Thomas Hobbes wrote that when men live without fear of a common power, they live in a state of “warre.” In warre, every man is against every other man.
Hobbes’ idea of warre is interesting on a theoretical level, but his warre of all against all is not the state of nature for men. It’s natural for a man to look after his own interests, but those interests drive men together – quickly. A loner has no one to ask for help, no one to watch his back, no one to guard him when he sleeps. Men have a greater chance of survival together than they do apart. Men have always hunted and fought in small teams. The natural state of warre is ongoing conflicts between small gangs of men.
– Jack Donovan, The Way of Men
All the stories are always about one or a handful of central characters in relation to a team. The team can have a uniform distribution of importance or be structured in a tall hierarchy, be fighting dragons or simply going through high school, but in the end the story treats them all as one cohesive unit. They are all knowns – hair color, personality, endurance to stress – even if it is true they aren’t exactly the best. Everything else in the world is just that: everything else. Sometimes, they have no faces. Sometimes, they have no names. In the end, what is important is that they are not treated as part of the group. They are treated instead as walking questionnaires, or theoretical scenarios. This is why the introduction of a new character is always a significant event, it makes clear the differentiation between the “us” and the “them”. Everyone who is not on the team is not, as the messier conventional use of language likes to call it, “a person”.
Today, nobody has a team.
It is why we always have to talk about “team building”, and how in “the workplace” it’s “now” the standard that we work in “small groups”. We all work in small groups, we always do. But we don’t recognize this anymore because outside of the fact that we are working with 3-10 other people, none of the other factors apply. More likely than not, you’re never going to see them again – there’s a bajillion of us running around doing these same things, why talk with these guys and get to know them in particular? What’s the chance that they are actually different? More likely than not, you’re never going to have to complete any task like this ever again. This is accentuated by the school bell schedule nature of our society: 9-3 if you’re 10 years old, 8-4 if you’re 30 years old. Every hour you switch to something completely different, every three or so hours you get a break, and every year, all the stuff you’ve done is wiped and for naught. So why bother getting really good at anything?
There’s no I in team. So, why does it matter?
It was once true that if less than every last member succeeded in fulfilling his part correctly, it was almost certain death. Imagine you and your team of prehistoric men are going hunting and the target is a large mammal. A single one of failed to do his job correctly. You’re all now injured, if not some of you gravely so. The only-bruised of you can go out hunting in a couple of days. The cuts and concussions can go back out in a week or two. Any bones broken and your hunting ability is reduced forever, and with it your physical ability to do anything from simply guard at night to even picking fruit. And all of you – with whatever women and children you have – need to eat. Every day. If more than a couple of you were injured past a certain point, it would spell certain death for your group. You had to get it right. Somone got it right. They identified people and understood them accurately, that is to say, put them in their place. Women do this. Children don’t do that. Those unable to hunt, create something which makes our lives easier. Don’t associate with those people who look like that and are from over there. Eat these berries not those, circle the predator don’t run at it.
Today, there is no certain death because food and medicine are plentiful and everywhere. There is also no way to communicate the idea that death is a risk to someone else. If someone fails, you can’t kick them out. You can’t insult them. You can’t beat them up or break whatever bauble was the cause of their distraction and failure. Because that’s “unreasonable”. Because focusing (getting mad) and correcting issues (getting rid of leechers and obstacles) are “counterproductive”.
As if the bush beating we do can anywhere near compare the creation of all we know today from fires and bone clubs in damp caves.
When I finished my exam middle of the day Wednesday, I had the pleasant surprise of one of my friends introducing to me an idea from one of his friends: we can build a steam engine. Pretty simple stuff, boil water to push a piston and convert that into mechanical energy. It’s a little more difficult to build and calculate, but at least it’s something. It’s not like the wood sanding I was assigned to do at the university-sponsored plane building team, it wasn’t something completely unaccomplishable by my means like the Jeep engine block deconstruction, and it certainly wasn’t just sitting around studying. I had forgotten we had a machine shop at our disposal on campus (technically we have to hope there’s a machine we want to use open, but it’s basically free access to >$10,000 machines) so that solved a lot of the problems, and outside of that he simple materials can be obtained for a paltry cost. It was actually something I could do that would be cool. Both of them were animated about it, so I felt relieved I’d met more than one person who wanted to do something.
