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Facing Reality

You don’t have to read this chapter. For many people dealing with their lives is difficult enough. Following the three tenets of Zandtao will help you with that life, and equip you with the personal strength to cope. It is not necessary to confront the reality and suffering on this earth with all its horror, but by facing reality it brings home certain lessons that can then lead to improved life. In chapter 18 I begin to evaluate democracy, why not just go there now? You won’t miss any learning from the treatise as the approach can be understood without facing reality. Go to chapter 18, Evaluating Democracy now.

You are still here? I am not going to pull punches and it is not pretty.

To begin with I want to describe a glitch in the social fabric that occurred in Thailand (Oct 2010), note I describe it as a glitch. There have been floods – portrayed as a natural disaster. This disaster has led to the government declaring a 5-day holiday for government workers in Bangkok. Whilst this is a pleasant palliative for some it does not solve the problem. Whilst it has stopped raining the flood waters are still rising. Factories are closing, electricity is off in places so the ATM’s are not working, and generally normal life has been severely depleted. At the same time districts far from Bangkok have had their livelihood affected. Prawn farms 200 km away have closed because the factories are not buying. There will be knock-on affects which I will feel as increased prices but they will affect ordinary Thai working people far more.

Above I parenthesised “portrayed as a natural disaster”, these floods would better be described as an accumulation of disasters. They claim that the rains have been the worst in 50 years, I don’t know – they might be right. Where I live in Eastern Thailand the rains have appeared no different. There is a river, not the Chao Praya, that flows through my town and it has overflowed its banks a little when the rains were excessive – a not unusual occurrence. Now the government has to maintain that the rain has been the worst for 50 years so they can blame the natural disaster. They might even have some proof of this, and there might be well-known scientists who have attested to this, but can you believe them when it is in their vested interest to blame other than the ruling 1% of Thailand?

Heavy rains are obviously a factor but nature has survived in Thailand through heavy rains. Are these rains increasing? That might be a question to ask when you consider climate change and global warming? Being a less powerful country Thailand is not able to affect the causes of global warming, but the possibility that the rains are increasing needs to affect their environmental policies to cater for the affects of increased rain; as yet they haven’t done that. You might consider that short-sighted but when you consider further aspects of short-sighted behaviour that pales into insignificance.

The first issue to consider is deforestation. There are major forest areas in the North of Thailand, and rich landowners have been cutting down trees. At the same time many of Thailand’s poor live in these regions so they have also been cutting down trees. Over the last few years there has been civil unrest amongst these poor to make the government aware of their problems but the government appears to have done nothing. In the past the forests protected the worst of the flooding that came down from the North.

But this is not the worst of the problems. The main river that leads into Bangkok is the Chao Praya river, and it flows down from the North. It is near this river that all the flooding problems are occurring. Around this river are beautiful places to live so many rich Thais, and not so rich, have bought land and built houses. Often this has required landfill including tributaries and marshlands around the Chao Praya river. Ways in which flood waters from the North could escape naturally from the river have been blocked off by short-sighted development leading to a raising of the water table in Thailand and particularly the raising of the level of the Chao Praya river, rising more and more as it comes into Bangkok and outlying areas. At the same time the Chao Praya river is a commercial waterway. This has meant that discharge from the boats has accumulated in the river raising its level. This raised water level, raised by man-made stupidity, is causing flooding in Bangkok and surrounding overspill areas.

Let’s consider the overspill areas to the North of Bangkok. Again we have the issue of landfill to build housing estates etc. Where does the water go? Where did it used to go? This question has not been asked. I know of people who have lost their homes because this question was not asked.

As for Bangkok it is at the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand, it is the natural area for flood waters to flow into the sea. Has the question been asked – where do the flood waters go? Where did it used to go? They have built. Bangkok is a business and commercial centre, a shopping capital of the world, with estates of people spilling out far and wide. And for a tropical country with a monsoon climate, no-one has asked “where do the flood waters go?” The ruling 1% were concerned with their profits and environmental considerations ate into them. Blame the government is the 1% tactic. The government is called corrupt, no Thai trusts them, and the problems continue.

South of the main shopping centres of Sukhumvit and Silom there are marshlands; the new airport, Suvarnabhumi, is built on marshlands. Where did the flood waters used to go? Marhslands and out to the sea. Where can they go now? Nowhere, the water level rises. There is a highway that runs through these marshlands, known as the BangNa highway. There is talk that they are going to have to break this highway in order to allow the water to escape to the sea. I hope this works. Added to climate change this disaster is man-made, and the government needs to act to fix it. If they act it can be fixed. It will cost money. It will require a recognition by the ruling 1% that there is environmental fallout if they don’t accept that Thailand is a monsoon country. Bangkok’s 1% of rich and government have to find the money to build waterways up and down the Chao Praya river so that when the heavy rains continue next year the floods will not cause the damage.

Will Thailand’s 1% do this? I feel they will but I am not a good judge of Thailand being an outsider. One reason for calling it a glitch is that part of me believes Thailand’s 1% will do it, I hope that part is right.

But I call it a glitch because Thailand is not broken, its financial system has not been irreparably damaged. That is not what I believe concerning the global financial system dominated by the global 1% of rich financial and commercial transnational CEO’s and their puppets in the governments of the US and Europe. I am using the terminology 1%, and I need to expand on the use of that. It is a term that has gained popularity through the Occupy movement through the usage that 1% owns so much of the world’s wealth. I want to discuss this 1% and what they own, it is so important to be mindful of this reality for younger people to understand how to live life – I myself am effectively screwed and at their whims – I will explain later.

With the Occupy movement more and more people have been raising their heads a little above the parapets and recognising that so much of the world’s wealth is accumulated in the hands of a few. Names such as Rockefeller and Rothschild are bandied around, and powerful cartels such as Bildeberg and Carlyle are often spoken of as rulers of the world, often described as old white men sat in smoke-filled rooms making decisions that direct the world. Whether this is true or not, what is evidently clear is that the accumulation of wealth that is integral to the capitalist system has accumulated in the hands of a few – these 1%. That is a sufficient description of the 1% for me in this book. But it is important to take one’s analysis of this 1% so much further. These 1% live in countries with electoral democracies, and for centuries this has been the sales pitch of the 1% - blame the government we are just business. But the reality is that the governments are puppets. How can people with limited training, whose knowledge is gained on political platforms aggrandising themselves, possibly have the knowledge that can bring effective government? These people are puppets, actors, placed in power by the 1% under the sham of an electoral democracy. In America this is obvious. A politician requires campaign funds to run for office, who pays? Business. Why? Because when they are in office, they will make laws and regulations that will benefit business, and they will ensure that the remaining 99% toe the line. Usually such a contrast is not clearly seen, but with Occupy it has become obvious – as it was in the Arab Spring. The police have been violent to Occupiers. Why? Have the Occupiers broken laws? No they occupy space in public areas and demonstrate – recognised human rights. But these people are peaceful yet the police are attacking them. This is because we do not live in a democracy, and the police are there to protect the 1% and their system.

Should we be surprised at this? I suggest not. Look at western history, I speak of western history because that is where the 1% reside. Western history begins in Europe where there were feudal kings. They owned the land and the wealth, they were the 1% of the time. They employed the 99% as serfs and soldiers – soldiers to defend but also to accumulate more land for the kings. As technology developed the 1% as royalty sent fleets outside their countries. Most significantly this began with Spanish royalty as they raided Latin America for gold and brought it back to Europe [B1].Once the Spanish had accumulated Latin American gold, the British started a war ostensibly a religious war but primarily to accumulate this gold. Soon the British had accumulated this gold, and they used this gold to expand their empire into Africa. And How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is expertly described in Walter Rodney’s book [B2] through exploitation of its natural resources and its people as slaves.

Within the 1% all was not always constant, and in the UK the kings were replaced by business people and bankers. These new 1% then became the founders of the US. The US and Europe has always had its 1%, it is just over time their constituent identity has changed marginally; in the UK the 1% is still a mixture of the corporatocracy and aristocracy.

Now significant in the later stages of this 1% has been the power of the bankers. As the British gained wealth through gold this gold became the basis on which the bankers gained their own wealth. They promoted the expansion of the British fleet which then appropriated through unfair trade practices. Initially British wealth was just based on theft as in the case of the gold from Latin America. From then their fleets invaded throughout the world, most notably Africa whose societies were more advanced but their weaponry lacking gunpowder left them easy targets for these westerners leading to the underdevelopment Rodney described [B2].

It is the increasing role of the bankers that is the frightening development I want to focus on, because it is the instability of the financial system that is most threatening. This banking system is out of control, and because it is we are all under threat – the whole of society. What is the financial system based on? To begin with it was based on barter, we traded goods. Then money was used to represent goods to facilitate trading, and to enable the trade in skills such as paying for a teacher or plumber. The development of money is where the problem started but only because it allowed the greedy to become greedy. Trade is finite so therefore money needs to be finite – sustainable. They introduced the gold standard, and so we could have the finite amount of money that could buy stocks of gold. Whilst this system had flaws as gold is of no tradable value in itself (what can you use gold for?), it was workable because people always wanted to buy gold.

But then the 1% running the bankers got greedy, got addicted to power and profits. Now a bank makes its profit by lending money and getting interest from the loan. So a bank’s profits are limited by the amount of money they lend. They wanted to lend more – to make more profit, but they didn’t have more to lend. So to get more profit they lent more than they had. This meant that the total amount of assets that was in society could not be reclaimed. Now of course these assets were tied up in assets of other forms than money such as property, so whilst the extra money the banks had loaned – created – was low, the economy was not in danger. Up until the 1970’s the amount of money that could be loaned was regulated by the government, in other words the 1% were not that greedy and regulated themselves to keep the economy stable. But under Reagan, Thatcher and subsequent governments this regulation began to disappear and the banks lent more and more of the money that they didn’t have.

In 2008 the first recent (2012) crash occurred when people realised that the hedge funds they were trading was based on sub-prime loans to people who couldn’t pay. So they lost huge amounts of money on these funds, and some banks closed. The banks then got the government to give them bailout money ostensibly to stabilise the economy and get people jobs, but instead they changed the way they were trading to ensure they were profitable and paid out big bonuses. Meanwhile the people did not have jobs, were losing their homes, and could not pay medical expenses.

This is what started the Occupy movement in the US even though there have been similar struggles earlier – Spain, Greece, Argentina, and of course the Arab Spring.

Basically the world has lost confidence in the banking system, and that is what is so frightening. This fear was started by recognising the shysters creating the sub-prime loans, but then more and more people are realising that the economic system is built on a deck of cards that is equally liable to collapse.

Let us consider my own life. I have some savings and a pension coming. Under the current cost of living and if the pension payments come as they are supposed to, I can live comfortably until I die. This savings represents money that I have forcibly paid into a pension scheme whilst working, and other money that I have saved from working. Some went into funds but I got burnt by one properties fund in 2008 and all my money is in bank accounts. But my money is primarily built on my labour – working for 35 years. Now the assets of Rockefeller are probably at least a million times more than mine. If there was a run on the bank being the rich and powerful he would get his money first and by the time it came to my turn there would be nothing left. I am of pensionable age, and would be forced to work again. In other words living and working responsibly compromising with the system throughout, yet I still cannot be sure of a deserved retirement. When this realisation hits you, you know the system is broken. For me there is nothing to do but hope that it doesn’t collapse around me and that I am then forced to make a living with skills I don’t possess. I am a maths teacher, what use is that in an economy that does not have money. When you compare this possibility with the glitch that is flooding in Thailand, you can see that the possible future is far more daunting.

Now let us suppose that the 1% know they have a problem and want to fix it, can they? What is at the basis of the problem? There is more money than there are assets. Who has this money? We all do but there is a big difference in the way we gained that money. My money was earned over 35 years by being paid for my labour. The Big Rich guy has gained his money by trading on the stock markets in money that was not based on assets but created money from the banks. Big Rich has 1,000,000 times as much money as me, but I need the amount of money I have with my pension to survive my days. For Big Rich to get his money 1,000,000 people don’t get theirs. But Big Rich is of the 1% so he tells the government to take it from the people. But more and more people are saying that the 1% should pay. You have conflict. What might be a resolution is for all people to agree they have a certain amount to live off – all people equal, Big Rich says no. What if we say that all people have 50%. If I have 50% I might survive with a reduced standard of living but Big Rich has far more than he deserves and doesn’t need it. It is simply false money in a bank account. I would resent it. But is Big Rich going to give up half? There is no resolution and a financial clash is inevitable, and the more people who are aware of it the more it is likely to happen. But then young people need to know so that they can make provision for their old age.

What is left for people now? Even whilst Occupy is happening the 1% are suring up their infrastructure with free trade deals and oil pipelines. It is business as usual except that the police are being forced to overtly protect the 1% by creating violence against the Occupy encampments. The 1% are forcing confrontation because there is no other way they can maintain their way of life and profits. This greed can only destroy the fabric of society we live in, the issue is not if but when this happens. In my case it might happen in my lifetime but for the young it is likely to happen in theirs. To survive in our society the young will need different survival skills. As already explained my skills of diligence and compromise in work are not enough for the new generation– the people in #OWS.

Facing Reality Strategy:-

People cannot have confidence in the money of our economies and to survive people need to be trading in a valid currency – not one controlled by the 1%; they need a skill they can trade with or products they can make. I don’t have either, but for the young I am asking them to develop such skills in an economy that is independent of the 1%. What these skills might be and how to avert the worst ravages as society inevitably breaks down I discuss later.