Protecting our food from the cult of GDP Growth


Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2013: Vandana Shiva – Growth = Poverty

Nelson Mandela on Globalisation


In the light of the secret negotiations which are taking place to create a TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Free Trade Agreement (US-EU FTA, TAFTA), it is salutary to read Nelson Mandela’s assessment of globalisation, both as it has developed, and as it should have been created.  His speech printed below was made on receiving the Freedom Award From the National Civil Rights Museum in November 2000

Speech on receiving the Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, November 2000

To stand here tonight as the recipient of the Freedom Award presented by the National Civil Rights Museum humbles and inspires us.What is regarded as having been achieved by me in the struggle for freedom and human rights is in fact the result of the collective efforts of hundreds and thousands of colleagues and comrades in the leadership of organisations I have worked in and with.It is, even more importantly, the result of the sacrifices, resolve and courage of millions and millions of so-called ordinary men, women and youth most of whom shall never even achieve a mention in the annals of history. One cannot but be humble for being singled out to be honoured for such a collective achievement.For a South African to be honoured here tonight in this place and by this body inspires as it reminds us again of the indivisibility of human freedom. Where the freedom and rights of people in one part of the world are violated we are all demeaned and diminished as human beings. Our freedom cannot be complete while others in the world are not free. Your award inspires us to continue the struggle for freedom and human rights. It reminds that the long walk to freedom is not yet over.Those of us who lived through most of the twentieth century can tell what high hopes for universal freedom were entertained in that century. The world fought two great wars that promised to end all wars and to end tyranny. The process of decolonisation, ending European dominance over the entire planet, got underway. World bodies were established to ensure a free and equitable world.The progress humankind achieved in the field of science and technology outstripped the accumulative achievements of all preceding generations. We were able to utilise the resources of nature and to produce far in excess of what was required to feed, clothe, shelter and care for the entire population of the world.

Yet we closed that century and entered the new millennium with the largest part of the human population still far from enjoying those fruits of freedom of which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks. Tyranny, oppression and abuse of human rights still rule in too many parts of the world for us to relent in the struggle for freedom.

Even in parts of the world where political freedom has been attained or where it has applied for long, the material fruits of a decent living have not always or universally accompanied that freedom.

The single most demeaning feature of our modern world is the persistence of massive poverty. The majority of the world’s population languishes in conditions of abject poverty and deprivation. This is in spite of the fact that we have the capacity to take care of all the world’s people. This is in spite of the opulence and privilege in which large sectors of the world live.

The divide between the rich and the poor, those who have plenty and those who suffer penury, is even widening in our contemporary world. And nothing threatens our collective freedom more than the persistence of this divide. None of us can sleep comfortably while our brother or sister goes hungry, cold, unsheltered, ignorant and ill.

We often talk about the globalisation of our world, referring to our world as a global village. Too often those descriptions refer solely to the free movement of goods and capital across the traditional barriers of national boundaries. Not often enough do we emphasise the globalisation of responsibility. In this world where modern information and communications technology has put all of us in easy reach of one another, we do again share the responsibility for being the proverbial keeper of our brother or sister.

Where globalisation means, as it so often does, that the rich and powerful now have new means to further enrich and empower themselves at the cost of the poorer and weaker, we have a responsibility to protest in the name of universal freedom. Globalisation opens up the marvellous opportunities for human beings across the globe to share with one another, and to share with greater equity in the advances of science, technology and industries. To allow it to have the opposite effect is to threaten freedom in the longer term.

The right of a person to vote freely in democratic elections, to express him or herself without hindrance, to gather and associate as one wishes, to move freely in one’s land – these are precious freedoms that lift the human spirit and give expression to our God-given rights.

We must, however, at the same time as we cherish them remain constantly aware that those freedoms get devalued if they are for too long devoid of that dignity that comes with a decent quality of living.

That is the challenge to the freedom fighters of the twenty first century – the alleviation and eradication of poverty. Abject poverty is demeaning, is an assault on the dignity of those that suffer it. In the end it demeans us all. It makes the freedom of all of us less meaningful.

I thank you for this great honour. I wish you well in your work. May this century indeed be the one in which we achieve universal freedom and the universal enjoyment of those rights our glorious charters speak of.

I thank you.

Hat-tip Prue Plumridge and Occupy London for an inspiring reminder of the politics of Nelson Mandela 1918-2013.

Why should we be very concerned about the current US/EU Free Trade Agreement?

One Nation .. Two Worlds..

One Nation .. Two Worlds: From Julijuxtaposed

I don’t think the comfortable but rapidly diminishing middle classes really want to see the poor made poorer, or to gain particularly at their expense. They just believe, albeit very mistakenly, that there’s not enough to go round so they think they’re protecting their interests. They have swallowed the snake oil argument that says this is the way the world works so this is the way it must continue to work. They don’t really know if the poor are ‘undeserving’ but the notion of it soothes conscience and provides convenient justification to instincts, ambitions and actions.

This must not endure. It’s entropic and we all know it, whether consciously or by that nagging discomfort deep in the pits of our stomachs. Actually, we know it literally cannot endure because, if it does, its prognosis will look like a scene from Kozintsev. The plenty-rich-enough really will have to live in gated, high security communities with helicopter pads and armed escorts for exit because the outside world – the real world – will be ruthless, hostile and just a tad lawless. The nightmares portrayed by science fiction all set to become fast approaching realities as the abandoned become increasingly destitute in ever greater number.

We already talk, in jest and seriousness, about the other planet that the 0.1-1% inhabits but really, today’s grimmest quality of life will seem like an aspiration if we don’t get a grip of our leaders and their bloody and bloodied interests. We truly will have two worlds: one with all the good food, clean water, reliable energy, effective medicine, education and technology (for a while anyway); the other: the dehumanising beg-steal-and-make-do environment of arcane feudalism, replete with all its arbitrary day-to-day precariousness.

Right! Melodramatic mini rant over! Back to being forever open and on the alert for all pockets of light and hope…

See Soylent Green, George Osborne and Plutonomy, Think Left.

Support Petition for Fair Pensions – UK Neglect of the Elderly is a Disgrace


UK Petition for Fair Pensions
– Neglect of the Elderly is a Disgrace

by Michael Thompson

Millions of elderly people in Britain today are having to choose between eating, and heating their homes because the State pension is so low. And what’s more the media are sweeping this issue under the carpet.

Cold kills 200 British pensioners a day during winter. Nine elderly people die from cold related illnesses, against a backdrop of soaring energy bills.

The Government’s future 2016 State pensions policy is inadequate and will be two tier. Today’s pensioners will continue to receive a meagre State pension and means tested handouts, only future pensioners will receive a £144 a week State pension based on contributions made, and means testing will be abolished.

So the UK’s existing 12 million pensioners will continue to be more worse off than their EU counterparts whose State pensions are much higher. I’m sure that a lot of elderly people believe they will be getting this full Universal State pension come April 2016. But they wont. This only applies to new pensioners from 2016.

When The Chancellor announced plans for the new state pension, he and all the media called it the Universal state pension. The rate would be £144 (at today’s rates), and it would be payable to all pensioners from April 2016. Now, that is what myself and others understood Universal to mean.

There was no announcement stating that this would only apply to new pensioners, and more importantly, that the amount payable would still be based on your national insurance contributions – needing 35 years contributions to get the full payment.

Britain is part of Europe at a cost of £60 million per day after net rebate, yet UK pensioners are not allowed to receive and enjoy Europe’s much higher State pensions. This is wrong!. As we are a part of Europe, Britain’s State pension should be upgraded accordingly. There is an EU ruling which says that all pensioners of the EU should be treated the same regardless of where they now live.

At the EU Laeken summit in Belgium in 2001, there was a ratified proposal that all EU member States, of which Britain is one, should endeavour to attain a State pension level of 40 per cent of their median wages as their basic State pension by 2007, and thereafter work toward 60 per cent.

This is how we did in 2007, compared to the rest of Europe.

Greece 95.7 %
Luxemburg 88.3 %
Netherlands 81.9 %
Spain 81.2 %
Denmark 79.8 %
Italy 67.9 %
Sweden 62.1 %
France 51.2 %
Germany 39.9 %
Estonia 32.9 %
Ireland 32.5 %
UK 30%

This is how we are doing this year, 2013, compared to the rest of Europe.

State pension comparison 2013

Max State Avg% of pension age

Country Pension Pay Avg Men & Woman.
Spain £26,630 £23,491 113% 65 65
Germany £26,366 £29,366 90% 65 65
France £15,811 £29,817 53% 60 60
N’lands £10,981 £35,627 31% 65 65
Denmark £11,381 £45,661 25% 65 65
Ireland £10,415 £41,803 25% 65 65
UK £7,488 £31,413 24% 65 62
Greece £3,756 £17,772 21% 65 65

Nothing has changed for Britain’s pensioners since this ratified proposal was made.

Millions of UK pensioners still live in poverty on a much lower State pension than European pensioners receive.

We in Link-Age UK wide are relative younger people taking this issue on, on behalf of our elderly people, wish to urge the Government to stick to the agreement made at the Laeken Summit in 2001, that due to the ratified proposal all member states should endeavour to attain a level of 40% of their median wages as their basic state pension by 2007 and thereafter work towards 60%. and to bring UK State pensions in line with Europe, this should be adhered to.

We in Link-Age UK wide are relative younger people taking this issue on, on behalf of our elderly people, wish to urge the Government to stick to the agreement made at the Laeken Summit in 2001, that due to the ratified proposal all member states should endeavour to attain a level of 40% of their median wages as their basic state pension by 2007 and thereafter work towards 60%. and to bring UK State pensions in line with Europe, this should be adhered to.

Please support this petition and send a message to the Government through your own constituent MP, or can contact Michael after 7pm any evening to receive a “free” copy of a letter to send directly to their MP at the House of Commons, and not their MP’s constituency address, because this is an issue of national importance, it is not a local matter.

People must have a pen and paper at hand when they ring.
The phone number to ring is 01803/ 857020. Also for those online, there is a petition, “Department for Works and Pensions:. We urge the UK Government to bring UK State pensions in line with Europe. Please take 30 seconds to sign it right now.
Here’s the link.

Here’s why this is important.
Nothing has changed for Britain’s elderly people since the pensions and earnings link was cut in 1980, and this ratified proposal was made at the Laeken Summit in Belgium in 2001, and was agreed by “all” member States of which Britain is one.

I urge people to contract me at the above number after 7pm, and to sign our petition to show your disgust at this disgraceful situation for all UK pensioners, and force Parliament to discuss this issue which will bring Britain’s State pensions crisis to the media’s attention.