Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Common Wealth

The 21st century will overturn many of our basic assumptions about economic life. The 20th century saw the end of European dominance of global politics and economics. The 21st century will see the end of American dominance too, as new powers, including China, India and Brazil, continue to grow and make their voices heard on the world stage. Yet the century's changes will be even deeper than a rebalancing of economics and geopolitics. The challenges of sustainable development—protecting the environment, stabilizing the world's population, narrowing the gaps of rich and poor and ending extreme poverty—will render passé the very idea of competing nation-states that scramble for markets, power and resources.

The defining challenge of the 21st century will be to face the reality that humanity shares a common fate on a crowded planet. We have reached the beginning of the century with 6.6 billion people living in an interconnected global economy producing an astounding $60 trillion of output each year. Human beings fill every ecological niche on the planet, from the icy tundra to the tropical rain forests to the deserts. In some locations, societies have outstripped the carrying capacity of the land, resulting in chronic hunger, environmental degradation and a large-scale exodus of desperate populations. We are, in short, in one another's faces as never before, crowded into an interconnected society of global trade, migration, ideas and, yes, risk of pandemic diseases, terrorism, refugee movements and conflict.

We also face a momentous choice. Continue on our current course, and the world is likely to experience growing conflicts between haves and have-nots, intensifying environmental catastrophes and downturns in living standards caused by interlocking crises of energy, water, food and violent conflict. Yet for a small annual investment of world income, undertaken cooperatively across the world, our generation can harness new technologies for clean energy, reliable food supplies, disease control and the end of extreme poverty.

That's why the idea that has the greatest potential to change the world is simply this: by overcoming cynicism, ending our misguided view of the world as an enduring struggle of "us" vs. "them" and instead seeking global solutions, we actually have the power to save the world for all, today and in the future. Whether we end up fighting one another or whether we work together to confront common threats—our fate, our common wealth, is in our hands.

To make the right choice, we must understand four earth-changing trends unprecedented in human history. First, the spread of modern economic growth means that the world on average is rapidly getting richer in terms of incomes per person. Moreover, the gap in average income per person between the rich world, centered in the North Atlantic (that is, Europe and the U.S.), and much of the developing world, especially Asia, is narrowing fast. With well over half the world's population, fast-growing Asia will also become the center of gravity of the world economy.

Second, the world's population will continue to rise, thereby amplifying the overall growth of the global economy. Not only are we each producing more output on average, but there will be many more of us by midcentury. The scale of the world's economic production by midcentury is therefore likely to be several times that of today.

Third, our bulging population and voracious use of the earth's resources are leading to unprecedented multiple environmental crises. Never before has the magnitude of human economic activity been large enough to change fundamental natural processes at the global scale, including the climate itself. Humanity has also filled the world's ecological niches; there is no place to run.

Fourth, while many of the poor are making progress, many of the very poorest are stuck at the bottom. Nearly 10 million children die each year because their families, communities and nations are too poor to sustain them. The instability of impoverished and water-stressed countries has ignited a swath of violence across the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. What we call violent fundamentalism should be seen for what it really is: poverty, hunger, water scarcity and despair.

These great challenges have not entirely escaped worldwide notice. In the past 20 years, world leaders on occasion have groped for ways to cope with them. In fact, they've achieved some important successes, and with considerable public support, which can provide a foothold for a sustainable future. We have adopted a global treaty for climate change; we have pledged to protect biodiversity; we are committed globally to fighting the encroachment of deserts in today's conflict-ridden dry lands of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. And the world has adopted the Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme poverty, hunger and disease by 2015. The challenge is to turn those fragile and unfulfilled global commitments into real solutions.

Virtual Oil Field

Electric cars and windmills are the most complementary products in the green world. Windmills generate a lot more energy at night, as wind picks up when the air cools down. Unfortunately, when you get a lot of wind most people are asleep and the electricity needs to be re-routed elsewhere. Cars are parked at night waiting to get electricity into the batteries - which is a perfect match to the electricity profile of wind generation.

Denmark has 20% of its generation capacity coming from wind. I learned that only 13% of the electrons though are wind electrons, the rest are sold to Norway and Germany - practically for free some times. Those 7% can drive every car in Denmark if you converted the fleet to Electric Vehicles. Clean, Cheap and Abundant - Electric Gasoline...

An ambitious project, called Better Place, is to build an entire electric car infrastructure, starting in Israel. The cars will be free, you'll pay for the electricity. (Picture taken in Denmark by Quin Garcia of the Better Place team).

Making A Killing From Hunger

For some time now the rising cost of food all over the world has taken households, governments and the media by storm. The price of wheat has gone up by 130% over the last year. Rice has doubled in price in Asia in the first three months of 2008 alone, and just last week it hit record highs on the Chicago futures market. For most of 2007 the spiralling cost of cooking oil, fruit and vegetables, as well as of dairy and meat, led to a fall in the consumption of these items. From Haiti to Cameroon to Bangladesh, people have been taking to the streets in anger at being unable to afford the food they need. In fear of political turmoil, world leaders have been calling for more food aid, as well as for more funds and technology to boost agricultural production. Cereal exporting countries, meanwhile, are closing their borders to protect their domestic markets, while other countries have been forced into panic buying. Is this a price blip? No. A food shortage? Not that either. We are in a structural meltdown, the direct result of three decades of neoliberal globalisation.

Farmers across the world produced a record 2.3 billion tons of grain in 2007, up 4% on the previous year. Since 1961 the world’s cereal output has tripled, while the population has doubled. Stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years, it’s true, but the bottom line is that there is enough food produced in the world to feed the population. The problem is that it doesn’t get to all of those who need it. Less than half of the world’s grain production is directly eaten by people. Most goes into animal feed and, increasingly, biofuels – massive inflexible industrial chains. In fact, once you look behind the cold curtain of statistics, you realise that something is fundamentally wrong with our food system. We have allowed food to be transformed from something that nourishes people and provides them with secure livelihoods into a commodity for speculation and bargaining. The perverse logic of this system has come to a head. Today it is staring us in the face that this system puts the profits of investors before the food needs of people.

The policy makers who have shaped today’s world food system – and who are supposed to be responsible for averting such catastrophes – have come out with a number of explanations for the current crisis that everyone has heard over and over again: drought and other problems affecting harvests; rising demand in China and India where people are supposedly eating more and better than in the past; crops and lands being massively diverted into biofuel production; and so on. All of these issues, of course, are contributing to the current food crisis. But they do not account for the full depth of what is happening. There is something more fundamental at work, something that brings all these issues together, and which the world’s finance and development chiefs are keeping out of public discussion.

Nothing that the policy makers say should obscure the fact that today’s food crisis is the outcome of both an incessant push towards a “Green Revolution” agricultural model since the 1950s and the trade liberalisation and structural adjustment policies imposed on poor countries by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund since the 1970s. These policy prescriptions were reinforced with the establishment of the World Trade Organisation in the mid-1990s and, more recently, through a barrage of bilateral free trade and investment agreements. Together with a series of other measures, they have led to the ruthless dismantling of tariffs and other tools that developing countries had created to protect local agricultural production. These countries have been forced to open their markets and lands to global agribusiness, speculators and subsidised food exports from rich countries. In that process, fertile lands have been diverted away from serving local food markets to the production of global commodities or off-season and high-value crops for Western supermarkets. Today, roughly 70% of all so-called developing countries are net importers of food. And of the estimated 845 million hungry people in the world, 80% are small farmers. Add to this the re-engineering of credit and financial markets to create a massive debt industry, with no control on investors, and the depth of the problem becomes clear.

Agricultural policy has completely lost touch with its most basic goal of feeding people. Hunger hurts and people are desperate. The UN World Food Programme estimates that recent price hikes have meant that an additional 100 million people can no longer afford to eat adequately. Governments are frantically seeking shelter from the system. The fortunate ones, with export stocks, are pulling out of the global market to cut their domestic prices off from the skyrocketing world prices. With wheat, export bans or restrictions in Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Argentina mean that a third of the global market has now been closed off. The situation with rice is even worse: China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, India and Cambodia have banned or severely restricted exports, leaving just a few sources of export supply, mainly Thailand and the US. Countries like Bangladesh can’t buy the rice they need now because the prices are so high. For years the World Bank and the IMF have told countries that a liberalised market would provide the most efficient system for producing and distributing food, yet today the world’s poorest countries are forced into an intense bidding war against speculators and traders, who are having a field day. Hedge funds and other sources of hot money are pouring billions of dollars into commodities to escape sliding stock markets and the credit crunch, putting food stocks further out of poor people’s reach. According to some estimates, investment funds now control 50–60% of the wheat traded on the world’s biggest commodity markets. One firm calculates that the amount of speculative money in commodities futures – markets where investors do not buy or sell a physical commodity, like rice or wheat, but merely bet on price movements – has ballooned from US$5 billion in 2000 to US$175 billion to 2007.

The situation today is untenable. Look at Haiti. A few decades ago it was self-sufficient in rice. But conditions on foreign loans, particularly a 1994 package from the IMF, forced it to liberalise its market. Cheap rice flooded in from the US, backed by subsidies and corruption, and local production was wiped out. Now prices for rice have risen 50% since last year and the average Haitian can’t afford to eat. So people are taking to the streets or risking their lives to journey by boat to the US. Food protests have also erupted in West Africa, from Mauritania to Burkina Faso. There, too, structural adjustment programmes and food-aid dumping have destroyed the region’s own rice production, leaving people at the mercy of the international market. In Asia, the World Bank constantly assured the Philippines, even as recently as last year, that self-sufficiency in rice was unnecessary and that the world market would take care of its needs. Now the government is in a desperate plight: its domestic supply of subsidised rice is nearly exhausted and it cannot import all it needs because traders’ asking prices are too high.

The truth about who profits and who loses from our global food system has never been more obvious. Take the most basic element of food production: soil. The industrial food system is a chemical-fertiliser junkie. It needs more and more of the stuff just to keep alive, eroding soils and their potential to support crop yields in the process. In the current context of tight food supplies, the small clique of corporations that control the world’s fertiliser market can charge what they want – and that’s exactly what they are doing. Profits at Cargill’s Mosaic Corporation, which controls much of the world’s potash and phosphate supply, more than doubled last year. The world’s largest potash producer, Canada’s Potash Corp, made more than US$1 billion in profit, up more than 70% from 2006. Panicking now about future supplies, governments are becoming desperate to boost their harvests, giving these corporations additional leverage. In April 2008, the joint offshore trading arm for Mosaic and Potash hiked the price of its potash by 40% for buyers from Southeast Asia and by 85% for those from Latin American. India had to pay 130% more than last year, and China 227% more.

Profit increase for some of the world’s largest fertiliser corporations:

Source: Compiled from corporate reports

While big money is being made from fertilisers, it is just a sideline for Cargill. Its biggest profits come from global trading in agricultural commodities, which, together with a few other big traders, it pretty much monopolises. On 14 April 2008, Cargill announced that its profits from commodity trading for the first quarter of 2008 were 86% higher than the same period in 2007. “Demand for food in developing economies and for energy worldwide is boosting demand for agricultural goods, at the same time that investment monies have streamed into commodity markets,” said Greg Page, Cargill’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Prices are setting new highs and markets are extraordinarily volatile. In this environment, Cargill’s team has done an exceptional job measuring and assessing price risk, and managing the large volume of grains, oil seeds and other commodities moving through our supply chains for customers globally.”

Profit increase for some of the world’s largest grain traders:

Source: Compiled from corporate reports
*Data is for Marubeni’s Agri-Marine division only.
Absent from this list is Louis Dreyfus (France), a private agricultural commodities trader with annual sales in excess of US$22 billion, which does not report its profits.

Managing and assessing are not so difficult for a company like Cargill, with its near monopoly position and a global team of analysts the size of a UN agency. Indeed, all of the big grain traders are making record profits. Bunge, another big food trader, saw its profits of the last fiscal quarter of 2007 increase by US$245 million, or 77%, compared with the same period of the previous year. The 2007 profits registered by ADM, the second largest grain trader in the world, rose by 65% to a record US$2.2 billion. Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Foods, a major player in Asia, is forecasting revenue growth of 237% this year.

The world’s big food processors, some of which are commodity traders themselves, are also cashing in. Nestlé’s global sales grew 7% last year. “We saw this coming, so we hedged by forward-buying raw materials”, says François-Xavier Perroud, Nestlé’s spokesman. Margins are up at Unilever, too. “Commodity pressures have increased sharply, but we have successfully offset these through timely pricing action and continued delivery from our savings programmes”, says Patrick Cescau, Group CEO of Unilever. “We will not sacrifice our margins and market share.” The food corporations don’t seem to be making these profits off the retailers. UK supermarket Tesco reports profits up 12.3% from last year, a record rise. Other major retailers, such as France’s Carrefour and the US’s Wal-Mart, say that food sales are the main factor sustaining their profit increases. Wal-Mart’s Mexican division, Wal-Mex, which handles a third of overall food sales in Mexico, reported an 11% increase in profits for the first quarter of 2008. At the same time Mexicans are demonstrating in the streets because they can no longer afford to make tortillas.

It seems that nearly every corporate player in the global food chain is making a killing from the food crisis. The seed and agrochemical companies are doing well too. Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, reported a 44% increase in overall profits in 2007. DuPont, the second-largest, said that its 2007 profits from seeds increased by 19%, while Syngenta, the top pesticide manufacturer and third-largest company for seeds, saw profits rise 28% in the first quarter of 2008.

Such record profits have nothing to do with any new value that these corporations are producing and they are not one-off windfalls from a sudden shift in supply and demand. Instead, they are a reflection of the extreme power that these middlemen have accrued through the globalisation of the food system. Intimately involved with the shaping of the trade rules that govern today’s food system and tightly in control of markets and the ever more complex financial systems through which global trade operates, these companies are in perfect position to turn food scarcity into immense profits. People have to eat, whatever the cost.

The larger backdrop to this perverse food market situation is the global financial system, which is now teetering on its flimsy axis. What began as a localised housing loan collapse in the US in 2007 has unravelled into something far more serious, as people realise that the emperors of the global financial system have no clothes. The world economy is living on debt that no one can pay. While central bankers and Lear jet executives try to patch the holes and restore confidence, the underlying truth is that the system is close to bankruptcy and no one in power wants to take the necessary tough measures: not the IMF, nor the World Bank, nor the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations. Not much more than public relations glitter can be expected from the G8 meeting in June.

Similar problems lie at the heart of the food crisis: an ideologically driven elite has forced countries to wrench open markets and let the free market run, so that a few megacorporations, investors and speculators can take huge payoffs. Many countries have lost that most basic power: the ability to feed themselves. This loss, coupled with the corruption that plagues our countries and trading systems, shows that neoliberalism has lost any legitimacy that it might once have had. It is a measure of how out of touch these ideologues are that many now openly call for more trade liberalisation as a solution to the food crisis, with some even proposing that the rules of the WTO be changed to prevent countries from imposing export restrictions on food.

The World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, has tried to win the world over with his call for a “New Deal” to solve the hunger crisis, but there is nothing new about it: he calls for more trade liberalisation, more technology and more aid. Today’s food crisis is the direct result of decades of these policies, which must now be rejected. While immediate action is necessary to lower food prices and to get food to those who need it, we also need radical changes in agricultural policy so that small farmers around the world gain access to land and can make a living from it. We need policies that support and protect farmers, fishers and others to produce food for their families, for the local markets and for people in cities, rather than money for an abstract international commodity market and a tiny clan of corporate boardroom executives. And we need to strengthen and promote the use of technologies based on the knowledge, and in the control, of those who know how to grow food. To put it another way, we need food sovereignty, now – the kind that is defined and driven by small farmers and fisherfolk themselves.

Social movements around the globe have been struggling to promote such a reversal of strategy, only to be dismissed as unrealistic and backward by those in power, and often violently repressed. The glimmer of hope in this crisis is that the situation can be reversed. Peasant organisations have concrete proposals about what needs to be done to resolve the crisis in their countries, and governments should listen to what they are saying. Already some governments are talking of a policy change towards food self-reliance. Others are starting to question the fundamental rationale of pushing for more free trade. Neoliberal hawks at the top of the global food policy pyramid have lost whatever credibility they may think they once had. It is time for them to move out of the way so that the visions of food sovereignty and agrarian reform that come from the grassroots can take their place and get us out of this hellish mess.

Apartheid Legacy

Nadine Gordimer is being urged to boycott the Jerusalem International Writers Festival, part of Israel's 60 year celebrations. An interesting lesson in this for South Africans. We may have dodged a bullet when our society chose political transformation, but vigilance is still the price of liberty. We also still have a continuing duty to remain an example to nations mired in conflict, and to work at improving our own shortcomings. An onerous task and certainly not for the fainthearted. As our great sage, Credo Mutwa, exhorted: "Indaba my children!"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tim Robbins At NAB

Tim Robbins makes an impassioned plea for a new vision, in his speech at the National Broadcasters Association conference. Follow the link to get the audio version of him speaking, after the organizers had shut down the cameras.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chopra's Third Jesus

"In The Third Jesus, bestselling author and spiritual leader Deepak Chopra provides an answer to this question that is both a challenge to current systems of belief and a fresh perspective on what Jesus can teach us all, regardless of our religious background. There is not one Jesus, Chopra writes, but three.

First, there is the historical Jesus, the man who lived more than two thousand years ago and whose teachings are the foundation of Christian theology and thought. Next there is Jesus the Son of God, who has come to embody an institutional religion with specific dogma, a priesthood, and devout believers. And finally, there is the third Jesus, the cosmic Christ, the spiritual guide whose teaching embraces all humanity, not just the church built in his name. He speaks to the individual who wants to find God as a personal experience, to attain what some might call grace, or God-consciousness, or enlightenment.

When we take Jesus literally, we are faced with the impossible. How can we truly “love thy neighbor as thyself”? But when we see the exhortations of Jesus as invitations to join him on a higher spiritual plane, his words suddenly make sense."

Ultimately, Chopra argues, Christianity needs to overcome its tendency to be exclusionary and refocus on being a religion of personal insight and spiritual growth. In this way Jesus can be seen for the universal teacher he truly is–someone whose teachings of compassion, tolerance, and understanding can embrace and be embraced by all of us.

France Sings For USA

Leading film-makers are seeking to change the way we think about other countries. This is one of a powerful series of films to be shown on Pangea Day, May 10, "the day the world comes together through film". Visit http://www.pangeaday.org/and register your screening for May 10. It's time to imagine a different world.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Restoring Idealism To Rock And Roll

Few bands in recent history have done more to express idealism and authenticity in music than Pearl Jam. In this fascinating interview with guitarist Stone Gossard, we are offered an insider's view of the gritty origins of grunge music, the iconic rise of the "most popular band of the 90's," and the struggles of maintaining one's artistic ideals in the vertigo of sudden fame. Stone Gossard, guitarist and founding member of Pearl Jam, one of the most influential bands in recent decades, and often described as "the most popular American rock band of the 1990's."

Every now and again, pop culture is forced to reinvent itself. Like an epic drama among Hindu deities, our collective tastes are born, destroyed, and reborn again, swinging like a massive pendulum from one aesthetic extreme to the other. As a new cultural niche becomes more and more popularized, what typically begins as fierce artistic independence eventually devolves into reckless overindulgence, and creative novelty slowly bleeds away until all that is left is a formulaic husk used to manufacture tomorrow's next fads. It is usually at this point, when a particular scene becomes so over-saturated that it can no longer support the weight of its own excess, that the entire scene will die an often-humiliating death, bloated and alone on an unflushed toilet.

In the 1980's, the music scene in America was dominated by the glut and theatrics of "glam metal." For nearly 10 years, most of popular music was defined by sex, drugs, and machismo-in-drag, and an entire generation of youth nearly lost themselves within a cloud of hairspray. There was a void in the cultural heart of the musical mainstream that was dying to be filled—an utter lack of artistic interiority, emotional depth, and authenticity. Untold millions were craving artistic substance, and were only offered artificial decadence.

Then along came grunge, taking the entire world by storm in the early 90's. From the rain-soaked streets of Seattle emerged a new voice for American youth. In much the same way that punk music arrived just in time to offer salvation for our Disco-era sins, grunge music promised to completely cleanse our cultural palette, placing an aesthetic imperative upon more simplicity, more spontaneity, and more sincerity. And so bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam came into the mainstream, forever changing the landscape of American music. From behind a tsunami of massively distorted guitars, hallowed vocals, and countless acres of flannel, appeared an unmistakable return to introspection and idealism—even while cloaked by themes of angst and despair, the natural result of our collective interiors being ignored for almost a decade.

Few bands of the era embody this move toward introspection and idealism as strongly as Pearl Jam. As the grunge scene continued to explode, it was becoming apparent that the inherent iconoclasm of the scene was ill-suited to handle the immense pressures of fame, and many artists found themselves circling the drain of inevitable self-destruction—for many, Kurt Cobain's suicide was a morbid reminder of what can happen when artistic ideals are reduced to mere currency for the status-sphere. One by one the originators of grunge began to fall away, and an impossibly huge body of talent was forever lost to suicide and drug addiction.

Few bands survived as the industry began churning out the newest grunge-inspired fads, marketed (ironically) as "alternative rock." Pearl Jam was one of the few who did make it through this period of intense commodification. Unlike most others from the Seattle era, they were able to prevent themselves from being crushed by the enormous pressure that their celebrity brought to their personal and professional lives. While they did in a sense try to distance themselves from their own fame, they were also simultaneously using their celebrity as a platform for their idealism, soon finding themselves fighting "on all fronts" for initiating real change in the world. From their famed battle with the corruption of the Ticketmaster venue monopoly, to publicly berating the policies of George W. Bush, to expressing pro-choice sentiments in concert, to promoting awareness around Crohn's disease - Pearl Jam was helping to return rock and roll to its roots, in terms of both the profoundly personal and the deeply political. And they continue to do it to this day, over 18 years since the band first formed.

The story of Pearl Jam is one that is truly aligned with the essence of Integral Art, which attempts to restore Beauty to it's rightful place within the human condition—emphasizing creativity instead of deconstruction, idealism instead of apathy, depth instead of sensationalism, authenticity instead of irony—and always reflecting the fullest expressions of both artist and audience alike.

The band's last five albums: No Code, Yield, Binaural, Riot Act, and the self-titled Pearl Jam have wild oscillations that occur in Pearl Jam's overall sound, between what might be described as a more traditional classic-rock sensibility and their more experimental forays into sonic novelty, causing critics to describe just about every other album as a "deliberate break from their sound" — indeed making it very difficult to nail down what exactly their sound is in the first place.

The band make their live recordings available to their fans through the web, an innovative move which severely curtails much of the parasitic greed that exists in bootleg culture—in which people sell often lousy recordings to fans for ridiculous profits, none of which makes it back to the band itself. This was certainly a win-win solution for everyone involved, as the fans are offered sound-board quality recordings of live shows, while the band was offered another revenue stream, through which they can better support their own musical ideals—increasing their ability to continue making music their own way, without having to compromise their sound for mainstream consumption.

One of the most impossibly painful moments in the history of the band came back in 2000, when nine fans were tragically trampled to death at a music festival in Denmark. An experience that has irrevocably changed the band, collectively and individually, in just about every way. Bruce Springsteen is quoted as saying that "the great challenge of adulthood is holding on to your idealism after you lose your innocence." In many ways Pearl Jam has watched their meteoric rise lead to their innocence being torn to shreds by the currents of success and celebrity, the tragedy in Denmark being the pinnacle of this sort of loss — but for them, losing their innocence only seems to reinforce their idealism, transforming it from the rhetoric of youthful naiveté into real, practical exemplars of ever-increasing care, compassion, and sophistication, while setting new benchmarks of artistic integrity for the rest of the world.

Pearl Jam has been one of the most powerful forces of idealism in rock music for almost two decades. You can hear it in their lyrics and their music, you can see it in their various philanthropic work, you can feel it in their unwavering devotion to their fans. And they continue to grow into their own ever-deepening sense of idealism, battling the tides of ignorance, corruption, and, well, really crappy music to this very day....

"Bands have to be smart about when somebody's really helping them out; they're notorious for being ungrateful...."

Politics In The 21st Century

Jim Garrison is, among other things, the chairman and president of the State of the World Forum, which he cofounded with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1995. The State of the World Forum (SWF) is often thought of as a "shadow UN," in that it is the largest forum of world leaders outside of the United Nations. From Margaret Thatcher to Ted Turner, from the Queen of Jordan to Desmond Tutu, from Jimmy Carter to George Bush Sr., all have been part of the extraordinary dialogue that is the State of the World Forum. Jim is also the president and chairman of Wisdom University, a higher-education institution that offers a "commitment to personal and professional renewal" by "nurturing and addressing the whole person."

"The planet," Jim Garrison is fond of saying, "is on a collision course with itself." The monumental challenges of the 21st century seem dire indeed, almost insurmountable in many ways. And to make matters worse, only a portion of the population has the developmental capacity to fully recognize the complexity of our collective problems, while the majority of the world remains blissfully unaware of the impending catastrophe we seem to be heading toward. And many of those who can see feel utterly helpless to do anything about it, unable to find their own ecologically sensitive values reflected in the culture at large. And so they anxiously await what many perceive as the inevitable, a tsunami of global crises to wash over us all, rendering the fruits of human civilization undone in a single fell swoop.

And yet, isn't it too soon to write the future off to these sorts of doom and gloom scenarios? After all, aren't we finally beginning to see some sort of shift for the positive, a shift toward more progressive attitudes and more effective strategies for the future? Many in the U.S. are experiencing a real sense of rekindled hope and civic potency—especially in light of the Democratic primaries, which seems to be galvanizing a great number of people toward much deeper engagement with the political process. Researchers such as Paul Ray are reporting the rise of an exciting new demographic in the world within a population he refers to as the "cultural creatives." While there is still some debate over how to slice up this data or what conclusions to draw from Ray's statistics, it is clear that the number of "cultural creatives" is increasing at a fairly explosive rate, currently representing about 26% of the American voting populace. But many of these "bright greens" (as they are often called) continue to struggle to have their voices heard by the movers and shakers of world politics, and fear that unless they find a way to constellate themselves into a viable political voice, the slumbering giant of humanity will continue to sleepwalk ever closer to the precipice of ecological collapse.

If there is one thing to be said for certain about the human race, it is that we will always find a way to actualize every ounce of potential available to us, in whatever form that potential takes—whether it is the potential for barbarism, for savagery, for merciless destruction, degradation, and depravity; or whether it is the potential for transcendence, for compassion and idealism, for the heights of creativity and noble vision—we are all of these, simultaneously, all at once. We move in every direction possible, though always with a slight-but-significant tilt toward greater depth, freedom, and fullness. The current condition of humanity has been described as growing "better and better, worse and worse, faster and faster," which only makes some sort of breaking point seem even more inevitable, and the need for a developmental understanding of the human condition more crucial.

"All the world's a stage," history's most cherished bard tells us, "and all the men and women merely players." But what Shakespeare could not have possibly known at the time he wrote these words is that the world is not a single monolithic stage, but is in fact a graduating succession of stages, each built upon the other — each with its own set of players, its own set of shared values, and its own lens through which the world is interpreted. Likewise, the game of global politics is not to be played upon a single flat chessboard, but on many boards simultaneously — like a game of "Asimovian Hyperchess" in which moves are played across multiple geometric planes simultaneously. This is how politics in the 21st century must be approached, taking into account all of the different developmental levels human beings grow through (e.g. magic, mythic, rational, postmodern, and integral), while bringing as much healthy balance as possible to the individuals and cultures who exist at each of these particular levels. And only a genuinely integral analysis of world politics can promise the sort sanity and stability our yet-unborn progeny prays for us to find, before it's too late....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dan Dennett Respone To Rick Warren

Philosopher Dan Dennett thinks of religion as a natural phenomenon, a human feature that has evolved over millennia to meet each society's changing needs. From this, he makes a brilliant case for studying religion - all religion - as rigorously as we do science.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dear God

Dear God is a new website started by one of world's leading trend forecasters. This is the press release: "From the founder of The Cool Hunter comes dear-god.net; a startlingly new concept of spirituality where people from all over the planet reveal their innermost hopes and fears in the form of prayers to God. Dear God is completely non-denominational and the term God is used in the broadest sense – encompassing every religion’s concept of a higher power; be it a Christian God, a Muslim God or simply a fluid idea of universal energy.

In its first week, the site has sparked an organic revolution, with people all over the world embracing the opportunity to unburden themselves, to share their hopes and fears with others in an effort create hope, healing, inner peace and clarity. From the poignant and the heart-wrenching to even the light-hearted and the humorous, the posts on Dear God cover the gamut of human experience, providing a powerfully raw and honest insight into our world today. Articles such as "Thank you God for ridding me of God", being a case in point.

As one online site stated "After viewing this website I found it to be so honest of the world’s reflection and thoughts. See we as believers probably wonder and ask the same types of questions, but never express them to anyone. There are a lot of different views about what and who God is and that is reflected in this site. Try to not view this with a closed mind…try not to debate that you know the right answer…try to view this as an opportunity to peek into the heart of our world."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

Consider this scenario: Here I am, a 12th generation South African, typing words into a laptop which I will shortly post as a blog; for consumption by anybody with an internet connection at any location across the planet. In fact, above the planet too, as airlines are bringing on-stream their in flight internet services. So much for the dark continent. Am I unique? Certainly not. South Africa is the 4th largest market for AdMob, a mobile ad serving network utilizing the mobile web. The incongruity of all this techno pride amply juxtaposed with media images of warlords, starvation and general decrepitude. Beginning to see a picture emerging? You certainly are...the one big media wants you to see.

Who benefits from this continued distortion of the stereotypical African image? Big everything of course: oil, mining, agriculture, manufacturing, finance, telecommunications etc. It suites them to project, and perpetuate, this vision of a lost continent. Nobody's going to be concerned over the continued plundering of the world's basket case, right? Wrong, the digital age is rewriting the rules and the "access to information" cat is out of the bag. We might not be able to do all that much about it at the moment, but we know. We know how this reptile mind works now; and we know its coming for all of us. So, we will resist...as any person would do with a knife to their throat. Question is: what then?

We will endure another bout of colonization to be sure, but surely a rerun of past history is no longer an option. After all we have the internet, video streaming, instant messaging, video calls and a plethora of other channels to pass the word of resistance. Prevail we will, yet the feeling is that this time we ought to make a lasting statement. The spotlight will certainly attract the sabre rattlers and adventurers, but its greatest use needs to derive from a collective position on the future of humanity. A new contract defining what it is to be part of a human race that's positioning it's affairs for a new millennium. All the more poignant for coming out of a continent that still bears the scars of persistent institutionalized abuse.

This inspirational action has a wonderful resource base to draw from: millennia of ancient societal knowledge. The wisdom that we are inextricably entwined with the fortunes of the planet we live on. That the fortunes of our neighbours are directly tied to our own welfare. Daily reminders that a shot heard in today's digital existence, rings out over the world instantly. We, as Africans, can finally marry these elusive concepts. Modernism with humanism, technology with responsibility, globalization with equality. Utopia now? Surely you jest the cynics will scoff. Why not though? Current systems are hitting the wall in spectacular fashion, an its fair to say that the so-called developed societies are bereft of new ideas. As if we want to continue placing our future in their hands.

So, let's play what if. Jacob Zuma becomes South Africa's next president and, in the 2 years before he's convicted on corruption charges, he mobilizes a populist revolution. Working class people organize into street committees that maintain security in the face of a corrupt police force. The "stokvel" concept expands allowing the unbanked to bypass the formal financial system; and grows the "black" economy to enormous proportions. Small businesses create 80% of new jobs and collectively begin to dominate the formal economy. Traditional politicians, and their corporate backers, are sidelined as community organizations now control grass roots programs and agendas. Provision of basic services continue undisturbed due to the influence of trade unions.

At this stage public fervour is fuelled by a universal contempt for the old guard. This enmity unleashes a collective will to find a new solution. Sound familiar? Then you remember the big events, and the lessons, of a populist movement that ended the rule of hereditary power over elected representatives - the French Revolution. A system that had overstayed it's welcome was removed when the people took to the streets. Those streets exist in cyberspace today, and the protest they entertain is instantly relayed to streets in other parts of the world. Continuing with what if, we now see societies on other continents follow the local model. National organization now jumps borders, then continents, before taking root in every corner of the planet. The hive mind goes into overdrive, the Wikipedia of global cooperation is unleashed, social media becomes a force instead of remaining a marketing curiosity. All areas of human endevour blossom in a newfound atmosphere of creativity. The second Renaissance bursts forth without any warning.

In the final stage of our what if game the new found freedoms become strained as the organizers start resenting the innovators. The people of the world decide to settle and consilidate their gains. New mandarins appear and tcurrent freedoms become fetters of a greater freedom, yet to be attained. This dance, as old as man, settles into a rythm...till the next time. Knowing all of this from past experience, will we still depend on predictable destruction of the present for a better future? All the main players are fulfilling their obligations, the scene is set. This time we need to move beyond the expected and reach far beyond our understanding. Its time to stride out in trust, and to let the rational mind follow the heart for a change.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Next 500 Years

Sometimes to project vision into the future, its necessary to look back at the past. Below is another insightful synopsis, by Noam Chomsky, on what it is to be regarded as an unperson, belonging to an unpeople.

"The conquest of the New World set off two vast demographic catastrophes, unparalleled in history: the virtual destruction of the indigenous population of the Western hemisphere, and the devastation of Africa as the slave trade rapidly expanded to serve the needs of the conquerors. The basic patterns persist from 1492 to the current era. It is not at all unlikely that the rulers of the world, meeting in G-7 conferences, have written off large parts of Africa and much of the population of Latin America, superfluous people who have no place in the New World Order, to be joined by many others, in the home societies as well.

Diplomacy has perceived Latin America and Africa in a similar light. Planning documents stress that the role of Latin America is to provide resources, markets, investment opportunities with ample repatriation of capital, and, in general, a favorable climate for business. If that can be achieved with formal elections under conditions that safeguard business interests, well and good. If it requires death squads “to destroy permanently a perceived threat to the existing structure of socioeconomic privilege by eliminating the political participation of the numerical majority...” that’s too bad, but preferable to the alternative of independence (the words are those of Lars Schoultz, the leading U.S. academic specialist on human rights in Latin America, describing the National Security States that had their roots in Kennedy Administration policies).

As for Africa, State Department Policy Planning chief George Kennan, assigning to each part of the South its special function in the New World Order of the post-World War II era, recommended that it be “exploited” for the reconstruction of Europe, adding that the opportunity to exploit Africa should afford the Europeans “that tangible objective for which everyone has been rather unsuccessfully groping...” a badly needed psychological lift, in their difficult postwar straits. Such recommendations are too uncontroversial to elicit comment, or even notice.

The genocidal episodes of the Colombian-Vasco da Gama era are by no means limited to the conquered countries of the South, as is sufficiently attested by the achievements of the leading center of Western civilization 50 years ago. Throughout the era, there have also been regular savage conflicts among the core societies of the North, sometimes spreading far beyond, particularly in this terrible century. It is precisely here that the moral and cultural challenge arises, as we approach the end of the first 500 years."

When once asked what he thought of British civilization, Mahatma Ghandi replied: "I think it will be a very good idea". It epitomises the sardonic humour that those in the developing world have as their defence against the indifference of the industrialized nations. Yet, it also reveals a depth of insight that begs the question: why are we not doing anything about it? As we lament, and lambast, the powers that be - so we too allow them to continue with impunity. As recipients of this dubious attention we need to concede that we contribute greatly to our own situation. Why, for instance, do we continue to pursue development goals that simply lead us further into indebted slavery?

As the next 500 years unfold; we are still beholden to,and enthralled by, the concept of conquest and empire. Surely this is the time to break with the system. What is there to lose? We have been denuded of any resource that has any value, except for our people. Our people is the last, and most valuable, treasure of this continent. Will we allow economic slavery to replace the odious version of the initial conquerors? Once was bad enough, it doesn't bear contemplating again.

Controversial Osho On 60 Minutes

We Own The World

"We Own the World" is an article By Noam Chomsky, that first appeared on ZNet. Noam Chomsky is a linguist and social critic. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including a recent book of interviews with David Barsamian: "What We Say Goes". The full content of the We Own the World talk is available in DVD format from www.zmag.org.

"So there is a problem and that problem is that the United States is just not a functioning democracy. Public opinion does not matter and among articulate and elite opinion that is a principle—it shouldn't matter. The only principle that matters is we own the world and the rest of you shut up, you know, whether you're abroad or at home.

So, yes, there is a potential solution to the very dangerous problem, it's essentially the same solution: do something to turn our own country into a functioning democracy. But that is in radical opposition to the fundamental presupposition of all elite discussions, mainly that we own the world and that these questions don't arise and the public should have no opinion on foreign policy, or any policy.

Once, when I was driving to work, I was listening to NPR. NPR is supposed to be the kind of extreme radical end of the spectrum. I read a statement somewhere, I don't know if it's true, but it was a quote from Obama, who is the hope of the liberal doves, in which he allegedly said that the spectrum of discussion in the United States extends between two crazy extremes, Rush Limbaugh and NPR. The truth, he said, is in the middle and that is where he is going to be, in the middle, between the crazies. NPR then had a discussion—it was like being at the Harvard faculty club—serious people, educated, no grammatical errors, who know what they're talking about, usually polite.

The discussion was about the so-called missile defense system that the U.S. is trying to place in Czechoslovakia and Poland—and the Russian reaction. The main issue was, "What is going on with the Russians? Why are they acting so hostile and irrational? Are they trying to start a new Cold War? There is something wrong with those guys. Can we calm them down and make them less paranoid?" The main specialist they called in, I think from the Pentagon or somewhere, pointed out, accurately, that a missile defense system is essentially a first-strike weapon. That is well known by strategic analysts on all sides. If you think about it for a minute, it's obvious why. A missile defense system is never going to stop a first strike, but it could, in principle, if it ever worked, stop a retaliatory strike. If you attack some country with a first strike, and practically wipe it out, if you have a missile defense system, and prevent them from retaliating, then you would be protected, or partially protected. If a country has a functioning missile defense system it will have more options for carrying out a first strike. Okay, obvious, and not a secret. It's known to every strategic analyst. I can explain it to my grandchildren in two minutes and they understand it.

So on NPR it is agreed that a missile defense system is a first-strike weapon. But then comes the second part of the discussion. Well, say the pundits, the Russians should not be worried about this. For one thing because it's not enough of a system to stop their retaliation, so therefore it's not yet a first-strike weapon against them. Then they said it is kind of irrelevant anyway because it is directed against Iran, not against Russia. Okay, that was the end of the discussion. So, point one, missile defense is a first-strike weapon; second, it's directed against Iran. Now, you can carry out a small exercise in logic. Does anything follow from those two assumptions? Yes, what follows is it's a first-strike weapon against Iran. Since the U.S. owns the world what could be wrong with having a first-strike weapon against Iran. So the conclusion is not mentioned. It is not necessary. It follows from the fact that we own the world.

Maybe a year ago or so, Germany sold advanced submarines to Israel, which were equipped to carry missiles with nuclear weapons. Why does Israel need submarines with nuclear armed missiles? Well, there is only one imaginable reason and everyone in Germany with a brain must have understood that—certainly their military system does—it's a first-strike weapon against Iran. Israel can use German subs to illustrate to Iranians that if they respond to an Israeli attack they will be vaporized.

The fundamental premises of Western imperialism are extremely deep. The West owns the world and now the U.S. runs the West, so, of course, they go along. The fact that they are providing a first-strike weapon for attacking Iran probably, I'm guessing now, raised no comment because why should it? You can forget about history, it does not matter, it's kind of "old fashioned," boring stuff we don't need to know about. But most countries pay attention to history. So, for example, for the United States there is no discussion of the history of U.S./Iranian relations. Well, for the U.S. there is only one event in Iranian history—in 1979 Iranians overthrew the tyrant that the U.S. was backing and took some hostages for over a year. That happened and they had to be punished for that. But for Iranians their history is that for over 50 years, literally without a break, the U.S. has been torturing Iranians. In 1953 the U.S. overthrew the parliamentary government and installed a brutal tyrant, the Shah, and kept supporting him while he compiled one of the worst human rights records in the world—torture, assassination, anything you like. In fact, President Carter, when he visited Iran in December 1978, praised the Shah because of the love shown to him by his people, and so on and so forth, which probably accelerated the overthrow.

Of course, Iranians have this odd way of remembering what happened to them and who was behind it. When the Shah was overthrown, the Carter administration immediately tried to instigate a military coup by sending arms to Iran through Israel to try to support military force to overthrow the government. We immediately turned to supporting Iraq, that is Saddam Hussein, and his invasion of Iran. Saddam was executed for crimes he committed in 1982, by his standards not very serious crimes—complicity in killing 150 people. Well, there was something missing in that account—1982 is a very important year in U.S./Iraqi relations. That is the year in which Ronald Reagan removed Iraq from the list of states supporting terrorism so that the U.S. could start supplying Iraq with weapons for its invasion of Iran, including the means to develop weapons of mass destruction, chemical and nuclear weapons. That is 1982. A year later Donald Rumsfeld was sent to firm up the deal. Well, Iranians may very well remember that this led to a war in which hundreds of thousands of them were slaughtered with U.S. aid going to Iraq. They may well remember that the year after the war was over, in 1989, the U.S. government invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to come to the United States for advanced training in developing nuclear weapons.

What about the Russians? They have a history too. One part of the history is that in the last century Russia was invaded and practically destroyed three times through Eastern Europe. You can look back and ask, when was the last time that the U.S. was invaded and practically destroyed through Canada or Mexico? That doesn't happen. We crush others and we are always safe. But the Russians don't have that luxury. Now, in 1990 a remarkable event took place. I was kind of shocked, frankly. Gorbachev agreed to let Germany be unified, meaning join the West and be militarized within a hostile military alliance. This is Germany, which twice in that century practically destroyed Russia. That's a pretty remarkable agreement. There was a quid pro quo. Then-president George Bush I agreed that NATO would not expand to the East. The Russians also demanded, but did not receive, an agreement for a nuclear-free zone from the Artic to the Baltic, which would give them a little protection from nuclear attack. That was the agreement in 1990.

Then Bill Clinton came into office, the so-called liberal. One of the first things he did was to rescind the agreement, unilaterally, and expand NATO to the East. For the Russians that's pretty serious, if you remember the history. They lost 25 million people in the last World War and over 3 million in World War I. But since the U.S. owns the world, if we want to threaten Russia, that is fine. It is all for freedom and justice, after all, and if they make unpleasant noises about it we wonder why they are so paranoid. Why is Putin screaming as if we're somehow threatening them, since we can't be threatening anyone, owning the world.

One of the other big issues on the front pages now is Chinese "aggressiveness." There is a lot of concern about the fact that the Chinese are building up their missile forces. Is China planning to conquer the world? Big debates about it. Well, what is really going on? For years China has been in the lead in trying to prevent the militarization of space. If you look at the debates and the Disarmament Commission of the UN General Assembly, the votes are 160 to 1 or 2. The U.S. insists on the militarization of space. It will not permit the outer space treaty to explicitly bar military relations in space. Clinton's position was that the U.S. should control space for military purposes. The Bush administration is more extreme. Their position is the U.S. should own space, their words, We have to own space for military purposes. So that is the spectrum of discussion here. The Chinese have been trying to block it and that is well understood. You read the most respectable journal in the world, I suppose, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and you find leading strategic analysts, John Steinbrunner and Nancy Gallagher, a couple of years ago, warning that the Bush administration's aggressive militarization is leading to what they call "ultimate doom."

Of course, there is going to be a reaction to it. You threaten people with destruction, they are going to react. These analysts call on peace-loving nations to counter Bush's aggressive militarism. They hope that China will lead peace-loving nations to counter U.S. aggressiveness. It's a pretty remarkable comment on the impossibility of achieving democracy in the United States. Again, the logic is pretty elementary. Steinbrunner and Gallagher are assuming that the United States cannot be a democratic society; it's not one of the options, so therefore we hope that maybe China will do something. Well, China finally did something. It signaled to the United States that they noticed that we were trying to use space for military purposes, so China shot down one of their satellites. Everyone understands why—the mili- tarization and weaponization of space depends on satellites. While missiles are very difficult or maybe impossible to stop, satellites are very easy to shoot down. You know where they are. So China is saying, "Okay, we understand you are militarizing space. We're going to counter it not by militarizing space, we can't compete with you that way, but by shooting down your satellites." That is what was behind the satellite shooting. Every military analyst certainly understood it and every lay person can understand it. But take a look at the debate. The discussion was about, "Is China trying it conquer the world by shooting down one of its own satellites?"

About a year ago there was a new rash of articles and headlines on the front page about the "Chinese military build-up." The Pentagon claimed that China had increased its offensive military capacity—with 400 missiles, which could be nuclear armed. Then we had a debate about whether that proves China is trying to conquer the world or the numbers are wrong, or something. Just a little footnote. How many offensive nuclear armed missiles does the United States have? Well, it turns out to be 10,000. China may now have maybe 400, if you believe the hawks. That proves that they are trying to conquer the world. It turns out, if you read the international press closely, that the reason China is building up its military capacity is not only because of U.S. aggressiveness all over the place, but the fact that the United States has improved its targeting capacities so it can now destroy missile sites in a much more sophisticated fashion wherever they are, even if they are mobile. So who is trying to conquer the world? Well, obviously the Chinese because since we own it, they are trying to conquer it. It's all too easy to continue with this indefinitely. Just pick your topic. It's a good exercise to try.

This simple principle, "we own the world," is sufficient to explain a lot of the discussion about foreign affairs. I will just finish with a word from George Orwell. In the introduction to Animal Farm he said, England is a free society, but it's not very different from the totalitarian monster I have been describing. He says in England unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. Then he goes on to give some dubious examples. At the end he turns to a very brief explanation, actually two sentences, but they are to the point. He says, one reason is the press is owned by wealthy men who have every reason not to want certain ideas to be expressed. And the second reason—and I think a more important one—is a good education. If you have gone to the best schools and graduated from Oxford and Cambridge, and so on, you have instilled in you the understanding that there are certain things it would not do to say; actually, it would not do to think. That is the primary way to prevent unpopular ideas from being expressed. The ideas of the overwhelming majority of the population, who don't attend Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge, enable them to react like human beings, as they often do. There is a lesson there for activists."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Introduction to Cunkuri

This blog is borne out of a sense of wonder, and bewilderment, when looking at the current state of our great experiment. Maybe this treatise will go unread, but perhaps like minded individuals will gravitate into it's orbit. Whichever way events unfold, this exercise is aimed at adding voices to the discussion. This blog has no restrictions for comment or content, although certain priorities will emerge according to posts. Join in and participate...discuss and disagree...exchange information...question everything...above all, do so with positive intent.

Why the name Cunkuri? The name was taken from a Khoisan language and specifically refers to having a vision. Despite the spiritual overtones of this concept, the Khoisan remain the oldest continuous culture on the planet and their ancient wisdom has a practical quality so absent in modern life. Its glaringly obvious that the world is desperate for a new vision; be it in political or socio-economic interaction, environmental concerns, inter-personal relationships or spiritual guidance. They also refer to themselves as the circle people, which denotes their belief in the cyclical nature of life. We can learn much from a society that has lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years, and have never declared war on another human being.

One doesn't have to only live in the developing world to know that gross inequalities exist on the planet, and that the current imbalance in nature is just one manifestation of our disintegrating system. Its no secret either that our numbers are rising sharply and that the subsequent demand on the world's resources is approaching crisis levels. Material accumulation is in rampant overdrive, wreaking wholesale destruction on this giant orb that sustains us all. Wars are fought over fossil fuel deposits that will ensure the long term demise of the warmongers anyway, as they ramp up industrial output to squeeze even more profit out of polluting factories. Fully 80% of the planet's food production is distributed, and therefore controlled, by only 4 gigantic corporations. The first empire of the third millennium, the USA, uses international military might with impunity in order to maintain a domestic consumer society.

If depression is the name of the game we can continue along this path and find a virtually inexhaustible supply of examples. However, as we all know, every debate always comes round to a need for a solution. Its the essential nature of what it is to be human. We always adapt and overcome, whatever the odds. So, what stands us to do? Simple really, we will finally have to commit to the true meaning of the word collaboration. This will mean equitable redistribution of the world's resources; be it access to or exploitation of them. Technologies that can make an immediate impact on our planetary issues need to be released and brought to market, regardless of the profits still attainable in current systems. Neutralization of the vested interests in ideologies, that will prevent continued political and religious strife. One recent proposition claimed that 6.5 billion people on the planet are controlled by 1 million security personnel, who ultimately report to 100 000 political and economic decision makers.

So, why are we collaborating with such a tiny minority that clearly could care less for our well being? Well, its the same old reason it has always been during times of great transition, and therefore confrontation: its easier to let someone else take care of the responsibility. The norms of our society have emasculated our authentic voices, till they have become no more than a whisper. We whisper our acquiescence as we slave double the hours of the day our ancestors needed to sustain themselves. We continue to whisper when the hard earned proceeds of that labour is handed back to buy more material possessions we don't need. Yet, if we were to stop doing so what will happen to us you ask? Nothing, nothing bad that is. Because we are so conditioned to fear responses, we have become habituated to intolerable situations. We accept them as the norm and in that lies the seed of our own destruction.

Taking personal responsibility is the only way forward. This time round though it means that we need to take back our institutions too. One step at a time, one small gesture per day, one unexpected smile when meeting a stranger. Its our world, all 6.5 billion of us, not just the 500 billionaires. A last thought. The tribes of Israel had a common practise in antiquity. They would labour for 9 years and prosper according to each individual's ability. In the 10th year they would convene to redistribute all possessions and start all over again. This system kept their society in harmony by only producing what could be consumed, not hoarded. Wealth was denoted by personal relationships and human affairs, rather than possessions. This principle is common amongst first nation tribes from Native Americans to Aborigines, Amazonian peoples and the Khoisan. We will do well to remember, and share, what we once knew.