Thursday, 19 July 2018

Power is information + control of public opinion

You get rid of the system by making it fashionable, among the most fashionable people, to believe the system needs to be gotten rid of.

Today's progressive elites already believe they are rebels. The problem is that the forms of rebellion they are offered are fake – if anything, they make the government stronger – because they constitute actual rebellion against its enemies the traditional Revelationists. Bertrand de Jouvenel, whose On Power you should definitely read, identified 60 years ago that these “enemies” don’t really have a game-plan at all. They keep trying libertarianism, conservatism or even "anarchism" to improve the system. But while you're patching the system up at point X, it's always deteriorating at points A-W and Y-Z. So, these people are just contributing to the cancer and are therefore no real threat.

Break this pattern, on the other hand – introduce genuine anticlericalism, Voltaire style, into the world – and you’d have the progressives on the run because the ideology is simply a clade of Unitarian antinomianism. After all, the Catholic Church still exists for us to kick around, and even the Jesuits have a few churches, but neither are a problem. I’m sure this would have surprised many people even 100 years ago. At some point the universities will meet the same fate. Why not sooner, rather than later?

The present quasi-religious system will be defeated when most intelligent people realise that the New York Times is a government gazette and Harvard is a government seminary, and when the people who have a better plan for the constitution of the Western world create different institutions that perform the same role in a way that's actually independent.

Most university graduates are far to the right of their professors. But the professors, simply by being far to the left, serve as a weight to define the centre. So the moderate ideas of one generation are the extremist ideas of its parents, and the whole system shifts gradually leftward over time. Too gradually to see with the microscope under the lamppost.

But elites matter. For example, people may get their worldviews from TV. But TV reporters get their worldviews from the New York Times, and NYT reporters get theirs at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc. The universities, therefore, continue to matter. Hopefully, the internet will change this. But it’s still too early to tell whether, when, or how. It could quite easily be for the worse. The internet may be a peer-to-peer network, but it's also quite good at broadcast media... *cough Youtube cough*

Universities have a lot of intellectual influence on society. Look at our attitudes toward slavery, race, socialism, environmentalism, homosexuality, women's rights and anything similar in 2018. It’s pretty much what Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge and all the rest were teaching 50 years ago. I guess you could claim the relationship is the other way around and maybe universities just anticipated organic changes in society and studied them like good academics should. But that sounds suspiciously like the vox populi, vox Dei fallacy – the belief in history as progress.

These days the control over universities is secured, as psychologist Jonathan Haidt points out, and you basically have to convince the admissions staff that you're a progressive for them to let you in. Ketman is not hard to practice in such a case, of course, but few teenagers can pull off Ketman with real gusto. But progressivism was always a symptom rather than the real problem. The real problem is the feedback loop between power and education, which is a formula for unanimity and false consensus.

But élites like Noam Chomsky, a relic among professors, still has enormous influence among the younger activists, whose lust for power is not at all lessened by the victory of people like Chomsky. One of the classical symptoms of decadence is that young aristocrats spend all their time on political scheming, which is precisely what we see now. The 9/11 Truthers, Earth Firsters, Palestinists, and other hard-line progressives, whose intellectual passion results from taking progressive doctrine at face value, exhibit a level of religious energy. They don't oppose the traditionalist élites – they oppose anything that is sane, and ironically because power brought responsibility to the Chomsky generation, these old élites have become targets as well. The new activists are young, and their full impact is yet to be felt.

This status quo has created a legal hell. What we truly believe, and the way we act privately, is quite different from what we say we believe, and how we act democratically. The progressives élites have a lot of influence over the latter and next-to-none over the former. Our public values are dominated by a progressive consensus: we vote for parties which increase (or condone, I’m looking at you, National Party) the size and scope of government; everyone asserts and assumes democracy and equality are good; we reject private solutions to problems; we vote for expansions in government while constantly insulting government officials; we love democracy but can't stand voters; and we are privately very pessimistic about all this “progress” that we dare not question.

But it really depends on what you mean by "we." All that’s left of the old élite are remnants of the landed gentry and the 19th/early-20th-century haute bourgeois families whose fortunes were made in finance and industry. They derived their élite status initially by the purchase, and then by the inheritance, of capital assets, through which they gained control and ownership. There are very few new additions to this “traditional caste” today. One enters it by birth and very occasionally by marriage, but enough are converted by progressives and so few are born on the back end that the caste is diminishing. They correspond, in rough terms, to Pareto's lions – “unity, homogeneity, established ways, the established faith, and rule through small, centralised and hierarchical bureaucracies.”

Progressives are the new élite, characterised by skill in the manipulation of ideas and words – they are the “scholar caste.” There are about two or three generations of progressive élites by inheritance alive today, and one can enter this scholar caste by speaking the proper doctrine about climate change, equality, anti-racism and all the rest, and acquiring the proper university credentials (but make sure you go to the correct one). This caste corresponds, in rough terms, to Pareto's foxes – “deceit, cunning, manipulation and co-optation.”

