From Trade to Climate - Stepping into our power in an uncertain world

15 Jan 2019




A recent Truthout article, titled “Free Trade” Is Today’s Imperialism by the 1 Percent" (13 January 2019), rightly provokes us to consider that so-called 'free trade' deals should be called "Free (for the Global North) Trade deals", or "Free (for the multinationals and 1% oligarchs) Trade deals". Correspondingly, they could also be called "Slave (for the Global South) Trade deals", or "Slave (for the 99%) Trade deals."


It sure helps to boldly defy the false framing and language of the oppressive ‘powers that claim to be’, and habituate and normalize more honest framing and language to wake people up to the obvious.


The article also invites us to ponder about the free movement of labour, which may be necessary, but in my view is insufficient. Simultaneous implementation of human rights is also required, otherwise business and industry will continue to exploit a rigged economic system that enables (and actively goads them even) to externalize perverse human outcomes which, at their worst, are tantamount to a kind of slavery. This is especially so in our Age of relentless increases in business productivity in both the unskilled and skilled workforce areas (i.e. production cost-cutting measures - like technological redundancy, but with a decline in the real value of incomes...except for perhaps CEO wages which have skyrocketed, right?). And part of that human rights implementation is the recognition of the value of all labour, including 'voluntary' workers - parents, caregivers, environmental activists, civil rights advocates and so on - who are all but invisible in GDP calculations of country 'progress'.

The article hints at another requirement for trade deal equity, when it concludes near the end that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTD’s) structural adjustment plan was doomed to fail from the beginning.  This was because of the 'apparent' conundrum that the UNCTD failed to resolve, the very challenge they sought to overcome from the outset: how to mobilize a force greater than that of their global North, multinational, oligarchic oppressors? 


This is the inescapable challenge of the oppressed at every level of civilization: whether local, national, regional or global.  If the oppressed can’t figure out the ‘power imbalance conundrum’ at the micro/ local level, how do we think we’re going to make the necessary difference at the macro/ global level (hence the value of ‘think globally, act locally’)?  What are the missing ingredients?




Which brings me back to my earlier comment that the conundrum is “apparent”, i.e. more fiction than reality.  It has been said that parliament is sovereign (with the Sovereign monarch delegating all but a very few governing powers to the House of Representatives).  However, we must often remind ourselves of the profound yet ridiculously simple truth that it is We, The People, with whom sovereignty is situated; our members of parliament are only elected into office by our collective will.  Why else are politicians referred to as public servants?  


This is why so many, myself included, are excited at the rise of more forceful (yet peaceful), revolutionary people-powered movements like Extinction Rebellion, the yellow vests and others.  Growing civil unrest and upheaval is symptomatic that the sovereign citizenry is finally stirring from its Stockholm Syndrome mind enslavement stupor. This was the first missing ingredient: wakefulness.




If this feels vaguely and cyclically familiar, it should: there exist many archetypal stories of achievement through the primordial initiation rites of struggle and sacrifice. To borrow from Māori creation tradition, we may find inspiration in the feats of Tāne-mahuta, God of humankind and the forests.  Ranginui and Papatūānuku - Tāne’s parents - provided their children with the ultimate in bodily security, so much so that it was a virtual prison for Tāne and his siblings.  But ‘te Whei ao’ (a glimmer of light) peeking through between their parents bodies was all the motivation and encouragement the children needed to strive for freedom.  Each child persistently took turns until, through sheer will, determination and strength, Tāne activated his mana motuhake (autonomous power over his own destiny) and freed his siblings and himself from his parents’ suffocating and restrictive embrace and into ‘te Ao Mārama’ - a new world.


It should reassure us all to know that this is every person’s inevitable journey, an expression of the classic maxim, ‘adversity makes us stronger’: down the birth canal out into the world, as we overcome challenges in Life, right through to freeing ourselves from our mortal coil and transcending death itself.  We were all born for this.  A glimmer of light (te Whei Ao) has finally descended on Humanity’s consciousness.  We are being stimulated and incited by a realisation that We, The Sovereign People, can achieve something amazing.  Now we have sufficient belief to follow through with that second missing ingredient, i.e. forceful and committed action, leveraged in an appropriate way (following the principles of tika/ what is right, correct; pono/ what is true, with integrity; and aroha/ compassion, love, understanding), we’ll see the dawn of a new day (te Ao Mārama).




Which is why I acted quickly to support these rising people-powered movements, and why I encourage others to do so with urgency.  It’s imperative that we resolve the power imbalance conundrum, because the survival of humanity in this moment of converging climate, social and economic crisis depends on it.


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