Recently, a question was asked in a class that I am a teaching assistant for, fundamentals of technology in Georgetown's Communication, Culture & Technology graduate program. The student wondered, almost marveled, at the power of war to birth technologies - does war not push humanity forward? All the ingenious inventions as a result of the impetus of warfare. Must warfare not be a key component of human technology? After all, war seems to have been with us for some time and it seems here to stay...
This question touches on many patterns in my mind which correspond to many patterns in the world that I have been studying in my yet young existence. And just now I found a powerful talk by Samar Habib on the macro-history of warfare that inspired me to write this attempt at a response to the student's question and an appeal to you. I hope to create a small space here where you can reconsider what your options really are in this world, for so often the buzz of culture can make us feel that our world is permanent rather than constructed in part by you.
Technology is a reflection of human agency. It goes where intention demands. It destroys what fear wants gone. The technologies of death are on a trajectory: from the start of warfare the desire has been to distance the death dealer from the consequences of their dealing. To let the user deal death maximally while also staying alive maximally. So we will have iron man suits and robots and such in the future - the modules are lining up nicely these days for both remote piloted and embodied styles of mechanical soldiers to emerge and then get iterated upon in the next decades.
Humans in the war mindset certainly do breed technologies, whole legions of clever solutions to neutralize and kill others. Yet always it is the humans birthing the technologies and humans waging the war.
Today in our world huge populations of brilliant minds and trillions of dollars are spent to create ever more elaborate technologies of death. Ever more clever ways to find even single humans and neutralize their agency - "because they might one day try to harm us" the logic now goes.
Fear becomes evil when it drives you to act against a fellow person's agency. The leaders who wage wars on terror are mirror loops with the terror they try to fight. A war fought to end war only breeds universal warfare.
When the Manhattan Project yielded the world's first atomic bomb, Oppenheimer was reminded of a line in Hindu scripture, where Vishnu appears before a human prince and transforms, revealing his godly form proclaiming "now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."
War is a stance of fear and there is no wisdom in fear. There is much cleverness, but no wisdom. Do you create out of fear? Do you create just to be cleverer than an enemy? Likely you create the things in your life for a much different reason; your reason is perhaps a path to genuine wisdom. Why then do you accept leaders who are so unwise?
War does not breed technologies, humans do. Technology reflects the desires of the humans who craft it, or in this world we live where some humans control the actions of others, the desire of the humans who have the money. Is war worth clever gadgets? Must we suffer technologies of death to keep inventing technologies of communication, creation, and health support?
I believe that there are other ways. I know that we will need to find them if we are to survive. We are one species, we are one planet. An organism at war with itself is doomed. Are we become death, destroyer of our world? Or can we find a new vision for ourselves where courage triumphs over fear? I believe the journey before us is one of self-healing. Where each of us can realize the beauty in difference and the wonder of discovery.
A world view continues to exist that sees the world as a single body, one which deserves loving health not fearful anxious destruction. You and I and all humans, all life on this earth, are part of one system: a mote of dust floating in a sea of eternity.
We begin as one, and then learn to segment and divide our minds, while our bodies remain as one with the earth we are made from. A body at war with itself has cancer. Fear of the other is the cancer of the human spirit. Love and tolerance is the antidote.
Come ye fellow creatures, stir from our caves of fear! Look upon the world we are one with and you will know that you and everyone belongs, you and everything is connected. We are a way for the Universe to know itself. We are a way for the universe to express fear and love. We can choose which is expressed most. It is time we took that awesome responsibility seriously.
If a would-be leader is advocating war and segregation as solutions, turn away from them for they are too cowardly to be a true leader. A true leader has the courage to forge new paths. A true leader has the courage to embrace the wisdom of diversity, the immensity of possibilities by which people may express themselves. A true leader knows that respect of others is the key long term survival, since through diversity we find the beneficial adjacent possibles. Through diversity the cosmos dances its long flow of change.
Real courage is not taking stances against others, that is always cowardice no matter how much chest-puffing the Putins and Trumps and Hitlers get up to in order to convince you otherwise. Do you consider a person who hurts himself to be strong? Then why do you consider leaders who would hurt humanity to be strong? You and I are part of one global organism. All is dependent upon the other. Real courage, real leadership, comes from those who embrace the changing flow of time, not those who would try to stop it. Real courage is found in love.
We fight because we are scared and we are scared because we fight. Yet we have the gift to see the source. No war will ever end war, only peace will do that. "Human nature" is no excuse, for we are humans and we are nature and thus it is within our power to shape our nature. Just look at the cities and religions all around us. It is time for humanity to own up to our power and embrace loving compassion for ourselves and the world that birthed us. There is another way than fighting, will we have the courage to choose peace? I believe so. I see in us great courage, I hope we can see it in ourselves.