Confessions of an Economic Wiseman

Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author John Perkins
Author: Jair Robles

The magnitude of the global financial crisis that we are beginning to see unfold, and its possible consequences, may be of an unprecedented scale. Yet the reasons and players behind it are quite familiar to someone like John Perkins.

Only a few decades ago when he worked as Chief Economist at a major international consulting firm, John Perkins’ job was to convince leaders from Third World countries to take loans from international institutions like the World Bank, United Nations and IMF. The loans financed development projects benefiting major corporations, leaving these countries buried in debt. A few years later those same countries would find themselves with no other means to pay back the loans but to give up their natural resources, as well as implementing “structural reforms” that reduced social spending and significantly increased the gap between the wealthy and the poor. John Perkins´ story is brilliantly related in the New York Times bestsellers Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and The Secret History of the American Empire.

The difference now is that back then the corporatocracy and its economic hit men would only target developing countries, but what we are witnessing now is an assault on the world’s leading economies.

SuperConsciousness recently spoke with John Perkins to get his perspective on the most recent events, not only because he used to be an insider but, most importantly, because ever since he left that job he has been an advocate for change and a source of hope. His message, which can be found in detail in his most recent book Hoodwinked, delivers a clear strategy for change through the empowerment of people, a shift in consciousness and inspiration the upcoming generations.


SuperConsciousness: Can you define for us the term corporatocracy and what are some of the ways that these entities and its leaders influence the world?

John Perkins: Well the corporatocracy really is the people who run the world today. They’re the people who run our biggest corporations. Men and women, mainly men, who also often hold very high places in government. This is what we call the revolving door. They move from being president or vice president of a major oil company, to being Secretary of State, like Condoleezza Rice. Or in the case of many of Obama’s top financial assistants, they come off Wall Street, Goldman Sachs or a Wall Street firm. There is a constant movement between corporations and government. Basically they’re serving the interest of the big corporations.

We’ve come to a point where the U.S. government and every other major government in the world, is a vehicle for this corporatocracy to accumulate more resources and reach up more markets. We’ve really moved from a time when elected officials — in the United States, for example — wrote the laws, to a time now when the laws are written by corporate lobbyists, and are voted and passed by elected officials.

The elected officials don’t get elected unless they have financial support from the big corporations. So it’s fair to say that most of them today are essentially puppets of big corporations.

SC: Since the financial crisis of 2008 and the time you finished writing the book Hoodwinked, what has happened from your perspective? Has the corporatocracy gained even more power in the past three years?

JP: Yes, it has gained more power. We’ve had more Supreme Court decisions that have given the corporations more power. The economic crisis itself has given them more power. So, basically, they were bailed out as we like to call it, and the average citizen was put in a worse position. The corporations have been, for the most part, made stronger.

The other thing that we’ve all seen is that the president of the United States doesn’t have much power. In many respects, from a big picture standpoint, it really doesn’t make a lot of difference whether a Bush is president or Obama is president. It wouldn’t matter whether Palin were president or McCain was president. The really big policies of our countries and those that deal with Wall Street, those that deal with the financial regulations, those that deal with making war on other countries are basically made by the big corporations.

SC: What about the financial problems in the Euro Zone? Do you perceive that we’re heading into an even greater global financial crisis?

JP: It’s hard to say what ultimately will happen, but what we are seeing in the European countries is that once again the corporations are getting a stronger foothold.

As deals are struck with countries like Iceland — which is considered part of that community in its own way — Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, part of the agreements to help these countries restructure their debt is that they will also privatize major sectors of what previously were considered public assets. What that tells us is that what’s going on in Europe, like what’s going on in the United States, and what’s been going on for a very long time in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia is that the corporations are gaining more and more power. They’re getting control of more and more assets.

In many respects, from a big picture standpoint, it really doesn’t make a lot of difference whether a Bush is president or Obama is president. It wouldn’t matter whether Palin were president or McCain was president. The really big policies of our countries and those that deal with Wall Street, those that deal with the financial regulations, those that deal with making war on other countries are basically made by the big corporations.

SC: It appears at least in some of the European countries and certainly in some Arab countries recently — in what is now called the Arab Spring — that people react differently to the instrumentation of these policies. Why do you think there is a greater resistance from the people in those countries?

JP: That’s the good news that around the world there is a popular uprising. We first started in Latin America and it was very successful. During the past decade ten countries have elected presidents who run on anti corporatocracy campaigns, trying to rein in the power of these big corporations. And it’s different in each country. Chile is really very different from Ecuador, which is very different from Bolivia, which is very different from Venezuela. But there is this common thread in these countries, which now represent more than 80% of the population of South America. They have stood up and said, “We want the corporations here, but they have to give a larger share of the profit to the people, they have to protect the environment and they have to protect the social order. A very positive change and every one of these ten countries, up until recently during most of my lifetime, were ruled by brutal dictators, put in power primarily by the CIA. That’s all changed in the last decade. So we really saw the movement start there.

