Back in the 1980s, while providing free lunch for the tsetse flies of the Kafue district of Zambia, I encountered a local citizen who was carrying a spear. It struck me as ironic, because, even as satellites whirled through space above his head he was toting a weapon that would be instantly familiar to any humanoid of 500,000 years ago.
A few days ago, I was talking with a recent West Point graduate who is an armor officer, who has done a tour in Afghanistan, and who is about as highly educated and technologically advanced in the science of killing other people as it is possible to be. We were discussing basic weaponry, and he said he carried an M4, which is now the standard Infantry rifle, a Beretta M92 and, as he put it, “If the M4 dried up and the 9mm failed, I had a Ka-Bar.”
So, here is a young man with a $440,000 education who can summon death in all its high-tech splendor from all manner of sources, and he carries a World War II-era knife as a last resort, a knife that any Homo heidelbergensis of 1,300,000 years ago would be proud to own, albeit it he would try take it away from you and kill you with it.
Let us now segue to a recent conference attended by former Spec/4 Chuck Hagel, who is now SecDef and gives orders to generals, which must make him smile inwardly. On Secretary Hagel’s agenda were the challenges that the Department of Defense will face in the years to come, and bless my soft brown eyes, they were the same things that were popping up on the Discovery Channel half a dozen years ago as wild-eyed looks into the future.
The challenges were:
– Shortage of natural resources, particularly water.
– Dislocations and mass migrations caused by climate change.
– Epidemics (Don’t worry; there’s no way Ebola can spread in this country).
– Energy shortages.
Any of this sound familiar? On one of the “coming disaster” shows someone said that the difference between our society and the Stone Age is nine missed meals in a row. Let people go without eating for three days and thousands of years of civilization will vanish overnight.
And so I ask: What’s in your closet?