Saturday, March 26, 2011

The World is Angry and its Leaders are Helpless

Is it possible that no one sees what’s happening?  Events of the scope and magnitude that have been building for the last two months cannot be met with one-off strategies and tactics. It has taken one hundred and sixty-three years for the slogan made famous in the Communist Manifesto “workers of the world, unite!” to happen: it is not happening under the direction of ‘vanguards’, as Marx and Engels expected, and under seemingly different banners, the upheavals taking place in the Middle East are all about equity, and will continue. Their variegated origins broke no single solution, however, the solutions, like the motivations, have an over-arching unity.

The protesters rise up from different parts of the political and religious spectrum, but share a determination to end the status quo imposed by the various regimes that rule each country. Some want more ‘freedom‘ i.e., the opportunity to become rich. Others want more security, i.e., the right to survive in dignity.  Similarly, their respective leaders cannot take concerted action, because they constitute different enemies vis a vis their respective peoples.

The kerfufle over who is to fill the United States’ shoes in managing the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi is merely a symptom: led by the United States since the Second World War, the West has systematically rejected all notions of world government, precisely because it implies a common search for equity. (The label has been ‘totalitarianism’.) Now it is too late.  We have no purposeful disaster response capability, thousands of nuclear weapons still exist, and we have no common goals.

Each leader defends his belief system. But perhaps, beneath the surface, lies an unspoken agreement: that the planet will be unable to nourish nine billion people, and those who possess the means must focus on escape.

Whether the tacit decision is that the powerful must unite to start anew on another planet, or that millions must be eliminated, the millions will continue to rise up, even as the chaos unleashed by our mindless abuse of nature continues.

The article by the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Store, appearing in the current (April 7th) issue of the NYR, how much further along the social-democratic Scandinavians are in their thinking compared to the capitalist holdouts. Alas, dated barely three weeks ago, his exquisitely reasoned case for dialogue with the Muslim world reads like a last hurrah, as six more countries, all with different grievances, follow the Egyptian lead and the most powerful Emperor is suddenly without clothes.

Nobody knows where things will go from here.  If I had to pick those most likely to survive in a world that defies prediction, it would be the increasing number of small communities practicing simpler lifestyles and consensus decision-making.  To remain transfixed by the latest news bulletins is as useless as focusing on the week’s football matches.


  1. Interesting, your saying their desire for "freedom" is a desire to be rich, compared with what drives a desire for security. I had not thought of it in those exact terms.

    And this: . . . beneath the surface, lies an unspoken agreement: that the planet will be unable to nourish nine billion people, and those who possess the means must focus on escape. . . well, that is the nucleus inside the cell inside the seed inside the nut inside the cluster inside the branch inside the trunk that gets to the root of every single issue we face.

    Your posts are the greatest asset to the blogosphere that I know.

  2. the planet will be unable to nourish nine billion people

    True, but there's no need for the situation to get that far. When populations stabilize, that's because a certain level of wealth has been attained. When children routinely live to maturity and parents have a social security system in place, there's no need to crank out baby after baby.
    With a modest level of wealth for everybody, there's no need for a punitive "one child" policy. If we see to the creation of more wealth for everybody, we can keep the population pretty much where it is.

  3. Rich,

    I don't think you're up-to-date on the population crisis. It's already too late for that solution to work!

  4. Lydia,
    Your support is so precious. Have you seen the PDF of my Cuba book free to download for a limited time?