the assumption of responsibility for the welfare of the world











2000 December 19


The Stewardship Union has just met, for the last time in this millennium. Our discussion naturally dealt primarily with the US election, which at that time was still unresolved; and without relating in full the opinions and thoughts of my interlocutors I can at least say that they, I, and everyone else I have shared much conversation with recently are of one mind on the outcome, as it has likely been officially determined yesterday.

We are facing a considerable series of setbacks in the next couple of years. The Republican Party of the US will soon control the entire federal apparatus. The Republican Party has made no secret of its allegiance to the principles of dominion; though it employs the language of freedom, it knows nothing of the subject. It favors the rule of society over the individual, and the rule of the wealthy individual over nature. Progress on civil liberties, gay rights, social and economic equality for women and minorities, and the provision of universal health care will simply be on hold for the duration of this period. There are some things that are likely to happen, though, that we may never recover from.

First on the mind of most of my friends and colleagues these days is the natural world. The damage we do is more or less permanent. A wilderness we destroy will never return to what it was; and it will exhibit the human impact for as long as any of us lives. Those who believe that the land is there to be exploited for short-term human gain will now have their way in Washington; and the subsidy of the exploitation and destruction of federal land will now be accelerated. And this will be with the tacit consent of those who do not benefit, even indirectly, from that exploitation, and who will eventually be required to repair (as far as possible) the entailed damage.

We also ought to be alarmed over Bush’s intention to use the budget surplus not to pay off the national debt, but to provide tax rebates to not merely the foolish and self-indulgent wealthy, but also the foolish and self-indulgent middle class that most of us come from. No one likes to pay taxes. The Republicans have no trouble lining up voters who are demanding “their” money back. But for too long, the government ran itself off of borrowings from willing bondholders. This is a democracy, of a sort anyway. The voters/taxpayers instructed their representatives to borrow the money to pay for increased government services in the 1980s and early 1990s. In a very real sense, they have already spent that money. Now that tax collection is actually producing more money than the government is spending, the logical and practical reaction is to pull ourselves out of debt. Instead, recklessly but predictably, we will squander this opportunity, and when the economy begins to contract again, as it surely will despite the purported magic of politicians of all sorts, the deficits will reappear and we will sink even further into debt.

This might be the appropriate time to attempt to disabuse the vast middle of US society of some of their more-foolish patriotic notions, particularly the idea that some sort of loyalty is owed to the government, or the nation for that matter, whether it is right or wrong. This is exactly the sort of thing that the dominion would have us believe, for they can only rule those who will not question their rule. If we are to be free, we must think critically.

Many conservatives, who are generally most in favor of the principle of blind allegiance, and reverence for national institutions, have spent the last eight years working to delegitimize the presidency because they didn’t care for its occupant; the best example that comes to mind is Rush Limbaugh and his “America Held Hostage” nonsense. Limbaugh once stated: “What’s the difference between Watergate and Whitewatergate? Nixon didn’t know; Clinton does.”. Anyone who defends Richard Nixon, or even compares the Nixon régime with Clinton’s very real but ultimately petty scandals, is blindly partisan, of course. But more disturbing is the endorsement, in any form, of the imperial stance of Richard Nixon, his sense of personal entitlement to rule. Nixon was at least partially a victim of the propaganda that he repeated; that is, he really believed that the world should work that way, that someone should become ruler, and why should it not have been him? But Nixon was also, at least partially, in on it. His career, built on the destruction of thoughtful and well-intentioned dissidents, was a witting rise to power through manipulation and deception.

George W. Bush, like George H.W. Bush, is by contrast entirely a tool. He is the hapless crown prince who cannot think for himself, and therefore cannot formulate a challenge to the idea with which he has been presented: that he was born to inherit, that he is fit to rule, and that his cause is righteous. The kingmakers (gods, this metaphor is awesome) who anointed him early and backed him with apparently-limitless wealth found the perfect fool to front for their interests. He seems amiable enough to most citizens. And he will do exactly what the dominion wants. He will probably even think he is in charge. This is not a thought of some cloaked conspiracy behind the throne. We are talking in this case about an open régime, a political movement whose stated aims will lead to control of much of the world by a small part of it, and a fool who believes their ideology and will cooperate with them, who has now been handed great legal power by a tainted process that nonetheless represents partial democracy. Add to the voters who preferred Bush the many voters who think he would be an acceptable second choice and you will find a working majority which permits the increase in the power of the dominion in the US, and, through the US government, in the world.

What the stewardship needs to keep in the public mind is the image of our president desperately and, needless to say, petulantly, trying to stop the tally of a vote before it showed something he did not want the public to see. He might actually have won the statewide manual count of undervotes, which makes his actions all the more discrediting. But his handlers knew that the intent of the voters of Florida would have favored Gore, as did the intent of the voters across the US. Hence the rush to freeze the process while he was still ahead. Why the Supreme Court, which has a majority rhetorically in favor of local government, would have interfered in the way it did is not clear. But the court was just one of many institutions that kicked the election to Bush, and our failure to contest control of those institutions has been partially responsible for our defeat.

For though Al Gore was no real candidate of the stewardship, he was at least the strongest candidate of opposition to dominion. And the attempt by many stewards to build a stronger opposition party, the Greens, failed as well. In the end both of these failures were connected. Many Green supporters backed off at the last moments to vote for Gore and stave off a Bush victory ― enough to cost the Greens a 5% popular vote and future public funding, but not enough to win the election for Gore. And the desire by many Green supporters to pull the Democratic Party back away from its recent rightward trend may fail as well; the rancor between Gore and Nader supporters may never subside now, and the Democrats may try to capture those last few votes for victory on their right flank, rather than their left.

We can only hope that the truth will prevail eventually, that by thinking critically our fellow humans will eventually see through the confusion of this world, fostered by the dominion, and free themselves. We can hope that we are experiencing a long transition, that we are moving away from myth and towards understanding. But if this new millennium is to be more than an arbitrary period, we must make it so. And we are beginning it at a disadvantage. We have lost. We were divided and unprepared, and we have lost. And so our project, yours and mine, becomes more important than ever. We must bring ourselves together, we must analyze our mistakes, and we must decide together how best to save this world. The words are melodramatic, but the sentiment is earnest. This is a grave matter, and I think we all know that.



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