“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, the collapse resulted from the Soviet Union’s inability to assimilate native majorities in Central Asia and reluctance to convert its military technologies into peaceful alternatives.
Learner predicts that Western societies will soon experience a similar collapse due to 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 alternative technologies to the burning of 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 cushion this catastrophe.
Anotherasserts that the Scientific Method evolved from alchemy: the 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 contain. 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 that would dissolve gold and trigger other kinds of magic.
· An Active Principal or Quintessence of Elements. Sounds like a good way to rekindle the Big Bang. Who volunteers to survive another 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 our richest tormentors’ senility. It would also be obscene vampirism, so as long as so many more went starving. Ditto, 120-year life spans for the rich while continental populations averaged a quarter of that. How could the rich even imagine 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, 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 the majority 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 as much as we wish. We may 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 were for military technologies. More and more demanding, higher-energy weapons (and even harder 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―for the most part to make more and “better” weapons.
Digging down into the Earth, one conclusion arises the surface. Weapons define the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages; they define the Pyrotech (controlled fire) Era we are traversing 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 have to go back to knapping radioactive flint―assuming any living thing survives our unintended consequences beyond, perhaps, weeds, cockroaches, and deep-stratum bacteria …
I see 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 approaching 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 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 much 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 novel weapon technology.
Weapon technicians produced more sophisticated, durable and expensive inventions: hunters’ and warriors’ state-of-the-artifact―they have always done so. Weapons have been crafted to the most rigorous standards of excellence; they’ve used the most challenging, hardest and most hazardous materials available. Weapons were more revered than idols, hoarded more greedily than the treasure that has been squandered on military spending sprees. The mightiest ones have been 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 support, even though trillions of dollars have been 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 fabrication 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 (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 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 laced certain trace elements. This, at least, according to an article from Le Monde, currently archived and therefore inaccessible to me. See Google: “wootz.”
Dammit! Nothing but the recorded awareness of the entirety of humanity, nothing but that will satisfy the Agora of PeaceWorld!
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 to 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 world 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 elegant jewelry of pure peace technology instead? Just how clueless are we? Read on.
In Technics and Civilization, Lewis Mumford discussed 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 metals. 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 were trained on bolt-action rifles long before they could flip on a light switch, pick up a fountain pen or straddle a flush toilet; even though these novelties were invented around the same time.
In our supposedly civilized age, we spend titanic sums on the art and crafts of war. Regardless of the year described, the USA just spent fortunes it could ill afford, to develop the latest fighter-bomber variant. This space-age wonder to be 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 stupid; that feat may have been entirely within our reach. 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 dirt free. People 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 first human activity that embraces communal complexity—and just about the only one at which we 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, 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 may 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 therefore 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 decayed into our weapon religions and ideologies. We have cast this ancient wisdom aside 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: 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 millennia prior. All that would have been needed was some kind of magic potion to strip the envelope of seed cells from their nucleus and core DNA—then plenty of patience. We could have studied our results by microscope pretty fast, or crossbred organisms into their macro scale capacities. 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 these experiments.
Then again, earlier species of animals or insects and perhaps of other hominids may have carried out observations and swifter 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 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 do, by killing off poor producers and breeding good ones. And I bet other social insects have done as much and more in the past. It is also a fact that bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms swap DNA fragments among themselves and infect multi-cellular organisms with them (evolution through disease).
The unique status of human intelligence and human communications, and the inferiority of other species past and present, those are blinkered prejudices not supported with 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. We should study them in all humility instead, anticipating unplumbed depths of complexity and startling ingenuity, no matter how sophisticated our science seems. We should mime it as meticulously we can. Upon that sacred worship, that unconditional love like that of 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 those them in bulk. Own up at least to that.
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 can affirm 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 from outright corruption.
Like seasoned prostitutes, professional scientists serve Conspiracies of Greed: the only 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 our collective wisdom lack enough insight 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 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, weapon technology. The Blanchard lathe, the 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.