The third chunk is the “white collar caste,” of which Donald Trump is a member. These can enter either the traditional or scholar castes, depending on conferment. This satisfies the psychological need of progressives to convince themselves that they are perfectly egalitarian, and not snobbish or exclusive like the old traditionalists like a teenager treats his dad. The distinction between white-collars like Trump and scholars isn’t that the former doesn't believe in progressivism. It’s that they don't really believe in anything, because belief does not define their caste. Tradition, family and property do. On the other hand, belief is a major defining factor of the progressive scholar caste.

A competitive civil service means people need education to move up ranks in government, which makes education in progressive ideals part of the cycle that ratchets government up. Progressive scholar élites keep the white-collars happy by giving them a low share of distributed goods as they turn them into new progressives. Universities also keep the children of the progressive élite loyal to the ideals of their caste, for fear of shunning. Facilis est descensus Averno! Inheritance taxes and other egalitarian tools prevent young progressives from developing into a rentier class and adopting the attitudes of old élite which would emerge is this was allowed.

This upper-caste structure in the US is relatively stable, but with the tax code and the influence of the universities and mainstream media, progressivism has a control over the culture as long as it maintains its facade of egalitarianism, which sits well with the under-castes: the criminal and immigrant labour populations.

But I'm not so sure about the future of progressivism in the UK, for example where egalitarianism is less entrenched. Britain holds onto a vein of rich and influential people who were not born to the nobility and gentry, can buy country houses, take up traditionally aristocratic hobbies like hunting and shooting (a redneck activity in the US), send their kids to Eton, Harrow or Winchester and gain knighthoods and peerages in just the way that West Indies sugar planters did in the eighteenth (and successful brewers and ironmasters did in the nineteenth centuries).

I suspect that in the UK, the closer the declining traditionalist caste comes to dying, the greater the chance of reviving it because fewer people associate it with the old, tired and stuffy and instead feel a nostalgic reverence. You can see this in the desire for authenticity among the youth and a republishing of things like the "Dangerous Book for Boys." It lists Henley's Invictus and Kipling's If, among other traditionalist favourites, as "poems every boy should know!" This book wouldn’t have been publishable 20 years ago, but parents are snapping it up. There’s definitely something in this.

I remain dark on the UK today, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the cultural traditions of the old Britishness in two or three generations struck back against the upstart progressive-bureaucracy. After all, they defeated the merchants, financiers and industrialists in times gone by. William Pitt’s 18th-century idea that anyone earning £10,000 a year (adjusted for inflation) had a right to a peerage is still current in Britain – and recent Labour governments loved to sell honours like this even as they pretend to hate the tradition it represents. I suspect UK progressivism is more a result of the US conquering Europe in 1945 and the Ivy League’s subsequent control of British universities. But do the UK élite really believe? I don’t think so.

Maybe the traditional caste will try to use the white-collar caste and some elements of the under-castes to upturn the progressive scholars and their immigrant labour and criminal castes? All the propaganda from the progressive media suggests this is precisely the move it is trying to defuse. The propaganda sticks because progressives really only have to mention the example of a real white-collar revolution in the 20th century – Nazi Germany – to scare people away. A high percentage of influential Nazis had no respectable background, either intellectual or aristocratic. It's no accident that US progressives fear and loathe Trump for talking of peasants with pitchforks because it's obvious he's talking about the same thing. I don't see this working and if it did work, I'd want to be very far away from it.

I'm not sure Orwell's world really had a place for white-collars. His proles weren't self-reliant traditionalists; they were closer to the immigrant labour caste, probably. The thing that really struck me about that book is that Outer Party Members had less freedom than the proles – no sex, no chance to chat with friends (or even to really have friends), almost as if they were monks in an ascetic order. They were expected to sacrifice things to Big Brother that the proles weren't. In the information-based environment, proles were relatively free since they were so completely irrelevant to power.

The progressive élite may be the richest caste (I'm not sure) but on some level, they feel they shouldn't be since it places them further from their progressive ideal of themselves. This is the real trap of democracy – it consists of two systems, mob rule (ochlocracy) and self-selecting oligarchy. Both systems suck, and you can oscillate between them indefinitely. Right now, the Republicans are the party of ochlocracy and the Democrats of oligarchy. It's the government of Scylla and Charybdis.

I guess Boromir has many faces.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The hijacking of 'progress'

Progress is not getting the scepticism it deserves. Don’t get me wrong, I think moving forward with this human experiment is a good idea. Too much stasis makes everyone nervous and lazy. If we really do live in Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, it’s tempting to just sit back and let entropy take over. But if you have to live this all again, forever, then wouldn’t it be smarter to make the best of this short 80-90 years? That’s progress.

