Building a global community of life by moving from the “I” that encloses to the “we” that liberates
Synthesis and proposals
Document based on a text submitted by Riccardo Petrella.
Fontaine de Vaucluse (F), 25 November 2021, modified and updated on 10 January 2022 following comments and proposals from other members of the Other Agenda promotion group.
Part A. Analysis of the Dominants’ Agenda
Founding principles. Beliefs
Priority objectives, mechanisms of domination
The (main) instruments of power
Narratives on knowledge of the dominants
The S&T world according to the forecasts and expectations of the dominant
Part B. The Other Agenda, the Agenda of the People of the Earth
The Inhabitants of the Earth
The basic ethics of the Other Agenda
Founding principles. Beliefs
Priority objectives, cooperation and sharing mechanisms
Proposals. Main actions for transformation
Appendix. A graphic comparison between the Dominant Agenda and the Other Agenda
The Other Agenda project
It all started with the aim of mobilising international support for a global public health policy at the G20 2021 in Italy.
The aim was not to ask the G20 for something. There is no need for that. But to show our great indignation, to denounce the criminality of the dominant policies and to spread our proposals centred on the abolition of patents on life (and artificial intelligence) and for another policy of knowledge, a public common good of the inhabitants of the earth. A global common good that has become private property and a powerful instrument for the predation of life in the interests of dominant social groups.
At the origin of this mobilisation were the associations Tranform!europe and Agora des habitants de la Terre. From their alliance and the participation of other groups such as the Venice group (Paolo Cacciari) and the feminist movement (Nicoletta Pirotta), the drafting of the Citizens’ Memorandum was born, an attempt at a basic human-political positioning for the citizens themselves (see www.agora-humanité.org).
On the basis of the Memorandum, the Other Agenda project took off: street demonstrations took place in Liege, Brussels, Rome, Venice, Matera… on 18 May on the eve of the G20 World Health Summit in Rome. Then, thanks to the support of the parliamentary group The Left in the European Parliament and the European Left Party, a series of international seminars and an international distance conference took place at the end of September and end of October 2021. We also released a 34-minute video featuring interventions by some 30 artists from around the world, entitled “The Other Agenda” (see www.agora-humanité.org).
On 27 November, we were able to submit a version of the document The Other Agenda. Synthesis and proposals to the European Forum of Alternative and Progressive Forces. This document is the final version of the project The Other Agenda.
With this document, the social-political work enters its true phase of transformative mobilisation. The course has been set: to denounce the criminal irresponsibility of the Agenda of the Dominants and to begin a long-term journey in which citizens who adhere to the aims of the Other Agenda, the Agenda of the Inhabitants of the Earth, will fight to open new horizons for the construction of a global community of life on Earth that is just, supportive, and peaceful – three feasible adjectives.
The document was the result of a collective work carried out during two international online seminars and an international conference, also at a distance. Several people took part. We would like to thank in particular Roberto Musacchio (I), Roberto Morea (I), Paolo Ferrero (I), Paolo Cacciari (I), Cornelia Hildebrand (D), Marga Ferré (E), Roberto Mancini (I) Heinz Bierbaum (D), Joao Caraça (PT), Nicoletta Pirotta (I), Mary Theu Niane (Senegal), Manon Aubry (F), Marc Botenga (B), Paola De Meo (I), Alassane Ba (F), Marcos P Arruda (BR), Armando De Negri (BR), Luis Infanti de la Mora (CL), Hélène Tremblay (CND-Québec), Oumu Kane (Ruanda), Maria Palatine (D), Pietro Pizzuti (B), Bernard Tirtiaux (B), Pierre Galand (B), Moema Viezzer (BR), Anibal Faccendini (ARG), Lucie Sauvé (CND-Québec).
Part A. Critical analysis of the Dominants’ Agenda
By “dominants” we mean those social groups which have the political power (ideological, economic, military, social, cultural) to define and impose common values and the founding principles of living together, by dictating the rules; to set the objectives and priorities to be pursued; to control and judge compliance with priorities and rules; to resolve conflicts and sanction transgressions; to direct the lifestyles of populations on a global scale.
At present, the dominants are primarily to be found in the so-called “Western” countries of the “North”, mainly because of their economic, military and ideological power, i.e. the system of so-called “market capitalism, the most widespread form of “dominant system” in the world.
The main dominant subjects are States such as the USA, Germany, France, Japan, the UK, Switzerland, Italy, Canada and, by other modalities, Russia, China, India, Brazil, and organizations such as the Glocos (global companies) such as GAFAM, Big Pharma, oil and mining companies, large commercial distribution groups,; and Big Finance (a few dozen global banks, three main global investment funds, the stock exchanges…). Of course, religious organisations such as Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians, Muslims, Christians, Catholics, etc. are also part of the dominant groups, but on other levels than the political one.
The double novelty compared to sixty years ago is that, on the one hand, the “political” power is no longer the main prerogative of the States, of the public authorities. This power is more in the hands of private “non-state” subjects, such as multinational, multi-territorial, multi-sectoral, global companies, new planetary oligarchies in permanent war for power and survival, On the other hand, the power of domination is no longer based mainly on the sovereignty (ownership and control) of natural resources and the population, but on the appropriation and control of knowledge, especially scientific and technological knowledge, leading to the “creation” of a new universe of goods, products and services that were practically unknown 60 years ago.
Thus, domination is exercised through different factors, mechanisms and modalities, but also through the reinforcement of “old” forms, mechanisms and modalities. One thinks of patriarchy, racism, the principle of inequality, autocracies, the erasure of freedoms, the surge of the primacy of the “I” and of identities centred on totalitarian, warlike, conquering “I”s. This, to the detriment and annihilation of the “we”, the collective, common, open, plural, cooperative “we”… See the first part of the Citizens’ Memorandum.
The Agora of the Earth’s inhabitants, for instance is an “association” of people who formed in 2018 in opposition to the society and history of “I”. Agora’s basic principle is that we, human beings, are all – beyond certain group specificities (gender, age, skin colour, language, beliefs…) – an integral part of a “we”, humanity, which in turn is an essential part of a broader “we”, of which humanity is becoming aware. We refer to the “global community of living beings on Earth” (including all living species).
Founding principles. Beliefs
According to the dominant view, the purpose of human creativity, both individual and collective, is to pursue economic growth, from which – they claim – all development derives its strength and sustainability.
Scientific and technological knowledge is the source of economic growth and the material and immaterial well-being of societies. It has become the key factor underpinning the economic power, strength and security of populations. Its ownership and control, they say, guarantee the sovereignty of peoples. In reality, they are thinking mainly of their sovereignty.
Freedom and private ownership of goods essential for economic growth and personal and collective prosperity are, they say, fundamental rights that take priority over others. They are the two central pillars of any society that wants to govern its future.
The exploitation of labour and the allegedly “natural” class division of society are structuring phenomena of the organisation of societies. The absolutization of the hierarchy based on the diversity of social roles of the different labour functions is the constitutive basis of economic and power hierarchies.
Economic governance, especially on a global scale, is the keystone of the system of global political governance, based on the priority role of “stakeholders”. Global governance of stakeholders is the negation of democracy.
Poverty has always existed. So has inequality. So has war. They consider that they are phenomena linked to human nature, to egoism, to the tendency of some to dominate abd to enrich themselves, to racism, to xenophobia. The realistic, pragmatic objective is to reduce the extent of these phenomena and mitigate their effects.
Priority objectives, mechanisms of domination
Technological innovation, the technologisation of life, of all forms of life, through the intensification and application of scientific advances in all fields (life, energy, materials, intelligence) is the main watchword. The focus on digitalisation sums up the dominant trend towards unrestricted technologisation.
Economic competitiveness in increasingly globalised markets is “natural” and inevitable in the context of a “permanent economic war” of all against all. It depends on the capacity for technological innovation and the financial power of the stakeholders. Only the strongest will survive.
Optimising financial profitability. Finance is the mother of the value of things (goods and services). Everything that is financially profitable has value, and for this, money will be available. Anything that is not profitable is of no importance.
The (main) instruments of power
The so-called “competitive” market, de facto oligopolistic or even monopolistic, is considered the optimal “natural” regulator of the exchange of goods and services and, therefore, of the economy and social relations. All exchange must be “market”.
Competition between workers at local and global level, desired and organised by the competition between companies and territories by the large multinational groups…
Financial engineering is increasingly concentrated at the global level, with high technological intensity, and dissociated from the real economy. It is independent of state political power… Freed from public political and economic regulations, it has broken down the functional differences between financial subjects (banks, savings banks, insurance companies, investment funds…) and territorial borders.
Patents, private intellectual property rights. This is currently the most powerful instrument that allows private companies, especially multinationals, to become the owners for 17 to 20 years of the knowledge at the basis of the design and production of goods and services in the field of living organisms (seeds, plants, animals, microbes, human beings, etc.) and artificial intelligence. One only has to think of the debates on patents on vaccines and on intelligent systems, robot soldiers and drones to realise the power based on patents.
