The first assembly line using interchangeable parts wasn’t the Ford Motor Company in the early 1900’s; it wasn’t the Springfield Federal Arsenal where muzzle-loading, spiral-bored rifles were assembled from nearly interchangeable parts for the American Civil War — under the tutelage of Eli Whitney of cotton gin fame. Much earlier, as far back as the 2nd Century BCE (Before Christian Era), Chinese arsenals had turned out crossbows by the hundreds of thousands. These eventually evolved into cut-down, repeating crossbows with twenty-round magazines and twin barrels, (i.e.: pre-gunpowder semi-automatic pistols). Their industrial tolerances would have rivaled those of Civil War percussion locks; their influence on a swordplay battlefield, just as lethal.
During the 15th Century CE, the first metal reduction gears were painstakingly carved from bronze ingots to create cranequins: ratchets used to cock state-of-the-art crossbows.
Yet the Antikythera mechanism, raised in 1901 from a merchant ship that had gone down two thousand years prior in the Mediterranean, leads us to presume that at least some workshops and technicians could do correspondingly high-precision work. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism.
Also, some of the oldest known world maps trace the coastlines of Antarctica and the Americas with a precision inconceivable at the time. Barring, perhaps, equivalent, previously unknown navigational charts traced by navigators of the great Chinese fleet built, deployed to the seven seas and abandoned during the 15th Century.
Around the same time, the Arsenal at Venice set up a channel assembly line to provide reserve squadrons of bare galley hulls with equipment, rigging, armament, provisions and crew — at the rate of one ship per hour for days on end.
Venice had to send far off for good naval timbers. Ancient Rome had already razed regional forests. Every oar-and-sail naval power executed the same mayhem against the World Forest. Imagine the great forests chopped down for imperial fortifications and galley fleets.
Iron and bronze smelting required that hardwood trees be turned into charcoal by firing cordwood by the cubic yard in a low oxygen environment, and burning the resulting charcoal in high-temperature kilns along with metal ore. Entire forests were leveled around these kiln sites; their smoke poisoned the soil and inhibited forest regrowth.
In 1997, one of America’s last great trees was cut down to re-mast a rotten naval hulk commemorating the War of 1812. Nowadays, some businessmen earn tidy profits by cannibalizing old buildings for their precious mainframe timbers. Mature, fully developed trees no longer exist — except in a few deep forest sanctuaries the Bush/Reagan/Trumpoids hadn’t gotten around to devastate for profit.
The military might of Venice lasted until its Arsenal blew up under fishy circumstances, permanently removing that great city from the roster of the first-rate powers.
Spectacular advances in ship design and navigation arose from war fleets. World War II (sic) amphibious assault craft evolved into container and Roll-On-Roll-Off ships. Only weapon technicians could raise sufficient funds to develop ships’ end-castles, multiple decks, full rigging, steam boilers, screw propellers, iron plating, gas turbines, submarine hulls and nuclear reactors … Not to mention aircraft and their attendant ironmongery.
M. S. Anderson, in War and Society in Europe of the Old Regime 1618-1789, Sutton Publishing, Phoenix Mill, England, 1998, pp. 142, 143, 152, 153, describes the byzantine organization required to build and maintain a large fleet of sailing ships of the line, perhaps the most complicated machines of the era (like our aircraft carriers).
The Manhattan Project was history’s greatest technological development effort up until then. Its workers handcrafted humanity’s first atom bombs. Other countries have called this ante about a dozen times, since, to home-brew fission weapons in furtive secrecy. Hydrogen fusion weapons required much more filth and wastage, seen in turn by every venerable weapon tyranny.
Imagine that kind of research devoted to rational population control and elegant life-support. How unrealistic of me to suggest such a thing! Learners shall insist upon it. At present, breakthrough civilian technologies are at the mercy of the “free market” — secret code for corporate suppression of valid peace technologies and strangulation of small business in favor of their weapon monopoly.
Team sports ritualize infantry drill, especially among the young. Sports statistics clutter billions of minds, as well as the media tasked with feeding those minds. Precious airtime, print space and academic funding go to waste to display a glut of sports statistics of no significance.
Some of the best journalists write sports journalism. This says three things about our culture.
· How much we distract ourselves from important matters by not publicizing them adequately.
· How much we make the trivial seem important by publicizing it too much.
· Finally, how much more talent and effort it takes to turn into interesting reading the stylized muscular contractions of the millionth random mesomorph.
Many fine journalists get well paid to turn the arc of an inflated ball into musical prose that readers by the million read every day (even if that’s the only thing they read, those millions, all day long). Meanwhile, I grumble to myself about World Peace for no compensation, as if it were nothing important. We are crushed under wide-screen technologies of monologue sports babble — day in, day out, in every public space. But let no-one speak of Peace!
The love expressed by the majority of info proletarians toward sports can be explained by the fact that, in a weapon state, athletics is one of the only institutions that works in a comfortingly predictable and harmless manner, at least for spectators who are not psychopathic hooligans, financial brigands or bloodthirsty patriots.
Michael Murphy’s text, The Future of the Body: Explorations into the Further Evolution of Human Nature collates endless sports anecdotes to demonstrate meta-normal human talents. He ignores wartime equivalents.
Each of us can recall the hard-nosed gym coach who urged us never to give up, never quit, never turn into a quitter.
The stupidest policies of the Western world (like renouncing family planning on a global scale, not to mention wars, famines, etc.) have been called for by victims of concussions suffered as young amateur participants in Rugby in Europe, diverse Football on both sides of the Atlantic, and martial arts everywhere, as well as by veterans who survived explosions during intermediate wars. War mass-produces more war.
If you think about it, every crime against humanity, every massacre, battle and war was started and drawn out by sinister people who refused to quit gracefully even after all reason and common sense had bled white from their motives.
Those are our rotten priorities. Feel.
There was a time when religion was “the opiate of the people” (paraphrasing Carl Marx). Nowadays, professional sport is their heroin — and advertising, their crack cocaine, in sophisticated imitation of the roman arenas that used to present only slightly cruder human entertainment.
Homelessness and malnutrition fester unattended across the planet, yet our cities vote themselves shiny new sports arenas quite costly and redundant (to the ka-ching profit of idiot-savant elites), good to worsen urban traffic jams. Wise commentary is drowned out in sports babble while everything worthwhile decays in a venerable hush. Sis, boom, rah!
In The Evolution of Civilization, Carroll Quigley described the steady deterioration of college football — from sunny afternoon frolics engaged between study-dazed frat brothers, into mercenary confrontations of Byzantine complexity, steroid-soaked doggedness, cerebral concussion and Mammon lucre. A fine illustration of institutional bloat over time.
For extreme examples of this madness, look at soccer riots. The El Salvador-Honduras Soccer War, that Ryszard Kapuscinski described so tellingly, was a shocking prelude to the Salvadoran civil war during which Ronald Reagan cluster-bombed thousands of unarmed peasants and their children with his trademark debonair charm.
The British Admiralty commissioned the first exact chronometers so its captains could locate themselves at sea. The land battles of Frederick and Napoleon were more “sophisticated” than preceding ones because regimental commanders could consult a good pocket watch and get from point A to point B on schedule. The first maps, compasses, celestial navigation and global positioning technologies served similar purposes.
Cartesian geometry first described the trajectories of cannon balls, not planets. Those were priceless battlefield predictions later refined by trigonometry, calculus and Newtonian physics. You can’t build an atom bomb without Einstein’s formulae and quantum mechanics, even though those weapon dogmas contradict each other and even though they require that 96% of the Universe be made up of nothing we can see, called Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and that the primitive universe must have magically “expanded” much faster than the speed of light. Presto! Talk about pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo.
The first telescopes weren’t built to satisfy the stargazers of Galilean mythology, but to serve as spyglasses so rich generals could oversee their massacres from hilltops and church spires, tucked well in the rear with the gear.
High-energy industries first evolved to cast and bore out cannon. Most church bells were cast by civilians and then melted down by tyrants to make more cannon. In perfect irony, European Protestant Iconoclasts dismantled many church bells so that the Catholic nobility could buy them up cheap, melt them into cannon and gun down those same Iconoclasts.
Lewis Mumford speaks of cannon as the “first reciprocating engine.” He mentions preliminary attempts to motorize vehicles using gunpowder as fuel. From page 81 to around page 101 of his book, Technics and Civilization, he reviews the influence warfare had on technology.
“’Thus in England Henry Cort began his experiments on wrought iron, which culminated in the ‘puddling’ process of 1784, largely to achieve a higher quality of metal for the production of guns and anchors for the navy; later the Admiralty would accept only iron produced by his methods. The development in 1774 by the industrialist and inventor John Wilkinson, of the cannon-lathe, the result of a decade of work in the production of artillery, made it possible to bore reasonably accurate cylinders and thus did more than anything else to make Watt’s steam-engine a practical proposition.” M. S. Anderson, War and Society in Europe of the Old Regime 1618-1789, Sutton Publishing, Phoenix Mill, England, 1998, p. 182.
The British engineer Bessemer produced steel from iron and coke in a molten state (coke is coal vacuum-cooked to purify its carbon content), whose mixture was bubbled with oxygen, solely to produce military ordnance. Stainless steel was a top-secret military invention in 1917 during the First (sic) World War. Its first civilian application wasn’t capitalized until 1928, per Buckminster Fuller.
Public Relations didn’t become a “respectable” profession until a flood of reactionary cash engaged copy-write barkers to shout down the American Progressive Party. Thus were Americans pressed to join the First (sic) World War: the least popular of America’s many unpopular wars; at least until Vietnam, never-ending follow-ups in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with those wars of corporate convenience and national disgrace to follow in the future.
“The more democratic a state, the more unpopular its wars.” Machiavelli, The Prince.
Public Relations experts made sure that the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918 would become a footnote in the margins of history even though it killed several times more people, during the last year of World War I (sic) and the year thereafter, than did four years of meat-grinder combat. The casualties of fever were so staggering that the authorities censored all coverage of it. Allied newspapers called it the Spanish Flu because Spain was neutral during the war, and its Press had the gall to report the pandemic without censure. By striking down mostly young and fit adults, it exhausted everyone’s military manpower reserve and thus ended the War to End All Wars. Otherwise, there was more than enough institutional stupidity to prolong the World Bloodbath we dare call Number One.
The 1918 Armistice came as a real surprise to soldiers in the trenches. They believed there would be nonstop trench warfare for at least another generation, until all of them and their sons had been massacred. Both side’s leaders had lost so many of their own children that they could never allow themselves to back down.
Indeed, Allied armies were shipped off to invade Soviet Russia just before the 1918 Armistice with Germany, until they mutinied en masse and demanded to be sent home. Or, in the case of British and American troops, their mothers and political allies demanded it. A French battle fleet sailed home from the Black Sea, manned by mutinous sailors sickened by their shore bombardment of civilians, every officer locked below deck.
Finally, Public Relations professionals quashed the idea of World Peace as President Wilson had articulated it and the whole world yearned for it. World peace was not profitable enough for a new generation of weapons industrialists, their stay-at-home lackeys in Congress and serried ranks of combat-virgin weapon mentors who had taken over academia, politics and the media during the war — while their betters signed up to march off and die in it. An equivalent cabal of chicken hawk, draft-deferred sociopaths (what’s more, great admirers of international fascism) took over American politics after Roosevelt’s death toward the end of World War II (sic).
They’ve never let go since.