“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” An Upton Sinclair quote, taken from the syndicated column of Mike Mailway (pseudonym for L.M. Boyd, now defunct) in the now-defunct Seattle Post Intelligencer. All that’s left is that Republican rag, the Seattle Times.
Please read “The Future” first.
One way or another, this grim era is winding to a halt. The time has passed when weapon managers could tease more profit from warfare … even false profit. That time has passed. The energy wasted on weapon myths is can no longer be considered surplus. No justification remains for knee jerk ignorance, deliberate poverty, preventable disaster, authorized injustice and runaway overpopulation: by far the most expensive social policies. Better substitutes would cause us less regimentation and suffering, and thus offer more profit. Better yet, they would reduce the ill will that plagues us.
We are rapidly running out of petroleum. A dozen or so years ago, we were forced over a cliff edge of increasing oil demand and reduced supply: a jump that none of our officials bothered to warn us about.
The inertial momentum of WeaponWorld is too massive to be stopped; it has turned us into cartoon characters suspended over a precipice and windmilling our feet to keep level. There is still enough time (though precious little) to choose what we will take with us over that precipice.
We can take the jump bearing the latest flame-thrower apparatus WeaponWorld could devise: death at the touch of a button, that’ll fry anyone who would dare pry it from our hands. Costing a fortune. Why not several, why not self-propelled on tracks and heavily armored? That will make a nice flash and a satisfying bang when we land hard on the canyon floor. A quite spectacular display of fireworks: smoking body parts and bits of junk soaring everywhere!
Otherwise, we could wear a parachute: carefully woven, tested reliable, sensibly packed and deftly secured to the body; train long and hard to land gently at the bottom like an expert smoke jumpes.
I suspect that we will take this jump equipped with something halfway between these extremes: a moth-eaten emergency parachute to hold up a medium weight flame-thrower tank.
If only we had looked deeply into this problem back during the 1950s, when we had enough oil reserves to cushion our fall! If only a convincing precursor of Learners had been broadcast in millions of copies a few generations ago.
But people in positions of WeaponWorld authority were too stupid, back then, to do the right thing; and their modern-day replacements show no sign of being smarter, on the contrary. They are just politically correct enough to satisfy us idiots.
Tending toward flame-throwers: the sacrifice of the Other; tending toward parachutes: the celebration of Learners.
It is not mere profit we should seek, but Learner commonalities we may share: the Humanity of World Peace and the Duty of Learning (per ).
Society’s worst habits jeopardize our future: elite presumption, proletarian ignorance and our collective submission to error. Prejudice, panic and greed degrade everyday wisdom; ignorance, mental sloth and self-isolation short-circuit common sense.
The suggestions contained in Learners demand serious consideration; better alternatives, STAT application. There is barely enough time left before it’s too late; so let’s hustle!
Powerful private interests may resist (are resisting) this transformation; they may jam (are jamming) infant Learner Networks – especially the Internet – with meaningless babble. Info elites continue to peddle their worthless priorities across tiers of monologue mass media. Conspiracies of Greed still crouch behind private property rights and other weapon myths, so that they may violate the Commons with impunity.
Once Learners prevail, weapon technicians (globally bad peace technicians), will find distasteful their newfound vestigial status. They will suffer clinical withdrawal from so much money, authority and prestige—this last, the ultimate military perk. Battle elites may balk at honoring their host proletariat’s newfound priorities. They may refuse to cooperate with erstwhile enemies, except to wreck more havoc.
Our religious fundamentalists are resurrected carnivores in sullen retreat. They’ll find no sustenance in Learners for their self-worship. Preaching the patent contradictions of religious bigotry and blessed mayhem, they accurse themselves and those who follow them. Yet exactly the same people could choose to celebrate more often and sacrifice less, help more people and anger fewer, thus render due devotion to God’s peace.
So too, those who exult in catastrophe. It doesn’t matter whether they draw inspiration from the Bible's Book of Revelations, from some rabid misinterpretation of the Koran (Qran) or from some other source they’ve rendered toxic. Their reaction is that of a bus driver who daydreams of a fiery crash that will consume the passengers entrusted to his care. The trick would be to never again hire such people to be our guides.
It is with awe-inspiring miracle that we should be playing like chuckling infants with toys on the floor—not bemoaning the results of unstoppable catastrophe.
You, indignant social activist! Snap out of your hypnotic fascination with empty clichés; shake off your dead-end lethargy, the busy futility and vehement emptiness you have inherited. Take up instead the golden yoke of Learning. Watch radiance blossom along every furrow you and the rest of the world would till.
We who have been routed by the forces of reaction, let us sound the rally call so that our scattered friends and allies may link up with us from the ends of the Earth. We who share no vision beyond our worst fears, let us form square around Learners and stand our ground until reactionary arguments shatter and bog down against this bastion, and their outcomes turn out (as usual) to be the worst. Then we may return to the encounter irresistibly, once and for all.
This book proposes just a few preliminary answers to our worst problems. Expect better solutions to emerge once new Cooperatives of Plenty rouse Learner creativity. Once these creative coops emerge, we will gain a new say in every problem our curiosity illuminates. Every baby step, every resolved antinomy, both personal and institutional, will win another round for Learners.
First off, we must winnow weapon content from our constellation of political metaphors; only then may we free ourselves from the Thousand Year Reich of weapon mentality.
We could establish Learning Casinos: lavish recreational facilities where game masters, programmers, graphic artists and fellow contestants would gather to create and play video arcade games, virtual reality simulations, gambling, card and board games, theatrics and interactive simulations in forms transcending our awareness.
Those whose talent would be to assemble and manage these scenarios will find all the adulation and reward they might seek—much the way painters of the Italian Renaissance, playwrights of Shakespeare’s London, classical music composers of Vienna and cinematographers of the 20th Century did. See Marc Prensky’s book, Digital Game-Based Learning, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2001, for a preliminary sketch of these new games.
Social problems will be played-through for innovative solutions. Political games will familiarize voters with complex social issues. Learners will sign up for critical judgment scenarios―mundane or life threatening, personal or sociological; on scales of play micro, macro or cosmic.
According to a Chinese proverb, it takes ten thousand war dead to establish a general’s reputation. Contestants at these new Casinos will deepen their wisdom much more cheaply: their disastrous mistakes will only have ‘paper’ consequences. Virtual reality software and interactive videos will simulate a vast array of alternative probabilities. Outlandish social proposals will be gamed publicly to review their long-term outcomes in detail. Players will root out weaknesses, misconceptions, unintended consequences and miscreant loopholes. All their results will be matters of public record, subject to scientific research.
Learner Casinos could run a ‘probability stock exchange’ (first described in John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider, among many of his proposals included in Learners). There, as part of the world’s rewired neural network, contestants would predict social trends as a profitable spectator sport. Such Casinos may coordinate their activities with Learning Networks, World Militias, Renaissance Learning Centers and other Administrative functions: some suggested in this book and many more yet to come.
Create a bounded playing field. Wall it off from curious bystanders and forbid idle spectators. An underground “Dome of Pain” might be best.
Set no rules. Arm naked antagonists with two-by-four staves spiked with nasty nails. Fill emergency rooms with the results of their rage. Begin with the fifty foremost representatives – political, military and religious – of each militant assembly, then fifty more replacements, then fifty more until no more are left outside hospital wards. Let them express the full scope of their hatred and rage! This might be preferable to sending innocent, patriotic children to cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war with modern military hardware and our social blessing, against equally innocent victims from the other side.
These days, arena-style and televised violence pander to disgusting human traits without serious analysis or catharsis. Learner violence games will exclude voyeur (voy-uhr, Peeping Tom) thrill seekers. Such artificial confrontations may turn out to be superior to the crime scenes, prisons, and battlefields across which we’ve let our accursed rage range freely.
In exchange for voluntary and anonymous participation, they would provide:
· mystery and initiation;
· a real risk of sacrifice, serious injury and death;
· a mystical quest for shared understanding and forgiveness;
· elaborate ceremonies of mutual pardon and ritual cleansing; and
· a mystical rebirth into the real world, where such atavistic cruelties were no longer tolerated.
As an extreme example, the Maya staged painful ball games so sacred that the rare winning team took all the onlookers’ belongings and the losing (winning?) team’s captain sometimes sacrificed his life. Such confrontations might stem from duel-challenge, provided the challenged party could call upon volunteer and mercenary champions.
Outer space offers a handy death arena for those who must have their mortality served to them piping hot.
“The particular combination of physical and mental empowerment, retreat from and return to the ordinary world, and spiritual renewal that adventure offers, bears a close formal resemblance to classic warrior myths. And with care and thought, it should be possible to design adventures that could serve as initiation ceremonies for boys making the transition to manhood. Undoubtedly, activities not based on adventure, and myths not based on war can also be developed that would similarly move men forward toward maturity and transcendent experience. To assert that myths meet human needs and that we need new myths, does not imply that the Age of Enlightenment is over, just that rationalism has limits: it can take the world apart, but not put it back together. Only stories and visions do that.” James William Gibson, Warrior Dreams: Violence and Manhood in Post-Vietnam America, Hill and Wang, A Division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1994, p. 308.
These realtime wargames might parallel today’s battlefield reenactments and paintball wargames. In highly structured, ritualistic environments, people might act out their atavistic urge to fight, flee, posture or submit. As in martial arts sparring, overt violence might cause a few serious injuries and the exceptional fatality. The violence provoked would vary in proportion to the severity of local disputes, the numeric proportion of which could be controlled by the number of real bullets issued, compared to blanks. The first death and wounding from this ceremony would end it – as determined by female and shaman referees. However, deliberate risk-taking and sacrifice would form an integral part of the psychic process. All such activities, strictly forbidden outside these arenas.
These cruel dramas could be turned into a basic lesson in civics. Emerging from these hermetic rituals, shaken participants would shun further violence. They would gladly undergo lengthy stretches of medical care, ritual purification, psychological healing and repatriation into the world at peace. They’d never revisit these ‘Arenas of Suffering’ unless they felt the urge to re-explore their craving for violence.
Those (male and female) hopelessly addicted to such violent games would become paid managers, cult priests and priestesses, and permanent inhabitants of these taboo facilities. They would also serve as volunteer and mercenary stand-ins for weaklings called upon to duel. Everyone could find a rightful place on PeaceWorld, even the most violent among us.
Alcohol, drug, prostitution, gambling, and other human addictions appear to multiply social costs, especially when legalistic prohibition make them scarce and expensive (and profit thereby). In that case, those things should be legalized, subsidized and heavily regulated to reduce their social overheads.
Addicts should get their kicks for free; indeed, they should receive special subsidies for their addiction. In the long run, these outlays would be much less costly than forcing the innocent victims to support their drug habit and petty larceny in person, directly and disproportionately.
New religious ceremonies will demonstrate to young Learners the pathos of their immorality. Learner rituals may re-enact ancient morality plays of excess and the Pandora’s Box they release. Mystery cults served the same function in the past; likewise ancient Dionysian rites of mandatory drunkenness. Once society provides secure havens of initiation, intoxication and recovery, we may curb public intoxication and harmful addictions. They will become unthinkable public faux pas (foh-pah, “missteps,” numb-nut strategies) to most members of a peaceful society.
Likewise, Learner society will encourage personal research into revelatory hallucinogens. Friends will gather in legal Kivas where they may share cheap, legal, high quality drugs, and meditate together on Dreamtime: safe Kivas for these activities. Yet personal responsibility would never diminish for the public abuse of drugs and alcohol. On the contrary, drug-aggravated crimes would draw stiffer penalties from Learner juries. After all, those jurors would have been there and done that, themselves, without harmful consequences.
It has been at least ten thousand years since humans began dosing themselves with such drugs. Arbitrary prohibition is rabid folly. Street drugs should be regulated to ensure their quality and reduce their toxicity. The designation “Sativa,” in Cannabis Sativa, is a multi-thousand-year-old Sanskrit honorific reserved for rice and other beneficial plants (fennel, grape). Properly cultivated and administered, its medicinal and Dreamtime qualities outweigh its risks. High quality marijuana reduces nervous tension and stress—as opposed to the mind-numbing trash the police and criminals have conspired to refine. It promotes socialization and philosophical discourse, without jeopardizing the quest for the Muse. Learner peace would welcome this inspiration.
There are two reasons why recreational drugs remain illegal. First off, what to do with all the spear-carriers of the War against the Druggies: all those narcs, vice cops and petty criminals, once they’ve been let go? The “War on Drugs” has created legions of undercover agents, snitches, street dealers and kingpins for whom every social abuse has become routine. Finding other work for them would unleash a backlash of sophisticated criminality, the like of which afflicts Russia since its secret police lost its license to terrorize the populace in the name of Revolution.
The second reason why this war is waged against us? The huge profits reactionaries have obtained by flooding world-class banks with drug cash. These last few decades, reactionaries have financed their media-driven political ascendancy from this criminal cash flow. All these fascistic spin-offs would dry up if we decriminalized drug use. Every new prison, drug law and illegal purchase increases their profit margin and power base. Think about that, the next time you score your favorite high.
These days, some irresponsible people commit wild crimes and lay the blame for their horrifying outcomes on drugs. Info elites coach these self-serving penitents so that their horror stories can demonize victimless drug criminals. The same goes for grieving survivors of suicide victims who took drugs. However, this careful selection of scapegoats and spokespeople cannot invalidate recreational drug use. Those who panic over ‘drug abuse’ by adults should understand its essential neutrality. When the abuse of drugs releases destructive urges, it only magnifies deep-seated psychological conflicts, notably subconscious defiance of the weapon/peace dialectic. Slamming shut more psychic gateways is not the solution for these problems. Instead, we should wrap sufferers in stronger, more flexible and gentler safety nets.
I have little use for most mind-altering substances. Once such drugs are legalized, I would grow the most benign of them in my garden and would rather have friends share them from theirs. All recreational drugs, however, should be legalized. This would reduce secondary crimes and invasive police intervention: far worse evils in the long run.
Like eating too much chocolate, the prevention of drug-related mishaps would become a primary responsibility of local barefoot doctors dedicated to the Hippocratic Oath: “Do no harm”—not an armed, invasive and trouble-stirring police force.
Minors should deny themselves such drugs, by choice. They should demand some better alternative. They might rather ‘save themselves’ for graduated ceremonies of age-set initiation: much more powerful shapers of their destiny. Imitating ancient tribal ceremonies, Learner rituals would endorse intense kinship among age-set peers. Their promotion in these clans would endow novices with well-timed, well-deserved rewards of maturity and social responsibility.
Local crime watch would become one of their primary responsibilities. Children would assume adult privileges, once they were ready to assume adult responsibilities but not before. A few police responsibilities may default to young children in advanced peace societies where unfettered violence would not have been heard of for years.
This text invokes the reform-idealism of youth―call it revolutionary fervor, for lack of a better term. Everyone moderately sane shares a kalotropism: an innate attraction to the good. Our conscience will guide us through to it quite reliably, once we stop suppressing it.
Today, this fervor lies dormant, with no permissible outlet. Weapon mentality converts this healthy fellow feeling into Prism exclusivity, rabid nationalism, parochial prejudice, personal hatred—and ultimately, willingness to soldier. Under this all-pervading deception, the milk of human kindness curdles into frustration and rage. Hypnotized since birth by expert weapon mentors, we have rejected new ideals and resisted real progress. Then we’ve asked ourselves why our little piece of the puzzle refuses to fit!
Most of us defy these perversions, at least in the privacy of our own thoughts. Their defiance, however, relies on an obsolete vocabulary, outmoded politics and feeble appeals for circumstantial justice. Our liberal, atomistic and meliorist mindset has stalled, subverted by sociopaths. To shake them loose and jumpstart it, a vast majority of Learners must form cooperatives of abundance everywhere on Earth.
Peaceful Learners will turn this reform-idealism into a dynamo of social transformation. Once we grant it fair advantage, we are bound for glory.
Given a knowledge-value loom stout enough to shuttle the thousand-thread count sheet of reform and stiffen it with ribs of revolutionary fervor, we may mend our tattered social fabric within a few years and reweave its broadcloth of many colors in a single generation.
The best souls have bound up their bruised conscience in empty mysticism and bombastic positivism; swaddled it in pseudo philosophies and parafaiths; anesthetized it with drug abuse, pathosex and the compulsive meaninglessness of Prismatic and Wimpish thought.
We’ve read and reread stacks of weapon mentality books and magazines, spent years watching television programming that just underscored our powerlessness and social futility. We’ve indulged in “scientific” closed-mindedness, inertial paralysis, post-modern nihilism, groundless fundamentalism and religious faith in the unlikelihood of significant progress. We’ve taken refuge in personal cool, evasive jokes and refusal to take anything seriously except our carefully fattened ego. In desperation, we’ve clung to a succession of addictive denial mechanisms.
We pay too little attention to anything, any longer, but that which maintains our superficial comfort by confirming our worst prejudice. For fear of becoming ‘fanatics,’ we reject any new hope or inspiration. We have turned into hopeless credophobes: too hung-up and too ‘cool’ to believe in anything new.
Weapon mentality thrives on a waste of talent and intellect; it prefers the clamminess of your cool. As for the mentality of peace, it would favor the torchlight of your Learning.
Don’t count on any grace-benefit – homegrown, store-bought or book-learnt – until global peace has prevailed. Five thousand years of unilateral self-perfection, bloody nation building, futile dissidence and fanatical cult revival—all we have to show for our history: untold time and aching effort poured down the drain.
These outgrown notions have been granted their best shot, more than a fair chance to succeed, much more latitude than sane prudence would dictate, given their disastrous outcomes so unremitting. They have failed as miserably as they were cunningly advertised and fanatically adhered to.
It is time they were swept from the scene like musty rags; either that or carried to a rooftop and washed in floods of clean water and soap suds, then sunned during the heat of the day, that their colors might brighten.
We must enhance the global stage tremendously. Other remedies, so difficult to achieve in the past, will turn out to be self-starting and self-sustaining, once Learners sort out these things first.
Learning alone may raise the living standards of common and uncommon folk alike. Developed wisely, real abundance will replace the hardship and terror we have settled for, up ‘til now, until we share every essential in peace. Peaceful abundance will become our birthright, for which we’ve already paid in full. Any remaining threat or dearth will be an isolated problem, subject to swift resolution—not another unintended consequence expertly swept under the rug by senile institutions.
The poor of today take for granted some things for which ancient Emperors would have traded a kingdom: telephones and vaccines, for example. In a Learner world, the poor will claim security and comforts far surpassing the pitiful luxuries that besieged millionaires boast of today.
This text delivers to smug elites and ambitious proto-elites the only challenge worthy of their braggadocio (strutting arrogance). Their cooperation is vital in the planning and execution of this endeavor. Their current accomplishments are trivial in comparison and doomed to fail in the end, unless followed up with by the Learner project. By supporting Learners, they will ensure that their descendants enjoy more wealth, power and luxury than they ever dreamt possible, even after every legitimate need has been met.
And so, to work! Let us forgo the paramilitary consumer display we’ve mistaken for success, abandon suicidal wealth-to-poverty ratios beyond fifteen-to-one and five-to-one. Instead, we should provide everyone with a free choice between moderate serenity and the riskiest adventure that Learners could find use for.
We Learner proto-elites are just reawakening to our responsibilities. Reacting to every stimulus in turn, we find ourselves in turn Wimpish, Prismatic and Chaosist; info elite and info proletarian; progressive, moderate and conservative. Moreover, we’re relunctant to jam our political identity into such cramped pigeonholes. We reject old values, but are baffled by current events. No valid vision of the future inspires us; our hearts embrace no sustainable conviction. Infant-like, our attention fixates on flashy baubles. No matter how hard we try, we cannot seem to concentrate on legitimate progress.
Learners will find ready allies on both sides of every social divide. Relieved of their fears, many loyal associates will emerge, ready to make friends, from sandbagged gun pits of wealth, class, ethnicity, nation, religion and occupation. Every remaining barrier on PeaceWorld will show off some cultural and artistic uniqueness—little more. They’ll turn out to be similar to the German Oktoberfest or American Indian Powwows: sources of cultural pride and comfort instead of bigot hostility and suspicion. Most of our alleged opponents will turn out to be natural allies. The sullen remainder’s mightiest resistance won't even put a speed-bump in front of Learner progress.
These pages have not been engraved in stone. I ask you to treat them as a discussion agenda and a stage in the round, to help us plan a brighter future. Dedicated professionals and gifted amateurs should reconsider every assumption found here; discussions which may engender a brilliant Learner Commonwealth. Our first and last question should be: “What if the sky were the limit?”
Either Learners will drag humanity kicking and screaming into PeaceWorld, or WeaponWorld will sleepwalk us, smiling stupidly, hand-in-hand, into military disaster.
You. Yes, you! Quit stoking the WeaponWorld Jive Drive. Defy weapon mentality wherever you find it. Be anarchic, in your own incomparable way, or join a new collective to ensure the success of its chosen projects. Devote your life to quiet saintliness, as your ancestors once did; or quietly trip up the next bully who’s chasing his next victim past your door.
In any case, stretch! The miracle we’ve hungered for since the beginning of time, is just within our reach.
“Our conception of justice and truth is without a doubt destined to be surpassed in the ages to come. This much we know. And, far from suppressing our courage, this hope and conviction are prime stimulants for our current drive. Each generation’s strict duty is therefore to draw as near to the truth as it can, to the limit of what can be glimpsed—and to cling there grimly, as the absolute truth had been reached. Mankind’s progress is at such a cost.
“The lifetime of one generation is nothing more than an effort that follows and guides the rest. Well, friends, our generation did its bit.
“Peace be upon us.”
Roger Martin du Gard, Jean Barois, Edition Gallimard, Paris, Le livre de poche, 1921, pp. 327-328.
Well, now! What more are we waiting for? Let Learner debates begin!