Time for a new Paradigm

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press
Service and President Emeritus

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

The person most qualified to write the foreword for this latest
work by Riccardo Petrella, In the Name of Humanity, would actually
be Pope Francis, who, using other words but speaking of values and
making denouncements, has often argued what the reader will find in
the following pages. I quote him, because words like
“solidarity”, “equality”, “social justice” or
“participation” – now used only by Pope Francis I – have
now disappeared from today’s political vocabulary. I was called
to this task because I have spent my life in favour of information
that would give citizens the tools to be conscious actors. But the
reason why from a “professional” I have become an
“activist” in the campaign for world governance is precisely
because I see information as directly responsible for the drift in
which we find ourselves.

Roberto Savio

Riccardo Petrella is a central point of reference for those who
have not yet given up on seeing the governance of globalisation in
terms of values and ideals. Riccardo has behind him a long series
of struggles for a different economy and has denounced the dangers
of neoliberal globalisation from the outset. We owe it to him if
the theme of “commons” began to be debated, in particular that
of water as a public good, at a time when the Italian government of
Silvio Berlusconi was pushing for its privatisation. He did so in
an era – the period immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall
– which today seems distant but which was of exceptional
intellectual and political violence. Anyone who did not blindly
adhere to the “single thought” introduced by the World Bank,
the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. Treasury (the
so-called Washington Consensus) was seen as either a nostalgist of
the Soviet era or a dangerous subversive. Petrella, with few other
economists, had the strength to oppose the Washington Consensus,
deriding the general inebriation which reached levels that today
seem impossible. I still remember a conference held by IPALMO in
May 1991 in Milan, where the then director general of the World
Trade Organization, Renato Ruggiero, described the world as still
blocked by the concept of nation or regional agreements (such as
the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement) now
overtaken by the course of history. Globalisation was to have
eliminated all frontiers, we were to have had a single currency,
there were to been no more wars and the benefits of globalisation
were to have rained down on all the citizens of the world,
something that the theory of development and redistribution had
failed to do. It took a generation of disappointed and marginalised
people for the truth to become evident.

This book is the result of forty years of study, research, and
social and academic engagement by Riccardo, gathered here in an
organic way. It is a holistic engagement, with a humanist vision of
the economy, of society and of the consequences of the crisis that
dominates us. Reading it, faced with the wealth of data and
reflections it offers, the African proverb comes to mind: “When
an old man dies, a library burns to the ground”. But beyond the
contents, what makes the book stimulating is that it communicates a
moral engagement and a human empathy rare in this era of transition
from a world that is unsustainable to one that is inevitable, but
which we cannot yet see well. In his Letters from Prison, Antonio
Gramsci wrote that “in the interregnum a great variety of morbid
symptoms appears”.

Petrella analyses these symptoms in a meticulous but clear way,
and they are symptoms for which today’s politics and finance
certainly have no answer. The book is an organic work, analysing
each symptom on the basis of data and proposals, helping us to walk
in the shadow evoked by Gramsci. Finally we see that there are
alternatives to the drift of a world of finance which – in the
search for profit – comes into collision with the very productive
economy of which it was only to have been a lubricant. And in turn
politics, like the productive economy, is subject to the world of
finance. Today, the production of goods and services, that is, the
sphere in which men and women play a role, accounts for
one-fortieth of financial transactions. Greed has led banks to
engage in more and more criminal actions: since the Great Crisis of
2008, major banks have paid a total of 220 billion dollars in fines

According to numerous historians, the course of history has been
changed above all by two factors: Greed and Fear. After the fall of
the Berlin Wall it even came to be said that history had ended, as
Francis Fukuyama wrote, and that we were entering a
post-ideological world. The unification of the world into a single
winning ideology, capitalism, was to have led to the end of
clashes, in a united international reality dedicated to economic
growth. What Fukuyama did not see is that capitalism without
controls was to take the world back in time. On this Petrella
offers incontrovertible data and echoes Oxfam when it says that in
2020 social inequalities in Britain will be equal to those of the
era of Queen Victoria, when an unknown German philosopher was
writing some chapters of Das Kapital in the Reading Room of the
British Museum … The statistics on inequality are known to all:
in the last two decades, capital has become increasingly
concentrated in a few hands and a large part of humanity sees its
level of life, health and education decrease, to the point that the
International Monetary Fund is even beginning to whisper that
inequality is a brake on growth.

As for Fear, it took the Brexit to start seeing the rapidly
growing nationalist, xenophobic and populist drift in European
countries (and also in the United States with Donald Trump). Fear
has transformed countries that once were a symbol of
civic-mindedness and tolerance – like the Netherlands and the
Nordic countries – into racist countries that even confiscate the
few personal jewels of refugees (Denmark). In just two years, the
advance of the extreme right in Austria, France, Germany, Poland,
Slovakia and Hungary – until now considered a series of local
coincidences – is finally creating a debate in traditional
parties that have no concrete response to the causes of Fear. Also
because, as Petrella says, we are faced with a system that is a
factory of poverty, which is not a natural phenomenon but a
creation of the system itself. The challenges to be solved all
derive from wrong answers. Peace is being tackled with an increase
in military engagement, the environment with ecological
devastation, democracy with the privatisation of political power.
Justice is witnessing an increase in injustice, the economy is in a
financial and speculative drift, and the sense of life of citizens
– who have lost the value of solidarity and accept the
commodification of all that surrounds them – is crumbling. No
concern is voiced that more is being spent per person on marketing
in the world than on education …

The drift in which we find ourselves is affecting democracy,
which has become a formal process, devoid of the conscious and
active participation of citizens. In the Name of Humanity observes
what should now be clear to all and is certainly not to the system
in power: we are at a global impasse that no one, with the
paradigms in place, is able to solve. In an analytical but
communicative way, this is the starting point for the list of
Gramsci’s shadows: the lack of representation of humanity, the
use of God, Nation and Money to transform into destroyers those who
are still convinced of being constructors; and the data of the
global impasse. Herein lies the importance of the book.

The analysis of the transitional era in which we find ourselves
is roughly divided into two schools of thought. The first is that
of those who believe that the current system is perhaps in crisis
but that the answer may come from politicians – perhaps new ones
– who, in every country, are able to give concrete and efficient
answers with bold reforms. The second, and growing, school of
thought argues that the current system is the cause of the problems
to be solved and that without deep changes in vision and strategies
the drift will continue.

This latter school of thought – which, moreover, is followed
only by a small number of victims, many of whom are on the margins
of society or are so frustrated as to take refuge in individual
pessimism without hope – is a school strong in analysis and
denunciation but poor in proposals. And it is here that the book
offers its own positive originality: an organic and holistic plan
of proposals which invoke a pact for Humanity as the basis for the
re-foundation of society. A re-foundation that declares poverty
illegal, that leads to disarmament and the end of speculative
finance … However, in order to achieve this re-foundation, it is
necessary to return to talking about values and finding a consensus
and world participation around them, because without common values
it is not possible to build together and without a global response
national or local actions serve little. This book, as well as being
an analysis, is also a manual for action.

In this sense it is important that In the Name of Humanity sees
the light in a moment of generational sacrifice. My generation,
overwhelmed by Greed and Fear, by selfishness and the decline of
politics, lives parameters of retirement and security that young
people can only dream of. The British referendum clearly
demonstrated how the older generations are above all
self-referential and feel no inter-generational responsibility. The
elderly voted 65% for Brexit, deciding the future of young people,
who were 75% in favour of Remain. This is the result of the absence
of common values and the dramatic lack of policies for engaging
young people, while those of fiscal rigour and priorities for the
survival of the financial system abound – the most emblematic
demonstration of current priorities. To save banks from the 2008
crisis, it is estimated that so far the contribution to finance has
amounted to eight trillion dollars. Youth policies do not exceed
500 million dollars.

It is no wonder that young people take refuge in a pessimistic
individualism, creating their own communities only virtually on the
Internet; that they lack representation and participation and,
above all, for the first time in modern history, idols and points
of reference. Petrella’s book is an important instrument for
young people because it transmits a message of hope that does not
exist today. It is not inevitable that the world will continue like
this. We have the instruments to change it. But to do that we have
to go back to talking about values and going back to speaking with
and understanding each other. In the Name of Humanity should be
distributed free in schools …

Fifteen years have passed since the first meeting of the World
Social Forum in Porto Alegre, where we – protagonists of
different stories – gathered to denounce the unsustainability of
neoliberal globalisation. The scepticism and rejection that
accompanied the WSF process have not prevented the Washington
Consensus from today being just a discredited instrument of the
past and the proponents of globalisation from admitting that the
denunciations of the WSF had a real basis. As Petrella says, we can
only emerge from the crisis with bold measures. This book will be
received as a utopia, or rather a chimera, by the beneficiaries of
the current system. In 15 years time, it will be interesting to see
how many will have been be forced to admit that the analyses and
the actions that Petrella proposes were not so far from the course
of history.

Those who shoot at the stars can take heart from a Sri Lankan
legend … there was a young boy who shot an arrow at the stars
every night and was laughed at at until one day the king organised
an archery contest and that boy won because he was the one who shot
furthest!

The post Time for a new
Paradigm
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press
Service and President Emeritus

The post Time for a new
Paradigm
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Time for a new Paradigm