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                               An Open Letter to the Hannibal High School Black & Red

                                                                                                                          August 8, 2016

c/o Mr. Ted Sampson                                                                                   

  Principal, Hannibal High School                                                             

    4500 McMasters Avenue 

      Hannibal, MO  63401

Dear Editors of the Black & Red,

Congratulations on Hannibal High School’s Black & Red being “The oldest school newspaper west of the Mississippi.”  Some years ago, the Wikipedia entry for Hannibal, Missouri indicated the following about your school publication:

“The Black & Red is one of America's oldest school newspapers, however it does not enjoy the prominence it once held.  The past two years have seen low quality papers and low classroom enrollment due to dissatisfaction with the administration's role in the classroom and its understanding of journalistic standards.”

As with many judgments and opinions, it struck me that this analysis might have been rather inaccurate, if not entirely spurious.  I would love to know your perspective, and indeed to see the Wikipedia entry for Hannibal modified to once again include the Black & Red, and to give it a more respectful evaluation.  I have developed a strategy to bring back the glory days of Hannibal and the Black & Red. 

This idea involves the launch of the online Earth Manifesto and its Bill of Rights for Future Generations.  The insightful and comprehensive writings found at this site may well prove to be an encapsulation of the most vital understandings in the history of human thought.  They contain points-of-view and intriguing ideas articulated by a multitude of philosophers, scientists, writers, politicians, environmental activists and spiritual leaders.  No one has so far discovered this site, or read the essays it contains, but I reckon that one day soon it will go viral.  Hannibal may come to regard such an event with pride. 

As a Hannibal native and Hannibal High School alumna from many years ago, and the author of these evolving perspectives, I am seeking Wikipedia-like editorial inputs from young people.  It would be great if the students of Hannibal High School and those who help publish the Black & Red could give these writings their attention.  Young people, after all, have a much bigger stake in fairer societies and a healthy planet than older people, who are relative short-timers.  The feedback of Hannibal High School students would be enthusiastically welcomed.

The most important concerns expressed in the Earth Manifesto are ecological.  But economic, social, demographic, technological, industrial and political developments profoundly impact our lives as well as the health of ecosystems and the diversity of life on Earth, and thus of our own collective future well-being.  The implications of this fact point to a need for broader understandings, so related ideas are explored throughout the manifesto.

Complex and cogent conundrums loom large in our twenty-first century societies.  Economic issues are primary among them.  Since a good system of public education is vital to individual development and a better economy and a healthier society, we need to find ways to give our schools stronger public support.

Young people face a highly uncertain future.  Of the many increasingly unfair inequities that afflict our societies, one of the most misguided and egregious is the saddling of college students with large amounts of debt for their educations.  This is creating a new form of obligation that is like a modern-day version of indentured labor.  This issue is of major concern to many high school students who are contemplating going to college.  Millionaires and billionaires almost all grew up during times in which we invested sensibly in public education, so they were not burdened with long-term obligations for student loans.  The growing unwillingness of the wealthiest Americans to pay reasonable rates of taxes on their incomes and capital gains is creating a new status quo of inadequate financing for public education and our national infrastructure, and this is creating poor opportunities for young people entering the work force.

Job opportunities are not good, in part, because our national policies have encouraged multi-national corporations to export millions of jobs abroad.  Rates of unemployment in the U.S. are persistently high, especially for young people, and under-employment is also a serious issue.  Diminishing social mobility is also a glaring problem in the land of the free, and capital is unfairly triumphing over labor while wealthy people are contributing to the undermining of the general welfare of the vast majority of Americans to a greater extent than at any time in generations. 

A new program is needed to provide more funds for all levels of public education from pre-school through college graduation.  The federal government should provide lower-cost student loans.  The financing for such a plan should come from more steeply graduated tax rates on the highest levels of income, for the folks who earn the most money in our societies are the ones who have been the primary beneficiaries of the way our economic and political systems are structured.  We should strive to create a fairer society and smarter governance of the people, by the people, and for the people.  To do this, we cannot continue to allow the richest people in the nation to pay tax rates that are nearly the lowest in 85 years.

Far-reaching reforms are needed to improve our political system and our overly money-dominated, profit prepossessed, inegalitarian, values-confused economic system.  Entrenched interest groups are invested in the status quo, and they are sadly able to easily undermine our democracy and aggressively rig the economic game ever-more significantly in their already absurdly considerable favor. 

Financially privileged people are being ornery in their obstruction of fair-minded change in the status quo.  Effective ways need to be found to change this state of affairs so that the interests of 99% of Americans are given greater sway than the narrow interests of the top 1%. 

High schools, colleges and universities are great laboratories for the ferment of ideas.  The interests of young people are unfortunately being given extremely short shrift by the dominant forces that control our societies today.  Our materialistic “bubble economy” culture is inimical to the future well-being of young people.  The principal reason for this is that the status quo emphasizes unmindful shopping, lavish consuming, irresponsible wasting, and excessive polluting, as well as profligate spending, shortsighted government borrowing, foolhardy pandering to the interests of the already wealthy, and unwisely perverse priorities that our leaders demonstrate in politics and policy-making.  These aspects of the status quo have severe unintended consequences.

Every person has some degree of free will.  We all are influenced by incentives that encourage certain behaviors and disincentives that discourage other choices.  To the extent that we can make choices that are better for our collective future, our economic system should be restructured to recognize and reward such beneficial behaviors through the use of effective incentives.  At the same time, powerful disincentives should be instituted to discourage socially harmful, wasteful, unsustainable and shortsighted activities. 

Broad-mindedness is a key aspect of adaptive versatility, so open-mindedness may be a vital requisite for a more propitious future.  Our ability to reason objectively may prove to be indispensable in our efforts to prosper and survive.  Corporate propaganda and the narrow perspectives of ideologues and apologists for powerful interests tend to distort our ability to see issues in a clear light. 

Some think that we should “believe in nothing and set ourselves free”.  Such an open-minded attitude could help us assess reality in a more constructive way.  Thus, it would be a valuable way for us to find more accurate understandings of the true nature of our societies and of our selves, and of the workings of our home planet and its providential ecosystems.  Open-mindedness is potentially more salubrious in helping us deal effectively with looming challenges than closed-mindedness, due to the distinctly self-defeating and dysfunctional aspects of being closed-minded.

Statistics indicate that Hannibal Sr. High School continues to experience a higher dropout rate than the state average.  I hope that this issue will be effectively addressed in the near future.  Also, as responsible citizens, everyone should be more broadly concerned with the plight of high school students once they graduate, and with larger issues that face American youth. 

Fiscally irresponsible deficit spending has saddled our children with a record level of national debt.  The interests of people in future generations are being even more harshly affected, because in addition to this debt, we are unsustainably using up non-renewable resources and externalizing a wide variety of worker and pollution costs and environmental damages upon society.  The priorities that allow this state of affairs are a national disgrace.

The wealth gap between older and younger Americans has widened sharply in recent years, according to an analysis done by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.  The average net worth of people over the age of 65 increased by 42% between 1984 and 2009, while the average net worth decreased by 68% for those younger than 35, and net worths went down by 44% for those in the 35-to-44 age group.  These statistics confirm that the interests of older people have been given significantly more weight than those of younger people in the last few decades. 

Meanwhile, corporate profits are near record highs, and tax rates assessed on the highest levels of incomes are near the lowest rates they have been since the Roaring Twenties almost a century ago.

Insidiously cynical special interest groups seem to have intentionally engineered these outcomes.  One would be well justified in wondering how could this has come to be.  How have our economic and political systems become so unfair, so risk laden, so undemocratic, and so unstable?  We need only “follow the money” to find an answer to this question.  The policies that have enabled these trends are a form of intergenerational treachery by the richest Americans against everyone else. 

Let’s face it.  The economic and political systems in the United States have entered a new phase of Shock Doctrine “disaster capitalism”.  The middle class is being eviscerated, the poor are being abandoned, young people’s interests are being radically undermined, and the interests of people in future generations are being almost completely ignored.  Our nation has become increasingly unfair, excessively inegalitarian, and unethically corrupt.  It is as if some Machiavellian manipulators and wizards of deceit have succeeded in fooling us and hijacking our nation by making influence peddling excessively easy and giving undue influence to wealthy people and big corporations. 

Our great American experiment in representative democracy is being corrupted by vested interests, and the U.S. has in effect become an oligarchic plutocracy.  In a true democracy, all interest groups would be more fairly represented. 

   “Things have gotta change …

  This world we live in don’t have to be this way …”

                                                                        --- Kenny Neal, Hooked on Your Love album

In the 15 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the policies of the United States have been characterized by hyper-spending on the military together with extreme partisanship, divisive politics, increasing inequalities, anti-environmental initiatives, unprecedented deficit spending, and short-term-oriented political strategies.  And “the war on terror” has become a broad assault on many of our cherished American ideals, as poignantly made clear by Jane Mayer in her multi-award-winning book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals.  At the same time, deep-seated and widespread injustices are creating a less safe world, and desperately barbaric terrorist attacks seem to be proliferating across the world.

It is time for us to revolutionarily transform this status quo with a focus on bigger picture understandings informed by greater fairness and longer-term considerations.

Relentless efforts are being made by social conservatives and rich people to shift tax obligations even further from the wealthiest 1% and giant corporations to everyone else, including everyone in the future.  These misguided efforts are inegalitarian, anti-democratic, reckless, and absurdly myopic.  They represent a risky course of action because they make social status conflicts worse and increase the dangers of alienation, frustration, political instability, anti-establishment fervor, violence and even revolution.  Let’s give the young and people in future generations a break and restructure our societies to be fairer and safer!

Global competition for markets and resources is intensifying.  The population of human beings on Earth has grown to more than 7.4 billion people.  The time is NOW to embrace broader visions and wiser, more precautionary courses of action.

Please check out the website at www.EarthManifesto.com.  I hope that you will consider using these ideas as a design for course discussion in social studies, history, philosophy, government and literature.  My long Open Letter to Hannibal Mayor James Hark should be particularly interesting to Hannibal residents.  And the books listed in Recommended Reading for a Broader Understanding and Appreciation of the World could provide a valuable guide to deeper understanding.

The assertions in this letter might seem to smack of grandiosity, but I’m an honest and levelheaded gal, and the compendium of ideas contained in the Earth Manifesto is straightforward and sensible.  It is hard to argue that we are not increasingly in need of more enlightened worldviews and smarter, fairer public policies.  And it cannot be denied that major reforms are needed in the way our current economic and political systems work -- and how our societies are structured.

Let’s cooperate together to create a better future for young people and our descendants!  And thank you for reading and considering these ideas.


    Dr. Tiffany B. Twain    

       320 Broadway, Suite 16

          Hannibal, MO  


               Contact at: SaveTruffulaTrees@hotmail.com