Thursday, August 28, 2014

Solving Intractable Problems

President Eisenhower warned us about the Military Industrial Complex (his term), but neither he nor any of his predecessors did anything to solve this problem.  Even after more than six decades of unnecessary and tragic wars, the political risk of shutting down the Pentagon has been too high for more than a few brave politicians to discuss. Those brave few have been effectively eliminated. At least since the fall of the USSR, a primary objective of US foreign policy has been to generate enough enemies to justify obscene military budgets. The emperor is parading through the streets naked, and all the children are pointing it out, but the tailors have not yet been called to task. The peace movement desperately tries to revive efforts that have repeatedly failed.

Perhaps it is time to try a new tack. You see, while the military has been creating nails to use its hammer on, a genuine threat has reared its head. If people, especially those in the USA, don't reign in our rapid use of fossil fuels, this planet may become uninhabitable for our progeny. This threat makes the WWII Axis powers and every other enemy since, combined, look puny. We're talking about the survival of the human species, and several others. It is too late to prevent serious consequences, but it's never too late to do anything we can.

So here is the plan. The Congress and POTUS must instruct the Pentagon to forget about blowing things up and killing people. Granted, that is all that militaries have ever focused upon, but it is an obsolete approach at problem solving that never really worked. Nobody is going to attack us if we do the right thing. Forget about that and let's get busy solving the real problem. Raise the debt ceiling and borrow as much as you need to save humanity from itself. We've got to quickly build the infrastructure of extreme conservation.

Envision a high speed train down the center of every Interstate Highway, powered by sun, wind, and tide. Local committees could plan to meet genuine local needs by sustainable use of local resources. Civil defense programs could teach patriots to get around by walking and bicycling, grow and share food in victory gardens, and give birth to fewer babies, but take better care of those already born. The military knows how to apply resources to emergent problems without wasting time. We don't have time left. We've got to move with all expediency toward a survivable planet.

Do you agree this is a great plan? Perhaps, like me, you've noticed that the Congress and POTUS aren't leaping to do the will of the people. It seems the ship of state is flying on autopilot into a wall. Having played the role of citizen lobbyist for five decades now, I can't muster much hope for the US government to suddenly do the right thing. It's as difficult to imagine government breaking the thrall of big capital as it is to imagine capitalists growing consciences. I guess the only sensible thing is to find an armchair from which to view Armageddon.

Not ready to lay down and die? Perhaps there is a sliver of hope. Since much of the change must happen at the local level, maybe our communities can begin to do the right thing without waiting for the feds, or even state government to catch on. What would happen if everybody who disagrees with the federal budget refused taxes and gave the money instead to deserving but underfunded programs? What if we refused to work for, invest in, or buy from corporations that exploit?

Each of us can learn to grow our own food, pedal our own bike, and care for our neighbors. Any one can speak truth as we see it and live as an example to all. All I really can control is my own behavior. That's challenge enough.

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