Saturday, September 21, 2013


2008 is already a century ago.


You do need to think again, Mr Producer and general audience. The film was produced in 2008, before the present crisis that started in 2009 and the discourse it contains is typical of that older period. Everything today has to be rethought again and again.

The film is spectacular in pictures and figures about poverty in the world but we have to be careful with these figures at times because they are spectacular but just an unfairly misrepresentation of reality. One example. It is said that the number of extremely poor people increased from 434 million in 1970 to 854 million today. This is spectacular indeed absolutely un-objective. “Today” means nothing. The DVD was copyrighted in 2010 but the film itself was copyrighted in 2008. Which date is the right one? I will then compare these figures with the world population in 1970 and in 2008 to be honest, not 2010. In 1970 the number of extreme poor people represented 11.76% of the world’s population and in 2008 it represented 12.74% of the world’s population. It did increase but a lot less spectacularly. What’s more to consider that people who have to live with less than one dollar a day as being extremely poor means little. When I was in Sri Lanka in 2005 the world UN Conference on poverty was being prepared and in Sri Lanka they did insist on the common opinion in third world countries at the time: one dollar is a lot in a village away from any big city and it is really nothing in the slums of one capital city, both in Africa. Most of the daily resources of people living in a far away agricultural area are not monetary resources and it is extremely important to know how they are evaluated into monetary terms. They should be evaluated in PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) that is absolutely different in a village in Masai country in Kenya and in the slums of the capital city Nairobi. You can easily see it if you observe an agricultural zone in Sri Lanka and Colombo, the capital city.

This spectacular use of figures is irritating after a while because we know it is absurd. What I have just said is also true in western countries. Life in a village in the mountains is a lot cheaper than life in a capital city, and what’s more you may have a garden in a village. You won’t have one in a capital city (it is exceptional to have a garden there). You may raise a couple of rabbits or chicken in a village. You won’t in a capital city if you live in an apartment block of any type for one example.

The 1492 date is fetishized. In fact it is one side of the picture. Before that date the center of maritime commerce was the Indian Ocean up to 1433, when Admiral Zheng He died and the Chinese government taken over by the Confucian mandarins banned maritime voyage and commerce. China up to 1433 was the essential player there irrigating the whole rim of that ocean with commerce and exchanges. The Portuguese had it easy when they arrived later on since they found the Indian Ocean practically deserted since the main actor in that ocean had been absent for more than two thirds of a century. I would consider 1433 as being the real turning point in the commercial architecture of the world. That does not change the fact that 1492 was the turning point in Western Europe from an entirely closed continent after the mishaps in the Middle East and the Crusades, not to speak of the Black Death plague, to an open continent initially towards the Indies, hence the Indian Ocean, and by accident towards the Americas.

Then the film is clear about the horror of this colonization but it is very frigid about details, hence once again it is spectacular about slave trade and slavery, but it is a lot less spectacular about the extermination of Indians in Mexico and in Northern America, not to speak of the West Indies. It appeals to some kind of romantic acceptation of the barbarity of European colonizers, though it is essentially if not only speaking of the Spaniards, and eventually the Portuguese. In fact the English and the French are not really considered in Northern America, though they are the only ones to have done anything there. The French and the English are only considered in Africa and Asia. Then the role of the USA is by far over-estimated even in Latin America, but it can only be considered after their revolution in 1786 and Monroe’s theory of the manifest destiny of the USA. What about between 1608 (first English settlement in Virginia) and 1786? We would have to wonder why most Latin American countries are now governed by rather anti-US left wing governments duly elected there, even in Nicaragua (whose president is the leader of the guerrilla against which the US employed all means at their disposal to prevent his winning, in vain, and then his election, in vain) and El Salvador. In fact it does not even quote the heads of the governments in countries it quotes like Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and a few others.

But the film has far more important shortcomings. Think again please. It does not speak of the BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). It does not even quote China once, nor India actually. Of course it was filmed in 2008 but China was already the big helper of underdeveloped peoples. It cannot speak of the 2009 crisis since it was made before. But this crisis has changed everything. Some in the USA were dreaming of bringing China to its knees and in fact it is the West that was brought to its knees. The debt that was and still is crushing African or Latin American or Asian countries has brought down to its knees, and at times even lower, Europe globally and in particular Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, in chronological disorder. It was discovered that Greece did not even have the basic four taxes that are required to be in the Euro-zone. It was discovered that in Greece, for one example, a minority of workers had tremendous and outrageous privileges: civil servants had eight extra vacation days if they accepted to use a computer, and that is one example. Railroad workers in France had to retire (compulsory) at 50 with of course their full pensions. These are not even privileges. These are outrageous benefits, in fact hijacked shares of added value produced by millions of people in Europe and in the world who have a lot less to live on, or in many cases to survive on if not to die on. This is not spoken of. Forbidden subject!

2008 became the beginning of the end of the domination of the world by the USA and the West. The change is radical: terrorist movements have been brought down since then: LTTE terrorism in Sri Lanka, Osama Bin Laden, the fundamentalist Iranian President, Gaddafi in Libya, various autocratic regimes in Arab countries, the Islamist movements in the Sahara are being put under control and dried out, etc. Pretty soon Corsica in France will be the last terrorist battle field in the world since even the Basque independent movement, ETA, has stopped its terrorist campaign. This video does not take into account the great change of this century already at work in 2008: we are shifting from all kinds of autocratic systems and governments to an ever wider democratic order.

The only thing on which they are right is their denunciation of neo-liberalism (note the unacceptable meaning of this word from an American point of view where “liberal” means “left-wing” and even for some “socialist”) attached to Thatcher and Reagan. The proper term should be “deregulated free market” in a market economy. They are right to expose the privatization of things like water or natural resources basic for simple survival. But in a galloping demography these natural resources have to be regulated and even properly shared, meaning finding market regulations that will not encourage waste and that will charge the bigger users. Every person has to have clean drinkable water for drinking and cooking, but why should that water be used for washing, washing up or baths? Privatization is not the solution, but the absence of regulation is just as bad. And it is here the film is most deficient. The world’s demography has to be curbed. What the Chinese edicted in the late 1970s about having to choose between having more than one child per family and being unable to develop the economy is true for the whole world and there is some improvement everywhere. I am surprised by some examples of families who have up to eight children: one case shows five children and three grandchildren. If the children were as prolific as their parents they should all have five children. It is of course absurd and it is of course not happening even in the countries where procreation is the main objective if not the only objective of marriage, like fundamentalist Christian countries and fundamentalist Islamic countries. Even in Africa the number of children is down under four and it still has to go on getting lower. Children mean poverty at all levels of society, including in the rich elite because then their fortune will have to shared and thus squandered.

The solutions that are proposed:
1- forgiving the debt;
2- changing the tax systems for taxes to fall essentially on property and not on people and wages;
3- land reform to give land to those who want to and can cultivate it;
4- ending the privatization of natural resources;
are debatable.

To renegotiate the debt is one thing. To forgive it is another thing. Third world countries have to come together to be strong enough to impose a renegotiation of their debts including how it was contracted and what for.

The BRICS countries are showing the way.

To modulate VAT (or sales tax) is one thing but to nullify it is absurd since some items this tax is imposed on are luxury items, property items, and some property items are needed for decent living, some others are not needed at all. Is a jaguar a need or a caprice?

Income tax is justified and it has to be regulated and modulated not cancelled. Then you create situations like in Greece where sooner or later the trap closes on your own feet and then you may try to impose taxes that should never have been cancelled or neglected and the task is then gigantic, herculean.

The land reform is essential but we have to be careful and not go back to a purely directly consumable food production, hence autarky. No country will be able to produce all they need. So every country has to produce something that can be exported to pay for what has to be imported. And that has been the rule since Homo Sapiens emerged in Africa. Why should it change? Once again it is the balance between the two orientations that is to be regulated and properly managed.

Privatization are not supposed to be systematic but at the same time nationalizations are not supposed to be systematic either. It is not the type of ownership that is important, but the management and regulations of the market economy, otherwise you end up with highly subsidized services and industries that do not have any incentive to improve and that sooner or later cost so much that the whole country gets into stagnation. Ask the Soviet Union and their satellites what it costs to implement to the extreme end the dogma of anti-privatization and nationalization, of anti-market economy

In fact this film does not make any difference between the market economy that has always existed in human societies and will go on existing forever in human societies, and the deregulation of this market economy that extreme capitalism brought to our planet when it imposed total deregulation and private ownership, not to speak of financial ownership of everything and speculation on everything and the rest, including your debt with sub-prime speculation. We have to fight for a regulated market economy “of the people, for the people and by the people.” The 2009 crisis and its subsequent episodes are the crisis of a deregulated market economy “of everyone, for everyone but BY only a very few.”

The worst project comes from a Frenchman, because it cannot come from anyone else. If you consider that “less than 25% of world population uses more than 80% of the planet’s resources while creating 70% of its pollution” you come to the idea that you have to punish these bad western boys and girls and that the west has to accept what this middle class cushion-protected and pillow-oriented French intellectual calls “de-growth” and even “a-growth” meaning that we in the West have to accept to see our share of the use of resources to go down for the share of the use of them by the rest of the world to go up. In relative terms that is already happening, but not in absolute terms. In the west they have to learn how to use less resources to get the same comfort, hence to save and be more effective, and in the rest of the world they have to develop their economy to produce more resources and to use these resources in the most efficient way possible.

All ideology – because it is ideology then – that will preach undressing Paul to dress Peter will be rejected by the people on Paul’s side and will not satisfy the people on Peter’s side. This will produce extreme right nationalistic movements in the west and it will produce unstable and unmanageable political institution in the rest of the world. We have to move towards a global management of the economy and the world that will balance the growth of everyone so that no one will be left on the shoulder of the road if not in the ditch. This film does not propose such a balanced approach but in fact preaches and advocates a global freezing of the use of resources and a more equal if not equalitarian redistribution of these frozen resources among people meaning less for some and more for others. That’s the best recipe for a third world war, nuclear or not, for water or whatever pother natural resource.

There would be so much more to say that this review would never end. So it’s better to stop here and now.


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