MORALITY RESIDES NOT IN AVOIDING VIOLENCE, BUT IN USING IT CORRECTLY.
Abstract: “Violence Is A Humanism” is a mischievous twist on Sartre’s famous essay:”Existentialism Is A Humanism” (1946). In which Sartre lamely observes that:”The essential charge laid against us is, of course, that of over-emphasis upon the evil side of human life.” However, the deepest human cultures are brimming with sterner stuff than Sartre. The Roman and French symbol of the ax, and the American eagle brandishing all its arrows, show that the republics have long understood the importance of violence.
Many a fable for children, the Bible and the Qur’an, the Vedas or the Upanishads, were not as affected with pusillanimous bourgeois fears about violence, as Sartre was. The deeper trains of thought all embrace violence readily. Rightly so. They looked at the universe, and observed that violence was a most prominent fact. In a way, they were doing physics, as fundamentally as can be. Physics is God, and violence is its prophet. And not just that. Whereas sheep practice existentialism readily, doing nothing much about everything, just munching out there, violence is a much more specifically human thing to do. Not that sheep are completely non violent. Far from it.
Violence is not all too human. This is the conventional approach. It misses the point. Human beings have adapted to physics. They were born from physics. Violence is what humans do, lest they would not be able to do anything at all. That Buddha understood nothing of this does not make it any less true.
Many who just eat grass, and make a spectacle of themselves by their submission and temperance, miss the point. Humans do not just exert violence directly to themselves, they do it also to the environment. In some important sense, there was never a human engineered catastrophe as violent as ice shields melting. And, paradoxically, it is human peace and contentment which is bringing that evil.
Direct violence against humans, or direct violence against the environment, often boil down to the same. Vegetarianism is no refuge (contemplate the sanctimonious Hitler). We need to get more subtle, and compute with the calculus of violence. It has been observed countless times that violence is even the way to goodness. (As Obama pointed out while getting his Nobel prize in the futures’ market.)
Some say: think of love only. But love is harder to measure than violence. And violence, energy, is how even love is measured, ultimately. Let me explain a few elements related to these themes:
WHEN NON VIOLENCE IS A TRAVESTY:
Before frightening the masses with unconventional points of view, let me hide behind authority. As Obama put it during his Nobel Peace Prize speech: “Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak -nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone.I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”
Well, force is sometimes necessary for even more reasons than that. Force is the essence of man, and some pacifists can think otherwise only because the lions have been forcefully removed, and species of plants were forcefully invented to feed them. Not to feed the lions: those are dead. To feed the pacifists, watch for their SUVs, they eat the planet.
THE VIOLENCE OF NON VIOLENCE:
I will not harp again on the theme of “appeasement” when many did business and comforted the Nazis, instead of punching them. When the many behave like sheep, the poodles themselves turn into lions. If the sheep, in their sheepishness, create lions, they are responsible of the existence of lions. Violent demonstrations in the European Union against solutions to the financial crisis involving taxpayers and citizens probably brought the crack-down on banks observed there. Whereas in the USA nobody demonstrated seriously against banks (meaning no riot police had to be dispatched). The Americans view that as wisdom: conclusion: their giant banks rule the country even more than in 2008, and their grip is getting tighter (the new presidential chief of staff is a top big banker; the top 6 banks assets are now two third of US GDP higher than in 2008, and rising, and so is their exposure to derivatives).
Thus, when the forces of evil provoke the forces of goodness, the later better punch back, lest evil get even bolder, and more energetic.
Speaking of the devil, or, more exactly, speaking of Gandhi, when one steps away from fantasy land, it is hard to say anything positive about him. Gandhi was non violent to death. Hades in rags. He promoted Hinduism to the point the Muslims got totally enraged, and, rightly so, and then Gandhi boy sabotaged the war effort against Hitler, as much as he could.
Hitler was Gandhi’s “sincere friend“. On 24 December 1940, apparently to celebrate Christmas, Gandhi wrote a lengthy second love letter to his Hitler.”We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents…We resist British imperialism no less than Nazism.” That buffoon was writing this after Hitler had invaded most of Europe, and assassinated millions of civilians. In a related story, Gandhi wanted the British empire to get out of India, because he claimed that made Japan invade Asia. Gandhi was not just a sheep, but a rabid sheep, talking softly. Sheepishness is so much respected, though, that it’s Gandhi right or wrong, all the way.