And then, I proceeded for the next day and a half going back to doing nothing but sleeping and playing video games. Because why not? Granted, I probably would have spent an hour or two extra on both of those things anyways because I was burned out, but I went the whole way simply because I could. There’s somebody that’s going to do something for me now. If I don’t do something, they’ll take care of it, and by extension if I don’t do anything, they’ll take care of everything. I didn’t think this consciously, but it’s effectively what crossed my mind. In terms of the goal, there is no difference between apathy, stupidity, and evility. This hilariously got turned around yesterday when I went to Communication discussion and attempted to find out what everyone had been doing for our presentation over the past week, and discovered that 3 of the 5 had done absolutely nothing. I really couldn’t get mad at them. Though I had yet to meet up and we had yet to start up anything on the steam engine, it was what I had literally just been doing before I went off to that class. For the steam engine, I was not one of the leaders, so what did I care? For the Communication presentation, they were not one of the leaders, so what did they care? (Today was when we were supposed to meet for just an initial overview of the engine. I went, no one showed up.)
If you can get to the end purpose just hitchhiking on the back of someone capable enough, someone who will not (for whatever reason) throw you off for being unproductive, isn’t that enough? If in the end everyone only really remembers the starring actor, why bother to do anything except get out of that one man’s way when he tells you to stand aside? If success is essentially binary with a seemingly infinitely long plateau of diminishing returns for effort, is there any point in chipping in some of your own energy? This is the state of all purpose today in postscarcity. There is no point in doing anything but eating, shitting, sleeping, and masturbating, because “everything will be taken care of.” Except the actual men and women, who are nowhere to be seen.
As is also true when none of the actors show up to the play, the show does not go on. Or perhaps it’s closer to everyone showed up to cast for the star, and no one accepted the support roles. Better yet, everyone showed up to be an extra because they’d get to talk about it on facebook and twitter and get several thousand likes for no real work or skill,
And no one wanted to lead the rest.
Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature of every man against every other man perhaps would be what happens in a scarce world, but in a nonscarce one it’s the exact opposite: every man couldn’t give less of a shit about every other man. Why wage war against that other guy over there? Isn’t that going to cost a lot of energy and time? Don’t risk it, just go back to smoking weed and drinking alcohol and wanking off. He’s not worth it. Nothing is worth it. Or, everything is worth it. What does it matter how words are used, take it easy dude. Chill out. We don’t need leaders, we are all our own leaders. We’ll form groups every so often, sure, but hey, it’s just work. It’s not life. It’s not who we are. Social rules, roles, and scripts are for people of previous generations, unenlightened and people who haven’t woken up. Calm down. Everything is going to be okay.
And then these same people turn around and wonder why this culture has motivation and self-esteem problems.
In one line, this following picture is why people today join groups and are part of movements:
Being goal-driven is great and all, but we are not free to choose. “We”. As in, we the bipedal apes reading English from this blog on the internet from a computer in the year 2012. Fundamentally, human beings are engines. Men are a means to labor, they are labor machines; women are a means to reproduction, they are baby machines. We are pieces on a board, and we were assigned certain attributes when we arrived into existence. One of these attributes is a goal, a “meaning to life”. That goal is reproduction. Civilization – everything from its material to its social structure to its social rules (laws and culture) and its philosophy – exists because our ancestors found all across the world that those things were a decent overall plan to have more offspring. But today in this “postindustrial” society where everything is taken care of, that is no longer a goal. Instead we measure in terms of data, profit, or material wealth. By optimizing for these items and paving over our tendencies, strengths, and ultimately needs and desires, we make for things which are not us to replace us in pursuit of those goals. It is why we don’t see receptionists as human, why there is a universal hate for HR and PR more than any particular group’s despisal of some specific race or sexual orientation. It is why no matter how hard ideological groups try, they can never match the solidarity of armies. It’s because those things are not human. We have lost a sense of us, and thus increasingly everyone is becoming part of them.
We are progressing ourselves into obsolescence and into extinction. “We”. As in the small groups of 3~10, the most efficient unit size of our kind.
The team is the true individual unit. Alternatively,
No one exists without and outside of their team.
This is a true statement. There is a balance somewhere between the need for group action because several minds are better than one mind, and between the need to keep others out for the sake of efficiency at achieving objectives and unit cohesion. The “team” size happens to be it. They were right about humans being social animals – but they were wrong about how social. Anyone without their head up their ass will admit they don’t really know more than 150 people, and will readily agree that any team over 20 is due for some cuts because coordination to action is simply more efficient with less people. This is hardly a rigorous logical proof, but evolution and the laws of physics weren’t shown via mathematical derivations. They were observed, and time after time it was correct. It is a law given to us by birth that we cannot simply all “rise up as one” if “we” are 300 million people. Indeed, the physical action of rising up as one is seen nowhere except at graduations and in the military when an officer is on deck. For graduations, it is a one time action. For the military, even they don’t have it down completely.
A team can rise as one – consistently. It is on this level where people can truly know others as humans, where history’s every last detail sticks and is learned. Everything from their thought patterns to their favorite food, from their sleeping habits to their maximum and total energy output is a known. Here there are no “I don’t know, maybe Y would do X”, it’s either “Yeah, X was Y’s doing” or “It is impossible for Y to have done X”. There exists confidence in one’s reading of another’s abilities, their probable actions, and most importantly, confidence that what needs to get done will get done (this confidence exists neither at the individual nor societal level). There are deviations and vices on account of single men that are mitigated, or optimally negated, on the level of the team. In a high stakes situation – of great success or great failure in one stroke – where one person making a single mistake could cost the entire thing, a team can cover for those faults and get that one person back up to speed faster than most would think realistically possible. In any situation where one person attempting to achieve a goal only has so many hours and so much knowledge and so much stress, a team can reduce the costs and multiply the total action by specializing roles and keeping morale high.
Because this increased level of power is so pronounced, people are inclined to invest more energy and time into it. Not just any team, just that one they happened to be in that one time and are still in today. They don’t simply join random teams for whatever objectives, because objectives change and every time it or the group changes, it’s a blank slate all over again. Their team, however, already has all the history and background built up. Their team is simply more efficient. Both individuals and large groups reliably lose to well-coordinated small groups in any given situation and any given goal, because
The team is the only structure where honor is king. By extension,
The team is the only structure where discipline is produced.
Something culture doesn’t value today is a low turnover rate. It was the original, the tradition, but we have abandoned it for the pursuit of using a certain word that starts with the letter P more. Today, corporations and governments measure their turnover rates in months and years. In so and so many months and years, this percentage of our employees will be completely different. I am unsure how it operates in third world countries, but in second world countries like America, these turnover rates are high not because people are getting shot or getting so sick because they can’t work, it’s because people don’t care. There’s more money elsewhere, I’m going there instead. There’s a nice mall or nice weather somewhere else, bye bye Company, it was nice being here for 2 years and knowing only two people out of the thousand people in the building.
There is one type of group that still operates with low turnover rates in mind, and they have amazing capabilities. Rather than measuring turnover in months and years, they measure it in terms of generations. How many generations has your family been part of this brotherhood? It is the organized criminals. The mafias, the triads, the yakuza, all of these groups have and rely on low turnover rates. Indeed, any group which has this succeeds enormously. The monarchs of the past had loyal servants and an orderly culture. Can the leaders of countries today boast the same thing? People of the same guild or the same town used to be ready to take up arms to defend a financial partner or a community member. How common is that in “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”?
It is this deferral and loyalty at this most basic level which serves as the foundation for every social standard. Today, we have an amalgam of various bitchers about identity (LGBT) or privilege (feminism) or oppression (NAACP) or hate speech (SPLC, ADL), but it’s important to note that none of these are freestanding structures. They are supported by the rest of us, treating these mother fuckers like a good old friend who’s simply pointing out something we did incorrectly on a sleep deprived day. Imagine, instead, that society had nothing but this kind of people. Victim/Slave mentality everywhere. Every large scale interaction would look like Congress. Every small scale interaction would look like Customer Service. Nothing would get done. Everyone would complain. Civilization would collapse back to the stone age.
We’re not there yet. This blog still exists, and we can still talk shit. But the all-inclusive politically correct wave of the void has been at work before we were born. It has already wiped out the legacies of those who came before us, and we have lost all but the most fragile seeds of the idea that it is axiomatic and vital that we be part of something greater, and is still us. It has become a nihilistic binary between absolute independence, each human with infinite rights and deserving of all things good by the fact of their existence, and absolute dependence, each human part of some uncaring greater whole whether that be God, Earth, the Universe, or some “Noble Cause”. These beliefs of imbeciles are the norm today, because “everything is taken care of”. Because no stories are needed, no stories are being written. Thus no characters, no script, thus no cast, no actors.
“We” need to start a story if we want to exist. There will certainly be ones like us after the long goodbye, but they aren’t us. We want to exist now, and we are a story. So: