Irresponsible plutocratic governance

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

 

The Earth’s habitability is dramatically deteriorating... and the richest and most powerful countries still continue to take actions in the wrong direction.

The neoliberal plutocratic governance has rejected democratic multilateralism, especially since the end of the 1980s. President Reagan created the G6 shortly after Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev had built in a very short period of time new and unexpected furrows that were bound to contain the seeds of a new era, in which the reason of power would finally be replaced by the power of reason...

After a few years of containment, thanks to the presence of highly notorious European leaders, the G7 was created (adding Canada), then the G8 (adding the Russian Federation)... and, finally, with the 2007 financial crisis, the decision was taken to expand to 20 the number of countries “in command” -despite the fact that the United Nations included 193 countries!-. But as Prof. Juan Antonio Carrillo had already warned -with great lucidity and anticipation- regardless of the number placed after the letter G, the lead will always be in the hands of the United States whose Republican Party has rejected multilateralism since 1919 (League of Nations)... with the huge and extremely dangerous inconsistency represented by the fact that the President who created the League of Nations never belonged to it.

The increasingly urgent “warnings” from the international scientific community, concerning the global danger posed by a lifestyle that has harmful effects on the Earth’s habitability, have been quite numerous but also totally ignored. In the 1960s, the UNESCO -that had already founded the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the International Geological and Hydrological Programmes- placed special emphasis on the role of the oceans, and launched the major “Man and the Biosphere” Programme. In 1972, Aurelio Peccei founded the Club of Rome and introduced “the limits of growth” for consideration by all Member States.  In 1979, the United States Academy of Sciences warned that the CO2 emissions were not only increasing but also the recapturing capacity by the sea phytoplankton was decreasing. And silence was the general reaction. And the Exxon Mobile Foundation was created to de-emphasize this fact with the help of pseudo scientists.

In 1992, the Summit of the Earth took place in Rio Janeiro with the leadership of Maurice Strong, and the Agenda 21 was presented to the world. There was no reaction. Ten years later when the Charter of the Earth, which is an excellent guide for action at all levels, already existed since 2000, the Earth Summit was held in Johannesburg... However, the neoliberal governance continued to ignore the wise recommendations from the experts... up to 2015 when, thanks to Barack Obama, the Paris Agreements on Climate Change were signed, as well as the United Nations Resolution on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

This sweet autumn break was followed by a cold and unusual winter with the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House: “I do not intend to implement neither the Paris Agreements nor the 2030 Agenda”. And the rest of the world remained silent, as also did the European Union, which used to be an example of democracy, human rights and solidarity...

We are now six years behind schedule, but during his term Joe Biden may achieve the tough transition to the new era, represented by the Anthropocene, if we all have the capacity -now that women and young people have a leading role- to put into practice the lessons learned during the COVID-19 confinement: the awareness that we will only be safe if everybody is safe; that global threats require globally agreed actions; that we cannot keep investing every day thousands of millions in weapons and military expenditure while thousands of human beings are dying of hunger and extreme poverty; that the supreme duty of current generations is to leave behind a habitable Earth for future generations, allowing them -despite the irreversible damage already caused- to keep under control the indispensable conditions of a dignified life; that, once they become aware of reality, “the peoples” will choose a lifestyle in compliance with the specific patterns that have been scientifically established.

If we want the cross-eyed and short-sighted people who still are in favour of a neoliberal governance to finally become reasonable and realize that the time has come for radical changes, it is imperative for citizens to become aware of what is really happening and stop being impassive witnesses to become active participants. Until just a few decades ago, “We the peoples” -as we were so brilliantly referred to at the beginning of the Charter of the United Nations- could not express ourselves. Now, thanks largely to digital technology, we have a voice of our own. And we are all equal in dignity, without distinction of any kind, such as gender, ethnicity, belief, ideology... We may now through public outcry, either in the streets or the cyberspace, express what must be done to avoid our intergenerational legacy from being a deteriorated habitability. Restating the words of the Charter of the United Nations in its first paragraph, we may finally proclaim that “We, the peoples, are determined to save succeeding generations from the horror of living under unhealthy and extreme conditions...”

News such as a temperature of 50 degrees centigrade in Canada and the northern region of the United States have a huge mobilising power; we must take action at once today, and swiftly an firmly implement  the SDGs, following the advice of the scientific community.

I remember how strongly we were warned about the risk entailed by the melting of the Arctic ocean, not only due to the permafrost “reflection“, but also to the release of methane which is much more harmful than CO2… The same media that say nothing today about the official visit of the UN Secretary General have remained silent or have given very little importance to the progressive disappearance of the Arctic or the presence of cracks in Antarctica... They do not want the excellent and pressing proposals of the Secretary General... nor the confidence in multilateralism expressed by the Prime Minister and Head of State to tarnish the exciting announcements of recovery, “normalization” and reinstatement of market-based governance. The UN has warned about a great heat wave... Let us, citizens of the world, remain aware, watchful and ready to take all required actions so that our descendants do not have to resort to this terrible sentence by Albert Camus which has had so much influence in my life: “I despise them because they could have done so much and dared so little”.

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With Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, now at last “We, the peoples“

Friday, April 30, 2021

    

“When you let critical moments

                                  pass by, it is later useless

                                  to run after them to try to catch them”


On 2 November 2008 I wrote an article entitled “I had a dream:  Obama, President of the United States!”... “I dreamed that Martin Luther King’s dream had come true. I dreamed that women and men, black and white, young and old could at last live peacefully in the United States thanks to a President whose skin was black... Obama represents change, a new paradigm, but also a new style, a new way of facing challenges, based on ethical values and democratic principles, with equal opportunities for everybody, and hope for everyone everyday... Obama, an Afro-American, a citizen of the world for worldwide citizens who are aware of the world village as a whole and not only of its wealthier areas...

As Maimonides said in his “Guide for the Perplexed”, we need someone at the head of the most powerful nation on Earth who commands respect and confidence, who has the ability and the tools needed to seize an historic opportunity for radical change, allowing subjects, both in the United States and throughout the world, to become citizens".

The dream was made true and, in times that were extremely difficult due to the global financial crisis, trends and perspectives in place during the neoliberal and plutocratic era of his predecessors experienced great changes.

He re-established relations with democratic multilateralism and, for the first time in many decades, listened carefully to the advice of the international scientific community, signing in autumn 2015 the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the UN General Assembly Resolution on the 2030 Agenda (Sustainable Development Goals) "To Transform our World".

As Lluis Bassets wrote only a few days after his appointment, “this is a new President for a radically new time”.

After so many unheeded appeals, after so many unfulfilled promises, President Obama’s legacy represented a true pause for hope: for the first time in history, human beings had become gradually aware of the need to join forces to be able to cope with potentially irreversible threats, and to do so based on the recognition of the equal dignity of all human beings and their capacity to express themselves freely, something that has been made possible to a large extent thanks to the new information and communication technology.

I have been repeating for years that it is unacceptable from every point of view that $4 billion dollars are spent every day on arms and military expenditure, while thousands of people, most of them children between the ages of one and five, are dying of hunger... The solution is clear: democratic multilateralism instead of plutocracy.

A refoundation of the United Nations System must be urgently done, starting with the General Assembly which should have 50% of State representatives and 50% of civil society representatives and institutions, with a weighted vote but no veto, and adding to the current Security Council a Socio-Economic Council and an Environmental Council.

A democratic... multilateralism! A genuine democracy at a local, national, regional and international scale. An ethical, social, political, economic and cultural democracy such as mentioned in the draft text of the Universal Declaration of Democracy[1], which was drawn up some years ago by Karel Vasak, Juan Antonio Carrillo Salcedo… and was subsequently signed, among other well-known personalities, by Mario Soares, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Boutros Boutros Ghali..... with the inclusion of nuances and suggestions made by prestigious experts on these matters.

I must insist and emphasize that the solution is democracy at a local and global scale: the voice of the peoples, of all peoples. This will allow us to reach the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind” proclaimed by the UNESCO Constitution, one of the most enlightening documents of the 20th century which begins as follows: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. Building peace through education provided to everyone throughout their whole life.

We’ve always lived within the context of the law of the strongest. ”If you want peace get ready for war” said an old and particularly perverse adage. We now have to make the transition from a culture of conflict to a culture of brotherly relations, as stated in article one of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I would like to emphasize that the past has already been written. The only thing we can do is to describe it and we must do it as accurately as possible.

But we must write all together the future still to come, still to be built, seeking inspiration in the great universal values, pleading for the dignity of all human beings and bearing always in mind that only if we remain united, joining our hands and voices, will we be able to face the manifold global challenges that are looming over humanity at the dawn of a new era, the anthropocene, which calls for audacious approaches and unprecedented responses.

The time for silence and submission is over. The duty to remember and to take action: implementation of the 2030 Agenda; immediate global agreement on the elimination of nuclear weapons; regulation of trafficking and consumption of illegal drugs; elimination of tax havens and plutocratic groups...; a new concept of "human" security; promoting science and the advice of those having the required expertise; reinforcing preventive measures, especially in the field of health; ensuring the independence of justice; education for all throughout life... in order to invent the future and, for the sake of our boundless resilience, never again accept impositions, dogmatism, supremacism... Every unique human being capable of creating, there lies our hope.

With Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at the helm of the White House, we must be ready to reconsider many assumptions in order “to change direction and embark on a new ship” as so wisely advised by José Luis Sampedro to young people during the 15-M, something we should keep in mind today. The first 100 days of governance leaded by President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris gives humanity the hope that was absolutely indispensable to trigger popular action at world level.

The reinstatement of Rosa Parks' image in the Oval Office is an excellent signal. With her generous and audacious attitude, that humble seamstress inspired Martin Luther King and triggered a huge mobilisation in favour of equal dignity.

At that time citizen participation was limited and required an on-site presence. Today a huge participation is possible in the cyberspace. Today, for the first time in history, “the peoples” may participate and democracy can have a new dimension at a global scale. “Free and responsible”, we must rise to the present circumstances. We can, we must. It is essential to dare... so that the generations that come within a step of ours do not utter those terrible words of Albert Camus, which impressed me so much, and which I have repeated so often: “We despise them because they could have done so much and dared so little”.


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[1] https://declaraciondemocracia.wordpress.com/ ”Día 15 de septiembre, Día Internacional de la Democracia”, blog 18 /09/2018 http://federicomayor.blogspot.com/2018/09/dia-15-de-septiembre-dia-internacional.html , y “Nosotros, los pueblos-Adopción de una Declaración Universal de la Democracia para entrar adecuadamente en la nueva era”, 9/10/2018 http://federicomayor.blogspot.com/2018/10/nosotros-los-pueblos.html

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”.

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