Crowds and Mathematics I
A wholesale discount store provides a good way to observe the winners in this society. Obviously, most items are made by giant corporations far from wherever you buy them; equally obviously, since the quality doesn't vary wherever you buy them, it's important to get them cheaply. Further, any idiot who was half-awake in high school can tell you that with economies of scale in action, the more you buy, the cheaper it will be. Hence businesses arise that, for a single yearly fee, will gain you access to a giant no-frills shopping barn where you can haul home as much stuff as your credit card will handle.
They're always full. After all, food, candy, clothing, DVDs and furniture are available at 2/3 of the normal cost. Where you'd buy three bars of soap, you can now get twenty, for a significant discount. Of course, most of these items are stocked according to the convenience of the retailer, usually through exclusive contracts with giant suppliers by which the wholesaler buys up cheaply whatever the manufacturer made too many of this last gift-giving season, or is about to phase out of existence. But it's cheap, and you can get your sweaty hands on it quickly and drag the damn thing home to keep you occupied and safely in denial of mortality for a few weeks until you tire of it, and send it to the landfill with everything else.
Of course, there's a split among thinking people. Some tend to view society in religious terms, and see it as a kind of evil, thus they avoid it whenever they can and end up living in penury. These types buy the three bars of soap for a higher price and walk home muttering how glad they are that at least they didn't have to waste any time in Wal-Mart, because that place is the dregs of humanities. The others, perhaps being of a more pragmatic nature, or simply a more acquiescent one, get corporate jobs and join the discount clubs so they can get good wines at 10% above cost, have access to the best meats and, hey, the complete Star Trek on DVD, and it's only forty bucks. Good deal.
At one of these places recently, I was forced into the unorthodox but necessary role of standing on the edge of its exit path, where one has just slid the credit card, written the legal signature and now has a cart piled high with things wrapped in plastic to take home to the wife and kids, or pornography and cat, as the case seems to be for most people. I am not a weird-looking dude, but I seem to radiate some kind of awareness that disturbs most people and, as this is amusing, whenever I'm in one of these situations I find a need to observe for my own amusement. It is not that I scorn other people, or hate them or love them, because these universal terms that apply without any boundaries to their logic are generally bad news, as far as intellect is concerned, but I take advantage of the university worth of learning before me: observing people in their native habitat reveals more than all the opinion polls, votes, person-on-the-street interviews and talk shows in the universe.
Like a rock midstream, I watched people pass around me; these were the people who knew enough to get memberships to discount wholesale stores and thus get goods cheaply, thus saving money and getting ahead in this society: they are our future leaders. My observations were twofold: first, these people had a certain uniformity to them, although on the outside they were not identical or even close; second, this uniformity revealed something of how we have arrived at a state of this degree of degeneration, as a civilization, and where else this has happened. From this I was able to piece together some wisdom of the ancients with learning from modern sources, and formulate a plan for reversing this process of slowly descending into uniformity.
First, we look at the people: they pass, heads down or averted from the gaze of an observer (Mr. Heisenberg, your tea is ready), in an uneven gait as often as not created by health problems including a fatness that is functional; it's not obesity, but they're not slender, either: they have extra weight strapped around them like a suicide bomber's belt. When this is observed, it becomes clear why so many people die of hideous cancers, arterial clotting, or colonic obstruction; they are not healthy people in any sense of the word. While some have strength, it is unevenly distributed; those who specialize in activities of the mind are either quite fat or quite thin, and usually have personal habits that would disgust a weasel. None reveal consistent stressful exercise, although in theory all these winners are "working hard" at their important jobs.
Anyone of distinctive appearance or physical health stands out like a sore thumb. The crowd height is a fraction over five feet, with a few here and there who poke out above the surging mass. Only a handful are not dark-haired. Very few have a clear, focused look to their faces, or would sustain eye contact. Before this article seems like a polemic about racial issues, let it be clear that it is not, although it includes mention of race: these people have no traits which claim a clean lineage to any race. They are not attractive in any race. In fact, race is one trait they seem to lack: Of those that are not clearly Indo-European, the majority have some heritage borrowed from all three race. Extreme dark skin was rare, as was extreme light skin; these were mostly tan, with brown eyes and curly but loose-flowing hair.
They often wheeze at the effort of walking more than forty feet, which isn't surprising considering that their diet appears to be high in greasy snack foods packaged in plastic. They are physically puny, meaning they have no grace and no athletic strength, even though some may be strong. It is an absurd situation. They are absurd remnants of once great things. This leads to our first observation, which is that, much as chicken and sheep and corn have been domesticated, and thus changed into inoffensive and functional versions of themselves that cannot exist outside of society's need, these people have been domesticated. They are at home in their element: they would be completely useless if they had to hunt, fish or cultivate earth for a living. They might eventually figure it out, but never to any great success.
These are domesticated people. They are literally products of their society, and are content in this role. Even their form factor fits this description, since they are of average height, weight and health. Although they're not leaders, clearly they all have jobs and make money, which they're spending here. But these aren't the kind of people who head off into uncharted waters and found civilizations through the dual means of military prowess and creative instinct. These are people who buy stuff, consume it, and then make the difficult decision of what to watch on cable before passing out. Without our society, they would not exist. Without our wholesale discount stores, it's doubtful they could survive. Humanity existed before them, and degenerated, and they are the product - the proof and expiation. This was the first revelation.
Second, what hit my mind was this: many times before, this process has occurred. Great civilizations were formed and then at some point turned on themselves, forcing their people to conform to such a lowest common denominator average that soon they, too, were lumpy, runty, undistinguished types like these. There were a few tall people, and healthy people, among the crowd, but most were from generations gone by in America, and they were looking less lost than others but also vastly out of place. This isn't their time. They are obsolete. Every great civilization has gone from a period of being leaders and builders to a time of no consensus, and no goal, out of which comes such average people.
Modern generic domesticated human is a great animal. Put it in a city, and it will find a job, and consider itself smart for having a "good" one such that it can afford lots of plastic. It generates income for industry, even paying huge amounts for retirement. You can count on it to make the lowest common denominator decision every time; put fresh vegetables next to bulk snack food, and it will buy the snack food, which costs less to produce and thus has a higher profit margin. Introduce some "new" gadget or fad and the cowlike masses will buy it, and think they're clever for being so "in" with what's "hip." Best of all, they never ask any serious existential or larger-issues questions, thus are equally prone to watch TV instead of seeking value and, while they all have political opinions, never cross the taboo line of suggesting that society has gone astray.
When I realized this, I thought of all the ruined empires I've seen, and read about, and what the people who were left over looked like. Very similar: a muddle of fixtures, a confusion of impulses, a lack of any real goal except to exist as comfortably as possible in a civilization that occurred outside of their control. At this point, my mind strayed to something I had read in a book about Indian mysticism. In it, a yogin described the process of meditation as letting go of one's self identity, and realizing that one is a game piece manipulated from within by "supernatural forces." When I read this, it repulsed me at first, because I like most Westerners associate the supernatural with gods in the sky, strange moral laws and sheeplike consciences.
Recalling that surging crowd, however, I realized that "supernatural" has another meaning: mathematics. Our inward forces respond to opportunity and boundary, and thus form a simple kind of logic, by which we predictably respond to our government. Who would, for example, give up a comfy modern life to go live in an ice age cave? And when confronted with a broken society, those who do not object and thus run the risk of self-destruction or crowd disapproval will by their nature opt for decisions that please the most people. This means not taking controversial stands, and finding the best products at the best price. This is how they breed themselves into this runty, undistinguished mass: they give up on nature and replace it with a values system where image is more important than reality, thus it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and soon reality is five feet tall and mediocre in health, strength, intelligence and character.
This second revelation hit like a brick. We are literally breeding ourselves into the same dumb livestock that we exploit for all that cheap milk, cheese and meat you can get at discount wholesale stores. Is there a solution? It rests in the revelation of mathematics: like a supernatural force, mathematics works from within, or without our conscious awareness of a motivation. The current math is that our society rewards inoffensiveness and obedience. If our values change, that changes; if people start respecting only great character and deeds, and shun the others as products of a failed civilization, then we resurrect our breeding toward higher states and not lower ones (although this might bankrupt junk food manufacturers, midget porners, fast food establishments and hemorrhoid specialists). My goal with these columns, and everything I do, is changing of that values, because I have now seen both the heights - the heroic, idealistic, natural humankind - and the lows, namely the crowd of runts, and I know which outcome I prefer for myself and my world.
January 24, 2005