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“Governing the Earth: Current Political Chaos Demands a Transformation of the United Nations” (Global Research)

Global Research

“Governing the Earth: Current Political Chaos

Demands a Transformation of the United Nations”

September 2, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

The destruction of the Amazon jungles by right-wing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro threatens to end our civilization and to condemn the next generation to death and destruction. This is a truly existential moment for us, to use the hackneyed term employed in the media so frequently that most people forget its significance. But as the Amazon burns, due to fires set by those seeking to make short-term profits for the few off of the jungles that purify the atmosphere shared by all of humanity, we are made aware of how completely defenseless we are.

The United Nations can make statements, famed intellectuals can write editorials, NGOs can protest in front of Brazilian embassies, and citizens can sign petitions, but we are essentially powerless in the face of a criminal effort to destroy our future.

Some are so married to the idea of solving all problems peacefully through discussion that they cannot imagine real resistance. Or they are so accustomed to opposing demands for regime change that come from right-wing think thanks that they are allergic to the very concept—even when it is necessary for our survival.

But a progressive form of regime change

[emanating from the grassroots]

is an entirely legitimate thing for concerned citizens to advocate for. Do not forget the thousands of committed youth who went to Spain in the 1930s to fight against Franco’s fascist regime. There was no shame in the word regime change then, nor should there have been. Nor was there any shame in the use of the force of arms to combat the fascistic governments that were set on slaughtering the majority of humanity in a ruthless quest for “living space.”

There can be no mistaking the threat of totalitarian governance and the destruction of the ecosystem and of humanity in the ruthless search for profit. We cannot ignore the pressing need to transform our world and that will require more than signing petitions. It will require us to reinvent global governance, not as a tool for investment bankers and wealthy philanthropists to flatter themselves, but as a means to address the threats of ecological collapse, militarism and the massive concentration of wealth.

It is no mystery why the G7, the G20, the United Nations and other global organizations are entirely powerless to respond to burning of the Amazon, even as scientists describe it as a threat to life on earth that may be the equivalent of a world war.

The radical concentration of wealth has made those global organizations into the play toys of those with money.

And the superrich have somehow convinced themselves that money and technology can save them from the catastrophe that awaits us. That attitude is best summed up by Lt. Gen. Steven L. Kwast, of the recently launched “Space Command” which will bring the war for dominance into low orbit, into a region that should be the shared legacy of all of humanity. Kwast notes,

“There is also a marketplace of opportunity for humans not only to live and thrive in space, but also to have a place to go if there is ever any problem with Earth whether it is from an asteroid, from a disease, or any kind scourge of human nature or of nature that can threaten human life. This is the broad arch of history that we sometimes forget because we have lived in such a cocoon of protection and security for so long that we forget the fact that there is a cycle asteroids and of contagion that can wipe out from the dinosaurs to the human race. And there is nothing you can do about it unless you have a sanctuary you can go to.”

Kwast does not use the word “climate change,” but there can be no doubt that it is what he refers to by a “problem with Earth.” He is selling a delusional fantasy that somehow the control of space will allow some to survive catastrophe. This superficial and thoughtless strategy is typical of the bankruptcy of global governance today and it is leading us towards military conflicts in space, in the Arctic and the Antarctic, and in the oceans which should be a shared commons, not the exclusive property of corporations.

We face an ideological and systemic collapse around the world that is at least as dangerous as that which we face when the United Nations was established in 1942 and that even if Trump and Bolsonaro are not sending millions to death camps yet, their assault on the climate and their embrace of fossil fuels will be far more lethal for humanity than were the German death camps.

We need a vision for a future world that will move beyond this suicidal consumption-driven and military-dominated society and will inspire us to risk everything we have to fight against such dark powers as they tear our world apart.

The United Nations did not suddenly spring into being. It was at the center of the drive to battle against fascist movements which had taken over many nations through force and by ideological struggles, roaming over large swaths of the Earth and threatening to destroy much of humanity. It was a time, that is, not unlike our own.

A small group of intellectuals and political activists risked their lives in all corners of the Earth to fight against totalitarianism, and advocate for internationalism and for peace. Eventually, they joined forces with Russia, China, the United States and Great Britain, and with other exiled governments in London, Washington and Shanghai. There were profound compromises in that process, but together they planned not only for the defeat of the Fascists, but also for a new form of global governance.

Those who had battled against Fascism in the streets of Europe and Asia came together for a brief moment with those who held institutional power and were able to rise above the exploitative systems that had put them in power. The wisdom and the experience of those who had led the struggle was reflected in government policy for a change, and an institution dedicated to true global governance, both inspiring and infinitely practical, was established.

The “United Nations” grew out of the struggle to create a new system for international relations that can be traced back to the Hague Peace Conventions of 1899, 1907 and 1914 (the final one was disrupted by the outbreak of World War I). Those peace conventions codified the principles of international law, proposed, and started to implement global regimes for disarmament, and promulgated humanitarian laws for the conduct of diplomacy, trade and war that included the punishment of war crimes. The tradition of the Hague Peace Conventions, although completely ignored by the media today, was the source of much of what we think of as international law beyond trade policy. That tradition is what we most desperately need today.

The proposals of the Hague Peace Conventions were developed further in the League of Nations after the catastrophe of the First World War, moving the Earth closer to a form of global governance that could counter global governance driven by multinational corporations. This effort culminated in the Kellogg–Briand Pact of 1928 which set up a framework to end war in a systematic, legal and institutional manner.

That effort did not succeed, as we know from the rise of Fascism, but it did not fail entirely either. The Hegelian spiral continued upwards and even in the midst of the chaos of the Second World War, the United Nations took shape, and a small group of intellectuals and activists around the world struggled to push forward with a new model for true governance.

Sadly, the United States, flushed with confidence after its victory in the Second World War, was unable to pass up the temptation to inherit the spoils of the British Empire. By the end of the Korean War, the financial elites with deep ties to London were victorious over those Americans who had taken cause with the global struggle against Fascism. The United States thereafter turned the Soviet Union into a rival, rather than a partner for world peace. The Cold War was born and the United Nations was still born.

But even if the United Nations did not realize its full potential during the Cold War l, it continued to play a critical role defusing crises and proposing solutions to intractable global problems.

The end of political economies focused on a socialist model in Russia and China has profoundly distorted the discourse on policy in the United Nations because the previous pushback on issues of class and capital has vanished. Yet, even after the United Nations’ budget was stripped to the bone during the George W. Bush Administration and United Nations resolutions were ignored as a matter of course, even as American policy drifted further and further away from international law under the Trump administration, the United Nations remained vital as the place to which citizens of the Earth feel that they can appeal for justice and for guidance.

The United Nations, stuffed with retired bureaucrats in cushy jobs, funded (directly and indirectly) by multinational corporations and billionaires, continues to drift away from it moorings. And yet, again and again, we appeal to it to play the role that no other institution can play, and on occasion it stand for the greater good and for ethical policy.

The desire for an agency of global governance accountable to the people, in contrast to numerous secretive and self-interested institutions that dominate global governance such as G7 and the International Monetary Fund, has been enough to keep the United Nations going even through the most difficult of times. The United States, however, never regained the institutional commitment to the United Nations it had under President Franklin Roosevelt.

We are facing political and ideological dangers equal to, or greater than, those that we faced in 1942. We have not yet witnessed anything in this struggle, in this chaos, as horrible as the slaughter of millions by the Nazi armies in Poland, the Soviet Union and China. Nevertheless, the decision of the United States to renounce all arms control treaties, to launch wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere (and to openly prepare for war with Iran, Russia and China) suggest that a conflict on that scale (or greater) is entirely possible.

The complete collapse of arms control policy in the United States, now that right-wing and corporate power has taken complete control of global and national governance, is best embodied by the ideologue and psychopath John Bolton who has opened wide the gates of hell. The United States and Russia now have thousands of nuclear weapons that are thousands of times more powerful than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The threat of war against China made by US vice president John Pence, a fascistic “Christian” leader who has drunk his full at the teat of militarism, suggests that total war is not just something to be experienced vicariously on video games, but quite plausible as American policy. If Trump is not afraid of the catastrophic implications of climate change what makes you think that he is afraid of nuclear war?

The breakdown in global governance cannot be separated from the concentration of wealth. We now see in the mainstream media, on Facebook or Twitter (which is the only media most citizens have access to unless they come from privileged and educated families) that opinions on climate, economics, and geopolitics comes primarily from billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg, or from their shills, and not from individuals with expertise, or with a deep ethical commitment to the common good.

The “Wealth-X World Ultra Wealth Report 2018” reported that 255,810 “ultra high net worth” (UHNW) individuals (people with over $30 million USD in assets) now control $31.5 trillion USD. That amount is greater than the total assets controlled by 80 percent of the Earth’s population, some 5.6 billion people. The increase in the wealth of these UHNW increased by 16.3% between 2016 and 2017, and when the figures are released for this 2018, the rate of increase will most likely be far higher. It is these superrich, and not the United Nations bureaucrats, who call the shots in global governance today.

Don’t reform the United Nations; Transform the United Nations

The current institutional decay of national, regional and international institutions is not theoretical or forthcoming. It is right here, right now. The global liberal order that once we trusted to guide us forward has collapsed, leaving behind a smoking crater wherein investment bankers and their lackeys spar with vicious fascist tribes.

And although those groups may disagree about who gets what part of the spoils, they are working together to burn down the Amazon, and to prepare for war with China and Russia; they are deadly serious and they have no intention of backing down—or even of negotiating.

Don’t bother asking them what they are going to do; ask yourself, what are we going to do?

Such a dangerous and unstable world demands from us nothing less than a global response. “Global” does not refer to shared Facebook postings, but rather a coordinated international effort by committed citizens of the Earth who are at least as well organized as the investment bankers, and ethnic nationalists that we are up against.

This unstable world also demands that we form institutions that go beyond the limited capacity of the United Nations so as to address the single greatest political issue: The Earth is excessively integrated in terms of finance, manufacturing, distribution and consumption but we remain complete strangers when it comes to collaboration between ethical intellectuals and citizens groups. We need a global system that supports, first and foremost,the rational scientific analysis of the causes of the threats that we face, and that oversees the immediate and effective implementation of a massive response for the entire Earth—regardless of borders.

Numerous proposals for United Nations reform have been made over the last six decades. Some, like the Millennium Development Goals, have been partially implemented. Yet the vast majority of the ideas proposed have been left to rot because the United Nations, and the nation states of which it is comprised, are increasingly manipulated by global investment banks and other vested interests who are concerned primarily with their own profits.

The hour is late and the institutional rot is deep. Whether we look at the degeneration of United Nations’ assignments into perks for bureaucrats or the commercialization and the privatization of the policy making process, the UN is no longer able to rise to the critical tasks of preventing world war, ending the unholy concentration of wealth, or reducing the catastrophic warming of our Earth.

The Earth Congress

The current situation is so serious that a laundry list of piecemeal reforms for the United Nations will not do. What we need is a proposal for a massive structural transformation, not a progressive adjustment, that will change the function of the United Nations, and be a shift equivalent to the move from the League of Nations to the United Nations.

We must make the United Nations a bicameral representative institution, vaguely akin to the United States Congress, or to Great Britain’s Parliament, so that it no longer represents the outdated institutions known as nation states, but also represents the citizens of the Earth in a democratic manner. That is to say we must make it function more like a government, but do so by making it directly representative.

Such a move will give the United Nations back the mandate that it had in 1942.

The current United Nations assembly should become the upper house, the equivalent of the Senate in the United States. This upper house, which could keep the title “United Nations,” will offer each nation state a single representative. The current Security Council, however, should be replaced with a speaker elected by all members of the United Nations who works together with permanent and ad hoc committees to address economic, security, welfare and environmental issues for the Earth as a whole.

The majority of the authority in global governance, however, should be transferred to a new legislative body that will serve as the rough equivalent of a lower house, or a “House of Representatives.” The analogy to a lower house is limited, however, because this assembly will play the central role in global governance.

This legislature, hereafter referred to as the “Earth Congress,” will serve as a means of representing the needs and the concerns of the citizens of the Earth at the local level, while at the same time functioning as global institution for the formulation and for the implementation of policies for the entire Earth. It will carry out the global governance function which is currently monopolized by investment banks, multinational corporations and the consulting firms that they support, and then forced upon nation states through corrupt political systems.

The Earth Congress will be directly engaged with citizens around the world, both responding to the actual concerns of local populations and representing their interests and also informing them about global issues in a scientific and rational manner. It will establish a global dialog for the formulation of policy and the policy that it produces will be binding across the entire Earth. It will not be an oppressive world government because it will be far more democratic in nature than most current nation states. Moreover the Earth Congress will provide funding for global action based on an objective assessment of the Earth’s needs. It will not be dependent on the whims of billionaires or the profits of corporations in order to implement its goals.

Although the Earth Congress will draw on the traditions of the League of Nations and of the United Nations, it will go further by taking full advantage of new technologies to facilitate the promotion of true cooperation around the world whether dialog between citizens, joint research between scientists or cooperation on global issues between governments. It will not have a central building where representatives gather, but will rather have its meeting places distributed across the Earth, even as policy is formulated in a centralized manner.

Because the Earth Congress is concerned with democratic governance, education must be a critical part of its mission. Governance is in decline around the world not so much because of corrupt politicians, but because the media and educational organizations on which we depend have declined radically in their quality and therefore most citizens of the Earth are encouraged to respond to gimmicks and fads rather than to engage in rational discourse and objective analysis. The citizens of the Earth are subject to a broad anti-intellectual attack that makes political discourse difficult and ethical governance nearly impossible.

The Earth Congress must offer to citizens around the world the chance to learn about the critical problems that we face and at the same time opportunities to participate in governance at the local level that will be reflected in policy discussions at the global level. Such a process requires a radical restructuring of the value systems promoted by business in the local economy so as to make participation in political discourse a high priority.

The Earth Congress will take the lead in formulating strategies that allow citizens to work together with their peers around the world. Trade will no longer be limited to the import and export of goods monopolized by large corporations in a manner that greatly increases carbons emissions. Rather a truly shared economy will be established in which communities around the world can find like interests and coordinate their own micro-trade and manufacturing cooperatives so as to form a citizen-based global integration that counters the current concentration of capital in the hands of those who dominate trade and finance. Such efforts should not be a sideshow, but rather central to the future of global governance.

The actions of for-profit organizations that seek to obtain short-term benefits through the destruction of the Earth’s resources will be strictly regulated by the Earth Congress. The Earth Congress, funded by a system of local contributions, must serve as a global organization that capable of both assessing impact of current corporate exploitation of resource and of definitively stopping such actions. It will be capable overriding the criminal actions taking place in Brazil today, or creating a long-term plan to wean the Middle East permanently of dependence on petroleum for economic development.

The Earth Congress will regulate, on behalf of the population of the entire Earth, the oceans, the Arctic and the Antarctic, the atmosphere and the satellites and other devices that orbit the Earth, and it will set out transparent and effective regulations to assure that the internet is based entirely on renewable energy, is accessible to all and promotes an open intellectual discourse based on the scientific method.

Policy will be made within the Earth Congress, and not by law firms, or by think tanks, or by consulting firms that lack transparency or accountability. The Earth Congress will be funded by contributions from citizens (which will ultimately be obligatory like taxes) across the Earth. It will employ such an approach because it allows it to create institutions to govern the world that will replace those based on profit today which do not consider the health of society or of the Earth. The Earth Congress will not be allowed to accept questionable forms of support from profit-seeking organizations.

It is better to have a smaller budget and be able to make accurate and objective decisions than to have massive funding that promotes corrupt and dangerous policies.

The Earth Congress, as the primary legislative body of the United Nations, will determine representation according to the population of the entire Earth.

Perhaps one representative can be assigned for every 50 million people (120 representatives for 6 billion people). Some parts of the representation should be determined geographically (to represent regions like Africa or South America) but at the same time, there must be members of the Earth Congress who represent groups who are a significant part of the Earth’s population, but who are too few in number to have direct representation in local government. For example, the extreme poor, or the handicapped, should be granted representatives to reflect their global significance, even though they do not represent a large population in any one country. Such an approach will provide a global democracy to counter the global tyranny of multinational corporations.

The Earth Congress will be responsible for assessing the long-term interests of humanity and of our precious Earth without concern for national boundaries, or for special interests. It will then propose long-term solutions to current challenges and implement them on a global scale.

The Earth Congress must insist on long-term (minimum of 30 years) solutions to the most critical issues facing the Earth and will encourage thoughtful and frank discussions about security concerns such as climate change and immigration that are not driven by a need for symbolic images, but real solutions.

Because it makes long-term policy, the Earth Congress will also provide long-term financing globally that will make solar and wind power, and other organic farming projects readily affordable for citizens of the Earth.

The Earth Congress must move beyond the short-term, case by case, arbitration of economic and political conflicts of interests between nation states that have paralyzed the United Nations. Rather it will plan for the future of humanity in an integrated manner with a focus on the long-term ecological health of the Earth.

Problems such as saving dying oceans, reducing the emissions of dangerous chemicals, countering the spread of deserts and stopping the proliferation of dangerous weapons cannot be addressed by nation states or international organizations that are dependent on the good will of the wealthy.

For the Earth Congress, security will be defined as protecting the Earth and its inhabitants. Its inhabitants are not only humans but also indigenous animal and plant life. It is a basic assumption within this new approach to global governance that no one owns the oceans, the air, or the land and that all modern concepts like “real estate” and extraction are extremely limited in authority. The Earth Congress will strictly regulate fishing, pollution of the air and the water, the destruction of soil and of natural habitats and it will focus on projects to restore the natural environment.

The interaction of experts in the Earth sciences, the environment, agriculture and technology with groups that are deeply engaged with ordinary citizens and with representatives of local governments will create a positive cycle of inquiry, objective analysis, constructive proposals and transparent and global implementation that will usher in a new age for meaningful global governance.

The future of global governance

There is nothing idealistic or unrealistic about this proposal for the meaningful reform of global governance.

We already have a highly integrated system for global governance administrated by investment banks and sovereign wealth funds which use banks of supercomputers to calculate their short-term profits and force through policy at the local, national and international level to support their interests.

The rapid advancement of communication technologies taking place today has already established a form of global governance that overpowers the nation-state, whether we like it or not, whether we know it, or not. Our only choice is to embrace the best of the traditions of moral philosophy and good governance, and to use our creativity and our industriousness so that we can create a better model for global governance, on that addresses in a direct and long-term manner the tremendous challenges of the current age, rather than the short-term profits of the few.

Unable to cry on the eve of the apocalypse

Unable to cry on the even of the apocalypse

It was such a strange day, a beautiful day in many respects, here in McLean. But it was overshadowed by the terrible fires that burn just beyond the horizon, fires that reminded me of that terrible marriage of the human brain, in its three contradictory modes, cognitive, emotional and instinctive, with the computer, massively-parallel, but incapable of holistic thought.

I often wondered what the third world war would be like. A war between the United States and Russia, or China, using nuclear weapons, or other outlandish weapons. I had lots of hints from movies and books as to what that war might be.

But it was only very recently that it occurred to me that the war might be a conflict between a handful of the super rich and their supercomputers calculating profits every millisecond on the one side and our precious Earth on the other side. The rest of us, although we might be caught up, or maimed, or killed in various battles, would ultimately be on the sidelines in this terrible war. And of course none of this true war would ever be reported to us in newspapers or on television.

Let me write here again my poem from December, 2017

Ash or Steam?

Emanuel Pastreich

August 25, 2019

Some say our world will end in war

Some say it has a steamy fate

From what glimpsed in man’s core

I go with those who fear for war

But indifference to our children’s’ fate

Is, in its own way, cruel as hate

So horrific what lies in store

The hour being late

That doom requires nothing more


“경계해야 할 ‘통일대학론’ “


“경계해야 할 ‘통일대박론’ ”

2019년 7월 29일

임마누엘  페스트라이쉬

2014년 1월 박근혜 당시 대통령이 새해 기자회견에서 ‘통일대박론’을 처음 주창했다. 남과 북이 통일되면 한국이 경제적으로 엄청난 이익을 얻을 수 있다는 논리일 텐데 통일대박론의 맹위는 정권이 바뀐 지금에도 여전하다. 그러나 ‘대박’이란 단어가 함유하고 있는 역사적 배경 중에는 한국인들이 잊어버린 게 하나 있다.

1930년대 만주국 개발론자들이 즐겨 쓰던 ‘보로모케(떼돈벌이·ぼろ儲け)’란 단어가 있다. 당시 일제는 괴뢰 만주국과 조선을 통일하려 했는데 그때 조선인들에게 만주 개발을 홍보하며 썼던 단어가 ‘보로모케’, 즉 대박이다. 조선총독부가 ‘조만일여’론을 주창하며 조선 자본가들에게 만주의 석탄자원 등의 채굴에 참여하고 철도와 기타 부동산, 공장 등에 투자해 ‘대박’나라고 홍보했다. 신문 광고에는 ‘일확천금’이란 단어가 자주 등장했고 이광수 같은 작가도 열심히 선전에 참여했다.

당시 만주 개발론자들에게 만주와 조선의 평범한 민중들을 위한 풍요로운 공동체 건설 따위의 철학은 없었다. 만주군 군관학교를 다녔던 박정희도 마찬가지였다. <대일본 만주국의 유산>(고단샤, 2010)이라는 책에 관련 일화가 나온다. 기시 노부스케는 1936년 만주국 정부 산업부 차관이었다. 박정희는 이후 일본 총리가 된 기시를 1961년 11월에 만났다. 기시는 박정희 당시 대통령과의 대화에서 ‘만주 개발 5개년 계획’이 실제로 잘 안됐던 것을 언급했고 박 대통령은 만주국에서 못해낸 경제발전론을 한국에서 이어받겠다고 강조했다. 이후 강남 개발로 땅부자들이 생겨났지만 그곳에 원래 살던 진짜 땅주인들은 뿔뿔이 흩어져야 했다.

1930년대 만주 개발의 수혜는 누가 다 가져갔을까? 만주의 평범한 농민들이 만주 개발로 부자가 됐을까? 결국 부자가 된 건 조선과 일본의 자본가들이었다. 만주 주민들의 균등한 삶의 질 향상은 없었다.

‘조선·만주를 통일하고 만주의 자원을 개발해 경제대박을 내자’는 만주 개발론을 보고 따랐던 박정희의 딸인 박근혜 전 대통령이 용어까지 비슷한 ‘통일대박론’을 들고나왔다. 통일을 경제발전의 논리로 국한시키는 그 철학에도 놀랐지만, 아버지 때의 만주 개발 선전용어였던 ‘대박’이란 단어를 비슷하게 따온 것에서도 놀랐다. 그러나 한국인들은 이 대박이라는 단어의 역사적 맥락을 잊어버린 것 같다.

만주와 조선을 통일하고 만주의 자원을 수탈해 부자가 되려 했던 일본과 조선의 자본가들이 즐겨 사용한 ‘대박’이란 단어를 남한 사람들이 사용한다는 것은 북한 민중의 심기를 거스를 수 있다. 남한 자본가들이 자신들을 수탈하려 한다고 오해할 수 있다. 나는 ‘한·몽 평화협력 회의’ 참석차 몽골을 방문한 적이 있다. 그런데 실제 논의가 된 것은 남한 자본이 어떻게 몽골 자원을 개발해 공장을 만드느냐 따위들이어서 크게 실망했다. 한국인들은 몽골이라는 대박을 터뜨리는 데만 관심을 두는 것 같았다. 지금 북한을 바라보는 남한 사람들의 태도도 이와 비슷해 보인다.

문재인 정부도 노골적으로 ‘대박’이라는 단어만 쓰지 않을 뿐 통일에 대한 기본 철학은 박근혜 정부와 큰 차이가 없어 보인다. 남북정상회담 때 동행한 기업인들의 면면만 봐도 그렇다. 자본의 이익 창출 논리대로만 움직이며 사는 대기업 총수들이 문 대통령과 함께 북한을 방문했다.

북한까지 남한식으로 개발해서는 안된다. 남한에 여러 사회문제를 일으킨 경제개발 방식을 그대로 북한에 적용하겠다는 게 남한 자본가들과 그들에게 둘러싸인 문재인 정부의 인식이다. 북한도 남한처럼 대형마트가 골목상권을 다 장악해서 평범한 사람들이 망하는 식으로 개발되는 게 그게 한민족의 미래인가?

The Korean Fiction section at Kyobo Bookstore

Extinction Rebellion Korea protest, June 16, 2019

Sunday, June 16 2019 was a broiling hot day, more like August of a few years ago. But there was not much going on related to climate change, or the catastrophe that the Korean Peninsula is facing according to scientists, as we protested for Extinction Rebellion in Gwanghwamun Square.

There was a big meditation festival taking place, and also an educational program for children that allowed them to engage in various games. Our protest had a turnout of three people: myself (Emanuel) and the loyal group from Bucheon 부천, Mr Yu Jin-saeng and Ms. Choi Seohyeon 최서현. We spent two hours giving out our materials about climate change to interested people, giving our stickers away, talking with those who took the time to talk to us and introducing our climate change education program planned for July 4-5 in Bucheon.

It was a very meaningful afternoon, but I must say I was a bit shocked at how many people refused to take any material from us, and how few actually stopped to engage us in conversation and try to learn more. It seemed almost as if the topic of climate change has become a taboo, an illegal subject, in Korea. Certainly serious analysis about the seriousness of the current threat is banned from the mainstream media.

We plan to have another protest next week. Sunday, June 23 3-5 PM at the statue of King Sejong, Gwanghwamun, Seoul.

“미국 정치 누가 움직이는가 글로벌화, 반세계화, 사이코 민주주의”

“미국 정치 누가 움직이는가

글로벌화, 반세계화, 사이코 민주주의”

임마누엘 페스트라이쉬

안변진 (경희대 미래문명원)

2019년 6월 20일 4-6 PM

장소: 민주인권기념관 7층

서울특별시 용산구 한강대로71길 37

02 6918-0104

(한국민주주의연구소 & 민주화운동기념사업회)

Sixth protest against climate change in Gwanghwamun Today (June 2, 2019)

This afternoon, three of us gathered to protest against climate change in Gwanghwamun Square. It was an extremely hot day, indicative of the climate crisis, but we it was hard to get people to stop and listen. I think there was some progress made because of our use of a handout. Next time, we will have a proper teach-in for those who are interested. Do join us.

“한국인만 몰랐던 더 큰 통일” 이만열 인터뷰 (통일부 UNITV)

“한국인만 몰랐던 더 큰 통일”

[광화문 필통] 30화

2019년 5월 28일

(통일부 UNITV)

“America’s Clash of Civilizations Runs Up Against China’s Dialogue of Civilizations” Foreign Policy in Focus

Foreign Policy in Focus

“America’s Clash of Civilizations Runs Up Against China’s Dialogue of Civilizations”

May 28, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

When asked about relations with China, policy planning head of the U.S. State Department Kiron Skinner declared that the United States is in a “fight” with a “different civilization.” She then added, “It’s the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.”

That line was no slip of the tongue, and it has the fingerprints of Steve Bannon’s racial essentialism all over it. Skinner was not simply hearkening back to the Cold War and to the geopolitical struggles of the 1950s, as terrifying as that prospect might be given the vastly improved technologies for destroying life. Her reference to a fight with a “not Caucasian” civilization hearkened back to the “Yellow Peril” fear mongering that swept through the United States in the nineteenth century. That drive to posit Asians as a cultural threat led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that made immigration from China illegal (and greatly limited immigration from East Asia).

Skinner went on to suggest that because China is a fundamentally alien civilization, arguments for human rights that worked when the United States confronted the Soviet Union are now “not really possible with China.” Skinner’s comments echoed Senator Albert Beveridge’s infamous speech to the Senate in 1901:

We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee under God, of the civilization of the world…China is our natural customer. The Philippines give us a base at the door of the East…it has been charged that our conduct of the (Spanish American War) has been cruel. Senators, it has been the reverse. Senators, remember that we are not dealing with Americans or Europeans. We are dealing with Orientals.

The warning that Skinner and Bannon are offering to Americans has nothing to do with the principles of free trade, or even of democracy and the rule of law, but rather is of a threat from an incurably alien value system.

The speech delivered by China’s President Xi Jinping at the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing on May 14 was intended as a clear response to Skinner’s remarks (and similar comments by Steve Bannon).

Xi avoided condemning the United States directly, suggesting rather that China, and all citizens of the Earth, should maintain a mind that is “able to take in the waters of a hundred rivers like the ocean.” Xi used the phrase “exchange and mutual learning between civilizations” to describe the process by which humanity advances, suggesting a universality in human experience that goes beyond a Western, post-enlightenment system of values and methods. He markedly refused to assign any developmental hierarchy to civilizations.

How deep a shift Xi’s words imply was not clear, but the repeated use of the term “equal dialogue” suggested that, whether it is neckties and hamburgers, economic growth calculations and Freudian psychology, the absolute authority of a single civilization needs to be replaced by an ongoing dialogue. The speech was grandiose filler, but offered a serious critique of the Eurocentric cultural order.

Xi traced Asian civilization back to the peoples who arose along the Tigris River in Mesopotamia, the Indus Rivers in India, and the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers in China. He named achievements in architecture, in painting and in philosophy, referring to masterpieces of literature like the Japanese novel The Tale of Genji, the ancient Indian poem collection The Rigveda, and the Arabic collection of short stories One Thousand and One Nights.

Xi proposed three conditions necessary for Asia to play a central role in the dialogue of civilizations and four principles that support his imagined “Community of Common Destiny” for the Earth.

The three conditions for dialogue in Asia are that Asians anticipate a peaceful and stable Asia, they prepare for an Asia of mutual prosperity, and they prepare for a financially open Asia.

The four principles for future cooperation are 1) maintain mutual respect and treat each other as equals; 2) recognize that there is perfection in all civilizations and that they can coexist; 3) uphold an open and accepting environment for reciprocal learning; 4) continue to progress through innovation in accord with the changing times,.

Whereas the Trump administration takes its inspiration from Samuel Huntington’s reactionary “clash of civilizations” and nineteenth-century xenophobic writings, the tradition of a dialogue of civilizations that Xi describes can be traced back to Leo Tolstoy. We can find precedents in the UNESCO intercultural dialogue of 1974 and Kofi Annan’s declaration of 2001 as the UN Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations. The Alliance of Civilizations launched by Turkey and Spain in 2005 promotes a similar vision.

Xi spoke of Chinese culture in terms of a series of exchanges with other civilizations throughout history: with Buddhism from India and Nepal, with Islam, and with European culture in the modern period. He mentioned Marxism as a part of the impact of European civilization, but otherwise the speech avoided the term socialism (although there were a few hints of Mao Zedong’s essay “On Contradictions” in his arguments).

I have attended many events in China that presented Chinese culture as the pinnacle of human achievement and emphasized a hierarchy of status among countries. I have worried about the disappearance of newspapers and books from Chinese society and the growth in its big cities of a voracious consumer society, about the treatment of Chinese workers in factories and the increasing power of the central government, all of which are global trends as well.

Nevertheless, the intellectual complexity of the speeches at the Dialogue of Civilizations, the open call for an internationalist perspective (as opposed to a globalist one), and the presumption that all civilizations are fundamentally equal provided a compelling alternative to the “clash of civilizations” rhetoric that is quickly degenerating into thoughtless xenophobia in the United States. The speeches I heard in Beijing reminded me of the intellectual complexity once found in the speeches of American politicians like Franklin Roosevelt and Adlai Stephenson. When it comes to a philosophy that can save the world, the old adage of ex oriente lux (the light comes from the East) seems to once again apply.




『人間の條件』  五味川純平 の小説をもとにして作った映画 ( 小林正樹 監督)