Yetis of Avarice

This magnificent phrase came from Mark Hill’s essay in response to a currently-viral video (which I didn’t look at) which (allegedly) explains what’s wrong with Millennials and why they make such lousy workers.

This sentiment (there’s something wrong with Millennials and they make lousy workers) is not particular to this new viral video, but has been expressed time and again. It deserves response. But it’s also a subset of a more general category of argument which deserves a more general response.

Mr. Hill’s reply to motivational speaker Simon Sinek’s viral video was thorough and specific. Mine is less thorough but more applicable. It applies to a whole range of similar notions. Notions such as:

People who are the wrong color are what’s wrong with society.

People who are the wrong religion are what’s wrong with society.

People of the opposite sex, and their partners who fail to keep them in check are what’s wrong with society.

People who don’t work hard enough, or who don’t work the right way (such as on their feet doing labor) are what’s wrong with society.

People who engage in sexual perversions, or culinary perversions, or intellectual perversions or — whatever I find perverse — or what I believe God finds perverse — are what’s wrong with society.

People who don’t earn enough money are what’s wrong with society.

People who earn too much money are what’s wrong with society.

Sick people are what is wrong with society

Disabled people are what is wrong with society

Ignorant people are what is wrong with society

Stupid people are what is wrong with society

Unsympathetic people are what is wrong with society

People who litter in parks, overfish the oceans — or otherwise do not do their own share to care for the commons — are what is wrong with society

People who do not vote, do not serve in juries or otherwise fail to engage the system of government are what is wrong with society

… I hope you get the idea.

It’s a common idea. Adolph Hitler, for years, praised the Germans, calling them The Master Race. But eventually the Soviet Army shelling Berlin got the better of him. When he received the news that the remaining homeland defenders (mostly undersupplied old people and children) were failing to hold back the Red Army, he decided the Germans must be a pathetic, weak people after all and do not deserve to live. And he suggested they should just charge the Soviet front line and get themselves shot, thereby developing one of the proto-examples of Alt-right trolling.

It’s easy to decide that our problems are because of someone else. Not the nuanced someone-else medly of stubborn social dispositions, pressure by Corporations on officials to favor pro-company policies over pro-worker (thereby making the workforce more and more haggard and miserable) and then the occasional market mastermind that fleeces the economy of billions before living out his days on a beach earning twenty percent while the rest of the world figures out what went wrong. There are someone-elses in that mosaic that are actually responsible for making things suck for the rest of us.

But that’s complicated.

Rather, It’s easy to decide that our problems are because of some other, alien-seeming general demographic. Typically it is one that has also been reduced to miserable conditions from the same nuanced medly, and may also be blaming yet another demographic they don’t like. Maybe even you.

The going theory is that before we had centralized disease control, the only way we could stop plagues from wiping out all of humanity was to keep our tribes separate so no-one exchanged each others cooties. Considering some of the notorious plagues of history, there was something to that. And yet (so far mind you) it turns out centralized disease control works better, and large cooperative civilizations allow for nifty infrastructure and advancements such as global association football leagues and smartphones and mass-produced twinkies.

There’s no cure for it except self awareness, but in support of this, I offer a dictum, an apothegm to remind you of the big picture, the long game.

I have to give some credit to Donald Rumsfeld for it.* (Yes, that Donald Rumsfeld, America’s pro-torture, pro-war-on-false-pretenses creepy uncle.) You can call it Rumsfeld’s Law if you like, if doing so will help you remember it.

I chose to call it The Yetis of Avarice Rule. It is thus:

The Yetis of Avarice Rule: You build a society with the people you have, not the people you wish you had.

Remember that. Put it on my gravestone. Put it on your gravestone if you like. Name it after yourself if you must, but throw Yetis in there somewhere.

More importantly remember what it means. There are two explanatory corollaries:

Corollary A: The crappy people of our society are pretty much like the crappy people of all other societies.

This is to say, every other civilization out there is trying to solve the same bullshit cooperation problems that we are. And…

Corollary B: Whichever society figures out how to get the most people to tolerate each other, integrate and collaborate, wins.

In this case, winning may be difficult to understand, so let me put it in terms of losing.

The losing society worships the gods of the winning society. Not necessarily you, yourself, but your neighbors and grandchildren who will think of you as a primitive hidebound curmudgeon while they practice their classy religion

The losing society listens to all the winning society’s music, watches their movies, and engages in their culture and feels inadequate compared to the winning society.

The losing society’s buildings are shorter than those of the winning society. Also they fall down in earthquakes and tsunamis more.

The losing society learns to eat and enjoy the winning society’s weird food.

The losing society learns the winning society’s language. People from the winning society resent those who can’t speak their tongue, and secretly spit in their food.

The losing society’s unique personal characteristics: body shape, skin color, dialects, etc. are regarded as primitive, even savage. Encultured characters, say heroes and sophisticated villains are trained to speak as per the dialect from the winning society’s capital, whereas mooks and commoners are taught to speak mixed dialects from the losing society. Also, they get those dialects wrong.

The losing society’s military is a joke to the winning society’s military. The losing society has to resort to asymmetrical (subversive) warfare (e.g. terrorism) to engage the winning society’s military at all. And the winning society decides if they want to be nice and retain the higher moral ground, or get pissed off and resort to torture and massacring civilians and mass surveillance in order to route out the resistance.

So, we, here, in the United States are really presented with a choice: Either we figure out how to integrate our different peoples back into a pluralistic society, and cooperate despite ourselves, or, if we’re determined to make ours a white-male-Christian-workers-only party, succumb to Europe or China when they integrate themselves and get organized and show us how its done.

Once more:

The Yetis of Avarice Rule: You build a society with the people you have, not the people you wish you had.

Every civilization starts with this equal footing. We just need to innovate the way to restore tolerance and collaboration…

…Or become the personal bitch for whatever nation that does it first.

* Donald Rumsfeld created the initial logic for this adage, even though his version was under much more spurious pretenses (id est, a voluntary war under false pretenses). The original dialog (December 8th, 2004) was as follows:

Soldier: Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up armor our vehicles, and why don’t we have those resources readily available to us?

Rumsfeld: As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time…

Less directly, the logic could also be derived from George S. Patton: A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later. That’s not as clean an extrapolation, though.

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