Holiday Reading- Reforming Civilisation

As in many countries, New Zealand has had several prime city locations occupied in recent weeks as part of the Occupy Wall St OWS movement.

OWS is an ongoing movement which aims to reset the economic agendas and local debates about equality of citizens and to try and re-balance some of the competing corporate and government agendas towards more balanced outcomes.

As in many protest movements there are other opportunists who seek to tilt the activities in a certain way but on the whole OWS is a consciousness raising exercise that everyone (especially corporates and government) would do well to take note of.

Like many I have been intrigued as to what this is all about in the local context and what (if any) connections there are to the Arab Spring protests and other consciousness raising movements around the world.

In my view there are definite connections between these movements and the rise of the NGO sector globally. Since the anti-globalisation protests in 1999 at the Seattle WTO conference there has been growing disquiet at the very far reaching implications of economic and political change around the world being driven by small elites at the expence of local and humanitarian interests.

The Canadian documentary The Corporation from 2003 captures some of the debate from many perspectives. Apparently there were 33 hours of video made and so the main documentary is a relative snapshot of expert views.

I was most impressed by CEO  Ray Anderson (from the Interface carpet & fabric company) who had his own wake up call towards developing his company along more sustainable lines. Ray mentioned an author called Paul Hawken and an earlier book by Paul called The Ecology of Commerce. Even more interesting to me is a more recent book by Hawken called

Blessed Unrest, How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming published by Viking Press (New York) in May 2007, argues that a vast world-changing “movement with no name” is now forming, which Hawken believes will prevail. He conceives of this “movement” as developing not by ideology but rather through the identification of what is and is not humane, like an immune system. “

I haven’t been able to get a copy of the book to read yet but the hypothesis sounds very plausible and it does fit in what we see around us in the politics and economic debates of many nations.

Last year I saw the documentary Inside Job which among many arguments makes the depressing point that President Obama has not fixed any of the broken financial systems and structures in the U.S. In fact he has re-appointed the very people responsible for causing many of the financial meltdowns back into new roles where they can continue abusing the trust of voters despite having blood on their hands.

And so we know for sure now that US politics is completely corrupt and broken to the point that a reforming president elect has been so completely dominated by the commercial interests he said he wanted to fix.

The other key point in the that documentary was an observation that many of the high profile economists and academics had their viewpoints deeply compromised by their own commercial conflicts. That is – they were part of the problem where financial sector lobbyists have / had around 5 lobbyists for every single congress person. Never mind the lobbyists for other sectors.

How and Where does this Affect Us?

New Zealand like many other countries is being pressured by huge corporate interests mostly from the US to accept commercially driven laws designed to protect globalisation and to undermine local sovereignty.

One example of this is that the debate over Pharmac and US TPP negotiations or should that be stand-over tactics.

Back in May this year the PM said of TPP and Pharmac

“Let’s wait and see – there are a lot of component parts here. We’re talking about access, through a free trade agreement, to arguably the largest economy in the world. That’s the prize if you can complete a US FTA, which is what TPP is,” he said.

More obviously though when the US sneezes we still tend to catch the cold. The US despite its downward spiral still dominates world trade thinking and any changes to such rules impacts greatly on smaller nations like New Zealand.

I’m with Kennedy Graham of the Greens on this issue.

“Graham said the Greens rejected the assertion a free trade deal was a massive prize for New Zealand, saying the massive prize would be the predation of New Zealand’s iconic agencies by American corporations.

If the US walked away from the negotiations because Pharmac was taken off the table “so be it”, he said.”

While looking for the Paul Hawken book  mentioned above I found and bought a copy of The Price of Civilization, Economics and Ethics after the Fall by Jeffrey Sachs. That is my holdiday reading. More on that next post when I finish it for now here is a video clip from him.

As Jeffrey says “The US is in a structural crisis”…