ARTICLE FROM BOB BOWMAN’S WEB SITE

1998-06-06

Carolyn Ballard


How Can We Make A Difference?

An address given by Most Rev. Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF (retired) to 
the World Federalist Association and the National Campaign for UN Reform, at 
Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, IL, May 17, 1997

(This article appeared in S&SN Vol XIV No 2, August 1997)

 

I have been asked to address the question, "How can we make a difference?" Well,
I have a question of my own: a difference in what? What's our goal, our 
objective?

Most here might answer, "We want world government." Oh, the words might vary. 
Some of you might say you want a stronger UN. Others might say they want a new 
federation of states. But it amounts to the same thing. We want world 
government, of one sort or another.

Why? What is it we want world government to do? A decade or so ago, the answer 
to that was clear: "We need world government to take security out of the hands 
of nation-states and prevent nuclear war." But that's been done now, by the 
United States. For better or for worse, the U.S. military rules the world. 
Sometimes it uses NATO; sometimes the UN. Sometimes it acts alone. The decision 
is made by American military and political leaders, and by their bosses in the 
oligarchy. One way or another, global security is now a U.S. function, and 
there's practically no chance of a nuclear war. (Nuclear terrorism, yes; but 
war, no.)

So now what do we want world government to do?

And it's not to bring order out of chaos. That's been done too. There is a New 
World Order. It has been developing for a century. Gunboat diplomacy on behalf 
of the United Fruit Company; Teddy's "big stick"; George's war against Iraq; 
Bretton Woods; G7. Now it has matured with a legal framework in NAFTA, GATT, and
the World Trade Organization (WTO).

We have our wish. Nation-states have surrendered their sovereignty to global 
institutions (whether Jesse Helms likes it or not). These bodies coordinate the 
economic, political, and military actions of nations into a coherent policy, and
they negate national laws which conflict with their overall goals - centralizing
power and maximizing profits. These institutions are multinational corporations 
and banks and their surrogates, the World Bank, the IMF, the G7, and the WTO. 
They are more powerful than any national government.

Like it or not, we have a New World Order.

So what do we want a world government to do? This is a critical question. If you
don't know why you need world government, then you can't know what kind of 
institution you need - or whether you need one at all.

Let me give you my answer. We need world government to counterbalance the power 
of multinational corporations and their owning oligarchs, so that global 
decisions are made for the benefit of the world's people, not just the 
privileged few.

I think that covers everything. Let's look at some examples.

Abolishing the war system would clearly be in the interest of the world's 
people. But it would be against the financial interests of the oligarchs in the 
world's military-industrial complex, and against those like United Fruit, 
Chiquita Banana, Folgers, Exxon, Nike, ? who depend on gunboat diplomacy to 
allow them to exploit people in the developing nations.

Protecting the environment with green taxes, forcing polluters to pay the social
costs of their actions, would be in the interests of the world's people - 
especially those of future generations. But it would be against the financial 
interests of oil companies, automobile manufacturers, chemical companies, 
logging companies, cattle ranchers, tobacco companies, ? the list is long.

Eradicating poverty by reimposing graduated income taxes on wealthy individuals 
and profitable corporations, so that food, housing, basic health care, clothing,
and education are available and affordable to all would certainly be in the 
interest of the world's people. But it would work against the 358 billionaires 
whose assets exceed the total annual income of half the world's population.

These three examples are merely matters of policy. There's no technological 
breakthrough needed to take these actions. We don't need to change the hearts of
men. We wouldn't have to sit inside a pyramid and chant a mantra. There's no 
secret, no magic. It's just a political decision. The problem is that those 
making the decisions are those whose interests the actions would work against.

It is highly unlikely, even if we had world government, that we would abolish 
the war system, protect the environment, and eradicate poverty so long as those 
with the power to decide to do it are those who profit from war, pollution, and 
poverty.

But it's exactly those kinds of actions that we want a world government to take.
And that tells us what kind of institution it must be - democratic.

Socrates said that there are only two kinds of government - democracy and 
oligarchy. It doesn't matter whether it's called a monarchy, a theocracy, or a 
republic. It doesn't matter who gets to vote, or if anyone does. If decisions 
are generally made for the benefit of the masses of people, then it is a 
democracy. But if decisions are generally made for the benefit of the wealthy 
few, then it is an oligarchy. We need a world government which is an authentic 
democracy, in that it makes decisions to benefit the world's people.

There are three ways that can happen: benevolent dictatorship, direct democracy,
and representative democracy.

Benevolent dictatorship, at its best, is the best of them all, and the easiest 
and the cheapest. But it's unstable. Successors never seem to be as benevolent 
as those who came before. Most dictatorships started out to be benevolent. They 
just didn't stay that way.

Direct democracy is the town meeting approach. Everyone has an equal say in 
decisions. The ballot initiative in California and a number of other states is a
form of direct democracy. But it is subject to manipulation, especially as the 
number of people gets large. To work, the electorate must be well-informed, with
access to the truth and an unbiased presentation of the pros and cons of each 
issue. That's why media controls are an essential part of Philadelphia II, a 
proposal to introduce direct democracy at all levels.

Representative democracy is what we supposedly have here in the United States, 
as well as in many other nations. It's also probably the only practical form of 
world government. But let's look at our own country as an example. In 1982, 80% 
of Americans wanted a nuclear freeze. We didn't get one. A similar percentage 
wanted an end to nuclear testing. We didn't get one until a decade later. In 
1993, a large majority of Americans wanted a single-payer national health 
system. We didn't get one. (And then the media convinced us we didn't really 
want one.) We want good schools. We got B-2 bombers. Americans want a steady job
at a living wage. Yet the Reagan revolution resulted in job insecurity and 
falling wages - in spite of soaring productivity. What's going on? This is 
supposed to be a democracy. How come all the political decisions benefit the 
wealthy few to the detriment of the rest of us? Why doesn't our "representative 
democracy" work?

Our representatives are not incompetent. We have the best politicians money can 
buy. And there's the rub. We don't hold the pursestrings. The corporations and 
oligarchs do. Oh, much of it is our money. Lobbying expenses are tax deductible 
for corporations. But we don't decide who gets it. And so "our" representatives 
are not beholden to us, but to those who financed their campaign. Representative
democracy doesn't work here because the people are not represented, big money 
is.

Campaign finance reform is essential to representative democracy at any level --
local to global. Try as you may with your own PAC, you can't compete with the 
oligarchs. The net assets of the 400 richest Americans are $300 billion. (1994 
figures; it's a lot more now.) The net assets of the bottom 60% of us - 150 
million Americans - are zero! If the wealthy few are allowed to use their money 
to buy political power, they will continue to get richer and more powerful at 
the expense of the rest of us.

From 1973 to 1993, wages of laborers went down 15%. Wages of production workers 
went down 20%. Wages of college grads went down 24%. Wages of high school grads 
went down 30%. And total wages of those earning $1 million/year went up 243% per
year - an increase of 5000%!

From 1980 to 1993, the Fortune 500 companies had sales increase 140%, assets 
increase 230%, and CEO compensation increase 610%. And they eliminated 4.4 
million jobs. These companies control 25% of the world's output and 70% of the 
world's trade. Yet they provide jobs to only 1/20th of 1% of the world's people.
Nike pays Michael Jordan more to advertise their shoes than they pay all the 
workers in all the Indonesian factories who make them!

So we cannot outspend the oligarchs. Instead, we must sever the connection 
between money and power. We must prohibit the use of private funds in the 
political process. This is an absolutely essential step in the restoration of 
democracy. But by itself it is not a sufficient condition. There is yet another 
requirement.

For democracy (either direct or representative) to work, the people must be free
of manipulation. Let me again use our own country as an example.

We pride ourselves on having a free press. Well, it's free if you have enough 
money. At one time, we did have a free press. There were thousands of 
independent newspapers, radio stations, and television stations. Strict rules on
ownership guaranteed their continued independence. Equal-time rules mandated 
that stations airing political broadcasts give equal time to opposing views. 
National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) provided 
news untainted by corporate bias.

Then came the Reagan revolution. Ownership rules were relaxed, then eliminated. 
Antitrust laws relating to the media were repealed. Equal-time rules were 
abandoned. And public funding for NPR and PBS was slashed.

During the Gulf War, the Pentagon perfected the art of the media war - censoring
with an iron fist, and telling their story through orchestrated news 
conferences, selective leaks to favored correspondents, and the provision of 
highlight videos. Independent war correspondents had been replaced by slick 
Madison Avenue PR campaigns. The people never saw video footage taken of the 
"turkey-shoot on the road to Basra." They were not shown videos of the 
devastation our bombing caused in Baghdad. They were fed lies about Iraqis 
throwing babies out of incubators. They were told that Saddam Hussein was a 
Hitler with a new super-weapon - the fuel-air bomb. They were never told that he
didn't use it, but we did.

The American people weren't shown videos of our tanks with snowplow attachments 
burying Iraqi soldiers alive in their trenches. They weren't told that a quarter
million Iraqi civilians died in the war, 50,000 of them children. They still 
don't know that another hundred thousand children have died since the war 
because of our bombing of their water supply and sanctions we imposed through 
the UN.

Because of this media manipulation, the great majority of Americans supported 
Bush's Gulf War, and still do.

If we allow corporate media conglomerates to do this kind of manipulation on a 
global scale, no world government will be worth a damn, much less be democratic.

We have determined that a democratic world government (whether the UN or 
something new) must have at least the following two characteristics: 1: Those 
with decision-making power must be responsible to and beholden to the people of 
the world - not governments, not corporations, not those 358 billionaires (I 
hear the number is over 400 now). 2: The institution must have sufficient power 
over the world's media to prevent manipulation of the global electorate.

