2012, A New Dawning?

Monday, January 23, 2012

2011 hasn’t been such a tragic year after all, because for the first time in history the “We, the Peoples …” of the Preamble to the United Nations Charter has become a reality at the local and global level.

Next December will mark the end of a 400-year “Mayan cycle,” a date known as Baktun. We could take advantage of this event to prompt a new beginning, an inflection in history that mankind yearns for and deserves. After centuries of the absolute predominance of males and of submissive, obedient and fearful citizens, distance participation and the free expression of opinions, criteria, criticism and proposals are now possible.

What is clear is that soon the voice of “the peoples” will not only make itself heard, but it will be heeded and a process of civic emancipation will commence. What until recently was not allowed in the plazas and streets of our cities will soon ensue without limits within the infinite bounds of cyberspace. The time for silence is over. The 21st century will be the “century of the people,” of all people, and not just a privileged few, and democracies will no longer be fragile and limited, but rather solid, agile and efficient. Citizens will no longer be counted only during elections, but will constantly count and be taken into account… because they will likewise constantly make their preferences and points of view known.

The percentage of “effective inhabitants” on the earth will rapidly grow from the mere current 20%. The rest survive in extremely precarious conditions that frequently reach humanly unsustainable limits. Nevertheless, the eradication of poverty is not among the objectives of the wealthy countries that continue to be preoccupied with stock market fluctuations, money, and maintaining immense weapons arsenals to guarantee their “security”. And, thus, the solutions to the great problems of humanity, rooted in access to food and education, are constantly being delayed, postponed. In his book “Amapolas en el jardín” (“Poppies in the Garden”), Manuel Navarro quoted B. F. Skinner who noted that “something is wrong when we have to save the system and not the way of life that the system should serve”.

In Spain the Urdangarín scandal is obscuring even worse schemes, and all over Europe people are peering sideways at Ms. Merkel, the risk premium and the markets instead of staring democracy straight in the eye. Instead of creating employment, in Italy alone there will be 300,000 additional jobs lost as a consequence of the radical measures adopted. But even there the salaries paid senior management at the major financial institutions also remain astronomically high.

It appears that the most important thing is paying off our debt and reducing the deficit. But who acquired that debt? Who are responsible for this indebtedness, in proportions much higher than the State? Why is it always the taxpayer who must right the wrongs, particularly those committed in the private sector?

Might 2012 mark a new dawning? I am summarizing below twelve points that I feel are particularly relevant so that the year we are commencing may prove crucial for landing our present shipwreck on the dry land of a “new beginning”.

In the next few weeks I will re-write or write in more detail about some of the points outlined here briefly.

1. A systemic crisis requires changing the system, i.e., bestowing power and initiative on society and reestablishing as the guidelines for political action on the local, regional and global levels the democratic principles so aptly expressed in the Preamble to the UNESCO Constitution, rather than the rules of the marketplace.

Only then could take place an urgent re-founding of a strong United Nations system, with the moral authority that only institutions capable of representing all of the world’s countries without exception can wield. Hegemonic ambitions that led to attempts to govern the world through plutocratic groups of 7, 8 or 20 countries must now give way to multilateral cooperation, which will undoubtedly soon ensue in response to worldwide demands. On various occasions I have suggested different formulas for both a new General Assembly and Security Councils (a Social-economic Security Council and Environmental Security Council would be added to the present one) to facilitate full performance of the UN’s functions which, especially when warranted by global governance, requires adequate international infrastructures.

2. After the intolerable and immoral intervention in Iraq, world civic power must now firmly oppose other “adventures” of this nature, especially those aimed at Iran, both for geo-strategic motives (plundered by Israel) as well as the fabulous Iranian reserves of black gold. For problems arising in Iran, or those already present in Yemen and Syria, the only acceptable solution (as would have been in the shameful case of Libya) would be the intervention of the United Nations as sole mediator, with the support of the whole world.

Have we really considered the horrendous statistics resulting from the intervention in Iraq? Have we thought of the five million displaced persons, the thousands of wounded and dead? Have we checked to see who is now exploiting the Iraqi oil fields? In the future “the peoples” will no longer tolerate atrocities of this nature.

It is true that the republicans in the United States, who still have much influence in the politics of their country, are stepping up their efforts initiated in the 1980s to destroy the United Nations system. They abandoned UNESCO in 1984… and later returned when they invaded Iraq. Now they are once again attempting to paralyze UNESCO by failing to pay their dues because the organization decided to admit Palestine as a member, using the autonomy conferred upon it by the General Conference. They are determined to activate the G20, G8… or G2 (!) while turning their backs on multilateral cooperation. But these are the last throes of a system in total decline.

3. Daily hunger and genocide: “The sight of that hungry child pricks me like a monstrous thorn”, wrote the unforgettable Miguel Hernández. We must ensure that it pricks all of us, everyday, to raise a firm and steady voice to proclaim that we cannot continue to tolerate the death from starvation of thousands of human beings each day, blinded by our preoccupation with economic problems and risk premiums.

4. Environment. After Durban, another failure due to the total abandonment of the world’s most powerful nations, the prospects for the Rio+20 celebrations in 2012 couldn’t be more discouraging. And, nevertheless, Rio+20 can’t fail. This is an essential matter, of conscience and intergenerational solidarity. Millions of women and men all over the world must proclaim that they will not allow us to reach points of no return and cause irreversible damage to the environment that likewise irreversibly affects the habitability of our planet.

Our present leaders are irresponsibly short-sighted. All good leaders must first give their foremost consideration to processes that may result in irreparable damage.

5. Creation of employment? Without the power to “issue” incentivizing funds? Without Eurobonds? Without ensuring a better balance in the face of so much social and economic inequality? Without a European fiscal federation? Only through more and more budget cuts? Why don’t we do what the United States did by minting 300,000 million dollars for incentives, or the United Kingdom that issued 75,000 million pounds to jump-start growth? And why isn’t there at least a partial re-localization of production?

Now, as was to be expected, the new Spanish government claims that the deficit they inherited was greater than expected… when the deficit is largely in the Autonomous Communities, principally in those in which the government’s party has been in power for years.

The solution lies in Europe and the United States. Only then can the West serve as a mediator with China and the emerging nations. Otherwise, the disaster will increase while our politicians continue to promise jobs. Remember the advice attributed to Winston Churchill: “The biggest mistake that leaders can make is to give people false hope that melts like snow”. The fact that the deficit is higher than the forecasted 6% has prompted the government to adopt measures even more drastic than those that they so vigorously rejected in May, 2010. Then and now it is clear that the “rescued” are imposing their will on the impoverished “rescuers”… while Mr. Bush and his cohorts as members of the “great domain” are rubbing their hands in glee.

6. Don’t forget those who have died, those who die each day of starvation in extreme poverty, the victims of so many wars, the murdered, the alienated, those who don’t find the international acceptance they deserve after so many years of waiting in often inhuman conditions… The best example is Palestine: once again, after the permanent failure of peace attempts and of the mediation by the “quartet”… it is urgent to cease to prolong situations that offend the conscience of all mankind, because of those who have suffered so much, the foreseeable delays, the constant indecision, the violence and reprisals. Once again, only the United Nations with the majority support of its members can finally find a solution to this conflict, which in the present circumstances Israel will not allow (being supported from the US by what is undoubtedly the most powerful lobby on earth), and after the ill-fated demise of Isaac Rabin, who was indeed seeking to culminate the peace process.

7. Nuclear disarmament and immediate significant reduction of the sale and forced acquisition of military hardware, much of which was designed for out-dated warfare. It’s clear that it will be impossible to achieve the radical changes needed for the development of all countries and for the transition from an economy of speculation, delocalization and war (4,000 million dollars spent daily) to an economy of sustainable global development without a substantial reduction in military spending, especially in armament which, since the Viet Nam War, has proved useless in present conflicts.

And, above all, no drones! That’s the last thing we need! In addition to mercenaries, “War, Inc.”, there are now unmanned aircraft, piloted remotely from thousands of kilometers away with formidable GPS systems. Wars without soldiers, with “anonymous” collateral damage… That’s the last straw.

People must demonstrate their absolute repudiation of this practice.

8. Europe, don’t lose sight of the Pacific: while we continue to be bound by the North Atlantic Treaty instead of exercising autonomy in security matters, the United States is rapidly turning its priority attention to the Pacific. According to Ms. Clinton, in the next decade “the United States will make its largest diplomatic, economic and strategic investment in the Asia-Pacific region”. In addition to increased military presence, there is an ambitious free-trade agreement among various countries in the region (the TPP, or Trans-Pacific Partnership). It is clear that while we are preoccupied with the euro, those in the dollar-zone are not ignoring the yuan!

9. Emancipation of Latin America, a significant event to be taken into account. With practically all Latin American and Caribbean countries in attendance, the process to found a confederation of all states in the region (CELAC) recently commenced in Caracas. After Mercosur and Unasur, CELAC now represents the “adulthood” of a region that is significantly important for world stability, since not only will the influence of the “big brother in the north” decrease (friends, yes; subjects, no), but the increasingly excessive influence of China will recede. With Brazil’s leadership (Lula as leader of anti-globalization and Porto Alegre’s well-pondered alternative to Davos) they represent the “other possible world” that has received so much support.

Gone are the times (but not long ago in the calendar!) of “Operation Condor”… CELAC’s contribution to the “new dawning” may be quite relevant not only with respect to the economy and the wealth of its natural resources, but rather above all for its intellectual strength –in literature, art, etc., and its capacity for insurgence and rebellion.

10. Drugs. I have referred many times to the severe and serious problem of addiction to natural or synthetic drugs and the complex criminal networks involved in drug trafficking to the extent that, given the immense profits generated, in many countries they represent not only one of the principal challenges, but rather the principal challenge for security and peaceful coexistence (Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala…). Anti-drug actions, including military ones, focus on the “offer countries”, when the possible solution lies in the “demand countries”, commencing with the United States. It is clear that the solution doesn’t lie in the use of force or in eliminating the drug crops that provide traffickers with such huge profits. For example, in Afghanistan, whose poppies supply over 90% of the heroin consumed worldwide, it is calculated that one hectare generates 13,000 dollars yearly, when a cereal crop would barely yield 500 euros. Thus the solution lies not only in eliminating drug crops, but rather in finding a reasonably profitable substitute (saffron, for example), together with other development aid.

What is absolutely certain is that price has no deterrent effect. Starting with our country as an example, in Spain drugs are undoubtedly easily accessible and users will pay any price at the expense of intimidating family members, committing robbery and all nature of criminal acts… In “collateral” neighborhoods of the consumer society, products are offered and sold, to later be offered in areas that are so well-known that there are vehicles with “specialized” drivers…

As with Prohibition, the only solution is to drastically reduce prices… and the “Al Capones” will be gone. It’s urgent to treat addict-patients adequately, providing the dose they need and then adding the appropriate therapeutic substances. In other words, we’ve got to ruin the drug business. And conduct a huge, really exceptional information and educational campaign to warn of the risks of drug consumption. But, as with alcohol and tobacco, it should be made clear that this is the sole responsibility of consumers who, aware of the dangers and the social costs of their addiction, should be helped to overcome their habit. It’s urgent to convert this security problem into a health matter.

11. The voice of “the peoples”. The Arab Spring and the 15-M movement. 15-M and the global protester were voted none other than “person of the year” (!) by the well-known international magazine Time. The “Arab spring”… autumn for the West, or winter for those who still believe that a fist-full of wealthy countries should rule the world. On the five continents the “outraged”, following the recommendation of that young ninety-plus-year-old Stephane Hessel, have not only been able to peacefully express their protests and disagreements, but have also offered new proposals for a new world, having commenced an unstoppable process that spans the globe. But don’t be deceived: soon “the peoples” will dominate the “markets”. The “99%” will logically triumph over the 1% that presently wields all of the power and wealth.

It is necessary to listen to those who from the plazas and avenues have taken to cyberspace and, taking advantage of modern information and communications technology, are capable of mobilizing many citizens who are rapidly changing from passive subjects to protagonists. We need to listen to them. We need to take them into account because fortunately they will be the mainstay of the “new dawning”.

Peacefully, always peacefully, they propose… that promises be kept concerning financial regulation; the closing of tax havens, announcing that they will withdraw their payroll deposits from banking institutions that can’t prove within a given term that they have severed all ties with this irresponsible source of tax evasion; electoral law reform; prohibition against advertising prostitution, announcing that they will not buy newspapers or programs that contain these ads, which are an offense to the dignity of women; “depoliticizing” the justice system; eradication of poverty; access to education and healthcare services; immediate disbanding of plutocratic groups and the re-founding of an effective multilateral system; revival of democratic principles; elimination of rating agencies that encourage speculation and provide their services to the “great merchants”…

Since we have allowed the 20% of humanity who live in the world’s most prosperous neighborhoods to ignore those who have no access to drinking water and food… it is the “outraged” who have mobilized people and will continue to mobilize them to put an end once and for all to the 4,000 million dollars invested daily in military spending and weapons (we never tire of repeating this and must continue to do so), while thousands of people die of hunger…

The time has come to express ourselves, to build the genuine democracies needed at the local and global levels. The time has come to speak up and to listen to each other. Miriam Subirana has echoed Martin Luther King’s lucid observation: “We will have to repent in this generation not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people, but for the appalling silence of the good”. “Silent now, to cry later?” asked Rubén Darío. Let us calmly speak and listen. The era of silence, imposition and citizen apathy has come to an end.

12. The Baktun in the Mayan calendar. The long count of the Mayan calendar concludes on December 21, 2012 and marks exactly half of a 26,000-year cycle! Some people are offering negative predictions for the end of this 400-year cycle that coincides with this half-way point. But this isn’t true. To the contrary, it is predicted that the influence of strong solar energy will result in increased individual conscience, affecting behavior and, I should underscore, it is predicted that in 2012-2032 women will be particularly relevant due to their capacity and greater sensitivity in promoting the beginning of a “new era”.

Perhaps this increased energy will promote the pending (r)evolution. Without the initial “r”, this is the title of José Monleón’s latest, timely book “Pending Evolution”. Evolution or revolution: these are the alternatives. If we refuse to evolve, preserving what should be preserved but changing what should be changed, we face a revolution that may ensue much sooner than those who continue to increase the present social inequalities may imagine. Rebelling against their subjection to the values of the markets, the people will react with “axiological disobedience”. We are advancing toward a rebellion of “the Peoples” who observe with bewilderment it is the weakest and most vulnerable who must ultimately bear the greater part of the weight of a system that is in its last throes.

Even the second paragraph of the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that when the exercise of those rights is restricted, people may feel “compelled” to rebellion. We should bear this in mind.

We should likewise take into account the news that appeared in the press on December 30, 2011, highlighting the incompetence of present organizations (and with a United Nations that hasn’t risen to the occasion), being unable to address the serious events in Syria; regulate the massive arms sales of the U.S. to Saudi Arabia and Iraq (!); the collective hysteria in North Korea with the death of Kim Jong-il and the “coronation” of Kim Jong-un; the slaughter of Kurds in Iraq when Turkish pilots confused them with terrorists; the ongoing loss of employment in the European Union, while budget cuts continue…

In an article published in “El País” entitled “Rational Hope for a Better Future”, G. Jackson spoke of the United States’ loss of confidence in capitalism and “new” models and experiments that are being tested: cooperativism, public banking…

In other respects, the West violates the Kyoto Accords and, hounded by the markets, can spare no resources to aid the countries that they have so exploited. In the meantime China, the emerging countries, the Russian Federation, the Arab Spring countries… all need and aspire to achieve a new local, regional and global order.

François Bernard wrote that “Europe doesn’t love itself and doesn’t love, and in consequence, it is not loved”. The number of Euroskeptics far outweighs the Europhiles. Parliamentarians should now surprise us all and in a solemn declaration proclaim the values of Europe, the democratic principles that will guide it in the future.

If I believe the Baktun may coincide with this “new dawning” that we all seek and work for it is because in 2011, together with the awakening of so many people thanks to distance participation, other events have occurred that cannot be ignored: in Spain many aspects for the full recognition of human dignity have been achieved: in the area of religion, sexual tolerance, education, bioethics… and above all, 2011 brought an end to the ETA terrorist group. Let’s hope that those who seek to impose their opinions through violence have learned their lesson. Another victory at the dawning of this new century and millennium is that today the world won’t tolerate imposition, domination, fanaticism, dogmatism or extremisms. From now on discussion will lead to agreement, while we await the great transition from force to words, from a culture of absolute male domination to a culture of equality, conciliation, dialogue and peace.

Likewise, as President of the International Commission against the Death Penalty I would like to underscore the advances made recently in favor of abolishing capital punishment, which is a serious affront to the right to life, and does not diminish criminality or have the least effect on those who commit serious criminal acts. There is still much to be done, but pro-abolition countries are now in the majority (105) and, together with 39 countries that have not carried out executions in many years, they provide room for optimism, especially if we are able to convince the 33 U.S. states that still have the death penalty and, particularly if we are able to influence China, which in that regard is one of our greatest present challenges.

Rays of hope in the New Year that is commencing, in which the negative aspects, particularly in the West, are all too obvious. The greatest hope lies in that the demise of our present democracy may prompt a reaction that (following Amin Maalouf’s wise and timely recommendation that I like to repeat) may provide “unprecedented solutions to unprecedented situations”.

In 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights offered the world universal guidelines, ethical references that empowered the formidable wealth of mankind’s cultural diversity. Little by little these guidelines have been conditioned by the rules of the marketplace. Together with the Human Rights declaration, a Universal Declaration of Democracy could now be placed on the horizon of the “new dawning”.

These, I insist, must be radical changes: in the last few days I have been reminded of some graffiti that I saw scrawled on a wall in Prague that so impressed me at that time: “Now that we know the answers, they’ve changed the questions”.

“The only solution to the problems of humanity,” wrote O.M. Aïvanhov, “is universal brotherhood. May all people reach out to one another and unite. One day, from every direction, we will hear people send up a cry for this fraternity to be realized at last, and this will be the most beautiful day in the history of humankind”. Might this be the day predicted in the Mayan calendar?

The peoples are awakening all over the world…