Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world


Resuming the life if a blogger after six months enforced absence is a bit like the surfacing after a realistic and dramatic dream. “Where am I? What is this that I am seeing? What is going on?” In this new-to-me world I find that some of the issues that concerned me when I went to sleep have pretty much disappeared. Scotland is not now going to break up the United Kingdom: Greece is not going bankrupt: child-abuse scandals no longer make the front page. 

I find The Ebola Virus the dominant issue, closely followed by the atrocities of ISIL. What thoughts do they provoke? Ebola suggests that there are forces of nature that might destroy humanity and consign us all to history like the dinosaurs. But there are other destructive forces, too, and one of them is the extraordinary propensity of humans to embrace an idea or ideology and destroy fellow-humans. There are extremists like ISIL who really believe they are doing the right thing by murdering others. And adherents of other religions have behaved in similar ways down the centuries. is there a species-destruction motive built into our nature? Some mechanism that comes into operation when the eco-system wants a few less humans around?

Another destructive force might well be technology. It scares me sometimes that we rely so heavily on information technology. To a significant extent we take it’s accuracy for granted and never check what it is telling us. Selling my old house, I was told that the ‘searches’ made by the buyers said that the house was not on main drainage – despite the fact that I had been paying the water company bills for thirty years. Sorting out the problem, I found that the company had never picked up a one-letter change in the post code. They had looked on their computer for a post code terminating in AL when it had been AN for ten years or more. Nobody had bothered to check the full address of the house. They relied wholly on the post code and it was wrong.

Translate that simple human error into the command chain that ends with weapons of war being fired. It does not have to be a bomb-bearing rocket fired at a city. It can be a relatively minor weapon that destroys a military compound and is interpreted as an act of war. Reprisals begin and the thing escalates into full-scale conflict.

Looking at military history, and the ludicrous errors that have been made in the past, it is not possible to believe that none will be made in a future conflict.

My favourite scenario is the next Mongol Invasion: fierce little men on horseback who have no technology beyond swords but do have a capacity for quick, effective, ruthless action. They won’t be stopped at the gates of Vienna this time. They will be all over Europe before our politicians have recognised the danger or agreed on a response.


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