Being amused this fine morning by Courtney reading out from a giant “Canadian Media Habits” survey she’s completing. Some of the questions are hilariously out of touch. “Have you used the Internet in the last year?” “Have you used the touchscreen on your phone in the last week?” “how often have you used a search engine website in the last month?” A blog is an activity you can do on the net, but not a type of website you can visit. TV viewing questions are all from a world that existed before netflix and torrents. They want to know about how often you watch “movies” compared to “video’s”…for you young ‘uns, a “video” is a thing you rented from an actual physical store. You can still the see the fossilized remnants of them in some ancient city districts.

The “Internet Usage” question goes from a “few times a year” and “once a week” to the heaviest users: once a day, or a few times a day. Honestly, this is really not a survey from 2000, I swear…

I’ve always thought the whole point of a survey was to give an understanding of things that are, so that you can plan for what should be. A survey that starts with a completely false understanding of the current environment is worse than a waste. Companies that try to make any use out of this data will be lucky not to cripple themselves.

On my end of the morning, I read an article about a large online retailer that was moving to a new location. They were very excited to remove all the cubicles and enforce a new work environment that forced constant interaction and movement between all employees. The idea was to make a sort of constant human brownian motion happen, with the resulting chemistry creating exciting new compounds. Ick. If I worked for that company, I would use my “creative freedom” to alter my workspace environment with great glee. I’d built a fortress…nay! A compound! A castle…a place where my chosen cohorts could be shielded from the shambling hordes, a place of protection and safety from which we could create technical and economic marvels. I would recruit lesser intellects to bring us supplies and food from the feeding pastures. I would exploit…and I would rule. And, you know…get some actual work done.

I’ve been reading a lovely book about Caste roles in modern life, and how much of modern history can be seen as a consequence of power transitions between these castes. The survey being a result of the Scholar/Engineer caste, the cubicle-less environment being a result of Merchant/Banker/Broker/Money-shuffler caste thinking, and my response being the Warrior caste. The book is an interesting read, and very eye opening.

We can see the damage that the excesses of the merchant caste has done to us economically, but it’s less apparent to see how the mindset of the caste, that the shifting of capital to always get the most profit, has sunk into daily life. We think it’s natural that we should adapt ourselves constantly to learning new skills and finding new careers. We think Crossfit makes sense. We are killing the Artisans, we are forgetting the value of skills that take real investment to develop.

We value profit and efficiency as the only criteria of worth. And all we do is shuttle money up the chain to fewer and fewer people, and not damned thing is left for us. We burn out jumping from career to career trying to make a living, but we are left with no skills, no means to survive aside from a hope of job-charity from the super-rich. And when they crash and burn out and the money is gone? Greece is feeling that pain right now, and the rest of us just barely missed it…so far. Even if we miss that pain, we might still be setting ourselves up for the guy who wants to go and build his economic fortress in the middle of it all.

Which, oddly enough, is the one of the reasons I train so diligently in the martial arts. It’s not in fear of being attacked, but in simple statement that I am taking steps to be responsible for my own safety. Not in defiance, but in self-reliance. Independence. I don’t care to be part of any caste, and I sure as hell prefer to not be the willing tool or victim of any caste, either. Unless, of course, we want to count the idealized fictional Yeoman as a bastard caste…the individual who strives for personal sovereignty as his contribution to society, and who cares to share his excess to aid others in attaining status equal to his own.

Martial arts is my thing, but I make a real effort to learn how to provide for myself all the things I need in life. It’s not a survivalist point of view, I don’t believe any longer in a mythical catastrophe. I see it as rather a patriotic thing, my contribution to my society. My role as a cog is to be the least possible consumer of resources, and to become a creator of resources as best I can. I am here in life to make the world better after I am gone. I teach, I write. I have a long way to go, but it’s a start.