Tuesday, March 2, 2010

John Perkins on the Lack of Power of Elected Politicians, and on Being an Economic Hit-man

[image is from here]

Please note:
It's the lit light side of John Perkin's face that gave him the power to do what he did--commit atrocious economic crimes against humanity.

A few things follow.

1. A short video of white het guy, and anti-corporate whistle-blower, John Perkins. (This is to prove that I don't equate being a white het man with being evil. It's all in the behavior, folks. Perkins used to be evil, but he changed his ways.

2. A piece by John Perkins on the lack of power of the U.S. presidencies--past and present.

3. A piece that has an excerpt by Mr. Perkins, on being an "economic hit-man", as it is called.

4. Links to more of John Perkins' important work.

I'll tell you right now that I don't consider John Perkins to be radically profeminist, at all, but I do think he has a heart and gets a lot about systematised, normalised violence against oppressed people. He should, because he's committed this violence and then realised the horror of his own ways, and wrote everything he knows about Western white het male supremacy. Racist capitalist patriarchy. "Empire" is the term that he and many lefty, non-pro-radical feminist (if not also anti-radical feminist) whiteboys use, which at least indicates a consolidation of abusive power, but takes the race and gender out of the phrase for what particular and predominantly white men do.

I also don't like it at all when whites write about people of color and compare them to whites but don't mention that the white guy--or woman--is white, but do point out the race of the guy--or woman. Note below, how in the structure of the sentence "African American" is in place of "oilman" as if "oilman" is a race. President Obama, before becoming president of the U.S. was a Civil Rights attorney and a U.S. Senator. That's what should be in place of "oilman". Whatever. Whites, usually, will show their euro/white/anglo centrism in some way, and this is John Perkins' way. He doesn't get it. But he gets a lot, as you can read below.

Politicians Will Not Change the World
[by John Perkins, found here]

Many of you have asked how I feel about the Obama administration . . .

In short: the fact that we moved from a conservative Republican oilman from Texas to a liberal Democratic African American from Illinois, and yet change plods along at a snail's pace – if at all – is a confirmation of what I discuss in detail in my "HOODWINKED."

Our president has little real power.

In recent years, geopolitics have shifted; the corporatocracy rules. Democrats and Republicans alike fall under the thumb of the multinational corporations.

We have entered a time of realignment not unlike that when city states joined together to form nations. Except this time it is global; countries are becoming less relevant. The emerging rulers are corporate CEOs, members of the corporatocracy.

Like huge clouds swirling around the globe, their conglomerates reach every continent, country, and village. They are unrestricted by national borders or any particular sets of law. Although many are headquartered in the United States and call upon the U.S. military to protect their interests, they feel no sense of loyalty to any one country. They form partnerships with the Chinese and the Taiwanese, with the Israeli and Arab nations, with Brazilians, Australians, Russians, Indonesians, Congolese—with anyone who possesses resources or offers markets they covet. As we have seen with Halliburton, they think nothing of relocating to places like Dubai, where they pay fewer taxes.

They hire a vast army of lobbyists who influence every politician in Washington and every other capital. They either own the mainstream media or control it through their advertising budgets.

The good news: for the first time in history this new empire has been created not by military force, but through the sale of goods and services. And the marketplace is democratic—once we decide to see it as such. It is the ultimate polling booth. Corporations exist only because we vote for them in their stores, at the malls, and over the Internet.

It is up to us to decide which companies will succeed and which ones will fail.

Politicians will not change the world, because they are beholden to the big corporations. AND the corporations are dependent upon you and me.

About a hundred fifty years ago we as a nation voted for Abraham Lincoln, and then we fought a Civil War to get rid of slavery. Later our women picketed Woodrow Wilson everywhere he went over women's suffrage; they would not allow him to send troops into WWI to defend democracy in Europe "until we women enjoy democracy here at home." We held teach-ins for Richard Nixon to educate him and the country on the travesty that had become the Vietnam War. We won those struggles, because we the people forced our leaders to change. In recent decades, we forced corporations to clean up polluted rivers, do away with ozone layer destroying aerosols, and remove trans fats from our foods.

Today, we the people are called upon to speak again. When we impact bottom lines, we change stock prices and attract the attention of boards of directors. Those boards influence the decisions made in the halls of legislatures.

We must not look to President Obama to change the world. We must do it – we must force those in control to adopt a new goal for the people of our planet: creating a sustainable, just, and peaceful world for all who live on this special space-station we call home.

Perhaps President Obama's greatest gift to us will be that he taught us a lesson in democracy. We the people must take charge. We cannot look to a president to change the world. It is up to each of us to do it.

* * *

Here's an excerpt from one of John's books. Click on the piece's title for the link back to where I found it.

The Secret History of the
American Empire- Excerpt

Saturday, May 5, 2007
The Secret History of the American EmpireJohn Perkins, author of "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" has followed up his NY Times best-seller with "The Secret History of the American Empire."

Here's an excerpt- "Hired Guns in Guatemala"

The elevator door opened. Three men stood inside. Unlike Pepe and me, they were not wearing business suits. They were dressed casually in slacks and sweaters. One wore a leather jacket. What got my attention, though, were the guns. All three carried AK- 47s.

“An unfortunate necessity in Guatemala these days,” Pepe explained. He ushered me toward the waiting elevator. “At least for those of us who are friends of the United States, friends of democracy. We need our Maya killers.”

I had flown from Miami to Guatemala City the day before and checked into the city’s most luxurious hotel. It was one of those few occasions when Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation (SWEC) asked me to do something for them, other than refraining from writing about EHM. Pepe Jaramillo (not his real name) had signed a contract with SWEC agreeing to help the company develop privately owned power plants in his country. He was one of the most powerful members of a small group of rich elites who have controlled the country since the time of the Spanish conquest. Pepe’s family owned industrial parks, office buildings, housing complexes, and huge agricultural estates that exported to the United States. The important thing from SWEC’s perspective was that he had the political clout necessary to get things done in Guatemala.

I had first visited Guatemala as an EHM in the mid- 1970s. My job was to convince the government to accept a loan for improving its electric sector. Then, in the late 1980s, I was invited to join the board of directors of a nonprofit organization that helped Mayan communities organize microcredit banks and other grassroots endeavors aimed at pulling themselves out of poverty. Over the years, I had become very familiar with the tragic violence that had torn this country apart during the latter half of the twentieth century.

Guatemala had been the heart of the Mayan civilization that flourished for roughly a thousand years. That civilization already had entered a period of collapse that many anthropologists attribute to its failure to cope with the environmental damage caused by the growth of its spectacular urban centers, when the conquistadors invaded in 1524. Soon Guatemala became the seat of the Spanish military authority in Central America, a position that lasted until the nineteenth century and resulted in frequent clashes between Mayan and Spanish populations.

By the end of the 1800s, a Boston- based company, United Fruit, had beaten the Spanish at their own game and established itself as one of the most powerful forces in Central America. It ruled supreme and essentially unchallenged until the early 1950s when Jacobo Arbenz ran for president on a platform that echoed the ideals of the American Revolution. He declared that Guatemalans ought to benefit from the resources offered by their land; foreign corporations would no longer be permitted to exploit the country and her people. His election was hailed as a model of the democratic process throughout the hemisphere. At the time, less than 3 percent of Guatemalans owned 70 percent of the land. As president, Arbenz implemented a comprehensive land reform program that posed a direct threat to United Fruit’s Guatemalan operations. The company feared that if Arbenz succeeded he would set an example others might follow throughout the hemisphere, and perhaps the world.

United Fruit launched a major public relations campaign in the United States; it convinced the American public and Congress that Arbenz had turned Guatemala into a Soviet satellite and that his land reform program was a Russian plot to destroy capitalism in Latin America. In 1954, the CIA orchestrated a coup. American planes bombed the capital city; the demo cratically elected president was overthrown and replaced by a brutal right- wing military dictator, Col. Carlos Castillo Armas.

The new government immediately reversed the land reform process, abolished taxes paid by the company, eliminated the secret ballot, and jailed thousands of Castillo’s critics. A civil war erupted in 1960, pitting the antigovernment guerrilla group known as the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union against the United States– supported army and right- wing death squads. The violence intensified throughout the 1980s, resulting in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians, mostly Mayas. Many more were jailed and tortured.

In 1990 the army massacred civilians in the town of Santiago Atitlán, located near the high- altitude Lake Atitlán, renowned as one of the most beautiful spots in Central America. Although just one of many massacres, this one made international headlines because it happened in a place popular among foreign tourists. According to eyewitness reports, it began when a group of Mayas marched to the gates of the military base. One of their neighbors had been abducted by the army and, fearing that he would join the ranks of the thousands officially classified as “disappeared,” they demanded his release. The army opened fire on the crowd. Although exact numbers are disputed, dozens of men, women, and children were seriously wounded and killed.

My trip to visit Pepe Jaramillo came shortly afterward, in 1992. He wanted SWEC to partner with him and obtain World Bank financing. I knew that the Mayas believe the earth is a living spirit and that places where steam gushes from the land are considered sacred. I suspected that any attempts to construct a power plant over geothermal springs would result in violence. Based on the United Fruit experience—as well as more recent ones I was intimately familiar with in Iran, Chile, Indonesia, Ecuador, Panama, Nigeria, and Iraq—I believed that if a U.S. company like SWEC called for help in a place like Guatemala, the CIA would show up. The violence would escalate. The Pentagon might send in the marines. I already had enough blood on my conscience; I was determined to do everything I could to prevent more mayhem.

A car had picked me up at my hotel that morning and driven me into the circular driveway of one of Guatemala City’s more impressive modern buildings. Two armed doormen ushered me in. One escorted me on the elevator to the top floor. He explained that the building was owned by Pepe’s family and all eleven floors were occupied by them: their commercial bank on the ground floor, offices for various businesses on two to eight, and family residences on nine, ten, and eleven. Pepe met me at the elevator door. After coffee and a brief introductory conversation, he gave me a quick tour of his building, except for floor nine, which he said was reserved for the privacy of his widowed mother (I suspected additional reasons). If the intent of the tour was to impress SWEC’s representative, it succeeded. Following a meeting with him and several of his engineers on floor five to familiarize me with the geothermal project, we lunched with his mother, brother, and sister on eleven, then headed for the elevator and a visit to the proposed site. We boarded the elevator with the AK- 47–bearing men.

The elevator door closed. The man in the leather jacket pushed the bottom button. No one spoke as the elevator descended. I kept thinking about the AK- 47s. I realized they were there to protect Pepe and me from the Mayas, the very people I worked with through the nonprofit. I wondered what my Mayan friends would think of me now. The elevator stopped. When the door opened, I expected to see the afternoon light through the portico where I had entered earlier. Instead, I saw an immense concrete garage. It was well lighted in the extreme and smelled of damp concrete.

Pepe’s hand gripped my shoulder. “Stay here,” he commanded in a soft voice.

*          *          *

HOODWINKED (Random House) is available in all the stores. You can order the book through your favorite Internet shop – although if you go through http://www.dreamchange.org  , a % of the sale price will be contributed to the nonprofit I founded nearly 20 years ago.

Please follow me on Twitter - @economic_hitman .
I hope you'll also take time to listen to this recent interview I did with Wayne Hurlbert of BlogTalkRadio.com - http://tinyurl.com/yzckhmr  .

And I know I have mentioned the film "Crude", an amazing and beautifully filmed documentary about the critical lawsuit filed on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadorian people in the Amazon against Texaco/Chevron. A MUST SEE! I wanted to note that it is now available on DVD through http://www.crudethemovie.com  .

I'm also looking forward to seeing you at one of the many upcoming speaking events. The list for all events can be found on my website – http://www.johnperkins.org  as well as on my Facebook Fan Page – John Perkins Author .

John Perkins

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