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Vivian Norris de Montaigu

Vivian Norris de Montaigu

Posted: July 19, 2010 09:35 AM

Choosing Sides in a 1930s-like Economy

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Many years ago, when writing about World War II and Occupied France, I found a quote that basically said not making any kind of choice was still a choice. In that case it was a choice between collaboration and resistance. Beginning pre-war, in the 1930s, there were groups of industrialists, which we found out were collaborating in the shadows, the "cagoule" they were called...and they went on to build and lead (or already were) some of the biggest companies in France (L'Oreal, Renault, etc) just as Standard Oil and others had done in the U.S. They were fascists, using their so-called anti-Communism as an excuse for their violence (much like Pinochet who supported Economist Milton Friedman and the Neocon point of view in the US did as well), and went on in some cases to reap great profits before, during and after the war.

In the summer of 2001, while attending an anti-globalization meeting during then President George W. Bush's first trip to Europe, just prior to the EU Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, I met an elderly Swedish woman protesting against the cuts to her health care. As we spoke, she told me of her memories of the 1930s and how 2001 reminded her of 1933. Later that same summer, a Swiss-Italian man told me exactly the same thing, as did a retired Dutch professor, who had served in the Resistance and been captured by (and escaped from) the Nazis. With the attacks of 9/11 at the end of that summer of growing protests and police and state violence against the protesters, we saw fear and so-called "anti-terrorist" controls almost bring that movement to a halt.

What has been going on that reminds three people from three different countries in Europe, all who had been young adults during the war, to be reminded of those years leading up to the horrific events which killed millions? Why were they reminded of the 1930s and how can we see that what has been going on is replicating that frightening period in when fascism emerged and human beings made choices that lead to so much death, destruction and yet also profits?

The gap between the rich and poor is greater than it was even during the last Depression in the 1930s. Job insecurity and unemployment, in the U.S. and increasingly in Europe and other parts of the world, is at an all-time high. Nationalistic tendencies, trade wars, a return to gold and many other factors are tell-tale signs of an increasingly unstable time, during which alliances formed lay bare choices made (or not made), which demonstrate which side people are on (or not).

In other words, it is time to choose sides. But guess what? We are all human beings and we all have to live together on this planet. In order to survive and to create a better world, we all have to be on the same side! There is no place for disturbingly huge gaps between rich and poor, there is no reason for poverty, and as the Nobel Peace Prize winning economist and banker to the poor, Muhammad Yunus has stated time and again, if we wanted to get rid of poverty we could!

What is the point of so few people having so much, even if they then decide to leave it to charity? No one elected Paul Allen or Bill Gates or Warren Buffett to any kind of office so why should we who treasure democracy allow those with so much cash and thus power, decide what affects ourselves, our country and so much of the world? It simply is not sustainable.

So look around you at what is happening. Beware of racist, fascist and elitist tendencies in everything from seemingly off he cuff remarks to a Texas-like choice of rewriting history in schoolbooks (Stalin did the same thing). If you are truly for freedom and prosperity, it must be for all humans, not just a select spoiled few. Elect people like Elizabeth Warren to office, fight for people who truly represent the best interests of all versus those who protect profits before humans. And while you (we) are at it, let's protect the earth and the future for generations to come. I am an optimist, even as I see my native Gulf Coast polluted, and people losing jobs, the inequality...I also see many many more people speaking out and saying this is enough!

Make a choice Americans! Stand with humanity not hunkering down in fear! We are more than that! Support Obama's attempts to make America a better place! He has already done so much especially considering the mess he was left with! And President Obama, please support people like Elizabeth Warren and do not let pressure from banks (not humans) force your hand! We are also asking you to make a choice to stand with us!

 

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