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Welcome to stren #70.  This stren explains why our history is defined by a series of wars and why we are headed for self-annihilation.  The next stren will describe Einstein’s solution to prevent human catastrophe and promote world peace.  We have an opportunity and obligation to ensure that our children and other loved ones have the opportunities we enjoy.  Global action is required to prevent a horror most individuals could not comprehend.  The “why” is important because it leads to the “how” we can proceed to succeed.    

             The Problem we all face has been simply stated in a report to President Obama that was commissioned by the U.S. Congress.  After interviewing over 250 world experts on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the first sentence of the Executive Summary states: 

The Commission believes that unless the community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist’s attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.  


The report adds:


 There is still time to defend ourselves, if we act with the urgency called for by the nature of the threat that confronts us.  Sounding that call for urgent action is the purpose of this report.[1]  

     Humankind is the first and currently the only species on earth to make itself capable of triggering self-extinction and dramatically changing Mother Earth by the word of one person.  At the present moment, multiple tribes are designing weapons so powerful that we can hardly imagine the horror of their use.  Our newest weapons, unlike previous ones, offer no second chance.  Powerful leaders have already indicated it is their moral right and intention to use them.  The likelihood that biological or nuclear weapons will be unleashed within the lifetime of our children is even greater.  This stren, together with the next, is a plea to you to unite with others to preserve our children’s well-being. Working together, we will be unstoppable; the alternatives are not very pleasant.           

Here are the three major reasons we are drifting towards annihilation:

1.     Nature’s role: For 3 ½ billion years, nature has genetically engineered our animal brain to survive in a savage eat or be eaten environment.  We are preprogrammed at birth to survive through fight or flight. Destructive aggression is instinctive to the animal portion of our brain. 

2.     Nurture’s role: All native languages bias us to process information intotwo either/or opposing categories; this is the primary cause of bigotry, prejudice, destructive confrontation, and war.  Helpless at birth, our survival requires that we first serve the authority of instinct and mimic whatever traditions our nurturers demand.     

3.     Self-mastery’s role: Nature has provided humankind its most advanced brain to replace destructive aggression with love and the humane qualities to which we aspire.  We have yet to educate our population in a newer way of thinking (ANWOT) required to prevent war and cooperate for our mutual well-being. This is our most urgent mission.  


Given the three reasons destructive aggression and war persists, we can now explain each.

Our intelligent brain has allowed us to become powerful rulers on earth.  Only humankind grows knowledge of cause-and-effect, what we call science.  Knowledge is the means by which we free our will power from instinct and tradition to acquire sufficient self-mastery to direct our destiny.  We initiate constructive and destructive phenomena not present in nature. 

Intelligence → knowledge self-mastery→ wise and stupid use of power

1.      Nature’s role: For 3 ½ billion years of evolution on Mother Earth, nature’s survival of the fittest rule has included the fight or flight instinct.  Survival required identification and loyalty to a local tribe.  Non-tribe members were considered fair game to abuse in whatever way suited the tribe’s or individual’s needs.  Eat or be eaten is critical thinking in a savage environment.  The instinct to dominate and thrive, without consideration for others, is omnipresent in the common gene pool of complex species.  Children, driven by instinct, are known for their impatience and insensitivity to the feelings of others, and bullying is common among teens.

Until the appearance of humankind 150,000 years ago, the ability to survive in an uncivilized, savage environment was related to physical prowess and limited ability to adapt to change.  Those with the best killing power usually reigned as master within their domain.  Many species, including our own, are designed as “killing machines.”  Muscle power, which has been among the most important tools for species survival, has only recently been surpassed by humankind’s creative mental power.  Our most ferocious wild animals are no match for bullets.  The adaptive natural reproductive efficiency so long experienced by fish cannot keep up with the recent means by which we strip the seas to support our increasing population.  The species that survive through physical might and nature’s other means of adaptation (natural selection) are not designed to adapt to human selection.

We are genetically programmed to preserve our kind without regard to not our kind.  Nature’s survival of the fittest rule is the first reason we are prone to compete and advocate that our tribe become the master race to dominate all others.  Instinct has a long history of making fight or flight basic to our behavior repertoire.  Fists, slingshots, and bows and arrows have recently been replaced by increasingly powerful weapons of destruction.  In each confrontation, one tribe has sufficient power and the will to triumph.  Damage is sustained by both winner and loser, but in every situation, destruction is followed by repair.  This is the way it has always been.  Habit would teach us that competition, application of power, and win/lose scenarios are the rule of survival. 

