“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.
The text above is Victor Zaslavsky’s 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, this collapse resulted from the Soviet Union’s inability to assimilate native majorities in Central Asia and unwillingness to convert its military technologies into peaceful alternatives.
Learner predicts that Western societies will soon undergo a similar collapse because of their inability and unwillingness to embrace foreigners in a peaceful, global cooperative, and their “Après Exxon, le déluge” (adapted from a Louis XIV quote: “After me, the Flood.”) refusal to promote massive research and development in technological alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels a) rapidly running out and b) likely to parbroil the biosphere. Unlike the Soviet Union’s crash, there will be no compensating foreign aid or global vitality to cushion the catastrophe.
Anotherasserts 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 such a transmutation were workable, collapsing gold prices would render it worthless.
Even more obtuse: the alchemist’s search for an alkahest or universal solvent that no container could hold. Other items on the alchemical wish list include:
· Homunculi (“little men”). Why bother?
· Palingenesis: the restoration of plants from their burnt ashes. From this fantasy, it might seem but a short step to restore life from death.
· A Spiritus Mundi, which dissolves gold and triggers other magic.
· The Active Principal or Quintessence of Elements. Sounds like a great way to rekindle the Big Bang. Who would volunteer to survive another Big Bang?
· The ultimate alchemical absurdity would ensure human health with a potable liquid gold called aurum potabile—another worthless ambition.
One 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 our richest tormentors’ senility. It would also be obscene vampirism so as long as so many people went starving. Ditto, a 120-year life span for the rich while continental populations averaged a quarter of that. How can the rich even imagine allowing themselves such evil?
I would not 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, making warfare illegal and restoring world peace. I’ll never get over the home, home on the range of trivia people distract themselves with, otherwise.
I am fascinated by alchemists’ insistence that their earthly formulas are one of four separate formulations. To take effect, 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 it as much as we wish. We may pursue our topics of passion without censure, wherever they may lead. However, the last five thousand years of human hyperactivity leading nowhere disgrace every Learner. 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 were for military technologies. More and more demanding, higher-energy weapons (and even more durable 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―mostly to make more and “better” weapons.
Digging 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. This new era may last less than a generation if we're not very, very careful. Otherwise, our survivors may have to go back to knapping radioactive flint―assuming any living thing survives our unintended consequences beyond, maybe, weeds, cockroaches, and deep-stratum bacteria …
I feel no need to reincarnate as a deep stratum bacterium – the closest ecological niche I can imagine to biblical Hell – and re-evolve after endless agonies into something approximating human awareness. No more so than as a mutant rodent chipping glowing stones.
Just imagine a future devoted to peace, during which vital awareness might evolve into something as superior to humanity on WeaponWorld, as much as humanity would be to deep stratum bacteria. Though the contrast between these realities may just be a question of environmental scale and marginal details, nothing more…
We are finally emerging into the Biotech Era because scientists have finally taken biological weapons seriously. For a science to become “hard” it must show some promise as a new weapon technology.
Weapon technicians produced more and more sophisticated, durable and expensive inventions: hunters’ and warriors’ state-of-the-artifact―as they have always done. 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 and hoarded more greedily than the treasure that has been squandered on military spending sprees. The mightiest ones are named, cherished in great numbers and granted more care than a lot of children considered throwaways—even though no-one will admit as much. Still today, hundreds of millions of children lack support, compared to trillions of dollars that have been spent to coddle a few thousand nuclear weapons.
The social status of ironsmiths, versus that of warriors, has long fueled scholarly debate. Tyrants enslaved the best smiths to make more weapons. Weapon smithing was an arcane craft imbued with religious, mystical and magical overtones. In every land, ancient smiths held a magical status for better or worse.
For example, red-hot blades of the finest steel were bathed in fresh human blood drained just beforehand from terrified human sacrifices (fully scared people breathe hard). Quenching these blades in heavily oxygenated hemoglobin (liquid carbon) produced the “finest” sword steel, you see. Apparently, this method produced enormously strong and flexible carbon nanotubes, like those found in Damascene sword blades made from ferrous ingots of wootz: a special kind of iron ore with certain trace elements. This at least according to an article from Le Monde, currently archived and therefore inaccessible to me. See Google: wootz.
The more technicians, equipment and cash 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 is taught to every schoolchild without exception, duly memorized and repeated by all of us, no matter how peaceloving we may call ourselves. Taught deliberately, mind you, to hide the absolute sway that weapon mentality holds over our cultural norms, and that its technology holds over all our stuff.
The devil’s greatest triumph is convincing the whole world that he does not exist.
How many more lies, just as vicious and absurd, may weapon mentality have crammed into our skull? How much more noxious junk will weapon technology foist on us―when we could be crafting the fancy jewelry of a pure peace technology instead? Just how clueless are we? Read on.
In Technics and Civilization, Lewis Mumford discussed the influence of miners and mining 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 was an elaboration of primitive mining techniques. The first steam engines – and later on, the first reciprocating ones – pumped water from flooded mine pits.
Poor peasants trained with 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, we spend titanic sums on the arts and crafts of war. The USA just spent fortunes it could ill afford, to develop the latest fighter-bomber variant. This space-age wonder will then be 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 entirely within our means. Instead, we chose to send three hundred fighter-bombers and an Army/Marine corps to Afghanistan. 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 having to earn an honest living. Note also the circuit-guided munitions of this Silicon Age, and military satellites boosted into orbit to direct them unerringly.
Yet we find nothing abnormal in this. Our killer ape habits have merely grown more convoluted. Killing is the first human activity that has embraced communal complexity—and just about the last one at which we have been consistently good.
Warfare is a stupid waste by definition, no matter how technologically complex we 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 unachievable 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 may seem tempting to dismiss pottery, basket weaving, textiles and cooking as trivial, female pursuits. Yet potsherds and 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 therefore plumbing, plus cooking; followed by the psychic/religious/entertainment permutations of divination, storytelling, astrology and geomancy. Those epics we ought to be reciting around the campfire (read the mass media). Ancient skills that gradually decayed 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’re wrong—no need for proof!”
A third ancient source of science was animal husbandry: at first, the breeding of hunting dogs, then of food beasts, chariot mules and warhorses, among other domestic 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 Learner curiosity in realtime than alchemists’ putrid alembics, though much less in the historical record.
We, sorry to say, rely 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 needed was some kind of magic potion to strip the wall of seed cells from their nucleus and core DNA—then plenty of patience. You could study your results by microscope pretty fast, or by crossbreeding organisms into their macro scale capacities. As they say in genetics, phylogeny. This would take more time and require generations of hereditary human vocation, clan-craft and priesthood to chronicle the results of the experiments.
Then again, earlier species of animals or insects, and perhaps other hominids, may have carried out observations and quicker 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 might 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 suppositions 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” the same way humans have done, by killing off poor producers and breeding good ones. And I bet other social insects have done as much and more in the past. Also, it is a fact that bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms swap DNA fragments among themselves, and infect multi-cellular organisms with them (evolution through disease).
The uniqueness of human intelligence and human communications, and the inferiority of other species past and present, those are blinkered prejudices not supported by enough evidence. The collective intelligence of microorganisms precedes ours by billions of years and googles of generations.
Learners must never underestimate the genius of Life and the diamond crush of evolution’s selectivity over time. Let us study them humbly instead, anticipating unplumbed depths of complexity and startling feats of ingenuity, no matter how sophisticated our science becomes. We should mime it as meticulously we can. On that sacred worship, that unconditional love like that of a toddler for its parent, humanity’s survival may well hinge. Our current understanding of living systems is as clear as mud: just sufficient to destroy those living systems in bulk. Let’s own up to that, at least.
Scientists won’t hasten to humanity’s aid (the way we hope they will, let down daily), until they embrace some ideology more fitting than flatulent certitude, sneering nihilism and academic narcissism. At the bidding of the weapons orthodoxy, they deny 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 money, distinguished doctor-professors have affirmed that social incompetence, pollution, warfare and ecocide are cryptically beneficial, unavoidable or “insufficiently studied—let them persist uninterrupted.” Ego-driven public quarrels have paralyzed scientific communities that might otherwise have remained immune to outright corruption.
Like seasoned prostitutes, professional scientists serve Conspiracies of Greed: the only topics 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 this collective wisdom lack enough wisdom to appreciate the complexities of science and oversee it effectively? That would be the fault of info elites and their , much more so than of popular wisdom. We could throw this runaway train into reverse in a single generation.
The IQ exam is our crooked yardstick of brain smarts; it was first developed to sort World War I (sic) conscripts. Nowadays, its results are used 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 through a weapon civilization.
Roman Legions were some of the first factories, producing loot and slaves on an industrial scale (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 such analysis. Diderot’s Encyclopédie, upon which the Enlightenment was grounded, is 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 Tyranny or Oligarchy), to empire, to royal domain, to “representative” democracy, to today’s corporate/industrial military slave market, have been outcomes and accelerators of weapon technology.