Raw power: the gun, the missile, the bomb, the rocket, the drone, the insurrection, the invasion, the willingness and the decision to ignore existential threats to the planet, the removal of all supports for labour, the refusal (with impunity) to govern, the capacity to assassinate another literally and/or through social media, the need for a perfect resume if running as a political candidate, the capacity to so manipulate all truth with impunity.....
These are just some of the ways we are witnessing the exercise of power, in a world infected with an epidemic of powerlessness.
We see it in the terrorist shooting of the Planned Parenthood (abortion) clinic in Colorado Springs, yesterday. We see it in the Turkish shooting down of the Russian fighter jet and the Russian shooting down of the Malaysian passenger jet.
We see it in the multiple police shootings of young black men by white police officers in the United States.
We see it in the murder rate of aboriginal men in Canada, three times that of women, although the public outcry points to the missing and aboriginal women.
We see it in the almost daily terrorist attacks by various "faces" of Islamic terror cells in various corners of the globe.
And we see it on the masks of ordinary people gasping for oxygen in China, another example of the canary in the proverbial coal mine, gone geopolitical and global.
We see it in the road rage of the Montreal police officer, off duty, who cut off a motorist who followed him, and then rammed that motorists vehicle to oblivion, while the police spokesperson says there is no discipline being applied, and likely none contemplated against the enraged off-duty officer.
We see it in the Toronto courts, where another white police officer is attempting to defend his multiple shots against a knife wielding young man, without attempting to de-escalate the situation. He claims his "training" told him that he was attempting to de-escalate through his use of the weapon! Duh!
We see it in the installation of soft-ware that defeats the pollution tests on Volkswagen diesel cars.
We see it in the export of asbestos to developing cars by countries like Canada, where "jobs and the economy" thrive on those sales.
We see it also (or rather hear it) in the abusive, racist and bullying rhetoric emitting like vomit from the mouths of Republican "presidential candidates"....all of it enhancing the poll numbers of the perpetrators!
It is not only that there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor.
There is a more important gap between those who choose hard power and those who choose to negotiate and to collaborate and to acknowledge that by taking "the matter into our own hands" by individuals, by terrorists, by law enforcement, by dictators, and by states, "we" (some would attempt to argue "they") have abrogated and rendered impotent those instruments of law and order, of compassion and altruism, of tolerance and diversity that we have spent centuries seeding, incubating, fighting for and protecting.
Of course, this view is countered by situations like democratic elections recently held in Myanmar and Canada, where popular individuals took power without military force, and without formally or even covertly purchasing that power. And of course, there are many other governments duly and legally and constitutionally and transparently elected by their constituents.
However, the resistance to working together on basic human rights, and the resistance to working together on global warming and climate change, and the resistance to working together to radically eradicate poverty, sexism, and to ramp up educational opportunities, while gazing complacently at the balkanization of the social structures of even the so-called developed countries and the infestation of radical attitudes, actions, and beliefs especially into those easily infected segments of societies that have proudly and honestly held themselves "superior" is a slide into a new kind of chaos.
We do not know how to eradicate the radical terrorist force from the planet. And we continue, nevertheless, to permit, encourage and then deny the rise of millions of disaffected and alienated young men (especially) from the social norms we have worked so hard, even fought so hard, to implement. We have been, in the developed world, worshipping at the altar of money, greed, and the enmeshment of state and corporate and military and economic power idols, seemingly blind to the exclusion of those outside the inner circle. And we have permitted that inner circle to grow smaller and tighter, richer and more powerful, as if a circle of "privilege" not unlike the circle of power that pervaded in feudal times, were the norm, and the rest of the world were the serfs who sustained that cabal. And we have done this while covering our complicity with news reports of a rising number of billionaires, as if that had become the goal of our society, culture and economic and political system.
There was a very telling comment by the recently elected Canadian Prime Minister, this week, in an interview with the BBC in which he told his interviewer that he was confident he would still be prime minister "even if his name were not Trudeau." That line alone, while viewed as flippant and saucy and even cocky by the fawning media, demonstrates a level of noblesse oblige and stardom that only the son of a former prime minister would be able to pull off. Of course, he would never have come to power, either through the Liberal Party nor through the ensuing national election, if his last name were not Trudeau. And to deny that fact is to verge toward self-delusion. Of course, he was aided considerably by "not being Harper" so deep was the national antipathy to the former prime minister. And for the media to dismiss Trudeau's comment as "flippant and cocky" and mere "swagger" is sad, to say the least. In our powerlessness, and in our sycophancy to all of the icons of power, money, status, the name-brand cars, vacations, properties, and "friends" we have turned much of the apparatus of state power into the levers of the rich and the powerful.
It used to be that a television show entitled "Lives of the Rich and Famous" pandered to a class of people whose yachts and mansions and parties and "friends" were the subject of both envy and entertainment. And careers were mounted to invade the privacy of those lives, in a blatant attempt to entertain those who did not "have" such opulence. There continue to be segments of that industry operating in magazines, television, and movies, where ordinary people both fawn and dream of becoming "stars" just like those whose lives have all the adornments of style, fashion and stardom.
Naturally, in a narcissistic age, and one fully equipped with the most advanced technology that puts into the hands, minds and hearts of nearly everyone, devices that can exercise a kind of invasion that no culture has ever before had to accommodate, without the accompanying education, training, and expectations of modesty, civility, privacy and shared consequences, the soil into which this new technology is one that is not conducive to growing those shared and necessary attitudes and tolerances that had grown over centuries of fighting to flatten the pyramids of power and wealth that the world has always found repugnant. Of course, those with the power and the money have also resisted any and all attempts to reign in their power and influence, judging themselves best able and best equipped to decide on how the society will operate. Many deny the science of global warming and climate change, much of it resulting from their own very industrial enterprises. Many also seek to defray all taxes, as they seek havens of no tax or very low tax, those havens themselves evidence of desperate jurisdictions to bale themselves out of economic purgatory, much like the casinos that have been built in the developed world, to bale out the governments of those states and provinces, while using the economic renewal of the aboriginal communities as their rationale.
Now again, as previously in a history that we were taught to despise, dictators invade other countries while denying such invasions, and while attempting to cover their lies with "agreements" to work with those who despise such invasions. Putin invades Crimea and the Eastern Ukraine, while simultaneously meeting with Obama and Holland to attempt to form a common front to eradicate ISIS. Assad, propped up by Putin, Hezbollah and Iran, (how's that for a circle of "friends"?) refuses to exit the Syrian conflict, amid the death of hundreds of thousands, apparently with impunity, and the open wounds of chaos that permit the rise of the ISIS, and the migration crisis that threatens the stability of countries like Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.
Meanwhile, western countries like Canada and the United States pump our chests about "taking in" a few thousand refugees, merely a drop of water out of a sea of despair (and debate severely the risks involved!) while millions face the threat of a cold and debilitating winter. The Prime Minister of India refuses to engage in any collaboration on global warming and climate change, thereby permitting increasing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide to belch into the atmosphere, while he and the whole world know the impact will eventually strangle our ability to breath, including those people living in his jurisdiction, whose lives are so caught up with everyday challenges to survive, make a living, find a drink of fresh water and a few morsels of food.
We are incubating, just as we have, collectively even if unconsciously, bred such a breeding ground for violence and terrorism, in a little segment of the city of Brussels where the male unemployment rate runs at 40%, in hundreds of pieces of geography around the world. We are doing it, with impunity in Africa, where Al Shabbab and Boko Harram and probably other terrorists operate to murder and rape and terrorize thousands. And we are also opening our civilized societies to the return of trained terrorists bent on wreaking havoc in their homeland, as testament to their radicalized ideology and their own martyrdom, all of it begging for the denouncement from the thousands of imams who know it is not a responsible representation of Islam, yet are afraid to come out of their own closet for fear of violent reprisals. We have heard of only a couple of imams, one in Calgary, another in Europe, who have risked those reprisals by their public denunciations of the Islamic terrorists. Nevertheless, the Islamic community in general remains silent, for the most part, and certainly very infrequently engaged in formal training of young Islamic children, as one in Brussels is doing.
The bombing of ISIS, the spread of economic devastation at the hands of the corporate elite, and the spread of toxic gases from the engines of the power of those elite, whether they be state-owned as in China or privately owned, and the universal war on women and human rights, (impediments to the continuing power of the "elite" bullies) linked to the rampant spread of weapons both under trade agreements and on the black market....all of this generates a churning cauldron of power unleashed, leaving so-called "legitimate" governments unable to discern who are the "good" guys from the "bad" guys, including both the formal and declared terrorists who champion beheadings and slaughters, and the more polite and more integrated corporate moguls who treat their human labour as little more than "raw materials" to be used, exploited and dumped on a trash heap like coal ash.
In Syria, who are the Assad rebels, as separate and distinguishable from the ISIS monsters?
In China, who are the government "officials" as separate and distinguishable from the self-serving apparatchiks who line their own pockets while laying waste the environment and the society of their workers.
