Archive | RWANDA

Deconstructing the State. Getting Smaller. Developing the Local Economy. Redirecting the Power from the Centre to the Periphery

NOVANEWS

Part VI of a Six Part Essay

 

War has indeed become perpetual and peace no longer even a fleeting wish nor a distant memory. We have become habituated to the rumblings of war and the steady drum beat of propaganda about war’s necessity and the noble motives that inspire it. We will close hospitals. We will close schools. We will close libraries and museums. We will sell off our parklands and water supply. People will sleep on the streets and go hungry. The war machine will go on.

What are we to do? The following text is Part VI of a broader analysis entitled War and the State: Business as Usual.

For Parts I-V, click here.

***

Suppose we chose to join hands with our anti-Federalist ancestors and decided we want to live in a Nation where, “peace, union, and industry, under a mild, free, and steady government” prevail (Storing, 67). Is such an outcome possible? How could we bring it about?

Well, it certainly is possible. Above I offered five examples of countries past and present that were Nations, not States:

1) India;

2) Holland in the 17th century;

3) the United States in the decade between 1776 — the Declaration of Independence — and 1787 — the signing of the Constitution;

4) Switzerland;

5) Iceland.

There is no reason why the United States — now a State — cannot return to its roots and become a federation of fifty states — a Nation — with a weak central government like the one that existed under The Articles of Confederation. The mechanism is a simple one. We . RedirectHere is an excellent example of how that works.

The Bank of North Dakota

The United States has a central banking system. Although the Board of Governors are presidential appointees, basically The Federal Reserve Bank — the “Fed” —is run to serve the interests of a small number of private banks deemed “too big to fail.” In 2008, billions if not trillions of dollars were passed along to these banks to help them recover the monies they lost from bad bets while ignoring the needs of those who lost their life savings and their homes and were reduced to living in tents. There was an economic collapse from which the country has not fully recovered nine years later. Now let’s take a look at what happened in the state of North Dakota.

In 1836, the U.S. Congress failed to renew the charter for the Second Bank of the United States, (today the Federal Reserve). Subsequently, the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois, Vermont, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina all created banks that were completely owned by the state government. None of those banks survived.

The movement for state banking was revived in the early 1900’s when mid-western farmers were at the mercy of privately held banks. Farmers counted heavily on loans for equipment and loans to get them through harsh growing seasons when wheat yields were meager. Banks in Minneapolis and Chicago continued raising interest rates. Farmers were left in a precarious position. In response an independent political party was formed known as the “Non-Partisan League.” The “League” gained control of the North Dakota state government in 1918. In 1919, the state legislature established the Bank of North Dakota (BND).

The mission of the BND is to serve North Dakota agriculture, commerce and industry. It does not compete with privately held banks but partners with them in lending monies to local business. In 1967, BND made the first federally insured student loan in the country and currently has one of the lowest interest rates for state loans.

About twenty years ago, the bank began buying home loans made by local banks and credit unions. By buying up mortgages BND gave local banks a way to move loans off their books, thus freeing them up to make new loans, but without handing the business to their competitors.

BND services the mortgages it buys, ensuring that the mortgage interest homeowners pay each month stays in the state rather than flowing to Wall Street. Between BND’s mortgages and those held by local banks and credit unions, roughly 20-25 percent of the state’s mortgage debt is held and serviced within North Dakota.

The primary deposit base of the BND is the State of North Dakota.  All state funds and funds of state agencies (excluding pension funds and trusts managed by the state) are deposited with the bank. Over the last 21 years, BND has generated almost $1 billion in profit.  Nearly $400 million of that, or about $3,300 per household, has been transferred into the state’s general fund, providing support for education and other public services, while reducing the tax burden on residents and businesses.

One of the core missions of the Bank of North Dakota is to cultivate the state’s economy by supporting local banks and credit unions. Thanks in large part to BND, community banks are much more numerous and robust in North Dakota than in other states. While locally owned small and mid-sized banks and credit unions account for only 29 percent of deposits nationally, in North Dakota they have  83 percent of the market. By helping to sustain a large number of local banks and credit unions, BND has strengthened North Dakota’s economy, enabled small businesses and farms to grow, and spurred job creation in the state.

Image result for wall street journal

In November 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that the BND was more profitable even than J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. And yet in 2014, BND was lending money for school infrastructure at 1%. In 2015, it introduced new infrastructure programs to improve access to medical facilities, remodel or construct new schools, and build new road and water infrastructure. A bank can be profitable and serve the common good.

In 2008-2009 when the United States economy suffered one of its worst economic crises, BND had one of its most profitable years. There was no credit freeze. BND created its own credit and the economy flourished. BND acts as a kind of mini-fed for the state, providing liquidity, clearing checks and buying up loans when there is risk to share.1

A Multiplicity of State Banks

Just suppose that instead of one state bank there was one state bank for every state in the union, which is to say fifty “mini-Feds.” How would that affect the economy? How would that affect the political power dynamics? How would that affect the day-to-day lives of the average American?

Economically, the American economy would be more stable, more robust. Credit would be used to fund education, business development, and infrastructure improvement. It would not be syphoned off to bloat the profits of private banking interests.

It has long been understood that private interests in control of credit on a national level was a chronic menace to the public wheal. In 1832, President Andrew Jackson refused to renew the charter for the Bank of the United States. Among other concerns was the possibility that with centralization and privatization of the system of credit, foreign interests could gain control of the American economy and shape it to their benefit. “Controlling our currency, receiving our public moneys, and holding thou­sands of our citizens in dependence, it would be more formidable and dangerous than the naval and military power of the enemy.” (C.S.)

