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Why a ‘productive, civilian national service’ is needed

Why a ‘productive, civilian national service’ is needed

(Published  around 2005 at IndyBay.)

        Dwayne Hunn, Ph.D.

 Generations ago America’s landscape was in turmoil.  To quell the unrest, America tapped its best asset — its peoples’ ingenuity and work ethic.

Only 37 days passed from FDR’s inaugural until the first 1933 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) member started planting over 32 billion trees, building 97,000 miles of fire road, stopping environmental degradation and erosion, and helping Americans recover from hurricanes and floods, etc. By 1935, 500,000 CCC workers were building America out of depression.

Millions of hurting Americans sought peaceful CCC service.  World War II and its ensuing budgetary and political pressures dismantled the character building CCC.

Our military draft then continued serving the country, and saved the world from Fascism.  Under a disciplined military roof, where getting the job done meant more than your color or last name, costly racial and ethnic animosities started evaporating.  Our melting-pot military draft ended, after our government lied us into a wasteful Vietnam War.

Both methods of service – the CCC and military – helped save and improve America’s economy, society, and knowledge.

Today, some of America’s economic and political needs are global, and that landscape is again in turmoil because of people and nations who increasingly hate our policies, yet know little about our best asset and weapon — hard working Americans.

For several years, worldwide polls have shown increasing disdain for America’s policies.  It is a small step from disdain to harming Americans, as 9-11 showed.

At home, turmoil’s seeds are sprouting. In 1993 America’s poverty rate was over 15% but fell to 11.2% by 2000.  In 2002 it climbed to 12.1%, adding 3 million Americans into poverty since 2000 and growing worse since.

What are ALL Americans doing to: 1) Fight Terror and 2) Strengthen America?  The rich received tax reductions, their siblings seldom serve, and in gratitude their nominal estate taxes are being erased.  Consequently, Joe Sixpack picks up Tommy Belvedere’s tax and military tab.

What can ALL Americans do?  We can institute “productive, civilian national service” through my proposed World Service Corps (WSC) proposals that address the root causes of instability.  The WSC gives us a cost-effective, long-term strategy to combat fundamental ignorance, calamities, terror, and domestic and international poverty.

How would it work?  In the two WSC Bills/Resolutions (www.dwaynehunn.biz), now in the hands of 25+ Congresspersons, all those aged 18-26 will undertake either  one year of required or two years of volunteer service in their choice of Red Cross, Peace Corps, Head Start, AmeriCorps, Habitat for Humanity, and Doctors Without Borders.  This mix of cost effective public-non-government organizations, do what Americans do well — fix problems.

Upon completing two years of voluntary service, community and state college tuition, or vocational or graduate school equivalent, would be paid, reenergizing our educational skill set, as did the 1944-56 GI Educational Bill of Rights.

In addition, all Americans could mix their volunteer experience and insights with the vibrant energy of the young WSC members, thereby increasing the WSC’s effectiveness.

As the world rushes toward 7 billion, about half live on $2.00 a day.  At home poverty increases, schools need help, and inadequate housing remains too prevalent.   Environmental calamities, famines, and atrocities confront the world daily.  Among an alarmingly growing number of world citizens, terrorists and myopic fundamentalists breed hatred for Americans that too much of the world only knows through Hollywood.  In a nuclear and biologically dangerous world, the Doomsday Clock edges closer to midnight.

Jesus would not call for blowing each other up.  Christ would send shepherds to bring the lost sheep into the comfortable flock.  Through the WSC, it is time to send a million American shepherds into peacefully bettering the world.

It the fourteen tumultuous nations spread from Egypt to Pakistan, 420+ million reside.  In 2005, are the 39 Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs) helping spread understanding there enough?

Eastern Africa’s 18 nations may have oil reserves.  It definitely has poverty and needs, along with illiteracy, ignorance, hatreds, and fanaticisms.  It has Ethiopiaand Somalia, where poverty, starvation, and American deaths still haunt us.

How many PCVs serve among those 270 million people? 

SIx hundred and fifty-nine, with none in Ethiopia and Somalia.

If peaceful WSC divisions could increase those numbers ten-fold, future costly military intervention and crisis aid would be dramatically reduced.

A Tsunami and earthquakes have devastated parts of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, India, and elsewhere.

How many Habitat for Humanity homes have been built there?

Among Sri Lanka’s 20 million, 4,485 families have new Habitat homes since 1994. Among Indonesia 230 million people, 378 families were served since 1997.

Imagine, if in the near future we sent thousands of WSC Habitat builders, how negatively could Americans ever be depicted?

If 10,000 WSC Red Cross, Peace Corps, Habitat, and Doctors without Borders quickly went into the next disaster, would the world see Ugly or Beautiful Americans?

Wars and suffering rage on Spaceship Earth.  Aren’t the needs compelling enough to have ALL Americans leave their TVs and computers for at least a year’s productive, civilian service in the world’s real classrooms?   Kennedy wanted a million Peace Corps volunteers serving annually by the 1970’s.  Only 178,000 have served or trained.  Today 7,773 serve, while at home AmeriCorps and Head Start programs are cut.  Kennedy’s words are worth pondering:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

As are the words of the first Peace Corps Director, Sargent Shriver:

“If the Pentagon’s map is more urgent, the Peace Corp’s is, perhaps, in the long run the most important… What happens in India, Africa, and South America — whether the nations where the Peace Corps works succeed or not — may well determine the balance of peace.”

