Not the Monthly Post

Our Shoggoths, Ourselves

There are many ways I could talk about the point I want to make in this week’s post, but when it comes to the really difficult issues—and yes, we’re going to be talking about one of those—the indirect routes are generally the most useful. For that reason, I want to start out with a seeming irrelevancy, and talk a bit about shoggoths.

Some of my readers already know about shoggoths. For the benefit of those who don’t, I’ll note that they’re one of the many species of imaginary critters that slithered out of the perfervid brain of iconic American fantasy-horror author H.P. Lovecraft. Shoggoths look a bit like huge hungry masses of iridescent black soap bubbles, fitted out with a random scattering of phosphorescent green eyes that ooze to the surface and then sink again. They’re big, they’re strong, they’re nightmarishly fast, and like most of the other critters in the Lovecraftian universe, their entire purpose in existence is to give investigators something to run away from as quickly as possible, screaming in terror all the while.

That sort of thing is a staple of bad horror fiction, but Lovecraft was doing something at once highly subtle and unpleasantly familiar with it. Central to his worldview was the belief that the eight-inch-long lump of meat called the human brain is completely out of its league when it tries to make sense of the cosmos in which we live, and can all too easily go stark staring crazy if it makes the attempt. His monstrous beings and tentacled devil-gods get most of their power over the reader from their sheer incomprehensibility. In his very best stories—“The Color Out Of Space” is perhaps the finest example—that theme takes center stage, and lives are destroyed and minds shattered by a force without malice and without meaning, irrupting from an impersonal cosmos serenely indifferent to the pretensions of our species.

That’s a stunningly difficult effect to achieve, and at his best, Lovecraft managed it better than any other author of his era. Like every author of every era, though, he had his off days, and fell back on easier gimmicks to try to prop up the machinery of his stories. Like every author of every era, too, he was a person of his own time, place, and culture: specifically, a downwardly mobile white male New Englander whose short life covered the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first three and a half decades of the twentieth. That background gave him what was then a very common set of bigotries, and very little practice in thinking clearly about them.  Accordingly, when he wanted to crank up the sense of incomprehensibility, he tolerably often used the cheap machinery of racial, ethnic and class difference to do it.

That’s a common wheeze in the literature of the privileged, by the way. One of the consequences of every kind of privilege—racial, gender, ethnic, class, you name it—is that the people higher on the ladder don’t have to understand the people lower on the ladder, and so they generally don’t get around to it. (The people lower on the ladder don’t have that freedom, and so typically have a clear understanding of the people above them.) Thus literature written by and for privileged classes very often uses the supposed incomprehensibility of those outside the circle of privilege as a distancing maneuver to further villainize the villains. Think of all those dreary pulp-era tales of square-jawed, ham-fisted, thick-headed English or American heroes foiling the plots of “inscrutable Orientals”; that “inscrutability,’ of course, reflects the simple fact that those who’ve never taken the time to learn the first thing about another culture will tolerably often have a hard time figuring out the motives and plans of people raised within it.

So in Lovecraft, when you get a sinister cult worshiping the devil-god Cthulhu, for example, you can bet your bottom dollar that the cult won’t recruit its members from among Lovecraft’s own racial, ethnic, and cultural group. What’s more, you can bet your last thin dime that the cult will recruit members from everybody but Lovecraft’s own racial, ethnic, and cultural group; the “they’re all in it together” trope is another common wheeze in the literature of the privileged. If you belong to a privileged class, after all, the thought that everyone below you class knows more about what’s going on than you do is a reliable source of shudders, not least because most members of privileged classes suspect from time to time that it’s true. (What makes that more shuddersome still, if you belong to such a class, is that far more often than not, it is true.) The thought that the groups below you on the social ladder might be in cahoots with one another is an even more reliable source of shudders, since when that happens—and eventually it always does—your privilege is toast and, fairly often, so are you.

There’s nothing whatsoever unique in Lovecraft’s use of these tropes. Pick up any random issue of Weird Tales magazine, in fact, and odds are you’ll find them used far more gracelessly by other writers of the same era. They were a commonplace of white American literary culture in that era, and in most Lovecraft stories—there are exceptions—they could have been lined out by an attentive editor without requiring any major changes to the plot. Indeed, some stories would have been made even more effective by that sort of blue-pencil work. Repopulate the sinister Cthulhu cult with apparently fine, upstanding, respectable, white New England citizens, say, and you’ve got a source of shudders at least as effective, if not more so: the creeping suspicion that people we think we know well are doing dreadful things and keeping us from finding out about them…but those weren’t the kind of shudders Lovecraft appreciated.

And shoggoths? They’re part of the same pattern. In Lovecraft’s short novel At the Mountains of Madness, where shoggoths make their most memorable appearance, we get to learn the secret history of the Earth—a fairly common Lovecraftian theme. Something like a billion years ago, the planet was settled by the Elder Things, starfish-headed, five-winged, tentacled horrors from some distant corner of the cosmos, who bred the shoggoths as a slave species to do their work for them. All this and much more gets learned by a team of human scientists who’ve discovered the last city of the Elder Things, a frozen ruin in an isolated corner of Antarctica—and who bit by bit figure out that, due to their own actions a little earlier, a small group of Elder Things have revived and are also exploring those same ruins.

The Elder Things get the standard Lovecraftian monster treatment through most of the story: they’re alien, they’re incomprehensible, they’re smarter and tougher than we are, and they tot up a substantial body count among humans and their sled dogs. Then, at the story’s climax, Lovecraft deftly manages a stunning reversal of his usual tropes.  For a moment the reader looks at the events of the story through Elder Thing eyes, and the monsters become subjects instead of objects, individuals with their own stories and motives who excite the empathy of the reader, rather than simply mechanisms wound up and set lurching onto the scene to frighten the protagonists.

So, inevitably, the Elder Things are killed by shoggoths.

That’s inevitable because of the nature of what Lovecraft was trying to do in his writing. If you’re going to write Lovecraftian horror, you’ve got to put in something incomprehensible to threaten your characters, and if you can pull off the trick of turning your incomprehensible beings into characters, however briefly, then something even more incomprehensible has to threaten them in turn. You can’t have everyone on stage be a character—not if you’re doing Lovecraftian horror, that is; there are plenty of other kinds of literature where that’s done as a matter of course, but Lovecraft didn’t write those. Given what he wanted to do, the empathy had to stop somewhere.

Not all authors want to do what Lovecraft wanted to do, though, and it so happens that some of the most interesting writing these days that uses Lovecraft’s ideas does exactly what he didn’t do, and takes the empathy all the way out to the edge of the Lovecraftian cosmos. I’m thinking here of Ruthanna Emrys, whose novella “The Litany of Earth” and a novel-length sequel, Winter Tide, take the fish-people of Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and put them at the center of their own vividly told story. I’m also thinking of Victor LaValle, whose novella “The Ballad of Black Tom” takes one of Lovecraft’s most overtly bigoted tales, “The Red Hook Horror,” and turns it inside out by telling it through the eyes of an African-American protagonist.

And of course, as my regular readers know, I’ve also published two volumes so far (1) (2) of a quirky epic fantasy with tentacles, The Weird of Hali, which stands the Lovecraftian universe on its head: the nightmare Great Old Ones are the old gods of nature, their multiracial and not always entirely human worshipers are the protagonists, and those square-jawed action heroes who blaze away at shoggoths and cultists alike with massive firepower in so many utterly forgettable Call of Cthulhu campaigns are the villains, pursuing the mad dream of Man the Conqueror of Nature with fanatical zeal. I had no idea anyone else was thinking in anything like this vein when the first volume of The Weird of Hali downloaded itself into my psyche and poured out onto the keyboard, but there it is; it steam-engines when it comes steam-engine time, as Charles Fort liked to say, and when it comes time for eldritch horrors to tell their side of the story, why, the strange dreams go whispering out from drowned R’lyeh to waiting minds.

When the Great Old Ones are guiding your pen, though, books get written faster than they get published, and while I’m waiting for the publisher of The Weird of Hali to work through the manuscripts he’s already got on his desk, I’ve had another tale seize my imagination and a good part of my keyboard time. It’s not part of the same sequence but it takes place in the same fictive cosmos, and it so happens that one of the two main characters is a shoggoth. The other is a young woman of multiracial ancestry—her paternal grandmother was an African-American blues singer who married her white pianist back when that was still shocking—who is taking her first steps toward becoming a composer of classical music, in the teeth of the dogmatic modern insistence that real creativity has to reject traditional forms and trample on the past.

The story’s set in the town of Partridgeville, so fans of Weird Tales-era eldritch fantasy already know that the Hounds of Tindalos and a curiously annotated copy of Halpin Chalmers’ sinister volume The Secret Watcher are also involved.  So, for more complex reasons, is that most underrated denizen of the Lovecraft circle’s invented mythology, Nyogtha, The Thing That Should Not Be. The working title of my tale is, of course, The Shoggoth Concerto, and it will be looking for a publisher as soon as it finishes slithering its way to the final page.

(You may be wondering, dear reader, why I’ve taken a serious story putting a new spin on the old conflict between innovation and tradition in the arts, and cluttered it up with claptrap about shoggoths. Alternatively, you may be wondering why I’ve taken a promising weird tale about shoggoths, eldritch tomes, and the Hounds of Tindalos, and cluttered it up with claptrap about classical music. In each case, the answer is the same: because I want to. Thank you, and we now return you to your regularly scheduled post.)

If you’re going to have a shoggoth as a character in a story, of course, you have to know something about the biology, psychology, history, culture, customs, personalities, and quirks of shoggoths. It so happens that I haven’t found much of anything along these lines in the usually bountiful fields of Cthulhu Mythos fiction and pseudo-nonfiction.  Unlike some of Lovecraft’s other creations, shoggoths have remained essentially as he left them, two-dimensional figures of horror that exist only to scare the protagonists. I know of precisely one discussion of shoggoths that puts their own experience of their history at center stage and approaches them with empathy; that’s a short passage in a review of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness in The Lovecraft Reread by Anne Pillsworth and Ruthanna Emrys—the latter, of course, being the author of “The Litany of Earth” and Winter Tide, mentioned above, and the former being another highly talented writer of Lovecraft-influenced fiction.

(If I may insert another aside here, dear reader, if you’re at all interested in Lovecraftian fiction, The Lovecraft Reread might better be titled The Lovecraft Must-Read. Maybe there’s an equally good survey of Lovecraft’s work and that of his peers and successors, one that manages to combine the same lively affection for the subgenre and its writers with an equally lively awareness of their flaws and not always occasional stupidities, but I haven’t encountered one. Thank you, and we once again return you to your regularly scheduled post.)

So, from one point of view, I had to make a whole bunch of things up. From another, I spent a lot of time sitting next to a shapeless black iridescent thing who peered at me through a random scattering of pale green eyes, while I asked questions and listened to the musical piping that expressed her answers. (Her? Yes. Shoggoths reproduce by budding; to my mind, that makes them parthenogenetic females, and the pronoun follows.) Among the things I learned from these imaginary conversations are that shoggoths’ sense of their own history is profoundly shaped by their awareness that they were created as slaves by a species that despised them, and that they eventually destroyed; that their closest personal bonds are with broodmates, those offspring of a given broodparent who budded at the same time; and that they don’t have permanent names—they take names to express their moods and circumstances and change them as these change, a habit that humans who deal with them find disconcerting at first.

That is to say, I learned the sort of things you learn when you approach someone as a person, rather than a monster whose sole function in your world is to have an emotional effect on you. It’s a useful exercise, and I’d like to suggest that it could be applied these days with good results to a great many beings that are a bit less imaginary than shoggoths.

Look around you, dear reader. Over the last few decades, here in the United States, what once occasionally resembled a functioning representative democracy has collapsed into a permanent state of conflict in which shrieking mobs pelt each other with rhetorical brickbats in lieu of more lethal projectiles—well, most of the time—and caricature their opponents in terms of a strident moral dualism that would be considered unusually crude in a cheap superhero comic. Meanwhile both sides vie with each other in their willingness to fling aside constitutional liberties for which older and arguably wiser generations fought and died.

Ask the people on the front lines on either side what caused this ghastly state of affairs, and you’re sure to be told that it’s exclusively the other side’s fault. You’re even more sure to be denounced in heated terms if you suggest that maybe it might have some cause other than the absolute wickedness that’s so enthusiastically attributed to everyone on the far side of whatever line of battle is under discussion. Still, I think it’s time to get past the fantasy that the implosion of our political dialogue can be blamed solely on the personal failings of this or that politician—vast and cyclopean as those quite often are—or on the supposedly incomprehensible evilness of those incomprehensibly evil people over there.  Step back from the bipartisan yelling and you may just catch a glimpse of something gone catastrophically wrong at the heart of our thinking about politics, society, and ourselves.

The problem is that too many of us have picked up the habit of turning our opponents into shoggoths. Too many of us seem to have lost track of the fact that the people on the other side of a controversy have thoughts, feelings, and motives of their own, which aren’t necessarily those we choose to impute to them, and may not even relate to the issues that concern us most. There’s an odd sort of egotism at work here, a refusal to grant the people we hate any existence apart from their effect on us. It’s the attitude of the common or garden variety anti-Semite, say, who copes with his sense of personal irrelevance by insisting that all the Jews in the world are out to get him—but it’s astonishingly widespread these days, on all sides of contemporary politics.

It’s also deeply entangled with the most unmentionable aspect of American social life these days, the struggles over privilege that do so much to shape our cultural nondialogue. The conflict over privilege between the white working class and the nonwhite underclass that gets so much press these days is precisely paralleled by the conflict over privilege between the mostly white middle class and the white working class, and the distancing maneuver I discussed earlier—the insistence that those further down the ladder can’t be understood, because those further up don’t want to understand them—gets plenty of use in both cases. The actions of the nonwhite underclass, however problematic those actions may themselves be from time to time, are motivated in significant part by valid grievances; so are the actions of the white working class; and in both cases, those who don’t want to deal with the grievances are fond of self-righteous denunciation as an evasive maneuver.

Here again, H.P. Lovecraft provides a useful bit of litmus paper, for those willing to make use of it. Like just about everyone else of his background, he was as bigoted against the impoverished lower classes of his own race as he was against people of color. It’s thus ironic, to use no stronger word, to hear people who fiercely denounce his racist rhetoric turn right around and issue blanket condemnations of the rural white poor, using hate speech all but identical to the sort Lovecraft himself used in such stories as “Beyond the Wall of Sleep.”

But it bears remembering that Lovecraft himself wasn’t a Lovecraftian monster. He was, among other things, a profoundly troubled man; both his parents died in an insane asylum, his childhood was one long toboggan ride from relative comfort into poverty, and he came out of those experiences with a fair-sized laundry list of oddities—we’re talking about a man, please note, who had a lifelong fear of salads. He was also capable of learning. By the end of his short life, his experiences with the Great Depression had convinced him to abandon the Republican Party and become a New Deal Democrat. Had he lived to old age, I don’t think it’s beyond the bounds of possibility that, like so many others of his background, he might have been sufficiently shocked by the Holocaust to revisit his racial biases and abandon them as well. People do such things from time to time.

Maybe, then, it’s time to admit that there ain’t nobody here but us shoggoths, and to recognize that projecting our fantasies of ultimate, incomprehensible evil on the people we disagree with, however emotionally comforting that habit may be over the short term, doesn’t lead anywhere useful. That admission won’t come easily; self-righteous outrage is an addictive drug, and it’s pretty clear that a lot of people are using it pretty heavily to get through the day. Still, it has to start somewhere. Shall we?


  1. You are a master when it comes to removing the veils of delusion, JMG….Thank you!

  2. There’s one thing I find rather interesting about all this: there are times when people make no sense to me, but I usually find a discussion on the matter clears things up. Sometimes it doesn’t, but I think there’s another important aspect of this problem (or predicament, I can’t tell if it has a solution): people have become unwilling to talk to anyone who really disagrees with them.

    Sometimes it doesn’t help at all, but it helps often enough, even with people who initially had positions I found utterly incomprehensible.

    Of course, this only works if the other person is also willing to discuss matters, which is proving the main limiting factor here….

  3. Like the myth of Progress in Space grew out of the structure of Christianity, I think the behavior you described comes from the missionary mission to save people who do things the evangelists do not like from Dell’s claws.
    As a recovering angry atheist I do know how bad the wish to save people from their wrong opinions can become, and the amount of shadow projection involved in this sad affair.

  4. One of the rules I try (not always successfully) to go by is that if someone says something I find utterly incomprehensible… well, I probably didn’t comprehend them. I try to interpret what’s being said charitably enough so that at least I can understand how someone could think and feel that way.

    To be sure, there are many beliefs and attitudes that I find reprehensible but for which I can still understand how someone could hold them. Racist and classist views like Lovecraft’s are in that category. (I admit I don’t understand why someone would be a afraid of salads.)

    I do, however, find that in fictional works, it’s sometimes nice to be able to clearly delineate the good guys from the bad guys. When playing fantasy roleplaying games, for example, I don’t always want to agonize over whether these goblins are honest, hardworking Joes just trying to provide for their families… I’d rather just lump them into “monsters” and kill them and take their stuff.

    That’s why I don’t object so much to Lovecraft’s treatment of his monsters: in that context, “weird creatures that can and will eat us” is the relevant category.

  5. Lovecraft’s stuff gets less racist as time goes on. His early material (e.g. The Street) tends to be the ugliest, while the later stories (e.g. At the Mountains of Madness) are much less problematic.

    I think had Lovecraft’s friend Robert E. Howard lived longer, one would have seen much the same with the Conan stories (which, as is, have their share of issues in that department). The last of the Weird Tales Big Three, Clark Ashton Smith, was pretty non-racist by 1930s pulp standards..

  6. Excellent post! I’m currently living with self-imposed austerity measures as a result of an *astonishing* lapse of self-control at a RenFaire (though I did not actually sell a kidney to buy the nine-button leather boots, much as I was tempted) but both Emrys and LaValle are on my list for when I start buying books again.

    I spent too much of my youth reading the serial-killer subgenre of true crime (and too much of my life…living in the world, I guess) not to believe in the capacity for total human evil, and I do think there are a number of philosophies that are morally completely repugnant to the degree that I don’t want anything to do with their adherents. But those don’t correspond to demographics, and also I’ve found it very useful to distinguish between, I don’t know, classes of hate? “I think you’re a shoddy excuse for a human being and contribute nothing to the world beyond recirculating air, I don’t want you anywhere near me or my loved ones, and I hope you step in dog crap while wearing new sandals,” is a degree different than “I must actively oppose the majority of your goals and will celebrate your death from natural causes,” which itself is distinct from “Your existence is in and of itself a threat to others.”

    I’ve found it important to keep those things in mind. There are human monsters; the majority of people are not them. Even the majority of euphemized-for-your-blog jerks aren’t monsters, they’re just jerks. And reacting to jerks like they’re monsters doesn’t actually help anything.

    And as you say, people *can* change, though my experience is that most people want the credit and infinite second chances for saying they’re trying to change, and are completely unwilling to put in the work. Not that I’m cynical. ;P

    On an, er, more cheerful note: “Repopulate the sinister Cthulhu cult with apparently fine, upstanding, respectable, white New England citizens, say, and you’ve got a source of shudders at least as effective, if not more so: the creeping suspicion that people we think we know well are doing dreadful things and keeping us from finding out about them…” is something I’ve seen pretty effectively from Stephen King, most notably in IT, where an Eldritch Abomination basically controls a city with the (albeit unconscious) help of its more respectable citizens.

  7. My friend circle trends heavily liberal/progressive/Blue Tribe, and heavily fannish. A few weeks ago a Facebook friend posted the discussion question “Which fictional characters do you think would have voted for Trump?” The answers were the usual litany of villains–the Dursleys, the Malfoys, the Lannisters, Cruella DeVille, etc etc etc–all the characters from various fandoms that everybody loves to hate and zero popular/beloved ones. I ventured the unpopular opinion that I could see the crew of the Serenity, from the space opera TV show Firefly, voting for him–they’re working stiffs being relentlessly ground down by the Establishment/status quo, barely scraping by. Plus a couple of them fought for the Confederacy analog in the war that took place before the storyline of the show starts.

    I was met with a resounding chorus of “Nuh-UH!” and a lot of insistence that the only reason anybody voted for Trump is because they’re racist and sexist, look, see here, they did science about it and everything. And someone who appeared to be saying that because the struggling white working class didn’t make up a majority of Trump’s votes, that that demographic doesn’t really exist or doesn’t matter? I didn’t have time to pursue that line of thinking any further. I left it at saying “63 million actual humans voted for him for actual human reasons; they can’t all be racist caricatures.” Not sure I opened any minds though.

  8. Really enjoyed that, thanks. I think you’re dead-on in identifying the dehumanisation of the other as a particularly pronounced problem on all sides of the cultural discourse at the moment. It’s such an easy trap to fall into. As you say there’s a paradoxical comfort in believing in the existence of inhuman monsters who are the source of every evil in the world; it makes the world simple and comprehensible.

    One of the biggest perils of viewing the world in this way, I think, is that it eliminates the need for self-reflection. If one believes that the group or idea with which one is culturally conflicted is a force of absolute, irredeemable evil, then one is a liable to see oneself as some kind of hero, and is thereby able to feel justified in doing some rather extreme things.

  9. @James: My dad once threatened to disown me over iceberg lettuce, but I don’t think that was the same thing. 😛

    And yeah. Zombies, Nazis, Zombie Nazis, and Zombie Nazi Mind Flayers definitely have their place in beer-and-pretzels fiction/gaming/etc. And on a practical level, unless you’ve a means of communication* that they’ll care about, it doesn’t matter much whether a thing eats you because it’s totally evil or because it’s an uncaring predator: there’s a reason why, for example, a lot of old terms for “bear” are the equivalent of “The Unspeakable” or “The Destructor” (or conciliatory euphemisms–the equivalent of “The Fair Folk”) and you didn’t want to use the actual word because *it might summon a bear.* So, unless the ilithids are willing to switch to a vegetarian diet…

    * Which, one of the things that made Robert Mathiesen recommend the Weird of Hali novels to me was my saying that Horton Hears a Who works as an optimistic Lovecraftian tale: it’s all learning to let the incomprehensibly huge/alien know that we’re here and could you maybe not squish us?

  10. Mac, thank you. I do what I can.

    Will, granted, but very often all it takes is two people willing to start the conversation, and that in turn very often just requires a willingness on the part of those two to climb back down from extreme claims about the other’s evilly evil evilness, and listen for a change.

    Pack, I think that’s an important part of it. It seems to me, though, that very often what lies behind that frantic concern with another person’s opinions is a recognition that one’s own opinions have serious problems. I’ve noted here in the past that the more dogmatically somebody pushes a religion, a technology, or a diet on others, the more unsatisfactory the religion, technology, or diet inevitably turns out to be; I’ve come to think that the same is true of politics, and that the reason so many people are demanding absolute submission to their political agenda is that none of the options being marketed right now, from the social-justice left straight through the corrupt corporate middle to the populist right, have any worthwhile responses to offer to the crises of our time.

    James, the whole “they’re evil, let’s kill them” end of fantasy bores me to tears. It was new and interesting when J.R.R. Tolkien did it, but at this point it’s been done not only to death but straight through the afterlife and most of the way through its next incarnation — and it feeds the sort of thinking I’ve criticized in this post and elsewhere, the frantic desire to find someone evil enough that it’s okay to hate and hurt them.

    Strda221, agreed. I’ve long thought that if Howard had lived, he’d have become one of the great authors of the postwar Western genre. He was also exploring his capacity as a humorist — his Sailor Steve Costigan stories, which are among my favorite Howard works, are boxing stories in which the main character is as strong as an ox and not much smarter than one, and the best of them are really amusing. An alternate universe where both he and Lovecraft lived and kept writing into old age is one I’d like to visit!

    Isabel, exactly — and responding to people who disagree with you about deeply held matters of belief and commitment as though that disagreement makes them jerks isn’t much more useful, for that matter. RenFaires, on the other hand, are dangerous places to anyone with a wallet… 😉

  11. Well put 🙂
    – On NPR, recently heard a telephone interview (he didn’t know she was black) with an organizer of Charlottesville event, and I found myself sympathizing with his story of when/how he became ‘radicalized’. There have been numerous suggestions that we start with ‘how did you come by that belief?’ when communicating with the ‘others’… we all really want to feel that we are understood (heard), to some degree or other.

    – We are so manipulated by TPTB, and every politician knows it. “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” LBJ

  12. I think you made a similar argument with a different mantle-story on either ADR or TWG and that was the reason why I bought a second-hand copy of one of Mr. Trumps books. I almost got it for free, because a bit of what you describe above went on in the heads of the salespeople.

    I argumented that it might be a good idea to understand more about a person that has apparently different ideas on what is good than I do, especially if that person has more power than me. Seeing that I might have a thing there, I had to pay for it. I considered two dollars a minor price to pay for a change in thinking of three people (theirs and mine). Thanks again for your work!

  13. @JMG: True, though for me it depends on the disagreement and the goal in question. There’s some stuff–oh, “everyone non-X-variety-of-Christian is going to hell,” for an easy one, since I’m woefully short on sleep right now, or “other people’s consensual sex lives should be up for outside debate”–where I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get anywhere with discussion, life is short, and I give blood when I was to be charitable, so a quick and thorough telling off and keeping them out of my life as much as possible is totally useful for my particular purposes.

  14. … and I find it heartbreaking how this ‘Christian’ nation seems deaf to Christ’s message that we don’t get brownie points by loving ‘our’ folks… we get them by loving the ‘other’, especially the ‘other’ we don’t even know! They even seem to have forgotten the Golden Rule in their devotion to Mammon. (And, yes, I have discussed this with ‘Christians’… and heard their convoluted ‘interpretations’… very sad – to use one of Trump’s favorite phrases!)

    But, in trying to understand their perspective, I think it comes from deep insecurity… and fear of losing social status in their (church group), economic fagility, the identity-enhancing effect of righteous indignation (which I know too well… I stopped ingesting the ‘ain’t it awful’ reportage, when I realized it was making me sick.).

  15. Dear Mr, Greer

    The odd kind of egotism you mention can be seen in my home country(Pakistan), in the form of ‘everybody, especially the Americans, Indians and Israelis are out to get us, because we are a great muslim nuclear power’. Such pearls of wisdom are often given in living rooms and television studios, often followed by complaints of electricity brownouts, how everyone in this country is corrupt and and what not. Not many are able to notice any contradiction here. 🙂


  16. Most of us forget the old Chinese proverb of “when pointing a finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you” from time to time. Engaging others of different social and value classes, and empathizing with their views requires effort – and is rarely complete.

    One factor that appears to accentuate this problem today is the hyper-propaganda of mass media. Misleading headlines, edited sound and video bites, and severe slants of content cater to higher ratings or reinforcement of the prevailing viewpoint of the target demographics. “We inform, you decide” is a joke, and the critical thinking skills and “clean” input data required to accurately make useful conclusions are rarely present.

    It’s humbling to discover how frequently I fall into this trap….

  17. A few years back, due to an unforeseen financial crisis, we found ourselves nearly in the street and so, in desperation, we purchased a cheap, older tin-walled double-wide (yeah, I know….) located in a local “manufactured home community”. We almost immediately turned into Shoggoths in the eyes of many of our former ‘friends’ and have been pretty much shunned by them since. I have to say that prior to this move I, too held a view similar to that of our former associates, but having lived in this ‘community’ for four years now, we have made several (seemingly truer) friends within the community as well as elsewhere.

  18. John–

    Perhaps I have been trying to hold the conversations in the wrong place, or perhaps it is that I am attempting to force conversations rather than allowing them to arise. I find myself stepping back (again) from my engagement with the broader political picture and with the one discussion platform I’ve been using in particular, out of a desire to keep my own energy properly centered. It makes me sad that we cannot even talk to each other, but I am learning, if begrudgingly, that the psychology of decline drives us along these paths, even though other choices are possible.


    My conversations on the topic of Trump’s election have gone similarly to yours. My suggestion that people may have voted for him rationally based on a different set of priorities or values have generally been met with variations of “but they vote against their own interests,” “they’re just a bunch of racists/sexists/whatever,” or “Russia!”

  19. I have wondered if my unwillingness to be drawn into the hating game was a matter of being raised by a Libra, and tending to see both sides of issues, or if I was simply apathetic. I’m going to go with ‘seeing both sides’ and be glad that I seem generally to be able to avoid Othering those with differing opinions.

  20. The casual bigotries I hear thrown around at my workplace, a so-called tolerant environment, about Trump supporters on a regular basis never cease to amaze me. On Monday, a co-worker referred to Trump supporters as “gap-toothed,” since, you know, not having the money to visit the dentist is clearly a legitimate reason to ridicule someone. It’s not like the socio-economic factors that cause someone to have a less-than perfect smile might also cause them to have a distinct worldview with its own priorities and bigotries that differs from the priorities and bigotries of the oh-so-enlightened upper-middle class in the urban area where we live (which is strongly segregated by class and race despite how committed to fighting inequality everyone claims to be).

    My own husband voted for Trump while I emphatically did not, so I have spent a lot of time for the past year hanging out with my own personal shoggoth. Exploring the reason why we came to different conclusions on which candidate was the lesser of two evils in last year’s election has been thought-provoking, if frustrating at times.

  21. This reminds me of my grandfather who was born in Russia in the late 1800’s and immigrated to New York around 1905. He was a peasant in the Russian section of Southern Ukraine, so he was one of the shoggoths. He was also probably going to be enlisted in the Czar’s Cossacks, or suicide squad. Cannon fodder, in other words.

    He used to love telling folk tales of the rich person and the servant. Of course, the rich person was the clueless one and the servant maid or butler, the wise one. One story, which he obviously loved, was of a rich person who wanted to change her baby’s diapers. For fun, I suppose. Well, she got do-do on her digits and immediately told the maid to cut off her finger because it was so disgusting. The wise maid just hit her finger, hard enough to make the rich person immediately shout and put it in her mouth.

    Grampa liked that story.

  22. While the rawness of how people address today one another growingly, doesn’t disturb me, my own spitefulness does. Not that I see a rough language as despiteful, yet I am shocked, how I am dragged into it, lacking control. That occasional urge to go after someone’s demon, might rather be the awakened inner demon of myself, who enjoys that times, my tight grip loosens and he can roam freely.

    What I fear is that these demons destroy civic behaviour, which uses to be there, so that the emotional power is focused constructively, while otherwise it rather tends to destruct aimlessly.

  23. Culture wars and Otherization… I wish that there were less of it in Canada, and I understand the situation re dysfunctional politics is vastly worse in the USA.

    Part of my problem is that I find it hard to put what I want to say into words that won’t a) make people on the Right scream at me without hearing what I meant, or b) cause people on the Left to think I’m a traitor. So often I say nothing at all. I get a) here on this site sometimes, and I find it extremely unpleasant. I really wish I could manage to make myself understood better.

    I fit better in the left than anywhere else, but the cornucopian assumptions so often made by both right and left aren’t valid. And I would like to see the left prioritize work on economic inequality over identity politics to a larger extent than currently seen. Yet I still care about minority issues as well, and when someone makes comments that if implemented would threaten my family or others I get into yet another argument when I didn’t want to talk about the subject at all.

    I find it hard not to look at the the Right, especially the further end of it in the USA, as the scary Other. I admit it, and I’m working on that. Guess who ended up explaining to her panicking friends why people might vote for Trump without being an evil racist? Me.

    I’m very tempted to just give up talking about the subject entirely, and/or stop commenting here, but just because it isn’t comfortable doesn’t mean that leaving the subject to those talking most or loudest is a good idea. If I can’t handle talking about it here where discussions are actually moderated, where can I talk about it?

  24. A very relevant post.

    Ever since your Trump prediction I have been trying to bring this subject up amongst friends with mixed results. Some have been very receptive to the idea that they are overlooking certain classes of people, others throw tantrums. How do we point out when someone is demonizing others without opening ourselves up to being criticized for doing the same thing to them? I have noticed as you noted last week that the response can be overly emotional and defensive; having more to do with issues from their childhood than what you are telling them.

    I have been weening myself off social media, but just yesterday a friend shared a photo of hands holding that said “My Trump supporting friends…do you get it now?” This is a person who has at least made gestures towards understanding Trump voters, so I pointed out that smug condescension like this was not likely to be well received. She took this very personally and I soon had a tons of insults flung at me from her and others even after apologizing. Perhaps I could have worded my comment to her better, but the vitriol I received was completely disproportionate. I try to stay away from social media, but I do like the pictures of friends kids and articles some friends share. It helps me get a pulse on the current zeitgeist, but it is just so difficult to separate the good stuff from the sewage and not get it on you.

  25. Thanks JMG.
    A few years ago I seem to remember you kept bumping into a character called Krampus and went off to inquire if somebody was trying to say something. By any chance did that lead you back to the American Lovecraft cosmos? Just guessing in a nosy kind of way..

    Couldn’t agree more with your thesis about class membership giving one the creeps. In Britain the floorboards fairly squeak with it. Tolkein used to bother me that way – he constructed his creature fictional biology along some dubious lines.

    Incidentally we had some family discussion yesterday. I can quote now from your comment above ‘… the whole “they’re evil, let’s kill them”’ trope, but our discussion was about the non-fiction world. We were thinking of what distinguished perhaps American violence and that of other equally or even more violent cultures; a point raised in your previous post. ‘Hit them with really big bombs and goodness will prevail’, perhaps?

    People can change though as you take pains to point out.

    Phil H

  26. My sympathies lean Left(ish), particularly on social matters (not as stridently these days as in the past), but I live in Republicanland (rural Texas); I also went to university in Austin and lived there for eight years and maintain a fair few friendships with very Liberal/progressive/democrat friends, family members, etc. However, I was surrounded by Republicans all through the most recent presidential election, whom I disagreed with on most every issue, although I actually voted for Trump (me, a two-time Obama voter, although the second time was much in the spirit of feeding a second dollar into the vending machine after it eats the first one, hoping that this time it will spit out the snack you wanted). All this goes to say that on a recent visit to family in Austin, I was treated to a rant by a progressive family member whom I really like (and to whom I will pretend to my dying day that I voted for Clinton!) that brings to mind words like “frothing.” The highlight was that when I pointed out that maybe there were some eensy problems with ineffectual campaigning, corruption, and a certain insincerity among the Democratic leadership, he accused me of perpetuating a dangerous false moral equivalency between the two parties, and then proceeded to declare that all the white people from my hometown were just as bad as the Taliban and that I was fooling myself if I thought my father or any other Trump voter had any respect for me or believed I had any other role in society other than a walking uterus, and that they would all happily see me denied basic rights and education in a heartbeat if they thought they could get away with it. It was vicious and shockingly detached from reality. Moreover, it was far worse and more dehumanizing than anything I heard even from Republicans after the Obama elections, which I thought had reached new lows with their slimy, racially-charged hatefulness and conspiracy theories, and indescribably worse than the (admittedly rather insulting) rhetoric of Republicans in the recent Trump/Clinton election. And all this from a sensitive, Buddhist-dabbling Austinite. “Absolute submission” is an accurate description of the attitude expected of me and apparently everyone on the planet, and they explicitly said when I asked that there was no way to be both a Trump voter and a decent human being, and that anyone who voted for Trump wanted to kill him and his wife and kids via climate change. Any suggestion I made that the other side were less than monolithic monsters (mentioning that my dad was actually pro-choice, or that I had seen Trump voters personally rescuing black families in their bass boats during Harvey) was taken as evidence that I was suspect, ideologically contaminated, insufficiently pure. It frankly freaked me out. I knew things were bad and I’ve obseved the rise of increasingly heated and partisan rhetoric (it’s hard to miss!), but never did I expect to see the day when my crunchy liberal friends made the dyed-in-the-wool elderly racists from my hometown look moderate, humane, and well-informed by comparison.

  27. My kids and I had a conversation, not specifically about politics but more about the state of the world. There was homebrew involved, so their tongues were wagging fairly ungoverned, and lots of laughs were had at the multitude ironies of various people and events.

    There was some serious agreement about the anonymity of the internet reducing discourse, but my liberal-leaning daughter held out that nobody should be allowed to speak offensive words. Whereupon my younger daughter, married to a blue collar machinist, proceeded to try and illustrate how the hip-hop/rap that her sister so loved was rife with not only politically incorrect dialog but with grossly overt sexual terms and misogyny. This effectively shut down my liberal for a good 5 minutes until the subject turned. The cognitive dissonance was palpable.

    I commented that one had to make the changes one wishes for and not wait for them to spontaneously appear. My eldest, a lawyer, was all in on that comment. He is leaving a law practice simply because he cannot bear the lying and duplicity he has to deal with each and every day. He plans to go into teaching, which he did briefly prior to law school.

    My younger daughter is a weaver, but her wares are solely made for the privileged class. Her clientele is all east coasters in huge cities, living in massive homes with their “summer cottages” on various islands. She was telling stories about the immense weight that dealing with these wealthy people placed on her, and how their condescension and entitlement made her drink overmuch some evenings. Her patience far outweighs my own in that regard.

    My kids run quite the gamut in their opinions, lifestyles and thinking. Yet they can communicate and while there are at times some ruffled feathers and feelings – they can get along beautifully when they share a common goal.

    Is that a part of this puzzle – the lack of a unifying force? A focal point that is shared? A reason to work together?

    Personally, I think that honor and respect are the two things missing from our culture. Some say respect is earned. I say disrespect should be earned – it’s how we learn to steer clear of those without morality or honor. Respect should be given and withdrawn when actions indicate it should be. That simple default would short circuit a lot of superficial conflicts and rancor. IMO…

    If everybody disagreeing with you is a shoggoth, your world is tiny, lonely one indeed. And one that is completely stagnant in nature.

  28. The ‘inscrutable Oriental’ trope is still alive. I see it crop up a lot in reporting on North Korea – the trope that the Kim regime is totally insane and its actions cannot be understood/predicted. I happen to know a lot more about Korean history than the vast majority of non-Koreans, and within that context, the behavior of North Korea’s elites make a lot of sense. I find it totally reprehensible, and I think the Kim regime is one the worst governments in our world today, but it makes sense.

    I am also weary of the counter trope one finds in some English language leftist media, where they try to explain North Korea’s grievances and paint the United States as the imperialist bully who forced the North Koreans to be so awful, while completely ignoring the entirely legitimate grievances that South Korea has against North Korea (the June 25 War – which most Americans call the “Korean” War – was entirely caused by North Korea, and unprovoked by the South Korean government), and since South Korea is an established ally of the United States, the United States has a legitimate interest in addressing South Korea’s grievances (for example, I think it was entirely just for the United States to help an allied nation who was invaded by their neighbor, though some of the USA’s later actions in the June 25 War are very open to critique).

  29. JMG,

    Well, I did mention a while back on ADR that my tastes are very low of brow. 😉

    I certainly understand where you’re coming from, but personally I’ve gotten a little bored with the “they’re really just people like us” stories, especially when the “they” under discussion are witches. Add that to the romanticization of vampires, werewolves, demons, and even zombies, and it can seem like the only monsters you’re allowed to be truly, viscerally scared of are clowns.

    Which is simply to say that most attempts to deconstruct the “they’re evil, let’s kill them” mentality are trash of the sort I don’t enjoy. A few do manage the feat without being preachy and without making the monsters friendly: the Great Old Ones presumably have inner lives that are literally richer and more complex than we could possibly imagine; they still want to enslave and eat us.

  30. I have strong arguments with my wife about the humanity of the other. In many things, she can easily see their humanity, in BLM protestors or the homeless on our streets, but for some groups (a voter for 45, or a follower of Islam who prefers to wear a headscarf and dress modestly), they have become shoggoths. I can’t convince her by argument or sarcasm or example.
    I live with it, but it eats at me that one I love can’t see what seems so clear to me.

  31. 🙂 If I had to pick your two favorite authors, my guess would be would be Tolkien and Lovecraft? And I’m guessing if you could jump into any fantasy world, for real, it would be Tolkein’s LOTR?

    What I find interesting about Lovecraft’s work and Tolkien’s is that they have remained in the realm of fantasy. Their works derive power from allegory, metaphor, and other literary elements. The very notion of a literary element these days seems to have gone by the wayside. There was one class I had in college where we were asked to pick a planet in the solar system to colonize and describe the kind of culture we’d set up on it. One group in the class presented a proposal for setting up a society like that of Mordor on Io. It was a project we did just for fun but what if that group’s proposal was taken seriously by NASA?

    I think it is important that fantasy remains in the realm of fantasy; there is nothing wrong with say Star Trek if it’s just fantasy and remains treated as fantasy. Out of morbid curiosity I pulled up the opening credit crawl for the new Star Trek series – This new series has abstract blueprints for, phasers, ships, and other technological gimmicks Star Trek uses. It’s like daring the viewer to try and build it. Yet, it’s just fantasy. And replacing the theme music in Star Trek with an advertisement for progress detracts from the series ability to be fantasy and tell a story about its characters in any meaningful way. And why I won’t watch this new Star Trek for that reason.

    Thinking back on that class I had. Each groups presentation drew from our cultural fantasy life on some level. The Mordor group picked Io and Star Trek people (including me) picked Ganymede. (We suggested building Star Trek’s Genesis device.) The purpose of the project was to build presentation skills – It goes to show you can make great presentations about things that are just fantasy.

    lol We don’t need to build colony modeled after Mordor on Io, just visit the Alaska’s North Slope.

  32. Thanks for this rumination.

    I am currently playing with this thought: that there is a subtle difference I get from discussing politics (a pastime I happen to love) between people who aspire to have power and rule others, and people who aspire to have just *enough* power not to BE ruled by others.

    The first are full of plans that involve everyone else being reformed or regulated in some way. The second tend more towards “hold-offish-ness” regarding authority and sometimes (but not always) a sense of solidarity with others similarly beset by overwheening authority.

    The first are sometimes coming from a place of privilege, but sometimes privilege is not where they’re coming from, but where they are trying to get to. The second, by and large, are what I’ve come to call, proles. The main business of a prole is to live their own life, pushing against obstacles put there by others if need be, but not to aim to tell anyone else how to live theirs. I actually think there are rather a lot of proles, and they give me hope.

    Proles are incredibly diverse in background, in ways of looking and being and viewing the world around them, and this naturally suits the dissensus idea, one that I certainly can easily live with. I’d fill my world with contrarians who’d argue with me at the drop of a hat, so long as they never, ever tried to control or regulate or reform me or instrumentalise me to fulfill their purposes.

    I tend to think those that aspire to sufficient power to rule others (which includes control, regulation, reform and instrumentalisation) are a bit more disturbed in their minds, maybe by such an enormous fear of the personal consequences that loss of control would bring that other people become instrumental (objects) to their aim to attain and maintain enough control to that quells that fear.

    There seems to be a bit of substance to the idea that power can alter a brain (see this link )
    I wonder if this explains some of the difficulty you point out here that a person of privilege has in comprehending the “inscrutable” minds of those down the ladder.

    That said, having read not a single whit of any Lovecraftian original or fan fiction to now (though I did play a Chthulu based role-playing game once), this post has whetted my appetite to go and have a good explore.

  33. @James L Jensen II – Miller’s Law. “Assume that what someone says is true, and try to figure out what is could be true *of*.” With supplementary advice from a 1968 radical pamphlet, “never dismiss someone with “Oh, she did it because she’s a (she-warg) or a (harlot.) Everybody does something for a reason. First seek the reason.”

  34. @ Jen…

    I just had a conversation with my postman, regarding football, privilege and racism. He’s obviously black and voted for Trump because ..”Hillary was lies and more lies, and you can see them just rolling out of her every time she speaks.” He did vote Obama 2x like you though! LOL He thinks he will be downsized in the next 5-10 years due to internet displacement of the mail service. He cannot speak anything about politics at work because he isn’t all-in with the liberal left, especially since he owns a gun and hunts – he gets trounced and people get ugly at the post office. So he clocks in, does his thing, and clocks out.

    He told me that he is still being castigated for voting for Trump by about half his family, and they are nastier than he ever imagined about it too. We used many politically incorrect terms during our conversation, but they were so appropriate that they enhanced our communication rapidly. He voted for Trump not as the lesser of 2 evils, but because Trump was a wildcard that it was obvious the Republicans didn’t know how to handle. We both agreed that the best voting option is change – in either direction, but change predominantly – because the two parties we have are nearly identical.

    We both agreed the terms ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ are antiquated and insufficiently descriptive, and that ‘libertarian’ was just too callous a way to go for a civil society. We both agreed that the whole NFL take-a-knee thing was irretrievably stupid. We both agreed that the US is currently not at all a representative government, but is run by well-paid politicians working at fattening their wallets more than anything else. And that is why congress abdicates everything of importance and goes full in with virtue-signalling voting.

    “Man, I really enjoyed talking to you. See you later!” and he drove off wearing a towel on his head.

    Just thought I would share that with you. Lots of people are thinking there is no future with the two parties as they exist today. And his family has shoggoths too…

    Dehumanization is now an enshrined practice in American discourse. It’s like the all-purpose wrench for political virtue signalling…

  35. I am not a United Statesian so am really a bit bemused by the extreme loyalty of those citizens who are so very attaches to their political party of choice. However one point I would like to make is that it seems unlikely that the Democrats are unlikely to win the next presidential election unless they work out why they lost the last one.

  36. Corrections: attaches to attached and second unlikely to likely. How annoying when I did reread my comment.

  37. @ Martin…

    That mobile home thing is ensconced in society.

    I have a friend who has a complete EOW setup, with every tool you can imagine, off-grid solar enough to run every appliance imaginable, and 25 acres of land with an 1800 sqft modular house. His setup appraised at $150k.

    His immediate neighbor, who has a run-down ramshackle wooden house with termite damage and 900 square feet on 18 acres appraised at $300k.

    The mobile home thing is just an ensconced version of ‘keeping-up-with-the-Joneses’. His realtor told him “That’s just the way it is, I can’t do anything about it.”

  38. I am a bit of an anomaly, I think. My liberal friends in Seattle are fairly circumspect and reflective about Trump voters. For them, it was a huge wake-up call that not everyone thought like they do, and I think it has been the cause of soul-searching for several (but I like thoughtful people, so that may be a cause of the liberal anomaly here). My conservative friends, in my deep-red corner of the state, say very little also (it seems we live in a time when many people are afraid of saying much at all). I believe them to be stubborn in defense of Trump, altho they might be hard-pressed to say why exactly. I will say that the one thing that seems to have become deeply politicized for those on the right is global warming, with several people here I know stating openly that they believe it is just a liberal “thing”. I think they are settled on that, although I had to laugh recently when the local paper had a headline that read, “Irma and Harvey re-open the debate about global warming”. I laughed because “re-opening the debate” at this stage of the game is just a waste of energy. It’s like arguing about the existence of icebergs when sailing on the Titanic.

    As for me…more and more of my time is spent with The Dark Mountain-ites and the primitive/nature skills movement(s)…people who are deeply ‘coming to grips’ with the descent that we are entering, and who no longer interested in arguing about how to “fix” it. They are largely just focused on building skills for when the grid(s) go down.

  39. We call it Consultancy. It’s an old joke n the business that, when a Manager is having trouble and has no idea how to fix it, a consultant is hired. That person will talk with the lowly workers who often happen to know exactly what’s wrong and how to fix it. The consultant types it all out in a fancy layout, asks a ridiculous amount of money and gives the report to the manager, who will ignore all advice for office political reasons.

    It has to be expensive, otherwise the consultant and manager are not talking ‘on the same level’. The manager can’t just ask the workers, they are lower class and stupid.

    Such a waste. You often wonder how they kept the system running for so long. They serm to op do the same in small businesses upto large countries.

  40. In my experience it works a lot better to talk to people face to face and with only a few people at a time. It rarely works well to jump headfirst into debating contentious issues, especially online. It seems to work best to look for where are their views different from how I would have expected and playing a game of finding anything we have in common. At the same time another useful thing is to look at how people on ‘your side’s’ views differ – once people trust you enough that they don’t feel they have to tow a party line around you, you can really see much less of a binary and much more of a diversity in how people feel about different issues. I think this is important work in trying to make a more peaceful world.

    At the same time, I don’t think that this work can be separated from issues of privilege and internalised oppression (which is where you start to believe the bad things more powerful people say about your group). To be able to do this without burning myself out, I need to acknowledge that it’s really really stressful talking to people who don’t think you should have the right to exist. And I need to limit how often I do that and balance it out with lots of time with people I can feel seen and respected by. I don’t need the whole world to acknowledge that it’s stressful but I do need to let myself acknowledge it. I think one of the reasons I see people get so upset when asked to talk to people who disagree with them is that that balance isn’t there and they’re hearing something different than the speaker is meaning.

    I’m definitely a long way towards the left/social justice end of the spectrum, but think it’s often a case on my ‘side’ of good ideas; terrible tactics. So for example discourse about the importance of anger doesn’t mean (as many take it) yelling at people is an effective form of activism, rather it’s about the power of anger for breaking free of ideas that take root in your head and bring your confidence down. You then take that new point of view and can go speak calmly and confidently to people.

    I think one factor in the polarisation is how our online worlds are structured – specifically that the business model for a lot of news & social media companies is to sell ads so everything is designed to keep us on their website as long as possible and doesn’t much care how it does that – it’s easier to use fake news and outrage to keep people clicking – Tristan Harris talks interestingly about this

  41. This revelation that we’re all shoggoths comes as a shock as I’ve always identified as Mi-go. Thank you for another wonderful and thought provoking post. And now, a pair of serious literary inquiries. First, regarding privilege. As a culture follows the usual arc of decline and fall with ethnicities shifting and demographics changing and the like, it seems fair to assume that privilege in literature will go the way of the privileged in due course. Does this explain why literature/stories eventually returns to the mean and resembles the epic tales of previous dark ages? Your example of Gilgamesh being enjoyed in the Saxon mead halls comes to mind.
    Second, is it at all possible that were Lovecraft alive and writing today that his shoggoths would come oozing out of the woodwork wearing MAGA hats and chanting, “Lock her up!”, reflecting the unspoken bias of the privileged today? Or would his monsters still carry the trappings of the inscrutable foreigner, updated to include Mexican Santa Muerta cultists or something like that? Anyway, thanks again!

  42. This one reminds me of something Violet C. said on the ADR–
    That even people who hate you are human beings, and deserve consideration–something like that.

    A number of years ago, when I was a dyed-in-the-wool Evangelical Christian working in lower management, a previous employee called me up looking for a job. He was a very good worker, and also very, very Gay. He was desperate for employment. I found myself arguing with my superiors to hire this fellow, and they grudgingly allowed me to hire him on probation.
    When he showed up to work the first day, some of the other Gay employees who knew him asked how he had gotten the job. They couldn’t believe it when he told them it was me. He worked with us for quite a while, and through him I got to know some of the other Gay employees as persons. The whole episode lessened that aspect of tension at work.
    Doing something mind-blowingly out of stereotype, unreasonable kindness to someone that dislikes or distrusts you, can turn out very well.

  43. Here are my current ideas for an effective way to think about the polarisation of society, which probably need some refining.

    I think it’s best seen as three-sided but each side has a middle and an outside (this would be much easier if I could draw it…). Where the outside of each group is more extreme and aggressive and the middle is more willing to engage in constructive dialogue.

    The three sides would be “right” [neo-nazis & white supremacists on the outside and conservatives on the middle] ; “left” [the more screamy end of social justice on the outside & the more constructive dialogue side on the middle] ; “Islamic” [the extremist groups on the outside & the everyday Muslims on the middle].

    Like obviously these aren’t the only 3 groups in society and people can be in more than one simultaneously, but I think it works to un-polarise things.

    What’s happening at the moment is firstly the inside groups are seeing the worst extremes on the outside of the other groups and it’s polarising them. For example conservatives becoming vehemently anti-islamic because all they see of Islam is Isis on the news while every single Muslim I know is horrified by Isis and many have come here to flee them. And secondly the outside groups are screaming at each other and it’s achieving nothing.

    What needs to happen is first the ‘middle’ groups talk to each other and that creates dialogue. Partly by challenging predudices and partly by finding common ground. Which two groups find themselves on the same ground varies by which issue is being discussed which helps break the polarisation up a bit.

    Second the middle groups talk to their own outside groups to calm things because they speak more of the same language. They don’t need to advocate agreement so much as dialogue. For example I can go to the more screamy end of social justice and talk genuinely about their good ideals being undermined by poor tactics. I can talk about the importance of creating truly inclusive communities but that it requires internal change and a willingness to make mistakes along the way rather than a performance of finding someone else to point fingers at. I can talk about the legitimacy of anger but the tactical importance of using it as a tool for changing your own mind rather than closing off someone else’s from listening to you. I can relate it back to my own experiences of being part of a discrminated-against group in ways that lend what I’m saying legitimacy in that sub-culture but wouldn’t elsewhere. And that might well not be listened to either, but it’s far more likely than someone lecturing from outside of that viewpoint while inadvertantly that have negative connotations they don’t realise (such as ‘moderates’). I think a lot of this is about the same words having subtly different meanings to different groups so they don’t hear each other.

  44. Aaargh typo – it should say “while inadvertantly – USING WORDS – that have negative connotations..”

  45. I guess what I’ve been wondering is…what need are these shoggoths filling?

    I’ve noticed the same thing mentioned by commenters above, particularly on the left. People who I’ve heard preaching tolerance and multiculturalism and cross-cultural understanding and acceptance of difference, blah blah blah, all of a sudden change their tune when it comes to *those people*. You know, *those people* – the Trump voters, and the politically incorrect white working class with whom it Trump-support overlaps. (Interestingly enough, the more-polite upper class Trump voters don’t seem to attract quite so much vitriol from the PC left; the incorrect political opinions of the rich are more often seen as unfortunate, but understandable, consequences of their rich-people privilege, while the poor and working-class Trump voters are vilified more harshly for their “stupidity”, the idea being that the ONLY reason they could possibly have for “voting against their own [economic] interest” is racism and/or misogyny, obviously.) Any time I try to point out that, uh, the economy is awful and people are desperate and maybe Trump seemed like a lesser evil for a variety of understandable reasons, I get shrilly attacked as a virtual monster in my own right, for having the temerity to defend *those people*. You know, the shoggoths.

    But….why? Why is a certain class of economically privileged liberals so determined to avoid the possibility that the hated shoggoths might have perfectly logical, understandable reasons for their actions? I mean, the truth shouldn’t be all that damning, as far as I can tell. You just have to be willing to acknowledge that there are poor white people living under bad economic conditions, and that establishment neo-liberalism hasn’t served them well, and that, while you yourself might benefit from neo-liberalism and love Hillary Clinton (and Barack Obama), you can’t blame people who haven’t benefited from neo-liberalism for voting against its political representatives, because from their perspective the other guy was the lesser evil. You can still think they have wrong political positions without indulging in vitriolic hate and dehumanization. And yet suggesting as much seems to be tantamount to suggesting we roast and eat babies at our next cook-out, or something.

    I just don’t get the desperate need of the liberal class for these shoggoths as a repository for their hatred of a faceless, evil “other”. Is it just that they’re addicted to self-righteous hate, or is there more to it? To be honest, it seems new – I don’t remember the liberal classes being this hate-filled in the past. Did I miss it? Or did something change?

  46. When I’ve recently run across a frothing partisan, I’ve tried the following lines with some success: “You know, those pesky Russian trolls just love to exaggerate the differences between us, don’t they? Are we going to let them get away with provoking us? Of course not! So let’s see if we can look for a solution to [whatever the issue of the day is].” I hope that this gives them an opportunity not to “own” the opinions that they’re sharing. (“I didn’t write that, I just forwarded it.”)

    There was a kerfluffle here a few weeks ago, when the City Council of my Democrat-dominated town voted on a motion to grant the right vote in city elections to non-citizens. As the City Council, they can establish the criteria for voting on city issues. Apparently, the action was intended to “signal” that we welcome immigrants (with or without documents). To put it another way, I suspect that it was envisioned as a poke in the eye to our Republican national leadership, which stubbornly intends to enforce current immigration law. However, this national perspective ignores the fact that this city is the home of a large university with a large number of foreign students, so the local effect would be to give power to temporary residents, not immigrants. While we love the money that foreign students bring into our community, that doesn’t mean that we want them controlling the noise, housing, and nuisance ordinances. The bizarre part was that some residents were so upset by the motion that they communicated death threats against Council members!

    As it turned out, the vote was 4:3:1 in favor, but the motion needed a super-majority, so it failed.

    Voter turnout in these city elections tends to run around 5-10% of potential voters, and many positions are un-contested. I vote. Not to steer policy, but to exercise the machinery of voting, just in case we need it some day.

  47. JMG, I applaud your resolute refusal to demonize people, and I often do try to engage with those with different views than my own. Yet when I try to discuss various issues with those I disagree with, I often find that the conversation founders on one of two rocks: 1. The other party and I have fundamentally different assumptions about a key aspect of reality (“human nature,” the role or non-role of deity, etc.). We can recognize that we are reasoning from different premises, but neither of us is likely to make a dent in the other’s presuppositions, which leaves us rather stuck as to how to move the conversation forward. 2. I prefer to rely primarily on reason, with emotion recognized somewhat in the background, and I sometimes find myself talking to someone who “just feels” that their position is right but cannot articulate a clear argument for it. Any suggestions (from anyone!) on breaking either of these impasses? Thank you. – Ann

  48. Is your muse picking up eldritch vibes from Providence? Its interesting, in that the themes which you expound on in each post are often themes that I’ve been bringing up in the weeks before the post explicitly addresses it. Your narratives cast seemingly senseless things in a new light. Might we call THAT magical thinking? Thank you JMG. After 10+ years you never fail to deliver insights that are hiding in plain sight. Corrective vision, in a sense.

    politically, my vote is only seriously cast for local candidates. 2012 was Beelzebubba (I’m in NC)
    and 2016 “Cthulhu- Why settle for the lesser evil?”

  49. Long time reader of both your blogs, first time posting here.

    El asks:

    I just don’t get the desperate need of the liberal class for these shoggoths as a repository for their hatred of a faceless, evil “other”. Is it just that they’re addicted to self-righteous hate, or is there more to it? To be honest, it seems new – I don’t remember the liberal classes being this hate-filled in the past. Did I miss it? Or did something change?

    The answer is that things have changed radically in the past few generations. Several commenters have mentioned the late Dr. Andrew Lobaczewski’s book Political Ponerology. I have that book, and I, too, consider it one of the most important books published in the past decade or so.

    However, for me, the most enlightening part of the book was not his descriptions of psychopaths and other pathological deviants. I had already read The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley, and several books by Robert Hare, so I was already familiar with that subject.

    Rather, for me, the most important chapter in the book was Chapter 3, The Hysteroidal Cycle. It is a long chapter, well worth everyone’s study. I will summarize it as briefly as I can here.

    What Lobaczewski says in this chapter, is that societies do not just “all of a sudden” get taken over by psychopaths and pathological deviants, any more than individuals are “all of a sudden” posessed by demons. In both cases, a process of moral collapse and “selling out” precedes possession. Anyone who has ever read Hostage to the Devil by the late Malachi Martin will know what I am referring to.

    Lobaczewski argues that, when a society enjoys several uninterrupted generations of “good times,” it becomes reluctant to anticipate or face problems, preferring to ignore them and kick the can down the road as long as possible. This leads to increasingly hysterical attitudes, in which “noticing things you are not allowed to notice,” or telling the unvarnished truth about anything, becomes “immoral.” As an example, the whole “political correctness” movement began on college campuses in Reagan’s first term of office, and we are seeing the climax of this hysteria on campuses across America with the whole “Social Justice Warrior” business.

    This escalating hysteria progressively blinds people to more and more of reality, as they block out more and more unpleasant facts from their field of awareness. This, in turn, opens the door for truly pathological people (psychopaths, schizoid fanatics, and the like) to gain greater and greater public influence, by slipping in behind people’s self-imposed blind spots.

    One result of the ever-escalating “hysterization” of society, is what I call the phenomenon of “walking around on eggshells” with people. We have all known individuals in our lives, around whom we have to be careful what we say or do, lest they blow up in a big tantrum, and make life miserable. As society as a whole becomes more and more hysterical, pretty nearly everyone in the country becomes like this.

    I moved from the U.S. to New Zealand in 1999, because I was on the business end of this ever-escalating hysteria. Like JMG, I am an “Aspie,” with some schizoid characteristics thrown in for good measure, which is a perfect recipe for social cluelessness. I am in my sixties now, so I have learned how to pass for normal in most situations. However, back then, countless times, I would have what I considered to be perfectly normal conversations about some subject, only to have the person I was talking to burst out in a rage and start insulting, or even threatening me. On top of that, I was, on several occasions, accused of the most bizarre things by fellow workers in my office. I concluded that, if I remained in the United States, that my life would ultimately be in jeopardy. Moving here Down Under was probably a life-saving decision for me.

    Thus, I totally sympathize with what @El, @Jen and others are suffering. My only sane choice is to exclude from my life all people (whether family members or not) who explode in my face like so many over-heated bottles of nitroglycerin when certain topics are raised, certain words are spoken, or certain opinions get expressed. In other words, I will not spend time around people whom I have to clutch like a hand-grenade with the pin missing. Thankfully, I have never had that problem here in New Zealand, with anyone – ever.

    I have much more I want to say about this chapter, but I will close for now, and see how the discussion goes. If there is further interest in this topic, I will add more of my thoughts. Otherwise, I will let it drop.

  50. Patricia,

    That’s my exact reasoning, actually, though I got it from Donald Davidson, who argued that most of anyone’s beliefs have to be true because otherwise they wouldn’t be coherent enough to be about anything at all (and thus, wouldn’t be true or false).

    As an example, if someone believed that homeless people are all men, they might just be wrong about the statistics of the homeless; if they believed they are all men who wear white aprons and meet every Monday night in windowless buildings where they perform rituals (and hatch plots to destroy the moral fabric of America for their reptilian overlords), then we’d have to conclude that this person is actually talking about something other than homeless people.

    Granted, that means there can be cases where someone can think they believe X about Y, but actually believe X about Z.

  51. I’m still participating in my on-line altercation group of several relatives in Texas and their friends in scattered places, though I’ve sworn off it several times. I find myself agreeing with either side of the Great Divide in turn and disagreeing with the other in an attempted constructive manner, offering a different perspective from abroad. Recently I began to wonder if I’d be accused Russian complicity by fanning the discord between the two sides, which seems to be the latest turn of the “Russia did it” worm. Because I appreciate the value of hearing the raw visceral emotions being brought on by a classic collapse, my new strategy will be to make vague hopeful comments now and then to stay involved, but try to avoid engaging either side.
    One thing sure struck me, though, and it may be off-topic, but it did get my goat and it did made me come out swinging: both sides are certain that North Korea is a chemical-and-biological-weapons-wielding threat to the whole world (i.e., evil), and that all of the stuff being said about them by the New York Times and other gossip mills is true. Since that is basically the only thing they agree on, I wonder if that makes it all the more likely to be acted on as a way for anybody doing so to be more popular among their constituents while not being demonized at the same time. This is probably why there was so much bi-partisan support for the latest sanctions on Russia, and why Trump felt he had to endorse it despite his campaign promises, though that never gained the level of bipartisanship that North Korea has.
    That situation probably bears close watching.

  52. I am lucky that I live in Australia, for this “shoggothing” of various people is not as powerful of violent as it is in America. However milder varieties of it still occur, usually towards immigrants, usually Asian, African or middle eastern “stealing jobs”, buying up Australian land and committing various crimes such as as rape.
    Unemployment definitely fuels this anti-immigrant stance, especially if its caused by off-shoring.

  53. I’m a little afraid to comment on politics of today. (Why my last comment focused on the fictional works discussed in the post) I don’t like Trump – My cousin, Joe, is a police officer and at a family picnic about a month ago, another cousin of mine, Smith, almost attacked him because he voted for Trump. Joe voted for Trump because he felt he would be safer at his job than if he voted for Hillary. I’ve heard enough of Joe’s stories about being a police officer to understand why he voted for Trump. For instance, his buddy is still alive because a crooks sawed off shotgun didn’t fire after he pulled the trigger. Another officer he knew is dead because someone shot a gun through a door. Joe and I have had a couple drinks where I’ve told him, “Dude – You need to find a new job.” (He’s currently trying to get into campus security at the college I went to.) But at that party, Smith just started calling Joe a racist bigoted Trump supporter because he voted for him. A lot of my family did voted for Trump. It was just after the Charlottesville riot. And we had to hold Smith back from attacking Joe.

    Saying to Smith, “You know him. He’s not a racist – He’s a police officer and if he feels safer with Trump as his Boss. That’s not racist reason,” did nothing really to calm him down. Smith is pretty calm most of the time and really liberal. I don’t know. I just look at how Smith and Joe went at it. We pulled them apart before they could start fighting, Smith would have. Smith talked about Joe’s white privilege and I thought a bit how Smith’s Dad is a machinist for a small company, and Joes Dad is a engineer for Pratt and Whitney, making Jet engines. Consoling my Uncle the time he wrecked a jet engine is another interesting story. But I look at the lifestyle difference they each grew up with and it is not, family, race, etc. It’s the socio-economic difference that put the wedge in that family party. And Joe has a two 7K+ boats. Smith is under the affordable care act and struggling to get by. How they each grew up I think made a difference.

    Also I’d add that unless you work for some industry of death, like the police (as Joe is) Pratt and Whitney, General Dynamics, The Army, Air Force, etc. today, you’ll have a hard time getting by. My uncle who is a machinist won’t work for such industry. Half my friends who majored in engineering in college work for such industry now, making firearms at Troy Industries, Smith and Wesson, etc. If guns, nuclear launch systems, submarines, and Jets are the only things that pay well enough to be middle class now, at least in Massachusetts, then I think that says loads about our economy. Each company and field I listed above I have at least one friend working in. I’ve heard that siren’s call and tied myself to the mast of my own morality.

    Real life isn’t pretty – finding people to talk about, life, art, books, poetry, sustainability, community, etc. with isn’t easy. Being around people who help drive the industries of death, is something I don’t find healthy. Peace I just want peace. We pulled cousins back from the brink but they’re still fuming. Idk if any amount of discourse will help.

    My cousin’s names are not Joe and Smith. My family is somewhat more imaginative with names. I just called them that for anonymity.

  54. Oh, one more reference, for anyone interested in the Hysteroidal Cycle, as it played out in Germany and Europe in the early 20th century..

    This is an excerpt from Carl Jung’s 1945 essay After the Catastrophe.

    Some juicy quotes, with obvious application to our current predicament:

    This spectacle recalls the figure of what Nietzsche so aptly calls the ‘pale criminal,’ who in reality shows all the signs of hysteria. […] He will stoop to every kind of self-deception if only he can escape the sight of himself. […] This condition can easily lead to an hysterical dissociation of the personality, which consists essentially… in wanting to jump over one’s own shadow, and in looking for everything dark, inferior, and culpable in others. Hence the hysteric always complains of being surrounded by people who are incapable of appreciating him and who are activated only by bad motives; by… a crowd of submen who should be exterminated neck and crop so that the Superman can live on his high level of perfection. The very fact that his thinking and feeling proceed along these lines is clear proof of inferiority in action. Therefore all hysterical people are compelled to torment others, because they are unwilling to hurt themselves by admitting their own inferiority. But since nobody can jump out of his skin and be rid of himself, they stand in their own way everywhere as their own evil spirit- and that is what we call an hysterical neurosis.

    More ….

    The essence of hysteria is a systematic dissociation… . […] As a rule there is amazing ignorance of the shadow; the hysteric is only aware of his good motives… .

    Ignorance of one’s other side creates great inner insecurity. […] This sense of insecurity is the source of the hysteric’s prestige psychology, of his need to make an impression, to flaunt his merits and insist on them, of his insatiable thirst for recognition, admiration, adulation, and longing to be loved.

    To my mind, the history of the last twelve years is the case-chart of an hysteric patient.

    Draw your own conclusions ……

  55. Carolyn, good for you. It’s going to take a lot of people bringing up those same points over and over again, and asking the purveyors of political demonology, “Why is it so important to you to insist that the people you disagree with can only have evil motives?” and the like, to make a dent in the mental armor.

    Nancy, exactly. It’s when we start listening, asking “why does this belief make sense to you?” and similar questions, that we get past the shrieking and begin to make the possibility of understanding.

    Emily, I’ve been saying it in one way and another for a while now. To my mind, it has to be said.

    Isabel, of course that can be necessary for tactical reasons. The thing I want to encourage people to avoid is the notion that disagreement is necessarily the product of infinite moral evil.

    Nancy, I won’t argue a bit.

    Lordyburd, fascinating! Thank you for the data points.

    Drhooves, another good reason to chuck your TV in the nearest dumpster, and choose your news sources with care!

    Martin, that is, you stumbled into the secret heart of much of the current shrieking on the leftward end of things: class bigotry. The frantic struggle to maintain a facade of privilege in a society in decline has left deep psychological scars on most people from above the working classes.

    David, don’t force it. Talk about other things. Build bridges, and let people cross those bridges in their own time.

    Michelle, consider yourself fortunate. Those who get into the hating game inhabit an imaginary universe that’s full of evil people; that can’t be a pleasant place to be.

    Lauren, yep. I’ve been saying for years now that if you want to hear completely over-the-top hate speech, get a bunch of privileged liberals talking about rural working class white Americans.

    Jon, funny! Thank you.

    Hubertus, exactly. When you let yourself hate the hateful, you’re still letting yourself hate.

    Corydalidae, and if those of us who aren’t caught up in the shrieking don’t try to talk in calmer tones, who will?

    Greg, I’ve encountered the same thing, of course. Calling someone on their smug condescension is going to get you hysterics, especially if it’s accurate!

    Phil, and that’s a good point — the notion that the world can be made better by exterminating the bad people is uncomfortably present in American thought.

    Jen, yep. When I hear someone yelling about “false equivalency” I take that as meaning “How dare you point out that I’m acting just like the people I hate?”

    Oilman2, thank you. Your account of that conversation makes me feel more hopeful.

    Sara, yes, and it’s backed up by the bizarre notion — very common in the US — that there has to be one side that’s entirely good so that the other side can be entirely evil.

    James, well, I’m not a horror fan, so that may be part of it. “They’re out to enslave and eat us” makes me roll my eyes — oh, really? If Lovecraft was right, and the universe really is indifferent to us, then the Great Old Ones don’t care about us enough to bother to enslave and eat us. (Are you obsessed with enslaving and eating the bacteria on your skin?) And of course there’s a vast open space, full of interesting possibilities, between “they’re just like us” and the mindless malice that the Other is so predictably assigned…

    Peter, I get that.

  56. Austin, you’d be quite wrong. I enjoy Lovecraft a great deal, but there are plenty of other writers I like as well; as for Tolkien, I was crazy in love with Middle-earth when I was much younger, but at this point quite a few aspects of Tolkien grate on me, and I wouldn’t want to go to Middle-earth. There are many more interesting places in fantasy! As for the power of fantasy as such, though, agreed — I hope nobody ever mistakes The Weird of Hali for nonfiction! In the play of the imagination, it’s possible to say things that can’t be said anything like so clearly in other ways.

    Scotlyn, given that you’ve characterized those who don’t want power as proles, how would you characterize those who do, in class terms? As for Lovecraft, you can read all his fiction for free here.

    Jill, bingo. If the Democrats don’t stop and think about how they drove millions of people who voted for Obama into the GOP camp, they’re going to hand Trump a second term. It really is as simple as that.

    JLD, that’s very good to hear.

    JC, yep. You have to get someone who belongs to the same social caste as the manager, because it is taboo among our people for anyone to listen to someone of lower caste…

    Alex, of course. You can’t get to know a thousand people at once; it has to happen a few at a time. As for “good ideas, terrible tactics,” I’m far from convinced that all the ideas are good, but the tactics are among the worst I’ve seen anywhere. Sure, bullying and abusing people is a great way to convince them that they should agree with you!

    StarNinja, I’m not sure I’d use privilege as a lens through which to see the reversion of literature to the Dark Age mean, but if that works for you, by all means. As for Lovecraft, the thing to keep in mind is that his prejudices were very widely shared by people in his place, time, and culture. Thus if he’d been born in 1990 rather than 1890, he’d have the standard prejudices of a white east coast urbanite today. I imagine him as one of those tense, constantly stressed, pallid vegans ranting about the evils of the rural white poor; his monsters would come from Oklahoma, and they’d smell like bacon cheeseburgers.

    Liz, you’re welcome!

    E. Goldstein, well done. Exactly; I note also that when you did that, you acted the way Jesus told his followers to act, which suggests to me that you were a better Christian than many.

    Alex, that’s certainly one way to do it. Me, I find it useful to focus on actions rather than categories — to point out, say, that if bullying is wrong when the far right does it, it’s just as wrong when the far left does it.

    El, that’s a question that’s been much on my mind of late. Why is it so important to so many people on the left, for example, to insist that the people who voted against their candidate can only have had monstrously evil motives? Why do they get so frantic and abusive when you question that highly dubious claim?

    LatheChuck, fascinating. Doesn’t surprise me at all.

    Ann, I find it helpful, first, to build connections with other people on less controversial topics first; second, to let them initiate the conversations on challenging subjects; and third, to do a lot of listening. I’ve had very good results using those three tools.

    MisterOdwin, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that. I wonder if it’s simply that it’s not too hard for my readers to figure out where I’m headed!

    Michael, interesting. I tend to find different analyses more useful, but chacun a son gout…

  57. Patricia, I’m beginning to think that everyone’s agreeing to hate the North Koreans because it’s the one thing they can agree on!

    J.L.Mc12, there’s a lot of that here, too.

    Austin, thanks for the data points!

    Michael, are you including his earlier essay “Wotan” in your analysis?

  58. @Oilman2, I appreciate hearing about that! I don’t identify with or stick to either party in my voting, much less my ideas, but it can be hard to navigate such an intensely partisan climate. At least with my more conservative acquaintances, if the subject turns to something that gets my blood boiling or an ideological impasse is reached, I can usually turn the conversation to a mutual lamentation of the corruption of the whole government and accelerating disintegration of society! My more liberal acquaintances are having none of it currently–they require submission or death! On the upside, my local Lions Club is explicitly apolitical and we are all getting along swimmingly even as our diversity increases, so not all social spaces have fallen to extreme partisanship. I wish your mailman luck with his coworkers and family members!

  59. @JMG: Totally. Few things are, IMO–I mean, even Blofield seems to have been nice to his cat. (And, in fact, some of the most horrible and socially intrusive people I know–the guy I describe as “a fifty-cent Judge Frollo”–have been very vocal leftists politically.)

    @El: Good question. As someone on the left, in my thirties, for me I think it’s been a combination of media, culture wars, and the difference between leadership/spokespeople and the actual voters.

    I came of age politically in the late nineties/early 2000s; the first election I was eligible to vote in was Bush v. Gore. At that point, I mostly knew the GOP leadership as the people literally making a federal case over a guy getting a hummer, like pretty much every non-ace guy in his position has ever done*, with a sideline in basically never wanting anyone to have fun without dire and potentially life-threatening consequences. (It didn’t help that they’d teamed up with the “Moral Majority” at that point, and I’d been a D&D player since I was ten, so it was also the party of That Idiot Who Thinks the Monster Manual Summons Satan.**) I recall, at the time, being able to get along with people who voted GOP for defense or economic reasons, even if I thought they were wrong.

    Then…Dubya, and 9/11, and *that* whole mess, and the 2004 election where a bunch of states decided to specifically prohibit same-sex marriage, and the GOP elected officials saying that a woman wouldn’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” and their talking points on the economy becoming more and more like Ayn Rand’s wet dreams, where people could totally go back to school while raising kids on six dollars an hour because bootstraps.

    And in all of this, the right-leaning people I had contact with were a) That One Aunt, who was actually fundamentalist and a fanatic to the point where she started a whole family drama when a cousin who wasn’t her son decided to have a secular wedding, b) That Other Aunt, who had ten kids and didn’t let any of the girls wear dresses, c) a bunch of middle-class white guys with CS degrees who’d gone all Objectivist in college and stringently objected to the idea that society should help anyone, ever, although pot should be legal. I didn’t hate either aunt, but I didn’t, and don’t, feel any obligation to take them seriously; I have zero patience for That Guy in his manifold forms; and, basically, it wasn’t until I started reading this blog that I heard from people who still voted Republican for economic reasons that didn’t amount to “I got mine, to Baator with everyone else.”

    So…that’s where I was coming from, and where I suspect a lot of people my age on the left are. Tracking the shift on the right from the pre-2012 Puritans on Parade (and, in our defense, a lot of the public face of the GOP still is that–Pence, for instance, or Santorum) to the current and real economic desperation and search for alternatives…is relatively non-intuitive, I suspect, and it’s easy to disbelieve until you actually talk to people who honestly don’t want to go back to the days of closets and coathangers but also prioritize what they see as their best chance to keep food on their table.

    * Powerful men have mistresses. Fact of life. Powerful women generally have tennis instructors and pool boys, because society’s largely required us to be more discreet about both power and side-action until comparatively recently.
    ** It doesn’t. Sadly. I don’t need to cast fireballs, but Silence 10′ Radius would be amazing on my commute, and definitely worth my immortal soul.

  60. Michael, are you including his earlier essay “Wotan” in your analysis?

    Yes I am. However, my take on this is somewhat different than either yours or Jung’s. The way I see it, the reason why a demonic archetype from the subconscious (Wotan) or a demon in human form (Hitler) was able to blind-side the German psyche and “all of a sudden” seize control is identical. Germany, under the Kaiser, grew more and more hysterical in exactly the way Lobaczewski describes (see the linked chapter above for details). People, for example, were forbidden to notice that the Kaiser was a cripple, that he was of limited intelligence, and that he dismissed competent ministers (like Bismarck) and replaced them with yes-men. There were all kinds of other things people in Germany were “forbidden to notice,” not all of them political in nature.

    Over time, the habit of shutting out inconvenient facts became habitual, creating bigger and bigger blind spots. This is why unconscious material could “suddenly” erupt and seize people, and why spellbinders and charlatans could “suddenly” take over society. I think that the eruption of “Wotan” is an example of what happens when a society sells out.

    Then again, I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian, so what Jung called a “god,” I (like St. Paul) call a demon, pure and simple. I acknowledge that this may constitute an irreducible obstacle to dialogue. Your call …..

  61. Ohh.. yes. I could go on about the creation of Shoggoths in our recent election here in New Zealand. Here are two main parties (Labour and National) are not substantively different (like in the rest of the first world they adhere to the same basic neo-liberal agenda- except National are better at marketing themselves than Labour). The Green Party hitched themselves to Labour in a ‘historic agreement to change the government’. This drove me off voting Green as for me they’ve effectively sold themselves out to the neo-liberal status quo. The attitude of so many Labour and Green supports was exactly as you’ve just described: ‘The National party are ‘Shoggoths’, vote for us because at least we’re not Shoggoths’. ( No as far as I know Cthulu isn’t campaigning here, though now I wish I’d quoted his “why settle for the lesser evil?” campaign slogan at Green and Labour Party voters). Now we have what the British would call a ‘hung parliament’- National won the most votes by far but don’t have quite enough to govern. Technically the Greens could make a deal with National to be in Government, but this option is probably closed as they have in effect spent most of the campaign denouncing the National Party as Shoggoths. I have repeatedly tried pointing this out to Green voters (with some headway) though a small but highly intolerant minority (lol am I creating my own Slogoths here?) see the anyone on the right wing as… well I don’t need to repeat myself do I? I sometimes wonder If people find it easier to find scapegoats rather than look for constructive solutions (actually that’s a very obvious point).

    Anyway just a few ramblings from me…



  62. Ann, this may be less than helpful, but when I run into that kind of impasse, I am reminded why values such as freedom of conscience and various civil liberties and Constitutional protections are worth defending even when they may seem to favor the “other side.” Some disagreements are irresolvable, and I am glad if we are able not only to tolerate one another after reaching such a point, but to actively appreciate the safeguards that prevent others from impinging too much upon us with such assumptions, and that save us from impinging upon them in turn. There will never be ideological consensus, and some base assumptions are unverifiable and/or unfalsifiable in objective terms, so sometimes I think it is best to agree only to safeguard our right freely to disagree and to live according to our consciences. I think both major parties are often all too willing to gut legal protections and civil liberties in the name of the sort of baseline assumptions you mention, which often seem so self-evident to the ones who hold them that they believe the usual rules ought not to apply.

  63. I have had pretty good luck with political discussions recently, but conversation on difficult topics is the greatest passion in my life, so that helps. One of the first things I find useful is to reduce the conversation to tactics; if morality gets into the conversation too soon, call it a day. Then start with something interesting and general that will be projected onto one group as a matter of convention, but subvert the convention by applying it to another group.

    So, here’s something I have been simmering on for about a week. What motivates a person to bully another, and also happened on a massive scale in recent years? I don’t have a snappy answer to that by the way, and what I could mutter in answer others here have more or less touched on. It seems to be that the motives of the extreme fringes are very much the need to bully others; and many moderates are in effect vicarious bullies living it out through the stories of their sub-cultural hero figures.

    Also, I have made note of a general glitch in thinking of those I talk to who are predominantly on the left. A seriously weakened ability, or at least as likely willingness, to distinguish between generalizations and universals. As near as I can figure a lot of the socially Right-wing thinking really depends on using generalizations, particularly ones which are not universal claims, and really cheap gotcha points can be scored by misrepresenting an opponents generalization as a universal claim, pointing out that it is absurd as a universal, and then basking is the smug. I bring this up because second to the false dichotomy, this is the most useful glitch to probe into to provoke real thinking in my experience.

    It seems a lot of people I know on the right are being relatively mum, so it is hard for me to read into what is going on there. A very important factor is that there is a magnetic attraction to any position which will upset a liberal, this is a potentially grievous glitch. Giving lip to something for shock value can all too easily turn into sincere belief after some time. The evolution of 4-chan from a absurd shock value website to a extreme right think tank is a clear example.

    Exaggerating all of these tensions is a break down of trust in authority. This morning I noticed a thread on reddit where folks were dog-piling on Niel deGrasse Tyson; which fair enough, but very telling. The various groups we are support to trust to give us shared starting points for discussion are not mutually believed, thus lacking all but the more basic facts with which to frame a discussion reason is crippled. On the right this seems to be particularly mature in the case of climate change. But folks entrusted to be gate keepers of truth have, as a generalization, sold them selves cheaply, and the damage which must follow from that boggles my mind. More generally this expands into a deep concern I have, which is the projecting of the shadow up the power structure rather than down, as emphasised in this posting; I think one of the general fears in our society is, Kthulu have mercy what if enough of us shoggoths actually stop fighting each other and attacked the Elder Things; the resentful projection going upward (toward the corrupt, snarl, clueless, prickle, insulated, hiss, privileged, growl, smug Elder Things)… that can quickly go murderously pear shaped.

    My final, rambling, thought for the evening is on the Steel-man strategy. Daryl Davis is a hero of mine, a black musician who made a habit of befriending KKK members to understand what could drive them to hate him with out even knowing him. Daryl learned a lot about that, but in knowing him dozens of klansmen gave up their hoods and left the klan, Daryl now keep the retired robes like a trophy hunter; The Most Dangerous Game comes to mind vividly. In discussing his tactics for this very dangerous activity he engages in he mentioned that to start the conversation, as a black man reaching out to committed bigots, he has had to learn their arguments for their position back ward and forward, to learn to be able to make a stronger case for their ideology than the average grand wizard can, so as to earn respect as one who knows and can prove it. In effect he stands up not just to their racist argument, but to an even stronger argument for racism than the fellow he is speaking to can formulate, and then debate with that argument. Inspired by that case I have taken to learning arguments against carbon caused climate change, and have found them to be much more subtle and difficult to refute than I had imagined. In fact I can, another time, formulate some very potent arguments against the mainstream positions on climate forcing by carbon. Then I have to build an argument which can beat that; so far Greer’s poking a grizzly bear argument seems to be the most likely contender.

  64. I used to be upper middle class and ended up lower middle. My occupation involves working with upper-middle class children. At age 44 (born in 1973) I feel I can see the writing on the wall. All of these children’s families live far more lavishly than mine ever did, and I felt mine lived very large with a vacation home in another state with two boats and a trip to another part of the US every four years or so. They don’t go to Florida like we did… they go to Paris, London, Prague. They don’t mow their own lawns or clean their own houses like we did in my era. They don’t share bathrooms, even as kids.

    The fall from uber-privileged to struggling wasn’t easy for me, so what’s it going to be like for them? That’s why it is irritating to be Shoggothed so hard by the still-wealthy-via-their-parents, middle aged friends I grew up with. The second I say something to the effect of “not everyone who voted for Trump is a rabidly insane woman-oppressing Nazi”, I might as well have 70 polycystic eyes and a slime dripping problem. The thing they staunchly refuse to see coming is the possibility their own pampered children may end up having it rough as adults. I’m sure they’ll pull it together just as I did, still, they have a much longer way to fall.

  65. I have noticed that you do quite a bit of vegan-punching lately in this blog, which I find slightly ironic in light of this post. For example, “I imagine him as one of those tense, constantly stressed, pallid vegans …” is consistent with the common stereotype of vegans as being all unsatisfied/unhappy/etc. and if a vegan has any kind of health problem is MUST have been caused by their being vegan. In my experience, most long-term vegans feel that becoming vegan has made their lives more fulfilling, and if they are stressed or have health problems, they tend not to be directly related to being vegan (yes, in some cases people take on a vegan diet for reasons related to an eating disorder, but then the problem is the eating disorder, not the veganism, and the eating order won’t go away just by getting off a vegan diet).

    I don’t find the privilege/oppressed paradigm useful for discussing veganism, but in the context of American culture, we veg*ns (that’s everybody on the vegetarian spectrum, not just vegans) are an outgroup, not an ingroup. We’re the ones who have a clearer understanding of the non-veg*ns even if we don’t want to understand, whereas most non-veg*ns have very inaccurate impressions about us. Most vegans in the USA were at one time non-vegan, which is not true of most non-veg*ns (the picture is more complicated with regards to all veg*ns as opposed to just vegans).

    A lot of non-veg*ns tend to say things along the line “If only those vegetarians/vegans were less obnoxious they would accomplish more of their goals and we would mock them less!” when they do not actually share the goals of vegans (and often don’t even understand what our goals are – heck, not all vegans, let alone all veg*ns – share the same goals). Yes, there are obnoxious vegans, just as there are obnoxious people of every type. But if it’s bad to judge all voters for [candidate] based on the most obnoxious voters for [candidate], then it doesn’t make sense to judge veg*ns based on the most obnoxious ones.

    I said some very condescending things about vegans, and also held the attitude that they were too extreme, how could anybody do that, etc. pretty much right until I became vegan. However, my previously negative attitudes had almost nothing to do with the vegans’ behavior and everything to do with myself. They were living in accordance with their values, and I was not and experiencing cognitive dissonance. I tried to justify it by saying it would be too hard to give up cheese blah blah blah, and when people proved it was possible to live happy lives without cheese, that meant there must be something wrong with them (they must be damaging their bodies!) Becoming vegan and living in closer accordance with my values has made me much more satisfied with life than eating cheese possibly could.

    And being vegan has actually made me feel more distant, not closer, to coastal/liberal/upper-middle-class culture. It is actually easier to find good vegan restaurant food in Memphis than in San Francisco (or at least that has been my experience, I suppose I might have just been lucky in Memphis). Also, I find it easier to deal with rural working class people who are outside the coastal/liberal/etc. culture and just agree that we have different values and drop the subject than to deal with non-veg*n coastal/liberal/etc. types who talk a lot about how much ‘humane’ animal products they eat (and they want to remain ignorant of whether the ‘humane’ part is just a label some producer slapped on a product for marketing purposes, because if they found that the label doesn’t reflect what happens on the farm, it would increase their cognitive dissonance!)

    I think the people who claim to abhor factory farming of animals yet continue to financially support it and then turn around and say that vegans are worse for animal welfare than the people who run CAFOs (I’ve read an essay which tried to argue this) are a lot like the people who proclaim how much they abhor the impact of fossil fuels on the environment yet drive SUVs, going flying across the continent (or to other continents) for discretionary vacations, overuse air conditioning, etc.

  66. @Michael Martin, I am enjoying your analysis.

    When I embarked on Shinto I had to come to terms with the older generation in my family, who suffered on account of Japan’s actions in World War II, in which Shinto was heavily blamed in the aftermath, with some truth to that, but other sides to the story few people know about. To try to allay their concerns, I embarked on a study of where human organizations–specifically religions–go wrong. In fact, I considered that theme for a return to academia, until my physical sensitivities to modern life made that impossible.

    It seems useful to me now as an active member of a couple of communities. If you can spot the conditions forming in which your community might get hijacked you can take action to head them off early on in the best case, or get out of the way in the worst.

  67. @ Ann Groa – if I may, you end the impasse, by remembering that an argument is one of many possible encounters between two people who are in, or potentially in, a relationship. Remember (to yourself) that an argument does not have to be “won” (by you), that the other person does not have to be “changed” (by you). That in relationship terms “winning” means an ability to appreciate who each other is, and accept/love one another anyway – from both sides. In relationship terms, “change” means gaining the benefits of togetherness that come from a commitment to support each other anyway – for both sides. Start thinking about how you want the relationship to go, and what kind of conversation would promote that. Let your further conversation flow from that.

  68. @DrHooves, so true! And me too! JMG’s advice to chuck the TV is very good, and I wish I could! (My husband is addicted to it.)

    @Corydalidae, keep joining the comments! I find what you say meaningful and well considered.

  69. John – got volume 1 of the archdruid report today.

    The shoggoth reminds me of Elaine Pagels’ book _The_Origin_of_Satan_

    Originally, ha satan (“the satan” – meaning “the opponent [who opposes you from doing what you thought was a good idea when in fact it would be a bad idea]”) was a _role_ for one of God’s angels, like in the story of Balaam in Numbers, “the opponent…” blocks Balaam from riding his ass (equine) to somewhere he wasn’t supposed to go.

    Later, in the book of Job, ha satan along with the rest of the ben ‘elohim (sons of God) present themselves before God, and God asks ha satan where he’s been. Ha satan says he’s been roaming the earth. God brags on Job, and ha satan challenges God that Job really isn’t so upright, so God allows ha satan to afflict Job’s life – in other words, ha satan is God’s inspector general – kind of like the Persian’s secret police agents many Jews would have known.

    But in late second Temple times (around the time of Jesus), the conflicting Jewish theologians are so numerous, and their theologies so intricate (and lacking in proof), and their fights so bitter, that “ha satan” becomes just “Satan”, leader of the fallen angels/sworn enemies of God. Thus the theologians can now literally demonize their opponents – “You’re of the devil…!”. Because they don’t have anything like evidence for their positions, all they can do is turn up their emotionality to 11.

    If the devil didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him – so they did.

    What is evil and what is heresy depends on one’s viewpoint.
    With all those eyes, a shoggoth must have interesting (and very fluid) viewpoints.

  70. Hi JMG, how to characterise people who aspire to rule over others in class terms? Short answer: It’s complicated.
    Well, class can have a large role, I think, in that people who already have power over others are usually working pretty hard to train their children up to take over after them.

    On the other hand, such training does not always take. Some proles I have met have come from upper and middle class background, and are conscious “refusers” of the notion of ruling others – they have a lot of their own upbringing to unlearn, but they manage to do so.

    Then, too, some of the people who aspire to rule, are coming from the bottom end of the class structure. They don’t object to the way power works, they simply view themselves as having the better morals or the better vision or what have you to replace those that are currently in power.

    On the whole, though, “proles” are people who simply want to live. They often have political struggles, but these mostly involve enlarging the space for living one’s own life, rather than taking over the reins of authority over many lives.

    I do find “proles”, therefore, much more diverse, and much more personally interesting and engaging, than people who aspire to power. In conversation, those who aspire to power (whatever their issue) eventually tend to a certain sameness in outlook (everything would definitely be better if I were in charge OR everything is already as good as it can be because I am in charge), that I personally find exhausting and/or boring.

    By the way, I had to come up with this word “proles” to convey something important to me, and I couldn’t find another word that meant what I wanted it to. (If there is one, I’d love to hear it).

  71. I find working with people on a practical level, doing things together which need doing and being cooperative, learning how they tick personally, overcomes any need for ideological discussions, which can only end in a dead end anyway. These discussions usually have to do with current events and are resolved over time, meanwhile the practical daily work relationship remains stable, one jokes about things obviously disagreed upon subtly to avoid offense and life goes on. Reality is here and now. If you are of differing race, religion, ethnic, sex or sexual orientation friendship has to be worked on to get work done. Ideology is a hindrance. Live and let live. If any oneindividual puts his ideas above group cohesion he will reduce productivity, camaraderie. If however people separate themselves into social islands with political homogeneity this approach will not work. Also people might be mean, hold grudges and wait their chance to stiff someone whose belief system, race, religion are unliked. Tension builds before elecions as recently in USA, UK, France, Germany, Holland and afterwards one side feels justified, the other sour. This can have some effect on working relationship, but life goes on. Democracy at work. Nowadays is relatively bad but nothing compared to 30s, left vs. right fighting in streets, union violence, etc.

    On another point. ‘Love your enemy, do good to them who despitefully use you. Love your neighbour as yourself.’

    ‘I love the whole world, it’s my neighbour I can’t stand’

  72. This seems to be a sister post to “Hate is the new sex.” A whole lot of people are unable to cope with their day without a good session of hating the Shoggoth on the roof, while simultaneously denying that aspect of themselves to an unhealthy level.

    ps. The Leave a Reply box gives a certificate untrusted error when used with HTTPS everywhere. Either it’s some IT yaks to be shaved on the website’s security settings or I’m being regularly MitM’d for wrongthink. Which is possible too.

  73. Two comments:

    Shoggoths play an interesting cultural role in “The Rise”, the third volume of Robert Gibson’s unidirectional-gravity-universe “Kroth” trilogy.

    Re Lovecraftian narrow-mindedness / broad-mindedness: the protagonist of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” ends by altering his anti-alien viewpoint as he becomes an alien himself, in the magnificent ending to the story. Of course HPL meant this to sound horrible to us, but we can go beyond all the dramatic irony and leave the idea of viewpoint-change ambiguously quivering in our minds, a sort of echo-vibration that lasts long after we put the book down. Typical, that, of a great writer: to unleash forces, to open taps, with a range greater than his own conscious awareness.


  74. Another interesting though milder example of “shoggothing” might be how certain people view autistics, down syndromes or people with ADHD.
    Auts are often viewed as a disease by groups such as autism speaks, and others seem to think that we have practically nonexistent emotional or spiritual lives.
    Downs or often a target for advocates of pre-natal testing for neuro-mutations and eugenics.
    ADHD’s are of course vilified as ill disciplined bogans. (“Bogan” is an Aussie term for what Americans call “white trash”.)

  75. A day or so before the Las Vegas massacre in the news I read how 2 young women were killed in Marsailles by a guy yelling allahu akbar, they were 17 and 20, nurse and medical student, cousins. I live in Europe. This sort of story angers, frustrates. It all seems futile. The American massacre I was detached from emotionally, not watching TV news gory details. I told my wife that the difference between American and European terror is that in America it is truly senseless and nothing ever changes whereas in Europe it influences politics slowly but surely(drift to right in elections, control of extremism, limits on immigration). Perhaps however such American madness is our inner shoggoth blowing a fuse. Most people have come under such stress in such a success oriented society with such small chance of it that their ego has become so deflated, they are so alienated from any common cause, community that in freudian terms( use buddhist or other terms) the id of self and societal superego are not in synch. So people blow up, do opioids, drink or flame against others. Obviously older cultures like say japan are better at cohesion despite 25 years of nongrowth. America has a very dynamic culture, heterogenous with constant immigration, changing technology, people moving often. Take a french, german or English guy raised in same small region, stays there whole life and marries someone very similar with similar tastes, politics, religion. In America several white European ethnic backgrounds, a couple religious ones, plus shifting class backgrounds in one person’s family history over decades and movement of population from East, North to South and West, from mainstream to fundie religions or to buddhism/yogi all creates incohesive mixture where subconscious presumptions in any individual are unknown. The basic question ‘who am I’ relies on a deep understanding of family background in racial, religious identities which in America in particular and in modern technological times have all been discarded for new ideologies. This is like old Rome where farmers made to soldiers populated provinces, slaves from everywhere else became new Italians so a new mediterranean people was created out of previous regional, ancient cultures. Such rapid assimilation of cultural, technolgical change without enormous personal, political stress is impossible. America needs a century or two rest from technical change, immigration so that emotional, cultural constructs can be created in which a healthy society can continue. If collapse of empire, civil war precedes this then that is the price to pay. WWI, WWII destroyed Europe, made it more inward looking. I suspect similar will occur in USA. You have to deal with yourselves first, not save or control the world, absorb millions more immigrants, push technology permanently to endless limits, create always new social justice internally. Much evil is ignored, cognitive dissonance. The right is the nagging conscience of the SJW and war hawk against ‘dictators’, saying to them, what about impoverished blacks, in jails, what about bombed out villages in 3rd world, what about America. Get your house in order then go preaching. If Gore lived small he would be respected on climate change. So the right is winning in elections everywhere because leftwing hypocrisy has become so loud. I always heard that a southerner or an African white had a realistic relationship with blacks whereas northerners lived segregated and in fear but preach equality, blah, blah. If the same relates to how a liberal dominated war policy has evolved and the relationship to working class(they will benefit from cheap chinese goods and find retraining) then we just see intellectualization of a certain ideology from MSM, not thought through, creating a divide wider and wider. Essentially a house has to have a solid foundation to stand. American system falls apart now. European systems are more stable as more practical, less ideological America similar to Soviets in this respect, society built quickly from nothing in a wilderness. Now they are busy being non ideological in Russia and getting better results.

  76. My own theory on why politics has become so denunciatory is that people are very reluctant to acknowledge that whatever ideological position they take, there is always somebody who is going to suffer from their choices.

    Immigration is a good example of this, in that, for example, open borders have the negative aspects of encouraging terrorism and organised crime, while secure borders have the negative aspects of potentially separating people from their families, and the necessity of having detention centres to hold people for months or even years. There is no place where you can stand on the issue of immigration that prevents someone, somewhere from suffering. This is too painful for most people to acknowledge, and so they take refuge in considering immigration as a binary moral issue of right and wrong, in which their own preference cannot possibly have any downsides.

    All political choices are, in reality, pretty agonistic, and I tend to think that if you’re not agonising over who you are going to vote for, then you’re not doing it properly. People are increasingly unwilling to undergo such agony (possibly because our culture thinks we should feel good all the time), and so ideology steps in to save them, and makes voting or any other political action an affirmation of their essential moral goodness.

  77. Two things that this essay hit on target, right out of my last day’s thinking and reading.

    The first was Craig Murray, former diplomat, blogger, Scottish independence and human rights campaigner. He’s abandoning his support for the EU (due to their staunch support for the Spanish state over Catalonia) and it’s provoking some interesting reflections on how he has related to Brexit supporters, whom he often characterised as racist. As per your post, because *he* saw the vote as being about racism, that could only mean that those on the other side must be racists – not that they were motivated by different concerns altogether. His blog’s comments now contain a pretty steady stream of folk saying “finally you might be hearing: I voted Brexit, and I’m not a racist”.

    Second, approaching others as persons. Just read a great discussion of this in relation to domesticated animals in a book called Zoopolis (which seeks to apply citizenship concepts to overcoming issues in the animal rights theory). Many of us – including many supporters of animal rights – are effectively blind to the agency and interaction of domesticated animals, because we simply don’t look at animals expecting to see it. They’re inscrutable because of our ignorance and disinterest.

    Love your blog!


  78. This is a topic that has been really interesting me for a while. I am in many ways a default member of the “Blue Tribe” as others have labeled it. I’m gay, pagan, and artistic. But I don’t want to live in a city, and I’ve become fairly comfortable with all sorts of religious viewpoints (sober from drink for a goodly while, plus sugar/flour abstinence as well). My favorite film of all time is about a gay man returning to his Montana home town where the folks there love him to pieces but he can’t see it. (It’s called “Big Eden,” after the name of the fictional town it’s set in.)

    My pagan studies have brought me into contact with all sorts of entities, and I’m fascinated by the concept of “Mind Parasites,” which Colin Wilson depicted in a novel from the 1970s. No doubt, JMG, you are familiar with this book? I came across it because of the work of Paul Levy, who has been considering the indigenous concept of the Windigo or Wetiko, depending on what tribe refers to the force.

    I see this thing happening all over the place, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t see it in myself. I can get into a lather about the antigay rhetoric out there, but I tend to step back away from the addiction of feeling this anger and interrupt a certain awful cycle that feels like creating some sort of hangover. I also come from a lower-middle-class background and even joke that as a kid I grew up in Roseanne’s Lanford but then we relocated to The Cosby Show. While I have a lot of issues with the brutish Spencerian contempt prior to investigation of “my people,” I feel just as uncomfortable with progressive rhetoric that focuses on the class of poor white folks. There are much larger social forces at work here, and I feel at a loss to even parse them in a meaningful way. I have tried to write some plays and screenplays about these things however.

    If there’s a way out of this widening chasm, I honestly have no idea how it can happen. I am daily making peace with the increasing likelihood of either having to relocate somewhere, or to accept a potentially early demise due to the fact that I’m a gay screenwriter/astrologer/witch with interest in creating a post-carbon economy, living in rock-ribbed Republican/oil and gas dominating Wyoming. Still, I do want to have faith that there’s some way through this time of extremity. The image of the shooggoth will be a further amplification of the windigo, with a certain visual flair. I’m avid for all the comments and the feelings of identification this discussion affords.

    Many thanks

  79. “responding to people who disagree with you about deeply held matters of belief and commitment as though that disagreement makes them jerks isn’t much more useful, for that matter.”

    Doesn’t that depend on what you mean by responding, useful and on the content of their belief?

    If someone says they believe (deeply) they have the right to kill you because, say, you’re a polytheist, you might judge that they are a jerk – not because of the disagreement between you in itself, but because you find the actual content of their belief to be abhorrent and in conflict with your values, not least your desire to live. Responding to them by verbally expressing that judgment would be useless in the sense that it will not change them or the relationship between you for the better (in fact it would almost certainly make it worse). But responding to your judgment by staying far away from them could be very useful in staying alive. So do you mean response just in the context of dialogue?

  80. Great post as usual!

    I assume you’re not much of a comic book (or “graphic novel” if you want to sound fancy) reader so I feel I must recommend the limited series Providence by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows. It’s a Lovecraftian tour of the Northeast US with a number of subversive twists (eg the protagonist is gay and Jewish). It’s the kind of comic that I suspect is incomprehensible to folks who aren’t familiar with Lovecraft *and* occultism, but I found it to be quite a twisted delight that pays off in the end.

    It’s kind of a sequel to previous Moore/Burrows collaborations, Neonomicon and The Courtyard. Neonomicon especially is so graphic I’m hesitant to recommend it, but it does lead into the story of Providence.

    I just want to make sure it’s on your radar!

  81. Archdruid,

    I find a lot of self-righteous anger boiling in my gut, and for this reason I’ve chosen to remain silent on most political issues. Until I can react by patiently listening without comment, I refuse to engage anyone. Not because I might dislike what they’re saying, but because I still respond like a pompous college educated blow-hard.

    I realize we’re all just folk, now I have just have to learn to treat other people like folk.

    Also as an aside. I think your astrological reading during the eclipse was spot on. If we have a crisis of legitimacy, I do believe those hurricanes are going to have something to do with them. Our entire disaster management system is flat broke.



  82. that was some plot twist in a post XD.

    apologies for coming yet again to link you and Nick Land, but his incursions into shoggothic nightmares are rather interesting (even if he still avoids seeing them as subjects proper):

    as a more real comment: given your more local experience (i’m from Brazil, so following most of the divide by report), does it seem like there is any peaceful solution to this color-tribe war that has formed in the American polity?

  83. “lives are destroyed and minds shattered by a force without malice and without meaning, irrupting from an impersonal cosmos serenely indifferent to the pretensions of our species”

    This part struck me, in the context of recent events and the desperate struggle to understand — at some level, at any level — the motives for a person who does incredible destructive violence to others. If we can find at least some semblance of a personal motive, we can perhaps avoid the truly terrifying possibility that there was no motive — no malice, no anger, no hatred, not even an elevated heartrate. Nothing but indifference, and power stemming from that coldness and calculation.

    The indifference of an impersonal universe is bad enough, but the indifference of an impersonal person is quite another thing.

    You’ve piqued my interest, though, in how you’ve inverted the Lovecraftian formula. I’ll need to pick up your book soon!

  84. One of my favorite Shoggoths is the mythical mass transit riding criminal boogieman. This virtual villain is brought in to play whenever someone suggests extending one of the light rail lines in Portland out in to one of the “affluent” parts of town. They actually fear making it easier for people of a lower economic class to live among them, but instead blame their opposition on the scary spectre of the transit riding super criminals who will rob their houses, steal their cars and defile their daughters. Never mind that this notion is nonsensical as even the most daft criminal would realize that using a light rail line as a getaway method while hauling their booty would be ineffective to say the least. And no one has ever been able to find statistics to support it, but never the less it makes a good scary monster to accomplish their goal.

  85. Additionally, now that I’ve had some sleep: I think a lot of the left-wing anger/hate might be an extreme adverse reaction to the uber-seventies notion that recognizing someone else’s humanity means truly loving them as they are, wanting to spend time with them, and so forth.

    As an urban New Englander, a child of a large family on both sides, and a former headmaster’s daughter, I have come to deeply appreciate the concept of cordial/workable dislike: the thought that you can low-key loathe someone but still think they’re a good math teacher/make excellent JellO salad*/keep to themselves and don’t mess up the back yard, so you live, let live, and have something to talk to your spouse about in the car after Thanksgiving or your friends at brunch on Sunday.

    * If Lovecraft was afraid of salads but in favor of WASPiness, I wonder where he would’ve fallen on JellO salad. It’s both gelatinous and protoplasmic, albeit the sort with fruit in it is tasty. (But I will take a firm moral stance against putting mayo in it, as some of my relatives apparently once did.)

  86. Dot,

    “If someone says they believe (deeply) they have the right to kill you because, say, you’re a polytheist, you might judge that they are a jerk”

    I know I’m not JMG, but I felt I needed to chime in on this one. I would say it depends on how they feel about the fact that they’re allowed or even supposed to kill polytheists: if they are enthusiastic about the opportunity to kill, then yes, probably a jerk. If they’re reluctant or even just neutral (“I mean, that’s what God said”) then I’d assume they just genuinely believe that polytheists deserve death. They’re adjusted to reality as they understand it, and not coming from a place of hatred or true malice.

  87. A truly remarkable posting, JMG. The delightful description of your “conversation with a shoggoth” aside, I sensed something in your voice (pain? horror?) regarding the deterioration of discourse and the state of “demonizing the other” that has become all too common in American culture – and what its almost inevitable outcome will be unless it is remedied soon. The only other posting of yours which touched me so much on the emotional level (though different emotions) was the end of the US space program on TADR back in 2011. It is sad to watch what is happening across the border in your country (not as though everything is rosy on my side of the border). Thanks for your appeal for civility, understanding, and truly listening to “the other”.

  88. Isabel, exactly. By every contemporary report, Hitler was extremely kind to children and dogs — people who grew up in families that helped him in the early stages of his political career have written about how unfailingly pleasant Uncle Adolf always was toward them. That’s one of the reasons I find the cackling villains of so much modern fantasy at once implausible and dull.

    Michael, it’s an obstacle to complete agreement — but why should that be an obstacle to dialogue? I have conversations all the time with people who don’t share my views on a lot of things, and most of those conversations are as congenial as they are interesting.

    Tom, it’s particularly comforting to look for scapegoats rather than solutions if you personally benefit from policies you claim to hate. I suspect that’s a lot of what motivates the quest for shoggoths on the privileged end of the left — neoliberal economic policies have paid off very well for the privileged classes generally, so it’s to the advantage of privileged liberals to find ways to go through the motions of opposing those policies without actually doing anything to change them. Shrieking insults at your political opponents is one time-honored way to do that.

    Ray, those are some seriously thought-provoking reflections! Thank you. I think you’re dead right about the deliberate confusion between generalizations and universals, and equally right about the way that the collapse of trust in authority has fed the current mess. With regard to bullying, I’ve come to think — along lines I explored two months ago in Hate Is The New Sex — that the cult of niceness in contemporary society has left a vast number of people desperate for an excuse to hate and hurt someone. Hatred, again, is a natural, normal part of human emotional life; repress it, and the results will be just as toxic as repressing sexual desire — and of course, just as with sexual desire, when the repressed feelings burst out, the person in question inevitably blames the target of those feelings for the existence of the feelings themselves. Thus the frantic rage being directed at Trump supporters, say, is of a piece with the way that Victorian gentlemen so loudly denounced and condemned women of the lower classes for causing the gentlemen to feel lustful…

    I’m glad you mentioned Daryl Davis — a very impressive person, and the way he’s dealt with the Klan shows a way forward that others could walk. As for arguments about climate change, good — it’s crucial to grasp that the issue is neither as clearcut as the one side claims nor as uncertain as the other side claims, and then to point out that our dumping of greenhouse gases doesn’t have to be the only cause of climate change to be very, very stupid…

    KS, I’m afraid a lot of them won’t handle it well. Have you read of the emigre communities that usually spring up after a revolution, where the families people who’ve been thrown out of positions of privilege cling to the shadows of their departed wealth and influence as they sink into un-genteel poverty? I suspect that after the dust settles here in the US, there will be a lot of US ex-pats living in whatever corners of the world will let them in, stewing in their own resentment over the changes that deprived them of those annual vacations in Paris, sprawling McMansions, well-paid corporate office jobs, and the rest of it.

    Sara, er, I didn’t say or imply that all vegans are (fill in the blank); I suggested that one person — a contemporary equivalent of H.P. Lovecraft — would likely be part of, ahem, a particular subset of vegans that most people these days know tolerably well. Please note that I said a particular subset of vegans. I know quite a few vegans who are perfectly pleasant, tolerant, courteous people who wouldn’t think of screaming diatribes at a perfect stranger in an alternative-food co-op, say, because they saw a turkey in the stranger’s cart. On the other hand, I’ve been on the receiving end of several of those diatribes, and seen a good many more. You might want to reflect on that before flying off the handle at a perceived slight…

    Sunnnv, did Pagels include the influence of Ahriman, the devil-figure of the Zoroastrian faith? A huge number of the changes that transformed the old Hebrew religion into Judaism as it now exists came by way of cultural interaction with Persia after the Babylonian captivity, and the transformation of ha-satan into Satan was arguably one of those.

    Scotlyn, fair enough, and many thanks for the data points! That’s pretty comparable to conditions over here.

    Gandalfwhite, here in the US, we’re approaching 1930s conditions, with pitched battles between the far left and the far right at protest marches becoming a known phenomenon. I doubt it’ll end well.

    Synthase, yes, the two posts are closely connected. As for the login, yes, I know about that, and will talk to my IT person.

    Zendexor, I haven’t gotten to the Kroth trilogy yet — I’ll have to fix that! As for Lovecraft, one of the things that intrigues me most about his writing is that he so constantly plays with the idea that the boundary separating the protagonist from the monster isn’t actually there. I’ve come to suspect that one of his issues was that he knew, or suspected, that someone in his family tree was merely passing for white; certainly the plot twist in which the hero discovers that one or more of his ancestors was something other than human — a Deep One, a white ape, or what have you — appears rather too often to be mere coincidence. You’re right, though, that it makes a great starting point for neo-Lovecraftian fantasy!

    JLMc12, no argument there. I have Aspergers syndrome; I was in some ways fortunate to grow up before most people knew about that, so i was simply stigmatized as a clumsy weirdo bookworm rather than having the full medical label, with all the associated misunderstandings heaped on top, to cope with.

    Gandalfwhite, what the US needs more than anything else is to ditch its overseas empire and redirect its remaining resources to dealing with its own problems. Things being as they are, that’s probably not going to happen without some kind of massive crisis, such as a civil war or a massive military defeat overseas — but that’s what we need.

    Phil, that argument makes a lot of sense to me. Thank you.

    Matt, glad to hear about both those! Exactly; it’s the unthinking habit the privileged have of assuming that their interpretation of others is an objective reality.

    Richard, I think what’s going to happen is a massive realignment, of a sort that’s happened many times before. Remember that before 1980 or so, the Republicans had a better track record on environmental issues and militarism than the Democrats! I’ve talked to a fair number of young conservatives who have completely lost interest in the old guard’s obsession with other people’s sexual behavior — for that matter, I know a significant number of gay men who are reconsidering their alignment with the left, not least because they’ve become the punching bag du jour in some social-justice circles, (According to current intersectionality theory, they aren’t oppressed enough to be among the good people, you see.) Stand your ground, build those relationships, and you may well find yourself in a more congenial setting than you expect.

    Big George, funny. I’ve worked out the Renaissance Latin form of the word “shoggoth,” by the way — it came in handy for a chapter heading in an imaginary eldritch tome: De Sagatheis sive Monstris Informis, “On Shoggoths or Shapeless Monsters.”

    Dot, I mean in the context of dialogue, of course. If someone seriously believes I should be put to death because of my religion, I can certainly talk about that and other subjects with them, with perfect courtesy, and still do everything in my power to see to it that they and their repellent ideology never get within reach of political influence. In fact, I’ve done so — the view in question is held by members of several Abrahamic religions, as well as some atheists (the talk about “abolishing religion” in angry-atheist circles is pretty clearly, as it was in Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China, a polite way of talking about abolishing religious people…)

    Charles, I’ve heard of it. I wasn’t greatly impressed with the one other Alan Moore graphic novel I’ve read parts of, but that’s probably just a matter of personal taste.

    Varun, find some way to put that emotional energy to productive use, or it could give you an ulcer. Martial arts are a great way to deal with anger, if that’s any help.

    Cyborg, I find Land wrong in interesting ways, so thank you for this. As for a peaceful resolution — I don’t know. I really don’t know.

  89. Michael, it’s an obstacle to complete agreement — but why should that be an obstacle to dialogue? I have conversations all the time with people who don’t share my views on a lot of things, and most of those conversations are as congenial as they are interesting.

    Thanks for saying so! I am glad to be reassured (although I always suspected from the very start!) that I do not have to “walk around on eggshells” with you.

    As I said, if this topic (the Hysteroidal Cycle) is of general interest, I will add more comments, otherwise, I will let it drop. Let us see how this comment thread goes.

  90. @JMG: Right, plus it has a negative reverse effect: when someone *does* act horribly, their friends and family or fans or whoever often defend them because, well, they were nice on XYZ occasions, and only total jerks with zero good qualities are ever rapists or bigots or murderers, so *clearly* they didn’t do this thing.” (Bill Cosby comes to mind, as do the various instances where women called out big names in SF for harassing them and got a lot of “…but he’s done so many nice things for the community.” Or Marion Zimmer Bradley, for a female example.)

    Merciless and grouchy as I am, I think it’s totally possible for someone’s bad qualities to outweigh the good, particularly from a “requiring other people/society to put up with them” perspective; practically, once you get into the murder-rape-etc sort of thing, it doesn’t matter whether the cut-throat loves to hear the little brook a-gurgling and listen to the merry village chime. (And socially speaking, while I’m paraphrasing songs, if you invite your racist friend to parties, I’m likely to stop going.) But denying that those qualities can co-exist is tactically unsound, no matter what goal you’re tactic-ing at.

  91. JMG, yes, agreed. My problem is figuring out how to do so without sending my depression and anxiety symptoms through the roof for days following a single argument I’ve gotten emotionally invested in. I clearly need to find some strategies for not getting drawn in to things on that level, and for reducing emotional backlash when I end up getting over-involved or get someone yelling at me. Easier said than done.

    PatOrmsby, thanks for that. It is reassuring to know.

    Any suggestions on reducing the emotional backlash I take when arguments turn heated?

  92. “the view in question is held by members of several Abrahamic religions, as well as some atheists…” As a member of an Abrahamic faith, I never understood that – if a person doesn’t share my faith, killing that person definitively and eternally removes the possibility of their conversion. I would think I’d be severely punished, not rewarded, for such an action. OTOH, the atheists, with no afterlife hanging over their heads, need not be so inhibited!

  93. If most people are familiar with that type of vegan, then I must be in the minority who is not – or at least, I cannot think of any examples from my own direct experience. I suppose it’s possible that they avoid preaching to the choir. I am guessing that you have encountered fewer diatribes from vegans than I have encountered lectures from non-veg*ns about how I must be ruining my health (many people who bring up the health issue are just curious about how I can be healthy as a vegan, and curiosity is okay, it’s the non-veg*ns who think they know better than me about how a vegan diet affects the body who are irritating), or that I can’t really be vegan because I look so healthy (not that looking healthy and actually being healthy are the same thing – many health issues are not readily visible – but that’s another story).

    Your concept of a 1990!H.P. Lovecraft still only makes sense to me if he grew up in a vegan commune with limited contact with non-vegans. Unless he was in a situation like that, he would have still grown up in a social milieu where the majority of people in his social circle would not be veg*n, including many people higher on the social pecking order than him (even a majority of people in social justice warrior culture are not veg*n), so bacon cheeseburger horror would fall under the ‘respectable people doing horrible things’ type of horror, not horror of the unknowable underclass. If he were to write horror of the unknowable underclass, it would be something he would be unlikely to encounter within his urban middle-class New England social circle, such as evangelical bible-thumpers, or gun enthusiasts, etc. (who may be from Oklahoma).

  94. JMG,
    That description of a pallid, vegan Lovecraft was hilariously spot on. Also amusing, I happen to come from Oklahoma and smell of bacon cheeseburgers most of the time so in a very “The Outsider” kind of twist it turns out I was the 1990’s Lovecraft monster all along… very apropos considering this week’s post. You prove your point once again!

  95. FWIW, I found West-Coast veg*ans more evangelical in their approach than those I know here in the East, just as was the case with people there who Did Not Eat Processed Sugar or whatever the other food trends of the time were.

    I’m not sure if this is because I was a kid at the time, and thus was more likely to encounter the Saddest Fifth-Grader In the World, who had to bring in carob cupcakes for their birthday, or the Lady Who Gave Out Raisins at Halloween*, or because the West Coast in general and/or SoCal in particular tend to encourage more preachiness about lifestyle trends in general.

    At the moment, I’m just vaguely annoyed with it when it becomes an issue for dining with friends. I know enough people with medical, non-voluntary food restrictions (including a few who are allergic to tomatoes, poor folks); if the veg*an, or the paleo dieter, or the person not eating processed sugar, or whatever isn’t willing to work around the food others want (filling up on bread and salad once in a while will not kill anyone, most places have some non-meat dishes, etc) then I’m less likely to want to hang out with them, especially at mealtimes.

    * Raisins as an alternative, sure. Raisins instead of candy? Allow me to point you to these fifty-seven essays on the societal importance of a regular Carnival-style suspension of normal rules, and/or egg your house.

  96. Bruce, thank you — I hope you enjoy the story! As for the human potential for meaningless evil, I grant that it’s extremely troubling. I think it’s something that exists in all of us, though, and coming to terms with that is a crucial step in self-knowledge.

    Clay, very much so. The real motivation, I’ve long felt, is the desire to punish the poor for being poor — a desire found just as often on the leftward side of the spectrum (where it targets the rural white poor) as on the right (where it targets the urban nonwhite poor). That, in turn, draws its motivation from the desire on the part of the privileged to distance themselves as far as possible from the poor, and so — in a society in accelerating decline — try to convince themselves that they don’t have to worry about becoming poor.

    Isabel, that makes a lot of sense. As for Jell-O salads, that’s an interesting question — as I recall, there were gelatin dishes to be had in Lovecraft’s time, but it would take a careful study of his letters to find out if he’d recoil from them as though they were poor rural immigrant shoggoths of color, or whether he’d tuck into them because they’re bland, flavorless, textureless — that is to say, the kind of thing that respectable white people ate in his time.

    Ron, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Michael, I’ve never thought much of walking on eggshells — you just end up with scraps all over the carpet. 😉 The commentariat here includes a fair number of traditional Christians of various types, including several others in the Eastern Orthodox end of things, so you should fit right in.

    Isabel, exactly. It’s precisely because of this bizarre stereotype that people who do evil things must be evil in every possible way that “But he’s such a nice guy!” is treated as a valid defense, which of course it isn’t.

    Corydalidae, understood. I’m not sure I have any useful suggestions, as that’s not something I’ve ever had to contend with.

    RPC, I know, it doesn’t make sense. Nonetheless many interpretations of Shari’a law, if I understand correctly, not merely condone but mandate the slaughter of polytheists, and of course several large branches of Christianity have had a long and ugly track record of insisting that religious disputes are best settled at the stake.

    Sara, interesting. Where are you located? The worst examples of evangelical vegan bullying I witnessed were in the urban Pacific Northwest; that’s where I came in for those diatribes at local food co-ops, for example, and it’s also where one of the very popular straightedge bands back in the early 1990s was called Vegan Reich and sang songs about rounding up meat-eaters and putting them into camps. (Google the name if you think I’m making that up.)

    My stint in the Appalachians didn’t bring me into contact with vegans, and the one vegan family I’ve met so far here in Rhode Island are perfectly gracious about it. (They and I both attended an Oktoberfest thrown by a Masonic lodge just across the border in Massachusetts, and the arrangements that saw to it that they had vegan bratwurst were made without anybody seeing any need to critique anybody’s dietary choices.) I’m perfectly willing — and would in fact be much relieved — to find that the vegan-bully phenomenon I mentioned is purely a Left Coast grotesquerie.

    StarNinja, you need a photo meme: “I Can Be Cheezeburger!”

    Isabel, okay, maybe it is a Left Coast grotesquerie. I hope somebody quietly snuck out and bought The Saddest Fifth-Grader In The World a big bag of M&Ms or something.

  97. James, “I would say it depends on how they feel about the fact that they’re allowed or even supposed to kill polytheists: if they are enthusiastic about the opportunity to kill, then yes, probably a jerk. If they’re reluctant or even just neutral (“I mean, that’s what God said”) then I’d assume they just genuinely believe that polytheists deserve death. They’re adjusted to reality as they understand it, and not coming from a place of hatred or true malice.”

    I wouldn’t draw such a line between belief and emotion as motivating forces and treat one as somehow better than the other. The Maoists JMG mentioned who slaughtered religious people were driven by a rationalist ideology, not emotions particularly. People can and will reluctantly kill masses of innocent people because they simply view it as unpleasant but necessary within their belief system. I think it’s the Barbarism of Reflection as Vico described it.

    The implication that murder is somehow worse if motivated by hatred is to my mind just part of the current lunacy about hatred as the root of all evil. A lot of really heinous crimes are motivated by things other than hatred – beliefs (as above), the love of money, lust, desire for power, jealousy, even philias – paedophilia anyone?

    Apart from that, you can never absolutely know how someone really feels – particularly about such a sensitive topic – so it’s not a useful basis for making a judgment about someone.

    There’s also the ugly fact that the violently intolerant in any social group only ever succeed thanks to the passive majority who more or less sympathize and therefore don’t stand up to them. So I don’t view their passivity as in any way less culpable.

  98. RPC,

    The death penalty I referred to is not because they don’t share your faith, it’s because they committed the sin of shirk. Members of the Abrahamic religions haven’t historically demonstrated any more inhibition about killing people for having incorrect beliefs than atheists have. Christians who killed pagans, heretics and blasphemers throughout history firmly believed that they were doing the will of their God and would be rewarded accordingly in the afterlife. If you could understand why some of your fellow Abrahamic monotheists believe essentially the same thing today and are killing people accordingly, you might be in a position to influence them towards your position.

  99. @JMG: Seriously. Poor kids–at least this was back when the rest of us could bring legitimate cupcakes to school for birthdays (which apparently people aren’t allowed to do now, which sends *me* into a frothing the-left-wing-has-gone-way-too-far rage*) so they got to eat those if their folks hadn’t brainwashed them or had a word with the teacher. Still, they were even greater objects of youthful pity than the kids who came from JW/some other kind of fundie background and couldn’t take part in the Halloween/Christmas/Valentine’s Day celebrations.

    In re: “but he’s such a nice guy” etc, this is also, I suspect, where a background in morbid true-crime reading is helpful. “He seemed so nice and quiet,” is, after all, the standard neighbor testimony after someone’s been caught with a fridge full of human kidneys.

    I’ve seen photos of things made with aspic and so forth in the fifties, courtesy of the Gallery of Inedible Food and so forth, and many of them look like they could indeed be waiting to rise when the stars are right. ( in specific always makes me think of the final description of the Dunwich Horror.)

    * Apparently access to confectionery is one of my top political hot-button issues. Who knew?…besides every dentist I ever had, I guess. Or anyone who saw me drink tea in the last thirty-some years.

  100. Sometimes I feel naive when I read JMG blogs because no, I did not realize there were communities of ex-rich expats squatting in foreign lands, clinging to their fading dreams of never having to worry where the rent is coming from. It makes sense, of course, I just never read about them.

    I’m a music teacher and most of the people I’m talking about are my adored students, so I hope they learn to be scrappy and grow their own tomatoes/squash/potatoes like I’m doing instead of wallowing in their sorrows. I am much happier being demi-poor even though making the monthly bills is scary and difficult.

    Admittedly, I’d like to see some of my contemporaries have a dose of demi-poverty. I think you’re right: they demonize the less-privileged because it helps them drown the realization poverty can easily happen to anyone, even them.

  101. Regarding the rescue game and Shoggoths:

    Sometimes when people denounce the evil evilyness of Shoggoths they make reference to the Shoggoth’s supposed hatred for some victim group – what’s the natural prey of Shoggoths?

    For what it’s worth, I eat meat, eggs and dairy and shop at the granola-est store in town and have never gotten so much as a dirty look in the checkout line. I don’t live in the pacific northwest, but I would wager that my town is more likely to harbor the sort of vegan who harasses people in public for purchasing meat than JMG’s old digs in Appalachia.

    My personal beef with the vegetarians/pescetarians whom I often eat with is the set of rules about when egg, dairy or fish consumption is OK – it’s complicated enough to make a rabbi or an imam blush – and the indignation that I get when I suggest violating the 3823th commandment of righteous eating of fish and animal secretions. It is, to a certain extent a power/status/rescue game, with animals as the star victims.

    I haven’t yet trotted out the excellent “we all eat many times, and in return are only eaten once” line, but I suspect I’ll need to wait until the next time when we’re all socially lubricated (which requires the death of billions of yeast) enough to prevent anyone from getting too uncomfortable or mad.

  102. I agree with your arguments about how both sides have become hyperbolic and venomous. As to your point, at local government meetings I sometimes find myself unable to be comfortable with either side because of the growing extremism. But the extremism of the sides are different. Often the privileged class want to restrict access to resources to protect their privilege. They vigorously pursue misleading arguments and omissions of fact and lately the, “your persecuting me” tactic.

    The other side retreats into PC rhetoric, bureaucratic procedure and magical thinking. My perception is that one side is deliberately misleading but feels justified in using these tactics. And the other side believes they are sincere but only because they have fooled themselves. I understand that tactics at a local level may not reflect what’s going on nationally.

    Nationally maybe neither side is fighting the battles that need to be fought over climate change and sustainability. In our community sustainability is a major debate. Though few want to give up what they need to, many are trying to achieve it. In reality, to achieve sustainability it would probably come down to fighting for it.

    I’m curious as to when, if ever, you think it is appropriate to use force to stand up to oppression and/or authoritarianism and fascism? Or to stand up for the viability of the Earth?

  103. Isabel, when I hear about the way that schools have practically criminalized cupcakes and the like, I’m always reminded of that classic definition of puritanism: “the endless, haunting, terrifying suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having a good time.” That, or Saki”s brilliant and understated description of Mrs. De Ropp in “Sredni Vashtar,” a favorite story of mine from childhood on: “Mrs. De Ropp would never, in her honestest moments, have confessed to herself that she disliked Conradin, though she might have been dimly aware that thwarting him ‘for his good’ was a duty which she did not find particularly irksome.”

    As for Rosy Perfection et al. — okay, that’s really shuddersome. I can easily imagine gugs and shoggoths backing away from it in horror…

    Kimberly, I hope you’re right! Back during the Great Depression, according to stories I heard years ago from elderly Grange members, it used to be fairly common for people who were good at music to be able to scrape by; since there was no other entertainment that anyone could afford, Grange halls would sponsor music parties, everyone but the musicians would bring whatever food they could spare, and the musicians got a full belly and a warm dry place to stay the night in exchange for their playing. You could survive that way, and a significant number of people did.

    Justin, I’ve found consistently that when somebody decides to get in my face about my omnivory, it shuts them up instantly when I point out that I’m going to be eaten in turn by worms, fungi, and bacteria, and I hope the diners in question enjoy the meal. That’s reliable enough that I’ve come to think that an exaggerated fear of death plays some kind of central role in many vegans’ psyches. Still, your mileage may vary…

    David, I discussed that in some detail in the old blog; you can find the discussion here.

  104. Hi John, regarding the current discussion with veganism…

    > I’m going to be eaten in turn by worms, fungi, and bacteria, and I hope the diners in question enjoy the meal.

    It is one thing to leave a corpse behind for others to fest on, after oneself having lived a full, interesting and productive life. I don’t think it’s the same thing to be brought into existence explicitly to fulfill the desires of others, and to live a short brutal life of misery because said others could not bother to treat you with minimal respect and gratitude.

    Not that it’s anything extraordinary for such lives to happen within our realm of existance. But I am just wondering, why do we apparently have such a surpluss of souls in need to experience a short, pointless life at CAFOs, immediatelly followed by the Abattoir… maybe that’s Hell happening before our very eyes, but we do not manage to notice.

  105. JMG, yeah – and there’s an interesting parallel between vegans and fundamentalist Christians there. Fundamentalist Christians are extremely enthusiastic in pursuing end-of-life treatments – I can’t find the article, but atheists are far more likely to accept their own demise than certain strains of Christians. Pointing out to your average fundamentalist vegan that they have a lot in common with fundamentalist Christians is likely to earn you a celery stick to the jugular though…

  106. I know fairly well some slightly missionary vegans who were mildly irritating, plus other vegans who made no attempt to convert me or others. The mildly irritating ones hail from coastal BC, the other ones were from alberta. Maybe there’s something in the water this side of the Rockies…

  107. Observations of the day, far more than shoggothing people of lower status, I find myself tempted and my coworkers active in shoggothing people in position of power. I listened to speech today about those in the highest positions of wealth which, taken as a blanket statement, would count as hate speech of the strongest order if uttered about any other group. Even similar frustration, though short of hate speech, limiting to snippy local gossip, about groups in the region who are, um, well specialized at pitching their goods and services to the wealthy. Around here wealth is a fairly strong sign that folks ain’t from ’round these parts; excepting county commissioners obviously. Spooky feeling.

    I was trying to have a conversation today to discuss your response to my query about bullying; I managed to express it, complete with a well received Victorian parallel, only to be asked “What do you think about the Russians?” complete with a grilling about the fact that generally I don’t. Very strange, I take it as a dark omen indeed.

    As an aside, since I haven’t thought about the Russian matter, can I ask around the form, does anybody here have an insight on what the story is with all that? My gut tells me it is TV news propaganda static, but I frankly don’t have a clue. Is there a good source with some straight talk on that? Hmmm… I might try doing a Steel man to open a dialogue, but, I don’t see much ore to work with off the bat.

  108. I’d like to think we could discuss things without demonization and the like, but it’s pretty much par for the course at this stage isn’t it?

    I’ve tried to anticipate what how things might go, but I never quite expected see people screaming pure blithering, inane, incomprehensible, incoherent gibberish at each other in full fury with purple veins popping out of their foreheads. It’s like the Alzheimer’s floor debate team took acid – and they’re armed too. Then public officials and infotainers get up and say things that are equally nonsensical. And half the people agree!

    I guess I always expected the end of the nation and empire would be a serious event. I had no idea it would be a sick comedy instead!

    I suspect people don’t want to think about the real issues, and would rather lose themselves in mindless irrelevant distractions, or at the most address symptoms they can focus on instead. The real issues (predicaments) are not addressable through any means they are used to or comfortable with, and useful responses would be difficult and unsatisfying. It does not help that the elite would rather the populace fight amongst themselves anyway, and that the educational system has not provided any of the tools needed.

  109. Clay Dennis–I actually know someone who robbed a bank in San Francisco and attempted to escape on the MUNI bus. He spent several years in a federal correctional facility. Never underestimate the possible stupidity out there.

  110. Allied to the “he was a nice guy therefore he couldn’t have done those horrible things” defense is the “he/she is a member of my group therefore he/she couldn’t have done those horrible things” defense. Sex columnist Dan Savage pointed out the fallacy of newly out gays assuming that every gay man is their buddy with the remark “Jeffrey Dahmer ate one of my friends.” I personally know people who were friendly with Leonard Lake before his murderous activities in partnership with Charles Ng in rural California, and so on.

    As far as the racist attitudes of Lovecraft’s generation, I remember reading the original Nancy Drew, girl detective, tales. Villains were frequently foreign and swarthy–I don’t recall if races were mentioned, but I have a general impression that the swarthy types may have been Italian. The first tales were written in the 20s, but have been cleaned up for newer editions.

  111. A week or so back david brin offered the suggestion that white supremacists could be countered via offering coupons for gene testing companies to any attendants of a race rally to prove if they are as white as they think they are.

  112. JMG re: Pagels & the influence of Ahriman

    Ahriman is not in the index to her book, no do I find it associated with “Persia” entries, so no.

    She gives a date for the writing of the book of Job as c. 550 BCE,
    while the exile ends in 538 BCE.
    She says around the time Job was written, 1 Chronicles 21:1 was also written, which has Satan inciting David to “number the people” (conduct a census for taxation), and God punishes Israel.
    Yet in 2 Samuel 24, it is God himself who incites David to do the census, and still punishes Israel. (go figure!?)
    Her suggestion is that the author of 1 Chronicles doesn’t want to blame David (or God), yet it cannot be denied that the order came from the king, so the author puts The Satan in the role of inciter.

    She does explain that when the exiles came back, they were intend on re-establishing their privileged rule over those who had stayed behind, and the people who stayed were not happy about that. The prophet Zechariah has Satan siding with the stay behinds (Zech. 3:1-2, written in the 2nd year of Darius, e.g. 520 BCE), but Satan is rebuked by God so Joshua (an elite from the returnees) becomes the high priest.
    (I wonder what the peoples’ prophet(s) would have said, but “history is the polemics of the victors”)

    So there’s some change in Satan in the 500’s BCE, but Israel is still non-sectarian.
    But in 168 BCE, as the Jews gain independence from the Seleucids, the internal struggles increase. During the Maccabean revolt, the rebels fought both the Seleucid forces and those Jews who wished to Hellenize their land. The Hasmonean family takes over the high priesthood, but they let their austerity slide, so the Pharisees rise up seeking to re-impose religious rigor. And then around that time the Essenes form as well as other sects of religious reformers.

    Then for the first time, Satan is used to demonize those groups of Jews seen as traitors by the Jews who claimed their group was really the one on God’s side. It rather reminds me of the partisan politics of our time – you think?
    So there’s about 4 centuries where any influence of the Zoroastrians lies dormant, at least in terms of demonology. I guess eschatological thought blossoms with the sectarian split too – “our side is right, just you wait and see, real soon now when the world ends and the devil will get you (and not us).”

  113. @ Sara K…

    My youngest just had his vegan girlfriend move in with him. Now that she is on the farm, the objections she had regarding her initial refusal of meat have become less strident. She is now eating eggs and fish we grow, and expressed a “maybe later on” when I asked her if she would eat one of our chickens.

    Of course, me taking her to a commercial chicken op may have put her off chicken altogether. I just wanted her to actually see that things are far worse than what pictures show. Having worked on a chicken farm 40 years ago, things have actually gotten worse.

    OTH, the guy across the street raises cows and offered us half a steer for fixing his fence and rounding his cows up for him. She asked him about antibiotics and feedlots, etc. He laughed, “I raise these to sell whole to others. They can do what they want, but mine are sold as-is, eating exactly what we are walking on.”

    I’m betting she will try a steak within the next year – because she knows the source and is not contributing to anything ugly or cruel…

  114. CR, and that’s why I and a lot of other ethical carnivores go out of our way to eat animals that weren’t raised in CAFO operations.

    Justin, it’s a regrettable habit of mine that I like to point out to people when they’re behaving just like the people they hate.

    Corydalidae, interesting. Maybe you’re right and it’s the water; when I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I don’t recall ever meeting an evangelical vegan from east of the mountains.

    Ray, as far as I can tell, the whole Russian business is as completely fabricated now as it was when Joe McCarthy was doing it in the late 1940s.

    Twilight, that second paragraph of yours is worth framing. Thank you!

    Rita, Savage is occasionally (or more than occasionally) a jerk, but he also makes some good points!

    JLMc12, Brin would suggest that. Sigh…

    Sunnnv, fair enough.

  115. JMG, wouldn’t confronting various white supremacists whom unknowingly possess distant interracial ancestry with proof of that fact induce most of them to reconsider their worldview?

  116. Corydalidae, it’s Islamic, that’s probably why you never heard of it. Means polytheism basically although atheism and other things can also fall under it depending on the school. It’s one of the core reasons why jihadist groups like IS believe that killing unbelievers will get them to heaven. Came number one on their list published in Dabiq, their magazine, as “Why We Hate you”. It would be really great if non muslims would learn about Islam, if for no other reason than because it is the world’s second largest religion.

  117. Right after reading this post, I picked up Weird of Hali – Innsmouth (Spoilers might be present in the last part of this comment!), which was on the top of my shelf but close to the bottom of my queue to read.
    I was amazed by the ease which the story unfolded around me, the hours went by quickly and many chores was left unfinished.
    When the day was over I turned the last page.

    I have for a long time (since my teen years, early this millennia) have had an irrational hatred toward fiction, which I saw as a waste of time and energy better spent on more worthy intellectual pursuits.
    This conviction have lost in strength gradually and I can’t really pinpoint when I was cured but I know that I am now.
    Fiction is as a fitting tool to convey ideas to other people, as a hammer is fitting to drive in nails.

    You paint up quit a polarity between the evil villains “The Radiance” and the others.
    One conversation that struck me though, is at page 181, when Owen is hiding in a building and Shelby try to reach out to him.
    You make a good job (in my opinion) of conveying her idea.
    Shelby really believes what she is saying! What is driving her is not evily evilness but rather desperation. She has but one god on her pillar, unnamed and unacknowledged, but with traits such as reason, order, control and domination. She is just trying to further the cause, and in face of ever increasing opposition only more zeal is thinkable.

    How could Owen possibly reach out to Shelby? What words or ideas could possibly knock her out of her firm conviction?
    In society, I place myself in the shoes of Owen, I see deluded people making horrible decisions that hurt so many, but know not what I can say or do to help them.
    I am also doubtless a Shelby in many other aspects of life and since in those aspects I am truly lost in a fog of my own delusions I don’t see it myself.
    What can I do to break free of bonds that I don’t even see?

  118. Hi John Michael,

    Well spoken! Out of sheer curiosity, were the Shoggoths actively aggressive to humans or was it the sheer horror of encountering something utterly alien that sent the folks in the story, loopy and running away screaming. If the Shoggoths weren’t aggressive, why didn’t anyone consider communicating with them? What fascinating tales aliens would tell us. Perhaps they may tell us something about ourselves that we are actively trying to ignore?

    Kim Stanley Robinson’s book: Aurora turned up in the mail yesterday. I was curious by the many references made to it here in the recent past that I flicked through some of the pages at random (a teaser no less) and came across a reference to a lack of bromide. Oops! It is a long way to the shops from where I guess they were at that time… I have long since thought that energy would have slowly leaked out from a long term spaceship regardless of how well insulated it was and energy is a finite resource when one is at a distance from a star, but maybe that is just my worldview – it is a game with a finite end point.

    I’ve been meditating on our recent discussions regarding the gap between expectations and likely outcomes and also social interactions. Interestingly, I tend to feel that your point about people being in comfortable emotional states may have larger implications for the future than when first I considered the matter. The question is can people adapt to new circumstances, or what unlikely direction does their belief systems take them? Dunno.



  119. Dear JMG,
    thank you for your answer, yes, I agree. Some things need to be said a thousand times.

  120. I can’t relate to the current appreciation for all things Lovecraft, particularly that I see coming out of sectors of the magick community. I find his work to be base and unwholesome. His characters are quite ugly. I guess that is the point? The obsession with viscera, slime, and anomalous forms – have you ever heard of tentacle porn? It is a short line from Lovecraft’s humanoid Cthulhu to these recent iterations of popular erotica. So then we wonder why the political discourse is as base and crude as it is – ugly. Do you find this to be pleasing in any sense? Lovecraft’s created beings evoke disgust. Why should we not recoil from like expressions that occur in human expressions and thoughts?

    I find white supremacist attitudes to be irrational, and I wonder why writers seem to justify them. I am currently reading about the documented mass lynchings of black Americans by members of the white poor and working classes in the South as late as the mid 20th century and yes, I see human monsters, particularly in the desecration of the bodies, castrations, violated forms, and the bloody souvenirs and icons that these white monsters coveted. There may be a short line from these acts to today’s racist violent iterations. Who knows? I look forward your analysis of white supremacist actors, racialized violence, and the particular horror of such actions, but I suppose Lovecraft is more intriguing.

  121. JMG
    I have been impressed by both Phil Knight’s comment (regarding our decision in the presence of suffering that we know is caused either way by such a decision), and Ray Wharton’s reflections on difficult subjects for arguments and the difficulty of conducting conversation in the presence of a-priori moral choice. And I am impressed by your responses.
    This reminds me of a discussion of utility and rationality in moral philosophy; specifically discussion of the 19th C philosopher, Sidgwick. (In ‘After Virtue’ by Alasdair MacIntyre; Chapter: ‘Some consequences of the failure of the Enlightenment project’). I guess we are all still stuck there – in the Enlightenment that is – especially perhaps in much of the USA and UK.
    MacIntyre writes: “It was a mark of the moral seriousness and strenuousness of the great nineteenth century utilitarians that they felt a continuing obligation to scrutinize and re-scrutinize their own positions, so that they might, if at all possible, not be deceived. … it is with Sidgwick that the failure to restore a teleological framework for ethics finally comes to be accepted.”
    Having said that, I feel there is room for further reflection on ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’. The recent blurring of hitherto legal distinctions clearly has an historical context, where earlier treaties and moral agreements now fall short or are abandoned. The enormity of war has long been recognized and recognition has been updated in modern times (for example, integration of refugee populations in the recovery of post-war Western Europe), but moral choice falters now in the face of war in Syria and Libya, not forgetting contributory Somalia, Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. It is not too difficult to trace these wars as in main part consequences of long term policies of our own governments. These places were targeted by factions within our own ruling circles and the present chaos brought to pass according to those factions’ visions prevailing within bodies politic. (Discussion of pathologies within ruling circles continues. It might be worth meditating further on Carl Jung and Adolf Hitler. Jung was after all also a man of his time. If MacIntyre is right, we need constantly to review history. The great utilitarian Sidgwick said unhappily of his own scrutiny of utility: ‘where he, Sidgwick, had looked for Cosmos, he had in fact found only Chaos.’)

    Phil H

  122. Some thoughts growing off Twilight’s Comment.

    Twilight – That’s great “the Alzheimer’s floor debate team took acid” 🙂 I found myself rereading Twilight’s Last Gleaming all last night. And the two fictional presidents in the book, President Weed and Gurney remind of the two stuffed baboons we have in office right now. Trump would be President Weed, use the military to get what we want not give it a second thought etc, and Pence would be Gurney. Gurney as in the thing they roll corpses out of the hospital on….

    Yea Pence could definitely become that metaphorical gurney for for the United States. He just strikes me as every bit as conniving as Gurney in Twilight’s Last Gleaming. And I wouldn’t put it past Trump to become “the member of the Alzheimer’s floor debate team who took acid”

    I want to say they’re a little bit of Shaggothness in Weed and Gurney because they do represent personality types that are very real in our political culture. I found myself laughing a little bit whenever I tried to picture them as Trump and Pence. Twilight I can definitely understand wanting to laugh as the system flies apart. After all, Dante’s Hell is called the divine comedy. No one sees themselves as doing evil; this lack of self awareness is part of what allows wrong actions to persist. To those of us on the sideline, it can look comical at times.

    On a side note: I’d like to see “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” come up on the book discussion at some point. Great book!!!!! This book must survive long descent.

  123. Does any one/group benefit from promoting the ‘demonization’ of the others? Is a deliberate ‘divide and conquer’ tactic possible? For example, maintaining various forms of insecurity may plow the field for the growth of malevolent seeds. Is avoiding considering this possibility akin to the head in the sand syndrome? ‘Targets’ of manipulation can defeat it by becoming aware that they are targets… but possible manipulators have powerful tools at their disposal (‘Propaganda’ Bernays)

  124. I passed on the two links about the hysterical or hysteroid response to a friend with the subject heading “book recommendation.” To the first one, she replied “Of course, none of this could possibly be related to reaction from those who think they’re losing their privilege by having to treat Those Other People with respect…right? ” And in the second, she saw blatant racism and apparently nothing else. Shoggothery.

    It is impossible to have a rational discussion about current events of any kind any more with anyone I know.

    And BTW, for all those commenting above who are focusing on the sins of the left, the president’s remarks on Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico vs Hurricane Harvey in Houston seem to me to be fueled by a mental image of Texans as Brave Self-Reliant Pioneers but of Puerto Ricans as an old-fashioned stereotype of Lazy Latins with No Initiative. His comments reek of it! (Has he ever MET any? Worked with or for any? Shakes head. My endodontist, my primary care physician (a woman of appalling energy!), my car dealership’s owners, my governor (though I didn’t vote for her), a bunch of my former co-workers, 2/3 of my Congresscritters … or is New Mexico somehow Different? Grrr…….)

    And BTW, if you ask me, said attitude will have the same effect on Puerto Rico as the Spanish police reaction will on Catalonia. Except that this time I think they’ll be pushing for statehood and a full voice and vote in Congress. I’ll be right there cheering them on.

    However, he did talk of rescinding federal flood insurance for known flood zones, which I do heartily approve of. IF people need to be repeatedly bailed out, something isn’t working.

    Let the Shoggothery begin.

  125. Hear hear! Some thoughts:

    At the farm I recently quit I was often engaged in political conversations, defending the humanity and rights of people’s shoggoths. Some people were receptive, others less so. There is a PJ Harvey song I like very much titled “The Words that Maketh Murder”. When people start dehumanizing their fellow man, I start to catch a scent of blood, often literally. When I hear words the remind me of something out of The Coming Fury I do my best to talk people down. Sometimes the scent of blood dissipates and instead there is wet earth in the sun, grass, or coffee.

    Of course constantly allying myself with people’s demons didn’t win me any friends, but it also won me quite a few people’s respect on the farm. People who are the least bit open minded tend to respect a spirited, courteous disagreement. People seem to be programmed to respect “balls,” even metaphorical ones in my case.

    Another thought: the perceptual filters of class. My family was middle class while I was growing up. My entire life I’ve experienced psychic imbalances and whatnot. I’m somewhat of the natural psychic type that Dion Fortune anatomizes in Psychic Self Defense. I have very little college education, spent my early adult years on communes learning about gardening and thousands of hours sharpening my draftsmanship while living in squats. I’m a fairly avid reader, and value intellectual conversation highly, especially about history, art and literature.

    My values, to the best of my appraisal, are solidly middle class. That is certainly my background. What I find fascinating is the perceptual differences I have between my family. They have, through inheritance, to become upper middle class in the past 10 years or so. Frequently, I find that we are living in totally different worlds, even while sharing a house! I am downwardly mobile; I’m something like a perverse blue blood bohemian out of a Balzac novel. I’ve seen a lot of poverty. I’ve lived in want. I’ve had friends die and go to jail. I’ve gotten seriously ill living in a flooded shack and then later in the fiberglass insulation of a communal squat attic. I’ve watched friends and lovers pulled into the death spiral of opiate addiction while we were all living together. I’ve had to essentially prostitute myself for a place to sleep and have spent four winters in unheated, uninsulated shelter. My jobs have most all been menial, the majority being agricultural. This hasn’t been a choice; these are the only sort of jobs I can get or invent, at least so far. I’m not listing these things as some sort of set of grotesque bragging rights, rather I’m making the point that my experiences have crossed a certain line which alienates me from my fellow bourgeoisie. This also doesn’t magically make me blue collar.

    I literally see things that those who didn’t attend the School of Hard Knocks can’t perceive. Like when roofers came over and I was the only one to offer them food and water. Things like that. Frequently certain conversations are rendered inoperative because my assumptions about the world are derived from totally different source material than those of the rest of my family.

    Look, I’m not trying to make myself out as some sort of moral superior; when I say I’m a perverse bourgeois bohemian I don’t intend to be cute, or even denigrating. Simply I’m a “natural psychic” who is a grown male named Violet with a transed body who wears skirts and is now unemployed and spends all day drawing plants, portraits and imagined grotesque scenes, reading books, doing herb stuff and gardening. I’m very clearly not a saint and my family isn’t a shoggoth, but nonetheless we often may as well be living in parallel realities with different sets of rules.

  126. @Rita: Yes indeed. That’s also a thing I’ve seen in SF/gaming and, more second-or-third-hand, in the SCA. (Goes along with the Geek Social Fallacies, I think.)

    @JMG: I always love that line! And entirely agreed–one of the things that makes me side-eye some of the far left or the more extreme variants of feminism is that they can get as Puritan in their way as the religious element of the right wing.

    Also, yeah. I feel like the seventies was the most SAN-check-inducing decade, visually speaking.

    Re: Savage: I’ve been reading his stuff for a while now, and find that he tends to be a jerk about fatness and even non-sex-negative faith (and used to be one about trans folks and bisexuality, but has been getting better, albeit in an annoyingly defensive way sometimes) but basically right on target about most relationship/sexuality issues. And I do love the abbreviation DTMFA, as that’s what most of my romantic advice boils down to. 🙂

  127. @corydalidae: If you have that degree of sensitivity to emotional currents then perhaps a couple of strategies might be useful. 1) The Cobb at Lyme. This is an effortful approach requiring daily work setting up stones of a breakwater on the side of your safe harbor that is adversely affected by emotional overwash. The stones are acts of grounding carried into the waters of argument at low tide. What thoughts, ideas, retrieved memories, prayers, beads, breathing techniques or mental projections ground you, only you can know. How to mortar the acts of grounding so they stand together and repel the backwash is a tedious and laborious task of time and conscious attention. Enlist help from friends and Friendlies. 2) The Turtle Shell. When you are surprised by an outburst of unsignalled tensions, taking the turtle as your spirit animal can help you withdraw within a safe space, even when out in the open. This requires regular contemplation of the turtle, and imitating its habits. Sunning on a log. Living near water. Ambling through meadows, etc.

  128. I think one reason that people don’t recognize some of these behaviors as classist is because the region where you live contributes to your social class as much as your occupation. If you work a service gig in NYC (bar tender, wait staff, catering, etc.) You can have a pretty good standard of living; going on vacation regularly, not worrying too much about bills, having the amenities of a city, and not having to work too many shifts thus giving you lots of free time. Working the same job outside of a major city is quite different. You could probably work many more hours and still not have the same standard of living and in many case have a hard time making ends meet.

  129. @JMG – there is a perfect description of Lovecraft and his contemporaries in widespread usage today, without the sort of comparisons to any subcultures which can sidetrack the discussion. “Snowflakes.”

