For quite some time now I’ve been mulling over how to talk about one of the strangest features of our era—the way that certain very simple kinds of reasoning have abruptly dropped out of use among precisely those prosperous, well-educated, well-informed people whom you might expect to cling to them no matter what. Fortunately a trio of chance-read articles handed me what I think is the thread that runs through this particular labyrinth. My longtime readers will probably already have guessed that the articles in question are an odd assortment, and indeed they are—a closely reasoned essay by a philosopher in a highbrow magazine, a blog post by a lesbian theology student, and a harrowing account on a social media forum by a young woman who watched her boyfriend descend into a very peculiar kind of madness—but taken together, they point to one of the least recognized and most crucial features of the crisis of our time.
Let’s start with the philosopher, Alan Jacobs, whose essay “Wokeness and Myth on Campus” appeared in The New Atlantis two years ago but only came to my attention last week. Among the many virtues of this essay is a fine description, neatly set out, of the kind of collapse of reasoning I have in mind. Jacobs writes:
“I should probably translate this into the first person, because I am in part describing an experience I had three years ago when Ta-Nehisi Coates published his celebrated Atlantic essay ‘The Case for Reparations.’ Talking with some friends on Twitter, I said that I thought the essay made an overwhelmingly powerful case for the ongoing destructive consequences of the era of slavery and its aftermath in Jim Crow laws and beyond — but also that Coates never actually got around to making a case for reparations as the best way of addressing this tragic situation. What I heard from my friends was, ‘You’re denying the reality of racism.’ And nothing I said thereafter could shake my friends’ conviction that I had simply rejected Coates’s essay tout court.”
At least in theory, it’s not that hard to think one’s way through the distinction between ends and means, between describing a goal and suggesting a way of getting there, or between agreeing that something is very wrong and accepting that a given program is the best way to fix it. Jacobs’ friends apparently couldn’t manage these relatively simple acts of thought. What makes his account so telling is that so many of us have similar stories on offer these days.
The comparable story in my case, the one that convinced me that something had gone very, very wrong in the collective thinking of our time, came in the months after the election of Donald Trump. Faced with the awkward fact that millions of Americans had embraced Trump’s candidacy, a great many of those who voted against him insisted that the people who voted for him must all have been racists. It didn’t matter that this bit of liberal hate speech was childishly easy to disprove; it didn’t matter that plenty of people far more influential than I will ever be discussed in detail the issues that led voters to gamble that a Trump presidency would be less disastrous for them, their families, and their communities than four more years of the failed bipartisan consensus he overturned; it didn’t even matter that the upper Midwest demographics that gave Trump the presidency were exactly the same demographics that put Barack Obama into the White House eight years before.
If you pointed these things out to people who parroted the “they’re-just-racists” line—and yes, I did this rather more than once, online and off—what you got back (or at least what I got back) was the famous thousand-mile stare of the true believer, followed by a repetition of the same canned talking point you were trying to challenge. Nor did it do any good to point out that the Democrats needed to win back the very voters they were dismissing as racists if they wanted to keep Trump from being reelected in 2020, and yelling a provably false insult at these same voters was not going to further that cause. When I did that, the response I got was, you guessed it, another thousand-mile stare, followed by another repetition of the canned talking point. It was all frankly rather eerie to watch.
In his essay, Jacobs offers what I think is an accurate diagnosis of what’s behind the weird paralogic on display in this sort of interaction. Drawing on the ideas of the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, he suggests that very broadly speaking there are two ways of making sense of the world—two cores, in Kolakowski’s terminology—that play crucial roles in every human society, including ours. One of them is the mythical core, the other the technological core. (That latter term is to my mind almost wilfully perverse, as technology is far and away the most common theme of modern mythological thinking, but that’s the label Kolakowski chose.) The technological core is the set of behaviors and understandings that enable us to manipulate the world; the mythical core, by contrast, is the set of behaviors and understandings that reach back toward the nonrational roots of human experience.
Jacobs’ suggestion is that a great many people these days have lost track of the “technological core” and are thinking entirely from within the “mythical core.” From that mythical mode of thinking, such practical considerations as distinguishing between a problem and a solution, much less figuring out why someone voted the way they did and finding ways to get them to change their minds, never enter the picture. Jacobs points out that “woke” culture on campus and elsewhere relies instead on archaic mythological concepts of defilement and taboo. Wrong opinions and the people who hold them must be excluded from the community, because they carry so terrible a miasma that all who come too close to them risk becoming accursed: that’s the logic of “safe spaces” and the flight from “triggering.”
I think Jacobs is quite correct in this diagnosis. To take the discussion further, though, it’s going to be necessary to revisit some of the ideas he borrowed from Kolakowski, and seek an understanding of myth and reason in modern society that’s at once more nuanced and less limited than the one Kolakowski offers.
Let’s start with the mythic side of the equation. What exactly is a myth? The Greek word μυθος, muthos, originally just meant “narration,” and only later took on the sense of the narratives that matter: the stories that tell us where we came from, who we are, and where we are going. The root meaning remains central: a myth is a story. It has characters, a setting, and a plot; as Mark Twain said of all good stories, it goes somewhere and does something—and where it goes and what it does are central to its function in human life.
When you were a small child, dear reader, did a parent read the same story to you at bedtime, night after night? If so, you experienced mythology in its native habitat. The repetition of familiar stories is a central part of childraising in most if not all human societies, because it’s from these stories that children absorb crucial attitudes and values concerning the personal, social, and natural worlds they inhabit. These stories, in turn, don’t communicate these things in a rational, discursive way. They communicate, rather, through imaginative participation. Children—and adults, too!—who are caught up in a story experience the events of the story in the first person; the struggles and sorrows of the protagonists are their struggles and sorrows, too, and the triumphs likewise; they absorb, through the participatory experience of the tale, insights into what it means to be human that can be caught in no other way.
That’s one side of the equation. Let’s go on by discarding Kolakowski’s misleading use of the term “technological,” and refer to the other side of the equation as the pragmatic side. Where the mythic mode of human experience is participatory, the pragmatic mode is instrumental; it’s the mode we use when we want to make things happen, to act on the world rather than participating in what it happens to be doing. Watch a bird fly past when you’re thinking in the mythic mode and you can participate in the sense of soaring freedom the sight brings you; watch the same bird fly past when you’re thinking in the pragmatic mode, and you start trying to figure out how wings work.
If I understand Kolakowski correctly—and I’m quite willing to accept correction here if I’m wrong—he saw his two cores as distinct. By and large, you approach the world through one or the other. Like his use of the term “technological,” this seems misguided to me, for a simple but profound reason. The pragmatic mode can tell you how to so something but it can’t tell you what to do. It can teach you how wings work, but it wasn’t the pragmatic mode that inspired the Wright brothers to build their pioneering airplanes; it was the dream of flight that came from the participatory experience of watching birds on the wing and brooding over narratives in which human beings did the same thing. Means and methods come from the pragmatic mode of experience, but ends and goals and values come entirely from the mythic mode.
That’s a controversial claim, I know. Most people in the industrial world these days insist heatedly that they don’t believe in myths, and proceed to use the word “myth” exclusively to refer to narratives in which they themselves don’t believe. Yet it doesn’t take all that much effort to learn how to read the mythic narratives that people nowadays use to give meaning, direction, and value to their lives: sometimes in productive ways, sometimes not.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, a school of psychologists known as transactional analysts came up with a narrative approach to neurosis and personality disorders. The very simple version of the story is that they found that people with psychological problems were living out self-defeating scripts: narratives of which the patients themselves were not conscious, but which exerted a potent gravitational attraction on their interactions with other people. If the patients became conscious of the scripts they were acting out, the spell was broken and they could learn less dysfunctional ways of facing life. Transactional analysis fell out of favor once the pharmaceutical industry got its present stranglehold over the healing professions, but its findings remain telling testimony of the power of narrative to shape values and goals in its own image.
Most of us have less problematic relationships with the narratives that shape our lives. We may or may not have a firm conscious grasp what those narratives are, but we know what we value and what gives our lives meaning. Knowing these things, we turn to the pragmatic mode to figure out how to bring these things into our lives. The result is a dialogue between mythic and pragmatic modes, which starts out with the mythic mode providing ends and the pragmatic mode providing means. It doesn’t stop there, though, because pragmatic reflections on what we can realistically accomplish will inevitably shape our ideas of what goals we value, while mythic reflections on what we value will inevitably shape our ideas of what means we use to get there.
(In order to forestall certain common misunderstandings, I should probably mention here that the mythic and pragmatic modes of experience are by no means the only ways that human beings relate to themselves, each other, and the world; there are other modes as well. For example, there is also the erotic mode. Where the mythic mode is about values and meanings and the pragmatic mode is about means and practicalities, the erotic mode is about desires and fulfillments—not just in a sexual context, either, though certainly there among other places. Just as the mythic and pragmatic modes enter into dialogue in a relatively balanced personality, in turn, the erotic mode can join the conversation as well; the erotic mode shapes what we want, the pragmatic mode explores how we might get it, and the mythic mode places the desire and its fulfillment in the broader context of a life’s meaning and value.)
So, among other things in our minds, we have mythic or quasi-mythic narratives in which we participate, which give us our sense of meaning and value, and we have pragmatic concerns we assess instrumentally, which give us the tools and choices we need to act on our sense of meaning and value. In terms of the analysis sketched out here, Jacobs is suggesting that many of the people involved in “woke” culture have lost track of the pragmatic mode when it comes to political issues, and respond to anything involving those issues from a purely mythic standpoint, without benefit of the reality testing and the sense of practicality that the pragmatic mode is meant to bring to the conversation.
The second of the chance-read articles I’d like to mention gives strong support to this suggestion. The author is a polyamorous lesbian theology student concerned with transgender issues (her self-description) who goes by the nom de web Jane, and her blog is titled Topping Violates The Categorical Imperative. (I would love to watch the scholars of some distant future era, unschooled in the self-referential intricacies of online culture, try to make sense of that simple declarative sentence.) The untitled essay of hers I have in mind here focuses on a different dimension of the collapse of reason in modern times—the transformation of protest in the modern liberal imagination from a strategy of activism to a magical act presupposing a covert political eschatology.
Jane’s analysis here is trenchant. She points out that Martin Luther King Jr. and the other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement chose the strategies they did for pragmatic reasons. In order to adopt King as a secular saint, however, while making his legacy as harmless as possible, the corporate liberalism of the post-1960s era redefined the protest marches in terms of a covert eschatology in which the mere fact of “speaking truth to power” magically guaranteed that truth would prevail and power would submit to it. Jane describes it this way:
“And this is what modern liberal politics has inherited — the belief that being right is more important than winning, because somebody, be it the Supreme Court or God, will throw the penalty flag and everything will be set aright. Democrats aren’t trying to win elections, they’re trying to build cases as to why, upon review, they should have won, why they’re right, so that when the ref reviews the play it’ll be awarded to them. But it’s important to note the origins of this approach. White liberal establishments created a Civil Rights Movement narrative that disavowed the masses (because revolutionary populism is dangerous but how could they claim to support civil rights gains if they condemned all of the civil rights leaders and the means by which those gains came about?) and then promptly fell in love with their own fiction. They told each other and us over and over again about how MLK won because he was right, because he was just, and they told it so much that they began to believe it themselves.”
I have one quibble with this description, which is that it isn’t the Supreme Court or God who’s expected to throw the penalty flag. The attitude adopted by social change advocates makes perfect sense if you think through the logic that undergirds the overused phrase “speaking truth to power,” which typically gets deployed these days whenever protesters hit the streets. Back in the Middle Ages, “speaking truth to power” was the job of the court jester, who entertained his masters by saying the things nobody else could get away with saying. The jester could do that, in turn, because everyone at court knew he wasn’t actually a threat to anyone who mattered; he could caper and shake the bells on the end of his stick, and make fun of his masters for whatever sins and foibles they didn’t mind seeing their peers laugh at. His masters, secure in their power, laughed and applauded, and preened themselves on the humility they displayed by letting themselves be upbraided in public. His role, that is, was exactly that more recently assigned by the Davos set to Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg.
The problem with all the fashionable chatter about “speaking truth to power,” in other words, is that this phrase embodies two self-defeating assumptions. The first is that the protesters have sole possession of the truth; the second is that the people they are addressing have sole possession of the power. Successful movements for social change, by contrast, always keep in mind that they only have part of the truth; this keeps them nimble, able to reorient themselves to new ways of thinking about the situation they’re trying to change, and open to finding common ground with other groups in society that might have different truths but could potentially be brought into a mutually supportive alliance. Successful movements for social change also always pay attention to the power they already have, and leverage that in order to exert as much influence as possible over their societies. Abandon both those approaches and you end up in the typical situation of today’s left-wing activists, utterly convinced of their own perfect goodness and virtue, just as utterly convinced that they can get what they want only by getting other people with power to do something, and thereby reduced to throwing self-righteous tantrums at the tables of the powerful in the hope that this will get some scraps thrown their way.
That isn’t a kind of analysis anyone seems to have been interested in exploring in recent decades, though. Quite the contrary, every time I’ve tried to discuss the failure of protest to accomplish much of anything in recent years, I’ve fielded the same response Alan Jacobs got from the friends of his who couldn’t grasp that “the solution won’t work” didn’t mean “the problem isn’t real,” or for that matter the one I got when I pointed out that screaming “Racist!” at people who aren’t actually prejudiced against people of other races isn’t an effective way to get them to listen to you, much less to vote for your candidate. That odd myopia of the imagination, and the self-inflicted defeats it makes inevitable, are relatively new things in our society, though they carry uncanny echoes of certain events elsewhere in history. Next week we’ll go deeper into the labyrinth, with the help of the third of my chance-met essays, and try to make sense of it all.
I’ve been waiting for a Michael Moorcock themed post! Thanks!
A very interesting essay, John, as they always are. And I though name-calling was just about avoiding thinking about difficult issues. How much easier to abuse someone else than to think about how I might act to influence the situation to bring about the change I believe to be necessary.
Hi JMG, should I have to log in to tumblr to see that second essay, or is there an issue with the link?
Thank you Mr. Greer for another interesting post.
Your essay makes me wonder about how these factors are developing across time. As you have previously outlined in great detail, societies collapse in stages. Periods of crises are followed by periods of overall calm until new pressures builds and another crises happens, or what you have named catabolic collapse.
With that said, do you think that these flagrantly irrational errors will subside for a period after a coming crises? Or is this level of madness the new norm? To state things otherwise, will our society’s thinking undergo a pattern of crises followed by clarity similar to its resource allocation crisis, or is it more or less a given that once a civilization starts collapsing that irrational errors that pour salt in the wound don’t go away until there is nothing left of said society? Will our minds degrade in the same pattern as our political and physical infrastructure?
Speaking of the pragmatic, I would imagine this question should shape our strategy for addressing the concerns of a decaying civilization. If there will be periods of clarity then our job during periods of madness, such as the one we are in now, is to hold the line and wait for the opportune moment. If that moment will not be coming for another several centuries then it seems like the most we can do is try to preserve bits and pieces of our culture on small, local scales. Any thoughts you might have would be greatly appreciated.
Am I correct in understanding that your essay implies that the educated classes of the West are going wholehog into the Second Religiosity? Spengler undoubtedly would consider these folks to behaving on the Truth side of his schema, and the dread taboos, the white hot passions, the reframing of everything in terms of Truth rather than Actuality, the pious horror of wrong thinking, and the devotion with which people have poured their lives into this sort of thing all strikes me as a public outpouring of an inchoate religious movement. Dreher commented in one of his essays about someone who “felt racism in everything,” and he compared that to someone who “feels Christ in everything”.
Point being, as Krasskova has noted many times, if the Woke poured their passionate energies into devotion rather than politics, they would accomplish a great deal. Spengler would doubtlessly consider the very mindset of them to be divorced from Actuality, and totally committed to Truth. And so, perhaps, this is a symptom of Civilization in Spengler’s sense, the rise of the Second Religiosity, and the movement not toward protesting in the streets, but praying night and day in the cloisters.
Dear folks who have been praying for me,
I want to thank you all again, so, so, so much! The effects have been utterly miraculous and my divinations reveal that the curse has been broken, and I’ve been picking up the pieces and putting my life back together. I believe that the support that so many poured into my life had a dramatic impact and so I offer you all a very heartfelt thanks.
A good and important essay, and I have to spend some time digesting it and thinking about how it makes sense in the life I see around me. I have been reacting a lot lately to the rigidity of the thinking about political issues in my community, on both sides of the political landscape. thanks.
Justin, the reference isn’t actually to Moorcock, though I’ve read those books of his, of course. Stay tuned…
JillN, sometimes that’s all that namecalling is about, but when the people who are doing it are so obviously sabotaging themselves, it seems to me that there may well be something else going on.
Matt, I just tried it on three browsers and got straight to the essay, and I’ve never had an account on Tumblr. I’m not sure what to say.
In one of your earlier posts, from Well of Galabes I think, you had this quote about ‘magic being the politics of the powerless’. (Not exact words, but hopefully close enough to the actual quote to recognise its general sentiment.) With the growing influence of the mythical core among the prosperous, well-educated etc. part of the population, could it be that they are in fact becoming powerless enough to lean towards magic, in a broad sense of the word?
Happy Halloween to you and your readers! Two passages struck me about your essay.
First, “Wrong opinions and the people who hold them must be excluded from the community, because they carry so terrible a miasma that all who come too close to them risk becoming accursed” — I’ve remarked in your comments section before that Jonathan Haidt has observed that conservatives usually focus their concerns about purity on sex, while liberals focus theirs on food. I think that’s still true, but it looks like both are very concerned about the purity of their ideas, liberals now more so than conservatives. I hadn’t considered that before reading your essay, so thanks for making me think about it.
The other was when you were confronted with a binary choice between mythic and pragmatic, you added erotic. I can always count on you to provide the choice of ternary thinking when looking at a binary example.
By the way, where was the section about the third reading, the “harrowing account on a social media forum by a young woman who watched her boyfriend descend into a very peculiar kind of madness?” I couldn’t spot it.
On an unrelated and final thought, are you surprised that the Brexit deadline that was tomorrow has been delayed? After all, Mercury goes retrograde tomorrow. At least Mercury will be direct during the next deadline.
Your excellent essay brings to my mind the work of Jonathan Haidt, whose book The Righteous Mind I am currently reading; the emotional/rational split in brain function is certainly closely related.His underlying approach is detailed at https://moralfoundations.org.
Thanks for this. When I lived in Washington DC, I was always puzzled by the protests (of the IMF and World Bank, mostly). The police cordoned them off, they got almost zero media coverage, and official Washington seemed to ignore them. Perhaps they had some strategy other than protest, but if so it wasn’t at all obvious to me. It seemed to be a cargo cult repetition of 1960s protests, without the multi-pronged strategies that successful 60s movements used.
A “demonstration” has to be a demonstration of your power for it to pressure others into changing things.
I posted too soon. I meant to add: if you don’t have any power, a demonstration won’t give it to you.
Just want to mention that a few weeks ago I was first cab off the rank and today I am second. The wonderful combination of insomnia and the International Date Line (at least I think the latter has some influence).
Stephen, that’s a very important question, of course. Fortunately, to judge by historical parallels — and we’ll be getting to those as this sequence proceeds — the flight from reason tends to be self-limiting. In this case, it’s also far from universal; there are certain social classes and demographics that have fallen into it, and a great many others who are watching the victims thereof with looks of baffled unease, changing slowly to horror. Some of the people affected by the syndrome I’m sketching out will remain in it until they die, but by no means all, and the self-defeating nature of the flight into myth also tends to put a pull date on the social significance of those who participate in it. More as we proceed!
Violet, excellent! My take is that what we’re seeing is a precursor of the Second Religiosity, one of the social shocks that precede the end of each civilization’s Age of Reason and the turn back to an intellectualized version of old religious forms. An essentially religious attitude has arisen, but it hasn’t yet found its way back to the forms proper to it, and so, as you’ve suggested, we see people directing religious passions toward nonreligious goals. It’ll get sorted out eventually, but there may be a few more rounds of craziness before the Second Religiosity really takes off. (I’m very glad to hear that your situation has improved so markedly, btw.)
Kathy, thank you! Every person who stops and takes the time to think about a set of complex and controversial ideas, instead of just reacting mindlessly to them, is making a contribution to a saner era to come.
Migrant Worker, exactly. Exactly..
Vincelamb, as the last paragraph of the essay notes, we’ll be getting to the third of those chance-read essays next week. As for food, sex, and purity, keep in mind that what counts as “left” and “right” are increasingly up in the air right now, as Democrats denounce a Republican president for not getting the US into a war!
A.J., interesting. It’s certainly a related concept, but I’d have to read the book to see how closely related.
Isaac, exactly. By itself, a protest march is nothing more than aerobic exercise. Do you recall the press coverage a month or so ago, I think it was, when Canadian PM Justin Trudeau joined a climate protest march that was protesting the policies of his own government? To my mind that was the ultimate reductio ad absurdum of protest — and it raised the question in my mind, at least, of how many other people there were protesting instead of actually doing something about the issue, since they supported the thing they were protesting but didn’t want that fact to become too obvious.
JillN, well, there you are, I hope the insomnia isn’t too troublesome.
This is good reasoning, but it may in fact be simpler. It seems to me that so many people (at least in the affluent left) have been trained that what they want is the important thing not what is possible. So what they want is for Trump to disappear without changes or compromise on their part, therefore those people in their way are bad baddies. A good example of this was a forum I was commenting on with regards to Amtrak bringing back the Pioneer Train from Portland to Salt Lake City via Boise which was discontinued in the late 90’s. My comment was that this would be a very good idea as the state of air travel for the masses was very fragile and had little economic buffer and thus could end much sooner than most people expected. The obvious solutions to this are more trains, more localization of activity etc. But too many people on the forum the only thing that was important was that they enjoyed and depended on frequent air travel to do their jobs, see their family and go on the vacations they deserved. Anyone who did not agree that this would go on forever was a baddie. No argument was made that air travel for the masses was inherently good and thus was justified, it was just that people liked it and thus it should exist.
One of the best things I’ve read about the psychology of woke culture is this – https://righteousmind.com/where-microaggressions-really-come-from/. The theory is that human society went from an honour culture to a dignity culture, then aspects of each combined to create a victim culture. It also showed me why my view of ethics seems to differ so much from most other people – I gravitate to the other two halves that victim culture left behind. This series also has some very interesting things to say about honour culture – https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/manly-honor-part-i-what-is-honor/.
MLK is joined by Gandhi and Nelson Mandela as leaders who have been sufficiently scrubbed to make them acceptable. If someone uses any of them to justify a strategy, you can near guarantee it will pose no threat to the established order. But if someone starts talking about Amilcar Cabral, who led the revolutionary movement against Portugese colonialism in Guinea Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands, then I start paying attention. 🙂
John, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the many popular uprisings that are occurring throughout the world today and how they fit into your analysis of successful movements for social change. I’m thinking in particular of Lebanon, where the president of that country has just resigned after several weeks of massive street protests, Iraq, Chile and perhaps Hong Kong as well. They all seem motivated by anger over government corruption and lack of accountability, economic inequality, policies that benefit the wealthy and penalize the working poor, etc. Obviously events are still unfolding and it’s too early to tell whether these movements will prove successful or not, but at least in Lebanon it seems the protesters were able to overcome sectarian divisions, going beyond merely “speaking truth to power”, and that has been the key to their success so far.
That strangest feature of our era… is it a missing feature? Perchance, adulthood? Or some more specific necessary-but-absent component of same?
Years ago I described the situation explored in the Jacobs essay, rather less charitably than Jacobs, as “tantrum politics.” “I have all the truth; they have all the power” sounds like the natural condition of an adolescent. (*waves in Greta’s general direction*) And I recently read a social media post that fits your description of your third source. If that’s the one, I’m not quite seeing the exact connection (give me time; I’m right at home in labyrinths) but the possibility is there.
I wonder if protest marches have simply followed the same pattern that you say is the norm for a whole range of human endeavors – i.e. a few big, dramatic gains when the new methods are first discovered and applied, and then diminishing returns and increasingly futile attempts to make problems fit their solutions rather than the other way around.
Protest marches worked well on a few big causes in the ’60s – and even then, Isaac is right that “a ‘demonstration’ has to be a demonstration of your power for it to pressure others into changing things.” If you look at some of Reverend King’s speeches, you’ll notice how much he talks about the economic power of black people in America to put pressure on their opponents through boycotts.
It also helps if your protest movement makes your opponents feel threatened enough to beat you up or sic dogs on you, since then they end up looking bad in the press. The 1960s sit-ins seemed to do that; what passes for a protest these days generally doesn’t.
I recently realised something that illustrates another example of mythological thinking. I’m now convinced that this is how fanatical Remainers actually see the European Union: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CrystalSpiresAndTogas. I don’t know how this came about, but it explains so much.
@ JMG – I see this sort of thinking (or lack thereof) on frequent display, though I would argue that it very much crosses party lines. For instance, I don’t know how chanting “build the wall” over and over again at a campaign rally, with no plan on how to build it, and make Mexico pay for it, is anything other than mythological thinking.
I had a coworker tell me one time how awesome the wall was going to be (along with several ideas on how to make it more lethal), and when I asked when Mexico will be paying for it, I got the same thousand yard stare you describe, and a quick change of topic.
I could go on with many more anecdotes, but that seems redundant.
I’m not saying the “both sides do it” argument exonerates liberals, I am saying that there is plenty of it to go around.
I look forward to finding out what’s behind door number three next week. Also, happy Druid equivalent to Halloween!
So, are you saying, at least in part, that the “wokesters” have given up on pragmatic thought because they can no longer accept that reasonsable minds can differ? Unable to accept differences of opinion could be legitimate their focus is on the mythical narrative because that’s where the “problem” seems to be? No need for prgamatism when there can’t be a legitimately different mythical narrative.
I’ve had the conversation about Obama voters switching to Trump. The wokesters insist that it never happened and that the Dems needn’t bother themselves about winning the hearts and minds of Trump voters. When I point out that the only way the numbers make sense is if quite a few Obama-12 voters went Trump -16, I’m met with the stare and the recital that it never happened.
Mythic mode: Air? Pragmatic mode: Earth? Erotic mode: Fire? If so, the DMH has some useful lessons for dealing with these sorts of issues…
Thanks very much for this! I’ve been trying to make sense of the behavior I’ve been witness to since the last presidential election without much luck. Just yesterday I saw a headline reading, “Math is racist.”, which truthfully left me a little nonplussed. After reading this post, I think I understand. It’s an attempt to “mythologize” a “pragmatic” tool, isn’t it? In effect to project qualities onto a subject incapable of possessing them.
What a fine, poetic title for this week’s essay. I’m guessing the End of Time reference might have something to do with this time of culmination awaiting the Grand Mutation Conjunction in Aquarius which arrives next year. I’m eager for your further elaboration of the theme and most curious about the uncanny echoes you refer to. Thanks.
Dear Mr. Greer, It is going to take me a while to discover and understand what you are getting at here.
Dancers at the End of Time? That sounds like a literary or artistic reference. Danse macabre?
I read the Alan Jacob article. I mean no reflection on and no criticism of you, Mr. Greer, but I am afraid I have to confess to a certain irritation at learning of yet more mittleEuropean philosophers–there would seem to be an inexhaustible supply–who have allegedly explained the world we live in and we don’t need to think about it. My apologies if this sounds peevish, but I don’t live in Europe, and much as I admire and incessantly read European literature, listen to its’ music and so on, why is it too much to ask that thinkers like Mr. Jacobs read some American philosophers? William James? Santayana ought to appeal to a conservative Christian. Granted Mr. Jacobs was writing for an educated audience who I suppose consider themselves honorary members of the European intelligentsia, but, for me, I would like things explained to me in terms of my own history and cultural background.
My take on the campus ideologues so far, is 1. considering what they pay for their certificate of entry into the privileged classes, they ought to get a say in who gets to speak at their campuses. Remember that an invitation to speak at a university is in itself a marker of status. 2. The groups still composing variations on themes by Marx, that is, the self-styled “Left”, are unable and unwilling to understand that Marxism simply hasn’t taken hold in North America nor is it likely that it will after going on a hundred years now of furious advocacy by Marxists. There is some serious cognitive dissonance happening here among a group of folks who are used to thinking that they are smarter and more righteous than anyone else.
What I would have said to Mr. Coates is that you had your chance in the 1970s and you went for affirmative action instead. So if you want reparations now, lets talk about what price you are willing to pay.
Karen Armstrong, in The Battle For God, makes a distinction similar to Kolakowski’s cores; she calls them mythos and logos. Mythos provides meaning for what we do, and logos allowed us to take over the world.
Her book is a history of fundamentalism in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Her surprising conclusion is that the fundamentalists have tried to incorporate logos into mythos, causing untold harm. An example is the fundamentalist idea that the Bible is inerrant. Mythos never before had to be an accurate telling of history, but the fundamentalists, trying to be modern, adopted a modern sense of truth.
The pharmaceutical industry is cashing in big time on this phenomenon. How better to make a killing than by convincing people that if enough of them run far enough and fast enough with their underwear on outside their trousers, then the poisons they are killing themselves with will miraculously transform into a miracle cure for prostate cancer! There’s nothing quite like blatant illogic to persuade the masses……
Very thought provoking. Thank you.
While reading your fine post I was struck with two related thoughts that I’ve had starting in the 2008 recession that were related with my work in the community.
1. The obvious society wide anger or irritation which would increase during hard times such as financial recessions was proportionally worse during 2008 AND it didn’t go away as it had after other recessions. We as a society seemed to pass some threshold that made psychologically going back difficult or impossible.
2. The idea of living with a myth as a core value resonated with we. Those observed in my first point also tended to have shifted their core belief system. I was used to talking with criminals and their families who used a set of rules I will call, “Ghetto Rules”. I call it that because following those rules had a tendency to trap the families into generational poverty and criminality.
What I was not used to was the shift of well educated professionals of all ages and races that had adopted a similar set of values. They would describe these values in a legalistic sense(it sound more educated but was essentially Ghetto Rules of justice). Yet, they did not seem to notice that their children, because of those values were increasingly becoming involved with the courts as criminals. It was as though they were participating actively in the destruction of their families. I would often get the blank stare when interacting with these citizens.
At the time I suspected it was just a sign of the times due to a very deep recession. I now wonder if it is more related to holding onto that myth while trying to adapt psychologically to a feeling of lose. That lose often stated as the, “American Dream” has ended. It’s as though that shift of values has provided a psychological feedback loop that no longer even matches the lowering of actual physical resources that were lost in the recession but has instead taken on a life of it’s own.
Yeah, my favorite example of this phenomenon from recent is Black Live Matter. The opposition came at them with stastics like “more white people are shot than black,” or retoric like “all lives matter,” and “blue lives” matter. What did BLM activits did in response was argue, trying to convince their opponents that they were wrong, like they were debating in a college class.
And that is the problem, the whole of the activist class behaves like they’re debating in a college class, because the majority of their leadership is drawn from the college educated class. They talk about systematic is racism, institutional inequality, and a grab bag of other buzz words.
How hard would it have been for BLM activists to have responded “yes, that’s why we need police reforms now!”
“Black lives matter, blue lives matter, all lives matter, police reforms now!”
To a person not trying to be right, but trying to win, this stuff writes itself. But I suppose getting a pat on the head from their professors and peers is more important.
There are some parallels between this article and what President Obama recently said. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/10/30/obama_blasts_call-out_culture_that_is_not_activism_get_over_being_woke.html
Thanks ever so much for this post.
For some years now, I feel like I’ve been witness to a growing madness among a certain class of educated, well-off Americans. The flight from reason you describe is precisely what I’ve been trying to articulate, and you can count me among the many of us that have similar stories on offer these days.
A few random thoughts….
Clinging exclusively to a mythic standpoint and doing only things that are easy (but don’t actually achieve anything constructive) is to some extent a lazy behavior, because doing pragmatic things takes more work and effort, and is often less “fun”. So maybe aerobic-exercise protests, virtue-signalling language, thousand-mile stares while repeating the same canned talking points, two-minute hate sessions, and other useless (but easy!) behaviors are evidence of a lack of desire to do the hard work of figuring out how to really change things, while feeling an unearned sense of accomplishment for doing nothing. Which begs the question, when and why did people get so lazy?
Or maybe they aren’t lazy, but rather, have been conditioned to focus on and buy into the wrong solutions, not only by years of feel-good media entertainment coupled with advertising that tells them that solutions are as easy as buying this or that product, but also by fashionable theories that provide dubious explanations as to the real causes of problems? Don’t worry about what works – just buy this myth! Feel good about your own righteousness and the utter wrongness of others! You’ll gain acceptance from the right peer group with this product! You, too, can be a part of the pure and good elect, if you just say the right mantras in the correct language! Don’t be left behind – buy (in) now! No actual boring pragmatic labor needed! (I will say, I don’t think the echo-chamber of social media helps much. I have co-workers who I could swear used to be capable years ago of more-nuanced thought, but who now just repeat talking points – talking points that I know they got from Facebook, and just repeat uncritically.)
And finally, the scariest thing for me is the self-righteous anger. It unquestionably exists on both ends of the political divide, but in my experience it’s been growing as fast if not faster among the educated elite, who I perceive as indulging in increasing amounts of rage. Every time I hear some well-off liberal seething in rage about Trump and Trump voters, I can’t help but wonder “what are you REALLY angry about?” I used to feel that way when I listened to a right-winger seethe with their own rage about “the illegals” or “the libtards” – but the thing is, I could usually guess what they were really mad about. I find it harder to guess what the comfortable upper-middle class is really seething about – I’m not sure they even know. But it does feel like a religious mania has taken hold. Maybe the answer to the question “why do religious manias take hold” can help me understand why my well-off liberal co-workers have all become…well, the way they are these days.
(short for Ellen, not a reference to a character named Eleven from a recently-popular show, in case anyone was wondering – and yes, I was asked that on another forum!)
These people are ex-Christians or children of Christians that never joined the faith. They act exactly the same, all the way down to that thousand-yard stare I saw on Christian conservatives leading up to the Iraq War. The confusion you might be having with the distinction of myth vs. technology stems from the fact that these people believe they have discarded myth and replaced it with technology. Of course, as everyone here knows, that wasn’t the case.
There are atheists out there who can actually pull that off that are looking around themselves bewildered at what their faction has turned into. “Atheism is supposed to be rational! Why aren’t these people doing what I did?” The answer is that some people are fundamentally spiritual and cannot function without myth.
It all reminds me of the Christians trying and failing to eradicate native European religions. As some Europeans (and their descendants elsewhere) need their magic on a fundamental level, so some Americans need the good vs evil Abrahamic framework on a fundamental level. Hence the purity tests and denunciations straight out of the Torah as well as the absolute conviction that anyone who violates their laws is an evil criminal.
I am particularly interested in your 2nd – Jane’s essay; I’d say that this condition of the Dem’s valuing being right over winning is a long running theme of theirs. It has lasted most of my life and I suspect you & I are very close to the same age.
But as a practicing Stoic, I would also add that there is nothing wrong with that (valuing being right over winning), so long those who do that understand that they ARE doing that and that losing will almost certainly follow. I completely agree with Jane’s (and your) observation some other higher authority will see the underlying rightness of our cause and set things to right is as foolish as it is common. But there are times that going down with the ship over the difference between right and wrong is a moral, sometimes the only moral, response.
I have faced a few of these in my life, even before I found Stoicism. I look back on the money or status I lost as a worthy trade for the peace of mind and dignity that I retained. I can think back on one of these, where, depending on your POV, I had either incomplete or misinterpreted information and made the materialistically losing choice. If I had a better understanding, I would have chosen differently; if I had the same information now as I did then, I hope I would have kept to the higher ground as I did earlier. Either way, the only higher authority I appealed to was my own conscience.
I hope I’m not changing the subject too much here, but I see this same strain of Stoic reasoning on living with right and wrong motivating many of the Honk Kong protesters. They absolutely HAVE to know that this path will come to grief, that Beijing WILL prevail and that NO higher authority will ever set this right. And yet it looks like they choose something very much like martyrdom. Three weeks ago I had dinner with a HK expat living in the US and he volunteered the same thought. He said the time for protests in HK where at the time of the handover not now. And there were none then. My comment was that many of the protesters were not even born at the handover. This is the only time they have to be heard. So it looks to me like many, many young people in HK are willing to “lose” but be right rather than get by and compromise. Things always change when the APVs roll in, but it looks like a good number are actually willing to go down with the ship. (I’d love to hear your thoughts on Hong Kong and all of its messy, convoluted, cross-motivated, nuanced choices the residents are facing in a future essay.)
A very nice photo of “Love in the Time of Collapse” (if I correctly recall the name of the upcoming collection of short stories):
Have we any idea how for example the term ‘woke’ became the choice term on campus? Would that help? As an elderly Brit it has no meaning for me, but is suggestive of a ‘mysterious truth’, which might indicate a borrowing from religious dreams.
There seem to be political equivalents like ‘modern’ which I read just today the Brit Conservative Cameron government sprinkled in speeches not so long ago. The commentator recalled this as using the term as a talisman to ward off criticism. It does not seem to have been pragmatic.
Finding words that can claim a reality and ward off a challenge to that reality seems not to be a rational process, nor that easy. I have come across this myself in what were apparently wholly ‘technical’ discussions. Some important stories could not be heard, quite literally, let alone discussed. I wonder just now, for example, how Boeing can conduct rational internal discussions given their predicament?
In your response to violet you said, ‘My take is that what we’re seeing is a precursor of the Second Religiosity, one of the social shocks that precede the end of each civilization’s Age of Reason and the turn back to an intellectualized version of old religious forms.’
Could you give an example of one of these precursors/social-shocks from history? I’m curious what parallel events you had in mind.
Also, regarding the ‘harrowing account on a social media forum by a young woman who watched her boyfriend descend into a very peculiar kind of madness’. Is it one of those ‘my boyfriend joined the alt-right’ things?
I’m sort of anticipating your ‘both sides’ approach to this sort of thing.
JMG re. your reply to to Isaac:
I personally know people who support the things they’re protesting and have no qualms of being obvious about it. Actual conversation among my friends during morning coffee in the office (names changed) :
Bob: We need to crack down on corporations that are harming the environment!
Alice: Sure, but aren’t you drinking a Starbucks from a disposable cup every morning just like you’re doing now?
Bob: You don’t understand. My behavior doesn’t even amount to small change compared to what the corporations are doing.
Alice: But even little things count, don’t they?
Bob: The Planet is doomed anyway, since they’re not clamping down on the big players
Esteemed and ever-so-widely-read Archdruid (perusing the blog of a polyamorous lesbian theology student? Ye gads!), your characterization of Greta “How dare you!” Thunberg as the court jester for the world’s wealthy and powerful hit the nail right on the head for me. Your posting illuminates, for instance, that the mostly-quite-good New Republic article in late September titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Greta Thunberg” which got numerous other things right, missed on an important point: it highlighted the fist-pumping meeting between Greta and Barack Obama where Barack proclaimed to her “You and me, we’re a team” and then the article insisted that Thunberg and Obama were NOT on the same team. But your analysis shows that, au contraire, they are; this nicely illustrates why Greta could so easily accept the long-term loan of an expensive automobile from the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger (see: https://www.hotcars.com/real-life-terminator-arnold-schwarzeneggers-20-sickest-cars/ ) and cozy up to environmentally-hypocritical folks like Justin Trudeau.
I think your analysis has further application to Extinction Rebellion, whose pampered salary-class goofballs danced and pranced their way around London recently. The jester brigade!
Poor Greta: the ongoing protests in Chile (entirely unrelated to climate change) have now caused the Chilean government to cancel the COP25 climate conference she was on her way to. How DARE they cancel that conference! 🙂
As always, best regards!
“…just as utterly convinced that they can get what they want only by getting other people with power to do something”.
This has explained a phenomena I’ve been wondering about recently: the desire of climate change activists to have local, state and national authorities declare a “climate emergency.”
Always seemed very strange to me. What are we going to do? Call the Climate Change Police and the Climate Change Fire Brigade to come and save the day? Perhaps the Climate Change Ambulance can whip the patient off to Climate Change Hospital for a quick stay and we’ll be right as rain in no time.
Of course, most authorities are happy to comply with this demand as it increases their perceived power.
This is why it seems to me that the modern left is sleep walking into totalitarianism. A group that lacks understanding of pragmatic/technological means, that is obsessed by mythological explanations of right and wrong and is happy to shovel power into the hands of centralised authority.
Something REALLY scary for Halloween 🎃:
For those of you in Columbus, Ohio (which always held trick-or-treat on the 30th), enjoy the costumes! Here it’s going to be cold, rainy, windy, and snowy tomorrow so, knowing from experience we won’t get any kids, we’re not even turning the porch light on. The candy’s in the freezer waiting for next year.
We get fewer kids every year. Our street’s mostly elderly people (my neighbor’s a Korean War vet) and few of them pass out candy—probably because it’s difficult for them to keep getting up and down to answer the door. (I found out about that when I hurt my hip!)
Thanks for this timely essay. This will be an interesting series to read. Coincidentally, over the past couple of years, every time I hear the words “racist” or “patriarchy” I hear “Unclean!”, and when I hear the words “activist” and “speaking truth to power” I envision people wailing and rending their garments in the temple in Jerusalem.
Unrelated, but I just finished WOH: Arkham and my congratulations on such a potent working!
Joe the Druid
Talking about the ineffectiveness of protests caught my attention. I have read stories of “free speech” zones being set aside for different protests, and wondered what the point of protesting was if you stayed in a corner where everyone could ignore you. There was a mention of Rodger Waters holding protests over the treatment of Julian Assange, which was published nowhere. Another writer has recently pointed out that the Antifa protests seem to be a magnet for people who want to get into fights, but receive little other coverage.
A few years ago you had mentioned that reading a variety of books was a good way to expand thinking or something like that. I’m currently trudging through “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. It’s interesting how many stories from this book seem similar to the current political climate.
Thank you JMG. Still trying to digest your piece. Very thoughtful. As a Swede myself I really like Greta Thunberg (Th- pronounced t as in “tin” not “thin”) and I was one of the few around her outside the parliament in Stockholm some odd Friday mornings last year. She’s not a product, she’s as genuine as they come, although the role she has gotten on the world stage is the little girl jester. And, like a jester at the kings castle she is badly needed I would think. She leaves nobody unaffected, the liberals sanctify her, the right vilify her. Thanks to the movement she representents IT-consultants now roaring the streets shouting “Save the climate”! and gets home in one of those electric scooters which now have overtaken the cities of Europe as an environmental friendly alternative to walking.
I get sarcastic of course.
Or is she needed?
The message of environmentalists is to “keep the oil in the ground” and “listen to the science” and flight shame. It is virtue calling. We sign lists on the internet promising each other 2020 will be a non flight year, a non meat year, which for most will lead to a non stop bad conscience year. And yes, those who also believe in and understand the effects of manmade climate change and all other ecologic upheavals modern society has created, but prefer other means to tackle the unsolvable get annoyed. Or people choose to not see the danger our species will face just because the virtue calling lefties are so unbearable to endure. I don’t know.
In Sweden we have a political party called Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) and according to polls they are very close to become the biggest party, not for a hundred years have there been a bigger party than the Social Democrats in Sweden. For at least a decade or so Sweden democrat voters have been Swedens “deplorables”. The party is rooted from right wing fascist groups but their voters are of course not all racists or fascists. Just the rural class which are frowned upon. Obviously they have some “climate change deniers” among them but I would think the majority of Sweden Democrat voters are as wary of climate change as people in general. But they have not been a part in the discussions. No other parties have wanted to have anything to do with them. And so it has been amongst ordinary people in society as well. Those people are Sweden Democrats, we don’t talk to them. They are fascists and racists.
I think Sweden would have been better off if we had talked to them.
Our Trump moment is ahead of us. And internet just make the divide bigger between people who has so much more in common than they would like to believe. Republicans and democrats, not so much difference. Social democrats and Sweden democrats, really not so much difference either. Except for maybe their mythical viewpoints of themselves!
Greta Thunberg gave Trump the angry face. She’s only 16 but man wouldn’t it be great if she gave him a smile and they talked instead. Trump has at least visions of the future! Live like a steadfast tin soldier and you finish in the furnace with your paper love. However right you are.
Still like Greta, though. She can evolve to something more than truth to power. I hope. Thanks JMG for sharing my thoughts!
I just happen to be reading Kants, “Critique of Pure Reason”. Some of what you say is resonating. Seems these leftie peeps are experiencing a failure of Judgement. By not accepting what is happening on the ground, they are confusing abstract concepts with phenomenal representations. Breaking this link is a loss of understanding, for according to Kant, humans should never separate the abstract from the phenomenal, for doing so renders null the prospect of any transcendental accomplishment.
In Qabalistic terms, they are losing the link between Binah and Chesed, becoming trapped below the Abyss or worse, in it. (Daath Eaters).
A more Jean Gebser type metaphor would observe that the patriarchal perspectival rational, consciousness, under siege from the emergent quantum a-rational feminine one, begins operating in its deficient mode, regressing to earlier underlying modalities (mythic) while simultaneously being assaulted by its own repressed shadow material, what the Alchemists call ‘Nigredo’
Very dangerous times indeed.
The “Mythological” and “Technological” cores maps on to what I would call Aesthetics and Logistics, heart and head. One concerned with the story of who you are and where you’re going (“We were voyagers!”), and the other with the practicalities of how you’re going to get there (building boats). Someone on Twitter (I cannot find the tweet) referred to them as the two great matters for humanity.
Of course, they can’t vary too far from each other – the story of who you are must be grounded in what you have actually done (first step, admit it: “My name is X and I am an alcoholic”). If you make your history up, your future will be as unreal as your past. At the same time, what you do (logistics) has to be in keeping with who you consider yourselves to be (aesthetics). Don’t expect a society of shepherds to make good sailors.
Hmmm…. almost seems ‘designed’ to promote the current tribal division. And that division benefits whom? The duopoly magic act that distracts the team supporters from the real well coordinated operators? Well, ‘would they’ subtly disseminate the self-blinding talking points, ‘if they could’ ?? (I think they certainly can, and it’s so far beyond obvious, that it can’t count as a ‘conspiracy’ theory.)
You might find Martin Gurri’s The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium to be worth reading. His thesis is that social media, by giving everyone a voice, destabilizes the overall narratives that shape society’s understanding of itself. Since everyone can criticize the elites, criticism of the elites becomes the lowest common denominator of politics. Since any positive agenda is equally vulnerable to criticism, politics becomes largely negative.
On the other hand, it could just be that people watch way too many movies. If people spend thousands of hours watching narratives where the good guys reliably win (often for no particularly good reason), they may start to believe it.
I wonder how much of this is related to so many since the advent of the internet having failed to learn how to actually do much of anything? Far too many think that pressing some keys, moving a pointing device and clicking buttons is doing something. Whenever something in the physical world has to be accomplished, one simply hires an illegal or a deplorable and pays them to do it – leading to a complete disconnect between actions and results.
In the virtual, on-line world there is precious little result to almost anything one does, rarely even an expectation of some kind of result, so it doesn’t ever even matter if one was wrong or right. It’s mostly just opinions untested. Given that experience, it seems natural that a purely narrative view would dominate – the very concept of actions leading to consequences is missing. And if one is used to being able to define themselves as correct, any sort of pragmatic scenario where one might risk failure would be unpleasant, and something to be avoided.
So anyway, that’s my opinion, expressed by pressing keys – quite the accomplishment, no? 😉
Wow. Just wow.
Jacobs’ essay, and yours, make so much sense of things.
Narrative is so, so powerful. I imagine, JMG, that you’ve been working these many years to pry people loose from the mythic narrative of human technological and social progress, in your many works. That’s a tough assignment, but you’ve had quite a bit of success I think.
I face this narrative all the time in my work (in an engineering department at a university). As Jacobs explains though, the tools of analytical (technological) thought are largely ineffective against things held in the mythical core. I’m sometimes successful with students, I though I suspect only because engineers tend to be susceptible to analytical thinking. Your use of fiction as a tool is I think much more effective because it speaks the language of mythology.
I’ve a growing recognition of the power of stories, and I’m almost terrified of them!
Is what people call spiritual enlightenment, the point where you’re able to engage and disengage with stories at will, rather than being held utterly captive by them?
Discussing this with a friend, he points out: the difference between the court jester and Greta Thunberg is that the jester knew he was the court jester. Thunberg thinks she’s Martin Luther nailing the 95 theses to the door.
Yess!!! Thank you! I’ve seen so much of this!
I remember a couple of months ago I was trying to explain to a friend why I didn’t trust the mainstream media, I thought I was sort of managing to have an amicable conversation, then near the end of the conversation I discovered she had equated all my media skepticism with alt-right Trump supporting holocaust deniers. I was ‘tainted’ in your words with ‘media distrust’- a trait of Alt right trump supporters, therefore I was helping them spread their misinformation and hatred… (or something like this) I tried correct her (only partially successfully) though I don’t get the feeling its safe to talk to her anymore…
And yup I’ve encountered the ‘thousand mile stare’- with or without the furious denunciations…
As for liberals thinking being right is more important than being strategic, I remember Nassim Talebs quote: “suckers try and win arguments, non suckers try and win!”
Thanks so much for this essay!
I’ve been totally perplexed by this phenomenon, watching from a great distance though it also seems to be infecting liberal American friends living in Japan to a lesser degree. I have been wondering if I would be similarly raving if I were living in America and dealing constantly with its incredibly mendacious news media and people under its influence, but perhaps not. Brought up as a Buddhist, I never subscribed to the optimism trope that seemed to be so powerful and productive in the 80s and 90s. The form of Buddhism I grew up with taught acceptance of “thusness” to overcome the traps in our world of illusions. This seemed to be a big disadvantage to me in highly competititve America, but now it would appear to provide an advantage. Needless to say, I got along a lot better in Japan.
The Japanese, on the other hand, seem to follow a different trajectory with the ups and downs of history. I’ve been in several conversations recently with people bewailing their utter passivity–not even the absurdities of Fukushima could bring them out on the streets. For the past twenty or so years, many Japanese of all age groups, but noticed most of all among the young because it distresses their parents, have just dropped out of society, shutting themselves off in their room, or as the TV featured a few days ago (admiringly, I might add), saving up and buying a forested property where they withdraw and live by their own means, eschewing all human contact.
Toward the end of the civil warring period as the big names vied for control over all of Japan, it was common for people to withdraw into the wilderness, to practice Shugendo. At least one of them (Hasegawa Kakugyo–I’ve mostly completed my book about the Fuji Sect he founded, but it is on the back burner as I fight for my life against 5G) took up magical practices in an attempt to bring about peace.
Shortly after the 2016 election, I was servicing a sink drain in a rental apt I help manage for a client. The renter was there, a young “woke” millennial.
We began to discuss the election. She could not fathom how Trump won. I said, if Hillary and Dems generally hadn’t abandoned working people to corporations, banks and billionaires, he wouldn’t have.
She replied that no poor person of color could possibly have voted for a Republican or Trump. I said that it seemed that quite a few did. And what about white working poor, I asked.
“All economics are racist”, she replied in a fury, as she stormed out of the kitchen.
If this is “woke” I thought, I don’t think I want to try to speak truth to power should wokester socialism take over America.
What I am not understanding is why the woke phenomenon is important. What am I missing? It seems like a very small fringe movement to me. I also am very much not feeling sorry for curmudgeons of my generation, like Mr. Kunstler, who in their day were, I am sure, loud in their denunciation of and contempt for white sox wearing straights.
What I have noticed over the past 4 decades or so is neither mythical nor pragmatic modes of experience, though I do not claim that they don’t exist, but what I think of as an expressive mode, in other words an unquestioned belief in primacy of emotion. This can be seen in the way the verb ‘to feel’ has become almost a synonym for ‘to think’. Rather than saying such and such a policy or decision is just or sensible or practical, people will say they “feel good about it”. One of the reasons for the incompetence we see in business and govt. I suggest is that at all levels from CEO to cashier, whether it is procurement, marketing or site selection, people are making decisions based on how they feel about things. One example: back in the 1990s, the City of Sacramento where I was living appointed a woman to an important position in city govt. About two months after beginning work, the appointee disappeared along with a substantial amount of public money. Members of the selection committee expressed to reporters their utter bewilderment that someone whom they had felt good about had turned out to be not a good person. One committee member said something to the effect that she looked so good, the hair, the outfit it was all there, as in, we felt good about her so of course we thought she would do a good job. I suggest that this is not erotically motivated “lookism”, but rather a kind of absolute belief that how I feel is what is real.
It is not just the woke intersectionalists who are forever demanding compensation for their hurt feelings. If you take a home baked cake to the company picnic, I advise you do not admit you made it yourself. The perfectly sewn shirt you proudly wear, say you rescued it from a dumpster, or someone will be in the restroom crying because you made her feel bad.
An interesting essay as always, I look forward to the next part next week.
While plenty of people were calling all Trump voters racists, some of the far-left bloggers I followed that were more careful with forming their arguments instead made the subtly different point that while all Trump voters might not be racists, racism was not a deal-breaker for any of them. Not that that’s a great argument: no candidate is perfect; we’re always going to be making a decision of which flaws we are willing to vote for.
I appreciate your analysis of protests: I’m in my early 30s, so I’m too young to remember an effective protest movement in the United States, so the idea of effective political action through marching in the streets holding up signs strikes me as absurd.
(I’m not sure if you follow Scott Alexander, but I think you would enjoy the most recent post on Slate Star Codex “New Atheism: The Godlessness That Failed” ( https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/10/30/new-atheism-the-godlessness-that-failed/ ). It talks about the history of atheism appearing and just suddenly disappearing as a major topic of discussion online and how it relates to the current “woke” movement.)
Some of the people affected…will remain in it until they die.
Thinking back to the fourth essay of your Kek Wars series, does that anthropomorphc metanarrative help explain the intensity and totality of what’s on display here?
I have indeed read your third essay, about the boyfriend’s descent into madness on the internet. Not to spoil things for the rest of your readers, but certainly that account displays very well what is going on here- the creation of a new religion. Or, at least, the rediscovery and re purposing of religious belief, No wonder so many of them look on at scorn on those trying to look at these problems from a different standpoint. Probably doesn’t help that many of these Liberal’s critics are acting in bad faith, but it certainly cannot excuse their attempts to fight for equality by doing nothing useful at all.
Wow, what an intruiging diamond you present today.
I have spent a long interesting evening. Reading, contemplating, scribbling and following your references. In conclusion, I go rather OT.
But I hope posting this might tickle some thoughts.
The beginning of the paragraph after your quote of Jacobs’ essay immediately reminded of an old warning. ‘Beware lest the ends you aspire to sink to the level of the means you use to get there.’ That, I have to attrubute to my teenage reading of Paulo Freire.
Once I reached your personal dicussion of myth, I read Jacobs’ essay. There my main thoughts were:
Sadly, satori does not last, though its effects can linger.
Diversion to religious colleges seems sensible, for those who most deire to hold that state.
How such might function among such an apparent diversity of myths might be tricky to organise.
Returning to your essay, “Transactional analysis fell out of favor once the pharmaceutical industry got its present stranglehold over the healing professions” LOL.
From the earlier readings, I don’t find your ‘controversial claim’ and the following paragraphs at all contentious.
On to your next link. Well that was a rather telling snark.
Your concluding paragraphs remind me of the, potentially turbulent, election campaign opening tomorrow in my country (UK).
As I see it, deeper in the labyrinth may lie a more general, long predicted, collapse during the 2020’s.
I can’t help but speculate that this is most likley to occur in the 2nd or 3rd year of ‘Der Trumph’s’ second term. 😉
I am looking forward to where you go with this next.
Perhaps what is happening is that a significant percentage of the university educated population no longer know how to think critically, skeptically, and to perform the operations of deductive and inductive logic. And maybe this is related to the closely related phenomenon of an apparently growing innumeracy?
I think these failures point to a breakdown of our public educational system, one that occurs long before the ‘beneficiaries’ of the flawed educational system reach college.
If such a failure is actually occurring, what is it due to, and who (if anyone) benefits?
Obviously some can still think logically — scientists, engineers, computer professionals, accountants, skilled trade people e.g.machinists, successful farmers and business people (usually) still can. But is the population as a whole truly becoming stupider?
Jonathan Haidt wrote that if there’s a good kind of identity politics, its common identity politics, such as those employed by the civil rights movement to implore the US people to live up to their own values of equal enfranchisement.
On the other hand, common enemy politics is ‘let’s all unite against the other.’ The only way that can succeed is if one group is marginalized at the expense of another.
Did you see Obama’s remarks? I didn’t watch the video, but I caught this snippet on another forum:
“One danger I see among young people particularly on college campuses,” he said, “I do get a sense sometimes now among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense sometimes the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people and that’s enough.”
@violet so glad to hear you have gotten some relief. I have also been praying for you once you gave your permission to do so. I suspect, I am not the only one that didn’t announce it publicly – well until just now =)
I just had a recent discussion about this earlier today with my GF who studies critical theory and is surrounded by these people.
While you point at this behavior on the Left (where it definitely exists) you also see it to a degree on the right and neoliberal “center” (Look at any Breitbart or Youtube comment thread).
The concept of “lossy compression” fits – people essentially want to fit complex information into a pre-digested narrative and get “brownie points” from parroting the approved lines within their chosen community. But it is deeper than that too.
Rather than “discourse”, the idea is to feel some sense of “unity” by repetition of chosen narratives and castigation of chosen targets. To the degree that it is “worse” on the IDPOL left, that is because their shared narratives ARE more emotionally triggering. When their followers vicariously experience being beaten or raped, (by consuming such stories) any hint of a similar situation creates a fight-or-flight response that shuts down empathy or rational dialogue.
This view is also reflected in academic research on the subject:
“Action in social movements is motivated not only by emotionally charged negative experiences, but also by anger at experienced injustices. A key purpose and outcome of collective action is the generation of a positive identity out of what some have called ‘spoiled identities’, of positive emotions such as anger and pride out of shame and fear. Participation in such activities can be directly related to well-being. The following words of activists in a mental health user group indicate the significance of this:
‘In some ways it turned out to be a positive step for me. It changed my life around from something that was killing me, virtually, to something that I finally got some kind of reward in. It’s given me a life and without it I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing half the things I do now. It’s given me confidence, assurance . . . I get up now and speak at a conference quite happily. A few years ago I would have no more done that than fly!’ (Barnes and Shardlow, 1996)
Drawing on research exploring organization among mothers experiencing post-partum depression Taylor (2000) identifies the way in which the development of solidarity with others elicits what she refers to as ‘vitalising’ emotions – emotions such as pride and joy with the group’s new positive collective self-definition….”
From Barnes, M. (2008). Passionate participation: Emotional experiences and expressions in deliberative forums. Critical social policy, 28(4), 461-481. Cited 115 times
This should go to the last weeks posts comments, but anyway: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNTfLGt59qo
Traditional log construction.
And: JMG, how do you see the the future of the Amish?
Very interesting discussion that pulls together threads from several preceding posts. I especially liked the interplay between the mythic and pragmatic cores. It has always amazed me when people think of artificial intelligence as developing desires and values. Where would they come from (unless programmed by humans)?
While Ta-Nehisi was researching what would become his “reparations” article, I was diligently reading the discussion on his blog, but never commented because the knowledge of the commenters about American history was so absurdly high. The final product of this discussion, the cover article in “The Atlantic”, gathered a lot of this historical evidence, but left me at a loss with regard to solutions. Ta-Nehisi is, in fact, very pessimistic about history in general and not at all a believer in any kind of progress. I think it is fair to say that he proposed nothing at all, his definition of “reparations” was so vague it could be anything from money to public perpetual acknowledgement of the historic debt. If Jacobs’ interlocutors understood Ta-Nehisi as requiring financial reparations, then I think this interpretation comes from outside the article.
I don’t disagree with the general analysis, but as usual, things don’t have to have a single reason, and especially regarding the second half of the post, I don’t think it tells the whole story at all.
I think it’s more of an analysis of the self-justification that those people provide for their own behavior rather than of its motivations.
Because we can’t really speak of “speaking truth to power” in this case.
Who exactly is the power here?
I work in academia. I have seen all sorts of absurdities and I am essentially not allowed to speak against them or I may well lose my job. For example, I have had to witness the sorry spectacle of the majority of students at the medical school of a rather well known university holding a rally to denounce as loudly as possible the claim that biological sex in humans is binary and immutable (which happens to be a so well established and objective a biological truth that nobody should ever be allowed to be in possession of an MD or a PhD degree if they do not accept it), yet I had to sit on the side and just watch and not speak out (I may well have had to run for my own physical safety had I tried to, forget the career repercussions).
And the large corporations that run everything are fully behind the movement too.
So it is rather laughable to talk about “speaking truth to power” when these people are the power.
What they are doing is motivated by their desire to justify it, and it is also probably used by the much smaller circle of people with even more power for whatever purposes they are being driven by.
One more thing — it is a story hardly discussed even there, so I am sure it is almost completely unknown in the West, but something very curious happened in a number of countries in Eastern Europe in the last couple of decades of communism that I think has many parallels with what’s happening now.
Communism was thoroughly and often militantly atheistic even if it just rebranded many of the core components of Christianity in a godless form.
Yet at some point in the early 70s you started seeing many members of the younger (at the time) generations of the party elite embracing and openly promoting all sorts of mysticism and woo from a hodge podge of sources — traditional Orthodox Christianity, Eastern mysticism, etc. etc.
Which kind of does not compute.
But when one thinks about it it starts to make a bit more sense — the party nomenclature was undergoing an existential crisis at the time caused by the fact that it had control of resources for trillions of dollars yet it had to its name essentially nothing and was forced to live in conditions better than the rest of the population not drastically better. Meanwhile the people of equivalent rank in the West were all millionaires and billionaires.
This is the conflict that got resolved in the late 80s when the nomenclature finally dismantled the system in order to transform its political power into actual property (whoever is telling you the people rose up and overthrew the system is either deliberately lying or doesn’t have a clue about the actual history, or both).
But before that the conflict manifested itself in the descent into occultism (in the derogatory sense of the word). The deep motivation behind which was to create a separation between those who have achieved knowledge of a hidden truth and the masses — if at the time there was no way to achieve an economic disparity between the members of the nomenclature who had grown up as part of it (as opposed to coming from a humble background and rising up to power, which is what the previous generation had done) and the rest of the population matching its sense of superiority, privileged access to “hidden truths” was a way to achieve a justification for that sense of superiority in a different way.
It’s a somewhat analogous story here although it also has a much more direct economic component too as the people responsible for spreading this madness do have a lot of gain monetarily from it (for example, the kind of human refuse that is produced by the various “studies” programs of university has no meaningful career prospects but to fill positions that police the behavior of others, and if such positions do not exist in sufficient numbers then it has a very serious problem).
Continuing my previous thought: children make judgments mostly in the “mythical” mode, absorbing stories, playing, trying on pretend identities, and testing outcomes with respect to the myths. Try to change a familiar narrative or role and they’ll tell you, “that’s not how it goes!”
Adulthood, however it’s achieved, doesn’t mean repudiating the mythic core, but it does (should) mean subsuming it and adapting it into a practicum for engaging the real world. Like wrapping it up to take it with you where you’re going. Like putting a handle on a tool.
If that doesn’t happen, then you have people who literally… well, okay, figuratively… have no handle on their core myths. Faced with a contrary reality they can only insist, “that’s not how it goes!”
Building on my earlier point – I think people latch onto these “team sports” ideologies when they feel particularly powerless or unloved.
Social Cohesion was already on a downswing and (loneliness up) when Putnam wrote “Bowling Alone” in 2000. I think the internet has only accelerated that trend. Rather than genuine belonging by people who know us deeply, we are more lonely, and seek shallow bonds with strangers the only possible way – by parroting digested “ra ra” chants. The behavior becomes habitual and spread throughout the mainstream news, so even in our offline lives, people’s default is to parrot the “ra ra” slogans and narratives.
How to fight this?
The root cause is people feeling unloved / unsafe and needing a community (like Joker movie). Seems like the first step is to show you value the person (turn off their instinct toward unity). Second step is to talk in STORIES (specifics) not abstract, rational, high-level arguments. Stories about your own experience (or that of a loved one). Or, ask them to imagine being in a particular situation, with socratic dialogue (not an argument) let them discover your conclusion yourself.
This is also talked about in “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It”. For emotional scared people, just let them feel heard, calm down, and they will begin to think rationally. This seems to work better 1-on-1 though. With mobs of people it seems harder since it is all about solidarity and intimidation, not dialogue. However, even then, if the “target” e.g. politician can convey empathy and ability to see the PoV of the mob, it can make them feel valued and “seen” enough to demobilize them, even if no action is taken.
In fact one of the key findings of “procedural justice” research is that people want to feel heard/seen/validated in the decision making process. Then, even if the decision doesn’t go their way, they will accept it more gracefully. That is why we are guaranteed a “fair trial” and tend to accept the outcomes as just.
Cropanzano, R., Bowen, D. E., & Gilliland, S. W. (2007). The management of organizational justice. Academy of management perspectives, 21(4), 34-48.
Thought provoking post as always, and thank you for sharing two trenchant pieces of writing I’d not seen, from radically different corners of the Web.
I’ve always been intrigued about your Internet diet, given the strange buffet of sources you serve in your essays. Would you care to share any particular sources, feeds, filters, or strategies for extracting signal from an Internet full of Total Noise (and worse)? While I’m sure your ideal information diet is different than mine, I’m curious how you pick your poisons nonetheless.
There is a widespread failure of logic amongst the ‘woke folk’. I think of them as ‘those who meet the lower orders from behind a desk, and who define us’.
I tend to see this failure as being about their conflict between being (or aspiring to be) a part of the very ‘power’ that blocks truth in its own interest, and their self-images as woke-folk. In other words, in my experience, this is about hypocrisy which is also a conflict of narratives.
As such, their own ‘woke’ values have been reduced to little more than slogans. This renders any complexity problematic. There is almost nothing beneath the headline. There is no real story. They may have some disembodied information, but not a fleshed-out, contemporary and continuously updated narrative. If a discussion reaches below the headline it causes confusion. They tend to repeat the slogan with its requisite back-up data (whether that data bears any relation to the discussion or not), or reach for another. They never betray themselves by asking questions. Their lives contradict the slogans they claim to believe, so filling in a story entails risking the stories they tell of themselves.
They have become their own hollowed-out myth-bites, rather than actors within myths that are informing and directing the way they live their lives, and thereby leading them into conflict, confusion and struggle as ‘living mythically’ inevitably does.
Obviously, this is a simplification and a generalisation.
I haven’t read the comments yet, so it’s possible someone else has addressed this point, but it seems to me you may be missing a very significant point. When you write, “That latter term is to my mind almost wilfully perverse, as technology is far and away the most common theme of modern mythological thinking, but that’s the label Kolakowski chose,” you hit the reason why this is such a major phenomenon: we have managed the remarkable feat of building mythology which requires, by its own terms, that we be supremely powerful on the “technological” side of things.
This runs into a problem because it means we don’t put any effort into actually building the “technological” side of things, as we are confident we already have it. Of course, this means the skills we need for it will gradually degrade, and so it makes perfect sense we will be supremely incompetent.
Building off of what Migrant Worker says, looking at the Canadian context, I think that the wealthy today are among the least-powerful in society today. I don’t mean in the sense of shaping our collective decisions, but in a far more basic, far more significance fashion: they have no capacity to shape their own lives.
The decimation of the middle classes has left an odd dichotomy, with the wealthy and the poor, and with so few people in between, the ability to slide downwards in a controlled fashion is hard enough to make it almost impossible. This is particularly true given the broad consensus that even thinking about it is horrific and dangerous (“HOW DARE YOU THINK OF BEING POOR?! DO YOU NOT KNOW HOW HARD PEOPLE WORK TO GET OUT OF POVERTY???). The mass surveillance, based upon technology such as Alexa, which is supposedly freely chosen, is a huge part of it, but I find it fascinating that no one in my family likes the thing, and in fact all of them scream at it in a way that tells me they hate it, but they all use it….
So, Amazon knows everything about us. It knows what we like, what we talk about, who lives here, and is able to use the data to control us. Same with Google, same with Facebook; it seems to be impossible to get a high salary job without a Facebook account, which needs to be used enough too: otherwise its suspicious.
So, enforced mass surveillance, mixed with the fact that a single small misstep can destroy your career, and the destruction of any avenue out, combine to take away any ability to control your own life. It gets worse though since with each passing year fewer people are able to remain in these social classes, and so there’s an intense pressure to avoid falling out of it: this raises the stakes of the game significantly, and if you want to play the game, you need to live a way which is acceptable for someone of this social status. The options keep narrowing, and the stakes keep rising, but people keep playing since the only way out is dangerous and growing worse year by year as the divide between rich and poor grows and the number of people in the middle shrinks. This is a severe source of stress, so of course they are turning to mythical thinking and magic; interestingly enough though, it can’t be anything which requires change, since they can’t bring themselves to do it. Which is a huge part of why it’s so self-destructive…
I read your article, and then I read this, from Eurointelligence.
“We noted a comment on Twitter yesterday that the PV [Peoples Vote] is not really about Brexit but about its supporters’ grip on power. It is the crowd that used to run the country. When they started to win their big political battles in the mid-to-late 1990s, they thought they had defeated the Thatcherite right forever. To them Brexit came as a complete shock for which they were ill-prepared in 2016. We noted at the time that they never reflected on the deep causes of their defeat, and moved on seamlessly to the second referendum campaign.”
And then the part about Kolakowski reminds me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. There is Quality, which can not be objectively measured, and Technology, which must be objectively measured if it’s going to be at all useful. And trying to force them together is a route to madness.
These themes do keep repeating.
Clay, but isn’t that the same thing I was saying, in different words? You’ve given a great example of the abandonment of the pragmatic mode of thinking; I’d simply encourage you to wonder if there’s a mythic narrative involved…
Yorkshire, fascinating. Thanks for these.
Kurt, I want to see how things unfold from here. Quite a few recent “popular uprisings” have been bought and paid for, you know.
Walt, stay tuned; the connection’s there.
Wesley, yes, exactly; the thing that gave the protest marches of the 1960s teeth is that they were part of a broader strategy that included organized economic and political action, and the thing that makes today’s marches powerless is that there’s nothing else.
Yorkshire, a lot of American liberals think exactly the same way about Scandinavia, so you may be on to something.
Ben, that’s a valid point, and feeds into the broader pattern I see taking shape here.
Christopher, I suspect it goes much deeper than that. It’s not that they just can’t accept that reasonable minds can differ; there are potent psychological and cultural forces that make admitting that possibility a source of immediate personal crisis. More on this as we proceed!
I think it was your title that did it. I’m reminded of Norman Cohn’s wacky Millenarians and roving flagellants from *The Pursuit of the Millennium*.
I very much hope that our dear Wokesters aren’t a good parallel, though they seem to have some of the same vibe. That episode in Munster didn’t end well.
For liberals (a group which I consider myself a lapsed member), I think being stuck in “myth mode” originates from very laudable values (anti-racism, respect for other cultures, etc.) combined with the fire hose of wealth and influence that 30 years of globalism has brought to coastal cities and their satellites.
Immigration, diversity, technology and trade have been pretty much win win for college educated urbanites like myself, even as the working class was hollowed out by the same trends. It’s not that simple of course, but…there’s enough truth in that critique to make liberals feel guilty. And into that guilt void steps the progressive warrior priest with emotional sermons:
“Borders are racist!”
“Critique of technology is anti-progress!”
“Trump is the anti-Christ and a threat to our democracy!”
And so on. Once rank and file liberals granted the progressive high priests that power to shame others, the ante kept rising, because progress only moves in one direction, right? Now, the New New Testament states that gender doesn’t exist, reparations are the only way to address racial inequality and so on. Meanwhile, the Old Progressive Testament has hardened into fact. Anyone who questions it is not “reality based.”
My personal myth buster is my dad. He’s of the old school “Local 302” liberal stock. He’s a simple guy without any filter. Ironically, his views have tons of nuance. That being said, being stuck in myth mode isn’t exclusive to liberals. There’s a well documented right wing talk radio variant.
Anonymous, excellent. A fine theme for meditation!
Disciple, that headline was one of the things that clued me into what was going on. We’ll be discussing it in the third and final part of this sequence.
Jim W, hmm! No, that wasn’t what I had in mind. Stay tuned…
Nastarana, most American intellectuals have a serious inferiority complex toward European intellectuals, and not inappropriately — American intellectual culture still hasn’t managed to become a thing of its own, rather than a reflection of European notions. (Nor will it, if Spengler’s right, until a genuine American great culture emerges, perhaps in the 26th century.) As for Coates, that seems sensible; how do you think he’d handle the proposal that once reparations are paid, everyone agrees that the slate is clean and all affirmative action programs and other benefits aimed at the African-American community should stop?
Tomriverwriter. hmm. She’s right in a sense, but ideology — which is what fundamentalism has turned myths into — is a disease of logos as well as a replacement for mythos; an ideology is a myth that’s been killed, stuffed, and mounted so that it can be revered by those who no longer dare let it run free.
Steve, you know, that’s quite an image. 😉
OneGun, two good points. Thank you.
Varun, and that’s also a good point. The way that wokester culture has concentrated on university campuses is a massive vulnerability, for the reason you’ve suggested among others.
Naomi, I was pleasantly startled by Obama’s comments. He’s right, of course — and it’s not at all surprising that a capable machine politician like him would see that.
El, excellent! “What are you really angry about?” is a crucial question just now, and one we’ll be following up at length as this discussion proceeds.
Spark, yes, that’s also a major factor — as I noted in response to Violet upthread, we’re seeing the precursor of the turn back to religion that plays so important a role in the late history of all civilizations.
KevPilot, of course! If you decide consciously that you’d rather be right than be successful, and accept the consequences, that can be a very powerful and morally valid choice. What makes the current habits of the left so self-defeating, as Jane points out, is that they have this myth-laden conviction that being right will make them succeed even if they don’t do anything to make success possible.
Alan, nah, it’s not devastated enough. I was thinking more of something like this:
“Math is racist”
An article around this theme:
I wonder if the real agenda is to discourage the understanding of such concepts as compound interest.
“As for Coates, that seems sensible; how do you think he’d handle the proposal that once reparations are paid, everyone agrees that the slate is clean and all affirmative action programs and other benefits aimed at the African-American community should stop?”
Candidates such as Harris and O’Rourke support reparations.
This from the wiki:
“In 1999, African American lawyer and activist Randall Robinson, founder of the TransAfrica advocacy organization, wrote that America’s history of race riots, lynching and institutional discrimination have “resulted in $1.4 trillion in losses for African Americans”. Economist Robert Browne stated the ultimate goal of reparations should be to “restore the black community to the economic position it would have if it had not been subjected to slavery and discrimination”. He estimates a fair reparation value anywhere between $1.4 to $4.7 trillion, or roughly $142,000 for every black American living today. Other estimates range from $5.7 to $14.2  to $17.1 trillion… ”
High end or low end, does anybody seriously believe the government will or can come up with that much money?
To be fair, I get the thousand-yard stare whenever people can’t intelligently discuss Trump. For instance, any person who misspells his name as “Drumph” or its variants is immediately dismissed by me: I lose all interest and turn off my ears.
My goodness is this on point. As a centrist liberal who is very much comfortable with the ends the movement seeks, I am horrified and baffled at the means being used. All discussion of strategy has been lost. Creating a coalition that can win with ideas that are popular has been thrown to the way side on many issues. (The sand is true for the right, when one considers its religious devotion to guns and oil, despite the overwhelming consensus and opinion on those topics.).
I’m curious, though, what is the cause of this? The root cause? It’s so clearly happening, but why? I have no answers. It’s baffling to me as someone steeped in the discourse who remembers the reasoned, calculates opposition of the Bush years to the pragmatism of 2008 that built a broad coalition. I really do wonder if there is a generational gap as well. If young people haven’t realized that calling people names doesn’t actually win elections. On that point, is there a recent parallel from Us history? Does this seem similar to 1968 to anyone else?
Very much looking forward to the discussion on this. Excellent post.
Phil, I know it got started in the college circuit, but beyond that, no idea. Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that Cameron relied on an old-fashioned, outworn term like “modern”!
Jason, I’ll get to parallels later on; I don’t want to anticipate too much of my argument. As for the third essay, no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the alt-right; it’s considerably spookier.
Carlos, funny! A very straightforward bit of hypocrisy.
Bryan, the comparison came almost instantly to mind as I watched her berate the rich and powerful, and watched them smile and nod in self-satisfaction.
Simon, sometimes I think it’s silly; other times it strikes me as extremely frightening. The habit of declaring an emergency and using that as an excuse to suspend democratic institutions isn’t exactly unknown, after all; it’s the usual way that dictators seize power. I sometimes wonder if climate change is supposed to be our Reichstag fire…
Joe, thank you! Yeah, that’s basically what those mean.
Piper, my specific advice was to read books written by people who died before you were born, and Gibbon’s brilliant work certainly qualifies. Lots of parallels…
Antroposcen, well put. It’s precisely because the comfortable classes refuse to talk to the deplorables that Trump and those like him become inevitable. As for Thunberg, I pity her. Like her, I have Aspergers syndrome, and I know how easy it is — especially in one’s teen years — for people with Aspergers to be manipulated for others’ benefit. I hope someone can help her when the climate change gig folds out from under her.
Correlatum, three good philosophical ways of talking about the same self-operated rump-kicking machine. Thank you!
Alice, and that’s also a useful way to think about it.
Nancy, I don’t think it counts as a conspiracy theory at all. The comfortable classes normally maintain their position by keeping those below them at one another’s throats, so they don’t unite against said comfortable classes.
Jay, I think both of those are probably involved. I’ll have some other suggestions, though.
Twilight, interesting. Yes, that’s also likely involved.
Graeme, excellent. Yes, though it has other consequences as well.
Kiashu, true enough. It’s the cap and bells the jesters of the world don’t notice they’re wearing that makes their masters laugh the hardest.
BB, the whole business about “media distrust” is among the things I find most stunning. It was only a short while ago that the left was all about challenging media narratives, and now all of a sudden accepting whatever manure the media shovels at you is mandatory on the left. It’s just bizarre.
Patricia, the strategy of withdrawal works tolerably well for a lot of people, and Asian cultures generally have developed it to a fine art. You’re right that it can become problematic in some situations, though.
William, and there speaks the voice of the flight from reason. The word “racist” in today’s wokester jargon is simply a synonym for “that upsets me,” after all.
Nastarana, that’s also a crucial point, but it’s a different point. Along with mythos, logos, and eros, we have pathos, and the style of behavior you’ve described can be called — in more senses than one! — the pathetic mode. I’ll explain as we proceed how that fits into the pattern I’m tracing out.
Daniel, that’s a useful distinction, but I’m not sure that the people who made it realized what it implied. A huge number of voters in the US were so desperate for change — for something other than a failed bipartisan consensus that offered them nothing but poverty and misery, with a side dish of sneering condescension from the self-proclaimed “good people” — that they would have voted for anybody, absolutely anybody, who offered them something else, no matter what additional baggage he or she brought along. We got Trump; we could have gotten something much, much worse.
Jeffrey, good. “Your name is Protester,” said the Changer…
Thepublicpast, I wonder if we’re talking about the same essay. Let’s discuss that next week!
Pip61, I’m going to be very interested to see how the UK election campaign works out!
Walter, I think it’s more focused than that. Many of the people who have displayed the odd behavior I’ve described are perfectly capable of using reason in other aspects of their lives. More on this as we proceed.
Jamie, common identity politics usually has an unstated Other it’s reacting against. One of the main reasons the civil rights movement won, for example, was that it pressured white Americans to distance themselves from habits of behavior they busily denounced when Germans and Russians did them!
Loon, I did indeed, and appreciated his comments. I wonder how the wokester brigade is going to take that!
Nicholas, thanks for this. I’ll read it and see what I think of the argument.
Simo, er, that’s off topic for this week’s post.
Matthias, that’s an interesting point; I haven’t read Coates’ essay since shortly after it came out, but your comments match my recollections.
GM, if I wanted to tell the whole story, I’d need a large book, not a 3000-word essay! I did know about the proliferation of occultism under late socialism, as it happens — word got out to the occult scene in the West — and I see that as a parallel to the present situation, but moving in the other direction. There, spirituality served as a displacement activity and was later replaced by political change; here; political change is the displacement activity — you can tell that by the simple fact that the activists don’t actually change anything — and what will replace it, I’ve suggested, is the turn to religion Spengler talks about.
Walt, yep. Under what other circumstances do people revert to “that’s not how it goes”?
Nicholas, good. That’s also a part of the picture.
Johnny, I use a rotating banquet of weird aggregator blogs and fringe subreddits, shifting from one to another as my interests shift. Intuition is also involved: “look here” is a prompt from the subconscious I’m very used to hearing.
SarahJ, excellent. Yes, and you’ve grasped some of where this discussion is headed.
Will J, yep. Consider also the immense and widening gap between the mythic role of space travel and the increasingly prosaic and unproductive realities. As for the game of musical chairs, yes, exactly.
Siliconguy, Eurointelligence is as usual spot on. It’s all about control — and control in the service of a very specific narrative.
Methylethyl, okay, someone’s paying attention. Yes, exactly, and this won’t end well for many of the same reasons.
Brian, of course the flight from reason can be found on all sides of the political landscape. I’d point out, though, that the right-wing talk radio version hasn’t changed much from the days of Father Coughlin to the present, and more generally the right has maintained about the same shaky relation between mythic and pragmatic roles as before. The thing that fascinates me is the extent to which that’s not the case on the left — a great many people who used to be able to reason about politics apparently can’t do so any more. That shift caught my attention.
Kevin, yep. It’s intriguing that a certain kind of leftward thought can’t function without dragging politics into everything. Lysenkoist biology in the Soviet Union comes to mind. As far as reparations, of course nobody’s actually going to hand over that kind of money; it’s purely a dishonest sales pitch to keep African Americans voting for the same Democrats who have promised so much and given so little for all these years.
Kimberly, the thousand-mile stare I have in mind isn’t simply a matter of boredom. Have you ever encountered one of those people who seems always to be looking through you, into a distance you can’t see?
Jason, exactly. Your kind of liberalism is the sort of thing with which a moderate Burkean conservative like me can deal; we can discuss potential compromises and tradeoffs, see if there are ways in which each of us gets the things we most need and neither side loses things it can’t afford to let go of. That’s what’s been lost. As for why it’s been lost — we’ll get to that as the discussion proceeds.
Why are the suppose educated people increasingly acting unreasonably?
* Stress:The looming collapse is putting them under as much stress as everyone else and they get increasingly hysterical.
* Ignorance: The upbringing in a society of abundance and the myth of everlasting progressing growth has conditioned them so much, they are unable to switch to a more humble and frugal view on the future.
* Stultification: The supposed education is illusionary. With the unfolding collapse the complex way to become educated is simplifying so much, that those so called educated are increasingly simplified in their ability to comprehend also.
* Denial: Those recogizing the looming doom and how they participated in the demise, feel so bad about it, that they fall into denial mode.
JMG, Great blog. This is the sort of bold cross discipline thinking which first attracted me to your writing. Frank Herbert, I think in The Dragon in the Sea (and most definitely not the similar but not equivalent quote from Dune) had a protagonist who said “Sanity is the ability to swim”, or thereabouts, to explain the insane things he had to do to survive under extreme pressure (literally deep under water).
While the left-right brain division might have been a bit overdone, there really are two hemispheres with very disparate ways of relating to, and navigating through, the world. My father had a severe right brain stroke, which pretty much completely paralyzed the left side of his body. After that, his personality changed. In particular, I remember him (the left brain half which was logical but clearly lacked some depth of magic) pointing to his left arm and insisting that the arm wasn’t his – “it belongs to HIM” he kept insisting. More recently I listened to a neurologist on PBS describing that as classic behavior after a stroke.
Your essay also reminded me of how I used to be at severe odds with myself: half of me wanted to be “logical” while the other half wanted to write poetry; the two sides really didn’t like each other and this was causing some difficulties. Ultimately, and rather dramatically, this was resolved in trance (non-directive hypnosis) where the divisions were relaxed and the two sides learned not only to co-exist but to appreciate each other: the side which wanted to believe in “magic” provided meaning (a why) while the other side provided logic and planning (a how).
Again, as Herbert’s “insane” but surviving character said, “Sanity is the ability to swim” under impossible circumstances – which, of course, requires a lot of cross hemisphere cooperation. We see this again and again through history and psychology. I am thinking, in particular of Victor Frankel’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” wherein he recounts how he, and a very few others, survived Auschwitz and other camps, by framing the insanity within a myth of meaning.
Now, trying to keep the same frame in order to think about your good point about how some people seem to live their lives driven neither by logic nor by deep-meaning, but more by lust … I’m wondering if that might imply a dominance of the mammalian mid-brain over higher order functions, with “how” and “why” (and associated hemispheres) somewhat in thrall?
Reading you has gotten me to think about all manner of things I otherwise wouldn’t have stumbled into, I think. In particular, I never gave much thought to Jung before you introduced him; now I own a number of his books and a number of oddities in my own experience make more sense.
There is the question of ***why*** such modes of thinking are flourishing. They must bring some benefit. In other ages this would be quickly punished—if you need to catch fish to survive, then anyone gnosticing about aquatic privilege and toxic fish-ulinity would be removed from the discussion. But they have not been removed. It follows that whatever “fish” they are after, they are catching some.
So here’s my explanation. Just now reliable paths to basic economic security are closing quickly, even as the economy itself goes through fundamental change after fundamental change, now on timescales of less than 1 generation each. And learning to code is really hard! Even that doesn’t guarantee a good job anymore.
But still society is fantastically wealthy. So what are the incentives? Simple. The highest value-added activity (outside of access to high finance) is petitioning powers for favor. Here, success requires little instrumental or “technological” reasoning (other than political strategizing which, you’ll notice, they can be very good at) and so such reasoning is increasingly abandoned. Indeed success requires precisely what we are seeing more of: mythmaking ability—in the form of victim narratives, oppressed/oppressor worldviews, poignant personal stories that take the place of balanced consideration, etc.
But wait, how does this explain why so many elites are so engaged in, for example, the trans movement, or so many whites are in favor of reparations? They won’t see direct benefit, right? Here’s why. Of course if they seem essential to the movement they’ll have jobs. But more importantly the spigots won’t open generally until the center-right is crushed. Civil rights was accepted by the center-right so can’t be used effectively now. Unless a new civil rights fight is found.
So the left is looking for something that cannot possibly be folded into a right-leaning worldview. The conscious or unconscious aim is to lure the right into a Stalingrad: forcing the cultural right into a position it cannot possibly hold but cannot possibly abandon. Immigrant issues, trans issues, and renewed civil rights issues (reparations etc) are all possibilities for this. On bringing down the hammer of delegitimization, the left can rule unimpeded for perhaps a generation.
Take trans issues for example, and how they’re being opportunistically wielded. Conservatives can seemingly abide gay marriage even if they don’t really like it. But, hopefully, they simply cannot abide “trans story time” or the like for their children. Forced to take a stand, over the course of the coming media and legal fights they will discover surrender, retreat, and forward motion all impossible. Eliminating the pocket will occur, the hope is, when the legal establishment declares right-leaning views on trans issues (or immigrant issues, etc) to be anti-human and officially off-limits, akin to racism. Hopefully conservative views, thoroughly discredited on such a staunchly held position, on other issues will be a proxy for anti-human or supremecist views generally. Then victory. Everything good happens I suppose.
Seeing as it is Halloween, regarding JMG’s response to Jason’s comment…. What is “spookier than the alt-right?”
Reading this through the lens of ‘Brexit’, powerfully reminded me of how those who argue, post-referendum, for remaining, keep repeating the same arguments that helped them lose the referendum in the first place as if the narrative must be true and by repeating it, every sensible person ultimately must fall in to line (and the people who do not are, by definition, ‘irrational’). The most searching question we can ask about our narratives, therefore, might be: “What is the story that we tell about ourselves/our situation that is not true?” because we open up our ‘mythologies’ to pragmatic scrutiny and allow us the possibility of re-writing faulty narratives and finding new routes to what we value and learn to think in shifting colors rather than black and white.
Yes, and … why keep focusing on the wrongness of the solution, rather than orienting the light of your considerable intellect on the problem itself, which in your own argumentation is a real and present danger? The discussion keeps getting hijacked by an analysis of the bipolar games of current politics, and little of consequence is actually being offered (in my opinion) to constructive approaches. Of course protesting is no solution per se. And even if it should lead to regime change, that outcome does not guarantee a more effective approach to the issues. I get that. And … so … what? Can we just assume we agree, and get beyond this endless sparring?
The only strategic reasoning I have come to for your dogged battering of the already-toothless tigers on the left, is that you may be “working” on the side of time … keeping the lid on the cauldron for the potion to simmer on a low flame, rather than socially explode before some kind of rational dialogue has proven possible between the two sides. As if … feasible answers could only ever emerge through a courageous yet truly respectful dialogue. between myth, and technology. Is that what we are painstakingly tacking, and jibing towards?
So yes, at the risk of being roasted in the comment section … I’d love to open the hood, and ask where you are ultimately going with this line of thought. In your essays you sometimes chart a vague course for your future explorations. I would love to be reassured that you are not merely using my attention to flame back in some “long-distance”, covert intellectual reprisal …
I find the question of whether Kolakowski “saw his two cores as distinct” interesting. I came across that essay recently as well, and Kolakowski’s ideas superficially reminded me of developmental psychologist Robert Kegan’s stages of development. The role of the two cores in society has a clear parallel to a discussion* around Kegan’s stages, which is concerned with the shrinking amount of pragmatic people in society, and the growing number of mythological people (a “lower” stage in this model). To paraphrase this argument, Kegan’s model has a stage past pragmatic, which in your terminology you could classify as pragmatics who can integrate mythological insight, rather than simpler, rationalistic rule- and role-following pragmatics. The path for people to reach this higher level of pragmatism was partially blocked by superficial postmodernist ideas, which have also kept people out of pragmatism entirely.
Simply put, poorly-understood postmodern criticisms of society keep people stuck as mythological/tribal beings (see current woke culture), while the original criticisms, properly understood, were a fusion of pragmatic and mythological insight meant to reorient both means and ends. They should have helped the 20th-century pragmatic to integrate mythology, but now, when you can only see mythology, pragmatism looks alien (and vise versa).
* I’m referring to https://meaningness.com/metablog/stem-fluidity-bridge which readers especially interested in this niche may find interesting. Its audience is disillusioned/nihilistic pragmatics (jaded STEM workers/graduate students) who are ready to integrate more mythological insight but have no path to do so being presented by society.
I don’t know if this is a related phenomenon, but I’ve noticed an increasing number of people who seem unable to reason period. Case in point, I was driving when a young [twenty-something] man needed to turn left, and he was in the right-hand turn lane, so he turned left-against a red light and across six lanes of traffic. He looked very apologetic, so it was clear he knew that what he was doing was…incorrect, but I honestly believe he couldn’t reason out that he had the option of turning right and finding a place to turn around to go in the direction he wanted. Similarly, it seems that people believe that some outside force compels them to act in certain ways [I HAD to run the red light, I was late for work. What else was I supposed to do?] Uhm… wait for the light to change? Sort of a learned helplessness…
Hi John Michael,
Over the past few years I’ve been practicing recounting engaging stories where a moral or an outcome is introduced or explored. Rather than confronting people about their belief systems, this approach seems to work on a one on one basis. Dunno. Personally I get rather tired of the lack of pragmatism and ability to question. It certainly means that people don’t have to learn if they follow the path you’ve described.
I lean left (though I consider up/down to be a better frame than left/right). In the 90s, I found it frustrating that the conservatives I knew felt very comfortable expressing their political views openly and aggressively. It was served with a side of superiority. It was intimidating and rude. Now the opposite seems to be true, and the aggression from the SJW crowd is served with a side of shaming. It was ugly then and it’s ugly now. I don’t like it.
Once upon a time I was an upwardly mobile member of the technocratic managerial class, in a west coast high-tech liberal city. After a devastating personal collapse, I live a very different life now, and spend my time hanging out with a new crowd – in service to others in similar crisis. I still work in high-tech, but I am no longer part of that culture – its just my job now. Watching the SJW phenomenon from afar, arising from a culture to which I used to belong, is so weird! I’m glad I’m out.
It is starting to infiltrate my hometown (New Orleans – I’m back home). I live in a city with a complex, racially charged, and segregated history. After Katrina, it has become much more integrated, which is wonderful. But there is now increasing gentrification tension from an influx of what locals call the “carpetbagging hipsters”. Our politicians like to call themselves “woke”, even as they tolerate the short term rental market that prices out locals from renting, let alone buying, in historic neighborhoods. The self-righteousnous of this crowd is infuriating. I’m embarrassed to admit, though, if I were 20 yrs younger that might have been me – that if it weren’t for personal crisis I might have been sanctimoniously raging on twitter and then congratulating myself for wokeness over a pretentious craft cocktail.
Speaking of Katrina – when it happened, everyone was shocked – SHOCKED – to see the extent of poverty in American society. Does anyone remember all the naval-gazing about how we let this exist in the margins of our society and we needed to DO something about it? It was pretty traumatic, if I recall. And then nothing. You don’t even hear it mentioned anymore. Of course now katrinas are a regular thing, but at the time, it was a really big deal. Is it possible the pain and shock and guilt has been sublimated somehow and feeding the rage/denial/outlash?
These two modes of perception, the mythical and the practical, could be aligned with the emotional and the mental aspects of our being. It is vitally important for general common sense and sanity, that they both be operational. Life without emotion is dry and fairly meaningless, and lacks a moral compass as well. Life without reason descends into total chaos and disconnection.
So if the cohort we are discussing has lost the ability to check their opinions against reality, how is it that they have also lost their moral compass? I say this because while they are full of passionate intensity about moral questions, they have also become blind to hypocrisy and are constantly ignoring bigger issues such as war against tiny issues, or excusing hideous behavior within their cohort while minutely scrutinizing the behavior of the outgroup(s).
I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that so many of the folks in the mainstream news media seem to be particularly susceptible to a form of this myopia. After all, they are in a unique position to see themselves as the arbiters of the truth. So far their “speaking truth to power” seems to have resulted in the decimation of whatever gossamer of reliability and impartiality they had left.
Very interesting analysis! I look forward to the other installments. In light of your TA comments, it seems the situation could also be explained in their terms as a bunch of grown up humans who are stuck in Child voice, a particular child voice and narrative that they learned to use under a generation of parents notorious for bubble wrapping their kids and telling them they’re special. The Adult voice is that pragmatic mode, seeking information, analyzing. The Child voice is the mythic mode, responding emotionally to narrative.
Instead of seeking information, these grown ups are appealing to Parents with all the power on familiar terms. As kids they were told their opinions were special, and often speaking “truth” to parents got the parents to cave, not from airtight reasoning, but because the kid wanted it. But other times, just getting to speak up, knowing that they would still have to go to school, so that they could get shut down and feel self-righteously oppressed but deep down know they were loved and cared for, would make a great “game” for TA fans to spot. A win-win for the Child, who is always pushing boundaries (spoiled kids absolutely crave them because they rarely find them).
For the other TA folks out there, I live in a liberal mecca and have struggled with the same fallacies (if they deserve such a title) described in this essay. I’ve found, like JMG and others, that they don’t respond to logic, and I believe it’s because to them, that makes me take on a Parent role in a game where they get to be Righteous Child. According to the TA literature I’ve read, the way to avoid that destructive crosstalk is to talk to a Child from Adult voice (or another Child, but that isn’t useful here). That means seeking information, asking questions, etc. I’ve had some limited success when dealing with otherwise intelligent people by asking the right questions (instead of pointing out flaws), which if it doesn’t snap them out of the game immediately, it may occur to them later once they digest the conversation, or at the very least, they leave me alone because I refuse to play the Oppressor of the Righteous Child game.
@Darkest Yorkshire & JMG Very interesting about the victim culture. There are signs of the new victim culture that can be seen on both sides of the political spectrum. Its interesting to watch online where the opposing sides who are fully entrenched in victim culture mock the other side for their involvement in victim culture. Right wing pages call liberals “snowflakes” for their complaining while simultaneously lamenting a “War on Christmas”. Left wing pages mock conservatives for acting like the very “snowflakes” they complain about while simultaneously “cancelling” their fellow travelers. Both sides are talking past each other and just reinforcing their myths rather then attempting to address issues.
Dear Kevin L Cooke, as to your point about what the govt. can afford:
“High end or low end, does anybody seriously believe the government will or can come up with that much money?”
Our govt. manages to come up with that much and more when it is a matter of subsidizing favored industries, such as oil and autos, or financing overseas military adventures.
Mr. Greer, the deal I had in mind is something like, OK, we accept our historical responsibility, we can do reparations, BUT only for descendants of persons who were enslaved in the continental USA; Caribbean populations will have to appeal to the colonial powers who owned their islands, AND the cost will be a moratorium on any further immigration from anywhere including prohibiting the CIA, etc. from resettling their pets and protégés, for at least the next decade. So. Mr. Coates, you can take your settlement and return to Africa or you can live here with all us white folks who can’t dance. And, affirmative action to be repealed; migrants can take their chances like everyone does.
The article links that Darkest Yorkshire shared have me wondering if the students utilizing safe spaces, complaining of being triggered and such like are mostly female? Because I think we can say that such tantrum-like and openly weak behaviors would strike almost any culture anywhere in time or space as quite unmanly.
Dear Kimberly, you mean for example if I refer to the president’s wife as The Eurotrash Barbie? Political vituperation has a long and rich history in the USA and has been gleefully employed by just about all factions. I wonder what you would make of Caucus99%, the other site wherein I sometimes post, where the 2016 Democratic nominee is routinely referred to as Killary, Shillary, Her Heinous, the Jr. Senator from CA is frequently called The Camel (not by me, I have no reason to dislike her although if I were still living in CA I would be furious at both senators). Rudeness goes with the territory in Democratic govts. and the Right has been employing all sorts of vituperative name-calling and labeling for decades. Why should the other side have to remain polite, especially when many members of the voting public react to politeness as a. you are talking down to me, and b. you really don’t want to win?
Dear Mr. Greer, thank you for your courteous response. I am afraid I am getting a bit cranky about the ever increasing list of mittle European thinkers I with I MUST be familiar or I don’t belong in a educated conversation–and this attitude coming from folks who seem to me to have little or no understanding of the USA even though they live here and expect to be Important. I recall the African-American essayist and novelist Oliver Reed making a similar point in his own inimitable way, so it is not just me. I have seen a parade of intellectual fads from The Continent infest academia and intellectual life in general. Structure-functionalism was one, then came deconstructionism, which so far as I could see, turned a generation of promising students into incomprehensible idiots. I am hoping we can develop an indigenous intellectual life sooner than 4-5 centuries.
I think we’re rapidly leaving the powerful narrative of the ‘Age of Englightenment’ for someting else entirely, something that’s raher frightening. The Age of Darkness. Rationality itself is under attack, for a variety of reasons, not least rapid and violent changes in our economic structure and the culture linked to it.
Simply put, I believe we’re seeing the emergence of an economic structure that bears many of the characteristics of a kind of ‘fuedal’ society, characterised by a truly massive chasm, of wealth and power, that’s growing, opening up between the great mass of the people and the tiny ruling elite at the top.
This change in the economy is also being mirrored in our behaviour and the way we think. A return to pre-modern and pre-enlightenment ideas. The ‘labels’ one puts on something are becoming more important than what’s underneath them and this can have truly terrible consequences when carried to extremes.
Fascism or National Socialism represented what I’m talking about in many ways. One had a superficially ‘modern’ society, one being radically subjected to ‘revolutionary’ change, but at the same time the social structure and many of the core ideas were pre-modern and fuedal. That great experiment in social engineering failed miserably, wiped out by WW2. Unfortunately, today, we seem to be seeing a kind of rebirth of ‘national socialism’ a form of ‘liberal fascism as well.
The rot that has infected a lot of academia is trickling down to elementary and secondary education. Example 1: mathematics is now a racist endeavor. Click the link to see the Seattle Public Schools’ “K-9 Math Ethnic Studies Framework”. This sounds like the creation of some heretofore unemployed Grievance Studies major hoping to justify zir degree.
Example 2: American University has hired for its teaching staff professor Asao B. Inoue, who is also the director of the University of Washington’s writing center. Professor Inoue believes that it is racist to assume everyone can use proper English (at the university level). He also says that proper grammar promotes white language supremacy.
Lack of reasoning ability is inevitable when college curricula are increasingly crowded with courses designed to make students ideologically pure rather than educated. There’s no time left for anything else.
I think back to the couple of years I spent at a Catholic elementary school during a distinctly unwoke period in American history. We were taught by nuns who believed that proper grammar would make it easier for us to make our ideas understood by others, and I know for a fact that they believed that there were right and wrong answers in math, too, regardless of your skin color. How utterly twentieth century.
Rationality gets thrown out of the window, people will follow. Trump is turned into the incarnation of Satan, along with Putin. The tens of millions of people who voted for Trump are simply the ‘deplorables’, who gives a damn about their reasons? In fact they don’t have any, apart from their collective stupidity, ignoarance, meaness of spirit and their racism, their nostalgia for slavery!
The polarisation resembles the conditions prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. The centre, the pragmatic centre, is disintegrating, replaced by a void, rapidly turning into a form of no-man’s-land between two rival armies.
Trump isn’t the cause. Trump is a symptom. He hoped on a wave and surfed into the Whitehouse. Nobody cares to examine the wave too closely, and that’s dangerous.
So the liberal explanaton for Trump’s success, is ‘magic’ or irrational. The Russians put Trump into the Whitehouse! That ‘Russiagate’ is a self-serving myth, a massive lie, exaggerated beyond reason into the realm of the fantastical, doesn’t matter. It has to be true, because that’s what we want to believe. The sickness isn’t inside us. It’s been introduced from outside by evil people. Trump was delivered to the United States decades ago on a deserted beach by a Russian submarine. He was really born in the Ukraine and has a fake birth certificate!
Jason Momoa (the actor who played Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones https://ksassets.timeincuk.net/wp/uploads/sites/55/2017/10/Jason-Momoa-920×584.jpg) made a speech to the UN about climate change.
The internet’s response: “Let’s see how many middle-aged white men try bullying him the way they did Greta Thunberg.”
The gauntlet has been thrown down! Who dares to pick it up?
To me, the illogic once created is impossible to be removed. Sure, if you can point to, say, “we lost the war and are an occupied nation” then people allow themselves to say “things are different now”, but even that is not usually enough. The irreality and illogic of the culture is stamped on the children in their formative years, and because we do no work, import everything with fake money predicated on violence and fraud, they can have no sense of reality of consequences. Where would they get it?
Before WWII, up to 1960, the young had just spent a lot of time working on the real: if you don’t chop wood, you are cold; if you don’t feed the cows, they die first, you after. Today, that is waved away with a firm, “It’s not my fault, it’s YOUR fault” defining “your” as whoever is convenient at that minute, whoever it is you want, are talking to, can extort with guilt, or who will do some work by stepping into the breach while I eat Cheetos. When you grow up 30 years, and this is your sole mechanism, always working before, how do you fix it? You don’t actually know how things work, what they mean, or what their relative values are. Wood first then phone? Water, then cows? Untrained in thinking logically, and yet also untrained in the facts that would inform logic.
You may say, “eating comes from hard work,” which it doesn’t right now and hasn’t in 40 years. Eating comes from fraud, on one side, and is denied to people semi-randomly on the other in order to hand it to the children of fraudulent controllers on the other. Changing THAT is a whole system re-do. That topples the whole political and distribution structure to change today’s fraud for a different fraud with a different club members and a different power base. …And that’s why history goes the way it goes. But for the present people: if I can get free candy by screaming and throwing a tantrum, why would I do anything else? And if you stop their tantrum by being daddy, they are ‘adults’ who will burn it all down.
As they say, this is a religious movement, a-logical, and perhaps unable to be addressed using words since it is about beliefs and feelings. When you have uncompromising religious fundamentalists willing to burn it all down for anyone unlike them, you have a problem indeed. The cycle is for a religious revival, but no one predicted this kind, or coming from the atheists.
BTW that cycle also turns the opposite: the right is now NOT religious (no one is anymore, and e.g. see the almost universal acceptance of homosexuality), nor is it the right, nor even the religious that are tied up in sex. Apparently the Left is, but in some mirror image where the stranger the sex the better and CIS people of certain colors are now the new designated devil’s minions. Strange indeed, but if you live long enough, the wheel turns and all things happen.
“A “demonstration” has to be a demonstration of your power” Power of what? To make a mess of their world, so sit down and negotiate! But right now most protests have been staged and funded by one oligarchic group to attack another oligarchic group into compliance, and the cannon fodder are too moralistic and trusting of their secular religious leaders to see they’re being used. Such is the milk of the religious when they need meat.
On the way in to my shop this morning on the train (light rail) I was thinking about your reply to my comment about this all just being about people expecting what they wanted as opposed to what was obtainable with a practical path to achievement. You replied this was actually the same as this sort of behavior being driven by myth. I got my answer as we approached my stop and I looked down in to the car in the lane next to the train. It was a fancy Tesla SUV ( model X I think) driven by a dude in his Patagonia outfit holding a small dog on his lap in between himself and the steering wheel. People with a solid grasp of physics and the real world realize this to be a terrible idea as even a minor accident could deploy the airbag and smash the dog in between the airbag and the drivers face certainly injuring both badly and potentially killing the dog and possibly the driver. But this driver had moved on beyond ordinary virtue signaling with his Electric Vehicle, and now believed that his own goodness protected him and his pooch from harm. He was one of the good people, and his dog was good too so no harm could come to them from such an obvious hazard. So you are correct this is driven by myth.
Seems like Obama was having similar thoughts to those in this post.
Violet-glad to hear that. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll keep praying for a time. Just, you know, in case. It feels like what I ought to do, so if you don’t object, I will. No change in wording.
On the entirely different topic of switch voters, my Dem friends seem to have decided that no one switched party votes from Obama to Trump, but rather that Obama voters stayed home. It’s been mentioned by three different friends in the last two days, so I’m guessing this is the new set of blinders they’ve chosen to avoid seeing a need to change.
Somehow I don’t think telling people that didn’t vote that they’re responsible for Orange Man Bad is going to work, especially not in states where unemployment has dropped. Pres. Clinton got that one right: “It’s the economy.” Particularly the household economy, which is the only one the vast majority of folks ever deal with.
A note on Kolakowski’s seemingly awkward use of the word “technological”. It makes a lot more sense if you consider that he may be using the word in way that is closer to its etymological core, the same way as with “muthos”, meaning something like the knowledge of “techne”. This word, also Greek, can roughly be translated as “skill”, though it is inclusive to a degree that exceeds the things that our contemporary habits of thought might be content to include. For example, being a good speaker would certainly count as “techne”. In a sense, the word technology is this context can be understood as the knowledge that allows one to affect something.
Fascinating. I’m looking forward to reading it.
The Zman just posted something similar:
Your response to Violet is mentioned by the first commenter. (Wasn’t me)
Ideas travel quick.
Oh, VERY badly OT: – except that it gives Cthulhuverse fans a handle on “Ulthar, where no one can kill a cat.” Or as another author’s crankier heroine put it, “Cat-infested Ulthar.”
From the BBC: “In places such as the Mediterranean and Japan, colonies of “community cats” thrive in fishing villages, friendly enough to ingratiate themselves with locals who feed them. In Istanbul, for instance, the semi-stray cats are fed and looked after by locals, and have become part of the city’s identity, even spawning a recent documentary film.”
We now return you to the discussion of the modern world’s unreason…. of which any resemblance to the hideous and incessantly nitpicky theological squabbles of Rome’s 2nd & 3rd century Christians caused the Emperor to get into the act, which the Mother-of-all forbid. Repeated in Europe’s 17th century with gunpowder and mercenary armies to enforce every faction big enough to have a nation behind it. And a blessed Samhain to those who celebrate it.
I know you don’t like to give out too many spoilers for planned future posts, but would I be correct in assuming that the “descent into madness” of which you speak about the third thing on your list was on the part of some Trump-obsessed #Resistance type?
I really like the way you built this essay, JMG: first by examining the mythic and practical cores, and then viewing the recent history of social activism through this lens. Seems to be a good match to me!
One thing that I have wondered about the whole “speaking truth to power” eschatology that has developed is an inaccurate understanding of non-violent movements (MLK and before him, MK Gandhi) – I’ll speak to the latter, as I am more familiar with it. If Gandhi took the “Greta approach” and simply lectured the Brits about how immoral their empire was (which, granted, he did quite often), he would have been labelled by the British Raj as a harmless intellectual. But that was only one tool in his arsenal. He backed up his “truth” with a whole lot of “power” in terms of hundreds of millions of persons refusing to play by the empire’s book, civilly breaking laws en masse, bringing the entire Indian subcontinent to a stop through periodic “days of fasting and prayer” and hurting the Raj in the pocket-book through economic self-sufficiency efforts (khadi) over the course of decades.
People somehow imagine that if a movement does not involve armed insurrection it possesses only truth, not power. Barring incredibly good luck, a civil rights movement will only be successful when it possesses a strong and mutually reinforcing combination of mythic power and practical power, so that means and ends work hand-in-hand.
So, too, at the individual level. Unfortunately what I have seen in my fifty-odd years of life is most people in North America surrendering their practical power to what they believe are monolithic governmental or economic entities and only whine while effectively continuing to feed such entities; and the few who act against it are isolated by their own private (and usually psychotic) “myth” and are therefore ineffective.
Gandhi’s statement “BE the change you want to see in the world” has an even more potent meaning to me in the aftermath of reading this week’s blog.
Asking why the practical core has withered in our society’s common discourse is key. I wonder to what degree the incessant advertising (economic) and propaganda (politics) are responsible. And to what degree other factors may be at play…
I call it delusional. All that “social justice warriors” are living in a soap bubble until it bumps in the reality of the real world outthere, and most of the world is not west-civilization-guilt-ridden that exists in the internet and mainstream media. I see that right here, all those extinction-rebellion-attack- no borders-antifa agitating endlessly while most people turn a blind eye to those crazy-youths, sometimes not that young anymore, like if they where cockroaches, it is so unpleasant to smash them that will will wait until they really bother to do something. Virtue-signaling yuppies are virtually ignored by the hard working people living in the suburbs or away from the big metropolis, at least while the pay the meagre wages to see their houses cleaned and their children and old people taken care of. But when the fruit will rip, everybody will have their chance but those poor “good people”, things are the way they are because a) evolution selected the societal scheme more likely to resist b) an almost deluge of cheap of energy throwed us out of all reasonability and common sense. The energy deluge is ending, and deluge of IOY will not disguise it for long..We will be back to what is left that is a).
When I hear the phrase ‘speaking truth to power’ I always think about risk and loss. Was real risk involved?
The answer can be seen in PETA throwing paint on old ladies wearing fur coats (animal skins) as opposed to throwing paint on Hell’s Angels in leather from head to toe (animal skins).
Old ladies may sue.
Hell’s Angels will put you in traction in the hospital and you will endure a painful life thereafter filled with physical therapy and medication.
Thus, old ladies are a safe target whereas Hell’s Angels are not.
I think this is also why you see protests in the U.S. against the police but rarely in Saudi Arabia or Russia or China. In those places, you’ll get disappeared to a horrible death, along with many of your relatives and friends. Protesting in Saudi Arabia is ‘speaking truth to power’.
One is safe. The other is not.
Teresa from Hershey
Certainly agree with Teresa re safe targets and safe protests.
Over my lifetime I have seen many spoiled children growing up and wondered how they would cope as adults. I think I am seeing that now. We need to understate as adults that if we don’t self-regulate someone will eventually regulate us and we might not enjoy that.
We have become obsessed with the idea that we must fight for what we want. How about working towards it instead? Someone will have to put in the work eventually. Why not me, now?
My insomnia is not too bad. I catch up the next day if necessary.
@Kyle (or anyone else in the know)
Could you recommend some good literature on transactional analysis?
Recent remarks about peoples who are “racialized” coming from people who are of a ‘race’ other than Caucasian has me asking, ‘Why are Caucasians not part of this ‘racialized’ meme?’ I can come up with a bunch of comments, but none seem to me to wholly nor with satisfaction answer my question. Still, it is haunting, and your essay has brought it to the fore for me. (Sooooo… It is your fault!!!)
On another thought that you raised when I read your essay (though only once at this point I admit) is the “truth to power” issue that changes nothing. I go back to the what I saw as the change in Martin Luther King Jr.’s work. If MLK Jr. was assassinated just as he was turning to the task of empowering all poor people rather than just black people, that makes more sense than just being murdered for being against ‘racism’.
Martin Luther King Jr.: “When I speak places and people ask me what’s the goal? Well, my goal is to disrupt the status quo.”
“We must not worry about using the word Power, because this is what is wrong in so many instances, is that we are devoid of power. Now power is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. Power is the ability to affect change. The problem has been that all too many people have seen power and love as polar opposites. Consequently, on the one hand, they have thought of loveless power. And on the other hand they have thought of powerless love. They didn’t understand that the two fulfilled each other. And what we must understand in the non-violent movement is that power without love is reckless. And love without power is sentimental. In other words, power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice”.
Of course with any luck the fur coat-wearing old ladies could be the grannies of the Hell’s Angels. Now that would be good fun.
Hubertus, good. Now ask yourself what role the narratives of imminent doom play in all this, and how they relate to our actual experience.
Gnat, I’m glad to hear it.
Golocyte, hmm! That’s an interesting and rather plausible thesis. The flipside, of course, is that as the left increasingly embraces policies that only 10%-20% of the electorate support, they may find themselves on the other side of a Stalingrad scenario, having backed themselves into a position that permits neither retreat nor victory — but there are good reasons, as we’ll see, why they can’t see that, or admit it.
Doll, stay tuned!
Nicholas, excellent! Yes, exactly — and the capacity to look at one’s own narratives and pose hard questions about whether, and to what extent, they apply to the world we live in is one of the most crucial skills anyone can develop right now.
Marco, there’s certainly no reprisal intended, but I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t sketch out my overall strategy in public. One part of what I’m doing, though, is exploratory, and comes out of a great deal of reflection on the failure of the peak oil movement. I watched people who could have made a difference, and in fact came fairly close to doing so, get caught up in one (or sometimes both) of a pair of self-defeating mythologies, let those overwhelm their capacity for pragmatic thinking, and charge with banners flying into a completely self-inflicted defeat. I’m now watching most of the political mainstream (the pre-populist GOP just as much as the Democrats) do exactly the same thing. I want to understand why, and I’ve put a lot of study and writing time over the last two years into trying to examine what happened, and is still happening.
Bob, interesting. I’ve tended to shy away from the whole “developmental stages” business, as so often it’s a transparent excuse for claims of privilege — note how often people who propose such sets of stages place themselves in the highest or next-to-highest stage! — and it also imposes a linear model of human development on what I tend to see instead as a much more polymorphous and alternative-rich field of possibilities. Still, I’ll take a look as time permits.
KMB, I think it’s related, and yes, I’ve seen the same thing.
Chris, interesting. A narrative approach to narrative thinking does indeed offer other possibilities!
Loon, I won’t argue at all. The neoconservative scene in the 1990s was indeed very nearly the identical twin of the current — shall we call it neoliberal? — SJW scene, and just as nasty (and as ultimately self-defeating, btw.) As for Katrina, good. The reason so few people are willing to talk about the presence of widespread, severe poverty in today’s America, I’d suggest, is that it makes it harder and harder to avoid talking about the reality of our decline.
Onething, good! Moral thinking is one of the things that happens when the mythic and the pragmatic modes work together: here’s your ideal, and here’s how that ideal actually works in practice — oops. Discard the pragmatic mode, and you can remain serenely convinced that you’re the good guy even while engaging in acts of monstrous evil.
Reggie, true enough. I think there’s more going on than that, though.
Kyle, thank you for this! It’s good to see that there are still some transactional analysts out there making sense of games and scripts. As for the “Righteous Child” game, if I may compress the title a little, the prevalence of that game would certainly explain the adulation directed at Greta Thunberg — do I recall correctly from Claude Steiner’s Scripts People Live that there’s usually a role model as a central element in the architecture of a script? Thunberg’s doubtless filling that role quite a bit these days.
GP, true enough. The whole “War on Christmas” business makes a great example from the other side, too — the shrill cultivation of victim status by way of an increasingly baroque set of rules of conduct around some hot-button issue…it really does echo the SJW business to a fare-thee-well.
Nastarana, fair enough. I can well imagine the reaction!
Onething, good question. I’ve encountered a certain number of stories about males being triggered and fleeing to safe spaces, but not that many; of course that’s partly because anyone even approximately masculine is by definition, according to the social justice gospel, personally responsible for everything bad that ever happened to any woman anywhere.
Nastarana, I’m not arguing. It’s simply one of those things that’s been true of American culture since colonial times. I’m arguably as guilty as anyone, of course, as someone who’s learned an enormous amount from Vico, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Spengler! (Though I draw the line at the postmoderns; my take on Derridadaisme is about on a par with yours.)
Hey hey JMG,
The one phrase that stuck out for me was “throwing self-righteous tantrums at the tables of the powerful” It took some thinking to get to the bottom of it, but I think it holds two things. The 1st, from The Archdruid Report, one of your 1st posts. To know only one story is death. and the Kübler-Ross 5 stages of grief, step two.
Our society only knows one story, the startrek-technoprogress march to infinity and beyond, but the veneer is cracking. We avoided coming to terms with it for a long time, but the denial is getting harder to maintain, so we are moving into phase two, anger.
Of course, this isn’t a single person and so it has elements of all of the four stages woven in, but it primarily the anger stage with some mixing of the denial and bargaining stages. The main groups are the colleges and elite classes because they haven’t yet been thrown under the bus. The classes under them have had more time to process it and are further along (opioid crisis).
This isn’t about winning, or achieving their goals, or even about advancing the ideology they ostensibly purport. It is about processing the loss of a mythic understanding that doesn’t match reality, the myth of progress, and coming to terms with a harder world in which they will be much less privileged.
PS I only read the first third of comments, apologies if this has already been addressed.
Re the “math is racist” [expurgated stream of invective] *ahem* nonsense
As a mathematician/engineer in the power industry who works around high-voltage equipment, high-pressure steam, and other similarly dangerous stuff, arguing for the cultural subjectivity of math isn’t just idiotic: it can kill you.
I’ve opined here previously that most of us are in the Precariat now, even the majority of the Good People, right and left. I think this is a massive source of anxiety and fear for them, the terror of falling out of privilege and favor is overwhelming. They feel the rising tide and fear their boats won’t float, and sense how fragile and poorly constructed they really are.
It’s ironic that the SJW cohort, so vehemently opposed to cultural appropriation of all types, has readily assimilated the term ‘woke’ from African American vernacular. Maybe one of them will draft some clever new lyrics for the famous old hymn: Onward Wokester soldiers, marching as to war…
And of course there’s a smartiephone in every hip pocket. I don’t think we should underestimate these ubiquitous little devices’ role in enabling all types of delusion and derangement. Kinda makes me wish for a Carrington event! That would be catastrophic of course and could set in motion plenty of fast-collapse scenarios and I know it’s unlikely. Still, the technosphere appears to be winning for now…and swallowing the red pills ain’t helping!
So much worthy commentary here…wish I had more time to respond. Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful contributions.
TDS marches on:
I originally thought this Pupgate scandal was a joke, but no, the Washington Post really is working hard to track down the perpetrator of the cute Photoshop of the dog getting a paw print 🐾 medal. This is the best example I have found so far of what JMG has been talking about.
You are correct — my bored stare is not the same animal as a Trump Derangement victim’s unmooring from decency and sanity. I’m sad to report that one of my extremely privileged friends has gone so SJW lunatic, it is most likely the death of our long friendship. He made thinly veiled threats about lawsuits when I posted about a completely non-political matter online that didn’t involve him at all. At the time, I was in the position of helping his family member handle some medical stuff. When he started concern-trolling about me getting sued, I saw the writing on the wall and quickly extracted myself from our agreement. He was not happy about it.
I may not be psychic enough to take to the races, but I think I figured out his mindset in the bare nick of time.
My friend is technically an atheist for whom leftist social justice has become a religion. His “religion” allows him the secularist’s equivalent of taqiya — getting as nasty as possible (and he has turned into one icky, raspberry-jam flinging piece of work) if the ends justify the means and his inner seething ball of hatred will be fed. As increasingly unpleasant as I find him now, I have never wished him harm; I don’t think he can say the same thing about me. Not honestly, anyways.
I’m so glad that curse is lifted! If it’s OK with you, I’d like to pray to my favorite gods for your continued protection and well-being.
Hi JMG and all – from Wikipedia – Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that originated in the US around 1870… Pragmatism’s early thinkers were members of The Metaphysical Club..hmm. I am not that familiar with Pragmatic Philosophy but isn’t that a strange connection? It’s founding date was right after the American Civil War, by American Thinkers. Maybe that is where the thinking classes are headed. Wasn’t there a spiritual movement in the US before the Civil War? Maybe I need to do some reading on the subject. A lot of my, and my husband’s ancestors were combatants in the “late unpleasantness”, as some referred to it after the fact. Some survived, some were injured, and some died.
Walter, if I may recommend to you John Taylor Gatto’s Underground History of American Education, you may see what many home schoolers now believe went profoundly wrong with American schools and why we think the schools are unfixable: that is, they are working exactly as intended, they are not the least bit broken, and if we want a decent system of basic education we need to start from scratch.
Dear Rose Red Loon,
Many, many thanks!
Thank you! I certainly have no objection to you or others continuing to pray on my behalf.
Gandhi had the great good fortune of dealing with the British.
If he’d been dealing with Russia and Joseph Stalin, he would have been murdered early on.
Or the Chinese.
Mao didn’t hesitate to destroy his enemies real and potential. Look at how the Chinese government handled Tibet and are currently ‘managing’ the Uighur Muslims and other internal groups they don’t like.
Teresa from Hershey
MichaelK succinctly points out that “rationality is under attack”
I am optimistic and think that there is a logical reason why we had respect for rationality, why we recently lost respect, and how we will get it back again, based on a biological (fact? I would like to be challenged or affirmed on this) that only a small proportion of humans are capable of rational thought and the majority/mass (lemmings/sheep- you pick your label) are merely following the leader and reacting to how the prime movers of society’s wealth (rational thought) are helping their lives.
In the distant past when we lived in stationary phase (not exponential growth of population) the court jester probably was a rare member of the rational group who could reason out the weirdness of his society and smartly navigate the contradictions of his local elite, and manage to joke about the lord personum and always stay one step ahead to stay alive. Not an easy feat. During my trip to the rain forest of the Congo, where living was very close to subsidence, I noticed that the smartest people there were acting as court jesters. One dressed up as a girl and make jokes constantly during a soccer match, while he was the only person who watched out for the safety of younger people to make sure they did not get run over or get hurt. Deep in the jungle, the smartest guy acted looney, like Klinger in Mash. He knew how horrible his situation was and used his intelligence to make logical jokes about things around him. Maybe his coping mechanism.
We enjoyed an age of rationality because the lemmings (or mindless sheep) respected the scientists who were given credit for ending the war with an atom bomb (no judgement here: I write “given credit for”)…. Engineers and scientists removed people from the farm and gave them a desirable alternative, gave them cars, longer life, understanding of microbes and less disease…. OK you know the story.
NOW, the age of increasing wealth/health/happiness is coming to an end with resource limits. The engineer/scientist rational thinkers (who seem to drive most real change in society) have lost their place on the totem pole/pedestal of admiration by the general public. Rational thought and rational thinkers NOW are not improving our lives. Our lives are materially (and spiritually) getting worse, so that artificial elevation of rational people or rational thinking is over.
my conclusion: the bigger issue is why most people are not rational to begin with and merely follow the crowd. Is being a philosopher/rational thoughtful and thinking for yourself partly or mostly genetic? If so then such genetics should play a central role in the upcoming strife and killings that we can expect in the new dark ages. This is a very important point that no one is talking about. Evolution does not vanish just because we don’t enjoy the concept of “survival of the fittest.” The new environment of computers and complicated technology requires a new fitness of humans. It seems that many or most humans are not equipped to thrive in such a futuristic world and this fact will drive success vs failure of different people and their ideologies.
Another conclusion is that after we return to stationary growth and life becomes agrarian again, the rational thinkers and their rational thoughts (again, is this genetic? please someone help me learn the answer) will be become respected again because rational thought will be linked once again to the provision of food, clothing, shelter etc.
A more helpful argument might be : what should rational thinkers do? a secondary issue is: where do rational thinkers come from? If genetics, then we have some serious dangerous thinking and decisions to make. If phenotypic (environment) then we need to review as a group the best way to education our children. Likely the answer is a combination of the two, but I have not seen a discussion of the former and want such.
Not on topic,, but–it has come to my attention that there is an annotated edition of H. P. Lovecraft with notes by Leslie S. Klinger and an introduction by Alan Moore.
Regarding “math is racist”:
What this facially incongruous sentence actually means when decoded is as follows:
“Math is being used to reveal uncomfortable truths that I do not want to be true, because they would invalidate the narrative I support.”
That is basically what “racist” means now – its original meaning of being prejudiced against people of other races (which, of course, only entities capable of prejudice, such as people, organizations, and institutions) can actually be) is now only vestigial.
The logic in this post explains something I haven’t been able to make sense of: my town has ruined our public transit system by building a light rail, and when I complain to people, a ton of them have seized up on one point: Light rail is superior to busing because buses burn fossil fuels, and therefore by building the rail we’re helping the environment.
This makes no attempt to address my actual point. The transit system has gotten worse: my commute, along with that of nearly everyone else I’ve asked, has gotten longer and less convenient. Of course, if the train is good, then anyone who argues against it must be arguing against environmentalism.
The fact it ruined our public transit system, and very likely will increase the number of cars on the road, is a point which a lot of people can’t seem to accept.
David, by the lake:
My husband is an electrician, industrial and commercial, and has worked with high voltage on plenty of jobs. He’s also witnessed guys who were jolted because of human error and had to be rushed to the emergency room. He assures me that high voltage respects no ideology and he would rather not work alongside somebody who believes otherwise.
MichaelK, you’ve caught a crucial point, which is that our civilization’s Age of Reason is coming to an end — this is a normal stage in the life cycle of a civilization, and if you look at past civilizations you can figure out without too much difficulty when its Age of Reason ended and the following age began. Unfortunately you’ve fallen into a very common trap by accepting the confusion between feudalism and fascism that’s been pushed at you by pop culture. As I pointed out quite a while ago, fascism and feudalism are nearly as different as political systems can be — talking about a “feudal-fascist society,” as some people did back in the heyday of peak oil, makes exactly as much sense as talking about a vegetarian carnivore or a celibate whore.
Notice also the way that this sort of talk is used to wrench discourse around in the service of the myth of progress, the folk religion of our time, which insists that “past” = “bad” and “future” = “good.” In particular, it’s used to avoid talking about the hierarchical nature of our present society, which isn’t feudal or fascist, but nonetheless is progressing toward vast disparities in wealth and power. Yes, “progressing,” not “regressing;” the situation of the present and recent past, in which the comfortable classes get richer while the deplorables get driven into poverty and misery, and in which more and more liberties are taken away from individuals and handed over to unelected committees of alleged experts, is not a backsliding but the inevitable result of those changes most loudly being proclaimed as “progress.” Yes, we’ll talk about that in due time.
Yorkshire, well, of course I’m interested in how acting in a third-rate science fantasy schlockfest qualfies Mr. Momoa for having an opinion on anthropogenic climate change worth the time of the United Nations. Will they invite Kim Kardashian to lecture them next on subatomic physics?
Jasper, good. If Giambattista Vico’s right — and he has history on his side — what happens is that the craziness proceeds until the crazies lose badly enough that, yes, if they want to eat they’d better relearn the capacity for hard work.
Clay, myth with a double helping of entitlement sauce! But yes, I’ll take that as an omen.
Truly, he was indeed. I wasn’t impressed by his performance as president, but he’s anything but stupid.
BoysMom, thanks for the heads up; that’s fascinating. Frantic insistence that no Democrats actually voted for Trump (as some clearly did) suggests to me that they’re terrified that Democrats are going to vote for Trump this time around.
Sven, that makes sense — but I’m still going to use a different term so people don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say.
Jason, thanks for this! Fascinating to see Zman going straight to Spengler, too.
Patricia, and a blessed Samhain to you as well.
Mister N, no, actually, it’s not something political at all. Stay tuned!
Ron, excellent. Yes, exactly — and we’ll be talking more about this as the discussion proceeds.
Elodie, “delusional” is in fact a very precise label for what happens when somebody plunges into the mythic mode to the exclusion of the pragmatic mode. More on this as we proceed.
Teresa, ha! A very good point.
Methylethyl (if I may), Eric Berne’s Games People Play and Claude Steiner’s Scripts People Live were the two introductory books I found most useful, but I’d be interested to hear if Kyle has others to suggest.
Bruce, no wonder they had him assassinated. That’s really explosive stuff.
An interesting essay. Here in Vermont, in 2018 the Democrats nominated Christine Hallquist for governor. She is a trans-woman who had never held previous elected office. It seemed clear to me that they had chosen to accept defeat in exchange for the satisfaction of having nominated the first transgender candidate for governor.
Still, saying “Person X can’t win because they’re a Y” seems like passive support of the prevailing prejudices. That sort of thing is also only true until it suddenly isn’t.
Also, I disagree that left-wing activists are utterly convinced of they’re own perfect goodness. In my experience many people have a lot of guilt about racist thoughts, air travel, not going to protests, etc.
John Michael, so something fundamental was turning over deep within you over the past month. Hurrah for a new multi-part unfolding! I have sent this week’s post off to several friends and am going through it sentence by sentence with one who has been quite stuck on an internal threshhold for a while now. Many thanks for clearing the trail ahead so those less intrepid might also find the way.
As an Indonesian animist would pray, may your dead come near and bless you this Samhain. I wish you an abundant Samhain with much awakening and turning over of your dead deep within.
Tim, oh man. You really have been paying attention, haven’t you?
David BTL, it can indeed. That’s why abandoning the pragmatic mode is ultimately a self-terminating maneuver.
Jim, let me whisper something in your ear: a significant number of people are abandoning smartphones because of their many problems, and going back to dumbphones or even just a land line. Ebook sales are down and sales of paper books — those archaic relics that were supposed to be museum pieces by now! — are rising again. Sales of vinyl records last year exceeded sales of CDs. The Star Trek future is toast…
Your Kittenship, over in Kekistan they’re already all over this:
Kimberly, I’m really sorry to hear that. It’s a brutal experience to watch someone who used to be a friend go crazy.
Dana, the word “metaphysical” has complicated meanings! Yes, there was a huge spiritual movement in the US before the Civil War — that’s where the Mormons and the Spiritualists came from, among many other groups — and yes, I’d encourage you to read up on it; there’s a lot to learn from it.
Rita, there is indeed, and I highly recommend it; there’s a copy sitting on my bookshelf at this moment.
Barrigan, ding! We have a winner. Yes, exactly.
Alex, fair enough. It might just be, then, that they’re convinced of the perfect justice of their cause.
Christophe, you’re most welcome and thank you!
I’ve been trying to think about what exactly bothers me about the manifestations of the woke ideology that I come across. A lot of the time, I feel like there is a legitimate insight or grievance at the outset of whatever the question at hand may be, where it’s something to do with, say, anti-racism, intersectionality, the me too movement, trans activism, but then it feels like there are strange undercurrents in all these discussions which get my back up, but it’s hard to say exactly why…
When I was a teenager in the 1990s, and I figured out that I could use the library to educate myself, I remember the first books I checked out were biographies/autobiographies of Gandhi, MLK, Malcolm X, and Mandela. I’m not sure how I got the idea that these figures were the first I should look up, but that’s just the idea I got from the culture at the time. (Gandhi mentioned some of his influences, the Bhagavad Gita and Thoreau and Ruskin, so right away I was moving out in other directions!)
I reflected a lot on racism reading through all those. I remember in high school learning about the treatment of Native Americans in Canada (we didn’t use the terms First Nations or Indigenous people in those times) and walking home on my lunch break feeling terrible about what I’d heard the teacher talk about. But none of that ever gave me the feeling that I get sometimes from woke culture, of being forced or pressured into thinking/believing/saying something irrational for moral reasons.
I remember thinking in college that the basis of ethics has to be the shared experience of having a nervous system, and having an awareness of how things might feel for other people or animals, etc… I was wondering if this might have something to do with this gap between woke culture ad the many others who don’t subscribe to it yet. When people were objecting to racism/sexism/homophobia before, they were objecting because it was hurting people and limiting their ability to express themselves fully in society. I have a feeling that now woke culture objects to certain opinions & statements because they can be linked back to racism, homophobia, misogyny, regardless of how it affects real humans in everyday life. It’s focused more on avoiding heresies than on how people of all kinds are being affected in everyday life…
I was wondering if this had something to do with the shift towards abstraction that occurs at the end of a civilization’s lifespan, with people caring more if an idea might be characterized as “racist” than with how it might affect people on the ground, and with how well it might correspond with our experiences of the real world (ie. how true the idea is)
I’m a plumber, and I spend a good part of my day in a service van listening to our national information radio (CBC) which I think has switched over, largely, to the mythological mode of understanding. I remember listening back in the 90’s & 00’s, and it seemed like there was more programming based on the pragmatic mode of comprehension, more stories based on how our economy, agriculture and society (as well as the international scene) was actually functioning, more related to a pragmatic outlook. I feel it’s shifted to something more mythological and ideological… which I don’t entirely mind! I think I’m more oriented psychologically to the mythological than the pragmatic, it’s just that the current myth is so uninspired!! Some sort of mythological outlook, that relating to us dealing with the mixed legacy of how we’ve treated each other in the past eras, and with how we’ve related to the natural world, something that balance those concerns I could probably get enthusiastic about!
Christine Hallquist’s campaign was a mess and only served to make Republican Phil Scott look ever more level-headed and sensible. I heard an interview with her on Vermont Public Radio – hardly adversarial – and she stumbled over basic questions. Perhaps, as you say, the officials in the Vermont Democratic Party saw her as a sacrificial loser meant only to be an outward sign of their intersectional correctness, but there were plenty of ordinary democratic voters who were utterly besotted with her and her ‘groundbreaking’ run for office and were genuinely disappointed at her loss.
Thank you so much for even considering praying to your gods on my behalf! I am touched and honored — yes, please, and many, many thanks.
This is a bit shallow compared to the deeper themes you’re unpacking, but it’s what occurred to me as I was reading your post and the comments.
Our friends included in their wedding vows to always “assume positive intent”. We found that sufficiently profound that we added it to our own vows, and it seems to me that’s what’s missing from the social justice movement. There is nothing wrong with letting someone know that they’ve used a word you find offensive, or misgendered somebody etc. so long as you do it without implying that they are a Very Bad Person.
I’ve been making this argument to my more social justice-oriented friends, and it seems to be working.
On the flip side, deliberately offending people to keep them outraged and thus ineffective at reasoned opposition, which seems to be the number one strategy of Team Trump, strikes me as exceedingly rude. Though it may be effective, it will not win anyone my respect or support.
A happy Halloween/Samhain/etc to all!
I think wokeness might be good old American Puritanism rearing its frowning head again.
Most of the people I know are disgusted with PC or wokeness or whatever you want to call it. There’s no news anymore except for local news; national and cable news is all propaganda. And the woke seem unable to understand that not everyone shares their obsessions. We get the local birdcage-liner 4 days a week, go out and buy it the other 3, and every single day there’s at least one article about somebody wanting to change sex. All statistics I have been able to find indicate that such persons are around 1-2% of the population. We need an article every day about what that 1-2% of the population is doing? What about other small groups? Left-handed Burmese worm farmers are probably no more than 2% of the population, why not write about them? Or about people who undertake to live a 1950’s lifestyle? People who raise finches? Druids? (The fish wrap has had ONE article about Druids in 25 years.). The first 15-20 articles I read about transsexuals were interesting and I learned things, but enough is enough. I’d be happy to read about some other small group and I’d learn something, but no—the woke reporters are obsessed with one small group. They are also, like every other person on earth, obsessed with themselves, but unlike every other person on earth, they have the power to impose their obsessions on the rest of us. I want at least a 10-year news moratorium on articles about My Problems With My Boyfriend, My Problems With Not Having A Boyfriend, My Problem Is That I Can’t Keep A Boyfriend, My Problems With My Parents, My Problems At My Job, My Problems With You-Name-It, and all other Me, Glorious, Fascinating (And Inexplicably Miserable), Me stories. I like a bit of female drama now and then, just like any other woman, but there’s a place for this stuff—women’s magazines. It is not news and should not be taking up news space.
Speaking of women’s magazines, we’ve all been at the garage or doctor and found we forgot our reading material, and so had to turn to the waiting-room magazines. Has anyone else noticed that, except for the celebrity du jour, women’s magazines never change? They could have spent the last 100 years recycling recipes, diets, the my-problem-is article, the oh-my-God-it’s-going-to-get-you article, the clothes-ad-disguised-as-article and we’d never know.
*chortle*. Up above, Spellcheck wanted to change “Left-handed” to “Fastleft.” I guess I’d better head back to reality and inform the Reverend that the almighty computer has him booked for a change of occupation, from hero to worm farmer. (He probably won’t mind—worm farming is, most likely, considerably less exhausting than hero-ing.)
I can see the denial stage (“we’re still progressing, Elon Musk is taking us to Mars and look at my shiny new iPhone that does exactly what the old model did but is 1/24 of an inch thinner!”) and the anger stage (“EVERYTHING IS RACIST!”), but am confused on what the bargaining stage looks like.
I’m guessing the opioid crisis is the depression stage? Or am I mistaken somewhere?
(Oh sweet, somebody else here reads Meaningness!)
I want to quibble a bit with your interpretation of Chapman’s presentation of Kegan’s theory.
I don’t think the stage 3 pre-systematic vs. stage 4 systematic divide is a divide between the mythic mode and the pragmatic mode. My understanding is that each level is fully capable of all modes — mythic, pragmatic, erotic, pathetic, etc. — and each stage engages with each mode in a way appropriate to itself.
I think what makes the 3/4 divide look like a mythic/pragmatic divide is that one of our myths is that we have no myths. Thus each stage looks mythical only to someone on a different stage: stage 4 looks at stage 3 and sees a True Believer, while stage 4.5 looks at stage 4 and sees a hypocrite who has rejected stage 3’s myths but still believes their own, and so on.
Then again, my understanding of Kegan’s model is admittedly colored by my understanding of Clare Graves’ “levels of existence” model (aka Spiral Dynamics). There it’s clear that each level has a mythological mode, since each is at core a general conception of what a mature person and/or society looks like.
“Under what other circumstances do people revert to ‘that’s not how it goes’?”
Well let’s see, there’s…
1. Music teachers correcting their students’ fingering.
2. Film directors, when the actors flub their lines. (Also stage directors, during rehearsals.)
3. The late Willis Draffen of Bloodstone being the last one to know about his wife’s pregnancy and writing a song about it.
4. The door guard’s response when you give the wrong secret knock at the club headquarters…
But, I gather you have something in mind more along the lines of reacting to heterodoxy. Or originating it.
For our perspiring writers:
The lower the score, the better. This test is kind of strange—General Nuisance was penalized for having a guinea pig, the only allowable pets for a main character are dogs or cats—and for being multi-lingual; maybe the person who invented the test is American and not used to polyglots. (The character gets one point against him for every extra language he speaks, and one point against him for every pet that is not a cat or dog.). Nuisance managed to pass anyway (I expect he cheated), so I guess I don’t have to kill him off for the crime of first-degree Mary Sue-ing. 😄. The test is fun anyway, and she has another, improved page on the subject if any of your cast members flunk the original test. Have fun!
How many other people have witnessed friends descend into madness?
Alacrates, I think you’re on to something very important here. The flight from reason can take the form of a flight to ideology, after all.
Mark, that’s an excellent point; thank you. Of course you’re quite correct that the favorite tactic of our Orange Julius — keep the other side so overwrought that they can’t think clearly — is effective but basically despicable. Unfortunately that’s what you get when no one’s willing to pursue a better strategy with the kind of passionate intensity — to borrow Yeats’s phrase — that Trump and his supporters have.
Your Kittenship, one of these days somebody in journalism is going to realize that they can make an enormous amount of money by ditching the approved mainstream attitude and giving readers and/or viewers the kind of news and information they actually want to read. Right now that sort of thing is confined to blogs, but I doubt it will stay there for long. As for women’s magazines, yeah, I’ve opened a few at laudromats out of curiosity — ladies, why do you put up with that crap?
Your Kittenship, thanks for this!
I was thinking the other day about how to talk to my dad about this sort of stuff. He’s firmly in the “rationality is good” camp, to the exclusion of mythical forms of thinking. I feel that this leaves him vulnerable to the prevailing mythical ideas of our society – that we’re meat robots, that ancient peoples were stupid, and so on.
The idea I came up with is this:
Suppose you have a gun in your hand. A Sig Sauer, an M4, it doesn’t matter much. They’re all highly engineered machines, products of centuries’ worth of manufacturing expertise, machined to within several thousandths of an inch. Furthermore, the path the bullet takes once you pull the trigger is fairly tightly defined, at this point. And in the moment of its use, there are a variety of rational behaviors for shooter and target alike (let’s call this tactics), based on the known performance of the gun. This all stems from intense, rational thought.
But then there’s the questions that concern why you have a gun in your hand. Who are you pointing it at and why? Is it okay to kill? Is it okay to kill at a distance? What does it do to you, to let a machine kill for you, while you minimize any chance of reprisal?
Neither line of thought is sufficient all on its own. On the one hand, you likely won’t get good results if you stand up and proclaim universal brotherly love in a firefight.
On the other hand, for the Europeans, the Maxim gun was just peachy for pacifying the natives, but the results were less pleasant when the European powers turned on themselves.
Having just finished most of the Weird of Hali series, can I now call dead-eyed wokesters the Radiance? The only redeeming feature is that there isn’t an esoteric order running them as human bots, or is there 🙂
One thing you may find interesting is Professor James Flynn’s Substitutes for Objectivity. Flynn is a philosopher who spent most of his career looking for ethical truth tests, then found something better. In the process he discovered that even if an all powerful ethical trust test could be found, one that would vanquish all enemies in a single hit, something I suspect the wokesters yearn for, such an ethical truth test would need to be amoral in order to work and be objective. That dichotomy explains a lot of the woke, the insistence on truth, the offence taking and outrage in a vain hope of some court or test showing that they were right after all, and perhaps some laziness, after all if theres a court or forum out there that is just waiting to prove them all right then why do actual political organising work
JMG, thanks for the reply. I have no idea how you sift through 100s of comments each week and also answer so many.
You said: “The flipside, of course, is that as the left increasingly embraces policies that only 10%-20% of the electorate support, they may find themselves on the other side of a Stalingrad scenario…”
Yes, absolutely, they might. But one recalls Nasim Taleb’s proposition that societies do not change with majority will but from an intransigent minority. With good strategy and a bit of luck—and lots of intransigence—10%-20% of the population will do.
Coming left-wing supremacy is more-or-less spoken about openly even on the left. Readers here might be familiar with this kind of view:
I do think the left will win the current fights. But then after that, gosh, history will once again just refuse to end. After the victory the problem will be that the left is not a coherent group but a coalition of all kinds of groups who don’t like the traditional American cultural establishment. History shows that coalitions break up when the common enemy is vanquished…………. and it comes time to divide the spoils.
—–(An as an aside, this is why reparations WILL NEVER HAPPEN, at least in the form of direct transfers. If you think it’s bad now just wait to see what happens should the scent of a $4T transfer ever hit the air in a serious way.
Even left-wing politicians know this. In fact, it isn’t a serious policy position at all: it’s just a cudgel to beat the right with. If the right actually turns to fight the issue directly (so far it’s mostly ignored or laughed at), they will loose: see if you’re against reparations it’s because of racism, so ha gotcha the right=racism, proven once again, just look at them.
Could this alone be the right’s “Stalingrad”? No likely not; the right can beat a fighting retreat on this one, and from a safe position (out of power so free of potential blame for the mess), proceed to call the left’s bluff. How the left will wiggle free I don’t know, but they have a lot of tricks (just dropping it down the memory hole is one). But reparations will NEVER become a reality in any significant way.)
You’re welcome, JMG (although in my opinion that test is woefully biased against tentacled 🦑 horrors). My cast all passed, although it was a squeaker for the guinea-pig-owning polyglot. Oddly enough, MRS. Nuisance outscored her old man, as the test gives you good points for being overweight.
I personally thought it was unfair to count the guinea pig against him. 😄. He only has it because his secretary’s daughter’s guinea pig had babies a few weeks before his birthday, and what can you do when a six-year-old hands you a cage and says “Happy birthday,” especially when the kid belongs to your secretary? The only possible response is, “Thank you! I’ve been wanting one of these!” And when you respond like that, you know that secretary will follow you through the gates of hell, taking dictation all the way if necessary.
( I bet nobody OVER the age of 6 will believe “I always wanted a guinea pig” for a New York minute. 😄)
I think that test makes insufficient allowance for mitigating circumstances; maybe that’s why the lady who invented it tried to improve on it. If you take the test for one of your tentacled horrors, please let us know how it scores. If it flunks, there’s a sergeant-major in Reality who is rarely short of guinea pigs; you can get one from him and give it to the flunked-out horror as a consolation prize.
Each women’s magazine is aimed at a slightly different age group in the salary class: Glamour is for the younger ones, Redbook and Good Housekeeping for the somewhat older ones, and so on. So if you weren’t traumatized into buying your own washing machine the first time, the magazines may help you research the minds of salary-class women while you’re at the laundromat.
Many of these magazines were once serious publications, publishing serious fiction and non- by big-name writers. Cosmopolitan, for example, was a prestigious credit for a fiction writer. For a while my mom subscribed, she liked mysteries and for about 10 years Cosmo ran a short mystery novel in each issue. Mom hated Helen Brown passionately; when she took over, she nixed the high-toned stuff and turned the magazine into a trade journal for sluts.
In my friend and other elite bourgeoisie types, I think they just have no concept of deprivation. They have no clue how most people live. They have Poor Little Rich Kid syndrome: they think they are deprived because they don’t have movie director/heiress-level money. For instance, my aforementioned rich friend is always “down to his last dollar” so I end up treating him for lattes when he flies in from Europe. Meanwhile, they fear the Deprivation Reaper is coming for them. This gnaws at the edges of their consciousness. Realistically, I highly doubt any of them will ever have financial insecurity like most of us: making the monthly bills will never be a question for them. Their parents, once dead, will leave them fortunes, and all of the ones I can think of have spent their lives as thrifty cheapskates because of the aforementioned gnawing fear, so they’ll have plenty to burn.
They are pulled between the bohemian ideal of the starving artistic genius and Taurean obsession with creature comforts — attained at a bargain price, of course. Never does the idea of real, nose to the grindstone work factor into it. Who is it who said genius is 90 percent sweat? Practice, humility, repetition, and honing one’s art is boring. Low class people do work, not them, they are above it. They hate being “bored” and feel a compulsion to escape. They fetishize the exotic, which is why they travel so frequently. The Other culture is always better than the one they grew up in or are used to. Hope this helps to understand the mindset of the elite bourgeoisie.
To Violet: You’re welcome… plus I think we are praying to some of the same gods!
At the moment, I only got as far as the first essay, where Jacobs talks about the effects of the crumbling of the liberal order as well as the impact of constant cognitive stress driving people towards their mythical core (us vs them).
Your mention of the logic of safe spaces and triggering being the logic of taboo and defilement got me thinking the other way around, about the lifestyle changes that were occurring among the primitive/barbaric peoples that the contemporary historians, anthropologists and missionaries have described from the ancient Romans times through European colonialism, and the often seemingly destructive force of the old superstitions and taboos.
Were the “bad old ways” always really that old and ancient, or had they been amplified and radicalized by the recent changes reducing living comfort and increasing cognitive stress, until the old culture really had become self-destructive by the time someone bothered to write anything down about it? It is easy for even an honest observer (never mind the propagandists) from the new culture to look down on the recently subjugated, when it is the worst superstitions and rituals that remain, and educating the barbarians in the new ways seems to improve their lot so much.
Studying the “woke culture” of the 2010s and then applying the behavioral models to earlier periods might even lead to some testable new insight about history 😉
Lady Cutekitten: Womens’ magazines are written by the advertising department and have been as long as they’ve been in existence.
JMG, when you speak of the wakening of “…mythological concepts of defilement and taboo. Wrong opinions and the people who hold them must be excluded from the community, because they carry so terrible a miasma that all who come too close to them risk becoming accursed…”
What I wonder is whether anyone is paying attention to their creep within the Vaccinate Everyone for Everything movement. The movement contains salespeople, of course, who are simply using every means at their disposal to move a product, including getting governments to pay for it, to extinguish legal liability for harming people with it, and to mandate it, as well as getting corporations to censor sharing of evidence about the product via peer review and/or social media.
But it also contains a strong dose of the mythic believer – the person for whom vaccines are not pharmaceutical products, but are immaculately fabricated miraculous vials conveying each and every one of us to a promised disease-free future, in the holy name of [Scientific] Progress. This myth is not only becoming completely proof against any kind of discussion of evidence, but it is becoming armed and dangerous.
First, there is the fact that its believers are increasingly prepared to see the unvaccinated as a source of real danger and disease, and shut them out of both the physical and virtual public square. The second is that in 2017, the CDC suited itself up with extraordinary powers to search, seize, detain,quarantine and forcibly vaccinate those who, in its opinion, show symptoms of any disease, which in its opinion, is a threat to public health.
If you couple such actual powers with people who hold the belief that those who hold the “wrong opinion” (that vaccines are ordinary pharmaceutical products, that their effects may vary in different people, and be harmful to some, that medically they come under the ordinary ethics of informed consent, and juridically, they come under the ordinary laws of liability – ie the general views that are held by folk called “anti-vaxxers”) “carry so terrible a miasma that all who come too close to them risk becoming accursed” well, the results are going to get real very, very quickly, and they are not going to be pretty.
Will J – you say, “we have managed the remarkable feat of building mythology which requires, by its own terms, that we be supremely powerful on the “technological” side of things. This runs into a problem because it means we don’t put any effort into actually building the “technological” side of things, as we are confident we already have it. Of course, this means the skills we need for it will gradually degrade, and so it makes perfect sense we will be supremely incompetent.”
I think you are spot on here. “We” definitely don’t put effort into actually building the “technological” side of things, because it is so obvious that “they” will – the same “they” who can always be relied on to “think of something”.
Meanwhile, the technology I use daily, is not replicable by me, at al!! I could not reinvent the lightbulb, I could not develop a screen technology, or work out an electric grid, I rely on complex society to provide these things. Knowing that what complex society can provide, complex society can take away, I have begun to take an interest in tools that are more “convivial” (in Ivan Illich’s terms), such as my new Austrian scythe which fits me like a glove, and whose parts could (credibly) be replaced for me over the years by carpenters and blacksmiths I personally know.
Currently “technology” as we know it is 95% myth, with a widely distributed net of the small number of individual tinkerers and contributors who still know how some of it works.
Boysmom and Walter: I highly recommend John Taylor Gatto’s Underground History of American Education. Everything else he wrote is largely derivative. He explains how an industrial state desires (and mostly gets) not citizens, but perpetual children.
@JMG regarding women’s magazines: I don’t put up with that insanely boring drivel, apparently to my own detriment, because that is where you learn what thingamabobbies you are supposed to be wearing or attaching to yourself somehow in order to be considered presentable or something.
This whole myth that the British were benevolent or less brutal in India, I’m sorry to say, a complete load of whitewashing propaganda sold by the likes of Nial Fergusson and the UK education system.
Even at the peak of empire (before they left), the British had 150,000 odd Brits governing a nation of 180 million people. The British extracted resources out of India using a whole class of collaborating Indians themselves, and maintained that brutality through military and police repression. British rule was always a pragmatic tradeoff in optimising resource extraction for minimal resource input in terms of army, police and civil servants. Had they behaved like Stalin, they would’ve been ejected a lot quicker – they were not Indians after all, but a foreign occupying power.
Gandhi’s biggest achievement was convincing these classes morally and pragmatically to stop collaborating with the British Empire. The truth is the British didn’t want Gandhi to die and become a matyr, which is why they let him free everytime he went on a hunger strike. A lesser known fact on the myth of the end of the Raj (that got removed in the post-independence rewrite of the period) is that the Indian Navy had already mutinied and the Army was on the cusp of mutinying.
This is the same dynamic that made the Russian officer in charge of sieging Boris Yeltsin in 1991 point his guns the other way. Once the class of people who you diffuse power to in order to maintain your rule turns against you, the game is over.
But if you think the British – who have probably a higher death toll than Stalin or Mao in their 200 years of constant genocide (the empire that wiped out entire races and machine gunned African tribes in cold blood) had any more decency than Communist Russia or China, I would like to correct that. Even communism, like British liberalism, had a thin veneer of decent moral ideals which were used as a cover to enforce one of the most odious oppressive regimes that ever existed.
And if you think Gandhi was treated with benevolence, I would suggest you research early revolutionaries like Lal Lajpat Rai and Bhagat Singh who were executed. Even 100 years on the current British government doesn’t have the moral aptitude to apologise for Jalianwalla Bagh.
The 150,000 British in 1947 were lucky to get out of India alive, and that’s why independence and partition was done delibrately in the haphazard fashion. The British were trying to retreat from an increasingly ungovernable nation collapsing into chaos, a condition they had created by flaming religious hatred from half a century.
re: “math is racist” — I looked into the linked curriculum material, and what I got from it was not what most people react with. Reading between the lines, perhaps, but I found a reaction AGAINST the idea that “math is for the white kids”. But they couldn’t come right out and say that minorities have rejected math (or even give any comfort to those who would assert that minority students are innately unable to master math). So, they need to speak positively that “math instruction has not encouraged many minority students to achieve, and we need to add a few socially-relevant elements to assure them that ‘anyone can be a mathematician'”. I don’t think it’s absurd at all.
Statistically, we know that minority children do less well with math. How do we change this culture of non-achievement? Maybe you need to give them an excuse to take a fresh look, which appreciates the historical contributions of non-European mathematicians. Your old instruction was “racist”, but this instruction is not, so try again.
On the ‘math is racist’ theme, I’m delighted to inform you that in our province in Spain, which has a very self-consciously Progressive government, science students must attend a course on ‘Gender in Science’, and if they don’t pass the exam in this topic they can’t get their degree, however competent as scientists.
In other words, a mandatory ideological element supervised by Thought Commissars! Lots of nice work for ‘experts’ preparing the course, and exam papers.
The radical Left there are very smugly happy with this ‘advance’ to A Better Future……
“… the struggles and sorrows of the protagonists are their struggles and sorrows, too, and the triumphs likewise; they absorb, through the participatory experience of the tale, insights into what it means to be human that can be caught in no other way.”
Is this a typo? Should it read, taught in no other way.
Very interesting idea though- the use of myth and story to ensnare peoples minds in order to control them. On the other hand, myth and story can also be used as a means to teach and enrich the lives of loved ones and comrades.
Reading your essays over the years makes this all very sensible. Nations and peoples rise and fall over time. Civilizations come and go. I think when you look at a people, a society, and see whether their myths and stories are used primarily as inspiration to direct positive action, it can be said that society is on the rise. On the whole, they are happy and stable. Their myths and stories are not lies. They tap into something very powerful and motivating.
When the collective narrative becomes corrupted, or unable to accommodate new developments in life, those same myths are turned into an oppressive tool to restrain positive action. The myths loose their power because they are questioned. They produce bad results- for the majority.
In the end, it is all about unity and balance and how that social unity is achieved. Is the force positive, or is it negative- driven by fear. In the West, Fear has won out. The West is characterized as a warrior society that has lost its vision for the future. What is the West fighting for? What is the goal? Conquest for its own sake is what we have now. It becomes a meaningless life. Don’t real warriors eventually want to put the sword down?
The real goal in life should be to end poverty. To my thinking, that is the dividing line in human understanding. How will each individual live to avoid poverty. It says a lot about a society that fears poverty and truthfully does nothing to end it.
In the end, all the trappings and excess baggage are blown away by necessity. In the US, we are in the blown away phase. Time is not to fear, but to find a new story to guide the way.
S-400 seems to be a game changer in human narrative creation. Myths grounded in reality.
Hi JMG, You explain the state of our culture better than anyone I can find, these days. Watching my fellows, it is apparent that fear is the chief motivator behind delusions and thousand yard stares. The usual fear, they are going to lose something they have or not get something they want. The human condition, eh?
I’m not arguing that she was picked by an out of touch cabal of elites. I think she was fairly chosen by the 25,000 people who voted for her in the primary.
What I’m arguing is that they made that choice because it made them feel righteous, because it was something to brag about, and because to vote for someone else would put them under (very slight) suspicion of trans phobia among their peers.
I think they also realized that Scott would be tough to beat no matter who they picked, so they opted for a glorious defeat, one where they went down fighting against bigotry.
JMG and methylethyl,
I found Berne’s book very useful for understanding games, but I preferred the way that Thomas Harris described the PAC system in “I’m OK, You’re OK.” The title is cheesy, but he does a fine job of outlining the voices, and his system of how the OKs and not-OKs go wrong is very useful. He also has some interesting examples of games. I will warn that the last third of the book, when he tries to apply TA to nations, and to insert his own biases on things like spanking children, begins to unravel. But the first two-thirds of the book was excellent. Much more accessible than Berne. I would read Harris first and then Berne if I were new to TA, which is exactly what I did.
I think that a significant factor in this current mass psychosis is the result of a century of promoting the individual over the group.
Sigmund Freud (basically) invented psychoanalysis and his goal, and that of his daughter, was to take maladjusted individuals and fit them into society. There were severe flaws in this, of course, but significantly, his nephew, Edward Bernaise, across the sea in New York took his observations about the suppressed emotions and found ways to exploit them on behalf of commerce and big business. He promoted the individual over the group. Meanwhile, at the same time, in Germany, psychologist (forget the name, can’t find it now) who was significant in the Nazi party used exactly the same techniques to channel the repressed emotions into group actions against ‘others’. That didn’t work out so well, since creating permission to satisfy inner desires by buying stuff is much less harmful than creating permission to satisfy unexpressed frustration by violence.
So, through the course of the 20th Century, there was a succession of psychological movements, all focused on the goal of promoting the individual and “freeing” them from the oppression of social norms. There was a struggle as to whether the person was happier submitting to the group or happier expressing their individuality. Big business catered to the former, hence the explosion of options in clothing, home design, vehicle choices, even the 20 brands of coffee available on supermarket shelves.
Ultimately, the goal was to promote individualism, because they could express themselves though their purchases. Great for business. Not so much when the “individuals” began to express this selfishness through their political choices.
The theme of not wanting to pay taxes in support of people who don’t “deserve” help became a major theme since the 1980s. It was a big talking point by the Conservatives in the recent election, for example, promising “more money in your pocket” through tax cuts. Other political Parties have fallen away from any consistent commitment to a philosophy and begun to cobble together platforms that cater to increasingly narrow, immediate demands from increasingly smaller groups of people. There is no Edmund Burke willing to risk their seat by voting for people’s long-term interests over their short-term demands, and no major Party with that kind of steadfastness that kept Britain stable and well-managed during the 1920s while elections in the rest of Europe became increasingly divided and violent.
The thing is, we are a group species, and so hyper-individualism promoted by business and acquiesced to by Political leadership, frantic for votes as people refuse to accept anything other than an agglomeration of finely-tailored political positions in order to get people out to vote, even as the majority gives up on general political packages, has lead to the atomization of society. Without a group identity within which to operate, people become subject to loneliness and all its attendant psychoses. Increased freedom to be individual, it seems, is enticing, but costly. This leaves people vulnerable to craving to belong to a group. Once they have found such a group to which to belong, people will defend the group, even when the members violate their own personal and putative group values. This is how I explain the frantic adherence to the Red and Blue (and, in Canada, the Orange) Parties, even as the policy positions of those Parties have circled around each other until they are adopting the very views they once stood firmly against. It is also how I explain the fanatical adherence to, say, the cause of trans-gender rights, in particular those born male who now ‘identify’ as female and now demand that the rest of society indulge this self-redefinition, even to the point of demanding full access to all-female locker rooms, which is now in opposition to feminist rights who have fought for equal treatment, but separate from men, even to the point of physically attacking anyone who even entertains the desire to listen to this challenging viewpoint, as a recent scuffle outside a public library in Toronto on Thursday evening (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/megan-murphy-toronto-library-protest-1.5339909) showed.
I believe this is a significant factor in why the rise of a vocal group that insists on, among other things, promoting the rights of a vanishingly small fraction of the population over the rights of half of the population and demanding a level of group adherence that is as strict as the harshest monastic order of the Catholic church that ever existed.
I am quite sure the problem is we’ve failed to impose proper limits, a common theme in your own writing. Too much social repression and restriction is just as bad as too much in-cohesive liberal individuality.
(Sorry for going on so long, but some ideas cannot be expressed in a twit-tweet.)
Just tried to post a comment and got “400 Bad Request”…guess I’ll wait and see if it came through to you, JMG.
The passage “utterly convinced of their own perfect goodness and virtue, just as utterly convinced that they can get what they want only by getting other people with power to do something” really seemed familiar. I get the impression that in this particular tribe, having power and being virtuous are seen as mutually exclusive. There’s a certain kind of bad sense to it, someone who can’t make any decisions can’t make any mistakes after all. Might be why they’d rather hear the truth from a child than a peer.
@barrigan I think the bargaining stage has been entered by many who do “all the right things” so that the pain and injustice and difficulty of the collapse phase will pass them by.
Is this leftist preference for mythos leaning more to being a predicament or a problem?
Dear team10tim, The startrecktechnoprogress story might dominate mass media, not least because a lot of people are making money off it, but I think there are also other stories in our society. Two with which I was raised are:
1. The myth of heroic pioneer forbears, a narrative in which inconvenient elements like previous possession were of course suppressed
2. The myth of the inherent goodness and benevolence of “educated people”, ie. the small time intelligentsia. I am embarrassed to remember how long it took me to recover from that one.
