Global corporations and international government alliances are pushing war, environmental destruction, economic exploitation, defunding of schools and housing, hateful divisive ideologies, and reductions in rights and liberties as a package wrapped in shiny foil, tied with a bow, and advertised in hundreds of different advertising media.
. . . and in this corner we have local and national organizations, segregated by race and other demographics, raising pitiable sums to fund nonprofit work, each to work against one or another particular item out of the package. Occasionally a movement will propose to take on two or three items at once but be shouted down with cries of “WHAT IS YOUR ONE DEMAND!?”
In my view, not only was Thomas Jefferson right to list all of King George’s wrongs, not only was Martin Luther King Jr. right to propose taking on militarism, racism, and extreme materialism all together, but the way to an effective movement — not just a larger movement, but a coherent movement with a vision for a better future — is to go multi-issue, big-tent, cross-border, and otherwise “intersectional.”
We’re facing environmental disaster. It might be mitigated by a massive investment in clean energy. The only possible source of the kind of money needed is in the institution that is currently doing the most environmental damage — so, taking its funding away serves a double purpose. I’m talking, of course, about the military, to which Trump’s budget would give over 60% of discretionary spending. For what? For “stealing their oil” and “killing their families.” Once you start opposing killing families, the remaining purpose for the military stands out as rather anti-environmental.
But that 60% of discretionary spending is also why the quality of life, life expectancy, health, and happiness of people in the United States doesn’t match up with its level of wealth. You’ve heard all about the wealth hoarded by the billionaires. It’s a drop in the bucket. Throwing the military $700 billion a year, year after year, explains not having free college, free clean energy, free fast trains, beautiful parks, wonderful arts, a basic income guarantee, and why the U.S. isn’t leading the world in actual foreign aid rather then begrudging it a stingy token. I don’t mean that we could choose one of these other things instead of military spending. I mean that we could choose all of them. I’d gladly give Donald Trump the leftover billions too just to shut up. Who cares? The world would be a wonderful place.
I usually don’t include healthcare in the list of things we could fund because we’re already over-funding it. We’re just funding a corrupt system of private insurance companies that wastes a lot of it. This corrupt system is the result of a corrupt system of government defended by increasingly militarized police cracking down on the use of the First Amendment. Failing to connect these issues leaves us fumbling in the dark. Refugees from U.S. wars are blamed for their suffering and then used as justification for more wars.
The wars are fueled by racism and in turn fuel greater racism and bigotry, which does its damage within the United States and at the locations of its wars and its bases around the world. Part of the bigotry fueled by war for centuries is sexism. Part of what keeps the wars going is perverse machismo. We should trace the roots of these fears, as many of those roots can be found in military spending to just the same extent that the lack of funds for teachers can.
Yet we try to address the erosion of civil liberties as though it stands alone. What would be the justification for spying on everyone, for example, if there were no enemies? It sounds fantastic, I suppose, but numerous nations that are not at war do not have enemies. The United States should try it sometime, if only for the novelty.
There is another serious result of putting our resources into wars, though, and that is the generation of so many enemies, so much hatred, such widespread hostility and resentment. There is, of course, a way to overcome the fear of terrorism, and that is to stop engaging in the terrorism that produces blowback.
There is no divide between foreign and domestic. There is no pro-war environmentalism, or crony capitalist human rights work, or racist peacemaking. If the absence of The One Single Demand troubles someone, give them the single demand that they go read a book.