Monthly Archives: July 2019

The People Reconsidered II

[continued from below]

What does all this have to do with political theory?

First, recall that all modern political theory is based on the “social contract,” which was a direct result of the English Civil War.  The “social contract” can’t exist without individuals.  I hope you’ll agree with me that in retrospect, that’s a serious flaw, but at the time it made sense, for the simple reason that all the individuals in England — that is, all the people whose opinions mattered, and thus whose buy-in was necessary for a legitimate government — were all assembled at Putney.

Cultural studies people love the word “encode.”  For normal people, it’s the Moonbat Signal — it’s the cue for all the wackos to come out of the woodwork, screaming about how The Lion King “encodes” fascism or some such.  But like everything academia craps out, there’s a nugget of truth in there, and it’s this: All functional groups share common assumptions, which show up in their language.  So when the boys at Putney, or at Philadelphia, started talking about the “rights” of “men,” they of course didn’t mean that their pronouncements applied to all humans.  “Encoded” in their language of rights were their assumptions about individuals: The “rights of Englishmen” meant “the rights of the people who are in this room right now, that said people can and will enforce at gunpoint.”

And there you have it: “Representative government” in a nutshell.  When the boys at Philadelphia pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to defending each others’ lives, liberties, and properties, they meant it.  But they also knew that, as the effective individuals in their societies, everyone else would follow along.  Joe Schmoe’s life, liberty, and property are secure, because he’s in George Washington’s community — because George Washington will go to the mattresses for George Washington’s life, liberty, and property, so Joe Schmoe will go to the mattresses for his….

….provided George Washington is there to lead him.  That’s the “social contract.”  A contract between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton is valid, because both men can, and will (and did) shed blood to enforce it.  Each man will kill, and risk death, on the other’s behalf.

So what happens, then, when there’s no George Washington?  When there are nothing but “individuals” in the modern sense — rootless, soulless, purposeless, useless bugmen who “exist” only through “social” media?  Again, please note that I’m not saying “there are no individuals in America.”  There are lots of them.  The problem is,

  • we don’t know who they are, so
  • they can’t possibly represent us, so
  • there is no “social contract” possible with them

even if we wanted one, which we clearly don’t.

“The people,” in short, don’t matter.  They never really did, but now we’re in a worst-of-all-worlds scenario, fetishizing “democracy” without the slightest understanding of what it is.  The individuals who rule us are not our “rulers,” on any political theory that makes sense…..

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The People, Reconsidered

[continued from below]

My argument is this:  Politics is the art of maintaining the level of individuals in a given society.  Find out who the individuals are in any given group.  See how they buy in, or don’t, to the leader’s vision.  And there you have it — the rise and fall of a people.

My definition of “individual” is: A person whose preferences actually matter in a given system.  That is, someone with sufficient power that his preferences influence events.  Crudely reductive theories (if that isn’t redundant) like Marxism assign all the individuals to broad social classes — the bourgeoisie, the capitalists — but we all know that in any given group, only a select few people set the tone.  These are the individuals, as I’m using the term.

Even in the so-called “Deep State,” for instance, it’s guys like Peter Strzok calling the tune — James Comey will end up taking a bigger fall if there’s ever a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the 2016 coup attempt, but we all know that Comey’s too dumb and weak to have actually done anything on his own.  Had Strzok been a huge MAGA man, “Comey’s” FBI would’ve been MAGA-fied too.

Or consider a less contentious example: Teenagers.  I’ve written before that I’ve never met an honest-to-God SJW among the studentry, even though I’ve taught gazillions of college kids.  I’ve had a whole bunch of literal blue-haired nose-ringers drift through my classes over the years, but as I said, the key word in the phrase “college kid” is “kid.”  The blue hair and the nose rings are just fashion.  Yeah yeah, I’m sure they’d check all the SJW boxes if you gave them a social survey, but they’d take the survey in the exact same spirit — and with the exact same level of effort — as they take midterm exams:  That is, not at all.  Everyone knows the lines you’re supposed to parrot when it comes to stuff like global warming, LGBTQwhatever, etc., just like everyone knows what the professor wants to hear on the midterm exam.  Put the required words in the required order, everyone gets an A, and now we can all go get blackout drunk on Wednesday night.

Those kids, then, weren’t individuals in my sense, despite the blue hair and the nose rings.  But here’s the rub: I wasn’t an individual either.

I’m blissfully retired now, praise Buddha, but I can assure you that if an honest-to-god SJW had ever shown up in one of my classes, the entire experience would’ve changed.  Instead of teaching “the students,” I’d now be “teaching” Trigglypuff exclusively.  The reason for this is simple:  You can’t beat Trigglypuff.  I have other responsibilities; Trigglypuff doesn’t.  Hell, I have to sleep sometime; Trigglypuff — who by definition has access to powerful prescription psychotropics — doesn’t.  Trigglypuff can and will chain herself to the radiator outside the Dean’s office until I either recant or get fired, so I’ll either recant or get fired — either way, problem solved.  My preferences, such as they were, made no difference at all.

Finding the individuals, then, can be tricky.  Indeed, that’s where you see your major historical ruptures — your civil wars and whatnot.  Charles I, for instance, thought the bluebloods were the individuals in his society.  He figured that he had the Duke of This and the Earl of That and the Bishop of the Other Thing in his pocket, so his throne was secure.  But the Duke of This and the Earl of That hadn’t mattered for a hundred years or more, because they were landed gentry in a money economy.  This was brought home in dramatic fashion when the Dukes and Earls, and King Charles himself, marched out to settle the Covenanters, only to find half the army unwilling to fight and the other half actively joining the rebels.

In Charles’s society, the individuals were the merchants and “hot gospelers.”  That’s how Parliament could get an army together in the blink of an eye.  And not just any army, but a ruthlessly effective one, despite almost all the military training and experience being on the other side.  Mano-a-mano and in a vacuum, Prince Rupert might’ve been the equal of any Parliamentary general, but modern wars aren’t fought mano-a-mano or in vacuums.  Modern armies need support staffs — quartermasters, paymasters, pen-pushers of all kinds — and all those guys were fighting for Parliament.  At bottom, the Cavaliers were trying to fight a medieval war with modern armies, which is why they lost.  The locus of individuality, if you want to put it pretentiously (but accurately!), had shifted.

To be continued….

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Political Theory IV: The People?

This one’s gonna be episodic — like Indiana Jones, I make it up as I go along — but please stick with me as we veer wildly across time and place….

Last time, we said that social contract theory doesn’t work.  Social contract theory rests on two assumptions, both false:

  1. that “society” is a collection of physically-proximate individuals; and
  2. individuals are rational actors.

There are actually several things wrong with these statements, but let’s focus on “individual.”  Humans aren’t built for individuality.  They just aren’t.  I know, I know, most people squirm a little in their seats when they read that — what, after all, are red-blooded ‘Murricans if not rugged individualists? — but this is why I say I’m the only guy I know who really believes in evolution.  Humans are monkeys; monkeys have the most elaborate, rigid social hierarchy in the animal kingdom.

Please note what I’m not saying: That there are no individuals in human society.  Society is, in fact, full of individuals.  What I am saying is: That’s a problem.  A serious problem.  “Politics,” on my view, is little more than the process of threading the needle between a group of too few individuals (a “mob”), and too many.*

Individuality is one of the great problems of prosperity.  You don’t have to worry about differences of opinion when you’re on the ragged edge of survival.  This is the origin of the myth of the “noble savage” — as every 19th century anthropologist remarked, primitives seem deliriously happy, because their lives are filled with purpose.  For them, every meal is a real achievement; a day without serious physical pain is a minor miracle.  Primitives are primitive, quite simply, because they lack the free time to be anything else.

Higher forms of social organization involve a dangerous tradeoff.  Greater food-security (via agriculture) means lesser physical security.  Now you’re not only a target for those with less food, but, more insidiously, greater food-security means that more individuals have time to develop.  “What should we do with the excess food?” is a serious question, with life-threatening consequences.  If we’re not on the same page with our answer, we may not be able to pull together in time when the barbarians come over the hill… which means our city gets sacked, we get killed, and our women and children sold into slavery.

Hence Greek political theory.  Aristotle maintained that the purpose of “the State” is to attain “the good.”  That sounds utilitarian to modern ears — we hear “the greatest good for the greatest number,” which in turn means something like “maximizing the happiness of each individual.”  But that’s not what Aristotle meant.  He meant something like “increasing the total amount of virtue in the city,” which doesn’t make sense to us — “virtue” and “happiness” being, in the parlance of our times, almost complete opposites.  But it makes perfect sense in the “sacked-city, women-and-children-enslaved” kind of world Aristotle inhabited — Aristotle, you’ll recall, was the personal tutor to Alexander the Great, whose father, Philip II, brutalized most of Greece (and was gearing up to invade the Persian Empire when he was assassinated).

Philip II of Macedon was an individual if ever there was one, and so was Demosthenes.  The latter kept the Athenians from getting on the same page when the former came over the hill.  In case your Greek history is a little rusty, that didn’t work out so well for Athens.  Had the Athenians been virtuous in Aristotle’s sense — had they pulled together, assessed the situation calmly and rationally, and presented a united front, instead of letting themselves be swayed by a demagogue — they would’ve found themselves in a much better position, with lots of their young men still alive….

Let’s backtrack a bit (I told y’all I make this up as I go along).  You’ll recall that Aristotle was Plato’s student.  You’ll also recall that Plato’s Republic is a seminal work of political theory.  But what most people don’t remember is that the Republic wasn’t written to answer the question “What’s the best way to organize a state?”  Rather, it was to answer the question “What is Justice?”  All that famous stuff they glossed over in Western Civ I — the allegory of the cave, etc. — was in service to that question: What is Justice?  Whatever the answer actually was — consult a Western Civ text written before about 1960 — the end result, the ideal form of government that brings “Justice” to all, was, for all intents and purposes, Stalinism.

No, seriously.  The “republic” of the Republic is a classless society where all property is held in common, ruled by philosopher-kings who alone have access to the truth.  The “guardians” (of the famous “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?“) are to “guard” the people for the people’s own good; the guardians themselves don’t need to be guarded because of the pristine condition of their souls.  Felix Dzerzhinsky (whose dream in life was to be a schoolteacher!) couldn’t have said it better.

The point is that Plato’s “republic,” like Aristotle’s “virtue,” drastically reduces the number of individuals in a polity.  We all know that Aristotle dismissed women, children, and slaves as irrational, and therefore unworthy of consideration in political life.  But he dismissed pretty much everyone else, too.  Again, this man was Plato’s student and Alexander the Great’s teacher.  Aristotle lived through Alexander’s entire reign.  He saw Philip II up close and personal while Philip was terrorizing Greece.  If he, Aristotle, had a problem with any of that, he certainly never said so.  What “good,” one wonders, was Alexander’s state (such as it was) organized to achieve?  Plundering Persia?  That would be a perfectly acceptable answer in the ancient world, but it doesn’t have anything to do with “virtue,” let alone “the good,” for any individual other than Alexander….

to be continued.

 

 

 

*Don’t take it from me.  Social- and evo-psych people have probably written on this in depth, but since this is the Internet, I’ll quote Dune: “A leader, you see, is one of the things that distinguishes a mob from a people. He maintains the level of individuals. Too few individuals, and a people reverts to a mob.”
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Friday Quick Take: Welcome to 1517

It’s fairly common these days to assert that we’ve hit “peak SJW” or something to that effect.  I’m starting to wonder if it might really be true this time.

The reason the “peak SJW” hype never affected me in the past is simple: I spent a lot of time in higher ed.  You’ll have to take my word for this, but on campus, the stuff y’all consider bottom-of-the-barrel, can’t-possibly-get-any-crazier is known as “the midterm exam.”  The “ideology-trumps-biology” school of gender studies, for instance, has been a staple on campus since before the millennium.  Here’s Jonah Goldberg, for instance, writing about it in National Review:

For example, consider Colette Dowling’s The Frailty Myth which came out in 2000. Ms. Dowling, also the author of acclaimed feminist tome The Cinderella Complex, argues in the Frailty Myth that there are, in fact, no physical differences between men and women in the athletic sense. Differences in athletic performance are purely a result of the patriarchy’s “hidden agenda of keeping women in their place by keeping them believing in their weakness.” She insists that “studies show gender to be barely relevant as a predictor, or limiter, of athletic performance,” she writes. “What really counts are acquired skills, trained muscles, and movement efficiency that comes from refined technique.”

Seriously, she explicitly believes that if women were unleashed from the shackles of the patriarchy, the NFL, the NBA, the world of boxing, etc. would be completely coed.

Note the dates.  Goldberg’s column is from 2002, critiquing a book that came out in 2000.  The book was published by Random House — i.e., by one of the biggest of mainstream publishers — so you know the ideas behind it had been percolating for years, if not decades, before the yoni warriors in Manhattan penthouses decided to market it to Barnes and Noble.  By the time Normal America got the chance to freak out about it, in other words, the idea that “studies show gender to be barely relevant as a predictor, or limiter, of athletic performance” was taken for granted on campus.  We eggheads had already moved on to things like the fundamental human right of trans-women to have taxpayer funded aboritons.  

But here’s the thing: Back in 2002, nobody suggested that gender constraints should be removed from college athletics.  Back then, Title IX was still a big deal, and the same ditzy gyno-activists who bought books like The Frailty Myth would go bananas if you suggested chick sports should be eliminated — since “trained muscles and refined technique” are what really counts, just open the football team tryouts to the girls, and in no time some 5’2″, 110-lb sorority girl will be tearing it up on the defensive line.  

These days, of course, our SJWs are suggesting exactly that.  More importantly, they’re actually writing it into law.  So yes, we now have the brain-busting spectacle of girls suing colleges under Title IX to get spots on girls’ teams because they can’t compete with biological males who are somehow also girls.  Biological men are also crushing — the feminists’ own word — biological females in women’s sports all across the spectrum.  From bodybuilding to bike racing to soccer to track, chicks-with-dicks are actually competing with, and blowing away, actual women in women’s sports.

And won’t the 2020 Olympics be a hoot?  Right there in an election year and everything.

That, my friends, is why I’m starting to think “peak SJW” is real.  Before it was just talk; now it’s actually happening, with real consequences.  We all know that SJW will only end when it affects something that White suburban women care about.  Well, what do Soccer Moms care about more than soccer?  Little Stacy just lost her college scholarship to a 6’2″ entity with a 10″ wang that calls xhyrzelf “Desiree.”  This is actually happening.

Throw in the rise of Ocasio-Cortez — such that all of America can now see, in all her glory, the Basic College Girl — and this stuff at last has real consequences to the voters that matter.

It may well be 1517 for the Church of Leftism.  Stay tuned… and grab the popcorn.

 

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On the Necessity of Religious Belief

Since we “dissidents” are The Reality People (patent pending), our worldview must reflect humans as they actually are.  The Ancient Greeks famously claimed that man is “the rational animal,” but that’s wrong — we are, at best, capable of intermittent rationality (turn on the tv for proof).  What really defines us is our belief in the supernatural.

We all have something outside ourselves that gives our lives meaning.  I’ll prove it:

It’s just a ____.

Everyone has a value for ___ that makes that phrase fightin’ words.  Some people find deep meaning in model railroading.  The model railroader would acknowledge to himself that it’s irrational, probably deeply stupid, to spend dozens of hours a week and thousands of dollars a year building little choo-choos in his basement… but if you tell him that to his face, he’ll punch you.

Extend that out as far as you like.  Tell the dog lover that his beloved Rover is objectively just a parasite, wagging his tail for kitchen scraps.  Tell the besotted lover that objectively speaking, she’s just a bag of pheromones that temporarily bonded with his.  Watch the devoted family man trudging off to his soul-killing job, day after day, and ask him why he still does it, suspecting that his wife is cheating on him and knowing his kids consider him a loser.  We all have something that gets us up in the morning, something that bears an emotional weight far greater than it can objectively support.

As with any human trait, though, “religiosity,” for lack of a better term, is distributed very unevenly.  “Athleticism” is a good analogy.  There are guys who are just ungodly athletic.  Those guys are almost always offered coaching jobs, and it’s almost invariably a disaster — they’re so athletic, these guys, that they can’t explain even to other ludicrously athletic people how to do the things they do.  By analogy, those are the truly religious people, the ones who go into ministries.  They’re just connected with their god, the way hall of fame-type athletes are just connected with their bodies.  Just as it’s no use asking Michael Jordan to teach you how to dunk a basketball — you can either do it, or you can’t — there’s no sense asking a priest how to hear the voice of God.  You either will or you won’t.

On the other end of the spectrum are guys who constantly trip over their own feet.  Watching that kind of guy trying to operate his own body is like watching a little kid trying to grab a toy with one of those claw machines you see at county fairs.  Somewhat counterintuitively, in our analogy that type of guy isn’t an atheist.  Rather, he’s what I call “a sincere nonbeliever.”  He’s not an un-believer, note, because the very thought of “belief” never crosses his mind.  Saints and atheists alike are equally flummoxing to him; he just can’t see what the big deal is either way.  He has his objectively-ridiculous belief, of course, like we all do — these guys are often quite susceptible to guns ‘n’ NASCAR-type “patriotism” — but any organized religion, from High-Church Catholicism to Evangelical Atheism, leaves him cold.

