Letter From Elsewhere: Come See The Future!
“Come see the future,” said the real estate ad. “Secure private fortress.”
I don’t know what the recently routed Queenstown council was planning to build when they carved a great chunk out of the green hillside of trees above their town, to make way for a “development” they called the Commonage. But I wouldn’t mind betting that it involved building some form of secure private fortress.
No one could accuse Peter Blake of retreating to a fortress of any kind. He was right out there calling attention to one of the world’s two most urgent problems: the crisis in the natural environment. But it was the crisis in the social environment that lay behind his death last week.
Brazil is a rich country, but it has some of the worst wealth disparities on earth. The two crises are really one and the same. The forces keeping so many Brazilians in wretched poverty are the same as those threatening the Amazon rainforest.
The “water rats” who killed Peter Blake in the course of grabbing a few hundred dollars’ worth of watches and equipment are close kin of the as yet unknown people who killed two old men and a cleaner, and seriously injured another woman, while robbing the Mt Wellington-Panmure RSA Club.
I am not claiming that poverty, dispossession and despair justifies such murders. Nor were those who pointed out the links between US foreign policy, CIA actions, the Taliban and Saudi Arabian power claiming that these justified the murder of over 3,000 people on 11 September.
The point is simply that there can be no individual or national security in a world where such gross disparities and distortions flourish, fertilised and even celebrated by those with the most money and the most power.
Some of the best minds in the world have come to the same conclusion. Two days after Peter Blake died, as Scoop reported, one hundred Nobel prize winners put out a statement warning that future security depends on immediate environmental and social reform.
These were no woolly liberals. Among them was New Zealand’s Alan MacDiarmid, awarded the prize for chemistry in 2000. Most of the others were scientists too.
“It is time to turn our backs on the unilateral search for security, in which we seek to shelter behind walls”, they wrote. “Instead, we must persist in the quest for united action to counter both global warming and a weaponized world. These twin goals will constitute vital components of stability as we move toward the wider degree of social justice that alone gives hope of peace.”
If we fail, the headlines announcing murderous death – in North and South America, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, New Zealand - will go on rising, along with the gales, the storms and the floods.