We’ve certainly seen throughout the Middle East a very, very strong uprising of the people, but we don’t know what’s really going to happen because at this point the people haven’t really won. They’ve gotten rid of Mubarak, and a few other leaders. But it is not clear who’s winning. In the case of Mubarak, in Egypt we’re seeing that the military is exercising very strong control over people, maybe as much as he did.

And, yes, we’re seeing it in Europe. We certainly saw it in Ireland where the people voted on a referendum, not to pay back some of the debt that the IMF and some of the other European countries said they were owed. We’re seeing it in Greece and Spain. We’re seeing it in the United States; students stand up for these things. We’re seeing some of the unions stand up for it. We’re seeing rallies and protest movements. So there is a strong movement.

You can say that the tea party, on the right is part of this. There is a tremendously strong movement on what we call the left that is also coming into play. And when you come right down to it, there’s not a lot of difference. People on the far right like the tea party people, and the people on the far left are basically very dissatisfied with the system. They’re dissatisfied with the inability of our congress to reach compromise and really serve the best interest of the people, but instead they serve the best interest of big corporations. People are fed up with this. And so, yes, there are a lot of people that are standing up to fight the system, and that’s the really good news.

As a result the system is taking it harder. Whenever the status quo feels threatened, they strike back. And we’re seeing that today.

We don’t know what the final outcome would be, but I’m encouraged, I’m very hopeful that we the people, in the end, will win, but we have to rally. We have to all come together. I think all the people who read your publication and participate in your activities could be encouraged to keep standing up, to take action, send emails, and go to protests. We can win this battle and it is a global one today. We’re seeing it in China. We’re seeing it around the world. We the people are angry and we’re standing up. And for the status quo, is the end. What will be the final outcome? That depends on us.

SC: You were talking about the Latin American countries as an area of the world where this new perspective has permeated all the way up to its leaders. The elected officials are following a new way of dealing with corporations. From your experience in these countries, what specific policies deserve to be implemented elsewhere?

JP: In both Ecuador and Bolivia, for example, laws have been passed. A new constitution has been implemented in Ecuador that gives inalienable rights to nature, the first constitution in the world to do that. And Bolivia has followed suit and even come back with some stronger language to protect nature and to protect social rights.

The other thing that is changing, in the past corporations — they really hoodwinked these countries — said, “We will take a small percent of net profit and leave more for you, and in the end they set up shell corporations, offshore corporations. So legally speaking, the profits were not made in the countries. These countries were really abused, exploited and hoodwinked. That’s not happening so much anymore. People are getting smarter.

Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, has a PhD in economics from the University of Illinois. He’s not going to be fooled, not by these antics. We’re really seeing some very, very significant things happening and it’s quite different within the various countries, probably because they’ve got different resources, probably because you get very diverse profiles of people. But in every case, we’re seeing that these countries are saying, “We’re not going to be hoodwinked anymore.”

We don’t know what the final outcome would be, but I’m encouraged, I’m very hopeful that we the people, in the end, will win, but we have to rally. We have to all come together.

Every one of those leaders, incidentally, realizes that they have to be very careful because they’re in vulnerable positions. They know they can be taken out. The democratic elected president of Honduras, President Zelaya, about two years ago was overthrown in a CIA orchestrated coup. This is a very strong message sent to some of the other leaders. A coup was attempted on Rafael Correa of Ecuador about a year ago. It failed. Correa was smart enough to withstand it. It was a blended coup, in any case it was a CIA coupe, but very poorly planned.

These are warnings to those presidents that they do need to be careful. They have to be willing to make compromises. But they are pretty much sticking to their guns on the really big issues.

SC: In a recent interview with Forbes and also in the book Hoodwinked, you talk about the youth, the students that have invited you to talk — mostly from MBA programs — as a source of hope. It is encouraging for you to see that they have a new way of thinking and of doing business. But what about their schools, the faculty and the curriculums that they are being taught? Do you see any change there?

JP: I think change is coming very gradually in the curriculum. Students are getting it faster than their professors and probably because to a very large degree the professors are consultants to big corporations.

There is a conflict of interest in many of our business schools, where you have professors who make a lot of money from the corporatocracy. It can be seen very clearly in the film, The Inside Job, for example. They are serving their own personal self-interest to keep the status quo the way it is. While the students understand that if they want to have kids and grandchildren and have them grow up in a sustainable, just and peaceful world, they’re going to have to make change happen.

As the students pressure more and demand that people like I come and speak there, the professors have to give in. Six years ago, when Confessions of an Economic Hitman first came out, it was not required reading or even just recommended reading in most MBA programs. Now it is required or recommended reading in a lot of university programs.

Things are changing, but the pressure has to come from below, from what we call the grassroots, with the students, and that’s true across the line. It’s we the people. We have to pressure our leaders, because usually our leaders are very, very closely tied to the status quo.

SC: You talk about the market being a continuous polling booth and that is where our power resides to make corporations change. Can you expand on this idea?

JP: I think that the market is a democracy if we choose to look at it that way, but most of us don’t. We don’t understand that every time we buy something or decide not to, we’re casting a vote. And we need to express that vote.