And maybe it’s just the way I think, but I get suspicious when I see something like “progress” being defined in a particular direction. For instance, the system (the sum of individual vectors pointing in different directions) has framed the conversation to describe success and progress by how many women are in senior roles (which is a job that men created, for men). It’s just assumed that if a person agrees with the idea of progress, then any framing of progress must be accepted. That leaves a big gap for people to exploit with their own self-interests, and there’s plenty of women out there using people’s near-religious acceptance of “progress” as an unmitigated good to wrangle their way into positions of status.

I get that women desire senior roles, but I have yet to hear a convincing argument as to why I, as a man, should want women to be in senior roles. Why can’t I choose to describe progress as some other goal or using another metric? Why does women + role x (number of institution) – (number of men) = progress? Why is progress being defined in this way? Who benefits?

What would happen if the maths instead was: women + capital – men = progress? Don’t bother pulling out your calculator, I know what would happen. Feminists would be in prison as terrorists, or at least there would be no space at mental hospitals. Why? Because agitating for control of property and the true levers of power truly would be a threat to the system, which is precisely why the maths doesn’t sum in this way.

This conversation is controlled which means the true failure of feminism is revealed: it has not liberated women to be better women, it has simply succeeded in making women into men. And not strong, powerful men either, but cubicle drones easily bought off by a few trinkets and conferred titles.

“So, you’re saying the patriarchy does exist after all?” No, this has nothing to do with sexism, nice try. I reject this construction of “progress” because I don’t even want other men to beat me and get into senior roles. I think it’s great that women are forcing the system to adapt to their competitive weaknesses, but don’t try and pass it off like it’s some kind of moral achievement. It’s not. Women are asking the system to want to want them, without actually doing anything to outcompete men.

They are asking the system to change so that they don’t have to change. If women were just as suited for senior roles as men, then more women would be in senior roles. It’s as simple as that. The maths isn’t hard to do. But rather than working their asses off and finding sneaky ways to win inside the present system – just like the men must – women think it’s better to force the system to become more female friendly. Well, sure, but I should get to use my moped to score at the soccer game next week and if you say I can't, then I'll protest your oppressive anti-scooter rules. Down with the system!

The problem lies with forcing men to allow women into senior roles rather than convincing men to change their minds about women being in senior roles. What women don’t seem to understand is that they are giving men more power by letting men open the gates. But what happens if men decide to just shut the gates again? What is a woman’s level two when that happens? What could they really do then if men haven’t really changed their minds? Again, if women had a second option then they would have used it by now. It turns out the only chess move they’ve ever had is to trick men into acting against other men.

That’s why women should want to have a dialogue with frothing-at-the-mouth misogynistic men. Otherwise, he will always feel like society told him to think a certain way. Most men pretend to respect their female boss which makes them more angry and frustrated because they lie to themselves – and her – every day by not being able to say what they feel for fear of violence by other men. We could punch you through a wall, but we don't! The power you have is the power men let you have. Does this make me feel good? No, but that doesn't make it untrue.

The last person women should talk to is a smiling, oppressed man who now submits to other men and allows women into senior roles or wherever. Has he really changed his mind, or is he just smiling because a piece of paper tells him he must smile?

Same goes for diversity compliance as well. If the problem is racism (if it actually exists) or some kind of bias, then the only way to fix this is by logic and reason to argue a person out of their position. Black Americans were freed from slavery by a piece of paper, not by convincing farmers to see black people as people.

If all that creates civility between the races in America is a piece of paper, what it would take to burn that piece of paper?

Monday, 16 July 2018

22 + 1 paragraphs from Rene Girard's masterpiece

The below is long, but it's worth it.

In all my (short) years of reading, no other thinker has re-arranged my mental furniture in quite the same way as French author and thinker Rene Girard. His book Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World is, he admits, essentially a reinvigoration of ideas that stretch at least as far back as one monkey looked at the sky and said to the other monkey "the Sun said you should give me half your stuff." Once you understand his meaning, you'll never see the world the same way again. That's a good thing. And no, the language isn't purposefully obfuscating, like most post-modernists of his 20th Century France. His mission is to enlighten, not frustrate.

