Only a worldwide citizens' movement can reverse the rising crisis of inequality.
by Ish Theilheimer
The Marshall Plan was a turning point in modern history, enabling Western Europe to rebuild after World War II. A dramatic departure from the way victors treated the losers after World War I, the plan had bipartisan support the in the US Congress and bore US Secretary of State George Marshall’s name.
In part, the Marshall plan reflected a widely held belief that the punitive Treaty of Versailles, which required the German people to pay for war damages, led directly to World War II. Certainly, Hitler cited the deprivation and humiliation as pretext for his war.
Besides deflecting future insurrections, the Plan’s purpose was to stop the spread of communism, which it did. It also made Germany the leading force in Europe's economy again. Most importantly, there has been no war in Europe since then. Of course, the United Nations and European Union are part of that story too, but the key effects of the Plan are unprecedented and indisputable: it helped rebuild a war-devastated region, removed trade barriers, modernized industry and helped make Europe prosperous again.
We in the Global North or West – however we think of ourselves in the countries living on the legacy of colonialism — now face an urgent need to save ourselves from the hordes at the gate. Instead of arming ourselves and building fortresses, we should start with a new Marshall Plan.
While the "root causes" of terrorism may be endlessly debated, some facts are certain. Inequality is increasing on a global scale in ways that have never been seen before. The trade deals of the 1980s and deregulation of the '90s and early 21st century let capital move anywhere, leaving millions in the West unemployed and billions in the Global South exploited, with governments barely able to function, or protect them.
At the same time, violent Islamicism and demonic dictatorships have taken hold in countries around the world and threaten to spread. And the environmental crises we've been talking about for decades are taking over, as the news cycle now includes climate change, extreme weather, wildfires, food and water shortages.
Right wingers argue that fossil fuels, massive injustice, accelerating and unprecedented inequality, the legacy of the old colonial system, and the new colonialism known as "globalization" have nothing to do with the rise of violent extremist cults, sects and ideologies. It's mighty coincidental, though, that all these terrible new realities have appeared at just exactly the same time as when globalization took over.
Regardless of blame, we in the Global North or West – however we think of ourselves in the countries living on the legacy of colonialism — now face an urgent need to save ourselves from the hordes at the gate. Instead of arming ourselves and building fortresses, we should start with a new Marshall Plan.
Of course, such a Plan is hugely expensive. After WWII, a split US Congress found the money, mainly in the name of stopping communism. A new Marshall Plan would be based on doing many simple things we've known we should do for a very long time and that we know will pay off if we do them.
Today, the combined threat of widespread unemployment, violent fanaticism among people with nothing to lose, and environmental crisis could produce broad support too. Probably, though, the people will need to lead the politicians on this, demanding that capital be mobilized that will
put everyone's young people back to work;
build or rebuild infrastructure around the world with green technology — mass transit, conservation, solar, wind, organic farming — and moving away from oil;
feed, house and educate a hungry, homeless illiterate world.
Do these things and violent fanaticism will lose its appeal. Very little rocket science is involved.
Politicians will not take these steps unless a massive public movement demands the programs. The money people won't like such programs, because they requires financing, probably paid for by raising taxes the richest corporations and the billionaires -– who will resist with all their might.
Only a ground swell of public passion can force political leaders to make the changes needed to save our children and grandchildren from the hideous threats we all know are facing them.© Copyright 2013 Ish Theilheimer, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca