Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The End of Economic Hit Men?

I just finished John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. I think despite the controversy, the book itself is well written, vividly describing his experience as well as his dilemma. I tried to do as much desktop searches as possible to find supporting facts, which admittedly difficult to be conclusive despite various factual accuracies which he referenced. Many qualified investigative journalists have tried to corroborate his stories and shared their findings on the web so I leave it to the pros to continue doing that. What I'd like to discuss is the ideas he mentioned in the book.

In Confessions, Perkins shared his past life as what he called an 'economic hit man', a highly paid economic consultant out to cheat developing countries billions of dollars and bind them to the United States' agenda. He did this by working with an international engineering firm to generate wildly optimistic forecasts that international banks will use to justify big loans on developing countries. The countries spend the money on power plants, roads, dams, etc. awarding the construction to American firms like Bechtel, Halliburton, etc. The key is that the projects are too ambitious, the loan is too big, that the country will not be able to pay back -- this is when they have to do the United States' bidding, be it building US military base, voting in favor of US in the UN, opening up more of their economies and natural resources to US, etc.

Upon close reading, I understand that one of his focus messages is not on the conspiracy theory in a traditional sense: There were no explicit conspirators, no intense and regular back room conspiring involving all the parties, etc. Conspirations did happen, but more by sub-groups of people sharing a short term agenda instead of "big picture" global domination. He essentially said that the "big conspiration" is actually conspiration of values, worldview. The worldview that says economic growth is everything, that it is the big answer for human prosperity, irrespective of inequality. Since economic growth is everything, then the champion and the drivers of those growth should be greatly rewarded, or even worshipped to some extend. The losers on the other hand, are available for exploitation -- they ought to do the hard labors supporting their masters, the new winners, new landlords. To continue fuel economic growth, domination of resources is critical, which is one of key reasons for economic hit men's existence.

Towards the end of the book he also mentioned how the new generation of economic hit men, the international consultants, while "sheltered" from the explicit explanations on reasons of their existence, they are still bound to the mission of the economic hit men through their high salary, huge bonus, pension plans, insurance, and the cost of their children's education, and so on. All of us, the global people at large, the upper and middle class are also bound by this worldview so long we still spend and consume mindlessly. In short, the earth cannot support United States' level of consumption if aspired by all other countries. They would also have to resort to the US' style of exploitation as told by Perkins in order to achieve their aspiration.

I am fortunate enough to study in one of the US' esteemed universities and learnt up close about the US version of capitalism. At times I can resonate with Perkins' dilemma, having been a consultant myself. Through my education and experience I came to fully appreciate the virtues of capitalism: independence, entrepreneurial spirit, strong work ethic, meritocracy, etc., but they by no means are complete. This book has opened my eyes and balanced my worldview, to make me appreciate better the equal importance of equality, of justice, and of sustainability. I believe economic growth is to be pursued NOT at all cost. It is particularly not sustainable if not accompanied by fairness, justice, environmental consideration, and equal opportunities for all. Growth should also be balanced by values which support sustainability such as moderate consumption, spend and use less, simplicity, environmental awareness, buy environmentally friendly products, and many other virtues. These, my friends, are what we ought to do. As said, the prospect of not doing it is too great: Many countries will be forced to adopt imperialist stance in order to secure those resources.... Bleak future and Earth for our children.

Those messages, in my opinion, are more important than any conspiracy stories told throughout the book. I think those are the messages that Perkins also wants us to hear, and do. Starting with ourselves, and then people around us. In this day and age, we as grass roots, common people, have such big power that had never been seen before to together change our life styles, the course of our lives, and by doing so, the course of the world. I hope that will lead to the end of economic hit men, forever.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Two is better than one...

Hello! If you notice from now on, Impian Kesatria is being written by two individuals named Yudistira and Drupadi :). A team of people is always better than one individual... We hope to learn, share and contribute more to the wonderful world of ideas, values, and communities, for the betterment of our shared world.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Creating and Consuming

After watching a TV interview with Jimmy Carter and understanding his illustrious career and impressive productivities (~150 pieces of furnitures, 21 books and counting, presidential career, etc.), I finally realize the differences between Consuming and Creating.

Jim Carter is a creator.

Our God is the Ultimate Creator. He created us to reflect His glory, and to be valuable in this world we have to create. When we read, study, and learn, we consume. I was initially so proud having able to read tough books, complex manuscripts, heavy articles, etc. But in the end if I cannot convert those information into knowledge and create something out of them, I am a mere consumer. To actually add value, we have to create, not stopping at consume.

So read your books, but don't stop there. Observe the world, but don't stop there. Think and reflect, but yet don't stop there. Summarize the ideas, your findings, synthesize them into useful thoughts about current world, and share it to the people around you.

Write. Writing is an act of creating, not consuming.

Speak. Speaking or teaching is creating, not consuming.

Share. Sharing your material, spiritual, and knowledge wealth to others is act of creating, not consuming.

When you are creating, you also take risks compare to simply consuming. But that's fine, because you will then grow to be a better creator, and better person.

Go out. Be a creator. Let us learn together to be creators, to be productive, for our own selves and society.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Movies, films, pilem, etc...

Since we are talking about movies, what movies do you think reflect the spirit of kesatria (heroic, self-sacrificing, courageous, noble, honorable, a person of integrity)?
I have listed several below that are merely according to my humble opinion. The characters in those movies are by no means perfect people (well, maybe except one movie below according to my personal faith) : they have weaknesses, they made wrong choices (that usually they regret later), made mistakes, etc. But when the time/times come, they do answer the call for action valiantly. That spirit, hopefully, are in each of us.

List of movies that show spirit of kesatria (not in any order):
1. The Insider
2. Braveheart
3. Gladiator
4. Schindler's List
5. The Hiding Place (the story of the Ten Boom family)
6. Cinderella Man
7. A Beautiful Mind
8. We Were Soldiers
9. Gandhi
10. Hero
11. Passion of the Christ
12. Ben-Hur
13. Saving Private Ryan

I am sure there are many more movies out there that qualifies; feel free to complete the list :). Look forward to see/hear some Indonesian movies that qualify also.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Blood Diamond.....

I just finished watching Blood Diamond, a movie I've been wanting to see since its release. It was a good movie that exposes us to real evil of child soldiers, civil wars, conflict diamonds. It is real evil and we have to help fight whereever we are (when thinking of buying diamonds, for example). It was such a stirring movie with a lot of heroic scenes throughout. Even a lifelong pragmatic "businessman" such as Mr. Archer thought and made a good decision in the end to contribute fighting the evil in Africa.

The director also spoke of an interesting juxtapose in the story between a man looking for a diamond and a man looking for his son..... Which one is more valuable? Solomon definitely has a quality of a kesatria, and Archer's decision towards the end (not sure if he premeditated it) shows that he, too, has it to redeem himself.

Despite the controversy surrounding Hollywood, I like its faith in optimism and good ending. Hollywood movies punishes the bad guys and rewards the good guys. Hollywood also both rewards and punishes bad guys who turn good, providing them with means to redeem themselves as in the case of Mr. Archer. I suspect this somewhat reflects the demand of American audience (and apparently aslo the world audience seieng how successful Hollywood movies are). Perhaps, humanity in this world full of suffering need to believe that things will get better; that things will be fine in the end. Villains will lose, heroes will win, and heroic deeds are celebrated.

PS: After further reflection, I opted to start writing in English. At first I thought writing in Indonesian will enable my writings to be enjoyed by more Indonesians (especially those who cannot read English). However, in balance it is better to write in English to include more people outside just Indonesian circle as well as helping my fellow Indonesian to learn English (despite my not-so-good English :). Well, we learn together.
Please let me know if you like me to write in Indonesians instead.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tegakkan keadilan: Tunda hukuman mati Tibo cs!

Memang Indonesia setiap hari mengukir sejarah. Kalau Tibo cs dieksekusi Jumat dini hari, pemerintah Indonesia merelakan dirinya ditunggangi oknum dan mastermind Poso, yang akan diuntungkan dengan kematian mereka. Pemerintah Indonesia juga berarti menutup mata terhadap ketidak adilan yang jelas2 terjadi di dalam proses keadilan Tibo cs. Apakah langkah2 ini adalah langkah2 menuju pemerintahan gaya Orba?

Mari kita solider sebagai rakyat Indonesia yang ikut pilu, sedih, dan bertindak terhadap ketidakadilan ini.

Silakan baca dan sign-up (secepatnya karena faktor waktu):

Salam keadilan!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Shopping Mal dan Kelas Menengah

Kalau nonton film Gladiator, anda pasti ingat dimana pemerintahan kota Roma mengadakan gladiator games terus menerus untuk mengalihkan perhatian, men-distract para warganya dari hal2 yang penting seperti ekonomi, proses politik, moral, dlsb.

Terkadang kalau melihat mal2 yang menjamur di Jakarta dan betapa kegiatan pergi ke mal dan berbelanja menjadi pusat dari energi dan perhatian kelas menengah Jakarta, saya jadi merasa jangan2 ada parallelnya antara kegiatan pemerintah Jakarta dengan apa yang dilakukan pemerintah Roma dahulu kala. Bayangkan, megahnya Senayan City yang dibangung berseberangan dengan Plaza Senayan dan berada di lokasi berdekatan dengan Ex, Sudirman Place, dan Ratu Plaza complex, semuanya termasuk shopping mal2 yang cukup besar! Luar biasa! Kalau dahulu di film Gladiator pemerintah Roma mengadakan gladiator game demi game non stop sampai rakyatnya ketagihan, pemerintah Jakarta membangun mal demi mal sampai Jakarta penuh dengan shopping mal dan penghuninya ketagihan.

Seperti yang kita tahu, kelas menengah adalah suatu lapisan masyarakat yang seringkali menjadi agen pembaharu di masyarakat, dikarenakan kekuatan ekonomi, pendidikan, akses sosial, dan relatif independensinya (dibandingkan kelas bawah yang lemah dan kelas atas yang status quo). Kelas menengah Indonesia sudah sangat sibuk berbelanja di shopping mal yang terus menjamur, makan di resto2 yang tersebar dimana2, dan kalau tidak berbelanja atau makan diluar, mereka kerja keras untuk mendapat upah yang kritikal dalam mendukung gaya hidup tsb.

Begitulah roda kelas menengah Jakarta dan ekonomi konsumerisme yang didukung public policy Jakarta yang pro konsumerisme berlebihan. Semoga saya salah, karena terus terang saya ingin melihat lebih keterlibatan kelas menengah di dalam membawa arus perubahan ke arah yang lebih baik, karena lapisan masyarakat ini adalah lapisan yang potensial dan membawa harapan buat kita semua.