The State of the Union speech delivered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt before the United States Congress on January 6, 1941 is known as the Four Freedoms Speech. It was delivered one month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which plunged America into World War Two. It is a wonderful speech and appropriate for that venue. But now, seventy years later, there is a desperate need for an unwanted upgrade to those ideas because of the success of the last sentence. Read carefully:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.The third is freedom from want–which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants–everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
The true meaning of what was meant by the chilling conclusion to that speech was unknown to the congressional audience for another three and a half years. One might ask what he meant by “the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.” It is now obvious that Roosevelt knew exactly what he was talking about when he said crash of A bomb because he had already set in motion what became known as The Manhattan Project. That got underway the day before the Pearl Harbor attack. His project created the world’s first Atomic bombs. These bombs were created at the behest of Albert Einstein , Leo Szilard and Edward Teller who sent him the infamous Super Top Secret letter. The A-bomb project was such a well-kept secret that even the Senate’s financial watchdog, Senator Harry Truman, didn’t discover it. He had been Vice President for three months when Roosevelt died in office and Truman hadn’t even been informed of the existence of the nearly completed A-bomb. He was informed only after he became President on April 12, 1945. During the Potsdam Conference Truman mentioned the A-bomb’s first successful test to Stalin but unknown to him Stalin, because of his spies, probably knew much more about the A-bomb than Truman did. Since that time the usually unmentioned person who helped create The Letter, Edward Teller, went on to create what he called the Super and what is now usually called the H-bomb. There are now a huge number of these bombs, perhaps as many as 30,000 of them ready for instant use. There are enough to return humanity back to Einstein’s joke when asked what weapons World War Three would be fought with? I don’t know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. It really isn’t a laughing matter any more because it is probably true, because human progress has given us the capability to destroy civilization if not humanity. He also said, It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity. So what are we to do?
The thing humanity must do if it is to survive into the future as long as it already survived in the past is to bring some things under human control rather than nature’s control. The first for long-term human survival is to voluntarily limit human population to a specific enforceable number which is within the Earth’s capability to sustain permanently. It is necessary for humans to make this choice because of our success in controlling our natural environment and eliminating predators from our world. Because there is nothing natural to control our numbers except the lack of resources, ultimately food, we will continue to expand until that natural resource nears exhaustion. At that point Nature will enforce a population reduction with a famine. A simple famine, without a war, would probably drop human population back to the agricultural level of the Roman Empire at about one hundred million people. The current population is about 6.8 billion people so this estimate would be 6.7 billion people starving to death. That obviously isn’t an option and it certainly won’t happen because those people with a military option will exercise it. No country’s people will willingly starve to death so others can eat their food. So the obvious conclusion is that there will be wars. But that will worsen the food distribution and food creation situation which will precipitate even worse wars. Those things will probably happen quickly, with one disaster following close upon the previous one, until at some time the wars go nuclear. At that time things will get totally out of control and what is now called Doomsday will begin and a large part of the arsenal of H-bombs will explode. It probably doesn’t matter too much where they are when they go off because the disaster will soon spread world-wide. When that happens the ability of humans to create food will drop almost to zero for several months, possibly for a few years. When that happens the famines will be ubiquitous and add real teeth to that popular and overused term.
With a projected atomic war and the collapse of the agricultural creation of food the human population will fall far below that which would have happened if there was an orderly reduction of population to the hundred million level. Perhaps it would go to one tenth of that, perhaps even lower. It is impossible to even make wild guesses but whatever the number of people existing ten years after the Doomsday disaster it will be very small compared to today. If we make the unpleasant assumption that this is what lies in humanity’s future we should ask the question of what can be done. First can it be stopped and if it cannot be stopped what should be done to help the survivors create a world that could be stabilized?
I am searching back to these people who created the Atomic bombs for answers and especially to Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech which both set in motion the Atomic bomb project and laid the verbal framework for the United Nations. 1st In the future days, which we seek to make secure, sounds good but how is that to be done? The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world. That is great also, and I like it until we include knowledge of how to make atomic bombs (and other Weapons of Extermination) easily and freely available to everyone. Then that wonderful idea gives every individual the capacity to destroy all humanity. When we put that consideration into the freedom it doesn’t sound good but instead it is very bad. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world. This is okay too even if defining what someone totally unknown to us means by the word God. Perhaps it means an individual’s relationship with the ultimate purpose of their life in relation to the world. That’s good if their relationship to their universals is acceptable to the rest of the people who have to live with them. The third is freedom from want–certainly desirable but this can only be attained if the Earth supplies us with plenty of what we need and that can only happen if there are fewer people than resources which means somehow limiting population. That can be done by limiting each man and woman to two children each which seems to be a mild demand. The fourth is freedom from fear – is impossible in a world of fewer resources than of people needing those resources. If there isn’t enough then there will be struggles of physical aggression and the losers will be fearful.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. Well, some seventy years have passed since those hopeful words were proclaimed to the world and the human population has nearly tripled. His dream didn’t come close to realization in his generation as he suggested, or the next or the next, and it looks even further away at present. And then, apparently referring to Germany and Japan, President Roosevelt concludes with, That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb. A bomb? What kind of hopeful future is that? And haven’t the possessors of those bombs dominated the world ever since that speech?
I have had these questions on my mind for so very long that I don’t despair any more over these issues than over the reported projection that the sun will explode in ten billion years. So my thoughts have distilled down to how to maximize human life and human happiness. Roosevelt’s speech was directed toward minimizing the conflicts between nations as his goal but if the world of human society is to survive for a long time we must move on to a more expanded world vision.