Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Can this sick planet find a circle of care?


 There is a strong series of currents that are pushing back against the tide of corporatism in which the world has been engulfed for more than a decade.
How business operates, in a playing field of their own making, (through the removal of regulations, controls and legitimate limits by the politicians they fund) is akin to the law of the jungle, ‘everyone for himself and may the strongest only win.’

In words, on a page, that last series of words seems quite benign, devoid of blood, and certainly devoid of mortal confusion. We all agree, it seems, that competition in the marketplace is a given, even a requisite for the market to operate freely. And we have watched as the former restrictions and controls on Wall Street have been lifted and how the financial services sector has plunged the world economy into the deepest depression since 1929. And while the world’s media covered the collapse, the conditions for another massive sell-off, accompanied by a debt-recall by China on all those U.S. Treasury Bills, continues to hang over our heads.

It is not only the Greek economy that has been, and continues to be, propped up with money from outside the country. For more than a decade, the United States has been borrowing money from the Chinese government, while at the same time depending on the infusion of “quantitative easing” from the Federal Reserve, only now being slowed. A century ago, the American/European economies dominated in the world, with a lagging ‘developing world’ or less charitably, a ‘third world’ accounting for a small portion of economic activity.  Today, however, we see a reversal of that equation, with both Europe and America accounting for less than half the world’s economic activity, and the former ‘developing world’ moving to the forefront.

Simultaneously, the amassing of wealth in the hands of a small few has proceeded unimpeded for decades, as these hedge fund managers rode a tide of globalization, mergers and mega-mergers across the globe. Into this scene enter a large group of risk-taking, ambitious, and highly dangerous operators who, while growing rich and now demanding respect because they are rich, could care less about rules, regulations and playing by those rules. Money and the hands that own and control it will find opportunities to grow whether or not there are rules and regulations that preserve the public good, and whether or not there are states which have eliminated the kind of corruption we have been reading about for decades in developing countries.  Ambition, greed, risk-taking that simply ignores or bribes anyone or any government attempting to reign it in, the extraction of resources and the running free of all of these unleashed forces make a cocktail unfit for the faint of heart. Link all of those factors to a desperate masculinity (and most hedge-fund managers, money brokers, and high-end investors are still masculine) and we are witnessing an growing potential for a series of events that stretch the definition of “market correction” beyond its bounds. A brief predictive diagnosis might include:

·       An implosion of credit,

·       A rise of political impotence,

·       thuggery and corruption on both the open market and the black market that is fueled by decades of a kind of ‘wild west’ playing field,

·       a deep internet which even the designers cannot penetrate, where the thugs deal with impunity

·       inject a successfully operating North Korean nuclear reactor and nuclear weapons,

·       a devolving Middle East,

·       a large shot of  terrorism from Moscow in Ukraine,

·        militarization of China and Japan,

·       booming economies in India and China,

·       western governments that are pre-occupied with ISIS and it many faces,

·       a mass migration of displaced and dispossessed fighting for their lives,

·       dictators like Assad, Putin, and the Ayatollah of Iran, and Kim Jung Un....

·       and a United Nations that has the power merely to persuade, without either an army or a police unless and until members countries consent,

and while the disease might not have a name or a preventive or curative prescription, it also overlays an body politic whose environment has plunged into suffocation, temperatures that are off the thermometer and political indifference that defies comprehension.

In the hospitals, something known as a “circle of care” has emerged, linking all care-givers of a specific patient in a ‘need to know’ bond, that effectively and ethically opens all practitioners to information necessary for the full diagnosis and treatment plan for that patient. Clearly, if the global political economic social cultural and religious unity were a single patient (and for this argument we are making that analogy) then a circle of care would have to involve all leaders and all citizens, and it would also depend upon a communication industry that was not muzzled by any power brokers, financial agents, advertisers, investors or any other colluding conspirators. When the banks, the investment community and the political operatives are all drinking the same koolaid from the same shared cup, there is no chance for the patient (the global society) to survive without serious changes.

