Will Adolf Hitler eventually win World War 2?
Are we getting closer to 1930’s Fascism?
What shows wisdom and compassion
in this global refugee crisis?
PART TWO OF TWO
Prison Labour in the USA
US Politics and the Far Right
The Manipulation of Democracy
Steps towards supporting asylum seekers and refugees
What can other Western countries learn from the German organisational approach?
Prison Labour in the USA
Since the early 1990’s, the US judiciary believe that very harsh sentences will deter people from committing crimes. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2,220,300 adults were incarcerated in US federal and state prisons, and county jails, in 2013 – about 1 in 110 of the adult population.
Major corporations engage in the widespread use of prison labour throughout the United States. The adult population of the US is four to six times higher than countries like China, Russia or Iran. US prison population has almost tripled in the past 30 years providing a source of cheap labour to serve the US economy.
US Government legislation inflicted long-term prison sentences enabled the state to force a large prison population to work for the military/industrial complex in the USA.
A substantial increase in the number of prisoners took place in 1993 when the US government passed into law the “three strikes and you’re out” legislation. This legislation meant that a person already convicted of two crimes, who subsequently went on to commit a third crime, would face life imprisonment or 25 years for their third crime. In some cases, the third crime consisted of a minor theft, such as stealing from a local corner store.
In the three strikes and you are out rule, the courts give no consideration to the time-lapse between conviction for the second and third offence. Ten years can go by. A person punches a person in the bar during an argument. The person who threw the punch would receive a life sentence for giving an individual a black eye.
These long sentences filled the prisons with long term prisoners. Long sentences ensure a familiar tightly controlled work regime free from the burden of training new prisoners.
In private run prisons, the military and corporations pay prisoners as little as $0.17 per hour to work in the prison production line. Prisoners who refuse to work the long shifts on the military/corporate production line face punishment including solitary confinement. Corporations make massive profits from the use of cheap prison labour with a prison population denied a proper wage and any kind of union representation.
The living conditions for prisoners in the 4500 prisons in the United States share a common comparison with the thousands of factories in China. Chinese workers live in cramped hostels in bunkbeds, close to the factory floor. Their trivial income goes towards supporting their families, often living long distances from the sites of these factories. The 2.2 million US prisoners earn as little as $20 per month, some will send what they can to their families, often far removed from the prison locality.
There are numerous US corporations exploiting labour in the prisons to maximise their profits. These corporations include:
- AT&T Inc.
- Company Profile
- Bank of America Corporation
- Bayer Corporation
- Caterpillar Inc.
- Chevron Corporation
- Costco Wholesale Corporation
- Exxon Mobil Corporation
- GlaxoSmithKline PLC
- Hoffmann Laroche Inc.
- Company Profile
- McDonald’s Corporation
- Microsoft Corporation
- Nintendo Co. Ltd.
- Pfizer Inc.
- Procter & Gamble Company
- PepsiCo Inc.
- Royal Dutch Shell plc
- Wireless Solutions Incorporated
- Starbucks Corporation
- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
The USA imprisons more people per population than any other country on earth. The causes for such high levels of incarceration include desperate personal, social and environmental conditions. There is a lack of social opportunity for the poor, the young, especially Afro-Americans, Mexicans and other minorities. Criminals frequently have psychological issues, drug issues, join gangs, engage in street and domestic violence. USA is at war with itself – from the slaughter in schools to the 11,800 gun killings alone in a single year.
The obsessive US belief in personal choice enables the state to inflict 100% blame on the convicted criminal rather than take any responsibility for harmful and destructive social conditions for crime.
The intensity of surrounding conditions makes an immense impact upon the individual consciousness. Much violent crime arises owing to unresolved psychological and emotional issues, the flare-up of an unresolved aggression, addictive behaviour, especially through alcohol and drugs, and childhood trauma. Compulsive behaviour impacts on adults and children robbing them of the capacity to make wise choices in the face of pressure from within or without.
The large prison population servants the needs of corporations and the military. Offenders, most of them young and black, feel they have nothing to lose when engaged in criminal acts, whether born out of desire for certain consumer goods or to impress others or as an act of desperation. Crime can arise through a determination to overcome a deep sense of the lack of self-worth with the subsequent rage against others. One in four Afro-American younger men have some kind of order of criminal sanction upon them while there are more 18-year-old young black men in prison than there are in college. More than 40 percent of US inmates are illiterate; one-third were unemployed when arrested.
US law does not permit the selling of prison made goods on the open market. Goods manufactured in prison enables government contract buyers to make use of cheap prison labour to make clothes, office equipment, circuit boards, furniture, uniforms, furniture and in fields for factory farms. Prisoners may be forced to get up at 2.30 am to start work. Regardless of the weather, prisoners, who work outdoors, will spend eight hours a day or more engaged in hard labour.
US Politics and the Far Right
Established elites promote the dogma of right wing thinking through an oligarchy that controls and disseminates information through the media. An authoritarian state, whether democratic or autocratic, perpetuates a nationalistic agenda to sustain the vested interests and supremacy of the majority group in order to gain votes and power. The merger of political and corporate power serves as a bedrock for capitalist ideology.
The gradual slide towards fascism requires the compliance of the media that has to undermine any vision that deeply questions in a sustained way the prevailing political/corporate/ consumer ideology. This compliance shows itself in the persistent undermining of alternative voices of the individual, of the group or the organisation. The occasional critique in the media of capitalism, democracy, political corporate power and widespread corruption makes little long term impact on viewers, listeners and readers. Thus, the media dutifully follows the belief in capitalism, namely a system where production and consumption, the maximisation of profit and conversion of society to consumerism with citizens treated primarily as customers takes priority.
The collusion of political and corporate power reflects in the US, where only those willing to serve the vested interests of billionaire donors, can find their way into the White House. The expansion of the far right in the US runs parallel to the expansion elsewhere in the West.
Two of the leading Presidential candidates in the 2016 US elections, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz represent the far right. They reject the view that damage from activities of the world’s 7 billion people contributes to climate change. They also reject the scientific evidence of 2000 scientists on such causes for climate change. Both candidates support expansion of industry/mining/fracking and growth of corporate power.Both candidates are staunch supporters of the death penalty, gun rights and widespread deportation for ‘illegals.’ Both want to increase US military spending and expand US power in the world. Both want to dismantle the current US medical care system. The two presidential candidates want to cut income tax in order to reduce dependency on government for welfare services.
Both want to order the building of a wall across the US frontier to keep Mexicans out of the USA. Trump wants to prevent Muslims from entering the USA and Cruz wants to stop refugees entering the USA from such countries as Syria and Iraq while allowing only Christians.
These far right policies have the support of enough US citizens that they have become serious candidates to become President of the United States with their fingers on the trigger of the nuclear button pointing towards the Arab world, Russia and China.
Trump, Cruz and countless others, who share similar views, inflame Islamophobia, racist tendencies and contribute to further stereotyping of the poor and marginalised from their neighbours, south of the border, and the desperate plight of Muslims in the Arab world.
Billionaires meet regularly in the USA to support right wing political campaigns. The Centre for Responsive Politics in the USA estimates that around $500,000,000 of so-called ‘dark money’ will indirectly go to support right-wing political campaigns.
Dark money refers to money given to non-profit organisations who legitimately receive unlimited donations from corporations without disclosing the names of their donors. These tax-exempt donations promote charities supporting issues associated with powerful political parties.
US billionaires will convene for weekend retreats to raise money to support conservative voters, the NRA (National Rifleman’s Association) and other pet causes. Huge sums of money spent on promotion and advocacy of right wing causes appear on television, radio, social media and the press. The power and wealth of the corporate world in the West has immense influence on candidates, elected officials, the public and environmental resources.
US Supreme Court in 2010 authorised the unlimited political spending of corporations to promote directly candidates. This led to a boom in donations for candidates willing to agree to the agenda of powerful business leaders.
The corporate world spends staggering sums of money to sustain its agenda to expand business regardless of the cost to people, animals, health and resources. More than 100 conservative foundations have spent more than $550 million in seven years to block legislation to protect the Earth from escalating climate change. Two US billionaire businessmen, the Koch brothers, have spent nearly $25 million on the same cause.
The Manipulation of Democracy
Governments find ways to shape democracy to sustain power. For example, the British government manipulates the democratic process through deliberate tinkering with the electoral system. The government has adopted a new electoral register with around 1.9 million voters from the old list found to be missing from the new register. Under the old system, one person in the house would be responsible for registering the names to vote of everyone living in that particular household. In the new legislation, the government states every person has sign up to vote and post their paper to the local government.
This new register will have a direct impact upon young people, especially students, who may well fail to register. The Conservative government know that many young people will vote for parties of the left since the young regard the left as giving them more support in the short and long-term. The British government also interferes with the democratic process through moving some of the boundaries of the constituencies to favour their own candidates in marginal seats. These changes compromise the integrity of the parliamentary system when governments can introduce changes to serve their own needs.
The drop in registration of voters among students occurs most noticeable in university towns where there is no system available for students to register automatically for voting upon joining the University.
In the UK, there is an average of one surveillance camera in public places for every 32 people. On a typical day, 70 CCTV cameras will record the movements of any person outside their home. The British government wish to monitor every UK citizen’s use of the internet without any judicial authorisation. The government makes new powers requiring internet and phone companies to keep “internet connection records” – to know the website visited by anyone in the country in a 12-month period. The police, security services and surveillance organisations would not require a warrant for such a search of a person’s internet activity. There are a wide range of methods of surveillance. They include:
In Alphabetical order:
- Audio recording devices
- Aerial Surveillance,
- Biometric Surveillance,
- CCTV cameras on our streets and in our shops
- Computer Surveillance,
- Corporate Surveillance of Individuals and Groups Within the Business and Outside.
- Data Profiling,
- Electronic Equipment,
- Facial Recognition Screening,
- Internet Traffic,
- Passport Screening
- Physical surveillance by police, investigators and secret services
- Search Engines,
- Social Networks,
- Telephone Surveillance,
- Televisions and monitors
- Web Surveillance,
Google, the world’s largest search engine, identifies data for each search, including an IP address and the search phrase in a database for more than a year. It also scans the content of Gmail emails to create targeted advertising based on what the users refer to in their emails.
Nazi Germany had to rely upon far fewer means of surveillance. Governments and corporations tell us that we have nothing to be concerned about if we have done nothing to draw attention to ourselves or our group or organisation. Such widespread surveillance generates insecurity and fear among citizens who have become mindful of the erosion of their civil liberties. Prominent activists engaged in protest on a wide range of compassionate concerns might find themselves questioned, recorded or filmed. If thoughtful citizens come to public prominence in a worthwhile campaign, they will face scrutiny from the media.
Journalists will dig deep into their recent or distant past to find some dirt to undermine their campaign for change. Individuals will come forward to denigrate the individual or organisation. These media campaigns have the express purpose of disintegrating the credibility of the individual or group to generate cynicism for readers. Governments, corporations and the media use abuse of money, power and sex as the three primary weapons to marginalise such people. There is a compulsive need in the media to cut the tall poppy down, as Australian citizens often comment.
Not surprisingly, Western countries lack the capacity to generate wise and compassionate leadership, recognise genuine visionaries who have the capacity to offer a healthy and sustainable way of life. It is hard to think of a single person in the West in recent decades credited with a revolutionary integrity and vision. Western culture does not permit a Buddha, Gandhi or Mandela to uplift the spiritual and cultural horizons of our society. No wonder millions in the West find themselves living banal lives hating their jobs, their debts and themselves.
We have to endure the mediocrity of our politicians and corporate leaders, who will not permit any radical change from their authority over society. This is not fascism but the smell of it is in the air
Steps to support asylum seekers and refugees
During World War 2, the German government transferred on trains to slave labour camps and the gas chambers, those perceived to be a threat to the so-called Aryan race.
Three generations later, the majority of the people of Germany have engaged in a massive change of heart. Seventy years after the end of war, the German government welcomed a million Muslim refugees into Germany in 2015. The government provided special trains to help facilitate the travel of 1.1 million asylum seekers to different parts of the country.
The German government has realised they cannot sustain such hospitality one year after the next. The government realised the country cannot absorb a million or more refugees on an annual basis. Friends told me on my annual visits to Germany of the wonderful efforts in Germany to enable refugees to feel welcome while also expressing concern about far right political parties stirring up prejudice, as more and more new arrivals enter the country.
Regardless of the discontent among German nationalists, the German national and local government set about organising support with the assistance of local citizens. Germany referred to their effort as Willkommenskultur – a far cry from German fascism of the 1930 and 1940s. The government encouraged its citizens to support the new arrivals.
With potential to disintegrate the experiment of the European Union, member states need to engage in seven major steps to move towards resolution of the refugee crisis.
- To stop Western governments waging war from the air and on the group in Muslim countries.
- To stop the arms trade, whether selling of arms or providing any kind of military assistance to foreign countries
- To start the process of diplomacy, conflict resolution, reconciliation, dialogue and aid to rebuild war-savaged countries.
- To learn from Germany and other initiatives the practical organisational steps to offer refugees hospitality and facilities.
- To set a fixed number of refugees per country, population. I would suggest 2000 refugees for every million residents in the country for the next five years.
For example, EU has 503 million citizens in 28 member countries. The EU would accept a total of one million refugees per annum.
USA with a population of 300,000,000 would accept 600,000 refugees per annum.
Germany with a population of 80 million people would accept 160,000 people per year.
UK with 64 million would accept 128,000 refugees.
Holland with 16 million would permit 32,000 refugees.
Sweden with 9.5 million would receive around 19,000 refugees per year.
Israel has a population of 7 million and would accept 14,000 refugees
Ireland has a 4.5 million population allowing 9000 new arrivals.
Is it too much to ask every Western country and wealthy non-Western country to accept just 2000 refugees per year for every 1,000,000 residents?
- Each country would contribute aid and expertise to resolving the wars and conflicts through skilful and compassionate means in the Middle East. Each country would engage in a widespread exploration of culture, values and diversity of religious faith. Citizens would learn psychology, social and anthropology to expand cultural horizons.
- Countries would offer residency to refugees for five years. Countries would review the political, social and environmental circumstances of the countries of origin of refugees. If peace prevailed, refugees would be encouraged to return home to rebuild their country.
Yes, there are difficulties with a flat figure per country. There are sound reasons for the US/NATO countries/Israel to take more refugees since the US/NATO and Israel have engaged in wars upon Muslim countries. Some countries have far more land space while some countries are wealthier than other Western countries. 3000 refugees for every one million people in a country seems workable and plausible for everybody. No Western country would have a substantially extra burden in terms of numbers of refugees.
What can other Western countries learn from the German organisational approach?
German President Angela Merkel insists on a genuine meeting of Germans with new arrivals. She refers to multi-culturalism as a ‘grand delusion.’ In much of Europe, multi-culturalism means different cultures living side by side with separate identities. She rejects the belief in such parallel societies. She urges an integrated approach with Germans and citizens from overseas learning from each other.
The government realise that Germany can benefit immensely from the wealth of skills and knowledge that the migrants bring to the country with a low birth rate and ageing population.
The German government directed its army units to help the refugees. Soldiers erected camps for the refugees, often in parks in cities and towns throughout Germany. The national government advised local governments on strategic planning to house refugees. Local governments, charities and citizens found rooms, flats and empty houses for the refugees. People provided furniture and other basic needs. People gave a room in their home or offered their holiday home for periods to help the refugees settle in.
Citizens bring refugees food, clothes and daily equipment. They drove refuges to government offices, took them to local government offices, hospitals, clinics and schools. Citizens gave them money, bicycles, paid for their bus and train fares and medical bills. Some citizens could translate from Arabic to German or from German to English.
German businesses and citizens work together in cities, towns and villages to endeavour to provide employment, full or part-time. Many have a wealth of skills, as white and blue collared workers, in their home countries. Engineers, scientists, computer programmers, doctors, architects, roofers, carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, farmers, gardeners, cleaners and more.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs in Germany helps refugees make contact with small and medium-sized companies. They offered grants to promote the integration of refugees into the labour market. Children start by learning German in ‘welcome classes’. When they have enough mastery of the new language, they join regular school classes. Parents are encouraged to support their children and teenagers to take up a range of educational opportunities. Students accompany refugees to social services to help them understand how the system works.
The government provide courses for refugees to help them settle into German society. The websites are in several languages including Arabic and Urdu. Integration is a key theme in the Germany approach rather than multi-culturalism. New arrivals must make major steps to adapt to the Germany way of life and Germans must make steps to recognise the value of such integration. Germany students are teaching German to the refugees as well as spending time with them. Intimate relationships and personal friendship develop as a consequence.
German citizens act as foster parents, mentors and friends for young children who have lost their parents and family members in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Palestine, South Sudan, Syria and elsewhere.
The German government offers various programmes for refugees to transform their fears, traumas and pain from their experiences in their homeland and while travelling to Germany. Psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers, drama, art and music therapists apply their skills to help transform the pain of the inner life of children and adults. Goethe-Institute offers cultural programmes in Arab countries to help families find inner peace and harmony with others.
The German government has a free App ‘Welcome to Germany’ in Arabic, English and German, The App helps refugees in an emergency, find facts about different cities and offers helpful advice on the asylum procedure. The Start with a Friend initiative brings together citizens and refugees who can practice learning and speaking German. These two new friends may explore the city together. There is a pool of interpreters, doctors and dentists offering their services freely and a magazine supportive for refugees with the opportunity for them to express their experiences.
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) offers an integration course especially for women. The curriculum covers knowledge of everyday life and insights into Germany’s legal system, culture and history.
Dance therapists teaching dancing so that young refugees learn to act out their feelings and overcome their fears. They learn in a playful and creative ways to develop feelings of self-worth. Dance tutors help children to dance through their painful memories. Counsellors offer guidance to refugees who struggle with anxiety and loss of contact with loved ones.
Artists, art therapists and volunteers visit refugee centres. By painting pictures, the young refugees learn to process traumas and to confront what they have experienced. Refugees use paint to express what they have witnessed and to share their experiences with others.
Some lawyers and law students in Germany offer free legal advice and assist refugees with legal correspondence. They also accompany people to appointments with officials.
Heart-warming responses and actions have occurred in numerous cities, towns and villages in the Western countries to address the plight of people fleeing from war zones. For example, two major cities, Exeter and Bristol in the UK, not far from where I live, declared their cities as Cities of Sanctuary. I live in Totnes, Devon, with a population of around 8000 people. Concerned citizens in the county put together a publication ‘A Safe Haven. Devon’s Response to the Refugee Crisis.’ Thoughtful people in Totnes established Totnes Beyond Borders with a website (www.beyondborderstotnes.org.uk).
More than 300 people in the town attended a meeting to explore ways to give support to asylum seekers and refugees. We listened to the Red Cross, the refugee support group, and the stories of an asylum seeker and refugee living in Devon. A group of women in the town collected a truck load of goods for refugees living in harsh outdoor conditions in Calais, France. A medical team from Totnes flew to Greece to support refugee families arriving by boat from Turkey. These widespread acts of compassion in numerous Western countries express our solidarity and concern for those enduring the consequences of war.
Millions of people worldwide sacrificed their lives to stop the rise of Fascism in the 1930’s and 1940s. If they were alive, they might start to wonder if their sacrifice was worthwhile seeing the contemporary power of the state and corporations over the lives of citizens, and the increasing blame heaped upon Muslims, while Western wars and civil wars continue among the Arab nations.
Wisdom and compassion shows the way forward to resolve the refugee crisis within the West and with countries experiencing terrible conflicts. Unless we act wisely to heal social, cultural and religious divisions, we will experience more violence on our streets, more home-grown suicide bombers and more incitement from terrorist organisations to inflict suffering and death in our cities
We have to listen to the voices of our citizens who are genuinely worried about our social capacity to handle sudden increases in population.
We also have to keep our hearts open to the plight of asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants and welcome as many as we can.
We live on a small planet. We are all in this situation together.