• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 12 januari 2013

Climate Change 15

Climate change and poverty have not gone away

An economic and political system that does not deliver for most citizens is one that is not sustainable in the long run
a colony of king penguins and an elephant seal on Possession Island
A colony of king penguins and an elephant seal on Possession Island. Because we have been so slow to respond to climate change, achieving the targeted limit of a 2C rise in global temperature will require sharp reductions in emissions in the future. Photograph: Marcel Mochet/AFP/Getty Images
In the shadow of the euro crisis and America's fiscal cliff, it is easy to ignore the global economy's long-term problems. But, while we focus on immediate concerns, they continue to fester, and we overlook them at our peril.
The most serious is global warming. While the global economy's weak performance has led to a corresponding slowdown in the increase in carbon emissions, it amounts to only a short respite. And we are far behind the curve: because we have been so slow to respond to climate change achieving the targeted limit of a 2C rise in global temperature will require sharp reductions in emissions in the future.
Some suggest that, given the economic slowdown, we should put global warming on the backburner. On the contrary, retrofitting the global economy for climate change would help to restore aggregate demand and growth.
At the same time, the pace of technological progress and globalisation necessitates rapid structural changes in both developed and developing countries alike. Such changes can be traumatic, and markets often do not handle them well.
Just as the Great Depression arose in part from the difficulties in moving from a rural, agrarian economy to an urban, manufacturing one, so today's problems arise partly from the need to move from manufacturing to services. New firms must be created, and modern financial markets are better at speculation and exploitation than they are at providing funds for new enterprises, especially small- and medium-size companies.
Moreover, making the transition requires investments in human capital that individuals often cannot afford. Among the services that people want are health and education, two sectors in which government naturally plays an important role (owing to inherent market imperfections in these sectors and concerns about equity).
Before the 2008 crisis there was much talk of global imbalances, and the need for the trade-surplus countries, such as Germany and China, to increase their consumption. That issue has not gone away; indeed, Germany's failure to address its chronic external surplus is part and parcel of the euro crisis. China's surplus, as a percentage of GDP, has fallen, but the long-term implications have yet to play out.
America's overall trade deficit will not disappear without an increase in domestic savings and a more fundamental change in global monetary arrangements. The former would exacerbate the country's slowdown, and neither change is on the cards. As China increases its consumption it will not necessarily buy more goods from the United States. In fact, it is more likely to increase consumption of non-traded goods – such as health care and education – resulting in profound disturbances to the global supply chain, especially in countries that had been supplying the inputs to China's manufacturing exporters.
Finally, there is a worldwide crisis in inequality. The problem is not only that the top income groups are getting a larger share of the economic pie, but also that those in the middle are not sharing in economic growth, while in many countries poverty is increasing. In the US equality of opportunity has been exposed as a myth.
While the Great Recession has exacerbated these trends, they were apparent long before its onset. Indeed, I (and others) have argued that growing inequality is one of the reasons for the economic slowdown, and is partly a consequence of the global economy's deep, ongoing structural changes.
An economic and political system that does not deliver for most citizens is one that is not sustainable in the long run. Eventually, faith in democracy and the market economy will erode, and the legitimacy of existing institutions and arrangements will be called into question.
The good news is that the gap between the emerging and advanced countries has narrowed greatly in the last three decades. Nonetheless, hundreds of millions of people remain in poverty, and there has been only a little progress in reducing the gap between the least developed countries and the rest.
Here, unfair trade agreements – including the persistence of unjustifiable agricultural subsidies, which depress the prices upon which the income of many of the poorest depend – have played a role. The developed countries have not lived up to their promise in Doha in November 2001 to create a pro-development trade regime, or to their pledge at the G8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005 to provide significantly more assistance to the poorest countries.
The market will not, on its own, solve any of these problems. Global warming is a quintessential "public goods" problem. To make the structural transitions that the world needs we need governments to take a more active role – at a time when demands for cutbacks are increasing in Europe and the US.
As we struggle with today's crises, we should be asking whether we are responding in ways that exacerbate our long-term problems. The path marked out by the deficit hawks and austerity advocates both weakens the economy today and undermines future prospects. The irony is that, with insufficient aggregate demand the major source of global weakness today, there is an alternative: invest in our future, in ways that help us to address simultaneously the problems of global warming, global inequality and poverty, and the necessity of structural change.

