I write this on the 2nd anniversary of the loss of my wife of 72 years, so Joan, this essay is for you.
Thank you, Donald Trump and your cohorts. Without all of you, we probably would have continued on in our ignorant ways, lulled by the relative stability of the last 11,700 years of the Holocene era. You gave birth to the women’s marches of 21 January that sparked the reawakening of the movement for equality for all in their massive marches of millions on 21 January, organized by the likes of 4 women; Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, and Carmen Perez. Your redirection of government funds from science to militarism and your preference for profit over environment has awakened more millions to tolerate inclement weather to march in over 600 world-wide locations in support of science on Earth Day, 22 April. Your disdain for Mother Earth resulted in today’s People’s Climate March. That is a lot of thanks we owe you.
Too many of us had failed to recognize that, after 4 billion years of evolution, one species has managed, all by itself, to introduce the Anthropocene age in which Humans equal, or surpass, Nature in forging self-extinction conditions on this globe. This screams at us to take a new look at what we are doing, understand what individuals and organizations are warning us about - and get active in building safe paths to survival.
In its 2016 analysis, The Institute for Economics and Peace, based in Sydney, Australia, with branches in Oxford, New York, and Mexico City, rated 163 countries in order of Dangerous Living and thus threats to world peace. The US ranks 61st. It borders Mexico that ranks 24th and Canada that ranks a peaceful 156th. Iceland is rated 163rd, thus winning the prize for the best behaved nation. North Korea ranks 14th.
Monopolizing today’s stage are two seekers of publicity: Kim Jong-un of North Korea whose 30 million people sacrifice greatly to reserve 950,000 citizens for its military with 70 submarines, 3 frigates, 4,200 tanks, 4,000 multiple-rocket launchers, and enough plutonium to make 6 nuclear bombs which, Kim claims, is more than enough to destroy the aggressive USA. Sharing the stage is Donald Trump, president of 319 million divided people, noted for wasting enormous sums on the world’s greatest killing force that includes 11 carrier groups, one of which, Trump boasted, was racing for North Korea’s waters when actually it was steaming in what Singapore-area countries think are their waters. Of course, Kim can actually do great harm to South Korea, the rest is bluff whereas Donald can do great harm world wide. Yet, North Korea, with China’s backing, offered a freeze on missile and nuclear work in 2015. It has repeated the offer. Both were rejected by the Obama and Trump administrations because they included the ceasing of US military manoeuvres in South Korea.
Trump’s military conducted an expensive-to-both-sides surgical strike, costing 8 lives, against a suspected Syrian chemical launch site and dropped an 18,000-pound ‘mother of all bombs’ on a Taliban mountain hideway that also took the lives of some hundred nearby civilians that prompted a Taliban suicide counter-strike, claiming 140 lives. This is a never-ending war, unstoppable by military means. Do we really care about humanity when we justifiably spend months lamenting the deaths of a dozen or so by what we incorrectly call Islamic terrorists, but quickly forget the thousands killed by our drones and aircraft?
We who are blessed to live in countries that tolerate dissent do need to thank Trump for reminding us we must protect what we have come to expect as basic rights. And we must export our care to countries that currently do not because many times our Greed is a controlling factor in what they do.
Of course, the bravest of dissidents exist, all too briefly, in countries like China, Egypt, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Turkey where thousands have perished with more thousands languishing in jail. Then we have all those environmentalists murdered with some 205 in 2015 alone in Brazil, Philippines, Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua, Congo, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Mexico, Liberia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Pakistan, usually while protesting the ravages of mining, lumber, and other commercial interests. Global Witness has documented 1,176 cases going back to 2002. 80% of lumber from Brazil is cut illegally.
VP Mike Pence visited Indonesia this month to meet its reformist President, Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi. Trump is building two new resorts in Indonesia, one in Bali and one near Jakarta. He also has an interest in the Freeport-McMoRan Mining Company, controlled by Trump-advisor Mike Icahn. While conveying US heartache at the deaths to ISIS terrorists of 5 Indonesians in January 2016, Pence reminded Jokowi that the US was one of Indonesia’s oldest and strongest defence partners and that Trump intends to strengthen these ties.
According to Allan Nain, reporting for the Intercept, Trump’s associates are working with ISIS to organize a coup to return Indonesia to military rule. Indonesians who had fought for ISIS against Assad in Syria are backing General Prabowo. The US also backed the 1967 military coup that ousted Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president after the 1945 independence from the Dutch, and installed General Suharto to whom the CIA gave a list of 5,000 communists which was the start of the massacre of up to a million undesirables. Ford, Clinton, and Kissinger all praised him. He was given the green light to invade East Timor where the slaughter was akin to the Nazis. By 1998, activists in the US managed to cut off the supply of arms to Suharto. Indonesian human-rights proponents used this and other factors to oust Suharto. Widodo, president #6, is continuing the policies of President #4 in keeping the military out of politics. Nairn admits he does not know if Trump is aware of what his supporters are up to in Indonesia but hopes that his exposé will at least alert him.
The Money and Secrecy that command major governments make us all suspicious of governments and of those who control governments. That governments we wish to call benevolent still persecute heroes like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden tell us they are afraid of Truth. This lack of openness plus many other factors such as talking to other veterans, and exploring what our for-profit media does not tell us, does foster skepticism. A good start for sanity would be to force the world’s most powerful country in military might to: make election day a holiday, forbid all monetary donations to candidates but establish a tax-supported fund for candidates to travel and speak, and ensure media coverage is fair.
The frightening degree of control is exposed when Annie Jacobsen investigated what has happened in such military sites as Area 51 whose 4,687 square miles are hidden away in Nevada’s bleak desert. It is incredible that no one in Congress knew of the atomic bomb until it was dropped on Hiroshima and then on Nagasaki, not needed to end the war but to test a different design. Congress was also kept from knowing about the U-2 spy planes being assembled there from Lockheed’s California plants with USAF, then CIA, pilots learning to fly them at 70,000 feet to spy on Soviet nuclear activities. After the secrecy of the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico, crash of what has been thought was an alien flying saucer, an advanced Soviet flying spy, or a weather balloon had subsided from media attention, the 1950s and 60s saw a rash of sightings revive the UFO mystery, reduced a bit after the silver U-2s were repainted to a black that merged with the darkness of space.
Those in the know made, often self-defeating, attempts at cover up. Several projects culminated in Project Blue Book for which part of my job when on night shifts at NORAD was to log and pass on UFO sightings that were frequently phoned in to me. Knowing nothing about U-2s, I was disappointed with the lack of feedbacks and concern of those who received my detailed reports. One of the very few comments I received was that the sightings were simply reflections from melting snow on mountains.
The odds of us having a universe to be alive in are so incomprehensibly low dictates to us who appreciate the experience, brief as it is, to strive to protect it while using our senses and instruments in a feeble attempt to understand it. Of the 50-odd factors that are involved and need to work together, we are overwhelmed by the enormity of what science now tells us. For instance, if the strength of gravity or the atomic weak force were to vary by only one part in 10 followed by 100 zeros, there would be no life. The initial explosion of the Big Bang had to be fine-tuned to one part in 10 followed by 55 zeros.
To many, this demands, and proves, the existence of a Sun Goddess, an Allah, the Christian God, or other Supreme Beings. But that solves nothing as we ask “Who or what created them?”
We all need to reflect on just how amazingly far we have come in a 4-billion-year journey and wonder why there are so many differences among us. Fortune has not smiled equally on us, so some of us are amazingly smart, some amazingly dumb, some altruistic, some greedy, but all with the same basic ingredients.
There are 7.5 billion of us crowded on a very fragile planet. We think we are at the apex of intelligence, degrees of which are actually possessed by everything from atoms to trees that do communicate with each other.
Yet, for all our smarts, not one of us knows what Life, or Reality, is.
However, we do have immense potential. Every day and every century we achieve new realizations. Time is a vital ingredient. We must accept the challenge of preserving this globe until our progeny finally achieve the understanding sought by their predecessors.
Our pathways are labelled Science, Empathy, Altruism, Co-operation, Inquisitiveness, Morality, Diligence, and they need to intertwine and merge, while excluding that old, winding, blood-stained road, labelled War.
Ye Olde Scribe