HOME INDEX  

Caves, Mines, and Social Engineering—An Analogy

by Cass Hewitt

You know, whenever people talk about social engineering, or any of its variants, which all state, one way or another, that people in groups, (societies) can, and indeed should, be "engineered", meaning controlled and structured according someone's or some few peoples' ideas of what makes a good purpose or not, I always remember some thoughts I used to get when I went caving.

I used to be a "speilio" as we were known, (or "Trogs" to ourselves, short for troglodytes). I always enjoyed the recreation very much. Quite apart from the fact caves tend to be away in the bush with the pleasures of camping and solitude part of it all, the cave environment has charms; the glinting of the golden light off soft, diffuse carbide lamps, slightly damp cool clean air feeling as though it has been filtered, that indescribable smell of earth and mold and rock, and the beautiful, fascinating shapes of rocks and walls; layers of compressed shell fragments millions of years old and of course formations; towering in delicate shades of white to deep gold flowstone gleaming like satin brocade, straws, stalactites, columns, shawls, bacon rashers, all glittering and sparkling like some impossible fairy land deep underground.

When friends and acquaintances looked dubious at my enthusiastic ravings, it was always for one reason, and I would wait for the inevitable "but aren't you afraid?". To which I would always reply "No, why should I be? If I can get in, I can get out; I know how to make sure I don't get lost, I know my own capabilities and limits, what's to be afraid of?" The response would always be "But what about rock falls, cave-ins, gas explosions?"

And I would explain, You're thinking about the wrong thing. You see, a cave is a natural formation. It forms itself over long periods of time. Everything works as it naturally has to. Water takes the path of least resistance, and finds the weaknesses. Soft soils and loose rocks are washed away, leaving only huge, strong hard rocks supporting each other freely. The stresses and strains of the structure are naturally and optimally distributed, evening out and neutralizing each other to produce the most stable of environments. Of course, earthquakes or occasional unforeseen cataclysms can cause changes, but then they are very rare and do that anywhere, anytime, anyway.

What you are thinking about, I would say, are mines. Mines are a human engineered intervention on the substructure—artificially constructed, they cut across naturally self-supporting fault lines, they cut deeply into rock where there are no natural vents for air or water, undermining (sic) the natural distribution of stresses, strains and ventilation. They have to be continually reinforced to counteract the damage and danger they are causing to the structure. You have to know very thoroughly what you are doing to construct a mine that is safe, and all too often they aren't safe.

As anyone who has ever worked in or around mines knows, they are highly dangerous environments. Often the reinforcement needed is insufficient or the maintenance essential to keep structures from increasing instability is inefficient or missing altogether, This happens because humans make mistakes, especially many working together. Problems are not diagnosed, or are misdiagnosed, errors of judgment are made; emotions get in the way of logical thinking. Then disasters occur—roof cave-ins, (which actually rarely happen in caves), tunnel collapses, gas pocket build ups, and explosions. It's mines you are thinking of that are dangerous, not caves.

It's the same, I've always thought, with social engineering. If you leave people alone to develop, between themselves, naturally, as their nature in accordance with reality directs, you end up with a safe environment which is structured to be stable, with all the stresses and strains safely distributed. But when you start to engineer people in groups, i.e. "societies" , as politicians, bureaucrats, and the power hungry do, you introduce artificial constructs, damage natural force lines, and get a build up of potential disasters which, sooner or later, are going to result in a collapse or an explosion.

Trying to find examples one is confronted with an embarrassment of riches. Wherever you look, you can see the same disastrous social effects caused by some deliberate form of "engineering" on some aspect of society, which left to itself, was actually developing very nicely.

Lets look at education. Remembering the not-to-distant past—people often forget how recent state engineered "education" is—education was made affordable by the contributions of a particular group, perhaps those in a small township, but usually just what parents paid. Where you pay, you say. Parents had a lot to contribute to the education of their children, and could pick and choose which school best suited their requirements. Often, where there was some poverty, children got at least the basics, and many parents home schooled. Of those children who "missed out", many became self taught and turned out very well. Ultimately, everyone would decide for their own children changes which their own experiences had engendered—the school of thought that says, "I didn't go to school, and I'm going to make damn sure my children do".

Now, to get to the best of what education was going to be obviously was going to take time. Most worthwhile things do. So the State decided to blast a mine through, called Education Departments, run by governments and bureaucrats. The results of our engineered school system are too well documented to need much comment here. Read Fred's latest in the Autonomist. Anyone who has taught at Universities, as I have, can testify to the growing illiteracy and general inability to think, reason, read or even behave with any manners that are a growing concern regarding children coming out of an engineered "education". Parents who have no say in the philosophies pushed at their children against their will are starting to "vote with their feet". Home schooling is again on the rise in an effort to combat the rise of uneducated young.

Or we could look at medicine. Years ago, before medical care was "engineered" according to a particular agenda, Doctors and Surgeons worked pretty well according to their own dictates. Country Doctors were famous for being poorly paid but highly valued members of their community. Many were researchers. It is forgotten nowadays that Koch's Postulates, by which a disease could be confirmed as being of bacterial origin, were designed by a country Doctor investigating cases of Anthrax in his region. The principles of pasteurization and Jenner's immunization were all developed long before "Socialized" medicine were even thought of. Doctors and Surgeons wishing to become rich simply got very good, and acquired a wealthy clientele. When I am asked "what of the poor in this society", I always ask, "If you lived in such a society, would you want to do something voluntarily to help them?" the answer of course is, Yes. So, I say, "why do you assume you'd be the only one?"

Up until the advent of socialized medicine, women from the upper classes spent a large part of their time "repaying" the fact of their self perceived privilege by becoming active members of charities and charity hospitals which flourished. The largest of these, in Britain became the world renowned Doctor Bernardos Childrens Hospital. The system was "on its way" to becoming the perfect vehicle for a scientifically based health care. But... not fast enough for the impatient "engineers" who mined it and blasted unnatural structures of forced payments in the form of taxes, limited payment for Doctors, unnecessary and unwanted operating infrastructures, rules and regulations to the point where there is not a single Western Model hospital free of the disastrous effects of these unnatural constraints. Waiting lists grow, inefficiency abounds, dissatisfaction is rife.

We could go on, but surely the point is made.

It bears repeating; for something which should be allowed to grow naturally in order to find the perfect structure, where all the natural forces are operating optimally together to construct a perfect, strong, safe infrastructure we need - - time.

Everything good, and worth having, takes time. Some errors are made and corrected; superb ideas need to be spread, taught and demonstrated. Generations need to learn the errors of their forbears. But the end results are so strong that, along with the occasionally required "tweaking" they will last and be optimally effective. History has examples aplenty.

The greatest disaster is the impatience that believes only one modus operandi is acceptable, and it must be put forcibly in place right now. The social engineers blast, destroy, and build rickety, unsafe if pretty looking mines. And we spend generations, and millions of dollars, trying to fix the problems—just waiting for the whole thing to collapse on our heads.

[I would like to add that I am not speaking against actual mines built in order to obtain valuable minerals. They are indeed dangerous places, but they have an excellent purpose in human life; unlike the attempt to copy their existence onto human societies.]

—(03/30/05)


Cass Hewitt is a freelance writer/journalist living in Fremantle, Australia. She is also a medical professional, with a background in genetic research. Cass Hewitt's articles in The Autonomist are exclusive to The Autonomist. You may contact Cass via The Autonomist or at.