Archive for crisis

Canadian and US Federal Elections – 2015, 2016: A summary of the prospects and possible outcomes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2015 by jtoddring

Revolution, reform, stagnation – or worse?

It is sometimes difficult to say what would be best for a given nation at a given time in history. There are things that would be desirable, of course, or which seem desirable, and things that are quite clearly, urgently needed – but in what way they should best be brought about, can be very difficult to say. There are many unintended consequences in life, and sometimes, good things turn out badly, or terrible things end up generating good responses, and good results in the end – though no one would wish for it to have come about in the way that it did. Ethics and compassion should rule our actions and guide our choices, but predicting what, precisely, is the best course, is virtually impossible. We simply have to use our best judgement, and go with that. Some things are clear, some not so clear. But we can say a few things with reasonable certainty.

We should remember that everything is subject to change at all times, and open to change, but one thing that appears to be clear, at least for the moment, is that the Canadian federal election is, by all indications, a non-event, since the three major political parties have either lost their courage, or lost their integrity, or both, and are all on-board with a pro-pipeline, pro big oil, neo-liberal, pro “free trade” agenda of de facto corporate rule – and the only party with any integrity, vision or courage has such little support that they are unlikely win. At the federal level at least, things look pretty bleak at the moment for Canadian politics. Harper has to go, without question; but the alternatives look very uninspiring, to say the least.

I will vote my conscience anyway, as always; but the election seems very uninteresting, and is likely to change little. Big oil and big business will, in all likelihood, continue to run the nation – and run it into the ground, and off an ecological cliff – while the majority of the people remain passive and apathetic, as their rights, civil liberties, democracy, freedom, social programs, environment and country are slowly bled away, and bled dry.

“Not with a bang, but a whimper” – maybe this should be the new Canadian motto, or even the chorus for a new national anthem. Where are the likes of Tommy Douglas when you need them?

We stand on guard for what? Oh, right – Tim Horton’s, and the television remote control. Who says hockey is the nation’s favourite past-time? Clearly, that spot is reserved for a most devoted tradition of public apathy. The courage seems to have gone out of this nation some decades ago, and has yet to return.

The US is in a similar state to Canada and other “leading” industrial nations in some ways, but is far more unstable, and could go in one of several very different directions – and, unlike the up-coming Canadian federal election, the US federal election which approaches could be decisive, and of profound import, with far-reaching consequences, not just for the people of the United States, but also, for the world.

In the US, if Hillary Clinton wins, and becomes the next president, then the majority of the people of the United States are likely to think, “Well, we should give her a chance, and see if she does anything positive” – and then yawn, and collectively go back to sleep.

So that would be nothing short of a disaster, to my mind, if she wins – to say nothing of her unwavering loyalty to Wall Street and her eagerness to start a war with Iran – which, by the way, is positively insane, since Russia and China have economic and military alliances and agreements with Iran, and attacking Iran, as Russia has made clear, could very well trigger a nuclear confrontation between the great powers, and quite literally start WWIII.

So a win for Hillary “bomb-em-now” Clinton would mean stagnation and no real change, at best, when what we urgently need is major change, and now; and it could mean the worst imaginable scenario – something infinitely worse than mere stagnation and inaction in a time of great, and growing crisis. For these reasons, I would have to say that a Hillary Clinton Presidential win would be disastrous for the nation, and, quite possibly, disastrous for the world.

If Donald Trump, or another of the far-right lunatics from the Republican Party, somehow manages to win, then we could see, not only the further looting of Main Street by Wall Street, exactly as Hillary would preside over, and as George Bush and Barack Obama presided over, and aided and abetted; and it would not only mean a probable, and even eager launching of a war that could very well, and very easily, lead to WWIII – also, in lock-step with the Hillary agenda – but we could also see the nation explode into civil war, by the hatred and tensions that could quickly come to a boiling point, and overflow in mass chaos and violence.

So if Hillary means stagnation at best, and disaster at worst, a Republican win would mean, most likely, disaster, or worse disaster. Neither Clinton or the Republicans are acceptable to any sane person. Both Hillary and the Republican candidates must be rejected.

But, on the other hand, a far-right Republican government that pushes the US over the brink, and into civil war, by further fuelling and igniting racial, class and other tensions, might well explode itself into the very grounds that give birth to a revolution. Some would say this would be a good thing. We should wish, however, if we are at all sane, that revolution would come about in better, and more peaceful ways. I would not say that this is a course of history we should wish on anyone. So heaven forbid that either Hillary, or one of the Republican representatives for the billionaire class – as Hillary is as well – end up in the White House. Either one would spell very real and great danger for the nation.

That really leaves only one contender in the race, and that is, the independent, democratic socialist from Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders is a grassroots populist – in reality, and not just in rhetoric and PR spin, unlike Hillary – and has fought consistently, for four decades, for the middle class and the poor, and for progressive politics that will benefit all the people, and not just Wall Street, the corporate elite and the super-rich.