We got rid of apartheid in South Africa a number of years ago because we boycotted corporations that were supporting apartheid. We got the corporations to clean up terribly polluted rivers in this country. They got rid of aerosol cans that were destroying the ozone layer and many, many other things, by voting in the marketplace. I think today it’s very imperative that we do that.

The election of Obama has told us that the leaders can’t do anything unless the people really, really push hard. When you go from a very conservative republican to a very liberal democrat, and basic policies don’t change very much, or you get into a debacle like we’ve just seen over the budget crisis. It’s sort of a very strong notice that our leadership is faulty and has their hands tied to a large degree. We the people need to speak out loud and clear.

SC: What role do you see consciousness and spiritual understanding play in creating the future of a more sustainable, just, and harmonious world?

JP: It all boils down to consciousness. We’re not going to change the situation until we become fully conscious of who we are as human beings walking on this planet. Our consciousness can change from a completely materialistic one to a more spiritual one.

Understanding that becoming a millionaire doesn’t make anybody happy and accumulating more gadgets doesn’t make anybody happy, creating really expensive war machines to go around the world killing people in the Himalayas, the mountains of South America, and the oil fields of Africa, that doesn’t make anybody happy.

We got rid of apartheid in South Africa a number of years ago because we boycotted corporations that were supporting apartheid. We got the corporations to clean up terribly polluted rivers in this country. They got rid of aerosol cans that were destroying the ozone layer and many, many other things, by voting in the marketplace. I think today it’s very imperative that we do that.

What ultimately makes us happy is when we really create a peaceful, sustainable and just world where everybody can thrive. We don’t have to be wealthy, we don’t have to be millionaires, but everybody can thrive in their own way. And that’s a very, very spiritual way of looking at things.

My goal in life and I’m devoting my life to helping people, to become clearer, become more conscious and to move into a new paradox. It really is just a spiritual paradigm, and I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about spiritual quality, understanding that the world revolves around compassion, cooperation and true love. That’s where our fellow human beings can thrive and when we really understand that we will start living in a feasible world.

SC: From what I have observed recently, it appears that the countries or the people that seem to be waking up as a collective are those that have been submitted to the worst conditions, to the most adversity. Do you think that a financial crisis like we’re beginning to see unfold again is a door for this waking up to take place in more developed countries that had an easier lifestyle?

JP: Unfortunately, it seems as though that may be the case. For years now, I’ve been saying, we’re going to have to change. The question is, “Is change going to come easily? Are we going to become conscious and wake up on our own and move toward a more sustainable, just and peaceful world? Or will it not happen until we suffer so much that we’re forced into it?” Sometimes it looks as though we have to be forced into it.

But I believe in the possibility, and in fact even the probability, that we can truly wake up from this without going through extreme turmoil and chaos. I’m a deep believer that we can do as one of my books suggests, we can shape shift our consciousness. I really believe that we can do that and that we are in the process of doing it.

It all boils down to consciousness. We’re not going to change the situation until we become fully conscious of who we are as human beings walking on this planet. Our consciousness can change from a completely materialistic one to a more spiritual one.

I really feel that some young people, even surely the MBA students, are shifting consciousness. I think all students are shifting consciousness. I found that in China when I was lecturing there to big conferences, with many MBA students from China. They’re saying, “You know, we in China created an economic miracle over the past three decades, with a horrible cost environmentally and socially. Now we’re going to become the greenest country on the planet. Now we’re going to create a miracle to become extremely responsible environmentally and socially.” And they mean it. It still remains to be seen, but they mean it. And I see that change when I’m lecturing in Iceland, South America, the United States, Asia or Europe.

I’m seeing real change; people are waking up. We’re getting it. Consciousness is changing, there’s no question. And the only question is will we all come together strongly enough to take actions based on our change of consciousness, actions that will create a better world for our children and ourselves.

SC: Is there anything you would like to add?

JP: To encourage your readers to follow their own passion. We all have a passion. You have a passion for doing SuperConsciousness. I have a passion for writing books. And we have talents in those areas. And if we all use our individual passions and talent we can take different paths, but let’s all head toward that same goal of creating a sustainable, just and peaceful world, one that is thriving for all sentient beings. When we do that, we will have made it.

For years now, I’ve been saying, we’re going to have to change. The question is, “Is change going to come easily? Are we going to become conscious and wake up on our own and move toward a more sustainable, just and peaceful world? Or will it not happen until we suffer so much that we’re forced into it?” Sometimes it looks as though we have to be forced into it.

John is a founder and board member of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, nonprofit organizations devoted to establishing a world our children will want to inherit. He has lectured at more than 50 universities around the world, and is the author of books on indigenous cultures and transformation, including Shapeshifting, The World Is As You Dream It. Psychonavigation, Spirit of the Shuar, and The Stress-Free Habit. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CNN, NPR, A&E, the History Channel, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Der Spiegel, and many other publications, as well as in numerous documentaries, including The End of Poverty? Zeitgeist Addendum, and Apology of an Economic Hit Man.

To learn more about John Perkins visit: www.jonperkins.org or www.dreamchange.org

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