- WEAPON TECHNOLOGY (I) - 

VERSION FRANCOPHONE              

 

SUMMARY OF LEARNER  INTRO & VOCAB

 

“The systemic decay of a military-industrial society is a phenomenon of counter-modernization ― an abrupt reversal of the key developments that have characterized all industrial societies to date. This form of social degeneration was provoked in the Soviet case by the anti-innovative aspects of the economic system coupled with the self-destructive character of its military-driven modernization. The system’s devolution can be factored into four interconnected processes: technological stagnation and declining productivity; decline in the complexity of social structure and the stagnation in the division of labor; the system’s inability to develop new needs, beliefs, and values – all necessary for progress; and finally, waste of resources and ever-spreading ecological damage.” After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building; the Soviet Union and the Russian, Ottoman and Habsburg Empires, Edited by Karen Barkey and Mark Von Hagen, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1997, p. 81.

 

Victor Zaslavsky wrote the text above as and after-the-fact explanation of the Soviet Union’s collapse. The same criteria apply to soon-to-collapse Western gerontocracies similar in practice. According to him, the collapse resulted from the Soviet Union’s inability to assimilate native majorities in Central Asia and reluctance to convert its military technologies into peaceable alternatives.

Learner predicts that Western societies will soon experience a like collapse due to their inability and refusal to embrace foreigners in a peaceful, global cooperative, just as well as their “Après Exxon, le déluge” (adapted from a Louis XIV quote: “After me, the Flood.”) refusal to promote massive research and development into technologies other than those that burn fossil fuels: A) rapidly running out and B) likely to parboil the biosphere. Unlike the crash of the Soviet Union, no compensating foreign aid or global vitality will show up to cushion this catastrophe.

 

Another weapon myth asserts that the Scientific Method evolved from alchemy: a systematic attempt by scheming Learners to convert base metals into gold. This anal retentive fantasy turned out to be a great waste of time and money for cunning charlatans and their willing, royal dupes. Even if this transmutation were workable, collapsing gold prices would make it worthless.

Even more obtuse: the alchemist’s search for an alkahest or universal solvent that no container could contain. Other alchemical wishes include:

 

·       Homunculi (“little men”). Why bother?

·       Palingenesis: the restoration of plants from their ashes. From this fantasy, it might seem but a short step to restore life from death.

·       A Spiritus Mundi that might dissolve gold and trigger other magic.

·       An Active Principal or Quintessence of Elements. Sounds like a good way to rekindle the Big Bang. Who would volunteer to outswim the next Big Bang?

·       The ultimate alchemical absurdity would ensure human health by means of a potable liquid gold called aurum potabile ― another hollow ambition.

 

The key difference between Hell and this Earth is our opportunity to live well, die well and reincarnate better. Weapon management's crowning triumph would be to immortalize the senility of our richest tormentors. It would also be obscene vampirism, so as long as so many more people went starving. Ditto, 120-year lifespans for the rich while continental populations averaged a third of that. How can the rich contemplate such transgressions?

I wouldn’t criticize these hobbies, (extracted from Manly P. Hall’s encyclopedic The Secret Teachings of All Ages, The Philosophical Research Society, Inc., Los Angeles, 1977, pp. 154-55), if they did not steal so much irreplaceable time and talent from our foremost tasks: namely, rendering warfare illegal and restoring world peace. I’ll never get over the trivia people distract themselves with otherwise.

I find fascinating alchemists’ insistence that their earthly formulas be one of four separate formulations. To come to fruition, all four must occur simultaneously on three spiritual planes and this earthly one ― or so they believe.

Once Learners resolve most of our problems of warfare and peace-fair, we may make it our lifework to turn turnips into marigolds or earn big bucks chasing a ball around a sports field ― obsess over such things to our heart’s content. We could pursue our topics of passion wherever they may lead without censure. However, every Learner is disgraced by the last five thousand years of human hyperactivity leading nowhere. Little children lost in the dark, diverting themselves with trivial games.

 

Long before alchemists took the spotlight, weapon technicians practiced “the scientific method” as a matter of routine. They used inductive and deductive reasoning; trial and error; repetition and confirmation of results; the extraction, refinement and admixture of standard elements into consistent compounds, as well as other clever laboratory tricks.

