True Confessions … Book Review: New Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins

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ipad_ebookI am reading New Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins … and I can already tell I will be rereading it more than once.

NO, this is not the latest James Bond story, although at times, it feels like one, as the author describes the secret workings of world governments and international organizations, and the people who work in them.

The timing of this updated version of a classic exposé is exquisite, with the US presidential campaign tortuously underway and global upheaval evident in every corner of the planet.

 Originally published in 2004, this edition continues into the present day the story of global intrigue and power brokering based on the four pillars of modern empire:  fear, debt, insufficiency … and the divide-and-conquer mindset (pg. 293) … unfortunately, the story has gotten worse.

Real heroes are scarce and villains are profusely strewn through this crash course in geo-political history and economics.  You are already familiar with many of the players and events, but I would be willing to bet you will have a revised perceptive on our country and the world after reading this book. 

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It is a little difficult to categorize this book and it certainly does not fit into the normal leadership and personal development, coaching, and social media titles that are my usual focus.  

I am out of my comfort zone as I read this book … and that is a good thing.

At times, it is a travelogue detailing life in wide-spread cities and countries around the world, where power and wealth exist next to extreme poverty and need. Like any good story, romance and sex play their roles here as well as sections that read like a good spy or mystery thriller.

Most of all, this book reads like a really engaging and up-close look at recent United States and world history, focusing on geo-politics, economics, and societal culture.

I could see this as a movie …

STYLE AND DESIGN …

The book is mostly very short and very interesting chapters outlining Perkin’s adult life.  Since we are close in age, I could easily relate to much of what Perkins describes, both in his personal life development and events as they occurred around the world.   

share_09The preface and introduction are both worth reading.  Valuable context and guidance gives the reader a head’s up about the overall perspective, along with a very helpful abbreviated view of the last fifty years covered by the book.

WHAT I LIKED …

The short chapters written in narrative style …

These easily digestible chunks come alive.  Among other things, the author has given us a nice little Recent US and World History text which almost any college student could handle.  I would use this as an adjunct reading assignment and discussion guide in such a course.

The relationship to my own times …

As I mentioned earlier, I can relate easily to the happenings and personalities in this book, although I certainly learned some new and disturbing information as I worked through fifty some years of impacting events.  I am both appalled at what I did not know then and more hopeful about the future (see comments below).

The personal honesty and integrity …

While I understand that authors writing about themselves tend toward describing things in a more positive light than the reality would show, I did get the sense that the author really did live through angst, confusion, transition, and redemption.

I do know that to write a story such as this is the written equivalent of poking a lion with a sharp stick.   Speaking the truth requires personal courage, especially when those who do not want that truth known are both powerful and many.  

As the author points out, many have willingly participated in illegal and immoral behavior, partly because they are unaware of the true nature of what is happening, but also because the personal benefits were important to them.  In other words, many people have a personal investment in protecting this behavior.

However, the author’s past and current story also reminds me of John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace , the well-known Christian hymn.  Positive change can happen to people.  For a modern-day example of redemption, check out John Perkins.

New Word Alert:  “Corporatocracy” (pg. 38) … a tad unwieldy, but a good term to describe the influence and sweep of multi-national organizations.

SOME THINGS I DID NOT LIKE …

How poorly the United States shows …

The United States comes off as a benign and paternalistic nation and more recently, as a power-focused conglomeration of corporate and political ambitions beyond national borders.  As someone who has considered themselves a patriotic American and served our country in uniform, I held a somewhat unrealistic and positive view of our country as a young man.  In later years, I have come to a more realistic perception, but it still disturbs me when that reality is laid bare.

That book cover:) …

The cover looks like a poster for the kind of film I do not wish to see … just my opinion.

share_03BOTTOM LINE VALUE …

Reality is not always comfortable, but it is always the best base for us to make effective decisions about how to move forward.  This book provides an important aspect of reality for us to consider and might even be considered “required reading” for all citizens.

The last two chapters are critical.  Chapter 46 has an overview of the key points of this book.  Then chapter 47 leaves us with several “What You Can Do” lists for people in different demographics.  These are reality-based, very doable, and were quite welcome after the saturation into what is currently happening.  

The knowledge that things can be different and that we can all be part of making this change happen is crucial to being able to fully appreciate this book.  Without those last two chapters, this is just a fascinating, but downer story that will leave you feeling helpless.

All in all, The New Confessions of an Economic Hitman was not the most enjoyable book I have read in my life, but it probably is one of the most important.

When you read it, I bet you will agree.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, but ultimately very hopeful in the Heartland ….

John

Images:  Via Weaving Influence

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book for review … best gift I have received in a very long time.

Guest Post: “I Quit” by John Perkins

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ipad_ebookBACKGROUND:

John Perkins was Chief Economist at a major international consulting firm where he advised the World Bank, United Nations, the IMF, U.S. Treasury Department, Fortune 500 corporations, and governments in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Since then, his books have sold more than 1 million copies and been printed in over 30 languages.  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. He is a founder and board member of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, nonprofits devoted to establishing a world our children will want to inherit. His new book, The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, can be found on Amazon.

PROLOGUE *****

It has been nearly twelve years since the release of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. People have wondered how the publication of that book has affected me and what I am doing to redeem myself and change the EHM system. They have also questioned what they themselves can do to help turn the system around. The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is my answer.

In the excerpt below, I had just learned that the president of my company, MAIN, who was my personal mentor, had been fired. I slowed down to reflect on the things my job had entailed. I had to admit that it was about more than oil, profitability, and global empires. It was about real people, real families, and how I had exploited  – enslaved- them. I hope you enjoy this short glimpse into chapter 25 of the book and the events that became my confessions.

I’d like say a special thanks to John E. Smith for his support of my new release and for his willingness to post this on his blog. I hope you’ll connect with me on Twitter and Facebook!

share_02I Quit

In late March 1980, still smarting from the firing [of Bruno Zambotti], I took a sailing vacation in the Virgin Islands. Although I did not think about it when I chose the location, I now know that the region’s history was a factor in helping me make a decision that would start to fulfill my New Year’s resolution.

I entered Leinster Bay, nestled into Saint John Island, a cove where pirate ships had lain in wait for the gold fleet when it passed through this very body of water. I nudged the anchor over the side; the chain rattled down into the crystal clear water and the boat drifted to a stop.

After settling in, I rowed the dinghy ashore and beached it just below the ruins of an old sugar plantation. I sat there next to the water for a long time, trying not to think, concentrating on emptying myself of all emotion. But it did not work.

Late in the afternoon, I struggled up the steep hill and found myself standing on the crumbling walls of this ancient plantation, looking down at my anchored sloop. I watched the sun sink toward the Caribbean. It all seemed very idyllic, yet I knew that the plantation surrounding me had been the scene of untold misery; hundreds of African slaves had died here—forced at gunpoint to build the stately mansion, to plant and harvest the cane, and to operate the equipment that turned raw sugar into the basic ingredient of rum. The tranquility of the place masked its history of brutality.

The sun disappeared behind a mountain-ridged island. A vast magenta arch spread across the sky. The sea began to darken, and I came face-to-face with the shocking fact that I too had been a slaver, that my job at MAIN had not been just about using debt to draw poor countries into the global empire. My inflated forecasts were not merely vehicles for assuring that when my country needed oil we could call in our pound of flesh, and my position as a partner was not simply about enhancing the firm’s profitability. My job was also about people and their families, people akin to the ones who had died to construct the wall I sat on, people I had exploited.

For ten years, I had been the heir of those earlier slavers. Mine had been a more modern approach, subtler—I never had to see the dying bodies, smell the rotting flesh, or hear the screams of agony. But I too had committed sin, and because I could remove myself from it, because I could cut myself off from the personal aspects, the bodies, the flesh, and the screams, perhaps in the final analysis I was the greater sinner.

I turned away from the sea and the bay and the magenta sky. I closed my eyes to the walls that had been built by slaves torn from their African homes. I tried to shut it all out. When I opened my eyes, I was staring at a large gnarled stick, as thick as a baseball bat and twice as long. I leaped up, grabbed the stick, and began slamming it against the stone walls. I beat on those walls until I collapsed from exhaustion. I lay in the grass after that, watching the clouds drift over me.

Eventually I made my way back down to the dinghy. I stood there on the beach, looking out at my sailboat anchored in the azure waters, and I knew what I had to do. I had to take responsibility. I knew that if I ever went back to my former life, to MAIN and all it represented, I would be lost forever. The raises, the pensions, the insurance and perks, the equity… The longer I stayed, the more difficult it was to get out. I could continue to beat myself up as I had beat on those stone walls, or I could escape.

Two days later I returned to Boston. On April 1, 1980, I walked into Paul Priddy’s office and resigned.

****

During the 12 years since the publication of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, the world has changed radically. I am excited to share with you how economic hit men and jackal assassins have spread to the U.S. and the rest of the planet and what we all can do to stop them and to create a better world. The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is an expanded and updated edition that includes 15 explosive new chapters. It also provides detailed strategies each and every one of us can employ to avert the crises looming before us. To learn more please visit www.johnperkins.org, and join me in moving not just into ‘sustainability’ but also into ‘regenerating’ devastated environments.

Sigh …


Sigh … let me first say, I know and respect Texas Tech as just as good an institution of higher learning as most others. These same appalling results could be had on most campuses. The film is edited for maximum shock, as is so much media these days. However, this is not funny, it is not right, and it is not good for our country that COLLEGE students are so unaware of basic knowledge that any informed citizen should have.

I have no printable comment on Snookie et al …

Thanks to Michael Wade (CulturalOffering.com) for this one. http://disq.us/971zmz

Habits …


Habits - Video Games - Gratisography.com.jpg

 WE SPEND A LOT OF ENERGY AND DOLLARS ON HABITS …

I know this because of all the books you can find about habits, especially in relation to the process of change.  Authors such as Charles S. Duhigg have enjoyed commercial success by writing masterfully about the Power of Habits.  Robert Thompson, in Hooked On Customers, identified five habits of “Legendary Customer Service Companies”.   Of course, any discussion of habits must include acknowledgment of Stephen Covey and his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

If you really want a deep dive into Habitology, here is a list of 27 excellent books on this subject, including my personal favorite:  Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward by James Prochaska, John Norcross, and Carlo DiClemente.  As a therapist, counselor,  and coach, this has been a primary source to help me understand the process of change and the role of habits in that process.

HABITS CAN BE GOOD OR BAD, AND ARE OFTEN BOTH AT THE SAME TIME.  

My coffee habit is an example of a bittersweet (literally) daily habit that both troubles me and comforts me.

The dual nature of habits is common.  Otherwise we would be talking only about getting rid of habits, and not replacing them.

Remember that “personal favorite” book?    In it, Prochaska and company create a clear focus as they describe the process of change – replace bad habits with good habits.

If your bad habit is two cases of beer every evening, replace that less than ideal habit with something more healthy, such as fruit juice or water. If you are abrupt in your communications with others, become more gentle.

Sounds simple enough, but anyone who has ever struggled with a deeply entrenched habit knows that the grip of our original negative habit is often very strong.  Understanding the nature of change and habits is critical, both for leading others and for leading yourself.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO REPLACE BAD HABITS WITH GOOD HABITS?  

A few thoughts, in no particular order …

VISUALIZE POSITIVE OUTCOMES …

if you can imagine a thing, actually doing or reaching that thing becomes more real and appears doable to our brains.  Athletes, musicians, and performers often use visualization as part of their practice routines.

ACKNOWLEDGE THE STRENGTH OF BAD HABITS …

At one time, people believed that overcoming habits was simply a matter of willpower.  If you were strong-willed, you would be able to change, and if not, you were weak.  Now we understand the strength of our habits more clearly.  Acknowledging their power over us actually strengthens our ability to change.  Self-Help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, get this …

PLAN TO CHANGE …

 … or you plan to fail, as they say.  Not a big fan of this overused saying, but it does hold a truth.  WIthout intentional action to name and take specific and measurable steps to change, you will probably fail.  

Habits are strong … otherwise, we would call them affectations and discard them with ease when they proved troublesome.  As in business, time spent planning is essential and valuable time.

BE HOPEFUL …

Another overused, but ultimately truthful saying:  When you expect to fail, you will fail.  Change is a mental game and our own expectations will either help us courageous and push forward, or crumple into Dying Spider mode when the change becomes uncomfortable.

... and real change ALWAYS becomes uncomfortable.  That’s how you know it is happening.

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS ESSENTIAL TO CHANGE A BAD HABIT?

Except for my coffee, I am changing whether I feel like it or not in the Heartland …

John

Image:  Gratisography.com

 

 

Only A Phrase …


Only a Phrase - Gratisography.com

Don’t you wonder what phrase the author is referring to?   I do …

It seems a timely quote, what with our quadrennial collective social punishment (AKA the presidential political campaign) bleeding into our consciousness from every angle.  

Two requirements here for any possible candidates as “The Phrase”:

First, the phrase has to be popular enough to be repeated and passed from one person to another.

Second, the phrase has to be not quite accepted or believed.

Here are some of my candidates, with commentary:

“Everything will be OK in the end.”

“They will pay for what they did.”

“Work hard, play fair, and you will receive a fair reward.”

“Everyone respects a nice guy.”

A glance at the daily headlines will support the idea that these beliefs are not necessarily true.  We strongly want happy endings, because they serve our sense of justice and fair play, and are just more enjoyable to envision.

Justice does not always visit in a tangible way … life has no guarantees that what you do will decide what you gain or experience.  It’s too complex for that.  

Now you WILL increase your chances of positive outcomes when you are upright, honest, and hard-working, but this is far from a sure thing.

This is why HOW you respond to adversity is important …

The unstated part of these beliefs is that “nice” will equate to “fairness”, “reward”, “achievement”, and so on, but of course,  it ain’t necessarily so.  

Nice guys are sometimes admired, but often passed over for positions of leadership and responsibility, in both corporate and political environments, on the public stage, and in groups. 

Personally, I would rather be a nice guy, but this comes with the recognition that doing so does not guarantee anything else.

… and before you condemn me as a bloody pessimist, let me know that reality, while not always pleasant, is always where we live, not in comfortable but untrue beliefs.  At least, that’s what I believe.

That said, I prefer to choose optimism on a daily basis, but I do not expect complete, total, or immediate justice … I may never see what another person experiences as a result of their actions or in spite of them.

What phrases do you think of as passing from mouth to mouth, but not being really “swallowed”?

Wondering what else I have passed along without really believing it in the Heartland ….

John

Image:  Gratisography.com