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Share International magazine April 2009

Share International magazineThis is an abridged version of
Share International magazine.
Through these electronic files, the magazine Share International makes available a compilation of its contents.

The magazine is published monthly, except bimonthly in January/February and July/August of each year.

Permission is granted to reproduce these articles in magazine, newspaper or newsletter format, provided that credit is given to Share International and clippings are sent to: PO Box 41877, 1009 DB Amsterdam, Holland. Copyright (c) 2009 Share International. All rights reserved.

 

The restoration of the world

by the Master –, through Benjamin Creme, 16 March 2009

From almost every point of view the situation facing men everywhere grows daily more painful. The economic chaos resulting from years of unlicensed greed and heartless competition lays waste the honest toil and aspiration of countless millions. On the whole, the men of money go blithely on, their treasure intact, while men and women in every country face joblessness, poverty and fear. More accurate readings of climatic changes show men how close this planet is to irreversible calamity, and alarm bells sound loudly on many political fronts, raising to new levels the factor of stress.

How much more of this tension can humanity bear? For how long will men accept, mildly, their fate? Desperate men do desperate deeds and already in their minds, if not yet in their actions, many contemplate revolution.

Happenings

Behind the scenes, Maitreya watches carefully these happenings, and gives succour wherever the Law allows. He waits, patiently, for the build-up of response to the sign of His Emergence, the “star-like luminary of brilliant power” on which many now gaze in wonder and even love.

What is desired is some measure of public debate about the significance or meaning of the Star, thus signifying the emergence of Maitreya, the World Teacher. The greater and more public the discussion, the greater does it prepare the way for Maitreya’s entry. Soon there will be no gainsaying. Very soon, Venus will move beyond the sight of men and so leave the platform of the heavens open to the Star. Then there will be no doubt that the Star is there for all to see.
If sufficient discussion can be fostered on the various media and internet it will not be long until men see and hear Maitreya speak. He will not be so called, that men can judge His ideas rather than His status.

Crisis

As the economic crisis deepens, a singular reaction is appearing in many countries: alongside the fear, bravado and growing despair is a new understanding of the reasons for the crash -- the greed and competitive spirit at the centre of our systems and, therefore, the need for sharing. Of themselves, many are awakening to this basic truth and see sharing as the answer to injustice and war. Thus are many ready for Maitreya’s Call. This realization will grow as the crisis bites deeper and deeper into the shaky fabric of the outworn forms and structures that no longer work, can never be made to work for long.

When Maitreya speaks, He will show that this is so, that the world is ready for the adoption of new and better forms, based on the true needs of the peoples everywhere. His is the task to focus and strengthen this growing realization of the oneness and unity of men, of their mutual dependence and awakening divinity. Thus will Maitreya and humanity work together for the restoration of this world.

(Read more articles by the Master)

Q. How imminent is Maitreya’s appearance in the world?
A. Very imminent indeed.

Q. Will most people feel their own soul on Declaration Day when Maitreya is speaking?
A. Most people will experience their own souls, even if it is the first time in their lives. It will be an extraordinary experience for humanity. They will feel like a child; pure, listening from the heart to these wonderful words and experiencing a quality of life that they have forgotten – that goes way back to their childhood when they were simple, trusting, full of love and happiness.

Q. (1) It was stated in Share International News Release No.88 that in the very near future a large, bright star, “a star-like luminary of brilliant power”, will appear in the sky visible throughout the world, night and day. “Around a week later Maitreya will give his first interview on major US television.” I find this statement somewhat puzzling because the star has now been appearing around the world for over two months. (1) Does this mean that Maitreya already gave his first interview around a week after the star first began appearing around the world? (2) Or does it mean Maitreya will give his first interview around a week after the appearances of the star have reached their peak and been seen by enough people?
A. (1) No. (2) Yes, precisely. It would be of little use to mount this huge project (which it is) if humanity had no time to evaluate and respond.

Q. Will sightings of the star eventually become numerous enough that it becomes a top headline in the news worldwide and publicly investigated by scientists?
A. I do not know what level of response is required but it is obvious that some public recognition is essential.

Q. First off, I have to say thank you for making this information available. I'm truly grateful. I'm writing because I think that I saw the miracle star your Master has described. It was Saturday night and I was working late. The location was Toluca Lake, California, USA. After I left the office to go to my car I saw a star that was brighter than any other that I've seen. It had an orb shape around it. While I was driving home on the freeway I was following it with my eyes. It seemed to change its position. Sometimes it was to the left of me and sometimes it was to the right. Maybe this is because the freeway changed position; I don't know. It did seem to shift to rather dramatic variables in distance. It seemed to vanish as soon as I got off the freeway near my neighborhood. My father thought that it might be Venus. It was exceptionally bright. Whatever the case may be, that was the brightest heavenly body I've noticed to date.
A. My Master has confirmed that it was indeed the Star that you followed along the freeway. It does move about which, of course, Venus does not except slowly along its own trajectory. Venus is very bright and is often confused for the Star but Venus is becoming lower and lower on the horizon and, by 28 March or so, will no longer be visible to us. The Star is even brighter than Venus, and changes position and colour.

Q. In late February 2009, I was in a city in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. There, I saw a really bright star in the sky. It was bigger than the other stars. It was a little similar to Venus, but the colour was completely different. Venus normally is blue and the star was yellow or golden. Was that the star of Maitreya?
A. Yes, it was the Star.

Q. A thought about the appearance of the star occurred to me: the first news release regarding the star starts: “Look now for the biggest miracle of all....” It sounds to me that we are told to regularly look for it, of course on evenings when there are few clouds in the west (in the case of New Zealand), and by looking for it we are inviting its appearance. And the more who look the stronger the invitation. Would this be correct?
A. No, it is not really like that. The Star exists whether we look for it or not but if people do not look for it they will not necessarily see it and report it. It is necessary that it receives open public attention as a miracle – a sign of Maitreya’s appearance on US television. If it does not receive public attention of a certain amount it will not have served its purpose.

Q. On the evening of 3 March 2009, for at least 30 minutes before the clouds came, I saw a bright star-like object on the western sky in Belgium. Could this have been the star?
A. Yes, it was the Star.

Q. I have been intrigued by your workings for some time now and I am really glad that I joined my local Transmission Meditation group before Christmas, it has given me a new lease of life and a new outlook on it also since I had been going through hard times before I joined.
The one question I have, though, is how could I possibly help more financially, whether it be for the upkeep of the Share International website or to spread the word more to the world. I have never been charged for going to my weekly meditation and I would love it if you could point me in the right way to give a small donation of what I have in my position. I look forward to hearing your reply.

A. I suggest that you offer a donation to your local Transmission Meditation group. If they meet regularly in a hired hall or if they are engaged in making known information about Maitreya’s emergence then they will need money for such work. I am sure they will be glad to accept it.

The human constitution

We do not know who we are

At his lecture in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on 21 September 2005, Benjamin Creme made these comments:

We are lurching from one catastrophe to another because we do not know how to live. We do not know how to live in peace. We do not know why we are here. We do not know what is the meaning and purpose of life on Earth. We don’t know even who we are.

We know almost nothing about the realities of life. We know how to send a rocket to Mars or the moon or whatever, but we don’t know the purpose of life. So without help we are doomed to destruction.

Humanity is so empty of information, so casual about the nature of life, that it fails to make itself acquainted with the facts of our living, the facts of the nature of life even on planet Earth. Information that has been available in shops and books since 1875. Information about the nature of the spiritual level of humanity. We don’t even know the nature of our own being.

We have a threefold being and we take as reality only the lowest aspect of that threefold being. We look in the mirror and take what we see to be ourselves. We think that is us, but that is only a reflection of the lowest aspect of us. The least important aspect – it’s important if you are living a life on planet Earth. If you’re dead on planet Earth then you don’t have one of those things that will reflect in the mirror. But without that body, are you less a being?

No. What incarnates and shows as a reflection in a mirror is a great, divine, spiritual Being which we have many names for, but most people call it the soul. And that soul incarnates in a physical body over and over and over again, sometimes as a man, sometimes as a woman, on and on. And all the time progressing on planet Earth to a point where it no longer needs a physical body.

What we call planet Earth is ensouled by a great Being, a great cosmic entity Whose work it is to create a planet, to visualize everything that will be on that planet and to bring it into being. And to do that in relation to the ideas, the thoughtforms, the creations in the mind of the greater Being Who ensouls the solar system.

If you think of God in those terms it becomes clear that there is nothing in the whole of the manifested universe but God – that is all there is. And each one of us is a manifestation of a fragment of that greater whole which we call God. That divine aspect, the Self with a capital ‘S’, reflects itself at a somewhat lower vibration as the individual soul. That individual soul reflects itself at a yet lower vibration as the human personality.

That is the reality. Why is it not talked about in schools? Why is it that nobody knows this? If we knew this, could we live life as it is on Earth today? Could we in the West be so greedy and selfish and allow millions of people to die for want of the food which is overflowing on Earth? No, we couldn’t do it if we knew who we were. We are God – literally God. Not in total consciousness of course, but potentially everything in the universe is in us.

We live in a spiritual universe, that’s how it is. We cannot do anything about it. What we have to do is to make it manifest.

Joyful message

Dear Editor,
On the night of 25 December 2008 my wife and I saw, in Enzersdorf near Hollabrunn in Austria, a large bright star in the sky, near Venus, but larger and brighter. My wife and I said together: “This is the Christmas miracle.” We can still see this star every night: my sister and family live in this village and also see it every night. Is this the star which announces Maitreya?

Also, on Friday 20 March 2009, I was in Liechenstein Street, Vienna, 20 minutes before the Transmission Meditation, when I saw an especially big man dressed in white. He spoke to me in German: “We are getting closer to the time of the ‘kingdom of heaven’. Very, very soon, all people in the world will see Maitreya on television.”

I heard his voice inside my head. His eyes radiated energetic light and love. A moment later he suddenly disappeared. I felt real love in my heart!

Was the man Jesus or Maitreya?
E.Z., Vienna, Austria.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms the bright star is indeed the Star, and the man in white was Maitreya.)

Reminder

Dear Editor,
On 15 February 2009, a handprint appeared on the window of my parents’ bathroom. I asked them about it and they said they had not made it. Was this a sign from Maitreya? If so, it’s the second handprint made this month. What is its purpose? I’m feeling a little tired and depressed these days, is it related to that?
T.S.A., São Paulo, Brazil.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘handprint’ was manifested by Maitreya. Its purpose is to remind people that He is here.)

Light-hearted

Dear Editor,
On 23 February at noon, the day after Benjamin Creme’s lecture and Transmission Meditation weekend in Barcelona, my husband and I were driving home. We cut through several crowded streets in one go because most traffic lights were green. At one point I saw that the green disc was not round in shape, but it clearly had the form of a big, green and luminous heart! It was a surprising view, and the only heart-traffic light I saw – the rest were all round, plain and normal.
What was the source of this lovely traffic-light?
C.F., Barcelona, Spain.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the heart-shaped light was manifested by Maitreya.)

Happiness is the key

Dear Editor,
I was cutting back plants in my front garden in October 2008 and heard a noise – pling, pling, pling, pling – and looked up to see a young man cycling past, looking from left to right, as if in wonder at the beauty of it all, smiling and ringing his bell. It struck me that it was so seldom that I see people passing with such a smile and happy demeanour.
I saw him quite a few times more from my house – indeed I had been looking out for him – he made me smile! A few weeks later I was saying goodbye to my sister by her car and saw the man walking towards us on the footpath, carrying a plastic bag. As he approached, he looked straight at me, hunched his shoulders up to his ears with the biggest grin and a look of an excited, expectant child with a secret, full of happiness and joy.

I called after him and said: “You’re so happy,” but he carried on walking.

The next time I saw him was from an upstairs window. He was on his bike, looking quite normal as he passed by – then I noticed he was greeting and waving to all the oncoming traffic!
Each time I have seen him I have been filled with joy and call him ‘Mr Joyful’. He was tall, slim, with long curly brown hair under his woolly hat, had a long nose and looked Middle Eastern, with olive skin.
I have read that Maitreya is known as the ‘Happy One’ – was it Him?
M.M., Kings Langley, Herts, England, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was Maitreya.)

Two letters from the same person:

Harmonious

Dear Editor,
(1) It was I think, in 2006. I entered the tube station at Oxford Circus, London. On descending the first escalator I heard harmonica music coming from the middle landing. The music was upbeat and being played exceptionally well. It was very moving. As I approached the landing I was already thinking that here was something unusual. I saw a tall black man and it seemed as I watched him play that there was no filter between his essence and his music which was like a river of beautiful sound. It was clear that I was not the only one so impressed as at his feet there was a high pile of coins. I added mine and hazarded a glance at his face which was buried in the harmonica with eyes more or less closed. As I did so I thought: “I think you are not who you seem to be”. I carried on down the next escalator. About half way down I was hit by a wave of love so strong that I was virtually in tears by the time I reached the bottom. I can recall that sense of love and joy to this day.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was Maitreya.)

Stranger in the dark

(2) On Monday 1 December 2008 I decided I needed to go out shopping. It seemed to have taken me an age to get out of the house with the right kit, receipts, wallet, phone, etc, and I was not in a good mood.

