Never run with the crowd. They're probably headed over a cliff.

Changing Perspectives, Part 2

The defense budget of the United States is the largest on the planet. Our nation pours massive resources into improving, modernizing, and keeping our fighting forces the best trained and best equipped in the world. While it is foolish to assume that we should win every battle because of this, or that every piece of equipment is without parallel among our allies, rivals and adversaries, our record over the past few wars is nonetheless quite impressive. And even though several thousand American uniformed men and women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and each death is a priceless blow, our death ratio remains ridiculously low compared to earlier conflicts, or the conflicts fought by other nations.


While this is partly due to incredibly well-trained and led soldiers, it is also due to the amazing weapons we have given to our armed forces. We can launch a missile and know it will destroy its target. We know when the enemy is coming long before we see him. We can see in the dark. We can strike anywhere in the world quickly and with deadly force. A single bomb dropped from an attack aircraft can destroy its exact target with near 100% accuracy, performing the job of an entire squadron of B-17s.


The videos of our weaponry have jaded us to this unheard of performance and we’ve come to take it for granted. But there is a very good reason the United States has poured money into technology since World War II. Never again did we want to suffer another Pearl Harbor. Never again did we want a repeat of Iwo Jima, or Tarawa, or the Philippine disaster, or Normandy. For Americans, the toll in human lives was simply too high to repeat.


Shift gears.


The pyramids are still standing after 4,000 years, a testament to the men who built them. At that time, life in Egypt was better than anywhere on Earth. The planet was still an incredibly brutal place and trying to think about what it was like forces the removal of so many societal and cultural norms that it is nearly impossible to get an accurate picture. Even in Egypt it was horrendous by modern standards. Pharaoh was in control and his word was the utterance of god. The people who built the pyramids, while not slaves, weren’t much better. Corvee labor it is called; labor provided by subjects in return for ‘bread’. They had no choice in the matter. There were no rights for the people. They labored in faceless anonymity and passed from this world having had no opportunity or chance to improve their lives.


For thousands of years corvee labor was the standard mode of operation throughout the world. Even today it remains in practice in some third-world nations. Bread for labor. It is difficult to imagine life under such a system, especially without the miraculous technological advances we so often take for granted. But where did all that wonderful technology come from? And why?


These seem like simple questions but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be asked, or that they shouldn’t be answered. These advances came from a desire on the part of humanity to rise above the horrors of life. Horrors which modern western countries have effectively forgotten. To today’s children, and even to me, a middle-aged male, life prior to the industrial revolution, and the medical revolution, and the information revolution is hardly imaginable. Just the other day my son found an old portable television set amongst my junk. He plugged it in and to his astonishment, found that it could pull signals right out of the air! And he’s 13 years-old. What would I do if he became ill and there was no doctor? No antibiotics?


Man has struggled for thousands of years to improve his condition. The wealth of knowledge and sheer volume of discovery necessary to support our world is simply staggering. And every bit of it formed as an idea inside of a brain, transmitted to other brains through inventions such as language, writing, and the book, and allowed to grow further – even beyond the life of the originator. Thoughts transferred over space and time. Mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering, art, commerce, business, finance, economics, medicine, manufacturing, culture, politics, society, philosophy, all culled from the ether at enormous cost and sacrifice, and very often under direct opposition of ignorant rulers. Government itself, and the very notions of freedom and liberty are inventions of man. They are ideas that took thousands of years to develop and integrate into the lives of the teeming masses. Freedom and liberty are, every bit as much as computers and automobiles, technology.


Life means pain. Man wants to improve his lot in life. To have less pain. Ultimately perhaps, to eliminate death itself – which may or may not be a good idea and is outside the scope of this discussion. Regardless, to that end great scientists and engineers have labored for years to provide better weapons to reduce the human toll of war. In a more general sense, man as a species, in every region on Earth, from every race, male and female, has labored to improve his lot, one little bit at a time. One bit adding to another from a myriad of disparate sources until we arrive at what we have today. A universe in which I can distribute my thoughts to the world in the fashion that you are reading at this very moment. Man’s oldest and best invention – the written word – distributed to the entire world at the click of an icon displayed on a screen.


How far we seem to have come!


Next: Part III

-Futbol Guru,