The Elephant And The Ants
Copyright © by Len Holman, 11/9/13
The parable has two levels: one is realistic, actual, on-going. The other is tragic, disastrous, and frustrating. This is the second level. The first level is self-evident, as you will see.
Once there was a mighty elephant. Due to its genetics, its
nurturing, and its position in the jungle, it grew from a wobbly infant in
constant jeopardy of being eaten alive by bigger, more predacious, less
compassionate animals to a mighty giant, with a hide of thick, almost
impenetrable skin, and tusks shiny, long, sharp, and capable of rending asunder
any animal foolish or overconfident enough to challenge it. Because of its
unquestioned, and unquestioning, position of years-long superiority, it began to
believe—really believe—it was invincible and would never come to
harm, including that harm which finally comes to all living things: death.
In this elephant’s kingdom were ants, millions of them. They were so small and so insignificant, the elephant barely noticed them, and when it did, it unconcernedly—sometimes purposively—squashed them beneath a huge foot. In its majestic aura of self-importance and its illusion of invincibility, it didn’t register the alarming fact that the ants were not only getting more numerous, but more aggressive. No matter how many died, no matter how small they were compared to the thickness of just one of the elephant’s feet, they began to try to clamber up onto the elephant; they began to try to take the mighty elephant down! A strange thing began to occur in the jungle. The elephant grew larger, its tusks more lethal, its opinion of itself more grandiose, but at the same time, the ants became more numerous and stinging and aggressive, and THEY began to think that possibly, just possibly, they could eventually bring the elephant to its knees. Let’s leave this parable for a moment to consider the Iron Man suit.
This is what a small defense company contracted by JSOC (Joint Special
Operations Command) calls the latest tech wonder: a radically new protective
suit for elite soldiers to wear into battle. It is a marvel of
technological wizardry—if it gets built. The military says it is trying
to have a prototype produced within twelve months, which would be a breathtaking
achievement—though I, personally, would not want to wear such a heavily
tricked-up, gadget-laden thing which went from an indistinct drawing on a
cocktail napkin to operational in only a year. Look at the mess the
government has made of the Obamacare website—and they had a MUCH longer time
to work out the kinks. The money? Well, yes, it’ll cost a few
bucks, but we have plenty of that if we knock off a few school lunches and cut
back on those greedy people on food stamps who want to buy cherry pie to eat.
The Los Angeles Times describes the suit as if it were the fighting armor
of some Marvel superhero: “…bionic limbs, head to toe armor, a
built-in power supply and live data feeds projected on a see-through display
inside the helmet.” The picture accompanying the article shows a
remarkable likeness to Tony Stark’s invention, though not as jazzy. The
military also wants this exoskeleton to be impervious to bullets and shrapnel,
PLUS allowing the wearer to run and jump carrying 100 pounds, while getting
constant live feeds from overhead drones. The power to run all this
gadgetry is KEY. It needs a battery like the one that powers a Dodge Ram,
but with the size and thickness of a fruit roll-up. If this sounds like
science fiction, it isn’t. As the world knows by now, once the military
gets some apparently crazy idea in its head, sooner or later—with enough
money—that crazy idea becomes a reality.
As an example, we will soon have “son of Blackbird,” an
improved, more lethal version of the famed SR-71 Blackbird, which could fly at
85,000 feet and three times the speed of sound. That plane last flew in
1999, but the newest incarnation ids really nasty. It is envisioned as a
drone (unlike the SR-71, which had a two-man crew), but the SR-72, while not as
stealthy, will fly at Mach 6 and will be equipped with hypersonic missles.
This new plane is so fast (speed is the new stealth) that, according to a news
release, “it could penetrate denied airspace (and who, in this world, can deny
the U.S. airspace?) and strike at nearly any location across a continent in
less than an hour.” Now, the U.S has the technological and military might
to have its way in the world, but even so-- America has had a helluva time with
those damn ants. We could go back to Korea (ancient history for many
Americans). We have a line on a map, a Hermit Kingdom, run by a crazy man
who is the son and grandson of crazy men, which has nuclear ambitions, and a
Demilitarized Zone with more land mines than anywhere in the world.
All our might didn’t do the world much good, though the South Korean
porn industry is happy it got a chance to flourish. Our might then was
negligible compared to what the military brought to bear in Vietnam, with Agent
Orange and complete control of the skies, but look and see how tourists throng
the shops in Ho Chi Minh City. Iraq cost billions and we now have a Sunni-Shi’ite
war raging all over the country. Our soldiers had the finest equipment,
arrayed against people who lived in tents and ate a lot of flat bread and really
bad yogurt. We had night vision and armored vehicles. They had small
pickup trucks and many places to hide. We had MREs and armored vests.
They had that bread and they did a lot of ducking. They had no planes and
we had drones. But we are gone and they are still murdering each other.
Afghanistan is filled, at the highest levels of government, with kleptomaniacs
who really like American money, no matter HOW they get it, and we are leaving
that country in about as bad a shape as it was (in places), but perhaps not as
bad a shape as it’s GOING to be. We got Bin Laden and several “top
leaders” of Al Qaeda or the Taliban or whoever, but what have we learned from
all this? Not very much, it seems. We continue to labor under the
huge delusion that more tech is better, that any slide toward a world where
America is not king can be arrested with stuff like the Iron Man suit.
Back to the elephant: the ants are seemingly not discouraged by the constant squashing and the rooting out of their nests by those deadly tusks. The ants succeed in getting up the legs of the elephant, which is more surprised than hurt, more angry than defeated, but the ants –in their ignorance and primitive state of war-knowledge and weaponry—persist. The elephant stumbles. Does it go down? Do the ants swarm and conquer? That’s a parable for another, perhaps closer than we believe, day.
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