Perspectives On The Current Global Crisis – A conversation with Ralph Metzner

Ralph latestIn this conversation with journalist Will Shonbrun, we first discuss at some length the current global crisis, in light of my writing in the revised edition of The Expansion of Consciousness.

We then discuss the most promising current research and application projects involving psychedelic drugs. The interview has been published on the website of Project Censored, founded by Peter Phillips.

Richard Wolff on the Greek and European Economic Crisis

Here’s the best analysis I’ve seen of the current economic catastrophe happening in Greece and the rest of Europe. It’s from Richard Wolff, an American economics professor and an avowed Marxist – one of the very few in the US. He does weekly radio commentaries on current economic events on KPFA, which are very insightful, and has two websites of his own: http://www.rdwolff.com  and  http://www.democracyatwork.info.

Appropriately and necessarily, Wolff provides a Marxist historical perspective, situating the current Greek crisis in the history other economic crises in Europe over the 20th century, including how Germany was bailed out of total collapse after WWII, when the Western powers simply cancelled all its accumulated wartime debt – allowing it a fresh start, which was then lauded an “economic miracle”.
http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32380-deja-vu-germany-tightens-its-economic-power-over-europ

Alongside the Greeks, many other Europeans now grasp what awaits them too in the “unified Europe” that German leaders are constructing and using. Yet the Portuguese, Irish, Spanish, Italian and other poorer (relative to Germany and France) people want a differently unified Europe. With troubling historical echoes, German leaders once again seek to force a particular kind of capitalist unity onto Europe. The weapons this time are economic and political instead of military, but they too provoke
resistance. Europe risks severe divisions and disunity with serious ramifications for the world.

German capitalism in its way replicates the fundamental mistake of capitalists elsewhere. It does not know how or when to stop overstepping the limits of what the rest of society will endure and allow. No matter whether opposition comes from Greeks suffering absurd privations, from Germany’s only real opposition party, Die Linke, from Pope Francis or from rising questions and challenges of capitalism per se around the world, German capitalism pushes ahead oblivious. It ignores especially its own past lessons about recasting internal economic problems as the fault of other, lesser people who deserve harsh punishment. Europeans everywhere recoil, again, from German foreign economic policies and their modes of articulation. Their worries about the sort of European unity Germany’s economic dominance will yield are changing into opposition and resistance. Something ominous is underway, and the unfolding Greek tragedy-cum-resistance expresses it profoundly.

Vandana Shiva comments on 2015 as the Year of the Soil

In Seeds and Soil vs. the Tyranny of Corporate Power: A 2015 Message of Hope, Dr. Vandana Shiva explains how “Seeds and Soil in 2015” is both a metaphorical mantra and a practical and very literal instruction. (See full transcript below.)

The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO) has officially declared 2015 as the “International Year of the Soil,” and its instructions are both simple and imperative: We need to focus all of our energy on improving the soil quality of our planet, so that we may sustain life on this planet.

Dr. Shiva predicts that we will begin to witness key developments in the global fight to overthrow corporate power with true democracy. These reality-based developments have the potential to be shaped by the needs of ordinary citizens, rather than by corporate public relations campaigns and fabrications.

How can you help? (PDF) For one thing, you can spread the word that “Saving the Soil in 2015” is not a merely a holistic metaphor; Our soil is dying, and we will soon go with it, if we don’t act.

As Dr. Shiva explains on her website, we now find ourselves often fighting for the right to save and share seeds.

Other relevant books by Dr. Shiva include: Making Peace with the Earth, Soil Not Oil, and Earth Democracy.

From the article:

Though many recognize the FAO declaration as a largely symbolic gesture, many advocates of organic food and sustainable agricultural are planning to seize the designation as a way to push forth their message that the health of the planet’s soil should not be relegated as a metaphorical issue, but rather one that should be at the very heart of serious conversations and policy changes humanity must begin in order to transform its economic systems, its democracies, the way it generates power, and the way it feeds itself.

Full transcript of video:

Dear Friends,

I want to thank you for everything each of you has done throughout this year that has gone by. A year where we rolled back seed laws that would have made it illegal for gardeners and farmers to have access to their own variety of seeds, in Europe, in Colombia. A year where we celebrated in Indonesia the overruling of the arrest of famers for saving of seeds. It’s been a year where, the GMO industry got so desperate that they had to start putting out ads using our language, which shows that what we are saying about the joy of growing food, the joy of eating food, that’s what the future is all about. And we know that the corporations that have produced chemicals and GMOs cannot deliver their promise, even if they might create their ads. Most importantly, this is the year where, everywhere in the world, a phrase rang in resonance: that we are all seeds. That, for a while, we might lie underground, but at the right moment, we germinate and bust out with all of our potential. I want to greet you for the a year that is coming. A year that has been declared “The Year of Soil.”

A year where, the seeds we sew of hope and love, the seeds we sew of abundance and creativity, are the seeds that will multiply and show the way forward, not just to each of us, but to the reluctant world that continues to be blind. And, in the Year of Soil, let us celebrate the connections between Mother Earth and ourselves. We are, after all, made of the earth. We’re made of soil. Let us celebrate the 22nd of April which is now Mother’s Earth Day, as a commitment to protect her. As the famous writer, Alice Walker, said, “we now need to adopt the philosophy of “motherism,” where all of us become mothers to our Mother Earth, protecting her with love. And the seed is where that love begins. The seeds that she gives us, and we give back to her. The soil fertility that she creates, and we return to her. In the seed and the soil, we find answers to every one of the crises we face. The crisis of violence and war. The crisis of hunger and disease. The crisis of the destruction of democracy.

We will not allow corporations to allow everyone to believe that they are persons. Corporations are legal constructions. That’s where their place is. People, through democratic process, give permission to what activity is sustainable, what business activity is equitable. What big business activity respects with dignity the life of this planet, the life of all beings, and the life of all human beings.

When corporations start to sue states like Vermont or the County of Maui, because Maui said “we will be GMO-free” and Vermont said “we will know what we eat,” and they use the argument of Corporate Personhood, that is illusions reaching the highest pinnacle.

We are going to create a reality where reality rules. The reality of the ecological living processes of the planet. The reality of our own lives. The reality of democracy that we shape. This challenge of democracy is going to be the single biggest challenge throughout 2015. Let us stay united. Let us stay strong. Let us stay joyful.

Most importantly, since it’s the year of soil, let us recognize that in organic farming and ecological agriculture is the answer to the havoc that’s been created by fossil fuels. As I’ve written in “Soil not Oil,” in the soil are the answers to the problem that oil has created. The joint crises of climate change and biodiversity erosion can both be addressed by creating gardens everywhere full of biodiversity. Full of the celebration of life in well-being and abundance. Gardens of hope everywhere. Farms that give real food. We will continue to create the other world that we are sowing. Seed by seed. Inch by inch of soil. Person by person. Community by community. Till all of this planet is embraced in once circle of a resurgent life and resurgent love. We will not give up.

New Book Exposes Links Between The Drug War and Transnational Capitalism

drugwarcapitalismA new book – Drug War Capitalism – by Canadian investigative journalist Dawn Paley, exposes the hidden but intrinsic connections between the so-called “war on drugs” and the southward spread of transnational US and Canadian corporations. In a review of the book and interview with Paley, Mark Karlin writes in Truthout – “Paley exposes it (the drug war) as a pretext for extending US militarization to, and control of, nations to enhance transnational business opportunities and prevent populist uprisings.”

As Paley writes “This war is about control over territory and society, and market share, cheap labor, mineral rights and profits, much more so than it is about cocaine or marijuana.” She joins a number of other analysts who have pointed out the “war on drugs” is really a smoke screen cover for what is is an integral part of the multinational capitalist class exploitation and domination agenda.

Paley writes that the so-called “war on drugs is really a war on people”, specifically, lower class, poor and minority groups, who make up the majority of those incarcerated or killed in the context of the drug war. Drug abuse and addiction is not an issue that can be solved by militaristic means – sociological studies have demonstrated again and again that drug war politics, in Mexico, the US or elsewhere, like SE Asia have never resulted in a decrease in drug use. Drug abuse and addiction are public health issues, like alcoholism, and need to be addressed as such. But the power of international drug cartels and their pernicious influence on US and Latin American policy cannot be reduced by a “war on drugs” – on the contrary, prohibitionist policies and drug abuse support each other.

paley

Dawn Paley

Karlin and Paley in their discussion make the point that 85% of drug cartel profits are generated in the US cocaine market – and this money is in turn invested in the US economy in various ways. The war on drugs is actually a cover for excavation and expropriation of basic minerals, oil and lumber and the creation of marketing environments for multinational corporations – reducing labor costs, increasing the prison population, i.e. extending and increasing the power and wealth of the military-prison-industrial complex.