The monetisation of nature (giving a price to any element of the natural world), which was forcefully relaunched at the end of October 2021 by the New York Stock Exchange, is necessary and irreversible in order to ensure that companies have the resources they need for economic growth in a situation of quantitative and qualitative scarcity of natural resources.
Education is above all a system for training human resources in the knowledge and skills that private companies need to maintain and strengthen their international competitiveness.
Narratives on knowledge of the dominants
The concept of “knowledge” is reduced to that of “science and technology” (S&T). “Science” is understood primarily as “exact science”. Thus technology has replaced the term “technique” to indicate the increasing dependence of technique on science.
Any other form/expression of knowledge, for example that of the so-called “indigenous” populations, is considered either “local” or of no value to the global system.
A techno-scientific deterministic view of “progress” and life has been imposed. All change begins with scientific “progress” which leads to technological progress which leads to economic progress. From these follow social progress and, ultimately, human progress. In other words, for the dominant social groups, there is no human progress without scientific progress!
The innovation that “changes the world” is technological and economic innovation Social, cultural, political and human innovation must be closely linked to the former and in any case cannot be in conflict with or even an alternative to the latter, on pain of being unrealistic and impractical.
Everything, every form of life, is a resource to be “valued” in terms of its contribution to “economic progress” (i.e. GDP growth and capital profitability).
Everything, including human beings, is treated as a resource for the economy. The commodification and monetisation of nature is a principle adopted in 2012 at the Third UN World Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
The commodification of life and the imperative of competitiveness between companies on the increasingly global scale of profitable world markets have given a powerful boost to the privatisation of all economic activities, with global private capital finding enormous new opportunities for profit in such a context.
The scientification and technologisation of the economy has led to an increased interest by dominant economic groups in the control of scientific and technological production and use, and hence in their ownership.
The privatisation of science, R&D, and technological innovation through patents, with the support and financial assistance of states, has been the key instrument by which private subjects have seized the power of real regulation and control of life.
The private intellectual property rights over knowledge is likely to remain the most powerful and paradigmatic form of the current conquest of political power by private subjects. Legalised by a US Supreme Court decision in 1990 and by the European Union in 1998, patents on life have unleashed an enormous wave of private appropriation of life by private subjects: first at the level of seeds and GMOs, in particular medicines and annexes, then at the level of the immense open world of artificial intelligence.
The university, the main field of creativity in research and education, has ceased to be a free field. Its research activities have been colonised by the world of business and finance, with the agreement of the public authorities, in the name of the “first patent, then publish” principle. Academic knowledge is no longer a common public good but a tool of war for the global competitiveness of companies.
The same has happened to education, which has been reduced to a human resource training system for the acquisition of knowledge and skills that the country’s companies need to maintain and improve their competitiveness in global markets.
All of the above has transformed the nature and concrete modalities of the notions of “national” security, energy security, food security, water security, military security.
All scientific and technological activity is seen as a strategically important instrument in the service of the interests of the strong.
Behind the word “national security” lies in reality the security of the economic and power interests of the globalized private “local” oligarchies, and not the general interest, the common good of all members of the global community of life on Earth.
The militarisation of the economy, especially through the “strategic” militarisation of knowledge, is an indicator of a great change in our societies.
The algorithm wars, the seed wars, the vaccine wars… are collective social practices imposed by the dominant. They have reduced life, once again, to multiple spaces of rivalry for survival. The other is the enemy.
In this “knowledge based society” and “knowledge driven economy” there is no room for universal human rights or for the rights of “nature”.
Nor is there any co-responsibility for certain goods and services that are essential for life and living together, such as water, air, seeds, solar energy, health, knowledge.
The “naturalisation” of the social hierarchy, given as the best and most efficient form of social organisation, is the key expression of an inegalitarian anthropology and serves as an ideology legitimising all inequalities (economic, social, democratic, cultural, political…).
The S&T world according to the forecasts and expectations of the dominant
The following table is taken from a study carried out by NATO on the emergence of significant disruptive technologies in the years 2020-2040. It illustrates concretely the conceptions of the most important changes that will alter the S&T system and, consequently, the current global economic and political system, according to the “expectations” of the dominant techno-scientific world.
As can be seen, “Data” (Big Data) is strongly in the forefront. It is through it, it is argued, that money/wealth was created. It is also on them that power is built. It is surprising that the starting point of the anthropology of our civilisation, according to the dominant ones, is “data”. It is no longer “In principio erat verbum”. “The word” (what says, what expresses…) is not the primary act of creation, of knowledge.
