Time: 10:30 AM, Friday, April 4, 2014.
My wrist is absolutely shot. Anything more than a modicum of pressure on it whatsoever causes absolute agony. One of the heads of my quadriceps is almost definitely pulled. My knees aren’t yet crying out, but I can sense that the tensile strength in my ligaments isn’t up to par at the moment. My ankles are stiffening up, and my left shoulder is beginning to feel the strain of climbing up to these rooftops and doing tabata intervals with shadow-boxing.
Superficial ailments, all of them, but I can feel them beginning to slow me down. How did it come to this?
My lack of weight-lifting and other heavy exercise over the past few months has made me weak. My muscles and joints can no longer take the stress I put on them when I find the time to do some parkour or practice some martial arts. Yet because I refuse to take it easy on myself, I am doing the same things I was doing back in December, when I was much stronger than I am now. What I am doing is putting my body through a gauntlet that it is no longer prepared to undertake.
The nutrient-poor diet in this country probably doesn’t help. It’ll be nice to get back to the States again, where meat and eggs are aplenty, and I am not bombarded with bread and sugar, which together probably constitute about 70% of the diet here…
After a good meal out, and a solid 12 hours of sleep, everything seems to be back to normal, though I’m still feeling the wrist a bit when I move it around. The body’s capacity for recovery (especially at my young age) never fails to amaze me. I know I won’t be able to fully appreciate it until around 30 or so, when I will start to slow down, but I do my best now to make the most of it.
There’s a lesson to be heeded here. If you’re not progressing, you’re regressing. This is true not just for physical strength and endurance, but also for traits like knowledge, moral fiber, and discipline.
Now imagine this dynamic played out over an entire population. In a culture that prizes comfort over challenge, and entertainment over achievement, everyone is regressing in some form. It’s reached the point in the US where the quest to stave off his decline is a decent litmus test for being a part of The Natural Aristocracy.
But I digress. My point is that a society that does not incentivize its population to continually be pushing themselves for the better will witness a degeneration of their human capital (an effect that will likely be compounded if those with the most potential and capability breed at lower rates than. Yet, perhaps I overreach on this point. It might be more accurate to say that people push themselves are far as they are forced to, and no further. If you force less upon them, most will simply force themselves to do and be less, and you will see the quality of your human capital decline.
How can you force your population to do and be more? One way is to have high standards of behavior implicit in your social and societal norms. The stricter the norms, the higher the standard of behavior (though it should be noted that there is probably a point at which this becomes self-defeating, as more and more people give up on trying to meet increasingly rigid social norms).
What should be noted here is that the alteration of social norms does not necessarily lead to lower expectations for a minimum standard of behavior. Social norms can be changed to something of equal severity. The outright deconstruction and/or deconstruction of social norms though, does lead to a reduction in the standards of behavior, and so reduces the quality of your human capital. In this way, the removal of social norms hurts, rather than helps, society at large.
I would like to reiterate that this is not necessarily an argument against the alteration of social norms. Sometimes societal context changes enough to require such a thing (massive technological innovation, for example, can have an incredibly disruptive impact on existing norms). A static society is a dying society, and is subject to the Red Queen hypothesis just as much as any animal species or human individual.
This is a warning that if you value functional society, it is most unwise to alter social norms to those that do not provide equal or greater levels of societal stability. This is a warning that those who would do away with social norms are liable to doom us all. This is a warning that altering social norms is akin to altering the DNA of an animal: necessary for the species to adapt and survive, but a necessity that offers far more room for disaster than for success.