When our current newspapers are filled with terror stories about the increasing lawlessness and terror regimes in Mexico and Columbia, we can understand Paley’s analyses of the “structural elements that allow this kind of killing and terror to take place. Certainly US-funded militarization is a key component. There’s the media and the government, which blame victims for their own deaths by linking them with drug trafficking. Then there is the impunity, the fact that those responsible for criminal acts not only get away with their crimes, but various levels of government are actively involved and thus also cover their tracks.”

Paley’s book is an important contribution to an ongoing, indeed intensifying, out of control system of state-supported terror in Central and South American countries, in which the US plays a decisive and collusive role. All under the pretext and cover of combating a “drug problem” – a problem created by the very forces who are engaged militarily to combat it.

Kill the Messenger and CitizenFour: Two Powerful Historical-Political Films

Both of these films relate to historically important journalistic actions that pose radical challenges to the corruption of the existing political order. Both films came out this year, are currently in movie theaters and have been positively reviewed and received. The difference is that the events depicted in Kill the Messenger occurred in the 1990s and the film is a historical documentary of a story that is finished – whereas CitizenFour depicts actions that have occurred within this past year and a plot line that is currently continuing to unfold in real time, with as yet unknown, open-ended outcomes. Thus, I like to think that the production and release in theaters of these two films now represents a kind of concentration and sharpening of focus on political-historical realities – that portends positive developments. I recommend everyone sees them both.

killthemessengerKill the Messenger is an American drama thriller directed by Michael Cuesta and written by Peter Landesman. It is based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Schou and the book Dark Alliance by Gary Webb, who is the courageous and ultimately doomed hero of the film. (Nicholas Schou also wrote Orange Sunshine, a history of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.) Webb was the reporter for the San Jose-Mercury News who wrote a series of articles in 1996 about CIA involvement in cocaine trafficking in the US. Webb uncovered that Nicaraguans linked to the CIA-backed Contras were smuggling cocaine into the US to raise money for the Contras. Their smuggled cocaine fueled the crack epidemic sweeping through many US cities in the late 1990s.

According to Webb’s research and articles, the CIA and Reagan administration knew of the shipments of drugs into the US and shielded drug dealers from prosecution in order to help fund the contras. Webb convinced his editors to run his story, which was explosive. Initially hailed as a hero, Webb soon met with overwhelming skepticism. The New York Times and The Washington Post start picking at aspects of the story, and then attacking Webb himself. The movie depicts a media culture so embedded in the establishment that it doesn’t even have to be coerced into serving the interests of the powerful. Webb was reduced to write dog stories and the newspaper retracted major aspects of the story. Though his family remained supportive, two years later he committed suicide. Ten years later the CIA publically admitted Gary Webb’s revelations had essential been correct – but by then few people remembered what it was all about.

citizenfour_posterCitizenFour is a documentary in real time about Edward Snowden and his explosive revelations of the mass surveillance by the NSA and other intelligence agencies on millions of US and other citizens. The film is directed by Laura Poitras, one of the two journalists first selected by Snowden to publish his findings and features Snowden himself, filmed at first in Hong Kong and then after his flight into exile in Moscow.

It also features Glenn Greenwald, the other journalist, working for The Guardian, who lives in Brazil and who continues to publish stories based on the vast trove of documents Snowden extracted from the NSA. Greenwald wrote his own account of events in a book, No Place to Hide. The film also features short appearances from other whistle-blowers, including Julian Assange, and other journalists, such as The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill, who are publishing parts of the stories from the Snowden files.

Knowing that it was filmed in real time as the real events unfolded with uncertain outcomes makes watching the film an incredibly tense yet absorbing experience.  Nevertheless, listening to and watching Snowden calmly and sincerely expound to his journalistic allies on his reasons for doing what he did at enormous personal risk to his person – is an inspiring experience, giving one hope for the survival of the basic human instincts for respecting the liberties of one another.

 

Debt Jubilee – A powerful economic justice program with Biblical roots

The issue of a debt jubilee, particularly for the $1trillion student debt load, is an idea whose time has definitely come, in fact is overdue. Most people have no idea what this idea implies or that it’s even possible. But remember: student tuition in most Western civilized countries is either totally free or subsidized with very low interest long-term loans. Get informed and organized and demand support for this concept from your elected representatives. Education at all levels is a fundamental right and a defining hallmark of what it means to be a civilization.

Below are three items to give you some historical and contemporary background information.:

From Wikipedia:

The Jubilee (Hebrew yovel יובל) year is the year at the end of seven cycles of shmita (Sabbatical years), and according to Biblical regulations had a special impact on the ownership and management of land in the Land of Israel; there is some debate whether it was the 49th year (the last year of seven sabbatical cycles, referred to as the Sabbath’s Sabbath), or whether it was the following (50th) year. Jubilee deals largely with land, property, and property rights. According to Leviticus, slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.

 

From Forbes.com – October 5, 2011):

Could a Debt Jubilee Help Kickstart the American Economy?

The American economy is stuck in a consumer debt trap. Consumers and businesses, not to mention local and state governments, are still in the dregs of a balance sheet recession. Without increased government spending to mitigate the demand crisis, there’s little chance the economy will jump start on its own. And while there are job-killing regulations out there, these are small potatoes compared to the demand crisis and the fallout from the housing bubble.

Then again, Keynesian spending isn’t the only way to fix a balance sheet recession and get consumer spending to kick back in. There’s the old biblical idea of a jubilee – a national cancellation of private debts.

More than three years after the financial crisis struck, the economy remains stuck in a consumer debt trap. It’s a situation that could take years to correct itself. That’s why some economists are calling for a radical step: massive debt relief.

Renowned economist Stephen Roach, currently non-executive chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, has gone a step further, calling for Wall Street to get behind what others have called a “Debt Jubilee” to forgive excess mortgage and credit card debt for some borrowers. The notion of a Debt Jubilee dates back to biblical Israel where debts were forgiven every 50 years or so.

 

From BackBone Campaign.org (2012):

Student Debt Jubilee and Why Higher Education Ought to be Free.
Last December, the Backbone Campaign hosted our 84th Conversation with the Cabinet podcast entitled Student Debt Jubilee and Why Higher Education Ought to be Free. The Backbone Campaign was a key partner in Occupy Graduation.

On July 17th, we hosted a second Conversation on this topic. We were joined by incredible organizers using different tactics to demand higher education as a right. …In the last semester of his senior year, Glenn screened Default: The Student Loan Documentary and organized a May 1st Rally on campus that brought students, professors, activists, and union members together to speak about student and worker rights and debt.

We did a second Conversation on this topic because much has occurred since first one. In Canada, Montreal students went on strike, conducted ‘casserole‘ demonstrations with an expanded base of support, impacted the city’s economy, and met with government officials to demand the re-establishment of free higher education. Here in the U.S., student loan debt surpassed credit card debt in April, rising to $1 trillion; in the following weeks, organizers took to the streets in Washington, D.C., New York City, and elsewhere.

In addition, mainstream media coverage of politicians discussing the issue exploded in recent months; politicians need voter turnout among the 36 million Americans impacted by this issue. We have witnessed calculated sympathy for student debtors by presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. And although House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) worked tirelessly for years to increase profits for predatory student lenders, recently he was self-righteously tweeting that Democrats are to blame for the increasing impoverishment of student debtors. One of Boehner’s biggest campaign contributors is predatory lender Sallie Mae (which, like other lenders, also owns student debt collections agencies).

Only former Green Party Presidential Candidate Dr. Jill Stein has publicly endorsed immediate student loan forgiveness and tuition-free higher education at public universities.

Brilliant YouTube cartoon video on the history of fossil fuels

300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds

First released in late 2010, this video, which features Richard Heinberg describing the rise and fall of fossil fuel economies, went on to win the 2011 Youtube/DoGooder Nonprofit Video of the Year award and has since been viewed over 1,500,000 times online, at film festivals, and in classrooms. It’s also been translated into nearly a dozen languages.

My recommendation: watch it, share it, watch it again, share it some more, encourage everyone you know to watch it and share it.