Saturday, December 24, 2016

Why Not an Alms Race Instead?

Further to my blog yesterday, today when asked about his tweet, US President Elect Donald Trump had this response: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

Glorious! Sounds like a game of Survivor: “outwit, outplay, outlast.” Have you noticed that the word Twit is found in the first of these terms? Just saying.

I won’t go over the ground I covered in my previous blog in which I suggested that while Donald is right to say that the world needs to come to its senses concerning nuclear weapons, as leader of the “free-world” and “the greatest country on earth,” and as a citizen of this world, he should lead the conversation toward global disarmament. I can hear Hillary’s words in July resounding in my head: "A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” She had her flaws, but one of them wasn’t this kind of macho bravado crap.

Incidentally, Vladimir’s response is wonderfully reassuring: “Indeed, they have more missiles, more submarines and more aircraft carriers, we aren’t arguing with that, but we are simply stronger than any aggressor.”

Anyway, isn’t it great to see the leaders of the two most powerful countries in the world posturing for position? I suggest we have a celebrity boxing match and the winner takes all. Might work out a bit better than a nuclear holocaust. Would be very entertaining too.

A better suggestion is that instead of the escalation of an arms race the two great powers have an Alms race. The term “alms” is not used that much anymore. According to the Oxford Dictionary, “alms” are “(in historical contexts) money or food given to the poor.” So, instead of more arms, we need more alms. Why not an alms race to see which nation can be the most benevolent toward the suffering in the world?

According to one source, at the moment, 80% of the world lives on less than $10 per day. The poorest 40% of the world’s population account for 5% of the world’s income. The richest 20% have 75% of the world’s income. Just over a quarter of children in developing countries are underweight and malnourished. 72 million children in the developing world have no access to schools. A billion people cannot read. I could go on with endless statistics, but we get the point. At the same time, less than a percent the world spends on weapons each year would put every child into school. It costs $1.8million USD to build each nuke, perhaps that money could be put to much better use resolving the problem of poverty.

Jesus talked about the wealthy giving to the poor more than anything else. As Donald thinks the Bible is the greatest book in the world, he can check this out for himself in such passages as the Sermon on the Mount/Plain (Matt 5-7; Luke 6), the many parables like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), the Rich Fool (Luke 12), the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16), and other examples like the Rich Ruler (Luke 18), Zacchaeus (Luke 19), and the generous widow (Luke 21). In fact, just about everything Jesus said explicitly or implicitly calls for the wealthy to give alms to those in disadvantage and need. Alongside non-violence, it is one of the central aspects of Jesus’ teaching.

On the other hand, the Don (oh that’s Bradman, whoops) will struggle in vain to find a text which endorses the building of weapons of mass destruction. Despite claiming to have the full weaponry of the Lord of Armies at his disposal (the one who nuked Sodom and Gomorrah), Jesus simply wasn’t interested in that way of being human. The world was controlled by despots at the time of Jesus, the likes of the Caesars and Herod. Jesus came to the world to turn such nonsense upside down. He showed us another way. Don and Vlad don’t seem to have worked that out yet.

So, my challenge to the VP-elect is rather than building yet more than the 7.700 nukes he has at his disposal at the touch of a button (what a comforting thought), he should seek to up the US’s game concerning alms-giving. What we need is not an arms race, but an alms race, whereby the wealthy of the world put their extensive resources to work to alleviate the suffering of the millions in poverty. He can do this personally, with his enormous personal empire. Now he has at his disposal the wealth of the richest country in the world.

As we head into Christmas, this makes sense, for Old Saint Nick is famous for this very thing. So come on Don, give up behaving like a tough guy in the playground, acting staunch, making threats, warning wannabees that you will give them a good old fashioned hiding if they threaten you. Instead, let’s see you be the most radical and generous President in world history leading your nation in upping caring for those in need. After all, this too is a part of the “great” American tradition. You could become even more famous, Saint Donald! The guy who fixed the problems of poverty and income disparity. Not the guy who led the world into another arms race, cold wars, and who knows what else … God have mercy!

Then again, if he does build up his arsenal and nuclear war breaks out, the world’s poor will be incinerated. So, I suppose there are always other ways of solving problems. I would suggest that this is not the best one, unless you don’t mind a “bit” of collateral damage.

So seriously Don, Vlad, and anyone else who cares to have ears to hear, this Christmas let’s launch an alms race. I dare you, Don, I dare you.

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