This is Part 5 in a 5-part history series focusing on US imperialism, globalization and neo-liberal economics across the world over the last 40 years. You can read the entire series here.
The preceding four parts have laid out a view that differs vastly from what we are consistently told by our corporate, government, media, and even many of our teachers. You, dear reader, are going to have to decide whether what has been laid out for you makes sense or not. If it doesn’t make sense to you, ignore it; throw it out. On the other hand, if it makes sense, what have you learned?
I think there are several arguments that have been presented and, I’d argue, have been well made and strongly supported. I will discuss them and then, afterwards, I’ll discuss some possible ramifications for your consideration.
- We can only understand what’s going on in this country—and, by implication, elsewhere—by looking at things from a global level. We must come to grips with the US being the heartland of the US Empire: this is crucial to understand the tremendous number of resources that have been diverted away from “ordinary” Americans—such as money for funding public education, health care and infrastructure; addressing social inequalities and inequities; and mitigating and adapting to climate change and other forms of environmental destruction, etc.—which has meant worsening conditions if not actual deprivation for growing numbers of people. In other words, I’m arguing we cannot make sense of things if we confine our thinking and analysis solely to the national level; we must take a global approach!
- US political, economic, and military leaders have betrayed most Americans: efforts by US “leaders” to dominate the world are not beneficial to people around the world nor ordinary Americans, serving only the elites, and complicity with this betrays the interests of the large majority of the world’s peoples. These so-called “leaders” have ravaged other countries—can we begin with Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? The list is actually much, much longer—while using resources to do such that should go to improving this country and people within it.
- In addition to supporting military operations around the world, economic leaders have sought our consent to their global operations around the world, suggesting that top-down globalization is inevitable, preferable, and unchallengeable.
- The privately held media is guilty of projecting their interests as if they were those of the US people. These are capitalist corporations whose primary purpose is to make a profit for investors and top-level managers, not to necessarily inform people, and certainly not beyond what corporate elites think ordinary people should be told. This is more than just television and cable news shows, but definitely includes the movie industry in all of its aspects. We must confiscate the assets of private media and distribute them to community-based organizations around the country.
- This paper argues that there is another form differing from top-down corporate/militaristic globalization and that is bottom-up, life-enhancing globalization, generally represented by the global economic and social justice (GESJ) movement. Groups and organizations have been fighting this top-down globalization for decades and in multiple locations around the globe, and efforts are intensifying to link them up to fight in solidarity with other liked minded groups and organizations. Groups and organizations that are fighting economic and political domination, even if not consciously doing from a global perspective, are objectively part of this global project, and we need to seek their conscious adherence to and understanding of the GESJ movement. Political movements and particular struggles worldwide should seek to advance the values, issues, and perspectives of the GESJ movement, and should consciously seek out other existing organizations for the purpose of building and furthering this global movement.
- This paper implicitly argues that the values of the GESJ movement—enhancing life in all of its forms, ending inequities between all people, while valuing the natural environment—are much more congruent with most Americans than are efforts to dominate people at home and around the world.
- At the same time, this paper has conclusively established that the political-economic system in the United States can no longer guarantee an expanding and more equal social order; in fact, it can only provide a disintegrating social order where inequities continue to grow. In other words, there is no possible return to the “golden years” (1947-1973), and anyone propagating otherwise is lying.
- And, finally, the US is officially bankrupt; the US government owes rich people and other countries who have bought our bonds over $32 trillion dollars, over 100% of the annual gross national product—and growing. All of the central bankers of the world know this. Should another country demand a shift in global reserves from dollars to a basket of currencies or a single currency (say, the Euro), this will likely cause our economy to crash. Perhaps unlikely in the short, or even medium term, this is all-but-certain over a longer period of time. When it happens—and it will—it could make the Great Depression a child’s game.
- In other words, while the current social order can hold in the short and perhaps even medium term, it definitely cannot hold in the longer term. There is an economic/social collapse heading our way—and our military power won’t prevent it—and the longer we wait to address these concerns, the greater the social devastation will be upon its arrival.
However, it should be noted that these findings have been presented without any stated concern about climate change and environmental destruction, which is increasingly being seen as even a greater immediate threat to life on this planet than social collapse such as presented here.
