| by Valerie Serrels
We are taught the ‘golden rule’ in kindergarten…wait your turn, respect others, share, treat others how you want to be treated. However inculcated these virtues may be there is some disconnect that happens when we become adults. This can be seen especially in the policies we form and how we behave as a collective on the macro level. Our national ethos of greed, accumulation, and win-lose power plays are a far cry from our innocent belief as youngsters that sharing is the right thing to do. As adults, we seldom question why Realpolitik has to be ‘reality’—from our dominance based national security, to domestic issues of tax cuts for the wealthy and slashing funding for needed services for the poor.
While part of our national myth is that America is a ‘generous’ nation, the truth is that we give less than 1% of the federal budget to foreign aid. The process of distributing this aid is fraught with waste and self-interest at the institutional level, further diminishing the amount of actual aid received. A fortified multi-billion dollar military budget, when viewed beside an emaciated State Department and USAID, provides a stark reminder of US priorities and values. Unfortunately, we seemed to have lost the lessons we learned in Kindergarten.
Our entrenched greed, served by a derelict capitalism, has reached its zenith with not only a financial and political crisis, but a values crisis. It begs our consciousness to reach beyond to its higher capacity. Models and prototypes exist to lead us toward a society that mirrors the best of humanity, instead of continuing to cater to its dregs.
One of these models on the macro level, the Global Marshall Plan, is based on the values of ‘the golden rule’—sharing, generosity, and compassion. The original Marshall Plan was initiated post-World War II, to bring a decimated Europe back to life. 1.2% of the US GNP was spent with astounding results that stimulated a renewed continent. More recently, Al Gore presented the idea of a Global Marshall Plan to save the world’s environment and “give billions of dispossessed people the tools needed to participate in the marketplace in a rational way.” In addition, Rabbi Michael Lerner, of Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives, began a campaign for a resolution supporting the Global Marshall Plan. The NSP version calls for using 1-2% of the US GDP to eradicate poverty, homelessness, inadequate education, inadequate healthcare, and to repair the global environment. This focus for US policy could go a long way toward reducing terrorism, increasing global and national security, and establishing a moral conscience in the world. Our nation and our planet are desperate for leadership that awakens the spirit and imagination to the belief that sharing, generosity, and compassion can happen in the grown-up world.
Valerie Serrels, M.A. Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding