Pentacon DVD: 9/11 Pentagon overflight concept vindicated?

The “Citizen’s Investigation Team” will be releasing the “smoking gun” DVD version of their video “The Pentacon:  Eyewitnesses speak, conspiracy revealed” within a few days.   This video presents interviews with eyewitnesses Robert Turcios, William Lagasse, Edward Paik and Chad Brooks, all of whom place the path of Flight 77 to the north of the Citgo gas station.  This flight path is incompatible with the “official” flight path which passed to the south of the gas station, in line with the light pole damage.

I am really looking forward to the longer “researcher’s edition” of the video, which will also include interviews with taxi driver Lloyd England;  Opus Dei priest Stephen McGraw; Route 27 eyewitness Mike Walter; Pentagon lawn eyewitness Frank Probst; and many more.  The Citizens Investigation Team has acquired an encyclopedic knowledge base about the Pentagon explosion, and have been finding more and more evidence consistent with the overflight / demolition theory we originally proposed at in the article “The Five-Sided Fantasy Island.”

The “Citizen’s Investigation Team” website is at


Bloomberg: An “Establishment” attractor in the fractal space of presidential power?

The Establishment is “furious”, according to Xymphora. In a series of blog entries, the anonymous columnist has been penciling in his map of the political territory. On this map, “The American Establishment”, presumably consisting of elites from Wall Street and Main Street who are members of liberal Protestant or Roman Catholic churches, are juxtaposed against the Jewish Neo-cons and Christian Zionists who make up the bulk of the Bush administration. “The Establishment” represents old American money, the Carnegies and Rockefellers and other robber barons of the 19th and early 20th centuries; as well as the heritage of FDR and the New Deal, the preservation of American capitalism through “benevolent” government interventions like Social Security. Under presidents like Nixon, Johnson and Reagan, this “Establishment” was very well represented in the halls of power.

Under Xymphora’s scenario, the “Establishment” acquiesced in (or facilitated) the presidency of George W Bush because some aspects of the Neocon agenda are consistent with Establishment goals, and because vice president Cheney appeared to be safely in the establishment camp.

But, Xymphora argues, the Neocons, Christian Zionists, and Israeli government sympathizers of the Bush administration have gone far beyond the Establishment mandate, and the entire foreign policy of the United States has been turned to the service of AIPAC and the Jewish lobby. Thus, we are facing not only the disastrous turn of events in Iraq, but also the prospect of nuclear adventures in Iran, adventures which would be the graveyard of the American Establishment’s wealth and position in the world.

As evidence of the growing discontent of the “Establishment” at this unexpected turn of events, Xymphora discusses a confrontation between William F. Buckley Jr. and the neocon Norman Podhoretz. Buckley protests that he had been tricked into supporting the Iraq war, and sputters ‘Aren’t you embarrassed by the absence of these weapons?’

Xymphora concludes:

You can’t get any more old school American Establishment than Buckley, and he is here reflecting the incomprehension at the evil of the Jewish neocons, the fury at their continued lies and warmongering, and the frustration at the impotence of the traditional American power structure to do anything about it.

In the latest installment of the series (this morning, June 28,2007) Xymphora takes issue with a “socialist reductionist” analysis of the role of Zionism and neoconservatism in European politics, written by Gabriel Ash of Ash evokes this portrait of the agenda of European corporate globalists, which would seem to apply perfectly well to the American establishment as well:

After WWII, the specter that used to haunt Europe was invited to sit at the table and given a small plate in return for no longer moving furniture at night. This arrangement, known as the welfare state, made possible the rebuilding of a capitalist Europe. But it was expensive. With the Soviet Union no longer, Europe’s capital is asking itself why it should continue paying. The financial world has a clear agenda. It is not made in Brussels or in Whitehall. If at all, it is made in the City of London. It is drummed up almost daily in the pages of The Financial Times and weekly in The Economist. European wages are too high. Social services are too lavish. Workers are living too long, working too little, enjoying too much time on the French Riviera. “ Europe” (namely the financial owners) cannot afford it. It makes European labor “uncompetitive”. There is too much “rigidity” in labor markets (i.e., too much stability in people’s lives). And taxes, needless to say, are far too high. What really hurts is that financial profits are too low and stock markets below the moon.

