The restoration of the world
by the Master –, through Benjamin Creme, 16 March 2009
From almost every point of view the situation facing men
everywhere grows daily more painful. The economic chaos resulting from years
of unlicensed greed and heartless competition lays waste the honest toil
and aspiration of countless millions. On the whole, the men of money go
blithely on, their treasure intact, while men and women in every country
face joblessness, poverty and fear. More accurate readings of climatic changes
show men how close this planet is to irreversible calamity, and alarm bells
sound loudly on many political fronts, raising to new levels the factor
How much more of this tension can humanity bear? For how
long will men accept, mildly, their fate? Desperate men do desperate
deeds and already in their minds, if not yet in their actions, many
Behind the scenes, Maitreya watches carefully these happenings,
and gives succour wherever the Law allows. He waits, patiently,
for the build-up of response to the sign of His Emergence,
the “star-like luminary of brilliant power” on which many
now gaze in wonder and even love.
What is desired is some measure of public debate about
the significance or meaning of the Star, thus signifying
the emergence of Maitreya, the World Teacher. The greater
and more public the discussion, the greater does it prepare
the way for Maitreya’s entry. Soon there will be no gainsaying.
Very soon, Venus will move beyond the sight of men and
so leave the platform of the heavens open to the Star.
Then there will be no doubt that the Star is there for
all to see.
If sufficient discussion can be fostered on the various
media and internet it will not be long until men see and
hear Maitreya speak. He will not be so called, that men
can judge His ideas rather than His status.
As the economic crisis deepens, a singular reaction is
appearing in many countries: alongside the fear, bravado
and growing despair is a new understanding of the reasons
for the crash -- the greed and competitive spirit at the
centre of our systems and, therefore, the need for sharing.
Of themselves, many are awakening to this basic truth and
see sharing as the answer to injustice and war. Thus are
many ready for Maitreya’s Call. This realization will grow
as the crisis bites deeper and deeper into the shaky fabric
of the outworn forms and structures that no longer work,
can never be made to work for long.
When Maitreya speaks, He will show that this is so, that the world is ready for
the adoption of new and better forms, based on the true needs of the peoples
everywhere. His is the task to focus and strengthen this growing realization
of the oneness and unity of men, of their mutual dependence and awakening divinity.
Thus will Maitreya and humanity work together for the restoration of this world.
(Read more articles by the Master)
Q. How imminent is Maitreya’s appearance in the world?
A. Very imminent indeed.
Q. Will most people feel their own soul on Declaration
Day when Maitreya is speaking?
A. Most people will experience their own souls, even if
it is the first time in their lives. It will be an extraordinary
experience for humanity. They will feel like a child; pure,
listening from the heart to these wonderful words and experiencing
a quality of life that they have forgotten – that goes
way back to their childhood when they were simple, trusting,
full of love and happiness.
Q. (1) It was stated in Share International News Release
No.88 that in the very near future a large, bright star,
“a star-like luminary of brilliant power”, will appear
in the sky visible throughout the world, night and day.
“Around a week later Maitreya will give his first interview
on major US television.” I find this statement somewhat
puzzling because the star has now been appearing around
the world for over two months. (1) Does this mean that
Maitreya already gave his first interview around a week
after the star first began appearing around the world?
(2) Or does it mean Maitreya will give his first interview
around a week after the appearances of the star have
reached their peak and been seen by enough people?
A. (1) No. (2) Yes, precisely. It would be of little use
to mount this huge project (which it is) if humanity had
no time to evaluate and respond.
Q. Will sightings of the star eventually become numerous
enough that it becomes a top headline in the news worldwide
and publicly investigated by scientists?
A. I do not know what level of response is required but
it is obvious that some public recognition is essential.
Q. First off, I have to say thank you for making this
information available. I'm truly grateful. I'm writing
because I think that I saw the miracle star your Master
has described. It was Saturday night and I was working
late. The location was Toluca Lake, California, USA.
After I left the office to go to my car I saw a star
that was brighter than any other that I've seen. It had
an orb shape around it. While I was driving home on the
freeway I was following it with my eyes. It seemed to
change its position. Sometimes it was to the left of
me and sometimes it was to the right. Maybe this is because
the freeway changed position; I don't know. It did seem
to shift to rather dramatic variables in distance. It
seemed to vanish as soon as I got off the freeway near
my neighborhood. My father thought that it might be Venus.
It was exceptionally bright. Whatever the case may be,
that was the brightest heavenly body I've noticed to
A. My Master has confirmed that it was indeed the Star
that you followed along the freeway. It does move about
which, of course, Venus does not except slowly along its
own trajectory. Venus is very bright and is often confused
for the Star but Venus is becoming lower and lower on the
horizon and, by 28 March or so, will no longer be visible
to us. The Star is even brighter than Venus, and changes
position and colour.
Q. In late February 2009, I was in a city in the Brazilian
state of Minas Gerais. There, I saw a really bright star
in the sky. It was bigger than the other stars. It was
a little similar to Venus, but the colour was completely
different. Venus normally is blue and the star was yellow
or golden. Was that the star of Maitreya?
A. Yes, it was the Star.
Q. A thought about the appearance of the star occurred
to me: the first news release regarding the star starts:
“Look now for the biggest miracle of all....” It sounds
to me that we are told to regularly look for it, of course
on evenings when there are few clouds in the west (in
the case of New Zealand), and by looking for it we are
inviting its appearance. And the more who look the stronger
the invitation. Would this be correct?
A. No, it is not really like that. The Star exists whether
we look for it or not but if people do not look for it
they will not necessarily see it and report it.
It is necessary that it receives open public attention
as a miracle – a sign of Maitreya’s appearance
on US television. If it does not receive public attention of
a certain amount it will not have served its purpose.
Q. On the evening of 3 March 2009, for at least 30
minutes before the clouds came, I saw a bright star-like
object on the western sky in Belgium. Could this have
been the star?
A. Yes, it was the Star.
Q. I have been intrigued by your workings for some
time now and I am really glad that I joined my local
Transmission Meditation group before Christmas, it has
given me a new lease of life and a new outlook on it
also since I had been going through hard times before
The one question I have, though, is how could I possibly
help more financially, whether it be for the upkeep of
the Share International website or to spread the word more
to the world. I have never been charged for going to my
weekly meditation and I would love it if you could point
me in the right way to give a small donation of what I
have in my position. I look forward to hearing your reply.
A. I suggest that you offer a donation to your local Transmission Meditation
group. If they meet regularly in a hired hall or if they are engaged in making
known information about Maitreya’s emergence then they will need money for such
work. I am sure they will be glad to accept it.
We do not know who we are
At his lecture in Amsterdam, the Netherlands,
on 21 September 2005, Benjamin Creme made these comments:
We are lurching from one catastrophe to another because we
do not know how to live. We do not know how to live in peace.
We do not know why we are here. We do not know what is the
meaning and purpose of life on Earth. We don’t know even
who we are.
We know almost nothing
about the realities of life. We know how to send a rocket
to Mars or the moon or whatever, but we don’t know the
purpose of life. So without help we are doomed to destruction.
Humanity is so empty of
information, so casual about the nature of life, that it
fails to make itself acquainted with the facts of our living,
the facts of the nature of life even on planet Earth. Information
that has been available in shops and books since 1875.
Information about the nature of the spiritual level of
humanity. We don’t even know the nature of our own being.
We have a threefold being
and we take as reality only the lowest aspect of that threefold
being. We look in the mirror and take what we see to be
ourselves. We think that is us, but that is only a reflection
of the lowest aspect of us. The least important aspect
– it’s important if you are living a life on planet Earth.
If you’re dead on planet Earth then you don’t have one
of those things that will reflect in the mirror. But without
that body, are you less a being?
No. What incarnates and
shows as a reflection in a mirror is a great, divine, spiritual
Being which we have many names for, but most people call
it the soul. And that soul incarnates in a physical body
over and over and over again, sometimes as a man, sometimes
as a woman, on and on. And all the time progressing on
planet Earth to a point where it no longer needs a physical
What we call planet Earth
is ensouled by a great Being, a great cosmic entity Whose
work it is to create a planet, to visualize everything
that will be on that planet and to bring it into being.
And to do that in relation to the ideas, the thoughtforms,
the creations in the mind of the greater Being Who ensouls
the solar system.
If you think of God in
those terms it becomes clear that there is nothing in the
whole of the manifested universe but God – that is all
there is. And each one of us is a manifestation of a fragment
of that greater whole which we call God. That divine aspect,
the Self with a capital ‘S’, reflects itself at a somewhat
lower vibration as the individual soul. That individual
soul reflects itself at a yet lower vibration as the human
That is the reality. Why
is it not talked about in schools? Why is it that nobody
knows this? If we knew this, could we live life as it is
on Earth today? Could we in the West be so greedy and selfish
and allow millions of people to die for want of the food
which is overflowing on Earth? No, we couldn’t do it if
we knew who we were. We are God – literally God. Not in
total consciousness of course, but potentially everything
in the universe is in us.
We live in a spiritual
universe, that’s how it is. We cannot do anything about
it. What we have to do is to make it manifest.
On the night of 25 December 2008 my wife and I saw, in
Enzersdorf near Hollabrunn in Austria, a large bright
star in the sky, near Venus, but larger and brighter.
My wife and I said together: “This is the Christmas miracle.”
We can still see this star every night: my sister and
family live in this village and also see it every night.
Is this the star which announces Maitreya?
Also, on Friday 20 March 2009, I was in Liechenstein Street,
Vienna, 20 minutes before the Transmission Meditation,
when I saw an especially big man dressed in white. He spoke
to me in German: “We are getting closer to the time of
the ‘kingdom of heaven’. Very, very soon, all people in
the world will see Maitreya on television.”
I heard his voice inside my head. His eyes radiated energetic
light and love. A moment later he suddenly disappeared.
I felt real love in my heart!
Was the man Jesus or Maitreya?
E.Z., Vienna, Austria.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms the bright star is indeed the Star, and
the man in white was Maitreya.)
On 15 February 2009, a handprint appeared on the window
of my parents’ bathroom. I asked them about it and they
said they had not made it. Was this a sign from Maitreya?
If so, it’s the second handprint made this month. What
is its purpose? I’m feeling a little tired and depressed
these days, is it related to that?
T.S.A., São Paulo, Brazil.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘handprint’ was manifested by
Maitreya. Its purpose is to remind people that He is here.)
On 23 February at noon, the day after Benjamin Creme’s
lecture and Transmission Meditation weekend in Barcelona,
my husband and I were driving home. We cut through several
crowded streets in one go because most traffic lights
were green. At one point I saw that the green disc was
not round in shape, but it clearly had the form of a
big, green and luminous heart! It was a surprising view,
and the only heart-traffic light I saw – the rest were
all round, plain and normal.
What was the source of this lovely traffic-light?
C.F., Barcelona, Spain.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the heart-shaped light was manifested
Happiness is the key
I was cutting back plants in my front garden in October
2008 and heard a noise – pling, pling, pling, pling –
and looked up to see a young man cycling past, looking
from left to right, as if in wonder at the beauty of
it all, smiling and ringing his bell. It struck me that
it was so seldom that I see people passing with such
a smile and happy demeanour.
I saw him quite a few times more from my house – indeed
I had been looking out for him – he made me smile! A few
weeks later I was saying goodbye to my sister by her car
and saw the man walking towards us on the footpath, carrying
a plastic bag. As he approached, he looked straight at
me, hunched his shoulders up to his ears with the biggest
grin and a look of an excited, expectant child with a secret,
full of happiness and joy.
I called after him and said: “You’re so happy,”
but he carried on walking.
The next time I saw him was from an upstairs
window. He was on his bike, looking quite normal as he
passed by – then I noticed he was greeting and waving to
all the oncoming traffic!
Each time I have seen him I have been filled with joy and
call him ‘Mr Joyful’. He was tall, slim, with long curly
brown hair under his woolly hat, had a long nose and looked
Middle Eastern, with olive skin.
I have read that Maitreya is known as the ‘Happy One’ –
was it Him?
M.M., Kings Langley, Herts, England, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was Maitreya.)
Two letters from the same person:
(1) It was I think, in 2006. I entered the tube station
at Oxford Circus, London. On descending the first escalator
I heard harmonica music coming from the middle landing.
The music was upbeat and being played exceptionally well.
It was very moving. As I approached the landing I was
already thinking that here was something unusual. I saw
a tall black man and it seemed as I watched him play
that there was no filter between his essence and his
music which was like a river of beautiful sound. It was
clear that I was not the only one so impressed as at
his feet there was a high pile of coins. I added mine
and hazarded a glance at his face which was buried in
the harmonica with eyes more or less closed. As I did
so I thought: “I think you are not who you seem to be”.
I carried on down the next escalator. About half way
down I was hit by a wave of love so strong that I was
virtually in tears by the time I reached the bottom.
I can recall that sense of love and joy to this day.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was Maitreya.)
Stranger in the dark
(2) On Monday 1 December 2008 I decided I
needed to go out shopping. It seemed to have taken me an
age to get out of the house with the right kit, receipts,
wallet, phone, etc, and I was not in a good mood.
It was almost dark. I rounded the corner near
my house where there is little street lighting and passed
someone but did not look at them. I was very much in the
bubble of my own thoughts – when they said something like
‘excuse me’. It was an odd voice and I chose to ignore
it. I do often respond to people in the street, but that
evening I was not in the mood. Then I heard again ‘excuse
me’ much clearer and also ‘with respect’ repeated twice
and very forcefully. I immediately apologised with some
excuse about not hearing properly. I then noticed this
was a man who had both fists clenched and one was held
up for me as if for an American-style fist-to-fist style
greeting, or for me to shake as if it were a handshake
with someone who was crippled and unable to open their
hands. Still feeling tetchy and unsure what I was supposed
to do, I did nothing and the fist went down again. In the
very dull light I tried to get a better look at the man.
