ecoglobe [yinyang] news (20 December 1999)

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The year 2000


As we approach the threshold of the year 2000 - a mythical date that has long served as a synonym for the future that is about to become our present - we inevitably pause to take stock of the state of the our world.

The central phenomenon is the way in which every country is caught up in the dynamic of globalisation. A second capitalist revolution is under way. Globalisation is reaching into every corner of our planet, and shows as little concern for the diversity of political regimes as it does for the independence of peoples.

The world is experiencing a new age of conquest, reminiscent of the days of colonialism. But whereas the protagonists of previous phases of conquest and expansion were national states, this time the drive for global domination is coming from big companies and conglomerates, major industrial groupings and the private finance sector. Never before have the world's masters been so few in number and so powerful. These groupings have their bases within the "triad" of the United States, Europe and Japan - but half of them are based in the US. What we are seeing is fundamentally an American phenomenon.

This concentration of capital and power has intensified in the course of the past 20 years, driven by the revolution in information technology. A further leap is about to be taken, powered by the new developments in genetic engineering. The privatisation of the human genome and a general patenting of life forms are opening new prospects for capitalist expansion. A major privatisation of all things related to life and nature is in the offing, opening the way for a power perhaps more absolute than anything the world has known.

Globalisation aims to conquer markets rather than nation states. The interests of this modern power lie not in the conquest of territory - as in the days of invasions and colonialism - but in the appropriation of wealth.

This conquest goes hand in hand with considerable destruction. Whole industries have been wiped out in every region of the world. The result has been social suffering: mass unemployment, underemployment, precarious employment and exclusion. Fifty million unemployed in Europe, one billion unemployed and underemployed in the world as a whole. We have the over-exploitation of men, women and - even more scandalously - children, 300 million of them, in conditions of unprecedented brutality.

Globalisation also means the plundering of our planet. Large corporations are ravaging the environment on a massive scale; they are exploiting the wealth of nature which is the common property of humanity; and they are doing so with neither scruple nor restraint. This goes hand in hand with criminalisation in the world of banking and finance, involving the recycling of sums in excess of $1,000bn a year - more than the annual gross national profit of one third of humanity.

By turning words and things, minds and bodies, nature and culture into commodities, we are further aggravating the world's inequalities. Although global production of basic foodstuffs currently stands at 110% of world needs, 30 million people still die of hunger every year, and more than 800 million are under-nourished. In 1960 the richest 20% of the world's population had an income 30 times higher than that of the poorest 20%. Today the wealth of that 20% is 82 times higher. Of the 6 billion inhabitants of this planet, barely 500 million live in comfort - leaving 5.5 billion living in need.

State structures and traditional social structures are in the process of being swept away, with disastrous results. Almost everywhere in the countries of the South, the state is collapsing. Outlaw zones are developing, chaotic ungovernable entities, outside any rule of law, scending into a state of barbarism in which gangs of plunderers are holding populations to ransom. New kinds of dangers are already with us: organised crime, mafia networks, financial speculation, large-scale corruption, a spread of new pandemics (Aids, Ebola virus, Creuzfeld-Jacob disease etc), pollution at new levels of intensity, religious and ethnic fanaticism, the greenhouse effect, desertification, nuclear proliferation etc.

At a time which is supposed to be the triumph of freedom and democracy in a world largely rid of authoritarian regimes, censorship and media manipulation are making a paradoxical comeback, more powerful than before and taking many forms. Seductive new "opiums of the masses" offer false dreams of better worlds, distracting people's attention from the real issues and attempting to direct them away from civic and political action. In this new age of alienation, within this framework of "world culture" and the globalisation of the message, communications technologies are more than ever playing a central ideological role.

The result of the speed and abruptness of these changes is to destabilise the world's political leaders. For the most part they feel that they are being overtaken by a globalisation that is changing the rules of the game and leaving them partially powerless, because the world's real masters are no longer the politicians who hold the formal reins of power.

This is why ordinary people have been mobilising and building coalitions against the new ruling powers - as we saw in November with the demonstration against the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle. In their view, the aim of globalisation at the start of this new millennium is the destruction of the collective good. They see the public and the social being appropriated by the private and the market. They reject that process and they are rallying their forces against it.

Translated by Ed Emery

All rights reserved 1999 Le Monde diplomatique

Humanity has been unable to build a decent society based on materialism.

Sarkar's Progressive Utilisation Theory (PROUT) is a holistic socio-economic philosophy that balances the material with the intellectual and the piritual.

Details are available on and

[Source: 1999 Le Monde diplomatique, emailed to the NZ GE list 20 Dec 1999]
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