The More The Storm The More The Strength

The planet Earth has an exquisite history, an epic saga of nations rising and falling, cultures rising, growing, changing, and evolving. Some burn brightly, and leave a remarkable influence in the history books, while others dwindle into the background and are lost to memory. Many devote their lives to studying ancient cultures, discovering what contributions these people made to our time, and telling their marvelous stories that time has made us forget. The cultures of Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Chinese Dynasties, Greece, Rome, the Vikings, the Mongols, all these civilizations and more are being studied and revered for their heroism, advancements, and contributions to modern man.

All of these societies have survived long past their ends, through history books, movies and books. But why? What is it that makes the difference between immortality in history and being lost to the sands of time? What quality did these ancient societies possess that drove them to change the world in their times?

Some might say that it is values, music, art, literature, religion, or political systems that set these civilizations apart, as these are the things that often hold the awe and respect of humankind.

These things are of great importance, the things we like to remember about the ancient civilizations that paved the way for our present world. We remember them for making the advancements in society that got us to where we are today. However, another argues that what allowed these cultural developments to grow in the first place was the advances in primitive technology and science.

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It is true that without the development of agriculture, large organized societies would not be possible. Animal husbandry allowed for the invention of the plow, trade across great distances, and survival even in poor conditions lacking necessary resources. The newly discovered science of agriculture meant that crops could now be grown on a much larger scale with much less labor, allowing more people to experiment in medicine, architecture, science, literature, art, music, politics, and all the finer things in life. This increase in crop production led to an increase in population, causing people to move out of farmland and into organized cities. Cities allowed technological advancements to occur much more frequently as these primitive communities would now be able share their ideas and discoveries through trade. This connection of cities through trade routes creates the perfect conditions for values, music, art, religion, and literature to thrive, conditions where new political systems are a necessity. Technology could definitely be seen as the source, or cause for organized society.

Which brings the question, what is the cause for technology? What inspired humanity to think of a better tomorrow and invent the future? What made humankind want to band together in larger communities, to make trade possible, to sustain a larger population? The answer may be found in comparing the agricultural revolution to the industrial revolution, another revolution of, perhaps, equal magnitude. Novelist and physical chemist C.P. Snow said in his book The Two Cultures, “We have realized… what the old industrial revolution brought with it. A great increase of population, because applied science went hand in hand with medical science and medical care. Enough to eat, for a similar reason. Everyone able to read and write, because an industrial society can’t work without… Those are the primary gains” (Snow 27). The positive benefits gained from the two revolutions are shockingly similar, and the cause for both these revolutions is stated when Snow next says, “There are losses too, of course, one of which is that organizing a society for industry makes it easy to organize if for all-out war” (Snow 27).

What else could cause primitive tribes to forgo heritage and tradition, leave ancestral lands for crowded cities to work with strangers, trade native dialects for a common tongue, and submit themselves to the rule of kings and emperors and organized religion, except for the threat of extinction? The survival instinct is the best motivator for change, which drives men to evolve. Even primitive tribes of nomads and self-substance farmers could recognize that the more soldiers a tribe had, the better equipped it was to win battles. More soldiers required more food, so more efficient crop production often lead to victory. The use of horses in combat forever changed the way battles are fought, as did other technological realizations like archery, metallurgy, architecture, and written language. Almost every technological and societal advancement can be directly linked to the instinct to survive.

Snow thinks that one of the losses of the industrial revolution is that it helped to organize society for war. History shows that survival is the reason for the industrial and the agricultural revolution. The industrial revolution allowed man a form of battle called industrialized warfare. A factory worker population is better equipped to mass produce weapons, rations, uniforms, and equipment. Close quarters and cramped living conditions made the transition from boarding house to military barracks that much easier. Trains, steamboats, airplanes, and automobiles all made the transportation of soldiers, weapons, and information exponentially more efficient, allowing for war that is more efficient. In retrospect, it may even appear that the industrial revolution caused the next set of oncoming wars. For example, the industrial revolution, for Europe and America, took place in the 18th and 19th century.

The American Civil war, 1861-1865, was fought to protect the institution of slavery, because the outdated Southern agricultural community was struggling to meet the needs of the updated Northern industrial community. The First World War, 1914-1918, had an unprecedented death rate because industrialized warfare allowed soldiers to travel farther and kill more efficiently. In World War II, 1939-1945, Nazi Germany’s economy was greatly improved by focusing the unemployed workers of the nation into factories. This increase in industrialization allowed Germany to create more than enough jobs to employ the nation, and later create an army to terrify the world. Before the industrial revolution, a ‘worldwide war’ was unfathomable because of distance alone, but with the invention of the motor engine, everything changed. This is all because the cause of technology, of both the industrial and agricultural revolution, is to organize society to better survive war.

Many will try to deny that men’s motivation is such a simple and crude factor as survival. How could things as good and cherished as human values, art, literature, or religion have stemmed from such a dark and cruel motives? Well, what are values if not to decide when war is appropriate or not? Values could be described as a political or religious system determining a law or set of laws that dictates when survival demands action. For example, freedom and liberty are some of the values that America is founded upon. However, after the event that occurred on 9-11, the American government quickly changed its values and started to encroach on the freedom of privacy, freedom to own weapons, freedom to travel to ensure safety. What is now ‘the norm,’ is simply the evolution of America’s international security (Sislin) to keep the country safe.

Some might argue that in recent years humankind has risen above the need for war, seeing as it has been so long since America or any developed country has declared open war. James Jay Carafano, director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, has said, “We have not become more moral, we have become more accurate.” In his article, ‘Future Technology in Ethics and War’, Carafano explains that the lack of declared war does not mean a lack of violence, it means that we can take care of threats without actually declaring war on another nation. American soldiers have been deployed on foreign soil in ‘American-Led Intervention’ since 2001 in a ‘War on Terror.’ This shows that modern political systems, just like medieval crusades, rally public support by finding or creating enemies that cause society to come together and focus on survival, playing on that natural instinct.

Art, music, and literature are the deemed the ‘finer things of life’ and many find it difficult to try to relate them to something as brutal as war. However, did not music and literature originate as ways to commemorate and remember ancestors for their strength and successes in battle? Did art not originate as trophies from hunts, or depictions of great battles won? An ancient painting discovered in China, estimated at 1128 AD, depicts a demon in battle with what appears to be some kind of primitive bombard, a type of hand held cannon (Gwei-Djen). Modern movies have war and cruelty in forefront of their productions. In the movie, Iron Man 3, a young scientist laments that her “wide eyed, pure science” was only possible because of support from military contracts, and what she envisioned as a medical breakthrough was used as a weapon of mass destruction. This young scientist relates herself to Nazi Rocketeer Werner Von Braun whom she quotes, saying; “The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet” (Iron Man 3).

Even in today’s fictitious movies, producers and directors can sense that technological and societal advancements are forever linked to war and survival. In the movie Wonder Woman, the protagonist General Ludendorff quotes an ancient Greek historian, Thucydides. “Peace is only an armistice in an endless war.” He then goes on to say, “In exchange, war gives man purpose. Meaning. A chance to rise above his petty mortal little self. And become richer, noble, better” (Wonder Woman). Here we see that, in the director’s view at least, Thucydides was right. War is an opportunity for man to do more than just exist. It is in survival, in evolution, in adaptation that man leaves his mark on the world. Where he finds his purpose.

Religion is a tricky topic, one that falls more under survival that it does war. In religion, the concept of a life-after-death is taken into perspective, and that gives survival new meaning. Survival is no longer merely this mortal existence, but spans a greater distance of time. Varying with religion, most believe that there is some kind of judgement and reward for one’s actions on earth, there for the survival of one’s soul is of greater import than one’s mortal life. Admittedly, this may appear to deny the tendency of man’s progression for survival, but in reality, it falls under the scope. More discussion would have to take place, discussing several different beliefs and life-after-death scenarios.

It has been discussed that the common benchmark measurements of a society’s development, sophistication, and progression can be directly tied to the instinct of self-preservation in the face of war. Some might still argue that preparation for war cannot be the driving force for progression and the evolution of civilization, because war only leaves death and destruction in its wake. Something so terrible and dark could not generate such growth and advancement. Again, history will show that such arguments are weak and generally incorrect.

During the Civil War, much of the nation’s resources and workforce were focused on winning the war. That was the life, the role of every able bodied soldier. After the war, President Lincoln called, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, … let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations” (Lincoln). In Zorina B. Khan’s journal entry, “The Impact of War on Resource Allocation: ‘Creative Destruction,’ Patenting, and the American Civil War”, Khan discusses the economic situation of the young America. By studying patents submitted and approved, Khan maps the number of creativity and ingenuity of Americans in the years before, during, and following the Civil War. From the Eve of the War to during the war, there is a leap from 130.6 patents approved per capita, to 202.4, and then again after the war to 316.2 patents approved per capita (Khan 323). Khan goes onto to discuss that this growth in patents approved per capita is the consequence of an inspiration for invention. After the war, the number of patents slowly decreases, as the population settles back into a state of complacency and lethargy. The Civil war, terrible as it was, is what established America as a powerhouse for the following World Wars. Khan’s journal states that the period directly after a victory in war usually leads to a time of economic recovery and growth, that war inspires evolution and progress.

Another example can be found before the First World War. “The Great War in the Big Woods”, by Jessica Wambach Brown, discusses the U.S. Army’s 415th Aero Construction Squadron, which worked in the woods of Olympic Peninsula to locate and cut timber to be used in the construction of war airplanes for Allied Forces fighting in World War 1. Brice P. Disque, once a National Guard Cavalry instructor known for his efficiency, was ordered to take command of the U.S. Army Spruce Production Division. An unprecedented 10 million feet of useable spruce timber was required to support the Allied forces across seas with airplanes. “To a soldier, in time of war, any means that are necessary are justifiable,” Disque later wrote. “I determined to ship the 10 million feet [per month] at the earliest possible date, regardless of cost, or of whom it hurt, because by so doing I might assist in stopping the war one day earlier.” To the reader, this may appear extreme or uncalled for. However, the public applauded Disque. ‘“A diplomat of the first order,” raved a Portland Oregonian editorial.

“The government needs more such men to manage its war activities”’ (Brown). Despite being brutal and frank, Colonel Disque understood what drives humanity, survival. During his supervision, Colonel Disque raised his employees living standards, “he established an industrywide eight-hour workday, settling a decade-long dispute and virtually ending strikes” (Brown). When Disque’s Division arrived in the Olympic Peninsula, only about one out of ten of the spruce boards from the commercial mills were making boards of aircraft quality. “In 45 days, 5,000 soldiers built a giant state-of-the-art mill on the barracks polo fields that promised to raise acceptability to 60 percent” (Brown). Throughout the article, Brown discusses how Colonel Disque achieves what others thought impossible. Survival, understood as only soldiers can, is a driving motivator for progress and suddenly make the impossible a reality. In this example, war brought good not only to the logging industry, but also to every other industry that would follow Disque’s example.

If the instinct to survive is the driving factor for progress and achievement, then complacency and lethargy are the factors for regression and decomposition. This is exquisitely illustrated in the following poem.

The tree that never had to fight for sun and sky and air and light, but stood out in the open plain and always got its share of rain, never became a forest king but lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil to gain and farm his patch of soil, who never had to win his share of sun and sky and light and air, never became a manly man but lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease, the stronger wind, the stronger trees, the further sky, the greater length, the more the storm, the more the strength. By sun and cold, by rain and snow, in trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth we find the patriarchs of both. And they hold counsel with the stars whose broken branches show the scars of many winds and much of strife. This is the common law of life.

By Douglas Malloch

The instinct to survive is only a driving force if the species feels threatened. A tree will not exert energy to grow taller than it needs to find sun, stronger than the wind. A man will never work harder than he must to survive, will never become stronger than the burdens he must bear. Progression does not just occur; it must be spurred to action. It is the common assumption that a society will flourish and grow during times of peace and rest. This ‘armistice in the endless war’ may give civilizations a chance to recuperate, improve their battle strategies, and evaluate their opponents, but it should never be the goal. Opposition is constant, competition is constant, and domination is the goal. Advances in society, culture, technology, and every other field are to better prepare society to survive. 

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The More The Storm The More The Strength. (2022, May 12). Retrieved from

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