Thursday, March 6, 2008

Mutually Exclusive: Multi-Billionaires & Morality

All men may be created equal, but because of money, their lives and deaths most certainly aren't.

Fortune Magazine, the magazine where the richest companies and people in existence are discussed and ranked in the ultimate terms of modern standards - net worth - publishes its richest men in the world issue every year. Of course it is interesting, though transitory, to know who could build the biggest house out of money in a given year. But for me, this type of analysis beg perhaps the question of our Human Age.

Why is it possible for fewer men than I can count on one hand to be worth close to a fifth of a trillion dollars, while about one out of every seven people in the world live on less than one dollar a day, and moreover, while approximately ten million children under the age of five die each year due to poor sanitation, lack of water, hunger, HIV/AIDS, and predominately preventable-treatable diseases?

Furthermore, it is a matter of fact that Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Carlos Slim - just three people - possess the resources to abolish Tuberculosis, Malaria, and Starvation with just a few clicks of the computer mouse. This is to name a few of the daily preventable afflictions facing the average human. This point, and this posting for that matter, does not in the least intend to censure or undermine Bill and Melinda Gates, as they are wonderful humanitarians, or Warren Buffet, who unbelievably intends to give eighty-three percent of his sixty-two billion dollar fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation when he dies.

My point is that such a pervasive and rapidly-increasing chasm in wealth and the standard of living throughout the world, seems to me to be the most egregious injustice taking and to have ever taken place. I sincerely feel that no man should be able to buy his own island while other men cannot afford to buy food for their children. It seems unequivocally lucid to me that no one should even feign an atom of Morality or Ethics if they are so rich as to be able to quench the thirsty, feed the starving, save those with preventable illnesses, and heal those with treatable diseases, and don't.

I think Robert Frost is right on the money when he says, "The having anything to sell is what is the disgrace in man or state or nation."

A Free Country is a Vulnerable One by Definition - But to Ignore this Fact Magnifies it Effect

The following is a video of a person planting the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that detonated at a US Military recruiting center in Times Square today. It is worth noting that the type of device used is the very explosive which has reeked havoc and accounted for more US troop deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other. According to iCasualties, the total number of American troops killed by IEDs in Iraq alone, last updated on February 8th of this year, is 1720. Compare this with 3,974 total US solider fatalities. Was someone trying to make a point?

It's hard not to speculate.

He or she planted this explosive knowing full well that even Times Square, one of the busiest places in the world during the day, is down to a dull roar by 3 AM. Perhaps this is one of those acts done in order to raise consciousness and stimulate conversation and government action to actually address the rampant vulnerabilities of American cities. Whoever he or she was, they selected a perfectly susceptible and symbolic area.

If this was why the IED was planted, such an action though obviously a heinous way to make a point, because people could have been killed by accident, possesses validity in point of fact. That is to say, the money spent "taking the War to the terrorists" dwarfs that which is spend for planning, security, policing, and disaster recovery preparedness. If this is not brimming with perilous fecklessness I don't know what is.

It really makes me wonder that between the gross misallocation of US resources to the provocative and ill-conceived wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the fatalistic myopia afflicting the unconstitutionally powerful Bush Administration - what are we waiting for.

Didn't we shout "never again?"

Executive Ignorance Causes Unintended Consequences & Inadequacy Confronting Them - But You Can Acutally Help This Time!

Having interned at the Suicide Prevention Action Network USA (SPAN USA), a suicide prevention and mental health rights advocacy nonprofit in Washington D.C., I have been aware of the sharp increases in active-duty soldier and veteran suicides for sometime now. However, though it seems to make sense to people who hear this for the first time, overall very few have noticed it as a consequence of fighting two detracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why is it that we always count the bodies which have been bruised, battered, and broken, but all too often not the minds and spirits? One could ask, what good is a healthy body if the mind is ill? Moreover, one should ask, what good is the America government, if it leaves millions of its best and brightest citizens (acknowledging the friends and families of these soldiers), to suffer in the darkest recesses of the human mind?

The truth is, according to the Washington Post, "Suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2007 reached their highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980." In addition, the Post reports, "the number of attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries in the Army has jumped sixfold since the Iraq war began. Last year, about 2,100 soldiers injured themselves or attempted suicide compared with about 350 in 2002." This means that close to half the number of soldiers who have died fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the Post reports is now at 4,441, have experienced "attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries." This is astonishing.

What is essential to point out about these figures, though it may seem counterintuitive, is that "Historically, suicide rates tend to decrease when soldiers are in conflicts overseas," notes the Washington Post. So, what is happening today is unprecedented: the suicides of soldiers are increasing while they are in conflicts overseas. Unfortunately, history has not done a full 180, and suicide rates tend to rise when troops return, especially after second, third, and fourth duties. Therefore, if one follows this to its logical conclusion, the likelihood that these figures are going to continue rising as troops come home in the next 18 months or so, assuming Barack or Hillary become President, spells a real mental health crisis for America's next generation of veterans. It also warrants an immediate call to action.

Is there going to be a repeat from, say, Vietnam, where vets get slighted for mental illness, and suicide attempts. Are we going to consciously deny necessary care for what certainly are now medically and scientifically recognized diseases, increasing rates of homelessness and crime, all the while boosting the already strained prison and mental institution populations?

Or, is there going to be an alleviation of stigma, of unrelenting character attacks on those with legitimate and treatable illnesses, and a dramatic increase in funds for the VA mental health systems, and a foundation of social networks and outreach programs to give a significant portion of the next American generation a chance to enjoy a life beyond that of military service?

If you're reading this, you are part of the decision, you cannot claim ignorance, as have a multitude of government officials up until mold (really a symbol) was exposed at Walter Reed Hospital. You can willfully click off this page and simply say 'boy this is a sad story,' allowing the first scenario a chance of realization. Or, you can go here, and at least let your Congresspersons know that our troops should not have to find a battle waiting for them at home. Help America's best interests of human rights and social stability be realized.

The article I just read that sparked this posting is here: