Monthly Archives: April 2019

Paradigm Shifts – UPDATED

I’ve said many times that every wacky notion Academia has crapped out in the last century has its kernel of truth.  Professors, like politicians, talk out of both sides of their mouths for a living, so all their goofy pronouncements can be taken two ways.

Thomas Kuhn’s idea of the “paradigm shift,” for example.  In the weak sense, it’s a good reminder that scientists are people, too.  “Scientist” is a guild profession and, as such, members of the guild end up defining for the guild what counts — or doesn’t — as scientific evidence.  This continues until the guild is in mortal danger of putting itself out of business…. at which point it recognizes the new “paradigm,” but goes on acting exactly as before.

The strong version takes this “paradigm shift” stuff literally.  People who view the world through differing paradigms literally can’t understand each other.  This is obviously an Ishmael Effect-type situation — how did Thomas Kuhn, alone of all men, see past his paradigm enough to tell us that no one can see past his paradigm? — but that’s just, like, logic and stuff.  The Left has never let mere reason stand between themselves and tenure, and so you got “The Strong Programme [sic] in the Sociology of Science.”  This reached its nadir in the late 1990s, when physicist Alan Sokal claimed that “gravity is just a social construction” in the pages of the prestigious PoMo journal Social Text.  Sokal was joking, of course, but the PoMos doubled down, telling a working physicist that they — Professors of English Literature — understood physics better than he did.

It’s good for a laugh, but also terrifying, as it suggests that the strong version of  “paradigm shift” might be closer to right than the weak version.

I know, I know, but hear me out:

We Normals think of “science” as a process.  I’m not going to go full Vox Day here and start making up words, but when we say “science,” we mean it almost like a verb.  “Science,” for us, means something like “functioning as a scientist, doing science, science-ing” — that is, testing a theory against the bedrock of Reality.

The PoMos, by contrast, use “science” like a noun — “science” is whatever the community of scientists say it is.  It’s not a process, it’s a thing, a body of “knowledge” handed down like Scripture.  That’s why they love the idea of “falsifiability.”  It’s why the phrase “the science is settled!” makes sense to them.  Actually doing science — behaving as a “scientist,” science-ing — is, to them, a process that we Normals would call “hermeneutics.”  Hermeneutics is the interpretation of scared texts.  The Bible doesn’t contradict itself all over the place.  Nor was Karl Marx wrong in every prediction he ever made.  Rather, the apparent contractions are all perfectly consistent in the light of the Higher Truth.

Science as it was practiced in the 16th century (that is, in the time Kuhn was writing about in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) was the best-case scenario.  I can’t do the math off the top of my head that would prove Copernicus was right and Ptolemy was wrong, but it’s not too difficult; I could’ve aced it back in high school.  And I could schlep on down to Wal-Mart and pick up a far better telescope than anything Galileo had for less than a hundred bucks.  Even if I’m die-hard committed to the old paradigm, the evidence only points one way.

But what about modern science?  I can’t do the “global warming” math, and I’d wager long money you can’t, either.  Neither can the dreadlocked Angry Studies majors who yell about “climate change,” of course, but that’s the point — since we’re all mutually ignorant, the PoMo position wins by default.  They are fanatically committed; we have day jobs, and since they get to decide that every single fluctuation in temperature, anywhere on the planet, counts as evidence for their assertion, “climate change” really is Science, capital-S, full stop.  “Climate change” is “falsifiable,” of course, but since disconfirmation will never come — it can’t, by definition — then that “paradigm” will never fail.

That’s terrifying enough, considering the “climate change” laws on the books that will never be repealed short of total societal collapse.  But what about those cases where the “paradigm” not only can fail, but must fail?

None of us can do the “climate change” math, but we can all see what’s happening all around us…. or can we?  That’s where this “paradigm” stuff, strong version, has some real explanatory power.

The Media, for instance, are in thrall to their paradigms.  Trump 2016 would never have happened if they’d been capable of drawing the simplest, most crotch-kickingly obvious conclusion from Kerry 2004.  In case you don’t remember that circus:  The Media had convinced themselves that George W. Bush was the stupidest idiot who ever breathed.  The problem was, that same moron got everything he wanted, usually with the full, enthusiastic, very public support of the Democrats.  The Iraq War, for instance, which left them in the very awkward spot of having to explain why their certified genius candidate, John Kerry — who made being against it the cornerstone of his campaign — tripped over his own feet rushing back to Washington to vote for it just one year earlier.*

Since it’s cruel to make yet more fun of the intellectually challenged, I’ll spell the lesson out for all you Media types who lurk here: Maybe W. really is a moron, but by painting his every word and deed as the Distilled Essence of Idiocy — and, by implication, your side’s every word and deed as the Superconcentrated Solution of Smart — you left your guy zero wiggle room for the backtracking, double-dealing, and assorted flimflammery that make elections actually work.  Bush might’ve been dumb, but he was consistently dumb.  When your guy said eighteen different things before lunch, and you painted each and every one of them as the only true and proper scientific answer, the only people you fooled were yourselves.

Hence, Trump 2016.  Trump didn’t beat Hillary Clinton.  He  beat you, The Media.  Every single thing he said or did on the campaign trail was designed to point out just how stupid you self-anointed geniuses in The Media are.  Hillary Clinton was just a target of opportunity.  A truly great target of opportunity — being so very, very stupid herself, she kept walking into it like a lobotomized Wile E. Coyote — but a target of opportunity nonetheless.  Here’s a freebie, one I even offered y’all at the time:  Treat Trump like he’s just another ordinary, run-of-the-mill politician, and he’s toast.  Make him talk policy.  Don’t make him justify his record — that’s moral language — but do make him explain it.  Do that, and you can probably drag even a mouth-frothing lunatic like Kamala Harris over the finish line.

But The Media won’t do that, of course.  They can’t.  They’re too enthralled by their paradigm.  If Trump isn’t the biggest devil in their pantheon, their lives lose all meaning.  So they’ll go with stuff like this.

Those events have pushed the rising tide of white nationalism to the forefront of the 2020 presidential campaign, putting Trump on the defensive and prompting even some Republicans to acknowledge that the president is taking a political risk by continuing to stand by his Charlottesville comments.

The rising tide of white nationalism, fer chrissakes.  And this would be…. where, exactly?

You couldn’t have a pickup basketball game with the number of people out there willing to publicly state that White people deserve their very own homeland.  Even if we consider everyone who flirts with the “dissident right” to be a “White nationalist” — The Media sure does, so why stint ourselves? — you could maybe fill a junior high gym.  To get to even “minor league ballpark on nickel beer night” numbers, you’d need to start writing off huge swathes of the electorate.  Pretty soon, a “white nationalist” will be anyone to the right of Rachel Maddow…. y’all see where I’m going with this?

That’s the last, truly terrifying thing about the strong sense of “paradigm shift.”  If you’re willing to go down with the ship — and they really, truly seem to be — you can actually make it real enough to kill you.  The reason nobody gives a shit about “global warming” anymore is that the panic has achieved all it is capable of achieving in people’s daily lives.  When absolutely everything is “evidence” of “climate change,” then nothing is.  We’ll use those stupid curly light bulbs because we don’t have a choice — and, crucially, because it’s not too inconvenient — but that’s as far as it goes.  Take away something that matterscut smartphone use because it’s bad for the earth, say — and you’ll see riots that make the Jacquerie look like the happy ending to an Oriental massage.

What happens, then, when pretty much everyone is a “white nationalist”?

The Media isn’t really egging on a race war.  They don’t fret about the “anti-Muslim” backlash they’ve been predicting since the afternoon of 9/11/2001 because they want to see the country in flames.  It may look that way sometimes, but it’s the newsitorial equivalent of Ptolemaic “epicycles.”  The Media doesn’t think in terms of concrete outcomes.  The terrifying truth is that they — like the Democratic Party, Hollywood, Academia — don’t think at all.  They have their worldview, their paradigm, and they’re not going to give it up, no matter what.  If it means actively creating the very people who will put them in camps just so they can yell “I told you so!”, then that’s what they’ll do.

[UPDATE]: Looks like The Z Man wrote on similar theme today.  There was no coordination involved, which is yet another example of my point.  How could there be?  There are a few secret handshake “dissident right” societies out there, and he’s in at least one of them, but they have their meetings in places like Finland.  I sure as hell can’t afford to go to Finland, can you?  Meanwhile, we all assume that the Feds are at least passively monitoring us, and if anyone actively reached out we’d assume he’s a narc.  “Greetings, fellow revolutionary!!  I find your ideology intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newspaper.  Would you please send me your full name, home address, and Social Security number?”

 

 

 

*The “answer” they briefly settled on was “Vice President Dick Cheney is the evil genius who gets everything he wants.”  They even made a movie about it just recently, in which Christian Bale does his usual “gain or lose an obscene amount of weight while getting buried under mountains of makeup” thing.  But that’s just The Media’s typical self-congratulating rationalization — even the Bill Maher types had a hard time swallowing that one back when it mattered, as Dick Cheney famously spent 99% of his time in office in the “undisclosed location.”
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College Dissident Reading List IV

  • The True Believer, by Eric Hoffer.
  • When Prophecy Fails, by Leon Festinger et al.

My first high school reunion was a blast.  I went out of morbid curiosity — I am not, y’all may have noticed, the rah-rah-sis-boom-bah type — but ended up having a great time.  The open bar certainly helped, but mostly it was the people.  How they’d changed!!  The dreamy artistic guy we all suspected was gay was now one of the session players on one of those “Monsters of Heavy Metal”-type shows that tour the county fair circuit every summer.  Steve the Metalhead, by contrast — who’d never be caught dead without his Slayer t-shirt — was an investment banker; Crazy Jane the Goth was one of the Stepford Wives; Brad the Jock ran a charming little winery with his husband, etc.

My first college reunion, by contrast, was about as fun as a root canal.  All anyone wanted to do was network; the open bar made their networking even more aggressive.  Everyone was exactly who he’d been ten years ago, just somehow more so.  The Frat Pack were all middle-management meatballs.  The computer science guys all made six figures, but still dressed — and acted — like they lived in Mom’s basement.  The Education majors all had short hair and six cats.

But that was normal.  Back then, high school was a four-year process of differential diagnosis — by trying on all those different identities, learning which ones didn’t fit, you started figuring out who you really are.  Crazy Jane the Goth always wanted to be a Suburban Supermom, but to get there she had to go through a bewildering variety of poses — had high school ended our junior year, Crazy Jane the Goth would’ve been Preppie Jane the Cheerleader.  This differential diagnosis process took longer for some folks than others — everyone from my generation remembers the LUG* phenomenon — but by the time you got out of college, you were pretty much yourself.

Which, indeed, was the point of education, especially higher education.  Back in the days, they really meant all that “character formation” stuff you saw in the college motto.  It was the entire point of the Great Books, for instance.  One doesn’t read, say, Marcus Aurelius for his gripping prose style, much less for a discussion of the finer points of Stoic epistemology.  You read Marcus because he’s an example.  You can’t be what Marcus actually was — that is, a Roman Emperor of the late 2nd century — but you can at least try to be what Marcus tried to be.  The very fact that this man — who had all the power, fame, and riches someone of his time and place could ever hope to have — aspired to be something completely different is instructive in itself…

But that was back when “education” and “indoctrination” weren’t synonyms.  The point of the modern “educational” establishment is the exact opposite of what it used to be — instead of helping you to form your own character, it’s designed to make sure you never do.  If you have no sense of yourself — if you’re not allowed to have an identity of your own — then you’ll blissfully embrace the one they provide you.  This is the central insight of The True Believer.

Hoffer says that all mass movements are fundamentally the same.  They might look completely different on the surface — their official ideologies may even be radically opposed — but underneath they’re the same, because they all rely on members submerging their own spoiled, incomplete identities into the group’s identity.  Even fanatical ideologues understand this, which is why Josef Goebbels — one of the Nazi-est Nazis of them all — bragged that he could turn a Red into a Brown in a few weeks.  Communists (Red) and Nazis (Brown) were officially mortal enemies, but the underlying psychology is exactly the same (the KPD leadership wasn’t as quotable, but they worked on the same principle; when they weren’t bashing Nazi heads on the streets, they were working hard to recruit them).

Apply this to any group you like.  So long as the identity on offer is total — that is, a complete replacement for your own shaky sense of self, a one-size answer to all possible questions — it’s a mass movement, working on the principles Hoffer outlined.  All you need now is an Enemy.  Probably the most-quoted line from The True Believer is this:

Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.

I trust the applications of this to The College Experience(TM) are obvious.  The Dogmas of the SJW Faith change daily, but the underlying identity remains the same.  You are #Woke; they are not.  By submerging yourself totally in the group identity, you define yourself against the group’s Other.  It doesn’t matter who The Enemy is, or what The Enemy does — he forever remains The Enemy.  You can push this well past the point where any rational person would’ve slit his wrists in despair — men can ovulate, women have penises, whatever.  So long as believing it makes you #Woke.  

Note that I didn’t put the word believing in quotation marks.  They really do believe, the True Believers, with all their hearts and souls.  Observable reality is no barrier to them, because — as Festinger et al illustrate in When Prophecy Fails — the same emotional fuel that gets them in the movement in the first place keeps them in the movement, no matter what.  Festinger’s group studied a UFO cult that predicted the end of the world — sometime before dawn on December 21, 1954, the aliens were going to destroy the earth with a flood, and only they would be saved.  When the world didn’t end that morning, the cultists doubled down — because they were so righteous, they explained, the aliens decided to postpone the apocalypse.  Compared to the awesome power of rationalization, the hydrogen bomb is no more than a fart in a hurricane.

Once again, I trust the applications of this to The College Experience(TM) are obvious.  Arguing with True Believers is actually worse than useless, as Festinger shows.  Let them see the failure of prophecy for themselves, as individuals, and they might snap out of it.  Argue with them, and they’ll run right back to the loving arms of the cult, because that confirms you as The Enemy.  

The trick for any aspiring shitlord, then, is to figure out who on campus actually is a True Believer.  Everyone is required to parrot this stuff — I myself could preach a Race/Class/Gender stemwinder with the best of ’em — so listening to what they say is useless.  It’ll take some practice, but you can generally spot the fakers.  Once again, the crop-haired ladies who look like they’re sucking on a lemon while getting a Sriracha enema are the real deal, but the coed who suddenly dyed her hair and got a nose ring is often reachable.  Does she still bother with makeup, at least some of the time?  You’ve got a chance.

I don’t know if this works, but if I had to attempt a deprogramming, I’d go with the other easily-available identity on campus: The rah-rah-sis-boom-bah stuff.  Tailgate parties work wonders when it comes to breaking down inhibitions, and the actual football game is the closest thing to a Nuremberg Rally you’ll see until President Ocasio-Cortez gets the Two Minutes’ Hates going in earnest.  You can really get into being a Flyover State Fightin’ Farmer, and you can’t ask for a more convenient Enemy than those dastardly bastards, the Directional Tech Ferocious Mammals.

Good luck and godspeed, men.

 

 

 

*Lesbian Until Graduation, and the fact that I have to footnote it is a revelation in itself.  As hard as it is to fathom now, back in the days people weren’t expected to have their sexuality all figured out by the time they hit elementary school.  It was widely understood — even by the raging hormone-wads that American teenagers used to be — that people mature at different rates.  “The shy, weedy little poindexter that got shoved in a locker every day as a freshman who was a four-sport letterman as a senior” was so common it was a cliche, as was “the awkward, frizzy-haired, flat-chested, braces-wearing freshman who ended up as the prom queen.”

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Scarcity

One of the main reasons for Socialism’s enduring appeal is that something like the Labor Theory of Value seems like common sense.  It’s not — it’s deeply flawed, as all practical attempts to follow it have shown — but it sure seems right.

To keep it as simple as possible, consider a pair of shoes.  Back in the days, a skilled cordwainer could turn out a pair of shoes in one full working day (let’s say).  He does nothing else with his time but craft that one pair of shoes.  That labor (plus the not-insignificant cost of his materials) should be what the pair of shoes is worth.  And — crucially — back in the days, the price seemed to reflect this.  These guys say that a stout pair of shoes went for 7 shillings in mid-18th century London, so let’s roll with that.  It’s tough to find a modern equivalent figure for 7 shillings, but considering that 2.5 shillings would get you an entire pig, it’s safe to say that 7 shillings is a significant outlay.

But then industrialism happened, as my students would write, and all of a sudden that same cordwainer, simply by pulling levers in a factory, could turn out 100 pairs of shoes in a day.  7 divided by 100 is 0.07, and though I don’t know how British money works I’m pretty sure seven-hundredths of a shilling rounds up to “basically nothing.”  But here’s the rub:  Though the cordwainer’s paycheck dropped to “basically nothing,” as one would expect, the cost of the shoes didn’t.  It dropped a bit, sure, but still a long way from “basically nothing.”  So now the cordwainer — once a skilled artisan making a decent living — is just a factory hand on the edge of starvation.  Get the actual prices of items back in line with the labor it took to produce them, said the Socialists, and we shall have Utopia.

Like I say, this makes naive sense.  It makes a lot more sense when you’re a skilled artisan who suddenly finds himself unable to keep body and soul together because some factory fatcat put you out of work.  When you can’t afford to buy the basic necessities you produce every day down at the factory, it makes perfect sense.  Maybe it’s wrong, technically, but when your kids are going barefoot even as Mr. Nike buys another private jet from selling $2 shoes for $200…

It didn’t help that the 19th century’s other explanation for economic inequality had an equally deep flaw.  They had various names for it, but let’s call it “the Need Theory of Value.”  A standard example went like this:  Say you’re a merchant heading to a port to catch a ship.  Your carriage throws a wheel, and I’m the only wheelwright in town.  What do I charge you?  If I go by the cost of my labor, as the Socialists would suggest, then I charge you a small price for what for me is a simple half-hour job — let’s say, five bucks.  BUT: If you miss that ship, it’ll cost you $500 in lost business.  So… what’s that repair really worth?  A wheelwright who charged $500 because he had the merchant over a barrel would be ostracized as the worst kind of scoundrel, but a merchant who did basically the same thing (e.g. cornering the market on a commodity) would be lauded as an excellent businessman.  A thing is either worth what the market will bear, or it isn’t, and it shouldn’t matter who’s setting the market.

We never really solved that problem, but now it doesn’t matter.  ALL economic theories put forth in the last 5,000 years are wrong, because they all assume that scarcity is what economics is about.  Economists always use consumer goods in their examples because it’s easy to see the scarcity — everyone needs to eat, everyone needs shoes, etc.  But our “poor” people die of heart disease and diabetes.  You’d have to make a spectacular effort to starve to death in modern America, and as for clothes, shoes, a roof, etc., they’re free for the taking.  No, really — if I lost my job as an American working stiff, the first thing I’d do is get a suntan.  Then I’d forget my Social Security number. move to California, and tell the first person who hablo Ingles that I’m Jose Jimenez, un refugee-o de Guatemala.  I’d be living a better material life than before — government services out the ying-yang, the emergency room to handle all my sniffles free of charge, and an entire political party holding me up as an example of all that’s good and right in the world.

Scarcity ain’t our problem no more.  At least, not material scarcity.  Instead, our scarcity is access.  You could solve America’s “poverty” problem, plus the obesity epidemic, overpopulation, AND anthropogenic global warming, just by cutting off the Lipitor supply.  Make fentanyl OTC to take care of the stragglers.

Eventually this will occur to the powers that be.  If you want a political theory for the new post-industrial age, start there.

 

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The College Dissident Reading List, Part III

Explaining Postmodernism, by Stephen R.C. Hicks.

You don’t see the term “postmodernism” used much on campus anymore.  It’s almost as rare as the word “Marxism,” actually, and for the same reason — the reason fish don’t use the word “water.”  What’s the point?

The hot new thing on campus is “intersectionality,” so let’s start there.  The dizzy broads at Everyday Feminism have a definition for us:

In short, intersectionality is a framework that must be applied to all social justice work, a frame that recognizes the multiple aspects of identity that enrich our lives and experiences and that compound and complicate oppressions and marginalizations.

We cannot separate multiple oppressions, for they are experienced and enacted intersectionally.

(Emphasis theirs, and let’s dispense with [sic] from here on out, for the sake of our collective sanity).

Translation: Everyone (except White males, of course) is “oppressed” or “marginalized” somehow.  The trick is finding it and, once found, nursing and petting and coddling it until it becomes your sole reason for getting out of bed in the morning.

If this seems like something a teenage girl with a bad thesaurus would’ve come up with to explain why her parents suck for not buying her a new car, well, welcome to the ivory tower.  We’ve been trained to fetishize “education” for going on a century now, so displays like this still have the power to shock us.  Someone with a PhD can’t possibly be that infantile… can she?

That’s Hicks’s thesis in a nutshell.  He’s not at all flip about it, of course — he’s a real working professor, not a retired part-timer like me — but that’s the upshot.  Postmodernism, he says, is the desperate attempt to hold onto the emotional solace of Marxism in the face of Marxism’s repeated, obvious, overwhelming failures.

Emphasis mine this time, because it’s crucial that you understand this:  Grown-ass people, living lives that are “the 1%” on any measure that makes sense, could not handle the fact that their cherished fantasy was revealed as a fantasy to the entire world.  So they immediately made up another elaborate fantasy, to which they cling with the tenacity of UFO cultists… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves (let’s just go ahead and make When Prophecy Fails tomorrow’s entry).

The point is the emotional tension between theory and fact:

  • Marxism billed itself as the first truly scientific understanding of the world.
  • This meant that those who understood Marxism best were the best scientists.
  • As science deals with facts, the conclusions of the best scientists were therefore also facts.
  • But the conclusions were wrong, which meant that the facts were wrong, which meant that the scientists were wrong.

It’s never easy to admit you’ve been bamboozled, especially when you yourself are the bamboozler.  Think of the last time you fell for a person that you and everyone else in your life knew was bad for you, but you did it anyway, because this time it’s different, dammit!!  I’m not excusing the professors, exactly, but I do have some small sympathy for them — I doubt many of us have the strength of character to say “I’ve been lying to myself my entire adult life, and though the lie has brought me this wonderful life, it’s time to man up and admit it.  I wonder if McDonald’s is hiring?”

So they had to find a way to no longer be wrong, without ever admitting they were wrong.  But that’s the thing about science: It’s true.  Facts are facts, and though you can beg the question with “counterfactuals” all day long (e.g. “real communism has never been tried!”), it is a fact that devoted Marxists, who called themselves true Marxists and declared that what they were doing to be true Marxism, screwed the pooch.  Thus the only thing to do is: Deny that there’s any such thing as a “fact” in the first place.

It’s quite a trick, actually, and credit where credit’s due: Crippling cognitive dissonance aside, I don’t have the sheer brass balls it took to pull it off.  If you think Lefties Fucking Love Science(TM) today, my young friends, you have no idea of the slobbering love affair they had with it back when the Soviet Union was still a going concern.  When I was in college back in the Jurassic, professors of English Lit and the like routinely threw around phrases like “Heisenbergian indeterminacy” and “Schrödinger’s cat.”  Read Sokal and Bricmont’s Fashionable Nonsense for ever so much more.  Yes, it’s true: Creative Writing professors were using concepts from advanced math to attack the very notion of empirical truth.

But enough about that, because math is, of course, a social construction of the Pale Penis People.  They can overcome the contradiction between using math — i.e., the one thing in this sick sad world that is true by definition — to attack the very notion of empirical truth, but asking them to keep using a tool White guys made?  That’s a bridge too far.  Thus the “Science has proven there’s no such thing as a fact” school of Postmodernism has gone the way of the dodo.  That’s where the original edition Explaining Postmodernism ends, alas (published 2004), but once you know about Foucault (Hicks’s final chapter), the connection between this stuff and “intersectionality” is obvious.

Michel Foucault was a French Nietzsche-wannabe who liked rough gay sex.  Like all modern “thinkers” he was a reductionist, attempting to boil down the world and everything in it to one principle.  Imagine Friedrich Nietzsche bottoming in a San Francisco sex dungeon and you’ll know what principle he picked.  All human relations, Foucault claims, rest on power disparities.*

Which brings us back, at long last, to intersectionality, the only math-free method of claiming for a fact that there’s no such thing as a fact.  Because it is possible — indeed, very easy — to view all human relations this way.  We all do it, far more often than we’d like to admit.  There’s an undeniable comfort in the idea that Someone Somewhere is out to get us, when the alternative is that bad stuff kinda just happens randomly sometimes.  But that kind of “thinking” quickly becomes a habit.  And an excuse — most things don’t happen randomly; we’re far more in control of our situation than we’d like to admit, even if we’re hard-eyed realists who can’t even spell “intersectionality.”  It’s hard work, facing the truth about yourself and your actions; “intersectionality” means you never have to.

Once again, you’ll be tempted to disbelieve me.  Surely it can’t be that simple?  And again, I’ll ask you to look around.  It’s almost summer break now, so you’ll be off for several months, doing normal things with normal people.  So when you get back to campus, don’t get back into the routine right away.  Take some time to just wander around.

Look at the faces.  You can spot a professor entirely by her expression — like she just sucked down a lemon while getting a Sriracha enema.  Even when they’re having a “good” time, the expression on their faces isn’t “happy,” it’s smug.  It’s like their physiognomy setting is stuck on “Rachel Maddow” — either irate or smug, with nothing in between.  These are people who pull down 100 large a year, who live in a town where everything is designed specifically for them… and that’s how they carry it?

You’re damn right they just feel their way through life.  “Intersectionality” is Postmodernism’s bastard, and Postmodernism is just the fancy polysyllabic tantrum of a spoiled child.

 

*Foucault died of AIDS in 1984; the means and year of his death being proof that Someone Up There has a sharp sense of humor.
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The College Dissident Reading List, Part II

The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli.

This entry is straight counter-programming, since there’s an outside chance you might encounter this one in whatever they’re calling Western Civ 101 now.  If you do, you’ll be told that it’s a wicked satire on the mores of the Renaissance bourgeoisie.  Don’t be fooled.  Machiavelli meant every word.  He might have personally preferred republican government, but he knew better than anyone what power does to whoever holds it.

The Prince is called “political philosophy,” for lack of a better term, but it’s not.  Machiavelli says exactly nothing about the proper functions of government.  He assumes the prince’s only concern is to remain in power.  Machiavelli — who actually was tortured for being on the wrong side of a political dispute — would’ve agreed entirely with O’Brien from 1984:

Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

Machiavelli teaches that “principles” are meaningless for all but saints (and no one has ever actually seen a saint).  One should seem to have principles, of course, but never actually follow them — a maxim he illustrates with the conduct Pope Alexander VI, who “did nothing else but deceive men, nor ever thought of doing otherwise, and he always found victims; for there never was a man who had greater power in asserting, or who with greater oaths would affirm a thing, yet would observe it less.”

This, of course, explains the conduct of the Left in general, and your professors in particular.  Professors get where they are entirely through politics.  As we’ve covered here many times, only original “research” gets published… and since the one truth of The Humanities is that there’s nothing new under the sun, one can only be “original” by spouting radical political bullshit….

….and that’s where Machiavelli comes in.  Because that radical political bullshit sure seems principled.  No one uses loftier moral language than the one who’s telling you that “morality” itself is an imperialist imposition of the pale penis people.  But since the one telling you this is much more often than not a Persyn of Pallor xyzhrself, actually following through would require a drop in the ambient standard of living.  And we won’t be having that.

Machiavelli also shows what happens to people who fail to heed his advice, or worse yet, try it and fail.  For instance, he asserts that a man will much more easily forgive you for the murder of his father than the theft of his patrimony.  Such a man, if left alive, will stop at nothing to have his revenge, because there’s nothing left for him but revenge.

Colleges don’t just sell deep-cover shitlords like yourselves a bill of goods.  That realization has yet to hit critical mass — the only people who take to the streets about student loans all vote for Bernie Sanders, so “lack of a financial future” is pretty much a given.  But…. how’s your patrimony doing these days?  The kind of people who teach The Prince have obviously never read the damn thing.  Don’t make that mistake.

 

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The College Dissident Reading List, Part I

In the comments to the previous post, I suggested putting together a reading list for college folk who are on the business end of The Cathedral.  Out here in the real world, we get our poz secondhand; college students are the lab rats on which new strains are tested.  It won’t hurt less, but at least you can see how it’s being done to you in real time.  First up:

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, by Robert Jay Lifton.

But before you head down to the campus library to check it out, two preliminaries.  First, if you’re going to use the campus library, you’ll need a cover story.  This book was first published in 1961, and covers events in China from the 1950s, so unless you want to advertise to the world that you’re studying brainwashing for shitlord reasons — and yes, of course, they can and will check if you give them reason to suspect you — you need to have some cover.  “Independent study project” might be enough, but it’s a tough sell if you’re, say, a senior chemistry major and your entire class schedule is labs.  Much better to snag an easily-concealed personal copy, using an off-campus network.

Second, you need a crash course on how to read.  No insult intended — this is part of the reason you’re reading Lifton in the first place.  Academic prose is part of the poz.  It’s all bafflegab.  You’re supposed to struggle through the first fifteen pages or so, kinda sorta almost grasping the writer’s point.  But then you lose it, and give up, and just write down whatever the prof tells you it means.  This is item #6 in the Lifton checklist (“loading the language”); it’s nothing but thought-terminating cliches.

Lifton’s work is not bafflegab, but it is academic, and back then even the best-written academic work used language consonant with the subject matter.  You’ll be tempted to “read” it classroom-style, then.  Don’t.  The trick is to read paragraphs for topic sentences, then skim the examples.  Get the main ideas on the first pass, then go back and re-read whatever sections seem particularly relevant.  There’s no due date, and there’s no final exam, so proceed at your own pace.

Once you’ve got it, you’ll notice right away that your campus is very much set up like one of those Chinese reform-through-labor centers.  Nobody’s torturing you, of course — at least not physically — but look around.  I’d bet good money that there are no buildings on your campus that date from earlier than the 1980s, and the ones that do have been extensively “renovated” fairly recently.  This is by design, as is the fact that despite every college advertising its historic tradition of excellence, you will have a very hard time finding anything (other than the football team’s record) detailing just what that tradition IS.  Again, this is by design, and when you think about it, the weirdness jumps out at you all over campus.  You’re telling me that Flyover State was founded in 1870, and yet the only photographs anywhere on campus are digital printouts in the Dean’s office, showing a suspiciously diverse rainbow of undergrads from the class of 2008?  How about famous alumni?  Any pictures of them?  If you’re in the Ivy League you can’t avoid these, but most famous people didn’t go to Harvard…

This is “milieu control,” #1 on Lifton’s list.  The Flyover State Fightin’ Farmers have a long tradition of existence, both to their members and the community at large, but the content of that tradition can be changed at a moment’s notice, as the shifting winds of The Current Year’s SJW catechism blow.  Note that this also explains the proliferation of college-branded gear.  In earlier eras it was considered rather gauche to deck yourself out in logo stuff.  Only dorky freshmen or savvy seniors did that (and the latter only because it was a good way to pick up chicks at rival schools).  Most of us wore our one college sweater once, on Christmas break, when Grandma was over for a visit to her “real college boy.”  Finally, notice how total the milieu control is, even when it’s rather subtle.  It’s nearly impossible to cook for yourself, for instance, even if you live off campus (an increasing rarity) — no grocery stores anywhere near you.  Gluten-free vegan soy options, though?  Even the gas station has those.  Everything near campus reinforces their values.

Which segues nicely into #2, mystical manipulation.  You’re not to notice that your campus looks like an island in a sea of social dysfunction.  Instead, you’re supposed to focus on the plight of some marginalized micro-group 10,000 miles away, because if you ever stopped to wonder why we’re spending all this time and effort on the piddly issues of obscure foreigners instead of the real problems going on in the ghetto just a few blocks away, you might start wondering just why a small town in America’s Heartland has a mini-Mogadishu in the first place.  And then you’d notice that the professors’ explanations for the problems of the Exotic Oppressed have very little to do with the problems right here at home.  Maybe it’s the Legacy of Colonialism (TM) over there, but right here the main issue is that ghetto bangers are shooting each other over drugs and sneakers.  No amount of Critical Race Theory is going to stop that from happening, so it must only be applied to groups and places one will never, ever see.

See also #3, Demand for Purity.  Competitive #Wokeness is the only game ivory tower types play, and they play it with a fanatical ruthlessness the football coach only dreams his guys could bring to the gridiron.  But they’re irrelevant.  Professors are a tiny percentage of the campus population and — truly sorry to burst your bubble here — they have no idea who you are.  It’s the coeds you have to worry about.  As Z Man pointed out, “SJW” really just means “the weaponization of single women.”  Hence, “rape culture.”  Few places in America are physically safer than a college campus, but it doesn’t matter, because “rape” now means “he made me feel slightly uncomfortable, at some point in his existence.  I think.”  This is a demand for purity that can never be satisfied, which keeps emotions at a fever pitch.

#4, confession, is so obvious that even incoming freshmen laugh at it.  But note well — it doesn’t have to be sincere to work.  Everyone in the camp knows that X is only “confessing” because the guards beat the shit out of him for three days straight.  But as Lifton shows, now he’s on the record as a “criminal.”  He’s bought into their frame, as the PUA guys would say, and he’ll adjust his behavior accordingly, without consciously realizing it. Please note: Everybody laughs at those stupid “privilege walks” they make the incoming class do, but — nobody refuses.  You can refuse, you know.  What are the going to do, yank your admission?  Kick you out of the dorms?  Refund all your tuition, your meal plan, your books?  They’ll imply that they’re going to do exactly that, of course, but they can’t — not legally, and besides, the day a bursar gives a dime back will be the first time in recorded history.  Letting you mock things like “privilege walks” is, itself, part of the confession.

5, 6, and 7 are obvious, but they, like 1 through 4, all build up to #8: Dispensing of existence.  “Going to college” is American society’s collective merit badge.  Even now, when everybody knows that “college” is just a five-year SJW sleepaway camp, people throw around their college degrees like they’re game changers, and carry on like not having one is official proof of your stupidity.  Vox Day constantly mocks John Scalzi, for instance, for Scalzi’s repeated boasts about his “BA in the philosophy of language from the University of Chicago.”  But Vox Day also points out that Scalzi is a very talented, highly successful self-promoter.  Those two facts are related, I promise.  College degrees still have a “wow!” factor for people who haven’t been to college…

…which, in practice, means young people.  The kind of people, in other words, who show up at the ivy-covered halls perfectly primed to have Lifton’s list run on them.  If you have no strong sense of personal identity — and the entirety of American public education, K-thru-12, is specifically designed to make damn sure you don’t — then the identity the college provides for you is awesome, overwhelming.  You can almost hear the sigh of relief blowing across the quad from the freshman — excuse me, First Year — orientation seminar.  Finally, I belong!!!

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Putting Ourselves on the Spectrum

Back when we concerned ourselves with the actual behavior of real humans — that is, before we retreated entirely into the political fantasyland of Race / Class / Gender — historians vigorously debated mentalites (say it French-style for ivory tower street cred — mon-tall-ee-tays).  What did people think, and how did those beliefs drive their actions?

It led to some fascinating speculation.  If Julian Jaynes is right, for instance, then pretty much everything we know about the ancient world is wrong… but it doesn’t have to be that radical.  Take “literacy.”  How much information can you convey without written language?  This, for instance

is a high-medieval depiction of Christ surrounded by the four Evangelists (clockwise from top left: Matthew, John, Luke, Mark).  We assume this is didactic, as were all the carvings on medieval churches.  But: What does it teach?  Can you convey complex moral instruction this way?

It matters, because people in a society more complex than a small subsistence village has to be able to hash things out for itself.  “Don’t murder” is a pretty easy rule, you’d think, but even that can get muddy pretty quickly.  What if you legally deprive a man of everything he has, and his ability to get more?  Isn’t that tantamount to murder?

This is why some historians once claimed that “the Christian centuries” weren’t actually Christian in any meaningful sense.  In the tiny world of your ancestral village, there’s no need for theology.  The “Christ” you pray to might as well be Jupiter, or the Divine Augustus, or Cernunnos, or Nature herself.  Just do what you have to do to keep the priest happy, such that the divinity blesses your crops.  Chant the paternoster?  Ok.  Put money at the foot of the statue?  Sure.  Human sacrifice?  If you say so…

You only get complex thought, it seems, with writing, and you only get that in a city.  And even there it takes a long time – Linear B, for instance, is mostly for keeping lists.  Even stuff like Egyptian hieroglyphics, which can seemingly convey complex, abstract, information, isn’t didactic… for people.  It’s right there in the word — “hiero-glyphic” means “sacred carving.”  The Pyramid Texts contain scads of abstract information, but they’re addressed to someone who’s already dead.

What you need, then, is a group of urban-dwellers.  More than that, though, to really get written language going — to develop a writing that can easily convey abstract information — you need rootless cosmopolitans.  Check out this list of written languages.  Though some of them were used by cultures with large empires, the writing was brutally complicated, carried out entirely by a caste of specialists who did nothing but compose letters.  Only heavily urbanized trade cultures, like the Phoenicians, developed phonetic alphabets… after which, like magic, you see the birth of modern thought.

