Sunday, March 09, 2008

Your taxes and war

Cuauhtemoc, Mexico - Flora in the MCC yard.

Paying for war: a personal "Op-ed"©

George Epp

Income tax time! Any day now I’ll have to get down to it: install the software, find and fill in the required numbers and email it to the federal government with a cheque. They’ll keep most of it and send the rest to the Wall government in Saskatchewan. Between the two it’ll get spent on a variety of worthwhile things: airports and seaports, health care and education, roads and parks, foreign aid and welfare. Some of my money will also be spent to ferry soldiers to and from Afghanistan, to equip them with weapons, even to fly some of them home in body bags. This last lot will definitely happen without my consent.

My protest against spending money on military infrastructure feels like an exercise in futility, however. Some people deduct the military 8% or so from their tax submission and forward that amount to a trust account with Conscience Canada . Others simply send a note of protest with their income tax form. In any case, any money withheld will have to be paid sooner or later, and that with interest.

My guess is that the majority of Canadians would not approve of a peace tax fund (an option to divert—upon request—the military portion of an individual’s taxes to foreign aid or some other “benevolent” purpose.) Furthermore, nothing hinders the government from adding up all those amounts so diverted—and compensating the military budget from general revenues.

At the core of my intolerance for the military is a far more fundamental question than whether or not we are spending too much or too little on it. For me, military apparatus and action come as close to being a demonic manifestation as anything on earth, a phenomenon that surpasses organized crime, theft, murder, treason, etc. as a fountain of harm and evil. Wars’ destruction doesn’t need to be detailed here, even if one could, but despite the devastation, it seems unfathomable to me that it has been allowed to persist in a modern world, where its barbarity should, by now, have opened our eyes.

We have war because we are militarized. As long as weapons manufacturers and traders are allowed to manufacture and market their wares (while people are hunted down like wolves for possessing marijuana!) there is little hope that the option of war will cease to figure in the arsenals of petty tyrants, dictators, religious zealots or terrorist organizations, not to mention some developed countries that ought to know better.

Unfortunately, the campaign for general disarmament ground to a halt with the end of the “cold war.” That was a big mistake, but understandable, like being in a small boat in a bad storm and allowing relief to wash over you when pulled out of the sea by a ship’s crew. So much relief, in fact, that you forget that the storm and the ship’s passengers are still in mortal danger. We should have struck while the iron was hot, and insisted that a new understanding of militarization was as necessary as it ever was.

Give this some thought when you submit your tax forms to the government.

The goal for the disarmament lobby should be the elimination of all projectile, explosive, biological and chemical weapons worldwide. The manufacture and trade in these should be an offense, at least as serious as the growing and trade of heroine. But although it seems obvious to me, mutual and widespread disarmament has the potential to “civilize” the world, much of my culture fails to see it like that.

I’m not ready to compromise on this. Are you?

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