Friday, July 10, 2015

A big thank you to the Greek People! Are democracy and unbridled capitalism incompatible?


It is so easy to become jaundiced about the potential of democracy to generate positive results for the people who vote. There is so much evidence that the political process has been purchased by the rich. This week, from the womb of democracy, the people of Greece turned the tables on the establishment in Europe.

And by so doing, they have breathed life into what was becoming system of governance in palliative care. When they voted by a 61% majority against austerity (a regime they have suffered and endured for five years, while their economy atrophied by 25%, and the unemployment rate soared to 25%, with youth unemployment at 50% and hundreds of PhD graduates fled the country), not only did they strengthen the negotiating hand of their Prime Minister with the leaders of the European Union, they also send a clarion call around the world on behalf of the millions of poor whose lives have increasingly slid into the slough of despair (borrowing from Bunyan). And the lives of the poor, the listless, the diseased and the hopeless are directly attributable to the insouciance of the rich, regardless of the culture, the religion, the language or the geography of those uber-wealthy.

Debt re-structuring, when the debt is 180% of GDP is not only analogous  to oxygen and electric shock to a dying cardiac patient. It is also common sense. And this patient, not only Greece itself, but potentially the EU, including the economies of Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ireland...needs all the political and economic life-support available. Unfortunately, politicians and world bankers have not taken the Hippocratic Oath, whose prime objective and duty is “never to do harm”....

There is, according to reliable reports, some $1.3 trillion in outstanding state debt, across the globe. While most of us ordinary mortals are simple not able to wrap our little minds around such a figure, we are able to grasp that it is enormous. And unless and until the mostly western countries and their international banker friends awaken to the imminent threat of state debt, and the deplorable conditions that make a life with dignity virtually impossible, we are collectively going to face growing numbers of preventable child deaths, (17,000 per day according to the UN Children’s Fund) a growing cadre of pirates, terrorists, child soldiers, child slaves, and a growing and verdant garden for growing them by those who delight in failure.

And it is not only debt re-structuring that the world’s powerful are going to have to include in their/our kit-bag of tools; we are going to have to expand our thinking to include debt relief. There is simply no way those states struggling under massive state debt can or will be able to repay that debt. If we think the “grace” of the families of the victims in Charleston South Carolina is impressive, just imagine the global “grace” that will be needed if we are to come to our senses, to accept the reality of “our brother’s keeper” and include in that aphorism all the people on the planet.

Peace and security, those benchmarks of a healthy civilization, come at a price. And they must. And that price will include the lowering, if not the dropping of all pretense to superiority, to power, to wealth and to dominance. It will include the acknowledgment that the “developed world” has provided the weapons, the carbon dioxide, the war mentality, the jungle-survivor mentality, the ‘my-god-is-better-than-your-god’ prison that shackles millions, and the clinging desperately to a kind of ideological and religious and dogmatic faith of flint (that no self-respecting God would own or honour)....all of the very things that threaten our survival. And we will also have to acknowledge that the great majority of our economic models are both flawed and incomplete, the very opposite of our hubris in creating and propagating them, that our doctoral graduates too often rush into the highest paid, and highly narcissistic jobs, as the best way to climb the status and power ladder we have sacralised and sacrificed on the altar of corporate profiteering.

And we will also have to acknowledge that our collective, and academically fostered disdain for anything but the corporate profiteering model is another example of how we have sacrificed intellectual independence, truth and freedom on the altar of personal power, profit and self-aggrandisement.

And we will have to confront our arms factories, our pharmaceutical companies, our insurance companies, our financial services industry and our political class to desist from their co-dependent enmeshment and their inordinate power grabs over the last half century...both at home and around the world.

And we will also have to acknowledge that our factories and our greed that fires the human engine, while fossil fuels drive the forges and the furnaces, have virtually decimated the planet’s ecosystem, in such a high-handed and disdainful manner as to render our place at the future tables of power not merely questionable but spurious.

Every civilization that has permitted and even fostered narcissism and greed to dominate its culture has thereby sown the seeds of its own demise. And we are no different.

There is really much doubt that we will choose different seeds to plant in different hearts and minds with a view to preserving the future ecosystem, including the path to a life with dignity for all, for our grandchildren. Speaking at an international climate conference in Toronto yesterday, Al Gore sounded optimistic that business will lead the way forward on preserving the global ecosystem. Geneticist, David Suzuki, however, is much more sceptical, if not downright despairing that we have gone past the tipping point and we are now merely attempting to moderate the damage of global warming and climate change.

The Greek people, through their exercise of the democratic vote, may well have rung the bell for each of the rest of us, in sending a resounding and unequivocal message to the rich and the powerful whose “ownership of the whole thing” is finally being questioned openly in the U.S. presidential election campaign by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

Can and will these voices from Greece, from Sanders, from Gore and even from Suzuki finally flow into a compelling stream of political, intellectual, cultural and even economic power for change?

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