Dear Mr. Chuckman:
By a fortunate circumstance I had the opportunity to read your article about Moore and Farenheit 9/11 . It was a pleasure to read your excellent observations and comments. They invite a serious reflexion. Sincere congratulations. In this connection, I would like to mention some points, which I believe, are related to the topics you discussed. Before I give you my comments I’d like to mention that I am eighty years old, retired as senior economist from and international financial institutions, and reside in Bethesda, MD.
A Jewish friend sent me an email, whose first lines were "I am unhappy with what is going on in Iraq and the terrible world situation". There are many people who feel as she does. We look at the world and what do we see? Civil wars, interracial conflicts, religious animosities, violence everywhere, exploitation, crimes against humanity, and last but not least, increasing poverty. The Iraq disaster is only one pathetic example amongst others that emerge from a problem that is rarely mentioned let alone discussed. When this problem is carefully scrutinized it is easier to understand why mankind is going through these tempestuous times.
Coincidently, I discussed this problem with Dr. Timothy Milford, a bright and well informed professor of American History at Saint John University of New York. Dr. Milford, my grandson and I were having lunch at a restaurant in Queens, New York. The discussion started after I mentioned a comment made by Dr. Heinz Dieterich, a renown German intellectual and professor of Economics at the National University of Mexico. His ideas and analysis those of other intellectuals – about this problem. and my own observations are outlined in this letter.
"Presently" – Dr. Dieterich asserted – "we have a global system of domination, subjugation and exploitation" He added, "Mankind has fallen in the hands of an elite of approximately ten thousand bankers, industrialists and professional politicians who use the planet resources and the fruit of our work for themselves. They monopolize the benefits of the energy, technology, science, foods, education, and health leaving the majorities in poverty and abandonment" For the majorities only crumbles remain .
As a corollary of this situation, he argued , " the three virtues of a human being: the critic-rational thought; his esthetic capacity and his ethic potential could not be developed. This fact alone constituted a violation of his most elemental human rights. Therefore to give him back the right to live and develop with dignity mankind had to recuperate the global society and make it its own"
Probably the best way to attain this objective is what renown social scientists like Professors Arno Peters and Carl Stahmer in Germany, W.Paul Cockshott and Allin Cottrel in England, Hugo Zemelman and Heinz Dieterich in Mexico, and Enrique Dussel in Argentina call the Participatory Democracy or the new historical project, which will replace what we have now. They have outlined not only the theoretical basis but also the institutional structure that will support the social environment in which the citizen of a future and better society will hopefully live. In other words, they have shown the strategic horizon to guide the people’s progress towards the democratic transformation of present society. The main features of a program of transformation that will lead mankind to the new society, without getting lost along the way have also been outlined. In this connection I said that some basic facts had to be recalled.
It is known that every human being or community must solve four necessities to be able to exist: First, the necessity to eat. From here the economy is born, with its relationships and institutions. Therefore, the economy is the special relation by means of which nature is transformed into goods and services to satisfy the material needs of human beings. Second, the necessity to be understood in order to live, and act in society. The culture emerges from this need with its relations and institutions, that integrate all citizens to society by means of shared language, values, traditions, etc. Third, the necessity to make and implement decisions in the name of the community. The politic arises from this one with its relations and institutions, the State being the most important. And fourth, the necessity to defend physically from aggressions and impositions. The military with its relations and institutions emerges from this necessity.
One cannot but agree with professor Dieterich’s opinion. He said that the quality of life of people and societies depends on how these basic relations and institutions are organized. "If they are organized with democratic participation they will be beneficial for all. However, if one leaves the organization of these relations and institutions into the hands of a small group of rich and powerful individuals they will use them for their own benefit and without consideration for others."
Why, we should ask, the overwhelming majority of human beings tolerate the political and economic tyranny of the small global oligarchy described by Dieterich? He provides a convincing answer. "The global elite has built a system of domination, exploitation and alienation that embraces the four basic relations of the human beings. It extends from the two centers of world power, the United States and the European Union, to the poverty ridden slums of our inner cities, Africa, Asia and Latin America."
This system has four fundamental characteristics that ought to be considered as points of departure to design a needed transition’s plan to a better world order. First, it is vertical and anti-democratic, in other words, it goes from top to bottom. Second, the elite that commands it is the Atlantic bourgeoisie. Third, they use the four basic social relations previously mentioned to exploit and dominate. The fourth characteristic is the system’s capacity to maintain its unity, operational, efficiency and direction through three basic institutions. the national market economy; the formal democracy, and the class State. They are the bonding agents, which unify the activities of society and ensure the system’s stability, its reproduction and continuity.
These institutions are very essence of the historical project of our present system. Obviously , the functioning and protection of these institutions is of utmost importance for the global elite, because they ensure the existence of a system that yields to their members substantial economic benefits and power. For the global elite this institutional structure is final and ever lasting. As far as its members are concerned mankind has successfully attained its definitive historical goal, as maintained in the nonsensical thesis advanced by Henry Fukuyama in his book The End of History. He makes the fatal mistake of affirming that our system "is exempt of the ontological laws of the universe." It is not. For historical reasons and under the heavy burden of its internal and external contradictions it will vanish eventually. Only matter and energy are permanent and constantly interacting to produce new categories. As things change -lakes disappear, rocks change, species ! evolve, microorganisms mutate, societies and historical social processes also evolve, grow and die. It is a law of life. Thus, the system’s demise is only a matter of time.
Concerning the internal contradictions it is interesting to note, that Sigmund Freud, having recognized that irrationality rules a large portion of human behavior – devoted most of his life to understand rationally the irrational motivations. Far from considering irrationality as a primary phenomenon, inaccessible to scientific analysis, he tried to develop a comprehensive theory that would give a rational explanation of our irrational impulses. Unfortunately this goal was not attained. He was able to progress along the way, but until the end of his journey he could not bring into existence a satisfactory theory of human behavior.
The work of other social scientists threw more light on this problem. There is not such a thing as "Human nature" eternal and invariable. Taking into account the so called "biological constants" we can now say that the character of a man is the product of the social order in which he is born and grow and the milieu that surrounds him throughout his life. We are the result and the most significant aspect of these factors. It is evident that our earlier lives were also affected o influenced by the irrationalities of our social order.
Recently we have seen a significative increment of rationality in industry, agriculture, and business organization. But it has been a partial increment only, in other words, in determined segments of our social order. This localized increment has not been accompanied by a corresponding development of total rationality. On the contrary, total solidarity has declined and the gap between the two categories has been widening.
This is illustrated by the fact that agricultural, industrial, commercial and financial activities are rationally organized by sophisticated electronic tools. At the same time, we also see millions of workers unemployed, partially employed in nonproductive services or even occupied in socially harmful activities. We see cars with useless ornaments. We have shiny offices buildings, equipped with state of the art computers, where highly trained employees are developing at the expense of millions a new soft drink. We have experts in dropping a ball into a basket net being paid over 100 million dollars and TV personalities also earning millions for conducting trivial interviews about conjugal infidelities or giving biased political comments, while we have teachers earning very low salaries, neglected public education and millions of illiterates. We also see few men, very few, who have billions of dollars, ! while over 30 millions of our citizens, or 14% of our population live below the poverty level. We have people spending more in diets and cures to lose weight than the gross national product of many Third World countries and inner cities where families of five or more members live in a dirty room. Ask their children, when they become adults, if the global irrationality of our social order did not have a profound effect in their psyches. More than our heritage, chromosomes or other "biological constants" we cannot ignore the influence of these and other irrationalities.
Currently the drugs trade is one of our most serious problems. In his column George Will wrote that our yearly consumption of stupefacients amounts to $50 billion. How can we explain that this business continues to grow, despite the increased outlays to reduced it?
Those who think beyond the political cliches argue that our society inundated by credit cards and subject to an avalanche of publicity has fallen into an insane materialism and none-ecological consumerism. All opinions, I believe, deserve to be respected. But so must be the many questions and doubts that bestride to our minds. Who owns or control the big banks? . Where and how the huge amounts of money derived from tax evasion, world wide trafficking and the loot of major embezzlers of public funds deposited? Where are the hundred billions vanished from the Soviet Union and the socialist block? How can we look at the outlay of a trillion dollars in commercial publicity, when that huge sum could be devoted to more useful purposes? Should we be surprised when the Pope affirms that spiritual values have been disappearing? Should we also be surprised that other religious leaders have made similar pronouncements?
Our alienating society is producing more and more people who have lost hope and desist to continue in the rate race. Orphans of love and affection and anxious to escape from the stress which society generates, they take refuge in mysticism or absurd cults or drown their anguish in alcohol or drugs.