And the capitalist/corporate/elite/uber-elite power brokers who seek absolute power, and the absolute freedom that comes with absolute power, have the blood of thousands of innocent people on their hands, for having demanded the kind of exemption from their fair share of the tax burden to operate a civilized, educated, sceptical, and respectful, not to mention lawful culture of independent-minded, and courageously reported institutions including governments who govern for all of their constituents, corporations who refuse to abuse their customers, and individuals who find meaning and contributing careers and vocations after a full and comprehensive education fit for a world that requires it of all its people. And these people experience enhanced power in all societies in all countries. And their religion, nor their political ideology nor their academic credentials cannot be their excuse.
And because we all have some of that blood on our hands, having grown up and participated in the slide into the kind of chaos in which we all find ourselves, it will take a kind of cleansing of that blood from all of our hands, not just the Kochs, nor just the Putins, nor the Assads, nor the Ben Ladens, nor the FBI not the CIA, nor the MI5, nor the KGB, nor the Chinese Communist Party....but all of us, each in our own sphere of influence. We will have to acknowledge our compliance in a global economic system that threatens our continued existence, not only from the dumping of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from our "scientific wonders" the engines that run our industries, our vehicles and our profit machines that go "ching=ching" with every fossil-fuel dividend paid. We will have to come clean about how we individually use not only fossil fuels, but also the ballot, in permitting only those with "street creds" (in Canada that means Bay Street credentials, as expressed by CBC's Terry Malefski in his reporting on the new Finance Minister, Morneau) to take the levers of the financial system. As if someone without a career among the billionaires would be less qualified!
It is the "inner circle" of the respective Bay Streets, Wall Streets, Fleet Streets that have actively participated in the deceptive and seductive rise to power of the millions of billionaires, while ignoring the plight of millions of human beings, except through a patronizing and demeaning and debilitating "foreign aid" flow of dollars to assuage our collective guilt in the process.
We not only have to reduce dramatically and immediately our dependence on fossil fuels. We have to wean ourselves off a culture of star-power that emanates from the rich and the famous, from the serfdom that cripples the ingenuity and the imagination and the courage and the independence of literally millions of people across the globe. And, when the NDP "brain-trust" is afraid to headline the policy of increasing corporate taxes (as opposed to increasing the income tax of the richest 1%, the Liberal offering) in the Canadian election just completed on October 19, we know how deep is the political resistance to changing course in any meaningful way.
In Canada, and in the United States, and in Great Britain, and most likely in Germany, the corporate moguls are still in power, and their capacity and courage to confront the depth and the danger of their own history and the promises to which they are deeply welded for the vacuity and the danger of those promises continues to be hampered by their own hubris and their spinelessness in refusing to acknowledge the mess from which we have to dig ourselves out.
Boeing, McDonell-Douglas, Northrup Grumman, The Pentagon, General Electric, Pfizer (just having pulled off another tax-evasion scheme through an inversion merger to move its head office to Ireland and lower corporate profits) and the "circle" of the elite who "make the rules," not only for the statutes passed in the legislatures, but for the media who cover the important people, will have to be stopped from their monopoly on power. Those inside the circle of power, those the culture considers elite, are not in possession of the best ideas, nor the best ideologies, nor the best attitudes and beliefs, that are required to reduce the power of their patrons. They are, in fact, merely human beings, each imbued with the capacity to see clearly when their actions and their attitudes benefit the whole of humanity, or their own immediate circle of influence. They are not blind to what is happening and their are not blind to the short leash of their own political power. And that leash is, admittedly, determined by the size of their investment portfolio in the current environment.
However, that leash, more appropriately, would be cut short, through the ballot box which is still available to millions around the globe. However, there are others, like Chris Hedges, in the United States, who have already succumbed to the notion that only through a revolution, a physical, intellectual, political and economic revolution will the world survive. And he may be right!
Revolution, joining forces in the streets of our cities and towns, as the people of Chicago did yesterday to protest, in the heart of the consumer-buying week of Black Friday, the killing of another young black man by the 16 shots fired from the revolver of a white policeman, may have to be the instrument, among others, of choice, if the revolution is going to overturn the power structure that has ensnared the globe.
We will never eradicate ISIS without such a revolution.
We will never eradicate poverty, hunger and disease without such a revolution.
We will never bring back the power to govern, without such a revolution. (Ever Bernie Sanders is trying to abrogate the word "revolution" in his likely doomed campaign for the White House!)
We will never liberate the imaginations, and the ingenuity and the creativity and compassion of the ordinary people so long as we hang tight to the "power-and-money-and-greed" model of social governance. We will only participate in the continuance of the pattern we are currently witnessing: the increasing grab and deployment of power absued, by dictators, by governments, by corporations and by the supporting cast of tax accountants who drink from the same straws and the same cocktails as those writing the cheques.