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.
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!
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.