Earth Manifesto Insights
Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
King Louis XV of France, in the late 18th Century, observed
that after his reign, a figurative flood of revolutionary discontent would
overwhelm his country. "Après moi,
le deluge", he stated. His
premonition that political and social collapse was imminent was based on clear
signals of serious social malaise due to his bankrupt Divine-Right policies of
unfair privilege, lavish living for the nobility, extreme poverty for millions,
and unfair taxation.
crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina and the devastating flooding of New Orleans in
late August 2005 temporarily gave us a clearer perspective of our own
vulnerabilities and our social responsibilities. Catastrophes bring out both the best and the worst in people. In
ways similar to the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Katrina's
immediate aftermath has brought out distinct heroism, wonderful generosity,
genuine humanitarian concern, caring willingness to help others, and an
impressive social and political commitment to assist people who have suffered
losses. It also brought out instances
of violence, anarchy and looting. Once
again it brought religious fanatics like Pat Robertson onto the stage to blame
gays and lesbians with mean-spirited intolerance and charlatanic sanctimony. Robertson's piousness and presumption in
using disaster to claim that God is angry at homosexuals is a pathetic
reflection of the wrongness and pathetic biases of the radical religious right.
far more disturbing revelations have been illuminated by Katrina than Pat
Robertson's narrow judgmental bigotry. Harsh
right-wing doctrines are having terrible consequences for the poor, for
equality in our society, for environmental justice, for fairness of opportunity
and representation, and for honest policy-making in America.
United States is today acting out its own version of King Louis' arrogant and
foolish shortsightedness. The natural
disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina has nakedly exposed the dark and ugly
underbelly of our economic system and American political leadership. Katrina's powerful winds have flooded our
consciousness with terrible images of tragedy, poverty, suffering, personal
loss, and desperate need.
calamity has temporarily blown away the false smokescreen of rosy rhetoric and
deceptive spin that usually conceals the corrupt practices, chronic
mismanagement, failed policies, destructive exploitation, blatant propaganda,
and misguided priorities that characterize crony capitalism and political
leadership tainted by Big Money, partisan doctrines, selfish greed, and abuses
great social problems lie much deeper than corrupt politics and crony
capitalism, deeper than greed and reckless opportunism, deeper than religious
fanaticism and the ascendance of simplistic doctrines of Good and Evil. Understandings of virtue and sin reside
within each of us. But our perspectives
are distorted by individual and national insecurities. Man-made and natural disasters threaten us so
profoundly that we have become more fearful of change, so we become more
conservative and understandably seek refuge from fear and confusion and
uncertainty by embracing political and religious doctrines that reassure us.
claims to be strong and right. It
strives to gain and maintain power by co-opting natural human empathy. It claims that it is compassionate, though it
is arguably really just stubborn and unyielding. Conservatism appeals to many people today because change is taking
place so rapidly that we yearn to stop it, to react against it, and to
figuratively batten down the hatches. Unfortunately
this allows right wing forces to hijack our societies, and to structurally
institutionalize old paradigms that represent entrenched interests, ruthless
opportunism, reckless exploitation, avarice, special privilege, extensive
injustice, and arrogant drives for dominance.
insight that we must recognize is this: societies must evolve and adapt with positive vision, with
statesmanship-like perspective, and with open-minded, courageous resolve to
improve the world for all, not just for the few and the powerful.
problems lie deep, but we must start somewhere, so the ideas herein target various
foolish and nefarious aspects of the Status Quo. Katrina has revealed the often sinister and stubborn
wrong-headedness of our political system, in the following specific aspects:
1. Crony capitalism gives the rich, the
privileged and the powerful far greater privileges than the poor and the
underprivileged. This is creating a
growing gap between the wealthy and the poor. The consequences of this unfair and unchristian economic system
are the growth of poverty, increasing unfairness of opportunity, greater social
injustices, heightened social strife, ruthless class war, and subtle racism. These impacts make all of us less safe and
less secure. The hidden poverty of 28%
of New Orleans residents and the dramatic growth in the disparity between the rich
and the poor since 1980 exposes the deception of the "trickle-down
theory". The primary impact of
political doctrines that push aggressively for more and more tax breaks is
clear: the rich get far richer. The elimination of the Estate Tax is the most
seriously regressive of tax changes, brazenly shifting a significant amount of
taxes from the top 1% of Americans (when they are dead!), to all other
taxpayers and to everyone in the future. We must reverse this tax boondoggle.
2. Corporations are irresponsibly shortsighted
in their obsession to make ever-bigger profits, to compete mercilessly, and to
influence government by lobbying effectively for more subsidies, tax breaks,
and loopholes. They strive constantly
to circumvent sensible regulations, gain unfair advantages, and externalize
toxic pollution and healthcare costs onto society. We must not allow this.