Sanders is now the front runner in key primary states, and leading in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, 10 and 20 points respectively, ahead of the former front runner, Hillary Clinton. He is drawing the biggest crowds of any candidate. He is generating a wave of excitement across the nation – even in died-in-the-wool conservative states.

Bernie Sanders has raised more money than any candidate – despite having rejected the billionaires’ money. He has, so far, generated over a million individual donations, averaging $24. And he has raised a million donations faster than any other candidate in US history, again showing the massive groundswell of grassroots support that is rallying behind him.

And he has a message, a vision, and a policy platform, that resoundingly resonates with the great majority of the people of the United States: get money out of politics and make the government represent all the people, and not just the rich; make elections publicly funded, so that they are free and fair; make the richest 1% and the large corporations pay their fair share of taxes; make health care and education free for all – up to and including college and university; stop the wars, invest in America, and rebuild the nation – and with an emphasis on fairness and a decent life for all. As one astute commentator put it, Bernie Sanders is what Obama pretended to be in 2008. And that is why he is loved. And that is why he just might win.

If Bernie Sanders does win, what would happen? It certainly would not spell revolution, and in fact, it could forestall a revolution. Senator Sanders would help to heal a broken nation that is on the edge of fiscal insolvency and civil war, and take it in a bold, positive, new direction. But it would not spell revolution. It would be bold, powerful social change, in a direction that most people would consider very, very positive, and very inspiring and hopeful, but it would not be revolution.

I’m not a capitalist, and I think there are better ways to organize human society, such as those outlined by Chomsky, Kropotkin, Bookchin, Michael Albert, Rudolph Rocker and Bertrand Russell; and I also think that it is clear that capitalism is intrinsically anti-democratic, exploitative, oppressive, dehumanizing and degrading, and limiting of human potential, by its very nature. But if one insists on keeping a capitalist system, even for just the short term or the present, then at least it has to be regulated, and its worst injustices and brutalities kept in check, while its benefits are more equally shared. That is exactly what Bernie Sanders is proposing to do, and it is hardly radical – it is simply a matter of common sense, basic ethics, and basic sanity.

There is still a great deal of red scare ideology in the US – that is clear. But fortunately, it works only on an uninformed, and misinformed, and shrinking minority. Look at Denmark, Sweden or Finland – these are democratic socialist countries with capitalist markets, and they work quite well with their mixed economies, and are also free and democratic. (Denmark is home to the happiest people in the world, according to global polls – far above the US.)

In fact, these democratic socialist, mixed capitalist economy countries are much more democratic than the United States, which has descended into an oligarchy, as a recent Princeton study confirms, and is now ruled, not by the people, but by Wall Street.

Bernie would start to put a dent in that corporate oligarchy, and begin to bring the power back to the people, where it rightly belongs. And some people are afraid of that. Some are terrified of that thought – and these are the same business elites who now rule the nation.

Some are simply misinformed – others are working for the same corporate elite who don’t want their power or privileged position to be challenged. Ignorance, greed, egomania and power lust are the main sources of opposition to policies such as Bernie would bring in – and sooner or later, and hopefully sooner, these obstacles will be overcome, and defeated. At present, the majority of people in the US support the policy proposals Bernie Sanders is making. The minority who do not, seem to be living in an earlier era, namely, the McCarthy era.

The rest of the world no longer lives in 1955. It’s time for America to get with the program, and catch up with the rest of the world. Bernie will help the US to do just that.

The Founding Fathers of the United States were very alert, for their time, but they were not perfect, nor were they omniscient. In fact, as Chomsky has pointed out, the majority of them, with the exception of Thomas Jefferson, despised what most people today would consider democracy to mean. The majority of the Founding Fathers believed in what John Jay said, that, “The people who own the country ought to govern the country.” That is to say that, aside from Jefferson, the Founding Fathers believed that, “We the people,” meant, “We, the rich, white, male slave owners” ought to rule the land. So reverence for the Founding Fathers expresses a basic ignorance of history.

(I admire Thomas Jefferson, but even he was a slave owner, which, of course, is unconscionable, and showed even his great weaknesses and contradictions.)

Democracy has evolved a great deal since 1776, and that is a good thing. Bernie Sanders would simply carry that evolution of democracy a further step forward – principally, by challenging the ruling corporate oligarchy that has high-jacked democracy, exactly as Jefferson warned would happen, 200 years ago – and by returning the power to the people.

If power to the people is something to be feared, then we really are lost. This is not something that should be feared, but embraced. And the majority of people in the US are ready for it, and support exactly the kinds of policies that Bernie Sanders is proposing, and urging.

