Beyond Greed

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"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true."
                Demosthenes

Anchor for this item  posted March 19, 2002 at 8:11 p.m. MDT

An interesting way of passing expensive hours, the computer simulation of social dynamics, as illustrated with this set of movies of Rauch animations (a sidebar to the April 2002 edition of The Atlantic). But scientific theories, as good as they are, and I've spent years studying the best I could get my hands on, are only useful if honestly applied. When interpreted or disseminated by those who are either cynically dishonest or those whose views are distorted by utopian fantasies, they only add to the mystification of our world. Just as in the life of the individual, development of a community to its fullest potential requires a vigorous and rigorous honesty. (This is not, however the agents of villainy would tell you, equate to a call for mystical infallibility.) An open-ended acknowledgment of the challenges, that's what we respond to most productively; the more mendacious will always tender a version that is edited in order to advantage some fore-gone conclusion and by so doing fore-close some future better than they dare claim.
But my point at this moment is to disclose the saddest development of all: whether it be the tender-hearted humanists or the credible liberals who are proposing yet another insightful social or economic theory, they who do so are damned by the wicked machinations of those with real power. Those who really would market sausages made from the bodies of labourers worked to death if they could are in fact and actually engaged in practices just as dark. This small snippet from a longer article will suffice for this place:
Interview of Greg Palast, Journalist for BBC and Observer, London, by Alex Jones (The Alex Jones Radio Show, Monday (PM), March 4, 2002)
GP: [...] I'll tell you two things. One, I spoke to the former chief economist, Joe Stiglitz who was fired by the (World) Bank. So I, on BBC and with Guardian, basically spent some time debriefing him. It was like one of the scenes out of Mission Impossible. So I got the insight of what was happening at the World Bank. In addition, [h]e would not give me inside documents but other people handed me a giant stash of secret documents from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. (And so one of the things that is happening is that, in fact, I was supposed to be on CNN with the head of the World Bank Jim Wolfensen and he said he would not appear on CNN ever if they put me on. And so CNN did the craziest thing and pulled me off.
AJ: So now they are threatening total boycott.
GP: Yea right. ) So what we found was this. We found inside these documents that basically they required nations to sign secret agreements, in which they agreed to sell off their key assets, in which they agreed to take economic steps which are really devastating to the nations involved and if they didn't agree to these steps, there was an average for each nation that signed one-hundred and eleven items that they are required to sign on to. If they didn't follow those steps they would be cut-off from all international borrowing. - we've got examples from, I've got inside documents recently from Argentina, the secret Argentine plan. This is signed by Jim Wolfensen, the president of the World Bank. By the way, just so you know, they are really upset with me that I've got the documents, but they have not challenged the authenticity of the documents. First, they did. First they said those documents don't exist. I actually showed them on television. And cite some on the web, I actually have copies of some on www.gregpalast.com [...] So then they backed off and said yea those documents are authentic but we are not going to discuss them with you and we are going to keep you off the air anyway. So, that's that.
*Talk Radio's Alex Jones Vs. the New World Order
*The Writings of Greg Palast

I personally make an effort at every opportunity not to disillusion the young people I have discussions with. I do not encourage their fantasies, I encourage them to realize that the good is best achieved by abandoning all mystifications and utopian distortions. But there are moments when the travesty that is described as governance and civil societies is so appalling ... words fail me.
My country either stood by or collaborated in the overthrow of Salvadore Allende's democratically elected government in Chile. And there I was, all airborne ready and comm_tech trained ... with my brain drained of blood. On one hand we have George W. Bush brandishing nuclear arms and on the other we have the chicanery of our countries' complicity with IMF and WB skulduggery. So yet another generation of youth will have their reasonable expectations despoiled. Those who insist on the legitimacy and efficacy of bourgeois institutions should tear their hair out and weep, and would, if they had the energy of righteous conviction.