The first scientific applications served military technologies. More and more demanding, higher-energy weapons (and even tougher weapon-making tools) were smithed from available materials: bone, limestone, flint, quartz, copper, arsenical copper, bronze, iron (first wrought, then cast), alloys, steel, stainless steel, uranium, plutonium, titanium and ceramic/plastic composites ― to make more and “better” weapons.

Digging down into the Earth, one conclusion comes to the surface. Weapons define the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages; they define the Pyrotech (controlled fire) Era we are crossing at full steam, and the Biotech (engineered life) Millennium that’s charging into view. If we're not very, very careful, this new era may last for less than a generation. Otherwise, our survivors may be sent back to knapping radioactive flint ― assuming any living thing survives our unintended consequences beyond, maybe weeds, cockroaches, and deep-stratum bacteria …

I don’t feel I need to reincarnate into a deep stratum bacterium – the closest ecological niche I can imagine to biblical Hell – and re-evolve, after endless agonies, into something approaching human awareness. No more so than as a mutant rodent chipping glowing flint.

Imagine to what extent a vital awareness might evolve in a future devoted to peace: as superior to humanity on WeaponWorld as it would be to deep stratum bacteria. Though the contrast between these realities may just be a question of environmental scale and marginal details, not much more…

We are entering the Biotech Era because scientists have finally taken seriously the idea of biological weapons. For a science to become “hard” it must show some promise as a novel weapon technology.

Weapon technicians have produced the most sophisticated, durable and expensive inventions: state-of-the-artifact for hunters and warriors. They’ve done so always. Weapons have been crafted to the most rigorous standards of excellence; they’ve used the most challenging, hardest and most hazardous materials available. Weapons have been more revered than idols, hoarded more greedily than treasure squandered on military spending sprees. The mightiest ones were named, cherished in great numbers and given more care than many children considered throwaways ― even though no-one admits as much. Still today, hundreds of millions of children go without adequate sustenance, even though trillions of dollars are spent to coddle a few thousand nuclear weapons.

 

The social status of ironsmiths, compared to that of warriors, has long fueled scholarly debate. Tyrants enslaved the best smiths to make more weapons. Weapon production was an arcane craft imbued with religious, mystical and magical overtones. In every land for better or worse, ancient smiths held a magical status.

For example, red-hot blades of the finest steel were bathed in fresh human blood drained just beforehand from terrified human sacrifices (deeply scared people breathe hard). Quenching these blades in heavily oxygenated hemoglobin (liquid carbon) produced the “finest” sword steel, you see. Apparently, this method produced extremely strong and flexible carbon nanotubes like those found in Damascene sword blades made from ferrous ingots of wootz: a special kind of iron ore laced with certain trace elements. This, at least, according to an article from Le Monde currently archived and therefore inaccessible to me.

Nothing less than the recorded consciousness of of humanity in its entirety will satisfy the Agora of PeaceWorld! That frank alternative of free knowledge will show more profit than the greed-dictates of Capitalism and its intentional info deprivation.

See Google: “wootz.”

 

The more technicians, equipment and cash were available, the deadlier the final product. Warrior chieftains had to reward their smiths royally, yet keep their craft a state secret. Thus, “alchemists.”

So tell me: modern science is supposed to have evolved from alchemy and not from some unmentionable weapon technology, right? That transparent lie has been taught to every schoolchild without exception, duly repeated to us and carefully memorized by us, no matter how peaceloving we may suppose ourselves. Taught deliberately, mind you, to hide the sovereignty that weapon mentality holds over our cultural norms, and that of its technology over all the stuff we hold dear.

The devil’s greatest triumph is convincing the whole world that he does not exist.

How many more lies, just as vicious and absurd, has weapon mentality crammed into our skull? How much more noxious junk will weapon technology foist on us ― when we could be crafting the fine jewelry of peace technology instead? Just how clueless are we? Read on.

 

In Technics and Civilization, Lewis Mumford discusses the influence miners and mining had on early technology. He was indeed correct. To make weapons, smiths required metal ore; to pay for them, tyrants required gemstones and precious metal. Siege warfare built on primitive mining techniques. The first steam engines – and later on, the first reciprocating ones – pumped water from flooded mine pits.

Poor peasants drilled on bolt-action rifles long before they flipped on a light switch, picked up a fountain pen or straddled a flush toilet; even though these novelties were invented around the same time.

In our supposedly civilized age, titanic sums are spent on the art and crafts of war. Regardless of the decade in question, the USA spent fortunes it could ill afford to develop the latest fighter-bomber variant. This space-age wonder was then launched by the squadron, flown by pilots trained for millions of dollars more, against the world’s cheapest infantry.

According to Stanley Kubrick, we could have launched a manned spaceship to Jupiter in the year 2001. He wasn’t a stupid man; that feat may have been within our reach, despite its radioactive dangers. Instead, we chose to dispatch three hundred fighter-bombers and an army to fight in Afghanistan.  Afghanistan! The graveyard of imperial losers! What intellect, what creativity, what genius! I ask you.

Or just take a simple handgun. It is a thing of chilling beauty, superbly crafted for manslaughter alone. Manufactured en masse, it can be priced dirt-cheap or handed out for free. People can get paid to carry it instead of earning an honest living. Note too the circuit-guided munitions of this Silicon Age and the military satellites boosted into orbit to direct them unerringly.

Yet we find nothing abnormal with any of this. Our killer ape habits have merely grown more convoluted. Killing has become the primary human activity that embraces communal complexity ― and just about the only one at which our societies have been consistently good.

Warfare is a stupid waste by definition, no matter how technologically complex we may make it. It demands that we suspend disbelief in its ultimate outcome; it demands magical thinking. Peace is much more cerebral and complex, no matter how unattainable we may have made it seem.

 

The second forerunner of science was ceramics: at present a spacey military technology. Given the male chauvinism that prevails today, it might appear tempting to dismiss pottery, basket weaving, textiles and cooking as trivial, female pursuits. Yet potsherds and the remnants of the hearth are reliable indicators of ancient cultural achievement. The more creative and adaptive the cookery, the more dynamic the civilization. What art form could be more ephemeral than a meal?

Despite the patriarchal arrogance of recorded history, real civilization appears to revolve around the kindred arts of medicine (especially midwifery and herbalism), carpentry, washing and thus plumbing, and cooking; followed by the psychic/religious/entertainment permutations of divination, storytelling, astrology and geomancy. Those epics we should be reciting around the campfire (read the mass media). Ancient skills that gradually decomposed into our weapon religions and ideologies. We have cast aside this ancient wisdom in the newfound blindness of our scientific positivism. “I am a certified scientist and as such positive that you are wrong ― no need for proof!”

A third ancient source of science was animal husbandry: breeding hunting dogs first, then food beasts, chariot mules and warhorses among other domesticated species. Many adult farmers and adolescent naturalists took up botany and zoology as their topic of passion. Their in-depth peace studies attracted much more realtime Learner curiosity than the alchemists’ putrid alembics, though much less weight in the historical record.

We, sorry to say, have relied on the booty ledgers of greasy warlords to sort out our past.

For all we know, gene splicing may have been a prehistoric, mortar-and-pestle cottage industry. Sorta like Mendel and his pea-pods, but thousands of years prior. All that would have been necessary was a magic potion to strip the envelope of seed cells from their nucleus and its core DNA ― then plenty of patience. We could have studied our results by microscope pretty fast, or crossbred organisms into their macro scale functions. As they say in genetics, phylogeny. This would have taken more time and required generations of hereditary human vocation, clan-craft and priesthood to chronicle the results of such experiments.

Then again, earlier species of animals or insects and perhaps of other hominids may have carried out observations and more speedy analyses on a microscopic scale. The smaller the species, the likelier its vision would penetrate microscopic scales and speed up this analysis. What else would they have needed? Some intra-species chemical communication system? Insects (and especially microbes) are experts at such. Some species could have exploited the magnification of water droplets, or some lens-making plant may have served. Nowadays, these plants are extinct. But in the past, plants could have grown blisters as organic lenses to magnify solar energy, and other species could have benefited from them.

Even if these assumptions remain unproven (which does not mean they’re false), it is certain that ants capture other insects and “milk” their secretions. I’ll bet they select their “cattle” much the same way humans do, by killing off poor producers and breeding better ones. And I bet other social insects did as much and more in the past. In fact, bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms swap DNA fragments among themselves and infect multi-cellular organisms with them (evolution through disease).

The superiority of human intelligence and human communications, and the inferiority of other species past and present are blinkered prejudices not supported by sufficient evidence. The collective intelligence of microorganisms precedes the human one by billions of years and googles of generations. Let humanity show seemly humility before the magnificence of the natural world.

Learners must never underestimate the genius of Life and the diamond crush of evolution’s selectivity over time. We should study them instead in all humility, anticipating unplumbed depths of complexity and startling ingenuity, no matter how sophisticated our science may turn out to be. We should mime it as meticulously as we can. Upon that sacred worship, that unconditional love like that felt by a toddler for its parent, humanity’s survival may well depend. Our current understanding of life systems is as clear as mud: just sufficient to destroy most of them in bulk. Own up to that at least.

 

Scientists won’t hasten to humanity’s aid (the way we wish they would, disappointed daily), until they embrace some ideology more fitting than flatulent certitude, sneering nihilism and academic narcissism. At the bidding of weapons orthodoxy, they reject sacred wonder and are the lesser for it.

For a fixed price, certified scientists can make deadly evil look promising, cloak grand larceny, engineer mass misery and shut down valid alarms. Given enough grant moneys, distinguished doctor-professors can affirm that social incompetence, pollution, warfare and ecocide are cryptically beneficial, unavoidable or “insufficiently studied ― let them continue uninterrupted.” Ego-driven media quarrels can paralyze scientific communities that might otherwise have remained immune from outright corruption.

Like seasoned prostitutes, professional scientists serve Conspiracies of Greed: the first topic of passion our weapon states subsidize. While some hookers may have a heart of gold – and many scientists, ethics adamantine – it would be unwise to entrust our fate to their care without extensive popular supervision.

Might the collective wisdom of the public lack enough insight to appreciate the complexities of science and oversee them effectively? That would be the fault of info elites and their ridiculous academic protocols, much more than of popular wisdom. This runaway train could be thrown into reverse in a single generation.

 

The IQ exam is our crude yardstick of brain smarts. It was first developed to sort World War I (sic) conscripts. Nowadays, its results serve to dignify racism, especially in works of anti-genius like The Bell Curve.

 

“It is a truism that all of the wars drive forward science and technology. As many historians and philosophers have asserted, weapons always preceded tools. The first machines were battering rams and catapults. The oldest profession in the world is not the usual one of prostitute, but that of smithy turning out weapons. The first roads were strategic paths; the first canals served a military purpose. Credit emerged to finance mercenaries, and surgery was developed as a result of military campaigns during the 19th century.” Translated from Jean Bacon, Les saigneurs de la guerre (The Bloody Lords of War), Éditions l’Harmattan, Paris, 1995, p. 139.

 

Such luminaries as Archimedes, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Cervantes, Dürer, Descartes, Lavoisier, Goethe, Eli Whitney, Somerset Maugham, Dr. Seuss and many more made their reputations as officers, spies, fortification engineers, armorers, military industrialists, reporters and bureaucrats: the principal career paths of weapon civilization.

Roman Legions made up the first factories, producing loot and slaves on industrial scales (according to Marshall McCluan in Understanding Media).

Time and motion studies first rationalized the thrust and parry of swordplay, then the thirty-odd steps it took to fire a clumsy harquebus (primitive shoulder cannon) ― long before factory tasks required this kind of analysis. Diderot’s Encyclopédie, upon which the Enlightenment grounded, was a “How To” of primitive heavy industry, in other words of weapon technology. The Blanchard lathe, premier design tool of modern industry, was first used to machine-sculpt standard wooden stocks for Kentucky (Jaeger) rifles.

 

All the political transformations our historians hold dear: from tribal allegiance, to city-state (whether Tyrannical or Oligarchical), to empire, to royal domain, to “representative” democracy, to today’s corporate/industrial combat slave market, all have been outcomes and accelerators of weapon technology.

 

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