The time has come for real change. And Bernie Sanders may well prove to be one more major drivers of that change. All indications are that he is precisely that: a driver of powerful, positive social change. The majority are ready for that, even if the oligarchy and a shrill minority will scream, and do.

The basic structures of capitalism would remain intact under a Sanders presidency – the benefits and working conditions derived from and experienced within the capitalist economy would be more widely and more fairly shared, more humane and more tolerable, but the capitalist structure would remain in place. For some, this would be seen as a good thing, to preserve capitalism. Others do not see it that way. I would say that, while Senator Sanders might delay a much-needed revolution (for example, delaying a radical shift in the control or ownership of the means of production, such as decentralized, community-based, democratic worker ownership, through worker co-ops, on a nation-wide scale – something along the lines of what Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, Bertrand Russell or Peter Kropotkin have recommended), Sanders would, most likely, set the country on a better track, and steer it away from the implosion and sheer disaster to which it is presently heading – and that would be a very good thing. It is probably better to steer the ship away from the approaching cliff, then to watch it go over (or push it over) and try to rebuild from the wreckage. Dr. Strangelove may disagree, but I think this is the saner path.

Revolutionary change can wait – maybe not for long, but for a little while – in order to bring about some healing and recovery for a nation that is rapidly spiralling toward self-destruction: economically, socially, environmentally, and possibly politically as well. Bernie could be the person who can bring stability to a nation that is currently set to implode. While this might not be as idyllic an outcome as some would like, it might be the best thing we can hope for at present – and it is certainly infinitely better than the immediate alternatives on hand, such as Hillary or one of the Republican zealots would bring.

In fact, if Bernie Sanders does win, he just might inspire and unite the people of the United States enough, that they can bring about, not just much-needed reforms, but in the end, a much-needed social, political and economic revolution as well.

Certainly, having a true populist democrat and progressive as the next President of the United States would not instantly change everything and right all wrongs, but it would be a start, and a very good start at that, I would say.

I believe it is possible that Bernie will win. I certainly hope so. And if he does, then yes, that is only the White House – but that is a powerful office, of course, and inroads could be made from there towards making real change.

If nothing else, Bernie could use the White House as the world’s most powerful podium, and from there, inspire the people, through popular movements, to create the changes that are needed on the ground, and to put the required pressure on Congress, and on Wall Street, to make further, bigger changes.

So the White House is a starting point for bigger things – and a powerful starting point. And I think he’s going to do it. I think he’s going to win.

Go Bernie.

In conclusion, I would have to say this. In the US, Bernie Sanders deserves support, and deserves to win. Certainly there are no other major candidates that are remotely supportable. It’s Bernie, or Wall Street candidate A, B, C or D. The choice should be clear.

In Canada, the situation is much less exciting, but the election is still extremely important. Harper has to go, and if that requires strategic voting – something that I normally am strongly opposed to – then I now think that this election warrants it. Harper’s assault on democracy is simply too grave for us not to use every peaceful means at our disposal to remove him from power. Do vote. And vote strategically – and get Harper out.

J. Todd Ring,

October 18, 2015

See also:

Election 2015 and Strategic Voting: Madness, Or Practical Necessity?

An economic and political analysis of Canada, neoliberalism, and the world

A call to the drowning

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 17, 2015 by jtoddring

I would love to celebrate the beauty of jazz, of blues, of classical music, and of this world, and life, and I do; but I must also relate to the suffering of this world, and attend to it, or I would feel myself to be heartless, and it would be unforgivable.

The central problem with this world is a lack of moral and intellectual courage, as Chomsky has said as well. And that failure of courage comes from a pervasive illusion of powerlessness. The great majority of people remain passive in the face of evil, because they are deluded into thinking they have no power. And so, evil flourishes.

At heart, is a mistrust of themselves, as Erich Fromm, C. Wright Mills, Huxley and others have said. They are killing themselves slowly, by a fundamental mistrust in themselves.

But they have no ears to hear, and no eyes to see. They are dancing to the band, playing beautifully, as the ship sinks. There seems to be no reaching them.

Find the life boats, you few who are not asleep. The ship is going down, and the vast majority seem intent to go down with it, and have no concern for anyone, or anything, except their present, pleasant time.

And the band plays on.

I will still try to wrest the helm from the madmen who control it, and steer us in a safer direction, as I think all sane minds should do; but be prepared, for the insane may not be forced from the wheel soon enough, and we may hit upon disaster greater than we have ever seen in our recorded history.

Brace yourselves, while we do everything in our power to make a change of course.

We will either avert the worst, or contend with it. But paralysis is the worst we can do. Shun that. Wake up. I know it has been said many times, but it is the most urgent call. Wake up. How can I say that more strongly? Wake up!

I don’t want to talk to idiots anymore. No more. No more. Deal with reality.

