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                                      Sow Justice, Harvest Peace!

                                                                             An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain

History is written, to an extent, by the victors of war, so the claim is sometimes made that might is right.  Since the strong generally rule over others, they have the power to impose their laws and moral codes and worldviews and ideologies on those they dominate.  Moral judgment, however, is more complex than ideological doctrines or self-justifying rationales.

“When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses.”

                                                                                                                        --- Shirley Chisholm

Most people would agree that a triumphalist ‘to-the-victor-go-the-spoils’ attitude is critically tainted when an aggressor’s primary purpose for going to war is to gain the spoils of victory.  We are just at the beginning of an era in which conflicts over resources will radically intensify.  This trend will heat up as needs grow for fossil fuels, strategic minerals, fertile land and fresh water.  Several fundamental developments of modern times are driving these intensifying pressures, including the depletion of non-renewable resources and rapid growth in human numbers and expanding needs and desires.

The principal motivation behind the creation of the Earth Manifesto has been the recognition that there are much fairer ways to structure our societies and to deal effectively with the most significant economic, social, and ecological challenges of our times.

I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war … But we have no more

    urgent task.”

                     --- President John F. Kennedy

The counterproductive aspects of wars counsel us to seek a consensus in finding better ways to achieve fairer and more farsighted goals, like those of creating meaningful jobs, economic stability and greater social justice, as well as reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, conserving energy, and establishing more expansive global protections of biological diversity, fresh water resources, the world’s oceans, and healthy ecosystems in general.  Instead of stubborn intransigence in the defense of entrenched interests and the status quo, we should be seeking fairer ways to balance the needs of competing constituencies.   We should strive with more sustained efforts to defuse conflicts and antagonisms, and to prevent other people from being galvanized into desperate acts and even  terrorist assaults because of frustration, injustices, prejudices, self-righteousness, fear, despair or hatred.  Simply put, if we sow justice and non-violence, then we will improve our chances of being able to harvest social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.  When we sow injustice and violence, we harvest discord and social turmoil and heightened risks of retaliation.  

“Shall we?  That is, shall we go on conferring our Civilization upon the peoples that sit in darkness, or shall we give these poor things a rest?  Shall we bang right ahead in our old-time, loud, pious way, and commit the new century to the game; or shall we sober up and sit down and think it over first?  Extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brother who sits in Darkness has been a good trade and has paid well, on the whole;  and there is money in it yet, if carefully worked – but not enough, in my judgment, to make any considerable risk advisable.” 

                                                                    --- To the Person Sitting in Darkness, Mark Twain, 1901

How We Have Arrived at the Status Quo

Insightful understandings of the socioeconomic interdynamics between the distinctly contrasting goals of consumers and investors and good citizens are valuable, because they allow us to more clearly comprehend the macroeconomic picture of people’s motivations and behaviors. 

There is a distinct conundrum in human affairs that Robert Reich discusses in detail in his recent book Supercapitalism.  As consumers, we generally want good deals and cheap prices.  This is why CostCo and Wal-Mart have been so successful.  In our roles as investors and speculators, we want the best possible returns on our investments.  In contrast, as citizens we want to have important things that are often contrary to what we want as consumers and investors.  We want healthy communities and social justice, for instance.  We want good quality public education and a fair shake for workers.  We want affordable health care for all.  We want at least a minimal social safety net, and safeguards of our liberties, and equitable institutions, and clean air and water, and protected public lands and parks and open spaces. 

In other words, as consumers and investors we DO NOT want products and services to contain all of the costs of a healthy society, because we want prices to remain low and profits to be high.  As citizens, however, we DO want prices to include the fair and sane treatment of workers and sensible protections for communities and the environment.  Over the last few decades, things have gotten better for consumers and investors in many ways, but worse for citizens. 

The economic ideology that dominates our society shrewdly advocates that the benefits of capitalism should be privatized, while as many costs as possible should be socialized.  This is broadly irresponsible.  Big corporations are allowed to externalize enormous costs onto society such as those related to the welfare of workers and to resource depletion and environmental damages.  Also, corporations have used ideology, powerful influence and institutional mechanisms to reduce the amount of federal taxes they pay.  The Congressional Budget Office reports that American corporations are paying 60% less of the share of the federal budget that they paid in 1960. 

