Department of Homeland Security Department

I attended a symposium at UCCS to address Defense Department funding of the University of Colorado school system. Throughout, the science professors generally disavowed understanding of direct military funding. In addition, they stressed that Near-Space research was being pursued for two civilian benefits: communications and imaging. Due to the nascent payload limitations, they explained, current military interests do not involve weaponry and focus instead on two congruent areas of research: communications and imaging. Marvelous synchronicity might describe their self-reflection on the matter.

I asked the panel to defend the school’s new PHD program in, would you believe it, Homeland Security. The government has just endowed the CU Denver campus with its very own DHS building, but most of the classes will be taught in Colorado Springs. Homeland Security is not a field of study, I offered, it’s a political phrase coined by the Germans the last time they were the center of attention.

There were no takers, so the dean gave it a try. In this new age of global community, we have to explore contemporary subjects with equanimity. Etc.

Really?

Must we endow each inquiry with a department? I’ll agree we should study state sponsored terror, but should it be a major? The School of the Americas is already one institution too many for that vocation.

But I took issue with the other part of the dean’s answer. Because it was a phrase that turned up later in every panelist’s rationale: this New Age.

What UCCS needed was a history professor on their panel. New age my foot! Every dawn is a new age, if you want to be literal. Otherwise, there is only the New Age utopia dreamed of in incense shops. Thinking there is a new age is really just an excuse to toss off the lessons of the past. Global Community? The globe has always been one earthbound community, since Alexander thought he’d conquered it all, to when Caesar and Genghis thought they could administrate it. Certainly transportation and communication have amplified the cohesion, but nothing’s changed under the sun. The thinking from the top is still imperial.

Do not tell me technology has changed everything. There’s always been technology. The wheel, the plow, technology’s role is unchanged. Whether Pong or Xbox, it’s still technology, still an agent of transformation, not change. Science, technology’s more noble companion, increases understanding, as understanding approaches -shall we say- infinity. If our self perception of human nature grows by such increments, how can we assert there is any net change? From the Cave of Lascaux to the MOMA, the artist is the same.

To define a Department of Homeland Security as a field of education, is to give credence to ignoble propaganda. Repeating the New World Order mantra as a justification is to give inanity credulity that academics must not countenance. I’m all for freedom of academic pursuit, but certainly there must be standards, be they rational or humanist. I’d even accept standards of IQ or hairstyle to keep this crew out.

Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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