2021, at last the peoples. The duty to remember and to take action

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

 

“Everything is yet to be done and everything is possible...

                              But who shall do it if not all of us?”

                                  Miquel Martí i Pol

The COVID-19 confinement has shed light on many issues. It has been an enlightening experience. And now, it is our duty to remember, it is essential not to forget. And we must realize that —since we can now finally express ourselves freely, after remaining silent and submissive for so many centuries— the time has come for us to participate, to listen and to reconcile, to take action, to build a new future, to defeat the huge media power which should be seen as a terrible “weapon of mass distraction”, using the fortunate expression coined by Soledad Gallego. Now finally the voice of “the peoples”, who are all —and this is a great step forward and a great opportunity— equal in dignity, regardless of sex, ideology, religion, race... At last the voice of the peoples will be heard and they will hold the reins of world governance in their hands, releasing it from those of a few plutocratic groups (G-6,G-7,G-8,G-20), who are themselves the slaves of large international corporations,keeping an eye at a global scale on each one of us, controlling us, determining our decisions... The same technological giants that have made it possible for us to express ourselves freely now prevent us from doing so in order to correct current gloomy trends.

We must remain at all times awake and diligent so that the post-COVID period has nothing to do with the pre-COVID, so that the “new normality” is not the same one we had before. We must read again and again, hear again and again the beautiful verses written by Mario Benedetti in “When the Storm is over”, and brilliantly recited by Nacha Guevara: “… And then we shall remember everything we lost / and we will once and for all learn / everything we had not yet learned “. For the first time in history we are facing global threats and some of them are potentially irreversible. I know exactly what the terrible expression “there’s nothing left to do”means, because in 1967 I started working with newborns on the early detection of metabolic disorders which —if not treated on time— can have a big impact on neuronal functioning and produce a serious an irremediable disability. At first, we could only prevent half a dozen disorders. Later the number of disorders was gradually increased and today —thanks to “the test of the heel”— it is possible to prevent around 30 pathological diseases... And we are trying to rely on genomics to further increase this quantity.

A large portion of funds currently allocated to defending the territory should rather be invested in health and, especially, in irreversible disorders... In the meanwhile the inhabitants of these well-protected territories are lacking food, drinking water, quality health services, educational means...

I never tire of insisting that it is morally intolerable to see everyday thousands of people die from hunger, most of them boys and girls ranging from one to five years old, while more than 4,000 million dollars are invested in weapons and military expenditure. We have the moral obligation to build a new concept of security allowing us, once and for all, to make the transition from the reason of power to the power of reason, from the sinister adage "if you want peace, get ready for war” to “if you want peace, get ready for speech”, mediation, dialogue. Because peace is the reflection of our daily behaviour, of an education allowing each of us to learn how to be “free and responsible” ̶as stated in article 1 of UNESCO Constitution̶ and to fully exercise the unique capacities of human beings: thinking, imagining, foreseeing, innovating…creating! Each one of us capable of expressing our own opinions and refusing to follow the dictates of someone else, to assume ideas based on fanaticism, dogmatism, supremacism... We should change ourselvesbefore entering into a new era where it will be possible to put into practice the great formula that was prematurely introduced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the end of the Second World War, and which is mentioned at the beginning of the Charter of the United Nations: “We the peoples... are determined to save future generations from the scourge of war".

But at that time the General Assembly consisted only of States... and there were five vetoes (from the victors of the war). The great powers repeatedly ignored the warnings of scientists who advisedthem to take care of the biosphere (UNESCO, since 1949: the limits of growth, Club of Rome 1972; limiting CO2 and other greenhouse gasses emissions, as well as the deterioration of  marine phytoplankton, that is essential for their recapture, United States National Academy of Sciences 1979; and the 21 Agenda, carefully drawn during the first Earth Summit, Maurice Strong, Rio de Janeiro 1992; the excellent “worksheet” for the transition to the Anthropocene represented b y the “Charter of the Earth”, 2000 and the 2nd Summit in Johannesburg, 2002)…

The neoliberal governance launched by Reagan at the end of the 1980s with the G-6, further extended to G-7, G-8... and finally the G-20 ̶as a result of the 2008 financial crisis ̶ gradually marginalized multilateralism and focused all attention on the GDP, thus continually increasing the social gap, consenting to and taking advantage of tax havens, postponing as irremediable actions for the adequate handling of drug trafficking and corruption... The “Great Dominion” (military, financial, energetic and media powers) went so far as to disobey the Security Council, invading Iraq based on assumptions and lies...

And then, after leaving aside once again the United Nations, it addressed—in a way that was both self-serving and erratic- the “Arab Spring”... And it was not until a democratic President, with the qualities of Barack Obama, was elected in the United States that a period of hope became possible with the approval of the Paris Agreements on Climate Change and the United Nations Resolution "Transforming our world" that led to theimplementation of the 2030 Agenda (Sustainable Development Goals)...

It lasted a very short period: only a few months had passed when President Donald Trump proclaimed, shortly after his nomination, that he would not carry out the agreements adopted by his predecessor. And going even further in his anti-scientific attitude, he accelerated the extraction of oil by the highly polluting procedure of "fracking". Faced with all these unacceptable decisions and attitudes, the world remained silent. And the European Union, that had so much to say and to argue, also choose to say nothing. Every space was occupied by markets, every index, the GDP; and the political decisions taken in Latin America and elsewhere were conditioned by merchants, who also exploited the sources of raw materials of any sort (fuel, lithium, coltan...), while overtly or secretly privatizing essential public services, and dealing with what should have never become a marketable good.

In the global maelstrom of neoliberalism, everything had been forgotten... and a good portion of the citizenship had been abducted̶especially by social networks̶and was involved in a consumption contest, remaining absent-minded and receiving just a few warnings whose impact rapidly decreased, and which alerted them about the situation of migrants drowned in the Mediterranean or abandoned to their fate in ignominious concentration camps... or about queues formed in their own "rich" cities  by those who were lacking everything, even a roof over their heads... or about the worn out democracies that allowed the most diverse forms of fanaticism, xenophobia...

And then the coronaviruscame. And what could have been another epidemic in the long and rich history of humanity became a pandemic due to the huge mobility of world citizens... to the point that countries such as Spain hadalready become in a great extent recipients of tourists... relocating a considerable amount of their own production and paying attention only to the stock market index. And Regional Unions were inefficient and irrelevant, when they were most needed in the global playing field. The European Union itself had already become a simple monetary union, unsupportive and precariously democratic (decisions must be taken unanimously!and unanimity is the opposite of democracy)... In the opening sessions of the UN, only two European States —France and Spain— were in favour of unambiguous multilateralism...

During confinement, the “peoples” were able to reflect about and assess what they already had and what they were willing to have... And realize what really matters... They finally had the serenity they needed to be able to discern what is essential. And to be able to act with nerve, without ties and, above all, without passions and constraints that can lead to contempt towards“others”. And also citizens forced to stay at home asked themselves, among many other things, how anyone could tolerate that justice be delivered by judges who are clearly biased in favour of one ideology or another... How can it be —they wondered— that in countries such asUS or Spain citizens naturally speak of “conservative” or “progressive” judges when justice should be a reference of impartiality and independence?

Yes, many people have become aware of the “globalisation of ignorance and poverty” they are immersed in, thus becoming impassive spectators instead of “active players”. In January 2021 a high percentage of people have already become aware of the fact that, for the first time, they have a voice. And they may now promote big clamours either personally or through the cyberspace so that “the peoples” themselves “resolve to spare future generations the horror" of deterioration in the quality of life on Earth, of disaffection, of fanaticism, of animosity... And they can value the countless good things that computer technology has made possible, and take special care so that "artificial" intelligence is always at the service of human intelligence, of which it is the fruit, and not the other way round.

It is the voice of the peoples and the duty of memory that shall allow us to start together a new era. Knowing that each human being is capable to foresee —and to create!— it is now possible to invent the future. The solution lies in the capacity to spot sparks of light, in perseverance, in never giving up.  During my life I’ve always tried not to forget the cry of a young Italian who said “Presidente, non si renda!” at the end of a meeting I was chairing in Rome in the early 21st Centuryon the right to food. Everyone voted in favour..., except the representatives of President Bush Jr. The same thing had happened with Bush Sr. during the Convention on the Human Rights of the Child. United States was the only country that refused to acknowledge the supreme value of each child. As long as the US maintains its hegemony, the nuclear threat will not be eliminated and billions will continue to be invested daily in weapons and military expenditure. And there will continue to be no funds for endogenous development, for healthcare aimed at ensuring a dignified life. And no funds to help scientists design the new future that is yet to be done.

The voice of the peoples actively participating in multilateral governance will be heard, and action will be taken, as per the 2030 Agenda, to “change direction and embark on a new ship” asJosé Luis Sampedro advised young people to do during the 15-M.

“A change of track is needed”, said recently Edgar Morin, who is about to turn 100 years old. A change of track and a change of lifestyle. How wonderful it would be if this were the offspring of the COVID-19!

Now we know that it’s possible because, as Maria Novo tells us in her verses:

 “We have learned the value of reflection and time. / Let us now use them to weave peace every day”.

Published in Other News

Global Governance is at risk : the time has come to implement at once a democratic multilateralism

Friday, November 20, 2020

Today, at last, everyone is aware that it cannot be tolerated any longer that the common fate of humanity be placed in the hands of the hegemony of the United States, which has been preserved at all costs by the Republican Party.

Everything has been based up to now on the reason of force. On investing thousands of millions on huge arsenals and military bases. United States still has nuclear arsenals: I myself closely followed -in October 1986- the proposal to totally eliminate warheads made by President Mikhail Gorbachev to President Reagan in Reykjavik.  Only the reduction of nuclear weapons was approved.

Despite being the country on Earth that has more and better qualified scientists, the United States stands against all arguments and recommendations made by specialists on irreversible climate change, who say that -if the appropriate measures are not taken- the Earth’s habitability will suffer an irreparable damage, something that would be a historical error (and horror), as well as an affront to future generations. There was a short period for hope when -thanks to President Barack Obama- the Paris Agreements were signed in the Autumn of 2015 in order to avoid an ecological disaster and, shortly afterwards, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Resolution on the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs “For transforming our World”. It then seemed still possible to redirect the situation created by neoliberalism -which had rejected control by the United Nations and had entrusted world governance to oligarchic and plutocratic groups G6, G7, G8, G20... (globally G1!)- and, after joining forces with the "great powers" (military, financial, IT, media, energy), it had pushed the world into an ethical, social, ecological and economic disaster.

Thinking about all this during the COVID-19 confinement... about immigrants and refugees... the inability to cope with natural disasters (fire, floods, earthquakes...)... human trafficking, drugs... harassment perpetrated by powerful media placed under the control of “their master’s voice”... the resurgence of fanaticism, supremacism, dogmatism... the globalization of indifference and ignorance... an economy based on speculation, relocation of production and war (I must once more insist on the thousands of people -most of them girls and boys aged one to five- who are dying from hunger each day, while more than 4,000 million dollars are invested in weapons and military expenditure)... the democratic disaster we have witnessed during the United States elections... and the European Union where decisions must be unanimously adopted (!)... we become aware of the duty we have to remember, as well as of our essential duties towards future generations that compel us to promote through great popular clamours (now that we have no excuse because “We, the peoples” have our own voice and are equal in dignity) the transition that cannot be further postponed from a culture based on domination, imposition and war to a culture of encounter, dialogue, conciliation, alliance and peace, from the reason of power to the power of reason, from authoritarianism to a genuine democracy.

Yes: the time has finally  come for a peaceful though firm rebellion of all countries that are part of and are involved in democratic multilateralism; the time has come for a renewed system of the United Nations that must have at its disposal the adequate personnel, technical, financial and defence resources.

The duty to remember and to take action.  As early as in 1919 the United States Republican Party prevented the League of Nations, set up by President W. Wilson, from having an adequate support... thus giving rise to the emergence in a few countries in Europe (Germany and Italy) and Asia (Japan) of movements such as the Nazi, Fascist parties and the Empire of the Rising Sun that led to the Second World War.

When this was over, it was the turn of the “Cold War” between superpowers, with unacceptable operations aimed at gaining political control such as the “Operation Condor” in Latin America with thousands and thousands of victims... And, when the Soviet Union became, thanks to the work and grace of Mikhail Gorbachev, a Community of Independent States, and this gave a new opportunity to Roosevelt’s multilateral scheme, President Reagan -backed by Prime Minister Thatcher- invented the G6, and in 1989 the “Republican” United States did not endorse the Convention on the Rights of Children put forward by UNICEF ( (as of today it is the only country not to have signed it)... and the International Trade Organisation was created outside the frame of the United Nations. Over the past four years, United States has again withdrawn from UNESCO, together with Israel, and only three months ago it stepped back from the World Health Organisation... and again, on November 3rd, coinciding with the last presidential elections, it also withdrew from the Paris Agreements on Climate Change....

The current European leadership has not been able to counteract President Trump’s relentless arbitrary actions. 

Wherever you look at, people are crying out for a joint, effective and urgent effort in the face of global threats -most of which are irreversible- that currently represent a big menace and which it is our supreme duty to tackle in a firm and rigorous way.

There is only one solution: democratic multilateralism, the union of all peoples, fully responsible citizens who are no longer mere spectators and finally take action. 

Publicado en Other News


Less bombs, more fire brigades

Friday, September 11, 2020

It has now become clear and well acknowledged, thanks to the COVID-19, that if we pay attention solely to the GDP, as advocated by the neoliberal approach, that is, to economic growth at the expense of human development, we will not have at our disposal the human, technical and financial resources to be able to deal with pandemics, fires and other natural disasters, to extreme poverty... and yet we continue to invest huge amounts on military activities and the production and stockpiling of weapons, without questioning the perverse proverb, which we have repeated since the beginning of time: "if you want peace, prepare for war". There are still arsenals crammed with bombs and garrisons of soldiers, while an increasing number of forests are devastated by fire, and there are not enough fire brigades and technical personnel to foresee and to fight fire efficiently…

Multiple anachronistic parades and missions to Mars and the Moon are still being organized -with space excursions for super millionaires included- at a time when "missions to Earth" as well as lack of solidarity, immigrants and refugees call for urgent solutions. I never tire of insisting that it is ethically intolerable to see everyday thousands of people dying from hunger, most of them boys and girls ranging from one to five years old, while more than 4 billion dollars are invested in defence.

The COVID has given us the opportunity to reflect, to become aware of a lot of things that are considered in “normal life” as inescapable, and to see that the vast majority of citizens are not actors but rather mere spectators of what is happening, stunned and abducted by the media, most of which try to encourage citizens to follow the guidelines of publicity and to pay for a consumption and “well-being” that have both been designed at the highest levels of economic power.

Since quite some time now we have been rejecting very sensible proposals urging us to redirect the ongoing trends that have forced us to accept a plutocratic governance and an absolute hegemonic dominance, thus giving rise to a two-pole situation with omnipotent and omnipresent giants (digital companies, in particular) at one end and, at the other, the marginalized, whose number has progressively increased as has the extent of the social gap. But now the radical changes, that have been avoided so many times, have become most urgent than ever because, for the first time in history, mankind is facing potentially irreversible processes -such as the melting of the Arctic Ocean- and today the possibility exists of reaching in just a few years points of no return in the habitability of the Earth. 

Already in 1947 the UNESCO created the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as well as a series of international programmes (geological, hydrological and oceanographic) whose aim was to give consistency to scientifically proved measures that could efficiently tackle these phenomena. The great UNESCO’s program “Man and the Biosphere” was very soon supplemented in 1972 by the first publication of Aurelio Peccei, at the Club of Rome, entitled "The Limits to Growth". In 1979, the United States National Academy of Sciences informed that carbon dioxide emissions had not only experienced an increase but the oceans re-uptake capacity was also significantly decreasing (deterioration of the phytoplankton). This clear warning was not only ignored, but large oil companies -Exxon Mobile- created foundations that were immediately supported by Gulf countries with the evil purpose of spreading adverse messages.

In year 1972 the Summit of the Earth was held in Rio de Janeiro under the auspices of the UN and the smart and enthusiastic direction of Maurice Strong. The Earth Agenda -wisely reflected in the excellent "Earth Charter", presented at the dawn of the century and of the millennium as a major reference for the Earth- was progressively marginalized, as were the Millennium Development Goals for years 2000 to 2015 by precisely those who had entrusted governance on a global scale to oligarchic and plutocratic groups. First to the G6 at the late 1980s. Then to the G7, the G8... and the G20 in 2008 on the occasion of the financial crisis... As always the Republican Party of the United States rejected democratic multilateralism and favoured USA power, including nuclear weapons. During the "cold war", the global fight for power between the United States and the Soviet Union allowed to "justify" the nuclear threat at a global level and the possession of the most destructive war devices. However -I had the opportunity to follow very closely the meeting between President Reagan and President Gorbachev in Reykjavik in October 1986- the unexpected and historic conversion of the USSR into a Commonwealth of Independent States did neither dispel the misgivings of United States nor allow the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the effective functioning of a democratic multilateralism, which is more necessary than ever.

President Barack Obama managed not only to ease global tensions such as the relationship with Islam, etc., but also to get the United States to sign in 2015 the Paris Agreements on Climate Change and the United Nations Resolution "Transforming our world" by means of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This was a period of hope... that quickly came to an end when, shortly after becoming President of the United Nations, Donald Trump unambiguously announced that he would not implement neither the Paris Agreements nor the SDGs, while giving further impetus to a neoliberal economy based on speculation, production offshoring and war, thus rendering totally ineffective the excellent Lisbon proposal of year 2000 which promoted a knowledge-based economy for sustainable and humane development.

The confinement imposed upon us by the COVID-19 may at last redirect the political drift on a global scale, and therefore satisfy the aspirations of so many citizens who are convinced that it is now possible to invent a different future that will prevent us from reaching points of no return, that will put an end to the extremely dangerous outbreaks of supremacism, dogmatism and fanaticism that have emerged everywhere, without taking into account the tragic consequences that such a behaviour had in the germination of the Second World War.

Now that citizens have at last the capacity to express themselves freely, to know what is happening elsewhere, to take action on a totally equal footing without any discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, ideology, belief, sexual sensitivity, lineage... it shall be incumbent on “We, the peoples” -as we are so wisely and prematurely referred to at the beginning of the Charter of the United Nations- to make the decision to participate, to be co-responsible for the global governance.

I do understand how discouraged many can feel when they realize that actions taken to trigger the most urgent changes have do quickly fallen into oblivion and have been inadvertently submitted to “the lumbering pace of so much weary blood”, as accurately set forth by the poet Miquel Martí i Pol (1974).

Only an efficient democratic multilateralism -coupled with a worldwide citizenry who has had the opportunity, during the pandemic, to think about itself and about future generations, and is willing to act as a whole- can achieve the eradication of tax havens, of the various and abhorrent forms of trafficking, and of any behaviour that is not worthy of human dignity.

All of this is part of a new concept of security that concerns not only territories and borders, but also citizens who live in them, ensuring access of everyone to the six priorities of the United Nations: food, water, health services, protection of the environment, education for all throughout life and peace.

We must enter a new era. And this new era must be built on completely different pillars. Not with more bombs. But rather with much more fire brigades, with people trained to deal with the different features of the new world we have longed for, knowing that it is at last the responsibility of each of us to shape the future.

Published in Wall Street International, 31 August 2020