It was almost dark. I rounded the corner near my house where there is little street lighting and passed someone but did not look at them. I was very much in the bubble of my own thoughts – when they said something  like ‘excuse me’. It was an odd voice and I chose to ignore it. I do often respond to people in the street, but that evening I was not in the mood. Then I heard again ‘excuse me’ much clearer and also ‘with respect’ repeated twice and very forcefully. I immediately apologised with some excuse about not hearing properly. I then noticed this was a man who had both fists clenched and one was held up for me as if for an American-style fist-to-fist style greeting, or for me to shake as if it were a handshake with someone who was crippled and unable to open their hands. Still feeling tetchy and unsure what I was supposed to do, I did nothing and the fist went down again. In the very dull light I tried to get a better look at the man. I was aware of the eyes which seemed to look right into me but everything else seemed dislocated. The rest of the face and the limbs didn’t seem to join up in the right way.

I was asked for 38p. Fumbling in my pocket I was beginning to wonder if this was a Master in a ‘familiar’ guise. As I was getting out my cash I dropped some and complained that I could not see what coins I had. I was looking for £1 to give him but regretted later not just giving the lot. Despite the conflicting emotions of annoyance and wishing to present myself in a good way should it be a Master (as if one could!), in fact I was beginning to warm to this strange stranger and in any case to feel for him for what seemed to be awful disabilities. I gave my pound and said that I thought that should help him out seeing as he had asked so specifically for 38p. Then he said, ‘I am not a beggar you know’. So I agreed and in doing so I became very much more unsure that this meeting was what it appeared to be. Then he beamed and held up his fist again which I shook willingly as if a handshake. He hobbled off into the darkness. I was left with a profound feeling of lightness yet tinged with the regret that I had not been more friendly to begin with.

I have been over this meeting so many times since then, such did it impress me. I can see many potential messages, that I should let go, not be so stressed, indeed, not be tight-fisted. Here was someone who appeared to be obliged to be contorted in body and yet who had an openness and freedom of spirit I could not really describe. As I go over this in my mind, even now, a light and wonderful energy seems to fill me right to my finger-tips.
A.N., Cambridge, England, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was Maitreya.)

Mirror image

Dear Editor,
On 7 September 2008 I noticed smeared fingerprints on my bedroom wardrobe mirror. Since to my knowledge, no-one else has been into my room and the fingerprints are not mine, I was wondering: is this something to do with Maitreya?
M.F., Dover, Kent, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the fingerprints were indeed manifested by Maitreya.)

Beach boy

Dear Editor,
I was at the beach on Sunday 28 September 2008, around 9pm, handing out flyers for the monthly talks on the Emergence in Barcelona. One of the first people who came by was a young Indian or Pakistani man, very boyish and happy, who, as he walked up to me said in English: “Now you must explain this to me!” enthusiastically. I said: “Oh, you speak English!” and pulled one of the English Emergence newsletters out of my bag to give him. I was really focussed on wanting to hand out as many of these flyers as possible, and somehow didn’t think of talking to him at length.

Instead I gave him the newsletter, and showed him where the website is indicated. He said he would read it later that evening at home, and then for some reason, perhaps because of his infectious smile, I asked him: “Where are you from?” He laughed, and pointing to his face, answered: “Can’t you tell? I am from India.” I was laughing too, but couldn’t help replying that actually people from many parts of the world have his skin tone. He was so alive and happy! Then it seemed like it was time for him to go, so he began to walk away, and as he passed by me, he said very clearly: “You are doing a great job!” It was only when he said that, that the thought flashed through my mind that he might be Maitreya. I felt a huge joy radiating from him to me, a feeling of endless happiness. Was this young man Maitreya?
S.Q., Barcelona, Spain.

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was the Master Jesus.)

The star that heralds Maitreya's emergence

 

“In the very near future, people everywhere will have the opportunity to witness an extraordinary and significant sign, the like of which has been manifested only once before, at the birth of Jesus. Then, according to Christian teaching, a star appeared in the heavens and led three wise men from the East to the birthplace of Jesus. Soon, once again, a star-like luminary of brilliant power will be seen around the world.” (Benjamin Creme's Master, 'Maitreya's first interview', SI Jan/Feb 2009)

Crewe star 10 March 2009On 12 December 2008 Share International distributed a news release announcing that in the very near future a large, bright star will appear in the sky visible throughout the world, night and day. Around a week later Maitreya will give His first interview on a major US television programme. Since early January 2009, sightings of the star have been reported from all over the world and more and more sightings are being sent to us daily.

Share International has also received many reports which Benjamin Creme's Master has confirmed to be of the planet Venus and not 'the star'. But we are happy to receive these reports even if they turn out to be wrong. It shows us how more and more people around the world are responding to our information.

We publish here a selection of the first photographs received and a list of sightings confirmed by Benjamin Creme's Master to be the star.

