A Variety of Falls

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Great nations demonstrate a variety of falls, Glubb finds:

It has been shown that, normally, the rise and fall of great nations are due to internal reasons alone. Ten generations of human beings suffice to transform the hardy and enterprising pioneer into the captious citizen of the welfare state. But whereas the life histories of great nations show an unexpected uniformity, the nature of their falls depends largely on outside circumstances and thus shows a high degree of diversity.

The Roman Republic, as we have seen, was followed by the empire, which became a super-state, in which all the natives of the Mediterranean basin, regardless of race, possessed equal rights. The name of Rome, originally a city-state, passed from it to an equalitarian international empire.

This empire broke in half, the western half being overrun by northern barbarians, the eastern half forming the East Roman or Byzantine Empire.

The vast Arab Empire broke up in the ninth century into many fragments, of which one former colony, Moslem Spain, ran its own 250-year course as an independent empire. The homelands of Syria and Iraq, however, were conquered by successive waves of Turks to whom they remained subject for 1,000 years.

The Mameluke Empire of Egypt and Syria, on the other hand, was conquered in one campaign by the Ottomans, the native population merely suffering a change of masters.

The Spanish Empire (1500-1750) endured for the conventional 250 years, terminated only by the loss of its colonies. The homeland of Spain fell, indeed, from its high estate of a super-power, but remained as an independent nation until today.

Romanov Russia (1682-1916) ran the normal course, but was succeeded by the Soviet Union.

It is unnecessary to labour the point, which we may attempt to summarise briefly. Any regime which attains great wealth and power seems with remarkable regularity to decay and fall apart in some ten generations. The ultimate fate of its component parts, however, does not depend on its internal nature, but on the other organisations which appear at the time of its collapse and succeed in devouring its heritage. Thus the lives of great powers are surprisingly uniform, but the results of their falls are completely diverse.

Decadence Is Not Physical

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Decadence is not physical, Glubb argues:

The citizens of nations in decline are sometimes described as too physically emasculated to be able to bear hardship or make great efforts. This does not seem to be a true picture. Citizens of great nations in decadence are normally physically larger and stronger than those of their barbarian invaders.

Moreover, as was proved in Britain in the First World War, young men brought up in luxury and wealth found little difficulty in accustoming themselves to life in the front-line trenches. The history of exploration proves the same point. Men accustomed to comfortable living in homes in Europe or America were able to show as much endurance as the natives in riding camels across the desert or in hacking their way through tropical forests.

Decadence is a moral and spiritual disease, resulting from too long a period of wealth and power, producing cynicism, decline of religion, pessimism and frivolity. The citizens of such a nation will no longer make an effort to save themselves, because they are not convinced that anything in life is worth saving.

Electric Knives

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Young men want to test their courage, but most good tests of physical courage are also great ways to get killed — or at least injured.

If you modify a dangerous sport to make it safe, it’s no longer a good test of courage.

Some hobbies successfully ride the edge between too-dangerous and not-scary — most forms of grappling are mildly dangerous and, in competition or when you’re new, fairly scary — but other martial arts have lost their edge — literally.

Fighting with foils or rubber knives isn’t scary. Fighting with more substantial weapons can lead to broken bones.

Burton “Lucky Dog” Richards has done his share of fighting with rubber knives and wooden sticks, and here he talks about the benefits of using a Shocknife in training:

The downside is that a Shocknife costs $500.

But you can make your own from a cheap electric fly-swatter:

  1. Make sure any residual charge is bled off by tapping the racket into something metal and grounded, making sure that both mesh sides touch. Remove batteries. Unscrew the housing.
  2. Pry apart the plastic “racket” portion and snip off the leads to the three attached wires, or simply cut them as long as possible. Discard racket.
  3. Since this is supposed to simulate a knife, the leads will need to attach to something of a similar shape. The template should also be non-conductive. I found a piece of wood to be the best option, since it was easy to adjust to the desired shape. Take the overall length of the weapon into mind- how long does the training weapon need to be? With the body at 8 inches, I cut the wood template to a little under 3 inches.
  4. [...]

“Please don’t be stupid with this thing.”

To Know Contractors, Know Government

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Military contractors do not set the tone, Tyler Cowen notes, but rather reflect the sins and virtues of their customers:

It is easy to rail against contractors for holding money above loyalty to country; Halliburton, for instance, has been a target of this criticism. But money isn’t the real issue. Few Americans would join the armed services without pay, and most American weapons are made by the private sector for profit.

Furthermore, privateers, private ships licensed to carry out warfare, helped win the American Revolution and the War of 1812. In World War II, the Flying Tigers, American fighter pilots hired by the government of Chiang Kai-shek, helped defeat the Japanese. Today, many of our allies receive payment, either implicitly or explicitly, to support American efforts. War is, among other things, an economic undertaking, so the profit motive in military affairs isn’t always bad or ignoble.

When it comes to supplying troops, or protecting high-ranking officials, private military contractors often offer greater flexibility and rapidity of response. The employees, many of whom are former soldiers or operatives, tend to have more experience than current, mostly younger soldiers.

The recent comeback of private contracting suggests that central governments have become weaker again, at least relative to the tasks they are undertaking. Alexander Tabarrok, my colleague (and sometimes co-author) at George Mason University, where he is also a professor of economics, traced the history of private contractors in a study, “The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Privateers” (The Independent Review, spring 2007). He showed that public navies and armies began to displace private contractors in the 19th century, as governments became more powerful and better funded.

Today, America no longer has a draft, its military bureaucracy can be inflexible and the public wishes to be insulated from the direct impact of war. Contractors are a symptom of government weakness, but are not the problem itself. The first Persian Gulf War, which enjoyed greater international support, was not reliant on contractors to nearly the same degree.

Among many Iraqis, Blackwater and other companies have a reputation for getting the job done without much caring about Iraqis who get in the way. But part of the problem may stem from economic incentives. If Blackwater is assigned to protect a top American official, who is later assassinated, Blackwater may lose future business. A private contractor doesn’t have a financial incentive to protect Iraqi citizens, who are not paying customers. Ultimately, this reflects the priorities of the United States military itself. American casualties are carefully recorded and memorialized, but there is no count of Iraqi civilian deaths.

It is harder to recognize when private contractors are being underemployed. During the Rwandan civil war in the 1990s, the United Nations debated using two private contractors, Executive Outcomes or Sandline International, to intervene. The U.N. rejected the notion and instead turned to a poorly trained Zairean police contingent. We’ll never know how private contractors would have fared, but the Zaireans were ineffective; some 800,000 Rwandans were murdered.

The Lawless Hellscape Colorado Has Become

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Here’s the lawless hellscape Colorado has become six months after legalizing weed:

In March alone, taxed and legal recreational marijuana sales generated nearly $19 million, up from $14 million in February. The state has garnered more than $10 million in taxes from retail sales in the first four months — money that will go to public schools and infrastructure, as well as for youth educational campaigns about substance use.

According to his latest budget proposal, Gov. John Hickenlooper expects a healthy $1 billion in marijuana sales over the next fiscal year. That’s nearly $134 million in tax revenue.

[...]

By removing marijuana penalties, the state is estimated to save somewhere between $12 million and $40 million, according to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

According to government data, the Denver city- and county-wide murder rate has dropped 42.1% since recreational marijuana use was legalized in January. This is compared to the same period last year, a time frame encompassing Jan. 1 through May 31. Violent crime in general is down almost 2%, and major property crimes are down 11.5% compared to the same period in 2013.

[...]

An October 2013 Gallup poll found that 58% of adults favored legalizing marijuana for adult use.

In 2013, 52% thought that marijuana should be legalized, with 45% opposed. According to Pew, this is a 13-point jump from 2010, when 41% thought it should be legalized and 52% opposed. The year 2010 was when Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California, was defeated with only a 53% majority. And of course, this is a dramatic swing from 1969, when nearly 8 out of 10 Americans opposed legalization.

Ending prohibition saves money. Since 1970, the government has spent $1.5 trillion on “drug control,” though addiction rates remain constant.

Alone With Their Thoughts

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

U.Va. psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues have found that people do not enjoy being alone with their thoughts:

The period of time that Wilson and his colleagues asked participants to be alone with their thoughts ranged from six to 15 minutes. Many of the first studies involved college student participants, most of whom reported that this “thinking period” wasn’t very enjoyable and that it was hard to concentrate. So Wilson conducted another study with participants from a broad selection of backgrounds, ranging in age from 18 to 77, and found essentially the same results.

“That was surprising — that even older people did not show any particular fondness for being alone thinking,” Wilson said.

He does not necessarily attribute this to the fast pace of modern society, or the prevalence of readily available electronic devices, such as smartphones. Instead, he thinks the devices might be a response to people’s desire to always have something to do.

In his paper, Wilson notes that broad surveys have shown that people generally prefer not to disengage from the world, and, when they do, they do not particularly enjoy it. Based on these surveys, Americans spent their time watching television, socializing or reading, and actually spent little or no time “relaxing or thinking.”

During several of Wilson’s experiments, participants were asked to sit alone in an unadorned room at a laboratory with no cell phone, reading materials or writing implements, and to spend six to 15 minutes — depending on the study — entertaining themselves with their thoughts. Afterward, they answered questions about how much they enjoyed the experience and if they had difficulty concentrating, among other questions.

Most reported they found it difficult to concentrate and that their minds wandered, though nothing was competing for their attention. On average the participants did not enjoy the experience. A similar result was found in further studies when the participants were allowed to spend time alone with their thoughts in their homes.

“We found that about a third admitted that they had ‘cheated’ at home by engaging in some activity, such as listening to music or using a cell phone, or leaving their chair,” Wilson said. “And they didn’t enjoy this experience any more at home than at the lab.”

An additional experiment randomly assigned participants to spend time with their thoughts or the same amount of time doing an external activity, such as reading or listening to music, but not to communicate with others. Those who did the external activities reported that they enjoyed themselves much more than those asked to just think, that they found it easier to concentrate and that their minds wandered less.

The real “grabber” is this bit though:

The researchers took their studies further. Because most people prefer having something to do rather than just thinking, they then asked, “Would they rather do an unpleasant activity than no activity at all?”

The results show that many would. Participants were given the same circumstances as most of the previous studies, with the added option of also administering a mild electric shock to themselves by pressing a button.

Twelve of 18 men in the study gave themselves at least one electric shock during the study’s 15-minute “thinking” period. By comparison, six of 24 females shocked themselves. All of these participants had received a sample of the shock and reported that they would pay to avoid being shocked again.

“What is striking,” the investigators write, “is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.”

Weapons Man notes a similar empirical discovery by the men developing the original Special Forces Qualification Course, which has led to every subsequent edition of SFQC including some type of isolation period:

In the field exercise portion, soldiers were isolated in the woods for approximately five days and four nights. There would always be a number of people who had never been alone before for a single night of their young lives, and who found this aspect of the survival training extremely difficult. Some would endure. Some would fire the flare that would draw instructors to their location and write an ignominious end to their Green Beret aspirations.

[...]

Certainly the introverts and the self-sufficient (two sets with a large intersection, but not entirely the same) did well in the old survival exercise, at least on the isolation axis of measurement. It wasn’t the sole purpose of the drill. One also had 14 or 15 mandatory tasks to accomplish, some of them difficult and time-consuming, and had to obey rules like not linking up with other students — or at least, avoid getting caught breaking the rules. But it was one important aspect of Special Forces training that produced operators capable of individual operations, although those were almost never done deliberately. It also identified for SF men for whom the de facto isolation of being the only American amid a group of strange foreigners of different race, language and culture, would not be too stressful.

Needless to say, those who came through the isolation exercise best were usually those for whom being isolated and alone for several days was nothing new, including hunters, hikers, single-hand sailors, and other adventuresome youth.

