Thursday, 15 March 2012

I’m Super-Rich, Get Me into the White House

The super-rich, deeply anxious that another term for Obama might hinder their exploitation of the other 99%, are determined to win back control of the White House. We have obtained a copy of their five-point guide for all Republican candidates to follow in the race for the Presidency:

No.1: Let the Rich Pay Less – Make the Rest Pay More

Promise you will cut taxes on capital gains and corporate income, and insist this will lift the burden on everyone when in fact it would only benefit the wealthy. Deny such tax cuts would make the public budget deficit even worse, because you will more than compensate for the loss of revenue by slashing welfare support by billions of dollars. Remember to look sincerely into the camera when you say that it’s best for the poor to learn to take care of themselves.

No.2: Free Movement for the Rich – Tight Controls for the Rest
While the rich and their money must continue to go wherever they want, loudly proclaim that poor people will not be allowed to sneak into our country. Remind everyone that it’s not the American Way to let people from abroad build a new home here. Serving illegal immigrants up as scapegoats is the one promise you will make to our indigenous poor. Come up with whatever device you wish (electrified fence, drone planes, genetically modified dogs) to keep (poor) foreigners out.

No.3: Keep the Rich Healthy – Forget about the Rest
Dismantle Obama’s reforms, as they might broaden access to quality healthcare for people who are far from rich. Tell the voters that unlike socialist Europe, it is not the business of the American government to be concerned with whether poor and sick people live or die. If they haven’t got a job that gets them health insurance, they have only themselves to blame.

No.4: Preach a Pro-Mammon but Anti-Gay Gospel
Ignore what Jesus said about how unlikely the rich would enter the kingdom of heaven, do nothing about the irresponsible predilections of deregulated banks, but focus on the spiritual importance of opposing gay marriage and banning abortion. Drape yourself with an American flag at all times lest you sound too much like an Islamic fundamentalist (see No.5 below).

No.5: Play the Middle East Card

As the Bin Laden card has been neutralised by Obama, pick another Middle Eastern villain. Syria is killing its own citizens, so don’t make that your priority. Go for Iran, because it is utterly unacceptable for any country to have nuclear weapons in the Middle East (except for Israel). Scaring people about the Middle East deflects attention from how we treat the poor at home, and helps our rich friends in the arms industry sell billions more dollars worth of deadly weapons over there.

[Note: All the Republican candidates have closely followed this five-point guide, with the exception of Ron Paul who doesn’t buy the anti-Iran stance of No.5, and of the remaining four candidates still in the race, he’s the only one who hasn’t won a single state in the Republican contest so far.]

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Much Ado About Cooperating

Amidst the angst and lament about social fragmentation, it is curious that the most tried and tested path of democratic cooperation should so often be overlooked for bringing people together to cultivate and pursue common goals.

Instead we get siren calls to submit to some arbitrary authority so as to end clashes and divisions. We’re told that all would be well if only people were made to abide by the exclusive demands of one privileged religion, comply with the views of some self-righteous moral minority, or accept the agenda set by the dominant economic elite.

If such prescriptions are destined to ferment resentment and stir up even greater resistance, the alternative favoured by seasoned relativists, claiming the differences that divide us are inherently irreconcilable, is no help either. For them, since there is no ‘universal truth’ to bridge the gap between opposing sides, we’ll just have to, so to speak, let fighting dogs vie.

But there is no need to accept imposed conformity or anarchic disintegration, provided we learn how to make room for democratic cooperation. By all historical and experimental accounts, cooperative working based on equal respect and shared deliberation has been highly effective in, not only enhancing the wellbeing of those who are willing to join forces, but resolving disagreement between those have not hitherto seen eye to eye.

The real reason why the cooperative ethos is held back from being more widely adopted is because too many people are unaware of its efficacy. This is compounded by prejudices, misinformation generated by those who seek to divide and exploit, and insufficient knowledge of how to engender productive cooperation.

To overcome such obstacles, we need a three-prong response. First, there must be a sustained and comprehensive rebuttal of the claim that we are all irrevocably divided by fundamental faiths and beliefs. The truth is that apart from a very few who have extreme psychopathic tendencies to totally disregard the needs of others, we share a common adherence to the golden rule of reciprocity, which runs through all historical religions and moral traditions. Cooperative mediation, grounded on the recognition that we ought to treat others as we wish others treat us, has helped people with contrasting backgrounds resolve their conflicts and work together.

Secondly, knowledge of the techniques and benefits of cooperative working should be disseminated much more than they are at present. In business management, conflict resolution, community-led regeneration, citizen-centred public policy development, case examples and practical guidance should be actively promoted so there is greater appreciation of why and how democratic cooperation should be adopted.

Thirdly, the damages inflicted by power inequalities, preventing cooperation on reciprocal terms, must be exposed and halted. The dangers of allowing some to amass much greater power in terms of wealth, status, or authority, over others should be systematically publicised to aid their removal. This applies to government institutions, and even more so to transnational corporate bodies that can coerce workers, suppliers, and timid politicians to go along with exploitative arrangements, which would never be tolerated if everyone affected has an equal say about them.

A campaign to clear away the obstacles to democratic cooperation should pave the way for further work to extend the cooperative mode of association to all spheres of life: to schools, community groups, public services, businesses and international relations. If we want to minimise destructive antagonism and build a sustainable solidarity, we need to ensure pupils and teachers, residents and activists, citizens and their representatives, workers and business leaders, nations and global organisations, learn to relate to each other under more equitable distribution of power and embrace democratic decision-making for their common good.

This is a demanding task. But there is no other alternative to being endlessly besieged by polarising demands and bitter confrontations, locally, nationally or worldwide. Fortunately, we do not have to start from scratch. The WEA, the cooperative movement, the trade unions, mediation and reconciliation advocates, champions of citizen action such as the Community Development Foundation, Take Part and Involve, have all been advancing the case for greater cooperative working. With their support, there is the real prospect that one day democratic cooperation will become the norm everywhere.