Secret webs, scared bullies,
a global mind shift.
There is no God higher than Truth, said Socrates, but that was long ago. Today’s Truth lurks behind a thousand veils, while the new Gods pillage the future. Here’s some of what we think we now know:
1. Of whatever persuasion, religious fundamentalism is a global curse.
2. As is market fundamentalism.
3. The CIA is probably the mother of all terrorist organizations.
4. The world’s “most powerful democracy” is not a democracy. It is an oligarchy. The US is run by a surprisingly small number of power brokers who revolve through the doors of the White House, Big Oil, Defence, Security, Trade, Embassies, the World Bank and numerous blue chip boardrooms.
5. This elite, plus the CEO’s of major global corporations, are the true manipulators of the modern world. Yet few have faced elections.
6. Those who screw up, attract unwanted attention, or are caught with hands in the till, are often promoted out of the way.
7. A handful of boardroom tycoons own and control the mainstream media.
8. Anyone who aspires to high office in a Western democracy must cultivate the media and accept that boardroom power is today’s major driver of global affairs.
9. The high players embedded in these institutions – corporations, banks, media, government, IMF, WTO, etc – the “corporatocracy” – are united by a core credo: THERE IS NO GOD HIGHER THAN PROFIT.
10. This is the mindset that fuels endless growth, even as fossil fuels choke the planet.
11. Such a mindset imperils the future.
12. It is this mindset that says its okay to Wallmart the world, because the consumer gets more choice, even although the choice is largely illusory. What’s the point of offering 30 brands of toasters at the cost of “one-quarter of all plant and animal species” being doomed to extinction, because of global warming? (Nature magazine).
13. The greed-is-good philosophy is justified on the grounds that it spreads the wealth around. True, it spreads the wealth around the boardrooms. The income gap between the rich and the poor keeps widening. The richest 1% of Americans own more assets than the other 99% combined. Is this fair? Both within countries and between countries, such wealth gap keeps expanding, but few Western politicians will talk about it for fear that Rupert Murdoch’s media will call them Communists.
14. The top 5% of the world’s pop has an income 200 times greater than the bottom 5%. (In 1980, the ratio was only 6 to 1). Worldwide, downward mobility is more common than upward mobility.
15. A future of dramatic wealth redistribution is inevitable.
16. And is gathering momentum in Latin America.
17. Popular culture promotes global warming. It fans the flames of consumer desire and hastens obsolescence. Mainstream media, the movies, marketing, advertising, branding, celebrity endorsements, etc, put hyper consumption at the core of human existence. The Shopping Religion dwarfs traditional faiths.
18. By 2050, the world population, barring pandemics and/or climate shocks, is expected to reach 9.1 billion. At today’s consumption levels, this will increase the demand for oil tenfold. Yet the supply of oil is nearing its peak, or past its peak.
19. Which is why the wars to secure future supplies of oil (and water) have already begun.
20. Hollywood cultivates a taste for violence. Just as the Westerns of the 1950’s endorsed the slaughter of Native Americans, today’s blockbusters legitimise sadism. In this season’s highly acclaimed hymn to collateral damage and spouse bashing, Mr & Mrs Smith, it is taken for granted that the CIA has a right to liquidate anyone on the planet. Further, that the assassin’s role is noble, as well as lucrative, sexy and cool. All of life’s problems, including a grim marriage, can be solved with guns, explosions and a vicious beating. Followed by orgasm.
22. In the last 5 years, doublespeak has thrived. More than ever, the statements of political leaders are the reverse of the truth. When Condoleezza Rice tells the world that America is the land of laws, she is the mouthpiece of outlaws. While George Bush was saying he does not condone torture, he had already authorised torture and was denying its use, even as footage from Guantanamo Bay showed unconscious prisoners on stretchers returning from interrogation.
23. Hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay are being force fed with plastic tubes inserted into their stomach through the nose, a painful procedure, even at the hands of medical specialists. Some tubes used by guards are said to be “larger than normal”. The widespread incarceration of children by the US is not denied. The International Red Cross reported registering 107 detainees under eighteen, some as young as eight years old. In May 2005, it was found that there were "800-900 Pakistani boys age 13-15 in custody." Accounts of mistreatment are numerous. A Pentagon spokesman told Seymour Hersh that "age is not a determining factor in detention."
24. Prior to the turn of the century, only a few intellectuals publicly argued that America was no longer a noble nation, as advertised. By now, it has become obvious to anyone with a passing acquaintance with foreign affairs, that George Bush’s America is the world’s deadliest Rogue State.
25. The plague of lying and law-breaking began to spread from the White House to its allies on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, itself regarded as illegal by the world’s most eminent lawyers.
26. Among the few invading nations who lined up to brown-nose Uncle Sam without being bribed, no tongue licked longer or more vigorously than that of John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister. He disallowed a debate in Parliament. He dismissed the huge turnout of peaceful protesters as “a mob”. He was still pretending he hadn’t made up his mind about the war, long after authorising the Special Forces to blow-up Iraqi infrastructure.
27. Young Australians have been jailed for burning their country’s flag. The men who ordered the torching of Iraq have still not been arrested.
28. Howard’s enthusiasm for war was not driven by revenge. He seemed to act from fear. Perhaps the fear of 242 million Indonesian Muslims on Australia’s doorstep. His long held terror of The Other may have bonded him to Bush and his seemingly invincible legions. Or was Howard’s fear even deeper, a fear of a values shift, a fear that the status quo was under threat, a fear that a new consciousness might arise and seek from him more than he could give, more than bread and circuses? Meanwhile, there is no crime that America could ever commit in its terror wars, that will shake the loyalty of John Howard, who George Bush rightly calls his deputy sheriff.
29. Truer now than ever: Even if you are not interested in politics, politics is interested in you.
30. When the Australian military became aware of the porno-tortures at Abu Ghraib, it tried to hush them up. One of its officers, then attached to the Pentagon, wrote to the International Red Cross, trying to refute the rumours of abuse. When one of its own citizens detained by the US, Mamdouh Habib, was found to be the victim of torture, Australian officials were ordered to state “Habib was well treated”.
31. The deaths of well over a 100,000 Iraqis and the mutilation of many more, is still being justified by George Bush as the price of “spreading freedom”. What is this freedom? It is not freedom of the press. The US military has shot and jailed non-embedded journalists, it has closed down independent newspapers, it has bombed media offices, it has paid bribes to publish false stories. Is it political freedom? Iraq is in the process of moving from a secular tyranny to a fundamentalist theocracy. No-one knows for sure what will happen, but it is unlikely to replicate the golden age of Athenian democracy.
32. The US has used more illegal weapons on Iraqis, including chemical weapons, than were ever used by Saddam Hussein, (either on his own people, or on anyone else).
33. At least 35 nations have weapons of mass destruction in their military stockpiles, the U.S. more than all others combined.
34. The ferocity of the November 04 assault on the citizens of Fallujah exceeded by far the 1937 Fascist bombardment of Guernica, but as yet no Picasso has emerged to immortalise the atrocity. While mainstream journos were a-bed with the perpetrators, it was left to freelancers and the bloggers to blow the gaff. The terror-war mindset has turned us into what we’re supposedly fighting against.
35. The heads of Halliburton, Boeing, Bechtel and other defense giants are seated on the boards of corporate media. The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm with a stake in the arms industry, graces the board of the New York Times. The Washington Post hosts Lockheed Martin, whose latest warhead “successfully demonstrates lethality against urban structures”. Bombing the cities of Iraq does more for the corporate bottom line than publishing true accounts of the impact of the bombs.
36. Which is why to Western eyes, the nightly air strikes on Iraqi dwellings are invisible.
37. Among major defense contractors with shares that trade on Wall Street, the average pay for CEOs has tripled. And these are the wimps. DHB Industries makes bulletproof vests. Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, its chief executive, David H. Brooks, took home an annual salary of $525,000. Three years later, Brooks collected $70 million, a pay increase 3,349 per cent. (He held a birthday party in Manhattan for 150 of his daughter’s friends reported to have cost $10 million).
38. Both NBC and the Washington Post have board members who sit on the board of Coca Cola. The NY Times shares a board member with Pepsi, another board member with drug giant, Eli Lilly, another board member with Ford … and so on. So while the media has been dragged kicking and screaming to accept the likelihood of climate change, don’t expect a feverish promotion of a carbon neutral lifestyle any time soon. (On present trends, global greenhouse gas emissions will almost triple by 2050).
39. As Einstein pointed out, you can’t solve serious problems with the same mind set that created them. You can’t deal with climate change without experiencing a change of consciousness. We’re already half way through the first decade of a new millennium, and our leaders are still stuck with a medieval mindset. And we’re stuck with them. Meanwhile, many thousands of citizens have moved on from the Newtonian view of the world, with its focus on certainty, dualism, us-against-them, good-against-evil. A post-modern age requires a fluid sense of strategy, deep empathy, the acceptance of multiple stories. It seeks from leaders a way of coping with paradox, a flair for handling complex projects in surreal environments, an understanding that holistic thinking matters more than spin, trickery and photo ops. While such a mind shift is gathering speed at the grass roots, the mentally decrepit “survival of the fittest” war-horses at the top are trying to quell the new awakening with the age-old strategy of invoking FEAR. It is a strategy that comes easy, as their own demons rise up to haunt them, and they desperately seek to unload their terror. But the global mind shift required for a sustainable future is underway, and grass-roots groups are cleaning up waterways, reforming third world aid, shining a light on injustice. Their rallying cry becomes ever more relevant: “Another World is Possible. Let us build it.”
40. Among these activists was Nkosi Johnson the heroic South African AIDS sufferer who was asked, not long before he died, aged 12, what motivated him at such a young age and with such a debilitating illness to campaign so tirelessly for his fellow sufferers. His answer speaks for everyone: “Do what you can with what you have, in the time you have, and the place you are”. And do it now.