Businesses have managed to gain such privileges by using the influence of lobbyists to get direct subsidies and favorable tax loopholes.  They shelter profits through accelerated depreciation and a wide variety of special perks.  Many big corporations evade taxes by using offshore tax shelters.  By allowing these corporate gambits, we give benefits to established industries at the expense of small businesses and innovative companies that are struggling to compete with them.  This discourages new technologies and more efficient production methods.  It also foolishly delays the development of better, more energy efficient and ‘greener’ products. 

It should come as no surprise that oil companies, with their powerful influence in George W. Bush’s administration, made the biggest profits in world history and that they have a much lower effective income tax rate than other kinds of businesses.  We should change this, and instead of allowing generous oil depletion allowances and other tax breaks and subsidies, these companies should be taxed so that the proceeds can be used to contribute to the development of alternatives and to mitigate the harmful effects of the combustion of their products.  See the Earth Manifesto essay ‘The Reality and Ramifications of Peak Oil’ for a better understanding of these issues.

Capitalist economic systems have largely triumphed over centrally planned communist ones in the past 70 years since the end of World War II.  Even in communist China, rapid economic growth has been achieved in recent decades by adopting many capitalistic methods.  Capitalist systems, however, are failing to address monumental modern problems.  This failure is primarily due to the unyielding opposition of moneyed interests to satisfy worker needs or find remedies to wealth inequalities and social ills that were the motivating energy behind the idealistic aspects of socialist and communist ideologies in the first place.  Capitalism’s shortcomings in these regards, and with respect to catastrophic collateral impacts of altering the global climate, are dangerous to the future well-being of all of humanity.

Detecting the deficiencies in having dominating interests define the status quo is as simple as pie -- heck, even the mad hatter Tea Party compatriots can do it!  Quizzically, indeed almost comically, our friends in the Tea Party have been tricked by Movement Conservatives into demanding solutions to daunting current day problems that actually have a downright stupid outcome of giving more money, power and influence to the dominators themselves.  This is a bad idea!  It is bad for democracy, bad for fairness principles, bad for personal liberties, bad for economic prosperity, rather bad relative to fiscally responsible principles, and bad for peaceful coexistence between Americans.  We can, and must, do better!

I feel strongly that democratic fair-mindedness is crucial to the common good in the long run, and that the prospects of our descendants in future generations should be taken into account in all evaluations of what truly contributes to the greater good.  To guarantee the most likely good, we need to courageously renew the commitment our Founders made to fairer representation in our government. 

Corporate Domination of Our Politics

Our political system can much more accurately be understood as a form of ‘corporatism’ than as a fairly representative democracy.  Enormous corporations have much greater influence than citizens.  Corporations control decision-making and the legislative process through insider access and big money contributions.  These are forms of institutional bribery.  The corporate strategy of obtaining tax breaks and other benefits, and profiting from government largess, allows companies to charge lower prices and make bigger profits for their shareholders.  By externalizing costs onto society and paying less tax, corporations effectively understate the costs of their products.  This affects resource allocations, and it upsets rational forces involved in supply and demand.  Thus it perverts the free market system.  To create a far better system, we need to ensure that all products are required to fairly include all costs related to their production, plus a fair share of taxes.

The compulsion to make ever-bigger profits is the corporate bottom line.  The corporate mission is to maximize profits;  it is the corporate reason for being.  It is even the legal mandate for corporations.  This precedent was established by a Michigan Supreme Court ruling in the Dodge vs. Ford Motor Company case in 1919.  By failing to require fairer rules and regulations, the government allows corporate America to diminish and undermine almost everything we want as good citizens.  This creates colossal challenges and presents us with profound existential dilemmas both domestically and abroad.

Why do we allow corporations to fleece us with these strategies?  Why do we let the Establishment stand in the path of creating better societies?  Why do we hype growth and create speculative bubbles?  The reason seems to be simple, and narrowly focused:  we do this to benefit CEO’s, investors and speculators, often at the cost of the greater good.  It is because of inertia, complacency, fear of change, ignorance, delusion, self-deception, emotionality and vested interest opposition that we allow entrenched interests to impede the causes of fairness and progress and farsighted planning.  We have the power to change this system, but to begin to make this change we need to be clear about its true nature.

Robert Reich notes that “The only way for the citizens in us to trump the consumers and investors in us is through laws and regulations that make our purchases and investments a social choice as well as a personal one.”  We must redesign our laws and restructure our economies and institutions with this in mind. 