 Congresswoman Woolsey D-CA is taking the Hunn’s WSC proposals to the Progressive Caucus and added in a recent letter “I’m not a PC volunteer, but totally support you.”


‘But I Have Also Been In the Peace’

Glendora Press  October 26, 1969

‘But I Have Also Been In the Peace’

(Editor’s Note: Glendora High School teacher Dwayne Hunn continues his series of articles describing his Peace Corps experiences. He now turns in his impression of life in America which he feels lead the young Into Peace Corps service.)


Often high school classes are boring, subjects seem irrel­evant, and life then seems more exciting in excursions with friends. Consequently, when high school finishes the graduate often seems to have learned or remembered more from what his peers have done than from what his teachers have said.

College is sometimes less boring. One is freer to chose classes, is being treated more as an audit, is closer to a career and this degree is relevant to a successful career. Even then, however, it often seems that one remembered and learned more from experience with friends than from what professors said. By the end of college one may wonder just how 500 tests were to measure one’s growth in knowledge or test one’s moral fiber, classical goals of education.

Most collegians were served from cafeteria lines, had a structured schedule of courses to follow, participated in or­ganized extra-curricular activities, dated, had friends, read, etc., and the time flew-by. Many professors did the thinking for the students and the students ingested as much of their thinking as they could — often just to cough it back and hopefully boost their grade point average. Often the profes­sors’ thoughts had been crammed, as some students were now ingesting, from someone else’s thoughts under a similar, but earlier system.

Most colleges are a testing grounds to see how well you can grind out a certain amount of mental work under a sys­tem. If you are smart enough to get into college, you only need to set yourself to the grindstone to complete it. It is a testing ground because the next phase of your life may be just as much, or more, of a grind.

For some it may mean an IBM kind of job that gives plenty of training in manipulating machines, to the point where the personality of the overseer is deadened. It may be an advertising executive’s job, where one may have to learn how to manipulate consumer desires. It may be a job in a phase of engineering where one learns how planned obsolesc­ence makes the economy go. Or one’s next phase may be the army where one knows when to shower and when to sleep and one’s day is filled with simple, uncreative, at the least, tasks.

One could he obstinate and search for a more satisfying job. There are many of these jobs still existing in America, though one may be penalized in the salary by taking one. Or one may just listen to the right FM station and hear its recent ad.

The Peace Corps won’t keep you out of the army. But when people ask, “Been in the war?” You can at least say, “Yes, but I have also been in the peace!”

The Peace Corps gives no grades, hands out no PCV of the Year awards, offers no pay incentives, delegates no ranks, often supplies no structure to work through, and es­tablishes no commissary or barracks. The Peace Corps often forces you to rely on yourself, instills a certain esprit de corps, allows you to be responsible to no one but yourself, and may mean one must learn to be one’s own best compan­ion.

Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corps’ first director, wrote his philosophy of the Corps in “Point of the Lance.” He hoped the Corps would point the way for economic growth, help people know people as people, and cut the path for better things to come between the have and have-nots, the haves and haves.

As director he initiated the policy of keeping staff-to-volunteer ratios high. The Corps was not to be a babysitting or a keep-em-busy-keep-em-out-of-trouble educational agency.

Volunteers were to be put on their own initiative. Staff would seldom oversee, advise, etc. Staff was to check on vol­unteers’ physical and mental health, and, if approached, provide what help it could for major projects. For the few staffers we had in India’s western region to cover about 500 volunteers, this was a full time job.

A critical analysis of American society may return the diagnosis that she is maligned with materialism, hypocrisy, narrowmindedness among sections and groups, and a break­down of communication between not only groups but families as well… The young sense this weakening of fiber and express their frustration about it.

Jack Kerouac, spokesman of the beat generation whose books ushered in the Hippie era, died a few days ago. His original intention regarding the term “beat” had to do with the idea of “beatific,” a termini used for the concept of a people rejecting the materialism of the United States in the 50’s and turning instead to a frank enjoyment of life. Well. I did not dig the Beatniks or Hippies too much because I doubted the sincerity of most of them. With time, however, I came to respect some of their criticisms of some American ways.

The Beatnik or Hippie who criticized the shriveling of individuality, the growth of materialism, the accepted spread of hypocrisy but protested by dropping out was worthless. For the sincere Beatnik or Hippie who doesn’t want to be programmed through the IBM world, the advertising game, the consumer-planned obsolescence-profit syndrome America still offers him the opportunities, and the Peace Corps is one, to be his own man.

If in one’s Peace Corps application the recommendations present you as an honest, hard-working individual, if you do not reveal a different side in training, then you are sent over-seas. Once overseas if you decide to be a Buddhist monk, a playboy, or one dedicated to some kind of social action — the program will have room for you. This variety of people, goals, and experiences enriches the program and allows individualism to grow.

It does not cost the government much to have volunteers spend years getting to know other people, teaching them something new, and learning something old from them. In fact, it is probably much less expensive than the ammunition costs of keeping a GI alive in Vietnam for one month.

Large military contingents stationed abroad usually mean the native girls turn to prostituting. The native males feel emasculated by the dash of the American, and their uni­forms. An inflated economy often adds heat to the boil. A bad foreign policy move adds more heat and sometimes you have demonstrations of “Yankee Go Home!”

I can remember only one demonstration launched to get rid of the Peace Corps. Within three years the Indonesians launched a counter-demonstration to call them back.