George Joshua Richard Monbiot is an environmental and political activist, journalist, author, and columnist for the Guardian newspaper. In 1995, Nelson Mandela presented him with a United Nations Global 500 Award for all his outstanding environmental achievements to date.
Climate Change is of great importance for George Monbiot. Some of his solutions to controlling climate change include; personal carbon rations and redirecting budgets to climate change. Poisoned Arrows, Amazon Watershed, No Mans Land, and Make Poverty History are some of the books he has written, with Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain being one of his best- selling books.
George Monbiots', "The Age of Consent- A new manifesto for a new world order," idealises radical change for a global parliament in which democracy is an integral part of this. This radical change requires a transfer from the current Age of Coercion to an Age of Consent. He offers readers some imaginative and visionary ideas of a better political system, which can possibly resolve problems where there is an unequal distribution of wealth and power due to exerted pressures of the current US hegemony.
The prologue;' Some Repulsive Proposals' outlines the objectives of ...'introducing a new world order'... (Page 1, 4th Edition, 2004), with four critical elements:
- A Democratically Elected World Parliament.
- A Democratised United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
- An International Clearing Union which discharges trade deficits and prevents debt accumulation.
- A Fair Trade Organisation, which restrains the rich while emancipating the poor.
The author defines 'metaphysical mutations' derived from the work of Michel Houllebecqs novel 'Atomised' as the change in the mind set of people.
"The metaphysical mutations which have changed the way the world's people think" (Page 7, 4th edition, 2004)
History shows that different communities or groups of people, based primarily on loyalty i.e. tribes, clans, have existed for centuries and are prevalent in today's world.
"In every case the struggle between the smaller groups have been resolved only to begin a new struggle against another new federation."
Although the way people think has changed, the struggle between these different communities will remain. This is true, in today's world, however the author needs to recognise that bringing these different communities together with conflicting views will be very difficult when creating a new world order and making the correct strategic decisions for them.
One wrong strategic decision made by the protagonist in the past which the author criticises is the WW1, whereby the British government forced 8 million people to partake in this event.
"National identity overrode class interest"
Monbiot establishes that each individual have a sense of loyalty to their own country but this is know changing as the 'metaphysical mutation' has seen a shift in people making their own choices rather than any loyalty to a specific country, which contributes to the idea of a democratically elected world parliament which foresees all individuals involved in all decisions made on a global nature.
The proposed strategies for rebuilding global politics for society as a whole focus on:
"Controlling the shipment of toxic waste, sustaining landmines ban, brokering the peace between nations and ultimately preventing powerful states from forcing weaker ones to trade based on their terms."
The author has as an imaginative and compelling idea of:
"...overthrowing the international institutions and replacing it with our own."
This is directed at four main influential and powerful international regulatory bodies: The United Nations (UN), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organisations (WTO).
The author presents the reader with the reality that these institutions contradict their original objectives, which is to deliver peace, human rights, and international justice. The notion that five countries; China, The UK, Russia, France and the USA are controlling the crucial decision, emphasises the greater need for a new world order with one which is fair and transparent and not solely in the interest of the five "victors of the second world war"
The author discusses the two ideologies in political position; Marxism's 'Communist Manifesto' and Anarchism to ultimately come up with a system which works better than these have in the past; the least worst system.
The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engle aimed to provide an analytical approach to the class struggle in the 19th Century, during the Industrial Revolution. This manifesto distinguished that the state is divided into two classes; the 'Bourgeoisie', which is the ruling class and the 'Proletariat' that are the working class. The ruling class exploited proletarians for manual labour via cheap wages in exchange for capitalism.
This example, suggests how once again, the wrong decisions were made by the protagonists in the past. The protagonists of Marx's' time agreed and followed the manifesto but to the detriment of the proletariats. Many people scrutinized his ideology, but Monbiot establishes how this fitted in with reality of society at that time.
In reality, the dictatorship of the proletariat is still prominent in society today.
The ideologies of Marxism and Anarchism make way for a new democratic system. Although anarchist systems have worked in some societies in the shorter term, in the longer term it does not and government intervention may be required. An example of this is Sierra Leones Diamond Trade, which lead to its own people killing their own.
"Reasserted governance in Sierra Leone where bandits defeated and relieved of their weapons"
The author dismisses anarchism and Marxism, whilst agreeing that society requires government intervention, and proposes the ideas of the least-worst system that is a democratically elected parliament:
"We are forced to conclude that all we have left is democracy."
Monbiot analyses David Korlens' strategic decisions which aimed to protect the rights of the poorer nations and redistribute power and wealth from Trans National Corporations (TNC).
"His prescriptions can be summarized as; Consumer Democracy, Shareholder Democracy and Voluntary Simplicity. "
Here, the author concludes that not all David Korlens theories are effective. With regards to Consumer Democracy, encouraging individuals from purchasing sustainable products and fair trade chocolate does not alone prevent slavery or the closing down of copper mines in West Papua, Indonesia where people were being killed. However, Monbiot dismisses cases where purchasers of fairly traded products have proved to protect the income of some farmers against large competing corporations.
