The better informed we are, the more likely it is that we will despair. Anyone who follows the news, even in a cursory manner, is aware of the multiple threats that we face: nuclear war, ecological collapse, global warming, and a humanly facilitated or created pandemic. The odds at this point seem to be against the human race surviving as a viable species. Given the probability of the annihilation of human species, we are forced to ask two important questions:
What kind of political action is possible and relevant at this point?
How do we remain motivated to act with hope?
In 1942 Thornton Wilder wrote a play called "The Skin of Our Teeth." The central theme of this play was that again and again humanity comes close to annihilating itself, but then somehow, "by the skin of our teeth" we manage to save ourselves and move on. Perhaps this will continue to be true. And perhaps not. But if we are going to continue to engage in meaningful political action, we must entertain the possibility that, against all odds, we may survive. Otherwise the futility of making any effort at all will lead us to despair and inaction. In this essay I would like to share some thoughts about what this survival might look like, should it happen. If my conjectures about our possible future are even approximately correct, they do suggest some guidelines for ways in which we might best channel our efforts for political action.
That the Western world is totally dominated by a very small group of people who control the multinational corporations and banks is hardly news. This small elite group is frequently referred to as the "1%." I believe that the number of people who actually run things is considerably less than 1% of the population, but it's a useful term.
It appears to me that there are significant fault lines that are divide this apparently monolithic group. While many of the 1% are located within the United States, and the United States military is used as their police force, I think that a very large proportion of the 1% have no commitment whatsoever, either to the United States, or to any other nation. Their sole concern is that, as the world moves toward a single global system, it will be ruled by multinational banks and corporations. These could be called non-patriotic global capitalists. Another segment of the 1% are true (and rather fanatical) patriotic global nationalist s . These are individuals who are obsessed with the idea that one capitalist nation-state should gain dominance over all the others. Obviously the United State s, is, at present time, the primary contender for such a position.
It is possible that there is an additional fault line within the 1%. There may in fact be a minority of people within this group who actually wish for a more equitable distribution of resources, and would like to see a world run on democratic principles. In other words there may be a small group of people who have inherited a great deal of wealth, but nevertheless lean in the direction of socialism. Given the current dominance of neo-liberal thinking, these socialist-leaning people would probably keep most of their views to themselves. I'll call them closet socialist s . I knew one once. Beyond that, I confess that I am at a loss to produce very much evidence for the existence of these hypothetical closet socialist. Even so, I think it is unlikely that all wealthy people are sociopaths who are totally lacking in empathy for the rest of humanity. There must be more than a few Tolstoys hidden away among them.
The 1%s of the major powers
In an article in Global Reasearch, "The Federal Reserve Cartel: The Eight Families"1 Dean Henderson suggests that just eight families essentially own the Federal Reserve -- four of which reside in the US: the Goldman Sachs, Rockefellers, Lehmans and Kuhn Loebs, and four from Europe: the Rothschilds; the Warburgs ; the Lazards; and the Israel Moses Seifs.
An article in Bloomberg Business2 makes it clear that China as well as the United States is ruled by a few wealthy families. The article points out that "the income gap in urban China has widened more than in any other country in Asia over the past 20 years, according to the International Monetary Fund." This change, of course, was a result of its shift to capitalism.
An article in the New York Times, "Russia's Oligarchy, Alive and Well" by Andrew Weiss3 sums up the situation there as follows: " Yet Russia's oligarchy (that is, the control of the state and economy by a small group of well-placed, extremely wealthy insiders) is alive and well. The supposedly all-powerful Mr. Putin actually devotes much of his time to refereeing bitter disputes between oligarchs like Igor I. Sechin, the head of the state oil company Rosneft, and Gennady N. Timchenko, a co-owner of Russia's largest oil trading company and an independent natural gas producer..."
It would appear that every major power in the world has its 1%, which is hardly surprising. Capitalism, after all, invariably produces a small elite of very wealthy people opposed to majority of people who live in various degrees of impoverishment. Probably a significant, but unknowable, proportion of these ruling families are more concerned about their own comfort and well- being th a n they are about which nation state gains control over the others. In other words they are non-patriotic global capitalists.
The IMF has now added the Chinese Yuan to its "basket of currencies" alongside the dollar, the euro, the pound and the yen. This basket of currencies has displaced the dollar as the world's reserve currency. This can only be understood as a step on the part of the non-patriotic globalists to establish the international banks and corporations, ruled by a tiny group of international elites, to be the undisputed rulers of the world. There can be little question that will weaken the dollar and along with it, the economy of the United States.
It remains to be seen whether the patriotic global capitalists of the United States will blow up the whole world in a temper tantrum as a reaction to the frustration of their dream of absolute power -- full spectrum dominance as they call it.
In the short term, probably the most serious threat to the survival of the human race is nuclear war. The non-patriotic global capitalists would prefer to avoid policies that will lead inevitably to such a war. They may not be committed to, or concerned about, any group of people other than their own class. They may even be quite happy to fund wars that are no danger to themselves. But they are not insane. They realize that a nuclear war would not be in their interest. Patriotic global capitalists, on the other hand do seem to be insane. The patriotic global capitalists in the United States are currently pursuing policies that will almost inevitably lead to a third world war, in order that the United States will be able to rule over all others. This is indeed the philosophy of mad people.