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by the Master , through Benjamin Creme, 12 February 2012
From the depth of its present problems and sorrows, humanity will find hope. So much that is taking place is positive and auspicious for the race that men can be assured of an early lessening of their problems, not all at once, but gradually, little by little. Gradually, also, men will learn the true reasons for their present anguish. They will come to understand that humanity is One, integral and related by long association and common ancestry, related, too, by its common divinity. No more need man fear and fight his neighbour, no longer need millions starve amidst plenty. Thus can be born a new time, a time when Justice and Sharing control the present chaos and irresponsibility, a time when men respect and care for one another, when the divinity of men becomes manifest and the secrets of life known. Sufficiency will replace abundance as the aim of sane men.
Thus will men come into right relationship with each other and with the Source of all. Under the inspiration and guidance of Maitreya and His group men will blossom in their divinity and make that manifest in all they do. The abominations of war and terror will fast fade from their memory, and a vast creative burgeoning will take their place.
Men will renew and beautify their cities, making them worthy of the new time. These will be greater in number and smaller in size, linked by transport, fast and noiseless. People will educate their children in many different ways, each child linked to the educational system as determined by their rays. In time the interchange between the Masters and the race of men will grow in ever increasing closeness, and children will move happily and logically from stage to stage in growing awareness. In all these measures, in this transformation, each one will play his part.
Signs to come
Presently, there will appear a series of signs which will mystify those who experience them. No one will be able to explain this phenomenon but it will presage a change in the thinking and understanding of men. From that time onwards, a sense of expectancy will grip most nations, which will prepare men for the extraordinary events that are to come. As you know, not all men take seriously the new time which lies ahead for mankind. These happenings will prepare more for this revelation.
Q. (1) How many interviews has Maitreya given since the January/February issue of Share International? (2) Were all the interviews held in Brazil?
A. (1) Four, making a total of 56 interviews, as of 11 February 2012. (2) There have been 29 in the USA, 14 in Mexico, and 13 in Brazil.
Q. How many people in the world have now heard your information, and how many believe it?
A. Around 36 million people have now heard the information; about 12 million totally believe it; about 12 million reject it outright; about 12 million keep an open mind and watch events unfold.
Q. Does Maitreya still plan to be interviewed in Japan?
A. Yes, in due course.
Q. Where is Maitreya today? Will we see Maitreya this year, on 21 December 2012?
A. Maitreya lives in London but is appearing on television in Brazil. He can be anywhere at any time so it is difficult to answer your question. When you will see Him depends on yourself and the rest of humanity in preparing the way for Him by accepting the principles of sharing and justice for all.
Q. Most of the places listed on your website where Maitreya has appeared seem to cover the Americas, Europe and Asia only. Has he ever been seen in Africa?
A. The only photographs we have of Maitreya were when He appeared in Nairobi, Kenya, to 6,000 people on 11 June 1988.
Q. What should be done to stop the widespread killings and other violence now taking place in Syria? What should the international community do?
A. The United Nations must take responsibility and act.
Q. About four or five years ago you said words to the effect that the Palestinians would probably have their own country, or a land deal, in the next four years. I imagine with so many forces in flux and political situations constantly changing, predicting when events will manifest is almost impossible. Do you know, judging by present conditions, including those behind the scenes such as Maitreya’s externalisation, how many years it will now be before there is a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis?
A. I doubt that I made such a forecast but if I did it would have been in a very informal off-the-cuff way – a personal thought. No one can make these firm prophecies that people seem to want with any hope of success.
Q. Recently, it was suggested that more Transmission Meditations should take place in order to ‘help’ with various crises in the world. Do you suggest that the groups do extra Transmission Meditation to help in connection with the present Syrian crisis?
A. I have never asked for an increase in Transmission Meditation for such reasons but nor do I see any reason for not doing more.
Q. Do you think President Obama will be re-elected?
A. It is up to the American people.
Q. What is your opinion of the terrible austerity measures in a number of countries being forced on sections of the population which are hard-pressed already to make ends meet?
A. They are very painful and difficult for the poor and there is no total agreement that they actually succeed in their purpose. But it is one way of looking at the problem and something has to be done – not necessarily this austerity. For instance it could be the release of large amounts of money to stimulate the economy. But neither way is 100 per cent sure of success. One factor which should be understood is that the old methods will not long succeed by themselves. Humanity is entering a new way of living and new principles, for instance, social justice through sharing, have to be brought in. So any remedy hoped for today can only be transitory.
Q. The National Health Service in the UK, which used to be the envy of the world, is now being badly impacted by the coalition government’s policies and desperate attempts to save money. Is this the cost of commercialisation? And what can people do to protect such institutions? It’s as if the fabric of life and the cohesion of society are being destroyed.
