This country is now in the midst of economic doldrums exacerbated by the apparent inability of the federal government to effectively deal with the endemic problems that face the nation’s people, including unemployment, underemployment, hunger, homelessness, a failing infrastructure, a crisis in affordable health care and, most importantly, the looming eventuality of economic and social dislocations caused by climate change. In fact, to some of the nation’s leaders, these problems are dutifully ignored or treated as if they do not exist – as if the suffering that their reality imposes on so many is of no real consequence.
The Great Depression that began with the stock market crash of 1929 was caused by many of the same factors that resulted in the Great Recession of 2008. In spite of the policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) New Deal, it is believed that it was the industrial revitalization propelled by preparations for the U.S. entry into World War II that brought the nation out of the devastating depression.
The arguments given for the U.S. participation in World War II were many and included: the preservation of democracy, the need to subdue and defeat fascism and to keep the nation secure from outside aggression. The case made for the U.S. to abandon its policy of isolationism was ultimately accepted by the general public after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that decimated the pacific fleet and left the public feeling terribly vulnerable.
Although war and the prospects for war can readily be used to mobilize public opinion and permit the expenditure of vast amounts of public resources necessary to maintain a war footing, it seems that the idea of spending economic capital in order to assure a peaceful future through peaceful means holds no real traction.
The application of economic resources in order to ensure that no one goes hungry or homeless; that the infrastructure required to sustain a modern technological culture is appropriately tended to; that monies required to build an adequate health care system are provided; that quality education for all is appropriately financed and, most importantly that resources are utilized to help forestall the worst possible outcome from climate change – all of these necessary expenditures would stoke the economic engine, yet they face extraordinary opposition. Efforts to mobilize the public to address these important issues with the appropriate resources and sustained effort have apparently stalled. Quite to the contrary, we have heard calls for increased austerity that will serve no useful purpose except to worsen the very problems that will ultimately endanger the prospects for peace and social and economic justice.
I pose the following question – why are we unable as a people and, in the broader sense, as a species to wage the peace through reasoned and intelligent judgment while we are all too willing to jeopardize our collective future in the name of conflict, of aggression and ultimately war? A failure to find an adequate answer to this puzzling reality and finally correct it may eventually lead to horrific consequences.