Worried? by Quentin Bates

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Let’s count up some of the things we’re supposed to be worried about. The big one is terror. That’s on practically every news bulletin these days.

There are bad guys, probably bearded types, waiting to blow us up. I’m not trying to make light of the threat of terrorism here, because it’s undoubtedly very real, deeply alarming and it’s not something that should be treated lightly.

Then there are those pesky migrants determined to take our jobs and all the rest of it. Those people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and a few other war-torn places are hell-bent on coming over here (wherever your own particular here might be) and turning themselves into us. They’re after our jobs, homes, and all the rest of it, so it follows that they want to become us.

All the while, the media reminds us that we have always been at war with Eastasia.

Then there’s Donald Trump. This is a candidate who openly courts the lowest common denominator, drawing out people’s fears with blatant bullshit that ought to be laughed down if it weren’t so real. The thought of a Trump presidency in the US is truly terrifying, a far more real and scary prospect than that of an Islamic invasion and Sharia Law being enforced in the Home Counties.

Old-fashioned tub-thumping jingoism is back in the form of nationalist movements demanding that borders be closed, immigrants turned back and refusing to admit that maybe the west had some part in causing this vast migration of displaced people to begin with.

In Britain our own crowd of far-right swivel-eyed loonies with their hankering for a golden age that undoubtedly never existed appear to have disappeared up their own unlovely fundament for the moment, at least. But their key argument, that the European Union should be dismantled, hasn’t gone away and we Brits are headed for a referendum that the present unloved government grudgingly accepted had to take place to mollify the far-right swivel-eyed loonies within its own ranks.

What we’re not getting any kind of referendum on is something rarely reported in the mainstream media, something deeply more worrying than a whether or not we should prop up a creaking and overblown, but nevertheless largely democratic institution.

I don’t recall being offered an opportunity to vote on TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. A series of similar agreements are being rolled out around the world and not just the content of them, but the silence surrounding them, is chilling.

TTIP is a trade deal between the US and the EU. There are Asia, South American and other partnerships in preparation or in place already or in the process of being negotiated; a whole swathe of TT-acronyms.

This is truly frightening, as all the hysteria over Europe, terror and so much else is blanketing something that could have the most sinister implications for the rest of us. Under these deals, corporations are handed powers that place them on much the same level as nation states, while those nation states are putting themselves into golden handcuffs that limit their options to curb the power of unaccountable businesses.

A particularly unnerving detail is the proposed investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS), a mechanism that would allow corporations to challenge national governments, with those disputes settled behind closed doors by a panel of experts, with no possibility of an appeal.

A corporation makes an investment that may be contrary to the public good, that country’s government says no, but under this mechanism, the corporation can haul that government before a tribunal and demand compensation for not being able to do something harmful or unethical that it shouldn’t have been doing in the first place.

If you think this stinks, then you’re right.

Originally envisaged as a way that companies investing in developing countries could have some kind of protection for those investments, the concept has been shanghaied by smart lawyers who see a way of extracting megabucks from often impoverished nations.

A tobacco giant has been able to sue Uruguay and Australia for introducing anti-smoking measures, and a Swedish energy company has been able to take legal action against Germany, seeking damages for its phasing out of nuclear energy generation. Guess who gets to foot the bills? That’s right, the ordinary Joes who pay their taxes.

Every few years the US government publishes a report on the state of the world, produced by the CIA and its analysts. It’s called Global Trends. Go on, have a look for it. It’s freely available and it’s even on Amazon.

Among the information to be found in Global Trends are the predicted scenarios for the state of the world and Global Trends 2030 includes one such projection – not for a world at war with itself over religious and military divides, but one in which the world we live in is run largely by corporations rather than elected governments.

It can be argued that this is just conspiracy theory on a large scale, but TTIP and the rest of these wretched deals that nobody is saying too much about are a huge step in that direction.

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