The war of Iraq in 1990 is one example used to demonstrate the wrong strategic decision made by such a powerful government such as the United States. Temporary members of the United Nations opposed to the war in Iraq; however, the United States was the driving force behind this. In the case of the war of Iraq, the United States purchased "the votes of Zaire, Ethiopia, and Columbia by persuading Saudi Arabia to offer them free oil"
A new world order which hopes for a parliament which works for all people seems appealing as destroying the lives of innocent people in Iraq so that they can attain power and control from oil reserves in Iraq, demonstrates the unjust world in which we are living in.
Monbiots' plan of execution of a democratically elected world parliament consists of a fair weighting system for every individual in the world, special chambers who deal with minority interests, a parliament consisting of 600 representatives and a constituency of 10 million people.
Monbiot establishes the risk of holding an election for the new world order, by opting for underground elections, "The first is to hold underground elections". (Page 92, 4th edition, 2004)This method may not reach out to all parties who are interested, therefore eliminating a huge proportion of members. This approach may also take years to eventually bring all members together, which questions how long this process of a new world order will take.
Monbiot unfairly suggests: "Even so, we may have to start without some regions of the world", (Page 93, 4th edition, 2004.) This does not allow opportunities for an equal voice of every individual, which goes against Monbiots original objective of a democratically elected world parliament which allows the consent of all individuals; an Age of Consent.
The decisions that were made by the IMF in the eighties and nineties wad down to the IMF bad advice to all these nations, to cut back on spending. The IMF strategic decision to exchange dollar for Baht currency so that Thailand could repay back some of their debt backfired and Baht currency collapsed, placing this nation into further debt of billions of dollars., whilst rich western banks profited from this. Thailand had felt the repercussions of the IMF; however some countries were fortunate to not be lead into the same scenario as Thailand had experienced, further straining the relationship between these countries and the IMF.
"South Korea, Indonesia, East Asia and the Philippines had managed to become rich by doing exactly what the IMF and the World had told them not to do."
The balance of trade plays an integral role in why some nations are poor and others are rich. The IMF and the World Bank was originally formed to help alleviate debt, which these economies face. The author highlights that "corruption and mismanagement" (Page 141, 4th edition, 2004) has further ploughed these struggling economies into debt.
The USA charges higher tariffs to poorer nations than rich nations. Bangladesh pays $314 million dollars a year to allow them to trade its cotton garments in their country, without any trade restrictions then they would be allowed to export $700 billion dollars a year:
"...discriminating against the poor: rich nations impose on average, tariffs four times higher on goods from poor nations than on goods from rich nations because other rich nations can fight back.."
Britain in the textile Industry devised a plan to overthrow its competition at the time which was Ireland.
"...In 1699, the British State destroyed the woollen industry by forbidding the import of its manufacturers, which were of higher quality than English Cloth..."
All examples of the past and present places further emphasis on the reader that the current system is unfair and immoral and must be replaced.
Richer nations are in constant competition with developing nations which may have a comparative advantage in areas such as farming, cotton or even technology. Protectionism tools which are used today may seem appropriate in restricting trade; however I agree with the author that these are too rigidly applied to poorer nations.
Monbiot captures the attention of the readers by concluding that, admitting something should be done is not enough and each individual much act.
"Constitutional change will begin only when we reach the more dangerous conclusion that 'I must act'"
However, the decision to act involves a lot of sacrifices for a lot of people, something which some people may not be prepared to do. In addition to this Monbiot fails to recognise that any kind of change may not resonate with some people because although this system is not perfect, it is good enough for them.
After having presented his proposed plan of execution for a democratically elected world parliament, Monbiot acknowledges and welcomes better alternatives for a new world order. "Well? What are you waiting for?" leaves every reader considering if they can make a difference and how they will do so. Monbiots' idea of shifting from an Age of Coercion to an Age of Consent requires each individual to "start thinking like a citizen of the new"
This book has brought to my attention all the politics surrounding all the atrocities that have taken place in the past and ones which are happening today. I agree with George Monbiots arguments for"...overthrowing the international institutions and replacing it with our own." (Page 12, 4th editions, 2004 but this) but this is complicated to achieve, with no mention of how long this will take. In addition to this, he has quickly dismissed the people who are currently fighting for a better world order and all the achievements that have been made. George Monbiot successfully delivers a sense of hope that something should and can be done to resolve a lot of the issues faced by poorer nations but each individual must act in order to make a difference. However, I am not sure that a democratically elected world parliament is practical in nature. Nonetheless, I would recommend this as a good read for those who have a sound interest in debatable issues involving politics, economics, global justice, and freedom by attempting to tackle the US hegemony and overthrowing the current world order: