It’s the Software, Stupid

“It’s not the hardware, it’s the software. It’s not race, it’s culture.” Bill Whittle at Eject! Eject! Eject!

Bill is arguing that culture (software), not race (hardware), has the most influence on what we become. At its heart Christianity, besides the hardware reboot of new birth, is really a shared culture. God’s Kingdom could be thought of as a culture of the committed. That is why Christianity works across all races, human cultures and through the span of almost two thousand years (and counting). In the multitude around the throne, there are members of every tribe and nation (read race, not modern nation-state), which includes every human culture that has existed (Revelation 7:9). What they share beyond those definitions is their Christian-God’s Kingdom culture

In his article, Bill goes on to define the difference between civilization and primitiveness as the depth and complexity of the web of trust that sustains your daily and regular activities. Primitive cultures have a thin web of trust and the necessities of life that are out of your immediate control are relatively limited. At most, you may depend on less than one hundred other people for anything and in a pinch, you could supply everything you need to survive yourself.

That is not true of civilizations. They require an unfathomably deep web of trust to sustain themselves. Very few people who have lived in the civilizations that have existed on this earth, including the current Western Civilization have considered that absolute depth of the trust necessary to sustain the culture.

Look at the world in which we live. From the power that runs everything in your home, to the lock and key that controls entry to the door as you leave. From the myriad of parts that make up the car you will drive, to the vast web of dependency necessary to create the roads on which you will travel along, with the rules, traffic controls and shared agreements that allows you to arrive in safety at the grocery store where you will shop. As you enter the store, everything you might buy was produced, shipped, and put out on the shelves by an army of loosely connected but radically interdependent people and systems. This enables you to take the milk, eggs and bread, which are reasonably priced and safe for you to consume, to the store register where an intricate system of financial agreements makes it possible for you to pay for it. As you leave the store and go to your parked car, you will retrace your journey home, passing through a web of dependencies so intricate, yet not obvious, that it is only when something goes wrong that you realize it even exists.

While sometimes we forget and only focus on the technology, the hardware of our civilization, it is really the software, the cultural interactions and dependencies that actually make it all work. When groups attempt to make radical changes to long-standing elements of the culture within which they exist, they sometimes forget that it is not the hardware they see that sustains the interactions around them, it is the software, the culturally shared dependencies that keeps everything functioning as smoothly as it does.

When a tragedy, disaster, or outright civil disobedience such as in a riot, destroy these interconnections, we quickly see how dependent we are on what we previously took for granted. However, because these disruptions are usually localized, even in the midst of that chaos, we are somewhat solaced by the relative stability of the areas around us that are not affected. For example, when Katrina did so much devastation to the Gulf Coast, the surrounding systems and culture acted as a buffer to allow it the time and resources to begin to heal the destruction.

Often, dissidents think they can demand or force radical change and things will just slide over to their point of view after a short period of disruption, like after a hurricane or other disaster. However, before we go too far with some of our acting out (as a group, or subculture or maybe just a selfish collection of opportunists), we need to think about what would happen if that web of dependency were to go past an important tipping point and fundamentally collapse. There are many ways this tragedy could happen. Some are social and some are technological as the possibilities are growing as time and technology distribute the power to destroy to more and more people who require a smaller and smaller investment.

Why is this important to think about? Because in many ways we all live in an overriding utopian sense that everything will hold together, continuing on and on, no matter how radically we tweak the web, remove the former supports, or assume this or that aspect of our current culture is not necessary. That is not true. There are numerous tipping points and unintended consequences, and something truly unraveling may happen because someone who has the ability to cause the event or bring about the change has simply decided to do it. Their only reason may be that they personally think it should happen and they have the ability to pull it off.

In the movie Twelve Monkeys, which is about a future time when civilization was destroyed by plague, the future humanity spent all of its resources trying to find out who let loose the virus, hoping to stop it from happening using limited time travel. In the end, it turned out to be one person; a single researcher at a biotechnology lab who decided to pass judgment on the human race. He took a cooked virus out of the lab where he was working and just began to travel. Within a week the whole world was infected and within a year, civilization as we know it, had ceased.

Think about it, even if a pandemic did not make the world as we know it uninhabitable, as in Twelve Monkeys, it would not have to become too widespread for us to reach a civilization-collapsing tipping point. The point we all need to understand is this, civilization is more than way of doing things; it is a web of connections and dependencies that allow us to live beyond the primitive grouping of our immediate tribe or clan. It is a complex organism that needs care and nurture to sustain itself and many of the things that people want to do, no matter how good they appear to those trying to do them, they are in essence, cancer to the civilization in which we live.

I think some of the secular progressives in our Western culture believe that they can just remove or change some of the things they don’t like, and everything will go on the way it always has, but altered at bit more to their liking. They significantly minimize the interconnectedness of several thousand years of human trust and dependency that went together to create the environment they currently find themselves sustained by, even blinding themselves to the cracks already present by past tinkering and its unintended but growing consequences.

Everything has consequences and those things that reduce or destroy, rather than reinforce or build up the web of trust that sustains us, could become our undoing before we know what is happening and the tipping point is passed. A simple relevant example is the current debate (itself a euphemistic oxymoron) over border security, immigration, and illegal aliens. The culture that defines this country, that has made it the economic and social engine that allowed most of what we know to come into being (our Anglo-centric culture), is under assault by illegal migration (it is not truly immigration because most of those who come here do not want to become an integrated part of us as true immigrants do).

We are coming to a cross-roads and we as a country have to decide where we are headed. Do we lose our uniqueness and blend into the Hispanic cultures to our south, inheriting its obvious problems? Or do we attempt to maintain our special heritage and resist this uninvited change? If we do not make a decision soon, it will be made for us by our inaction. It is time to choose.

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