Please click to read more about the star sign

 

Miraculous appearance in Iraq

Bern, snow image“Imam Mahdi Unexpected Appearance” proclaims the title of a video posted on YouTube. A miraculous figure of glowing, brilliant, white light appeared on a video filmed in Karbala, Iraq, on the night of Ashura, 6 January 2008. This Shia Muslim ceremony commemorates the martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet, Hussein, whose tomb is in Karbala. (Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the light figure is Maitreya (Imam Mahdi to Muslims) and that His dance-like movements with a sword remind us of His coming with the Sword of Cleavage.)

Snow pattern

Bern, snow imageThis intricate pattern appeared in snow at the Kornhaus Bridge, Berne, Switzerland, on 15 December 2008. It was manifested by the Space Brothers and is similar to crop patterns seen in the UK and around the world. Photo sent by F. W.

Financial crisis devastating developing world

“We are nearing a time of major change in the world: before long, the transformation of all structures will begin, commencing with the dissolution of the stock markets as they now function. This will release the pressures now being imposed on governments by currency speculation, and allow a fair and equitable trading system to be developed. Short-term measures must recognize the special and urgent need of poorer nations for succour. In particular, the problems of hunger and disease must be addressed without delay.” (Benjamin Creme’s Master, SI July/August 1995

Top advisers meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in March 2009 warned that the global financial crisis is having a catastrophic impact on the developing world, and might turn into a “social, humanitarian, political and security meltdown that could spin out of control in the most vulnerable regions,” according to The Financial Times, UK. The advisers said that if developed countries increased their international aid to the developing world, they would also be helping their own faltering economies.

“It’s obviously a tragedy that people in rich countries are losing their jobs and their homes,” said Kevin Watkins, a senior UN development adviser. “But in poor countries, the rising poverty could result in vulnerable children losing their lives.”

Douglas Alexander, UK overseas development minister, told an international development conference in London: “If developing countries were less affected by the immediate fallout of the credit crunch, they are if anything now more vulnerable to the second wave of what has been called a once-in-a-century credit tsunami.” Alexander cited a recent report predicting that 90 million people would be forced into poverty by the end of 2010. He said the UK would urge the G20, the group of 20 nations with the largest economies, to create a ‘rapid response’ fund for the world’s most vulnerable people, focusing on women, children, the elderly and the disabled. A G20 summit meeting will be held in London at the beginning of April 2009.

Jeffrey Sachs, a special economic adviser to the UN Secretary-General, who also attended the UN briefing, said: “The odd situation is that we have trillions of dollars directed at banks and bail-outs but we’re told there’s nothing for the poor. Meanwhile, we are teetering on the brink of collapse and violence in parts of the world where people have been pushed to the brink.” Sachs expressed hope that proposals to increase global aid would be agreed to at the G20 summit.

International aid has been dramatically reduced as the financial crisis has worsened. The European Union pledged at the 2005 G8 summit to commit 0.56 per cent of their gross domestic product to aid. “We estimate that the EU’s pledge is now worth $4.6bn less than it was a year ago” due to the EU’s shrinking economies, said Kevin Watkins. The consequences of aid reductions are dire. “With the slowdown in growth in 2009, we estimate that the average income of the 391 million Africans living on less than $1.25 a day will take a 20 per cent hit,” he said. “When you convert economic growth effects into human costs the picture looks even grimmer. Best estimates point to an increase in infant mortality of somewhere between 200,000-400,000 [a year].”
According to World Bank President Robert Zoellick: “We need to react in real time to a growing crisis that is hurting people in developing countries. This global crisis needs a global solution and preventing an economic catastrophe in developing countries is important to overcome this crisis. We need investments in safety nets, infrastructure and small and medium-sized companies to create jobs and to avoid social unrest.” (Source: The Financial Times, The Guardian, UK)

 

Growing number of tent cities in US

“New methods of distribution of resources, based on sharing and need, will supplant the present chaotic modes which so divide the world. The blind following of market forces, whose myopic rule causes such misery today, will give way to an enlightened and just consideration for the needs of all.” (Benjamin Creme’s Master, SI July/August 1995)

With unemployment on the rise, and an increasing number of Americans losing their houses through foreclosure, the US is experiencing the largest increase in homeless encampments in decades, according to homeless advocacy groups and city agencies throughout the US. Some of the largest tent cities include those in Reno, Nevada, Seattle, Washington, and Nashville, Tennessee. Tent cities have also appeared or expanded in the California cities of Sacramento, Fresno, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and outside Los Angeles, as well as in Portland, Oregon, and Columbus, Ohio. Many of the tent cities have hundreds of inhabitants – and almost all have seen an increase in numbers this year.
Joan Burke, director of advocacy for the homeless charity Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento, California, said: “The folks we deal with typically are the working poor. But right now the economy is in such turmoil that it is affecting a new layer of middle-class earners – construction workers, farm labourers, retail workers, restaurant staff. People who have earned good money but have not got any savings are finding out about the reality of being just one or two pay cheques away from becoming homeless.”