'Deskundigen' 80

Yes we can. ‘Change has come,’ houdt hij het land voor dat hij zal regering – de verandering is gekomen… Hoe Barack Obama het hoogste ambt ter wereld veroverde, zegt veel over hoe hij zal regeren. Intelligent, strategisch, koel, niet bang om vijanden te maken… hij staat symbool voor Amerika’s streven naar gelijkheid voor alle burgers en hij is de verpersoonlijking van de Amerikaanse droom: iedereen kan bereiken wat hij wil als hij maar hard genoeg werkt en zijn talenten op de juiste manier inzet.

Aldus de mainstream visie in de polder, ditmaal bij monde van Erik Mouthaan, ‘Amerika-correspondent van RTL Nieuws’ na twee jaar in de VS te hebben gewoond. En ook bij hem is het vooral clichétaal, die niet is gebaseerd op de realiteit. Het is opmerkelijk hoe weinig inzicht veel Nederlandse ‘Amerika-deskundigen’ hebben op het onderwerp dat hen zo bezig lijkt te houden. De vraag hoe het mainstream fenomeen is te verklaren werd eens door de Amerikaanse hoogleraar Noam Chomsky ter sprake gebracht in een interview van de BBC-journalist Andrew Marr. Chomsky zei:

'There's a filtering system that starts in kindergarten and goes all the way through and -- it doensn't work a hundred per cent, but it's pretty effective -- it selects for obedience and subordination.'

Marr: 'So, stroppy people (dwarsliggers) won't make it to positions of influence.'

Chomsky: 'There'll be "behaviour problems" or... if you read applications to a graduate school, you see that people will tell you "he doesn't get along too well with his colleagues" -- you know how to interpret those things.'

Marr: 'How can you know that I'm self-censoring? How can you know that journalists are...'

Chomsky: 'I don't say you're self-censoring - I'm sure you believe everything you're saying; but what I'm saying is, if you believed something different, you wouldn't be sitting where you're sitting.'

Hetzelfde gaat op voor de Nederlandse mainstream. Erik Mouthaan, Arie Elshout van de Volkskrant,  Tom-Jan Meeus van NRC, om slechts enkele ‘Amerika-deskundigen’ in de commerciele massamedia te noemen van wie ik het werk heb bekritiseerd op deze weblog, geloven inderdaad voor een groot deel in wat ze beweren, anders waren ze niet eens in aanmerking gekomen om correspondent in de VS te worden. Het is dus mogelijk om als geschoold mens in nonsens te geloven. Chomsky:

If you’ve read George Orwell’s Animal Farm which he wrote in the mid-1940s, it was a satire on the Soviet Union, a totalitarian state. It was a big hit. Everybody loved it. Turns out he wrote an introduction to Animal Farm which was suppressed. It only appeared 30 years later. Someone had found it in his papers. The introduction to Animal Farm was about ‘Literary Censorship in England’ and what it says is that obviously this book is ridiculing the Soviet Union and its totalitarian structure. But he said England is not all that different. We don’t have the KGB on our neck, but the end result comes out pretty much the same. People who have independent ideas or who think the wrong kind of thoughts are cut out.
He talks a little, only two sentences, about the institutional structure. He asks, why does this happen? Well, one, because the press is owned by wealthy people who only want certain things to reach the public. The other thing he says is that when you go through the elite education system, when you go through the proper schools in Oxford, you learn that there are certain things it’s not proper to say and there are certain thoughts that are not proper to have. That is the socialization role of elite institutions and if you don’t adapt to that, you’re usually out. Those two sentences more or less tell the story.