A. This is true. Commercialisation is deeply damaging the quality of life in all directions. What can be done? Resist the growing privatisation of public institutions by every legal means possible.
Q. In the November 2011 issue of Share International, in the questions and answers section, extraordinary information was given on the point of evolution at birth and at death of some well-known initiates. One of them, Pablo Picasso, seems to have made a great leap forward. His progress was from 1.5 to 2.4 degrees initiate in one incarnation.
How could he do that? Maybe through a one-pointed concentration on his painting? Is there something we can learn from him?
A. This is not actually as extraordinary as you make it sound. As a great painter Picasso obviously had a great gift for focus and concentration. He also was not afraid of hard work. As Picasso said: “A horse does not go between the shafts of its own accord. But a man must work.”
Q. As the Law of Karma applies to all our thoughts and actions, do our thoughts (both good and bad) produce more potent karma for us than our actions? Our thoughts occur on the mental plane, which is higher than the dense physical, so would that mean that our thoughts have greater influence for good or evil than our actions?
A. Every action is the result of thought. Therefore thought plus action has more consequence than thought alone. However it depends on the intensity of the thought.
Q. Could you please explain a strange new phenomenon which people in different parts of the world are reporting. They say they have heard and recorded a strange noise which seems to be coming from the sky. Some say they think it is coming from the planet. The sound is said to come and go and resembles the noise of a train or heavy machinery. There are a number of clips on YouTube purporting to be recordings of the strange noise. Some sound like hoaxes. Is this genuine? If so what is causing the sound?
A. People are ‘wound up’. The nervous systems of all people in the world are being wound up by the inflow of new energies which causes this illusion, and the stress and strain of present day life for many people exacerbates the situation.
Q. Microcredit is currently on the receiving end of much criticism. A recent television analysis claimed that many people in developing countries get into financial difficulty because local banks who give them loans also demand that the loans are paid back within the first month. The banks force people to sell their homes and possessions or force them into the clutches of usurers, which just makes the problem worse. Now I am really confused about microcredit and would appreciate your opinion please.
A. No doubt this corruption does occur but for the vast majority of those receiving microcredit it is a boon to their lives.
Q. What would happen in the case of conjoined twins who shared a body and spent their entire life in that state? Would they have a shared soul?
A. Not necessarily.
Q. Before I had heard of the emergence of Maitreya, I went outside one evening into the back garden, it was very late and I was feeling in an unusually joyful mood! When I looked at the gable end of my neighbours house it was covered in the light crosses seen in windows that I have read about. At the time I was perplexed as I could not see anything that could be reflecting to make the patterns on the building but I saw them as beautiful crosses that were also like diamonds. The first time I read your book The Awakening of Humanity, and saw the photographs of patterns on buildings, I realized that this was exactly the same as I saw on the side of a house. Do you know if this could have been the same thing? Have they appeared anywhere not on glass? The energies are changing so quickly now it is hard to keep up! All very promising though.
A. Light crosses appear on windows, on walls, on pavements and roads, on sides of vans and trucks all over the world.
I recently had a string of misfortunes. First, I had to take a big pay-cut when our state unions were threatened by the governor. This has indefinitely postponed my retirement. Then, my son was injured in a car crash, and my daughter filed for divorce from her husband of many years. Then, my father fell ill and was hospitalised with terminal cancer. The pressure from the family crises and financial hardship has caused a lot of turmoil between my husband and me.
One day, when I was having a difficult time at the office, I took a walk around the lake, and as I was near tears, a most unusual character appeared. He was wearing a bright orange hat, and orange sneakers. His shirt was orange-coloured too, and he had on round glasses that made him look quite smart. He was carrying a guitar, and as he approached the bench where I was sitting, he said: "Take heart – you are humbled only to be exalted! The end of our trials is near, and soon we shall witness a time of miracles!" Then he burst into such a jolly song, I smiled for the first time in weeks.
When I returned to the office, my co-workers had resolved the problem that had stymied us for months, and that night after work, my husband surprised me with roses and a candlelight dinner. I felt such relief that I had strength for all the problems that seemed impossible!
I am wondering whether that character in the orange shirt was Maitreya, or one of the Masters of Wisdom? Was I given encouragement from someone special?
K.M.S., Edgerton, Wisconsin, USA.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was the Master Jesus.)
On Sunday 15 January 2012 I arrived at the Forest Park station in St Louis at 8.13am to start out for my spiritual centers service. When I got on the train three minutes later I looked out on the platform and was surprised to see standing on the other side a very incongruous looking man. He was approximately six foot tall, had shoulder length brown hair, was bearded, appeared to be in his sixties, was wearing a long white robe, white gloves and white pants, was carrying a wooden staff and had a large wooden cross hanging against his chest. As incongruous was his behaviour: he simply stood around making no move to get on either train or to leave the platform. When I first arrived at the station he was not on the platform and was nowhere to be seen in the vicinity of the station.
As my train started to leave he turned to fully face it and with a big smile on his face heartily waved at it. As I made eye contact with him I felt a strong joyful, loving energy come into me. I have never felt this kind of energy from another person before. For the next several minutes I underwent a strong emotional catharsis going back and forth between crying and feeling uplifted.
(1) Was this man Maitreya or one of the other Masters? (2) Did anyone else see him? (3) If this man was one of the Masters is this the first time I have met one?
B.J., St Louis, United States.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that (1) the man was Maitreya. (2) No. (3) Yes.)
I was driving to a neighbouring city on 8 June 2011. When I turned right at a crossroads, a blue truck suddenly emerged before my eyes and slightly hit my car. I drove slowly to put my car by the roadside to find the blue truck at a traffic signal (actually it was a big garbage collection truck from the neighbouring city) heavily damaged. The truck crashed against a road sign and curbstones while trying to avoid colliding against my car. Oil was flowing from the truck, which necessitated fire engines along with police cars to come. The spot was crowded and jammed. A local man said: “If your car had collided directly with the big and heavy truck, you and your car would have totally collapsed. With his good driving skills, the truck driver avoided hitting a traffic light and telegraph poles to cause no injury to anybody.” After two wreckers came to tow the truck, I drove my car back home which had only a small damage on the bumper.
A week passed. I remember that I felt as if I had been just an observer who witnessed the whole situation from outside, even though I was totally involved in the accident. Still now I feel the same. It is a kind of miracle for me to feel calm and relaxed, much more than usual. I assume that a Master rescued me. Would you tell me who he was?
K.O., Seki-shi, Gifu, Japan.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirmed that it was He who helped her.)
It was around 12.30pm on 31 August 2011 when I was waiting for my medical check-up. I had waited for an hour-and-a-half for my turn to come. Suddenly an English voice was heard coming from my iPad. I raised the volume and saw that it was one of Maitreya’s messages. After coming back home, I realized that the message was recorded in the iPod application of my iPad. Further examination led me to know the message was No.51. I had never recorded it into my iPod, so it is miraculous to have the message in it. Did this occurrence have any peculiar meaning for me? Did the fact that the message was No.51 have any particular implication for me? Had it just accidentally been recorded?
Also, on 13 November 2011, when I was in the middle of the group meeting of Share International, I noticed that another message was on my iPod.
S.M., Gifu-shi, Gifu, Japan.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that Maitreya put the messages into the iPod as the answers to what the writer had been searching for.)
On Friday 13 May 2011 I was in the tram on my way to Transmission Meditation.
I was worried about my daughter who had just ended her relationship with her partner. She was looking for an apartment which is almost impossible to find in Amsterdam. There was a tiny chance that she might be able to rent a small place in our neighbourhood and as I sat there on the tram I asked Maitreya, inwardly, for His help for her.
To my surprise, I suddenly noticed that on the empty seat opposite me in the tram lay two little hart-shaped sweets/candies. On the one was the word “Yes” and on the other was the word “Happiness”.
My daughter didn’t get the apartment as it turned out but on the same evening she met an extraordinarily kind loving man. They are now together and still happy.
Was this simply coincidence or comfort and reassurance given by a Master?
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the heart-shaped candies were left by the Master Jesus.)
At some stage, on any clear night we get, I usually have a little ‘look’ for the ‘star’. On Wednesday night 12 August 2011 at about midnight I noticed ‘something’ in the sky – it wasn’t Jupiter and I don’t think it was a plane because it took about an hour from when I first saw it until it went out of sight on the horizon (a plane would take about 5 minutes). It was almost overhead when I first noticed it – it wasn’t very high in the sky and moved steadily in an east to west direction. It seemed to be flashing different colours – green, red – there was always some colour visible, but not like a plane where the lights flash on and off intermittently.
I don’t have any photo but would like to know if I have seen the ‘star’.
B.D., Gorey, Co Wexford, Ireland.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms it was indeed Maitreya’s ‘star’.)
The Heart shaped leaf is a sign from Maitreya to say “Don’t lose heart. I am here.”
The day after Christmas 2011, my husband Michel noticed a little heart-shaped leaf on our small lemon tree. This leaf seemed to have just appeared.
Ten years ago we’d already found a heart-shaped leaf on the same plant, and the Master had indicated that this was a sign from Maitreya. [See Share International, May 2002.] Since then, this lemon tree has also been producing a number of leaves of quite unusual size and appearance; they are several times the average size and show a clearer, more visible veining. These huge leaves are ‘co-existing’ with normal leaves on the same shrub.
The first heart-shaped leaf was much bigger than any other. In contrast, the present one is quite small (specially compared to the giant leaves), but beautifully delineated. Could you please confirm whether this new heart-shaped leaf is a new sign from Maitreya?
These small events connect me with Maitreya’s omnipresence and strengthen my aspiration to serve. I feel profoundly grateful.
R-M. C.M., St-Etienne, France.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that it is a sign from Maitreya to say “Don’t lose heart. I am here.”)
Stone image of Jesus
A hiker spotted the face of Jesus encrusted in a stone in November 2011. Sonia Chamberlain, from Lake Havasu City, Arizona, USA, had planned to make jewellery from the stone. But as soon as she scrubbed away the dirt, she spotted the resemblance. The 63-year-old said: “Imagine my surprise when I held it up and realised the rock had actually formed as the head of Jesus with a crown of thorns and shoulder length hair. I believe everything happens for a reason and there are signs of the Creator all around us, we are often just too busy to take notice. It could be a sign for me to listen more closely.” (Source: Telegraph.co.uk)
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms the image on the rock was developed by the Master Jesus.)
Russia – A well-known photographer Halit Safin took a video of a UFO over the city of Ufa (capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan) on the evening of 23 January 2012. His video, 2 minutes and 15 seconds in length, shows a ring-shaped object rapidly changing colour to varying combinations of green, blue, yellow and red. (Source: YouTube: myunhauzen74)
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the multi-coloured object was Maitreya’s ‘star’.) (IMAGE ABOVE)
Mexico – Two videos were taken of the same UFO seen over Tijuana, Mexico, on 7 February 2012. A large, circular, multi-coloured UFO can be seen hovering high in the sky on both videos. (Source: YouTube: javajavaa)
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the UFO was a ‘starship’ from the planet Mars.) (IMAGE ABOVE)
Sweden – UFOs seen over Uppsala, Sweden, 15 January 2012. Comments from YouTube: “I had been skiing all day and on my way home I saw bright lights in the sky. I picked up my cellphone and managed to capture almost 2 minutes.” (Source: YouTube: UFOindependent)
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the lights were Maitreya’s ‘star’.)
Living without money
by Andrea Bistrich
Heidemarie Schwermer worked as a psychotherapist and teacher for 20 years before deciding, in 1996, to attempt an experiment to live without money. What was initially to last one year has, in the meantime, become a way of life for the 70-year-old. She has written three books on living without money, holds lectures and has been a guest on numerous talk-shows. Her first book, The Star Money Experiment, translated into many languages, was awarded the Tiziano Terzani Peace Prize in 2008, and in 2010 the Italian/Norwegian documentary film about her life enjoyed its premier in Oslo. With her moneyless way of living she wants to give a positive impulse towards a more just and equal society.
Andrea Bistrich interviewed Heidemarie Schwermer in Munich for Share International.
Share International. You have been living without money for 16 years now. Why did you voluntarily give up money?
Heidemarie Schwermer. I am often asked if I have ever suffered a trauma in view of my having chosen such an extreme way of life. My trauma is the state of the world: daily, hundreds of thousands of people starve – yet concurrently there exists an abundance of food. Food is thrown into the oceans or discarded in waste disposal sites. Billionaires build pools in their private jets or buy luxury yachts, no longer knowing what to do with their money. The situation is so absurd that I decided to play along no longer and to seek new living forms.
I have been preoccupied with the subject of poverty all my life. I was born in 1942, during the war. When I was a child my family was forced to flee from East Prussia, now Lithuania, to Schleswig-Holstein, in the north of Germany. We suddenly became refugees – people would call us “you dirty lot”. Financially my parents recovered quite rapidly: my mother was a piano teacher and taught some of the farmers’ daughters in the region, and my father quickly found a job in the new city. Yet this experience left its mark on me. I never really understood why a person could suddenly become worthless just because she had no possessions. I believe that we are all born with a theme that we are to work on during the course of our lifetime. My theme is poverty – in a world of abundance.
SI: What eventually led to the decision to live without money? Was there a particular reason?
HS: I moved to Dortmund for professional reasons. The city is extremely poor. In some areas there is a beggar on each corner. At the time I would often ask myself how we could simply look on while young men were on the streets drinking beer simply because no one was willing to give them a job. They were superfluous to the system. Yet how can a person be superfluous? What kind of system can allow this to happen? This cannot be! I once heard a talk on the radio by a priest who was talking about a village in Canada. When the factory where most of the inhabitants worked became bankrupt and closed, all the people were suddenly without work and earnings. The people said, “We are all capable. We will get together and help each other.” From this something new emerged. The priest commented that it would be nice if something similar happened in Germany. These words struck directly in my heart. That was also my objective; it was precisely what I wanted to do in Germany. I then decided to work towards helping people to open themselves towards others, to support each other and to look for new values and forms of living.
SI: In 1994 you initiated one of the first ‘exchange circles’ in Germany.
HS: Yes, the Give and Take Centre in Dortmund. Anyone can participate in ‘give and take’ – even if one has no money. In the interim there are many such centres where people can exchange services without money playing a role: a haircut in exchange for a car repair, babysitting for window cleaning, counselling or office work for baking, and much more. From the exchange circle I realised that I continually needed less money for my daily needs. After a while this was no longer enough for me: I wanted to venture an experiment and live completely without money.
SI: How is this achievable in daily life? Daily you must eat and sometimes need new clothes. You need somewhere to live, or at least a roof over your head.
HS: I naturally asked myself in the beginning how I could achieve it. I had an apartment and had to pay rent and insurance. Then some people that I knew from the exchange circle asked me to look after their house while they were on holiday. In this way I suddenly had ten or more apartments where I could live temporarily.
I eventually took the step to give up my possessions and all my securities: I put my furniture, my crockery, and other possessions in the hallway and gave them away. I cancelled my insurance policies. My new life could then begin and I moved to the first apartment which I was to look after for three months….
SI: Where did you get your food from?
HS: In the first house that I looked after there were some food supplies but they only lasted a week. I had to come up with something if I was not going to starve. There was an organic grocery store in the vicinity and so I asked if they had left-overs or things which they were unable to sell. Members of our exchange group sometimes cooked together and we were given food which we did not have to pay for – but we always did something in return: cleaning, tidying, cleaning the courtyard, computer work, any chores that needed doing. The people from the organic grocery store were immediately open to this idea. They had actually wanted something like this for quite a while yet had not found anyone willing to collect the food-stuffs. Initially we collected the food once a week and then later daily. Today, after 15 years, the agreement with the organic grocery store still stands.
It is similar in other locations. For example, I was once looking after a house in Turin, Italy, in which there was nothing to eat. There was a daily market and I went there two to three times a week shortly before closing, at midday, and collected all food that had fallen on the ground. This left a strong impression. In the meantime, there is a small group of locals in Turin who go to this market once a month to collect the food that has been discarded so as to prepare a collective meal….
SI: What exactly do you mean by ‘give and take’?
HS: ‘Give and take’ functions without money and invoicing. It is not a calculated exchange yet a balanced flow, an attitude of trust. We can live in abundance, there is enough for everyone. Naturally this must also be put into practice for in the past centuries we have lived by the principle of “that which costs nothing, is worthless”. ‘Give and take’ shops can be set up anywhere: in cafés, shops in public, or private rooms. People can offer or place things they no longer need that come from this excess in a box or cupboard in a corner of the shop and others can take out what they need….
SI: In this context you have spoken of a paradigm change that is now due.
HS: Yes, we need a new point of view – individually, within society and also worldwide. Today when we want to make ourselves happy we go shopping. We buy something or go for a meal. We consume and allow ourselves to be distracted from the essential. My idea of ‘give and take’ is, on the contrary, based on more quality of life, joy and togetherness and activity towards each other as opposed to consumption and competition. Today we define ourselves especially through our performance and achievements, we must always function – and receive money for it. Obtaining money consumes all our energy. In my model of life without money, I have personally experienced how my focus has gradually shifted away from material values towards values like attention, creativity, liveliness, simplicity and trust within the flow of life.
“We are no longer afraid”: the world at the threshold of a new dawn
by Carmen Font
Professor Federico Mayor Zaragoza (born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1934) is a respected figure in Spain and abroad for his tireless work for peace and development. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Professor Mayor, a biochemist by profession, held several senior ministerial posts in the Spanish transition governments and later as Member of the European Parliament. He gained widespread international recognition during his mandate as director-general of UNESCO from 1987 to 1999, a period in which he gave new momentum to the organisation’s mission and worked towards creating the Culture of Peace Program. In 1999, he decided not to run for a third term with UNESCO and, on returning to Spain, created Fundación Cultura de Paz, (The Foundation for the Culture of Peace) of which he is chairman. Federico Mayor shares his thoughts and actions about the latest important developments in the past year. Carmen Font interviewed him for Share International.
Share International: We have seen in recent months unheard-of expressions of people power in the Arab World. Do you see these expressions as leading us towards more robust local and global democracy, or are there still many pitfalls along the way?
Federico Mayor: There are many pitfalls along the way. But at the same time this is a path that won’t stop and it is on solid ground. In 1994 I wrote the book Crime of Silence because I realised back at that time that silence could no longer prevail. When we cannot raise our voice because we are not allowed to or because we are unable to raise it, then we have the silence of the silenced. But it reaches a point in which that silence is that of the ‘silent ones’, of the people who can talk but refuse to do so. We have borne witness to what happens in the world, but we have not intervened. From now on, due to the new communication technologies, this silence does not make any sense. What’s more, it is a duty to speak and express oneself. And we are no longer afraid. Look how the movement of the Puerta del Sol [also known as the Indignados] has moved onto cyberspace and occupies a place without borders. It has moved on to Wall Street, and to the “We are the 99 per cent” – the Occupy movement.
In the 1980s we made the big mistake of allowing everything we had struggled for in the past – democratic rights, social rights, solidarity – to be cast aside so that the laws governing market forces could guide the world. Then, experts armed with MBA titles [master’s degree in business administration] transformed us into imitative and repetitive people who could only be responsive to marketing and outsourcing. They replaced two very important aspects for the human species: they replaced ethical values with market values, that is, prices. And, as the Spanish poet Antonio Machado said, “Only the foolish confuse value with price.”
They also replaced the United Nations, a democratic institution on a global scale that, despite all its defects, allows all peoples and nations in the world, united by a common destiny, to be united to “avoid the horror of war” for the generations to come. The United Nations had gone through several developments until, in 2003, George Bush gathered a G-20 group of 20 developing nations and decreed a ‘heroic’ rescue of financial institutions, whereby those nations which were already rather impoverished due to a de-localisation and privatisation of their productivity, lost even more wealth. As a result, that power was given to banks which gradually incurred huge debts. The collapsing banks were rescued, and now, as a consequence of this ‘management’, we have the following situation in the international scene: the banks are getting richer, and the nations are getting poorer and poorer.
SI: But now market forces, although they still rule the economy, are increasingly and openly questioned by civil society and by more and more politicians. What specific alternatives are now available to replace market forces with an economy based on sharing? We are witnessing impressive developments in Latin American countries.
FM: Market forces are a Western invention. As I know from direct and personal political experience for many years now, the United States were used to interfering in Latin American democracies in order to fight ‘communism’. But they forgot one communist country, China. Now China is the factory of the world, but we don’t pay much attention to their labour regulations. We don’t see those who suffer cruel working conditions, we only see the low prices and we are led by greed. The world as a whole is full of inconsistencies. The Western world is adrift for having changed its democratic and ethical principles to favour the market, and for having replaced the UN with plutocratic groups.
However, Latin America is going through a time of positive change now because it has abandoned those instruments of domination (the IMF and the World Bank) and is looking for a redefined new future. The emancipation of Latin America represented by CELAC (the Community of States in Latin America and the Caribbean) is very important, because these countries are still friends with their Iberian fathers and their elder brother, the USA, but they no longer depend on them.
Africa is waking up, and then we have Asia in which, apart from the big question mark that China poses, we have India, which is going through wondrous development, as well as south-eastern Asia. We Europeans are too used to looking at ourselves. We were an important moral force and now we are adrift because we accepted the unwise rules of Thatcher and Reagan that made us change our principles to suit those of the stock market.
I have proposed to the international community, to this Europe which is adrift, that precisely because it has abandoned its moral and political principles, Europe should issue a universal statement in favour of democracy. And say that, despite this Europe which is sinking, this very same Europe also vindicates now social justice and solidarity. Such a step would inspire us and other peoples morally at a time when it is most needed. Europe cannot continue with its closed doors and minds. We still have NATO within our borders and that means that European security is still dependent on an American general, and our military expenditure is too large. In this sense, I must add that the American President Obama has been courageous in confronting the Pentagon with military budget cuts.
SI: In this regard, you have recently proposed the proper implementation of the Tobin Tax.
FM: We have had several meetings about a proper implementation of the Tobin Tax, which is still a very valid instrument for guaranteeing a sound economy. In 2005 the then French President Jacques Chirac, the former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (who, at Porto Alegre, promoted the establishment of financial alternatives), together with former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and former Spanish President José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero, advocated alternatives so that rich countries could fulfil their duties towards developing countries and avoid exploitation. Their main concern was that financial institutions did not exploit those countries, but that financial institutions were, ideally, a vehicle to attract more clients. We are always complaining that we are short of customers. We want to sell more items to 20 per cent of the global village, that is, the rich countries, instead of broadening the number of customers, in a sustainable manner, of course. The Tobin Tax was meant to help in this regard. But now it is used for paying the debt in a vicious circle. Most renowned economists agree that there is no growth without incentives. Even though I am not an economist, in my experience and from the vantage point I have observed and participated in world affairs, I can tell that we won’t create jobs or wealth if we only apply indiscriminate cuts.
SI: For many people, these cuts are synonymous with fear. They stand for the fear, the cowardice and the lack of vision of contemporary politicians and institutions. You have written and spoken extensively about fear, the way in which it prevents us from being active citizens in the world. Do you see, once and for all, an end to fear in this global crisis that has sparked off people power?
FM: Fear is intrinsic to human existence. There have always been men throughout history who have ruled with an absolute power that claimed the lives of other men. This absolute power fed on fear and created subjects, not citizens, and therefore societies have developed an inherent fear. But now people are realising that life might be a miracle, is certainly a mystery, and that life has to be experienced with intensity. We have to make the most of life and give it a rich texture. We must aspire to a lack of fear, because for the first time in history, thanks in part to the new technologies of communication, we are able to get rid of fear. Now, women and men can express themselves freely and globally.
This is related to an important remark you made previously. The people’s voice gives us the opportunity to explore genuine democratic ways on a local and global scale, because till now democracy has been reduced to voting and being counted in elections. From now on, citizens’ participation will mean a gradual intensification of its expression. The technologies of communication allow citizens to participate in an open environment which knows no physical borders; this will impose itself and we will see more consolidated democracies as well as the possibility to correct those tendencies which run contrary to human dignity. We won’t only improve the quality of the fragile democracies that we have nowadays, but we will make specific proposals for a different future. I think people power is an unstoppable movement, but it will cease being a protest movement to become a movement with proposals.
SI. Could you venture some predictions for the year 2012?
FM: I think 2012 will be a good year, and it might be that President Obama is re-elected. Even though he has been hemmed in so that his concept of solidarity towards poor people in the US did not prevail, Obama could re-establish the multilateral system in the world. And this is essential, because we cannot continue deciding things such as killing Gadaffi instead of protecting the civil population in Libya; we cannot perpetuate the current chaos in Syria, or engage in Iran to do what we did in Iraq. Acting multilaterally would mark a new beginning in the management of world affairs. And as far as Western economies are concerned, I think that eventually Europe will realise that austerity and cuts are not the way to create jobs and growth. We will return to a relocalisation of production, since we have handed over this responsibility to third parties who do not respect human rights, and, this, as I was saying before, is an act of irresponsibility and greed. The Mayas got it right when they noted that this would be a ‘Baktun’ year, that is, a year of a new beginning or a “new dawn” – as they say.
Recently, we had the Davos summit, and I am not at all interested in Davos because the pundits who represent it are simply prolonging the death throes of the capitalist system as we have known it.
At a certain point, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev brought about the collapse, without any bloodshed, of a Communist system which had been based on equality but had forgotten about freedom and justice. But we must not forget that without equality and justice, the freedom provided by the capitalist system does not serve its purpose, and this is allowing for the collapse of the capitalist system. This collapse is what we are seeing now. We can no longer privilege a few in order to continue with a system that is finished.
We have to invent another system, invent another United Nations. Roosevelt was right: we, peoples, have to rule, absolute power must not – the absolute power of the G7 or the G20. You will see: the United Nations will be re-established with a Security Council that is based not only on territorial rights and the resolution of conflicts, but it will also have a very significant environmental section, a socio-economic Security Council, and it will be closer to real problems. This will allow us all to feel represented in a fair and dignified way by the United Nations. You will see that. The General Assembly won’t have only states, but it will consist of 50 per cent states and 50 per cent of representatives of civil society.
I think we have to be hopeful because the human species has been given the divine capacity to create. The United Nations will not continue if nations are not united. Therefore, we cannot allow that its own creators abandon it, like the US, which is complaining that Palestine has been readmitted as a state with full rights. In fact, these attitudes are outworn; this arrogance does not produce the same effect as in the past. We can perceive a positive change in human feelings, and thanks to the new technologies of communication and information we will open up important spaces of power and representation throughout the world. We are, indeed, at the threshold of a new dawn.
For more information:
Federico Mayor Zaragoza’s book The Crime of Silence is available free online at the website above.
by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Book review by Betsy Whitfill
It was 2002 when Share International magazine published a survey of organisations that address the abuse of women throughout the world. “Resources for Women in Need” was one of just a few efforts then to bring notice of this serious and pervasive cultural pathology to the public consciousness. It was hoped that momentum might take over and save millions of women from the pain and suffering resulting simply from being born female. Progress, despite being uneven, has been made, as documented in the book Half the Sky, written by prize-winning writers Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn.
Half the Sky is a vigorously informative read. It is crafted to engage the reader’s attention with the painful, and on occasion, humorous details of the lives of heroic girls and women who have said “No” to enslaving traditions and refused to be silent about subsequent abuse. The quality they share is awareness of their inherent rights as human beings. Women who gain these rights often become tireless initiators of educational programs that empower other girls and women. Their achievements nurture and save entire villages, and even contribute to the growth of their nations’ economies. And so, Kristof and WuDunn write, education – and the resulting empowerment – is the key to resolving abuse in all its forms. But even more, education is the key to bringing women into full participation in the life and success of any nation.
The stories of abuse are grouped into three main categories: sex trafficking and prostitution; gender-based violence; maternal mortality and morbidity. Many of the stories are accompanied by small sepia-toned portraits that create a sort of intimacy, as if one were actually listening in on their secrets. Having been trusted with such personal experiences, one cannot turn away or forget. This is exactly what the authors intend. They hope that readers will become educated and engaged. “You cannot,” they write, “galvanize people with charts and statistics.”
Sex trafficking and prostitution need little explanation. Poverty drives families to sell daughters, usually under the pretext of their getting good jobs in a city. Once transplanted, with no papers and in a strange place, the girls are forced into prostitution. If they resist they are beaten, drugged or otherwise abused until they succumb.
Gender-based violence includes “honor killings”, acid attacks and burnings to punish a girl’s disobedience to traditional cultural requirements, or mothers who kill their girl babies because males are preferred.
Maternal mortality and morbidity refers to the death of women who are pregnant and die from lack of prenatal care, infection during birth, or the chronic suffering resulting from unsafe abortions and from fistulas that develop during obstructed labor, for example. Fistulas are exceedingly difficult to treat and condemn thousands of women to lives of isolation and rejection even by their own families.
Poverty plays a major role in these issues, but often it is simply that women are devalued by men and even by other women. They are without human rights and without standing, except what is bestowed by others according to cultural traditions. It is the cultural tradition – violation of which brings rejection, isolation and death – that needs to be changed. And that sort of change can only come when local leadership works with outside support.
Although some girls and women fight hard and long for their rights, they cannot do this alone. They need outside help. At the governmental level, for example, in the year 2000 the US State Department initiated a simple yet successful project called the annual TIP (Trafficking in Persons) report. For the first time, ambassadors were engaging their foreign counterparts in identifying and keeping track of trafficking just like they monitored weapons and terrorism. As a result, their local police departments began tracking traffickers and pimps, who then had to pay so much to bribe the police that the cost eroded their profits. The authors write that outlawing trafficking and prostitution, however morally satisfying, is not a panacea for this problem. It is the culture that must be changed, and that is best accomplished from within the culture.
At the US State Department, the Office of Trafficking has since been moved out of the State Department building, reducing the visibility of its needs and work. WuDunn and Kristof suggest that it would be enormously useful if the Secretary of State would take the Director of Trafficking with him or her on trips to certain countries where problems exist. They also suggest that during Presidential visits to certain countries, the US President could visit women’s shelters, and use the trafficking issue as a negotiating point in dealing with membership in international bodies.
The International Violence Against Women Act of 2007 is yet to become law in the US. It would provide $175 million in foreign aid to address violence against women, and create an Office of Women’s Global Initiatives in the Office of the Secretary of State. It would also provide a Women’s Global Development Office in the US Agency for International Development. This law would again raise the visibility of this issue to the same high levels reached by the TIP report.
Although poverty certainly drives trafficking and prostitution, countries need not be wealthy in order to educate and empower women, end these practices, and reap the economic rewards. Sri Lanka, for example, is not particularly wealthy and yet it has a public health system, an ambulance system, and a network of midwives trained in family planning, prenatal care and birthing. Ninety-seven per cent of the nation’s babies are born in hospital, and according to government records, it has halved maternal deaths (relative to the number of live births) at least every 12 years since 1935. WuDunn and Kristof write that Sri Lanka places a high priority on gender equality; 89 per cent of the women are literate. Educating women, family planning and lowering the maternal and infant death rates, they say, translate into smaller, healthier families that make fewer demands on the national economy.
China’s booming economy, the authors write, can be traced to the “liberation” of women after the 1949 revolution, when Mao brought women into the workforce, into the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and abolished prostitution, child marriage and concubinage. It was he, they add, who proclaimed that “Women hold up half the sky.” Of course, all is not perfect there, but China is a model for the benefits of bringing women into the national life.
For more information:
Half the Sky, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Vantage Books, USA, 2011, 296 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-38709-7.