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.