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.