It is true that some aspects of British rule in India were obnoxious. But they were arguably way worse in Canada, where entire French speaking populations were thrown out of their homeland. However, Canada is doing just fine. Britain administered the Raj superbly, with sometimes less than 2,000 British born officials. In the end, Gandhi has brought to us Pakistan, millions killed, and the perspective of a thermonuclear jihad. Gandhi looked superficially non violent. But in truth Gandhi embraced national religionism of the worst type, long the bearer of the worst holocausts. Gandhi was as non violent as a sanctimonious viper: very cool, except when it bites. Hitler, too, was obsessed by nationalism and religion, and claimed to be a man of peace.
Obama concluded in Oslo that “The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached – their faith in human progress – must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.” The sheep shall befriend Hitler with Gandhi, dream with King, and fall in love with its own placidity. Non-violence is mostly taught to sheep in their pen, by those who fleece them.
Enough with this childish situation awareness. Real men finds something worthy to fight about. Spend some energy making a positive difference, and not a long term negative like Gandhi. The world is all about energy, says physics, and morality is all about directing it well, says humanity.
VIOLENCE VERSUS VIOLENCE:
There was just another mass shooting in the USA, at least 6 killed, 19 wounded. Some will wonder how do I dare to defend violence? Well, first, I am not defending violence, just describing its importance. Among those killed was the chief Federal judge for Arizona, and a nine year old girl. Thankfully the congresswoman shot was a partisan of Americans shooting Americans, alleluia.
Before I get called cold hearted and slightly demented, let’s meditate this. Gabrielle Giffords once boasted: “I have a Glock 9 mm and I’m a pretty good shot.” Now doubt. Who did she intend to shoot? Did she believe that someone intending to shoot her would call her to a duel?
Interestingly, Giffords can now boast of having been on both side of the trigger, and of being a good shot in more ways than one. That is, if she still capable of boasting, now that her brain has been further re-arranged with a Glock 9 mm.
Obviously what is at work here is a weak, and self contradictory culture of cultural retards, and I will be forgiven for taking a shot at it, by those who have some brains left inside. Giffords was intelligent, nice, but all too nice to guns. Now she is paying the price. It is weak, not to oppose guns to kill people in a civil society (the argument that those guns are needed to oppose the government of the U.S.A. is beneath contempt, and perfectly unrealistic, so will not be adressed!)
Representative Giffords was on Sarah Palin famous “crosshairs” list (since then removed from the Internet). Giffords herself had eloquently condemned the “implications”.
In general the complexity of issues in USA politics has been blown away by the empty violence of the discourse (and that starts in the general society with such violent notions such as “firing” employees… which was used against the representative above, Giffords, by the head of the republican party to claim that she was in the “firing line”… as if she was going to be executed; when does voodoo speech become an incitation to murder? Clearly Giffords had been shot at symbolically, in a very effective voodoo, before being shot for real; incitation to murder is a crime, by the way… and that ought to be enforced.)
There is little control of firearms in the USA. But this violence thrives not out of strength, but out of weakness. Americans just don’t have the force to crack down on the irrationality out there, or inside their own heads. This is related to the incapacity to switch to the metric system, or the incapacity of the democratic party to crack down on the fraud, deregulation and vast concentration of wealth that paralyzes the West in general, and the USA most of all. What is needed is creative destruction of some mental strucutres which are inappropriate, or obsolete.
There is something as creative destruction. And some creation which cannot happen without destruction. In such cases, the violence of anger is needed to remove the intolerable, when calm, deliberate discourse has come short, again, again, and again.
Indeed evil and violence do exist. Obama is very correct on this. However he sits pretty in the White House not because enough of the non violent ones did nothing, but because so many people gave their life to fight for racial equality. Even that woman who refused to sit at the back of the bus used, and not so passively provoked, a lot of violence. A lot of violence which was needed. She risked a lot. She had a lot of mental energy.
So the statement of Dr. King, taken in isolation, is completely false (Obama mentioned it to show that he was aware of the counterpoint, lest he be accused of ignorance, or bias). Hundreds of thousands of the rightful ones, died, just in the Secession War, so that Dr. King would not be sold at the market, and whipped whenever he behaved mischievously.
Dr. King’s statement, out of a careful, very restricted context, is an insult to history, and millions of most courageous heroes. (In the particular context in which he was, that of finishing touches against racism, Dr. King’s best course was non-violence, indeed: he, and his contemporaries, could afford it. And he wanted to steer people away from Black Power, Black Muslims, Black Panthers, Malcom X, etc… So I understand, and approve, what he did. The cases of King, and Mandela, are pretty much opposed to that of Gandhi!)
Violence brought permanent peace, and progress to the Aztecs, Assyrians, white slave owners, and many others who stood in the way of civilization (OK, it would have been better if 90% or more of the Aztecs had not died!)
The (violent) decisions of the Supreme Court and Eisenhower to send the troops to destroy apartheid were much more important that Dr. King’s belated dream. It’s not because racist America was a nightmare, that having a dream was such a big progress. As Stalin quipped: “The pope? How many divisions?”
USING ENERGY IS WHAT HUMANS DO, BUT ENERGY IS ANOTHER NAME FOR VIOLENCE:
Violence is an interesting problem, which is often a solution. Violence is the application of force. It may not have to with human beings: a violent storm. But then the storm may have to do with humans: a bad greenhouse. Progress has consisted in humanizing nature, and this has required ever more energy.
Violence can be a solution. One can only say this, watching riots in the semi dictatorships of Tunisia and Algeria. It is unlikely that without some mighty pushing from the youth, wrecking havoc, Tunisia and Algeria will get out of their mild terror, intellectual fascism, corruption, unemployment, reign of the military, perfidious stupidification known as Islamization, etc. When evolution will not happen, revolution has to take its place (and it can go fast; there was basically a decade between taxation without representation and the American rebellion of 1776).
The advocacy of violent revolution, when nothing else will promote equality and freedom, has been a fundamental theme of the West, at least since the old oligarchs and plutocrats, in Athens and Rome, were assassinated, thrown out, and at the very least cut in small conceptual slices. (I am talking here of the revolutions on the Sixth Century BCE, when the grossest of plutocrats were culled, allowing the rise of republican Athens and Rome… The case of Athens is very interesting: not only was a lot of violence used, but even a foreign intervention which is rarely evoked, but explains a lot of what happened in the following century, with the war between Sparta and Athens.)
Truly, sometimes only violence is the solution, or the solution goes through violence. Even Jesus admitted to this. To the violence of the merchants of the temple, Jesus opposed his own. Then Jesus multiplied the warnings about the fact he was bringing not peace, but “a sword”. What will He have done, or recommended to do, with the banksters, who are in the process of stealing civilization itself?
The USA and the EU exist because thousands of military victories, extending over 4,000 years, which have promoted the right philosophy of freedom and equality instead of that philosophy of the likes of Alexander, so called the Great. (I was searching through tyrants of old such as Biblical Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar II or Assyria’s Tiglath-Pileser III, but they pale in badness and violence relative to Alexander, who, among untold holocausts, and rampaging, started the drive towards making the ruler into God, or closely associated to God.)
Violence is the application of force. It could be the force of a power station, or of a jumbo jet. Or simply the force of a discourse. The power of man ultimately always originates in discourse. The brain is mightier than the hand.
Fascist religions (Judeo-Christo-Islamism and the Aztecs’ religion, Moloch, are famous examples, etc.) were invented to provide with a violent metaphysical context. Those metaphysics excuse and justify the violence of the political systems which set them up. When God is as insane maniac, oligarchs get excused for being similarly inspired. One could say even more: if the Christian and Muslim Gods want to destroy all, as they claim they do, at the end of their sacred books, why not give God a hand, here, now? So say the oligarchs, and they pray, piously. Praying to themselves, so they can prey, even more.
History abounds with violent metaphysics coming to the rescue of bloody oligarchies. Pakistan is a recent example (as it went from British democracy to typical Salafist indigence). In general, fascist regimes in the Middle East have found convenient to promote the violence of Salafism (in full cooperation with the USA, which found it convenient for the same oily reason, during the last few decades…until 9/11: now that is backfiring, big time, and the USA is thoroughly confused… As Europe has long been on the question of “multiculturalism”.)
