Remarks at Peacestock 2020
Imagine you're stranded on a barren rock in the middle of the ocean, nothing in sight but the endless sea. And you've got a basket of apples, nothing else. It's a huge basket, a thousand apples. There are various things you could do.
You could allow yourself a few apples a day and try to make them last. You could work on creating a patch of soil where apple seeds could be planted. You could work on starting a fire in order to have some cooked apples for a change. You could think of other ideas; you'd have plenty of time.
What if you were to take 600 of your 1,000 apples and throw them as hard as you could into the water, one by one, in hopes of hitting a shark, or scaring all the sharks of the world so that they wouldn't come near your island? And what if a voice in the back of your head were to whisper to you: "Psst. Hey, buddy, you're losing your mind. You're not scaring sharks. You're more likely to attract some monster than to get a message out to all the monsters in the world. And you're going to starve soon at this rate."
And what if you were to shout back at that little voice in your head: "Shut up you naïve idealist socialist Putin-loving traitor! I'm funding the entire island's Department of Defense, and I'm not sure 600 apples is enough!"
Well, clearly, you would be crazy and self-destructive and likely to starve sooner rather than later. Most people aren't that crazy. As Nietzsche remarked, insanity is unusual in individuals, but in societies it is the norm.
That includes U.S. society, where the U.S. Congress takes roughly 60% of what it's got to work with and dumps it into something so loony that no fiction writer would get it past an editor. It builds weapons that, if used, would destroy all of humanity, and then it builds more of them, over and over again, as if humanity will be around to use them after having been destroyed.
It builds lesser weapons that only destroy bits of the earth at a time, but it sells them to dozens of other countries all over the earth, so that when it's using its own weapons, it's usually using them against weapons it built and sold.
It even gives them away, to some of the most brutal governments around. It gives training and even just cash to many of the most oppressive regimes there are, and gives more weapons to its own local domestic police forces and trains them to treat its own population as a war enemy.
It builds robot airplanes that can blow people up, uses them to create bloody chaos and bitter resentment, and then makes sure everybody else has them too.
This war madness is based on supposedly defending oneself against enemies no more real than those sharks on that island. But in the process, the U.S. government creates small-scale blowback and some serious arms races, including the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
These activities take a heavy toll on the planet and its climate, air, and water. They justify secrecy and destroy government transparency, making anything resembling self-governance impossible. They fuel and are fueled by all the worst tendencies in people: hatred, bigotry, violence, vengeance. And they leave little in the way of resources for everything actually needed for survival: conversion to sustainable practices, development of decent systems of governance.
And when you ask, why can't we have clean energy or healthcare, they shout at you, every time: HOW YA GONNA PAY FOR IT?!
Increasingly, some people are beginning to give the right answer: I'm going to take a few damn apples away from the military!
To be sure, some people follow up that right answer with unhelpful comments like "The military will still have enough to keep us safe," or "We can get rid of the weapons that don't work," or "We can end one of these wars and prepare for a better one." These are the people who only want to throw 400 apples at the imaginary sharks, and throw them properly, and make sure every demographic group gets a proper share of the throws.
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