Thus, logically, Artificial Intelligence comes immediately after “data”. The mastery, control and use of data have become strategically important for the construction, appropriation and exclusionary use of this immense and expanding world of so-called “intelligent” machines and operational systems.
This world is increasingly set up in a free, unregulated, “self-certified” way. There are modest attempts to introduce public regulations, without much success. For those in power, Artificial Intelligence is like Finance. It must be free, must grow and assert itself freely. Think, in this respect, of the crucial role played by the right to private intellectual property, notably through patents on algorithms. Not only in the military field, but especially, scandalously, in the field of health.
Significant, but not surprising, is the attribution of the third rank to autonomy. In a context of artificialisation of life, self-nomination (the power to decide for oneself) of humans, but also of machines, is becoming the critical “problem” in all respects.
Hence the challenges raised by the “capacity” of humans (individuals, human groups, human communities, companies, local authorities, states, etc.) to make autonomous decisions, by their relations with intelligent machines, and by the relations between the machines themselves and between systems of autonomous machines. High-tech finance (e.g. financial advisors and very high speed transactions, at a millionth of a second) is proving to be useless! In turn, universal digitalisation is not the solution, but becomes the problem.
If one wanted to synthesise as much as possible, one could say that the importance taken by the principle/objective of autonomy for the dominant S&T system represents the major breaking point of the ongoing mutations introduced and sought by the agenda of the dominants: the artificialisation of life by autonomous machines in relation to humans indicates that the dominants think that the greatest value for the life of the Earth is to be attributed to the life produced by machines and no longer by human beings. To underestimate this trend is to miss the dystopias that could emerge.
Then come, in fourth, fifth and sixth place, three areas of powerful strategic valence in a long-term perspective, but which already have a considerable influence on the moving configurations of the major existing techno-scientific and industrial-commercial systems. These are quantum, space, and hypersonic.
The field of the quantum is still unfamiliar to the general public. It is no less decisive for the dominant players because the generation of quantum computers, operating on the scale of atomic and sub-atomic physics, will replace current computers in the next 5-10 years. The question is to know who, and how, will lead such an “industrial reconversion”, when it is clear that the current leaders are incapable of carrying out an energy “reconversion” in the interest of the world’s population and the life of the Planet?
There is a lot of talk about space, especially as the “place” of new great human adventures.These “biblical” narratives are a poorly concealed attempt to sweeten the pill, namely the headlong rush into the unknown by the dominant powers, by announcing the inevitability of “space wars” and therefore the priority of investing in the conquest of space in the same spirit as that of the conquest of the American Far West. The Walt Disney-like triumphalism with which the private tourist trips into space of American billionaires were presented reveals the cultural, social and human misery of a society that projects itself into the future as a highly technological society that values appearances more than being!
Our future is further entrenched in the cult of having, the cult of the power of having.
The field of hypersonics is the only one of the highlighted fields that is clearly of major importance for military applications at this stage. The dominant view of knowledge in this area is how to prevent the enemy from gaining advantageous positions, and everything else is focused on the issues of platforms and propulsion.
Last but not least, we find biotechnology in seventh place and new materials in last place. These are two fields which, along with data and artificial intelligence, have been, and remain, the main generators of the “scientific and technological revolutions” of the last 40 years. It is no coincidence that they close the universe of S&T knowledge on which the dominants derive their power and, above all, their claim to legitimacy to be in power.
All the major political, social and ethical debates have revolved around three areas mentioned, centred on life (biotech, GMOs, the predation of life by synthetic chemistry, patents on vaccines, etc.), human work (robotisation, patents on artificial intelligence, virtual reality, etc.) and the health of life on Earth (pesticides, plastics, pfas, large dams, giant container ships and huge cruise ships).
This configuration of the knowledge system into eight spaces clearly shows the deterministic and oligarchic techno-scientific view of life and the world. According to the dominants, life is not for everyone on Earth because, they believe, capacities for self-reliance (and resilience) are necessarily unequal. Nor do decisions about the future of the world belong to the creative and cooperative space of all the Earth’s inhabitants, because access to knowledge and appropriation of the goods essential to life are, they believe, inevitably unequal, unbalanced, elitist.
The dominants could not offer a more compelling reason for the need for upheaval. What is needed is an Other Agenda, a radically alternative agenda capable, through its construction processes, of bringing down the current immense edifice of violence, injustice and predation/spoliation of life.
The Other Agenda is indispensable.
B. The Other Agenda, the Agenda of the People of the Earth
The Inhabitants of the Earth
We human beings are not the only inhabitants of the Earth.
We are even among the last to inhabit it. Millions of living species have inhabited it long before us. We are part of the life of the Earth, part of the nature of its creation, part of its evolution. We belong to nature.
We are not outside nature. We are a living species that has managed to improve its capacity for existence, resistance, adaptation and autonomy over the millennia. So much so that today we are the only species capable not only of modifying but also of destroying the totality of the Earth’s life forms…
From this observation, it follows, among other things, that we are also the only species capable of being responsible for the life of the Earth to which we belong. Our “survival” and “health” depend on the whole of the life of the Earth. The artificialization of life is not a solution but part of the problem. We have an obligation to safeguard, conserve and care for life.
Since the very nature of life is its natural regeneration our first vital imperative is to ensure the regeneration of life. To do otherwise is a crime against life.
Thus knowledge, including S&T, cannot be thought, and applied as an instrument for humans to do violence to or destroy nature. In this sense, the ‘polluter pays’ principle is an aberration. “No polluting” is fair and reasonable.
The human inhabitants of the Earth have become aware of this over the past fifty years and have begun to develop the foundations and legal principles of the rights of nature. Human rights to life cannot be a factor in denying the rights of nature.
At the same time, we must reaffirm that as human beings we are all part of the same global life community, humanity. This is beyond the differences in skin colour and worldviews specific to this or that local group or community.
Today, the white American lives with the fear and horror of losing the supremacy of world power that his elders acquired through force, slavery, military power and the colonisation of the world. But the white American is not a “superior human being” to the Afro-Brazilian dishwasher at a Chicago Pizza Hut who earns a pittance, nor to the yellow Chinese worker at Huawei who is threatening Apple’s global power. At present, there are too many WAEs (“white American equivalents”) among the populations of Western countries, but also, mutatis mutandis, among Russia, India, China, the Middle East and, less significantly, Africa.
The duty to change lies primarily with the WAEs of the Western world. A numerical minority on a global scale, they still have enormous, destabilising, devastating power to disrupt humanity. The example of the inequalities desired and maintained in the field of vaccines against Covid-19 and the “universal” right to health, shows in a strong way from what and from whom we must start again the fight for the right to life on our Earth. Let us remember that within a quarter of a century more than 9 billion human beings will have to live together in dignity and equal rights.
We need to start again from inequality in the world in its many dramatic dimensions. Wealth inequality is the most significant indicator in concrete terms and in human and social terms.
The World Inequality Report 2021 leaves no doubt about the need to start again from eradicating inequality.
Figure 1. Global income and wealth inequality, 2021
Figure 1 shows that the poorest 50% of the world’s population accounted in 2021 for 8% of the world’s income and much less for 2% of the world’s wealth. In contrast, the richest 10% took the 52% and 76% respectively and the richest 1% of the population “captured” the 19% and 36%.
These are incredible figures for billions of people. Behind these figures is the infinite brutality of the dominant and the cynical indecency of human societies.
A second phenomenon, of fundamental importance from the perspective of the Other Agenda, emerges from the World Inequality Report. The last 50 years have seen a dramatic increase in the share of private wealth in global wealth, while the share of public wealth has fallen sharply. In other words, private subjects have taken over the world’s wealth. The world’s wealth has ceased to be a common heritage, a common good.
As demonstrated in the first part, the states, the public authorities, have lost a large part of their political power, which they have themselves transferred to the hands and control of private subjects. This explains why it is increasingly difficult to change the policies of the world’s wealth.
However, the future is not blocked. Among other evidences, one is found in the fundamental work published in 2020 by David Graeber & David Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (ISBN: 9780374157357). Its authors have s demonstrated that the theses on the naturalness and inevitability of inequality between human beings and peoples have no scientific validity. It is possible to eradicate the cultural, human, social and religious root causes of inequality.
The regeneration of the life of humanity and the global life community of the Earth on other bases is possible.
The Basic Ethics of the Other Agenda
We are an integral part of the life of the Earth. We belong to “global” life. We are not on Earth to conquer and subjugate other living species to our needs and desires.
We believe that the organisation of life together between all the inhabitants of the Earth (all living species) cannot, must not, be inspired and guided by the logic of power, domination, and violence.
We do not believe that “only the strong will survive”.
It is inadmissible, from all points of view, that the right to life in dignity and equality for all human beings is not a concrete reality 73 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We believe that at the root of this unacceptable situation lies the responsibility of a social system that is structurally predatory on life and that in recent decades has imposed itself throughout the world, mystified and then trampled underfoot most of the human and social advances made in the 19th and 20th centuries.
We believe that the predation of nature and the exploitation of labour are two violent sides of the same coin. Therefore, the eradication of this violence requires the liberation of labour and the construction of a harmonious relationship between human beings and the whole of nature.
There is no reason whatsoever to accept the current inequalities and injustices. The right to life for all is here and now. Pragmatism is the mother of dystopias.
As the Covid-19 pandemic has shown, billions of people are excluded from access to vaccines and other means of fighting the pandemic because of the injustice of the world’s strongest and richest societies.
The same is true of the lack access to clean water for billions of people. This is not because of the increasing scarcity of water for human use, but because of the choices and policies pursued by the dominant social groups.
If Syrians, Kurds, Iraqis, Lebanese and Palestinians are dying or living in intolerable conditions, it is because of the wars waged by the world’s powerful, led by the United States, in order to safeguard their power, their interests, their ability to dominate and to monopolise the wealth of others.
Finally, there is no inevitability in the destruction of the life of the Earth. The Earth’s ecological disaster continues because the dominant social groups in the strongest countries are unable to solve the problems they have created. This inability derives from their belief that the right to life does not belong to all the inhabitants of the Earth and that the only objective worth pursuing is one’s own survival (under the alibi of “national security”.
We believe that humanity exists as the consciousness of the community of human beings as an integral part of the global community of life on Earth, including all living species.
This recent awareness of the global community of life on Earth leads us to believe that one of the first tasks facing humanity today is to work towards seeing struggles against life exploitation and for social justice as a necessary condition for building humanity as part of the global community.
To this end, world common public goods and services are a unavoidable prerequisite. Over time, human beings have endowed themselves, especially at the level of the organisations of the so-called “national” states, with many common goods (natural and artificial, material and immaterial…) that are essential and irreplaceable for life. In the cultural imagination, these common goods were part of the life of the Earth, of the world. Air, water, solar energy, seeds, knowledge, health, peace… Even today they belong, in principle, to life, to all… in solidarity.
But the private ownership culture of the dominant economy, market capitalism, has radically changed conceptions and visions of life and the world. Therefore, the Other Agenda is by nature “heretical”, it belongs to the world of resistance to the system of domination and the culture of inequality.
It is ethical, just, and indisputable to affirm that neither the right to private property, nor submission to the logics of the market and speculative finance, and even less to the logics of labor exploitation, can become inspiring principles for the organization and government of the essential and irreplaceable common goods of life.
Founding principles. Beliefs
The safeguarding of the life of all the inhabitants of the Earth, its conservation, regeneration and promotion constitutes the principal ethical, political, economic and social imperative of humanity, in the interest of all living species.
There is no such thing as human beings on the one hand and nature serving humans on the other. Humans are an integral part of nature and its evolution. Through their specificities, humans are responsible for their own living conditions but also for those of other species. For this reason, it is essential to eliminate the factors that generate class divisions and to recognise that we are all inhabitants of the Earth and are part of the same global Earth community without discrimination of gender, skin colour, class. The Earth is our common home.
Human rights and the rights of other living organisms (such as forests, rivers, lakes, ecosystems…), are “constitutional” rights. The health of all the inhabitants of the Earth is an indicator of the good state of life of the global community.
Life, the essential and irreplaceable elements for life, cannot be the object of private property. We humans belong to life. It does not belong to us. We are responsible for it for the sake of all the inhabitants of the Earth, for “we are what we have made together” (according to the ubuntu principle of Central African societies).
The primacy of human rights and nature must prevail over the power of the autocratic and global techno-financial structure that has imposed market-driven access to essential goods and services in recent decades.
Impoverishment, inequality of rights and war are the result of unjust social systems based on privileges, exclusions, racist, classist and xenophobic conceptions.
Priority objectives, cooperation and sharing mechanisms
The essential non-replaceable goods (and services) for life (such as water, solar energy, air, seeds, health, urban soil, knowledge…) are world public common goods, under the direct responsibility of human communities and public institutions governed by elected representatives of citizens.
The government of life, from the local to the global scale, must be public, out of the market, out of private finance, under the control and with the direct participation of citizens.
Decentralised, diversified, shared self-management is possible.
The application of the principle of equitable and affordable access to essential goods and services must be stopped. Systematically applied to the UN Agendas – Agenda 2015 (“The Millennium Development Goals”) and Agenda 2030 (“The Sustainable Development Goals”) – this principle has been a key factor of the failure to realise universal rights. Let alone the Sustainable Development Goals in the strict sense. This principle has been a resounding failure, particularly in Africa, where the indicators for the continent’s population remain, alas, well below the stated objectives. While aware of the situation in Africa, the dominant powers are unable to provide solutions other than to subject Africa even more to the rules of the market and the imperatives of global finance. Freeing Africa from this subjugation is urgent and inevitable.
It is also urgent and indispensable to demonetise nature, to free the World Common Public Goods from the stock market, to stop all obvious or hidden forms of privatisation (such as the delegation to the private sector of the management of public services, or the PPP – Public Private Partnership).
The exploitation of labour and its reduction to a commodity must be stopped. Work must serve to guarantee the right to life of those who carry it out in harmonious relationship with other natural species.
Politics and the State – res publica – must be regenerated a) by revalorising parliaments and direct democracy, which have been emptied of all substance by a system that has privatised political power, b) by giving substance to new forms of representative democracy on an international and planetary scale and c) by promoting global political institutions with a high degree of autonomy with the aim of generating a multiform public institutional political power, the Community of Humanity.
This can be achieved by, among other things, rethinking and redefining the principle of security. In the name of a mystified “national security”, meaning only the security of the interests of dominant social groups within states, science and technology have been expropriated from their contribution to the security of the global community of life on Earth and subjected to economic militarisation in the service of the world’s colonial powers, old and new. In this context, a dramatic example is what the dominant powers have made of Africa: a continent without security in any sense of the word.
Proposals. Re-definition of the priority fields of human action in the field of knowledge and, more generally, configuration of the main actions necessary to achieve the Other Agenda, the Agenda of the Inhabitants of the Earth
- Redefining the priority fields of knowledge
The agenda of the dominant parties is inspired by a reductive, deterministic and utilitarian vision of knowledge, summarised in the acronym STS (Science-Technology-Society):
- Reductive, because knowledge is restricted to science and technology.
- Deterministic, because the evolution of modern-day societies is made dependent on the “progress” of science and technological innovation. The acronym STS establishes that at the origin there is Science, which generates and feeds Technology, which in turn shapes and structures the evolution, the change of Society.
- Utilitarian, because the purpose of S&T is to increase the capacity of human beings to act in terms of the value of the goods and services they use, and any scientific knowledge and new technological capacity must be ‘profitable’ in relation to such a goal.
Thus, the US world has introduced the category of STS Studies into the university curriculum of higher education worldwide since the 1970s.
The Other Agenda, the Earth Inhabitants Agenda, reverses the order of relationships and speaks of SST (Society-Science-Technology). This is not a play on words but a different vision, namely:
- Holistic, everything is in everything, everything is connected, the whole is life, is “society”. Let’s think about water, health. The essence of society is to know and to be known. Health is not only “medicine” and its value is not the price either.
- Integral. Knowledge goes beyond the linear. Very often, the main changes in a scientific and/or technological field come from unforeseen and/or intervening breaks in other fields. Moreover, changes come in clusters, through multiple times and in variable forms.
- Responsible. Knowledge and self-knowledge increase the sense of life and the role of each living being and species. Awareness of responsibility grows, expands and intensifies through knowledge. The consciousness of the global eco-citizen is not born in the halls of the computer platforms of high-speed speculative finance. Nor did it germinate in the minds of the shareholders of glyphosate-producing companies or of white American ultra-racists like Trump.
This vision of knowledge is not new. Already in the 1960s and 1980s, it manifested itself in multiple movements of opposition, resistance and proposals even within the institutions of the “system”. Reference is made here to the European Inter-University Education on Society-Science and Technology project (ESST). The author of the present document, at that time director of the FAST Programme (Forecasting and and Assesment in Science and Technology) was the co-initiator of the project together with Jacques Berleur, Rector of the Namur University (B) at that time. The ESST initiative was the result of a “pact” signed by 16 university rectors in the European Community. Its objective was, and still is, to promote a holistic view of the interactions and interdependencies between the multiple components and dynamics of societies through which the multiple facets of knowledge and the political power relations acquired through technological tools and systems are shaped and structured. The ESST programme is still at work in twelve EU countries. Unfortunately, it has not escaped the intoxicating effects of the culture and power of the dominants. See http://esst.eu/programme.
In the spirit of the above considerations and proposals the vision of knowledge in the Other Agenda perspectvie can be outlined as follows.
- Configuration of the main actions to be carried out
In the light of the above, the following actions should be prioritised here and now:
- At the level of the narratives of life, of ethics
Multiply and intensify meetings, happenings, videos, films, shows, articles…, denouncing the ethical illegitimacy, the criminal character, of the current policies of the dominants, especially concerning health, water, dignity, fraternity, biodiversity. Let’s stop the petitions and replace them with denunciations, appeals to the courts, appeals in defence and for the strengthening of the institutions of democracy, especially direct democracy. It is time for a strong global “I accuse” campaign.
- In the field of knowledge and education:
- abolition of patents on life and on artificial intelligence. The new “lords of life” own more than 120,000 patents! Without this abolition, the predation of life will only intensify and, consequently, the strategy of survival for the strongest will impose wars, exclusions, walls… No real “Other Agenda” could be put into practice
- put the university back into public control both in teaching and in research and development (R&D). The University must be freed from submission to the interests of large private multinational companies
- to encourage the education system, in all its forms and at all levels, to become a place of critical shared learning – (re)knowledge – of planetary eco-citizenship, in the wake of innovative experiences promoted, for example, in Quebec
- In the economic-industrial field
Given the deterioration of living and working conditions, it is necessary to broaden the rights of the world of work and to fight for workers’ control of their work and the products of their work. The most effective way to do this is to regenerate a new role for public intervention, not only at the national level, but also at the continental and global levels. The world of health care comes to mind in particular. The republicanisation of the entire health industry, including the pharmaceutical industry, must be put back on the agenda.
Health must be reinvented as a global public good and service. Water, health and knowledge must become the first three pillars of the “global res publica”.
- In the financial field:
- stop legalized criminal finance: i.e. outlawing tax havens; abandoning derivative products, which are real leeches on the real economy; managing tax evasion; financing illicit activities (drugs, arms trade…)
- replacing the World Bank and the IMF by the creation of a People’s World Cooperative Mutual Fund aimed at reorienting finance towards the objective of life security for all members of the global community of the Earth. To this end, hundreds of civil society organisations should launch a citizens’ movement for alternative global finance, building on numerous ongoing initiatives, by convening in 2025 an Earth Inhabitants Convention for a new global financial system
- in the political-institutional field c
Creation of a World Citizens Assembly for the Security of Global Public Commons (starting with water, seeds, health and knowledge).
Graphical illustration of the configuration of the gravitational space of structural tensions within current societies according to the agenda of the dominant
Many different criteria may be adopted to describe and compare the “model of society” of a group of societies.
We propose the method of configuring the gravitational space of tensions along four main axes of relations. Our axes are not the only possible ones. ieve, however, that they cover a significant range of relationshipsensions) to allow for a meaningful typology.
As our object of analysis is the alternative to the agenda of the dominant, whose power system is based on the ownership and control of knowledge, we propose the following four main axes:
1 the axis of public/private tensions. Examples: the research system, the innovation system, the intellectual property regime, the role of the university…
2 the axis of tensions local/global. Examples: is the trend in favour of a vision and policy of insertion/conquest of the national/local knowledge system in the global knowledge market, or is the priority given to a policy of satisfying the needs of local societies/populations?
3 the axis of democracy/oligarchy tensions. Example: the dominant groups in the European Union have asserted and applied the principle that the major actors in R&D policy and in the policy for the management and preservation of European water resources must be the stakeholders, i.e. the “interest holders”: agricultural companies, landowners, the agri-food industry, the chemical industry, water-intensive sectors (such as the sweetened beverage industries…), the IT industry, the construction sector… In short, the large, largely privatised, multi-territorial, multinational, multi-utility players, heavily immersed in market mechanisms and profitable finance.
4 the axis of tensions between cooperation/competition. In the vast majority of cases, the gospel of competition and the imperative of competitiveness dominate almost absolutely in the scientific-technological field and the field of education/training…
It is reasonable to define as Model A, a system of rights and responsibilities, that of a society where:
- knowledge is considered a common, social, public good (and not a commodity)
- under the responsibility and ownership/control of public institutions (state and non-state)
- exercising their competences and powers, excluding patents, from the local to the global level, through advanced and effective forms of representative and direct democracy, and
- knowledge and technology policy is guided by the safeguarding of universal rights to life, global public goods, justice, fraternity, peace, etc. See graph Model A.
Source: Petrella 2022
In contrast, it’s possible to define as Model B, a system of interests and powers in a society where:
- knowledge is considered a commodity, an economic good strategically important for the growth of the country’s GDP, a good that can be privately appropriated
- under the responsibility of market mechanisms and speculative finance, the property of large private multinational groups (i.e; the private patent system on intellectual property)
- knowledge is seen as a powerful instrument for their competitiveness on world markets, for their profitability abd
- for their growth as global enterprises, key players (stakeholdes) of the global economic governance (with the support of “their” various national authorities in the strongest countries of the world). See Model B.
Source: Petrella 2022
The third graph illustrates the configuration of the gravitational space regarding knowledge according to Model B in today’s societies. In our mind, this is precisely the configuration that should be reversed.
Source: Petrella 2022