Sow Justice, Harvest Peace!
An Earth Manifesto
publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
History is written, to an extent, by the
victors of war, so the claim is sometimes made that might is right. Since the strong generally rule over others,
they have the power to impose their laws and moral codes and worldviews and
ideologies on those they dominate.
Moral judgment, however, is more complex than ideological doctrines or
“When morality comes up
against profit, it is seldom that profit loses.”
--- Shirley Chisholm
Most people would agree that a triumphalist
‘to-the-victor-go-the-spoils’ attitude is critically tainted when an
aggressor’s primary purpose for going to war is to gain the spoils of
victory. We are just at the beginning
of an era in which conflicts over resources will radically intensify. This trend will heat up as needs grow for
fossil fuels, strategic minerals, fertile land and fresh water. Several fundamental developments of modern
times are driving these intensifying pressures, including the depletion of
non-renewable resources and rapid growth in human numbers and expanding needs
The principal motivation behind the
creation of the Earth Manifesto has been the recognition that there are much
fairer ways to structure our societies and to deal effectively with the most
significant economic, social, and ecological challenges of our times.
“I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic
as the pursuit of war … But we have no more
President John F. Kennedy
The counterproductive aspects of wars counsel us to
seek a consensus in finding better ways to achieve fairer and more farsighted
goals, like those of creating meaningful jobs, economic stability and greater
social justice, as well as reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,
conserving energy, and establishing more expansive global protections of
biological diversity, fresh water resources, the world’s oceans, and healthy
ecosystems in general. Instead of stubborn intransigence in the defense
of entrenched interests and the status quo, we should be seeking fairer ways to
balance the needs of competing constituencies. We should strive with more sustained efforts to defuse conflicts
and antagonisms, and to prevent other people from being galvanized into
desperate acts and even terrorist
assaults because of frustration, injustices, prejudices, self-righteousness,
fear, despair or hatred. Simply put, if
we sow justice and non-violence, then we will improve our chances of being able
to harvest social cohesion and peaceful coexistence. When we sow injustice and violence, we harvest discord and social
turmoil and heightened risks of retaliation.
That is, shall we go on conferring our Civilization upon the peoples
that sit in darkness, or shall we give these poor things a rest? Shall we bang right ahead in our old-time,
loud, pious way, and commit the new century to the game; or shall we sober up
and sit down and think it over first?
Extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brother who sits in
Darkness has been a good trade and has paid well, on the whole; and there is money in it yet, if carefully
worked – but not enough, in my judgment, to make any considerable risk
--- To the Person Sitting in Darkness, Mark Twain, 1901
How We Have Arrived at
the Status Quo
Insightful understandings of the
socioeconomic interdynamics between the distinctly contrasting goals of
consumers and investors and good citizens are valuable, because they allow us
to more clearly comprehend the macroeconomic picture of people’s motivations
There is a distinct conundrum in human
affairs that Robert Reich discusses in detail in his recent book Supercapitalism. As consumers, we generally want good deals
and cheap prices. This is why CostCo
and Wal-Mart have been so successful.
In our roles as investors and speculators, we want the best possible
returns on our investments. In
contrast, as citizens we want to have important things that are often contrary
to what we want as consumers and investors.
We want healthy communities and social justice, for instance. We want good quality public education and a
fair shake for workers. We want
affordable health care for all. We want
at least a minimal social safety net, and safeguards of our liberties, and
equitable institutions, and clean air and water, and protected public lands and
parks and open spaces.
In other words, as consumers and investors
we DO NOT want products and services to contain all of the costs of a healthy
society, because we want prices to remain low and profits to be high. As citizens, however, we DO want prices to
include the fair and sane treatment of workers and sensible protections for
communities and the environment. Over
the last few decades, things have gotten better for consumers and investors in
many ways, but worse for citizens.
The economic ideology that dominates our
society shrewdly advocates that the benefits of capitalism should be
privatized, while as many costs as possible should be socialized. This is broadly irresponsible. Big corporations are allowed to externalize
enormous costs onto society such as those related to the welfare of workers and
to resource depletion and environmental damages. Also, corporations have
used ideology, powerful influence and institutional mechanisms to reduce the
amount of federal taxes they pay. The
Congressional Budget Office reports that American corporations are paying 60%
less of the share of the federal budget that they paid in 1960.
managed to gain such privileges by using the influence of lobbyists to get direct
subsidies and favorable tax loopholes.
They shelter profits through accelerated depreciation and a wide variety
of special perks. Many big corporations
evade taxes by using offshore tax shelters.
By allowing these corporate gambits, we give benefits to established
industries at the expense of small businesses and innovative companies that are
struggling to compete with them. This discourages new technologies and
more efficient production methods. It
also foolishly delays the development of better, more energy efficient and
It should come as
no surprise that oil companies, with their powerful influence in George W.
Bush’s administration, made the biggest profits in world history and that they
have a much lower effective income tax rate than other kinds of
businesses. We should change this, and
instead of allowing generous oil depletion allowances and other tax breaks and
subsidies, these companies should be taxed so that the proceeds can be used to
contribute to the development of alternatives and to mitigate the harmful
effects of the combustion of their products.
See the Earth Manifesto essay ‘The
Reality and Ramifications of Peak Oil’ for a better understanding of these
Capitalist economic systems have largely
triumphed over centrally planned communist ones in the past 70 years since the
end of World War II. Even in communist
China, rapid economic growth has been achieved in recent decades by adopting
many capitalistic methods. Capitalist
systems, however, are failing to address monumental modern problems. This failure is primarily due to the
unyielding opposition of moneyed interests to satisfy worker needs or find
remedies to wealth inequalities and social ills that were the motivating energy
behind the idealistic aspects of socialist and communist ideologies in the
first place. Capitalism’s shortcomings
in these regards, and with respect to catastrophic collateral impacts of
altering the global climate, are dangerous to the future well-being of all of
Detecting the deficiencies in having dominating interests define
the status quo is as simple as pie -- heck, even the mad hatter Tea Party
compatriots can do it! Quizzically,
indeed almost comically, our friends in the Tea Party have been tricked by
Movement Conservatives into demanding solutions to daunting current day
problems that actually have a downright stupid outcome of giving more money,
power and influence to the dominators themselves. This is a bad idea! It is
bad for democracy, bad for fairness principles, bad for personal liberties, bad
for economic prosperity, rather bad relative to fiscally responsible
principles, and bad for peaceful coexistence between Americans. We can, and must, do better!
I feel strongly that democratic fair-mindedness is crucial to
the common good in the long run, and that the prospects of our descendants in
future generations should be taken into account in all evaluations of what
truly contributes to the greater good.
To guarantee the most likely good, we need to courageously renew the
commitment our Founders made to fairer representation in our government.
Corporate Domination of
Our political system can much more
accurately be understood as a form of ‘corporatism’ than as a fairly
representative democracy. Enormous
corporations have much greater influence than citizens. Corporations control decision-making and the
legislative process through insider access and big money contributions. These are forms of institutional
bribery. The corporate strategy of
obtaining tax breaks and other benefits, and profiting from government largess,
allows companies to charge lower prices and make bigger profits for their
shareholders. By externalizing costs
onto society and paying less tax, corporations effectively understate the costs
of their products. This affects
resource allocations, and it upsets rational forces involved in supply and
demand. Thus it perverts the free
market system. To create a far better
system, we need to ensure that all products are required to fairly include all
costs related to their production, plus a fair share of taxes.
The compulsion to make ever-bigger profits
is the corporate bottom line. The
corporate mission is to maximize profits;
it is the corporate reason for being.
It is even the legal mandate for corporations. This precedent was established by a Michigan
Supreme Court ruling in the Dodge vs.
Ford Motor Company case in 1919. By
failing to require fairer rules and regulations, the government allows
corporate America to diminish and undermine almost everything we want as good
citizens. This creates colossal
challenges and presents us with profound existential dilemmas both domestically
do we allow corporations to fleece us with these strategies? Why do we let the Establishment stand in the
path of creating better societies? Why
do we hype growth and create speculative bubbles? The reason seems to be simple, and narrowly focused: we do this to benefit CEO’s, investors and
speculators, often at the cost of the greater good. It is because of inertia, complacency, fear of change, ignorance,
delusion, self-deception, emotionality and vested interest opposition that we
allow entrenched interests to impede the causes of fairness and progress and
farsighted planning. We have the power
to change this system, but to begin to make this change we need to be clear
about its true nature.
Reich notes that “The only way for the citizens in us to trump the consumers
and investors in us is through laws and regulations that make our purchases and
investments a social choice as well as a personal one.” We must redesign our laws and restructure
our economies and institutions with this in mind.
Let’s Talk about the Military
One of the worst
aspects of U.S. capitalism has been its inadequately disciplined propensity to
try to gain advantages by military means.
It is preposterous to suppose that any sort of agreeable justice can be
obtained by taking the huge and unjust gamble of invading and occupying other
Admittedly, every major foreign policy
undertaking involves many complexities and uncertainties. There are conflicting ways of interpreting
any event, as anyone knows who has served on a jury in a crime case, and thus
had the responsibility for honestly evaluating evidence and testimony.
Justice itself is relative. The word justice has a variety of meanings
and nuances. True justice should
involve a degree of fairness, and it is disingenuous to treat justice as merely
a synonym for harsh retribution and punishment. People have a natural tendency to bandy around concepts like
“morality” as if they are not relative, but it is demonstrable that in almost
any situation that involves moral judgment, there is relativity. Consequential
War, in particular, is foggy enough that
the concept of any war being a ‘just war’ is bizarre, for war is an “anything
goes” kind of undertaking, and in the heat of battle both sides justify immoral
killing and maiming with equally plausible, and implausible, rationales and
Many war crimes are committed in the tragic
miasma of the fog of war, whether or not the leaders in charge ever face trial
and justice. Someone may be ‘not
guilty’ because they are on the winning side of a violent conflict, but this is
a rationalization, not particularly a sign of moral good.
The administration of George W. Bush and
Dick Cheney adopted a ‘preemptive war’ policy that set a dangerous
precedent. We are beginning to regret
our preemptive wars because of the extremely high costs and far-reaching
negative consequences of these military ventures. The wanton uses of drone bombers to kill suspected terrorists in
places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia present new risks of blowback retaliation. Both our domestic well-being and our
international standing in the world are being undermined by our aggression in
these precedents. But few people
acknowledge the fact that our superpower dominance will one day diminish much
more dramatically than it has done so far, and that we may come to rue the day
that we set precedents of preemptive war and dropping bombs on people in
sovereign countries as acceptable foreign policy.
Besides, let’s be practical. America’s wars in the last 65 years since
the Korean War that began in 1950 have largely been a fiasco. The U.S. fought a costly war in Vietnam from
the early 1960s to the fall of Saigon in 1975, and after we left, our side fell
to the communist north. Not only were
the monetary costs huge, but there were more than 58,000 U.S. troops killed and
300,000 injured, and more than 1 million Vietnamese civilians were killed and
millions were injured. Likewise, our
mad invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent military occupation was not only
extremely costly, but Iraq began disintegrating by the day in the summer of
2014, with murderous sectarian violence tearing the country apart and the
ruthless Islamic State taking over large swaths of the nation near war-torn
Syria and Jordan and Turkey. Iraq is a
deeply unstable country after a decade of war.
And millions of American veterans of the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the
Afghanistan War and all the other wars are still suffering terribly, and
scandals are embroiling their underfunded health care, and suicides and
homelessness are epidemic.
Aggression in war is not only a supreme
international crime, but it turns out to be a bad plan from the standpoint of
outcomes, to boot. Post-traumatic
stress disorder affects hundreds of thousands of Americans, and in a sense our
society as a whole.
“Seeing is different
than being told.”
Subtleties of Framing
Issues are framed in certain words and
ideas. As knowledgeable linguists tell
us, issues are framed, in general, in ways that are prejudicial to a speaker or
writer’s point of view. Uses of
established frames of reference often distort the way we perceive things in
subtle but significant ways. Studies show
that our perceptions of the world are deeply colored by the belief systems we
have come to hold.
Consider the matter of framing reflected in
the naming of major military operations.
The war in Iraq, for instance, was called Operation Iraqi Freedom. We delivered a brutal kind of destabilizing
freedom over there, causing horrible social instability and stoking sectarian
conflicts. Millions of Iraqis would
have preferred a more honorable and effective savior!
Such names are partly a kind of marketing
propaganda aimed at American soldiers and the public and foreigners. When the U.S. began the post-9/11 attack on
Afghanistan, the Department of Defense initially dubbed it Operation Infinite
Justice. This name subtly reflected our
conviction that God is on our side, for ‘who’ else can mete out infinite
justice? Perhaps sensible heads in the
marketing department recognized the probability that the war in Afghanistan
would involve many years of an anything-but-just occupation of that country,
and that a terrible amount of ‘collateral damage’ and social turmoil and other
injustices would be perpetrated upon the Afghani people. The rubric Operation Infinite Justice was
scrapped on September 25, 2001, no doubt reflecting these sensible
realizations. Or maybe somebody brought
up the fact that someday the attention of the world might be focused on our
premeditated and impure motives in this invasion and occupation of Afghanistan,
as discussed in the provocative book by Michael C. Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon – The Decline of the
American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil.
Maybe military leaders changed the name of
the war in Afghanistan and the subsequent military occupation to Operation
Enduring Freedom because they realized the truth that preemptive war is a
dangerous precedent. Other peoples may
have radically different ideas about how to manifest Infinite Justice in the
world. For instance, Islamic peoples
believe that Allah is the only one that could provide “infinite justice”, and
even George W. Bush probably felt serious reservations in the possibility that
his military adventurism could be perceived as a modern religious Crusade. And perhaps the U.S. operation in
Afghanistan would be more widely seen as Operation Widespread Injustice
generalizations are false, including this one.”
--- Mark Twain
While Mark Twain was
right about the fact that there are exceptions to all generalizations, it also
is generally true that important kernels of truth are often contained in every
A Variety of Pithy
Visualize an extraordinary understanding,
as conveyed in the excellent documentary film The Diplomat. The setting
for this insight is the storied Dalmatian Coast of former Yugoslavia, home of
the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik and the charming city of Split, originally
built around a massive fortress-like palace of the retired Roman Emperor
Diocletian that dates from 305 CE.
Richard Holbrooke was the U.S. Ambassador
to Germany from 1993 to 1994, and in that position of responsibility he achieved great public prominence when he helped
broker a peace agreement among the warring factions in the Balkan Peninsula
that led to the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. Yugoslavia had broken up into six federal
states in the early 1990s: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia,
Montenegro and Macedonia. The Bosnian
War began in April in 1992 and continued until the Dayton Peace Accords came
into effect in December of 1995.
settlement was not ideal for anyone, but there are great benefits of having
peace instead of war, and today most of the peoples in this region are
prospering and safer than during the terrible war in which some 100,000 people
were killed and more than 2,200,000 were displaced. “The Bosnian war was characterized by bitter fighting,
indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, ethnic cleansing and systematic
mass rape, mainly perpetrated by Serb, but to a lesser extent, Croat and
Bosnian forces. This war displaced more people in Europe than any
time since the end of World War II, and the suffering continues to this day for
many people. In any case, one great
advantage of preventing wars is that there are fewer collateral injustices
during times of peace.
Personal observations and experiences have
led me to a few basic conclusions and valuable insights. Aware of Mark Twain’s comments on
generalizations, and mine about relativity,
I nonetheless venture to offer these ideas as grist for thinking and
-- Diplomatic conflict resolution and
peacebuilding efforts are better strategies than resorting to violence and
-- Preemptive aggression and military
interventionism are bad ideas that must be much more effectively
discouraged. War should be a very last
resort, and defensive not offensive.
-- Making friends is a better strategy than
making enemies, and being a good neighbor leads to more satisfactory outcomes
than harboring hostilities and acting with arrogant hubris.
-- It is healthier in relationships to
accept differences and adopt live-and-let-live attitudes than to try to impose
one’s will on others or to be unempathetic, mean-spirited, controlling,
domineering or driven by base motives.
-- Fairness in competition and respect for
the greater good and the ecological commons is more important to people today,
and in the future, than narrow partisanship, economic injustices, irresponsibly
laissez-faire corporatism and rashly misguided priorities.
-- Fiscal irresponsibility and huge
national debts have serious future consequences, and financially responsible
behaviors are better for the average American and our communities than
-- Addressing the roots of social problems
is a more propitious approach than merely assaulting the symptoms, just as good
nutrition and preventative medicine are better approaches for good health than
relying excessively on drugs and surgery.
-- Fair-mindedness and open-mindedness are
more socially intelligent and salubrious than closed-mindedness and supporting
discrimination and public policies that increase inequities.
-- Comprehensive considerations lead to
better outcomes than shortsighted and impractical knee-jerk dogmatism.
-- Incentives for innovation and socially
beneficial behaviors are smarter than harsh prohibitions or extravagant
subsidies for entrenched interest groups, or loopholes for unethical
activities, or pandering to forces that exploit people using the shrewd
strategies of ‘disaster capitalism’.
An Inoculation against
Another War in the Middle East
is never inevitable, though the belief that it is can become one of its
--- Professor Joseph S.
There is a deep truth in the motto, Sow
Justice to Harvest Peace.
Unfortunately, ideologically-driven conservative politicians deceive us
with specious arguments, contending that wars, first strikes and military
occupations will lead to success and make us safer and more secure. Hawkish opportunists tell us, furthermore,
that the best economic policies are those that curiously lead to more
privileges for the fortunate few, and to increases in the disparities of wealth
between people. In dramatic contrast,
increased economic inequalities, worse healthcare inequities, and detrimental
environmental impacts have far-reaching negative consequences.
Politicians who advocate offensive military
undertakings often try to deceive us about their real intentions and
motivations. They politicize science
and use policy gimmickry, misinformation, secrecy and deception instead of
being honest and open to reasonable negotiation, pragmatic statesmanship,
sensible oversight, fair scrutiny and crucial accountability. Many of them figuratively bury their heads
in the sand by embracing primitive religious Creation myths, and then proclaim
monotheistic supremacy and are intolerant of others and support male
domineering aggressive militarism and nature-exploiting economic policies.
Let’s demand that our leaders work for
peace by sowing truer justice. Let’s
insist that the U.S. government gets us out of wars and avoids future episodes
of aggression and military interventions.
Let’s support greater investments in peaceful coexistence and mutual
“Be an early adopter; oppose the next war, already!”
--- The underground Mole
Recognizing how we got into the war in Iraq
could help us avoid another episode of international aggression by the
U.S. The Bush administration goaded us
into the extremely costly and destabilizing war in Iraq by playing on the
public’s fears, anger and a reactionary thirst for vengeance in the aftermath
of the 9/11 attacks. Our emotions were
exploited and our foreign policies were hijacked through the use of exaggerations
and flawed intelligence and distortions about facts and probable consequences.
Under the cover of this bloody diversion,
our domestic policies were shoved far to the right, and this had
calamitous economic and social impacts on the American people.
on War – and Peace! for deeper understanding of issues relating to war and
peace. A good understanding about the
facts concerning how the U.S. government got us into the costly war in Iraq can
be gained by reading What Happened by George Bush’s White
House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan.
Or watch the documentary narrated by Rachel Maddow
titled Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War, or read the book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn titled Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the
Selling of the Iraq War.
In addition to exaggerating threats in the
run-up to the Iraq war, the Bush administration radically underestimated the
probable costs of war and ignored reasonable warnings about the risks of
military involvements. Unrealistic
outcome scenarios were advanced and facts about risks were suppressed. Dissenters were intimidated, and widespread
collateral injustices were perpetrated. Our nationalistic passions were preyed
upon, as well as the parochial righteousness of Christian believers. It is extremely dangerous to stoke such
sources of conflict.
It is stunning to recall the evolving
variety of disingenuous rationalizations and optimistic assessments that were
provided to the public in the run-up to the attack on Iraq. We were told that this war was about fighting
the evil dictator Saddam Hussein, and spreading freedom and democracy, and
making us safer at home. A more honest
assessment reveals that our actions were much more concerned with geopolitical
considerations and trying to gain control over the flow of Middle Eastern oil,
and with facilitating profit-making by investors and corporations involved in
the military-industrial complex and war-services industries, and with
attempting to achieve an uninterrupted American military supremacy and
dominance over others.
Some people in
conservative circles have tried the same tricks that were used to
get us into attacking Iraq to involve us in new wars against countries like
Iran. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
and John McCain and others at one time figuratively beat the drums by hyping up
lies about Iran, and used distorted intelligence to stimulate people’s pride
and fears. There was even talk of a
pending World War III, as we sent more aircraft carriers to the Iran vicinity.
We should throw open our windows like the
half-crazy protagonist in the powerfully provocative 1976 film Network, and declare “We’re as mad as
hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
And in November 2016, we sure as hell should reject dangerous Trumpism
and elect Hillary Clinton as president, and give her a more progressive
Congress to work with in order to make the USA a safer, saner, more just and
more peaceable country.
Let’s make an overarching collective
commitment to prevent the launch of another war in the Middle East, no matter
what the supposed provocation. What do
you think? Feedback is welcome at: SaveTruffulaTrees@hotmail.com.
Tiffany B. Twain
August 16, 2016 (updated several
times from the original version in January 2008)