Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Middle Way, Part 12 (On Hatred, War, and Peace)

Why does hatred seem to be on the rise in the world, including in the U.S.? True, there has always been hatred, and humans seem programmed to hate the Other, but there seems to be an increase of late that reverses the world-historical trend in the opposite direction.

If we take a look at each of the stages of spiral dynamics, we can see an increase in the number of people we consider to be in our tribe (Darwin himself noted this trend, associated with an increase in ethical behavior). At the first level, we have tribes of about 150 people. Everyone not in our tribe, we hate -- and we have to hate because if we make the mistake of not hating the Other, we put ourselves in the position of being killed by them. But as tribes grow, they must split, and as population density grows, we have to develop more complex societies. The early splits are aided by what is probably a genetic drive to split over the tiniest disagreement -- precisely to drive the creation of 150 and less tribal populations. But density creates new problems, meaning more must live together. Thus, larger tribal unities are fostered by creating identity across tribes. Religion works well here as well to create these bonds. The ancient Greeks were culturally unified, identifying themselves as Greeks by language, culture, and religion. The unification of these elements even more through the philosophies of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and politically by Philip II and Alexander the Great allowed for the emergence of the next level. Economics allowed for even stronger connections among even more people, transcending religion, language, culture, and politics in the next level. But it is the last level which we will be most concerned with in discussing the U.S., and it is this level which is most curious in its combination of tolerance for all while fostering deep chasms among groups. As Marinoff observes, "America is a nation of extremists as well as moderates, increasingly polarized and fractured along many axes -- political, religious, economic, cultural, educational, recial, sexual, to mention but a few" (175). This fractionalization is increasingly fostered by the postmodern Left rather than racist, sexist elements on the far Right. As Marinoff observes:

At the extremes of liberalism itself I encounter Marxists and anarchists, who want to bring down Western civilization (and who have already made great strides, as we shall see). At the extremes of conservatism I encounter racists and religious fanatics who are intolerant of human diversity. Too many self-proclaimed "moderate" liberals appear to be in complete ignorance of extravagant denial of the extreme left; they are too busy hating Bush and conservatism to know or care. Too many self-styled "moderate" conservatives are willing to apologize for or tacitly condone the knee-jerk bigotry and religious intolerance of the extreme right; they are too busy hating Clinton and liberalism to care. (176)

Many in America who are in the first three levels of the spiral already foster hatred against Others. It's a natural part of their thinking. The postmodern Left encourages such behavior by 1) opposing what worked best to eliminate such hatred, free markets (Voltaire once commented that the Christian, the Jew and the Moslem all get along at the London Stock exchange), 2) opposing religion, which fosters unity among quite large groups as well (yes, it fosters divisions too -- but it thus acts as a kind of strange attractor, attracting and repelling in turn), and 3) seeing the first two levels as victims whose bad behaviors are excused and even defended, and whose arguments for separation along racial and sexual lines are accepted and even philosophically codified. Why does the Left, who claim to support and love all mankind, do this? Ever heard of divide and conquer? If they can get each group fighting the others, they can argue for their own superior reason, love, and ability to govern -- and get themselves into government. Fear and hatred are how they gain power -- but this is a strategy common to every level of the 1st Tier.

"Hatred is one of three venomous toxins (the other two are greed and envy) that poison the mind, harden the heart, and debase the spirit" (Marinoff, 177). Free markets are now we dissipate and make positive use of greed. But the Left in particular feeds off of and fosters envy, building it up wherever they go, using it to foster hatred. (I emphasize the Left because the sins of the Right are well known to all.)

Between the Left and the Right, and fostered by both, is an "opposition without complementarity" (183), so that "The left perceives the right as fundamentalist, dogmatic, repressive, authoritarian, anti-intellectual; while the right perceives the left as deconstructed, radical, promiscuous, anarchic, amoral. Self-righteous extremists on both wings have carved a yawning chasm in American society, across which sanctity and profanity hurl mutual condemnation, fear, and loathing" (183). Of course, both sides are absolutely correct about the other -- but neither side sees the positive contributions of each. They do not see that the Other isn't better or worse, only different -- and, being different, supply vital elements to the world the other cannot.

If, as I said, fear and hatred are part and parcel of 1st Tier thinking, what on earth can we do? We can't really bring everyone up to the 2nd Tier, where, as Beck and Cowan observe, "fear falls away." Thus, too, hatred falls away here as well. But everyone is born in and must rise through the levels of the 1st Tier to get to the second. The majority of people will always be 1st Tier thinkers.

Well, what we can do is do away with "opposition without complementarity." We see this everywhere, including in our rhetoric surrounding War and Peace.

The Russian word mir, which translates as “peace,” also translates as “world.” Thus, when former Soviet leaders said they wanted “peace,” they were also saying they wanted “the world.” What the Russian language exposes is the fact that the only way one can ever get peace in fact is through having the entire world – through world domination. Their admission: when they had the world, there would be peace.

The Russian word allows us to get closer to the truth of peace – one gets peace only through domination, through having the entire world. Thus, we will have world peace only when we have world domination by one form of government, one way of thinking, one kind of economy, one religion. Now, depending on what or whose side you are on, these exist at varying degrees of desirability. Will world peace be achieved through world democratization? Will world peace be achieved through world-wide capitalism? Possibly. Democratic countries rarely go to war with each other – free trade partners are even less likely to do so. But we could equally admit that we would have world peace if only we submitted to worldwide fundamentalist Islam. We would also have world peace if we had an extremely oppressive dictatorship ruling the world who enforced peace with the threat of certain death. I submit that neither of these latter two choices are desirable to most people. Getting everyone to think one way is neither possible nor desirable – if we want people to continue being creative. And even in places where people do practice the same religion, we find religious conflicts within the religion. Peace is, perhaps, impossible.

There is a certain unhealthiness to sameness. Clones are in greater danger of extinction because they do not have the genetic variability to adapt or to resist disease. And a cell that tries to replace the diversity of cell types in the body with its own cell type is cancer. So some plurality is desirable, whether it be among species, within a species, or within an individual body. The key is that this diversity is also unified – in an ecosystem, a species, or a body. The unified body has a diversity of cells, but these cells all have the same genetic code. Thus, there is unity-variety-unity. Unity and variety are complimentary opposites. We need both to have a healthy system.

A problem occurs when plurality implies war. Peace, as domination, also implies war – a war to impose domination, to have domination over others. So to say one wants peace is to say one wants domination over others, that you want everyone to be thinking and acting exactly the same way as you think and act. Any rhetoric of peace is thus a rhetoric of dominion and domination. This is what we mean when we call for peace. The architects of war are our architects of peace – for we will not have peace until the wars of domination have succeeded. To that extent, groups like Hamas are more honest when they say that there will be peace only when their enemies are destroyed.

War and peace are contradictories. You cannot have one without the other. And, as I suggest above, each is united to the other through the ideology of domination and power. It seems, then, that we need something other than “war” and “peace” – something that allows for the creativity inherent in “war,” and yet manages to avoid killing people. We need something other than domination. This “something” must be neither some sort of impossible to achieve utopian egalitarianism nor a pluralism that must allow anything in order to avoid dominating anyone (both positions are, in a strange way, the same position, since the latter form of pluralism comes about precisely because every different culture and subculture and belief is placed on the same level). The sad reality is that there are those in the world who simply will not play well with others, and thus do not deserve equal consideration – we have to rid the world of Nazis, Talibans, al Qaidas, murderers, thieves, and rapists. It was Churchill who made the moral choice in waging war on Nazi Germany; Chamberlain held fast on a most immoral peace.

So peace in and of itself is not necessarily always desirable, or even ethical. Hitler could not be talked out of taking over Europe or committing the Holocaust. You can only talk to someone who is reasonable and who values reason. The leader of one of the most brutal anti-Enlightenment governments cannot be reasoned with. Those who rule by force can only be removed by force. And they must, if we are at all serious about human rights, freedom, and equality. Those who oppose the removal of dictatorships tacitly support those who rule by force.

