Address by David Werner
for the People's Health Assembly
Savar, Bangladesh, December 4-8, 2000

To give some impetus to this last day of the People's Health Assembly, the Planning Committee asked me to give a so-called "inspirational address." I guess they want me to say something hopeful, something optimistic, that motivates all of us to keep slogging away in the up-hill struggle for the healthier, more compassionate world we all dream of.

But the Planning Committee caught me at a bad time or what looks like a bad time. Given the state of the world today, with its spiraling social, economic, environmental and moral crises, and with the trillion-armed, money-grubbing Deity that breeds these crises, what can I truthfully say that is optimistic? As we stand in the doorway of the new millennium, are we moving forward or backward? Currently, humanity's hard-won progress toward a collective commitment to "well-being for all" has in many ways been reversed. Democratic process has been eroded. Billions of people especially women and children suffer deepening poverty, hunger, ill health, and unfulfilled lives.

Meanwhile the global economy, governed by profit-hungry corporations, grows at a cancerous rate, devouring nonrenewable resources, concentrating wealth into fewer and fatter hands, and unbalancing the planet's life-sustaining systems.

Currently the world's three biggest industries, dollar for dollar, are: 1) weapons, 2) illicit drugs, and 3) oil, in that order. Think about the far-reaching harm that these three huge industries cause to human and environmental health. Yet, together they control a pivotal chunk of the global economy and have a powerful political lobby. This makes attempts to regulate or control such industries for the common good extremely difficult.

Money not only talks, it buys votes. This helps explain why the dominant model of "economic development" in the world today is designed to further enriching the rich. Today dozens of the world's biggest transnational corporations have a wealth exceeding that of many nations. While their chief executives earn millions of dollars a year, a forth of humanity barely survives on less than a dollar a day. The widening gap between rich and poor, both between countries and within them, is jeopardizing the health and reducing the quality of life of the growing millions of destitute people and ultimately, of us all.

The knowledge and resources to remedy these overarching problems exist. What is lacking is the political will. The world's high-powered politicians, their palms greased by giant corporations, put their hunger for profits before human and environmental needs. The failure of national governments and of the United Nations to regulate the increasingly unbridled production of fossil fuels and toxic waste, endangers the ecological balance of the planet and in the long run the survival of all living things.

In sum, we human beings are riding a time-bomb of our own making. And more frightening still, most of us don't even know it, thanks to the institutionalized disinformation of the mass media, As we bumble toward the brink of disaster, its Business as Usual.

But good grief! I was supposed to say something optimistic!


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