Archive for the ‘Survival on earth’ Category

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Double, double, toil and trouble: Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

May 31, 2009


‘Double, double, toil and trouble: Fire, burn, and cauldron, bubble.’
-The Witches, 4.1, Macbeth

Not in eighty years have the conditions for global revolution been so ripe. A glance at the following thirteen headlines, taken together, should be enough to alarm anyone with synaptic activity that revolutionary consciousness is awakening internationally.
Why now? Because never has so much affluence been lost in the Western standard of living than in the period we are currently experiencing. And things will get worse. The rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer and the middle class is quickly disappearing.

The more protests and demonstrations, the better; the quicker the Masters of the Universe will get the message that they cannot rule people who are unwilling to be impoverished for the coffers of the Elite. Capitalism is dying an ugly death; but in the end, people will not care about ideology – they will care about the decline in the stardard of living to which they have become accustomed.

People are about to change the Darwinistic political/economic paradigm that has dominated earth for so long. And there will be blood.

Truly wise Masters of the Universe would act now to eliminate the suffering of ordinary people. However, it does seem we are ruled by madmen. Time for a challenge to the status quo; and the cauldron is seething.

Injustice boils in men’s hearts as does steel in its cauldron,
ready to pour forth,
white hot,
in the fullness of time. -Mother Jones

European farmers protest to demand help on milk prices

May 26, 2009

Furious farmers have blockaded roads and forced a halt to production at scores of dairies as part of Europe-wide protests designed to reverse a slump in the wholesale price of milk.

As they gathered on Monday, European Union farm ministers met to discuss the crisis, with nations divided over those wanting the quota system, set to be scrapped within six years, maintained in one form or another.

In Brussels, farm tractors blocked major roads in the city’s European quarter, where police said about 900 demonstrators had rallied to make their voices heard by the agriculture ministers.

Riot police were seen trying to hold back the protesters, who converged on the Belgian capital from 10 countries, but the farmers broke through their barricade, despite receiving truncheon blows from some officers. Read entire article

FACTBOX-Trade union activity in Western Europe

May 28, 2009

Unions across Europe protesting. Read entire article

Civil Unrest

Michael C. Ruppert
27/02/09

It Seems as if The World is Holding Its Breath for Obama’s change…

Already devastated by auto layoffs and other massive corporate failures, Ohio’s industrial areas border and are in close proximity to Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Lots of kindling in those states. At the same time as Ohio is devastated by DHL, auto and other layoffs, much of the nation’s high-tech wind turbine industry in Ohio is also shutting down at the same time… just when we need it. The snake eats its own tail for nutrition. It is the way money works… for now.

Civil unrest in Ohio could easily infect across state lines here, and cross another fault line that runs east and west, separating north from south; the Mason Dixon. Other earthquakes might be triggered. Eastward from Ohio are Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I wonder how much inter-agency advance planning DHS and FEMA have gone through so that they might operate fluidly across many borders, radio frequencies and jurisdictions. Those contingencies were planned for in the Patriot Act which congress didn’t or couldn’t read before voting on it. Read article

George Soros, the man who broke the Bank,
sees a global meltdown

March 28, 2009

This recession, he explains, is a “once-in-a-lifetime event”, particularly in Britain. “This is a crisis unlike any other. It’s a total collapse of the financial system with tremendous implications for everyday life. On previous occasions when you had a crisis that was threatening the system the authorities intervened and did whatever was necessary to protect the system. This time they failed.” Read entire article

California’s new budget proposal
slashes welfare, releases inmates

By Kevin Yamamura
The Sacramento Bee

In California’s latest doom-and-gloom announcement, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Department of Finance on Tuesday proposed closing the state’s main welfare program, releasing nonviolent prisoners one year early and shuttering up to 80 percent of state parks to shrink the state’s $24.3 billion budget deficit. Read entire article

Amnesty Report Warns World on
Verge of Global Unrest

29 May 2009

Amnesty International released its annual report yesterday, warning that that the world is on the verge of global unrest, with existing poverty severely worsened by the international economic crisis. In every major geographic area the report details conditions relating to social and economic insecurity, poverty and deprivation, and more. Read entire article

World Bank warns of social unrest

World Bank President Robert Zoellick has warned of the destabilising effects of unemployment.

The head of the World Bank has warned that the global economic crisis could lead to serious social upheaval.

“If we do no take measures, there is a risk of a serious human and social crisis with very serious political implications,” Robert Zoellick said. Read entire article

Cities across the world become platform for hundreds of thousands of protesters against Gaza fighting

11th January 2009

Cities across the world became the platform for protest on Israel’s military action in Gaza today.

