Never before have I witnessed such a clear-cut struggle for world domination. Not during the Second World War, when Hitler, Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito joined forces against Britain, the United States and their allies. Not when Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev vowed to destroy Democracy during the Cold War. And not in the ongoing struggle between Islamic extremists and Judeo-Christian civilization.
Those battles are fought with bullets and bombs, or overt political and economic strategies. The battle that I am talking about today is far more sophisticated; it is being fought with cash and “spin”. But it is just as deadly, and the stakes are just as high. It is the mortal combat between greed and decency.
And I am not referring to the obviously criminal activities of drug and arms smugglers, sex slavers and the like. It’s the “legal” looters that I worry about. Not only in the United States, where I happen to live, but also throughout the rest of the world, abuses persist – the plundering of Latin America, Asia and Africa, price fixing by global corporations, currency and stock market manipulation by the super-rich, reckless devastation of the environment in the pursuit of profit …
To me these are the forces of darkness, which – if left unchecked – will plunge the world into ruin. It is so colossal a battle that we – as individuals – might feel powerless to do anything about it. But it is a war that is fought on a multitude of fronts, some of them very local and very personal.
I am sure I don’t have to remind you of the bank bailout scandals or the Enron disaster, or all the other instances of corporate skulduggery that have filled the news in recent years. But you might not realize how widespread this plague has become. In India, for example, the head of Satyam, one of that country’s biggest software services companies, quit after admitting that its books had been cooked for the past several years to show larger profits. Ramalinga Raju’s admission sent Satyam shares plunging, dragged down the Sensex stock index and even affected the rupee.
One aspect of this global war is unfolding in the U.S. Congress, where the Obama Administration is confronting financial robber barons. For example, a bill before the Senate addresses abuses by credit card companies, and big banks are spending millions on lobbying to block it. Another bill would end the practice of providing student loans through banks (a practice that wastes approximately $5 billion a year of taxpayer money). President Obama wants the government to distribute this money directly – and save 4.9 million American families about $9 billion. As you might expect, the banks are waging a fierce battle to block this proposal, too.
I see President Obama as a standard bearer for decency in this war against the forces of greed. On a wide array of issues – health care and immigration reform, financial regulation, economic recovery, international relations, environmental protection – he is on the side of decency. And on every front, he is opposed by the forces of greed.
He may be the most conspicuous warrior in this Crusade, but he is not alone. Other world leaders are standing up to the corporate giants who seek to subvert the will of the people and preserve their bloated profits. For example, the European Competition Commission has just levied a record fine of 1.1 billion euros ($1.5 billion) on American computer chip maker Intel for anti-competitive practices. The Commission also ordered Intel to cease its illegal practices, which according to Fortune Magazine, will hurt Intel a lot more than the fine. Of course, Intel is appealing its punishment.
Battles between greed and decency are being waged everywhere. The corporate super-powers are fighting desperately to preserve their right to plunder the world’s resources at will. They are immensely powerful, but we the people are many, and if enough of us defend decency it will prevail.
One obvious tactic is to resolutely support politicians who appear to share our values. For example, voters in California, fed up with “conservative” Congresswoman Jane Harman’s support of the military-industrial complex, are mobilizing to defeat her in the 2010 Democratic primary. I hope more Democrats will rally behind “progressive” candidates and weed out conservative “Blue Dogs” who do not subscribe to the party’s ideals. This is the kind of local activism that might determine who wins the fight for world domination.