George Orwell’s masterwork, 1984, describes a hyper-Churchillian nation-state so powerful, it could adopt pure peace technology. Instead, it dedicates itself to endless global warfare. At more or less random intervals, it joins or attacks its continental equivalents overseas. In this way, it strains to the discipline and expropriates the prosperity of its disinformed proletariat.
Post-Orwell weapon mentors have convinced us that the best way to safeguard human rights is to keep the government as clumsy as possible. According to them, the more efficient the government, the less justice, peace and liberty can be expected from it.
This is the 1984 Syndrome, enshrined in weapon mythology. Actually, this myth promotes crypto-fascism (fascism that won’t acknowledge itself). Narrow-minded governments get themselves into jams. Stupidly, they try to extract themselves by piling terror on top of hardship.
We could avoid this unhappy outcome by developing highly efficient local Administrations overseen by the best World Government we could devise.
In our weapon religions, God reigns peremptorily from his storm cloud on high, without debate except among His select hierarchs. Similarly, in pyramidal weapon hierarchies, commands descend without appeal from ranking info elites to the bottomed-out proletariat.
In a weapon state, responsibility and intellectual creativity are rare privileges reserved for a trusted few. Weapon hierarchs find aid, comfort and advancement in arbitrary promotion criteria, departmental clannishness and pecking orders. Popular review of controversial topics is forbidden. Weapon managers rely on by-the-book solutions—no matter how lame they may be. Regardless of real-time rights and wrongs, problems are dealt with by fiat, based on irrelevant traditions and misapplications of past precedent.
These weapon hierarchies come with built-in redundancy of personnel. They accept life-and-death decisions (even bad ones) without debate, despite the high-stress, high-mortality environment and information chaos of combat.
For example, in Queen Victoria’s day, noble families openly purchased officer commissions. The more money they could tender, the more prestigious the unit their candidate could sign up for, regardless of his merit. Thanks for this reminder, Paul Lackman.
Nowadays, not only are military entrance positions open for sale to the richest families, but so is the Presidency of the United States and every position of responsibility below it. Good luck with that kind of weapon leadership, incompetent at peace.
Weapon hierarchies promote authoriphiles who submit to superiors and tyrannize inferiors; they marginalize authoriphobes who challenge management prerogatives and empower their subordinates. Competence and job skills are at best secondary considerations. No criminal genius goes unrewarded in a weapon civilization.
Another sad tendency trips up the most competent weapon managers. Sooner or later, their weapon policies back them into an intolerable corner. Attempting to turn around the worst of their unintended consequences, they treat each evil symptomatically, as if in a vacuum. “Today, let’s discuss child abuse; tomorrow, local hunger. Next day, we’ll tackle traffic congestion; and next fiscal year, perhaps, corruption.” Each lunge at progress gets swamped in social contradictions that swarm around it.
Leadership grows from respect. Respect can be founded on admiration or on fear. Terror is the final arbiter in weapon hierarchies where indifferent leaders flourish through counterfeit competition adjudicated from above, with little concern for the needs of the led. Weapon hierarchs boast of rewards acquired at the expense of the led. They use riches to insulate themselves and their dependents from the worst consequences of their despotism. This misrule forces weapon managers to rely on tyranny, unwholesome materialism, snowballing incoherence and hypocrisy as substitutes for valid ethics. When good ethics become less essential to run things, greed grows more brazen. Hierarchical leaders shatter bonds that should bind them to the led: social, emotional, economic and informational bonds. Each broken link subtracts from their ability (and willingness) to lead honestly and effectively.
“In proportion as the chiefs become detached from the mass, they show themselves more and more inclined, when gaps in their own ranks have to be filled, to effect this, not by way of popular election, but by cooptation, and also to increase their own effectives wherever possible, by creating new posts upon their own initiative. There arises in leaders a tendency to isolate themselves, to form a sort of cartel, and to surround themselves, as it were, with a wall, within which they will admit only those who are of their own way of thinking. Instead of allowing their successors to be appointed by the choice of the rank and file, the leaders do all in their power to choose these successors themselves, and to fill up gaps in their own ranks directly or indirectly by the exercise of their own volition.” Robert Michels, “Political Parties, 1911”, taken from Princeton Readings in Political Thought, p. 526
Primal societies tended to compartmentalize their peace and warfare decision-makers. They delegated two leaders and two or more separate councils – blessed with different talents and sensibilities – the better to handle these clashing responsibilities. Most often, a complex, clannish and shifting network of wise women, revered elders and shamans controlled the peaceful aspects of society. Young hotheads and heroic veterans only did so during rare days of battle.
Peace leaders relied on open debate, consensus, voluntarism and cooperation. Leaders and led shared rewards, values and available information freely. In short, they gossiped shamelessly. Fully qualified leaders recruited, challenged and replaced one another in a steady stream that excluded the incompetent. If they overvalued the perks they had acquired at the expense of the led, they lost the respect upon which their authority was based, and sacrificed any claim to that authority. Their power-base deflated like a worn-out balloon.
No such selection process remains in weapons hierarchies where blatant incompetents and sleazebags rule without hindrance—indeed, come to dominate society through the cumulative mentoring and replacement of like-minded malefactors. Communications are reduced to pompous speeches, massive campaign contributions, empty promises and capricious demands.
Peace hierarchies would promote playful creativity in a tranquil setting under token time constraints. Ideally suited to produce real, cooperative wealth under stable conditions, they are unsuited to the time-slaved rigors of warfare—much less the cutthroat, zero-sum competition of weapon management between its inevitable wars.
Popular aspirations must take precedence over hierarchic perks, and leadership must find its own reward in its noble conduct, self-sacrifice and public honor.
If the led are not accustomed to expect this kind of leadership by long tradition, if they have been pistol-whipped into blind obedience to terror and arbitrary decision-making, then peace mentality cannot endure without collapsing into chaos. Everyone must be carefully retrained in peace.
A society may be materially poor, yet thrive under peace leadership. Its neighbor may be aswim in material goods, yet pauperized and lobotomized at the command of its corrupt weapon managers.
The best alternative would be a longstanding peace culture based on tradition, whose leadership benefited from unlimited abundance shared equally. The worst alternative is ours: interchangeable weapon managers hoarding wealth and power at the expense of a crushingly large but politically crushed majority, while wielding maximum firepower and not much else except the promise of future misery.
LEARNERS: On the Move from WeaponWorld to PeaceWorld