We must address the question of costs – if only momentarily and with due caution – given the misery we’ve endured while we paid undue attention to imaginary dearth. For millennia, we’ve never found the wealth to invest in a secure abundance. Instead, we’ve bemoaned peace expenses and short-changed ourselves by reneging on them, while at the same time underrating weapon costs and ruining ourselves to honor them.
We will pay dearly for this transformation. Of necessity, the richest countries will be called upon to ante up the first and raise the highest wagers. As usual, conspirators of Greed will gainsay Learner transformation with myths of scarcity even though, as usual, they’re awash in liquid capital lacking any catchment except for total war and its preparations.
What choice do we have? Everything is at stake. We may endure the next decades of eco-disaster, dwindling petroleum reserves and the ensuing global fascism of national-capitalist states fighting over the dregs. Or we can fall prey to annihilation this very afternoon, the victims of some military paroxysm unforeseen by us though carefully engineered by others.
If we chose to make a concerted shift from weapons to peace, it could promise us a future of unforeseen abundance and elegance.
For decades, econologicians have defended supply-side (pro-investor) economic models versus demand-side (pro-consumer) ones. Meanwhile, they’ve ignored the obvious conflict between weapon production and peace demand.
Weapons economies encourage wild spending sprees. They cannot balance the military-industrial potential of wartime production with peacetime consumer demand. This imbalance has entailed an economy of extravagant hyper-consumerism, guaranteed obsolescence, energy splurge and mass waste whose instability guarantees cycles of growth-surge boom and bankruptcy crash.
Only weapons economies can produce enormous “surpluses” of disposable people, iron rations and military hardware as costly as it is unproductive; only they can keep up with mushrooming battlefield demands. They must produce mass quantities of zero-profit weapons and no-choice inductees on short notice. For no better reason than this, they subsidize overpopulation and military-industrial complexes of guaranteed obsolescence, social harm and environmental toxicity.
A peace economy would rather emphasize the quality of life. By balancing peace supply and demand, it would sustain reasonable enterprise. It would provide long-lasting if modest prosperity with rare economic peaks and shallow valleys, but not the enormous, last minute industrial output that armed hordes require once war breaks out. It would nonetheless be much more stable during times of peace because it could avoid market saturation under conditions of slow/no/reversed growth. Without warfare’s binge and bust requirements, boom-crash-boom would turn into a soothing hum.
Weapons economies in peacetime are like Formula One race cars throttled down to five MPH for days on end. They foul up, stall and require more upkeep — might as well walk. Fuel-saving peace sub-compacts would hum along during peacetime at optimal cruising speed with minimal fuel consumption and wear and tear. Just don’t expect a sudden burst of speed from them when the battle stations alarm goes off.
Weapon managers could care less about civilian economies during peacetime, so long as they can tear them down as easily as a stage set and install weapons assembly lines in their place. For all they care, the world’s peacetime economy could collapse (as it did under their care during the Great Depression and as it threatens to do so yearly). That just adds to the count of abandoned factories ready for conversion to wartime production and just deepens the despair of jobless military recruits and their grim parents; the better to turn them into collaborators willing to wage war in exchange for a sturdy pair of shoes, a dry place to sleep and three hot meals a day. Pure genius.
The creation of PeaceWorld will no doubt demand substantial sacrifices. But what we value most cannot be taken from us. Freedom to choose, the craving to Learn, good will and a sense of humor: those would remain ours, regardless. PeaceWorld will only enhance them.
In Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps, (Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1996), Tzvetan Todorov lists rare virtues like heroism and saintliness and compares them with mundane survival skills like maintaining personal dignity, caring for those near and dear (as opposed to unfocussed charity) and cultivating the life of the mind despite horrific conditions.
The most saintly camp inmates may have perished foremost — and perhaps most mercifully. Nazi concentration camp guards could not suppress the basic survival instincts of the survivors, no matter how quickly they disposed of the best of them. No future adversity could, short of annihilating us.
If our first attraction were to evil, if weapon mentality could sate itself unchecked, our forebears would have left no progeny behind and we wouldn’t be here to discuss this. That anyone survives today confirms the fact that most of us are kalotropes attracted to the good, the same way plants are phototropes are drawn to sunlight.
During the idealism of youth, many fine young minds dedicated their future to the common good. Weapon mentality has done everything it could to subvert their idealism. But our institutions need only be realigned toward peace for those ideals to become everyday norms. Sooner or later, our worst social contradictions will heal in the fresh air of peace and the sunshine of truth.
With the consent of its proletariat, each info elite runs its own mix of peace and weapon policies. We walk a fine line between weapon constraint and peaceful decadence. We do so reflexively, basing our decisions on a threat-distorted constellation of political metaphors. Those decisions may favor an ethical peace or any trash info elites may publicize to justify their toxic and intoxicating weapon technologies.
The elite that opts for “Peace at Last” will work itself out of the chore of rationing information. In so doing, it will draw near to the summit of managerial excellence. The quality of worldly leadership could not get much higher. But weapon leadership will never approach that crest of excellence since, in armed competition with its weapon peers, a) it rations good information and broadcasts mis/disinformation instead, and b) it values “strong” realism and cold-blooded calculation over “weak” human conscience and compassion.
The traditional transition from marginal peace to total war induces a change in attitude from thrift to extravagance. Once mass killing takes priority, any idea of profit and fiscal restraint goes out the window. New goals are established, priorities redefined and plans drawn up. Hang the expense! New regulations are strictly enforced. It matters less who’s VIP toes get stepped on. Overnight, flaccid institutions snap to weapon goals — or are cast aside without regret. During World War I, Edwardian society tore itself to pieces, as did equivalents elsewhere. Millions of inductees dedicated their life to weapon requirements and often sacrificed it entirely for little or no reason.
To create lasting peace, we must mobilize the entire war-making potential of this planet. The problems of peace merit the same doggedness of spirit and contempt for obstacles that weapon management automatically claims for itself.
In the past, only weapon priorities benefited from that kind of problem solving. When info elites assumed that defeat threatened their children, they cast aside lesser priorities and met weapon demands at all costs. Today, everyone’s kid is at risk. World peace (which alone can save them) should benefit from the same level of popular enthusiasm and mass conscription.
Learner transformation will subtly revise public awareness to begin with, and wind up with overwhelming social reforms driven by a grand consensus.
Throughout history, humanity has treated its wealth “surplus” like coal to be shoveled into the perpetual blast furnace of warfare. Learners will harvest that cash crop just ahead of the next paroxysm. Like frantic farmers, we’ll bring in the sheaves at the first rumble of the next coming thunderstorm. At which point, snug under the dry roof of PeaceWorld, we may celebrate a harvest festival the same way the Jews observe their Succoth holiday of deliverance from Pharaoh.
Almost everyone will obey their rational self-interest: the opposite of wartime self-sacrifice and propaganda-driven hatred orchestrated from above. Once we accept the guidance of enlightened self-interest, arguments against PeaceWorld for reasons of cost will become absurd. Celebration instead of sacrifice; the prosperity of peace instead of weapon destitution.
While peace technologies generate real wealth, weapon technologies entail nothing more than downstream overheads and mayhem. Learner Networks promise real wealth surpassing the return on every prior investment, and solutions to problems that contemporary thought cannot work out.
At first, Learner Networks will be terribly vulnerable. Populations seething with weapon mentality will have to stand firm against the ultimate efforts of their old elite to stampede them into Armageddon. Quite a few people, maddened by their weapon indoctrination, will comply with this ultimate summons to mayhem.
Learner Networks will require elaborate diagnostic and defensive measures, triply redundant and compartmentalized, with built-in safeguards against computer viruses, electromagnetic pulse, vandalism, mob violence, criminal tampering and sabotage.
Learners will seek a firm but tolerant balance between liberality and security. Premature over-liberality will engender chaos in societies soaked in weapon mentality; rigid police measures will serve no better purpose. Policies that Wimps have found useful to dominate proletarians, and Prisms, to subvert proto-elites: each them will have to be revised or thrown out. Read (assuming you hadn’t already) to grasp the meaning of these expressions.
Learner management must be error-free from the beginning. An extended series of failures will not get a second chance. Only strict obedience to a healthy private conscience will keep the majority of our efforts free from error, regardless of institutional contradictions opposing this requirement.
Throughout history, obsessed individuals have invented new peace technologies with little or no official support. Info elites usually ignored these inventors and their pet projects. If they suspected that these inventions might destabilize the weapon status quo, they crushed them and their inventors without a second thought (Tesla).
You won’t find gifted Learners by applying standardized tests, neither will you do so by running children ragged through classroom obstacle courses, nor by promoting rare survivors of examination hells (the Asian model). The more constraints you impose on these people, the faster they will drop off our radar screens. They find their own interests sexier than the empty rewards of bureaucratic orthodoxy and corporate greed, much less the herd-like tendency of futile dissidence. Allergic to form-over-content pretension, they impose stratospheric demands on themselves and their creation.
Some of the most gifted Learners are driven amateurs sprinkled among the info proletariat. Once they dispose of enough leisure time and discretionary income, they set to work on their topic of passion, often at the expense of a life others would call normal.
By topic of passion, I mean some matter they would gladly spend 10,000 hours perfecting. After that, they will need an info elite crazy enough to accept, coordinate and broadcast their discoveries.
Most often, the songs they compose are silenced; the games they invent, forbidden; and the exquisite toys they make, discarded in favor of rubber-stamped platitudes, homogenized mediocrity and redundant junk. Status quo societies promote Mandarin ticket punchers who delight in suppressing Learning and gate keepers whose only job is to shut them out. They crush many breakthroughs, only to see them re-emerge when ideal circumstances line up once again. This grim attrition of sabotaged peace technology must come to a halt. It’s time we fine-tuned humanity’s dialogue between its energy management systems and the regrowth of the natural environment (another offshoot of renewed awareness). The enormous destructive energy accumulated in the past should be redirected into constructive Learning.
The billion children who go to bed hungry at night constitute the world’s ultimate pool of untapped genius. I don’t advocate their nurturing through disinterested altruism even though that purpose is also served. I insist on it because their genes survived centuries of lethal deprivation. As survivors of this hecatomb, they include the largest number of Learner prodigies once they’ve been properly cared for. As is typical with most human behavior, they are the people we need most and care for the least.
Meanwhile, sleek mediocrities play revolving doors by the million through various bureaucracies either useless or openly destructive. Lacking love, empathy and generosity, these morality amputees are as relevant today as their predecessors registered in the Great Universities during the European Middle Ages.
Actually, there are remarkable similarities between the darkest of the Middle Ages, this last century and this next one just beginning.
On both occasions, military aristocracies and corporate clergies shuffled personnel, cash and paperwork. Both relied on monolithic elites: their fragmented clergies and nobles — our standardized corporate bureaucrats, scientists and politicians. Both pauperized the info proletariat. Both erected phallic skyscrapers from seedbeds of filthy slums to immortalize the emptiness of their dreams. Both were responsible for gross ecological and public health blunders clearly inferior to what they could have accomplished had they paid attention to serious matters. Both adopted exotic languages to distance themselves from their info proletarians: their Latin and our mathematics. Both validated their weapon mentality with pathetic weapon myths.
The residents of both ages based their definition of reality on social fantasies: theirs, bureaucratic religion; ours, bureaucratic technology. Both eras trusted dogmas as incoherent and clueless as they were indisputable. They turned their back on real social and spiritual issues in favor of corporate pseudo-faith, we have corporate pseudo-entertainment: diversions equally seductive and divorced from reality. They exploited witchcraft and torched thousands of eccentric old ladies as scapegoats for evils the elites had obviously committed. We have our War on the Drugged, our Perpetual War on the Terrorized and the most sophisticated torments our police states and penal empires can contrive.
Both societies ground down their people through complex, expensive and filthy wars. Neither sought to avoid global war. Maximum combat was routine during both ages, whether it was intercontinental or village-local. Armed conflict dominated both worldviews: theirs between Muslim and Christian; ours between Communist and Capitalist. During both ages, fanatical (read psychopathic) Christians and Muslims called for Crusades and Jihads in pursuit of their combat bonus pay.
Eventually, this fight will sort out between the wealthy and their victims; otherwise between progressive city dwellers and reactionary small town and country folk (as American politics sort themselves today). More recently, global conflict has turned into to that between the rich Northern world and the Southern one, poor but gifted with enormous productive potential.
Actually, the Northern Hemisphere resembles Embassy Row in Mogadishu on a bad day. The industrial West, (including Japan, the Little Tigers of Asia, and new China’s elite) include the most privileged, powerful and well-armed neighborhoods of a planet in ruins.
“After all, our street gang (career military, paramilitary and paracivilian bureaucrats and their supporters) appears to be the most powerful on Earth. We must maintain the fantasy that we have something important to lose from any better arrangement.”
It is tempting to repeat the stale platitudes of Embassy Row of Planet Mogadishu on a bad day, and deny the fact that we could occupy Embassy Row on Planet Geneva just as easily, if not more so, and be that much more magnificent in so doing. We’ve turned our back on the fortune that could be obtained from radical transformation. See Mencius.
Street gangs are street gangs and nothing more. They will always settle for hypocrisy, criminality and tyranny. We can protest current events as much as we want to, try to fine-tune our street gang and make it “nicer” until the cows come home — our results will always be the same: worse than we could imagine.
The secret would be to turn Planet Mogadishu into Planet Geneva, not our street gang into a nicer one while the rest remain the same. There remains one transformation for us to embark upon: we must replace weapon mentality’s sacrifice of victims with peace mentality’s celebration of Learners.
Under the sway of weapon management, population density and economic complexity have worsened inflation and human misery. Under peace management, the same factors would multiply abundance and civilization. Note Holland and Japan where population densities are aboil but peace inspires and adorns them.
Take Pittsburgh, for example. Not long ago, the city was famous for its bustling factories, seemingly affluent inhabitants, and overwhelming social and ecological problems associated with overpopulation and industrial growth. Calling Pittsburgh a scenic town would have been a sick joke. Abruptly, its industrial base imploded and many of its laid-off workers were forced to abandon their homes. Soon thereafter, it became one of the most “attractive” cities in the United States.
Also illustrated, how shoddy and run-down all our cities have become. We live in misery because we don’t let ourselves be magnificent.
It may be that modern humanity awaits its elimination the same way that Dark Age peasants did. They couldn’t improve their lot until one-half of them perished from the Black Death. The survivors profited from this massive cull by offering their scarce labor for better wages. Noble birth lost some of its social significance once so many leadership slots went vacant.
The most effective way to escape the Plague (besides a timely course of Cipro) is to bury oneself in a stronghold far from the madding crowd and not emerge for at least six months. Consult Boccaccio, the author of Decameron. Even though later waves of infection will snuff out additional victims. If that is your fate, bubba, there’s nowhere you can run and hide.
The personnel turnover of the Black Death – and its shocking psychic trauma – jump-started the Renaissance.
As did intellectual imports from China? According to Gavin Menzies, Chinese sailors, scholars and diplomats from the fleet of Eunuch-Admiral Zheng sailed as far as Cairo, the Adriatic and Venice, along with much of the rest of the seven seas. A Chinese embassy visited the Pope in 1434 and left a mass of technological, agricultural, mathematical, cartographic, and astronomical information. The geniuses of the Italian Renaissance may have plagiarized this vast cultural treasure and improved upon it, soaking up a thousand years of intellectual heritage Europe had failed to develop during the Dark Ages.
A comet strike off New Zealand wrecked this world fleet in 1340 when it set off 500-foot tsunamis across the Indian Ocean. Then Chinese eunuch officials turned their back on foreign trade and exploration, and scuttled the remainder of the fleet just off the Chinese coast. Gavin Menzies, 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance, HarperCollins, New York, 2008.
Are we waiting for a new pestilence to befall us? Will our descendants profit from our mass disappearance? God knows, if AIDS mutates into an aerosol infection – the way the Plague evolved from Bubonic to Pneumonic – even a raving optimist would write off civilization within a few months.
Nature seems to be rehearsing for our grand finale, the way a bright child would practice a magic trick. Mother nature is reviewing her ways and means, making up her mind to deal the Death card it dealt to every fleetingly dominant ecology for billions of years. Is it toying with us until it crushes us under its next discard? We should secure the best our civilization has to offer and provide it with its best opportunity to outlast our sorry fate.
In the near future, recombinant genetic engineering will put the means to broadcast deadly epidemics within the reach of almost anyone. Some psychopath with a little science training and access to a Community College lab will be able to cook up continent-clearing pandemics — and that all too soon. Set your watch for the next few years! Once this cataclysm strikes, neither an Ivy League tenure nor a blue chip stock portfolio will provide any more protection than a lifetime spent sifting through garbage.
In that event, Learner is a blueprint for global reconstruction, presuming dazed survivors ever renormalize their lives.
Media pundits keep echoing each other’s misgivings of impending doom. Meteor strikes, environmental disaster and high-tech warfare threaten us with tragedies multi-modal and synergistic. Could these alarms be the by-products of our collective malevolence, astral punishment for our sins, or just the unhappy outcome of random coincidence?
UFO stories seem to describe some aliens' (or future post-humans?) clumsy harvest of genetic material from this planetary biosphere before it shrivels up and blows away. Are those aliens playing out a reality television show? Are they like the anglers on one of those boring TV shows: “Reel ‘em in and toss ‘em back; reel ‘em in and toss ‘em back …” for no better reason than to relieve their boredom and satisfy their curiosity? In any case, almost all the fish hooked and tossed back die within a day or two.
Could all this hysteria have some factual basis? If our destiny is merely to be obliterated on schedule, then treat Learner as the private entertainment I intended it to be. If not and our destiny proves to be slightly less ludicrous, consider the SECTION III that follows a laundry list of global chores we’ve neglected too long. They demand the immediate consideration of every Learner on Earth.