“The US military would win more wars if they listened to me, but they dont.” Crystal’s claim would be considered arrogant if it were coming from almost anyone else, but my old friend and political mentor is almost certainly right in this case. As a scholar he has studied war extensively, and particularly the pentagons fascination with automated and computerized warfare. I asked him about the effect of predator drones in recent combat and he explained how they contributed to losing the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. By increasing the civilian casualties and especially in a way that breeds more people to the resistance to the US occupation. He pointed out that the current military and political doctrine of minimal casualties is also central to the US failing to win wars. You must take casualties to win. That the US colonial effort in Iraq failed to win the hearts and minds of the people because there was no connection to the people. And that the British were much better at imperialism through sending in people who spoke the language and lived amongst the people.
Far more powerful for me personally was watching Crystal tear apart some of my more cherished intellectual constructs. Crystal just finished reading Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine, which is one of my favorite books. C hated it. It told him nothing he did not know. He considers it a reductionist distraction which does not give additional explanatory power and often leads us astray in finding the deeper understanding needed to decode real problems. I tried to advance Blackmore’s thinking that memetic replication proved greater than genetic with the choice by human groups to move from the relatively leisurely hunter gather culture to a back breaking agricultural society. Crystal posited instead that the growing of crops needed for brewing beer was more likely significant than this battle of ideas.
Crystal attacked the use meme as a term which did not bring anything to the discussion and we especially mocking of the language which had memes “wanting to replicate” since they have no volition. He is perhaps the person i most enjoy feeling intellectually outflanked by.