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We Are One: A Reflection
2016. World Campaign is about to enter its 18th year.
The work preceding it began 50 years ago. Planet Earth Foundation, which launched World Campaign, has now entered its 40th year as an organization. Commentary on the history of that work can be read at http://www.planetearthfoundation.org/news.html.
More in-depth commentary can be read in what was written in 2008, below, and on the Issues of the Week and Messages of the Day on this site in the years since.
Given these extraordinary anniversaries in the history of our work, and the perspective it has given, we intend to comment more extensively here in the near future.
For now, a brief reflection.
What was written here in 2008 stands as a testament to what had happened to that point and a predictor of what has happened since. The basics are the same, and will be, until we are operating as one people, in one world, with basic human needs and rights for all, on a planet sustaining all life—or we destroy all life on the planet.
The grind towards this has been disgraceful and unbearable in many ways, and fraught with the ongoing risk of the destruction of everything at any time, or the cumulative risk of destruction of everything over time. And, difficult as it is to say and to see at a time that seems to be vying for historic lows on so many fronts, there has also been progress. The equation has not changed, It will always be two steps forward, one step back. The manner in which this occurs will determine how much unnecessary and inexcusable pain occurs, and whether or not life on earth survives and thrives.
The inequities of the haves and have nots have both increased and been more addressed in social movements and policy initiatives in various ways. The inequities of gender have both increased and been more addressed in social movements and policy initiatives in various ways. A landmark forward in the US and other nations on marriage equality has occurred as homophobia and related issues still raise their ugly heads from the nations that have most advanced rights on this front to those who still kill LGBT people as policy or practice. Racism keeps raising it's ugly head everywhere, from the streets of the US to the borders of nations crowded with desperate refugees. And children, young people, keep showing us as in generations past the way forward, famously as just one of countless examples, Malala Yousafzai, starting her activism at 11 years old, shot and nearly killed for standing up for gender and educational equally, and awarded the Noble Peace Prize. But countless lesser-known activists (some will become household words to come) suffer through trauma and threats to their lives as they stand up on the streets, in the schools and in every imaginable context to advance basic rights for themselves and for all. They make demands, as every movement for progress always has, and the marker of the repressive status quo they are facing down to change has always been the same throughout out history--making demands is not allowed. Its not just a matter of whether or not the demand is agreed with--the concept is not allowed, the very concept upon which every human right has been achieved. Whether with straightforward repression or intellectually misdirected niceties and everything in-between, the comfortable who have power respond with varying degrees of the same underlying message. Do not challenge our power. We, the powerful, will determine the context of even any negotiation, when there is any. Because the prerogative of power, still defined in at least an overarching manner by a white male, or male patriarchy, is what will not easily be surrendered. But it's coming down.
And related is the issue of economic power, whoever has it at the expense of others no matter how some of the players may change, including in ethnicity, gender and so on. The age-old story of the haves and have nots. We will in the near future visit fallacies about this issue and necessary changes in consciousness and practices economically (ergo politically and so on). It's easy to explain the idea of a ceiling and a floor in which everyone has the basics and there is room for distinctions based on innovation, work and merit. Its been done successfully in various ways. The more difficult issue is the assumption that the engine of growth in the classic way is required. In fact, it isn't possible to continue indefinitely this way. The resources of the planet are not limitless. The loop between this, inequality, greed, millions of premature deaths, billions more in population (the growth in our own lifetimes quadrupling after all of human history), the impact on the environment, is unsustainable to put it mildly. New mechanisms are necessary to define productivity and achieve what is needed for all (in overabundance today if basic human rights and human needs were a global priority, which is being forced on us by reality.)
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were a move in the right direction, with some important success, but falling short and flawed in some basic ways. The new sustainable goals may at least be a more realistic and comprehensive framework. We'll see.
Our work has always focused first on children, morally and strategically. When we began with a focus on hunger, the great majority of millions of hunger (and related disease) deaths, the worst ongoing killer in history, were and are of infants and children under 5 years old. The malnourished and diseased who live (and continue to suffer these and other blights of poverty) are burdened with enormous challenges. This is then tied to all the other issues creating these conditions, which impact everyone and the planet itself.
Even after cutting hunger deaths in half or by two thirds, there are a billion hungry people on the planet (that’s extreme hunger—the real number is much higher), with children suffering the most. Still, as significant progress was made on this front (and therefore on all the related fronts), never losing focus on the need to end what disgracefully remains and threatens to backslide, we increasingly focused on the most glaring horrors for children (if they survive hunger, disease, poverty and war, and often exponentially adding to the evil of their suffering even if they don’t)—sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect. A billion children a year abused in some way or neglected, across all demographics, everywhere. The breakdown of these hellish statistics will follow below.
So what if we started with a commitment to protecting and nurturing all children on earth, basic needs and rights for all, with legal, programmatic and financial resources dedicated to this? What if we just started with conception to five years old? The time everything else in life is most impacted? We’d change the world.
And it is absolutely doable—yes, past all the political, cultural, institutional and family dysfunction odds of the powerful over the powerless. Just as has been so with so many other horrors that could never come out of the dark, that were an assumed part of the human condition that would never be changed, or feats that were impossible to accomplish. All the horrors ended completely? Not in the human race. Reduced in the main to the periphery and the exceptions? It will happen, or we won’t make it, and won’t deserve to. Will this require the far more serious work of social movement activism in commitment, maturity, intelligence, and continually evolving strategy required in other great changes that hasn’t happened yet? Yes, emphatically.
Meanwhile, other issues of absolute urgency become increasingly urgent. We can’t do just one thing—we have to do all the inter-related things to survive and thrive.
We always have the threat of just blowing ourselves off the planet. The nuclear age has been one of many factors instructing that we have to unite at least to the point of basic rational rules of global governance being adopted or adhered to, and advanced, or die The Middle East alone has increasingly presented this threat, and has made our humanity a disgrace once again as hundreds of thousands die and millions are made refugees, the most since World War Two. More could and should have been done. Avoid violence if at all possible, but as even King said, and as Bonhoeffer acted on, when it comes to the Hitlers, you have to fight. Never more, or less, than needed, as best as can be assessed. Not easy choices. And all really about the deeper issues, not the surface ones. Basic needs and rights for all.
One great moment of progress, at least for the moment, creating a lasting possibility, was the nuclear deal with Iran (we were more hopeful 8 years ago about developments in North Korea—but we’ll revisit that later). The alternative was a regional and worldwide end to any nonproliferation agreement and nukes everywhere—which means they go off for sure. Obama will have his legacy for this alone, if it works, and will deserve it. When he said it was a deal or war, it was no joke. Even his many national security staffers who disagreed with various actions or lack of actions in places such as Syria—to a person—have said unequivocally that if there was no deal he would have at the point needed struck hard militarily to stop the nuclear program in Iran (for a few years—then if no deal, again). Any president would have had to do this.
And speaking of Obama, his election and re-election as the first black president—still the single most powerful person on earth—was and is a human rights landmark, all other significant pluses or minuses aside.
Just as, if the next president is finally the first woman, this will be a landmark, all other significant pluses or minuses aside. Both Obama and Clinton are highly intelligent, mature and qualified. Clinton is especially qualified in experience from the get go, was in 2008 and is more so now. And Sanders has been good for her and the country. The US finally treated a democratic socialist resembling something like the rest of the democratic nations of the world—seriously (and they often elect them.)
Or, we will, as the apparent alternative, have crossed into a place no one has been before (and it won’t be Captain Kirk in the Chair), born of an understandable rage at the machine, but never imaginable until an increasingly infantile narcissistic culture created the context.
It also must be noted in a year unlike any other, that while as we write the nominees seem certain, unforeseen outcomes on any front cannot be entirely dismissed.
Of course, then there’s the issue that might trump everything, pun intended. The environment. Climate. It may be good luck time. May be too late. Or not. If everything goes just right all of a sudden and everyone starts acting right all of a sudden and technological miracles occur and so on. At best, like with everything facing the dying old world resisting the gravity reality of the new one, there are, and are going to be, some terrible prices to be paid even if we make it.
We still think we will make it, barely, for all the reasons articulated so often before. But remembering that there’s a very real chance we won’t is a necessary precondition.
As we wrote here eight years ago here:
…we would assert global cooperation on basic rights is inevitable, and coming quickly measured historically. There will be great resistance and great pain. The only question is how much, for how long—who will fight who for how long and at what cost, how much war, terror, starvation, disease, sexual slavery of children, mother earth strangling us as we have strangled her and other such horrors—and what will remain to build from when denial has finally ended?
And one of many other issues at the forefront is the issue of technology changing the landscape as never before. We are one digital world. And our privacy is taken away, and given away, by our own choice. We have no idea what is happening to us in this arena in the main.
If we survive the process of the forces of global exploitation being defeated by the inexorable movement toward global equality, the tools that connect the world are making it a brave new world of addicts in denial while the architects and even the architecture of the new world technology itself can become the ultimate exploiters. The lines between our intelligence and artificial intelligence and who controls what are harder and harder to locate. Science fiction becomes more and more reality everyday. This presents challenges to human rights and even the definition of being human in countless ways.
So for now, let’s revisit excerpts from a couple of Issues of the Week and Messages of the Day this year, which reach across the decades touching on some major aspects of our work referenced at the start.
Then, we conclude this reflection with the message from this last Christmas Eve, the same message used for the end of the first decade of the millennium in 2009, and for the first holiday season of the millennium, in 2000.
July 14, 2015:
Thirty years ago yesterday, the Live Aid concert and broadcast changed the world. …
On July 13, 1985, the most extraordinary global broadcast in human history in many ways occurred--of the Live Aid concert for famine relief in Africa, specifically Ethiopia, and addressing the issue of world hunger in general.
We were deeply involved through the use in the Live Aid TV and radio broadcasts of the information from our first film on hunger, "The Hungry Planet", which led to the White House Hunger Working Group and an enormous change in attitude and approach to developmental aid to end hunger, and a second film, "I Want To Live", produced with the late John Denver, who became involved because of our first film. On TV, between music sets, celebrities appeared to read short but searing and informational statements--such as: "Every year, 13 to 18 million people, mostly infants and children, die from hunger."
As we have described at length often, this went to the heart of why hunger was the first focus of our work for so many years. It was the worst ongoing killer in history and as much as all the other great problems facing humanity were related and critical--the hungry child was the one unifying theme in an otherwise polarized world about most issues.
Live Aid was the next step in global consciousness required to get us where we are today, cutting these deaths in half--still an incomprehensible evil when there is more than enough to feed everyone (and the resources to deal with related disease causing these deaths as well), with the knowledge largely in hand to create successful sustainable development and resources a matter of political will--but still an enormous accomplishment in the effort to end hunger and millions of childhood deaths from hunger and disease every year.
Furthermore, we would now put the rights of children, period, starting with the youngest, to be free from abuse, neglect or denied any basic needs, including food, as the center of changing the world--and of bringing consciousness to the other great problems which all impact each other and must all be addressed together.
And Live Aid took an evolutionary step towards what this ultimately requires and means as well--seeing and experiencing each other as one people on one planet with the same basic values and goals, who urgently must and can change the world. Going to the moon did this by seeing ourselves from the point of view of the universe. Live Aid did it from the point of view of being on earth together as a family responding to the needs of the most vulnerable with our hearts and souls on fire--music fueling the fire, pictures of the children fueling the fire, and the broadcast spreading the fire to the whole human family, all having the same experience at the same moment.
Live Aid took our anthem at World Campaign to being a global experience:
We Are One.
During the concert, literally, we had the epiphany that hatched our next project--the Campaign To End Hunger--as the necessary ongoing follow-up to a one day miracle in Live Aid and documentary films that had huge impact but that under the best of circumstances would never be seen by most people. So how to keep and build the momentum? By an ongoing global public service advertising campaign seen by more people than had ever been reached in the most continuous way possible, on TV (and radio and print) to keep people educated and motivated to act. And just in time, a new concept that also changed the world, CNN, was created, and the promise from Ted Turner to air our spots globally in a serious way, for years, was made and kept. As by other networks and local stations. And for most of the next two decades, the Campaign To End Hunger, showing hunger, disease, population, human rights, war, and the environment as inextricably connected, reached the planet.
January 26, 2016:
The issue of child sexual abuse will not abate. …
The stories about families, where the majority of child rape and molestation occur, or institutions of various kinds where a grotesque amount also occurs, and in all cases were it is denied, lied about and enabled, are legion by the day. …
As noted before, the historical point we are at on this issue is clear. It's all over but the illusion, as with all great social change when reaching an historical tipping point. The end-times of illusion, however, will mean millions to billions of more children raped depending on our actions…
To put it in perspective again, 456 million children are sexually abused each year on the planet, 20.7 percent of all children--the science-based estimate based on the landmark study of adults on adverse childhood experiences (ACE) which is recognized globally as a statistical cornerstone of scientific studies on childhood abuse and neglect by the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. The figure is likely far greater as even if there had been improvement in the statistics in developed countries, the vast majority of the population (1.9 billion out of 2.2 billion children as pointed out by UNICEF, with over half in poverty) live in developing countries where the mechanisms for even the possibility of improvement do not exist and the lack of these mechanisms in law, resources and other factors create the conditions for worse statistics than the developing countries to begin with.
Or you can go to the 2012 World Health Organization sponsored Promoting Research to Prevent Child Maltreatment report which presented another set of statistics. The summary report/workshop on international epidemiological studies, XIXth ISPCAN (International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect/September 2012 begins:
“Studies indicate that … around 20 percent of girls and 5 to 10 percent of boys experience sexual abuse.”
So approximately 15% of all children, or 330 million children raped and molested every year. …
If you add in physical abuse and neglect, the annual number of abused children is at least one billion [from the same sources above]. These too constitute the worst crimes against humanity, as they are against our most vulnerable charges which impact for life--not impossible to overcome, but an unequaled darkness. Sexual abuse by its nature occupies a unique place in the horror.
As we and everyone involved in child development have noted, what common sense instructs, science confirms, when it comes to the first five years of life. An enormous amount of abuse and neglect starts then, and if anything can define evil and destroy faith in human nature, this is it. The brain will never function anywhere near the level it does during these years, thus the hardwiring damage that abuse inflicts then. By far the best chance for intervention to provide a physically and psychologically nurturing environment to change this is the next five years. But no matter how well this is accomplished, the chance at some point, whether in adolescence or adulthood, of reverting in some form to the first five years is significant, from literally returning to the abusive system to creating a new one, and engaging in other sociopathic, disordered in various ways, addictive, destructive behaviors, whether obvious or in more insidious forms by the seemingly functional on the outside. And yet, while victimization exacts a terrible price at any point in childhood, it can also be overcome at any point, and the behavioural choices of adults, even while enormously challenging, can literally change brain patterns extensively. And the most inspiring people among us are those who come from the most horrific backgrounds, overcome this, and become part of the movements to expose and change this greatest of human and social evils.
And as said often, if we won't protect our children, if we are morally so corrupt as to not have even this move us to any action necessary to stop it, then we should be able to understand that nothing else about sustaining human existence at this point will work without starting with a protected and nurtured and healthy generation of children.
December 24, 2015:
It seems nearly impossible to imagine that we are already at Christmas Eve of the first half of the second decade of the new millennium.
With this in mind, we revisit a timeless mantra we wrote and first used for the Christmas and holiday season of 2000. Here it is, as repeated on these pages in 2009, as we were about to end the first decade of the new millennium.
"So our wish for you and all the people of the world remains the same as it was during that first Christmas and holiday season of 2000--a timeless mantra of how we are all one, all major issues and all universal values are inextricably linked, and internally and externally, our actions based on this realization will determine our future:
‘We wish you love, courage, honesty, humility, compassion, justice, truth, growth, accountability, amends, forgiveness, action, healing and peace--and the wisdom to know there is no difference between them.’”
Thinking and acting holistically. But the definition of each word describing each concept which is part of the whole fabric of reality, is, itself, a demanding discipline, often not pursued these days. The functional definition of these words and their interactions will be commented on further here in the near future, as with all the other interrelated issues.
We Are One: The Force Behind Everything
2008. World Campaign is about to begin its 10th year.
The work preceding it began over 40 years ago. There are many ways to describe the core of this work, including descriptions from various well known sources over many decades at http://www.planetearthfoundation.org/news.html.
