Friday, May 24, 2013

The engineer and the auditor – part one

Every Saturday morning for the past four or five years, Gerry and I met for a buffet breakfast at one of the hotels along The Beach. For twenty bucks each, we got mental stimulation enough to last us for the whole week.

He died of a heart attack the other day, so there will be no more breakfasts.

We had other things going on in our lives, and we were very different in character. He was an active engineer, I a long-retired auditor. We brought our respective skills to our breakfast conversations, and usually argued our way to agreement on the topics and themes on our agenda.

He was what’s called a polymath, with knowledge that covered a variety of aspects of scientific enquiry. From stem-cell research and gene therapy, he deduced (provisionally) that humankind must have been designed by a computer programmer and engineer, not of this world. As a devout heathen, it alarmed him to find himself on the same side as the Intelligent Design people, at least in respect of the creation of life on this planet.

My main role in our Saturday meetings was to challenge the logic of his positions, and I pointed out that his hypothetical extra-terrestrial engineer was not necessarily benign, or fully sentient. It could have been a random force of nature – a kind of idiot-savant, like Dustin Hoffman in the movie “Rain Man”. We easily agreed that the creator of humanity was not the originator of the universe, and that neither of them warranted worship. (Why would they?)

We both detested organised religions, and the self-serving priesthoods that maintain them. Religions are just unsophisticated tribes of initiates, slaves to their respective tribal rites and rituals. We marvelled at the capacity of even the most highly developed tribes (nations, now) to trick their subjects into abandoning ethics and principles at the merest sniff of an enemy.

He and I argued whether man’s “selfish” gene was stronger than his “social” gene. If the former, then sociopaths were the norm and the rest of us were abnormal. If, as we suspected, all major tribal/national leaders throughout history were sociopaths, then “human rights” have been but a passing fad, doomed to failure. But, we never found agreement on that point.

Gerry particularly deplored the brutalisation of US society, and saw parallels with the early Nazi regime in Germany. His children and grandchildren were (are) all Americans, and he feared for their futures, as self-exiled Germans must have feared for their families in the 1930s. He renounced his US citizenship, and I let my US visa lapse. We struggled to identify the hidden rulers of the US. Who are the monsters who bribe and threaten Federal politicians, and pull their puppet-strings?

We had never believed the official version of the assassination of JFK, and now found ourselves questioning official versions of other mysteries. Was it really Western bankers who financed the fledgling USSR, and the burgeoning Nazis? Are the same forces behind today’s drive for permanent war, so profitable for contractors and their financiers?

As an engineer, he was offended by the (to him) plain lie that WTC #7 had collapsed and crumbled to dust in its own footprint without the help of explosives. As an auditor, I questioned the plausibility of the claim that nineteen barefoot Arab boys had breached the defences – not once, but four times – of the world’s strongest military defence, without help.

Iraq’s WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) justified the launch of a Western Crusade of Terror against selected Moslem communities in the Middle East, and (later) in the West itself. If the WMDs were a lie, what else might the liars have lied about? The World Trade Center sprang readily to our cynical minds.