Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
Disclaimer: In accordance with title 17 u.s.c. section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
The Sir! No Sir! Blog has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is the Sir! No Sir! Blog endorsed or sponsored by the originator. Links are provided to allow for verification of authenticity.
Two weeks ago I received an email from Daniel J. Lakemacher, who is applying to be administratively discharged, by the Navy as a Conscientious Objector. To honor, and hopefully draw attention to his refusal I am reprinting his blog posts describing the twists and turns of extracating oneself from the machine. These posts were originally posted to warisimmoral.com
Saturday May 30 (Days 25-28) Unexpected validation
If you're wondering about my count of the days since I filed my request, I accidentally fell behind by one day over the last weekend. This past Thursday and Friday were actually Days 25 & 26, and this weekend is then Days 27 & 28. Monday will resume my regular schedule.
Continuing on timing, I've been told to expect that this process will take months. For example, during my interview by the Chaplain, he made, what seemed to me, a loaded statement that the decision-making process for my request may take so long that I would be at the end of my "contract" anyway. A noteworthy aside is that he failed to mention the three years I would still be forced to spend in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) even after my "active duty". Don't be fooled, anyone who enlists does so for 8 years, whatever portion is not listed as active duty is spent in the the IRR.
In any case, I informed the Chaplain that I was undeterred by the potential time-frames involved, and I stated that I ultimately want to do what I believe is morally right, despite what may seem more pragmatic. I also commented that I already felt emotionally much better having made my decision and taken action. I've related to a number of friends that I've experienced an increased self-acceptance and satisfaction in life since I aligned my beliefs and actions by filing my request; however, I was unaware that others less close to me had also noticed a definitive change.
A couple weeks ago, I paid for Kinko's to make spiral-bound presentation booklets containing the online version of my application and a preface that is a slight modification of my "Reflections on GTMO" blog post. I'm continuing to pass around these folios to a variety of individuals on the Navy base who I think will be interested.
After reading it, one such person asked to speak with me privately. A little background is that she was one of the first people I worked with in the Navy. We met in late 2005 and have intermittently talked when we see each other at the base ever since. In addition to thanking me for sharing my thoughts and beliefs, she said that reading what I wrote finally gave her the information to make sense of what had been going on with me.
Quite surprised, I asked what she meant. She began by telling me that she's always appreciated me as a uniquely nice person and therefore has valued even our casual friendship. She went on to say that because of this, she's perhaps been more perceptive and interested in me that I've given her credit for. Completely intrigued as to where this was going, I urged her to explain.
According to her, she discerned a couple significant shifts in my overall demeanor and mood in the years we've known each other. Upon first meeting, she expressed that she generally knew me as hard-working and happy go-lucky; however, she claimed it was obvious to her that something had changed with me upon my return from GTMO. She stated that she didn't feel that she knew me well enough to appropriately broach the topic, but she said that, in my eyes in particular, she could see something was deeply bothering me. Then "a couple of months ago", she noticed another change. This she described by saying it looked as if I'd finally found peace about whatever it was that had been troubling me. By my sharing my request and some of my other written thoughts, she felt emboldened to talk with me about it. She concluded by saying that although a belief in God works for her, she was sincerely happy for me, and she was glad to have finally made sense of what it was that had been going on with me over the past 18 months.
I was awestruck by her insight, as well as her acceptance. Nevertheless, the conversation was still not complete, as she continued it by expressing that she would like to speak on my behalf, not about what it was that I believed, but about how she's known me as long as anyone in the Navy has, and she's convinced that I have authentically changed. My wonderment turned to gratitude, and I thanked her profusely for everything from talking to me to her willingness to be a witness at my sometime-coming "informal hearing".
Although my ultimate hope is that by making my conscientious objection as public as possible I will inspire others to do the same, I can think of no better secondary achievement than that which took place in the above conversation.
Thursday May 28 (Day 24) Ordered not to die ... at least by suicide.
Yesterday I overheard a radio news commentator mention that the Ft. Campbell, KY army base has had 11 suicides since the first of the year. This alarming loss of life by suicide caused me to look for further information, and I was literally shocked to discover that the senior commander of the base, Brigadier General Stephen J. Townsend, held a "Suicide Stand-Down" (a mandatory training that effectively halts regular operations of a base) from which CNN quoted him as follows:
"If you don't remember anything else I say in the next five or 10 minutes, remember this -- suicidal behavior in the 101st on Fort Campbell is bad," Brig. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend told his forces. "It's bad for soldiers, it's bad for families, bad for your units, bad for this division and our army and our country and it's got to stop now. Suicides on Fort Campbell have to stop now."