I know, I have no diplomacy. I have only fierce honesty, and love. It is time to wake up. Our civilization is sinking. Forgive me if I am not more polite in waking you before you drown.

(Now, every thoughtful person, and every thoughtless person, ignore this, for there are so many other, more trivial things to contend with.)

J. Todd Ring,
October 17, 2015

A sinking world, and sane responses to it

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2015 by jtoddring

My country is sinking like a rock (for reasons of corporate oligarchy, neoliberalism, corporate rights agreements, and an addiction to oil revenues and the politics of a resource extraction-based economy, and the thorough corporate domination of the political process), though the great majority of my fellow citizens do not realize it, lost in a stupor of denial as they are (I can think of twelve countries in the Western hemisphere which are either moving in a positive direction, or at least showing some fight – and Canada is not one of them); and so too is the greater part of the world descending, and rapidly so, into a morass of injustice and ecological suicide, to say nothing of concerns for freedom, human rights and democracy, (as well as a pervasive malady, and an epidemic, of economic fundamentalism, neoliberalism and neoconservatism being the primary, and reigning, quasi-religious orthodoxies, along with other forms of ideological and even “scientific” fundamentalism, which are widespread, and far more influential today than their mirror image, which is religious fundamentalism, and an even worse epidemic of illusions of powerlessness, as well as an epidemic of apathy, denial, conformity, and undue and excessive, and frequently mad obedience to power) with only a handful of countries as the exception. How am I not to be distressed, if not anguished, and even furious, or all of the above?

All of the greatest minds and greatest spirits have echoed the same thoughts about the modern world. As David Suzuki has recently said (paraphrasing from memory), “There has never been a better time for being scared and angry….. We should get mad as hell, and then fight like hell.”

Where is the fight in us? And why should we be ashamed of being distraught with a world that is on a collision course with both tyranny and collective ecological suicide, as well as being steeped in war, violence, rampant injustice, inequality, poverty and a culture of voyeurism, vicarious living, materialism, consumerism, and a pathological aversion to the real?

As the great sociologist Erich Fromm said (again, paraphrasing from memory), “Normal only exists in relation to a profoundly abnormal norm.” “The fact that there is neurosis [or psychological strain and distress] is a good sign. It is a sign of a healthy individual, an individual that is still struggling to be fully alive, and by necessity, is struggling against a society that wishes to turn him or her into an atomaton.”

As the saying goes, “If you can keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs – you’re not paying attention.”

Calm is good. Heart-break for the state of the world is natural. And action is vitally needed – and urgently so.

Let’s see more action, and the heart-break will fade into a memory of times past, and lessons learned.

October 7, 2015

Essential reading:

(A few among many other great books that could be included in such a list)

A Brief History of Progress – Ronald Wright

The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies – Richard Heinberg

When Technology Fails – Matt Stein

Shock Doctrine – Naomi Klein

A Game As Old As Empire – John Perkins

The End of America – Naomi Wolf

Necessary Illusions: Thought Control In Democratic Societies – Noam Chomsky

Year 501: The Conquest Continues – Noam Chomsky

Escape From Freedom – Erich Fromm

The Ecology of Freedom – Murray Bookchin

The Chalice and the Blade – Rianne Eisler

World As Lover, World As Self – Joanna Macy

Ancient Futures – Helena Norberg-Hodge

Brave New World Revisited – Aldous Huxley

Roads To Freedom – Bertrand Russell

Wisdom of the Elders – David Suzuki

Walden – Henry David Thoreau

On Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau

The Discourse On Voluntary Servitude – Etienne de la Boite

Mutual Aid – Peter Kropotkin

Peter Kropotkin Was No Crackpot – Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History, June, 1997

The Hero With A Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell

The Mayans, the ecological crisis and the end of the world: a little sanity please

Posted in analysis, anthropology, books, collapse, consciousness, disaster, ecological crisis, ecology, environment, history, political philosophy, politics, science, sustainability, tipping point, world religions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2012 by jtoddring

It seems like a lot of people are going to extremes with regards to the Mayan predictions – and I mean the skeptics as well as the fanatics. Some are dismissive of the Mayans altogether, while others are taking a very literal and grossly overly simplistic view, and thinking the world will end on a specific day in the near future: December 21, 2012. The Mayans never said anything of the sort – and at the same time, they were also far too intelligent, thoughtful and sophisticated in their understanding of the cycles of time for us to dismiss them altogether.

The Mayan prophecies do not speak of the end of the world in a literal sense. The Mayans said that the world has ended four times before, so clearly, they are not talking about the end of the physical world, or even the end of the human species. They are talking about the end of a civilization – a social collapse, and the end of an era. And that is something we cannot so easily dismiss, because we have seen civilizations collapse in the past – Sumer, Easter Island, and the Mayan civilization itself, for example (the Mayan urban civilization, that is). (See Jared Diamond, Collapse, Ronald Wright, A Brief History of Progress, or Mathew Stein’s When Technology Fails.) We are also seeing our infrastructure beginning to crumble, while the environmental crisis is accelerating. Clearly, the collapse of our current civilization is not something far-fetched, but a clear and undeniable possibility – and we seem hell-bent on ensuring that it happens.

The Mayans were, furthermore, too subtle and sophisticated in their thinking with regards to the cycles or patterns of time to believe that things will come to an end in a single day, I would think. They mark the passage of time in great cycles of 500 years, and larger cycles of roughly 26,000 years. To think that the Mayans believed everything would end on a single day would seem to me like a gross over-simplification, and a serious misunderstanding. It would be akin to Christian fundamentalists taking an extremely literal reading of the Bible, and believing that the world was literally created in seven days.

I would say it would be unwise to be categorically dismissive of the BIble, just as it would be equally foolish and confused to take it on an overly simplistic or literalist reading or interpretation. The same is true for the predictions of the Maya and their rich and unparalleled calendrical knowledge and understanding of the cycles of time. We do have the intellectual capacity, one would hope, for something a little more refined and a little more subtle than a knee-jerk reaction to either reject and dismiss them out of hand, or to embrace them in a literalist and overly simplistic way.

What is likely is that the Mayans meant that December 21, 2012 would mark the beginning of the end for a certain civilization or world order – ours – and the beginning of its collapse and replacement by a new civilization. The changes that they predicted may come swiftly, but they are not likely to come all at once, in the span of a mere 24 hours. It is possible, but it is unlikely. But that doesn’t mean that the Mayans were wrong – it means we shouldn’t be so crude and sloppy in our thinking, or so presumptuous or arrogant.

Consider this. The Maya had predicted for centuries that on a given year, month and day, one cycle of 500 years would end, and another cycle of 500 years would begin. They said that on that day, the balance would shift from light being predominant, to darkness being predominant. This was a prediction that had been passed on for generations. Well, as it turned out, the prediction coincided to the day with the first conquistador stepping foot on the mainland – Cortez.

If we were to look at the last, say two thousand years of the history of the Americas, we would most certainly mark the arrival of the first conquistador on the mainland as the beginning of an entirely new and radically different era for all of the Americas. How did the Mayans foresee this great shift, and predict it for hundreds of years in advance? Surely we cannot look at this fact and then dismiss the Mayans. Somehow, they have made stunningly accurate predictions, and although we cannot understand how that was possible, it is proven beyond any doubt. To dismiss the Maya considering this, would simply be irrational in the face of the evidence.

Take acupuncture as another example: we don’t know how acupuncture works, and Western medicine is baffled by Traditional Chinese Medicine, which gave rise to acupuncture, but one thing we do know for certain: acupuncture works. It is the same with the Mayan predictions: we cannot understand how they could make such startling accurate predictions, but we know for certain that they have. Therefore, although we may not understand it, we cannot dismiss the predictions of the Maya when they have demonstrated such stunning accuracy in the past.

What is the scientific approach? The truly scientific approach would not be to say, well, nobody can predict the future, so the Mayan prophecies must be rubbish. No, the scientific approach would be to look at the actual evidence, and not make foregone conclusions. And what does the evidence say? The evidence says that somehow the Mayans were able to predict major shifts or bifurcation points, major junctures in time, with stunning accuracy. Just because this does not fit into our current theory or ideology does not mean it is wrong. The facts are the facts, and the scientific approach is not to dismiss the facts when they discomfortingly fail to conform to our theories, but to change our theory and our view to conform with the facts. Anything else is pseudo-intellectual and pseudo-scientific, and is pure bigotry and blind dogmatism and ideological fixation. The facts say that the Mayans were able to predict certain major changes in history, centuries before they happened. Our theories and our views obviously need modification. But more immediately, the facts require that we take an attitude towards the Mayan predictions which is one of curiosity and respect, and not derisive dismissiveness.

Consider another example: gravity. We know that gravity exists, and we know that it works, but scientists still don’t really understand how it works. But simply because we don’t know how gravity works doesn’t mean we say, well, gravity must not be real. Again (to belabour the point for the benefit of the chronically closed-minded and pseudo-scientific) the same is true for the Mayan predictions: we don’t know how they are possible, but we know that they were correct. Do you “believe” in gravity? No, nobody “believes” in gravity – you don’t have to: just drop an apple, or trip on the stairs, and it is proven. The broken nose and the bruised apple are proof enough. Belief has nothing to do with it. Believing or not believing in the Mayan prophecies is the same: they are proven accurate; and it is evidence, not belief, which is all that matters.