              Our current knowledge has produced such a revolution through science that human selection has joined natural selection.  We now partner with nature in determining who shall live and who shall become extinct.  The win/lose scenario common in our sports, businesses, personal relationships, and wars has been changed by weapons with ultimate destructive power.   Win/lose has been replaced by lose/lose and win/win outcomes, and we have not been given adequate notification.  How are we to know that our established rules of survival have been suddenly reversed; that the time is suddenly upon us when competition, hate, and war need to be replaced by cooperation, love, and peace?  Can we rely on instinct or habit to tell us when weapons with ultimate destructive power suddenly make the strong and the weak equal?  We need to re-engineer our way of thinking from greed and speed to wise creeds and good deeds. 


2.     Nurture’s role: Instinct and tradition are often mutually supportive of resentment and hate.  When they are not mutually supportive, I recommend directing our attention to nurture more than nature, because we are interpretive creatures.  The meanings we assign through symbols to interpret the physical information our senses provide are so powerful that they often override our physical signaling system.  The cortical portion of our human brain has become the capital where our intentional action decisions are made. All native languages bias us to process information into either/or opposing categories.  This two-category dichotomous thinking is the primary cause of bigotry, prejudice, destructive confrontation, and war.       

During our early years, we are required to process information into two categories.  Our cerebral cortex is physically undeveloped and unequipped to think with reason and wisdom.  Until about the age of puberty, our brain has an extraordinary ability to mimic our role models.  The authority of instinct and tradition is indelibly inscribed into our minds; we are like putty in the hands of our nurturers.  These earliest formative years have been called “the magic years.”  Things just happen.  Fate assigns us nurturers who teach us the “correct” assumptions about the world.  Our nurturers teach us their way; their way becomes our way.   We learn what is right, good, and O.K.  We are given the behavior rules of our culture.  We acquire our name, our native language, and we are assigned a flag, a religion, and one or more local “tribes” to which we owe our allegiance.  Two-category thinking pits tribes against each other -- the political right against the political left, the religious enlightened versus the religious evil, and thehaves versus the have nots.  It assigns value by color, gender, ethnic affiliation, class, and even by geographic location.  What is not “our” way automatically falls into the wrong, bad or evil, not O.K.other category. 

With repetition, this dichotomous understanding of the world becomes habit.  Unless we actively modify our either/or way of thinking, life remains a competition between sides.  Each tribe is passionate to win, to dominate those who are not a member of their own tribe.  Win/lose confrontations are the predictable outcomes of two-category thinking.  Either/or processing of information will sustain conflict and wars until we teach ourselves a newer way of both...and thinking that recognizes we each have both positives and negatives. 

            Recall the ditty:

There is so much bad in the best of us,
And so much good in the worst of us,
That it ill behooves any of us,
To put down the rest of us. 


Our nurturers, who include our parents, teachers, and our personal culture, may not intend to teach us a dichotomous way of thinking, but they have little choice when our mind is yet incapable of acting on reason and wisdom.  This is why our nurturers emphasize prescriptive words like should, have to, must, and ought.  Can’t and no are also popular words that command blind obedience to authority.  Like terrorists, our nurturers and our culture commonly impose their will through fear and intimidation.  We are brought up to accept the voice of authority:  “Do as I say, not as I do.”  We can credit most teachers with loving motives, but their thinking and beliefs have been restricted by the authority of the teachers and culture who taught them.  Some nurturers and cultures deliberately discourage any liberation of our thinking from their authority.  Even when their motives are clearly self-serving, we are expected to serve their needs and wants.  Consider the kamikaze pilots in WWII and the suicide bombers who override the most basic preservation-of-life instinct.  We all are conditioned to comply with the views that our authorities command during our formative years.  

