Saturday, March 19, 2005

Choosing Our Battles

"When a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is that fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army."
-Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun."
-Ecclesiastes 1:9

Things have changed a lot since Thoreau's day. America has abolished slavery, something which many Americans considered impractical in 1849 when Civil Disobedience was written. But old things have a habit of turning up in new ways. Today, a sixth of the population of the earth lives in extreme poverty, having less than a dollar a day with which to attempt to survive.

And once again while this grave injustice goes on, our country busies itself about an unrelated war. Now surely the war on Iraq is substantially different from the war on Mexico. Now we're fighting for "Iraqi freedom." Then we were fighting for the "liberation" of Texas. Maybe it's not that different after all.

Today marks the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. By one estimate, the U.S. will spend $500 billion dollars on miltary expenses this year. Meanwhile, we continue to fall well short of our 2002 promise (in the Monterry Consensus) to devote 0.7 percent of our GNP to foreign aid. We currently only meet about $16 billion dollars of a $70 billion dollar commitment.

We can fight to end terrorism, or we can fight to end poverty. Will we choose our sense of security over our neighbor's survival?


mindflame said...

I think that you are totally right that ending extreme poverty, like you see in some other parts of the world, should be our primary focus but I think it is unrealistic to believe the government will seek anything except the safety and prosperity of its own citizens. We can and should pressure the government to give more to the poorest nations but I don’t see what that has to do with the war in Iraq. More important than pressuring the government to help to we should offer help ourselves lest we, Christians, find ourselves like the rich man in Jesus’ parable who ate well while the poor man at his door suffered. Tonight, I find myself inspired by your attention to this critical and often forgotten issue.

Andy said...

My post was inspired by Jeffrey Sachs' recent article in Time magazine. Sachs, an economist with impeccable credentials, genuinely believes extreme poverty can be eliminated by 2025. It would take relatively little on the economic scale at which governments operate, but would be nearly impossible even for the cumulative efforts of the rather small percentage of tithing Christians.

What this has to do with Iraq is that that's where our government is putting its money. If we spent less on that, we'd have more available for this.

But you're certainly right that the place to start is with ourselves. Mercy Corps is a great charity that supports the kinds of initiatives Sachs talks about (clean water, education, fertile soil, etc.). And I believe our individual efforts have to include pressuring our government to do the right thing.

Sachs says, "Great social forces are the mere accumulation of individual actions."

LutheranChik said...

I've become more and more discouraged over our nation's (which means all of us)cockeyed priorities and lack of will when it comes to dealing with problems that really matter...and the sort of infantile thinking that makes people completely oblivious to social problems unless they can be simplified and personified in some briefly compelling human-interest story on the news that rallies everyone for all of 5 minutes, until we all zone out again. Sigh.