After surviving tragedy at the World Trade Center on 9-11-2001 (I escaped from building #5, which was engulfed in a fireball 30 to 45 minutes after I evacuated), I became driven to find out the underlying causes of that event. My studies took me toward subjects in sociology and political history as well as military history. I focused on varying proposals to right the wrongs of US military and social injustices that were being unleashed at home and in our foreign interventions abroad.
I have come to three conclusions: 1) We can’t count on social movements to rein in an empire that is galloping out of control; 2) Political revolution is too risky as an agent of change, as history shows; 3) A small number of specially trained personnel, beholden to no nation or corporation, offer the best chance for true change in this tortured world.
I long ago came to the conclusion that social movements as proposed by Noam Chomsky and others as bulwarks against injustice had never been feasible in any age let alone our current one, which is being rapidly being transformed by new technologies. As a senior software engineer professionally, I have yet to witness radical change being effected by aggregates of people brought together by technology. Instead, technology is being used to manipulate the masses while distracting them from their disempowerment.
Another inherent disadvantage to social movements is their lack of cohesiveness, which allows them to be co-opted by outside forces. A classic example of this was the 1960s anti-war movement that was infested with FBI informants.
A third disadvantage is that social movements cannot stop ongoing injustices and mayhem. The result is that thousands of people, and in the case of Iraq, hundreds of thousands, are left to suffer, often facing death from US interventionist policies of imperialism gone mad.
Revolution, a smoldering alternative to social movements, is the eventual consequence of a society in distress. Unfortunately, here too such counter-conflict often simply replaces one set of psychopathic rulers with another.
A classic example of this is the American Revolution, which did not promote democratic idealism or the welfare of the general public but in fact was an outgrowth of colonial elite desire to maintain and manage their wealth on their own terms. Rhetoric to the contrary, the American Revolution changed very little for the average colonist turned American citizen, while at the same time forcing British sympathizers to flee to Canada or return to England.
That the US Constitution was nothing more than an economic document has been demonstrated by Charles Beard, America’s greatest conservative historian of the 20th century, in a book published in 1913 and subsequently by two other historians in 1953 and in 2005. (For those of you interested in reading such material I have all three of these books and can refer the names upon request.) Indeed, the US Constitution is a fairly flimsy document that mostly parrots 17th-century English Common Law with a few twists.
Returning to my original contention regarding revolution, one would be hard pressed to find one that actually turned life around for the better for all concerned. The Russian Revolution in 1917 successfully changed the face of Russia for the better but was quickly turned into simply another extension of psychopathic power interests. First Lenin allowed the social organizations that successfully supported such a revolution to be disbanded and destroyed, then Stalin jockeyed for absolute power as Lenin closed in on his early death. Stalinist purges followed.
No more need be said here.
So in essence, two mechanisms that have been historically used to rectify injustice – social movements and political revolutions – are themselves either too weak to perform the necessary job or too destructive to merit consideration.
Despite this, there is an excellent example of a third option that has worked as far as it has been allowed to work. Americans haven’t heard anything about it because it’s in Cuba. In the 1950s, Fidel Castro engineered social change that prevented Cuba from being dominated and exploited by capitalism as sponsored and enforced by the US government. Refusing to be an American stooge, Castro paid the price of being a demonized Communist, the target of innumerable US assassination attempts.
Yes, Castro set up a government that ruled with an iron fist, but paradoxically it helped to safeguard the more important community democracies that flourished under his rule. Today, Cuban politics remain primarily at the community level and not at the federal one. That Cuba today is still close to its original 1956 form with strong support from its people is a testament to the longevity of such a project. It hasn’t been equaled in any quarter in the United States or its history.
Today, the citizens of the United States cannot hope to emulate such a radical change as occurred in Cuba. There is no reforming the current ruling powers. They are too corrupt.
How should the US be rebuilt, and who shall do it? I submit for your consideration the concept of a third alternative that supersedes those that have not proven to have enduring capacities, The Knights of Earth.
In the movie, “Star Wars,” the Jedi knights were not formed to rule but instead to ensure that those who did rule do so fairly and equitably.
If you can take a young man or woman and train them to be efficient killers, you can do the opposite as well, and train them to be efficient guardians of the public welfare. Selected students starting in middle-school would be trained in law, history, ethics, psychology, sociology, and compassion while being exposed to and taught what human cancers are and how they appear.
The US government now has men and women who have no ability to think in terms of the general welfare of the society they have been elected and appointed to serve. With the exception of those who are marginalized or eventually forced to leave, such as Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich, there is not a single member of Congress, the Judicial Branch, or the Executive Branch who has the general welfare of the nation as his or her first priority. Our elected officials have been completely co-opted by elites and powerful interests to serve their needs, not the needs of the people.
Surely we can do better than this. Instead of training Special Forces in killing, why not educate a new group of Knights in effective and humane law so they are grounded in what is fair and just? Such Knights would then be guardians to all. And they would have the power to remove judicially those elected officials who abuse their position for their own gain, while doing the same to those who seek to influence them.
There are those who will decry such a concept by claiming that such an organization could also be turned, but there are mechanisms that can be used to reduce the chances of this. For example, the psychology imbued in such young people would instill a moral code that stressed chivalry and compassion, not dominance and death.
There is evidence in history that this can be accomplished. The Knights Templar developed along similar lines. In their day they ruled much of medieval Europe until the Catholic Church stepped in and began disbanding them. One has to wonder what good the Church did for Europe compared to the Knights Templar.
The evidence I present is suggestive rather than conclusive. But if we don’t begin thinking toward alternative possibilities, we as a species will be truly lost.
Steve Naidamast is a senior software engineer by profession and a military historian by avocation.