(image by jumpinjimmyjava)
In a recent Truthout article, Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar updates the thesis of his powerful book Globalistan concerning the struggle within Eurasia for control of the world's primary energy resources. His thesis is that the drive to world domination by the Global Robcop with its neoliberal economic ideology and unipolar political ideology is by no means the end of the story. China and Russia, in the face of being militarily encircled by the Robocop under continuing Cold War nonsense, have entered into substantial military agreements as well as substantial banking, energy, and pipeline building agreements that may prove to shift the world's economic center of gravity from the United States to central Asia .
In Globalistan and its sequel Obama Does Globalistan, Escobar documents in detail the U.S. machinations throughout Eurasia in its attempt to secure the "world island" identified by Sir Halford John Mackinder in 1902: "who rules the world-island controls the world" . And the Pentagon, on behalf of US global capital, still thinks in 1902 terms, just as its generals still think in juvenile, adolescent-male categories. In 1902 the military was still using horses. Today, their "tough-guy big-balls" stance includes nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction capable of wiping out the human project (as if they cared). Securing the world-island significantly means securing the gas and oil resources of Asia. For those living in this 1902 fantasy world, the continuing use and control of fossil fuels is simply a given. "Sustainability" is just another word for full-spectrum dominance .
In addition to the increasing collaboration of Russia and China (today, with their ally Iran, still dominating the land and fuel resources of the world island), the major international economic arrangement termed BRICS intentionally by-passes the US and raises the possibility of a truly multipolar world. (BRICS means substantial trade and banking agreements between Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.) BRICS wants to free the world from the neoliberal debt-slavery and structural adjustment privatization regimes imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on behalf of the present US-dominated global empire of capital exploitation. (Garry Leech, in his recent book Capitalism: A Structural Genocide has graphically pointed out the murderous consequences of the centuries-old capitalist "development" model just as Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine and the Rise of Disaster Capitalism chronicles its brutal neoliberal implementation around the planet.) Escobar mentions the 100-billion-dollar BRICS development bank designed to serve as a real development alternative to the IMF and World Bank (both headquartered in the Washington, DC).
The US response to all these developments, of course, is more militarism. The one thing we are really good at in the US is destroying people and things or intimidating other countries with the threat of such destruction. In addition to moving NATO to the very borders of Russia through its Ukraine coup d'etat and disruption of that country, the US recently founded AFRICOM to militarize Africa and counter Chinese economic investments on that continent, and is revitalizing SOUTHCOM in order to reassert its diminishing imperial grip over Latin America .
This revitalized Cold War militarism, according to Escobar, is most fundamentally helping the process of economic conversion to a multipolar world, as big nations everywhere "challenge the exceptionalist and unipolar world that Washington imagines for our future." It is important to understand, however, that this is not the foundation for any new world system of sustainability, market socialism, and planetary freedom, contemplated by the BRICS nations, nor by the China-Russia-Iran energy consortium: "Don't think that this is the death knell of Western capitalism, however, just the faltering of that reigning economic faith, neoliberalism, still the official ideology of the United States, the overwhelming majority of the European Union, and parts of Asia and South America."
However, in a number of places, notably, China and Russia, people have envisioned developing an alternative world currency to rival or replace the US dollar; perhaps, Escobar notes, the Chinese yuan. It looks like the development of a multipolar world is quite certain, as the US continues to mire in multitrillion-dollar financial speculations on Wall Street (rather than productive investments), to recklessly continue expanding its 17.5-trillion-dollar national-debt ceiling, and obsessively militarizing rather than dealing with real human needs and global crises like the environmental crisis. In the final analysis, the only real issue facing the world and the US, Escobar writes, is: "Will the decline of the hegemon be slow and reasonably dignified, or will the whole world be dragged down with it in what has been called 'the Samson option'?"
As journalist William Blum pointed out a number of years ago, the US is an utterly "rogue state," a state massively armed with weapons of mass destruction in conjunction with an irrational ideology that includes "exceptionalism" (i.e., all laws and moral principles apply to everyone except us), a belief in absolute national superiority over the rest of the planet, and belief in a "manifest destiny" to rule over the world . If they see this fantasy slipping away, they might just want to take the whole world down with them, Sampson style. How should progressives respond to these planetary developments?
