Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Changing World

This is a personal perspective paper of The Jacksonian Party.

Whenever we talk about change in the world and those that have deeply impacted world affairs, we normally center on recent change. Industrialization is the first that comes to mind for many, as it was a revolution in how mankind approached the creation of goods and implemented an economic system around it so as to sustain mass production. This change, for all of its global impact, is not global in extent as many Nations have not seen the fruits of industrialization appear in their homelands. One need only think of Bangladesh, Zaire, or Nicaragua to see Nations that have not fully embraced, adapted or adopted this form of goods creation. Start-up capital is normally cited as a reason, but production line manufacturing is only capital intensive for some goods, normally machinery but also things like manufactured cabinetry. The raw materials to create these things requires its *own* manufacturing base from ore smelting to lumberyards to the creation of source material and intermediate goods firms and infrastructure. Infrastructure, itself, is capital intensive for power and transportation (road, rail, canals, airports), and getting that money together is done only at the government level due to the poverty... which is caused by a lack of manufacturing.

From here it would be easy to jump to numerous other points of radical change in the world that are still with us today, but only become radical in retrospect: the plough and the emergence of agriculture, moveable type and the rising of cheap printing, the idea of vaccines and the ability to address some endemic diseases by them. Each of these has cascaded through human culture, with only the very few cultures of semi-nomadic peoples who did not adopt practicing agriculture. It is remarkable that only the last on that list, vaccination, came about close to the industrial age and would prove the greatest boon by industrial approaches to medicine and mass production. Ridding the world of smallpox took a concerted, decades long approach that finally relegated the disease to study samples left in major Nations with the hopes that nothing worse was going to be brewed up from those samples. Other diseases, however, like tuberculosis and polio, have not proven amenable to either treatment of the proliferation of a vaccine. Tuberculosis, once the scourge of society all the way up to the epidemics of the late 19th century, was one of the first diseases to start falling under the fire of modern antibiotics. But the disease never fell completely because it had found a valuable weakness by trial and error: human attention span.

Tuberculosis has a memory, in the case of the disease it is a genetic memory, that is gained by the survivors that are able to propagate from one host to the next. Those that survive retain the genes that allowed them to flourish and start to make copies of themselves in their new host. These copies, however, are not always exact ones and some will incorporate changes in the pattern of the disease based on its genetic make-up, that of its current host, that of its current host's other diseases and just through poor copying as cells exhaust themselves to produce copies and bad ones get made. Most new copies that have changes don't survive against their parent's more perfect descendents. By creating a population in the body that uses similar resources, the parent germ takes up the readily available niches and the non-identical offspring get outcompeted. Diseases, because of this, remain unchanged for generations until a newer and more virulent form that can outcompete its parents and their advantage of already having a niche in the body are formed. That is normally so rare as to be inconsequential in the short term, and winds up with newer strains only over generations of mankind. Some diseases seek to exploit that they are not easily attacked and become somewhat less virulent but harder to get rid off to promulgate the spread of their progeny. The 'common cold' is a perfect virus for this and has reached an inconsequential lethality rate but is so quickly adaptable and yet non-life threatening that it is synonymous with 'an incurable problem'.

TB, however, takes the third route on this as antibiotics change the living conditions in a host body. By introducing a medication to get rid of a systemic infection over months, very few copies prove resistant to that medication and are hindered by it so that the body's natural immune system can perform its function on them. If this was all there was to TB it would be relegated to history, but the important part of it is that it does take months and months of being on a medication to get rid of it. Unless it is absolutely life threatening immediately, like treatment of Type I diabetes with insulin and its analogues, the moment an individual no longer manifests the outward signs of a disease, the inclination is to forget about it and stop treatment. Taking a pill or two a day, every day, every week for 6 months or a year or longer is beyond the bounds of commitment for many humans. It goes from a vital need to a nuisance in no time flat. And when the medication stops, the resistant strains multiply and you are soon on the way to a 'drug resistant' form of the disease. TB is not alone in this as staph infections have also gone from deadly to multi-drug resistant deadly with very few antibiotics actually able to treat some forms of it. These diseases gained a historical memory and still retain their adaptability so that a few 'mutants' will actually be that of their non-resistant parents... and those originals, without the need to have a high overhead of putting up a series of defenses, will promulgate faster than *their* parents until treatment arrives, and then the genetic coding for the defenses will show up again. That puts society in the 'Catch-22' that if you use no antibiotics the disease becomes less virulent but more endemic, and if you use antibiotics to treat *those* cases they show resistance very quickly.

It is that exact, same concept of history tagging along with a disease that has now shifted from diseases to humanity as a whole. Here the ecosystem of human political thought has remained basically the same for centuries, with only the revolution of personal liberty and democracy to create the ability to protect freedom as the only driving force of note in the last 300 years. Those concepts, driven by the manufacturing world, allowed ideas to spread and form and a slow set of changes to happen to humanity in fits and starts. As a disease it has not permeated throughout all of humanity, but the infection is now wide-spread. Democracy, itself, adapts to new hosts and counter-influences, and does not work the same in all parts of the world where it is taken up. The underlying rights of individuals may be universal, but the cultural views on what universality is differ, and that effects any government type. Democracy, however, is not alone in the human body politic, and it competes with all previous forms of governing on a global basis with some areas remaining resistant to it or, even worse, having formed anti-bodies that will reject it in the forms of socialism, religion or dictatorship. One of the great telling points of democracy is not how widespread it is, but how able to change it has been: from European settled realms in the Americas to India to Iraq to Japan. Extremely adaptable, and even beneficial where it has grown deeply and holds sway.

The human body politic is, however, now taking a new medication that is threatening all government types from anarchy to despotism to authoritarianism to democracy. Like all good drugs meant to cleanse a system it is coming from a vector the disease does not expect or have ready defenses against. Indeed the attack is coming from the extremely successful form of democracy coupled with the highest form of manufacturing and even those cultures creating this change have not fully figured out what it means. That change is not a revolution in world thought, nor religion nor any great sway in philosophy: it is technical change. One of the greatest benefits that all politicians the world over have had is the ability to 're-invent themselves' over time. Stalin did so by the brute force method of altering the historical record and removing enemies and their followers. Mao did so by eradicating the pre-communist families outright. In more democratic venues politicians have been saying one thing and doing another while claiming a third for generations, to the point that is a 'given' in politics so long as it wasn't too blatant. That day is coming to an end, however, as global communications and information storage are now giving humanity the one thing that TB had on its side: a memory.

This memory is no longer limited to those that can hunt down obscure newspaper articles, musty tomes in the backs of libraries or hunting through the huge warehouse looking for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. No, this memory is not only relatively inexpensive, but it is being made 'user friendly' so that anyone with a half-hour or so of nothing better to do can quickly start to call up information and go through it. Why this is needed is the other thing that has made TB so successful and allowed politicians to 're-invent' themselves: short human attention span.

Yes, politics is, actually, pretty dull stuff and only life threatening when the jack-booted thugs come knocking on *your door* because you didn't protest when they went after others. And as humans have an instant fascination with the personally threatening, the jack-booted thugs now appear out of the mists of government, business, and nefarious third parties that have been trying to sway public opinion for decades and gotten little traction due to the limited attention span. Often UFOs are thrown in for good measure. In actual fact it is not the slight measures to try and protect folks from those waging war unaccountably that will remove liberty and freedom, but the smiling individual from the government who is 'just there to help you', be they from social services, IRS, FBI or DMV. Politicians are an adaptable breed, however, and they have been pedaling hard to explain why what they said yesterday to one group and what they said today to another group, being diametrically opposed views, are actually the *same* view. That little memory soon finds that it is the exact same view, but neither of the ones being presented. It is, instead, a view to power for the individual politician. To hide *that* programs are offered to make government easier, more 'accessible' and more pervasive so that little of what an individual does can actually be said to be 'legal' anymore. Walk down the sidewalk, chew gum and spit, and you are probably in violation of at least two health laws and one safety law, and a variety of other infractions along the way. Heaven help you if you did that while carrying a high trans-fat lunch with you!

That last is, partly, in jest, but also dead serious: government intrusion to let government 'make your life better' is a serious threat far worse than jack-booted thugs and might actually get them in the way of an anti-smoking Gestapo. The most thuggish views I, personally, have seen are those that put up for all sorts of freedom and the moment anyone attempts to light up, out comes the nasty words and squirt gun. Mind you, I've seen that from individuals not in their teens but over the age of 30. And even having problems handling smoke myself, coming from a variety of reactions to it, my ability to be civil has not eroded due to the onslaught of smokers. Far from it, I know it is bad for my health, but make no aspersions on others for doing as they wish with theirs. Politicians, however, can jump on a 'health issue' as a pablum and way to demonstrate they really have a set of 'good intentions' and ask that their greater faults on their gathering of personal power and prestige, along with a fair amount of cash, be overlooked. That works, for awhile, and many acquiesce to minor things, like not walking through clouds of cigarette smoke at various gathering places, but suddenly find it a threat when the 'trans-fat police' start wanting to tell you what you can and cannot eat in your life.

Now even *that* is changing as the memory sub-system of humanity starts to kick into higher gear, and the affiliations of politicians with 'advocacy groups' and the cash and power connections to those start to show up. 'Big Tobacco' may or may not be a threat to humanity, but when those wishing to keep the 'unsullied tundra' of ANWR in place while billions head into the pockets of Saudi oil barons sending hundreds of millions to radical Islamists looking to tear down the West, democracy and install an Empire, one begins to suspect that the environmentalists, for all of their purity, are actually far *worse* than 'Big Tobacco'. The 'cure' of regulating everything to make government 'easier' and 'more efficient' is, in effect, a series of bribes paid out from the pockets of the many to the virulent few who do not wish for the majority to have liberty and freedom. Not only in the small scale of regulation (with more than 2/3 of all National laws and regulations being made since 1972 at the Federal level) but on the large scale impact of what trying to be 'pure' in some areas of the environment, health care and retirement are doing to the Nation as a whole. We are being told you can't build what you want, where you want, that you can't figure out how to make your own medical decisions and that you must retire at the mandatory age. In exchange for that you are promised 'goodies' that show up as: more expensive energy backing those with tyrannical views, exorbitant health care costs where the overwhelming majority of that cost now goes to bureaucrats and not doctors, and having one of the few Nations where the most skilled managers and creative talents are not earning a productive living, but are out on the golf courses of the US because they are told that is where they should be.

This lovely memory system is also kicking in on *those* areas, as well, though it takes longer for non-digital information to get into the digital realm, that is happening apace as more algorithms for changing scanned material into human searchable material is expanding in breadth and depth and reaching back decades. Amazingly, the New York Times article archives now go back to the early part of the 20th century, so one can read the exact news accounts (biased, yes, but they are no longer alone) of the happenings of that era. Human and corporate interest drives these things and the good that is done is seeing, for one's own eyes, how our ancestors actually lived... not how we are *told* they lived by modern historians. Even archaeology is now going online with things like the Bronze Age Hittite diplomatic archive slowly being assembled into modern, readable form next to the original scans of clay tablets. Looking at that we find a world far more complex than any historian had described before the 1990's, and also glimpse a richness in culture and interaction amongst them that are hauntingly familiar. Reading of the spats between 'Great Kings' and the areas that go to turmoil when that happens, looks startlingly like how third world Nations caught between competing National, political and economic interests go into sudden upheaval. While we will never get the exacting detail of what happened from the Late Bronze Age, the depth and type of interactions going on then, driven by the exchange of information between peoples to create commerce and wealth, is not one that we are unfamiliar with.