As noted there, “Planet Earth Foundation (which launched World Campaign) was created out of the convictions that accelerating inter-related global tragedies afflicting the human family such as hunger, poverty, disease, environmental devastation and violence were both morally unacceptable and threatening all life on Planet Earth, that pragmatic solutions to end the worst aspects of these conditions could be applied, and that accomplishing this in the media age required effective media communications, targeted both to the general public and to key policy-makers. Over more than three decades, Planet Earth Foundation…has been at the leading-edge in efforts to save millions of lives and change history. The concept, willingness and capacity to utilize media solely for social benefit without influence of the profit market at a time when media is changing dramatically, and to research and determine how to best accomplish this, with ideals and open-minded pragmatism trumping ideological rigidity, as the entire world undergoes unprecedented change, is a more daunting challenge than ever. And it has never been more critical to life on earth surviving and thriving.”
The initial work that preceded World Campaign had focused on ending world hunger by using media to present the problems and solutions to the greatest ongoing killer on the planet, especially of children, in a manner that would inspire historic action, and utilize hunger as the door to understanding the interrelated nature of the issues of poverty, the environment, disease, population, human rights, war and global security. World Campaign was founded as the new millennium approached and it had become clear to us that if sustainable solutions were to be applied, as they must be at this point if life on earth is to be sustained, an evolutionary nexus needed to be reached where all the above issues were experienced in human consciousness as they actually exist in reality—as different parts of the same issue. Since then, other initiatives and commentary of a similar nature in some regards have increasingly appeared to have come onto the scene, from individuals, organizations, governments and international bodies.
Shortly after the first year of World Campaign had passed, during the first holiday season of the new millennium, we wrote the following:
“One year ago, we were celebrating the last holiday season of the last millennium and the countdown to the year 2000. Now we are celebrating the first holiday season of the new millennium. Remember how strange and wondrous the sound of the year 2000 seemed? The sound of 2001 already rings with more familiarity, the adjustment to beginning our years with the number 2 having had a year to take effect. Still, the idea of finishing the year 2000 and beginning 2001 feels like the second stage of launching the new era. Both the holiday seasons of 1999 and 2000 have created echoes in our internal landscapes of melancholy and hope. We have long seen the year 2000 as a metaphor for the need to evolve to the next level, a kind of last chance line of demarcation after which the consequences of not changing anachronistic behavior personally and globally would become potentially catastrophic. Of course all generations have seen the issues of their times as potentially at the edge of apocalyptic. And in a sense, all generations have been right. When former President John Quincy Adams argued before the Supreme Court in the Amistad case in 1841 that if we did not end our national avoidance and denial about the evil of slavery, that it would lead to civil war, he was right. The examples in every generation are there. The difference now is that the consequences on the planet at this point in history of not facing reality could actually lead to the end of life on earth, or certainly to unprecedented cataclysm.”
Little did we know what was about to occur in the upcoming year of 2001, and the ongoing aftermath, or all the other events related to the purpose of World Campaign in the years since.
In 2007, the following Issue of the Week on the World Campaign website encapsulated the campaign’s work to that point:
"Last week was the eighth anniversary of the launching of World Campaign. The focus of World Campaign has been on raising awareness on the environment, population, hunger, war, disease, human rights, economic opportunity to end poverty, and personal growth in consciousness on these interrelated issues. World Campaign was established with the conviction that ongoing public education on these issues is required to reinforce motivation to identify appropriate and workable solutions, and sustain support for taking successful action. Last year, 67% of voters said they believed global awareness has increased on the majority of these issues since World Campaign was launched. An additional primary goal of World Campaign has been to raise awareness on the essential interrelated nature of these issues, which by definition means that successfully addressing any one issue requires addressing all in a sustainable manner.
Regardless of opinion about progress or lack of progress on various issues, or opinion on how they should be addressed, do you believe that since World Campaign began, global awareness has increased on the interrelated nature of the majority of issues World Campaign focuses on, and the need to address these issues in relationship to each other in order to achieve sustainable success?"
The large majority of voters answered yes.
In 2008, another Issue of the Week followed up on these issues:
“In headline news, the global food crisis has exploded onto the public stage once again, as it has before. G8 finance ministers ended their recent summit declaring that global hunger had eclipsed in importance the worldwide credit and climate-change crises they had gathered to discuss. The importance of this extraordinary development cannot be overstated. It took decades of effort from multiple sources to create a media and cultural context in which climate change had become perhaps the first cause to create special ongoing environmental sections in virtually every media outlet. In addition to the downsides of the cyclical media, cultural and political attention given to such issues (another discussion), the fact is that every serious observer of the major issues facing the planet has understood for decades that serious efforts to solve these interdependent problems must take into account the relationship of issues in applying sustainable solutions for all. We have long since passed the point of acting as if one issue can be made better at the expense of another without, in effect, making things worse overall. Planet Earth Foundation, the organization which created World Campaign, focused initially on hunger as the greatest ongoing killer in history, the most likely to create political will for change, and to assist in examining more critically the other great issues related to global survival. The gains of the past, while there was still a long way to go, were important achievements, and are at risk of being undone, in a milieu which could cause far greater chaos and global risk than before. In some areas, such as biofuels and food production, interests have clashed, and have proven they could be potentially disastrous for all issues involved if not resolved. It took something as primordial as the need to eat to take precedence over even the financial crisis and rise in energy prices. However, all issues are of course intertwined and impacting each other. Different competing interests exist to be sure, powerful interests, ranging from national to economic. However, it is becoming more obvious by the day that these interests will soon pale in comparison to the common interest of being able to sustain some kind of reasonable life on earth for most people, and the risk to even the most powerful of not doing so.
Regardless of what your opinion might be on any specific issue, or the relationship of these issues, do you agree that with the resource limitations which exist by definition on a finite planet with a large and growing population, exploding global problems of food crisis, environmental crisis, financial crisis, health crisis, human rights crisis, terrorism and war, that the solutions to these crises must first and foremost take into account serious and ongoing examinations of their interconnected impact, in exploring and implementing pragmatic solutions?”
The vast majority of voters answered yes.
The above was written and posted six months before the global financial crisis reached near meltdown stage and dominated virtually all other issues. What has become clear in real experience, in “reality” for everyone on the planet, more than ever before, is that all these issues are completely connected.
One of the phrases we have used to define what our many decades of work have been and continue to be about is: “We are one.”
We would assert that the single most important understanding of the words, “we are one”, has nothing to do with beliefs, ideology, hopes, fears, dreams, nightmares, historical, political, scientific, religious, philosophical positions, postulations or prognostications of any kind. The single most important understanding of these words, indeed the only important understanding of these words as a starting point, is that they represent reality.
Even our own opinions or positions or approaches to contribute proactively to creating a world of peace and prosperity and human rights for all, which clearly has been at the core of our work, is not as important as simply understanding the reality of what the words “we are one” mean. Because achieving the world we wish for and work for will best be served by simply understanding reality. It is essential above and beyond anything else for all of us, no mater how much we agree or disagree about anything, having tolerance for our differences, realizing that obviously, being human, none of us has all the answers, to at least understand how things actually are, in the same way we understand that in order to live, we must breath.
Many people throughout history have noted in many ways that all life is connected, that we all impact each other and the world we live in, quite apart from what one’s philosophical, political or spiritual perspective on this may be. It can sound simplistic, or redundant, to say, “we are one.” If it is profound, it can seem a profundity realized and articulated long ago, countless times, to this instant. Yet, we would assert that in the most fundamental sense, it is not understood, or realized, or articulated, in general, as the simple and yet all-defining fact it has become at this point in history.
This is not about a dream coming true. Whether it will end up being a dream come true or a nightmare come true is our choice. But the first step, and the longest step in an evolutionary sense, is simply recognizing reality, about a fact as demonstrable as gravity. The world is one place, one chunk of interconnected physical reality, upon which one human species and a number of other life-forms exist and depend upon each other for their existence. This is not about an ideology of how this works or how it should work. It is not about a spiritual or philosophical construct, although various points of view in these contexts may well also be true, and indeed, most of us believe are. But in fact, even though any of the above may be consistent with reality, any of the above can also get in the way of recognizing reality, if we insist on using any of the above as the lens through which we perceive reality. Our lens must be open, entirely, or put aside, in order to allow us to at least see what we can then all agree is the reality that cannot be denied, as simple as needing food and water to live. There is a point of convergence that all history has now brought us to, which if recognized by most people as the linchpin of their existence, regardless of what other frames of reference they may believe about this reality, is the one thing that would unite us with an overarching frame of reference as basic as the realization that we all stand on the same ground, literally.
