Part I: AN UNPLEASANT CLASH OF VALUES, OR THE LACK THEREOF
The combination of retirement and long winter months leads to many opportunities to read. This past winter my wife started buying books for me that she figured I would enjoy given my philosophical and scientific bent. She was right about me devouring the books, and in some instances thoroughly enjoying what I read, though a significant part of the philosophy material and the science material was more of a review than taking on new information. Still, at my age reviews are useful to re-cement things learned long ago. Alas, much of what I read was irritating as the human condition of chronic ignorance has been such an outstanding factor in limiting human progress throughout recorded history.
Here is a brief list of some of my winter readings: The Philosophers (a survey of the lives and thoughts of philosophers from Socrates forward through the 20th century), by Jeremy Stangroom and James Garvey; "The Scientists" by John Gribben, which is a most worthy chronology of the lives and contributions of every scientist of note from Copernicus forward; a rereading of Will Durantís "The Story of Philosophy;" Charles Darwinís "The Origin of Species;" Walter Isaacsonís biography of Albert Einstein (His Life and Universe); three books by Howard Zinn (A Power governments cannot suppress, Just War, and You Canít Be Neutral on a Moving Train); and last but not least, Al Goreís "An Inconvenient Truth" and "The Assault on Reason."
Not a bad list, huh? Through the various chapters of my life I have tried to read books and magazine articles on many topics by people with opposing views. And, of course, like most other people I read "how-to" books as appropriate to my contractor-like projects and, ugh, sometimes novels to combat boredom. But the fundamental idea with my serious readings is, as I have stated multiple times in my other writings: No one is qualified to debate any subject unless they can give a very credible and well thought out argument in favor of the side they oppose. In short, if you do all your homework in books and in life, and a lot of reflection, you might have something of value to pass on to others. If you donít, or if you only look at one side of any major issue, then when you open your mouth you are a blathering fool. And you have a lot of company, pro or con, wherever you go.
Two days ago I happened to see a link to an Internet article about Michael Mooreís pending legal problems with the federal government, for traveling to Cuba without advance written permission. Readers were offered the chance to blog, and without contributing I happened to read a series of comments by one early blogger. He was truly pathetic, as are most people who hog Internet public forums. In any event he repeatedly stated that the only relevant consideration (my words) was that Moore broke the law and should therefore go to jail. Ah, how simple life is for the stupid. They cannot grasp that it is right and fair to question all authority and to undermine as necessary bad laws and bad governments and other bad leaders. And that includes cut-throat businesses and oppressive religions too.
Why the divergence into the Moore thing? Well, the blogger and a hundred million or so would-be adults like him form the largest subset of our USA population, so anything proposed for our development must keep that fact, among many others, uppermost in planning any process for our growth or evolution. This was too evident to me as a major weakness of Al Goreís last chapter in The Assault on Reason, where he talks about A Well-connected Citizenry resulting from good use of the Internet as an information and information sharing medium to counteract the dissembling in newspapers and television and radio. I made a similarly wrong and nearly identical recommendation/forecast when I wrote my book, Destiny, with the part in question having been written about ten years ago. There are two (actually more than two) problems with Goreís proposition. One is the unfortunately temporary nature of Internet communication freedom. The other is assuming intelligence and interest in the general population that simply arenít there.
The point is obvious. Ignorance and shallow thinking are not overcome by the availability of truthful and/or complete information for much of the population, because they simply cannot think deeply enough to develop interest, or to grasp or to hold onto or develop any concept of significance. Nor can they reflect in any timely manner to determine when something might or might not be true, relevant, helpful or useless. Juries come to mind. This simple fact is something no one in officialdom wants to talk about publicly, and indeed Gore simply cannot offend the populace if he wants to remain popular. So he sidestepped reality in the name of politics. What a shame, albeit understandable. So Gore vented about ugly control issue realities and the loss of any medium of truthful public forum communication, but he did not give us a practical path forward to combat those realities.