Let’s Talk about the Military

One of the worst aspects of U.S. capitalism has been its inadequately disciplined propensity to try to gain advantages by military means.  It is preposterous to suppose that any sort of agreeable justice can be obtained by taking the huge and unjust gamble of invading and occupying other countries.

Admittedly, every major foreign policy undertaking involves many complexities and uncertainties.  There are conflicting ways of interpreting any event, as anyone knows who has served on a jury in a crime case, and thus had the responsibility for honestly evaluating evidence and testimony.

Justice itself is relative.  The word justice has a variety of meanings and nuances.  True justice should involve a degree of fairness, and it is disingenuous to treat justice as merely a synonym for harsh retribution and punishment.  People have a natural tendency to bandy around concepts like “morality” as if they are not relative, but it is demonstrable that in almost any situation that involves moral judgment, there is relativity.  Consequential relativity.

War, in particular, is foggy enough that the concept of any war being a ‘just war’ is bizarre, for war is an “anything goes” kind of undertaking, and in the heat of battle both sides justify immoral killing and maiming with equally plausible, and implausible, rationales and judgments.

Many war crimes are committed in the tragic miasma of the fog of war, whether or not the leaders in charge ever face trial and justice.  Someone may be ‘not guilty’ because they are on the winning side of a violent conflict, but this is a rationalization, not particularly a sign of moral good.

The administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney adopted a ‘preemptive war’ policy that set a dangerous precedent.  We are beginning to regret our preemptive wars because of the extremely high costs and far-reaching negative consequences of these military ventures.  The wanton uses of drone bombers to kill suspected terrorists in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia present new risks of blowback retaliation.  Both our domestic well-being and our international standing in the world are being undermined by our aggression in these precedents.  But few people acknowledge the fact that our superpower dominance will one day diminish much more dramatically than it has done so far, and that we may come to rue the day that we set precedents of preemptive war and dropping bombs on people in sovereign countries as acceptable foreign policy.

Besides, let’s be practical.  America’s wars in the last 65 years since the Korean War that began in 1950 have largely been a fiasco.  The U.S. fought a costly war in Vietnam from the early 1960s to the fall of Saigon in 1975, and after we left, our side fell to the communist north.  Not only were the monetary costs huge, but there were more than 58,000 U.S. troops killed and 300,000 injured, and more than 1 million Vietnamese civilians were killed and millions were injured.  Likewise, our mad invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent military occupation was not only extremely costly, but Iraq began disintegrating by the day in the summer of 2014, with murderous sectarian violence tearing the country apart and the ruthless Islamic State taking over large swaths of the nation near war-torn Syria and Jordan and Turkey.  Iraq is a deeply unstable country after a decade of war.  And millions of American veterans of the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War and all the other wars are still suffering terribly, and scandals are embroiling their underfunded health care, and suicides and homelessness are epidemic.

Aggression in war is not only a supreme international crime, but it turns out to be a bad plan from the standpoint of outcomes, to boot.  Post-traumatic stress disorder affects hundreds of thousands of Americans, and in a sense our society as a whole.

“Seeing is different than being told.”

                                                          ---Kenyan Proverb

Subtleties of Framing

Issues are framed in certain words and ideas.  As knowledgeable linguists tell us, issues are framed, in general, in ways that are prejudicial to a speaker or writer’s point of view.  Uses of established frames of reference often distort the way we perceive things in subtle but significant ways.  Studies show that our perceptions of the world are deeply colored by the belief systems we have come to hold. 

Consider the matter of framing reflected in the naming of major military operations.  The war in Iraq, for instance, was called Operation Iraqi Freedom.  We delivered a brutal kind of destabilizing freedom over there, causing horrible social instability and stoking sectarian conflicts.  Millions of Iraqis would have preferred a more honorable and effective savior! 

Such names are partly a kind of marketing propaganda aimed at American soldiers and the public and foreigners.  When the U.S. began the post-9/11 attack on Afghanistan, the Department of Defense initially dubbed it Operation Infinite Justice.  This name subtly reflected our conviction that God is on our side, for ‘who’ else can mete out infinite justice?  Perhaps sensible heads in the marketing department recognized the probability that the war in Afghanistan would involve many years of an anything-but-just occupation of that country, and that a terrible amount of ‘collateral damage’ and social turmoil and other injustices would be perpetrated upon the Afghani people.  The rubric Operation Infinite Justice was scrapped on September 25, 2001, no doubt reflecting these sensible realizations.  Or maybe somebody brought up the fact that someday the attention of the world might be focused on our premeditated and impure motives in this invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, as discussed in the provocative book by Michael C. Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon – The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. 

Maybe military leaders changed the name of the war in Afghanistan and the subsequent military occupation to Operation Enduring Freedom because they realized the truth that preemptive war is a dangerous precedent.  Other peoples may have radically different ideas about how to manifest Infinite Justice in the world.  For instance, Islamic peoples believe that Allah is the only one that could provide “infinite justice”, and even George W. Bush probably felt serious reservations in the possibility that his military adventurism could be perceived as a modern religious Crusade.  And perhaps the U.S. operation in Afghanistan would be more widely seen as Operation Widespread Injustice

     “All generalizations are false, including this one.”  

                                                                         --- Mark Twain

While Mark Twain was right about the fact that there are exceptions to all generalizations, it also is generally true that important kernels of truth are often contained in every generalization.

A Variety of Pithy Observations

Visualize an extraordinary understanding, as conveyed in the excellent documentary film The Diplomat.  The setting for this insight is the storied Dalmatian Coast of former Yugoslavia, home of the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik and the charming city of Split, originally built around a massive fortress-like palace of the retired Roman Emperor Diocletian that dates from 305 CE.

Richard Holbrooke was the U.S. Ambassador to Germany from 1993 to 1994, and in that position of responsibility he achieved great public prominence when he helped broker a peace agreement among the warring factions in the Balkan Peninsula that led to the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995.  Yugoslavia had broken up into six federal states in the early 1990s: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia.  The Bosnian War began in April in 1992 and continued until the Dayton Peace Accords came into effect in December of 1995. 

This peace settlement was not ideal for anyone, but there are great benefits of having peace instead of war, and today most of the peoples in this region are prospering and safer than during the terrible war in which some 100,000 people were killed and more than 2,200,000 were displaced.  “The Bosnian war was characterized by bitter fighting, indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, ethnic cleansing and systematic mass rape, mainly perpetrated by Serb, but to a lesser extent, Croat and Bosnian forces.  This war displaced more people in Europe than any time since the end of World War II, and the suffering continues to this day for many people.  In any case, one great advantage of preventing wars is that there are fewer collateral injustices during times of peace.

Personal observations and experiences have led me to a few basic conclusions and valuable insights.  Aware of Mark Twain’s comments on generalizations, and mine about relativity,  I nonetheless venture to offer these ideas as grist for thinking and debate.

-- Diplomatic conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts are better strategies than resorting to violence and war. 

-- Preemptive aggression and military interventionism are bad ideas that must be much more effectively discouraged.  War should be a very last resort, and defensive not offensive.

-- Making friends is a better strategy than making enemies, and being a good neighbor leads to more satisfactory outcomes than harboring hostilities and acting with arrogant hubris.

-- It is healthier in relationships to accept differences and adopt live-and-let-live attitudes than to try to impose one’s will on others or to be unempathetic, mean-spirited, controlling, domineering or driven by base motives.

-- Fairness in competition and respect for the greater good and the ecological commons is more important to people today, and in the future, than narrow partisanship, economic injustices, irresponsibly laissez-faire corporatism and rashly misguided priorities.

-- Fiscal irresponsibility and huge national debts have serious future consequences, and financially responsible behaviors are better for the average American and our communities than irresponsible behaviors.

-- Addressing the roots of social problems is a more propitious approach than merely assaulting the symptoms, just as good nutrition and preventative medicine are better approaches for good health than relying excessively on drugs and surgery.

-- Fair-mindedness and open-mindedness are more socially intelligent and salubrious than closed-mindedness and supporting discrimination and public policies that increase inequities.

-- Comprehensive considerations lead to better outcomes than shortsighted and impractical knee-jerk dogmatism.

-- Incentives for innovation and socially beneficial behaviors are smarter than harsh prohibitions or extravagant subsidies for entrenched interest groups, or loopholes for unethical activities, or pandering to forces that exploit people using the shrewd strategies of ‘disaster capitalism’.

An Inoculation against Another War in the Middle East

“War is never inevitable, though the belief that it is can become one of its causes.”

                                                                                                                             --- Professor Joseph S. Nye

There is a deep truth in the motto, Sow Justice to Harvest Peace.  Unfortunately, ideologically-driven conservative politicians deceive us with specious arguments, contending that wars, first strikes and military occupations will lead to success and make us safer and more secure.  Hawkish opportunists tell us, furthermore, that the best economic policies are those that curiously lead to more privileges for the fortunate few, and to increases in the disparities of wealth between people.  In dramatic contrast, increased economic inequalities, worse healthcare inequities, and detrimental environmental impacts have far-reaching negative consequences. 

Politicians who advocate offensive military undertakings often try to deceive us about their real intentions and motivations.  They politicize science and use policy gimmickry, misinformation, secrecy and deception instead of being honest and open to reasonable negotiation, pragmatic statesmanship, sensible oversight, fair scrutiny and crucial accountability.  Many of them figuratively bury their heads in the sand by embracing primitive religious Creation myths, and then proclaim monotheistic supremacy and are intolerant of others and support male domineering aggressive militarism and nature-exploiting economic policies.

Let’s demand that our leaders work for peace by sowing truer justice.  Let’s insist that the U.S. government gets us out of wars and avoids future episodes of aggression and military interventions.  Let’s support greater investments in peaceful coexistence and mutual security.

   “Be an early adopter;  oppose the next war, already!”

                                                                           --- The underground Mole

Recognizing how we got into the war in Iraq could help us avoid another episode of international aggression by the U.S.  The Bush administration goaded us into the extremely costly and destabilizing war in Iraq by playing on the public’s fears, anger and a reactionary thirst for vengeance in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.  Our emotions were exploited and our foreign policies were hijacked through the use of exaggerations and flawed intelligence and distortions about facts and probable consequences.

Under the cover of this bloody diversion, our domestic policies were shoved far to the right, and this had calamitous economic and social impacts on the American people. 

Read Reflections on War – and Peace! for deeper understanding of issues relating to war and peace.  A good understanding about the facts concerning how the U.S. government got us into the costly war in Iraq can be gained by reading What Happened by George Bush’s White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan.  Or watch the documentary narrated by Rachel Maddow titled Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War, or read the book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn titled Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War. 

In addition to exaggerating threats in the run-up to the Iraq war, the Bush administration radically underestimated the probable costs of war and ignored reasonable warnings about the risks of military involvements.  Unrealistic outcome scenarios were advanced and facts about risks were suppressed.  Dissenters were intimidated, and widespread collateral injustices were perpetrated. Our nationalistic passions were preyed upon, as well as the parochial righteousness of Christian believers.  It is extremely dangerous to stoke such sources of conflict. 

It is stunning to recall the evolving variety of disingenuous rationalizations and optimistic assessments that were provided to the public in the run-up to the attack on Iraq.  We were told that this war was about fighting the evil dictator Saddam Hussein, and spreading freedom and democracy, and making us safer at home.  A more honest assessment reveals that our actions were much more concerned with geopolitical considerations and trying to gain control over the flow of Middle Eastern oil, and with facilitating profit-making by investors and corporations involved in the military-industrial complex and war-services industries, and with attempting to achieve an uninterrupted American military supremacy and dominance over others.

Some people in conservative circles have tried the same tricks that were used to get us into attacking Iraq to involve us in new wars against countries like Iran.  George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and John McCain and others at one time figuratively beat the drums by hyping up lies about Iran, and used distorted intelligence to stimulate people’s pride and fears.  There was even talk of a pending World War III, as we sent more aircraft carriers to the Iran vicinity. 

We should throw open our windows like the half-crazy protagonist in the powerfully provocative 1976 film Network, and declare “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”  And in November 2016, we sure as hell should reject dangerous Trumpism and elect Hillary Clinton as president, and give her a more progressive Congress to work with in order to make the USA a safer, saner, more just and more peaceable country.

Let’s make an overarching collective commitment to prevent the launch of another war in the Middle East, no matter what the supposed provocation.  What do you think?  Feedback is welcome at:  SaveTruffulaTrees@hotmail.com.

     Truly,

        Dr. Tiffany B. Twain       

             August 16, 2016 (updated several times from the original version in January 2008)