Some messages aren't for everyone. Not this. What M Girard has to say should be heard by all:
"People tell us that there is no language worthy of our adherence apart from the deadly equations of science, on the one hand, and on the other a form of speech that acknowledges its own futility and ascetically denies itself the universal dimension. As for the unprecedented events that we are witnessing – the grouping of the whole of mankind into a single society, which proceeds apace – there is nothing to be said, nothing definite or even relevant. None of this is of any interest at all. We must bow down before systems of the infinitely large and the infinitely small because they can prove that their power is explosive. But there is no place for any thinking on the human scale. No one takes the trouble to reflect uncompromisingly about the enigma of a historical situation that is without precedent: the death of all cultures. 
"Condemning humanity to nonsense and nothingness at the very moment when they have achieved the means of annihilating everything in a blink of the eye, entrusting the future of the human habitat to individuals who now have nothing to guide them but their desires and their ‘death instincts'-all of this is not a reassuring prospect, and it speaks volumes about the incapacity of modern science and ideology to master the forces that they have placed in our hands. 
"This complete scepticism, this nihilism with regard to knowledge is often put across just as dogmatically as the various dogmatisms that preceded it. Nowadays people disclaim any certain knowledge and any authority, but with a more assured and authoritarian tone than ever before. 
"We are getting away from one form of Puritanism, only to fall into another. It is now a matter not of depriving mankind of sexuality, but of something we need even more meaning. Man cannot live on bread and sexuality. Present-day thought is the worst form of castration since it is the castration of the signified. People are always on the look-out to catch their neighbours red-handed in believing something or other. We struggled against the Puritanism of our parents only to fall into a form of Puritanism far worse than theirs-a Puritanism of meaning that kills all that it touches. This Puritanism desiccates every text and spreads the most deadening boredom even in the newest situations. 
"But we cannot regain contact with meaning if we rely on the fallacious base that persists from the past. The critical thinking that we have absorbed is opposed to dead meaning, and so, to an even greater extent, are the historic catastrophes of the twentieth century: the failure of ideologies, the great massacres by totalitarian states, and the uneasy peace of the present, which is founded upon the terror spread on all sides by the atom bomb. All of this means that we must abandon not only the illusions of Rousseau and Marx, but anything else of the kind that anyone could come up with. 
"It is important for us to rediscover something in which we can believe; but there must be no cheating, either with the conditions that are forced upon us by the terrible world in which we live or in terms of those that dictate that the most rigorous research must do without any form of ethnocentrism, or even any form of anthropocentrism. 
"What kind of thought can satisfy these necessary conditions? It cannot derive from the masters of the nineteenth century: Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. Nor can it return to Christianity as we find it today, whether in the directly sacrificial version or in the 'progressive' version, which thinks it has done away with sacrifice but remains more than ever in its thrall because it has sacrificed a large part of the text to an ideal, without noticing- -irony of ironies! that this text is the only way of attaining it. Sacrificial Christianity still believes in divine thunderbolts, while its progressive double completely stifles the apocalyptic dimension and so deprives itself of the most valuable card that it has in its hands, under the flimsy pretext that the first priority is to reassure people. It is better to say nothing, in my view, of the people who take the Judaeo-Christian scriptures to be a corpse, and attempt to slow down the process of corruption by giving it massive injections of structuralised Freudo-Marxist chloroform. 
"We are attempting to accept the constraints of the time in which we live. We are going further than our predecessors in our rejection of anthropocentrism, since our anthropology is rooted in the animal kingdom. We have followed through all the forms of critical thought deriving from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and by pushing them even further in the direction of excessive modern iconoclasm, we have come out not simply with a particular mode of the victimage principle, but with a recognition of the principle in itself-as the only truly central and universal principle. The thesis of the founding victim is the logical culmination of the great atheistic bodies of thought of the nineteenth century. It completely deconstructs the sacredness of violence, together with all its philosophical and psychoanalytic substitutes. 
"Within the same line of argument, the Judaeo-Christian text comes to the fore again. As long as the founding victim remains hidden from view, it appears to be more and more similar to all of the others. But then it suddenly comes to seem radically different because the revelation of the founding victim was first achieved in this text, and we have been incapable of recognising or assimilating it, as the text itself predicted. 
"People who stand for a radical intertextual approach would reach exactly the same result if they followed their cherished principle to its conclusion and included ethnological texts, religious texts and texts of persecution in their analysis. They would then see clearly that everything becomes systematic in terms of the scapegoat mechanism, but that at this point a new, unique and hitherto undetected difference comes to the fore-between texts reflecting misapprehensions of the victimage principle, which are all mythic or derived from mythology, and the Judaeo-Christian scriptures, which alone bring these misapprehensions to light 
"Obviously, the revelation that they bring about cannot be dissociated from the dynamic, anti-sacrificial current running all through the Judeo-Christian scriptures. We were able to detect a series of stages in the bible that invariably pointed toward the attenuation and later elimination of the practice of sacrifice. Sacrifice must therefore appear in the light in which the great biblical thinker, Moses Maimonides, placed it in his youth: not as an eternal institution that God genuinely wished to be found, but as a temporary crutch made necessary by the weakness of humankind. Sacrifice is an imperfect means, which humanity must do without. 
"This remarkable thesis is just one testimony among many of the non-sacrificial inspiration that has always been preserved in medieval and modern Judaism. I am bound to mention at this point a Talmudic principle that is often quoted by commentators drawing inspiration from Judaism, like Emmanuel Levinas and André Neher, and is always described as 'well-known'. According to this principle, any accused person whose judges combine unanimity against him ought to be released straight away. Unanimity in accusation is in itself a cause for suspicion! It suggests that the accused is innocent. 