At some point the interaction system broke down and those rejecting the cultural artifacts of teaching, religion, government and social value disintegrated. Most likely to external forces, although internal ones are plainly seen in incompetent rulers, regions going autonomous for various reasons and the sudden appearance of actors practicing private war on a wide ranging scale. Egypt and Babylonia would survive, and the former barely and with military might, the latter protected by distance although it, too, felt the shocks of a suddenly disintegrating trade system. What would follow for the next 500 or so years is called a 'Dark Age', and yet the whispers from it are coming to light and telling of a time of upheaval, uncontrollable forces on the move, politicians plying old ways against new conditions and losing. The war at Troy may not have been a spark to this, but a part of that entire process as Troy would recover but at a lower level and never regain its previous wealth and prosperity. That few decades would end abruptly and after that Troy did not recover at all, save as a minor trading spot until the harbor silted in.

While I am sure the ancients did not try to regulate opium or its trade to create a 'drug scourge', they did start to shift to the point where the unaccountable actors were, at first, fiercely attacked, then within a decade or two, the Nations tried to bring some accommodation to them and then, after that, comes the 'Dark Age'. Any similarity between *that* and our 'modern' views on terrorists shifting from the civilized one of confronting them as unaccountable and uncivilized to ones of trying to offer them full protection of the law to accommodate them is purely coincidental, I'm sure.

How coincidental it is will reflect itself in our views of what democracy is, if our society is actually worth defending, and in realizing that those who throw off the bounds of civilized views of Nation are not 'equal' to 'freedom fighters' but are outlaws seeking no protection of civilized laws and GIVING NONE to their victims will be seen in the ensuing years. As the Mycenaean Greeks, Hittites, Assyrians and various others found out, it wasn't that the laws were bad, but those who wouldn't back them as being the problem. And if you have too damned many laws, and you can't back any of them for anything, save personal authoritarianism, then do not complain when the barbarians start to blow you up because it just isn't nice to call them barbarians and, really, we are so civilized they really can just be taken in.

Some poisons, however, cannot be protected against and it can kill or so weaken the host that it succumbs to other diseases entirely.

And willfully accepting poison is something that used to be called 'decadence' in reference to Rome and its subsequent 'Dark Age' to explain it as they, too, welcomed the barbarians in.

It is not too late to learn these histories.

Until we repeat them, that is.


Peregrine John said...

This is an excellent analogy, which (as described) holds up very well even when run far deeper than analogies are usually taken. Put together with the observations of exactly 2 weeks ago, I foresee - as did Wahrheit, on his now-defunct blog - a dangerous future in which the tree of freedom is once again watered with blood.

As regards decadence, please note that many Romans went crazy because they liked the flavor which lead imparted to their wine. It plays into the analogy, and the repetition of history, all too well.

A Jacksonian said...

John - This is what happens when I do a bit of pleasure reading on the Trojan War and find out what has been going on in that realm of research for the last decade or so. Trying to formulate the ideas presented in associated realms (analysis of bardic style, story type, written text, and the actual texts and remains) is now yielding something far more diverse and complex than we had previously imagined for that era. The ability to actually do a mineralogical analysis of fired clay pots, alone, has now diversified what we knew of the trade across the Med.... no longer is an amphora of Mycanaen style just that: it could have been fired by Philistines or the Land People of Libya or a greek colony in Sicily, or even come from the Eastern Black Sea. Finding spices from India in amphora fired in Assyria on the remains of a greek trading vessel off of Turkey no longer makes that trade irregular. Hazardous at times, yes, but not rare.

For an era without compass or sextant or much in the way of charts, these peoples would accomplish what the Nordic people would nearly 2000 years later. Further the hilltop to hilltop, island signal to island signal communications described from that era, is not only feasible but necessary to run Nations the size of the Hittite Kingdom. That great first clash between the East and West, the Old civilizations and the New civilizations would be encapsulated in the Trojan War, but that conflict is indicative of the untold story of sea raiders unable to muster a great land army for direct combat until after only a decade of attrition warfare. Achilles would claim the title of 'Sacker of Cities' as would Odysseus, and those very same attacks so destabilized the cultural and governmental ties in the Aegean and Anatolia that the entire fabric came apart. Reading from the strong Hittite Kings to the slow weakening of Kings to associate with their People or gather forces to protect society. Just before the final erosion you get one, last, capable ruler and then... the Sea People arrive. The last bits from the archive talk of one of those raiders and how the Great King of the Achaeans really should do something about this pirate. You get the strong hint, however, that the Achaeans are not only behind the raider, but that they, themselves, are somewhat pressed by other problems. The Greeks, Hittites (although later rulers would take up that tradition, as recorded in the Bible), Assyrians and those that would become Philistines all went under as City States, Kingdoms and associations of governments. Egypt nearly went under and records its long roster of those by sea and land who pressed down the Nile and were finally repulsed.

The sophistication of trade, weapons, armor, and civilization, including writing would fall in only a few decades and memory of the fall would not be recorded well, although the time *before* was remembered. For all our great and lofty views of civilization, we forget that the disease of being civilized is degeneration: putting so much interest in being civilized that those who are *not* are no longer properly addressed. Worse they are given status and put on an equivalence with civilization so that mere warlord is equal to King and Emperor. And is, too, if you can't get the troops mustered to stop the warlord. Rome went mad not only from lead pipes, but from the belief that the great constructions that were put up would be *permanent* and their culture with it. The moment you forget that all that is made and lived is temporary and can be easily wiped away in less than a century, or even less than 50 years as was seen with Late Bronze Age, is the moment you begin to allow that slide that makes that wiping away possible to happen. The moment you begin to actually *believe* that your Nation and its ways will not disappear *ever* is the moment it starts to fall apart as you assume inertia will keep it going. Even the Chinese needed a great bureaucratic system and that, in turn, failed them after centuries... they would always be there, those learned bureaucrats, to keep things going, wouldn't they?

It is decadence not for the debauchery, which never did happen with the Greeks and Hittites, but did with Rome, but for the decay internally of not being willing to do the necessary societal functions to keep a Nation running. In a democracy that is a loss of common assent and actually exercising the franchise to keep your voice present in that of the Nation. That was talked about at the time of the Constitution and now we are coming to that sticking post where 50% just might not bother to show up for ANY ELECTION WHATSOEVER.

That is decadent, to push off one's responsibilities on others. A very advanced state of decay to just leave democracy to 'those that are interested in it'. That means that such individuals are very near returning to being slaves under the power of government, because they have no interest in ruling themselves as part of society. When that happens, don't complain about the laws passed to make that a permanent feature... and witness that loss of liberty because individuals no longer believe they have any responsibilities when they are free.

Very high decadence, that.

And lethal.

Peregrine John said...

You sure I can't talk you into assembling a book?

Ok, I know, just asking...

A Jacksonian said...

John - My thanks!

I will be contacting a family member to see if she would be interested in editing together my works. I'm leaving some funds in my trust for that in case something happens to me... between what is here and on my main site, I should be able to get a couple of different volumes put together. I am, however, hell on copy editors... luckily I have tolerant family.

My cataplexy eats up energy no end... I can easily review someone who has done a basic copy-editing job, however. I will try to do this myself, so as not to leave it as a burden to others. The works, as-is on the web, will always remain as long as humanly possible and I put no restrictions on any copying and using for themselves. Any books that do come out of this will be done only at-cost, as the lovely economics of print-on-demand allow that to be done, so that the one doing the ordering gets it as good or as cheaply as they want. Nothing will accrue to me or my estate... I have little use for money. This will be an ongoing personal endeavor and, thus, set back by personal needs. I really and for true do have to get out of Dodge and soon as my lady has gotten surgery and recovered, we are gone. That may actually side-line me from online stuff for awhile, we shall see.

So no rejoicing as there is no timetable. That is for Congresscritters.