Chapter One Why We Are Not (Necessarily) Doomed
On Feb 21, 2023, Vladimir Putin, the president of the Russian federation, announced that he would be submitting a bill to the Duma (Russian Congress) to formally withdraw his country from the last remaining nuclear arms limitation treaty between the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers.
The withdrawal was a formality.
Both parties had actually abandoned the treaty 3 years earlier when they halted inspections needed to verify compliance. The treaty was already dead. The announcement in 2023 was a formal acknowledgement of the death.
For three years, the governments formerly bound by this treaty could do anything they wanted. They just couldn’t do it openly. They were playing a game, pretending to have a treaty. Now, the charade was over. They could stop pretending and have as many nuclear weapons, including types of weapons that had formally been banned, as they wanted.
As a result of treaties that had existed for more than 50 years, more than 200,000 nuclear weapons had been ‘removed from service.’ The countries told their people that this made the world safer, as the ‘declared nuclear arsenals’ were smaller. But we might argue that even this was just a façade: The governments removed the cores of these devices and put both the cores and devices into storage. The bombs were still there. They could ‘put them back into the active arsenals’ by reassembling them.
But none of this matters anymore.
It is as if the treaties never existed.
Even if the governments that took these devices out of the active arsenals were serious and had totally destroyed the devices so they could never be brought into service again, they can now fire up assembly lines and start mass producing them.
Technology has advanced a great deal since these old devices were made, decades ago. The first generation of nuclear bombs—including the devices used against that vaporized Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were obsolete remnants of past technology less than 5 years after they were exploded. Second generation bombs, the simple ‘hydrogen bombs’ that we were raised to be afraid of, were replaced by third generation devices in the mid 1950s.
We don’t know how many generations of nuclear bombs have come and gone sense, because governments have learned it isn’t a good idea to give out this information to the public. But we can be sure that the bombs that military contractors are building today are cheaper, lighter, and more efficient than any that have existed before. They aren’t making them by hand, with custom built parts, like they did in the 1950s. They draw up the parts on computers, feed the specs into the machines, and stamp them out like cookies from a bakery.
Nuclear weapons are just one of many tools that can wipe out life here on earth, if the people who have incentives to make war unleashed them.
During COVID, governments developed new gene splicing techniques of fantastic complexity. They were doing this, or at least so they said, to manufacture MRNA vaccines. MRNA stands for ‘Messenger RNA’ and is a special kind of RNA that the nuclei of cells sends our to the cytoplasm to tell the structures in cytoplasm what proteins to make. The goal was to develop MRNA that would locate very specific DNA patterns in the nuclei of cells, attack them, and kill the cells that contain them.
Now that they have this technology, they can ‘weaponize’ it.
Who knows what kinds of MRNA weapons governments are developing?
How many other ‘super weapons’ do they have, or will they have, if they keep working on them.
Even if there were no super weapons, and we only considered the effects of ‘conventional weapons,’ war is more dangerous then ever before. In previous world wars, bombs were dropped by slow moving planes from great height, so most of them did not kill anyone. Now, bombs are so smart they can hit the radio antenna of the cell phone in your pocket. In fact, militaries now have guided bullets that can be fired from a gun: a tiny computer and three CCD ‘eyes’ and it can find its way to the center of your brain. Someday, people will laugh at the old war movies where constant machine gun fire wounds maybe one or two people a minute. Then they will get serious and say something like ‘yes, those were the good old days’ or ‘I only wish it were like that now.’
We all see the incredible effectiveness of modern ‘conventional’ warfare in the current conflicts. Armies can turn what had been a normal city, and may be hundreds of years old, into piles of rubble in an afternoon.
The ONLY Approach With Any Hope Of Working
War threatens the existence of the human race.
We aren’t going to be able to save ourselves with superficial tools.
The problems are structural.
We must deal with the structural causes.
We were born into societies that work according to very specific rules. The world is divided into entities that we were raised to call ‘countries.’ Each country has very specific internal rules that were created by the founders of that country or by the most recent group of people who took over (or otherwise gained control over) that setup its current rule system. The people of each country go to schools that teach them that the people who created the systems of their country did it all out of love and concern for them: they wanted them to have freedom, justice, liberty, equality, brotherhood, and all good things, so they created rules to make this happen. They didn’t want people messing up the system they created, so they set up safeguards to prevent it from being changed. The rules are fixed and the people in the country must accept them.
The leaders and rules of the countries work together to create a system of rules for the world as a whole that is often called ‘the principles of international law.’ The most important rule in this area is called the ‘rights of conquest.’ Any person or group that is able to conquer a part of the world has rights to make rules in the conquered area. Once they have conquered land, they can declare independence for the conquered area and make new rules for it, or they can incorporate the conquered territory into an existing country and extend the rules of that country to the conquered area.
Once the territory has been conquered, the conquerors have a right called ‘sovereignty’ over it. In current earth societies, sovereignty is the absolute and unquestioned right of all of the people who lead the entities called ‘countries.’ Sovereignty means ‘absolute and unlimited rights.’ It includes the right to use the land for anything, even things that have great potential to harm the world as a whole (say by spewing pollution into the common atmosphere) and even things that can destroy the entire planet (building nuclear arsenals). It includes the power to organize the economy to direct wealth that would otherwise be available to give the people better lives toward a military industrial complex that may well be larger than any other industry in that ‘country.’
This is the kind of society that exists on earth today.
This is one way to organize a society of sapient beings.
But it is not the only way.
Scientists estimate that our universe has somewhere around one septillion star systems. (This is 1025 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 systems.) If even in infinitesimally tiny percentage of these systems—say one in a billion or even one in a trillion—has intelligent life, there would still have to be more worlds inhabited by sapient beings than we could ever count.
Imagine you could travel to some of these other worlds and see what kinds of societies these beings had built. (To get the mental picture, imagine that you focus on the ones where the beings are humanoid and have the same size and physical form as we have; as most of the beings on the TV show ‘Star Trek’ have.)
What do you think you would find?
Do you think they would all work identically to the systems on earth?
Do you think that each of them would all divide their world into territorial units similar to the ‘countries’ on earth and accept the basic principle of the ‘right of conquest?’ Would their primary law—their prime directive if you will—be that of sovereignty and independence for the individual countries? Do you think they sit down with maps to draw lines and turn these imaginary lines on maps into real lines on their world, fortified with machine gun nests, land mines, and marked by razor blade covered wire that will cut any person or animal that tries to cross to shreds?
Is this the only way that sapient, intelligent, thinking beings can organize their existence?
Or, after you have looked at a few worlds that have these aggressive and violent societies, might you expect to find one that was built on logical and scientific principles? Might you expect to eventually find a world that was organized so that the people could work together with all other members of their race, without imaginary lines or borders to limit their options? Might you expect to find at least one that organized their land use policies so that they could keep the land healthy, so it would produce more, rather than rape it for resources to give them advantages in war?
Before you get too deeply into this thought experiment, consider that we know for an absolute fact that other kinds of societies are possible. We know this because other kinds of societies have existed even here on the single example of a world with sapient beings we have to study, the earth. Starting in 1492, waves of people called ‘conquers’ (conquistadors) went out from the Eurasian landmass (which had all been taken over by the ‘country based societies’ some time before) to conquer the rest of the world. Once the conquerors had taken control of an area, they destroyed all remnants of the civilization and culture that had been there before.
The people in the areas that were conquered in the waves of conquest that started in 1492 and continued until all significant vestiges of the other cultures were wiped out (about 1900 by our calendar) lived differently than the people who carried out the conquest. We know there were many millions of people living in the areas that were conquered; we also know that they had lived in these areas in societies that were dramatically different than the societies that conquered them for many thousands of years.
If we accept that the pre-conquest American people were true human beings, or even if we apply lower standards and call them ‘thinking beings’ (so we can compare them to possible thinking beings we might find on other words), we must accept that other ‘societies of thinking beings’ are possible. (Other than the societies we inherited.) We have only one example of a ‘world with thinking beings’ for study but, even with a single example to study, we must conclude that thinking beings are capable of organizing themselves/ourselves in different ways.
How many different kinds of societies are possible?
How do they all work?
Say we had a book that explained all societies that are possible for thinking beings with physical needs. Since the type of society we have now is a possible society. What if we could compare this type of society to the others? How would it compare? Do you think that objective analysts (perhaps scientists of societies that live on other inhabited worlds) would consider it to be the epitome of perfection, a model that a group of thinking beings forming a society would want to understand and follow to the letter, to make sure their system would work better than any other? Or do you think they would class it as the work of only partly-evolved beings, barely capable of understanding that they had the ability to manipulate key variables in their societies?
What if you could travel to many other worlds with intelligent life and study them. Once in a while, you would come across societies that operated like the earth societies of the 21st century operate. How do you think it would compare to the other societies you saw?
If we could study a great many societies, we would be in a position to be objective about the societies we inherited. We could compare them to other systems. But we really don’t need comparisons to accept that the societies that we have inherited have some very dangerous characteristics. They are violent, destructive, and dangerous. They give vent to and actively encourage incredibly dangerous behaviors. They not only tolerate destruction of the world around us, they encourage it with massive subsidies. (The book, Anatomy of Destruction, a part of this series, goes over these subsidies and shows how they work.) War has been a part of these societies since they first appeared, about 6,000 years ago, on this world. These societies clearly have some sort of structural forces that push toward organized, planned, intentional, and well funded and virtually endless orgies of mass murder and destruction.
We can’t leave these structures in place and expect to ever eliminate war.
If we ever want a world without these organized wars, or even a world where the wars don’t threaten our race, we must deal with the structural issues.
What is War ?
Anatomy of War is a part of a series of books about possible societies.
I deals with the ‘anatomy’ or internal forces that work to create a very specific kind of conflict. I will not define ‘war’ formally here, but I want to describe it:
War, as the term is used here, is a violent conflict carried out by large groups of people with the organizations commonly called ‘countries’ behind them. (Two or more entities that claim to be or aspire to be ‘countries.’) War is a well organized activity that is planned long in advance. War, as the term is used here, is always an extremely expensive activity and it requires a large and well organized funding system (normally a taxation system) to support.
Not all violent conflicts meet this description.
Humans, and thinking beings in general, may disagree about many things. They may be stubborn and refuse to back down. They may get emotional and instincts may kick in that push them to want to kill the people on the other side of the dispute. Families can have feuds that can last generations and lead to the death of hundreds of people. Gentlemen may have duels to the death. Gangs can have rumbles. Sports fans may riot against fans supporting other teams, and hundreds may be killed. These are not wars, as the term is used here. Many different kinds of violent conflicts that are not wars can take place and altering the structures of society will not be able to end all disputes or conflicts. However, only societies with certain very specific structures can have ‘wars’ as the term is used above.
I do not and will not claim that there is some sort of a magic wand that, if waved, will cause people to never disagree. As long as we have individual minds, we will disagree.As long as people are resolved, or stubborn, these disagreements will occasionally lead to violent conflict. I do not claim we can change this. I do claim, however, that the kinds of conflicts that threaten the human race at this time—the ‘wars’ as the term is described above—do not have to be a part of the human experience. These conflicts have very specific causes that we can identify and eliminate.
Territorial Sovereignty Societies In Nature
We did not choose the conditions of our birth. We were born on a world at a time after certain key decisions had been made and certain key structures built. We didn’t choose the type of society that would be in place when we were born. The books in this series use the term ‘territorial sovereignty societies’ to refer to societies built on the idea of dividing the areas with this society into individual territories which are then considered to be totally independent with the ability to make decisions without having to consider the rights of any people outside of that territory, the rights of future generations, or the needs of their race as a whole. This kind of absolute independence and total authority is called ‘sovereignty.’ In territorial sovereignty societies, the people of each territory claim to have and use militaries to enforce their sovereignty over that territory.
The next chapter shows that humans are not the only earth beings with territorial sovereignty societies. It goes over studies that show that other animals, including our closest evolutionary ancestors, organize their existence around the exact same principles. Of course, since these other animals don’t have the power to speak and express any ideas or principles, they don’t have formal statements that humans have to describe their system. (For example, they don’t have written signs that tell other members of their species that if they cross certain lines they may be killed; they don’t have uniforms that identify the border patrollers or ‘treaties’ that describe the behaviors that will be punished by death.) But observers watching them can easily see that they are clearly working to mark and protect a certain territory with firm borders; they then organize patrols to detect members of their species that are not members of their troop/clan/tribe/nation who may threaten their absolute rights to their territory. Once they have done identified threats, they organize parties to track down and attack the individuals they think of as threats. When these battles take place, it is clear to observers that they are willing to give their own lives, if necessary, to make sure they send a message to any members of their own species that are on the other side of the line: They use their teeth, claws, rocks, sticks, or whatever weapons they have to tear these other individuals to pieces.