Okay, that's where we're going. That's the kind of institution we want. Where 
are we starting from?

The United Nations, as it is now, is anything but democratic. The people aren't 
represented at all - only governments. And among the governments holding veto 
power over binding decisions and charter amendments is our own. And the U.S. 
government, through its votes and vetoes has been singularly responsible for the
lack of progress on global problems. For years, our ambassadors to the UN have 
been wholly-owned pawns of corporate America and its global multinational 
tentacles.

For decades, the U.S. has prevented UN action to abolish war, preserve the 
environment, or eradicate poverty. And we shouldn't be surprised. Our 
government, after all, is owned by those who benefit from war, pollution, and 
poverty.

How can we make a difference? (That's what this conference is all about.) I'll 
tell you how we can make a difference. If we want to help the UN become an 
effective institution for bettering people's lives, there is one essential first
step. We must take back our own country.

We must reverse the Reagan revolution. We must have campaign finance reform. We 
must re-institute control of media monopolies. We must regain some semblance of 
democracy here at home.

The United Nations can do nothing without the sufferance of the U.S. government.
How can we expect the UN to take any action on behalf of the world's people, 
cutting into the profits of the Fortune 500, while those very corporations 
control the policies of the U.S. government, and therefor the U.N.? It is 
impossible.

Do you remember how George Bush and Jim Baker, skillfully using bribery, 
blackmail, and bullying, got the UN Security Council to authorize unilateral 
U.S. military action against Iraq in a totally unnecessary war? And got their 
approval more readily than that of the U.S. Senate?

For years, the right wing opposed the UN and the whole concept of world 
government on the basis that it would be dominated by the communists. Well, now,
my friends, it is time for us progressives to take pause. We have seen the 
spectre of a UN manipulated and dominated by global capitalism. We have seen the
Security Council be used as the enforcement arm of the Trilateral Commission. We
have witnessed UN-authorized mass slaughter on behalf of big oil and the Emir of
Kuwait's 100 billion dollar investment in western banks and equities. And in 
every case it was our own U.S. government that corrupted the UN. We must not 
allow this to continue!

How can we make a difference? We can take back our democracy, and thereby free 
the UN of US corporate domination.

Yes, we should support the UN directly, and lobby for an International Criminal 
Court and the payment of arrears. But as long as governments hold power in the 
UN, our primary task is to reform our own government. Maybe we should start a 
new organization -- the Campaign for US Reform. I've got six tasks for it, for 
starters.

1: We can no longer accept a government which allows us to be number one among 
industrialized nations: number one in child poverty, number one in the gap 
between rich and poor, number one in unimmunized children, number one in teen 
pregnancy, number one in deaths by gunfire, number one in poverty among the 
elderly, number one in citizens without medical coverage .?. and yet has a 
trillion dollars worth of new weapons on the books at a time when we just ran 
out of enemies. It's time for our priorities to change.

2. We can no longer accept a government which promotes and subsidizes arms sales
around the world, especially to dictators who use our weapons to control their 
own impoverished people. Our government didn't listen to Oscar Romero who 
pleaded for us to stop sending weapons to El Salvador. Well, we hear you ? and 
it will stop.

3. We can no longer accept a government which uses our money to train death 
squads in the techniques of torture, intimidation, and assassination. The School
of the Americas must be closed.

4. We can no longer accept a government which gives Most Favored Nation (MFN) 
status to the butchers of Tianenmen Square and places an illegal secondary 
embargo on the impoverished people of Cuba. We must repeal the Helms-Burton law,
end the embargo, and establish normalized relations with Cuba.

5. We can no longer accept a government in which our relations with the rest of 
the world are held hostage by the likes of Jesse Helms. We can't free East Timor
unless we first free North Carolina!

6. We can no longer accept a government which promotes instability, 
insurrection, tyranny, torture, terrorism, and murder around the world in our 
name and with our money through the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA must be
abolished once and for all.

The six tasks outlined above will only be accomplished by a reformed government 
which serves the people. With campaign finance reform and media control, we can 
return power to the people. Only then can these tasks be accomplished. Only then
can the priorities be changed, the wrongs righted, and the people served. And 
only then will it be even remotely possible to make the UN what it should be, 
and make the world what it can be.

We must build an America at peace with the world ? and with its own people. We 
must build an America that leads the world - not by dominating and manipulating 
other nations, but by earning their respect and admiration.

We must build an America that strives not to be king of the hill, but to be a 
responsible member of the family of nations. We must build an America that leads
the world - not with military might, but with its vision, its compassion, its 
democracy, its productivity, its standard of living, its treatment of its own 
people, and its goodness.

That, my friends, is how we can make a difference.

===============================================

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