The Wisdom of Jon Bon Jovi

It’s all the same

Only the names have changed….

Culturally, America has always been split between Cavaliers and Roundheads.  The latter are Puritans, whose creed H.L. Mencken quipped was “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”  The former are proud, liberty-loving wannabe aristocrats, who tend to place their pride and love of liberty above such petty stuff as common sense.

Politically, the split is between Federalists and Anti-Federalists.  Federalists want the government to serve the people; Anti-Federalists want the government to leave the people alone.

It has been this way from the minute the first boot from the Mayflower touched land, and if you want a quick and dirty version of the major events in American history, try figuring out which group was which in each time period.  As politics is downstream from culture, you’ll see some spectacularly odd combinations… usually right before some very bad shit was about to go down.  And if you can’t find one or more of the groups represented in electoral politics at a given time, it’s dead certain something awful is about to happen.

It’s important to notice, however, that there’s no necessary, or even natural, connection between the cultural and political groups.  All combinations are possible.  The original Puritans of Massachusetts Bay set up a theocracy, yes, but unlike their English brethren, they dealt with dissent by simple banishment.  And their descendants had no problem signing off on the Establishment Clause while setting up official churches within the several states.  And students of the Civil War will note that The Slave Power Conspiracy were, despite their states’ rights rhetoric, as Federalist as they come — the SPC, in the form of the Democratic Party, handed down the Dred Scott decision, pushed the Lecompton Constitution, and waged an obvious war of conquest to extend slavery.  They put through the gag rule, and controlled the discourse to such an extent that neither party dared mention slavery during presidential campaigns.  They were perfectly happy with federal power, so long as it benefited them — aristocrats tend to like the government they’re in charge of.

The bad stuff happens when one of the groups gets lost in the shuffle.  Politics just before the Civil War, for instance, completely marginalized entire groups that together made up the vast majority of Americans.  Where were the Roundheads in the Democrat / Whig contests, or the Anti-Federalists in the Democrat / Republican ones?  If you didn’t want to die for slavery one way or the other, you had no representation at all.

We’re seeing the same type of splintering today.  Both parties are chock full of Federalists, and both of them subscribe to the new Roundhead religion of globalism and anti-“racism.”  Cavaliers have effectively been outlawed — this is the “war on masculinity” the “alt-right” keeps talking about — as has Anti-Federalism.  Where could you possibly go to escape the reach of the American government?  Globalize or die.

Or vote Trump.  His candidacy shows just how far the old coalitions have fractured, and how unnatural were their marriages of convenience in the first place.  He’s seen a million faces of Americans who have been effectively disenfranchised, and he’s rocked them all.

Nation Building

I was one of the fools who believed in W’s grand “nation building” project in the Middle East.  I know more history than the average guy, and yet I was fooled, too — such is the power of wishcasting.

In reality, representative government is an Anglo-Saxon thing.  And given the problems we have with it — our current election is between a criminal narcissist and a narcissist criminal — it’s no surprise that cultures with no tradition other than the despotic can’t get the hang of it in just a few years, despite the best efforts of National Review and the Peace and/or Marine Corps.

India is the best case scenario.  Lots of Britons said, and some acted as if they sincerely believed, that the Raj was a “school of democracy” — at some indeterminate future time, Indians would be ready for self-government, at which point Great Britain would leave in peace.  Take that with as much salt as you require, because whether or not any of them would’ve actually accepted a hard date of departure, they still ran the place as if it were a sort of Junior England.  They had to — a subcontinental population in the hundreds of millions was held down by at most 100,000 white folks, commanding a native bureaucracy and army of maybe three times that.  Without significant native buy-in, the Raj was toast, as they found out in spectacular fashion in 1857.

The Indian Civil Service was open to natives almost from 1858, the Ilbert Bill put Englishmen (theoretically) under the jurisdiction of native judges, and the Morley-Minto Reforms provided for direct election of natives to the councils of state.  However it played out in practice — and “Subaltern Studies” people will of course tell you that it was all just a sham — the fact remains that India was about the only place not to go tits up (again, relatively speaking) at independence… and even the Postcolonialists must, however grudgingly, admit that the ICS, Morley-Minto, the Indian Army, etc. were major reasons for that.

Now, none of this should be taken for an argument that only white people can do democracy — as if the ability to mark a ballot is somehow genetic.  Again, see Presidential Election 2016, or any of the literally Caucasian countries surrounding the former USSR.  The point is that representative democracy is the result of a long, long, long history, a unique combination of circumstances stretching back to the Greek polis (and, again, if you want to maintain that white folks have a “government” gene, imagine what would happen if you time warped Demosthenes into modern America and told him that this is representative government.  The poor dude would stroke out).  Other cultures simply don’t have that history, and even the best-intentioned  attempts to impose a facsimile from above give you — at best — India.  Which bills itself as “the world’s largest democracy,” and it is…. sort of, if you add a list of qualifiers about the size of the Chicago phone book.

There’s no substitute for history.  Or, if you want a much prettier phrase, Edmund Burke said that “experience is the school of mankind, and he will learn at no other.”  The best we can do is show ’em how it’s done.  A rational foreign policy starts by acknowledging that…. and best of all, showing ’em how it’s done entails a complete reform of our own system.

It’s either that, or admit that democracy itself is deeply unnatural, and just elect ourselves a despot.

A Great Idea – UPDATED

This is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time.  Of course, it could never work in America — the parasite class, both inside and outside government, is simply too large to ever implement it — but in less ridiculous polities than ours it might just work.

Maybe some municipalities could try it.

UPDATE:  This started as a reply to Nate Winchester, but needs to go on the main page.

Nate forwards a link from Bayou Renaissance Man, who makes excellent points about “Basic Income.”  I agree with them all.  Problem is, his objections assume that we still live in a republic.  We don’t, and we haven’t, for at least 150 years.

Once you accept the basic premisis of managerialism — that residents of a nation are problems to be managed, rather than participating citizens — you’ve abandoned democracy.  You can’t be both a citizen and a subject.  They’re opposites.  It’s unpossible.

28228-Thats-Unpossible-Ralph-wiggum-PcuIThe United States made its choice 150 years ago.  Thanks to the Pension Act, Union Army veterans got to vote on how much they’d be compensated for their disabilites, as well as what counted as a “disability” in the first place. As Union vets were the largest recognizable voting bloc in the Gilded Age, the easiest way to buy votes was to expand the pension laws… which government after government did, right up to the turn of the 20th century

We’ve been trying to square the citizen/subject circle ever since, and failing.  Every welfare program faces the same fundamental contradiction — you’re letting people vote on how much the government should pay them.

Note that it doesn’t have to be this way.  Great Britian’s 1834 Poor Law disenfranchised those who took public assistance.  If you want to be a ward of the state, you don’t get a say in how the state is run.  The inmates don’t get to vote on the asylum’s policies.  If, at any time, you wanted / were able to try your luck in the labor market again, you got your vote back.

In a rational polity — or even one less ridiculous than ours, like Finland — this would be part of the national discussion on citizenship.  We don’t let H1-B visa holders vote, even though — we’re routinely informed — their labor is so vital for the American economy.  We assume they’d form blocs and rig things in their favor, as they have only short-term personal interests in American politics.  They have no reason to take the long view, so they won’t.

Government assistance can — and should — work the same way.  We’ll never do it, of course, but since Trump et al are forcing us to at least kinda sorta nibble around the edges of the national question, we should at least bring this up as a live option.  Time was, we understood that rights entail corresponding duties — fail to discharge the one, lose the other.  If “welfare is a right” — as we’re so often told by Our Betters, the Liberal — then it’s the wefare recipient’s duty to bow out of elections.

And be honest: How many of you are truly bothered by the idea of a Welfare Queen as such?  Anyone with any experience of life knows that there are certain people who are just going to be parasites  They won’t work, and they’re going to go to the dogs no matter what incentives you hold out, or penalties you threaten.  Think of Huck Finn’s dad.  Those people are the bedrock on which the managerial state is built.  I for one don’t have a problem with paying taxes to get them a basic food ration.  It’s only when they get to team up and vote on how much to tax me that I get irate.

Finland is a Scandinavian country, so they don’t have such a…. diverse…. parasite class as we do.  So $900 a month or whatever will probably work for them.  And, logically, they’re willing to tolerate the natural Darwinian end of the incorrigible few who will spend all their allowance on booze and hookers.  Americans won’t do that either, but, again, be honest: If we could keep ghetto dysfunction in the ghetto by means of a food ration, some disposable cash, and Hamsterdam, wouldn’t you take that deal?  They don’t get to vote, and they get stomped by the cops if they bring their shit out of the ‘hood… and, of course, they get both the franchise and a get-out-of-a-cop-stomping card if they choose to leave their old ways behind.  Americans have no idea what goes on in the inner cities anyway.  Gang violence and ODs don’t bother us, because thanks to the Goodthinkers in the media, we don’t have to see them.  Again, in a rational polity a place like Detroit would be a burning national shame.  Fred Reed has written a zillion words on this topic; go take a gander.

And yeah, I’m well aware that this is “not who we are,” “not our values,” etc.  But look: I’m a historian.  We havent’ been who we are, or true to our values, since the War of Northern Aggression.  Disenfranchsing welfare recipients is, yes, cruel, awful, and of course racist.  But it’s also the only way to resolve the citizen / subject dilemma.  Agree to be managed, and take the consequences — again, I’d be happy to pay my taxes for this, and I suspect that you would to (be honest!).  Finland is giving it a whirl.  If they succeed… well, given what’s coming down the pike when the next financial bubble bursts, we need to at least think it over.

Faculty Lounge Follies

Nate Winchester sends along a fun article from Breitbart, comparing Obama to Woodrow Wilson.  It’s worth a read on a lot of levels, not least as a reminder of just how fuckin’ old the new hotness of Progressivism actually is.  Spare a moment of  pity for all those poor college kids, whose $40,000 per year “education” has convinced them Bernie Sanders’s “party like it’s 1909” platform is a radical new innovation.

It’s also worth noting, as the Breitbart piece really doesn’t, how much the farcical nature of Obama’s secondhand Wilsonianism represents the decay of American academic life.  Let’s hop in the wayback machine and set course for the middle of the 19th century….

Woodrow Wilson was born in 1856, just as what you might call “liberal imperialism” was just cranking up.  Educated opinion on the darker races was undergoing a seismic shift.  In British India, for example, the 1857 Mutiny led to the Government of India Act of 1858, replacing the East India Company’s old smash-and-grab system with the Indian Civil Service.  In attitude, if not in practice, the British ran the post-Mutiny Raj like a vast social uplift scheme — the goal, as Macaulay put it, was to transform the people of the Subcontinent into “a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”

The problem with this, of course, is that it makes the Empire not just pointless, but evil.  When India becomes macro-Britain, what possible justification can the Queen have for retaining the jewel in her crown?* But that would only be a problem several generations down the line.  For the time being, the pukka sahibs of the ICS could enjoy all the lifestyle benefits of imperialism, and the preening goodfeelz of helping the congenitally helpless.

American “Progressive” attitudes towards blacks worked the same way.  Woodrow Wilson regarded blacks as inferior.  That is to say, he had the typical attitude of his time and class.  Instead of benevolent imperialism, though, American Progressives looked to socialism for their salvation.  Just as the ICS would eventually produce a race of Indian Englishmen, so the benevolent managerialism of guys like Wilson would eventually produce white Negroes… but in the meantime, before that blessed day arrived, one didn’t have to interact with those people as anything but a benefits-dispensing demigod.  It’s self-serving, of course — and it’s worth noting that Soviet propaganda harped on Jim Crow as an inevitable effect of capitalism from the beginning — but it’s not self-contradictory.  Self-defeating, sure…. but not logically impossible, and in the meantime one could make quite a nice living as a court intellectual to the mission civilisatrice.

Modern intellectual discourse on race, though, is painfully unpossible.  Whereas guys like Wilson could — in theory, at least — imagine a time when there would be only one big multi-hued White race, modern academics face a contradiction from the get-go.  As anyone who has spent five minutes on the internet knows, our “Progressives” believe — simultaneously — that

  • there is no such thing as race, and
  • race is the only thing that matters.

And thus the gruesome farce of Rachel Dolezal, where the race-is-just-a-social-construction-Left tied itself in knots explaining how race is not, and can never be, a social construction when a pasty-white honky chick “primarily of Czech, German and Swedish origin,” as the good Lefties at Wikipedia put it, socially constructs herself as a Negress for fun and profit.

I want to repeat this:  You will never, ever get a job in academia — even in the hard sciences — if you do not subscribe to the orthodoxy that race is a social construction.  Simultaneously, the fastest way to become an unperson on campus is to wonder why, if that’s the case, African-American Studies departments exist, except maybe as training grounds for the Rachel Dolezals of the future.  You must, in other words, be able to grok this:

pathanthroIt’s not a challenge most of us can rise to, and it takes many, many years in grad school to keep your head from exploding.**

That‘s the milieu in which President Obama spent his formative years.  Wilson, for all his faults, didn’t believe a manifest impossibility; Obama started with an obvious contradiction and just kept digging.  As Steve Sailer, John Derbyshire, and other badthinkers have argued in detail, Obama’s struggle with His “blackness” has been the organizing motif of his life.  Like his fellow hustlers Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Jeremiah Wright, et al, he can’t pour milk on his corn flakes without noting that milk is white.

All of which explains, I think, Obama’s otherwise baffling policies on…. well, on just about everything.  Just as Wilsonianism only makes sense if you assume that Wilson really was that naive thanks to a lifetime’s cloistering in academia, so Obama’s lunatic grab bag of self-contradictory nonsense falls into place if you accept that, thanks to his academic training, he really can take both sides of an argument.  He organizes his whole day around sticking it to Whitey, yet spends all his mental capital arguing, Macaulay-style, that he’s really uplifting us for our own benefit.

 

 

*Which is the problem with Macaulay’s baby, the Whig Interpretation of History, in general.  Indeed it’s the basic problem of all social uplift schemes, Karl Marx’s most definitely included — what happens to the uplift bureaucracy when they finally complete their mission?  Given a choice between the end of poverty and continued employment as poverty-eradicators, it’s only human for most people to choose the latter… which is of course why the vanguard of the proletariat never gets around to laying down its privileges. And, of course, Karl Marx was a vicious critic of Whig History in general and Macaulay in particular.  As everyone but leftists knows, we don’t hate people who are radically different from us; we save our hottest ire for people who share all our basic assumptions, but run them in a sliiiiiiiightly different direction.

** Hey, maybe that explains the characteristic liberal smirk?  It’s not that they’re self-righteous assholes puffed up from being educated way past their hat size — well, it’s not just that — but rather, that’s the only way to hold their face muscles to keep their brains from leaking out their ears.

Why I Write about Bad Ideas from the Victorian Era

Ace of Spades, on our Glorious Leader’s refusal to bomb jihadis:

Terrorists, he’s told us so many times, are merely misled and misinformed creatures who just need some good economic opportunities and maybe some #HashtagUplift from the State Department and then they’ll stop being terrorists…. It’s only the Exalted People who actually count in this world, and who are actually capable of making moral decisions. The Exalted People — the ones on TV, largely — are a sort of breed apart. They are the only people capable of making free choices. This is of course hysterically condescending and elitist, but worse than that, this attitude that ISIS terrorist soldiers are just like the “bitter clingers” of Pennsylvania, clinging to their xenophobia, guns, and religion, and thus are to be pitied and led into enlightenment, is what permits ISIS’ reign of terror.*

* I’ve seen this belief described as “Vulgar Marxism” — the dumbest, crudest distillation of Marxism, the assertion that practically all human choices are actually dictated by economic circumstances.

This isn’t “Vulgar Marxism.”  If anything, it’s more sophisticated than plain ol’ Marxism, because in Karl Marx’s world, there are no free choices whatsoever.  Everyone’s “social being” is determined by his relation to the means of production, and — all together now — “a man’s social being determines his consciousness.”

That would seem to be a problem for Marx’s beloved Revolution, though.  If nobody can overcome the limitations of their class situation, then how is revolution even possible?  But this is only a problem if you haven’t read Marx, or you aren’t a Hegelian philosopher, or if you just subscribe to what we around here like to call “Earth-logic.”  Because, you see, Marx claims that Revolution is inevitable, because History.

Yes, he really says that.  History is a huge, anthropomorphous Force — indeed, it is the only Force — making the world go.  History talks to itself — this process is called “dialectic” — and the result is what happens in the real world.  Hence, “dialectical materialism.”

What Ace is describing is Leninism.  That’s where the whole “Vanguard of the Proletariat” thing comes from.  Marx’s theory was so obviously bonkers that it needed serious modification if it were ever to be put into practice.  For one thing, you’ll notice that being a revolutionary is pointless under Marx’s original theory, since the Revolution will happen regardless.  For another, it’s also impossible, since no one — including all potential revolutionaries, and  Uncle Karl himself — can transcend the cognitive limits of his class situation.  (Hey, it almost sounds like Marxism is the kind of self-contradictory airy-fairy bullshit that only intellectuals could possibly believe!).  So Lenin retconned himself and his merry band of murderous psychopaths into Marx’s original theory by giving them, and only them, the ability to transcend their class situation sufficiently to send the rest of us to the gulag.

It’s important to call it what it is, because that way, you can evaluate the historical record and predict what our latter-day Leninists will do if given the chance.  The New Economic Policy, for example, bears studying… as does its end.

Everything Old is New Again: “Human Biodiversity,” Part II

Part I here.

He's more machine than man now, twisted and evil.

He’s more machine than man now, twisted and evil.

World War I left Western Civilization emotionally adrift.  What was all that horror for?  Nobody seemed to know, and the few explanations offered — stopping German militarism; the self-determination of peoples — were sick jokes in the face of 17 million dead.  Any answer to Man’s eternal question — what’s the meaning of life? — had to account for the Somme, too.

For a lot of people, only Marxism fit the bill.  You’ll recall that Marxism is the most anthropocentric doctrine ever preached.  Its goal is literally heaven on earth.  Marx’s writings are light on descriptions of the stateless communist world, but everyone who read him agreed that whatever it was, it would be utopia.  Better yet, the means to achieve this seemed to be in our grasp.  Lenin made a simple, seemingly irrefutable point: If the tools of industrial capitalism could produce everything needed to slaughter 17 million men over four years, it should be child’s play to produce all the material goods needed to free everyone, everywhere, from want.  This is such a seductive idea that even George Orwell fell for it — the “defense of socialism” section in The Road to Wigan Pier is some of the barmiest, though best-written, moonbattery you’ll ever see.

Moreover, Marxism promised a return to our “natural,” healthy emotional state.  The Frankfurt School used Freud’s insights to argue that capitalism is responsible for all of mankind’s mental problems.  Just as the slaughter in the trenches was the necessary outcome of imperialism, so the blind, mute, paralyzed shell shock case was the ultimate alienation.  Eliminate social classes, they argued, and you’ll eliminate all the unnatural stresses of capitalism.  And just as the World War showed this was materially possible, the experience of Woodrow Wilson’s “war socialism,” like American Progressivism in general, showed it was politically possible.

Advanced industrial technique to produce a free, happy, and whole Man: That’s Marxism-Leninism in a nutshell.  Given unlimited power to fine-tune the social machine, guys like V.I. Lenin could produce utopia in the near future.  Tweak the little machines that people are, and you’ll tweak the big machine that society is; adjust society, and you’ll adjust people.  They act reciprocally — dialectically, says the ghost of Karl Marx — to make heaven on earth.

And, of course, this works.  Lenin was a huge admirer of Ivan Pavlov (unreciprocated, to Pavlov’s eternal credit), but you don’t need salivating dogs to know that man-as-machine works pretty darn well — we capitalists have decisively proven it, with this zillion-dollar industry called advertising.  We all agree that indoctrination in schools is a smashing success.  Everyone in America thinks that media bias is pervasive, egregious, and totally effective.  People, it seems, are almost infinitely manipulable.

None of this excuses Marx, Lenin, et al.  But it’s important to understand why they thought the way they did.  It’s the same reason lots of people today still think this way: It works, very effectively, quite often.  It’s not perfect, but… who’s to say it never will be?  Machines aren’t perfect, either, but they can be improved quite a bit before you hit absolute physical constraints like the Laws of Thermodynamics.  We’ve only got 100 years of data, and the Soviet Union was hardly an ideal laboratory.

six-million-dollar-manBut notice what we’ve done here.  We’ve been proceeding as if Man is nothing but a machine, in the same way Darwin’s apes (if not necessarily Darwin himself) proceeded as if Man is nothing but an animal.  And that has horrific consequences.

The goal of Marxism-Leninism, as we’ve said, is to produce utopia by scientific adjustments to the social machine.  But machines don’t have feelings, or goals, or desires, or free will, or souls.  Society isn’t composed of little machines; like Soylent Green, it’s made of people.  In its pursuit of utopia, Socialism utterly discounts the needs of real, living people for the benefits of possible future people.  You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, as the sickeningly facile phrase goes…. but breaking eggs by no means guarantees that the omelet is going to get made.

Socialism, in other words, sees people (except Socialists, of course) as means to an end.  And that view depends, utterly depends, on seeing people in the abstract — just animals, just machines, just producer-units or consumer-units on a giant spreadsheet. If you make a mistake on a spreadsheet, you don’t feel bad about deleting the cell, do you?  And if a machine breaks, you either repair it or you throw it away.  Do you worry about the morality of taking a hammer to a loose nail?  Of course not!  And if your goldfish dies, it’s down the toilet, no?

And that’s the problem with HBD.

Human biodiversity is obviously true to the extent that evolution is true.  It has to be, unless you believe, as Science’s deep-thinking BFFs on the Left claim to, that evolution applies to all living organisms but humans.  Organisms that evolve in radically different environments develop dramatically different traits; it’s why platypuses aren’t elephants.

But evolution isn’t morality.  Evolution is utterly amoral.  Claiming that one group is, on average, smarter than another — though it’s indisputably true — says nothing about how individuals should interact.

How trite, I’m sure you’re saying.  Everybody knows that!

Except they don’t.  The biggest proponents of HBD on the Alt-Right are the Pick-Up Artists, and PUA’s whole deal is using the universally applicable tricks of advertising to get laid.  In getting laid, they’re spreading the gospel that it’s ok to use people as means to an end, and they’re citing science to do it.  After all, nobody would say that a lesser chimpanzee mimicking the behavior of an alpha male in order to mate is acting immorally, would they?  That chimp is just doing what chimps do, because there is no morality in nature….

cuttlefish-gary-hughes…In fact, if you insist on putting morality in nature where it doesn’t belong, the PUA is in fact more moral than others.  Consider that sneaky mating strategies like the faux-alpha chimp are common — indeed, necessary — in the animal kingdom.  Take Squirty up there.  Anonymous Conservative cites the Giant Australian Cuttlefish as one example of how r-strategists are made.  Only the biggest and toughest cuttlefish can mate in the normal way, so some non-dominant males have evolved a very sneaky strategy: They change their color patterns so that they look like females.  They sneak into a group of females waiting to mate, then pounce.  The result is that some weak-but-sneaky cuttlefish genes propagate, while some strong-but-dumb cuttlefish genes don’t.

When this strategy works correctly — as it does, all across the animal kingdom — you get a nice balance.  The strong-but-dumb and the weak-but-clever complement each other, and the whole group thrives.  If only the strong-but-dumb ever bred, the group would be strong, all right… for a while.  But its members would be too stupid to live, and they’d die out just as surely as they would if all group members were weak-but-clever.  Using HBD scripts to pick up chicks, then, raises the aggregate IQ in the urban jungle, contributing far more to the success of the human species in a high-tech environment than strong-but-dumb jocks ever could.

In America, 2015, we can ignore the deeply dis-civic implications of this attitude, because we still have enough accumulated cultural capital — plus actual capital capital — to avoid widespread scarcity.  But that won’t last long, and when it does, the temptation to use people as means to an end is going to be overwhelming.  And it’ll be the so-called Alt-Right putting people in camps, Lenin-style.

 

Everything Old is New Again: “Human Biodiversity,” Part I

After reading the Z Man’s ruminations on Bill Maher,* I recommended Anonymous Conservative’s The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics to him, as Z Man seems to have come to some similar conclusions.  I’ve mentioned this book here before, and y’all know I think AC’s theory — r/K selection theory, from the world of zoology — has a lot of explanatory power.  Y’all also know that I occasionally drop by “pick-up artist” sites like Chateau Heartiste.**  These guys are leading lights on the “Alternative Right,” and a lot of what they say is good, useful, and necessary.  But one of the pillars of the Heartiste / Anonymous Conservative / “biomechanics is god” worldview is one of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad ideas of the Old Left.  Let’s take a trip back in time….

Starting (rather arbitrarily) with Charles Darwin, we have the notion that Man is an animal like any other.  A brilliantly specialized, extremely successful animal, no doubt, but an animal nonetheless.  Scads of research in fields from Advertising to Zoology confirm that anything that can be said about animals can also be said about us.  Indeed, the basic conclusion of all that stuff seems to be that the majority of our behavior — almost all of it, in fact — is basic chimpanzee behavior, if not basic vertebrate behavior.  For an easy-reading, though horribly depressing, summary of all this, check out Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.  Cialdini uses the metaphor of the tape recorder (Influence was written in the 1980s): Press the button and the music plays, every single time.  Most animal behavior, including ours, works the same way — stimulus, response, as predictable as sunrise.

There are two big problems with this idea, though, as applied to humans.  The first is that humans are such exceptionally successful animals that it’s easy to feel like the rules don’t apply to us, even though science says they clearly do.  The second is the psychological cost of admitting that the rules do apply to us. One could argue — and, in fact, I’m about to argue — that the history of Leftism since Darwin is the history of a group grappling with these two powerful emotions.

