Copenhagen Climate Summit

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hundreds of millions of dollars were suddenly made available to rescue the same financial institutions which, in the words of President Obama, due to their “greed and irresponsibility” prompted this grave situation of multiple crises (economic, environmental, democratic, ethical…). There was no money for the Millennium Objectives, to eradicate poverty or to adequately treat AIDS…, but funds for this singular “rescue” were mobilized in both the United States and the European Union. And all the while 3,000 million dollars are spent each day on military investments and weapons…

For all of the above, it is both surprising and outrageous to consider it a victory that the European Union will contribute 7,000 million euros to the reduction of CO2, when that amounts to a mere 56 hours of military spending!! The conclusion is that we must urgently reinforce the United Nations so that the entire international community can be duly represented. The coming generations will never forgive the indifference with which we are treating the future quality of life on this planet. Because it will be their present, because it will be a legacy that reflects the confusion that has dominated this plutocracy (G-7, G-8, G-20…)

Replacing the “We the peoples…” of the United Nations, the leaders must not forget that now, for the first time in history, the peoples, the people, will not remain silent. They have virtual means for mobilizing that will far surpass the immense powers of the media that the leaders control.

Some quick notes on some timely issues…

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

There is no money to fight poverty. Nor to protect the environment. But suddenly there appeared thousands of millions of dollars to “rescue” some of the very institutions that prompted this present crisis. Now the time has come to rescue Mother Earth, and the people who inhabit this planet. We can no longer remain silent.

FAO summit in Rome. Where are the G-8 or the G-20? Where is the aid from the more prosperous countries? Where is the mobilization of the churches of all faiths at the sight of millions of adults and children who die of starvation each day? Where is the principle of diverting money spent on weapons to raise the quality of life of the peoples? Where is the transition from an economy of war and speculation to an economy of sustainable global development?

Copenhagen Climate Change Conference:

China, the communist-capitalist country that has become the world’s richest nation and an immense factory for the entire world, with working conditions that ignore who actually is obtaining most of the profits, the United States announced a few days ago that they will reduce carbon dioxide emissions! They have finally partially changed their attitude. And they would make even greater changes if they were to realize that the future generations of both of these giant nations will never forgive such a profound error. They should join the rest of the international community in approving measures to be taken by a reinforced United Nations. The last thing we need is for the G-20 to actually be reduced to a G-2!

The IBEX, together with the Spanish ecclesiastical hierarchy contribute to organizing the Pope’s trip

No comments on this photo. Only the desire to see the same image with a banner proclaiming “Zero Poverty Campaign”. I still insist that it’s hard for me to sleep when we continue to spend 3,000 million dollars daily on weapons while 60,000 die of hunger, poverty and neglect. It is our collective shame.

And in the meantime we look the other way, as silent spectators, each of us absorbed by our daily problems. The moment for citizens to express themselves has come, led by communities of artists, intellectuals, professors and scientists! An immense electronic and popular mobilization is essential, now that we are still in time to achieve the great change that this crisis should provoke.

Because I am convinced that if we don’t rectify our present course now, in five or ten years the social, labor, environmental… situations and perspectives will be so grave that they may produce what Ortega called a “rebellion of the masses.” Although some refuse to admit it, a post-crisis situation prompts rapid evolution. And revolution is never an advisable alternative. So I must once again underscore that the difference between evolution and revolution is the single letter “r”: the “r” of responsibility.

Celebrating the fall of the Wall and lamenting 20 lost years

Monday, November 23, 2009

In memory of Professor Roberto Marco who had the courage

to face the future with determination

In 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the superpowers’ arms race, we were all filled with hope and confident that we could finally enjoy the “dividends of peace”. There would no longer be huge investments in weapons, and we would at last have the chance to reduce poverty and promote worldwide development.

But at that moment a very negative decision was made. The world’s most prosperous countries decided that the economy should be governed by the market. And this was a tremendous error. The market is the right place for companies, for transactions and trade. But social justice, freedom, equality and solidarity are irreplaceable guiding values. These are the principles that we must promote, because although businessmen may know how to do business, this is an area that must be regulated. And this is the responsibility of the State. We should not forget that in a democratic context, the State must represent the voice of citizens. The great poet Antonio Machado wrote a brief but profound verse underscoring that “it is foolish to confuse value with price”. And they were fools.

We are now immersed in an enormous crisis that is above all a financial one, but which is also a crisis of ethics, moral values and human rights. It is likewise an environmental and nutritional crisis. At present we are spending three billion dollars daily on weapons while sixty thousand people –and I will never tire of repeating this- die of hunger, thirty-five thousand of whom are children. How can we sleep at night knowing that each day this horrendous genocide continues? How can we remain in this privileged part of the world, this “global village” as it is sometimes called, when the majority of its inhabitants are barely surviving in conditions of the utmost uncertainty?

Ten years ago when the Millennium Objectives were established, we were told that there was no money available to fight hunger. The same people who are now spending enormous amounts of money on arms said that there were no resources to feed the one billion people in the world who lack food, or to treat those in Africa who die daily from AIDS. Nevertheless, hundreds of billion of dollars suddenly appeared to “rescue” the same financial institutions that created the present crisis situation. What does this mean? There are many vulnerable sectors of society throughout the world that live in extreme poverty. The time has come to change this situation through a mass mobilization of citizens everywhere.

To do so it is essential that we be convinced that change is possible. “Yes we can!”, as President Obama expressed it. We can invent the future. We can find solutions to the great challenges. If the “impossibles” of the past are possible today, we are equally capable of making today’s “impossibles” a future reality.

But we have lost 20 years. Instead of promoting international cooperation the “globalizers” increased military spending, weakened the United Nations and allowed the reins of the world’s destiny to be placed in the hands of a select few, converting the world democracy of the United Nation’s System into a plutocracy (G-7, G-8, G-20,…) who, incapable of controlling an unleashed and progressively speculative economy, have provoked enormous multiple crises, aided by the impassible attitude of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

It is our responsibility to change this situation. Now, for the first time in history, we have the capacity for distance participation. This is something that will consolidate democracy. Thanks to mobile phone SMS and internet, there will soon be a radical change in the citizens’ capacity to express themselves. Let us cease to remain silent. Too often we are simple spectators, resigned to being mere “receivers.” We must prompt a “new beginning”. We must do it. We cannot let this great opportunity pass us by, as we did twenty years ago. Let us promote citizen participation to achieve a transition from this war economy to an economy of sustainable global development. From a culture of force to a culture of dialogue, conciliation and peace.

The Culture of peace. The time has come

Monday, October 26, 2009

The time has come. The culture of war, the economy of war, and the hegemony of the "globalisers" have been a catastrophic failure and the cause of incalculable levels of suffering, hunger, extreme poverty, and social affliction. A "new beginning" is needed urgently here at the dawn of a new century and a new millennium.

Force, violence, and war have always predominated, to the point that history seems to be little more than an endless succession of battles and conflicts in which peace is a momentary break. So it has been century after century, with fleeting periodic attempts at emancipation.

Educated to use force, accustomed to heeding the law of the most powerful, trained in the use of the muscles more than of the mind, humanity has watched itself be dragged into the bloodiest possible conflicts. Enmity instead of friendship is the rule. Neighbours are not seen as brothers with whom we share a common destiny but as adversaries, enemies to be annihilated. And so our past is marked out by an endless chain of conflicts, attacks and reprisals, vanquished and victors, rancour and ill-will, physical and spiritual violence.

Fortunately there is a parallel, invisible history whose links were forged day by day out of the unselfishness, the generosity, and the creativity that distinguish the human species. It is a dense fabric, incomparable and permanent, because it is the product of many lives tenaciously dedicated daily to building the bastions of peace.

"There are no roads to peace; peace is the road," Mahatma Gandhi reminded us. A road oriented to principles and values. By justice, before all else. Peace is both a condition and a result, both seed and fruit. It is necessary to identify the causes of conflict to be able to prevent it. Avoiding conflict is the greatest victory.

UNESCO, the United Nations organisation charged explicitly with building peace through education, science, culture, and communication, recalls in the preamble of its constitution that it is the "democratic principles" of justice, liberty, equality, and solidarity that must illuminate this great transition from a culture of violence and war to a culture of dialogue and reconciliation. The great programme "Towards a Culture of Peace", of the 1990s, was a UNESCO initiative.

he Declaration and Plan of Action for a Culture of Peace, approved in September 1999, establishes that the culture of peace is an interweaving of values, attitudes, and behaviour that reflect a respect for life, the human being, and human dignity.