Organisers said more than 250,000 people marched through Spain’s capital of Madrid, with other European cities including Athens, Brussels, Rome, Naples Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin also the focal points of protesters.

The protest in Madrid was the largest of demonstrations across Europe, although there were expressions of both support and opposition for the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Read article; see photos

More EU protests planned over unemployment

May 15, 2009

MADRID, Spain (CNN) — Protests are expected to continue in Brussels on Friday after tens of thousands marched on the streets of Spain’s capital Thursday to demand better protection for workers hit hard by the economic crisis. Thousands take part in the Madrid demonstration, organized by the European Trade Confederation.

Dressed in funeral black to mourn the estimated 4 million jobless in Spain, demonstrators had a simple message for the government: Enough corporate bailouts; it’s time to focus on the workers. Read article

Up to 100,000 demonstrate in Berlin for more job protection

16.05.2009

The protests came only two weeks after massive demonstrations on May 1. Up to 100,000 protestors have marched through the heart of Berlin, demanding the government do more to protect jobs during the recession. The rally was part of a series of protests across the European Union.

Trade union officials said 100,000 people took part in Berlin’s protest, while police put the total at “several tens of thousands”.

The rally was organized by the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) as part of a series of four demonstrations across Europe with the motto “Fight the crisis. Europe needs a new social deal”.

Amidst Germany’s deepest recession since World War Two, unemployment has risen consecutively in the past 6 months and forecasts for the coming year are even bleaker. Demonstrators accused the government of putting big business first, and not doing enough to protect the people. Read entire article

Economic crisis damaging human rights, report says

ELITSA VUCHEVA
28.05.2009

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Human rights violations remained widespread across the world in 2008, including Europe, with the global economic crisis not only aggravating the existing problems, but creating new ones as well, human rights group Amnesty International’s yearly report released on Thursday (28 May) shows.

“The global economic crisis is an explosive human rights crisis. A combination of social, economic and political problems has created a [across the world],” said Irene Khan, the group’s secretary general.

“There are growing signs of political unrest and violence, adding to the global insecurity that already exists because of deadly conflicts which the international community seems unable or unwilling to resolve. In other words: we are sitting on a powder keg of inequality, injustice and insecurity, and it is about to explode,” she wrote in the introduction to Amnesty’s report on the situation of human rights in the world. Read article

France NATO protesters, police clash; Michelle Obama hospital visit cancelled over security worries

April 4th 2009

STRASBOURG, France — Black-clad protesters attacked police and set a customs station ablaze Saturday on a bridge linking France and Germany that served hours earlier as the backdrop for a show of unity by NATO leaders.

AP photographers saw other protesters storm a nearby Ibis hotel, setting fires and pilfering alcohol from its bar.

Stacks of old tires were also set ablaze, unleashing thick plumes of black smoke that could be seen from across the river. Near the bonfire was a sign welcoming visitors to Strasbourg.

First lady Michelle Obama and other spouses canceled a visit to a cancer hospital out of concern for security, the French president’s office said. Some 1,000 protesters were staked out near the hospital they were to visit.

Some of the protesters say they want an end to war and call NATO a tool of Western imperialism. Others simply appear bent on causing chaos. Read article

Civil Unrest in America?

José Miguel Alonso Trabanco
Global Research
March 9, 2009

The only thing that can be taken for granted and that one can be sure of is that the unthinkable has now become thinkable.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor and early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, has warned that civil unrest on American soil is a possibility that should not be dismissed. Brzezinski explains that “[the United States is] going to have millions and millions of unemployed, people really facing dire straits. And we’re going to be having that for some period of time before things hopefully improve. And at the same time there is public awareness of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals at levels without historical precedent in America…” Brzezinski concludes with this noteworthy remark “…hell, there could be even riots”….

Professor Michel Chossudovsky observed that the US Army 3rd Infantry’s 1st Brigade Combat Team returned from Iraq some months ago. That information is extremely disturbing because such military unit “may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control”, according to official sources. Now, what scenario could possibly require the operational deployment of said units on American soil? Professor Chossudovsky puts forward an intriguing hypothesis that must be borne in mind. He argues that “Civil unrest resulting from from the financial meltdown is a distinct possibility, given the broad impacts of financial collapse on lifelong savings, pension funds, homeownership, etc”. Read full article

Some day the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit! -Mother Jones

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Shape of things to come

May 19, 2009


I have written on the shape of things to come before here. Disturbing trends are converging at a rapid rate which portend an entirely different future than humans have imagined (except in science-fiction).

Three articles below stand out as huge milestones in the relentless march toward a New World Order: sophisticated human implants, corporation monopolies of food production and the alliance of China and Russia politically. The vehicle of implementing surveillance through implants and DNA collection, could very well be world hunger as corporations have taken over food production.

When I first blogged on these issues, I was alarmed. But finding the ongoing progress of technology to control the masses, I am beginning to fear the road ahead for us. Not that I have a solution – but the first step in definitely being aware.

Saudi ‘Killer Chip’ Implant Would Track,
Eliminate Undesirables

05-17-2009
Source

It could be the ultimate in political control — but it won’t be patented in Germany.

German media outlets reported last week that a Saudi inventor’s application to patent a “killer chip,” as the Swiss tabloids put it, had been denied.

The basic model would consist of a tiny GPS transceiver placed in a capsule and inserted under a person’s skin, so that authorities could track him easily.

Model B would have an extra function — a dose of cyanide to remotely kill the wearer without muss or fuss if authorities deemed he’d become a public threat.

The inventor said the chip could be used to track terrorists, criminals, fugitives, illegal immigrants, political dissidents, domestic servants and foreigners overstaying their visas.

“The invention will probably be found to violate paragraph two of the German Patent Law — which does not allow inventions that transgress public order or good morals,” German Patent and Trademark Office spokeswoman Stephanie Krüger told the English-language German-news Web site The Local.
Click to enlarge pic.

The 21st century’s bleak harvest


Rising food prices increased the aid dependency of developing countries [GALLO/GETTY]

By Asif Mehdi, development practitioner
Source

As the world staggers from one economic crisis to another, it seems easy to forget the global food crisis that occupied centre stage in 2008.

World prices for essential grains more than doubled between 2006 and 2008.

Rice, the staple food of most of Asia, doubled in price in just seven months. And, despite their commitments to trade liberalisation, a few significant grain-exporting developing countries rushed to protect domestic grain stocks by banning exports.

The poor, who typically spend between 50 and 70 per cent of their meagre incomes on food, were most affected by the crisis.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the food crisis raised the number of undernourished people from 923 million to more than one billion by this year.

In late 2007 and 2008, the crisis caused food riots in at least 15 countries across the world, from Brazil to Bangladesh, and international media and forums spoke of little else.

Then, as suddenly as it struck, declining prices relegated the food crisis to collective global amnesia.

Causes not addressed

However, while prices for grains and foods have declined in 2009, they are still higher than pre-crisis levels and the fundamental causes of their volatility have not disappeared.

The international economic system has witnessed a dramatic disbanding of trade and investment barriers.

However, the international market for agricultural commodities, the nature of industrial agriculture, changing consumption patterns and international finance all threaten to make food price volatility and food insecurity a recurrent feature of the early 21st century.

Agriculture offers a textbook case of international market distortion. And in this case, the market distortion is created by precisely the developed countries that extol the virtues of free markets.

Double standards

The developed world protects its domestic agriculture with any number of subsidies and technical barriers to trade.

In 2006, for example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimated that agricultural subsidies in OECD member countries were about $230bn.

In contrast to the magnitude of those subsidies, Official Development Assistance from OECD member states amounted to $120bn (the US alone had a military budget of $600bn in 2007).

The agricultural subsidies cover a host of measures – from domestic price support, to compensation to farmers for maintaining fallow land, to export price subsidies to dumping, some of which is disguised as food aid.

Paradoxically, international trade negotiations and, more importantly, International Monetary Fund (IMF) lending conditions expect developing countries to remove agricultural subsidies and liberalise domestic markets to imported foods.

While these measures allow for the increased availability of food, they have also eroded domestic agriculture and impoverished the rural economy, often in the most economically fragile states.

It was not surprising that the most impoverished countries were unable to meet the international price surge with increased domestic production, or the release of buffer stocks of staple food commodities.

In fact, those countries became ever more aid dependent as governments struggled to find the resources to pay the bills for imported food (and fuel), in the face of sharpened threats of hunger and undernourishment.

Industry domination

The opening of developing country markets does not benefit the average farmer in the developed world.

The international agricultural industry is dominated by a few grain, seed, chemicals and oil companies.

Such is their market power that three companies control the global grain trade and one company controls 60 per cent of seed production.

The grain trading conglomerates have unchecked market power to hoard and influence world prices.

Seed companies have employed breakthroughs in biotechnology to produce seeds that are compatible only with certain brands of pesticide or supply patented terminator seeds which germinate just once, and therefore the seed from a harvest cannot be used to grow a second crop.

This last feature of the seed business ensures a seed serfdom for the farmer, who cannot set aside part of the harvest for replanting.

It is no wonder, then, that the profits of the grain traders soared to astronomical heights in 2007, in one case up by 60 per cent over the previous year.

And it is no wonder that small farmers are bankrupted by one crop failure because of their inability to afford to buy or finance the procurement of seed for a new crop.

Industrialised agriculture

The other facet of industrialised agriculture is its energy intensity and reliance on hydrocarbon resources, whether as fertiliser or as fuel.

The poorest were most seriously impacted by rising food prices [GALLO/GETTY]
During the heyday of the Green Revolution, one study noted that between 1945 and 1994 US energy input for agriculture increased four-fold while crop yields only increased three-fold.

Since then, energy input has continued to increase without a corresponding increase in crop yield.

Barring a breakthrough in seed technology, industrial agriculture has reached a point of diminishing marginal returns from energy usage.

In addition, the fact that oil resource availability has peaked suggests that oil prices will be on a long-term increase, thereby increasing the costs of food production.

Given the nature of the financial crisis in developed countries, it is highly doubtful that governments will have the fiscal resources to increase subsidies to the agricultural sector, in order to contain the increase in prices.

For the developing world, fiscal constraints on governments and the likely drying up of development assistance will have the same impact.

Food to fuel

The recent movement in the developed world to produce bio-fuels is yet another factor propelling the price of grains.

A World Bank study, prepared in April 2008, pointed out that a third of US corn production goes to produce ethanol and half the vegetable oils produced in the EU to the production of biodiesel.

This diversion from food to fuel is subsidised extensively, while imports from Brazil (which has had the longest standing and most extensive bio ethanol production) are subjected to tariff barriers that effectively prohibit imports of Brazilian ethanol into these markets.

Commodity speculators, seeing the potential from increased demand for grains in these subsidised programmes, drove up futures commodity prices which in turn raised current prices in grain markets.

The same World Bank study contends that 75 per cent of the food price increase was due to bio-fuels, a figure hotly contested by the Bush administration at the time.

An International Food Policy Research Institute study asserts that the effect was somewhat less, at 30 per cent of the food price increase.

Ideology of the rich

The financial crisis in itself was a cause for the food price hike.

While prices rose steadily through 2006 and 2007, the latter half of 2008 saw a sharp increase in prices, in a so-called price spike.

However, little had changed in the fundamental conditions of supply or demand to cause such dramatic market adjustments.

If the financial crisis reduces aid another food crisis could be devastating[GALLO/GETTY]
By now it is clearly evident that as the unregulated and complex financial sector of the US was facing the unfolding effects of the real estate bubble, trillions of dollars moved across sectors and spaces and invested in food and primary commodities, causing another price bubble, this time of an altogether more serious consequence.

The simultaneous inflation of oil and food futures caused cost increases in the production of food while inflating its trading prices at the same time.

It seems that finance had run out of opportunities for profit, so it turned to the earth as a means of generating speculative profit, whether through real estate or primary commodities and food.

As the more recent financial crisis has shown, there is no regulatory capacity to stop such profiteering from reoccurring.

These are the difficult prospects and consequences of a world run by the ideology of the rich and powerful.

Development lessons

There are development lessons to be learned here.

First, food security is an issue requiring long-term international effort and food security demands that local agriculture be able to supply domestic needs wherever possible and that reserve stocks are garnered for difficult times.

Second, the developing nations are justified in holding out in the Doha Round of trade negotiations until real and tangible concessions are made with regard to trade in agricultural products.

Third, national development efforts need to be replenished with such ‘old fashioned’ endeavours as investing in rural production, water availability and the empowerment of the small farmer.

Economic history shows us that industrialisation was preceded by agricultural transformations, with the state playing a heavy role.

And economic history is a better guide to policy than the theorising of free marketers serving powerful corporate interests.

Asif Mehdi works in international development with an international intergovernmental organisation and has worked extensively in Asia and Africa during his 29-year career as a development practitioner.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.

China’s top legislator: China-Russia partnership
enjoys fast growth

05-17-2009
Source

The strategic partnership of cooperation between China and Russia is currently showing all-round momentum and rapid growth as high-level contacts remain frequent, China’s top legislator said in Moscow on Wednesday.

Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, made the remark during a meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

Wu, who arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for an official goodwill visit, said he appreciates the frequent contact between leaders of the two countries.

He said Medvedev’s visit to China last year helped lay the foundation for continuous growth of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Medvedev said that he and Chinese President Hu Jintao held their first meeting this year during the London G20 summit in April. He expressed the wish that they will have more meetings later this year.

The Russian president said he expects Hu to pay a state visit to Russia in June. Medvedev also expects to meet with Hu during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit and the summit of “BRIC” countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India and China, later this year.

China and Russia this year also are to hold a series of activities to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties.

Wu and Medvedev stressed the importance of parliamentary exchanges between the two countries, saying they reflect the high level of development of the China-Russia partnership of strategic cooperation.

