Foreign Policy Mag’s ‘Top 100 Global Thinkers’: A Rogue’s Gallery of Imperialists, Billionaires and Cheerleaders of Capitalist Domination

Al Jazeera English [1] / By Belén Fernández [2]  December 30, 2012

A few years back, Foreign Policy magazine began [3] compiling annual lists of “The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers”. Aside from some worthy exceptions [4], the lists are populated by individuals whose dearth of intellectual qualifications [5] tends to render the whole business an exercise in oxymoron proliferation.

With this year’s survey of Global Thought [6], FP purports to “present… a unique portrait of 2012′s global marketplace of ideas and the thinkers who make them”.

Given the neoliberal presentation of the mission statement, it’s not surprising to find corporate apologists well-represented in the marketplace. Global Thinker no. 65, for example, is US economist Paul Romer, whose crusade to revive the practice of colonialism [7] in the world is creatively euphemised by FP into a “novel idea for persuading a developing country to sign away a parcel of land to be governed by a foreign power as a model for economic growth”.

Multibillionaire Bill Gates is meanwhile elevated to the rank [8] of “perennial FP Global Thinker for the enormous scale and ambition of his efforts to finance – and reimagine – global health and development”.

Some of these virtuous efforts were showcased in a 2007 Los Angeles Times report [9] revealing that “the Gates Foundation funded a polio vaccination clinic in Ebocha, Nigeria, in the shadow of a giant petroleum processing plant in which the Gates Foundation was invested” and which itself contributed in no small way to the deterioration of local health.

The brains of empire 

Of course, no inventory of Global Thought would be complete without a celebration of the cognitive processes underpinning US imperial predations. Among the 2012 honourees are President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Vice-President Dick Cheney [10] - the latter two icons dating from the administration of someone who has been excluded from the FPlist despite notable thoughts such as that Africa is a country [11].

To be sure, reports [12] that the Obama team has managed to conduct five times as many drone strikes in Pakistan as the preceding cowboy – a practice inevitably resulting inrampant civilian casualties [13] - are a sure sign of civilised progress and a conclusive rejection of George W Bush’s “smoke them out [14]” rhetoric. Obama, the “brainy 44th president”, is recognised for his “more restrained view of America’s role in the world” and for “curb[ing] his predecessor’s dangerous excesses”, thereby “conclusively put[ting] cowboy diplomacy out to pasture”.

In similar counter-intuitive fashion, Clinton is praised by FP, along with her husband, for her “vision” that the US can “promote democracy and development abroad without… needlessly antagonising other countries. It’s a different kind of American exceptionalism, based on more than just firepower”.

FP does not care to explain how Clinton’s campaign to validate [15] the 2009 coup d’état against the democratically-elected president of Honduras constitutes democracy promotion or an eschewal of needless antagonising of a country that has for the duration of its contemporary history been at the mercy of US corporate and military interests.

That the coup has ushered in an era of intensified murder and impunity raises additional questions about the merits of “American exceptionalism” [16].

According to FP, Clinton “has emerged as one of the Obama administration’s most forceful advocates for human rights and democracy” based on her preeminent role in “the push for the United States to intervene in Libya last year”.

This assessment overlooks the fact that even the New York Times - bastion of imperial apologetics [17] - has drawn attention to disconcerting accompaniments to firepower in Libya such as NATO’s refusal to acknowledge or investigate the substantial civilian casualties [18] that resulted from its own bombardments.

Condoleezza Rice is meanwhile hailed as an “optimist” with an “unwavering belief in American indispensability” in the world. This indispensability was previously asserted via such events as the 2006 Israeli destruction of Lebanon [19] and 1,200 persons (primarily civilians) therein, assisted by rush shipments [20] of US weapons to Israel and hailed by Rice as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East [21]“.

The presence in the annals of Global Thought of Iraq war profiteer Dick Cheney [22] - described by FP as Rice’s “dark-side-minded rival” who is to thank for “keeping the neocon flame alive” – is cast as a mere diplomatic reflection on the man’s influence: “Cheneyism is alive and well in today’s Republican Party”.

After decreeing that “If scaring us silly were a religion, Dick Cheney would be its high priest”, FP goes on to observe that the former VP “is still waging a campaign… to convince us that the dark side of terrorists and rogue states is out there and must be defended against at all costs”.

Israel’s global musings

Despite apparently mocking Cheneyesque propaganda concerning alleged “dark sides” and “rogue states”,FP devotes slot 13 [23] on its Global Thinkers list to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak “[f]or forcing the world to confront Iran’s nuclear programme” and for “[a]lmost single-handedly… wrench[ing] the world’s attention toward the apocalyptic potential of a nuclear Iran”.

That Netanyahu and Barak’s alleged feat is not as single-handed as FP implies is made quite clear in a recent essay for the Journal of Palestine Studies [24] by Edward S Herman [25], professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, and journalist David Peterson.

Entitled “The Iran ‘Threat’ In a Kafkaesque World”, the essay presents such findings as that, from July 2002 to June 2012, “the volume of media attention devoted to Iran’s nuclear program [in English-language wire services and newspapers]… was 88 times greater than that devoted exclusively to Israel’s (and 105 times greater in the New York Timesalone)”.

Never mind that the International Atomic Energy Agency has not, in the course of obsessive inspections, stumbled upon the Iranian “nuclear programme” that FP passes off as unquestionable reality.

As Herman and Peterson note, “[t]he last major US National Intelligence Assessment of Iran’s ‘Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities’ in November 2007 concluded with ‘high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme’” – something that cannot be said for the bellicose homeland of Global Thinkers no. 13 [26], a country that is nonetheless exempt from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as well as from weapons inspections.

That non-Iranian entities may enjoy a monopoly on “apocalyptic potential” is furthermore suggested by the authors’ contention that the hype over Iran “allows the United States to divert attention from the real threats that it poses itself, including its own contribution to the spread of nuclear weapons by its refusal to live up to its own disarmament obligations [as stipulated in Article VI of the NPT] and its acquiescence in the nuclear weapons programmes of Israel, India and Pakistan outside the NPT”.

As for FP’s assessment of Netanyahu and Barak’s global influence – “Pretty impressive for a country the size of New Jersey” – impressive is not the first word that ought to come to mind when faced with the possibility of regional destruction.

Perhaps in an effort to appear less blatantly warmongering, FP assigns slot 14 on the Global Thinkers list to another pair of Israelis: ex-Mossad director Meir Dagan and former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, for “mak[ing] a convincing, hard-nosed case that a strike [on Iran] would only make the Iranian threat greater”.

Lest we start feeling overly warm and fuzzy at the prospect of human co-existence in the Middle East, however, FPassures us that “[t]hese former soldiers are no peaceniks… Netanyahu once praised [27] Dagan by saying that he went to war not with a knife but with ‘a rocket-propelled grenade between his teeth’”.

According to FP, “[i]f the Israeli government doesn’t end up launching a war against Iran, it won’t be because of the persuasive abilities of US President Barack Obama or the political machinations of Israel’s opposition parties”. It presumably won’t be because of FP either.

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Global Consciousness

Healing or Stealing Commencement Address by Paul Hawken to the Class of 2009, University of Portland, May 3, 2009
…you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating….what I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world…Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world…No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power….
At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it…
One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich…
We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable…Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past…

Bolivia’s Morales Calls for New Era of ‘Peace and Unity’ to Break Greed of Capitalism

Conscious evolution for thinking people by Andrew Cohen, EnlightenNext magazine  – Millions of people around the world find themselves searching for a more meaningful, relevant, and profound way to engage with life. Not only do they want to become more conscious as individuals, they want to personally participate in the creation of a better world….The fourteen-billion-year project that is our evolving universe has reached a critical juncture where it needs conscious, creative human beings to help build the next step, together.

“The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world — we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.” Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy, Ph.D.

“We have an opening in this crisis for a deep transformation in American politics…But it requires people – this is the hard part – to get out of their sort of passive resignation…and engage among themselves in a much more serious role as citizens…to force the changing values of the system.” William Grieder being interviewed by Bill Moyers, July 24, 2008

The Big Theories Underwriting Society Are Crashing All Around Us — Are You Ready for a New World? by Terrence McNally, AlterNet, January 27, 2010…Many of the ideas and institutions that define our culture are breaking down — and that’s a good thing…today’s crises are part of a natural process — clearing out what no longer serves us to make room for a new way of being…We can no longer afford to indulge outdated worldviews. In order to deal with the crises we now face, we’ve got to act on the new realities and understandings revealed by science…Rather than focusing on what’s coming apart, we want people to understand that this crisis makes it possible to move to a much higher level of evolution….Every cell counts. Every human counts.