After signing into law the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, President Woodrow Wilson had this to say,

I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world, no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men. (Wikiquote)

Thomas Jefferson put it simply,

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.”

Said James Madison,

“History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.”

Here are the words of Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), founder of the House of Rothschild.

“Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.”

So that if we set up our fifty state banks we take back that power and redistribute it so that no single entity can take control of the monetary system. No longer do the too-big-to-fail banks and their lackey the Federal Reserve run — ruin — the economy. The “Fed” becomes a vestigial organ. It begins to wither and might eventually disappear. The withering is contagious and begins to affect the centralized power of the State.

Image result for federal reserveThe State has two primary functions: prop up private banks, make war. These two functions form an interlocking conglomerate, a servo-mechanism in which one function feeds the other. The State needs war to accrue power. It needs money to pay for the war. Banks need war so they can supply the government with funds and then collect interest. In 2015, the U.S. spent $223 billion, or 6 percent of the federal budget, paying for interest on the debt. Good news for banks. In 2014, the Federal Reserve bought up $2.461 trillion worth of the national debt, thus making it the largest holder in the world.

In 1933 — subsequent to the crash of 1929 — Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act. No longer were commercial banks allowed to engage in those speculative banking activities that were allowed to investment banks. In 1999 — in acquiescence to private banking interests — Congress reversed itself and repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, leading to the crash of 2008.

This is but one example of how a centralized government and a centralized and privatized banking system work so well together in satisfying the wishes of private interests at the expense of public well-being. With our fifty state banks in place power has been fragmented and redistributed. Such a grand collusion is no longer possible.

The Withering Has Begun

The deconstruction and withering of the State have been in the works for some time. In 2003, Thomas Naylor, co-author of the 1997 book Downsizing the U.S.A. founded a secessionist movement in the state of Vermont. A poll taken in 2007 indicated that 13% of the voters supported the move to leave the union and become and independent polity. The more the center ignores the rights and interests of the periphery the more the periphery will begin to assert itself.

On June 26, 2011, mayors from around the world met in Balti­more and approved a resolution that the federal government bring home the troops and stop funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this instance, voices on the periphery are challenging the power at the center. They are claiming the right to be heard and to influence decisions at the center. We the citizenry are listening and begin to understand that the center is not the only source of power and that central power can be challenged.

On June 29, 2015 — yielding to considerable grass roots political pressure — the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued a ban on fracking in the State of New York. The state of Vermont had banned fracking in 2012. The center is lethargic in responding to the environmental crisis and so local government takes action, once again demonstrating how irresponsible central government is and how power can be redirected to local governments that can take crucial steps in safeguarding the planet. 2

In 2014, Ellen Brown ran for California State Treasurer. The center of her platform was a California State Bank. She ran on the Green Party ticket and garnered more votes for that party than any other candidate in the party’s history. (ellenbrown.com) Phil Murphy, the leading Democratic candidate for governor of New Jersey, has made a state-owned bank a centerpiece of his campaign. (Ellen Brown, Intrepid Report, April 13, 2017)

Various states have challenged the legitimacy and benefit of the “Affordable Care Act.” There is a movement in the state of Colorado to suspend both the ACA and Medicaid and replace these national healthcare programs with a state program run by a board of 21 elected trustees.

“A state program, responsible to patients and providers, will do much better than a rigid national program, responsible to lobbyists,” says organizer Ivan Miller.

John Rohn Hall, a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico is promoting “Amerexit,” America’s answer to Brexit. It is a “Plan for State Sovereignty and an End of Empire.” (Hall, Dissident Voice, February 26, 2017) Santa Fe has for years been a sanctuary city, i.e., a city that welcomes refugees and immigrants. Under Trump Santa Fe would lose federal funding. If that is the case, since there is no benefit, why not just leave the union, “New Mexit?” As Hall points out there is a “Calexit” movement with over 585,000 signatures. He imagines what the world would be like with the “Republic of California” and the “Republic of New Mexico.” And then he thinks ahead to when the remaining 48 join California and New Mexico and become sovereign nations.

The marble buildings and monuments of Washington, D.C. become museums. The United Nations and The International Court of Justice grow teeth, becoming the law of all lands. National borders gradually disintegrate and disappear. Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament is now International Law. Wars of aggression are relegated to the dark recesses of history.

“Divided we stand,” says Hall. “United we fall.”

Here is a version of the deconstructed State that does away with any overarching unity, even as weak as the Articles of Confederation. Yet it is all in the same spirit. There would be local banks, local healthcare plans, local environmental initiatives. The State is gone. Monies previously reserved for propping up private banks and waging war are redirected from the center to the periphery where they are used to serve the common good.

The State is making itself less and less relevant and making it more and more difficult to justify the revenues it receives. If vital services are sold off and privatized and tax revenues are directed almost exclusively to war, what motivation do citizens have to pay taxes? 2a

What Do Our Federal Taxes Buy?

Let’s take a look at what our tax dollar is buying. You might think that your federal tax dollar goes to paying the electric bill at your local post office. In fact, the USPS is a self-supporting agency that is mandated to pay its personnel and operating costs out of revenues from the sale of postage. Up until the year 2007, the USPS saw a continued rise in mail handled and a continued rise in revenues. It was solvent.

Then Congress decided that USPS should pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and do so within a decade, something no other public agency or private company is required to do. Now the post office is $15 billion in debt. Resources are diverted to pay off debt that would have been devoted to servicing customers. USPS starts recording losses. Despite the handicap, in February of 2016, the post office recorded a profit for the first time in five years. Nonetheless, President Obama proposed cutting 12,000 jobs and discontinuing Saturday mail delivery.