Wu said the strong China-Russia partnership is reflected in such areas as frequent contacts between top leaders of the two countries, the staging of “Russian Language Year” in China, the signing of an oil cooperation agreement between the two governments, and exchanges between the NPC and the Russian parliament.

Russia, Medvedev said, places high importance on parliamentary exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.

The Russian president also said Wu’s visit reflects the momentum of fast growth in bilateral links.

Source: Xinhua

http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2009-05/14/content_252734.htm

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Lessons from Scarcity

May 5, 2009



Many thought a Great Depression could never happen now, but here it comes; and with it will be great changes in the paradigms of progress we have swallowed whole for centuries. The god of great scarcity now visits Western cultures, and we, ourselves, invited it with our own foolishness. Scarcity is always a ratio between number of people and availability of necessary resources for a reasonable survival.

There will be many changes before Scarcity is finished teaching its lessons. Many of these lessons can be looked at as a greatly needed refresher course in the collective wisdom we have forgotten, before we became consumer zombies.

Some things that may change for the better:

  • Parents will learn to say NO to their children again, a discipline lost in many Western countries since WW2. Children will then learn to say NO to themselves as they grow. This will be enable them to differentiate between needs and wants, and budget for both. When I was a child, my Aunt Helen used to sit me down when I was feeling deprived of something my Dad would not buy me. She would say,’Now I want you to tell me the truth. Is that something you really need, or is it something you just want? A simple distinction? Not today. Wants have become needs and many cannot tell the difference. Marketing has blurred the difference between necessity and desire, which translates into massive profits for corporations. Ultimately, we may understand that debt is servitude.
  • People in communities will need to cooperate to survive. This means that knowing one’s neighbour and having a good relationship with them is the cross-strand of the web that supports the entire community’s survival. We will stop relying on distant foci for our day to day satisfaction in life and develop communities: de-centralisation. Being able to borrow a cup of sugar in the community may become much more important than corporate social networking.
  • Eating will be more healthy as people return to cooking meals instead of fast, prepackaged, pre-pared foods. The ill effects from decades of fast food and obesity will be replaced with better health, mentally and physically.
  • People will find the land again. As more people depend on gardens to feed their families, the process of growing food, from tilling the soil to harvesting the crops will bring us in touch with nature in a way we have forgotten as comsumer zombies who would not consider buying a bruised banana at the market. Those who are lucky, will have some small plot of ground they can cultivate; the unlucky will not. Farmer’s markets are coming back in – tut tut for agri-business.
  • Waste will again be seen as a ‘sin’, which indeed it is. For most, the respect for ‘waste’ will be a financial necessity. Those who gorge themselves on society’s resources will be seen as the greedy, rather than the successful. This may lead to more class conflict, and generate demands from the people vis-a-vis the priority of basic rights such as healthcare, housing, employment, education and community services. Those Mercedes driving fat cats will not be our idols, but seen as the immoral gluttons they are.
  • We will find out who our REAL friends are as conspicuous affluence disappears. The takers, users and posturers in our social circles will soon reveal themselves. The true character of personal friends will become abundantly clear to us.
  • Family ties will be stronger as the the young return home and the family becomes a base for its members hitting hard times. The nuclear family will have more cohesion and the extended family will become important as a resource. The family dinner may once again become a daily event not to be missed.

In other times of history, the people have survived scarcity from which came many historic milestones; consider the French Revolution as growing directly from the poverty of the people, from scarcity created by elite gluttony and mismanagement of a society’s resources. Many people will never recover from the damage of ‘economic collapse’.

The biggest lesson of all we could learn is that scarcity is not even necessary if we give up waste and over-indulgence. Because, there is really no scarcity; we can produce what we need from the earth to ensure a good life for everyone.

What we cannot sustain is the mighty stealing and hoarding resources to the detriment of the rest of the population. This is the lesson I really hope we learn.

Further reading: Why Russians did better than Americans will do in economic collapse.

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Must there be a Tragedy of the Commons?

January 20, 2009


For years, I have dialogued in my mind as to whether ‘people get the government they deserve.’ The statement is more complicated than it first looks to be.

Coming out of university, my goals were to better the society in which I lived (and this is a common goal fueled by youthful enthusiasm). Later my goals were to better the living conditions of my family and to succeed at a job I liked, another common goal.

Had I not asked so many questions, these goals might have been within my grasp; but, cursed with insatiable curiosity, I persisted in asking questions which I had no way of knowing that the answers would devastate me; answers which would lead to anything but blissful contentment.

Now decades later, I am left wondering if a lobotomy would perhaps wipe these answers from my brain, and leave me sitting in the sunshine, enjoying a picnic with someone nice and listening to the birds chirp. One dimensional existence. Is it preferable to delving into the confusion of the world beyond my personal contentment? Why not blissful ignorance?