"As a result of our analysis, not only the Old Testament but all the religions of mankind appear as intermediate stages between animal life and the crisis of the present day, when we must place our bets either on the total disappearance of the human race or on our arriving at forms of freedom and awareness that we can hardly imagine, swaddled as we are in myths that now have become, paradoxically, myths of demystification. We think we can bring these myths to a positive conclusion through our own means, but they are actually leading us straight to destruction, now that there are no more Others to demystify, now that naive confidence in science and humanism have given way to the terrifying presence of a violence that is completely unmasked. 
"From the perspective of humanity, there is thus a continuity between past and present experience. Every great crisis has always been a matter of driving violence out of the community, but the religions and humanisms of former times have never made it possible for violence to be expelled without claiming its own share-at the expense of the victim, of the human element that remains outside of all human societies. Today we can envisage something that is both very similar and very different. It is still a matter of rejecting violence and reconciling people with one another, but now there is no violence and no 'outside'. That is why the continuity between all religions, from a human perspective, in no way obviates the fact that there is no contact, no complicity and no compatibility whatsoever between the Logos that has now been finally superseded-the Logos of sacrificial violence-and the Logos that is itself always sacrificed and increases its pressure on us from day to day. 
"That is the most remarkable thing about it, so it seems to me. On the one hand, there is a complete cleavage, and on the other there is a continuity which is capable of reconciling us with the past of all humankind-not to mention the present, the site of our own culture, which does not deserve either the excessive praise once heaped upon it or the bitter condemnation directed against it today. Surely it is extraordinary that the most radical perspective on our cultural history should finally turn out to be the only tolerant and favourable one-the one that is as far as possible from the absurd scorched earth policy Western intellectuals have practised for more than a century? I see this as being the height of good fortune and, in a sense, the height of humour as well. 
"Traditional Christian thinkers could proclaim the cleavage between Christianity and everything else, but they were incapable of demonstrating it. Anti-Christian thinkers can note the continuity, but they are unable to come to terms with its true nature. Among our contemporaries, only Paul Ricoeur, particularly in his fine work La Symbolique du mal, is willing to argue with determination that both positions are necessary. 
"The non-sacrificial reading of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures and the thinking that takes the scapegoat as its basis are capable of coming to terms with the apocalyptic dimension of present times without relapsing into frightened hysteria about the 'end of the world'. They make us see that the present crisis is not an absurd dead-end into which we have been pitched by a scientific error in calculation. Interpreting the present in this way is not an attempt to force outdated meanings on mankind's new situation, nor is it a desperate attempt to stop new meanings from coming across; there is simply no need for frivolous expedients of this kind. We have carved out such a strange destiny for ourselves so that we can bring to light both what has always determined human culture and what is now the only path open to us-one that reconciles without excluding anyone and no longer has any dealings with violence. 
"In the light of the non-sacrificial reading, the crisis of the present day does not become in any way less threatening. But what it does take on some hope for the future-which means a genuinely human significance. A new kind of humanity is in the process of gestation; it will be both very similar to and very different from the one featured in the dreams of our Utopian thinkers, now in their very last stages. We are now absolutely unable to understand and for a long time we shall still understand only very inadequately, the basis of mankind’s suffering and the way of setting mankind free. But we can already see that here is no point in condemning one another of maligning our past. 
"What is important above all is to realise that there are no recipes; there is no pharmakon any more. Recipes are not what we need, nor do we need to be assured-our need is to escape from meaninglessness. However large a part of 'sound and fury signifying nothing’ there may be in public and private suffering, in the anguish of mental patients, in the deprivations of the poor and in the rivalries of politics, these things are not lacking in significance, if only because at each moment they are open to the ironic reversal of the judgement against the judge that recalls the implacable functioning of the gospel law in our world. We must learn to love this justice, which we both carry out and fall victim to. The peace that passes human understanding can only arise on the other side of this passion for 'justice and judgement', which still possesses us but which we are less and less likely to confuse with the totality of being. 
"I hold that truth is not an empty word or a mere 'effect' as people say nowadays. I hold that everything capable of diverting us from madness and death, from now on, is inextricably linked with this truth. But I do not know how to speak about these matters. I can only approach texts and institutions and relating them to one another seems to me to throw light in every direction. I am not embarrassed to admit that an ethical and religious dimension exists for me, but it is the result of my thinking rather than an external preconception that determined my research. I have always believed that if I managed to communicate what some of my reading meant to me, the conclusions I was forced to reach would force themselves on other people as well. 
I began to breathe more freely when I discovered that literary and ethnological critiques are inadequate-even if they are not totally worthless-when confronted with the literary and cultural texts they claim to dominate. This was before I came to the Judaeo-Christian scriptures. I never even imagined that those texts were there for the purpose of passive enjoyment, in the same way as we look at a beautiful landscape. I always cherished the hope that meaning and life were one. Present-day thought is leading us in the direction of the valley of death and it is cataloguing the dry bones one by one. All of us are in this valley but it is up to us to resuscitate meaning by relating all the texts to one another without exception, rather than stopping at just a few of them. All issues of ‘psychological health' seem to me to take second place to a much greater issue-that of meaning which is being lost or threatened on all sides but simply awaits the breath of the Spirit to be reborn. Now all that is needed is this breath to recreate stage by stage Ezekiel's experience in the valley of the dead: 
"The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry. And he said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?' And I answered, 'O Lord God, thou knowest.' Again he said to me, 'Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.' So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host (Ezekiel 37, 1-10)"

