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signals, signals everywhere / and not a thought to think

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

A golden age of morality?

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The usage of making a trysting-place of the church by young men and young women was so universal that only moralists were scandalized by it. The virtuous Christine de Pisan makes a lover say in all simplicity: “Se souvent vais ou moustier, / C’est tout pour veoir la belle / Fresche comme rose nouvelle.”

The Church suffered more serious profanation than the little love services of a young man who offered his fair one the “pax,” or knelt by her side. According to the preacher Menot, prostitutes had the effrontery to come there in search of customers. Gerson tells that even in the churches and on festival days obscene pictures were sold tanquam idola Belphegor, which corrupted the young, while sermons were ineffective to remedy this evil.

As to pilgrimages, moralists and satirists are of one mind; people often go “pour folle plaisance.” The Chevalier de la Tour Landry naïvely classes them with profane pleasures, and he entitles one o fhis chapters, “of those who are fond of going to jousts and on pilgrimages.”

On festal days, exclaims Nicolas de Clemanges, people go to visit distant churches, not so much to redeem a pledge of pilgrimage as to give themselves up to pleasure. Pilgrimages are the occasions of all kinds of debauchery; procuresses are always found there, people come for amorous purposes. It is a common incident in the Quinze Joyes de Mariage; the young wife, who wants a change, makes her husband believe that the baby is ill, because she has not yet accomplished her vow of pilgrimage, made during her confinement. The marriage of Charles VI with Isabella of Bavaria was preceded by a pilgrimage. It is far from surprising that the serious followers of the devotio moderna called the utility of pilgrimages in question. Those who often go on pilgrimages, says Thomas à Kempis, rarely become saints. One of his friends, Frederick of Heilo, wrote a special treatise, Contra peregrinantes.

— J. Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages

Was there ever a time when the obvious unprincipled exceptions weren’t frequently made? If you still have any doubt, go read the Decameron and the Canterbury Tales.

In addition to the reasons why engaging in certain actions is wrong (for example, promiscuity spreads STDs and cheating in a marriage is a breach of contract), there are reasons why talking about engaging in those actions is wrong.

For example: most people want to get laid, and getting laid signals ability to get laid, which correlates well with certain forms of status. If there’s no prohibition against talking about it, well, it correlates well with certain forms of status, so it can become a form of status in itself—as we see today, with the notch count.

(The sort of casual sex that the current status system incentivizes is often not worth the effort required to get it if you ignore status concerns, which you don’t. It’s like taking care of your lawn. Not even the PUAs go out and try to find a new girl every night: the reluctant breakup with a local girl is not an uncommon theme.)

There is apparently a story somewhere in one of the Islamic traditions (I wish I could find it again; it went around on Tumblr a few years ago) about exactly this: the moral is that it’s worse to talk about sin than to actually sin, because it normalizes it in the eyes of others and leads them astray.


Written by nydwracu

March 5, 2015 at 08:01

Posted in politics

America is not a civilized country

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I was reading the Wikipedia article for a city in Canada, and this jumped out at me:

According to Statistics Canada’s Juristat reports (1993–2007), the metropolitan area reports an average homicide rate of approximately 1.15 per 100,000 population; an average of two homicides per year. An all-time high rate of 2.27 was reported in 1993 (four homicides).

I’ve known for a while that America is not a civilized country, but sometimes the point gets driven home. The county where I grew up has a homicide rate of about 11 per 100,000 — and that’s nowhere near the all-time high.

Written by nydwracu

March 1, 2015 at 07:02

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Runaway rationalism and how to escape it

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Scott Aaronson writes:

I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not “entitled,” not “privileged,” but terrified. I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison. You can call that my personal psychological problem if you want, but it was strongly reinforced by everything I picked up from my environment: to take one example, the sexual-assault prevention workshops we had to attend regularly as undergrads, with their endless lists of all the forms of human interaction that “might be” sexual harassment or assault, and their refusal, ever, to specify anything that definitely wouldn’t be sexual harassment or assault. I left each of those workshops with enough fresh paranoia and self-hatred to last me through another year. …

Of course, I was smart enough to realize that maybe this was silly, maybe I was overanalyzing things. So I scoured the feminist literature for any statement to the effect that my fears were as silly as I hoped they were. But I didn’t find any. On the contrary: I found reams of text about how even the most ordinary male/female interactions are filled with “microaggressions,” and how even the most “enlightened” males—especially the most “enlightened” males, in fact—are filled with hidden entitlement and privilege and a propensity to sexual violence that could burst forth at any moment.

Here we see a disease of the faculties that we do not have the language to distinguish from reason: the faculties of speech and of being spoken to, of internalizing ideographies and being acted upon by them.

Here we also see that these faculties can be counterproductive:

All this time, I faced constant reminders that the males who didn’t spend months reading and reflecting about feminism and their own shortcomings—even the ones who went to the opposite extreme, who engaged in what you called “good old-fashioned ass-grabbery”—actually had success that way. The same girls who I was terrified would pepper-spray me and call the police if I looked in their direction, often responded to the crudest advances of the most Neanderthal of men by accepting those advances.

It is noteworthy that the scientific method, the most successful method for discovering reality, only arose once, a few hundred years ago, in an environment where the goddess of war and wisdom demanded it. It is also noteworthy that the goddess of war is the goddess of wisdom: without an incentive-structure that demands accuracy, stump-orators will peddle sham-accuracy, pure speech detached from action.

It is, of course, possible for the drives that the stump-orators implant in their listeners to outweigh the drive to win: that is what we see above.

The faculty of speech is most often used socially: for coordination, for the alignment of reactions of praise and disgust. To be pwned is to be aligned with an institutional intelligence whose interests run opposite to yours—and where could this alignment come from but speech?

(This should not be taken as an endorsement of atomistic individualism. It is almost universal for people to value the survival of their family and their greater phyletic continuities—in many cases, more than their own lives. Without this, the computation-engine of war would not function, and civilization would have neither cause nor reason to exist.)

What is necessary, then, is exit from stump-oration—but how can this be brought about? Here’s how Scott Aaronson escaped from orator-paralysis:

I got older, and after years of hard work, I achieved some success in science, and that success boosted my self-confidence (at least now I had something worth living for), and the newfound confidence, besides making me more attractive, also made me able to (for example) ask a woman out, despite not being totally certain that my doing so would pass muster with a committee of radfems chaired by Andrea Dworkin—a prospect that was previously unthinkable to me. This, to my mind, “defiance” of feminism is the main reason why I was able to enjoy a few years of a normal, active dating life, which then led to meeting the woman who I married.

Except he didn’t.

That I managed to climb out of the pit with my feminist beliefs mostly intact, you might call a triumph of abstract reason over experience.

A triumph of abstract reason over experience is a triumph of stump-oration over experience. Without experience, there is no optimization engine; unless reason is subordinated in some sense to some form of experience (reasoning from observations, as Steve Sailer does; embedding in a structure that demands accuracy, as scientists and governments at war do; or seeking the best ideas to live by, as many in this corner of the internet do), whence accuracy?

One problem with an overactive faculty for orative coordination is the above anxiety. Anxiety in general is often a distortion of what we sometimes call the rational faculties, but more often call the rationalism of the nerd or the Vulcan: those of internal reasoning and of orative coordination from outside. Reason can be flawed in predictable and counterproductive directions, or System 2 disgust reactions can be implanted that are flawed in the same ways.

It follows from this that the cure is action—but how can these broken faculties be escaped?

It would be pointless to attempt to summarize what must be experienced. But the warrior-poets of war-era Italy hacked open a door from within. From Fiume to Futurist poetry, oration provides an exit from itself.

Written by nydwracu

December 28, 2014 at 20:58

Posted in politics

On Christmas and its music

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It’s not Christmas yet, so I can still write—as I’ve done in the past.

The reserve of mental energy left to me by five hours on a Chinatown bus with no wifi has turned toward the subject of Christmas songs—both because I haven’t heard many of them this year (given the unfortunate but probably inevitable lack of caroling groups to join in Manhattan) and because at least one of them has been deemed problematic.

Elite opinion says that Baby, It’s Cold Outside is the worst and most evil Christmas song of all time. This is because elite opinion is shaped by the young and provincial, and the past is a foreign country. “What would my mother/father/brother/sister/aunt think? At least I’m gonna say that I tried.”

No, the actual worst Christmas song is It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.

A pair of Hop-a-long boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Bonny and Ben
Dolls that will talk and go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jenn
And mom and dad can hardly wait
For school to start again

The theme of how awful family gatherings are is a common one, and one probably rooted less in reality than in the ability of a constructed worldview to force people into roles without making them realize they’re acting. Consider the torrent of Thanksgiving articles about how to deal with that one awful Obamacare denier at dinner, or the trope of the ‘racist uncle’, or the last two lines above. “The wonderful and benevolent state will free us from the burdens that are our children!”

The Confucian emphasis on social units that is arising from some parts of the Right is already one of the most interesting things to happen in political (or, more properly, apolitical) thought this century. It has become noticeable that progressivism is an atomizing force, one that depends on the breakdown of the family and the pair-bond. It has also become noticeable that breaking down these units generally has negative effects.

Another thing that has become noticeable is that a lot of people don’t like Christmas carols. I suspect this is because of their secular and commercialized nature, with very little religious or ritual element to them. The Christmas season is the time of year when we all are exhorted to consumehas become such a time, has become secularized.

The secularization of a certain brand of Christianity is one of Mencius Moldbug’s most controversial claims. The secularization of Christmas must be taken as evidence in its favor: it demonstrates that there is pressure in that direction.

I wonder: could this secularization be traced over time? Could a history be written of it? Quantified from Christmas songs, maybe?

Anyway, the best piece of Christmas music is still God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. I have no interesting argument here; I just like it.

Silent Night is also good, and here’s Insane Clown Posse’s producer singing it.

Written by nydwracu

December 25, 2014 at 00:57

Posted in politics

Five questions on secession

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I had planned to drop everything else during trade school and focus, but it turns out that New York won’t let me.

In lieu of a normal post, here’s what I’ve been thinking about over the past few months.

1. What makes thedes and phyles form? I have my own suspicions here (revolving around not only scarcity-motivated competition, but also processes of interfacing and levels of cognitive effort required for it… and it occurs to me now that local status-systems may also play a role, in both the sense that the existence of multiple phyles may allow for a less unequal distribution of status / allow more access to higher status and the related sense that people can self-select into status-systems that better fit or serve them), but I haven’t written them up yet, and Ed Keller, one of the speakers at tonight’s event, asked the same question, and proposed the investigation of interactions of systems. (The two examples he gave that I can remember were the effects of gut bacteria on behavior (and potentially on the formation and propagation of thedes!) and a virus that caused tulip flowers to form in ways that became highly in demand, which gave rise to tulip mania.) A related question that also was asked: would distinct thedes and phyles still exist in post-scarcity conditions?

2. Another topic related to the first question that came up was the idea of neuroatypical secessionism, especially as it overlaps (or does not overlap) with tech secessionism of the Srinivasan and Tunney varieties. Neuroatypicality is probably more thedish than phyletic, insofar as thedistinction between thedish and phyletic refers to a distinction between social groups/cultures/sets of norms/identities that are unlikely to be passed down from parent to child (rationalism, juggalos, goths, etc.) and social groups/etc. that can be passed down across the generations. (The most useful distinction to make with those words is another unanswered question; here I use my most recent working definition.) Is merely thedish secession possible? (‘Merely’ because every phyle is (probably) a thede.) Would it have different dynamics than phyletic secession? What about the possibility of temporary or limited merely-thedish secession, like rationalist group houses or Burning Man? (What about secession that is neither thedish nor phyletic, that is motivated not by those ‘hot’ factors, but rather by ‘cold’ factors like economic benefit? One of the speakers asked: are oil platforms seasteads?

3. Is there a life-cycle of empires or civilizations? If so, is the internal disharmony that underlies at least some of this talk of secession a sign, as John Glubb claims, of the decline of an empire—or even a cause of it? (It’s not hard to come up with a causal mechanism here: one side of an internal conflict could ally with an external agent against its domestic opponent.) If it’s not that, what is it? (It could just be an effect of population increase, to give one alternative.)

4. How about that internet-based nation-building that might be happening as we speak? This internal disharmony is not exactly a new problem; how was it addressed before? Surely not completely by repression. Marinetti talked about Italy a lot, for example; what did this mean in his context? (Also, see below about the Progressive Era and FDR’s cultural programs.) For that matter, most nations had to be imagined into being. Parts of the art world are apparently becoming interested in both internet culture and talk of secessionism, but I hear there’s not much they can do with it. Are there more possibilities for them than they think?—because picking up on this process can be one. (Usonian Futurism, anyone?)

5. Where do the current American automythologies come from? Do they come from pre-existing ethnic distinctions (as Woodard says), pre-existing religious distinctions amplified by the dynamics of democracy (as Moldbug says), or something else? In particular, what were the roles of the Progressive Era and the Cold War? The former could be read as an attempt at American nationalism/nation-building, where ‘American’ is to be contrasted with ‘Usonian’ (though the New Deal made some effort to record some aspects of folk culture); the latter is something that kontextmaschine has written about, but I suspect there’s more going on than that.

Take decolonization. Colonialism was very bad; we all learned that in school, and so we inferred that decolonization was very good. But if you look at what happened… first of all, isn’t it interesting that the USA took the opposite side from Britain, its supposedly most important ally, on that question, and the same side as the USSR? Second of all, isn’t it interesting that the USA and the USSR kept fighting over the newly decolonized countries? It’s not necessarily true that American cultural support for decolonization comes entirely from its own heritage, and not at all from geopolitical concerns.

But there are better examples, like abstract expressionism, which seems to be the official style of the government to this day, judging by how much of it they put on their walls. It’s now well known that the CIA supported it—and it, of course, had its reasons.

In 1947 the State Department organised and paid for a touring international exhibition entitled “Advancing American Art”, with the aim of rebutting Soviet suggestions that America was a cultural desert. But the show caused outrage at home, prompting Truman to make his Hottentot remark and one bitter congressman to declare: “I am just a dumb American who pays taxes for this kind of trash.” The tour had to be cancelled.

The US government now faced a dilemma. This philistinism, combined with Joseph McCarthy’s hysterical denunciations of all that was avant-garde or unorthodox, was deeply embarrassing. It discredited the idea that America was a sophisticated, culturally rich democracy. It also prevented the US government from consolidating the shift in cultural supremacy from Paris to New York since the 1930s. To resolve this dilemma, the CIA was brought in.

The connection is not quite as odd as it might appear. At this time the new agency, staffed mainly by Yale and Harvard graduates, many of whom collected art and wrote novels in their spare time, was a haven of liberalism when compared with a political world dominated by McCarthy or with J Edgar Hoover’s FBI. If any official institution was in a position to celebrate the collection of Leninists, Trotskyites and heavy drinkers that made up the New York School, it was the CIA.

Until now there has been no first-hand evidence to prove that this connection was made, but for the first time a former case officer, Donald Jameson, has broken the silence. Yes, he says, the agency saw Abstract Expressionism as an opportunity, and yes, it ran with it.

“Regarding Abstract Expressionism, I’d love to be able to say that the CIA invented it just to see what happens in New York and downtown SoHo tomorrow!” he joked. “But I think that what we did really was to recognise the difference. It was recognised that Abstract Expression- ism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions.

“In a way our understanding was helped because Moscow in those days was very vicious in its denunciation of any kind of non-conformity to its own very rigid patterns. And so one could quite adequately and accurately reason that anything they criticised that much and that heavy- handedly was worth support one way or another.”

If it happened once, it’s likely to have happened other times. What other effects did the Cold War have here? And what about the end of it, the end of the necessity to unite against a common enemy? (Yes, common. When Harvard went Communist, it went Maoist.)

Written by nydwracu

December 12, 2014 at 01:45

Disunity and decline

with 6 comments

One of the signs and causes of decline that John Glubb mentioned is the collapse of imperial unity: internal bickering leads to the inability to unite in the face of external threats, or potentially even the amplification of an external threat in the form of an internal faction’s alliance with it against another internal faction.

That it is now often said that the problem with America is Brahmindom is part of the process of decline. If this process is to be reversed, a new unity must be forged; and any attempt at unity must avoid the progressive error of writing out a large part of the country. (Yes, progressivism did attempt this, at least twice: first with the actual Progressive Era (where do you think the Pledge of Allegiance comes from?), and second with their response to the race riots of the ’60s. The absurdity of going to war against a large part of the population for the benefit of a small part of it must be noted, but some of themthe ones old enough to remember the race riots, anyway—actually believe this. It helps, of course, that there were pre-existing phyletic hatreds in place.)
Lack of coordination leads to decline, and coordination across distinct phyles can only be accomplished through a series of armistices. These armistices are now being broken. Who is breaking them? There is the enemy.

The collapse of the external enemythe end of the Cold War—probably contributed here. There is less motivation to preserve coordination after the disappearance of an existential threat from outside. Attempts to create a new external enemy to take the place of the Soviet Union—Islamism, Putin, etc.—have failed and will continue to fail; America—Usonia, rather, since the political religion of Americanism cannot provide what is necessary, and will only uselessly take up that space—must stand on its own, must develop a positive sense of identity to provide a thedish basis for this coordination.

It’s too bad there’s no word in English (yet) for the Roman sense of religio:

We struggle to understand the persecution of the Christians under the Roman empire. Roman society tolerated a great variety of deities and cults; worship of Christ as (a) God did not in itself threaten or offend, and religious innovation was not impossible. The emergence of Christianity itself coincided with the novelty of cultic worship of the Roman emperors or their tutelary spirits, which could be included alongside other deities in existing religious frameworks.

Christian beliefs and practices were, however, radically exclusive, or radically extensive in their claims over the whole of religious loyalty. …

Despite some continuity of actual doctrine, what we call religion in twenty-first century Australia is not the same in structure or character as ancient constructions of the relationship between religious belief and the rest of life. Religio in Latin, Tertullian’s or anyone else’s for that matter, does not mean “religion” in the sense of one belief system among others, but the piety or scrupulosity with which cultic and other duties are carried out.

Roman “religion” (as we might persist in seeing or analysing it) was, despite its apparently pluralistic character, coterminous with culture and society itself, and hence left little room for genuine diversity or dissent. We can only understand it as “religion” in the modern or post-modern sense by the artificial excision, from the ancient set of beliefs and practices, of certain elements which make sense to us as religion. …

Constantine’s recognition of the Church involved discernment of the potential for the growing Christian movement to achieve for the Empire what the cultic worship of the Emperors themselves had not: namely a coherent belief and ritual system which was not ethnically-prescribed, but capable of universal relevance.


As a side note, the extent to which political life has been shaped by previous attempts to establish such a civil religion (usually limited strictly to the weak and sham-filled political realm) has yet to be seriously investigated, as has the more general question of the influence of institutional intelligences. A common example of this influence in some circles is ‘cultural Marxism’, but has anyone asked whether there were economic interests that favored the idea of redefining leftist ‘liberation’ in terms unrelated to the economic? And that does not even address the question of the Cold War, which will have to be left for another time.

Written by nydwracu

November 16, 2014 at 21:59

Posted in politics

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Notes from IRC

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There are already entities with vastly greater than human intelligence working on the problem of augmenting their own intelligence. A great many, in fact. We call them corporations. … Let’s focus on as a very particular example: The Intel Corporation. Intel is my favorite example because it uses the collective brainpower of tens of thousands of humans and probably millions of CPU cores to… design better CPUs! (And also to create better software for designing CPUs.) Those better CPUs will run the better software to make the better next generation of CPUs.

 Ramez Naam

A man cannot be a person without the fellowship, community, or society that made him. Unsocialised, man’s potencies are not activated, and he stays at a level close to a beast, bereft of speech and reason, let alone partaking of the higher arts and sciences. Individualistic societies are decomposing social bodies in which kinship-ties are loosened and even cut, and which can be held together only by an all-pervasive and socially-alien bureau-technocratic power — the “coldest of all cold monsters”.

The state of nature is ahistorical. Always and everywhere, humans form societies, organizing principles acquiring and preserving institutional memory and institutional knowledge: societal wisdom that may not be known or knowable by the people who make it up. Institutional intelligences.

Nick Land sees capitalism as a thing, a thing of a certain type. What type is it? Another organizing principle, a superhuman (super- in the sense of ‘above’, with humans as its constituent parts) intelligencethat is, an institutional intelligence.

Institutional intelligences compete both within and outside their type. Within: societies compete with other societies, corporations compete with other corporations, governments compete with other governments, media outlets compete with other media outlets, and one economic form competed with another economic form in the Cold War. Outside: governments compete with traditional cultures, organized crime, the Catholic Church, and so on, and capitalism competes with societies and families. (The Last Psychiatrist talks about capitalism’s weaponization of progressivism, but a particularly good example is feminism. I once had a professor explain that it was absolutely imperative for women to cease full-time motherhood and enter the workforceand therefore outsource to some extent the function of child-raising to the state, the media, the economy in the form of hired help, and so on.)

Institutional intelligences have goals, which run in a spectrum from strictly and totally cybernetically encoded in the most literal sense to depending on the individuals who are parts of the system. The victory of certain types of institutional intelligence with certain goals is usually seen as a problem: if capitalism totally wins then we all have no family and work twelve hours a day with Soylent instead of a lunch break and so on.

Atomization is the result of a certain type of institutional intelligence being outcompeted by another type. The reality of atomization is indisputable: the loss of social ties, the decline of traditional cultures, women married to the state, children raised by the ruling structure, loss of imagined communities fostering commonality and promoting/easing interaction, loss of historically-continuous thedes to identify with and their replacement with subcultures and trends, and increasing multiculturalismwhich studies like Robert Putnam’s demonstrate is a problem (for intuitively obvious reasons which I don’t have the vocabulary to express yet) and which is clearly supported by capitalism (deterritorialization, Koch-funded open borders promotion, etc.).

If atomization is a problem, you want to fight it. How do you fight it? Summon up an institutional intelligence that can fight it. Thede-magic may prove useful here: see Benedict Anderson on the use of nationalism as fuel for revolutions. (I used to yell at Communists for their internationalism, but I later realized that they’re tapping thede-magic even though they don’t realize itit’s a particularly weak form, though, consisting mostly of Streicherite crocodilism with little to no positive identity-content. This appeals to jackboot types, but most people seem to want thede-magic with positive content: hipsters adopting kitsch Americana and justifying it with a thin coating of irony, conservatives feeling the need to constantly remythologize American history, and so on.)

Written by nydwracu

August 16, 2014 at 03:09

Posted in politics

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