Saturday, July 03, 2010

Declaration of Independence Global Significance

July 4, 2010, 3:00 a.m. (halfway round the world from Iowa)
[For BP disaster see, "Uncanny Prediction of BP Disaster & Response," June 10, 2010; "BP's Commercial: Shame on Media," June 9; "Big Oil: Calling Shots, Corrupting Government," May 26, 2010; "Obama As Finger-Pointer-In-Chief," May 18, 2010; "Big Oil + Big Corruption = Big Mess," May 10, 2010; "P&L: Public Loss From Private Profit," May 3, 2010.]

Hear Its Echos In the Streets
Of That Half of the World's Population
Who Have Less Than 1% of the World's Wealth
(bought to you by*)

"When all else fails, read the manual."

It's good advice when dealing with mechanical or electronics problems -- or corporate-government oppression.

In this case, and on this day, "the manual" is our Declaration of Independence.

NPR on-air personalities read it aloud over the air each year about this time. I read it silently, as my own personal reminder. And for my source I go to the online transcript provided by the folks who are paid to watch over the 234-year-old original for us, the U.S. National Archives & Records Administration.

The NARA describes it as one of our "Charters of Freedom." But it is more than an historic, archival document. It is as timely as today's news, from the Taliban's demands we get out of their country before talks begin, to the hundreds protesting the G20 agenda in Toronto last week, to the anger of our domestic Tea Party crowd and those suffering from the government-corporate abuse of the Gulf of Mexico (Minerals Management Service and BP).

It's a good time to re-read the entire document, linked above, but I'm just going to excerpt some passages that I believe have the greatest currency. As you read them just substitute for "the King of Great Britain" and his abuses, not those of any single individual, but the impact on humanity, especially that least able to defend itself, of the oppressive global-corporate-government-military complex. For what oppresses the world's people today goes well beyond any single nation's government -- as the G20, and its pro-corporate agenda starkly symbolize for us -- and is therefore all the more difficult even to grasp, let alone do something about.

As you read, think about what the BBC and other independent, other-than-American, journalists report as the complaints of those in the streets of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, and at least 50 other countries. See if you can feel even just a small part of what they feel. See if you can hear the echos of the drafters of our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights in the chants of the mobs in their streets, in the cries of mothers with starving children, in the anguish of the survivors who mourn the innocent civilians killed on their way to a wedding -- or a funeral for those killed earlier in the week. And think about the Congress, the institution that threw off our oppressors 234 years ago, and has now become a major part of our domestic problems.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. . . .

[W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them [the People] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, . . ..
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, . . ..
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. . . .
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice . . ..
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. . . .
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us . . ..
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity . . ..
They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. . . .
If you had difficulty with that exercise, here's a little help from Maude Barlow, head of the "Council of Canadians," Canada's largest public advocacy organization. Her remarks to the thousands gathered in Toronto's Massey Hall, as a part of the protest of the G20 agenda, were reported by Amy Goodman on "Democracy Now!," July 2: "Maude Barlow: 'The World Has Divided Into Rich and Poor as at No Time in History."

Here are excerpts from her remarks:

On the eve of this G-20 gathering, let’s look at a few facts.

Fact, the world has divided into rich and poor as at no time in our history. The richest 2% own more than half the household wealth in the world. The richest 10% hold 85% of total global assets and the bottom half of humanity owns less than 1% of the wealth in the world. The three richest men in the world have more money than the poorest 48 countries.

Fact, while those responsible for the 2008 global financial crisis were bailed out and even rewarded by the G-20 government’s gathering here, the International Labor Organization tells us that in 2009, 34 million people were added to the global unemployed, swelling those ranks to 239 million, the highest ever recorded. Another 200 million are at risk in precarious jobs and the World Bank tells us that at the end of 2010, another 64 million will have lost their jobs. By 2030, more than half the population of the megacities of the Global South will be slumdwellers with no access to education, health care, water, or sanitation.

Fact, global climate change is rapidly advancing, claiming at least 300,000 lives and $125 billion in damages every year. Called the silent crisis, climate change is melting glaciers, eroding soil, causing freak and increasingly wild storms, displacing untold millions from rural communities to live in desperate poverty in peri-urban centers. Almost every victim lives in the Global South in communities not responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and not represented here at the summit. . . .

