“Better yet, the most extreme measures, the most radical actions, the bloodiest combat methods are kindest in the long run, simply because they hasten the end of hostilities and thus reduce the count of casualties and destruction. This was the point upheld by the famed Marshal Hindenburg when he said: ‘The more ruthless the war, the more humane in reality, since it will end sooner.’ This remains the thought of great strategists to this day. Jean Bacon, The Greater Glory, Prism Press, San Leandro, California, 1986, p. 36 [retranslated by me].
“A soldier’s conduct must be modeled on that of a rat: kind and understanding towards members of his own group, cruel and ferocious towards strangers. Lose this delicate balance, tip the scale the other way, and disaster looms. The war machine – well oiled up ‘til then – threatens to grind to a halt. One word, repeated in hushed tones through headquarters, strikes generals with terror: ‘fraternization’.” Ibid.
Regardless of a modern state’s idiosyncrasies – ideological, religious and technological – its adherents obtain the most privileges by contributing to the nation’s war effort. Family wealth, seniority, dominant race and political allegiance are primary recruitment criteria for positions of authority, privilege and prestige. Compassion is at best a secondary consideration.
Aversion to warfare is a grave liability for ambitious candidates; it guarantees their ejection from the corridors of power. Compassion and empathy are personal weaknesses to be weeded out.
The governments of today are masterworks of weapon mentality. The ruthlessness and ideological peculiarities of national elites correspond to the vividness of the threats that appear to surround them. The more an info proletariat can be made to fear those threats, the more tyrannical its elite may become. Its power base, malice and impunity correspond to the projection of those fears on the proletariat.
Given current danger levels, the threat of instant biological, nuclear and meteorological weapon annihilation gives rise to the worst kind of weapon tyranny. By gradual increments of terror, we have set ourselves up to be ruled by a succession of hyperactive Hitlers.
Every state exists today because it was optimized for weapon technology. Otherwise, its neighbors would saturate it with guerrillas, invade it and replace its government with one more partial to weapon mentality.
Most nation-states are powerful enough to block conventional aggression. Routine international relations can head off most of these manifestations. Terrorist attacks provoke the states they target just enough to worsen their weapon tyranny. Look at the damage 9/11 did to the Bill of Rights.
Weapon mentality justifies its existence by erecting barriers between nation-states ruled by rival but identical elites. In a cyclical process throughout history, these barriers (or membranes) have ballooned outward. Within them grew the prismatic family, village, metropolis, culture, race, religion and/or nation-state to which allegiance was due; outside were bogeymen that could be attacked when convenient and abused the rest of the time.
The toughest membranes and the tightest prismatic groupings are in remote wastelands – mountains, jungles, swamps and deserts of sand, stone and ice – remote spots where sheer survival poses a major problem. The swiftest hitchhiking and the most generous hospitality can be found in poor countries. They are more difficult to obtain if not forbidden where the cops are vigilant, the climate mild, the cars new and the drivers sleek and self-absorbed.
The inhabitants of such wastelands could perceive the stranger as a lethal menace, yet it is among them that the laws of hospitality and protection are the most strictly obeyed. Once you are under their protection, those people would rather die than see you harmed. That is their law. It should be ours as well, regardless of our plush surroundings.
Extending from prehistoric family units, these membranes have ballooned outward. Gathering diverse peoples into unified wholes – brutally or otherwise – they have spread out, their growth nourished by the arterial supply of communications networks emerging from within them.
Now that sub-continental populations share a common membrane, now that two voices at antipodes of the Earth are separated by .6 seconds over the telephone, we are a single quantum jump from global unity. Actually, this political process resembles the emergence of a large bubble from a froth of smaller ones — and probably conforms to a similar set of surface tension laws.
Imperial authority demands that districts remain subordinate to a powerful central government. In confederations, central authority exists for more restricted purposes. Confederate leaders seek the consent of diverse peoples by leaving them as little disturbed as possible.
At first, I thought Learner civilization would honor Panch Shila: five principles of confederacy articulated by Jawaharial Nehru and Chou En-lai, and ratified by their Third World supporters during the Bandung Conference of 1955.
· Mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty,
· Mutual non-aggression,
· Mutual aid, and
· Peaceful coexistence.
I used to think that the World Court alone could rescind these rights and obligations and then only temporarily according to the verdict of randomly selected juries fully briefed by an adversarial system of international pleadings.
Since then, each of us has witnessed countless atrocities both foreign and domestic. Governments and their associates have indulged in them under armored umbrellas of non-intervention and national sovereignty. Since then, I read Mortimer Adler’s How to Think about War and Peace. His much clearer analysis of the politics of PeaceWorld (published in 1943 and ignored since) includes the following directives. I quote them to you in their entirety:
“With respect to any plan proposed for maintaining ‘peace in our time,’ the following conditions should be satisfied.
· That they commit no political or economic injustice by way of inequitable distributions or unfair discriminations.
· That they contemplate no alliance which will, directly or indirectly, preserve a status quo built upon already existing injustices.
· That they use power, whether or not through the methods of coalition, to support international good faith, not to supplant it; to safeguard freedom, not to suppress it.
· That they anticipate the direction of social, economic, and political changes, so that no measures positively taken will operate as impediments to progress anywhere in the world, and so that some positive measures be taken to facilitate it.
· That they permit, encourage, and even perhaps institute international agencies, such as the League of Nations and the World Court, not because such institutions can by themselves postpone the next war, much less perpetuate peace, but because such institutions provide men with the image of an international community, and with the political experience needed for the formations of the future.
· That they multiply such agencies and the International Labor Office, which deal with problems common to all nations from the point of view of a common good that transcends national interests; and, in this connection, that they create an International Office of Education for the purpose of equalizing educational opportunity throughout the world at the highest level [author’s note: which is Learner’s primary intent], and to guide education everywhere in the training of citizens.” pp. 290-291.
Along with the technical means to exterminate a certain population comes the capacity to administer it in peace. The Pax Romana (Peace of Rome) only extended as far as Roman Legions could troop their Eagles. Just as the population of Earth could be exterminated in a few weeks of total war, dependable abundance and justice could be extended to the same number of people.
Only battle elites thrive in a fractured society.
Picture yourself visiting a booming Renaissance port town. Its inhabitants dispose of surplus capital, ships, goods and luxury orders that could only be filled abroad. However, a stable government has to guarantee the investors’ stake in foreign trade. Their profit margins need to remain reasonably secure despite long periods spent in idle apprehension awaiting their cargos’ return. If gangs of armed hooligans control the docks and commandeer any freight and passengers that passes across them, no merchant would gamble his savings on such a risky enterprise.
Everyone on Earth faces the same predicament. The United Nations recognize the sovereignty of about two hundred complex street gangs, each entitled to hold its citizens hostage at knifepoint and attack any other gang it can get away with. They don’t even need that excuse.
Meanwhile, at least five thousand nations – finalists of tens of thousands more that lost their place in what is left of recorded history – compete for two hundred remaining certificates of sovereignty. No wonder the world is crawling with guerillas and terrorists!
Like any other polis (police, “citadel”, city-state), the Earth needs the equivalent of one City Hall, one Justice of the Peace and one duly appointed Police Force. Not two hundred glorified street gangs disguised as Prism governments; not a combination of 180-odd recognized governments and the best-organized criminal/corporate gangs contending with them for military/economic dominance. And certainly not the worst Wimp gang whipping all the others in protracted rumbles until it, too, collapses from its internal contradictions.
“In a dark period of five hundred years, Rome was perpetually afflicted by the sanguinary quarrels of the nobles and the people, the Guelphs and Ghibelines, [author’s note: pro-pope and imperialist, respectively], the Colonna and Ursini: and if much has escaped the knowledge, and much is unworthy of the notice of history, I have exposed in the two preceding chapters, the cause and effects of the public disorders. At such a time, when every quarrel was decided by the sword; and none could trust their lives or properties to the impotence of law; the powerful citizens were armed for safety or offense against domestic enemies whom they feared or hated. Except Venice alone, the same dangers and designs were common to all the free republics of Italy; and the nobles usurped the prerogative of fortifying their houses, and erecting strong towers that were capable of resisting a sudden attack. …
“… Whatever is fortified will be attacked, and whatever is attacked may be destroyed … ‘The houses,’ says a cardinal and poet of the times, ‘were crushed by the weight and velocity of enormous stones; the walls were perforated by the strokes of the battering-ram; the towers were involved in fire and smoke; and the assailants were stimulated by rapine and revenge.’ The work was consummated by the tyranny of the laws; and the factions of Italy alternately exercised a blind and thoughtless vengeance on their adversaries, whose houses and castles they razed to the ground. In comparing the days of foreign, with the ages of domestic hostility, we must pronounce that the latter have been far more ruinous to the city, and our opinion is confirmed by the evidence of Petrarch. ‘Behold,’ says the laureate, ‘the relics of Rome, the image of her pristine greatness! Neither time nor the Barbarian can boast the merit of this stupendous destruction: it was perpetrated by her own citizens, by the most illustrious of her sons; and your ancestors (he writes to a noble Anibaldi) have done with the battering-ram, what the Punic hero could not accomplish with the sword.’” Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Allen Lane Ltd., the Penguin Press, London, 1994, p. 1073-5.
Imagine how chaotic the United States would become if New England and Dixie were still fighting for control across the Mason-Dixon Line; if California and Texas sent National Guard contingents to face off in Santa Fe, Cleveland and Miami; if New York City bankers and those in Chicago sub-contracted rival gangs for regional control? America and regional powers are playing the same deadly game on the world stage with predictable results: a runaway train of military anarchy, mass calamity and world-scorching ecocide.
I am re-reading Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War. What struck me is how the members of the Greek Parliament would react if someone read into the record one of the speeches in that book favoring an action executed back then as if it needed to be repeated against the same people today. That nut would be laughed out of office. Once mortal enemies are now fellow citizens; it’s no longer a question of war between them. Everyone on Earth should expect the same reaction if war were proclaimed between different states of the world.
On PeaceWorld, every nation and ethnic group would reclaim its sovereignty and political independence through legal means and without war. That way, they would stop creating hot spots of intractable military friction: Tamils, American Indians by tribe, Karins, Kashmiri, Kurds, Rohingas, Palestinians, Fulani ... a list that can get real long, real fast. This option is closed to us today because criminal activities are certified legitimate once they’ve grown huge and profitable enough for the few.
Thus the modern state may kidnap, torture, loot local resources and economies, starve and exterminate minorities, and wage interminable police repression against them. For no good reason, its leadership may play bait-and-switch games with the drug trade and render profitable its repressive prohibition. It may raise more murderous terrorists with each new generation simply by terrorizing their near and dear ones (drone wars forever!) — and no-one so much as blinks. In those matters, PeaceWorld would not be so permissive.
You! Yes, you! Do you presume your rights will remain secure as long as you let some tyrant play games with other people’s indignation? You’re next, pal.
Here is the central question of politics: whom to trust?
The People? Can we arm them, grant them sovereign political rights, access to the information they need and latitude to do their best in peace? The American Constitution is founded on that trust: the wellspring of its greatness. Our crooked leaders shift more and more assets to the weapons alternative, as follows.
We could distrust the People and shift our trust to some elite minority (an information elite). It could perpetuate itself by investing more in domination than in justice. It could be selectively hyper-educated, supremely class-conscious and well adapted to run a military dictatorship whenever it felt the need and could justify it with enough war propaganda. And no-one on this hell-world would find anything wrong with that.
Then arm some minority police or paramilitary (a battle elite) to impose this illegitimate leadership. Thereafter, ruin the world by paying the enforcers more than generously so that they will cause the least possible damage (USA); or let them run riot on the cheap, tear society apart and destroy the environment for short-term profit (Argentina, Chile, Iraq, Syria, etc.).
In either case, the more vicious the battle elite, the safer the info elite will feel — even though reality dictates exactly the opposite: less aggression, more security.
