Archive for the ‘politics’ Category
TH: First of all, we’re not talking about secession from the United States; we’re talking about secession from a state.
SS: Exactly. And when you said that, that’s typically the first thing people conflate, when the colonies seceded from Britain and when the Southern states seceded from the Union. We’re not seceding from the Union; we just want to create another Union state.
TH: I’m not sure about Maryland, but for a long time I’ve been saying… if we have two senators representing states like Vermont and Wyoming, where you’ve got 600,000 people in a state. And there’s more than 600,000 people in New York City. Really, New York City and New York state should separate, become two states, Northern California, Central California, and Southern California should become two states, Texas should become two states, Florida should separate from South Florida and Miami, and if every one of those places had two senators, we’d have a much more representative Senate.
SS: You’ve said it well, because I couldn’t agree with you more, and in fact that’s what we talk about, when we look at representative government and the consent of the governed. We don’t need a big, one-size-fits-all policy here. And after decades of what I would call oppressive and abusive treatment from Annapolis, MD, the people in the five western counties are sick and tired, and in fact we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. We can’t…
TH: What’s the population?
SS: It would be about 653,000, so both Vermont and Wyoming would be smaller.
TH: So actually you are a region that is state-sized.
SS: That’s correct. And in fact, even geographically, Rhode Island and Delaware would be smaller. So it’s not unheard of. And I think what this boils down to is something germane to the national discussion as well. When everything gets pushed up nationally, if the Rs get into power the Ds are not happy, if the Ds get into power the Rs are not happy, so you have people doing this all the time over every issue, brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor. The way you solve that is to have more states and more choices. So if you happen to be very far left on the political spectrum, go live in a state that governs that way, and if somebody’s very far right, go live in that state, and you can have all kinds in between. So more states give you more choice, just like competition.
SS: But there’s also a group down in Tucson that would call themselves progressive that wants to leave because they think Arizona is much too conservative. And we fully support that. Consent of the governed and right to self-determination and self-governance is precisely what this country was founded upon.
TH: And if the threshold is Vermont or Wyoming, with 600,000 people, it doesn’t sound all that unreasonable to me.
SS: And I think it’s up to the people. The government ultimately, if you think about the question of what is government, government is really people coming together associating themselves to form a political society. So some groups that say, “we’d rather be governed this way,” I’m all for that, I think that’s fantastic and exactly what we should be doing.
TH: I actually don’t disagree with you. And you want to live in conservativeland, I’d want to live in liberal land.
SS: I don’t know that I would call it conservativeland, since I don’t consider myself a conservative. In fact, I think that’s a term that can mean anything, everything and nothing … it depends on who you talk to. But I think it’s up to the people to decide how they want to be governed?
TH: So what’s the response from Annapolis? What’s the response from the state of Maryland?
SS: Well, I haven’t heard a lot out of Annapolis, and I’m not looking to Annapolis yet. We will have to go there at some point, because of Article 4, Section 3 of the Constitution, there’s a legal constitutional process to do this and we will need approval from the legislature and then we also need approval from Congress.
TH: Right, so first you go to the state legislature, then go to the congress. Do you have any allies in the state legislature?
SS: Well, we probably have some allies in the five western counties. But here’s the problem in Maryland. We have 24 jurisdictions. Four jurisdictions make up 25 of the 47 state senators. It’s been so badly gerrymandered. So even through the normal election process we can’t fix this problem. Gerrymandering is a huge problem. It would make Eldridge Gerry blush, it’s so bad.
I’ve noticed a general decline in the significance of work put out by neoreactionaries. The picture remains incomplete, and most of what’s filled in was filled in by Moldbug. Here are some of the most important gaps I’ve noticed, although the list is by no means complete and y’all should mention more in the comments.
- AIACC. The red pill as formulated by Moldbug has a clear meaning: “America is a communist country; for workers and peasants, read blacks and Hispanics” appeals to the common perception of the USSR as a country where one class (bureaucrats or whoever) ruled in the name of another (workers and peasants)—so in America, mostly-white Brahmins rule in the name of blacks and Hispanics. But Moldbug thinks there’s more to it than that: America was the senior partner in a coalition with Moscow, capital-C Communism was an outgrowth of something that happened in America, and so on. Is this accurate? If so, where’s the evidence?
- What’s the connection between the Anglosphere and Moscow? This is implied in the above question, but deserves its own entry in the list.
- Is there such a thing as demotism? If so, what is it? As Scott Alexander points out in his anti-reactionary FAQ, even monarchs have claimed to rule in the name of the people; does this constitute demotism? Is Nazism demotist? (No, not really.) Is there anything that currently-existing progressivism, Communism, and Fascism/Nazism have in common? If so, what? (My guess is that they, unlike monarchies, explicitly attempt to create a ‘new man’, drastically reshape not only the technological basis of society but also morality and culture, and so on.)
- Where does progressivism come from? How much of it is Christian? Which parts of Christianity did it come from? Are any parts of any form of it necessary adaptations to technological development, as Scott Alexander says most of [his idea of] American progressivism is?
- What happened in the ’60s? The New Left was definitely not the Old Left (see following question), but where did the New Left come from? The popular Frankfurt School explanation doesn’t cut it; for one, it confuses Gramsci with Rudi Dutschke, who wasn’t politically active until the ’60s and who lived in Germany. At the very least, there should be some resource that pulls together information on the violent takeovers of universities and how those influenced academia; but the goals of those takeovers must have come from somewhere. Where?
- How and why did the Anglo-Soviet split happen?
- Rehabilitating the ‘Red Scare’. I’ve done some work toward this end, and most of the data exists out there (same for a lot of these questions, really), but as far as I know, it hasn’t been pulled together into one coherent resource.
- Empirical political analysis. Which political entities where are better how than which other comparable political entities?
- Policy proposals. Boring, I know, but the consensus seems to be shifting from passivism to reformism, which means reform proposals are necessary. Even if you support making things get worse until they have to get better, what is ‘better’? Note that this includes developing ideographs. And if you’re a passivist, well, no one buys the crypto-guns thing; if a True Election is held and a government is replaced, what is it to be replaced with?
- Studies to cite. Everyone’s seen that Putnam study by now, but what else is there? And are there any studies that refute parts of the reactionary platform?
- How do technology and capital and so on factor into all this? Moldbug ignores capitalism completely. This is bad. Don’t leave all this to communists; they’re probably on to something here.
Most neoreactionary wizardry has been focused on black magic:
The key of black magic is the art of naming the nameless, of showing that that which appears natural—that is,ideology in the true sense—is not. A secure ideology (in the man-on-the-street sense of “political memeplex”) is one that has no name. What is the name for that on which American liberalism and American conservatism agree? What is the name for that on which Americans agree? Liberalism is an -ism; conservatism is an -ism; but talk of justice, of human rights and freedoms, is not.
The American caste system, the Anglo-Soviet split, and even this article itself—these are all works of black magic.
But practical politics relies much more on white magic: building an ideography, a set of words, or ideographs, with connotational/emotional and exosemantic/thede-signaling loads pointing in the direction desired by the ideography’s builders. This is the essence of Moldbug’s concept of ‘idealism’.
There are two operations in black magic: definition and undefinition. Moldbug defines America’s castes; graaaaaagh undefines ‘racism’. Definition consists of redrawing the semantic map of the territory of the world—in rationalist terms, cleaving reality at its joints; undefinition consists of showing that an existing piece of the semantic map does not accurately represent the territory of the world, that it folds together things that ought to be separated, and that it obscures thought by doing so, such that, for example, an attack on one thing that falls under the term can be taken to refute another thing that falls under it, to which the attack at hand does not apply.
There are four operations in white magic: invention, reinforcement, reversal, and erasure.
Invention consists of drawing up a new ideograph, a new word with connotational and/or exosemantic load. This may occasionally appear as black definition, and in fact invention is likely to require definition as a prerequisite, as with the invention of the term ‘white privilege’. Without any semblance of denotation, the word is less likely to have either meaning or direction. And when an ideograph exists without a definitive denotation, it often appeals to a pre-existing tradition, and its invention is likely to contain an attempt at definition—Plato’s and Rawls’ attempts at inventing ‘justice’ both fall under this category. It’s also possible for already existing non-ideographic words to be imbued with ideographic load, as Theden has been doing with words like ‘Brahmin’.
Reinforcement is exactly what it sounds like: restating an ideograph and its connotational and/or exosemantic load. This may seem controversial, but I will claim that, for many Universalists, ‘white’ is a negative ideograph. Observe:
The thing about the Republicans is that when they have a tantrum, they really have a tantrum. Right now, somewhere in Washington, DC, there are a bunch of rich men with white hair, white skin, and black hearts screaming and stomping around in their suits because they don’t want poor people to have affordable healthcare.
‘Black hearts’ carries an obvious negative connotational load; juxtaposing it with ‘rich men’ and ‘white hair, white skin’ reinforces the negative load of both, in both the connotational—the negative load of the ‘black-hearted’ referents of the adjective is to spread onto the adjective itself—and exosemantic—these people are to be taken as the enemy—senses.
Reversal consists of reversing the load of an ideograph, whether connotationally or exosemantically. This occurs in two forms: reclamation, switching the load from negative to positive, and declamation, switching the load from positive to negative. I use the word reclamation because it already exists: “reclamation of slurs”: “You’re going to call me a queer/nigger/redneck/faggot? Fine, I’m a queer/nigger/redneck/faggot; I’ll take that as part of my identity and use it to positively signal my thede affiliation!” This is an example of exosemantic reclamation. Connotational reclamation proceeds along the lines of, say, (and I know I’ve seen this argument somewhere) “You’re going to call me a racist? Fine, I’m a racist! Were I not a racist, I’d hate my own people! Do you hate your own people, you race-traitor bastard?” As always, the connotational and exosemantic aspects are often linked: the attempts at reclamation of ‘liberal’ seem to be both. As for declamation, see Theden on progressives.
Erasure is an extreme case of declamation: the ideograph acquires such negative load that those who previously took it as positive are forced to disassociate themselves from it. I read an interview a few days ago with a DC campaign operative who said that denotationally liberal candidates can’t associate themselves with the word ‘liberal’ anymore. (This is not a new phenomenon; it comes up in Bloom County, so it’s been around since the Reagan era.)
Political philosophy begins and ends with Plato, and with his goal of optimizing for justice, a goal passed down unmodified to everyone from Robert Nozick to Bill de Blasio. Already we see a problem: one cannot optimize for that which one cannot define. Plato thought he could define it; so did Nozick; so does de Blasio. All three disagree with each other substantially.
It is pointless to debate what justice is without some idea of what sort of thing it is. Does it manifest itself in properties of the real world? Are there any desirable qualities that correlate strongly with justice? If so, the seemingly insoluble question of defining justice is unnecessary: find those desirable qualities and optimize for it instead.
And if no such desirable qualities exist, why should we care about justice at all?
For that matter, why is the goal to optimize for an abstraction? Man lives neither in nor by abstractions. This is the essence of the prison breaks of both Marx and Moldbug: all that matters is reality.
If justice mandates turning Rhodesia into Zimbabwe, if justice mandates reversing the crime crackdown and de facto segregation that pulled New York City from the darkest pits of crime-ridden hell, if justice mandates the protection of freedoms that lead to material harm, so much the worse for justice.
But the thing ought to be dispensed with anyway. A look at the past hundred years shows that Thrasymachus was descriptively right.
‘Misogyny’ in rap music, which is aligned with Dalits (and to a lesser extent Antyajas), is not a topic of Brahmin concern.
‘Misogyny’ in the tech industry, which is aligned with Frontines, is a topic of Brahmin concern.
Therefore, Brahmins are concerned with rewriting Frontine industries, but not Dalit industries.
Therefore, Brahmins are aligned against Frontines in the caste war.
Told you so.
To conquer the stars, mankind must become a race of conquerors.
We who have for sixty years been threatened with the technological future stand at the dawn of history; more precisely, we stand at a fork, between the future of humanity and the eternal present of the human, an eternal present that leads inevitably backwards. The world-stage victory of liberalism has turned us toward the latter. The time-preference curve cuts off to zero. Historical stillbirth.
There is no longer a positive vision of the future; there is only eternal masturbation in the Garden of Eden, under the shade of the ever-static civilization tree. Measures to secure the future against the orcish hordes of the present are deemed intrinsically vile. Utilitarianism is protected against the eugenic conclusion only by the cutoff of the time-preference curve: zero care for the yet unborn. The rot has set in so deeply that antinatalism is no longer taken as a reductio ad absurdum: there are people who really believe that there are logical arguments against reproducing and that they ought to be spread, and somehow these people have not all been silenced or shot. Antinatalism without active, forceful pressure toward human extinction can never succeed, for the simple reason that some people are either too stupid to follow logical arguments or too impulsive to care; but for the same reason, if it is not completely and utterly ineffective, it is necessarily dysgenic.
The death of history is not a leftist conclusion. It is strictly a liberal one.
The reason for that east-western difference is the fact that the GDR had an “educated mother scheme” and actively tried to encourage first births among the more educated. It did so by propagandizing the opinion that every educated woman should “present at least one child to socialism” and also by financially rewarding its more educated citizen to become parents. The government especially tried to persuade students to become parents while still in college and it was quite successful in doing so. In 1986 38% of all women, who were about to graduate from college, were mothers of at least one child and additional 14% were pregnant and 43% of all men, who were about to graduate from college, were fathers of at least one child. There was a sharp decline in the birth rate and especially in the birth rate of the educated after the fall of the Berlin wall. Nowadays only 5% of those about to graduate from college are parents. …
A study done in the western German State of Nordrhein-Westfalen by the HDZ revealed that childlessness was especially widespread among scientists. It showed that 78% of the female scientists and 71% of the male scientists working in that State were childless.
Intelligence, like most things, is about 50% heritable. If education correlates to any non-negligible degree with intelligence, the GDR was completely right. To value the future, as communism apparently did and as liberalism emphatically does not, leads necessarily to the eugenic conclusion.
Intelligence forms and is amplified by the Old Law of Gnon:
The penalty for stupidity is death.
Gregory Clark is among those few to have grasped [this law] clearly. Any eugenic trend within history is expressed by continuous downward mobility. For any given level of intelligence, a steady deterioration in life-prospects lies ahead, culling the least able, and replacing them with the more able, who inherit their wretched socio-economic situation, until they too are pushed off the Malthusian cliff. Relative comfort belongs only to the sports and freaks of cognitive advance. For everyone else, history slopes downwards into impoverishment, hopelessness, and eventual genetic extinction. That is how intelligence is made. Short of Technological Singularity, it is the only way. Who wants a piece of that?
No one does, or almost no one. … Monkeys … are able to revolt, once they finesse their nasty little opposable thumbs. They don’t like the Old Law, which has crafted them through countless aeons of ruthless culling, so they make history instead. If they get everything ‘right’, they even sleaze their way into epochs of upward social mobility, and with this great innovation, semi-sustainable dysgenics gets started. In its fundamentals it is hideously simple: social progress destroys the brain.
Liberalism is thus quite literally a cancer: a memeplex that, on entering metastasis, threatens civilization itself. Civilization is taken for granted; it is believed to grow on trees; no measures for preserving it are necessary, and measures for enhancing it are reminiscent of the high modernism, the biological Nietzscheanism, that led man to believe that he could conquer first his own condition and then his living-conditions, and that was defeated in the war that ended the West.
The Second World War, in the American mythological reading, was a war between the rights of the present and the promises of the future. This reading is not entirely accurate, since, as we have seen, the Soviets opted to search for a balance between the two rather than adopt the liberal solution of utterly abandoning the latter and accelerating the former into dysgenic burnout leading inexorably to a collapse that is no longer taken to matter. But the American mythological reading is more relevant than the historical fact of the matter, since it is the founding myth of the postmodern liberal religion, and the postmodern liberal religion is preached today from San Francisco to Samarkand.
Our popular culture reflects the liberal view of history: the technological future is dystopian, evil and oppressive, reminiscent of the Nazis or the hyper-Reaganism of Snow Crash. If the future has any merit, any promise, it is fundamentally moral in nature: civilization will remain at its current technological level, not moving an inch in either direction, but its ethics will advance, advance toward the singularity of total dissolution, total atomization, every thede dissolved into its component parts, united only by the no-thede, the all-thede, the recognition of the simple and objective moral truth that has gone unrecognized by literally every other civilization on the planet only because they were on the wrong side of history. If technology is to advance at all, it must be solely for the purpose of solving the inherent immorality of the human condition.
While popular culture looks forward to a more moral future, aesthetically it can only look backward. Folk music and Whole Foods. Craft beer and organic artisanal soap. Technology must stop looking technological: it has to be friendly, it has to look like a kitchen appliance or a bar of soap, made of soft curves and pastel-colored plastic. No wires, no rectangles, no beige. IBM is right out.
Marinetti’s call to flood the cellars of the museums has been reversed. Science fiction gives way to fantasy; space programs give way to social justice. There is no longer a USSR for the liberal regime to assert itself against in the propaganda of technological achievement. Oh well, the space program was undemocratic anyway.
The single most important error of liberalism is that it either has forgotten or actively desires to avoid knowing that there are prerequisites to civilization, and that these prerequisites, like most traits, are most likely about 50% genetic.
If there is room within liberalism for the other 50% to be worked on, it must be worked on. If there is a non-negligible gap between potential and actual intelligence, due to childhood malnutrition or lead poisoning or whatever, this gap must be closed. But it is of paramount importance that the cancer be treated. It took untold hundreds of years for the West to develop civilization and the prerequisites thereof; if these things are lost, with them goes one path toward the future, one bridge between ape and overman.
This is the project I was talking about here. I have two posts up that won’t be mostly old news to people who’ve been following me here:
- The Cathedral and the Bizarre: Benjamin Crump’s Manufactured Consent: on how the Trayvon Martin case became a case
- Generation Segregation: more on the death of cultural transmission that I mentioned here
(And no, I’m still not using my real name.)
By the way, you can submit things: email them to me, include the name you want in the author field, and I’ll put it up if it’s good. (If you want to submit but don’t have my email address, leave a comment saying so.)
The jury found Zimmerman not guilty on all counts.
You say the verdict is racist. If this is racist, the principle of reasonable doubt is racist; for this principle is why Zimmerman was not imprisoned. If the principle of reasonable doubt is racist, what standards are the courts to use? Are trials to be decided by public opinion? You may believe you would benefit, but George W. Bush was elected for two terms. Are trials to be held in the media? You may believe you would benefit, but the most watched cable news station in America is Fox News.
The apparatus of power is not beholden to any ideology, no matter its structures, no matter its laws. The only constitution is an unwritten one: one bound up in tradition and enforced by social custom. Francoist Spain abolished itself, as did the Soviet Union, led in the end by liberals anticommunist in all but name. Our own country has gone through many revolutions, less visible than those of European countries only because of the wisdom of the revolutionaries, their preference to remain invisible, and let the government’s restructuring proceed unseen. This all follows from Carlyle‘s law: only humans govern.
I rather guess, the intellect of the Nineteenth Century, so full of miracle to Heavyside and others, is itself a mechanical or beaver intellect rather than a high or eminently human one. A dim and mean though authentic kind of intellect, this; venerable only in defect of better. This kind will avail but little in the higher enterprises of human intellect, especially in that highest enterprise of guiding men Heavenward, which, after all, is the one real “governing” of them on this God’s-Earth:—an enterprise not to be achieved by beaver intellect, but by other higher and highest kinds. This is deficit first. And then secondly, Governments have, really to a fatal and extraordinary extent, neglected in late ages to supply themselves with what intellect was going; having, as was too natural in the dim time, taken up a notion that human intellect, or even beaver intellect, was not necessary to them at all, but that a little of the vulpine sort (if attainable), supported by routine, red-tape traditions, and tolerable parliamentary eloquence on occasion, would very well suffice. A most false and impious notion; leading to fatal lethargy on the part of Governments, while Nature and Fact were preparing strange phenomena in contradiction to it.
No amount of red tape can govern, not even the most intricately guarded fort of it—governing is exclusively a human activity. It may be said that humans are influenced by red tape, but this is imprecise: humans are directly influenced only by human traditions, only by that which is human, and if they appear to be influenced by red tape, it is their tradition that makes them appear so. If there is no tradition providing imperium to red tape, no custom of affording it influence, it will have no imperium, no influence at all. The most imposing red-tape fort is as a thimbleful of dry pink glue if the relevant humans do not consider it otherwise. De facto need not be de jure; it is remarkable indeed when the two so much as approximate each other. So our culture, our tradition, is remarkable.
Because we are neither beavers nor machines, de facto is not de jure even for us. The law is not applied mechanistically; it is applied by humans, humans who hold the machinic as ideal. But the machinic is impossible. Man is a social animal, and therefore a thedish one; one with inescapable and often unnoticeable attachments and commitments, which our Whiggish age derides as prejudices and biases. The Whig, the believer in the Whiggery now emanating from every editorial edifice, now taken as the true religion, so true as to be beyond the bounds of religion itself and to be merely truth—the Whig holds that man is an individual, and hardly even an animal. The defining characteristic and highest end of man, says the Whig, is reason: reason directed toward the task of atomizing himself and all he sees, tearing asunder all attachment and commitment as prerational and animal heresy. “Let us all be ‘free’ of one another; we shall then be happy. Free, without bond or connection except that of cash-payment; fair day’s wages for the fair day’s work; bargained for by voluntary contract, and law of supply-and-demand: this is thought to be the true solution of all difficulties and injustices that have occurred between man and man.”
But what has Whiggery brought about? Are Whigs in fact atomized? Do they strive toward the cosmopolitan ideal of mixing freely and nonjudgmentally with all?—No! Just the opposite! The Whig looks upon his elthedes, those societies which have thus far refused Whiggery, and sees backwards peasants, befuddled by their Dark-Age beliefs, so stupid as to believe themselves in any sense superior—he sees them thus, and he feels superior to them, feels the same ethnocentrism he attributes, often wrongly, to them. Not even the Whig is a Whig; he is a false Whig, a non-Whig in a Whiggish cloak, pretending to beliefs to mask their opposites.
Because not even the Whig is a Whig, because all men, no matter their claims to the contrary and no matter their attempts to disguise them as fact or as a thede-neutral system of values, have thedish attachments and thedish commitments, the machinic is impossible; but also because language is not a thing, but rather a cluster of things, a cluster ever-changing, ever-mutating, replicating itself just as humans replicate themselves, and with all the same divergences. All languages are clusters of dialects, which are themselves clusters of idiolects. Meaning is not inherent in law, just as it is not inherent in language: the meaning of a law being read arises from the interaction between its text and the reader’s idiolect, and therefore will differ depending on the reader. The ambiguity must be resolved, and it must be resolved by humans with the authority to resolve it. Any mechanism constructed to resolve it will either be cultural, passed down and applied by humans, or textual, and therefore no resolution at all, for the same problem arises. Thus we see that, even under perfect cultural conditions, even when the will exists to equate de facto and de jure, to make law machinic, it cannot be fully done. Always and everywhere, Carlyle’s law holds.
So if we are to speak of law, we must speak of traditions, patterns of human action. Which traditions do you take issue with? Which patterns do you find distasteful? We must speak of patterns, not isolated incidents; no system is perfect—no man or group of men is perfect—and to rally around an isolated incident of imperfection is to risk exchanging a better system for a worse one. And if we are to speak of law, we must first get our facts straight: George Zimmerman was not acquitted by white supremacy, but by a jury that found unanimously that the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he killed Trayvon Martin out of ill will, hatred, or spite. Unless you believe that the prosecution did prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman killed Trayvon out of ill will, hatred, or spite, and that the jurors decided wrongly, you cannot say that the human mechanism of the law failed in the intransitive sense, that it reached a conclusion improper by its own standards, its standards of process; but you can say that the law failed in the transitive sense—that it did not live up to higher, substantive standards which you hold that it ought to live up to. What, then, are these standards? And can any system live up to them?
Let us grant for the sake of argument that racism, whatever that may mean, is a problem, whatever that may mean, and that it follows from this that the courts ought to do something about it. That the courts ought to do something about racism means that the unwritten traditions of the courts ought to be changed—perhaps by changing the written documents that their traditions bid them listen to, perhaps by other means; the difference is irrelevant to the matter at hand—so that their output scores better on a certain metric. But no metric is completely value-neutral. No amount of red tape can govern.
Suppose the American government proclaimed tomorrow that all cases would be decided and all crimes defined by the racial utility-calculus, that all whose actions were found to negatively impact blacks on net were automatically imprisoned. Would this meet your goals? It depends. Were found—by whom? Thomas Sowell could still become a judge and lock up half the government. Power is not given to one specific sect; it is only given, left as a reward for any and all who can claim it. Whichever sect gets its hands on the most power will rule, regardless of the red tape laid down by those who hope to rule from beyond the grave of political powerlessness. A tool, once made, can be used by other hands.
But will it be? It depends on the human balance of power. Perhaps you hold that the people say guilty, that democracy would be a better and more just way of deciding the case; but you would not hold the same in the America of a century ago, unless you are so inconsistent as to approve of lynchings. It is normal for sects to approve of the distribution of power only when it works in their favor. The Nazis burned books in Germany, but in postwar America they enlisted the ACLU to help them fight for free speech. Berkeley progressives fought for their freedom of speech in 1964 and burned books in 2001. So it goes: those who have power use it, and those who lack it oppose its use—oppose its use and adopt principles leading to that opposition, and hold to those principles until they gain power. Consider the absurd spectacle of the partisan opposed to the war, the deficit, or any of a thousand other issues while his party is out of power—this generalizes. From this a test suggests itself, a test to determine which sects believe themselves to hold power and which believe themselves to fight it: whose principles support its use, and whose principles oppose it?
It has become fashionable in recent times for sects to position themselves as underdogs, regardless of their real or perceived status. Evil is always advancing, and good is always in retreat, but in a retreat that still holds the promise of eventually winning. Rhetorical positioning is therefore of no use in determining perceived power; but the test of principle is.What you are advocating, Trayvon Martin supporter, is the doctrine that the courts ought to rule on substance, not on process; that they ought to determine not whether the defendant’s crimes are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but whether the defendant is morally blameworthy. That is quite a lot of power to be leaving out to be picked up; surely one who believed there to be a risk of it being picked up by one’s opponents would not be so stupid as to want it left out.
Do you then believe that, despite all your underdog posturing, and despite having lost the battle,—you are winning the war?
America has an adulthood problem, and the problem is its absence. The new generation, the generation of twenty-somethings with thick glasses and three-day beards, the generation of bright colors, capital letters, and opiate-fueled electronic music is rejecting adulthood in favor of an extended Neverland adolescence stretching out to the horizon. They don’t want to grow up; they want to postpone growing up for as long as possible, to hang on to the aesthetic of a commercialized counterculture teendom as time drags them by the feet into their thirties. This is evident from the twee aesthetic, but also from the fifteen-minute ultrapopularity of bands like Salem:
Salem has only been around for a couple of years, but Holland and Marlatt met years before in high school at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, a boarding school in Northern Michigan that Josh Groban and Rufus Wainwright once attended. Both Holland and Marlatt studied visual arts; Holland later became addicted to heroin and cocaine, funded by work as a gas station prostitute, mostly for married men. …
Prior to talking with Salem, it all seemed so obvious: Teams of marketing men carefully cultivated this band’s persona using magnets and only the best SEO-baiting tricks—some real buzzband conspiracy shit! But it turns out the reality is much more banal. Their music—and their aesthetic aura—is ambiguous and full of fuzzy definitions, but Salem is not part of a JT LeRoy-style hoax; the darkness and the crack smoking and whatever else come from a more intuitive lack of giving a shit than some secret, unfolding plan.
In the eight-circuit model of consciousness developed by Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson, heroin activates the oral biosurvival circuit, the first circuit to activate in the course of human development, and the most primitive and childlike. (Crack cocaine arguably produces the same effect, or at least fills a similar societal niche, although Wilson rightly said that cocaine proper activates the neurosemantic circuit.) For Freudians, opiate addiction represents a desire to return to infancy. The infantile trend in pop culture arguably began with grunge music and the ‘slacker’ aesthetic; Kurt Cobain, who wore pajamas to his wedding, was addicted to heroin, as was Courtney Love, the musician he married. After Salem came soft grunge, subversive kawaii, and so on, all of which have features in common, and in common with Nirvana-era grunge and zine feminism: a color scheme of black and pastels, sloganistic social criticism of the individualistic tabula-rasa left, and an emphasis on ‘empowerment’ coexisting with a tired and confused outlook toward a world perceived as fundamentally harmful and painful.
But where did this come from?
The grunge generations are not the first to be terrible at handling time. The baby boomer catchphrase goes, “No, no, I’m Firstname, not Mr. Lastname; Mr. Lastname is my father.” Then consider the pop-culture phenomenon of the midlife crisis, and the general fear of aging. Time is something to be feared. This leads baby-boomer parents to refuse to acknowledge the adulthood of their children when it comes; they speak no differently to them than seven years before. It’s much easier to go with this, to accept the state of childhood that the parents reinforce, than to fight it and thus create familial discord.
Another characteristic of baby-boomer parents is helicopter parenting. Children are weak and frail things, to be protected from all hardship, to be sheltered from the slightest threats, of which there are many in this hostile world. Don’t talk to strangers; pedophiles and murderers are hiding around every corner. Don’t play competitive games; tag is to be banned because kids might fall and skin their elbows, and anyway they can’t handle the emotional pain of losing. Self-esteem must be maximized and assiduously protected. And so on. So children grow up in a bubble, with no experience of risk or disappointment, and come to hold that the bubble must be maintained at any cost.
The planet Krikkit is located in a dust cloud composed chiefly of the disintegrated remains of the enormous spaceborne computer Hactar. … Due to the dust cloud, the sky above Krikkit was completely black, and thus the people of Krikkit led insular lives and never realised the existence of the Universe. … Upon first witnessing the glory and splendor of the Universe, they casually, whimsically, decided to destroy it, remarking, “It’ll have to go.”
But there are also economic reasons. No longer can economic self-sufficiency at a reasonable level begin before about 30. College is necessary and grad school is preferable; education ends four to ten years later than it used to, and it would be prohibitively expensive were it not practically mandatory. Adulthood does not require self-sufficiency in the American cowboy sense—otherwise women could never have become adults until a few decades ago—but it does have economic preconditions. Adulthood is oriented toward reproduction, even though not all adults reproduce; one who cannot bear the costs of reproduction, just like one who cannot bear the emotional costs of having success not always guaranteed, is not yet an adult. The cultural command to do what you love no matter the pay thus hinders entrance into adulthood.
Movement conservatism says that gay marriage is a problem, and that it’s not a foregone conclusion. As usual, they’re wrong. On both counts.
The standard argument from gay marriage proceeds as follows:
- The institution of marriage exists to bond together two people who love each other.
- It is wrong to treat two things (people, groups of people, etc.) differently without a relevant difference between them.
- Same-sex couples can form the same bonds of love as opposite-sex couples.
- From 1 and 3: There is no difference relevant to marriage between heterosexuals and homosexuals.
- From 2 and 4: Same-sex marriage ought to be legalized.
Conservatives have attempted to attack the fourth premise; but this follows naturally from the first and the third, neither of which they have attempted to argue against. What must be attacked is the first premise.
It is apparent that the institution of marriage is in crisis. Over 40% of marriages end in divorce. Marriages end in divorce four times as often as they did in 1955, and a quarter of children 16 and under live with a stepparent. Marriage rates have fallen over 20% since 1960. But despite these figures, and despite the fact that conservatives theoretically support raising the marriage rate and would benefit from doing so, conservatives have utterly failed to advance anything remotely resembling a criticism of the contemporary idea of marriage, an idea which is visibly not working.
In addition to the marriage crisis, there is also a fertility crisis. The white American fertility rate is 1.79, below replacement level—and below the same population’s death rate. The general American fertility rate is 2.05, still below replacement—but above the fertility rate of every other Western country except Albania. This demographic decline casts doubt on the long-term viability of not only social security schemes but also the nation itself—and, taking into account cross-national fertility differences, even civilization. It is clear that something has gone wrong, and equally clear that conservatives either don’t know or don’t care.
The fertility rate is driven in part by the education explosion, and likely also by popular culture’s disapproval of reproduction: children are a barrier to the hedonistic and egoistic lifestyle that modern man has come to desire and expect. But another likely cause is the current idea of marriage—and this idea is certainly related to the marriage crisis.
It is rarely questioned that marriage should be based on love, but given the marriage crisis, the question must be asked. Why should marriage be based on something that will die after seven or eight years?
First: where did this thing come from?