3. Political pandering to giant corporations
and the wealthy also leads to misguided priorities, wasteful spending, deficit
financing, profligate pork barrel projects, unwise and unsustainable
development, and policies that are spiritually, ethically and fiscally
bankrupt. Politicians are very generous
with taxpayer monies -- but they cowardly avoid requiring citizens to make any
sacrifices, once again tapping irresponsibly into the risk-laden well of
politically expedient deficit spending. As a consequence, we are adding hundreds of billions of dollars to
the enormous national debt, and borrowing from future generations instead of
being more fiscally disciplined. This
is a new and insidious form of the old gambit of taxation without
representation. It penalizes our
children, and theirs. It is ridiculous
and essentially immoral to foist such costs onto our descendents at the same
time that we wastefully use up non-renewable resources, heedlessly damage
fragile ecosystems, degrade fresh water resources, deplete public lands, allow
businesses to pollute the commons, and contribute to global warming and climate
instability. We should not continue
4. Deceptive rhetoric and ideological spin and
distorted science are being used to shore up laissez-faire anti-regulation
doctrines. Official government channels
and manipulated television and radio media are being used to distort the truth
and discourage honest journalism. This
prevents people from being accurately informed, and thus they are less able to
have a rational and intelligent opinion, and to act and vote accordingly.
5. There is an immediate gold rush of disaster
opportunists, price gougers, real estate speculators, and fraudulent corruption
flooding into the South to take advantage of bureaucracy and free-flowing
taxpayer dollars. Bold measures should
be adopted to ensure that funds are spent wisely, not profligately, on relief
6. The Achilles heel of the U.S. is our
addiction to fossil fuels and imported oil. Instead of embracing bold conservation measures and greater energy
efficiency and better vehicle mileage and the inevitable imperative to switch
solar power and other energy alternatives, our leaders increase our
vulnerability by continuing to defend Vested Interests and to aggressively
fight oil-related wars abroad. We do
this even though it grows increasingly obvious that the world is reaching peak
oil production, and that the status quo of wasteful fossil fuel usages is
foolish and absolutely unsustainable.
7. The slow federal emergency response exposed
the folly of allowing unqualified people to be appointed to positions of power
(like the Director of FEMA).
8. Political pandering to the right wing and
religious fundamentalists results in a distorted emphasis on divisive
hot-button-issue controversies that distract the public from helping solve our
social problems. Issues such as gay marriage,
school prayer, flag burning, unrestricted gun ownership, drug use, teen sex,
and abortion are emphasized, but far more important moral issues are ignored,
such as those concerning growing poverty, environmental injustices,
homelessness, unequal opportunity, social dysfunctionality, sexual and racial
discrimination, voter disenfranchisement, and threats to international peaceful
9. All legislation is focused on the best
interests of corporations, rather than the general welfare and the common good.
Particularly bad legislation that has
been passed by the Republican-dominated Congress in the past 5 years include:
(a) regressive tax cuts that severely exacerbate social inequities and budget
deficits; (b) the Highway and
Transportation Bill that contains over 6,000 pork-barrel spending projects; (c) the Energy Bill that is far too heavily
weighted towards the status quo of wasteful energy usages, fossil fuel
dependence, and subsidies to Big Oil, Big Auto, and Big Coal companies; (d) the Healthy Forests Initiative that
strives to cut the public out of decision-making on public lands management issues,
and to give logging companies easier access to America's National Forests; (e) the Clear Skies Initiative that weakens
the 1970 Clean Air Act, allowing antiquated power plants to take advantage of
pollution regulation loopholes, resulting in greater public health costs; (f) the Bankruptcy Act that primarily
benefits banks, often at the expense of people suffering medical calamities; (g) the Medicare Prescription Drug Act that
creates an extremely expensive new entitlement program that primarily benefits
giant drug companies, expands bureaucracy, and helps corporations to evade
paying healthcare costs for their employees; and (h) the Patriot Act, which in some aspects unreasonably erodes
important Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms.
only has the aftermath of the disasters of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina
highlighted the wrong-headedness of our government policies, but they have also
cast greater clarity on the failings of the status quo BEFORE the events. Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, cites the numerous ways in which the
government studiously ignored the intelligence that warned of the growing
threats to the U.S. by Al Qaeda terrorism before September 2001. Likewise, before the New Orleans tragedy,
government policies actively contributed to circumstances that have made the
disaster far worse: allowing the deterioration
of levees, causing Louisiana coastal wetlands erosion, exacerbating global
warming, fostering ever-greater social inequities, and failing to support good
public transportation systems.
LEADERS ARE MISLEADING US! They are
misleading us in both senses of the word: 1) leading us in the wrong direction, and 2) simultaneously
deceiving us to accomplish this. They
claim moral and righteous motivations, and propagate rosy spin for their
actions. They even resort to bald-faced
lies in order to advance their wrong-headed goals. Yet, in truth, their motives are almost singularly allied with the
crony capitalistic ends of benefiting those with money, power and the right
connections in order to facilitate greater profits at the public's expense. Concomitantly, they throw in their Strict
Father eagerness to control and dominate American society with harsh,
puritanical and repressive social policies.
fiddlers must be called to account to pay the piper by admitting that their
sorry old tune is too shortsighted and unfair to be accepted any longer. We cannot continue to neglect the poor, the
disenfranchised, our children, our educational system, our country's
infrastructure, and future generations. And we can no longer pander to right-wing neoconservatism that
advocates extravagantly financed aggressive militarism, violence to combat
violence, and egregious violations of the sovereignty of other countries with
preemptive attacks and the occupation of foreign lands.
have intended and unintended consequences. The Cheney/Bush Administration has been politically clever, but
misguided in its focus and incompetent in its management. The Administration has proclaimed that it has
a God-approved mandate to pursue initiatives that are demonstrably contrary to
the best interests of the majority of Americans. The Administration is effectively enshrining shortsightedness in
public policy and betraying the public's trust by dramatically enriching the
wealthy through the expediencies of regressive tax changes and deficit
spending. Republican policies are
abandoning the poor, fostering ever-greater social inequalities, ignoring
environmental risks, failing to support either renewable energy alternatives or
more efficiency in automobile efficiency standards, opposing sensible energy
conservation measures, and squandering hundreds of billions of dollars of
America's wealth on military aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan under false
leaders are effectively committing high crimes and misdemeanors. These facts and understandings are convincing
grounds for impeachment of the President and Vice President. We probably should not wait until the
elections of 2008; let us throw the
scoundrels out now! This will bring
clarity to the abuses of power of the current Administration and Congress.
stark light of truth occasionally filters its way through the conventional
smoke and mirrors of dogma, deception, rhetoric, ideological spin, and the
doctrines of the status quo. We must be
daring and imaginative. We must enact
greater fiscal discipline and require more responsibility. We must design our economic systems more
intelligently. We must improve our
social institutions. We must properly
prioritize planning, ensuring that it encompasses long-term sustainable goals.
must demand that our leaders change course. We must hold them accountable for their arrogant disregard for the
general welfare and the common good. We
must insist that we adopt measures that are more reasonable and more
egalitarian, with the following goals:
taxation more progressive, and balance spending with taxes collected.
government spending fiscally sustainable.
the unfair and socially antagonistic trend towards making the rich richer and
the poor poorer.
in the true security of the American people, not in aggressive warfare, pork
barrel projects, resource depletion, and corporate welfare.
spending more intelligently and objectively by investing in infrastructure
maintenance, urban renewal, and better contingency planning.
the influence of Vested Interests in setting policies and enacting legislation
that favors their narrow interests. Embrace
innovative solutions, not entrenched old technologies.
energy conservation, efficiency, and alternatives, and wean the United States
from our dependence on fossil fuels and non-renewable resources.
stronger institutions to protect human rights, equal opportunity, and fair
representation of both citizens today and future generations.
citizen's rights to privacy, limit the intrusiveness of government, and reduce
the bloated size of the bureaucracies that are running the federal government.
always present us with "dangerous opportunities". The positive side of these opportunities is
the chance to rebuild people's lives and the devastated Gulf Coast with greater
fairness, more equal opportunity, less structural poverty, and more sustainable
renewable energy technologies like solar power in homes and buildings. The dangers lie in the probability that these
opportunities will be squandered, just as the international goodwill in the
wake of the 9/11 attacks was wasted through arrogant unilateralism and
aggressive shock-and-awe militarism.
chances of real reform and visionary change are already being reduced in the
Gulf as business-as-usual policies and Vested Interests capitalize on the
reconstruction effort by advancing their selfish causes and imposing their
ideological and opportunistic initiatives. Affirmative Action and fair wage laws are being suspended, no-bid contracts
are being given to contractors who will overcharge the government,
environmental laws are being weakened, tax breaks for the rich are being
protected, vast new deficit spending is being created, legislation is being
advanced to subsidize ever-more aggressive drilling for oil on public lands,
and public education is being abandoned in favor of vouchers for private
schools and religious schools.
capitalism is a new form of predatory imperialism. It uses the desperation and fear created by catastrophes to engage
in globalization, privatization, militarism, and radical social and economic
again we are faced with the choice of implementing wise and empathetic ideas
that are focused on creating a better society, or foolishly sticking with
status quo strategies that reward entrenched companies and wealthy people. We cannot continue to allow stupidity in
bureaucracy, partisanship, social harshness, opposition to common sense
regulations, and ecological soundness. And
we must keep in mind that fairness is needed in all decisions -- fairness to
all people, including women, gays, blacks, poor people, and future generations.
public must get involved and begin taking more committed action. We must express outrage at the obscene fiscal
irresponsibility of the current Administration, and its deceptions, misplaced
priorities, unjust initiatives, and aggressive militarism. We still live in a democracy where our voices
can make a great difference, and it is high time we stood up and told the right
wing that we have had enough!
--- Dr. Tiffany Twain