Nature has programmed our animal brain to learn by making mistakes, to discover wisdom by trial-and-error.  We make many mistakes while learning to walk – we fall, crawl, get up, and repeat the process until we become master of our muscles.  Likewise, each of us is fated by nature’s design to pass through the clumsy, exaggerated two-category thinking that distorts our world into opposing sides.  The instincts we inherit were adaptive in a primitive, savage environment where survival required instant assignment of safe or dangerous to any stranger.  Superficial characteristics automatically turn on an automatic alerting response.  The first expression of our thinking repeats the innate fight or flight behavior we observe in other complex species.  Mature thinking is characterized by the ability to focus on what people share in common more than their differences, on the deeper, meaningful qualities of an individual more than skin-deep appearance.  Animals have not been gifted with a brain that can manipulate symbols to free themselves from instinct and tradition.  They lack our opportunity to create a newer way of thinking.  Their rules of behavior are fixed and predictable from generation to generation.

On the other hand, animals are usually satisfied with enough, with protecting their kind within their own domain.  It is our use of symbols, our higher level second signaling system, that prepares us for greed and accumulating what is far beyond our own needs.  Only our kind aspires to become a master race and subject all else to our wants.  While animals are content with their own survival, enough to eat, and the ability to procreate and protect their young, we are easily seduced by the symbols of power – money, titles, a guarantee of a heavenly reward in the afterlife, trophies, connections, and superficial beauty.  Technology – Industrialization and urbanization – has made it possible for a few individuals to assign themselves the wealth of thousands by the signing of a paper or manipulation of records.  If we survive our present time, historians will refer it as the age of greed and speed. 

3.     The role of Self-mastery: Through our gift of intelligence and its use to grow our knowledge of cause-and-effect, i.e. science and technology, we make ourselves increasingly powerful creators and destroyers.  We have yet to take responsibility to popularize a newer way of common sense thinking that fulfills our spiritual requirements for survival.  Our new capability for rapid travel and mass communication requires adapting our local survival skills to global survival.  We need to educate ourselves to consistently and wisely direct our power to the humane qualities of love, kindness, mercy, and compassion, among others.  Intelligence must first serve our older “animal” brain’s preoccupation with taking care of our physical needs for survival.  Our genetically engineered fight or flight programming is prewired long before we are capable of common sense problem-solving. Fulfilling spiritual needs by establishing a common sense value system must await the physical and mental maturation of our cerebral cortex.   


Among the multiple interests we share, peace ranks at the top.  Wisdom enlightens us that survival now depends on changing the immature two-category way of thinking each of us first acquires.  Our own innate negative thinking blames others and demands that they conform to our way, but as adults, we are responsible for our own life’s experience.  Coercion by fear and intimidation may work in the short term, but it usually leads to escalation of conflict, stored resentment, and desire for revenge: “The next time, I shall win.”  Our world is now full of oppressed tribes preparing for “the next time.”  Our new reality is that we can no longer afford a next time because it is likely to be the last time.  When we attack and murder our own stinking thinking, we hurt no one and make the world a safer, gentler place.  We can succeed if we lead by example instead of by force.  It is said, a person changed against his will is of the same opinion still.  

Humankind is the leading edge of nature’s creative process.  We alone can attain sufficient mental freedom from instinct and tradition to alter our destiny and assume responsibility for Mother Earth.  Mental freedom is our opportunity to create alternatives and choose among them.  We are the first and currently the only species with sufficient knowledge to reprogram our thinking to favor cooperation and peace instead of competition and destructive aggression.  The momentous choice we each face is (1) to what degree we shall tolerate our will remaining a servant to the long established rules of instinct and habit, and (2) to what degree we shall assume self-mastery of our will to serve us favoring reason and wisdom.  The introduction and proliferation of weapons of ultimate destruction (WUD) has created an emergency.  The time remaining to choose is limited by the time it will take for WUD to be obtained by the leaders who seek them and already justify their use. 

Thus, the primary reason we have war is because we have insufficiently taken the opportunity to free ourselves from uncritical obedience to our first masters.  Nature and our nurturers command that we unquestioningly obey their authority.  Instinct and tradition are ineffective and uninterested in teaching us to apply common sense wisdom that challenges their dictatorship.  Authority resists change.  As we attainphysical and emotional maturity, we may educate our self to become our own person.  Super-maturity requires that we free ourselves from the authority of instinct and habit.  Even those individuals who have the most oppressive self-serving nurturers can attain mental freedom once they acquire proficiency in reflective thinking, i.e. the human skill of using symbols to think about our thinking.  Reflective thinking is our means to self-mastery.[2]  Physical maturity and sophisticated use of language equip us to attain self-mastery.  We can claim our will as our own by selectively rebelling against the instincts and habits programmed by nature and our nurturers.  Those with the misfortune to have oppressive nurturers, and who were brainwashed more than educated, will require greater effort to emancipate their thinking, but there are abundant examples of individuals who become their own person in spite of their early circumstances.

Although it is difficult to avoid the power of instinct and tradition, the great news is that we have virtually complete freedom to change the way we think.  Our great religions and philosophers have worked out the basic universal wisdoms we need to survive and thrive.  In our time we have created the means of mass communication that allow us to make our collective wisdom available to anyone, anywhere, anytime with little or no cost.  We can rapidly teach ourselves the newer mode of thinking that Einstein and our informed citizens warn us that we require if we hope to survive our most powerful enemy – our self!  Our challenge is to selectively free our will from authority so that we may solve new problems using common sense.  Changing our way of thinking is quite straightforward, no harder than learning our ABC’s, using a computer, or learning any complex skill.  The far more difficult obstacle is the resistance of instinct and habit to relinquish its authority over the force we call will power.  Dictators rarely give up their control voluntarily.


When many tribes possess ultimate destructive power, the long established rules of survival become reversed.  The time for weaker tribes to acquire doomsday weapons that make them world threats is now measured in years rather than billions of years.  Suddenly, the strongest are the most vulnerable because they are the first to be targeted by each weaker group which aspires to become the new master race.

            During humankind’s 150,000 years on earth, there have been many tribes and tribal leaders but no world leaders.  No tribe has had sufficient destructive weapons and the means to transport a conquering army the long distances needed to rule the world.  The Nazis, who were the last to try, would have succeeded if they had been first with nuclear weapons.  In 1945, exclusively armed with “the bomb,” the U.S. could have coerced the rest of the world to submit to its rule, but chose instead to help rebuild Europe through the Marshall Plan.  The U.S.S.R. soon became the second world leader with the capability of global conquest.  NOW, in our current generation –  that’s right, yours and mine –  as you read this essay, other countries and terrorist subgroups are proliferating and acquiring WUD.  Our recent speed of travel and the proliferation of WUD have made it possible for a single group and a single world leader to rule all, and the number of aspiring world leaders is increasing.  Each potential world leader is now our neighbor because they can destroy our local community in the time it takes to walk to the next house.  As someone facetiously quipped, just wrap the bomb in the tons of marijuana that daily comes into New York.   Suddenly, like it or not, we have added citizenship in the world community to our “local” allegiances.        


            We have rapidly changed the world in our generation, even more so within the last 100 years.  We are continuing to accelerate the speed of change, putting ourselves, our loved ones, and Mother earth at imminent risk.  Instinct and habit would have us ignore these breathtaking changes until it is too late.  Nature’s way has been to provide the test and then teach us the lesson, but that method is no longer viable.  Nature has provided us the adaptive tool, our cerebral cortex, to confront new problems with reason and wisdom.  We can anticipate challenges before they occur.  Prevention is a powerful tool of wisdom.  Self-mastery is our means to change our prevalent way of thinking to favor cooperation, love, and the spiritual values we now require. We have the mental creativity to establish permanent peace if we merely assert our will.  “I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I will.  We will.”  Will you join the grass roots movement we require to change our win/lose manner of thinking into one that has a win/win outcome?  Will you take action now to protect your loved ones?  Please, for the benefit of our loved ones and all of humanity, teach yourself the wisdoms that create a joyous, meaningful life.  Become a Mental Wealth millionaire and teach others to do the same.  Material wealth and your physical health are important, but neither, individually or together, guarantees the consistent benefits most certainly provided by Mental Wealth!   


Mental freedom makes us responsible for ourselves and all about us.  Our generation is required to teach ourselves a newer way of thinking that relies on reason and wisdom if we choose to become our own best friend instead of our own worst enemy. 

Given the time constraints, most realists agree that preventing catastrophe is a long-shot.  If you are like most, you have yet to recognize the seriousness of the imminent threat.  You may prefer to remain asleep and enjoy your dreams.  It will take an immense effort to persuade you to reexamine your thinking and invest the required energy to make yourself a Mental Wealth millionaire and powerful force for world peace.  A good friend recently told me, “You are wasting your time.  You can’t change nature.”  After giving the matter some thought, I came to the insight that teaching ourselves to think by applying wisdom more than instinct and habit is consistent with nature, not contradictory.  While nature is pushing us out of its nest to move up and onward, it has also provided us a remarkable problem-solving organ.  Our human brain is our means to succeed in attaining self-mastery and to complete the road to civilization.  With no better alternative, we must make the attempt instead of remaining stuck in hopelessness and helplessness.

Our first use of symbols advocates what has been – instinct and habit.  Greed and speed are the inevitable passageway to wise creeds and good deeds.  We need to examine ourselves and ask what we are willing to change, to realize how resistive we are to questioning authority, and how authority powerfully resists change.[3]  Unfortunately we don’t have much time to teach ourselves the lesson that leads to prevention instead of cure. 

If your child or some other loved one were to fall down the stairs, you know you would drop every other priority and rush to render help.  Nature’s way has always been to cause a problem and thereafter create cure through trial-and-error.  Nature gives the exam and then teaches the lesson. WUD do not hurt or call us into action until it is too late.  There is no cure, only prevention.  Since we are equipped with a freedom organ, we can anticipate consequences before committing ourselves to action. 


Now, what is most important to teach ourselves from this understanding of why our history is defined by our wars?  It is this.  The shocking answer to “Why war?” is that striving for dominance is inevitable because of the way we think.  It is not just “them”; we are included in this as well.  Know thyself” is the wisdom of our sages throughout history.  We are equally prone to guide our lives by the prescriptive, dependency, two-category thinking as those others who we blame for the world’s ills.  Until we teach ourselves to recognize that we remain stuck in the two-category thinking that leads us to conclude that our way is the right and good way, even the only way, we will continue to promote the prejudgments or prejudices that lead to confrontation and destructive aggression. 


We are like juveniles teetter-tottering between allowing our new creative power to be dominated by our early masters and freeing our will power to critically evaluate our superstitions, established customs, and the credibility of authority.  In varying degrees, people are guiding their actions using common sense to favor reason and wisdom more than instinct and tradition.  However, there are not yet a sufficient number of super-mature thinkers to lead the way.  As long as peace advocates wish or pray for peace but remain passive while terrorists unite their followers to take action, the doomsday clock will move forward.  We are the growing edge of our creator’s work-in-process that is pushing us towards personal freedom and civilization.  After billions of years, we are now far along the way but have yet to reach the goal.  We are the link between animals and humanity.  We need enough newer way of thinking individuals to complete the road to civilization and world peace.   The majority of our global population remains brainwashed by a small number of leaders who claim they are the designated oracle of unquestionable Truth.  Like sheep, servant to instinct and habit, we can easily be coerced by fear and intimidation. 

While you are reading or hearing this, others are proliferating weapons of ultimate destruction (WUD).   Someone will use them to subdue those they designate as evil.  The next war is likely to make us history rather than allow us to continue to make history.  We don’t have much time.  Einstein told us the one most certain means to prevent the imminent catastrophe and promote world peace:  We shall require a new mode of thinking (ANWOT).  The good news is that we have the knowledge and the means of rapid self-education to change the predictable course of our destiny.  We lead by example.  We require a tiny percentage, perhaps one million of our seven billion global population, to become the enlightened individuals who will initiate the domino effect to circle the world.   That’s all we need to crack the thin veneer holding back the global passion for peace that will be unstoppable.  Will you become one of the each one teach many leaders that will make a difference?  The next stren, Einstein’s solution, will explain how. 


[1] The World at Risk, U.S. Congress commissioned report on the status of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Vintage Books, December, 2008, p. xv.

[2] Reflective thinking is more fully described in stren #77. 

[3] This would be a good time to review the features that characterize those individuals who achieve maturity and those who partially achieve maturity but remain stuck in two-category thinking that fosters win/lose competition more than win/win cooperation.   See especially strens #33 & 34.