The task of saving and reviving humanity oft times appears overwhelming when studied from a fully global perspective: occupations, wars, and terror abounds; starvation, disease, poverty, homelessness, accompany the wars and are also an integral part of global economic structures; of which, the current debt crises robs the working class of their wealth while the elites roll in the beneficence of corporate/government welfare. To top all that off is the rush towards global environmental changes, changes that are occurring at ever faster - and faster than predicted - rates, while governments put forth only mild platitudes acknowledging that there is a problem of some kind, placing weak futuristic recommendations out to try and placate the scientists and concerned public. It is enough to render reviewing books a seemingly worthless task when nothing changes and the inertia of the U.S. and western corporate/government/military liaisons continues to steer the ship of state, apparently without working radar or rudder, on its destructive course through this complex web of problems.
Palestine as the centre
When I first started my research/reviews, it quickly became apparent that Palestine was not only a metaphorical centre for the problems of many of the peoples of the world, but it is also the reality of much of the political-military manoeuvring that continues not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world, as the demands for resource control and market control begins shifting from west to east. Yet it is easy to lose site of the situation in Palestine.
The western media is staunchly on the side of the Israeli powers, and what little reaches publication provides the Benny Morris version of events in which Israel is the victim of Palestinian intransigence and fundamentalist terror rather than Palestine as the victim of an internationally illegal occupation, an internationally illegal wall, and various internationally illegal acts of war and suppression and a Jewish fundamentalism that allows no citizens other than its one ethnic cadre with Eretz Israel.
Western governments for the most part, particularly the U.S. with its Canadian partner in crime, follow the Israeli line without question or opposition, blindly reciting the common rhetoric of ‘terror’ and more terror. Great Britain and the U.S. conspired against Iraq, as they did with Iran under Mossadegh in 1953, as they did in Afghanistan on into Pakistan, and as they are doing with Iran now. The real terror is that disseminated by the occupiers.
Returning to the media there are other problems. First is that of the compartmentalization of news items such that all these problems seem disparate and unrelated, horrible or terrible or scary, but not necessarily related. Accompanying this is the seemingly trivialization of these problems, reduced s they are to ten second sound bites that create captivating headlines but little weight of substance - in general a lack of thought, depth and wisdom. Even the documentary shows while adding more information, still attempt “balance” - the downfall of journalism - as true journalism should advocate a position based on total sums of information, accepting a perspective that evidence - rather than hearsay or meaningless rhetoric or mythological beliefs - supports.
Another problem with media is its tie ins with the corporate world and the constant barrage of advertising combined with dim-witted shows created for an audience that is not educated (and continuing to slip within the OECD education rankings) for anything more meaningful. The U.S. denigrates propaganda in all its forms within other countries, yet cleverly incorporates its propaganda into the daily life and routines of its citizens from the moment they can watch television and activate a computer. It is called advertising, consumption, saving while buying (an obvious contradiction in terms that everyone seems to accept), everything that is required to keep the populace happy, placated, and docile while the elite rampage through the world harnessing as much of its wealth as possible.
It is this same media that trivializes global warming as a matter of carbon emissions from cars and a few too many power plants without recognizing the gross consumptive habits of the west that requires more than our own planet for sustainability - unfortunately we only have one that is accessible to us. It is the irony of a magazine sponsoring a contest on ‘going green’, with part of the reward being more air miles. It trivializes the plight of the poor by telling us all that the recession is over…well, almost over…we need to all adjust to a new standard…that the poor need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps.
The great black hope
President Obama mesmerized enough voters to gain control of the helm of the ship of state in 2009, a ship of state fuelled by ‘hope,’ ‘change,’ ‘audacity,’ and a ‘yes we can’ attitude. All very nice, all very vague, all resulting in the ship of state barging its blind way through all aspects of troubled waters.
Obama’s most recent trip to the Asia-Pacific congress highlighted the diminished status of the U.S. in the region. Attending more as a supplicant than a leader, more of a follower than a leader, Obama still tried his wonderful rhetoric about cooperation and improving humanities plight, rhetoric aimed probably more at the U.S. domestic market than at the Asian countries, who have deftly moved around U.S. interests and are creating their own sphere of interest, or, probably more correctly, their system of tribute to China, the emerging giant in the area.
The Middle East wars are ongoing and have been expanded into Pakistan. More troops will probably be sent into Afghanistan while those in Iraq are destined to remain in their forts for some time to come yet. Covert operations and political manipulations have destabilized Pakistan, creating a hostility within its population against the U.S., while U.S. flyboy geeks operate computer consoles within the homeland in order to bomb ‘suspected terrorists’ half a world away, an easy task for those raised on video war games, collateral damage be damned.
Palestine continues to be ‘settled’ while ongoing house demolitions and many forms of terror are structured over the area as a whole under the control of the Israeli military. Obama back-tracked very quickly on his verbal support of stopping Israeli settlement building and turned it over to place it as a condition to restart the ‘peace’ talks, the unending series of Israeli delays and stalls that allow it to continue to occupy the territories and continue construction.
Other problems remain or loom larger for U.S. interests as they continue their unequivocal support of Israel. Lebanon internally has recognized the strength of Hezbollah and accepted its arms as a part of its identity. Iran continues to be harassed and threatened on the pretence of making nuclear weapons, while Israel, Pakistan and India receive a wink and a nod but no official condemnation of their nuclear programs - and North Korea remains a reactionary nuclear stalwart that the U.S. does not seem to know what to do with.
Oil, resources control, and the economy…and…
All this, apart from the religious aspect and the U.S. evangelistic right wing’s anticipation of Armageddon combined with Jewish zeal for a pure homeland, is about oil. But not just oil, but all other resources, and not just resources, but the control of those resources and the fear of a rising multi-polarity being led by the Chinese with accompaniment by a renewed belligerence of Russia and the rising economic power of Brazil and India among others (the BRIC nations).
U.S. wealth is built on two things at the moment - the willingness of the world to finance its debts (and thus it wars) and its ability to militarily control the resources or the nations that own the resources and the elites within the nations that up to now at least feared/respected/fawned upon U.S. imperial strength. The rise of the BRIC nations creates huge demands for resources and is creating new liaisons of commerce and trade around the old structures of the U.S., most importantly the declining status of the IMF, World Bank and the WTO. In order for the U.S. to try and maintain the course of the ship of state, it retains its traditional military belligerence, preferring occupation, hostility, covert actions, threats, torture and assassinations to negotiations and productive dialogue - again at odds with the platitudes and rhetoric emanating from Obama’s Washington, not much different from Bush’s or Clinton’s or all the other Washingtons.
Thus, while declining in prestige and limited by asymmetrical power, the U.S. clings to its military horizons in the Middle East, clings to its ephemeral mirages of peace talks between Israel and Palestine, continues to blame the Middle East for problems created by years of colonial exploitation and colonial resource extraction, blind in its vision of itself as the ‘light on the hill’ that will save all of mankind. It is too blind, too wayward, too uncaring and thoughtless as it pursues its own elitist and narcissistic course.
These resource wars, and the accompanying end run negotiations between various trading partners that now deny the U.S. even observer status in their interactions, accompany the economic decline of the U.S. as economic pundits wait with unknowing anticipation to see if and or when the U.S. loses control of its currency to another reserve currency or system of currencies. Amongst all this, the environment is - literally - laid to waste.
Except for the committed scientists and the informed members of the public, the environment remains of little import to the elite powers. Perhaps it is an attitude that everything will sort itself in the end with the elites remaining at the top of the heap while the poor and downtrodden suffer and wither under whatever global climate change chooses to bring to bear upon us. Or it is simply ignorance, disbelief, a state of suspended animation, while we all cruise along on our consumptive journey, not wishing to contemplate the worst that can happen. Or perhaps the worst that can happen, especially in the short term, is more war, death and destruction as the new plurality of powers manipulate in whatever fashion to regain/maintain their order within the hierarchy of nations.
War of course creates one of the worst environments in which to live, during and after. Civilians suffer the most, and children the most among them. The after effects of Fallujah are now coming to the fore, with stories of increased cancer rates and birth defects, similar to the effects that have been recorded in Vietnam after the use of Agent Orange, and in Japan after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Certainly people affected by this will not worry themselves too much about either the near or distant future.
I expect little if anything from Copenhagen, little if anything from either the U.S. or China or other states wishing to continue to ride along on the current bearing of rising economic wealth. It would prove too costly to our current economic system to do anything realistic to limit climate change (change is already happening, limitations are all that can be expected at best), and would disrupt the comfortable lives of the elites if they had to allow political power to devolve towards the people, creating a true democracy that might and probably would choose a less consumptive egotistical lifestyle ( and therefore less militarily oriented) in order to allay some of the worst effects of climate change.
Globalization and solutions
Another term that is not working out as its supporters intended to. Instead of a MacDonalds in every country preventing war through hamburgers, instead of a flat planet with equal opportunity for all, instead of everyone rising on the tide of continued growth and emerging democracy, all of course based on U.S. standards and ideals, instead of all that, the world is witnessing the decline of U.S. power and the rise of the BRIC powers. The U.S. remains belligerent, it remains within the thrall of Israeli prophecy, it continues to blindly believe its own disproven rhetoric wherein its actions have all too frequently fully contradicted the rhetoric used to make excuses to its own citizens as to why it needs to invade and occupy half the world in order to create democracy and freedom.
There are solutions, to me so obvious that I am not going to reiterate them here at this time. It is not the solutions that are so problematic, but rather the inculcated beliefs of supremacy and righteousness that are so difficult to overcome. And that is where reviewing books and writing critiques and commentaries retains its value.
It is to advocate against the atrocities that the elitist powers hold on to. It is to highlight and recognize that all our current problems - climate change, wars, the economy - are all part and parcel of one large problem - the need for a paradigm shift in the manner in which humanity approaches its lifestyle demands on a finite planet, a paradigm shift in the manner in which a much broader, much longer, much more self effacing view of life is needed in order to plan for a sustainable future that should look quite a bit different than the future that more wars, more occupations, more greed, and unbridled debt-ridden consumptive living would bring to the world.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles' work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.