When I mentioned in a post two weeks ago that America was heading into a new phase of its history, and that I would be offering some suggestions about what that next phase might look like, I was far from sure how to begin that conversation. As happens fairly often these days, however, current events came to my assistance. Late last month, rumors began to spread that the Trump administration was drafting an executive order setting out rules for new government buildings that will require them to be built in the Neoclassical style that used to be standard for government buildings all over the country.
Of course this caused a fine shrieking meltdown, not only in the architectural profession but in corporate media outlets such as the New York Times. The executive order was denounced in the usual shrill tones as a war on diversity, a heavy-handed attempt by Trump to stifle the creativity of architects, and of course racist—the corporate media has a bad case of political Tourette’s syndrome these days, and “racist” is one of the words it blurts out whenever it feels stressed. It so happens that there’s a very good reason for the temper tantrum; it’s just not any of the reasons the throwers thereof want to talk about.
At the root of the tantrum is the unspoken but ironclad rule of modern architecture: ordinary people must not be allowed any say in the built environment in which they live and work. Only architects and certain other allegedly qualified experts are allowed to have a voice in those decisions. Everyone else is supposed to shut up, grit their teeth, and put up with whatever steaming, smelly mass of cutting-edge postmodernity the architects happen to want to excrete this time. This rule applies above all to major public buildings—you know, the ones that you and I get to pay for with our tax dollars. The contract goes out, the architects do their thing and collect their money, and everyone is supposed to be grateful, no matter how sickeningly ugly, meaningless, and dysfunctional the building that results from this process happens to be.
What makes this a loaded issue, of course, is that “sickeningly ugly, meaningless, and dysfunctional” is a good capsule summary of the architecture of our time. Buildings don’t have to be like that. Good architecture is beautiful—that is, it evokes feelings of delight in the people who spend time around it, provided that their natural taste hasn’t been spoiled by snobbery or an architecture degree. Good architecture is meaningful—that is, it communicates to the people who spend time around it, using the visual language of an architectural style rooted in their history and experience. Good architecture is functional—that is, it supports and facilitates the human activities done in and around it, instead of interfering with them. It’s because so few modern buildings fulfill even one of these requirements that the vast majority of Americans loathe modern architecture. It’s because of this, in turn, that Trump’s executive order is clever politics: once again, he’s goaded his opponents into supporting something most voters oppose, and once again he’s tricked them into being smug and arrogant about it.
We’ll talk another time about the reasons behind the rise of what I’ve called Uglicism—the attitude, pervasive throughout the artistic mainstream these days, that deliberately rejects beauty and meaning, and instead glorifies ugliness and a flat refusal to communicate with anyone outside a narrow circle of cognoscenti defended by various modes of snobbery rooted in class privilege. Just now I want to talk about two other points. The first is that the tantrum over Trump’s executive order isn’t just a tempest in an unusually ugly teapot. It’s not only in architectural matters, after all, that ordinary people are supposed to sit down, shut up, and accept whatever their soi-disant betters decide they’re going to get. That’s been the basic attitude of the managerial class all along, and it explains the media panic: if the people get the right to decide what kind of built environment they live in, will they demand a voice in other decisions too?
Of course they will, and right there you can see one of the outlines of the next America taking shape around us. As I discussed two weeks ago, the seven decades since the managerial class took power have proven beyond any question that the most thoroughly educated experts in the world can embrace embarrassingly stupid policies with appalling human costs, especially if they go out of their way to shield their fellow experts from the consequences of their mistakes. That’s why past generations in this country embraced, however imperfectly and unsteadily, the idea of representative democracy: the principle that the people get to choose those who make decisions in their name, and can throw the decisionmakers out on their ears if they make bad decisions and don’t learn from their failures. It’s also why past generations in this country embraced, however imperfectly and unsteadily, the idea of liberty: the principle that individuals, families, and communities should have the right to make their own decisions in any matter that doesn’t conflict significantly with the rights of others—and no, “I’m outraged by the decision you made!” doesn’t count as a significant conflict.
At intervals in American public life, elite classes decide that they’ve had enough of democracy and liberty, and try to rig things so that all the decisions that matter should be made by them or their flunkies. At intervals in American public life, the people get sick and tired of this, and demonstrate to the elite classes that they have another think coming. (One of the most common ways they do this involves finding someone the elite classes can’t stand and electing him to the presidency.) Over the decades immediately ahead, we can expect to see a fair amount of turmoil as politicians and voters tussle over who gets to make which decisions, which is business as usual in an open society; eventually it’ll settle down into a new elitism, but if things follow the usual rhythm, children born this year will be getting ready for retirement before that happens.
So that’s one of the processes brought to the surface by the squabble over architecture. The other requires a little more background.
In the United States, right back to the earliest days after independence, major government buildings were usually built in the Neoclassical style—that is to say, using a set of architectural forms meant to evoke the public buildings of Athens and the Roman Republic. That was a deliberate choice and it was made for good reasons. In 1792 nearly every other country on Earth was ruled by a monarch, and used public architecture to proclaim royal supremacy. The United States, in renouncing monarchical rule, used the heritage of Athens and Rome to remind the world that some of the greatest nations of the ancient world had done without kings and used architecture to celebrate the supremacy of the people instead.
Most people, provided that their natural taste has not been spoiled by snobbery or an architecture degree, find ancient Greek public architecture attractive and engaging. If you read The Ten Books On Architecture by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, the only architect’s handbook to survive from the ancient world, you’ll find out why. The proportions of all those columns are derived from the proportions of the human body—the Doric style of Greek architecture is based on the male body, the Ionic and Corinthian styles on the female body. When you look at ancient Greek public architecture, in other words, with all those columns gathered together, what you’re seeing is a group of people standing around having a conversation. That’s why people in the United States recognized Neoclassicism for so long as the right style for their governmental buildings; it’s one of the very few examples of a monumental architecture that celebrates the people rather than glorifying the power of a monarch.
The rejection of Neoclassical architecture in favor of Uglicism after the Second World War also has a message to communicate. Look at a government building in the Uglicist style and you don’t see a group of people having a conversation. You see looming walls of concrete, glass, and steel shutting out the community, proclaiming a worldview that rejects everything human in favor of brute mechanical force. (It’s telling that Uglicist architecture is so often much more attractive on the inside than on the outside; what’s being communicated here, of course, is “we deserve comfort and beauty, but you don’t.”) There’s another thing you’re seeing, though, and that’s a systematic attempt to erase history.
An artistic style is a conversation across time. Over the long history of the Neoclassical style—a history that starts in the Renaissance, and draws on the early medieval Romanesque style as well as the Classical styles of Greece and Rome—architects carried on that conversation with each other, exploring what could be said with the rich architectural vocabulary of the Neoclassicist style. What’s more, this was a conversation that people outside the architectural profession could follow and participate in. On the one hand, it was a normal part of public education to learn at least a little about the history of architecture; on the other, architects had not yet retreated from the public behind a barrier of class-conscious snobbery as harsh and forbidding as the exterior of a modern office building. At chatauquas—the public speaking venues, half instruction and half entertainment, that played so important a role in 19th century American public culture—talks on architecture were common fare, and so when a new state or federal building went up, most adults knew enough to have an intelligent opinion about its design.
That was one of the things that went out the window after the Second World War as Uglicism came to the fore. For a while there was an attempt at a coherent style—the International Style, barren and bleak as it was, still tried to express a shared symbolic language—but before long the last traces of the conversation across time disintegrated into the schizophrenic word salad of Postmodernism or the stark catatonia of Brutalism. Instead of building on the history of architecture, with its rich stock of inherited meanings and its centuries of experience with human functions, modern architects by and large go out of their way to design buildings that reject and erase the past. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature—and it comes out of a pervasive hostility to history that shapes much of the behavior of the managerial elite today.
The thing that interests me is that this hostility to history occurs in mirror-image form on both sides of the line that divides mainstream corporate liberals from mainstream corporate conservatives. To the first group, America was a monolithically horrible place until postwar liberals came along and started fixing it, and therefore we should only learn a highly edited and tendentious version of what happened before then. To the second, America was a monolithically wonderful place until postwar liberals came along and started wrecking it, and therefore we should only learn a highly edited and tendentious version of what happened before then. Watch current squabbles over such hot-button issues as the New York Times’ 1619 Project, a hamfisted attempt to rewrite American history to conform to the latest fashions in social justice ideology, and most of what you’ll see consists of all-out war between the partisans of two absurdly simple-minded caricatures of American history.
This is why, to my mind, one of the most revolutionary things any American can do right now is to put some serious time into learning the parts of this nation’s history that don’t conform to either of these caricatures. I mean that quite seriously. As George Orwell pointed out trenchantly in his novel 1984, whoever controls the past controls the future; convince people that their entire history points in a certain direction and you’ve got a pretty good chance of keeping them going in that direction, even if that leads them right off a cliff. That’s why the wars over American history have been so bitter in recent years—everyone involved knows that the stakes in those struggles are very high indeed.
Both sides in the history wars of our time are committed to the sort of history I critiqued at length in my book After Progress: that is to say, history as morality play, a stereotyped conflict between progress and stasis in which one side acts out the role of heroic visionaries heralding the oncoming wave of the future, while the other side acts out the role of defenders of the outworn status quo whose sentimental attachment to the existing order makes them resist the inevitable and fail. It’s because conservatives bought into this narrative just as thoroughly as liberals that the history of conservatism from 1932 to 2016 was one long litany of defeats. It’s because liberals bought into this narrative just as thoroughly as conservatives that so many people on the American left have gotten so unhinged since the 2016 election, when history stopped conforming to the stereotype and unexpectedly cast them in the role of defenders of a failed and outworn status quo.
That rigidly plotted morality-play view of history, however, can only be defended by an act of erasure that blots out most of American history and also—and crucially—does the same thing to even more of the history of the rest of the world. Take the endless posturing by liberal historians about the unequaled moral evil of the European conquest and settlement of the Americas. You would think, to read these diatribes, that no other group of people in all of history ever invaded and conquered lands where somebody else lived. Au contraire, unless all your ancestors happen to belong to one of a very small number of ethnic groups in a very few isolated corners of the world, it doesn’t matter what your skin color and ethnicity is, people in your family tree invaded and conquered somebody else’s territory. What’s more, to judge by every documented example known to history, they were just as brutal about it as the European settlers of the Americas.
It so happens that in the centuries before 1500, the warlike peoples of the bleak, mountainous peninsula that sticks off the western end of Asia—yes, that would be Europe—borrowed military and maritime technologies from the great band of civilized urban societies that stretched from China to West Africa, and as barbarians so often do, reworked them in new and lethally creative ways. It so happens that in the centuries between 1500 and 1900, those same warlike peoples swept out of their European homelands to conquer most of the world. It’s an old story, and it was already an old story when the Guti swept down on the city-states of Sumer four millennia ago.
Only three things make it distinctive just now. The first is that the borrowings and innovations that equipped the marauders from Europe made it possible for them to cover more territory than any previous set of barbarian invaders could manage. The second is that there was a massive bacteriological differential between the Old World and the New, so that Old World diseases wiped out around 95% of the native population of the Americas and Australasia. (If that hadn’t been the case, the history of those three continents after European colonization would parallel that of India and Africa.) The third, of course, is that the world shaped by those invasions is the one we live in today.
A thousand years from now, in other words, historians will talk about the Europeans the way they now talk about the Mongols and the Huns. The events unfolding around us right now are just as instantly recognizable if you know how the latter days of these and other barbarian invaders unfolded in their turn: the softening and slow decay of the conquering nations, shifts in the balance of power as older societies regain their technological edge, the dissolution of vast but temporary empires and their replacement by successor states—again, it was already an old story when the Guti lost control of the lower Tigris-Euphrates valley to the resurgent city-states of Sumer.
Most of us are still too close to the events of the age of invasions to see things with that sort of clarity, though. This makes it difficult for people on all sides of the resulting conflicts to recognize that what happened was simply another round of history as usual. Human beings invade land claimed by other human beings and dispossess, enslave, or kill the previous inhabitants; that’s one of the things our species does—and despite the claims sometimes made by fans of hunter-gatherer societies, it’s something we’ve been doing since long before we finished becoming human. Chimpanzees in the wild have been documented doing exactly the same thing to other bands of chimpanzees, you know.
I’ve gone into this issue here at some length, because one of the standard mechanisms used to erase history these days is to point to something people did in the past that we now consider morally offensive, and insist that because people back then did that horrible thing, people now should be prevented from learning anything about people back then—other, that is, than hearing an endless braying litany about how horrible they were. It’s one variant of a broader strategy of erasure, which works by pulling certain historical events out of context, parading them around as though they made up the entire experience of a complex era, and using them to distract attention from other events that fail to support a preconceived narrative.
It’s important to be precise here. History is always a matter of picking and choosing, deciding which events are important and which are not. This is why it’s crucial, in learning about history, to come at it from a variety of directions, exploring competing narratives and criteria for what is and isn’t relevant—and also, of course, why the sort of dogmatic historical monoculture that’s so often seen in American education, for example, is so destructive and so dull. A history that doesn’t challenge your preconceptions from more than one direction has failed in its task.
Every movement toward a new future thus begins with a new understanding of the past. The next America that will begin taking shape over the decade ahead, as the technocratic America of the managerial elite finishes its one-way trip into history’s dumpster, is no exception to this rule. As a contribution to that process, I’m going to devote a certain number of posts this year to a major current in the history of this country that has been excluded from the narratives marketed by all sides in the recent culture wars. You already know about some of the people I’ll be discussing, though only a very few of you will have heard of some of the others, and the current that weaves them together is not something most American historians will talk about at all. Though the story doesn’t begin there, we’ll start our exploration with the arrival of a ship at the busy wharves of colonial Philadelphia in the year 1694.
The new architecture is also dangerous. Before I retired, we were subjected to numerous active-shooter training sessions. They kept telling us that if you could not get out, you should hide in the building. Finally I asked, “How do we hide when a light automatically flips on every time you go in a room?” “Good question. Anyone else?”