The Plan of Action contains measures based on education, race, development, and freedom of expression that must be put into practice to bring about the great transition from force to the word: to foster education in peace, human rights, democracy, mutual tolerance, and comprehension, national and international; to fight every form of discrimination; to promote democratic principles and practices in every area of society; to fight poverty and bring about a form of development that is endogenous and sustainable and that benefits everyone and grants all people a decent life; to mobilise society in order to ignite in the young a burning desire to find new ways of living based on reconciliation, tolerance, and generosity, and to reject all forms of oppression and violence, the just distribution of wealth, the free flow of information and shared learning.

The 2000 Manifesto of the International Year for a Culture of Peace, signed by more than 110 million people around the world, establishes "the commitment in my daily life, in my family, my community, and my region, to respect all lives, reject violence, free my generosity, safeguard the planet, reinvent solidarity, and listen to others in order to understand them". This should serve to involve us and implicate us personally in this process that can lead in a few years to a brightening of the horizons that are so dark today and make possible a peaceful coexistence of all inhabitants of the earth.

There have already been many regions, countries, and municipalities that have incorporated the culture of peace into their constitutions and statutes. It is very important that this trend spread, though even more important is the awareness among people that the moment has come to stop accepting the imposition of and blind obedience to power. Citizens are ceasing to be spectators and becoming actors. They are abandoning silence and fear and becoming agents of peace instead of vassals.

Today long-distance participation via mobile phone, SMS, and the Internet has made possible a radical change in the fundamental component of all democracies -the expression of the will of the people.

Much has been accomplished in these ten years. But the inertia of the vested interests and the resistance of the most prosperous to share more are an obstacle to the emergence of a culture of peace, the word, understanding, and the formation of alliances.

But soon this will change. The hour has come.


Friday, October 9, 2009

At the end of the 1980s, the Reykjavik agreements, the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin wall suggested that nuclear threats and the arms race might progressively give way to a rethinking of war strategies and therefore of the armament necessary to address news types of conflicts. This would likewise leave a broad margin for the “dividends of peace”.

But that was not the case. To the contrary, “globalization” replaced democratic values with the laws of the marketplace, and the world’s most prosperous countries (G-7, G-8…) ostracized the United Nations to the point of placing the World Trade Organization beyond its scope.

The result has been resounding economic failure and the world as a whole has been thrust into a multidimensional crisis (social, economic, environmental, nutritional, democratic, ethical), with military spending that surpasses 3 billion dollars daily, while at the same time approximately 70,000 people die of hunger and abandonment, half of them under five years of age.

The latter period of the Bush administration –invasion of Iraq, missile shield proposal, etc.- resulted in ever-increasing expenditures in armament, while the number of persons who live in hunger and poverty likewise rose.

For all of the above,

Having observed with surprise and indignation the “rescue” of financial institutions with hundreds of billions of dollars, while funds for the Millennium Objectives have practically dried up,

We want to express our support for President Obama:

1. For having taken the lead in nuclear disarmament, as he unexpectedly indicated in Prague and later ratified when presiding at the Security Council session on September 24, 2009. At this meeting, a reduction in nuclear arsenals was unanimously passed.

2. For having decided to cancel the antimissile shield program, which the US administration had planned to install in Europe.

3. For having initiated a new defense policy, which at least partially replaces conventional weapons (airplanes, submarines, tanks, etc.) for those that not only can address threats today, but also avoid them, by detecting them on time.

We therefore underscore the urgent necessity:

1. To provide international security through the United Nations, with all of the measures they require for the rapid and efficient deployment of Blue Helmets.

2. To urgently review the contractual obligations in existing military alliances, to reduce acquisition of weapons for “traditional” conflicts, which have recently reactivated the “arms market” both in Latin America and the Eastern countries.

3. With the funds no longer required for these huge investments in military spending, we must reactivate international cooperation, so that it can replace the largely war-based economy with sustainable global development (renewable energies, food production, production and distribution of water, health, transportation, housing…)

4. We make this appeal to strengthen existing disarmament initiatives at the global level, and especially in the preparation of the Conference on the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty, which is set to take place in the spring of 2010.

5. Likewise, to establish adequate conflict resolution mechanisms, with the necessary criteria for follow-up, control and accountability, and with the participation of all parties concerned, which would enable the United Nations to establish international objectives and priorities, and develop programs with which they may be achieved.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It is imperative and urgent to achieve an institutional change that will enable the European Union to have its own defense and foreign relations policies, based on universal principles such as fundamental ethical values and human rights, accepted by all Member States as a requisite for belonging to the EU.