At 493,381, — down from 787,538 in the year 2000 — post office workers are the largest non-violent workforce employed by the government, which explains why they are expendable. Their only purpose is to bring together people separated by distance who wish to exchange thoughts and good wishes. A totally useless function if war is your game.

President Obama’s downsizing the postal system while simultaneously personally overseeing the assassination by drone of thousands of “militants” in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as hundreds if not thousands of “non-militants,” i.e. innocent civilians, i.e. collateral damage, is consistent with his role as W.I.C. (Warrior In Chief). If you’re not killing, you’re not doing your job.

The Government Accountability Office reports declines in the workforce between 2004 and 2012 in the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, GSA, NASA, and the Social Security Administration. In the same period 94 percent of the Federal workforce growth occurred in the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security.

In 2013, Defense (sic) employed 738,300, while Education employed a paltry 4,100. Total Federal civilian employment — excluding the Post Office — was 2,058,000. Adding together Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs we end up with 1,279,800 or 62% of total civilian employment devoted to violence and its consequences. That’s what your tax dollar is buying.

At what point is enough, enough? ”Empire never has enough,” said US Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson during an interview in December of 2015. “That’s the nature of imperial power. It never has enough.”

War Is A Racket

Smedley Darlington Butler (1881–1940) was a United States Marine Corps major general. He was active in more than a half dozen wars. At the time of his death he was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. In the 1930s, after retiring from service, he became an outspoken opponent of war. He wrote a pamphlet entitled War Is A Racket. He is bitter, angry and outraged at the ravages of war and the grossly swollen profits of the bankers and industrialists that war provides. 3

Butler points out that During WWI war profits surged to “three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent — the sky is the limit. … Uncle Sam has the money. Let’s get it.” That was the mentality during the war years. In the period 1910 – 1914 DuPont Chemical had earnings of $6 million. During the period 1914 -1918 — the years of WWI — their profits jumped to $58 million a year, an almost ten fold increase.

By contrast, the soldier was paid $30 per month. Half of that wage was sent home to dependents. $6 was deducted for “accident insurance” and then another $9 for “Liberty Bonds” that were issued to pay for the war —$2 billion worth. Leaving most soldiers with nothing on payday.

When returning soldiers could not find work the banks would buy back the $100 bonds for $84, leaving themselves $16 as profit. And of course the same soldiers would pay taxes so the government could make interest payments to the banks on the bonds the banks purchased.4

After visiting soldiers in their hospital beds, surveying the mangled minds and bodies, and considering the ruined lives of the families, the outrageous lies that pass for truths that are used to manipulate a nation into going to war, Butler concludes, “War is Hell.” These are the words of a Major General. He ought to know.

Change and Fear of Change

If the goal is “a warless world founded in warless societies” then we need to make some changes. We need to create an alternative to empire. We need to restructure the power dynamics so that power in the center — the power of the empire — is redistributed to the periphery, where states can create governments that serve the common good.

Change is a word that sends ripples of fear through the human body, through the body politic. Change has its mysteries. It can seem daunting and intimidating which is why meaningful change occurs so rarely. There is the mistaken belief that change will only make things worse. And that there is no risk in maintaining the status quo. Although we cannot guarantee the outcome if we bring about fundamental political change, we can pretty much guarantee the outcome if we don’t. The planet will become unlivable.

When social/political or psychological transformative change occurs, cognitive and emotional issues arise. We have a certain image of what our government is and how we relate to it. Our government has an identity; it is seen as a certain kind of government, behaving in a certain way. We as individual citizens become subsumed within this identity, whether we choose to be or not. What happens to us when our govern­ment changes? In some measure our universe has been tampered with. That is an unsettling feeling, which is one reason why transformative change is resisted so rigorously.

There was a time when being identified as being American would bring a smile of gratitude and a handshake from a foreigner. Now it is just as likely to bring a snub. Do we like our government and how it is seen around the world? Do we like the way it feels to be associated with such a government? Would we like to be associated with a different kind of government? Are we pleased with the way in which our govern­ment addresses the needs of its citizens? These are questions we should be asking ourselves. Perhaps some readers would like to live under a government that is less feared and more respected, a government that is kinder and gentler, a government that embraces the common good.

Contemplating change brings us face to face with the unknown. We cannot predict the outcome once we initiate the process of change. We lose control. Maybe the worst will happen. We will lose our freedoms. We will be enslaved. Such thoughts are not necessarily rational but they occur nonetheless. We cling to the stability of the status quo. David Popper provides an interesting example.

Piecemeal Change As The Answer?

David Popper (1902 – 1994) was an Austrian born philosopher. He had a major impact on scientific thinking in the 20th century. He argued that no amount of induction could make a scientific theory true. But that for a theory to be considered scientifically valid it had to be falsifiable. There had to be a means to prove that the theory was invalid.

Let us say that I have a theory that says blue-eyed men are taller than brown-eyed men. The theory is scientific by Popper’s standards. All I have to do is find one brown-eyed man who is taller than a blue-eyed.

Marx’s theory of historical materialism says that the economic evolution in the means of production will lead to socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Such a theory is more a vision or an ideology than it is a scientific theory. There is nothing one can do to falsify it.

Popper wrote a book entitled The Open Society And Its Enemies, published in 1945. Popper’s book is a defense of liberal democracy and an attack on the idealist, historicist philosophers  — philosophers like Plato, Hegel and Marx — who believe that history has an inherent causality that can’t be altered. Such philosophers will lead us to totalitarian societies, says Popper. The individual will be denied the opportunity for self-expression and critical thinking. These philosophers are the enemies of the open society.