The Earth Is Full by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, June 7, 2011
You really do have to wonder whether a few years from now we’ll look back at the first decade of the 21st century…and ask ourselves: What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once?…we are currently growing at a rate that is using up the Earth’s resources far faster than they can be sustainably replenished, so we are eating into the future…

We May Be Witnessing the First Large Global Conflict Where People Are Aligned by Consciousness and Not Nation State or Religion By Naomi Wolf, Al Jazeera English, Posted on, November 1, 2011
 …Suddenly, the United States looks like the rest of the furious, protesting, not-completely-free world. Indeed, most commentators have not fully grasped that a world war is occurring. But it is unlike any previous war in human history: for the first time, people around the world are not identifying and organising themselves along national or religious lines, but rather in terms of a global consciousness and demands for a peaceful life, a sustainable future, economic justice and basic democracy. Their enemy is a global “corporatocracy” that has purchased governments and legislatures, created its own armed enforcers, engaged in systemic economic fraud, and plundered treasuries and ecosystems…

How the Common Good Is Transforming Our World by Douglas LaBier,, October 17, 2010 
… a steadily growing consciousness and behavior that refocuses personal lives and public policies towards promoting the common good.
By the “common good” I’m referring to a broad evolution beyond values and actions that serve narrow self-interest, and towards those guided by inclusiveness — supporting well-being, economic success, security, human rights and stewardship of resources for the benefit of all, rather than just for some.
It’s like a stealth operation, because it hasn’t become highly visible yet. But polls, surveys and research data reveal several strands of change that are coalescing in this overall direction….It’s an awareness of interconnection of all lives on this planet, and a pull towards acting upon that reality in a range of ways. They include rethinking personal relationships, the responsibility of business to society, and the role of government in an interdependent world.

The Great Turning: The End of Empire and the Rise of Earth Community by David Korten, January 27, 2008 …finding a pathway to a viable human future. It is the Great Work of our time…Our environmental, social, and economic systems are collapsing around us….This is a defining moment for the human species. We have a brief window
of opportunity to navigate the passage from a self-destructive Era of Empire, characterized by 5,000 years of violent domination, to an Era of Earth Community characterized by peaceful partnership….This is arguably the most exciting time to be alive in the whole of the human experience. Creation is calling us to reinvent our cultures, our institutions and ourselves. It is in our hands. We have the power. We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for.

A New Consciousness For a World In Crisis by by Jessica Roemischer, EnlightenNext magazine – Geopolitical activist Dr. Don Beck shines new light on our greatest global challenges …Dr. Don Beck…developed and championed Spiral Dynamics—arguably one of the most accurate models of cultural development…he tirelessly committed himself to helping catalyze the peaceful transition out of apartheid. Willing to risk his own safety to create open channels of communication across highly polarized racial divides… Beck’s ongoing conviction is that we must understand the fundamental and often widely differing ways in which both individual human beings and entire cultures think about things and prioritize their values. Only then can we address the root causes of social fragmentation and conflict and create a form of global governance that will guide the emergence of a new society in the twenty-first century.
…There are now six billion of us, and while we are more culturally fragmented than ever before, we are also more interconnected. Everything is both global and local—everywhere….our problems of existence have become more complex than the solutions we have available to deal with them.
While on the surface it often appears that conflicts are tribal or involve competing empires, or ideologies, or even national interests, the real issues are in the underlying worldviews—the deeper human dynamics that can dramatically differ from one culture to another. It is these underlying cultural dynamics that shape the actions and choices we make, that determine how we live our lives, how cultures subsequently form, and why they often collide.
…the two key words for my work, and for my new Center, are human and emergence. Because ultimately, what we’re trying to do is create better ways for six billion earthlings to survive. That is the ultimate bottom line—the health of the whole, based upon an understanding of human complexity and emergence…I realize this endeavor has a grand scope, but such is the nature of major paradigm shifts in our culture.