When we compare the territoriality and warfare activities of humans with the same features in our closest evolutionary ancestors, it is hard to accept that the first humans to have evolved on this world invented these societies intentionally. In other words, it would be hard to make an argument that ancient ancestors, upon becoming ‘human’ for the first time, used their newfound reason and logical thought capabilities to sort through all possible societies they could form, rate them and compare them, then decided they wanted to have territorial sovereignty societies. Most likely, this did not happen.
Most likely, as they went through the final stages of evolution, the basic features of the societies of their evolutionary ancestors remained in place. As they grew more intelligent, they were able to build better tools. But they still felt the pressure to have territorial identity (called ‘patriotism’ in humans), to build borders, and to inflict painful deaths on any who violated the rights their instincts told them they had over the territories that their ancestors had marked. As they evolved, they developed better and better weapons to wipe out the ones on the other sides of the lines. They gained the ability to express the things their instincts or mental wiring made them feel: They could say they were attacking the outsiders because the outsiders were horrible. monsters, full of hate, and would destroy them if they could. They were fighting for their own land. When they were intelligent to work out formal principles of religion, they could justify and rationalize their feelings that a part of the world belonged to them: they could claim that whoever or whatever created the land had a destiny in mind for it and made this destiny manifest by giving the groups that were supposed to have the land the ability to take it from the ones that weren’t supposed to have it.
It is possible that this is how we got the societies we have now: we may have inherited them from our evolutionary ancestors.
Regardless of the way we got them, however, we must now realize that we can’t keep them forever. The basic conditions of these societies are unsustainable. We can’t keep attacking and killing people who have done nothing to harm us, and whose only ‘crime’ was being born on the wrong side of an imaginary line, with ever more powerful weapons, forever. We can’t keep raping the world with ever more efficient tools, then use these tools to wipe out the people outside of lines (which will always be the majority of the human race) forever. The conditions of these societies can’t be sustained. That is what unsustainable means. These societies are going away. Even if we loved them with all our hearts, even if we were wiling to overlook the incredible inefficiency of these societies (we can obviously have more wealth if we cooperate than fight), even if we are willing to accept the millions of yearly deaths as a kind of populating control method, even if we don’t mind the pollution and the need to watch our loved ones die of cancer and other diseases caused by the toxins in our air, water, and land, we still can’t keep these societies forever. We either replace them with sound societies or they destroy us. Those are our only two choices.
Some General Information
Anatomy of War is a part of a series of books about the nature of societies of ‘thinking beings with physical needs.’
Other books in this series go over the topics related to the structural aspects of societies. The book Possible Societies deals with the structural aspects of societies of thinking beings with physical needs in general. The book Forensic History goes over the evidence we have about the way our solar system came to exist, the way life came to exist on this world, the way the human race evolved from other life forms, the way early human societies worked, and the way these societies changed to become the societies we live in now.
The book ‘Preventing Extinction’ is basically an extension of the processes described in forensic history. We are on a certain path through time. Our ancestors have made certain choices that put us into a certain place. This is where we are. If they had made other choices, we would be somewhere else. In other words, there are various different paths that could have been taken through time, depending on the decisions people in the past made. We can’t alter the past, so we can’t magically move ourselves from the path our ancestors put us on to some other path. We must decide where we want to go from here. As Preventing Extinction shows, the people who put us on this path want were arrogant (as are all humans) and thought they knew what was best. They wanted to set a course into the future and make rules that require us to stay on that course, no matter where it leads.
They naturally wanted us to think of them as wise. They want us to think that they knew what was best for us and we have an obligation to them to respect their wishes and do what they say. But, if we are realistic, we have to concede that they were ignorant.
They couldn’t see where the road they put us on led. We can now see that it leads to the end of our race forever. If we stay on this road, nothing we do now has any meaning. In fact, once we are gone, nothing we have ever done has any meaning. If we want human existence to have any meaning at all, we need to understand that there are other paths. We need to know where these other paths go and we need to know how to get onto one of these other paths, one that takes us to some other destination.
The book Possible Societies is about the other paths. It deals with the topic of ‘types of societies of thinking beings with physical needs’ in general.