Fascinating stuff, JMG, about a subject I think about a lot.
I do find it interesting how contemptuous we all are of a group of young people who are quite obviously falling apart before our eyes. All the talk of snowflake – I do it too at times – feels like its own form of denial in a way.
JMG I would be interested to hear your thoughts on how as an author you deal with writing for Gen Y and Z. How to best use fiction to approach these issues you mention here. To get in through a side window, as it were?
I feel like millennials and Zs are like another species in some ways in that I struggle to even get a handle on how they approach things. Feels like their digital.nativity has kind of turned them into half AI creatures already. They’re so lost they’re scary, and I don’t see anyone effectively helping them.
Perhaps it’s just simply getting off screens and getting hands into the soil and into a local community. Maybe it’s that sinple in the end.
Anyway, don’t feel like I’ve adequately expressed myself here. The occupational hazard of writing at 3am I guess 🙂
Did anybody sign up for Nanowri-whatever? The idea is you write 50,000 words during November; however, the rumor that everyone who reaches the goal gets a free guinea pig is untrue. Fortunately.
(Not to diss guinea pigs, I like them myself.)
I figured it up; to reach the goal you need to write about 6 1/2 pages per day, assuming a standard word count of 250 words per page.
I just submitted a comment & it went through as usual; maybe the site was down when you tried?
It seems to me like “making the monthly bills” is a concern for a majority of Americans, even among many who earn six figure incomes. For some the bills are for food and basic services and for others the bills are for Tesla leases and second home mortgages, but the consequences of non-payment are harsh in either case – particularly if one’s debt exceeds the value of one’s assets.
“Collapse now and avoid the rush” is a viable option for anyone who has some financial buffer to downsize, but the opposite notion – “consume more now and pay for it tomorrow” still seems to hold greater sway among folks all across the economic spectrum.
I haven’t gone through all the comments subsequent to GM’s, but a quick reply: if you think biological sex in binary then you haven’t looked into it very deeply. Are you not aware of the range of intersex variations that are thrown up by the realities of biological reproduction and genetic mutation? And their prevalence?
This nice young lady has decided to demonstrate the salary class’s resilience and fitness to rule for us:
Her preferred candidate lost the election, putting her to bed with Post-Traumatic blah blah, but fortunately she recovered. So brave. In fact, she was brave enough to go on cable news, where a talking head insulted her. Que barbaridad! Any president besides Trump would have awarded her the Medal of Honor by now.
No wonder they fear Us The People. If we organize, we’ll win against them. If the guinea pigs organized, THEY’D probably win. (“Oh my ghod, the Deplorables are deploying tactical nuclear levels of cute! Retreat! RETREAT! Fall back to MSNBC headquarters!”)
Looks like my comment didn’t come through the first through third times. I keep getting issues with jetpack (WordPress security?) or 400 Bad Request. Is the comment too long for them? Trying one last time–
@Mark L (& JMG)
I agree that the strategy is extremely rude / nasty. I have a few things to add.
First: If you were just living your life as an ordinary person, just doing normal things, and then all of a sudden someone came charging at you out of the blue foaming at the mouth and claiming to be justified in hurting you because you “offended them”–
–it’s a pretty common reaction to go, “I meant to do that.” And then *start* meaning to do that. It’s the, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” reaction.
Second: Team Trump keeps deliberately choosing to do things most people *don’t find offensive*. That’s so that when the one group gets overwrought, everyone else wonders what’s wrong with them. That’s picking on their sore spots, as bullies do. At the same time, these are actual things that ordinary people, like, do. Need to be able to do. Without being attacked. Which is *why* ordinary people think badly of Team Trump’s targets when they flip out at these things. Like: “Let people make cute photoshops of the President honoring a dog, you know? People need to live life.”
(A thought: When you have power over others, you can’t afford to have sore spots, because when the powerful flip out, people get hurt.)
Last: The “keep them too offended to think straight” strategy is one you use when they won’t listen to you any other way. IOW it’s a strategy that’s often characterized as morally appropriate only for the underdog.
So I’ve always been ambivalent about Team Trump and this strategy of theirs. Are they the underdog? Is their constituency? When you attack someone who can’t fight back, that’s bullying. The targets of this strategy seem no longer able to fight back in this same way (though I remember them doing so up to around the ’90s; and someone else pointed out that maybe they’re trying with trans activism). But in other ways they seem to have more power. This rude strategy sometimes seems like the only one that can have any success against these targets. Is that because it’s illegitimate bullying–like, “there’s no *legitimate* way to win against them because they’re *right*”? Or is it because they’re the overdog? I don’t know.
In the end I think it comes back to JMG’s point about interests: If the actions this faction is taking are harmful to someone’s interests, or even are not just “harmful” to their “interests” (because that’s pretty vague and abstract) but actually *a powerful threat to their livelihood and life*…then maybe they decide they *need* someone to defend them from this faction even if by the rude and nasty method of “keeping them too offended to think straight.” :/
One wonders if it will be possible to trust the Vermont Democrats to choose a qualified candidate next year or if they will continue to engage in performance art. Vermont, for those who do not know, is one of two states that elects a governor for a two-year term, the other is New Hampshire.
Dear Mr. Greer and Barrigan, about the math is racist trope, I have a rather more cynical take on that. Whatever the excuse might be, I think the true narrative underlying such a trope is something like We must designate math as racist because excellence in math allows persons not from the approved groups to demonstrate their competence and ascend to positions which in the interests of justice ought to be filled by One of Our Own. This is personal for me because I have a blond and blue eyed granddaughter who is very bright, and especially good at math and science.
A few more narratives I have seen in American subcultures: Material success is the outward sign of God’s grace. The virgin and the whore–there are only two kinds of women. Happiness can only be found in fulfilling your assigned (by someone else) role, and anything else, such as developing some talent or asserting your own taste, is “selfish”. The state of being single and chaste is childish, lack of a sex life, at any age, apparently, proves that you are not adult. The answer to all difficulties can be found in: a literal reading of the Old Testament, the torah, the hidden truth as revealed to Our Glorious Founder, a close reading of the gospel according to Marx, ditto according to the gospel of Freud (or Darwin, as interpreted by us wise folks who knew what he Really meant).
Dear Scott, you stated above that : “The real goal in life should be to end poverty” We Catholics believe, as I understand it, that our secular goal is to perform our daily tasks as well as possible for the greater glory of God. Our monks and nuns take a vow of poverty. I have not gone that far, but I have made a commitment to avoid all wasteful and unnecessary spending. Yes, I suppose that does indeed impact on someone else’s profits.
Interesting article. However, I can’t help thinking that a simpler explanation for the “behaviour” of college students may have something to do with the recent massive expansion of higher education to to include people of average and in some cases below average mental ability.
I just want to say I always enjoy the comment threads as well as the posts here, and read them very carefully.
However I often cannot reply to specific comments addressed to me, and want to say a general tjanj you to all who do and have done so. I appreciate them, and I reflect on them. I especially regret having been unable to respond to Kimberly and thank her for her dream sequence a while back.
I’m also not exactly praying, but to Violet, I’ve been quietly rooting for you in a “Ra, ra, go Team Violet” sort of way, I hope that’s OK, and if so I will continue.
It strikes me that a sort of prayer and blessing blogspace – where people could share prayer intentions, requests and permissions with each other might be a useful thing.
Finally, I’d like to remind folk of Onething’s Gofundme – read about it here -https://ie.gofundme.com/f/annas-cancer-battle
I very much hope that the conclusions to which my mind jumped upon reading this essay are misguided. What you’ve sketched out about the unfolding of a new North American religiosity pointed out to me that I have had the unspoken assumption that (speaking generally) a religiosity is informed, at its outset, by some sort of gnosis that would have a link with the numinous. Given the enormity of the problems our species has created and now faces, the contemporary awareness of the interconnectedness of our problems and predicaments, and perhaps my innate optimism, I’d kind of thought we’d be headed toward a religiosity that embodied reverence for life in all its manifestations and that would spawn more appropriate action/relation with the human- and more-than-human parts of the world.
What I sense instead from what you’ve written here, is an imbalance toward the religious impulse (if not zeal) for observable piety. I’m not sure if that’s the right word, but I mean adherence to forms and beliefs in a way that makes clear that the adherent is on the “right side,” at the exclusion of reason, secretly held personal beliefs, the heterodox, etc. The social-media-spectacle-ization of loyalty to woke-ness and political-cum-religious correctness leads to mass insanity, as far as I can see. Perhaps, in its way, it even fits right into that “slot” recently discussed here that is shaped like a hunger/lust for blood. A cause for chagrin, indeed.
That led me to another thought: if indeed there’s a general “malaise” within the land that wishes harm, if there’s a trend toward a type of “witch”-hunting (well, we can’t say we didn’t recognize the fascination the neo-pagan left had with witch-burning-times, perhaps it was a suppressed shadow?), how might, instead, the recognition of tamanous be vitalized, and with it a truer acceptance of diversity?
I look forward to your next thoughts on this.
Violet, a gladness sprang up in me upon reading your update. That’s wonderful! May you continue to be blessed and protected.
Hi John, many thanks for the post, very insightful
Sometimes one kind mythology is also a tool from some very pragmatic people and agendas (of course full of mythology also), in this case this was a part of the schemes to deactivate the traditional left political fight and priorities.
In 1995 the leftist James Petras was invited by the PSOE (spanish socialist party) to make a report about the “modernization” of the country after 13 years of PSOE rule (1982 – 1995), and how the spanish society has changed. They thought because mr. Petras belongs to the american left (progressive) he would writte a rosy picture of the spanish society, but James Petras, instead of (only) see the presentations of the socialist politicians and the statistics of the ministries, he talked with hundreds of people, in the bars, in the gym, in the streets, you know, spaniards like to talk…
The final report was a jug of cold water for the PSOE, and the report was silenced and remained many years hidden, but internet brought this to light (is in spanish):
One of the main thesis of James Petras is. “Where are the progressives?” (leftists) this is a part of the report:
“The amazing thing about the fate of millions of poorly paid and underemployed youth, without a future, is the indifference of society, including the indifference of the left “progressive” middle class.
Where are the “progressives”?
They are active, but what interests them is a few percent, the “marginal” people: gypsies, drug addicts, prostitutes, immigrants; sexual harassed women, racial minorities, etc … anything but the fate of three million unemployed spaniards (men and women), the young workers with precarious temporary contracts and those who try to live on the minimum wage. I do not want to be misunderstood; of course I am against sexual harassment, discrimination and racism; but here and now, and in the spanish class structure, the distance between long-term and large-scale social problems, and the activities of “progressives” is scandalous. Why do they elude their national and social reality?
First, because it is not dangerous to fight for the legal rights of small minorities: in fact this does not involve any confrontation with the state and even less with powerful businessmen; but engaging in the struggle for the sub and unemployed implies very hard confrontations with the state and businessmen (and the mass media they own) because that struggle revolves around the distribution of the main economic resources of a society: the budgets that could finance public works for large-scale employment instead of subsidies for corporation; and business benefits that could finance a shorter work week and hiring employees with long term contracts.
Second, progressive struggles for minorities (symbolic changes and legal recognition) have the financial support of municipal or regional governments, the NGOs and similar organizations, all of them provide economic opportunities to the “progressives”: seconds salaries as researchers, educators, social workers or lawyers. They like this combination of “good conscience” and financial compensation mixed with a pat on the back of local authorities.”
Anyhow even what James Petras says is part of what is happening with the left, this is far from the only reason why this kind of policies arouse and are so ubiquitous today, and do not explain how Michel Foucault has been sanctified by the left all around the globe, not directly from the “Rive Gauche” but passing through the universities and think-tanks of your side of the pond.
He did not explain the Post-modernist Puritanism and Hipermorality of the new left, which I think are entrenched in the Calvinistic roots of your country, were, for example almost all the foreign policy is just a chain of “moral projects” and all wars are “defensive just wars” full of chaotic angelic brutality.
I’ve given up trying to post the long comment I had written. There’s something called jetpack, which when I search on it seems to be wordpress security, that seems to have a problem with just that comment and not the other I posted. My comment was basically agreeing with JMG’s older point about interests-based politics. Could it have been too long? JMG, do individual site owners have any control over how jetpack works with their site?
I’ve been on the road for sometime reading Ecosophia on a cell phone. Without the use of a keyboard I haven’t felt like responding, so the following is also in reference to one of your previous essays.
First, I believe that truthfulness, in the Platonic sense of hating “lies of the soul” is a rare personality trait. Most people want to conform to one group or another and will believe what the other members believe in order to fit in, regardless of the contradictions. However the decline of reasoning as a tool of persuasion and rationalization seems obvious over my lifetime — I’m 45.
In a previous essay you pointed out the loose association starting with Plato with the lower classes and the baser instincts of human behavior towards the stomach and desire for comfort, while the ruling elite were associated with the brain and the intellect. My reading of History is that many of better rulers usually experienced deprivation themselves. Genghis the Khan, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Richard the Lionhearted, Peter the Great, and many others spent more time making war than sitting on pillow at court. I assume most of the well known personalities from the past experience at least at some point of our lives hardship and danger. (In the Middle Ages the King wasn’t expected, but required to lead his army on the battlefield.) I think this is vital, because without hunger, pain, and risk of death to keep those in power grounded, the mind tends to get lost in unreality.
In short: I see most of the Far Left—the future government workers of America—as being the result of two or three generations of soft living, so of course they can’t think straight and are entitled to righteousness. They are the democratic equivalent of the wastrel grandson who inherents the throne and then leads the kingdom to ruin.
To Violet: I don’t see the Second Religiosity occurring until after the population decline rebounds, which is probably a half a century away.
Dear golocyte, I would suggest that the weaknesses of the right have nothing to do with reparations at all. I would particularly point to two weaknesses, continuing belief in the wonderful mass consumption economy and conservative attitudes about women. That latter is, I suggest, a place where the right is particularly vulnerable. If we had an opposition party which was both competent and not corrupted, that party would be demanding at every possible opportunity, why has Gislaine Maxwell not yet been indicted? You, Ms. waitress living on minimum wage plus tips which have to be shared with the busboys just paid a $100 traffic ticket, look at how the Rs are letting a socialite who never worked a day in her life get off scot free! If she is innocent of credible allegations of extremely serious felony offenses made by numerous believable alleged victims, let her prove it in court, just like you would have to do. Then there is the right’s outrageous hypocrisy about immigration. Build the Wall is being trumpeted by folks whose houses and yards are cleaned by third world immigrants; whose children are raised by third world nannies, who send their clothing out to cleaners staffed by more third world persons. The same angry ideologues who want to Build the Wall have no problem with foreign ownership of American real estate, including farmland, which I think should be declared a critical national resource.
…and now the comment does show up as awaiting moderation? I don’t understand wordpress at all. Sorry for the confusion, everyone, hope it isn’t duplicated (or triplicated)!
That’s an interesting article you linked. It doesn’t seem like the author thought about how it would sound to Republicans, or people who don’t like California’s current situation and don’t want their location to become similar…or even just people like me who aren’t Republicans but just…don’t hate Republicans either. It seems like the author has an assumption that of course everyone reading it not only isn’t a Republican themselves, but also thinks Republicans are completely horrible with no good qualities and need to be eliminated. It seems dehumanizing, and so I find it frightening.
This is a bit off-topic; it’s about the Obamas’ planned purchase of a mansion on Martha’s Vineyard in spite of the predictions of sea level rise. First of all, I’ve always felt good on islands. Islands seem like safe places, notably places I’ve been myself like Vancouver Island in BC, Martha’s Vinyard (which I visited once in 1970) and Beaver Island in Lake Michigan (about 500 feet above sea level). I’d guess the Obamas and many others share my feelings about islands. But regarding sea level rise, it occurs to me that to wealthy people the purchase of a home is not the major life commitment that it is to us lesser mortals. If you’re wealthy and “things go south” you just get on a jet and go somewhere else, say, San Carlos de Bariloche, or (fill in the name or your own favorite fantasy spot on the globe). So contemplating a purchase of real estate a mere 20 or 30 feet above high tide doesn’t necessarily mean a disbelief in the science, at least for the wealthy; it just means that you can afford to say, “it’ll be good while it lasts, and then we’ll think of something else.”
On unreason:Just a data point from Klamath Falls. I have a friend who is totally convinced that racism and sexism are behind whatever the right is doing, and sexism is behind the defeat of Hillary and any criticism of her. She doesn’t scream slogans in rage like the one I’ve already written off as irrational, but on these subjects, she almost whines.
Now, being born in 1958 and come up the hard way (not all Boomers are children of privilege, folks!) and having been in the Air Force at a time when men in the workforce giving women a hard time or being patronizing was more the norm than it was later, she has a right to be touchy on the subject of sexism. There was a time when women needed a male co-signer on loans and bank accounts and credit cards; and doctors dismissed a good many medical complaints of women or talked down to them. And she has held her own through some pretty tough times. She does, believe me, call out the arrogance of the privileged and the greed of the corporate heads and the rest of the economy of the Second Gilded Age.
And her husband is a Republican. An old-fashioned Republican of the Pappy Bush/William Buckley Jr. era. They get along very well. She is used to dealing with people of all political persuasions on a pragmatic basis in her home town and even in state (Oregon; she’s in the High Desert side of the state) politics.
But about the national scene, she has caught the disease both sides of the fence have been infected with, and is reduced to the easy answers given above.
P.S., full disclosure: I so think the move for women’s equality went too far when it was interpreted to mean that men could be in positions of power over dependent and incarcerated women, at the cost of their safety from sexual assault. Bona Fide Job qualifications should include a right to privacy at the very least. (As for bathrooms, do what the airlines and small restaurants do: have one-holers open to all, inside locks on the door. Which is indeed the trend.)
@ Lady Cutekitten “Trade journal for harlots” has been my opinion of Cosmopolitan for several decades now. Quite openly so, I imagine. Well, wouldn’t it be fun to submit an article on the benefits of organizing the mistress trade* and even forming a union?
*I understand it was very highly organized in 19th century New Orleans, and in France.
re: “Math is racist”. To me a statement like that is really racism in social justice / liberal drag – instead of something like, “of course ‘they’ can’t do math – they are [insert derogatory term here], a statement like, “poor, helpless dears, of course they can’t do math, they are disadvantaged.”
I wonder what Katherine Johnson would have to say.
JMG – Thank you for such a thought provoking essay. Again.
Here is another huge embarrassment for the senile elites running the Democratic Party. The whistleblower who gave the House Democrats a pretext for impeachment proceedings against the president has been outed. Jim Kunstler describes him as “a CIA ectoplasm identified by everybody and his uncle in Swampland as one Eric Ciarmarella, 33, a former Joe Biden staffer, Obama White House low-level NSC holdover, and John Brennan “asset” deeply involved in Ukrainian pranks during the 2016 election and subsequent disinformation leakage to the media since the early days of the Trump administration.”
More and more, the impeachment circus is looking like a setup instigated by DNC loyalists within the “Deep State”. I think it is very likely this will end up turning into an “own goal” for the Democrats, especially given Ciararella’s ties to Joe Biden, Ukraine and a whole host of sketchy characters like Brennan and Alexandra Chalupa. Among other consequences, it will likely result in questions being raised about a number of issues the Dems would rather people forget about, from 2014 coup d’état that the Obama administration engineered in Ukraine and Biden family corruption in Ukraine, China and elsewhere, to the Russia-Gate hoax and a recurring pattern of sleazy and legally dubious attempts by Democratic Party hacks in the intelligence community to derail Trump’s candidacy and presidency.
Thank you for the recommendations! Off to the library!
Meanwhile over on the alt-right, Pepeism has intensified into Groyperism, and this time they are going after “moderate” Conservatives rather than the left. There is a commentary on recent events here:
Relevant to JMG’s post is this particular excerpt from the above article:
“This is happening for two reasons. First, the left is no longer an interesting or formidable foe. The culture war issues that sent Trump to the White House in 2016 are old hat to dissident right-wingers who live on the internet. That was a millennial war and now the zoomers are ascending. Those with a knack for sensing the mood of the nation and predicting the direction culture will go — a club, by the way, devoid of anyone on the left or in media — watch the left’s continued narrow-sighted, cannibalistic spiral of madness with increasing boredom, whether it’s Russiagate, impeachment, or boycotting a Chick-fil-A.
Once you’ve figured out the left, and have successfully stood up to them and survived, they become less worthy of your mental energy.”
Re “math is racist”
I also looked at the outline. It’s still nonsense. 1+2=3 isn’t a weapon of colonial oppression and f(x)= x^2 doesn’t care what race or gender one is. The excellence of mathematics is that it is beautifully abstracted from all that ridiculousness. Anyone can learn the basic elements of math, regardless of race, gender, economic status, or social background. There is no social context to arithmetic or algebra or statistics or calculus. It is precisely what it is. It isn’t “white” math; it’s just math. And these folks arguing otherwise are smoking something.
If knowing only one story is a death sentence to a society and the people of the West know only one story, the myth of Progress (as one of the commenters here mentioned), then our society needs to learn another one in a hurry. How can it be done?
But is it really the case that our society knows only one story? Or are other stories simply suppressed for the time being by the dominant narrative? When this narrative fails and loses its grip on our collective mind it will be a free-for-all contest between multiple narratives for the empty throne. I feel like you have a plan for that time.
Scotlyn, Lucky you to own a scythe. I really admire them but am too old to start. Do not want to cut myself off at the ankles. Also it has not really rained here for nearly 3 years so really nothing to scythe.
Kimberly Steele–on rich people’s ideas of poverty. My ex had a friend who was raised in relative wealth. He worked as a social worker for a period and one of his observations was that poor people frequently don’t open their mail–because mail is always bad news–a bill or a notice that your kid has screwed up at school. Nothing to look forward to. My ex also observed that when a poor person says “I am broke” it means something like “I have enough money for the electric bill or the gas, but not both; which should I pay?” but when his upper class friend said “I’m broke” it meant “I’ll have to call my broker to sell some bonds.”
As for the increased attention to trans issues–there are some old school feminists, especially old fashioned butch dykes, who suspect a deliberate attempt to destroy feminism. Whether deliberate or not, the idea that “trans women are women in every sense that matters” with the accompanying assumption that natal women have some kind of unearned privilege by being born in a female body is certainly demoralizing to women who have spent their lives suffering and fighting the disadvantages of being female in this society.
Women’s magazines and all of the advertising and editorial content are designed to make one feel inadequate and in need of the products. But their content is so tied into the structures of our society that one needs the instruction provided in dressing and acting properly to get the status jobs. You have to have the clothing and makeup in Glamor to be hired at a big city firm in anything other than a back office position. Look at how much hate and mockery was focused on John Malloy–the Dress for Success man in the 80s– who used actual sociological research to suggest wardrobe choices, and famously commented about designer scarves that “silk is made by worms, not leeches.”
“my conclusion: the bigger issue is why most people are not rational to begin with and merely follow the crowd. Is being a philosopher/rational thoughtful and thinking for yourself partly or mostly genetic? ”
I pondered this last week or the week before. Someone made a comment that provoked me to think that perhaps I had’t taken something into account, namely that perhaps rationality, while crucially important, is not the only important thing in the human makeup. What if we are magical beings? What if part of our “fall” is the lost psychic abilities? Not to say that such abilities should *contradict* reason, but that it is another mode and depends upon faith and confidence.
The lemming aspect of human irrationality is a concern. Humans are predators but also prey and depend upon the decent opinion of the troop/tribe. Most people don’t have the courage and independence to think outside their group. Doing so could be dicey. I don’t think it is a matter of intelligence. Not with what we’re seeing now. A lot of it is laziness. Thinking and pondering and slowly coming to one’s own opinions – thinking philosophically – is just not everyone’s cup of tea!
There could be factors genetic, upbringing or astrological, but my personal take is that it is a matter of development of the soul that incarnates and reincarnates. It’s not in the skillset of the baby or child soul. Which sorta leads me to a problem I have been pondering. Since people like to have leaders and even like obedience and surrender to leaders, why don’t they choose better leaders?
Ultimately this is a spiritual virtue. One of my favorite sayings from the gospel of Thomas is (slight paraphrase): There are many standing without the bridal chamber but only those who stand alone will get in.
NaNoWriMo? Still debating, right now pretty unlikely although I have a story in mind. I’ve done a few NaNos, even have a few wins.
JMG, this just happened today. I have been working on visualizing and have got to where I can see a scene pretty well. Today I began to hear the sound in the scene, faintly. Is that safe, or should I back off visualizing?
Also, to whoever is having trouble posting long comments, I doubt the problem is the length; as you may have noticed, I babbled about generals and guinea pigs for several paragraphs, with no trouble. Try posting “test,” if you haven’t already—that way if it gets eaten, at least you haven’t lost a long thoughtful comment. Good luck!
Cliff, that might work. Are you at all familiar with John Ellis’ fine book The Social History of the Machine Gun? It’s a solid challenge to the risible notion that technology is value- (and thus myth-) free.
Peter, I’d prefer that you use your participation in the novels to give you options for experience, rather than confusing the novel with the world we live in! Thanks for the recommendation of Flynn’s book — I’ll see if I can find a library copy.
Golocyte, ah, but there’s also an equally intransigent minority, increasingly well organized and rather larger, pushing the other way. The Overton Window can slide in many directions; with even Paul Krugman admitting that he was wrong and globalization hurt US workers, it seems more likely to me that the Left has done a Wile E. Coyote maneuver and is about to look down…
Your Kittenship, I was amused to note that of all the characters in The Weird of Hali, the one who rated highest on the Mary Sue scale — yes, that would be Jenny Chaudronnier — got a whopping 8. Some of the others literally didn’t score a single point. To my mind, this indicates that I did something right.
Kimberly, I know the type. I get such people now and again who contact me saying they want to study magic or Druidry or what have you, and I’ve learned through repeated experience that each minute devoted to teaching them is wasted time.
Mr. M, good. Oddly enough, we’ll be talking about something not too far from this in the remaining sections of this essay.
Scotlyn, that’s an excellent example, not least because vaccination functions here as a stalking horse for faith in progress and the other technologically based myths of our time. If someone doesn’t blindly accept whatever poorly tested nostrum the medical industry wants to inject into your child, why, they might have doubts about our salvation through technology more generally — heretic! Infidel!
Patricia O, glad to hear it. Sometimes it’s necessary to make sacrifices for sanity
Xabier, now surprise me. I wonder how long it will take the backlash to build.
Scott, no, it’s a deliberate word choice — you can catch an insight, and using that verb makes it clear that getting an insight is something you have to work at, not something that someone else can do for you! As for ending poverty, er, why should that be a universal goal? I’ve been very poor — most writers go through that — and it was a useful education for me. Those who don’t have that experience very often end up with a sense of entitlement that cripples their capacity to deal with life constructively.
Mac, and yet that fear rises and falls in intensity, and has more effect now than it has in many other epochs. I think something else is going on.
Kyle, fair enough! I was sufficiently put off by the last third of the book that I don’t tend to recommend it. It would be great if someone with experience in TA were to write a new book on the subject for beginners!
Renaissance, that seems quite plausible as a factor in our situation. It’s a source of wry amusement that movements that claim individual rights for one group so reliably end up trying to deny them to other groups…
Cary, no, but your later attempt made it through.
Happypandatao, that’s a good question. We’ll have to wait and see the answer.
Sue, as someone with Aspergers syndrome, I know I have no ability to understand what goes on in people’s heads, so I don’t write “to” an audience; I just write the kind of story that I like to write (and to read), and the people who enjoy that kind of story apparently enjoy mine as well.
Your Kittenship, I’ve never written fiction that fast. Even The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth, which came into being faster than I’ve ever written anything before or since, took eight weeks to finish the 70,000-word first draft. The current project is moving ahead slowly, about 500 words a day, though that’s mostly because I’m having to learn a lot of details about late Victorian Wales!
As for the snowflake, that’s just embarrassing. An angry guinea pig would defeat her three falls out of three.
Cary, that’s valid. I think there could have been other ways to challenge the hegemony of an utterly corrupt and embarrassingly incompetent managerial class — which is what we’re talking about here, of course — and there are aspects of the way that Trump has gone about that task that I really dislike, but he’s using his core skill set to do it, and he’s gotten enormous traction so far.
Mike, even the bright ones are babbling palpable nonsense, though. That’s the thing I want to explore.
Temporaryreality, I see what’s happening in a different way. US elite classes have always aped European fashions, and what we’re seeing here is a pseudoreligious devotion to the kind of abstract universals that have been central to Faustian culture all along. As the new religious sensibility gets going here in North America, I expect it to react against that, and move in its own direction precisely as part of the reaction against that.
DFC, thanks for this! I’ll have to read Petras, but it sounds to me as though he’s tapped into the core strategy of the managerial elite — using “progressive” rhetoric about the plight of small minorities as a way to enforce the subjection of the working classes and widen the gap between the comfortable classes and the working classes.
Cary, nope, and as you see, your post got through anyway.
Nathan, that’s quite plausible. Aristocracies that thrive do so by making sure their young men go to war, so that the stupid ones get weeded out and the survivors have had to confront reality in its grimmest forms. One of the reason our current aristocracy is so inept is precisely that its members have been so sheltered for so long.
I understood you! I think the kids are lost because their parents are; their parents are the first generation who did everything they were told to do and found, to quote (I think) George Carlin, “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe in it.”
It seems to me that the time has come to begin quietly calling the left’s bluff. Ridiculous allegations that this or that is offensive and demands for apologies should simply be responded to with “That is absurd and I’m not going to play that game.”
My main cast members all scored 2. I was sure Fastleft would flunk, but his tendency to be a bit too aggressive and his inexperience in his post seem to have offset his beauty and saved him from the ignominious title of “Mary Sue.” 🍺. (That was him raising a sardonic beer to his narrow escape; he doesn’t give a rat’s [unDruidly word] what some test thinks of him. Obviously a man who should have been born in the Internet age.😄)
I swear a lot of the items on that test make no sense, e.g. the pet item—Long John Silver would be penalized for his parrot. But it was fun. Did anyone else take the test, and if so, how’d your characters do?
JMG, you owe me a keyboard for the guinea pig winning 3 falls out of 3. Hee hee hee hee hee. Well, it DOES belong to a guy who’s seen more than his share of close combat—maybe he instructed it in cavy-do.
@JMG & Violet: Holy Moly! The Second Religiosity lets all the “sectarian violence” among Star Wars fans over the Disney sequels make sense to me, finally. George Lucas has said in the past that he set out in 1976 to make a modern mythology, and I think in the cultural climate of catabolic collapse it accidentally turned into a fully-formed religion for a lot of people. (The same is probably true of a lot of other pop culture/fiction universes post-Star Wars, too.) The constant spittle-infused crusading in the fan community over this or that story or artistic choice sounds an awful lot like the early Church debating what goes in the Bible (with Luke Skywalker substituted for Jesus). Understanding, of course, doesn’t change that what was once a lighthearted world to escape to (and spend far too much of my youth honing X-Wing pilot skills) is now surrounded by such a cloud of constant criticism I have trouble enjoying it anymore. It feels far too much like my job in architecture to be relaxing! On to more productive hobbies…
So just my impression, but a lot of the issues which the left thinks of as important and goes on about all the time, or seems to – how racist, how homophobic, how oppressive etc we all are – is becoming increasingly irrelevant to my conservative community. We don’t really care anymore. I see people becoming more religious also, as in traditionally religious, and focusing more in on our own community. Increasingly over the last ten years our friends and associates have become safe in our terms. We have our own news sites and talking points. I know three mothers who are homeschooling and I would say for most of us the focus is on our families and our faith and we see our history, and our future I might add, very differently than the left. We might as well be on two different planets, as the discourse seems increasingly just noise. Generally we would not have especially high incomes. We consist of nurses, cleaners, welders, programmers, cement workers, and small business owners – everybody is on a budget and there is a lot of swopping and lending of stuff and we adore our children and seem to be having more of them, so whatever the strategy.. it’s definitely not working as far as I can see.
Sigh. Just saw this title at the bookstore: ‘Hexing the Patriarchy” – “full of … incantations…to bring down the Man…”. What could possibly go wrong?
I agree, that’s what many are trying to do. But, look at people’s reactions here. That type of “white lie” is no longer sustainable and even no longer harmless.
Assuming that “white people are all powerful and fine, they can *take* an inaccurate implication that they’re trying to keep others from learning math, they can *stand* to go along with that in order to be nice” just…no longer works. *Ignore* “those who would assert that minority students are innately unable to master math”; stop worrying that you will be “giving them comfort” if you “come right out and say that minorities have rejected math.” Because these days, if you *don’t* come right out and say that, you are falsely implying that white educators deliberately designed math curricula to shut out nonwhites. And not only is that false, I believe *it* gives “comfort to those who would assert that minority students are innately unable to master math”–because it fuels reactive racism.
Well, that’s my question–at what point does attacking the “embarrassingly incompetent” become “mocking the afflicted”? They are people just living in the way they were taught, too. I hate seeing any people turn into collateral damage, and that’s what seems likely to happen if they can’t willingly stand down…
My quandary is that I never saw anyone else successfully challenge them before Trump. Did you have any specific alternative method in mind?
Oops. JMG, I meant to tell you, the Nano people say that that 50,000 word/month count isn’t expected to get you a finished product, just to help get you in the habit of writing without ever skipping a day, which WILL get you a finished product. I know mine will end up well over 50K just because of the sheer number of people involved. If I ever do this again I will tell the story of a hermit. On a desert island. That’s quarantined. By the Cardassians (who, however silly they may look and whatever else may be said of them, don’t mess around).
First: If you were just living your life as an ordinary person, just doing normal things, and then all of a sudden someone came charging at you out of the blue foaming at the mouth and claiming to be justified in hurting you because you “offended them”–
–it’s a pretty common reaction to go, “I meant to do that.” And then *start* meaning to do that. It’s the, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” reaction.
I’ll admit that I haven’t had exactly that experience with the SJW crowd, probably because I’ve been around educational institutions long enough that I don’t often say the “wrong” thing unintentionally, and also I have enough degrees and academic honors under my belt that they are willing to hear me out even if they disagree.
That said, I’ve been on the receiving end of enough bullying in my life to recognize it and have zero tolerance for it in the political sphere. I also don’t abide responding to rudeness with more rudeness. As much as it might be human nature, it just doesn’t feel right to me.
In response to your last point, I don’t think that bullying is the only – or even the most effective – way to claim power as an underdog. Perhaps it helps for the first champion of a cause to be a bully – to make oneself heard over attempts to silence and distort the message – but that sort of behavior also puts a hard cap on one’s potential popularity. What if the populists were instead to preach a message of love and inclusivity, build a diverse coalition of the working class – including majorities of people of color and most of the other groups the SJW crowd claims to represent – and to say in no uncertain terms what is being said here in so many ways: that economic security trumps political correctness, globalization and unrestricted immigration is a threat to American livelihoods, etc. etc.?
So far it seems that Tulsi Gabbard is the only one in the ring taking this approach, and I’m on her team for now…
The trouble with woke culture is that it’s asleep.
@JMG: I’m having to learn a lot of details about late Victorian Wales! Good luck! Feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to double-check something or sanity-test an interpretation 🙂
I second your post of November 1, 2019 at 2:15 pm.
If this has anything to do with a coming religiosity, well, it is not very inspiring.
I see! Not having read Spengler or having a particularly strong grounding in history, I neglected to factor in the sweep of a greater timespan. That’s reassuring in a way, though it likely means I’ll only get to experience the period of the pseudoreligious turbulence. Fun times.
If I recall correctly “Jedi” has been a legally recognized religion in GB for many years.
Yep, if every little thing you do is racist, there ain’t much point in worrying about it!
Hi Patricia T.,
JMG will probably get some more helpful how-not-to-do-magic entries out of that book you saw!
What are you working on that has to do with Wales?
” “trans women are women in every sense that matters”
Except the one that actually does matter.
Phutatorius, no doubt that’s the case. It’s just amusing to watch Barack talking earnestly about climate change and Michelle accusing people of being racist for leaving Chicago, while the two of them do something that contradicts their own arguments so blatantly.
Patricia M, I’ve noticed that a certain number of professional women have a very odd screw loose when it comes to Hillary Clinton. They don’t seem to be able to hear any criticism of her without taking it as criticism of themselves. Do you think that could be involved?
Patricia T, you’re welcome, and I ain’t arguing…
Jacurutu, that was probably inevitable. It’ll be interesting to see how long Schiff can keep the impeachment charade going, and just how brutally it’s going to cost the Dems — polls of swing districts are looking very bad for them.
Phil K, now if the moderate conservatives can simply figure out how to play good cop to Nick Fuentes’ bad cop, they can run that time-honored gimmick on the left and take it all the way to the bank. Popcorn, please!
Polytropos, we’ve got many stories, and the relationship among stories is always complex and contested. Still, one story — the story of progress — is central to a lot of people’s sense of who they are and what the world is, and that story’s coming apart around them. That’s a situation I’ve been trying to work on since well before I began blogging — and, er, it has more than a little to do with the fiction I’ve been writing, you know. 😉 Among other things…
Your Kittenship, that’s very good to hear. As you continue working on your visualization, try to incorporate all your senses, so that you see, hear, touch, smell, etc. everything around you. The more senses get involved, the more vivid the imaginal work!
Onething, I think you’re probably right. Thus the focus of this sequence of posts!
Your Kittenship, nah, the author of the test has very clearly read a vast amount of really bad fanfic, and knows the species Lousicharacter marisuus well. Precious exotic pets are one of the standard fashion accessories of the Mary Sue; Long John Silver avoids that status by other means.
Architrains, yep. They’re all unconsciously gearing up for the turn back to religion, which should be starting in earnest about six weeks after the current fad for political pseudoreligion implodes — my guess is that this is going to happen on or shortly thereafter November 3, 2020, but we’ll see.
Naomi, thanks for this; yes, that’s increasingly the case for a very large number of Americans, The obsessions of the managerial elite no longer interest most people, and effective barriers to managerial-elite interference in individual lives are becoming very widespread — homeschooling, alternative healing, and dropping your TV in a dumpster from a considerable height are all good examples. That shift is in the process of becoming a massive political reality as well, with consequences that will be shaking things up good and hard in the years immediately ahead.
PatriciaT, no kidding. Just in case the rest of the world is listening, can I point out that trad occultists (for example, me) don’t do such things? We’re not that stupid!
Cary, I wish I did. That’s why, though I wince at Trump’s tactics, I recognize the point to them.
Your Kittenship, the Cardassians? That’s the family of female celebrities, right? 😉
Paradoctor, excellent! You’ve earned tonight’s gold star for a fine aphorism — not to mention an accurate one.
Bogatyr, thank you. Do you happen to have a good online source of period photos of hotels in Wales, especially interiors, circa 1890? If geography’s relevant, the town of Caermaen doesn’t exist — it was invented by Arthur Machen, and I’ve commandeered it — but if I understand correctly it’s more or less an equivalent of Caerleon.
I am glad to learn that having sound in my visualization is safe. Thanks! I’ve been using visualization a lot to help write. I draw the line at smell, though, since Reality has not yet discovered internal combustion, which means lots of horses, mules, large dogs 🐶—and their byproducts. PU. No Smell-O-Vision for me!
Also thanks for explaining the puzzling pet question—I have NOT read vast amounts of really bad fan fiction, so that explains why I didn’t get it. I am guessing this also explains the other puzzling items, such as points against the heroine if she is odd-eyed. I actually met an odd-eyed lady once; she had one hazel eye and one green eye. (She was told to pick one color for her driver’s license.)
The Kardassians are the female celebrities; the Cardassians are a race of people on Star Trek who are the kind of people you’d want standing guard on your side. They’re (in)famous for torturing CPT Picard—that’s where the “There are FOUR lights” meme comes from, if you’ve seen that one.
The Kardassians seem a lot more alien to me than do the Cardassians; I have nothing against the Kardassians, they’re just working their hustle like good Americans, but I don’t really understand their hustle. Whereas the Cardassians, products of professional script writers, have clear and easily understandable motives.
November 2nd 2019
Regarding your response to Nathan’s comment about Nathan, “Aristocracies making sure their young men go to war, so that the stupid ones get weeded out and the survivors have had to confront reality in its grimmest forms.” Isn’t surviving a war every bit a matter of luck, brain and fitness? (Probably luck in most cases?)
When I look at young men as a collective group, I feel like the phrase “sports don’t matter” does them every bit the disservice that telling a young woman it’s ok to be 400 pounds does. The reasons/benefits to staying healthy and take care of oneself should be self-evident.
To me, the biggest difference I see between men and women is men fetishize, rituals and acts, a lot more than women or at least in different ways. (JMG I’d be curious to know how much you think uniquely male psychology governs groups like the Free Masons?)
One experience I had with male fetishization that sticks out in my mind was in my first semester of college, where I took a Zoology class. There was a young man there who was in the army. He got himself assigned to the group was dissecting a shark, then kept talking about how he wanted to keep the shark’s heart. That experience just had me thinking of Lenny from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Lenny just wanted to touch soft things. This man just wanted to keep that shark’s heart. To be honest, I didn’t consider him that bright. It was a community college and I realize he had as much right to be there as I did. My own humanity wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt – But I couldn’t and cannot.
Afterwards, when I compared and contrasted my personality with his, I saw the animal nature of being a man and woman separates us irrevocably; if I were the thing he fetishized, real communication between us would never be possible. I also realized my rights as a woman would cease to be if a class of men such as he came to power. My rights would be trampled as much as the rights of good men – With that in mind, I realize how important it is that we prop up good men and pull the rug out when they go wrong. As much as I appreciate feminism’s goal, I don’t see it mounting an effective defense against Shark-Heart-Guy.
The only way I see to control a guy like that is through ritual.. Ritual that only other men can provide. The alternative is the Of Mice and Men Solution (George shoots Lenny)
I don’t place much stock in IQ, but when you consider women clump around the IQ mean of 100, and men fall at the tail ends, either very smart or very dumb, I think something interesting is going on there. It is not just like that with intelligence but other mental traits as well. Empathy for instance. Men have the Dali Lama, Martin Luther King, and Abraham Lincoln but you also have Ted Bundy and Bernie Madoff.
Any gene typically spends half its time incarnated in a male body. So women also carry the same propensities, however muted. No matter how far women run, progress, or what have you, in our own genetics is the recipe for our own oppression.
Doll on a Windowsill
JMG: the best resource I can think of is the People’s Collection; there are a large number of hotel-related documents, and I’m sure many will be of approximately the right period and location. https://www.peoplescollection.wales/discover/query/hotel
The National Library of Wales also has digitised photographs online, though I couldn’t immediately find anything for you. I gather that that the US Library of Congress also has some online photographs of Victorian Wales, but I haven’t followed that up.
Can your experience of The Californians be explained in part by the way many of the people who live there “have lost track of the pragmatic mode when it comes to political issues, and respond to anything involving those issues from a purely mythic standpoint, without benefit of the reality testing and the sense of practicality that the pragmatic mode is meant to bring to the conversation.”? That sounds to me like the way future historians will explain the Golden State Civil Wars.
As for women’s magazines, I have asked myself (a woman) the same question. My best understanding is that women can be really different in their values, eg. a woman who I know reads those magazines, is generally intelligent and self-respecting, but will return to give birth at the same hospital (where the sadistic maternity staff tortured her and endangered the life of her and her previous baby) because “the rooms are really, really nice!”. Different women find comfort in very different ways.
cheers – Chris
Hi John Michael,
Thanks, and narrative is I reckon a pretty good tool. However, it isn’t the only tool which I have access to, and I tend to take a flexible approach with people. One of the things that strikes me as being a bit of a problem is that there are a lot of forms of magic being used these days which when taken to extremes produce a sort of Reductio ad absurdum. Maybe it is just me, but a tool appears to me to be good for certain situations and outcomes, but some people tend to want to use the tools which they have learned to use, in totally unsuitable situations. And therein lies the predicament for them. Oh well, I just get on with what I feel needs doing, and then just sort of hope for the best!
Speaking of which, an inch of rain fell over the farm today. But even better the storm was extensive enough to drop some rain on the drought challenged states to the north of here. For them it was not enough to break the feral drought, but it will help.
@ JillN – I don’t know what age “too old” is, but for the record, I’ll be 60 in August. 😉
This scythe is, perhaps, the very first tool I’ve ever owned that feels like it “fits” me – my frame, my strength, my moves and balance. Being made in the “Austrian” style it is highly adjustable. The blade’s angle can be adjusted in all three dimensions, and the handles can be adjusted to exactly fit your body’s size and habit of moving.
Also, its visible effects on the state of my orchard and field are immediate and substantial and provide me with quiet satisfaction.
Once you hold one, you’ll realise it is impossible to cut yourself while working with it, the danger is all when you are sharpening it. A training course is recommended, but I’m.making do with videos until I can get myself to one.
I realise this is now sounding like a commercial, so I may as well say that, though I own exactly zero shares in this company, I am now a very happy customer of thescytheshop.co.uk if anyone wants more info on them. Or google “Austrian scythes”.
Just this week the poem below came to me and reading your essay I thought it might be relevant to post it here. It also riffs off a few points you have made in previous essays. It is in no way a political statement that I am trying to make with it (I’m no great fan of the orange man) and if anyone reading it gets triggered, they might want to reread your essay 😉
The Deplorables’ Orange Man
Is like a lump
Of American apple pie
He’s the sparkle in Uncle Sam’s eye
He holds up a mirror
So that all can see the flaws
His lack of all decorum
Is why so many’re for ‘m
He opens up the doors
Settles all the scores
Don’t care who he gores
And tells it like it is
No pizazz and no fizz
That’s why he’s the boss
No matter what it costs
‘Cause Orange Man
Is our gain
And your loss
So that is where the chaffing dish came from!
A book all in first person is a bit different.
I think the ‘wealth is a sign of God’s blessings on the elect’ comes from Calvinism and thus is not strictly an American theme, however much it may have flowered on American soil.
As for foreign ownership of American land, particularly agricultural land, please do not confuse the attitude of the elite (of whichever party) with the concerns of ordinary people, especially ordinary people who live in farming country and see land being bought up by foreign concerns, including countries which may or may not be dependable allies. There is a disconnect between those who have no actual experience on the land and those who do.
@JMG – equating criticism of Hillary with criticism of themselves? That makes a lot of sense! Especially if they see in Hillary’s opponents the face (and hear the voice) of every co-worker or boss who told them to run along and play with their toys. Oh, that makes SO much sense! Thanks you!
Dear JMG and All,
I haven’t read all the comments, apologies if I am repeating someone else’s observations. I get the impression that most of the “delusional” ones come from the sections of society that have spent more time in the formal education establishment. It looks very much like a class thing. Often, when trying to discuss a topic there is strong push-back in the form of “well, me, me, me”. Gee, You were not the topic and you have completely failed to understand what the issue is or that there is more than one to be considered. Everything is being framed on the basis of feelings and neglecting the interplay of different interests. Ho hum.
In accordance with serendipity, I came across this only yesterday.
It is a conversation by John Anderson (an Australian) with Melanie Phillips (UK). Despite being on YouTube you can treat it as a podcast. It was recorded just over a year ago and covers many aspects of this series of posts and John Michael’s many articles. Melanie Philips, who used to be a staunch Guardian (lefty UK newspaper) columnist, has been side-lined by the main-stream media for discussing many of the hypocrisies we are bombarded with today. She also talks about the left moving to the circular shooting phenomenon, the class aspects of the Brexit vote and Trump’s election, and how she sees the current development of the ideology driving the “culture wars” and where it comes from. It is slightly European centric, but also includes America. I thought this is a nice addition to John’s series of posts and helps us realize we are not alone in our observations of what is happening in our societies, even though you need to rummage around to get past the shrieking.
Thanks to everyone for your thoughts. I really appreciate reading about people’s perspectives and from different parts of the world.
I think at this particular point in time, the pie of available resources in the industrial world is getting noticeably smaller, and those currently in power are doing their best to make sure you and I don’t try to take our share of it. A great deal of the popular narrative in the media seems to have the goal of trying to make us feel completely overwhelmed and powerless. I have definitely noticed this of late with the whole mandatory vaccination issue and the censorship on social media of anything remotely anti-vax, as Scotlyn pointed out too. Also with the dialogue around climate change – the problem is portrayed as being so mammoth and unstoppable and beyond our control that we’ve effectively been reduced to sitting on our folding lawn chairs and watching the sea rise around us while the planet burns. And then we have Google, with their ‘Machine Learning Fairness’ project, deliberately manipulating what comes up on their search engine to promote their own political and economic agenda, altering what people perceive to be ‘reality:
These approaches seem to have the goal of taking away our personal agency, making it easier to manipulate our thoughts and actions.
I was reminded of the idea that the mind has ‘gender,’ in that it has both a masculine and a feminine aspect. The masculine aspect is basically our will to decide what to think, while the feminine aspect is the actual thoughts themselves. If we are not fully aware that our mind has this particular two-part quality, we might at times, perhaps when feeling particularly overwhelmed and powerless, allow someone else’s will to act as the masculine aspect in our own mind. We might then become identified with a narrative that has been handed to us by someone who just maybe has a vested interest in what we think. Ultimately, this would result in us not being able to make use of our personal responsibility and power as an actor in the world.
We probably are — given Krasskova and/or Sannion’s definition of cultus — making at least one offering at least once a year — I’m in cultus to most of the major Hellenic deities.
Many thanks! I really love that, thank you, I’d be delighted and honored if you were to continue.
Many thanks for the kind words!
My thought is that “the future is here, it just isn’t equally distributed,” the Second Religiosity is already here, to my mind, in embryonic form. Furthermore, I don’t think that it will suddenly be obvious what religion or religions will take the lead. At the end of the Roman world there were hundreds if not thousands of small cults that competed for supremacy. Even with the advent of Christianity, it was unclear what the dominant Church would be. And so I imagine that it is so now.
Perhaps this aeon’s Jesus has not yet been born, but I imagine that many equivalents of the prophets are already living here on earth.
That really makes a good deal of sense!
Onething–oh dear. Are you such a gender essentialist as to believe that the ability to bring forth live young is the definition of female mammal? Tchh, tchh. But you see, not all women are fertile or are born with normally formed or functioning reproductive organs, therefore that can’t be part of the definition of women.
I suppose by this same logic we can no longer define horses as having four legs. In fact, by this logic we can no longer define anything. If every exception does not prove, but destroys the rule, only human constructions such as triangles have reality.
Ironically in all of this, I am perfectly willing to support the rights of trans individuals to live and work as the gender of their choice. I also know transitioned individuals who have lived as women for decades and who would be just as dismayed by the prospect of a prison cell mate, or a rape counselor, or a locker mate at the health club who possessed a functioning phallus as I would.
So we have a progressive obsession with a tiny minority. A minority that contains members who may not even agree with the positions taken by their ‘allies’. And this obsession is being taken up by story lines in the main stream media–trans character on Chicago Med just this week, for example. Why? And what kind of tragic backlash is going to be unleashed on actual trans people who just want to live in peace?
I’m curious your thought on how much formal education plays into this. Ivan Illich discussed in his book _Unschooling Society_ that “School is the advertising agency that convinces you that you need society as it is.”
And so with the advent of homeschooling, alternative medicine, and the like, perhaps we are seeing the advent of a significant fraction of the population who no longer are convinced of needing society “As it is.”
This is a huge and seismic shift. The whole idea of the woke crowd is, at heart, reactionary. We can change and shift some of the structures of society while leaving the technocracy untouched. While relations between identities may be challenged, while math may be racist, are vaccines racist? Is heavy industry racist? Is the medical industry racist? Is engineering racist? Is science and technique racist?
I’ve never personal seen the woke crowd veer into any sort of radical critique of society. they do not wish to abolish the Machine, they wish to operate the machine to their ends. Their ends may be religious in nature, but that religion still worships the Machine! Furthermore, they wish to operate the Machine for the *sake of the Machine*. Hence their entirely Mechanistic and unspiritual notions of Identity.
And all true-believers venerate schooling, they venerate the idea of universal higher education. They venerate inculcating all and sundry with the conviction that we need society as it is.
This underlies the push towards *collective* rather than *personal* action. The woke is not radical, it stays well away from root causes and focuses instead on leveraging the power of society as it is, to further itself along the same track it already glides along.
And so radical change within the framework of the woke is impossible since, at heart, every wokester is rigorously shaped through their education, through the crit/self-crit sessions, through the endless online articles and youtube tutorials, and twenty plus years of formal classroom study and all of this schooling all has one thing in common; it has shaped the woke into people who have the conviction that they need the cosmopolitan, technocratic, anti-Nature society as it is.
And so with serene religious conviction, these people fail to see that they are the opposite of liberal, indeed, they are arch-reactionaries, willing to sacrifice, it would appear everything, to keep the 1950’s dream of an automated society chugging, if by nothing more than the strength of their faith.
Re “math is racist”
Rereading my comment, I may have come off more vehement than I intended. My apologies if that was the case. My underlying criticism remains, however: rather than teaching these groups of kids about their victimhood at the hands of the colonialist patriarchy, perhaps education ought to focus on teaching the methods of mathematics which would empower them to take charge of their own lives.
I can’t think but that it’s the myth part in all of this that underlies our present polarization and malaise. In particular, the American dream seems to be slipping away.
I see two aspects to this. The first is obvious. The American Dream says that if you’re frugal and work hard, you can get ahead. You can have a nice home in a good neighborhood with some leisure time and have a reasonable degree of financial security. What we’re seeing now though is a racket-based economy where a medical issue can bankrupt your family, medical insurance and higher education are unapologetic rackets, home prices are out of reach for ordinary people, gainful employment has been shipped out to sweatshops overseas, the media has replaced reliable reporting with blatant propaganda, and government has clearly become part of the problem rather than a possible solution. For many but the well-to-do, the dream is dead.
I think the second aspect is equally serious. Another part of the American myth is — or was — that Americans were good people and that their government and institutions, flawed though they may be, were at least the best available. Vietnam and the JFK assassination but a huge dent in this moral high-ground myth, but the damage has become almost total over the last few decades of constant wars, naked corruption, pervasive invasion of privacy, blatant propaganda, infrastructure neglect… the list goes on. The belief in our society’s commitment to the moral high ground has evaporated.
The media thrives on all of this and does everything possible to exploit it by actively encouraging social divisions and intolerance. “The right” castigates government, ostensibly as an invasion of people’s rights, but in actuality to advance corporate agendas. It constantly berates “the left” for its “moral relativism.” Fox News tells Joe SixPack that it’s the welfare queens who are freeloading off of hard-working Americans and driving up his taxes, and illegal migrants are swarming across our borders and taking his jobs. And it’s the morally degenerate Democrats who are allowing this to happen.
Meanwhile, the “liberal media” screams that the odious 1% are destroying the planet and covertly ripping off the 99%. Things would be better except the racist white supremacist “deplorables” are lording their white privilege over blacks and hispanics, depriving them of their shot at the American dream. And it’s the arrogant, heartless Republicans who are encouraging them.
In all cases, the media advances the controversy by equipping their constituents with talking points. Eliminating the middle ground ensures that the controversies will continue. There’s no way the religious right are going to make any concessions to the morally degenerate left, and there’s no point in the left even talking to deplorables on the right, who are too stupid to understand the big picture. Meanwhile, crucial issues such as the social contract and how to support a society of 300 million people in an increasingly crowded world of declining resources are conspicuously excluded.
Sorry to be so long-winded. Thank you JMG another thought-provoking post.
A rise in “imaginative participation” on the right and left indicates their transformation from loosely adhered to political ideologies to full blown religions. (not surprising since they both have sacred words, taboos/sins, a devil, and a collection of holy texts)
Ask yourself if there is any difference between a political rally and a church service being held outside.
One stark reminder of this for me was this clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aT7WEkvCWeM where David Stockman (Ronald Regan’s Budget Director) went on FOX News and got attacked for failing to properly adhere to the rules of the conservative church.
As for the ‘math is racist’ bit it is amazing how outright racism can disguise itself as concern and tolerance. When I was doing student teaching in a suburban school that was about 1/3 African American I had some discipline problems. My white master teacher kindly explained that I should not take it personally since “being confrontational is part of their culture.” I choked back the reply that “not taking shale from 15 year olds is part of my culture.” But I mentally translated that comment as “they aren’t civilized enough to sit down and take instruction.” I have taught in schools with black administrators. Watched one principal bust into my classroom and call out two students who had just walked in tardy–deliberately lingering outside the door until after the final bell. She was a black women and she wasn’t going to take shale off her black students–she wanted them to learn and succeed, not be excused for bad behavior by specious ideas about culture.
Temporaryreality, with any luck things will begin moving in a more constructive direction in a decade or so, if that’s any consolation.
Your Kittenship, it’s the rewrite of The Great God Pan — for the sake of dramatic unity, the action of my story takes place after the events of Machen’s, at a somewhat out-of-the-way hotel in Monmouthshire.
strange eye colors are practically de rigueur for serious cases of Mary Sue Syndrome. They’re special, you see, and their special specialness has to be instantly visible to the reader and all the other characters. As for the (C,K)ardas(s,h)ians, I have no contact with the media presence of either one and thus can never manage to keep them straight…
Doll, that makes a great deal of sense. You might be interested to know that fraternal lodges for men, such as the Masons and Odd Fellows, have vastly more elaborate symbolism and ritual than equivalent lodges for women — and yes, this is true even for lodges that were organized and designed by women. Within our culture, at least, men seem to have a stronger taste for symbol and ceremony than women do; this may be why American Christianity, which has historically been far more important in women’s lives than in men’s, so often gravitates away from the more ornate sacramental forms and toward a big room with a little decoration here and there, and somebody reciting homilies from the pulpit.
Bogatyr, many thanks for this!
Chris (non-Aussie), I’m not sure what it is about California; a failure of reality testing is part of it, surely. As for women’s magazines, hmm. Interesting.
Chris (Aussie), glad to hear about the rain! That’s got to be a relief.
Hereward, there’s a very funny short story by fantasy author Lin Carter in which the hero vanquishes a city full of religious fanatics by uttering a set of dread heresies so dire that they can’t be heard without risk to one’s eternal soul — the fanatics shriek and run away to save their souls, leaving the hero to walk out unscathed. I suspect your poem might have the same effect in certain circles.
Coop Janitor, er, have you by any chance heard of a writer named Mark Twain? He wrote a book titled Huckleberry Finn, which is entirely in the first person — you can find the first page here. Oh, and there’s another writer named Herman Melville, who wrote another book titled Moby Dick, which is also entirely in the first person; you can read the beginning of it here. That is to say, the writing teachers who insist that there’s something wrong with writing a novel in the first person have their heads so far up their own backsides that they’re choking on their own hair.
Patricia M, you’re welcome. That occurred to me very suddenly one day after reading yet another tirade by yet another Hillary supporter ranting about how no one could possibly have any real reason not to vote for her; the tone was identical to the one I’ve heard countless times from middle-class women who insist that refusing to give them whatever they happen to want makes you a sexist pig.
Stormer, no question, what we laughably call “higher education” these days has become the core institution of the privileged Left — this is why I expect to see most federal subsidies for the university industry terminated with extreme prejudice here in the US sometime very soon. (We’ll all want plenty of popcorn when that happens; it’ll be highly entertaining to watch academic flacks trying to explain to a mostly hostile public why we really ought to cough up upwards of $70 billion a year in federal subsidies to support what amounts to a network of social-justice madrassas.)
Stefania, excellent! You get today’s gold star for being wide awake. Yes, exactly — and it’s thus no accident that the Extinction Rebellion folks, who are mostly upper middle class, are busy insisting that everyone else has to decrease their carbon footprint; the unstated agenda is that if everyone else does so, the privileged don’t have to.
Violet, I’m far from sure I can answer the question about schooling, or weigh effectively which of the various institutions of the status quo plays the largest role in maintaining conditions as they are. Your comment about the wokesters, though, is spot on. It’s all about using feigned concern about the rights of the smallest available minority to distract attention from the exploitation of working class Americans by the comfortable classes.
Helix, an astute analysis. Now ask yourself: who benefits from this state of affairs?
GlassHammer, the sole difference is that at least in theory, the revival meeting is oriented toward a reality that transcends the human realm; the political rally does not. Small as it is, the difference is crucial, because once you direct religious sentiments toward the secular world, what starts out secular very reliably does a quite respectable job of imitating the demonic…
@JMG and all:
I’ve been trying to think about what exactly bothers me about the manifestations of the woke ideology that I come across. A lot of the time, I feel like there is a legitimate insight or grievance at the outset of whatever the question at hand may be, where it’s something to do with, say, anti-racism, intersectionality, the me too movement, trans activism, but then it feels like there are strange undercurrents in all these discussions which get my back up, but it’s hard to say exactly why…
I had this same feeling last night, the topic at hand being “equity, diversity and inclusion” trainings that are happening in our community and that both my spouse and I are attending as part of our work and volunteer activities.
These trainings are a bit like the Bible studies of the social justice movement. Like the Bible (or at least the New Testament), there is relatively little in the ideology of social justice that I disagree with, and I feel like it contains insights and ethics that are of value to society as a whole. In a few cases (e.g. the right of phallus-possessing trans women to enter women-only spaces) social justice conflicts with other interests and ideologies, but in the majority of cases it does not, and asks only that we act empathically toward those who have been marginalized or who have experienced suffering.
If I attempt to verbalize the ideology of social justice, it is as follows: Continuing the trend started with abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement, it should be our goal to ensure that everyone has an equal place at society’s table, and we should accomplish this by addressing the ways in which marginalized groups continue to be excluded by the dominant culture.
Since this is fairly useless in the abstract, here are a few non-controversial examples from our local trainings:
–Refugees who have been held in captivity feel more comfortable if they are seated with a view of the door.
–When addressing a food-insecure audience, avoid asking questions like “what is your favorite meal?”
–In a public setting, try to avoid targeting questions based on perceived ethnicity, e.g. don’t turn to the nearest African-appearing face and ask “how do you prepare okra?”
That’s all good so far, but what about the “strange undercurrents”?
For one – as has been pointed out here many times – the social justice movement is hypocritically blind to economic suffering. If you are a member of the dominant culture but down on your luck, your sufferings will be ignored or at least prioritized well behind the grievances of marginalized groups. To me, this is partly an understandable-if-unfortunate consequence of the fact that the movement started among the privileged classes, and it could become self-correcting if the ideology were to spread more widely – as occurred with the gay rights movement. On the other hand, the privileged classes – as a minority themselves – benefit from keeping factions of the lower classes at each others throats, so this hypocrisy may also be strategic on some level.
The other – and much larger – problem is one that I have a hard time putting into words, but it seems to connect to the way in which the movement is tapping into religious thought patterns and sensibilities. There is a cognitive dissonance between the empathy that social justice asks of us and the harsh judgment the movement is willing to cast upon anyone who inadvertently uses a “forbidden” word or – worse – rejects or questions the ideology. There is a growing lexicon of social-justice-specific language (e.g. trigger warnings, microaggressions) that is largely unnecessary to get the point across but serves to distinguish the faithful (“woke”) from the ignorant masses. Furthermore, many adherents of the social justice ideology have unhealthy levels of self-directed shame and guilt, and these emotions seem to be actively encouraged (self-flagellation?). Combined, this creates the Calvinist impression of angry, unhappy people actively attacking the heretics (“racists”) outside their group and ousting (“calling out”) the impure from within their ranks.
This leads to some questions, which I won’t attempt answer here but I trust will be addressed by JMG and others as this conversation continues in the months and years ahead.
1. How did the movement for social justice get tangled up in this mess anyway?
2. Is it possible to rescue the movement and transform it into a force for positive change across all of society (a la abolitionism, Civil Rights Movement) rather than the sole provision of a cadre of semi-religious activists?
3. What are the most effective ways to reach out to those entrenched within this “religion” – or indeed within the equal-but-opposite reactionary movements on the right – to reopen channels for open communication and find common ground?
There’s a parallel conversation going on around the Indian intellectual Rajiv Malhotra about myth vs history. The conversation is specifically about the place of the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other ancient tales in modern culture. Mr. Malhotra, along with many other vedic scholars and religious figures, argue that the these stories fall into neither the myth category or the historical (practical) category, that they are actually part of what is called Itihasa. The third category has a prescribed set of practices that should be used to engage with them. In this way even fantastic tales can be used to teach practical lessons, but in order for those practical lessons to be learned a student must actually study the tales using the prescribed practices.
*ahem* discursive meditation…
Literally all of the basic teachings you’ve laid down in the mystical practices you’ve been teach us are methods to turn myth into practice.
I wonder if that’s what’s missing in western culture? There doesn’t seem to be a set of prescribed practices to deal with myth and history. People know the stories of victory, but they don’t have a method to draw out how victory was achieved in the stories, just the glossy bits like protesting. You can see the same thing playing out over and over in global political movements that model themselves after the western stories. Glossy and very pretty to look at, but lacking in practical methods.
JMG, is Helen in it? Request tentacled horrors too, please, or at least a few Teenage Mutant Ninja Guinea Pigs. Or an alien who lands and insults a tentacled horror, which promptly eats him. 😄
@Chris at Ferndale re tools – you mean, “When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail?” Mental image of Dennis the Menace with hammer and nails.
You are but a child. I was 74 last August. And I still don’t have any grass.
Chris of Fernglade,
Friends of ours who live half an hour from here got 3 ins of rain last week. I’m not speaking to them either. We would be lucky to have got 12 ins in the last 3 years and we live in one of the most arable areas in Australia. Mind you the last time we got real rain our neighbour came in because she was worried we were going to have a flood. Everyone expects heavy flooding the next time it really rains.
A few weeks ago we drove down through the West of NSW and it was dreadful. The change from brown to green as soon as we drove into Victoria was so obvious.
Enjoy your rainfall.
The article about California struck me as quite odd. It read like something someone in 1950s East Germany could have written praising the benefits of a one-party state.
If one party is hegemonically dominant for any length of time, one thing that can happen is it can become a Big Tent and lose the radical ideological drive it might have had as people who would naturally have gravitated to the other side in a more plural party system enter it for careerist reasons. In the New Labour era under Tony Blair, winning large majorities in 1997 and 2001, the party found itself holding seats in areas not normally represented by Labour, and was less radical perhaps for this reason.
I see you’ve had a number of suggestions of material for inspiration re: 19th century Wales. The Llyrfgell Genedlaethol Cymru has actually uploaded quite a bit of digitised material to Wikimedia Commons: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Images_from_the_collection_of_the_National_Library_of_Wales.
There’s a good website for Cornwall as well here: cornishmemory.com.
Checking in from the university. For what it is worth, big ditto from me re: the flight from reason. I encounter it every single day– amongst people who are supposed to be making a living off the use of reason.
I wanted to add, though, that I notice something that seems to be an intimately related phenomena. It’s hard to articulate, but given the exploratory nature of the discussion at hand, I’ll give it a shot.
In addition to the flight from reason, I notice amongst my chattering-class (il)liberal colleagues a virtually total cynicism regarding anything one might call high or noble. Take motherhood as an example. For my colleagues, it is not enough to agree that abortion services are an essential, albeit regrettable, facet of modern medicine. To be politically acceptable you had better be willing to say that motherhood is a sham and children are parasites. Not only is such a position laughably glib– it also represents a confusing hatred of something essentially feminine in the name of feminism. It goes without saying that one also wonders how these people think they arrived in this reality. If it were one person positing such things I would conclude that that person has unresolved issues with the way they were raised. But, this seems to be an exceedingly common position if not absolutely de riguer so I think something bigger is afoot.
I guess I am wondering, if the flight from reason requires a belief that nobody is capable of being anything better than simply a confluence of social constructions from which there is no escape. Prima facie that idea seems breathtakingly uncharitable– even monstrous. Why would someone adopt such an outlook? I think an answer could be that, when a given civilization’s institutions stop being able to solve problems, this triggers a widespread cynicism to anything that seems familiar or old-fashioned. But, if that were true, then it would stand to reason that the people who actually pay for such incompetence (the lower classes) would be the cynical ones. Here, the opposite is true. To wit, it is the, relatively speaking, social “winners” that insist the game is rigged and everything, and everyone, sucks and doesn’t deserve to live. Very mysterious…
So, in other words, I dunno what the frack is going on and I’ll end my comments here before I get too far out into the weeds. Maybe you, or someone, can point me in the direction of a thinker or writer that observes something similar.
PS. I had occasion to visit Providence and East Providence recently. What a lovely area! Definitely a different vibe than Massachusetts or New York. A pleasant surprise.
Now that I think about it, JMG, the only odd-eyed fictional character I can recall is George R.R. Martin’s Tyrion Lannister, who has one black eye and one green eye. Martin has yet to enlighten us on how Westeros handles the driver’s licenses of such persons.
I am surprised odd-eyed-ness doesn’t appear more in fiction, even if it does cost you one Mary Sue point, since it would certainly help a character stand out from the crowd. Maybe many writers don’t know odd-eyed persons exist. I myself thought the trait was confined to dogs and cats till I met the odd-eyed lady.
My neighbor’s dog, Jupiter, is brown-and-blue odd-eyed. My neighbor says as far as he can tell, Jupiter can hear on the blue side. Which reminds me, just in case anyone doesn’t know, blue-eyed white cats are almost always deaf. (I wouldn’t want anyone’s white cat to get run over just because the owner didn’t know it wasn’t safe to let it out.)
At the other extreme, when I was a kid we had a YELLOW-eyed white cat who could hear the cat food bag rattling from 5 miles away. 😄🐈
Even the first black president isn’t safe from the woke:
I think the tide’s starting to turn on SJWing. Politicians normally keep quiet till they see how sentiments are running on an issue.
“the revival meeting is oriented toward a reality that transcends the human realm; the political rally does not”-JMG
I am not sure about that. The human realm conservatives and liberals speak about is pretty fantastical from my view. (I mean their version of the human realm is so incomplete that fantasy is this best descriptor I have)
“what starts out secular very reliably does a quite respectable job of imitating the demonic”
Already at that stage, all you need is one good crisis.
Back in June 2017, here in Brexit-torn Britain, the Queen wore a blue hat with yellow flowers on it during the state opening of parliament. Some commentators and newspapers pointed out the resemblance of her hat to the star-ridden EU flag. Was she a secret “remainer”, they asked.
I commented on a forum at the time that, in our ever more divided societies, some people were increasingly desperate to interpret such trivia as signs that validated their choices and opinions. I expect you can identify similar episodes in the USA.
In recent days the Queen’s dresser has stated that the choice of hat was pure coincidence and that it never occurred either to the Queen or to her dresser that the hat would be compared to the EU flag.
Dear Lady Cutekitten,
By animal nature, do you mean physical nature as in genes, chromosomes, hormones, energy and brain structure?
I’m not sure you’re right about shark heart guy. Somehow I suspect either women were never all that dissatisfied with their female roles or something else went wrong. An individual man and woman in the privacy of their own home may be one thing, but as a generalization, women do not have to accept a bad deal from men. Women don’t understand their power. Men are deeply, and I mean deeply hardwired to be aware of women’s presence and emotional state in a way that women are not of men. Because if Mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy. People get too upset, react too emotionally, instead of with calm, confidence and humor. If women are truly unhappy with a rule or situation, they need to let men know and be persistent. Freaking out and throwing oneself under the wheels of carriages isn’t necessary. Men MUST try to keep women happy. “Gotta keep your woman … satisfied.” (Beatles)
Your comment about men and ritual I will think upon.
Men go to the extremes while women stay nearer the mean. Women don’t really hover right around 100 IQ, but are pretty equal with men over a range up to about 130 or 140 or so (I’m not exactly sure). It is only when you get further out that men pull ahead of the pack. This is because the male is more expendable and can be experimented upon. We can say that partly this is so due to the workings of the x and y chromosomes imparting less stability but in the end it is because the female is not risked.
One of the questions I have as part of my new attitude of “not playing the game” is to ask, if women and men are indeed different, why is it the automatic assumption that women are worse or get a raw deal? Have we allowed a bunch of discontented and neurotic women to have extraordinary influence on our culture? Sure, being a woman can be a raw deal at times – and so can being a man.
It sure isn’t what I see in nature. The great majority of the time (most species) the female IS the hub of the life of the species. The male has a much rawer deal.
“once you direct religious sentiments toward the secular world, what starts out secular very reliably does a quite respectable job of imitating the demonic…”
This is the best explanation for Black Friday I have ever read. 😉
November 2nd, 2019
Building on what you said, “this may be why American Christianity, which has historically been far more important in women’s lives than in men’s, so often gravitates away from the more ornate sacramental forms and toward a big room with a little decoration here and there, and somebody reciting homilies from the pulpit.”
Looking at a turbulent future, I think weather or not Christianity survives depends on weather or not it can recapture some of the sacramental forms it historically had. One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that I am prone to undue optimism – I like to think of this as a paper mache bridge across which men must tread lightly. I want to let them all the way across but a single look, awkward move, or misplaced word, and they fall into the Gorge of Eternal Peril, in other words I just want to be friends at most.
When I look at how modern culture has informed my own sense about this bridge, I realize this paper. mache. bridge. is refined beyond belief. I would surmise no amount of refinement would fix this bridge unless some alchemy turned the paper mache into something stronger. Monet’s garden bridge would be far better. This bridge is fundamentally female – Both it’s mouths are that of a two headed Chinese Dragon gnawing at all interactions I have. When I look at my own coyness, I believe the two mouths of this bridge are the roots of all female coyness. The thing about being coy is, you don’t have to truly forgive, a core tenant of Christianity.
Circling back to Christianity, as do many other faiths, lay an artificial framework for crossing this paper mache bridge. I think feminists misread any attempt at foiling these coy bridgeheads as patriarchy. When the Bible says Jesus walked on water, I think what it really meant was that he just didn’t fall through the paper mache bridge. I find it somewhat comical that many other women I meet have a better relationship with Jesus than their spouses. The notion of Jesus as a pacifist falls flat on its face when God’s protection is taken into account. Jesus is in other words, precisely what we look for men.
Why has modern feminism been so successful then? Men stand in the real world, opposite spirit. To come out and meet someone means, first, we have to have a bridge strong enough to convey our own souls. Real insight into our own flaws are not easy to see. I surmise that real insight is so rare that ritual and an artificial bridge would do most of the time. Modern feminism plays on women’s coyness, using any string in jar of sugar water for the purposes of making candy, as patriarchy. The of the New Age Movement I’ve most always reviled is the notion if you will something to happen it will just appear.
Doll on a Windowsill
Dear Beekeeper, Ideologies do indeed have pedigrees. The Calvinist doctrine of The Elect comes in turn from the Medieval heresy of the perfecti. I recommend reading Peter Ackroyd’s The Clerckenwell Tales, an excellent historical novel.
As for confusing attitudes of the elites with concerns of ordinary people, did you perhaps inform a candidate for city hall or county commissioner that foreign land deals were a deal breaker for you? Be cause I am not seeing such concerns having any effect on policy at any level. From where I am standing, it looks to me like folks of just about all levels of affluence above destitution continue to delude themselves that they can make easy fortunes in real estate. Another good old American myth: something for nothing.
@JMG re Mary Sues: Let me see…. Justin Martense, odd eyes. Miriam Akeley, exotic pet. Jenny Chaudronnier, Chosen One par excellence (unless the Great Old Ones were lying.) Asenath Merrill, teenager with superpowers. Okay – remove tongue from cheek….
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich on the Trump impeachment fiasco. As the one who presided over the Clinton impeachment farce, Gingrich has first hand experience of how such things can backfire.
For what it’s worth, I think he has a point. Speaker Pelosi was very reluctant to go along with calls for impeachment proceedings, but got buffaloed by left wing members of her own caucus. It gets even worse when you consider that the pretext she and the Dems used was a dubious “whistleblower complaint”, a complaint which now appears to have been a setup by one of Trump’s political enemies in the CIA and based entirely on hearsay testimony. The secrecy and lack of transparency in the proceedings is already undermining their credibility. This is going to end badly for the Democrats, especially since they have put themselves in a position where they can’t back down without losing what little credibility the Dems still have left while enraging their own base.
So off the Democrats go marching to Stalingrad, with Adam Schiff playing the role of Friedrich von Paulus and Nancy Pelosi playing the role of Wilhelm Keitel.
Oh, dear me, no. A horse has 4 legs and if it somehow loses one it does not cease to be a horse. A woman whose fallopian tubes are blocked (for example) is still a woman. I never said the exceptions destroy the rule!
Now a horse without one of its legs is not an exception, it is a loss, injury or defect in an otherwise normal horse form. A person can have any number of malfunctions, whether fertility, or loss of the gallbladder, or a clubfoot – that does not destroy the rule. But neither can a defect be considered an exception to the rule. An injury or defect is just that.
I’m not sure what a gender essentialist is.
But I will say that the ability to bring forth life is absolutely the rock bottom definition of a female, mammal or otherwise. If that is not so, then pray what is, and what could be more essential than that? And if the ability to bring forth life and the ability to impregnate are not the only real definition of male and female, with other characteristics (known as secondary sex characteristics) being, well, secondary to that, then what was the point of nature inventing the genders? Especially as humans, we have a lot of complexity and choice, but the matter is that at one time life was just bacteria that divided. They are referred to as mother and daughter cells.
Then once upon a time, somehow, the male got invented and he carried around a packet of his genes and could insert them into another little life form who mixed them together for variety and brought them forth as young.
The rest is elaborations upon a theme.
As to your last paragraph, I agree completely.
Moby-Dick is all in first person? With due respect, that is news to me. There’s some first person narrative, especially the opening chapters. But as I recall omniscient narrator would characterize many more of the 135 chapters if you get the complete novel; those chapters where there’s no mention made of Ishmael at all. Consider the numerous cetology digressions, and my very favorite chapter of all, for its darkness: “Stubb’s Supper.”
I noticed thinking had gone off the rails during the Deepwater Horizon accident. People on television were talking about using a nuclear bomb on the wellhead… that isn’t how things work. At all. They were serious and dangerously ignorant.
Saw this and thought it quite appropriate for this week’s topic:
Again this tangential topic of 1st person narratives: Working from memory here, Proust’s magnum opus, “In Search of Lost Time” may indeed be written entirely in 1st person which would support your main point. Proust, at at least a few places in the seven novels, solves the omniscient narrator problem by actually having his protagonist, Marcel, spy on his friends through various peepholes. Including where he watches one of his friends having himself whipped in a gay brothel – through a peephole! Of course this comes at the cost of portraying poor Marcel as a shameless voyeur — among his other failings, detailed in the lengthy course of the novels.
I pray you continue to improve!
I didn’t comment about animal nature and shark guy, you must have got me mixed up w/someone else.
Americans, don’t forget to turn your clocks ⏰ back. If we stay on Daylight Savings Time, the terrorists win! 🥺
What a great post and discussion, which I’ll try to enliven by viewing it through another lens: the essential role of shame in human societies. Novelist Adam Haslett, in an essay shortly before the 2016 election in “The Nation” magazine (which I don’t read anymore, but that’s another story) wrote about the masterful and deeply toxic way Trump manipulates shame to his political advantage–all that name-calling, you know, knocking the named individual and the entire public into the mythos-laden playground of childhood. The “wokester” culture you speak of, which I had such high hopes for when it seemed a sincere movement for achieving equality and inclusion for all people, seems to be equally adept at generating and manipulating shame. As even our ex-Prez has astutely pointed out, accusing others of not achieving a near-impossible state of ideological purity guarantees your own self an unapproachable “woke” status, while offloading all supposed impurities onto the exposed other.
I got a fortune cookie once that stated, “Life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel.” The truth of that is demonstrated to me every day. Here are people who pretend to be righting the prejudices of the un-woke, falling into the deepest pit of prejudice there is: sorting and manipulating people based on their existential status, succeeding only in reversing who belongs on top and who on bottom. Just recently, a wise, sincere, creatively brilliant friend got chased off a Facebook forum to elect Elizabeth Warren because the moderator stated that his status as a “cisgender straight white man” meant that his input was illegitimate. How are these people going to win the election?
Shame is one of the most destructive emotions generated; people kill themselves over it all the time, or others who threaten to reveal their own. The engineers of China’s Cultural Revolution knew this very well when they hung signs around people’s necks and paraded them through the streets, labeled them “an enemy of the people,” and various other cruel and effective tactics. Unfortunately, the wokester left throws a blanket of censorship over any historical evidence of excesses by leftist regimes, creating an unconsciousness that merely mirrors the right (which observes similar silence in excesses of rightist regimes) and will guarantee the excesses are repeated.
Mark, those are excellent questions for which I have no immediate answers. What I see, very much from the outside, is on the one hand, a sock puppet being manipulated for the benefit of the privileged classes, and on the other, a desperate attempt to maintain the fiction of ongoing progress at a time when most of what used to count as progress has shifted definitely into reverse — this latter is where the religious dimension comes from. Can something constructive be extracted from that? Again, I have no immediate answer, and the blowback against the abusive dimensions of the social justice movement is becoming a massive social force, so it may be moot by this point.
Varun, that’s utterly fascinating. Do you know of a good English language source on Itihasa? You’re right that we don’t have those — the disciplines that were once used to extract meaning from the Bible went out the window at the time of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, when the Protestants plopped for boneheadedly literal interpretations of scripture and the Catholics’ response was basically to tell the laity not to worry their little heads about such things, just believe whatever the hierarchy tells you this week — and it might be a sensible move to learn some tips from people who still remember how to do it.
Your Kittenship, Helen is certainly in it. Did you notice how much of Machen’s story was a deliberate parody of the life of Christ? Well, after the sacrificial death…
MawKernewek, thank you for this! While the action won’t be taking place in Cornwall — I’m using the old dramatic unities here, and everything takes place at a single location in Monmouthshire — one of the characters is Cornish, and speaks an hen yeth as well as anyone did in 1889.
Anonymous, that’s utterly fascinating — but it’s something I’ve seen elsewhere. That kind of nihilism is very common among people who’ve sold out and know it. I talked about it at some length a while back on the old blog, and it’s fascinating to see it in even more intense form than usual in the academy just now.
Your Kittenship, I may have misunderstood you — or the test. The “odd eyes” I had in mind were eyes (both of them) of an odd color, not one eye of one color and one of another.
GlassHammer, by “transcending the human” I don’t mean “sinking into delusion,” you know. As a religious person — if a member of a distinctly odd minority religion — I see religious activity as relating to a reality, not a fantasy.
Malcopian, thank you for this. Is it just me, or is this reminiscent of the delusions of reference that play so large a role in some kinds of madness?
Tori, you know, I think you’re right!
Doll, fascinating. Thank you for this. For what it’s worth, I think you’re right about Christianity — without the sacraments to give it power, it’s just another ideology — but a lot of people disagree, of course.
Patricia, good! And that’s why Jenny scored an 8 (out of, what, something like 200) and most of the others scored 1 or 2 each. 😉
Jacurutu, I ain’t arguing!
Phutatorius, interesting. I’d always read those as having Ishmael as the background narrator, as (at least to me) they seem so obviously in his voice.
David, oh dear gods, yes. Setting off a nuke, so that the entire Gulf coast gets hammered by a 100-foot tidal wave of oily, radioactive water — sure, that’ll help! It was when I heard that bit of chowderheaded babble that I realized that people were really, truly off their rockers.
Loon, the Bee has been hitting it out of the park over and over again lately.
Phutatorius, true enough — ironically, I’ve recently started reading Proust, and expect to be at it for several years to come.
Rwerdinger, that’s a useful lens, and one I’ll want to think about.
“Our govt. manages to come up with that much and more when it is a matter of subsidizing favored industries, such as oil and autos, or financing overseas military adventures.”
That’s true, but unless the government printing presses can really churn out infinite dollars without a Weimar type inflation, I would think reparations would have to be paid at the expense of those favored industries. I don’t think that’s likely to happen.
“Because I think we can say that such tantrum-like and openly weak behaviors would strike almost any culture anywhere in time or space as quite unmanly.”
In Woke culture manliness is the Antichrist.
I did also make a webpage based on some shipping records that were digitised at the Llyfrgell Genedlaethol, which you could always mine for personal names that appear on the crew lists: https://taklowkernewek.neocities.org/abership/index.html
Dear JMG, I’m relieved you’re addressing this topic – I’ve been struggling basically alone this year as I watch many people I care about fall into these irrational patterns. Having more tools to reason through what’s going on is very helpful.
Where I sit on the more leftward end, one shibboleth that appears frequently is the Paradox of Tolerance. Nobody who mentions it has actually read Karl Popper (nor have I, full disclosure), but a few paragraphs from Wikipedia are often held up as an explanation why discourse with the alt-right is pointless – worse, that threatening violence is justified, even obligatory. I’m not so naive to suppose that pacifism is always the best solution but I don’t feel they’ve quite made the case for assaulting people.
Amusingly, a month or two ago somebody updated the article to have a fuller quote. By my reading it’s now delightfully ambiguous whether the left fringe or the right fringe would better match the intolerant party in the scenario. Perhaps then it is the political center who is too tolerant and ought to force both sides to settle down? I have no firm ideas but I’m curious what you would make of it.
Tangential, but earlier this week the Japanese TV featured a phalanx of hatchet-faced young biddies marching through Narita Airport on their way to lecture the Japanese about vegetarianism. A male commentator said, “Vegetarians. Yeah, well, vegetarians.”
I think they’ll be treated politely, told yes a lot, and then shrugged off. I noted the TV did seem to come up with a new Japanese term to distinguish what these ladies are talking about from “bejetarian” which everyone assumes means you like to eat a lot of vegetables. The new term emphasizes the “-ism” part of it.
I am confused by your comments! I went out of my way to say reparations wouldn’t be a big problem for the right (I only brought it up because it was mentioned above, and some seemed to be talking as though it were some kind of real possibility.) Concerning Ghislaine Maxwell, I truly don’t follow. Are you suggesting the attorneys general offices of New York and California, as well as the FBI, are right wing strongholds? And yes the Republican party establishiment is astonishingly corrupt—so corrupt, in fact, it’s similar to the Democratic party establishment. But the relationship between the Republican party upper echelons and the American center-right is, of course, not straightforward. Hypocracy at the level of top-level lawmakers is neither unusual nor an indication that the wishes of the electorate are unworthy of consideration.
Yes indeed, it is a forecast of outright supremacy. If true (and I believe it is more or less true) then the losers must adjust or get out. Things have always been this way. Of course many policy options will then available that are repugnant to many: forcing churches to perform gay marriage or lose tax exempt status, using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion and making catholic hospitals perform abortions, introducing progressive sex and gender lessons very early in primary schools, etc. That’s in addition to the economic policies that will be available. Then there is stacking the court, eliminating the electoral college, and making the Senate proportional (all of which are open campaign promises of some of the Democrat candidates).
But the coming left wing supremacy, if I’m right that it’s coming, will likely not be stable. After they’ve begun their generational rule (cemented by constitutional changes like proportional election of senators), it’s essentially certain we will not have a civilizational high like we did after WWII. Their coalition will show signs of breaking apart almost immediately as it’s different constituent groups start demanding the piece of the pie they were promised, and bad overall governance will begin to convince many that this isn’t progress at all, and some older ideas of governmental restraint had something to them.
David, by the lake
“…arguing for the cultural subjectivity of math isn’t just idiotic: it can kill you.”
Consider riding in an airliner designed in the future when Bernoulli’s Principle has been rejected as racist.
The problem today, apparently, is that FB et al allow people to spread lies, unlike traditional journalism, and that people listen to those lies, unlike traditional journalism. Since the masses are too dimwitted to discern truth from lies, we must act on their behalf, break up Facebook, Twitter and similar platforms, and then… there will be no more lies? And people will, presumably, return to the traditional media, full of good wholesome truths (like Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, one assumes).
Reich is speaking, of course, to the middle-class lefty audience of The Guardian, but he is not speaking OF them. The proles should know their place.
I follow my sister’s Twitter so as to keep tabs on what she and her Spanish Wokester -pure copy of the lunacies of the US – friends are saying (I won’t say ‘thinking’), and offer these two recent gems:
1/’Violence Yes, I want violence: against all the Haters!’ (Obviously to purify the world, and establish the reign of the Wokester Saints).
2/ ‘I hate it that people say that ‘if you lose your temper and shout in an argument you’ve lost it’! How could this completely dumb idea become fixed in this society?!!’ She loses it regularly, incensed by Capitalism, Racism, Species-ism, etc. (Rational and polite discourse is a Capitalist trick, I suppose? )
I’ve also seen them call for the extermination of ‘the white race’ whatever that is, because it is so evilly-evil as you put it. It’s often said that the Right make that kind of thing up; not so, that kind of Tweet does circulate regularly with high approval. There is so much mouth-foaming hate in these people!
Needless to say, as she has no small talk and ‘everything is political’, we do not communicate much or happily, which is tragic. Her brain seized up when I pointed out, rather wickedly, that her Basque nationalist comments about the Spanish were often, as far as I could see, more than a little racist in content…
In the 1970’s I suspect she would have been an easy dupe for ETA, or some other violent Left group – they loved hysterical young people with little self-awareness.
The really exquisite irony in this is that she is studying for a Ph.D in the Greek philosophers. She’d make a good Maenad though……
Still, at least this is not Mao’s China, and they can’t actually hound people to death in public, or torture them, although I can see they’d love to.
*chortle*. For all your Daylight Savings Time humor needs…
Regarding Anonymous Milllenial’s point about nihilism in academia, it has been noticed on the nationalist right that liberal propoganda against childbirth is about the only place in the media nowadays where you’ll see a picture of an all white family. There is an example here: https://twitter.com/NewAtlantisSun/status/1190788933308817408
It seems to be generally posited that attacks on “whiteness” are really just covert attacks on the working class, but I am starting to doubt this now. I’m actually starting to think that this whole complex is ultimately about privileged white liberals attacking themselves – that being a privileged liberal brings with it so many burdens, complexes and double binds that self-erasure and oblivion appear a comforting alternative. Or, in other words, that the existence of those at the embers of rationalism is so psychologically painful that the last thing they want to do is reproduce themselves.
JillN – then I cede to your superior depth and richness of life experience, and, come August shall raise a glass to your health as well as my own!
On the social justice movement – you GO, Mark!
To give them credit, theGainesville UU Church here does have a box in which to put food for the “backpack” program – feeding hungry schoolkids.
But I remember how Albuquerque’s EMCC, in the middle of the War Zone and with most of the congregation drawn from the working poor, had a full-fledged food bank in the basement, and those indefatigable women who went down there and handed out food to people who actually came in the doors – yes, indeed,were allowed inside the doors! And down into the social hall! to receive it.
Maybe because EMCC’s members largely WERE the working poor and not the salary class.
The comment on the story being different because it was written in First Person wasn’t meant to imply that there are not other books written that way.
When the author (Dion Fortune) of a novel adds a forward to a novel (“The Sea Priestess”) I usually read it. She specifically talked about the book being written entirely in first person. It set a mental switch. So I noticed it.
“Mike, even the bright ones are babbling palpable nonsense, though. That’s the thing I want to explore.”
Indeed they are. But can colleges and universities really train the brightest minds to think clearly and logically, while also delivering remedial maths and grammar to dimwits and lowering standards to the point where they cannot be a accused of race/sex/genderism etc.
More food for thought, I hope i don’t give you indigestion.
I recently read Berne’s What Do You Say After You Say Hello, and found it readable and useful, and much broader in scope than Games People Play.
My wife is a TA therapist. She often recommends de Board’s Counselling for Toads to her clients. The standard text over here for people starting their training is TA Today by Ian Stewart and Vann Joines.
“In recent days the Queen’s dresser has stated that the choice of hat was pure coincidence and that it never occurred either to the Queen or to her dresser that the hat would be compared to the EU flag.”
“The idea is silly and we’re not going to plat that game.”
Oh, dear, it was Doll On A Windowsill I meant to address.
“In Woke culture manliness is the Antichrist.”
Yes, but the shame of unmanliness probably runs deeper than this temporary fad.
Along the same lines as Helix’s comment above, I’ve been reading several right-wing and left-wing blogs and news aggregators. What strikes me is that often the only items in common between left and right sources is the peoples’ names. If you changed the names, you would think that they were talking about different countries. Apparently both sides have taken Karl Rove’s comment about creating their own reality to heart. If a fact doesn’t fit the chosen narrative, just make up a “fact” that will. No wonder there is so much polarity between sides – they’re not even talking about the same events. That might work for politics and to advance the elites’ aim of keeping the two sides fighting, but I don’t see how you can keep a country functioning that way. Reality will eventually intrude.
Regarding the use of nuclear weapons, Trump apparently thought the best way to protect the United States from hurricanes this spring would be to bomb them with nuclear weapons to disrupt the circulation patterns. Talk about not thinking things out.
Also, Kurt Cobb published an essay today that ties in well with what JMG has been saying.
@Onething re: “If women are truly unhappy with a rule or situation, they need to let men know and be persistent. ”
Not if your man is anything like my ex-husband or his father! Believe me, I tried that. Finally, in total despair, I tried giving in totally and found that the verbal abuse continued over things I had no power over, such as
“Give me the estimate for your dental work. (high).”
“!@#$%^&*()!!!!)(*&^%%$@@!” for FOUR FRACKING HOURS!
You are speaking as a decent man with enough confidence in himself to be able to see that Momma needs to be happy and to make that happen. (Rather than accusing her of ‘whining because she doesn’t get everything she wants.’ Though to be fair, there are those women to whom that description applies and who need a strong wake-up call.)
My ex was a weak man who was so terrified his woman would leave him that he’d cheerfully put a collar around her neck if that would keep her from leaving, and whose undercutting everything she did was so that her success would not cause her to leave him to pursue it. His father was – think of Archie Bunker with a nasty mean streak. One who reveled in reaming out the poor front-line clerks etc who dealt with him, rather than saving his ire for their bosses.
The saddest part of all is that when my ex went into dementia and had no memory of me, he seemed happy for the first time since I knew him, and greeted me politely – as if I were a stranger – when my daughter said “Dad, this is my mom.” To be Freudian about it, he lost his superego, which was virulently toxic – may his next life be also free of it.
P.S. If I had married a man like you or such as you describe, I hope I would have been a better woman today.
@Doll on a windowsill re: women preferring simplicity in church – I’d check out the membership of a High Church Episcopal or Roman Catholic cathedral first before deciding that. Full disclosure: I love the ritual aspects thereof. But appreciate the simplicity of the cut-down weekday Episcopal service in The Village chapel. The mass, the gospel, the sermon, a few stained glass windows, and a window that gives on a small wild area in which you can sometimes see some of our nonhuman residents about their own business.
If you let me, I would like to explain my point of view of the “new-left” in this phase of the civilization and the relationship with neoliberalism
A good chunk of the ideas of the “new left” came from the “Rive Gauche”, The fascination that the “liberals” of the American left felt for the European intelligentsia after “the revolution of desires” of 1968. And a lot of the european philosophers went “California Dream” to expose their ideas to a fascinated audience: Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Julia Kristeva, and above all Michel Foucault …
Replacing belief with desire (as Deleuze and Lyotard claimed) capitalism proved to be “more revolutionary” than communism. Because unlike communism – Michel Foucault said – capitalism does build the utopia. The “fight” must be made in each home, in each human interaction, fighting each “micro-fascism”, it is only after the defeat of the micro-power abuse that the true “Revolution” can succeed…
In fact this new struggle, I think is inside the tradition of the US as a “safe haven” to liberate people (immigrants) of the weight of their past, history or blood.
Now it is time to expand this to “liberate” people from the dynamics of “exclusion” that the concepts of “sex”, “nation”, “class”, “traditions”, “religion” can have on them. And the tool to make this “liberation” is to “deconstruct” them and expose them as weak socio-culturals “constructs” that can be replaced rationally by others to improve the lives of the people “oppressed”, and of course “teach” the others.
This dynamic is what Spengler said about the triumph of Money over Blood, because wiping out traditions is the way Money can operate the social system. Modern capitalism requires people moving freely following the needs of the market, and without any strong social and cultural centers of gravity so make them base their self-esteem in the dream of luxury products made by corporations.
So the “woke” people and the “new left” are the best allies of american neoliberalism (or capitalism in general or the development of the last phases of civilizations in Spengler terms), with the idea of eliminate the “resistances” to triumph of the rational-abstract-contractual moral/political systems that are the preferred playing field for the Money.
Hillary Clinton once said:
“Deeply rooted cultural codes and religious beliefs have to be modified. Governments must use their coercive resources to redefine traditional religious dogmas”
General Wesley Clark said (just before the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999):
“In modern Europe there is no place for homogeneous national states. That was a nineteenth century idea. We are going to boost multiculturalism, and we are going to create multiethnic states”
Woodrow Wilson said in 1916 in a seller convention in Detroit:
“Inspired by the idea that you are americans and are destined to bring freedom and justice and the principles of humanity wherever you go, go and sell those products that will make the world a more comfortable and happy place, and convert it to the principles of America”
I am sure I can detect which one would be the POTUS speech transcript in a UN Assembly even if you remove all the reference to the USA, because the speech will be full of threat to other countries to make them behave accordingly to the desires of America, and of a long string of praise to the virtues of the own country; no world leader would speak in those terms (nor even USSR in their peak of power).
Of course anytime the people of one country hear a POTUS saying that one country needs to boost the “freedom”, “democracy”, “open their markets”, “more freedom of religion” (if the POTUS is a republican) or to improve “minorities’ rights”, “women rights”, “stop ethnic cleansing”, etc.. (if the POTUS is a democrat) those people, normally brown or yellow people, duck for cover, with their children, to an air shelter….
So there are two main tools to end traditions and expand the reach of markets (money) more quickly: B52’s and SJW people. Both sides of the same coin.
Excellent article John.
The flight from reason of the educated “woke” elite is a thing to watch.
Its a complex issue and, like you, I don’t have any easy answers to what is going on here.
On a separate point you should find this article interesting.
They’re getting scared—today’s fish wrap has a large article: “Is Anti-Trump Suburban Revolt Growing?” Subtext: We’re afraid not.
Dear Onething and Doll, you ladies have me utterly bewildered.
Men hardwired to be aware of women’s presence and emotional state, Onething? Really? That is hardly my experience. I mean and intend no disrespect or derision, Onething, but that is your opinion and I know of no reason for me to share it. .
Doll, you typed “Men stand in the real world, opposite spirit” I am not sure what to make of that, but I do think that spirit must pertain to all of life, not just homo sapiens and not just one gender among them. As for men standing in the real world, what I have seen over and over again is men living in their personal fantasy worlds where A “really means” B, and you, wife, daughter, employee, or random female, are supposed to know what I mean without me having to tell you. I once heard a man say that if his wife wore a dress which she knew he did not like, she must have intent to hurt him. I guess gritty minutia like laundry were beneath his notice.
It appears to me that a lot of folks have forgotten that feminism, AKA the Women’s Movement was originally a civil rights movement, which agitated for equal civil rights, such ownership of property, admission into professional schools, right to sit on juries, and so on. I wonder why feminists did not just declare victory and move on to other things.
Doll, I will cheerfully admit to a vast number of faults, but I do not do coy, or at least not knowingly and deliberately, nor did I encourage that behavior in my daughters. Me, I take the view that it is best to state a frank opinion and let chips fall where they may. As you can imagine, that gets me into a lot of trouble.
I’ll look around for some proper translations, but it might take me some time. In the meantime I have another thought that might help us develop a mythology, or literally a study of myth.
During a culture’s age of reason a staggering amount of information accumulates based on abstractions of the cultures cosmological models. As a culture enters the second religiosity it must shed much of the information because the medium for maintenance and transmission starts to break down, a population of ten thousand cannot carry as much information as a population of one billion. In order to preserve as much of the information as possible a kind of data compression occurs, where in the details of events get compressed into specific narratives. That is the practical information (history) gets compressed into myth, but without a means of unpacking all that information the practical information remains fanciful stories. Every culture has to come up with a mythology, a way to study myth and unpack the data. Indian culture simple calls the compressed formats Ithihasa.
During the early stages of the second religiosity the lay public, especially here in the west, don’t have access to the decompression programs, the prescribed methods of study. All they have are the grand brush strokes of the narratives, and that’s what they imitate.
Do the prescribed methods exist in Japanese culture? Chinese? Jewish?
I think these are avenues worth exploration.
Re: the Civil Rights Movement myth. As I recall, the powers-that-be were terrified of the more militant factions. I think they clung to MLK and his being “right” because they didn’t want to admit that only the threat of large-scale violence finally moved them to act. Instead, they told themselves that all that was needed was MLK to open their eyes, and the Stockleys et al were entirely unecessary. I do believe MLK was necessary; he enlivened the consciences of people of good will. But for the sociopaths in the oligarchy, non-violent movements allow them to pretend that they’re changing their ways for the same reason as people of decency–rather than being confronted with serious force. So alas, I don’t think MLK was sufficient.
“’Violence Yes, I want violence: against all the Haters!’ ”
This one truly shocks me. Can these people recall that about 3 years ago we were all fairly relaxed and not filled with nonstop toxic emotion? As a person increasingly socially and politically conservative, I am just shocked. Because they mean me. And I don’t hate, and it has not occurred to me to hate. Who is hating? I never see it. I see decent and ever-improving and relaxed relations between the races. Where do they get the idea or how do they justify SUDDENLY finding America filled with people hating people?
“I’ve also seen them call for the extermination of ‘the white race’ whatever that is, because it is so evilly-evil as you put it.”
This makes me sad. I think it will happen, too, whether there is an extermination campaign or not. The white people no longer have a homeland. So I think time will do the job. And as much as whites are considered to have dominated the globe and that there are high populations everywhere, it is nonetheless the case that whites are a minority in the world, their genes are recessive (probably not really, but pigment is) they are the slowest breeders and they do not have a homeland.
But that is not what makes me sad. What makes me said is that these good, woke, tolerant people are so openly hateful and talking of extermination, while getting out the hankies to watch the latest holocaust movie. In other words, total, total falling for the EXACT same type of rhetoric that in the recent past has led to genocide.
In other words, they have learned exactly nothing, are going for hating and exterminating the “other” as if human beings are incapable of learning even briefly any lessons. Although the other is in many cases here actually self. So it is suicidal.
I mean, I am sure most of us have noticed that an important spiritual lesson is basic compassion. And basic compassion means you are not primarily motivated by desire for revenge. I was so hoping that in America we could bury the hatchet. I think we were doing so.
But these people will not have it.
And it does annoy me that they have dubbed themselves ‘woke.’ To be awakened means a very profound spiritual shift has occurred, even enlightenment. Buddha was called The Awakened One. I find it disgusting to expropriate that concept for their rage-filled hysterics.
This analysis explains why the possible decline of the internet causes so many minds to short circuit: the internet is the heart of our mythic thinking, and so its presence, in the mind of the true believer, is enough to disprove the possibility of anything bad: thus why so many people react to the impending decline and fall by finding ways to sneak the internet into the future world; they do it because it functions as a talisman, keeping everything negative away: in their minds, as long as the internet exists, everything is good.
I once had a doctor whose left eye was half-brown and half-blue, with the dividing line running vertically down the middle of the iris. The effect was so arresting that I cannot remember what color her other eye was.
Thanks! I’ll add those to my books-to-look-for list. I read the synopsis on Counselling for Toads, and chuckled. Poor Toad needed a good therapist in the worst way.
I am not a decent man because I am a woman! In my post there, I did say that there are difficult relationships between particular men and women. So what I said was quite a generality. But yes, I think that there is truth in that phrase about if the wife isn’t happy then the family isn’t happy. Well, to be sure, a volatile man ruins a family as well. But often not as much because I think in many ways, for most people, the woman is the emotional leader or hub of the family. It isn’t a matter for gender blaming. Rather, women and men can have so much emotional baggage that they cannot create a good relationship or family. The happiness of my family of origin was ruined mostly because my mother was so neurotic.
I’ve been married 3 times and at least the middle one was very difficult. I don’t think he has ever had a good relationship. Sometimes the solution is to walk.
The men who torment their wives because they are so inwardly fearful are not well put together and are not manly.
@Honyocker, thank you for that link to Kurt Cobb’s article. I propose taking up his challenge to find a term for a human alternative to “progress” as it currently stands. I come under attack from relatives for being “regressive.” “Unphonely” is what they really mean, but we need a word pointing in a more hopeful direction.
I read a couple of your linked articles. Much food for thought. I was wondering what sort of female students the English universities admitted during the Great War, because it is my impression that women are natural at being doctors and it is their forte. Nietzsche I believe made a disparaging comment to the effect that one would expect women, who usually take care of the health of their families, would have invented medicine. And I thought, “You fool! They were all burned at the stake.” Herbalism certainly has been the age old healing tradition.
Is the current insanity at academia to be laid at the feet of women? It is hardly compassionate!
A counterargument I have is that men do not at all embrace new information and the persecution of those who think outside the box is ongoing for centuries. It may very well be true that men are better at being geniuses and studying alone and embracing a culture of debate, but it is hardly smooth sailing. As for me, I think I would feel choked in a female university environment such as the article describes. But then, I think I have a rather masculine mind and can’t even begin to fathom reacting emotionally to other opinions or wanting to persecute someone for being wrong or even pigheaded.
I don’t know what the answer is, but it would be a positive step if we would acknowledge that men and women are different so we can figure out how to work with that reality.
@Patricia Matthews, thank you for sharing your experience. My sweet hubby goes through fits now and then, and when he does I just bolt out the door, wait about 20 minutes and then go back to see if he’s okay. It might be low blood sugar, but it’s always something organic. He knows good and well that if he ever harms me, it’s the end-a, little boy! His fits have become quite rare as he ages and learns what sorts of things can cause them.
Just now the Japanese TV (to which he is addicted) showed a demonstration in central Tokyo against domestic violence. DV is on the rise here, propelled by economic hardship and possibly my personal bete noir: ubiquitous radiofreqeuncy radiation. I looked at all of the ladies’ faces in the demo: they were all cute, sweet-hearted gals of all ages. Heart-breaking to consider.
Dear Golocyte, Where I am coming from is the knowledge that poor women of every possible ethnicity get sent to prison daily for crimes which, while surely illegal, are far less consequential than those of which Maxwell stands accused. I do not call for violence, nor do I say she is guilty. I merely say I want to see her defend herself in court, and I do not care what intelligence, you should excuse the expression, service from what country might or might not be protecting her. Do you really think that for a few examples, food stamp fraud or shoplifting, are a greater danger to the republic than the allegations of which Maxwell stands accused?
Attorneys general do often decline to prosecute for incomprehensible reasons, google Kamal Harris/Mnuchin for one well known and egregious example.
We now have a Republican govt.; that means the right owns it just as the left owns Obama, including all the crimes of his first Secretary of State. Nobody gets a pass here. You don’t get to applaud how wonderful Trump, The President in awed tones, is and then disassociate yourself from what his admin. does. Remember, perception is everything in politics and the optics are terrible here. What this looks like to me at least is waitress Jo gets a traffic or jaywalking ticket and might be jailed if she can’t pay, while rich and good looking Maxwell gets Aw, gee, give the kid a break from the testosterone addled, wealth worshipping right. I believe a competent opposition party, if we had one of those, would be all over this.
The infamous plea bargain with Epstein was made under a Democratic administration, now the opposite party is declining to prosecute his closest, we are told, confederate. This needs to stop, and perpetrators need to be in jail.
I am spending much time reading and studying all of these comments, very good topic JMG and thank you very much. This is the best topic that you presented for discussion and I greatly appreciate your taking the time to respond to everyone.
It is entertaining and intellectually satisfying to slog though reasons and why and so on the “flight from reason,” but the main issue (to me anyway) is: how to escape/deal with/build an alternative in response to the shift in unreason and loss of civil society. I want to do something about the problem.
All of my thought processes lead to the same solution to most all of the basic problems: develop self sufficient resilient community apart from the decaying mass. This is the path of intellectuals during/after the fall of Rome and the dark ages of unreason then. In fact, for a couple hundred years it was popular in Europe to join such community and a community in Ireland was credited with maintaining pre-collapse culture by copying the old books from Greek and Latin so that the old pre-dark age ideas could be maintained in quiescent state…
I took a big step to join a thousand year old culture (rural island Japan) where we are building (literally) our own housing, energy and food resources. This is fun and satisfying. But I want to develop communication systems such as provided by ham radio to communicate with people such as at this blogsite outside of the internet (by the way my callsign is AK4VO and I specialize in hardware). I just returned from a trip to China where I see that the destruction of the free internet continues rapidly. This time most all websites (including my own) outside the Party’s strict control are blocked. Also I see that foreigners are much less welcome there this year. I expect the same thing to happen in the US until we are unable to communicate freely……
Anyone interested in community building in a foreign land that has much more freedom, a centuries old culture used to (long recorded history albeit not known to most) such cycles of civilization collapse and rebuilding, or maybe just establishing communications among lovers of reason as a response to this flight from reason?
I am increasingly concerned that as the U.S. government’s violence grows more and more irrational, other countries will unite against it. The first rule of war is that, while you may win against somebody else, you will never win against everybody else. I can only hope it’ll be mostly economic warfare rather than physical warfare. I can live, if not particularly happily, on veggies I plant, I cannot live if everybody’s dropping bombs on us. (And I live not too far from a large base so we’d be up in the top third of the target list.)
The Chinese need the U.S. to buy their junk, but even so I think they’d be unlikely to defend it if it were attacked. The U.S. is, at best, a giant headache to Russia. Donald Trump, God bless him, bought us some time, and I pray he’ll buy us another 4 years. But when the [unDruidly word] hits the fan, there’ll be nowhere to go. No country’s likely to accept a horde of fat, sick, aggressively stupid, stupidly aggressive refugees. Imagine what you’d think if you were, say, Druidia’s Person In Charge Of Accepting Or Rejecting Refugees and you got a bunch of SJW applicants for asylum from prestigious U.S.colleges. “Holy [unDruidly word],” you’d say to yourself. “THESE are their BEST and brightest people?!?!!?” Then you’d yell across the office, “Hey, Fred! Don’t accept anybody from the U.S.! They’re poison!”
This is getting too scary. I’m going back to Reality, although I won’t get much done there because, for the first time in years, I’m having a reaction to the flu shot. They must be pretty strong this year. I remember last year they turned out to be ineffective—30% effective, I think—so maybe the manufacturers juiced them this year.
If nobody as asked this before – is The Radiance the secret masters of the “woke left”? I’m sure they were behind Teddy Roosevelt Progressivism, despite his deep interest in conservation.
@! Greg Simay – oh, sure, it was well known even back then that he was playing “good cop/bad cop” with Malcolm X et. al as the ‘bad cop.’ “Deal with me or deal with them.”
He had a very good grasp of tactics. How many idealists do you know who do? My hat’s off to MLK for that.
@Onething – I apologize for misremembering (?) that you are a woman. But I’d like to say that jerks, cases of craniorectal inversion, and she-wargs and their sons, know no gender – they’re found among men, women, straights, gays, and in every walk of life. The only generality I can think of is that when a woman stabs you in the back, it’s often sneaky and with a saccharine smile; when a man does it, he openly challenges your right to be upset about it and blames it on some womanly emotion or imagining things as usual.
Very much OT: San Francisco used to be a lovely, worldly old turn of the century woman; now she’s turned into a hard-bitten wealth-grabbing Xer with the manners and morals of a rattlesnake . Apologies to our scaly kindred.
The “woke folk” I’ve seen up close and personal remind me of certain criminal gangs. They remind me of parentless children who are attempting to teach themselves what it is to be adult human beings. Here is something from the Wikipedia article on the The Knights Templar cartel in Mexico:
The Knights Templar cartel was founded on a strict ethical code developed by La Tuta. The code is contained in a small book that is handed out to all members of the cartel and even to the public. The book is decorated with knights on horseback with lances and crosses. The 22 page book is titled “The Code of the Knights Templar of Michoacan” and contains the rules and regulations of the gang. The gang has based its rules on those of the European Knights Templar. Members swear to help the poor and helpless, fight against materialism, respect women and children, not kill for money, and not use drugs. The Knights even go as far as drug testing all members. While the cartel has moved more towards accepting criminal acts prohibited by the ethical code, breaking the code can still incur punishment by death.
I’ll leave the apparently self-contradictory parts of this for others to decipher.
The other group I’m thinking of is the Aryan Brotherhood, whose reading material in prison includes Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Machiavelli’s The Prince. The “woke folk” I know have certain self-reinforcing reading materials that they discover and digest with earnestness.
Now, I realize that for some people it might be a bit of a stretch to equate the “woke folk” with a Mexican cartel or the Aryan Brotherhood, but this kind of self-taught social justice in the case of the Mexican cartel and the constructed sense of identity among the Aryan Brotherhood appear to me to be both of a kind. There is a kind of “wokeness” involved, but one that is completely clueless about the larger world, the world outside particular “conversations”, and self-interest (whether naked or not).
The “woke folk” might appear to have more in common with the Mexican cartel when it comes to what is deemed to be social justice, but like the Aryan Brotherhood, the “woke folk” are in a kind of prison. You commute to work on the subway, and you are a prisoner of the train schedules, the delays, the crowded conditions, and the missed stops because of those conditions. Maybe you drive a Prius; similar deal on the highways. The “woke folk” are trapped by their lifestyles and their “choices”, in their case, their commutes, their jobs, their mortgages, same as people in “the pen”. The difference is in the level of education, the apparent freedom, and what society judges as sophistication. The “woke folk” are among those judges.
November 3rd, 2019
Dear World and JMG,
Somewhere way back in the comments section JMG, among others, mentioned the federal subsidies for higher education vanishing.
If federal subsidies for education suddenly vanished, I expect a college education would still not be worth it. Nor do I expect a university education to regain its value until after the “long descent” has bottomed out. I majored in English Language Arts; from experience I can tell you “the culture [of the english department] is shot through.” I suspect people merely pretend to understand the scholarly word salad that comes out today –
I think the more woke the manuscript,
The fewer words fail to fossilize,
In paragraphs that will be remembered merely as sandstone’s broken door lock.
The leaf’s imprint or impression of a bone erased.
If federal subsidies for education vanish –
Would you rather have infantry or cannon?
A flawed Plato reinvented –
Or lines of missives wandering lost?
A Great Culture Yet to be, I think will look to the Enlightenment
As the founding fathers examined ancient Greece.
MawKernewek, many thanks.
Tom, I’ve read Popper, for what it’s worth. The paradox of tolerance is a real thing — in fact, it’s a special case of Garret Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons.” The problem, as you’ve indicated, is that a great many people who invoke it are themselves profoundly intolerant — the woke faction, for example, are utterly intolerant of dissenting opinions, and by their own arguments should therefore be excluded from the commons of public discourse. As with other commons-type situations, as Elinor Ostrom has pointed out, maintaining tolerant public discourse requires that each party has to accept rules that preserve the commons of discourse against their own misbehavior and only then can have a role in deciding who else is permitted to participate.
Patricia O, that sounds very Japanese. I recall a bit in an early Kurosawa flick — I think it was Slum Angel, but don’t quote me on that — in which a kid is being lectured by his grandmother, and he keeps saying “yes” — “Hai…hai…hai…” — and for the last one, the subtitle translated that word as “no.”
Kiashu, oh, that’s precious. Of course we must trust the corporate media, because every word they say is true, unlike those horrible individual citizens on social media, who believe their own lying eyes!
Xabier, when white people start babbling about how the white race should be exterminated, I tell them to their faces that they should start by killing themselves, and accuse them of cowardice if they don’t go right out and off themselves right away. I’m far from sure it’s the best response, but at least it makes them shut up.
Phil K, I think you’re right. It started out as an attack on the working class, but at this point I’m really starting to think that we’re looking at the emergence of a suicide cult.
Coop Janitor, fair enough! I’ve had enough people fall into the trap of believing what writing teachers say that I jumped to an inaccurate conclusion.
Mike, good question. I think they could do so if they wanted to, but I’d want to see a good controlled experiment to be sure!
Matt, thanks for this! I haven’t read those, and should probably fix that.
Honyocker, I figured that Trump’s people circulated that rumor to distract the media and the left. That’s been a core strategy of his since early in the election campaign — throw out something that gets the chattering classes in a tizzy, and do something else while they’re distracted. As for Kurt, yep — he was one of the more reliably interesting voices back in the peak oil movement, and it’s good to see that he’s still on top of things.
DFC, that makes perfect sense; thank you.
Forecasting, thanks for this! I’ll have more to say about the flight from reason over the next two weeks.
Your Kittenship, and of course it misses the point that the suburban population is only about 20% of the electorate, and nearly all of it voted against Trump in 2016. The thing that should terrify them — and probably does, though they won’t admit it — is Trump’s rising popularity among African-American and Hispanic voters. If the Dems lose those, their goose is not merely cooked but incinerated.
Varun, those are definitely questions worth exploring.
Greg, that seems like a reasonable analysis to me.
Will, yep. If the internet goes away then the dream of progress is really, truly over, and we have to face the unmediated reality we’ve created. Quel horreur!
Patricia, no, not really. Did you notice that I left wokesters out of the Haliverse? Miskatonic and Partridgeville State both have their problems, but they don’t have that one.
YAC, fascinating. I could see it.
Doll, that seems very plausible to me.
The following is of course total speculation. Take it with many grains of salt. The desire to “hate and exterminate” Onething mentioned , also known as the general miasma we all smell wafting off the progressive believer class is an awesome (as in monumental and terrifying) prelude to the karma they’ve got coming. All of us in the West, present company included, to some degree have spent the last fifty years as the pampered lapdogs of multi-national corporations who sold our manufacturing bases to Asia. We have all partaken in the bounty of cheap petroleum in the form of the computers and phones we are reading this blog upon, the natural gas pipelines that heat our living spaces, or the lifesaving medicines that extend our lives or that of our loved ones.
Let’s say reincarnation is the state of things and it basically works how JMG described in this blog entry. Karma: we’ve all got it coming, but it’s the arrogant ones among us who have it coming the hardest. Right now we’ve got a surge in population and a few hundred years that will most likely see a large and gradual reduction in population due to easily-accessible petroleum running out worldwide. In the in-between times, there will be hundreds of years and dozens of generations of people generally becoming poorer: some quickly, some slowly. The current elite class has wasted every opportunity at self-improvement in — but not limited to — the forms of noblesse oblige, building storehouses of this era’s vast knowledge, and conservation/preservation of the living Earth. No, they did the opposite. They built gargantuan houses and stuffed them with crap they didn’t use or need. When asked why they bought a 10,000 square foot house with an in-ground swimming pool when their three children are adults, they answered smugly, “Because I can.” (The former example is tragically real; it’s a recent from one of my own elite relatives.) They flew around in jet planes and told the poor and the disenfranchised to learn to code. They were NIMBY snobs who lived in abject terror of being or appearing impoverished, which was evidenced by their hypocrite religious leaders: for instance, Joel Osteen, whose words and deeds were far more genuinely anti-Christlike than Anton LaVey’s parlor stunts, or Al Gore.
If you fail your lessons, you have to fall back a grade. They’re about to fall from an all-expenses paid freshman year of Party School U. to an underfunded, roach-infested remedial First Grade in the hood. Sometimes when I’m dealing with that friend I mentioned up-post, I swear he can sense it. It’s almost as if he knows he’s in for a rough ride, so he’s going to spend this entire incarnation swinging from the chandelier.
Onething—The point of my remarks about gender essentialism is that for the woke, gender is in the mind, not between the legs. To say or imply that the possession of a penis disqualifies a person from being a woman or the that the lack of one disqualifies another person from being a man is sheer hateful transphobia according to the new trans activists and will get you labeled a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist) with calls on social media for your death and destruction. I do not exaggerate–a Google search will inform and appall you.
Now an earlier, and in my opinion, more useful definition of gender essentialism was the belief that physical sex absolutely determined gender roles–that the possession of an uterus meant that the woman was to be feminine, submissive, irrational, emotional, loving–the whole list of Victorian ideals about the ‘angel in the house.’ Men, the converse, tough, rational, unsentimental, etc. Second wave (60-80s) feminism fought for civil rights such as having credit, access to jobs, and so forth, but some theorists also challenged the idea that one’s sex determined behavior and pointed out that since different societies could have quite different ideas about the ‘natural’ behavior of the sexes it was obvious that gender itself was a construct and could be challenged.
Now this insight seems to have been reversed and self identified gender is separated from physical sex and turned into the true identity. Those who point out the basic binary (such as you did) are derided as ignorant for not noting the variations of genetic and physical anomalies. “Anybody who thinks sex is binary just doesn’t understand biology.” The existence of persons who are not clearly male or female is taken as evidence that the binary is meaningless. This is the point at which sanity has left the room. Definitions in nature are seldom hard and fast–exactly how wide does a creek have to be to become a river–yet no one doubts that creek and river are both meaningful concepts. If humans, like some fishes, could switch sex in response to external stimuli we would have different concepts of what sex and gender were–but we don’t.
Now I know a number of trans people–mostly male to female but at least one female to male and fully recognize that they suffer psychologically if forced to conform to the gender roles of their physical sex. and that most, not all, are happier if allowed to live and work as the gender they identify with, including when possible having surgical reassignment. It is only the notion that the right to happiness of any small group of people can completely overrule the rights of others that I object to. It would be absolutely wrong to make one of my transwoman friends use the men’s locker room. But it they had not had reassignment surgery it would be equally wrong to allow them in a women’s locker room without the consent of the other users. “A woman in every way that matters” was an actual quote from a Facebook exchange I was contributing to on this topic.
@Doll. Yours seems to be a new voice here. Please keep it up, if you would. I appreciate what you have to say. For example,
If federal subsidies for education vanish –
Would you rather have infantry or cannon?
A flawed Plato reinvented –
Or lines of missives wandering lost?
What I want to seize upon here is the reference to Plato, regardless of what you might or might not think of him. (I’m more interested in your voice at this point than anything else.)
