What caused our current situation?

The majority of humans in the developed world alive today had no idea that we were living in a false paradise. Nobody told us that we were using up the world’s resources at an alarming rate.  Instead, we were taught that this was the standard of living that we deserved, due to our hard work and clever inventions.  It is not easy to admit how wrong we were and there are still people out there who argue that we will continue to find new resources and solve our global warming problems with the use of technology. Meanwhile

Take a look at the table below, showing the current state of the world.

what we see if we care to look
Climatic disruptions
Global warming;
Greenland/Artic/Anthartic melt;
methane escaping in scary amounts
CO2 in atmosphere: anything above 360 ppm leads to global warming
Environmental degradation
Resources depletion
Human suffering;
High human anxiety and stress levels
Fear of economic chaos e.g. GFC
Species extinction
Developing world experiencing a new form of wage slavery
Food riots in some countries
Developed world wealthier but no happier
Some of the reasons we have the results shown above
Loss of habitat
Free Market economics
Factory farming
Runaway resources extraction
Advertising to create false markets
Disposable goods
“Keeping up with the Joneses”
Education without social responsibility:
these are some of the key drivers of our behaviour
Culture of discontent, inculcated by the advertising, marketing and packaging industries Runaway manufacturing
Disposable economy
Massive population increases and growing economies
what do you think?
Human Greed and
Human feelings of insecurity
Political timidity “Winner takes all”, narrow thinking (including narrow nuclear family thinking)

What can we do about this?

First, try looking at all the causes listed above and see where you just might have played a role! I fear we are all guilty, to one degree or another. So the big question is, what can we do about it?

Is it worth while working on changing any of the Observed Causes if we are not also looking at some of the Basic Causes? What do you think?

History can tell us a lot about the causes of the current situation. Lets look at human greed, identified as one of the Basic Causes above.

This is not history as it is taught in schools and I urge you to skip this section if you want to remain complacent about the inherent goodness of great democracies

Let’s not look for parallels between our current situation and the ancient Roman Empire, though the evidence of Dominator thinking and behaviour are clear to see. Lets start with the great powers of Europe — Holland, Spain, Portugal, England and how they dominated most of the rest of the world. Their overseas ‘territories’ existed mainly to supply raw materials and exotic goods, and little attention was paid to the effects of these activities on the local inhabitants and environment.

After shaking off the English yoke, America – the USA – rose to power towards the end of the 19th Century, annexing countries like Hawaii in 1893, declaring the Monroe Doctrine (basically telling the other world powers to keep away from all the Americas, as it was the US’s sphere of influence and control). Gunboats were dispatched to “induce” the Japanese and the Koreans to sign a treaty to open their ports to American traders. In 1898 the States went to War with Spain and took many of “her” territories for themselves, including the Phillipines, Cuba and Puerto Rico America moved from expansion Westward (including defeating Mexico for control of Texas). Now they had enough land and moved to accepting that expansion into foreign markets at advantageous rates was important for the future prosperity of the country. Dominator attitudes prevailed, and the country armed itself and bullied its new annexations and trading “partners”.

Eventually the competition between the world powers was all about markets. For example, Germany and Italy came late to the table when it came to empires. A major impetus behind World War One was preventing Germany from expanding its empire and navy. Remember Britannia Rules The Waves? The victors of WWI decided that the losers, the Central Powers (the German Empire, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Bulgaria) would have to pay the costs incurred by the victors, which was an acceptable policy in those days: To the Victor the Spoils, etc.

Unfortunately, these repayments — reparations — for WWI set the stage for WWII, as it threw Germany and its war partners into severe depression — typical Dominator behaviour. (I won’t go into the effects of protectionism, as it will lead to a big discussion on our shocking Free Trade agreements and their dominator effect.)

At least the Allies (the UK, USA, Russia etc.) had learned the lesson from forced repatrations, so after the end of WWII, the people who set up the UN had a plan for helping all the countries involved in the war recover. However, as the US was the only country with lots of money after the war, they wanted to control the course of the plan – now known as the Marshall Plan — and another example of Dominator behaviour. So US influence took even firmer hold around the world, in media and communication control, goods distribution (who else was still manufacturing!), US engineering and other expertise.

A more insidious action was taking place at the end of the war. Reconstruction and recovery committees were convened by the US government at many levels. One of the fateful decisions the US made was that, as their own resources had been considerably depleted by their war effort, they would conserve their own resources and use everybody else’s first! (Don’t waste your time Googling this decision. I did and found myself directed to an Education site! After 9/11 Vice President Dick Cheney ordered a review of all US Federal records and had everything even slightly derogatory removed from public view. Even a visit to Washington, DC failed to raise any information, and I had long lost touch with the college professor who mentioned this fateful decision. What a challenge for a dedicated history researcher!)

This decision to use everybody else’s first had a huge impact on US foreign policy. (Find out who owned most of the mining operations in Australia in the 60s, 70s and 80s.) For example, resources were aggressively pursued, and Leaders who stood in the way were put aside — in 1951 the CIA were directly involved in overthrowing Mohammad Mossadegh, the newly elected leader of Iran, who wanted to nationalise the oil industry and concentrate political control in parliament. away from the Shah.

The UK government, the main owner of Ango-Iranian Oil, begged the US to help, which they did. They plotted together, and reinstalled Mohannad Reza Pahlavi as Shah of Iran. Naturally, the USA did not return all the oil wells to the UK. They kept a big percentage for themselves, as “payment”. So it is not hard to make the leap to at least appreciating the recent Iranian hatred of the US, which claims to support democracy.

It was clear that the CIA could not be directly involved in such immoral shenanigans, though they continued to orchestrate the removal of political leaders who opposed US foreign policy, such as Salvador Allende, President of Chile. They were implicated in the air crash which killed General Omar Torrijos, the leader of Panama in 1981. Torrijos wanted to take back control of the Panama Canal from the US, who had built it and kept control of all the adjacent land, the Panama Zone.

But running around the world bumping off leaders who did not agree with US foreign policy was a risky way to control the world. The US hit on a better way: economic control. If John Perkins, who published Confessions of an Economic Hitman, is to be believed, the US used the IMF, the World Bank and US Treasury to set up deals with developing countries which ensured these countries were in never-ending debt to them.

The motivation behind this was to keep these countries indebted to the United States, so that they would not fall into the clutches of Communism!

Simply, it worked like this:

The large US contractors/consulting firms which even now dominate the international market, such as Bechtel and Halliburton, Chas T. Main (now defunct), were encouraged to negotiate agreements, to supply electrical, water, engineering infrastructure, mining & oil extraction services, with individual countries. These agreements were flawed from the start, as they were set up on forecasts that could not be met, leaving the honest people in the government wondering why their country was not prospering, despite the hugh loans it had acquired for infrastructure development. As Perkins commented, it was always easy to find at least one person at high level who could be persuaded to support them — at a price, under the table, of course.

The other “flaw” was that most of the actual money from the IMF or World Bank often never left the US, as it was consumed in consultants fees and services. Naturally any hard infrastructure that was created also had to be supplied from the USA, so the money also stayed home.

The point I’m trying to make about all this is that: There Is No Such Thing As A Level Playing Field! For example, the big Trade Agreements negotiated over the past two decades have led to great suffering in the poor countries who signed on, naturally amongst their millions of poor, who found themselves priced out of their traditional markets. The GDP of the country may have increased, but it was spread amongst the middle and upper classes, and increased the gap between rich and poor. By the way, that is what so much of the resistance in Latin American countries is about.

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who has done so much for the poor in his country, is described by the US as an “enemy of Democracy”. Strange, that. Perhaps this “enemy” thing has more to do with the fact that Chavez has stood up to the US dominated Petrol industry and is using gas revenues to improve the lives of his people. What a concept! Compare, for example, how the poor people of Nigeria are suffering under the US led oil drilling being done there.

Finally, all this takes us back to the realization and acceptance that the large global financial systems are in need of urgent reform — or even dissolution. Whole Systems Change!

And finally, finally — would any other country which became a great power have acted any differently? Dominator thinking prevails constantly in decisions. I was wondering what Australia would have done if it was a Great Power.

Looking back, let’s see. In 1788, we just walked in and took over the country, to dump convicts in. We treated the locals as less than human. As late as 1969 the Natural History Museum had the skulls of Aboriginals included with their display of our Primate relatives!

Today, we still have not faced the chaos we caused the native australians, and even when we try to help “intervene”, we do it in true Dominator fashion, imposing our idea of solutions.

We have happily clung to the coat-tails of the USA and UK in accelerated resource extraction. In the 1970′s, we allowed Gough Whitlam to remain deposed, instead of re-electing him. His biggest sin was that he was planning to raise funds to finance resource extraction, so that the profits would remain in Australia. His sin was to look for that finance outside the powerful ring of US and European financial sources, so he had to go! If you want proof of the power of these financial sources, look no further.

So maybe we would not act much differently as a great power, as we currently have all the same structures and Dominator ways of thinking as the Americans have.   Can we change this for the future?  I sincerely hope so.


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  1. noni

    this is awesome

  2. brent couper

    Hi. Thanks for this stuff. A problem for me is when observations/evidence is used selectively and I cannot see the big picture. So my main comment about this page is the focus on what is wrong with the world. The table professes to show the ‘current state of the world’. Yet it neglects a whole range of good things, and perhaps more importantly, how/why these good things came about. We may lose the insights about how to make successful change if we only focus on the negative.


    1. Noni

      Thanks, Brent. I completely agree with you about pointing out the positive as well as the negative and suggesting ways to move towards the positive. I’m working on this, but decided to go live first. It is the kind of work that needs more than my single input and I’m hoping we can get a small project together in which a few people collaborate with me on making the site more user friendly and action oriented. Thanks for taking the time to do some review. Noni

  3. Andrew Gaines

    Noni, this is a brilliant account of what caused our current situation. We live in a world of economics. It is important for all of us to wake up and recognise that the big time dominators stack the system against us.

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