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Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Tipping Point

Rousseau wrote: "Man is innately good but everywhere in chains". Man the individual, or man the collective? Are evil acts the faults of both? What purposes do moral definitions serve when cruelty, murder, and treachery all abound in nature, without labels?

What meanings does morality serve, except to provide self-censure for an individual desiring release from guilt? Are we just lonely naked souls seeking a noble collective, or are we committed tribally to our group, regardless of what that group does?

It's easy to claim that the worst acts of humanity have been perpetuated by nation states. Despots and democracies alike show a flair for murder, as do serial killers, and the classic perpetrators of crimes of passion.

Why, as a species, can't we recognize just how destructive we are? We are the violent species, all of us, Israelis. Palestinians, Germans, Americans.

Could there ever be a quantum leap forward? Or are we to continue behaving in the manner of a small band of club wielding murderous apes but in possession of modern weapons of war?

A look at chimpanzees shows just how murderous the genes in our closest relatives are!

There is nothing peaceful about Homo sapiens, though peace is something all humans want. Global peace, seems impossible. There may be only a few dozen years when Homo sapiens was not out killing his own kind in great numbers.

Technological advances are almost always spearheaded or advanced by tribal desires to leverage a military advantage. The internet was initially a military invention. The airplane was seized first for military possibilities. A large portion of the work of great human genuises, Leonardo, Einstein, Newton, have been exploited for technical superiority over enemies. Afghanistan is currently as much a lab for analyzing the use of remote weaponry, as it is a workout place for old style imperialist urges.

It is possible to cede control? It's not in our genes.

Humans everywhere believe themselves as good. Is it ironic that Albert Einstein, a peaceful man, should receive the peace prize for enabling the construction of the atomic bomb. What's amiss?

The mathematics of genetic selection favored aggressive behavior as human populations rose. Aggressive behavior rewards those that kill in order to command more resources and perpetuate their own genes in greater numbers. That is how humanity grew in such record time.

As individuals, our image of the present is deeply flawed. All of us, except those that are at the receiving end of terrible violence, see our lives as preserved in a kind of peaceful status, a calm of reliability. The towns we grew up in have changed sure, but the changes can be pointed out to a stranger. Most don't experience catastrophic change in an instant. Sure if you are shot by a stranger, life changes, but most of us must compare our lives to the ones depicted in old photos to notice what has happened. That our hair greys. That familiar buildings are no longer there. That cars are more modern.

We carry with us a mythology of good. We believe we are good, acting in favor of the good. And when we do otherwise we view it as an exception. Even the Afghani child who is learning to bomb American vehicles from an older relative believes he is doing good, as do the soldiers who patrol the streets of Iraq for the honor of their country. Everyone everywhere, all performing 'good' deeds.

Suppose for a second we dispensed with morality and recognized things as they are:

a) We are an animal, genetically similar to the biped that evolved on the African plains. Our sexuality and desire to procreate, and increase in number have not changed.

b) Our desire to control territory and to inflict damage on those that impinge on what we feel is ours has not changed.

c) Our murderous ancestry has not been bred out of our genes, in fact, it may be intensifying.

d) At present we are the only species on the planet that seriously is jeopardizing its own survival.

e) Our planet has been in crisis for approximately two thousand years due to our fires, our chainsaws, our oil wells, and pollution.

Here are the not so subtle ways in which man has changed the ecology of the planet. Environmental destruction is an aspect of man's overall violent nature and must be highlighted:

a) Europe has essentially been deforested. The Americas, including the Amazon basin, and Southeast Asia, are not far behind.

b) The desert that surround the globe in both hemispheres are widening. Rain forest in Southern Mexico is becoming desert.  All of Texas will be desert in a few hundred years. Arctic ice on both poles is melting at an alarming rate.

c) The large quantities of fish in the oceans have been eliminated. All stocks of food fishes, tuna, herring, cod, etc. have been decimated in number. Improvements in technology have allowed the world to continue to eat as we consume younger and younger fish.

d) Large trees are extremely rare. Poachers of lumber are a global phenomenon, in the US, from Vermont to California, India to Scandinavia.

e) Human populations continue to rise at logarithmic rates. This is due to the exploitation of fossil fuels and mono-culture of an ever narrowing variety of domesticated and cloned food sources.

Our battle against large mammals is over. The tiger is already more numerous in zoos and private collections than it is in the wild. Equally decimated are the elephant, the wolf, whales.

Even at my family's beautiful natural retreat in the Adirondacks, there is crisis. We've stripped the place of lumber, killing the soils. Cousins, whose fathers regularly camped in the shadows of firs and pines as big around as six men with joined hands, argue that a little lumbering is good for the land, and gloat when thousands of acres are reduced to a pattern of muddy ruts with a few shell shocked trees barely wrist sized in diameter.