One response is called “Marxism.”  For those of you who know me as the “it all comes back to Marx” guy over at House of Eratosthenes, here’s a twist: Marxism, as a response to Darwin’s de-pedestalizing mankind, doesn’t come back to Karl Marx.  Origin of Species was published in 1859, and Descent of Man, which applied Darwin’s theory to humans, in 1871.  Karl Marx was born in 1818.  His worldview is entirely pre-Darwinian.

Now, Marx throws the word “scientific” around a lot, but he uses it in exactly the same way our modern marxoids do — as a mystical incantation to ward off bad juju.  Marx’s theory is all about “Spirit,” grandiose Hegelian nonsense that would have two Gnostics arguing about the Hypostasis of the Archons nodding happily along.  Marx’s “dialectical materialism” doesn’t interact with the material world very often, and when it does, it’s completely wrong — cf. every prediction the man ever made.  Far from regarding Man as just another animal, open to scientific study, Marxism elevates Man to the highest possible position.  Insofar as this “Spirit” stuff can be deciphered, it seems to exist solely to produce Humanity.  Trees, rocks, birds, fish, chimpanzees — I’m sure Marx and Hegel would say their Geist accounts for them all, but nobody seems to know how.  Marxism is the most anthropocentric doctrine ever preached.

Another way of dealing with the emotional shock of Darwinism is to, in effect, de-humanize Man.  What we loosely call “Modernity” (the artistic and philosophical movement) starts with the assumption that Man and all his works aren’t really “natural,” in the way rocks and fish and trees are natural.  Instead, man is basically a machine, and the conglomeration of individual machines called “people” is one big factory called “society.”  Though he was no philosopher, the prophet of this worldview was Frederick Winslow Taylor — The Principles of Scientific Management (1911) optimizes human performance in the factory, in just the same way one optimizes the performance of the factory itself.  Apply this theory to politics, and you’ve got “Progressivism” (Gilded Age version):  Change the inputs of the little machines — i.e. people– with laws and (especially) education, and the vast machine that is society will output utopia.

The downside of this is obvious — people aren’t machines, and “Modern” art expresses deep unease at the thought.  In fact, this “people are machines” attitude is so stressful that the whole discipline of psychology came into being, in large part, to treat it.  This is the third way of dealing with the emotional shock of Darwinism: Embracing it.  Man is just an animal, said Sigmund Freud, but a highly specialized one, and just as taking a specialized animal out of its environment stresses it to (or past) the breaking point, urban industrial life is so unnatural to the human animal that our natural equilibrium is warped, producing all kinds of weird behavior.  The clearest exposition of this view actually dates from the 1960s, in the work of Desmond Morris — The Naked Ape (1967) and The Human Zoo (1969).  Freud was going out of fashion by then, but Morris’s work reads like something that scandalized the Left Bank in 1919.

Most people, being sensible, thought these theories were nonsense.  But then World War I happened.

worldwar1somme-tlThe slaughter in the trenches seemed to confirm everything that Marx, Freud, and Taylor were saying.  People are machines, mechanically going over the top to get butchered in their millions.  But they’re also not, in that the stresses of industrial warfare produce shell shock, an extreme distortion of the neuroses of industrial urban life.  And, as Lenin said, all this horror was born of a few plutocrats’ desire to make ever-more-obscene profits. It’s hard to be flip about the horrors of the Somme, but it’s even harder not to, so…. if you want a conception of mankind, post-1914, I give you Darth Vader:

He's more machine than man now, twisted and evil.

He’s more machine than man now, twisted and evil.

None of the older accounts of man could hold up in the trenches.  No God would allow this, so there is no God.  Any idea that humans are intrinsically noble can be seen rotting with the corpses in no man’s land.  Marching into the muzzles of machine guns isn’t heroic, it’s stupid, and honor is a joke.  There is no beauty, no justice, no art, no love… there is only Industry, and the war will stop when one side or the other runs out of men to throw into the assembly-line slaughter.

Part II soon.

 

 

 

 

 

* “He smelled like feet and looked like he had not slept in a week. I think his companion was a hooker, but maybe he just has a thing for skanks.”  Classic.  Didn’t Ann Coulter date him at one point?

** For sociological purposes only, I hasten to add.  I’ve been out of the dating game a long time, and these days I’d have an easier time swimming the English Channel than “picking up” a Millennial chick.  That whole generation might as well be Martians.

Everything Old is New Again: The Frankfurt School

Nate Winchester sent along an amusing comment thread, wherein some leftard actually types, with a straight face, the assertion that

I’m just going to say that the human nature argument is absolute bullshit and has been debunked several times by way too many people. Basically capitalism has created a nature you think exists, but not really

and cites Erich “Escape from Freedom” Fromm, of all people, in support of this lunatic notion.

Speaking of “has been debunked several times by way too many people,” welcome to the Frankfurt School.  Join me, won’t you, back in the 19th century?

We all know that lefties are word fetishists: They believe that naming something gives you control over it.  My guess is that this peculiar psychological tic is congenital, but whatever.  Karl Marx certainly had it, and because he was the one who attached the name “capitalism” to the exchange of goods and services for other goods and services, he thought “capitalism” was a thing, not an innate hominid behavior we brought down with us from the trees.

As a thing, “capitalism” had a history, a beginning and an end.  Indeed, Marx thought it would end in his lifetime — The Communist Manifesto, written in the wake of the 1848 revolutions, was supposed to be a sort of victory lap for international socialism.  He was wrong about that, but that didn’t stop his disciples from investigating the history of capitalism (to predict its inevitable demise more precisely).

One of them, Max Weber (1864-1920), noticed a correlation between the rise of Calvinism and finance capital.  Calvinism, he saw, was most vigorous among the most entrepreneurial people: the English, the Dutch, the Huguenots, the Swiss.  Which is pretty weird when you think about it, because Calvinism’s core doctrine is predestination.  Given that everyone has been saved or — far more likely — damned since the Creation, you’d think Puritans would be slackers.  Instead, they worked their asses off on every day except Sunday…when they crammed into churches for three-hour harangues about how all human effort is futile.

Freudianism supplied an explanation for this odd state of affairs.  The famous “Protestant work ethic” is what psychologists, borrowing a term from zoology, call “displacement activity.”  Animals confronted with overwhelming, contradictory stimuli often do strange, pointless things — ostriches don’t really bury their heads in the sand, but that’s a classic illustration of the concept.  Calvinists knew they couldn’t do anything to stave off their all-but-inevitable damnation, but there was slim possibility they might be among the Elect.  Frantically working as if their souls depended upon it, Weber theorized, relieved the emotional tension… and whaddaya know, pretty soon a frantic desire to work became one of the surest signs you were among the Elect.

That does account for the Puritans’ exceptional and seemingly self-contradictory industriousness.  But it also means, logically, that “capitalism” is a mental illness.  We understand why ostriches stick their heads in the sand, but nobody’s gonna argue it’s healthy.

Now, it takes some serious chutzpah to say the whole world’s crazy…. which is why both Marxism and Freudianism were almost entirely confined to twitchy Jewish eggheads around the turn of the century.  But then World War I happened, and total society-wide insanity looks pretty fucking plausible from the bottom of a trench.  Pre-war Marxists thought war was impossible, because workers are logical — knowing that it would only benefit their industrialist overlords, the proletariat would simply refuse to fight.  But they did fight, and they died in their millions, and they kept fighting and dying long after it became obvious that nothing they could hope to gain would be worth the cost.

QED.

Or so the Frankfurt Schoolers thought, anyway.  There is, of course, another explanation for the seeming insanity of the First World War.  It’s the same as the one for industrious Calvinists:  People don’t live by reason alone.

Which is not to say that people are all insane. Insanity is a break from reality, and the things which make up human reality — the things which make us human — transcend petty rationality.  G.K. Chesterton said that the purely rational man wouldn’t marry…but nobody would say that a lifelong bachelor who died alone thanks to his devotion to reason had lived a more meaningful life than a devoted husband.  Chesterton also said that the purely rational soldier won’t fight… but we don’t honor those “men” as paragons of reason for refusing to fight.  We scorn them as cowards.  So, too, with beauty, art, friendship, brotherhood, music, religion — none of them are “rational,” but they’re all sane.  They’re the only things that are.  Marxism denies them all — Homo sovieticus is homo economicus, a dull creature that can only interact with the world via spreadsheet.

In other words, the Frankfurt School perspective only makes sense if you equate “sane” with “rational,” and “rational” with “Marxism.”

But if you do that — if “sanity” is your starting point, and “sanity” equals “Marxism” — then Freud’s crude toolkit is more than sufficient to retcon all that stuff about “meaning” into dreary Marxist formulae.  There’s no “meaning” in Freud’s world; we’re all just grab-bags of primitive drives smashed into semi-civilized packages by “society”… which, of course, is merely an artifact of the capitalist mode of production.  We progress by developing our superego, the only rational part of our mentality… and the superego, being rational, wants communism.  If you can’t see that, your superego isn’t sufficiently developed enough to realize that communism is good for you.  So the Frankfurt Schoolers will have to make you into good communists, in the same way that parents make their children into healthy adults — you’re not yet developed enough to realize that you can’t eat all chocolate, all the time, so they’ll carefully ration your chocolate until you’re mature enough to handle it.

And thanks to the overfulfillment of the Five Year Plan, the chocolate ration has been increased from 100 grams to 75 grams.

Everything Old is New Again: Antonio Gramsci

Ace of Spades, on the media:

Their [the MSM’s] mission is not mere delegitimization of those who do not worship their strange gods. Certainly they do that, endlessly. But it’s more than that — their mission is the full denigration, humiliation, and ultimately dehumanization of the outsiders to the Tribe.

I’ll say this three times because it’s important:

Cultural Power is Political Power.

Cultural Power is Political Power.

Cultural Power is Political Power.

Having been promoted to a position from which they can exert their Cultural Power to thereby exert Political Power, they do so, and they are less and less concerned with pretending they don’t do so.

Ace has just discovered Antonio Gramsci.

Antonio Gramsci was an Italian Marxist and, like all good little Marxists, was flummoxed by The People’s disinclination to revolt.  Marx — by which he meant capital-H History — had decreed proletarian revolution inevitable.  But not only were the proles not rebelling, they were actually getting happier with capitalism!  How could this be?

Again, as a good little Marxist, Gramsci knew that — despite everyone’s lying eyes — the world wasn’t getting better, cheaper, cleaner, safer, because by definition capitalism does the opposite of all those things.  And again — despite everyone’s lying eyes — life in the Soviet Union wasn’t getting meaner, poorer, nastier, shorter, because by definition communism is the opposite.  Therefore, Gramsci concluded, there must be a massive disinformation campaign going on, whereby the capitalists used all the cultural power at their disposal to flip the definitions — up is down; black is white; capitalism makes people happy and communism ends in a slave labor camp.

Gramsci called this massive disinformation campaign “cultural hegemony,” and to counteract it, he urged his fellow revolutionaries to capture the cultural high ground.  Get into the schools, the universities, the media, the arts, and subvert them from the inside.  Tear away the capitalist veil by preaching revolution from every available pulpit, and if the capitalists protest, why, you can use their absurd and antiquated reverence for so-called “free speech” against them!

It worked, too, as we can clearly see.  In our quest to find liberalism’s last new idea, then, we’re up to about 1920.

Everything Old is New Again: The Social Gospel

As our four regular readers know, I think Bernie Sanders’s poll numbers are mostly wishcasting — when the only other “liberal” choice on offer is Mugabe-level corrupt, voting for Eugene V. Debs 2.0 is the only way for lefties to maintan a shred of self-respect.  But Bernie’s “party like it’s 1909” platform does give me a fun way to pass the time.  I’m off into the depths of the library, looking for the last new idea the American left ever had.  Let’s break out the spelunking gear…..

imagesBlog co-godfather Philmon’s excellent post on Church and State is a good place to start.  Phil imagines a hypothetical leftie arguing with a believer like so:

But isn’t Socialism or Communism doing what Jesus said to do?

This particular nugget dates all the way back to the 1870s.  It’s called the “Social Gospel,” and it is what it sounds like — a mix of Socialism and Evangelicalism.  Guess which one wins out?

Church and State in America have always been closely linked.  The New England colonies, of course, were designed as theocracies.  So was Pennsylvania.  So was Rhode Island.  Maryland was a haven for recusant Catholics.  Et cetera.

Now, it’s important to note that, when you click on those links, the phrase “religious toleration” is going to come up a lot.  Pennsylvania was supposedly chock full of it.  It’s why Williams and Hutchinson founded Rhode Island.  &c.  Context is key — “toleration,” in the 17th century, meant “toleration of our own views.”  William Penn quite obviously thought he was going to be dictator of Pennsylvania; Hutchinson and Williams were as dourly fanatical as the Puritans who kicked them out of Plymouth Bay.  With the horrors of the 30 Years’ War and the English Civil War fresh in their minds, colonial magistrates weren’t about to let freelance preaching get out of hand.  “Toleration” meant something like “we (probably) won’t burn you at the stake.”

Nor did the First Amendment rule out state churches.  In the interests of brevity, here’s the key:

When the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1791, the First Amendment guaranteed that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This provision ensured that no one religion would be favored over another and protected religious groups from unfair treatment by the federal government. Still it did not protect against unfair treatment by state governments. Indeed, the amendment was thought by many to protect against congressional interference with state governments’ involvement with religion-that is, it was thought to prohibit the U.S. Congress from “disestablishing” churches established by state governments.

New Hampshire and other states passed laws until the mid-1800s that kept non-Protestants from holding public office. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and several other states declared official churches.

The Founders, who knew full well the problems caused by an official Church of England, were trying to prevent an official Church of America.  That’s it.

And, of course, the great reform movements of the 19th century were shot through with official religion.  The American Civil War was just as much a theological crisis as a political one.  Famed abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison didn’t call the Constitution “an agreement with Hell” for nothing, and he was thrilled at the prospect of secession — an independent slaveholding republic could be crushed by Yankee crusaders, and all the slaveholders shot.  Arguments over women’s suffrage were heavily theological, and it’s the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  All of these were (among other things) an effort to give Christian values the force of federal law.

Given this loooooong tradition, it was perfectly logical for Evangelicalism to mesh up with the growing Progressive movement.  In its original, Gilded Age definition, “Progressivism” meant “the use of government for socially beneficial ends.”  Society would surely benefit if more people practiced the Christian virtues.  But since not everyone responds well to preaching, it’s simpler, and much more efficient — a favorite Progressive buzzword in those days — to ban vices.  Let’s use the government to save souls.

images

Ignorance of history is liberalism’s flux capacitor, of course, but for those of us who can still notice stuff, relics of the Social Gospel are everywhere.  Ever wonder why the guy in the Santa suit ringing the bell for spare change is a member of the Salvation Army?  Ever worked out at the Y — the Young Man’s Christian Association?  This variant of the Social Gospel, called “Muscular Christianity,” was designed to create buff, manly men who would go out in the world — especially the political world — and save souls (the Promise Keepers of the late 1990s were an updated version of this).  Catholics, always a little late to the party, developed their own version of the Social Gospel — “Liberation Theology” — in the 1950s; it’s the same basic stuff, but shot through with Frantz Fanon
postcolonial” nonsense.

Not that modern liberals care about what the Bible does or doesn’t say, of course.  It’s just a convenient way to score some cheap snarky points — witness their newfound respect for the Catholic Church under Pope Francis.  [I wonder where he stands on priestly pedophilia?  I wonder what he was doing all that time?  I wonder — oh, how I wonder!! — why none of these fairweather fans of Catholicism ever bother to ask him?].  And, of course, you’ll never dissuade them with mere facts — facts being to liberals what garlic is to vampires. But in case you’re ever tempted to think they might have a point with this stuff, don’t — and if you need some counterarguments, you can find a bunch of good ones starting in the Grant Administration.