December 20th, 2011

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#490 – Dick Bernard: Drones, Chapter two.

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

UPDATE: All comments, including to this post, are found here. #9 is first comment received after publishing of this post.

In “The Drones”, published a week ago today, was one crucial paragraph: “However limited, there is room for conversation among people willing to listen to each other, and considering other points of view. But one can’t have such a conversation in separate rooms.”

One of the recipients of the post (I would describe all of the initial recipients as people passionate about peace and justice, including me) asked a reasonable question: “do you believe what you wrote, or are you just trying to get a reaction”. I replied honestly: “both”.

I keep thinking of two novels I’ve read.

The first is “Peace Like a River”, a 2001 best seller by Leif Enger.

The book is set in early 1960s Minnesota and North Dakota and much of it involves a chase by an FBI agent attempting to apprehend a possibly innocent teenager accused of murder.

The takeaway from this book which applies to the drone conversation is the huge change in technology in the last 50 years. If you don’t believe this, simply pick the year when you began high school and compare the ways and means you had of communicating, then.

In Peace Like a River, the FBI agent works with what he has to work with, and it’s very primitive by today’s standards.

Then, think of the ways anyone can communicate today, literally anywhere in the world.

By today’s standard, drones are no Buck Rogers sci-fi device, even compared with our own means of keeping track/keeping touch. We can lament the loss of anonymity, but it’s long gone.

The other book which came to mind was the 1984 novel “Bones of Plenty”, by Lois Phillips Hudson, set in rural North Dakota in 1934 – the year described by my Uncle Vince, then 9 years old, as the worst year he could remember during the Great Depression.

The takeaway from Bones of Plenty was how people dealt with issues in small towns (and large) in older days when communication was far more limited than in the early 1960s.

Among a book full of vivid written images, Hudson describes meetings in the town hall in the tiny community west of Jamestown which is epicenter of her book.

As today, not everyone in the 1930s thought alike, but unlike today, in small towns or large, or in the country, people really had no reasonable option, short of completely isolating themselves, than engaging in conversation (sometimes called ‘fights’) with people whose views they might not like. This applied to everyone, including politicians. This was before there was an effective means to deliver political rhetoric in soundbites to people in the isolation of their own homes. Most often communication was pretty raw and pretty real.

I’m old enough to sometimes have nostalgia for the old days. But one doesn’t need to think very long about the many problems back then.

Similarly, it would be nice if there were no need for drones, but given the alternative, killing a la the World Wars, ever more focused on civilians, I will take the lesser of the two evils.

Of course, drones, like today’s Dick Tracy wrist-radios which everyone has, have their own serious limitations as will become obvious with time. In our massive world, we will never control outcomes with small airplanes. We depend on reasonable relationships with host countries to have these airplanes on their land. We could be told to leave.

We are an ever larger and broader community with different and legitimate points of view. We are a world with artificial but no longer real borders. We’re stuck with each other.

Let’s talk. But “let’s talk” doesn’t presume going into the conversation with a “you can go to hell” pre-determined outcome as what seems to be happening in Washington D.C. at this very moment.

We can’t be a “you can go to hell” society and survive.

That’s why I continue to lobby for true dialogue – conversation without borders.