Thursday, August 9, 2012

Life on Mars

"Pain is easy to handle -- but nobility.. the nobility of a man is judged by how much truth he can handle" - Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), Apocalypse Now

Congratulations are in order for the NASA Curiosity Rover research team after the successful, indeed, flawless landing of the rover on the surface of Mars. This Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission will send back invaluable data on Mars, a planet which will almost certainly host future manned missions and may someday even be colonized.

In other words, this is a mission that will advance human understanding and be of great use to the species as a whole, all at a cost of $2.5 billion.

Quick aside: around $6 billion dollars will be spent on this year's US election, a total waste of time.

With the economic and social problems currently plaguing the world, there have inevitably been some who have questioned spending such a large sum of money on this mission when it could have better been spent on 'real' issues on Earth such as health, poverty and infrastructure.

World military spending in 2011 was $1.74 trillion, roughly $200 million per hour. Thirteen hours of world military spending would pay for the MSL mission in full with $100 million in change.

In his book, The End of Poverty, Jeffery Sachs, one of the youngest economics professors in the history of Harvard University, calculated that the total cost of ending extreme world poverty in twenty years would be around $175 billion per year, just 10% of world military spending.

The UN estimated in 2008 that it would cost $30 billion a year for ten years to eliminate world hunger. That's 1.72% of military spending. Other world hunger statistics can be found on this useful web counter.

According to, about 1 billion people lack access to clean water. It would cost between $10 and $30 billion a year to provide it. 3.575 million people, the population of the city of Los Angeles, die every year of diseases caused by dirty water.

With a simple calculation we can see that in order to end extreme world poverty and hunger and also provide clean water to everyone on the planet, it would cost a total of around $235 billion a year, 13.5% of current world military spending.

The US spent $663.8 billion on 'overseas contingency operations', the current name for the War on Terror, in fiscal 2010.

From my earlier blog post (linked in previous paragraph) on this issue:

According to Charles Kuzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, as of September 2011 there had been 33 deaths in the US - THIRTY-THREE, count 'em - from extremist Muslim terrorism since 9/11. That's 3.3 people per year. He also says that a third of tips responsible for foiling low-level terrorist threats have come from within the Muslim-American community itself, rather putting to the sword the popular (and disgusting) perception, happily propagated by certain corporate media outlets, that Muslim Equals Terrorist(TM).

So, gigantic sums of money for a so-called threat that kills 3.3 Americans a year, far less than the number killed by bees, but chump change for world poverty, hunger and lack of clean water.

The global arms trade is highly profitable, not to mention extremely shady. For an idea of what goes on in the arms trade (both legal and illegal), watch this devastating, must-watch 15-minute speech by the excellent Andrew Feinstein at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Those who profit from the arms trade are very wealthy and can therefore enjoy close connections with governments and other groups who deal in arms. This gives them enormous lobbying power over politicians and officials, elected in our so-called democracies, who are supposed to represent you and me, the ordinary man and woman in the street.

This is a ludicrous state of affairs, so one must ask why 'we' stand for it. Gigantic sums of money are spent on unnecessary weapons while poor people in nations in the grip of heavy debt, in so many cases brought on by the bailing out of the fraudulent activities of the major banks, suffer terrible deprivations and a serious lack of education/employment opportunities. This state of affairs is unsustainable; and yet sustained it is by our very own apathy and disinterest.

The Olympics are on, after all!

Such apathy is deadly. After the Olympics will come the football season and whatever else there is to distract the average Joe from what is actually happening.

And people will go on suffering.

A paradigm shift in thinking is required: a shift from NIMBY to what affects some will eventually affect all; everyone.

There are plenty of fine writers and journalists around the world, people who highlight terrible abuses of authorities and governments. Just reading and ingesting this information, while perhaps venting on Twitter or a message board, is simply not enough. The same goes for the Glenn Greenwalds and George Monbiots of this world; great writers and journalists and warriors for justice they may be, but their criticism and moaning about the various facets of broken systems will never change anything. Because...

...the game is rigged, and moaning about that fact will change nothing. It is up to us, ordinary people, to take power into our hands via a grassroots movement (explained in my FREE book) and force ourselves into power. The election systems we have are massively flawed as we have no real choice at elections; every single party on the ballot receives enormous amounts in contributions from people or groups who expect to get their money's worth once their paid-for guy is in power. And they get it, all right.

Representative democracy has demonstrably failed. Direct democracy, a system which is eminently workable and is not mob rule, as many ignorant characters online may protest, is the only escape from a future where the banks, the corporations and the rich lobbyists buy the officials you elect.

The time is right for direct democracy.

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (@simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog. The Direct Democracy Alliance, a group dedicated to creating national/global direct democracy, is now also on twitter: (@DDA4586)

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