Archive for the ‘philosophy & politics’ Category

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Quotes for the Week

November 1, 2006

‘The Human mind treats a new idea the way the body treats a strange protein – it rejects it’ by Peter Medawar 

‘Thinking is more interesting than knowing’ by Goethe 

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, while Imagination circles the world’  by Albert Einstein

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Confessions of an Economic Hitman (EHM) by John Perkins

October 30, 2006

If ever a scary book was written this is the one. You know how you always suspected that there the economic system that we lived in was not what had been intended and that it could work so much better. Well in this very revealing book John Perkins describes his time as an EHM and how the system is skewed to benefit the few and never the many. Basically an EHM is someone who convinces countries to enter into huge national infrastructure projects which they cannot afford. A group of consultants produce reports which seem to show that the projects will encourage huge economic growth for a poor country and benefit everyone. However the loans, usually made by the US or associate, are so big and the positive consequences so minor, that the country is usually left unable to meet the debt repayments. This is not a problem, but rather the intention, because now the country is at the mercy of the US and they can be leveraged for natural resources, UN votes and a whole host of other illegitimate reasons. 

This system of global economic power was developed and refined during the 50’s and 60’s and has affected most countries around the world. Some notable examples that he personally worked on were Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ecuador and Panama. The author describes how the US tries to assert its influence over other countries in an attempt to establish a global empire. It starts with the EHM who try to force the country into a virtual slavery to US interests. Should this fail then the ‘jackals’ are sent it. These are people who will strategically assassinate, foster discontent and generally try to undermine foreign governments, regardless of their democratic credentials and attitudes to human rights. Some notable examples of where the jackals have been sent in are Panama and
Ecuador both of which lost progressive leaders to plane ‘accidents’. Should the jackals also fail then the last resort is the army. He cites 2 very current examples of this as Iraq and
Afghanistan.
 

All of this is done to further the commercial interests of the US and its huge armaments, construction and engineering companies and the rich elite that govern the country. Companies like Halliburton, Bechtel, Lockhead Martin all benefit from the system as well as obscure consultancy companies like MAIN, which the author worked for. The executives of these companies flitter between commercial and governmental work further obscuring the line between business and politics and in whose interests’ actions are taken. The overwhelming impression that you are left with at the end of the book is that the world is being plundered at an incredible rate for the benefit of a tiny minority or the super wealthy. Also however he forces you to look at your own life and think about the impacts of your decisions and actions on the world and that even tacit support for the status quo does not exclude you from responsibility. Despite the authors very murky start and all the ill that he has caused upon the world he at least is out there to make a difference now and expose the truth for what it is as well as campaign for things to be different. He set up a Ecological energy company in the early 90’s when it was not so fashionable, and now champions the causes of indigenous people around the world.

Read it, weep and then do something about it

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An Inconvenient Truth

October 18, 2006

‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.’  This was said by Upton Sinclair and possibly one of reasons why the concept of climate crisis has not sunk into the human psyche. There are a lot of things that we hear and think that we understand without ever really being able to comprehend what we are understanding. Examples of this are the fact that a particles can be in 2 places at the same time, that space is expanding at the speed of light, that there are billions of galaxies etc.. Climate crisis is another and because of its apocalyptic potential end state people’s minds are not able to properly deal with the information and even though they may know the facts and even see the consequences they will fail to see their part in what can be seen as nature’s cycle (although not by any serious scientists or commentators)

The film sets out very clearly the evidence with Al Gore achieving a charismatic charm that he always lacked when he was a politician. It is as if he leaving politics has freed him to be himself. It is expertly put together and the switching between shots of the changing world climate and Al Gore presenting was brilliantly done. The content was also very good. Having seen Fahrenheit 911 which dumbed down to its American audience (or maybe just Michael Moore’s level) here he does not mince his words or patronize his audience. He starts be confirming that all the evidence suggests that we are causing the huge rise in CO2 in our atmosphere and that this is not part of a natural cycle but something that the world has not seen in the last 650000 years, not even close as it turns out. He also shows that fluctuations in CO2 are closely linked with huge shifts in the temperature of the earth, inducing both ice age and drought on most of the world.

