Thursday, 1 January 2009

Unite or Perish

Why do you think the old British American colonies declared in 1776 that they would act in unison to build a new independent nation? Many feared being subsumed into a united America could cause its own problems. In the end, they were persuaded by the succinct eloquence of Benjamin Franklin: “We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Today the citizens of the world don’t have mad George (the eighteenth century monarch or his contemporary namesake – not after the end of his term of office anyway) sending troops all over the globe demanding submission. But the threat we’re having to face is no less daunting.

For decades now business giants have made themselves the ruler of the seven seas. Their plutocratic regime has a wider span and firmer grip than the British Empire ever attained. In pursuit of their own short-term profit, they have pressed ahead regardless of the dire problems they cause for others. Unions can no longer protect workers when corporate bosses can cut pay or move jobs abroad at will. The media fuel a consumerist culture so that parents not endlessly buying new products risk being seen as failures by their own children. Allies in governments help to block environmental action and allow pollution to reach ever more dangerous levels. And to cap it all, financial transactions became so deregulated that irresponsible lending plunged the world into a deep recession.

What the plutocrats fear is concerted democratic action – citizens of the world acting together through a global government capable of challenging the cynical hegemony of powerful corporations. And that is precisely what we must press for above all else.

Of course you will be told that there are many more urgent issues governments have to turn their attention to. But none of them acting alone stands any chance of delivering the solutions we need. To have real long term employment prospects (instead of the ‘hired today, fired tomorrow’ flexible jobs), to replace destructive consumerism by a sustainable planetary future, and to stop the senseless recurrence of economic crises, we must have a government with worldwide jurisdiction and accountability to all citizens to stop business powers from trampling on us.

What about the threat posed by a world government? In truth, decisions affecting the entire world have been made by an unaccountable elite for decades. Arms sold to oppressive regimes, carbon emission increased, tax havens protected, these things happen because the people giving the go-ahead do not have to account for them to the global public, or think about losing their positions of power at the next election.

Ultimately, the United States were stronger and prospered because the separate colonies decided to join forces. Democratic arrangements made sure the federal government would on the whole act in the interests of all. A democratic global government would likewise safeguard the interests of citizens around the world. Time is running out. The world must learn to unite, or most assuredly, it will fall apart.

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