The global mining industry sucks up . . . 800 trillion liters [of water] which it also leaves behind as poison and fully one-third of global water withdrawals are now used to produce biofuels, enough water to feed the world.

Nearly three billion people on our planet do not have running water within a kilometer of their home and every eight seconds, somewhere in our world, a child is dying of waterborne disease. The global water crisis is getting steadily worse with reports of countries from India to Pakistan to Yemen facing depletion. The World Bank says that by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40%. This may sound just like a statistic, but the suffering behind that is absolutely unspeakable.

Fact, knowing there will not be enough food and water for all in the near future, wealthy countries and global investment pension and hedge funds are buying up land and water, fields and forests in the Global South, creating a new wave of invasive colonialism that will have huge geopolitical ramifications. Rich countries faced by food shortages have already bought up an area in Africa alone more than twice the size of the United Kingdom.

Now I don’t think I exaggerate if I say that our world has never faced a greater set of threats and issues than it does today.

So what are the twenty leaders who have gathered here, some already here and the others coming in tonight, what are they going to talk about over the next two days? By the way, their summit costs . . . $2 billion when it’s finished, and the annual budget to run the United Nations is $1.9 billion. I assure you, they are not going to tackle the above issues in any serious way.

The declarations have already been drafted, the failures already spun.

Instead, this global royalty who have more in common with one another than they do with their own citizens . . . are here really to advance the issues and interest of their class . . . to advance the status quo that serves the interest of the elite in their own countries and the business community or the B-20, the new term, a community that will get private and privileged access to advance their free market solutions to these eager leaders.

The agenda is more of the bad medicine that made the world sick in the first place. Environmental deregulation, unbridled financial speculation, unlimited growth, unregulated free trade, relentless resource exploitation, tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts to Social Security and a war on working people. In other words, savage capitalism.
Amy Goodman concluded her report of Barlow's remarks: "Three thousand people packed into the Toronto event. This was at the same time the G8 and then the G20 met. Between 900 and 1,000 people are believed to have been arrested, the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Among them, many journalists. More than a billion dollars, it’s believed, were spent on so-called security, the most expensive security event in Canadian history."

For some of my own take on such issues see "Golden Rules & Revolutions: A Series - VIII," April 19, 2008 (with links to the prior seven blog entries in the series).

To end this on a little happier, and more optimistic note, there's music -- music is at the core of most peoples' movements, and here's an example just brought to me that also makes reference to the past. First, the lyrics from the talented Steve Earle's song, "Christmas in Washington," followed by a YouTube of him singing it in 2008. (A search will bring you a number of YouTubes of Joan Baez singing it.)

Christmas In Washington”

It's Christmastime in Washington
The Democrats rehearsed
Gettin' into gear for four more years
Things not gettin' worse
The Republicans drink whiskey neat
And thanked their lucky stars
They said, 'He cannot seek another term
They'll be no more FDRs'
I sat home in Tennessee
Staring at the screen
With an uneasy feeling in my chest
And I'm wonderin' what it means

So come back Woody Guthrie
Come back to us now
Tear your eyes from paradise
And rise again somehow
If you run into Jesus
Maybe he can help you out
Come back Woody Guthrie to us now

I followed in your footsteps once
Back in my travelin' days
Somewhere I failed to find your trail
Now I'm stumblin' through the haze
But there's killers on the highway now
And a man can't get around
So I sold my soul for wheels that roll
Now I'm stuck here in this town


There's foxes in the hen house
Cows out in the corn
The unions have been busted
Their proud red banners torn
To listen to the radio
You'd think that all was well
But you and me and Cisco know
It's going straight to hell

So come back, Emma Goldman
Rise up, old Joe Hill
The barracades are goin' up
They cannot break our will
Come back to us, Malcolm X
And Martin Luther King
We're marching into Selma
As the bells of freedom ring

So enjoy the hot dogs and fireworks, and the day off on July 5, but don't forget to read the Declaration of Independence again sometime before Tuesday. And remember, "The Declaration of Independence: It's not just for history class anymore."

* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source -- even if I have to embed it myself.
-- Nicholas Johnson

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