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

John Stuart Mill and the Christian legacy of open borders

The thing about democracy is that the presence of Mexicans in the US electoral system tends to turn the American political system into the Mexican political system, its government into the Mexican government and the US into Mexico.

I have some questions for open border advocates: Do you live in Mexico? Do you want to live in Mexico? If so, why? If not, why not? Which scares you more? MS-13, or global warming? If the latter, you may be a progressive.

Do they seriously believe that the difference between the US and Mexico is down to climate, geology, electoral laws, or anything other than demographic disparities? Is there some magic force – the public-school system, perhaps – that turns the children of Mexican immigrants into Norman Rockwell characters? What "empirical basis" do they have for this belief?

Okay, I'm retarded. I just don't get it. I mean, I have trouble understanding why people believe in democracy in the first place. But given that so many do, surely importing vast breeding colonies of foreigners so that one side can keep winning elections makes any questions about abortion rights or voting machines or "superdelegates" rather silly.

The recent hysterical reaction to kids in cages at the US/Mexico border shows many Americans think there’s no essential moral distinction between national border controls and apartheid. They think both are evil because it assigns an arbitrary classification to a newborn baby who has done nothing at all to deserve it.

The grand idea of apartheid was that two separate nations – in the Latin sense of the word – could live under one government participating in the same labour market and all that fine stuff. Since apartheid no longer exists, it's hard to call it a success. But if the Afrikaners and Rhodesians had put fences, they wouldn't have had to flee their homes and countries. (Which they stole, of course, from the noble savage, blah blah. I can't think of anywhere else that might have happened.)

Anyway, while I understand the strategy, I do have some concerns about the whole open-borders thing. My first concern is the physical security of myself and my family. My second concern is the desire not to live in a Third World slum. I'm not sure what my third concern is, but I suspect that people like Voltaire, Hume and Smith would share it. The existence of ancien-regime France proves that inequalities in prosperity and civilization can exist stably within a single country, suggesting that open borders could work perfectly well without democracy.

Even today, Dubai handles its hordes of Pakistani gastarbeiter effectively. Although their treatment reminds me of the good old days of Hendrik Verwoerd. Shh – don't let the NYT hear about it. Dubai's system works because it has a complete absence of politics. (Or almost complete. There are some worrying signs of union activity.)

In a democracy, all people are soldiers. There is never any shortage of power-hungry people ready to convert any population, no matter how illiterate, ignorant and bigoted, into what India calls a vote bank. Perhaps the gastarbeiters can't vote. But they can still cause trouble! This gives the Sopranos, Gracchi and Alinskys an opportunity to say, quite reasonably, that if you just give the deprived some cash they won’t get so angry: “You wouldn’t want something bad to happen, would ya?”

Mr Trump wants to deport the illegals, destroy the ghetto gangs, fire the poverty pimps and race hustlers. In other words, hit the sclerotic, lying mafia state where it really hurts – by smashing its vote bank. The open borders team isn’t compassionate, they’re scared of losing their power-base.

There are two kinds of intellectuals: those who try to make some sense of this gigantic, horrifying mess we call the real world, and those who seek to impose their preconceptions on it. The former group isn’t useful to the State. The latter sometimes isn’t, but then again, sometimes it is.

After 1945, control of the Third World was transferred from a political faction which believed in human neurological biodiversity, to a faction which believed in human neurological uniformity. Neither of these sides back then knew jack, by modern standards, about biology. But the winner didn’t care about evidence. It depended on power, as it still does. (If you have any evidence of neurological uniformity across all living human subpopulations, you should forward it to Jim Goad and John Derbyshire, both of whom have been looking for evidence their entire adult lives.)
John Stuart Mill

Ask yourself: has the quality of government in the Third World improved since WWII? Advocates of open borders believe their goodness means they deserve to be in power. Have their good thoughts led to good things? If you go to Google News and search for "poisoned arrows," what are the results? If you read travellers' accounts of Africa in the 1930s, how does this compare?