The book Preventing Extinction is about our specific situation. We didn’t choose the circumstances of our birth. We were born into suicidal societies. If we want to avoid extinction, we have to do two things:
Step One: Allowing Ourselves to have Hope
First, we have to make structural changes. We have to understand that the societies that we inherited are not capable of meeting our needs. We have to understand that they are temporary societies (another word for ‘unsustainable’) and that they are going away, one way or the other. We have to understand that we have other options and we have to know what they are. We have to know where we will go, if we move from the path we are on now to some other path. We have to know that it is possible to have societies that are sound and capable of meeting our needs. And, finally, we have to know that it is possible for us to get from the societies we inherited to sound societies.
This state of mind—the state of knowing we can survive—is a crucial part of the solution.
When I talk to people around me, I find this is totally lacking.
People not only don’t believe we can survive, they want to fight me when I try to convince them it is possible. They seem to want to believe there is no hope for us.
I have tried to understand why people would want to believe we are doomed, and fight anyone who tries to convince them otherwise, and think I have an answer:
As long as we don’t allow ourselves to have any hope, we don’t have to feel guilty. If solutions are not possible, and couldn’t be figured out by anyone, we are not to blame for not figuring them out ourselves. If nothing can be done, we don’t have to feel guilty for doing nothing.
The belief that nothing can be done protects us. We must wear it like armor and never let anyone penetrate it. If people try to tell us that things can be done, we must attack them to protect ourselves. If we ever let ourselves accept even a tiniest part of their argument, we can no longer classify ourselves as being the good guys when we sit back and do nothing. If anything can be done, and we have hid behind a delusion to the contrary, then we become a part of the problem.
This is my guess about why people work so hard to fight any evidence that shows it might be possible for the human race to not go extinct: It is a self defense mechanism.
There are two steps we must take if we are to avoid extinction. The first step is, by far, the hardest: we must overcome this mindset.
We must stop fighting hope.
Preventing Extinction explains the technical steps that would take us to sound societies. They aren’t particularly difficult. They don’t even need to bring about any dramatic changes right away: we are not destroying the path we are on now and then looking for something else, we are simply shifting our course so we move toward a different goal. It isn’t hard to actually solve the problems, or wouldn’t be, if we were willing to actually take the task seriously and approach it with the right perspective. A serious person, trying to reach a goal, would outline the project, figure out exactly what had to be done in what sequence. Look around you and talk to people: If they truly believed it was possible for us to survive, they would have looked for ways to make this happen. I don’t see any plans. I don’t even see speculation. This is evidence of a total and complete lack of hope.
We might compare this to the goal of ‘sending a man to the moon and bringing him back again safely to earth.’ Is this possible? For most of history, no one seemed to take this question seriously. It was so far from anything they conceived as possible that they didn’t even try to figure out what had to be done to make it happen. The lack of a plan is, by itself, evidence of the lack of any real hope it could be done. In 1962, scientists convinced President Kennedy it could be done. The technologies needed didn’t exist at that time. But humans are very ingenious. If we truly believe it can be done, and put our resources to work doing it, we can make incredible things happen. On September 9, 1962, he told the world he had been convinced. It could be done and would be done. Further, he wouldn’t just try to do it and hope for success. He would commit to get it done on or before the last day of December of 1969. Once people accepted it could be done, they went to work. They solved millions of incredibly complicated technical problems. They invented new technology. They created new tools and sciences. The landing took place on July 7, 1969, exactly 2,500 days after the announcement.
The hard part is accepting it is possible. Until people accept it is possible, they won’t try. Once they have accepted this, however, all we have to do is figure out a series of steps to be taken and obstacles to be overcome. Then we put one foot in front of the other and get there. This is what humans do very, very well: make progress toward a clearly defined goal that we know is reachable.
There are two steps that must be taken to prevent extinction for our race. The first step is the hard one: we must let ourselves have hope that it can be done.
Step Two: Problems We Must Begin To Make Progress On Quickly If We Are To Avoid Extinction.
We live in societies that have very serious structural problems that push us continually toward war. We don’t have to solve every single one of those problems, and have them signed off and inspected by historians to verify they are totally and completely gone to survive as a race. Most of the problems of the societies we inherited do not directly threaten our existence in the immediate future. If we accept that we can have societies without them, and move in the right direction, it won’t matter if they aren’t completely and totally gone in a few years, decades, or even centuries.
There are two exceptions.
The societies that we inherited have two problems that are currently so serious that we can’t sit back and wait centuries for them to be disappear, as the structural problems that cause them disappear. We need to understand the forces behind these specific problems so we can step in and make real changes that reduce the severity of these problems enough to allow the long-term changes to take place.
These problems are:
1. Environmental destruction.
Two of the books in these series break away from the general tone of the series (involving the nature of structural changes needed to create sound societies) and deal with these specific issues.
Anatomy of Destruction
Anatomy of Destruction deals specifically with the forces that push us to rape the world around us of its resources and spew such massive amounts of filth and pollution into its air, water, and onto its land that we can watch its health decline day by day. Imagine a group of objective scientists on another world watching this activity on earth what would they think about it? The earth people have no where to go if their world can’t support their life anymore. If they destroy it, they are all dead. What kind of craziness would cause them to destroy the only world available to them?
If we want to understand this, we need to look at the details of the societies we inherited. We need to see that they have structural problems that force our hand and basically make us do these things. In other words, we are basically victims of the societies we inherited: they are in charge, not us and we do what they say, not the other way around.
If we can accept that other societies are possible we can start making a transition to these other societies. But the basic forces that push us to destroy will remain in place. If we want to survive, we can’t wait until all of these forces have faded away and are gone. We need to understand that the societies we have inherited from our ancestors have these forces. We must understand how these forces work and push us to do things that we otherwise wouldn’t do. We have to understand the anatomy of the forces that push toward destruction. If we understand this, we can work out ways to counter these forces so we reduce the amounts of destruction.
These changes won’t eliminate the destruction, at least not by themselves. But, if we understand these forces well enough, we can reduce the rates of destruction. Nature has certain forces that work to counter the impact of destruction. (For example, forests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replace it with oxygen. When we burn fossil fuels, we take oxygen out of the atmosphere and replace it with carbon dioxide. Nature’s restorative powers counter our destructive activities.) If we can reduce the destruction enough, and increase the ability of nature to restore itself enough, we can get to a point where we can, at least, keep the most serious environmental problems we face from getting worse while the structural changes have a chance to work.
Anatomy of War
Warfare does not benefit the human race as a whole. It is the wholesale destruction of wealth. Weapons of war are fantastically expensive because they require fantastic amounts of labor, skills, talents, and resources to make. Most of the time, the weapons are destroyed at their very first use. The shells for the ‘HARMS’ artillery now in use in the Eastern Europe war cost $417,000 each. Each can only be used once, and it is destroyed. Even if these devices are wildly successful in their use, they don’t create a single penny’s worth of wealth: their only purpose is to kill and destroy.
The entities called ‘governments’ take money away from people who are raising children. (Almost all taxes are paid by ordinary working people), leaving them poorer. We then use this money to build devices that each cost more than a standard single family home each. (In other words, the wealth used to build each shell would have been enough to build a very nice family home that would have lasted many generations.) They then shoot this missile in the general direction of the people we want to kill. The desired outcome: the explosion destroys some building that people have invested heavily in and kills a large number of people, preferably people with skills and talents that may be used by the other side. The entire process makes the human race poorer.
We don’t do engage in war to improve our world or make our existence better off.
We do it for other reasons.
What are these reasons?
What are the technical factors that push us toward war?
If we want to interfere in some way, to deal with these factors, we need to know what they are. That is what Anatomy of War is about.
I want to give you a short example so you can have some idea about the approach this will take. We all know that the societies we live in divide the human race into classes. The members of one of these classes, the ‘working class,’ have to get jobs (work) to get incomes: without work, they have no income and can’t support their families. We also know that people who run businesses are always looking for ways to replace human workers with machines. The machines do the work more consistently, they can almost always do it much faster with fewer mistakes; they never need bathroom breaks and don’t have to shut down to eat or sleep. They never go on strike or complain about healthcare or dangerous working conditions. Almost always, if it is possible to replace workers with machines, production costs fall, quality improves, and profit margins soar.
The societies we live in do not have any mechanism to let the majority class (the working class) benefit from these changes. In fact, they are harmed by these changes: anything that reduces the number of available jobs harms them. If they are thrown out of work, they have to compete for work by taking it away from someone else. Generally, they can only ‘steal jobs’ by offering to work for less money. As jobs disappear, wages fall and workers suffer.
