Re: virus: Re: war

Alex Williams (
Sun, 29 Dec 1996 17:31:39 -0500 (EST)

> No. I didn't mean to imply that. I was saying that you are jumping over
> a useful point. And that is that, war is an effective motivator because
> it utilizes strong memes.

I've not argued that point, I simply added that strong motivation is a
Good Thing.

> You made that jump again. What happens when war is no longer a
> profitable pursuit? What happens when... frankly... you just can't have
> a good old fashioned build up an enemey and knock them down, rape their
> wives and kill their baby sons war? There are just too many cameras out
> there beaming images to your dinner table on the six o clock news. What
> happens when communication is *so* effective that we cannot prejudice
> ourselves the way we used to and we have to employ even more
> sophisticated jargon to make people hate the enemy? Your memes get more
> insideous.

Its never going to happen.

The Gulf War was quite possibly the most widely televised media event
in any era, with more reporters and war correspondants on the scene
getting bloody details in their lenses than were even underfoot in
Vietnam, and that was an /unpopular/ conflict. Nightly newscasts ran
hours of footage of MLRS bombardment, Scud counterattacks, T-72's
popping their turrets under fire from M1 Abrams on the move hurtling
over berms. We saw Iraqui soldiers with their hands on their heads
surrendering as the cameras drove past. We saw cities getting
obliterated, oil wells belching fire to the heavens like the mouths of

All in all, it was /great/ ratings.

It was great ratings in the morning, as soon as we rolled out off bed.
It was great ratings at lunchtime, chewing over things with our
friends. It was great ratings at night, watching our boys Doing the
Right Thing for God and Country (capitals trademarked) over dinner and
talking through mouths full of mashed potatoes about how many Iraqui
we took out that day and how many just surrendered.

The human capacity for self-delusion is rapacious and incomprehensibly
vast. It eats up almost everything we create and everything we
destroy. And rightly it should, because only our ability to
self-delude makes us think we /can/ communicate at all. No man can
truly know another's experience, but we delude ourselves into
believing we can, and so believing, act on that belief. It bedrocks
societies. That power of self-delusion is, like any tool, two-edged.
So believing, we can create great things like the Cistine Chapel in
the delusion that it will communicate to all viewers the same feeling
for the grandeur of God the artist felt when executing it. So
believing, we can believe a man who differs from ourselves in ideology
only is worth executing. The two-edged blade cuts both ways.

I don't have any fear that we'll ever run out of enemies; the
speciation of ideas/memes seems as inevitable in any sufficently large
population as the speciation of genes.

> We can program a missile to climb up the enemy's rectum as it is. The
> thing that's keeping society stable and cultures operating these days is
> not a matter of "who has the stirrup"-- it's the memes-- our laws, our
> accords, our visions of ourselves as nations-- heck as members of a
> nation (only a recent development in the memetic history of mankind and
> certainly not found in any animal). (no not pack, herd or tribe, but
> nation.)

"Who has the stirrup" -is- a meme, and a very powerful one, indeed.
You may have heard it called "Mutually Assured Destruction," the
technique of guaranteeing peace by being able to take your enemy to
Hell alongside you. You are correct in saying that MAD, or any weapon
technology, has played little role in keeping national peace for the
last decade or so; no, economic warfare has usurped the place of the
cluster of nukes pointed at any given country's major cities.
Economic warfare is also completely unsatisfying from a
war-development perspective, at least so far, because our cultures
weren't designed around its operation. It may never be as satisfying
as going in and killing your enemies.

What differentiates a nation from a pack, really? The fact that the
leaders lead those whom they have no contact with and whose welfare
does not impinge directly on the leader? Several levels of
abstraction that the other animals never had opportunity to develop as
radically unbalanced as we? What really differentiates the nation
from a murder of crows or a gaggle of geese or a pack of wild dogs?
And once we can pick out the difference, is it really a matter of
intrinsic natural quality ... or just quantity? We know how I feel on
the issue.

I don't believe we should retreat to Rousseau's State of Nature; I
mean to say we never left it, we merely elaborated on it.

> Surely you don't see the irony in what you just wrote....

I do, indeed. That was part of the irony,

> Euripedes was a vetren soldier. His contribution to the world was his
> statement on war. For you to read it as the product of affluence and
> FREEDOM is even more ironic.

Euripedes performed his service as a part of those fighting to
preserve himself the ability to sit down and write TROJAN WOMEN. The
play was not his only contribution to the world, his freedom to be
able to pen it was, too.

> I'm sorry, but I have to be hard on you for that. The piece is about
> those very shackles that we place on ourselves. That we can advance only
> on the bones of others. And coming from the pen of a man who committed
> the crimes he protests....

The problem is we disagree on the nature of this bondage; I don't see
them as shackles at all, but tools, like all things are tools. A
moral analysis of the necessity of war is out of place here. We
discuss memetics, and we can discuss the need for morality alongside
the need for war, but applying the memes of morality to those of war
says nothing about war, only morality, and morality's far too muddy a
river for me to go wading into with you.

Would you believe the praises of war sung by a participant? There are
books on the necessity and possible gains to be brought about by war;
from Sun Tzu to modern strategic analysts. Egyptian, Roman, Gallic,
soldiers from all times have lamented the necessity, too, but followed
through because they saw the necessity still. If they had not, you'd
not be here as a result of their successes today, you'd inherit the
legacy of those who /did/ rape, pillage and kill to survive and

Those who come a thousand years hence will have just as bloody a
legacy or a considerably less auspicious future.

> Alex:
> I'm absolutely certain of my own cruelty, its the cruelty that kills
> 5/8ths of the young crocodillian population before breeding maturity
> and ensures that over 99% of the billions of sex cells that get spewed
> into the ocean by clams never meet another and merge successfully.
> *********************************************************************
> You're a busy guy.

I get around. Its a killer on the new car, though.

> As you've imagined it.(and yourself) How natural are you? What brand of
> antiperspirant do you use and do you do the Macarena?
> You are not the same as a natural animal-- you are something completely
> different, you cannot do e-mail in the wilderness, a lion would sneak up
> and eat you.

I'm a completely natural animal; how could I /not/ be, I'm a product
of natural selection! All of my creations are works of nature, for
nature fashions them from the processes of nature, my life being one
of those processes. We live within nature and are part of it still.
Does the Chimpanzee that lifts a strand of grass and pokes it into a
termite hill become some unnatural host of diabolic spirit in so
doing? Does the blade of grass cease to be a part of nature once
thrust and, afterwards, does it not rot when left upon its neighbors
not so well chosen? Who can seperate the Act of Man from the Act of
Nature without an Act of God? Were some creature to come see this
planet as an anthill, and we as ants, would there be any question of
whether the ants are natural, whether the mounds they raise are
natural? Certainly they disrupt the dirt and they carry out their
lives, but they are born, they die and life continues among the
man-ants as elsewhere.

I most certainly /can/ email in the savannah of Africa, its been done
many times. The lion has his claws. I have my gun. The claws were
fashioned by the genes of the lion to keep him alive to make more
genes. The gun was fashioned by the memes of the man to keep him
alive to make more memes.

Where, then, is the difference?