The question is ancient and ultimately unanswerable, except as an awareness of one’s freedom to think about the meaning of life and to choose (or choose not to choose) the course of one’s life. A discussion on Greek to modern philosophy would only provide more issues, more questions – it would be long, but fruitless. The internal contradiction in the entire process is this: the number of questions generated will always exceed the answers. It does seem futile to look for truth in such a way.

For decades I looked to Reason as a path to truth – until I realised Reason is a twobit harlot. Don’t be shocked. Ever wonder why four different people can all come up with ‘reasonable’ arguments for the same issue, and all four can be radically different? If reason yeilds truth, how can there be four mutually exclusive truths?

The answer is quite simple: first premises. Reason depends on a -priori assumptions at some point – accepting a value on faith. Often these assumptions are buried so deeply in our consciousness, we are not even aware of what they are. Everyone makes sense to him/herself. And this again is quite common. Life is filled with scheduled obligations and daily living; most dont have the energy or inclination to maintain a dialogue on assumptions about the world in which we exist.

Is this wrong? Are we negligent in some undefinable way? If so, to whom are we negligent? What if we are negligent to ourselves?

In Western liberal culture, the emphasis is on ME, my lifestyle, my family, my job, my house, my car, my stuff. And of course this is what generates corporate profits – an unquenchable desire to increase MEness through labor and purchasing power. In other parts of the world, the emphasis is on OUR – again not difficult to understand as cooperation is required in societies where real scarcity of essentials is present. These are of course sweeping generalisations, meant only as that for the purpose of this blog. (If I were to try to ‘prove’ these assumptions, I would find myself in the predicament of reason again: first premises would produce different answers.)

So cutting to the heart of the matter:

  • Do I have a responsibility to those who experience the conequences of my actions?If so, how far does this extend?
  • Or is my only responsibility to my own pleasure, safety, country, point of view?

For me this is a central question. How I answer this from day to day, moment to moment determines who I am to others and myself. What are my convictions? Do I know them at all? Do I care about some sweatshop worker in Sri Lanka paid dirt wages to manufacture designer shoes? Do I genuinely feel empathy for other people or only mimic the politically correct mania? How honest am I willing to be with myself? Who am I without my ‘stuff’? How do I want to be?

The nagging persistence of all these issues brings me back to a writer who has been dismissed in today’s world as the author of ‘failed socialism’. (Failed is a debatable adjective considering Communist China supports USA capitalism now and Russia is again a superpower.) Karl Marx. His concept of alienation is a lucid paradigm to help understand the universe at large. I believe the age of Marx has really just arrived.

Reading Marx is like tromping through a bog with a pair of ill-fitting sneakers on, so I will over simplify alienation for convenience:

The McUsuable characteristic of labour (real people working) results in people losing touch with themselves, each other and the world. In essence, people in McUsable cultures become one dimensional slaves to consumption. Eventually in capitalist society, we become alienated from ourselves first and foremost. And this does seem to have happened to Western society in general threating the survival of the planet. What is of value beyond consumer ‘stuff’?

Here on the net, perhaps millions of urls deal with this same subject: I don’t have the time to read them all. But I will leave the reader with a riddle – the answer to which may provide much light into one’s basic assumptions about life.

Tragedy of the commons

From Wikipedia

“The Tragedy of the Commons” is an influential article written by Garrett Hardin and first published in the journal Science in 1968.[1] The article describes a dilemma in which multiple individuals acting independently in their own self-interest can ultimately destroy a shared resource even where it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long term interest for this to happen.

Central to Hardin’s article is a metaphor of herders sharing a common parcel of land (the commons), on which they are all entitled to let their cows graze. In Hardin’s view, it is in each herder’s interest to put as many cows as possible onto the land, even if the commons is damaged as a result. The herder receives all of the benefits from the additional cows, while the damage to the commons is shared by the entire group. If all herders make this individually rational decision, however, the commons is destroyed and all herders suffer. The model has also been studied more recently, such as in game theory. Read more here.

One could spend years studying this: but knowing one’s own intuitive answer to the metaphor riddle well tell volumes about those unexamined assumptions that are the foundation for all our reasoning.

I personally believe (my first premise) that people are social beings whose individual well-being depends on the group well-being. Not a very popular view to enhance the profits and control of multi-national corporate activity. I believe we are happier when we feel empathy, that losing this one ability in today’s world means we are doomed to be alienated from ourselves, each other and the world. Economies should exist to serve people’s well-being; not people to serve corporate well-being. Our culture must mirror these convictions. But first, we must look in the mirror.

I do not believe there must be a ‘tragedy’ of the commons.

Ah…but the devil is in the details, eh?

More reading.
Collapse, Jared Diamond

De Young, R. (1999)

Hardin’s original essay

Karl Marx and his theory of alienation: How it can be applied to modern society

Marx’s theory of alienation

Comment on Marx’s Theory of Money and Alienation

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The world in 2035

January 19, 2009

I wish I could say the following article is the Sci-fi plot of a new novel: it is not. The future as envisioned by the Ministry of Defence below is highly probable. Much supporting evidence is listed under ‘Related’ at the end of the article for those who like research.

The question which begs to be asked is this: What sort of earth could we have created if we hadn’t spent most of our money on War technology and Wealth accumulation?

Revolution, flashmobs, and brain chips.
A grim vision of the future

Richard Norton-Taylor
Monday 9 April 2007
Source

Information chips implanted in the brain. Electromagnetic pulse weapons. The middle classes becoming revolutionary, taking on the role of Marx’s proletariat. The population of countries in the Middle East increasing by 132%, while Europe’s drops as fertility falls. “Flashmobs” – groups rapidly mobilised by criminal gangs or terrorists groups.

This is the world in 30 years’ time envisaged by a Ministry of Defence team responsible for painting a picture of the “future strategic context” likely to face Britain’s armed forces. It includes an “analysis of the key risks and shocks”. Rear Admiral Chris Parry, head of the MoD’s Development, Concepts & Doctrine Centre which drew up the report, describes the assessments as “probability-based, rather than predictive”.

The 90-page report comments on widely discussed issues such as the growing economic importance of India and China, the militarisation of space, and even what it calls “declining news quality” with the rise of “internet-enabled, citizen-journalists” and pressure to release stories “at the expense of facts”. It includes other, some frightening, some reassuring, potential developments that are not so often discussed.

New weapons
An electromagnetic pulse will probably become operational by 2035 able to destroy all communications systems in a selected area or be used against a “world city” such as an international business service hub. The development of neutron weapons which destroy living organisms but not buildings “might make a weapon of choice for extreme ethnic cleansing in an increasingly populated world”. The use of unmanned weapons platforms would enable the “application of lethal force without human intervention, raising consequential legal and ethical issues”. The “explicit use” of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and devices delivered by unmanned vehicles or missiles.

Technology
By 2035, an implantable “information chip” could be wired directly to the brain. A growing pervasiveness of information communications technology will enable states, terrorists or criminals, to mobilise “flashmobs”, challenging security forces to match this potential agility coupled with an ability to concentrate forces quickly in a small area.

Marxism
“The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx,” says the report. The thesis is based on a growing gap between the middle classes and the super-rich on one hand and an urban under-class threatening social order: “The world’s middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest”. Marxism could also be revived, it says, because of global inequality. An increased trend towards moral relativism and pragmatic values will encourage people to seek the “sanctuary provided by more rigid belief systems, including religious orthodoxy and doctrinaire political ideologies, such as popularism and Marxism”.

Pressures leading to social unrest
By 2010 more than 50% of the world’s population will be living in urban rather than rural environments, leading to social deprivation and “new instability risks”, and the growth of shanty towns. By 2035, that figure will rise to 60%. Migration will increase. Globalisation may lead to levels of international integration that effectively bring inter-state warfare to an end. But it may lead to “inter-communal conflict” – communities with shared interests transcending national boundaries and resorting to the use of violence.

Population and Resources
The global population is likely to grow to 8.5bn in 2035, with less developed countries accounting for 98% of that. Some 87% of people under the age of 25 live in the developing world. Demographic trends, which will exacerbate economic and social tensions, have serious implications for the environment – including the provision of clean water and other resources – and for international relations. The population of sub-Saharan Africa will increase over the period by 81%, and that of Middle Eastern countries by 132%.

The Middle East
The massive population growth will mean the Middle East, and to a lesser extent north Africa, will remain highly unstable, says the report. It singles out Saudi Arabia, the most lucrative market for British arms, with unemployment levels of 20% and a “youth bulge” in a state whose population has risen from 7 million to 27 million since 1980. “The expectations of growing numbers of young people [in the whole region] many of whom will be confronted by the prospect of endemic unemployment … are unlikely to be met,” says the report.

Islamic militancy
Resentment among young people in the face of unrepresentative regimes “will find outlets in political militancy, including radical political Islam whose concept of Umma, the global Islamic community, and resistance to capitalism may lie uneasily in an international system based on nation-states and global market forces”, the report warns. The effects of such resentment will be expressed through the migration of youth populations and global communications, encouraging contacts between diaspora communities and their countries of origin.

Tension between the Islamic world and the west will remain, and may increasingly be targeted at China “whose new-found materialism, economic vibrancy, and institutionalised atheism, will be an anathema to orthodox Islam”.

Iran
Iran will steadily grow in economic and demographic strength and its energy reserves and geographic location will give it substantial strategic leverage. However, its government could be transformed. “From the middle of the period,” says the report, “the country, especially its high proportion of younger people, will want to benefit from increased access to globalisation and diversity, and it may be that Iran progressively, but unevenly, transforms…into a vibrant democracy.”

Terrorism
Casualties and the amount of damage inflicted by terrorism will stay low compared to other forms of coercion and conflict. But acts of extreme violence, supported by elements within Islamist states, with media exploitation to maximise the impact of the “theatre of violence” will persist. A “terrorist coalition”, the report says, including a wide range of reactionary and revolutionary rejectionists such as ultra-nationalists, religious groupings and even extreme environmentalists, might conduct a global campaign of greater intensity”.

Climate change
There is “compelling evidence” to indicate that climate change is occurring and that the atmosphere will continue to warm at an unprecedented rate throughout the 21st century. It could lead to a reduction in north Atlantic salinity by increasing the freshwater runoff from the Arctic. This could affect the natural circulation of the north Atlantic by diminishing the warming effect of ocean currents on western Europe. “The drop in temperature might exceed that of the miniature ice age of the 17th and 18th centuries.”

Related

Revolution in Military Affairs: From Computer Generated Insurgents to Bioelectric Implants

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Robotics

Civil liberties

Biometrics

The Rockefeller roots of the United Nations
Video

8 years in 8 minutes
Video. How we got here (ahem).

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Things I read – Jan 18, 09 – Forgive, Forget & Shhhh

January 18, 2009

The Flight of Reason
An exceptionally well written examination of the ‘big picture’. Long but very worthwhile…nice flowing style.

Amy Goodman: Nothing to fear except no health care

Forgive Bush, Forget Gaza?

The Moral Dead Zone

Forgive and Forget?
Establishment Washington unifies against prosecutions

2010 is 1984?

NSA’s Wiretapping of Americans being outsourced to Israeli Companies?!?!

Don’t sleepwalk into Big Brother surveillance, schools warned
Let’s get the children used to a surveillance society early.

Maryland police and their weird war on ‘terror’

There are more and more of these stories cropping up.
Taken with the article above, we are going back to the future: 1984

The troopers zeroed in on Roman Catholic nuns,
human rights activists and church groups.
They monitored animal rights advocates and cyclists
pushing for more bicycle lanes. They opened a dossier on Amnesty International. (That group’s crime was listed as “human rights.”)
The troopers created files with titles like:
“Terrorism: Anti-War Protesters,” and
“Terrorism: Anti-Govern,” and
“Terrorism: Environmental Extremists,” and
“Terrorism: Pro-Life.”
To Maryland’s finest, even Quakers, the ultimate pacifists,
constituted a “security
threat group.”

For a real life forum case of surveillance click here

No smoking in most of Belmont California, not even at home
Not a joke. In Great Britain and Ireland, they were entertaining a law to prohibit smoking in a car, alone or not.

Deal to lease African farmland to rich countries collapses after backlash against ‘colonialism’

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News you WANT to read – Davids and Goliaths

January 18, 2009

Bolivia to take Israel to The Hague

Press TV
Fri, 16 Jan 2009
Source

Bolivia is seeking to take Tel Aviv to International Criminal Court over the brutal atrocities the Israeli forces have committed in Gaza. The Andean state says it is intended to make regional allies take a unified stance against “the Israeli political and military leaders responsible for the offensive on the Gaza Strip” and make it to stand trial at the international body in the Hague, said Sacha Llorenti, whose portfolio covers civil society.

Moves to begin the legal process will begin “probably next week,” Bolivia’s deputy justice and human rights minister Wilfredo Chavez told journalists during the visit to Geneva, AFP reported on Friday. Bolivia followed in the steps of its ally Venezuela and severed diplomatic ties with Israel over its massacre of the Gazans and snubbing the international calls for an ‘immediate’ and ‘durable’ truce, said the Latin American governments.

The Bolivian president Evo Morales told a group of diplomats in the administrative capital of La Paz that he will request the International Criminal Court (ICC) to file genocide charges against Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The ICC is competent to adjudicate war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide
committed after 2002. Israel and its closest ally, the United States, are not among the 108 signatories of the Rome Statute creating the Hague-based court in 2000 to investigate and prosecute war crimes.

After 21 days of non-stop bombardment and aggression, the Israeli invasion of Gaza has left 1,133 Palestinians killed and more than 5,200 wounded.

More GOOD news!!!

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