And again, alas, for as much as I respect Howard Zinn for bringing truth to us about the criminal activities of our past and present governments in his best known book, A Peoples History of the United States from 1492 to the Present, I did not find in Zinnís more recent writings any recommendation of value that would help raise us from our pitiful state of planned ignorance and powerlessness, which is the sad but true condition of almost all USA citizens today. Yes, Zinn and others do accurately describe the terrible things done by people in power throughout history, and for that I am grateful. We certainly didnít get the truth in school in our history books. But knowing isnít enough, nor is looking to the past for the answers to our present problems. The world as described by George Orwell in "1984" is the accurate representation of where we are now as USA citizens, and the truly scary part is that historical grassroots actions to overcome bad governments and tyrannical individuals can no longer be done. Zinn and others fail to see the effect of oppression through technology that destroys hopes of uprisings that were possible earlier in human history. What was workable as recently as forty years ago for civil rights is now utterly impractical in citizen uprisings. Media control alone keeps people from organizing into significant, broad-based activist groups, and group infiltrations happen quickly with surveillance technology presently in use. You gotta love "Homeland Security!" Uh, huh Ö
Advanced technology and wealth polarization, ergo resulting power polarization, have combined with almost a century of predominately bad legislation to neuter the general public even beyond their general limiting ignorance, i.e. inability to learn much of anything. That is reality. It is the only essential negative reality at this time in history, aside from our environmental problems. It is the first and foremost item of relevance to be considered in any effort to improve the future of all of humanity. The most recent historical proof of that reality is seen in the fact that George W. Bush and his cohorts are not presently in prison. You might ask how they could violate laws here and international agreements outside the USA with impunity, or, ask why the many demonstrations worldwide, not to mention United Nations diligent work before the invasion of Iraq had literally no effect on the planned invasion?
No government worthy of respect, particularly one with stated constitutional law that denies the Executive branch the ability to bypass the Congress and to de facto control the Supreme Court, can evolve to what we have become, as proven by our behavior in Iraq and other countries, and especially the survival of the presidency after all the pre-war lying was proven. Add in also the ignoring of environmental problems and the allowed undermining of USA citizens economically with offshoring and illegal immigration, not to mention curtailing of civil liberties, and you have a combination of wrongs so gigantic that any intelligent, honestly informed population would rise up and impeach and imprison both government and corporate offenders. It isnít happening, is it? How is it that we could zap a bum like Richard Nixon for lying about a second rate burglary and attempting a coverup, yet we cannot indict a far worse criminal president for crimes against humanity and terrorism? What do you think has happened in the USA in the last thirty years to allow that unbelievable change?
Albert Einstein has been quoted countless times on many topics. What he had to say about war was simply that it solves nothing and will continue to plague humanity until the general populace simply refuses to fight. Howard Zinn was, believe it or not, a bombardier during World War II, and at that time he felt the war was just to eliminate the threat of fascism. He realized his error of judgment, but only later after visiting some of the places he bombed and understanding that death and pain were the only outcomes. Nothing good resulted from his actions as a bombardier. He was among the first to experiment with napalm. And one bombing assignment very near the end of the war was simply to "try it out" and see how well it worked. Well, it worked so well that a few dozen German soldiers and hundreds of innocent French peasants were incinerated. Great stuff, huh?
Here is where we go wrong in our thinking that any war makes sense Ö the opportunists who make the wars and the opportunists who fight them both/all simply destroy large innocent civilian populations on behalf of gaining or maintaining economic power. Thatís the whole message, from the beginning of recorded history to this very moment. Most people truly are stupid, or at the least totally misinformed, and they are thus used by the greedy wealthy people in power to keep or gain riches. All the drivel about democracy, liberty, God, country, mother, etc. is total bullshit. It has always been total bullshit. And political party means little if anything in our new reality. Patriotism actually means we work to make all our lives better in our country with everything we do. Patriotism used in conjunction with war is a complete misrepresentation of a good thing and a terrible misleading lie. Colonialism is alive and well, masquerading as "spreading democracy." We have, however, made great strides in applied hypocrisy. For that we should be Ö ashamed to be USA citizens.