In zijn roman 1984 legt George Orwell het fundamentele begrip ‘doublethink,’ de kwaal waaraan mainstream opiniemakers lijden, als volgt uit:
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink.
 The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

Verantwoordelijk voor de massale verspreiding van ‘doublethink’ zijn de westerse mainstream media. Chomsky:
There are basically three currents to look at. One is the public relations industry, you know, the main business propaganda industry. So what are the leaders of the PR industry saying? Second place to look is at what are called public intellectuals, big thinkers, people who write the ‘op eds’ and that sort of thing. What do they say? The people who write impressive books about the nature of democracy and that sort of business. The third thing you look at is the academic stream, particularly that part of political science which is concerned with communications and information and that stuff which has been a branch of political science for the last 70 or 80 years.
So, look at those three things and see what they say, and look at the leading figures who have written about this. They all say (I’m partly quoting), the general population is ‘ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.’ We have to keep them out of the public arena because they are too stupid and if they get involved they will just make trouble. Their job is to be ‘spectators,’ not ‘participants.’
They are allowed to vote every once in a while, pick out one of us smart guys. But then they are supposed to go home and do something else like watch football or whatever it may be. But the ‘ignorant and meddlesome outsiders’ have to be observers not participants. The participants are what are called the ‘responsible men’ and, of course, the writer is always one of them. You never ask the question, why am I a ‘responsible man’ and somebody else is in jail? The answer is pretty obvious. It’s because you are obedient and subordinate to power and that other person may be independent, and so on. But you don’t ask, of course. So there are the smart guys who are supposed to run the show and the rest of them are supposed to be out, and we should not succumb to (I’m quoting from an academic article) ‘democratic dogmatisms about men being the best judges of their own interest.’ They are not. They are terrible judges of their own interests so we have do it for them for their own benefit.
Actually, it is very similar to Leninism. We do things for you and we are doing it in the interest of everyone, and so on. I suspect that’s part of the reason why it’s been so easy historically for people to shift up and back from being, sort of enthusiastic Stalinists to being big supporters of U.S. power. People switch very quickly from one position to the other, and my suspicion is that it’s because basically it is the same position. You’re not making much of a switch. You’re just making a different estimate of where power lies. One point you think it’s here, another point you think it’s there. You take the same position.

De mainstream is niet in staat de werkelijkheid bloot te leggen door een combinatie van onnozelheid en ijdelheid, en in sommige gevallen zelfs ordinaire geldzucht, meestal is het een combinatie ervan. Het gevolg is dat we overal in de commerciele media een herhaling van zetten zien, dezelfde pratende hoofden in wisselend gezelschap die telkens weer dezelfde beweringen doen, in dezelfde woorden en met dezelfde toon. En naarmate de crisis toeneemt des te meer dissidenten worden geweerd, precies zoals in de Sovjet Unie vóór de ineenstorting. Er doet zich nu een opmerkelijke ontwikkeling voor, waar de in Parijs werkzame filosoof Tzvetan Todorov in maart 2009 op wees in Torture and the War on Terror. In een nawoord schrijft hij dit:

This essay was written in 2008 before Barak Obama was elected President of the United States of America. His presidency may mark a break in US foreign policy, thereby redering some of my comments obsolete. I have opted to leave them as is for several reasons. For one thing, the expected changes may not occur; if they do, they may concern certain countries and not others. A second more fundamental reason has to do with the fact that the infringements of democratic principles discussed in this essay occurred in an indisputable democratic state. For this reason they illustrate danger threatening democracies in general. What happened once can happen again.

Todorov wijst op het feit dat de Amerikaanse democratie het martelen weer heeft ingevoerd, het land dat volgens de mainstream visie van bijvoorbeeld Geert Mak de Verlichting’ heeft ‘uitgevoerd als real life experiment,’ een land, waarvan de Onafhankelijkheidsverklaring werd opgetekend door 'een man van de Verlichting' verantwoordelijk voor 'een van de mooiste staatsdocumenten die ooit zijn geschreven.'  In de zogeheten ‘War on Terror’ waren de westerse beulen gelegitimeerd om verdachten te onderwerpen aan onder andere de aloude ‘water cure,’ waarmee ook Filippijnse vrijheidsstrijders door Amerikaanse militairen werden gemarteld in het begin van de twintigste eeuw. Todorov wijst daarbij op het volgende:

A war against terrorism or against evil presents the dual disadvantage of being unlimited in time and space: such a war may never end and the enemy remains an undentified abstraction that can manifest itself anywhere.

Het feit dat de VS ook de leidende macht van de NAVO is betekent dat de Europese bondgenoten direct of indirect betrokken zijn bij het martelen en dus bij ernstige schendingen van de mensenrechten, want het folteren gaat in andere vormen gewoon door. De mainstream protesteert daar niet tegen, aangezien opiniemakers als Mak de VS betitelen als ‘ordebewaker en politieagent’ en het toejuichen dat ‘de Verenigde Staten het anker van het hele Atlantische deel van de wereld [zijn] in de ruimste zin van het woord.’  En wie in de mainstream zou bij zijn volle verstand een ‘ordebewaker’ durven te bekritiseren vanwege een te verwaarlozen detail als martelen, nietwaar? Elke kritiek tijdens de ‘oorlog tegen het terrorisme’ kan immers niet anders gezien worden ‘as undermining troop morale,’ of op zijn minst als ongepast op dit moment. Todorov:

One of the most detrimental consequences of this situation is the damage done to the status of truth in a country’s public life. On numerous occasions, the US government has deemed truth a negligible factor that can be easily sacrificed to the will for power. We now know that the preparation for and outbreak of the war against Iraq was based on a double lie or double illusion – namely, that Al Qaeda was connected to the Iraqi government and that Iraq possessed weapons of massa destruction, nuclear, biological or chemical.

Het feit dat de mainstream geneigd is om dit feit over de ‘ordebewaker’ te verdoezelen maakt de toekomst nog problematischer.

This casual attitude toward the truth did not disappear even after the fall of Baghdad. Just as the entire world was discovering the pictures of torture and the stories of executions at the Abu-Ghraib prison, the American government was asserting that democracy had gained ground in Iraq. And while hundreds of prisoners rotted away in Guantánamo, detained for years, subjected to degrading treatment, without lawful judgment or the possibility of defending themselves, the US government nonetheless proclaimed that its forces were engaged in the pursuit of human rights.

Zowel Abu Ghraib als Guantánamo komen niet in het register van Mak’s Reizen zonder John voorkomt. Naar dat 'Amerika' is de mainstream niet op zoek. Todorov:

Despite party pluralism and freedom of the press, apparently it is possible to convince the population of a liberal democracy that the truth is false and that falsehoods are true. Those responsible for this situation are, in the first place, the institutions where public opinion is forged: the government, the major television networks and the newspapers. With political action increasingely reduced to political communication, the majority of the population has let itself be carried away by fear.

Niet voor niets benadrukt Stéphane Hessel, de Franse auteur die als joodse verzetsstrijder de Gestapo-martelingen en vervolgens Bergen Belsen overleefde, in zijn ‘best-selling call to arms’ Time for Outrage! dat

Genuine democracy needs a free press. The Resistance knew this, and it demanded ‘the freedom and honour of the press and its independence from the state and the forces of money and foreign influence’. Again, these goals were carried forward thanks to the press laws enacted subsequent to 1944. But they are at risk today,

aldus deze 93-jarige man die in 1948 als Franse diplomaat betrokken was bij het opstellen van de UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘whose ideals he defends to this day,’ en die waarschuwt voor ‘The Western obsession with productivity’ dat

has brought the world to a crisis that we van escape only with a radical break from the headlong rush for ‘more, always more’ in the financial realm as well as in science and technology. It is high time that concerns for ethics, justice and sustainability prevail. For we are threatened by the most serious dangers, which have the power to bring the human experiment to an end by making the planet uninhabitable.

Hessel citeert artikel 22 van de Universele Verklaring van de Rechten van de Mens:

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to the realisation, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each state, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensible for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Een recht dat onderuit wordt gehaald door de politiek van de ‘ordebewaker’ die jaarlijks vele honderden miljarden spendeert aan dat wat officieel ‘national security’ heet, maar dat in de praktijk neerkomt op het veilig stellen van de belangen van het militair industrieel complex. Hessel:

Mankind’s responsibility cannot be left to some outside power or to a god. On the contrary, people must commit themselves in terms of their personal, individual human responsibility.

Die persoonlijke verantwoordelijkheid is ver te zoeken bij de westerse mainstream opiniemakers, zo weet ook de hoogbejaarde Hessel. En dat was zijn reden om in verzet te komen, ook nu weer, want

To create is to resist. To resist is to create.

een oproep die hij motiveert met het volgende argument:

The worst possible outlook is indifference that that says, ‘I can’t do anything about it. I’ll get by.’ Behaving like that deprives you of one of the essentials of being human: the capacity and freedom to feel outraged.

Wat stellen mensenrechten voor wanneer

The immense gap between the very poor and the very rich never ceases to expand. This is an innovation of the twentieth and twentyfirst centuries. The very poor in the world today earn barely two dollars a day. We cannot let this gap grow wider. This alone should arouse our commitment.

Bij gebrek aan betrokkenheid kunnen we nu concluderen dat het morele niveau van een democratie het morele niveau van een dictatuur niet overstijgt. Belangrijker misschien nog is dat een democratie kan terugvallen in barbarij. Die regressie blijkt uit het feit dat martelen geaccepteerd wordt en dat de mensenrechten dus niet als universeel worden beschouwd. Normen en waarden blijken als het erop aankomt afhankelijk te zijn van politieke doeleinden. Dat wisten we natuurlijk altijd al, maar we konden de pretentie van een universeel recht ophouden. Dat kan nu niet meer. Niet alleen is het martelen van de buitenlandse vijand gelegitimeerd, maar ook het schenden van de mensenrechten van de eigen bevolking, zoals blijkt uit het feit dat president Obama de macht heeft om zonder tussenkomst van een rechter Amerikaanse burgers te laten liquideren, zodra ze op het lijstje staan dat hij wekelijks krijgt en waaruit hij een keuze moet doen wie als eerste uit de weg moeten worden geruimd. De Evangelische Omroep berichtte desondanks op 6 november 2012 dat de ‘Amerika-deskundige’

'Het is beter voor Nederland en de internationale gemeenschap dat Obama de verkiezingen wint.' Dat stelt Geert Mak, hij schreef het boek 'Reizen zonder John' over zijn reis door de VS.

Tzvetan Todorov in Torture and the War on Terror:

Verifying and assessing information, reasoning and arguing are now seen as indicators of a lack of courage and sense of responsibility.
It is not in terms of military efficiency that such a strategy remains questionable; reducing international relations to the ‘friend-enemy’ alternative is hardly a means of guaranteeing victory for the ideal that one is out to defend. Supposing it were possible to eliminate the carriers of evil – what benefit would there be in it if we ourselves have become evil to do this? This is the age-old dilemma inherent in the idea of war for the sake of a higher good. To bring the Christian religion to the Indians, which teached equality and love of one’s neighbour, the conquistadores subjugated them through war and showed them nothing but hate and contempt. Christian morality’s reputation was not enhanced through this adventure.

To bring the virtues of Western civilization and the values of liberty, equality and fraternity to the Africans, the European colonizers waged war on them; they imposed an external order upon the vanquished, granted themselves the right to command them and showed disdain for their personal dignity. Civilization did not shine through this adventure either. During the Second World War, massive air bombings of civilian populations by the Germans aroused indignation because it illustrated once again the Manichaean logic that sees everyone on the other side as guilty. Then came the day when the Allies had recourse to the same tactics under the guise of breaking German resistance, and barbarism crept a little further into the world… The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki punished the Japanese for their militaristic policy and the countless cruelties they had perpetrated in the war in Asia, but they nonetheless constituted a war crime of a magnitude never before seen.

Is Obama ‘beter voor Nederland en de internationale gemeenschap dat Obama de verkiezingen wint'? Gezien vanuit de context die Todorov schetst is de stelligheid van Mak’s bewering nonsens, om de simpele reden dat wanneer het erop aankomt er geen wezenlijk verschil bestaat tussen een Republikeinse dan wel Democratische president. Geweld blijft bij beide partijen het centrale element. Meer daarover maandag.