Monthly Archives: December 2018

Demotic Decadence

Decadent art is easy to spot, but hard to define:

That’s an illustration by Aubrey Beardsley, the most Decadent artist of them all, for The Yellow Book, the publication most associated in the contemporary public mind with Decadence.  Beardsley’s aesthetic is as strange and arresting now as it was then, but it’s impossible to say just why it strikes us that way.

The medical term d’art for this kind of thing is ideopathic, which snarky modern residents have reduced to the acronym SBI: Something Bad Inside.  I can’t tell you now what’s wrong with Beardsley, any more than a Matthew Arnold type could’ve told you then, but a culture that produces and promotes a Beardsley has Something Bad Inside (I write as someone with a soft spot for the Decadents in general, and Beardsley in particular).

Decadence (or Aestheticism, or whatever “technical” label you want to slap on it) was a minor art movement, but the whole Fin de siècle thing was very, very real.  The bourgeoisie were just as sick in their way.  David Stove coined the term horror victorianorum for that oppressive feeling we get when confronted with High Victorian pop culture, especially interior design.  If the Decadents over-focused on the seamy side of life — you just know the lady in that Beardsley illustration has a social disease — then High Victorian burghers went too far the other way, over-focusing on gloopy mawkish sentimentality and “coziness.”  Browse through this and especially this, and pretty soon you too will long to drown in a pool of absinthe and prostitutes.  Both are desperate attempts to shut out the dirty, clanging, hustling, machine-driven world that was just about to crush them.

I get a very Fin de siècle vibe in America these days.  Ours is a demotic decadence — whereas back then you needed to be independently wealthy to be an aesthete, now all you need is an internet connection and Tumblr.  Other than prose style, what’s the difference between Oscar Wilde and a Furry?  I’ll give you a few minutes to think it over.

So, too, with our “middle class.”  Thanks to cheap credit and free wifi, everyone’s “middle class” in America now.  Forget the stuff on the New York Times bestseller list; look at what’s for sale in airports.  “Magic realism,” of either the Dan Brown or the Laurell K. Hamilton variety.  Pure escapism, but following the same pattern:  There’s a whole different world out there, just beneath the surface, full of wonders and terrors… but it’s safe, because Law and Order always prevail in the end.  Sound familiar?

Even the explosion in “horror” these past twenty years looks familiar.  Leftists dismissed the Twilight series as “the abstinence vampires,” and I’ll admit that’s pretty funny, but absolutely no one remarked on how that’s a straight-up inversion of Dracula (1897).  Stoker’s novel was the Victorian equivalent of Cinemax After Dark — the closest thing to porn you could legally purchase — but the theme of both books is exactly the same: Fear of unleashed sexuality, which in 1897 seemed an obvious consequence of the machine age.  So, too, with The Walking Dead.  Pretentious fans of that show (are there any other kind?) like to point out that it’s the survivors of the zombie apocalypse who are the real walking dead — with society gone, everyone reverts back to their most horrible animal instincts.  Paging Dr. Jekyll….  Here too, the theme is the precariousness of Law and Order — any minute now, Science might unleash something that will destroy us all (see also The War of the Worlds (also 1897), in which a vastly technologically superior civilization is brought down by a mere virus).

As much fun as this would be in a Comparative Lit class (if they still had one where you were allowed to read White guys), there’s a point here, and it’s this:  The Fin de siècle — the “vertigo years” of Philipp Blom’s wonderful cultural history — ended with the biggest possible bang.  The “statesmen,” as I suppose we must call them, of 1914 were middle-aged dilettantes — Nicholas II was 46, Wilhelm II was 55, George V was 49 (and Lloyd George 51).  These men’s salad days were the 1880s, when the coming machine age was visible to everyone, but still on the horizon.  By the time they were called upon to lead the machine age, the machine age had passed them by.  They fundamentally misunderstood the world they led into war, and so the war they led was orders of magnitude more terrible than any other.

