Change not improvement
The 41st Letter of an Autonomous Thinker

Amsterdam, November 25 2003

Dear reader, 

I want to change the world. Most political thinkers want only to make the world a little bit better, want to advance in a gradual way. They want to maintain the present power relations. Though the world can indeed still be improved, it is impossible to build a fundamentally better world on a wrong foundation.

In the colonial era the English were more racist than the French. The goal of opponents of the bad situation of colonised indigenous people should not be a (slight) improvement, for example a less racist attitude of the occupiers, but a total change, the abolition of the colonial regime. It has been proved that it was impossible for colonial powers to gradually educate colonised people till they "were capable of managing their own affairs". But in Iraq the Americans still adhere to the same idea, namely that they only plan to leave when they find Iraqis able to take their destiny in their own hands.

Iraq provides other examples of the impossibility of the paternalistic idea that old leaders can introduce fundamental changes. A growing number of people are against Bush, are against the War in Iraq. But when they look for solutions they rally behind the opposition that in the past has been guilty of developing a situation which made it "easy" for Bush to invade Iraq, an opposition that also do not want to leave Iraq unconditionally.

Bush indeed is not solving the terrible situation in the Middle East, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Clinton also supported the existing situation of the quagmire in and around Israel. Clinton also demanded that Iraq's (apparently non-existent) weapons of mass destruction should be controlled and destroyed. Clinton also did nothing against the atom bombs of Israel, Pakistan, India or China (not to mention against the own A-weapons, the biggest arsenal of all). Clinton also did nothing to improve the backward position of women in many countries. Clinton was cleverer than Bush, not better.

A possible Democratic successor to Bush will hardly change the Bush policy. Poor people with AIDS will still be deprived of needed medicines. The International Criminal Court will still not be allowed to judge possible crimes against humanity committed by American soldiers. Domination by Western capital through the IMF or the World Bank will be continued. The building of the American Empire will go on. The rest of the world will remain under Western control.

The situation in the Third World is unwell, but colonial times have already proven that the rich cannot improve this situation. The international secret meddling in former Yugoslavia caused the deaths of many civilians. The invasion in Afghanistan chased the Taleban away (at least temporarily) but the new regime is not much better than the old one and drugs are again streaming towards our countries. In Iraq and in Afghanistan the occupiers block any independent development. In many other countries people are kept backward by regimes that are fully supported by the West.

Bush is unpleasant but Clinton and the like are not much better. People must start to develop a policy that is not dependent on or infiltrated by powers that primarily want to maintain their own privileged position.

Of course the present situation can be improved. A reasonable society (like our democracy) has enough room for criticism. But all improvement will remain within the boundaries set by the powerful elite. As a small example; it is permitted in my country, Holland, to criticise the behaviour of individual members of the royal family. But hardly tolerated would be an attack on the undemocratic constitution by which a wealthy family gets power because of their genes.

I want change by undermining and then transgressing the elitist borders to open the way to new worlds, to a new unthought-of future. Such a policy, I am advancing on my web site. I invite everyone to form temporary minority groups of active and interested citizens that creatively disturb the now quiet world of the privileged elite. See the chapter 19, Creative Disturbance, of About Violence and Democracy. When the elite cannot go on living as before, the possibility of fundamental change will arise. But when people only support one faction of the elite against another faction; support Clinton-like people against Bush-like people, only tiny improvements in the situation are possible, and our world will continue in its fundamentally wrong situation.

Yours truly, Joost van Steenis

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