According to an article from associatedcontent.com: “Tent cities are certainly nothing new – these temporary housing facilities have been around for decades. The problem is that they are becoming much larger now than they have ever been in recent years. The growing number of residents of these cities is certainly alarming, and it is a sign of the strength of the current recession. With a continuously growing number of inhabitants, it seems that there is no end in sight for these tent cities.” (Source: The Times, UK; associatedcontent.com; Associated Press)

Developing a new economic system
by Patricia Pitchon

The current world economic crisis can be understood more as a debt crisis than a ‘credit crunch’. In effect, the first warning signs in the United States involved the takeover of a major investment bank (Bear Stearns) by JP Morgan, and later, in 2008, American investment banking as we had known it disappeared. American and European governments have had to rescue banks, businesses, and even insurance companies such as American Insurance Group (AIG), with 70 million policies and worldwide links. AIG was thought too big to fail; some think it is almost too big to rescue*.

Stock markets have tumbled; the value of property is eroding rapidly; companies have gone bankrupt because major banks that traded in risky instruments and made irresponsible loans can no longer lend; the scarcity of credit has exposed major scams where people have lost many millions; and investors have also taken billions out of many financial institutions including hedge funds and sought refuge in gold and commodities, creating a further crisis in the developing world where people already living on the breadline can no longer afford to buy basic foodstuffs.

Despite taking absurd risks with other people’s money, bankers paid themselves huge bonuses which are now perceived as ridiculously inflated and ill-deserved. Clearly poor financial oversight of such activities, insufficient barriers between retail and investment banking, a misunderstanding of risk and poor risk modelling, excessive complexity, inadequate credit and risk rating by various agencies, and incentives such as commissions paid at each step in a calamitous chain where risky loans were repackaged as bonds and sold on to other investors and institutions all over the world, contributed to the crash. Trading unregulated and complex financial instruments derived from such loans was another mechanism of transmission that affected institutions and investors everywhere.

Billionaire investor George Soros believes the current form of capitalism is dead and he criticizes what he calls ‘market fundamentalism’, in essence, the belief that markets can take care of everything. Professor of risk engineering and former trader Naseem Nicholas Taleb believes misunderstanding of risk created faulty models. In his book, The Black Swan, he called unexpected extreme events ‘black swans’, examined risk assessment and probability theory in some detail and predicted what later actually happened.

Much of the debt mountain may have to be written off, and remaining debt may take years to pay off – an echo of what occurred previously in the developing world, although in that case the lending spree by major banks in the developed world has turned into a punishing schedule of debt repayments from impoverished developing to wealthy developed countries, to the detriment of poor people in terms of lost opportunities.

Keeping a country dirt-poor through an enslaving debt-service regime which makes development impossible has its own dangers: as the economist Paul Collier points out in his book The Bottom Billion, on average all low-income countries face a 14 per cent chance of falling into civil war in any five-year period. Young men are the recruits for rebel armies, Collier points out, and they come cheap where there is poverty and hopelessness. Sadly, such soldiering, often brutal and lawless, represents a small chance of enrichment where there are few opportunities for work. This is occurring at present in areas of the Congo, and has occurred in Sierra Leone and other poor countries.
This alone should concentrate minds on the foolishness of creating economic systems where wealth is increasingly concentrated in ever fewer hands, and where conditionalities imposed by major lenders hamper development. If the world is to develop adequately, often the only solution is outright debt cancellation for poorer countries. The Jubilee Debt Campaign UK points out that even corruption, widespread in many countries, does not undermine the effects of debt cancellation. One study of 10 African countries showed that after only four years of debt relief, spending on education increased 40 per cent and health spending increased some 70 per cent. (See www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk

Steps towards a new economic system

Given the failures of the current model, there are opportunities to develop new models which may serve us far better than the present one.

Evidently a less speculative and more transparent system is required, with no economic players excluded. Tax dodging on the part of companies must end through the closing down of tax havens worldwide. The NGO War on Want (www.waronwant.org) points out that developing countries lose an estimated £250 billion every year due to such tax dodging – a sum that could enable them to reach the Millennium Development Goals many times over. Britain alone loses £100 billion a year, and tax avoidance and capital flight in Africa represent five times what the continent receives in aid every year.