How Poor Young Black Men Run from the Police

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Sociologist Alice Goffman writes about how (and why) poor young black men run from the police:

During the first year and a half I spent on 6th Street, I watched young men running and hiding from the police on 111 occasions, an average of more than once every five days.

Those who interact rarely with the police may assume that running away after a police stop is futile. Worse, it could lead to increased charges or to violence. While the second part is true, the first is not. In my first 18 months on 6th Street, I observed a young man running after he had been stopped on 41 different occasions. Of these, eight involved men fleeing their houses during raids; 23 involved men running after being stopped while on foot (including running after the police had approached a group of people of whom the man was a part); six involved car chases; and two involved a combination of car and foot chases, where the chase began by car and continued with the man getting out and running.

In 24 of these cases, the man got away. In 17 of the 24, the police didn’t appear to know who the man was and couldn’t bring any charges against him after he had fled. Even in cases where the police subsequently charged him with fleeing or other crimes, the successful getaway allowed the man to stay out of jail longer than he might have if he’d simply permitted the police to cuff him and take him in.

A successful escape can be a solitary act, but oftentimes it is a collective accomplishment. A young man relies on his friends, relatives, and neighbors to alert him when they see the police coming, and to pass along information about where the police have been or where and when they might appear next. When the police make inquiries, these friends and neighbors feign ignorance or feed the police misinformation. They may also help to conceal incriminating objects and provide safe houses where a young man can hide. From field notes taken in September 2006:

Around 11 AM, I walked up the alleyway to the back of Chuck’s house. Before I reached the porch, Chuck came running down the iron stairs, shouting something to a neighbor. Reggie followed him, also shouting. Their mother, Miss Linda, came to the top of the second-floor balcony and told me the law was on the way, and to make sure that Reggie in particular did not come back until she gave the green light. I recalled that Reggie had a warrant out for failure to pay court fees, and would doubtless be taken in if the cops ran his name.

I watched Chuck and Reggie proceed up the alleyway, and then Chuck turned and yelled at me to come on. We ran for about three blocks, going through two backyards and over a small divider. Dogs barked as we went by. I was half a block behind and lost sight of Chuck and Reggie. Panting, I slowed to a walk, looking back to see if the police were coming. Then I heard “psst” and looked up to see Chuck leaning out the second-floor window of a two-story house. A woman in her 50s, who I immediately guessed to be a churchgoer, opened the door for me as I approached, saying only, “Upstairs.”

Chuck and Reggie were in her dressing room. This quite conservative- looking woman had converted what is usually the spare upstairs bedroom into a giant walk-in closet, with shoes, purses, and clothing arranged by color on the kind of white metal shelves that you buy and install yourself.

Our getaway had produced a mild euphoria. Reggie brushed past Chuck to examine the shoe collection, and Chuck wiped his arm off dramatically, teasing his younger brother about how sweaty he was.

“Look at yourself, nigga! You don’t run for shit now with that little bit of shell in your shoulder,” Reggie responded, referring to the partial bullet that had lodged just below the back of Chuck’s neck when he was shot the month before.

Chuck laughed. “I’m in the best shape of my life.” He explained that his shoulder hurt only when he played basketball.

Reggie sat on a small leopard-print stool and said, “Name a fat motherfucker who runs faster than me. Not just in the ’hood but anywhere in Philly.”

“Oh, here you go,” Chuck complained.

Chuck joked about the extensive shoe collection, saying you’d never know Miss Toya was like that. Reggie pulled out a pair of suede high heels and attempted to get one onto his foot, asking me to do up the straps. ?He got on her computer and started browsing pit bull websites, then YouTube videos of street fights. Chuck cringed and exclaimed loudly as Kimbo, a well-known street fighter, hit his opponent repeatedly in the eye, revealing bloody and battered tissue that Chuck called “spaghetti and meatballs.”

I asked Chuck why he made me run, and consequently dirty my sneakers, when I’m not even wanted.

“It’s good practice.”?Reggie grinned and said, “You be taking your fucking time, A.”

“You’re no track star,” I replied.

“What!? I was haul-assing.”

Chuck got on the phone with his mother and then a neighbor to find out how many police were on his block and for whom they had come. Apparently they were looking for a man who had fled on foot after being stopped on an off-road motorbike. They didn’t find this man, but did take two others from the house next door: One had a bench warrant for failure to appear, and the other had a small amount of crack in his pocket. Into the phone Chuck was saying, “Damn. They got Jay-Jay? Damn.”

About an hour later, his mother called to tell Chuck that the police had gone. We waited another ten minutes, then left for Pappi’s, the corner store. Chuck ordered Miss Toya a turkey hoagie and BBQ chips and brought them to her as thanks. We then walked back to the block with Dutch cigars and sodas.

Running wasn’t always the smartest thing to do when the cops came, but the urge to run was so ingrained that sometimes it was hard to stand still.

We’re supposed to feel sympathy for people getting “harassed” by the police just because they have warrants out for their arrest.

Making Cannons with Lasers

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Alexander Sarnowski designs fully functional mini cannons that are then manufactured with CNC metal machining and laser wood cutting:

For as long as he can remember, Alexander has been building everything from his own morse code machines to home made rocket motors. For his 16th birthday his father bought him a mid-sized lathe, and since then he’s been designing and cranking out parts every chance he gets.

[...]

Alexander knew his way around a lathe, so the barrels wouldn’t be a problem. The wood carriages however, would have been impossible to make by hand at the scale he wanted. That’s where Ponoko came in:

“My roommate had ordered laser cut parts from Ponoko for one of his robotics projects, so I asked him if Ponoko also cut wood. I had plenty of CAD experience, so discovering Ponoko was the last piece to the puzzle.”

Once he learned what was possible with Ponoko, designing the first prototype “only took me a few hours” he says, adding that “the time it took me to bolt it all together was only a few minutes, thanks to how accurately the laser cut parts were.”

The Pageant of Empire

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

The striking features in the pageant of empire are, according to Glubb:

(a) the extraordinary exactitude with which these stages have followed one another, in empire after empire, over centuries or even millennia; and

(b) the fact that the successive changes seem to represent mere changes in popular fashion — new fads and fancies which sweep away public opinion without logical reason. At first, popular enthusiasm is devoted to military glory, then to the accumulation of wealth and later to the acquisition of academic fame.

Why could not all these legitimate, and indeed beneficent, activities be carried on simultaneously, each of them in due moderation? Yet this never seemed to happen.

The Age of Intellect

Friday, July 4th, 2014

After the Age of Affluence comes The Age of Intellect, Glubb says:

We have now, perhaps arbitrarily, divided the life-story of our great nation into four ages. The Age of the Pioneers (or the Outburst), the Age of Conquests, the Age of Commerce, and the Age of Affluence. The great wealth of the nation is no longer needed to supply the mere necessities, or even the luxuries of life. Ample funds are available also for the pursuit of knowledge.

The merchant princes of the Age of Commerce seek fame and praise, not only by endowing works of art or patronising music and literature. They also found and endow colleges and universities. It is remarkable with what regularity this phase follows on that of wealth, in empire after empire, divided by many centuries.

In the eleventh century, the former Arab Empire, then in complete political decline, was ruled by the Seljuk sultan, Malik Shah. The Arabs, no longer soldiers, were still the intellectual leaders of the world. During the reign of Malik Shah, the building of universities and colleges became a passion. Whereas a small number of universities in the great cities had sufficed the years of Arab glory, now a university sprang up in every town.

In our own lifetime, we have witnessed the same phenomenon in the U.S.A. and Britain. When these nations were at the height of their glory, Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge seemed to meet their needs. Now almost every city has its university.

The ambition of the young, once engaged in the pursuit of adventure and military glory, and then in the desire for the accumulation of wealth, now turns to the acquisition of academic honours.

It is useful here to take note that almost all the pursuits followed with such passion throughout the ages were in themselves good. The manly cult of hardihood, frankness and truthfulness, which characterised the Age of Conquests, produced many really splendid heroes.