  130. Hi, JMG. I enjoyed your post very much and it started several “shoggoth/class” reflections in my mind. At least one reflection was made more concrete in my mind by Bruce E.’s comment:

    “This part struck me, in the context of recent events and the desperate struggle to understand — at some level, at any level — the motives for a person who does incredible destructive violence to others. If we can find at least some semblance of a personal motive, we can perhaps avoid the truly terrifying possibility that there was no motive — no malice, no anger, no hatred, not even an elevated heartrate. Nothing but indifference, and power stemming from that coldness and calculation.”

    and your response:

    “As for the human potential for meaningless evil, I grant that it’s extremely troubling. I think it’s something that exists in all of us, though, and coming to terms with that is a crucial step in self-knowledge. ”

    This started an association in my mind about class differences and shoggoths and the Vegas shooting. I was in Vegas at the time of the shooting (have family there and was visiting) and of course the big question was why did Paddock do it. Well, he was a wealthy, privileged person and he targeted something he may have felt was definitely lower class, a country music festival, and saw that as perhaps a threat, or emblematic of something else threatening. I think he may have been targeting his class shoggoth. I have not heard any analysis that links this terrible event to a skirmish in a class war, although I did hear one official say he didn’t think he acted alone. Of course time may reveal that there was a different motive, but I think the idea that Paddock might have been acting as a class warrior is a distinct possibility, especially if he lacked self-knowledge.

    In my mind if class issues are not visible to most of us except by our heated retoric, then I suspect we are in for lot more mayhem for just as invisible a reason as Paddock’s and just as unexpected.

  131. J.L.Mc12, it’s been tried. They insist that the results must be being faked by the evil Jewish conspiracy blah blah blah. By and large, human beings don’t base their convictions on facts; they accept only those facts that support their convictions.

    Alnus, I’m delighted that you enjoyed the story, and even more delighted that it inspired you to ask the kind of questions that you’re asking of yourself. That’s exactly what fiction can do when it’s doing what it should. Nor am I going to propose any answers; it’s the experience of questioning that’s the thing that matters.

    Chris, the one shoggoth who puts in an appearance in the story is moving toward the humans in a way that could be considered aggressive. You don’t actually see the shoggoths killing the Elder Things, just the decapitated corpses in a pool of black slime. The shoggoth is saying something — making a high-pitched piping that sounds something like “Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!”, but the humans don’t stop to try to figure out if that translates out as an attempt at communication; they just scream and run. That’s one of the reasons that I put shoggoths in The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth, and it’s also a major factor behind the shoggoth character in The Shoggoth Concerto; I want to know how shoggoths think, how they see the world, what their songs mean, how their history has shaped them, and as an author of imaginative fiction, I do that by writing stories.

    Emily, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Y. Chireau, obviously I disagree. I don’t find Lovecraft’s monsters ugly or horrible — I think octopi are cute, I used to keep pet lizards and snakes when I was a kid, and so on. Yes, I’m familiar with tentacle porn, and it bores me — like most kinds of pornography, it loses all the interesting aspects of human erotic interaction in an obsessive repetition of the same dull tropes. There are characters in my fiction who have tentacles, and who also have sex, but tentacle-porn fans aren’t going to like the results.

    The thing that makes Lovecraft fascinating to me is that you can take his world, ditch the bigotries and prejudices he put into it, and end up with a really fascinating place full of colorful beings. That’s what I’ve done. The shoggoths, the tentacles, the people of color, the salads, and all the other things Lovecraft found horrifying are things I welcome in a fictive world, and also in the real world — and one way to talk about the idiocy of bigotry and the vivid delights of a many-colored world is to take Lovecraft’s stories and stand them on their heads, as I’ve tried to do.

    Phil, Sidgwick’s encounter with chaos awaits anybody who assumes that the universe is simple enough to be understood by the human mind. I’d argue that there is no simple moral calculus that will allow questions like the ones you’ve just raised to be settled in any objective or conclusive manner. That’s why we have political institutions — when values clash, we settle the matter by some combination of majority vote and constitutional law — and why I think it’s so crucial that we need to abandon the notion that society can be made perfect, and get back to the realization that the best we can do is make it function.

    Austin, thank you! Twilight’s Last Gleaming has been a very slow seller — not surprising, in a way, since it flings down the cliches of the standard Tom Clancy-esque thriller genre and dances a jig atop the broken pieces. A lot of potential readers apparently back away shuddering from the thought that the United States could really, seriously, comprehensively lose. Still, I have hopes for it in the longer run, and if you can think of any way to give it more publicity than I’ve been able to give it so far, I’d be most grateful.

    Just Me, exactly. The Catalonians are playing a very skillful game so far. As a fan of small countries and cultural diversity, I wish them every possible success.

    Nancy, of course, and it’s not just one group. Privileged groups always try to encourage the groups below them to fight each other, so they don’t unite against the privileged. That’s the reason the privileged middle classes in the US have been so frantically trying to make sure that working class whites and people of color don’t sit down and talk to each other; if they did, the people who actually benefit most from the current state of affairs — yes, that would be the privileged middle classes — would be on the losing end of things very, very quickly.

    Patricia, I’d rather see Puerto Rico push for independence and take charge of their own destinies as a nation among nations; still, that’s their call, not mine. More broadly, I tried to point out in my post that there are plenty of shoggoths on all sides of the political spectrum, you know.

    Violet, I haven’t had anything like as sharp a descent from middle class status as you have, but I know the feeling. During the years when I was struggling to get into print and getting by on a succession of low-wage jobs, I got handed plenty of pitying contempt from relatives and in-laws who were solidly in the middle class, and yes, they inhabited a completely different world from the one I saw around me all the time. To this day I find that I’m more comfortable in working class neighborhoods and other venues than I am socializing with my nominal peers — and yet I know perfectly well that I’m still profoundly shaped by a suburban American middle class upbringing. Hermann Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf, which has been so savagely misinterpreted by those who don’t want to deal with its message, is all about that experience; I don’t know if you’ll find it useful to read, but I did.

    Isabel, I had the good fortune to start reading Dan Savage when he first started writing his column — I was in Seattle at the time, and followed the vagaries of local culture through the dueling weeklies, The Weekly and The Stranger (or as they tended to be called, The Weakling and The Strangler). Some of his stances still reliably irritate the bejesus out of me, and I think he’s a bit too quick sometimes to trot out the DTMFA — or maybe it’s just that I’ve been inordinately lucky in relationships! — but he taught me a lot about how to be outrageous in an entertaining way.

    Reloaded, no, I hadn’t read that. Thank you!

  132. @Y Chireau on ugly monsters – one staple of the science fiction I grew up on was the attempts to communicate with alien beings – often really alien,and monstrous in appearance – with good results. The classic example from media is StarTrek’s Horta, a mother protecting her eggs. An excellent novel from almost 30 years ago is Janet Kagan’s Hellspark. But the midcentury works, the ones that preceded The Future According to Heinlein (and showing up in some of his works, too) were full of that trope. SF in those days was a real mind-broadener, and JMG’s treatment of the aliens that drove Lovecraft’s narrators crazy is firmly in that tradition.

    Pat, reading s/f of all vintages since Truman was president.

  133. Patricia Matthews,

    I think part of the tendency of people here—including at times myself—to grouse about the Left while giving a Right a bit of a pass is that many of us are Leftists, near-Leftists, and ex-Leftists who were taken by surprise when, in the last five years or so, some of the most toxic elements of the Left rushed the stage and grabbed the mic.

    By contrast, we kind of expect hateful, ignorant nonsense to come out of Trump’s or Sessions’ mouth. That’s just a given. So it doesn’t really seem worth commenting on.

    Then there’s the dynamic where the two sides of a schism often hate each other more than they hate their mutual enemy.

  134. @JMG: oh, certainly, your *post* was bipartisan. I was aiming that particular shaft at the commentariat. And I intend to reread Twilight’s Last Gleaming quite soon.

    Side note: I had a friend, a very dogmatic (and choleric) Democrat, who read it as a thinly veiled picture of Dubya’s administration! This was the Condoleeza Rice character; the hero was the John McCain character, etc …. and I was in a deep conversation with another friend quite recently and mentioned that we are in a Crisis Era with more to come. She earnestly assured me that “yes, and our only hope is the Election of 2018.” It came to me then that people are looking for simple answers like that because the chaotic reality is just too horrifying to contemplate. Especially if every example of evil, wickedness, or just plain corruption distresses them beyond measure because “It Just Should Not BE Like That!” To tell them “Should be isn’t Is” just distresses them even more.

    Pat, having trouble swimming in such troubled waters myself. And hip-hip-huzzah to Twilight for his vivid description of said waters.

  135. @JMG: I suspect a combination of you being lucky and me being Henry Higgins with a chromosome change: my own approach is that being single is much better than being in an LTR roughly ninety percent of the time*, so any defection from being in the super-rare ten percent that is both personally awesome and completely adaptable is a good excuse to get the whole bed to oneself again and not have to work out holiday logistics for more than one person. 😛 (Oh, God, or go to other people’s office parties.) Thus, my general guideline is “if the problem’s serious enough to seek advice, you’re probably happier without ’em,” and/or some variant on sweethearts-and-streetcars, but this may not apply to folks who aren’t cranky introverts like me.

    Also, I don’t read much of the Stranger other than Savage Love, but I *have* found their Freewill Astrology column interesting, over the last few years.

    * Boyfriends cramp my style at weddings/clubs/nightlife and have a distressing tendency to try and talk to me when I’m *clearly* reading, in my experience.

  136. Dot, thanks for the information, and yes, that’s probably why I had never heard of it.

    I have done a bit of looking into Islam in order to be informed about the world, however, I haven’t gotten very far due to lack of intrinsic interest in the subject. It’s very much something I do because I think I ought to rather than because I want to.

  137. Greetings all

    JMG wrote “Nonetheless many interpretations of Shari’a law, if I understand correctly, not merely condone but mandate the slaughter of polytheists”

    I have to disagree about that statement. Although the Quran is harsh towards polytheists and / or idol worshipers, the killing of these people is never mandated or even encouraged. The only instance when lethal violence is accepted by Quranic standards is in self defense.

    Very often verses 9:4 and 9:5 are invoked to show how Islam condones killing non-muslims and/or polytheists. Not so, for those who are interested here’s a link worthy of note.

    The article quotes Quranic verses 9:1 to 9:14 at length and offers a detailed explanation of the background against which the verses have been interpreted by scholars across the muslim world.

    I hope this helps.

  138. Violet, I hear you on being downwardly mobile not making you suddenly become classic blue collar. I think there are a lot of people in that boat, and there will probably be a lot more of us in future. I am on disability, doing a little minimum-wage work in a petstore. I certainly don’t have a middle-class income, never had as an adult, and don’t expect to ever gain one. But the fact that I have a degree and grew up in a mostly middle-class setting will always be with me, sometimes in ways I don’t really notice, or that I don’t even like. My stepmother does indeed have a point there.

  139. Violet, you are also right that falling out of the middle class changes you. I now understand depression, anxiety and chronic pain in ways I never wanted to, as well as where both the strands and the holes in BC’s safety net are, how easy it can be to fall through, and where some of the paths out of the holes are. I’ve learned more about dealing with pest rats and mice than I ever wanted to. A lot of my more recently-made friends are not people I would have made friends with in my late teens and early twenties. I no longer take a lot of stuff for granted, especially about my own ability to avoid bad stuff happening to me.

  140. An example of Catalan skill and wit, against a ‘heavy-handed'( ie brutal) central government and their armoured goons.

    The police flew helicopters in relays all night over the main polling stations, in order to soften up the occupiers for the morning assault.

    In return, the same public have been gathering in front of the hotels booked by the state police -who are there for at lest another week – and keeping them awake with a caserolada – banging pots and pans, something very Catalan.

    No weapons, no molotov cocktails, no masks and sticks: the police are angry and very stressed.

    They would find it very hard, however, to explain or justify using baton rounds on women banging the household pots.

  141. I wish to make some sort of general comments about Abrahamic religions in general as many readers seem to lump them all together. Although these 3 faiths have a lot in common from a theological perspective, their historical pathways have been markedly different.

    Jews having great difficulty in establishing long lasting kingdoms, Christians, on the other hand, basically took over the declining Roman Empire and Western Europe with it, and the catholic church managed to establish an extraordinary hold on Western Europe that lasted till the 17th century (more or less) whilst Muslims managed to built long lasting empires with many ups and downs till the early 20th century.

    However, muslims never set up a rigid and powerful hierarchical structure like the catholic or eastern christian churches with extraordinary holds on power.

    This crucial difference is rarely understood by western non-muslims who view muslim civilisations through the prism of their own history and hence believe that Islam, as a religion, will undergo more or less the same transformations and hiccups that shook Christianity such as reformation.

    Not so, in my opinion.

    Religious muslims scholars, throughout history rarely, if ever, were in a position of having political power. That rested on whoever managed to proclaim himself as sultan thanks to having a larger army than the others. The best scholars could do was to accept the winner as legitimate provided he upheld peace in the realm and followed Sharia, which incidentally means “the way”.

    As a result, muslim scholars had to make do with political and military rulers who were largely answerable to no-one. Hence, violent excesses characteristic of the Catholic church have no counter part in the muslim world. Now I do not mean that muslims were more peaceful than others, only that theologians had very little to do with the violent excesses of imperial politics. Exceptions exist, for instance in 20th century Iran.

    The spin off of that partial helplessness was that islamic theology was more or less free to develop in ways that scholars thought appropriate at the time. Hence, islamic theology has slowly evolved depending on local circumstances that varied greatly across the muslim world resulting in a bewildering array of interpretations.

    Hence, this variety makes a christian-like reformation largely unnecessary. As proof is the very lively islamic theology that currently exists across the world and offers to muslims many avenues of thought on many issues of our time.

    Of course, it does not mean that all is well in the best of muslim worlds and furthermore it does not mean that the muslim world is not in need of fine thinkers, as all things human, islamic theology has had its up and downs, but late 20th century and early 21st century have proved that islamic theology is well and kicking!

    As conclusion, I’d say that the 3 abrahamic religions share a common substrate but have had vastly different fates. The dogmatic rigidity of christianity that led so many humans to violent ends has no historical counter part in muslim lands, though muslims were just as willing to go off onto the battle field! When they did so, it was mainly because of political issues and power grabbing reasons. Religion was often just a garb to galvanise troops and justify plunder. The future historical arcs of christianity and Islam will be vastly different.

    I do apologise for that very long discourse! As usual delete if off topic!

  142. gkb, I regret that I really don’t understand your suggestions. I’m mostly working on getting a grip on my physical health issues at the moment, but I know that I need to go back and work more on the emotional end of things at some point.

  143. And here’s some weird logic which has emerged in the Catalan stand-off: people have called for the EU to mediate, but it seems reluctant to do so, openly at least.

    This has lead many in Europe to criticise the EU, and may be seen to have damaged their reputation considerably in human rights issues.

    Therefore, it is obvious that Russia is behind all the calls for mediation, as Putin (many-eyed and many- tentacled?) wishes to demolish the EU and all its good works!

    In countering Right-wing Spanish propaganda trolls on the news sites with facts, I have myself been accused of being Russian……

  144. JMG wrote: “… I’d argue that there is no simple moral calculus … — when values clash, we settle the matter by some combination of majority vote and constitutional law — and why I think it’s so crucial that we need to abandon the notion that society can be made perfect, and get back to the realization that the best we can do is make it function.”

    I agree. ‘Happiness of the greatest number’ seems a handy rule of thumb, but not really. And it always was hard work to be human and always will be.

    Constitutions can get tricky however when we acquire empires and oligarchies. (Having said that, it might seem a bit contrary but I think I could write a coherent defence of many imperial functions, at least for agrarian societies , but hasten to say it would not add up to a defence of the late British Empire.) I got strong push back in Oil Drum days when I suggested USA was in effect an imperial power. Well, I was an outsider … even though I was prepared to acknowledge I was probably a net-beneficiary of US power.

    You mentioned in another comment, capture of the imagination of the major part of a nation/society under certain circumstances with catastrophically dire results (historical example), but I will leave that for now. Only I would hate to see such a moral collapse.

    Phil H

  145. I think the ” working class whites and people of color (would) sit down and talk to each other” IF they clearly ‘saw’ that they are both being ‘played’…. and ‘saw’ by whom. It seems to me that only Sanders came close to spotlighting the ‘manipulators’ (who also provide crumbs for the, albeit, ‘successful’ middle class).

  146. Pat, okay, gotcha and thanks for the clarification! I’ve been intrigued to watch the way that various people have put a partisan spin on Twilight’s Last Gleaming, when I went out of my way never to mention anyone’s partisan affiliation in the story — and the reason for that, of course, is that Jameson Weeds, Leonard Gurneys, and Ellen Harbins can be found in both parties in roughly equal numbers, and so can Pete Bridgeports…

    Isabel, I can certainly understand giving boyfriends the heave-ho if they talk to you when you’re reading! When Sara and I first got together — this is back in the autumn of 1982, when we shared space and then a bedroom in a student household in Bellingham, WA — one of the things that convinced me that the relationship definitely had potential is that we both enjoyed sitting together on the couch in companionable silence, each reading a different book. After a week or so of this, our housemates started making sour comments about how we were acting like an old married couple; we grinned at each other and kept on reading.

    Karim, what I’ve read — and I’m perfectly willing to accept correction here — is that the sin of shirk, or believing in more than one god, has historically been considered grounds for the death penalty within the dar al-Islam, though not outside it. Is it not true that during the Muslim conquests of the Middle East, Pagans in regions conquered by Muslim armies were told that they had to convert or die? Certainly that’s to be found in a great many histories of the period. I’m frankly less interested in current interpretations of the Quran than in what Muslims have historically done to Pagans, just as I find the current vogue for tolerance in some branches of Christian theology rather less convincing in the light of the long and sanguinary history of Christian persecution of religious dissidents.

    Xabier, a classic bit of strategy. The goal here is clearly to goad the Spanish government into a spiral of human rights abuses so egregious that other nations are forced to intervene, while making it so costly for Spain via general strikes and the like that eventually the Spanish government gives up. It’ll be interesting to see if they can pull it off.

    Phil, of course! Empires have their problems, and so does the absence of empires; nothing in this world lacks its downsides.

    Nancy, bingo. Of course there were other reasons the Democratic party cheated Sanders out of the nomination, but that was certainly one of them.

  147. Karim, thank you for that link. From my perspective, as a not-very good lukewarm Christian the biggest difference between Islam and Christianity is polygamy – although I know there are many Muslim countries which reject polygamy and of course a minority of Christian societies who practice it.

  148. Hi JMG,
    I think this is pertinent to the discussions on the phase that we are in (or should be) regarding most art forms. I read this today in the most recent issue of Ballet Review, a small but excellent journal reviewing ballet specifically and the wider dance world secondarily. I think the reviewer here seems to understand exactly your point of view. For some quick background, the Joffrey Ballet is one of the top ballet companies in the US., and performs a wide range of works from classical to contemporary ballet. George Balanchine, mentioned in this paragraph, was the pre-eminent choreographer of ballet in the 20th century (died in the 1980s). He was widely considered to be a highly innovative choreographer, but he himself always maintained that his work came directly from the classical traditions established in Russia by Marius Petipa in the late 19th century. He trained in that tradition in Russia, left Russia for France to work with Diaghilev in Paris before emigrating to the US to found the New York City Ballet. OK, after that crash course of ballet history, here is the paragraph that jumped out at me:

    “In a mixed program of three ballets, ironically called “Game Changers”, the Joffrey Ballet shined with a stylistic integrity and concentration placing it with the very best of dance companies. Perhaps one way to see Christopher Wheeldon, Wayne McGregor, and Justin Peck is as “Game Changers”. In truth, they are “Lifesavers”. These three excellent choreographers finally all fall under the school of Balanchine in terms of compositional traditions. Yes, in fact there is great neoclassical choreography after Balanchine. It is a contemporary sensibility informing a great old tradition, producing ballets that uphold the game, not change it–other than to change it from bad choreographers who do not know the traditions of ballet.”

  149. @JMG: Aw, that’s awesome! Sounds a lot like my parents–and neat that it was the autumn of ’82, also, as I have birthday-related reasons for being fond of that time as well. 🙂

    (I also realize now that I meant “compatible” and typed “adaptable” in my last post. Both work, I think, but–well, my brain’s taken the same approach to sleep lately as a six-year-old on a car trip takes to bathroom stops, so here we are.)

    @Patricia Matthews: I get that reaction from some of my more idealistic friends myself–like, I agree that many things *shouldn’t* happen, and I’ll do what I can to keep them from happening, but at the end of the day, IDK, I’m either extremely jaded or I have outrage fatigue. Stuff like Vegas can really shake me up, but, say, the revelations coming out about various sexual harassers in the media, or the latest anti-choice bill…awful, but not unexpected?

    Generally: listened to a true-crime podcast about Jonestown today, which made me think of the whole moral-complexity thing–not necessarily Jones per se, as it’s anyone’s guess how much of his own hype that guy ever believed, but that the temple itself started out with good intentions (fighting poverty and racism) and then just…yeah. A reminder that people don’t have to be incomprehensibly evil* to do evil things, and a warning for what can happen when we let “but good intentions” or “but he’s on our side of Issue X” blind us to everything else.

    * Honestly, I find very little incomprehensible evil in the world–even people who I would say *are* monsters at the end strike me as largely those who choose to take their disappointments out on everyone else around them in lethal ways, which is pretty simple as motives go.

  150. OK.. this is the last, sorry 🙂 But I just ran across this phrase, applied to the Republican party at the time the Tea Party arose – “perpetual outrage machine”. This is, of course, what the current Democratic party, et al, are now …. if only they could ‘see’ how it is serving the interests of the ‘manipulators’.

  151. As far as marketing Twilight’s Last Gleaming goes, have you ever considered starting a Youtube channel? You could advertise a book at the begging of each video and link into the publisher in the video description. Doing maybe a ten-fifteen minute video every week? It could be as simple as you sitting down and reading each week’s weekly post from ecosophia. As I recall, to make a Youtube channel you just need a google email account and a youtube account. Getting the two to work together takes a bit of patience and asking google a lot of “how to” questions.

    The youtube channel could be about anything – You can put a twenty second add or so at the begging of each video for one of your books. Youtube is also great because you can add a gofund me and patreaon account to your youtube page. If you haven’t checked humpty dumpty tribe out Hambone-Little-Tail and Sancho are pretty amusing. You might be also be able to place adds on channels like his. He picks a book every so often to be his “Bible of the Apocalypse” /long descent.

    In Twilight’s Last Gleaming I was ok with what happened to the US because it was clearly in the wrong invading Tanzania. And I think a lot of other readers would be ok with it as well. The book presents the US in context of the world and characters like, Liu, are really compelling and human. And everyone in the book is simply trying to do what is best for themselves – It makes does not make the Chinese evil; they are justified in helping the republic of Tanzania resist an unjust takeover.

    The social situation in the Untied States is talked about, the shanty towns, et. And I do think it’s an good assessment of where we’re headed. The social commentary by the narrator in the book I think would be more easily accepted by readers fifty years hence.

  152. I have another thought about the class hatreds discussed in this thread.

    I have long noticed (and have long been puzzled by) the fact that those who pontificate the loudest and longest about “white privilege” are not, blacks, Latinos, Asians, etc., but affluent, privileged white people! “White guilt” doesn’t seem like a plausible explanation for this, and projection of the Jungian shadow of the upper 20 percent upon the lower 80 percent only explains part of it.

    I think what we have is a continuation of a conflict that not only precedes the Civil War, but goes all the way back to the English Civil War of the 1640’s – the conflict between the Puritan Roundheads and the Cavaliers. Their descendants colonized New England and the American South, respectively, with the Scots-Irish colonizing the Appalachians.

    In the 1850’s, Puritan New England won the “culture war” for the soul of the North, and the North’s victory in the Civil War made the cultural assumptions of Puritan New England the “officially approved” culture of the United States as a whole. During the first half of the 20th century, rich, highly educated and influential Jews were accepted into the WASP culture, due to the “elective affinity” (Goethe’s phrase) between Calvinist predestinarian theology (the “elect” versus the “reprobate”) and Rabbinical Judaism (the “chosen people”). Much intermarriage took place (John Kerry being a notable example), and the two cultures effectively fused.

    Thus, we have had, since at least the end of the Civil War, a ceaseless struggle between the “good whites” (WASPs, Jews and those accepted by them) and the “bad whites” (Southerners, Scots-Irish “hill-billies” and working class descendants of southern Mediterranean and East European immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries). In the view of the “good whites”, the latter are irredeemable, incorrigible “reprobates” who must either be made to “behave” with cattle prods and the lash, or, preferably, sterilized and euthanized out of existence entirely. it is no accident that the origin of Nazi Germany’s eugenics laws was not Germany, but the Northeastern United States. “Social Darwinism” in general, is simply Calvinism stripped of its theological trappings.

    Thus, “white privilege” is never something exercised by “good whites.” Oh, no! Only “bad whites” have illegitimate “white privilege.”

    The “good whites” don’t have privilege, you see! Oh, no, again! They have “merit”! “Merit” is simply a non-religious term for Calvinist “unconditional election,” or Rabbinical Jewish “chosenness.”

    To put it another way, if you see yourself as ontologically different and superior (as the “good whites” do), the the concept of “privilege” makes no sense to you. Accusing “good whites” of hypocrisy does no good, because they are not hypocrites. They really believe their own propaganda. No amount of disconfirmatory evidence, provided by what Solzhenitsyn called “the pitiless crowbar of events,” will ever make them change their minds, because theirs is a dogmatic conviction, immune to falsification. They will only “double down” all the harder.

    Once that is understood, then the otherwise bizarre and incomprehensible behavior of the “good whites” starts to make a lot of sense.

  153. I wonder to what extent the Shoggoth effect is due to the closeness or our last several Presidentail elections?
    Most Presidentail elections are won (or lost) by narrow margins. There are exceptions of course. LBJ won 61% of the popular vote. The Republicans didn’t respond by claiming voter fraud, or collusion with foreign powers, etc. They focused on their message and campaigning. Likewise when the Democrats were trounced by Nixon in ’72 they formulated new strategy rather than insisting that Nixon’s supporters were deplorable. But most elections have been closer, and it’s not uncommon that 3rd parties pick up enough votes that the winner doesn’t even get an actual majority of the vote.

    So how does this relate to “Shoggothing” the other side? I’m not trained in psychology but I see a difference in response when the margins of victory are razor thin and when a candidate wins by a landslide. In a landslide there is no choice but to admit defeat and realize that your candidate/platform just didn’t have much appeal. The only solution is to lick your wounds, modify your strategy, work on your message, and change your campaign tactics. It’s in the narrow races that the loosing side insists it only lost due to cheatiing, collusion, hate, racism, and so on. When we loose narrowly we seem to make excuses but we don’t do this when we’ve been routed. We’re angrier after a narrow loss than after a drubbing, and so the “Shoggothing” begins. With several narrow elections in a row the Shoggothing never really stops, on either side.

    I admit this baffles me to some extent. As close as elections have been they are functionally the equivalent of a coin toss. Why the surprise and anger when it comes up tails rather than heads?

    I wasn’t insightful enough to predict Trump’s victory, but I wasn’t the least bit surprised by it. There was always a high statistical liklihood that he’d win. If people told themselves diffeerently they apparently hadn’t been paying attention these past several elections.

  154. I’ll second Alnus Incana.

    Although I’m waiting for the paperback copy of the second Weird of Hali book, the Radiance are a damn good bunch of villains – and the value system which is implied by the Old Gods / Radiance conflict is certainly an appealing one.

    Personally, I sort people into good/bad categories by whether they like Rush or Led Zeppelin more :^).

  155. Lydia, thank you for this! I’m the equivalent of tone-deaf when it comes to dance — I don’t perceive whatever it is that people who enjoy watching dance are supposed to perceive — but it’s good to hear that people are taking the classical tradition seriously in that art form as well, and noticing that those who denounce it generally are basing their denunciations on ignorance.

    Isabel, I get that. Sleep is a good thing; too bad it’s not always available. 😉

    Nancy, yep. Both parties and far too many of their supporters can be defined in those terms.

    Austin, I’d have to find someone to work with who is good with computers and visual media, which I’m not; I’d also have to find a lot more hours in a week! That said, I’ll consider it.

    Michael, exactly. Historically speaking, it’s standard for the privileged to see themselves as morally superior to those beneath them — think of words such as “gentle” and “noble,” both of which originally meant “belonging to the privileged classes.” Our modern American aristocracy defines itself the same way, as the good people, the people who are different from those awful working class whites in the flyover states — and the more effectively they can keep working class white people and the nonwhite underclass at one another’s throats, of course, the more secure their privilege is.

    Christopher, hmm. An interesting hypothesis; I’ll have to look further back in US history and see if that works out more generally.

    Justin, thank you. The challenge I face in the later volumes is not shoggothing the Radiance — not making them hostile wind-up monsters, keeping them subjects rather than objects, however hateful to me their belief system is. We’ll see how well I do.

    Jeanne, and here I thought it was going to be soap for shoggoths! 😉

  156. Greetings all

    JMG wrote: Is it not true that during the Muslim conquests of the Middle East, Pagans in regions conquered by Muslim armies were told that they had to convert or die?

    I will have to check this out in more detail because I am led to believe that by the time muslims came marching across the middle east most pagans had already been wiped out before hand.
    Interestingly enough, when muslims encountered zoroastrians in Persia, the latter were promptly accepted as people of the book and hence having the same status as jews and christians.

    However, we can use the case of India as a historical precedent. Islam came to India via 2 routes – traders or invaders.

    The great muslim invasions of India of the 13th century certainly led to much bloodshed. However, it is to be noted that once established, the different muslim indian sultanates and the mughal empire had million of hindu subjects who had thousands of temples under muslim rule. The majority of hindus were certainly not wiped out nor forcibly converted although bad things certainly occurred.

    I would also like to point out that I was not only referring to current Quranic scholarship, but also to traditional interpretations.

  157. @ Justin,
    You are quite welcomed. In my understanding the great difference between christianity and islam is the trinity (although not every christian branch accepts trinity). Furthermore, for muslims jesus was a great prophet but certainly not a son of god in the literal sense.

  158. @Karim

    denial of one’s religion in the face of persecution (or whenever deemed convenient, depending on whose opinion one is getting).
    long, but detailed and worth reading:

    I’d love to believe that Islam is intrinsically peaceful, just as some claim Christianity is the religion of peace (led by the “Prince of Peace” – but it was anything but peaceful in the face of the brutal abuse I suffered from my “loving Christian” parents).

    But religions are practiced by people, and people typically decide what they want to do and then find whatever justification for it. So for the Salafist/Wahhabi sorts – even though they’re a small fraction of Islam, they ARE devoted to conquering the West.
    The Wahhabi imams tell them very explicitly to kill all the Christians and Jews.
    That is a reality, and ignoring reality causes suffering.
    You can (also) read the transcript, search for Jews or Christians or Shia.
    Saudi schoolbooks are saying “The Christians should be punished with death until there are no more left.”
    And they ALSO say: “We learn that the Shia are blasphemers. They should be punished with death.”
    (The ruling class of Saudi Arabia are Sunni, allied with the Wahhabi movement:)

    @JMG – note that the founder of Wahhabism “advocat[ed] a purging of such widespread Sunni practices as the veneration of saints, the seeking of their intercession, and the visiting of their tombs, all of which were practiced all over the Islamic world, but which he considered idolatry (shirk), impurities and innovations in Islam (Bid’ah).”
    (2nd PP of the above wiki page)

    It is ALSO a reality that ~90% of Muslims condemn killing Christians and Jews.
    So we see history rhyming, as I talked of the conflicts between the various Jewish factions AND external powers in late 2nd temple times, during the Reformation there were conflicts between factions of Christianity AND external powers, now we have conflicts between various Islamic factions AND external powers.

    For a bit on the clashes within Islam, see
    The Roots of Muslim Rage Revisited by. Colonel Nicolaas J.E. van der Zee. Royal Netherlands Army

    2 recommended books:
    JMG’s _A_World_Full_of_Gods_: An Inquiry Into Polytheism

    Jonathan Haidt’s _The_Righteous_Mind_: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion

  159. JMG, Karim, from what I’ve seen of even modern Islamic sheikhs discoursing on shirk it applies to not only worship of gods besides Allah but even to adopting “man-made” laws, such as those of modern democracies, over Sharia.

    I think there was one place where Muslim invaders did not eradicate native polytheism — India. Their arrival in India did extinguish Buddhism in India and much of the surrounding islands though (the whole mandala around India from the Maldives, possibly even Madagascar, to Cambodia used to have forms of Vajrayana Buddhism, which survived only in Tibet).

    Also I’m not sure that Karim’s argument that local theologies in Islam obviated the need for a reformation in Islam is really demonstrated. The Protestant Reformation in Western Christianity itself resulted from local theologians rejecting the theology of Rome (Bohemia, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands etc). Wahhabism, which is seen by many sheikhs as well as external observers to be essentially a form of Protestant Islam, was also in its origins a local theology from the Najd.

  160. Hi again!

    I would like to summarise a bit the situation with regards to paganism and islam, subject to JMG’s consent of course!

    First of all please note that there is a very important distinction to be made between the Corpus of Islamic Theology (CIT) and the behaviours of muslims in history. When referring to sharia one automatically makes reference to CIT, when referring to muslims ones refers to history. So here goes.

    (1) Does the corpus of islamic theology (CIT) mandates or condones the killing of pagans? As far as I know the answer is no. The main reasons are that it would violate too many quranic teachings with regards to the sanctity of human life.

    (2) Does CIT mandates or condones the destruction of pagan religions, shrines or temples? Once more, to the best of my knowledge the answer is no.

    (3) Does CIT mandates or condones forced conversions of pagans by the injunction convert or die? Once more the answer is no

    (4) Have muslims killed pagans during conquests: yes!

    (5) Have muslims destroyed pagan temples during conquest: yes!

    (6) Have muslims attempted to forcbly convert pagans: on occasion yes, but mostly no

    (6) Have there ever been a systematic policy of eliminating pagans by muslim rulers: largely no

    (7) Have there ever been a systematic policy of destruction of pagan temples by muslim rulers: largely no

    (8) Have there ever been a systematic policy of forced conversion of pagans by muslim rulers: largely no

    Of course, the above answers are to the best of my knowledge. History being what it is, there always are surprises!

    Thank you for your attention!

  161. Regarding orthodox muslim treatment of polytheists, historically, their behaviour in India and Spain rewards study.

    I read the biography of Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire recently: at one point he needed to ally himself with a more powerful muslim state, and after capturing a Hindu city the senior general (Iranian if I recall correctly) insisted in killing absolutely everyone, ‘as they were polytheists’.

    Babur didn’t question the orthodoxy of this, but thought it was a bit too cruel and a waste of a whole city – thinking of future revenues no doubt. On the whole, he wasn’t too keen on gratuitous murder, but his was due more to his personality than his faith. Drink, drugs,poetry, flower-appreciation, pretty boys and a good fight were more his thing.

    On other occasions, they simply killed all the men in a town (maybe sparing artisans with rare skills) and took the boys, girls and breeding women as slaves. Much as the Romans -and everyone else – often did, of course.

    This was also common practice in Spain in the days of the Caliphate of Cordoba. The walls of beautiful Cordoba and Granada were often ornamented with the heads of executed Christians and pagan Basques, carefully brought back on mules after each campaigning season, while in the harem captured Basque girls ministered to the Caliph – by the end of the dynasty, they were mostly Basque in blood and appearance (it seems that Basques are, ironically, genetically closely-related to the Berbers of North Africa, as well as the Sami and Siberians).

    It’s all in the muslim chronicles,and the few autobiographies that have miraculously survived.

  162. Hi John Michael,

    I rather feel that the general rule to be learned from the Shoggoths relationship with the Elder Things is: do not annoy the Shoggoths! ;-)! Of course the Elder Things may have become highly expectational and learned that little lesson a bit too late given the decapitations and pools of black slime. Interestingly, although this is a bit macabre, a little voice tells me that the Shoggoths may have acted in annoyance rather than malice. The reason I write that is because they sorted the Elder Things, and then that appears from your description to be the end of the matter as they left the bodies which suggest a casual relationship. Nastier entities tend to take matters rather further than that point, but the Shoggoths are sort of saying: “We’re done here” and then they moved on to other more important Shoggoth matters.

    Just a few other observations pop into my head about the Shoggoths. Given their eyes ooze up to the surface and then sink again, well I’d have to suggest that they have other ways of experiencing their environment that are much better adapted than their eyes? The marsupial bats here use an echolocation which works like radar to fly around the place and identify yummy insects, so who knows how or what senses that the Shoggoths use to see the world? I rather suspect that they see the world in a 3D representation for some reason. And the Shoggoths may use their eyes intermittently as a form of courtesy when communicating with other creatures.

    Given the Elder Things were originally their masters, the Elder Things would have had to teach the Shoggoths a whole bunch of interesting lore just for them to act in the role of the slave workforce. You can’t have it both ways, and so with the passing of the Elder Things, the Shoggoths would have had access to pick and choose from whatever of those learnings suited themselves. I wonder what interesting things that they know?



  163. @ sunnnv and Alvin

    Thanks for the links! Many of those sheiks you mention (and I am not denying that they exist) have very edgy and weak arguments when advocating violence as for example the saudi text books. I have yet to see serious islamic scholars come up with valid theological arguments to justify wanton murder.

    By chance I was reading a local newspaper here in Mauritius and it had an article about Algeria and it quoted one muslim clergy there who said that the supreme principle in Sharia was the preservation of human life. I regret not keeping that article.

    As for the protestant reformation it was set against the catholic church. There is no equivalent in muslim countries. So what will islamic reformation be set against? However, islamic theology has a long history of slow and varied evolution. This is set to continue and is gathering steam. And of course, there is much to do and many challenges ahead.

    I will check if the arrival of muslims extinguished Buddhism. Not too sure as Buddhism was already on the decline by then.

    @ Xabier, as I said, muslims did not necessarily behave well in the past and your examples show that. They were simply a product of their time. Note that I never said otherwise. I readily recognise that muslims did kill a lot of people in their conquests.

    The point that remains is that Islamic Theology does not mandates wanton killing of pagans.

  164. @ sunnnv (once more!), you wrote: ‘I’d love to believe that Islam is intrinsically peaceful’.

    Note I never said that either! To say that islam is a religion of peace is actually a meaningless statement, it is people who are either peaceful or violent.

    The right question to ask is: how does islam deal with human violence? well it does that by attempting to circumscribe it to self defence. OK, it does not work all the time! History tells us that very clearly.

    To all: thanks for the opportunity for polite discourse on islam, a very difficult endeavour nowadays! Even in Mauritius!

  165. Michael Martin’s broad-brush view of American history and white privilege seems to me to be right on target, though somewhat oversimplified: Roundhead vs. Cavalier is still a thing lurking in the cellars of the nation, eastward from the Mississippi. The distinction he draws in history between “good” and “bad” Whites is also still quite important, and needs to be kept in mind constantly in every discussion of privilege (and class, religion, race) these days. (West of the Mississippi Roundhead vs. Cavalier hardly mattered, and things played out in a different way; but until the 20th century wealth and power still mostly lived East of the Mississippi.)

    It’s just a minor quibble to say that New England was by no means all one Puritan thing, since the two historically Roundhead States (Massachusetts and Connecticut) were also the most densely populated and economically powerful states in the region, and mostly they swept the other four New England states along in their political wake. It’s another minor quibble to say that the general acceptance of Jews by WASPs didn’t really get going in New England until after WW2; when my wife and I moved from California to Rhode Island in the late 1960s, it was by no means quite a done deal, though the handwriting was clearly visible on the wall already. It was, IMHO, the influx of highly educated, relatively secular Jews from Europe at just the time when American universities were in a period of unprecedented growth and desparately needed large numbers of qualified faculty, that finally tipped the balance toward acceptance by WASPS. These are important details, but they don’t work against the main point of Michael Martin’s comment.

    Also, for what it’s worth, I’m old enough to remember when the party of the rich and powerful, out on the West Coast, was the Democratic party. Less wealthy folk, tradesmen and machinists, found that Republicans safeguarded their interests better, and some — like one of my own great-grandfathers — switched easily and freely between Republican and Socialist from one election to the next, depending on which candidates seemed to him to give him the greater advantage for the next two years. In the American South, back in those days, “Republican” called up memories of Abraham Lincoln and the “War of Northern Aggression,” and was a toxic label. It was a brilliant piece of Machiavellian politics when he leaders of that party managed to rebrand themselves as the party that looked out for Southern (“Appalachian” as well as Cavalier) interests in national politics.

  166. My wife’s chief academic interest these days is animal behavior, and there are clear parallels between Christopher L Hope’s observations aboul close elections and situations in oter species where there happens to be no clear and obvious alpha, thus leaving the dominance hierarchy also unclear. This leads to unending conflict between the most prominent betas, which will continue until a clear alpha emerges from the battles.

    Our system of elections, the way the country is currently divided politically and demographically, cannot easily produce a clear and dominant alpha at the top of the human dominance hierarchy; so there is an unending fight for dominance among the leading betas and their partisans. This is not an inherent weakness in our Constitutional form of government, but just a historical accident with a limited (though long) shelf-life, due to current demographics and economics.

    If demographic and economic changes continue to favor southern growth and northern decline, once the 2020 (or possibly the 2030) Federal Census returns are in, the currently Republican states will have secured a long-term clear majority of votes in the electoral college, and also a long-term preponderance of seats in the House. Or at least, that’s what I think I see coming …

  167. JMG: ‘Jeanne, and here I thought it was going to be soap for shoggoths’

    Nope. Soap for us. I’ve only read one or two of the Lovecraft tales and that was quite a while ago so I don’t know what bathing would do to shoggoths. Ideally the soap bar should be black with green herbal inclusions but I’ve noticed black soap tends to be a bit pricy. The green glycerin bar is being sold for $10 bucks so I can just imagine how much the black stuff would cost. OTOH there are claims black soap is good for your skin…. 😉

  168. re: Islam

    Here is a link to an English translation of The Reliance of the Traveller (‘Umdat as-Salik wa ‘Uddat an-Nasik), which is an authoritative manual of Islamic fiqh, aka Sharia law, in the Sunni tradition. This is what you get in the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world. Have a read of it, this is what Islam really is as practiced in the real world, by real people. It is essential reading for understanding Muslims. I won’t cherry pick anything out of it, read it in full.

    English text only:
    English plus Arabic:

  169. (As an introduction, I hope that this post is in the right place – perhaps I should have instead posted it at the end of “September 2017 Open Post”, or “The Worlds That Never Were” post or the “The Terror of Deep Time” post – that seem to be more relevant to the content of my post?)

    My favorite author (you’re the close second one :hat’s_off:) Charles Stross (science fiction, lovecraft, alternate history) has made an interesting prediction in his latest blog post “Bread and Circuses (circumlunar version)” :
    If Donald Trump is still president, US astronauts will return to circumlunar space around July 16th, 2019 …
    Trump’s egomania would allow Elon Musk to keep realizing his dreams of human exploration of space…
    (but even then, after that, for how long could he keep that up?)

    P.S.: I’ve also suggested to Stross to participate in your “Old Solar System” writing contest.
    (see post n=°370 on the same page, not linking it here so as to not trigger the spam filter with too many links!)
    Though he’s likely to be too busy with his own projects as a writer to participate…

  170. I am finding this discussion about Islam rather bizarre. For some reason whenever Islam is discussed in the West it gets turned into “if it’s not violent, invading Wahhabis, then it was shirk”.

    Some of the most beautiful poetry to Muslims was written by Arabic pagans, transcribed in the book Mu‘allaqāt. Atheists lived freely in the caliphate and wrote books of philosophy.

    Yes, in the days of Babur they often killed all the men in a conquered town… because they were Turco-Mongolian conquerors, not because of religion. Are we to interpret Genghis Khan as a crypto-Muslim now?

    These days Wahhabis seem to have an ever-stronger grip both on English-language publishing and on the minds of Westerners. In the most recent Las Vegas shooting, large numbers of Americans seemed to believe ISIS claiming that the shooter was a Muslim, because apparently ISIS is very trustworthy. I hope we will not simply let ourselves be used in this way.

  171. I like the shoggoth soap. Funny, and given their penchant for bubbles, rather appropriate. Surely the soap should be black rather than green, though, for a better likeness?

  172. Sara K., re: “The ‘inscrutable Oriental” – in 1994 I worked in Shenzhen, China, for a month. I and an Irish and English co-worker were supervising an awful animation project. The other Irish guy was well loved by all back in Ireland, where he’s seen as a gentle giant. He towered over the Chinese. Toward the end of the job, one of the Chinese girls confided: “Everyone here is terrified of him”. “Is it because of his size?” I asked. “No. It’s because he never shows any emotion”.

    The inscrutable Irishman/Occidental! You have to laugh, as it shows that the ‘inscrutability’ is no more than the inability of each group to read subtle micro-queues from the other.

    Carolyn Kibbey, re: Trump voters – You may find this useful – a breakdown of the Trump voter demographics by an analyst who very early on shot down the “all Trump voters are racist” nonsense:


    “Thus if he’d been born in 1990 rather than 1890, he’d have the standard prejudices of a white east coast urbanite today. I imagine him as one of those tense, constantly stressed, pallid vegans ranting about the evils of the rural white poor; his monsters would come from Oklahoma, and they’d smell like bacon cheeseburgers.”

    Sounds a bit like JH Kunstler!!!!! Is Jim Vegan? 😀


    “the desire to punish the poor for being poor — a desire found just as often on the leftward side of the spectrum (where it targets the rural white poor) as on the right (where it targets the urban nonwhite poor). That, in turn, draws its motivation from the desire on the part of the privileged to distance themselves as far as possible from the poor, and so — in a society in accelerating decline — try to convince themselves that they don’t have to worry about becoming poor.”

    On a recent AMTRAK ride, I was cornered by a teabagger who expounded his theory that the solution to the unemployment crisis was to put the poor in camps and deny them food until they started working. Seeing not a flicker from me, he said “I can see you don’t approve”. My reply: “Well, had someone in Ireland implemented your policies in the 1980s, when real unemployment was around 20%, your policies would have resulted in the death by starvation of my, my parents, brother and sister, uncles, aunts and cousins – so no, I don’t support your policies”. He changed the subject lickitysplit. A man void of class consciousness – just assumed I would align with his plan because of my skin tone.

    Thing is, you’ll find the same on the ‘left’, as JMG has mentioned. A good example is the ‘liberal’ Morgan Freeman who in a recent interview told the poor of the rust belt / midwest & south that their solution to their region’s depression was to “get on a bus”. An ironic turn of phrase, because that was identical to the ‘advice’ given to the UK’s 3 million unemployed by the Tory minister Norman Tebbit at a party conference: “GET ON YOUR BIKE” (and find a job). As though the crisis was the fault of the victims.

    Michael Martin

    “Thus, we have had, since at least the end of the Civil War, a ceaseless struggle between the “good whites” (WASPs, Jews and those accepted by them) and the “bad whites” (Southerners, Scots-Irish “hill-billies” and working class descendants of southern Mediterranean and East European immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries)…Thus, “white privilege” is never something exercised by “good whites.” Oh, no! Only “bad whites” have illegitimate “white privilege.””

    Interesting! The first time I twigged that there was something truly cancerous going on with the US ‘left’, it was a liberal middle class friend posting an article (approvingly) where a woman who was living in a trailer park was apologizing for her ‘white privilege’. She’d been infected with a debased form of intersectional theory, and had ended up seeing herself as a persecutor as a result. The woman who posted the article thought that it was great to see a ‘redneck’ apologizing for her ‘privilege’. I’m currently grinding my way through ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment’ by Adorno, mainly out of curiosity to see if I can find any trace of this kind of idiocy. I’m not expecting to find any.

    Also, your quote on ‘merit’:

    “The “good whites” don’t have privilege, you see! Oh, no, again! They have “merit”! “Merit” is simply a non-religious term for Calvinist “unconditional election,” or Rabbinical Jewish “chosenness.”

    reminds me that the word ‘Meritocracy’ was coined by the British socialist Michael Young as a warning – that a meritocracy would degenerate into a dystopia – as it does in his novel. Of course, later “new Democrats” and “New Labourites” would latch onto the term with glee, using it naively, as most people do, never questioning the sinister implications.

    Regarding Muslims and pagans, in spite of some of the texts, the fact remains that there are pagan groups surviving in the Middle east today (like the Yazidi) who would have had zero chance of surviving in Europe – either they’d have been converted, killed, for pushed out). E.G., Mandean gnostics (we all know what happened to the European gnostics, for comparison).

    I’d say that heretical or pagan groups fared far better in the East than West, ibn khaldun’ian cyclical outbursts of persecution notwithstanding. When the Wahabi head-bangers first erupted in Arabia, their first victims were Sunni Muslims. They’d come running into town screaming “Convert or Die”. Understandably, the reaction of the Sunnis was “Convert to what? We’re Muslims already”. But they had to REEEALLY convert this time, or else.

    Regarding the early conquests, Hugh Kennedy’s book is a very enjoyable read. It’s got the good, bad & ugly:

  173. @corydalidae: Oh, I beg your pardon; I did not know you were coping with a physical challenge. Please ignore the energywork exercises I mentioned: they do not apply.

  174. JMG, I will write a story using the 7 laws as a structure. I’m going to write a children’s story first. Like someone on the last post, I am appalling at starting multiple stories and not finishing them. The advice he got from everyone was very helpful but the sticking thumb tack in arm route might be necessary for me. I achieved the remarkable feat of scoring in the 0th percentile for conscientiousness on a personality test. It doesn’t combine well with an inner critic that’s apparently on speed all the time. So when I say I will write it, that’s my effort at an affirmation.

    Corydalidae, I guess if you’re not in western Europe then you don’t need to prepare for your dominant Dark Age culture to be Islamic so it seems kind of academic. Do all the jihadist attacks around the world not prompt an interest in finding out what it is they believe and why though? They’re Shoggothing you too you know.

  175. JMG, this isn’t the first time you’ve mentioned that you suspect that H. P. Lovecraft may have had some non-white ancestry. Back then, he couldn’t just get a DNA test, and that kind of thing does bother some people.

    I saw a news article recently where two white supremacists allegedly tried to have a black inmate killed after he was released from prison. The pictures of the suspects were very interesting. The one “white supremacist” was clearly part black, and the other looked like he may have been part Hispanic, although it was hard to tell from his picture. Some people can’t handle not being able to totally sort their identity into just one box, and I guess that was the case there.

    Interestingly, I wonder if there may be some uncertainty about my own ancestry. Supposedly, one of my ancestors was a “full-blooded Cherokee Indian princess”. OK, if she was actually a Cherokee, she would have known that she wasn’t a princess, so why would her son have told his children and grandchildren that? Plus, the one picture I’ve seen of her son, he didn’t look half Indian from any tribe. It was a black and white picture, but still. The handful of her grandchildren that I knew as a child didn’t look one quarter Cherokee either. I wonder if she was mixed black/white, with enough white blood that she didn’t really look obviously black, but enough black blood that she couldn’t pass as white. So maybe she concocted the Cherokee Indian princess story, then married a white man and passed the lie on down to her children who believed it was the truth and told it to their children, who told it to their children… I don’t know. I could get a DNA test, but that’s a lot of money ($100) just to see if I’m maybe 1% black. Depending on how the genes combined in each generation, it’s possible I don’t actually have any of her genes. It would be better to have her remains tested, but I’m sure that would be way too expensive!

    I’ve been thinking about collecting all the information I can on my family history and writing it down for my kids. If I do, I’ll have to decide how to deal with the Cherokee Indian princess story.

  176. With the toxic stew of political discourse nowadays, the best I can do is disengage when people go off on demonizing tangents. I’m not yet at a point where I think I can constructively engage, but I do try to listen to people. Last weekend, I attended a leather conference. A bit of background, the “leather community”, as it’s know, started with postwar gay veterans returning from WW II as the hypermasculine gay archetype. Originally, it was very strongly based on fraternal military protocol and discipline, and entrance to the community was strongly guarded. It revolved around gay motorcycle clubs, and to this day, motorcycle imagery still plays a part (the “cover”, the Muir cap, for example). At a time when plain ole gay sex was cause for electroshock therapy, a community that revolved around gay male kink by necessity had to be deeply underground and have a process of serious vetting for those who wished to join the ranks.
    Fast forward to today, and the conference I attended. It was an interesting microcosm of the changes JMG has so eloquently discussed on his blogs. The “titles” (the “beauty pageant” part) have proliferated until there was a whole stageful of title holders, so much that they could barely all fit. And the speeches. Most all were some variation of a SJW theme (yawn), and one in particular stood out as a very McCarthyist witchhunt of the dreaded bigoted other. It has become so inclusive that it’s hard to find any commonality or bonding amongst the attendees (lesbians were included in the 80s when gay men were dropping like flies, and now hets are increasingly adopting leather identity) I’m not so much disappointed or frustrated as much I saw it as an example of what JMG says happens when leftist “consensus building” and “inclusivity” runs rampant, and a group/community tries to be all things to all people and ends up becoming nothing to nobody. Anything goes and nothing matters, in the words of JHK. I’m just so very tired of the whole SJW paradigm, because it doesn’t seem to accomplish anything anymore, and it just bores me to tears.

  177. Archdruid,

    Yeah. Martial arts and the art of polite discoure.

    Please note I am staying far away from the Muslim’s treatment of pagans discussion. The ongoing genocide of Hindus in Pakistan makes the issue a bit too personal for me to discuss.



  178. @Avery: Yeah, pretty much. To the best of my knowledge, most religions back then either had some amount of swordpoint conversion (going back and forth for various other groups at various times) or likely would have done if they’d had the numbers and force. (Not so much Rome, but then, from what I understand of the Empire, the state religion was the state itself–as long as you made some token “yeah, the Emperor’s totally divine” gesture, nobody much cared who else you worshiped.) And it was not uncommon, let’s say, for the English to give no quarter to the Scots or Welsh, and vice-versa, during the wars there–all of whom were at least nominally Christian by that point.

    Every culture or religion out there has a pretty bloody history; people are people, and people are generally bastards, and so it goes. Neither Christianity nor Islam is the religion for me, for a number of reasons (weirdly, I can find versions of Christianity chill with the poly-feminist thing, but my actual spiritual beliefs aside, universal love and forgiveness is never going to be my thing), but the history of either one doesn’t bug me as such.

  179. @ Garden Housewife:

    Lovecraft was very interested in Rhode Island genealogy, including the genealogy of his own family, and he did know that he had an early Irish ancestor named (IIRC) Thomas Casey. The genealogy of this Irishman, who lived in Newport, Rhode Island, in the later 1600s and earlier 1700s, was worked out in an article published in 1893 in “The Magazine of New England History,” a publication which would have appealed to HPL’s antiquaria interests. (It was available in The Providence Athenaeum, a library only a few blocks from HPL’s childhood home, and which he frequented.) In Lovecraft’s day in New England, among WASPs like him, having an Irish ancestor was regarded as nearly so shameful as having a Black ancestor.

  180. *waves to Author*

    Ah, well, here’s a thing. Not only do we have enticing Shoggoth Soup (badly understood), we have Nick Land (reader: I ate him) and a badly misunderstood aesthetic of the mucous membrane (St. Irigaray looks down upon you and gently remonstrates against the male thrust of your sui generis and points kindly to the new and improved “Slime Girls” fetish*). And some sprinkles from the Islamic World, all messed up in the Star##cks Slurry** with nary a mention of الجن‎‎.

    Well now, you have my attention.

    Oh, and if you want to talk to something not-quite-human, well.

    As stated: you’ve our attention.

    *It exists. As a newly summoned entity, I’ve no idea about your boundaries or how porous they are, so I won’t give you a direct link. Let’s just say: your understanding of the weird wild world of fetish and pr0n is… banal and out of date. By a good 10 years or so. Slime Girls are the ‘cutesy’ end of the porous erogenous zone (and why is it always Men who shudder at slime and snails and label natural lubricants as such when tracked on overly expensive undergarments? Your Minds, so obvious and slow)

    **The Original Brand Goddess, not the sanitized one

  181. @Robert Matthiesen:

    Michael Martin’s broad-brush view of American history and white privilege seems to me to be right on target, though somewhat oversimplified,

    No argument there. In a comment box to a blog, you are limited by the medium itself in terms of how far you can “drill down” and explore every nuance. I did the best I could, given the limitations of the medium itself.

    In re:

    Also, for what it’s worth, I’m old enough to remember when the party of the rich and powerful, out on the West Coast, was the Democratic party. Less wealthy folk, tradesmen and machinists, found that Republicans safeguarded their interests better, and some — like one of my own great-grandfathers — switched easily and freely between Republican and Socialist from one election to the next, depending on which candidates seemed to him to give him the greater advantage for the next two years.

    I was born in the middle of the 20th century. My parents were both from the Mid-West / Plains states (Missouri and Oklahoma). They were classic Mid-Western “Main Street” Republicans, who regarded Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater as their representatives, and who regarded Ronald Reagan as a foul traitor to everything they believed in.

    I was foolish enough to vote for Reagan in 1980, but after his first term in office, I understood what my parents were talking about! Subsequently, I misspent many of the following years in Libertarian and “Constitutionalist” politics, until Spengler and Toynbee gave me a “clue-by-four” in historical realism.

    As for Anglo-Zionism:

    It’s another minor quibble to say that the general acceptance of Jews by WASPs didn’t really get going in New England until after WW2; when my wife and I moved from California to Rhode Island in the late 1960s, it was by no means quite a done deal, though the handwriting was clearly visible on the wall already. It was, IMHO, the influx of highly educated, relatively secular Jews from Europe at just the time when American universities were in a period of unprecedented growth and desperately needed large numbers of qualified faculty, that finally tipped the balance toward acceptance by WASPS.

    That is an interesting and tangled history in and of itself. WASPs and Jews have been bitter rivals, indeed. In fact, I maintain that they still are. In many ways, I see the Trump insurgency as a way of more traditional WASPs to use “bad white” populism as a lever and a wedge against Likudnik, Neo-Con Zionist Jews, who they see as a fundamental threat to the regime as a whole.

    Nonetheless, I still maintain that there is a Goethean “elective affinity” between WASPS and Jews which cause them to instinctively coalesce against “bad whites” and other “reprobate, non-Chosen” peoples. They may resent one another, but they hate the rest of us far more.

    In re:

    In the American South, back in those days, “Republican” called up memories of Abraham Lincoln and the “War of Northern Aggression,” and was a toxic label. It was a brilliant piece of Machiavellian politics when he leaders of that party managed to re-brand themselves as the party that looked out for Southern (“Appalachian” as well as Cavalier) interests in national politics.

    Yes, the demonic poison of “identity politics” began in the late 1960’s. The so-called “New Left” started all of this, but it did not take long for the amoral, cynical Nixon to turn the tables on the “New Left” and to plunge new depths which (in turn) have only been exceeded by the Clinton’s and the so-called “Social Justice Warriors.” Sadly, I do not see any collective path out of this downward spiral. Only individual solutions have any promise, as I see it.

  182. Shane W, your description of leather history is very interesting. I had no idea that there were post-WWII gay motorcycle gangs. Were there gay outlaw motorcycle gangs too?

  183. Here’s a link to an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times.

    He writes, “This summer, I spent an hour on the phone with Richard Spencer. … Toward the end of the interview, he said one thing that I still think about often. He referred to the all-encompassing sense of white power so many liberals now also attribute to whiteness as a profound opportunity. ‘This is the photographic negative of a white supremacist,’ he told me gleefully. ‘This is why I’m actually very confident, because maybe those leftists will be the easiest ones to flip.'”

    That really caught my attention because I think it’s true. When I was really freaking out over all the racial rhetoric in the US and trying to get a sense of where all this might be going, I ended up clicking a link to a site that I’d describe as white supremacist lite. There were young men on that site who said they used to be hardcore liberals. Basically, they were sick of hearing how evil their white skin is, but at the same time, they noticed that the left apparently believes that whiteness is all-powerful. They rejected the idea that they are evil based on the color of their skin, but all-powerful sounds pretty cool and definitely superior. So there ya go.

    If only the extremists on both sides would just go home, eat mint chocolate chip ice cream, and enjoy life. Surely that’s got to be better than “pitched battles in the streets”.

  184. Nice to read so many interesting comments.

    As a nonpracticing catholic I would say shirk in western sense means to avoid doing, sin of omission. Sin of commission is active doing. I read moghuls wiped out 50 million buddhists. Also that aramaic was a large part of koran, badly translated to arabic. Early christian middle eastern theology was acquired in this manner, jesus being a prophet but not god, which idea was suppressed in western christianity. So islam, like christianity is a mixed religion. Misinterpretatiion example from aramaic to arabic was in article(book review) I read about head scarf requirement, actually it required chastity and a belt not a scarf for this purpose for both sexes. Why kill buddhists but not hindus? Perhaps a sophisticated ideology, centralized hierarchy which posed a threat from a northern indian elite whereas darker, more primitive seeming southern indian hindus were seen as pliable indigenous primitives.

    I saw a big shooting star a couple nights ago. I discussed with my physics student atheistic son about how people used to make a wish on this and perhaps be generally superstitious like about recent full eclipse over USA, like astrologists. The very word astrology gets him going. I explained that before electric lighting, scientific knowledge, people had good reason to fear moon or sun disappearing, believe in astrology. Basis of tolerance being understanding history, context of technology. I also told him to recall how his recent experience of russophobia among classmates is due to lack of knowledge( my wife is russian). Of course each of us has a blind spot.

    I watch some vlogs on youtube, possible way to go for telegenic, non literati, JMG, aspergers awkward, wordsmith, perhaps counterproductive. It could be done with nature visuals, electronic voice to remain impersonal but still reach larger crowd. Nice to hear of someone with a peaceful marriage, JMG, mine is a war zone, much like my childhood. Each to his own, russian with americans married in quasi permanent cold war is a good joke. Russophobia, I read on rt or sputnik or russia insider, was historical development very similar to antisemitism. Poles in 18th century I think needed a shoggoth and Russia came in handy as underdeveloped primitive neighbour( southern white trash in USA?) and this Russophobia was passed on west to france, germany, UK by immigrant poles and influence. A default ‘evil alien’ is what Russia has become to white christian Europeans. Antisemitism ran parallel to this but within the western countries, earlier ghettoized, since french revolution integrated into intellectual elite. Modern antisemitism was a middle class democratic counterreaction since 19th century to perceived competition from jews in professional areas, universities similar to problems with asian success in universities in USA today despite such small numbers in total population. From other side(shoggoth side) it is always different, as Russian, Jew, muslim, Christian, Black, gay, white trash, vegan, sjw. My parents would fit the sterotypes of middle class wasp vs. hillybilly working class catholic so I listened to puccini’s Turandot on radio at work, cleaning job, couple days ago. My religious interest is hinduism with strong parallels to catholicism, rituals, incense, routine, prayer beads, saints. So being a rebel against daddy’s boring superstition was just to double down on it and ditto with mom’s intellectualism, history, philosophy, literature, languages and being identical again in work, finances, middle class and then working class mixed over time. This sounds like spiral of evolutionary development, broadening, deepening of inherited characteristics. I think I have gotten further along in spiritual development than rosary prayers, my children are multilingual likely to get through college.

    Maybe PO, GW will destroy our dreams, perhaps it is predestined to all go down in flames with each shoggoth, of a different color, persuasion, killing the other in a mad rage. Human nature. Deep inner transformation is supposed to be able to reprogram our childhood fears and angers, allow us to truly accept everyone. Unfortunately they coopted this into religion as spiritual transformation is very hard work, like true democracy would require true understanding of opposing points of view by large educated population. Essentially I am very ecological but green party has become a vehicle of warmongering, russophobic globalizers, wealthy urban elite, noblesse oblige to poor of any but my skin color(white) and religious (christian) inclination, not middle class retro conservative worry warts. All old political parties have been hijacked by economic or narrow ethnic/racial/ gender interests so how to vote except not to or for crazies like Trump or radicals like newly founded European rightist parties promising change (protest parties with non career politicians). Until renewal of political landscape by real people there will be no change. Politician should not be a 30 -40 year career decision in high school or college.

  185. @Patricia Matthews:

    I passed on the two links about the hysterical or hysteroid response to a friend with the subject heading “book recommendation.” To the first one, she replied “Of course, none of this could possibly be related to reaction from those who think they’re losing their privilege by having to treat Those Other People with respect…right? ” And in the second, she saw blatant racism and apparently nothing else. Shoggothery.

    I am curious about something. Did you simply pass on the links to Lobaczewski and Jung “as is” without my editorial commentary? Or did you include my own “choice words” with it?

    If the latter, then your friend’s reaction may be somewhat understandable, since I tend to call things exactly as I see them, and I am not famous for walking on eggshells with people!

    If the former (i.e., you just passed on the links with no commentary) then I find your friend’s reaction bizarre and incomprehensible, as neither Lobaczewski nor Jung could plausibly be accused of racist supremacy.

    I just wonder if your friend actually took the trouble to sit down and read both of these links, cover to cover, before commenting?

  186. Avery, where are you getting the idea that people here are using this false dichotomy of Wahhabism vs shirk? Most people criticizing Islam here are informed enough to know that Wahhab was born in 1703 while Islam dates from the 7th century, there are ten centuries of conquest and caliphate to discuss – starting from the career of a pretty standard Dark Age warlord named Mohammad – in which the term Wahhabism would be anachronistic, so that false dichotomy wouldn’t make the slightest bit of sense to begin with.

    “these days Wahhabis seem to have an ever-stronger grip both on English-language publishing and on the minds of Westerners.”

    If you think that an increased interest in Islam is just a western thing, you really haven’t been paying attention. Did you read Varun? Language barriers aren’t even an excuse. You’ll find English-language media reporting from places like the Phillippines, Indonesia, Burma, India, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan etc. quite easily, if you take the trouble to look.

    More broadly, jihadist groups (there are hundreds around the globe other than IS) are the warbands that are shaping Europe’s Dark Age. That’s been discussed on the ADR numerous times. So how would anyone who is aware of the decline and fall of western civilization view an interest in the belief systems and cultures of their future warlords as anything other than common sense preparation?

  187. I loved the one about the ‘inscrutable Irishman’ (thanks Dermot). Not a trace of a smile of course on my English face, it’s all in the DNA, don’t cher know.
    Possibly connected this Sunday morning among stray incoming stuff: something about consensus as a statistical phenomenon deriving from ‘micro signals’, perceived, or not. However, looking for a bit more sense I guess we rely on in-depth background ‘knowledge’, not just current point of view and intention. Even then, personal experience and contagion thereof is … err, personal experience.
    I would like to share from one recoiling Dutchman, Joris Luyendijk, ‘How I learnt to loathe England’ but it is mostly behind a pay wall (h/t Automatic Earth). He writes: “We loved our time [6 years; loved the friends] in London … But by the time the referendum came, I had become very much in favour of the UK leaving the EU. The worrying conditions that gave rise to the result—the class divide and the class fixation, as well as an unhinged press, combine to produce a national psychology that makes Britain [sic] a country you simply don’t want in your club.
    Hmm … I guess ‘class’ and ‘underclass’ as well as in ‘our’ case British Empire fatheads, and residual patriotism, are not just a matter of ‘micro signals’ nor to be construed as a ‘fixation’ – and see American Sloggoth of the week discussion of ‘macro signals’ claiming consensus. [“I am … he/she/they is … blank”.]
    Again it is possibly related, I think I have personally demonstrated in England a truism that if you want to drop out of sight, wear a hi-viz vest and carry a black bin bag.
    But here goes – a bit of faith – live radio, no choice required – I just listened to a lady trying to sing Heaven into existence. (I guess there are many such in harrowing times – they are always needed – but this was from Hildegard von Bingen).
    Phil H
    PS Did Tolkein merely misunderstand Orc vernacular and body-language? (Smile & wink)

  188. @Garden Housewife,
    yes, that is probably the case, and is very common/bog standard in the South, since Native/white mixing is considered common and acceptable, while black/white “miscegenation” has been generally taboo until the post-Civil Rights era, and not even commonplace then until recent decades.

  189. @Robert,
    somewhere, maybe it was the Nine Nations of North America, mentioned that the West Coast/Ecotopia was basically a more Bohemian/idealistic transplant of New England puritanism. You do see a lot of “shining city on a hill” similarities…

  190. Just a correction to Avery’s comment, not out of cussed argumentativeness but a concern for historical accuracy: while it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish post-battle execution (practised everywhere in the world, by all faiths, at all times as the norm) from the deliberate extermination of non-believers by muslims, it is very clear from the original sources cited that Hindu civilians as well as soldiers were slaughtered precisely because they were idol-worshippers and it was see as a good thing for a muslim to do.

    And in the instance I referred to, the general was not a Turco-Mongolian doing his usual ancestral thing, but, if I recall, correctly Iranian.

    It is important to get the details right and not indulge in wishful-thinking.

    Under Islam, polytheists would potentially be in very serious trouble,a nd possibly not even given the chance of conversion.

    If such groups have survived in the Middle East, it is usually because they either disguised themselves as unorthodox muslims of some kind with ‘secret teachings’ – an excellent stratagem – or that muslim governments over-looked their beliefs for some reason or were simply just too inefficient to exterminate them fully.

    Government in those regions, as in medieval Europe, could be a really untidy mess, with lots of loopholes.

  191. As an example of the very tangled relations which can occur between faiths and races, I don’t think one can beat the slave trade supplying the Ottoman Empire, above all the eunuch trade:

    African (animist) children were taken by (Sunni) Arab and Jewish traders, and supplied to the (Sunni )Turks (former shamanic polytheists until they realised what a good gig Islam could be.)

    Who did the very cruel operation – with a 25-75% mortality rate – in return for good, cold, cash?

    Orthodox Christian monks! Nice sideline – what would Jesus have thought?

    In the end, all that theology tripe doesn’t matter much: follow the money and the power principle.

    I’m beginning to see the beauty of regarding trees as gods. 🙂

  192. A few years ago, in one extended online conversation with a social justice activist, I asked whether that person’s insistence that feelings carry weight in discussion of matters of policy (such as, a person’s feeling of being “triggered*” by an otherwise innocuous term, as an argument for banning that term’s use) extended to, for instance, a homophobe’s feeling of revulsion upon contemplating male homosexual sex acts. To the credit of his honesty and consistency, he said that yes, it should.

    How, then, I asked, should the resulting matters of conflicting feelings be resolved? Out of several options (give up on e.g. gay marriage out of respect for the homophobes’ feelings; preserve a stalemated status quo; alter the discourse so that it’s based on values rather than personal feelings; or test and resolve the emotional conflict on an emotional level by contending to demonstrate whose feelings are stronger), he pointed to the latter as the obvious choice.

    That was an instant clarifier for me, illuminating something that’s been happening at all levels and on all sides. All kinds of outrageous conduct in public discourse, tactics ranging from transparent lies to violence are now accepted (by ones own side at least) and expected, not because they demonstrate consensus or have any hope of convincing, but because it helps show how strongly we feel.

    I responded: “There’s a name for that kind of emotional approach to argumentation, where the goal is to establish the moral superiority of your position by demonstrating how strong your own emotions are. It’s called a tantrum.”

    And that’s where we are. Temper tantrum politics. Not Alzheimers sufferers on acid, after all, just emotional two-year-olds doing what they do.

    In other words, our shoggoths are largely pretense. They’re not Lovecraftian horrors; they’re Pokemon. We carry them around and toss them in the general direction of our opponents, whereupon they burst out of their containers and do battle for our side, emo a emo. Outrage, I choose you!

    Tantrums are very effective at some things. They get a lot of attention, from your opponent and from anyone else within earshot. They’re noisy and memorable. They blow off a lot of steam built up by frustration. They assert your identity which for some will be a new and worthwhile experience.

    It’s only in the matter of actually resolving anything that they come up more than a bit short.

    *”Triggering” is the yolk inside those eggshells you’re walking on.

  193. From my point of view, when you say “Islam is something,” it’s like “Republicans are something” or “Liberals are something.” The proper place to put the period is after the word “is.” (I think I’m repurposing a comment Heinlein had Lazarus Long say.)

  194. John,

    Shoggothism might be a useful name for this phenomena, which I have become painfully aware over the past five years doesn’t only happen in the rightward part of the political spectra.

  195. Karim, there were still significant Pagan communities in the eastern half of the Roman world at the time of the Arab conquests; the people of Harran, who managed to find themselves a Quranic loophole and define themselves as “Sabians” to avoid the forced choice between conversion and death, are a famous example. Still, it’s clear that I need to find time to carry out some more detailed research.

    Alvin, if the historical parallel runs true, Islam is still a century or two from its Reformation. I’m quite sure if you’d asked Christians in the late Middle Ages whether Christianity was headed for the convulsions of the sixteenth century, even those people who were laying the foundations on which Martin Luther built would have rejected the idea — why, all the Church needs is a few salutary reforms! It’s of the nature of such events that it’s only in retrospect that they appear inevitable.

    Chris, excellent! Yes, I’ve been discussing such matters at length with the shoggoth character in my story. One of the things that fascinates me about the shoggoths’ appearance in At the Mountains of Madness is a small detail: after the shoggoths killed the revived Elder Things, they wrote a message on the nearby wall in the grouped-dot script they’d learned from the Elder Things. They didn’t just kill members of the species that made and enslaved them; they wanted to explain why. That suggests a depth of memory and psychology that interests me a great deal.

    Jeanne, it would be very expensive in terms of metabolism for shoggoths to exude slime all the time, so I’ve imagined them as having definite skins but the capability of exuding slime of various kinds pretty much at will. (The black slime in At the Mountains of Madness that was all over the dead Elder Things? The shoggoth term for that translates out very roughly as “fluid of war;” it’s toxic and mildly corrosive, and they exude that when they want to be (a) difficult to grapple with and (b) as fatal as possible to an opponent.) So soap might interest them!

  196. @GardenHousewife,
    yes, these (motorcycle clubs) are the oldest organizations of the leather community. Originally, these clubs would have runs as far out in the woods/away from civilization as you possibly could get, and I’ll let your imagination take it from there as to what went on 😉 The oldest, continuous gay organization that I’m aware of is the Satyrs M/C of Los Angeles.

  197. Dot, I’m in BC, Canada. Where are you in the world, approximately?

    You’ll notice that just because I don’t enjoy learning about Islam especially, doesn’t mean I’m not doing so. ie., I am currently 25% of the way through reading the Qu’ran. I keep getting bogged down and going off to do something else. I had actually run into the concept of shirk, I just didn’t know the word.

  198. Michael Marttin: just the links and the quotes. I gave your name as one recommending the references, but not the commentary. I am assuming what she said is true for her and trying to imagine what it could be true OF. All I can come up with is “it’s true of a world in which there is a vast right-wing conspiracy to put white people back on top and return women to submission and purdah and undo all the good the Left has done in the world.” In other words, which is probably the link between reality and this belief, “to turn back the clock.” Remember that old corporate motto, “Progress is our most important product”? I think Our SIde of the Fence has taken it over as their primary article of faith.

  199. John Roth, Republicans and Liberals are people. Islam is not a person. It’s an important logical category difference.

    As for the claim that it’s impossible to say Islam is anything, do you apply that to all systems of ideas? If I said “the Michael Teachings are chanelled revelations”, communism is the name usually given to the political and economic system of the Soviet Union”, “Judaism is an Abrahamic religion”, someone somewhere would no doubt quibble with all those statements, but did I just do the impossible? Something terribly wrong? No, this claim of total undefineability is only ever made for Islam. An inscrutable Oriental religion?

  200. @Patricia Mathews:

    Michael Martin: just the links and the quotes. I gave your name as one recommending the references, but not the commentary.

    Possibly a tactical error.

    If all your friend saw was the links and the quote from Jung, she might have taken the trouble to actually read those links before jumping to conclusions.

    Dropping my name was probably a mistake. All she had to do was go to this blog, read my commentary, and then say, “Oh well! This is just another ‘Spergy dork, and a grumpy old bachelor, who probably made his living in a STEM field [all true!], and who is just complaining that no woman ever wanted him.”

    That last part is at best, half-true, since I was largely repelled by the narcissism and cosmic “chip on the shoulder” sense of entitlement of the white women of my generation (the Boomers). In other words, the feeling was mutual. I actually think I dodged a bullet by remaining a bachelor. Thankfully, I have a true “spiritual family” in the Orthodox Christian parish where I worship and serve.

    A man like me can readily be dismissed as a weirdo and a pathetic misfit. Lobaczewski and Jung cannot be dismissed so easily.

  201. Synthase, many thanks for this.

    Peak Singularity, duly noted! Charles Stross — that would be the author of “A Colder War,” correct? He’s way up on my list of Lovecraftian authors to read en masse once I’ve got The Weird of Hali done in draft; that was one very, very solid story.

    Avery, while it’s certainly true that anti-Muslim paranoia has become a massive thing in the west these days, it strikes me as an equally serious mistake to go to the opposite extreme. Given that the Wahhabi movement has the House of Saud’s money backing it, has been responsible for quite a range of colorful atrocities, and makes no secret of its agenda, pretending that it isn’t there and doesn’t pose a threat to the rest of us doesn’t seem very smart to me. Mind you, I have exactly the same view of the Christian Dominionist movement and the more intolerant end of the angry-atheist scene; any time anybody starts insisting that their ideology gives them the right to eliminate the rest of us, it’s worth keeping a wary eye on them.

    Corydalidae, it should indeed. For some reason lots of people think that shoggoths are green, even though Lovecraft specifies iridescent, slightly luminous black.

    Dermot, exactly. And all those people who followed his advice, got on a bus, and applied for jobs in the liberal coastal enclaves can count on being quietly dropped from consideration from the get-go, because they’re “those people,” i.e., members of the white working class demographic that people like Freeman love to demonize.

    Dot, I’d encourage you first to work on that inner critic. Having a conversation with it in a journal or notebook, writing both sides of the conversation and seeing where it leads you, might be a useful starting point.

    Garden Housewife, that kind of thing happened all the time. In particular, members of some of the old mixed-race ethnicities such as the Melungeons used to redefine themselves as Native Americans in order to evade the nastier forms of prejudice in the pre-Civil Rights era. Saying “Cherokee princess” was a very simple way to avoid saying “my ancestors were a mix of surviving Native Americans, escaped slaves, and poor whites, who ended up in isolated corners of the eastern United States, settled down together and married one another” — and when racial prejudice in the US was at its height in the first half of the 20th century, that was something you really didn’t want to say.

    Shane, that sort of thing happens to just about every special-interest community once it stops being stigmatized. I’ve heard similar critiques of science fiction fandom from people who were into it when SF was the last word in lowbrow reading…

    Varun, so noted. I appreciate that — and yes, that’s another thing that has to be kept in mind when weighing the various claims being made.

    DSM B, so noted! My exposure to tentacle pr0n, slime girls, et al. is sufficiently sparse, and sufficiently unmotivated by any particularly strong interest, that I’m not at all surprised to hear that I’m out of date. As for talking with individuals that aren’t quite human, well, the main character’s love interest in The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth is a daughter of the Black Goat of the Woods by a human father and has tentacles instead of legs; you can treat that as a hat-tip to the Stuart Gordon film Dagon if you like. I don’t yet know if there’ll be an erotic element to the relationship between the two main characters in The Shoggoth Concerto — that will depend entirely on what the characters themselves decide to do — but shoggoths as I imagine them are neither tentacle monsters nor slime girls, and things will take the path that my imagined characters choose.

    Garden Housewife, okay, the moon must be blue or something. If the likes of Ta-Nehisi Coates has caught onto the fact that the demonization of white people by the radical left is the most important force driving young white people into the arms of the alt-Right, all bets are off.

    Um, Gandalfwhite, I think it’s time for a formal warning. This blog is not intended as a place for stream of consciousness rambles; please reread the notice above the comments window, particularly where it says “concise” and “relevant to the topic of the current post.” Please think through what you’re going to write before you write it, keeping in mind that the readers here don’t necessarily have the time or inclination to wade through a torrent of semirandom utterances. Further rambling comments will be deleted without warning…

    Phil, one of the reasons I lost my taste for Tolkien is his portrayal of orcs. They’re as two-dimensional as a social justice activist’s notion of small-town white guys from Alabama, and just as unconvincing — not least because in both cases, all we know is what their opponents choose to say about them. If you could sit down over a pitcher of beer with a couple of orcs and get them talking, what would they say? What would the world look like from their point of view? My guess is that it wouldn’t look anything like what you get from Tolkien’s heroes — just as talking to those small-town white guys from Alabama will show you a world that has nothing to do with the hate-driven caricature of them you’ll get from the social justice activist just mentioned.

    Xabier, it does have its advantages! 😉

    Walt, thank you. That’s brilliant. I’m going to want to brood over that for a while, as it suggests some alternative strategies…

    John R., and he got it from Korzybski, of course. That’s why I’ve been careful to qualify my comments with regard to my limited knowledge and the specific events I have in mind.

    John B., I can see the point in that!

  202. Another example of shoggothing that comes to mind is when people automatically consider you a Luddite when you talk to them about appropriate technology.

  203. RE: Roundheads vs. Cavaliers. I often wonder what the post-American landscape will look like. I often wonder if New England and the Eastern Seaboard will have some sort of existential crisis once they lose their other/scapegoat, the South, and to a lesser degree, the Midwest. That is why I expect any kind of fascism to originate in the Northeast. Puritanism, in my mind, requires an other/scapegoat to project your forbidden desires upon, and for New England/the Eastern Seaboard, that has been the South. I can see the Confederacy recovering from 150+ years of occupation and exploitation over an extended period, but I don’t know about New England and the Puritan identity without the South. Also, as mentioned in I’ll Take my Stand, New England has some of the poorest land in North America, which is why New England turned to trade, mercantilism, and then industrialism to make their wealth. The whole stereotype of Yankee thrift and shrewdness. It seems to me that New England could have a much more precipitous fall in wealth compared to other regions if they’re relying solely on what they can produce themselves, especially when you consider that the Confederacy is closer culturally to the up and coming scarcity industrial powers of Latin America, and will likely have stronger trade and diplomatic ties w/Latin America post-US than New England

  204. On the Protestant and (future) Islamic Reformation… I think it’s been touched on earlier in the thread, but there was a time when Christian nations (or empires) were a complete fusion of church and state. Since “the state” is that organization which has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, that fusion empowers the use of force against religious diversity. To dissent from the church (a matter of philosophical speculation) was to dissent from The State (possibly regarded as a matter of treason).

    When Islam was a new concept for bringing order to a harsh and disorderly population, it makes some sense for the original set of ideas to be embodied within the state. The trick, though, is to formulate a system of government which encourages enough “dissensus” to adapt to changing circumstances rather than ossifying.

    When Islam was an all-encompassing social structure in which a person could grow to adulthood with the generous support of elders, to renounce Islam was to renounce the debt that was owed to provide back to the community that which had been provided when it was required. Whether or not it was a change of “philosophy”, it was an act of ingratitude which in the name of justice should have harsh consequences.

    When we Christian-ish people regard Islam (past and present) as merely a different style of prayers, preaching, and diet, we are only seeing a shadow of its originally comprehensive scope. I’m not sure that it’s wrong to read “totalitarian” for “comprehensive”.

    Well, at least that’s MY take on it.

  205. I guess my mother would have banned Jim Kunstler because of language and other attitudes, but can I stick up for the old Storm Crow? I wonder if Rome had one like him back in the day? If they did, I guess he did not survive the rush when it came.

    Like the rest of us outsiders I must admit an interest. JHK does not need to cherry pick for his drollery just now. Its like firing at the proverbial barrel ..

    Phil H

  206. @JMG re the portrayal of orcs:
    That reminded me of this comic:
    I believe that there’s also a Russian novel that addresses Middle Earth from the orc point of view (which in the book is, indeed, not what the human and elven heroes would say it is), but I’m afraid that I don’t recall details, or the title.

  207. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks. I’d have to suggest that Lovecraft was writing about his own secret fears and desires which look quite dark to me, but he was a man of his times.I read somewhere once a quote – and I paraphrase here – that the slave master eventually becomes the slave. That applies to our wonderful machines and energy too.

    Formally explaining why, appears to be to be a form of apology for the Shoggoths actions. One can be sorry for having to undertake a certain action, but still do the action anyway as it may be considered in the best interests of the Shoggoths or the larger community. And they may have been backed into a corner. Sun Tzu had something to say about that.

    A memory popped into my head of when I had to knife a psychotic chicken in front of the rest of the flock. The chicken in question began killing the other chickens in a most brutal way, and so she had to go. What interested me about that particular incident was that the chicken was of a breed that is a commercial layer. I usually stick to heritage varieties and have had poor experiences with the commercial ones over the longer term. And what does that say about the mental state of chickens bred for living in excessive populations? ;-)!

    Anyway, as a bit of further story I feel that the Elder Things may have lost the plot in their final days and perhaps the Shoggoths were performing an act of mercy mixed with revenge?

    Hi Patricia,

    Have you considered writing about that?



  208. JMG – someone actually wrote an SF novel from the standpoint of the orcs. It was called Grunts, and started when the orcs found out what the winners of Tolkein’s little war had in mind for them. Now, they were not nice guys – gangster mentality at best – but the cold-blooded murder of one’s enemy forces to the last man because, well, they’re ORCS! – is even nastier. Forget the author; possibly Mary Gentle?

  209. Regarding “White Supremacy” and the attempt to foster a sense of historical guilt in whites, it’s actually quite normal for ethnic groups to celebrate their violent past. Modern Mongolia is covered in statues of Genghis Khan, some of them vast in size:

    Contemporary Uzbeks have erected similarly gargantuan monuments to Timur/Tamerlane.

    The modern Western tendency to feel ashamed of the Imperial past is I think a passing phase – Westerners are still at the top of the pile, but increasingly sense that their superiority is on borrowed time. Once Americans and Europeans are relegated to the same status of modern Mongolians and Uzbeks, I do wonder if they too will openly celebrate their most insalubrious ancestors.

  210. @Dot

    You’re making a very common category mistake. “The grass is green” is possibly a statement of observed fact. “The Alt-right are murderous idiots” ascribes something to all members which may or may not be true of some members. It’s the some equals all fallacy.

    Learning to tell the difference is one part of being able to recognize pernicious nonsense for what it is, and possibly draw some conclusions about the purveyors of such.

  211. To put it more concisely, a lot of New England/the Eastern Seaboard’s wealth comes from being atop the American imperial wealth pump, so I’d think losing access to that would involve a precipitous drop in living standards…

  212. Robert Mathiesen, I didn’t know that. Lovecraft definitely would not have wanted to have an Irish ancestor. My husband is a huge Lovecraft fan, and he’s read some of Lovecraft’s descriptions of those other, lower-class whites out loud to me. Very, very interesting…

    Shane, Satyr is a pretty appropriate name for a gay motorcycle club, but I think I’ll pass on imagining exactly what they did! :-O

    Yeah, I know people of mixed race would do that sometimes. Mrs. Loving tried it, but no one believed her because she was too obviously part black.

    JMG, I hadn’t considered that she also may have been part Cherokee, in addition to being part black and part white. If I actually do manage to find out the truth, it would be nice if she was at least part Cherokee. There are some people in the family who are emotionally invested in the Cherokee princess story. I don’t want them mad at me for taking that away from them!

    That opinion piece was by another black gentleman whose name I can’t recall right now. He was disagreeing with Ta-Nehisi Coates, who does seem to think that whiteness is both evil and all-powerful. Another thing I disagree with Coates on is all his talk about “black bodies”. You almost have to wonder if he’s got some deeply buried sexual fetish trying to reveal itself in his writings. Why would he lift white people to a masterful, nearly godlike status, while using such dehumanizing language about black people? Does he have white master / black slave fantasies that he’s ashamed of? I don’t know. I just think his writings are kind of bizarre.

  213. Karim, you’re of course right that belief in the Trinity vs. belief in Allah is quite possibly the biggest theological difference between Christianity and Islam. I’m a pragmatist though, and think religion can have genuine utility – and one utilitarian effect of polygamy is the production of a surplus of unmarried young men. Unmarried young men are a proven method for spreading one’s culture – for instance the Viking age could be considered to be a result of Scandinavian polygamy and anti-Christian reaction – and as a result, today there’s no Anglos, just Anglo-Saxons.

  214. Walt, yes, I agree. Pointing out that much SJW (and right-wing SJW) politics boil down to “My subjective experience is more important than yours, so you need to stop doing things that I find offensive even though they do not materially affect me”. This kind of issue is a case for borders/balkanization. A political cartoon has been making the rounds about “dumbwhitemenistan”, a fictional country where feminism, Islam, homosexuals are banned and gun rights and Christianity are sacrosanct. The cartoon implies that women don’t want to live in “dumbwhitemenistan”, a rehashing of the tired argument that “if you engage in that sort of politics, nobody will have sex with you” – a bull shale argument, especially if you take a census of the sort of men who star in erotic fiction directed at women – hint – none of them are accountants who vote Democrat.

    But maybe “dumbwhitemenistan” should exist – I expect it would be a popular place with men and women alike, and I suspect, not all of them white.

  215. Regarding the article that Garden Housewife linked about Ta-Nehesi Coates, it’s a great article. And yes, I think the point that the article does not explicitly make, that Coates is Richard Spencer’s mirror image, is completely on the mark. If you accept the epistemology of the professionally woke, the two self-consistent positions a white person can take are either that of the servile and emasculated guilty white (aka a cuck, the best insult popularized in the last ten years) or that of the masculine and confident white supremacist.

    Fortunately, it’s a false dichotomy no matter how loudly people on both sides insist it isn’t.

    JMG, no, Coates hasn’t officially caught on (actually I suspect he is perfectly aware and is in favor of racial strife) – the article is an op-ed by a black person who is critical of Coates.

  216. J.L.Mc12, no argument there. I’ve had to get very good at turning that thoughtstopper against the people who try to use it on me.

    Shane, there’s a major difference between New England and the eastern seaboard in general, you know, and the core of power and wealth on the eastern seaboard surrounds the twin hubs of New York and Washington DC, neither of which are in New England by any stretch of the imagination. Boston’s the one really significant economic center in the region these days, and it ranks with, say, St. Louis or Nashville — an important regional center, not a major national one.

    I was, curiously enough, in Boston yesterday, visiting friends. I was astonished by how dilapidated and rundown everything was; there’s all that gorgeous old architecture, sure, but much of it is rather noticeably the worse for wear, the streets and sidewalks are cracked and worn, the train stations have clearly not seen much maintenance in years, and the electronic readerboards on the train that brought us up there (MBTA trains rather than Amtrak) kept on insisting that it was 79:>9 PM on the 78th day of L, 2017. I’d encourage you to come up here on a visit sometime; you might find that your mental image of New England is about as accurate as the average New Englander’s mental image of Kentucky…

    LatheChuck, but Islam wasn’t a new concept for bringing order to a harsh and disorderly population. The entire region conquered by Arab armies in the first few centuries of the Muslim era had been civilized for millennia, and had until then been under the domination of the Roman or the Persian empire. For the vast majority of the people in those regions, the coming of Islam was simply a change of masters; nor was the fusion of religion and politics a new thing for anybody; Christianity was by that time entirely integrated into the Roman political system, and the Zoroastrian faith had exactly the same relation to the Sassanid Persian state. It was just that the new masters took things to a somewhat more extreme level than their predecessors.

    Phil, as I noted in my earlier comment, I find Jim congenial company and a great debate partner. I disagree strongly with some of his views; he disagrees strongly with some of mine — but for the gods’ sakes, why must people be so terrified of having their opinions questioned that they can’t imagine two people who disagree about things still being able to get along?

    Reese, hah! I hadn’t seen that; thank you. The Russian novel, which iirc is entirely underground because the Tolkien family won’t permit it to be published, is called The Black Book of Arda; I haven’t had the chance to read it, though I’ve heard some highly interesting reviews.

    Chris, good question. A story that retells “At the Mountains of Madness” from the perspective of the shoggoths would be most interesting. I may consider that down the road a bit, though Azathoth alone knows whether I could find any place to publish it.

    Patricia, hmm! I’ll have to find that.

    Phil, I could definitely see it. I honestly think that a large part of the reasons that Europeans today pretend to be ashamed of their imperial ancestors, and condemn war and conquest, is that they’re terrified that the rest of the world will go ahead and treat them the way they treated the rest of the world.

    Garden Housewife, she may have been some other Native American nation, you know — the Cherokee Nation is one of something like 500 different peoples present in North America at the time that Italian guy got lost in the Atlantic and stumbled across an island on this side of it. As for Ta-Nehisi Coates, that makes an uncomfortable amount of sense…

    Justin, okay, my faith in the basic order of the cosmos has been restored. Thank you.

  217. @ JMG, yes I am currently trying to read and re-read a bit about the early phases of the muslim conquests. You are correct that the sabians found a way of being tolerated, thanks to some unknown muslim theologian who advised them accordingly. Let us note that they were given plenty of time to do that!

    If one reads “War of the 3 Gods” by Peter Crawford “the great arab conquests” by Hugh Kennedy, I read the first book and excerpts of the second, the arab conquests of the middle east and north africa were the resultant of small mobile army bands. Very often less than 20,000. Even by the standards of the time it is small. When cities fell, the band moved on leaving little troops behind. Difficult to convert by force the locals!

    About 30 years ago I read a french book (which maddeningly I cannot retrace in my library) which said the same: small mobile bands that went from city to city defeating the local armies.

    It also appears that the rate of conversion from earlier religions to islam was not a sudden affair but rather a slow process over 1 or 2 centuries.

    Over all I agree that much research is needed over an actually very complex situation.

  218. Regarding Islam, etc – This (long(ish) sorry) passage from Raban’s “Arabia through the looking glass” (written in the mid 70s) might be of interest, in which he describes a lecture on Islam given in Doha by an Egyptian professor, Dr. Farouki. Farouki sounds pretty literalist/strict, but FYI, hope this helps:

    — Quote —

    Dr. Farouki at least brought Islam to within my own range of foggy visibility. I wish that my notes had been more detailed: what follows is a thumbnail sketch of what he said.

    ‘Islam is a corrective version of semitic religion. Christianity emerged as a reformation of Judaism, and six hundred years later the initial force of Islam was as a purgative administered to the weakened systems of Judaism and Christianity. It is an evangelical, conversionist movement.

    ‘Christianity and Judaism had both centred on moral law. They had stressed the importance of man’s intentions over and above his actions. They were concerned to the point of obsession with motive at the expense of consequence. Islam insisted on a return to natural law rather than moral law. Man’s relation to “morality” exists solely in his capacity to obey or disobey. It is in his obedience to natural law that he becomes a moral being, and not in the exercise of examination of his conscience.

    ‘In Christianity and Judaism, man’s destiny is essentially personal and actuated by conscience. In Islam, the destiny of man is the bridge by which God’s will becomes actualized in History. The Muslim believes that the world is capable of being changed to actualize the divine pattern. For him, history is linear. It is not cyclical or predetermined. History is not regarded as dialectical necessity, as in Marxism; nor is it viewed as unnecessary, as in Christianity. Rather, History is the work and battleground of man.

    ‘There is, therefore, an essential concordance between God’s will, man’s destiny and natural law. In Islam, there is no original sin. Man is innocent; his death is natural. God did not plant man in this world as a fallen creature in need of a saviour. The world, being innocent, needs no saviour. Death is both natural and innocent. It is not a punishment or a tragedy. Concern with funerary affairs is absent from Islam. The Prophet said: “You must not weep or cry over your dead”.

    ‘Man is the servant of God. His cosmic status lies in that service. Islam is a civilization-building religion. The initial triumph of Islam was in coming out of the desert and achieving the highest standards of civilization in the world within one century of the Hegira. It commanded that the desert not remain a desert, the mountain not remain a mountain. The world must be transformed into a semblance of the divine pattern, and it is that transformation which constitutes History in Islam.

    ‘What is at issue is not the moral intention of man, but his works. “Faith” in Christianity is valued the more highly when it is a blind leap. In Islam, faith is a fully-conscious affair. It means an understanding of the divine pattern and a commitment to that pattern; it can only be made by one who is convinced of the veracity of the pattern.

    ‘It is the responsibility of man to actualize the pattern in space and time. Islam requires man’s powerful intervention in the course of nature. The personal communion with God, which is the essence of Christianity, is not enough; it is merely a prerequisite. The world must be changed and rebuilt. There is no room in Islam for the merely individual. Christianity lays all its stress on the widow’s mite, on the personal gesture. Islam states clearly that the widow’s mite is insufficient: the world will not be rebuilt with pennies; it needs the wealth and power of the strong.

    ‘Islam is a societistic, not an individualistic religion. It is continually on the move towards a social ethic, towards the idea of Islam as a state – a federal union of communities built on Islamic Law. In the first century after the Hegira of the Prophet, the Sharia developed as an international system of law, a Pax Islamica which included Christian and other states – a kind of United Nations.

    ‘Islamic art is a single song of praise. It is denaturalized, destylized. Unlike the representational art of the West, the arabesque has no limit. It conveys the limitlessness of the state of Islam, of the continuous process of civilization which is Islam in action.

    ‘We come now to the Judgement, the Day of Reckoning. For Judaism and Christianity, with their visions of a hopeless world, riddled by original sin, the Day of Judgement marks the start of an alternative kingdom. Paradise and Hell are eternal kingdoms, for which man’s temporary existence on earth tests and qualifies him. Islam utterly rejects that notion. In Islam, the Day of Judgement is seen not as the initiation of another kingdom but as the consummation of life on earth. Everything that man does is written; and on the Day, man is required to read that record. In place of Paradise and Hell, Islam substitutes Reward and Punishment. Whether man is rewarded or punished depends upon his record, but neither the reward nor the punishment is a kingdom; it is merely the summation of man’s life on this earth’.

  219. It is interesting to note that the muslim armies that conquered spain and ventured into france during the early 8th century were Arab-berbere. The berbers are a north african ethnic group living in mountains mainly. Difficult to imagine arabs forcibly converting them and then enrolling them to fight for further conquests!

    From the excerpts of Hugh Kennedy’s book I read, there is a lack of primary sources concerning the early expansionist phases of islam. Much of it contradictory, but still useful. I don’t think he mentioned that forced conversion was the prime concern of those muslims, but definitively they were very interested in plunder and how to equitably share the spoils among themselves!

    Arguably, those of us interested in the matter need to do further research.

    On a side note, to amuse some of you. Many of the mongols who invaded large parts of asia, eventually converted to islam! I guess they were not forcibly converted…

    @ Varun: I hope your relatives in Pakistan will make it, somehow! This country seems to go in and out of dangerous phases of proto-civil wars.

  220. JMG, I’d like to know a few of your tricks then!
    I’ve begun talking about appropriate tech to a few of my family members, and while admittedly I think some of the misunderstandings are because of me, because I’m not good at explaining things or using rhetoric, half of the confusion undoubtably involves some kind of roboticism which tricks people into considering you a Luddite idiot the moment you even consider the possibility of technological choice.
    I do woodwork as a hobby and possible future job, and I often practice using an abacus and lately a circular slide rule, so my discussions often centre around these things.
    I often explain that, outside science or construction work (one of my relatives is a tradie)
    A calculator is a rather rude golbergian device to do everyday math considering all the resources and hi-tech needed to make them commercially compared to the simpler and just as good abacus or slide rule. The nicest responses I get is that I’m very into my hobby and I just don’t appreciate the fact that people don’t want too waste time using something as “hard” to use as a abacus or slide rule. At worst I get that usual idiotic statement that “no owner wants too, or ever will go back” and that I’m a retard for thinking such things.

  221. @Walt: Recently, a local news team was reporting on a large and impressive fire in their own city. I watched in growing disbelief as the segment went on for fully 20 minutes without the reporter on the scene delivering a single fact. Not the name of the street, not the nearest cross street, not the number of fire engines, not the precinct of the first responders, nothing. The one truly obvious fact that the person ‘reporting’ kept repeating was: “We don’t know” this and “we don’t know” that. The next time the news came on, several hours later, they had no more facts, but they had rounded up a few people to emote on camera.

    The days of actual factual reporting seem to be well and truly over. TV “News” now means lingering camera leers at people who are signalling EMOOOO-tions and FEEEELLLings. So, perhaps it is a reasoned strategy for people who have a political agenda to work hard at amping up their projection of emotions, in an attempt to influence viewers. They are selling their point of view like any commercial pushing a product. Most people decide things on the basis of their emotions anyway, right? In a nation governed by money and devoid of shame, with crippled and defunct news organs, a populace riddled by functional illiteracy, addicted to spectacle, and grossly ill-educated, only theatricals are left for a last-ditch attempt to communicate with the general public.

    I neither condone nor blame this method of trying to get one’s ideas across. It seems merely sad and desperate to me. When have common cause and logic had any power in a democratic polis? Only when the polis is small and newly formed. After that, rhetoric takes over. To gain power, one’s rhetoric needn’t be true, only vivid and persuasive. Because extracting real information from the floods of sensational stimulants available on cable, radio, the internet and the Web is hard work. It is so much easier and more relaxing to be entertained; so self-gratifying to pep rally for Our Team. Most people are struggling hard enough just to get by; the extra time and effort it takes to stay informed and politically involved is burdensome.

    Who teaches their children that citizenship is a duty and a responsibility as well as a right? Only those who want to work the real levers of power: money, land ownership, social rank, and insider knowledge. Deception, concealment and general public ignorance are the best friends of the powerful. Hence, the vitiated educational system and shredded journalism ethic. Weak, fringe-outsiders have nothing on their side but outrage and group cohesion. Hence, clown politics. If our national rhetoric has been reduced to the level of comically battling cartoon clowns, it only means that most of us are infantilized and easy to pacify by thumb-sucking, white bread, and circuses. Small wonder that out-outraging outragiosity becomes the order of the day.

  222. John, you can’t tell the difference between a word describing a group of people and one that describes a concept and you say I’m engaging in some logical fallacy? JMG said: “Islam wasn’t…” Go ahead and tell him he’s now a purveyor of pernicious nonsense.

  223. JMG- Thanks for the perspective on the cultures surrounding and prior to the rise of Islam. What I was remembering, though, was that (at the very beginning) Muhammad was organizing tribal anarchy on the fringe of the desert. Christianized Rome may have claimed the territory, but no one provided civic order.

    The main point that I was trying to make, though, is that Western culture has (recently) separated church and state, so out political opponents need not be literally demonized as also antagonistic to our religion. (State-sponsored religion still exists, e.g., in Denmark, but it doesn’t demand participation apart from the taxes which support it.) Before the Reformation, there was the authoritarian Roman Church, and afterwards, there was also DIY Protestant diversity. Part of the fear of Islam in the West is that it re-unites church and state, which authorizes state violence with regard to religious affairs. Hence, the alarm about Sharia Law… whatever it is (and most of us have no idea what it is), it sounds like something we don’t want.

    Part of my interest in Islam is that, if indeed it arose out of an environment of pre-industrial desert scarcity, it may have features that are appropriate to post-industrial scarcity. If it works, it’ll catch on.

  224. I found last night that some of the shouting and tantrums and shoggothery can be diverted. At a small gathering, T was off on one of her rants, and I said “Too loud, T! Even I can hear it!” The hostess stepped in with, Volume, T.” Then I did a lament for the way everyone was screaming at each other these days, nobody was talking politely any more, and lamented the passing of a distinguished elderly and widely loved, as well as respected, politician of the other party. Not even T argued with that, so was had some discussion of what a great guy he had been, we’ll never see his like again.

    Then I sighed and said that people like him were all about my age and passing rapidly, which led to agreement about the younger people (everybody in the room was younger than I am!) not showing such promise. I suggested my grandchildren might, which led to a discussion of children, and the hostess chimed in with the maturity of her daughter, 19.

    When that talk was exhausted, I changed the subject to the new modern windows to be installed in my rental condo, and the talk turned to apartments and the hostess’s satisfaction with hers. Much more enlightening and sensible!

    This is the first time I have *ever* been able to turn off one of the shrill-voiced rants of anyone!

  225. Resident Bostonian here, in re: New England, what JMG said. New England as a whole, and Boston as microcosm, is kinda patchwork. As a city, we have spots of shiny new construction, mostly either in the banking/financial district or out near MIT where pharma companies and so forth are putting in research labs (or, near me, where we’re adding a casino, because that’s always a great idea in a city that’s already one of the worst places to drive), but you walk half an hour max from any of these and you get buildings in very poor repair, and, as JMG notes, extremely dubious infrastructure. (I take the MBTA subways regularly, and three days out of five there are delays on at least one line because a train or a signal broke somewhere, and I recall a number of winters where the whole system basically shut down.)

    Similarly, the greater New England region includes tony suburbs like Newton (okay, that one’s really Boston, but still) or Bridgeport, but also gritty former mill towns like Lynn or Worcester, and some extremely rural places–my folks used to live in northern Maine, where anything touristy (ski resorts etc) can do well, but there are a lot of people living pretty hand-to-mouth. As far as feeding ourselves goes, post-industrially, the farming’s not great for many crops, but historically we’ve done pretty well with both fishing* and forestry, as well as shipping and dairy.

    And yeah: my friends who come from New York make fun of Boston for even considering itself a city. 🙂 It’s the biggest one I could see living in for any length of time, but compared to New York, DC, or LA…nope. The housing market *is*, however, ludicrous, especially if you want to live alone–my hobby on vacation with my folks (rural PA) is reading the ads in the local paper and laughing bitterly because I could basically get a whole house for less than I pay in rent now, and my place is a) not particularly luxurious and b) a mile and a quarter from the subway.

    * There’s a report of prisoners in Maine complaining, back in the 17th/18th century, because they were getting fed lobster at too many meals.

  226. @Dot

    Since you seem to know what I can and can’t do, I have a question. Could you recommend a good mind-reading class I could enroll in? I’d like to be able to do that too.

  227. JMG are you sufficiently scared? Because I am. What is to prevent the US from becoming South Africa, where the government is now threatening to take property from whites? What kind of existence will my children have? I am hearing it from every corner, about how evil whites are. This can’t end well.

  228. Recently I was acquainted with some of Eric Hoffer’s ideas from The True Believer. Sadly I don’t have the full text on hand, so it was by secondary sources. I got the notion that a person is primed for joining mass movements, of the type which crave external shoggoths, when they lack trust in either themselves or in existing institutions. Downwardly mobile folks are particularly prone to such movements, and various ideologies compete for members from a similar pool of the susceptible; as this thread has observed that with a few minor variables shifted members of one fringe movement can transform into other fringe movements.

    There are many aspects of human nature with frustrate various ideals craving for utopia, and are thus lamented as a tragic flaw, and this is one. Looking at humanity with an eye toward wholeness it seems that it may be a feature instead of a bug. History quickly objects to this conjecture with a long list of tragic events tied to mass movements, but even in the physiology of the individual there are survival instincts such that in response to one ill the body finds a solution at the cost of another form of harm, and we can only ponder why such responses were selected for us by Nature. Indeed this is close to the model of thinking I am using that mass movements, very much like vomiting, are responses to deeper imbalances.

    Concerning the two preconditions in the individual, namely a lack of trust in social institutions and a lack of trust in their own strength, the first can only be helped by sincere social reforms, and powerful forces block that way, both the powers who would prefer to not be reformed, and also impersonal forces of a world less willing to further entertain modern living expectations. If the reforms were blocked only by the first obstacle there would be more hope of changing this preconditions, but as our society’s reform options are objectively blocked from attaining reforms that would secure the frustrated individuals of further opportunity for advancement along understood paths social reforms are insufficient.

    So we must finally delve into the heart of the matter, the lack of trust in our own strength. Hoffer opines “the resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done them but from the sense of their inadequacy and impotence.” A change which world be a match for the challenges of our time would also force the vast majority of today’s people to grow and change, to try themselves against an unclear challenge and to thus be transformed. The vast majority feel this fact deeply but I doubt how well it is articulated even in the most clear headed among us. Thus our present world has strong cause to lack trust in the present institutions and their own capacity for the future.

    This morning I awoke with a follow up thought about the issue of generalizations and universals; and it struck me that weakness, insecurity more to the point, motivates one to crave the apparent certainty of universals, instead of the inherent uncertainty of generalizations. In my own past I remember turning to arguments build out of universals to protect myself from objection. Now I am continually frustrated by the way that generalizations prove to be very useful, and yet require constant vigilance that they lead not into error, particularly of over generalization, in thinking with them one mush exhaustingly work to leave ample space for the exceptional. Thus I add the generalization to this discussion that universals can signify the weakness of one who lacks the energy, time, or finesse to work in generalizations; for with out either generalizations or universals thought can not surpass a checklist.

    The matter of generalizations and universals serves as an example of how in a feeling of vulnerability we seek something to trust. Perhaps trust is not optional for humans, maybe we cannot help putting out faith into something, and if we cannot find a good option, then a bad option must be made to do. Ideological movements are, well, an option.

    Thinking as a doctor might, how might a patient go through this crisis for the better and not for the worse. It seems that the prognosis is bleak at the moment. The more that we can learn to trust in each of our individual abilities to learn and change the better. “These times. In times of change, learners inherit the earth while learned find themselves beautifully equipped to a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

  229. @walt
    Regarding temper tantrum politics.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    I have been trying to understand for almost a year now the behavior of two of my once-dear-friends, who have ghosted me since the election, and your explanation fits perfectly.
    And like other clarifying realizations I have had, my understanding of other related behaviors and conversations with these folks snapped in to place perfectly, giving me confidence that your very much onto something.
    Now if I only could figure out how to politely tell an adult that he is having a tantrum…

  230. Hello, Dot (and with a wave to others discussing what Islam is, and isnt…)

    Dot, you have said this to Corydalidae: “Corydalidae, I guess if you’re not in western Europe then you don’t need to prepare for your dominant Dark Age culture to be Islamic so it seems kind of academic”

    May I ask if the implication of your choice of phrasing, when reversed, is in fact the case? That is to say, are *you* preparing in a conscious way “for your dominant Dark Age culture [in Europe] to be Islamic”?

    If so, may I ask if you think there are NO other contenders for this cultural dominance, or if you think that any other contenders are too weak to account for themselves, or if your thinking touches areas I haven’t even thought of in parsing my question.

    May I also ask, if the answer to the above is positive, in what “preparing” might consist, from your point of view.

    I can see you have given this matter a great deal of thought. But some of the steps in the thinking that you have done are not necessarily readily apparent from elsewhere. Therefore, I presume to ask.

    Thanks, in advance…

  231. I apologize for giving in to the urge to add to the off-topic conversation on the dissemination of Islam, though I wonder if it can be tied in to shoggothery due to the intrinsic dissatisfaction this topic brings to all parties who wish to “prove” something: those who wish to present the peaceable conversion of polytheists to Islam will find evidence of that, while those who counteract with the recognition that Islam marshals social and military forces for its promulgation will find evidence for that as well. I guess the shoggothery occurs when the accusations of cherry-picking data start flying.

    I’m not well-trained in logic or argumentation, but I think the urge to compare Islamic and Christian missionizing (in the style of “A was worse than B”) is misguided. Neither of those religions (or their adherents) much tolerates others. They kind of tolerate each other when it’s expedient, by saying “our roots are the same, the God is different only in name.”). By definition, polytheism cannot be brooked by monotheism.

    I’m unsure how one can separate conquest (ostensibly for territorial/resource reasons?) from the resulting mass conversions (as Karim seems to be doing), and suggest that those don’t count or that the conversions were peaceable. I think there’s a strong case to be made that they were mixed. Obviously some people convert of their own free will. In other cases, it just takes a strong-man/warlord and his forces to say, “convert or die” and then ‘bam’ families make sure their kids grow up as good ______ and within a generation, everyone’s praising _____ for raising the people to a ‘civilized’ level.

    Consider the case of Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan who, in the 900s converted (on his own initiative) around the age of 12, but when his father objected, the Sultan obtained a fatwa to allow patricide. Afterward he engaged in religious wars against non-Muslims, eventually conquering Kashgar as well as the Buddhist country of Khotan – later writings recount the horrible bloodshed. It seems that the Buddhism of that era was in a decadent phase, so many of the converts were common people – yet somebody put up a fight.

    “Meanwhile, the preachers actively demolished all Buddhist monasteries or converted them into mosques. The qadi (a judge ruling in accordance with Islamic religious law) magistrates convicted infidels, including Buddhist monks, without indicating specific charges, according to the fiqh, and would arbitrarily slaughter them if they resisted. Those monks who were unwilling to be converted, as such, fled to Turfan. In the same period, circa 1360, as he journeyed on his western invasion (at what is now the area of the Syr and the Amur Rivers), noblemen rebelled against Tughlugh Timur. Buddhists in Kuqa took this opportunity to join the rebels in Almalik, but they were quickly suppressed by Timur’s forces. According to sources, a total of 10,000 men joined the rebels and they were later dispelled to foreign lands. Around 4,000 were deported to present-day northern of Afghanistan via Khotan, and others were deported through Dunhuang and toward Jiuquan, Gansu. After the deportations, the Buddhist influences on Kuqa disappeared, with all those remaining converted to Islam, bringing an end to the period of Kuqa Buddhism.” (from Islam, Edited by Jin Yijiu, Ho Wai-yip – primary subject matter is Islam in China).

    It’s hard to not see a threat upon viewing historical precedent. I think polytheists/non-religious folk are only, finally, at liberty to be publicly NOT of the prevailing monotheism in the west BECAUSE its decline/weakening allowed for it. If we were to see a sudden surge in dogmatic Christianity such that state protection was no longer afforded to other faiths, people would have to go below the radar again or we’d face grave danger.

    It’s happened before. People find all manner of justifications for tribalism, and religions that allow for only ONE way of doing things, as revealed by the One True anything are primed for it.

    Is it possible to head it off at the pass? Denying the possibillity of it happening because “_____ are nice people” doesn’t seem like a good strategy.

  232. Michael Martin,

    I greatly appreciated the first of your posts on the hystericization of society.It’s been bothering me a lot lately. Your summary of the ponerology book, which I have but found unreadable, was very good. It’s also a topic I’ve asked myself – how do societies descend into madness? Obviously it cannot happen overnight.

    My sister, with whom I’ve been friends for 60 years, is currently not speaking to me over Black Lives Matter. All I asked her to do was consider that the media is presenting a slanted story, that there is another side, and to please watch some videos of some speakers who present it. She refuses even to watch videos.

