World in crisis

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

The recent speech of Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, was a bleak warning to the world about a forthcoming global disaster. He addressed the UN General Assembly especially about two crises. The first was the vast global inequalities in the world. The second was the developing division of the world into two separate and different economic and economic camps.

The gross inequalities in the world’s distribution of wealth is one of the existing crises. Guterres said: “This is a moral indictment of the state of our world. It is an obscenity… billionaires joyride into space while millions go hungry. “The worst thing is not that this is a much debated topic but very little is done about it.”

The social democratic agenda of Biden, in the United States, includes a $3.5-trillion program to uplift the standard of living of the poor in America. Together with a plan to increase taxes on the rich, this would reduce the vast wealth disparity in the United States and could provide an example for other democratic, capitalist countries. Unfortunately this agenda does not have the support of the Republican Party and even some Democrats. This is clear evidence of the political power of the rich and the influential classes.

In China, Xi Jinping is talking about virtually the same thing as Biden. Xi’s program of Common Prosperity is also aimed at reducing the even worse disparities in wealth in China. He has taken steps to reduce the power and influence of the business class and business tycoons like Jack Ma have virtually been silenced in the media. However, his methodology of establishing one-man rule and Marxist Leninist lessons bring back memories of the Mao Zedong days when authoritarianism in China was the method used to impose discipline.

The vast disparities of wealth have also caused disillusionment in some countries with regards to democracy. Capitalism without strong and serious restraints have brought about this situation wherein even during the pandemic, while millions suffered in hunger and deepening poverty, the billionaire class has literally become richer. The fact that billionaires can spend millions of dollars to take a joy ride into space, or buy luxury cars, homes and yachts while millions are literally suffering from hunger and are homeless has shown that the rich have become callous.

Even Pope Francis has said that “trickle down” does not work. This was a concept advanced by capitalists that as the rich get richer, some of the wealth will “trickle” down to the masses. This concept did not take into account the callousness and personal greed of the rich.

Just as bad is the fact that politicians steal money supposedly meant to benefit the poor in this present state of calamity. There must be a special place in hell for these politicians and their cohorts.

Side by side with this failure to address these vast inequalities of wealth by capitalist and democratic countries is the disillusionment with democracy in many poor countries. When democracies fail to deliver the basic needs of their people, this provides “…oxygen for easy fixes, silver solutions and conspiracy theories.” Unfortunately, the masses will identify capitalism with democracy. The result is to turn to other political systems like populism, military rule or other forms of authoritarianism. This is what is happening in many countries like China. Xi Jinping has ended the capitalist reforms of Deng Xiaoping and is now leading his country back to the days of Mao Zedong.

Professor Yascha Mounk of John Hopkins University describes the current situation: “Since the 1990s, autocratic regimes have advanced in terms of economic performance and military might. Dictators have learned to use digital tools to oppress opposition movements in sophisticated ways. They have beaten back democratic campaigns that once looked promising, taken hold of countries that seemed to be on the way to becoming more democratic and vastly increased their international influence. What the world has seen is less a democratic retreat that an authoritarian resurgence.  Autocrats, long focused on survival, are now on the offensive. The coming decades will feature a long and drawn out contest between democracy and dictatorship.”

Guterres also included other areas of crisis in his speech that will affect every country rich or poor.

There is the immediate planetary emergency which is the ongoing climate disaster. Already there are unusual heat waves causing wildfires and heavier than usual rainfall causing floods.

There is also a need for a global vaccine plan because of unequal recovery from the pandemic. While some rich countries have surplus vaccines, in Africa less than 10 percent have received their first dose of vaccine. The world will not fully recover until every major region, including Africa, will recover.

According to Guterres the world’s most enduring injustice is the lack of gender equality. He says: “Women’s equality is essentially a question of power. We must urgently end our male-dominated world and shift the balance of power, to solve the most challenging problems of our age.”

He also underlined the fact that the super power rivalry between the United States and China threatens any hope of progress in addressing the world’s problems. However, I think this rivalry is inevitable. Unlike Guterres I feel the world will have to accept that we are going to face two sets of economic, trade, financial and technological rules.

Certainly, we can all see that the world is moving in the wrong direction. Our only hope is that leaders like Antonio Guterres will be heard or else we face another global catastrophe like the world wars, the great depression or even worse.

*      *      *

A last September writing date: Sept. 25: Memoir writing for adults, 2-3:30 p.m. with Susan S. Lara.

Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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