Furthermore, considering that not only the Maya, but also the Hopi, the Ojibwa, and many other native peoples have predicted essentially the same thing – that there would come a time when the people become wooden, and lose their natural feelings of empathy and compassion, caring and responsibility for one another and for the broader web of life, and that as a result, calamity would follow, and their civilization will collapse – and considering that is now obvious that we are fulfilling such predictions, it would seem very unwise to disregard their warnings. Complacency, now as always, is a much greater danger than is precaution. We don’t have to run screaming for the hills, but we do need to deal with our environmental crisis, or our civilization will surely collapse, exactly as predicted – maybe not in a single day, but over the course of the coming decades or years.

Consider the fact that other native elders are on record for having predicted, before the start of the first Persian Gulf War in Iraq, that it would be a horrible environmental disaster, as well as a humanitarian one: and they said they had had visions of a black rain falling from the sky. Well, what happened? Saddam Hussein’s troops set fire to the Kuwaiti oil wells when they retreated, and black rain fell across the region. How do we dismiss such proven predictions?

In fact, we should have listened, and prevented war with Iraq. Let those who have ears hear. Let those who have eyes see. The deaf blind will have to accept that they will continue to fall into ditches and injure themselves, for they are heedless, and cannot be guided or forewarned. Pity them for their stubbornness and ignorance.

Consider the most famous proven prediction of all, or certainly one of them. Months before the assassination of JFK, Jean Dixon repeatedly warned the White House that the president’s life was in danger. She particularly urged him not to travel to Texas during that period of time. How such things are known, we do not know – but we know that some people at least do have such fore-knowledge of events: knowledge which transcends mere perspicacity or ordinary foresight.

Consider the stories told for generations by a certain native tribe in Northern Canada about a certain lake, which they said was very evil, and which they warned the people to avoid at all costs, without exception. The native people living nearby had a prediction, a prophecy, that one day men would come and take stones from the lake, then they would use those stones, and a large bird would then fly and drop fire from the sky with material from those stones. That lake is now called Uranium Lake, and it was the site of the first uranium mined for the first nuclear weapons, and the first bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima. How is that for uncanny? If that does not send a shiver down your spine, or at least make you wonder, then as Einstein said, you are as good as dead.  How can we dismiss such fore-knowledge when it is proven beyond all doubt?

Or consider the prophecies of the Inca, which said that if the great white brother came from across the ocean carrying a cross, there would be trouble. Well, the first conquistadors came bearing crosses, and there certainly was trouble, and a lot of it.

Considering all of this and more – and this is just the briefest list of examples, and barely scratches the surface – to be dismissive of native prophecies is simply foolish, and also irrational and unscientific. We know they knew, even if we have no idea how that is possible. Our frankly racist and ethnocentric presumptions must fall in the face of the evidence. The simple fact is: prophecy works, or at least it certainly has at certain times in the past. Just as the Western medical establishment, with its severely flawed and out-dated biological-reductionist and mechanistic medical model has been forced to admit that acupuncture works, despite not being able to understand it, so too must all seriously scientific or even rational modern people admit that prophecy is real – whether that is baffling to us or not – and the Mayans in particular have proven their accuracy in these matters.

Considering the way we are undermining the basis of life on earth, and pushing our civilization to the point of collapse as a result, it would seem unwise, if not simply foolish to dismiss the Mayan predictions entirely. At the same time, to think that the world will end on a certain day this month, is in all likelihood foolish as well. The reality is somewhere in between, in all probability, and we had best heed the warnings of the Maya, and take care of our environment, or we will see, not the end of the world, but the end of the world as we know it, and the collapse of our civilization. And that may be closer than we think.

It is time for us to get it together, environmentally speaking, and make some very real and urgently needed changes now, or bear the consequences of our apathy and denial. This world order will most definitely end. But that will not be the end, but only a new beginning. And the sooner this predatory, anti-ecological, suicidal and grotesquely unjust order ends, the better.

Of course I could be wrong, and it is conceivable that the Mayans somehow foresaw a cataclysmic event that would happen on a certain day, which would wipe out our civilization – if not instantly, then over the months that follow – and many millions or billions of people with it. That would be horrific to contemplate, but it is possible – anything is possible. It is, however, extremely unlikely.

What is not unlikely however, and what is in fact absolutely certain, is that if we do not change course, we will continue to drive ourselves into the ground, through a simple lack of common sense and ecological wisdom, until our infrastructure collapses under the weight of a crisis we have created for ourselves, and our civilization itself collapses. If that happens, then billions of people will suffer greatly: and that will happen, unless we take bold and decisive action now, and without delay. But whether we see a crushing collapse of our current civilization, and have to scramble to survive afterward, and rebuild from scratch, starting with pre-industrial, medieval levels of technology, in small communities barely hanging on; or whether we make the bold moves to transform our present civilization before such a collapse, is entirely up to us.

There is no fate in this. It is a matter of choice. The power is in our hands. It is a matter now of whether we will boldly do what is obviously necessary, and make the needed changes swiftly and without delay, or whether we continue to drift on our present course until collapse hits.

We can still make a relatively peaceful transition to a new and better world, even though we will certainly have to weather a great storm of our own making which has already been set into motion; or, we can wait until change is forced upon us, in which case, the transition will be painful in the extreme.

It is our choice. Humanity will survive in either case. What is in our power to determine is how painful and traumatic, or how peaceful the transition is. But whether we make a major change, is not an option. We will do it willingly, or the environmental crisis will force it upon us.

Better to act freely, and with foresight, and now.

And you don’t have to be a prophet to see that.

December 17, 2012

The Growing World Food Crisis: Context, Analysis & Action

Posted in alternative, alternatives, analysis, biofuel, capitalism, carbon, class, climate change, CO2, collapse, corporate fascism, corporate rule, corporations, corporatism, corporatocracy, crash, disaster, drought, ecological crisis, ecology, economics, economy, elite, empire, empowerment, end-game, environment, ethanol, events, flood, fossil fuel, geopolitics, global warming, globalism, human rights, imperialism, peak oil, policy, political economy, politics, politics of oil, post-carbon, renewable, resources, Rockefeller, sustainability, video, war with tags , , , , on May 14, 2008 by jtoddring

World food riots have begun. There is social unrest, precipitated by the deepening world food crisis and rising food prices, in at least 30 nations, and spreading rapidly. Food shortages – primarily a crisis of distribution, and not supply – grow while prices rise, as global warming, biofuel production, environmental degradation, commodities speculation, oil depletion, rising energy costs, rising meat and dairy intake, over-consumption, hording and waste, as well as the increasing global economic madness of a predatory neoliberal corporate dominated world economy, drive the crisis to deepening levels. The crisis is world-wide, affecting North and South, East and West, though Africa, Asia and Latin America are taking the worst of the brunt, as usual. However, this is a truly global crisis, particularly as the middle class is being wiped out in the “advanced” industrial nations, and no stop-gap measures will suffice to remedy the growing problem. It is a problem of spreading poverty, primarily, with ecological and geological factors weighing in heavily as well. It is primarily a testimony to the utter failure of the global corporatist order of neoliberal politics and economics – or its success, depending on whether you are among the tiny business elite, or among the vast majority of the world’s polulation, which is sliding rapidly downward into not only serfdom, but also abject poverty. It is the latest chapter in the rape of the Earth.

Common sense, cooperation and basic human traits such as solidarity and sharing will be needed to resolve this growing disaster. That may be a tall order, but within reach.

However, as much as this is the case, soon we will hear the cries of the giant agro-chemical-biotech corporations (which are all now merged) – the same corporations that bear a large portion of the responsibility for undermining ecosystems, world food security and equitable food distribution, helping to cause the crisis they will claim to solve – claiming again that genetically modified foods will be the salvation of the world.

As most people now are aware, genetically modified (GM) foods pose far too great a risk to humanity and the earth, as their effects are unknown. The popular film I Am Legend speaks eloquently of the more dire possibilities arising from unleashing technology we do not understand. But we should be ready for the PR campaign, as it will unfold shortly.

Half a dozen giant corporations dominate the world food system. It is these same giants that have been deeply involved in the food crisis which has unfolded and worsened over many decades, and who will shortly present their highly deceitful plans to “save the world” from hunger, through biotechnology and genetic engineering – a move that will only increase the risks to humanity, while further increasing the already great control over world food production and distribution which is held by the world’s financial elite. Watch for this.

While the biotech and agrochemical giants are storing the world’s seeds in a Doomsday Vault in Norway, they are simulataneously preparing to push genetically modified food crops on Africa. Something truly nefarious is in the works. I shudder to think what the robber barons have in mind this time. Probably they plan to use a global food crisis, which they have consciously helped to create, to bring about the wide-spread implementation of bio-tech foods, which will give them even greater profits and even greater control over the world’s food system – which means greater power over the world’s population, and which will effectively consolidate their position as the Lords of the Earth. At least, this seems to be the general outline of what the world’s business elite have in mind. And for anyone who has any knowledge of the history of the past 150 years, this should come as no big surprise, considering the unspeakable record of the food and chemical giants – United Fruit, Unilever, IG Farben, Dow, Dupont, Cargill, Monstanto and Union Carbide to name a few – and with the generally appalling record of contempt for humanity shown by the world’s corporate elite more generally.

The leading figure in both the GM foods drive and the Doomsday Vault in Norway, appears to be none other than the most powerful businessman in the Americas, head of the Trilateral Commission as well as City Bank, America’s biggest bank, and half a dozen other corporate lobby groups and think tanks: the most slithery David Rockefeller. God help us all.

Thankfully, such megalomaniacal power plays have never faired well through history, and every one of them has been ultimately defeated, as we will do once again.

The clear aim of the world’s business elite is simply world dominance – as was the case for every power monger and would be emperor of the past. The strategy, apparently, of the global business elite, now that scaring the public into submission is not working as well as was hoped, seems to be to starve us into submission. There seem to be two interwoven strategies for global dominance on the part of the world’s financial barons. One is to frighten the people into submission, via the “war on terror” – and since the effectiveness of that stratggy is waning and falling short, there will likely be a devoted search for new ways to scare us into giving up our liberties, our rights and our power. The second strategy is even more dark, if that is possible, and that is to lay seige to the world: to squeeze the public so tightly economically, including the method of depriving the basics of life, such as food, so that surrender is obtained. I would dare speculate that this is the second part of the strategy. Intimidation, manipulation, deciet, and seige: in short, psychological warfare and control of resources – strange that the tactics of empires have changed so little over the ages. In any case, the necessary actions on our part are the same.

While the corporate players work their dark schemes, back here in the world of basic sanity and simple human decency, we can see pretty clearly what needs to be done, if we are willing to look.

A number of actions must be taken collectively if we are to seriously address and resolve the world’s growing food crisis, including a rapid shift to organic farming and green energy (and not biofuels which effectively burn food), the protection of forests, wetlands and farmland, reduction of meat and dairy consumption, a dramatic reduction in consumption and waste among the consuming classes, a re-orientation of the economy, including production, distribution and purchasing, toward re-localization and bioregionalism, and above all, the elimination of poverty, which in turn requires a radical restructuring of the global economy, away from its present drive for accumulation of massive wealth and power in the hands of a few, and towards an economic system which benefits all.

The most pointed part of the question concerns resource allocation, including access to land, food and water, as well as equitable and universal economic empowerment more broadly. While we must address the environmental causes of the food crisis, as well as biofuel usage, the current problem is not one of supply but of distribution. If we continue to destroy the environment, then we will soon have supply problems as well – and of vast proportions. Naturally, we must cease to destroy the basis of agricultural production, viable living oceans and life on earth generally. But the primary cause of hunger and the growing food crisis at present has nothing to do with supply, and everything to do with control.

It is a matter of the globalization of poverty, as Ottawa University economics professor Michel Chossudovsky has called it, under a global neoliberal economic order which effectively consolidates dominance over the world’s economy as well as the world’s food system in the hands of a few giant transnational corporations. Three companies control over 90% of world trade in bananas. Three companies dominate the world trade in coffee. One company controls 90% of world tea markets (Unilever). One company dominates in world grain distribution (Cargill). With such a stranglehold, the biggest corporations can squeeze both the farmers who produce the food, paying them as little as possible, and less every year, while queezing the consumers as well, driving prices up for the end buyer while robbing the farmer. Hence, world prices for bulk coffee have plummetted over the past 30 years, while the end consumer still pays dearly enough to ensure Nestle makes nice fat, growing profits. Coffee farmers can barely survive, but Nestle seems happy. Prices of bread and rice rise to levels world wide where more and more people can’t afford to eat properly, but Cargill has record profits, rising every year. It is a shell game, the natural result of monopoly capitalism. If we want food security or food availability for all, then the robber barons must go. Until this happens, the world’s food crisis will continue to deepen, and social and political instability, including the eruption of violence and wars, will continue to escalate.

The world currently produces enough food to feed all. The problem, presently, is not production but distribution. If we cut waste and over-consumption, learn to share equitably, as kindergarten was supposed to teach us, we will have a future of mutual abundance. Population must be addressed, but population is not the primary issue: 20% of the world’s population consumes 80% of the world’s resources; a trend that is only worsening. Further, experience has shown that the best way to halt population growth is to end poverty. When poor people know that their only security in later years of life comes from their children, and half their children will die before adulthood, they will continue to have large families. End poverty, and children become an expense, rather than an insurance policy, and population growth halts, as has heppened in every region, state and nation where poverty has been substantively reduced (Kerala State in India being the text book example). Therefore the choice we face is clear: war and greed, or peace and solidarity with sharing and dignity for all. A choice is at hand. Freedom, abundance and dignity for all is a possibility, if we choose to act on it.

We cannot understand nor realistically address the growing world food crisis if we do not understand its causes. Basic common sense and human decency are all that is required. But we will have to act quickly and decisively.

I hope this overview has been of some small help in dealing with this issue, which is but one more of the great and troubling issues plaguing the world and begging for action – one more issue which is intertwined with the rest. Empire, poverty, destruction, war and greed, or freedom, equality, peace and sustainability? The choices become more stark by the day. And these are all tied together.

J. Todd Ring,
May 14, 2008

Writings of J. Todd Ring

World Food Crisis: Video Archive Primer