Throughout prehistory, and especially in this interregnum we call civilization, folks have gathered round the wagons, enforced unity, collectively beat sticks and raised arms to fight the enemy. Straight out of the theory of natural selection and refined by collectivism, tribalism is a strategy that has worked well for humanity. Tribalism relies on the powerful instinct, the fierce need to defend and protect one’s own. And violence, residing more or less in each human being, has been the typical behavior in response to the instinct. Violence has also been an intoxicant, blurring our vision with bloodlust and revenge and blinding us to alternative strategies.
Notions of peace and non-violence have been relegated to the academy – they represent for most an impractical idealism that cannot possibly work in the “real world.” But look at this real world. Look at the terrible situation in Israel. The perpetual attack and retribution. Because of its force, I anticipate Israel’s military will achieve a peace, but it will be a seething peace, and will likely reemerge with more violence. Now the United States in fighting terrorism is following Israel’s lead,and we can anticipate the same results: Perpetual war. A perpetual war economy. Is this the world we want?
Facing the state of the world today, I am compelled to agree, on practical grounds alone, with the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. spoken some forty years ago, the “choice before us is between non-violence or non-existence.”
This year the U.S. military will spend over $343 billion — more than the next thirteen nations combined (virtually all of whom are close allies). With the new war on terrorism and increased military spending on national missile defense, tax cuts set in motion for the next ten years, an economic stimulus package returning billions to corporations and a declining economy and revenue base, we can expect domestic programs to be gutted. Is this the world we want?
President Bush’s rrecent actions are rooted in tribalism, yet have not achieved security within our borders, nor have been in the best interest of American citizens, nor the rest of the world. In backing out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Bush abrogated a bilateral agreemennt for the first time in American history. Add this bold unilateralism to the gutting of inspection protocols for the Biological Weapons Convention, de-funding the U.N. office for Comprehensive Test Ban treaty, and backing-out of the Kyoto Protocols, we have an administration with the worst case of tribalism ever exhibited.
And yet huge gaps continue to exist in the protection and defense of the citizenry. Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles has been pushing Governor Davis to deploy potassium iodide tablets to communities surrounding nuclear power plants. In two lengthy letters, PSR-LA noted that such tablets can mitigate one of the more devastating consequences of radioactive fallout: exposure of the thyroid gland to radioactive iodine, a deadly carcinogen. I-131 is retained in the small space of the thyroid, increasing the likelihood of cellular damage or abnormality. This can include loss of thyroid function, nodules in the thyroid, or thyroid cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable as their cells rapidly divide in developing organs, and in the nervous, reproductive and immune systems.
I urge PSR-LA members to contact Governor Davis and equest that the stockpiling and distribution of the tablets be put into effect immediately. This is one cost effective, timely action that the government can take that could save lives and reduce the ensuing horror of a nuclear disaster.
A thin silver lining: the October anthrax attacks brought home the importance of a vital public health infrastructure. And, reflecting on the possibility of a small pox outbreak, it’s easy to see that national boundaries will not keep out this plague.