Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Public education

Understanding war and peace in a systems sense is grasping the outcomes and the factors that produce it. The US is part of the global war system; indeed, it ranks 85th on the Global Peace Index and, if anything, is destined to slip as other places begin to see the realpolitik of peace and change their institutions to seek it.

“In systems theory, attention is given to the role of social learning and culture in the way in which social systems change” (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, & Miall, 2005, p. 46). That social learning is happening elsewhere and seems to be passing us by. Obama spends more on war than any president since FDR. John Roberts runs a court more concerned by far with spreading guns amongst Americans who shoot each other or themselves at a rate of just about 2,500 per month. Congress fights tooth and nail against health care as an American right, only 'reforming' itself by forcing another 23 million of us to purchase private insurance from corporations. Where is the social learning?

In the US, reliance upon guns and bombs, military bases and threats of violence, reveals a surrealpolitik in an era of oil pollution, economic recession and redundant proofs of the nonsustainable path of war. And where is the social learning about oil? We are incurring the wrath of Muslims and Mother Nature alike through our dysfunctional addictions and somehow seem to believe that the laws of the universe just don't apply to us because we are Americans. We get to occupy other's lands, we get to arm their oppressors from the Royal House of Saud to Hosni Mubarak--and then claim to be spreading democracy while instead spreading the wholesale terrorism of the client states against their own citizens, who then turn to retail terrorism eventually.

I haven't owned a car in years. I either bike or take mass transit every day and I'll be 60 soon, an old man. I've earned my windshield time, my personal auto ride into town to the university, haven't I? I'm an American, so I get to pamper myself and ignore the fate of the Earth. My knees aren't doing all that well; why don't I preserve myself better by the security of a private car? Who cares about the Gulfs--Persian or Mexico? Well, I guess I wish I could treat myself as more deserving than the children and grandchildren, but somehow I can't bring myself to get in line with my baby boomer generation of selfishness.

And what of my housemate Terri? She earns a great living in high tech many miles out in the far-off suburbs, she's in her 40s, her knees aren't that great, and she's the single Mom of a five-year-old. Of course she should have a car--preferably an SUV, since she'll no doubt be a soccer Mom soon, once little Alexa starts school. But no, they pedaled off this morning to the day care some three miles in one direction and Terri will turn right around and pedal nine or ten miles back in the other direction to catch a bus to work. How positively unAmerican! What if everybody did such things?

Oh, that's right. If everyone did such things we would not be engaged in two wars nor would we be watching the Gulf of Mexico get murdered and the beaches and mangroves of the southeastern US get tarred and feathered.

Ramsbotham, Oliver, Woodhouse, Tom, and Miall, Hugh (2005). Contemporary conflict resolution (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Polity Press.


Cole said...

I think you just gave me a kick in the pants. I needed that.

Tom H. Hastings said...

Cole, you give us all another KITP, which we all need. I was almost rejected by Aussie officials yesterday--they brought me into the backrooms for an hour of interrogation and finally asked me if I had any RECENT convictions. I said, "I am ashamed to say, no." My interviewer smiled and let me in. Your convictions are true and more recent and help me rethink my own obligations.