Many, many years ago, when hitch-hiking was de rigeur for people of my generation who didn’t have cars, I was “picked up” by a construction worker in a station wagon. He had done a semester of college, a course in sociology. He was not impressed by his college experience, and dropped out. He worked in New York in the summers, Florida in the winters. When he learned that I was a philosophy major, he engaged me in a discussion of Plato. This person had not finished college; he had barely even started it. However, he had read Plato at a level of detail and intent that floored me.
I met another person over the Internet some years later over a question of Greek philology. This person was a stevedore on the Great Lakes. When I asked him how he knew Greek, he said that he’d encountered his fair share of Greek sea captains, that he’d learned his Greek on the docks. Again, I was pretty much floored.
One time I was drinking in a “dive” bar and met an African American high-school teacher. It turned out that we had a person and an educational program in common, but that was a conversation starter, not a conversation ender; most of our conversation revolved around Taoism (now, Daoism) and herbal medicine.
My point is that there is “wokeness” at work at all levels of American society, and that, I think, is the strength of these United States. There are people talking to people, still, at all levels of whatever social “scale” one imagines, black, white, whatever, and that is key. I’m not sure that “the woke” get that, that there are people so “woke”, that “woke” isn’t even in their active vocabulary, but, despite that, they’re talking to each other, not past each other, and isn’t that a saving grace?
DFC – thank you for that fascinating historical philosophical sketch! I would only add that the “woke” *may* be neoliberalism’s best allies, yes. But they also *may* be its most visible casualties. As you spoke about place and connection, I was visualising a lot up uprooted bushes trying to be somebody, but instead drying out the more the longer they lay apart from their soil.
speaking, as we are, about myth and pragmatism, and speaking, as we have been for some months, about abstractions, I noitice that Jane Fonda is operatiing largely in the myth/abstraction mode with her getting arrested every Friday stunt. I don’t know how the “wokesters” are reading her but I think I’m recieving her (virtue) signal loud and clear – sombody (else) anybody (else) do something about climate change so I don’t have to give up my oppulant lifestyle. Her carbon footprint must be easily 25 times bigger than mine (she’s flown more in the past month than I have in the past 15 years) yet there seems to be no comprehension on her part that she could (much less should) reduce her C-footprint as a response to climate change. Climate change is something she desires to draw attention to but it’s not something she is going to personally do anything about. I’m amazed at how many people are of the belief that she’s actually doing something.
Very true,JMG, and wickedly satisfying, but I also like to point out that even talking about a ‘white race’ is to adhere to the preposterous racial theories and sneers of the imperialists of the 18th and 19th centuries. To show that an anti-racist is in fact very racist is great fun – just as long as they are not armed. 🙂
Recently in the UK, BAME groups tried to exclude, from a national survey, consideration of blatant racist prejudice against ‘white’ groups – such as Welsh hatred of the English, anti-Irish sentiments, BAME prejudice against whites, gypsies, etc.
They argued that such instances are trivial and unworthy of consideration, and much to their indignation were over-ruled – sanity somewhere. Racial prejudice is racism however directed, surely. But in their view, only BAME people can be persecuted Saints.
And of course, if one considers the real history of the slave trade and non-European cultures which practised slavery and slave-trading, BAME itself is the most ludicrous and ill-matched group, as devoid of reality as the category ‘white’ – in fact, even more of an ideological fiction. All of them serial offenders against one another, on a huge scale!
Responding to Onething.
My Woke sister and her crowd (the tweets I read are both Spanish and originating in the US) certainly whip out the hanky to weep over all animals (although not those exterminated to grow the crops she eats) , and all the persecuted of the world, if Left-wing, ‘indigenous’, etc, while subscribing to the ideology of, in effect, exterminating ‘whites’ and all ‘haters’ – ie, all those who do not adhere to their Woke, radial-Left, ideology.
If you are pure, you will believe what we believe: if not, you are a ‘hater’. Protests to the contrary will not be allowed!
This is of course, largely the old Left slogan in action: ‘If you are not with us, then you are against us!’
If you are not Left (and of the correct sect, that is most important), then you are, automatically, a ‘ Fascist.’….
This all kicked in about 4 years ago, when she discovered this ideology on the internet and started reading radical literature (‘I’m so grateful I found this, it explains everything!’ )
Will she ever awake from the trance? Or will it only be to embrace another lunacy? What will their next step be? Or just implosion?
November 4th 2019
I woke up this morning and was poking around the internet, as I usually do. Here is a link to a video on youtube that caught my eye. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivCvNEwHKvE The Dancers in at the end of time seem to be stirring. I could see some provinces of Canada joining the US or merging with US states that may leave the union down the line.
The subject of Canada’s confederation ending is something that relatives of mine who live near the New Hampshire/ Canadian boarder have been mulling over for a while. Their sense of the political situation in Canada is that Canada’s days are numbered. What I find most interesting, and relatable to this blog, is that there are a great many upper class Canadians who would be in favor of Canada and the US becoming one nation.
Likewise, there are a great many business owners in the area where I live in Vermont who drive straight up to Montreal and the Hudson Bay. They complain about the US/Canadaian border crossing all the time. I don’t want to make people in the United States seam shallow but in upstate Vermont and New Hampshire, there is a trend I’ve noticed among my generation where young people court Canadians simply because they want to gain Canadian Citizenship and use of Canada’s health care system….. My best friend in High School’s sister married a Canadian man and are now happily living in a suburb of Montreal.
I am going to make a prediction here. In ten-fifteen years, at least one Canadian province seriously consider becoming part of the United States by 30 years if will happen. It will be driven by progressives in said Canadian province and the United States trying to maintain an edge over Conservatives. For the US that means getting more power in the senate and electoral college. In said Canadian province, that means an end to parliamentary government and rule by popular party.
JMG would you care to put your two thoughts in regarding an entire Province of Canada defecting to the United States or at least Canada splitting into two countries?
Doll on a Windowsill
Yet another example of woke madness: https://www.gmx.net/magazine/panorama/niederlande-transgender-zebrastreifen-farben-rosa-blau-weiss-34155002#.homepage.channel3_0_Panorama.%C3%9Cbergang%20ist%20rosa%2C%20blau%20und%20wei%C3%9F.0
I assume that we are nearing the circular-firing-squad stage of that particular ideology.
The book Water in England, by Dorothy Hartley, has some interesting observations about springs, wells and holy waters in Medieval Wales, see esp. pg. 57-59 for a list, and the tidbit that the Romans fished for fresh water pearls in a river in North Wales.
@dfc – re “So there are two main tools to end traditions and expand the reach of markets (money) more quickly: B52’s and SJW people. Both sides of the same coin.”
I would refine this view a bit and suggest that the SJW side of the coin works internally in a culture, whereas the B52 (and perhaps some other, softer forms of coercion) side is applied externally.
I had the good fortune to live outside the US for quite a few years of my early adulthood. Enough years to see that other cultures had different ways of acquiring life’s necessities and hopefully giving their members a shot at a good life. I came to think of the elements of a culture as pieces of a puzzle that fit together reasonably well to meet the needs of its people.
Here’s the thing: the pieces have different shapes for different cultures, so you can’t just pick up a piece from one culture and impose it on another and expect everything to fit together. This is why “bringing democracy to the middle east”, etc. was ridiculous on the face of it. And why the program had to be carried out — unsuccessfully it would appear — with the modern equivalent of B52s.
And also why the SJW approach may meet with some success within American culture, as well as perhaps other Western cultures that share many of the same traditions. Personally, I think the SJW movement tends to go overboard, but on some level it’s still operating within the broad outline of the American cultural tradition. No radically new pieces are involved, just a bit of rounding off the edges here and there. And so the movement can by and large use softer forms of coercion.
Funny you mention Transactional Analysis — about a year ago I embarked on a quest to read all of Eric Berne’s oeuvre, and I’ve found it highly rewarding. I want to comment on the three modes you’ve defined: the mythic mode, the pragmatic mode, and the erotic mode, and how they seem to map almost exactly onto Berne’s Parent/Adult/Child dichotomy, itself a twist on Freud’s superego/ego/id (Berne himself was an exiled Freudian).
@methylethyl having read most of Berne’s works, which form the main corpus of Transactional Analysis literature outside of the journals, I highly recommend his final book “What Do You Say After You Say Hello?”. In it, he covers much of his prior work in a concise fashion, and elaborates on his idea of “script analysis” through detailed readings of common fairy tales. Psychologically speaking, Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella have much more going on than you might believe!
…reading further, re: “somebody, be it the Supreme Court or God, will throw the penalty flag and everything will be set aright” — I found Hannah Arendt’s essay “What Is Authority?” interesting in terms of understanding the origins and implications of this. In the 30 page essay, she embarks on a genealogy of political authority, from the Greeks, through the Holy Roman Empire, and onward to the nation-state and the American Democracy. Valuable material, highly relevant today, yet oddly ignored! ( here’s a pdf: https://www.pevpat-ugent.be/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/H-Arendt-what-is-authority.pdf )
From the October issue of The Atlantic, George Packer recounts the current struggle of New York public school families to do what’s best for their children, education-wise. His perspective is firmly salary-class with all the assumptions that entails. Naturally, what’s best for his kids must be a path to a prestigious college and high-paying career, and he seems to perceive the stressfully competitive apparatus of an “egalitarian meritocracy” in what is actually the rigged game of an entrenched aristocracy. But his experiences and observations are revealing, and in the end (literally, in the final paragraph) he diagnoses more or less the same condition that this week’s essay is speaking of, and wonders plaintively about its cause:
“That pragmatic genius for which Americans used to be known and admired, which included a talent for educating our young—how did it desert us? Now we’re stewing in anxiety and anger, feverish with bad ideas, too absorbed in our own failures to spare our children.”
With any luck his son, who sounds like a very promising kid if college doesn’t eventually ruin him, will figure out the real situation and convince his dad to collapse now and avoid the rush.
Now that I’ve had a couple more days to kick around these ideas, which, interestingly, have been a big issue in my social life these past couple of months, I’ve been pondering the curious twist that the eschatology in which one must inevitably win merely because one is “right” ergo being right is the end in itself, is a reversal of the traditional understanding (and occasional bitter complaint) that one is “right” because one won the conflict, and therefore got to determine the subsequent narrative.
It is curious that, even as some academics begin to revise the historical record to comport more with the facts of the time and less with the subsequent interpretive narrative to present a more complete picture of events, in which neither side is particularly ‘good’ or ‘bad’, the popular culture, especially the social activist culture, is even more fiercely clinging to exactly such a simplistic, one-dimensional way to talk about important issues.
For example, the way the popular portrayal of the Norman invasion of England has morphed from “The Triumphant Conquest” (when I was a pre-teen), to “The Poor, Colonized Saxons” (as portrayed in recent Robin Hood movies, which is the current popular narrative about white cultures in general), to “The Conquest Brought Significant Changes in Political,Economic, and Social Structure” as described in more recent thoughtful and factually complete examinations of the events of the time.
Meanwhile, ‘We are Right(eous) and Good and They are Evil and Wrong’ has become the dominant “narrative” (i.e. myth) of social-justice political movements who no longer see the need to pay any heed to the advice of Dale Carnegie because they must inevitably triumph just because they are the forces of Good — the theme, I note, of all pop culture stories these days: the Good side always wins, because they are good and always find a way to overcome the Bad guys.
I think this started, not in the 1960s, but earlier, in the 1940s. The Nuremburg Trials redefined the purpose of World War II from waging war against an enemy who attacked the U.S., into a war of Righteous Triumph over Absolute Evil. This redefinition, of course, obscures the inconvenient fact that many U.S. businesses had extensive — and perfectly legal — dealings with the Nazi regime right through 1941, despite their horrific human-rights abuses, and also the behaviour of the “good” side on occasion. Retroactively, many social-justice activists (and, of course, conspiracy nuts) fudge the timeline to portray these as treasonous actions in time of war (by, of course, their political Bad-Guy enemies, e.g. the Bush family, the Coca-Cola corporation, &c.), because otherwise the narrative that “we are Good and have always stood for Truth and Justice” falls short in reality. Thus the myth of World War II became the inevitable triumph of Good over Evil, and less the triumph of the ability of the most powerful economy in the world to wage all-out war. The same thing has happened with the Civil War. Howard Zinn in his lecture “The Three Sacred Wars” (viz., the Revolution, The Civil War, and WWII) talks extensively about this narrative, as he points out where the history does not match the story.
I have observed lately that there are a lot of times I must hold my tongue to keep the peace because people I like and care about and wish, for various reasons, to keep in my life tend to just lose it when I point out how reality isn’t matching up with their “narrative” of how life should be. Rational conversations in which I learn things are becoming restricted to a select few, I’m sad to say.
I’ve frequently considered what’s going on here.
One idea I like is that there is such a thing as a Bandegeist or Gang Spirit that begins to possess both sides of the divide and feeds off the energy released.
In that universe the Bandegeist would be the same type of entity that leads parents on the sidelines of their kids’ games to get way too worked up.
I like to think I can identify when a Bandegeist is involved because each side ends up looking and acting like their opponents. The fact that the Anti-Fascists end up acting exactly like fascists seems to point me there.
I’ve also enjoyed thinking about each logical fallacy as an entity that can possess people.
These ways of thinking may not be accurate but help me grasp the issues more easily with my primitive mind.
When I read this blog post, it reminded me of the article “Cosmology: Myth or Science?” written by Hannes Alfven – the founder of Plasma Cosmology Model. In that article, he argued that, throughout history, cosmological theories have been swinging like a pendulum between the scientific and mythical modes of thinking (this is an oversimplification of a 20-pages long article :)) and this swing of pendulum is correlated with the progress and regress of the societies in which these theories are formed. I mostly agree with the main idea in that article in the context of cosmology, but I wonder whether this idea can be extrapolated in other fields and the general mode of thinking at a given time of history. If you ever came accross that article before, I wonder what you think about it.
Please don’t forget my inferior agility and physical strength. However ageing is pretty good.
Cheers for August.
I realize I’m somewhat late to the party, but it was only today that my thoughts congealed into somewhat I felt worth making a comment about.
The same day this blog post went up, Scott Alexander posted New Atheism: The Godlessness that Failed, a retrospective on how and why New Atheism transitioned from an online cultural juggernaut (as Scott points out, many Internet spaces at a partitioned-off area just for religion-vs.-atheism, just to contain the arguments that otherwise break out everywhere else) to a distant memory, eclipsed by the social justice movement that partially grew out of it.
His explanation is brilliant: New Atheism was at its core a hamartiology, a theory of why people do bad things. Its transition from New Atheism to Atheism+ and finally to social justice was a transition from a religion-centered hamartiology to a bigotry-centered hamartiology.
I think he underdevelops the last part: the contemporary progressive harmatiology is not simply bigotry-centered, but specifically centered on racism by white people, sexism by men, religious intolerance by Christians, and so forth. (Partly this is for the obvious reason that historically these have been the most pervasive and damaging forms of bigotry, but I can’t shake the feeling that it has as much or more to do with the fact that all of the oppressor groups tend to vote Republican.)
This can be clearly seen in a recent op-ed in the New York Times (behind a paywall but Rod Dreher quotes the important bits here) about the brutal harassment of African-American middle school girls by some Indian students blames it on “enacting American whiteness through anti-black assault in a very traditional way.”
The hamartiology has failed, and the author is trying to salvage it, at quite a cost to the theory. This reminds me quite a bit of religious literalists tying their brains into knots trying to explain away the failure of their interpretation. The end result, of course, is the Appeal to Semantic Gymnastics, with a reasonable motte (“There’s lots of disorder in the universe”) used as cover for an eccentric bailey (“That disorder’s name is Eris”).
Speaking of hamartiology, my own hamartiology is this: “Sometimes people aren’t wise enough. Sometimes they aren’t courageous enough. Sometimes they aren’t temperate enough. … (iterate through all the virtues)… Sometimes neither side can afford to compromise. And sometimes people do the wrong thing just to do it.”
(Kunstler’s New Theory of History says basically the same thing but much more succinctly: “Things happen because they seem like a good idea at the time.”)
Can you give us a synopsis of that article? I don’t speak German.
I can’t find it so I don’t have the name, but someone mentioned having a doctor who had one eye with a 2-colored iris. This is called a “chimera” and you can find lots of interesting info on this and genetics in general at Messybeast.com.
re: Left-wing supremacy
“After they’ve begun their generational rule (cemented by constitutional changes like proportional election of senators), it’s essentially certain we will not have a civilizational high like we did after WWII.”
Article 5 of the Constitution guarantees equal suffrage in the Senate cannot be changed by amendment to the Constitution. It can only be changed with the consent of the state losing equal suffrage. Accordingly, proportional representation in the Senate will simply never happen in the United States as it exists today. No small state will agree to cede its representation in the Senate to more populous states. The left will need to establish its “generational rule” without proportional representation in the Senate, or be prepared to rule a truncated United States that has torn itself, and the Constitution, apart. I hope it’s not the latter.
“Men hardwired to be aware of women’s presence and emotional state, Onething? Really? That is hardly my experience. I mean and intend no disrespect or derision, Onething, but that is your opinion and I know of no reason for me to share it.”
I base this on animals in nature as well as some observations of humans. Among animals it is incontrovertably true. Is it also true of humans? I noticed that young boys are unable to truly ignore the presence of girls in a way that girls are not so affected. In nature, the males spend their lives watching the females for signs of receptivity. If they snooze, they lose. It is part of male reproductive strategy to be first in line if possible. They are always watching.
With men you have to take great care if you complain about anything, because they assume you want them to fix it, which is only sometimes true. I think a lot of men concede in arguments because having their woman in a decent mood is more important to them than being right. I think women often don’t realize how frequently this occurs.
But it is true that not all men are operating correctly.
So it was sarcasm! I am quite ashamed to have missed it.
“Will she ever awake from the trance? Or will it only be to embrace another lunacy? What will their next step be? Or just implosion?”
And so we watch, in horrid fascination.
Thanks for the book recommendation. Winter is coming and it is long and cold around here;
plenty of time catch up on reading.
As far as I’ve been able to find out, there hasn’t been a big issue with foreign purchase of agricultural land here in Vermont probably because a) it is a very small state and b) the land is mountainous and rocky. It wouldn’t be a land mogul’s first choice if they’re looking for flat, plowable thousands-of-acre spreads, although it is well suited to the traditional agricultural pursuits of small farms, dairy, and other small livestock (famously sheep, see 19th century). I guess it’s possible that this might be attractive to some foreigner somewhere, but so far it doesn’t seem to be.
However, there was a huge kerfuffle statewide when a developer from Utah began purchasing large tracts of land in very rural central Vermont near Joseph Smith’s birthplace in order to create a futuristic, high-density community for about 20,000 people, in time to be replicated all over the state. That may not sound big to a lot of folks elsewhere, but there are only about 600,000 Vermonters in all, so it’s pretty significant in comparison. There was fierce opposition to the whole thing not just because the guy was Mormon/basing it on Mormon teaching, nor because he wanted to create ‘sustainable’ communities out of whole cloth (one argument was that sustainable communities are most sustainable when they evolve on their own) or that it would probably cost the taxpayers buckets of money to create the roads and other infrastructure to meet its needs, none of which currently exist, but that this whole thing would irreparably change local culture and put that land under the control of an outside board. Locals were also concerned that the communities would adversely affect the practice of direct democracy, something we have on the local level and in which Vermonters take great pride. To bring this back to a common theme of this blog, the developer hoped to create “global environmental balance by building a network of environmentally and socially sustainable villages, communities, and megalopolises” by employing lots and lots of advanced technology. What could possibly go wrong?
Here’s an article from a few years ago that tells the story quite nicely and includes eye-popping details of the technological fantasies that would make it all work: https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-newvistas-mormon-utopia/
Last year the developer abandoned plans for the community citing widespread vocal opposition.
David, by the lake:
One can roll one’s eyes at the ‘math is racist’ or ‘proper grammar is white supremacy’ and take them as a sign that the SJW contingent have jumped the shark, but it would seem that these end up hurting the very same, often disadvantaged students they are supposed to help. The elites of every culture will continue to learn “real” math and learn to use language properly and effectively, thus increasing the gulf between them and the students being taught that poor math or grammar skills result from systemic oppression for which individual hard work is an insufficient or maybe even pointless remedy.
Found a real, actual news story (I triple-checked to make sure it wasn’t satire– it’s so hard to tell these days!):
So… yeah. Connecticut University got three law-enforcement agencies involved over a bunch of “racist, sexist” flyers that read only “It’s OK to be white” and “Islam is right about women”. Because CU can’t tell when it’s being pranked. Please say this means we’re reaching peak SJW and next year everybody says “well, that was embarrassing” and washes their hands of it.
David – I took no offense at your rebuttal. What I’m trying to get at here is that, when I was studying the logos of math, I was dreaming the mythos of “this is but my first step to mastery of science and engineering”. I had role models for that myth, and they were all white men. The former Nazi Von Braun was the model “rocket scientist” who could calculate the performance of vehicles that put satellites into orbit, and men on the moon. In my math textbook that had biographies of great mathematicians, I don’t recall any women, or people of color. The logos is color-blind, but the mythos was white. And when it’s time to sit down and memorize the multiplication table, myth is important.
When I brought this up over dinner tonight, my wife said “I don’t know why I had to study algebra” and my 22-year old son, who delivers packages, said “I don’t know why I had to study algebra”. But I use it, and much more math, to keep the roof over our head and food on the table.
“[W]hen white people start babbling about how the white race should be exterminated, I tell them to their faces that they should start by killing themselves, and accuse them of cowardice if they don’t go right out and off themselves right away. I’m far from sure it’s the best response, but at least it makes them shut up.”
My own response exactly. I don’t hear nearly so much of this insanity Down Under, thankfully.
I am sure (JMG) that you and most other denizens of this blog have long since noticed that the people who bellow the loudest about “toxic whiteness” are precisely upper class, privileged white Anglo women. This is why I scoff at all so-called “white identity” movements. If by “white identity” you mean the descendants, of West European descent, of the Roman Catholics of 1500 A.D. (i.e., the Faustian civilization), then how can the “white race” preserve itself if the women thereof hate all of their men, wish that they were all dead, and refuse to have children by them?
There is much more I could say about white Anglo women, most of which would be unprintable on this blog. I will just leave everyone with thoughts by two bloggers on this subject. One of them is the well-known blogger Paul Craig Roberts:
The other is by a more obscure blogger named George Michelopoulos:
The only thing I will add, is that I have warned every young man I know to avoid white Anglo women, for the reasons given in these two articles.
“Further the affiant sayeth not”!
Saw a comment elsewhere that made me think of this week’s post. In this PoliticalWire thread:
There was the following exchange of comments that appeared to hit all the buzzwords and concepts you’ve made note of if contemporary thought:
Globally the forces of toxic masculinity are dying, slowly. Naturally they’re putting up as strong a fight as they can manage. This is happening in every single country. They can feel themselves being pushed off their privileged perch, and they’re clinging to it ever more tightly. They will eventually be pushed off, but oh my goodness it’s going to be a tough fight to manage and there may be severe casualties along the way.
What we’re going through now is just a part of this long battle, which has been going on at least since the two world wars and arguably since the so-called Enlightenment. I’m not sure I’ll live to see victory, and who knows what victory will look like anyway? But progress is inevitable, you only have to look at the sweep of human history to see that. We’re winning, even though it doesn’t feel like it.
Also globalization is leading to cultural dilution/change too quickly for some to accept. Someone made the point recently that Brexit may have more to do with British culture & identity than about economy.
Absolutely agree. I think Brexit was regarded by many voters as a chance just to put the brake on “all this change”. Immigration was a big part of that “change” but definitely not the only part. Would also explain why more men than women are pro-Brexit (and pro-Trump), coming at a time when the very nature of masculinity is under question.
Immigration, gender norms, technological innovation, automation in the workplace, the explosion of social media platforms, the disintegration of traditional models of news and opinion distribution, even little things like altered expectations in manners and clothing… change has multiplied at a dizzying rate, and it’s all too much for a lot of people. Trump effectively said, “I’ll put a stop to all this and give you time to catch up” (it wasn’t literally what he said, but it’s what they heard). And that’s why they cling to him.
Seems like some anthropogenic causes are more important than others.
Lady Cutekitten, you could try Google Translate. The article is about a zebra crossing painted in rose color and bright blue to make it gender-correct.
Life itself -it seems to me -is the ‘raw deal’ that everyone has to **** well get on with.
Thank the gods for the other planes, and other lives, that await us……..
Kimberly, you know, that makes a great deal of sense. It may not be a matter of waiting for reincarnation, either: if the managerial class falls from power dramatically enough, the rest of their lives could be spent in the sort of poverty, powerlessness, and useless rage that’s common to members of the old regime after the transfer of power.
Christopher, I’d managed not to hear about that bit of fetishism on Fonda’s part. It sounds as though she’s trying to relive her long-vanished youth, going through the motions of protesting the Man the way she did in the 1960s, all in the serene knowledge that she’s one of the elite and that nothing bad will actually happen to her. I wonder to what extent it’s simply an attempt to hide from the reality of old age.
Xabier, oh, of course. I find it highly amusing that yet again, I can get both ends of the spectrum offended at me by suggesting that ethnic groups unquestionably exist as biological, cultural, and social realities, but “races” — those arbitrary lumpings-together of ethnic groups on the basis of details as ephemeral as skin color or the presence or absence of an epicanthic fold — are a fiction of bad 19th century ethnology.
Doll, neither Canada nor the United States actually make any sense as single nations, and I’ve written three novels and a great many essays discussing a post-US North America. In Retrotopia I extended that to Canada — in that future, what’s now Canada is three and a half nations: West Canada, East Canada, Quebec, and the Republic of New England and the Maritimes, formed when the maritime provinces joined with the states of New England after the US split up. Whether that specific break is how it’ll happen, I don’t know, but the strains on both nations are rising rapidly.
Booklover, keep an eye on people you know who tend to have moderate, centrist attitudes. When they start backing away from the transgender fad, you know that it’s circling the drain.
Methinks you might be painting with too broad a brush telling young men to avoid white Anglo women. We’re not all like those harpies in the articles, you know.
The most succinct reply to white people pining for the extinction of all white people is to say “You first”.
Since it came up;
I have no idea how representative I am, but there came a certain point for me where, even as a transgender person, I had to face up to the fact that transgender ideology had not only jumped the Shark, but also the Mermaid and the Monterey Eel. Now almost every single criticism to transgender ideology I find myself agreeing with, and I’ve been denounced by non-trans people for my wrong thinking and wrong experiencing of transgenderism. All of the sudden I am a “transmedicalist” a “gender critical feminist” all whilst being transer than most of the folks who would or have denounce me as an Enemy of the Trans. At this point, woke non-trans folks feel the need to bully transpeople for having the wrong opinions about….transgenderism. What happened to listening to the marginalized? What happened to respecting minority voices? It’s a deep, nearly Chekovian type of comedic situation that I consider reprisals for my opinions way, way more likely from the woke queer brigade than those with “Fashy Haircuts”.
“Booklover, keep an eye on people you know who tend to have moderate, centrist attitudes. When they start backing away from the transgender fad, you know that it’s circling the drain.”
I am probably one of the most moderate, centrist people around. I’d like to think that I don’t have racist, misogynist or homophobic bone in my body. But I really have a problem with the whole transgender thing. I am perfectly content with the idea that a man may feel that he is really a woman. However, I do not see the logical follow-on that says he should be able to use a woman’s restroom or compete in women’t sports. It is perfectly fine to be a woman with a penis. Why is diversity so hated by the trans community?
Actually on topic, I think. Am rereading – as an adult – T.H. White’s The One and Future King. There is a very telling but near the end of Book 3, The Ill-Made Knight, talking about the stages King Arthur’s court had gone through: “The tone of the court had changed for the fourth time….The first feeling, a companionship of youth under which Arthur had launched his grand crusade…the second, of chivalrous rivalry…which nearly turned to feud and empty competition. Then the enthusiasm of the Grail had burned the bad gasses of the air into a short-lived beauty. Now the maturest and saddest phase i which the enthusiasms had been used up for good…a leaven of love was left …a few old dodderers… but the court had become [long description; essentially shallow] and modern.”
The description of the latter detailed the excesses of 14th century fashion, so the entire thing was a quick & dirty recap of medieval history since 1066, but also a stunning recap of the very phases of life I’ve seen in my 80 years of life, and of course, after that, comes the crisis which brings down Camelot. One wonders how olf White was when he wrote this. If you don’t believe in the 80-year (give or take some) cycle and the larger(400-year?) metacycle, this book makes an excellent case for both. Besides having far more meat in it than any youngster could comprehend, but still accessible to a child. [Next stop – my grandsons’ library.]
Nastarana, thanks for this.
Simpolism, glad to hear it! I first encountered TA back in the 1970s and found it considerably more useful than most of the other psychological theories in circulation; good to see it getting more attention again.
Walt, thanks for this!
Renaissance, I suspect it’s precisely because historians are by and large becoming more savvy about imposing narratives on the data that people in general are clinging more tightly to the narratives. Again, the need for sacred narrative is a foreshadowing of the Second Religiosity.
Versling, your primitive mind is I think rather more sophisticated than the allegedly progressive minds that ignore such things.
Minervaphilos, I haven’t. My initial response is that all cosmology is mythic by nature — given the hard limits of our minds, we can only process such things by turning them into myths. The brief intervals of “scientific” thinking are simply what happens when there’s too much data that doesn’t fit the popular myth, and people have to flounder around for a little while until a new myth gets accepted.
James, fascinating! Many thanks for this. I’ll read it as soon as time permits.
Methylethyl, I watched them plan that on a couple of alt-right sites. The same flyers showed up at a fair number of campuses in the US. The goal is to provoke the politically correct into a Donald Duck splutterfest so that even more people become convinced that the Left has lost its marbles. As far as I can tell, it seems to be working very well.
Michael, it seems to me that between the first and second repetitions of the class of people you’re talking about, you dropped the most important detail: the class element. I know a very large number of “white Anglo women” who don’t fit your stereotype at all, but the vast majority of them come from working class backgrounds or, at most, from the bottom end of the middle class, into which their parents rose and out of which they have now descended. (Downward mobility, after all, is one of the great if unstated economic realities of our time.) The set of habits you’re talking about — including the shrieking about “toxic whiteness” — is an affectation of college-educated women of the confortable classes. Since it’s utterly forbidden for them to talk about the class divide that matters most to them — the one that distinguishes them from working class deplorables — they leave out explicit reference to class, but it’s clear that when they say “white people should be exterminated” what they mean is that working class white people should be exterminated — not, of course, people of their own class.
David BTL, thanks for this. I’m entertained by the attempt to push the whole business into a myth-of-progress model in which “toxic masculinity” becomes the evilly evil thing out of which we’re progressing; the more they hammer on that, the sooner toxic femininity — which of course also exists, but which can’t be talked about in public without generating a dreadnought-class hissy fit from the woke brigade — will move from its status of “massive reality you can’t talk about” to that of “massive reality no one can stop talking about.” Care for some popcorn?
DT, I got 404’d with that link; I think this one will work better. It’s got some very good points.
Beekeeper, sure, but sometimes I prefer not to be succint. (As my blogging style doubtless demonstrates!)
@ JMG and Minervaphilos:
While I am not a scientist and don’t play one on TV, astronomy, cosmology and theoretical physics are subjects I am interested and have read a lot about. There have been some discoveries that are seriously calling Big Bang cosmology into question, including recent observations by the Planck Observatory, an orbiting space telescope.
Astronomers keep finding all kinds of strange things that are difficult to explain with the current scientific orthodoxy. Among these are a huge gravitational anomaly known as the Great Attractor, which contains thousands of times the mass of our galaxy, is pulling every galaxy over a region of several hundred million light years across towards it and yet no one has been able to observe it. It appears to be at the center of the Laniakea Supercluster, but that’s about all we know. There appears to be an even more massive gravitational anomaly (known as the Dark Flow) out beyond the edge of the observable universe (roughly 46 billion light years away, according to current estimates) which is pulling everything over an area of tens of billions of light years towards it. And to make things really bizarre, on the opposite side of the sky from the Great Attractor is another even stranger gravitational anomaly known as the Dipole Repeller, which a colossal void hundreds of millions of light years across which is pushing everything away from it over an area of billions of light years. According to the Big Bang/Inflationary Universe model of cosmology, structures of this size shouldn’t even exist given current assumptions about the age, formation and expansion of the universe, but they do.
When it comes to modern astronomy, life is truly stranger than fiction. We are talking about stuff that’s way, way up there on the high weirdness scale (Google Tabby’s Star or WASP-12b if you want a couple more examples). One of the major sources of inspiration for HP Lovecraft’s stories were the astronomical discoveries that were being made in his time, for instance the discovery of Pluto and the theories of scientists like Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble. One wonders what he would have made of discoveries like the Great Attractor, the Dark Flow, the Dipole Repeller, Tabby’s Star and WASP-12b (the so-called Black Egg planet, which broils at 4600 degrees Fahrenheit but is also pitch black) and the weird fiction he might have come up with as a result.
The transgender fad is not about transgenders at all but a few other things.
1. I firmly believe humans have built in thresholds, hardwired definitions of physical attractiveness. The transgender fad is most prominent in Europe and North America. I’m going to take a round about way to answering why. When I look at the men around me, I don’t find many of them attractive. To be attractive a man has to have one or two things. He cannot be fat. He doesn’t have to be the hulk, he just has to have curves to him; I imagine a more boxy version of the curves men look for in women. After that, guys it’s a matter of preference too the woman.
There are many, many young men I see who transition to female, even though they are “straight.” The male to female phenomenon seems to be driven largely by many young men’s failure as men in the dating market. In that regard, male transgenderism can be simplified to the cliche, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
2. Transgenderism is another way for the elite classes of society to thumb its nose at biological women.
Thanks for the info on this constitutional issue; I was unaware of it.
Still, the point is that the elites from center-left onward are asking with deadly seriousness “how do we change the rules to make sure —it— never happens again.” For those of you who haven’t noticed, since 2016 the talk from the pulpit has eased off left-wing social issues (remember the sturm und drang over bathrooms? or 1-in-4 style campus sexual assault stuff? hear much about those after 2016?) and toward 24-7 how-do-we-defeat-this-evil-once-and-for-all. (I’m talking about the bully pulpit here—the MSM etc— not your left-wing friends.)
Let me amend what I said. The first point of focus is “how do we depose the Ogre.” After that, the main question is how we can change the rules so we don’t get another one.
Here’s a small sampling from the New York Times:
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/30/opinion/electoral-college.html (From the editorial board itself!)
Yes, I know elites have a way of finding themselves strung from lampposts (metaphorically or not) when they try too hard to subvert the people. But that happens….eventually. Before that they usually get their way, and get it for a long time. History shows it is usually –decades at a minimum– between the emergence of insoluble problems created by an entrenched elite and the lampposts.
It seems tome, now that I think about it, that young men are not as sexy as they were in my youth. I think the difference is that they lack that subtle whiff of masculinity. It is squelched.
“but it’s clear that when they say “white people should be exterminated” what they mean is that working class white people should be exterminated — not, of course, people of their own class.”
And this is because of their proud assumption that it is the working class who are prejudiced, when in fact it is themselves.
Don’t feel bad about mistaking Onething for a guy! For quite a while I thought our late Shane Wilson was black! (It didn’t matter what color he was–I loved him dearly!)
In rereading my previous comment to you, I was embarrassed at just how patronizing I came across as regarding my husband. I should never write about my personal stuff when I’m in a rush. But the good thing is I can spot some habits of thought that I really ought to be aware of, such as starting with a positive thought and then immediately examining it for the negative side.
To correct myself here, if my husband ever pops me one (which could happen if he ever gets dementia), I would not abandon him. He means that much to me. What I would do would depend on the amount of damage. What I really wanted to say with my mealy-mouthed statement of superiority is that if a lady can cultivate some degree of independence and then find a guy who is not threatened by it, it can go a long way toward protecting her from testosterone-related and other organic issues, and preserve a valuable relationship. The synergy of yin and yang.
In that regard I realize just how lucky I have been. (Honestly, I must have been a saint in my last life.)
Oh for heaven’s sake, are we done shoggothing white college educated upper class women yet? I fit all those descriptors, and I’ve never peeped a word about “toxic whiteness”. I’ve never heard any of the friends or co-workers or even acquaintances of mine who also fit those descriptors express the desire to see any group exterminated, even under deadline pressure or after a few too many glasses of wine. Where are you finding these nuts? And can you please put down the tar brush?
It’s true, at least, that most of us struggle to talk openly about money and class. There’s no polite, non-awkward way to do it, and no real idea what to say. I think that’s true of American society in general, but white upper class educated women in particular are expected above all else to be polite. It sounds like JMG and some commenters here have run into some members of that group who’ve cracked under whatever set of strains they are under and are spewing some weird, hateful stuff, but I don’t think those experiences can possibly be broadly representative, since I spend a fair bit of time around other members of the “species”, and I’ve never seen any such thing. Now granted, I avoid social media, and maybe this is sloshing around there amongst the other noxiousness, but I assure you I haven’t heard it anywhere in real life.
Please accept my experiences as a data point, and my existence as being as real as yours. Making nasty over generalizations about certain types of people making nasty over generalizations gets a bit silly, don’t you think?
–Heather in CA
JMG, transgenderism isn’t much of an issue in my social circle, but I have observed that virtue signaling in form of posters, and similar messages has become noticeably more widespread in Germany than it was even a short time ago. Every advertisement for a job position now comes with the affixed abbreviation: (m/w/d), that is “männlich, weiblich, divers”.
The abbreviation, which I cited, means “male, female, diverse”.
@ James M. Jensen: “The most unanswerable question in historical research is “What were those people thinking?” Lois McMaster Bujold, via her history professor character Duv Galeni, in, I think, A Civil Campaign.
@ Ryan S. and golocyte – the post-Crisis High is like the proverbial rose garden; nobody ever promised us one. What was promised is a post-Crisis Recovery, which is not the same thing. A Recovery is finding a new equilibrium, a new consensus (until a new generation arises that knew not the old times, and gleefully plunges into the very same mistakes that brought them on.) There was no High following the American Civil War, but there was a Recovery. That it was the original Gilded Age and the end of Reconstruction and draconian Jim Crow laws is beside the point; the Civil War was over. Nor was there a High in Britain following World War II, but there was a recovery – to a quiet, picturesque little touristy client state of the U.S.
@ JMG re: the need for sacred literature – Among Amazon’s list of new books on Asatru and Norse literature was The Teutonic Bible. I quote, “The Teutonic Bible is the first of its kind common Holy Book and service manual of Heathenry (Germanic neo-paganism) for modern use. It contains all of the mythological poems of the Poetic Edda including the Hávamál, Part I of Tacitus’ Germania, songs, prayers, and extensive definitions and practices of current Heathenry.”
“Working class people should be exterminated”
Yet, they DEPEND on those same people for their position in the Hierarchy. Why would you hate the people you depend on? Makes me wonder what they would do if they really did get what they say they want and had to do all those icky dirty greasy jobs themselves. Or would those jobs go undone and then they’d find their standard of living somewhere below West Virginia trailer trash?
I would think if you’re going to hate people the first step would be to make sure you don’t need them for anything first…
While I was still attending a Quaker meeting here in Berkeley I was puzzled by the extreme childishness of the people in meeting. I have since read a book by Diana West titled ‘The Death of the Grown-Up’ that expands on the same conclusions I came to. (I have since left meeting since being a Trump supporter at a Church of Woke is not a good idea.)
I’m very sympathetic to deposing the ogre. I’ve commented here in the past that I was stunned Trump won in 2016 and prefer to see him lose in 2020. However, I’m not a “Never Trump” person because that would imply the center-left can do anything it wants. I certainly disagree that any constitutional rules need to be changed to accommodate anyone asking “how do we change the rules to make-sure-it-never happens again.”
I think the center-left elite should focus on why they lost in 2016, particularly in states like Wisconsin and Michigan that had not voted for a Republican for president since the 1980s. What changed to cause those states to vote for Trump? There are many answers to that question, but most of them are not difficult to figure out (flawed candidate, horrible campaign, various poor policy choices, etc.). Why not address the concerns of those voters to secure victories in future elections rather than propose constitutional changes that will further marginalize them?
In any event, changing the Electoral College will be extraordinarily difficult because it gives a little more power to small states in electing the president and I don’t think they will give up that power. As I noted previously, every small state essentially has a veto on changing representation in the Senate so that will never happen. I keep asking myself: are immigration, free trade, and foreign wars so sacrosanct to the center-left elite that rather than address those issues in some way that acknowledges the concerns of various voters, it is better to change the rules and ignore those voters? I have this sinking feeling wasting time trying to change the rules is a losing strategy that will result in “it” happening again in 2020. We’ll see.
@ Patricia Mathews
True, life goes on and it’s probably best to adapt to the new circumstance.
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