Is War a Racket?

American military helicopter in flight

The legitimate purpose of a government is to protect you and your property and keep an eye on infrastructure so that we aren’t drowning in floods on the way to our bullshit jobs where we work to buy stuff and pay for services that keep other people in both real and bullshit jobs and pay taxes so that we get those supposed protection and infrastructure services. But, that’s all supposed to be internal. You pay taxes for your own protection and your own infrastructure.

Of course, a long time ago, governments started to work out that you could use those taxes to pay for armies to open up new markets and secure new cheap resources and labour to make rich people and politicians richer at the expense of the newly subjugated and exploited foreign populaces. But imperialism all got to be a bit too politically incorrect for the populaces at home who benefitted from the aforementioned subjugated and exploited foreign peoples and ate and got fat and read books that helped them believe that far-away funny looking tribes were people too, just like them.

So the overt imperial actions weren’t right and proper anymore. So, they had to work out how they could still grow their corporate empires, open up new markets and secure cheap resources. And, with the help of politicians that were either family, businessmen themselves or easily bought poorly paid public servants, they fostered plutocracies, oligarchies and later corporatocracies. These were fantastic because the public paid taxes and thus externalised the costs of opening those markets and securing those resources while they could reap the rewards. Good old lemon socialism of socializing costs while privatising profits.

However, you need a pretext to get around that sticky issue of why those armies are going abroad to do all this. So you drag media institutions into your corporate empire to control the narrative and get some spooks on the ground to do your bidding in exchange for some nice kickbacks and well-paid security jobs once they’ve had enough of getting government salaries. This lot fabricate global scenarios where the army’s needed as a sort of global policeman to control those pesky foreign uneducated savages that haven’t civilised quite as much as we have with our iPads and our Dunkin Donuts and our Strictly Come Dancing.

Now, if you’re a smart businessman you can also make the guns and the lovely helmets and the uniforms and supply the food that an occupying army eats. And again, the great thing is that this is all funded by taxes paid by Joe and Sally Bloggs that never see the receipt and the guy doing the procuring is also open to a nice kickback so you can charge whatever you bloody want. What a coup. Sometimes quite literally.

So, you’re now a diversified corporation with media, military arms and equipment, food and beverages, and a hundred other diverse business interests. Even when you think the original markets you were targeting have been saturated and you’ve secured the maximal volume of resources you were looking for, you still have these other wings of your business. And that tax money will stop rolling in and actually possibly be spent on what it should be being used for at home if you don’t quickly find something else for the army to do so you can keep clothing, arming, and feeding them at fabulously profitable prices.

You’ve also got in your employ politicians and spooks that aren’t happy with making 50K a year and want to remain relevant. A few of those politicians also get voted in by people that either work for the military, have worked for the military, or whose living depends on the military, so they won’t be voting for your politicians if they lost their jobs.

You’ve therefore  got a heady mix of factors creating an inexhorable force lurching from one conflict to another. Sucking up taxes, keeping hundreds of thousands in jobs, and making you, the canny corporate CEO, a rich man and providing fantastic returns on investment for your shareholders.

So, you’ve got some country’s administration that doesn’t want to open up their market to you. Could be a secular society, all going along ok. It’s not perfect but give them time and distance and they’ll develop. But that doesn’t help your business interests. It doesn’t help your share value grow. You’d better get the spooks and the editors on the phone and start whispering in a few ears via those lobbyists you’ve got on staff in the corridors of power. You could fix up to have a lovely new war.

There’s a load of lovely cash to be made from all those taxes as usual and at the end of it you’ve got the new market, the resources, and you can diversify further into building and civil engineering to fix the country that’s just been blown to bits by the missiles you sold to all those lads wearing the uniforms you made while eating the pizzas you sell and drinking the beverage you’re now able to start putting into your new franchise shops in the cities and towns of this newly regime changed country. It’s a win win…..win win win.

Oh and don’t forget, back home you’ve got everyone tuning into the coverage every day on your television channels, boosting your ad revenues and increasing the exposure of your other products. Meanwhile, you’re creating loads of new terrorists by blowing up their families and that makes the folks on their sofas in Mansfield and Salt Lake City scared so the politicians and the spooks have got an excuse to get some more nice kickbacks when they procure all that great new snooping software and tech. Guess who makes that?