They congratulate themselves as stewards of the land!

What they don't do is the math of extrapolation and find it impossible to imagine the eventual results of their joint actions. The Adirondacks have a thin soil layer, as thin as that in the Amazon, dispersed over a bald pate of granite and that at this rate it will soon be as barren as a Greek Island.

The Gulf of Mexico once served schools of tuna so huge you could walk on their backs, Shoals of shrimp that slowed boats that tried to move through them, and colored the ocean pink.

Two hundred years ago Indiana's walnut groves took days to cross on horseback, a parade across an earth of crushed walnut shells, beneath the lofty canopy of giant trees. Now all are cut. For what? To supply gun stocks for the First World War.

Recent mega disasters, the BP oil spill, Chernobyl, are only indicative of just how destructive we are to the overall life of the planet. Yet not one of these experiences has been translated into permanent changes of how we as a species conduct our business on this planet. All we can say with certainty is that they will continue.

Unless a bullet enters our guts and we survive, we don't recognize the violence we do to others or to our environment.

From the beginning we were the murderous species. The increase in size of our social group, from the band to the nation, put the majority in the tow of despots, the Mongols, Vlad the Impaler, the Nazis and yes the Americans. In fact  the more crazed in the reach to dominate and control the fate of other humans, the more descendants they left. Their genes were passed on.

Soon however the dynamics of survival are about to change radically.

In a world of declining resources, the best strategy for passing on one's genes is not hyper aggressiveness but rather hyper-collectivity,

The planet, its ecology, man's population, the health of the prairies, forests, and seas, are all at a tipping point. The road to survival now heads down, and back. Down in population, backwards in technology.

For humans.

That is not to say that a more advanced species will not replace us.

If the human population is reduced by 75% in the next thousand or ten-thousand years, who is to know which of those amongst us will have the magic stuff necessary to survive? Altruistic behavior is the best defense against genetic destruction.

The big levelers will be viral or bacterial. But everywhere decreased crop yields, failed economies, wars, fevers, cancers will make passing the torch to the next generation extremely difficult.  Aggression will slowly disappear as the cloak of death descends upon all humanity. And then, like any threatened species, we will see things very differently. Individually, and as a group.

   "Yet each man kills the thing he loves
    By each let this be heard.
    Some do it with a bitter look,
    Some with a flattering word.
    The coward does it with a kiss,
    The brave man with a sword!"
                                               Oscar Wilde

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thoughts on Human Nature, Israel, Fear and Peace

Let's indulge in some musings about the better aspect of human nature, before delving into our darker half.

We humans nurture a righteous sense of good, pretending to rally in defense of the weak, not the strong . . we want to reward the generous not the selfish . . we give our Nobel prizes to the peaceful not the aggressive. We hold within ourselves a piece that we know is good. Most humans think of themselves as good.

So in light of this why have the best intentions to provide safe and secure homes for a displaced and traumatized population after the Second World War, gone so awry?

The strength of  Israel is in it's people, not it's military, nor its Zionist leadership which is as outdated as as script from a WWII film. Israel the country is filled with free thinkers, a peace loving people, but one which has ceded internal protection to a foreign power (the US) and effectively a single party system of government, (which I'll dub the party of aggression against Islam). The job of protecting Israel has irrevocably been given away by the Israelis due to one emotion and one emotion only, fear.

Israel's policies towards it's neighbors are the source of that fear. Counter-aggression by Hamas, has also fueled a series of tragic mistakes. Who has not puzzled, why in the Holy land for three religions, permeated by the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments, and Koran, that the maintenance of love and respect for one's neighbors seems so forgotten.

I would be taking both sides equally here, were it not for the trillions in financial aid that Israel receives from the US. Israel is stronger than Hamas and on a first strike basis it is probably also stronger than Iran. Hamas is not a country, and as an organization is not recognized as legitimate by the West. Hamas is poorer, and not as strong. Yet Hamas, like Israel, perceives itself in a battle for survival.

All parties perceive themselves as 'good'.

Israeli columnist Gideon Levy wrote of Netanyahu's policies: "We'll become an even more despised country and won't have a single friend left in the world, not even the United States," yet the complaint falls on deaf ears.

Our nation shops for Taliban and Al Qaeda blood from above, using robotic drones. The Israelis target  their enemies, perceived members of Hamas, homes, houses of 'interest'. Thousands of civilians are butchered in distanced efforts to even scores against an elusive enemy. Both bomb, employ chemical weapons, guided missiles, make targeted assassinations. Our clumsy attempts at control breed more terror. In WWII these realities of war would have been carried out by agents on the ground. But now civilian contractors sitting in government buildings in the US do this work. Why are we terrified to do this directly? Why use the remote means of technology?

