who have stolen it. Until this happens, nothing good can be accomplished on any significant scale, and the assault on freedom, democracy, civil liberties, the environment and the people, will continue, and will continue also to accelerate. This must be understood now, or we are lost.
The moment is near, if it is not here already: the people are fed up. Now is the time for real change. And to speak of real change, we must analyze the problems we face, and not take forever doing it, and also discuss visions for what kind of world, what kind of society, we would like to create to replace this teetering last empire of extreme corporate malfeasance and delirious, self-deluding overshoot. But in case there is any doubt remaining as to the nature of the current global corporatist order, or any remaining hesitation with regards to vigorously and boldly addressing and overturning that order in favour or a more real and genuine democracy, let us review a few key facts. Denial is sleeping gas; and sleeping gas is now a deadly poison to the people, and to all life on earth. Let us deal with reality, or reality will deal with us. Better we take the initiative – I guarantee you.
In a typical goldmine in Africa, 3% of the wealth produced stays in Africa, and 97% of the wealth is extracted from the country, and goes primarily to the already stratospherically rich Western and international business elite. I relate the example because it is an indicator of the “normal” pattern of the current state-capitalist, or global neo-feudal corporatist order. For every dollar of “aid” that flows into Africa, at least ten dollars of wealth flows out, and is extracted from the country through capital flight and off-shoring of profits and earnings – or to put it in more starkly honest terms, Africa, like the rest of the world, is being systematically raped and pillaged by an insatiable, ravenous and indescribably gluttonous international business elite.
The tax haven island of Jersey alone hides $500 billion in completely secretive private banks accounts and trusts, protecting the rich not only from paying taxes, but from investigation as to where the money came from and how it was gained: and Jersey is just one of a network of off-shore tax havens designed to hide money for the super-rich – money and capital which could be used to build schools, housing, health clinics and hospitals, green energy infrastructure, or other critically and urgently needed projects that would benefit human beings and the biosphere. Instead, it is used to fund extreme self-indulgence and excess for the few, while the majority of humanity is pushed further into poverty, and the biosphere is pushed further and further towards collapse.
The total amount of money and capital sitting in this global network of hidden accounts totals trillions of dollars. The current estimate is that 11.5 trillion dollars in private accounts is hidden in these offshore banks and tax havens. A fraction of this amount would eliminate global poverty and build a green energy and transportation infrastructure for the world, thus solving the worst of our social problems while creating the basis for a sustainable society – a society that will not self-destruct, but which can survive beyond the next few decades, and even thrive.
To gain some concept of what this amount of money and wealth represents, this roughly 11 trillion dollars that is hidden in private offshore accounts around the world, for the benefit of a tiny elite, consider this. Such figures are staggering, and very difficult to comprehend, as they are simply mind-bogglingly vast. To bring these numbers down into a context that we can readily understand, think about this. $1 trillion is 1,000 billion dollars. $1 billion is 1,000 million dollars. 1,000 x 1,000 is 1 million. So $1 trillion is equal to 1 million x $1 million dollars. $100 million is the cost to build a hydrogen highway for California. $100 million is the cost to build an advanced physics research centre in Waterloo, Canada. $50 million is a typical amount for a major, multi-decades, long-term infrastructure and development loan for an economically poor nation in the Global South. If we redistributed some of this wealth to give, not a $50 million loan, but a $1 billion grant, as a partial repayment for the decades and more of looting and pillage, to the poorest 200 nations on earth – which is more nations than there are existing, but just so we can use easily understood round numbers – for social and community needs and infrastructure, and not to line the pockets of the same transnational corporate elite, the cost would amount to 200,000 million dollars, which is $200 billion, which is one fifth of $1 trillion: which is 20% of one trillion, or just 2% of the total estimated holdings of the hidden accounts of the super-rich. We could give $10 billion to every country on earth for social and environmental needs, allocated on a community level so as to avoid corruption or misallocation, a total of $2 trillion devoted to the needs of the people and the environment, and still use only a fifth of this truly vast pool of wealth. To further put this figure in context, consider that just $1 billion, out of this pool of $11.5 trillion, is enough to dig wells for a thousand villages and neighbourhoods, and provide water for everyone on earth who lacks it – roughly a billion people. That is just one-tenthousandth of this ocean of wealth that is now being controlled by the 1% super-rich. And we haven’t even discussed the more than twenty-four trillion dollars that was given to the banks in the form of bailouts – which, of course, the people should demand back, to be put to use for the benefit of the people and the earth, and not simply for the benefit of the banking elite and their cronies.
In total, if justice were done – as it will be, and soon – the people of the earth, just in these two networks of elite concentrations of wealth, would have access to more than thirty-five trillion dollars – far more than is needed to thoroughly transform this world, to eliminate all poverty, and to create the infrastructure for a green and truly sustainable society that can survive and thrive for generations to come.
Surely it is time for justice. This amassing of vast pools, oceans of wealth by a tiny elite, while the majority of humanity is pushed deeper into poverty, the environment is plundered and relatively little money is put into addressing it or resolving the crisis, and while the middle class is disembowelled and decimated – this is beyond intolerable. There are no words for the atrocity of the situation, or for the extreme avarice and brutality of this newest of empires under which we live, which is the global plutocracy of neo-feudal corporate rule.
The problem is not a lack of resources, capital or money – the world is awash in capital, and the super-rich are swimming in money. The problem is the distribution of wealth, and the allocation and access to capital and resources, and even more critically, most critically of all, it is a problem of the distribution of power – the few rule the world while the people are systematically disempowered, and democracy is gutted. We either restore democracy and return power to the people (for the first time), or we forget about any hope for a better future, or any future at all. I don’t know how much more clear this can be.
This is not a question of capitalism or socialism, by the way, and these terms are so pervasively misunderstood that it is probably best to avoid them for the moment. The central question is not left or right, but the vertical distribution of power. (See the Nolan Chart for a more intelligent picture of political dynamics and realities than the traditional, overly simplistic, one-dimensional left-right spectrum.) The question is whether power is held either in a top-down controlled pyramid structure, or whether power is held closer to the grassroots, in the hands of the people.
Again, the central question that we face as human beings today is not a question of left versus right: it is a question of democracy versus oligarchy, plutocracy, or rule by the super-rich. (It is the vertical axis of the Nolan chart which is critical, the axis of power distribution, and not the horizontal axis which deals primarily with wealth distribution – which is important, but has always been derivative of the former, and in essence, is secondary to freedom and basic dignity: the rest can be debated later, once we have secured freedom and democracy and basic, fundamental human rights.)
We don’t have capitalism in any case – we have corporatism, as defined, very accurately, by Mussolini. Remember what Rockefeller himself said: “Competition is a sin.” The elites are first and foremost monopoly men – they want as much control and as little competition or hindrances to their power and their actions and their profits as possible. What they want is rule by cartel – which in political terms is called oligarchy or plutocracy, or corporatism, as defined by Mussolini, which he said is the proper name for fascism: and it is the antithesis of democracy or freedom.
The elite business class or oligarchs who rule the planet don’t want free markets any more than they want democracy – they want control: they want an empire, a global empire, that is ruled by and for themselves. This must be clearly understood. This is not free market capitalism – as utterly dysfunctional, anti-democratic, anti-ecological, anti-human and even economically unstable and self-destructive as that has been proven to be, anywhere it has been attempted, as witnessed for example by the Chile experiment under Pinochet, which devastated both the economy and also the people; or in post-Soviet Russia, where free market capitalism was introduced, and the predictable result ensued, with a few individuals becoming billionaires, the emergence of gangster capitalism and pseudo-democracy, and the plummeting of living standards among the people by 40%, virtually overnight. The ruling corporate elite want massive government subsidies for themselves, which of course must come from taxing the people, so that the super-rich can effectively rob the people more systematically and more severely by the aid of the state. What they are far more concerned with, however, even above money and the continued hyper-accumulation and hyper-concentration of wealth in their hands, is power: they want to be all-powerful, so that they can do anything they want, and no one will be able to stop them.
What we have now, and what the international ruling elit