Let us make the assumption that humans have the potential to think rationally. If the assumption is wrong, this text (or any other text for that matter) is irrelevant. So, if in the nature of man there is the potential for rationality, why is there so much irrationality in the world?
Borrowing some concepts from the material world (of physics) could help us in answering the above question. There are three kinds of equilibrium for the material bodies: the stable, the unstable and the indifferent. A steel ball in a (concave) cup is in stable equilibrium; no matter where you move the ball in the cup it will end up in equilibrium at the bottom of the cup.
If (with considerable effort) you make the steel ball to rest on a convex surface (say, on an orange) the slightest movement will send the ball into a dive; the equilibrium is unstable.
Finally, if the ball rests on a flat surface (say, on a table), it is in equilibrium in any position; the equilibrium is indifferent. The kind of equilibrium depends on the GEOMETRY of the surface the ball rests on.
Similarly, the equilibrium of the innate rationality in humans can be in a stable, unstable, or indifferent condition, only now the role of the geometry is played by SOCIETY (parents, school, church, state, spouse, etc.)
To test the above let us take the (“interesting”) case of a (rather famous) individual. He was the “great-grandnephew of (a) famous” American and “grew up with the apparent assumption that he was born to command. He attended West Point where… he ‘ranked first in English and history but at the bottom in conduct and discipline’.
He was assigned to engineering school at Camp Humphrey, Virginia and rose to become an instructor in engineering at West Point.” (Mee, Jr., Charles L., “The Marshall Plan”, Simon & Schuster, 1984, p. 177)
So, our hero began his career as an officer of the US Corps of Engineers in the Panama Canal Zone, in the Allegheny River project, in the Red River Dam construction in Texas, and finally as an adviser to the Philippine government in engineering projects, where he worked with another famous American, General Eisenhower. As President, Eisenhower appointed our hero to engineer the US’s massive interstate highway program.
At the end of WW II, “he was appointed deputy military governor, and later military governor, of the American occupation zone in Germany. He loved being in charge. ‘Military governor’, said another American administrator in Germany, ‘was a pretty heady job. It was the nearest thing to a Roman proconsulship the modern world afforded. You could turn to your secretary and say, `Take a law`
‘… When he did not manage to get his way, he resigned. During his term as military governor, he threatened to resign at least eleven times… And usually, when he threatened, he got his way… It was far easier for (our hero)… to keep people on starvation diets of 1,000 calories a day and to shake up the old German cartels (not to destroy them, …) than it would have been for a German democratic government…” (Mee, p. 178, 257)
So, the condition of our hero’s innate rationality could be classified as rather unstable, under the influence of family (history), school (West Point), his (basic) profession (as a civil engineer), and the State which offered him power. (Note: Modern States, usually, define themselves as “civilized” through their achievements in building bridges, dams, superhighways, skyscrapers, subways, tunnels under the Alps, etc, all civil engineering works.
Because of this, some civil engineers turn into very arrogant individuals. Take for example General Leslie Groves, of the US Corps of Engineers, a “pushing and bullying” civil engineer ” who was noted for his work on the construction of the Pentagon.” (Ball, Howard, “Justice Downwind,” Oxford U. Press, 1986, p. 8).
Later, President Franklin Roosevelt assigned the direction of the “Manhattan Project”, for the construction of the first atom bomb, to Groves, the civil engineer. The Manhattan Project has been described as “the greatest single achievement of organized human effort in history.” Our hero certainly belonged in the Groves-category of civil engineers.)
Late in the afternoon of October 27, 1961, Jim Atwood, a US Army officer in Berlin, was informed by a panicky American military policeman, guarding at Checkpoint Charlie, the contact point for East and West Berlin, that “the Russians are rolling against us with tanks.”
Atwood immediately gave the alarm and in less than one hour, 33 American “Patton” tanks were positioned, with their motors running, just opposite the huge T-54 Russian tanks. The confrontation lasted for 16 hours!
This confrontation “at Checkpoint Charlie was, together with the Cuban-crisis, the MOST DANGEROUS moment in the Cold War… Valentin Falin, a Soviet diplomat at that time, remembers: ‘only seconds and meters separated us from an accident’ ” (Der Spiegel, Oct. 22,’ 01 p.58, emphasis added.)
Five days before the confrontation, on October 22, 1961, a Sunday, Allan Lightner, Chief Press Representative for the US-Mission in Berlin, and his wife decided to go to the East Berlin sector to attend the show of a Czechoslovakian theater troop.
At the entrance point to East Berlin, the East German guards stopped his car and asked Lightner to show them his diplomatic I.D. card. Lightner refused and asked to see a Soviet officer. The East Germans ignored the request. Lightner tried many times to pass the control point, in vain. Only when eight US Military Policemen escorted Lightner’s car with bayonets attached, did the East Germans step aside. “If they had shot one of us,” related Lightner later, “we were obliged to kill all of them.”
After this incident, our hero, who at the time was J.F. Kennedy’s deputy in Berlin, took the challenge by declaring that “The Russians understand only one language, and that is violence.”
Thus, the following days he ordered his American tanks to storm the sector border to East Berlin in full speed and stop a few inches from the border. Also, long before the Lightner incident, in the beginning of October, our hero ordered his troops to perform maneuvers in Berlin’s Grunewald area by building a wall and training his troops to break through the Berlin wall.
Kennedy was unaware of the Grunewald maneuvers of our hero who ordered them on his own. However, Krushchev was informed by his intelligence people about the shenanigans of our hero and thought that the Americans were up to something.
On the other hand, Khrushchev had not ordered the checking of the I.D. cards of the US diplomats at the border to East Berlin. It was Ulbricht, the East German leader, who had ordered that on his own without the approval of the Soviets.
Finally, the crisis ended when Kennedy let Khrushchev know, through a KGB contact, that he was interested in a settlement.
Raymond Garthoff, a US diplomat at the time and later a historian of the Cold War, in a new book (“A Journey through the Cold War,” Brookings Institution Press) says that our hero’s “play with the fire was unnecessary.”
The name of our hero is Lucius D. Clay (1897-1978). His great-granduncle was, Henry Clay, “The Great Pacificator… one of the most influential political leaders in the US in the decades before the Civil War (according to the Britannica)” and “an expansionist, (who) wanted to extend the country west and wanted to take over everything that was not tied down, and he even wanted to annex Canada…(according to President Harry S. Truman, “Plain Speaking” by Merle Miller, Putnam, 1973, p. 317).”
Of course, it is institutions that rule the world, but it is also institutions that give the Clays, the Groves, and the bin Ladens of the world the chance and the tools to blow up the planet, even by accident. In the latter case of bin Laden the institutions are the CIA, religion, and the state.