Ending Global Conflict with Morals, Coke,
Fantasyland and Education
J.S. Larochelle - 2004
"I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company. It's the real thing, Coke is what the world wants today." -- Advertising Jingle, 1971
"Take your families and enjoy life. Get down to Disney World in Florida."-- George W. Bush, from Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit "9/11," 2004
Last summer I was listening to an American radio talk show where the host angrily proclaimed: "Democracy doesn't work because people on welfare vote for politicians who give them raises. As a hardworking talk show host, I'd only allow my tax dollars to be given to welfare bums if they lost their right to vote while on welfare."
But this beleaguered talk show host was fretting for nothing. Apparently,on November 2, 2004 Americans reelected President Bush; moreover, millions of Americans voted for Bush because of his "moral values" -- which includes cutting taxes and social programs such as welfare.
Indeed, many people are angry over having to pay taxes for "social programs" because they believe that immoral, lazy people are refusing to work to earn their own money. In his book "Slaughter House Five," Kurt Vonnegut Jr. pointed out, "America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but it's people are mainly poor, and poor people are urged to hate themselves."
Of course, the "moral logic" behind vilifying the poor is that they must be made to feel "guilty" in order to get them to work, rather than living off welfare or charity. And on a July 25, 2003, USA Today newspaper article there is a picture of President Bush and behind him there is a backdrop with the words "Jobs and Growth" ("Bush hits the road to tout benefits of his economic plan").
During the presidential election, American media pundits worked hard trying to magnify the differences between Bush's republican policies and Senator John Kerry's democratic ones. But they are both for jobs and growth; so the vast majority of Americans must also believe that jobs and growth are the only solutions to world poverty and social strife.
Given that the U.S. is the world's most militarily powerful country, Americans' beliefs have a tremendous impact on other world citizens' lives. For example, President Bush has repeatedly said that the war on Iraq is one for "freedom and democracy," which Kerry basically supports. So the vast majority of American voters must also believe that in the upcoming elections, Iraqis must vote for politicians who support Bush and Kerry's policies for jobs and growth.
In his 2003 book "Weapons of Mass Distraction: Soft Power and American Empire," the National Post newspaper's editor-in-chief Matthew Fraser wrote: "America's global domination has been achieved largely through non-military means -- in short, through the extension, assertion and influence of its soft power. If hard power, by definition, is based on facts, soft power is based on 'values'."
Fraser also stated that "American leadership is more effective when it's 'morally' based.... Why keep the peace with ground troops, aircraft carriers, and inter-continental missiles when Big Macs, Coca-Cola and Hollywood blockbusters can help achieve the same long-term goals?" He concluded his book by telling us, "The world needs more MTV, McDonald's, Microsoft, Madonna and Mickey Mouse.... things really do go better with Coke."
This would mean that according to "American moral values", world citizens who choose not to work hard producing "Big Macs, Coca-Cola and Hollywood blockbusters" etc. are lazy people who lack "moral values".
But the Americans are not the only ones with delusional "fantasyland" solutions to poverty. In a Vancouver Sun article titled "Poverty is voluntary, so let's end it," the Fraser Institute economist Fred McMahon wrote: "Why, in a world bounding with possibilities, do so many normal, healthy people make poor choices that lead to poverty? Why do so many young people give up on education?" (August 9, 2001).
A 2001 press release by the International Labour Organization states that "as much as one-third of the world's workforce of three billion people are unemployed or underemployed." Yet, presumably, according to McMahon, "all" world citizens could have good jobs if only they went to school and university and became "educated".
To further complicate life for poor people, November 26 was "Buy Nothing Day" where anti-consumer activists "educate" people not to buy Big Macs and Coca-Cola etc. in order to save the planet from ecological destruction. It's perfectly understandable that people want to "save the planet" -- but Western economics is based on "consumption" and the idea that people are poor because they are lazy, unproductive, immoral and uneducated.
As the chief military defender of "Western moral values," President Bush is insisting that world citizens who don't have jobs producing Big Macs,Coca-Cola, Hollywood blockbusters, etc., must starve in poverty -- if private charity is not available to keep them alive.
On top of that, in the 1946 book "Economics in One Lesson," American free market economist Henry Hazlitt wrote: "The progress of civilization has meant the reduction of employment, not its increase." Hazlitt was saying that machines work harder and are thus far more "economically productive" than people, which obviously was the rational for the industrial revolution.
However, "industrialization" is also why there is now an army of free market talk show hosts and other media pundits, economists and politicians available to wage a relentless propaganda war on the world's poor. Indeed, the business sector uses machines because they produce higher profits, which means that vast number of surplus poor people are now far less "valuable" to society than any smart, fast, machine.
But if people don't have paid jobs, then they won't have money to buy the things machines produce. And this is a fatal economic contradiction that cannot be structurally adjusted -- no matter whether hundreds of millions of people graduate from universities with degrees in economics, political science or philosophy.
It is one thing to condemn people's "morals" or "ethics" or "citizenry" for refusing to work to produce water, food and shelter to keep themselves and their families alive. But it is absurd for society to condemn people for not working hard to produce more Big Macs, Coca-Cola, and Hollywood blockbusters and so forth. And it is even more absurd to condemn poor people for not having jobs as talk show hosts, or at the National Post or Fraser Institute condemning other poor people for not having jobs.
Of course, babies and young children can't work, and someone (historically, women) must do the work of ensuring that society's future citizens don't starve before they even have a chance to grow up.
So something has got to give. Either world society must provide all citizens with a guaranteed income high enough for healthy and relatively happy lives, or we must ruthlessly compete with each other for whatever "job" is available and regardless of whether the outcome is war or ecological ruin.