THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he who stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. A generous parent should say, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace;” I love the man who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious future.
George Washington ordered that these words written by Thomas Paine be read to his troops at Valley Forge in December 1776. They were also read aloud in taverns, schoolhouses and churches throughout the colonies. They rallied a nation that had experienced one defeat after another to keep up the struggle against the oppressive powers of imperialistic England.
We are at such a time once again. We are being tested. Our souls are being tried – here in America and in so many other countries across the globe.
We need writers like Tom Paine.
We need YOU.
Whether you think of yourself as a writer or not, the fact that you are reading this blog says that you are a writer. You write emails. You may also tweet, post on Facebook, or use other social media. Perhaps you write short stories, articles. . . books. The important fact is that you write and the written word has never been more important or necessary. And so very powerful.
There is an interesting parallel between Tom Paine’s time and ours.
Although popular history portrays the American Revolution as an idealistic uprising, it was driven by economics. The East India Company controlled world trade, as well as many of the policies of the British government. Its abusive actions in the colonies led to the Boston Tea Party and ultimately the Revolution. After independence, the US Congress perceived corporations as threats to democracy and determined never to allow them to have such power again.
Laws were passed that restricted the granting of corporate charters to companies only if they guaranteed to perform a public service. No company was allowed to purchase another. On average, charters were limited to ten years. After that, as a condition for renewing its charter, each corporation had to prove that it had in fact served the public and guarantee that it would continue to do so.
These laws lasted for roughly a century, until John D. Rockefeller and his associates convinced legislators in the states of New Jersey and Delaware that in order to best serve the public in a new industrialized era, the rules needed to change. Efficient oil exploration and processing, they argued, could not be done in ten years or on a small-scale. What was required were new laws that encouraged long-term charters and consolidation of financial and technological resources – in other words, monopolies. Known as “enabling acts,” these laws would, their proponents promised, generate huge profits that could be taxed. The taxes would fatten government coffers – which in turn would pay the legislators and other politicians higher salaries. Other states quickly followed. Rockefeller and his cronies created conglomerates that purchased their competitors or drove them out of business; their monopolistic tentacles eventually spread across the planet.
It gets worse.
After Milton Friedman won the 1976 Noble Prize in Economics, the idea that corporations should maximize profits, regardless of the environmental and social costs, became the overarching goal of business. It also led to the extremely rapid growth of global corporations. Local companies in countries as diverse as Japan, Korea, Germany, UK, China, and the US expanded and quickly took control of governments.
Through an assortment of strategies, including financing political campaigns, maneuvering their executives into high government positions, hiring armies of lobbyists, flooding consumers with extensive public relations and marketing crusades, and promising – as well as threatening – to impact economies by locating their facilities in – or removing them from – cities and countries, these companies have elevated themselves to positions of great power.
The East India Company shareholders of the 1700s are peering down at us. Their mouths are watering.
Tom Paine is also peering down.
He is waging his finger at YOU. “Write!” he says. “Expose the story of a system that is failing – this Death Economy that is based on warfare and destruction of the planet. Tell the new story about the need for – and fun of – transforming it into a Life Economy – one based on cleaning up pollution, regenerating devastated environments, and creating new technologies that do not ravage the earth.”
Tom stares across the centuries at you. “These are the times. . . write!”
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