Are we shifting directions as a society? Where are we heading? Questions and answers.
By Daan de Wit
Recent articles in the most mainstream of news media, The New York Times (1
) and The Washington Post (2
), suggest that paperless electronic voting may be on the way out in the United States. The Iraq Study Group
, presided over by the most conservative government insider, James Baker III, is highly critical of the war in Iraq. Interviews
I held with Willem Middelkoop, economics reporter for RTL-Z, make it clear that the way in which our Western economies are being run is unsustainable. Israel's war against Lebanon, waged with U.S. approval and military supply (cluster bombs and intelligence
), was lost, yet despite that the issue of Iran
is not off
the table and war is still a major possibility.
In the Netherlands, several counties decided against the placing of UMTS phone antennas, despite the soothing claims of the Dutch government, which made a lot of money selling the UMTS licenses. More autonomous behaviour by counties: their reaction to the extradition policy of the government is to refuse it, a judge does the same through a wide interpretation of the law, and more recently the Dutch parliament reprimanded the minister responsible.
The recently held elections in the U.S. and the Netherlands shifted politics: a Democratic victory in the States and in Holland a nay to the current administration was heard, amidst a victory for the Socialist Party. Leaders from the largest Dutch companies admonish
the government on its environmental policy, expressing concern that the issue was not addressed during the campaign. After five years alternative theories about 9/11 have received world wide attention. The 9/11 Truth Movement has made many people think twice about what happened on and around September 11th, 2001.What is going on?
The Social and Cultural Planning Agency (Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau) refocussed their efforts and recently reported
not on the things that are going wrong in Dutch society, but on successful projects and inspiring examples. Their bi-annual research report shows that the most interesting positive trends are initiated by citizens, not by governmental institutions. As a matter of fact, these citizen initiatives are successful in spite of the government. They don't make use of public funding; in fact, the report showed that the government tended more often than not to get in the way. And in cases where it was helpful, it was only verbally supportive, writes
the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. The government is less verbal
about the reasons it sent troops to Iraq - this is still a secret. In the meantime, the Dutch contribution to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan has become more troublesome than was anticipated (by the government, not by critical observers). But one of the reasons for this may lie in the fact that the current Dutch administration made every effort - it even completely steered
the information that decisions were being based upon - to send the troops. That same administration recently awarded the soldiers who stood by and watched the slaughter in Srebrenica in 1995. The enclave in Srebrenica fell after the then Dutch government refused air support
. The respect to these soldiers was paid amongst harsh criticism from the victims families.What is going on?
Major interest is being shown by the major media in a subject that just ten years ago was impossible for me to get broadcasters interested in: privacy, and what you might call the fear of the people by the government. Ten years ago almost no one had heard of Echelon
, the worldwide Anglo-American system that spies on all communications made by all citizens in the West. In the mean time the fundaments have been laid, the house is being built - as was to be expected. Back then, nobody could have imagined that Echelon would become a reality or that millions of cameras
would watch the moves of every British citizen. Now we find ourselves in a situation in which this system can hardly be dismantled, and so we have to - but cannot - trust future governments to avoid misusing the infinite connected databanks with information about us. CNBC, a major broadcaster in the United States, recently aired a long documentary
called Big Brother, Big Business
. In addition to demonstrating the growing invasion by government into the lives of its citizens, it becomes apparent that these measures can have serious flaws. Examples in the documentary are given of peoples lives being ruined as a result of being pushed outside of society, based on the mixing up of identities
. This makes clear two problems: identity theft or mixup is a serious problem, and the control rage of governments makes it possible to create pariahs out of people like you and me.
The British Channel 4 also dug into the subject of this control rage of governments and their misdirected fear, resulting in many privacy threatening laws and regulations. In the 45-minute documentary Suspect Nation
it showed the major flaws in the chips that go into your future ID-card and passport: it is a very simple procedure to copy the information from the so-called strictly personal chip and then put it into a new chip, thus stealing the identity of that person. Washington insider and investigative journalist Wayne Madsen
describes on his website how the loss of the very personal data of millions of people by data banks is rampant
- a much bigger problem than a little mistake here and there. Basically the new privacy laws and ever expanding anti-terrorism regulations that are eroding
our privacy are a disgrace to our Western democratic way of living, but can also not be trusted. And this is now slowly but surely being picked up by the major media. What is going on?
From another production
by Channel 4, it becomes clear what you might have already figured out on your own by reading snippets of information here and there: Iraq was bad, but Afghanistan is not much better. The Taliban are being fought on the basis of what might be at best called flimsy: Not that they are nice people, but back then they were willing to hand over Bin Laden - just like Sudan before them - they were sponsored by the U.S. in the months prior to 9/11 with millions of dollars, but are now being shot at by U.S. and Dutch troops. At the same time the West is being friendly with Islam Karimov, the leader of Uzbekistan, a country in which dissident voices are being muted by torture, with the help of techniques such as the use of hammers and boiling people. Then again, there's nothing new about that when you consider for instance Somoza, Noriega, Pinochet, Suharto and Fujimori. Channel 4 on Afhanistan: '[...] western intervention has produced a mafia-style state'. A state again known for being the worlds opium supplier (unlike when the Taliban reigned). More critical news can be found in another mainstream news outlet, The Washington Post, which reports
on the attempts of Italy to try 26 CIA agents for abducting a man from the streets of Milan to in turn be tortured in Egypt (see the DeepJournal series
on the U.S. ordered torture). On the subject of torture, nobody less than Kofi Annan makes headlines
around the world: In farewell, Annan scolds Bush administration - U.N. chief warns U.S. not to forget democratic ideals in war on terrorism
. What is going on?