I was aware of the eyes which seemed to look right into
me but everything else seemed dislocated. The rest of the
face and the limbs didn’t seem to join up in the right
I was asked for 38p. Fumbling in my pocket
I was beginning to wonder if this was a Master in a ‘familiar’
guise. As I was getting out my cash I dropped some and complained
that I could not see what coins I had. I was looking for
£1 to give him but regretted later not just giving the
lot. Despite the conflicting emotions of annoyance and
wishing to present myself in a good way should it be a
Master (as if one could!), in fact I was beginning to warm
to this strange stranger and in any case to feel for him
for what seemed to be awful disabilities. I gave my pound
and said that I thought that should help him out seeing
as he had asked so specifically for 38p. Then he said,
‘I am not a beggar you know’. So I agreed and in doing
so I became very much more unsure that this meeting was
what it appeared to be. Then he beamed and held up his
fist again which I shook willingly as if a handshake. He
hobbled off into the darkness. I was left with a profound
feeling of lightness yet tinged with the regret that I
had not been more friendly to begin with.
I have been over this meeting so many times
since then, such did it impress me. I can see many potential
messages, that I should let go, not be so stressed, indeed,
not be tight-fisted. Here was someone who appeared to be
obliged to be contorted in body and yet who had an openness
and freedom of spirit I could not really describe. As I go
over this in my mind, even now, a light and wonderful energy
seems to fill me right to my finger-tips.
A.N., Cambridge, England, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was Maitreya.)
On 7 September 2008 I noticed smeared fingerprints on my
bedroom wardrobe mirror. Since to my knowledge, no-one
else has been into my room and the fingerprints are not
mine, I was wondering: is this something to do with Maitreya?
M.F., Dover, Kent, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the fingerprints were indeed manifested
I was at the beach on Sunday 28 September 2008, around
9pm, handing out flyers for the monthly talks on the
Emergence in Barcelona. One of the first people who came
by was a young Indian or Pakistani man, very boyish and
happy, who, as he walked up to me said in English: “Now
you must explain this to me!” enthusiastically. I said:
“Oh, you speak English!” and pulled one of the English
Emergence newsletters out of my bag to give him. I was
really focussed on wanting to hand out as many of these
flyers as possible, and somehow didn’t think of talking
to him at length.
Instead I gave him the newsletter, and showed him where
the website is indicated. He said he would read it later
that evening at home, and then for some reason, perhaps
because of his infectious smile, I asked him: “Where are
you from?” He laughed, and pointing to his face, answered:
“Can’t you tell? I am from India.” I was laughing too,
but couldn’t help replying that actually people from many
parts of the world have his skin tone. He was so alive
and happy! Then it seemed like it was time for him to go,
so he began to walk away, and as he passed by me, he said
very clearly: “You are doing a great job!” It was only
when he said that, that the thought flashed through my
mind that he might be Maitreya. I felt a huge joy radiating
from him to me, a feeling of endless happiness. Was this
young man Maitreya?
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was the
S.Q., Barcelona, Spain.
The star that heralds Maitreya's emergence
“In the very near future, people everywhere will have the opportunity to witness an extraordinary and significant sign, the like of which has been manifested only once before, at the birth of Jesus. Then, according to Christian teaching, a star appeared in the heavens and led three wise men from the East to the birthplace of Jesus. Soon, once again, a star-like luminary of brilliant power will be seen around the world.” (Benjamin Creme's Master, 'Maitreya's first interview', SI Jan/Feb 2009)
On 12 December 2008 Share International distributed a news release announcing that in the very near future a large, bright star will appear in the sky visible throughout the world, night and day. Around a week later Maitreya will give His first interview on a major US television programme. Since early January 2009, sightings of the star have been reported from all over the world and more and more sightings are being sent to us daily.
Share International has also received many reports which Benjamin Creme's Master has confirmed to be of the planet Venus and not 'the star'. But we are happy to receive these reports even if they turn out to be wrong. It shows us how more and more people around the world are responding to our information.
We publish here a selection of the first photographs received and a list of sightings confirmed by Benjamin Creme's Master to be the star.
Please click to read more about the star sign
Miraculous appearance in Iraq
“Imam Mahdi Unexpected Appearance” proclaims
the title of a video posted on YouTube. A miraculous figure
of glowing, brilliant, white light appeared on a video
filmed in Karbala, Iraq, on the night of Ashura, 6 January
2008. This Shia Muslim ceremony commemorates the martyrdom
of the grandson of the Prophet, Hussein, whose tomb is
in Karbala. (Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that
the light figure is Maitreya (Imam Mahdi to Muslims) and
that His dance-like movements with a sword remind us of
His coming with the Sword of Cleavage.)
intricate pattern appeared in snow at the Kornhaus Bridge,
Berne, Switzerland, on 15 December 2008. It was manifested
by the Space Brothers and is similar to crop patterns seen
in the UK and around the world. Photo sent by F. W.
Financial crisis devastating developing world
“We are nearing a time of major change in the world:
before long, the transformation of all structures will
begin, commencing with the dissolution of the stock markets
as they now function. This will release the pressures
now being imposed on governments by currency speculation,
and allow a fair and equitable trading system to be developed.
Short-term measures must recognize the special and urgent
need of poorer nations for succour. In particular, the
problems of hunger and disease must be addressed without
delay.” (Benjamin Creme’s Master, SI July/August 1995
Top advisers meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
in March 2009 warned that the global financial crisis is
having a catastrophic impact on the developing world, and
might turn into a “social, humanitarian, political and
security meltdown that could spin out of control in the
most vulnerable regions,” according to The Financial
Times, UK. The advisers said that if developed countries
increased their international aid to the developing world,
they would also be helping their own faltering economies.
“It’s obviously a tragedy that people in rich countries
are losing their jobs and their homes,” said Kevin Watkins,
a senior UN development adviser. “But in poor countries,
the rising poverty could result in vulnerable children
losing their lives.”
Douglas Alexander, UK overseas development minister, told
an international development conference in London: “If
developing countries were less affected by the immediate
fallout of the credit crunch, they are if anything now
more vulnerable to the second wave of what has been called
a once-in-a-century credit tsunami.” Alexander cited a
recent report predicting that 90 million people would be
forced into poverty by the end of 2010. He said the UK
would urge the G20, the group of 20 nations with the largest
economies, to create a ‘rapid response’ fund for the world’s
most vulnerable people, focusing on women, children, the
elderly and the disabled. A G20 summit meeting will be
held in London at the beginning of April 2009.
Jeffrey Sachs, a special economic adviser to the UN Secretary-General,
who also attended the UN briefing, said: “The odd situation
is that we have trillions of dollars directed at banks
and bail-outs but we’re told there’s nothing for the poor.
Meanwhile, we are teetering on the brink of collapse and
violence in parts of the world where people have been pushed
to the brink.” Sachs expressed hope that proposals to increase
global aid would be agreed to at the G20 summit.
International aid has been dramatically reduced as the
financial crisis has worsened. The European Union pledged
at the 2005 G8 summit to commit 0.56 per cent of their
gross domestic product to aid. “We estimate that the EU’s
pledge is now worth $4.6bn less than it was a year ago”
due to the EU’s shrinking economies, said Kevin Watkins.
The consequences of aid reductions are dire. “With the
slowdown in growth in 2009, we estimate that the average
income of the 391 million Africans living on less than
$1.25 a day will take a 20 per cent hit,” he said. “When
you convert economic growth effects into human costs the
picture looks even grimmer. Best estimates point to an
increase in infant mortality of somewhere between 200,000-400,000
According to World Bank President Robert Zoellick: “We
need to react in real time to a growing crisis that is
hurting people in developing countries. This global crisis
needs a global solution and preventing an economic catastrophe
in developing countries is important to overcome this crisis.
We need investments in safety nets, infrastructure and
small and medium-sized companies to create jobs and to
avoid social unrest.” (Source: The Financial Times, The
Growing number of tent cities in US
“New methods of distribution of resources, based on
sharing and need, will supplant the present chaotic modes
which so divide the world. The blind following of market
forces, whose myopic rule causes such misery today, will
give way to an enlightened and just consideration for
the needs of all.” (Benjamin Creme’s Master, SI July/August
With unemployment on the rise, and an increasing number
of Americans losing their houses through foreclosure, the
US is experiencing the largest increase in homeless encampments
in decades, according to homeless advocacy groups and city
agencies throughout the US. Some of the largest tent cities
include those in Reno, Nevada, Seattle, Washington, and
Nashville, Tennessee. Tent cities have also appeared or
expanded in the California cities of Sacramento, Fresno,
Santa Barbara, San Diego, and outside Los Angeles, as well
as in Portland, Oregon, and Columbus, Ohio. Many of the
tent cities have hundreds of inhabitants – and almost all
have seen an increase in numbers this year.
Joan Burke, director of advocacy for the homeless charity
Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento, California, said: “The
folks we deal with typically are the working poor. But
right now the economy is in such turmoil that it is affecting
a new layer of middle-class earners – construction workers,
farm labourers, retail workers, restaurant staff. People
who have earned good money but have not got any savings
are finding out about the reality of being just one or
two pay cheques away from becoming homeless.”
According to an article from associatedcontent.com: “Tent
cities are certainly nothing new – these temporary housing
facilities have been around for decades. The problem is
that they are becoming much larger now than they have ever
been in recent years. The growing number of residents of
these cities is certainly alarming, and it is a sign of
the strength of the current recession. With a continuously
growing number of inhabitants, it seems that there is no
end in sight for these tent cities.” (Source: The Times,
UK; associatedcontent.com; Associated Press)
Developing a new economic system
by Patricia Pitchon
The current world economic crisis can be understood more as a debt crisis
than a ‘credit crunch’. In effect, the first warning signs in the United States
involved the takeover of a major investment bank (Bear Stearns) by JP Morgan,
and later, in 2008, American investment banking as we had known it disappeared.
American and European governments have had to rescue banks, businesses, and
even insurance companies such as American Insurance Group (AIG), with 70 million
policies and worldwide links. AIG was thought too big to fail; some think it
is almost too big to rescue*.
Stock markets have tumbled; the value of property is eroding
rapidly; companies have gone bankrupt because major banks that traded in risky
instruments and made irresponsible loans can no longer lend; the scarcity of
credit has exposed major scams where people have lost many millions; and investors
have also taken billions out of many financial institutions including hedge
funds and sought refuge in gold and commodities, creating a further crisis
in the developing world where people already living on the breadline can no
longer afford to buy basic foodstuffs.
Despite taking absurd risks with other people’s money, bankers
paid themselves huge bonuses which are now perceived as ridiculously inflated
and ill-deserved. Clearly poor financial oversight of such activities, insufficient
barriers between retail and investment banking, a misunderstanding of risk
and poor risk modelling, excessive complexity, inadequate credit and risk rating
by various agencies, and incentives such as commissions paid at each step in
a calamitous chain where risky loans were repackaged as bonds and sold on to
other investors and institutions all over the world, contributed to the crash.
Trading unregulated and complex financial instruments derived from such loans
was another mechanism of transmission that affected institutions and investors
Billionaire investor George Soros believes the current form
of capitalism is dead and he criticizes what he calls ‘market fundamentalism’,
in essence, the belief that markets can take care of everything. Professor
of risk engineering and former trader Naseem Nicholas Taleb believes misunderstanding
of risk created faulty models. In his book, The Black Swan, he called
unexpected extreme events ‘black swans’, examined risk assessment and probability
theory in some detail and predicted what later actually happened.
Much of the debt mountain may have to be written off, and remaining
debt may take years to pay off – an echo of what occurred previously in the
developing world, although in that case the lending spree by major banks in
the developed world has turned into a punishing schedule of debt repayments
from impoverished developing to wealthy developed countries, to the detriment
of poor people in terms of lost opportunities.
Keeping a country dirt-poor through an enslaving debt-service
regime which makes development impossible has its own dangers: as the economist
Paul Collier points out in his book The Bottom Billion, on average
all low-income countries face a 14 per cent chance of falling into civil war
in any five-year period. Young men are the recruits for rebel armies, Collier
points out, and they come cheap where there is poverty and hopelessness. Sadly,
such soldiering, often brutal and lawless, represents a small chance of enrichment
where there are few opportunities for work. This is occurring at present in
areas of the Congo, and has occurred in Sierra Leone and other poor countries.
This alone should concentrate minds on the foolishness of creating economic
systems where wealth is increasingly concentrated in ever fewer hands, and
where conditionalities imposed by major lenders hamper development. If the
world is to develop adequately, often the only solution is outright debt cancellation
for poorer countries. The Jubilee Debt Campaign UK points out that even corruption,
widespread in many countries, does not undermine the effects of debt cancellation.
One study of 10 African countries showed that after only four years of debt
relief, spending on education increased 40 per cent and health spending increased
some 70 per cent. (See www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk)
Steps towards a new economic system
Given the failures of the current model, there are opportunities to develop
new models which may serve us far better than the present one.
Evidently a less speculative and more transparent system is
required, with no economic players excluded. Tax dodging on the part of companies
must end through the closing down of tax havens worldwide. The NGO War on Want
(www.waronwant.org) points out that developing countries lose an estimated
£250 billion every year due to such tax dodging – a sum that could enable them
to reach the Millennium Development Goals many times over. Britain alone loses
£100 billion a year, and tax avoidance and capital flight in Africa represent
five times what the continent receives in aid every year.
The extension of microcredit schemes (small loans, some 85
per cent of which are normally taken out by women in the developing world,
with a reasonable repayment rate) is important, since at the moment 3 billion
people in the developing world have no access to finance at all. Perhaps the
seizing up of credit in more prosperous countries will enable this lack, and
what it means, to be better understood.
The development of barter schemes between countries, with fairer
terms of trade than those that developed in previous decades, seems an important
task. (Briefly, just as an illustrative example: if many years ago a developing
country paid for each tractor it imported by exporting, say, 30 sacks of coffee,
in the 1980s and 1990s a situation developed where it would have to provide
many more sacks of coffee to pay for the same tractor). Currently many developing
countries are experiencing the shocks of commodity highs and lows.
At a local level, forms of timebanking that serve communities
that are cash poor can be extended. Timebanking is a way of exchanging services
at a local level via a currency (originally a ‘time dollar’) where every hour
of time a person offers in the form of a service is equal to any other person’s
hour of service, whatever service that might be, whether it is an hour’s shopping,
watering a garden, hairdressing, bookkeeping, a language lesson, or any other
The idea is taking hold that there should be a maximum, not
just a minimum wage. This reflects a desire to diminish tensions between haves
and have-nots as well as to create working lives less remote from ordinary
In many poor countries community house-building schemes can
be extended, either in exchange for other services or via affordable and partly
government subsidised loans. In the developed world a moratorium on home evictions
seems urgent in the short-term. Governments can buy housing and thereby extend
the stock of public housing, reducing further homelessness.
Urgent financial reforms and the need to address vital social
needs can provide the appropriate foundation for a new system that reduces
systemic risks and provides greater security, and above all, hope.
* See ‘In
a state’ from Economist.com, 2 March 2009
Freedom in the faces of children
RugMark Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1994 by
a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, businesses, government agencies
and multilateral groups such as UNICEF in order to abolish the use of child
labor in the handmade rug industry. RugMark USA is the United States branch
of the RugMark Foundation. Nina Smith, executive director of RugMark USA,
launched RugMark’s US initiative in 1999. She was interviewed by Jason Francis
for Share International.
Share International: How rampant is child labor
around the world?
Nina Smith: people might be surprised to hear that in the 21st century child
labor is still a major problem in some parts of the world. There are 218 million
children who are victims of child trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation,
bonded child labor, child domestic work, or who have been recruited and used
for armed conflict or drug trafficking. Many of the worst forms of child
labor are found in places where RugMark operates such as India, Nepal and Pakistan.
SI: Are we speaking about modern-day indentured servitude or slavery?
NS: Child labor today is a kind of modern-day slavery. Parents, desperate for
money, trade their child’s labor in exchange for loans. The child, of course,
has little or no participation in this decision. For example, in Pakistan,
young children whose parents take money in advance for their work on carpet
looms, end up as victims of a debt-bondage system. The children are paid
half the wages of older workers and are not allowed to leave the premises
until the debt is fully paid. A quarter of the children are girls under 15.
They are easy targets for predatory older workers who sexually abuse them.
According to UNICEF [the United Nations Children’s Fund], 14
per cent of children in India between the ages of 5 and 14 are engaged in child
labor activities including carpet production. Rugs are among South Asia’s top
export products and the industry is a major employer of the poor. If child
exploitation is the norm in a country’s principal industry, there is little
chance to break the extreme cycle of poverty without an effort such as the
SI: RugMark says that, “An imported rug that was
made using child labor is ugly no matter what it looks like.” How many
children are estimated to be directly used in the weaving industries around
NS: There are nearly 300,000 children working in intolerable
conditions in the carpet industry in order to provide rugs for North American
and European homes. Children as young as 4 to 14 are kidnapped or trafficked
and sold into debt bondage or forced labor.
SI: What are the physical, emotional, and mental effects of child labor?
NS: The consequences of child labor are enormous. The children suffer malnutrition,
impaired vision and bruises and wounds from sharp tools. Some, like the so-called
‘carpet kids’ in Pakistan’s Punjab region, contract respiratory illnesses
from inhaling wool fibers and many children in the industry suffer spinal
deformities from sitting endlessly in cramped positions.
SI: What role does RugMark Foundation have in protecting the rights of
NS: Our mission is to end illegal child labor in the carpet
industry and to offer educational opportunities to children in India and Nepal.
We monitor factories, provide education to former child weavers and very importantly,
label carpets with the RugMark brand so that consumers can be assured the rug
they buy is child-labor-free.
SI: How many children have been rescued from the weaving industry in the
nations where RugMark operates?
NS: RugMark’s work is having a profound effect. Since 1995,
RugMark has freed more than 3,000 children from looms and deterred thousands
more from entering the workforce. Educational programs funded by donations
and by the sale of RugMark certified rugs help these children through rehabilitation,
daycare, literacy, formal schooling and vocational training. One statistic,
for example, is that in Nepal, child labor in carpet production has dropped
from 11 per cent in 1996 to 3 per cent today. We’re happy to say that RugMark
is credited for much of this success because during the same years child labor
dropped, the number of licensed factories we inspected in Nepal grew to
65 per cent.
Once the children are freed from the looms and given proper
nutrition and support, they are capable of top academic and athletic achievements. In Nepal,
for instance, with RugMark’s help, 11 former child laborers are attending Little
Angels, the top private school in the country.
SI: How is a manufacturer’s compliance to the RugMark standard guaranteed?
NS: There’s a legally binding contract which ensures the manufacturer will
first, produce carpets without illegal child labor; second, register all
looms with the RugMark Foundation; and third, allow access to looms for unannounced
inspections. Finally, the manufacturer has to agree to pay associated license
To ensure compliance, inspectors who are trained and supervised
by RugMark, monitor the carpet looms regularly. Each RugMark label is numbered
so that its origin can be traced and to protect against counterfeit labeling.
In North America only licensed RugMark importers are legally permitted to sell
carpets carrying the RugMark label.
SI: What is The Most Beautiful Rug campaign?
NS: In 2006, RugMark USA launched The Most Beautiful Rug campaign. The idea is
to raise consumer awareness about the issue of child labor in the handmade rug
industry. In doing so we can increase the sales of RugMark certified carpets.
The campaign goal is to raise the market share of certified child-labor-free
rugs from 1 per cent to 4 per cent over three years and by 2012 to a 15 per cent
market share. That 15 per cent is the estimated tipping point needed to completely
eliminate child labor from South Asia’s handmade rug industry. One interesting
and exciting fact is that for each percentage point that our market share increases,
we estimate that 750 children are rescued from the workplace and 1,000 more are
saved from entering the industry.
Tibetan “suffering and hardship”
Marking the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against
China, the Dalai Lama spoke emphatically of the “hell on
earth” that Tibet has become since he fled his homeland
five decades earlier.
Speaking in the main Buddhist temple
in Dharamsala, India, the Tibetan spiritual leader talked
of the “untold suffering and destruction” caused by the
Chinese in a series of repressive and violent campaigns
in Tibet since 1959. “The immediate result of these campaigns
was the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans."
Some 10,000 Tibetans from around the world listened to
their spiritual leader’s address. Many in the crowd wept
as he said: "Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in
constant fear. Today, the religion, culture, language and
identity, which successive generations of Tibetans have
considered more precious than their lives, are nearing
extinction. In short, the Tibetan people are regarded like
criminals deserving to be put to death.”
After the address, thousands of Tibetans, including children,
marched through Dharamsala carrying ‘Free Tibet’ posters
and protesting against a Chinese security clampdown in
Tibet. (Source: Reuters)
Spontaneous Irish peace protests
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Northern
Ireland on 11 March 2009 in silent vigils to protest against
the murder of two soldiers and a policeman. The murders
were carried out by dissident republican groups.
The latest outbreak of violence came as a shocking reminder
of years of conflict, tit-for-tat killings, ever-present
fear and tension. The recent murders prompted spontaneous
protests across the country.
In Belfast crowds gathered in silence; placards read "No
Going Back", in reference to the long years of violence
and division. More than 2,000 people gathered in front
of Belfast City Hall; a lone bagpiper played a lament and
the crowd stood silent for five minutes in tribute, grief
and protest. Other vigils were held in Londonderry, Newry,
Downpatrick and Lisburn.
People who had suffered on both sides of the conflict,
known as ‘the Troubles’, stood side by side. Former paramilitary
convicts stood next to families, mothers with young children;
people wept and shook hands in silence.
Some commented that the hard-won peace of the last 10
years must not be lost. "What has happened over the last
10 years should not be surrendered. I grew up through the
Troubles in Belfast. I don't want that for my children," said
one of the demonstrators.
Speaking in Belfast, the assistant general secretary of
the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which helped organize
the protests, said people were determined that they did
not want a return to bloodshed. "This lunchtime thousands
of citizens are gathering to collectively share moments
of silence," he said.
"The trade union movement stands together with all citizens in solidarity
to prevent any derailment of the peace process. The callous attacks of the
past few days were an assault on every citizen who supports peace.
"Here in Belfast, and in Newry, and in Londonderry, and at spontaneous gatherings
across our land, workers and their families are making clear their abhorrence
at these murders and the direct threat to the peace process." (Source: ITN,
UK; youtube.com; The Guardian, UK)