Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Few, The Proud, The Crazy

It takes lots of people, working in group cooperation, to sustain a civilization.

It only takes a few idiots to wreck one.

I've been thinking about it almost always takes a large number of people to create something, but only a few to destroy it.

Iraq is full of examples. How many people need to cooperate to build a power plant, or an oil pipeline, or establish a market, or establish the rule of law? How many fewer does it take to blow up any of these?

All most people want is to be left alone. But when the bombs start going off and the soldiers start busting down doors and shooting, even people who want to be left alone get drawn into the violence - if for nothing else than to defend themselves. That's why large groups of otherwise disinterested people can be manipulated by remarkably small groups of determined people.

Prior to the build up to the invasion of Iraq, did a majority of U.S. voters want to go to war there? Hardly - we were pissed as hell at Al Queda, happy to root them out of Afghanistan. Were they in Iraq? Not then. But a small group of people were able to first manipulate the public into (perhaps apathetic,perhaps jingoistic) acceptance of the invasion. Then once troops were committed, even those who would remain apathetic get drawn in as those close to them or someone they know start getting killed. It becomes personal.

Why do societies war? Look at just about every damn war ever fought, and a couple things are clear. A few (usually very few) determined men got together and decided they wanted a war. Whoever they attacked had no other choice than to fight back. And for some reason, once started, wars are very hard to stop. (In fact, in so many cases, they really don't stop - they just pause for a generation to grow new soldiers, forget the horror, but remember the need for revenge...)

Why don't the majority of people, who wanted nothing to do with this war to begin with, do anything to stop it?

Because the majority of people just want to be left alone.

So the few crazies, zealots, and idiots of the world are able to have extraordinary impact on world events.

And it's usually not a positive one.

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