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A book with archaic ideas
on 23 November 2016
Certain forces govern politico-economic matters of the world from behind the curtain. This is the central idea of John Pilger’s book, The New Rulers of the World, the new edition of which has been published by Verso in 2016.
From page 17 to 47, in the chapter ‘Model Pupil,’ Pilger mentions globalisation as an anathema by taking Indonesia as a case study, insinuating that globalisation exploited Indonesian workers financially while producing goods — Producerism — for markets in affluent countries. However, Pilger does not mention the level of education and skill of Indonesian workers before seeking employment to multi-national companies. Interestingly, Scotland has also been complaining of economic exploitation at the hands of England. Secondly, Pilger looks at globalisation in a narrowed economic context dissociated from consumerism — an enhanced consumption of goods — and isolated from information technology. In fact, the blend of globalisation, consumerism, and digitalization have engendered a new social hierarchy including its own billionaires such as Bill Gates.
Pilger’s book is anti-imperialism quintessentially and declares that the colonial era led by the United Kingdom was an era of imperialism whereas the post-colonial era continuing to date dominated by the United States is an era of new imperialism. For instance, on page 101, while introducing the chapter, ‘The Great Game,’ Pilger quotes a statement uttered in 1898 by Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India: “To me, I confess that [countries] are pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world.” Here, Pilger has overlooked the fact that the application of Curzon’s words is anachronistic, as societies have grown complex with time: 2016 is not 1898. Secondly, the confession is time-specific, as domination customary in the nineteenth century is not akin to domination prevalent in the twenty-first century. Thirdly, in the nineteenth century, the boundaries of countries were more rigid and assertive than now when the willful fluidity of boundaries introduced through various immigration policies challenges nationalism cherished in the nineteenth century. Fourthly, the rise of democracy itself challenged the idea of domination. Even if domination were deemed a constant factor as a human longing spanning over centuries, the strength of the twenty-first century lies in the pervasiveness of democracy, which can temper domination and the attendant exploitation. In this context, the twentieth century witnessed the battle for the survival of democracy fought on the continent of Europe, where democracy challenged non-democratic ideals of domination such as Nazism and Fascism. The cost of the conflict was paid primarily by European blood; the contribution of Western Europe in guarding democracy tooth and nail cannot be undervalued.
Pilger cites several examples whenever the US, with the help of its allies, inflicted politico-economic atrocities in the world to establish new imperialism. Pilger considers Zbigniew Brzezinski, the main proponent of this recourse. For instance, from pages 116 to 117, Pilger writes: “There are many blueprints for the new imperialism, but none as cogent as that of Zbigniew Brzezinski, an adviser to several [US] presidents [e.g., President Carter, Bush Senior, Clinton and Bush Junior]… The first priority has been achieved, says Brzezinski. This is the economic subjugation of the former superpower [i.e., the former Soviet Union].” Further, on page 156, Pilger writes: “Men like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar received tens of millions of CIA dollars... Invited to London in 1986, he was lauded by Prime Minister Thatcher as a ‘freedom fighter.’ Between 1978 and 1992, Washington poured some $4 billion into the mujaheddin factions. Brzezinski’s plan was to promote an international movement that would spread Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia and ‘destabilise’ the Soviet Union, creating, as he wrote in his autobiography, a ‘few stirred-up Muslims’.” Taken together, these paragraphs say that, in certain parts of the world, people can be stirred to act in a desired way in the name of religion. Secondly, the paragraphs call attention to the reality of not only the birth of new imperialism but also the creation of a few stirred-up Muslims. Being conjoined, both faces of the same phenomenon have multiplied over the years in terms of allies, adversaries, gains and outrages. Presumably, not all stirred-up Muslims have been consumed; a few might have been left to spawn their ideology, even if at the inspiration level. Nevertheless, both faces have gone potent to challenge each other on one land or the other. The more the world is shrinking, the more these two contenders find ruses to weather each other. If war is a business, as per the repetitive themes given in the book, the business is flourishing.
On page 120, Pilger writes: “America’s ‘real job’ is to maintain its economic disparity with the rest of the world.” Here, Pilger presumes that the dissolution of economic disparity may lead to the dissolution of poverty in the world, notwithstanding the fact that poverty is a relative term, making the concept of disparity under transition and that over the years more wealth has been generated and distributed the world over, thereby introducing new billionaires. Disparity promotes competition, and in a world of competition, there is no taboo to be a billionaire. Secondly, Pilger overlooks the fact that nature itself was not generous in doling out resources such as coal, gas and oil. Some areas have been endowed with more than other areas. A human being has generally either furthered or resented the nature-induced discrimination. Thirdly, the growth in the wealth of a country cannot be seen independent of the growth of the country’s population, though this relationship has been recently challenged by the prospects of human resource. Fourthly, in the absence of a class-less society as an example, the dream of a classless world is difficult to realise. Hence, disparity seems to be a lasting reality. Interestingly, the bi-dimensional major challenge that the US President-elect Donald Trump has taken upon himself is to stop a foreign conflict from becoming local and to stop the local economy from becoming foreign.