freedom and success they hate,
why arent they
By Luciana Bohne
09/27/05 Most Americans like to believe they live in
the best country in the world. They don't. According to the United Nations
Human Development Report for 2005, Norway is number one. Why? It's a welfare
There is a pleasant economic equality enjoyed by the Norwegian
polity. No one is too poor; no one is too rich. In fact, great wealth is
regarded as some sort of social disease. Third oil exporter after Saudi Arabia
and Russia, Norway is tucking away a national fund of over $180 billion for
when the oil runs out, guaranteeing each family the quaint sum of $22,000 per
year-in addition to guaranteed health care, education, pensions, and paid
maternity leaves and vacations to die for! True, a glass of beer will cost you
$8, but the waiter makes a good salary.
Americans like to think that
terrorists attack them because they are rich, free, and number one. Not true.
They don't attack Norway-another benefit for keeping your neck out of the
woods, minding your own business, taking care of your own people, and planning
for tomorrow-not to mention preventing your government from being drowned in
the bathtub by snake-oil salesmen posing as public servants, so it can't help
when an iceberg hits a fjord, or equivalent natural disaster. Norwegians seem
proud of having government on their backs! Not too heavy when they can request
and obtain any government record they please for their review! They are also
disgustingly healthy. Must be the lack of stress. Thirty million Americans are
on anti-depressants. You wonder why.
Lots of Americans like to think
they have the most generous government in the world. Again, not true. The US is
the stingiest donor of foreign aid among rich nations. Current foreign
development aid is up from $52.3 billion to $57 billion per year but quite
short of the $100 billion needed to meet the goals of the UN Millennium
Development Goals (MDG) for 2015, which pledged to reduce poverty and
inequality in a Declaration of Millennium Goals signed by 175 UN member nations
in 2000. Rich nations contribute 0.25 percent of their GDP (gross domestic
product); the US contributes 0.1 percent. Among Ambassador John Bolton's 700
amendments to "reform" the UN, his wish list includes gutting the MDG.
Americans like to think they are spreading freedom and democracy around
the world. You guessed it. Not true. The war in Iraq has cost $200 billion so
far, but the Iraqi justice minister can't prosecute foreign fighters on Iraqi
soil who detain and manhandle Iraqi citizens without judicial procedure. As
many as 10,000 Iraqis are in detention in grossly abusive locations, of which
Abu Ghraib is only the most notorious. Foreign fighters, of course, are the
multinational forces, made up of an effective coalition of two-Britain and the
US. Iraqi women have come under Sharia law, after 50 years of sharing legal
equality with men. Think about that, as a test of spreading democracy! Iraqi
farmers are required to buy seeds from corporations after five millennia of
giving the world the genius of their wisdom and experimentation. Now, by virtue
of Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority "intellectual property" law,
included in the current Iraqi constitution, Iraqi farmers have no right to
plant seeds not licensed by the state.
Then, too, Americans like to
think their government cares about the poor, the unfortunate, and the stricken.
They mention the Marshall Plan every chance they get. They forget the Marshall
Plan was a very shrewd investment, which made America rich in the post-war.
With the $200 billion spent on Iraq since 2003, their government could have
done the following: for $100 billion, it could have single-handedly donated the
money to the UN toward reducing the steady rate of death of 1,200 children per
hour, the single cause of which is the pathology of poverty. That's equivalent
to three tsunamis per month, every month! There would have been money left over
to provide education for every child on the globe, reducing child mortality and
infectious diseases. With the other $100 billion it could have fixed the levees
in New Orleans, and prepared shelters stocked with food, water and medicines,
staffed by doctors and public safety experts to protect its own citizens at
home. That's what a government that cares for the poor might do.
week, President Bush spoke at the UN summit, held primarily to discuss the
progress of the MDG. In the shadow of the UN Human Development Report-which
reported that the world's richest 500 individuals have an income greater than
the world's poorest 416 million; that 54 nations are poorer now than they were
in 1990; that life expectancy has fallen in 34 countries; that the populations
of 21 countries are hungrier now than they were in 1990; that in 14 countries
more children are dying before the age of five; that primary school enrollment
is declining in 12 nations-the leader of the free world urged the United
Nations to support the American people's march to spread democracy because this
march "is an exciting opportunity" for the world. If this miserable record of
widening divide between rich and poor is a march to spread democracy, I'd like
to know what its opposite looks like!
So, judging by their response,
did the 150 heads of state, who listened with deafening silence to the US
bromides and clinches! Members of Bush's entourage solemnly and reportedly
declared to anyone who cared to listen that it was traditional among members of
this type of audience not to interrupt orators with applause, but "traditional"
or not, the wonder of it was they didn't break out in laughter-or tears! When
Bush demanded that member nations approve his little democratizing venture in
Iraq, the silence became ominous. Perhaps the little man had not heard of the
day's death toll from Iraq? Over 150 people had been killed in Baghdad, most of
them bricklayers waiting on line to apply for jobs, in a country with over 60
Most Americans (55 percent) do not believe,
according to the Gallup International Voice of the People Poll (2005), that
their country is governed by the will of the people. In this they are in tune
with the rest of the world. Across the planet, 65 percent of the people believe
their governments do not express their will. In Europe the percentage is 82.
But unlike Europe where the percentage is dismal, US people are second to
Africa in believing that more power should be given to religious leaders!
Ironically, for a country babbling of family values, and uniquely for the
globe, US people cite the family as the least influential institution in their
decision-making considerations. In the US, the number of people who say a
soldier or policeman has the most influence over their decisions is well above
global average. You could say this is either a militarized mentality or a
scared one. Self-determination, it ain't.
So, Americans, whose
politicians congratulate themselves in exporting democracy, have little
confidence in enjoying it at home, while a dangerous number of them crave
theocracy. I would say this is a people in crisis. And until they can sort it
all out, they had better start thinking that "the rich will do anything for the
poor, except get off their backs," according to the unmentionable political
philosopher, who the likes of George Bush would rightly define as his scourge.
For George Bush and the ruling elites the goal is clear: to maintain the status
It is time for ordinary Americans to decide what's
Luciana Bohne teaches film and
literature at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at