Conspiracy Theories, Confirmation Bias, and our Search for Narratives

I’ve said before that this blog is called Multiple Tracks as I’d like to write about a number of things. It’s also a repository for my thoughts and I’ve often felt that adding long verbose posts to Facebook is somewhat of a waste due to the fleeting nature of the format. So in this blog, I’ll briefly discuss my thoughts on something that came up today as a result of a Facebook post by a friend that also relates to a wider perspective I’ve developed on the world.

The video he posted was this:

I’ve rarely given the 9/11 conspiracy much time. Noam Chomsky calls it ‘a distraction’ and I’d generally agree with that, perhaps. He and a number of others ask a few simple questions that cut to the heart of the matter. If the government were to have actually done this in order to build support for a war in Iraq, then why blame Saudi nationals, their allies? It’s there on a plate to blame Iraqis. No need for the WMD narrative and so on.
Then there’s the fact that there’s a lack of credibility to the idea that so many people, working for so many different agencies, institutions, and organisations; so many disparate moving parts, would be able to keep this a secret, and keep it a secret for 14 years.
One of the best books I’ve ever read is The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In it he talks, as many other have, about how humans look for patterns. We try to make sense of the world by building a familiar narrative to meld together the chaos so that our tiny minds can conceive of agency and causation, good and evil, light and dark.
The JFK assassination was perhaps an earlier exemplification of how something so incredible, so unexpected, and so life-changing can happen that people simply can’t believe it was the random act of such a small and insignificant person. It had to be something bigger, something darker.
Taleb also introduced me for the first time to the concept of confirmation bias. Humans, very often to fit these narratives that we have framed, look to support their hypotheses by finding only information that does so and disregarding that which doesn’t. That video, for example, appears to be exactly this, a single track of cherry-picked disparate facts that fit the 9/11 conspiracy narrative. All conveniently compressed into an easily sharable 5 minute video.
I rather ascribe to perhaps something which I’ll coin right now, ‘the Conspiracy Theorist Industrial Complex Conspiracy Theory’ where conspiracy theory celebrities like Alex Jones and David Icke make millions of dollars every year and their audience continue to huddle in corners of the internet discussing FEMA Camps and chemtrails, while the true ills in society go unchallenged other than by the few genuine activists engaging in real debate, hitting the streets to demonstrate, or simply doing their best to affect real change in their small sphere of influence.
To not be guilty of confirmation bias myself, I’ll admit for the record, that I don’t totally disregard the idea that there was government ‘False Flag’ involvement in 9/11. I’ll just say that I’m undecided yet very sceptical but I’d certainly prefer to be counted among those people doing their best to affect that small real change locally and hope that this can someday be a part of something bigger and better.

So, why am I starting a blog?

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blogging by Sean MacEntee @ Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA

Why do we blog? 

I think I’d like to explore why we blog. From a learning theory perspective, apparently we blog because reflection is an important part of learning. I have often found myself writing blog-length posts on Facebook and before that I was often very active on web forums. I found that writing these posts challenged me to think about the issue in question, chrystallize my thoughts on it, and invite feedback on that. Initially, I probably didn’t know I was doing this, and at this time I likely was a lot more combative and avoided hedging my ideas. I likely actually came across as somewhat of an obnoxious and combative type. A troll perhaps to some degree.

Nevertheless, it sharpened my debating skills, helped me build arguments, write more cohesively and, quite frankly, helped me become a better writer altogether, perhaps. It certainly helped me become or even remain the creative writer I had been in school. Which leads me to my second point.

Writing something to put out there, especially if you’re being creative in your writing as I would often try to be, segueing off the initial topic of politics, football, or film into fictional analogies and long verbose often tongue in cheek rants, means that you’re putting yourself out there. People can read and judge what you’ve written. They might be impressed. They may be unimpressed. That was the challenge that it became for me. To build cohesive, persuasive, entertaining bodies of texts.

I still make these posts. They appear less on web forums where I feel the anonymity afforded by screen names can lead to people being more easily inclined to insincerity and hostility, and more on Facebook. On Facebook, it’s you and your online personality is then indelibly linked with you as a person. Maybe that has been a good thing for me, and maybe it has been a bad thing at times because, I suppose I am still that person that is writing to challenge myself and persuade and impress others.

