Dec 032010

I watched the Paul Keating interview on Lateline last week, and came away, yet again, with the overwhelming impression of the man as being head and shoulders above any currently serving Australian politician on practically any level one cares to imagine.

Economically, politically, philosophically – Keating surpasses them all. He made one very profound statement that stuck with me.

“So we’re going to have a change of the world. We’re going to go back to the world the way it used to be. The world is fundamentally anarchic. It was anarchic, is anarchic. The peace we’ve had for 60 or 70 years has been highly unusual – 65 years. So, we’re going to be in a more complex, trickier world, but a better world.”

I’m not sure about the ‘better world’ aspiration, especially if, as I believe, the world is fundamentally anarchic. Actually, the more accurate description would be that humanity itself is fundamentally anarchic, as borne out hourly if one were to take any notice of the twitter hashtag #auspol. Anarchy is as anarchy does and humanity has never ceased or even paused its anarchical pursuits.
Keating is correct when he opines that first and second world wars during the twentieth century were instigated off the back of Germany and its position in continental European affairs. Power, as we all know, corrupts. Anarchy is all about power. The need for it, the envy of it, the fight to get it and retain it. Throughout human history anarchy in one form or another has reigned where-ever one part of any given society sought to overwhelm and subjugate any other. The Hundred Years Warduring the 13th-14th century and dynastic Tudor Wars in England during the 15th century. The on-going battles between Britain and France during the 16th and 17th centuries, Napolean’s ego-maniacal forays against practically every European, Balkan and Mediterranean state of the 18th century, the American independence battles of the same period, that nation’s civil conflict of the 19th, all leading up to the horrors of the 20th. It’s said that 160 million people died during the 20th century, but that must surely be only a rough estimate, not taking into account genocides.
Keating is correct when stating that the last 65 years of relative peace is ‘highly unusual’ when viewed against the background of human socio-political and technological advancement. That’s not to say that anarchical conflict hasn’t been ongoing since 1945, because it has, but globally, and under the auspices of the United Nations, relative peace has ensued. Will it continue, with border clashes between nation states adjudicated over by an increasingly feckless UN, or will humanity with its ever burgeoning technology and propensity to avoid the horrors of war by employing robots at a distance simply escalate anarchy to a new level?
We human beings have progressed over time. From clubs to pikes; from foot-soldiers to cavalry; from bows & arrows to cannon. From limited delivery of isolated weapons to mass delivery of high-explosive through to the ability to reach across the globe at will with nuclear devices. Marvellous technology, but to what end? We all say we fear war and shrink from its terror, yet we all prepare for it constantly. If we all stand at our respective nation state borders with arms ready but sheathed, can we honestly say we’ve managed to defeat anarchy, or merely hold it at bay? Will our pseudo-global governmental United Nations diminish the likelihood of another global conflict? Will China, as Keating surmises, demand lebensraum for her ever-swelling population?
Yes, we are all anarchists at heart. We all want what another has. None are ever ‘happy’, whatever that truly means. I guess that’s why the Drake Equation takes into account the probabilities of intelligence arising which doesn’t, as a matter of course, destroy itself. Humanity isn’t in that category, obviously.

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