We’re at the dawn of a new machine age.  One of things I keep banging on about here is how new “Social Media” really is.  Most people who read blogs like this don’t really get it, even if we’re on Twitter and Facebook and whatnot.  For us it’s a tool, nothing more, in the same way BBS and email were back in the dial-up days —  handy and fun, but they don’t fundamentally change our human relationships.  None of us, I’d venture to guess, trust anything important to text messages — we might text the wife to please grab a loaf of bread while you’re out at the store, but we wouldn’t try to solve a serious relationship problem that way.

The upcoming generation would.  They’re different, the way Beardsley was different — easy to spot, nearly impossible to describe.  They live online, in a way that we don’t — that we can’t, even if we were early and vigorous adopters of technology.  There’s a fundamental disconnect, which is why our cultural world is simultaneously so cozy and paranoid, just like the 1890s.

What’s going to happen when our crisis comes?

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The Decline of History Majors

Some folks have brought this to my attention:

Since 2008, the number of students majoring in history in U.S. universities has dropped 30 percent, and history now accounts for a smaller share of all U.S. bachelor’s degrees than at any time since 1950.

As Reynolds notes, History is a paradigm case of “get woke, go broke.”  History, more than any other Liberal Art, is now nothing more than a SocJus mad lib: “___ oppressed ____ through ___, ____. and ____.”  The rest is just details, and ten minutes Wiki-surfing with the syllabus in hand will give you those.

I’d been planning to retire for a long time anyway, but the final straw came a few years ago when an engineer buddy of mine asked to take my midterm, just to see if things were as bad as I claimed.  I said sure, and gave him the exact same rules as the students: Open note (meaning, access to the class website), 60 minutes.  Now, keep in mind that this is a guy who’s so left-brained he can’t spell a word the same way twice.  The last history class he took was the one we took together back in high school, decades ago, when the Soviet Union was still very much a going concern.

He got a B-.  “I probably could’ve done better,” he admitted, “but Monday Night Football was on.”

It’s no use to say “give harder exams” — universities are businesses and the customer is always right.  A professor with a rep as a hard grader won’t be a professor for too long, because students will simply avoid him…. and if you assign him to teach the required Intro classes (because he’s got tenure, so he has to teach something), students will simply switch majors.  Thus everyone gets As, and since this is true in every other Liberal Art (for the same reasons), the choice of major for most students comes down to a mix of “what are you going to do with that?” and “the classroom experience.”

History is the easiest imaginable A — I’m really not kidding when I say any one of you, right now, could graduate summa from any History department in the land without breaking a sweat — but it never shows up in job requirements.  Plus the classroom experience is the pits.  “Business” isn’t the most popular major in America because it’s practical (though it’s more practical than History).  It’s popular because the profs in the business school kinda sorta look like normal humans.  Even now students still have to spend a little bit of time in the classroom.  Who would you rather be locked in with, a guy who looks like he might know how a clothes iron works, or a blue-haired, face-shrapneled, sleeve-tattooed, unshaven androgynous blob that changes xzhyr pronouns every few weeks?

And all that is before you get to the subject matter itself.  Reynolds notes that History majors are down most in the elite schools.  This is because profs at elite schools get to teach what they want to teach, and what they want to teach is their current research in their micro-calibrated sub-sub-sub specialty.  In case you’re not familiar with academia’s arcana, one doesn’t get a doctorate in “History.”  That’s what it says on the sheepskin, but to get the sheepskin you have to write a dissertation, which is a substantial piece of original research.  Since we’re pretty clear on the big questions — your “what caused the Civil War?”-type stuff — that only leaves the little ones.  So you get dissertations on sheep-shearing techniques in the reign of Henry VII or something…. but, of course, this is academia, where everything’s uber-politicized, so you get dissertations on the Marxist interpretation of sheep-shearing techniques in the reign of Henry VII.  And because that shit gets grant money (don’t ask me how; God alone knows) and because grant money is the department’s lifeblood, said professor is going to teach HIST 302: Sheep-shearing Techniques in the Reign of Henry VII: A Marxist Approach.

Why on earth would anyone major in that?

Alas, that’s not a rhetorical question.  There’s a bipartite answer: Either you really love sheep-shearing, or you really love Marxism.  There are always some few dorks who are really into History’s obscurities (and they’re actually the worst kids to have in class, I’d take fifty hopelessly bored sorority girls over one enthusiast, but that’s a rant for another day).  But there are always several more dorks who are really into protesting stuff, and that’s where the History major really shines.  These snowflakes, it’s safe to say, are Liberal Arts majors, because only Liberal Arts majors would be dumb enough to go to Georgia Tech, where they really do mean tech, and demand an end to quizzes, homework, studying, and class attendance.  The History major is perfect for these people… or it would be, if there weren’t a dozen other majors — Psych, Soash, Anthro, Elementary Ed, American Studies (a real thing, God help us), etc. — that actually give you class credit for protesting shit.  So History’s screwed there, too.

And good riddance, as far as I’m concerned.  Academia is broken beyond all hope of repair.  Keeping traditional-sounding majors around only helps maintain the fiction that a college “education” is anything more than a six-year SJW sleepaway camp.  The faster Angry Studies becomes a real, honest-to-God major, the faster we can start tearing the whole place down and salting the earth where it stood.  College is the biggest scam ever pulled on the American public — if a Bernie Madoff type did 1/1000th the damage to Wall Street that your average college dean does to Main Street, they’d draw and quarter him in Times Square and broadcast the carnage instead of the Super Bowl.  For God’s sake, do not go to college, do not let your kids go to college, don’t let your friends, or friends’ kids, or friends’ kids’ pets go to college.

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Freedumb

The Archaic Greeks believed that only the best men can handle liberty.  That’s why only free men of property could serve in the phalanx, or crew a fighting trireme.  Only such a man had the iron self-control a hoplite needs.  Freedom without discipline backed by centuries of tradition is what barbarians have (“barbarian” means simply “not Greek”) — that’s not liberty, it’s license.  

That’s why the citizens of Athens put Socrates to death, and why Nietzsche said they were right to do it.  Socrates’s command to “know thyself” leads not to freedom, as he claimed, but to license.  To keep his freedom — to literally keep the barbarians from the gates — a free man must be bold, even ruthless, in defense of his values.  Socrates’s injunction calls those very values into question.  What if our “values” are really just social conventions?  How can I — who know myself so thoroughly — continue strutting around as if I weren’t always in danger of succumbing to lust, laziness, gluttony, cowardice?  It’s no good to say “because it’s socially useful for you to act this way,” because if it’s just an act, then what’s the point of those “values” in the first place?  Do the Spartans seem happy to you?  The barbarians sure do….

Well into modern times, the contrast between civilization and barbarism was right there.  Europe was in danger of being overrun well into the 17th century; the Barbary slave trade went on into the 19th.  Europeans weren’t the unquestioned top dogs on their own continent until the Industrial Revolution.  Only fanatic commitment to our values kept the barbarians away, but they were always there, just over the horizon… is it a coincidence, do you think, that the Enlightenment only really got rolling after the Battle of Vienna?

Flash forward into the 20th century.  Nobody’s village is going to get burned by marauding Mongols; no cruise ship passengers in the Mediterranean are going to end up in an Ottoman hareem.  The ages-old answer to the question “What is freedom for?” doesn’t make sense anymore.  Hell, the very question itself doesn’t.  I defy anyone, anywhere, in the modern world to find a commonly accepted definition of “freedom” that doesn’t boil down to “do your own thing, man” — in other words, what the Greeks would call license.

Do you have one?

