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Breaking Bad Habits: Cuba, Afghanistan, and Iran

Weekend workshop near Philadelphia: “Shapeshifting the Story” with John Perkins and Charles Eisenstein is coming soon! Details below.

Being in Guatemala now, a month ago in Peru, and looking at spending a good portion of 2015 traveling again – in Latin America and the Caribbean, then on to Europe and Asia (My Schedule) – and with all the recent tragedies involving terrorists, I’m focused once again on the US’s role in global economics and politics.

I’ve talked often in these pages about this era of change and revolution that we’ve entered. I see many examples of this, and lately one of the more important is in the evolution of our relationships with nations that have been our enemies or at least where we have interacted violently. Significantly, Cuba, Afghanistan, and Iran will view us differently in the future, though in what way depends on each step that we take now. President Obama pointed out that to continue with a policy that hasn’t worked for 50 years and expect it to work in the future is not the path of wisdom. I agree.


President Obama recently announced that our relationship with Cuba will finally change after half a century; exactly what “normal” will look like in the future is not yet determined, but if we want to create a peaceful, prosperous future we need to become good neighbors instead of acting like bullies. We need to empower other nations instead of threatening their autonomy and hurting their economies. Cuba has long been a nation at odds with us, but by opening our doors to its people we can help them move forward in peace. We can create an ally instead of maintaining an enemy.

Hopefully we will carry the lessons we’ve learned in Cuba to the other side of the Atlantic. Our policy in the Middle East reflects one that we tried in Vietnam to no avail. Why do we expect it to work in one place when it didn’t work in others? Have we learned nothing from our history and past actions?


Officially, the US military is preparing to withdraw from the campaign in Afghanistan that began October, 2001. But is that what is really happening? Questions are being raised on all sides. The thousands of US troops who are still on the ground there are nominally serving as support for the Afghan military as that military assumes more responsibility.

However, Washington continues to send in mercenaries known euphemistically as “private contractors.” And at the same time we oppose the UN decision to offer increasing legitimacy to Palestine. When will we learn that violence begets violence and solutions lie in helping desperate people improve their lives? As we wake up, we must encourage our leaders to wake up, also. The answers we give for these questions will help guide the whole world into the future; we must take responsibility for that.


Iran and the US have not been aligned diplomatically for three decades. In the wake of nuclear peace talks with Iranian officials, President Obama has said that re-opening the US embassy in Tehran is not on the agenda, but is also not impossible in the future. The suggestion, however vague, of renewed good relations with a nation in the Middle East is in line with the changing face of US foreign policy that I support – if it can be kept free from the corruption of the corporatocracy.

Breaking Habits

Being the world’s police has not won the US any affection among the nations we’ve invaded (“protected.”) The only people these foreign policies favor are those who are already powerful: the wealthy elite of the US and other nations, as well as giant multi-national corporations. Furthermore, it is one of the reasons that increasing numbers of nations are turning to China for technical and financial assistance instead of to the World Bank and its affiliates. It is time we recognized that we need to apply democratic principles to our own policies, rather than enforcing draconian military methods. Let’s take care of our own dysfunctions before daring to correct other nations.

Western colonialism and corporate greed over the years have contributed heavily to the turmoil in the Middle East and elsewhere. However, instead of acknowledging the facts, the West has a habit of using military and financial power to get its way. It is time for the US to break these habits and to lead other nations by example instead of by might. Through my travels around the world, I have seen the people waking up to this realization and taking power back into their hands, where it should have been all along.

Terrorism and violence in all forms are cancers that must be healed. It is important to recognize that our past and recent acts of retribution and attempted persuasion through military might have done the opposite of healing. Although it is tempting to feel discouraged as we enter 2015, there are many signs that We the People are determined to change. Let us focus on reducing tensions, stopping the tendency to respond with hatred and violence, and instead taking the positive actions of helping desperate people around this planet live better lives.

Coming Up:

February 20-22, 2015: Shapeshifting the Story with Charles Eisenstein
Date: Friday-Sunday, Feb. 20-22, 2015
Topic: “Shapeshifting the Story”
Location: Pendle Hill – Philadelphia
Sponsor: DreamChange
Information and Tickets:



Year in Review: Latin America in 2014

I just returned from a magical trip with a special group of people to amazing Peru. Our group experienced sacred sites and ceremonies with the Q’ero and other Quechua elders and shamans. Now I look forward to facilitating another group as we visit the sacred sites and great Mayan teachers of Guatemala beginning very soon, January 16 (to join visit:

This year much of my time and energy has been spent in Latin America. I have talked about events in various countries and ways in which people are waking up. With the closing of the year, let’s look at some of these stories and see how they have developed.

Chevron and Big Oil

Big Oil (Chevron, Shell, BP, etc) have long been seen as an enemy of the Amazon, as purveyors of contamination, poverty, and disease. (Blog Post: “Big Oil, Romania, and the Amazon”.) Oil is a tool for bringing a country into economic submission, as I learned during my time as Chief Economist at a major international consulting firm (“economic hit man.”) Ecuador is not the only country to have issues with Big Oil; dependence on fossil fuels has led countries all over the world to economic disaster and civil unrest.

There has often been violence between the multinational companies and the indigenous people who have had their lives brutally impacted by the oil industry. Just in the last few weeks, a brave Ecuadorian Shuar leader, José Isidro Tendetza Antún, was found dead, tortured, and buried in suspicious circumstances mere days before he was scheduled to travel to Lima, Peru for climate talks. He had been a leader in the struggle to rein in mining and oil companies that threaten so much of his native Ecuador.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has sometimes been praised and sometimes castigated for his stance on the Amazon rainforest, most recently exploiting the natural resources of the region by signing permits for oil drilling in one of the most bio diverse regions on the planet. On the other hand, he has also made statements opposing Chevron in the nearly twenty year saga of Ecuadorian villagers against the oil giant over the clean-up of contaminated areas.

Though the Ecuadorian villagers have won against Chevron with the help of a legal team lead by Steven Donziger and Pablo Fajardo, the Big Oil company is refusing to keep its promise to abide by the judgment of Ecuador’s courts. In typical Corporatocracy fashion, Chevron is not under the regulation of a single government and therefore refuses to respect any. Its executives are threatening not only the lives of the indigenous people of the Amazon, but people all over the world, from Canada to Romania to Myanmar to India. Other governments in those regions continue to do business with Chevron, despite clear evidence that the environment and the people suffer greatly.

Monsanto and “Free-Trade”

Another multinational corporation that is threatening the health of the land and the people of Latin America and most of the rest of the world is Monsanto. (Blog Post: “A Latin American Awakening and Monsanto”.) In Latin American countries, free-trade agreements have paved the way for the Corporatocracy to gain control and have sent thousands of children across the border into the US in desperation.

Throughout history since the Industrial Revolution, the move to take agriculture away from small farmers and give the power and profits to big companies has resulted in poverty and destruction. Not only do these agreements render it impossible for small farmers to make a living from their seeds and produce, but they have also introduced incredibly dangerous chemicals and pesticides into once-pristine environments.

Earlier this year we saw some Latin American governments seek to stand firm for the interests of their people against major privatization of agriculture. The fight is far from over. Groups of citizens have organized to demand that their rights, interests, and cultural values be protected by their leaders and that the corporations abide by new standards and laws.


However, as powerful as these big corporations are, the people who are waking up are more powerful. There is much that we can learn from our southern neighbors in how to harness our power to make our leaders work for change. (Blog Post: “Lessons on Capitalism from an Unlikely Source”.)

One striking example of leaders listening to their people is the 20 x 20 Initiative: 8 Latin American nations joining forces to fight global warming. Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru are coming together for this agreement to protect forests and fertile land.

We can do our part to help and support this awakening by calling and emailing our leaders and elected officials and demanding that they work against free-trade agreements such as CAFTA-DR and the proposed TPP. We can vote with our dollars by buying local and small-farm-grown produce and products instead of shopping at big box stores and retailers. Our market power can be made even stronger by sending emails to the Big Business executives telling them we will boycott their companies until they too support local businesses and farmers and provide their employees with higher wages, health care, and retirement pensions. We can join or organize consumer movements to strengthen our messages.

Let’s make 2015 the year we focus our intentions and our dreams on changing the world for a better future through taking positive actions and by educating those around us.

Upcoming Events:

January 16-23, 2015: Journey to the Lands of the Maya: Guatemala
Limited space available for a few special people!

January 24th – 31st, 2015: Annual Omega workshop in Costa Rica
Topic: “A Revolution in Consciousness Personal & Global Transformation”
Information and Tickets:

February 4th-6th, 2015: Talks on global economy and shapeshifting
Location: University of Aruba
More information coming soon

February 12-13, 2015: Peace Symposium, BAHAMAS TALK AND WORKSHOP
Topic: Yoga for Peace: Changing the World from the Inside Out

February 20-22, 2015: Shapeshifting the Story with Charles Eisenstein
Topic: “Shapeshifting the Story”
Information and Tickets:



The World Threatened

NOTE: There is still limited space available on my January trip to Guatemala and the Mayan shamans. My December trip to Peru is fully booked and closed out. Please sign up for Guatemala at

By John Perkins

Now that the elections are over, it’s time to think about how we as individuals, and as a nation, respond to a world that is threatened by climate change, dysfunctional economies, terrorism and other crises around our planet. Democrats and Republicans alike must look to the critical issue of how we move into the future. In dealing with other countries, there are three main choices: we can turn away from disasters that occur there, we can take advantage of other people’s problems, or we can reach out with help that is unencumbered by political motives.

Every day the news is full of reports that demonstrate the great malaise that is facing the world. We hear about random shootings in schools, attacks by ISIS, upheaval in the Middle East, and aggressive diseases. With the fear of Ebola turning people and nations against each other, rumors of Russian tanks in Ukraine, and the richest 85 people in the world having as much money as the poorest 3.5 billion people, we can see vividly how much the world needs to change.

Death Economy

Much of this turmoil is caused by the Death Economy; people are sometimes driven to violence by insanity or greed, but more often by external pressures. Desperate people have seen their lands ravaged by oil drilling, their farms flooded by dams, and their fishing waters destroyed by commercial “fish factories” and pollution. Their families are going hungry due to “free” trade agreements that favor Big Agriculture and Big Business, and they are homeless because of urbanization or government policies that discriminate against them. In the long-term the only way to end acts of terror that result from such desperation is to do away with the causes.

In areas around the world that are torn apart by violence and hate, the impact goes deeper than food and shelter. Economic and political stability have been threatened, and future generations of leaders are in jeopardy. The hope and independence of entire communities has been endangered, often by policies and actions intended to help corporate bottom lines, not human beings and the world in general.

By creating a Life Economy – one that cleans up pollution, offers ways for hungry people to feed themselves, and invests in new energy, transportation, recycling, banking and marketing systems and results in a world that is peaceful, just, and spiritually fulfilling for all — we can end the underlying causes of collective violence. We can help fellow human beings escape desperation and the perceived need to attack others by providing for basic human needs such as health care, shelter, and access to education. In the process, a new type of economy will evolve, one that has the potential for full employment globally.

Response as a Nation

Current crisis situations and the people who have to endure them – refugees of ISIS, victims of civil war, those at risk of Ebola, etc — are in need of basic humanitarian assistance that the US is fully capable of providing. But will this government repeat old mistakes of bullying, exploiting, and fear-mongering? Or will it chose a different path and lead by example?

The US as a superpower justifies the use of military might to wipe out what it determines as “the enemy,” and on the other hand proclaims its responsibility to respect the sovereignty of other nations and the lives of the innocent in the region. It must respond in a way that empowers communities and individuals to regain their dignity and independence and hope. Only by achieving this can we as a nation and a planet move into a future our children deserve.

Response as Individuals

Each of us can choose to help. Traveling to the affected areas may be one option, but there are ways to help from home, too. We can donate money and time to organizations that are on the ground helping those affected by violence and war. And we can each take a stand by telling our government how to respond. Writing letters and emails to our representatives and calling our leaders about providing aid without strings attached will send the message that we won’t stand for bullying in the name of humanitarianism.

Above all, let’s not forget the power of the purse. Purchasing goods and services from corporations and stores dedicated to a sustainable environment and social and economic justice for their workers and those of their suppliers is practicing a potent form of marketplace democracy. We can make our spending even more powerful by sending emails to those companies and stores praising them for their policies and sending emails to the companies that we do not support urging them to change their ways. This is an essential element to the Life Economy. It also establishes us in the role of teachers to the rest of the world.

We are all teachers when we follow our hearts and passions; we can educate ourselves and our friends and family about these issues instead of reacting out of fear and ignorance. When I am asked what we can do to help make the world a better place for all of us, I respond that when people follow their passions and concentrate their energies magic happens. As teachers and leaders, each of us has a powerful role to play on this tiny space ship.

Life Economy

Our response is bigger than political affiliations and geographical boundaries; it is imperative that we see the Death Economy as an evil that must end.

Our choices as individuals impact our actions as a nation. As we learn to see that both those driven to acts of terror and those devastated by violence are desperate people who need our help, we are motivated to accept a more active part in stopping the mayhem. Desperate people need a Life Economy that provides for essential human needs of each man, woman, and child who shares this planet. We all need a Life Economy. It is in our power to help. It is our time to respond, to wake up and reach out.


Upcoming Events:

January 16-23, 2015: Journey to the Land of the Maya – Guatemala:
January 24-31, 2015: “A Revolution in Consciousness: Personal & Global Transformation” With the Omega Institute
February 12-13, 2015: “Shapeshifting a Death to a Peace Economy” with Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas:
February 20-22, 2015: “Shapeshifting the Story” with Charles Eisenstein and Dream Change at Pendle Hill, PA:


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