Friday, June 23, 2006
Yesterday I got up at 4:30AM, hopped a train to new York City and attended a conference on spirituality and peace at the UN. While the conference itself was a little, well, shall I say, all over the place? It was a remarkable experience. I sat in one of those chairs with the mike, head set, surrounded by booths where interpreters sit during an international meeting where translators are necessary to convey important ideas and opinions of world leaders who don't all speak in one language. (think Nicole Kidman)
The UN has been trashed a lot, especially by the US (John Bolton!! scary dude) because it is seen as ineffective. But, it is only 60 years old. There was a women there who spoke at the end of the meeting. 91 year old Rose said she has been going to meetings there for 50 years and she was enthusiastic about this forum because it was addressing spirituality (not religion) and the openness of communication. The UN is international territory within the US and it is indeed an exciting place to visit.
People there were dressed in all kinds of outfits; traditional dress of native lands and robes of monks, nuns and a culturally diverse micro population. It is a place where everyone can speak and hopefully be heard. It is not a perfect solution to the world's problems, but what is our option? 60 years is not a long time for any institution of this magnitude to exist. If Rose is right, and who can argue with a 91 year old with 50 years experience? Then the UN indeed is on the right track.
Reform is needed, which we discussed. The security council needs serious restucturing. Most important thought, the UN needs funding. It is hopelessly underfunded. In fact, the US hadn't paid its bill in so long, a few years ago Ted Turner paid $1,000,000,000. out of his own pocket to keep our (USA) membership in good standing. That's 1 BILLION dollars, folks! Well, I think that used up his cash, 'cause he's kind of broke (for a billionaire) these days.
Our government will spend $441. billion dollars for the military in 2006 and is planning on spending $462 billion in '07. see Military spending here That's a budget 7 times larger than the next highest spending country in the world, China.
We are so over the top in military spending it's a bit, well, embarrassing? scary? unnecessary?
This money comes from our federal tax dollars. We're paying for this situation! What if we reduced the military budget by, say 10% ($44 billion) and paid our dues to the UN, created a free educational system, universal healthcare and a .7% donation to the developing world (which we have promised but never done)? Hmmm... What could we do with a 20% reduction? 30%? You get the picture.
What's so cool about the UN is it is a place where citizens of the world are invited to participate, not just heads of state. In fact, we are encouraged to be part of the process. The UN represents the potential of a world democracy, imperfect at present (and probably forever) but an inspiring glimpse into the possible.