October 29, 2001
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The overall experience of humankind among the dominant species of earth over grand or geological time records moments of high joy against a deep theme of barbarity. "When will 'they' ever learn. . ." "The times they are a-changin'" A readily available lesson from history is that the 'theys' never seem to learn no matter how much the times keep a'changin'.
In recent months, I have been exploring a swath of the planet which I anchored in Aegean in the west and Bering in the east. I see that folks didn't understand that I was gathering in the Balkans from its eastern connections. My perceptions see much of Balkan patterns as rooted more east than west, more oriental or Asian than occidental or western.
To use Aegean as anchor is a mistake. Should I begin my swath with the Adriatic, then? And, yet, reminded of history in the West, i.e., Europe and expansions thereof, particularly in the south of now France (Cathars, 13th century), the barbarism of religious terrors still rings in the minds of peoples there as does the barbarism of pogrom and extermination camps slightly to the north and east. Germany may not be always uber alles, but Roman Catholicism survives.
What is typically unavailable to westerners or Americans without history or grounding in history is that the patterns of barbarity still prevailing openly across the swath match and call that experienced in Europe sheer numbers alone have little value comparatively. Six million jews, gypsies and deviants in Nazi times are matched and called by more than thirty millions in Stalin's times alone. A couple hundred thousand between Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Dresden, even throwing in the couple hundred thousands more killed and maimed in Allied fire bombings of Germany and Japan are hardly noticed in the surging campaigns from Alexander's and Genghis Khan's times. Throw in the wiped out numberless done in by God in the Old Testament and a beginning, a glimmering of understanding may become available.
Remember a difference and pattern which I noted recently: turn the map upside down, see north as bottom rather than top and then sit in Moscow and take a look. The crescent I am calling 'swath' to avoid limiting it to the star and crescent of near and mid east runs pretty clearly from north Atlantic to north Pacific passing through the center of present-day Afghanistan.
Must I then push the boundary of the swath to Atlantic? Of course. When I do that I am reminded that the oligarchs of Europe expanded their versions of barbarity globally through colonialism. Colonialism was maintained by military force. Globalism is maintained by economic hegemony backed by force when deemed in the national interest. Globalism is better than colonialism, right? Less expensive, certainly. Dominant national interest is presently exerted in the name of the United States of America.
And, to take only a minor step further, the present day inheritors of colonialism are 'us' which makes us the 'they' of today. It is pretty clear that the 'they' seated as Connecticut Cowboy in the White House show little capacity to learn. Another possibility is those folks are more consistent with history as defined by Lukacs than we can easily imagine, that is, barbaric. The times rather than changin' in any fundamental sense are rather spiraling. Spiraling positively may be a liberal assumption needing examination. Spiraling negatively is another possibility needing review. Actuality may simply be that the snake is working further down in eating its tail.
With all that as context, taking history as perspective, present events provide continuity. Patterns are connected. I suspect, given some future in which history is again written somewhat objectively, these times will show the good ol' USA as flowing freely from the deepest and darkest, blackest bases of its constipated bowels. Alternatively, 'we' may been seen as rank amateurs, naive practitioners of barbarity sucked into a whirlpool while being seduced by toys of massive destruction. Our bombing will surely work where ten years of intensive Soviet bombing failed. Rubble to sand, right?
Given time acceleration is a constant of an ever-expanding universe and looking from present time in comparison to only a couple of millennia back (around 00000 C.E. -- note the five zeros), time may be seen as exponentially curved. If that be the case or even a reasonable hypothesis, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire which took several hundred earth/sun cycles to complete could in present time measure a few years left for the American Empire.
US moral power peaked around 1945 and has declined ever since. Weapons replaced heart in one sense. Distancing from humankind moved in parallel. We ended WWII with Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Dresden interring (burying or engraving) the delusion that bombing is decisive rather than merely destructive.
Presently, we bomb from 30,000 feet and extend a distended sexual surrogate in cruise missiles to plow Mother Earth and to pulverize people, gooks and ragheads, stuck in rubble. The gooks and ragheads have an advantage few here are willing to acknowledge. They believe. They have faith. They are many and have a higher reproductive rate and capacity. Terrorist or whatever, they have pre-empted and co-opted moral suasion. Machetes will beat stealth bombers just a matter of time.
The first few months of the Bush II version of oligarchy record a rush of effort to piss off nearly everybody who is not in their camp. The list need not be repeated. Correctly, it will appear, the Bushies know they must have enemies to survive politically. Their preference for relatively impotent enemies or enemies who would most likely play by the rules was evident. That the enemy who emerged is not a rules player, rather an amorphous mass of protoplasms: a Playdough enemy to be named "terrorism" and personified as raghead Osama bin Laden, will, I suspect, eventually be seen as one of those great, perhaps epic ironies of grand design gone awry. The genie who popped out of the well-rubbed bottle is not the genie programmed. An irony on the level of Watergate paranoia rampant.
Years back, I noted that future commentators may see the late 20th century as possessed by two strategic mistakes. 1) American response to Sputnik (1957) by redirecting and reducing education from humanities to technologies and 2) Calling those emergent electronic instruments 'computers' and turning their initial development over to accountants and engineers.
Both strategic misdirections, in my perspectives, worked to guarantee that problem solving would be dominant. Problem solving locks in attempts to solve problems by using the tools, techniques and thoughts which create them. Silly. Problem solving as a dominant approach denigrates creativity.
I must now add a third: 3) Confusion of strength with power.
My personal response to 1) and 2) above was to call my consulting entity "Strategic Design." Strategy is a rational response to problem solving as a discipline tempered with design as a creative process, essentially undisciplined yet grounded in mastery of technique. Picasso and Elton John both grounded their creativity in mastery of relevant techniques. Much too far out, in retrospect.
The analytical perspectives of strategic design I name as systems and strategy. To develop relevant strategies, it is essential to grok relevant systems. To grok is to master rather than survey a subject.
For many recent years, given the hysterics around words such as 'sustainable,' I used bamboo as metaphor. Folks enamored with environment, ecology and such abstractions jumped on bamboo as a way out of demand problems viewed as supply. Make bamboo paper, bamboo wood, bamboo as substitute. Do bamboo plantations and develop bamboo infrastructures to replace wood infrastructures. Perspectives anchored in supply sides of demand systems yield quite ungrokked vistas, in my terms. A relevant system perspective on bamboo is dust to dust, or, upstream a bit, soil to soil. The essential patterns of ecology, et al., resist understanding of systems, while professing systems theories. The relevant patterns remain generally unavailable to problem solvers. A relevant strategic perspective which emerges from grokked systems is to look to ways out through demand perspectives. Enough of that.
Clearly, as I see it, dealing with ragheads as this decade's versions of gooks fails yet again to grok relevant systems. Barbarity within the human experience is, whether we like it or not, a core pattern which replicates itself consistently throughout time.
Technological differences in the perpetuation of tactics founded in barbarity are not differences which make a difference. Whether clubs or conventional bombs equivalent to megatons of TNT are used, folks die, folks get maimed and property gets burned, pulled down or blown back to dust. Airliners as cruise missiles and box cutters as knives, while probably one-off, are a significant difference which has clearly made a difference.
Whether you like the outcome or not, whoever did it has proven themselves very parsimonious in getting blast for bucks and very creative in putting it all together, no matter how perversely the result. We need that kind of expertise and passion. If the authorities will replicate their post WWII behavior when key Nazi scientists and expertise were imported to shape American technologies, weaponry and exotic equipment, we might be better of to hire bin Laden and crowd than blow up what is left of Afghanistan in a quixotic effort to shut them down. Creativity, once unleashed, is very hard to stuff back into the bottle.
Whether you like it or not, putting them on the team makes more sense than any other alternatives explored as yet. Can I get Dylan to revert and do a song about solving problems and silliness?
I suspect we are about to get a grand lesson in many variables whether managing creative thinkers, evaluating machetes doing in stealth bombers or grokking evolutionary systems in process. Evolutionary systems in process are what I am wandering amongst at the moment. Among folks popping into my consciousness related to evolutionary systems in process are Wilhelm Reich and Lynn Margulis. Reich sought Orgone energy, basic life force, as a means to grok human processes. Lynn Margulis is working similar territory as means to ground Lovelock's Gaia. Lovelock's Gaia is not the Gaia so dear to new age pundits, however.
Both Reich and Margulis are searching for the instant after creation when the primal energies were barely emergent, hence available and accessible. Both use the metaphors of sexuality to establish context. And, as few are willing to acknowledge much less grok, neither Reich nor Margulis use or understand sexuality as genitally defined. Sexuality is what we are, a form of being given certain evolutionary processes which divide us into male and female.
We are differentiated thereby into carriers and bearers of genetic evolution. Both forms have capacities in common. Creativity is one. As is patterned in human behavior, folks with creative minds leading them in creative directions, even when based in 'sound' scientific and/or technological processes, tend to be ignored, if not denigrated. And, under certain conditions, excess creativity invites multi-billions of dollars in destructive technologies. Hackers beware. Your turn may be next.
It is over 100 years since Einstein and others began to dabble concretely in relativity and successor perspectives on actualities called quantum and chaos and such. Joe SixPack doesn't even grok Newton yet while marching off to the couch to whoop and holler as the home team blasts a few more ragheads to their well deserved fate. Hardly creative behavior no matter how apparently sanctioned by those profiting from hysterias.
A few simple points, as is my wont to drag things into one or two sentences. Most folks are somewhat familiar with an idea that human responses tend to be dualistic: i.e., fight or flight. The folks who study behavior in terms of systems called games more currently expand from such duality to include share -- fight, flight, share. Games theorists working with three variables and the variables of those variables rather than two are discovering that benefit is more likely to come through sharing than either fight or flight.
Notice that Newton is updated relatively to move into quantum perspectives within which the order inherent to chaos is emergent, viz. fractals. From chaos, share as a strategy will tend to emerge as the strategy of greatest benefit given intent to cooperate. Given intent to cooperate!
That caveat is a determinant. If, rather, your strategies and tactics follow the patterns dominant within the swath I have set out, then, devious and cunning are more likely to be survival strategies. Play cooperative up until the last move and then go to fight. Or fake flight and go to fight. Try this sort of mantra which prevails throughout the bellies or brains of Balkans through Bering areas: "I am with my son against my brother, I am with my brother against my cousin, I am with my cousin against. . . . [succeeding layers of abstracting relationship which don't include us]." "The enemy of my enemy is my friend [which can be sincere but only if they are brothers of a sort]."
In the middle of the swath, given barbarity as norm rather than exception, relationships are guides to behavior. Shia Iran (Persia) is naturally at odds with Sunni Pushtu or Pathan presently formed as Taliban. Pushtu or Pathan is naturally at odds with Tajik or Uzbek, whether Sunni or Shia. Wahabi Sunni Saudi is naturally allied with Sunni Iraqi only to the extent that oil market sharing prevails -- which it doesn't at the moment (wait a little while and it may again be a shared strategy through oil). Anybody heard from the Hashemites lately? Sunni Arab is naturally at odds with Shia Persian. Don't you know that Arabs and Persians are different folks? In general all Arabs are naturally at odds with all Persians. And all Turkic peoples are naturally at odds with both Arabs and Persians. And everybody Arab, Persian or Turkic is naturally at odds with Jews, especially Zionist Jews (although for the moment Turkic and allegedly secular Turkey sees benefit from allying with Zionist Israel against Sunni Syria all of which has as much to do with water as religion). What about Christians? Trash, for the most part although the Koran sees Jesus as one of the major prophets. Coptic bashing is fair game in Egypt.
And all of these calculations of relationships are constantly in flux. It is a grand delusion to assume that Iran announcing as against terrorism can mean anything more than those Shia are getting a chance at some Sunni in the cloaks of Taliban. Taliban is a creation of Wahabi Sunni Saudi in collusion with semi-Sunni Pakistani secular posing elites who sucked in the all-too-willing USA. Or is it the other ways around? Parenthetically, I will note that the generic word Putin's Russians use in naming, slandering Chechens and other allegedly Islamic factions causing problems along their southern (northern) borders is "Wahabi." Wahabi is their version of "raghead." Think about that distinction for a microsecond.
The folks playing with evolution and genetics are agreeing that much of behavior is driven by genetic needs to replicate. They stumble a bit at whatever it may be that determines the emotion most call love in terms of family. Run that along a few simple channels and we find that family as tracked genetically is a major determinant of behavior -- except that you need a family as anchor. Run that a step or two further and call family by names like clan and tribe and a beginning of understanding glimmers dimly. The gooks and ragheads tend to retain bonds of family, clan and tribe which we no longer grok. We don't understand that we don't understand. Moral, for much of humanity, is defined by family.
I suspect we are about to get lessons in evolution, genetics and relationships which have slipped from our capacities. Buy stock in companies doing body bags and such.
The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Wilhelm Reich and many of his other works subsumed therein, especially Ether, God and Devil.
Mystery Dance and Slanted Truths (two of her several relevant books), Lynn Margulis. Margulis first married Carl Sagan long enough to have several children, oldest of which is Dorion Sagan who frequently is co-author of her books.
A Peace to End all Peace, David Fromkin. Key summary of the delusions from colonialism still controlling the near and mid east.
Haves without Have-nots, Mortimer J. Adler. See also, Ten Philosophical Mistakes.
Not because they necessarily focus on Vietnam, per se, but because they are illustrative of the processes again currently operative in terms of forming and forcing US policies and actions:
A Grand Delusion, America's Descent into Vietnam, Robert Mann.
Why Viet Nam? Prelude to America's Albatross, Archimedes L. A. Patti.
Ho Chi Minh, a life, William J. Duiker. In this recently published biography, Duiker almost breaks his bonds to orthodoxy. The grand delusion of nationalist as necessarily communist which so distorts and distorted American perspectives emerges full-blown. See Mann above.
Live from the Battlefield, 35 years in the world's war zones, from Viet Nam to Baghdad, Peter Arnett. A critical, on-the-spot eye into the grand follies and delusions visible to those who will look. Who is looking?
Over one month ago, I provided a truncated bibliography which included books primarily related to Afghanistan and the Soviet experiences 1979-1989. My commentary then and the bibliography remain pertinent if not enhanced by subsequent events.
Fighting for the Future, Will America Triumph, Ralph Peters. Peters is one who has moved strongly to fiction as a means to make his points. See also his seven or eight novels, more than one of which deals with perspectives gained as a military officer wandering today's trouble spots.
Robert D. Kaplan has several written books relevant to events within and emergent from the swath.
Eastward to Tartary. Travels in the Balkans, The Middle East and The Caucasus.
Balkan Ghosts, A Journey Through History.
The Arabists, The Romance of an American Elite.
Soldiers of God, With the Mujahidin in Afghanistan.
Surrender or Starve, The Wars behind the Famine.
The Coming Anarchy, Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War.
An Empire Wilderness: Travels into America's Future.
Also, historian John Lukacs is author of many works which cover the events leading to, during and after WW II 1920s through 1940s. Many focused through actions and behaviors of the prominent leaders of the time, especially Hitler, Churchill and Roosevelt. Drawn to American history, his 1984 book, Outgrowing Democracy, is acutely prescient in terms of the 2000 election.
Last in this list but perhaps the sum of them all is a very recent novel, The Babel Effect, Daniel Hecht. This novel looks to me like another author turning to fiction to carry a deeply pertinent message forward. Excellently researched creative work.
Lest anyone mistake my intent, be aware that I read these and other books, research many of the areas noted and so forth and so on with guidance from key perspectives: systems and strategy. I read them to locate and define differences which may make differences. I read them to grok patterns which connect. I read and study to learn and to feel, to sense the threads of history making warp and woof of human behavior over time on this planet. My analogy to shruti within the Indian Raga is pertinent.
Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, had it all: Harvard MBA, big house, three-car garage, top management... Yet, once he had seemingly achieved the famed American dream he felt something was missing somewhere. As any good executive he decided to investigate. Since then, he has become a curmudgeon and, after living in Berkeley, California, where he was growing bamboos, making water gardens, listening to muses, writing, cogitating and pondering, he has moved on to the Big Island in Hawaii where he creates thought forms about sunshine. Milo can be reached at Swans.
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Milo G. Clark 2001. All rights reserved.
This Week's Internal Links
Mind Control in the New Kind of War - by Jan Baughman
Softening Public Opinion For All Out War On Iraq - by Stephen Gowans
Osama Bin Laden: Convenient Scapegoat? - by Gilles d'Aymery
Antiterrorism As A Cover For....Terrorism - by Edward S. Herman
Think About It - by Charles Buffalo
U.S. Attacks Vanuatu! Wins Stunning Victory! - by Edward S. Herman
Terrorism And The Ozone Layer - by Gilles d'Aymery
California State Proposed Legislation - by Helen L.H. Mader
Two areas of commentary: Barbarism and Joinin' 'em - by Milo Clark
I've Got to Stop This. . . Crying in a Wilderness - by Milo Clark
Unnecessary Losses - by Sandy Lulay
Conversation With a Psychiatrist - by D. W. Buffa
Milo Clark's Commentaries on Swans
Essays published in 2001
Essays published in 2000
Essays published in 1999
Essays published in 1997
Essays published in 1996