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29.10.2020 – Limache, Chile – Howard Richards

This post is also available in: Spanish

Selectively Unwalking the Path of History
(Image by Bo Lind Knudsen)

I would like to help you out.   Which way did you come in?

I would like to suggest a way to make the impossible possible, starting from the premise that the basic juridical principles and cultural premises of the global economy now make it impossible for humanity and the biosphere to survive the crises they  generate much longer.   If we get past today s calamities, I assume the same causes that generated them will generate more calamities unless human institutions are radically altered.    They will  generate more incompetence coping with new and worse virus attacks, more wildfires, more extreme inequality, more desperate economic refugees crossing borders as illegal migrants and more hostile reactions against them,  more extreme weather, more violence, more insane politics, more racism …    As a methodology for radically altering them I suggest selectively unwalking the historical and social construction of reality that led us to them.

It is not that I am unaware of the horrors of the past, or ungrateful for the blessings of modernity.  Among those blessings I count the lessons we learn, and the motivation we feel, because of the perennial failure of modernity to keep its promises – its liberté, égalité, fraternité (1789); its government of the people, by the people and for the people (1863); its treaty outlawing war (1928); its universal declaration of human rights (1948); its Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2016)…..   If the promises had never been made, we would feel less inspiration and less indignation. We would know less about how the world works.

Meanwhile, modernity has also brought concrete achievements to be grateful for.   Its achievements counsel us to avoid solving our not-yet-solved problems in ways that unsolve problems that have already been solved –like the problem of how to stock a supermarket with quality goods at affordable prices.

My focus below is on the Judaeo-Christian tradition, because it is my own, and also for a more important reason.   The modern world system began as the European world system.  European religion was its interlocutor.  Starting from Europe and to some extent from the original 13 United States, it expanded to include the rest of the world mainly by force of arms.  The social construction of the basic jurisprudence, economics, and civil religion that constitute the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, the stock exchanges, and banks etc… has been path- dependent.   Indeed, all the world’s organizations existing today, legal and illegal, public and private, military and civilian, are endpoints, for now, at least partly, of processes that began in Europe.   Europe itself is not a true continent, but a peninsula of Asia that first took on an identity of its own as a separate quasi-continent because it was “Christendom.”  The institutions of today s hyper modern globalized world, invariably have origins in capitalism´s long struggle to be born in the place where it was born.

Below I advocate unwalking paths to today´s hypermodernity that started in Europe´s pre-modernity and reach back to Europe s own roots in the Near East.  I happen to know people whose nations first experienced Europe by being conquered by it.   And who also strive to achieve the best of both worlds by synthesizing the best of the old with the best of the new. Their traditional contexts are African, Pre-Columbian American, Muslim, Hindu and Chinese.  Judging by his remarks in 1978 when he was invited to give the commencement address at Harvard, Alexander Solzhenitsyn pursued a similar synthesis for Russia.   He seized a commencement day to diagnose an overdose of modernity crippling the United States.  Too many Americans had swallowed whole Denis Diderot s 18th century definition of liberty:  Liberty means you are free to do whatever the law does not forbid.

Unwalking from Contract to Status

My Christian (with Jewish roots) unwalks are parallel to their mostly post-colonial unwalks.  Mine start by unwalking the path from status to contract that according to Sir Henry Maine is the path leading out of a traditional society and defining a modern society.   Unwalking  the historical path, selectively dismantling the path from status to contract which, according to Sir Henry Maine’s famous theory, first published in 1861, made us modern, we find that every victory for human social rights is a victory for status. It brings us closer to the day when we can say to every just-born child, whose first impulse is to nurse at its mother´s breast, “Yes dear, your mother´s message is true.  You really are safe and secure here in this world where you have arrived.  You are not destined to grow up to be a human resource who may or not have value in the labour market.   The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a promise humanity made to itself, and it is keeping its promise.  You will grow up to have dignity, to have the status of a person, and therefore you will have health care, you will have employment, you will have education and an adequate pension in your old age”.

As the Bishops of Chile have proposed, true liberty is not the liberty of the emancipated slave, free to offer herself or himself for sale in the labour market, who may and may not find a buyer who calculates that it will be profitable to offer them an employment contract. And who may and may not have a bed and a bedroom to sleep at night, who may and may not have medical attention when sick or injured, and may or may not have support sustaining them beyond retirement age; depending on whether they succeed in selling themselves in the labour market at a high enough price to earn enough money to rent or buy a dwelling, to pay health insurance premiums, and to save for old age. True freedom is the freedom of the member of the family who is loved with unconditional love.

Unwalk Property as Domination Back to Property as Responsibility

To help us unwalk the historical path from property as domination to property and talent as gifts, to be administered to serve others (Luke 12:48; 1 Corinthians 4: 7), we call on the historians and anthropologists who demonstrate with facts that there is nothing universal or natural about the absolute right to property many today assume to be universal and natural.  Not only is it not universal.  It is not even our own western tradition.

I say “with facts¨” to draw a contrast with the fictions of the modern jurisprudence that triumphed in 17th and 18rh century Europe.  Today, as we struggle to cope with Covid, stalled economies, and mass unemployment likely to be permanent, the early modern inflexible fictions compete with functional and pragmatic philosophies that try to make law part of the solution and not part of the problem.  An example of inflexibility: the fiction that our distant ancestors were noble savages (or once there was pure reason, or self-evident truth, or founding fathers) in whom Nature had already instilled the principle of absolute property rights.  They came together to found a society.  They did so signing a contract that provided that the absolute rights of property owners were eternal and could not be changed by their descendants.   As Michel Foucault has shown, modern jurisprudence has been based on the fiction that the basis of law is such a contract only because the partisans of that ideology won the civil wars.

If we unwalk European history just a few decades back beyond  the French Revolution of 1789 and the British Revolution of 1689, we will find that European traditions themselves, and not only post-colonial peoples recovering their identities after liberation from European domination,  support caring and sharing.   In the West itself, today  (2020) there are waves of support for communities of solidarity,  social entrepreneurship, green new deals, sharing by connecting extra stuff with somebody else´s need by internet, free software, and businesses serving all stakeholders –including the natural environment.  There are waves of support for rebuilding social safety nets, undoing the capture of productivity gains by the 1%, and outlawing all the many unethical but legal rackets like stock buybacks and hiding money in secret trusts.

Unwalking history, we find that the West itself, like the post-colonial East and South, is recovering its identity.   Neither Jean Calvin nor Martin Luther (and certainly not his namesake Martin Luther King Jr.) would disagree with Saint Thomas Aquinas when he writes: whatever you own is not only yours; it also belongs to the needy whom you can help with your surplus. (Summa Theologica, 2da Question 32, Art. 5. Answer 2)

Unwalking the Path from Money-Driven to Mission-Driven

This last proposal jumps on a bandwagon that is already rolling.  It has been rolling for a long time, and it has recently taken centre-stage as a psychological insight capable of solving the unsolved problems of economics.   It was ready to roll when Moses said to the Lord “Here am I.”  (Exodus 3:4)   It rolled when the Lord sent Moses on a mission to free captive Israel from bondage in Egypt, saying “Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: …)  (Exodus 3:12) The mission of Moses became the central theme of the Torah, and therefore a fundamental component of the Christian Old Testament, and an integral part of the common heritage of the People of the Book recognized by Islam.   In the twentieth century it was the centrepiece of Liberation Theology.

Earlier, when western scholars had begun to take the East seriously, some had already hypothesized s that perhaps Hindu and Buddhist concepts of dharma performed similar social functions and were older.  But it does not stop there.  The more science learns about human beings, the more it learns that we are creatures who need answers to the questions: Who am I? and Why am I?  Victor Frankl was able to show that people who live for a purpose beyond themselves are more resilient.   They are more likely to survive and remain sane even in the extreme hardship and humiliation of a Nazi Concentration Camp.

Other psychologists link motivation to identity.  The news is not always good.  Although human genetic potential is biologically coded to be culturally coded, and cultures are unendingly varied, some outcomes are more likely than others.  Under favourable conditions most humans whatever their culture feel empathy for those who  suffer and are loyal to the conventions of the clan or nation they identify with. Nevertheless, they may feel indifference or hostility toward people unlike themselves.   The concept of universal human rights is not an instinct.   It must be learned.   We should look at proposals like those of some African philosophers to teach ancient principles of Ubuntu (“I am because you are”) as contributions to universal human rights education.

The practice of Saint Paul the Apostle, the author of the first Christian texts, makes a special contribution to today´s bandwagon carrying numerous versions of mission -driven responsible and green economics.   Paul´s business was making tents.   When he had made enough tents to earn his own living, he deliberately went on making more tents to create a surplus to share with those in need. (Acts 20: 33-35)   As to himself, Paul did not covet luxuries.   Nowadays what Paul did making tents has morphed into managing to create social value.

Unwalking the historical path that led us to where we are, we humans should seize the day, carpe diem. Mass unemployment, plus today´s bandwagon for ethical and purposeful living, plus a   continuous stream of super- productive technologies coming on line, add up to opportunity.     We should  transition to the day when humans will spend their time doing intrinsically valuable activities (sports, music, science, philosophy, dance, religion, studies, gardening , yoga, etc.) while advanced technology produces more and better goods and services, and creates more surplus to share.https://www.facebook.com/v3.0/plugins/like.php?action=like&app_id=&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df145177f843a638%26domain%3Dwww.pressenza.com%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.pressenza.com%252Ffaa9dd22123d7%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=0&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2020%2F10%2Fselectively-unwalking-the-path-of-history%2F&layout=button_count&locale=en_US&sdk=joey&share=false&show_faces=truehttps://www.facebook.com/v3.0/plugins/share_button.php?app_id=&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df10b5fc3e44b46%26domain%3Dwww.pressenza.com%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.pressenza.com%252Ffaa9dd22123d7%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=0&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2020%2F10%2Fselectively-unwalking-the-path-of-history%2F&layout=button_count&locale=en_US&sdk=joeyhttps://platform.twitter.com/widgets/tweet_button.96fd96193cc66c3e11d4c5e4c7c7ec97.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&original_referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2020%2F10%2Fselectively-unwalking-the-path-of-history%2F&size=m&text=Selectively%20Unwalking%20the%20Path%20of%20History&time=1604124388933&type=share&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2020%2F10%2Fselectively-unwalking-the-path-of-history%2Fhttps://apis.google.com/u/0/se/0/_/+1/fastbutton?usegapi=1&size=medium&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2020%2F10%2Fselectively-unwalking-the-path-of-history%2F&gsrc=3p&ic=1&jsh=m%3B%2F_%2Fscs%2Fapps-static%2F_%2Fjs%2Fk%3Doz.gapi.it.xc_IneADBF8.O%2Fam%3DwQE%2Fd%3D1%2Fct%3Dzgms%2Frs%3DAGLTcCNF99e1Km22fu_6kM7x7MPPMv7gbA%2Fm%3D__features__#_methods=onPlusOne%2C_ready%2C_close%2C_open%2C_resizeMe%2C_renderstart%2Concircled%2Cdrefresh%2Cerefresh%2Conload&id=I0_1604124387886&_gfid=I0_1604124387886&parent=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com&pfname=&rpctoken=18861807

29.10.2020 – Kester Kenn Klomegah

China: The Global Superpower

By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Despite its large population of 1.5 billion which many have considered as an impediment, China’s domestic economic reforms and collaborative strategic diplomacy with external countries have made it attain superpower status over the United States. While United States influence is rapidly fading away, China has indeed taken up both the challenges and unique opportunities to strengthen its position, especially its trade, investment and economic muscles.

On October 22, Vladimir Putin took part, via videoconference, in the final plenary session of the 17th Annual Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. The Valdai Discussion Club was established in 2004, with a goal is to promote dialogue between Russian and international intellectual elite, and to make an independent, unbiased scientific analysis of political, economic and social events in Russia and the rest of the world.

It is worth noting that Putin touched on a wide range of different issues at meting. What particularly interesting was his assessment of the changing politics and the economy, and rating of the global superpower. “The world has changed several times. Meanwhile, time increasingly and insistently makes us question what lies ahead for humanity,” he said during his interactive speech with the participants.

In effect, the post-war world order was established by three victorious countries: the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain. The role of Britain has changed since then; the Soviet Union no longer exists, while some try to dismiss Russia altogether, according to Putin.

Indeed, the Soviet Union is no longer there. But there is Russia. In terms of its economic weight and political influence, China is moving quickly towards superpower status. Germany is moving in the same direction, and the Federal Republic of Germany has become an important player in international cooperation. At the same time, the roles of Great Britain and France in international affairs has undergone significant changes, he further explained.

The United States, which at some point absolutely dominated the international stage, can hardly claim exceptionality any longer. Generally speaking, does the United States need this exceptionalism? he asked rhetorically, and further cited that powerhouses such as Brazil, South Africa and some other countries have become much more influential in the world.

Amid the current fragmentation of international affairs, there are challenges that require more than just the combined capacity of a few states, even very influential ones. Problems of this magnitude, which do exist, require global attention. International stability, security, fighting terrorism and solving urgent regional conflicts are certainly among them; as are promoting global economic development, combating poverty, and expanding cooperation in healthcare. That last one is especially relevant today.

Arguably, China has worked on all aspects of its economy and external investment footprints, these combined is now recorded as its grandiose achievements. Still, for example, China is engaging a long-term competition with the U.S., and that is the challenge for the United States. China’s global investment and trade is just unimaginable and give the country the global power.

It has systematically transformed its economy at the same time, maintained the political structure. Its major cities and coastal areas are far more prosperous compared to rural and interior regions. Of course, the United States has also developed its individual states, while Russia’s regions look not too far different from the typical Soviet-era.

Experts vehemently argue and vividly show how useful the population (demography) is a factor for China’s success down the years. It is a matter of how to put the population to support the growth of the economy. With the 1.5 billion population, China has brought more people out of extreme poverty than any other country in history. China reduced extreme poverty by 800 million.

The United States has 380 million population, two times more than Russia, which has a meagre 146 million in relation to the size of the country. The population moves forth and back, Russia has to support its economy with increasing population. Since 2006, the Russian government started simplifying immigration laws and launched a state program for providing assistance to voluntary immigration of ethnic Russians from former Soviet republics. In one of his previous speeches, Putin declared that Russia’s population could reach 146 million by 2025, mainly as a result of immigration.

As expected of any development process, there are still problems. Nonetheless, the level of public support for the government and its management of the country is high, with 80 – 95% of Chinese citizens expressing satisfaction with the central government, according to a 2019 survey.

That compared with Russia, Putin explained that Russia has to begin from the scratch. Lenin spoke about the birthmarks of capitalism, he reminded, and added that “It cannot be said that we have lived these past 30 years in a full-fledged market economy. In fact, we are only gradually building it, and its institutions. Russia had to do it from the ground up, starting from a clean slate. Of course, we are doing this, taking into consideration, developments around the world. After all, after almost one hundred years of a state-planned economy, transitioning to a market economy is not easy.”

On other way round, it is necessary to take a closer look at approach, economic capability and the services by the Chinese. China has such a diverse landscape, with investment and trade around the world.

According to the World Bank, China has the largest economy and one of the world’s foremost infrastructural giants. China is the world’s largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods.

China holds 17.7% of the world’s total wealth, the second largest share held by any country. It has the world’s largest banking sector, with assets of $40 trillion and the world’s top 4 largest banks all being in China. In 2019, China overtook the US as the home to the highest number of rich people in the world, according to the global wealth report by Credit Suisse. It has the highest number of rich people in the world’s top 10% of wealth since 2019. There were 658 Chinese billionaires and 3.5 million millionaires.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has expanded significantly over the last six years and, as of April 2020, includes 138 countries and 30 international organization. Along with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, China is a member of the BRICS group of emerging major economies.

In recent years, Russia has significantly strengthened bilateral ties with Asian countries such as China and India, with Latin American countries. An important aspect of Russia’s relations with the West is the criticism of Russia’s political system and over human rights. On the other hand, Putin’s leadership over the return of order, stability, and progress has won him widespread admiration.

Russia still has to develop its regions, modernize most the Soviet-era industries to produce export goods, not only for domestic consumption. It has oil and gas, military equipment constitute its export product abroad. Its overseas investment and trade only developing at a snail pace compared to China. After the United States, the European Union and other countries imposed economic sanctions after the annexation of Crimea and a collapse in oil prices, the proportion of middle-class could decrease drastically.

Sprawling from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, Russia has more than a fifth of the world’s forests, which makes it the largest forest country in the world. With it’s extensive mineral and energy resources, Russia is a major great power and has the potential to become a superpower. Russia can regain part of its Soviet era economic power and political influence around the world.Certainly, superpower status has to be attained by practical multifaceted sustainable development and maintaining an appreciably positive relations with the world.https://web.facebook.com/v3.0/plugins/like.php?action=like&app_id=&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df190d31fb7dc968%26domain%3Dwww.pressenza.com%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.pressenza.com%252Ff16a3224745883%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=0&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2020%2F10%2Fchina-the-global-superpower%2F&layout=button_count&locale=en_US&sdk=joey&share=false&show_faces=truehttps://web.facebook.com/v3.0/plugins/share_button.php?app_id=&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df27b7984676a838%26domain%3Dwww.pressenza.com%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.pressenza.com%252Ff16a3224745883%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=0&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2020%2F10%2Fchina-the-global-superpower%2F&layout=button_count&locale=en_US&sdk=joeyhttps://platform.twitter.com/widgets/tweet_button.96fd96193cc66c3e11d4c5e4c7c7ec97.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&original_referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2020%2F10%2Fchina-the-global-superpower%2F&size=m&text=China%3A%20The%20Global%20Superpower&time=1604074368633&type=share&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2020%2F10%2Fchina-the-global-superpower%2Fhttps://apis.google.com/u/0/se/0/_/+1/fastbutton?usegapi=1&size=medium&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2020%2F10%2Fchina-the-global-superpower%2F&gsrc=3p&ic=1&jsh=m%3B%2F_%2Fscs%2Fapps-static%2F_%2Fjs%2Fk%3Doz.gapi.it.xc_IneADBF8.O%2Fam%3DwQE%2Fd%3D1%2Fct%3Dzgms%2Frs%3DAGLTcCNF99e1Km22fu_6kM7x7MPPMv7gbA%2Fm%3D__features__#_methods=onPlusOne%2C_ready%2C_close%2C_open%2C_resizeMe%2C_renderstart%2Concircled%2Cdrefresh%2Cerefresh%2Conload&id=I0_1604074367487&_gfid=I0_1604074367487&parent=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com&pfname=&rpctoken=23753390

29.10.2020 – Kester Kenn Klomegah

China: The Global Superpower

By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Despite its large population of 1.5 billion which many have considered as an impediment, China’s domestic economic reforms and collaborative strategic diplomacy with external countries have made it attain superpower status over the United States. While United States influence is rapidly fading away, China has indeed taken up both the challenges and unique opportunities to strengthen its position, especially its trade, investment and economic muscles.

On October 22, Vladimir Putin took part, via videoconference, in the final plenary session of the 17th Annual Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. The Valdai Discussion Club was established in 2004, with a goal is to promote dialogue between Russian and international intellectual elite, and to make an independent, unbiased scientific analysis of political, economic and social events in Russia and the rest of the world.

It is worth noting that Putin touched on a wide range of different issues at meting. What particularly interesting was his assessment of the changing politics and the economy, and rating of the global superpower. “The world has changed several times. Meanwhile, time increasingly and insistently makes us question what lies ahead for humanity,” he said during his interactive speech with the participants.

In effect, the post-war world order was established by three victorious countries: the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain. The role of Britain has changed since then; the Soviet Union no longer exists, while some try to dismiss Russia altogether, according to Putin.

Indeed, the Soviet Union is no longer there. But there is Russia. In terms of its economic weight and political influence, China is moving quickly towards superpower status. Germany is moving in the same direction, and the Federal Republic of Germany has become an important player in international cooperation. At the same time, the roles of Great Britain and France in international affairs has undergone significant changes, he further explained.

The United States, which at some point absolutely dominated the international stage, can hardly claim exceptionality any longer. Generally speaking, does the United States need this exceptionalism? he asked rhetorically, and further cited that powerhouses such as Brazil, South Africa and some other countries have become much more influential in the world.

Amid the current fragmentation of international affairs, there are challenges that require more than just the combined capacity of a few states, even very influential ones. Problems of this magnitude, which do exist, require global attention. International stability, security, fighting terrorism and solving urgent regional conflicts are certainly among them; as are promoting global economic development, combating poverty, and expanding cooperation in healthcare. That last one is especially relevant today.

Arguably, China has worked on all aspects of its economy and external investment footprints, these combined is now recorded as its grandiose achievements. Still, for example, China is engaging a long-term competition with the U.S., and that is the challenge for the United States. China’s global investment and trade is just unimaginable and give the country the global power.

It has systematically transformed its economy at the same time, maintained the political structure. Its major cities and coastal areas are far more prosperous compared to rural and interior regions. Of course, the United States has also developed its individual states, while Russia’s regions look not too far different from the typical Soviet-era.

Experts vehemently argue and vividly show how useful the population (demography) is a factor for China’s success down the years. It is a matter of how to put the population to support the growth of the economy. With the 1.5 billion population, China has brought more people out of extreme poverty than any other country in history. China reduced extreme poverty by 800 million.

The United States has 380 million population, two times more than Russia, which has a meagre 146 million in relation to the size of the country. The population moves forth and back, Russia has to support its economy with increasing population. Since 2006, the Russian government started simplifying immigration laws and launched a state program for providing assistance to voluntary immigration of ethnic Russians from former Soviet republics. In one of his previous speeches, Putin declared that Russia’s population could reach 146 million by 2025, mainly as a result of immigration.

As expected of any development process, there are still problems. Nonetheless, the level of public support for the government and its management of the country is high, with 80 – 95% of Chinese citizens expressing satisfaction with the central government, according to a 2019 survey.

That compared with Russia, Putin explained that Russia has to begin from the scratch. Lenin spoke about the birthmarks of capitalism, he reminded, and added that “It cannot be said that we have lived these past 30 years in a full-fledged market economy. In fact, we are only gradually building it, and its institutions. Russia had to do it from the ground up, starting from a clean slate. Of course, we are doing this, taking into consideration, developments around the world. After all, after almost one hundred years of a state-planned economy, transitioning to a market economy is not easy.”

On other way round, it is necessary to take a closer look at approach, economic capability and the services by the Chinese. China has such a diverse landscape, with investment and trade around the world.

According to the World Bank, China has the largest economy and one of the world’s foremost infrastructural giants. China is the world’s largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods.

China holds 17.7% of the world’s total wealth, the second largest share held by any country. It has the world’s largest banking sector, with assets of $40 trillion and the world’s top 4 largest banks all being in China. In 2019, China overtook the US as the home to the highest number of rich people in the world, according to the global wealth report by Credit Suisse. It has the highest number of rich people in the world’s top 10% of wealth since 2019. There were 658 Chinese billionaires and 3.5 million millionaires.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has expanded significantly over the last six years and, as of April 2020, includes 138 countries and 30 international organization. Along with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, China is a member of the BRICS group of emerging major economies.

In recent years, Russia has significantly strengthened bilateral ties with Asian countries such as China and India, with Latin American countries. An important aspect of Russia’s relations with the West is the criticism of Russia’s political system and over human rights. On the other hand, Putin’s leadership over the return of order, stability, and progress has won him widespread admiration.

Russia still has to develop its regions, modernize most the Soviet-era industries to produce export goods, not only for domestic consumption. It has oil and gas, military equipment constitute its export product abroad. Its overseas investment and trade only developing at a snail pace compared to China. After the United States, the European Union and other countries imposed economic sanctions after the annexation of Crimea and a collapse in oil prices, the proportion of middle-class could decrease drastically.

Sprawling from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, Russia has more than a fifth of the world’s forests, which makes it the largest forest country in the world. With it’s extensive mineral and energy resources, Russia is a major great power and has the potential to become a superpower. Russia can regain part of its Soviet era economic power and political influence around the world.Certainly, superpower status has to be attained by practical multifaceted sustainable development and maintaining an appreciably positive relations with the world.

26.10.2020 – Santiago de Chile – Redacción Chile

This post is also available in: SpanishFrenchItalianGreekTurkish

Chile: the “I Approve” option overwhelmingly wins Plebiscite

Despite the pandemic and the consequent postponement of this event, which should have taken place last April, today in Chile it was possible to go to the polls, respecting the health measures to prevent coronavirus infections as much as possible, with a notable display of civic organisation and also with great excitement, in order to vote in a plebiscite on whether to approve or reject the plan to change the Constitution, as well as through which body such change should happen, whether a Constitutional Convention or a Mixed Commission.

The results we have at 11 p.m. today show the following:

Total votes counted: 93.77%.

Approval: 78.25%

Rejection: 21.75%

Constitutional Convention: 79.22% Joint Committee: 20.78%

Therefore, it is now possible to consider the “I approve” option as the winner and to establish the mechanism of a Constitutional Convention to draft the new Constitution.

In April 2021, Chile will again go to the polls to elect those who will draft the new text. Unfortunately, this will not be done by a Constituent and Sovereign Assembly, but rather by those who have been nominated by the political parties in the different electoral districts and who meet the requirements established by the National Agreement. So far there is an insistence on facilitating the participation of independents, something which Parliament has not wanted to agree to. In our view, this is a trap that limit full participation. Furthermore, until now there are no seats reserved for the indigenous peoples, and it is necessary to approve the articles by two thirds – and not by a simple majority.

The process will be completed with a final vote in which a plebiscite will be held on whether or not the final text drawn up is approved. Between now and then, there is a long way to go. Today’s victory is only the first step. Being very aware of this, Chileans also went out en masse to celebrate from 8 p.m. onwards, pouring into the squares and streets of all the big cities, in a party that, especially in Plaza Dignidad, was overflowing with joy, with musicians and bands, fireworks and lights that projected the word ” Rebirth ” onto the tallest building. There are thousands of people in the streets to leave behind Pinochet’s Constitution: “erasing your legacy will be our legacy”, they say. They spread canvases with the words “Goodbye General” and they sing “Chile woke up, Chile woke up, Chile woke up”.

Photos and videos: Claudia Aranda

25Oc

Translation by Lulith V.,  from the voluntary Pressenza translation team. We are looking for volunteers!

Save the date! December 11 and 12, 8am PST/11am EST, via Zoom webconference, Quaker Theological Discussion Group will hold its two sessions for the year. QTDG usually meets in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature annual conferences, and we will do so again—all sessions will be virtual. More details […]

2020 Quaker Theological Discussion Group Sessions for AAR — Quaker Religious Thought and Quaker Theological Discussion Group

Here is the great lineup of articles you can now access in QRT #135. Stay tuned for highlights. Lucretia Mott: Active Imagination and James 1:21Mark Bredin Eugenicists, Quakers, and Rufus Jones, 1893-1938David Harrington Watt Theologia: Quaker Youth Ministry and Theopraxis in a Multicultural ContextJoel Mayward, Roger Nam, Leah Payne, Steve Sherwood, Hannah Souter, and Trisha […]

QRT #135 is here! — Quaker Religious Thought and Quaker Theological Discussion Group

25.10.2020 – New York, United States – Redacción Madrid

This post is also available in: SpanishFrenchItalianCatalanGreek

Humanity can rejoice: Nuclear weapons will be banned

Thanks to the courage of the 50 governments that have ratified the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and the sustained work of organizations and activists, who have been fighting to make this possible.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which brings together more than 500 organisations, including our agency, Pressenza, has been fundamental in promoting the Treaty.

The TPNW will enter into force on the 22nd January 2021.

On the 24rd October 2020, Honduras joined 49 other countries that have now ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, triggering the condition for it to enter into force in 90 days’ time.

Speaking to Pressenza, Carlos Umaña – a member of ICAN’s international steering committee and IPPNW’s regional vice-president for Latin America – said with emotion: “Today is a historic day, which marks a milestone in international law in favour of nuclear disarmament. With the fiftieth ratification, the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty is activated and in three months, when it officially enters into force, the ban will be international law. This marks the beginning of a new era, one in which nuclear weapons are finally banned, in which the regulations condemning them are built and strengthened, displacing nuclear hegemony and bringing down the toxic rhetoric that forces us to live every day under this great existential threat. Today, life, cooperation, the principle of law and common sense triumph over a culture of death, threats and impositions. Today is a day for hope.”

The TPNW was approved by the UN on 7 July 2017 with 122 countries voting in favour.

All this has been possible despite the lack of support from nuclear-armed countries or NATO members (without any legal justification from the latter) and by resisting the huge pressure that the US has put on some governments in recent days not to ratify.

ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for promoting the TPNW.

We would like to congratulate all the organisations, groups and activists who have worked and continue to work so that Humanity and the planet may begin to walk the path that will lead us to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Countries that have ratified the TPNW

Antigua and Barbuda, Austria, Bangladesh, Belize, Bolivia, Botswana, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, The Gambia, Guyana, Holy See, Honduras, Ireland, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Laos, Lesotho, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Niue, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, South Africa, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam

25.10.2020 – The Ecologist

Nobel Prize for a gene bomb
(Image by Flickr National Human Genome Research Institute Follow)

Silvia Ribeiro

CRISPR and new forms of gene manipulation must not be allowed anywhere near our food systems or into the wider environment.

Alfred Nobel himself might see the irony. The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry – named after  the inventor of dynamite and founder of one of the largest bomb factories in the world – has been awarded to researchers who developed the genetic engineering technique CRISPR-Cas9.

Some of the applications of this technology could have such an explosive effect on nature and people that it has been called a “gene bomb”.

CRISPR itself is not an invention. It is a natural mechanism that allows bacteria to recognize viruses.  The award-winners J. Doudna and E. Charpentier, published a paper in 2012 describing a means by which this feature of bacteria could be artificially constructed, and added a construct that allows it to cut DNA:  Cas9, a “Crispr associated system”.

Risk 

The design allows genetic engineers to recognize a specific site in the DNA of an organism where CRISPR-Cas9 is introduced and cut the DNA strands at that site. In this way, geneticists can for instance, prevent gene expression and  introduce new genetic material, which then result in a new transgenic organism.

CRISPR seemed at first to be a faster and more accurate means of genetic engineering than previous approaches that had no control over the site where foreign genetic material is inserted. But it was not long before several researchers showed that CRISPR is not as accurate as the hype had claimed.

Although it can reach and modify a particular site in an organism’s  genome, the technique also alters other sites in the genome, with the potential to produce a multitude of “off-target effects”, even erasing or rearranging long sequences outside the target site, causing changes that can cause serious disease.

In 2018, a study by the Karolinska Institute (the organisation that awards the Nobel Prize for medicine), argued that manipulating human cells with CRISPR and then introducing it in humanscould increase cancer risk. Other scientific studies have argued a series of other potential harmful impacts of CRISPR use, in animals, plants and human cells, to the point that George Church, biotechnology pioneer from Harvard University, in 2019 called CRISPR “a blunt axe“, whose use is “genome vandalism”.

Since its release in 2012, and despite the bitter patent dispute that arose shortly thereafter with another US team, which also claims to have been the inventors – the technology has been licensed and applied to a large number of experiments.  These have taken place using plants, animals, human cells and even in humans (an illegal experiment in China with pregnant women, at least one of whom gave birth to twins).

Danger

Doudna and Charpentier, have made millions of dollars from patents on the technology, and have founded or have financial interests in several spin-off and other companies.

The government allocated $65 million to the US Defense Research Agency (DARPA) for the “Safe Genes” project, to defend the US against potential bioweapons that other developers could create with CRISPR. However, the line between developing bioweapons and researching how to defend against them is blurred: this program could be working on developing bioweapons as well.

This program funds research projects in the United States and other countries to develop “gene drives,” an application of CRISPR to change the laws of inheritance in sexually reproducing species in order to make engineered genes dominant in such species. For example, manipulating the genetics so that only males are born, which would quickly lead a species becoming extinct.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds the development of this same technology, but they do not call attention to the bioweapons aspect, instead, they try to highlight only its alledged potential in health projects. The UN tried to establish a moratorium on this dangerous application, but Gates’ money sabotaged it.

Jennifer Doudna herself has stated that CRISPR has tremendously dangerous uses, even referring to a nightmare in which Hitler asks her for the CRISPR formula. Both the projects financed by DARPA and the Gates Foundation, as well as the experiments with humans, transgress fundamental ethical, ecological and political boundaries. Such developments should be prohibited.

Industry 

A more immediate threat to humanity is the pressure from transnational companies to commercially release the so-called gene editing (“new GM”) in plants and animals for the agricultural and livestock industry.

The GM industry has made a deceitful campaign to make believe that the products of technologies like CRISPR do not need to go through biosafety evaluations, or at least they should be more lax than the existing ones. They have done so in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Honduras and Guatemala, countries that are lackeys of the GM agribusiness and in treaties with the United States.

They are now advancing these regulatory changes in further countries, by taking advantage of the limited information and restrictions due to the pandemic. The European Union, thanks to protests and a collective lawsuit put forward by La Via Campesina and other organizations, has so far stopped these changes to biosafety regulations.

CRISPR and all forms of genetic editing introduce new risks to the environment and health, so existing biosafety regulations – contrary to what the industry claims – are completely inadequate.

These new forms of manipulation must not be allowed anywhere near our food systems or into the wider environment.

This Author 

Silvia Ribeiro is a journalist and the Latin American Director of ETC Group, based in Mexico City. She is a well-known lecturer, writer, editor and educator on emerging technologies including geoengineering and biotechnology.

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

24.10.2020 – Human Rights Watch

This post is also available in: SpanishFrenchHungarian

Killer Robots: Precedent for a Ban Treaty
Following the lead of legal precedent, a new treaty on killer robots should ensure meaningful human control over the use of force and ban weapons operating without such control. (Image by © 2020 Brian Stauffer for Human Rights Watch)

Shared Concerns, Desire for Human Control Should Spur Regulation

(Washington, DC) – A treaty to ban fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” is essential and achievable, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 25-page report, “New Weapons, Proven Precedent: Elements of and Models for a Treaty on Killer Robots,” outlines key elements for a future treaty to maintain meaningful human control over the use of force and prohibit weapons systems that operate without such control. It should consist of both positive obligations and prohibitions as well as elaborate on the components of “meaningful human control.”

“International law was written for humans, not machines, and needs to be strengthened to retain meaningful human control over the use of force,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch, which coordinates the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. “A new international treaty is the only effective way to prevent the delegation of life-and-death decisions to machines.”

The report was co-published with the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, for which Docherty is associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection.

While many countries have voiced support for a new international treaty on fully autonomous weapons, there is some trepidation over how to handle the cutting-edge and rapidly changing nature of these weapons and concern that it will complicate negotiations.

The report seeks to allay these concerns by identifying legal and policy precedent for each of the proposed treaty elements.

“Killer robots present distinctive challenges but constructing a new treaty does not require starting from scratch,” Docherty said. “Existing international law and principles of artificial intelligence provide ample precedent showing that it is legally, politically, and practically possible to develop a new treaty on killer robots.”

Nearly 100 countries have publicly expressed their views on killer robots since 2013, primarily in talks under the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), a major disarmament treaty. The last CCW meeting, in September 2020, looked at how human control and decision-making are critical to the acceptability and legality of weapons systems. During the meeting, many countries and groups of countries expressed their strong interest in negotiating a new international treaty. Thirty countries have explicitly called for a ban on fully autonomous weapons.

A small number of militarily advanced countries – most notably France, India, Israel, The Netherlands, and the United States – have called any move to create a new treaty “premature.” These nations are investing heavily in the military applications of artificial intelligence and developing air, land, and sea-based autonomous weapons systems.

Decisions at the CCW are by consensus, which allows a few countries – or even a single country – to block an agreement sought by a majority. A new treaty, however, does not have to be negotiated under CCW auspices.

More than 60 governments will convene at the next CCW meeting at the United Nations in Geneva from November 2 to 5, the tenth since 2014 on lethal autonomous weapons systems.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a coalition of more than 160 nongovernmental organizations in 65 countries that is working to pre-emptively ban fully autonomous weapons and retain meaningful human control over the use of force.

“There’s no time to waste when it comes to preventing development of fully autonomous weapons,” Docherty said. “It’s crucial for governments to begin negotiations and swiftly adopt a new international ban treaty to retain meaningful human control over the use of force.”

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

23.10.2020 – Middle East, Syria – Middle East Monitor

Syrian girl from Ghouta nominated for 2020 Children’s Peace Prize
(Image by Leif Hinrichsen CC BY-NC 2.0)

A Syrian girl who lived through the Ghouta chemical attack has been nominated for the 2020 International Children’s Peace Prize. Identified only as Enar, but known online as Noor, she used social media to raise awareness of the conditions in Ghouta during the long siege of the city by regime forces.

Noor was only 10 years old when she started posting online. She filmed and published reports in both English and Arabic detailing the suffering of the people in Ghouta.

Her nomination for the award was announced on Monday, after the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) said that its submission of Noor’s work had been accepted by the prize committee.

“Enar, who was 10 years old when she first began her reports, along with her younger sister Alaa, then 8 years old, filmed and broadcast a large number of photos and videos, in which she spoke not only about the suffering and deprivation that she and her family were exposed to, but also about those to which society as a whole was exposed in Eastern Ghouta”, said SNHR.

Enar/Noor moved with her family from Damascus to Ghouta in March 2011, at the start of the Syrian uprising. She started reporting daily on the bombardment of the area after regime forces imposed a siege on the city in 2012.

Documenting the use of barrel bombs on the city’s residents she was also a witness to the 21 August 2013 chemical attack on Eastern Ghouta. That attack killed more than 1,400 people, including at least 99 children, often through suffocation.

In the videos, Enar called on the UN and international community to step in to protect innocent civilians and children in Ghouta, and to punish the Syrian regime for war crimes.

“[Enar’s] videos were not entirely without smiles and expressions of innocent childhood joy,” added the SNHR, even though she was reporting “details that many adults would have struggled to document.”

Nearly 150 children from 42 states have been nominated for the prestigious prize. In 2019 it was awarded to environmental activist Greta Thunberg and Cameroonian anti-violence campaigner Divina Maloum.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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