The point of this long excursion through palaeography is to highlight the relationship between written language and abstract thought.  Which seems like a pointless rehash of the obvious, except….

…. the process is reversing.  English (which in modern times should properly be called “American”) is the most efficient language ever devised for conveying abstract information — entirely fitting to a race of tinkerers.  But even American isn’t for rootless cosmopolitans.  Our language is full of proverbs, allusions, tropes and schemes and figures of speech of all kinds, none of which make sense outside of a shared culture.  And even though the American language will happily co-opt any useful word from another language (e.g. a calque like “brainwashing”), it still relies on those figures of speech to get meaning across.

See, for instance, the metonymy “top brass” (from the linked list of figures of speech).  It means “the upper level of leadership in an organization.”  It is itself metonymical — “the brass” meaning “officers.”  The only way you’d know that, though, is if you were familiar with the military.  But not the modern military, which wears sewn-on badges of rank in most situations.  Only formal uniforms have metallic badges, none of which actually look like brass.  Gorgets do, but those went out in the 18th century (here‘s George Washington wearing one as he goes off to fight the French and Indian War).

But that’s just history.  In practice, I doubt actual soldiers use the phrase “top brass” much anymore (given the military “leadership’s” set of priorities these days, I’m confident that the words most soldiers use for their commanding officers all have four letters).  Moreover, most Americans have never been in the army; lots of Americans don’t even know anyone who has ever been in the army.  When we civilians use the phrase “top brass,” then, we don’t actually mean “the upper level of leadership in an organization;” we mean either something like “the powers that be” — the vague, utterly unaccountable someones who seem to run things with no reference to us proles — or something like “a guy with very little actual power who carries on like the little king of everything.”  As in, “Tommy just got promoted to head fry guy on the afternoon shift, and all of a sudden he thinks he’s top brass — just him and Ronald McDonald running things.”

Now, here’s a fun challenge: Express the meaning of the phrase “Tommy thinks he’s top brass” in plain English, using no figures of speech whatsoever:

“Tommy behaves in the manner of a general in command of an army.”  That’s meaningless — have you ever even met a general, let alone been around one when he’s generaling?

“Tommy behaves as if he has more power than he actually does.”  Well, ok, but… what does that mean?  Tommy issues his orders (which is what we assume a general does all day), but Tommy actually has the power to do that — he’s the head fry guy, after all.

“Tommy insinuates that he has knowledge of the company’s inner workings that he doesn’t.”  Does he?  How?  How would you know?

“Tommy behaves arrogantly.”  That’s getting closer to what “Tommy thinks he’s top brass” actually means, but what if he’s that way all the time, or for non-work-related reasons?  Maybe Tommy is also the captain of the football team and the prom king.

“Tommy behaves more arrogantly now than he used to.”  Ok, now I think we’ve got it, but…. what’s “arrogant,” anyway?  See what I mean?  Even that — arrogance — is highly culture-specific…

Modern communication — Internet communication —  is truly rootless cosmopolitanism.  How can you say that Tommy is behaving in a way that intermittently oversteps the bounds of social convention in a specific context — which is the most bare-bones meaning of “Tommy thinks he’s top brass” — if there’s no “social convention” in the first place?

Our language encodes our culture.  The bulk of the abstract information written language conveys isn’t stuff like the Pyramid Texts, about the geography of the afterlife and whatnot.  Rather, it’s a set of common expectations.  Calling Tommy “top brass” is a mild, chiding insult.  You can express the same idea with “he’s gotten too big for his britches” or “he’s all puffed up” or any number of other idioms, but they all have the same purpose: To reinforce social norms.  “Tommy thinks he’s top brass” highlights the fact that we’re not in the army, and Tommy’s not our commanding officer, so he should stop acting like he’s a better person than the rest of us.

To Generation Snowflake, however — raised on blinking touchscreens; for whom slogging through a 120 character Tweet* is the equivalent of reading War and Peace — the phrase “Tommy thinks he’s top brass” is meaningless, baffling, frustrating.  Tweets, text messages, Facebook posts, blog comments etc. aren’t sequential– how often do you see people even here, on a blog with 14 readers, commenting on posts from a year or more ago?  They’re contextless, by definition, and I can prove it.  Go back through your Facebook posts or Tweets (if you’re one of the few remaining sane Americans who don’t do social media, get on your grandkids’ accounts).  Start scrolling back.  After a month or two, the whole page might as well be in Swahili.  Oh, look, there’s a picture of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on a beach, with the caption “I got this!” photoshopped onto it.  What the hell does that mean?

Which brings us, at long last, back to the start.  Can complex thought be conveyed graphically?

For every historian who speculated that Europe wasn’t meaningfully “Christian” until the Early Modern era because you can’t do theology with altar carvings, there were ten who pointed out that pictures are aide-memoires — they don’t tell the story, they recall the story, i.e. the teaching of the local priest who, after reforms like Gregory the Great‘s, was probably halfway decent….

… but that, in turn, presupposes a tight-knit community with a long tradition.  Which you had in the Middle Ages, but now?  There are no cultural touchstones, only each moment’s memes.  Cultural expectations, such as they are, are conveyed by movies, all of which are sequels to prequels of reboots.  Orwell said that the purpose of Newspeak was to make forbidden thoughts impossible by eliminating the language used to express them.  He thought this would take a massive, decades-long effort to rewrite the dictionary.  But then Twitter happened, as my students would’ve said back in my teaching days, and we threw the whole damn thing out voluntarily in the space of a few years.

If it’s possible to convey abstract information with memes, we’d better find out awful damn quick, before our society volunteers to go fully autistic.  If not, well, we’ll be seeing how they did it in the Middle Ages up close and personal here in the next few decades.

 

 

*If you doubt that we’re well and truly screwed, that article is about the best illustration I’ve got.  The length of the average tweet, it reports, is 33 characters.  The preceding sentence used 48 characters, not counting punctuation marks.  Simply grunting and pointing is a more effective communication method.

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What Comes Next

I got nothin’ today, but since I’m trying to post less erratically let’s knock out a no-brainer:

George Orwell said

Power worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.

Hanlon’s razor says

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Put them together and you get the Twilight of the Gods, Western culture version.

Take the latter first.  Hanlon’s razor is in need of some serious modification, and since I’m a humble guy I’ll call it the Severian Corollary: Some stupidity is so mind-boggling, you actually pray that it’s malice.  We’ll be sifting through the fallout of the various Trump Administration non-scandals for a long, long time, but one horrifying conclusion is immediately obvious: Our leaders are seriously stupid.  Not the ordinary kind of rich-people-living-in-a-bubble stupid, but something much closer to real, actual, honest-to-god mental retardation.  For every cynic out there who knew that the “Russia collusion” stuff was an op from jump street, there are ten people with actual power and real influence who truly believed it.

I’ll repeat: When presented with the thesis that the President of the United States — a man with the keys to the world’s largest economy, and the firing codes for a nuclear arsenal that could vaporize the solar system — was a paid agent of a foreign power, taking orders direct from a hostile government: sitting Congressmen, media people with audiences in the millions, and every single member of our higher educational system (not to mention lots of people working serious jobs with actual responsibilities and bigtime salaries to match), said “Yeah, sounds right.”

See what I mean?  You fucking well pray that’s malice, because otherwise when you go to your doctor to get that lump checked out, you’re facing the real possibility that she thinks something along the lines of “Donald Trump pissed on a hooker in a Moscow hotel room, and that’s how Putin stole the election.”

Now consider the first quote.  Since I’m the opposite of a power worshiper (a power loather, I guess that would be), I know present trends never continue.  Presently, the trends are that all goodthinkers believe race is nothing but a social construction, we’re all blank slates, and oh yeah, the President pissed on a Russian hooker.  But since these are so obviously false — so brain-blisteringly stupid, in fact, that you search for something, anything, to rationalize people’s seeming belief in them — the present trends will not only stop, but reverse course.

Human affairs are a pendulum.  Pendulums always swing back, and the further it goes in one direction, the harder it swings back in the other.  Thus, the obvious conclusion is that what’s coming is a kind of biological determinism so absolute, it’ll give de Gobineau a stiffie in the afterlife.  Do you now, or have you ever, used the word “gender” to describe anything other than a Latin noun?  Do you now, or have you ever, known how to spell “intersectionality”?  Have you ever pierced anything other than your ears, or sported a hair color not found in nature?

The Handmaid’s Tale is coming, all right, but only because the college population, both undergrad and grad/professional, is overwhelmingly female.  If you’ve had all those years of very expensive training and you still think the President gets his marching orders from Moscow, then obviously The Patriarchy fumbled the fucking ball.  Time to give purdah a serious look, and as for Diversity being Our Strength…

Like I say, obvious.  But Orwell also said that in times like these, the first duty of intelligent men is simply to point out the obvious.

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What is to be Done?

David Stove — one of the fiercest defenders free thought has ever had — once wrote an essay arguing that in the long run, it would be better for the human race if anyone expressing what he called “the equality opinion” were shot.

François-Noël Babeufyou’ll be shocked to learn, was a journalist.  He was vain, dumb, and utterly convinced of the righteousness of his “revolutionary” opinions.  But since Babeuf’s dates are 1760-1797, his opinions really were revolutionary.  Specifically, they were equalitarian — so equalitarian, in fact, that he excoriated those other great Champions of Humanity, Maximilien Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety, for not going far enough.  Equality “in fact” is what he wanted, not just “by proclamation.”  He was afforded an excellent opportunity to express these views in his treason trial.

Stove credits Babeuf for both the courage of his convictions, and the simple, brutal logic of those convictions.  There is no greater inequality than inequality of property.  Since The Revolution was supposed to bring about equality — that’s the égalité part of liberté, égalité, fraternité — then The Revolution must institute common property.  If it doesn’t, Babeuf said, then The Revolution is meaningless, and we’ve just exchanged one set of exploitative feudal masters for another.

Babeuf got the guillotine, of course (Privilege is always something other people have) but Stove says he got what he deserved.  “The equality opinion,” Stove says — the notion that people can be made equal, in defiance of everything we know about the world — will always, inevitably, inexorably, end in a police state.

Stove’s logic is simple, brutal, Babeuf-ian (I think he’d savor the irony): Certain thoughts, like “the equality opinion,” are pathogens.  They may not kill you right away (though in Babeuf’s case they did), but in the long run they are 100% fatal to any culture that tolerates them.  Thus you can have either “free thought,” or you can have “the equality opinion.”  Since the latter always destroys the former — plus the material, mental, and spiritual foundation on which it rests — “freedom of thought” turns out to entail at least one thought being ruthlessly proscribed.

Isn’t History fun?  Everything comes around twice, as someone said — first as tragedy, then as farce.  And what a farce it is!  If we want to preserve any vestige of tolerant, open minded, liberal Western culture — so Babeuf-style reasoning would conclude — we need to resort to Bolshevik tactics.

So: What would a guy like Lenin do in this situation?

Marxism teaches that society is made up of Base and Superstructure.  Marx was a man of his time, and his time was the middle of the 19th century, so he concluded that the Base upon which all culture rests is economic: The relations of the forces of production.  Since V.I. Lenin had no problem rewriting the Scriptures, our Bizarro World Lenin would conclude that Marx was wrong — the Base isn’t economics, it’s biology.  

Politics is downstream from culture, and culture is downstream from biology.  Even though we’re talking about Lenin (albeit a Bizarro World version), it’s important to note that this is NOT some version of “genetic determinism.”  Though human culture hit its apex in a London drawing room in 1902, there’s nothing specifically English about human culture — the world-conquering English were once, after all, blue-assed savages shivering naked on the edge of the Roman Empire.  Any human culture past the mud-hovel level requires a certain IQ and a high future time orientation, yes, but those basic requirements allow almost infinite variation.

So: Decide the kind of culture you want to have, then get the biology that allows it.

[One of the things that sucks most about writing on the Internet is the knowledge that one’s readers are either not active enough, or all too active.  (No insult intended to the fourteen people who actually read this thing on the regular — I know y’all follow me — but for everyone else).  Right now, the not-active-enough reader would be expecting me to spell out the next steps — how, exactly, would our Bizarro World Lenin go about getting the biology that allows a given culture?  What would his first steps be?  And wouldn’t that mean…?  Etc.  Meanwhile, your all-too-active reader is a bot in a three-letter Federal agency, just waiting to pounce on certain combinations of words.  This is why it’s useful to think about what Lenin would’ve done in such and such a situation, in that one can use words like “revolutionary activity” to describe them).

No matter what one decides, though, Lenin would have further advice.  The historical Lenin’s great modification of Marxist doctrine was his assertion that the Proletariat will never develop the necessary “revolutionary consciousness” on its own.  Rather, The Revolution requires a cadre of dedicated professional revolutionaries to teach The Masses, to help them realize the hopelessness of their situation.  How that actually squares with The Scriptures, which proclaim The Revolution to be the inevitable outcome of Historical Forces, is anyone’s guess (though you’re welcome to have a crack at Lenin’s writings)…

…but ultimately it doesn’t matter, because that would be Lenin’s final piece of advice: Embrace contradiction.  Marxist revolutionary activity is impossible without it, because Marxism is a Hegelian heresy and Hegel says the world only progresses via contradiction, but that doesn’t matter either.  Look at where we started:  The only guy who has never contradicted himself in this whole sordid mess of an essay is Babeuf, because he was a lunatic who sincerely believed that if true equality means turning all of us into lobotomized monkeys living in caves, well, so be it: Fiat justitia ruat caelum.  That’s your choice, comrades (our Bizarro World Lenin would say): Embrace Bolshevik tactics to advance the cause of free and open society, or let free and open society stick us all in caves.  (At least the lobotomies will be covered by Obamacare).

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Love in the Time of Twitter

Tim Newman has some fun with Slate’s Penthouse Forum “sex advice” column, in which we’re asked to believe that an attractive, single woman in her early 30s is desperately seeking no-strings-attached sex, but just can’t find any.  Sadly there is no picture of the lady, but in the course of cheerfully skewering both advisee and adviser, Newman and his commenters nail the two reasons I wouldn’t wish modern “dating” on anyone.  They’re the same reasons Western Civilization is doomed:

  1. denial of reality.
  2. false advertising.

Regarding 1), there are few things more obvious than The Wall.  A knockout in her early 30s can triumph head-to-head against a plain jane in her early 20s, but that really is the disparity of forces.  An attractive woman at 25 is attractive, full stop.  An attractive woman at 35 is attractive.*

*for her age.

And that’s just for one-night stands — the Wall-Adjacent Knockout beats Plain Jane if and only if they’re the last two women in the bar at closing time, competing for the same guy, who doesn’t have any better options on-call in his phone at the time.  When it comes to committed relationships — which, as Newman points out, is the obvious goal of the “no-strings-attached” lady — fughettaboudit.  A guy with options will go younger every time (nobody, least of all the kind of woman who would write to / for the amateur Leftist webzine Slate, cares what the guy without options does).

Which leads directly to 2).  Back in the days — meaning, as recently as when I was a wee lad — it was still understood by most people that humans have a life cycle.  Adjusting accordingly was called “growing up,” and it was considered a desirable — nay, essential — thing to do.  In that world, “being sexually attractive” pretty much dropped off the priorities list after age 30, because by that time one’s sexual attractiveness had already been leveraged into a committed relationship (the ancient Sumerian word for this was “mar-riage”), a few kids had been born, etc.

No, really, you can check.  Novels are great for this.  There’s a long tradition of what the Eng Lit crowd calls “domestic fiction.”  They confine it to the 19th century, of course, but that’s mostly for administrative convenience.  Pretty much any “lit fic” that isn’t conspicuously Postmodern would qualify.  Basically, if it was published before 1985 and doesn’t involve spies, space aliens, or horrors from beyond the grave, it’s domestic fiction.  But feel free to read the old classics, too, like Pride and Prejudice.

It’ll probably bore your socks off — domestic fiction is not, by definition, a gripping read — but it’s all there.  If you don’t want to bother, here’s a quick summary.  Note that while we’re supposed to see this as “romantic” — Elizabeth would never lower herself to marry the tall, handsome, filthy-rich Mr. Darcy if she weren’t in love with him — on his part, at least, it’s an all but cash-on-the-nail transaction.  He prefers Elizabeth Bennett over Jane, even though the latter is pretty and the former is plain, because Elizabeth would make him the better wife.

In other words, it’s advertising.  All effective advertising is aspirational.  Edward Bernays figured this out in the early 20th century.  The ad which convinces you that Product X is better than Product Y at solving Problem Z will move units, yes… but the ad which convinces you that Product X makes you a better person than Product Y will dominate the market.  Remember the Pepsi Challenge?  More Americans prefer the taste of Pepsi over Coca-Cola in a blind taste test, it’s scientifically proven… and yet, Coke’s market share got ever greater.  Why?  Because Coke’s concurrent ad campaign was Max Headroom.  Watch some of those videos.  Yeah, it’ll make your brain hurt — the 1980s were a very different time — but you’ll see what I mean before the migraine sets in.

Now flip the channel back to Pride and Prejudice.  Mr. Darcy is, as we’ve already noted, tall, handsome, and loaded.  He could issue a 463 bullet point checklist of what he wants in a mate, and have every girl in England falling all over themselves to meet it.  As he is a red-blooded heterosexual male, the first item on said checklist would, of course, be “she must be hot.”  Since Elizabeth knows she isn’t, she focuses on the other 462, and she sells the everloving fuck out of it.  She convinces Darcy that’s she’s not only better at solving his problem (being a good wife, i.e. the Pepsi Challenge), but that by marrying her, Darcy is showing the world he’s a better person.  Sure, there are lots of tall, handsome, rich guys in England, but only you have the intelligence, the perception, the strength of character, to look past superficial beauty standards….

It’s a brilliant sales job, and that’s why Pride and Prejudice is a classic of English literature.

The Ed Biz, obviously, disagrees.  And they’re going to get really upset at the next part, because the standard take on P&P is that it’s the original Grrrl Power novel — Elizabeth stays true to herself, and wins over the cad who finally sees the error of his ways.  You go girl!  But, like all feminist productions, the standard take is not only ludicrously wrong, it’s backassward.  Because, of course, it’s not Elizabeth who has the power; it’s Mr. Darcy.

The only reason Elizabeth’s innovative, truly brilliant ad campaign works is because Mr. Darcy is at the very top of a culture that values the other 462 bullet points, all of which can be summarized with the word “domesticity.”  Before the ad campaign, Darcy assumed that bullet point #1 was the rare commodity.  After all, every girl in England knows how to iron a shirt and pump out a kid; very few girls are hot.  Elizabeth flips that on its head — there are lots of hot girls, she tells Darcy, but very few who are really wife material.  In either case, though, the underlying presumption is the same:  Since we’re going to be together for the long haul, and since no human female stays hot much past age 30, you’d better focus on the rest of the package.

It works because they’re both realists.  If you’re going to be with one person for the rest of your life — the bedrock cultural assumption that underlies the other 462 — it’d better be the right person, because “til death do us part” is a looooong time, and neither of you will be very sexually attractive for the vast majority of it.

Which brings us back to the no-strings-attached lady and, at long last, to the point.  NSA lady laments that despite her best efforts, she keeps getting “entangled” with her booty calls.  The Slate advice columnette advises her to — and I swear I’m not making this up — put little “reminder” tags next to their numbers in her phone.

Make the guys have names like “Chris Nothing Serious Johnson” or “Joe This Is Just Sex Beatty.”

Newman’s comment is classic:

Yes, your innate biological desire to pair-bond can be outwitted by putting reminders in your phone next to men’s names.

NSA lady is a modern woman, and all modern women have been bamboozled by advertising.  It’s a campaign even more brilliant, and far more insidious, than Elizabeth Bennett’s.  At least we can figure out what it is that Elizabeth is trying to sell.  Moreover, Elizabeth was right — if Mr. Darcy thought it through with his big head instead of his small one, he’d realize that the other 462 bullet points really are the key to long-term happiness.

Modern women have all been sold on this idea that “your innate biological desire to pair-bond,” like Mr. Darcy’s innate biological desire for younger-hotter-tighter, isn’t just wrong, it’s actively harmful…. and they have no idea why.  Worse, modern technology makes it all but impossible for them — hell, for anyone — to take a step back to figure it out.  We take almost everything we read literally, almost all the time.  I’ll prove it: I guarantee you that anyone who challenges my interpretation of Pride and Prejudice will start by yelling “But Elizabeth isn’t attracted to Mr. Darcy!”

And how do they know this?  Because Elizabeth said so.  Which is why P&P was considered a great novel back in its day, too — unlike modern readers, who only see Grrrl Power, Jane Austen’s original readers knew what girls are like.  They knew that girls are just people and, being people, lie to themselves constantly.  “Mr. Darcy would never go for a plain girl like me… which is good, because I’m certainly not attracted to tall, handsome, arrogant, rich bad boys.”  Sour grapes, anyone?

So they end up reading this exquisitely stupid advice, and it never occurs to them that it is, in fact, full retard.  Worse, they never stop to think why such a letter would be written in the first place.  As Newman’s readers point out, this is the chick equivalent of those old “Penthouse Forum” letters (for younger readers: Penthouse was a nudie mag back in the pre-Internet days.  The first few pages — I’ve heard — were devoted to the “Penthouse Forum,” in which supposedly real guys out in the real world wrote in to tell about their bizarre sexual experiences.  These letters generally started with “I never thought it could happen to me, but…”).

Like the letters to Penthouse Forum, the emails to Slate’s “How to Do It” column are ads.  The guys in the marketing department cook them up, and like all good ads, they’re aspirational.  The Penthouse Forum ad men knew that none of their readers would ever run into a horny housewife with a fantasy about plumbers (or whatever), just as the ad men at Slate know that for women, “no-strings-attached” sex can be had for the low low price of showing up at a hotel bar.  The point of the ad, the product it’s selling, is the magazine itself.  If you want to be the kind of guy horny housewives proposition after a hard day unclogging toilets, read Penthouse.  If you want to be the kind of gal who is so desirable, even in her 30s, that her only problem is caring too much about all the many, many, many guys who want to bone her, read Slate.

That the rest of Slate contains nothing but goodthink, of the kind that landed our totally-a-rea-person NSA lady in her pickle in the first place, is a feature not a bug.

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