At the same time the family nucleus has been weakened. The traditional and useful contact of parents and their children has tended to vanish. The stress of our work routines and the enormous distances have left not much time for the children. Communications with them has been reduced to a minimum level. When children return from school they find an empty house and not a home. Their parents are working long hours, return too late or too tired from work and long hours of driving along congested highways. This is a disturbing daily routine which produces anguish and anxiety. Many children kill time and their loneliness in front of computers in chats with strangers or watching TV without any supervision, programs full of violence and sexual filth. They are children "sans amour". No wonder many of them explode and become actors of insane school massacres or other irrational acts of violence, or – again – drug consumers. In the case of young girls, it means some times a ! parade of meaningless and disappointing love affairs, and even walking prematurely the streets of sorrow and the boulevard of broken dreams. Obviously, these examples refer to some, not all the system’s internal contradictions.
Its external contradictions are equally gloomy. However, the members of the global elite assert insistently that the Western economic and political system has been the most successful. This fact explains the continuing appeal of the free market thesis and their promotion of neo-liberal globalization. But this argument, repeated At Nauseam, shows only one side of the coin. The other side is conveniently ignored.
Historically there were two sides in the development process. On one side, were the colonizers, on the other, the colonized. For more than 500 years the Western countries assaulted, ruled looted, and exploited the Third World peoples. Even at the dawn of the new century this expansionist assault has neither disappeared nor abated. This fact explains why we attacked Afghanistan and Iraq, have military basis and marines all over the world, have as allies the corrupt elites of the Middle East, we supported the Venezuelan oligarchy in its attempt to overthrow Hugo Chavez, and give financial and military aid to the Colombian and Bolivian elites. In all these countries there are substantial reserves of petroleum and gas. They are coveted in order to satisfy our voracious consumerism. The members of our elite assured us that they will not hesitate to use our military anywhere in the world, including the United States, to perpetuate their power and protect their privileges.
The sad history of Latin America is a good example. It is the history of a prolonged infamy. Those who ignore it contribute to perpetuate it. Five centuries have gone by and this region continues to be poor because it continues to be rich. To understand this paradox it should be recalled that at present the interconnection regulates more than ever the physiology of our planet and the progress of science. If we would want to know the reason for a given development, we would have to look at the antipode. What we see here is explained by what we do not see on the opposite side. For instance, if Africa and Latin America were not what they are, neither the United States and Western Europe -particularly France and England – would be what they are.
The reality of Europe and the United States is hidden from European and American eyes when we ignore the system of links and canals that made our lands beneficiary of the freedom and material prosperity we enjoy. We have a high propensity to divide the world according to a West-East axis and eulogize the prosperity generated by economic liberalism as opposed to what was achieved under the oppression of Stalinist totalitarianism. We ignore the North/South axis and implicitly the Third World, to which history tells us the West owes most of its material progress. Thus, the Third World disappears magically from the map or is downgraded to the level of featureless backyard.
When we separate our "lands of freedom, material comfort and human rights" from the Third World and exploitation which ensures the permanence of these privileges we kill two birds with one stone. We insulate the West from its bloody historical formation and efface the shadow it carries of its crimes of yesteryears and today. In other words, we disentangle the politic from the dark shadows of economic history and also our ethereal purity from the sordid confessions of a police precinct. This double prevarication merits an Olympic medal.
But the hard cold reality cannot be hidden. According to Professor James Petras, "From 1990 to 2002, – the Golden age of neo-liberalism -,US banks and multinational corporations (MNC) remitted $1 Trillion dollars in profits, interest payments and royalties from Latin America. In addition, close to $900 Billion dollars in "dirty money" -” or illegally gained funds -” was sent by the Latin American elite overseas via US and European banks. In the same period US and European banks bought over 4,000 lucrative, previously publicly-owned banks, telecommunications, transportation, oil and mining, retail and other companies throughout Latin America, but principally in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil. US trade surpluses with Latin America covered over 25% of its deficit with Asia or over 50% with Europe. Rates of profit and interest of US owned MNC’s and banks in Latin American were 2 to 3 times the rates of return within the US. US enterprises which relocated to Latin America were abl! e to reduce labor costs by 70 to 80%; US shares of Latin American retail markets via banking and local subsidiaries increased geometrically especially in fast food, shopping malls and real estate. In other words, the "free market" policies generated diametrically opposing results: the highest profits and presence in Latin America for the XX-XXI century for US MNC’s and the worst growth performance in the same period for Latin America"
At present approximately 85% of the world population lives in the poor countries but their share of international trade is only 25%. What about their eternal external debt? In 1964, when the United Nations was born, this debt amounted to approximately US$50 billion. At the end of last year it was US$ 2.6 trillion. The depressing reality is that in the past 23 years the poor countries have paid to the developed world more than twice. Other data are even more depressing. If 25 years ago five hundred million people were going hungry, today the World Bank estimates that more than 900 million are starving. Nearly 350 million children do not attend school. Thousands of children die every day in the Third World of curable illnesses. The most appalling reality is that 2 million girls are forced into prostitution. This is the cruelest crime against the most defenseless portion of mankind. The deaths every year ! for lack of food and health care or the lives of children destroyed by our intelligent missiles and other weapons of mass destruction are also unacceptable crimes. These tragedies are occurring every day, while the members of the global elite say or do something meaningful about them.
On the other hand, the wealth of the three richest persons of the world is higher than the gross domestic product of 48 countries, representing a population of 600 million inhabitants. There are countries whose opulence is reflected in the annual spending of 12 billion dollars in perfumes and 17 billions dollars in food for cats, dogs and other domestic pets. This would not be so outrageous if there were not 1.5 billion poor. As we already mentioned millions are suffering chronic hunger, while in our country people are spending $50 billions in drugs and struggling with problems of obesity.
Military expenditures deserve special mention. The huge amounts of money we waste to produce tools for war and destruction should be devoted instead to improve the quality of life in our country and why not – with the cooperation of other developed countries – in less fortunate nations. Eduardo Galeano wrote, "the world is devoting 2.200 million dollars per day to the production of death. In other words, the world dedicates this astronomical sum to promote shootings where the hunter and the prey are of the same specie, and more success has the one who kills more neighbors." One year of our military budget is equivalent to approximately $20.000 per hour for every hour since the birth of Christ. $900 billion is spent on the military world wide while it would take only $80 billion to get rid of the worst poverty. We spend nearly $500 billion on the military, but money canno! t be found for healthcare, education and other social services. Every demand for these purposes is usually ruled "unaffordable" by our political establishment. Why is killing human beings the priority for which we must all do without? If we could reduce 20% or 30% of our military budget and use the savings, as William Blum, former State Department official, suggested, "to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings, invasions and economic sanctions" terrorism would tend to decline in a relatively short time. "If we would also apologize for our misdeeds," Blum also said, "terrorism against us would disappear completely".
These facts cannot be ignored any longer. The downtrodden peoples of Latin America and rest of the world are awakening and demanding their human and economic rights. The massive protests, social war of the poor against the poor, the guerrillas and generalized turmoil will not disappear. They may even expand as long as political oppression and economic exploitation survive no matter how much military hardware we provide to Latin American armies. The attempt of our elite to suppress these social trends by military means and our Sobs – as Theodore Roosevelt said – is as futile as trying to convince a man-eating tiger to eat only vegetables. This fact reminds us of nothing as much as Ptolemy’s construction of an epicycle to correct the failure of predictions based on an earth-centered model of the solar system. Our intentions will fail even if we try to convince Latin Americans that our efforts are not to preserve the Status quo but to fight terrorism.
The poor peoples are becoming ungovernable. It may be bromidic to insist, but the problem is that many of them, tired of the long history of crimes, exploitation and subjugation by the West are shouting "Enough!"! They have started to protest and struggle for their rights and dignity to which they feel entitled as human beings. Tired of suffering so much blood, pain and tears they have started to fight in different forms against the Status quo. They will not be alone. The conscious men and women from the Rich World, who realize that mankind faces a dilemma: a risk of extinction, will join them. Together, they will do their utmost to preserve life. Eventually, the rivers of poverty, hunger and despair, which in our world of abundance and waste, we seem incapable to perceive, will converge in one direction and overcome all obstacles.
Those who believe a better world is possible may be accused of being prophet of gloom, radical and even "Socioeconomic terrorists" But this dream is based on moral, humanitarian and solidarity principles. Therefore, they should not be afraid. They should get together and struggle to change peacefully and democratically the present Formal Plutocratic Democracy and build the Participatory Democracy, in which it would decided from below, What to Produce, How to Produce, and For Whom to Produce. This is the road left now to mankind towards a better future.
Dr. Gilo Muirragui
Senior Economist (Retired)
"America’s Pathetic Liberals: The Sequel"
by John Chuckman