Question: What should we be doing?
Ferguson: We should not glorify war. We should glorify peace and the complex procedures – sometimes somewhat demeaning procedures – of diplomacy,and all the techniques that make peace more likely than war.
War is sexy and peace is not. But peace is far preferable. And those who have never experienced war firsthand, as I have not, and I was lucky, unlike my grandfathers, should at least immerse themselves in the study of it to understand better what it means. So that would be the first thing.
The second thing would be to be content with modest rates in material growth; not to crave an exponential growth in one’s individual wealth or national wealth. One has to temper one’s greed in a world of finite resources in which the population grows ever larger. And that’s an extremely important, but again unsexy, word of counsel.
I like people to do boring things. I like them to read books. I like them to study. I like them to garden, to swim. And if human beings could focus on those low risk, non-destructive activities, then we have a chance of preserving civilization for another couple of millennia. But those who thirst after action and instant riches, who prefer jet skis, to swimming to take just one example, those are the people who propel us closer and closer to the abyss.
So we must restrain ourselves. We must live modestly.
Recorded on: Oct 15 2008