After some experimentation, my colleagues and I found you could wedge the restroom doors shut with 5 or 6 rubber doorstops. (All the other rooms had glass walls or no walls at all.). I retired before the educated fools got around to banning doorstops.
Thank you as usual for the thoughtful post.
I cannot think of a better example of a juxtaposition of Neoclassical and Ugliest architecture then my alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin (it was fun seeing it mentioned in your post 2 weeks ago as Texas’ bastion of managerial rule). The original university buildings were built in the Neoclassical style, and as you walked up the worn marble steps, you walked with the million other students who walked the same steps, up to our education. The French department is based there, and that was where I learned my second language.
All newer buildings (post-war, now that you mention it) were built in some form of Ugliest style, and the human element of the buildings were regularly scrubbed clean. My major was Mathematics, so we were generally relegated to a Brutalist office building named after the famous racist professor Robert Lee Moore, who started all his black students at a C, and only let them go down from there. It’s hardly surprising that they didn’t want us to know that history.
“History is always a matter of picking and choosing, deciding which events are important and which are not. This is why it’s crucial, in learning about history, to come at it from a variety of directions, exploring competing narratives and criteria for what is and isn’t relevant—”
Absolutely. Looking for one single historical thread as defining it “THE ONE AND ONLY TRUTH” is the domain of zealots, demagogues, and bad propagandists. The fact that we live in a land defined by conquest doesn’t make Europeans settlers uniquely evil, but the other fact that we we still live with the ongoing results of those conquests doesn’t mean that they (we) get a pass either when it come to taking responsibility for the results of those conquests.
Also, those Uglicist buildings are only beautiful on the inside in the parts that house the elite. I know of no more blandly degrading environment than the modern open office or low walled cubicle farm. I believe that I am particularly sensitive to my environments and being in these things causes me acute psychological pain. At the end of the day I feel like an exposed nerve staked out on a rock.
Great post JMG!
Since I started reading your blog(s) i am always trying to find parallels in history and it’s interesting how many different overlapping examples can be found. What I mean is that of course USA 2020 is not only Rome 0AD (Caesarism) but it’s also Rome 250AD (middle of collapse) or Byzantium 600AD (sport teams basically electing emperors) etc.
But I see most people here unable to make obvious connections. Part of it is the linear progress that they expect to see, part is the imperial culture of US – like all empires it has a very totalitarian culture in the sens that people inside are almost completely incapable to put themselves in other peoples shoes. Maybe you can talk about this subject at some point?
What I mean by this totalitarianism starts with language (British started the tradition to mispronounce/misspell all foreign words during their empire) and continues with attitudes like SJW-ism, libertarian-ism or the managerial attitudes that you mentioned.
Interestingly, I covered some similar ground regarding the battle of over recent historical narrative on my blog in January in an essay titled “The Fight Over the Fictitious Past,” https://violetcabra.dreamwidth.org/19654.html
Certainly, as my essay describes, I find it odd the degree to which folks fight over post WWII history as if it were the Beginning of the World and I instead focus to some extent on the current of occultism in the past, as shown in such Elizabethan figures as Shakespeare and John Dee as well as the history of jazz. Currently I’m rereading Mark Twain’s remarkable edgy and transgressive _The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_ and he too makes note of the immense amount of occultism in 1800’s America. It seems to me that the sort of past that we see paraded around us is much more of a mythic backdrop than anything that happened, but then again, perhaps history always functions as a mythic backdrop rather than a mere accounting. And so one can choose a mythic backdrop by dint of deliberate choices in historical study and…change consciousness according to will! For the different emphasis then provides a different contextual and subtextual structure to make meaning of both past and future and these banks of history then provide a channel from which thinking about actuality can flow…
In addition, my partner (with a sensitive stomach) and I have become members of the ‘Anti-Diet’ community, a fringe group who believe, based on the non-reproducibility of diet-biased studies and peer-accepted principles of nutritional science, that any form of dietary restriction (allergies and intolerances aside, of course, self care is not restriction) weakens the self and is directly dangerous to your health. This view directly contradicts the “common sense” that you cannot eat what you want, or you will die, and the only way to be healthy and live long is to follow a diet prescribed by some expert (that comes at a premium).
We believe a solid way to health is to listen to your body, eat whatever you want in whatever quantity it takes for you to be satisfied whenever you want to, and to accept yourself at whatever weight you are when you’re doing so. When one loses weight on a restrictive diet, the body believes you are in a famine, and to prevent future resource loss, will hold more weight on whenever calories are avaliable in the future. The more weight you lose, the more weight your body believes you need to hold to prevent starvation in the future. That weight point is called your ‘weight set point’, and the only way to change it is to be in a famine state. There is no way known to science to lower it.
Despite how personal one’s diet is, there is consistent shock from people whenever we say, for example, that we eat Reese’s Cups whenever we want them, and we don’t feel any guilt about it. Food is at the center of a person, and to say that my food intake is both unregulated and under my control signals that regulation and compliance to external rules is not a prerequisite to health. If it’s true with food then it’s likely true elsewhere. That affront to the managerial mindset has made my ‘anti-diet’ beliefs unpopular with my neighbors. That hasn’t stopped my consumption of Twizzlers, however.
Your Kittenship, now surprise me. That bit of bad design falls under the heading of “dysfunctional”…
Dylandrogynous, universities are some of the best places in the US to observe Uglicist architecture in contrast with something better. You’ve got the old buildings, Neoclassical in some cases and university Gothic Revival in others — the University of Washington, where I got my degree, has a glorious collection of buildings in the latter style — and then you have the stark sneering ugliness of the postwar buildings. Having the two cheek by jowl makes it all the easier to see just how hideous the latter are.
Andrew001, two good points. With regard to the legacy of the European conquests, as I see it, you can’t have responsibility for something you didn’t do; the notion of inherited collective guilt — which was invented by medieval Christians to justify pogroms against the Jews, btw — has no place in any sane society. We are responsible for what we do in relation to history, but nobody alive today is responsible for what happened centuries before we were born. As for cubicle farms, no argument there — those are an architecture of dehumanization and control.
NomadicBeer, that’s a very good point. The rigid mental monoculture of today’s society, which excludes every other point of view while claiming to be tolerant and open, does indeed need discussion.
Violet, heh heh heh. Yes, exactly. Stay tuned…
Dylandrogynous, how new is the Anti-Diet community? I somehow managed not to hear about it. What you’re describing is what I’ve called the Druid Diet: figure out the kinds and amounts of food that make your individual body feel healthy and strong, eat that, and ignore the media and its attempts to push diet craziness on you. If that particular bit of sanity becomes more widespread, well, all I can say is thank the gods.
Taking a guess you’ll mention Johannes Kelpius and Wissahickon Creek somewhere along the way. When we first came to the United States, for a time we lived in Wissahickon Park Apartments right along the uppermost reaches of the creek in Lansdale.
The Pentagon, built in 1941-42, may serve well as the symbolic beginning of this trend you’re discussing in US government architecture. It is (to my eyes) as ugly as sin, with an exterior as forbidding as the pentagonal military forts of the early modern period on which it was in part modeled, yet reasonably comfortable inside. Its architect (George Bergstrom) formed his taste in California during the years when the Technocratic Party was a force to be reckoned with in the politics of that state. (The program of the Technocratic Party may be briefly summed up as follows: all power to govern the people should be placed firmly in the hands of elite engineers and scientists forever.)
And … I think I know who caught your attention on that boat to Philadelphia. I’m really looking forward to this series of posts.
On the subject of The Next America, a story has recently been circulating online about most of Oregon and some of California breaking away to form a “Greater Idaho”. While I think this itself is unlikely to happen, I believe it is an expression of the mounting pressure between the rural and urban populations of the PNW area (I live in Idaho, by the way). Furthermore, it worries me that this is another step toward a second civil war.
JMG, if I correctly recall, a civil war is said to have taken place in the 2020s in your book, Retrotopia. A podcast called It Could Happen Here analyzes the likelihood of another civil war happening and how it might play out. The host frequently refers to this region of the country as a hot spot of unrest that could boil over into war. As a former resident of the PNW, what is your take on this situation?
Dear John, I just want to say I am a big fan of your posts. I first got started reading when I came across your post regarding “Sobornost”. I am an English man who lives in the Russian Federation and what you describe about the country is very accurate. There is this collective mindset intertwined within the individual desires of the population. Not entirely individualistic like America but not entirely collectivistic like the East either – it is what I would call the true centrist society. I would me more than happy to discuss future observations with you if you do another Spengler based post sometime.
Now in regards to America, it is a nation that is on the decline. I would assess that barring a disastrous military defeat or economic meltdown, the country has about 20 years left before it starts to withdraw from the world.
But to be honest, the US was more of a continuation of the British Empire and the passing of the torch in the 1950s really was just a change of seat. America has to truly evolve into its own culture and you are correct, this will be centuries in the making.
I will make a brute honest state and say that Faustian leadership ended in 1945. Europe has been split between America and Russia ever since, rarely actually truly doing anything. I do disagree slightly with your assessment that Europe has another last hurrah in it as the mindset is one of vassal states, not as aspiring leaders.
When America does withdraw, I can guarantee that Europe is going to quickly look for another protective entity and that will be Russia. I predict within the next 30-40 years that Russia will take on the main role as European policeman. Already Europe is wanting to skirt around US demands and do business with Russia…
Anyway, look forward to reading more posts and best regards.
I have often told my partner that you have long been anti-diet, even though you didn’t use that name. Our subreddit ( /r/antidiet ) turns a year old tomorrow!
We first discovered the concepts through the amazing book “The F*ck It Diet” by Caroline Dooner, which basically turned everything we thought we knew about eating on its head. 5/5 would recommend.
It’s not just the profession of architecture that has been commandeered by lobotomized experts. Next time you’re bored out of your mind in a waiting room, pick up one of the magazines and check out the clothing and cosmetics advertising. Then look around the room. Notice that actual real-life women (especially the more attractive ones) mostly have the curvy physique of an adult female, but in the magazine illustrations they mostly resemble pencil-thin juvenile males. Then look at the other advertisements, and notice how many of them are promoting products/services aimed at getting an adult female physique slimmed down to that of a juvenile male – a sure sign the medical profession has also bought into this nonsense….
How far does it go before society falls apart?
Hi JMG – excellent essay, as always. You mention the managerial class has been in control for the last seven decades, so I’m guessing the post WW2-cold war events are the beginning of that. But that’s also the timeframe when Americans were firmly out of the Great Depression and not in a major war, which allowed time to enjoy the great output of the economy. And perhaps contributed to them not being responsible citizens. Now that the Long Descent is gaining steam and the infinite growth model is wrecked, isn’t that the major catalyst for today’s politics? Just trying to weed out cause and effect here with the cycles of history.
I live in Cincinnati and the architecture school at the University of Cincinnati is pretty well respected. The joke for the architecture students is the campus of UC exists to show architects what not to do.
Starting with the new DAAP building (design, art, architecture and planning) a deconstructionist nightmare of a building, there is an ugly concrete brutalist tower that at the time was the tallest continuously poured concrete building, a library in the Frank Lloyd Wright style that looks ok but was not designed to be able to handle the weight of bookshelves filled with books, and an entire campus with no real architectural continuity.
But the students can get out to the rest of Cincinnati and see plenty of beautiful pre WWII architecture, Victorian houses, houses in the arts and craft style, and probably one of the best collections of art deco buildings in the world. (It is weird, I live in an old Sears craftsman style kit house, and it is a really beautiful small house, why can’t todays corporations make something as inexpensive and beautiful as corporations did a century ago?)
I am looking forward to reading your take on “discarded” history, the spiritual history of the US is wild and crazy and I am hoping that if you talk about that you will include the Oneida colony and the weird spiritual forces at work in upstate New York.
not for the first time, an essay of yours brings a song by the Propellerheads and Shirley Bassey to my mind, so I´m going to share it here for all who don´t yet know it:
Frank from Germany
As you point out, education is a key element and centralized education has been a significant characteristic of this recent era. How do you see this playing out in the next decade or two as the “new” disruptive system replaces the “old” monoculture? Obviously, reducing the influence of the Department of Education (or, perhaps even better, eliminating it entirely–certainly it is not a policy area addressed by the express powers delegated to Congress by Article I, section eight) would be something that could be done in the near-term, reasserting state-centric management. However, public education, generally speaking, has had a tendency to drift toward that kind of one-eyed group-think. How might a more varied (detractors might say “fragmented”) environment of educational services be developed?
In my immediate vicinity, we have three parallel systems: the public systems (each of the two neighboring cities with its own), a Catholic system (serving the surrounding area), and a Lutheran system (also serving the surrounding area). Not to mention a home-schooling network, though I’m less knowledgeable about its specifics.
Do you see professional tutoring re-emerging? Or alternative school systems partially supported by renewed lodge organizations? Or perhaps a more formal marketplace where each student gets a voucher worth $X to spend for qualifying instruction. Lots of room for states to experiment, I suppose, once they’re free from the feds.
As I mentioned in the second-last post, the high culture of art and architecture in the West was captured by modernism over a century ago in the period from 1880 to 1930. By the New Deal Era, Regionalist painters were deviantized in the art world as parochial and even fascist. Never again would appeal to traditionalist themes be a feature of American public art.
The fact that a prominent public figure of any kind decided to politicize the art/architecture world after almost a century struck me as intriguing to say the least. However the fact that it is a figure as controversial as Donald Trump means that I sadly believe that such a counter-revolution won’t last long. Any efforts will suffer a similar fate to those of Akhenaten, the heretic pharaoh of Egypt, after his death. I fear this may be the case for much of the rest of American society after Trump
Do what extent do you believe the so-called “critical doctrines” will gain a hold over the American imagination?
Regarding the your comments on the future of higher ed, do you see high schools following a similar path? Before WWI, most Westerners didn’t attend high school.
Also, how do you see the future of social media? Au present, it seems to be doing a lot to toxify discourse and pathologies in advanced societies.
Another terrific post. I’m not sure if this was an intended reference, but the Pew Research Center published a book not too long ago called The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Coming Generational Showdown. I’m looking forward to this series of your posts very much.
