Sometimes Quantity Is Its Own Quality

From time to time I find myself somewhat amazed on social media at the amount of people who want to be connected to me.  There are some people (I may be considered among them) who are friend collectors who like to have as wide a network as possible of coworkers, friends, family, and random and far-flung acquaintances, some of whom I have never met nor am ever likely to meet.  In my personal life, at this point, I consider myself someone who has a great many acquaintances if few particularly close friends, and someone who is at least in most demographics not a complete social leper but someone who others can generally enjoy talking to even if I am rarely sought out for personal conversation unless someone wants something from me.  I suppose this is not too unusual of a circumstance.  However, being someone who has traveled a lot and has a diverse group of people I know, I find that my social networks are generally relatively strong and numerous and that the size of these social networks leads some people to want to join them simply based on their size.  The quantity of my networks has a quality of its own that others find worthwhile to share in, regardless of their closeness towards me personally.

This is not an isolated phenomenon, although it is one that we see a great deal more now than we did in the past.  Previously, this phenomenon is something that we have seen a great deal of with regards to military history.  During World War II, the Japanese government had a marked deficiency with regards to logistics to the United States, and sought to build super battleships like the Yamoto that would give them an advantage over the American Pacific fleet, to no avail.  The high quality of some Japanese ships and planes was ultimately unable to deal with the sheer quantity of American efforts, and the same was true with regards to the German efforts against the Russians on the Eastern front.  Efforts at dealing with demographic and logistical inferiority by some sort of qualitative superiority in weapons was unsuccessful because the weapons were not enough better to deal with the sheer mass of what they had to handle.  The same was true of the efforts of the South during the Civil War, as contrary to the claims of the rebels one rebel could not beat ten Yankees, or even two Yankees, and thus the war was decided by the demographic and logistical and moral superiority of the Union cause.

It should be noted that this is not always the case.  There are times when qualitative differences are sufficient to swamp any sort of difference in quantity.  The successful European efforts at developing first repeating rifles and then machine guns of various kinds made it impossible for massed melee soldiers to be victorious against Western armies with enough ammunition and sense to use their weapons superiority correctly.  The same is true of wooden ships against all-steel battleships.  No amount of wooden ships with archaic weaponry could do damage to steel ships that could outrange them and turn them into burning coffins, no matter what amounts of them there were.  A few thousand more obsidian weapon-wielding Aztec warriors would not have been decisive against the Spanish, and a few thousand more Mapuche or Sioux warriors would not have been able to ultimately defeat the late 19th century Chilean or American armies that conquered their homelands.  Of course, most nations learn pretty well when they are unable to match up in conventional warfare and so they turn to asymmetrical warfare to deal with the asymmetrical situation they are facing, to make life more difficult for would-be conquerors.  And this is precisely what we should expect, that people would in general try to behave at least in a fashion that provided a hope for success rather than the certainty of failure.

It is of interest, though, that not all aspects of quantity being its own quality are for the best.  When we deal with the corruption of false teachings, it can seem as if the weight of heresy and error has its own quality, that the sheer number of it is some sort of truth-bearing argument.  Yet this is not so.  If the world had only one person who knew and believed the truth about something, be it the nature of mankind or the universe of political theory or what not, that person would be right no matter how outnumbered he or she was.  Truth is not a democracy, for even if the isolated truthteller was unable to enact any policy based on that truth, the unpopularity of the truth would not make the error any more truthful for being nearly universal in nature.  But that is because truth has an absolute superiority to falsehood and error that cannot be overcome by sheer popularity.  If all the nations of the world adopted some sort of socialist governments and directed economies, it would not make those economies work more efficiently or subject their population to less misery due to scarcity and mismanagement and corruption, all of which are endemic to planned economies.  It would not make the gulags of those nations more tolerable, since a coercive state needs to either exile or imprison those who refuse to go along with its blundering.  The universality of such error would only increase the misery of humanity by making it that much more impossible to escape.  Those who set themselves against the truth, in whatever fashion, make themselves the enemies of reality, and will suffer accordingly, whether they choose to suffer the concussions of banging their heads against brick walls or whether they eventually humble themselves and deal with the unpleasant reality they have sought to deny with their false ideologies.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, History, Military History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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