4 Ways to Survive: Guns, Germs, and Steel

One of the most highly regarded histories of all time, Guns, Germs, and Steel caught my attention in a big way. How it sets up the dominos of time to bring us to the current era is as clear-cut as the Transitive Property.

The book further levels the genealogical and cultural propagandas so frequent in other lessons about civilizations. Any member of Homo Sapiens is capable of the same outcomes given the same environmental contexts – DNA does not play a factor (as it rightly should not).

Consequences of cultural differences also play out. In a personal eureka moment, I want to share with you the four cultural trends that persevere, usurping any methods that do not conform to one of the four. (Also note that culture drives what a society deems is valuable, thus drives the actions and thoughts of individuals.)

This overview is naïve, of course. Guns, Germs, and Steel does not contend with the question of a 21st-century global culture, the first of its kind. To show these categories of cultural action persist to this day, I’ll outline geo-political, commercial, and biological examples of how society has come to evolve the way it is.

A reminder, in paraphrase, from scholar William Durant: “Good” in history is that which survives. Be it biological, commercial, or cultural, Nature only cares about persisting to the next iteration. All else is a thought exercise at best, moral grandstanding at its most dangerous.

Annihilate

A castle is overcome when it is destroyed and its inhabitants ruined, the besieger then allowed to record only that there was victory for themselves.

First among equals, the primal tenant: an obstacle does not exist if made to not exist.

A culture or action that removes its competitors and predators survives, at least for awhile, and certainly longer than either competitors or predators.

The micro-action of “unfriending” an inflammatory character from Social Media is annihilation. A company that forces the closure of a niche shop is annihilation. A nation that blows-up the economics and utilities of another nation is annihilation. A species that puts to extinction a foe over resources or predation is annihilation.

Annihilation is Zero Sum, meaning that there is no compromise between one entity attempting to annihilate another. Being Zero Sum, once a state of mutually assured destruction is reached by any two entities, those entities must change their cultural attitudes towards each other to survive.

Non-annihilation towards one does not negate actions of annihilation against another. (Why the Cold War was an indirect war.) However, the idea of non-annihilation can assimilate itself into the rest of a culture, ‘pacifying’ a people to use other means of survival.

Assimilate

A castle is overcome when it surrenders and joins the besieger, who then puts to work what is deemed useful at the time.

Apes together strong.” – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The most mutually beneficial tenant, an obstacle does not exist if it not only agrees to no longer be an obstacle, but joins in overcoming other obstacles.

Mitochondria evolving to give easy energy to a larger cell for protection and care is assimilation. When a new employee goes to a company function regardless of personal preference to socialize with the group is assimilation. Every business that buys other businesses, adapting the enterprise in a minor way to accommodate the other companies, is assimilation. Whether Catholic or Buddhist, missionaries morphing the likenesses of their idols to conform to the dominant traditions is assimilation. A nation teaching its language to the conquered, the refugee, the destitute, and the uneducated young is assimilation.

In short, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In that way, a disadvantaged entity survives in at least some part while an advantaged entity grows stronger by the double whammy of removing a rival and adding to its own benefits.

Take note that a disadvantaged entity has no guarantee to be whole and only minorly altered after assimilation. In Nature, niches allow only one entity space to exist therein, otherwise resulting in competition and obstacles. If an obstacle is removed by assimilation, a subpart of what was assimilated may already have its niched filled by the assimilator, meaning the subpart is then annihilated to avoid competition.

If assimilation is yet too costly, a more indirect route of asphyxiation exists.

Asphyxiate

A castle is overcome when it is starved out, the besieger then destroyer or enslaver of any reluctant survivors.

A tenant for the patient or the weak-but-numerous, an obstacle allowed to crumble under its own weight is no longer an obstacle.

A culture that takes no direct action against another entity can still overcome the other. The former does so by cutting off the inputs needed by the latter.

Whether called “asphyxiation,” “denial,” “terminal isolation,” or otherwise, an enclosed system naturally succumbs to its own entropy.