    I also watch the level of discourse in public, especially on campuses, and am horrified at the rudeness, screaming and irrationality that I see. I used to consider myself a left/liberal/progressive but no more. They’ve gone off the sanity rails.

  233. Karim, thanks for the book recommendations!

    Dermot, thanks for this. Intentionally or otherwise, Dr. Farouki’s description sums up many of the reasons I would find living in an Islamic society intolerable.

    J.L.Mc12, partly it depends on the particular kind of blind faith in technology the people you’re dealing with happen to have. I very often find it useful to talk about fashions and fads, and to keep a mental list of other technologies that were supposed to be the wave of the future — when somebody starts rabbiting on to me about how everybody has to have a smartphone, say, I smile and say, “Right, the same way we were all going to be commuting by jetpack” or what have you, or I say, “That’s just the latest fad. Give it a few years and it’ll go the way of the hula hoop.” To some extent this is just a way of putting an end to a certain kind of boring conversation, since people who are fixated on technological fashions usually change the subject very fast if you point out that they’re fixated on technological fashions — but it can also be an opening wedge to other lines of argument, e.g., “You know, that can opener you’re using is 1880s technology. How come nobody’s using a plasma torch to open cans these days?” and the like.

    LatheChuck, fair enough! No question, the fusion of church and state is something I personally abhor — and yes, I’d be just as firmly against it if it was my church. When you mix religion and politics, all authentic spiritual content trickles away, and you’re left with politics of an unusually toxic form.

    Patricia, congratulations! That’s a very good sign. Let’s see if it happens again; it occurs to me that, just as with two-year-olds, a tantrum only goes on for so long before exhaustion sets in.

    Isabel, thanks for the detailed report! Boston’s too large a city for me, certainly; I found the visit instructive as well as useful — it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to get to a decent occult bookstore — but I breathed a definite sigh of relief on returning to the much more human scale of Providence.

    Dot and John R., er, enough. The two of you are talking past each other at this point; please give it a rest.

    DT, let me pass on something I learned a long time ago: “Fear is failure and the beginning of failure. Therefore be thou without fear; for in the heart of the coward, virtue abideth not; and he that trembles at the fire and the flood and the shadows of the air hath no part in God.” That is to say, if you’re acting out of fear rather than knowledge, you’re pretty much guaranteed to fail. Instead of feeding your fear, and using the intensity of your own emotion to convince yourself of the reality of the phantoms that scare you, I’d encourage you to rethink the entire situation; it also helps to gather information from sources that don’t feed your existing opinions. The number of people who actually believe that all whites are evil, like the number of people who actually believe that all people of color are evil, is very, very small compared to the number of people who don’t hold either of these bigoted views. Make common cause with the sane majority, and tell the zealots on either extreme to go take a long walk off a very short pier, and the range of viable futures expands a great deal. Give it a try!

    Ray, Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer is well worth reading just now. It’s not without its flaws — what is! — but it gives a very clear sense of a particular kind of psychology very often seen these days.

    Temporaryreality, and as already mentioned, I’m just as concerned by the spread of intolerant, militant Christianity and intolerant, militant atheism as I am by that of intolerant, militant Islam. As I’m sure you’re well aware, there are plenty of equivalent narratives of Christian and atheist rulers who slaughtered their doctrinal opponents in vast numbers.

  234. Scotlyn.

    I’m not sure I understand the question but my view about the most likely future of Dark Age Europe is taken directly from the Archdruid Report and JMG’s books. It’s not an idea that I personally came up with. I’ll quote JMG, roughly:

    ‘I see 3 possible futures for western Europe:

    1. Some countries will become majority Muslim through sheer demography and mass migration and therefore lose their European identity

    2. Other countries will face decades of cultural and religious warfare, the winner of which will determine the identity of the country for the centuries to come

    3. Other countries will expel non-assimilating Muslims and retain their European identity unless and until they are conquered by Muslim states.’

    He’s also made clear that in his view the external warbands Europe faces are jihadists groups like IS and Al Shabaab. And that the Volkerwanderungen will come from the desertifying areas of north Africa and the Middle East and therefore will obviously be overwhelmingly made up of Muslims.

    He’s said pretty much the exact same thing or a variant on it many times on the ADR over the course of the almost 10 years I’ve been reading it. And of course the same prediction has been made by many others. I looked at the evidence, it doesn’t take long, and concluded he was right.

    As far as other contenders for cultural dominance goes, well, under option 1 and 3 above that’s not a relevant question. The majority ethno-cultural group of the country determines its dominant culture so there is no contest. As far as option 2 goes, no I don’t see any contender right now among the non-muslims of Europe. It’s the whole nature of a civilization in decline that it can’t produce such a culture. But it might well do so in future.

    What am I doing to prepare? The preservation of the best of western civilization is something JMG recommended be done secretly. The warbands of Molenbeek are one good reason. Apart from that, talking about it is the first step, as with any taboo, and that’s why I do that here. The more people who educate themselves about Islam, the closer we get to being capable of a sane conversation about it and therefore about immigration. It’s really heartening to see so many people on here who have done the work.

  235. I’ll definitely be citing this article in future conversations with friends and folks on social media especially.
    It’s far too easy for any and everyone to file ranks given the lack of what actually could be productive dialogue.

    I am a lot of folks’ shoggoth, whether it be religion, sexuality, etc. This I’m used to.

    I find it is interesting in that the more I talk about climate change, and especially peak oil, The Long Descent and the like, I’m becoming more and more a shoggoth myself. Seeing as the ‘threatening figure’ the shoggoths are in Lovecraft’s writing gives me some insight into how folks look at those of us asking folks to take a good hard look at the Myth of Progress and what it means when we ask folks to face reality -that infinite growth on a finite planet, especially facing the predicaments before us, is not possible. I think it is useful to keep up dialogue anyhow, because at least a few folks have eventually ‘gotten it’ and questioned the ‘normalcy’ we face even as infrastructure crumbles and life gets harder each year despite us all working harder for it.

  236. I am indeed aware of it, though I see upon rereading my comment that i maybe wasnt ckear enough when I said, “but I think the urge to compare Islamic and Christian missionizing (in the style of “A was worse than B”) is misguided.” What I was trying to say was that sentiments like “Muslims were better at conversion than Christians” or “Christians were more tolerant than Muslims in expanding their empires” create a false binary. First in the fact that there are examples of both tolerance and forcible coercion by adherents of both, and then in the nature of (most? I’m still behind on what Sikhs believe) monotheisms to have little regard, ultimately for poly and non theists. I would consider militant atheists to be following a type of monotheism (there is no god but no god) in that respect.

    I tried to keep several other exampkes open ended to convey that but perhaps didn’t do a good enough job. My subsequent focus on Islam was in reference to the ongoing conversation here and an attempt to include information on other regions’ processes of conversion that hadn’t yet been brought up.

    I am in full agreement that there are foreseeable threats in more than the spread of Islam. And I meant my question in all honesty, though it does read as kind of rhetorical: Is it possible to head it [the possibility of religiously motivated…. umm…cultural simplification] off at the pass? Historically do we have any examples of an intolerant-of-plurality people relaxing their stance and ceasing their dominance/expansion?

  237. JMG I did try a trick like that with my youngest half-sister. I pointed out that spoons are a technology made in the prehistoric era which will never be surpassed. She just stubbornly insisted that eventually they would invented some kind of device that could tractor beam food into your mouth, I think she may have only said that to shut me up though.

  238. JMG, I’ve considered some of the alternative strategies that temper tantrum politics suggest. But getting people to go to the Timeout Corner and stay quiet for five minutes is a challenge in this context…

    Justin, I went looking, and found several different political cartoons featuring “Angrywhitemenistan.” I think the one you meant is the one with a stone wall and the sign listing who and what are being shut out. The apparent gist of it (since it’s shared by most versions) is the border/wall guard claiming “it’s gonna be paradise;” suggesting that the cartoonist thinks it would be the opposite. I’ve read quite a few responses making the point you do: that it actually doesn’t sound too bad.

    Part of the reason for this is simple equivocation. Does “no thug culture” refer to dysfunctional subcultures that glorify gangs, drugs and violence, or is it a dog-whistle term for African-American culture of any nature whatsoever? Does “no lyin’ press” refer to the press actually lying, which it does passably often, or to the press telling truths that the targets of the satire falsely dismiss as lies (climate change being one possible example), which it also does passably often? Does “no elites” mean no meddlesome “education experts” in the district office, or no biology teachers in the classroom? Right now, everyone can read it how they wish.

    But in actual balkanization, if you misinterpret the ambiguous sign, you can find yourself on the wrong side of the wall. For instance, black parents might think it would be nice for their children to grow up without gangs and drugs, but discover that their neighbors are thinking more along the lines that it would be nice for their own children to grow up without black classmates. Or, it might be the other way around, and parents who stay outside in fear are missing an opportunity for a better life.

    If there were actual discussion of what the hypothetical wall should actually keep out, instead of a list of what our host sometimes calls snarl words (despite being, in this case, second-hand and used ironically), there would be a surprising amount of common ground. (I try to visit the common ground as often as possible, but I’ve never found it to resemble a paradise.)

    gkb, yes, that’s a contributing factor. A recent example is the reporting of the crisis in Puerto Rico. By focusing on reporting how various VIPs feel (as expressed in tweets) about how the situation is being handled, most media outlets have managed to almost entirely avoid reporting on the actual challenges and costs involved.

    Vesta, you’re welcome, and I hope this can somehow help with your friends. I don’t have good advice for how to politely tell adults they’re throwing tantrums. I know from experience that statements like “you’re being too emotional” actually, invariably, mean “I demand that you get more emotional, in fact as much so as is humanly possible, immediately.”

    There are verbal techniques in face to face conversation for toning things down and “redirecting” the discourse. Patricia just posted an elegant example. In text media, one can write in the rough equivalent of a calm measured voice; I’ve been practicing this for years but until just now I hadn’t really thought about how to describe or teach it. (Our host does it deftly, and I’ll venture a guess that he considers it at least in part a magical art.) If you get involved in contentious arguments, don’t associate yourself, and don’t make it easy for others to associate you, solely with a particular “side.” If you argue from a principle, chances are you’ll agree with and disagree with things said on both sides. Go ahead and say so. It’s natural to fear you’ll be rejected or ignored by both sides for doing so (in which case, though, what have you really lost?), but it’s just as likely both sides will respect you for sticking with a consistent principled view even if it’s one they disagree with.

    That’s far from a complete answer, and not not much help for your specific situation. The unfortunate bottom line is that meaningful communication really has been getting harder.

  239. New Hampshire like the rest of New England as Isabelcooper indicates is a patchwork. We have an unemployment rate currently under 3 percent which sounds great but actually reflects the reality that many young people are leaving the state. A recent headline of the local state newspaper read ‘The Greying of New Hampshire’. Over the past few years, the mail order business I work at has had several job fairs in an effort to attract workers, something I haven’t seen before in the thirty plus years I have worked for them. Yet boosters would have us believe Northern Pass will bring jobs and the Balsams Resort will become a major ski resort instead of looking like a backdrop for a remake of Stephen King’s The Shining.

    Infrastructure leaves something to be desired in more than a few places. A few years back a sinkhole suddenly opened up on Interstate 93 prompting an emergency shutdown of that stretch of road while repairs were conducted. Bridges and water mains are not in great shape because no one wants to raise the taxes necessary to pay for their upkeep.

    I suppose it’s only a matter of time before the dirt back roads I remember from childhood which got paved over somewhere along the way revert back to dirt roads and the above mentioned projects (which reflect a 20th century style of thinking) also fizzle. Yet farmers markets are on the increase and the local Food Coop recently built an addition because it is doing so well. Also the local brewery which sells artisan beers is expanding its operations.

    This makes me think that much of Northern New England over the rest of this century will likely revert back to what it pretty much always was prior to the 1900’s; small towns, locally run businesses, rural farmland and extensive backwoods which will no doubt delight deer, bear, moose, bobcats and the occasional legendary cougar.

  240. Dot, thank you for your thoughtful reply.

    I agree with you that there are people,today, that must be fought, people who have firm intentions to cause mayhem and destruction if they are able to find the opportunity and the weapon. Indeed, American society seems to have a bottomless capacity for seeing such destruction as “normal”.

    But I am attentive to the ways that uninvolved bystander sympathies may be driven in entirely unintended directions by the manner in which such destroyers are fought.

    From the Irish point of view, there are people who remember the way in which an Irish accent signalled “terrorist” to British people only a couple of decades ago. They could not tell, by looking, whether you were a young person looking for work and a life, or a bomber trying to wreck life and comfort.

    And further back, there are people who remember how British responses to unrest in Northern Ireland, including the killing of protesters and mass internment, radicalised a whole generation (in fact it radicalised it in two directions, set at cross-purposes with each other).

    Likewise, the Spanish authorities are busy right now turning the *entire* Catalan population into firm and dedicated enemies, by their actions. What they are accomplishing is to take a tiny enemy and granting it the power of support from huge numbers of formerly uncommitted by-standers.

    I see that Italy has, so far, avoided the Jihadist outrages that have occurred in places like France and Belgium and the UK. I think I will study this a bit more. So far as I can see, a part of the answer lies in
    befriending the “community” of by-standers, and co-identifying with them the dangerous and radicalised, who are then deported. There are other skills Italy has, no doubt, acquired in the course of its long history of the tight-knit Mafia.

    I am also aware of JMG counselling against the phantoms of fear. While “Islam” is a family of ideological underpinnings, people are people, and most people do not go the radical route, do not feel compelled to bomb or kill strangers, do not want to be “the most wanted enemy”. Most people want to find ways to live, including ways to live with their neighbours.

    So, what will happen if Europe becomes majority Muslim, over time? I remember that Ireland once became majority Christian, over time, without producing a single martyr. The society changed, and deep within it, and yet, much that was native, remained.

    What will happen if Europe enters into wars between factions? This too has many historical antecedents. Europeans have always practiced wars against each other, only in the last few hundred years have they turned elsewhere. Yet within the context of war, people have managed to live and love, too. Whole societies have undergone upheaval.

    I think we need to clearly see from where danger comes, and from where friends might also come, and help us inure against dangers they may see more clearly than we.

    That our societies in Europe will look very different to today, in a hundred years time, is a given. That they will possess authorities and ideologies that are inimical to ordinary people, is a given. So it has always been and will always be.

    Whether these inimical authorities and ideologies are Muslim or Christian or something else, will depend on many factors, as yet unknown.

    But I, for one, do not want to have a government that deliberately sets out, by its actions, to turn EVERY Muslim person into *my* enemy. Because at present, there are only a few people within those communities who are set on being *my* enemy. And most of the people who live in Europe as Muslims are more than willing to help the rest of us reduce the reach and numbers of the jihadist destroyers within their communities if we befriend them.

    They are bystanders, at present, and their sympathies can potentially be driven in different ways.

  241. Quick thought about religions, future and past.
    Forgive my patchy education but I googled (Russian Orthodox proselytiser) and found
    ‘Christianity and Revolutionary Europe’, 1750-1830 by Nigel Aston.
    There is a section on ‘the growth of tolerance’. The author thinks the sheer persistence of religious minorities made for de facto acquired limited tolerance rather than the “outraged writings of philosophes” (e.g. the latter such as Locke, Bayle, early Enlightenment thinkers). There is also a thought or two on religious identities and security and the insecurity of ‘outsiders’.
    And there is consideration of finances and relationship with State/Ruler structures. Quote: “Privilege [not seen as anomalous in 18thC] and corporate status thus went together, and ecclesiastical rights should be seen as part of a much wider and often confused jurisdictional framework that stretched across society.”

    I think it is worth remembering that despite wars and religion the dynastic framework for developed agrarian societies in Europe broadly persisted through the disturbance of new trading and then industrialization until as recently as 1914. For example, the longstanding Russian and Austro-Hungarian dynasties still met in the Balkans with the Ottoman Empire that had been fairly stable for six or eight centuries. I can testify that Islam and Christianity co-existed peacefully enough in traditional Southern Balkans (previously Ottoman) into very recent history – evidence from religious and rural village structures, among converted/non-converted original ethnic populations. I think we should not jump to conclusions even if the evidence of disruption by industrialization and the adopted religion of Progress propagated by the maritime powers alongside their race for resources, suggests that times will remain very unsettled.

    Which brings me to fast-growing populous Africa: one Christian small minority, Quakers, who rely on experiential religious awareness, I think), is more strongly represented in Africa (mostly in Kenya) than it is in the USA (roughly half as many again) and there are nearly x10 the numbers of Quakers in Africa than in Britain. More generally, African Christians are taking proselytizing in Britain very seriously these days.

    And just a thought, some of the most tolerant humorous, wise, people I have known, grew up within and maintained their Islamic culture and religion. Come to think of it, the same could be said of some Christian friends.

    Phil H

  242. @ JMG & J.L.Mc12 re appropriate tech…

    There is a lot of “overkill” in today’s world. Getting out the extension cord and hooking up the electric chainsaw to trim a couple of branches is actually more work than grabbing a pruning saw and just going at it. I throw this out there, as my neighbor did exactly that while I used my little hand saw, and I was finished before hm even though I had more branches in my pile. We finished at about the same time, and he said.” Well, maybe I got too many toys?”

    There is also the issue of “one size fits all”, where the offerings abound for power tools, but there is only a singular hand saw in the store. When you make these older and yet more appropriate devices harder to procure, you effectively relegate them to lesser status or the dustbin.

    Finally, WRT slide rules, simple math and other things, I will posit that many stores were only able to be open here in Houston when hurricane Ike struck due to the boomers being involved. I am NOT the only one seeing that simple math is declining in usage due to the smartfones taking over that function. When younger people cannot make change for a cash purchase without a POS computer or their smartfone, then the reliance on technology has become pervasively perverse. I would further state that it is a rare thing indeed to find anyone under the age of 30 that can navigate using a map or even written directions.

    While these are disparate things, they illustrate the myopic lens that the world of technology has plopped over us. When simple math is no longer taught in schools, then it ceases to be an option.

    AC’s saying, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” is apparently being reversed, being stood on it’s head. Any sufficiently simple technology has apparently become magical to those who rely on technology to solve all of their problems.

    Finally, a story from clickbait champion ZH today you may find amusing or frightening….

    That pretty much supports AC’s quote getting upended, at least to a point.

    Fortunately, not all of the younger generations are like this, but a significant enough number of them are. Home Depot sees this as a future issue for sales of their products. This does NOT bode well for anything resembling a rapid collapse scenario or the internet going away…

  243. DT,

    Then there is the almost pornographic latest cover of National Geographic, which announces to white men that their race is finished and their women will be mating with the black race. I don’t have objection to interracial marriage, but I found that cover quite shocking. Something sinister is afoot.
    What’s sad is, none of this needed to happen. Racism coming from whites is at a very low ebb. People were getting along well for the most part. Meanwhile, campuses are setting up tribunals which can convict very young men of rape without due process of law and for spurious types of rape that aren’t really rape.

    My question is, who is behind this?

  244. I’m hesitant about raising such an off-topic question, but I wonder whether your Lovecraftian Tales (the Shoggoth concerto or others) will touch on the intersection of magic and time? I’ve long thought that the subject of time is conspicuously untouched by most magical traditions, considering how easily our own perception of it changes. The Shoggoth Concerto brought it to mind because music seems like one powerful means of affecting our relationship to time, and Lovecraft had some interesting tales that dealt with the subject. Unfortunately the only instructions for time manipulation I’ve come across older than the radio was a ninjutsu hand mudra, there are some intriguing modern ideas about it but few that have stood the test of time.

    @Walt in regards to dealing with adult tantrums – I’ve seen suggestions that ‘we all relax’ or ‘stay cool’ have good results – but if this wave of anger is due to a widescale repression of antipathy, I suspect it might be better to let the emotions in question erupt and exhaust themselves. Perhaps while politely expressing our disinclination to such behavior, the better to signal what sort of friends we’d like to make.

  245. @ Onething…re NatGeo thing

    My 2 cents goes in for public schools and universities. These behaviors they are pushing out or illustrating are learned somewhere. It may not be direct learning, but rather indirect – social pressures tend to have big impacts when schools are involved. Some of it is a case of political correctness run amok.Some of it is racism run amok, reversed and regurgitated. But it has to be learned somewhere, and the most likely candidate is public schools and universities.

    It is also likely that a parental vacuum allows many of these ideas to grow to balloon size without them being popped by reality, until much later in adult life. Absentee parents abound, due to needing two incomes to make it and over-reliance on the school system for teaching morals and ethics. They teach nihilism, mostly. Don’t think it is just whites seeing this – the black community is not uniformly behind this either.

  246. JMG

    I absolutely agree with this:

    “The number of people who actually believe that all whites are evil, like the number of people who actually believe that all people of color are evil, is very, very small compared to the number of people who don’t hold either of these bigoted views.”

    My concern is that I see people getting inflamed, and certain less thoughtful and conscientious percentages of the population might be very manipulatable. It doesn’t necessarily require a majority before things get dangerous.

  247. That was a fake cover of National Geographic, intended to prey on the anxiety of people who do have a problem with interracial relationships.

  248. @Dot:
    Some weeks ago you wrote about people not being worried enough about the future warbands, and that Roman citizens would have been myopic to think they would get along well with the Goths. My question is: What good would it have been for Roman citizens to forcibly resist the peaceful settling of the Visigothic confederates? Those areas where no Visigoths settled were conquered by Franks, Ostrogoths and later Langobards, and there was nothing anybody could do about it, from the emperor Justinian down to the humblest peasant. In fact, in the areas dominated by Visigoths the former Roman citizens were better off, in the end, than in those other parts.

    Ending the metaphor (for of course it is only a metaphor, JMG has no perfect knowledge of the future, and he has often enough stated that he is himself only reasonably confident wrt predictions made about North America):

    There is nothing anybody can do to stop Africans, Middle Easterners and others from immigrating in mass to Europe, short of large-scale massacres. As Scotlyn said, many possible futures are preferable to mutual large-scale massacres. I can personally attest that there are Iranian immigrants right now in Germany who adopt German personal names in an effort to leave some of their Iranian heritage behind. Not every immigrant will (or should) do so, but I think it is impossible to foresee exactly the effects of the immigration taking place at the moment, and keeping personal and friendly communication wide open is an important goal.

  249. The rape tribunals on university campuses were a response to complaints filed with the Federal government under Title IX, the provision for equal education for women. Women claimed that if colleges failed to remove or restrict a male student who had sexually assaulted a women that the woman’s right to an education was being denied by the hostile environment. Some colleges attempted to solve this problem by using previously established student conduct panels (designed for things like plagiarism or disrupting classrooms or rowdy behavior in the dorms) or by establishing new discipline panels to handle these cases. However these quasi-judicial solutions did not include the safeguards for the accused that actual courts of law do. All of this was aggravated by the changing perceptions of what constitutes sexual assault. Accused students felt railroaded, accusers felt ignored, college administrators felt between a rock and a hard place since failure to satisfy the Federal government that action was being taken would endanger all kinds of Federal funding..

  250. This probably isn’t on topic for this post (sorry; I thought it was overall relevant news, though), but apparently the United States UAV fleet has caught a virus.
    “”We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”

    Military network security specialists aren’t sure whether the virus and its so-called “keylogger” payload were introduced intentionally or by accident; it may be a common piece of malware that just happened to make its way into these sensitive networks.”

  251. Onething,

    Onething, I don’t any one is behind it in the sense of a person or group of people (although of course there are groups pushing all kinds of agendas out there). The same cycle happens in every civilization towards its end. A civilization has to dissolve all boundaries between self and other if it’s going to die. The flight into abstraction, relativism, fatalism – they’re all just part of the cycle of this stage. They take particular cultural forms specific to our civilization but the pattern is the same.

    I think the college kangaroo courts do have specific groups of people behind them – the far left always produced kangaroo courts when given power because of its understanding of Law as an instrument of The Man. People influenced by those ideologies therefore keep on trying to dump the whole thing and replace it with a shiny new one dreamed up by intellectuals. It ends predictably. It’s really just a variety of the religion of Progress – existing legal systems are from the dark past so the Version 7.8 upgrade must surely be an improvement.

    The postmodernists produce the same result because if language is merely an instrument of power then conflicts simply can’t be resolved except by 3 year olds having temper tantrum contests. But postmodernism is itself just a predictable stage – it’s rationalism running off the rails into nihilism. There are human rights tribunals in Canada that are part of the same phenomenon so it’s not just colleges unfortunately. It’s the early stages of the decline and fall of the western legal system.

  252. “Racism coming from whites is at a very low ebb.”

    Well that’s a guaranteed conversation-stopper, right there. How does one even support such a statement? Is there some kind of scientific data that you are looking at that those of us who experience regular, persistent forms of racist behavior and interactions are not aware of?

    Am I wrong? ~I ask my brown and black friends. Nah. they tell me.

    Having heard this sentiment quite a few times from white people – even today – all I can say is that it is a remarkable perspective. I wonder how common these sorts of misconceptions are. As our good president would say, “Sad!” Or, better yet, “Fake News!”

  253. I suppose I grew up thinking of American liberals as shoggoths. I was a teenager during the Clinton years, the golden age of conservative talk radio, so that environment definitely influenced my worldview. We were the good people, God-fearing folk who cared about family, freedom, and decency. Those people over there were killing babies, undermining the family, and trying to normalize a host of deviant behaviors.

    As I grew older, however, and starting getting to know those different from me, I realized it was not so simple. I still disagreed with liberals about a great number of things, but I learned they were real people with motivations far more complex than wickedness for its own sake. I also began questioning some of the positions held by my own side, such as a hostility toward environmentalism, and a Scrooge-like attitude toward the poor.

    On a related note, I grew up Protestant and Catholics were a complete mystery. Why did they believe what they believe and do what they do? It made no sense. One day a few years ago, I decided to let Catholics explain themselves and I soon became Catholic myself.

    What next, I wonder?

  254. Matthias,

    No I didn’t say Romans were myopic to think they ‘wouldn’t get along well with’ the Goths. You seem to view this as a matter of interpersonal relationships, though, which is really odd when talking about a civilization scale phenomenon. Must all discussion be reduced to the level of ‘but I know an immigrant and they’re lovely!’? I’m sure it would make it easier for people if I played that game but I won’t.

    I actually asked JMG some time ago if there was any point in trying to prevent the mass migrations. He said that yes, there is. Ireland managed to remain relatively untouched by them during the last Dark Age, which allowed it to become something of a refugia for the preservation of texts from Greco-Roman civilization. And that aiming for the same outcome this would be a good idea.

    Personally I don’t think that’s possible. Ireland is a tiny island of 4 million, with a basic military, next to the overcrowded US aircraft carrier and world-leading weapons manufacturer known as the UK. Once the UK experiences the inevitable outcome of having 65 million people on a tiny island as industrial civilization fails, Ireland will experience the same as refugees take the nearest escape route. So the source of our mass migrations will be the UK. The sheer scale of it will be enough to make it impossible for Ireland to serve the same role this time around. Religious and cultural conflicts will probably play little, if any, role.

    But the point is that of course it’s both possible and a good idea to prevent mass migrations sometimes, in some places. Byzantium didn’t allow mass migrations at a scale that would disrupt its continuance. Ireland was protected by a sea in an place and time when that was an effective border. Hungary’s border fence cut illegal immigration to virtually zero. The specifics of where, when and how the Volkerwanderungen can be prevented would be a sensible topic of conversation if we lived in a sane culture.

    If you disagree with JMG’s specific prediction, simply saying ‘oh well no one can definitely predict the future exactly’ is not an answer, any more than it is on any of the other vast number of predictions he makes here. It’s just more evasion. If all you have to counter it with is that you know some immigrants who are assimilating then you’re just not being serious. Anecdotes are not data.

    This fatalism about it seems terribly convenient to me. As does the manufacturing of these bizarre false binaries choices between large scale massacres vs. the, of course conveniently abstract, ‘many possible futures’. It does allow people to stay safely in the inoffensive modern comfort zone of treating it as an interpersonal issue that can be resolved by ‘peaceful and friendly communication’. Because of course, if you accepted that it’s sometimes both possible and important to prevent mass migrations, you might have to confront the horror of taking responsibility for political decisions that results in saying to some darker skinned person that no, sorry, you can’t come in right now.

  255. Matthias Graile, the Great Wall of China was pretty effective at keeping northern invaders out of China in the Ming dynasty. The Manchu only got in through treachery.

    There are more examples of where states did manage to enforce their borders in history. Hadrian’s Wall kept out the Picts from Roman Britannia. Tang China, after absorbing waves of Uighur refugees (modern “Uighurs” are very distant relations of the historical Uighur Khaganate), managed to stop the flow and forced existing refugees to accept the state’s authority.

  256. OILMAN2 – check out a short story by Isaac Asimov called “That Feeling of Power.” IN the far future, a mathematician discovers (and present to the military) a way to do calculations without using a computer. It becomes, of course, Top Secret.

  257. @Dot,
    really, the only hope for Western Europe is Russia. If the EU can implode fast enough, and the nascent, “right wing” parties like UKIP that are aligned w/Russia and Putin can fill the void and establish strong ties with Russian, then the Russians can do what they did in Chechnya and establish order.
    Well, JMG, I saw Maine from the Trans Canada Highway in New Brunswick, and I’m pretty sure that the motel we stayed at was right across the St. John River from Maine. 😉 Seriously, I know that poverty and decay are universal throughout the entire US right now, and the only thing that separates the rich states and regions from the poor is the size of the wealth gap and the relative presence or absence of the wealthy, not the absence of poverty and decay. Southern New England, if I’m not mistaken, is a bona fide part of the Rust Belt, so I’m sure there’s decay and decline there. I lived in California, and the presence of Pacific Palisades and Newport Beach didn’t negate the poverty in the Central Valley.
    Umm, I don’t think there is a divide between Jews and Trump supporters. Sure, some right-wing groups are into Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy stuff, but they’re just a fringe. Most evangelicals in the South have a somewhat favorable opinion of Jews as God’s chosen, and staunchly support Israel for that reason, as well as the literal reading of Revelations. The only precincts Trump won in NYC were predominantly Orthodox/Hasidim, like Williamsburg. Bibi Netanyahu has been one of Trump’s biggest supporters on the international stage. So there’s no divide or conflict between Trump, Jared Kushner, Ivanka, the Orthodox, Israel, and most of Trump’s supporters.

  258. @ Matthias Gralle…

    Go read up on how well Poland’s border fence has worked – a most recent barrier…

    @ Patricia Matthews…

    Thanks! I read it when I was young, but likely worth rereading.

    Unfortunately, the government routinely takes the patents it wants – they have classes of patents that the USPTO forwards to particular groups, If they want it, they take it and hand you a paltry sum, and not even a thank you. Instead, you often get a gag order.

    It’s quite the wake up call when this happens…

  259. @ Dot, you say “Ireland is a tiny island of 4 million, with a basic military, next to the overcrowded US aircraft carrier and world-leading weapons manufacturer known as the UK.” A vivid picture, with much truth.

    It is interesting to consider how much closer that number might now be to 8 million, had the Irish, over the past 150 years, not emigrated in such huge numbers, or had not found open (or at least porous) borders wherever they went.

  260. Some fascinating projection of the inner shadow going on in Spain at the moment, of rich interest to students of human nature, and not just European politics:

    The Catalan Republicans (now declared!) are being abused by the Right and so-called Centre, as ‘nazis’, ‘supremacists’, ‘haters’, ‘terrorists’, ‘anti-system radicals’,’totalitarians’ ‘racists’ ‘fascists’ and ‘violent revolutionaries’.

    Now, an objective observer can certainly see a lot of hatred, fascism, violence of language and action, etc, but it’s certainly not on the side of the Republicans, who have behaved admirably (some of them are ‘anti-system’, of course, but what sane person isn’t these days?)

    This stream of filth and lies is astonishing, and alarming to read and listen to. It shows how little Spain has progressed mentally since the 1930’s (tempted to say 1830’s).

    A salutory reminder of what level humans can descend to, even without conditions of war and famine.

    And of course, we hear that ‘dialogue is never acceptable’ with such menacing, many-tentacled monters, all one can do is plan how to cut those waving things off……

  261. Just another very brief note about Islam and conversion. I can’t see why it is ‘impossible’ to imagine that the Muslims converted the Berbers by force, as Karim says.

    I must respectfully disagree, as the historical record shows that a considerable military resistance was put up against the Arabs by the Berbers, led by a legendary warrior-queen.

    After defeat and forced conversion they then headed off to Spain with the Arabs, simply because it was a very rich place, with lots of women to abduct and stuff to loot.

    Once there, ironically they were shafted by their new co-religionist ‘brothers’, who gave themselves the best land (and prettiest women and boys), and left the worst to the Berbers who were always 2nd class Muslims and Andalucians.

    Similarly the Saxons beaten into Christianity by Charlemagne became great warriors for Christ in the East, with Saxon scribes producing some of the most beautiful liturgical manuscripts I have ever seen – some were on show in the museum here last year.

    It’s a common historical process, adopting with enthusiasm the religion of the people who murdered your ancestors.

  262. To gkb – I know this week’s post is out, but I’m catching up. I made note of two things from your comment @ 10/9 5:57 AM.

    First – the FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEElings and EMOOOOOOOOOOOOOtions. I completed a Masters in English Language and Literature in 2010 at the age of 45. My primary professor was the same age. He often lamented the way that the undergrad “kids” started their statements with “I feel like…” and challenged them with, “That’s good. Now what do you THINK?” I have four teenagers at present (19, 17, 16, 14) and I find myself challenging them similarly.

    Second – “Who teaches their children that citizenship is a duty and a responsibility as well as a right? Only those who want to work the real levers of power: money, land ownership, social rank, and insider knowledge.” Well, perhaps this subset, but also the Boy Scouts of America. Three of the Eagle Scout-required merit badges involve Citizenship – in the Community, in the Nation, and in the World. I don’t know that membership in the Boy Scouts equals membership in the same subset you named.

  263. Certainly passed the deadline, and I may have to repost next time there is an open post.
    @dot, @Oilman, @Alvin:

    Hungary’s and Poland’s fences work because there are other countries without such fences and with a higher standard of living next door (just like Ireland was less attractive than other targets in the 5th century). If everybody built a fence, it would be crashed. You can’t defend thousands of miles of fence and beach at the level Ceuta is defending its fence. You’d have to go GDR style, with the attendant death rate.

    I don’t think the Great Wall of China ever kept anybody out for any length of time. According to the historians I read, it was mostly a prestige project and a sign of demarcation without utility. Ditto Hadrian’s wall, which most invaders simply avoided by skirting around it over the water.

    I have doubts about JMG’s certainty that Europe and the Muslim world are fated to fight each other for survival because there are counter-examples. Northern China after the Han was a bitter battle-ground for centuries, without stability, but the Han Chinese and the Northern Barbarians found common ground in Buddhism, and in the end the barbarians were assimilated almost without a trace into the Han. Actually, the Germanic barbarians were assimilated almost without a trace. I don’t expect a lack of wars, and neither did Scotlyn in her post. I do propose, as Scotlyn did in her post, that there are intermediate degrees of mutual assimilation, which might be preferable to all-out hostility.

    Finally, and to my mind most interesting: according to recent research, the Balkans after 610 AD were not “overwhelmed by barbarian Slavs”, but almost depopulated for a century (I don’t have the links at hand right now, I posted them on the ADR). The net result for the continuity of classical culture was the same. Sometimes impersonal powers like loss of soil fertility may be more serious predicaments than human shoggoths.

  264. I came really late to the discussion since I have had limited internet access for the last several days and so I have been going back and reading the comments for this post. There were some excellent observations, insights and discussions, with lots to ponder and think about.

    I have some things I have been thinking about that I will share during the next open comment post or perhaps sooner if germane to an upcoming post.

  265. (Introduction : I see that a new “Book Club” post is up, I’ll post my answer to you there too, since it deals with books, feel free to delete one of them if it bothers you, sorry about any inconvenience.)

    John Michael Greer, indeed, that’s him !

    That made me re-read “A Colder War” (available for free on the Internet, like many of Charles Stross books : ), a very solid story indeed!

    And it’s also a prequel of sorts to his still running series (soon on the 9th book, and 3 novelettes) “The Laundry Files”, the story of an I.T. consultant (and characters related to him in later books) unwittingly becoming a secret agent for “The Laundry”, the ultra-secret British government agency dealing with occult threats (of the Lovecraft genre).

    See, in “The Laundry Files” universe, one can do occult magic (almost always involving creatures in parallel universes that are, at best, coldly indifferent to humankind) just by doing (complex) mathematics, either with the help of computers, or in your head (with eventually very nasty side-effects).
    (Other occult practices like electricity-conducting pentagrams help too. Also this puts the concept of technological singularity in a rather different view…)

    I don’t know enough about real occultism to know whether that kind of reading might be amusing or annoying for you…

    He has also recently (post-Brexit) complained that the reality was catching up and even outpacing the worst (non-Lovecraft related) predictions of his books. (Partly because of the Internet-related scandals/issues, partly because being Scottish, Scotland features prominently in his books, and Brexit might push it out of the UK.)

    Charles Stross might not always have the best style, largely because he tends to pack a lot of concepts that might not be known to the reader in a few phrases – one of his first books, Accelerando, is perhaps the most guilty of that (some chapters were described as only accessible to the “slashdot-reading public”), but that’s also what tends to pull you in his books.

    He also has occasional streaks of genius, either because of the combination of the aforementioned ideas, or very vivid imagery : the first chapter (not the prologue) of Iron Sunrise (also freely available online) comes to mind.

    He became my favorite author in the early oughties, that’s also when (young and foolish that I was) I was in my “transhumanist phase”. (The 2008 recession, learning of peak oil, and reading your blog cured me of these fantasies.)

    So expect a lot of such things when reading his earlier hard SF and close future books (as opposed to his alternate history and Lovecraft ones), which means that you’re might not enjoy these books, but on the other hand they might be an interesting case study in the minds of transhumanists.

    P.S.: Sigh, there are already people (“whitroth”, comment n=°414) on Strosse’s blog www dot antipope dot org slash charlie (“Bread and Circuses (circumlunar version)” post) misunderstanding your “The Worlds That Never Were” post…

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