The EU must be a light house beacon for democracy, and it is disgraceful that due to occasional pressure from groups within the European Parliament or from political parties in government at a given moment, the EU has supported the inclusion of Honduras (against the OAS!) in certain commercial negotiations. This constitutes the de facto recognition of a country in which the coup leaders –representatives of an oligarchy that for years has ruled the destinies of this country and many others in Latin America, demanding obedience and submission from the immense majority of citizens, who could do little more than barely survive- continue to cling to power that they have taken by force. The formal democracies of Latin America have until very recently been a burden favored and increased by “globalizers”. Today, however, a “Condor Operation” would be impossible. Today we must prevent the large multinational consortia –with their greed and irresponsibility, in the words of President Obama- from ensuring that these countries will never get back on their feet.

For all of the above reasons we must defeat the immense inertia of those who have always been in power, so that they may understand that the time has come for a transition, without delay, from plutocracy to democracy.

And the same may be said on at the global level.

The EU must immediately correct the grave error that it is about to commit and reject this coup government. If it does not do so, the European Union’s already weakened prestige will be even more so.

It will be a disgrace. If in the end a commercial negotiations meeting is called without excluding the coup government, all countries in disagreement –and clearly Spain- should refrain from attending.

Shall we be accomplices of these barbarians who have staged a coup d’etat? No. I trust that good judgment will prevail.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Concerning the H1N1 Flu Pandemic

Alert, yes; Alarmed, no

Knowledge is prevention. Foresight is prevention. Avoiding, to the extent possible, any illness, injury, suffering; this is the best political action.

I, who in the 1960s implemented the National Plan for the Prevention of Mental Retardation in Infants, will certainly not support a reduction in preventive health and safety measures when faced with natural or man-made disasters. To the contrary.

But as a citizen and a “specialist” I do believe it is my obligation to demand an urgent moderation of the excess publicity and scientific inaccuracies that are giving rise to so much concern, both locally and at the international level.

The H1N1 virus spreads rapidly but its pathological effects are sensibly fewer that those of the “seasonal” flu. It can’t be said that one was killed by the H1N1 virus or that he died from Influenza A, but rather –since almost all deaths occur in persons suffering from serious illnesses- that he died with the virus, which may have, at most, complicated his clinical condition and accelerated the fatal outcome.

Statistics concerning the morbidity and, particularly, the mortality rates of Influenza A should thus be based on strict criteria and society should “return to normal”, as Spain’s Minister of Health has urged us to do, while as it becomes necessary and appropriate, establishing a rigorous protocol for protecting those most vulnerable to contagion.

The Medical Association has likewise accurately warned that “an exaggerated level of anxiety has been created with respect to Influenza A”.

We have many problems to resolve, so many that we should not allow ourselves to be overly distracted by this one. If not, we will have missed a great opportunity to make radical changes in our social, economic and environmental system.

Therefore we need less frenzy and more scrupulous attention to a possible (but improbable) mutation of the virus, such as the one that, in very different and precarious health conditions, caused the “Spanish flu” of 1918-19. (By the way, it was given that name not because it originated in Spain, but rather because although it originated in the United States, the countries then at war did not want to release that sort of information.)

With the exception of 1968-69, mutations in the seasonal flu virus have rendered it less contagious, have been limited to specific areas, and from a global perspective, have had little impact on health overall. H1N1 is very contagious, but mild. H5N1 is not very contagious, but it can be very serious.

Polyvalent vaccines provoke a response in patients’ immune systems, producing antibodies against different types of viruses, which have been duly deactivated.

H1N1 is “stronger” than the three viruses considered responsible for the “normal” flu, so it is very possible that those infected with Influenza A will not suffer symptoms of the illness caused by the other “weaker” viruses.

The ease with which virus sequencing can be carried out today enables us to rapidly detect alterations, so that any change in viral structure can be immediately publicized.

Several days ago the WHO announced that the H1N1 virus has not mutated in the Southern Hemisphere, where it has coincided for several months with seasonal flu. It is thought that the situation will be the same in the Northern Hemisphere. But we must be alert.

In addition to mutation, the development of strains that are resistant to natural immunity or vaccines must also be taken into account.

We hope that, as was the case five years ago with the “bird flu”, the number of victims will be very few and panic will be controlled, avoiding social unrest and unnecessary concern.

Rather than economic or media interests, let’s let science provide the authentic reference as to how to manage a pandemic, which in this case is benign… taking all necessary precautions in the event that it ceases to be so.

The Immense Power of the Media. Take Immediate Action

Monday, August 24, 2009

“The voice/ that could have been/ the answer/ and for fear/ was nothing”.

After (or in addition to) military, political, economic or technological power, what is now foremost and omnipresent is the power of the media. “No matter what happens, what we want to happen is what will happen”, is the attitude of certain magnates of the communications media. Whether through sound, print or images… the majority of citizens receive their news carefully selected or previously filtered. In some countries, high government authorities –even the Prime Minister- or members of the opposition parties have close ties to large media conglomerates including the press, radio and television… It is true that in some cases freedom of expression and opposition still exist, but they certainly have little room to maneuver.

Certain sports and athletes, actors and actresses –many of whom are controlled by their “managers”- are given exaggerated attention on the radio, television or in the press, reaching fanatical proportions to the extent that certain clubs dominate not only the leisure time, but also the very lives of many people, regardless of the quality of their players and their success on the playing fields.

News of important events that might make us reflect and adopt our own decisions and attitudes (and this is precisely what education is all about) are concealed, distorted or otherwise disguised. The meetings of the G8 (a group of plutocrats who attempt to govern the world) fill pages upon pages, while proposals for reform made by the United Nations as a whole or by its financial institutions (managed by the President of the General Assembly with the participation of Nobel Prize Laureates in Economics) receive only a few paragraphs. The same may be said of worldwide meetings such as the recent UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education (not even a line!) or with respect to the topic that for me (and for that reason I reiterate this) constitutes our greatest problem of conscience: the extreme poverty and hunger, which, in a horrendous genocide, results in the death of 60,000 persons daily, while we invest over 2500 million euros in useless weapons. This simple fact should be capable of mobilizing millions of citizens around the globe, but the powers that be in the mass media want these ethically inadmissible situations to continue to be ignored and, once they have received their financial “bailouts,” continue with the status quo.

This means that we all have to look the other way. All of us minding our own business. All silent accomplices. Silence, even when we should applaud the funds announced by the President of the Government to relieve poverty in moments of crisis. If the thousands who die from hunger each day are unable to awaken our sense of solidarity, what will it take to mobilize our citizens, especially today’s youth?

Gervasio Sánchez has expressed this not only with profound and courageous words, but with his moving photography. And what impact has this had? Very little. Solidarity movements could light the way to a future of inclusion, concord and mutual understanding. But if Sánchez’ photography of lives shattered by land mines or of those who die of hunger and neglect are unable to awaken our conscience, we will continue in the dark, in this simulated world in which millions of people live artificial lives, acting upon the dictates of the media. But I am sure that our youth will soon take action, and will become the flag bearers of an initial resistance, which will blossom into concerted action. Several recent literary works have set the stage to divulge the underlying reality, the real world, what lies behind so much window dressing.

“Money talks”: several Spanish newspapers, some of them quite prominent, have lost their dignity by openly contradicting the “values” they previously defended, commencing with the dignity of women, carrying despicable advertising with images and texts that may seriously affect the behavior of children and adolescents. Schools and teachers are almost always blamed… without realizing that it the mass media that so negatively influences our youth. The same may be said of advertisements for certain brands, especially foreign ones, which are not only in bad taste but also approach the limits of what may be considered tolerable. And in the meantime we continue to be spectators. It would suffice for an association of NGO’s to recommend a boycott of publications that contain these repugnant articles or the products of companies whose advertisements are as indecent as they are ridiculous.

Some journalists toe the line, others don’t: not long ago it was made known that a “live” press conference of an autonomous community official had been pre-recorded.

And, as has become customary but is also inadmissible, no questions were allowed. Press conferences have given way to simple press releases. Disguised as simple news, because there was really no press conference, while avoiding any contact with journalists. Some firmly criticized this tactic. Rest assured that sooner or later the truth shall be known. I am convinced –after having defended in UNESCO freedom of expression and the right to accurate information- that the age of citizens as mere recipients and witnesses is coming to an end.

Those who control information basically control our daily activities, including our free time. They control our lives. Through images the reigning “videocracy” impose their points of view on television audiences. Silent indifferent spectators, who fail to realize that they should never relinquish their only strength: being themselves.

It is time to take action, to rebel, to initiate a profound change toward transparency and a true knowledge of reality (the initial requisite for transforming that reality).

It is time to make use of all available communications networks, particularly digital ones, to counteract the omissions and concealments of the lying manipulators, the great “information empires” that, moreover, presumably spy on the “famous” to feed their gossip columns.

It is time to demonstrate the premeditated contradictions of those who have been bailed out, and who soon thereafter condemned the politicians of the very governments that tossed them a lifeline from public funds; the contradictions of those who, yearning for a Condor Operation, consider that the coup in Honduras “puts an end to a populist adventure of a constitutional president”; the contradictions of those who insist that the European democracies with the support of their multinational companies should continue to exploit the countries of Latin America, Africa or the Far East; the contradictions of those who immediately believe videos that are shameless fabrications based on the idea that there is always some truth in an accusation, aimed at world leaders –such as has recently been the case in Guatemala and Ecuador— who are no longer mere subjects and wish to become allies and partners.

It is time to take a stand, to join fora and services that facilitate the mobilization of citizens. We may very well be on the threshold of a new era in which the people will finally take the stage through their democratically-elected representatives, who will have been chosen with complete freedom and responsibility.

Let us refuse to be deceived any longer. Let’s say “no” to those who promote new cults, with ceremonies that attract large numbers of adherents, as a result of mass publicity on the one hand, and on the other the informational and conceptual “vacuum” that they have so skillfully created. Above all, young people must be free to be themselves and to refuse to follow the dictates of others. They should not spike their hair, wear low rise jeans or get tattoos unless they really do so on their own initiative. They must learn to distinguish the tendencies dictated from afar by the powers of the media that, while making huge profits, seek to standardize citizens in general and –what is even more dangerous- young people in particular. But we can now take action from a distance, thanks to new communications technologies. We can make ourselves heard. We must make ourselves heard. We must take a firm stand against this new form of submission and exclusion. A freer and transparent world is the legacy that we must leave to those who will come after us.

Let’s urge them, as in the 2008 Oscar-winning song from the film “Once”, “Raise your hopeful voice…/ you have a choice”.

The Time for Resignation and Silence is Over

Thursday, July 23, 2009

For centuries people have been absent from the centers of power. The power of men –even today less than 8% of decision-making power is in the hands of women- accustomed to wielding absolute control over the lives of their vassals. Submissive and silent, in the best of cases they have at least been invited to vote. And that’s fine. I am very much in favor of voting in all elections, perhaps because I dreamed of having that right for so many years. But it’s not enough to have our opinions counted once in a while. As I have often written and said, democracy is actually being taken into account, and not merely having your vote counted.

The history of mankind is the history of submission, of unreservedly applying the perverse adage “if you want peace, prepare for war” which, logically, has given rise to an interminable succession of battles, confrontation and conflicts. The history of mankind is a bloody history, full of heroes, martyrs, unknown soldiers, mothers and families dressed in mourning…

At the end of the two great wars of the 20th century an attempt was made to unite all nations in peace, dialogue, and peaceful conflict resolution. But this was prevented by the great consortium of weapons manufacturers. And the inertia of the governing classes, who considered the people’s role in power to be that of mere foot soldiers, rather than the object and beneficiaries of their efforts. And having fallen prey to fear, citizens remained silent and contemplated the events around them as something totally inescapable.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, based on equal dignity for all, was intended to free mankind from “fear and want”. Everyone “free and equal… and acting towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. It was essential to share, to dare to change, to implement that profound transition from subjects to citizens, from spectators to actors, from a culture of force and imposition to a culture of dialogue and conciliation.

The requisites for doing so are twofold: an awareness of reality to be able to transform it, and the willingness to dare to peacefully raise our voices, to make ourselves heard, to force them to listen.

As I wrote some time ago, “when we observe the world as a whole we realize how seriously irresponsible it was to transfer to the marketplace the obligations of our political leaders who, guided by ethical ideals and principles, would be able to implement democratic governance. When we observe the damage done to the environment –the air, oceans and land-; the progressive standardization of cultures, whose diversity is our wealth (while being united by universal values is our strength); the erosion of many relevant aspects of the democratic process that we built with our tireless efforts… The lack of response from individuals and institutions, and the resignation and indifference of so many is totally inadmissible.

The silence of those who have been silenced can be forgiven. The silence of those who choose to remain silent cannot. Taking advantage of the emotive reaction to the present crisis, it is urgent to make ourselves heard personally and, above all, as institutions. The scientific, academic, intellectual and creative communities… cannot remain in awe, perplexed and silent. They must join the powers-that-be –governments, parliaments …- to help build the democracy we yearn for at the national, regional and global levels.

Let no one who is aware remain silent. “The voice / that could have been the answer / but for fear / was nothing…” Or even worse: “once more / death will be / the price of silence / and indifference”.

United Nations, yes. G8, no.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The coup in Honduras could have been resolved rapidly by a strong United Nations, capable of quickly and efficiently fulfilling its mission as defined in the Charter. And the world would have been spared the drama of Darfur, the invasions of Kosovo and Iraq, the inhumane situation in Somalia during the last few years under the “war lords”, and the genocide in Rwanda and Cambodia,… to cite only a few examples of the events that would not have taken place or that could have been resolved by this worldwide organization which, on behalf of “the peoples” has the mission of avoiding “the scourge of war”.

But the most powerful nations soon replaced aid with loans, cooperation with exploitation, democratic principles –so solidly set forth in the UNESCO Constitution- with the laws of the marketplace, global justice that only a “democratic” institution can mete out with the discretion of a group of the richest “plutocrats,” initially only 7, then 8, or 20… What difference does it make? They were the great promoters of “globalization”, of the “market economy” (in May, 1996 at the height of globalization they even considered establishing a “market democracy” and “market society”!), and out-and-out privatization, transferring to large multinational corporations not only resources but also, what is even worse, political responsibilities. And they used the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) (which were initially created for “reconstruction and development”) as simple instruments for their ambitions. And they further debilitated the United Nations by placing the World Trade Organization (WTO) beyond its reach…

The system that they promoted has been a resounding failure, evidenced in the multiple (financial, environmental, nutritional, democratic, ethical) crises that we are experiencing as a result, in the words of President Obama, of their “greed and irresponsibility”.

And what is now required is not just a few changes –such as “bailing out” those who created these crises in the first place– but rather the transition to a new era, as I wrote several days ago. The “groups” of the richest must be disbanded and the Organization representing all peoples must be strengthened. The IMF and WB must return to their original functions and the WTO be placed within the United Nations, with a General Assembly composed not only by States, but also representatives of civil society (as is the case with the International Labor Organization –ILO, a “relic” of the League of Nations created by President Woodrow Wilson).

The war economy (3,000 million dollars spent on weapons each day, while more than 60,000 people die from hunger) must be replaced by an economy of global development, so that all may “be.” This is exactly the opposite of G8 and is the best means for building peace.

From force to words

Monday, July 6, 2009

From mere subjects to citizens. From spectators to protagonists who participate and who commit themselves daily to achieving the great transition from a secular culture of imposition, violence and war to a culture of dialogue, conciliation, alliance and peace.

These are the fundamental elements that make this radical change possible: a knowledge of reality on a worldwide scale, which enables us to make comparisons –one of the principal bases of ethics- to appreciate what we have and to understand our shortfalls and those of others; the increasing percentage of women participating in decision-making processes (presently less than 7%, in a society in which men are still predominately in power); and for the first time in history, the capacity for distance participation, thanks to modern communications technologies (SMS, Internet).

There are no longer any excuses for remaining silent. The time for silence is over. Citizen power, used wisely, can now express itself freely and without passively accepting the unacceptable.

From force to words.

Paraphrasing Kundera, from the unbearable lightness of many of the present democracies to democracies in which citizen participation is far-reaching and constant.

From the plutocracy of G7, G8, G20… to efficient multilateralism, with a worldwide re-founding of the United Nations.

In most cases the diagnosis has already been made. It is now time for action.

It is time to restore social justice and Human Rights to their place at the center of economic policy from which they were erroneously displaced by the laws of the market, with the tragic results reflected in the present financial, environmental, nutritional, democratic and ethical crises.

It is time for an urgent transition from a war economy (3 billion dollars spent daily, while 60,000 human being die from hunger) to a sustainable global economy (renewable energy, food, water, health, and housing).

In summary, we cannot miss this opportunity to embark on a new beginning.