“We are being taught by all the foregoing to assume as closely as possible the viewpoint, the patience and the competence of God.” Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path, St. Martin’s Press, p. 251.
During the Second (sic) World War, every European had to face the same choice: accept the Nazi fait accompli or defy it. Today, it’s up to you. No time is left to duck key issues (a favorite human pastime) nowhere is left to run and hide. From New Zealand to Novaya Zemlya, our choice will be between accepting the status quo or defying it by turning into Learners worthy of the name: moral bankruptcy or self-sacrifice. Weigh your options carefully before push comes to shove.
First off, you will need to jettison three cumulative layers of mental ballast. Without really thinking about it, you may have chosen to be:
· Nescient: “I can only trust those ideas I have heard at least a hundred times before. Those are the least likely to get me into trouble. Nothing else matters.”
· Credophobic: “I don’t believe any of the BS they’ve pelted into my brain, but can’t bring myself to believe in anything else.”
· Fanaticophobic: “I can only trust those who repeat familiar ideas to me. Anyone who testifies otherwise must be a fanatic, a crankcase or a snake-oil merchant. No-one can con me; I’m way too cool and sophisticated to let him get away with it.”
These days, almost everyone is a fanaticophobe. Aren’t you?
You can deny those notions and put up with the social ostracism that will come with that denial. Strike out on your own for a change; make up your own mind and take constructive risks. Only you can unplug your ears to new ideas (“Only you can prevent forest fires…”). That takes guts, brains and heart your current attitude would rather pass up.
Do you have what it takes? I believe you might, since you’ve persevered this far into Learners.
The prevailing orthodoxy bids us attend a “New World Order” based on international corporate paternalism. I call these people World Imperialists or Wimps. Current events confirm their dominance if not, unfortunately, their competence. Our existential despair, the environmental holocaust we witness against our will and the rise of militant chaosism – micro/criminal and macro/military – reveal the corporatethat drives them. Televised thought-control beams industrial quantities of Hollywood trivia and Madison Avenue materialism into our brains, thus amplifying our Wimp lunacy and masking its worst outcomes.
From now on, when you think of corporations and their control freak bias, think of capricious, enduring, licentious and dangerously shortsighted monarchies. Learners will deal with multinational corporations the same way European republicans dealt with their corporate monarchists. Primitive, violent overthrow just worsened the backlash, but intelligent and gradual succession brought some improvement.
On the other hand, old school troglodytes maintain that a “chosen few” should “return” to some dreamland of doubtful provenance while the rest surrender to Wimp servitude. Hypnotically, these Prisms imprison themselves in their favorite “ism.” Be it individualism, libertarianism, “strict” constitutionalism, nationalism in general, Nazi/Fascist/Bushido national socialism, Soviet/Maoist national communism, corporate national capitalism, religious national fundamentalism either idolatrous (cult of personality), atheistic or monotheistic, radicalism, anarchism, racism or tribalism. Whatever the grossly simplistic cure-all chosen, all it really means is gathering with like-minded, make-believe superiors and sacrificing imaginary inferiors who are in reality akin in their diversity. By their Prism shall you know them.
The title Prism fits many miscreants. It applies to military autocrats, politburo absolutists, religious fanatics, government-paid and extra-governmental terrorists, ethnic genocides, crime barons and their secret brothers in the secret police, military-industrial extortionists, reactionary politicians and their know-nothing supporters—as well as you and I on a bad day. In search of sedative simplicity, such activists dehumanize their enemies by turning them into philosophical abstractions, the better to kill a few, terrorize many and subdue the rest.
In The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle, Harcourt, Brace and Co., New York, 1959, J. Glenn Davis lists several types of warriors and the means by which they abstract the Other into a perfect enemy.
