Friday, 8 July 2011


Some politicians, journalists, and scholars have started warning the global economic crisis of 2008-2011 may be worse than the Great Depression, a view that is very premature given the continued unfolding of government interventionist measures. Nevertheless, very few are interested in systemic change in the social order, political economy, defense establishment, and above all ‘business as usual’ ethos. 

The sole interest of the political, financial and social elites is to preserve their privileged positions, not practical solutions best suited for the welfare of the entire world. Combined with several ongoing regional wars that involve great and smaller powers, and refusal of governments and docile public for the most part to sacrifice ‘defense overkill’ of both conventional and nuclear forces to achieve financial equilibrium and restore economic health, the economic crisis is indicative of a basic predilection not only in conventional political thinking but callous human nature. 

Despite presumed higher intelligence than animals and lofty claims to reason, that distinguishes man from beast, humans may be the only species that destroys and kills its own species for pleasure rather than survival. A soldier (conventional or rebel) accepts self-sacrifice in the risk of killing and destroying not just for survival and a better way of life for his ‘tribe’, but often for the sake of an idea rooted in a god complex inculcated into the human mind. By glorifying and worshipping the power that brings destruction, humans – presumably guided by reason - are unique in the animal hierarchy. 

Historically people support leaders not on the basis of the ability to build harmonious society for the welfare of all, but those rooted in antagonistic relationships similar to battlefield conditions. Like a wounded starving lion desperate to survive, a lion that must kill anything and everything in its path at any cost, man in the state of nature and in organized society is just as predatory. 

Society conditions children from young age in aggressive lifestyles. In thought and skills, humans learn to lessen if not destroy the other, not for the necessity of survival as the wounded hungry lion but for domination, for satisfaction of the superego and the sense of feeling eternally alive. We live in organized hierarchical societies with elites guiding the masses for the past 5000 years; society that exacerbates the caveman killer instinct refined by technology and science and promoted by private and public institutions alike – all a reflection of human nature’s egocentric aggressive/destructive learned aspects. 

And this is in all endeavors - from passively or proudly accepting weapons of mass destruction for our nation-state while denying them to the other we deem less worthy and/or menacing, to finding ways designed to elevate militarily, financially, socially, ethnically, politically, culturally, etc. ourselves and our ‘tribe’ at the expense, indeed to death, of the other. That such atomism with traits of self-hatred can be so deep-rooted in humans is indicative of self-destructiveness externalized, systematized, institutionalized, rationalized and worshipped. 

Indeed, this is a testament that neither religions nor secular education from ancient times to the present has done much to alter man’s destruction instinct. On the contrary, with some exceptions mostly in ancient Oriental thought, opportunistically and/or dogmatically both religion and secular philosophy have accentuated man’s destruction instinct. The current global economic crisis is so serious and so threatening because elites responsible for the crisis refuse solutions beyond the perimeters that will deprive them of their privileged status. 

How intoxicating and hypnotic in all its forms power must be just at the time that it seems to be disappearing from the minds of those who once enjoyed it. How wonderful that parasitic capitalists from bankers who continue to receive multi-million dollar bonuses despite their bank’s bailout funds emanating from the public, to cartel manipulators profiteering at the expense of billions of people, to merchants of fear selling terrorism on behalf of defense contractors? 

How grand that general and politician agree with defense industry mogul to continue piling up weapons that in essence means much slower and far more painful economic recovery for billions of people, more destabilizing and less democratic world, greater insecurity for all? How fantastic that the wretched from the Philippines and Madagascar to Paris and Mexico City eat out of garbage dumps and landfills when the cats and dogs of the affluent enjoy a lifestyle befitting their master’s taste and ethos? 

Rich nations and capitalists really do value garbage more than people after all as they have proved throughout the ages even amid economic depressions, more than social justice; and they really do oppose structural changes in the economic, political, and defense arenas. Unless there is fundamental change, Grapes of Wrath we may be experiencing for the rest of the decade and beyond, as did the 1930s generation, as have our ancestors for the past 5000 years when elites opted to preserve their status instead of societal welfare. 

A return to Grapes of Wrath can be avoided; the crisis need not assume its worst phase. The US under a new practical ‘managerialist-guided’ administration instead of a delusional ideologue-driven one seems to be on track to strengthening the role of government and better monitoring the private sector. This same trend had actually started in Europe and Asia even before Obama’s election. 

As details unfold of US policy in many fronts it is encouraging to see that the global crisis, and reckless foreign policy of the past is re-examined and set on a more rational footing of ‘mutual respect’ as Obama has stated and as world leaders have welcomed. Besides government bailout of banks – money used to buy other banks and support stock values instead of issuing credit - and stimulus packages for other sectors, there is a mega step that the US and the nuclear club can take, a step even more significant today than it was when Erich Fromm proposed it in 1961, namely, universal controlled disarmament. 

Most of the G-20 heads of state already have already pledged that they place hope on renewable forms of energy, new technologies in a number of areas from food production and pharmaceuticals to high-tech and old-tech manufacturing, and a new state-private sector relationship designed to emerge less damaged from the current crisis. 

An agreement for negotiations toward drastic defense reductions and gradual elimination of nuclear weapons with the resulting savings to be invested in renewable energy, and new technologies designed to increase sustainability in basic materials is a concrete step that will go a very long way in re-directing capital away from parasitic sectors and inspire new confidence in the economy. If the G-20 and nations possessing nuclear weapons start negotiating to reach such a goal, it will alter the entire world’s political economy and it will be the kind of economic, social and political incentive for a New World Order that will be much more democratic and socially and environmentally just. Because such a world does not suit the interests of the elites who would have to readjust their privileged positions, only grass roots pressure can yield results.

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