July 27, 2004
War on Terror?
To Think in the New Way
I understand that the players in the political arena must make certain compromises. In this political media environment in which people have been so severely brainwashed and terrorized, a politician must to some degree play to that condition in the population. But it still grates on my nerves every time I hear the phrase "War on Terror."
I have to leave it to the politicians to decide to what degree it is necessary to play to the environment of fear created by the Bush administration. But I do believe that Orwell was right that the maintenance of tyranny is dependent a certain corruption of language. Bush's War on Terror slogan is an intentionally confusing doublespeak non sequitur. Using that language to some extent gives legitimacy to a system of thinking that is essentially invalid and untenable.
Bush's phrase "War on Terror" is an intentionally broad and unspecific term because it is intended to be a slogan for perpetual war. This mechanism is all beautifully illustrated in Orwell's 1984. The state of war is the environment the Bushes and their partners in business and ideology are most comfortable in. It is the best way for them to make huge profits and consolidate power.
I cringe to see Democrats adopt and give currency to the phrase "War on Terror", a concept that I consider to be not only invalid, but bordering on the insane. I believe it represents a world view that is no longer supportable in the 21st Century.
As Michael Moore told Charlie Rose, you can't declare war on an abstract noun. But even if you reframe the slogan as "The War on Terrorism", as many do, it is an essentially flawed concept. War is terrorism. The War on Terrorism is a paradox, a contradiction in terms. You can't stop terrorism with more terrorism.
The underlying implication of the War on Terror, which is never spoken of openly because it is too ugly, is that only terrorism that is carried out by the Other Side counts as terrorism. That which our own government inflicts upon the rest of the world is not called terrorism.
So it is, as Bush has said explicitly, us against them, good against evil, as Bush, McCain and other Republican zealots define it. Theirs is not against terror per se.
But it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see that Bush and his people do not really object to terror even against Americans. It has served them extremely well, and they make no bones about it in unguarded moments. "I hit the trifecta," Bush said, when 9/11 brought war, recession and national emergency. One would have to extend a great deal of faith in the goodness of the Bush team to ignore how much they have benefited from 9/11. And even now they say openly that a terror attack would help Bush do what he wants to do more than anything in the world: stay in power.
So it's fine to adopt the "War on Terror" phraseology if it's necessary to enter the political dialogue at this moment, skewed as it is by the Bush/corporate media partnership of brainwashing. But very soon, as soon as Bush is defeated, this country has to move very quickly to a very different way of thinking. The world has to leave behind the toxic world view of Bush & Co. We need a whole new paradigm.
Gregory Bateson, a pioneer of cybernetic theory, described in a lecture in 1970 the kind of new paradigm that must be found to accommodate life in a highly technological world.
The study of cybernetics, Bateson said, led him to believe that mind is immanent not just in the brains of human beings, but in the whole system of nature.
"The cybernetic epistemology which I have offered you would suggest a new approach," he said. "The individual mind is immanent but not only in the body. It is immanent also in the pathways and messages outside the body; and there is a larger Mind of which the individual mind is only a sub-system. This larger Mind is comparable to God and is perhaps what some people mean by 'God', but it is still immanent in the total interconnected social system and planetary ecology."
A previous cultural view of the West, which splits off human beings from the rest of the world and splits off God from the world, Bateson said, is no longer tenable in the world of the late 20th Century and beyond.
If you put God outside and set him vis-à-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you. And as you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world around you as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit. Your survival unit will be you and your folks or conspecifics against the environment of other social units, other races and the brutes and the vegetables.
If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your chances of survival will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die either of the toxic by-products of your own hate, or simply, of over population and overgrazing. The raw materials of the world are finite.
If I am right, the whole of our thinking about what we are and what other people are has got to be restructured. This is not funny, and I do not know how long we have to do it in. If we continue to operate on the premises that were fashionable in the precybernetic era, and which were especially underlined and strengthened during the Industrial Revolution, which seemed to validate the Darwinian unit of survival, we may have 20 or 30 years before the logical reductio ad absurdum of our old positions destroys us. Nobody knows how long we have, under the present system, before some disaster strikes us, more serious that the destruction of any group of nations. The most important task today is, perhaps, to learn to think in the new way.