A New Axial Age – interview with Karen Armstrong, by Jessica Roemischer, What is Enlightenment? December 2005–February 2006 issue -Karen Armstrong on the History—and the Future—of God

…The period 800–200 BCE has been termed the Axial Age because it proved pivotal to humanity. Society had grown much more aggressive. Iron had been discovered, and this was the beginning of the Iron Age. Better weapons had been invented, and while those weapons look puny compared to what we’re dealing with now, it was still a shock.

The first Axial Age also occurred at a time when individualism was just beginning. As a result of urbanization and a new market economy, people were no longer living on lonely hilltops but in a thriving, aggressive, commercial economy. Power was shifting from king and priest, palace and temple to the marketplace. Inequality and exploitation became more apparent as the pace of change accelerated in the cities and people began to realize that their own behavior could affect the fate of future generations.
So the Axial Age marks the beginning of humanity as we now know it. During this period, men and women became conscious of their existence, their own nature, and their limitations in an unprecedented way….it is the time when all the great world religions came into being. And in every single case, the spiritualities that emerged during the Axial Age—Taoism and Confucianism in China, monotheism in Israel, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism in India, and Greek rationalism in Europe—began with a recoil from violence, with looking into the heart to find the sources of violence in the human psyche…Their experience of utter impotence in a cruel world impelled them to seek the highest goals and an absolute reality in the depths of their beings…That essential dynamic of compassion is summed up in the Golden Rule, which was first enunciated by Confucius around 500 BCE: “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.”…
Today we are amid a second Axial Age and are undergoing a period of transition similar to that of the first Axial Age. Its roots lie in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of the modern era, when the people of Western Europe began to evolve a different type of society. Since that time, Western civilization has transformed the world… All over the world, people are struggling with these new conditions and have been forced to reassess their religious traditions, which were designed for a very different type of society….they are attempting to build upon the insights of the past in a way that will take human beings forward into the new world they have created for themselves.
We have, from the very beginning of our existence as a species, created works of art and created religions to give us the sense that, against all the aggressive and spirited evidence to the contrary, life really does have some ultimate meaning, value, and sacredness…Religion is highly pragmatic, despite its other-worldliness. It should not only transform us, but it should also transform the world. Religion should make a difference. And as soon as it ceases to be effective, it will be changed. So we should be working now to make our religion and our faith effective in this lost, suffering, and terrifying world….
I think the sages and prophets of the first Axial Age knew very well about our destructive potentials…They had to look into their own hearts, discover what gave them pain, and then rigorously refrain from inflicting this suffering upon other people. In order to counter aggression, they taught their followers to cultivate the habit of sympathy for all living things…

Sartre says, “The imagination is the ability to see what is not present, what is hidden.” We must exercise this faculty fully, whereby we apprehend, in a new way, the inscrutable and ever-elusive divine.

The 21st Century: In God’s earthquake, Domination—or Community? by Rabbi Arthur Waskow,  … if we are to shape new forms of community, the medium and the message, the means and the ends, must be integrated…Can…new parallel paradigms, these movements for religious and spiritual renewal, share a purpose, a mission, a task beyond themselves? Are they simply a reaction to the world transformation, or are they prepared to enter the process of transformation as a proactive rather than only reactive community?  

A Matter of Life and Debt by Margaret Atwood, New York Times Op-Ed, October 22, 2008… we’re deluding ourselves if we assume that we can recover from the [economic] crisis of 2008 so quickly and easily…The wounds go deeper than that. To heal them, we must repair the broken moral balance that let this chaos loose… We are social creatures who must interact for mutual benefit, and — the negative version — who harbor grudges when we feel we’ve been treated unfairly… …Is there any bright side to this? Perhaps we’ll have some breathing room — a chance to re-evaluate our goals and to take stock of our relationship to the living planet from which we derive all our nourishment, and without which debt finally won’t matter. full text

Global economic crisis also values crisis – Davos poll – by Tom Henegan, Religion Editor, New Frontiers  |  Davos – PARIS, Reuters, January 27, 2010 - Two-thirds of people around the world think the global economic crisis is also a crisis of ethical values that calls for more honesty, transparency and respect for others, according to a World Economic Forum poll…