·       Divesting all television, internet media corporations  and snail mail of private money, (the opposite direction the Harper Conservatives want to take the CBC), and

·        investing a much greater portion of national budgets in education in order to guarantee all young people a full and relevant education (robbing from the military),

·       creating world food programs supported by tax levies from all wealthy nations that would through monitoring refuse to permit starvation on all continents,

·       opening the vault of secret information that would yield the account names of all squirreled money in Swiss or other bank accounts, thereby requiring all account holders to pay their fair share of taxes in the country of their head offices or the residence of their CEO’s,

·       securing the signature of all wealthy nations to the International Criminal
Court, Interpol, an international Secret Service that would not be beholden to a national government but to the United Nations

·       generating an empowered negotiating/mediating/arbitrating agency under the United Nations, supported by all member states, that would and could  bring warring parties, including ISIS, Assad, North Korea, Japan, China, Putin, to a table for full disclosure, and an agreed procedure for pre-empting military conflict, and for foreclosing such conflicts as soon after they have begun as is feasible

·       securing the signatures of all developed and developing nations to a global currency from which no nation would depart, without suffering compelling sanctions

·       negotiating an arms limitation cap on all nations that would have as its long-term goal, the complete elimination of all nuclear, chemical, biological and cyber weapons, with open and accessible international sanctions for crossing this red line protecting humanity

·       negotiating a global cap to the emission of carbon dioxide emissions, including a series of punitive measures that would compel compliance, based on a full disclosure of the destruction already wreaked on the eco-systems of the planet

·       re-educating the world’s public on the required limits to private finance and corporate profits, including a global commitment to cap executive compensation.....

These are just a few of the many initiatives that our collective future needs and expects if we are to relieve the pressures of economic, military, and hegemonic abuse of power...and the west is clearly no immune from such abuse both as victim and as abuser. There is no country, no political party and no political leader that can claim immunity or impunity; none of us is free from significant responsibility for both over actions and for omissions to stop decision, actions and failures to act on which we all, and especially our grandchildren depend.

Of course, these ideas are idealistic, even illusory; nevertheless, there is a growing awareness and consciousness that the world is headed in the wrong direction and that only through concerted and sustained argument and action in opposition to the many threats (also opportunities, if we are open to that notion). They will be scorned with phrases like “what is this writer smoking?” in order to discredit the source. They will be laughed off as immature, naive, impractical and apocalyptic and therefore worthless.

However, we can no longer depend on political, institutional, corporate or religious leaders to ‘carry the ball’ on our behalf. They are all operating from a premise that their job, their reputations and their futures depend on their obsession over micro-issues, while letting the macro issues wither from inattention on the vine of collective consciousness.

This is a time in human history when the world has become a ‘village’ and every member within that village has a voice, a brain and a conscience....all of which are desperately needed in order to set a global agenda of both policies and processes to achieve those policies.

Nationalism, parochialism, religious differences, linguistic and cultural differences....these all have to give way to common, determined and sustained initiatives to preserve the potential lives of our grandchildren....and while our differences may and indeed will enrich our collective decisions, they must not be permitted to block the process. And our shared history  books will have to include those chapters in each people’s story that embarrass, that enrage and shame the people. Stories about secrets, national, familial, communal, ecclesial, from all theatres of our lives will have to be exhumed from the vaults of our locked memories. Stories that point fingers, accompanied by stories that point fingers will have to find the light of day and the drum beat of the keypads, the sound waves of the microphones and the images generated by the cameras.

And this release must not be analogous to the current libellous and ascerbic bullying that pervades the internet. Telling the truth, ironically, is not something to be feared. In fact, the very opposite is true. We are in most danger when we are in denial or in simple ignorance of the full complexities of a situation. And those with titles of power can no longer be permitted to determine what information is released to the public. That decision rests with each citizen, as does the responsibility  for its release, taking extreme care to tell only the truth, nothing but the truth so help us all, God.

And then, today, September 16 we find the following encouraging report in the Toronto Star:
The “leap manifesto,” signed by more than 100 actors, musicians, labour unions, aboriginal leaders, environmentalists and other activists, aims to pressure the next federal government to wean Canada entirely off fossil fuels in as little as 35 years and, in the process, upend the capitalist system on which the economy is based.
The drivers of the manifesto are best-selling author Naomi Klein and her husband Avi Lewis. It echoes the theme of Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, which was turned into a documentary of the same name, directed by Lewis.
Tuesday’s release of the manifesto coincides with the debut of the documentary over the weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The dramatic transformation envisioned in the manifesto is in stark contrast to the pragmatic platform Mulcair is offering: balanced budgets, an openness to free trade deals, sustainable development of Alberta’s oilsands, no tax hikes except for a “slight and graduated” increase in the corporate tax rate.
Yet among the celebrity signatories are a number of prominent NDP supporters, including former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis, father of Avi, who gave a rousing introduction for Mulcair at a campaign event in Toronto last month.
Others signatories who’ve declared their NDP sympathies include pop duo Tegan and Sara, singer-songwriter Leslie Feist, Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuf and Paul Moist, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
Stephen Lewis doesn’t see his support for Mulcair as inconsistent with the manifesto, which he notes is also signed by people from other parties, including Roy McMurtry, a former Ontario chief justice and one-time provincial Conservative cabinet minister.
“For the New Democrats, it’s an extension of the kinds of things they’ve been talking about,” Lewis said in an interview.
“When Tom Mulcair talks about climate change and the importance of dealing with global warming in Canada and internationally, this is an extension — admittedly a dramatic and vivid extension — of the kinds of things that many of us yearn for.”
Starting with the premise that Canada’s record on climate change is “a crime against humanity’s future,” the manifesto argues the country needs to make the leap to getting 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable resources within 20 years and weaning itself entirely off fossil fuels by 2050.
This means adopting a new “iron law” of energy development: “If you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard,” to be applied equally to pipelines, fracking, increased oil tanker traffic and Canadian-owned mining projects abroad.
In the process, the manifesto envisions a transformation of the entire capitalist system into a Utopia in which the economy is “in balance with the earth’s limits,” jobs “are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality,” agriculture is “far more localized and ecologically based,” and low-carbon sectors of the economy, like caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media, flourish.
The signatories declare their belief in “energy democracy,” in which energy sources are collectively controlled by communities, rather than “profit-gouging” private companies.
They call for an end to “all corporate trade deals” that interfere with attempts to build local economies and regulate corporations.
In contrast to Mulcair’s insistence that running deficits puts an unfair economic burden on future generations, the signatories declare that “austerity — which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and health care, while starving public transit and forcing reckless energy privatizations — is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.”
The signatories assert that the money to pay for the transformation they envision is readily available. All it requires is for the federal government to end fossil fuel subsidies, cut military spending and impose financial transaction taxes, increased resource royalties and higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals.
In Calgary on Tuesday night, Mulcair said the New Democrats welcome the ideas contained in the manifesto.
“I do understand the profound desire for change reflected in that document,” he said.
“We’ve talked about a cap and trade system, that is our policy, that’s what we will be doing.”
“Before the election, we are going to tell Canadians what we are going to do and once we are elected, we are actually going to do it, it has never been tried,” Mulcair said.
Other manifesto signatories include actors Ellen Page, Rachel McAdams, Sarah Polley, Pamela Anderson and Donald Sutherland, singers Bruce Cockburn, Neil Young, Gord Downie, Sarah Harmer and Leonard Cohen, novelists Michael Ondaatje and Joseph Boyden, environmentalist David Suzuki, anti-free trade activist Maude Barlow, artist Robert Bateman and film director Patricia Rozema. ( Prominent NDPers back manifesto calling for overhaul of capitalist economy by Joan Bryden, Canadian Press)

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