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Truth ≠ victory



Life is war. It is for this reason that the view put forward by men like Thomas Carlyle that “the truth always wins eventually” is incorrect. Life is war—war involves deception, camouflage, and misdirection. It would be nice to imagine that man always “fights fair”, as in some 18th-century duel—yet those duels were the exception, the exception cultivated by a civilised and aristocratic society. In reality, man’s usual mode of attack, as observed in the South American jungles, is to sneak up on the enemy, clobber him, and run off with his women.


“The truth” doesn’t come into it. What wins in reality is the sneaky bastard—the sneak attack, the guy with a sock full of coins who whacks you over the head from behind and runs off with your wallet. Even martial arts teachers usually tell you, as the first point, that your best course of action is to avoid a fight—and if you get into one disengage as quickly as possible (you just learn the martial art to give you the breathing space to get away).


All this Boy’s Own business where you roll up your sleeves and say, “Now, you vagabond, let us have fair and gentlemanly combat,” is just some fantasy. The best strategy is to build up maximum resource in secret and then clobber your opponent over the head while he has his trousers round his ankles. “Shocking and ungentlemanly behaviour!” Yet effective. You need to be like the Peregrine Falcon, like Horus, who hovers just outside space and time, barely perceptible (just a ripple in the air), and then, when the enemy least expects it, drops with tremendous force (the aim being to kill outright).


Colin Powell got it in the Gulf War. He learnt from Vietnam that a long war was a real risk for America—it could divide the country, the left would wreak havoc in the rear (hilarious). So he built up a force to clobber the Iraqis that was disproportionate and then clobbered them with “extreme prejudice”—further, he did so within a context where the objectives were very strictly limited (unlike in Vietnam, where nobody knew what “victory” was exactly—a mistake replicated in Afghanistan and in the Iraq War).


It’s the submarine under water that launches a MIRV barrage, it’s the loitering munition you never see that eviscerates your friend in the trench, it’s the stand-off bomber that spends 48 hours in the air thanks to re-fuelling and then wallops you with a nuclear missile. Indeed, it’s the hypersonic missile. This is what victory looks like.


The first your enemies know of your existence should be when they’re annihilated in a sheet of white light. This is why “the truth” will not win. What wins is the meta-semantic: the truth that wins is that war is the king of all and war is won through deception, camouflage, and ambush—backed up with overwhelming firepower.


To go in with “the truth” can only work as a paradoxical strategic reversal—as when you attack a heavily fortified city by the main road into it because the enemy has discounted that obvious option and expects you to sneak in by the mountains. This is when “to go naked is the best disguise.” It’s similar to the counter-intuitive chat-up line, “Hello, I’d like to have sex with you.” (it works because 98.6% of the people have come up with convoluted ways not to say that; but it only works because the meta-rule is in place).


Carlyle was a sentimentalist, of course—as are all the people who talk about “the truth” winning out. What wins is the most crafty, deceptive, and powerful protagonist—or the person who knows when to do “judo” and come in completely undefended (people like Buddha and Jesus—it requires insane courage levels); and yet even “judo” requires a context to work. Hence the only truth that is perennial and the only truth that wins is that life is war.


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