Professional soldiers prefer to fight competent and courageous enemies; they hold lesser adversaries in contempt. Paradoxically, their enemies are to be despised and destroyed with professional efficiency as long as they resist, but receive honorable treatment once they surrender—even if they may be abused to death later on by sociopaths hand-picked for that task. When unarmed civilians are tortured, robbed and killed as they must be in war, (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), this must happen with ceremonious reluctance on the part of professional warriors.
With the exception of psychopathic warriors who get away with the opposite: they shun powerful enemies and torture the helpless.
Racist warriors turn their enemies into sub-humans. There is no room for mercy, human decency or redeeming values in their attitude—which adds a mechanical drudgery to war’s other insults. The enemies of the religious or ideological crusader are not only subhuman but Incarnations of Evil, in unacceptable revolt against God, the Leader or some other lofty principle. Killing them is not only a crusader’s duty, it is his divine calling. Expect even less compassion from such mass murderers.
In addition, compared to the glory of the abstraction they uphold, everyone’s well-being and survival are nugatory whether they be opponents, innocent bystanders, fellow combatants and even themselves—even if the adopted ideal forbids this aggression. For example, Shia and Sunni fight each other, even though they are both practicing Muslims and forbidden to do so in the Koran. Mohammed would not have approved.
May Learner never be so debased! You lethal cowards advocating mass murder will have no excuse this time around. All that would categorically forbidden, for whatever the reason.
On the other hand, reasonable people consider their opponents fellow human beings and victims of forces beyond their control—especially during warfare. Contradictions between that healthy attitude and the brutal requirements of combat make this attitude (and sanity) difficult to maintain very long on the battlefield, where hesitation often leads to more casualties and defeat. Jesus Christ or survival?
Professional soldiers are especially critical of this attitude. From their standpoint, scorning the enemy simplifies the perilous task of killing him and subduing his survivors. Thus, they prefer reflexive contempt (despite its mercilessness) to any undermining sense of fellow feeling. Since it’s hard to stay sharp while thinking two opposite sets of thoughts, they feel equal contempt for anyone outside their military clan.
In This Thing of Darkness: a Sociology of the Enemy, University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 1994, pp. 36 et seq., James A. Aho lists five steps required to reify ethnic hatred. Reification means turning an abstraction like bigotry into a conviction.
1. Naming: a false characterization of one individual as a role model for an abstract evil category.
2. Legitimization: validating this lie by subverting official findings.
3. Myth-making: creating a legendary history to confirm this lie.
4. Sedimentation: embedding these legends into the memory of the next generation as part of a group bonding dynamic.
5. Ritual: the traumatic, theatrical extinction of victims, often by ritual torture and the entrapment of their family.
6. We might add a sixth element, Martyrdom: the sacrifice of minor bigots to horrified authorities after the above-described Ritual, and their canonization by senior bigots who got clean away. God, how deeply they feel sorry for themselves! Especially after they’ve gotten away with some unbelievable atrocity. Strapping a remote control suicide bombs to a little girl? Unthinkable monsters!
These habits are undoubtedly twisted versions of peace-equivalent “mixing bowl” rituals (getting little girls to present a bouquet). With a few rewrites of the theatrics involved, we could promote mutual respect and tolerance. Like many weapon rituals, they could be converted into practices of peace with a little finagling.
It is interesting to note that during the worst of intertribal warfare, belligerent tribes replaced their heavy casualties by adopting prisoners of war, after inflicting physical and psychological torture on them so as to test and tame their spirit. Thus, lethal bigots had to become experts at the art of turning bitter enemies into blood brothers. Life is paradox.
Fanatical elites are looking forward to a final orgy of prismatic violence that will climax in the planetary, pan-toxin gangbang for which we have prepared these last few generations: the bio-chemo-nano-nuclear-scalar extermination of every hated Other as well as the fearsome Other Within. We deny our part in this upcoming disaster that could never have come about without our stanch collaboration.
In the near future? Peace will deteriorate by degrees until total war erupts, spontaneous and unstoppable – unless we take vigorous steps to thwart it.
Both Wimps and Prisms rely on weapon mentality. Their ethics are equally corrupt; their odds of long-term success, nil. Sooner or later, their power trip will degenerate into a blood bath. It is merely a question of time and weapon sophistication.
Fortunately, most people’s belief (or lack thereof) can be harnessed to peace struggle and, of which more in later chapters.
This text puts forward a different ideology, upheld by an army of one (me). It claims no sponsorship from the Skull & Bones, the Mujihadeen, the International Monetary Fund or any such band of profit-seeking cutthroats, stealthy or otherwise. I hope this disclaimer tempts you to rally to the cause.
Learners will require the complete infrastructure humanity has assembled today. It must remain intact, flourish and constantly renew itself. What’s more, fewer and fewer people may be deprived of home, homeland, security, livelihood and life.
Learners will need to address the needs of the rich with as much care as those of the info proletariat. In other words, a thousand times more skillfully than weapon managers ever got away with. Unlike weapon dissidents with their reflexive rejection of the Other, Learners will require the enthusiastic cooperation, expertise and capital management of info elites. Without their support, none of this transformation will be possible.
Humanity has barely accumulated enough capital and good will to undertake this Learner transformation. Any societal breakdown (of the kind weapon dissidents keep calling for) would drive us to inferior lowerof weapon barbarism and eventual annihilation. We can no longer afford the mass destruction, pilferage and terror of the kind we’d agreed – while heaving big sighs! – were regrettably unavoidable.
As for those who seek to annihilate civilization while they hone their survival skills, I stand in awe of their panic. Whether they adhere to the Unabomber’s screed, to some fundamentalist’s rant or to the murderous voice in their head, their brutal simplification of reality bodes ill for everyone, themselves included. May Learners revive their petrified imagination and lessen their craving for deadly simplification!
I recall a story about a young mountain tribesman who got arrested for enforcing a blood feud. When the police asked him why he had murdered an innocent stranger, he said it was because his mother had urged him on. Women are just as lethal as men in this context, perhaps more so. Most of them will serve peace with even greater enthusiasm.
So-called “primitive” shamans once enlightened a foreign observer as to the principal difference between men and women. Men hunt, fight and cut down trees; women tend children, men and gardens. Thus, men and women are entitled to their natural differences in talent, strength and aptitude. However, most importantly, women must advise men when it is wise to stop. We have forgotten this reliable veto.
An incident in Mormon history keeps coming to mind. At a certain point, their leader came to the conclusion that migrants passing through his territory had to be massacred. If his wives (polygamists) had blocked his decision (and I suspect they tried to with all their might), this disgraceful massacre would never have sullied the Mormon reputation. I also suspect that many deadly patriarchal confrontations throughout history could have come to a better conclusion by means of this veto, just as we can expect them to do so in the future.
By social convention, a majority of women should be able to terminate serious killing (or even serious talk thereof) by a majority of men. Period.
Nothing on Earth is as permanent as it seems, not even annihilation. During the next Paroxysm of mass stupidity and soiled underpants panic, we may destroy the biosphere, the human species or this entire civilization. Just a question of the megatons we choose to offload, laced with additional payloads of deadly disease, twisted weather and weapon-grade nano-tech.
Those dismal outcomes would be meaningless to a believer in. We’ll just have to re-enact the entire vicious farce of history to reach current levels of peace potential. Once the radioactive rubble has stopped rebounding, our survivors can take the next few thousand years to re-enact the entire history of weapon civilization, or millions more to match that since the Dawn of Man, or billions since life took hold on Earth.
Take your pick, you pompous bombardiers! You’ll have to wait a little while longer before you have bombs fat enough to drive us further back in time. That’s all your malevolent panic can do: just delay things for a while longer, given life’s near infinite span of space and time.
How much more precious time will we have to squander on historical re-enactments? How many more redundant devourings alive, burnings alive, rapes, suicides, crucifixions, pogroms and massacres will we have to attend for our dining and dancing pleasure—before we start doing things correctly?