The threat is from capitalism itself, our political-economic system. To endure, capitalism must constantly expand production. Yet it is expanding production that is attacking our atmosphere, which protects Earth from solar energy, ultimately weakening this protection, threatening the very existence of human, animal, and most plant life on this planet by the turn of the 22nd Century.
In short, we have to reject capitalism in all of its forms, with its dependence on continued growth. We are going to have to make some difficult but essential choices around the essential question: continued growth with human extermination in the not-too-distant future, or creation of a world where production is minimized to essential levels, where environmental destruction is ended or at least severely constrained, where this production is done in the least detrimental manner and then done in the most egalitarian form conceivable, and where this production is distributed globally in the fairest manner possible.
To summarize: things are much worse than presented in this paper alone. A growing number of people are recognizing the worsening situation. Still, we have a long way to go. A few small steps that should be considered.
- We must understand that these choices have been made by politicians and their appointees that we elect, and that a political system that is funded by private and/or corporate donations is almost a guaranteed cesspool of malfeasance and corruption. We must end private/corporate donations and replace our election funding with public funding and strongly enforceable election laws that preclude jerrymandering and other projects that inhibit anyone from voting.
- We must drastically reduce our military and the funding on which it operates. We must close all US military bases—formal and informal, temporary or permanent—outside of the United States, and we must drastically reduce the number of bases inside the US. It seems that a 90 percent annual reduction in war spending is reasonable, will still protect the United States, and should be sought immediately; this should be combined with seeking similar spending cuts by each country in the world.
- We must greatly increase taxes on those making over $200,000 a year, and this must be progressive taxation: the more you make, the more you pay. Only one residence can be eligible for tax write-offs, and even that is ineligible beyond a certain square footage in size. We must demand that no one owns a second house until all have one.
- Governmental spending must be transferred from propagating war projects to enhancing life, ending inequities, and valuing the natural environment in the US and around the world.
- These suggestions are much too limited, and I hope others will eagerly surpass them.
The rhetoric US political and corporate “leaders” have been using on the American population—and which the mainstream media has been dutifully transmitting—suggests that things are wonderful and that we should not question them or their operations, either at home or overseas. Accepting this, as I’ve argued in this five-part article, we have allowed them to manipulate us and to do and accept things that have hurt people around the world as well as most Americans.
It is time to stop our acquiescence: we need to think critically, we need to focus on what’s important for all of us, and we need to build organizations that create power from the ground-upward. And we need to do this in alliance and consultation with good people around the world: we either do this or perish ignobly.
By discussing the issues of imperialism, globalization, and neo-liberal economics—issues not commonly discussed in US society—we hopefully now understand, or are beginning to understand, that there are forces effecting US society that are critical to understand but which most Americans are consciously being denied knowledge thereof. This is not a mistake; I argue it is intentional: our elites want to keep us confused, angry at each other, and thus unable to engage in collective action against them to change the situation.
This article began with a discussion of concepts to help us understand what is truly taking place. It was not just done for general purposes, but to show that we need to seek and/or create social forces that will allow people to have a chance to change things for the better. Clearly, if there’s anything to be learned from examining the past 40 years, it is that the economic and political elites of this country have consciously acted to initiate changes that have caused the resulting social problems, and they are not going to solve these problems for us: we have to get off our couches, off our knees, and to seek allies wherever in the world that we can find, work with, and develop with them.
This history series is co-published by ZNetwork and Green Social Thought.
Kim Scipes, PhD, a former printer, is a long-time trade unionist and labor activist, currently a member of the National Writers Union Local 1982, AFL-CIO. He is also Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Purdue University Northwest in Westville, Indiana, USA. He has published four books to date, and over 250 articles—in peer-reviewed, general specialty, and activist journals and newsletters—in the US and in 11 countries around the world. His work, including his entire book on the KMU Labor Center of the Philippines, can be accessed for free at Publications – Purdue University Northwest (pnw.edu). He is also a co-founder of LEPAIO (Labor Education Project on AFL-CIO International Operations), whose web site is at https://aflcio-int.education/.
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