Any effective political organization knows this about people.  Even the Communists, the great Reality-deniers themselves, suffused their governments with religious rituals.  Their pantheon had more gods and devils than anyone’s — left-deviationists, right-deviationists, capitalist-roaders, Trotskyites, wreckers, saboteurs, enemy agents, double agents, Jews, kulaks… plus Stakhanov, Pavlik, Rosa Luxemburg, Emma Goldman…. Nobody forced all those days-long lines to get into Lenin’s mausoleum, and hundreds of thousands of people died in labor camps believing with all their hearts that Comrade Stalin would fix all this once he learned of it.

The question, then, is what the “religious” content of a “dissident right” government would be?

It’s not an idle question.  For the Church of Leftism, it’s 1517 right now.  All the indulgences have been sold; the theses are getting nailed to the cathedral door.  It’s fun to laugh at that goofball who declared that when he’s president, there’ll be taxpayer funding for trans-women to get abortions, but remember two things:

  1. He wasn’t kidding; and
  2. he said this in a debate.  For President.  Of the United States.

That’s the logical endpoint of this stuff.  If you truly believe the CultMarx Cult’s dogmas, then yes, absolutely, there are trans-women out there desperately in need of taxpayer funded abortions.

Religious beliefs can’t be eliminated; they can only be repurposed.  We absolutely must have the guy whose “religiosity” centers around model trains to get going, but to sustain a viable society, we need the “abortions for trans-women” loons, too.  (They make great shock troops, if nothing else).  If we’re at all serious about Our Thing, we need to acknowledge the necessity of religious belief…. and get working on creating some.

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Political Theory Primer III

Today’s topic: “Natural Rights.”

The comments on parts I and II highlight what’s wrong with “natural rights” theory.  I’ve had students moot a lot of possible answers to the question “Why is murder wrong?”, but because they’re products of the American educational system, they’ve received between 12 and 20 years of very expensive training in ignoring the obvious one:

Murder is wrong because it’s wrong.  Murder means “wrongful killing.”  If it’s not wrong, then by definition it’s not murder.

So what’s the point, right?  Well, as I tried to show yesterday, at least one of the terms in the phrase “wrongful killing” is deeply culture-bound.  I’d argue that they both are, actually, but let’s stick with “wrongful.”  The very word “wrongful” implies a common standard, accessible to all.  Where does it come from?

Europeans were pretty busy with the Reformation (and its attendant continent-wide civil wars) for the first century or so after Columbus, but soon enough they got around to contemplating the very different cultures across the water.  They started thinking through the implications of cross-cultural contact.  For instance: Can a man legitimately be guilty of breaking a law he doesn’t know exists?  A man shipwrecked on an alien shore simply can’t be expected to know all the laws and customs of a people he’s never encountered, whose language he doesn’t speak.

“Natural rights” theorists came up with an answer.  There are certain things common to all peoples, and accessible to all rational minds.  “Murder is wrong” appeared, to them, to be one of these.  As we’ve noted, there’s no known culture where it’s ok to just stab a guy because you feel like it today.  But here’s the problem: In that case — the “no known culture” case — we’re talking about society.  “Natural rights” belong to individuals.

Consider Hobbes’s famous thought experiment, the “State of Nature.”  Hobbes proposed this precisely because he wanted to figure out what our “natural rights” are, and what kind of government can legitimately be derived from them.  Hobbes says that in the State of Nature every man has a right to every thing, because nothing is illegitimate when it comes to preserving your life when everyone else is in the same situation.  In order to get out of that situation — the war of all against all — we lay down some of our rights to some things.  Back when they taught civics in high school, we learned that this is the “social contract,” and that it’s the basis of all modern political theory.*

Nobody much liked Hobbes’s conclusion — namely, that we lay down all our rights, permanently, to an absolute monarch — but his reasoning seemed sound.  It’s not too much of an oversimplification to say that subsequent political theory is just an ever more elaborate attempt to adopt Hobbes’s means without arriving at his end.  Thus John Locke, and his famous declaration that every man has a right to “life, liberty, and property.”  No king can legitimately deprive you of these, because any king that does is no longer a legitimate king – he has broken the social contract.

This “social contract” stuff suited Early Modern England very well.  A mercantile culture par excellence, “social contracts” made sense to them, because that’s how international trade had to be done in the age of sail.  The East India Company, for instance, couldn’t have a shareholder meeting to make each and every business decision, because they were in London and the business was in Calcutta and messages took six months or more to go one way… if they even arrived at all, what with shipwrecks and pirates and all.

So they banded together and delegated the authority to make decisions for the group to one man, who would go to Calcutta and conduct business on their behalf.  As far as the natives were concerned, that man was the East India Company.  He “personated” them, in the language of the times, because back then, “corporate” was a verb (“to make into a body”).**  And as with business, so with government — just as the individuals in the East India Company contracted to make a corporation, so did the individuals in a nation contract to make a “corporate person” like the Leviathan.

Everyone see the problem?  “Contract” is a word like “murder.”  We’ve stipulated that “Why is murder wrong?” is a meaningless question, because “wrong” is part of the definition of “murder.”  Along the same line, “contract” implies that all parties know what they’re contracting to, that they both have the legitimate authority to contract in the first place, etc.  Just as a rightful killing isn’t murder, a contract with an infant isn’t a valid contract, because one of the parties couldn’t possibly understand the terms.  And therefore, pulling women, children, the mentally disabled, etc. into a “social contract” can’t possibly be valid.

But it’s worse than that, actually, because I suppose we could hypothetically construct some mechanism by which everyone signs his “social contract” at the age of majority (provided he’s in his right mind, sufficiently smart, etc.); and everyone periodically recontracts every so often.  That would legitimate the social contract, I suppose, but it would do nothing to address the deeper problem, which is this:

Humans don’t exist as individuals.

Hobbes’s “State of Nature” thought experiment was just that — a thought experiment.  He knew full well that the “State of Nature” as he described it never existed, nor ever could exist.  Humanity’s basic unit isn’t the person, it’s the family.  Hell, it might even be the clan, or even the tribe, but however many cells end up belonging to the basic social organism, the individual — tapping into timeless “natural rights” by dint of right reason — isn’t it.  The proof is as simple as asking John Locke just why “we” — that is, each individual — have a natural, inalienable right to life, liberty, and property.

Not even the valedictorians of the American public educational system can dodge the fact that all of those things are alienated all the time.  In the state of nature — the real one, not Hobbes’s fascinating fantasy — guys with clubs beat up other guys with clubs, and the group of guys-with-clubs that prevails takes the lives, liberties, and properties of the losers.  “Wrongful” killings — that is, murders — become right when the killer is too powerful to be brought to heel.  Might is the only natural right, and individuals are powerless against a group, which is why there are no individuals in nature — simple attrition.  To say otherwise is to indulge in fiction…..

….but a necessary fiction, perhaps.  That’s part IV.

 

 

*In case you’re a younger reader: Communism isn’t a political theory.  It’s an all-encompassing metaphysical system, and so outside the discussion here.
**And now you know why anyone who knows what he’s talking about laughs at the Left’s hysterics over “corporate personhood.”
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Political Theory Primer, Part II

Last time, we started — and ended — with the question, “Why is murder wrong?”  We rejected some of the standard student responses, and implied that the answer has something to do with society.  Let’s break it down a bit:

Whatever else “murder” is, we’ll all agree that it ends with one human dead at the hands of another human.  Leave aside intent, etc., and focus on the basics — two humans; one the killer, one the killed.  There seems to be a universal human taboo against murder.  It’s most often honored in the breach, but it’s there — no known human society is ok with people killing each other at whim.

In fact, “at whim” or “for no good reason” appears to be part of the definition of “murder.”  If there’s a good reason for it, it’s not murder.  Killing enemy soldiers in war isn’t murder (though, as we saw yesterday, executing captured enemies without due process is).  That seems to be a human universal, too, but there’s a wide range of possible exceptions, from abortion to dueling to “he just done needed killin’.”  The vast range of the exceptions give us a clue to a big problem with political theory.

Consider abortion.  Specifically, consider the Left’s famous “clump of cells” argument.  This argues that a fetus, being dependent upon its “host,” is really no different than a tumor — in other words, not a human being at all, so calling abortion “murder” would be akin to calling chemotherapy “murder.”  Whether or not this argument holds up (I don’t think it does, obviously), it gets to the heart of the problem:  There’s a lot of latitude even among the fundamental definitions.  We said last time that political theory, being a description of human behavior in groups, requires a definition of both “human” and “group.”  Neither of which, as we can see, is clear-cut.

This stuff matters, because the ancient political theorists — guys like Plato and Aristotle, to whom even university courses still grudgingly nod — talk a lot about “man.”  After 300 or so years of The Enlightenment, we think they’re talking about “humans” in our modern sense — totally free agents; postmodern persyns of gendertude that exist without culture or context.  But they weren’t.  When Aristotle says “man is a political animal,” he doesn’t mean that all humans, everywhere, are political animals.  He means Greeks are political animals, and if you come right down to it, he probably means Athenians are political animals.  And not just any “Athenians,” either, but freeborn males over the age of majority.  States, Aristotle says, are organized around the pursuit of some good.  Only freeborn Athenian males over the age of majority are really able to understand the good at which the state aims, because everyone else — women, slaves, barbarians — lack the basic rationality to see that far ahead.

In other words, there’s a whole bunch of cultural baggage subsumed into the word “man” (“human,” “person,” whatever).  The greater the amount of baggage, the further political theory gets from universal.

This seems obvious, but it’s not, because those universal proclamations about “man” sure sound right.  Aristotle also defined man as “the rational animal,” and that definition is so ingrained in Western culture that it pretty much is Western culture. Every single political theory that doesn’t boil down to “obey God’s laws,” for instance, rests on so-called “natural rights” — that is, the truths of human society which are accessible to all rational men, irrespective of culture.  But as we saw with Aristotle, pretty much the very first thing the natural rights reasoner does is: Exclude huge swathes of people from the category “rational men.”  Even folks who only got five minutes of Aristotle in that one required Humanities course know that he famously proclaimed women, slaves, and children to be so deficient in reason that they’re rightfully ordered around by men.  (That is, in my experience, pretty much the only thing modern college kids know about Aristotle).

The fact is, reason itself carries a huge amount of cultural freight, because once you get above the level of pure mathematics, all reasoning is done in language and language is deeply culture-bound.  Again, consider abortion.  The very same Leftist who advances the “clump of cells” argument no doubt also believes that all kinds of pie-in-the-sky stuff is a “fundamental human right.”  As I hope I’ve shown, this isn’t hypocrisy – she simply doesn’t consider anything still inside the womb to be fully human, in the same way Aristotle considered women and slaves to be not fully human (because not fully rational).  Meanwhile, her notion of “right,” while ludicrous, is at least consistent — she uses it the same way every time, and so does her community.

It remains to be seen if a convincing political theory can be made out of “natural reason,” but here’s a preview: The answer to “Why is murder wrong?” is “hostis humani generis.”

Originally applied to pirates and slavers back in the 16th century, it means individuals whose very existence is so odious that they can be arrested, tried, and executed by the police forces of any nation, at any time, without being caught in the act of breaking any particular law.  In the case of pirates, the crewmen are just as guilty as their captain, so it doesn’t matter if Pirate X actually committed acts Y and Z while aboard ship — the very fact that he sailed on a ship with a known pirate captain made him a pirate, and therefore hostis humani generis.  Murder, like piracy, threatens the very fabric of civilization; that’s why it’s wrong.*

The question for part III is: Just what is “civilization,” anyway?

*Question #1 on the midterm exam: Was the prosecution’s argument against Julius Streicher (see part 1) essentially “hostis humani generis?”  What about the Nuremberg Tribunal’s declaration that the SS in its entirely was a criminal organization?  Why or why not?

 

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A Political Theory Primer, Part I

I know there are a few college students among the Fourteen Readers.  I thought y’all might like to see what you’re missing by being forced to attend Six Year SJW Sleepaway Camp.  For those of us who are playing out the back nine of our lives, it’ll be a fun trip down memory lane — remember when the Humanities cared about the actual behavior of real humans?  Anyway, don’t put this in your term papers, is what I’m saying.  Just write #BlackLivesMatter one hundred times and dare the prof to flunk you.


We’ll start with Confucius, who said that all of mankind’s problems boil down to the incorrect use of names (if some kid gripes to the administration because this is a Western Civ class and we’re wasting time on a Chinaman — and oh lord, do things like this actually happen — we’ll note that William of Ockham basically said the same thing (the famous “Occam’s Razor” started out as a statement about term logic)).  As political theory concerns the organization of human groups, we have to establish the meaning of at least two terms: “Human” and “groups.”  (Your more philosophically-inclined folks would say that we also have to define “organize,” but let’s take that as read).  What are people actually like, and what happens when they group up?

Right away we’ve hit a major snag, because most political philosophy is very old.  After umpteen generations of The Enlightenment, we postmodern persyns of gendertude think “human being” means “an absolutely free agent, acting in a vacuum.”  In other words, we’re really only concerned about the outcome for an individual; if “society” enters into it at all, it’s only in the vaguest, gassiest terms.  Here, I’ll prove it:

Why is murder wrong?

“Stopping citizens from murdering other citizens” seems like a core task of The State, whatever that turns out to be.  But why?  Don’t worry about what the answer is supposed to be — this isn’t a midterm; I’m not grading you.  Just go with what you feel.

Christians have an answer (“it violates the Fifth Commandment”), and so do legal positivists (“it breaks a clear law promulgated by a legitimate legislator”), but since modern people wouldn’t know the Bible if King James slapped them upside the head with it, and even fewer people know what “legal positivism” means, those answers are no good.  I’ve actually asked undergrads about this, and the answers are… interesting, by which I mean horrifying:

Lots of them want to get hypothetical.  They want to know just why Person X murdered Person Y.  This, they think, will let them off the hook for making a moral judgment (moral judgments are of course always and everywhere wrong on campus).  If I say “Because X wanted Y’s new pair of Air Jordans,” for instance, the students come back with “Then it’s wrong because a human life isn’t worth a pair of sneakers.”  If I say, “Because X is a psychopath who thinks Y is Hitler,” then they come back with NGRI — it’s wrong because Y isn’t Hitler.  But neither of those is a satisfactory answer, I point out.  In the case of the sneakers, by saying “they’re not worth a human life,” we’re implying that

  • human life has a value; and
  • we all know exactly what that value is; and
  • there’s some threshold above which “murder” IS worth it.

Which feeds nicely into the second student answer, because killing Hitler is still murder if a private citizen does it.  The hangmen who did for the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg weren’t guilty of murder, but someone who walked in off the street and put one in Hans Frank’s head would’ve been.  It doesn’t matter if you know what Hitler was going to do, any more than it matters if you know what Hitler did.  If you shoot him on April 9, 1932, it’s murder, just as it is if you shoot him on April 29, 1945.

At this point, usually someone pipes up with a version of “It’s not murder to shoot Hitler no matter what, because he’s, you know, Hitler.”  Which I think is sufficient to prove my point, above, about us postmodern people thinking in a vacuum, but I walk the students through it: Just where do you, Suzy Sorority, get the authority to determine the atrocity threshold?

If you just can’t get over the Hitler thing, consider that Julius Streicher was also executed at Nuremberg.  Streicher was a major-league asshole, no doubt, but even the Allied prosecutors admitted “Streicher was not a member of the military and did not take part in planning the Holocaust, or the invasion of other nations.”  Rather, “prosecutors contended that Streicher’s articles and speeches were so incendiary that he was an accessory to murder, and therefore as culpable as those who actually ordered the mass extermination of Jews.”

Is that a standard you’re comfortable with?  Are you, Suzy Sorority, going to give yourself that kind of power?  And if you are, are you willing to give that kind of power to others?  Because that’s the rub — if you’re willing to grant that you have the power to determine these things, you must, logically, grant the same power to others.  To Glenn Beck, say, or Rachel Maddow.  One could quite easily make a case that Maddow’s articles and speeches are so incendiary that she’s an accessory to the felony assault on Andy Ngo, and of course everyone in The Media howls that Donald Trump’s rhetoric is so incendiary that he’s an accessory to [fill in the blank].

It seems, then, that “murder” has a context.  The problem is, as we’ve seen, is that we’ve entirely divorced ourselves from that context.  There’s actually a simple answer to the question “Why is murder wrong?”  But it involves society, and — irony alert!! — the people who yell loudest about how everything is a “social construction” have no idea what “society” actually means….

That’s part II.

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Constitutional Crises

The idea that the State exists to keep the people secure long predates the very notion of “the State.”  Even mighty pharaoh, a literal god on earth, was put on earth to make sure the Nile flooded and the people got fed.  Call it “breaking the social contract” or “losing the mandate of heaven,” a government that fails to protect its citizens from existential threats is no government at all.

Which is the current situation in Portland.  I doubt even the idiot commie mayor of America’s dumbest city was stupid enough to put it in writing, but it’s obvious that the Portland police were ordered to stand down as “Antifa” rioted this weekend.  This is, in effect, warlordism — whoever is theoretically in charge of the government, the real rulers are petty local tyrants and their goon squads.  But since this is Senescent America, there’s a postmodern twist: The government voluntarily relinquished its authority, while still claiming to be the legitimate government.

That’s a new one in the annals of political science.  There are lots of instances of monarchs abdicating.  Even revolutionary leaders have stepped aside in two cases (the US founding, and the Meiji Restoration).  But none of them went on acting like the official, legitimate government.  In Portland, though, everyone but the masked, dreadlocked, patchouli-reeking goons of “Antifa” will face the full wrath of the cops should they, say, run a red light or not pay their water bill.  Heck, maybe the cops will pull over the aforesaid goons if they run a traffic light; maybe they only get off if they’re committing felonious assault while some other smelly burnout chants slogans.  We’re in totally uncharted waters here.

