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A STUDY OF WHERE WE ARE IN HISTORY
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Natural history is a process of billions of years. Human beings are believed to have first appeared in their current form only 40,000 years ago. Seriously recorded human history only began about 5,000 years ago with the creation of the Old Kingdom in ancient Egypt.
Natural history represented a system with a long term future. By contrast, today's new world "order" is a system that is virtually 100% certain to fail without drastic changes. It not only has little historical track record in environmental terms, it also represents a political structure that has equally shallow roots in the history of our planet.
Today, we see trends that are without precedent in all human history. Never before has the stability of the planet’s ecology been threatened by the actions of one species, the human species. This is not an abstract ideological claim. It can be documented by specific statistical indicators that define the health of the planet. The World Future Fund has spent the last 15 years developing a comprehensive set of almost 300 indicators in its Global Indicators Program. All the indicators below are at record levels and getting worse:
THE GREATEST MASS MURDER IN HISTORY
What we are witnessing today is nothing short of the greatest mass murder in world history. We are witnessing the greatest extermination of life since the Permian extinction, 250 million years ago. According to the World Wildlife Fund 20% of the world’s species may be exterminated by the year 2025. Who has a right to life? Only humans?
It is our view that this is a crime. It is also an act of suicidal madness.
A HUMAN DEATH TOLL IN THE BILLIONS?
This destabilization of the global ecology is certain to have implications for humans. So far predictions of mass famine have been proven wrong. However, the avoidance of famine in the last 20 years has been achieved by short-term measures that may have very grim long term results. To be specific, in the "green revolution" in agriculture, the world has spent the last 20 years pumping out underground aquifers, expanding the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on a truly staggering scale and replacing tested biologically diverse seed banks with modern uniform, "designer gene" crops. It is had led to one of the greatest sources of water pollution on the planet.
This kind of agriculture has really no history at all in terms of ecological time. Thus, the next 20 years alone could produce some interesting surprises.
These events could be compounded by the overall total mismanagement and destruction of the planet's biological foundations of life. The result could very likely be a death toll in the billions. Such a huge death toll sounds fantastic but is not at all out of the world historical experience. In the Black Death, it is estimated that 35% of the population of Europe died. During the Thirty Years War in Germany and the Mongol invasion of China similar death tolls also took place. This would mean a death toll of at least two billion in today's world.
It should be noted that severe ecological problems are likely to lead to political upheaval and war, thereby increasing the overall potential body count.
POLITICS AND HISTORY
While there has been much public commentary on the global environment crisis, there has been surprisingly little commentary on the potential political consequences of this situation.
The fifteen years we have spent studying global indicators reveal realities that cannot be avoided. There is a widening gap between what is needed to build a sustainable global future and the response of today's global political world order. This gap illustrates a disconnect between political policy and global realities that is going to have very grim consequences if major changes do not take place.
The time needed to implement these changes is running out. It is not realistic to expect that the gathering storm of global problems will leave the current political structure of the world intact. Quite the contrary, there is every reason to believe that the continued failure of the current system to deal with global problems will have huge political consequences, as have all great crises in history. Parliamentary democracy as we know it could very well self-destruct in our time just as it did in ancient Athens and Rome. This is why we created the World Future Fund Totalitarianism Project which has assembled the largest collection of documents and links on this subject on the internet.
FALSE PILLARS OF SECURITY
More than any era of history we live in an age of debt. Never before has the ecological and financial future our planet been so plundered in order to prop up the temporary political and economic security of minority of our planet's inhabitants.
What is also unique is the level of deceit and delusion that has accompanied this unprecedented rise of debt. Key political leaders, particularly in America have repeatedly lied to their own people to cover up debt. The U.S. budget deficit represents a particularly disgusting study in financial fraud and political deceit. Contributions to the social security "trust fund" are counted as income to disguise the size of the total deficit. If any private businessman engaged in this kind of accounting, he would go to jail. While the American politicians plundering the future like to get their pictures taken praying to Jesus, as part of a campaign to "preserve family values", it is a fact that hardly any group of political leaders has ever adopted such a totally anti-family agenda in terms of the ultimate heritage of any sane family, the generations to come. The pagans of the ancient world look like model citizens compared to so many of the "pro-family" "Christians" of today.
In the economic arena, America, the world's only "superpower", is running up foreign debts at a totally astounding rate of $700 billion a year. Meanwhile the federal budget situation has gotten completely out of control since the great crash of 2008. Trillions of deficits loom in the future, plus more trillions for refinancing the U.S. government's heavy dependence on short term debt. Today's budget deficits are especially toxic since are coming at a time that America will need huge amounts of cash to deal with growing Medicare and Social Security costs.
Overall U.S. debt (public and private) when measured as a percent of GNP is at its highest level in history.
A very malicious aspect of all this debt is the extent to which it hides the true cost of what's to come. U.S. consumers do indeed get good quality cheap products from the new Chinese factories that replaced the ones closed down in America. The problem is that America is not able to sell China and other states goods to balance the imports. Trade is leading to a soaring American international debt.
Another powerful opiate to a naive public is the delusion that today's corporate so-called "globalization" or more exactly global plutocracy is some sort of giant bed-time story, with an inevitable happy ending, where the corporate leaders create a wonderland for all. When people wake up and find out what's really awaiting them, there could be a very violent political reaction.
SHALLOW HISTORICAL ROOTS OF TODAY'S POLITICAL ORDER
The current crisis is particularly thought provoking because the political ideas of the current, much touted new world "order" have very shallow roots in history. Modern parliamentary "democracy" is largely a creation of the last 200 years. It nearly collapsed in the 1930s when confronted by fascism and communism and nearly ended up losing the "Cold War" against communism. Indeed, the only way it was able to defeat fascism in World War II was to ally itself with communism. Contrary to what many American history textbooks suggest, the Russians did the overwhelming amount of the fighting and dying to defeat Hitler. Had Russia and China been able to work together in a communist world alliance, they probably would have won the the Cold War. The outreach to China by Nixon and Kissinger in 1971 has to be considered one of the geopolitical master strokes of the last century.
