Scout’s Honor

Bruce Sterling has a great post up on his site about the array of possible reactions to crisis (hat tip, LA Voice):

Our future world has been divided into axes of threats and responses.

In the “Business as Usual” world, threats are mild and low, and nobody is feeling very responsive or inventive. So it’s a sleepy, prosperous time. No need to rock the boat.

In the “Deer in Headlights” world, threats are grave, but society is paralyzed with fear and instinctive conservatism. These people will be mown down in hecatombs. There will be hell to pay.

In the “Never Again” world, everybody is grimly aware of the threat and everyone is resolved to meet in one single, resolute, uninventive way. This is a world war, basically. It’s like a Bush II that never ends.

In “Scout World,” the threat is hysterically extreme but people are hysterically inventive! They’re out beating the boundaries of the possible, looking for anything that works or even doesn’t work!

While I won’t buy off on his casual dismissal of grim determination, I will suggest that “hysterically inventive” is going to be a key to winning…

…we’re in a world where today the best metaphors are around emergence. Let’s emerge.

8 thoughts on “Scout’s Honor”

  1. Actually, both World Wars saw huge advances in technology and inventiveness.

    The Nazi Wolfpacks in the North Atlantic were defeated by codebreaking, airborne radar, and advances in sonar along with contact depth charges.

    Electronic warfare including radar/signal jamming dominated the air war over Europe. The Atomic Bomb anyone? Add to this jet fighters, abortive attempts by the Japanese to use submarine launched airplanes, and the VI and VII rockets … WWII was very “inventive.”

    World War One saw airborne combat, the tank, submarine warfare, and the late development of light machine guns and submachine guns.

  2. Maybe it’s all of Sterling’s reactions.

    We need some amount of business as usual, which Bush himself promotes. “Go on vacation. Go to the mall. Get a tax cut.” Does your life feel all that different?

    Deer in the headlights — well, when aren’t there any of them? I’m like that every morning before coffee.

    ‘Never again.’ Funny how never again never happens again anyway. Not in the same, exact way. Liberals expect the Nazis to remain Aryan, while the real ones are wearing turbans and beards. ‘Never exactly again’ is guaranteed; ‘Always again’ is guaranteed for the long haul.

    Hysterically inventive. Isn’t that what we’ve been doing all along? What are we, stagnant? Hardly.

  3. What twaddle. I do like the term “grim determination,” though. It makes unpleasant chores like putting out the trash, shoveling manure, and killing vermin–none of which require hysterical inventiveness–sound positively heroic.

  4. I love how helping the Iraqi people build a democratic republic for themselves is “uninventive.” As if on 9-12-01, everybody was like, “Well, oviously there are going to be free elections in Iraq and Afghanistan 3+ years from now, what else would you expect from a stupid Republican?”

    “Scout world” is for people who hysterically overestimate their own brilliance, because they have hysterically short attention spans, and an hysterically poor grasp of reality.

    Of course, we need to adapt to win this new kind of war, but the real, useful ideas and devices we’ll win it with will NOT be coming from people who didn’t make the cut for architecture school in SoCal.

    That blog entry reminds me very much of this site:

  5. Well, I thought the context was clear…from my POV, the issue he raises is that we can do a rigid, top-down security response, or a dynamic, bottom-up one.

    I’ll suggest that many of the successes we’ve had in Iraq were bottom-up, and that the risk we’re taking in domestic security comes almost entirely from the fact that it’s rigid and top-down.


  6. A sheaf of responses is called for. I concur thus far.

    Sorry for the scare quotes, but I’m trying to mark things out, not just be goofy or sarcastic.

    “The” fourth “path” sounds the most appealing to neophiles. All the old stuff is just old stuff. Feh, who needs old stuff. But as described, it’s a sheaf of paths, not “a”, and hence not “the”.
    Paraphrasing Daffy Duck: Ah-HA! ARTICLE TROUBLE!

    There is also adjective trouble. I’m put in mind of an old mathematics gag: there is no least interesting number–because if you find that number and point it out, voila: the very fact that it’s the least interesting number makes the number interesting,

    To summarize: it’s no more the wildly inventive path if it excludes the other three than if it doesn’t.

    People are lousy at thinking like a rope, at least out loud–they want to think like a chain. Or they want to be able to claim they do. It’s especially effective if you want to make other people look stupid. Funny monkeys (I’m one, too).

    One size does not fit all.

    I think it might be time to pass some of my notes on to “Cicero”…


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