Monday, January 07, 2008

Responding to a friend

I received a note from a friend along with his request that I view the following video regarding the impact of immigration on our society. Keep in mind, my friend is vigorously anti-illegal alien. One of his arguments is that "they're illegal .. breaking the law". I remind him that he's never in the 12-13 years that I've known him EVER seen a speed law HE was willing to obey and that as soon as he starts obeying the law, I'll start taking that argument more seriously.

or watch the video here ...

We exchanged a few comments back and forth after I watched the video. The exchange ended with the following ... (my response to him):

His comment: WE need to help these people IMPROVE their lives where they are now.

Mine: Absolutely. And if you ask ANY of them, they' rather be in their homes, with their families and friends, eating their foods, celebrating their holidays in the lands of their birth ... just like us. They're not here on vacation, living 10 and 20 to a room, picking our fruit for pennies.

His comment: Bringing the rest of the world up to our standards should be the goal.

Mine: We represent 5% of the population of the planet and consume 25% of the natural resources in order to maintain our lifestyle ... the lifestyle to which it is proposed we elevate other peoples of the world.

With that maintenance ratio, in order to bring the other 95% of the population of the planet up to our standards it would require something on the order of 23.7 planets as rich in natural resources as our planet earth. I'm not sure how one would go about bring them up to our "level" however noble the sentiment might be. There are no other planets on the horizon that fit the required profile. Just this one.

I agree that we have an obligation to help "them" improve their lives. In order to do that we're created a military budget that is equal to all of the other nations on the planet ... combined! ... while our generous contribution in foreign aid to underdeveloped nations (usually extended in the form of military aid and weapons) is on a per capita basis a fraction of the contribution made by other developed nations like Japan.

USA’s aid, in terms of percentage of GNP has almost always been lower than any other industrialized nation in the world. Granted, the dollar amount is high but our GNP has always been at the head of the pack ... by a bunch. The fact remains, on a per capita basis, we're pretty stingy when it comes to giving back. Here are some charts that help explain the point

  • Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.
  • The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world’s countries) is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest PEOPLE combined.
  • Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn't happen. Given that the USA represents fully 1/2 of the military budget for the planet earth, we're talking on the order of 2% of what we spend on weapons in this country if we took that task upon ourselves.

The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money or benefits. In our quest for corporate profits we made deals with dictatorships to pay them for the resources extracted from their countries. We paid them in cash by way of loans and in military aid to prop up their regimes. They pocketed the cash but we insist that the nations they no longer rule honor their debts .. and we take no responsibility for the swindle .. though it's hard to believe we didn't know what the score was going in. The net effect of foreign aid is that the developing world now spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants. In short, if we complain about the rest of the world being run by corrupt officials, we need to recognize our role in helping that happen ... through our whole hearted, enthusiastic, financial and military support of corrupt regimes. (Chili, Argentina, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, just to name a few ... not to mention our support of the pre-Castro dictator, Batista, in Cuba.)

According to UNICEF, 30,000 children die each DAY due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”

That is about 210,000 children each week, or just under 11 million children under five years of age, each year.

The richest 50 million people in Europe and North America have the same income as 2.7 billion poor people. “The slice of the cake taken by 1% is the same size as that handed to the poorest 57%.”

In the meantime, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation (2006, 2007) our military spending has risen from about $360Billion in 1998 to almost $650Billion (in constant 2007 US dollars). It's almost doubled in ten years!

  • The US military spending was almost 7 times larger than the Chinese budget, the second largest spender.
  • The US military budget was almost 29 times as large as the COMBINED spending of the six “rogue” states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) who spent $14.65 billion ... in TOTAL!

I don't know ho long we can keep up this pace. The USSR lost big time when they tried to play this game with us. They went totally bankrupt; crashed and burned trying to keep up. They're gone now. We have no real competitors but we haven't slackened the pace one bit. If anything, we've picked up the pace and WE"RE THE ONLY ONES STILL PLAYING!

I'm told we're suppose to be Christian nation, but I believe we have our priorities backwards. Where we should be making peace and helping our brothers by sharing our good fortune, we have elected to hoard our wealth and make war to protect it and advance it further. We have corporatized war through the use of military mercenaries (who are paid a rate four times or more than our volunteer soldiers ... who are doing their service for love of country). I wonder what these mercenaries are going to do when we tell their corporate bosses we want peace and they can't profit handsomely from war any longer? I wonder if they will pack up their weapons and seek another trade.

What ever happened to the sermon "Whatever you do the the least of us you do to me also?"

We have replaced it with Cain's flippant response to God when he was asked where Abel might be: "I'm not my brothers keeper!" Has Cain replaced Christ as our role model?

I'm proud of our country. I'm proud that we've invented and innovated and created wealth where none existed before. But I am ashamed at what we do with it.

So, my point? Aside from the facts that; given the finite resources on this planet, given the fact that it would take 23.7 planets like earth to elevate the rest of the world to the level we enjoy and that we only know of one planet that fits the bill at this point ... what's the plan?

Until we get over ourselves ... until we overcome our attitude that "he who dies with the most toys wins" ... until we get past our narcissism and realize that we are, all of us, trapped on a small lifeboat and none of us will survive if we don't work together ... there is no viable plan. Unless, of course ... having hold of the bulk of the provisions and most of the guns ... the plan is to push everyone else off the boat. Frankly, my conscience is not built like that.

Yes, we should extend a hand and help to elevate others, but that's not going to happen without significant sacrifice on our part. So, when you come down to it, I don't really think we're prepared to give up our Hummers. We'd rather they all just die quietly in their little corner of the world and leave us to play with our toys.

We're a Christian Nation when it comes to making political points and playing "gotcha" with those damed secularists ... but when it comes down to doing something ... like taking care of the poor (many of whom we created) ... maybe we're not quite all THAT Christian.

That's just my take on the situation. I may be wrong. I hope I've missed something and someone will show me the error ... but I think it covers the bases.

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