The extension of microcredit schemes (small loans, some 85 per cent of which are normally taken out by women in the developing world, with a reasonable repayment rate) is important, since at the moment 3 billion people in the developing world have no access to finance at all. Perhaps the seizing up of credit in more prosperous countries will enable this lack, and what it means, to be better understood.

The development of barter schemes between countries, with fairer terms of trade than those that developed in previous decades, seems an important task. (Briefly, just as an illustrative example: if many years ago a developing country paid for each tractor it imported by exporting, say, 30 sacks of coffee, in the 1980s and 1990s a situation developed where it would have to provide many more sacks of coffee to pay for the same tractor). Currently many developing countries are experiencing the shocks of commodity highs and lows.

At a local level, forms of timebanking that serve communities that are cash poor can be extended. Timebanking is a way of exchanging services at a local level via a currency (originally a ‘time dollar’) where every hour of time a person offers in the form of a service is equal to any other person’s hour of service, whatever service that might be, whether it is an hour’s shopping, watering a garden, hairdressing, bookkeeping, a language lesson, or any other service.

The idea is taking hold that there should be a maximum, not just a minimum wage. This reflects a desire to diminish tensions between haves and have-nots as well as to create working lives less remote from ordinary people.

In many poor countries community house-building schemes can be extended, either in exchange for other services or via affordable and partly government subsidised loans. In the developed world a moratorium on home evictions seems urgent in the short-term. Governments can buy housing and thereby extend the stock of public housing, reducing further homelessness.

Urgent financial reforms and the need to address vital social needs can provide the appropriate foundation for a new system that reduces systemic risks and provides greater security, and above all, hope.

* See ‘In a state’ from Economist.com, 2 March 2009

 

Freedom in the faces of children

RugMark Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1994 by a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, businesses, government agencies and multilateral groups such as UNICEF in order to abolish the use of child labor in the handmade rug industry. RugMark USA is the United States branch of the RugMark Foundation. Nina Smith, executive director of RugMark USA, launched RugMark’s US initiative in 1999. She was interviewed by Jason Francis for Share International.

Share International: How rampant is child labor around the world?
Nina Smith: people might be surprised to hear that in the 21st century child labor is still a major problem in some parts of the world. There are 218 million children who are victims of child trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, bonded child labor, child domestic work, or who have been recruited and used for armed conflict or drug trafficking. Many of the worst forms of child labor are found in places where RugMark operates such as India, Nepal and Pakistan.

SI: Are we speaking about modern-day indentured servitude or slavery?

NS: Child labor today is a kind of modern-day slavery. Parents, desperate for money, trade their child’s labor in exchange for loans. The child, of course, has little or no participation in this decision. For example, in Pakistan, young children whose parents take money in advance for their work on carpet looms, end up as victims of a debt-bondage system. The children are paid half the wages of older workers and are not allowed to leave the premises until the debt is fully paid. A quarter of the children are girls under 15. They are easy targets for predatory older workers who sexually abuse them.

According to UNICEF [the United Nations Children’s Fund], 14 per cent of children in India between the ages of 5 and 14 are engaged in child labor activities including carpet production. Rugs are among South Asia’s top export products and the industry is a major employer of the poor. If child exploitation is the norm in a country’s principal industry, there is little chance to break the extreme cycle of poverty without an effort such as the RugMark campaign.

SI: RugMark says that, “An imported rug that was made using child labor is ugly no matter what it looks like.” How many children are estimated to be directly used in the weaving industries around the world? 

NS: There are nearly 300,000 children working in intolerable conditions in the carpet industry in order to provide rugs for North American and European homes. Children as young as 4 to 14 are kidnapped or trafficked and sold into debt bondage or forced labor. 

SI: What are the physical, emotional, and mental effects of child labor?

NS: The consequences of child labor are enormous. The children suffer malnutrition, impaired vision and bruises and wounds from sharp tools. Some, like the so-called ‘carpet kids’ in Pakistan’s Punjab region, contract respiratory illnesses from inhaling wool fibers and many children in the industry suffer spinal deformities from sitting endlessly in cramped positions.

SI: What role does RugMark Foundation have in protecting the rights of children?

NS: Our mission is to end illegal child labor in the carpet industry and to offer educational opportunities to children in India and Nepal. We monitor factories, provide education to former child weavers and very importantly, label carpets with the RugMark brand so that consumers can be assured the rug they buy is child-labor-free.

SI: How many children have been rescued from the weaving industry in the nations where RugMark operates?

NS: RugMark’s work is having a profound effect. Since 1995, RugMark has freed more than 3,000 children from looms and deterred thousands more from entering the workforce. Educational programs funded by donations and by the sale of RugMark certified rugs help these children through rehabilitation, daycare, literacy, formal schooling and vocational training. One statistic, for example, is that in Nepal, child labor in carpet production has dropped from 11 per cent in 1996 to 3 per cent today. We’re happy to say that RugMark is credited for much of this success because during the same years child labor dropped, the number of licensed factories we inspected in Nepal grew to 65 per cent.

Once the children are freed from the looms and given proper nutrition and support, they are capable of top academic and athletic achievements. In Nepal, for instance, with RugMark’s help, 11 former child laborers are attending Little Angels, the top private school in the country.

SI: How is a manufacturer’s compliance to the RugMark standard guaranteed?

NS: There’s a legally binding contract which ensures the manufacturer will first, produce carpets without illegal child labor; second, register all looms with the RugMark Foundation; and third, allow access to looms for unannounced inspections. Finally, the manufacturer has to agree to pay associated license fees.

To ensure compliance, inspectors who are trained and supervised by RugMark, monitor the carpet looms regularly. Each RugMark label is numbered so that its origin can be traced and to protect against counterfeit labeling. In North America only licensed RugMark importers are legally permitted to sell carpets carrying the RugMark label.

SI: What is The Most Beautiful Rug campaign?

NS: In 2006, RugMark USA launched The Most Beautiful Rug campaign. The idea is to raise consumer awareness about the issue of child labor in the handmade rug industry. In doing so we can increase the sales of RugMark certified carpets. The campaign goal is to raise the market share of certified child-labor-free rugs from 1 per cent to 4 per cent over three years and by 2012 to a 15 per cent market share. That 15 per cent is the estimated tipping point needed to completely eliminate child labor from South Asia’s handmade rug industry. One interesting and exciting fact is that for each percentage point that our market share increases, we estimate that 750 children are rescued from the workplace and 1,000 more are saved from entering the industry.

 

Tibetan “suffering and hardship”

Marking the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against China, the Dalai Lama spoke emphatically of the “hell on earth” that Tibet has become since he fled his homeland five decades earlier.

Speaking in the main Buddhist temple in Dharamsala, India, the Tibetan spiritual leader talked of the “untold suffering and destruction” caused by the Chinese in a series of repressive and violent campaigns in Tibet since 1959. “The immediate result of these campaigns was the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans."

Some 10,000 Tibetans from around the world listened to their spiritual leader’s address. Many in the crowd wept as he said: "Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear. Today, the religion, culture, language and identity, which successive generations of Tibetans have considered more precious than their lives, are nearing extinction. In short, the Tibetan people are regarded like criminals deserving to be put to death.”

After the address, thousands of Tibetans, including children, marched through Dharamsala carrying ‘Free Tibet’ posters and protesting against a Chinese security clampdown in Tibet. (Source: Reuters)

Spontaneous Irish peace protests

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Northern Ireland on 11 March 2009 in silent vigils to protest against the murder of two soldiers and a policeman. The murders were carried out by dissident republican groups.

The latest outbreak of violence came as a shocking reminder of years of conflict, tit-for-tat killings, ever-present fear and tension. The recent murders prompted spontaneous protests across the country.
In Belfast crowds gathered in silence; placards read "No Going Back", in reference to the long years of violence and division. More than 2,000 people gathered in front of Belfast City Hall; a lone bagpiper played a lament and the crowd stood silent for five minutes in tribute, grief and protest. Other vigils were held in Londonderry, Newry, Downpatrick and Lisburn.

People who had suffered on both sides of the conflict, known as ‘the Troubles’, stood side by side. Former paramilitary convicts stood next to families, mothers with young children; people wept and shook hands in silence.

Some commented that the hard-won peace of the last 10 years must not be lost. "What has happened over the last 10 years should not be surrendered. I grew up through the Troubles in Belfast. I don't want that for my children," said one of the demonstrators.

Speaking in Belfast, the assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which helped organize the protests, said people were determined that they did not want a return to bloodshed. "This lunchtime thousands of citizens are gathering to collectively share moments of silence," he said.

"The trade union movement stands together with all citizens in solidarity to prevent any derailment of the peace process. The callous attacks of the past few days were an assault on every citizen who supports peace.

"Here in Belfast, and in Newry, and in Londonderry, and at spontaneous gatherings across our land, workers and their families are making clear their abhorrence at these murders and the direct threat to the peace process." (Source: ITN, UK; youtube.com; The Guardian, UK)

 

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