To be a progressive, as I understand the word, is to be committed to a world in which human dignity, equality, and freedom are everywhere respected. It means commitment to live in a diverse world of many races, nations, ideas, customs, ways of life, and cultures, yet with solidarity to our common humanity and our common needs: an economically and ecologically sustainable world, ultimately without poverty, injustice, torture, murder, and lies: a world satisfying the needs of its people in the present time without sacrificing what future generations will need in order to flourish in freedom, dignity, and peace. It is to realize that there can be progressive movement in history leading to actualizing our potential for a liberated and pacified world system.
This is by no means a utopian vision in the sense of imposing an unattainable ideal on a flawed reality. Rather it is "eutopian" (not a "nowhere place" but a "good place"). It is morally ideal in the good sense of understanding the values implicit in our progressively developing humanity and growing planetary maturity. We human beings are capable of growing to a global responsibility in which these values become evident because they are rational (universal and coherent) and derived from our common human dignity and its potential for progressive actualization in individuals and history. The process of maturing moves in the direction of actualizing and living by these values.
A multipolar world may have some attractive features for progressives who affirm diversity and celebrate differences; a celebration, for example, for which Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano is well known. However, a system of rival, militarized nation-states involves not unity in diversity but unredeemed fragmentation. China remains a dictatorship denying many rights to its working people, and Russia is cracking down on using the internet by its citizens . And Brazil's government is either too corrupt or too weak to prevent the on-going destruction of its rain forests (that are absolutely essential to the health of our planet's biosphere). And all three are heavily militarized.
The problem lies in the straightjacket thinking in which progressives (like the right wing and neo-fascists that they oppose) still stumble around within the mind-numbing box of so-called "sovereign nation-states." Sovereign nation-states are, first of all, "imagined communities," as Benedict Anderson points out in his 2006 book by that name. They are nearly all arbitrarily created through random historical forces. Secondly, a sovereign nation state system is inherently a "war system," rather than a peace system, as Western thinkers Hobbes, Spinoza, Kant, Locke, and Hegel all pointed out. A nation that recognizes no effective enforceable laws above itself, excepting voluntary treaties that it makes or breaks at will, is in a de facto state of war with every other nation.
Above all, a nation-state is an antiquated historical phenomena, which scholars for convenience date from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Historical institutions have temporal origins, a period of flourishing, and a demise resulting from changing conditions. World Wars One and Two and the development of nuclear weapons graphically demonstrated that lawless sovereign nations are no longer viable. As Albert Camus wrote in his famous essay "Neither Victims nor Executioners" immediately following the Second World War: "the most striking feature of the world we live in is that most of its inhabitants are cut off from the future. Life has no validity unless it can project itself toward the future, can ripen and progress." We continue to think inside that box, cut off from any genuine future.
As Kant pointed out so clearly in his 1795 essay "Perpetual Peace": "Peace must be established." It can only be established by entering into a binding social contract under what Kant called a "republican" constitution creating an authority over everyone that ensures their equality and freedom within the framework of enforceable laws. A multipolar world of nations, or blocks of nations, competing with one another and armed to the teeth, is not a world of genuine diversity but a recipe for the end of the world, just as the Global Robocop with its satanic fantasies is another such recipe.
The reason is that there is no genuine diversity without a corresponding authentic solidarity. Diversity must be "unity in diversity" and the unity can only be genuine if it includes the universal rule of enforceable democratic laws over all people and nations. And by far the best option for a world of true unity in diversity is the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. The Constitution is brilliantly designed to prevent tyranny, promote reasonable economic prosperity and equality for all peoples, ensure sustainable protection of our planetary biosphere, and activate the universal solidarity of legal world citizenship . Our present alternatives of BRICS versus Global Robocop are both suicidal.
Every day that passes brings new factual and scientific evidence of the disaster befalling the Earth. Since the year 2000 scientists have reported open water and thin ice around the North Pole. There is no way to refreeze the glaciers and the ice shelves that are thawing worldwide. Ice reflects 90% of sunlight whereas sea water absorbs 90%. Scientists call this a "tipping point": a point of no return. Environmental biologist John Cairns, Jr., has pointed to an area of former permafrost the size of France and Germany combined that is thawing in Siberia, spewing forth immense amounts of methane gas, a very potent greenhouse gas. Another tipping point passed. One of Cairn's many papers is entitled "Extinction: The Probable Consequence of the Assault on Science and Reason" . Just this month, scientists have announced that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet faces irreversible collapse, with dire consequences for ocean levels around the planet .