Hong, March 4 2004
The masses in the Third World still have a long way to go before they can
undertake autonomous activities to close the gap between the eliteworld and the
massworld. Only in the First World can masspeople achieve such a fundamental
More than half the Indian population can hardly read or write, and the situation
in other countries is only slightly better. Masspeople can hardly communicate
with each other. In big cities newspapers are available but in the countryside
the news comes from radio and TV that are thoroughly controlled by the elite.
I am now travelling in China. The 6% of the Chinese population who use the
Internet number 80 million people. However they mostly use it for entertainment,
love relations, leisure-time hobbies and other non-political subjects. I could
connect to the CNN website but not to the BBC (news
sites are also blocked in a number of other countries). Before accessing the Internet, my
passport number sometimes was written down. For me that was not important but
the Chinese are restrained by this control mechanism, it diminish
the possibility to use Internet for political purposes.
At the close of 2003, only 30 million Chinese computers were connected to the
Internet, and the personal possession of a computer was beyond the reach of most people.
Internet dissidents belong to the middle class. The masses have not enough time
to become internet dissident and do hard\y get any knowledge about the situation of
fellow masspeople in other parts of the country or in other countries.
In many parts of the First World, masspeople have a decent level of
education, housing, food and other basic living conditions. In the Third World,
the masses must work hard to survive and events beyond their control can
suddenly throw them down into wretched poverty. Illness, unemployment, financial
crises, natural catastrophes, wars caused by dissident factions of the elite,
etcetera can ruin their lives. Those masspeople still have many 'easy' demands to
fulfil, like eradicating poverty and getting a social security net, before they
can begin to oust the greedy elite.
Another reason why fundamental change must initiate in the First World is the
protection that Third World elites enjoy from the mightier First World elite
that are out of reach of the Third World masses. The work of NGOs benefits some
masspeople but does not bring the Third World masses any closer to the Third
World elite. Many political commentators and activists focus on events in the
Third World, but few consider how to change the power relations in the First
I concentrate on what First World masspeople can do. Third World affairs are of
minor importance to the struggle to break the power of any elite. The events in
Iraq have hardly any effect on global power relations.
Only once the power of the First World elite is broken by activities from its
own masses, Third World masses can successfully attack their own elite.
Yours truly, Joost van Steenis