Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Guidelines for 2014

Recently, it has seemed that every national New Year’s celebration tries to outdo the last, even as each year that passes is more dire than the last.  I’ll bet there are precedents in history…

As half the world descends into chaos while the other half stares at its navel, a few things are becoming increasingly clear: not only is ‘terrorism’ in the eye of the beholder, but the 1% wants socialism for itself even if that means feudalism for the 99%.  For proof, consider that one of America’s closest allies, Saudi Arabia, funds the jihadists who are intent on imposing an Islamist state not only in Syria but also in Iraq, where five thousands Americans lost their lives and more than 100,000 are estimated to have been wounded, in order, supposedly, to create a democratic state.

U.S. troops having departed in 2011, in 2013 Al Qaeda linked jihadis proclaimed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (which refers to Syria). While the international focus is on the civil war in that latter country, in 2013, in supposedly pacified Iraq, terrorist attacks made 8,000 victims, as many as at the height of the war in 2008. And yet, notwithstanding what can only be considered an unmitigated military disaster, neither the Congress nor the street are calling to impeach the President.  How can that be?

The problem is that we are using the wrong metric to measure success: if we substitute corporate profits for the spread of democracy, the outcome of the Iraq war makes perfect sense. We’ve long known that  war is good for the bottom line, but now, for globalized capitalism it also doesn’t matter whether a government applies sharia law, promotes education, or pursues nuclear weapons, as long as it keeps its eye on the only criterion that counts: the 1%‘s global bottom line.

Thus Israel can refuse statehood to Palestinians, and Sunni Saudi Arabia can forbid women from driving and both can still be America’s allies in the campaign against Syria, where, until two years ago, a government led by the Arab Socialist  Ba’ath Party stood out as the most progressive in the Islamic Middle East, with an education system modeled on the French, women in Western dress, and peaceful relations among the country’s half dozen religions, while being known in progressive circles as ‘the frontline state’ vis a vis the Israeli occupation. Israel in turn labels Hezbollah, the leftist Shi’ite militia that plays a significant political role in Lebanon and supports Assad, a terrorist organization financed by Teheran, whom it accuses of pursuing a nuclear weapon, while itself refusing to subject its own nuclear arsenal to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. 

Systematic lack of information muddies the waters, preventing the American public from focusing on what really matters: the relentless pursuit of wealth by the 1%, to the detriment of the 99%, regardless of political or religious affiliations.  Overall, with respect to the religious dimensions of the growing number of conflicts in the world Vladimir Putin is in a better position than the man in the White House.  Even though he does not have to placate a large fundamentalist electorate as does the American president, he emphasizes the importance of spirituality in his public pronouncements and has even broken with the Soviet anathema against organized religion, as illustrated by the sentencing of the Pussy Rioters to two years in prison for disrespecting a Russian cathedral.

The arrest of Greenpeace activists trying to prevent Arctic drilling suggests that the Russian President cannot afford to throw a wet blanket on his people’s desire to imitate Western ways, even if that means taking a rain check on renewable energy. But although he cannot yet make global warming a priority, he clearly agrees with a growing international consensus that competition must be replaced by cooperation if humanity is to survive.  Did he not meet with the ‘People’s Pope’ Francis, whose Christmas calls for a halt to consumerism echo those one can hear every day on Russia’s international channel, RT?  

The new world fault line is no longer between capitalists and socialists, but between the advocates of mindless consumption and those who recognize that Nature Bats Last. Interestingly, the followers of each worldview fall into the eternal categories they represent, of equity versus greed.

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