Before the twelfth century, in Europe, love between men and women was not regarded as heroic; it was instead considered a sign of weakness, the preoccupation of a person without character. Why this change? Since the twelfth century, lovers have been consistently considered heroic in Western countries. The plot of the story of Lancelot and Guinevere written about 1170 and the plot of the famous movie Casablanca (1942)–perhaps the most admired Hollywood film of all time–are virtually the same. Why have heroic visions of love endured through all these centuries?
This is not just a question of literary images, because there is plentiful evidence that millions of people have experienced their love in this way.
During the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, it was thought that, when people were freed to pursue their desires without hindrance or moral condemnation, romantic love would fade out. The illusions and idealizations of love would no longer be needed to assuage feelings of guilt or selfishness. But the opposite occurred. Since the 1980s, romantic love has regained its old salience. It may be more important now than it ever was.
Love now dominates the institution of marriage as never before. In recent years, Hollywood has been pouring out wedding movies, while the average cost of real weddings climbs higher every year–now over $25,000 in the U.S., over 10,000 pounds in the U.K., over 10,000 Euros in France. (Just paying for the wedding is becoming a “heroic” act today.) High divorce rates likewise reflect the belief that, if love goes, the marriage must end. Why this surprising aftermath to the sexual revolution?
Outside of Western industrialized countries, there is little evidence of love heroism.
In the Chinese tradition—the only non-Western one I’m at all familiar with—romantic love was, as Reddy asserts above, considered a weakness, a character defect that could only get in the way of a virtuous life.
Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the Western psyche. In our culture it has supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness, and ecstasy…We are so accustomed to living with the beliefs and assumptions of romantic love that we think it is the only form of “love” on which marriage or love relationships can be based. We think it is the only “true love”. But there is much that we can learn from the East about this. In Eastern countries, like those of India and Japan, we find that married couples love each other with great warmth, often with a stability and devotion that puts us to shame. But their love is not “romantic love” as we know it. They don’t impose the same ideals on their relationships, nor do they impose such impossible demands and expectations on each other as we do.
Romantic love has existed throughout history in many cultures. We find it in the literature of ancient Greece, the Roman empire, ancient Persia, and feudal Japan. But our modern Western society is the only culture in history that has experienced romantic love as a mass phenomenon. We are the only society that makes romance the basis of our marriages and love relationships and the cultural ideal of “true love”.
One of the greatest paradoxes in romantic love is that it never produces human relationships as long as it stays romantic. It produces drama, daring adventures, wondrous, intense love scenes, jealousies, and betrayal; but people never seem to settle into relationship with each other as flesh-and-blood human beings until they are out of the romantic love stage, until they love each other instead of “being in love”.
Romance, in its purest form, seeks only one thing – passion. It is willing to sacrifice everything else – every duty, obligation, relationship, or commitment – in order to have passion.
In other words: romantic love cannot provide stability. Given the current marriage crisis, this should come as no surprise. But where did our idea of romantic love come from?
In imperial Rome, patrician men sometimes found themselves falling deeply in love with the slaves they met in brothels. This love was a release from the oppressive obligations and rivalries found in arranged marriages and in the intrigues of public life. Roman poets idealized their beloved slave prostitutes as domina, literally reversing the role of master and slave.
… In other societies the dangers of sexual servitude were avoided by expediently guaranteeing the chastity of romantic relationships. The best-known examples are the Medieval Troubadours, who, in a transformation of the cult of the Virgin Mary, renounced physical contact with the women they worshipped.
The key word here is worshiped. The phenomenon of “pedestalization” has an unfortunately long history in our culture. I will leave it as an exercise to the reader, who I hope has been reading Roissy, to figure out why pedestalization is terrible, which it undeniably is. This harmful history is evident in the very word we use to describe it.
romance (n.) c.1300, “story of a hero’s adventures,” also (early 14c.), “vernacular language of France” (as opposed to Latin), from Old French romanz “verse narrative,” originally an adverb, “in the vernacular language,” from Vulgar Latin *romanice scribere “to write in a Romance language” (one developed from Latin instead of Frankish), from Latin Romanicus “of or in the Roman style,” from Romanus “Roman” (see Roman). The connecting notion is that medieval vernacular tales were usually about chivalric adventure. Literary sense extended by 1660s to “a love story.” Extended 1610s to other modern languages derived from Latin (Spanish, Italian, etc.). Meaning “adventurous quality” first recorded 1801; that of “love affair, idealistic quality” is from 1916.
As usual, it’s all the fault of the French.
Romantic love cannot provide the stability necessary for a healthy marriage; but our culture holds it as the only thing that can. This must change if the institution of marriage is to survive. To ensure the health and continued existence of our society, marriage should be oriented toward establishing not formal bonds between romantic lovers, but a healthy and stable family and reproductive unit.
(Incidentally, this still doesn’t rule out gay marriage. The reason for this, in a word, is adoption.)