In almost every country in the world, ordinary people are increasingly speaking out and protesting publicly about a wide range of issues. These include divisive and inequitable government actions on social, economic, political, cultural and wellbeing matters. One placard (among dozens) on a wall in Bangalore in mid-February, supporting the nation-wide protests in India against a new discriminatory citizenship law, put the message in capital letters:
PREPARE TO PERISH.
The nature and consequences of the fundamental forces generating these frustrations are given thorough and scholarly exposure in Dr Erik Paul’s latest publication, Australia in the Expanding Global Crisis: The Geopolitics of Racism1.
Dr Paul’s book is a study of the key components and contradictions of the escalating global crisis and their impact, both on the world’s leading powers and more specifically on modern Australia. It elaborates the damage being done to democracy, human rights and the fabric of society by a range of forces, including racism, neoliberal capitalism, globalisation, nationalism and nation-state politics, national security surveillance and social control, an authoritarian culture of secrecy, the politics of cruelty and violence, poverty and inequality, mass migration and climate change. Challenges to US hegemony in particular and the West in general, such as the rise of China and other potential world powers, are discussed.
Throughout the text Dr Paul emphasises the need for ‘emancipation’ from these deleterious pressures and the promotion of genuine participatory democracy rather than the current ritualistic facades and charades. His book opens with the premise:
Emancipation is the ongoing struggle for social, political, and economic equality. It is conceived and mobilised as a major struggle against different forms of subjugation and exploitation, giving political expression to these struggles.
The ‘nation-state’ is both the ‘primary site’ for this struggle and a ‘major impediment to the democratic potential of any country’. Modern military and police culture and machinery, manufactured patriotism and religious participation, ‘punitive legislation’ against protest and free speech, and the inherent divisiveness and inequalities of capitalism and imperialism, all buttress and serve the interests of the elites who dominate and benefit disproportionately from the nation-state.
But in Dr Paul’s assessment, the most corrosive component of this concatenation, because all-pervasive and constantly mutating, is racism. The study opens with the point:
The geopolitics of racism is embedded in capitalism and nationalism. … Racism is a process that fragments and discriminates among the human species, creating major conflicts and antagonisms.
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