New Internationalist

The Impossible Dream

Issue 342

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Another world is possible / DREAMS
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The impossible dream

Paris, 1789

Why should we hold back our dreams? Just a few years ago many would have said it was impossible for us to challenge the King. Now we are being told to be modest in our aspirations, that we are impatient and unrealistic. But we refuse to take only one step at a time – we are running towards the sun. Our demands may never be met, but the fire of our impatience is unending: we cannot live at ease in a world where these things are not possible.*

Abolish slavery in the Americas
And anywhere else it exists. What is claimed as ‘an economic necessity’ now will one day be a source of shame.

Grant universal suffrage
Yes, we do mean universal. Not just landowners or householders but peasants and artisans, women as well as men.

Guarantee women’s equality
Women must not only be able to vote, they must receive equal pay when they do the same work as men. No husband should be able to beat his wife or impose his will upon her.

End imperial domination
America’s successful battle for independence from the British should serve as inspiration for the world: for Spain’s colonies in the Americas to rise up and claim their freedom.

Deliver free education for all
All children should be taught to read and write, to raise their eyes to the sky instead of having their noses rubbed in the dirt. There should be a school in every village, every neighbourhood, with no fee to be paid on the door.

Offer healthcare for all
Leeches should no longer be the preserve only of the rich. There should be hospitals and doctors enough for every sick child, every aged peasant.

Provide running water
Every house should have its own pump, every citizen a means of disposing of their own waste.

Promote peace in Europe
The nations of Europe are forced to war with their neighbours every few years over the petty disputes and covetousness of princes. One day they will sit down in the same councils and see their kinship more clearly than their enmity.

Develop safe and speedy transport
There will come a time when great machines will carry people together from city to city so that the need will no longer exist for each individual to have their own horse.

Hold humanity sacred
There must come a time when all the powers in the world make themselves subject to a vision of what is true and just, a declaration of the rights of human beings.

* The idealistic ferment of the early French Revolution threw up many far-sighted ideas considered wild at the time. The articulation of these particular wild ideas is, however, our own.

Everywhere, 2002

Why should we hold back our dreams? Just a few years ago many would have have said it was impossible for us to challenge the onward march of corporate power in any meaningful way. Now we are being told to be modest in our aspirations, that we are impatient and unrealistic. But we refuse to take only one step at a time – we are running towards the sun. Our demands may never be met, but the fire of our impatience is unending: we cannot live at ease in a world where these things are not possible.

End slavery worldwide
In all its modern forms, from forced labour to debt bondage. Shame attaches itself to the word – while somehow the iniquities of the practice are appeased.

Set up a world parliament
Increase the accountability of international decision-making by establishing a directly elected world parliament.

Guarantee women’s equality
Afghani women have been in this particular front line but the struggle is far from over, even in the West.

End imperial domination
The world is out of joint – and the current ‘new world order’ is unsustainable. US military and economic power is part of the problem, not the solution. The world must evolve institutions that do not allow such military and economic imbalances to arise, while guaranteeing democratic freedoms and rights of expression.

Deliver free education, healthcare and running water for all
The impossible demands of 1790 may seem quaint from the vantage point of those in the rich world with schools, doctors and sanitation to hand. But they are still dismissed as impossible dreams for those who live in rural West Africa or the shanty towns of Latin America.

Return the land
There should be a maximum set for landholding, both so that those who need fertile land for subsistence have more access to it and so that more of the land can be held in common, as it was before enclosure in rich countries and colonialism in poor.

Rescue the poor
Set up a new International Economic and Social Security Council of the United Nations which has equal status to the Security Council and can co-ordinate a serious assault on poverty worldwide.

End the threat of mass destruction
All states with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons should be locked into binding schedules for the elimination of their arsenals and production capabilities.

Protect the earth, air and water
Instead of burning it up in the fire of our own development, our own overconsumption, our own feverish hurry to be somewhere else.

Hold humanity sacred
We have all kinds of declarations and statutes about human rights that were not even dreamed of in 1789. We do not need to dream up new ones: we will settle for the full, serious application of those that already exist.


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