2003 Annual Report
On November 22, New York City People's Life Fund held its 2003 Annual Meeting in the workroom of the War Resisters League. Following below is the text of our update to membership:
Sadly, this meeting takes place in the shadow of a war-torn world and a domestic scenario of struggle and decline. The situation in Iraq worsens each day. Another Vietnam—different to be sure—but bearing the same marks of deepening involvement and endless loss and death.
In the Sixties the skirmishes in Vietnam gradually developed into a major conflagration. What began as an “advisory” action ended after a deeply split and weakened U.S. pulled out. The lesson we learned from Iraq—let air power conquer and kill then ground forces can mop up—presumably solved the problem of long draining military combat.
Casualties would be minimal. Iraqis, ruled by a “murderous tyrant,” would welcome its liberators. Victory would be ours for the taking. That was the plan, perhaps one might say, the dream. The reality—we are badly bogged down in our effort to rule and reconstruct a country whose destruction we presided over. Moreover, we now are forced to deal with the reconstruction of two countries—Afghanistan and Iraq—countries whose infrastructure, however undeveloped it was, has been destroyed. Our presumed allies have withheld their financial and moral support. And the occupation takes place amid grinding guerrilla warfare.
The U.S. has undertaken a crusade driven by George W. Bush's Christian fundamentalist view of the world and his down-to-earth drive to control sources of oil and line the pockets of investors, i.e., his supporters. It has been undertaken in defiance of world opinion. The religious fervor covers the crass monetary interests driving us toward what is, in the end, a self-destructive foreign policy. It is self-destructive in many ways—not the least of which is in weakening the economic and social fabric of this country.
Unemployment is high; states are impoverished; the federal government is deeply in debt. The standard of living for ordinary Americans has plummeted. As the ranks of the homeless climb, as states drop Medicaid coverage and doctors opt out, as health statistics worsen and Americans lose health coverage as they lose jobs, the fractures in the American political system become a glaring chasm.
But all is not quantitative loss. We are well aware of the downturn in per capita income and the loss of employment. What about our qualitative status? The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work, in its latest survey of quality of life rates Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland in the front rank while the U.S. ties with Poland and Slovenia for 27th place.
This is emblematic of a deep loss of quality of life, a loss many of us feel everywhere in our daily lives, a loss that will take years of driving effort to override.
The Year in Review
Book Sales: We continue to make contact with local independent book stores among other efforts. To be sure we have learned and continue to learn about promotion which is said to comprise 50% of the success in book sales. From all the feedback we have received, Why Just Survive? Flourish! is a well-organized, valuable resource. If you have any suggestions for promotion, we would be happy to hear from you.
Nonviolent Peace Force: Over half a century ago, Mahatma Gandhi had begun organizing a conference to create a peace army, when he was cut down by an assassins bullet. Nonviolent Peace Force is an effort to create an unarmed civilian alternative to military intervention in conflicts. The Peace Force is ready to issue 100,000 Peace Bonds which will sell for $10 U.S., 10 Euros or £7 Pounds Sterling.
All proceeds from Peace Bonds will go toward the development of the nonviolent peace force. For further information or to purchase Peace Bonds, visit their web site at http://www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org [Excerpted from More Than a paycheck, August 2003].
Be Part of the Pulse for Change
New York City People’s Life Fund takes war tax resistance moneys and contributions, and awards grants and loans to vital community organizations. It plays a unique role in New York City in converting moneys destined for war to productive social activities. It is a most desperately needed role today.
However, since we are charged with safeguarding moneys entrusted to us, the Life Fund must act responsibly. In other words, our reserve must be maintained. There has been an ongoing slowdown in contributions and war tax moneys, and an increase in requests for return of funds. For that reason we have been unable to play the active role that is so much needed today. This year, we have once again deferred grant and loan-giving activities to the foreseeable future.
New York City People's Life Fund can play a very important role in these turbulent times. We have the opportunity to stand out in relief against a bleak landscape as an oasis of mutual aid. Rather than standing by in horror as thousands are killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the life's blood of young men and women continues to be spilled in dubious battle, we can use our hearts and energies to nurture resistance and renewal in our local communities. This can be seen as an alternative to money used as a means that leads to an end by gunfire and bombs.
In recent years, we have funded the critically-needed services of organizations such as:
CHIPS (Christian Help in Park Slope)—the moneys from this grant enabled this Brooklyn-based organization to buy badly-needed kitchen utensils and provide good quality chairs with backs for the homeless population they serve.
NEDAP (Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project)—this grant enabled the organization to assist welfare recipients experiencing difficulties with New York State's privatized Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system, which forces poor people to pay a fee for access to their welfare benefits.
Theater for the New City (TNC)—this grant supported a Summer Street Theater Program that annually brings free theater to neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs.
People United for Children (PUC)—this organization assists children caught in the teeth of the legal system when they are wrongly taken away from their parents and placed in foster care. This grant provided funding to a bi-monthly newsletter, flyers and informational material used as part of a campaign to organize and educate parents and children to advocate for reform in the system.
By making a difference locally, we can provide a working example to other communities across the country, perhaps even worldwide. In order to continue any of this good work, we simply must increase the numbers of contributions and resisted war taxes coming into the Fund. For further information, please contact us.