July 2006

I’ve given a lot of thought about governance and what form would be most fair and equitable. Of course, short of a major calamity or worldwide revolution against the growing global empire spearheaded by the US and it’s children organizations such as the WTO and IMF that feed the multinationals and the oligarchies that control them, there probably won’t be a chance to start with a clean slate.

In my version of an ideal government the individual maintains absolute sovereignty of his own domain, which then extends outward to encompass the family. Then the community. Communities can then form cooperative alliances, which can scale all the way up to encompass the whole world.

The important thing is that as sovereign rulers of our personal space, we can do whatever we feel like, so long as it doesn’t impinge on the rights of others. I believe this is the idea the founding fathers of the United States had back when they talked about Citizens, rather than the mere citizens to which we have since been demoted. The idea also scales upward. That means that a community can do whatever they like, so long as it does not impinge upon the rights of other communities. In other words, if your community wants to have a marriage unit of two males and two females, that is fine. Or three males. Or man and a dog. Whatever. Anyone who wants to live there will abide by the community standards. The whole world in it’s march to global government has the absolute wrong idea.

Of course, it gets really complicated to implement. How do you decide who has the right to build his house on top of the hill? Who has the rights to the water? The forests? It would seem that socialism or communism offer reasonable approaches to resource allocation, but not in any form I’ve ever seen implemented – at least not on a macro scale. But, that is the whole point. The answer lies in the community. If everyone in the community has an equal say, in theory, there should be equality. Of course, deciding everything by referendum could be painfully tedious. In my ideal community, there would be a rotating community council to handle day-to-day governance of the village. Membership on the community council would be mandatory and determined by lottery. Setting the whole thing up and creating a village constitution will be a major effort that will require everyone’s input.

Then there are issues of security. Communities would have to pool resources to patrol roads and waterways. These would likely be in the form of guilds, another form of community with the same rights as any other community. Travelers would have to agree to the terms set forth by the guild, or they can choose to travel the lawless lands.

I believe that individuals absolutely have the right to the fruits of their endeavors. I live in China and witness everyday both the legacy of callous indifference left over from the old communist system and the amazing dynamism of ideas taking off thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of the founders of new enterprises. In my ideal scenario, each village would have a village industry, which it would trade for goods and services with other villages in the network. Those individuals who are more industrious will likely acquire the ability to purchase more goods and services than those who are not – an aspect lacking in every pure form of communism ever put forth on this planet, although things are certainly changing in Russia, China and Vietnam.

Of course in all political systems it boils to politics and power. The richest and most powerful people in China are the same ones who would have been the richest and most powerful no matter what system came into place, or others just like them. The most vital aspect missing from all governments, especially the current system in the US, are proper safeguards in place against corruption and exploitation. The US was founded and built upon slavery. It is still run on slavery. We’ve just outsourced them instead of importing them. Well, we import plenty too, only they sneak in voluntarily.

Unfortunately, for my ideal system to take place, there will likely have to be a major calamity so that the world can fall into chaos and we can start from a clean slate. Out of the chaos, the ecovillagers and their network will survive. Of course, that shouldn’t stop anyone from attempting to work within the system for now. In fact, helping to create that network is my life’s great work.

[tags] government, governance, council, ecovillage, community, China, Russia, Vietnam [/tags]

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I just finished a great book, by . While it is certainly not news to me that the US government generally acts at the behest of an uberpowerful oligarchy who calls the shots, it is another thing entirely to hear it straight from the horses mouth.

In an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Perkins explained the term, “Economic Hit Man.”

JOHN PERKINS: We economic hit men, during the last 30 or 40 years, have really created the world’s first truly global empire, and we’ve done this primarily through economics, and the military only coming in as a last resort. Therefore, it’s been done pretty much secretly. Most of the people in the United States have no idea that we’ve created this empire and, in fact, throughout the world it’s been done very quietly, unlike old empires, where the army marched in; it was obvious. So I think the significance of the things you discussed, the fact that over 80% of the population of South America recently voted in an anti-U.S. president and what’s going on at the World Trade Organization, and also, in fact, with the transit strike here in New York, is that people are beginning to understand that the middle class and the lower classes around the world are being terribly, terribly exploited by what I call the corporatocracy, which really runs this empire.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, before we move further, your experience with it? Explain the vantage point you come from. What does it mean to be an economic hit man?

JOHN PERKINS: Well, what we’ve done — we use many techniques, but probably the most common is that we’ll go to a country that has resources that our corporations covet, like oil, and we’ll arrange a huge loan to that country from an organization like the World Bank or one of its sisters, but almost all of the money goes to the U.S. corporations, not to the country itself, corporations like Bechtel and Halliburton, General Motors, General Electric, these types of organizations, and they build huge infrastructure projects in that country: power plants, highways, ports, industrial parks, things that serve the very rich and seldom even reach the poor. In fact, the poor suffer, because the loans have to be repaid, and they’re huge loans, and the repayment of them means that the poor won’t get education, health, and other social services, and the country is left holding a huge debt, by intention. We go back, we economic hit men, to this country and say, “Look, you owe us a lot of money. You can’t repay your debts, so give us a pound of flesh. Sell our oil companies your oil real cheap or vote with us at the next U.N. vote or send troops in support of ours to some place in the world such as Iraq.” And in that way, we’ve managed to build a world empire with very few people actually knowing that we’ve done this.

You can read the rest of the interview .