The opening up of natural resources, and the peaceful accumulation of wealth, which marked the age of commercialism, appeared to introduce new triumphs in civilisation, in culture and in the arts. In the same way, the vast expansion of the field of knowledge achieved by the Age of Intellect seemed to mark a new high-water mark of human progress. We cannot say that any of these changes were ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Eagles and Air Power

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

JRR Tolkien had an intuitive feel for air power, Dr Kenneth Payne suggests, in the RAF’s latest Air Power Review:

When it comes to air power roles, then, Tolkien and his eagles do a magnificent job of anticipating our modern RAF doctrine and of tracking real developments in aerial warfare then underway in Europe. There are time tested precepts of air power aplenty in Lord of the Rings — the importance of persistence, speed, reach and height should be readily apparent to readers. There is emphasis on precision, and shock; on improvisation and multirole capabilities; on centres of gravity and the constraints of terrain and climate. There is Defensive Counter Air (DCA), via ground based air defences (GBAD) on the ramparts of Gondor. There is passive DCA in the elvish cloaks adopted by Frodo and Sam to foil overflying Ring Wraiths.

There are, of course, many air power features that Tolkien overlooks, in part because he is as much a creature of his times as we all are, in part because of the nature of the wars of the Rings. There is, for example, not much inter-theatre mobility on offer, with air forces in Middle Earth and mid-twentieth century Europe alike having only a limited capacity to transport materiel. And with all the sustained land warfare going on in Middle Earth, air maritime integration doesn’t get much of a look in in LOTR — plus ça change, you might think. Stand off weapons too are in short supply too: Smaug excepted, the aerial creatures of Middle Earth cannot bring much weight of firepower to bear from the air. Accordingly, the attack role of Eagle and Nazgûl alike is limited to precision strike and the psychological effect of shock action.

But in his writings on autonomous ISTAR, long-range networked sensors (via the Palantir), and stealth, Tolkien was not just describing air power, he and the eagles were truly at the cutting edge. The fundamentals of air power, it seems, apply equally to this earth as to others.

Boredom is the Pathway to Peace

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

When the confrontation is one-on-one, the prospects are especially optimistic that violence can be avoided, Randall Collins says:

We are accumulating a significant amount of data on such situations, and two patterns stand out.

First: The audience has an important effect. Public fights rarely get very far without audience support. Most angry arguments stay at the level of bluster and insult, unless the audience shows that it wants them to fight. The audience that cheers and urges them on will almost always get a prolonged fight. A neutral or uneasy audience, standing at a distance, usually results in a brief fight without much damage. And when an audience (or part of it) tries to intervene, it is almost always successful in stopping a fight. This pattern is shown in my comparison of fight incidents with different audience reactions (Collins 2008); in British research using CCTV videos of fights in pubs (Levine et al. 2011); and studies of what network relationships result in successful third-party interventions (Phillips and Cooney 2005).

There are limits to this pattern. It applies to arguments and fights in public, but not to domestic violence, which often takes place without much of an audience. (But there is ongoing research here, too, investigating the effects of indoor audiences that may be present.) Since domestic violence is a considerable portion of small-scale violence, that is a serious limitation on our optimistic news. On the other hand, the following point applies both to domestic and public violence:

Second: Small-scale conflict and violence peters out when the emotional field is in equilibrium. That means: when both sides are showing the same amount of emotional energy, the same degree of bodily agitation, the same emotional intensity. This equilibrating effect can take place at any level of intensity, as long as both sides are evenly matched. Research on mobile phone videos of street fights (Jackson-Jacobs) shows that even in the case of fights that have already started (and where the audience is distant and neutral) tend to wind down after both sides have thrown a few blows. On the whole, evenly matched fights do not do very much damage; the high level of adrenaline arousal makes fighters sloppy and incompetent, and Jackson-Jacobs’s videos show the fighters who have thrown a few wild punches tend to let their swings carry themselves out of range, where the fight devolves into threats, and eventually into mutual disengagement. After all, in an honor fight, it is showing one’s willingness to fight that counts, not the result.

Let me conclude with a favorite photograph. It was taken in Jerusalem during the height of the second Intifada, and it shows an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian political leader locked in angry conflict.

Israeli Soldier and Palestinian Political Leader Locked in Angry Conflict

The news story tells there was no violence at this flash point of sacred territories that day. The angry confrontation wound down and ended. How?

The photo shows the two men exactly mirroring each other. Reading the facial expression of emotions using Ekman’s methods, we see them displaying anger, and in an identical manner: both have the hard, staring eyes, the clenched eyebrows with the vertical line between them, the square, shouting mouth. As is characteristic of angry talk, both are vocalizing at the same time, not listening to what the other has to say. Their faces, like their bodies, are tensed like muscles about to strike. But they do not strike.

They are in equilibrium at a high level of intensity. From similar incidents observed over a few moments of time, we can surmise that they eventually become tired of the situation. No one else in the crowd is taking up their level of intensity; they are doing all the audience’s work for it. It is boring to say the same thing over and over again, getting no intelligible response. They will deescalate, going down the scale of emotional intensity simultaneously, keeping in equilibrium step by step.

They will become bored. And in situations of conflict, boredom is the pathway to peace.

Defensiveness

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Another outward change which invariably marks the transition from the Age of Conquests to the Age of Affluence, Glubb suggests, is the spread of defensiveness:

The nation, immensely rich, is no longer interested in glory or duty, but is only anxious to retain its wealth and its luxury. It is a period of defensiveness, from the Great Wall of China, to Hadrian’s Wall on the Scottish Border, to the Maginot Line in France in 1939.

Money being in better supply than courage, subsidies instead of weapons are employed to buy off enemies. To justify this departure from ancient tradition, the human mind easily devises its own justi?cation. Military readiness, or aggressiveness, is denounced as primitive and immoral. Civilised peoples are too proud to fight. The conquest of one nation by another is declared to be immoral. Empires are wicked. This intellectual device enables us to suppress our feeling of inferiority, when we read of the heroism of our ancestors, and then ruefully contemplate our position today. ‘It is not that we are afraid to fight,’ we say, ‘but we should consider it immoral.’ This even enables us to assume an attitude of moral superiority.

The weakness of pacifism is that there are still many peoples in the world who are aggressive. Nations who proclaim themselves unwilling to fight are liable to be conquered by peoples in the stage of militarism — perhaps even to see themselves incorporated into some new empire, with the status of mere provinces or colonies.

When to be prepared to use force and when to give way is a perpetual human problem, which can only be solved, as best we can, in each successive situation as it arises. In fact, however, history seems to indicate that great nations do not normally disarm from motives of conscience, but owing to the weakening of a sense of duty in the citizens, and the increase in selfishness and the desire for wealth and ease.

Practical Advice in Violent Crowd Situations

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Randall Callins offers this practical advice in violent crowd situations:

  • Don’t turn your back.
  • In a situation of violent threat, don’t hide your face.
  • Don’t run away in panic.
  • Above all, don’t fall down.
  • That is to say: your eyes and your face are your strongest weapon of defense.
  • Keep up a clear confrontation with a potential attacker. But don’t raise the level of tension; don’t scream; don’t make further threats; just keep it steady as you can.
  • Don’t get isolated as a single individual surrounded by a cluster of about half a dozen attackers. This is the configuration in photos where persons are badly beaten. Try to stay with at least a small cluster of your own side, but not in the panicky flight mode.

High Noon

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Empires pass through a High Noon, Glubb finds:

That which we may call the High Noon of the nation covers the period of transition from the Age of Conquests to the Age of Affluence: the age of Augustus in Rome, that of Harun al-Rashid in Baghdad, of Sulaiman the Magnificent in the Ottoman Empire, or of Queen Victoria in Britain. Perhaps we might add the age of Woodrow Wilson in the United States.

All these periods reveal the same characteristics. The immense wealth accumulated in the nation dazzles the onlookers. Enough of the ancient virtues of courage, energy and patriotism survive to enable the state successfully to defend its frontiers. But, beneath the surface, greed for money is gradually replacing duty and public service. Indeed the change might be summarised as being from service to selfishness.