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The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: Following Our “Way of Life”

A British chief marshal provides clues about where the global-minded, but mainly Western military-industrial complex intends to lead the world.

National borders are a thing of the past. They used to be important because they defined population groups that were under the jurisdiction of a government. They also permitted the growth of national cultures, sometimes referred to as a “way of life.” In the global economy, with the means of communication spreading everywhere, the very notion of a way of life is changing, as demonstrated in this quote from Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the UK’s most senior military officer: “There is a new risk to our way of life, which is the vulnerability of the cables that criss-cross the seabeds.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Way of life:

Any particular set of economic and technological infrastructures politicians and military strategists think they are called upon to defend to maintain their influence and keep their operations going

Contextual note

This expression requires a new definition because the old one clearly no longer applies: “the habits, customs, and beliefs of a particular person or group of people” (Merriam-Webster). What Marshal Peach appears to understand by way of life is the permanent connection to high-speed internet. It may be true that this represents a dominant use of time both at work and at home for a majority of people and it does involve buying and selling. In other words, their habits. But what about customs and beliefs? In a culture where the means of buying and selling have become more important than social customs and beliefs, this new definition reflects the new logic of the culture.

The marshal then makes it clearer: “Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted, which would immediately and potentially catastrophically affect both our economy and other ways of living.” “Our way of life” includes two things: the economy (buying and selling) and “other ways of living.” Presumably this means activities such as consulting Facebook, tweeting and looking at pornography. Calling them “other” makes it clear that it’s really about the economy and not much else.

Historical note

The key to understanding the marshal’s warning is the word “our.” Is he referring to the British way of life, the American way of life, the Western way of life or a new global way of life?

The answer will depend on the meaning of “our.” On the same subject, as the Business Insider article relates, GCHQ Director Robert Hannigan seemed to indicate a focus on the UK only: “In hybrid warfare you could tweak the UK economy, even without bringing it to its knees.” But the marshal, in his full speech, reasons from within the framework of NATO, meaning essentially, the UK, the US and, oh yes, those countries that call themselves Europe. At the same time, he speaks about “global Britain … a way of thinking and a way of operating.” Then he mentions Britain’s “sense of duty, service and a sense of adventure both coupled with a sense of history and our place in the world.”

The reference to “global empire,” Britain’s “history and “place in the world” means he hasn’t forgotten the heritage of empire. But, following the lead of General Jim Mattis in the US, he emphasizes a new principle: competitivity. He insists “we need to make sure that our attractiveness of our offer keeps pace with society.”

This is closer to the language of a marketing manager — defining the “attractiveness of the offer” — than to that of a chief marshal, but clearly the military for the Western powers prefers to be seen as just another business competing for market share in the vital sector of responding to threats, constituting one’s own threats, invading, establishing order and not only keeping the peace, but “keeping pace.” It’s beginning to sound like Madison Avenue plus the arms race. And this Peach of an officer, after highlighting the need for innovation in the realm of “unconventional capabilities,” artificial intelligence and “algorithmic warfare” even adds, “Above all, it has to be fun”.

Marshal Peach actually does come across as an excellent salesman, and what he says provides important clues about where the global-minded, but mainly Western military-industrial complex intends to lead the world.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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