Thursday, July 19, 2007

Special Edition: Words of Power Interviews John Perkins -- Ask Yourself Four Essential Questions

Secret History of the American Empire

"I consider myself a true and loyal American. This too contributed to my rage. My ancestors fought in the Revolution and most other US wars. My family was predominanntly conservative Republican. Having cut my literary eye-teeth on Paine and Jefferson, I thought a convervative was someone who believed in the founding ideals of our country, justice and equality for all; I was angered by the betrayal of these ideals in Vietnam and by the oil company-Washington collusion that I was destroying the Amazon and enslaving its people." John Perkins, Secret History of the American Empire

Special Edition: Words of Power Interviews John Perkins -- Ask Yourself Four Essential Questions

By Richard Power

Bush and Cheney, as offensive as they are to many of us -- left, right and center -- did not emerge suddenly, as if from nowhere. They did not amass such power, with so much impunity and hubris, over night. Bush and Cheney, and the Cult formerly known as the Republican Party are the end result of granting corporations the rights of human individuals and declaring that money is free speech. These two delusional notions have led us into a hell realm here in the USA. And getting out of it demands real change inside of ourselves especially, as well as in how we grow our culture, and the way we do business.

Just as you cannot understand the political reality in the USA, without understanding the corporate reality, you cannot change the political reality in the USA, without changing the corporate reality.

That's why it is so vital that John Perkins' voice be heard.

Two years ago, after over a decade of briefing executives, and leading security training in over thirty countries, I found myself living off the grid and becoming active as a citizen journalist. The choice was sudden, stark and rooted in spiritual, political and psychological imperatives. Life was too short. I was finished talking to people who didn't want to deal with the implications of Rita and Katrina six months before they hit, or bird flu in Indonesia six months before it broke out, or terror attacks in Mumbai, Istanbul and Madrid six months before the carnage. My eyes were open, and I could not tolerate those who allowed their fixation on the bottom line to blind them to the reality that the bottom line was being erased. Climate change, religious extremism, corporatism, over population, peak oil and other factors were contributing to a 21st Century Crisis of Security, Sustainability and Spirit. I had to be part of the solution instead of pretending I wasn't part of the problem.

A wise friend of mine in Beltwayistan kept saying, "You have to read Economic Hit Man." When I finally did, it answered that disturbing question, "what is wrong with this picture?" It confirmed my suspicions and corroborated my own experience.

John Perkins, author of Economic Hit Man, has come out with an important follow-up, Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals and the Truth about Global Corruption (Buy it at Buzzflash!) In it, he tells the stories of other men and women, who worked as economic hit men and jackals in the drive to empire. And it does, as David C. Korten remarks, evoke Graham Greene.

But even though Perkins' illuminates the dark despair that our corporate culture is in deep denial about, he also highlights great hope, as in this extraordinary passage:

"The last two people in line were four men: two wore business suits and ties and two, who were much younger, were dressed in blue jeans and polo shirts. The older men handed me their World Bank business cards. One of the younger men spoke up. "Our fathers gave us permission to tell you this," he said. "We've watched them go off to work every morning at the Bank dressed ..." -- he pointed at them -- "like this. But when protesters congregate here in Washington to demonstrate against the Bank, our fathers join them. We watch them go incognito, wearing old clothes, baseball caps, and sunglasses to support those people because they believe they are -- and you are -- right."
Both of the older men shook my hand vigorously. "We need more whistle-blowers like you," one of them said.

Yes, there is hope, and there is still time, even now.

In Secret History of the American Empire, Perkins asks four essential questions:

Are we in a position where we can actually hope to effect change?

Are we certain that we want change?

Is there a unifying principle that will validate our efforts?

What can we each do?

Here is a Words of Power interview with John Perkins:

Words of Power: The first question comes out of my own experience not too dissimilar from yours. Professionally, I spent the 1990s working in high profile position, I had lots of media exposure, I testified before the US Senate, I was working with the FBI and other government agencies on important security issues related to cyber crime and economic espionage. Politically, I spent the 1990s as a Clintonista --- NAFTA? Fix it later. GATT? Fix it later. Telecommunications Act? Fix it later (and Gore might have) -- just thwart Gingrich and Starr at all costs. Then 2000 came, and there was no chance to fix it later. Indeed, we were being dragged off into an alternative timeline in some nightmare parallel universe. I fled my role which would have put me too close to the new administration, and went to work in the corridors of corporate power. Soon, I realize I was working for the kind of men (yes, mostly men) who were fueling the machine that had taken over our government (both sides of the aisles). Still, I tried to do my job. I briefed people on climate change, and how flawed the so-called "war on terrorism" really was, and how much trouble would come for us all if Iraq was invaded and the Middle East was destabilized. The political commissars don't like that sort of talk. My position became uncomfortable. I chose to leave and write and speak out on my own. Consequently, my income decreased by several digits -- but I can sleep at night. My question is what is your advice to others who like yourself, or me more recently, find themselves waking up inside the corportocracy, and now see the world clearly, and have no inclination to deny what they see? Should they walk away? Should they stay in and fight? What is your advice? What is your warning? What is your counsel?

John Perkins: A long list of things we all can do is included in "Secret History." Don't buy sweatshop-made goods, conserve energy, support organizations that are fighting to create better social, environmental, and economic conditions, etc. . .Most importantly we must each follow our individual passions and use our talents to create a sustainable, stable, and peaceful world. My passion is writing and hopefully I have some talent for doing that. Whatever your background and experience, you have passion and skills. You and I can take different paths -- but we should work together to reach this common objective: a sustainable, stable, peaceful world for us and future generations.

Words of Power: One of the main issues I have written about over the last seven years has been the depraved state of the US mainstream news media, its failures to perform its vital role of truth-telling about war, corruption, hypocrisy, militarism, corporatism in Beltwayistan (that's what I call DC). We know this complicity is the result of monopolization and the corporatist stranglehold on news departments. The lack of truth-telling is not a conspiracy, it is achieved by simply by the imposition of corporate culture and budget-cutting. I am curious to hear your thoughts on the role of US mainstream news media, in general, and on how they have dealt with. or ignored your story, in particular? Is your new book getting the attention it deserves? I doubt it.

John Perkins: I have been largely ignored by the mainstream press. Most of the media is either owned outright by big corporations or supported through their ads. They don't want their readers and listeners to hear my message. However, despite this, "Confessions" is in its 63rd week on the New York Times bestseller list (#22 this week) and "Secret History" hit the list after its 5th day in publication. People want to learn the truth and they want to understand the opportunities for creating a better world. The "alternative" media and the Internet are very powerful.

Words of Power: Both of our lives have been touched by the way of the shaman, and the wisdom of indigenous cultures. No one who has gone to Uluru or Machu Picchu or Uxmal with an open heart can remain the same. No one who has slept in a rainforest or eaten off a leaf in a shack can remain the same. No one who has heard the rattle or smelled the sage can remain the same. Tell us what indigenous cultures offer the industrial and post-industrial societies? And is there a way to integrate that wisdom without losing the technological progress, and yes, some social and scientific progress? Can we have the best of both worlds? Or are we so lost we are going to have to choose?

John Perkins: It would take a book or two to really address this issue. Let me just say that, for me, indigenous cultures have shown that when people are motivated to change, we can make it happen very quickly. Today, the world we know is threatened. Any good shaman recognizes that he or she can and must turn this around. "Secret History" is devoted to shapeshifting us out of a self-destructive empire and into a sustainable, stable, and peaceful world. We have all the resources we need to make this happen.

Words of Power: Once the veils have been ripped away from one's eyes, it is difficult to know what to trust and what to turn away from. What are your thoughts on the IMF and the World Bank? Are these institutions redeemable? Are they functioning for the good at least in part? What do you feel about Bill Clinton's Global Initiative? Or the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, e.g., the funding of Kofi Anna's Green Revolution project in Africa? What would you like to say about the UN Millennium Development Goals? Is it a worthy focus for people wanting to make a difference in the world? I guess the general question is what global institutions if any are working or are redeemable and can be worked through? Where, how do we begin to turn this all around?

John Perkins: Thousands of good people work for these institutions. None of the ones I know personally -- and none of the CEOs I have met -- want global warming, to see Florida covered by the ocean, or witness the destruction of the world's forests. But all these people operate under the assumption that the bottom line rules: windfall profits for stockholders. We must convince ourselve and them that there is a more important goal and that our very survival as a species in a world we recognize depends upon achieving that goal of a sustainable, stable, and peaceful world.

Words of Power: What is the most important message you want people to take away from this book? What are the key points you want to impress on your readers? What is the truth you are telling and what do you encourage people to do?

John Perkins: We should take great hope from the ways we've turned corporations and governments around in the recent past -- as itemized in "Secret History." Now we must take that to new levels. Rather than focusing on specifics, such as cleaning up rivers, getting trans-fats out of fast-foods, and installing air bags in our cars, we must persuade our leaders to set a single overriding goal of creating a world our grandchildren will be proud to inherit.

Other Words of Power Interviews

SPECIAL EDITION: Words of Power Interviews George Lakoff on Impeachment, 2008, the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and Progressive Think Tanks

SPECIAL EDITION: US V. Bush, The Indictment Has Been Written, Words of Power Interviews Elizabeth de la Vega

SPECIAL EDITION: Words of Power Interviews Nomi Prins, Author of "Jacked: How 'Conservatives' are Picking Your Pocket

SPECIAL EDITION: Generation Debt -- Why Now Is A Terrible Time To Be Young, Words of Power Interviews Anya Kamenetz

SPECIAL EDITION: "The More Nefarious Form of Corruption is That Which is Legal" -- Words of Power Interviews David Sirota

SPECIAL EDITION: "Until this issue is burning on the mind of every citizen" -- Words of Power Interviews Mark Crispin Miller

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