All posts by Robert J. Burrowes

Gandhi’s Despair and the Struggle for Truth and Love

When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it – always.

— M.K. Gandhi

As we remembered Gandhi Jayanti on 2 October, the Mahatma’s 149th birthday and the International Day of Nonviolence, there is plenty of room for despair.

Never before has the Earth and its many inhabitants been under siege as they are now, more than 100 years after Gandhi started warning us of the predicament in which we are embroiled and presenting his strategy for addressing it before it spiraled out of control.

Whether it is the threat of nuclear war, the ongoing wars in many parts of the world and particularly the Middle East, the multiple and synergistic threats to the global environment or the ongoing climate catastrophe, the Earth is under assault on all fronts and its precious life forms (human and otherwise) are being killed outright in vast numbers and driven to extinction at the rate of 200 species daily. And the evidence is rapidly accumulating that humans themselves will be extinct by 2026 as well.

Moreover, unlike the tyrants to which Gandhi was referring, the current ‘tyrant’ is a global elite that has acquired extraordinary power to kill and destroy as they pursue their insane compulsion to accumulate and control resources at the expense of life.

So are we to give up in despair? To quit without a fight? Or even delude ourselves that nothing needs to be done? Obviously, these were not ways that Gandhi would contemplate because, as noted in his words cited above: ‘the ways of truth and love have always won’. Although, as Gandhi did not bother to add: we must struggle, relentlessly, to ensure that truth and love prevail.

And, fortunately, there are many people around the world who agree with him.

Tackling the pervasive violence in our world requires a comprehensive strategy involving many campaigns focused on a wide range of peace, justice and environmental issues, and substantial mobilization. There is no single or simple path. Let me tell you about some of the people engaged in this effort and the nature of their commitment, together with what connects their involvement.

Remarkable activist and progressive journalist Abby Martin, based in the USA, was formerly creator and presenter of the investigative news program ‘Breaking the Set’ and is now creator and presenter of its successor program ‘The Empire Files’. With the support of her fine team, Abby researches and presents reports from ‘inside history’s biggest empire… recording a world shaped by war and inequality’ so that the truth is exposed for all to see. Abby, who is also an artist, interviews a wide range of people from ‘ordinary’ activists to progressive intellectuals to political leaders to penetrate the veil of obscurity cast by the global elite’s corporate media. You can watch Abby’s terrific programs, providing insight into how our incredibly violent world works, on her website ‘The Empire Files‘. You can also read about the latest attack on her work and how you can help in the article ‘US Sanctions Shut Down “The Empire Files” with Abby Martin’. Keep fighting, Abby! We are with you all the way.

Ina Curic in Romania writes illustrated children’s books designed to teach children a variety of lessons for living an empowered, socially and environmentally conscious life. Her book Queen Rain, King Wind: The Practice of Heart Gardening was published in May and Anagrania’s Challenge: Turning Conflict into Opportunity has just been published. Anagrania’s Challenge is a beautifully created story that offers clear and simple guidance on three subjects vital to our shared future on Earth: what we need to be ourselves, what we need to be healthy, and that acceptance of uniqueness and creatively dealing with conflict are essential if we are to live together and celebrate the benefits and advantages of our differences. If you are looking for children’s books that promote nonviolent living and conflict resolution, you will have trouble finding better books than those by Ina. You can read about Ina, as well as how to obtain her books, on her website Imagine Creatively.

Pakistani Canadian Dr. Mahboob A. Khawaja is a scholar who writes searing critiques of international relations exposing the deep conflicts driving global events. Two of his recent articles are ‘World Affairs and Insanity as Entertainment: Are We at the End of Human Morality?‘  and ‘Mankind Must Know: The UNO and Global Leaders are a Menace to Peace and Problem-Solving‘.

Moreover, in support of his son Momin, a computer science graduate and IT entrepreneur, who has been unjustly imprisoned since 2004 on terrorism charges (and facing a sentence of life plus 24 years), Mahboob has created a website to raise awareness of Momin’s struggle for justice and freedom, and organized a petition for those who wish to express their support for him.

Edith Rubinstein in Belgium is definitely an ‘activist senior’. Now 86 and in a center of recuperation following a severe depression and bout of unconsciousness earlier this year, Edith still has her computer and continues her work as an activist.

Because I am an activist since a very long time, a feminist, a woman in Black, and I translated free Ecofeminism from Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva…. Since many years, I have translated alternative articles and finally it made me sick.

In fact, Edith admits:

I am completely “abnormal”. Somebody who feels bad to live in a world where hundreds of thousand people are killed or die … because they have nothing to eat anymore and nobody seems to care…. I feel very bad to live in this kind of world. Yes, terrible what is happening in the Congo! But unfortunately it is not the only case. And I am very scandalized by the behavior of the Western World!!!!

Zakia Haddouch in Morocco continues to report the extraordinarily difficult circumstances of people in that country as she and other activists continue their various struggles to bring some semblance of justice to Moroccan affairs. One prominent issue is the ongoing debate in relation to ‘the forced military service (for both young female and male subjects and I don’t say citizens). It was lately decreed by the king.’ Another struggle is taking place in the wake of the death of Mohcine Fikri on 28 October 2016, who was crushed to death in a rubbish truck trying to recover merchandise confiscated by a policeman. Following this event, Hirak (literally ‘The Movement’) was born and it quickly mobilized widespread support for its vigorous protests. While most of Hirak’s concerns are about local issues, it draws upon a national repertory of nonviolent actions fueled by the experiences of activists around the country.

Between October 2016 and May 2017, and faced with social unrest of an unprecedented vitality which increasingly challenged him personally, Mohamed VI remained silent. However, when Hirak leader Nasser Zefzazi – who has never failed to stress nonviolence and advocate self-restraint – interrupted a sermon on 26 May 2017 in which an imam claimed the social movement was tantamount to a ‘fratricidal struggle or even civil war within Islam’, the government took this pretext to clamp down on Hirak. Many activists were jailed – over 200 so far – and demonstrations are now systematically broken up. Zefzazi was among those arrested (on 29 May 2017) and, along with other members of Hirak, subsequently jailed for 20 years. The repression has nipped in the bud any hopes for resolving the crisis quickly. But this doesn’t mean that Zakia and other activists have been intimidated into silence or inaction.

Daniel Dalai reports modestly about his visionary initiative Earthgardens in Guatemala. Earthgardens provides opportunities for girls to realize and practice their inherent leadership potential, particularly as part of Eco-Teams in preserving natural biodiversity. ‘More and more 3rd world governments are proving to be a colossal waste of money as corrupt politicians get rich without addressing local needs. The Sembradores’ model of Girl Power is gaining acceptance as people realize girls are more efficient, more concerned, and less corruptible in solving the simple problems of local needs. Clean water, cheap electricity, food production, and tourist development are urgent needs in many parts of the globe. You may become a volunteer working with children or an Eco-Team assessor in Latin America or Africa.’ Please contact Kate Teggins <moc.kooltuonull@snedraghtrae> The beautiful Earthgardens website has just been updated and the stunning photos alone will tell you much about what these remarkable girls are doing.

Young Nigerian Idowu Jawando has been reflecting deeply on the shocking state of our world and his own role in fixing that.

Over here in Lagos civilization advances steadily with all its domination and exploitation, squeezing the juice out of all of us. But yet here and there, traces of a smile, the fragrance of love releases its perfume… things seem bearable for a while. The big question on my mind is this: Can civilization be deconstructed? A part of me thinks: Yes, of course, it is the actions of individuals that create this world, these same individuals also have the power to take everything down. But how about the police, the armies, the nuclear weapons and what-have you? Things are the way they are because of force. And most especially the threat of starvation too. It forces us into activities and relationships not of our choosing. Civilization uses and discards the people, over and over, squeezing them like lemons.

Will the global leaders who are driven to this insane struggle for power and profit suddenly grow a compassionate nature, one that has no doubt been lost a long time ago? You and I know they won’t. With all the disasters that go on, we still see them stripping the earth bare of its life, still forcing people into precarious situations. We find ourselves at a quandary. I personally find myself in a very stifling situation, but I try my best not to let it define, instead I study it as one would study a dangerous toy….

Indeed I have found that tenderness impacts strength and courage in others, this is something I have seen in my own existence. But can one be tender to an oppressor? I guess if there was a mass refusal of this world and all its mechanisms, there will be a lot of headway. Such a situation in my own thinking, won’t be one of making demands to any government, but collectively and individually deciding how we want to live our beautiful mortal lives and what we want the world around us to reflect: the ugliness of mindless profit-seeking or co-creative play with earthly life.

Many just go through life unquestioningly, accepting the state of things as normal; as well, the walls that prevent us from truly connecting with one another, is one major obstacle. The education, religious systems only encourage people to be followers, never masters of themselves…. I will keep thinking about this. I realize it might take my whole life and then more, to tackle the evils of the world. But it would please me if I am moving inch by inch and encouraging others to do the same. The torch of freedom must never be extinguished. But must pass from generation to generation.’

Each of the inspiring individuals mentioned above is a signatory of ‘The Peoples Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘. If you feel inclined to join this worldwide movement to end violence in all of its manifestations, you are welcome to sign the Charter pledge too.

Like those individuals mentioned above, signatories of the Nonviolence Charter come from a diverse range of backgrounds. They live all over the world (in 105 countries). They represent a wide range of genders, races, religions, classes and abilities. And they work on a phenomenal variety of issues with an increasing number recognizing the need to work on ending violence against children. As Gandhi noted:

If we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children.

This requires us to understand the cause of violence, including violence against children – see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘ – and to consider making ‘My Promise to Children‘. In some cases, it means undertaking the personal healing necessary to nurture children powerfully.

Recognizing, as Gandhi put it, that ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every [person’s] needs, but not every [person’s] greed’, others are tackling the full range of environmental and climate challenges by participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

And given the elite insanity that drives violence in many contexts, still other signatories are engaged in nonviolent struggles or national liberation struggles to tackle violence in these contexts.

So if you are inclined to ponder the meaning of Gandhi’s life, you just need to picture a man dressed simply in khadi, walking to the sea to collect salt in defiance of the law of the British occupying power.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once noted: ‘The enemy is violence.’ But for Gandhi: ‘The enemy is fear.’

This is because it is fear that drives violence but also fear that prevents us responding strategically and nonviolently to the violence in our world. As Gandhi observed:

You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing there will be no results.

So as humans are beckoned to extinction within the next few years, Gandhi would remind us that ‘The future depends on what we do in the present.’

What will you do?

Human Extinction by 2026?

There is almost unanimous agreement among climate scientists and organizations – that is, 97% of over 10,000 climate scientists and the various scientific organizations engaged in climate science research – that human beings have caused a dramatic increase in the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide released into Earth’s atmosphere since the pre-industrial era and that this is driving the climate catastrophe that continues to unfold.

However, there is no consensus regarding the time frame in which this climate catastrophe will cause human extinction. This lack of consensus is primarily due to the global elite controlling the public perception of this time frame with frequent talk of ‘the end of the century’ designed to allow ongoing profit maximization through ‘business as usual’ for as long as possible. Why has this happened?

When evidence of the climate catastrophe (including the pivotal role of burning fossil fuels) became incontrovertible, which meant that the fossil fuel industry’s long-standing efforts to prevent action on the climate catastrophe had finally ended, the industry shifted its focus to arguing that the time frame, which it presented as ‘end of the century’, meant that we could defer action (and thus profit-maximization through business as usual could continue indefinitely). Consequently, like the tobacco, sugar and junk food industries, the fossil fuel industry has employed a range of tactics to deflect attention from their primary responsibility for a problem and to delay action on it.

These well-worn tactics include suggesting that the research is incomplete and more research needs to be done, funding ‘research’ to come up with ‘evidence’ to counter the climate science, employing scholars to present this ‘research’, discrediting honest climate scientists, infiltrating regulatory bodies to water down (or reverse) decisions and recommendations that would adversely impact profits, setting up ‘concerned’ groups to act as ‘fronts’ for the industry, making generous political donations to individuals and political parties as well as employing lobbyists.

As a result of its enormous power too, the global elite has been able to control much of the funding available for climate science research and a great deal of the information about it that is made widely available to the public, particularly through its corporate media. For this reason, the elite wields enormous power to shape the dialogue in relation to both the climate science and the time frame.

Therefore, and despite the overwhelming consensus noted above, many climate scientists are reluctant to be fully truthful about the state of the world’s climate or they are just conservative in their assessments of the climate catastrophe. For example, eminent climate scientist Professor James Hansen referred to ‘scientific reticence’ in his article ‘Scientific reticence and sea level rise‘, scientists might be conservative in their research – for example, dependence upon historical records leads to missing about one-fifth of global warming since the 1860s as explained in ‘Reconciled climate response estimates from climate models and the energy budget of Earth‘ – and, in some cases, governments muzzle scientists outright. But many of the forces working against full exposure of the truth are explained in Professor Guy McPherson’s article ‘Climate-Change Summary and Update‘.

However, in contrast to the elite-managed mainstream narrative regarding the climate time frame, there is a group of courageous and prominent climate scientists who offer compelling climate science evidence that human beings, along with millions of other species, will be extinct by 2026 (and perhaps as early as 2021) in response to a projected 10 degree celsius increase in global temperatures above the pre-industrial level by that date.

Before outlining the essence of this article, it is worth noting that the website on which it is posted is Arctic News and the editors of this site post vital articles on the world’s climate by highly prominent climate scientists, such as Professor Peter Wadhams (Emeritus Professor of Polar Ocean Physics at Cambridge University and author of A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic), Dr Andrew Glikson (an Earth and paleoclimate scientist who is a visiting fellow at the Australian National University), Professor Guy McPherson who has written extensively and lectures all over the world on the subject, and ‘Sam Carana’, the pseudonym used by a group of climate scientists concerned to avoid too many adverse impacts on their research, careers and funding by declaring themselves publicly but nevertheless committed to making the truth available for those who seek it.

So, in a few brief points, let me summarize the evidence and argument outlined in the article ‘Will humans be extinct by 2026?’

The Climate Science of Destruction of the Biosphere

In the Arctic, there is a vast amount of carbon stored in soils that are now still largely frozen; this frozen soil is called permafrost. But as Arctic temperatures continue to rise and the permafrost thaws, in response to the warming that has occurred already (and is ongoing) by burning fossil fuels and farming animals for human consumption, much of this carbon will be converted into carbon dioxide or methane and released into the atmosphere. There is also a vast amount of methane – in the form of methane hydrates and free gas – stored in sediments under the Arctic Ocean seafloor. As temperatures rise, these sediments are being destabilized and will soon result in massive eruptions of methane from the ocean floor. ‘Due to the abrupt character of such releases and the fact that many seas in the Arctic Ocean are shallow, much of the methane will then enter the atmosphere without getting broken down in the water.’

Adversely impacting this circumstance is that the sea ice continues to retreat as the polar ice cap melts in response to the ongoing temperature increases. Because sea ice reflects sunlight back into Space, as the ice retreats more sunlight hits the (dark-colored) ocean (which absorbs the sunlight) and warms the ocean even more. This causes even more ice melt in what becomes an ongoing self-reinforcing feedback loop that ultimately impacts worldwide, such as triggering huge firestorms in forests and peatlands in North America and Russia.

More importantly, however, without sea ice, storms develop more easily and because they mix warm surface waters with the colder water at the bottom of shallow seas, reaching cracks in sediments filled with ice which acts as a glue holding the sediment together, the ice melt destabilizes the sediments, which are vulnerable to even small differences in temperature and pressure that are triggered by earthquakes, undersea landslides or changes in ocean currents.

As a result, huge amounts of methane can erupt from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean and once this occurs, it will further raise temperatures, especially over the Arctic, thus acting as another self-reinforcing feedback loop that again makes the situation even worse in the Arctic, with higher temperatures causing even further methane releases, contributing to the vicious cycle that precipitates ‘runaway global warming’.

‘These developments can take place at such a speed that adaptation will be futile. More extreme weather events can hit the same area with a succession of droughts, cold snaps, floods, heat waves and wildfires that follow each other up rapidly. Within just one decade [from 2016], the combined impact of extreme weather, falls in soil quality and air quality, habitat loss and shortages of food, water, shelter and just about all the basic things needed to sustain life can threaten most, if not all, life on Earth with extinction.’

The article goes on to outline how the 10 degree increase (above the pre-industrial level) by 2026 is likely to occur. It will involve further carbon dioxide and methane releases from human activity (particularly driving cars and other vehicles, flying in aircraft and eating animal products, as well as military violence), ongoing reduction of snow and ice cover around the world (thus reflecting less sunlight back into Space), an increase in the amount of water vapor (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere, a falling away of ‘aerosol masking’ (which has helped reduce the impact of emissions so far) as emissions decline, as well as methane eruptions from the ocean floor. If you would like to read more about this and see the graphs and substantial documentation, you can do so in the article cited above: ‘Will humans be extinct by 2026?’

The Ecology of Destruction of the Biosphere

Not that these scientists, who focus on the climate, discuss it but there are other human activities adversely impacting Earth’s biosphere which also threaten near-term extinction for humans, particularly given their synergistic impacts.

For example, recent research has drawn attention to the fact that the ‘alarming loss of insects will likely take down humanity before global warming hits maximum velocity…. The worldwide loss of insects is simply staggering with some reports of 75% up to 90%, happening much faster than the paleoclimate record rate of the past five major extinction events’. Without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops…’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply collapses.

Moreover, apart from ongoing destruction of other vital components of Earth’s life support system such as the rainforests – currently being destroyed at the rate of 80,000 acres each day – and oceans which is generating an extinction rate of 200 species (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects and reptiles) each day with another 26,000 species already identified as ‘under threat’ some prominent scholars have explained how even these figures mask a vital component of the rapidly accelerating catastrophe of species extinctions: the demise of local populations of a species.

In addition, relying on our ignorance and our complicity, elites kill vast areas of Earth’s biosphere through war and other military violence, subject it to uncontrolled releases of radioactive contamination and use geo-engineering to wage war on Earth’s climate, environment and ultimately ourselves.

Separately from all of this, we live under the unending threat of nuclear war.

This is because insane political and corporate elites are still authorizing and manufacturing more of these highly profitable weapons rather than dismantling them all (as well as conventional weapons) and redirecting the vast resources devoted to ongoing military killing (US$1.7 trillion annually) to environmental restoration and programs of social uplift.

By the way, if you think the risk of nuclear war can be ignored, you might find this recent observation sobering. In a review of (former US nuclear war planner) Daniel Ellsberg’s recent book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Earth and paleoclimate scientist Dr Andrew Glikson summarized the book as follows:

This, then, is the doomsday machine. Not simply the existence of fission weapons or unspeakably destructive hydrogen bombs, but the whole network rigged together: thousands of them on hair-trigger alert, command and control equipment built in the 1970s and ’80s, millions of lines of antique code sitting on reels of magnetic tape or shuffled around on floppy discs even now. An architecture tended by fallible and deeply institutionalized human beings.

So, irrespective of whether elites or their agents or even we acknowledge it, Earth’s biosphere is under siege on many fronts and, very soon now, Earth will not support life. Any honest news source routinely reports one or another aspect of the way in which humans are destroying the Earth and perhaps suggests courses of action to respond powerfully to it. This, of course, does not include the insane global elite’s corporate media, which functions to distract us from any semblance of the truth.

How did all this happen?

How did human beings end up in a situation that human extinction is likely to occur within eight years (even assuming we can avert nuclear war)? And is there any prospect of doing enough about it now to avert this extinction?

To answer the first question briefly: We arrived at this juncture in our history because of a long sequence of decisions, essentially made by elites to expand their profit, power and privilege, and which they then imposed on us and which we did not resist powerfully enough.

In any case, the key questions now are simply these: Is it too late to avert our own extinction? And, if not, what must we do?

Well, I am not going to dwell on it but some scientists believe it is too late: we have already passed the point of no return. Professor Guy McPherson is one of these scientists, with a comprehensive explanation and a great deal of evidence to support it in his long and heavily documented article ‘Climate-Change Summary and Update‘.

So, the fundamental question is this: If we assume (highly problematically I acknowledge) that it is possible to avert our own extinction by 2026, what must we do?

Because we need to address, in a strategic manner, the interrelated underlying causes that are driving the rush to extinction, let me first identify one important symptom of these underlying causes and then the underlying structural and behavioral causes themselves. Finally, let me invite your participation in (one or more aspects of) a comprehensive strategy designed to address all of this.

As in the past, at least initially, the vast bulk of the human population is not going to respond to this crisis in any way. We need to be aware of this but not let it get in our way. There is a straightforward explanation for it.

Fear or, far more accurately, unconscious terror will ensure that the bulk of the human population will not investigate or seriously consider the scientific evidence in relation to the ongoing climate catastrophe, despite its implications for them personally and humanity generally (not to mention other species and the biosphere). Moreover, given that climate science is not an easy subject with which to grapple, elite control of most media in relation to it (including, most of the time, by simply excluding mention of key learning from the climate scientists) ensures that public awareness, while reasonably high, is not matched by knowledge, which is negligible.

As a result, most people will fearfully, unintelligently and powerlessly accept the delusions, distractions and denial that are promulgated by the insane global elite through its various propaganda channels including the corporate media, public relations and entertainment industries, as well as educational institutions. This propaganda always includes the implicit message that people can’t (and shouldn’t) do anything in response to the climate catastrophe (invariably and inaccurately, benignly described as ‘climate change’).

A primary way in which the corporate media reports the issue but frames it for a powerless response is to simply distribute ‘news’ about each climate-related event without connecting it either with other climate-related events or even mentioning it as yet another symptom of the climate catastrophe. Even if they do mention these connections, they reliably mention distant dates for phenomena like ‘heatwaves’ repeating themselves and an overall ‘end of century’ time frame to preclude the likelihood that any sense of urgency will arise.

The net outcome of all this, as I stated above, is that the bulk of the human population will not respond to the crisis in the short term (as it hasn’t so far) with most of what limited response there is confined to powerlessly lobbying elite-controlled governments.

However, as long as you consider responding – and by responding, I mean responding strategically – and then do respond, you become a powerful agent of change, including by recruiting others through your example.

But before I present the strategy, let me identify the major structural and behavioral causes that are driving the climate catastrophe and destruction of the biosphere, and explain why some key elements of this strategy are focused on tackling these underlying causes.

The Political Economy of Destruction of the Biosphere

The global elite ensures that it has political control of the biosphere as well as Space by using various systems, structures and processes that it largely created (over the past few centuries) and now controls, including the major institutions of governance in the world such as national governments and key international organizations like the United Nations.

It does this, for example, so that it can economically utilize, via the exploitative mechanisms of capitalism and its corporations (which the elite also created), domains of the biosphere rich in resources, particularly fossil fuels, strategic minerals and fresh water. The elite will use any means – including psychological manipulation, propaganda issued by its corporate media, national educational institutions, legal systems and extraordinary military violence – to achieve this outcome whatever the cost to life on Earth.

In short, the global elite is so insane that its members believe that killing and exploiting fellow human beings and destroying the biosphere are simply good ways to make a profit. Of course, they do not perceive us as fellow human beings; they perceive and treat us as a great deal less. This is why, for example, the elite routinely uses its military forces to attack impoverished and militarily primitive countries so that they can steal their resources.

But they are happy to steal from those of us living in western economies too, with Professor Barbara G. Ellis issuing the latest warning about yet another way this could easily happen.

Anyway, because of elite control of governments, it is a waste of time lobbying politicians if we want action on virtually all issues that concern us, particularly the ‘big issues’ that threaten extinction, such as the climate catastrophe, environmental destruction and war (especially the threat of nuclear war). While in very limited (and usually social) contexts (such as issues in relation to the right of women to abortions or rights for the LGBTQIA communities), when it doesn’t significantly adversely impact elite priorities, gains are sometimes made (at least temporarily) by mobilizing sufficient people to pressure politicians. This has two beneficial outcomes for elites: it keeps many people busy on ‘secondary issues’ (from the elite perspective) that do not impact elite profit, power and privilege; and it reinforces the delusion that democracy ‘works’.

However, in the contexts that directly impact elite concerns (such as their unbridled exploitation of the biosphere for profit), politicians serve their elite masters, even to the extent that any laws that might appear to have been designed to impede elite excesses (such as pollution generated by their activities) are readily ignored if necessary, with legal penalties too insignificant to deter phenomenally wealthy corporations.

Of course, if any government does not obey elite directives, it is overthrown. Just ask any independently-minded government over the past century. For a list of governments overthrown by the global elite using its military and ‘intelligence’ agencies since World War II, see William Blum’s book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II or, for just the list, see ‘Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List’.

How does the elite maintain this control over political, economic, military, legal and social structures and processes?

The Sociology of Destruction of the Biosphere

As explained in the literature on the sociology of knowledge, reality is socially constructed. That is, if an individual is born or introduced into a society in which particular institutions are in control and behaviors such as chronic over-consumption, unlimited profit-making, rampant exploitation of the environment and grotesque violence against (at least some) people are practiced, then the typical individual will accept the existence of these institutions and adopt the behaviors of the people around them even though the institutions and behaviors are dysfunctional and violent.

But while the sociology of knowledge literature recognizes that children ‘must be “taught to behave” and, once taught, must be “kept in line”’ to maintain the institutional order, this literature clearly has no understanding of the nature and extent of the violence to which each child is actually subjected in order to achieve the desired ‘socialization’. This terrorization, as I label it, is so comprehensive that the typical child quickly becomes incapable of using their own intellectual and emotional capacities, including conscience and courage, to actually evaluate any institution or behavior before accepting/adopting it themselves. Obviously then, they quickly become too terrified to overtly challenge dysfunctional institutions and behaviors as well.

Moreover, as a result of this ongoing terrorization, inflicted by the significant adults (and particularly the parents) in the child’s life, the child soon becomes too (unconsciously) afraid to resist the behavioral violence that is inflicted on them personally in many forms, as outlined briefly in the next section, so that they are ‘taught to behave’ and are ‘kept in line’.

In response to elite-driven imperatives then, such as ‘you are what you own’ to encourage very profitable over-consumption, most people are delusionarily ‘happy’ while utterly trapped behaving exactly as elites manipulate them – they are devoid of the psychological capacity to critique and resist – and the elite-preferred behavior quickly acquires the status of being ‘the only and the right way to behave’, irrespective of its dysfunctionality.

In essence: virtually all humans fearfully adopt dysfunctional social behaviors such as over-consumption and profit-making at the expense of the biosphere, rather than intelligently, conscientiously and courageously analyzing the total situation (including the moral and ecological dimensions of it) and behaving appropriately in the context.

Given the pervasiveness and power of elite institutions, ranging from those mentioned above to the corporate media and psychiatry, resistance to violent socialization (of both children and adults) requires considerable awareness, not to mention courage.

And so our fear makes virtually all of us succumb to the socialization pressure (that is, violence) to accept existing institutions and participate in widespread social behaviors (such as over-consumption) that are dysfunctional and violent.

The Psychology of Destruction of the Biosphere

This happens because each child, from birth, is terrorized (again: what we like to call ‘socialized’) until they become a slave willing to work and, in industrialized countries at least, to over-consume as directed.

Under an unrelenting regime of ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence, each child unconsciously surrenders their search in pursuit of their own unique and powerful destiny and succumbs to the obedience that every adult demands. Why do adults demand this? Because the idea of a powerful child who courageously follows their own Self-will terrifies adults. So how does this happen?

Unfortunately, far too easily and, strange though it may seem, it is not just the ‘visible’ violence (such as hitting, screaming at and sexually abusing) that we normally label ‘violence’ that causes the main damage, although this is extremely damaging. The largest component of damage arises from the  ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that we adults unconsciously inflict on children during the ordinary course of the day. Tragically, the bulk of this violence occurs in the family home and at school.

So what is ‘invisible’ violence? It is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themself thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioral dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).

When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.

The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, mothers, fathers, teachers, religious figures and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioral responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioral outcomes actually occur.

For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (for instance, by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behavior that is generated by their feelings (for example, by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.

However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for the biosphere because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviors, including some that are violent towards themself, others and/or the Earth.

Moreover, terrorizing the child has many flow-on effects. For example, once you terrorise a child into accepting certain information about themself, other people or the state of the world, the child becomes unconsciously fearful of dealing with new information, especially if this information is contradictory to what they have been terrorized into believing. As a result, the child will unconsciously dismiss new information out of hand.

In short, the child has been terrorized in such a way that they are no longer capable of learning (or their learning capacity is seriously diminished by excluding any information that is not a simple extension of what they already ‘know’). This is one important explanation why some people are ‘climate deniers’ and most others do nothing in response to the climate catastrophe.

Consequently, under this onslaught of terror and violence, the child surrenders their own unique Self and takes on their socially constructed delusional identity which gives them relief from being terrorized while securing the approval they crave to survive.

So if we want to end violence against the biosphere, we must tackle this fundamental cause. Primarily, this means giving everyone, child and adult alike, all of the space they need to feel, deeply, what they want to do, and to then let them do it (or to have the emotional responses they naturally have if they are prevented from doing so).

For some insight into the critical role that school plays in reducing virtually all children to wage slaves for employment in some menial or ‘professional’ role or as ‘cannon fodder’ for the military, while stripping them of the capacity to ask penetrating questions about the very nature of society and their own role in it, see ‘Do We Want School or Education?’

In summary, given that human society is so dysfunctional, beginning with the fact that human beings do not know how to parent or educate their children to nurture their unique and extraordinary potential, humans face a monumental challenge, in an incredibly short time frame, to have any chance of survival.

And we are going to have to fix a lot more things than just our destruction of the biosphere if we are to succeed, given that ecologically destructive behavior and institutions have their origin in dysfunctional psychology, societies and political economy.

To reiterate, however, it is our (often unconscious) fear that underpins every problem. Whether it is the fear getting in the way of our capacity to intelligently analyze the various structures and behaviors that generate the interrelated crises in which we now find ourselves or the fear undermining our courage to act powerfully in response to these crises, acknowledging and dealing with our fear is the core of any strategy for survival.

So what’s the plan?

Let’s start with you. If you consider the evidence in relation to destruction of our biosphere, essentially one of two things will happen. Either you will be powerful enough, both emotionally and intellectually, to grapple with this evidence and you will take strategic action that has ongoing positive impact on the crisis or your (unconscious) fear will simply use one of its lifelong mechanisms to remove awareness of what you have just read from your mind or otherwise delude you, such as by making you believe you are powerless to act differently or that you are ‘doing enough already’. This immobilizing fear, whether or not you experience it consciously, is a primary outcome of the terrorization to which you were subjected as a child.

So, if you sense that improving your own functionality – so that you can fully access your emotional responses, conscience and courage – is a priority, try ‘Putting Feelings First‘.

If you already feel able to act powerfully in response to this multi-faceted crisis, in a way that will have strategic impact, you are invited to consider joining those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘, which outlines a simple plan for people to systematically reduce their consumption, by at least 80%, involving both energy and resources of every kind – water, household energy, transport fuels, metals, meat, paper and plastic – while dramatically expanding their individual and community self-reliance in 16 areas, so that all environmental concerns are effectively addressed. You might also consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

If you are interested in nurturing children to live by their conscience and to gain the courage necessary to resist elite violence fearlessly, while living sustainably despite the entreaties of capitalism to over-consume, then you are welcome to make ‘My Promise to Children‘. To reiterate: capitalism and other dysfunctional political, economic, military, legal and social structures only thrive because our dysfunctional parenting robs children of their conscience and courage, among many other qualities, while actively teaching them to overconsume as compensation for having vital emotional needs denied.

If you are interested in conducting or participating in a campaign to halt our destruction of the biosphere (or any other manifestation of violence for that matter) you are welcome to consider acting strategically in the way that the extraordinary activist Mohandas K. Gandhi did. Whether you are engaged in a peace, climate, environment or social justice campaign, the 12-point strategic framework and principles are the same.

The two strategic aims and a core list of strategic goals to end war and to end the climate catastrophe, for example, are identified in ‘Campaign Strategic Aims‘ and, using these examples, it is a straightforward task to identify an appropriate set of strategic goals for your local environment campaign. As an aside, the strategic framework to defend against a foreign invading power or a political/military coup, to liberate your country from a dictatorship or a foreign occupation, or to defeat a genocidal assault is explained in ‘Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy‘.

If you would like a straightforward explanation of ‘Nonviolent Action: Why and How it Works‘ and an introduction to what it means to think strategically, try reading about the difference between ‘The Political Objective and Strategic Goal of Nonviolent Actions‘.

If you anticipate violent repression by a ruthless opponent, consider planning and implementing any nonviolent action according to the explanation in ‘Nonviolent Action: Minimizing the Risk of Violent Repression‘.

Finally, if you are going to do nothing in response to this crisis, make it a conscious decision to do nothing. This is far preferable to unconsciously and powerlessly doing nothing by never even considering the evidence or by simply deluding yourself. It also allows you to consciously revise your decision at some point in future if you so wish.

Conclusion

The evidence in relation to destruction of the Earth’s biosphere, leading to ongoing and rapid degradation of all ecosystems and their services, is readily available and overwhelming. The many and varied forms of destruction are having synergistic impact. An insignificant amount of the vast evidence in relation to this destruction is sampled above.

There is a notable group of prominent climate scientists who present compelling evidence that human extinction will occur by 2026 as a result of a projected 10 degree celsius increase in global temperatures above the pre-industrial level by this date. The primary document for this is noted above and this document, together with the evidence it cites, is readily available to be read and analyzed by anyone.

Largely separately from the climate catastrophe (although now increasingly complicated by it), Earth’s sixth mass extinction is already advancing rapidly as we destroy habitat and, on our current trajectory, all species will soon enter the fossil record.

Why? Because we live in a world in which the political, economic, military, legal and social structures and processes of human society are utterly incapable of producing either functional human beings or governance mechanisms that take into account, and respect, the ecological realities of Earth’s biosphere.

So, to reiterate: We are on the fast-track to extinction. On the current trajectory, assuming we can avert nuclear war, some time between 2021 and 2026 the last human will take their final breath.

Our only prospect of survival, and it still has only a remote chance of succeeding, is that a great number of us respond powerfully now and keep mobilizing more people to do so.

If you do absolutely nothing else, consider rearranging your life to exclude all meat from your diet, stop traveling by car and aircraft, substantially reduce your water consumption by scaling down your ownership of electronic devices (which require massive amounts of water to manufacture), and only eat biodynamically or organically grown whole food.

And tell people why you are doing so.

This might give those of us who fight strategically, which can include you if you so choose, a little more time to overturn the structural and remaining behavioral drivers of extinction which will require a profound change in the very nature of human society, including all of its major political, economic, military, legal and social institutions and processes (most of which will need to be abolished).

If this sounds ‘radical’, remember that they are about to vanish anyway. Our strategy must be to replace them with functional equivalents, all of which are readily available (with some briefly outlined in the various documents mentioned in the plan above).

‘It won’t happen’, you might say? And, to be candid, I sincerely believe that you are highly probably right. I have spent a lifetime observing, analyzing, writing about and acting to heal dysfunctional and violent human behavior and, for that reason, I am not going to delude myself that anything less than what I have outlined above will achieve the outcome that I seek: to avert human extinction. But I am realistic.

The insane individuals who control the institutions that are driving extinction will never act to avert it. If they were sane enough to do so, they would have been directing and coordinating these institutions in taking action for the past 40 years. This is why we must resist them strategically. Moreover, I am only too well aware that the bulk of the human population has been terrorized into powerlessness and won’t even act. But our best chance lies in offering them our personal example, and giving them simple and various options for responding effectively.

It is going to be a tough fight for human survival, particularly this late in the ‘game’. Nevertheless, I intend to fight until my last breath. I hope that you will too.

Exposing the Giants

Developing the tradition charted by C. Wright Mills in his 1956 classic The Power Elite, in his latest book, Professor Peter Phillips starts by reviewing the transition from the nation state power elites described by authors such as Mills to a transnational power elite centralized on the control of global capital.

Thus, in his just-released study Giants: The Global Power Elite, Phillips, a professor of political sociology at Sonoma State University in the USA, identifies the world’s top seventeen asset management firms, such as BlackRock and J.P Morgan Chase, each with more than one trillion dollars of investment capital under management, as the ‘Giants’ of world capitalism. The seventeen firms collectively manage more than $US41.1 trillion in a self-invested network of interlocking capital that spans the globe.

This $41 trillion represents the wealth invested for profit by thousands of millionaires, billionaires and corporations. The seventeen Giants operate in nearly every country in the world and are ‘the central institutions of the financial capital that powers the global economic system’. They invest in anything considered profitable, ranging from ‘agricultural lands on which indigenous farmers are replaced by power elite investors’ to public assets (such as energy and water utilities) to war.

In addition, Phillips identifies the most important networks of the Global Power Elite and the individuals therein. He names 389 individuals (a small number of whom are women and a token number of whom are from countries other than the United States and the wealthier countries of Western Europe) at the core of the policy planning nongovernmental networks that manage, facilitate and defend the continued concentration of global capital. The Global Power Elite perform two key uniting functions, he argues: they provide ideological justifications for their shared interests (promulgated through their corporate media), and define the parameters of action for transnational governmental organizations and capitalist nation-states.

More precisely, Phillips identifies the 199 directors of the seventeen global financial Giants and offers short biographies and public information on their individual net wealth. These individuals are closely interconnected through numerous networks of association including the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Conference, university affiliations, various policy councils, social clubs, and cultural enterprises. For a taste of one of these clubs, see this account of The Links in New York. As Phillips observes: ‘It is certainly safe to conclude they all know each other personally or know of each other in the shared context of their positions of power.’

The Giants, Phillips documents, invest in each other but also in many hundreds of investment management firms, many of which are near-Giants. This results in tens of trillions of dollars coordinated in a single vast network of global capital controlled by a very small number of people. ‘Their constant objective is to find enough safe investment opportunities for a return on capital that allows for continued growth. Inadequate capital-placement opportunities lead to dangerous speculative investments, buying up of public assets, and permanent war spending.’

Because the directors of these seventeen asset management firms represent the central core of international capital, ‘Individuals can retire or pass away, and other similar people will move into their place, making the overall structure a self-perpetuating network of global capital control. As such, these 199 people share a common goal of maximum return on investments for themselves and their clients, and they may seek to achieve returns by any means necessary – legal or not…. the institutional and structural arrangements within the money management systems of global capital relentlessly seek ways to achieve maximum return on investment, and … the conditions for manipulations – legal or not – are always present.’

Like some researchers before him, Phillips identifies the importance of those transnational institutions that serve a unifying function. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, G20, G7, World Trade Organization (WTO), World Economic Forum (WEF), Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, Bank for International Settlements, Group of 30 (G30), the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Monetary Conference serve as institutional mechanisms for consensus building within the transnational capitalist class, and power elite policy formulation and implementation. ‘These international institutions serve the interests of the global financial Giants by supporting policies and regulations that seek to protect the free, unrestricted flow of capital and debt collection worldwide.’

But within this network of transnational institutions, Phillips identifies two very important global elite policy-planning organizations: the Group of Thirty (which has 32 members) and the extended executive committee of the Trilateral Commission (which has 55 members). These nonprofit corporations, which each have a research and support staff, formulate elite policy and issue instructions for their implementation by the transnational governmental institutions like the G7, G20, IMF, WTO, and World Bank. Elite policies are also implemented following instruction of the relevant agent, including governments, in the context. These agents then do as they are instructed. Thus, these 85 members (because two overlap) of the Group of Thirty and the Trilateral Commission comprise a central group of facilitators of global capitalism, ensuring that ‘global capital remains safe, secure, and growing’.

So, while many of the major international institutions are controlled by nation-state representatives and central bankers (with proportional power exercised by dominant financial supporters such as the United States and European Union countries), Phillips is more concerned with the transnational policy groups that are nongovernmental because these organizations ‘help to unite TCC power elites as a class’ and the individuals involved in these organizations facilitate world capitalism. ‘They serve as policy elites who seek the continued growth of capital in the world.’

Developing this list of 199 directors of the largest money management firms in the world, Phillips argues, is an important step toward understanding how capitalism works globally today. These global power elite directors make the decisions regarding the investment of trillions of dollars. Supposedly in competition, the concentrated wealth they share requires them to cooperate for their greater good by identifying investment opportunities and shared risk agreements, and working collectively for political arrangements that create advantages for their profit-generating system as a whole.

Their fundamental priority is to secure an average return on investment of 3 to 10 percent, or even more. The nature of any investment is less important than what it yields: continuous returns that support growth in the overall market. Hence, capital investment in tobacco products, weapons of war, toxic chemicals, pollution, and other socially destructive goods and services are judged purely by their profitability. Concern for the social and environmental costs of the investment are non-existent. In other words, inflicting death and destruction are fine because they are profitable.

So what is the global elite’s purpose? In a few sentences Phillips characterizes it thus: The elite is largely united in support of the US/NATO military empire that prosecutes a repressive war against resisting groups – typically labeled ‘terrorists’ – around the world. The real purpose of ‘the war on terror’ is defense of transnational globalization, the unimpeded flow of financial capital around the world, dollar hegemony and access to oil; it has nothing to do with repressing terrorism which it generates, perpetuates and finances to provide cover for its real agenda. This is why the United States has a long history of CIA and military interventions around the world ostensibly in defense of ‘national interests’.

Wealth and Power

An interesting point that emerges for me from reading Phillips thoughtful analysis is that there is a clear distinction between those individuals and families who have wealth and those individuals who have (sometimes significantly) less wealth (which, nevertheless,  is still considerable) but, through their positions and connections, wield a great deal of power. As Phillips explains this distinction, ‘the sociology of elites is more important than particular elite individuals and their families’. Just 199 individuals decide how more than $40 trillion will be invested. And this is his central point. Let me briefly elaborate.

There are some really wealthy families in the world, notably including the families Rothschild (France and the United Kingdom), Rockefeller (USA), Goldman-Sachs (USA), Warburgs (Germany), Lehmann (USA), Lazards (France), Kuhn Loebs (USA), Israel Moses Seifs (Italy), Al-Saud (Saudi Arabia), Walton (USA), Koch (USA), Mars (USA), Cargill-MacMillan (USA) and Cox (USA). However, not all of these families overtly seek power to shape the world as they wish.

Similarly, the world’s extremely wealthy individuals such as Jeff Bezos (USA), Bill Gates (USA), Warren Buffett (USA), Bernard Arnault (France), Carlos Slim Helu (Mexico) and Francoise Bettencourt Meyers (France) are not necessarily connected in such a way that they exercise enormous power. In fact, they may have little interest in power as such, despite their obvious interest in wealth.

In essence, some individuals and families are content to simply take advantage of how capitalism and its ancilliary governmental and transnational instruments function while others are more politically engaged in seeking to manipulate major institutions to achieve outcomes that not only maximize their own profit and hence wealth but also shape the world itself.

So if you look at the list of 199 individuals that Phillips identifies at the centre of global capital, it does not include names such as Bezos, Gates, Buffett, Koch, Walton or even Rothschild, Rockefeller or Windsor (the Queen of England) despite their well-known and extraordinary wealth. As an aside, many of these names are also missing from the lists compiled by groups such as Forbes and Bloomberg, but their absence from these lists is for a very different reason given the penchant for many really wealthy individuals and families to avoid certain types of publicity and their power to ensure that they do.

In contrast to the names just listed, in Phillips’ analysis names like Laurence (Larry) Fink (Chairman and CEO of BlackRock), James (Jamie) Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase) and John McFarlane (Chairman of Barclays Bank), while not as wealthy as those listed immediately above, wield far more power because of their positions and connections within the global elite network of 199 individuals.

Predictably then, Phillips observes, these three individuals have similar lifestyles and ideological orientations. They believe capitalism is beneficial for the world and while inequality and poverty are important issues, they believe that capital growth will eventually solve these problems. They are relatively non-expressive about environmental issues, but recognize that investment opportunities may change in response to climate ‘modifications’. As millionaires they own multiple homes. They attended elite universities and rose quickly in international finance to reach their current status as giants of the global power elite. ‘The institutions they manage have been shown to engage in illegal collusions with others, but the regulatory fines by governments are essentially seen as just part of doing business.’

In short, as I would characterize this description: They are devoid of a legal or moral framework to guide their actions, whether in relation to business, fellow human beings, war or the environment and climate. They are obviously typical of the elite.

Any apparent concern for people, such as that expressed by Fink and Dimon in response to the racist violence in Charlottesville, USA in August 2017, is simply designed to promote ‘stability’ or more precisely, a stable (that is, profitable) investment and consumer climate.

The lack of concern for people and issues that might concern many of us is also evident from a consideration of the agenda at elite gatherings. Consider the International Monetary Conference. Founded in 1956, it is a private yearly meeting of the top few hundred bankers in the world. The American Bankers Association (ABA) serves as the secretariat for the conference. But, as Phillips notes: ‘Nothing on the agenda seems to address the socioeconomic consequences of investments to determine the impacts on people and the environment.’ A casual perusal of the agenda at any elite gathering reveals that this comment applies equally to any elite forum. See, for example, the agenda of the recent WEF meeting in Davos. Any talk of ‘concern’ is misleading rhetoric.

Hence, in the words of Phillips: The 199 directors of the global Giants are ‘a very select set of people. They all know each other personally or know of each other. At least 69 have attended the annual World Economic Forum, where they often serve on panels or give public presentations. They mostly attended the same elite universities, and interact in upperclass social setting[s] in the major cities of the world. They all are wealthy and have significant stock holdings in one or more of the financial Giants. They are all deeply invested in the importance of maintaining capital growth in the world. Some are sensitive to environmental and social justice issues, but they seem to be unable to link these issues to global capital concentration.’

Of course, the global elite cannot manage the world system alone: the elite requires agents to perform many of the functions necessary to control national societies and the individuals within them. ‘The interests of the Global Power Elite and the TCC are fully recognized by major institutions in society. Governments, intelligence services, policymakers, universities, police forces, military, and corporate media all work in support of their vital interests.’

In other words, to elaborate Phillips’ point and extend it a little, through their economic power, the Giants control all of the instruments through which their policies are implemented. Whether it be governments, national military forces, ‘military contractors’ or mercenaries (with at least $200 billion spent on private security globally, the industry currently employs some fifteen million people worldwide) used both in ‘foreign’ wars but also likely deployed in future for domestic control, key ‘intelligence’ agencies, legal systems and police forces, major nongovernment organizations, or the academic, educational, ‘public relations propaganda’, corporate media, medical, psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries, all instruments are fully responsive to elite control and are designed to misinform, deceive, disempower, intimidate, repress, imprison (in a jail or psychiatric ward), exploit and/or kill (depending on the constituency) the rest of us, as is readily evident.

Defending Elite Power

Phillips observes that the power elite continually worries about rebellion by the ‘unruly exploited masses’ against their structure of concentrated wealth. This is why the US military empire has long played the role of defender of global capitalism. As a result, the United States has more than 800 military bases (with some scholars suggesting 1,000) in 70 countries and territories. In comparison, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia have about 30 foreign bases. In addition, US military forces are now deployed in 70 percent of the world’s nations with US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) having troops in 147 countries, an increase of 80 percent since 2010. These forces conduct counterterrorism strikes regularly, including drone assassinations and kill/capture raids.

‘The US military empire stands on hundreds of years of colonial exploitation and continues to support repressive, exploitative governments that cooperate with global capital’s imperial agenda. Governments that accept external capital investment, whereby a small segment of a country’s elite benefits, do so knowing that capital inevitably requires a return on investment that entails using up resources and people for economic gain. The whole system continues wealth concentration for elites and expanded wretched inequality for the masses….

‘Understanding permanent war as an economic relief valve for surplus capital is a vital part of comprehending capitalism in the world today. War provides investment opportunity for the Giants and TCC elites and a guaranteed return on capital. War also serves a repressive function of keeping the suffering masses of humanity afraid and compliant.’

As Phillips elaborates: This is why defense of global capital is the prime reason that NATO countries now account for 85 percent of the world’s military spending; the United States spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined.

In essence, ‘the Global Power Elite uses NATO and the US military empire for its worldwide security. This is part of an expanding strategy of US military domination around the world, whereby the US/ NATO military empire, advised by the power elite’s Atlantic Council, operates in service to the Transnational Corporate Class for the protection of international capital everywhere in the world’.

This entails ‘further pauperization of the bottom half of the world’s population and an unrelenting downward spiral of wages for 80 percent of the world. The world is facing economic crisis, and the neoliberal solution is to spend less on human needs and more on security. It is a world of financial institutions run amok, where the answer to economic collapse is to print more money through quantitative easing, flooding the population with trillions of new inflation-producing dollars. It is a world of permanent war, whereby spending for destruction requires further spending to rebuild, a cycle that profits the Giants and global networks of economic power. It is a world of drone killings, extrajudicial assassinations, death, and destruction, at home and abroad.’

Where is this all heading?

So what are the implications of this state of affairs? Phillips responds unequivocally: ‘This concentration of protected wealth leads to a crisis of humanity, whereby poverty, war, starvation, mass alienation, media propaganda, and environmental devastation are reaching a species-level threat. We realize that humankind is in danger of possible extinction’.

He goes on to state that the Global Power Elite is probably the only entity ‘capable of correcting this condition without major civil unrest, war, and chaos’ and elaborates an important aim of his book: to raise awareness of the importance of systemic change and the redistribution of wealth among both the book’s general readers but also the elite, ‘in the hope that they can begin the process of saving humanity.’ The book’s postscript is a ‘A Letter to the Global Power Elite’, co-signed by Phillips and 90 others, beseeching the elite to act accordingly.

It is no longer acceptable for you to believe that you can manage capitalism to grow its way out of the gross inequalities we all now face. The environment cannot accept more pollution and waste, and civil unrest is everywhere inevitable at some point. Humanity needs you to step up and insure that trickle-down becomes a river of resources that reaches every child, every family, and all human beings. We urge you to use your power and make the needed changes for humanity’s survival.

But he also emphasizes that nonviolent social movements, using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a moral code, can accelerate the process of redistributing wealth by pressuring the elite into action.

Conclusion

Peter Phillips has written an important book. For those of us interested in understanding elite control of the world, this book is a vital addition to the bookshelf. And like any good book, as you will see from my comments both above and below, it raised more questions for me even while it answered many.

As I read Phillips’ insightful and candid account of elite behavior in this regard, I am reminded, yet again, that the global power elite is extraordinarily violent and utterly insane: content to kill people in vast numbers (whether through starvation or military violence) and destroy the biosphere for profit, with zero sense of humanity’s now limited future with more detailed explanations for the violence and insanity here.

For this reason I do not share his faith in moral appeals to the elite, as articulated in the letter in his postscript. It is fine to make the appeal but history offers no evidence to suggest that there will be any significant response. The death and destruction inflicted by elites is highly profitable, centuries-old and ongoing. It will take powerful, strategically-focused nonviolent campaigns (or societal collapse) to compel the necessary changes in elite behavior. Hence, I fully endorse his call for nonviolent social movements to compel elite action where we cannot make the necessary changes without their involvement.

I would also encourage independent action, in one or more of several ways, by those individuals and communities powerful enough to do so. This includes nurturing more powerful individuals by making ‘My Promise to Children, participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘ and signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

Fundamentally, Giants: The Global Power Elite is a call to action. Professor Peter Phillips is highly aware of our predicament – politically, socially, economically, environmentally and climatically – and the critical role played by the global power elite in generating that predicament.

If we cannot persuade the global power elite to respond sensibly to that predicament, or nonviolently compel it to do so, humanity’s time on Earth is indeed limited.

Exposing the Giants

Developing the tradition charted by C. Wright Mills in his 1956 classic The Power Elite, in his latest book, Professor Peter Phillips starts by reviewing the transition from the nation state power elites described by authors such as Mills to a transnational power elite centralized on the control of global capital.

Thus, in his just-released study Giants: The Global Power Elite, Phillips, a professor of political sociology at Sonoma State University in the USA, identifies the world’s top seventeen asset management firms, such as BlackRock and J.P Morgan Chase, each with more than one trillion dollars of investment capital under management, as the ‘Giants’ of world capitalism. The seventeen firms collectively manage more than $US41.1 trillion in a self-invested network of interlocking capital that spans the globe.

This $41 trillion represents the wealth invested for profit by thousands of millionaires, billionaires and corporations. The seventeen Giants operate in nearly every country in the world and are ‘the central institutions of the financial capital that powers the global economic system’. They invest in anything considered profitable, ranging from ‘agricultural lands on which indigenous farmers are replaced by power elite investors’ to public assets (such as energy and water utilities) to war.

In addition, Phillips identifies the most important networks of the Global Power Elite and the individuals therein. He names 389 individuals (a small number of whom are women and a token number of whom are from countries other than the United States and the wealthier countries of Western Europe) at the core of the policy planning nongovernmental networks that manage, facilitate and defend the continued concentration of global capital. The Global Power Elite perform two key uniting functions, he argues: they provide ideological justifications for their shared interests (promulgated through their corporate media), and define the parameters of action for transnational governmental organizations and capitalist nation-states.

More precisely, Phillips identifies the 199 directors of the seventeen global financial Giants and offers short biographies and public information on their individual net wealth. These individuals are closely interconnected through numerous networks of association including the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Conference, university affiliations, various policy councils, social clubs, and cultural enterprises. For a taste of one of these clubs, see this account of The Links in New York. As Phillips observes: ‘It is certainly safe to conclude they all know each other personally or know of each other in the shared context of their positions of power.’

The Giants, Phillips documents, invest in each other but also in many hundreds of investment management firms, many of which are near-Giants. This results in tens of trillions of dollars coordinated in a single vast network of global capital controlled by a very small number of people. ‘Their constant objective is to find enough safe investment opportunities for a return on capital that allows for continued growth. Inadequate capital-placement opportunities lead to dangerous speculative investments, buying up of public assets, and permanent war spending.’

Because the directors of these seventeen asset management firms represent the central core of international capital, ‘Individuals can retire or pass away, and other similar people will move into their place, making the overall structure a self-perpetuating network of global capital control. As such, these 199 people share a common goal of maximum return on investments for themselves and their clients, and they may seek to achieve returns by any means necessary – legal or not…. the institutional and structural arrangements within the money management systems of global capital relentlessly seek ways to achieve maximum return on investment, and … the conditions for manipulations – legal or not – are always present.’

Like some researchers before him, Phillips identifies the importance of those transnational institutions that serve a unifying function. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, G20, G7, World Trade Organization (WTO), World Economic Forum (WEF), Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, Bank for International Settlements, Group of 30 (G30), the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Monetary Conference serve as institutional mechanisms for consensus building within the transnational capitalist class, and power elite policy formulation and implementation. ‘These international institutions serve the interests of the global financial Giants by supporting policies and regulations that seek to protect the free, unrestricted flow of capital and debt collection worldwide.’

But within this network of transnational institutions, Phillips identifies two very important global elite policy-planning organizations: the Group of Thirty (which has 32 members) and the extended executive committee of the Trilateral Commission (which has 55 members). These nonprofit corporations, which each have a research and support staff, formulate elite policy and issue instructions for their implementation by the transnational governmental institutions like the G7, G20, IMF, WTO, and World Bank. Elite policies are also implemented following instruction of the relevant agent, including governments, in the context. These agents then do as they are instructed. Thus, these 85 members (because two overlap) of the Group of Thirty and the Trilateral Commission comprise a central group of facilitators of global capitalism, ensuring that ‘global capital remains safe, secure, and growing’.

So, while many of the major international institutions are controlled by nation-state representatives and central bankers (with proportional power exercised by dominant financial supporters such as the United States and European Union countries), Phillips is more concerned with the transnational policy groups that are nongovernmental because these organizations ‘help to unite TCC power elites as a class’ and the individuals involved in these organizations facilitate world capitalism. ‘They serve as policy elites who seek the continued growth of capital in the world.’

Developing this list of 199 directors of the largest money management firms in the world, Phillips argues, is an important step toward understanding how capitalism works globally today. These global power elite directors make the decisions regarding the investment of trillions of dollars. Supposedly in competition, the concentrated wealth they share requires them to cooperate for their greater good by identifying investment opportunities and shared risk agreements, and working collectively for political arrangements that create advantages for their profit-generating system as a whole.

Their fundamental priority is to secure an average return on investment of 3 to 10 percent, or even more. The nature of any investment is less important than what it yields: continuous returns that support growth in the overall market. Hence, capital investment in tobacco products, weapons of war, toxic chemicals, pollution, and other socially destructive goods and services are judged purely by their profitability. Concern for the social and environmental costs of the investment are non-existent. In other words, inflicting death and destruction are fine because they are profitable.

So what is the global elite’s purpose? In a few sentences Phillips characterizes it thus: The elite is largely united in support of the US/NATO military empire that prosecutes a repressive war against resisting groups – typically labeled ‘terrorists’ – around the world. The real purpose of ‘the war on terror’ is defense of transnational globalization, the unimpeded flow of financial capital around the world, dollar hegemony and access to oil; it has nothing to do with repressing terrorism which it generates, perpetuates and finances to provide cover for its real agenda. This is why the United States has a long history of CIA and military interventions around the world ostensibly in defense of ‘national interests’.

Wealth and Power

An interesting point that emerges for me from reading Phillips thoughtful analysis is that there is a clear distinction between those individuals and families who have wealth and those individuals who have (sometimes significantly) less wealth (which, nevertheless,  is still considerable) but, through their positions and connections, wield a great deal of power. As Phillips explains this distinction, ‘the sociology of elites is more important than particular elite individuals and their families’. Just 199 individuals decide how more than $40 trillion will be invested. And this is his central point. Let me briefly elaborate.

There are some really wealthy families in the world, notably including the families Rothschild (France and the United Kingdom), Rockefeller (USA), Goldman-Sachs (USA), Warburgs (Germany), Lehmann (USA), Lazards (France), Kuhn Loebs (USA), Israel Moses Seifs (Italy), Al-Saud (Saudi Arabia), Walton (USA), Koch (USA), Mars (USA), Cargill-MacMillan (USA) and Cox (USA). However, not all of these families overtly seek power to shape the world as they wish.

Similarly, the world’s extremely wealthy individuals such as Jeff Bezos (USA), Bill Gates (USA), Warren Buffett (USA), Bernard Arnault (France), Carlos Slim Helu (Mexico) and Francoise Bettencourt Meyers (France) are not necessarily connected in such a way that they exercise enormous power. In fact, they may have little interest in power as such, despite their obvious interest in wealth.

In essence, some individuals and families are content to simply take advantage of how capitalism and its ancilliary governmental and transnational instruments function while others are more politically engaged in seeking to manipulate major institutions to achieve outcomes that not only maximize their own profit and hence wealth but also shape the world itself.

So if you look at the list of 199 individuals that Phillips identifies at the centre of global capital, it does not include names such as Bezos, Gates, Buffett, Koch, Walton or even Rothschild, Rockefeller or Windsor (the Queen of England) despite their well-known and extraordinary wealth. As an aside, many of these names are also missing from the lists compiled by groups such as Forbes and Bloomberg, but their absence from these lists is for a very different reason given the penchant for many really wealthy individuals and families to avoid certain types of publicity and their power to ensure that they do.

In contrast to the names just listed, in Phillips’ analysis names like Laurence (Larry) Fink (Chairman and CEO of BlackRock), James (Jamie) Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase) and John McFarlane (Chairman of Barclays Bank), while not as wealthy as those listed immediately above, wield far more power because of their positions and connections within the global elite network of 199 individuals.

Predictably then, Phillips observes, these three individuals have similar lifestyles and ideological orientations. They believe capitalism is beneficial for the world and while inequality and poverty are important issues, they believe that capital growth will eventually solve these problems. They are relatively non-expressive about environmental issues, but recognize that investment opportunities may change in response to climate ‘modifications’. As millionaires they own multiple homes. They attended elite universities and rose quickly in international finance to reach their current status as giants of the global power elite. ‘The institutions they manage have been shown to engage in illegal collusions with others, but the regulatory fines by governments are essentially seen as just part of doing business.’

In short, as I would characterize this description: They are devoid of a legal or moral framework to guide their actions, whether in relation to business, fellow human beings, war or the environment and climate. They are obviously typical of the elite.

Any apparent concern for people, such as that expressed by Fink and Dimon in response to the racist violence in Charlottesville, USA in August 2017, is simply designed to promote ‘stability’ or more precisely, a stable (that is, profitable) investment and consumer climate.

The lack of concern for people and issues that might concern many of us is also evident from a consideration of the agenda at elite gatherings. Consider the International Monetary Conference. Founded in 1956, it is a private yearly meeting of the top few hundred bankers in the world. The American Bankers Association (ABA) serves as the secretariat for the conference. But, as Phillips notes: ‘Nothing on the agenda seems to address the socioeconomic consequences of investments to determine the impacts on people and the environment.’ A casual perusal of the agenda at any elite gathering reveals that this comment applies equally to any elite forum. See, for example, the agenda of the recent WEF meeting in Davos. Any talk of ‘concern’ is misleading rhetoric.

Hence, in the words of Phillips: The 199 directors of the global Giants are ‘a very select set of people. They all know each other personally or know of each other. At least 69 have attended the annual World Economic Forum, where they often serve on panels or give public presentations. They mostly attended the same elite universities, and interact in upperclass social setting[s] in the major cities of the world. They all are wealthy and have significant stock holdings in one or more of the financial Giants. They are all deeply invested in the importance of maintaining capital growth in the world. Some are sensitive to environmental and social justice issues, but they seem to be unable to link these issues to global capital concentration.’

Of course, the global elite cannot manage the world system alone: the elite requires agents to perform many of the functions necessary to control national societies and the individuals within them. ‘The interests of the Global Power Elite and the TCC are fully recognized by major institutions in society. Governments, intelligence services, policymakers, universities, police forces, military, and corporate media all work in support of their vital interests.’

In other words, to elaborate Phillips’ point and extend it a little, through their economic power, the Giants control all of the instruments through which their policies are implemented. Whether it be governments, national military forces, ‘military contractors’ or mercenaries (with at least $200 billion spent on private security globally, the industry currently employs some fifteen million people worldwide) used both in ‘foreign’ wars but also likely deployed in future for domestic control, key ‘intelligence’ agencies, legal systems and police forces, major nongovernment organizations, or the academic, educational, ‘public relations propaganda’, corporate media, medical, psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries, all instruments are fully responsive to elite control and are designed to misinform, deceive, disempower, intimidate, repress, imprison (in a jail or psychiatric ward), exploit and/or kill (depending on the constituency) the rest of us, as is readily evident.

Defending Elite Power

Phillips observes that the power elite continually worries about rebellion by the ‘unruly exploited masses’ against their structure of concentrated wealth. This is why the US military empire has long played the role of defender of global capitalism. As a result, the United States has more than 800 military bases (with some scholars suggesting 1,000) in 70 countries and territories. In comparison, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia have about 30 foreign bases. In addition, US military forces are now deployed in 70 percent of the world’s nations with US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) having troops in 147 countries, an increase of 80 percent since 2010. These forces conduct counterterrorism strikes regularly, including drone assassinations and kill/capture raids.

‘The US military empire stands on hundreds of years of colonial exploitation and continues to support repressive, exploitative governments that cooperate with global capital’s imperial agenda. Governments that accept external capital investment, whereby a small segment of a country’s elite benefits, do so knowing that capital inevitably requires a return on investment that entails using up resources and people for economic gain. The whole system continues wealth concentration for elites and expanded wretched inequality for the masses….

‘Understanding permanent war as an economic relief valve for surplus capital is a vital part of comprehending capitalism in the world today. War provides investment opportunity for the Giants and TCC elites and a guaranteed return on capital. War also serves a repressive function of keeping the suffering masses of humanity afraid and compliant.’

As Phillips elaborates: This is why defense of global capital is the prime reason that NATO countries now account for 85 percent of the world’s military spending; the United States spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined.

In essence, ‘the Global Power Elite uses NATO and the US military empire for its worldwide security. This is part of an expanding strategy of US military domination around the world, whereby the US/ NATO military empire, advised by the power elite’s Atlantic Council, operates in service to the Transnational Corporate Class for the protection of international capital everywhere in the world’.

This entails ‘further pauperization of the bottom half of the world’s population and an unrelenting downward spiral of wages for 80 percent of the world. The world is facing economic crisis, and the neoliberal solution is to spend less on human needs and more on security. It is a world of financial institutions run amok, where the answer to economic collapse is to print more money through quantitative easing, flooding the population with trillions of new inflation-producing dollars. It is a world of permanent war, whereby spending for destruction requires further spending to rebuild, a cycle that profits the Giants and global networks of economic power. It is a world of drone killings, extrajudicial assassinations, death, and destruction, at home and abroad.’

Where is this all heading?

So what are the implications of this state of affairs? Phillips responds unequivocally: ‘This concentration of protected wealth leads to a crisis of humanity, whereby poverty, war, starvation, mass alienation, media propaganda, and environmental devastation are reaching a species-level threat. We realize that humankind is in danger of possible extinction’.

He goes on to state that the Global Power Elite is probably the only entity ‘capable of correcting this condition without major civil unrest, war, and chaos’ and elaborates an important aim of his book: to raise awareness of the importance of systemic change and the redistribution of wealth among both the book’s general readers but also the elite, ‘in the hope that they can begin the process of saving humanity.’ The book’s postscript is a ‘A Letter to the Global Power Elite’, co-signed by Phillips and 90 others, beseeching the elite to act accordingly.

It is no longer acceptable for you to believe that you can manage capitalism to grow its way out of the gross inequalities we all now face. The environment cannot accept more pollution and waste, and civil unrest is everywhere inevitable at some point. Humanity needs you to step up and insure that trickle-down becomes a river of resources that reaches every child, every family, and all human beings. We urge you to use your power and make the needed changes for humanity’s survival.

But he also emphasizes that nonviolent social movements, using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a moral code, can accelerate the process of redistributing wealth by pressuring the elite into action.

Conclusion

Peter Phillips has written an important book. For those of us interested in understanding elite control of the world, this book is a vital addition to the bookshelf. And like any good book, as you will see from my comments both above and below, it raised more questions for me even while it answered many.

As I read Phillips’ insightful and candid account of elite behavior in this regard, I am reminded, yet again, that the global power elite is extraordinarily violent and utterly insane: content to kill people in vast numbers (whether through starvation or military violence) and destroy the biosphere for profit, with zero sense of humanity’s now limited future with more detailed explanations for the violence and insanity here.

For this reason I do not share his faith in moral appeals to the elite, as articulated in the letter in his postscript. It is fine to make the appeal but history offers no evidence to suggest that there will be any significant response. The death and destruction inflicted by elites is highly profitable, centuries-old and ongoing. It will take powerful, strategically-focused nonviolent campaigns (or societal collapse) to compel the necessary changes in elite behavior. Hence, I fully endorse his call for nonviolent social movements to compel elite action where we cannot make the necessary changes without their involvement.

I would also encourage independent action, in one or more of several ways, by those individuals and communities powerful enough to do so. This includes nurturing more powerful individuals by making ‘My Promise to Children, participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘ and signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

Fundamentally, Giants: The Global Power Elite is a call to action. Professor Peter Phillips is highly aware of our predicament – politically, socially, economically, environmentally and climatically – and the critical role played by the global power elite in generating that predicament.

If we cannot persuade the global power elite to respond sensibly to that predicament, or nonviolently compel it to do so, humanity’s time on Earth is indeed limited.

Strategy and Conscience: Subverting Elite Power So We End Human Violence

Given the overwhelming evidence that activist efforts are failing to halt the accelerating rush to extinction precipitated and maintained by dysfunctional human behavior, it is worth reflecting on why this is happening.

Of course, you might say that the rush to extinction is being slowed. But is it? Even according to BP’s chief economist:

Despite the extraordinary growth in renewables in recent years, and the huge policy efforts to encourage a shift away from coal into cleaner, lower carbon fuels, there has been almost no improvement in the power sector fuel mix over the past 20 years. The share of coal in the power sector in 1998 was 38% – exactly the same as in 2017…. this is one area where at the global level we haven’t even taken one step forward, we have stood still: perfectly still for the past 20 years.

And, to choose another measure that highlights our lack of “progress”: species extinctions proceed at a rate of 200 each day, which is vastly greater than the long-term background rate, with another 26,000 species already identified as “under threat“.

But it wouldn’t matter what measure you analyzed – efforts to prevent cataclysmic nuclear war, to halt the many ongoing wars, to contain and reverse the prevalent and grotesque economic exploitation, to end slavery or the sex trafficking of women and children, to halt or even slow the rampant destruction of the biosphere, including the rainforests and oceans – we are rapidly losing ground (and often despite some apparent gains such as adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by many non-nuclear states on 7 July 2017).

Not only are we destroying the rainforests – currently at the rate of 80,000 acres each day  – and oceans, as a fellow long-standing nonviolent activist, Kelvin Davies, recently observed to me: the oceans and remaining rainforests are ‘being emptied of life’ as impoverished people, forced to the economic margin, hunt remaining wildlife, including tropical fish, for food and/or trafficking.

Before we blame impoverished people for their destruction, however, it is the consumption by those of us in industrialized countries that is generating the adverse circumstances in which they are forced to survive. For one simple example of this, related to our diet alone, see “Emissions impossible: How big meat and dairy are heating up the planet.”

Of course, you might object that it is not activist efforts that are responsible for the failure to halt elite violence and our complicity in it. It is the failure of corporatized society to seriously consider and respond intelligently to the scientific and other evidence in relation to all of the violence in its many manifestations. However, any explanation of this nature fails to understand and appreciate why progressive change has always occurred in the past.

Social progress is the result of people of conscience strategically challenging elite power in such a way that new norms become so widely accepted that elites are compelled to work within them. This has always been essential for the simple reason that elites are insane and have never acted sensibly, whatever the issue. Elites have only ever orchestrated events to maximize their own power, profit and privilege whatever the cost to the rest of us and the Earth itself. Hence, violence, war, grotesque economic exploitation and ecological destruction are rampant across the planet; that is the way elites want it; that is what maximizes elite power, profit and privilege.

As an aside: if you aren’t convinced that the global elite is insane, then perhaps you might ponder the possible implications of the recent call by US President Donald Trump, for the creation of a new Space Force as a sixth branch of the U.S. military – ‘We must have American dominance in space’ – in violation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

While this enterprise, if it gets Congressional approval, would be staggeringly profitable to the global elite while further gutting social and environmental programs to pay for it, the proposal also raises the possibility, as Professor Karl Grossman graphically expressed it (given that there is no way to have the envisaged weapons in space without nuclear power) that “the heavens are going to be littered with radioactive debris”  for millennia (but in substantially greater amounts than is already there).

Of course, if you want even more evidence of elite insanity, then look no further than the current hysteria generated by Donald Trump’s supposed “treason” for having a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki with the intention of improving mutual understanding and the prospects of peace between the two countries.

Some informed and thoughtful analysts believe this could lead to an elite coup to remove Trump from the US presidency.

So, to consolidate the information presented above, let me encapsulate the nature of geopolitics in one paragraph:

The military forces of the United States are not intended to defend the United States against military attack. The military forces of the countries in NATO are not intended to defend the respective member countries against military attack. The military forces of the United States and NATO are controlled by the global elite and used by the global elite to aggressively attack, in violation of all relevant national and international laws, any country that seeks independent control and development of its resources, particularly fossil fuels, strategic minerals and water. The global elite, which is in total control of the global economy and world affairs generally, does this in order to expand its own power, profit and privilege. It does this no matter what the cost to any individual (outside the elite), people, country and the biosphere. Why does the global elite do all of this? The global elite does this because it is completely insane.

Hence, to return to my point about the driver of social progress historically: Did the trans-Atlantic slave trade end because elites decided to halt the practice? Did gains for some women during the 21st century occur because elites committed themselves to ending patriarchal privilege? Did the British walk out of their colony in India because the British elite suddenly perceived the injustice of their violence and exploitation?

Despite the successes of activists of earlier generations, however, those of us who identify as activists of this generation are failing, quite comprehensively, to respond intelligently, powerfully and strategically to the vast challenges posed by an elite that has expanded its capacity to intimidate, outflank and overwhelm us (which is why, incidentally, slavery is now far more widespread than during any earlier period in human history, violence against women still manifests in a grotesque variety of forms all over the planet and even India has strayed monstrously from Gandhi’s vision).

In essence, strategic lessons learned by earlier generations of activists are forgotten or ignored as we stumble powerlessly to the extinction that is shortly to claim us all.

While I could write at some length about our shortcomings as activists in the era of perpetual violence and war, grotesque economic exploitation and pervasive climate and environmental destruction, I would like to focus on what I regard as the two key issues: strategy and conscience.

The global elite is deeply entrenched and manages world affairs, particularly through its capitalist economy. The global elite has developed over hundreds of years during which time it has fully and deeply penetrated all of the major power structures in world society, most of which it created (or moulded during their creation), so that the primary levers of power in the modern world – key financial institutions such as central banks, the major asset management corporations and the giant corporations in key industries (such as, but not limited to, the banking and weapons industries) – as well as the instruments through which its policies are implemented – including governments, military forces (both national and as ‘military contractors’ or mercenaries), key ‘intelligence’ agencies, legal systems and police forces, key non-government organizations such as the Vatican, and the academic, educational, media, medical, psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries – are all fully responsive to elite control.

More precisely than this, as explained in his forthcoming book Giants: The Global Power Elite, Professor Peter Phillips identifies the world’s top seventeen asset management firms, each with more than one trillion dollars of investment capital under management, as the giants of world capitalism. The total capital under management on behalf of all seventeen corporations is in excess of $US41.1 trillion; it represents the wealth invested for profit by thousands of millionaires, billionaires and corporations. These seventeen giants operate in nearly every country in the world and are “the central institutions of the financial capital that powers the global economic system”. They invest in anything considered profitable, ranging from “agricultural lands on which indigenous farmers are replaced by power elite investors” to public assets to war.

Phillips goes on to note that the global elite develops and coordinates its policies through a variety of private planning fora such as the Group of Thirty, the Trilateral Commission and the Atlantic Council which determine the policies and issue the instructions for their implementation by transnational governmental institutions like the G7, G20, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and the World Bank. Elite policies are also implemented following instruction of the relevant agent, including governments, in the context. These agents then do as they are instructed.

Or, if they do not, they are overthrown. Just ask any independently-minded government over the past century. For a list of governments overthrown by the global elite using its military and ‘intelligence’ agencies since World War II, see William Blum’s book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II or, for just the list, see Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List.

As a result of coordination through the above elite fora, for example, gigantic media, public relations and entertainment corporations are used to reinforce elite dogma promulgated through national educational institutions so that most western humans become powerless consumers of elite product, informational and material, as the elite pursues ever-increasing profit, power and privilege. Oblivious to the way in which they are caught up in the elite drive to make us consume, even most western activists are major consumers, failing to limit their consumption in line with some appreciation of the per capita ecological carrying capacity of the Earth.

Hence, as should be obvious by now, with a deeply entrenched global elite in total control of major economic/financial, political, military, legal and social (including educational and media) power structures, only a comprehensive and sophisticated strategy has any prospect of succeeding, whatever the issue, and certainly the fundamental one: elite power.

In other words, if we want to end war (or even just one war), halt exacerbation of the climate catastrophe (in a region, country or the world), end environmental destruction on a vast range of fronts, terminate economic exploitation including (modern) slavery, end the sex trafficking of women and children, end the military occupation of Palestine, Tibet, West Papua… then we are going to have to think, plan and act strategically, which includes engaging and mobilizing, in a focused way, a significant proportion of the human population. Simply ‘campaigning’ on the basis of a few ideas and tactics that we think worked in the past, is not enough. Campaigning without strategy – and all that strategic thinking, including a penetrating analysis of the very nature of society and its power structure, entails – is a waste of time.

This is why most work of virtually all ‘activist’ NGOs is useless. They work within the elite-designed and managed global power structure, fearfully self-limiting their actions in accordance with elite-approved processes, such as those ‘within the law’ and lobbying elite-controlled governments and institutions, as well as international organizations such as the UN. By participating in elite-controlled processes, our dissent is absorbed and dissipated, as the elite intend.

This is the great achievement, from an elite perspective, of ‘democracy’: to the extent that people can be persuaded to participate in the delusion that democracy exists (anywhere on Earth) and that voting and lobbying changes anything important, they are unwitting victims of elite-manipulated processes and propaganda.

This also explains why virtually all NGOs invariably end up promoting elite-sponsored delusions such as, for example, those in relation to the climate catastrophe which talk of an ‘end of century’ time frame (about 70 years more than we actually have), staying within 2 (or 3 or 1.5) degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level (rather than the .5 degrees that is actually necessary) and, the most fundamental delusion of all, that we must substitute renewable energy for fossil fuels (which is certainly necessary), rather than (in addition) profoundly reduce – by at least 80% – consumption generally, involving both energy and resources of every kind – water, household energy, transport fuels, metals, meat, paper and plastic – while dramatically expanding our individual and community self-reliance if all environmental concerns are to be effectively addressed.

But elite-sponsored delusions are widely promulgated by its corporate media on a vast range of issues with only the rarest ‘activist’ NGO, concerned to focus on what it defines as its primary mission, taking a stand on these apparently ‘separate’ issues. So, for example, elite-sponsored delusions that are widely promulgated by its corporate media convince huge numbers of people that US-NATO wars against impoverished and militarily-primitive countries are in ‘self defense’ and that terrorists are a genuine threat to ‘national security’. At a more mundane level, elite-sponsored delusions propagated through its corporate media promote everything from genetically-mutilated, poisoned and junk food to psychiatric drugs. These products are also highly profitable but because their insanity includes lacking any sense of morality, elites are unconcerned about the damage they inflict on us in these regards just as in all others.

Some grassroots activist groups are more politically savvy than NGOs but usually still lack comprehensive and sophisticated strategies. On rare occasions, it should be noted, one of these campaigns or national liberation struggles succeeds, because of such factors as the raw power of nonviolent action (even without strategy) or because they could rely on the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) effect to facilitate mobilization of significant numbers of people in a local area.

However, the global elite is unconcerned about the occasional local ‘setback’ which does not adversely impact its global agenda and where minor gains by grassroots activists can, if necessary, be subsequently reversed (including by simply violating the law, as the elite routinely does with impunity). Consider again, the above example of Trump’s call to violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty or routine violation of legally-declared (and sometimes World Heritage-listed) national parks in Africa, Asia and Central/South America as major corporations seek to exploit oil and mineral wealth. The law is designed to intimidate and impede us; it is rarely used in an attempt to hold elites accountable and has little, if any, impact when it does: a corporation may, occasionally, be fined (an expense against generating monstrous profit). Fundamentally, elites are above the law: they draft it to defend their interests against the rest of us.

But to reiterate the main point: given the sheer number of (sometimes even large-scale) mobilizations on one issue after another around the world that achieve nothing of substance in relation to the issue itself (consider the demonstrations against the imminent war on Iraq, held in over 600 cities around the world and involving as many as 30 million people, on 15 February 2003), it is painfully clear that most grassroots activists have no conception of strategy either, including the appropriate strategic focus for their tactics.

And this applies equally to those national liberation activists in occupied countries such as Palestine, Tibet and West Papua, as well as those activists living in the many countries, such as Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, run by dictatorships or where the elected government, such as that of Brazil, has been removed in a coup.

As touched on above, however, lack of sound strategy (including the structural analysis on which it must be based) is not the only shortcoming in our efforts to halt elite (or even our own) violence.

In the past, a primary motivator of activists, and particularly the great ones such as Mohandas K. Gandhi, was their conscience: The ‘inner voice’ that called them to action on both the personal and political levels.

But there is more to conscience than being called to action. So what is so important about conscience? Conscience is the mind function that asks the deeper questions such as ‘What is the right way to go about this?’, ‘How must I behave if I am to model what I ask of others?’ and ‘How will we design this campaign so that its conduct helps to create the world we envision?’ (rather than the simpler question ‘How will we win this campaign?’).

Moreover, living by one’s conscience requires courage: This includes making strategic choices to take significant or, occasionally, even great risks when elite violence threatens to intimidate a struggle into submission and silence.

It was his unyielding conscience, deeply guiding his personal and political behaviour (including his commitment to nonviolence and his extraordinarily austere lifestyle), and his superlative understanding of strategy that made Gandhi the great activist that he was. Why?

Because Gandhi’s nonviolence was based on certain premises derived from his conscience – including the importance of the truth, the sanctity and unity of all life, and the unity of means and end – his strategy was always conducted within the framework of his desired political, social, economic and ecological vision for society as a whole and not limited to the purpose of any immediate campaign.

It is for this reason that Gandhi’s approach to strategy is so important. He is always taking into account the ultimate end of all nonviolent struggle – a just, peaceful and ecologically sustainable society of self-realized human beings – not just the outcome of this campaign. He wants each campaign to contribute to the ultimate aim, not undermine vital elements of the long-term and overarching struggle to create a world without violence.

So what do we do?

If you would like to better understand why so many human beings, including those within the elite, are devoid of anything resembling a conscience, you can do so by reading what happened to them as a child in “Why Violence?” and “Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice“.

If you are interested in acting in ways that maximize the chance that elite opponents and their agents will reflect, deeply, on what they are doing, while fundamentally changing the power relationship between you and your opponents, then you are welcome to consider acting strategically in the way that Gandhi did. Whether you are engaged in a peace, climate, environment or social justice campaign or a national liberation struggle, the 12-point strategic framework and principles are the same.

The strategic aims and a core list of strategic goals to end war and to end the climate catastrophe, for example, are identified in “Campaign Strategic Aims” and the strategic aims and a core list of strategic goals to defeat a political or military coup, remove a military occupation, remove a dictatorship or defeat a genocidal assault are identified here: “Liberation Strategic Aims“.

If you would like a straightforward explanation of “Nonviolent Action: Why and How it Works” and an introduction to what it means to think strategically, try reading about the difference between “The Political Objective and Strategic Goal of Nonviolent Actions“.

If you anticipate violent repression by a ruthless opponent, make sure that you plan and implement any nonviolent action as history has taught us: “Nonviolent Action: Minimizing the Risk of Violent Repression“.

If you are interested in nurturing children to live by their conscience and to gain the courage necessary to resist elite violence fearlessly, while living sustainably despite the entreaties of capitalism to over-consume, then you are welcome to make “My Promise to Children“. After all, capitalism and other dysfunctional political, economic and social structures only thrive because of our dysfunctional parenting which robs children of their conscience and courage, among many other qualities, while actively teaching them to over-consume as compensation for having vital emotional needs denied.

Why this emphasis on children you might ask? For good reason. It is dysfunctional human behavior that got us into this civilizational mess and allowed the emergence of exploitative social, political and economic structures. So if we do not emphasize the importance of profoundly changing the way in which we nurture children so that they behave functionally in context, everything else we do to preserve humanity and the biosphere must ultimately fail. The onslaught of our dysfunctional species will simply overwhelm the biosphere, sooner or later, whether it is this generation or the next.

But we don’t have to settle for improving our parenting. We can improve our own functionality and access our conscience and courage too. How?

If you are already guided by your conscience to act powerfully in response to elite violence, you might also consider joining those participating in “The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth“, which outlines a simple plan for people to systematically reduce their consumption while progressively increasing their self-reliance, and consider signing the online pledge of “The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World“.

You may believe that you can halt elite violence without engaging your conscience (and the deep internal search that this requires) and without using Gandhian nonviolent strategy. Even if you are right, the key question is then this: Is the world you will get any better than this one?

And don’t forget the time frame. Major historical struggles, including those noted above, took decades (whatever the merits and shortcomings of their strategies) or, as in most cases, are ongoing. How long do you want to wait before you invest time in learning how to think, plan and act strategically when the future of humanity and the biosphere is now at stake?

So, to conclude: The global elite controls all significant human affairs and even exercises almost total control over the individual lives of human beings. Because the global elite is insane and its psychological (and hence behavioral) dysfunctionality is of a particular kind, it cannot pull back from its existing regime of violence and exploitation, even in response to imperatives from the biosphere.

In this circumstance our choice is simple: near-term human extinction based on our unwitting complicity in elite violence or a conscientious, courageous and strategic response that fundamentally undermines elite power.

This will require a significant number of interrelated nonviolent strategies that each tackle elite violence in one context or another.

You are welcome to consider the options presented just above for your own involvement.

Starving and Bombed Children of Yemen Seek Entrapment in Flooded Thai Cave

While the world watched and waited with bated breath for the outcome of the substantial global effort – involving over 100 cave divers from various countries, 1,000 members of the Thai Army and 10,000 others in various roles – to rescue a team of 12 young football players and their coach, who were trapped inside a flooded cave in Thailand for 17 days, 850,000 children were killed by human adults in other parts of the world, many of them simply starved to death in Yemen or other parts of Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

But other children were killed in ritual sacrifice. Many children were killed after being sexually trafficked, raped and tortured, many were killed in wars (including in Yemen), many were killed while living under military occupation, many died as child soldiers or while working as slave laborers, and vast numbers of other children suffered violence in a myriad other forms ranging from violence (including sexual violation) inflicted in the family home to lives of poverty, homelessness and misery in wealthy industrialized countries or as refugees fleeing conflict zones.

Why did the world’s corporate media highlight the flooded Thai cave story so graphically and why do so many ordinary people respond with such interest – meaning genuine emotional engagement – in this story? But not the others just mentioned?

And what does this tell us about human psychology and geopolitics?

Needless to say, a great deal.

During the Thai cave drama, major corporate media outlets, such as the Washington Post and the BBC, were routinely releasing ‘breaking news’ updates on the status of the rescue effort. At high points in the drama, reports on this issue were overshadowing major political and other stories of the day. At the same time, there were no ‘breaking news’ stories on any of the many myriad forms of violence against children, which were (and are still) killing 50,000 children each day.

So why the corporate media interest in this essentially local (Thai) story about a group of 12 children trapped in a cave? And why did it attract so much support, including foreign cave divers, engineers and medics as well as technology billionaire Elon Musk, who flew in to investigate rescue options and assist with the rescue effort. They and their equivalents are certainly not flying in to rescue children in a vast number of other contexts, including where the provision of simple, nourishing meals and clean water would do wonders.

Well, in essence, the story was a great one for the corporate media, simply because it reported on something of little consequence to those not immediately impacted and enabled the media to garner attention for itself and other (western) ‘heroes’ drawn into the story while engaging in its usual practice of distracting us from what really matters. And it was an easy story to sell simply because the media could use a wide range of safe emotional triggers to draw people into the dramatized story without simultaneously raising difficult questions about the (appalling) state of the world and responsibility for it.

In simple language: like sports events and other forms of entertainment, the cave rescue provided a safely contained time and space for people to feel emotionally engaged in (this case) a real-life drama (with feelings like fear and relief allowed an outlet) while carefully reinforcing their unconscious feeling of powerlessness to do anything about it and their acceptance of this. This is why it was so important that expert rescue efforts were highlighted: the key media message was that ‘there is nothing you can do’.

Of course, in this context, this was largely true. The problem is that the corporate media coverage wasn’t aimed at this context. It was aimed at all those other contexts which it wasn’t even discussing, let alone highlighting: the vast range of issues – including the many ongoing wars and endless military violence, the threat of nuclear war, the climate catastrophe and innumerable threats to our biosphere posed by such activities as rainforest destruction, the refugee crisis, military occupations, as well as the ongoing violence against children in so many contexts as touched on above – that need a great deal of our attention but for which the elite uses its corporate media to distract us and reinforce our sense of powerlessness.

Another aspect of the story was the way in which it highlighted the ‘accidental’ nature of the incident: no one was really responsible, even the hapless coach who was just trying to give his young players an interesting excursion and whom, according to reports, none of the parents blamed.

By focusing on the logistical details of the story (the distance into the cave, the narrowness of certain passages, rescue possibilities, equipment, the threat of monsoon rains…), without attributing blame, the media could reinforce its endless message that ‘no-one’ is responsible for the state of the world. Hence, no individual and no organization is responsible for doing anything either. Again, this message is designed to deepen a sense of powerlessness and to make people disinclined to act: to make them powerless observers rather than active participants in their own fate.

As an aside, of course, it should be noted that in those contexts where it serves elite interests to attribute blame, it certainly does so. Hence, elites might contrive to blame Muslims, Russians, Palestinians or the other latest target (depending on the context) for some problem. However, in these contexts, the story of ‘blame’ is framed to ensure that elites have maximum opportunity to act as they wish (often militarily) while (again) engendering a sense of powerlessness among the rest of us.

The tragedy of the Thai cave incident is that one man died and many boys spent 17 days in a situation in which they were no doubt terrified and suffering genuine physical privation. But elite media cynically used the event to distract us from vitally important issues, including ongoing grotesque violence against children in a large number of contexts, and to reinforce the delusion “I Am Not Responsible“.

In short, while the 12 boys and their coach were rescued after 17 days trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand which required a sophisticated and expensive international effort, during the same period around the world, 850,000 children were killed by human adults. Even in Thailand during this 17-day period, apart from those children violated and killed as a result of sex trafficking and other violence, 119 children drowned (at the rate of seven each day). Obviously, these children were ignored because there was no profit in reporting their plight and helping to mobilize an international effort to save them.

So what can we do?

Well, for a start, we can boycott the corporate media and certainly not spend any money on it. What little truth it contains is usually of even less value (and probably gets barely beyond a good sports report). Instead, invest any money you previously spent on the corporate media by supporting progressive news outlets. They might not have reported events in relation to the Thai cave rescue but they do report on the ongoing violence inflicted on children in more grotesque circumstances such as the war in Yemen. They will also report and analyze important global events from a truthful and life-enhancing perspective and will often offer strategies for your engaged involvement.

If you want to understand why most people are suckered by the corporate media, whose primary function is to distract and disempower us, you will get a clear sense from reading how adults distract and disempower children in the name of ‘socialization’.

If you want to nurture children to be powerful agents of change who will have no trouble resisting attempts (whether by the corporate media or any other elite agent) to distract and disempower them, you are welcome to consider making ‘My Promise to Children‘.

If you are easily conned yourself, you will vastly enhance your capacity to discriminate and focus on what matters by ‘Putting Feelings First‘ which will, among other things, restore your conscience, intuition and ‘truth register’, vital mental functions suppressed in most people.

You are also welcome to consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘ which maps out a fifteen-year strategy for creating a peaceful, just and sustainable world community so that all children (and everyone else) has an ecologically viable planet on which to live.

And for the vast range of other manifestations of violence against children touched on above, you might consider using Gandhian nonviolent strategy in any context of particular concern to you.

You might also consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘ which explicitly identifies the role of the corporate media, among many other elite agencies, in promoting violence.

Am I pleased that the 12 children and their coach in Thailand were rescued? Of course I am. I just wish that an equivalent effort was being made to rescue each of the 50,000 children we will kill today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that…

Humanity’s “Dirty Little Secret”: Starving, Enslaving, Raping, Torturing and Killing our Children

In a recent article titled ‘Challenges for Resolving Complex Conflicts‘, I pointed out four conflict configurations that are paid little attention by conflict theorists.

In this article, I would like to discuss a fifth conflict configuration that is effectively ignored by conflict theorists (and virtually everyone else). This conflict is undoubtedly the most fundamental conflict in human society, because it generates all of the violence humans perpetrate and experience, and yet it is utterly invisible to almost everyone.

I have previously described this conflict as ‘the adult war on children’. It is indeed humanity’s ‘dirty little secret’.

Let me illustrate and explain the nature and extent of this secret war. And what we can do about it.

Every day, according to some estimates, human adults kill 50,000 of our children. The true figure is probably significantly higher. We kill children in wars. We kill them with drones. We kill them in our homes and on the street. We shoot them at school.

We also kill children in vast numbers by starving them to death, depriving them of clean drinking water, denying them medicines – or forcing them to live in a polluted environment, particularly in parts of Africa, Asia and Central/South America. Why? Because we use military violence to maintain an ‘economic’ system that allocates resources for military weapons, as well as corporate profits for the wealthy, instead of resources for living.

We also execute children in sacrificial killings after kidnapping them. We even breed children to sell as a ‘cash crop’ for sexual violation, child pornography (‘kiddie porn’) and the filming of ‘snuff’ movies (in which children are killed during the filming), torture and satanic sacrifice. And these are just some of the manifestations of the violence against children that have been happening for centuries or, in some cases, millennia. On these points, see the video evidence presented at the recent Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Human Trafficking and Child Sex Abuse organized by the International Tribunal for Natural Justice.

The opening statement by Chief Counsel Robert David Steele refers to an estimated eight million children trafficked annually – with 600,000-800,000 of these children (excluding both those bred within the USA without birth certificates and those imported without documentation) in the United States alone – and mentions such practices as ritual torture and ritual murder as well as training dogs to rape children and toddlers. He mentions the range of organizations involved from Oxfam and the Boy Scouts of America to ‘child-service’ agencies and police forces as well as various United Nations organizations, where pedophiles (those who prey on children) rise through the ranks to exercise enormous control. He also points out that many of the children bred or kidnapped into this system usually last about two years before dying (often after being raped several times each hour for some of that time) or being killed outright. He also mentions (with evidence provided in other video presentations) the forced removal of body organs from children of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

Steele, who is a former CIA operations officer, also points out that the 1,000 US military bases around the world are ‘not there for national defense; they are there to serve as lilypads for the smuggling of guns, gold, cash, drugs and small children’. The obvious and clear inference to be drawn from his statement is that the US military is heavily involved in child trafficking (as well as its well-known involvement in drug and weapons trafficking, for example), which means that vast numbers of US military personnel know about it too. And do nothing.

The compelling testimony at the Commission of Inquiry of survivor/perpetrator Ronald Bernard will give you a clear sense of the deep elite engagement (that is, the 8,000-8,500 ‘elite’ individuals running central banks, governments, secret service agencies, multinational corporations, terrorist organizations and churches) in the extraordinary violence inflicted on children, with children illegally trafficked internationally along with women, weapons, drugs, currencies, gold and wildlife.

In a particularly poignant series of moments during the interview, after he has revealed some of the staggering violence he suffered as a child at the hands of his father and the Church, Bernard specifically refers to the fact that the people engaged in these practices are terrified (and ‘serving the monster of greed’) and that, during his time as a financial entrepreneur, he was working with people who understood him as he understood them: individuals who were suffering enormously from the violence they had suffered as children themselves and who are now so full of hatred that they want to destroy life, human and otherwise. In short: they enjoy and celebrate killing people and destroying the Earth as a direct response to the violence they each suffered as a child.

There are more video testimonies by survivors, expert witnesses, research scholars in the field and others on the International Tribunal for Natural Justice website and if you want to read scholarly books documenting aspects of this staggering violence against children then see, for example, Childhunters: Requiem of a Child-killer and Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape.

For further accounts of the systematic exploitation, rape, torture and murder of children over a lengthy period, which focuses on Canada’s indigenous peoples, Rev. Kevin Annett’s evocative report ‘Hidden from History: The Canadian Holocaust – The Untold Story of the Genocide of Aboriginal Peoples by Church and State in Canada’, and his books Unrelenting and Murder by Decree: The Crime of Genocide in Canada use eyewitness testimonies and archival documentation to provide ‘an uncensored record of the planned extermination of indigenous children in Canada’s murderous “Indian residential schools”’ from 1889 to 1996.

Apart from what happened in the Indian Residential Schools during this period, however, the books also offer extensive evidence documenting the ongoing perpetration of genocide, including child rape, torture and killing, against Canada’s indigenous peoples by its government, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Catholic, Anglican and United Churches since the 19th century. Sadly, there is plenty more in Kevin’s various books and on the website of the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State which also explain the long-standing involvement of the Vatican in these genocidal crimes against children.

Of course, Canada is not alone in its unrelenting violence against indigenous children (and indigenous peoples generally). The United States and Australia, among many others, also have long records of savagery in destroying the lives of indigenous children, fundamentally by taking their land and destroying their culture, traditional livelihoods and spirituality. And when indigenous people do not simply abandon their traditional way of being and adopt the dominant model, they are blamed and persecuted even more savagely, as the record clearly demonstrates.

Moreover, institutional violence against children is not limited to the contexts and settings mentioned above. In the recently conducted Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse undertaken in Australia, childcare services, schools, health and allied services, youth detention, residential care and contemporary out-of-home services, religious activities, family and youth support services, supported accommodation, sporting, recreational and club activities, youth employment, and the military forces were all identified as providing contexts for perpetrating violence against children.

Over half of the survivors suffered sexual violation in an institution managed by a religious organization such as places of worship and for religious instruction, missions, religious schools, orphanages, residential homes, recreational clubs, youth groups, and welfare services. Another one-third of survivors suffered the violence in an institution under government management such as a school, an out-of-home care service, a youth detention centre or at a health service centre. The remaining 10% suffered violence in a private organization such as a child care centre, a medical practice or clinic, a music or dance school, an independent school, a yoga ashram or a sports club, a non-government or not-for-profit organization.

Needless to say, the failure to respond to any of this violence for the past century by any of the institutions ‘responsible’ for monitoring, oversight and criminal justice, such as the police, law enforcement and agencies responsible for public prosecution, clearly demonstrates that mechanisms theoretically designed to protect children (and adults) do not function when those same institutions are complicit in the violence and are, in any case, designed to defend elite interests (not ‘ordinary’ people and children). Hence, of course, this issue was not even investigated by the Commission because it was excluded from the terms of reference!

Separately from those children we kill or violate every day in the ways briefly described above, we traffic many others into sexual slavery – such as those trafficked (sometimes by their parents) into prostitution to service the sex tourism industry in countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and India – we kidnap others to terrorize them into becoming child soldiers with 46 countries using them according to Child Soldiers International, we force others to work as slave laborers, in horrific conditions, in fields, factories and mines (and buy the cheap products of their exploited labor as our latest ‘bargain’) with Human Rights Watch reporting over 70,000,000 children, including many who aren’t even, technically-speaking, slaves, working in ‘hazardous conditions’ – and we condemn millions to live in poverty, homelessness and misery because national governments, despite rhetoric to the contrary, place either negligible or no value on children apart from, in some cases, as future wage slaves in the workforce.

We also condemn millions of children, such as those in Palestine, Tibet, Western Sahara and West Papua, to live under military occupation, where many are routinely imprisoned, shot or killed.

In addition, while fighting wars we cause many children to be born with grotesque genetic deformities because we use horrific weapons, like those with depleted uranium, on their parents.

In other cases, we cause children shockingly debilitating injuries, if they are not killed outright, by using conventional, biological and chemical weapons on them directly.

But war also destroys housing and other infrastructure forcing millions of children to become internally displaced or refugees in another country (often without a living parent), causing ongoing trauma. Worldwide, one child out of every 200 is a refugee, whether through war or poverty, environmental or climate disruption.

We also inflict violence on children in many other forms, ranging from ‘ordinary’ domestic violence to genital mutilation, with UNICEF calculating that 200 million girls and young women in 30 countries on three continents have been mutilated.

And we deny children a free choice (even those who supposedly live in a ‘democracy’) and imprison vast numbers of them in school in the delusional belief that this is good for them. Whatever other damage that school does, it certainly helps to create the next generation of child-destroyers. And, in many countries, we just imprison children in our jails. After all, the legal system is no more than an elite tool to control ‘ordinary’ people while shielding the elite from accountability for their grotesque violence against us all.

While almost trivial by comparison with the violence identified above, the perversity of many multinational corporations in destroying our children’s health is graphically illustrated in the film Global Junk Food. In Europe, food manufacturers have signed up to ‘responsibility pledges’, promising not to add sugar, preservatives, artificial colours or flavours to their products and to not target children.

However, the developing world is not in Europe so these ‘responsibility pledges’ obviously do not apply and corporations such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Domino’s Pizza sell their junk food in developing countries (with the video above showcasing Brazil and India) loaded with excess oil, salt and sugar and even using fake cheese.

The well-documented report reveals corporations like these to be nothing more than drug dealers, selling toxic food to ill-informed victims that deliver a lifetime of diabetes and obesity to huge numbers of children. So, just as weapons corporations derive their profits from killing children (and adults), junk food corporations derive their profits from destroying the health of children (and adults). Of course, the medical industry, rather than campaigning vigorously against this outrage, prefers to profit from it too by offering ‘treatments’, including the surgical removal of fat, which offer nothing more than temporary but very profitable ‘relief’.

But this is far from representing the only active involvement of the medical industry in the extraordinary violence we inflict on children. For example, western children and many others are rarely spared a plethora of vaccinations which systematically destroy a child’s immune system, thus making their health ongoingly vulnerable to later assaults on their well-being.

And before we leave the subject of food too far behind, it should be noted that just because the junk food sold in Europe and some other western countries has less fat, salt, sugar, preservatives and artificial colors and flavours in it, this does not mean that it is healthy. It still has various combinations of added fat, salt, sugar, preservatives and artificial colors and flavours in it.

Separately from this: don’t forget that virtually all parents are systematically poisoning their children by feeding them food grown by the corporate agribusiness giants which is heavily depleted of nutrients and laced with poisons such as glyphosate. Of course, in many countries we are also forcing our children to drink fluoridated water to the detriment of their health too.

Obviously, organically/biodynamically grown food, healthily prepared, and unfluoridated water are not health priorities for their children, according to most parents.

As our ultimate act of violence against all children, we are destroying their future.

So how do we do all of this?

Very easily, actually. It works like this.

Perpetrators of violence learn their craft in childhood. If you inflict violence on a child, they learn to inflict violence on others. The child rapist and ritual child killer suffered violence as a child. The terrorist suffered violence as a child. The political leader who wages war suffered violence as a child. The man who inflicts violence on women suffered violence as a child. The corporate executive who exploits working class people and/or those who live in Africa, Asia or Central/South America suffered violence as a child. The racist and religious bigot suffered violence as a child. The soldier who kills in war suffered violence as a child. The individual who perpetrates violence in the home, in the schoolyard or on the street suffered violence as a child. The parent who inflicts violence on their own children suffered violence as a child.

So if we want to end violence, exploitation, ecological destruction and war, then we must finally admit our ‘dirty little secret’ and end our longest and greatest war: the adult war on children. And here is an incentive: if we do not tackle the fundamental cause of violence, then our combined and unrelenting efforts to tackle all of its other symptoms must ultimately fail. And extinction at our own hand is inevitable.

How can I claim that violence against children is the fundamental cause of all other violence? Consider this. There is universal acceptance that behavior is shaped by childhood experience. If it was not, we would not put such effort into education and other efforts to ‘socialize’ children to fit into society. And this is why many psychologists have argued that exposure to war toys and violent video games shapes attitudes and behaviors in relation to violence.

But it is far more complex than these trivialities suggest and, strange though it may seem, it is not just the ‘visible’ violence (such as hitting, screaming at and sexually abusing) that we normally label ‘violence’ that causes the main damage, although this is extremely damaging. The largest component of damage arises from the ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that we adults unconsciously inflict on children during the ordinary course of the day. Tragically, the bulk of this violence occurs in the family home and at school.

So what is ‘invisible’ violence? It is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themSelf thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioral dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).

When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.

The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, mothers, fathers, teachers, religious figures and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioral responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioral outcomes actually occur.

For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (e.g. by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behavior that is generated by their feelings (e.g. by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.

However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for nature because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviors, including some that are violent towards themself, others and/or the Earth.

From the above, it should also now be apparent that punishment should never be used. ‘Punishment’, of course, is one of the words we use to obscure our awareness of the fact that we are using violence. Violence, even when we label it ‘punishment’, scares children and adults alike and cannot elicit a functional behavioural response.

If someone behaves dysfunctionally, they need to be listened to, deeply, so that they can start to become consciously aware of the feelings (which will always include fear and, often, terror) that drove the dysfunctional behavior in the first place. They then need to feel and express these feelings (including any anger) in a safe way. Only then will behavioral change in the direction of functionality be possible.

‘But these adult behaviors you have described don’t seem that bad. Can the outcome be as disastrous as you claim?’ you might ask. The problem is that there are hundreds of these ‘ordinary’, everyday behaviors that destroy the Selfhood of the child. It is ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and most children simply do not survive as Self-aware individuals. And why do we do this? We do it so that each child will fit into our model of ‘the perfect citizen’: that is, obedient and hardworking student, reliable and pliant employee/soldier, and submissive law-abiding citizen. In other words: a slave.

Of course, once we destroy the Selfhood of a child, it has many flow-on effects. For example, once you terrorize a child into accepting certain information about themself, other people or the state of the world, the child becomes unconsciously fearful of dealing with new information, especially if this information is contradictory to what they have been terrorized into believing. As a result, the child will unconsciously dismiss new information out of hand.

In short, the child has been terrorized in such a way that they are no longer capable of thinking critically or even learning (or their learning capacity is seriously diminished by excluding any information that is not a simple extension of what they already ‘know’). If you imagine any of the bigots you know, you are imagining someone who is utterly terrified. But it’s not just the bigots; virtually all people are affected in this manner making them incapable of responding adequately to new (or even important) information. This is one explanation why many people are ‘climate deniers’ and most others do nothing in response to the climate catastrophe.

Of course, each person’s experience of violence during childhood is unique and this is why each perpetrator becomes violent in their own particular combination of ways.

But if you want to understand the core psychology of all perpetrators of violence, it is important to understand that, as a result of the extraordinary violence they each suffered during childhood, they are now (unconsciously) utterly terrified, full of self-hatred and personally powerless, among another 20 psychological characteristics. You can read a brief outline of these characteristics and how they are acquired on pages 12-16 of Why Violence?

As should now be clear, the central point in understanding violence is that it is psychological in origin and hence any effective response must enable both the perpetrator’s and the victim’s suppressed feelings (which will include enormous fear about, and rage at, the violence they have suffered) to be safely expressed.

Unfortunately, this nisteling cannot be provided by a psychiatrist or psychologist whose training is based on a delusionary understanding of how the human mind functions. Nisteling will enable those who have suffered from psychological trauma to heal fully and completely, but it will take time.

So if we want to end violence (including the starvation, trafficking, rape, torture and killing of children), exploitation, ecological destruction and war, then we must tackle the fundamental cause. Primarily, this means giving everyone, child and adult alike, all of the space they need to feel, deeply, what they want to do, and to then let them do it (or to have the feelings they naturally have if they are prevented from doing so). In the short term, this will have some dysfunctional outcomes. But it will lead to an infinitely better overall outcome than the system of emotional suppression, control and punishment which has generated the incredibly violent world in which we now find ourselves.

This all sounds pretty unpalatable, doesn’t it? So each of us has a choice. We can suppress our awareness of what is unpalatable, as we have been terrorized into doing as a child, or we can feel the various feelings that we have in response to this information and then ponder (personal and collective) ways forward.

If feelings are felt and expressed then our responses can be shaped by the conscious and integrated functioning of thoughts and feelings, as evolution intended, and we can plan intelligently. The alternative is to have our unconscious fear controlling our thinking and deluding us that we are acting rationally.

It is time to end the most fundamental conflict that is destroying human society from within – the adult war on children – so that we can more effectively tackle all of the other violence that emerges from this cause too.

So what do we do?

Let me briefly reiterate.

If you are willing, you can make the commitment outlined in ‘My Promise to Children‘. If you need to do some healing of your own to be able to nurture children in this way, then consider the information provided in the article ‘Putting Feelings First‘.

In addition, you are also welcome to consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘ which maps out a fifteen-year strategy for creating a peaceful, just and sustainable world community so that all children (and everyone else) has an ecologically viable planet on which to live.

You might also consider supporting or even working with organizations like Destiny Rescue, which works to rescue children trafficked into prostitution, or any of the many advocacy organizations associated with the network of End Child Prostitution and Trafficking.

But for the plethora of other manifestations of violence against children identified above, you might consider using Gandhian nonviolent strategy in any context of particular concern to you. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy or Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy. And, if you like, you can join the worldwide movement to end all violence by signing online ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

In summary: Each one of us has an important choice. We can acknowledge the painful truth that we inflict enormous violence on our children (which then manifests in myriad complex ways) and respond powerfully to that truth. Or we can keep deluding ourselves and continue to observe, powerlessly, as the violence in our world proliferates until human beings are extinct.

If you want a child who is nonviolent, truthful, compassionate, considerate, patient, thoughtful, respectful, generous, loving of themself and others, trustworthy, honest, dignified, determined, courageous, powerful and who lives out their own unique destiny, then the child must be treated with – and experience – nonviolence, truth, compassion, consideration, patience, thoughtfulness, respect, generosity, love, trust, honesty, dignity, determination, courage, power and, ideally, live in a world that prioritizes nurturing the unique destiny of each child.

Alternatively, if you want a child to turn out like the perpetrators of violence described above, to be powerless to respond effectively to the crises in our world, or to even just turn out to be an appalling parent, then inflict violence – visible, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ – on them during their childhood.

Tragically, with only the rarest of exceptions, human adults are too terrified to truly love, nurture and defend our children from the avalanche of violence that is unleashed on them at the moment of birth.

Conflict Theory and Biosphere Annihilation

In a recent article titled “Challenges for Resolving Complex Conflicts“, I pointed out that existing conflict theory pays little attention to the extinction-causing conflict being ongoingly generated by human over-consumption in the finite planetary biosphere (and, among other outcomes, currently resulting in 200 species extinctions daily). I also mentioned that this conflict is sometimes inadequately identified as a conflict caused by capitalism’s drive for unending economic growth in a finite environment.

I would like to explain the psychological origin of this biosphere-annihilating conflict and how this origin has nurtured the incredibly destructive aspects of capitalism (and socialism, for that matter) from the beginning. I would also like to explain what we can do about it.

Before I do, however, let me briefly illustrate why this particular conflict configuration is so important by offering you a taste of the most recent research evidence in relation to the climate catastrophe and biosphere annihilation and why the time to resolve this conflict is rapidly running out (assuming, problematically, that we can avert nuclear war in the meantime).

In an article reporting a recent speech by Professor James G. Anderson of Harvard University, whose research led to the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to mitigate CFC damage to the Ozone Layer, environmental journalist Robert Hunziker summarizes Anderson’s position as follows:

The chance of permanent ice remaining in the Arctic after 2022 is zero. Already, 80% is gone. The problem: Without an ice shield to protect frozen methane hydrates in place for millennia, the Arctic turns into a methane nightmare.1

But if you think that sounds drastic, other recent research has drawn attention to the fact that the ‘alarming loss of insects will likely take down humanity before global warming hits maximum velocity…. The worldwide loss of insects is simply staggering with some reports of 75% up to 90%, happening much faster than the paleoclimate record rate of the past five major extinction events’. Without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops…’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply collapses.2

So, if we are in the process of annihilating Earth’s biosphere, which will precipitate human extinction in the near term, why aren’t we paying much more attention to the origin of this fundamental conflict? And then developing a precisely focused strategy for transcending it?

The answer to these two questions is simply this: the origin of this conflict is particularly unpalatable and, from my careful observation, most people, including conflict theorists, aren’t anxious to focus on it.

So why are human beings over-consuming in the finite planetary biosphere? Or more accurately, why are human beings who have the opportunity to do so (which doesn’t include those impoverished people living in Africa, Asia, Central/South America or anywhere else) over-consuming in the finite planetary biosphere?

They are doing so because they were terrorized into unconsciously equating consumption with a meaningful life by parents and other adults who had already internalized this same ‘learning’.

Let me explain how this happens.

At the moment of birth, a baby is genetically programmed to feel and express their feelings in response to the stimuli, both internal and external, that the baby registers. For example, as soon after birth as a baby feels hungry, they will signal that need, usually by crying or screaming. An attentive parent (or other suitable adult) will usually respond to this need by feeding the baby and the baby will express their satisfaction with this outcome, perhaps with a facial expression, in a way that most aware parents and adults will have no difficulty identifying. Similarly, if the baby is cold, in pain or experiencing any other stimulus, the baby will express their need, probably by making a loud noise. Given that babies cannot immediately use a cultural language, they use the language that was given to them by evolution: particularly audibly expressed noise of various types that an aware adult will quickly learn to interpret.

Of course, from the initial moments after birth and throughout the next few months, a baby will experience an increasing range of stimuli – including internal stimuli such as the needs for listening, understanding and love, as well as external stimuli ranging from a wet nappy to a diverse set of parental, social, climate and environmental stimuli – and will develop a diverse and expanding range of ways, now including a wider range of emotional expression but eventually starting to include spoken language, of expressing their responses, including satisfaction and enjoyment, if appropriate, to these stimuli.

At some vital point, however, and certainly within the child’s first eighteen months, the child’s parents and the other significant adults in the child’s life, will start to routinely and actively interfere with the child’s emotional expression (and thus deny them satisfaction of the unique needs being expressed in each case) in order to compel the child to do as the parent/adult wishes. Of course, this is essential if you want the child to be obedient – a socially compliant slave – rather than to follow their own Self-will.

One of the critically important ways in which this denial of emotional expression occurs seems benign enough: Children who are crying, angry or frightened are scared into not expressing their feelings and offered material items – such as food or a toy – to distract them instead. Unfortunately, the distractive items become addictive drugs. Unable to have their emotional needs met, the child learns to seek relief by acquiring the material substitutes offered by the parent. But as this emotional deprivation endlessly expands because the child has been denied the listening, understanding and love to develop the capacity to listen to, love and understand themself, so too does the ‘need’ for material acquisition endlessly expand.

As an aside, this explains why most violence is overtly directed at gaining control of material, rather than emotional, resources. The material resource becomes a dysfunctional and quite inadequate replacement for satisfaction of the emotional need. And, because the material resource cannot ‘work’ to meet an emotional need, the individual is most likely to keep using direct and/or structural violence to gain control of more material resources in an unconscious and utterly futile attempt to meet unidentified emotional needs. In essence, no amount of money and other assets can replace the love denied a child that would allow them to feel and act on their feelings.

Of course, the individual who consumes more than they need and uses direct violence, or simply takes advantage of structural violence, to do so is never aware of their deeply suppressed emotional needs and of the functional ways of having these needs met. Although, I admit, this is not easy to do given that listening, understanding and love are not readily available from others who have themselves been denied these needs. Consequently, with their emotional needs now unconsciously ‘hidden’ from the individual, they will endlessly project that the needs they want met are, in fact, material.

This is the reason why members of the Rothschild family, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Amancio Ortega, Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim, the Walton family and the Koch brothers, as well as the world’s other billionaires and millionaires, seek material wealth and are willing to do so by taking advantage of structures of exploitation held in place by the US military. They are certainly wealthy in the material sense; unfortunately, they are emotional voids who were never loved and do not know how to love themself or others now.

Tragically, however, this fate is not exclusive to the world’s wealthy even if they illustrate the point most graphically. As indicated above, virtually all people who live in material cultures have suffered this fate and this is readily illustrated by their ongoing excessive consumption – especially their meat-eating, fossil-fueled travel and acquisition of an endless stream of assets – in a planetary biosphere that has long been signaling ‘Enough!’

As an aside, governments that use military violence to gain control of material resources are simply governments composed of many individuals with this dysfunctionality, which is very common in industrialized countries that promote materialism. Thus, cultures that unconsciously allow and encourage this dysfunctional projection (that an emotional need is met by material acquisition) are the most violent both domestically and internationally. This also explains why industrialized (material) countries use military violence to maintain political and economic structures that allow ongoing exploitation of non-industrialized countries in Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

In summary, the individual who has all of their emotional needs met requires only the intellectual and few material resources necessary to maintain this fulfilling life: anything beyond this is not only useless, it is a burden.

If you want to read (a great deal) more detail of the explanation presented above, you will find it in Why Violence? and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.

So what can we do?

Well, I would start by profoundly changing our conception of sound parenting by emphasizing the importance of nisteling to children – see Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’ – and making ‘My Promise to Children’.

For those adults who feel incapable of nisteling or living out such a promise, I encourage you to consider doing the emotional healing necessary by ‘Putting Feelings First’.

If you already feel capable of responding powerfully to this extinction-threatening conflict between human consumption and the Earth’s biosphere, you are welcome to consider joining those who are participating in the fifteen-year strategy to reduce consumption and achieve self-reliance explained in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ and/or to consider using sound nonviolent strategy to conduct your climate or environment campaign. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.

You are also welcome to consider signing the online pledge of The Peoples Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.

As the material simplicity of Mohandas K. Gandhi demonstrated: Consumption is not life.

If you are not able to emulate Gandhi (at least ‘in spirit’) by living modestly, it is your own emotional dysfunctionality – particularly unconscious fear – that is the problem that needs to be addressed.

  1. Robert Hunziker, “There Is No Time Left“, Dissident Voice, February 19, 2018.
  2. Robert Hunziker. “Insect Decimination Upstages Global Warming“, Dissident Voice, March 27, 2018.

Challenges for Resolving Complex Conflicts

While conflict theories and resolution processes advanced dramatically during the second half of the 20th century, particularly thanks to the important work of several key scholars such as Professor Johan Galtung significant gaps remain in the conflict literature on how to deal with particular conflict configurations. Notably, these include the following four.

First, existing conflict theory does not adequately explain, emphasize and teach how to respond in those circumstances in which parties cannot be brought to the table to deeply consider a conflict and the measures necessary to resolve it. This particularly applies in cases where one or more parties is violently defending (often using a combination of direct and structural violence) substantial interrelated (material and non-material) interests. The conflict between China and Tibet over the Chinese-occupied Tibetan plateau, the many conflicts between western corporations and indigenous peoples over exploitation of the natural environment, and the conflict between the global elite and ‘ordinary’ people over resource allocation in the global economy are obvious examples of a vast number of conflicts in this category. As one of the rare conflict theorists who addresses this question, Galtung notes that structural violence ‘is not only evil, it is obstinate and must be fought’, and his preferred strategy is nonviolent revolution. But how?

Second, existing conflict theory does not explain how to respond in those circumstances in which one or more parties to the conflict are insane. The conflict between Israel and Palestine over Israeli-occupied Palestine classically illustrates this problem, particularly notable in the insanity of Israeli Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. But it is also readily illustrated by the insanity of the current political/military leadership in the USA and the insanity of the political, military and Buddhist leaders in Myanmar engaged in a genocidal assault on the Rohingya. For a brief discussion of the meaning and cause of this insanity see “The Global Elite is Insane Revisited“.

As an aside, there is little point deluding ourselves that insanity is not a problem or even ‘diplomatically’ not mentioning the insanity (if this is indeed the case) of certain parties in particular conflicts. The truth enables us to fully understand a conflict so that we can develop and implement a strategy to deal with all aspects of that truth. Any conflict strategy that fails to accurately identify and address all key aspects of the conflict, including the insanity of any of the parties, will virtually certainly fail.

Third, and more fundamentally, existing conflict theory does not take adequate account of the critical role that several unconscious emotions play in driving conflict in virtually all contexts, often preventing its resolution. This particularly applies in the case of (but is not limited to) suppressed terror, self-hatred and anger which are often unconsciously projected as fear of, hatred for and anger at an opponent or even an innocent third-party (essentially because this individual/group feels ‘safe’ to the person who is projecting).

While any significant ongoing conflict would illustrate this point adequately, the incredibly complex and interrelated conflicts being conducted in the Middle East, the prevalent Islamophobia in some western countries, and the conflicts over governance and exploitation of resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo are superlative examples. Ignoring suppressed (and projected) emotions can stymie conflict resolution in any context, interpersonally and geopolitically, and it does so frequently.

Fourth, existing conflict theory pays little attention to the extinction-causing conflict being ongoingly generated by human over-consumption in the finite planetary biosphere (and currently resulting in 200 species extinctions daily) which is sometimes inadequately identified as a conflict caused by capitalism’s drive for unending economic growth in a finite environment.

So what can we do?

Well, to begin, in all four categories of cases mentioned above, I would use Gandhian nonviolent strategy to compel violent opponents to participate in a conflict transformation process such as Galtung’s. Why nonviolent and why Gandhian? Nonviolent because our intention is to process the conflict to achieve a higher level of need satisfaction for all parties and violence against any or all participants is inconsistent with that intention. But Gandhian nonviolence because only Gandhi’s version of nonviolence has this conflict intention built into it.

‘But isn’t this nonviolent strategy simply coercion by another name?’ you might ask. Well, according to the Norwegian philosopher, Professor Arne Naess, it is not. In his view, if a change of will follows the scrutiny of norms in the context of new information while one is ‘in a state of full mental and bodily powers’, this is an act of personal freedom under optimal conditions. Naess highlights this point with the following example: Suppose that one person carries another against their will into the streets where there is a riot and, as a result of what they see, the carried person changes some of their attitudes and opinions. Was the change coerced? According to Naess, while the person was coerced into seeing something that caused the change, the change itself was not coerced. The distinction is important, Naess argues, because satyagraha (Gandhian nonviolent struggle)  is incompatible with changes of attitudes or opinions that are coerced.

To elaborate this point: Unlike other conceptions of nonviolence, Gandhi’s nonviolence is based on certain premises, including the importance of the truth, the sanctity and unity of all life, and the unity of means and end, so his strategy is always conducted within the framework of his desired political, social, economic and ecological vision for society as a whole and not limited to the purpose of any immediate campaign. It is for this reason that Gandhi’s approach to strategy is so important. He is always taking into account the ultimate end of all nonviolent struggle – a just, peaceful and ecologically sustainable society of self-realized human beings – not just the outcome of this campaign. He wants each campaign to contribute to the ultimate aim, not undermine vital elements of the long-term and overarching struggle to create a world without violence.

Consequently, given his conception of nonviolence, Gandhi’s intention is to reach a conflict outcome that recognizes the sanctity and unity of all life which, obviously, includes the lives (but also the physical and emotional well-being) of his opponents. His nonviolent strategy is designed to compel participation in a conflict process but not to impose his preferred outcome unilaterally. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy and Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy.

This can apply in the geopolitical context or in relation to ordinary individuals ‘merely’ participating in the violence of over-consumption. Using nonviolent strategy to campaign on the climate catastrophe or other environmental issues can include mobilizing individuals and communities to emulate Gandhi’s asceticism in a modest way by participating in the fifteen-year strategy outlined in “The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth” which he inspired.

But even if we can use nonviolent strategy effectively to get the conflicting parties together, the reality is that suppressed and projected emotions – particularly fear, self-hatred and anger as mentioned above – or even outright insanity on the part of one or more parties may still make efforts to effectively transform the conflict impossible. So for conflict resolution to occur, we need individuals who are willing and able to participate with at least minimal goodwill in designing a superior conflict outcome beneficial to everyone concerned.

Hence, I would do one more thing in connection with this process. Prior to, and then also in parallel with, the ‘formal’ conflict process, I would provide opportunities for all individuals engaged in the process (or otherwise critical to it because of their ‘background’ role, perhaps as a leader not personally present at the formal conflict process) to explore in a private setting with a skilled ‘nisteler’ (who is outside the conflict process), the unconscious emotions that are driving their particular approach to the conflict. The purpose of this nisteling is to allow each participant in the conflict process to bring a higher level of self-awareness to it.

I am not going to pretend that this would necessarily be possible, quick, easy or even work in every context. Insane individuals are obviously the last to know they have a psychological problem and the least likely to participate in a process designed to uncover and remove the roots of their insanity. However, those who are trapped in a dysfunctional psychological state short of insanity may be willing to avail themselves of the opportunity. In time, the value of this aspect of the conflict resolution process should become apparent, particularly because delusions and projections are exposed by the person themself (as an outcome of the expertise of the person nisteling).

Obviously, I am emphasizing the psychological aspects of the conflict process because my own considerable experience as a nonviolent activist together with my research convinces me that understanding violence requires an understanding of the psychology that drives it. If you are interested, you can read about the psychology of violence, including the 23 psychological characteristics in the emotional profile of archetype perpetrators of violence, in the documents “Why Violence?” and “Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.”

Ideally, I would like to see the concept of nistelers operating prior to, and then parallel with, focused attention on the conflict itself normalized as an inherent part of the conflict resolution process. Clearly, we need teams of people equipped to perform this service, a challenge in itself in the short-term.

If, however, conflicting parties cannot be convinced to participate in this process with reasonable goodwill, we can always revert to using nonviolent strategy to compel them to do so. And, if all attempts to conduct a reasonable conflict process fail (particularly in a circumstance in which insanity is the cause of this failure), to impose a nonviolent solution which nevertheless takes account of the insane’s party’s legitimate needs. (Yes, on just that one detail, I diverge from Gandhi.)

Having stated that, however, I acknowledge that only a rare individual has the capacity to think, plan and act strategically in tackling a violent conflict nonviolently, so considerable education in nonviolent strategy will be necessary and is a priority.

Given what is at stake, however – a superior strategy for tackling and resolving violent geopolitical conflicts including those (such as the threat of nuclear war, the climate catastrophe and decimation of the biosphere) that threaten human extinction – any resources devoted to improving our capacity to deliver this outcome would be well spent.

Provided, of course, that reducing (and ultimately eliminating) violence and resolving conflict is your aim.

In addition to the above, I would do something else more generally (that is, outside the conflict process).

Given that dysfunctional parenting is ultimately responsible for the behaviour of those individuals who generate and perpetuate violent conflicts, I would encourage all parents to consider making “My Promise to Children” so that we start to produce a higher proportion of functional individuals who know how to powerfully resolve conflicts in their lives without resort to violence. If any parent feels unable to make this promise, then they have the option of tackling this problem at its source by “Putting Feelings First.”

If we do not dramatically and quickly improve our individual and collective capacity to resolve conflicts nonviolently, including when we are dealing with individuals who are insane, then one day relatively soon we will share the fate of those 200 species of life we drove to extinction today.

Nonviolence or Nonexistence? The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Fifty years ago, on 4 April 1968, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

The night before he died, King gave another of his many evocative speeches; this one at the packed Mason Temple in Memphis. The speech included these words:

Men for years now have been talking about war and peace. Now no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and non-violence in this world, it is non-violence or non-existence. That is where we are today.

In clearly identifying this stark choice and having been inspired by Mohandas K. Gandhi’s wide-ranging social concerns, King’s concerns were also broad:

The Triple Evils of poverty, racism and militarism are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle. They are interrelated, all-inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the Beloved Community. When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils.

So what has changed in the past 50 years? The world has traveled a great deal further down the path of violence. So far, in fact, that nonexistence is now the most likely outcome for humanity. See “On Track for Extinction: Can Humanity Survive?

Despite the vastly more perilous state of our planet, many people and organizations around the world are following in the footsteps of Gandhi, King and other nonviolent luminaries like Silo, and are engaged in what is effectively a last ditch stand to end the violence and put humanity on a path to peace, justice and sustainability.

Let me tell you about some of these people and organizations and invite you to join them.

In Bolivia, Nora Cabero works with the Movimient Humanista. The Movement has many programs including the Convergence of Cultures which aims to facilitate and stimulate true dialogue – oriented towards the search for common points present in the hearts of different peoples and individuals – to promote the relationship between different cultures and to resist discrimination and violence. Another program, World Without Wars and Violence emerged in 1994 and was presented for the first time internationally in 1995 at the Open Meeting of Humanism held in Chile at the University of Santiago. It is active in about 40 countries. It carries out activities in the social base and also promotes international campaigns such as Education for Nonviolence and the World March for Peace and Nonviolence.

Eddy Kalisa Nyarwaya Jr. is Executive Secretary of the Rwanda Institute for Conflict Transformation and Peace Building and also President of the Alternatives to Violence Program. For the past 18 years, he has been active in the fields of ‘peace, reconciliation, nonviolence, healing of societies, building harmonious communities’ in many countries including Burundi, Chad, eastern Congo, Darfur (western Sudan), Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan and northern Uganda. Late last year he was in New Zealand to deliver a paper on the Great Lakes conflict. In Rwanda, the Institute for Conflict Transformation particularly works on nonviolence education in schools, universities and refugee camps. Another initiative is the conduct of workshops on nonviolence and peace through sports for head teachers in the country but it also has programs to fight early marriages and pregnancies, as well as offering trauma counseling to refugees.

In Russia, Ella Polyakova is a key figure at the Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint-Petersburg. Ella and her colleagues work to defend the rights of servicemen and conscripts in the Russian military. Ella explains why:

When we were creating our organization, we understood that people knew little about their rights, enshrined in Russia’s Constitution, that the concept of “human dignity” had almost disappeared, that no one had been working with the problems of common people, let alone those of conscripts. We clearly understood what a soldier in the Russian army was a mere cog in the state machine, yet with an assault rifle. We felt how important hope, self-confidence and trust were for every person. At the beginning of our journey, we saw that people around us, as a rule, did not even know what it meant to feel free. It was obvious for us that the path towards freedom and the attainment of dignity was going through enlightenment. Therefore, our organization’s mission is to enlighten people around us. Social work is all about showing, explaining, proving things to people, it is about convincing them. Having equipped ourselves with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Russia’s Constitution, we started to demolish this dispossession belt between citizens and their rights. It was necessary to make sure that people clearly understood that, having a good knowledge of rights, laws, and situations at hand, they would be able to take responsibility and protect themselves from abuse.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, was recently part of a committed effort to convince the Maine state legislature not to give warship-builder General Dynamics, which has already received more than $200 million in state and local tax breaks for the Bath Iron Works (BIW), any more ‘corporate welfare’. Bruce recently completed a fast, which lasted for more than a month, as one of the actions that Maine peace activists took to try to prevent this welfare payment to a company that has spent $14.4 billion buying back its own stocks between 2013-2017 and whose CEO was paid $21 million in 2016.

Despite their efforts, the Maine House of Representatives voted 117-31 in favor of the $45million General Dynamics corporate welfare bill and the Senate supported it 25-9. The decision was announced on the same day that General Dynamics sacked 31 workers from the BIW. As Bruce noted:

It was an honor to work alongside [those] who stood up for the 43,000 children living in poverty across Maine, for the tens of thousands without health care, for our starving public education system, and for the crumbling physical infrastructure as Maine joins Mississippi in the “race to the bottom”.

You can read more about this ongoing campaign to convert the Bath Iron Works into a location for the production of socially useful and ecologically sustainable non-killing technologies on the website above. There are some great photos too.

Gaëlle Smedts and her partner Luz are the key figures at Poetry Against Arms based in Germany. ‘The inspiration for this campaign is the life, work and legacy of the Latin American poet, philosopher and mystic: Mario Rodriguez Cobos, also known as Silo. His total commitment to active nonviolence, his denunciation of all forms of violence, his doctrine for overcoming pain and suffering and his magnificent poetry are a great affirmation of the meaning of life and transcendence.’ Poetry Against Arms publishes poetry/songs of people around the world who take action to resist militarism.

Since the 1970s, the world’s leading rainforest activist, John Seed, has devoted his life to saving the world’s rainforests. Founder and Director of the Rainforest Information Centre in Australia, one of his latest projects is to save the tropical Andes of Ecuador, which is ‘at the top of the world list of biodiversity hotspots in terms of vertebrate species, endemic vertebrates, and endemic plants’. From the cloud forests in the Andes to the indigenous territories in the headwaters of the Amazon, the Ecuadorean government has covertly granted mining concessions to over 1.7 million hectares (4.25 million acres) of forest reserves and indigenous territories to multinational mining companies in closed-door deals without public knowledge or consent. These concessions will decimate head water ecosystems and biodiversity hot spots of global significance. If you would like to read more about this campaign and what you can do to help, you can do so in John’s article ‘Ecuador Endangered’.

Apart from the individuals mentioned above, signatories and endorsing organizations are engaged in an incredibly diverse range of activities to end violence in one context or another. These include individuals and organizations working in many countries to end violence against women (including discriminatory practices against widows), to rehabilitate child soldiers and end sexual violence in the Congo, activists engaged in nonviolent defense or liberation struggles in several countries and occupied territories, as well as campaigns on a vast range of environmental, climate and indigenous rights issues, campaigns to promote religious and racial harmony as well as campaigns for nuclear disarmament and to end war.

But it also includes many individuals tackling violence at its source by focusing on their own healing and/or working on how they parent their children for a nonviolent world.

Given the perilous state of the global environment and climate, still others are focusing their efforts on reducing their consumption and increasing their self-reliance in accordance with the fifteen-year strategy outlined in “The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth“.

If you would like to be part of the worldwide movement to end violence that has drawn the six people and several organizations mentioned above together, along with many others in 103 countries around the world, you are welcome to sign the online pledge of “The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World“.

Reverend King posed the fundamental choice of our time: nonviolence or nonexistence. What is your choice?