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In 1976 René Goscinny wrote a script for his instalment of Asterix “Obelix and Co.” which turned out to be one of the best studies of neoliberal capitalism and the reasons for its failure. In short, tired of getting defeated by the pugnacious magic potion drinking Gauls who refuse to abide by the authority of the Roman Empire (the action is in 50 BC) Julius Caesar sends a young envoy called Caius Preposterous fresh out of the Latin School of Economics (a caricature of Jacques Chirac, one of the pillars of the advancing neoliberal agenda at that time) to corrupt the Gauls with money, competition and consumerism in order to bring them to the same level of decadence of the Roman Empire. Predictably the plan eventually backfires creating crippling debt for Rome and the Gauls return to their preferred lifestyle based on self-determination and community values.
This story seems to be a perfect allegory of the Trump-Kushner plan for “peace” in the Middle East with its assumption that the Palestinians will jump at the opportunity to have a bit of material comfort even if the occupation continues, Israel goes on curtailing their rights and denying them their own state. We must also remember that the plan is presented after Trump declared all of Jerusalem the capital of Israel and UNRWA (UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees) as well as USAID funding for Gaza and the West Bank programmes have been dramatically reduced by the Trump administration.
The “Deal of the Century” as it was trumpeted before the Bahrain meeting consists of getting $50 billion from some Arab countries and invest them in private sector development in the West Bank and Gaza, also some in surrounding countries with Palestinian refugees, but without any political liberalisation or lifting of travel restrictions for the Palestinians, without halting Israeli settlements and certainly without even hinting at an eventual two states solution. Unsurprisingly the plan was harshly criticised by Palestinians and just about everyone with a bit of common sense, humanity and decency.
The parallels between Caius Preposterous and Jared Kushner are striking. They both treat those they pretend to help with contempt, they both undertake with arrogance a complex task mired by previous disastrous attempts at finding a solution and both believe in quasi delusional manner in Money as the only meaning in life and instrument for transformation. They are also equally blind to the obvious shortfalls of their simplistic schemes, fascinated by the self-aggrandisement they believe would bring their success.
The Myth of Money
Each epoch and society has a dominant Myth, a nucleus of belief that gives general direction to the whole. For ancient Egypt was the afterlife linked to the Pharaoh’s immortality, in the Renaissance and ensuing Positivism the great Myth was Human Knowledge and we are living today with the Myth of Money.
In Silo’s words: “This is the great universal truth: Money is everything. Money is government, money is law, money is power. Money is basically sustenance, but more than this it is art, it is philosophy, it is religion. Nothing is done without money, nothing is possible without money. There are no personal relationships without money, there is no intimacy without money. Even peaceful solitude depends on money. But our relationship with this “universal truth” is contradictory. Most people do not like this state of affairs. And so we find ourselves subject to the tyranny of money—a tyranny that is not abstract, for it has a name, representatives, agents, and well-established procedures. Today, we are no longer dealing with feudal economies, national industries, or even regional interests. Today, the question is how the surviving economic forms will accommodate to the new dictates of international finance capital. Nothing escapes, as capital worldwide continues to concentrate in ever fewer hands—until even the nation state depends for its survival on credit and loans. All must beg for investment and provide guarantees that give the banking system the ultimate say in decisions. The time is fast approaching when even companies themselves, when every rural area as well as every city, will all be the undisputed property of the banking system. The time of the parastate is coming, a time in which the old order will be swept away. At the same time, the traditional bonds of solidarity that once joined people together are fast dissolving. We are witnessing the disintegration of the social fabric, and in its place find millions of isolated human beings living disconnected lives, indifferent to each other despite their common suffering. Big capital dominates not only our objectivity, through its control of the means of production, but also our subjectivity, through its control of the means of communication and information.
Under these conditions, those who control capital have the power and technology to do as they please with both our material and our human resources. They deplete irreplaceable natural resources and act with growing disregard for the human being. And just as they have drained everything from companies, industries, and whole governments, so have they deprived even science of its meaning—reducing it to technologies used to generate poverty, destruction, and unemployment.”
Eduardo Galeano added, referring to wars: “Nobody has the honesty to acknowledge: I kill in order to steal”. Conflict is always justified with high ideals, but it is always about resources.
When confronted with the apparent solidity of the present system it is important to remind ourselves that it rests purely and simply on a belief, and if that belief were to change, for instance, replaced by the awareness of the evolutionary potential of human consciousness, the gurus and high priests of the religion of Money, with its Banks as places of worship and the incontestable dogma of the “free” market capitalism, would all lose its grip on our planetary civilisation.
The (literally) green shoots of the new stage are in evidence, albeit still unable to show themselves fully due to restrictions imposed by the dominant Media in the hands of Big Capital. But the new generations going on school strikes and massive demos under the banner “Change the system, not the Climate” cannot be ignored. They demand not only the end of fossil fuels induced Climate change and killer pollution, but also solidarity and the end of inequality. So powerful is their message that many corporations feel the need to give themselves a “greenwash” whilst in reality they still believe in Money and therefore they continue to pollute for profit. These kids need all the encouragement we can give them as their consciousness is taking a great leap, and the forces of anti-humanism will do their very best to provide all kinds of slumber-inducing pathways to distract them from their struggle.
The Kushner-Preposterous analogy also shows well the path to overcoming conflict, the Israel-Palestine conflict, any conflict. When the Gauls realise that luxury and self-importance are meaningless they go back to their community, solidarity, self-determination. The joint projects created by Israelis and Palestinians to coexist peacefully and to resist oppression together with Active Nonviolence are doing precisely that, even when treated as traitors, because there is nothing stronger than the awareness growing in one’s own consciousness that something great, something unstoppable within ourselves is opening the future.