I grew up in a generation that vowed never again to go to war. And yet here we are, in it up to our eyeballs all over again. It doesn’t seem to matter who’s in office, or how many protests there are. When will it ever stop? *

In the previous series of blog posts we explored the question of why unemployment is so high, which led to the ways in which Consumerism is coming to the end of its usefulness as an economic engine.  That in turn led us to evaluate War as alternative manufacturer of employment.  Although War initially seemed to us like an ideal employer, we soon discovered a dark side which not only forced a reevaluation of War’s economic strengths, it further led us to the conclusion that War needs to be eliminated as soon as possible if humanity is to survive.

If you recall, we said that Employment-Creation Systems (ECS) need three characteristics in order to be viable.  They need to (1) create jobs, (2) distribute jobs and (3) make jobs meaningful. But in order for our new ECS to additionally serve as a viable replacement for War, we need to expand on those criteria a bit.  A War-replacing ECS needs to:

  1. Create jobs that challenge nations and individuals to their absolute limits.
  2. Match people with those jobs.
  3. Make jobs meaningful by placing them in a larger context that
    1. Serves as a test of competing ideologies
    2. Offers a definitive answer.

The new part of criteria one is important, because people and nations both need continue continual challenges in order to stay at their best.  It’s no coincidence that Wars often come at times of peace and plenitude when things seem almost to be going too smoothly and too well.  Criteria two is no different from any ECS, and we’ve already discussed subclause “a” in criteria three.

Subclause “b,” however, turns out to be the real sticking point, the secret to why War has kept its position of primacy in human affairs over the millennia.  War is definitive.  It has clear winners and losers at the end of contests in which nothing has been held back, and both sides are literally fighting for their lives.  War is physical, and immediate, and its results are self-evident.  For any substitute for War to not devolve into an actual War, therefore, it must offer results equally as incontestable and final.

NEXT WEEK: Play ball!

How do you define reality and illusions in life?

From the time I was very young, I worried about the question of whether the true nature of Reality was as we perceive it or not.  And if we could be deluded about the nature of Reality itself, what did that mean in terms of our relationships with others, others who might be mere figments of our imaginations?  These questions troubled me for a good twenty-five years, until the answer came to me, fittingly enough, in a dream.

In that dream I was a student at a large, international boarding school.  The students were all gathered in the spacious courtyard when we received the disturbing announcement that the world was coming to an end.  There was a predictable mix of reactions from the amassed crowd –panic, denial, grief and anger.  There was also a untraceable rumor that began to circulate that there was a select group that would be chosen to survive the dissolution of the universe.  As for myself, I took the news quite calmly, perhaps because of my secret conviction that I was among those who would be saved.

Later in the dream, night had fallen, and the outside gardens were quiet, deserted and already beginning to fade at the edges.  There was no one around as I entered, for the last time, the vast, almost limitless mansion that had housed our beloved school for so many generations.  As I climbed up the wide empty staircase, I passed a group of huge circular machines, patiently cleaning and polishing each surface of the ancient building in preparation for its destruction.  I saw no other living creature until at last I made my way up to the roof.  There the air was suddenly full of light, music and laughter as the teachers of the school gathered to hold a last party for those students who still remained.

I could see the teachers for what they were now, something far older, wiser and more powerful than human beings, something angelic, almost divine.  I sought one of them out, a beloved teacher of my own from when I was very young.  She took me aside to a dark and quiet part of the roof and there we spoke under the starless sky.

As we conversed, I realized the rumor had been wrong.  It was true that I would survive the end of the universe, but there would be no group of the elect that would escape with me.  It would be me and me alone.  I also knew somehow that my teacher was as aware of this fact as I was.  Yet –and this was the amazing thing to me –even knowing this, she viewed me and treated me no differently than any of her other students.  I knew that she loved me, but I also knew that she also loved each one of her other many students in the same way, and with the same depth, even though I would go on living, and they would soon dissolve into nothingness.

“What was this all for?” I asked her.  “What did it all mean?”  I wasn’t asking about the end of the world,
but about everything that had come before –the school, the hard work of educating students, the careful cleaning of a building that was destined for destruction, the party thrown for guests whose time was measured in minutes.  What possible significance, meaning or value could any of it have in the face of the end of everything?  “Was any of it real?”

“Love,” she said.  “Love is real.  Love is meaningful. Love will survive.”

At that very moment, a bell tolled and the world faded away, as I awoke to the realization that it had been the truest dream I ever dreamed.  I had been in another world –the world of my dream –and it was also true that it had had a limited lifespan, and that it had come to an end, and that I alone of all its countless inhabitants had survived its apocalypse to journey into another world –the world of my waking life.

More than that, however, I knew also the last words of my teacher were also true –that Love is Real, that Love is meaningful, that Love survives, and that no action undertaken with Love is ever wasted.  And though I knew that the rational, objective part of my mind could call her nothing but a fiction of my subconscious, I knew that she had achieved a portion of Reality though the depth of her Love.  I could still feel its solidity like an embrace.

The experience resolved a problem that had distressed me since childhood –is this world we live in Real?  Or is it a dream or an illusion?  Are the people, things and places around us as solid as they seem?  Or are they as likely to melt away as snow in the heat of the sun?

What I learned is that the objective Reality of our world doesn’t matter.  We are all, in the largest frame of reference, figments of God’s imagination, characters, as it were, in God’s dreams.  There is still validity and Reality to the way we live and the way we treat others, regardless of any objective reckoning of fact and fiction.  The teacher in my dream was Real because of her values and the way she cared about her students.  The same type of Reality is available to you, and to me, be we disembodied brains in vats, figures in someone other person’s dream, or even fictional characters.  And though it was not a part of my dream, I have also come to understand that the converse must also be true –that giving way to cruelty and hatred renders a person as unreal and as insubstantial as the shadowy wraiths and cardboard monsters who haunt our dreams and are so gratefully forgotten with the approach of morning.

Why War Must End

War has been a feature of human existence throughout all human history.  As each war ends, each generation swears never again to beat the drums of war, and yet like any addict, the human race keeps coming back, over and over again.  And yet, something fundamental has changed, and within our own lifetimes.  This change has made it imperative that War must be ended once and for all, and in the very near future, if humanity is to have any chance of survival.

The change that has taken place in war has to do with technology.  Technology grows in power and reach at an ever increasing rate.  In particular, when it comes to weaponry and other technologies of destruction, the power to kills larger and larger numbers of people in less and less time is placed every year in the hands of a wider and wider circle of people.  With everything from biological warfare to nuclear explosives falling into the hands of terrorists, and with everything from bomb-making equipment to machine guns becoming readily available to average citizens, technology has made our world a very precarious place indeed.  And yet during the same time,  humanity has not experienced any great, worldwide moral leap forward that would allow us to shepherd such technology wisely, safely and with mercy.

“Ever-More Powerful Weapons”  X  “Neither Wiser Nor Better”  = “Inevitable Self-Annihilation”

So is there no solution?  The genie cannot be put back in the bottle, the advance of technology cannot be arrested.  But the direction of technological progress is in our hands.  As long as War remains a key feature of our mutual existence, technologies of destruction will continue to advance.  But if War can be eliminated, the development of new technology may shift towards more positive and peaceful objectives.

Given that we started this series of posts looking at the problem of unemployment, and that we’ve ended, not by solving it, but by taking on another, even more intractable problem, it may seem as though we’ve made no progress.  However, we’ve actually discovered something very important:  War is a wonderful employer, but it is killing us as a species –literally as well as figuratively.  So if can find something that will substitute for war without the downside of war, we will also have found our substitute for Consumerism –and our answer to the problem of unemployment as well.

Next week we’ll take a break to discuss the nature of reality, and then resume in two weeks with a new series on what it will take to solve the problem of war.