"It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where we are today, but we have just begun. Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today" - Barack Obama
Author's note: This is a follow-up post to an earlier article: 'Open Letter to Barack Obama'.
For the attention of the bankers and other global corporate power brokers:
After three months of waiting, my letter to one of your employees (Barack Obama) remains unanswered. As the issues covered in the letter are rather urgent, I decided to go over his head directly to you.
Let me begin by noting that the various studies on the vagaries of human psychology (and how to manipulate them) have obviously not gone unnoticed by you; indeed, advertizing, marketing, mass media and PR all play on the myriad cognitive biases of the human brain, working very successfully to distract, cajole and deceive people into doing things they don't particularly want or need to do, buying things they don't need, and even voting for people who act in direct opposition to their interests.
Thanks to these studies, you now know a great deal about the average human being and how he or she behaves both as an individual and in a group. However, it may surprise you to know that this knowledge increasingly extends both ways. In fact, many ordinary individuals know quite a bit about you as well, and the numbers are growing daily - people awakened by the steady diet of abuse and scandal that somehow gets through the white noise of distraction (sports, celebrity, royal babies) in the media that you do control.
So what do we know about you?
1. We know that in every single case, the opportunity to make serious money trumps human rights and welfare. The situation in West Papua is just one of hundreds of cases worldwide where indigenous people are crushed for profit.
2. We know that most terrible of human crimes - genocide - is ignored and tolerated by you when it is expedient to do so. Perhaps you missed my recent article on genocide, with particular emphasis on the Rohingya genocide currently occurring in Burma while Western leaders meet the president and welcome the 'democratization' of the nation (while of course expressing the obligatory human rights 'concerns').
3. We know thanks to various whistleblowers (currently the only way of actually getting to the truth) that through your political, military and intelligence proxies you kidnap and torture people ('extraordinary rendition'), imprison people indefinitely (NDAA), and drone Muslims (with targets like rescuers and funerals, weddings, and people exhibiting 'suspicious' behavior patterns).
4. We know that you spy on top UN officials, even the Secretary General himself...a violation of international law enshrined in treaties that the self-styled democratic luminaries of the West are signatories to.
5. We know, thanks to Edward Snowden and other NSA whistleblowers like William Binney, that you now have the ability to spy on almost every single citizen on the planet. We further know that the pretext for this - terrorism - is completely bogus.
6. We know that you will persecute across the globe anyone who attempts to shine a light on your secret activities while at the same time smearing these brave idealists throughout the media you own and with the help of an endless supply of useful-idiot career stenographers and paid astroturfers in comments below articles and on all major discussion forums.
Bankers and other top financial executives are fabulously rewarded with huge bonuses. Can we therefore infer that those in the finance industry provide an essential service to society and humanity as a whole in order to justify these rewards? Further, the skills required must be unmatched and indeed unmatchable by all but the greatest geniuses amongst us, right?
A study by Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Economics Prize, detailed here by George Monbiot, found that the skills of wealth advisers achieved the same level of success as a chimpanzee rolling dice. We therefore know that the self-flattering beliefs you hold about your abilities are in fact pure illusion. Any success comes from the use of insider knowledge along with the understanding that you can act pretty much with impunity, as we learned when those responsible for the truly disgusting HSBC scandal (money laundering for the Mexican cartels who have killed tens of thousands) and the LIBOR rate-rigging case got away with slaps on the wrist.
These scandals are particularly egregious, demonstrating vividly that big finance is no boon to society; quite the opposite. However, the lawlessness on show is not limited to these kinds of headline-grabbing stories. In my original article that introduced the Kahneman study, other cases were detailed (see original for sources):
Inside Job, the Academy Award-winning documentary about the global financial crisis of 2008 is a perfect place to start if you want to see the outrageous and illegal behavior of the likes of Goldman Sachs, whose role in the Greek economic crisis is only one of their many gross abuses.
More from just the last three weeks:
1. Millions of savers are being misled in the UK by City fund managers about hidden fees that can halve the value of pensions.
2. A report by the UK Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB) sent to the Financial Services Authority (FSA) shows British high street banks intentionally selling 'packaged' accounts for low-income customers who mistakenly believed they were opening a basic account and were unaware that a monthly fee was being charged. The CAB accuses banks of 'blanket selling' these accounts to people with 'learning difficulties, limited understanding of English, and a limited knowledge of personal banking'
While we now know for sure that we are most definitely not 'all in it together', one thing is certain: the various faces of the financial industry are. See here how the ratings agencies like Moody's conspired with the big banks to screw everyone over to make a buck.
What was that positive effect you have on society again?
But this is all background. It's patently obvious that forcing you to read a list of scandals will change nothing. In fact, many of the above capers are likely worn as a badge of pride by many of you. You see, one of the other things we know about you is the simple fact that you have no sense of shame for the destruction and misery you cause. In fact, many of you probably enjoy it, judging by the words of Greg Smith, a Goldman Sachs whistleblower:
"It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.
It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.
These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen."
So I'm not here to appeal to your sense of shame or human decency because we both know perfectly well that you possess neither. My purpose is to appeal instead to your sense of self-preservation, something you have in vast quantities. Let me tell you a little story...
I grew up at a time when episodes of the original Star Trek series were repeated frequently and so grew fond of some of the major characters: logical Spock, ground-breaking Uhura, perpetually irritated McCoy and buffoonish Scottie...and Kirk could have run for New York City mayor. Like many others, it was with some trepidation that I welcomed Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG). At first my fears were justified with some wooden acting, ludicrous plots and annoying characters (Deanna Troi), but it soon settled into its own niche and ultimately triumphed.
What does Star Trek have to do with anything? The penultimate episode of the first season of TNG was an attempt at horror: a conspiracy threatened the United Federation of Planets in the form of a parasitic alien life form that had assimilated key personnel in the command structure and was poised to take over humanity. The life form was difficult to detect as it was able to easily master and co-exist with its host. Its only weakness? An inability to assimilate the memories of its host - and it was this weakness that led to the detection and eventual downfall of the alien entity.
This clumsy analogy should make sense. The human species, with all its potential for greatness and good, has been subverted in much the same way by those who have already achieved their potential for evil and destruction. Your weakness...though doubtless you would name it a strength...is your inability to feel human empathy.
To summarize, as you probably have no concept of this: empathy is the capacity to recognize the emotions of another sentient being.
To the point, then: you are right to feel secure as you have successfully taken over most of the media and implemented blanket surveillance, enabling you to root out and smear most potential troublemakers. You have also militarized the police to such an extent that democratic protest is now an extremely risky endeavor, with only the hardiest - those with great passion and idealism or those with nothing left to lose - willing to go out into the streets and risk intimidation, arrest and police violence as well as blanket smearing by the media ('hippies', 'get a job' etc.) You are probably feeling quite safe in your ivory towers.
Yet there is a threat that threatens even you and your children: global warming.
UK media analysis website Media Lens detailed the threat in one of their recent alerts.
From the article:
But now, with humanity's huge impact on the planet's climate becoming ever clearer, we need to go back several million years. Because climate-related news of history being made are about the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) reaching 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time CO2 was this high was probably 4.5 million years ago, before modern humans even existed.
Throughout recorded history, up till the Industrial Revolution, CO2 was much lower at around 280 ppm. But large-scale industrial and agricultural activity since then has seen humanity profoundly alter the make-up of the atmosphere and even the stability of Earth's climate.
'We are creating a prehistoric climate in which human societies will face huge and potentially catastrophic risks,' said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics.
According to Bob Watson, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former UK government chief scientific adviser:
'The world is now most likely committed to an increase in surface temperature of 3C-5C compared to pre-industrial times.'
As Damian Carrington noted in the Guardian, even just 2C is regarded as 'the level beyond which catastrophic warming is thought to become unstoppable.' But social scientist Chris Shaw has warned that even the notion of a single 'safe' global temperature rise is dangerous. He observes that:
'Falsely ascribing a scientifically derived dangerous limit to climate change diverts attention away from questions about the political and social order that have given rise to the crisis.'
These catastrophic risks include ocean acidification and long-term melting of ice sheets leading to sea-level rises. Melting of permafrost in some areas is expected to lead to the release of trapped methane, further accelerating global warming and thereby increasing the probability of abrupt catastrophic changes. Water supply will be affected as well as food security, likely leading to widespread social unrest and severely negative impacts on human health. Extreme weather events like hurricanes are also projected to rise, along with widespread flooding of lowland areas, leading to enormous costs in damage to infrastructure and human displacement.
The economic risks are also enormous. According to a recent report in the journal Nature, the rapid thawing of the Arctic could cost the global economy up to $60 trillion. Further keep in mind that scientists generally err on the side of caution - the economic and social risks could be far worse than predicted here.
While it would not surprise me one jot that some kind of emergency lunar escape facility has already been constructed for your comfort and security, stocked to the gills with fine foods and wines, 'hookers' and high quality Cuban cigars, I find it unlikely that you would submit yourselves to the indignity and inconvenience of undergoing the rigors of space travel just to escape Mother Earth as it belches out its final toxic breath. You will have to face the fact that climate change threatens everyone - mega-rich or poor - and it must be tackled with drastic measures immediately.
Nature is suffering from a virus born out of the human genome. This virus has created a parasitic subspecies of humanity: you. The Earth is careening towards catastrophe and everyone - you and yours included - is going to be burned. Are wealth and power really so important that they make you suicidal? The issue of catastrophic climate change alone should serve as sufficient notice that it is time to relinquish power back into the hands of the sane majority: the scientists, the experts, and most importantly - the kind of people who do not care a whit for wealth or power.
They say you should end on a song, so...here.
I look forward to your reply.
Simon Wood (Twitter: @simonwood11) is the author of 'The 99.99998271%: Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy' and the founder of The Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to peace, justice and democracy. Please follow and support The Movement on Twitter: @1themovement as it strongly urges all progressive movements to unite and pool their resources in the common goal of removing the cancer of corruption that threatens us all. You can also follow Simon Wood on Facebook and at his blog.
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