Popper’s goal is “democracy,” a government dedicated to the preservation of free thought. His concern is the rise of tyranny and the crushing of individuality. In a democracy there is a means of self-protection and that is “the right of the people to judge and dismiss their government… the only known device by which we can try to protect ourselves against the misuse of political power.” (Popper, 335) We see here a negative definition of democracy, a definition based in fear, fear of governmental abuse. Says Bourne,

“Mere negative freedom will not do as a 20th century principle” (read 21st century) (Bourne, 46).

“The right of the people to judge and dismiss their government” is the right to vote in elections, which, as has been explained above, creates oligarchy, not democracy. Democracy is a form of government in which citizens debate and legislate on their own behalf.

Popper’s fear of governmental abuse leads him to be cautious in undertaking major changes that could lead to unpredictable and dangerous outcomes. There is no vision of a better world. Such a vision is labeled “utopian.” He is critical of those writers who would “go to the very root of the social evil” and completely eradicate it. (Popper, 154)

By means of “piecemeal social engineering,” Popper would diminish human suffering, not eliminate it.

“The piecemeal engineer will [fight against] the greatest and most urgent evils of society, rather than searching, and fighting for, its greatest ultimate good. (Popper, 148) Each rising generation has the right to “a claim not to be made unhappy,” says Popper (Popper, 149), an awkward double negative brought on by an over concern to keep things just as they are.

Popper wrote his book as WWII was drawing to a close. Hitler had a vision for a new world, starting with a clean canvas. Millions died. Mao had a similar vision. Millions died. Understandably, Popper is concerned that those with “vision” should gain power. Nonetheless a political philosophy based in fear is useless. It is based in the irrational belief that holding fast to a system that ignores the common good is safe but that change is dangerous. The outcome we fear is actually our current reality, a political system that owes its existence to propaganda and misinformation, a system that ignores basic human needs and tramples on an eco-system that is running out of patience.

Political vs Economic Change: Which Comes First?

There are those who advocate change, but not political change. Economic inequality is the primary concern. “Let us redistribute the wealth and bring an end to the gross inequality that is a cancer in our society,” they say. Or “Let us create a form of government where the government itself — not private interests — is in control of the economy. Then we can decide who gets what.” Economic transformation comes first.

Benjamin Barber thinks otherwise.

“Democracy proclaims the priority of the political over the economic,” says Barber.(Barber, 257) “Politics precedes economics,” he says, because it “creates the central values of economy and society.”(Barber, 252) “[Politics] remains the sovereign realm in which the ordering of human priorities takes place.” (Barber, 266)

Says Karl Popper,

”Economic power must not be permitted to dominate political power.” (Popper, 335)

I agree. The first step is to redistribute political power, to set up a new political structure. Economic change will follow.

China affords an interesting example of how easy it is to change economic systems while leaving the underlying power structure intact. With Mao in charge, the Chinese people lived under a brutal totalitarian communist regime. Mao is alleged to have taken the lives of 40 million of his fellow countrymen. With very little fanfare this communist State seems to have become transformed into a capitalist State, or something close to it.

In other words, socialism/communism and capitalism are not that different in their power dynamics. Both require strong central governments and both lead to the abuse of power that central governments are prone to. If our goal is social justice, a government that serves the common good and is responsive to the wishes of the citizenry then we need to think in terms of political change, the restructuring of the prevailing power dynamics.

Change is Possible

“But,” you say in quiet despair, “how can our government possibly be changed? It is simply not possible.” Although such a belief is certainly understandable, I do not believe it is justified. I believe that change is possible, provided it is introduced in a thoughtful and gradual way.

First we change our attitude, our outlook on life. To repeat the thoughts of Henry George, right reason precedes right action. We become thoughtful, rather than reactive. We take noth­ing for granted. We become more analytical, more skeptical, and less credulous about the government we live under; we become more imagi­native and hopeful about the government we intend to replace it with. We allow our imagination free rein as we think up new possibilities. For it is only through imagination and creativity that change comes about.

As we become actively involved in deconstructing the State and more and more power shifts to local governments, the State begins to whither. Communities begin to flourish. As local politics become more meaningful and communities more vibrant, the individual becomes more robust, less frightened, more engaged in political life.

As citizens see how government can actually function to their benefit, they are less enthusiastic about sending money to the central government, which does little or nothing on their behalf. As the individual feels more politically alive he is less likely to be intimidated by the State, less likely to be swayed by fake news and government manipulation. He becomes more thoughtful, more articulate, more empowered. And this is our goal, “the realization of the individual through the beloved community.” (Bourne, 51)

Yes, power can be abused at the local level. But it is less likely to cause WWIII. And there is a way out. It is called sortition. The ancient Greeks used sortition to select their magistrates. Sortition is another word for lot, or drawing straws. Instead of allowing the major parties to stack the deck in favor of corporate power when they choose the candidates who appear on our primary ballots, we can allow citizens to volunteer for office. Once a year a sortition is held. This is a random event. Those whose number is pulled appear on the ballot. We could even do away with elections altogether and count on sortition alone to put people in power.5

Another way of limiting the concentration of power is setting a limit on the concentration of wealth. Enormous wealth is a menace to a free society. In ancient Athens there were laws forbidding a display of wealth in public places. They were called sumptuary laws. Here is an example.

A free-born woman may not be accompanied by more than one female slave, unless she is drunk; she may not leave the city during the night, unless she is planning to commit adultery; she may not wear gold jewelry or a garment with a purple border, unless she is a courtesan; and a husband may not wear a gold-studded ring or a cloak of Milesian fashion unless he is bent upon prostitution or adultery.

Times have changed, chaste or profligate we can dress as we choose. However, there should be a limit to the amount of wealth an individual or a family can accumulate. A billionaire has enormous power that he uses to suit his political purposes, thus defeating us in our attempts to serve the common good. $40 million should be enough for any individual. Such a sum would allow for at least two residences, a yacht and a racehorse or two. Twice that amount for a family. Anything beyond that amount is taxed at one hundred percent.6

For us to reach our goals, we must have ideals, values and a vision of a better world based on a decentralized form of government. In other words, we must do exactly what Popper tells us not to do. The process is gradual — as he would wish — but the vision is all encompassing. There is little to fear because we are taking power away from the powerful center, not granting it.

The War Machine Withers

As the State goeth, so goeth the war machine, the house of power, the Pentagon. As monies are diverted away from the center, there is less available for big-ticket war items at grossly inflated prices. War loses some of its glamour. It becomes a sometime thing not the full-time pass-time of generals and their subordinates.

The Pentagon begins its decline. A few panes of glass have been shattered and go unrepaired. Some pigeons build a nest and take up residence. Mice can be seen scurrying about Pentagon hallways in broad daylight. There are fewer and fewer cars in the parking lot. Grass starts growing up in the cracks.

Eventually it is simply too costly to heat this enormous space in the winter and cool it in the summer. One wing is boarded up entirely. Eventually another wing follows. One central section remains open. Generals are bundled up against the cold. Whereas once they dined on caviar and Veuve Clicquot, they now have to settle for chicken fingers and fries. Soon the Pentagon is no longer a viable operation. It has lost the political clout it once had. And so it must pass on to the dustbin of history.

On a Wednesday, in December, in the year 2031, it is announced that bids are being let out to level the entire structure. In late spring of 2032 a building that was once the most formidable presence in the country has been reduced to a pile of rubble. In August of the same year a bake sale is held. Bakers from around the country arrive with grandma’s recipe for everything from apple pie to double chocolate brownies and linzer tarts. Money is being raised to create a park and a playground for children. There is even talk of a botanical garden. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of those cranberry-walnut scones.

Above text is part VI of a six part essay.

For Parts I-V, click here

Link to War and the State: Part 1

Link to War and the State: Part 2

Link to War and the State Part 3

Link to War and the State Part 4

Link to War and the State Part 5

1. War and the health of the State: What causes war

2. Federated governments: The Nation vs. the State

3. Origin of the State: Barbarians at the gate

4. End Game: War goes on

5. Critical Thinking: A bridge to the future

6. Deconstructing the State: Getting small

SOURCES

Benjamin Barber, Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age.

Frank Barlow, The Feudal Kingdom on England 1042-1216.

Edward Bernays, Propaganda.

EllenBrown.com

Ellen Brown, “What a state-owned bank can do for New Jersey,” Intrepid Report, April 13, 2017

Ellen Brown, The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity.

Smedly Butler, War Is A Racket.

James Carroll, House of War.

Gearoid O Colmain, “The Weaponisation of the Refugee,” Dissident Voice, January 20, 2016.

Rob Cooper, “Iceland’s former Prime Minister found guilty over country’s 2008 financial crisis but will avoid jail,” Daily Mail, April 23, 2012.

C.S., “Constitution Society,” Andrew Jackson, July 10, 1832.

Deborah Davis, Katherine The Great.

Thomas J. DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln.

M.I. Finley, The Portable Greek Historians.

F.P.  The Federalist Papers. Ed. Clinton Rossiter.

Mark H. Gaffney: “9/11: The Evidence for Insider Trading,” May 25, 2016: ICH (Information Clearing House).

GPF (Global Policy Forum,) “War and Occupation in Iraq,” Chapter 2.

Ramachandra Guha, India After Gandhi.

John Rohn Hall, “Amerexit: A Plan for State Sovereignty and an End of Empire,” Dissident Voice, February 26, 2017.

Victor David Hanson, Carnage and Culture.

Chris Hedges, “The American Empire: Murder Inc.” Truthdig, January 3, 2016.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of History (Dover, 1956).

J. Christopher  Herold, The Age of Napoleon.

Karl Hess, Community.

Peter Hoy, “The World’s Biggest Fuel Consumer,” Forbes, June 5, 2008.

J.H. Huizinga, Dutch Civilization in the 17th Century.

Peter Koenig, “Towards a Foreign Imposed “Political Transition” in Syria?” Global Research, November 3, 2015.

John Macpherson (1899). Mental affections; an introduction to the study of insanity.

Patrick Martin, 16 April 2003, wsws.org.

Edgar Lee Masters, Lincoln The Man.

Gaetano Mosca, The Ruling Class.

Ralph Nader, “Uncontrollable — Pentagon and Corporate Contractors Too Big to Audit,” Dandelionsalad, March 18, 2016.

Thomas Naylor and William H. Willikmon, Downsizing the U.S.A.

Karl Popper, The Open Society And Its Enemies.

Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age.

Charles Hugh Smith, “Are Cities the Incubators of Decentralized Solutions?” March 14, 2017, oftwominds.com

John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, “Lies Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry.” (Web)

Herbert J. Storing, The Anti-Federalist: Writings by the Opponents of the Constitution, edited by Herbert J. Storing.

Jay Syrmopoulus, October 15, 2015, “Iceland Just Jailed Dozens of Corrupt Bankers for 74 Years, The Opposite of What America Does.” Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/icelands-banksters-sentenced-74-years-prison-prosecution-u-s/#UHP3qHr1WIAuRFSs.99.

“The Economic Value of Peace, 2016” (PDF) Institute for Economics and Peace.

Washington Blog, February 23, 2015 “ICH”(Information
Clearing House) http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article41086.htm

Max Weber, Political Writings.

John W. Whitehead, March 29, 2016, “From Democracy to Pathocracy: The Rise of the Political Psychopath,” Intrepid Report, April 1, 2016.