I have mentioned egalitarianism and equality. The two are not the same. Egalitarianism opposes itself to any kind of hierarchy. Equality opposes itself merely to domination-based hierarchy. Equality is in fact betrothed to fluid hierarchies – to what we could call holarchy. A democractic republic is precisely this kind of holarchy – the President of the country is simultaneously above and equal to everyone else in the country; and everybody can, potentially, become President. This kind of equality, and the holarchy it creates, exists on the creative boundary between rigid, unequal hierarchy, and completely chaotic egalitarianism.

Egalitarianism is related to a kind of radical individualism that, due to its dissolution of social bonds like family, church, community, etc., first results in the alienation of individuals, since it insists that individuals are radically different from one another and thus cannot relate to or communicate with other (in other words, it results in nihilism) and then results in collectivism, since collectivism treats everyone the same. If everyone is in fact the same, then people need to be organized by an arbitrarily chosen leader (his choice, as well as the choice of others’ jobs, would be arbitrary since all are equal). Collectivism is a consequence because egalitarianism is an equality of sameness – and this sameness must be enforced to ensure egalitarianism. Thus, egalitarianism is not an individualism of expression, but of atomistic isolationism.

Equality is related to a kind of communitarian individualism, where one’s individuality is intimately woven into things like family, church, community, etc. This form of individualism is not alienating and, being heterarchical, does not allow for collectivism. People gain their positions within the community through what the Greeks called ergon, which means “in work,” and from which we get the word “energy.” Position is gained through work – working at education, working at maintaining and strengthening social bonds, working to raise children, working to be a persuasive speaker, working at a job to make money for yourself and your family and to be a productive, contributing member of society, etc. This kind of equality is not an equality of sameness – nor is it an equality of pure difference, either. By individuals developing their identity through various communities, they come to identify with various kinds of people as well. We associate with different people – and different kinds of people – in our churches, schools, neighborhoods, places of work, coffeehouses, bars, clubs, associations, etc. We also have friends, whom we pull from these various places. The more communities we are members of, the more kinds of people we come to know, and the more people we come to know, the more people, the more kinds of people, we humanize. It is an ethical equality because it is voluntary – we should treat people as equals, as individuals. In other words, we should treat all humans as humans (which is really to say, as family). When we do, we cannot help but to be ethical.

By familiarizing ourselves with different people, we develop more familial relationships – they become part of our extended family, become honorary members of our families. The familialization of others is the source of ethical behavior. We do not rape, murder, lie to, or steal from family (how much more outraged are we when a mother or father kills their children than we are over a stranger killing a child?). So to the extent that we can consider more, and more kinds of, people as “family,” the more ethical will be our actions. It is in this extension of virtuous actions to the way we treat others that we will begin to get closer to the goal of having a healthy relationship among various peoples. Thus, it is virtue which is “beyond” war and peace. And if, as Aristotle says, and I too believe, virtue aims at the beautiful, then it is even more beauty which is beyond war and peace. For if there is one thing beauty is not, it is domination. Beauty persuades action, it does not force it.

There is the argument that identity is created by otherness – that if we do not insist on the difference of others, that each individual will not be able to individuate. Masculinity is defined by how it differs from femininity, and vice versa. Christian is defined by non-Christian; West by East; black by white. This approach has its source in Scholastic negative theology. We can know at least what God is not. The implication is that we cannot know what a thing is, only what it is not. This leads to absurdity. If we define masculine as not-feminine, and feminine as not-masculine, and do not try to posit what masculine and feminine in fact is, we end up with one abyss defined by another. We end up with a pair of absences, and no presence – not even the presence of a complex system around two strange attractors. We end up with no identity at all. Further, this is the way warring tribes define themselves and each other – “we” define ourselves as human, and the tribal name translates to “human” in other languages, while “they” are who we define ourselves against, as not-human. Thus, to negatively define ourselves in this self-other fashion, has its foundations in our most racist and sexist world views.

This negative definition of identity also comes with other problems. If we can only create identity through having “others”, we must “other” everybody, to strengthen identity. The social aspects of identity are discarded. But our identities arise precisely when and because we identify with others. Part of our identities arise precisely because we are members of a particular religion, speakers of a particular language, educated in particular ways, members of particular clubs and organizations, friends with particular people, raised by particular parents. Aristotle says the best way of knowing what the good is is to have a positive definition of the good – to indeed know what the good is. A worse way – but sufficient in a pinch – is to at least know what the bad is, and then derive from that its likely opposite good. To create one’s identity through others is like knowing what the good is through first knowing what the bad is, and then deriving the opposite. It implies that the other is, indeed, bad – since if you are their opposite, you must find something wrong with that person, so that you would not want to emulate them. A better way of creating one’s identity is to learn more about the various systems you are embedded in by your being a social mammal, which are the things that help to create your identity. Now, of course, just because you posit an other, it does not mean that the other is necessarily worse than you – the recognition of difference does not mean you necessarily have to judge one better than the other. This is precisely what ethical people do not do – but we have to deal with actual humans, and actual humans, in order to derive an identity from recognizing themselves as the negative of some other, will equate self with good, and other with bad more often than they will recognize that difference does not necessarily mean better or worse. There are those who do not seem to think dealing with how actual humans actually act or think should matter – they seem to think that they should only be positing how people should act in all cases. These same people, because of such thinking, have been the causes of tragedies like Soviet Communism being enacted in the world. I am more interested in developing a philosophy for people to actually live in the world, and for people to actually become better in the way they are capable of becoming better (this also requires recognizing that humans are not necessarily always bad, and that we can never become angels).

It seems we have traveled far from the issue of war and peace, but in fact we have strictly stayed the course. It is precisely in issues of identity and ethics that we can come to eventually avoid deadly wars. If we come to identify with various others, become familiar with them, and do not try to dominate them, deadly wars can become avoidable. To do this, there will have to be one world – on this, the Russian word “mir” is instructive. But this world does not have to be dominated by one religion, one culture, one identity – though it may in fact have to be dominated by democratic republican governments and free trade among all nations. But these latter two are in fact not domination – they are the vary antithesis of domination. Thus, we will get beyond war and peace only when the world becomes beautiful, healthy, and holy – which is all the same thing, all three being unity in variety, and variety in unity. When the world becomes free, it can and will finally have the stable world we have all been wishing for.

But to do this, we have to recognize all the different ways people think, as well as the different ways people organize themselves. Fortunately, these two things are not in fact separate, but are intimately related. Particularly if we take a historical view. We see in the West, for example, a very consistent, orderly development from pure animal survivalism to the pre-Homeric tribal world of magic and animism, into the Homeric Greek world of heroes and gods, and the beginning of an orderly world view in Platonic and Aristotlean philosophy that culminates in the West in Christianity. From this developed the capitalist, scientific Modern Era, which led into communitarian/egalitarian ideas – and attempts to realize those ideas. The biggest problems arise when a new level tries to make a clean break from lower levels, as happened when communitarians tried to break from capitalism in fascism and communism. When we have had Tragic Eras/Renaissances, we have not had nearly as explosive conflicts – the Greek tragedians moved Greece from being Homeric into being influenced by Plato and Aristotle. Shakespeare helped move Christian England into capitalist England – allowing England to retain both. Continental Europe seemed to have missed out on this lesson, resulting in the Thirty Years War and the French Enlightenment thinkers’ complete rejection of the church. Further, there were no tragedians to move us into the communitarian level – and we ended up with the wars of the 20th century because of it. What tragedy teaches us is that we cannot give up the lower, less complex levels of thought and organization. We have to integrate them. To the extent that we can both integrate these levels together and move more people into more complex ways of thinking, the better off we will be. After all, we do need to survive, we do need strong family/tribal bonds, we do need our heroes, we do need to feel our lives have purpose and to have people tell us how it can have that purpose, we do need capitalists, and we do need a larger, global communitarian view (as opposed to statism, which is how communitarianism was first practiced in the 20th century, and even as far back as the French Revolution, which created the first state with France). We need them all, simultaneously – and we need them all integrated. We need people who exemplify these ways of thinking – and we need to think each of these ways ourselves.

In the above outline I have used the ideas of Claire Graves, Don Beck and Christopher Cowan quite liberally. Their idea that thinking becomes more complex over time, as we are made to interact with more and more people, fits complex systems theory and the theory of emergence very well. The more elements there are to a system, the more complex that system will be – and the more complex the system, the more likely it is to emerge into something much more complex. Within the genetic confines of what it means to be human – which includes all the human universals, which are all instincts – there is a great deal of plasticity in the human brain and in human thinking. We are capable of extremely complex ways of thinking – and we have probably only seen the beginnings of complexity in thought and in social organization. There is little doubt in my mind that we will never see the end of it – or of increasingly complex ways of organizing ourselves socially and culturally. What we are seeing at the present time is the beginnings of more integrationist and even holistic thinking. This precludes simple one-world thinking – and thus precludes “peace” as we have always thought of it. The present proponents of peace – those who fall into the communitarian way of thinking – explicitly want a world that is entirely and only communitarian, rejecting all other levels below it. They want a uniform world, one wherein everyone thinks the way they do. Thus, they are absolutists and tend to embrace dictatorial politics (such as that of Stalin, Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il) – which we see in the postmodern view that all forms of political organization are essentially the same, since they are all based on power. Is it any wonder, then, that many postmodern liberals opposed not just the war against Iraq, but the very deposition of Saddam Hussein? Or that they use arguments which essentially suggest that the Iraqis wanted such a form of government, or that the peoples of the Middle East or Africa are not capable of having democratic republican forms of government (why do postmodern liberals not get called racists when they say these things?)? Certainly to the extent that the Middle East has been living through a religious, monarchical form of social organization, many are ready for more complex thinking, a move into free markets and democratic republican forms of government (the Middle East version of the Summer of Love is still quite a bit off – one step at a time), though from a social complexity point of view, there are still places in Africa that have a ways to go. Rather than trying to jump them up several levels of complexity (something doomed to failure), we need to patiently move them into the next highest level of complexity, while at the same time attempting to integrate them into an increasingly complex world.

It is this movement – to integrate all levels into a more complex world that both includes all levels of social complexity, and attempts to move people into higher levels of complexity at the same time, while including a place for all kinds of individuals, with their individual levels of thinking – that we need to embrace. To do this, the egalitarian communitarians, for example, will have to stop being so condescending and elitist. Their thinking may be more complex than all the levels below them, but their way of thinking is not necessarily better because of it, especially to the extent that they think it could or should exclude all other levels. Besides, their thinking is hardly the most complex. It will be an even more complex world that includes all levels in it – and it will be an even more complex way of thinking that includes all levels in it. We should have a world that allows all forms of religious expression to exist within it – and further, we should in fact allow all forms of religious expression to exist within it, without being condescending toward those who have religious belief. For religious believers are a valuable part of the world, and add to its complexity. A world of secular communitarians has no depth to it – and thus lacks in complexity. Both flat worlds and rigid hierarchies are simple world views compared to a view of the world as a fluid hierarchy, or holarchy. (Bureaucracy is not really hierarchy in the natural sense – since natural hierarchy creates complexity and allows more and more complex things to get created, while bureaucracy, the complete opposite of this, evolves out of the flat world view of the communitarians, and is built from the top-down rather than from the bottom-up.)

To the extent that we can completely integrate all levels into a complex whole, we shall achieve neither war nor peace. There will be a natural tension among all the different levels, and among individual elements within a given level. But at the same time, we shall not have any sort of single world view – which is most commonly associated with what we call “peace,” as we see, again, in the Russian word “mir.” There should be a place in any given society for families, for heroes such as firefighters and athletes, for churches and police, for businesses big and small, and for people helping people because they are people. To date, the only form of government that has allowed for such complex forms of societal organization have been hierarchical constitutional democratic republican governments. When all governments become constitutional democratic republics, we shall have a world beyond war and peace, a world of competition and cooperation (in other words, it will be a more natural world, since nature itself is based on competition and cooperation, not war and peace). Thus, we need to replace the contradictory poles “war” and “peace” that make up our world, and the way we think of the world, and replace them with the complementary opposite poles “competition” and “cooperation,” to create a more complex system that is even more generative and alive. Héctor Sabelli’s bios theory, which describes the creation of complexity and creativity out of the interactions of complementary opposites, fully supports this idea. War and peace are linear views of the world – and insofar as the world is not made of linear systems, but more accurately describes as sets of nonlinear feedback systems, then war and peace are poor concepts on which to base any sort of foreign policy.

While war is in fact in direct opposition to peace – when we have one, we necessarily do not have the other – when we have competition and cooperation, we do not have true opposition, or contradiction. We instead have opposite poles of the same system – complementary opposites. One can be cooperative and competitive at the same time, and with the same group or person. Just because we compete with Great Britain economically, that does not prevent us from also cooperating with them on foreign policy. In fact, we can even simultaneously cooperate and compete with them economically. And we do. But we cannot simultaneously be at war and at peace with them. One excludes the other. And, with each excluding the other, complexity is reduced. Only competition and cooperation together create greater complexity – and thus can lead us toward creating a more just world.

Cooperation is a necessary component of emerging complexity. Each new complex system is a magnitude more complex than its parts would suggest. This is due to the co-operative aspects of the system. “Co-operation is considered in a broad sense as a phenomenon that can be found in all complex, self-organizing systems” (Christian Fuchs, 2). And not only is each system more complex as one goes up the hierarchy, but “Co-operation is itself an evolving phenomenon, during the course of its evolution new higher emergent qualities and levels of co-operation arise that can’t be reduced to lower levels or qualities” (2). Further, we have to realize that “All unity is unity only as organization and co-operation: no differently than a human community is a unity – as opposed to an atomistic anarchy; it is a pattern of domination that signifies a unity but is not a unity” (Nietzsche WP 561). Due to the fact that we have had the 20th Century between us and Nietzsche, I would personally avoid the use of the word “domination” here. Where Nietzsche uses “domination,” I prefer “hierarchy” – one that avoids the kind of physical coercion implied by the word “domination.” The point, however, is that all forms of unity in the universe are unified only as organization and cooperation. As complex systems. The universe itself becomes more and more unified as it becomes more and more complex, organized, and cooperative. And the ability to cooperate – as in social mammals, for example – allows one to become even more able to compete. Thus, cooperation and competition can, and often do, go hand-in-hand.

Nature is thus not “red in tooth and claw,” and neither is it a “war of all against all,” but rather, as Darwin himself observed, a world of highly integrated and interrelated cooperation and competition, working together to create more complexity. To the extent that we, too, come to realize this, we will be able to help create a more complex world – one beyond war and peace. One, hopefully, not interested in either war or peace, but rather in cooperation and competition. And we must have both together if we are going to get a more complex society. We cannot have one at the exclusion of the other – they must be in co-operation and competition themselves. This iterative depth of cooperation and competition will also come to reflect nature as it truly is.

This of course means too that while we may be able to move beyond war and peace, we will never be able to rid the world of violence – as nature too continues and will continue to have violent elements to it. Even chimpanzees murder one another. Meerkats go to war. It seems unlikely we will ever be able to completely rid the world of violent elements. However, we should do our best to reduce as much as possible the violent elements in the world. Our governments should to the best of their abilities avoid having laws on the books that perpetuate violent and coercive crimes such as rape, murder, theft, and bearing false witness. If this means eliminating many laws from the books because as a result of those laws more crimes are perpetuated against its citizens, then that is what we must do. Laws against rape, murder, theft, and lying to harm others do not perpetuate these crimes – but laws against many other things do. Typically, these are laws that are designed to prohibit competition and cooperation. Any laws that prohibit competition and cooperation are unjust laws – for both the above reason, and because such laws reduce the amount of complexity in the world.

This of course also presumes that increasing complexity is necessarily good – and I have yet to prove such a claim. Before I do, I would like to go so far as to say that the very definition of ethical behavior is anything that positively contributes to the complexity of the world – while the definition of bad, or even evil, is what reduces the complexity of the world (the bad out of ignorance, the evil out of knowledge).

Without going into all the different ways we can understand what we mean by more or less complex, let’s take two things that are clearly of different levels of complexity: chemistry and biology. It should be clear to everyone that even the simplest living thing is more complex than the most complex chemical. For one, a single bacterium is made up of a complex of complex chemicals and chemical cycles, while no single chemical can be considered to be alive. The question here is: which is worse, destroying a cell, or destroying a chemical? Perhaps you don’t care about either one. So let us consider this: which is worse, destroying a bacterium, or destroying a human being? Clearly the human is more complex than the bacterium. And anyone who says they are on the same level should reconsider taking antibiotics the next time they get sick. Why, if humans and bacteria are on the same level of complexity, should we privilege ourselves over any bacteria that might attack us? Clearly our own immune systems are of the opinion that we are more important than are the bacteria. And considering how much money we spend on medical care to fight off bacteria and viruses, we clearly agree that we are more important than the bacteria attacking us.

When we die, we for all intents and purposes become a pile of chemicals. Thus, when we kill someone, we reduce them in complexity to the level of mere chemistry. Further, when we psychologically damage someone, we reduce the complexity of their thinking. And when we deprive the world of a person, we reduce the complexity of the world dramatically, considering how highly complex human thinking is. The elimination of an individual or, worse, an entire tribe or culture, reduces the complexity of the world overall. This is why it is important to fight those who murder either individuals or ethnic groups. The complexity of the world is increased whenever we eliminate a dictator with a history of killing the people he rules. It is increased because we have eliminated all future killings – killings we can be reasonably sure of, considering his past actions. We can further eliminate the future killings by future dictators by promoting such things as federal democratic republics in every country across the globe, since such governments typically do not try to kill off parts of its populace. Especially if such countries have a constitution that specifically protects minority rights, and has political parties that represent minority interests. Certainly this is not perfect – the United States has spent decades, even centuries, trying to expand the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution to everyone – but such governments have far better track records than any other form of government. Being highly complex forms of government themselves, they have a tendency to promote and protect diversity and, thus, complexity within the culture and populace. And they do this in great part through promoting both competition and cooperation within their societies.

There are different ways we can promote both competition and cooperation. Families are cooperative. But we should not allow families to become competitive, as that creates tribalistic strife. Athletic teams are internally cooperative, and externally competitive. When we attach ourselves to athletic teams, we allow ourselves to exercise a deep need to ritualistically “hate” some other group, but in such a way that we don’t harm anybody over it. Churches are cooperative. But, again, we should not allow things such as churches, mosques, and temples to become competitive, since again that creates tribalistic strife (unless they want to compete with each other on who can do the most good and help the community most, in which case we should encourage such friendly competition). Companies are also internally cooperative and externally competitive – and their competitiveness allows for the growth of our economies and the ever-increasing material well-being we have seen in capitalist countries. And when it comes to countries, we need a complex relationship between competition and cooperation – they should allow economic competition among the companies within their countries, while combining this with international and economic cooperation (insofar as having free trade between the two countries is cooperative). Further, it makes no sense to have competition among different cultures and societies – I can appreciate Czech literature (Milan Kundera and Kafka) as well as Russian literature (Dostoevski and Chekov), even if the two nations have had a history of rocky relations. This is a kind of pluralism and multiculturalism that we should fully embrace.

In fact, that is precisely what we need: an ethical multiculturalism. Difference indeed does not necessarily indicate better or worse. Women are different from men. Men are different from women. One is not better than the other – both have strengths the other lacks (or, is found in lesser quantities), which work to balance each other. A balanced society is one in which both masculine and feminine elements are in balance, especially if, as Ken Wilbur claims, “the typical male orientation tends to be more agentic, autonomous, abstract, and independent, based on rights and justice; whereas the female orientation tends to be more permeable, relational, and feelingful, based on care and responsibility” (46). Certainly we need all of these elements in order to have balanced societies. And this idea of one way of thinking not being better than another can and should be extended to different cultures, religions, etc. That having been said, however, I will say that killing a group of people because of their race, religion or culture is not just part of the rich fabric of world culture just because some culture other than Western culture does it. It is a tear in the fabric when other cultures do it, the same as when Western cultures do it. Whether it be for his slaughter of the Kurds or of the Shi’ites, his propensity for invading his neighbors, or just his being a dictator, there is no legitimate reason for supporting Saddam Hussein – or, let me go so far as to say, opposing his overthrow to replace him with a democratic republican form of government – unless one is in fact in favor of this kind of government and in opposition to democratic republican forms of government (or, worse, cannot recognize that one is good, the other bad). Dictatorship is not a mere cultural difference. Culture blossoms fullest in the soils of freedom, under governments that do not provide too much shade from the warming, enlightening sun. When egalitarian thinkers insist that there is no difference between a dictatorship and a democratic republican form of government, we are seeing precisely where such thinking falls short. To do so takes pluralism and multiculturalism too far.

Yet, at the same time, we have to be careful. While it’s true that democratic republican forms of government are best in creating a world involved in cooperation and competition, not all groups are ready for such forms of government. Remember, each group has to move through each of the levels. But in the case of dictatorships, since that form of government and social organization is just below the capitalist/scientific form of social organization that gave rise to democratic republican forms of government, we are in fact moving people into a new level of complexity they may be ready for. At the very least, it is only with a democratic republican form of government that people do in fact have a government of their choosing, rather than one imposed upon them. These are all good reasons for opposing dictatorship throughout the world.

In investigating the shortcomings of a rhetoric of peace, I have appeared yet again to have gone off in several directions. But all of these ideas are in fact deeply connected. We have to develop this kind of thinking in order to get beyond the kind of black-and-white dualistic thinking of war and peace – a destructive kind of dualism insofar as the existence of one of these poles necessarily excludes the existence of the other. The benefit of the competition-cooperation pair is that they are generative, do not exclude each other, and are both good things, bringing benefit to any and every society. And when each country has a democratic republican form of government, and is open to pluralism, we will be able to move away from a rhetoric (and reality) of war and peace – since such countries will not be engaging in activities that make others have to choose between war and an immoral peace. Indeed, when every country enters a state of constant revolution, using Thoreau’s idea of civil disobedience as the model rather than revolution as civil war, then we can finally be assured of increasing human rights from now on in every country. Indeed, in today’s media-saturated world, Thoreau’s civil disobedience may be the very best way to create change within a society. After all, who thought that communism in the U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe would collapse due to millions of people in those countries engaging in civil disobedience? Indeed, it was cooperation – realized through civil disobedience – in those countries, not war or peace, that brought about the downfall of those communist dictatorships.


Beck, Don.
Beck, Don and Christopher Cowan. Spiral Dynamics. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. 1996
Fuchs, Christian. “Co-Operation and Self-Organization” tripleC 1(1) 2003
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power. New York: Vintage Books. 1968
Sabelli, Héctor. Bios. New Jersey: World Scientific. 2005
Thoreau, Henry David. Civil Disobedience
Wilbur, Ken. A Theory of Everything. Boston: Shambhala. 2001
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