By Thomas Naylor
Second Vermont Republic
A Meganation World
Much to the chagrin of Washington and Tel Aviv, a recent meeting of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement, a group formed during the Cold War that views itself as independent of the major powers, sent a clear signal to the US-Israeli cabal that they are visibly annoyed at the United States and Israel for continuing to portray Iran as the world’s foremost scapegoat. The meeting which took place in Tehran on August 26-31 proved to be a public relations coup for Iran in spite of UN Secretary General and American pawn Ban Ki-moon’s attempt to hijack the meeting.
The NAM represents nearly two-thirds of the nations of the world, most of whom are small and poor. However, their membership does include four meganations which have populations in excess of 100 million – Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria.
The meeting in Tehran was a vivid reminder that we live in a meganation world under the cloud of Empire, the American Empire. Fifty-nine percent of the people on the planet now live in one of the eleven nations with a population of over one hundred million people. These meganations in descending order of population size include China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia, Japan, and Mexico. Extending the argument one step farther, we note that twenty-five nations have populations in excess of 50 million and that seventy-three percent of us live in one of those countries.
It’s hard to imagine a more chaotic world than the world in which we find ourselves. The ongoing residual effects of the 2008 Wall Street meltdown, the current euro crisis, the alleged international threat of terrorism (albeit Western induced), American imperialism (full spectrum dominance and imperial overstretch), excessive population growth, extreme poverty, peak oil, and climate change are all evidence of a world that is totally out of control.
When Category 4 Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore a few miles east of New Orleans in 2005 with all of its fury, the devastation was almost beyond belief. Neither the New Orleans mayor, the Louisiana governor, nor the president of the United States seemed to have a clue as to how to deal with the crisis. Tens of thousands of New Orleanians behaved as though they were experimental mice on an electric floor after experiencing learned helplessness from repeated shocks, waiting to be rescued by the City or the State, not knowing that the mayor and the governor had both abdicated their responsibility for emergency assistance to the federal government. There was widespread looting as well as fires, explosions, gunshots, murders, rapes, and robberies. By the time the cavalry finally arrived five days later, it was too little, too late. All of this in the richest, most powerful nation in the world. The story of Katrina was the story of too many people being crammed into too little space, who were too dependent on an ill-conceived flood control system and an impotent, unsustainable government which had lost its moral authority.
Neither its $5.4 trillion economy, its state-of-the-art technology, nor its military like efficiency could protect Japan from the catastrophic consequences of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. To be quite blunt, when you try to squeeze 127 million people into one large island and a group of smaller ones, all prone to earthquakes, you have few degrees of freedom when disaster strikes. It’s all about human scale. The recent widespread electric power blackouts in India were examples of more of the same.
In the prescient words of Leopold Kohr in his 1957 book Breakdown of Nations, “There seems only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness. Whenever something is wrong, something is too big.”
New York City, The Global Epicenter
Americans, among others, are completely obsessed with bigness – big government, big military, big banks, big businesses, bit cities, big buildings, big farms, big schools, big universities, big health care systems, big social welfare systems, big media networks, big computer networks, big churches, and big empires. Few have the courage to challenge the myth that “Bigger Is Always Better.”
Nothing more effectively epitomizes the cult of bigness in the United States than New York City, the economic, financial, marketing, cultural, moral, and political epicenter of the world. Although Washington, DC is the nominal capital of the United States, New York City is the de facto capital, since the U.S. Government is owned, operated, and controlled by Wall Street, Corporate America, and various foreign interests which maintain a strong presence in Gotham.
New York City is all about money, power, speed, greed and looking out for number one. It is also the global capital of technofascism – affluenza, technomania, cybermania, megalomania, robotism, globalization, and imperialism.
Gotham is the twenty-first century equivalent of the Tower of Babel, for it is too big, too crowded, too undemocratic, too regimented, too intrusive, too polluted, too noisy, too commercial, too materialistic, and too dehumanized. It also has too much traffic, too many policemen, too much surveillance equipment, too much crime, too much drug addiction, and too little sense of community. Last, and by no means least, its distribution of income is more inequitable than that of any other major city in the United States.
Failed International Megainstitutions
Since the end of World War II a plethora of international megainstitutions have evolved to deal with such issues as national security, peacekeeping, international finance, economic development, and international trade. They include the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and NATO. The track record of these megainstitutions has proven to be singularly unimpressive.
That the 192-member United Nations, which is dominated by the United States, Russia, and China, each of which has veto power in the Security Council, has been so ineffective since its inception in 1945, is hardly surprising. Nothing illustrates this better than the U.N. sponsored conferences on climate change in Kyoto in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009. Trying to come up with solutions to a problem as complex as climate change by assembling 178 heads of state, as was the case in Kyoto, or 193 in Copenhagen, is truly an exercise in futility. The product of the 12-day Copenhagen conference was a nonbinding agreement in which no one was committed to anything. The so-called Copenhagen agreement was a complete sham. The process was replicated in Cancun, Mexico in 2010 with similar results.
How many wars has the U.N. prevented? Certainly none in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Palestine, or Africa. Global political problems are too complex for an assembly of two hundred international political leaders to sort out in a public forum. This is even more true if China and the United States refuse to budge from their positions of national self-interest. Some have cynically suggested that the U.N. is little more than an extension of the U.S. State Department.
The U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization are all committed to transforming the world economy into a giant global growth machine regulated by an international gambling casino in which resource allocation decisions are driven by a high-speed, multinational, high-tech crap shoot. Satellite communications, fiber optics, and the Internet make it possible to transform small, manageable local problems into unmanageable global problems overnight.
Since globalization is often achieved through coercion, intimidation, exploitation, collectivism, monopoly, and American military might; local cultures, local values, local communities and local environmental concerns often receive short shrift.
Transnational megacompanies not only tell so called emerging market countries (most of the world) what they will produce, how it will be produced, when it will be sold, and at what price, but they also influence local working conditions, wages, benefits, and labor laws. They often dictate local government monetary, fiscal, trade, and banking policies. International money managers decide which foreign currencies are overvalued and which are not, as well as which countries should be punished for not playing by their arbitrary, self-serving rules. This is truly a one-size-fits-all game.
President Bill Clinton called for a New Global Financial Architecture. But what he proposed was nothing new at all – more trade, more budget cuts, more privatization, more foreign investment, more megamergers, more computer networks, less government control, lower interest rates, more IMF bailouts, and, as always, more economic growth. He wanted everything to be bigger, more complex, more high-tech, and more interdependent – bigger markets, bigger trade agreements, bigger loans, bigger bailouts, bigger banks and financial institutions, and bigger telecommunication networks. Our government’s cryptic message to the rest of the world is, “Just be like us.” One-size-fits-all!
Economists justify globalization on the basis of the so called “trickle down effect,” in which the benefits of global trade to the superwealthy eventually trickle down to the poor. But half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day, and many of these people have no access to clean water, electricity, or sanitation. World Bank figures suggest that the trickle down effect has not worked so well. In 1987, 1.2 billion people in the world were trying to survive on $1 a day. Now over 1.5 billion are trying to do so.
Another large, ill-conceived, international organization which is too big to fix is the 28-nation European Union with its common currency, the euro, shared by 17 of its member nations. The euro is being kept afloat by a series of lies, leaks, rumors, and smoke-and-mirrors dances. Financial markets are pumped up by the expectations of the next meeting of the ECB, the European finance ministers, or German Chancellor Angela Merkel with either her French or Italian counterpart. Each meeting holds out the hope of a silver bullet fix for the euro. Most have turned out to be nonevents.
When the euro was first introduced in 1999 it was supposed to unite Europe, promote federalism, and lead to collective economic prosperity. As the euro faces the real possibility of complete collapse, it seems to be pulling Europe further apart. An increasing number of political leaders in the EU are now calling for the break up of the $17 trillion political and economic union with a population of nearly 500 million.
NATO is a Cold War anachronism which has been unable to find a new mission to justify its post Cold War existence. Thus far its primary aim seems to be to antagonize Russia by enticing former Soviet Republics into its ranks and thus surrounding the Russian Bear with what it perceives to be a hostile force. More recently NATO has diversified its portfolio to include the war on terror, e.g., its foray into Libya in 2011.
Alternative Responses to Empire
For those who are actually citizens of an omnipotent, immoral empire capable of inflicting a level of destruction on civilization and the entire planet that was heretofore unimaginable, as well as those living elsewhere but still under its influence, there are at least seven options: