The Decline of the West?
EDITORIAL, 22 August 2011
#178 | Johan Galtung, 22 Aug 2011 - TRANSCEND Media Service
History seems to move, even accelerate, quickly these days.
Well, maybe for those unused to dialectic thinking. There could also be an accumulation of tensions, problems, contradictions, and then we are suddenly in the midst of the rupture from the past, that famous transition from quantity to quality, to a new reality.
But the acceleration?
Well, it could be due to using what brought about the many crises as remedy, therapy. Curing alcoholics with wine or stronger stuff, quenching fires with gasoline. Stopping the fall of the empire with more empire, as military surge or increased bribery, for instance. Could the basic problem be Western elites theory more than the problems themselves–speeding up, not reverting the decline?
Take Rupert Murdoch for a starter. A giga-size problem: one single person exercising more censorship than any nazi or bolshevik regime could ever dream of, calling, instructing editorial writers, imposing a glossy, slick film over facts reported and non-reported. Fox. Wall Street Journal. Whatever. But he gets off the hook not being State functionary with a red pen in some Censorship bureau, but being a Capital executive with billions poured in and out of the Market. The Free Market, hence doing something close to a sacrament, bringing willing buyer and willing seller close enough for a Deal. And this has gone on for decades and contributed to giving much of the world a fake, virtual image of what happens, a one man’s view, making the poor readers and viewers systematically unprepared for what is coming: the crises. Protected by zillions acts of omission, thousands of Western leaders not outlawing such monopolies on the life line of democracy, the oxygen of unpolluted information.
He is now in dire straits, not for this reason, but due to the atrocious police-hacking scandal acts of commission. A tiny fraction relative to one man shaping the world view of billions.
Take London burning (maybe Berlin burning too, but so far only cars). Bad, breaking into shops, stealing, bad. But what did they steal? According to some reports a heavy load of food and clothes. Basic needs; as opposed to watches and jewels. Could they be poor driven into misery, simply needing it? A class war, in other words; not the whole story, but a good part of it. In an ever more unequal society displaying the gaps ever more dramatically on TV–and with a prime minister meting out the harshest punishment, promising schools with a more ethical content? Why don’t they eat curricula? Ethics?
Take the present highly predictable drop on the stock exchange due to the gap between finance and real economy. Look, in September 2008 there was a drop from the high 12,000s down to 6,000–why? Maybe because the stock prices were out of touch with any reality in the real economy? The cure? A bailout (for the finance economy) relative to stimulus (for the real economy) so much in favor of the former that banks were saved, people’s buying power not. So the stocks climbed into the high 12,000’s again and the real growth rate dropped–predictably as people cannot afford what is offered–down toward zero. And down it slips, runs, crashes. Small wonder.
Take the US debt crisis between serving debts and people, “solved” by raising the debt ceiling and forcing people from poverty into misery, protecting the super-rich, and leaving the share of the military sector almost untouched (the worst: the USA, very high, you guessed it, Greece). Obama, long since short on action, is now even running out of rhetoric (but not of Goldman Sachs support?).
Take the US flow of newly printed money relative to the value of that only AA+ economy. Republican hopeful Rick Perry called it “treasonous if the chairman of the Federal Reserve prints more money”, and was heavily attacked. For mentioning the unmentionable.
Well, the USA is heading for more inequality, more misery, more crashes, and probably also for a heavy inflation and devaluation. And is clinging to a rising Dow Jones again; easily manipulated to infuse a false optimism. Crashes ahead. And, unfortunately, the three contradictions above in the US economy feed into each other.
Take Europe’s debt crisis; the Anglo part in a slipping Anglo-American hold on the world is to let go the welfare state. It takes two to acquire a debt, a lender and a debtor. Debts were contracted feverishly as is a financial cholera, a mortgage epidemic that hit lenders and debtors, guilty and innocent alike. Difficult to tell who is who. But to save the lenders at the expense of the debtors through foreclosures etc. is not only inhuman but also stupid madness.
We would all be better off with a huge wave of debt forgiveness in return for credible, verifiable and enforceable promises of sober behavior. There are criteria: those who lend more than X% of their capital, and those who contract loans for more than Y% of what they are worth (X generally higher than Y, that is where the crooks are) might suffer the consequences; forgive the rest. Thus, neither USA nor Greece will ever be able to pay back their debts. Forgive much or most in return for deep cuts in their extravagant military. Too rational for the US ultra-right? But maybe not for Greece?
That leads us again to the basic G8-G20 mistake: obsessed with saving the banks through bailouts, they did not save people through stimulus. IMF glib talk about investment-jobs is not good enough. Learn from China: enter communities with the public-private-civil-technical sectors, jointly making mini-companies for basic needs–food and water, clothes and housing, clinics and schools–employing the most needy. A communist uplift from misery, and an increase in their buying power in the capitalist economy. Capi-communism.
Rather decline than learning from China? Then, so be it.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 22 August 2011.
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