A plant denied adequate water and light, whether given too much or too little, rots and withers. A person not included in a social circle is asphyxiated of attention and leaves. A powerplant cut off from its water coolant overheats by its own reaction. A nation runs out of its fuel and food when an embargo asphyxiates it.

Isolation, which may arrive in the form of inundation (e.g. drowning, the isolation from oxygen), kills – a roundabout annihilation. A system – cultural, commercial, biological, societal – must interact with other systems to survive. It will find its niche otherwise too small to continue without at least severe adaptation and sacrifice.

Some entities have assimilated so many others as to become self sufficient and spared a destruction by asphyxiation. However, should the denial of exchange be parsed farther down (e.g. to a city rather than a country), an entity will collapse under its own wants and waste. To prevent a possible asphyxiator from realizing this, along with avoiding notions of assimilation and annihilation, the disadvantaged entity may agnosticize itself to external awareness.

Agnosticize

A castle is overcome when the inhabitants do not know the besieger is already in the walls, the besieger falling below a level of notice.

The tenant of ignorance and parasitism, an obstacle is no longer so whenever it does not know to act as an obstacle.

A culture beyond the notice of other cultures survives. This is the hardest tenant to exist by, though it is the least destructive to other entities.

Great work must be done to become agnosticized (i.e. unknown) to other cultures. First, the culture, system, or entity wishing to be kept unaware must be self sufficient (immune to needing to interact with outside systems to gather resources or deposit waste). It then must be self regulating (the niche of the system avoids over-consuming what is available). Finally, the system must have complete attraction to its members (nothing must be allowed to leave, and all individuals must cooperate towards maintaining the agnosticized goal).

The first need of an agnosticized culture – self sufficiency – may be circumvented in the case of parasitism. An entity may subsist on the byproducts and rounding-errors of a more advantaged entity. Even greater care is required here to remain under the notice of a destroyer. As far as humans are concerned, we are very jealous creatures, even in the ownership of our refuse.

A mouse whisking away a nibble of cheese or crumb of bread without traps set or cats stalking is agnosticized. A person is spared ridicule by being a no-body without public appearance and so is agnosticized. A local provider is not run out of business by a larger corporation because it is agnosticized from the corporation’s notice. A non-seafaring people left alone on an island is spared disease and enslavement because it is agnosticized. A nation in isolation can slow cultural change because it is agnosticized.

Attention begets change from outside forces, whether on the subatomic level or cultural. To avoid attention, to agnosticize, means survival. Change will certainly come, yet remain internal, free from being targeted for annihilation, assimilation, or asphyxiation by other cultures.

And those are my big “aha!” takeaways from Guns, Germs, and Steel. Looking around the context of things in 2021, we see how these principles continue to play out across geographies, cultures, time, and even between micro-organelles to macro-economies.

To survive is “Good.” How to survive is to annihilate, assimilate, asphyxiate, or be agnosticized against the competition.

For your goals, which of these survival techniques are you leveraging? Help me assimilate your ideas into my own so we both may survive a little longer!

While we strive, cheers ~

Guide to Your Goals: 10 Themes From Lessons of History

William Durant was a foremost student of history and the human condition. His works in the middle of the 20th century survive long past his death, which by his own criteria, “win!”

Durant’s studies led him at times to conclude with some harsh realities, realities that may not conform to things like short-lived modern liberalism, humanism, or most methods of governance, for all these things pass and come back again through history.

The content of this post comes from my notes of Durant’s authorship. They try to reconcile the socio-historical perspectives of Durant with something tangible to a single person (me). As I tried to figure out what Durant was saying, not all that follows necessarily stands for my own conclusions after reading his work.

That said, let me share with you the ways Lessons of History may matter to us today:

1. Means Change, Motives Endure

What are the motives of a people? A person? What are yours? Knowing what drives action gives a means of control over that action. Just opposite to how the motive to find romance endures in humans across millennia, the means have evolved from arranging marriages for life to hook-up phone apps and divorce more common than “to death do us part.”

Figure out your motives for what you do and worry less about the means.

2. Three Tiers of Concern

Care about your objective needs first. Food, shelter, something to contribute, retardation of pain, interpersonal connection. Meeting needs out-prioritizes all other goals.

Next, you will adopt the most convenience you can for yourself (and so will anyone else). Aim not to be an inconvenience to others because they will otherwise be active in being the same to you. Do whatever you can to make achieving your goals convenient!

Lastly comes the acquisition of status symbols. Beware of these: Symbols change, e.g. having large plantations and families has morphed into acquiring ever larger Instagram followings and slick gadgets. And not all peoples admire the same telegraphs of status.

Symbols are largely traps that sway you from your goals (the original sin here being about caring too much about what others think). But keep in mind the power of symbols because status can be used as a form of barter nearly as well as cold, hard cash.

3. 21st Century Values

Gone are the days where generic endeavors that cater to the lowest denominator had value. Durant calls any ideology a “morale,” though through his other words, certain modes of thinking are objectively more valuable than others vs. subjective as morales are.

Simply put, being attached to ideas of nationalism or other dogmas that originated prior to the 21st century is like refusing to get off a horse to get into a Model T.

As it applies to your goals, keep these things in mind:

      1. Picking a single niche to appease a few is more important than attempting to make everyone happy.
      2. Critical thinking your way, or “working smarter not harder,” will give greater returns than mere labor that anyone can do.
      3. Universal empathy for any other person is a novelty. Care first to have another care about what you do.
      4. Keep away from “exclusivity,” i.e. artificially restricting your outreach. Go where the audience is, which in the 21st century is everywhere across the globe.

4. Ideas vs Outcomes

Ideas are all created equal in that they are born worthless. They may develop into hopes and drives like spiritual and national religions do, but it’s the outcomes from those ideas that matter.

The same applies to goals. Goals are worthless unless they lead to an outcome, and there, outcomes only happen with you taking action.

5. Minorities Drive Majorities

Whether it be personal habits, life choices, or intimate groups of passionate people, very few things have a greater share of impact.

A radical student with a gun in Bosnia fires off the first World War. A few tens-of-thousands of eager Bolsheviks gain control of a country of tens-of-millions to redefine the twentieth century. 30 minutes of daily exercise increases life expectancy more than 30 years.

Whenever, wherever there is an active minority given care, changes are made.

Pay attention to the little things and the one-offs, for they drive the gains and the conflicts, while the passive majority reaps the consequences for good or ill. This applies to your time, your business and career, and ultimately any goal you set for yourself.

6. Competition Comes Before Cooperation

Any two sects will only cooperate to overcome a competition. Competition always boils down to overcoming some form of suffering. As the saying goes, “misery loves company.”

Find where the suffering is in a group of people or just a single other, and sympathize with it. Then you will gain allies against whatever the common antagonist is. Further, these sufferers will support your endeavors to overcome that suffering (i.e. your goals).

7. Fertility Wins

Be it with physical genes or abstract ideas, the success of either directly relates to how wide-spread it is. Things only spread when they are put out there and adopted by others.

People will only adopt whatever your goal is after a few steps happen first:

      1. Actively get that idea in front of others.
      2. Apply the idea in some tangible, valuable way where the benefit can be shown.
      3. Evolve that idea to be “same but different,” as in it must be familiar to the audience yet still unique enough to not have been experienced before by that audience.
      4. Return to step 1.

Being prolific is how you win, and you are prolific if you take action to 1) get yourself out there, and 2) cater demonstrable, novel benefit to your audience.

This may not seem “fair” (see the next point on justice). Unless you and your work persist, fairness does not matter in the least. “Good” is that which survives.

8. Justice Is Proving Merit

As most life advice has it, the world owes you nothing. As Durant would amend, a “just” society can at least give one right: the right to unobscured entry into tests of office and power, simply known as proving one’s merit.

Can you prove you have a mighty body? A strong mind? An attractive character? Or clever means? No more, no less – These are the only things you must feel obliged to show in your goals.

9. You Are Your Greatest Hinderance and Help

As Durant puts it, supernatural belief is the strongest protection against your own misdeeds. However, your fantasies about yourself, your actions, or the world can be taken too far, preventing useful consequences from occurring.

Towards this point, seize control of your mind. Be rational about what is legitimate caution versus overzealous fear. To take another quote, “fear is the mind-killer […] the little death that kills me over and over” (Dune) – only after your own terrors are reined will you be able to get out of your own way to accomplish what you set out to do.

10. Discipline Yourself

A person unprepared for success will be weak when they stumble into it but act strong. Being weak while drunk with power is delusional and therefore dangerous for everyone and everything.

Like letting a genie out of a bottle, getting what you want may be the worst thing to happen.

When it comes to goals, you strengthen yourself for success by disciplining yourself in your life. Family, finances, health, goals – everyday and always. Only then will you be prepared to achieve.

But what if you should fail to meet your goals? Discipline reinforces your mind, so such a failure will have much less impact than if you fail while also weak and undisciplined.

Extra Points Worth Note:

      • Revolution (forcible change of a system) comes when the equality of merit or vote is nullified by an inequity of wealth, status, or means. The situation worsens when the strong (in any sense of the word) create monopolies of the tools and means to livelihood status. Revolutions cycle between these states:
          • Wealth Distributes -> Wealth Concentrates -> (repeat)
          • Monarch / Tyranny (one power) -> Aristocracy (few powers) -> Democracy (no powers) -> (repeat)
      • Force (i.e. action by any and every means and effective methods) is the absolute final arbiter of a dispute or conflict. Only by force may an obstacle be overcome or unattainable attained. All else is a brain exercise for poets and philosophers.
      • Economy is the manager of all things socially, personally, politically, or otherwise. Value floats up, so value injected at as low a level as possible sieves through higher layers, such as socio-economic levels (i.e. castes). Therefore, knowing your current caste, where value is being put into the system, and where you can put in value is of extreme importance.
      • Beware the unsolicited “should.” Whenever a higher power (family, boss, state, divinity) hands-off moral wisdom without invitation, it’s just if not more likely that wisdom serves an all-too-human agenda not your own.

Wow! That’s a lot! William Durant had a lot to say, which applied to a lot of my own goal-mindedness (hence these notes).

Durant found many patterns throughout history on a macro scale. I’ve tried to apply these to the micro and personal scale. How did I do? Which will you start using and observing in your day to day? Let me know!

Stay warm wherever you are, and cheers!

Truths About Relationships

Perfect timing for the big day!

Which big day? If you have to ask, you may go read another post instead of this one 😂

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! This year, the festive occasion of lovers coincides with my work on “Truths,” or things that seem to be real, free of time, culture, or dichotomy.

The following are a few things are worth keeping in mind whether you have a significant other or others to share February 14th with (or what you might do to participate next year!).

Lifelong Lessons

    • “There is no Love, there are only proofs of Love.” – Pierre Reverdy
      • No truer words have been said on the subject. Do Love, not claim love. (Mind the capital “L.”) To merely say you “love” another is, at best, frivolous and undermines the true, heart-aching impact of giving all of one’s self to another; at worst, it’s the foulest form of emotional manipulation. Behave like you mean it in all things, though especially in your adorations.

    • Affection and Kindness Are Not Love
      • Know the difference between sweet feelings, urges, and compassion. These things may be part of Love, but alone do not Love make. Recognize when someone mistakes your affection and kindness towards them as something else so you can immediately make things understood as they really are.

    • Having a Long-Term Partner Is Important
      • For any ‘soloists’ out there, understand that finding, maintaining, and being around an intimate, caring person is one of the most important things for your well-being. The acts and experiences associated with a long-term relationship are directly tied with benefits to your mind, body, spirit, and longevity you can only get in the presence of another person.

    • Things Change
      • Come to terms that whatever your situation is, it will change. You will change. Those in your life will change. Jobs and health and finances and goals will change. A humble example is that ~50% of marriages end before the death of a partner. If things should pass away, move away, go away, mourning is understandable and acceptable; obsession is not. Enjoy the time you have as you are now, but hold off on the attachments to things as they are vs. the excitement at what they could become.

    • Be Attractive
      • Really should be #1. Be fit physically, mentally, fit in, have strong financial, educational, and career fitness. Figure yourself out and be confident in the decisions you make. Fix up your anti-charismatic quirks, be it talking too loud, wearing too much spray, or being a jerk to the wait staff. Find hygiene and diet and sleep patterns that work for you and be absolutely selfish and territorial about these things. Clean your room. Wear clean underwear and listen to music that moves you. Nothing is a greater boon to a relationship, career, personal, or social context than to be attractive ~

On Valentine’s Day

      • Think About the Future
        • Review hopes for the partnership and the partner regardless of the relationship. Check in on feelings and the experiences that have not worked in the past. Focus on your own responsibility in how you’ve allowed relationships to end and how you will probably do it again. Share these with your significant other so they can trust your honesty and be a support where you are weakest.

      • Commit
      • Hell Yes or Hell No
        • To help make your decisions, consider anything not a “Hell Yes” a “Hell No” by default. Keep this in mind should either you or your partner hesitate or not have a strong opinion of what the future holds for you both.

      • Update Statuses
        • If you are now committed to another person, close your apps and update your online relationship statuses. An updated, public social media account is a greater sign of dedication to another than wearing a ring. (Rings can be taken off or explained away; the online history and inbox notices of “X is in a relationship with Y” lasts forever.)

      • Propose Later
        • If formal marriage is your thing, don’t pursue it now! Emotions are too high for the February 14th occasion for personally intimate decisions to remain unaffected. Instead, take time to think about a time and place to be less cliché.

      • Love the One You’re With
        • Focus! Today is about you and your partner. Keep your attention from wandering. Look them in the eyes. Be responsive. Turn off and remove the distractions removing you from them. Care what they have to say, now more than ever.

Before Next Year

    • Act Now, Results Later
      • Be impatient with taking action now to treat you (and your partner) well. Do it today, this hour, this minute. Yet, be patient with the results. You are helping foster this relationship like a garden – regularity, moderation, tilling the foundations, addressing the weeds when they come up, profit from the fruits that arrive later!

    • Don’t Settle, Suffice
      • Have higher standards. Meet or beat the feelings and experiences you have with your current partner compared with past relationships. But, how do you know when to suffice versus settle? See:

    • All About the Numbers
      • Date a lot. Make friends without expectation. Become emotionally if not also physically close to many people (more than you can count on your hands at least). Figure out what has brought you happiness and fond memories in your past relationships. Figure out what in yourself and in your past partners were red flags. Mind these things especially during the tough times, such as fights or deaths or layoffs. (And if you don’t have any personal red flags that you are also taking action now to address, you have a ways to go to be emotionally honest enough for an intimate relationship.)

    • Competition Is for Chumps
      • If another person wants to play games or have you chase, don’t. If another person has many priorities in life including you, they have no priorities (including you). If it’s you driving the conversation and the attention, stop. Put effort into making a relationship last, not into making a relationship.

    • Learn
      • Educate yourself on books and articles. Audit relationships with friends and family and colleagues and more intimate others. Go to therapy. Discover new and interesting things to show your companion. Always seek to improve yourself, triply so when you are with someone you adore (ie put more effort into yourself when you are already with someone).


        Some guides: Read Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus, State of Affairs, Mating in Captivity, and Sapiens.

    • January and February Hiatus
      • Aim not to date in January and February. Heck, even start to cool off if you’ve not found a partner in early December. A lot of people feel obligated to “be happy and fulfilled” during the holidays, and when more so than over Valentine’s? You and they may not even realize you are making rash decisions, so cool it for now. There are ten more months in the year without pressure to explore with a companion.

    • Valentine’s Every Day
      • Treat them well or not at all! Approach those you find like it’s Valentine’s Day every day. It’s an occasion of note not just to be alive, but to be together with another person that you care something for and may care about you in a similar way. February 14th is only a reminder of what should be done every day of the year ❤

Between history lessons, psychology texts, and my own experience, these things seem to be true about relationships. Go forth to your romances well armed!

What has your experience been? What defines Valentine’s Day and relationships as a whole for you? Your perspective is of great value!

In the meantime, take care! Enjoy the weekend, since you at least have the great company that is yourself ~ Cheers to next week!