The Boston bombings: Why we remain vulnerable

The bombings on Patriot's Day in Boston show how we are lagging behind and failing to adapt to the information age. Photo: Allies

NEW YORK, April 22, 2013 - The Patriot’s Day, Boston bombing is the latest in a relentless string of events that recommends that we are lagging behind in our potential, and failing to adapt to the information age.

I do not mean that the pursuit and apprehension of the presumed perpetrators did not reflect good law enforcement, combining human intelligence with high tech surveillance. I mean that the event shows our ongoing failure to adapt to how the world has changed. It reveals us to be stuck in dated approaches to social and political reality.

All human behavior can be seen as a response to the fact that others are assessed to fall into one of three categories:  1. People who are good, 2. People who are bad, and 3. People who are OK. Life is lived intelligently, and hopefully even virtuously based on being able to categorize others properly, and then charting sound strategies in response.

There are two ways to get it wrong, 1. We can mis-identify someone or some group – think someone is OK, when they are really bad, for example – “he was so quiet, and never bothered anybody,” and 2. We can behave foolishly or immorally even if we’ve accurately categorized the person or the group – knowingly imprison a good and innocent person for example.

The world has changed fundamentally in the last 40 years, and even more intensely in the last two decades. Communications technology has redefined human relations, yet political, economic, and religious behavior still clunks along in dull, stubborn and badly dated ways, resisting the plain and loud demand that our view of the world change. Every act of terrorism is a scream for that change.

Two now foolish and inoperative frames of mind have been honed for the past several millennia, mindsets that continue to define political, economic, military, security, and interreligious relations even now. They continue to define politics and more, even when they clearly serve no reasonable path to peace and prosperity.  These two foolish frames of mind are 1. Conquest is possible, and 2. Foes are geographically and/or ideologically situated. 

The conquest and conflict model continues to define human affairs in all spheres of activity, political, media, economic, religious, and all else despite inviolate evidence that it always fails, and all parties suffer from behavior based on this worldview, and this way of thinking. 

In politics, activists imagine ideological postures are what sort folks out into these core categories, liberals are bad, or conservatives are bad, socialists are bad, or  republicans are bad. In international relations, country leaders imagine geographical/cultural identity will suffice, Chinese are bad, Americans are bad, Mexicans are bad, Germans are bad. Religiously things might be the worst, Muslims are bad, Evangelicals are bad, Hindus are bad, Catholics are bad. Of course none these statements are true. One can only hope that 90% of readers would feel foolish even to read such statements aloud.

It is absolutely necessary to organize others into these core categories accurately.  But to remain dominated by these ridiculous categories that are geographically, culturally, and ideologically defined is a path of folly that should be obvious to everyone. 

Here are some categories that are bad. I believe it is legitimate to kill and maim innocents. That’s bad. I am willing to cause human suffering to support my greed and lust. That’s bad. I am willing to kill or oppress people who have different religious beliefs from me. That’s bad. 

I don’t want to know if you are from Argentina. I want to know if you respect human life. I don’t want to know if your are Muslim. I want to know if you believe others are expendable. Are there some whom it is OK to kill, and some some whom it is not OK to kill? I don’t want to know if you are white or black. I want to know if you hold that there are there some it is OK to impoverish, and some it is not OK? Is it OK to impoverish a decent father, but it is not OK to impoverish your daughter? 

We need to know the answers to these questions, because we need to categorize others accurately, and then design intelligent strategies to advance the causes of peace and prosperity. 

In short, in the current age, old categories used to organize others are obsolete.  The old boundaries are gone. Greater wisdom is needed.

The second obsolete notion that hampers success and progress in solving the massive problems in international relations, national security, and environmental spoliation, is the obviously false view that one can vanquish a foe. This errant thinking comes from the pre-information age era of physical power. Get a big enough army, and eventually your foe is crushed under your thumb. Invade, occupy, take. The folly of this primitive world view is demonstrated most exquisitely in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Boston and cyber attacks also plainly show this.

Modern versions of asymmetric warfare – guerrilla warfare, insurgency, and terrorism, – prove constantly that the concept of vanquishing foes is not doable.  Current forms of terror, i.e., militarism that violates just and chivalric war codes and conventions, require new alliances, ones that conform to more enlightened and sophisticated core categorizations of who are good, who are OK, and who are bad. 

So long as leaders and we who vote for them or follow them remain in the dark ages, mis-categorizing others, there cannot not be sufficient collaboration, and integration of political, economic, spiritual, and military resources needed to address the growing sophistication of those who are bad by all measure. 

Do not ask me if I am Jewish or Muslim. Ask me if I believe certain lives are expendable, if certain believers are oppressable, if it is fine to bankrupt others to feed my greed and my lust. Find out if I am good or bad, not if I am Russian or Cambodian, Chinese or Japanese. Chart new groupings to identify those who are beyond the pale, and new groupings to know who can be our allies and collaborators to labor together toward a world of peace and prosperity. 


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Frank Kaufmann

Frank Kaufmann is Editor in Chief of New World Encyclopedia (a values based, general knowledge encyclopedia), executive director of the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (an international, interreligious peace organization), founder and president of Values in Knowledge Foundation (a movement to to meet the challenges and undo the harm caused by declining content in the world of  knowledge and information).

Frank Kaufmann's work for peace includes efforts in over 65 countries with successes in conflict ridden and violent environments.

This mission to produce and maintain New World Encyclopedia involves supporting a virtual academy of over 500 international scholars as contributors. 

 

 

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