Friday, March 26, 2010

The time and turn of the Asians

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

If we consider the consequences of the current financial and economic crisis we see a disturbing inertia. The United States managed to impose on the Europeans the decision to keep the market as the linchpin of the economy with the promise of controls and regulations that have not yet been implemented. Barack Obama leaned in the direction of Wall Street and with the taxpayers' money saved and propped up the banks that were the main culprits of the crisis. Increasingly, he is showing himself to be a president who obeys the logic of an empire in decline, whose only strength that really matters is its ability to kill everyone and destroy life on earth. This is the truth that nobody likes to speak or hear.

Of the aid that the G-20 pledged in London in April 2009 to vulnerable countries -- one billion one hundred million dollars -- only 5% has actually been granted. This support is 360 times lower than the 18 billion dollars to save the shattered financial institutions in rich countries. Financial speculation moves uncontrollably, just as it did before the crisis. Not unreasonably, the two preeminent Nobel prize winners in economics, Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, predict a new crisis more serious than the previous one shortly. We live happily, as in the days of Noah, eating, drinking and having fun.

Still and all, the current crisis has produced or reinforced three phenomena that deserve to be highlighted. The first is a deglobalization, which occurs through a regionalization of the economy: the creation of regional groupings such as Mercosur, Alba, Nafta, BRIC, ASEAN (10 countries including Burma, Indonesia, Singapore), OECD, the European Community, OSC (Organization of Shanghai with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, etc.) and others. They put into effect coordinated policies to prevent crises and have strong regional banks, irrespective of the IMF.

The second is the shift in the center of gravity from the North Atlantic to the Pacific and Asia. Forty-four percent of global reserves are there. China's GDP is around 7.8 billion and it sustains U.S. consumption, Japan's is 4.5 trillion, while that of South Korea is 1.3 billion, and Indonesia's is 932,100 billion. The reserves of those four countries amount to 7.34 billion dollars. Marx left us this lesson: the economy brings behind it the politics, culture and hegemony of the world. Asians aspire to shape the global process with Asian features, especially Chinese ones. It's their turn.

Finally, the emergence of a collective global action against the current critical situation. It is born of a deep disappointment and much anger that exists in the world. There are now 60 million unemployed. Soon there will be more than one hundred million. It appears that the solution for warming and for the widespread ecological crisis can not come from politics, crisscrossed by national interests and by so much corruption.

Outlines are emerging of organizations for the salvation of life and humanity. Leaders, groups, movements, religious groups, associations, world bodies will want desperately to take history into their hands. Millions of climate refugees will force the political boundaries of many nations in search of survival. There will be mass demonstrations of discontent in front of banks, parliaments and government palaces demanding drastic measures to ensure food security, jobs, potable water, protection from the devastation caused by extreme events. Who will resist the angry masses?

The economics of pure growth for consumption, the engine of the capitalist economy and the Lula government's PAC, basically says, "to hell with nature and future generations be damned, we want to continue to grow and increase the GDP, since that is what makes us a power." But all will cry: "Enough with geocide. We want a green economy that makes us live and that is suitable to the new situation of the earth." Without this change it will be difficult for us to escape the revenge of Gaia.

I have said it and fulfilled my conscience.

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