The film highlights the potential consequences of inaction namely the melting of the ice in the Artic but more dangerously the Antarctic and Greenland  because the are land ice masses. This could lead to a big rise in sea levels and possibly also more worryingly it could stop the gulf stream which ironically could cause an ice age in Northern Europe. Thankfully he ends with some ideas on what WE can do to make a difference such as conserving electricity, consuming with a conscience, and reducing air miles. He believes that if we all make small adjustments now that we will be spared the worst effects of climate change but also continue to enjoy our current lifestyles. 
 

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Quote

October 5, 2006

I was watching a great documentary on Quantum Physics and how its findings could be internalized to give you a completely new outlook on the world and reality. It is called ‘What the bleep do we know?’ and I think that probably the most interesting comment that came from it was 

‘If history teaches us anything it is that most of what we know and take for granted is false’ 

Think about it ?!?!?!

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17 Facts that should change the world

October 5, 2006

  1. Every Cow in the European Union is subsidized by $2.5. That is more than 75% of what Africans have to live on
  2. More than 12000 women are killed every year in
    Russia as a result of Domestic violence
  3. Landmines kill or maim at least one person every hour
  4. Tiger Woods earns $148 every second
  5. People in industrialized countries eat between 6 and 7 kilograms of additives every year
  6. Cars kill 2 people every minute
  7. There are 67000 people employed in the lobbying industry in
    Washington – 125 for each elected member of congress
  8. More than 150 countries use torture
  9. A third of the world’s population is at war
  10. More people die each year committing suicide than from all the world’s armed conflict
  11. Ten languages die out every year
  12. Every week, an average of 88 children are expelled from American schools for bringing a gun to class
  13. America spends $10 billion on pornography every year – the same amount it spends on foreign aid
  14. There are 27 million slaves in the world
  15. The average Briton is caught on camera up to 300 times a day
  16. 120000 women and girls are trafficked into
    Western Europe every year
  17. The
    US owes the UN more than $1 billion in unpaid dues

All of these pacts were got from the book ’50 facts that should change the world’ by Jessica Williams.

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The Revolution will not be Televised

October 1, 2006

Yesterday I was privileged to see the film ‘The Revolution will not be televised’ which is about the attempted coup that took place in Venezuela in 2002. The title, which is taken from the infamous Gill Scott Heron track, is ironic as this is one of the first coups to actually be caught on video in such detail. It was shot by a group of Irish cameramen who were going to follow President Hugo Chavez around for a year. They had already been filming Chavez for 7 months when the coup happened and were inside the Presidential Palace when the military took over and when the Presidential Guard loyal to Chavez mounted a counter coup after seeing almost 1000000 people surround the palace in protest. The footage is remarkable and the context of the situation is expertly positioned given the complexity of the situation.

Hugo Chavez is supposedly a very controversial figure and many world leaders in the west decry his government as a dictatorship and one of the most evil regimes in the world. The facts could not be further from the truth it seems. He has won 10 free and fair elections which is more than any serving head of state in any democracy. He is overwhelmingly supported by the poor who represent the majority of the population of Venezuela. He has ensured that much more of the vast oil wealth of the country is channeled to the poor, and not just to the rich elite. He has  promoted literacy and health care for the poorest of his citizens. He is controversial for trying to implement a model of democracy that is not based of market liberalism but rather on real redistribution of wealth and equality, and of course for antagonizing the US and other ‘democracies’. Last week at the UN Chavez described Bush as the devil and said that he could still smell the sulphur and the media subsequently leapt onto this ignoring all the other topics that he raised from eradication of poverty, to media influence in politics, American imperialism and most interestingly of all a recommendation to read Noam Chomsky’s book Hegemony or Survival. The book jumped on the Amazon best seller list from 160000th to 1st in a matter of days.

The film illustrates vividly the power of the media to influence events opinions and selectively disseminate and distort information. Under Hugo Chavez the media was very free but due to the television channels all belonging to the elite within the country, whose selfish interests were not going to be served by Chavez conspired during the coup to support and mobilize the opposition. The government was only able to air the truth through its own Channel 8 which was also seized briefly by the military. The film also makes clear that the opposition is being firmly supported and funded by the US so that it can secure a friendly government to ensure the oil supply. All in all it is an amazing experience to watch this film and I strongly recommend seeing this anyway that you can.

For more information you can also visit the Venezuela Information Centre.