When the Olympic Games begin, the news headlines will be swamped with stories of new world records in this or that sporting field. We will be whipped into a frenzy about it. There will be discussions all around the world about how the record was broken, about the ferocious competition to produce record-breaking athletes, about performance-inducing drugs.
Meanwhile, much more significant world records will barely rate a mention in the media.
The UNHCR's recent announcement of a record number of people displaced by war, persecution, famine, or “natural” disaster is one of these under-reported world records. They now number 65.3 million — up from 59.5 million a year ago.
This is an incredible number of people. It is equivalent to the combined populations of Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
The rate at which people are being forced to flee their homes has quadrupled in that time. Globally, one in 113 people in the world is now either an asylum seeker, internally displaced or a refugee.
Yet when this world record was announced a month ago, there was barely a ripple in the media — just as there is barely a ripple in the media about the breaking of more and more world temperature records as the global warming crisis continues to unfold.
One of the duties of an alternative media is to redress this gross imbalance by reporting in full what is unreported or under-reported by the “mainstream” media. But we have another, much more difficult duty: to explain why the media systematically distorts and manipulates the truth.
We have the challenge to explain that, in the end, the corporate media is warped by the relentless and insatiable drive for profit and the associated drive to defend the systems of privilege and subjugation that have allowed the world to get to the unconscionable and unsustainable situation where 1% own more wealth than the 99%.
An alternative media has another duty: to explain that just because we have come to this point of such extreme disparity does not mean it is for all time. With people power, we can change the system.
But to do this we need to see that today's emperor really had no clothes. We need to be able to strip away the mystifications that dupe far too many into believing that the profiteers have magical powers. The immense productive (and destructive) power of capital is simply its ability to harness collective human effort on a scale never seen before on history.
The challenge for the new system that the world now desperately needs is to harness this collective power for the collective good. Surely that is not impossible.
If you agree, then add your strength to this people-powered project. Get in touch to see how you can help or make a donation to the GLW Fighting Fund. You can do so by calling the toll-free number at 1800 634 206 (within Australia). Donations can also be made to Green Left Weekly, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account no. 00901992. Otherwise you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 394, Broadway NSW 2007.