Whose New Year is it anyway?

Dealing with the new year amounts to feeding a mass illusion. Nothing changes except the date, but the event builds up hope and inordinate expectations of transformative changes another new year could bring in our lives.

In 2008, US presidential candidate, Barack Obama, showed to the world the 'audacity of hope' and its sway over the masses who were disgusted with George W Bush and the way he reinterpreted everything to his perverse, shallow advantage. He unleashed 'just wars' premised on dubious evidence and killed millions of people to usher in his warped brand of democracy or to 'civilise' those who did not agree with his foreign policies. The depressing legacy and consequences of his disastrous policies are still being felt. Besides the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the catastrophic economic recession is bleeding nations and devastating ordinary lives all over the world.

The global slowdown has also done something more sinister: transferring wealth from the poor to the extremely rich. This is a process facilitated by the gargantuan economic stimulus given by governments to stave off the ill-effects of the economic slowdown. The horrible truth, not told by governments all over the world, is that the economic stimulus is running away into tax havens and into the coffers of the rich. An interesting study in India shows how our banking system was subverted by Indian companies and multinationals that had major payment problems due to their acquisitions abroad. In a criminal enterprise, billions of dollars from Indian banks were moved through non-formal channels abroad without raising a red flag in official circles. This is despite the fact that we do not have full current account convertibility and the flight of capital, visible in other countries, is not possible in India. Other countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia have suffered similar loot in broad daylight. Such mind-boggling heists have been facilitated by the opaqueness that prevails in global finance. We have no clue about the architecture of global finance and how the IMF is being used to facilitate the control of MNCs over struggling economies.

The slowdown and the steps that have been taken to fight it have bled ordinary depositors and those who send remittances from abroad. The misery that has visited ordinary lives due to the loss of jobs, unprecedented inflation and rampant corruption, has a lot to do with the simple fact that important decisions that impact the masses do not intersect with morality. The touchstone for taking important decisions is not how it will influence Mahatma Gandhi's poor man on the margin, but how it will swell the coffers of the filthy rich. Post-recession, governments all over the world are more concerned about saving the rich rather than protecting the poor on the specious plea that those who create jobs are more important than job-seekers.

Hardnews wants to explore how the pyramid can be reversed - where individual ethics and public morality drives policy formation rather than governments that are controlled by large corporations and big capital. Similar issues are driving the debate on climate change, where real beneficiaries of the proposed deal are thriving in obfuscation. It is crucial that the research on climate change which impacts ordinary lives should not be driven or funded by large corporations. The concern of Hardnews is to discover the concerns of scattered individual in different parts of the world and in India. How individuals intersect with issues of morality, environment, war and economy and try to create spaces that allow them to realise their potential. Does the disconnected montage presented by different authors as they look ahead in 2010 have an underlying unity - does it really intersect? We hope that the writings of this disparate group will help in understanding change and make hope accessible.

Beyond the pessimism of the times, Hardnews wishes you a meaningful new year full of optimism, where governments become accountable and respond to the aspirations of ordinary citizens, and where the hopes of millions on the margins are not crushed by the insatiable greed of a handful of fat cats who have captured all the fruits of democracy.

 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JANUARY 2010