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"There are just some things that should never be done to human beings" ... that's the kind of bottom line thinking that is characteristic of Micheal Ignatieff, director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and author of "Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry". Interestingly, with that sort of slant on the foundations of civility (one of Ignatieff's lines is "The naked creature at the barbed wire fence is us" ... and this is from a man who lectures at military colleges on such as the need for constant ethical vigilance), the center's motto reads: "The yawning gap between the apparent attractiveness of human rights ideals and their realization has prompted the Carr Center to focus on the tools and techniques for realizing existing norms."
While Ignatieff's position is that we will need combat-ready troops to defend human rights ("peace making", distinct from "peace keeping" ... which was my attitude as a soldier up until the overthrow of Salvadore Allende's democratically elected Chilean government, by the American backed fascist Pinochet), he stresses that the short term gains of security over human rights are going to be costly in the long run. As evidence of what I'd call his even-handedness, consider just this line of argument from his article in the New York Times: "The question after Sept. 11 is whether the era of human rights has come and gone. If that sounds alarmist, consider some of the evidence."
Ignatieff walks the line. While adopting a logic that alams me with its similarity to commodity thinking (I've come to regard cost - benefit analysis as the sign of evil) he inevitably uses the human rights standards of "freedom from" to draw that line. Consequently, when he focus on what he calls "the failure of states" in sub-Saharan Africa, he talks about the need for responsible African representative to draw a virtuous circle and attend to the real and pressing needs of the people.
I'm thinking that those who are more inclined to lobby government officials than to defy plastic bullets while rattling perimeter fences would do well to consider Ignatieff's book, "Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry". I might not reconsider the decision I made, post-Chile, to oppose military interventions, but I certainly do appreciate his approach ... we the people need to demand our rights not to be commoditized, our freedom from intentional empoverishment.
BTW there is RealAudio of a recent interview from NPR's "The Connection".


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Anchor for this item  posted March 18, 2002 at 10:16 a.m. MDT

Subject:  A paroxism of greed
Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2002 9:59:39
From: "Bernard D. Tremblay (Ben)"
Organization: MetaGnosis
To: Talk Peace < talkpeace AT yahoogroups.com>

The first thing I heard on the radio this morning is the news that the
newly announced American military policy includes not only the threat of
pre-emptive nuclear strikes against "rogue state", but it also includes
Russia in the list of targetted nations. (This is in keeping with the
Pentagon's doctine of "full-spectrum dominance", part of which involves
the militarization of space.)

The US is spending US$100 million per day to maintain its present
military stock, and will be dedicating part of its recently increased
US$400 billion yearly budget for military spending for new weapons;
apparently it has turned its back to non-proliferation as well as to
reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

I was touched by the voice of our former Ambassador to the UN for
disarmament as he once again sent out a clarion call against the scourge
of nuclear arms, and also by the cold rationalism of the defense analyst
who patronized him with agreement that disarmament was a worthy aim and
then chided him, saying we had to be practical, that the only way we
could have an influence was if we were involved.

What we are witnessing is a paroxism of greed: if citizens do not
recognize that this is a signal moment for the insanely wealthy to grab
for power, the elite and their think-tank advisors do.

The last thing I wrote yesterday evening was on the theme of "coccoon"
and how the bourgeois dream of the nuclear family with its own private
castle stocked with everything needed for pleasure and entertainment
mimics the sadly mistaken notion that we can each of us be
self-sufficient and complete in splendid isoaltion from others. That
dream of "coccoon" (which so many cultures would find abhorent, if not
simply pathological) is the root that feeds consummer capitalism: in my
drive for self-sufficiency, I will indulge the tyranical boss, ignore
the ignorant co-worker, work around the dictatorial supervisor, find my
comfort with convenient food and convenient music and convenient
transportation, and on and on, never taking arms against outrageous
fortune, always striving to avoid the slightest edge of responsibility.
The power elite recognize that their lust for full spectrum global
dominance cooresponds with the narrowly materialistic aims of those who
believe that narrow self-interest is the "practical" route to personal
satisfaction. Isolated and ham-strung by petty appetites, we will be
ruled by those who have similarly shallow views of human dignity.

I heard a chickadee sing in my backyard just now. The earth, in its
unboundedly practical optimism, is moving into another spring.

Ben Tremblay
see Pentagon Bootprints Around the Globe


 

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Human need, not corporate greed ... without justice, there can be no peace. That's the meme stringing these items together.



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