Even more disturbing is the fact that modern parliamentary democracy is based on ancient Greek and Roman political systems that ended up committing suicide.
The 5,000 years of human recorded history reveals a radically different vision of world politics than today's system. Authoritarian rule is the norm. Indeed, totalitarianism has far deeper roots in history than modern parliamentary "democracy".
POVERTY AS A TRULY FORMIDABLE WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Throughout history poverty has been one the greatest means of eliminating large numbers of people. Today's "new" world order is no different. The market is being allowed to play God. Life and death are determined by money. At the moment, the number of people being slaughtered by poverty is considered to be "regrettable" but certainly politically acceptable in the rich nations. Five million Africans were recently wiped out in the bloodiest war in postwar African history. The world did nothing. It just wasn't a very big event. Britney Spears' new baby got far more publicity.
Unfortunately, the death tolls to come will be on a scale that will not be so easy to ignore.
LOSING THE MORAL AUTHORITY TO RULE?
In 1945 it was revealed that Hitler had deliberately tried to murder all the world's Jews. It seemed like a unique event to some. But as the century unfolded, it became apparent that this was just a part of a collection of giant war crimes. It was revealed that Stalin and Mao have killed even more people. Mao, unlike Hitler and Stalin, even boasted of his use of political mass murder, suggesting that killing the majority of the people on the planet in a nuclear war could be good thing if it led to the victory of communism. See our report on Mao.
After the collapse of communism, parliamentary democracy sought to suggest
that such crimes could never happen in democracies and were purely the result of
totalitarianism. However, a look at the record of the British Empire and
the United States, the two paragons of modern parliamentary democracy, reveals a
radically different picture. The Anglo-American slave trade was the
greatest slave trade in history. American policy toward the native peoples
on its continent was a long series of gigantic war crimes. Indeed, Hitler
saw America's massive system of ethnic cleansing and population transfers as a
model for what he planned to do in the conquest of the Soviet Union. A
particularly damning book on the subject of American diplomatic "morality", the
We have assembled a web page on War Crimes and Democracies that raises troubling questions about the moral authority of parliamentary democracies.
A far more serious moral problem, however, emerges in a realistic analysis of today's "new" world "order". Indeed, there is something truly "new" here, a holocaust of non-human life forms that is many thousands of times greater than anything ever seen before in history. What is particularly malicious as well as unbelievably stupid is the fact that parliamentary democracy is presiding over a system that will eventually start killing humans on a scale unprecedented in history.
If tough reforms are not implemented, parliamentary democracy will lose the moral authority to rule. After all, the death toll from the destruction of the environment by today's new world order is likely to generate a level of human mass murder that is going to dwarf anything even remotely conceived of in history. Can anybody justify a continuation of a trend like that?
THE COMING CENTRALIZATION OF WORLD POLITICAL POWER
Hopefully, parliamentary democracy will be able to reform itself. We encourage nonviolent political change. Indeed we have published a manual online for U.S. citizens to encourage such action. However, it is important to see what "reform" does and does not mean. In order to deal with a global crisis there must be huge centralization of government power, as in all other great crises in history. In particular, there must be a centralization of global political power via a reform of the UN to deal with many problems.
We have a choice between this happening in a humane, orderly, socially democratic manner. Or we can wait until things really start falling apart and follow the kind of grim path of events that has been all too familiar in past great crises in world history.
Unfortunately, in today's world there are powerful trends in the exact opposite direction, particularly in America. Former U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, even suggested that government power was the "problem" and should "get out of the way". In America there are powerful political forces that feel we should worship the "market" as a god and rely on the "magic of the marketplace" (another Reagan quote). There is some logic to this. The wholesale level of human mayhem and death by starvation and disease that is coming could indeed be seen as "magic". However, it could be seen as a form of "black magic" as billions of "non-competitive" people are "magically" removed permanently from the fast-paced game board of the new global marketplace. In fact, the modern world economy increasingly looks like a kind of game of death. For lots of people the HD TV screens of the modern high tech could be flashing a rather final message of "Game Over!"
HUMAN RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
In Europe, unlike America, there is some awareness of what is needed. However, both Europe and America contain political factions with very extreme views of human "rights". In the concentration of power that is needed, very tough measures are likely to be necessary. Human rights purists could very well bring on their worst nightmares they fear by opposing such measures. We want to stress that we are totally and completely opposed to abominations such as the revival of torture, that has been done by the Bush administration with the use of "water boarding" and other techniques. We are also opposed to the censorship of political speech that is now in place and being expanded in countries like Germany. However, measures such as national and international ID cards are likely to be necessary.
Human rights can only exist as Gandhi observed when people assume human responsibilities. The mindless defense of human rights in isolation will only lead to more gridlock, paralysis, and disorder. The end of the Roman Republic is a cautionary tale. Repeated efforts to "restore" the Republic led to more and more chaos and violence, leading to creation of the empire. Indeed, the end of the Republic was welcomed, not mourned by the Roman people, and Augustus Caesar was hailed as a national savior.
The current world "order" can only save itself by correcting the deadly problems that it has created. The best way to protect human rights is to make the current system work, which is why we created our Indicators Program, to show people how to participate in a responsible, non-violent manner in their democracies.
A WORLD BORROWING FROM THE FUTURE
Since 1995 we have created one of the most sophisticated databases of global environmental, social and government budget indicators in our Global Future Watch Indicators Program. We have created charts of almost 300 indicators in a standard digital format used around the world, Microsoft Office (click here for a complete list list). A limited number of these charts are available online. Many of these indicators are available nowhere else.We have interviewed experts from all over the world in order to develop our indicators. Our project was created via a global network of sources of information.
Here are some themes discerned from the data.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GLOBAL POPULATION EXPLOSION
A primary force behind some of the world's most destructive trends is the huge rise in the human population that has taken place in our century, particularly since 1945. This has placed giant demands on all aspects of our planet's ecology. While the rate of population increase has slowed down, the numbers of people being added per year remains near record levels at about 80 million people a year. In other words we are adding a nation the size of Germany to the world's population every year, and all trends show that this will go on out into the future and probably rise. Predictions still show that we are facing the arrival of billions of new residents in the next fifty years with almost all of these people populating the parts of the world that can least afford the presence of more people.
The small minority that benefits from the present situation has created an interesting system of terms to define wealth and poverty in today's world. The rich nations are "developed". The poor are now called "developing". It all sounds wonderful because the poor are defined as being part of a benevolent process that will supposedly "develop" into wealth and happiness. How is this wonderful event to take place? We are told that the poor will adopt the same economic system as the rich. Yet, what kind of planet will we have if every global citizen actually attained the "American Dream"? This would lead to global levels of environmental destruction that would mean the end of life as we know it.
As this reality became apparent, a new slogan was dreamed up to put a pretty face on a grim situation, "sustainable development". But what exactly is "sustainable development"? Overall, it has to be defined as a means to continue past suicidal policies with a green veneer of respectability. The reality of the matter is that the current structure of "development" in the Third World is anything but "sustainable". Renewable energy, for example, is a mere microscopic share of energy use. Agriculture is based designer gene crops produced by draining underground water supplies and using huge levels of chemicals. Deforestation continues at a rapid pace. Fish consumption remains at levels that have severely reduced some main species of fish and threaten others.
The chances for reversing these trends in the near term are not good. Third World economies are now dependent on polluting technologies. Also, current economic development plans in the Third World are largely set for the next 10 years. Large infrastructure programs are already in place. These take many years to build and huge financial resources have already been committed.
The Third World now generates the single largest levels of air and water pollution with grim health results for its citizens. In the case of water, there is a disaster of epic dimensions. On the one hand water is being drained from rivers and lakes and underground aquifers, reducing the water flow so much that many giant Third World rivers now run dry for parts of the year. On the other hand, the huge rise in population has led to an explosion in human waste and garbage that has totally overwhelmed local sanitation facilities.
To compound problems, in many poor countries there is little money for even the collection of essential data on some important ecological realities.
HUMAN SUFFERING IN THE THIRD WORLD
For many key parts of the "developing" world, the modern era has been a disaster of unprecedented dimensions. Today, for parts of Africa, life is in worse shape than in any era of history. Declining economic security has been combined with appalling losses of vital natural ecosystems, the poisoning of the air and water, and the growth of incurable diseases such as AIDS. In many areas, biology has been so destabilized that exotic species of life have almost wiped out local species. Large parts of some key "developing" nations have been turned into barren wastelands.
WEALTH AND POVERTY
What is striking about the big picture of the world environmental situation is the growing contrast between the so-called "developed" world and the so-called "developing" world. The gap between the richest 20% and poorest 20% of the world is at its highest level in history and growing. Since 1960 it has widened from 30-to-1 to 80-to-1. Today the world's 500 richest families have more money than the bottom 50% of people on the planet.
THE MODERN SYSTEM OF WORLD TRADE
While preaching the virtues of "free trade" and "competitiveness" to others, America's own performance here has been a pathetic disaster. As noted above, America's balance of payments deficit has been a deepening crisis since 1980. A brief return to balance in 1990 produced a flurry of self congratulations by the American elite that their system was "working". Unfortunately, what followed next has been a total train wreck. In recent years the deficit hit a staggering $700 billion. What is troubling is that this a structural deficit. Whole sections of the U.S. economy have been moved to China and other places. A particularly sorry commentary is that some members of the elite no longer even try to predict a recovery.
What this means in the real world is that something major has to give. It is unlikely that the money lords of the world will tolerate America's inability to compete forever. The value of the dollar will be forced down. U.S. interest rates will be forced up.
Unfortunately, the money lords of the world have a very sorry track record in correcting their own speculative excesses. Capitalism is a system of spectacular booms and busts. A good part of the world relies on "Uncle Sucker" to buy their products. When "Uncle Sucker" can't come up with the cash, things could get ugly.
America's performance in world trade is so bad that it might have to be a candidate for economic shock therapy similar to the medicine it used to prescribe for Third World nations or the former Soviet Union.
Further problems are likely to come from the popularity of such idiotic delusions as the notion that world trade will automatically lead to world peace. Prior to World War I and World War II, Germany and France were each others' largest trading partners. America was Japan's largest trading partner prior to Pearl Harbor. The list could go on and on. In reality world trade can lead to conflict, as did the economic competition between England and Germany at the end of the nineteenth century.
A major moment of truth will come when "Uncle Sucker" either imposes major trade restrictions or simply cannot pay his huge bills. This could trigger a global trade war.
THE DEEPENING CRISIS IN AMERICA
America's disastrous performance in the world trading system it has advocated is but one part of a deepening series of problems in the world's number one power.
The election of Obama has been a step forward but his policies show no sign of putting through the tough reforms needed to turn things around. Indeed, the most prominent aspect of his rule so far has been the huge escalation of debt to paper over problems.
His new health care bill was so watered down it doesn't even have a public option and consists of a 3,000 page plan that doesn't even go into effect until 2014.
After a brief period of balance in 2000 in the real deficit (adjusted for Social Security trust fund payments) the U.S. budget deficit has again exploded. The huge tax cuts of 2001 further compounded problems as well as the disastrous invasion of Iraq. The economic collapse of 2008 has sent the deficit over a trillion, and it has remained above this astronomical level since the crash. Again, this is structural problem. It will require tough reforms and major tax increases. The cult of tax cuts in the Republican Party and political cowardice in the Democratic Party will likely doom reform here for sure in the near term.
While many Americans are under the illusion that nobody is in as good shape as they are, the fact of the matter is that America's social system is a total disaster in a number of areas, particularly health care. America is the only modern nation with no national health insurance. Meanwhile wages in America remain back at 1960s levels.
Indeed, America in many ways looks like a sociological basket case compared to the rest of the developed world. Americans like brag about how they are "number one". And indeed they are in fields such as crime, sex crimes, pornography, AIDS, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy and other social ills. Our charts document some of the more severe problems of the "American model".
The American education system at the elementary and secondary level remains mired in a Victorian era system with long summer vacations and an utter neglect of the poor.
While some Americans are aware of the sorry performance of America's economic and social systems, there is still a popular delusion that America remains a shining example of global morality. Unfortunately, this is more and more rapidly becoming an "only in America" trend.
In 2000 it really looked like the "New World Order" might deliver the goods. Since then it has been a downward spiral of one moral disgrace after another at a public policy level.
First came the totally idiotic spectacle of the 2000 election where the system of the electoral college caused the loser of the election, George Bush, to become President. Even the validity of this was called into question since the voting systems in a number states such as Florida were such a mess that it was difficult to tell who had won. Then came the collapse of the "dot coms". Then came a tidal wave of revelations of what had actually been going on during Bill Clinton's "greatest economy ever". Indeed, Clinton's shining example of "success", World Com, became the biggest business scandal in U.S. history.
Then came the disaster of 9/11, an intelligence and military policy disaster of truly monumental dimensions. Lost in their world of "Stars Wars" space weapons and a military deployment strategy in Europe to defend against a long-nonexistent Soviet threat, Pentagon leaders were unable to even to protect their own building from a bunch of fanatics armed with box cutters. These box cutters at a price of about $4.00 each cost somewhat less than the multi-billion dollar high tech weapons systems Pentagon leaders had assured the American people would protect them against the terrorist threat.
Since 9/11 things have really gone into a downward spiral that could not even have been predicted in the most bizarre science fiction novel. America launched a massive invasion against Iraq on the basis of accusations about weapons of mass destruction and terrorism that were later revealed to be totally fraudulent.
Today, Iraq is a mess of epic dimensions. A million Iraqi civilians have been killed while millions more have fled. Things were such as mess that Bush was forced to drop his plans for long term U.S. bases and agree to a withdrawal. America is so unpopular with the Iraqi people, that it was forced to totally withdraw by the end of 2011.
Under Bush in international conferences America became a kind of rogue state, continually disrupting and in many cases destroying efforts to build a global consensus to deal with problems like climate change and world population growth. Under Obama there is still a failure to lead on global environmental matters.
Back on the home front, in spite of their supposed close connection to Jesus, top Republican leaders have been forced out of office by a huge series of corruption scandals. The most bizarre case concerned the President's top domestic policy adviser, Claude Allen, the top official for his master plan for "conservative compassion". Sadly Mr. Allen was forced to resign after being taped by Target Store security cameras running a phony refund and return scheme at their stores in the Washington, D.C. area.
In 2007 "the magic of the marketplace" produced the one trillion dollar debt debacle in the real estate market. This had global implications since mortgage backed securities had been sold by U.S. financial firms to investors all over the world. America's "expertise" in finance was supposed to make up for endless losses in world trade. The 2008 U.S. economic crisis rocked the entire world and things have only been kept afloat by a tidal wave of new debt.
The downward spiral of America since 2000 reminds many people about past grand American campaigns to build "new world orders". Woodrow Wilson's dishonest promise of the "Fourteen Points" to end World War I and his grandiose delusions about "making the world safe for democracy" after the "war to end all wars" produced the Versailles Treaty which set the stage for World War II. Franklin Roosevelt's equally naive plan for the "Four Freedoms" collapsed even faster than Wilson's delusions, plunging the world in a third world war, the "Cold War". After World War II, the number of people living under totalitarianism soared rather than declining. The campaign of "never again" concerning German political mass murder became a grim laughing stock as Mao and other postwar leaders murdered tens of millions of people. See our page on Modern Political Mass Murder.
The collapse of communism in 1991 was supposed to be a validation of the "American way", making up for past disasters and false hopes. Maybe there had been problems in the past we were told, but now America had been vindicated. Unfortunately, as time goes by, it seems the American "Emperor" has fewer and fewer clothes. The American people may still have a hard time seeing this fact but around the world it is becoming more and more apparent.
THE RISE OF A GLOBAL CULT OF GREED AND INDIVIDUALISM
In the teachings of the world's great religions and in the experience of history, the cultivation of self-interest ultimately tears society apart. Greed produces envy. Ultimately, it cannot be satisfied. Happiness cannot be "pursued". It is defined by all serious forms of theology as a reward from God for responsible behavior.
Capitalism has historically been a very unstable system of huge booms and busts. The horrors of communism and its collapse do not automatically mean that capitalism is the correct road to a heaven on earth.
In fact, as noted, the "American Dream" represents a very unsound model for the world future. In the first place, were Third World levels of consumption to rise to America's gluttonous and wasteful levels, the result would be an ecological disaster of truly staggering dimensions.
The unprecedented gap between the rich and the poor is taking place at a time when the pursuit of wealth, the "American Dream", is being presented as the ultimate goal of life. As a result of the global media revolution, the poor are reminded as never before of the gap between themselves and the rich.
In the developing nations we see the importation of a consumer culture that replaces local cultures. This consumer culture portrays a never-never land in the media of a paradise gained by high levels of consumption.
A particularly interesting situation could be the impact of mass media pornography in the Third World. This portrays a sexual never-never land of sexual excitement without consequences or responsibilities.
The "American Dream" portrays a set of world standards that is totally contrary to every major teaching of the world's great religions and philosophies. If money and sex are the main goals of life, then the global majority is presented with a set of goals in life that cannot be attained.
All this is fueling envy and bitterness. The political dynamics behind all this will be augmented by the fact that global inequality is a record levels and rising. Meanwhile, there is a very good chance that the bottom 20% of the world's population will fare even worse in the next 50 years than they did in the past 50 years. This could mean massive environmental poisonings and famines.
This in turn will create political and economic instability. The current open trading system may not survive as major power alliances struggle for control of the world's wealth.
COPENHAGEN 2009: A WARNING TO THE WORLD
The Kyoto 1997 conference was a grim example of the inability of our planet to deal with the number one problem in the world, the growing destruction of the planet’s ecology. Some reasonable reforms were proposed by the EU and enlightened Third World nations. The world’s leading nation, America, opposed major reforms in environmental policy and nearly caused the whole conference to collapse. The end result was a nonsensical treaty that committed the rich nations to some modest reforms while setting no guidelines for nations like China, which has become the world’s number one producer of greenhouse gases.
The successor to Kyoto, the2009 Copenhagen conference, was basically a total failure, where the participants were unable to reach any binding agreement. Little hope is seen for future action. See our report.
This should wake people up to the fact that reform is not coming.
9/11/2001 AND THE 1994 TOKYO SUBWAY GAS ATTACK
Fifty years ago it took a major world power with a huge military budget to build weapons that could wipe out entire cities. Since then, the cost of building weapons that can kill millions has dropped at a quantum rate.
The most disturbing situation is the biological warfare balance of power. With the declining cost of biological research facilities, it will be very cheap to genetically manipulate diseases like anthrax. A biological weapon would be undetectable in an urban area before its deadly results would strike.
The current military dominance over the Third World in conventional arms by the America and the west is going to create huge incentives for Third World nations to shift the military struggle into a more equal playing field, weapons of mass destruction.
In 2001 the world changed forever as America was the target of two horrendous terrorist attacks. One took place on 9/11. The other involved a series of biological warfare attacks that almost killed a large part of the U.S. Senate and also hit some key media offices. Fortunately, the lunatics who did these attacks were so crazy that they warned people in their anthrax letters that anthrax was inside. In future we will not likely be so lucky.
Japan was also the scene of an ominous portent of the new world "order" to come. A religious cult released poison gas on the Tokyo subway, and had tried to buy Russian nuclear and biological weapons to start a global upheaval.
Unhappiness and bitterness with the new world order combined with a global religious vacuum will likely fuel groups and nations willing to use drastic measures.
The eleven years we have spent studying global indicators reveal realities that cannot be avoided. There is a widening gap between what is needed to build a sustainable global future and the response of today's largely democratic world political order. This gap illustrates a disconnect between political policy and global realities that is going to have very grim consequences if changes do not take place.
The time needed to implement these changes is running out. It is not realistic to expect that the gathering storm of global problems will leave the current political structure of the world intact. Quite the contrary, there is every reason to believe that the continued failure of the current system to deal with global problems will have huge political consequences, as have all great crises in history. Parliamentary democracy as we know it could very well self destruct in our time just as it did in ancient Athens and Rome.This is why it is important understand the political forces that could emerge to threaten and potentially supercede democracy in key areas of the world. This is why we have created one of the best programs in the world to study totalitarianism, our Totalitarianism Research Project.
In order to understand the future, there is a need to understand the past. The modern term "totalitarianism" was invented by Benito Mussolini but the philosophy it represents is actually thousands of years old. We have looked into the past for wisdom to see into the world political future. What we have found is very important. We have found that the modern totalitarian political structures have deep roots in world history, roots that go back into ancient times. We have found that these roots are based on highly sophisticated systems of intellectual political theory in both the ancient East and West. We have also found that democracy's roots in ancient Greece and Rome were far more fragile than most people believe.In light of these realities it is only prudent to study the intellectual foundations and the historical record of totalitarianism.
Democracy does not take place in a vacuum. Nor is it ordained by divine right to last forever. Itcan only exist when a critical mass of a nation's citizens agree to assume responsibility for governing themselves. It can only exist when government policies are adopted that lay the foundation for a sustainable future. It is absolutely essential to study the potential global political implications of today's unsustainable policies.
THE ANCIENT ROOTS OF TOTALITARIANISM
In the ancient world, in both the East and the West, totalitarianism evolved into highly elaborate systems of philosophy, from Plato's views in the "Republic", to the ideas of Lord Shang in ancient China, to the highly detailed plans for totalitarian rule described by Kautilya in ancient India.
There are about 5,000 years of recorded history starting with the creation of the Old Kingdom in Egypt in 3000 CE. For almost all those 5,000 years authoritarian rule has been the norm. The past can and does relate to the future. This is why it is important to study the past. Thus, the study of authoritarian rule is not a matter of opinion. It is a necessity. Indeed, it represents the overwhelming majority of world history
THE SHATTERING OF ILLUSIONS IN THE 1990s
In the 1990s a false sense of complacency settled over the world. The pathetic collapse of one form of modern totalitarianism, Communism, led to a lot of unrealistic illusions about the future. We were living in a "new economy". President Bill Clinton went to World Com headquarters and hailed the company as the wave of the future. World trade would lead to world peace. One scholar even wrote a best selling book suggesting that history was now "over" because things were going so well.
Today, World Com has been exposed as the architect of the biggest corporate fraud in American history. The American economic bubble has burst. Violence and war again stalk the world. Even more disturbing is the fact that most of the world's major environmental indicators continued their downtrend in the 1990s regardless of the short-lived euphoria on Wall Street and in Washington. Still more problems emerged in the field of economics. While the 1990s bubble produced a sort of global upper class, wages remained in sorry shape for all too many people. American wages remain stuck where they were in the 1960s. Mexican wages are actually 50% below where they were in the 1970s. In many African countries conditions are actually worse than they were in the 1950s.
On September 11, 2001 a lot of popular illusions about the future were reduced to rubble along with the towers of the World Trade Center. Since then the pace of violence around the world has accelerated. India and Pakistan nearly had a nuclear war in early 2002. In 2003 American invaded and conquered Iraq. In the Congo 5 million people have been slaughtered in the last few years in the bloodiest war in modern African history. Happy talk from the 1990s about a "democratic peace" now seems a grim laughing stock.
In 2008 the world economy sustained its worst collapse since the Great Depression.
While a lot of the delusions of the last ten years have largely been exposed for the utter idiocy that they were, their unhappy consequences remain. Investors who believed in the fairy tale predictions of the Wall Street "experts" have lost trillions of dollars of their life savings.
THE NEGLECT OF WORLD POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
More disturbing has been the neglect of the study of world intellectual history that took place in the 1990s when it was automatically assumed that America's systems of politics and economics represented some sort of final "New World Order".
A part of the false complacency about totalitarianism in today's world is the utterly sorry state of scholarship and public understanding of the subject. Two books in particular stand out as problems, Hannah Arendt's tiresome Totalitarianism and George Orwell's 1984. Arendt's book served mainly as a lot of verbiage to provide intellectual cover for America's global power struggle with the Soviet Union, connecting communism to fascism. It is really hard to see why such a confused, badly written book could ever have been taken seriously. Arendt is totally clueless about most of world history and barely even mentions the ancient roots of totalitarianism. Orwell portrays a drab world of political oppression. Further problems are added by the comic book portrayal of Hitler in America and the west. He is generally shown as some sort of total nut who ran around 24 hours a day screaming like a maniac. In reality, Weimar Germany was a very sophisticated place. Nobody who behaved like that would have gotten elected dog catcher much less Chancellor of the whole country.
The totalitarian leaders who are likely to come to power are not likely (fortunately) to share Hitler's ideas about race and the Jews. However, in terms of their own cultures and societies they are likely to be every bit as media smart as Hitler indeed was. They will adopt their tactics for their audience. They will be "media cool". They will be able (as Hitler was able to do) to be masters of charm. Hitler in person could be totally relaxed, calm, collected and meticulously polite.
In Hitler's Germany and in Mao's China totalitarianism captured the imagination of the people.
The internet is going to enable such leaders to come to power far faster than before. The magnetic power of their personalities will be able to be communicated 24/7 all over the world.
Voltaire once correctly observed that the "Holy Roman Empire" of his day was neither "holy", nor "Roman" nor an "empire". Sadly, the "New World Order" of the 1990s turned out to be neither "new" nor "orderly". Unlike, the "Holy Roman Empire" which lasted 1000 years, this "Order" is already falling into disorder after a mere few years. Indeed, it may be that recent years have been a "democracy bubble" as much as a financial "bubble" in the long term reality of history.
In this sense there is wisdom in the words of Chou en Lai, who once responded to being asked what he thought of the French Revolution by saying that it had happened so recently it was too soon to tell.
LESSONS FROM THE ANCIENT WORLD:
Obviously, just as Neo-Classical architecture in the modern West has some differences from the original creations of Greece and Rome, so too does modern parliamentary democracy have some differences from its original models. However, the ultimate failure of both these ancient systems contains lessons that relate to our world order today. In both those societies democratic rule was relatively short-lived and it ended up committing political suicide. It is a matter of the highest importance that we go back to ancient Athens and Rome to see if we could be headed for a similar fate. It is equally important to study the intellectual evolution of ancient Athens and Rome so that we can see what might emerge in a post-democratic world.
Pericles and his imperialist foreign policies led Athens into such a national catastrophe that democracy was largely discredited in the ancient Greek world. None of the great minds of Greece that followed Pericles, such as Socrates, Aristotle, Thucydides, Xenophon, and Plato, saw him as any kind of hero. Socrates even ridiculed Pericles as a "pastry cook". The "Cult of Pericles" is an invention of the modern Western world over 2,000 years after he led Athens into ruin and disaster. Furthermore, Athens was never a major world power like Persia. It was Alexander the Great who made Greece a world power, and he despised Athenian democracy. Indeed, Athens actually supported Persia during Alexander's campaign for world empire. The fact that the New Testament was written in Greek and the word "democracy" is not mentioned once in the entire work is an example of how democracy had been consigned to the rubbish heap of Greek history.
THE HELLENISTIC GREEK WORLD
The empire of Alexander marked the transition of ancient Greece from the Classical to the Hellenistic era. In this era two giant empires dominated the Greek world, the Ptolemaic Empire, whose key possession was ancient Egypt, and the Seleucid Empire, which stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the borders of India. The political mentality of this empire can be seen in some of the quotes we have assembled from Plato and Aristotle. These quotes speak for themselves in terms of their totally anti-democratic point of view.
Unlike ancient Athens, the Roman Republic did become a major world power. However, this was hardly a happy story. The Roman Republic was one of the most brutal imperialist regimes ever seen. Most of the "Empire" was conquered by the Republic. The Roman Republic set up the largest and most brutal human slave trade ever seen until the Anglo-American slave trade of modern times.
Unfortunately, military conquest abroad did not bring peace at home. The huge influx of foreign wealth led to violent class warfare, culminating in a series of appalling bloody civil wars. After Augustus established the Empire in 40 CE, democracy had so little credibility that it largely disappeared for almost 1,700 years as a serious political force in the West and did not come back into favor until the 18th century.
LESSONS FROM THE ANCIENT WORLD:
During the 3rd century CE there was a global trend in the ancient world toward totalitarianism. This was particularly evident in China where the state of Chin (considered the Sparta of ancient China) created the first Chinese Empire. This state was based on some of the most ruthless political theories of totalitarian political control that the world has ever seen, the theory of legalism. Chinese political theory ever since has been a fusion of Legalism and Confucianism, particularly as developed by Emperor Wu Ti, the Chinese Emperor whose armies reached all the way to ancient Afghanistan and opened up the ancient "Silk Road".
LESSONS FROM THE ANCIENT WORLD:
Meanwhile, the first major empire in India was being created by Emperor Chandragupta I. This is a state that would have truly warmed the heart of Joseph Stalin or other modern experts on the totalitarian control of society. The political master plan for this society is outlined in a very detailed book by Kautilya, the Emperor's Prime Minister, called the Arthashastra. Systems for setting up a secret police and other agencies familiar to modern tyrannies are discussed in minute detail.
A particularly grim aspect of ancient India was the racial caste system described in the ancient Book of Manu. It is not an accident that Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler saw in ancient India a model for their plans for Europe. It is also not an accident that Arthur de Gobineau, the intellectual founder of modern racism, used ancient India as the model for his ideas.
THE MODERN REBIRTH OF PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY
Eighteen hundred years later, parliamentary democracy was reborn in Europe, being based on idealized versions of ancient Athens and Rome. It almost collapsed in the next century when challenged by Fascism and Communism. Today, the disastrous failure of communism has created a vacuum which is presently being filled by capitalism and parliamentary democracy.
The key question is will this system, this "new world order", survive or will it self-destruct in our time as it did in the ancient world?
THE CRISIS OF MODERN PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY
The problems created by our world system today are far more serious than those faced by ancient Athens and Rome. Neither of these states created a system that threatens the biological foundations of all life on the planet. The dimensions of the crisis have been discussed above. Power can be a double-edged sword and the current "triumph" of parliamentary democracy could well become its funeral wreath if it cannot reform itself.
The magnitude of the current crisis and the dimensions of the political failure to deal with it over the last 50 years have to be taken into account. It would be foolish in the extreme to believe that the modern world system rules by some sort of divine right. In both Athens and Rome the suicide of democracy led to the rise of authoritarianism. In our time the rules of history will again assert themselves if the political power structure fails to reform itself. It is a fantasy to believe that parliamentary democracy will survive if it cannot deal with global problems. Totalitarianism will not only be imposed from above, it will be demanded from below.
Today's gathering storm will create a period where essential concepts of political philosophy will again become open to public debate. Ideas from the past will be used to control the future. Thus, it is important to see the whole picture of political philosophy - rather than looking through the very narrow lens of the post Cold War concept that that history is now "over" due to the "permanent triumph" of parliamentary democracy.
THE DEADLOCK OF MODERN DEMOCRACY
In the developed nations, ignorance, fraud, complacency, apathy, and political gridlock have paralyzed long-term reforms, such as the development of safe, renewable energy technologies or systems of agriculture that do not require draining the world’s limited underground water supplies and using of vast amounts of dangerous chemicals.
Indeed, in America, for example, there are actually popular
political movements that seek to increase gridlock by balkanizing political
power. These movements attack what is already
The longer reform is postponed, the greater the reaction could be in the opposite direction. Hitler came to power because he promised to end the gridlock of the Weimar Republic. The huge popularity of people such as Hitler and Napoleon (as well as Augustus Caesar) shows that the people will welcome leaders who promise to sweep away democracy in order to deal with crises.
Failed democracies have been and will be torn down by the very people they claim to "represent". A silent crisis in today’s democracies is the growing (and well justified) popular belief that the system is not working. If reform cannot come inside the current political system, the system itself will collapse and be replaced by a more authoritarian system.DEMOCRACY'S REACTION TO TERRORISM SINCE 9/11/2001:
DESTROYING DEMOCRACY IN ORDER TO SAVE IT?
The availability of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists presents yet another critical challenge to today's democracies. The proliferation of WMDs will now enable private sector groups to unleash levels of mass murder and devastation that previously were only the domain of major world powers. This "privatization" of mass murder is a truly "new" idea of the "New World Order". It seems to be connected to other "faith-based" initiatives, such as the attacks on 9/11, or the various suicide bombings in places like Israel and Sri Lanka. All of this is going to further fuel the demand for state power. For example, a biological terror attack could spark an epidemic that could kill millions. The very threat of such an attack would severely erode democratic values and justify the most extreme forms of social control.
Already in the United States this process is at work. In the years since the attacks on 9/11 prominent public figures like Alan Dershowitz and Charles Krauthammer have called for the use of torture when interrogating terror suspects. This is an abomination that was never even publicly endorsed by Hitler or Stalin.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration has been adopted measures in the name of security that previously would have been considered incompatible with American democratic values. Several human rights organizations and investigations by the European Union have concluded that the CIA operates a global spider's web of illegal prisons (read documentation of this at Amnesty International also see Council of Europe Report on Alleged Secret Detentions (PDF)). Many of these prisons are located in countries which have authoritarian regimes and long records of human rights abuses.
What is really chilling is that all this could happen from the mere destruction of two office buildings and some serious damage to a third.
RELIGION AND TOTALITARIANISM IN TODAY'S WORLD
It has been said that there are no atheists in the trenches during a war. In our time the growing awareness of the seriousness of the world situation has led to a veritable boom in religion. Unfortunately, the neglect of religion in the first 50 years of the last century has led to levels of religious ignorance that are being dangerously exploited by various forces claiming to be "fundamentalist". Such forces have great appeal. Most people want to do the right thing. The idea of coming closer to God and God's power by means of religious purity is a noble cause but a cause that can end up being manipulated by malevolent or insane forces.
A very likely event is the fusion of totalitarianism with religion. In the study of Nazi Germany too little attention has been paid to the religious aspects of the regime. Hitler himself defined Nazism as a religion. The exact details of this new religion were kept deliberately ambiguous in certain areas so as not to offend powerful church interests in Germany. However, on a number of points Hitler was very specific. He openly proclaimed himself to be an agent of God on earth. The views of Luther, Pope Innocent III, and others were used to justify the persecution of the Jews. Himmler went much further, laying the groundwork for the total replacement of Christianity by a new form of German paganism.
What is needed is education about religion. It is crucial that people understand what the real "fundamentals" about their faith are. It is also crucial that they correctly understand other faiths so that religious conflicts do not tear our planet apart. Unfortunately, the coverage of religion in the Western mass media can only be considered a total disaster. Few things are more troubling than the abuse of the term "fundamentalist". In reality, many key "fundamentalist" factions in world religious politics today are anything but "fundamentalist". A key part of the American "religious" right is made of the Assemblies of God, a denomination that did even exist until the 20th century and was until recently denounced as heretical by more established conservative religious groups like the Baptists. And in the Islamic world, the Shiites of Iran have long been regarded as heretics by Sunni conservatives.
THE DESTABILIZATION OF WORLD RELIGIOUS SYSTEMS
So far, the absence of competing ideologies like communism and fascism have failed to produce the kind of political trends that appeared in Europe in the 1930's. However, this will not last. A new ideology will emerge to challenge America's vision of world imperial power. The rise of fanatical religious movements in the Third World could be a portent of things to come.
When the Iranian Revolution took place in 1979, many saw it as an oddity. Today, Islamic "fundamentalism" is the most powerful force in the Islamic world. What exactly is an Islamic "fundamentalist" is a matter of dispute. Iran's brand of Shiite Islam has historically been considered a heresy. What is not in dispute is the hatred of the "American Dream" among the ranks of the global Islamic "fundamentalist" movement. Bush's ill-fated invasion of Iraq has further fueled hatred of America and further damaged America's already low political credibility rating in the Arab world.
In 1998 a new major event took place in the world of religious political activity, the Hindu fundamentalist party won the largest popular election in world history. Right away it detonated an atomic bomb. Shortly afterward, Pakistan detonated an atomic bomb.
Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu religious party, look back to Subash Bose as their hero. Bose sided with Hitler and the Japanese in World War II. The BJP portrays its mission in a grand historical vision. It points out that Hinduism only had a chance to regain power after 1948, for the first time in 700 years. (Islam conquered India in the thirteenth century.)
In other parts of the world the potential for further upheavals in world religion are growing. China and Japan represent religious vacuums. Their societies are weakly based on artificial imported materialist cultures. They could be highly susceptible to the rise of a charismatic leader and a totalitarian mass movement. The Taiping Rebellion in China in the nineteenth century killed more people than World War I and nearly conquered all of China. This could be a portent of things to come.
Religious problems are nothing new for America. The Puritans created a totalitarian state in Massachusetts that didn't hesitate to execute religious dissidents and attack native Americans. (See our report.) Puritanism eventually declined as a major denomination in America. It was replaced before the civil war by a huge rise in "evangelical" denominations, specifically the Baptists and the Methodists. Unfortunately, the majority of these people came to conclude that their "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" instructed them to support the slave trade. A cause of this situation was the fact that the Bible and church history provide many justifications for slavery. After the crushing defeat of the South in the Civil War southern white churches were often strong supporters of the Ku Klux Clan.
They also came to believe in a theology called "Dispensationalism" which believed that the end of the world was coming soon. After World War II and the creation of Israel this became a very dominant view among American "evangelicals". This affected American life due to the huge boom in evangelism after World War II. Many postwar "born again" movements largely assumed that by 1988 the world would end and concentrated on mass market "salvations" with little direction or theology for living.
Fortunately racism largely declined in evangelism due to the success of the civil rights movement which made it a very counterproductive factor in church marketing. Unfortunately, it was replaced by another morally dubious force, the "religious" right, which claimed Jesus was some kind of conservative Republican.
America's religious problems have reaching a crisis level in recent years. "Pro-family" forces have severely damaged efforts for international family planning and intelligent sex education at home.
Far more ominous has been the mobilization of the "religious" right to stir up hatred of Islam and to support America's attack on Iraq. Even more disturbing are its efforts to actually oppose efforts to curb global warming. See our report on this issue.
In terms of almost all forms of morality America has one of the world's worst global records. The massive internal problems and self-contradictions of American religion bode ill for America's concept of a "New World Order".
TOTALITARIANISM IN A HIGH TECH, MULTIMEDIA WORLD
Technology has no morality. It is only a means to an end. As the "dot coms" continue to disappear into oblivion along with the life savings of those who saw them as the "New Economy", there hopefully will be one positive aspect of this tragedy, an end to mindless faith in technology as an inevitable force of good. It's hard to believe that some "experts" had even predicted that the "dot coms" would actually replace the governments of the world!
Technology will increase the hypnotic power of charismatic leaders and will also enable levels of political control virtually unprecedented in history. There is a lot of truth to Albert Speer's observation that a key difference between Hitler's regime and those of the past was the role of technology. Indeed, Hitler was the ultimate "high tech", "multimedia" politician. TV was first used in the 1936 Nazi Olympics. Without the invention of the loudspeaker, mass rallies like those at Nuremberg would have been impossible. Not since Augustus Caesar had there been such a total orchestration of technology, media, art, and music for political purposes.
People such as Hitler have very magnetic personalities. In our time, with television and 24-hour video and audio on demand even for computers not on broadband, they will be able to emotionally connect to millions of people in a manner unprecedented in history.
Today, the internet and global TV enable the communication of ideas on a scale never before seen in history. The Internet, in particular, will enable ideas to be communicated on a scale beyond human imagination in the past. This means that a small, well organized group will be able to expand at a far faster pace than before. A giant political upheaval could take place far faster, particularly in light of both public apathy and low public confidence in the status quo.
Too many Americans hold the comforting belief that totalitarianism can only come to power by force and only stays in power by force. In reality, world politics is much more fluid. Failed democracies have been and will be torn down by the very people they claim to "represent". Hitler was without a doubt the most popular leader of all time inside his own country, and he came to power in free elections. Stalin's show trials were immensely popular among many Russians. Recently, the three largest free elections of all time were won by the Bharatiya Janata Party in India, a radical nationalist organization that has plunged South Asia into a thermonuclear arms race.
What is happened in India in 1998 could be an ominous warning of things to come. It is particularly disturbing that all around the world radical groups are coming to power. In Palestine Hamas won the freest elections in Palestinian history. In Japan, the most prominent nationalist leader is now Governor of Tokyo and recently won re-election in a national landslide.
Democracy does not just "happen". Nor is it ordained by divine right. It can only take place where a significant critical mass of a nation's people is willing to take the time to serve as citizens to govern themselves. We urge all the people of the world to try to participate in a nonviolent constructive manner in their democracies.
However, we face problems far greater than those of ancient Athens and ancient Rome. The failure of their political systems should serve as a warning to us. History is a dynamic process. Today, we enjoy the benefits of global environmental policies that have borrowed from the future and are not sustainable in terms of even the most elemental analysis of relevant data. Thus, it would not only be naive but very irresponsible to assume that today's major democracies are going to make adequate preparations for the future, particularly in the realm of environmental policy. It is only prudent to consider the possibility of alternative scenarios. As noted, we urge people to try to make democracy work. This would be the best solution and our Indicators Program represents a huge investment by us to this cause including the creation of a Citizen Education Guide for American citizens.
We do not pretend to have all of the solutions. However we have produced a new report that does present an outline of what is and is not global reform: Building a Sustainable Global Future: An Outline of Reform
Those who do not remember the past are likely to repeat its mistakes. We believe the wisdom of the past can be used to understand the future. With this understanding, hopefully, we can make it a better place.