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Monday, November 22, 2004

An Unarmy of Billions

Mike Gerber dreams about (Martin Luther King-style dreaming) a Compassion Industrial Complex: "Massive groups of people in the fullness of their vigor, sent off to foreign countries to do good deeds and help other people out."
Back at home, there'd be whole regions whose economies depended on the Compassion Industrial Complex, the influence and scope of which was growing all the time. 'I don't know what we'd do without the free-glasses-for-poor-people factory.' The CEOs of the do-goodingest companies would receive rock-star treatment in the business press, and their shareholders would be endlessly enriched. Innovation would be constant, and while sometimes expensive, always worth it. "We help the Unarmy help you."

There'd be families with generations of members, all serving proudly; soldiers coming home, decorated for acts of brave and conspicuous kindness overseas. 'I'm in the 101st Airborne Coat Delivery--'the Smilin' Kid,' that's our symbol. It's on all our copters. Don't believe the movies, it's nothing like that...Being in an unwar--you can't describe it. My sis drives an unarmored personnel carrier--it's fulla therapists and socialworkers."

There would be highly trained and exotically equipped strike forces, dropped in by paraglider perhaps, to provide marriage counseling or shovel walks for the elderly. 'How'd you do that so fast?' 'Well, ma'am, it's this shovel. It can achieve Mach 4.3. Took a billion dollars to develop, but I think you'll agree, it was worth it." Frogmen in rubber boats would tirelessly sweep the oceans free of choking trash, camoflauged so as not to alarm the fish.
Sort of like the Peace Corps on steroids, I guess, what the Peace Corps might have been if Kennedy's vision for it had been as large as his vision for the Apollo program, or if the expenditures on nuclear missiles and arming the Shah and trying to overthrow Castro and preparing to invade Vietnam hadn't been so much larger than those for the Peace Corps. The Spanish tutor that I hired this past summer, Shayna, is now with the Peace Corps in Togo (a small West-African nation). Not exactly the road to wealth and fame, I'm afraid. Here's an excerpt from her latest e-mail:
Thankfully training will be over in a few weeks... our swear in is December 9th at the Ambassador's house. We will all be glad because technical training (health information) and language training is wearing on everyone. The first girl from our stage left (ET) today... she had an eating disorder and apparently it was getting worse here. There are a few other people here who may or may not leave.. it's kind of like survivor, in a way. Who can take the insects, heat, lack of everything familiar, getting diarrhea and amoebas, getting harrassed by africans who taunt you because you are white, etc., the longest. And you certainly don't win any money... so far the US government has paid me a whopping $270 for my time here. But I do like it here.. I love the people (the ones who get to know you, not the ones who shout profanities) the food, and my village is great.
Dennis Kucinich's Department of Peace proposal is along these lines, although it could probably benefit from some of Gerber's hyperbole to really fire people's imaginations.

Thanks to Jonathan Schwartz at A Tiny Revolution for linking to that Gerber post, and to a fine Bob Harris post as well.