If you are unfortunate enough to get into a conversation about war with a young or older ignorant pro-military person you will hear all kinds of untruths and half-truths that reflect the brainwashing that masquerades as knowledge or value training. For example, "You creepy pacifists are too chicken to fight." Or perhaps, "The only reason you are free is because real patriotic he men like me go to war to protect our country." Or maybe, "Whose side are you on, anyway?" Or even better, "Do you realize how many men have died so you could be here today in the best country in the world as a free man?" How about "God is on our side. God bless our troops." Or finally, "If we hadnít fought Hitler he would have won the war and we would all be speaking German!"
All of the above accusations and assertions are dead wrong. They are all bullshit. Too chicken to fight? No, too smart to waste my life so that the warmongers who are making this war happen can continue their reign and wreck the lives of our and other countries citizens. The only reason you are free Ö well, it is really because there has always been plenty of stupid people who are easily convinced that war makes sense. It doesnít. And our technological military superiority has masked many misadventures. Whose side are you on Ö well, I donít support any party that makes war, anywhere or anytime, so I am certainly not on your side and I do not approve of what you do no matter how the criminals waging the war attempt to justify it. And I likely dislike the opposition just as much. Donít even attempt to try to lever me into any binary position! Do you realize how many men Ö well, there have always been plenty of fools who believed the war issue was freedom or security from the ubiquitous "enemy," when in fact it was just another economic round for the wealthy and powerful. And I notice that all the wars fought since the beginning of recorded history havenít proved a thing, have they? But they do get rid of excess stupid people, donít they? God is on our side ÖYeah, the simpleminded warriors from both sides love to believe that fantasy, and it lets the leaders, including twisted religious leaders to offer "death with honor" and a glorious afterlife. Whee! Worse odds than the lottery, chum! If we hadnít fought Hitler Ö well, that warped little pip was so overextended he couldnít have put enough troops in Great Britain to win anything, and Russia would have worn him down to destruction anyway without our entry into the war. Hitler might, however, have advanced aviation if we had let him continue working on jet planes for another year Ö though even I admit that he did deserve to die for his crimes against humanity. Oh, yes, in case you think that I am a total pacifist, let me improve your understanding. I will make war against anyone who invades my land, but that is the beginning and the end of my willingness to engage in war. Back off!
Thus the problem, or opportunity if you so choose to see it that way, is how to neuter the wealthy and powerful people in government and business everywhere, so that we might devote human and earth resources to developing humanity and our environment. Power/wealth lust is a global problem, and has been so throughout history. The common people are simply the unwitting instruments of war used by the wealthy to fight each other for dominance.
But letís not be too hasty in judging the leaders, now or earlier in history. Perhaps the powerful and the wealthy throughout history have some good reasons for their behaviors. I will even go so far as to say their behaviors and use of the common people may be completely justified, at least in terms of their understanding of life and values. After all, if I canít do here what I asked you to do in an earlier paragraph of this article, then why should you give me even a moment of your time for reflection? Indeed, I must now argue from and for the opposite side.
Part II: A DEFENSE FOR HARD LINE SOCIAL RULES AND MILITARISM
To begin, as a wealthy and powerful person, I have to agree that most of humanity is and has always been terminally ignorant, ergo stupid. It is for that reason that people like me are entirely responsible for all human advancements, for we alone are intelligent enough to learn and grow and apply knowledge. We have tried many times throughout history to bring the less fortunate along through experiments in education and socialism, even religion, but for the most part these efforts have failed. It isnít a matter of fault. The masses we have tried to help simply donít improve through time, and certainly not generation to generation, no matter what we do on their behalf. We are left with the unfortunate need to minimize the effect of the ignorant on progress, for they do overpopulate and stress all resources developed for their sustenance.
I also have to agree that we wealthy and powerful and intelligent people are in competition with each other to enjoy the best of the fruits of life. This means we must compete in business with each other locally and globally with the smartest or most well connected doing the best. It is how we grow. It also means that as we lead nations it is sometimes necessary to assert our dominance to make sure people in other countries donít try to take our wealth. Thus, we do sometimes have to declare war for our own financial security. But the peace loving wimps would never go along with that necessity unless we cloaked our purposes in high-sounding moral imperatives.
I also have to agree that we use the ignorant people as our messengers of war. They have died by the millions. But what is lost? They werenít contributing in any other meaningful way anyway, and they never could. So though we donít talk about it publicly, war helps us reduce populations of ignorant people when they become too numerous or start to threaten us with social demands for privileges they havenít earned. Fortunately, they are easily led by their noses into battle, never grasping the reality. They do our work and take most of the risk. We sit back and get the rewards of their efforts. And frequently we have found it necessary to lie to the whole population to create support for a war. Well, it works.
I think the coming of age of advanced technology is wonderful as it makes control of the masses so much easier. We control all media and thus tell the masses whatever we want them to believe. They are easily fooled and they have no means to know any better. We simply extract from them such mindless labor as we need to make our lives comfortable and to keep them reasonably onboard with meeting their basic material needs.
It has been necessary to have monetary systems and taxation to keep the simple people from living by barter. The idea is that we pay them for labor and then quickly take back what we have given via taxes and high cost products and inflation and high interest rates on loans. We do this to avoid having them gain financial power, which could threaten our rule. Thus, we give them subsistence in terms of available goods and services and keep them onboard with technological advances whenever that isnít too expensive, like cars. Almost everyone has a car. And a TV. They are actually quite inexpensive. Do you ever wonder why?
Mainly, we have to keep the commoners subordinate, so we pass gun laws to weaken their ability to fight against us, and we get them to fight against each other in courtrooms with civil and criminal proceedings. We can even get the fools to squeal on each other for violating laws that even we know exist only to control the general populace, not to help it. We undermine any group that starts to become powerful or that tries to exert strong influence on how we decide to operate the country. We can offshore jobs to break unions. We can and do use our money to buy the Congress and the presidency through political contributions and well hidden graft. So should it be. Why should the ignorant have any say in government? They would only demand more for themselves without making an equivalent contribution to society, so we simply bypass them in all decisions that we deem important. In a word, they are unworthy. But we can never talk about this publicly or we couldnít sustain the democracy charade.
We have had to do battle with racial issues and feminism and unions and a variety of efforts to "share the wealth," like a national healthcare program. How foolish! Why would we spend anything substantial to promote the health of overabundant fools? In all instances it has been easy to appear to agree with mass demands while knowing we can dilute any apparent gains through time with later laws, sunset clauses on benefits, inflation and measured reductions in income growth vs. inflation. That is how we absorbed all the women into the marketplace. Notice that today couples both have to work to have what a family used to have on one income, merely forty years ago. Cute, huh? I wonder how many people are aware of that business coup? We even found ways to reduce the impact of Social Security by tying benefits to retirement income. Note that pensions and 401K plan income nearly always make a responsible personís Social Security income taxable. Isnít that a hoot?
Mainly, the ignorant just donít get it. We can do most anything and cloak it in some way to make it look like a moral imperative or a social benefit, and they swallow it every time. Even after four years of superficially unproductive war in Iraq no one has been able to generate enough political push to stop the war. No one important talks about how much oil we have stolen in those four years, nor are we about to advertise that fact. Some might call it piracy, but as far as we are concerned it is no different than taking land away from the Indians in the USA. Well, we own the USA and much of the world, and we arenít about to let our fate be determined by the beliefs of the ignorant, religious or otherwise, here or abroad. Though I must admit the religious right here provides us a great basis for passing ever more restrictive laws to control the commoners and the remnants of the former irritating middle class. It is almost too good to believe.
Hitler was a fool with no perspective. He could have taken a big chunk of Europe and never suffer payback. But he got too greedy. He is an example of what happens when less than intelligent people are allowed to ascend to leadership on a populist wave. Stupid things happen that we have to fix. But, of course, we have plenty of ignorant citizens who will go to war. And when it is all said and done, life goes on. What was lost except a lot of ignorant people, theirs and ours? What was gained was the fact that the ignorant populations were kept in check, while we got to develop and test new military technology, at the expense of all surviving taxpayers. Are you starting to understand the most basic truism? Whatever happens, we profit, even if we need time to make our will dominant.
It is difficult for us to tolerate fools so today we distance ourselves in every way from the general public except for controlled media exposure and carefully organized election stumping. We make ourselves appear to be their champions and so life goes on. Also, we decide when new technology is useful to our cause. Thus we inhibit research into areas that might undermine our power, now or in the future. We decide the when, where and how of all changes that will alter economic or political power. We also take full advantage of the medical needs of the common people by charging them prices that almost make us blush. Well, not quite. Anyway, we keep the commoners ignorant and powerless, and that is good for almost everyone except the ones who die.
We donít exactly believe in genocide. Indeed, we preach against it because it sounds good. But in actuality we do what we feel necessary to eliminate problem groups wherever they occur, to make ourselves look good, like Bosnia. We just donít talk about the fact we do the same thing on a massive scale, e.g., Central America (Sandinistas) and Iraq. We also donít let our TV or radio or printed publications to carry articles or information that would betray our actions or our real reasons. For example, mind-altering drugs would not exist here if we decided to eliminate them. That is a hoot! We are the ones bringing the drugs in to keep large population minorities confused and powerless. And they never get it, do they? Well, considering what and who they are it is a foregone conclusion, isnít it?
We pretty much now control everything with no major problems on the horizon. If necessary we can use biochemical means at our disposal to infect major populations that become troublesome, here or abroad. Look how easy it is to have an e. coli outbreak. Thus, we ignore threats from poor and highly populated countries. We let them have their foolish religions, stupid arguments and infighting while we take their oil or other natural resources. It is only natural selection at work. There is no moral issue.
That is how we wealthy, powerful and intelligent people think, and you would be wise to see it our way. Imagine if we left the oil problem in the hands of the people in the Middle East. You simply canít imagine how bad life would become in the USA if we didnít assure the supply of affordable, though not inexpensive, oil. Think about no electric power. Think about cold winters without heat. Be grateful we are in power to protect you and provide for your needs!
"But arenít there many intelligent people out there who totally disagree with your cold view of life?" Yes, there are dreamers and there are realists. You can use your intelligence to accomplish something useful or you can waste it on worthless crap.
Part III: ACCEPTING REALITY AND MAKING PLANS TO CHANGE IT
Okay Ö. Well, that was quite an earful, or more properly "eyeful," wasnít it? I suppose most of you readers will understand what the "wealthy" person said because you have been in the world of the wealthy just enough to understand what lurks behind their bland faces and lying proclamations. It isnít pretty. Generally speaking, they donít wish you ill on a personal basis, for with them almost everything is impersonal, and you may mostly be considered to be sub-human and thus no competition. So must it be for them to allow killing of you in large numbers without remorse. And they do. And you walk numbly, almost mindlessly to your own slaughter.
So now here we are far downstream in the "debate" about right and wrong and who should determine what we do and how we do it, in government, business and elsewhere. It is clear that the wealthy do not have everyoneís best interests in mind. It is also clear that the ignorant canít be trusted to lead anything. What do we do? Even if we could advance any group or any cause to power, the question remains the same. What do we do? And then, what do we really do after we get into power? Hmmm Ö. Now that is worth thinking about.
Are we up to the task? Can we know that we wonít evolve in our values to become like the wealthy person in the hypothetical but essentially true example above? After we are done pitying the downtrodden ignorant people throughout human history, do we have a practical answer for how to end ignorance without systematically killing those people to keep their populations in check while the more capable decide what we will become?
Most of all, I hope all of you realize that the "debate" is not simple or one with an obvious conclusion. What is fair? Men are not created equal in any sense of the word "equal." Can we do something useful to change that reality?
I will not bore you with great detail, but I will once again stress the main points I provided in Destiny. We canít change what we are and what we do until we use genetic engineering to bootstrap all of us to high intelligence and later physical immortality. And much needs to be done beyond those two very big ticket items. The Human Condition is intractable until we make the changes.
Do not undervalue the importance of the subjects discussed in this article. They touch on the endless fight between capitalists and socialists, as well as religionists, and all fail to have the right answer for humanity. They simply go on. And we perish like mayflies. What a hell of a book report! I bet you donít know how many thoughts expressed in this article are also in the identified books. But you can find out for yourself. I hope you do.