It’s not just a theoretical question for political theorists, either.  This stuff matters, because as Ted Cruz has pointed out, the Feds might well be constitutionally obligated to step in — see, for instance, the Klan Act.  Both state and federal authorities are required to provide “a republican form of government” for their citizens.  Just as black civil rights were meaningless in a South dominated by the Ku Klux Klan, so too, one might argue, are the basic rights of Portlanders meaningless in a city where they can be assaulted at will by “political protesters.”

But here’s the kicker: If this thought has occurred to Ted Cruz, it has surely occurred to George Soros.  What would be better, from Satan’s point of view, than having President Trump call out the Army to bust Leftist heads in the middle of election season?  As we know, the goober Boomer vote still counts this one last time.  As we also know, even seemingly rock-ribbed conservative Boomers have a soft spot for political “activism” — it reminds them of their salad days, getting to second base with a flower-power girl to the tune of “Crimson and Clover.”  It wouldn’t matter what lunatic was on the Democratic ticket at that point — the mere sight of a few armored personnel carriers rolling down the streets of an American city would be all she wrote.

We know that “Antifa” can do whatever they want in Portland.  We also know that dumbasses from the “Alt-right” (or whatever it is now) will keep walking into it.  The Left has half a century’s experience organizing street theatre.  Even with all due allowance made for the extreme enstupidation of the citizenry between ’68 and now, it’s still child’s play for the Left to organize a riot.  Interesting times ahead — if you start seeing the Never-Trump cucks going all-in on an armed response to civil disorder, you know the fix is in.

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The Spirit of ’68

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that the Dems’ nominating convention in 2020 will look a lot like the Chicago convention of 1968, the famous “Chicago Police Riot.”  (Ahh, the power of The Media to shape The Narrative.  SDS goons do everything in their power to provoke a confrontation with the authorities; when the authorities eventually crack down, all the jock-sniffers in The Media, high on the romantic self-righteousness of self-proclaimed “revolutionaries,” proclaim that it’s the cops who started the whole thing).

In case you’re not familiar with the ’68 spectacle, you had an establishment goon representing business-as-usual (Vice President Hubert Humphrey, pinch-hitting for LBJ); a ditzy “good government” Liberal riding his brother’s coattails (Robert F. Kennedy), and a goofy hippie peacenik (Eugene McCarthy).  Plus George McGovern, a slightly less goofy hippie peacenik who was so bad at politics that in 1972 he ended up getting outflanked as a peacenik by the guy who was actually right at that moment running the war.

If back in my professin’ days I was teaching this stuff, I’d assign a project: Which way did The Media break?  They were all in the tank for the Democrats, of course — plus ça change and all that — but there were still enough grownups in the newsroom in 1968 that the #Wokest (if you’ll forgive an anachronism) wouldn’t automatically get all the Media love.  There was no way to disguise the fact that McCarthy was the hippies’ candidate.  Nor was there any way to disguise the fact that Humphrey procedurally cornholed the other two via delegate selection shenanigans, a la Hillary Clinton.  All of which let Richard Nixon, of all people, campaign as the only honest man on the stage.  How did it play out in that long, hot, strange summer?

It matters, because in hindsight 1968 was obviously the country’s schizoid break.  The Democratic Party didn’t go completely off the rails — cf. all the candidates they ran, 1972-2004, who were the definition of anodyne — but The Media sure as hell did.  1968 was also the year of the Tet Offensive, you’ll recall, with Walter Cronkite proclaiming the war unwinnable.  It doesn’t matter if Cronkite was right or not (of course he wasn’t); nor does it matter if his proclamation actually made everyday Americans lose faith in the war.  What matters is that The Media believed it, with all their hearts and souls.  No profession is dumber, or more addicted to singing hosannas to itself, than journalism.  And then they “got” Richard Nixon, and that’s all she wrote — from there on out, The Media decided they were the country’s real rulers, and what they want, they get.

Fortunately for the Democrats, what The Media wanted and what the Democratic Party wanted were in the same ballpark for most of the next three decades.  But then Bill Clinton happened, as my students would write.  He played The Media’s Messiah fantasies for all they were worth, such that every bobblehead in the country was still defending him as Liberalism’s avatar even as he was governing (in the few odd moments he bothered) as Newt Gingrich’s mini-me and acting like a frat boy on nickel beer night at the strip club.

You just don’t get over something like that.

Which brings us to the elections of 2000 and 2004.  Boy do these look different in hindsight!  And I’ll admit it — I was as blind as the rest of ’em, because at that time I still sorta followed the news.  Please grant that I’m not stupid (all evidence on Rotten Chestnuts to the contrary) — I knew The Media was all-in on the Democrat, like they always are.  But at the time, I thought that was a tactical decision.  That is, I really believed that their attacks on W. were calculated political moves, designed to drag Gore and especially Kerry over the finish line.  I thought that only the Mother Jones types were delusional, Iranian mullah-style fanatics.

Nope.  The Media — ALL of them — really did see W. as the antichrist, the Twelfth Invisible Hitler (as the Z Man likes to put it) come to destroy the world.  So when despite all their sacrifices to Moloch the Chimperor won, The Media went full retard.  Like UFO cultists who keep the faith by telling themselves only their fervent prayers staved off the apocalypse, The Media convinced themselves that only more Social Justice would do….

Which brings us to 2008.  The full story hasn’t been written yet, and no doubt President Ocasio-Cortez will order all the records Sandy Berger didn’t smuggle out in his pants to be burned, but a decade on it’s clear that the Democrats had every intention of running an anodyne business-as-usual goober.  That was Hillary Clinton, of course, and before you jump on me about the “first woman president!” thing, look at the primary campaign she actually ran.  She knew she could never out-Victim the black guy, so she came on as your basic good-government Liberal, Mike Dukakis with slightly less ridiculous headwear.  See, for example, her campaign slogans: “Ready for change, ready to lead;” also “Big Challenges, Real Solutions: Time to Pick a President,” “In to Win,” “Working for Change, Working for You,” and “The strength and experience to make change happen.”  Compare and contrast with: Hope and Change.

Compare and contrast also: The Hillary fans who really were revved up about the woman thing, the so-called PUMAs.  Remember them?  Ace of Spades, for one, briefly left off fapping to his Megyn Kelly doll for them back in the waning days of the Democratic Primary, as they were somehow supposed to be so mad at the Democrats’ picking a young black guy that they’d vote for the Republicans’ old white guy… or something, I never did manage to figure it out, the point is that The Media absolutely steamrolled them.  About the only guy giving those harpies positive coverage was Ace himself; everyone else called them a McCain astroturf operation, and crediting the McCain campaign with the brains to even think about an astroturf operation is the funniest political joke I heard in 2008.

Tl;dr — The Media consummated its slobbering love affair with Obama the minute his perfectly-creased pants hit the podium, and the Democrats meekly went along, torpedoing their focus-grouped favorite in the process.  (Which, if you’re keeping score at home, is the reason Howard Dean (the DNC chair, 2005-9) remains the only guy ever to cross the Clintons un-arkancided — if he’d slipped in the shower and fallen on seven bullets, The Media might’ve taken a passing look, as it might’ve shined a less-than-haloed light on their Mocha Messiah).

Hillary got back in the action in 2016, though, as I’m sure we all remember, and that’s where the wheels finally came off.  See, for example, this sneering editorial from the Denver Post.  Remember, this was supposed to help Hillary:

“Stronger together,” the campaign’s eventual choice, is both a rebuke to Trump’s divisiveness and an assertion that Clinton shares the nation’s reigning values and ideals. She’s part of us, but, interestingly, she makes no explicit claim about leading us, or carrying us on her shoulders. We’re all just in it together.

That’s their analysis of 85 — yes, that’s an 8, followed by a 5 — possible slogans the Clinton campaign considered.  Here’s the article’s peroration, and again, recall that this is supposed to help Hillary:

Fortunately for the Clinton team, no dazzling slogans have been necessary since Trump won the Republican nomination. Instead, Clinton’s candidacy has been lifted by the most powerful, if unspoken, political promise in modern American history: “I’m not Trump.”

Which sums up The Media’s entire position.  Cast your mind back to that wonderful gong show of 2016, and ask: Did The Media actually do anything to help Hillary, as opposed to harming Trump?

I know, I know, they sound like the same thing, and in The Media’s tiny pea brains they no doubt seem like the same thing, but they’re not.  I’ve been banging on about this for years (seriously – check the archives!!), but I’ll repeat it: The Media could’ve killed the Trump candidacy stone dead any time it chose.  All they had to do was: Cover him like a normal politician.

Seriously.  That’s it.  If you describe a Trump rally as “a campaign speech on the economy, health care, and national security,” you’ve painted him as just another politician.  By covering it the other way, though — “today Donald Trump screamed Fuhrerifically for hours at a crowd of inbred gap-toothed sister-fuckin’ rednecks” — they played right into his hands.  Trump’s entire shtick was that he’s not an ordinary politician, and his proof for this claim was NOT “I have no government experience,” because neither did Hillary (at least to hear her tell it; according to her own self she spent all her time at State being completely ignorant of what the State Department was up to).  His proof wasn’t “I don’t have a coherent set of positions,” because that describes everyone that year.  His proof was: “I drive The Media insane.”

Everyone in America knows The Media is ludicrously biased.  Even Liberals will admit it, if you push them almost to the point of actual physical torture (of course, that’s because “the facts have a Liberal bias,” but whatever; the fact that you have to drag that admission out of them with red-hot pincers is its own refutation).  But as much as we all know it, we’re in the dark about the actual content of that bias.  I know I was; see above, about W.  As I’ve tried to show, most Americans are like I was, in that we think The Media are biased in favor of Liberal policies, and because of that, are all-in on Liberal politicians.  That’s wrong.  The Media don’t care about politics, as rational people understand the term.  The truth is much simpler, and far more horrifying:

They’re a chiliastic doomsday cult.  They have been ever since 1968, when they convinced themselves that the Millennium is just around the corner.  The revelations of the past few election cycles, especially their shanking of Hillary in 2008, were just the mask slipping.  Trump pulled it completely off, just by doing Trump things.  His actual campaign slogan was MAGA, of course, but it might as well have been “Fuck the Media.”  It worked, because The Media kept acting like deranged suicide cultists, because they are deranged suicide cultists.

Which brings us, at long last, to now.  Current conventional wisdom on our side of the aisle is that The Media are taking their marching orders from the DNC.  They sure seem to have been instructed to shank Joe Biden, for instance, and they (seemingly) dutifully did.  If I’m right, though, The Media won’t be able to help themselves.  I say they shanked ol’ Slow Joe because, and only because, he’s a White male.

It remains to be seen The Media retain enough vestigial rationality to get behind any White candidate.  Demographics being destiny, this is the last year they’ll need to bother, but the numbers say they’ll have to bite that particular bullet one last time in 2020.  If I’m right, and they just can’t help themselves, they’ll start swinging for the fences behind a POC here in the next few weeks.  Street violence is already ramping up; we should be well into the citywide riot phase by next summer.  The Democratic leadership can read a poll, all right, but they can also read a newspaper.  Can they handle it when they finally realize who really has the whip hand?  Their convention this year is in Milwaukee, which is 40% black (and 17% hispanic).   “Milwaukee is often seen as a very racially segregated city; some consider it the most segregated city in the country,” quoth the linked article.

If I’m right, the “Chicago Police Riot” might well end up looking like a weekend at Disney World.

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