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Radical History Review 85 (2003) 24-36
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Reflections and Reports
Beyond Militarism and Terrorism in the Biotech Century:
Toward a Culture of Peace and Transformation
At each moment in the transition between different stages of human transformation, the developments in one society have a dramatic impact on all of humanity. As humanity seeks to survive and thrive in the era of biotechnology, there are major challenges for the demilitarization of the planet and the retreat from the ideas of white superiority, patriarchy, racism, and humans dominating nature. There now exists a need for revolutionary transformations to elaborate principles of peace and human dignity in order to break with greed, destruction, sexism, and expansionism. Those contemplating an alternative mode of human organization face the concrete challenge of a ruling class in the United States now willing to detonate nuclear weapons in order to save the present forms of human organization.
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, and in the wake of the new fight against so-called terrorism, the U.S. population is confronted with militarization and hysteria. The unprecedented powers given to the country's repressive organs erode the basic rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, while the massive rise in the defense budget lends more weight to the militarist elements in the society's leadership.
The U.S. government uses the following definition of terrorism: "The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political [End Page 24] or social objectives." 1 Under this definition, any group opposing the conservative militarists and the antiterrorist legislation, or out of favor with those in power, can be arbitrarily criminalized and deemed a terrorist. At the same time, the media is organized in a virtual information war by defining terrorism in a way that leaves the majority of the U.S. citizens living in fear and supporting the vast outlays for military expenditure.
Starting from the premise that terrorism is unacceptable and that there must be a clear understanding of what constitutes terrorism, this reflection agrees with the assertion that "terrorism is the use of terrorizing methods of governing or resisting a government." 2 It explores how militarism became entrenched in the political culture of the United States and the ways in which the celebration of genocide and wars contribute to the defense of a small minority. The challenge of the society is for the majority of the people, including people of color and women, to grasp the importance of the scientific and technological transformations and to build a new movement to redistribute power, making the society more democratic and moving control away from the one percent of the population who hold political power.
I use the term biotech century in this essay to refer to the technological changes in biotechnology currently reshaping the meaning of life. 3 Jeremy Rifkin explored the ways in which this biotech revolution is overtaking the world and redefining our very existence into something that can be controlled in a test tube. He laid out seven different aspects of what he calls the biotech century's "operational matrix": gene identification and manipulation; genetic patents; the gene industry; engineering and eugenics; sociobiology; genes and computers; and justification through nature. 4 It is impossible to explore all of these developments, but the impact of genetic engineering and eugenics on the definition of life and on the idea of who has the right to live as a human being will prove fundamentally important here.
This analysis examines the conditions for moving beyond the devaluation of human lives in order to achieve radical transformations creating new forms of community and association able to unleash the creativity of the human spirit. This will be necessary for the revitalization of society away from militarism and the worship of profit. The present global war on terrorism is having a fundamental impact on world politics, and it is within this period of major political, economic, military, and social...