In the end, we are left with no alternative but to pray that Mafia thugs don’t take over and replace those same elites. That takeover, a Darwinian certainty that has already taken place, in case you hadn’t noticed.
The People or the Mafia? You choose.
Military and criminal organizations share intimate and subtle co-dependencies.
An illustrative military/criminal order is the Hashashin of ancient Syria. Their rest, recreation and training areas were sited in remote mountain fortresses where the abuse of drugs and young women persuaded novice assassins that they could live in earthly paradise while they served the Hashashin and go to heaven by dying in their service. Meanwhile, their leaders graduated through laborious steps of mystery and initiation into the central, revealed Truth of the cult. “This whole deal is nothing but a patchwork of lies and power hunger. Enjoy.”
These days, generic death squads fester across the planet. As usual, they serve as Gestapo-like security thugs and/or revolutionary enforcers. Similar organizations clutter the history books: the military religious orders, (Buddhist warrior monasteries compacted like bonsai plants into criminal clans by government suppression; knights Templar, Hospitalier and Teutonic); Westphalian Vehmgericht (vehmic courts of medieval Germany); Japanese Ninja; Indian Thugees; KKK lynch mobs; Hermandad of Spain and Acordada of Mexico; and highland Scots, Colombian, Moroccan and Afghan tribal clans, among others.
Also, various secret animal clans: Werewolf in Germania and Scandinavia, African Lion and Leopard societies, Panther in pre-Columbian America, and Asian Tiger equivalents. Since the summary execution of social deviants became less and less acceptable to local communities, these clans evolved to permit it. Victims of execution would be found torn to shreds, the track marks of big predators left all around their bodies – torn apart by iron claws, the paw prints made by carefully crafted sandal soles. No one could tell whether it was a predator that had claimed another victim, or the most dangerous predator of all: man.
Nowadays, “death squad member” is a routine job description in many countries, entitlement to earn one’s keep where there are not enough honest jobs to go around — not a term of loathing and ostracism. If you know people who know the right people, you can get someone bumped off for the price of a few drug fixes or a trendy pair of basketball shoes. Such nations disgrace themselves.
Finally, the differences between the Assassin attacks of yore and killer drone campaigns of today are small when compared to their similarities.
Criminals mirror militarists. Both sides share the same battle elite fondness for inflicting woe. You will find similar traits in all three camps: risk-taking, clan loyalty, expert brutality, ritual dominance and submission, ferocious chains of command, insistence on perfect obedience, power grabs by force and cunning, contempt for outsiders, fondness for deceit, and a compulsion to foment pain, torment and terror — preferably on defenseless innocents because they’re easier to abuse.
Once warfare breaks out, prisons, jails and criminal syndicates erupt into the Army. In peacetime, criminal courts often force wayward teenagers to choose between jail and the military. Several murderers-for-hire solicited new customers through Soldier of Fortune magazine.
Another weapon brotherhood goes unrecognized: that between criminals and the police. Snitches and petty larcenists in Victorian Era capitals were the first recruits into the modern police forces of Europe. The information elite’s reasoning went thus:
· the best hunter of a criminal is another criminal; and
· why not hire the smarter half of the worst aggressors, track them with vigorous oversight and call them “police” — rather than attempt to suppress both sets of scoundrels with another, less-qualified force?
Interpol, Europe’s central police agency, was founded on Gestapo files and informant networks; the CIA, on agents recruited by its predecessor the OSS. The first functional agency of the European Economic Community was the last one of Nazi-dominated Europe: its police force… In the same way, the last gasp of the Roman Empire was its body of laws.
Quite recently, Interpol officially purged itself of the worst of its Nazi contamination. Unlike the American government, which neither admitted nor retracted its post-war affection for fascist operatives and their dirty tricks… up to and including the unpunished assassination of John F. Kennedy, an incumbent President of the United States.
In a real democracy, this kind of crime would have set off a civil war all by itself until the elite conspirators had been dragged out into the light of day and publicly condemned. The American leadership lied, executed who knows how many honest witnesses and protected the bastards responsible, to avert this catastrophe.
According to current weapon thought, new production efficiencies will deprive enormous civilian labor pools of employment and legitimate income as those necessities are misunderstood today. Rather than install Learner Networks to generate new livelihoods for these people, reactionaries are organizing massive trivia-criminalization and prison-building programs. There are way too many prisoners in the USA alone (one percent of the population and still growing, a quarter of the world’s prisoners). Too many more people are on a government payroll to hunt, process and guard them. Stalin would have been proud of the triumph of his psychopathic successors. These idiot proxies for gainful employment typify weapon management.
No army, criminal syndicate or police force – no matter how brutal and military-surplus equipped – can enforce obedience that exceeds what a local majority is willing to impose upon itself. Without a corresponding Learner transformation, any revaluation of the common currency of public responsibility is a waste of time — be it at gunpoint and death camp or using non-lethal weapons and mass propaganda.
Getting the police to suppress legitimate dissent through supplements of personnel and firepower (by stepping up trivial arrests, reflex brutality and illegal surveillance) just refines corruption, strengthens organized crime and exposes more victims among the innocent.
The most effective police departments are peace instruments, unlike secret police, intelligence agencies and armies that are weapon technologies. Well-run police use minimal force to suppress violence. In order to operate effectively, they must be backed by well-financed social services. Ideally, they submit to an honest and wary judiciary controlled by juries through tiers of public review and private appeal. At best, this police force should be recruited from an ethnic mix similar to the population it patrols, and live in the same neighborhood.
Civic problems should be handled by social, legislative, voluntary and entrepreneurial interventions — not pummeled by brute force. If legitimate grievances generate mass demonstrations, they must be dealt with constructively. New channels of communication need to be opened up on the basis of the legitimacy of those demands.
On the other hand, armies are trained, organized, and equipped to inflict the utmost damage and mayhem in the shortest possible time — this regardless of rights and wrongs. They demand absolute sovereignty in their chosen field of destruction and recognize no law but their own.
Ordering the military to use discrete increments of force – to provide disaster relief and social assistance in civilian settings, for example, or impose non-violence on antagonists who reject a cease-fire – betrays a complete misunderstanding of weapon management. Every time info elites confuse police and military functions and attempt to merge them into a single armed bureaucracy, they abuse their proletarian hosts through alternating doses of overzealous brutality and bungling neglect, both of which lead to unnecessary casualties.
Go take a look at Iraq: our model of WeaponWorld’s things to come. Faluja = your hometown. Does that prospect appeal to you?
As the quality of life deteriorates, criminal punishment loses its effectiveness. When the quality of life improves, especially among the poor, criminal deterrence recovers. Clever criminals find that they have too much to lose – and too many good alternatives to pick from – to settle for mere criminality. Once they opt for the straight and narrow, they turn into allies of the forces of order or at least neutrals.
Once punishments have been reduced, the following results can be expected. Fewer, less competent criminals confront law-abiding majorities alongside their natural allies: a more-or-less honest police force and a jury-controlled judiciary.
Otherwise, so-called criminals are just disguised guerrilla fish aswim in a sea of cooperative victims. The populace and its criminal minority become reluctant allies standing should-to-shoulder against their ‘anti-crime, law-and-order’ oppressors — as did the Bosnian people both law-abiding and criminal during the early stages of the war against the Serbs, and Syrian “moderates” and violent fundamentalists against the growing fascism of Assad. This is the optimal recruitment ground for battle elites and thus the preferred outcome for weapon managers.
In a weapon state, an active conscience is reserved for idealists, slaves, veterans nursing old nightmares, and infants listening raptly to bloody fairy tales. Weapon mentality makes the rest of us betray our conscience on command. It teaches us to tolerate the intolerable — much the way the Nazis taught Europe and the world to ignore the Holocaust at Luger-point.
What we laughingly call “modern culture” is our attempt to justify this massive aberration of values. By what right and duty have we shored up this travesty?
Call for something more fitting!