"Don't let yourself, your buddies or your families down," he said, ending his comments by repeating, "This has got to stop, soldiers. It's got to stop now. Have a great week."
I ask you to consider his words in light of the fact that he is likely the highest ranking person who will ever be physically seen by the masses of people who were mandated to listen to him that day. In other words, within the strictly authoritarian hierarchy that is the military Chain of Command, he is the top level of what is actually visible to the vast majority of those below him. Secondly, bear in mind this one quote from the book Suicide Science, in which the chapter title Shame, Guilt, and Suicide alone is telling:
"Theory and emerging empirical research indicates that feelings of shame are more prominent than guilt in the dynamics leading up to suicidal thoughts and behaviors."
Although CNN interviewed a few mental health experts about how such "guidance" may have been ineffective, I'm more interested to hear what message you think was received by the soldiers if they did exactly as their General ordered. What might they be thinking and feeling if, in the wake of the 11 suicides that prompted the special meeting, they remembered only that their General said, as regards suicide:
"It's bad for soldiers, it's bad for families, bad for your units, bad for this division and our army and our country . . ."
Furthermore, what effect might it have had on the soldier who was earnestly struggling with thoughts of suicide, perhaps as an effect of the extreme cognitive dissonance required of any individual tasked with killing others for the sake of promoting peace, justice, and liberty?
Wednesday May 27 (Day 23) Sir! No Sir!
Although I still have no updates to offer regarding the progress of my conscientious objection, I'm encouraged by the new and different people I hear from almost daily as a result of this website. One of the more exciting contacts I've made is a gentleman who was discharged as a conscientious objector in 2001. I've exchanged emails with him about how the process went and also how he's been doing post-Navy.
Another individual, previously unknown to me, recently emailed an offer to help me find a job upon discharge, and in addition he directed me to the website where I discovered the documentary film Sir! No Sir!. For the more savvy film critics out there, be aware that this isn't a cheesy low-budget propaganda piece, but an award-winning movie that received two thumbs up from Ebert & Roeper.
A quote from the ... 2-minute trailer resonated deeply with my own sentiments about both the current wars of the U.S. military and all war in general:
"We truly believed what would stop that war was when the soldiers stopped fighting it."
Likewise, I truly believe that most of the individuals killing each other on either side of any war are not doing so because they actually want to or even because they think that it's right. Sadly they're risking their own lives and terminating the lives of others primarily out of a combination of extreme fear and programmed obedience.
The key then is to no longer allow government-sanctioned murder to masquerade as a matter of honor, duty, and sacrifice. Instead it is right to empower the individuals working for the military to recognize that they have the ability and the moral justification to stop fighting, regardless of what they may be "ordered" to do.
Tuesday, May 26 (Day 22) *Updated* Further Replies to "Obedience as Virtue
Noah Marsh also choose to address a specific remark of Jay's, and I wanted to offer his additional perspective to further the discussion. I sincerely hope to hear back from Jay, but in the interim I will seek to address other issues.
If reading the above sentences leaves you perplexed as to what discussion I'm referencing, please start by reading Day 19 - Obedience as Virtue. If you then progress through each subsequent day to this most recent update, it will hopefully all make sense. If you're immediately reticent to go backwards because it will involve more reading, fear not, there are only two additional posts between where I have directed you and the present. Noah Marsh
In his third paragraph, Jay Jones questions Dan's analogy of beating a child, i.e. spanking, by claiming, "It really doesn't hold water." First, I must say that analogies are never perfect. People select analogies on the basis of a dominant feature of correspondence important for the immediate point the author is making. Of course the analogy will not correlate perfectly in every aspect. With that in mind I still do not agree with Mr. Jones' claim, "It really doesn't hold water."
Secondly, the justification for Mr. Jones' critique misses an important point of Dan's analogy. While there are instances in which a parent does tell a child not to do something for his or her own safety, e.g. not to touch a hot stove, the majority of the directives that parents issue to their children have no impact on a child's welfare - safety. For instance, almost every parent that I know has told their child not to color on the walls. When a child violates that edict, punishment ensues, often by "spanking." Why must a child not color on the walls? I may be wrong on this, so please correct me if I am, but Mr. Jones would say, "[Because,] no shit [the parent] knows better than the non-obedient child." What does the parent know better than the non-obedient child? Why does that knowledge mean the child should not color on the walls? Often times I believe parents' demand obedience from their children to avoid their own embarrassment (I have seen many parent-child interactions on public transit that demonstrate this). What is the difference from learning not to touch a hot stove by burning one's self and by beating? The latter attaches the pain to disobedience while the former attaches pain to the harmful act. I believe Dan's analogy was chosen intentionally (correct me if I am wrong on this as well), specifically for this reason. Dan's analogy hold's more water than Mr. Jones allows for.
POSTED BY DANIEL J. LAKEMACHER AT 7:16 PM
Those you might deem as taking a bad tact towards parenting (those that punish out of resentment) aside. What possible lesson could a parent be trying to impart by forbidding a crayon graffito? (Assuming that any parent may want to actually teach as opposed to simply guard and provide) Simple respect for personal property, not destroying what's not yours. A simple precept and in this case that respect can very well lead to that child growing up more the individual.
Now as for the whole hot stove/"beating" analogy: You can punish children after the fact because they can associate the two. While it is true that you're not supposed to punish a dog after the fact due to their inability connect the punishment and the action. However, at a young age, humans are of a high enough cognitive function that they can associate a response to the action after the fact. Children aren't Chihuahuas.
It seems that the underlying motive stems from an aversion to spanking. Would you be ok with punishing said crayola kid in some other means? Or of you the type that would do nothing but scrub the walls? Spanking and other forms of corporal punishment can be done without it stepping over the line of “beating”. I'm not going to get into parenting, its another topic. However, whatever your take on parenting, simply protecting your child is doing them a disservice. Dan's analogy asks the question: "Think for yourself; did your very first lesson involve learning that disobedience would result in physical pain?" There are a couple of flaws in the question. First, it assumes that the first lesson is the one you remember as the first. Perhaps your parents tried many different ways to get to you not steal/wreck others stuff/run in the streets and they just didn't take. Second, since humans cannot remember pain, (if you could your leg would hurt when you thought of spraining your ankle) unless you have lasting mental trauma the effects of spanking today is paled by whatever lesson you learned. Once again, I'm not going to get into what lessons a parent might impart.
Now, the question comes to a head when you try to extrapolate that out to obedience in adults. Personally, I disagree with the amount and reach of our laws and gov't. Laws should be almost exclusively about protection and safety.
As far as Dan's admitted violation of other's liberty goes. I don't know exactly what he's referencing or what gains were made (or what the cost was). And I don't inherently worry about violating people’s liberty. Especially if those people were incarcerated in GITMO. Do I think that there might be some innocent people or those that really don’t pose a threat? Absolutely. Are there innocents in the US penal system? We all know there is. Is that reason to release them all? No. However both the current and previous administration simply can’t find other countries to take them.
"Enhanced Interrogation" works, sometimes simple incarceration works. Hell, sometimes torture works, as Sen. McCain admitted to during his GOP acceptance speech. I'm not advocating torture, it’s iffy at best. People tell you what they think you want them to say. Nor am I asserting that the US tortures: Water boarding is not torture; we do it to our own. I’ve been in worse situations and I’ve done it to good friends, with whiskey, forcing them not to spill any. That is far worse and it’s really not that bad.
MAY 30, 2009 12:17 PM
I believe Mr. Jones' critique regarding the "crayon grafitito" analogy I provided earlier flawed, but I will limit my conversation to the lengthier and,I interpret, more important of his responses. I must first say I found the comparison of a child to a Chihuahua very timely as my wife and I have begun the process of buying a dog, which includes reading about training methods. I appreciated the irony. The rest of Mr. Jones' post I found inciteful and not as apt to insightful conversation.
