October 17th, 2010

S.C. Hickman

Cultural Paranoia - Part VI Interlude: War or Peace? Rise of Civilization

"The discovery of Caral challenged the accepted beliefs. Some historians were not ready to believe that an urban civilization existed in Peru even before the pyramids were built in Egypt."
             - Ruth Shady Solis, On Discovering Caral

The ancient city of Caral  in the Supe Valley of Peru is the oldest known civilization in the South Americas-
at 2,627 BC– much older than the Harappa Valley towns and the pyramids of Egypt. The strangest aspect of the find was that it went against excepted belief by most historians and archaeologists that all complex civilizations were built and defined by war. As Solis said: "This place is somewhere between the seat of the gods and the home of man," she says, adding that Caral was a gentle society, built on trade and pleasure. "This great civilization was based on trade in cotton. Caral made the cotton for the nets, which were sold to the fishermen living near the coast. Caral became a booming trading center and the trade spread." What she had discovered is that this mother city of cities was born in peace and trade, not war, and that it lasted a 1000 years.

As Solis dug deeper into this grand civilization she came upon a burial of a small infant, and feared that it might have been a sacrifice: "At first they thought they'd found a personal object, perhaps an ornament. When they looked closer they could see it was a reed basket. It had lain under the floor of a house for nearly five thousand years. When Ruth cleaned the dust away she found something much more disturbing inside: human bones. They'd stumbled upon the body of a small child, perhaps even a baby. Suddenly it raised the frightening possibility. Perhaps the people of Caral started a tradition which was to be common in later civilizations in the Americas: human sacrifice. Perhaps Caral was not a civilization of peace and happiness after all, perhaps it was brutal and held together not by trade, but fear. It became vital to find out how this child had died. Was it really a victim of some barbaric practice? The body was sent back to the labs for analysis and with it the objects found buried alongside. Ruth was surprised to see the baby had been placed in the foetal position before being buried and even more surprised to see the body had been carefully wrapped in several layers of fine cloth. Alongside the body were small stones. They'd been carefully polished and holes drilled through their center. They had to be beads, perhaps of a necklace. Then they examined the bones. They were of a two month old baby and then, slowly, each bone was examined for signs of violence, but there were none. They suspected this child had died of natural causes. it had been lovingly prepared for burial. This first citizen of American civilization was not a sacrifice, but a much loved child. Caral really had been a city of peace after all, so this is the real story of Caral. In the desert a city of pyramids arose built on riches gained peacefully through trade. It spawned a civilization that lasted unbroken for more than four thousand years. It is a story that may yet contain the answer to archeology's greatest question: why human beings crossed the great divide from the simple to the civilized?"    read more...

So if the first great civilization on our planet was born out of peace and trade, then how did we devolve into a global civilization based on permanent war and struggle? Historians and conspiracy theorists have had their own answers to this question. So now we will turn to an understanding of war and how it became the center of our world system rather than peace and trade.

It appears that war began in Sumer and Egypt, and that the ideology undepinning its rise within the order of civilization was based upon the merger of political and religious power and institutions. As one historian states it: "The aggregation of large numbers of people into complex societies required that those living within them refocus their allegiances away from the extended family, clan, and tribe, and toward a larger social entity, the state. This psychological change was facilitated by the rise of religious castes that gave meaning to the individual's life beyond a parochial context. Organized belief systems were integrated into the social order and given institutional expression through public rituals that linked religious worship to political and military objectives that were national in scope and definition. Thus, the Egyptian pharaoh became divine, and military achievements of great leaders were perceived as divinely ordained or inspired. In this manner the terribly propulsive power of religion was placed at the service of the state and its armies." read more...

So the strange and twisted tale of war, religion, and the divine right of kings became the central motif in a long and sordid history of bloodshed and tyranny advanced by that oldest of institutions: the State.

Murray Rothbard once stated an axiom:

"The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that no one may threaten or commit violence ("aggress") against another man's person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commints such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a non-aggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory." read more...

Lewis Mumford described the institution of the State as a coercive force in the making of civilization as a megamachine—a machine using humans as its components. These organizations comprise Mumford's stage theory of civilization. The most recent Megamachine manifests itself, according to Mumford, in modern technocratic nuclear powers—Mumford used the examples of the Soviet and US power complexes represented by the Kremlin and the Pentagon, respectively. The builders of the Pyramids, the Roman Empire and the armies of the World Wars are prior examples.

He explains that meticulous attention to accounting and standardization, and elevation of military leaders to divine status are spontaneous features of megamachines throughout history. He cites such examples as the repetitive nature of Egyptian paintings which feature enlarged Pharaohs and public display of enlarged portraits of dictators such as Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin. He also cites the overwhelming prevalence of quantitative accounting records among surviving historical fragments, from ancient Egypt to Nazi Germany.

Necessary to the construction of these megamachines is an enormous bureaucracy of humans which act as "servo-units", working without ethical involvement. According to Mumford, technological improvements such as remote control by satellite or radio, instant global communication, and assembly line organizations dampen psychological barriers against the end result of their actions. An example which he uses is that of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi official who conducted logistics behind the Holocaust. Mumford collectively refers to people willing to carry out placidly the extreme goals of these megamachines as "Eichmanns".

David Watson recently stated that this megamachine, technology-as-a-system "is not a tool but an environment—a totality of means enclosing us in its automatism of need, production and exponential development." He sees it as a death machine:

"Technology—systematized, “rationalized” mass technics—is more than the sum of its parts; this totality undermines human independence, community and freedom, creating mass beings who are creatures of the universal apparatus, standardized subjects who derive their meaning from the gigantic networks of “mass communication”: a one-way barrage of mystification and control. Even those ostensibly directing the machines are themselves its creatures, each one isolated in a compartment of the giant, opaque hive, so such “control” is ambiguous. The conspiratorial notion of “technocracy” is inadequate, if not entirely outmoded. The blind, centrifugal complexity of the system defies conscious control, coming more and more to resemble a locomotive with no throttle hurtling toward an abyss." read more...

The technocratic elite represented best by Zbigniew Brezinski in his book Between Two Ages: America's role in the Technotronic Age clarified the thrust of the State and its role in the Megamachine:

"The new reality, however, will not be that of a "global village." McLuhan's striking analogy overlooks the personal stability, interpersonal intimacy, implicitly shared values, and traditions that were important ingredients of the primitive village. A more appropriate analogy is that of the "global city"—a nervous, agitated, tense, and fragmented web of interdependent relations. That interdependence, however, is better characterized by interaction than by intimacy. Instant communications are already creating something akin to a global nervous system. Occasional malfunctions of this nervous system—because of blackouts or breakdowns —will be all the more unsettling, precisely because the mutual confidence and reciprocally reinforcing stability that are characteristic of village intimacy will be absent from the process of that "nervous" interaction.

"Increasingly, the intellectual elites tend to think in terms of global problems. One significant aspect of this process is the way in which contemporary dilemmas are identified: the need to overcome technical backwardness, to eliminate poverty, to extend international cooperation in education and health, to prevent overpopulation, to develop effective peacekeeping machinery.  These are all global issues. Only thirty years ago they were simply not in the forefront of public attention, which was riveted at the time on much more specific regional, national, or territorial conflicts.

"The technetronic revolution creates conditions that increasingly make possible global responses to these needs and to human suffering in general. Indeed, a rudimentary framework of global social and economic institutions has already taken shape. 

"The availability of the means to cooperate globally intensifies the sense of obligation to act. Conscience is easily pacified by a feeling of futility. An uneasy conscience is usually one that knows that it can act differently. The sense of proximity, the immediacy of suffering, the globally destructive character of modern weapons all help to stimulate an outlook that views mankind as a community.

"Though the objective of shaping a community of the developed nations is less ambitious than the goal of world government, it is more attainable. It is more ambitious than the concept of an Atlantic community but historically more relevant to the new spatial revolution. Though cognizant of present divisions between communist and noncommunist nations, it attempts to create a new framework for international affairs not by exploiting these divisions but rather by striving to preserve and create openings for eventual reconciliation. Finally, it recognizes that the world's developed nations have a certain affinity, and that only by nurturing a greater sense of communality among them can an effective response to the increasing threat of global fragmentation—which itself intensifies the growing worldwide impatience with human inequality—be mounted."

The whole movement from the early city-states with their god-kings, to nations ruled by divine right, to a global community goverened by a cabal of enlightened elite for the greater good of all is at the heart of both historical and conspiratorial forms of thought and ideology. The difference is in the critical appraisal of these facts. Historians see it as just a part of the progress of humanity moving from tribes and clans, toward trade and commerce within the nexus of planetary existence. Conspiracy theorists on the other hand see it as all part of some grand plot, a manichean battle between hidden forces of good and evil behind the history of the human race being played out on the world stage.

The late Professor Ioan P. Couliano in Eros and Magic in the Renaissance stated that the great manipulators in history have been the magician, physician, prophet, psychoanalyst, and in our era the public relations experts:

"Nowadays the magician busies himself with public relations, propaganda, market research, sociological surveys, publicity, information, counterinformation and misinformation, censorship, espionage, and even cryptogrphy- a science which in the sixteenth century was a branch of magic. This key figure of our society is simply an extension of Bruno's manipulator, continuing to follow his principles and taking care to give them a technical and impersonal turn of phrase. Historians have been wrong concluding that magic disappeared with the advent of "quantitiative science". The latter has simply substituted itself for a part of magic while extending its dreams and its goals by means of technology.

"Technology, it can be said, is a democratic magic that allows everyone to enjoy the extraordinary capabilities of which the magician used to boast." (p. 104)

He goes on to tell us that in our time the great manipulator "takes upon himself the task of dispensing to subjects a suitable education and religion... Supervision and selection are the pillars of order. It is not necessary to be endowed with imagination to understand that the fuction of Bruno's manipulator has been taken into account by the State and that this new "integral magician" has been instructed to produce the necessary idological instruments with the view of obtaining a uniform society." (p. 105)

He sadly sees us moving from a fascistic police state totalitarianism toward a benign Brave New World of humanity controlled and manipulated by infotainment, drugs, and mediatainment empires and systems of global coercian in which we are all bound in a hyperreal world community based upon technology and eros. And, sadly, those who do not particpate in it will be eliminated, as he was by a fatal shot.