You can read all you want to about war in your newspapers and history books; you will never read the following. After every war, things pretty much return to the way they were before the war began. Survivors return to normality, love and hate one another, care for lucky youngsters and go on about their business. No war, no matter how “glorious and significant,” has changed much of anything. The same result (more likely a better one) could have been achieved during an equivalent stretch of peace. The only real change resides in the decades of toil and skill it will take to replace the wealth and the mutual trust that war squandered, along with its irreplaceable casualties.
Everyone loses at war. There are no winners except weapon elites.
Early on in terrestrial life, multi-cellular organisms had to undergo a dramatic transformation, one of many. Primitive colonies let their central cells starve out and suffocate. Surrounded by layers of “selfish” cells along the outer perimeter, the ones in the middle couldn’t get enough food and oxygen to survive. More complex, three-dimensional life forms couldn’t evolve until “privileged” outer cells collected surplus nutrients and oxygen and passed them into the “poorer” center. Then this capacity had to be transmitted unto latter generations.
Anyone who spouts Social Darwinism’s sociopathic dogma of "survival of the fittest" had better contemplate "survival of the most generous.” Nature supports the most complex community of sharers that can tailor their lives to mutual support in this environment. See Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution.
“Over millions of years, nature’s ecosystems engineers have been especially effective in the promotion of overyielding [my italics]. They have coevolved with other species that exploit the niches they build. The result is a harmony within ecosystems. The constituent species, by spreading out into multiple niches, seize and cycle more materials and energy than is possible in similar ecosystems. Homo sapiens is an ecosystems engineer too, but a bad one. Not having coevolved [my note: in intimate familiarity—a peace technology we could cultivate] with the majority of life forms we encounter around the world, we eliminate far more niches than we create. We drive species and ecosystems into extinction at a far higher rate than existed before, and everywhere diminish productivity and stability.” Edward O. Wilson, The Future of Life, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2002, p. 112.
Once the Learner creed takes hold, info elites with surplus wealth will discover the titanic profits they may achieve (in a pragmatic yet fully moral way) once they sustain everyone else with enhanced equity. Compared to this abundance, their most grandiose achievements to date are slumlord flops.
While everybody merits modest comforts, those who excel may outstrip that minimum by no more than five to one between the highest and lowest fifths of the population, and fifteen to one between the highest and lowest income percentiles. Thus, the higher the comfort ladder the poorest climb, the more luxuries the rich may permit themselves in good conscience.
Here I go again, making pronouncements when Learners’ only true aim is to trigger global transformation, then step aside and let experts and specialists optimize their topics of passion. I should let a more qualified Learner do this work for me.
“Socioeconomic Democracy is a model socioeconomic subsystem in which there is some form of Universal Guaranteed Personal Income [UGI] as well as some form of Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth [MAW], with both the lower bound on personal material poverty and the upper bound on personal material wealth set and adjusted democratically by all society.” Robley E. George, Socioeconomic Democracy: An Advanced Socioeconomic System, Praeger Studies on the 21st Century, Praeger Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, London, 2002, p. 91.
Learners will seek neither absolute economic equality nor unlimited economic opportunity. For that matter, Learners’ first reflex will be to shun almost every absolute. Everything in moderation (except wisdom, beauty and elegance), in well-balanced proportion and accommodating peace.
Stalin and Pol Pot revealed that enforced equality leads to absolute poverty and millions of dead entrepreneurs of all kinds. Whether civilian or military, bureaucratic or professional, farm or factory managers; almost everyone who tried to get ahead was killed, as well as many people innocent of such ambition. The United States and Victorian England have demonstrated the unhealthy polarization that can take place between the rich and the others when personal and corporate riches are prioritized without exception. In the absence of economic moderation, the psychopaths win at both extremes, left or right, with no good outcome remaining for the innocent.
A golden mean must be found, so that everyone may live in comfort while entrepreneurship is allowed its creativity and rightful gain, and a much healthier moral conscience prevails within each individual and society as a whole. This while simultaneously providing the several Earths of resources it would take to supply our thronging billions with the same level of comfort. It is a question of acquiring much greater wisdom: the ultimate intention of Learner.
As much for the rich as for the poor, a healthy conscience would be the ultimate luxury. Compared to that, all the treasures accumulated and honorifics awarded thus far have been baby baubles and babble; every sacrifice and affliction endured, a sorry waste of time and energy.
I’m not talking about the satisfaction one may get from clawing one’s way to the top of the human meat pile, or that experienced by the handful among the privileged that struggles for the wellbeing of the poor. I’m talking about authentic self-worth, a clear conscience and real wellbeing well deserved because universal. Sacrificed up ‘til now on the weapons altar, those things would be a thousand times more worthwhile than elite diktats and conspicuous consumption, and a hundred times more so than the proletariat’s submission to its suffering or rebellion against it.
Recent political labels reflect static dogma and linear thinking. They pin us like butterflies to a politico-linguistic corkboard, the better to “control” us.
A term has never been coined for such a flexible political entity as a Learner. We have remained nameless, hence powerless, because we rejected better doctrine. We’ve expected to muddle along despite our refusal to refine our political discourse.
Our constellation of political metaphors is a patchwork of obsolete buzzwords and rusty clichés that may have held some promise in the distant past but none any longer. These vague euphemisms (left versus right, democracy, capitalism, collectivist, phtui!) do nothing but aggravate our errors and compound their ill effect. Politics-as-usual has prevented us from tinkering with the squealing boilerplate of civilization. This text notes this obstacle to progress and steps around it.
“These principles, therefore … are to be submitted to the dispassionate and patient investigation … of those individuals of every rank and class and denomination … who have become in some degree conscious of the errors in which they exist; who have felt the thick mental darkness by which they are surrounded; who are ardently desirous of discovering and following truth wherever it may lead; and who can perceive the inseparable [connection] which exists between individual and general, between private and public good!” Robert Owen, Catechism, Cole, 205-7. Taken from The Life and Ideas of Robert Owen, by A.L. Morton, Monthly Review Press, 1963, p. 128.
One cannot cheat at Learning, lie about it or avoid it—except to learn how to lie, cheat and avoid. Bullies learn evil; victims, endurance; and progressives, if they’re lucky, patience and compassion. Everyone learns to do whatever they’re doing better next time. Learning is hard-wired into each of us; it is our favorite game. From conception to death (and perhaps beyond), our consciousness burns to learn.
The verb “to learn” is missing its active voice to supplement the passive one we’ve grown accustomed to. We need to enhance its initial meaning, from “passively absorbing information” to “exchanging information freely.” “I learned to read … My school-marm learned me to read.” In addition, the term Learn, as understood here, includes the packet of information required to get on with civilized life. I claim my share of Learning and hope to barter it for yours.
The terms “teaching” and “education” imply compulsion and regimentation that has little to do with the “Learning” we’re talking about here.
While the index to Theories of Learning – A Comparative Approach has many entries under punishment, conditioning and suchlike compulsions, there are no entries under “play” and “games.” Interestingly, the only reference to play occurs in the Preface where its editors explain how much they indulged in play while they “worked on the problem” of learning.
Even though this book may address an crowd of Learners unmindful of themselves (“Who, me?”) it hails those special people who recognize the Learner within themselves, the moment they scan these lines.
Learners! Rally ‘round!
We are all born Learners; none may abstain. The body of Learners embraces infant and elder; rich person and poor; victim and tormentor; know-nothing, academe and self-taught alike. Age, race, sex, ability and other identity issues are one and the same on the playground of Learning.
Once Learners recognize each other and rally to their topics of passion in keeping with their talents and interests, the stars will yield themselves to us for the asking.