Ash goes on to observe that the Neocon agenda of demonization of the Islamic world is a perfect propaganda motif to for camouflage of the corporate economic program:

Having an enemy across the border — alien, total, menacing — helps the right assert political power domestically, the power it now needs to liberate stock markets from the fetters of the welfare state. This is the revolution’s goal, and support for Israel is right at the center of it. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis is manna from heaven for Israel because it places its fight against the Palestinians in a larger struggle that includes the whole West. This was always a conscious and important Zionist goal. ….

Radicalizing Europe’s Muslims therefore serves Israel’s purpose. But it is also, in line with Schmitt’s and Huntington’s ideas, a blessing for the neoliberal assault. Western support for Israel inflames Muslim public opinion and produces instances of fanaticism that in turn help inflame popular animus against Muslim immigrants. Practically all organized support for Israel is involved in demonizing Islam. The demonization of Islam strengthens the appeal of the most radical Islamists and increases the likelihood of terrorist attacks. Terrorism breeds fear and fear breeds obedience to authority and conformism. Divide and conquer. …. It works in the US. It works in Israel. Why shouldn’t it work in Europe? Needless to say, a state about to go smash labor and destroy public services needs all the obedience it can generate. It also needs vast police powers, and what better way to justify curtailing civil rights than a frenzy surrounding terrorism?

According to Xymphora’s view, both in the United States and Europe, the “Establishment” globalists are a distinct group of people from the Zionists and Neocons. Further, Xymphora is convinced that the Zionists have taken the initiative to create the state of affairs which has been so convenient for the Establishment, but which has now led to their newfound powerlessness and alarm. Xymphora is not buying any Chomskian analytical claim that the Establishment’s interests are served by the entire Zionist project, whether it comes from Chomsky himself, or whether it is coming from Ash in the guise of a structuralist formulation.

Right-wing politicians in Europe like Israeli politicians because they share a general political culture. This culture is necessary in Israel in order to build the empire (you have to lack empathy in order to kill and displace Arabs). The European politicians aren’t up to some Noamian conspiracy theory involving class interests. Being overly specific about the plans of the conspirators isn’t necessary and makes the theory implausible. The simple answer is better: birds of a feather flock together.

The Western right-wing was in a horrible state in the 1970s, in full political and intellectual crisis. At the same time that Israel was planning its historic tactical alliance with American Evangelicals, it was also planning how it was going to get away with all the human rights abuses that would be required to realize the Project. If you line people up from most empathetic to least empathetic, the right-wingers will all be at one end of the line. These are the people who don’t care about human rights, and thus would allow Israel to do what the Zionists felt they were going to need to do. It was thus necessary to assist in jump-starting the return of the right. ….

The process of fostering and bolstering the ‘new Right’ was started by Israel in the late 1970s, at just about the same time it was starting its unlikely relationship with the American Christian Right, and for the same reasons. It so happens that the ‘new Right’ politicians share qualities with the Israelis that lead them to have similar ‘values’ (if I can use that word). It is not exactly a coincidence that these qualities lead to both Zionist Empire building and the destruction of social welfare programs in Europe, but it is not a conspiracy either. The factors that really tie all these seemingly diverse people together are personal and cultural. Of course socialist reductionists would say we are confused – our class consciousness is wonky – but we know better.

For all the vigor of this denunciation of “Noamian conspiracy theory”, Xymphora has made an important concession here: “birds of a feather flock together.” It’s hard to see where the Chomskian view goes much farther than that. And Ash doesn’t go much farther either:

Is this a “conspiracy?” Not in the cinematic sense of a powerful cabal meeting in secret and issuing marching orders. But there are plenty of secret and public conversations taking place through which the different elements of financial and political elites — the institutions, the corporations, the media, the civil society pressure groups, etc. — hone their common interests and learn to align and “conspire” — to speak in the same language and rally around common causes and strategies. Describing exactly how this alignment takes place is important and difficult. My purpose here is limited to the easy part — to sketch this ideological front and to identify its purpose by recognizing the historical patterns it repeats.

In observing all of this discussion, it is not my purpose to determine whether or not there is “a powerful cabal meeting in secret” – although when you think about it, the fact that the Zionist agenda is playing such a key role in Europe where (as Xymphora points out) there is no Jewish lobby because there is no Jewish population, at the very least signifies a globalization of this “Establishment” anti-Islamic fetish. And it is not my purpose to point out that both Ash and Xymphora do not acknowledge the common interest of the American and European elites in the oil of the Middle East. (Xymphora has mentioned this in other columns, and has complained that no abundance of Iraqi oil has yet started to flow into globalist tankers and pipelines. Perhaps the “Establishment” is not as impatient as Xymphora.)

Rather, my point is that the “American Establishment” is probably not a monolithic power structure, but rather it is a diverse collection of individuals with different viewpoints. Some of them might take a long-term (Millsian crackpot realist) globalist perspective, and see the Zionist confrontation with Iraq and Iran as an important part in a struggle to contain the Islamic “menace” (and, incidentally, to control the profits from development of all that oil, making sure the Chinese pay a steep price for whatever trickle flows their way.) Some of these might even be members of that “powerful cabal”, fully aware that the drama is nothing but a re-enactment of historical patterns that always play out to that cabal’s advantage.

Other members of the Establishment might be more tied to American nationalist interests, and those are the ones who are more likely to be outraged that America alone is paying the bill, and America alone is suffering the loss of international standing and prestige, for this Zionist adventure in Iraq. And the bill is about to get a lot more expensive, if the fighting branches out to Iran or Syria or both. It seems very reasonable to assume that such “American Establishment” figures really do exist, and that their rage is just as palpable as Xymphora states – although hard evidence of this is hard to come by. And if this “Establishment” has a pre-ordained role to play (either according to Historical Pattern, or by the edict of the “Powerful Cabal” if indeed it exists), then they might very well be largely unconscious of any such script. All they know is their rage, and their unaccustomed powerlessness.

If all this theorizing about the “American Establishment” is correct, we might expect to see some concrete manifestation emerging in electoral (or postmodern) politics. My suggestion is that the emergence of Michael Bloomberg’s independent candidacy for the presidency, may be exactly this manifestation. With both the Democratic and Republican parties solidly in the Zionist camp, Bloomberg’s flip-flop between parties seems symbolic of the “American Establishment” failure to find a home within the existing political landscape. So far, his (undeclared) campaign has been talking about bipartisanship and “common sense” and he has not signaled his intentions for Iraq or Iran. Although at this point Bloomberg is lagging behind Hillary and Giuliani in early polls, he could easily climb as he gains name recognition, especially with Hillary’s strong negatives. In the fundraising race, Bloomberg has more money than everyone else combined, so in that sense perhaps he should be regarded as a front-runner. And if indeed he is going to take on the role of spearheading an Establishment response to the Neocons, he has an ace in the hole: his somewhat unconventional but unmistakably Jewish background may make it difficult for any accusations of anti-Semitism to stick. Lenni Brenner, writing at (8/21/06) explains:

Obscenities come forth nonstop from him. In 1995, before he thought of running for public office, he was interviewed by Jerusalem Report, an Israeli magazine. It informed its readers that he had “no particular desire to visit Israel.” He “had a bar mitzvah in a Conservative synagogue; is currently a member of one temple in Westchester and one in Manhattan.” But, he proudly announced, “’I’m not terribly religious …. I don’t spend time davening [praying – LB]. If I don’t call God, he won’t call me.’ But he does have firm views on Israel, and on Jewish philanthropy: ‘I won’t give too much money to the U[nited] J[ewish] A[ppeal],’ he says, ‘because of the hold the religious have on Israel. I have one wish: Shoot all the clerics.’”

At 13, religious Jewish boys celebrate their bar mitzvah. They become adult members of synagogues. The Conservative Judaic sect upholds most doctrines of Orthodoxy, Israel’s state religion, except where they conflict with modern life. Conservatives go along with biblical bans on pork, shrimp, lobster. But Orthodoxy says no riding on the Sabbath day of rest, while Conservative suburbanites drive cars to their synagogues, often many miles from their homes.

Bloomberg moved on from his family’s Conservativism. “Temple” is what the Reform sect, America’s largest Judaic group, calls a synagogue. They are a zillion miles from Orthodoxy. They and the Conservatives have women rabbis. But they pride themselves on their gay rabbis, while Conservatives fight over ordaining them. However, beyond temple membership, there isn’t evidence that he believes in any theology.

He is the ultimate joiner. The Jewish mayor proudly says that, as a teenager, he was “an Eagle Scout, and sold more Christmas wreaths than anyone.” When he grew up and became rich he joined endless charities, a few Jewish, most secular, because that’s what rich Americans are supposed to do. His political ambitions started when he’d call on other rich for donations. Give to his charity and he’d give to your favorite politician’s campaign. He was then a Democrat yet he’d fund Republican snakes, Democratic rats, whoever you wanted. He has no serious principles in religion or politics.

Whatever his theology or lack thereof, he knew that Conservatives and Reform are not recognized by Israel. They are allowed synagogues there, but the state doesn’t recognize marriages or divorces solemnized by their rabbis. So 1995 Bloomberg, nonpolitical businessman, denounced Israel for denying equality before the law to his sect.

In my last blog entry here, I argued that Zbigniew Brzezinski’s prophecy of a “terrorist attack” to provoke a war with Iran might prove to be correct. But predicting the future is always a perilous activity, and Bloomberg’s candidacy might possibly open up an alternative unfolding of the fractal space of time. Perhaps conspiracies such as Brzezinski hinted at, must be floated first among the elite to judge possible reactions. If sufficient challenges emerge, it’s hard to see how the conspiracy could move forward for fear of exposure in the mass media. Is it possible that Bloomberg’s candidacy represents just such a challenge to the Zionist march to war in Iran? Other explanations are possible. Only time will tell.

The “powers that be” may know of “Tecumseh’s curse” but they are clearly not bound by it. Perhaps if Bloomberg does well enough in his campaign, George W Bush may outlive the end of his presidency after all.

Al Gore: a lot to be concerned about

I see an awful lot to be concerned about regarding Al Gore’s potential run for the presidency. With as much baggage as he has, even from a realpolitik perspective, I’m not sure he’s electable. And there seems to be at least some evidence that he’s downright psychopathic, a “snake in a suit.”

From conservative websites, here’s what the Rovian types have to work with —

On global warming, Gore’s film carries an unambiguous call for good citizens to limit their energy consumption. Yet Gore himself lives in a gigantic mansion that consumes 20x the national average, and regularly travels by private jet. His excuse is that he buys carbon credits, but it turns out he buys them from a firm that he directs, and owns some undisclosed large percentage. So he’s essentially buying his indulgences from himself. This issue has some resonance with me — I would hate to try to explain to those of my friends who are living in little cardboard domes and riding bicycles everywhere they go, why they should support Gore rather than keeping to their anarchist principles and staying home on election day.

World Net Daily takes credit for defeating Gore in his home state of Tennessee in 2000. If Gore had won that state, he would have won the Electoral College. It’s some sort of local scandal involving phony cattle and the “Hillbilly Mafia,” and a surprisingly large percentage of Gore’s income at the time. Supposedly the scandal was picked up by various small-town newspapers. I have no idea whether there’s anything to this.

And then there’s the Chinese espionage, influence-peddling and campaign contributions scandal, which could get really nasty, especially if anyone ever proves Gore knew what was going on.

From the far left, as usual, the issues seem more substantive. Cockburn & St. Clair of Counterpunch were motivated to write a book, “Al Gore: A User’s Manual”, chronicling Gore’s career. I’m going to buy this book, and read it, before I discuss Gore much more. Here’s their book introduction:

[begin quote]

What sort of a man is Al Gore? What’s his real political record? This is the first unsparing look at the man whom his parents raised from birth to be president of the United States. Inside these pages, you will find:

* How Al Gore and his father got on the payroll of one of America’s most ruthless tycoons, Armand Hammer
* How Al Gore has relentlessly exploited his sister’s death and son’s accident for personal political advantage
* How Al Gore violated the most basic journalistic ethics by helping the cops run a sting operation on a black politician in Nashville
* How Al Gore played midwife to the MX missile
* How Al Gore became a soul brother of Newt Gingrich
* How Al Gore race-baited Jesse Jackson and introduced George Bush to Willie Horton
* How Al Gore shopped his vote in support of the Gulf War to get prime-time coverage for his speech
* How Al Gore pushed Clinton into destroying the New Deal
* How Al Gore plotted to stop Democrats from recapturing Congress in 1996 in order to keep his rival Dick Gephard from becoming Speaker of the House
* How Al Gore leached campaign from nearly every corporate lobbyist in DC, and broke pledge after pledge to protect the environment

[end quote]

A review of a workshop based on Quinn’s “Ishmael”

Moa (My life, Our life, All of life) is a new workshop designed by Aaron D, who has a blog at According to Aaron’s announcement, the workshop was “inspired by a combination of books by author Daniel Quinn, Zen Buddhism, and Heart of Now practices”. I had the honor of attending the trial run of the workshop last May 12-13, and I must say that I enjoyed it immensely. In this culture, we don’t often have the opportunity to get into in-depth conversations about global “big picture” issues, and I think Aaron deserves a big round of applause just for having the courage to organize this event and assemble the resources to make it happen.

The weekend was filled with exercises and rituals, which helped to illustrate the concepts while breaking up the potential for over-intellectualization and despair. But the factual heart of the message was clearly inspired by Daniel Quinn’s novels. Two introductory talks set the agenda. On Saturday morning, Aaron carefully and majestically told the story of the origins of the universe and the evolution of life on this planet, starting with the Big Bang and the condensation of stars and solar systems, continuing with the appearance of single-celled organisms and then plants and animals, and culminating in the reigns of dinosaurs, mammals and finally the emergence of Homo Sapiens. The presentation itself evoked an image of timelessness by virtue of its length and pacing, yet no one seemed to be bored. It was as if the room was filled with the imagery of an ancient storyteller reciting poetry and myth around the campfire. Finally the point was brought home, that the human species has only occupied this planet for a tiny sliver of geological time.

The material was fully scientific, based on the latest findings of cosmology and evolutionary theory, although without any discussion of any lingering controversies. Among the attendees of the seminar, there was palpable agreement that this was the way it must have really happened. Not long ago, and even today among many Americans, the story would have been told very differently by literal Biblical creationists. I was struck by the irony that almost 150 years after Darwin, there is so little consensus in the world about how the story of the origins of mankind should be told. But on the other hand, 150 years is only a blink of an eye compared to the vastness of time, so perhaps there is no need for impatience.

Sunday morning, Aaron went though the major milestones of the history of civilization, while pointing out the ever-increasing growth of human population, culminating with the staggering six-fold explosion since the start of the Industrial Revolution, to its current figure of about 6.5 billion people. During this presentation, Aaron took the opportunity to present some basic concepts from Quinn’s novels. According to Quinn, early hunter-gatherer cultures lived by a rule of “limited competition”, in which it is forbidden to “hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food.” Thus, early man lived in a state of equilibrium with nature and other species. But with the rise of agricultural civilization in the ancient Near East (“totalitarian agriculture” as styled by Quinn) the rule of limited competition was overturned, and humans embarked on a war of conquest to subjugate the planet and all other species. In Quinn’s lingo, the peaceful “leaver” cultures were largely engulfed and replaced by a single “taker” culture.

Several other lecture presentations covered various aspects of the problems that have been wrought by the current explosion of “taker” civilization, with a special emphasis on desertification and loss of agricultural productivity, and the growing extent of world poverty and hunger. Aaron also discussed the prevalence of cultural illusions and misconceptions in American news media, including an unquestioning acceptance of “taker” ethics with respect to the natural world. Workshop participants were invited to imagine a different world, organized around the principal that the world exists for all species, not just humans.

For a better understanding of Quinn’s thought, I read his book “Beyond Civilization” as well as the “Public Teachings” appendix from “The Story of B”. Quinn has two prescriptions for his readers. Firstly, to seek changes in their lifestyle according to a principle of “less harm”, and to abandon the “taker” quest to live like “lords of the universe”, or “pharaohs” in a world of pyramid builders. Secondly, to find some way of making a living as part of a tribal unit outside of the corporate system. Quinn’s vision is that eventually, millions and then billions of people will simply abandon and walk away from “taker” culture in search of a simpler but more fulfilling way of life.

At the end of the weekend, workshop participants were asked to envision their personal responses to the ideas presented. Several of the attendees stated their intention to live more simply, explore local food production opportunities, and eat locally grown products. Others hoped to find rural communes where they could work towards sustainable self-sufficiency in a tribal environment. All of this is OK with me: I agree that living a simple lifestyle can be a significant boon for the individuals who make this choice, as well as a benefit to the ecology of the planet as a whole. Regarding rural communes, Quinn himself is skeptical: in Beyond Civilization (p. 117) he writes:

“In the paradigmatic utopian scenario, you gather your friends, equip yourselves with agricultural tools, and find a bit of wilderness paradise to which you can escape and get away from it all. The apparent attraction of this weary old fantasy is that it requires no imagination (being ready-made), can be enacted by almost anyone with the requisite funds, and sometimes actually works for longer than a few months. To advocate it as a general solution for six billion people would set an all-time record for inanity…. You don’t have to “go somewhere” to get beyond civilization. You have to make your living a different way.”

To which my reply is that of course not everyone can accomplish rural self-sufficiency. Even fewer can carry this out in a principled way without using cars and trucks, power tools and electronics. Most importantly: the further anyone progresses towards true sustainability and self-sufficiency, the more grievous sacrifices they need to make in terms of life experiences foregone (travel, entertainment, culture) as well as comfort and possibly health. But those who are able to succeed at communal self-sufficiency may emerge as survivors in the event of that civilization ultimately goes down into a post-apocalyptic, post-petroleum collapse. And if (as some are predicting) the world’s population is ultimately going to fall from six billion down to a post-industrial total of less than a billion, there’s something to be said for sheer survival.

In my view, Quinn needs to be understood first of all in terms of his passion for survival of the natural world and all of its diversity; as an entertaining novelist; and as a polemicist in favor of simple tribal lifestyles. Accuracy of anthropology is not his primary concern. However, there are some problems with his narrative. The last 50,000 years have been characterized by a series of mass extinctions of large animals, primarily herbivores. In Africa, where humans had been slowly evolving for millions of years, hunter-gatherer cultures reached their greatest extent and advancement starting about 40,000 years ago. At about that same time, some 50 genera of large mammals went extinct, representing 30% of all large species in Africa. On other continents, the sudden arrival of human hunters apparently caught nature more unprepared. Australia gained its first human inhabitants about 55,000 years ago, and during the 10,000 years following their arrival, some 44 species of large animals went extinct, every species exceeding 100 kg in weight, including such oddities as giant wombats, huge kangaroos, marsupial lions, and the Genyornis, a large flightless bird like the Dodo. In North America, seventy species went extinct about 11,000 years ago, more or less simultaneously with the first arrival of humans on the continent. These species included “condors with a sixteen-foot wingspan, ground sloths as big as hippos, three kinds of elephants, three kinds of cheetah and five other kinds of big cat, several kinds of pronghorn antelopes, long-legged, antelope-like pigs, an assortment of camel, llama, deer, horse, and bison species, giant wolves, giant bears and giant armadillos.” (Bryant). By 10,000 years ago, the human race had arrived in South America, where again most megafauna disappeared shortly thereafter. In the West Indies, a similar sequence of events took place only 4,000 years ago. There is abundant archaeological evidence of man’s success as a hunter of many of these species. Humans also used fire to clear vast areas, presumably to facilitate hunting and possibly also to reduce habitat for large carnivores. Early man probably did not hunt those large carnivores directly, but nevertheless many species became extinct, either because of habitat loss or loss of the large herbivores which had been their prey.

It’s very possible that human predation may not have been solely responsible for all these extinctions. Other factors such as climate change or disease may have been significant as well. What is impossible for me to believe, is that these hunter-gatherer cultures were inhibited in their hunting efforts by any ethical compunctions such as Quinn’s rule of limited competition. On the contrary, early hunter-gatherers clearly were attempting to carry out a campaign of total unlimited warfare against the pleistocene megafauna; a war which, for whatever reason, was always brought to completion within a short time after their arrival in any new continent aside from their native Africa. Not that they thought of it in that framework, as a project to eliminate the giant wooly mammoths and other game, but just that they were doing what they needed to do to keep their tribes safe and well fed. I would even be willing to argue that “taker” ethics is probably instinctive for all carnivorous animals; it is only a lack of opportunity and skill that makes other species appear to obey the rule of limited competition. And throughout biological history, species have gone extinct; how can this happen except when some other species (or combination of species) breaks the limited competition rule?

At any rate, by the end of the neolithic period (if not sooner) the “taker” paradigm had been enacted multiple times by many cultures across the globe. Nevertheless, Quinn was correct in his argument that the invention of agriculture created a whole new set of challenges, not only for the natural world, but also for human beings. The operative word is “Totalitarian”, as the new agricultural civilizations were organized in a militaristic, hierarchical fashion because of the pressures of war. This was explained in a remarkable book by Andrew Bard Schmookler, “The Parable of the Tribes” (1984). Reading this book was a transformative experience for me, and I would highly recommend it to any Ishmaelite. In the extensive quote below, Schmookler explains how the drive for power emerged, not as a result of human nature, but as a fundamental requirement for survival in this new environment.

[Begin quote]

With the rise of civilization, the limits fall away. The natural self-interest and pursuit of survival remain, but they are no longer governed by any order. The new civilized forms of society, with more complex social and political structures, created the new possibility of indefinite social expansion: more and more people organized over more and more territory. All other forms of life had always found inevitable limits placed upon their growth by scarcity and consequent death. But civilized society was developing the unprecedented capacity for unlimited growth as an entity. (The limitlessness of this possibility does not emerge fully at the outset, but rather becomes progressively more realized over the course of history as people invent methods of transportation, communication, and governance which extend the range within which coherence and order can be maintained.) Out of the living order there emerged a living entity with no defined place.

In a finite world, societies all seeking to escape death-dealing scarcity through expansion will inevitably come to confront each other. Civilized societies, therefore, though lacking inherent limitations to their growth, do encounter new external limits – in the form of one another. Because human beings (like other living creatures) have ‘excess reproductive capacity,’ meaning that human numbers tend to increase indefinitely unless a high proportion of the population dies prematurely, each civilized society faces an unpleasant choice. If an expanding society willingly stops where its growth would infringe upon neighboring societies, it allows death to catch up and overtake its population. If it goes beyond those limits, it commits aggression. With no natural order or overarching power to prevent it, some will surely choose to take what belongs to their neighbors rather than to accept the limits that are compulsory for every other form of life.

In such circumstances, a Hobbesian struggle for power among societies becomes inevitable. We see that what is freedom from the point of view of each single unit is anarchy in an ungoverned system of those units. A freedom unknown in nature is cruelly transmuted into an equally unnatural state of anarchy, with its terrors and its destructive war of all against all.

As people stepped across the threshold into civilization, they inadvertently stumbled into a chaos that had never before existed. The relations among societies were uncontrolled and virtually uncontrollable. Such an ungoverned system imposes unchosen necessities: civilized people were compelled to enter a struggle for power.

The meaning of ‘power,’ a concept central to this entire work, needs to be explored. Power may be defined as the capacity to achieve one’s will against the will of another. The exercise of power thus infringes upon the exercise of choice, for to be the object of another’s power is to have his choice substituted for one’s own. *

* As used here, power is a coercive capacity. Power may also be defined as the ability to restrict the range of another’s choices. It is thus differentiated from the kind of persuasive power that changes how others decide to exercise choice (except to the extent that, as, for example, in brainwashing, and less obviously in many other forms of indoctrination, coercive power creates the situation in which persuasion becomes possible).

Power becomes important where two actors (or more) would choose the same thing but cannot both have it; power becomes important when the obstacles to the achievement of one’s will come from the will of others. Thus, as the expanding capacities of human societies created an overlap in the range of their grasp and desire, the intersocietal struggle for power arose.

But the new unavoidability of this struggle is but the first and smaller step in the transmutation of the apparent freedom of civilized peoples into bondage to the necessities of power.

The Selection for Power: The Parable of the Tribes

The new human freedom made striving for expansion and power possible. Such freedom, when multiplied, creates anarchy. The anarchy among civilized societies meant that the play of power in the system was uncontrollable. In an anarchic situation like that, no one can choose that the struggle for power shall cease.

But there is one more element in the picture: no one is free to choose peace, but anyone can impose upon all the necessity for power. This is the lesson of the parable of the tribes.

Imagine a group of tribes living within reach of one another. If all choose the way of peace, then all may live in peace. But what if all but one choose peace, and that one is ambitious for expansion and conquest? What can happen to the others when confronted by an ambitious and potent neighbor? Perhaps one tribe is attacked and defeated, its people destroyed and its lands seized for the use of the victors. Another is defeated, but this one is not exterminated; rather, it is subjugated and transformed to serve the conqueror. A third seeking to avoid such disaster flees from the area into some inaccessible (and undesirable) place, and its former homeland becomes part of the growing empire of the power-seeking tribe. Let us suppose that others observing these developments decide to defend themselves in order to preserve themselves and their autonomy. But the irony is that successful defense against a power-maximizing aggressor requires a society to become more like the society that threatens it. Power can be stopped only by power, and if the threatening society has discovered ways to magnify its power through innovations in organization or technology (or whatever), the defensive society will have to transform itself into something more like its foe in order to resist the external force.

I have just outlined four possible outcomes for the threatened tribes: destruction, absorption and transformation, withdrawal, and imitation. In every one of these outcomes the ways of power are spread throughout the system. This is the parable of the tribes.

The parable of the tribes is a theory of social evolution which shows that power is like a contaminant, a disease, which once introduced will gradually yet inexorably become universal in the system of competing societies. More important than the inevitability of the struggle for power is the profound social evolutionary consequence of that struggle once it begins. A selection for power among civilized societies is inevitable. If anarchy assured that power among civilized societies could not be governed, the selection for power signified that increasingly the ways of power would govern the destiny of mankind. This is the new evolutionary principle that came into the world with civilization. Here is the social evolutionary black hole that we have sought as an explanation of the harmful warp in the course of civilization’s development.

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If this analysis is correct (and I believe it is), then it represents a fundamental flaw with Quinn’s proposals to move “beyond civilization”. Quinn is wrong when he argues that the “taker” ethic is a cultural artifact, and that it can be alleviated by recovering an ancient way of being that prevailed before the advent of agricultural civilization. On the contrary, the will to take the things we need (even in violation of the limited competition rule) is built into our instincts and our genes. Totalitarian modes of hierarchical organization, militarism and power are not genetic or instinctive, but nevertheless they are built very deeply into the structure of civilization. Accordingly, transcending “taker” ethics will not come naturally to any human being. Furthermore, we are not free to walk away from the ways of power, at least not in massive numbers – if we do, we are at risk that power will come and find us, and enslave us. The best we can hope for is that some of us can elude its grasp for a little while.

In the late ‘90’s, Schmookler published a book on the declining state of his health, and I was under the highly mistaken impression that his voice had been silenced. I have just recently made the discovery of his website, his blogs and his columns at Atlantic Free Press. In one of his blog discussions, Schmookler was arguing for compassion and understanding towards some militaristic statements coming from presidential candidate Barack Obama — on the basis that a leader must show competence and comfort with military power, at least for defensive purposes, in order to be taken seriously. I would argue that even more so, we need to hold a space of compassion and respect for people’s material needs and for their efforts to meet those needs through agriculture and industry, otherwise we risk being (properly) marginalized as extremists.

At the same time, it is absolutely a fact that (as Einstein said) if we do not put an end to aggressive warfare, it will put an end to us. And we are in for miserable times if civilization continues to ignore natural limits. It’s hard to predict when the Malthusian walls will close in, but obviously we will never come close to a point where all the earth’s biomass consists of human beings. Those are the dilemmas we face, and (as Aaron wrote in his own blog recently) there is no silver bullet that is going to make these problems disappear. At the same time it’s vitally important that we keep talking about them – thus my appreciation for Aaron’s seminar.

One other aspect of modern times, which Aaron didn’t mention and which easily could be the subject of another workshop, is the tremendous pace of technological change. Scientific knowledge, computational power, communications technology, and biotechnology are all advancing at an exponentially accelerating rate, creating great dangers but also great opportunities. My hope is that solar and wind energy and fuel cell technology will bail us out of the impending situation of potential oil shortages and / or human-induced climate change, and buy us enough time to solve some of the other Malthusian problems as the rate of population increase slowly moderates. That is why my own choice is to stay engaged with industrial civilization, and hope for the best. Perhaps I need to put together my own workshop?


Peter J. Bryant’s “Biodiversity and Conservation: a hypertext book”:

Other links on extinction of megafauna:

Schmookler’s blog: