Sunday, November 06, 2011

Lessons from Greece

This week was a week of revelations. A week of lessons. Terrible lessons.

Backed in a corner by the dictates of powers outside his country, a man called for a referendum. This man, George Papandreou, prime minister of Greece, made a decision that was his prerogative as the democratically elected leader of his country. It was a dangerous decision, to be sure, and one which came years too late. It's highly likely it was a very selfish decision, one made in order to manipulate and retain power. Still, in a breathtaking moment, he relinquished power to the people.

Convenient or not, dangerous or not, manipulation or not, selfish or not, deception or not, power to the people is what democracy is all about.

And as this declaration was made, as the unthinkable perspective of power shifting back to the people threatened to become reality, the world of capitalism shook upon its foundations. Almost, it fell.

Almost.

At once, all the powers that be gathered and united. At once, threats and blackmail and humiliation were thrown upon George Papandreou, the man who had dared betray the system – be it for his own selfish purposes and ambitions. And so, in a move as callous and brutal as it is anti-democratic – and sincere – the puppets of the true powers-that-be, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Hu Jintao, Hermann Van Rompuy, and all the rest, they all crushed democracy beneath their heels. They dictated what Papandreou should do and how he should do it, or otherwise his country would be dumped down the trash can, his population would be subjected to a misery even worse than the one forced down its throat now, and he would lose everything.

And he gave in. His tail between his legs, Papandreou returned to Greece, to face more humiliation, and to accept more punishment from his own colleagues and the media in general.

And all the while, the powers-that-be continued dictating their conditions, and what Greece should do, what its population should sacrifice.

All of it, so that the illusion of a thriving capitalism can continue to exist. All of it, so that the 1% of richest can keep on growing richer, can keep on devouring everything the 99% produce, and can keep on stealing legally all the richness we produce.

What this means, is that to keep their privileges, to keep this warped order of things, the powers-that-be are ready to do whatever it takes. They're ready to break even the taboos they had nurtured in order to keep us in line. They're ready to tear down the illusion of democracy. Why go so far ? Why resort to such extreme measures ?

Because democracy is a terrifying thing. Because giving back the power to the people could have unraveled the whole tapestry of capitalism. Because the Greeks had the opportunity of choosing default, which would have revealed the whole fraud around the so-called « public debt crisis ». There is no public debt crisis, there is only the result of shifting the richness we all produce toward a single fringe of population, legally or not emptying the states' treasuries and social security everywhere.

Defaulting would have torn down the illusion. Those who stole the richness would have been made to pay. Banks would have fallen. Hedge funds would have fallen. Some would have triggered the armageddon of Credit Default Swaps. Then further insurance companies and banks would have fallen, in particular in the US. Then the Chinese would have been in trouble.

It would have all been tumbling down.

The 1% would have fallen.

It could not happen. No matter what. No matter why.

And so, the powers-that-be blew the whistle and signalled the end of the game, and they slapped democracy aside.

The pundits all explain that it was to help Greece against itself, or they say that it was folly on Papandreou's part, and his move would have hurt the Greeks, and everybody else. Let them. It doesn't matter. Only one thing matters:

What's been hurting Greece for two years, what's going to keep on hurting it for a long, long time, is blind, insane austerity programs which kill the middle-class. Which kill the economy and drag people into misery and poverty. Which kill any hope the Greek people might have. Because those programs always attack the same layers of population. And all the while, the richest, the Orthodox Church – supremely rich – the great shipowners, the real estate developers, all those who reap the richness produced by the Greek population and send it abroad – more than two times Greece's annual GDP is sleeping in Swiss banks, exported by the 1% who, legally or not, do not pay taxes.

Ain't that nice ?

Shouldn't that wonderful system continue on destroying our lives, again and again, for no other purpose than maintaining the privileges of the powers-that-be ?

Nah.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

When the US of A insists on choosing the Path of Shame

Yesterday, UNESCO voted the entry of Palestine into its institution by a large majority of votes. This should have been a moment of joy and celebration : even though the state of Palestine doesn't yet enjoy a full recognition by the UNO, its entry into one of the most respected and valued international organisations is another chance for peace. Yet, not everyone sees the event in this light. The US of A, in yet another demonstration of their usual grandeur, not only voted against the motion, but also decided to immediately cut funding UNESCO.

This will have repercussions, it will hurt people who have done nothing wrong, and do not deserve to be cast off with a mere flip of the hand, but let's focus first on the absolute stupidity of such a move.

It's been way too many years since a peaceful settlement was sought between Israel and the dispossessed people who have been pushed back to Cisjordania and the West Bank of Gaza. In theory, everyone agrees that there needs to be two viable states side by side, each with guarantees of security Рbe it the économical, social or otherwise Рand good living standards. Yet, even though everyone agrees, nobody can reach a final conclusion on this protracted, and often halted, process. In the meantime, both populations РIsraelis and Palestinians Рmust trudge on with their lives. And as the years pass, the Palestinian population gets poorer and more desperate, the rightwing and hawkish Israeli government allows furter settlements in the Palestinian territory, chasing people from their land. The Israeli government builds the Wall of Shame, at least as shameful as the Berlin Wall in its time Рand even worse sinc here it's a democratic state which is building it, rather than sitting at a negociations table to find a lasting solution to this heartrending dispute.

Of course, the poorer the Palestinian population gets, the more vulnerable and prone to the influence and manipulation of extremists and terrorists like the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad they become. The more Israeli settlements steal land from the Palestinians, the more incursions and retaliations take lives, the more desperate the Palestinian population gets. The less alternative they have. One day, all this will boil down to cornering the whole Palestinian population and leaving it with only one option : hatred, and all out violence. Yet, nobody seems to care...but that's only appearances. Nobody can believe that the Israeli government would be so blind. Nobody can believe that the US of A government could be so blind.

But the US of A government keeps entangling itself further and binding itself tighter to the Israeli government, no matter what it does and decides. And the Israeli government is not only rightwinged and hawksih, its majority is also so fragile that it depends on the continued goodwill of religious extremist parties and far-right parties. Once you know this, you understand why the game unfolds in such a crazy board : extremism is extremism's best friend. Blood calls out for blood. Extremists on both sides do not want peace. They want the anihilation of the other. They want to « purify » a poor, beleaguered piece of land they claim is their very own god-given right.

Beyond the fact that this demonstrates yet again how inherently evil religions are (I'm not talking about faith here) and how they've been pushing humanity down the path of war and tragedy, destruction and horror all along history, there is another lesson to consider : it's not in the interest of extremists on both the Palestinian and the Israeli side to find a peaceful solution. It's in their interest that the situation keep festering until nothing can save peace.

When you want to settle terrible, enduring disputes which have fostered hatred, incomprehension and wariness for generations, the only way is to go through proxies, to go through institutions that both sides recognize. The UNO, and UNESCO, are such organisations. To be a part of them brings the Palestinian into the international community. It gives more chance for opening dialogue – which can sometimes start in an oblique fashion. It gives more chance for peace. It weakens the hold of extremists. It shows the Palestinian population they can be embraced by the world, and that there is a chance other than extremism and terrorism to one day win peace.

To sum it up, Palestine's entry in the UNESCO should have been a moment for hope and celebration. For joy. And yet, the US of A, not content to have vetoed Palestine's entry into the UNO, decided to cut funding to the UNESCO at once, since they couldn't blackmail UNESCO into backing down and denying the Palestinians.

Why ?

The US of A will likely use the same excuse they pulled out of a much used hat when they vetoed Palestine's entry at the UNO : such a move wouldn't help brokering a peaceful settlement. This paltry excuse isn't only laughable, it's most of all absurd : the US of A has been failing again and again at really pushing toward a fair solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute for generations. Some might even say that this state of constant threat and warfare serves the military industry in the US of A right – or that this state of affairs puts Israel in a dependant position toward the US of A, thus giving them a stable foothold in the middle east... Still, beyond the conjectures, what matters is that the more time passes, the more it ties itself with the Israeli government and embraces its views, no matter how extreme and counterproductive.

The US of A's decision simply hurts further the chances to find peace. They're doing the exact opposite of what they should be doing, were their desire to broker an agreement real and honest.

More, the US of A's unfair and hurtful decision to cut funding to the UNESCO will jeopardize programs all around the world that the US of A should be encouraging : schools for girls in Afghanistan, help to education and teaching, help to bring writing and reading to the children of Africa, regardless of their gender. Development of culture and understanding between people. This is what UNESCO is about : sharing cultures and understanding, building bridges between people, helping people to grow and walk out of violence and war.

The US of A brought war to Afghanistan with the pretext of wanting to bring freedom and democracy there, to free girls from the living hell their existence was under Taliban rule. And now, they're cutting funding to the one organisation which is trying, really trying to help girls win free of the madness of those foaming-at-the-mouth fanatics.

Tell me, how does that add up ?

What purpose does it serve, other than abandoning people to their sorry fates, and giving a hand to terrorists and slavers – a more than fitting name for all those Islam fundamentalists worldwide methinks – to warmongers and fanatics everywhere ?

What consequence will this absurd decision of the US of A have, other than rekindling the possibilities for war and pain and grief, for destruction and death and hatred between peoples ?

So, the US of A is again choosing its path. That path has a name.

Shame.

PS : watch the declaration of the UNESCO CEO after Palestine's entry, and listen to her explaining the consequences of the US of A's decision to cut funding. Then, try telling me again we should try to understand the US of A's position.