Wikipedia, “Energy usage of the United States military.”

Wikiquote, Woodrow Wilson, Federal Reserve Act of 1913.

Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.

NOTES

1 See Ellen Brown, The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity

2 Needless to say, the warrior class has little love for Mother Nature, and little concern for her failing eco-system. Their god is Thanatos, the god of death. Happily, they would oversee the extinction of the human species. A total of 192 countries have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty that’s the closest thing we have to a working global agreement to fight climate change. The only nations that haven’t signed are Afghanistan, Sudan & the U.S.A.

2a Charles Hugh Smith (oftwominds.com) offers another solution. Why not build our decentralized government around cities? He refers to the writing of urban studies theorist, Richard Florida.

3 See ratical.org for an online copy of Butler’s War Is A Racket.

4 As mentioned earlier in this essay. This was the system that prevailed during the Revolutionary War. Speculators ran around buying up war bonds that returning soldiers would sell for as little as fifteen cents on the dollar. These same speculators then demanded that the full value of the bonds be honored. The U.S. Constitution was written in part to satisfy these demands. Article I, Section 10 prevents states from passing laws, “impairing the Obligation of Contracts.” When these words were written the contracts being referred to were the bonds that the speculators had bought up for as little as fifteen cents on the dollar.

5 See Arthur D. Robbins, “Do Away With Elections?” http://www.intrepidreport.com/archives/15514

6 According to Forbes magazine there are 1,810 billionaires in the world worth a total of $6.5 trillion.

Posted in USA, Politics, RWANDAComments Off on Deconstructing the State. Getting Smaller. Developing the Local Economy. Redirecting the Power from the Centre to the Periphery

The Rwanda the world doesn’t know

An interview with Anjan Sundaram, author of ‘Bad news: Last journalists in a dictatorship’
KYP

Journalist Anjan Sundaram’s book on Rwanda exposes a terrifying dictatorship at the heart of Africa that few people get to hear about. Paul Kagame has tremendously succeeded – with the eager help of his western backers – to feed the world a carefully choreographed false narrative. His chilling tyranny is so pervasive and entrenched that Rwandans police themselves unbidden.

Zahra Moloo: What took you to Rwanda and what inspired you to write this book?

Anjan Sundaram: I went to Rwanda in 2009 to write my first book about Congo and really I was looking for a quiet place. I thought the country was peaceful, even a little boring, a great place to write a book. I began to teach local journalists as a way to make some money and also engage with local society, but very quickly, I learnt that the local journalists I was working with were living and working in a climate of great repression. One of them had been beaten into a coma, after bringing up the harassment of the press in front of President Kagame of Rwanda. Another young woman had been in prison for many years and physically and psychologically abused, she was sick with HIV. These stories alerted me to the climate of repression that largely goes untold about Rwanda.

Zahra Moloo: Can you tell me more about the journalists you worked with in the program? One of your students, Gibson, started a magazine, and the stories that they were covering were very innocuous stories, about malnutrition, things that seem pretty normal on the surface. What was it, or why is it, so difficult to write about these kinds of issues?

Anjan Sundaram: The Rwandan government is extremely sensitive to any kind of criticism. It’s almost impossible to practice journalism in a normal way. I was shocked when I arrived and when I asked my students “Could you question the national budget?” and they said, “No way. Our lives and physical safety would be endangered were we to question government decisions, even basic government decisions.” Gibson was one of my most talented students, one of the students I became closest to. He was a student of philosophy, a remarkably intelligent man. What he tried to do was not to address the problem of malnutrition in Rwanda directly, because that would have been too dangerous. He began to write articles that inform mothers and parents how they might feed their children without explicitly saying that there was a problem of malnutrition.

Officially, hunger had been abolished in Rwanda. Agricultural productivity had increased several times and there was no problem of hunger. Even today, a month ago, there was a report of a hundred thousand people being affected by famine in Rwanda, and this famine is generalized in all of East Africa. There was a single report and we’ve heard nothing since. Same thing happened in 2007: there were reports of famine in South East Rwanda and North East Burundi. In North East Burundi, aid organizations came in hordes, feeding people, protecting people, saving people. In Rwanda officially there was no famine. We don’t know how many people died, whether they were saved or what was done to help them.

This is the situation in Rwanda. Any news that is seen as criticizing the government, that could be anything, the government takes very personally and sees it as criticism of its governance style.  For that reason, journalists remain silent, huge problems in society go untold and therefore unaddressed. I write in my book that a society that can’t speak is like a body that can’t feel pain.

Zahra Moloo: Going through the book, you really get into the lives of some of your students. Can you give a few examples of what happened to them over the course of your time teaching?

Anjan Sundaram: Among the twelve journalists I taught, none of them are practicing today. One of my colleagues was shot dead on the day he criticized Paul Kagame. Two others fled the country fearing for their lives. Others abandoned journalism or joined the presidential propaganda team. I’ve documented in my book over 60 journalists who over the last 20 years have fled the country, fearing for their lives, disappeared, been imprisoned, tortured, arrested or killed after criticizing the Rwandan government. That’s one journalist every four months. This intimidation and repression of the free press in Rwanda has gone largely untold in Rwanda and in the international press.

Zahra Moloo: And why do you think that is – why is it that this narrative persists, that Rwanda is a ‘successful’ country, that it’s very successful economically, that it knows how to carry out development activities? Why is there this silence?

