Western Misunderstandings of ‘Individual Choice’

Builds Upon: Driving Lessons For the Vehicle of Consciousness

Western Enlightenment culture idolizes the conscious human will.

Our entire culture is based on the assumption that every human is a conscious rational decision maker.

This is a deeply flawed understanding of what people really are.

The conscious is a junior partner to the subconscious and traditional peoples have always known this.
Most things people do are determined through instinct as it relates to survival and reproduction. Most conscious things we do are mere reactions to forces over which we have no control. Mystics such as Gurdjieff have repeatedly pointed out:

We don’t really do anything at all!

The naïve Western understanding of human nature creates a social environment in which advertisers have little responsibility for the memes they spread. Corporations can run rampant while following the letter of literal-minded laws.

Social movements driven by well-meaning idealism set up those they ‘help’ for even worse disaster because they don’t understand what people are. If only people are given the chance to exercise ‘free choice’ they tell themselves, the world can change!

They do not understand that human will is a weak and delicate thing that must be carefully cultivated and protected. Without special effort and training, we are just monkeys fighting over sex and bananas.
There is nothing self evident about will or rights. For the most part, these are unique, radical ideas that sprouted from Western Christianity.
If we go back and read the Bible, it doesn’t take long to figure out that Jesus’ ideas are totally new and confusing to nearly everyone he meets. If we examine the vast majority of people on Earth today, they have far more in common with typical Judeans of Jesus’ time than with naive educated Westerners.

Any traditional culture has mechanisms to protect their people from predatory influences whether through religion or animistic magical practices.
Without these mechanisms, Western civilizations malfunction on a massive scale.

We choose what to do, but we don’t choose what we want to do. “Attraction is not a choice” as it is formulated by pick up artists or anyone selling anything.

A strong society grounded in right ideas protects its people from those who would ‘hack’ their wills and parasitize them. Especially proles or women, most of whom are at best marginally capable of thinking for themselves.

Societies like our own that refuse to understand what people are inevitably stumble and falter.

The champions of capitalism relentlessly criticize communists for misunderstanding the basics of human nature, but barely 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the victors at the end of history find themselves little better off.
They too failed to understand what humans are.

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Food Commodities vs. Food Products

Builds Upon: Supermarkets, the Illusion of Overchoice,
The Absolute Value of Material Goods,
Objective Cheapness

Every brand has a company behind it that has obtained some resources and made them into a ‘product.’
We tend to buy these products without asking ourselves:

-Has the company added value to the resources they started with?
-No change?
-Have they actually degraded the useful value of the initial resources?

Consider prepackaged salad greens and pre-sliced produce sold at a 300-400% markup from the base commodity even though only minimal value has been added by saving the customer a few minutes of time.
The moment a mushroom gets sliced up and wrapped in plastic, it stops being a mushroom. It becomes a ‘product.’

How far removed is a breakfast cereal from the grains it was made of? The price tag is very telling.
If we compare a pound of puffed rice to a pound of rice the difference is enormous. The cereal is likely 300-400% more expensive.
Thus, the cereal ought to return 3-4 times the value of the rice, right?

In fact, the high heat processes used to make the cereal have destroyed most of the nourishing value of the original rice!

The pre-packaged produce and the cereal are colossal ripoffs.
The price includes:

-extra packaging

-extra processing

-extra middlemen who must take their cut.

-advertising

-a longer logistics chain (food also going to be less fresh)

-consumer demand from emotional attachments to the brand and its advertising

-demand from lack of critical thinking about costs and benefits.(Effectively a market share of others’ failure to look after their best interests!)

-“convenience tax”: the penalty for buying in small individually packaged portions.

If we instead move towards the original commodity by buying a pound of rice, we cut useless corporate middlemen out of the picture, leaving only those who actually create value.
Furthermore, every additional middleman makes the system more complex. More complexity means more points of failure in which our food could be degraded or contaminated. This is a legitimate concern when these companies have little reason to care what they churn out so long as it doesn’t immediately poison consumers.

Not only do we deprive middlemen of opportunities to screw us,

-An entire factory devoted to degrading the resources it starts with is discouraged.

-A whole bloated army of parasitic advertisers, marketers, corporate lawyers misses out on a bit of its payday.

-We avoid purchasing a whole slough of intangible baggage associated with the brand name.

Only those who actually produce the food and bring it to market get our money!
Whenever we make a purchase we have an opportunity to cast a vote against the superfluous, the wasteful, the inefficient, and the incompetent!

Better still, as one approaches the original commodity, one is increasingly likely to be able to buy in bulk.
If one buys a 25 pound bag of rice of instead of a one pound bag, the price per pound is far less.
An added bonus: at popular stores with high merchandise turnover, the bulk items are often the freshest and highest quality.

Yet brands thrive because they are symbols of social belonging in industrialized cultures. One might be thought strange by one’s friends for bringing a dirt cheap 10 pound sack of in shell unsalted peanuts to a party. But it would be perfectly normal to show up with an overpriced little jar of brand name peanuts that have been cooked in cottonseed oil and coated with MSG.

Because of the critical importance of social belonging, companies with popular brands can not only charge more, they have less incentive to offer a quality product. It’s not the food people are after as much as it is the image.

As such, buying bulk food commodities is a form of arbitrage.
Not only are they higher in quality than processed brand name foods, there is less demand for them among the general populace.

Can we imagine one company marketing a sexy, exciting, cool potato for the younger generation and a steady dependable potato for baby boomers?
Advertising becomes much more difficult when it’s the same inglorious lumpy sack of russet-burbanks just sitting there.
You get what you see.
In this situation, corporations have much less room to boost their profit margins with deceptive practices and appeals to emotion. The item they’re trying to sell is nearly identical to what their competitors are bringing to market, thus their profit margins are kept to the market price just as employees’ wages are stuck to a market price.

When employers purchase our labor, they are our bosses.
When we purchase goods from our employers we are the bosses!
By failing to look after our best interests in the market place, we cede power to our employers and allow the equilibrium to shift in their favor. Can you imagine a company paying employees more than it has to simply because it’s too lazy to figure out the market price for labor?

Buying commodities first is a way of keeping the corporations on a short leash just as our corporate bosses keep us collared and leashed every minute of every working day.
In one action you oppose:
-A hollow post-industrial concept of atomized ‘individuality’.
-A shallow socialite marketplace in which chatty, flashy substance sells over form.
-Undeserved profit that actually undermines our power over our lives and actively subsidizes the cartels that run our government and decide whether or not we get to eat and keep a roof over our heads.

Perhaps, most significantly of all, by avoiding the name brand product, one secedes from a superficial, self-destructive, and hostile modern mass culture.

In an enlightened economy, I could easily imagine a business phenomenon that would push many other retailers out of the market, especially in hard times with low wages steadily losing their already meager purchasing power.
Imagine a supermarket that just had bins, barrels, and drums of commodities with no brands in sight.
No unnecessary packaging, bags, or plastic. Customers could just bring whatever containers they like from home. There could be cheap burlap sacks to sell to customers in case they don’t have anything suitable with them.

Beyond a critical mass impact on suppliers, no existing retail model could possibly compete with the low prices such a business could offer.
The only reason no such model exists is because too many customers have grown indolent in watching out for their best interests and don’t even recognize that they’re being systematically parasitized.
Even where the odd shopper might connect the dots, money cannot buy most goods in commodity form in industrialized countries. Nearly everything has been swarmed over by micropackaged brand scams that force the customer to pay more.

Wine Tasting, Empiricism, and Perception

Builds Upon: Photography, Transience, Memories
Neatness: The Religion of the Rectilinear

I had read about scientists fooling professional wine tasters by merely putting food coloring in the wine, by changing the labels on the bottles they were being served, by serving up the same wine in different bottles, or by telling them nothing at all about what they were drinking.  The scientists’ conclusion?:  Even the professionals are all frauds.  We are incapable of actually knowing what we’re eating or drinking.  Our perceptions are all hopelessly skewed by emotions, suggestion, and expectations. Therefore, we’re mostly wrong most of the time without strict methods of empirical observation.  Scientists have demonstrated yet again that they are the indisputable bookkeepers and accountants of a collective reality.

Yet science also tells us that the human nose has countless receptors that account for most of our sense of taste.  Researchers are amazed at the incredibly small number of particles per million we are capable of detecting.  Scientists and advertisers are especially intrigued to discover that our sense of smell has more immediate, visceral access to our brain than any other.  We are deeply influenced by smells without even consciously perceiving them.

When it comes to foods and scents:

The appeal or the very nature of a food changes relative to our mood, our circumstances, our bodily needs of the moment.

A stick of butter would taste very different on the first bite than on the last.

Thus butter indeed tastes different to me based on the state of my body and my mood.  Empirically I am wrong.  I have been ‘fooled’ by my senses.  It is the same stick of butter each time I take a bite from it.  If I were in any way rational, I would tell them after each bite that the stick of butter tasted and felt the same, even as I approached the point of wanting to vomit.  The scientists would celebrate another defeat for subjective perception and another victory for empirical observation.

I wonder if the outcome of these experiments means what the scientists think it means.

With wine, I imagine that one gets hints of different kinds of flavors depending on what it’s eaten with, how much wine has already been drank,  one’s mental state.  Whatever the body craves at the moment will taste far better than it usually would.  A wine will taste better or worse depending on one’s personal taste or on what wines one has had before.   I’m sure a cheap wine tastes as good as an expensive wine if one has had to go a year without any wine at all.  Many variables could affect the perception of the taste of wine.

I am very far from any kind of a wine tasting professional but I can readily say that I much prefer a Cabernet Sauvignon to a Merlot.  How on Earth could  I possibly have the gall to state any such preference if I ought not to be able to tell the difference between a white and a red?

To me, an affordable merlot tastes like a watered down cabernet.  The same oak and blackberries minus the cleansing dryness and full body.  A merlot is something of a blank slate that requires an artist to paint on it.  Paying more a higher price per bottle is almost necessary to get a good one.  It’s just not a good everyday table wine.  I think of it as the gateway wine beginners, appletini ladies, and light beer guys can tolerate.

All these detailed, emotionally charged opinions yet I admit I could be easily fooled in a taste test.  If I were blindfolded, I might not be able to tell the difference between a cab and a merlot.  I might taste one of the wines and wonder whether it was a lousy cab or a typical beginner’s merlot.  It could be either one.  Not only are there lots of wine varietals, there’s a huge amount of variation for each varietal.  Without something to go on, I just wouldn’t know.  Upon guessing the wrong one, the scientists would pull off my blindfold and say “HA HA!  Fooled you!  Your pathetic little senses can’t do nothing without strict empirical, quantitative, observations!”

However, science has found that especially when it comes to taste and smell, our limited conscious awareness of the experience is but the tip of the iceberg.   Scientific inquiry has already demonstrated that most of the impact of taste/smell is subconscious!  Can our judgments and preferences be said to be a complete flight of fancy if we are not fully consciously aware of the experience.

In an empirical, standardized mass reality, an inability to declare=falsifiability.  Thus we’re all frauds for preferring either white or red wine.  If you can’t produce the correct information on demand, you obviously don’t know it.

Yet most scientists probably couldn’t tell me what they had for dinner three months ago.  The same scientists would likely be flabbergasted if I suggested that if they could not remember eating anything for dinner on that day, clearly they had eaten nothing at all.  I would further explain that the idea of having eaten dinner that night is merely a comforting self-delusion and a product of their shoddy emotional brains.

I have a very rational friend who once amused himself by giving me a special test.  He moved the bookmark in the book I was reading forward a few pages while I was away and watched what happened when I returned.  I kept reading without realizing what he’d done.  He eventually told me what he’d done and I found myself feeling angry about his meddling.  “How can those pages matter,” he argued, “If you didn’t realize they weren’t missing it makes no difference whether or not they were there.”  At the time I felt a sense of stubborn indignation and did not know quite how to counter him.  Yet I could have asked him to tell me what happened on page 304 of his edition of ‘Fellowship of the Ring’.  He would not have been able to produce any details for me.  I could therefore have come to a couple of different conclusions.

-He’s a fraud and never actually read through the book.

-He must have accidentally skipped page 304.  Nothing important must have happened if he didn’t even realize he had missed it.

We find that it is the general, partially conscious, emotional information that is truly important to us.  My friend couldn’t recite for me the content from a single page of the book, but clearly he got something out of it.  It’s one of his favorite books.  He probably could have read and enjoyed the story just the same without a page 304.  Yet he would have lost something from the overall memory of having read that book.  The loss of one or even a few pages might be trivial, but every single page fleshes out the concept even if no individual page can be explicitly recalled to memory.

In many ways, the emotionally charged perception and memory is the hardest to access reliably through conscious inquiry or to articulate in its fullness to a scientific questioner.

Thus:  Have we all been proven frauds for preferring different kinds of wine over others?  OR is judging our perception only by empirical information immediately obtainable at the conscious level simply an approach ill-suited to gauging human perception and memory?

If a stick of butter tastes different after each bite, is it extraordinary to suppose that even a glass of wine could taste a little different after every sip?  As the state of the body changes, the state of perception must change.  Are the senses fooling themselves.  Not really.  They give us information relative to our needs and circumstances.  We’re living things subject to constant change, not static scientific instruments.

So naturally, if we’re called on to behave like scientific instruments, we’re going to fail.

Perhaps it is the very difficulty of applying order and categorization to the sense of taste/smell that has attracted the attention of strict empiricists.  Perhaps this fixation on demonstrating the ‘inaccuracy’ of human perception is a result of an inability to accept or understand the transient, entropic nature of the universe.

Poverty Is Expensive

Living from paycheck to paycheck is its own greatest expense.

Living in a persistent state of urgency forces one to opt for the most expensive, least efficient options.

This form of poverty does not just apply to those who we usually consider poor.  Those with trappings of middle class or even luxury frequently live in a similar state of desperation.

One is:

-Forced to buy in micro-quantities and convenience portions

Making large, judicious purchases is the best way to maximize bang for buck.  Buying in small individually packaged portions is the least efficient way to make purchases.  This is just what the poor must do.  Living from day to day, week to week, they don’t have the luxury of buying outside the moment.  They  must pay the highest possible prices for each item.

-Forced to pay off interest

What is interest but the purchase of money one doesn’t actually have?

The greater the lack of money, the greater the lack of it costs.

In a state of poverty, even the slightest of mishaps forces one to rely on the purchase of non-existent cash.  It might make tomorrow even more difficult to survive, but what does it matter if one has to get through today first?

-Forced to constantly replace or repair low quality merchandise

Purchasing for the day means paying more in the long run as a whole collection of shoddy merchandise constantly breaks down and expires.

The expenses incurred by a steady stream of emergency driven purchases preclude ever getting ahead.

-Forced to pay for health care that wouldn’t have been necessary without the poor nutrition, lack of time for exercise, and chronic stress inflicted by poverty.

With no means of tending to one’s wellbeing and living in a state of powerlessness, one ends up faced with enormous expenses wealthier persons can avoid through healthier more fulfilling lifestyles.  Just one collapse in health can create yet another set of expenses for hospital bills or prescription medications.  The cost of poverty rises that much higher.

-Forced to deal entirely in steadily inflating liquid assets.

Economies are kept burning through steady increase in the money supply.  The value of liquid assets has nowhere to go but down in the long run.  New minimum wages are set only when they can no longer possibly be avoided.  Largely static wages for low end jobs spend years declining in purchasing power until an already tight situation becomes untenable.

-Deprived of Free Capital and Time To Invest

The immediate needs of survival preclude the accumulation of any additional assets whatsoever.  Investments, acquisition of new skills become impossible.  The money necessary to get money is never available.

The Hidden Costs of Material Possessions

When wealth is beyond the subsistence level, humans accumulate possessions.  Each possession acquired has a market value that tells us it is worth something.

One cannot go to a store and buy an item of negative or neutral value.  Every item we can buy has a positive value that represents the good it will contribute to our lives.  Every value on the price tags is the cost of acquiring a possession.  There will never be a price tag that adds all the hidden costs poorly chosen possessions can bring into our lives.

Vendors naturally want us to be surrounded by all the wonderful things we can buy.  Pay up and its ours.   It’s up to the buyer to realize that acquisition is not necessarily in one’s best interest and each additional possession must be chosen wisely.

There are many factors to take into account beyond the price tag when looking at the store shelf:

-Takes up space

If we have possessions, we need some place to store them.  If not in a residence, in a rented storage unit.  Either a residence or a storage unit are expenses we must pay when we own more things than we can carry.  All possessions that occupy space are thus subject to this ‘tax’ on ownership.  If we added the costs of storage to the original price of a good, the number on the tag would likely be radically changed.

-Maintaining a residence

If one needs a residence large enough to store possessions, how much time, effort, and money does it cost to keep the residence in working order?

-Maintenance costs of a purchase

Does it need to be repaired, tuned, patched, primped, polished, scrubbed, dusted?  Does one need to pay a specialist to come in and take care of it?  If not, how much time does it take to do all these things oneself.  Even if dusting a single item takes very little time, what if one has many items that need to be dusted.  How much precious time in a year do these possessions collectively suck up in rote maintenance tasks.  What could one have been doing instead?

-Costs money to move it

Not only do possessions occupy space, they have to be moved to another space whenever there is a change in residency or even in the configuration of the residence.  The result is additional time and trouble added to the true price of each item.

-Ties one down to a single location

It is very difficult to be flexible or mobile if one has a residence full of material possessions.  Moving one’s base of operations becomes an extremely unpleasant, time consuming, expensive operation.  Once again, the actual monetary cost of each possession rises each time it is moved from one residence to another.

-Makes the owner a target/vulnerable to loss

If you have something worth stealing, you must sacrifice a certain peace of mind and perpetually worry about someone taking it all away.  It gives dangerous strangers an incentive to approach you or your residence, putting one in danger.  Furthermore, any number of accidents or mishaps including a fire could result in the destruction of one’s possessions.  Is the worry and the increased vulnerability worth the benefits derived?

-Does it break? Is buying new ones periodically cheaper than investing in a high quality one.

Buying the cheapest, flimsiest version possible can lead to long term greater expenditures.  On the other hand, one need not be concerned about the cheap or disposable version getting lost or broken.  It’s sometimes worth it for increased mobility and peace of mind.

-Adds to Distraction/Confusion

Each material possession occupies an area in space that could be occupied by another.  Which single possession gives us the highest payoff when it occupies a given area?  What losses do we suffer by choosing sub-optimal items to occupy a given space?

Each sub-optimal item is a distraction that makes each valuable item more difficult to find, access, and use.  Beyond an economical number, possessions tend to pile up, obstructing and hiding one another.  The collective value of one’s possessions starts to go downward.  The returns of acquisition start to diminish.  Each additional possession becomes more difficult to  keep track of than the last.  Tracking each item takes up mental space we could be using for other things.  The more items, the more ways these items could interact, compromise, or hide one another.  Thus, the increase in energy and thought required to keep our possessions in order is going to increase geometrically rather than in a linear fashion.  Thus, sub-optimal possessions actually obstruct our ability to derive benefits from our most useful possessions on both the physical and mental levels.

-Opportunity cost

Is a good the single best thing one could be buying?  What opportunities is one losing by choosing to acquire?  Another, better possession is usually the least of one’s worries.  How much personal freedom does one lose by making it necessary to work in order to pay for one’s purchases?  Even if a possession would be nice to own, surely it must be truly wonderful or indispensable to be worth a measure of time and freedom.

When these factors are considered:

Do we own our possessions or do they own us?

Are we living for ourselves and the people who matter to us or the things we buy?

How much time do I NOT spend supporting pre-existing purchases and straining to be able to make new ones that create still more liability and obligation?

The Pitfalls of Micro-Specialization in Mass Societies

To compete on any mass market, one must be an extreme specialist in something someone is willing to pay for.  It is this idea that all of modern industrial society is built upon.  Each worker has a tiny slot of expertise that they fit into.  The larger the society the smaller the ranges of expertise, the larger the social machine, the smaller the parts and the more precise their function.  As each worker becomes more and more focused, each has less and less capability to consider the big picture.

In a microspecialist society, each limited field is cordoned off from every other by a set of precise terminology and shorthand that amounts to a plethora of mutually unintelligible languages.  The idea is that big projects are accomplished through countless tiny pieces smoothly interlocking into a comprehensible and logical whole.  Unfortunately, when each person obediently does their part without knowing anything of the whole, the result wildly diverges from the original intent.  Worse, entire populations and social classes can be crushed underneath a great machine that has no awareness of the damage it does.  So the process grinds on, continuing only because somebody started it.

People have always pursued trades and specializations in even the smallest of communities, but the modern specialization differs from the pre-industrial sort.

-In a village type of situation, each specialist had a stake in their community and it was in their interest to care about the output of the process that they were feeding into.  The end result of labor was clearly visible to everyone in the community.

-Though each person had a trade, much of their daily needs were produced in the household.  Even a specialist had to know a wide variety of skills and had a great deal of responsibility over many aspects of their life.

In a modern situation:

-There is little sense of community.  It is easy to have no idea how one’s labors affect humanity as a whole.  One feeds labor into the machine, the ultimate output of the system of labor is invisible, irrelevant, and obscure.

-Each person goes to work and does just one thing.  Failure to microspecialize means being outcompeted by someone who does.  Other microspecialists take care of every need in a laborer’s of life outside of their field of micro-expertise.

    -Ultimately, no single person has any knowledge of or responsibility for the output of the system.  A gigantic, reckless, inexorable machine is set into motion that exists independently of human desires and wellbeing.  The one thing it is sure to do is to attempt to perpetuate itself, just as if it were an organism.  Otherwise, whether this machine helps or harms humanity is a function of chance.  Whenever it gives to the human race it takes, whenever it brings improvement, it also debases.

    A further dilemma:  when everyone performs but one task through their own labor and the end result for each laborer is invisible, there can be no incentive beyond immediate gain.  That is, no laborer will do any more than it takes to be compensated.  If the consumer on the other end is deceived or sold a less than optimal product, it makes no difference.  The laborers would never even know about it anyway.  It’s not their department!  No single person is responsible for less than honest or lazy practices, it’s no one’s department.

    The market selects for the cheapest product that can still sell relative to all others.  Thus, someone will always find a way to market a cheaper good that can be passed off as equivalent or comparable to its predecessors.  In theory, the pressure to sell cheaper products results in the best quality merchandise sold for as little as possible.  In a mass society of micro-specialists however, the result is the merchandise with the best appearance of quality sold for as little as possible.

    In a society where no one can afford to know much outside of a microniche, appearances are everything.  If the product is shiny, slick, and cheap enough, it will be consumed en-masse by masses who simply don’t know that much about what they’re actually buying and how it compares to what they could be buying.

    The aggregate result is that over the course of generations, the way is open for standards to continue to slide.  The food industry is illustrative, as it is one of the most important of services in one’s life.  It is conceivable that not so many generations ago it would have been inconceivable to outsource one’s daily nourishment to hordes of faceless microspecialists with no larger knowledge and no incentives on the personal level.  There is no reason for the aggregate clusters of specialists to care about the consumer’s best interests beyond the degree they are forced to care by public regulations.

    The result?  The countries most given to the ethic of industrialization have food industries that consistently cause epidemics of previously unheard of health problems across massive populations.  After a couple of generations, these unnecessary problems are taken for granted by consumers; there is no incentive whatever to remedy them.  There are ample incentives to keep the consumers oblivious so that highly profitable harmful or substandard products can continue to be produced.  Better still, industries that cause new problems produce new industries devoted to appearing to remedy those problems!  A true remedy of course would put the new problem busting industries out of business!

    The mass production of anonymously provided services selects for those entities best able to hack the system.  That is, a system of supply and demand can only be predicated on what individuals know to demand.  What markets provide is relative to the expectations and personal experience of the consumer.  This is an axiom that industries in aggregate operate by.  There is no conspiracy.  No one has that much responsibility or knowledge.  Rather the present state is emergent from the properties of the system.

    Most products could be made much more durable, but there is a major disincentive to do so.  If no one knows exactly how long a shovel can be made to last, then entities can sell shovels designed for planned obsolescence.  That is, they maximize profitability by making their product last as short an amount of time as consumer expectations will permit.  Ironically, a company that produces shovels that last 20 years will be outcompeted by those who produce shovels identical in appearance designed to last only 2 years.  The companies selling products designed for planned obsolescence easily destroy their competitor who foolishly sells merchandise of the highest possible quality.  Before long, people suppose that a good shovel lasts for two years.  In a generation or so, perhaps people can be sold shovels that last for only one year…

    Millions labor away, each oblivious in their own little corner.  The food specialists screw over everyone, including themselves by flooding the market with harmful food.  Clothing makers make life harder for everyone by making garments designed to quickly wear out.  As each person struggles to make a profit from their labors, they do so ultimately at the expense of everyone, ironically forcing everyone to labor harder still to survive.  It’s an endless treadmill, a Sisyphean undertaking, a task that feeds upon itself.  Ultimately, things are produced for the sake of production.  What goods are being produced and even whether they are any good becomes increasingly irrelevant.

    The system self perpetuates because each field of knowledge is made inaccessible to every other by the highly specialized conventions and jargon of each respective clique.  Thus, the beautiful finale:  it is made nearly impossible to assemble the ample information out there into a coherent revelation.  Protective obfuscation is an emergent property of the system.  That is why it is still here.

    The Obsolescence of ‘Conventional’ Military Operations

    As military technology continues to grow, its usefulness lessens.  It has reached a point where a less advanced opponent can expect only annihilation in open conflict.  However, opponents with equivalent technology can no longer engage one another directly because of nuclear weapons.  Opponents who stand no chance in open conflict avoid open conflict.

    Thus we end up with the ironic modern situation.  An arsenal of expensive toys that are useless against a handful of men with boxcutters.  In a sense the bombs, tanks, and cruise missiles have become antiquated and obsolete.  War has gone back to essentials.  It is not so much about the weapons as it is the people behind them.  If one person with hostile intent can be put in the right place at the right time, it almost doesn’t matter what weapon they have or even if they have any physical weapon.

    One person is in terms of supply and demand dirt cheap.  There are always more people than anyone needs at any given time.  One can walk through any city in the world and see the poor lying around as unwanted as pennies dropped in between cracks in the pavement.  People regenerate, usually faster than they can possibly be killed off.  Males, especially, are mostly superfluous in biological terms.  Millions can die and the women can get pregnant just as before.  People are versatile, they can be deployed anywhere in society at any time.  One person is very easily lost in the endless crowd of humanity.  One human being who doesn’t want to be found is far superior to high-tech stealth weaponry.

    Advanced weaponry on the other hand is so expensive that only the richest countries can afford to develop and purchase it.  Entire expensive facilities must be built for its safekeeping and storage.  Entire armies of personnel have to be trained and paid for its successful operation and maintenance.  The cost of operating a ‘conventional’ force is such that even a military occupation relatively modest by historical standards drains its nation of resources.  Such is the expense that ‘overwhelming force’ becomes impossible.

    Hi-tech weapons kill people off with industrial grade efficiency and with minimal losses on the side that uses them, but in all cases the cost is so monumental, that they only stand a chance of doing their value worth in damage against like forces.  Namely, forces that could never be confronted without nuclear war and mutually assured destruction.

    Against what the modern military calls ‘irregular’ forces, they are mostly useless.

    A cruise missile might be able to easily wipe out a hundred men, but the cost of the weapon exceeds any damage inflicted.  The cruise missile costs millions of dollars.  A hundred men cost less than nothing.  Each one who dies just makes a little more elbow room for everyone else…and even so this loss just takes an insignificant bite out of population growth in an already overpopulated world.  In the Vietanam war, the US military had an unprecedented kill ratio, losing tens of thousands of troops in the whole conflict while liquidating hundreds of thousands of enemies per year.  However, over 2,000,000 new North Vietnamese males were reaching the age of conscription each year…

    Deployment of modern weaponry against an expendable population is a losing proposal…unless the said weaponry wipes out the population’s capacity to produce more people.  This is easily done, but still cost far exceeds gains.  If any population now wiped another off the map, it would be in the direct interest of every other population to turn unanimously on the offender to ensure their own preservation.  The loss of trade alone would make wiping out an expendable population a cost ineffective proposal, as the wealth of modern states is dependent upon trade.

    One might still make the case that hi-tech warfare still is preferable when one takes non-material considerations into account—that the hundred people killed by the cruise missile are a hundred of the right people to kill.  The argument is that one needn’t kill off even a large portion of an expendable population but only the few offenders.  The problem with this proposal is that each of the 100 people killed belongs to a family, clan, and tribe.  Each of the hundred killed only multiplies the portion of the expendable population with cause for resentment towards the technologically advanced power.  ‘Insurgents’ enjoy success because they are members of a community that actively supports and hides them.  There is no destroying them without inciting their supporters to riot.  If anything, when considered on a non-material level, the case against modern weaponry is more compelling.  When one factors in emotion in tight knit communities, there can be no ‘surgical’ removal of undesirables as with buildings.  Buildings usually stand on their own while human beings as fundamentally social beings never do.  Killing off a hundred men impacts the lives of hundreds, if not thousands more who knew them.  Not only was the cruise missile ineffective, its deployment on guys with AK-47s could be considered a lost battle for the advanced nation.

    If a nation is unwilling or unable to move in overwhelming force and is unable to cost effectively fight a given population, victory through greater technology is not a likely outcome.  Without a conventional military opponent, there can be no conventional victory.  As far as the locals are concerned the conflict can drag on for generations—as many conflicts in their respective lands already have.  They’re at home with all the time in the world.  They don’t have to win any open confrontation, all they have to do at minimum is make their homeland cost ineffective to govern.  When their enemy is using a huge arsenal of expensive equipment, it is almost absurdly easy to exceed this goal.  The invader is losing resources from the moment they invade!  All resistance has to do is keep it that way!