The evolution of the genus Homo started with a greater efficiency and craft at using energy. That meant applying force, hence violence, in powerful, but subtle ways. It could be as drastic as setting fire to the jungle.
Homo is all about the ability to direct greater and greater force. That is how Homo navigated in a maze of hostile species, until making them sparse, and intelligence metastatic over the planet.
VIOLENCE HERE, GOODNESS THERE. VIOLENCE IS ABOVE IT ALL:
Now some will say that “violence” means, implicitly, a bad usage of force. But thinking so leads to immediate contradictions.
From the point of view of those who defined patriotism as being part of the United Kingdom, the American Revolutionary War was bad. But from the American Revolutionary point of view, it was good. And so it is in any human conflict. Bad on one side, good on the other. Muslims long called their trashing at Poitiers, in the middle of France, which they had just invaded twice with giant armies, the “avenue of the Martyrs”. From the Franks’ point of view, these predatory, superstitious invaders were not martyrs, but garbage. They let their bones rot in the sun in the company of vultures, to make that very clear.
Hence violence is violence, the application of directed energy. It is beyond morality. Beyond good and evil, for real. Morality needs it, but cannot be judged by it.
The moral problem is in directing violence well. And foreseeing what will happen from any particular application of force, in the fullness of time. Whether it will good for what matters to those directing it, in the longest term. Or not.
Directing energy can be obtained through smarts. It is always maximally obtained through maximal smarts. By 1000 CE, the Franks had the maximal usage of energy per person, worldwide. A lot of it from inventing well crafted breeds of pigs, cattle and horses. Outlawing slavery was a big part of it, because it forced people to use animals and power machines (wind and water wheels).
Of course, outlawing slavery was making violence on civilization. After the Franks landed, and beat the regime in England (1066 CE), the Franks freed the 20% of the population which were slaves. The Anglo lords fought back, and the armed resistance to the Frankish revolution lasted nearly 20 years.
The establishment of a Frankish regime in England was no recent conflict. it had been simmering ever since (self described) “Roman” power had been knocked out by Anglo-Saxon invaders in the 6C.
And it was a philosophical conflict: Alcuin, Charlemagne’s philosophical advisor, was English born, and had tried to persuade, in vain, the Anglo king to become more civilized, 275 years earlier.
But that did not happen, the Anglo-Saxons clang to savagery. Alcuinus, disgusted, went back to Charlemagne’s more receptive ears. One could go even further back, when the British army fled to Francia, establishing the county of Brittany.
Philosophy has long been a driver of violence… And rightly so. Ultimately, the Franks defeated the Angles and Saxons’ savagery, from Germany to England (and they had to, as the savages were not sitting on their hands, but raiding southern Europe, each time they felt strong enough to do so).
THINKING IS NOT JUST PAINFUL, BUT VIOLENT:
Violence can be a civilizing force. Civilization without violence is actually a contradiction. Civilization is pretty much about carefully directed violence. Some may scoff, and sneer that this is a strange, not to say alarming, contrast with my condemnation of the (way the) Afghan war (has been conducted).
But it is not. Before I fight my guerilla war into the Hindu Kutch again, Alexander style, let me explain why two important aspects of violence are extremely civilizing, and they are tightly related: verbal and intellectual violence.
Deleterious verbal violence can exist (“fighting words”, “hate speech”), and is legitimately repressed by law. However, any idea is transmitted with words, and genuinely new ideas always hurt. Why? Because it costs a lot energy to rebuild neurocircuitry, it may even be impossible, and, or, it may lead to painful contradiction. Thus mental, intellectual, or civilizational progress cannot proceed without pain. So thinking anew, and communicating new culture, wisdom or science is an act of violence. Since it is violence, it has to be protected by the principle of free speech.
No free speech, no civilization, not even any new ideas, or even any survival for the old ones. Free speech is one of the basic commandments of the secular religion. But if well done it will always hurt, and that is why emotional and even physical violence, as a consequence of free speech, cannot be avoided.
To impose non violence as an absolute meta principle therefore would overwhelms free speech. True free speech requires new brain structures, thus, it always reuires a lot of energy (in other words, violence) to be accepted.
Hence the principle of free speech has to overrule emotional comfort. Imposing systematic non violence would subjugate free speech. Really good free speech will always hurt. That is why really innovative thinkers have always been hated throughout history, just because of that. We are talking beyond the Nobel Prize class here. Top thinkers have to be able to say, with president F. D. Roosevelt talking about banksters: “I welcome their hatred.”
AFGHANISTAN: MORAL UNCERTAINTY IN, DEFEAT OUT:
In the Afghan war, the West is supporting one side of a Muslim civil war. This is weak. And it is in contradiction with the secular civilization of the West, started by Clovis in 481 CE (the new regime instituted by Clovis made the church an instrument of the secular state, in opposition to the Roman Catholic theocracy that had ruled the “Occident” for 118 years, since 363 CE).
(In Libya, the West and allies support an oppressed people against a despot and his mercenary army: religion is not a factor.)
One has to go all the way back to Charlemagne to see a mighty Western emperor so naive as to ally himself with a Muslim regime in a civil war. It did not turn out too well for Charlemagne. He lost his nephew Roland and his rear guard (OK, apparently to the Basques, but the Muslims had betrayed previously). The reasons are multiple. A bare bone analysis of the genesis of the Qur’an and Muhammad’s career shows that he intended his religion as a war machine directed against the Greco-Roman world (attacking Persia had not been anticipated).
If anything, the Occident has not used its shock doctrine enough when dealing with Salafism. And the force should first, be intellectual. When the Romans met with the Gauls, a philosophical debate ensued, and the Romans won. They won enough to persuade most Gauls to side with them (without that preliminary philosophical win, they would have lost to the gauls again, as they did in 399 BCE). Cortez met with Aztecs, a philosophical debate ensued. War was much later, and, as far as they were concerned, the Spaniards had already scored (without their Indian allies, “Malinche” and his men would have lost). The first shock doctrine of the West was always philosophical.
In particular alliance with regimes which execute for blasphemy ought to be terminated (or, at the very least, “blasphemers” ought to be extended loud occidental protection). Inasmuch as NATO is supporting Salafism in Afghanistan, or wherever else, it is working against itself. A case of violence going crazy by attacking itself.
But the West knows subconsciously that it was not in Afghanistan to be really good to the locals, or to win anything it talked about. That would be nation building, another word for colonialism. Remember Gandhi? Colonialism, or even administration at a distance, is supposed to worse than Nazism. So the west, which has never examined seriously its bringing of civilization to the deprived ones, and is still devoured by misconceptions about what happened when doing so, cannot use shock, maximal violence. Because it knows it is not morally right, in the particular case of Afghanistan. It was initially messing up the area, in 1979, just to mess up the area, annoying the Soviets.
Violence is a tough master, when applied by democracy, it requires moral rectitude. Notice that this makes violence, properly applied, successful violence, to be an ally of moral rectitude, since it requires it, or, at the very least, does better with it. (This is implictly recognized in the west, as the army is, nearly always, and always when the society works well, revered.)
VIOLENCE MAY ORIGINATE FROM SUBTLE ENTANGLEMENT WITH ECOLOGY:
It could be argued (and has been argued) that there are two types of violence, just as there are two types of evil. If mother nature drops a rock on a passerby, that’s one thing, but if the Taliban does it, that’s something else. However, in either case, we are dead.
Two Types Of Violence? Not So Fast! Purely natural evil and purely human evil are two extremes of the same bell curve, which has everything to do with how things are. In practice, most avoidable evil, most avoidable violence, results from interactions between physics, and Homo transmogrifying the environment in such a way that catastrophe ensues. As man goes on a joy ride on top of the environment, the beast, answering only the laws of physics, tumbles and crashes, and man with it.
An example is what happened with metals in the Roman empire. Mines in Hispania had been exploited to exhaustion for centuries of apocalyptic fires, hiding the sun, by armies of slaves with very short lifespans, digging deep, extracting and melting the ores. In the end, though, Roman technology could not keep up with the overexploitation of the underworld, and the mines had to close. More advanced technology would allow to reopen Rio Tinto mines, but only16 centuries later or so.
The resulting impoverishment in metals had a severe impact on the Roman empire. The overexploitation of natural resources in ancient Athens or by the Romans on the environment was spectacular. Attica lost its fabulous forests. To this day, French forests bear the marks of Roman depradations (there were lots of mines in the Alps). That devastation, in turn pushed both Athenians and Romans to fetch the commodities they needed further afield (Athens in the Black Sea, Rome in North Africa). That led to more wars.
When the Muslims invaded, the (Greco-) Roman emperor had to visit Rome, from Constantinople, and oversee the removal of all metallic roofs of the imperial city, to melt enough metal for war machinery. The Franks’ strategy was less passive; in the good old imperialist fashion, they went east, and conquered the mines they needed. What was more evil? Sitting on one’s hands, as the Romans did, waiting passively as “the world got old“, as they said. Or doing violence, and conquering central and eastern Europe, as the Franks did, to get what they needed (and the Romans never got?) .
When a very dangerous ecological crisis developed in the middle of the European Middle Ages, only the “evil” ways of the authorities were able to reestablish a path to sustainability: the ways to goodness can be circuitous. God without Evil is only ruin of the ecology…
In any case, the evil of nature is entangled with that of man. It is not just that man is evil, but that nature has been made into man’s image, or according to man’s convenience, and thus a lot of the evil it dispenses are related to man, nature, and their shared munificence.
“Mad Max” scenarios are a well known class of examples: oil runs out, civilization collapses, man eats man. Equivalent scenarios happened in the past already. It is an obvious way how the old culinary traditions of Pacific islands came to be. Never let a good enemy go to waste.
But there have been other scenarios: Genghis Khan’s invasion of the world happened only after he redirected Mongolian mayhem away from other Mongols (a manner of controlling the overall population of Mongolia) towards the big wide world, by making the united tribes into an army of 20 “Tumens” (200,000 men and a million horses). So the basic situation was that considering that Mongols were going to die, one way or another, but Mongols could do so while killing Chinese to the south, or Christo-Muslims to the West, they would die less from violence of Mongols upon Mongols, while indulging in tourism, becoming richer, and more powerful. So invading the world was a better outcome (from the Mongol point of view).
Hence the Mongol invasions, from Hungary to Indonesia, and Egypt to Japan were not just caused by the Mongols being evil. Quite the opposite from the Mongol point of view. Fundamentally the invasions were caused by having too many Mongols to go peacefully around, on a vast, but harsh land, deprived of resources. One could annihilate entire Mongol tribes, as Genghis Khan did early on, and then redirect the energy outwards, as Genghis also did.
A similar analysis can be made about the Anglo empire which straddles the planet. British subjects were pretty miserable, and proliferating, so the Crown sent them all around the Earth. Whereas in France, peasants owned land, however miserable they were, and tried to limit their own proliferation. Thus the badness of Britain made for the goodness of its empire, and, conversely, the relative goodness of France made for the poverty of her empire.
(Voltaire did not improve the situation, as he despised imperial expansion… thus, having scoffed about Canada, and told his friend Louis XV to forget about it, Voltaire’s ideas are less well known than they would have been otherwise, had France not lost the “7 years” war… Great philosophy is great, but it’s better spread at the end of a sword, as Jesus nailed it down.)
Since ever, the human population was not controlled by the environment but by other humans, or actions of other humans resulting from human effects on the environment. Thus human violence on the environment is a form of violence onto other humans, and one form of violence that dominates the Earth, since there are species, and Homo makes them disappear.
The rise of human impact on the environment has been very beneficial for the sheer number of humans. It was rendered possible by a marginal decrease of inter human violence, measured relatively (not absolutely, because when all of France had 20,000 Cro-Magnons, it was impossible to kill millions therein (as Caesar, Napoleon, or WWI and WWII could do later). To compensate for the enormous populations, the usage of violence, or force, or directed energy on the environment, has augmented considerably.
Some scientists have made models which show that the rise of methane, thanks to human Neolithic cattle, prevented a fallback under another ice age. Was that good, or bad? Not having an ice age forced the rise of civilization in the Middle East. Not having civilization rising in the Middle East would have meant no massive cattle rising, and thus the human protein Aztec procurement model prevailing (OK, maybe not: the Andes and Mexico highlands may have been too cold…)
NO ENERGY, NO FREEDOM:
Violence, energy, is the Western way. 300 Spartans decided to block the Persian army, hundreds of thousands strong, coming from all around, just to show that the principle of freedom was superior to any other. Both freedom and putting it above anything else, require great energy, not to say violence. And the Spartans self consciously affirmed both spectacularly by trampling over diplomacy, and throwing the Persians envoys down that well. And the 300 did not surrender. Undefeated, they were pierced by avalanches of missiles. The same spirit, burnished at Thermopylae, prevailed at Salamis, or at Plataea (crushing Greek victories in the following year).
To use violence, without remorse, to use mental violence, proudly, explicitly and rationally, one needs to be morally right (which, ultimately, means sustainably right… over generations of sustainable populations, not just the individual lifetime of a greedy bankster).
So, curiously, as i already pointed out, violence understood as the engine of freedom is also a moral engine. It is the solution to dispensing enough energy to sustain life. This was long clear to the Western intellectual tradition. That is why it is so violent. No violence, no progress: but that does not mean that violence, by itself is enough to foster progress. It means that slavery was ended by force, not because somebody with a mike had the dream that he made a big difference. It’s Lincoln who made a big difference, and Eisenhower, and they made a difference because they commanded armies in the name of more advanced philosophies. Both took great personal risk (so did the dreamer, it turned out).
Britain and France have democratically progressed through a succession of wars, takeovers, coups, rebellions and revolutions, ever since Clovis (and that is the way both the Athenian democracy and the Roman republic were born, too). Progress cannot be distinguished from strife, in the European tradition, and the USA may have to join, if it wants to progress again (as it used to).
Massive force and violence is not just a twisted over-emphasis of mine: military tactics in the West, the frontal shock doctrine, and fighting for destroying the enemy, are demonstrably opposite to most military traditions, which respected the enemy warrior class (this can be shown by contrasting the Greeks’ way of fighting versus the Persian way of fighting, or the Conquistadores versus the Aztecs’ “Flower Wars” tradition).[See the excellent book of Victor Davis Hanson, "Carnage and Culture", Doubleday, 2001… Yes, the same Victor Davis I severely criticized recently, December 28, 2009!]
The Mike shot, first man made thermonuclear fusion. A pacific island is thrown 40 kilometers (25 miles) up in the air, never to be seen again. High time to become even more intelligent. That is what it is the symbol of.
BUDDHISM IS AN ILLUSION, THINKING IS EXPENSIVE, THUS VIOLENT:
It’s true that some Buddhists (there are many types) would totally disagree that violence is necessary for progress. It is a misreading they have made of the universe, as a tactic to advance themselves, or their masters. (An argument that the People Republic of China has been making, somewhat disingenuously.)
This is not surprising. After all Buddhism depends upon the insight of some primitive sitting below a banyan tree, 22 centuries before Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet, figured out the importance of the concept of energy. And 24 centuries before Ramon y Cajal and Camillo Golgi discovered a first outline of neurobiology.
Says Buddha: “The Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha) is this: Birth is suffering; aging is suffering; sickness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are suffering; association with the unpleasant is suffering; dissociation from the pleasant is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering – in brief, the five aggregates of attachment are suffering.” (Samyutta Nikaya 56,11).
Well, I suffer when I read that, but still I read it: I like to suffer, because it makes me stronger. So is my genetics anyway. That’s why I climb walls, dive in the sea, and run mountains. All what some of the Buddhist do is to ask for a bowl of rice, a rice they did not plant, harvest or transport. Upon the suffering of others, they rest, as leeches do. A further point: leeches put the flesh to sleep, to draw the blood in peace. And still another: they can be used medically. At least the leeches.
What the genus Homo has been doing is to redirect ever more greater amounts of energy, and this is intrinsically violent. Even when done inside one’s skull. Thinkers are often unpopular, as they urge to reorganize the energy of the universe, starting with the neurobiology of their not so innocent victims.
Some of the wise ones sitting up in the Himalayas are capable of advanced neurological control (as are apnea divers capable of holding their breath, without damage, for longer than it takes to smother the average person).
But the monks and the divers have to WORK (= energy = violence) at it for years, if not decades, before getting there. As they sit, meditating, lesser ones work the rice fields hard to feed the worthy meditators… The work of the meditators is about configurating their brain geometry to a reality they wish. The geometry of the brain is not the geometry of the Versailles palace; it requires more skill, the plans are not known, and brains have to work more than hands. Because hands depend only upon part of the brain (take that Heidegger).
Thinkers don’t meditate at the top of the Ivory Tower for no good reason. Throughout history, philosophy has progressed only when she was treated as a queen. And that has to do with the energy, the violence necessary to elaborate new brain circuitry.
Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Demosthenes (just to focus on a short lifetime rich in philosophers, in just one place, Athens!), where immensely rich, and, or, influential and respected (Demosthenes swallowed poison before the Macedonian SS could grab him, precisely because he was so important). Nine centuries later, Boethius, consoled by philosophy, was horribly tortured to death, but he had been one of the highest nobles, president of the Roman Senate, and long the second most important power in Italy.
The examples could be multiplied. Top thinking, top new philosophy, top new science or new poetry, or new engineering rest on colossal, or very crafty NEW energy expenditures (may be not in absolute energy spent, but in the crafty way it is used; intelligent energy ought to be the new currency.)
The brain exists to harness energy, and the more advanced the brain, the more energy is harnessed as desired. To be Frank: the more violence. More performing brains have greater curiosity. Curiosity is expensive. Over the decades, CERN, the European elementary particle research center, has cost more than the yearly GDP of nearly all countries. We will not get to Alpha Centauri without astounding energy production, many times what civilization uses now, or great violence made to spacetime. Yes, violence, that is the point.
Some argued that CERN’s latest accelerator, the LHC, would make such violence, that it would destroy spacetime. That was over the top: the alarmists knew some, but not know enough, physics. However, humankind is destroying its own house. Melting the ice shields is as violent as it comes: soon hundreds of millions will trample property, searching for high ground. a very bad violence that could only be prevented by doing violence, now, against entrenched habits, industry, vested interests, and obsolete neurobiology.
Hard core Buddhists will scoff that the world as it is does not matter and only annihilation (“nirvana“) is a worthy objective. That makes them converge with the Christians and their book of the apocalypse, and Allah and his threats to burn and boil everybody. OK, I am unfair, the Buddhists came first. They are the first nihilists. Intellectuals such as Philip Short, a specialist of Cambodia, believe that the thorough holocaust there was greatly caused by Buddhist induced indifference to human suffering. After all the best way to avoid pain is by falling asleep. But those who sleep have no energy, and don’t deliver.
Instead passion, the violence of emotions, is the energetic core of the West’s secular belief system. Why? Because the West searches primarily for reason, not for the lessening of violence or pain. Picture a fighter plane and a fighter pilot. Violence is the thrust of the engine, pain is what happens when you blackout at 12 g. Western philosophy is the pilot.
NO BRAINS, NO PAINS:
Sheepishness itself is a sin. Making oneself violence is how the sheep gets out of it. Violence is like the knife, or the first stone ax. It is something we need, because energetic is what we are, but how we will use it is what matters, and the more energetic, the more refined the usage we make of violence has to be. Thus the proper usage of power, of violence, is all about intelligence. One does not go without the other. It is neither sad, nor shocking. it just is. It is not just about history, imperfection or the limits of reason, as Obama politely put it. It is about the principle of man, who walks the valley of the shadow of death.
The shock doctrine of Occidental armies, European organization and European thinking about passion as the core, was derived from the following, which sums it all up. Intelligence was evolved to be shocking, and because it was shocking. Sharks can do what they do, because they are very intelligent, and only because they are very intelligent.
P/S 1: Feedback on this essay, especially if violent, is welcome!
P/S2: The Qur’an is pretty much a war manual giving precepts for the garrison. Deceit is foremost. Here is the famous Hadith Bukhari:4.268 “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘War is deceit.’ Besides, Allah teaches by example: Qur’an’s Sura 3:54 “Allah deceived and Allah is the best of deceivers”