19.4.05

The Terrorism of Money

The big bankers of the world, who practice the terrorism of money, are more powerful than kings and field marshals, even more than the Pope of Rome himself. They never dirty their hands. They kill no one: they limit themselves to applauding the show.

Their officials, international technocrats, rule our countries: they are neither presidents nor ministers, they have not been elected, but they decide the level of salaries and public expenditure, investments and divestments, prices, taxes, interest rates, subsidies, when the sun rises and how frequently it rains.

However, they don’t concern themselves with the prisons or torture chambers or concentration camps or extermination centers, although these house the inevitable consequences of their acts.

The technocrats claim the privilege of irresponsibility:
“We’re neutral,” they say.

Eduardo Galeano, “Professional Life/3”



I just finished reading an interesting book about American colonial history that I picked up in preparation for a trip to New York that I’m taking next week. The thesis was essentially that the colony of New Netherland was responsible for the pluralistic, multi-cultural society that America was to become, whereas the colonies of New England were totalitarian theocracies that had more in common with Iran then with the country that we were to become. Now, living in New England, I, of course, feel that the book showed a New Yorkers typical belief that all civilization springs forth from the loin of Manhattan, but it was still a well-written history of a time period that had tended to be glossed over in American history books.

In reading more about the Puritans recently (in both this book and in the book “The Seduction of Place” by Joseph Rykwert with regards to Utopian city planning) I’ve had to think some about the ideas of utopianism as opposed to the Evangelical beliefs that I was brought up with. I find it extremely interesting that, although Evangelicalism grew out of the Puritan traditions (the denomination that I attended after high school grew directly out of a group called the Plymouth Brethren) the beliefs about the direction the world is headed are exact opposites of each other. The Puritans believed that they were going to build “a citty upon a hill” and that they would, through Christian governance achieve a kind of heaven here on the earth. Fast-forward 350 years. I was brought up believing that world is constantly getting worse. Moral degradation is without precedent and eventually, the world will become a lot like the set for Blade Runner until eventually Christ decides to come back and burn it all up (after removing all the Christians and leaving our folded clothing on the airplane seats that we had occupied). I’ve been told that it was World War II that caused this shift, but I’ve also been told that “wine wasn’t as strong in Jesus’ time” so I tend to take everything with a grain of salt.

After leaving the Evangelical church for the Post-Modern one, I once had a conversation regarding this very topic with a Pastor. He tended towards the view that the world is actually improving, and at the time, fresh from my time spent in the optimistic European Union, I was inclined to agree with him. This isn’t a direct quote, but he said something with the jist, “wouldn’t you rather live now in any country in Africa then in Europe or American 200 years ago.”

I no longer agree with this statement. The emergence of the “Forth World” country in the last 15 years stands in stark contrast. The “Forth World” is any country that has lost ground in standards of living since independence. One of the best examples is Haiti, which was highly civilized, with good industry and a standard of living that was almost twice as high as the neighboring Dominican Republic (and, in the 1890’s, still better then Florida.) Today, Haiti is the poorest nation, by far, in the western hemisphere, and one of the poorest in the world. The majority of Haiti’s population of 8 million lives on less then $.50 a day. The budget of Haiti’s government is slightly lower then that of Cambridge, Mass. Other countries that fall into this grouping are The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone (once the two richest countries in Africa because of their positions as colonies for returned slaves from the US and Britain respectively), Somalia (once the center of trade for the entire western Indian Ocean resulting from Mogadishu being one of the few natural harbours on the east African coast, Somalia was once called the only modern nation-state in Africa), and Cambodia (who hasn’t seen photos of the stunning accomplishments of the Khmer kingdom based at Angkor Watt?). I would rather be born into Europe in the 1300’s than into West Africa now. At least they didn’t have AK47’s in the middle ages.

So then, is the world becoming better or worse? Here lies the root of many of the problems of our post-modern world. I think it is doing both at the same time. The gap between the rich and the poor is ever widening. There is real hope for many developing countries (Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico, China, India ect.) that they will reach the first world in terms of development and standards of living, however, many more nations and falling ever farther behind, or, in some cases, even running in the other direction.

The question then is: can we be satisfied with our American or European lives knowing that not so far away, things are getting constantly worse for a large portion of the worlds population?

3 comments:

Anna 12:59 PM  

Interesting post. I'll see how bad of spelling I can have when I type without spell check. First of all, I notice how both you and I tend to change our opinons based on who surrounds us, churches, pastors, schools. When we are in the fundmentalist church, the world is getting worse. The post-modern church, "oh, the world is getting better," and now the world is getting worse again. I'm not meaning to criticize, for I'm exactly the same way. One of the main reasons I started my quest at the beginning with "Do I believe in God?" is because I realized how totally influenced I am by other people's opinions. As for the part about the world gradually getting better, you are right, it was a big part of John Winthrop's "City on a Hill" ideal, but it has also played into a lot of mainline Christianity's version of salvation through the passage of time and not so much through some sort of "second coming."
I don't know what I think, about if the world is getting worse or better. I think perhaps it is about the same. We have the capabilities for the world to be so much better, but we don't use the resources to help as many people as we could.

onetenchelsea 2:25 PM  

When I was with the evengelicals, I often had a problem with thier idea that things were constantly getting worse. It didn't seem to jive with a. the history that I knew and b. some of the things that they taught (about ancient rome, egypt ect.) I think that their ideas about the decline of the world actually go against a lot of the other things that they teach.

Actually, i think you may have struck on something by pointing out that we may change our opinions about the direction of the world based on those around us. Maybe those opinions are correct. The world is seen as declining by the evengilicals because they themselves are declining as the world that created them disappears. Post-moderns are on the incline, and so they see the world through rose-coloured glasses. American power is under attack, their place as the sole hegemon being challanged, therefore the world is declining. In Europe, everyone is joining together, the world is becoming more equitable and people have more oppertunities, and so the world is getting better.

luke 10:36 PM  

hey, can I have your mailing address?
thanks.
lucskarn@hotmail.com

your interesting too.

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