DICTATOR WATCH MANIFESTO
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD: PLEASE JOIN US
Are you for democracy, or dictatorship?
Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?
Do we – meaning all the life on Earth – do we live, or do we die?
It is time for the people of the world to decide: which side are we as a species, and you as an individual, on? Things are rarely black and white, but in this case they are. The world – all of life – is at a crossroads. The coming century, regardless of the direction we choose, will be the most tumultuous the planet has ever seen. It will be characterized by a level of chaos hitherto unexperienced, with social conflict that makes the World Wars seem small by comparison, and with an extinction event among other species, which is already underway, with no precedent for the last sixty-five million years. Still, there is a choice. The magnitude of this catastrophe will vary, from the extreme to the unimaginable, depending on what we do now.
You have to decide. You cannot sit on the sides, or deny. There is no middle ground: denial is equivalent with complicity. (You do not necessarily have to be a front line activist, but if you have a lifestyle that has as its prerequisite environmental destruction and social dictatorship and inequality, then you have made your choice: the wrong one.)
Of course you could respond: why do anything? Why should we care, such as if other species die out? Evolution is working the way it always has. That’s just the way things are.
The answer to this is that we are not machines, programmed to act in a certain way and in that way only. We have free will, which we use to make choices, and this will is grounded in reason. Using our reason, the advanced consciousness we have evolved, we can survey our world, understand it, and attempt to make the best choices among those that are available.
This raises the question, what measure should we use as our guide: what should be our goal? Some people have argued that the goal is the maximization of happiness. Society, particularly the media, regularly acts as if the goal is the avoidance of boredom. Another measure, though, which is not unrelated to the first, is the preservation and creation of value.
Over the last 3.5 billion years all manner of life forms and natural habitats have evolved on our planet. Similarly, in the last two hundred thousand years – the period of time since Homo sapiens evolved as a separate species – an extraordinary array of distinct human cultures have been established. This diversity represents what is truly unique and beautiful about the Earth: it constitutes the real value of our world.
Every time a species dies out, every time a natural habitat is cut down, every time a traditional human culture is “assimilated” by the modern world, part of this value is irrevocably lost.
This concept of value can also be used to evaluate any actions that humans consider, as individuals and through groups. If such actions preserve environmental and cultural diversity, and establish the conditions in which they can continue to thrive, then they are acceptable. However, if the actions reduce the diversity and the potential for further development, even if only through indirect consequences, then they are not.
One view of the modern world says that we are progressing, inexorably. The modern system is one of Democracy combined with Capitalism, and while it suffers abuses, it has the ability to police or reform itself. It will, someday, lead us to the utopia of our dreams (or fantasies). Another view though is that our present conditions are already dire, and highly likely to get much, much worse. This perspective argues that there are social undercurrents of which we are for the most part unaware that are leading us not to utopia, but dystopia.
The basis of the latter view is that we do not look at things as they really are, that we confuse symptoms with problems. For example, right now America – the world – all of “Civilization” – is at war with terrorism. We are also at war with drugs, and crime, and poverty. We have so many wars now that we have a war du jour. (Iraq!) This is absurd. Terrorism, drugs, crime and even poverty are merely symptoms, and symptoms can only be treated, not solved. We may treat them with guns, prisons, police, or welfare – whatever – but even if they seem to go away they will return. For the symptoms to be treated such that they never return, that they never can return, the underlying problems must be solved. It is time to address these problems.
One such problem is our lack of ethics. This applies to everyone – we all face the challenge of implementing ethical principles to guide our lives – but it is regularly clearest, and also the most magnified, with our leaders. The art of life, or one of the fundamental components of what is termed wisdom, is to recognize subtle distinctions. (As was mentioned, normally things are not black and white.) One example is the distinction between having an absolute set of ethical principles that you then apply in the different situations that you encounter, versus changing your principles to fit the situation, to satisfy your personal selfishness.
The United States Government is not principled: it is not ethical. It pretends to be the leading light of freedom, but this is a farce. US leaders change government policy to fit the situation, really, to satisfy their own personal objectives. These objectives in turn reflect the desires of their supporters, for the most part corporate supporters, who provide their campaign funding. Because of this connection US policy is not devoted to such goals as freedom, and equality, and the better world their widespread adoption would create. It is rarely even tailored to meet the more immediate needs of ordinary Americans.
Ethical principles are also regularly sacrificed to meet the needs of “geopolitics,” meaning – for the US and other democracies – that they will work with one dictatorial system to gain power over another, and then change their allegiance when a new opportunity presents itself. The US in particular has a long-standing policy, which is perhaps more active now than ever before, to cooperate, even conspire, with political dictatorships around the world if it has the potential to serve US interests (or, more accurately, the interests of US politicians).
The world at present is permeated with dictatorial systems, which are growing in power, and which the US refuses to confront. Indeed, under President Bush the US government is rapidly becoming a dictatorship itself, over all the people of America and all other nations, and also over the planetary ecology and all other forms of life.
Washington and Jefferson would be appalled at the depths to which America has sunk. The Tories have won. It took two hundred years, but it appears that the War for Independence, and the deeper war for equality and human rights on which it was based, were not conclusively decided. The Tories came back, insidiously, and now they have the power.
The main loci of political dictatorship around the world are Asian authoritarianism, of which China is the bulwark; Islamic theocracy, with its foundation in Saudi Arabia; and traditional tribal conflicts and dominations in Africa. In the Americas dictatorship also survives in isolated locations such as Cuba, although there is the potential for widespread resurgence beginning in such nations as Venezuela and Columbia.
China last year announced that it would always be a communist one party state, i.e., a dictatorship. Around Asia most nations are openly dictatorial, and increasingly accepted as legitimate in this form by the West. Islamist ideology is also growing in power – it has been given great impetus by Osama bin Laden and September 11, 2001 – leading to the call for more Islamic regimes and the installation of Islamic law (sharia), including in such countries as Nigeria, Malaysia and Indonesia. And, virtually all Islamic states, beginning with Saudi Arabia, remain committed to dictatorship: to rule by monarchs and mullahs, the repression of women, etc. Some would say that the religion itself is flawed, because it has an ineluctable connection to violence. The call for Jihad against infidels – unbelievers – can never be renounced since it came directly from God via the Prophet. And, for Africa, the division by the colonial powers of the continent using arbitrary national borders, thereby combining groups with long histories of conflict, guarantees that it will not soon achieve peace.
Building on this is the evolution that is occurring in social dictatorship, where power is shifting from traditional political and religious forms to modern economic ones. Multinational corporations and other economic entities, i.e., financial and supranational, are ascending in power and as they do they are reinforcing such historical structures. This is because political dictatorship represents their ideal operating environment. For corporations, they need only pay the requisite bribes and market monopolies are theirs for the asking, and, they can avoid all the social and environmental costs of their actions.
Of course, even with this change many deeper or systemic patterns still hold. Men still wield power over women; the rich over the poor; and the well-educated over the not well-educated.
Lastly, we have yet to see, through action (rather than just words), widespread adoption of a more benevolent attitude by humanity towards nature, to signal, finally, the end of our dictatorship over all other species of life. (This dictatorship continues in part because the modern economic system is predicated on massive exploitation and destruction of natural habitat.)
To recall terrorism, it is worth asking the question: what is a terrorist? One would suppose that it is someone who causes others to fear for their lives. If we were able to ask, what do you think other species would say about George Bush, (un-elected) head of the most powerful and influential country in the world, who opposes all new efforts to help them and who is rolling back the few protections that they have, which steps will certainly lead to their continued, wholesale, slaughter? Their blood would run cold. Terror would be a very apt word to describe their reaction. Furthermore, Bush’s own links to big business start with the energy industry, which along with the other extractive industries, including timber, mining and ranching, are the leading environmental terrorists on the planet. (Bush is also, of course, a rancher himself.)
As this suggests, there are all manner of linkages between the various dictatorial systems. For instance, the West, including the US and Europe, is appeasing China, such as through allowing it into the World Trade Organization and by awarding it the 2008 Olympics. In the process its many, many crimes, of the widest variety imaginable, have been overlooked. Western democracies have bowed to the demands of their corporations, to facilitate trade, which trade in turn funds the Chinese dictatorship, most importantly the military on which it is based. This makes it even more entrenched. (Instead of opposing it, we are assisting it.) China in turn funds and arms Pakistan (among many other dictatorial states, including North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Serbia under Milosevic), which itself arms the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, and Kashmiri militants, who then attack the US, India and elsewhere. China also funds and arms Burma, which represses its people, supplies the world with heroin and methamphetamines, and grants safe haven to Pakistani nuclear experts who support bin Laden.
How can we so quickly have forgotten the price of appeasement: the lesson of Chamberlain and Hitler?
China is taking great steps to extend its imperial domain, and these steps – together with its increasing legitimacy – will doom the nations of Asia, starting with Tibet and excluding perhaps only India, to perpetual dictatorship. Such nations will never be able to escape the power of such a strong regional influence. China is also building an arsenal of nuclear-armed missiles that will be able to reach the United States, not to mention Taiwan. But this may be exactly what politicians such as President Bush want. They want a new Cold War (another war!). Rather than confront China now, and work to transform it to a democracy and eliminate this threat, they defer and allow the threat to increase. This will ensure that there is no effective opposition to funding a Star Wars program, and a larger and larger military, and also to such things as internal security measures that infringe civil liberties (“Homeland Security”). Knowingly or unknowingly, by following such a policy they are working to build the world envisioned in Orwell’s 1984, with regional powers forever at war with each other, not for the purposes of conquest but as a means to create and justify repression at home.
The driving force that is ultimately behind all of this is the world of business, starting with the arms industry. Companies have established partnerships with the greatest political criminals history has ever seen (such as the businesses that worked for Hitler and Nazi Germany). The blood on the hands of the latter is money in the bank for the former. Contemporary links of this nature include Bush’s father, the former President, who was also at one point ambassador to China (and head of the CIA) and who is now a principal of the Carlyle Group, a leading investor in the country; and Vice President Cheney, the former CEO of Halliburton, which is active in Burma. Another company active in Burma is Unocal, which also had well developed plans to work with the Taleban in Afghanistan. But it is not only heavy industry that supports and funds political dictatorships. All manner of corporations actively solicit them. For example, Rupert Murdoch, who heads News Corp., one of the largest media conglomerates in the world, has extensive commercial interests in China and, at least in the past, has censored from his media negative accounts of the dictatorship. What we are experiencing is a new type of cabal: the leaders of nominally democratic nations are in bed with political dictators, major corporations, and supposed media watchdogs.
It has to be stopped, and since our leaders cannot be trusted, since our social checks and balances have failed, we, the ordinary people of the world, are going to have to do it. Even though individuals such as the current US President will come and go, there is no chance that this will lead to real improvement. This is because the system itself is flawed. It is this system, which selects and grooms our leaders and instills in them the ideology of oppression, that we must fight.
Said another way, our system of self-rule must be real self-rule, in other words, a direct democracy. And, we must use our voices to speak for those who in our political system have none, for all the species of the natural world.
The time to end dictatorship has come. Indeed, if we are not able to reverse the current trend, the developing supremacy of corporations over government, we may lose what small chance of success remains. It is not an overstatement to say that we are at the turning point in history. Homo sapiens may implode, and take all other species with it, or we can confront our problems and build something truly new. We must create a discontinuity: throw off what we have and who we are, and change. Now is the time to exceed our grasp.
The only solution is a mass, and voluntary, opting-out of the current system, and this in turn requires efforts to counter the brainwashing to which we are all exposed. We can start with identification: we must increase our accuracy thereof. When leaders are unethical they become dictators. They may not be recognized or named as such, but that’s what they are. It is not Chinese President Jiang Zemin, but Dictator Jiang Zemin (and also Mass Murderer Jiang Zemin). Similarly, it is not President Musharraf of Pakistan, or Prime Minister Mahathir of Malaysia, but Dictator. We also have Dictator Gates and Dictator Murdoch (and before them such individuals as Dictator Rockefeller), not to mention the anonymous dictators of the advertising industry. Then there is Dictator John Paul, and the Dictators – the sheiks and mullahs – of Saudi Arabia.
We must also better identify, or understand, ourselves. You will have to decide which side of history you are on. To repeat: are you part of the solution or part of the problem?
- If you believe humans have more rights than other species, you are part of the problem.
- If you accept without questioning what you are told, you are part of the problem. (This statement includes this letter: you should question everything.)
- If you believe the answer to every economic difficulty is to consume more, you are part of the problem.
- If you live in a sprawl house, you are part of the problem.
- If you are not seriously considering not having children, you are part of the problem.
- If you judge other people on the basis of characteristics that they cannot help having, rather than on their behavior as individuals, you are part of the problem.
- If you accept the status quo, if you do not actively oppose the wrongs that you see around you, you are part of the problem.
- If you yourself do wrong, if you lie and cheat and abuse and steal, you are part of the problem.
And so on and so on.
September 11th was a great tragedy, the latest in a long line of heart-wrenching traumas. There is no better way to honor the dead, from all such events, than to confront and defeat the parties responsible. But, there is no easy answer to, or even understanding of, such acts and conflict. Furthermore, political and media commentary and, subsequently, public opinion, always centers on the most superficial of appraisals. However, at any point in time, and certainly following a disaster of this magnitude, there is the possibility to dig deeper and go after the source.
An alternative view is that September 11th resulted from the clash of two dictatorial systems: Islamic extremism; and unregulated global capitalism and its assault on all traditional cultures and values, with the US as the leading proponent thereof. The specific justification that was given, which obscured this deeper phenomenon, was America’s unquestioning support of Israel over Palestine, where it finances and arms one side in a long-standing conflict even though both sides have legitimate concerns and have committed grievous wrongs.
(This support must be opposed, but not through murder! This is an example of the aforementioned discrimination, of the ability to recognize subtle distinctions. It is unacceptable to use unethical means to achieve an ethical end, in this case the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people.)
Prior to September 11th the US public was asleep. It had been lulled by the “news and entertainment” it is offered, actually, force-fed, and more deeply by self-deception: a desire not to know (including to be ignorant of the effects of US foreign policy and the globalization of capitalism). Periodically, though, such slumber is disturbed. The outside world intrudes through an event that it is not possible to ignore.
Unfortunately, the shock of Sept 11th, the opportunity it represented, was not grasped. In other words, the victims died in vain. The event was manipulated to reinforce existing power structures. It was insufficient to instigate the general public to rise up and overthrow them.
More generally, the wars against terrorism, drugs, crime, and poverty are phony wars. They do not address the real problems. And, they have been publicized and politicized and through this structured to serve other purposes. They are not even being fought with victory as the goal (as if victory were possible).
Ultimately, what is at stake in our current predicament, the crossroads or turning point that we now face, is our deepest nature. Homo sapiens, like all other species, is motivated by selfishness. But given the abilities we have developed this selfishness has been magnified one million-fold to the detriment of everything, including ourselves. We must leave this form behind. While it is true that you will always, as an individual, think “your” thoughts, it is not true that they must always be of yourself, of what “you” want. Evolution demonstrates one truth: one must change – adapt – or die. Through actions, not only words, we must strive to evolve, to create a new post-human species, one with the governing ethic of selflessness, not selfishness, and cooperation, not competition.
More precisely, humanity is a species in transition. However, our entire social architecture is designed to hold us back.
- We have been indoctrinated to have faith in superstition and legend, when reason can and does show a better way to live (and purpose for living).
- We have been taught that political power should not be inherited, but persuaded that this is acceptable for economic power. Through this we have been deceived, since the one grants the other.
- We have been manipulated to become slaves to technology and to worship the belief that it will lead us forward, technology that is pursued solely as a means to earn profits. As a consequence, we have failed to recognize that such subservience to selfishness is in direct opposition to the evolution in ethics that is guided by our reason, and brain development.
Indeed, our entire social structure functions to serve one end – selfishness, and through this inequality, which reason tells us is the exact opposite of that for which we should strive.
In summary, humanity is now facing challenges that are more severe than any we have previously encountered (and which are also of our own making). Even worse, our prospects are slim. The forces of dictatorship have already amassed such great power that they are approaching invincibility. Still, our responsibility for life, for the future of the Earth (and to correct our own mistakes), demands that we try. Therefore, once again, you should ask yourself: which side are you on? For all individuals and groups who choose to be part of the solution, the time has come. We must marshal our resources and energy, and courage. We must work together, spread the word, and organize.
Life is the will to think and the courage to act, including for others. Now is the time to prove that we are alive.
for Dictator Watch
25 December 2002
Note: We are seeking endorsements for this letter, from individuals and groups. If you agree with its sentiments, if you yourself intend to work for what is right, please send us an endorsement at email@example.com
. (We would also like to hear from you if you disagree.) Please post the letter on any lists to which you belong, and forward it to your friends and family and other like-minded individuals. Lastly, if you can translate it to another language, please do so and then forward a copy to us. Thanks.