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economic justice | imperialism & war

Another World is Possible!

Globalization from above is a barbaric system impoverishing the majority of people and destroying the earth. We need another economic globalization, a globalization from below in the interests of the earth and the interests of the poorest.

Address on October 3, 2001 at the University of Hamburg

By Dorothee Soelle

[This address is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.begegnungszentrum.at/texte/usa/SoelleDUSAT.htm.]

With the attack on September 11, the heart of western civilization was struck, many feel. I also feel that way about a mass murder in which civilians were murdered, suffocated and buried alive. Some of my friends compare the assassins with the Nazi mass murderers. I cannot do this because the Nazis only pushed buttons for gas without sacrificing themselves. But that does not affect the pain and horror...

We must continue reflecting. Mourning does not exclude analysis. Mourning needs analysis to live differently. We are struck in the heart of civilization. But what kind of heart is that? The symbol of the financial center Manhattan was the World Trade Center, the towering representative symbol of the modern business world.

Isn't this heart a heart of stone? Isn't the pentagon, the center of the military enforcement of economic power, the power of this world, a heart made of steel? But in mourning over the many people who lost their lives, in sympathy toward the killed and their relatives and as persons belonging to this western civilization, we sense another heart beating in us, another culture beside the culture of stone and steel, a wounded and vulnerable heart. Listening to this beating heart is crucial today.

The heart of stone and steel of military power is without feeling for the troubles of people. There are winners and losers. 20% of the people belong to the winners. They have the right to live well, to live long and to buy new organs when the old organs do not function any more. 80% of the people belong to the losers. They produce little that is usable and do not consume profitably. Why do they exist? The stony heart thinks and feels that way.

The economy in which we live is increasingly totalitarian. This totalitarian system is very different from the two totalitarian systems known from the last century. It is more intelligent, efficient and "softer." It does not roar with commands but enlists with a tender voice. It dictates the rhythm of our accelerated life and forces the political decisions of the responsible. The economy is more important than politics. The heart of stone and steel without feeling for the real needs and problems of people registers the rhythm, relevance and division of time. Managers and clinic directors must work 60 hours a week. As everybody knows, mass layoffs make the stocks climb. In the last years, the most important question has become "Does it pay?"

German chancellor Schroeder spoke of a "declaration of war against the civilized world." These words go back to Samuel Huntington's clash of cultures or clash of civilizations. But can the rich with the stony heart be described as "civilized" and the impoverished as "uncivilized"? Or with George Bush, is there now the "monumental battle" that "the good has to wage against evil?" What heart speaks that way?

Our fleshly heart knows at least sometimes about the impoverished world. Perhaps we suspect what is demanded given this barbaric catastrophe. What is necessary is not military retaliation but a correction of course or shift in policy of our way of life, an examination of the values that determine our conduct and admission of our own responsibility in the suffering, misery and humiliation of those see us as their enemies. We hear these days about the first war in the 21st century. While the murder of 6000 civilians is barbaric, we should not close our eyes to the fact that this war is the economic war of the strong and strongest against the weak and weakest. This war must end at last. It produces nothing but hatred and the will to destruction of the strong, technologically trained who cannot see any hope any more in the world of misery. "Suicide assassin" is a new and horrific term. In the past, "smash what smashes you" was emphasized. No technological, economic or military reflection helps. We are vulnerable as persons and as an open society. As long as the economic war continues, the threats will increase for us. The window of vulnerability cannot be closed. That this window can be closed is a fundamental error that is absolutely transfigured and made conventional in the Reagan-Bush tradition.

Noam Chomsky, one of the sharpest critics of the US since the Vietnam War, said the attack on the Twin Towers was a "crushing blow for the Palestinians, the poor and oppressed... because it marginalized their legitimate fears and complaints... When the US government granted Bin Laden's prayer (a marvelously ironic sentence!) and carried out a massive attack on Afghanistan or another Moslem society, then the desire of Bin Laden and his allies happens: a mobilization against the West" (taz 9/20). I sometimes ask myself who is really the terrorist.

Several other voices of the "other America" should be heard here because the American opposition against Bush and Co. is so unknown in Germany. This opposition takes up the term terrorism and asks who are really the terrorists murdering in Colombia, Palestine, Kosovo, Ruanda, Bosnia and in the Congo and what financial backers and interests are behind them. Who struggles against the terror of the economy? Those fighting this terror include landless peasants in Brazil, women in India revolting against the bio-piracy of Monsanto and pious Christians who know we should forgive our debtors. The great growing movement against globalization from above is non-violence. Conversely, the masters of this world were protected in Genoa by the police terrorists.

An American friend and theology professor, Tom Driver, wrote a circular about "Our Beloved America" after September 11: "We are violent at home and abroad. We lead in manufacturing and selling weapons at a profit. We have supported some of the most oppressive systems of the world. We helped them with terrorist actions against their own population. We cultivate a lifestyle that necessitates the impoverishment of others."

Thus the terror of the economy is clearly identified. In August, the American film director and activist Tim Robbins spoke about the new movement of globalization critics in the US: "There is a new broad coalition of students, conservationists, unions, small farmers, scientists and other citizens who understand themselves on the front lines of the struggle for the future of this planet." (taz 8/28/2001). Robbins compares the new movement with the early battles to abolish slavery in the 18th century. Quakers and other Christians essentially initiated this nonviolent movement. Today something similar is arising before our eyes... We all know how globalization from above promotes new forms of slavery and makes our T-shirts so cheap. Abolishing slavery, ending child labor and introducing minimum wages took 100 years.

This struggle awaits us. We could learn what is necessary today from the history of nonviolence. Mahatma Gandhi called this form of freedom "the greatest power in the hands of humanity, more powerful than the most powerful destructive weapon." We should believe in this power.

One of the many new movements in the US is called "Justice, not Vengeance." Rosa Parks, Alive Walker and Gloria Steiner are its leaders. Large cities like San Francisco and Seattle declare themselves "hate-free zones." Justice is the answer to terror that we need. Justice is slow, reflective, patient and long-term. Vengeance is often fast and its results short-term. Vindictiveness or thirst for revenge has no vision behind itself and no future ahead.

These are messages we hear from America that we should naturalize in Germany. In other words, nothing will improve if we do not change. Jesus said, Whoever takes the sword will perish by the sword. The essential living conditions in our world have worsened for 80% and we cannot endure this any more. Standing up for peace! means today "Standing up or revolting for justice," the basic condition for peace. The globalization from above is a barbaric system impoverishing the majority of people and destroying the earth. We need another economic globalization, a globalization from below in the interests of the earth and the interests of the poorest.

homepage: homepage: http://www.mbtranslations.com
address: address: http://www.truthout.org

Thank you 21.Jul.2006 09:47

Reader 2

Thank you, Marko, for another great translation of a fine article for freedom and justice!

/ 22.Jul.2006 00:41


Another world is possible, but only after this one exhausts itself in blood and sorrow. WWIII is inevitable at this point. The U.S. is determined to carry out its war agenda and the efforts of some sort of anti-war, anti-globalization movement have subsided to near zero. Such movement has been resoundingly defeated and no longer has any chance of halting the path we are on.