Our Time To Choose

The terrorist attack against the United States on September 11 momentarily united the world behind an effort to bring the guilty to justice and secure the whole of humanity against future terrorist violence. It also focused attention on a defining human choice between justice and vengeance, compassion and violence, and freedom and suppression that may well determine whether we will have a world that works for all—or a world that works for no one.

Those who rule the United States in our name have responded by dropping bombs on one of the world's most remote and devastated countries, pushing through new subsidies and tax breaks for the wealthy, rolling back civil liberties, and gutting environmental regulations while demanding that we yield to them our unquestioned obedience in the name of patriotism. It is a compelling teachable moment, for the gap between the actions of those who rule and the needs of a deeply troubled world could hardly be more stark. The true patriots are those who speak openly of the gap and draw attention to real needs.

If we are to have real security we must at once reduce our vulnerability to terrorist disruption and eliminate the conditions of exclusion, hopelessness, and loss of meaning that give rise to it. It isn't rocket science.

Our economic system features long supply-lines, concentrated supplies of volatile fuels, toxic chemicals, and radioactive materials, disposable workers subject to instant dismissal in a moment of disruption, core industries such as air travel subject to extreme swings of consumer confidence, and an unstable financial system built on debt and speculation. It is a disaster waiting to happen.

We become less vulnerable to the extent we favor local production and procurement to shorten supply lines. Replace volatile with nonvolatile fuels, such as hydrogen. Reduce or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals and radioactive materials. Increase employee rights and encourage stable employment relations. Orient the economy toward meeting real, enduring needs that generate stable demand. Bring integrity to the financial system by limiting speculation and the pyramiding of debt. Take appropriate measures to increase environmental security by reducing the human burden on nature.

Steps toward eliminating the primary causes of terrorism are equally straightforward. Strengthen political democracy to assure every person a meaningful voice. Advance economic democracy to assure equitable participation in the ownership of productive assets. Build strong local economies that meet real needs and guarantee every person's right to a secure, fulfilling livelihood. Introduce financial reforms to increase financial stability. Nurture cultural diversity by breaking up media monopolies and supporting local artists. Many of these actions will also contribute to environmental security by eliminating extremes of wealth and poverty that encourage the fortunate few to indulge themselves in wasteful excess and the desperate many to produce more children in a search for economic security.

Perhaps you noticed. It makes no difference whether our priority is physical security, the well-being of all, or the health of the environment. The action agenda is virtually identical. It is our time to choose between the false security of military and police suppression and the true security of a world that works for all. Let us embrace it fully as a moment of hope and opportunity— and as an act of true patriotism.

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