July 4th celebrates one of history’s great documents, the Declaration of Independence that was adopted in 1776. This Declaration has been an inspiration not only for this nation, but also for governments and people around the world. Today, however, at home there is serious erosion of the Declaration’s basic principles that must be corrected. It begins with the task of regaining our democracy from the emerging plutocracy that rules our country today through a massive concentration of national wealth in the hands of a small minority. In 2004 the congressional budget office reported the income gap in the United States was the worst since just before the Great Depression. The top one percent of households has nearly 40 percent of the wealth. The top five percent have over 50 percent of the total wealth, and the top 20 percent have over 80 percent of the wealth.
The CEOs of major corporations lead the greed parade. Business Week reports the average salary for the CEOs was 42 times the average worker’s salary in 1980. By 1990 it increased to 85 times, and by 2000 it reached over 500 times the average worker’s salary. Next in line are the ludicrous salaries and compensation paid to entertainers and athletes that makes a mockery of our social values and the worth of work.
Another area that needs immediate change is the corrupt and anti-democratic election process where the candidates that collect the most money usually win and many owe their votes not to the people, but the rich and corporate donors. Consider this shocking statement by Senator Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) that fundraising for all senators “distracts us from the people’s business…It corrupts and degrades the entire political process…Fundraisers used to be arranged so they didn’t conflict with the Senate schedule; nowadays, the Senate schedule is regularly shifted to accommodate fundraisers.”
It’s also evident that democracy cannot function when the media, which should operate for the benefit of the people, is owned and run by a handful of corporations. This guarantees the suppression of ideas, cleverly accomplished by the corporate-run media simply ignoring people with progressive ideas, keeping them off the airwaves, and thus restricting their exposure to the public. One of the country’s most respected journalists, Bill Moyers, had this to say about freedom of the press:
“If you think there is freedom of the press in the United States, I tell you there is no freedom of the press.They comes out with the cheap shot. The press should be ashamed of itself. They should come to both sides of the issue and hear both sides and let the American people make up their minds.”
On the world level in this first decade of the 21st century we need an additional document, a Global Declaration of Interdependence that sets the framework to free humanity from the apocalyptic terror of the 27,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled worldwide, and from the lunatics who want to build additional ones. Another imperative is to free humanity from the atrocity of modern warfare that civilization cannot long endure, and from the war business that for profit has saturated the globe with weapons. It is criminal that the world total for military spending exceeds one trillion dollars annually; with the United States accounting for nearly have of this total. The U.S. spends more on the military than the next 42 countries combined.
A very dangerous policy that is underway, but must be stopped before it is too late is the militarization of space. The agency in charge of weapons in space is the U.S. Space Command, created during the Reagan Administration. The Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Space Command, General Joseph Ashy, made the purpose of the Space Command perfectly clear:
"It’s politically sensitive, but it’s going to happen. Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue, but—absolutely—we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space, and we’re going to fight into space. That’s why the U.S. has development programs in directed energy and hit-to-kill mechanisms. We will engage terrestrial targets someday—ships, airplanes, land targets—from space." (Aviation Week and Space Technology, August 9, 1996)
Keith Hall, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space, stated in a speech to the National Space Club: “With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it, and we’re going to keep it. Space is in the nation’s economic interest.”
Another imperative is to end the corporate domination that is rapidly turning the planet into a giant marketplace where the only thing that counts, including our culture, is what sells. And for half of humanity the most needed and immediate freedom is from poverty, hunger, and disease. The statistics collected by the United Nations are truly staggering:
*Number of people living in poverty on roughly $2 a day: 2.7 billion *Number of people living in abject poverty existing on less than $1 a day: 1.2 billion so poor they live in garbage dumps and shantytowns, virtually without hope. Not surprisingly, 70 percent of the world’s poor are the most defenseless: women children. *Number of people who die every day from hunger: 24,000 *Number of children under five who die every day from preventable causes: 30,000 *2.4 billion people live without decent sanitation, and 4 billion are without wastewater disposal.
To achieve the changes and the goals that we need is truly revolutionary, however this revolution is not to be fought with violence, guns and missiles, but with ideas, education, and an iron will commitment to work together as Global Citizens to overcome our divisions, leave beyond the violence of the past, and move forward to create a better world with lasting peace and a new civilization. This will require global governance capable of settling disputes between nations and peoples, and dealing with terrorism, through the framework of international law. Then, as the visionary Arthur C. Clarke would contend, the long childhood of our species will finally end.