11 January 2020
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to speak today. The recent election campaign was extremely frustrating for the Greens, because our democracy is SO broken that we were forced to ‘step aside’ in some constituencies such as this one….so it’s good to be able to try to articulate a little of how we see things.
Like everyone here, I’m sure, I’m appalled at the arrogance of United States leaders over the years, who seem to see the US as world policeman, gaoler, judge, jury and executioner.. and of course, UK leaders who act like a kind of fawning lackey of the States. This is all so ironic in the context of the ‘take back control’ mantra we’ve heard so much recently. In fact the levels of irony at the moment are heaped so high that most people I encounter are virtually lost for words with despair at the deceit, doublespeak and democratic deficit we are experiencing…. Perhaps it is only the unelected House of Lords which can save us now!
Regarding control and imperialism - I happened to visit the museum in York this week, and reflected on the difference between the Roman empire and the United States empire. The Romans appeared to have had a modicum of respect for the various cultures in their empire, whilst the US seems to openly despise and wish to eradicate the cultures of the rest of the world. The US acts in ways that it would immediately condemn if those actions had been perpetrated by other nations.
As more details come out about the assassination of General Soleimani, half the people follow Trump's lead and claim they have killed a terrorist! And half the people are shocked by the prospect of an instant war out of nowhere because Trump just targeted and killed a leader of another state! The Iraqi PM himself has shed light upon what happened. Soleimani came to Iraq to meet the PM, at his invitation, about diplomatic talks between regional states. His visit was known about in diplomatic circles, so there was no need for US intelligence gathering to even find out where he was. This makes Trump's claim that he was an imminent threat highly dubious. No information about this imminent threat has been forthcoming, and all we have been fed is a dubious backstory of alleged crimes the General is supposed to be guilty of. Without an imminent threat there is no hint of legal justification. All we're left with is the international murder of a leader while engaged on a diplomatic mission. This therefore act of war, has been backed up by the Prime Minister of the UK,
a reminder of darker times, when a number of very deliberate lies led coalition troops into Iraq 17 years ago, in a move worthy of any empire builder through history. As if to add insult to injury, Trump demands half of Iraq's oil profits for rebuilding what the invading US army destroyed, and Iraq wants US troops to leave - something almost certain to be rejected out of hand.
Trying to work out WHY the US in particular behaves the way it does I reread ‘Imperial Ambitions’ - a collection of interviews with Noam Chomsky, who is an intellectual giant and worker for peace. Chomsky says , ‘ ….. The Western expansion (across the US) was driven by religious fundamentalism with pseudo biblical origins, ..the US has always been a very frightened country…there is an unusually strong sense of insecurity…which might be related to the degree of religious fundamentalism. The United States is by far the most powerful and secure country in the world, but it’s the one that feels most insecure. ’ George Orwell’s book 1984 was so prescient. Fear – paranoia – brainwashing are all being used to control public opinion. I remember an Occupy placard outside St Paul’s cathedral a few years ago which said – 1984 is NOT a guidance manual. Naomi Klein explains in ‘The Shock Doctrine’ how ‘disaster capitalism’ contrives to divert attention from the real issues - such as climate change - currently manifested in floods, storms and raging fires in Australia and California. Over a billion animals have been killed. How ashamed am I to be of the human species when I see those other creatures suffering because of our obstinacy and greed.
….So what can be done in the face of such dystopia? What can WE do? We must not subside into apathy or despair - Evil prevails if good people do nothing….
We can’t all be like the inspirational Satish Kumar who walked from India to Washington via all the capitals with nuclear capability to promote peace, saying to the leaders ‘if you are about to press the nuclear button, stop - and make a cup of tea instead’….But there’s loads we can do where we are:
Instead of ‘othering’ we need to focus on our common humanity and welcome diversity wherever we can.
Instead of trying to squeeze more oil from our fractured planet - we MUST stop energy waste and embrace renewables. We must stop waste of all kinds.
Instead of fostering greed, inequality and austerity – we can speed up the death throes of neoliberal ideology by slowing down ‘growth for growth’s sake’ and supporting any efforts to promote fair rather than free trade. It’s time humans learned from the sloth that – ‘we have no need for speed.’
Fight the manipulation – analyse, discuss, organise …. H G Wells said ‘Human history is, more and more, a race – between education and catastrophe’. We must educate ourselves and our children in the big issues - and the humanities which have been downplayed recently as we are told they are less ‘profitable’.
Support young people in their passionate campaign to educate us and save us through Fridays for the Future
Work together locally nationally and internationally for peace and better understanding of the diversity of cultures – taking the best of all cultures to counteract the dismal and dangerous Trump-led neoliberal project of imperialism thru globalisation.
Ubuntu is an African word and way of life which means ‘ a person is a person through other persons’. We must unify to be strong – sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.
Naomi Klein says ‘the best way to recover from helplessness turns out to be helping – be part of a communal recovery….build in resilience.’
…and fight for real fairness, and real democracy…not first past the post!
There IS Hope: Simon Jenkins , writing in the Guardian this week says that Trump’s behaviour …betokens the end of an empire - We need to move on from the imperialist mindset which says we are threatened by every other culture so we have to stamp it out and take it over.
I’ll end with some words from Martin Vosseler, a wonderful Swiss activist whom Bill and I were privileged to meet in Basel this spring. He wrote: ‘the transition we are in resembles the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to the pupa to the butterfly – often we suffer from despair, but the old order is falling apart and the new order is unfolding in a silent way…the breakthroughs to a world with planetary ethics and maternal culture, a world of relationships and responsibilities, and a world of respect and awe for life.’
Above all we must build a world which is humane, fair and kind….and we can start right here, right now.
Thank you very much. Shan Oakes jan 11 2020 Harrogate
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