James Latimer Blogging, after Clawson Shakespeare Hammitt’s copy of Charles Willson Peale’s Portrait by Mike Licht @ Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA

So, why start writing a blog now?

Two years ago after I’d arrived home after the long train journey through Asia and Europe back to the South Wales valleys via London and my first degree graduation ceremony, I wrote a long, detailed, and what I thought was an entertaining account of that journey. There were pictures, naturally, and accompanying commentary telling the story of my trip from Beijing through to London. I posted it on a web forum, primarily for Expats living in Thailand where I currently reside (more of that later). I received a great deal of positive feedback, though that was as recognition of the journey as much as the story that I told about it, and I shared it with friends.

A few months later, as the owner of the forum became embroiled in some legal disputes regarding forum content that related to some unsavoury expat characters, the forum was promptly and without warning pulled from the World Wide Web. All of the posts, including mine, were now stored temporarily elsewhere. I managed to retrieve the text and I still have the images, of course, but that was a wake up call for me. Spending hours of our lives on creating content for someone else’s website that builds their ranking for the Google search engine metrics or adding your considered thoughts to Facebook, a platform where such content is so fleeting in its accessibility to both you and potential readers, seemed a terrible waste.

This is mine. What I’m writing is mine. I do appreciate that right now that may fall into a legal grey area as I post it on a free WordPress blog, but at least I will, until I invest in hosting it myself, have control over it.

But is anyone going to read this?

I suppose that this is where the reflection aspect of blogging comes in. Even if, as I plan, this blog may in later posts provide evidence of what I do professionally and serve as somewhat of a more interesting and engaging CV, this blog can serve as a journal. A journal for self-reflection and a journal for me to do what I’ve been doing for the 700 or so words above. Write about where I am  and why. I’ve often enjoyed going back and reading the posts I made in the far distant past on web forums, so it’s entertaining, but also it would be helpful to go back and look at my thoughts to gauge how they’ve changed and why. Maybe, I’ll add info and ideas that I’ll later forget. This can serve as a helpful repository for those.

So, this blog is for me probably more than anyone else. Apparently people can make money from them. I’m fairly confident that my content will be too self-referential, reflective, self-indulgent, and possibly even niche to be something that would attract anything remotely approaching the type of readership that would generate income. I’d be happy with a few like-minded people or a few people to argue with. Maybe I’ll always have that bug. Debate really does help us figure things out though. It pushes us to search for information to support our ideas and be presented with the information that will help us rethink them. It’s great when you’re wrong because that means you’ve learnt something. That would be something for another blog though.

In helping me collect my thoughts on why I was starting a blog, I found these two links helpful:

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/15-reasons-i-think-you-should-blog/

http://howtostartablogonline.net/why-blog/

Multiple Tracks

So here it is. Likely not the most original first blog post in the long list of first blog posts, but there we are. And here I am.

I’m Gareth Davies. This is my blog.

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Train Bridges by Tripp @ Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA

My blog is called Multiple Tracks for a few reasons.

First. I like the name. But maybe I like the name because of what it means to me, which is the second reason…and maybe the third.

Second. This blog was originally conceived as being there for me for a number of reasons. Initially it was to host the details of an overland journey I took in 2013 that took me from Beijing to London via Mongolia and Russia among other places, mainly by train. Yes, by train and trains run on tracks. Actually they sometimes run on different gauges of tracks as was the case in travelling from China to Mongolia, for example.

Third. This blog will be concerned with me collecting my thoughts, posting up any ideas, work in progress, and anything else I fancy. The topics might be primarily my area of study and hopefully my profession in the next few years, e-learning development. I might also post about my several enduring interests, football, politics, cinema and TV. And music? More ‘tracks’. Perhaps. Regardless, I’m fairly sure that it will not focus on that single track. Though….I may be wrong.

Anyway, Multiple Tracks it is. Oh, and those are my feet in the banner (unless I’ve replaced them by the time…if you ever read this) stood on a frozen river in Irkutsk in Siberia.

Welcome.

Train Bridges by Tripp @ Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA