Assuming that there is a global crisis – financial, climate change and starvation – and assuming that something could be done about it – what would it be? The initial reaction has been to push for more of the same – more debts to be created in order to keep economic power in the same hands. Maybe a few policy changes to avoid too extreme corruption and self-aggrandisement, removal of some draconian measures, but that’s about it. Spend more, that is way to go. It sounds so simple and in a sense it is: wiping the rich people’s slates clean so that they can lend more money for the poor to spend. If it makes you think of spiralling further down into an abyss we’re on the same wave length.
In order, then, to get the American people to spend more money that they don’t have – the total outstanding credit card debt carried by Americans reached a record $951 billion in 2008, constituting a next level in the financial collapse of a system based on ever-increasing debt – president Obama is suggesting “a $410bn (£290bn) spending bill due to be voted on this week“. Part of this bill seeks to lift some of the extreme anti-Cuban legislation that was introduced during the administration of Bush the Second.
There is no doubt about it, Obama – the man in the White House – gives good speeches, but even an old World Banker takes note of the fact that Obama’s grand plan to save the world and “the hardest working people on Earth” (he says it as if it a good thing??) from their predicaments is insubstantial (These videos gives you an insight from the inside – if you really want to know about all the little sheenanigans of a failed system or just want to see the Emperor of the Free World sit before you in his shiny new clothes. Characteristic of times of crisis he looks and sounds like a rhetorical stooge with a nationalistic appeal “the greatest force of progress and prosperity [and climate change?!]”)
Anyway, the Cuban news is a tangent that invites viewing the world from a Latin American perspective.
Although far from a total removal of trade barriers with Cuba it could be understood as another event showing that Latin American political relations – internally and externally – are becoming less and less of an ideological issue, giving way under financial constraints, to market based development. Externally driven by financial needs and internally it is clad in national-socialist rhetoric, but concerns industrial progress in the Euro-American way. The set of ideas that brought us global climate change and market disasters are still at the heart of all world matters.
Since the “pink tide” of “leftist governments” Cuba has found many new friends – eager to develop their infrastructure and markets – and Latin America in general is becoming a play ground for Chinese investors, who are funding all kinds of industry, including reviving a grand plan for infrastructure projects typical of IMF and World Bank associated “structural adjustment plans”. All needed to expand the national-socialist economies and to stay in power, because stable consumerist economies are expected by the people. The development plan is a brain child iconic of the neoliberal age of global capitalism and conceived in its heydays. It is called IIRSA (often referred to by colonos; more below) and its purpose is to pave the way, literally speaking, in corridors (corredores) for the natural resource extraction and commodity flows of the world. The objective is to get the trees, the underground resources and the genetic code out and consumer products back in. It is even enshrined in the new, market oriented Ecuadorian constitution (which, btw, is often presented in an environmentally biased and misunderstanding manner) and stands as a milestone warning against social-democracy or national-socialism (or the lesser evil way of things).
The lesson of the reforms in Latin America in the context of the dynamics of global capitalism in general and the current financial collapse in particular show that something more substantial in terms of change is needed. As Obama gives billions to corrupt bankers, revives a thanks to God (or was it the invisible hand?) finally failing car industry, the charismatic leaders of the Latin America’s “21st Century Socialism” (or “neo-socialism”, or “national-socialism”, as you prefer) have happily opened their doors for Chinese expansion in the global capitalist economy and the new and “independent” Latin America has also gone deeper into bed with the EU economy. Tthe U.S. look set to claim a piece of the action, too, notwithstanding ideological issues of the past. The circle is complete. Final Solution: global consumerism under the economic control of the few. Iron hard states with the capacity to print money and provide militant support when needed are cementing a permanent global state of exception. But they are still bits to extract, trees to be chopped and roads to be build. Some of these are in Cuba.
With a change of power from Fidel to his Brother, Raúl, the doors to Cuba are not as closed as they used to be and a few winds of change are blowing. A new market to claim, people to exploited and sold things that the rich middle classes in the North don’t want and many inspirational seeds to be sown to grow aspirations in the emerging consumer classes. All in all a more effective global capitalism with strong states that regulate, bail out during crisis, repress resistance with its monopoly of violence seems to be the current dynamics of globalisation. So Cuba is the next shopping mall for plastic stuff and electronic gadgets:
“Recognising Castro continuity, and aghast at European and Asian competitors getting a free hand, US corporate interests are impatient to do business with Cuba. Oil companies want to drill offshore, farmers to export more rice, vegetables and meat, construction firms to build infrastructure projects.”
The opening of Cuba for global capitalism – essentially for the flows of natural resources, commodities and currency – is only the latest event in a gradual integration of Latin America into the global economy. Hand in hand with IIRSA – one of the largest scale infrastructure development plans the world has ever known – the entire continent will be criss-crossed by roads, (regulated, concrete “assisted”) river ways, bridges, tunnels, airports and planes to anywhere and much closer linked to Central America – the entrance of Latin America into 21st Century consumerism and a culture of extreme use of resources that threaten to bring human civilization down looks “promising”.
Promising for those standing to profit and benefit from new rights to buy things and drive around in whatever is left of the Amazon and the Andes and all the other outstanding and bio-diversely rich regions of Latin America. It will, however, cost the Earth. Of course it is only indicative of a global trend – and the worst effect will more likely come from India and China becoming car driving, mall shopping wifi-max freaks – and why should not middle class consumerism be the rights of Latin American people? Who can tell what is the right way to live? What we can say, however, is that global capitalism – with its disregard for living beings and the environment – is not the way forward – and neither are the national-socialist reforms that characterise “the pink tide”. The system is rotten to the core, minor adjustments are futile.
It is time to hand over the means of production to the people. It will not be perfect, but it is possible and happens a lot when industrial facilities goes bankrupt. Workers take over – once during severe moments of crisis there was even a full scale revolution, as the people of the Iberian peninsula organised vast parts of the region calling themselves anarchists during what is known as the Spanish Revolution – people organise things. It is happening in the United States of America today and prominently happened recently in Argentina. It can happen anywhere and if anything from this financial crisis can be learnt and opportunity be found, then it must be that starting over, rather than exacerbating the running of the industrial apparatus is at least the lesser evil. A new start with a new vision for a sustainable world.
Instead we get more of the same and the Earth is crying, or melting as scientists like to call it. It has cancer and its organs are beginning to fail. The doctors at the operating table, constrained as they are by policies and private interest on the board, are performing a neverending surgery that is at once an autopsy and an obituary. For those who believe in democracy these must be times of distress, displacement and denial, the anger builds up inside, sables are rattling and coming down over their own people. When the order of things comes under threat repression grows stronger with the emerging resistance. It is like the idea of liberal state democracy is in a fight on two flanks – against parliamentary socialism and conservatism – all fighting for control over the same state. Nothing is actually changes at core, the same thing goes on whoever is in control. Industrial, teleological, “progress” in a status quo. Gradually more resources are used and more money spend, which means debts created that generate interest and sends humanity towards the next collapse of an economic system that is unusually lacking in intelligence. Despite a lot of rhetoric and negative attention given to decentralisation, outsourcing and what not, the means of production are ever more centrally held. It shows in the crisis, because the facilities are too large – too tied into a just-in-time paradigm of resource and commodity flows in a highly speculative market – and they cannot react in time. Like super tankers or someone so obese that they can’t get out of bed. The fat american child is a great (and very happy-sad, tragicomic) symbol of the state of the world.
What would a different world look like – what scenarios can be imagined?
It seems that whichever way the world is organised there is a need to produce stuff and get it circulated in some ways. It is tempting to suggest that local control – of food, power and infrastructure – is a more wholesome business. Fine by me if some people want to have highly abstract speculation mechanisms built into – and on top of – the global economy, as long as the core of the system, our food and water, is run on biodynamic principles and embedded in customs from living on and with the land. Surely this is indisputable? If the world is a monopoly game, can the game be sustained if players can buy a piece of the board – the game play land – and stick it in their pocket? Or spray it with carcinogenic chemicals?
The financial crisis is an opportunity for initiatives that are non-reformist reforms and mould-breaking manoeuvres are needed. However, despair not. Experimental models exist throughout the world – people have a lot of customs in common, from ancient shamanic practitioners to English fly fishers – it could happen. Many people are working towards the idea, reaching deep into the United Nations and the Academy, but first and foremost by the people who are growing vegetables and making magic herbal mixtures. Living on the land, believing and leaving the dream that the world could be a garden. If democratic representatives would even be remotely as rational as the philosophical systems that underpin them claim to be, then they should act accordingly and see that something like community based botanical garden, based on permaculture and anarchistically inspired ideas and simple principles – organised in networks and federated so that vegetables and herbs get around to feed and heal everybody who lives in the world – is the way forward and essential prequirements for any state of affairs. The basic political task must be safe and sound food production that is largely detached from economic fluctations, a basic operating system that just runs and provides us with an environment in which to play our human games.
Should be a simple task, really, if you can fly to the moon…
Change, however, does not come from the self-interested, rational agents who represent the people in the democratic parliaments and international institutions unless there is a lot of pressure on them and half-hearted measures like minority rights and symbolic stone throwing in various factions plays right back into the hands of the system itself, – a system that by now is so screwed up that it only really makes decision through representatives to exact the amount of bloodshed required to keep the engine running just like we always used to do it, notwithstanding any collateral damage.
In the light of the emperors new clothes anyone can see that the modern, democratic system has crashed and needs a reboot, but not into that same system. A new system with open windows and free gates. But they don’t sell it anywhere, you can’t get it on credit and it won’t be funded. Stone by stone and pile of dirt after pile of dirt it has to be reclaimed from perverse ownership concentration and recoded. It will not be given, it must be taken if the Earth is to be a garden: