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There is a new and unique development in human history that is taking place around the world; it is unprecedented in reach and volume, and it is also the greatest threat to all global power structures: the global political awakening. The term was coined by Zbigniew Brzezinski, and refers to the fact that, as Brzezinski wrote:
For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. Global activism is generating a surge in the quest for cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world scarred by memories of colonial or imperial domination.
It is, in essence, this massive global political awakening which presents the gravest and greatest challenge to the organized powers of globalization and the global political economy: nation-states, multinational corporations and banks, central banks, international organizations, military, intelligence, media and academic institutions. The Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC), or Superclass as David Rothkopf refers to them, are globalized like never before. For the first time in history, we have a truly global and heavily integrated elite. As elites have globalized their power, seeking to construct a new world order of global governance and ultimately global government, they have simultaneously globalized populations.
The Technological Revolution (or Technetronic Revolution, as Brzezinski termed it in 1970) involves two major geopolitical developments. The first is that as technology advances, systems of mass communication rapidly accelerate, and the worlds people are able to engage in instant communication with one another and gain access to information from around the world. In it, lies the potential and ultimately a central source of a massive global political awakening. Simultaneously, the Technological Revolution has allowed elites to redirect and control society in ways never before imagined, ultimately culminating in a global scientific dictatorship, as many have warned of since the early decades of the 20th century. The potential for controlling the masses has never been so great, as science unleashes the power of genetics, biometrics, surveillance, and new forms of modern eugenics; implemented by a scientific elite equipped with systems of psycho-social control (the use of psychology in controlling the masses).
What is the Global Political Awakening?
To answer this question, it is best to let Zbigniew Brzezinski speak for himself, since it is his term. In 2009, Zbigniew Brzezinski published an article based on a speech he delivered to the London-based Chatham House in their academic journal, International Affairs. Chatham House, formerly the Royal Institute of International Relations, is the British counterpart to the US-based Council on Foreign Relations, both of which were founded in 1921 as Sister Institutes to coordinate Anglo-American foreign policy. His article, Major foreign policy challenges for the next US President, aptly analyzes the major geopolitical challenges for the Obama administration in leading the global hegemonic state at this critical juncture. Brzezinski refers to the global political awakening as a truly transformative event on the global scene, since:
For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. There are only a few pockets of humanity left in the remotest corners of the world that are not politically alert and engaged with the political turmoil and stirrings that are so widespread today around the world. The resulting global political activism is generating a surge in the quest for personal dignity, cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world painfully scarred by memories of centuries-long alien colonial or imperial domination.
Brzezinski posits that the global political awakening is one of the most dramatic and significant developments in geopolitics that has ever occurred, and it is apparent in radically different forms from Iraq to Indonesia, from Bolivia to Tibet. As the Economist explained, Though America has focused on its notion of what people want (democracy and the wealth created by free trade and open markets), Brzezinski points in a different direction: It’s about dignity. Further, argues Brzezinski, The worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening.
In 2005, Brzezinski wrote an essay for The American Interest entitled, The Dilemma of the Last Sovereign, in which he explains the geopolitical landscape that America and the world find themselves in. He wrote that, For most states, sovereignty now verges on being a legal fiction, and he critically assessed the foreign policy objectives and rhetoric of the Bush administration. Brzezinski has been an ardent critic of the war on terror and the rhetoric inherent in it, namely that of the demonization of Islam and Muslim people, which constitute one of the fastest growing populations and the fastest growing religion in the world. Brzezinski fears the compound negative affects this can have on American foreign policy and the objectives and aspirations of global power. He writes:
America needs to face squarely a centrally important new global reality: that the world’s population is experiencing a political awakening unprecedented in scope and intensity, with the result that the politics of populism are transforming the politics of power. The need to respond to that massive phenomenon poses to the uniquely sovereign America an historic dilemma: What should be the central definition of America’s global role?
Brzezinski explains that formulating a foreign policy based off of one single event the September 11th terror attacks has both legitimized illegal measures (torture, suspension of habeas corpus, etc) and has launched and pacified citizens to accepting the global war on terror, a war without end. The rhetoric and emotions central to this global foreign policy created a wave of patriotism and feelings of redemption and revenge. Thus, Brzezinski explains:
There was no need to be more precise as to who the terrorists actually were, where they came from, or what historical motives, religious passions or political grievances had focused their hatred on America. Terrorism thus replaced Soviet nuclear weapons as the principal threat, and terrorists (potentially omnipresent and generally identified as Muslims) replaced communists as the ubiquitous menace.
Brzezinski explains that this foreign policy, which has inflamed anti-Americanism around the world, specifically in the Muslim world, which was the principle target population of terrorist rhetoric, has in fact further inflamed the global political awakening. Brzezinski writes that:
[T]he central challenge of our time is posed not by global terrorism, but rather by the intensifying turbulence caused by the phenomenon of global political awakening. That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing.
This global political awakening, Brzezinski writes, while unique in its global scope today, originates in the ideas and actions of the French Revolution, which was central in transforming modern politics through the emergence of a socially powerful national consciousness. Brzezinski explains the evolution of the awakening:
During the subsequent 216 years, political awakening has spread gradually but inexorably like an ink blot. Europe of 1848, and more generally the nationalist movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, reflected the new politics of populist passions and growing mass commitment. In some places that combination embraced utopian Manichaeism for which the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Fascist assumption of power in Italy in 1922, and the Nazi seizure of the German state in 1933 were the launch-pads. The political awakening also swept China, precipitating several decades of civil conflict. Anti-colonial sentiments galvanized India, where the tactic of passive resistance effectively disarmed imperial domination, and after World War II anti-colonial political stirrings elsewhere ended the remaining European empires. In the western hemisphere, Mexico experienced the first inklings of populist activism already in the 1860s, leading eventually to the Mexican Revolution of the early 20th century.
Ultimately, what this implies is that regardless of the final results of past awakenings what is central to the concept of a political awakening is the population the people taking on a political and social consciousness and subsequently, partaking in massive political and social action aimed at generating a major shift and change, or revolution, in the political, social and economic realms. Thus, no social transformation presents a greater or more direct challenge to entrenched and centralized power structures whether they are political, social or economic in nature. Brzezinski goes on to explain the evolution of the global political awakening in modern times:
It is no overstatement to assert that now in the 21st century the population of much of the developing world is politically stirring and in many places seething with unrest. It is a population acutely conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree, and often resentful of its perceived lack of political dignity. The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches.
Brzezinski explains that several central areas of the global political awakening, such as China, India, Egypt, Bolivia, the Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and increasingly in Europe, as well as Indians in Latin America, increasingly are defining what they desire in reaction to what they perceive to be the hostile impact on them of the outside world. In differing ways and degrees of intensity they dislike the status quo, and many of them are susceptible to being mobilized against the external power that they both envy and perceive as self-interestedly preoccupied with that status quo. Brzezinski elaborates on the specific group most affected by this awakening:
The youth of the Third World are particularly restless and resentful. The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well. With the exception of Europe, Japan and America, the rapidly expanding demographic bulge in the 25-year-old-and-under age bracket is creating a huge mass of impatient young people. Their minds have been stirred by sounds and images that emanate from afar and which intensify their disaffection with what is at hand. Their potential revolutionary spearhead is likely to emerge from among the scores of millions of students concentrated in the often intellectually dubious "tertiary level" educational institutions of developing countries. Depending on the definition of the tertiary educational level, there are currently worldwide between 80 and 130 million "college" students. Typically originating from the socially insecure lower middle class and inflamed by a sense of social outrage, these millions of students are revolutionaries-in-waiting, already semi-mobilized in large congregations, connected by the Internet and pre-positioned for a replay on a larger scale of what transpired years earlier in Mexico City or in Tiananmen Square. Their physical energy and emotional frustration is just waiting to be triggered by a cause, or a faith, or a hatred.
Brzezinski thus posits that to address this new global challenge to entrenched powers, particularly nation-states that cannot sufficiently address the increasingly non-pliant populations and populist demands, what is required, is increasingly supranational cooperation, actively promoted by the United States. In other words, Brzezinski favours an increased and expanded internationalization, not surprising considering he laid the intellectual foundations of the Trilateral Commission. He explains that Democracy per se is not an enduring solution, as it could be overtaken by radically resentful populism. This is truly a new global reality:
Politically awakened mankind craves political dignity, which democracy can enhance, but political dignity also encompasses ethnic or national self-determination, religious self-definition, and human and social rights, all in a world now acutely aware of economic, racial and ethnic inequities. The quest for political dignity, especially through national self-determination and social transformation, is part of the pulse of self-assertion by the world’s underprivileged.
Thus, writes Brzezinski, An effective response can only come from a self-confident America genuinely committed to a new vision of global solidarity. The idea is that to address the grievances caused by globalization and global power structures, the world and America must expand and institutionalize the process of globalization, not simply in the economic sphere, but in the social and political as well. It is a flawed logic, to say the least, that the answer to this problem is to enhance and strengthen the systemic problems. One cannot put out a fire by adding fuel.
Brzezinski even wrote that, Let it be said right away that supranationality should not be confused with world government. Even if it were desirable, mankind is not remotely ready for world government, and the American people certainly do not want it. Instead, Brzezinski argues, America must be central in constructing a system of global governance, in shaping a world that is defined less by the fiction of state sovereignty and more by the reality of expanding and politically regulated interdependence. In other words, not global government but global governance, which is simply a rhetorical ploy, as global governance no matter how overlapping, sporadic and desultory it presents itself, is in fact a key step and necessary transition in the moves toward an actual global government.
Thus, the rhetoric and reality of a global war on terror in actuality further inflames the global political awakening as opposed to challenging and addressing the issue. In 2007, Brzezinski told the US Senate that the War on terror was a mythical historical narrative, or in other words, a complete fiction.
July 12, 2010
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). He is currently studying Political Economy and History at Simon Fraser University.