It’s Friday, I ain’t got no job, etc.
From Pickle Rick:
[sorry, I seem to have lost the original email, but it concerned the Confederacy’s relations with the USA had the Civil War ended other than it did].
An interesting counterfactual, one that once spawned a whole bunch of “alternate history” literature. Those all seem to assume that the CSA would become what the USA eventually did — a globe-spanning superpower — but I think that’s mostly dramatic license; it’s hard to tell a fun story in a setting where the Confederate revolution ended the way almost all revolutions do: in a bloody dictatorship, with your economy destroyed, banana republic style. Rick, being a real historian, knows this, so his question (again, sorry I lost it) was something like “how could you ever maintain a stable border with a whole nation of Yankee fanatics?”
In my view, you can’t. Especially when there’s all kinds of stuff to fight over out West, just as the technology to get there and fully exploit it is coming online. Moreover, as we both agree, slavery as an economic system was toast. Oversimplifying a bit for clarity (but not all that much), the CSA staked their survival on Great Britain’s dependence on Southern cotton. In a short war — which all but the most farsighted assumed — that strategy makes sense, but in the long run it’s fatal.
It’s fatal even if the Confederacy won, because cotton isn’t like The Spice, found only in one location in all the universe. Go wander through the “housewares” aisles at Target — be prepared to feel your nuts shriveling — and you’ll see towels, bedsheets, and all kinds of stuff made from 100% Egyptian cotton. That’s a big selling point, Egyptian cotton. And the stuff grows lots of other places, too, including — you guessed it — China. I recommend Stephen Platt’s Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom for a lot of reasons — the Chinese are still epically butthurt about the Taiping Rebellion; they’re so hostile to Christianity, in part, because they think all Christians are potential Hong Xiuquans — but not least because it shows how quickly the British adopted to the cotton problem. Unless the war really did end at First Manassas (and, honestly, probably not even then), the CSA would soon have found itself priced out of the cotton market.
Which then raises the fascinating question of what the Confederacy would have done with its Diversity when the cotton market cratered.* Too bad alt-history novelists don’t do comedy, because the thought of some sneaky bastard like Judah Benjamin organizing something like the Mariel Boatlift on the Yankees — “there’s 40 acres and a mule waiting for you in Massachusetts, boys!” — is hilarious. Wiki tries hard to sanitize this part, obviously, but Castro dumped a whole bunch of his criminals, lunatics, and criminal lunatics via Mariel, in the kind of beautiful low blow you can’t help but admire the sick bastard for. Hell, maybe that’s what they did, in those wonderful alt-history worlds, and that’s why the Confederacy became a superpower while the Union languished in third world obscurity.
In the real world, though, I imagine you’d get something like Bleeding Kansas, but stretched across a continent, with a dose of Northern Ireland near the more settled areas back east. Had they ever figured it out, and had the Confederacy somehow solved the Diversity problem — say, by conquering Mexico, as the hotter Rebel heads always yearned to do — whoever emerged from that shitstorm would’ve been the hardest, baddest White men of all time… I need to stop now; my eyes are getting misty.
One more quick thought: Cotton slavery, as an economic system, really only lasted a few decades. Even if we make slavery absolutely central to the national economy from the Founding, that’s less than a century — a mere blip in historical time. One wonders, given its now-obvious blighted nature, if the Internet might not be something like slavery was back then — a blip on the radar, an economic system that supported massive profits and an entire way of life… but only temporarily, before its obvious contradictions destroyed it in an orgy of violence. Perhaps the #woketards of 2121 will be pulling down statues of Bill Gates and using “Facebook-ist” as the worst imaginable insult. A man can dream, right?
From Curious in Japan:
A question related to your previous work experience: How much of the Arrogance and/or Dysfunction you describe is made worse/unapproachable by prescription meds? And how has the increased uptake in such meds made things worse in the last, say, 10 years?
The pills, the pills…. oh dear lord, the pills. I’ve often joked that you can’t beat Trigglypuff, for purely logistical reasons if no other: You need to sleep sometime, and by definition she doesn’t, thanks to her limitless access to powerful prescription psychotropics. I was joking, but I wasn’t kidding. Since kids these days have no filter, I’ve had several students simply tell me, to my face, all the psych problems they’ve been diagnosed with, and what they’ve been prescribed for them. What happens is this: At the start of every semester, you get a flood of students coming up after the first class meeting, clutching “accommodation forms” from Student Services. These obviously don’t list the kid’s specific syndromes — thanks, HIPAA!! — but again, being filterless, the students will often straight out tell you: “If I don’t come to class for a few weeks, it’s because the depressive phase of my bipolar disorder has started.”
I’m exaggerating a little for effect…but only a very, very little. I did, swear to God, have one student tell me xzhey don’t do well in history class because xzhey “don’t do well with linear time.” And since being “on the spectrum” is somehow now a badge of honor for Twitter addicts, I’ve had more than a few kids tell me all about their Assburgers Sydrome (its main symptom is “inability to turn classwork in on time”), their ADHD, and so on. I’ve been presented with every “learning disability” under the sun, and while there’s no prof so #woke and naive not to suspect that lots of this is just a raging case of Idonwannagotoclassitis, they’re all on sixteen kinds of happy pill for it….
…and who knows what that shit is doing to their biochemistry? But more importantly, being on the happy pills is, as Curious notes, an all-purpose Asshole License. Much like going vegan or taking up Crossfit somehow gives you license to be an intolerable dickhead every waking moment, so does a “disability accommodation” form from Student Services free students from all constraint on their behavior. I’d really like to see the lab work on the “learning disability” that keeps you from concentrating long enough to take a 45 minute exam, yet allows you to focus exclusively on Twitter and Xbox for up to seven straight hours, but… there it is.
From Prodigal Son:
Is there anything you want to share about fanaticism?
Stuff like Prohibition and Revolution, Child Crusades and CRT, tells us it’s not especially religious or secular in nature, though it requires faith of a kind. A berserker warrior or Dionysian orgy is not fanatic, because their passion is mindless sublimation; whereas a fanatic ‘won’t change their mind and can’t change the subject:’ it’s ‘mindful’ while yoking all thoughts to a horse of zeal.
I have read: ‘whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad [insane]’ and ‘fanaticism is redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.’ Is fanaticism when a movement/enterprise loses its competent leadership and becomes a cargo cult? Under what conditions does fanaticism not appear? Are there historical eras where it is absent from culture?
That’s a huge topic that I’ll have to address in separate posts, but for now let’s start by saying, Marxist-style, the fanaticism requires both a base and a superstructure. A lone fanatic is just a weirdo. See, for example, this guy.
Menocchio said: “I have said that, in my opinion, all was chaos, that is, earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed – just as cheese is made out of milk – and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels. The most holy majesty decreed that these should be God and the angels, and among that number of angels there was also God, he too having been created out of that mass at the same time, and he was named lord with four captains, Lucifer, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. That Lucifer sought to make himself lord equal to the king, who was the majesty of God, and for this arrogance God ordered him driven out of heaven with all his host and his company; and this God later created Adam and Eve and people in great number to take the places of the angels who had been expelled. And as this multitude did not follow God’s commandments, he sent his Son, whom the Jews seized, and he was crucified.”
In other words, he’s just crazy. Evangelical atheists aren’t wrong when they point out how comically easy it is to become a “minister” (I know one who actually had himself “ordained” as some kind of joke), and how goofy so many of these “ministers” are. Were he with us today, Menocchio would have himself a YouTube channel with about 500 subscribers, and that would be that.
That’s the “base.” This guy came to believe what he did because he had access to a little learning, and from what was available to him, he produced his views. But the “base” also encompasses YouTube, or the Roman Inquisition in Menocchio’s case — the only reason we know about the guy is that he came to the attention of the authorities, which presupposes that there are authorities, and that they have sufficient reach to hear about him, sufficient force to arrest and prosecute him, etc. There were no doubt zillions of communities with very weird beliefs that we’ll never know about, precisely because they didn’t come to the attention of a sufficiently strong authority. How many Montaillous must there have been? Again, same deal — these guys came to the attention of a sufficiently energetic inquisitor, who used it as a springboard to the Papacy. The Cathars of Montaillou were “fanatics,” I guess, but only in the sense that they resisted the inquisition.
The point is, that “cheese and worms” stuff “worked” for Menocchio, just as Catharism “worked” for the people of Montaillou. They were “fanatics” in the sense that they wouldn’t give the beliefs up, but they weren’t out there proselytizing. Had there been no Inquisition, no energetic enforcers of the larger social structure, nobody would’ve much cared.
The “superstructure,” then, is the means motive and opportunity to proselytize — that is, to use the authorities’ own structures against them. See e.g. the Inquisition itself, which went from a minor bureaucracy to a massive socio-political force, thanks to its seizure by talented, ruthless, ambitious men like Jacques Fournier and Torquemada. I realize that probably seems grossly artificial — an SJW is just a weirdo until she gets elected to the school board, then she’s a fanatic, though nothing else about her has changed — but I’m trying to look at it functionally.
“Fanaticism,” as I’m describing it here, is exactly the kind of thing the Inquisition was designed to prevent. Those cats in Montaillou would’ve been perfectly fine doing what they did under a less ambitious monarch, or if Fournier had been assigned one diocese over, or under a million other conditions. So long as they don’t get obnoxious about it — thus forcing the authorities to take notice — they’ll probably be fine, unless they have the grave misfortune to fall under the purview of exceptionally ambitious and talented men.
I hope that makes some kind of sense, because somehow we’ve got to get from there to “the authorities being concerned not just with outward show, but the actual state of your soul.” But that’s going to have to be at another time, because right now I’ve got no clue.
As always, thanks to everyone for writing, and reading. Have a good weekend!
At this point, if we were having this discussion in the classroom — holy jeebus, can you imagine? — one of the few kids who didn’t need fainting couches and grief counselors would raise his hand and ask why the slaveholders wouldn’t just put the slaves to work in factories. Questions like that always killed me back in my teaching days. The answer, of course, is “spend a little time around Diversity, and you’ll bust a gut laughing at the thought of what it would take to get them Taylorized”…. but how do you say that to a college kid without ruining her world (and, far more importantly, not getting fired)?Loading Likes...