Indicators of Cultural Crisis
- The US government is mostly composed of the 1%.
More than half the members of the House and Senate are millionaires. The median net worth for lawmakers in the House and Senate was $1,008,767 — up 4.4%, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, which examines the influence of money on politics in Washington.16
At least 268 of the 534 current members of Congress had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012. The rise in wealth takes place at the same time the median family income has been relatively flat or has declined. The growing divergence may help explain why Congress, beyond the politics involved, would allow unemployment benefits to expire.
Meanwhile, 1% of Americans and 0.001% of people worldwide are millionaires. Some lawmakers profited from investments in companies that have received federal bailouts; dozens are invested in Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.1
- Corporations spend billions on lobbying the US government.
In each of the years from 2008 to 2013, corporations spent nearly three billion dollars lobbying members of Congress and federal agencies in the United States. There are over 12,000 lobbyists in Washington DC.2
- US government and corporations are closely interrelated.
US government officials often leave their posts and go to work for the corporations which they regulated or oversaw in their official duties. This is called a “revolving door,” and is one of the primary ways that power circulates between the government and corporations.4
- Men sexually assault women at horrifying rates.
Every year in the US, more than 230,000 sexual assaults are committed. At least 1 out of 6 American women have suffered rape or attempted rape, and 1 out of 3 women worldwide18. Native American women are the most likely targets of sexual violence. 44% of sexual assaults and rapes target children under the age of 18. Almost 2/3 of all sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger.
Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes – 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to police. Only 3% of rapists ever spend a day in jail.6 Sexual assault is often considered "normal" male behavior within civilization.22
- Slavery is rampant today.
Conservative estimates show 21-30 million people live in slavery in the modern world. That means there are more slaves today than ever before (even at the height of the Atlantic slave trade). Government corruption around the world allows slavery to go unpunished, even though it is illegal everywhere. In this way millions have become vulnerable to slave holders and human traffickers looking to profit through the theft of people’s lives. Slaves are also cheaper than ever before – the average slave in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 – today an average slave costs only $90. Slaves are most often forced to work in agriculture, mining, and prostitution – three of the most demeaning and unhealthy jobs on the planet.7
Slavery exists in nearly every country in the world, and the US and Europe are not immune. Research conducted by Free the Slaves with the University of California, Berkeley found documented cases of slavery and human trafficking in more than 90 cities across the United States.
- Hate crimes in the US are rampant.
There were more than 7,700 incidences of hate crimes in the US in 2009. Note that the legal definition of hate crimes does not include sexual violence or sexual abuse of women. Nearly 50% of the crimes were based in race bias. Nearly 20% were motivated by bias against sexual orientation.13
- Wealth and resources are distributed unequally.
17% of the human population consumes 80% of the materials and energy, leaving almost 5 billion people to live on the remaining 20%. 1.2 billion (20%) of the world population lives on less that $1/day, another 1.8 billion (30%) lives on less than $2/day, 800 million go to bed hungry every day, and 30,000 - 60,000 die each day from hunger alone. The story is the same for other necessities like water, housing, education etc. On the flip side, we have increasing accumulation of wealth and power, where the world's 500 or so billionaires have assets of 1.9 trillion dollars, a sum greater than the income of the poorest 170 countries in the world. 12% of the human population consumes 85% of the fresh water.10
The richest 1% of humans hold owned 40% of the world’s household wealth- more wealth than the poorest 95%. The richest 0.5% alone hold more than a third of global wealth. Billionaires (just over 1000 of them) control more wealth than 1,500,000,000 of the poorest people in the world combined.11
1.2 billion people lack access to clean water, and 2.4 billion live without decent sanitation. 12 million people die each year from lack of water, including 3 million children from waterborne disease.
More than 113 million children in the developing world are without access to basic education; 60 percent of them are girls.
- US police regularly misconduct themselves.
In 2010 there were almost 5,000 reported incidents of police misconduct in the US. Excessive force was the most commonly reported incident; nearly 25% of all reported misconduct. Sexual misconduct accounted for nearly 10%, followed by fraud and theft at 7%, and false arrest at nearly 7%.12
- Civilization is in a constant state of warfare.
Over the last 6500 years, more than 14,500 major wars have resulted in the death of almost 4 billion people. Since WWII, there have been about 30 armed conflicts per year on average, in which 90% of the casualties have been civilians.9
- Nuclear weapons threaten all life on the planet.
There are over 30,000 nuclear weapons in the world today.
The US alone has spent more than $3.5 trillion on nuclear weapons programs since 1940. Each weapon is, on average, many times more powerful than the warheads detonated above Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US in WWII. This arsenal is capable of completely destroying the biosphere many times over.8
This year the US will spend roughly $57 billion on programs for nuclear weapons – weapons that must never be used, are militarily purposeless, and threaten our very survival every moment of their existence. These illegal, immoral weapons are an example of the disconnect between rhetoric and reality. The use, threat of use, and even the possession of these weapons was declared virtually entirely illegal by the International Court of Justice in 1996. The US and P5 nuclear states are in breach of Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that commits us to good faith efforts to work toward nuclear disarmament.19
A report by the International Physicians for Social Responsibility on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war demonstrated 2 billion people are at risk of death from catastrophic climate change following a limited nuclear exchange using less than ½ of 1 percent of the global nuclear arsenals.
- The US military enforces a global presence.
The US military maintains a network of over 1000 military bases and outposts worldwide.5 The Pentagon estimates it spends $22.1 billion annually to maintain its bases and troops. However the actual costs, even on conservative estimates, is about $170 billion annually. The totals could be even higher; estimates of maintaining US bases abroad since the start of the “war on terror” in 2001 range from $1.8-$2.1 trillion.17
- Mental disorders are common in the US and internationally.
An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year20, and more than 22% of those cases are severe and debilitating.14 This figure translates to 57.7 million people. Nearly half of all 13-18 year olds in the US suffer from mental illnesses – and more than 20% of those illnesses are severe and debilitating.
Nearly half of all US adults use prescription drugs. Nearly 22% used 3 or more prescription drugs in the past month, and over 1 in 10 used 5 or more.. The most commonly prescribed drugs are analgesics (pain medications), antihyperlipidemic agents, and antidepressants.15
- Drug abuse is rampant.
Between 149-271 million people worldwide used an illicit drug at least once in 2009; which equals 1 in 20 people aged 15 to 64 who have used an illegal drug. In North America, nearly 11% of the population aged 15 to 64 used cannabis in 2009. Between 14-56 million people aged 15- 64 worldwide used amphetamine-type stimulants, such as speed and crystal meth. Cocaine use was highest in North America in 2009, and it had 14 million to 21 million users worldwide. Opioid use, including heroin, had an estimated 12 million to 21 million users globally. The highest rates of use were in the Near and Middle East, where up to 1.4% of the population aged 15-64 had tried the drug at least once in 2009. There are between 11 million and 21 million people who inject drugs worldwide.
Much of the drug abuse around the world can be found in the wealthiest and most developed countries, possibly because residents have more access to drugs, or have the means to buy drugs, or maybe because people in these countries are of the mindset that they deserve what makes them feel the best. "[T]he extent of illicit drug use and abuse in developed countries like the United States has reached epidemic proportions.”21
- Lovley, Erika. “Report: 237 millionaires in Congress.” Politico, 11/6/09. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1109/29235.html
- Lobbying Database. Accessed 5/5/2011. Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/index.php
- Revolving Door. Accessed 5/5/2011. Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/revolving/index.php
- Corporate Rights. Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. Accessed 5/5/2011. http://www.celdf.org/section.php?id=41
- Adbusters Magazine. North American Edition, #95 (May/June Issue). Vol. 19, No. 3.
- Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Accessed 6/1/2011. http://www.rainn.org/
- Free The Slaves. “Slavery Today.” Accessed 6/1/2011. http://www.freetheslaves.net/Page.aspx?pid=301
- Center for Defense Information. Nuclear Issues, Facts at a Glance. Accessed 6/1/2011.http://www.cdi.org/nuclear/facts-at-a-glance.cfm
- Human Security Report Project, 2009/2010. Simon Fraser University. Accessed 6/1/2011. http://www.hsrgroup.org/human-security-reports/human-security-report.aspx
- World Centric. Social and Economic Injustice. Accessed 6/1/2011. http://www.worldcentric.org/conscious-living/social-and-economic-injustice
- Program on Inequality and the Common Good. World / Global Inequality. Accessed 6/1/2011. http://inequality.org/global-inequality/
- 2010 National Police Misconduct Statistical Report. Injustice Everywhere. Accessed 6/7/2011. http://www.injusticeeverywhere.com/?p=4053#_Summary
- National Hate Crimes Statistics: Incidents and Offences 2009. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Accessed 6/7/2011. http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2009/incidents.html
- National Institute of Mental Health Statistics. Accessed 6/7/11. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/index.shtml
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FastStats Home, Therapeutic Drug Use. Accessed 6/7/11.http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/drugs.htm
- Half of Congress Members are Millionaires, Report Says. New York Times, Jan 9, 2014.
- Op-Ed: How many bases does U.S. have globally and what is their cost? Digital Journal, Dec 16, 2012.
- Worldwide Sexual Assault Statistics. National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2005.
- Nuclear Weapons and the Fate of Life. Robert Dodge. Counterpunch. Weekend Edition, April 11-13, 2014.
- The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America. National Institutes of Mental Health. Accessed April 13 2014.
- Worldwide Drug Statistics. Treatment Solutions. January 12, 2012.
- Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse. Heather R. Hlavka.
- List of countries by military expenditures. Wikipedia. Accesed April 23 2014.
Global military expenditures were more than $1.7 trillion in 2013.23