2008 started out, in many ways, as a worldwide reflection on the fortieth anniversary of that year of years, 1968. Not surprisingly, it began in many ways a projection from past to present, based on a past that seemed robbed of its completion. In some ways, as with all such projections, it was misplaced, as the challenges which invite easy comparison are not that easy. In other ways, some of the dreams of forty years ago had not only been reached, but, it became clear, would be reached. We would have, for the first time, an African-American or woman nominee for president of the U.S., and then, either the first African-American president or the first woman vice-president. Regardless of ideology or positions or opinions about various aspects of the above, these things in and of themselves have represented enormous changes. But in many ways, 2008 has lived up to the anniversary of 1968 in other, more difficult aspects. Now, as then, in ways not entirely predictable, the world has been engulfed in overwhelming challenges, forcing us to look once again, as history has continually done, at how we are going to finally face reality, or not, and solve age-old problems—not perfectly, but manageably—or not.
In a fundamental way, the work of World Campaign and its founding organization, Planet Earth Foundation, observed its 40th anniversary in the fall of 2007. Those who began college in the fall of 1967 remember well the dividing line in their generation and in history that this moment represented. The best and the worst of the dynamic of change was moving forward in full stride. The summer of love was over. Hard drugs and child abuse were emerging as major problems in the wake of an initial impulse to change the world simply by abandoning its usual materialistic and cultural ways. The more serious work of disciplined protest and civil disobedience in service of larger goals which had been going on throughout the sixties, in the civil rights and anti-war movements, moved into the year that was the anvil of change, 1968.
Not only in the United States, but around the world, the established order was challenged. The Prague Spring, before being crushed by Soviet military intervention, presaged the inconceivable only two decades later—the collapse of Soviet totalitarianism, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. In France, students and workers nearly brought about the collapse of the government. Examples abound. In the U.S., anti-war, civil rights and social justice movements reached an apex.
The following Issue of the Week from World Campaign summarized this pivotal moment:
“Forty years ago yesterday, March 31, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson shocked the nation and the world by announcing that he would not seek re-election as President of the United States. He had won a landslide victory in 1964 after becoming President in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He had successfully worked with Congress to enact many historic bills and programs, such as the Voting Rights Act, signed with Martin Luther King, Jr. at his side, and the War on Poverty. His accomplishments in social legislation rivaled President Franklin Roosevelt. At the same time, Johnson had presided over an increasingly escalating and unpopular war in Vietnam, which along with issues of civil rights, social injustice and a cultural generation gap, had divided the country perhaps more than at any time since the Civil War. Many at the time believed that Johnson’s announcement not to run made it likely that Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who had announced on March 16, 1968 that he would oppose Johnson for the Democratic presidential nomination, would be nominated and elected president. Senator Kennedy was opposed to Johnson’s war policies, while acknowledging that he and his brother had in part shared in policy errors in Vietnam. Johnson’s speech, however, was largely a peace overture in which major aspects of policies of those opposed to the war were adopted. This allowed the potential of a rapprochement between Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr., who had been allied with Johnson on civil rights but opposed the war, and gave Bobby Kennedy the opportunity to shift his major focus from the war to other issues central to his campaign, goals championed by Dr. King, of social justice and equal opportunity for all people, particularly related to issues of poverty, racism and alienation between identity groups and generations. The co-founder of World Campaign and Planet Earth Foundation, Keith Blume, facilitated coordination of a speech at the University of San Francisco by Senator Kennedy on some of the above issues after President Johnson’s speech on peace overtures in Vietnam and withdrawal from the campaign. Tragically, what appeared for a moment to be an historic opportunity for healing and progress on many levels, was dealt blows from which an entire generation may never have fully recovered, with the killing of Dr. King only a few days after Johnson’s speech, and the killing of Senator Kennedy two months later.
Do you believe that President Johnson’s turnabout on the Vietnam War with peace overtures, and withdrawal from the campaign for the presidency, forty years ago yesterday, would have made it more likely that a quicker end to the Vietnam War would have occurred, as well as substantially greater progress achieved on issues of poverty, race, and social justice for all Americans, and related issues worldwide, had Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy not been killed shortly thereafter?”
Voters answered overwhelmingly yes.
A Message of the Day followed up on the above shortly thereafter:
“Forty years ago today, on April 19, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, during his campaign for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, spoke at the University of San Francisco, two weeks after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. The speech was coordinated at USF by Keith Blume, co-founder of World Campaign. The speech was billed as a major address on poverty, minorities and economic opportunity. Kennedy was interrupted by a handful of anti-war demonstrators who wanted immediate unconditional withdrawal from Vietnam. Kennedy said he disagreed. He strongly supported ending the war, but in a way that met social needs at the root of the war, such as land reform, and that brought all parties to the table for negotiations. The vast majority of the overflow crowd at USF agreed with Kennedy, and when he asked if anyone wanted to hear the speech he came to give, the overwhelming response was yes. In his prepared remarks released just before the event, Kennedy said that violence in America in response to racial and economic injustice were not the answer. This would bring ‘death, not life’, Kennedy said. ‘So it has already proven across the face of America. It must and will be met with the full force of the law. But that is just the beginning, for grievance and despair cannot be banished or suppressed by force. Rather, our first task is to build a community of purpose. Now ask if there is work to be done; for the answer is that the inventory is infinite. We need new housing and new schools, new public facilities and public services…we must ensure that these projects provide jobs for all, especially the residents of the poverty areas in which they are to be undertaken.’ Kennedy concluded by saying that when all Americans regardless of identity or background could say, ‘I share in a great creative enterprise in the life of this nation, then America’s promise of equality will be truly fulfilled'."
Robert Kennedy was not, in the end, an ideologue, but a hard-nosed idealist looking for pragmatic solutions. He believed in paying any price and bearing any burden, as his brother President Kennedy had said, in defense of freedom. He was proud of the U.S. role in defeating fascism in World War Two and proud of its role in fighting communist totalitarianism in the Cold War. But he had seen with his brother the potential and unthinkable cost of nuclear war, and increasingly understood that in conventional conflicts such as Vietnam, force might sometimes be needed, just as law and order were required at home, but winning or maintaining order by force could not work without winning the social wars, ending hunger, poverty, racism, sexism, human rights abuses and providing basic freedoms. And he increasingly understood that at home and around the world all was connected. He increasingly understood that just as meeting the basic needs of the peasants who made up the largest part of populations in the developing world, through measures such as land reform, were pre-requisites to prosperity and democracy, that jobs providing equal opportunity, self-sufficiency and dignity were pre-requisites to maintaining and expanding democracy at home.
Forty years later, in 2008, we will, at the end of this other landmark year, mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The following Issue of the Week was posted on last year’s anniversary, as we began the 60th year since the United Nations adopted this Magna Carta for the world after the end of World War Two.
“On this day, December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The person acknowledged that day with an ovation at the UN as most responsible for this extraordinary achievement was Eleanor Roosevelt, the former First Lady and wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had passed away three years earlier. The Human Rights declaration embodied the values President Roosevelt had espoused as the reasons for fighting the Second World War, the worst conflict in human history, in which over 50 million people died. In August 1941, FDR and Winston Churchill issued a joint declaration on the Atlantic Charter, subsequently adopted by other allies in the war against fascism, as the embodiment of principles envisioned for the post-war world, which was also a precursor for the creation of the United Nations. Elliott Roosevelt, the late son of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who wrote the forward to a book on media and politics by Keith Blume, founder of Planet Earth Foundation, which created World Campaign, reported that FDR told Churchill at the meeting where the Atlantic Charter was adopted that ‘The structure of the peace demands and will get equality of peoples.’ The Universal Declaration of Human Rights embodies basic principles that apply to all the issues addressed by World Campaign, including rights to life, liberty, equality, food, health care, adequate standard of living, education and so on, without discrimination on any basis. The co-founder of World Campaign, Lisa Blume, noted ‘information equals motivation equals action’, as a premise for World Campaign. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the numerous related declarations, resolutions, issues, programs and actions of the United Nations over the nearly six decades since the Declaration can be viewed and researched at UN.org.
Regardless of your view as to what degree of progress has or has not been made on the issues covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, do you believe the Declaration, which provided an agreed and potentially enforceable global code of human rights for the first time in human history, was a critical milestone in creating, in the words of the Declaration’s Preamble, ‘the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family’ as the ‘foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’?”
The large majority of voters said yes.
Only two years after World Campaign was launched in 1999, the events of September 11, 2001 occurred, which have dominated global issues in many ways ever since—at least until 2008 when the energy, environmental and credit crises reached an apex of concern, then overcome by the global food crisis re-emerging as a primary focus, followed by all issues being overwhelmed by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
But just as the above issues were always present as interconnected crises, recognized or not, building to their most recent nadir, the aftermath of 9/11 never went away, and continues to play out around the world, and is also interconnected with all the above.
Its primary importance, as we wrote at the time, beyond the horrific tragedy itself, was in what it represented in global history at the moment it happened. It was of course a unique event traumatizing Americans. But it was more significantly a marker and metaphor in human history impacting everyone. Much of the rest of the world had suffered in such ways, and worse, for eons. The force of the event therefore for much of the rest of the world was the instinctive understanding that regardless of what one’s opinion of the world’s one superpower at the moment was, if it could happen in the manner it did, where it did, at the moment in history it did, then the entire human species was squarely faced with the reality that there was no safety anywhere, anymore—without finally facing the global threats, born of primordial thinking, incomprehensible injustice, and the inter-relationship of risks, reaching the point that would either destroy or unite us as a species and as part of the fabric of life on Planet Earth. This would of course be a uniquely challenging process, not a magical undertaking, just as it had been a grinding process for thousands of years. But the marker was a wake-up call to the fact that the evolutionary fork in the road had been reached, that our choices would impact the outcome, and that time was up.
Further, it was no accident, in our view, that issues of the environment, hunger, poverty, population and disease have since reached a new level of inter-related threat and consciousness. Progress had been made. But, as we have been saying from the outset, these issues were also on the verge of going out of control again, or in some cases continuing to, unless finally faced down, fully and together.
Nonetheless, as we continue to remind, we’ve not yet become truly conscious of the essential reality upon which all else is grounded. Pardon the uncomfortable paradox. Its just that the enormity and gathering speed at which we are getting hit by these issues forces some change in consciousness, even while we fall short in seeing and keeping our eyes on the big picture. And the media and entertainment culture, our primary sources of information, largely fail us in terms of providing sustained objective information.
An Issue of the Week this year pertains:
“For decades, many media critics have noted that media in general and journalism in particular have increasingly moved in a direction away from informative factual news and useful information focusing on the most important issues facing humanity, toward entertainment over substance even in news presentations and emphasizing the lowest common denominator in general in entertainment, ranging from movies to music to various kinds of programs for television and radio to new media on the internet. The latter new medium has offered promise of more diverse information and participation on the one hand, but has been rife with abuse, lack of basic accuracy and numerous problems to be worked out, in addition to providing new concerning communications tools in a number of areas. Although there are striking and ongoing exceptions to this rule in which extraordinary journalism and entertainment is provided which demonstrates the capacity for informative and inspiring media, the general trend has been concerning over time. Many observers, including some of the best media information sources themselves, have echoed these concerns, and among other things noted that increasing monopolization and the motive of profit at nearly any cost have been at the root of the problem.
Do you agree that media in the aggregate has increasingly emphasized a lack of substantive journalism, entertainment of a low common denominator, and programs and processes which are damaging to the public good in terms of information, values and the need to deal with the most pressing global issues in history, even though there are exceptions which may provide some of the best journalism and entertainment ever created, simultaneously?”
A substantial majority voted yes.
And on a related issue, an excerpt:
“The financial crisis in the U.S., along with rising food and energy prices, is increasing the already alarming rates of U.S. hunger. Media coverage of this issue has not been significant. Nearly one in every five U.S. children are in poverty, of which hunger in some degree is an accompanying symptom…U.S. hunger has become one of many problems that people contribute to, but has lost all urgency as a major political issue. National programs to end U.S. hunger are widely understood in terms of what would be effective, requiring a relatively small amount of additional funds. Lisa Blume, the co-founder of World Campaign, spearheaded public service media campaigns through Planet Earth Foundation’s Campaign To End Hunger on effective maternal, infant and childhood nutrition programs nationwide from the late 1980’s through the early 2000’s. When interviewed in the news media, Blume noted that ‘the fact that people don’t see it (U.S. hunger) negates the fact that it exists’.”
The huge majority of voters agreed.
The media is another chapter, a book, a series of books, all by itself. Even journalists acknowledge the shrinkage, if not the death, of much of journalism. News has increasingly become entertainment for a long time. And the sources become scarcer. And even the best sources of public journalism have increasingly become advertising venues, by definition at best then selling the products of and legitimizing businesses or entities which either cause or contribute to causing the very problems being reported on, or which take an ideological anti-objective stance on issues.
Nevertheless, while increasingly diminished by the above concerns, great journalism still happens. And even ideological journalism is important to pay attention to from different perspectives, as well as the mainstream press in general, in order to reflect on different viewpoints and simply be aware of how most people are being informed, and therefore the impact on culture and policy this has.
Meanwhile, analysis of the impact of media also requires commenting on the relationship between advertising, corporate interests and social issues. The general interaction between advertising, the media and consumerism has had increasing downsides in the connection between an entertainment industry concerned mainly with profit, at the cost of lower levels of demeaning and training young consumers to view themselves and others in ways contrary to basic human rights and dignity, and to sell an outlook and products that range from shallow to extraordinarily unhealthy.
At the same time corporate interests through advertising have increasingly attached themselves to social issues as a mechanism for selling products. The following Issue of the Week this year illustrates some concerns:
Appearing to be "Green", that is, environmentally friendly, to consumers by profit-making companies, has become nearly universally considered necessary in marketing. However, many question the efficacy of such claims in advertising and in practice. For instance, one recent study investigated 1,018 products that claim to be green. All of them reportedly made false and misleading claims, except one. The "Green" marketing craze is just the latest of increasing marketing attempts to associate companies with socially responsible issues. However, the desire to appear to be socially concerned as an appeal to socially-conscious consumers often seems geared mainly if not solely to increasing profit, and often by companies causing more harm than the good they try to associate themselves with.
Do you believe that the mass-marketing of social issues by companies which appear to be mainly motivated by profit and which are causing more harm than good in practice related to these social issues, or not helping these social issues in the way they represent, causes damage to these social issues by creating alienation and distrust, or by reinforcing a false sense of security and personal and social denial about what is being accomplished on critical social issues?
The majority voted yes. Complicating this arena is the fact that there is also positive potential involved. If companies are responding to consumer demand to take positive action on issues, in and of itself, that's good. (If something gains a bandwagon effect through enough media attention that is ongoing, the likelihood of public support and even demand for action increases. Generally, political leadership and effective public policy action emerge after parades have started, although this is not always the case, and the interaction between courageous leadership that puts values first and pushes public awareness, while apparently rare, can be historically critical. However, the usual path is public demand leading to policy change, based on perceived necessity, whether self-interest or humanitarian interest or the connection of both. In any event, ongoing public awareness and support is a necessary pre-requisite to sustainable change.) The role of corporate connections to social issues only works in the end if the company, for instance, associating with the issue, is truly making a net positive contribution to the issue and not doing something damaging on the issue. Furthermore, there is the concern that when an issue becomes overly packaged, it is no longer taken seriously by many.
And a related issue is the source of funding for humanitarian efforts. As a most obvious case, the World Health Organization has said the tobacco industry will kill a billion people this century, mainly those who are poor and hungry, addicting most of all backgrounds when they are young, a seemingly unprecedented feat of consciously causing death for money. How can anyone purporting to help others take funds from such sources to "help" the poor, hungry, children or anyone? Even if someone is helped on the one hand by what kills the same people or others with the other hand, aside from the obvious moral issues, the public impact of such behavior in multiple ways is all bad, to put it mildly.
And then we have the internet, which filled with promise, has become the greatest purveyor of more bad things and lies than any medium in history, simply by its nature and accessibility. And this goes beyond the most obvious examples, such as use by terrorists, child sexual predators, and even the excesses of those trying to defend us from these horrors going from what many would consider welcome, needed and legitimate, into encroaching on basic rights. The internet could and can be an alternative source of information, more democratic in the sense of being more readily accessible—as we certainly hoped and still hope will come to pass in a healthy manner. But with freedom comes responsibility as always, and the wild west of the internet has a long way to go. As political candidates say when smeared on the internet—its just the crazy internet, pay no attention, it has no credibility (while the same people, like most of us, use it for varying purposes because of its unique nature and reach). And for the rest of us, the following point may illuminate. Before the age of the internet, Muhammad Ali was convicted of a felony for refusing induction when drafted because of his religious opposition to the Vietnam War, lost again on appeal, basically went broke while being kept out of boxing, and then won an historic unanimous decision at the Supreme Court overturning the previous court decisions. In today’s world, you might see the obvious at first, his historic victory, at the top of an internet search, only to see it disappear and see instead the losses the historic victory overturned, giving completely misleading impressions, because of the limitations and manipulations possible in the internet context. Or things attributed under what appear to be objective sources that are not accurate or incomplete or are out of context. Or captions selected out of something that have no coherent reason to be selected related to order of a term in a piece or page, but can easily appear, again out of context, to have been manipulated to create an impression similar to a headline, and so on. And the technology available to to do such things appears to proliferate. Talk about the “Big Lie” gone universal.
The questions and outrages cover the waterfront, from even some government websites (among others) upon which people depend for services being at least temporarily shut down because of bombardment by pornographic postings (it used to just be email, but the criminals and technology became more sophisticated), to concerns about the intrusions of government itself as noted above, as well as all kinds of companies and individuals, accessing private information. Everthing noted above are just some of many types of games that can be and are played, and systemic failings. Anyone with an agenda and lack of integrity has a forum, although if one has the patience and resources to track and put up with such abuse over a significant period, the perpetrators can and have suffered serious consequences. However, a leading industry publication has questioned whether the internet will survive because of the abuse associated with it. In some form it seems clear it will, including on the cell phone in your hand, and like all new communication technologies, it will come under adequate control eventually. Meanwhile, it's a bit like Orwell meets 2001: A Space Odyssey. And all of this is to say nothing of the social and cultural nature of many trends on the internet, the impact on children and youth, and the impact on discouraging important discourse, instead enabling and encouraging paricipation in some of the less noble aspects of human nature, while enriching the unscrupulous. And in the arena of discourse, on what today are called blogs or various venues for comment, instead of seeing differing opinions expressed with tolerance, too often there is ideological emoting with apparent amnesia regarding human imperfection. Yes, good things are also occurring, but they are not comparatively dominant yet, and the downside is disturbing.
Television still dominates, although the internet is intertwined with it, and radio appears to be staying with us, although also connected with the internet in some cases. And the great anchor of the press for centuries, the newspaper, is predicted to not survive except online (and the access to good, varied and responsible news and information online has many positive aspects.) But the newspaper may well survive in the medium of picking up a paper and reading, rather than just seeing the news on a screen, for many reasons, including the nature of prediction in such contexts. And like all trends, monopolization, which will probably get even worse for now, will likely reverse and surprise at some point in the future.
Meanwhile, when the media does cover serious issues, it has for some time tended to move quickly from one to another. And even when the connections are made, they are not front and center or kept front and center, because selling the next whatever it is, by showing the next whatever it is story that’s akin to watching gladiators, is where the money is, until the real issues punch us in the face hard enough, which is to say, often after much of the damage has been done that could have been averted had we been focused beforehand. We care about whether we can breath and what will happen to our kids in the future and war and billions of people suffering, but in addition to not being adequately covered, how much of this is wrapped-up with selling something in some way, or issues presented as they so often are during political campaigns, with image and polls overwhelming substance, rather than a genuine ongoing examination of problems and pragmatic solutions? And where does one find, in the media venues that reach and influence most people, an ongoing primary focus on the underlying reality that we are either going to find a way to live together or we are going to die separately? It’s a colossal problem.
We have used various media with enormous success on social issues over the years, which has been our great privilege. And as noted already, even in the midst of the problems described above, there is incredible journalism being provided by dedicated journalists, sometimes at great risk, to the credit of all involved. But the overarching problems remain. Meanwhile, we work and reflect and research as to the next best ways to communicate in this context, as we have for decades.
A good example of an enormously important issue being covered and then lost, and of the changing attitudes of the public based on experience, can be illustrated by another Issue of the Week posted at the end of last year:
“In a New Year’s Day editorial in The New York Times in 2002, former Democratic Senator from South Dakota and 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern proposed allocating $5 billion of the $40 billion approved for the war on terrorism at the time to fight world hunger over the following five years. This proposal was also endorsed by former Republican Senator from Kansas and 1996 presidential candidate Bob Dole. McGovern and Dole had been bipartisan supporters of anti-hunger efforts in the US Senate for many years. The co-founder of World Campaign, Keith Blume, met with McGovern and other senators who wrote to President Carter urging him to see an earlier film he produced on hunger, which among other things pointed out the relationship between hunger and violent upheaval. The President referenced the film at a cabinet meeting beginning an increased US commitment to end world hunger. Blume later interviewed Dole for another film on hunger, and from the Carter Presidency to the first Bush Presidency (as well as before and since), there was bipartisan acknowledgment of the important connection between hunger, global violence and national security. Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to President Bush (the elder), noted the importance of support for food aid and sustainable development from the multi-year public service campaign effort to end hunger of the organization which subsequently created World Campaign. When making their proposal to use a portion of the funds for the war on terror to end hunger, McGovern and Dole, who supported fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, pointed out that fighting hunger and deprivation were also key factors in winning the war on terror. However, their proposal was not adopted. In addition to the focus at the time being almost solely on traditional national security and military operations, some concern was raised regarding effectiveness of aid to end hunger in unstable situations, even though this problem had always existed in areas of greatest need. Although significant amounts of aid have been misused historically, substantial amounts have simultaneously been effective. The five years during which the McGovern-Dole proposal would have been implemented have now passed. Nearly a billion people on the planet are seriously malnourished and many more are undernourished. On World Food Day, two months ago, the UN Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) lamented the fact that hunger continues to rise, after headway was being made in reducing hunger through the early nineties.
In hindsight, do you believe the McGovern-Dole proposal to utilize approximately 12% of funding for the war on terrorism from 2002 through 2007 to alleviate world hunger, which would have certainly contributed to reducing hunger, and may also have contributed to reducing the fertile ground on which terrorism is bred, as well as improving US global credibility, should have been adopted?”
The overwhelming majority voted yes. When a similar question had been asked at the time the proposal was first made five years earlier in 2002, the vote was split.
Hindsight is everything, except we don’t have time for it anymore on some issues. The entire history of humanity has proven that the have-nots will fight the haves to survive, and will often side with and be exploited by the worst elements to do so—for who is worse to the hungry—those who provide to keep their children alive and healthy, or those who don’t? What would you do in their place? In today’s world, this construct will mean the difference between life and death for thousands, millions, billions, or us all. If anyone believes, all morality aside, that it is possible to have any kind of global or national security in a world where half of humanity, over three billion people, live on $2 a day or less, then you might as well stop reading, for we know of no more basic idea to present that would seem to be self-explanatory. There are many ways to pursue ending this travesty which have been proven to be successful, and there will doubtless be new challenges and new ideas that will need to be examined as time goes by and circumstances continue to change. That’s why idealism wedded to open-minded pragmatism is so clearly the proper perspective, as opposed to ideological certainty. Things change and no one knows everything. But one way to understand our priorities and our capacity is to look at how much money is being thrown at the global financial crisis. Obviously, we have the capacity to take care of providing basic needs and basic opportunity for self-sufficiency for the majority of people on the planet who have been left behind, or any solution to the financial crisis will be very temporary indeed, and we will all reap the whirlwind.
And by the way, whatever your pet peeve or peeves are in terms of which of these issues matter, or don’t, or why—fine, just start by removing them from your equation. Because no reasonable analysis can remove them all, or the connection between them and whatever you have left on your own intellectually configured table.
As just one example—a favorite to create ideological polarization and confusion is population. We’ve moved further and faster in recent human history on this front in terms of growth than imaginable in many ways. At the same time, we’ve avoided the worst of the doom scenarios thus far. Further, we understand that prosperity is the best contraceptive, thus reductions of population growth in prosperous places and increases in poor places, generally speaking. Oh, but whoops, what happens in a construct where more people equal more prosperity or less equal less? Well, a couple of things are worth keeping in mind. One, whatever opinion one may have about carrying capacity for sustainable life on earth, whether well past it, nowhere near it, or somewhere in between, no model of where population is going can be entirely reliable because there are too many variables—but at some point there remain sticky little issues such as a limit of square feet on the planet, or the possibility of reductions through Malthusian-type scenarios which impact all the other issues of survival on earth today with nukes and biological weapons in the pocket, and so on. And again, things change—so with this as with everything, we always need to stay open to what has and hasn’t worked and what will or won’t work in the future.
Climate change, globalism, human rights, hunger, poverty, disease, and so on—these issues in varying degrees have become as pressing as the threat of extinction from war, nationalism, terrorism, despotism, genocide and ideological extremism, in a context of weapons of mass destruction multiplying in types, availability and potential use.
Then the financial crises blew up in our faces, reminding us all how fragile and interlinked our survival is, and that we must find a better way of organizing our economic activity so that both basic needs are met and human innovation is encouraged in a context of responsible freedom of choice. It’s not that “ism” or this “ism” in some pure form. Not even the intelligent proponents of various systems have ever thought that, except those who actually propose, consciously or unconsciously, an ideology of a dog eat dog or brave new world. Reality has amply demonstrated that such a road ultimately leads to all of us being eaten. The alternative path can lead to all of us eating, to basic human rights enforced, to responsible freedom and democracy, and to initiative and creativity being reasonably rewarded.
A major impediment to seeing the reality we are trying to describe as the bottom line from which our future is unfolding, is an odd line of sight manner of viewing reality that just won't seem to go away, no matter how lacking in intellectual integrity or common sense it may be. Why is it that we constantly seem to hear from various pundits, historians, commentators and so on over the years that either all is well or all is hell, or that the movement in one direction or the other has suddenly been reversed in some shocking manner as if everything is expected to go in a straight line? We keep reaching these moments throughout history where what seem to be extremely intelligent people appear to declare that we have finally arrived at the unstoppable march toward the victory of peace, prosperity and democracy for all or that we have finally arrived at the inevitable avalanche toward the end of life on earth, or sometimes, apparent dismay at the more reasonable position of hitting a major bump in the road. Who could think that the process toward a more just and functional world would not be like all processes, with ups and downs?
We’ve made progress on the great issues facing humanity and then fallen back or been willing to put up with ongoing horrors or risked more, as we’ve noted from the outset.
The following illustrates to some extent, although it is meant only to give a few examples, and not to fully examine even those examples by any means.
A positive development seldom noted is that since the inception of World Campaign, in a trend which had begun in the early nineties, the number of wars, civil wars and insurgencies have at least declined, if still at terrible levels and cost. As reported recently in the press, the Russian invasion of Georgia ended 1,716 days of no war between nations, and even with this deeply concerning turn of events, as well as the aftermath of 9/11, including the war in Iraq, the trend has been toward more peace. Although clearly not yet predictable, North Korea may be standing down on nuclear weapons, related to the work of a number of nations together, including crucially China, historically its main ally in some respects, because it is in everyone's interest in terms of stability. At the same time, China has been problematic in Darfur, Tibet and elsewhere, as are others, including most of the world in a number of instances. We bemoan the horrors of what happens in places like Burma, but take no meaningful action. In another arena, at least a million lives have been saved from AIDS in Africa in recent years and some progress is being made as deaths and infections may have been slowed, even though the disease continues to take about 2 million lives a year with over 30 million infected and the number still growing, so the pandemic could still go either way at this point. Meanwhile, climate change and other environmental problems have continued to cause alarming damage and perhaps unparalleled threats to the planet, but have at least also received unprecedented attention and movement toward positive action. However, world hunger, where we had made significant progress, has been moving back in a tragic direction. And as noted previously, the World Health Organization has issued dire warnings this year that unless radical action is taken, tobacco will kill a billion people this century, with the poor, children, women and minorities, particularly in the developing world, being at increasing risk. Further, while making progress on global poverty, in a stunning acknowledgment, the World Bank noted recently that its previous statistical model on poverty had vastly under-estimated the number of poor globally.
With the current global financial crisis, hunger, poverty and related global security issues, including the war on terror, are sure to get worse or immensely increase the pressures of cost, priorities and other challenges.
There was never any question that the road to a new world would be uniquely challenging and painful. Even if America had fully played the role post 9/11, not on behalf of itself in even the appearance of isolation, but on behalf of itself and all as it appeared to at first, in both ongoing reality and presentation, the resistance would have been enormous. And history will likely judge that some things some of us thought were wrong turned out right, and vice-versa, given no known gods in our midst. In any event, the old ways will not die an easy death. But there was an opening, for a moment, to form a global coalition of far more willing, and a dynamic that could have moved us forward in a far more enlightened manner.
It was never a question of avoiding the necessity of violence in global self defense in some ways and in some areas, and no one could or can be sure where this will go or where it will end. If people claim God has told them to kill you, your children and anyone else if needed unless you accept their version of God and throw away democracy and human rights, then most of us believe we must fight back, although we believe fighting back under any circumstances must be by individual choice. Virtually all the great pacifists have famously described the limits of non-violence. It is almost always the right path. Almost. As Dr. King said, when it came to Hitler, he would probably have put his pacifism aside. And as we write, there are no pacifists running in the major parties for president of the United States. To the contrary. Even candidates perceived as anti-war in Iraq, where circumstances have improved as of this writing, have made clear they will fight even harder in Afghanistan, where circumstances have unfortunately, but not surprisingly deteriorated, and elsewhere, related to both the war on terror, and potentially, to issues such as genocide. And as a reminder of the challenges inherent in what may be the necessary use of force, while simultaneously doing everything possible to avoid the spread of armed conflict that could be incomprehensibly devastating, Afghanistan cannot be separated from Pakistan, with nuclear weapons, India, with nuclear weapons, or Iran, which seeks nuclear weapons, all of which brings in just about everyone else, first regionally, and then globally. The above, within each example, between them and in their impact on the rest of us, represent complex and conflicting interests and impulses, from ancient to modern, from nationalist to globalist, from feudal poverty to emerging prosperity, influencing both towards and away from stability simultaneously. As many commentators have noted, the realities on the ground facing the next president when taking office will likely have far more impact on action taken than any campaign rhetoric—which is arguably generally the case in U.S. presidential campaigns in any event. And the real truth is that the ultimate enemy goes far beyond those who attacked the U.S. on 9/11 and those who share their goals. The ultimate enemy is global instability that will continue to lead to new extremists or solving disputes between nations by war or destroying humanity and the planet by starvation, disease and environmental catastrophe.
Therefore, the central question raised by 9/11 in terms of global security has more often than not been avoided—how will a policy of global security be implemented which at least with minimum adequacy is finally enforced as called for in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and multiple resolutions with force of international law signed on to by the nations of the world? What candidates of both parties have made clear, and other nations have grudgingly moved towards, despite the disgrace of inaction in the face of genocide and crimes against humanity so often, is that they understand that this needs to occur for the security of all, and that they are in varying degrees more willing to take actions in this direction. Rhetoric or reality? Who knows, especially when responses to the financial crisis include talk of cutting foreign aid, which in part is like saying its time to make global security more unstable to save a comparative pittance instead of feeding the increasing hungry billions, in circular turn, in part, because of the financial and related crises.
Most violent extremism is fed by a lack of basic needs, or a sense of being threatened that there’s not enough to go around, hence another group becomes a scapegoat. We have personally heard religion used in the poorest parts of the world, by the more powerful who benefit from this argument, as a reason why the poor will not accept reform that economically benefits them, and given the opportunity, we have seen the poor choose economic betterment and their children over religion or anything else every time. Of course the best parts of most religions preach social justice. Believing, not believing, various religions and philosophies—they obviously can all be a form of arrogance, intolerance and excuse for misbehavior, or of tolerance, humility and acting selflessly. But in any event, we would assert global cooperation on basic rights is inevitable, and coming quickly measured historically. There will be great resistance and great pain. The only question is how much, for how long—who will fight who for how long and at what cost, how much war, terror, starvation, disease, sexual slavery of children, mother earth strangling us as we have strangled her and other such horrors—and what will remain to build from when denial has finally ended?
Since World Campaign began, among other things, the UN has adopted the Responsibility to Protect Resolution and the Millenium Goals, which are some of the most recent expansions, or attempts to implement, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is to say to create a world in which basic rights and basic needs are met for all. Terrific as these recent developments are conceptually, just as it was tremendously useful in the late 70’s to have a White House Hunger Working Group outline the steps to ending world hunger and dealing with related issues which have had impact ever since, ongoing decisive action has always been, and continues to be, overdue, and of the highest importance.
Over seven years ago, we utilized the phrase, “we are one”, to summarize an historic epiphany in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, and the global response at that time. The following is an excerpt from our posting on the World Campaign site.
“We are beginning the second week of what has been described as the other side of history…
Is there a core truth that September 11, 2001 can be reduced to? On some levels, there are clearly more than one. But we believe the most useful core truth we can focus on is this: We are on the other side of history because out of this unbearable tragedy has come the universal experiential realization that we are one world and one people with one future that will be universally shared. Out of the horror of September 11, 2001, has come a globally experienced epiphany:
We are one…
We are the world. And it is us. This is perhaps the moment at which both the blessing and the opportunity created by the end of the Cold War are most evident. This is precisely the situation which calls for, and which offers the opportunity for, a truly global security system--in effect an international police force--envisioned by Wilson for the League of Nations after World War One and by Roosevelt for the United Nations after World War Two. Only America is in a position to lead the world in this direction. If America does so appropriately, the world has never before been so prepared to follow. However, just as Americans and the people of the world saw September 11, 2001 as an attack not just on America, but on the planet as a whole, so must America lead a response that evolves into a truly global police force in which the nations of the world become the united nations of the world. That is what will constitute victory. Anything less will eventually bring September 11, 2001 times infinity.
This is an extraordinary challenge. It will require patience and diligence and fortitude of an unparalleled degree. And it will require evolutionary thinking. But a challenge to survival, to life itself, is an extraordinary motivator.
There is also another extraordinary danger, opportunity and challenge.
It will be tempting to focus all our energy on this unique crisis in American and world history instigated by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But if we do so, America and the world are doomed to defeat.
The other great global problems of human rights, hunger, poverty, disease, population and environment will not wait for a more convenient moment. We must make war on these problems with equal vigor, and we must foster cultural understanding and tolerance as never before, or there will be no victory and no peace. Otherwise the nationalist, tribalist, us-or-them survivalist, endless ism-at-each-other's throat dynamic will finally consume us. The extremists of the moment will give way to the extremists of the future, with different ideologies, religions and backgrounds, but with the common ground of having been bred in one hell or another of injustice or deprivation. And the planet itself, our mother earth, will not wait for us to attend to her nurturing, which nurtures all life. Lastly, we must continue to evolve personally, to see the connection between all things, if we are to survive and thrive as a species.
In a reverse way, September 11, 2001 must become the second shot heard round the world, but this time, not just for an American Revolution proclaiming freedom and equality for Americans, but for America leading a World Evolution proclaiming freedom and equality for all citizens of the world and sustainable life for the planet itself.
A tall order? An absurd order? An idealists daydream? Every good and great thing that has ever happened in human history which has made human life worthwhile seemed all the above before it came to pass. We're not talking about making the world perfect here. We're just talking about treating it like the neighborhood it really is for us all. We're talking about moving on from bondage to age-old problems that are becoming the equivalent of primordial at this point in history, to a new level, where we will still deal with the problems and challenges of being human, but where we can focus on our humanity in a more refined way. And we're talking about survival. Again, when its time to grow or die, human beings will choose to evolve and live...
We are one.
Like all epiphanies, it will not do by itself. It will recede in its emotional and mystical and intellectual impact. But like all epiphanies, it will establish a new benchmark; in this case, an evolutionary benchmark in the collective human consciousness.
We are one.”
In an update seven years later, we noted:
“We Are One: Revisited
2008. The epiphany has come and gone. Everything has changed and nothing has changed. Much of the worst of what we warned against has occurred. Much of the best may nonetheless be in process in ways not clear through the lens of looking at history and events as we have in the past. Possibilities have been lost. Tragic errors made. Other possibilities have opened up. Hopeful actions have occurred. More than ever in history, seeing the forest from the trees is of the greatest importance, and the most difficult thing to do, as this in itself requires an evolutionary leap beyond where we are, to where we are going. We are at the threshold of an evolutionary change unlike anything that has ever occurred in human history. It is a force in which context everything else will occur and which will define everything. There have been and will be unique challenges and pain in making the journey. The moral and pragmatic imperative, personally and universally, is, as always, to face the pain we cannot avoid in order to eliminate the pain that is not necessary. One way or the other, no matter what our opinions, like it or not, everything is changing. We are one.
More to come.”
So, more has come. And more will.
The world has changed dramatically over the past decade. The emergence of China, India and Brazil, among others, and the various mounting challenges in numerous African nations, for instance, have had enormous impact. The importance of the European Union, including the eastern european nations formerly in the Soviet block, and the expansion, then retraction of democracy, in a re-emerging Russia, are just a few other examples. The middle-east continues to present enormous challenges. Many have seen the U.S., while still the only global superpower at the moment, as inevitably in decline for many reasons, underlined by the financial crisis which began there. Conversely, it is precisely this crisis, and the overwhelming impact of the U.S on the rest of the globe, which may end up proving the opposite. In many ways, the rest of the world may now be more dependent on the U.S and its actions than ever. We shall see. One of the upsides to the global economic crisis is that everyone is now so connected economically that cooperation and positive change may have a better chance of occurring, deterring bad behavior and encouraging better behavior on numerous fronts, moving toward global solutions. Or global violence and chaos will hit an even higher level than ever before with bigger stakes and greater dangers than ever before, and we’ll hope there’s something left standing at the end.
If we understand that we are one, then we can begin to face the necessary pain of change in order to thrive and survive, and to minimize the unnecessary pain, or at least not inflict the ultimate horror of destroying ourselves. We have come much further in the past few thousand years from countless mini-tribes to where we are today, compared to the next natural step. The critics of globalism, left, right and center, have been correct in many ways, but that won’t stop it, so we better improve it. Or perhaps better put, it’s just another “ism” that’s just a word defining a certain point in a passage that, in a different but universally applicable context, a bard once described as part of that journey we all take in which we eventually arrive back at the place we started, and recognize it for the first time. We will still have sovereign nations and rights, but we will give up some of this sovereignty to guarantee our rights and our survival, having acquired through experience the wisdom to face and accept reality, and to choose something both necessary for our survival and in the interest of the better angels of our nature as well. We believe that with all its faults, America still remains the last best hope to lead the way, and in so doing, preserve the best of its own values while helping the rest of humanity secure these values, aspired to by all humans as “self-evident”—America being a juncture where these values grew and were nurtured as part of the journey to the next step.
A structure built on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights requires some kind of basic democracy in the context of rules between nations, while allowing for the evolution of various forms of democracy within nations, in which basic human rights are respected, basic needs for all are met and individual initiative is reasonably rewarded. It is the balance that nature keeps trying to tell us comprise the rules of the road. No one is being naïve here. It took a civil war and a few other extraordinary hurdles for America to move forward on the promise of its founding principles. There will still be conflict and fights for freedom and dignity and basic needs, both against this global structure we create or further empower out of the reality which requires it, and within it, just as we do within our nations and neighborhoods. Like all big leaps, it’s not as big as it seems. And it seems impossible. But actually, its impossible for it not to happen. We are one.
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