Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Once again, El Roto’s comic strip in the January 25 El País was fantastic!

The confusion, the mist in so many dimensions, the distractions that prompt passiveness and indifference, replacing democratic principles for the laws of the market,... lead to isolation, a lack of solidarity and fear. And what is worse: in doubt of the human capacity to face challenges.

Human beings are characterized by their unique powers of creativity, for being able to anticipate and foresee and deliberately design their own futures. If we are capable of understanding the depth that these distinctive characteristics afford us, we will be able to ensure that hope infuses our minds, and not panic.

Watchtowers for tomorrow, confident of the immeasurable strength of the spirit.

Reaping a windfall?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The news is quite disconcerting: Switzerland has frozen the (Tunisian) dictator’s assets... And now? What a scandal!

We remember with outrage that in November, 2008, when the G-20 recommended “rescuing” the failing financial institutions, they ensured us that they would “rapidly regulate and eliminate tax havens".

And not only is there still total deregulation with tax havens filled to the brim but, as I have often underscored, the “rescued” are now hounding their diligent and impoverished “rescuers.”

Instead of “cleaning house” and demanding transparency for bank deposits, they continue to camouflage funds while ignoring their source. This involves a continuous generalized intake of often fraudulently-obtained money. Shouldn’t the bank accounts of all of those who take refuge in tax havens be frozen, since they are shirking their responsibilities as democratic citizens?

As for the “dictators” whose accounts have now been so pompously attached, in less than two months the western powers have gone from praising them as their best customers, to publicly rejecting them. From embracing them to repudiating them.

According to Intermon-Oxfam’s Corporate Social Responsibility Observatory, 80% of the Ibex 35 companies are present in tax havens through their affiliates. But of course: with much paperwork they conduct detailed audits of their small expenses and petty cash while turning a blind eye to those large sums.

But this won’t last much longer because just as the dictators whose money has been frozen were overthrown, those who threaten coexistence and democracy will likewise soon be brought down, peacefully through cyberspace communications.

You will see: it won’t be possible much longer to only reap windfalls from the misfortune of others...

Either they change, or we’ll change them

Thursday, March 17, 2011

With what moral authority can they now accuse Gaddafi and other “dictators” when only a few days ago they were offering them the shelter of their tax havens, selling them tons of weapons, accepting their kickbacks and even granting their children doctoral degrees and other academic distinctions?

Let’s take note and with much embarrassment warn them that they must rapidly learn the lesson, taking specific measures quickly and publicly, or they will soon feel the rejection of their citizens. Just as the current uprisings have uncovered so many absurdities and contradictions, let’s prompt changes in those who continue to cling to the market, money as the supreme value, the whims of those who control finances, the military, energy and the media, and the huge corporations –such as Exxon Mobile- which announced $32,000 in profits for 2010 while raising oil prices to asphyxiate consumers, with serious collateral effects such as a simultaneous rise in food prices.

Let’s immediately demand a reinforcement of the United Nations, an economy based on local sustainable development, “relocalization” of production... in summary, what makes good sense.

Change is urgent. And changes certainly won’t be made by those who trust that citizens will continue to be distracted and complacent without proposing any solutions.

Let’s cease to be obsessed with inflexible election campaigns, accompanied by intolerable maneuvers, promises and deceit, and let’s clearly proclaim that if there’s no transparency and no real change, we will rise up like the citizens of Egypt and Tunisia have done... because we are outraged that only the assets of those who have been “overthrown” are frozen… while everything else remains the same: relentless hounding by the markets (what happened to social aid programs?), rising oil prices (what about climate change?), the underground economy, evasion of civic responsibilities (how many Spaniards have, as do the “tyrants”, deposits in tax havens?)

Once again: either they change, or we’ll change them.

Legality and Legitimacy in Democratic Elections

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The progressive drop in voter turnout is quite worrying, underscoring citizen disenchantment and the fragility of democracies whose governments and parliamentarians enjoy little popular support.

As was the case a few months ago in the United States, in the recent Portuguese elections abstentions greatly exceeded voter turnout.

In the European Parliament elections the percentage of votes obtained by the “representatives” of many countries was simply scandalous, and an unacceptable example of indifference and apathy.

This precarious situation must be urgently reversed. Otherwise we will be obliged to accept this dangerous display of simulation, with an enormous discredit for democratic institutions, whose legitimacy as well as legality are presently less evident than ever.

Setting a minimum percentage of required votes would be useful as well as instructive. How can those who have not participated complain about the weaknesses and lack of organization of democratic systems?

Let’s correct this incoherence. It’s especially relevant for the future that requires radical changes. That is, strong democracies.

Oil and Food Prices... back to the old ways?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weren’t markets going to be regulated? Weren’t limits going to be set on the greed of those who fix oil prices on a whim?

If this new intolerable speculation isn’t halted, the situation of the world’s already delicate and fragile economy will be further aggravated.

Even more immoral is the increase in price of the basic food stuffs that are most essential to ensure the survival of so many of the world’s inhabitants.

And the G-20, or a G-2 or a G-1 would not be capable of doing so. Only “the Peoples". Only all of the Peoples, with the enthusiastic support of a reinforced United Nations, endowed with all of the necessary resources and institutional respect would be capable of erasing for once and for all the collective shame of the abysmal differences between the privileged minority and the needy majority, in circumstances in which over 70,000 people die of hunger each day.

The present increase in prices must be halted immediately before those who live at the edge of equal human dignity once again become disheartened!

Food security.

Environmental security.

We will never cease to demand this.

If necessary, thousands of us will raise our voices in cyberspace, prompting a huge popular mobilization, so that the powers that be don’t return to their old ways.

Dakar, World Social Forum

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Porto Alegre, Bombay, Nairobi... and in 2011 (February 6-13) in Dakar, Senegal. In December the World Education Forum was held in Santiago de Compostela...

About 50,000 people participated from 130 countries, representing 1,200 organizations. The Senegalese authorities didn’t facilitate this meeting of “the Peoples”, but the gathering of so many persons of good will, profoundly different but united in the same goals, was a great success. They expressed their points of view, explained the situation in the areas of the world in which they live, shared experiences and serenely but firmly cried out for justice and peace.

Hundreds of “self-managed” activities, pronouncements, declarations. With a few appreciated exceptions, as was to be expected the media gave very little attention to the Social Forum, due to its “belonging”. That’s all right. In reality Davos fades away with the last throb of the “globalizers”, while Porto Alegre, represented this time in Dakar, is growing progressively stronger.

The news media normally highlights protests, logically because they stem from the world’s disinherited or those acting on their behalf, while ignoring proposals. Some of them excellent proposals based on a new model of sustainable development, beneficial for all and committed to the coming generations. But this system is clearly incompatible with huge military spending, delocalization of production based on greed, tax havens... The poor want to play fair.

Concrete proposals concerning renewable energies, alternative funding from electronic transactions, replacing the Washington Consensus for the Barcelona Consensus adapted to the present situation... for which the Washington Consensus is largely responsible.

Whether those still anchored in the past and in their privileges want to recognize it or not, specific proposals were made to prevent new crises, especially another food crisis, the worst of all, the one that causes the most suffering and leaves unhealed wounds. Food, water and health must not be subjected to the strictly economic criteria of “consumer goods". Regulation of the “food chain” is a demand of both justice and common sense, in order to stem popular outrage.

I particularly love Africa for its temperament, its wisdom and the calculated capacity of its people to forget. For this reason I have fought and will continue to fight for an emancipated Africa, which for so long has been dominated and humiliated.

While strolling through the streets of the Corniche in Dakar, a stone’s throw from Goree Island where the slave trade reached unthinkable limits of perversion, I was reminded of Pietro Barcellona’s “In Praise of Useless Talk”. Apparently useless only because... it has extraordinary multiplying and mobilizing effects.

The proposals will now have broad repercussions in cyberspace. As in the north of the African continent, the peoples will strengthen democracy and bring authoritarianism and arbitrariness to an end. In a very few years the World Social Forum will have won the battle thanks to modern communications technology.

As I wrote in my homage to José Vidal Beneyto, "Vitality will rise from the South. / From the South will come the dawn for so many human beings tired of compromising"...

"In the streets of Tunis and Cairo and many other African cities”, said former Brazilian President Lula in Dakar, “a new hope is being born. Millions of people are rising up against the poverty to which they are subjected, against the domination of tyrants, against the submission of their countries to the policies of the great powers". Senegalese President Wade, from a very different position, expressed his disagreement with the antiglobalization movement, although he shares with them "the idea of changing the world "[1].

The 11th World Social Forum has demonstrated that the dream born in Porto Alegre can come true: "Another world is possible".

[1][1] See "FSM: Lula and Wade in Opposite Corners", by Koffigan E. Adigbli, Other News/ IPS, 9.02.11

They don’t need bullets, but bread and justice

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The reactions of the European Union to the mobilizations in Tunisia and Egypt were inappropriate for a great regional entity, underscoring that it still lacks common foreign, security and defense policies. Once again new challenges have uncovered the extraordinary deficiencies in what, even with its many patches, continues to be merely an economic community. It’s sad that the only thing that’s occurred to the EU leaders is to reinforce the EU’s defensive capacity in the north Mediterranean to contain social movements from the south. Don’t they realize that these events are the result of massive citizen participation, facilitated by cyberspace? Don’t they realize that precisely what the citizens in those countries want is a change of system and in “colonization” by those who to-date have assumed global governance? Don’t they realize in Brussels and Washington that those countries desire freedom, democratic participation, social justice and quality of life for all?

Less than 20% of us live in the wealthy neighborhood of our global village. The rest, in a progressively inferior gradient, live in difficult conditions in which at times they struggle exclusively to survive. I have constantly pointed out that it is a collective shame that we continue to invest 4,000 million dollars daily in military spending, while over 70,000 people die of hunger in an authentic genocide of abandonment and neglect. Now we’ve read in the press (El País, 5 February 2011) that "NATO warns Europe of the effects of the revolt and demands increased defense spending"!! What happened with the majority of the aid that the US gave Egypt? It returned to the US in the form of purchases of military hardware, to the delight and profit of Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, among others...

No: it is a tremendous error to think that what Europe needs is to further increase its military potential and the military potential of the regimes in those countries. What Europe should do is to once and for all dedicate itself to achieving sustainable economic development in those countries; supporting increased participation in exploiting the natural resources of so many places that have become impoverished due to the greed of those in the “north”. They don’t need more investment in defense, but rather in “life”. The West needs to rapidly review their military arsenals, the majority of which are filled with outdated weaponry; the definitive destruction of nuclear warheads; a rapid increase in sustainable energy sources to reduce consumption and “oil power”; a strong United Nations to enable rapid intervention in unacceptable drifts toward violence and extremism; global coordination of all personnel and technological resources to respond to natural or man-made disasters...

What Europe needs is to anticipate the “revolts”, which thanks to distance participation will soon ensue all over the world (including Europe) among those who will no longer accept the pitiful spectacle of speculators’ hounding of democracies that, due to pressure from the markets, are forced to reduce or abandon their social programs.

"Europe must be prepared to defend itself against new threats”. Europe cannot allow itself to neglect defense", warned NATO Secretary General Anders F. Rasmussen. But threats are no longer of war, but rather of a social nature, of demands for a decent life. Europe doesn’t need to reinforce its military armament, but rather to offer an outstretched hand.

Neither is greater “cyberdefense” required. For the moment I would recommend listening... and taking the appropriate preventive measures. Prevention is the greatest victory.

shouldn’t seek new “military partners” who will be of little use in facing the challenges of these troubled times. They would do better to heed the prophesy of Isaiah: If you “deal thy bread to the hungry, …then shall thy darkness be as noonday”.