If this happens on a large scale, the entire economy can collapse: If wages fall, the entire working class has less to spend. They spend less and producers have to cut production. They obviously cut the most expensive processes first, and this usually means the processes that require the most labor. They lay off more and more workers. This drives wages down and down. With falling wages and high unemployment, the spending of the majority class collapses. Producers now can’t even sell essential products, like food, because the people who need these things don’t have any money. During the most recent global depression, millions of farmers had to abandon their land because they couldn’t get enough money from their crops to cover the cost of shipping it to markets. With no plants to hold the soil, it blew away, creating giant dust clouds that covered the entire globe and blocked out the sun for weeks on end.
The people who run societies know this can happen. They want to prevent it. They need to find ways to create jobs, reduce the population of the working class, or both. Wars do both. By the mid 1930s, politicians in some areas actually campaigned on the promise of war: they would pull their countries out of the depression by enlisting massive armies and equipping them with very expensive arms. Millions of working-age men would go to war and never come back. Each million dead soldiers meant one million fewer people were unemployed. The people were solidly behind these politicians and put them into power. They did what they had promised they would do and started war.
Unemployment was very high in the depths of the depression. Official figures give rates of 30% or more in some areas, but these figures were probably far lower than the actual numbers. Most of the unemployed were homeless. They lived in the margins and weren’t counted. When the war started (the war that was to eventually become the second world war), there were now jobs. But so many people were unemployed that people lined up for miles to get the few jobs that became available. As long as unemployment was very high, wages couldn’t go up very much because any job, even one with very low pay, is better than nothing. But as more people got jobs, they could start to buy things they hadn’t been able to afford before. People could reopen the factories and start making things again. There were more and more jobs. The people who ran the systems could see there was some effect, but not enough to pull the world out of the depression. The wars expanded. Unemployment fell even more. Anyone who looks at charts of unemployment compared to conflict can see a relationship. Wars reduce unemployment. Eventually, the wars expanded enough that the countries with the most aggressive policies were able to function as they had before the depression started.
The leaders of neighboring countries could see a stark contrast. Their country was still in the depression. People were living in homeless camps alongside of rivers; they wore rags and ate whatever they could scavenge or steal. In some camps, disease or hypothermia carried off dozens of people each night. These was no safety or security: if you had something, you became a target for the bandits.
The countries that were at war had humming factories. The people who worked at the factories had housing. They could afford clothes, blankets, healthcare, and food for their children. They wanted what their neighbors had. They could get it easily: join the war. Country after country joined the war. Which ‘side’ should they be on? If you look at the maps, you can see that this doesn’t seem to have been very important to them: the leaders switched sides often. As long as the war was happening, their people had jobs and could afford necessities.
The people who run the entities called ‘countries’ in societies built on territorial sovereignty have a great many forces that push them toward war. If we want to understand how to deal with the problem of war, we have to understand these forces.
Anatomy of War is about the different forces that push toward war in the societies we inherited.
Summary of Chapter
We didn’t choose the conditions of our birth. We were born into very dangerous, violent, and destructive societies. No matter what happens, these societies are not going to be around much longer. If we can come to understand other systems, we can make changes that put us onto a path to societies that can meet our needs. If we don’t, these societies will disappear when we disappear.
I don’t claim to know what people want. When I try to talk to other people to find out, I find I am not on the same mental wavelength as the people around me. To me, the issue is quite simple: if we want to survive as a race, we need to start thinking about how we can make this happen. We need to look at the details of the societies we inherited to see why they operate as the do. We need to figure out other systems. We don’t have to actually adopt a new system or do anything dramatic right away, we only have to understand what other systems look like so we can figure out what steps we would have to take to start moving in the right direction.
Once we can accept that it is possible for us to move to sound systems, we can have hope.
We can start working on details.
We can determine the anatomy of war-driven societies in general. We can determine the very specific forces that push toward war. We can find ways to deal with these forces and keep them under control until the structural changes we have made have had time to have an effect.
The problem of war is not a trivial problem. It will destroy us, with absolutely certainty, if it remains in place long enough. We can’t solve it without understand why it happens. We have to understand the details of the forces that push the particular race that happens to dominate the world as of the current era of history to do these truly horrible things. We have to understand the Anatomy of War . That is what this book is about.