Folks in Our Thing rail against the SJW police state, but I ask you to seriously consider: What, exactly, is wrong with a police state?  That it takes away our freedom?  See above.  We’ve so thoroughly conflated freedom with license that most college kids I know — and I have met thousands — don’t even know what the word “license” means, outside of a laminated card that lets you buy beer.  Our kinder, gentler police state is just lousy with license, and most people will go along with that, because they like it — and because they think they ARE free.  Start handing out a government ration of porn, fentanyl, Big Macs, and free wifi, and I promise you not one “American” in 10,000 will care that freedom of thought, of conscience, are gone… whatever the fuck that means.  All I know, dude, is that I can pierce anything, watch anything, stick anything up any orifice, and get retweeted and upvoted for it.  So what if you can’t read some dead white guy any more?  The new season of Stranger Things is out!

Freedom — ordered liberty; the ability to choose not what one wants, but what one must — is a meaningless concept in a postindustrial society.  Our fraternal socialist comrades in the USSR didn’t rebel because they wanted freedom; they rebelled because the kommissars promised them more stuff, and didn’t deliver.  We will be perfectly free, fellow citizens, in the SJW’s New World Order, under any definition of “freedom” that still makes sense in a world where the “poor” die of heart disease and diabetes.

Unless you can tell me exactly why anyone should start shooting at the black helicopters, Our Thing is just a few dudes grumbling on the Internet.  I’m sure we’ll have some high old times together in the reeducation camp, but all this?  It’s for nothing.

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No Gandhi Option

I had a Leftist friend.  He was one of my best friends, actually.  Even though he was a Leftist, and an academic to boot, he was of a type — not uncommon in those balmy days of relative sanity — whose piety was basically Medieval.  Anyone who wanted to do brainwork in the Middle Ages had to go into holy orders, mumbling the Mass a few times a week in order to get on with their real vocation.

So it went with a lot of professors.  I’m not saying he was a secret shitlord; his Leftism was sincere.  But he was one of those Leftists — again, so common in those not-entirely-insane days — who confused “Capitalism” with “Daddy.”  Which meant that when the chips were down, he could face facts.  He’d never admit it to Daddy himself — what teenager could? — but he’d cop to it with his friends, off the record and with a few drinks under his belt.  Thus when his neighborhood got redistricted, he straight up told me they were moving so that his kids didn’t have to go to a vibrant school.

Thus, we could be friends.

Or so I thought.

W’s election knocked him off-kilter, and the Chimperor’s re-election really shook him.  Still, though, relative sanity prevailed, to the point where I even heard him mercilessly mocking a colleague for the colleague’s trust-fund Trotskyism.  You’ll have to take my word for it that it was briefly chic in the ivory tower to be anti-Obama — as it was obvious even then that He was just a slightly-darker-skinned version of W. Bush, all the eggheads got a delicious frisson of rebelliousness from supporting the real People’s Candidate, Dennis Kucinich.  My buddy, of course, was all-in on UFO boy in public but, being at bottom still sane, he could dog out our colleague for his posturing (which was insufferable even by academic standards, and again, I’m going to ask you to take my word for it that such a thing is possible without collapsing up one’s own butthole into a supermassive singularity of stupid).  “Get off it,” he told the guy.  “You’re going to go out there and vote for Obama just like the rest of us.”

I can’t pinpoint exactly when in the Obama years my buddy lost it, but it wasn’t too far in.  As entirely befits that feckless dimwit, Obama’s failures turned far more people into true believers than His successes — He did everything He said He was going to do, but as that was basically just a hip-hop version of W’s agenda it really blueballed the Left.  They really did think the aliens were going to come pick them up and carry them off to the Next Level, and when it didn’t happen, they really dug in.  Their brains were broken well before 2016; Trump’s election just jazzed them up.

Leftism really is a mind virus.  I don’t trust the guy anymore, which is why we’re no longer friends.  As late as maybe 2013, he’d have been in my corner if need be — even if I were outed as a shitlord; even at significant personal cost to himself.  These days, though?  He’d make a few sympathetic noises — on the phone, no paper trail — but in a few days he’d be right outside my office door with the rest of the pussyhatters.

This is why there can be no Gandhi option when it comes to resisting the Left.  Gandhi did what he did because the officials of the Raj — though absolutely no angels — held to a few fundamental principles.  The Left, of course, has no principles.  They’ll make a token effort to convert you, but if it fails, they’ll kill you without a second thought.  It wasn’t lack of courage that kept Gandhis from arising in Nazi Germany or the USSR; it was the fact that the security services killed off any potential Gandhis on general principles.  The longer you live under the Left, the easier such things become — report the badthinker on the off chance, lest you be reported yourself on the off chance.  If that means the reportee is surely in for a bullet in the back of the head, well, he knew the risks, didn’t he?

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Monday Quick Take: Loopy Bints

A post linked by Ace of Spades asks: Should we take this Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez person seriously?

Do not underestimate this woman, and do not think your savage mockery of her stupidity will be an effective tool to stop her. It won’t. It will instead be personalized by her supporters, creating an army that will lay down and die for her (or at least vote for her), just like the army Trump has. You should be afraid of Ocasio-Cortez. Be much more afraid than you are.

There it is.  I, personally, am terrified of Ocasio-Cortez, because I used to teach college.  I taught college for many years, in fact, and I’m exaggerating only a very, very little when I say that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is every single college girl I have ever met.

I’ve met thousands, y’all, and they’re all like this.  It’s not stupidity, really — though she sounds dumber than a box of rocks, I doubt this woman lacks for IQ points.  What she is is solipsistic.  Her narcissism is so vast, so all-encompassing, that the so-called “real world” only exists insofar as it impinges on her Twitter feed.  She has the college girl’s invincible, sneering ignorance — if she doesn’t already know it, it’s by definition not worth knowing, and moreover, if what she knows ain’t so, well, that’s the so-called “real world’s” fault for not getting with the program.

I have no doubt that when legislation she sponsors fails to pass, she’ll be in the Speaker’s office in tears, crying that she worked “sooo…. haaaaaard!!!!” on this bill and it’s so, like, totally unfair that the big meanies didn’t vote for it.

I want to make this perfectly clear: College girls cannot be mocked for their stupidity, because to a college girl, mocking her makes you a “h8r,” which is all the proof she needs that whatever she’s doing, saying, thinking, attaching to her face, or taking up an orifice is cosmically right and just.

And yes, before you ask — I taught for decades; they were like that back then, too, and I have no doubt they’re like that now.  Encroaching middle age doesn’t even dent a girl’s delusion bubble — ask any of the “Game” gurus.

So, yeah: Ocasio-Cortez is our future.  Start palming your cyanide pills now.

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On Pain

Ernst Junger’s essay On Pain is a bit too of its time for us to read easily, but his theses are worth summarizing.  Junger says that pain is a crucible — how one meets pain, and particularly how one meets the inevitability of pain, determines one’s values.  Pain is absolute — though there are of course degrees of pain, only pain and death are certain in human life.

[It’s worth pausing here to note just how well Junger knew the subject.  A “storm trooper” officer who served all four years of World War I, he was wounded 14 times, all of them fairly serious.  This man was once shot in the head and walked back to the aid station.  If anyone’s an authority on the subject of pain, it’s Ernst Junger].

Junger also says that the person who is best able to overcome pain is the one who is best able to regard it objectively — not just the pain itself, but the body experiencing the pain.

There are apparently attitudes that enable man to become detached from the realms of life where pain reigns as absolute master. This detachment emerges wherever man is able to treat the space through which he experiences pan, i.e., the body, as an object. Of course, this presupposes a command center, which regards the body as a distant outpost that can be deployed and sacrificed in battle.

Continuing the metaphor, he states

To link another idea to the human projectile, it is obvious that with such a stance man is superior to every imaginable multitude of individuals. His superiority, of course, is still given even when not armed with explosives, for we are not dealing here with superiority over human beings but over the space in which the law of pain rules. This superiority is the highest; it bears within itself all other forms of superiority.