If the goal of strength should be to share strength, not hoard it the aim of wealth should be the dispersal of wealth not the hoarding. So reason for arms should be the seeking of reasons not to use them. All history shows us that benevolent kings were merciful, and forgiving. Despotic kings were overthrown, or cursed by their subjects. The sword became, for good reason, symbolic of truth in outcome. A true war was a just war The Japanese proverb, "Good swords stay in their scabbards" seems apropos.

Yet war, long the means for cooling hot blood, has reached a level of violence that can't be sustained. Not economically - it's too expensive. The US will not be able to continue to afford the billions it sends overseas to keep the Israeli military honed. Not psychologically. The human mind simply cannot maintain an aggressive mind state for so long.

Yet  if  the world wishes release from this madness, by what mechanism is this to be obtained? America developed superior arms in a race against the Soviet Union, which it considered evil. Hamas considers Israel evil. Israel, likewise, Hamas. All nations that possess arms, use them to fight with other nations, whilst believing they have the forces of good on their side. There can only be one outcome in such a leveraged battle fueled by a belief in moral superiority.

Our response to the constrains on war in a crowded world? We begin doing irrational things. We behave inhumanly. And that inhumanity contains the seeds of downfall.

History  shows a precedent: aggressive nation states meet ends that come almost as rapidly as the ascent.

The Mongols rolled over Asia and parts of Europe but were repelled in almost the same amount of time. The explosive conquests of Rome, led to a symmetrical defeat, Alexander's journey into India: was it ever possible that Greeks would stay long in India? Involvement and de-escalation in Vietnam. Napoleon's stab at Russia, Hitler's megalomania over Europe. . . all have been brought down and defeated.

A close look at the psyche of man reveals the State as a legalization of man's violent nature.

So how is the warrior of peace to proceed? With nuclear weapons, and guns that shoot around corners? With automatic anti-personnel devices taking electronic commands from a satellite?

Perhaps as a response to a crowded world, the states have turned aggression inward, towards their own subjects. The war of today and the future, is a war versus its people. The motivation for this new kind of war is not greed, nor megalomania of state leaders, but rather fear embodied in the institution of the state itself.

As states have grown, as the neural network comprising statehood has reached a threshold, the state itself has learned emotion. It has learned fear.

In the grip of fear, we continue to buy predator drones from Israel, and airplanes from Lockheed Martin. We kill enemies remotely from kill rooms in Kansas, that cause the deaths of innocents everywhere. Children and brothers of the killed become 'terrorists' to fight the war of terror waged by the wealthiest nation on Earth. It's a self perpetuating holocaust.

In the meantime this reaction serves other uses to the state. The Supreme Court overturns Miranda, continue riddling of the hull of natural rights granted by our original Constitution. Fear allows the state to transform London and New York into a web that watches each one of us with pattern recognition cameras that track our every move. Fear is great business.

History shows again that any state or being that lives in fear, dies or perishes. Fear incapacitates, paralyses, distorts reality. Fear, insulating itself from its people and subjects of the world, investing billions in security and espionage, perpetuates a madness that has no center, no soul, no humanity.

The great spectacle for concerned citizens will be the spectacle of this beast dying from it's own absurd weight and inefficiency. Its a tale unequalled by any told in any media, and at any time in history. It's a chilling spectacle.

One need do nothing but watch.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Terrestrial Sand Box

I'm an extra terrestrial being and my sandbox is Earth.

The children I'm looking after are the many countries on this planet, playing with each other, sharing sand, toys, bricks, shovels, trucks, etc. One of the older children, let's call him Israel, steadily and consistently robs one of the younger ones, we'll call him Palestine, of his shovel.

Palestine suddenly grabs a metal truck and bangs Israel on the head. . . who then starts to ball and sob. At other times Israel lashes out with a bigger truck to smash him back.

If the children were adults and you asked the Israel why he  did this he would say that his younger brother was a terrorist. That his younger brother attacked without warning, and that he  deserves all that and much more, in return.

The parents, if they are around, will lecture them both. If watching with any attention they would have seen that Israel had it coming. If Israel reacted in anger he'll get more of a talking to. Why? Because he's older, stronger, and he was abusing his younger brother.

This is exactly the pattern of interaction between nation states on Planet Earth as regards land, territories, and the pattern is same all over the planet.

Unfortunately there are no superior beings on Earth to create peace in such a situation. Which is why those with the most power, and money, and the ability to take everything for themselves, do.

As extraterrestrial beings, we see this.

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