Best-selling author John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Hoodwinked) spoke to a large, enthusiastic audience at Willamette University’s Smith Auditorium in Salem on Tuesday night, kicking off a month-long series of peace visioning events called the MyPeace Project.
The MyPeace Project is Oregon PeaceWorks’ (OPW) local peace visioning project. It interlocks with regional and national projects aimed at articulating a clearer vision of what the peaceful world Americans want to build and live in looks like, which OPW calls “reinventing the American dream.” During the month of October, the MyPeace Project asks Salem-area residents to imagine what peace would look like if it “broke out,” and express that vision using some form of art. These visions will be presented to the community through a series of events including art exhibits, a performance art event, workshops, and much more. For a complete schedule, visit http://bit.ly/mpschedule; for information on how to participate, visit www.mypeaceproject.org. For more information on peace visioning click here .
“Economic hit man” John Perkins was a clandestine operative for a major U.S. corporation for many years. During that time, his job was to persuade the leaders of countries possessing resources desired by large corporations to take out enormous loans from U.S. banks. The loans were used to pay other U.S. corporations to build major infrastructure projects in these countries – developments such as electricity plants or roads – which benefited a very small sliver of the country’s population. Nevertheless, the loans had to be repaid by the entire country, which it was unable to do. This debt then brought the country into economic slavery to the U.S. If the U.S. wanted to build a military base in that country, or purchase the country’s resources (usually oil) at cut-rate prices, or otherwise control some aspect of that country’s activities, the U.S. used the debt to obtain compliance. Perkins’ reward for his work was wealth, power and access to attractive women. He allowed it to silence his conscience.
Eventually, however, his conscience got the better of him and he left the work. Still later he decided to blow the whistle on it by writing Confessions. In order to avoid reprisal, he maintained a high profile. That was assured by the success of his book, which spent 70 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
Now he works on a variety of projects aimed at making life better for the people whose economies he once helped to wreck. He also lectures on the work he used to do in order to inform the public about what kind of nefarious work is being done in their names and without their knowledge.
Follow Your Passion
He encouraged the audience to demand that corporations use their power and resources to clean up polluted waterways and lands, pay fair wages to their workers and generally operate as responsible world citizens in the world economy. He urged his listeners to refuse to patronize companies whose practices are destructive and to let the companies know through the contact mechanisms set up on their websites. He said that corporate CEOs are very concerned about how the public is reacting to their practices, especially when it influences their purchasing patterns. He suggested a positive approach, such as “I’d love to buy your product, but I won’t until you take action to…”
His final message was that every person has a role to play and we can all find our roles by following our passions. During the question period, a number of specific issues were mentioned. In each case, he urged the people bringing them up to take action on those issues because they were obviously passionate about them.
Peace Visioning Emphasized
Acknowledging OPW and the MyPeace Project, Perkins emphasized the importance of visioning. In fact, he has written another book called The World Is As You Dream It in which he contrasts the dreams of the South American indigenous people he has worked with to the dreams that have built our oil-dependent world of automobiles, heavy industry and collapsing economic systems. He believes that we can dream another world and, if we are willing to exert enough effort, we can bring it into being. He called upon us to do just that for the sake of his grandson Grant and all the other children of all the other peoples of the world. Φ
Peter Bergel is Executive Director of Oregon PeaceWorks and founding editor of The PeaceWorker.