Anjan Sundaram: The Rwandan government’s propaganda has been really powerful and it’s been amplified by the destruction of the local press. The international press relies heavily on local journalists for the news that we read. Any foreign correspondent worth his or her salt will tell you that the reporting is only as good as the local journalists they are working with. In Rwanda these local journalists are silent and this means that the foreign correspondents who come into Rwanda don’t have credible information. I remember I met a Russian UN worker in Rwanda, a few days after he arrived in the country and I asked him, ‘What do you think of Rwanda?’ and he laughed and said, ‘It’s just like the Soviet Union. I opened the newspaper this morning and there’s only good news.’

So many journalists who come into Rwanda and have not lived in a dictatorship might see these positive stories, all this good news and believe that it’s true. But people who’ve lived in a dictatorship know that one needs to listen differently to people in a dictatorship when they cannot speak freely. They see only good news; they see it as a sign that something is wrong here. So it takes a different way of listening. The Western press, I would say, is inadequately prepared to report on dictatorships in which the local press has been silenced in quite a sophisticated fashion.

Zahra Moloo: Can you talk about how you felt living there – you said when you arrived you found it was quite boring; you talk in your book about how there was an explosion and you arrived at the scene and there were authorities trying to cover up what happened and said, “Nothing is happening here.” Can you talk about how it felt to be living in a dictatorship like this?

Anjan Sundaram: The predominant sense one gets living in a dictatorship is of betrayal. Everything betrays you. Everyone you know can betray you. Friends betray you. Your very senses betray you. What you see as peace you realize is a silence that is created by fear. And so all your first impressions at some point are betrayed and it creates a feeling of terror when you can’t trust anything or anyone and that’s really the sense that I try to portray in the book. I experienced this a little bit growing up and I know other people in Rwanda who, having grown up in repressive societies, also felt the same.

But for the majority, it’s possible to live a really nice life in Kigali if you don’t want to confront the repression that is happening in society. This I think is the real achievement of the modern dictatorship where you don’t have spies following you in the street in trench coats, the phone doesn’t crackle when you’re speaking. Government officials wear Western suits and say, ‘We’re open for business.’ They’re very suave; they’ve been educated in the best western universities. They speak the language of the West.

I was exposed to the society Rwandans lived in because I was working with local journalists who were telling me, for example, when the government abused its citizens, when people disappeared, when people were found dead, when, for example, thousands of Rwandans made themselves homeless and destroyed their homes under government orders. I lived a double life in Rwanda where I was for the one part in this expat bubble and for another part seeing severe repression and fear on a daily basis.

Zahra Moloo: What’s interesting about your book and what’s terrifying is that this dictatorship functions in such a way that people self-censor and self-police. I am wondering if you can talk about the system of surveillance in place in rural Rwanda – you talk about people destroying their own houses; you mentioned in your book how people can turn against their own families. Can you tell me more about how that seemed to work from your perspective?

Anjan Sundaram: The system that was used to execute the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 is still in place today. The country is controlled and monitored at a minute level. The entire country is divided into little villages, each village is about 150 families. Each village has a chief and an informer and orders pass from the centre to and from these villages very efficiently and you see the power of this system in benign things that happen. For example when the president bans plastic bags, plastic bags disappear overnight. That’s a good thing. When the president tells people to wear rubber slippers, they wear rubber slippers overnight. When he tells them to come out and vote, you see participation rates that are unheard of in other countries, 95% participation rates. And of course the president gets nearly 100% of the vote.

What this system means is that things that we consider private in the West are public matters in Rwanda – who comes to your house, when, who is staying there, who you are meeting, what are you saying to them. All of these things are public affairs and there’s very little privacy. I met, for example, a mother who was very proud of the fact that she had betrayed her son, who was a rebel, and had turned him over to the authorities. When I asked her about this, she showed no shame, no remorse. She said she had done a very good thing by betraying her child. I’ve lived and worked in other dictatorships and repressive states, and this is an extremely insidious and pervasive form of dictatorship where people know that their loyalty to the state has to come before anything else.

I might add that I once met a genocidaire, who was performing community labour as punishment or reparation for having organized and killed in the genocide. One of the things he said to me was that in Rwanda people don’t know where the state ends and where people begin. He said to me, “If we don’t know where we begin, and what our human rights are, then how can you understand that other people have rights that one needs to respect?”

I thought it was a very profound statement of the problem in Rwanda, the situation people face. Of course it doesn’t justify what happened in the genocide, but you begin to understand the kind of society people live in and why so many people complied when the order went out in 1994 to kill in the genocide.

Zahra Moloo: I wanted to ask you about the genocide. You talk about how the government does not want anyone to criticize its official narratives. What is the official narrative on the genocide and why is it so problematic to question that?

Anjan Sundaram: The government of Paul Kagame in Rwanda, its legitimacy, and his legitimacy to rule is based almost entirely on the narrative that he ended the genocide, he saved thousands or perhaps millions of Tutsi people from being killed and that his forces were the force of good in the face of incredibly deep evil. Kagame criticizes the West for not having intervened during the genocide, some of which is legitimate; the world should have intervened regardless of local political dynamics at that time.

But there are many facts that run counter to this official narrative. For example, Kagame himself requested UN peacekeepers not to be deployed in Rwanda during the genocide, which we know would have saved thousands or perhaps tens or hundreds  of thousands of lives, of Tutsi lives, and he did this because he felt that they would interfere with his military objective which was to take over the country.

During the genocide, there are credible reports of his forces conducting ethnically motivated massacres of tens of thousands of people. And subsequent to the genocide there is very credible evidence, and I’ve seen some of the mass graves myself, of his forces having killed tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in what the UN has called “possibly genocidal killings.” Qualified as “possibly genocidal” with the caveat that a court would have to make that determination. But they have seen similar tactics that were used against the Tutsi in the genocide in Rwanda used against Hutu communities by Kagame’s forces in Congo. These facts have been suppressed for a long time with the support of the international community because they felt that it would destabilize Kagame’s government after a very tumultuous genocide that could have led to the country being completely shattered.

What Kagame has seen is that he can get away with crimes on an enormous scale without questioning, without investigations, without even the smallest allegations and that has made him incredibly arrogant. Over time, over the last 15, 20 years, we’ve seen the repression not decrease but increase. Independent institutions in Rwanda are non-existent today, power is concentrated in one person, in Paul Kagame. What he’s done is retain and reinforce the system that was used to conduct the genocide. He says he’s doing good, but that system, as we saw in 1994, is extremely dangerous and extremely powerful and was used to conduct a genocide and there is no reason why it could not be used again.

Zahra Moloo: Despite everything that you’ve described, the government continues to receive a huge amount of aid from Western donors. How is this maintained and justified?

Anjan Sundaram: I think there are a few reasons. I think the world feels a lot of guilt for not having intervened in the genocide in 1994. They feel they can redeem themselves by supporting Kagame’s government and giving him allowances. Bill Clinton himself said that, “I am willing to make allowances for a government that has made as much progress as this one,” and Clinton was speaking with regard to the destruction of Rwanda’s press. And we’ve seen this time and time again from Bill Clinton, Tony Blair.

Another reason is that the international community, the Western world, has long relied on dictatorships to advance their own interests, whether it’s Gaddafi, or Mubarak or Bashar al-Assad. All these dictators received a lot of money and it’s very convenient for Western societies, they don’t need to deal with local parliament, with civic debate; they just need to deal with one person, the person in charge, and corrupt them or make deals with them and they can advance Western interests or their countries’ interests.

I think in Rwanda it goes another step where the international aid community has found that dictatorships can be quite useful to execute and implement their aid programs. Aid agencies come in, like DfiD and USAID, they come in with their aid plans and when the government approves them you have 95% compliance rates where the same plan in India or Bangladesh might have 30% compliance rates if they are lucky. So they come in with plans for people to wash their hands, or go and visit the hospital, and the Rwandan government essentially orders people to go and follow these rules and aid agencies have developed a perverse relationship with repression. They come back and say, “listen, we got 9 million people to wash their hands, we got two million people to go and see doctors before childbirth, 2 million women”. But they are not incentivized to tell you how they achieved those results.

Zahra Moloo: I believe your training program was funded by the EU – was there any response to your book?

Anjan Sundaram: All the international aid agencies know what I am describing. They are fully aware of the repression, so my book has made it more difficult for them to claim that ‘We’re helping a million people’ and therefore this aid is justified. In an emergency situation, I think the aid would be justified to save lives in an extreme situation, but what we have in Rwanda today is a situation where aid is being used to ostensibly develop the country. Under such circumstances, the international aid community is complicit in building and strengthening a repressive Rwandan government that uses those same mechanisms to repress people. For example, the international aid community finances security forces. These same forces are then used to torture, kidnap, disappear people who have criticized the Rwandan government. All the benefits that Western aid is providing to Rwandan people are benefits that the Rwandan people would lose were they to criticize the government.

Zahra Moloo: Can you talk more about this link between Rwanda and Israel?

Anjan Sundaram: Sure. It’s a link that until recently was very shadowy and not talked about a lot. More recently we’ve seen reports of Rwandan government officials visiting Israel and Israeli military units and vice versa. There’s a very deep relationship between Israel and Rwanda because what they see is a similarity between the holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda. In fact, the narrative of the Rwandan genocide has been built on the template of the holocaust and on the template of a narrative where there was one side that was good and another side that was evil. Whereas, at least in the case of Rwanda, which I know well, that narrative is far more complex. Victims and people associated with victims went on to be complicit in massacres and ethnically motivated killings as well. So the narrative has been falsely constructed, but it is a powerful narrative and there is a close relationship between Israeli and Rwandan military services, and intelligence services.

More than one Rwandan military officer told me about how they’d been trained by Israeli military and even Congolese rebels in eastern Congo who were backed by Rwanda told me about how they had received Israeli military training. They showed me Israeli rifles that they had, Israeli guns. And told me very specific details about the training they received, survival training in the desert, knowledge of what plants to eat and how to survive in harsh and hostile environments, know-how in training that would be very difficult to come by in Central Africa. Even proxy rebels in Congo benefit from such training. But it hasn’t been widely publicized, this relationship between Israel and Rwanda, and for that reason, at least to my knowledge, the details are sparse and scattered.

Zahra Moloo: Your book is fascinating, but also very bleak. What possibility is there for people to have some sense of the future?

Anjan Sundaram: I think the situation in Rwanda is very grave. There is increasing likelihood that any transition of power will be accompanied by violence.  Since the 18th century, transition of power has always been accompanied by violence. We’ve seen dictatorships around the world, when there’s concentration of power and the destruction of independent institutions, that leads to violence later on, so Rwanda is in a very fragile and dangerous place today. That said, there are a number of very good people in Rwanda and outside Rwanda, good journalists, activists, politicians, all of these people can be harnessed and can be brought to the table to help rebuild Rwanda and help take it in a direction that would create a foundation for lasting peace.

The international community is a key player in any possible dialogue because they give nearly a billion dollars in aid to Rwanda every year. Were they to bring Rwandans who want to build democratic institutions to the table, force Kagame to dialogue with them, and force Kagame to re-build some of those institutions, there would be hope for Rwanda. All is not lost.

Posted in Africa, RWANDAComments Off on The Rwanda the world doesn’t know


Shoah’s pages

www.shoah.org.uk

KEEP SHOAH UP AND RUNNING

June 2017
M T W T F S S
« May    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930