The Reign of Quantity Rampage

“The Reign of Quantity” is a book by Rene Guenon that is one of those few that will really change a person who reads it attentively and open to a new understanding of the world. While almost impossible to distill into the nutshell required by a blog posting it is sufficient to say that the thesis is simply that there is a paradox presented by the post-modern notion that everything is advancing and progressing and “getting better”, yet why does it seem that the essences of things both materially and “spiritually” are becoming lost or degraded and of lesser quality than in the Good Old Days? It is demonstrable that the Industrial Revolution has accomplished its goal of the proliferation of goods and services to more human beings on the planet than was ever conceived possible before the advent of progressive modernism. Long ago a spoon had to be carved from wood or hammered out of metal or cast one at a time, and each one was produced by a craftsman or artisan who actually cared about his work. When one had a spoon he cared for it, cleaned it after every use and watched out that it was not lost or discarded, because it would be needed again for the next meal of soup or porridge, and one did not go to the utensil drawer and pull out another one while the one just used awaited the next cycle in the dishwasher. The items in our lives were few, unique, and precious. They were also well made and made to last. With the advent of mass production we could crank out hundreds and thousands of spoons an hour never touched by human hands, sell them for a fraction of the cost, and now everyone has a drawer full of them. Since plastic became available the concept of disposable almost everything arrived, and now we really don’t care how well it’s made or if we can use it again, because it is destined for the trash can at the food court or the picnic site where we want convenience at no cost which seems to be the driving force since the Mad Men took over. The mania for Quantity has eclipsed any sense of the need for Quality.

If you were lovingly to grow the most luscious, beautiful, flavorful tomatoes in your personal garden and expect any reward for your efforts other than your own personal enjoyment or to your friends as a gift, you can forget it. In a world where all commodities are simply Product, your precious tomatoes will be treated like all the rest of the mealy, fibrous, bland, and tasteless Product produced by Agribusiness and picked way too early so as to survive the marketing engine and hopefully “ripen” on the truck ride to the grocery store but not a moment too soon. There are times when I simply look at what’s on display and cannot bring myself to endure one more crappy piece of fruit and wait until my own crop starts to bear which is for only a few weeks out of the year, but it’s worth the wait. Once again, Quantity has trumped Quality, and no, you can’t always get what you want.

This is not to say that the quality of certain things is no longer appreciated by certain individuals, but mass production and mass marketing has produced mass consumption (and mass disposal) of products that cannot all, by definition, be of a quality that we might expect in vain. Sure, you can get a Rolex or a watch that keeps pretty good time for twenty bucks. But you will always get what you pay for.

We live now in the midst of the Reign of Quantity, where the highest virtue is not “how good is it?” but “how much of it can I get?” I don’t care what kind of crap I put in my mouth as long as I can get a lot of it for cheap so I can afford the necessary antacid required to wash it all down. I don’t care if my entertainment is enlightening or makes me a better person for having been entertained by it; I just need something to make enough noise to give me the illusion I’m not alone. Sure the TV is on 24/7, but at least someone seems to care.

Everything has been affected by the virus of Quantity. Patent Drawing is one of the best examples. As anyone can see from a study of early carefully hand drawn illustrations of Patents in the Old Days this whole thing was seen as an art form and the closest thing to fine art in the area of Technical Illustration. And as Globalization has spread the gospel of Quantity all over the world we see that not everyone is on the same page regarding what makes Patent Drafting good or bad, right or wrong. I have frequently had to take a set of drawings for a Design Patent prepared for the USPTO conforming to the strict requirements for points of view and shading cast by a certain angle of light source and “transform” them into drawings acceptable for a foreign filing in China which does not allow shading of any kind! Shading produces a dramatic sense of 3 dimensions and distinguishes the surface of an element from a space adjacent to it—it pops out the image with a sense of realism. The Chinese do not allow any such illusory artistic technique, but want only line drawings showing the outline of the object and its basic shape from the same cardinal points of view. I suppose the examiner is supposed to deduce the rest from this “suggestion” of a Design. Many European countries are the same way, but almost everywhere it’s a little bit different, so we cater the goods where and when we must.

So, who’s to say that the American Way is better, you ask? It is not always better, but in this business of Patent Drawing my experience shows that we at least started off with the right idea, and as the explosion of inventiveness has it’s inevitable result we find more and more the quality of drawings is slipping, and some of this it the fault of the PTO itself which relaxed very strict drawing requirements over a decade ago. Electronic production of drawings is quick and easy, but that doesn’t guarantee the results. I find more and more examiners are unfamiliar with traditional practice and some simply object out of hand to shading or techniques which they have not been trained to appreciate. It really has become sometimes almost anyone’s guess as to what will be allowed without objection and what will be kicked back on a whim of the examiner.

While no one can dictate or legislate Quality any more than they can morality, those with eyes to see will know it when they see it. And those who know how to produce it cannot settle for less.