We are reading “The Milagro Beanfield War,” a very entertaining recount of the impact of modern development upon Spanish-speaking subsistence farmers in New Mexico. We recommend it highly. It is hilarious, full of action and illustrative of the borderline between old and new, Hispanic and Anglo, in New Mexico. No reader is likely to fail to enjoy it immensely. It also has a few things to say about today.
It showcases the impact of modernity upon the ancient establishment. In America, that was first the impact of European technology upon essentially stone age Indians. It was hard on the Indians but few thought that the answer was to abandon technology and return to living in caves. Progress ain’t free, right? (Usually pointed out by the folk who benefit, rather than the folk who actually pay.)
The book showcases the New Mexican Hispanics as the victims of greedy Anglo developers and their purchased politicians. The book does not consider how poor is New Mexico and how the lives of its citizens fail to match those elsewhere where more development has occurred. That wouldn’t be entertaining nor would it be politically correct today. Hispanics must be victims; whites must be exploiters; that’s that’s the way it is. That without the exploiters, we’d all be living on farms without cars, cell phones, healthcare and computers is not discussed. Of course, there’d likely be less pollution, but fewer sewers ….
Neither is the history of the iron-using Assyrians who “came down like wolves upon the fold” in Biblical times. Or maybe it was the Hittites, we’re not Bible scholars. But technical progress runs throughout history and it has always been a boon to some and a cost to others. And always in the long run, a boon to all. That is the pattern of human development. If you disapprove, complain to the Designer or bewail random chance, as you please.
Moslems are terrivied, seeing their stultified creed coming apart under the pressure of modernity and and destroying all that they can get their hands on (except weapons) in an effort to put the toothpaste back into the tube. Christians are abandoning their restrictive sex rules and the sacredness of human life in search of perennial pleasure at no cost. Religion is thus draining away, leaving no compelling rules of life suitable for sustaining human societies; both these trends empower individual selfishness at the cost of the collective, leaving said collective nothing but force to maintain itself..
The only counterweight on offer is empowerment of the collective at the cost of individual freedom, an equally stultifying evil that paralyzes progress for its own security. Neither do-as-you-please individualism nor do-as-you’re-told collectivism seems to offer mush human progress.
Neither does any in-between system that sustains progress offer much security. Human progress seems always to occur with accompanying chaos, as new methods and opportunities destabilize patterns of life relied upon for security. Those who cannot adapt, suffer and disappear; those who can adapt, prosper. Another word for this process is: “evolution.” It applies as much to human society as to biology. But we don’t reallly like that, especially if we see ourselves as likely to be on the losing side.
That fear leaves us ready to listen to someone promising to game the rules in our favor. We know that such promises are illusory but we see no better alternative and sign on in one of those triumphs of hope over experience. Nor do we consider the cost to others; we are programmed toward self-preservation. That is necessary for our species to survive.
So President Putin invades Ukraine, restoring the Russian Empire to distract from the decaying Russian economy. China expands into Tibet and the South China Sea’s Philippine waters to distract from its reliance upon the reduced purchases of its overseas customer base. Iran runs subversive terrorists in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon etc. to distract from its declining economy as it suffers sanctions as a price of its developing nukes. And the U.S. keeps its military in over a hundred countries to maintain its influence, needed to satisfy its big political donors. It’s called: “The Way of the World.”
It has also been called: “Devil take the hindmost” and “every man for himself.” It has never worked very well, but no reliable alternatives have ever lasted. It seems to have something to do with human DNA. We’re monkeying with that DNA now, altering it. Maybe that will lead to a better species. Given who is doing the monkeying, would you like to bet on that?