I've just finished reading a fascinating book called 'Confessions of an Economic Hitman' written by John Perkins. The book details stories of the author's life as an Economic Hitman (EHM) working to expand the American Empire. The essence of what they did was to form large private corporations who would integrate themselves into the communities of third world countries and connect with all the powerful decision makers there, acting as puppets for the American government. Then they would offer these countries, desperate for growth and to get out of poverty, heavily inflated economic forecasts showing how the construction of massive power grids, transportation systems, technological improvements etc. would cause a emphatic increase in the country's prosperity and quality of life. These forecasts were incredibly optimistic and in many cases - totally fabricated. The corporations would then offer huge loans in order to build this infrastructure, loans that these countries could never hope to repay. Then as the forecasts didn't come true, the debt remained and this gave America power of these countries - to build military bases, to draw on natural reserves, gather political support and to provide oil guarantees for the future - to 'recover their debt'.
It paints rather a gloomy picture of the American Empire and of its leaders. I realise that the book must be slightly sensationalised for the sake of reader interest but it still casts a dark shadow over the dealings of people in power. I had never really been exposed to stories such as this, the closest being probably a major motion picture , but this book really made things a lot more real. The ease with which greed and power's pernicious combination perpetrated such a large ruse over such a long time is breathtaking. I don't want to dwell on the story itself however, because this isn't a book report. I just want to highlight something that made an impression on me...
The one parallel that stood out for me was that of acceptance. John Perkins speaks of how, as one of the first EHM, he was often assuaged by moral guilt regarding the things he was doing, the impact he was having on his world - the world he was passing on to his daughter. He speaks a lot about how this guilt ate at him and hence how he ended up writing this book. However, when he eventually quit his job, he spoke about the people who were working underneath him. They had no such moral guilt hanging over them - they did not realise what they were a part of. They simply went about their jobs as they always did - unaware of the real world impact they were helping to impute. None of them questioned the big picture, none of them were curious about the people they were supposedly 'helping'. They got their paycheck at the end of the month, and returned home to tell their families how they were helping the smaller nations to pick themselves out of poverty, naively and ignorantly. It only required a few greedy people to set a precedent on how things were done, and those who followed simply accepted it!
Isn't that true today? In your life? In mine?
How many procedures, tasks, ideologies, beliefs do you subscribe to simply because "that's how it is done" ?
We seldom stop to truly reflect on what we are doing and why we are doing it. What impact is it having? It is much easier to turn a blind eye, do our bit and pick up that paycheck at the end of the day. I would argue it is this kind of thinking that keeps the real world in shadows - 'ignorance is bliss'. In reality, we actually know incredibly little about the world we inhabit and of our shared humanness. We prefer to only hear what he want to hear and see what we want to hear. We choose our personal beliefs and then look for reality to confirm their validity - ignoring those that oppose them. Shouldn't we use reality to shape our beliefs? Because at the end of the day that is where it is all played out.
We can't hide from the truth forever, one day it will surface. So why not open yourself up to it now?
Question the things you do and stand up against doing things because 'that's how it is supposed to be'.
There is too much '.' and not enough '?'
(Should I write blogs like this?)