I must admit I was shocked by Mr. Jones' assertion that a child ought to be punished after having burned himself or herself on the stove, "You can punish children after the fact because they can associate the two...at a young age, humans are at a high enough cognitive function that they can associate a response to the action after the fact." I did not have punishment after the fact in mind when I originally asked, "What is the difference from learning not to touch a hot stove by burning one's self and by beating?" I imagined a parent telling a child not to touch a hot stove and then as the child reaches towards it, the parent swats the child's hand away and then punishes the child in some way (I will address forms of punishment briefly below.) The action is not touching the stove, the action for which the child is punished is for attempting to disobey the parent's command. Mr. Jones is correct, a child can associate response with action. Unfortunately, punishments connect response to disobedience and not the item or practice to be avoided. It is this protecting of the child that does them a great disservice (see Mr. Jones' post just beyond the middle of the second paragraph).
Why must the child be punished? Mr. Jones implies people punish a person in order to teach them a lesson. (This is not true in all cases, but I agree this is the most common function of punishment within a parent-child relationship and therefore will respond accordingly.) The child has learned not to repeat that same action via the burn. The child learns the lesson prior to any inflicted punishment (corporal or not). What added benefit is there then in the punishment? A child, without what Mr. Jones' calls trauma resulting, can learn his or her lesson without the punishment therefore punishment is not necessitated. This is what I hoped to emphasize. If Mr. Jones, or anyone else, can produce a situation in which a lesson can only be taught through punishment, I will concede that punishment is useful in some instances.
Regarding the usefulness of punishment Mr. Jones' claimed, "It seems that [sic] the underlying motive [for stems from an aversion to spanking." The child has done nothing wrong by coloring on the walls and therefore does not need to be punished in any form (e.g., timeout, grounding, spanking, etc.). The problem with punishment is not the corporal aspect. What is the purpose of punishment? I attempted to get at this in my earlier response and in this response as well. The reason I want to focus on this that Dan's post asks this very question (in not this way). Dan seems to operate from the assumption that the purpose of punishment is to reinforce obedience, nothing more and nothing less.
If you (anyone) can only respond to or think about one thing from this post I ask you to try and answer the question:
"What is the purpose of punishment and what are the best examples of punishment fulfilling this purpose?"
Tuesday, May 26 (Day 22) Further Replies to "Obedience As Virtue?"
The current discussion began as a result of my May 22nd post, available here, that critically questioned whether or not obedience should be valued as a virtue. It continued in the response of Jay Jones, who I will summarize as advocating that "to harangue obedience itself is a flawed argument," because "at some level, whether as a child to a parent, a lawbreaker to a police officer or a soldier to a superior, obedience is required." Jay also expressed that "To fret over “violating others liberty in order to obey someone else’s authority,” like I have done, "can be foolhardy". I encourage you to read Jay's thoughts in their full context here, and add to the discussion based on any of the comments or my original post.
Today's post comes as a result of two different replies to what Jay wrote. The first, from Matt Lakemacher, is written from the perspective of one who believes in God and states that, "Obedience has its place in a civilized society, absolutely, but sometimes the noblest thing that one can do is to be disobedient." Secondly, and in contrast to both Jay and Matt, Wes Bertrand wrote from the perspective that, "Obedience can't be a virtue for a volitional, conceptual organism, although religion and statism have always contended otherwise."
From this point forward I wish to let each party speak for themselves, and I hope that in reading this, you too, will be transformed from reader to active participant in this critically important discussion.
I do believe in a God, and yes at some point subservience is, as you say "logical." The hornet's nest of issues I have with religion and our culture, crystallized in the hymn "Trust and Obey" that I ironically quoted from, is when that subservience is blind, unthinking, and uncritical. It is this elevation of faith and obedience to the level of highest virtue that can lead to the mass murder of Jews just as easily as it can lead men to fly jet planes into skyscrapers (all in the name of religion). Obedience has its place in a civilized society, absolutely, but sometimes the noblest thing that one can do is to be disobedient. Understanding the difference between the authority of God and the authority of man's flawed attempts to understand Him is also critical. Lastly, my comment has everything to do with the previous post, as "sheep-like" following of authority has been a hallmark of organized religion since its inception, and is just as problematic as in cases where the authority in question is the government (or where it's impossible to tell the difference between the two).
Obedience can't be a virtue for a volitional, conceptual organism, although religion and statism have always contended otherwise. Ask yourself why.
Ask yourself why one human being should obey another human being. We're not talking about doing some practical task for another who is unable or who has other things to do (as in the workplace). Obedience in the present context is synonymous with compliance, submissiveness, acquiescence, passivity, docility, deference, subservience, servility, subjection--in essence, one will bending to another's will.
Jay Jones apparently believes in the master/slave relationship as a way of psychological life, even though the result is psychological death. Most of the statements above seem to indicate that irresponsibility is something to aspire to, that irresponsibility should be considered a hallmark of good behavior. Well, you reap what you sow--children who fear authority won't think for themselves, will lack creativity and passion, and grow up to be masters of still more young slaves. But a leash is just a rope with a collar at both ends, you see.
To use concepts without understanding the nature of concepts spells intellectual--and thus moral--bankruptcy. It also spells the inability to grasp objective reality on one's own terms. Francis Bacon certainly got one thing right: "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." Notice that he didn't say "Humans, to be commanded, must be obeyed," for such a remark would have wreaked of illogic.
Unfortunately, due to the illogic of our present culture, most human beings, especially those who favor a second-hander's code of morality (master/slave relationships), are practically devoid of genuine self-esteem. To use reason in an independent fashion would require them to consider themselves worthy of the task, for no man who has worked on his self-confidence and self-respect would consider obedience a virtue.
Self-sacrifice reveals mind-sacrifice.
Rational animals would be wise to heed the words of philosopher Ayn Rand (via John Galt): "Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not omniscient, but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience—that your mind is fallible, but becoming mindless will not make you infallible—that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error. In place of your dream of an omniscient automaton, accept the fact that any knowledge man acquires is acquired by his own will and effort, and that that is his distinction in the universe, that is his nature, his morality, his glory."
In other words, swear by your life and your love of it that you will not live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for yours. Only then will you begin to understand what living as a rational animal entails--and that within each child resides the future of humanity (as Maria Montessori eloquently noted).
Self-responsibility and its Effects on Obedience and Aggression http://www.logicallearning.net/obedience.html
*Please be aware that while I highly value comments, they are moderated to ensure that this doesn't become a forum for personal attacks. If your comment doesn't post, please don't hesitate to email me
Sunday, May 24 (Days 20-21) One Answer to Obedience as virtue?
I would like to thank Jay Jones for making the second set of comments to the "Obedience as Virtue?" post. His remarks will serve as today's content, and I hope that they will stir further discussion of this question. I will be busy fulfilling the orders of the Navy to work today, and it will therefore probably be a few days before I can respond myself. In the meantime, please feel free to add comments to either myself or Jay, and I may even add your writing as a post. Without further adieu, Jay Jones:
"Ok, as for "Anonymous’" post. If you believe in a God, then subservience at some level is just damn logical. If not, well then there's a whole hornet's nest of issues you have with religion and, well, our culture. Yet none of them have much to do with this post.
But for Dan, I know that you've done more than enough thinking through of what you're doing. However, in arguing the merits or detriments of obedience, you overlook a couple simple truths. One, the vast majority of people are sheep, not those that would naturally lead. You’re in the Navy, you’ve seen this. People can be trained to lead, but most don’t naturally.
As for the whole corporal punishment analogy, it really doesn’t hold water. If your 5 year old does whatever it is that parents of 5 year olds don’t want them to do: Is it really worthwhile to try to confer with him on the level of self-actualization? No, you have to go down to his level to make sure he understands where you are coming from. I think it’s somewhat ironic that you juxtapose the relationship of a parent who really, by all accounts, no shit knows better than the non-obedient child. Honestly, what it seems you’re espousing is anarchy at the kindergarten level.
The same holds true with interrogation. You can start at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy and work your way down. The best interrogators may be able to function in the top few levels. However, when it comes down to it, EVERYONE will respond to the lower two (safety, physiological). The question of the day falls into two parts: Where is the line where our society deems some practices, when put into common use, unethical. And, when and in what cases, are said practices allowed given the situation is considered dire?
But to harangue obedience itself is a flawed argument. As much as I think I could last and fare well in an anarchistic “society”. It’s not what I would prefer. So at some level, whether as a child to a parent, a lawbreaker to a police officer or a soldier to a superior, obedience is required. To fret over “violating others liberty in order to obey someone else’s authority” (not an exact quote, changed for tense) can be foolhardy. It is perfectly acceptable, in our society, to without trial indefinitely detain those who would be a harassment to the public. Don’t believe me? Go look at your local loony bin. There you will find dozens of people, never even accused of any crime, held against their will.
As for Milgram, people are sheep.
To be continued….
Tried to post before under a name, but I think anonymous is working. But my name's Jay Jones."
This article, by Benjamin Lewis, was posted to Alternet, May 14, 2009
In October 2008 I announced at a Winter Soldier hearing in Portland, Oregon that I was being considered for involuntary activation back into the Marine Corps for a third tour of duty as an infantry mortar man; the day after this announcement I reported to Mobilization Command in Missouri as ordered. I reported with the intention of exercising civil disobedience in order to make a political point by refusing activation. The Marine Corps selected me for activation and since that time I have been publicly refusing service. My scheduled report date was May 18, 2009.
On April 16, 2009, I was contacted through Mobilization Command and told that the military no longer needed all the personnel being recalled in my group. The Marine Corps gave me the option to pursue orders and I declined. It is possible that my orders were canceled in order to remove me and other potentially vocal war resisters from the public eye. Certainly more drastic cases of government intervention to silence dissent have been a part of U.S. history. However, it is more likely that the Marine Corps actually did decide it no longer needed my group of reservists in light of rising retention rates, an ominous sign for our society as we continue to engage in warfare around the world.
Regardless of the cause, I no longer face involuntary activation orders.
My resistance was a conscious decision to cease participation in any way the continued maintenance and creation of empire through military intervention and global abuses of economic tyranny. That is I resisted on ideological grounds. I think that in order for institutions to change their behavior it is often necessary to work outside the framework of those institutions. I did this in one way simply by no longer recognizing the military’s sovereignty over my person and also by speaking out and educating citizens about the practices of their military.
Resistance takes many forms and functions: from active civil disobediences to the reservists who quietly ignore their activation orders and continue on with their lives. When a person is attempting to overthrow injustice or to increase human understanding even the smallest forms of resistance, such as suspending judgment amidst the whims of mass culture, become ripples in the water to be proud of. Though we can acknowledge that in America we have made great strides to improve human capabilities and bring about societal change for the better, we still have far to travel. Not as a country, but as a people. I will continue the work of supporting and organizing for GI Resistance that I started and continue to pursue the goal of peaceful justice. This is an important struggle that affects all society and it is far from over.
It has become clear that the institutionalized militarism within the U.S. has now had an immeasurable impact on us and the world. The fallout of this impact is still being assessed. Certainly anti-U.S. sentiment has increased drastically in the world in response to a militaristic U.S. foreign policy and debilitating foreign investment practices. Predictably, the more the U.S. flexes its military and economic muscles, the more enemies are made. And, clearly, if we are to address the growing violence around the world we must begin investigating some of the inherent unintended consequences of capitalism.
It is crucial that we acknowledge how dependent our society has become on militarism. The current global economic crisis is a compelling example. Trillions of dollars have been invested into the military, money that could have been invested back into our society in countless ways to stave off our current crises and assist students with education, create environmentally sustainable markets, alleviate world hunger, create jobs of value for communities, and preserve natural habitats, to name a few.
Recently the Bush doctrine and its many policies that are being adopted by the Obama administration have reinforced the trend or using our military to contend with our foreign relations; we seem unable to behave responsibly as the world’s leading power. It is likely that these trends will continue from president to president unless we change the nature of the presidency itself.
We have seen another generation of veterans come home damaged by their experiences, and the human consequence abroad has been far more severe. Our emphasis on institutionalized militarism as an integral part of our economy, with the military and military related projects amassing more monetarily and materially than the rest of the world combined, is quickly bringing us and the globe to the brink of our own demise; not only financially, but also environmentally.
Further, our very culture is at stake. More and more we become detached from the events and people around us as we fall victim to the mass culture that is largely encouraged by Western corporate and other financial interests. As we busily keep up with popular culture and satiate our habits of fashionable consumption, we see how our true interests are being ignored. Unemployment is rising, the banks once again have gambled with our futures and won, retirement is slipping away, health insurance is simply unattainable to most given the cost of rent and food. Regardless of the assurances from our government we nevertheless see that it is becoming harder to get a college degree, pay for healthy food, stay out of debt and so on. If this path continues, the future looks bleak even in the wealthiest country on the planet.
In order to pull ourselves out of this mess we must first acknowledge it. As a society we must take responsibility for our actions, intentional or unintentional. Only when we acknowledge our mistakes can we freely educate ourselves on issues and talk about the world in meaningful ways with the bridge of understanding. That is the path to peaceful and synergistic human relations. It can no longer be denied that America was formed and molded through the displacement of hundreds of advanced societies that had formerly held sovereignty over the continent. We still have not accepted responsibility for that, much less current world turmoil. A familiar example is the C.I.A.’s involvement in training the mujahidin we are now combating in Afghanistan, another piece of evidence showing us how we helped to create the global war on terror.
The events of 9/11 were horrible beyond doubt, but the amount of horror that has transpired since then has been worse still. And, like many other acts of violence, could have been prevented. The U.S. has been the single biggest perpetrator of terrorism in the world in recent decades through a variety of tactics. These tactics include economic sanctions, biased aid, imposed free trade agreements, self-exclusion, direct military intervention, support of brutal dictators among others; all this in the name of protecting vital U.S. interests. U.S. interests usually translate into the interests of those who would profit and acquire power, and that is very rarely the average American.
I have advocated throughout my campaign that it is necessary for our society’s preservation to begin questioning our inherent militarism. The achievement of the largest military force in history seems hardly something to be proud of in light of the thousands that die everyday of easily treated maladies and starvation. I have also been active in encouraging other service members facing reactivation to consider their options instead of operating in fear of potential consequences from the military. It is up to us as Americans to ensure the rights of these service members who have been asked more of than anyone should ever give.
The GI resistance movements against the Vietnam and Iraq wars have been incredibly successful in educating the public about the realities of war, and it is likely that active GI resistance to the Afghanistan war will continue to grow and strengthen. We must support these individuals in their struggles. Whereas in the past monarchs and warlords oppressed the majority of people on this planet through absolute control, today oppression is channeled through economic means. Since economic oppression is a much larger, more complex and less tangible means of oppression, it has been difficult for many to see. By now most realize that their opportunities depend largely on their economic station in life.
We have reached an ironic conclusion in our reasoning -- that to participate in what is considered honorable military service to ones country is to actually work against our own interests and the interests of all human society; ironically, those that oppress keep themselves in bondage as well. We must not ask what we can do for our country, but what our country can do for us. A country is, after all, only a tool, an institution set up by the people, for the people, to help them achieve their potential.
It is true that governments can be a great tool for a population to organize, but what governments cannot do is to ensure our individual freedoms. That is the responsibility of society itself. Only through a well developed collective consciousness can these big and difficult issues begin to be discussed and comprehended. Freedom is not something given or ensured by a military, that is a delusion; freedom is something we all have inherently. When we realize and accept this responsibility only then will we be able to claim our true freedom.
We are much more dependent on our neighbors than most Americans like to admit, most believe instead on the notion of ‘pulling one’s self up by one’s own bootstraps.’ Yet surely most do not make their own cloths or build their own appliances, much less grow their own food. And, with joblessness soaring all over, it has become more difficult to attain the bootstraps necessary to begin with. Our lives are restricted by the amount of money we have. Whether it is college or food, money is increasingly the primary determinant of being able to fulfill our potential as people. Whether or not this is the best system of economy to use we do know that there is enough money, technology and resources on this planet to increase everybody’s quality of life substantially and that our current system limits that ability.
The truth is humans in modern civilization are an incredibly inter-reliant species. One path to a more vibrant human future is to generate commerce within our own communities rather than use an intermediary like Wells-Fargo or Safeway we could invest in local Credit Unions or Co-Ops. Through this simple act we can make sure that economic power stays within our communities instead of being invested by others for their own interests and deter possibly immoral usages of the products of our hard work. Even if items are more expensive the local emphasis will allow for employers to pay more. If we look at money as a source of power to be used for good or for evil it makes as little sense to support Wal-Mart which siphons off our local resources to a unknown place and leaves our communities in foreclosure, as it does to support the military complex which impacts us much more fundamentally.
The U.S. is the largest economic force in history, and more than half of its treasure is tied up in the military. Surely it is transparent that one leg cannot move without the other. If we hope to change our path without constant war, class war as well as physical combat, it is up to the people to stop participating in a system that we know is bankrupt and to crawl out of the framework that was constructed for us. It is time to make a new society, our own society, a society bent on the betterment of humanity instead of the oppression of the many for the privilege of a few, and that is the greatest and noblest task of our generation, and of every generation.