Ever since Mill wrote his response to Thomas Carlyle on The Negro Question and probably well before, writers in the English Protestant tradition have been defending the blatantly theological idea that "all men are created equal." In the absence of any evidence for this idea, one can always say that there’s no evidence it isn’t true. Of course, the same strategy can “prove” the existence of God, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster…

Here is Mill:
“We are told to look at Haiti: what does your contributor know of Haiti? ‘Little or no sugar growing, black Peter exterminating black Paul, and where a garden of the Hesperides might be, nothing but a tropical dog-kennel and pestiferous jungle.’ Are we to listen to arguments grounded on hear-says like these? In what is black Haiti worse than white Mexico? If the truth were known, how much worse is it than white Spain?”
Note the ugly stench of anti-Papism in that last sentence. Haiti today can't really be described as a "pestiferous jungle" – it's more of a pestiferous desert. The idea of "white Mexico" is also fascinating if you think of Latin Americans today.

Here is more Mill (I know it’s long, but it’s worth it):
“It is by analytical examination that we have learned whatever we know of the laws of external nature; and if he had not disdained to apply the same mode of investigation to the laws of the formation of character, he would have escaped the vulgar error of imputing every difference which he finds among human beings to an original difference of nature. As well might it be said, that of two trees, sprung from the same stock one cannot be taller than another but from greater vigour in the original seedling. Is nothing to be attributed to soil, nothing to climate, nothing to difference of exposure — has no storm swept over the one and not the other, no lightning scathed it, no beast browsed on it, no insects preyed on it, no passing stranger stript [sic] off its leaves or its bark? If the trees grew near together, may not the one which, by whatever accident, grew up first, have retarded the other’s development by its shade? 
“Human beings are subject to an infinitely greater variety of accidents and external influences than trees and have infinitely more operation in impairing the growth of one another; since those who begin by being strongest, have almost always hitherto used their strength to keep the others weak. What the original differences are among human beings, I know no more than your contributor, and no less; it is one of the questions not yet satisfactorily answered in the natural history of the species. This, however, is well known — that spontaneous improvement, beyond a very low grade — improvement by internal development, without aid from other individuals or peoples — is one of the rarest phenomena in history; and whenever known to have occurred, was the result of an extraordinary combination of advantages; in addition doubtless to many accidents of which all trace is now lost.  
“No argument against the capacity of negroes for improvement, could be drawn from their not being one of these rare exceptions. It is curious, withal, that the earliest known civilization was, we have the strongest reason to believe, a negro civilization. The original Egyptians are inferred, from the evidence of their sculptures, to have been a negro race: it was from negroes, therefore, that the Greeks learnt their first lessons in civilization; and to the records and traditions of these negroes did the Greek philosophers to the very end of their career resort (I do not say with much fruit) as a treasury of mysterious wisdom.”
This is perhaps the first recorded sighting of the "Black Athena" hypothesis. The most impressive attempt to prove Mill correct was the Jesuit Reductions of Paraguay where an extremely non-progressive patriarchal Big Brother created something like a European society from a population of Guarani Indians, fresh in from the rainforest. Unfortunately, when the Jesuits were expelled, the Guarani went back to the forest. Read about it – the episode is fascinating.

But really, all of Mill's arguments turned out to be false, so he falls back on the old "no evidence" routine. Yet – in the marketplace of ideas – for some reason Mill wins and Carlyle loses. Don't you find that slightly disturbing? Doesn't it make you want to ask where the open borders people get their ideas?

Do the open borders crowd seriously believe that the difference between Haiti and Japan is climate or geography? What would it take to turn Haiti into Japan? If you had a trillion dollars, the US Marines, NPR and the Society of Jesus in its black-robed prime, could the job be done? And would it stay done? Paraguay suggests the answer is no.

In reality, the idea that modern human populations are, like dog breeds, the product of strong recent selection – I have even seen the word "domestication" – is pretty well established at this point. There is no good reason to think that the European or Asian hunter-gatherers of 10,000 years ago could adapt instantly to modern life, let alone humans of 100,000 or 1 million years ago. And if you flick this around, I would make a crappy hunter-gatherer.

What kinds of societal dysfunction would ancient populations display if a time machine transported them to 2018? Probably the same dysfunctions we see in all human populations which haven’t experienced many generations of selection for successful adaptation to urban lifestyles.

But it’s entirely possible a good human breeder could turn Australian aboriginals into Ashkenazi Jews in twenty or thirty generations, and vice versa. Belyaev's work with the silver foxes is impressive evidence of this. Unfortunately, I don't think I’ll live for 900 years, so I’d prefer to have borders between me and all populations of humans who aren’t adapted to civilisation – as much for their benefit as mine.

Yet even with zero evidence that "all men are created equal," why do so many people believe it? Perhaps because of the West's Christian heritage? And more specifically, the English Dissenter tradition of primitive Christianity, which evolved into Whiggery and gave us John Stuart Mill and today’s progressives? It's easy to call yourself an atheist. Anyone can do it. But when I talk to my “atheist” friends, it’s painfully obvious that getting rid of the whole package of assumptions that came along with Christian theism is proving far more difficult.

Obviously, truth doesn’t matter because, in a democracy, power is a function of public opinion and in a fascist state power is a function of how many thugs you have on speed dial. Both accomplish the same goal – influence over the decisions of the State. The difference between fascism and democracy is that instead of corrupting army officers, a democracy corrupts intellectuals.

Modern Western governments are jewellery stores full of rings of power. Our official university system and official press is the most sophisticated machine for managing public opinion ever constructed. It makes the Catholic Church look like the Buddha's bo tree. And everyone who wears the rings – yes, even the immigrant children lovers – sees himself as a Boromir, wielding that dark power for good rather than evil.

Noam Chomsky
Can power be used for good? Can the State be improved? Absolutely. But not as much as you think. Across the history of the 20th century, the pattern you see repeatedly is that those willing to play harder and less scrupulously win and the jewellery store grows and grows and grows. Even worse, “conservatism” creates an illusion that the system can reform itself. In other words, it distracts its subjects from the genuinely dangerous idea that maybe the whole ring shop should just be dumped, shopkeeper and all, into Mount Doom.

Intellectual shouldn’t get involved with power or impact or influence but stick to thinking what they think, typing it up and posting it where anyone can read it, like on a blog. Intellectuals should focus on reality, not public opinion. You can't throw away everyone else's ring, but you can start by throwing away yours.

The thing about cultural hegemony is that someone always has it. Open border, transnational progressivism is a culture, too. It's a set of values, beliefs and perspectives which isn’t exactly tolerant of contradictions. What culture is? And if those ideas aren't "Anglo-European," what are? It’s not like they came from Indonesia.

In fact, even "Anglo-European" is too narrow a description here. The West is still in the grips of a battle between British and Protestant, liturgical and pietist Christianities (low-church, high-church), with the racist replacing that old standby, the Papist. If you look at US fundamentalism as a sort of hick neo-Catholicism, the pattern of Anglophone history is unbroken. And the connection between Puritan and progressive is obvious. The open borders discussion often has an extremely rarefied moral tone. Again, very Puritan.

But the idea that the purpose of government is to create a safe, pleasant and open society for people to live ordinary civilized lives, should be more popular than it is. Mr Trump believes a sovereign State with a $3 trillion budget should at least be able to secure its cities and clear them of militias. If his border wall can achieve this, maybe then we can have a mature conversation about immigration.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Runaway by Norman Rockwell

The Runaway, 1958 by Norman Rockwell.

I like this painting.

If you look at a large print of it, you'll notice the cop’s eyes aren't focused on the kid. He's facing the boy but looking at the bundle out of the corner of his eye. The cop sees what's at stake, and you're supposed to see it too.

Rockwell painted what you're supposed to see in the painting, but it's in the details.

The guy behind the counter is obviously a seedy character. Consider the greasy hair, cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth. He looks like he's been up all night.

The cop, by contrast, is immaculate. His boots are polished, he's clean shaven, sporting a fresh close-cropped haircut, and his expression is not as easy (or insidious) as the other guy's smile.

The kid is running away. Rockwell is showing the kid at a metaphorical fork in the road. One way leads to order, duty, honour and respect. The other leads to ill repute, and in Rockwell's world, decay. Decay is everywhere in Rockwell's paintings, it's at the edges. Decency, honour and justice keep decay at bay.

Why a cop, and not a businessman? Because only the cop (law and order) makes routine contact with the world's seedy underbelly and remains uncorrupted. These are the two people best suited to tell the kid what his future holds if he continues with his choice to run away. The counter guy's cocky too-familiar smile betrays he's not giving the kid a straight story. And his raised eyebrow means he's sizing the kid up, taking him in.

But the cop is leaning down, and he's not really smiling. He's more reassuring than friendly. The cop is calmly going to talk this kid into returning home. He's looking at the bundle and he's focused. He knows what he must do. It's his job to send this kid home.

That's why he's still wearing his hat. Cops today take their hats off when they eat and back when this was painted everybody took their hat off when they sat down to eat. The hat is still on the cop's head because he isn't there to eat. He's there to work. He's there to get the kid on his way home again.

And this innocent apple-cheeked kid is all the while blissfully oblivious to everything going on right in front of his face.