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It reads like a spy novel but it is chillingly real. Another thing I loved was the fact that Perkins actually started his own energy company. His inside knowledge about the energy industry really had my full attention, as I’m headed into these waters myself.

[tags] economic, hitman, WTO, IMF, books, John Perkins [/tags]

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*Disclaimer: Modok would never encourage anyone to break the law. Well… OK, in this post, I describe my attempts at assimilation into Chinese culture, including some behaviour which might not be viewed as “law-abiding.” I wouldn’t recommend anyone try this on their own, unless they have the guts to try something new and are willing to take total responsibility for their own actions. i.e. Don’t blame me if you get hit by a car.

One thing I’ve always loved about China is the fact that it is a “spirit of the law” society, rather than a “letter of the law” society. Having come from the latter, while I appreciate the attempt to apply the same standards to everyone and every situation, I don’t feel that the system in US even comes close. All it has done is spawn a huge oversupply of people willing to help you around those letters - the more money you have, the better letter-circumnavigation specialist you can employ. China is more a land of strong guidelines than strict rules. In general, many Chinese people have no qualms breaking laws they view as meddlesome. For instance, there are many traffic laws on the books, but this has not dampened the enthusiasm for jaywalking felt by a large portion of the population.

I’ve come to call jaywalking “traffic surfing” or “wading through traffic” depending on the speed of the oncoming vehicles. Let’s say you’re in the middle of two big intersections and there is a flyover across the street with an exit for a U-turn lane coming out right where you are likely to emerge. Now, we could walk all the way down to the traffic light and cross in the crosswalk. But, why would we want to do that? It’s completely out of our way and would add at least a whole minute to our journey. Maybe even more. After all, if you go to an intersection, you fall under the jurisdiction of the crossing guards, armed with flags and whistles. They are pretty good at keeping most people following the traffic lights, although altercations with people who refuse to heed them are not unusual. Some people just seem to get a kick out of stepping out to the edge of traffic and arguing with the guard, who seems to relish such opportunities to break out of the boredom. In the end, it’s not as though the crossing guard has any real authority. If they wanted to, they could attract the attention of the traffic cop sitting on his motorcycle somewhere nearby, but that would likely only bring a disapproving frown. Is it worth the possibility of a lengthy delay by having to wait for light? Of course not. So, we step out into traffic. I say we because there are always other people crossing. This is Beijing, after all, and there are plenty of people everywhere you go.

As this is a pretty major road, we have to cross five lanes of traffic each way. The first leg is easy. The traffic from this direction has just passed through the intersection and hasn’t built up speed. We just have to walk to the middle and let the cars pass on both sides of us and continue across. We walk under the flyover to the other side. Here it’s a bit trickier as the traffic is arriving from the last intersection and picked up significant speed, maybe an average of 35 kph. They are, of course, expecting us. After all, when the drivers of the cars are walking, this is what they would do. Only now they are in a car, which makes them king of the road, so if you are at the corner and the light is green for you to cross, you’d better stay out of the way because they won’t even consider slowing down for you. Unless you have achieved critical mass as a group and step bravely out into the path of traffic and force the cars to stop. So, as we have to evolve these skills to merely cross the crosswalk when it is our rightful turn, we are as prepared for the onrushing traffic, as they are for our presence.

The first lane is easy. We just have to wait for a gap to appear in the traffic, what will be the left-turn only lane up ahead. “We” in this case is a lady in office attire and me. Another gap appears in the following lane as we walk and we can also see another gap ahead, but the driver is traveling too fast and is not telegraphing any intention of changing lanes. We wait for another a few moments later, oblivious to the cars now passing behind us. While we wait, I observe the dividing point, as the traffic goes to either side of us - the traffic spreads apart somewhat to make room for us. It would be foolhardy not to be on the lookout for the possibility that the driver might not be paying perfect attention. Another gap appears and we make it safely across.

I have analyzed this activity quite a bit, ever since my first visit to Shanghai in 1994 when I witnessed and later experienced the ultimate in traffic wading, as constant streams of pedestrian traffic merged with the slow moving car traffic. I actually weighed in on the side of order at that time. Mind you, I do appreciate order - just not to the point where it becomes oppressive. This same chaotic behaviour that allows them (us) to jaywalk so freely also manifests as an inability or unwillingness to wait in lines. The approach on the part of the governing authorities for both issues has been the same. Herding. Fences are going up everywhere, on most major roads and even in subway stations, to force everyone into prescribed paths. With the recent introduction of IC cards for subway and busses, they have installed fences at all the bus stops to force everyone to board in an orderly fashion, instead of the traditional all jostling to be the first one on and therefore taking twice as long to board.

Of course, many will resist all attempts to get them to behave in an orderly fashion, if it means they have to wait instead of merely getting what they want immediately. At least with jaywalking, there is risk involved. There are plenty of accidents, though not nearly as many as one would expect. My analysis? I put it down to chi flow. Chinese people are much more aware of currents than many other cultures. They can usually guess what the other person is going to do. But not always. If there is an accident, both will get out of their cars and start yelling at each other. The one who bows down is at fault. Or so it seems to this observer. It always boils down to a confrontation of chi. Since this realization, I’ve become emboldened at traffic lights. After the fourth Mercedes or Audi has turned right in front of the crowd, I cast a stern look at the driver of the fifth and step out in front of him, forcing him to stop. This works because the crowd behind me has sensed my move and was ready for it. They have all followed right behind me. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else. We have achieved critical mass. It is our turn.

[tags] beijing, traffic, jaywalking, qi gong, wading, china [/tags]

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