Spoken like the youngest man to win the Blue Max, right?  It also sounds a lot like Nietzsche, a philosopher dear to Junger’s heart.  Both of them are so alien to our modern mentality that, though those words make enough sense for an educated person to say “sounds like Nietzsche,” the comparison utterly fails to register.  We Postmoderns regard pain as the worst evil, such that we’re required to rejigger human nature to make sure that hypothetical someones somewhere might not be exposed to the mere chance of it.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I think Our Thing is ultimately doomed.

Very few of us have experienced real pain, Junger-style pain — pain with no prospect of amelioration.  Unless you’ve been shot and left for dead, Junger-style — or a modern equivalent like a severe car crash — your pain is always in some sense voluntary.  You could be a He-Man and not take the anesthetics they give you when they pull your wisdom teeth, but that’s objectively (in Junger’s sense) different from the pain of “the human projectile” — you can tap out at any time; the morphine syringe is always there.

And so we’ve never been trained to deal with pain.  Boys with skinned knees used to be told to “rub some dirt on it.”  These days that phrase is a joke — you’ll hear lunkheads at the sports bar yell “rub some dirt on it!” as the quarterback is being carried off the field on a back board (a very revealing thing in itself).  Pain, for us, is something that requires immediate intervention.  Ever call in sick to work with a hangover?

This is not to say we should all start cutting ourselves, or not taking our prescribed medications.  What I mean is, Postmodern life is such that we don’t have to experience pain — not real pain, the values-clarifying, meaning-of-life-affirming absolute Junger wrote about — and because of that, our values never get clarified, our lives remain meaningless.   When our time comes, we Postmoderns will roll over and wait for the executioner, Shoah-style.  Pain is the only motivator that matters, when it comes right down to it, and when it comes, we won’t hardly be able to recognize it, much less sacrifice our bodies to it, like distant outposts being overrun before the counterattack.

Pass the oxycontin.

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In Defense of Karl Marx

Marx was right: Society really is shaped by relations between the means of production.

The Middle Ages, for instance, organized itself around defense from marauding barbarian hordes.  Fast, heavy cavalry were the apex of military technology at the time; the so-called “feudal” system were the cavalry’s support.  The system was field tested in the later Roman empire — medieval titles like “duke” came from the ranks of the Roman posse comitatus — and perfected in the Dark Ages.

When the barbarians had been pacified sufficiently that Europeans had leisure time to think about this stuff, they took the feudal system — at that point a cumbersome relic — as their model for society.  Hobbes, Locke, et al saw it as the origin of the Social Contract; Marx saw it as finely tuned oppression.  But here’s the fun part:

Hobbes ends his Leviathan with the most absolute monarch that could ever be.  He starts* with… wait for it… the equality of man.  Marx, on the other hand, ends with the equality of man.  He starts with a frank, indeed brutal, acknowledgment of man’s inequality.  As much as I love Hobbes (and consider Leviathan the only political philosophy book worth reading), he’s wrong — fundamentally wrong — and Marx is right.  Marx went wrong somewhere down the line; Hobbes jumped the track from page one.

Marx only went wrong when he started dabbling in metaphysics.  Marxism isn’t the original underpants gnome philosophy, but it’s certainly the best — not least because Marx’s followers were so successful at hiding the deus ex machina that was supposed to bring Communism about.  Marx didn’t just say “The Revolution will happen because that’s the way all the trend lines are pointing.”  He said “the trend lines are pointing that way, and oh yeah, the animating Spirit of History demands that the Revolution shall happen.”  This is so obviously sub-Hegelian junk that his followers dropped it as fast as they could, but to Marx himself it was the key to his philosophy.  For all its formidable technobabble, Marxism is just another chiliastic mystery cult.

Which brings us to today’s excellent piece by the Z Man.  Specifically, this:

[W]hatever comes after conservatism must first sink roots outside the neoliberal order and maybe even outside the Enlightenment. It cannot be a reaction to neoliberalism, as that implies a dependency. The obvious implication is that what comes after conservatism, in the framework of the American Right, is nothing. That line of discovery and inquiry has reached a dead end. It is an intellectual tradition with no future and no shadow. What comes next must be a clean break from northern conservatism.

Emphasis mine, because there’s no maybe about it.  Enlightenment-wise, Hobbes was the start, Marx the end of political philosophy, and both are flawed beyond redemption.  Hobbes sure sounds like a viable alternative to Marx, because Hobbes’s reasoning seems sound, and based on an irrefutable premise: That in the State of Nature, life is nasty, poor, solitary, brutish, and short.  But that’s not Hobbes’s premise — the fundamental equality of man in the State of Nature is.  Life in the State of Nature is brutal because all men are equal.

Marx, on the other hand, was born in 1818 — just three years after Waterloo.  He grew up listening to the echoes of the Concert of Europe.  The Holy Roman Empire was a very recent memory in his childhood; the Divine Right of Kings was still a going concern.  Hobbes was like a medieval doctor, bleeding you to cure your fever — the treatment “works,” in that it abates the symptoms, but it gets the underlying disease completely wrong.**  Marx was like a different kind of medieval doctor — he got the diagnosis right, but he wanted to make you wear a poultice of sheep rectum or something to cure it.  From his true — and truly revolutionary — insight that societies form largely around their means of production, he deduced that Cosmic Forces must be pushing us towards Utopia.

The truth is that societies do organize around their means of production, but Man is more than the spreadsheet-making animal.  We don’t relate to our means of production these days; we’re so “alienated” from our labor that our labor doesn’t even matter anymore.  Instead, we seem to worship our means of production.  Instead of squeezing us for every last cent of productivity, like Marx said, our Titans of Industry blow millions of their own money making us into their personal amen choirs.  George Soros is a Devil to lots of people, and a God to many others, but almost nobody who recognizes his name knows how he actually got his money.  Do you?  I have yet to hear an explanation of Facebook’s P/E ratio that makes sense, but we let Zuckerberg run our lives for us.

If the businessmen who rule us actually acted like businessmen, they’d be kicking it People’s Liberation Army-style.  Instead, they risk bankruptcy leading us in hosannas to themselves.  Other than a leased BMW and a crippling mortgage, what exactly is the difference these days between a middle manager and a creepy cult member?  Heaven’s Gate — the suicide cult that ran a flourishing web design business — was just a little bit ahead of its time.  If suicide were the new #Woke thing, do you really think the wingless golden-skinned dragonkin at Google wouldn’t be lining up on the Golden Gate Bridge?

Enlightenment philosophes, like Thomas Hobbes and Karl Marx, believed in their heart of hearts that religion was the source of all man’s ills, and that science would be his salvation.  These days, science is religion and vice versa.  A post-Enlightenment philosophy must recognize that there’s no salvation in this world — not even salvation from religion.

Marx was right about that, too — it’s the opium of the people.  Too bad we’re all just people, Marx most definitely included.

 

 

 

*If you’ve read Leviathan, of course, you know he starts the book itself with a long discourse on contemporary physics.  Hobbes was an innovator there, too — he’s the first person to put forth his humanistic ideas as the coldly logical deductions of physical science.  It’d be fun to taunt the “I fucking love science” crowd with that, except they think Hobbes is a cuddly cartoon tiger and “Leviathan” one of the lesser houses at Hogwarts.
**Fever actually was a disease well into the 19th century.  Understanding it as a symptom, rather than a cause, of disease was one of the all-time medical breakthroughs.
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Is There a Point to Life?

Medievalists once had a lively debate: Were the so-called “Christian centuries” actually Christian?

It’s a reasonable question.  Consider that the priest performed most of the Mass with his back to the congregation, and all of it in Latin.  The Bible was in Latin too, of course, and the peasantry couldn’t read anyway.  Lots of instruction manuals for parish priests still survive, but the information in them is pretty thin — the Ten Commandments, plus basic ritual obligations.  Forget the finer points of theology; these barely covered the grosser points, so much so that one of the get-you-burned-at-the-stake controversies of the early Reformation was “utraquism” — whether anyone but the priest should get both bread and wine at communion (from Latin “utraque,” also).

If something like that wasn’t settled to everyone’s satisfaction 1500 years on, it’s not unreasonable to assume that your average peasant hadn’t the foggiest idea of the religion that supposedly governed his life.

It’s also not unreasonable to assume that your average peasant was too busy trying not to starve to death to worry much about theology.  “The 99%” was a real thing back in the Middle Ages.  Life was nasty, poor, brutish, and short — nobody had the leisure time to even learn to read, much less to read erudite treatises on the filioque.  Only people with full bellies and time on their hands could bother with this kind of stuff, which is why the Inquisition was so recondite, and so vicious — when you’re one of only a few thousand people in the know in the whole realm, doctrinal purity is all you’ve got.

Modern life flips that on its head.  I promise you, no medieval peasant ever lost a minute’s sleep asking himself what’s the meaning of life — when you’re locked in a desperate struggle for existence, day in and day out, the point of it all is pretty self-evident.  Nowadays, you can get well into middle age before encountering death, and very few of us, I’d imagine, have actually seen someone die.  Dying, in modern America, is a drawn-out, ritualized, abstract event, not a regularly-experienced part of life.  We all know theoretically that we can get cancer, or die in a car crash, or get struck by lightning, but there’s no immediacy to it.  Back in the days, death was all around, all the time.  I’d bet good money that the average medieval peasant saw more death, even violent death, than the average American soldier, even in wartime.

We moderns, when faced with the question of life’s purpose — as anyone of sufficient IQ will be — have no answer that makes gut-level sense.  In a world where death is a constant companion, where life’s fragility is daily hammered home, “live each day as if it were your last” is an expression of transcendental meaning.  For us it’s a Hallmark card slogan.  We need something, anything, to make us feel that any given day might, in fact, actually be our last.  The medical term for this is hormesis — growth in response to non-lethal stress.  We’re designed to optimize it — can’t live without it, in fact, which is why prosperity is lethal.

Hence, radical politics.  Everyone who has studied Marxism, especially its modern oxides like “intersectionality,” knows that despite its formidable technical apparatus, it’s all just ooga-booga stuff.  Marxism’s appeal is, and always has been, purely emotional.  “Hate the man who is better off than you are” is the truest explication of Marx’s gospel, and since nothing stirs the blood like hate does, hating the man who is better off than you are — and who isn’t, at least in some sense, if you think about it long enough — is easily mistaken for hormesis.  The point of life is to create Utopia; the fact that Utopia (“no place” in Greek) doesn’t exist and can never exist is a feature, not a bug.

The problem, of course, is that you can never admit Utopia is impossible… which necessarily entails blaming some Other for Utopia’s failure to exist.  That’s the richest part of the Marxist lexicon: The Enemies List.  Wreckers, capitalist-roaders, right-deviationists, left-deviationists, kulaks, Trotsky, Lin Biao, Emmanuel Goldstein… Marxists have fantastic imaginations, and never more than when finding someone or something to blame.  At one point, Mao himself blamed sparrows for sabotaging the Great Leap Forward.

Alas, that’s the problem with Others.  What happens when you wipe them all out?  Every Jew, every kulak, every capitalist, every sparrow, every CisHetPat white male… it’s now well within our technical capacity to do exactly that, and our modern CultMarxists surely know it.  You can eliminate all your enemies; you’ll never kill off the need for An Enemy.

I suggest lobotomies.  Maybe we can get Obamacare to cover them?  Give it a snappy euphemism — call it a “Wokeness augmentation” or a “residual Privilege adjustment” or something — and maybe we can get them all signed up.  It’s a lot less bloody than letting them find out The Meaning of Life the hard way….

 

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