I had a chance to visit the American Museum of Natural History in NYC over the weekend, and there was an exhibit that captured many of the points you are making here. It is called “Addressing the Statue” https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/addressing-the-theodore-roosevelt-statue and deals with the equestrian statue of Theodore Rooselvelt in front of the museum, which some people find offensive because of the racial hierarchy implied in the arrangement of figures (Rooselvelt is mounted triumphantly, and beneath him walk a Native American and African American).
The controversy is exactly what you are describing in your essay: a battle for the historical narrative. I actually thought the museum did a good job showing both sides of the argument. On the one hand Roosevelt was instrumental in founding the National Park system, and the Museum, and was a leader of the Progressive Party, which at the time arguably had the most egalitarian social and cultural outlook.
On the other hand, supported by many quotes by Philip Deloria (a Native American Harvard Professor), as President and Commander-in-Chief, Roosevelt presided over and perpetuated all sorts of genocidal and racist policies and actions against Native Americans and other minorities. Eugenics and Social Darwinism were common in those days, and many of the people involved in the museum, its architecture, and the statue held those views.
Unfortunately, one family member I was with took the position that there was only one correct view: Roosevelt was a monster, and any other view was racist and wrong. I tried to point out that it was complicated, and that imposing today’s values on a historical figure is overly simplistic (I used Thomas Jefferson’s slave-owning as a example) but was shouted down.
This is the second time I feel like I have come up empty trying to get others to embrace a more nuanced view of history. The first was at my daughter’s school where the teacher and parent group deep-sixed Little House on the Prairie because of racist attitudes portrayed towards Native Americans. So I appreciate what you are doing here with the conversation–these issues can get very dysfunctional and emotional very quickly.
As an undergraduate 1973-6, I attended a modern Cambridge college, Churchill, founded in 1960. The architecture is definitely not classical but it’s human in scale, imaginatively arranged and arouses much affection in me – but unfortunately, in the decades since I was there, the place has been added to with some astonishingly ugly extra buildings, quite lacking in any consistency or conformity with the 1960 design. So, even when modern does succeed in being good, somebody has to show that this was a mere aberration and it’s back to Uglicism-as-usual.
Uglicism can apply to administrative units as well as buildings. Much of Perthshire, in Scotland, is now “Tayside”. Roxburghshire, Peeblesshire, Selkirkshire and Berwickshire are now “Borders”. Other examples abound.
I feel the best way to deal with the people who are responsible for this sort of thing would be to pass them some runes. (See the M R James story.)
Hello: As I was reading your post, I couldn’t help thinking about the capitol of where I live–New York. Albany was originally settled by the Dutch and there are still a very few buildings left that reflect that history. They are really interesting and dignified. Then there are the new “office buildings” where the members of the legislature have offices, and they are truly like something out of the Stalinist Soviet Union–bleak and forbidding. Then there is a huge conference center that looks exactly like a giant toilet. The first time I saw it, I couldn’t believe it.
Also while I was reading, I was trying to fit in something else I have read in your posts–Oswald Spengler’s concept of “pseudomorphosis”. He uses architecture as examples of that concept, among other things. So when I was in Washington, D.C. and saw these immense buildings, like the Dept, of the Treasury, I thought that they were modeled on the Roman Imperial style–to let you know that you are very small, and unimportant, and that they are where the real “power” is. How does that fit into what you’re talking about?
I’m still struggling with a lot of what Spengler talks about.
Thanks for your post.
I have a tangentially-related question on the study of history. I have really enjoyed Toynbee’s Study of History, but I have found Spengler’s Decline of the West very challenging. Do you have any suggestions for background reading to help make sense of what he is saying? I have found your references to Spengler intriguing, but I feel I must be missing some literary or historical context that is preventing me from understanding the points made in Decline of the West.
I have one other subject of conversation, maybe for a future open post.
I read recently “Civilized to Death” by Chris Ryan. I will start by saying that I agree with you – hunter-gatherers are not angels by no means.
Despite his somewhat romanticized view of HGs and the last chapter of the book (which he admits is a requirement by the publishers to end optimistically) – I think the book is well worth reading.
My conclusion after finishing it is that we (civilized humans) are the fallen people. According to our own morals and sense of justice, the HGs were better than us.
They had real equality, the loving way they raised their children, the acceptance of LGBT etc.
Not to mention organized crime, war, mass murder and all the “improvements” that civilizations brought.
Even facing death – most people were healthy until the last year of life and they accepted the end (and committing suicide was an easy way to shorten the pain).
And finally they mastered their instincts – sociopaths were kept in check, the population doubling time was 250000 years and so on.
Again I don’t see this as a morality play. A lot of the ways they were better are due to simple physics (hard to kill a lot of people when population density is <1/km2). They also paid a price in the number of children dying in childhood.
The question is: how do we solve the conflict between our moral ideals and the civilized life? Do we change our morality and become sociopathic pleasure seeker like most of the rich and famous (pedophile rings ring a bell). Or do we try to revert to living in groups around Dunbar's number?
What I find odd is how the leftists in my life, immersed as they are in politics, cannot begin to see themselves as an elite class that is on the verge of being deposed. The idea isn’t just shoved under the rug — it’s been buried in the basement and sealed under layers of concrete with coins on its eyes and a gun loaded with silver bullets pointed at its grave. They want to erase a history where the elite class was overcome because history repeatedly reminds them of what they’ve got buried in the cellar.
There is a movie I haven’t seen called Parasite which won a slew of Oscars. Guess what it is about? Class warfare. An elite family is cleverly vampirized by a poor/working class family. Quelle surprise.
If I dare express my belief that a fair chunk of Trump’s policies have been beneficial for the US, these people, who have been my friends for years, would recklessly disown me, which begs the question: Are they truly my friends? Were they ever my friends if our class differences matter that much? There is an underlying terror of the working class being freed from crushing austerity, and terror manifests in the form of upper-class anger. I’m sad that my friends (?) would be so triggered by the notion of people like me bringing home enough money to afford to buy carryout pizza every now and then instead of making every single meal at home, which is of course just another one of those little luxuries they take for granted. I have put much meditation into this power dynamic and I can confidently say I struggle to understand how any group of ostensibly thoughtful people can be so thoughtless.
Which other countries you think are going to have their managerial elites being into the dumpster?
I was thinking about what you said about how gold functions in a dark age. The idea that the discovery or gold always leads to an explosion of violence until it’s so widely distributed and thinly spread it’s not worth stealing anymore. I thought it was hilarious that there’s such a thing as gold entropy. 🙂
There doesn’t have to be a dark age for the bloodletting to happen though. The 1983 Brinks Mat robbery netted £26m of gold bars, but touched off a similar process in the London underworld. There are murders still being committed that are attributed to it. Although as that happened in a boom instead of a dark age, it also ended up invested in things like Miami real estate.
You claimed gold hoards are useless because of how many have been found intact. But if a hoard worked it would leave no evidence. In the same way that future archeologists excavating our civilisation would find most fire extinguishers still full. Could the idea have have worked multiple times before it finally failed?
As a more diluted version of the gold hoard, what do you think of this strategy – https://johntreed.com/blogs/john-t-reed-s-news-blog/investing-in-tens-of-thousands-of-dollars-worth-of-nickels – how long would it keep working as things went downhill?
“It so happens that in the centuries between 1500 and 1900, those same warlike peoples swept out of their European homelands to conquer most of the world. It’s an old story, and it was already an old story when the Guti swept down on the city-states of Sumer four millennia ago”
This was Herman Goring’s principle defense at Nuremberg. He basically took the position “hey, what is the big deal. This has been ordinary statecraft since time immemorial. Just look at how the Americans wiped out the Naive Americans.”
That defense was rejected by Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg. The trials established the proposition that aggressive war is the most vile of all possible crimes and should be forever condemned. The establishment of that principle was one of the greatest triumphs of human race.
Well almost … the Nuremberg principles were honored for all of about five minutes, then things reverted back to “ordinary statecraft.” This time “ordinary statecraft” was implemented by the victors of World War II. Those victors then engaged in the exact same crimes that they just condemned. This time, however, it was justified in the name of “humanitarian interventions” designed to prevent the rise of a new nazism.
Somewhere, I believe, there is a God, who doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Another great post, JMG.
I doubt I’ll be the first to link this beautiful example of managerial elitism via the Washington post:
They’ve changed the headline now, it originally read “It’s time to give the elites a bigger say in choosing the president”
Is it just me or is the lack of self awareness among some folks in the media approaching a new level? I wonder if Trumps likely victory this year will make that trend accelerate or reverse? I fear the former.
Mike, why, yes, we’ll be making their acquaintance and those of a great many other interesting folk. One of these days I’d like to do a road trip to there and Ephrata…
Robert, the Pentagon’s as good a marker for the dawn of the technocratic or, as I will be calling it in a future essay, the Uglicist era: the combination of the two is impossible to miss. As for the boat in question, yes, I’m sure you know which ship I have in mind.
Colter, the mountain West — basically the entire region from the western foothills of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada to the eastern foothills of the Rockies — is one of the two US regions most likely to spawn an insurgency if things go sufficiently haywire. (The other is the South.) I’m hoping we’ve dodged that bullet, but we’ll see. (And I wouldn’t exclude a Greater Idaho from the realm of possibility — I don’t think they’ll get everything they want, but I could see the Oregon government letting go of the eastern half or so of the state with relief, since that would guarantee the continued dominance of the Willamette valley cities over what’s left.)
Ksim3000, I think you’re being too generous. Faustian civilization lost its grip on the rest of the world in 1914, and it’s been downhill all the way for Europe since then. As for America, of course we’re on the declining arc in one sense — we’ve finished our era of empire and it’s time to move on, which means shedding our global involvements and concentrating on our own territory and our near abroad. I think there’s a good chance, though, that we can do more or less as Byzantium did and settle into a prolonged second life within our own borders — quite possibly long enough to bridge the gap between our fading Faustian pseudomorphosis and the first stirrings of the American high culture to come.
Dylandrogynous, I’ve just passed on a link to your subreddit to someone else I know who dropped out of diet culture years ago. I hope it takes off, and people realize that trusting an expert to tell them what to eat, instead of noticing what they themselves want and need, is just as bad idea as handing over any other aspect of your life to someone with a credential and an undisclosed conflict of interest or two.
Steve, that goes way back. One of these days I ought to start posting some of the ads I’ve collected over the years for diet foods from before 1950 or so, which are there to help you gain weight if you’re too skinny. The medical industry is just as much a victim of fashion as any other self-perpetuating pseudo-meritocracy.
Drhooves, ah, but it wasn’t ordinary Americans who enthusiastically clamored for sickeningly ugly, meaningless, and dysfunctional buildings — quite the contrary. Uglicism was one of the means by which the managerial elite established and enforced class barriers in the postwar world. The only reason there wasn’t a lot more of it before 1945 is that depression and war cut into building budgets.
Skyrider, I think it’s no accident that the ugliest buildng on most campuses I’ve visited is the one where students are taught to be architects. As for Oneida and the “burned-over district” of upstate New York, why, yes, we’ll be talking about that too. Can you draw a line connecting that and The Wizard of Oz? We’ll get to that too… 😉
Frank, thanks for this! Reminds me very much of some of the music my punk rocker girlfriend in college used to play.
David BTL, the current move seems to be toward publicly funded charter schools, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that become the new standard — a polyculture of varied charter schools growing to the point that public school districts as such shut down and sell their buildings, probably to those same charter schools. What happens after that? Good question.
Aidan, I think you’re quite wrong there. Trump is controversial precisely because he’s a transitional figure; he functions, as his earlier equivalents in American history have functioned, as a crowbar to pry open a door the entrenched status quo has tried to keep shut forever. I think you’ll find that long after Trump’s second term is over, the changes he set in motion will still be rolling ahead.
The WaPo leapt into action to give evidence for your thesis, with an op ed titled “It’s time to give the elites a bigger say in choosing the president,” and almost immediately faced so much backlash that they had to change the title. Article still seems to be up, though. Behind a paywall, so here’s a link to an article *about* the silliness:
Anyway, I may be wrong, but despite all the blustering editorials trying to say the EO is about mandating a repressive classical style etc…. what I’ve actually seen of it doesn’t support that conclusion. It supports a classical style, OR regional traditional architecture which IMO is grand! The architecture most traditional in any region also tends to be the most climate-appropriate. I can dig that.
I would find that quite startling. As I mentioned in the earlier thread, it was effectively established in the 1930s (!) that if you are to be a public artist, you MUST be a modernist-cosmopolitan.
I personally don’t find neoclassical as beautiful as baroque but certainly better than modernist styles. The peak of modernism, IMO, was the 1920s and 1930s where there was still a traditional culture to push and innovate against.
OTOH, perhaps there are signs that Trumpist attitudes are being transmitted to the next generation.
The part of this article on architecture reminded me of the football game that I went to an MetLife Stadium, the home of the New York Giants Football team.
I went there once, never again.
The Stadium was designed so that the entry roads for cars went in a loop around the Stadium. That looping road was placed close to the Stadium. In fact, that looping road was placed so close to the Stadium that most of the parking areas for the Stadium were farther way from the Stadium than the the loop road itself. That meant, in turn, that people who had just parked their cars had to cross over the loop road to get to the Stadium. Now, we are talking thousand and thousands of people crossing the roadway. The end result was that the traffic on the loop road was constantly stopped by fans who were crossing it. It was design stupidity that was almost beyond belief.
If you managed to finally park your car and managed not to get hit by a car in the loop road, you got to one of the numerous gates, each of which had sold their naming rights. You might go through the “Bristol Meyers” gate or the “Kraft Foods Gate” or whatever. Before you got to the gate, signs informed you what you were forbidden to bring into the Stadium (which was everything) and what you were allowed to do once you go into the Stadium (which was virtually nothing).
Not trusting you to bring nothing into the Stadium, Stadium employees searched you at all the entrances.
Once you got into the Stadium you had to fight your way through crowds jammed into the overly narrow concourses leading to the seats. The seats themselves were a problem since you could barely see the field from them. The replay screens were also hard to see. Apparently the Stadium was designed to maximize the viewing experience from the luxury boxes to the detriment of the viewing experience of the proletariat. If you are a member of the proletariat and going to a game, I would suggest bringing a transistor radio so that you can follow what is going on in the field – but then again, a radio may very well be one of the many items forbidden from being brought into the Stadium. Sorry about that.
This Stadium cost over a billion dollars to construct, mind you. And I am willing to bet that a part of the cost was taxpayer subsidized.
JMG, speaking of the elites not allowing the ordinary people to speak: have you been following the frankly astonishing events in Ireland at the recent GE? The two larges parties (Fianna Fail and Fine Gael) who between them used to win close to 90% of the vote, collapsed to about 21% apiece. The biggest party in terms of % vote was Provisional Sinn Fein on 24%. Coalition negotations between these three blocks may be set to stalemate, and we could be heading for a second GE. A new poll puts SF at a mind-boggling 35%, with FF and FG on 17 and 18% respectively. The Labour party, (smoked salmon quislings who might once have been expected to benefit), are rightly blamed for their role in Austerity, and are under 3%. The party of James Connolly reduced to a neo-liberal puppet.
The response from the MSM in Ireland – well, I bet you could predict it. RTE, the Irish Times and the Irish Indo have run a ferocious campaign to demonise SF, digging up bodies of the dead and parading the grieving families on the front pages in a disgusting attempt to weaponise their grief. And, shock, surprise, the Irish voters are NOT falling for it. The middle class Irish liberal elite cannot fathom the rise of SF, and why they continue. Given a couple of breaks, PSF could be the leader of Ireland’s first non-centerright govt. ever, and soon.
The establishment meltdown is a thing to see.
An American asked me why the media hates SF so much. “They say it’s because of the War in the North” I said, “but I think that’s not the real reason. SF is a working class party mostly run by working class people and lower middle class people, they’re outside the clubby social circle that runs Dublin (and by extension, Ireland)”.
The idea of working class people seizing the machinery of state is an appalling vista for those who really think they were born to rule. The FF/FG/Lab parties have created the second most expensive country in Europe (only Zurich is more expensive than Dublin). People are being bankrupted by cost of living, and FF/FG keep on telling them “TINA”.
And the people seem to have finally snapped.
In translating this for Americans, I say: Imagine you wake up from a Coma and ask “Who won the 2032 elections”. And you’re told it was won by the Black Panther party. Dems and GOP each won 1/5th of the vote, they’re goners. For those of us who remember the 70s and 80s, it really is as astonishing as that. And more remarkable that young people (even people into their 40s and 50s) do not give a whit about the IRA.
Also, the demented response of the British media following the result was hysterical. “SF win on the back of a wave of anti-British sentiment”. Clueless!!!! Only 1% polled said Brexit was an issue. It woz hospitals and housing wot did it. Raising the wonderful phrase “BRITSPLAINING”, where a Brit explains Irish to the Irish, and gets it alllll wrong.
Anyway, Ireland is currently a fun jurisdiction to watch for those interested in seeing what happens when an apparently invincible duopoly collapses, not quite overnight, but over the course of the 2011-2016-2020 elections. Less than a decade, and continuing to unfold.
I’d noticed how widespread genocide, conquest and similar things are in the historical record when I started doing a lot of listening to history podcast starting in 2018. This was on occasion darkly hilarious, as when Romania entered WW1 in order to gain a piece of land owned by someone else that had ethnic romanians on it, only to be invaded itself by Bulgaria, which wanted a piece of Romania that had some ethnic bulgarians on it. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
With regards to attitudes to the European conquest of the Americas, I agree that though it was horrific, it was far from unique in type. I wish that were more widely recognized. Context would really help a lot of these discussions. It still leaves the question of how to live with the past, and relate to each other on these stolen lands.
Canada is currently really struggling on this is issue, both in how we approach our own history, and in how we deal with the fact that the vast majority of BC is on lands that were never formally ceded in any treaty, and there’s major economic disparities between native and settler populations. There’s all kinds of current problems, and a lot of ugliness and general bad feeling.
Hence the fact that the entire country’s rail transport network is currently paralyzed by protests about a land dispute over a pipeline in BC that certain Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs don’t support and refuse to allow to cross their nation’s traditional lands. They have substantial support both within and outside their community, and a number of people set up camps and settlements and blocked access for pipeline construction. The issue is pretty complicated, as the band council agreed, but doesn’t appear to have jurisdiction to say yes or no, and the other nations along the route agreed.
The situation is a mess, into which a court injunction to remove the protestors was answered by armed RCMP and arrests. Twice in about a year. This second time, it resulted in the massive support protests across the country.
Well, I am very sure that Uglicist architecture will have many examples thrown out in this blog. However, I think that every American has only to look at the nearest buildings paid for with their tax dollars, to see perhaps the most sickening examples right in their backyards – public school buildings. The reasons for their shape and appearance are manifold from the managerial class, but I am very certain that they all evoke a singular image in the minds of anyone unfortunate to admire them – prisons. Honestly – remove the fences from around your nearest state or county jails and…voila! You have rendered yourself a public school replete with the Uglicist style.
I think Trump, in outing the Uglicist style to we plebeians, has effectively done what he does oh so well – turned a spotlight on in an otherwise dark corner of the commons. He seems to be very good at directing his spotlight into areas traditionally well-shaded by the managerial elites. He may well be an oligarch, but he is certainly cut from a different cloth than most. He may be full of himself, but then again, he did become president running against the entire Democratic establishment, not to mention the Clinton machine. He isn’t afraid to change things just to see what transpires either – which in a staid system such as ours, is a breath of much needed air, regardless of origin. It’s amusing to watch the other ‘candidates’ vigorously try to sell people on “moar of the same” when most of us are actively seeking change.
You are very right about the active attempts to rewrite history, and unfortunately the miasma of political correctness within education has made that the goal of the two sides of the play. Time for insertions of some catty asides in this play, and an intermezzo for people to think?
I am still amazed that people are not seeing the oncoming mess that is global energy – once again I am hearing “abiotic oil” and “massive conspiracy” and other things in the oil patch. The rise of shale and its immediate abundance in the oil business is effectively hiding the truth of depletion across the world. Depletion never sleeps, yet it has been effectively masked by shale output. When these short lived assets snuff out, and the herd of bankruptcies results in no improvement….things will get interesting. Unfortunately, once oil tops $90/bbl, everything devolves to its true cost – globalism has the final stake in the heart.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts about possible futures!
I’d be cool with a law that required the location of the front door of all government buildings to be in an obvious location. I’ve had a few occasions where I found the buildings just fine, but couldn’t figure out how to get inside.
Well, that first bit about Trump architectural orders reminds me of something that happened in my country a couple of months ago … basically, city hall decides to purchase a “statue” to decorate a seaside park, spends 300000 € on a most definitely Post-post-modern instalation on steel frame cuts ( that most likely would cost a very small fraction of the purchase price ), instalation is promptly vandalized with grafitti stating the price tag and calling it a shame, artist that created instalation sees something resembling a trident in the graffitti and cries racism ( because apparently some neo nazi groups use tridents as symbols ) … calling out art instalations as ugly and a money waste is racism nowadays apparently 😉
More details below ( google translate is your friend if you don’t know Portuguese ). Complete with pictures to let you decide on the merits of the art instalation and the price tag :
P.S. If someone sees a trident in the graffitti , you have better eyes than me apparently 😛 And the most (un)funny part is that the artist in here and the NYT are literally preaching the same gospel , to the exact same words of indignation …
That said, Mr. Greer, the issue of what you called Uglicism is that the ugliness is deliberate, especially in the landscape architecture side of things. Besides the individual buildings being as far of beautiful as possible, as you pointed, the whole landscape architecture discipline appeard to create a physical landscape that is as agreeable to the ones in power and nowadays that means spaces that you don’t feel confortable in ( because, you guessed it, the ones in power do not feel confortable around you ).
Take, for a example, the insistence in using huge ( if not full ) glass frames in the buildings, in spite of being a huge problem in terms of energy management, of being fragile and not exactly the cheapest material around ( and of creating localized meltings due to concentrated reflected sunlight at times, like in the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao did ). One of the reasons for that is to create a enviroment where both in the inside or the outside of the building you feel that you’re watched at all times … Big Brother might be or not watching you, but you may never know if someone is from all of those myriad windows, so better behave 😉 Big boulevards are also a very old method to create a enviroment where you are for sure being seen by someone ( well, they were created originally to allow easy acess to troops and/or to dissuade barricades, but … ) . Or, in a more recent example, how the City of London is using “nice” lessons the British army perfected against IRA in northern Ireland to cull youngsters out of areas they don’t want gatherings in :
On other words, and in my ( not so ) humble opinion, the main drive for what you call Uglicism is pratical, just not pratical for humans. It is the result of almost two centuries of trying to cull the low level grunts to behave in ways whoever in charge feels is more agreeable with , Taylorism in building shape. And, the mood of those in power nowadays is clearly that they don’t want to be reminded that they and the rest of the humans are the same species and so,both their tastes must be directly in opposite of the common rabble ones and the rabble must be kept managed and at a distance ( like cows in summer ).
To end ,just a reminder of how those in charge in Washington see themselves as something alien to the rest of mankind …. the new US Embassy in London ( or like a friend of mine that lives in London calls it, Borg-by -the-Thames )
IMO American schools offer the worst of two worlds. We do not have the centralism of nations like Japan and France in which each first grader is learning the same lesson on the same day of the school year. Nor do we have the decentralism that would truly take into account the needs of individuals. The advantage of greater central control would be consistency. As it stands one can move only a few blocks, land in a different school district, be confronted with different text books and be either behind or ahead of one’s new classmates. Move states and you may leap from lessons in the history of the California missions to whatever it is that fourth grade students learn in Indiana (hint, California missions are not involved) And we won’t even get into the different views of national history taught in Virginia and Michigan–in the Civil War, George Custer and the Fighting Wolverines were heroes to the citizens of Michigan and villains to the South. The Civil War and how it is taught is probably still the greatest obstacle to national feeling.
As most of us know, the major differences in quality of instruction are between rich and poor districts. But even there culture makes a difference. I recall reading of a San Francisco school with many new Chinese immigrants. Logically they should have received Federal funding for additional reading instruction. However that funding was distributed based on the number of families receiving subsidized school lunches. The Chinese families did not apply for lunches for a variety of reasons and so their school got less money for teaching. And we won’t even get into fads such as the Ebonics movement of the 90s or look/say vs phonetic reading, the new math ( I think there have been at least two new math movements since I went to elementary school) and similar experiments unleashed against the desires of veteran teachers and parents of students.
Speaking of education–one of the presenters at last weekend’s Pantheacon mentioned in passing that the eurythmy exercises taught in Waldorf schools were intended to exercise the aura. Anyone know anything about that?
@Lady Cute Kitten
At the school my husband teaches at, the safe room for his class and the one next door was the chemical closet where they stored all the glass bottles of acids and bases for chemistry class. In glass fronted cabinets. The closet itself was a narrow hall between the classrooms with… Can you guess? Glass windows into the main hallway. 40 teenagers plus four teachers could not fit in it standing, let alone lying on the ground they way they were instructed. Also did I mention the shoot-able glass and rain of burning chemicals?
My husband asked if they could at least get curtains, some years ago (but why? We don’t understand the issue?) but they haven’t. The plan is now just under the desks. Fortunately we’re in western Canada so the odds of an active shooter are basically nil 😒
When I was visiting Seattle many years ago my friends took me to the UW library that Paul Allan donated. The building was done in the Gothic revival style. Built like an ancient cathedral, complete with stained glass windows and huge wooden doors. It was beautiful and exactly, at least in my mind, what a central library should look like. A place for the worship of learning.
Contrast that with the Seattle public library, a massive glass and steel building with a spiral ramp running up the center of the building. The upper floors have an impressive view of the Sound, but the acoustics and vibe of the place made it impossible to sit and study.
The main library here in Madison is also of a newer style, very corporate with a mix of styles and no real sense of itself. That seems to sum up modern architecture, it has no real sense of what it is supposed to be, but every idea of what it ain’t.
The argument over history is another monster, but again it comes down to the picture of what we’re supposed to be over what we aren’t. I do agree that the western expansion wasn’t unique, it was a track in space. I do think that the track went to extremes that were rare before.
The basic fact of long-term history is that a population that lives sustainably can, and eventually will, be conquered by one that creates a stronger army by being more profligate. (There are a few “unconquerable” exceptions in cases of extreme or isolated environments, technology advantages, or extreme warrior cultures that focus on defense; but even those don’t last indefinitely.)
In our current circumstances it’s understandable that we’re concerned about how and why empires fall, but the above is the basic gist of how and why they rise, and why they take the forms they do in the process. The Empire of Everyone Living Sustainably and Sharing doesn’t arise. If you don’t over-produce and deplete your soil, your over-producing overpopulated neighbors will eventually take them over and do it for you. The cycle of consolidation and collapse is not just a pattern in history. In dynamical systems terms, it’s an attractor.
(That means almost all the colorful demi-utopian eco-communities in deindustrial fiction, holding their incessant how-we-finally-learned-to-live-sustainably ceremonies, are doomed, something I sometimes have trouble looking past when reading or writing in that genre.)
The past four centuries or so of North and South American history is an enormous, and correspondingly rare, perturbation in (but not interruption of) that cycle, resulting from re-contact after millennia of relative isolation, which segued directly into a larger perturbation from fossil energy. But even large perturbations will work their way back to the same attractor.
Hence the hopes and fears behind futurism and transhumanism. “Thank God we’re through with war and affliction for good, or soon will be.” Blowing a once-only chance to get off that wheel, because of our human failings, is too terrible a scenario to accept. The closer that failure looms, the more we must villify any signs of certain of those perceived failings (hate, for instance).
But that’s all illusion. War and affliction never ceased. for one thing. But even (IMHO) more important, our failings, our nature, are not the cause of the “basic fact” problem. Just as likely, or to just as great a degree, our nature is an adaptation to the basic problem. The only thing more prevalent in history than great leaders and scholars and visionaries decrying and renouncing war, is war. We’re warlike in deep ways. For instance, I believe such instinctive affinity underlies the fact that most adults in positions of authority support and admire childhood bullying no matter how much lip service they pay to wanting to prevent it. I was bullied and I deeply despise bullying. But I have to at least consider the possibility it served a useful function of excluding me from certain realms that I would not have been successful or happy in, such as the teen dating scene or, well, seeking positions of authority.
The American and First Nations natives in the northeast woodlands, whose ability to live sustainably in harsh environments we justifiably admire, routinely took whatever war or raid captives they could get hold of from neighboring tribes; adopted the girls, young women, and young boys; and enthusiastically tortured the adults and adolescent males to death. The doomed captives, for their part, considered it an honor and took pride in handling that experience with as much aplomb as they could muster. This was routinely discussed in the books on Native American history and culture that were in the public school libraries when I was in those schools. It’s hardly mentioned now, but it’s well enough documented that I don’t believe it’s any European slander.
This land I’m in now, within the historical boundaries of the original Plymouth “Pilgrim” settlement, was and is okay with that. That’s not to say it wants it resumed, but it wants me at least to try to respect it as it was, without ignorant judgment. If there’s a difference in the shape of the attractor in the New World, there’s a clue there to understanding it.
An interesting example of what real people find attractive and compelling in architecture can be found in the PNW (mostly Oregon) in the form of the Mcmenamin’s chain of restaurants, bars and hotels. On the surface it is hard to figure what makes this collection of establishments so popular and successful. They have mediocre food, drink and service with many of the hotels still sporting old style shared restrooms. But most of them are located in grand or quaint old buildings that might have otherwise been torn down. From old funeral chapels, to 9th century brick hotels to an abandoned Masonic retirement home they have reused old buildings that modern managerial practice says should be torn down and replaced with something efficient. But people flock to them just to spend a short spell outside the brutalist boxes that dominate their life.
Ivan Illich wrote in his book Unschooling Society, “School is the advertising agency that convinces you that you need society as it is”. Despite the convulsions of most of my liberal friends (teachers and administration types), and the adamant denials of conservatives, this is, to me, the exact point of the existing trend to utilitarian “education”. They miss completely the necessity of ‘history’ that is articulated by peoples and cultures (past and present) other than what most folks, who live in the comforts of North America, call ‘real history’. There other ways of seeing nature than through Western ‘experts” eyes. There are different ways of living in a democracy than the oligarchic version we experience. There are different ways of living co-operatively that do not include our myopic version individualism and competition. But so much of ‘education’, whether formally in schools or through most media, is caught up in delivering more of the same of what got us here – as if where we are is the best that can be attained!!
“It’s important to be precise here. History is always a matter of picking and choosing, deciding which events are important and which are not. This is why it’s crucial, in learning about history, to come at it from a variety of directions, exploring competing narratives and criteria for what is and isn’t relevant—and also, of course, why the sort of dogmatic historical monoculture that’s so often seen in American education, for example, is so destructive and so dull. A history that doesn’t challenge your preconceptions from more than one direction has failed in its task.”
This is well put, but assumes the good faith and sense of the would-be practitioner. After all, aren’t they picking and choosing by suppressing, ignoring, or outright lying about history? I’m sure that’s how they justify it to themselves….in a “Socratic” way. The elite don’t seem to have any better luck than anyone else avoiding self-deception or corruption, and their intelligence just amplifies their rottenness.
It’s interesting you mention the chautauquas in a positive light. Mencken, of course, lambasts them over and over and over again in his brutally effective, and appallingly unsentimental and uncharitable “Sahara of the Bozart”, back when the managerial elite was on the rise. How many elitists used the excellent writing and craft of a Mencken to justify their own snobbery? My guess is, a whole hell of a lot.
@ Robert Mathiesen and JMG; concerning the Pentagon.
In the chapter on Geburah in Dion Fortune’s The Mystical Qabalah, she points out that the number five and the pentagon have traditionally been symbols that are sacred to Mars, the Roman God of War. When I read that, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought to myself, “holy cow, the Pentagon is a literal temple to the God of War! That helps explain a great deal about American popular culture and foreign policy since World War II.”
For a variety of reasons, i’ve recently been forcing myself to read some of the latest “literary fiction” novels that have been published here in Australia and so I’ve encountered uglicism in literary form.
One particular book still amazes me because one review (all of these books are reviewed by another author who is a member of the literary fiction in-group) said that it was ‘hilarious’. As I was looking specifically for comedy novels, this sparked my interest and I started to read it. It was the least funny thing I’ve ever read. It was the opposite of comedy. I can only imagine that the whole thing was some kind of in joke. A meta-satire on the whole notion of comedy or something like that.
I’m starting to develop an economic theory of how this kind of thing happens. Seems to me that when a market saturates, consumers suffer from choice overload and become unable to make purchasing decision. Without a strong signal from consumers, businesses turn to ‘experts’ to determine what work is quality and what is not. The market then stagnates around a fixed group of consumers who are also happy to be told by the experts what is good as this removes the problem of choice overload.
P.S. I’m still looking for genuinely funny, narrative fiction comedy novels so if anybody can recommend some authors I would be most appreciative. There seems to be a massive hole in the market for comedy. I’m guessing talented comedy writers go to work in tv and film.
“Take the endless posturing by liberal historians about the unequaled moral evil of the European conquest and settlement of the Americas. You would think, to read these diatribes, that no other group of people in all of history ever invaded and conquered lands where somebody else lived.”
I think it’s fair to say that we as humans are as capable for good and evil deeds – however you may define that – as we have ever been. I once read a quote from a native American who visited Europe (I believe not Black Elk, though it may have roughly been the same time) saying that – if I recall correctly – he thought the Europeans not to be more or less evil than any Native but that the way European society is structured will lead into disaster.* I believe this to be very true. To give a small but concrete example, during WW II here was a German physician who made a book cover out of the tattooed skin of a victim of a concentration camp. If this person was born today, would he be less capable of such an atrocity? He would possibly just be an ordinary physician working in a random town, maybe having a family and nobody, possibly not even he himself would be aware of what “potential” lies within. I don’t see any reason to believe that there are less people capable of doing the worst atrocities living right now in the middle of our society than during WW II or any time in human history. The only difference is, that our society, our education, our identity is currently structured in a way that largely prevents such things from happening (at least not at home, not talking about the endless cruelties inflicted to other countries by means of economy and military). Or, as Béchamp put it: “Le microbe, c’est rien, le milleu, c’est tout!”
Another point, deeply linked to the society, is the role of identity. To borrow from the Indian mystic Sadhguru – “Your intellect will only work to defend what you’re identified with.” and “If you identify with your ignorance, the longing to know will become natural to you”. I think this point plays a crucial and at the moment very unfortunate role in our educational system. As a German saying has it: “Kinder kommen in die Schule als Fragezeichen und gehen als Punkt.”
I have no idea, how all this will unfold in the future. But still, the more I read your essays I am getting the feeling that Europe is on a very different trajectory than the United States. And while for most of western Europe the US was the measure things for a long time, this time seems to be slowly coming to an end. I’d dare the very rough prediction that a long process of alienation and separation is on its way which will be supported by the depletion of natural resources. At the end, an isolated Europe might be as scattered again as it was for long periods of time or the “Europe of the regions” idea will hold sway which will lead to a more heterogeneous Europe that possibly sticks together more closely than it does now. It will be interesting to observe the role Russia will have in one of those scenarios…
* I don’t know who I am referring to and have been searching the original quote for quite a while now. Maybe you or any of the readers knows who I am talking about and can give me a hint?
I, for one, do not care much for the neo-classical style. I don’t care for columns or symetry. I’m more a fan of Art Deco. I’m clearly in the minority, and I don’t exepct my tastes to be reflected in public architecture, though I might suggest they coulld at least be considered. Instead they are ruled out.
I’m aware that neo classical has been built in some of our coldest snowiest and wiindiest places, but I’m not sure it’s really appropriate to the climate. Large open porches with two (or more) story columns aren’t necessarily the wisest choice for such climates. I’m inclined to think a nation as large as ours, with such varried climate is making a mistake having a “national style” of architecture for public buildings.
No worries though. I’m sure whoever replaces Trump (likely not until 2025) willl simply issue a new executive order overridding Trump’s. So, for the next few years, we’ll have some neoclassical style buildings put up.
If us taxpayers are ever going to have a voice in public architecture I suspect that voice will call for some variety.
Clay Dennis mentioned McMenamins. For years, I used to walk by the ruined old Elks Lodge in downtown Tacoma. It was boarded up and covered in graffiti, but one could see the old grandeur of the building. McMenamins fixed it up and have turned it into a fine hotel and general gathering space. I hope it remains for many years to come.
Tacoma provides a good example of the old and new. Along Pacific Avenue, you can see the occasional brick structure from the turn of the last century alongside concrete and glass monstrosities. Often the older buildings stand empty.
I would love to see a return of more beauty in architecture in this area. When comparing, say, 1920 to 2020, it is clear we are far past our architectural peak. Maybe we still have a chance to climb out of this hole?
Samurai, these days believers in progress are very brittle, because it’s increasingly clear that they’re not the wave of the future their ideology insists they have to be. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you had those experiences.
Robert, that certainly strikes me as a good idea! One of my sisters-in-law spent two years at college living in a dormitory designed by Walter Gropius, and she notes that everyone who lived there agreed that the only proper fate for Gropius was to be condemned eternally to inhabit one of his own buildings.
Kathy, one of the inevitable results of the decision to use Neoclassical architecture for US government buildings was to highlight exactly that tension — which Neoclassical? The democratic architecture of Athens and Republican Rome, or the imperial architecture of the Hellenistic world and the Roman Empire? Since that’s been one of the enduring challenges we’ve faced as a nation, I don’t think it’s inappropriate.
Samurai, I’m not at all sure what to say, as I found Spengler very intuitive and easy to follow. Does anyone else have any suggestions?
NomadicBeer, well, your mileage may vary, but to me that’s just the same old morality play. Even your language — “fallen” — suggests to me that, like so many people who glorify the hunter-gatherers, you’re simply finding a different way to talk about the myth of Eden.
Kimberly, as Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” That is to say, it’s a very rare person who will let thoughtfulness trump self-interest.
Juan, I don’t think that’s settled yet. Britain seems to be heading that way, and given the outcome of the recent Irish general election, Ireland likewise. Beyond that? We’ll see.
Yorkshire, as long as you’re concentrating on hoarding stuff, you’ve missed the turning. Learn skills and build relationships — that’s what will keep you plump and happy.
Mike, au contraire, Robert Jackson’s argument was the point at which the Nuremberg trials stopped being anything but a propaganda exercise. Did the Nazi leadership deserve to be punished? Of course, for their crimes against humanity, such as carpet-bombing civilian populations, running slave-labor camps, and slaughtering people they didn’t like by the millions. The problem the Allies faced was that condemning the Nazi leadership for those crimes left the Allies open to challenge for identical crimes against humanity; remember, please, that Stalin’s government starved and slaughtered more of its own citizens than Hitler ever did.
Instead of dealing with that, they found the one charge they couldn’t be blamed for when it came to the Second World War — aggressive war — and engaged in a Donald Duck splutterfest about how horrible that was, quietly ignoring the fact that every Allied nation represented at Nuremberg had engaged in aggressive war far more often than Germany had! Thus Nuremberg was anything but the “triumph for the human race” you claim it was. It was simply one more unusually brutal example of might making right. And that, of course, is why nobody paid any attention to it afterwards — it was never meant to govern the behavior of the victors, just to provide an excuse for punishing the losers.
Reggie, I saw that. I wonder if any of the people who approved that headline realize that they probably just handed another five votes in the electoral college to Trump…
@ Dermot M O Conner:
The Provisional Sinn Fein is now the leading in the polls in Ireland? Everyone knows that Sinn Fein was historically the political wing of the IRA and the name Provisional Sinn Fein suggests they are still closely tied to the Provos or are at least trying to cash in on memories of the Provisional IRA’s insurgency against the British during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
My, my how things are changing, and not just here in the states…
Eerie historical parallels are being played out in minature in Flyover USA.
The older civilisation of Idaho is steadily pushing back against that barbarous forbidding region that sticks out of western Rustbeltistan- Oregon. I am talking about the Emerging war against those pict painted politically-correct Smashed Avocadans by the awokening settlers of the prairie and plains !
1. “A thousand years from now, in other words, historians will talk about the Europeans the way they now talk about the Mongols and the Huns.”
All I’m saying is the Mongols have a lot to answer for. 😉
Let’s get these reparations going to China, Russia, the Middle East and most of Asia, judging by the map.
Also can you imagine a Mongolian politician actually standing up and proposing this today?
2. A good example of the Uglicist architecture is Harry S Truman building in Washington D.C. where the Department of State is headquartered.
Built during the WW2 it looks like a concrete box on the outside, it’s ugly. Wikipedia says it’s an example of the Stripped Classical style, but I guess they stripped too much. It reminds me of late Soviet architecture.
3. “…it comes out of a pervasive hostility to history that shapes much of the behavior of the managerial elite today.”
I wonder how much of this hatred comes from the desire to control the narrative and how much it of it is a function of their belief in Progress?
If past is evil and future is good, then destroying everything related to past, including architectural forms, would clear the space for the Brighter Future(tm).
“I think it’s no accident that the ugliest buildng on most campuses I’ve visited is the one where students are taught to be architects.”
Yale Art & Architecture – brutal!
About that anti-diet movement,
All I can say is that, while I’ve never met anyone associated with it, I wish them the very best. My opinion for quite a white has been that there never was, and never will be an ideal diet; human beings are omnivores by design, we’re meant to have a great deal of adaptability in what we can eat, and anyone who says to eat only the right foods in the right proportions is basically fighting nature.
As for all those leftists saying things like “We need to give the elites a bigger say in choosing the president,” it sounds like the shrill cries of someone who already knows he’s going to lose. I think that at this points its better than even money that the Democratic primary will go all the way to the convention but with Bernie in the lead. If the party elites swallow their pride and muster up the votes for Bernie, they’ll have a small but non-zero chance of winning in November, but if they give the nomination to anybody else, their party is going to get the stomping it deserves.
One more question for you, JMG: What, if anything, is your take on the Blagojevich commutation?
I need to start going to your doctors’ offices – at least they have magazines that aren’t about golf and more golf, which pretty much describes the selection at the offices I’ve been in.
Here in Vermont there are the natives (woodchucks) and the newcomers (flatlanders). The flatlanders seem to come primarily from urban places (NY, NJ, CT, MA) and either buy second homes or move here permanently to become ‘country folk’ and range from mildly annoying to pain-in-the-butt. Too many of them have the idea that they need to share their enlightened lifestyle with the natives because it’s so much better, kind of like the way Mike Bloomberg feels about people who farm. By the way, the best response to billionaire Bloomberg’s dis of farmers is this fine article from The American Conservative: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/farming-isnt-an-information-age-skill/
I’ve heard more than a few woodchucks who grew up in the southern part of Vermont say they’re thinking of relocating to the Northeast Kingdom, the most rural (and most conservative) part of this rural state in order to get away from the most obnoxious of the flatlanders.
Your mention of colleges and universities brought up a memory of touring colleges with Younger Son. One place we went to (twice!) was Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
The campus was …. interesting. The entire place was built new, out on the flats south of Rochester in 1968. Brutalism in Brick. What made the campus even more exciting was that (if I recall correctly) its design and orientation were based on a ‘campus in a box’ plan from Arizona.
Thus, the buildings were built and aligned to catch cooling and soothing breezes. This works very well in Arizona. In upstate New York, right off Lake Ontario, in the winter, this meant howling, shrieking winds. When we toured, we kept seeing large, heavily planted berms. I was told that it was to cut down on biting winter winds, chilling to the bone.
The University of Rochester, also made completely of brick, had a much more attractive, human-scaled campus other than the few ugly buildings.
Teresa from Hershey
This essay should come with a warning to anyone that is a fan of Ayn Rand and ‘The Fountainhead’. The Randroids, will not be pleased. 😉
For those who have not tried to force their way through the pedestrian level writing of Rand, it is about an architect that wants to design modern architecture but is ‘stifled’ by the governments requirements for more traditional design requirements. It ends up with the protagonist blowing up the public housing project as an act of defiance. If you have to read it, try and find a super abridged copy. If you ripped 90% of the pages out it would still be considered long winded.
That this is the book and ideals that guides a lot of big CEO’s, particularly in Silicon valley.
A lot of modern architecture is just abhorrent, I see new housing estates going up and the wife and I are constantly trying to pick out the ugliest thing we can find, it usually doesn’t take long. Typically something that is just a bunch of stack black cubes with barely a window in sight and a garden that well… I dare to even call it that. It is the nature of man over the last few decades that you can always tell when we have tried to control an area because all you see is cubes everywhere. Just look over a valley one day that we have decided to work on, cubes everywhere.
That the peak of architecture nowadays is considered the ‘Apple Store Cube’ goes to show just how uncreative some people can be nowadays. I appreciate it from the use of materials and of basic geometry – but I assume that is not what they were going for. That we can make something so devoid of essence is considered a triumph of mans conquering of nature.
As for the erasure of history, the flip side is the concept of ‘the end of history’, something used in all manner of field to denote that “we have arrived at the final evolution of (insert technology/cause here)”. Marxist make a good example of this. The end of war, poverty, social problems etc. And yet, as I’m sure most ecosophians here know, when we look at deep time this is not the case. We are living in the continuation of it all and will be just another step along the road.
What happens when people simultaneously forget their history and assume no tomorrow? It is hard to tell but that is the core of most new-age self help guru’s and they have achieved nothing much positive in decades. This may be the outcome for a lot that try to do the same thing in the real world. A whole lot of talking and nothing more happening.
Methylethyl, that WaPo article is just priceless. As though I needed more evidence for my thesis! As for the executive order, exactly — the problem is not that Trump is mandating a single style, it’s that he’s not allowing architects to mandate Uglicism.
Aidan, every wave of the future eventually breaks and rolls back out to sea. The insistence that artists have to align themselves with the “progressive” managerial elite is so 1930s at this point! 😉
Mike, that’s a great example of stupid design — thank you!
Dermot, I have indeed! I was wondering whether the populist insurgency was going to hit Ireland, and that question is now answered in the affirmative. I hadn’t heard that SF was rising so fast in the post-election polls, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. I hope it all goes well and the Irish people get a government that pays attention to their needs for a change.
Pygmycory, exactly. History is a bloodsoaked mess, because it’s made by human beings and not by department-store mannequins in angel costumes.
Oilman2, you’ll get no argument from me there. Recent public school architecture makes it brutally clear that public schools are simply prisons where the inmates get 12-year terms for the crime of being children.
MJ, that would be a good start!
Ricardo, thanks for this — on the one hand, yes, that’s a great example; on the other, the neighborhood where I live these days is mostly Portuguese-Americans from the Azores and the Cape Verde Islands, so I’ve begun to pick up some of the language and having a link to a Portuguese newspaper is helpful! But you’re also right — the ugliness is deliberate. It’s the expression of a very specific set of notions that can be traced in the history of ideas, and it’s also a reflection of equally specific class interests that can also be identified with a fine degree of precision.
Rita, yeah, I’d agree that we land squarely in the worse-than-either category. As for eurhythmy, that doesn’t surprise me, but you’d probably have to talk to some Anthroposophists to get the details.
Varun, I’d say simply that the track went further in space than it had before. May I point to Timur-i-Lenk as a counterexample to any claim that there was something unique in the ruthlessness of the Europeans?
Walt, human beings are tough, aggressive social primates. We didn’t spread from the east African savannahs to every inhabitable land surface on earth by being meek and peaceful. Sometimes we’re smart enough to harness our aggressive drives and put them to constructive uses, but that only works for so long. So history is what it is, and will keep on being what it’s been.
Clay, that’s a good example. You’re right that the food’s not that good, but the venues are very pleasant.
Bruce, exactly. The reason for that frantic exclusion, in turn, is that the people who make such decisions are well aware that if there’s a choice, next to nobody will accept what they’re trying to push on the rest of us.
Arkansas, Mencken made no bones about his hatred for democracy; he was an elitist pure and simple, and so of course he hated chatauquas, just as he hated anything else that reflected the tastes and interests of the masses he loathed so bitterly.
Jacurutu, excellent! I’m pretty sure that had to be done on purpose, too.
Simon, there is certainly Uglicist literature! When I was in college the basic rule is that literature couldn’t be serious unless it strictly avoided doing anything the reader might enjoy: the characters had to be dreary or unpleasant, there couldn’t be a plot that went anywhere or did anything, and there certainly couldn’t be any kind of resolution at the end. It’s exactly the same spirit that produces Uglicist buildings that nobody can stand and Uglicist music that won’t bear listening to. (I’m sorry to say I can’t help you with comedy — I enjoy farce but, like many people with Aspergers, I don’t get comedy at all.)
Nachtgurke, of course the arrangement of society has some impact on which human propensities get acted out, but only some. You can suppress a given set of behaviors for a time, but they will find their way out sooner or later — do you recall the accounts of people cheering frantically in every European capital when the First World War broke out? A century of attempted repression of human aggressiveness was being relieved all at once. In the same way, when the EU finally collapses and armies start marching in Europe again, I expect similar scenes.
Christopher H, the executive order also leaves room for buildings to be built in locally appropriate and traditional styles, so you may get your way.
Christopher K, here’s hoping!
Another sign the senile elites in the Democratic Party are in a state of full-blown panic:
George Soros, billionaire financier and speculator, bankroller of color revolutions and rent-a-mob riots around the world from Portland, Oregon to Kiev, Ukraine, and patron of liberal Democrat causes, is demanding Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Faceplant, be ousted on the grounds that if he isn’t, Donald Trump will win reelection.
The great irony is that it was the policies and actions of people like Soros that made rise of Trump or someone like him inevitable, a lesson that still seems to escape the “limousine liberals” and “privileged progressives”.
Natura, I suppose that’s one way to spin it…
Polytropos, well, I know there are Turks who like to dream of a Greater Turkestan extending from the Balkans to the Gobi Desert. As for the hatred of history, I think that’s part of it; another part is the terror that if people actually learn about history, they’ll realize that the glorious reign of progress has actually made things a lot worse for a lot of people in recent years.
Roboslob, exactly. That building communicates a sense of furious hostility to the world — stark, barren concrete walls, no windows at street level, stark glass sheets above that, masses of concrete jutting out with all the welcoming subtlety of a kick in the crotch. No wonder the students who learn architecture there produce so many bad buildings!
Wesley, it has occurred to me more than once that Blagojevich was up to his eyeballs in the fantastically corrupt Illinois political machine that gave us Barack Obama, and doubtless knows where all the bodies are buried. It would not surprise me if the commutation was part of a deal in which Blagojevich agrees to spill the beans. If so, things could get very, very interesting over the next few months.
Teresa, that’s a classic example of architectural stupidity — thank you!
Michael, I think you’re on to something important. The underlying theme of Rand’s dismal fiction was a frantic hatred for ordinary people, i.e., all those who didn’t think that Rand was as special and important and brilliant as she wanted to believe she was. It makes sense that this would be woven into the genetics of Silicon Valley!
Jacurutu, yes, I saw that. It’s precisely because Soros et al. can’t understand their own role in making Trump inevitable that Trump was so inevitable…
Simon S –
For some well written laughs, I would recommend works by Christopher Buckley (for example, “Steaming To Bamboola”) and Edward Abbey’s classic, The Monkey Wrench Gang.
Was not Washington DC’s layout design a copy of republican Rome ?
Her architechture a copy of Rome’s ? The Eagle it’s symbol.
The Potomac river origionally named Tiber ?
Perhaps Mr. Trump is trying to re-energise the echo’s of Empirical Roman archetecture to revitalise the American Empire.
Years ago I read your book The Secret of the Temple. Walking into a really gorgeous big Neoclassical government building gives me an echo of the same uplifting shiver I get walking into a really gorgeous big gothic-type cathedral. Do you think some of the principles of Temple architecture are also at work in a well-designed Neoclassical building?
By the same token, walking into an Uglicist church building gives me the same ‘flayed nerve staked out on a rock’ reaction that Andrew001 mentioned.
Dermot O Connor,
Good for the Irish. May it happen here.
The BAU parties have given people a choice: take our way and suffer, or take your chance with SF. Prior to the GE, the BAU parties (FF/FG) tried to raise the retirement age to 68 from 65. Not exactly a winning policy. Queue the TINA chorus, and the rubbish about “there isn’t enough money”. Blah blah, there’s plenty of money when they want to bail out banks, but when Johnny and Mary Murphy want to retire their worn out bodies at 65, the coffers run dry.
There was a discussion about this on RTE (irish BBC). One of the nice liberal middle class panelists was saying that it was great to work to 68, that her mother, a piano teacher, was still working in her late 60s and loving it. The classism of that statement went over almost everyone on the panel. The idea that working class people clean and dig and lift and wear out their joints just never entered her head. Oh, to be middle class from the leafy suburbs of Dublin 4 and to be that narcissistic.
JMG, yes – the rebellion appeared in Ireland with a vengeance. It actually took SF by surprise, as their performance in last year’s locals/euros was so poor, and their poll ratings prior to the GE weren’t that high. They ran a defensive campaign and only ran 42 candidates. They won 37 seats, FF38 and FG 35. Had SF run another 15 candidates they’d have won ~50 seats, and FF/FG a lot less. So SF’s understandably cautious campaign has thrown the two biggies a slender lifeline that they do not deserve.
One SF candidate’s family had bought her a holiday as an xmas present. It coincided with the election, but she couldn’t cancel the trip. So she went on holiday (hung up ten or twenty posters, which is nothing). She had never won a seat before.
She topped the poll!
Jacurutu, yes, pretty much everyone knows that PSF was the political wing of PIRA. It’s just that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has put 22 years of peace behind them, and PSF are now well on the path trodden by previous iterations of Irish republicanism toward parliamentarianism. People know, and they do not care. The young intake of SF politicians are mostly from the South, and are VERY articulate and capable.
The Demographics are also amazing: over 68s support PSF at about 11%, but under that, it rises quickly to 38% among under 25s, but they’re also strong (30%) in my cohort (50). In Northern Ireland, next year’s census is expected to show a Catholic majority for the first time. As Unionist / protestants die off, to be replaced by voters from a catholic / nationalist background, demographics will work toward SF also.
This, along with Brexit, will put the UK under extreme pressure as an SF govt. in the Republic will be able to initiate a border poll that will, sooner rather than later, lead toward a United Ireland. Sometime in the next 20 years would be a safe guess if things move in the current direction.
Fascinating to live through times like this. And not as peripheral as it might seem as Ireland’s tail will soon really begin to wag the British dog.
The funny thing about the op-ed from Pravda on the Potomac is that the present Democratic primary system was crafted as a reaction to widespread public anger about the blatant election rigging in the 2016 presidential primaries to ensure Hillary Clinton got the nomination. Up through the 2016 elections, the elites set up the process via “super-delegates” and other shenanigans to ensure that they could control who got nominated. Rank and file party members demanded that the system be changed to ensure that couldn’t happen again.
So now the elites are feeling butthurt and are demanding that the system be changed so they can go back hand-picking who the nominees are? I doubt that will go over well with either the average Democratic Party member or the the American people in general.
The first thing he did when he got out of prison was to declare himself a “Trumpocrat” and deliver an impassioned speech in which he harshly criticized what he called a ” broken and racist criminal justice system”. This ties in well with Trump’s efforts to win over African-American and other minority voters by pushing for criminal justice reforms that help minorities that have been victimized by the system. I have also read that as a follow-on to the earlier sentencing reform bill he lobbied for and signed, Trump is pushing for an even more ambitious criminal sentencing reform bill, one that would emphasize helping ex-cons reintegrate into society.
It’s no wonder why the liberal elites are so scared…
Regarding Blagojevich, and Roger Stone – What haven’t I heard from any news medium discussing these two recent “offenses” of President Trump? An objective comparison of the sentences as related to comparable cases. It’s all about how “prosecutors asked for (or got) X punishment, but Trump reduced it to X-Y.” There’s no discussion of historical context, of whether X, or X-Y, was more objectively appropriate.
And there’s no objective discussion about whether neoclassical or regional traditional architecture might cost less to construct, to operate, or to maintain. (Pro tip: water rolls off of a pitched roof, and seeps through a flat one, but flat roofs seem to entertain architects… that is, if they aren’t computing how to make ovoid domed roofs with truncated tentacles.) Taxpayers aren’t off the hook financially just because a building is open for business; there’s a hundred years or more of life-cycle expenses to consider, material burdens which will inherently become harder to bear in a Post-Carbon economy.
You know, it’s almost as though no one admits the existence of objective truth in anything.
I think there’s something else important to note: people are losing their minds over a proposed executive order, not an actual one. The beauty of it is that Trump has managed, yet again, to distract his opponents, in such a way as to make sure that he looks good to a lot of people. Despite his many, many issues, he’s a brilliant media manager.
I also think the managerial elite are about to lose control completely: Sanders is currently thriving in the Democratic primaries. We’ll see what happens in Nevada, but I think there’s a very good chance he’ll get a majority of the delegates to the convention, and the DNC probably won’t dare to invalidate that if it happens. Even if he doesn’t get a majority, I’d be amazed if he didn’t get a plurality. In either case, it looks like the managerial class is about to lose control of both parties.
“Dylandrogynous, universities are some of the best places in the US to observe Uglicist architecture in contrast with something better. You’ve got the old buildings, Neoclassical in some cases and university Gothic Revival in others — the University of Washington, where I got my degree, has a glorious collection of buildings in the latter style — and then you have the stark sneering ugliness of the postwar buildings. Having the two cheek by jowl makes it all the easier to see just how hideous the latter are.”
Suddenly, something which baffled me makes a great deal of sense: there are so many incentives to tear down old buildings and erect new ones, despite the fact it costs society so much more to do that than just keep the old buildings. But, of course, if the people like the old buildings, then they need to go. Those are clearly corrupting those peasants, and keeping them from understanding the true beauty of modern architecture…
Ohh, JMG, this was a good one.
I live in Troy, New York, a small American city ’bout 7 miles north of Albany. Part of the reasons why I chose to settle here was the architecture. I grew up in the Jersey burbs, and well, yea…you know how that goes. Here in Troy, despite the poverty and neglect, it’s another world. We have beautiful buildings here, made of masonry or stout timber frames with their original wood siding still intact. I like to go for walks and bike rides among the neighborhoods with these buildings, and it’s a joy to be among these structures framed against the flow of the 4 seasons. I find myself filled with a sense of pride and attachment to a place.
The house I bought is a tiny timber framed cottage in the Greek revival style, with a deep front porch framed with 4 Doric columns. Every time I walk up those steps to my front door…it does feel like coming home. I wonder now and then about the carpenters who originally built it (build date 1803)…I think they would take pride that it is still standing and is better looking than the modern claptrap buildings that are just a few blocks away.
I agree with your assessment that the tide is indeed turning. Though I’m a transplant, I’ve been here a few years now, and all the vacant buildings are being snatched up, and work permits are going up in many a window. I’ve started to work my way into the building trades, and some of the most in demand craftsman I know are those who specialize in historical restoration…and it’s funny, because everyone acknowledges that anything built in the 18th/19th/early 20th century not only has more character, but also is just better built.
And this in turn helps to explain Trump’s success. By returning to things that actually that work, Trump is helping to give folks the impression that tomorrow might actually be better than the present! My goodness, how outrageous…
JMG, what do you think the Pluto Return of USA means for the ordinary working class in America? The housing bubble popped almost as soon as Pluto entered Capricorn in 2008 and will be in Capricorn until January 2024.
Well, we’ll see to what degree a neoclassical revival becomes reality. It the meantime, here is an image for one’s dreams.
Regarding European empires, I know I couple of brief but fascinating alternate history scenarios where it was less successful and often involves empires form other continents. “Athenian Empire” features a world where Ancient Athens won the Peloponnesian War resulting in a modern world where the Classical Era went in quite interesting directions. Another “Vivaldi’s Gift”, describes a world where European exploration began in the 13th rather than 15th Century thanks to an exhibition that goes after the Vivaldi Brothers, a real-life duo of explorers who sailed West and were never seen again. It is effectively a Renaissance world dominated by German and Italian states.
BTW, if you are looking at this on your phone, touch the “i in the circle” for a description.
@ Simon S, a couple of older Australian comedy novels l enjoyed were “Batchelor kisses” and “Perfect skin” by Nick Earls.
With regards to the pre-1950s diets, I think there’s a very simple reason for it: the diet industry thrives on a captive audience. It’s actually nearly impossible to control your weight: if your body thinks it’s at the right size, there’s nothing you can do to make it add weight.
Likewise, if it’s happy where it is, short of starving yourself, there’s nothing you can do to make it lose weight. I suspect the shift though is the result of processed foods, since those seem to shift the set point; and of course by convincing people to try to lose weight by using ultra-processed low calorie foods, you get the best possible captive audience: a group of people who will in fact continue to move in the opposite direction from where they’re trying to go!
Before I even read this: I said in another blog post comment that I would vote for whoever they chose if my chosen candidate wasn’t it, even if I had to hold my nose to do it. I take that back.
Michael Bloomberg has offered himself as a candidate for president in the Democratic Party. Mister “Stop & Frisk & throw them against the wall – they’re all criminals in those neighborhoods.” Mister “Farmers and factory workers don’t need intelligence… farming is simple, anyone can do it, you just stick a seed in the ground…factory workers just have to stick one part onto another…” If the Democrats actually choose him, it’s not my party any more, and they may as well elect Trump; I’ll sit that one out.
He’s suggested – or someone has suggested for him – Hillary as a running mate.
Silk slippers coming down the stairs and wooden clogs ascending… knocked it out of the park again JM.
OK – now that I’ve posted my thoroughly OT rant, I’ll follow the discussion with great interest, and if I can find the books you’ll refer to, I’ll try to get them to my grandchildren. Yes, today’s history teaching has been a bloody mess since my youngest daughter – now 51 – brought home a textbook that was an incoherent pileup of the Sins of America, without any recognition in its structure that history is made up of *stories.* Factual ones, but in structure, stories.
I work in BPA’s Dittmer building. It is a typical brutalist style. I have commented around work that if I were a James Bond villain, this is the building I would want for my headquarters. It is quite a lot nicer inside though.
I couple years ago I had to go to the Pacific County courthouse to resolve some real estate taxes. What a beautiful building! I was really surprised. There are many pictures on google images (search for “pacific county courthouse south bend wa” if you are interested). There are state capitols that are less impressive.
And on the forgotten history theme, there is an interesting story about the kidnapping of the county seat:
It reminded me of the quirky stories of Mark Twain, except this was real life. –From a time when it was very important where the county seat was located.
I went to the internet and looked up art deco architecture and got a slide presentation of 25 buildings. I would say abut 2/3 of them were quite lovely, and about 1/3 were pretty ugly.
I came across this yesterday. A meditation over a beautiful pre-WWII picture of a very European Dresden. https://www.bitchute.com/video/qOfcpYsrzGeS/
“You know, it’s almost as though no one admits the existence of objective truth in anything.”
I think you nailed it.
JMG, your essay is interesting and very necessary, but otherwise, I don’t have much to contribute. Regarding the end of the EU, my impression is that it will be quite a while until a new European war, because war is unpopular among people in Europe, and the political and economic attitudes of the European countries let tem prefer to use non-military methods to carry out conflicts. There seems to be, at the current time, no subculture which would endorse military action against other European countries. But of course there could be conditions which change that, for example, such things like the end of the EU and the retrat of globalization, to make such events thinkable again.
In the wake of the Thuringia election, the CDU went for a search for a new head of the party after the retreat of Kramp-Karrenbauer from her office; there are no choices without problems for them. So it is now possible to see more clearly how the end of business as usual will play out in yet another country.
A while ago, I mentioned art scandals and that currently, there is an unwritten law that art has to be vaguely left-wing and modernist; the new coloring-book for North Rhine-Westphalia issued by the AfD wherein are scenes of car convois with armed and flag-waving Turks and open-air swimbaths with vully-veiled women and one Muslim with a knife, provoked the right-wing art scandal which I then hypothesized about.
Uglicist architecture, of course, exists in Europe, too, and after the Second World War, there was much rebuilding with non-traditional, non-descript buildings, where ugliness isn’t as pronounced, but still there.
Simon, whether he has that intention or not, that’s basically the historical role he’s being sucked into. As US global hegemony disintegrates, the US needs to pull itself back together and become a nation rather than an imperial core. That seems to be the process that, knowingly or not, Trump is catalyzing.
Mother B, absolutely. Neoclassical architecture, because it uses the classical canons of design, embodies the sacred geometries that were used in the Greek temples, and yes, those are very good for the human nervous system. Uglicist architecture, because it deliberately rejects those geometries and goes for geometrical cacophony instead, is miserable to be around.
Dermot, thanks for this. I’m not a bit surprised, all things considered — and I know it’s none of my business as an American how the people on your island choose to arrange their borders, but I confess I’ll raise a glass in celebration when Ireland becomes one nation again.
Jacurutu, bingo. They’re outraged that people want the Democratic Party to be, er, democratic…
Lathechuck, and that’s exactly it. One of the consequences of buying into a dogmatic ideology of any kind — political, religious, you name it — is that nothing can be objectively real; it’s always a matter of check the ideology, see what it says, and then try to pretend that what you see in front of you is what the ideology says you should see in front of you.
Will, I gather that Bloomberg did very poorly at tonight’s debate, and Sanders continues to steam ahead. It’s going to be utterly fascinating to see what happens if he does end up with a large plurality and the party apparatchiks have to decide what to do about that.
Andrew B, I’m delighted to hear it! I’ve never been up the Hudson valley but I’ve heard some very pleasant stories about old towns up that way, and it’s good to know that people are finally seeing the point to those gorgeous old houses. As for Trump, exactly — what I don’t think any of his opponents have grasped is that the world toward which they want to lead us all is measurably worse for almost everyone than the present, much less the past…and everyone knows it. That’s why all the rhetoric of progress is falling flat, and people are beginning to remember that if you’re in a dead end, the only way out is to back up.
Wistermister, I haven’t really looked into it. I consider Pluto to be a minor body, like Ceres and Chiron; I’ll doubtless study those and the fixed stars one of these days, but I spent years tracking transits across my natal Pluto, and found that they didn’t amount to a hill of beans compared to the translts across the natal positions of the major planets.
Aidan, I’ll pass on the video — I find little jerky colored patterns on glass screens very off-putting. Thanks for the others.
Will, a nice summary!
Patricia M, I get the impression that a lot of Democrats agree with you.
Coboarts, thank you.
Patricia M, exactly. Exactly.
BCV, now there’s a blast from the past. It’s been a long time since I was last in South Bend, but I still miss coastal southwest Washington. (My paternal family’s from Aberdeen WA.)
Pastpeak, thank you, but I’ll pass on videos.
Booklover, I think you might find yourself quite unpleasantly surprised by how fast people turn to war. Still, we’ll see.
@ Simon S. – Funny writers? Anything by Christopher Moore, or, Laurie Notaro. Lew
Your description of the partisan antics on behalf of their version of the moral high road (my words), and your plea, near the end, to explore history from a variety of narratives resonates quite neatly with a passage that I recently read from what is perhaps an unlikely source: a book of samurai codes and ethics titled Hagakure.
“To hate injustice and stand on righteousness is a difficult thing. Furthermore, to think that being righteous is the best one can do and to do one’s utmost to be righteous will, on the contrary, bring many mistakes. The Way is in a higher place then righteousness. This is very difficult to discover, but it is the highest wisdom. When seen from this standpoint, things like righteousness are rather shallow. If one does not understand this on his own, it cannot be known. There is a method of getting to this Way, however, even if one cannot discover it by himself. This is found in consultation with others. Even a person who has not attained this Way sees others front the side. It is like the saying from the game of go: He who sees from the side has eight eyes. The saying, ‘Thought by thought we see our own mistakes,’ also means that the highest Way is in discussion with others. Listening to the old stories and reading books are for the purpose of sloughing off one’s own discrimination and attaching oneself to that of the ancients.”
Also, I wanted to inform you and the community that a regular commentator here, John Roth, has passed away from a battle with lung cancer. He was able to spend his last days in the presence of family.
Anand Giridharadas: The Charade Around Changing the World
I agree with what you have said. However I would like to throw in a quip about America’s current problems and its actual destiny. I must confess, I do not see America having a soft Byzantine landing. Mass immigration, massive amounts of debt and also ecological problems in the long run make this approach unlikely for the foreseeable future.
What I predict will happen is that, to borrow a phrase from your works on America’s new culture, the current state of American affairs will cause the country to split up into several different nations.
Maybe America will eventually unite again one day but for the foreseeable future, this is most likely the case. Indo not say it will be civil war though but a peaceful separation based on economic desires and fears of crime.
That said, I do feel a new American sort of ethnic group will eventually be formed. See, mass immigration itself does not allow for harmonious assimilation but a bit of immigration does.
Therefore, I feel America may go through the Russian experience of forming her own group. The Russians intermixed with the surrounding tribes and formed the dominant group. As the saying goes, “scratch a Russian, find a Tartar.” I feel Americans will also experience this phenomenon in several centuries in the future with it being “scratch an American, find a Mexican.”
As for the economy of this future state, what truly made America great was the whole concept of the frontier spirit. Therefore, some sort of green economy of going back to farming would be good for the masses, with the dream of owning your own home stead again.
I do not know if you have studied Gerard Papus, the infamous magician of Tsar Nicholas II. He made a futuristic remark saying that “it’s not time for America yet, it is still time for Europe.” This statement itself fits in quite nicely with your view. That is it’s not America’s time yet but it will be one day.
Am I correct in believing that next time you will explore upon “Where still the Friends their place of burial keep,
And century-rooted mosses o’er it creep,The Nurnberg scholar and his helpmeet sleep.” K?
Some nice discussion here about snobbery in music: https://www.reddit.com/r/musictheory/comments/f5cxc6/musicking_how_adam_neely_inadvertently_deepened/
A lot of the topics in this essay and in the comments were integrated for me in this review of Jacques Ellul’s book, “Propaganda.”
Ellul discusses how public education and the media are necessary to create and control a ‘mass society’ that is made up by large numbers of isolated individuals. Also, people who belong to a resilient cultural or ethnic group (like Amish, Gypsies, orthodox jews, etc) resist controls from the top–For this reason, the ruler class is often against them.
So you may see the fulfillment of your wish to see Americans participating in local groups like Odd Fellows, local politics and churches, etc as societal controls destabilise.
Lathe Chuck, I second your motion– Away with all the flat roofs! The building where I work has a flat roof in an area with substantial snow every year–And every year, water leaks through it…
Re: Albany civic architecture:
“Then there is a huge conference center that looks exactly like a giant toilet. The first time I saw it, I couldn’t believe it.”
I did a Google search and found this.
Is that the one you’re referring to, because that’s sure what it looks like?
JMG, as for war, my comment was, among others, motivated by the fact that there is a time where things change and pressure towards a war builds up, until it finally happens. This run-up time is the longer, the higher the death toll of the following war is. At least, that is what the Richardson curve says, which was mentioned by Carl Sagen in “The Cosmos”.
As for architecture, Uglicism and classical architecture are not the only styles, that exists; there are, for example, the ideologically non-linear architecture of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and the architecture of the Anthropüosophists, which, at least sometimes, and in Germany, is somewhat weird and makes the impression of a closed ideology behind it. So, even outside of Uglicism, there can be pitfalls of architectural ideology. For context, one needs to know that Anthroposophy in Germany is largely a thing of the well-to do bourgeois classes. Waldorf schools in Germany are predominantly middle-class and “white”, as far as I can see, whereas some German elementary schools have a pupilship of 80% immigrants.
I come home and find yours essay together with “KunstlerCast 325 — Chatting with Nir Buras, Architect and Urban Planner about Truth, Beauty, and the Future of Cities” just beside each other in my blog’s feed. And now I read your wonderful essay at the same time as I listen to Kunstler’s mind-blowing conversation. Amazing!
After over a year of experience, I’ve decided that warehousing jobs are the most managed-to-death, dehumanizing occupation one can work in. The workplace equivalent of Uglicist architecture.
At the one I currently work in (not Amazon, but a company with a similar business model) management is so paranoid that someone will steal the cheap jewelry they sell that, every time you leave the building, you have to stand on a platform, hold your hands out, and get frisked by a security guard with a metal detector. Ping the metal detector more than a few times a month, for any reason, and (even if it was something as innocuous as leaving your car keys in your pocket) you are, to use HR’s lingo, “subject to termination”.
And the real kicker-if, for any reason, including having to go to the bathroom, you aren’t continuously scanning stuff, you have to fill out an officious “Delay reporting form” complete with a “reason for the delay” and turn it into your supervisor at the end of the shift.
The sheer officious pettiness is really kind of mind-blowing.
People are confused about Sinn Fein. They’ve long since been admitted, albeit grudgingly, to the Irish managerial elite because in government in the north they supported the status quo of austerity. They’re a left-populist party in propaganda only. Nor are they national populists since they’re not nationalists, they’re fanatical globalists. There’s no such thing as a populist party outside the fringes of Irish politics, yet.
Sinn Fein support the EU, open borders, hate speech laws and whatever lunacy the SJWs have cooked up this week. They (or more accurately their plausibly deniable friends in the IRA) always formed the most violent backbone of Antifa here – SF literally sold Antifa badges on their website until shortly before the election.
They along with every other mainstream party here signed a pre-election pledge to place immigration and integration policies completely outside the bounds of permissible democratic debate. The pledge was drafted and spread by an EU and Soros-funded ‘N’GO called Irish Network against Racism (until recently known as European Network against Racism (Ireland) but a more astroturfed name obviously polled better). INAR is headed by a literal anarchist who wants the abolition of all states, capitalism and borders. The hate speech laws Sinn Fein support were drafted by the same group.
The only possible sense in which they’re nationalist is that they, in theory, support Irish reunification, and they have unfinished gripes with the British. They’re a protest vote against the other mainstream parties, that’s all. And of course virtually none of their voters, or anyone else in Ireland, knows anything about the above because Pravda on the Hudson has nothing on the incestuous Irish media class.
Ireland is a copycat country a decade or two behind those whose approval we’re chasing. We’ll copy populism only once it’s become sufficiently cool among the big kids.
Dear JMG,Concerning America decline, I am far from being certain of that, the US continues to be one step ahead of everyone else – even in that decision by the federal government to end the awful architecture that has been dominant all around the world in the last half century. I am praying that US leadership will prevail also on this matter, for the sake of us all. On the other hand, looking at US main rivals current tribulations, I do suspect that as the Brazilians say “you (the US) have a very strong patron saint”, and pray that continues!
Hello all, thank you for the lively discussion as always. For those of you who love esoterica, especially our host, I submit for your review what I’ve come to regard as a primary text of modern managerial elitism: Science and Government by C.P. Snow, based on his Godkin lecture at Harvard. It is essential reading if one wishes to understand the “secret doctrine” of the global ruling class that emerged in the late 20th Century. It is also a ripping yarn of high intrigue, suspense and struggles of brilliant men behind the scenes in a world at war. The Right Honorable Lord Snow lays it down in plain English for those who want to know how the imperial elitism of the old order adapted to apocalyptic warfare and influenced the emergence of a new elitism afterward in the empires that succeeded them. One thing he makes clear long before JMG, Orlov, and everyone else is that Soviet and American elites are more alike than different because the realities and contingencies of power that required the rise of managerial elitism in the modern era. He tells an archetypal yet actual story that is practically the founding myth that the upper echelons of elite managers employ to explain why they do what they do and how. It is still taught in the grandes ecoles of global managerialism for this reason, and I offer it here not as an object of revulsion to be trampled by an angry mob but rather as an opportunity for reading and reflection that provides compassion for ones imagined enemies based on real understanding of them and their raisons d’etre.
We drive through Troy, or at least a portion of Troy (Hoosick Street), when we go Pennsylvania from Vermont and back again. I guess we’re not going through the lovely old neighborhoods, because the retail strip looks like every other retail strip everywhere. If we wanted to take a look at Beautiful Troy, where would we turn off Hoosick Street?
I subscribe to “Early American Life” magazine; the articles are an interesting combination of little-known history and the restoration of old American homes with lots of gorgeous photos. (Maybe your local library has/could be persuaded to have a subscription?) The newest issue arrived yesterday and in it is a short article about a Massachusetts woman who taught herself to restore the original windows of old homes (she won’t work on anything after 1960) and the company she started when people heard of her skill and wanted to commission her to fix their old windows. The part of the article that popped out was this:
“To assure period homeowners that the effort of restoring their old windows is worth the cost and time, (Alison) Hardy cited a recent efficiency test that compared original windows from an 1830’s building in Newburyport that her firm had restored with modern manufactured replacements.
‘The industry expert testing them thought his readings were off because ours were within 2 percent of his windows,’ Hardy said.
‘Your old window is really good,’ the expert conceded.”
So, maybe old buildings, if well-maintained and in proper repair, are not necessarily as inefficient as we are always told.
The architectural critique reminds me of Kunstler’s hilarious talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1ZeXnmDZMQ&t=490s.
It doesn’t help to mention to the ideologues things that contradict their ideology because their attachment is irrational. It could come from wanting power but also from childhood trauma. Mention to the SJWs that Genghis Khan was Asian, Idi Amin was Black, Marie Antoinette and Imelda Marcos were women, and it’s like a read-only memory, it makes no impact on them: they continue with the White Male Privilege trope. Mention to the “conservatives” that most housewives in the 50s were on valium, that the Church burned female healers and tortured Jews in its heyday (the middle ages) or that the founding fathers were slave owners and that doesn’t register either.
Where I think we disagree is that this aggressive part of tribalism is just an inevitable part of human nature. There were (and still are) peaceful tribes and groups that did not invade any other tribe. They were usually outcompeted by or evolved into less peaceful ones. But not always, and we might be able to create the conditions for the thriving of such groups, given what we know about evolutionary psychology and human nature. It’s not necessary to have an eschatology (as with the pietists you will presumably talk about soon), though it helps. It’s not necessary to be celibate (as with the monastic orders) though it helps. D. Orlov had some general principles in Communities That Abide, though they might be incomplete. Elinor Ostrom came up with 8 principles about avoiding the tragedy of the commons, which might also be relevant to avoiding the tragedy of war. I came up with an additional 4.
OTH, Rand occasionally had a piece of good advice*. The one I’ve never forgotten is “Don’t examine a folly; just ask yourself what it accomplishes.”
*Yes. Back when my progressed sun was in Aquarius, I fell prey to her message of the Liberation of the Smart People. It went into Pisces and I started searching for the Foddess and the mysteries just hinted at in may favorite fiction. Astrological mapping in retrospect, note. Make of that what you will.
Anyway, when something makes not one bit of sense, I find that quote can often unravel what’s going on. And it usually involves either squeezing the marks for money, or oppressing the peasants for power. Or both. (Or, another quote from another source) “Most people are lazy and careless. Some are just plain rotten.” (And it behooves us to know the difference without *always* seeing deep-laid plots to pick our pockets or play petty tyrant.)
John, et alia–
I’m seeing some increased chatter now on PolitcalWire (where I still lurk, if no longer comment)–particularly in the wake of last night’s debate–regarding possible emigration destinations as the distinct possibility (probability?) of Trump 2.0 sinks in. Granted, something like this is “normal” in an election cycle, but there seems to be an edge to the verbiage that wasn’t there previously.
Oh, and I’m also seeing comments about how the Constitution is [crap] because it allowed Trump to get elected and [defecate] on everything and our entire system needs to be overhauled so that something like this can’t ever happen again.
Elites on the verge of a nervous breakdown!
I personally see Irish Unification as in the same category as flying cars and nuclear fusion. i.e. something that is always just over the horizon, but never actually arrives. This from a recent poll:
OK, the BT is a Unionist-leaning paper, but even so. I don’t think this is really a protestant-catholic issue but rather about proximity of representation. If Northern Ireland can be reasonably effectively (if far from perfectly) administered from Stormont, why would its denizens forego this to be administered from further away in Dublin? I think the long term future of Northern Ireland is that it will slowly but surely evolve its own unique sense of identity, and that both the unionist and nationalist identities will attenuate over time. This process is already well underway beneath the surface, as evidenced by the steady but unspectacular rise of the Alliance Party, and the following extract from the above article:
“Asked to label themselves ideologically, 28% chose ‘unionist’, 25% ‘nationalist’ and 40% said neither.“
Therefore I think that there is a non-trivial (but not highly likely) possibility of an independent NI sometime in the future, while unification reflects a set of early 20th Century ideological positions that are becoming increasingly redundant.
The architects that designed that Yale monstrosity could have learned a thing or two from UC ‘s DAAP program. They didn’t cover the concrete with puked out pastel colors and I don’t think that it is falling down after less than 20 years from its construction. (you have forced me to link to actual pictures of it.)
To make up for the DAAP building here is one of the coolest art deco buildings in the world
“How do we hide when a light automatically flips on every time you go in a room?”
A: with a hammer. It’s just space. If me or my kid break a window with a chair and jump out, feel free to sue me later, you know, after we visit the funeral of those-who-follow-rules. P.S. if everyone uses self-same hammer to attack, the fight would end in 60 seconds and the majority won. You’re welcome. But those gonad appendages and the heroism they inspire are hateful and illegal now. Societies don’t last long if they run away squealing like a little girl. They don’t deserve to. Pick your side.
“I was bullied and I deeply despise bullying.” It would be impossible to be bullied if you were allowed and encouraged to punch back. Therefore it’s the SCHOOL that is doing the bullying, condoning, co-depending on it. The bully hides behind the PRINCIPAL. Just like our whole culture, and why everyone cries to daddy to make them stop instead of doing it themselves. This is why they must disarm: you must not be powerful, fix it yourself, or fight back, but be a perpetual victim forever. To the School and Principal leader, not the bully, who is small and incidental, easily beaten. What is the “Victim Game” for $200, Alex?
“people inside are almost completely incapable to put themselves in other peoples’ shoes.”
I live inside the dragon and I don’t have the slightest trouble doing this. Nor can you stop me from doing it if you tried, not even by insulting me. So how is this someone else’s fault again? Besides, most people do it as much as the average Joe, inside, outside, rich, poor, mostly the same. If you think wealth is wicked, you should see what poverty does to people. It’s another way to say that Group A is all good, while Group B is all bad. Nonsense. It’s a mess and we only do ourselves.
Oh well, it’s not under our control and is going to decentralize. Now rapidly and immediately. Supply chain is already down, the music already stopped. That’s how America is supposed to be anyway, and we can boot all these jack-booting do-gooders at last.
“It reminds me of late Soviet architecture.” Yes, but they love and idolize the Soviets and socialism, enforce Stalin’s majesty on us all, so … exactly thus.
Form follows function. So these buildings will be leveled not for any aesthetic reason, but because they don’t work. In any way at all. Don’t heat, don’t cool, don’t fix, don’t stay dry, don’t avoid collapse, don’t hold books, don’t fit people, every reason you can imagine. The new stuff doesn’t have to be Classical, it could just “work”, but classical buildings have been proven safe over time, and might be a good start. Could use a pole barn and be far better. Doubt we’ll be building as much as letting collapse for a while though.
For humor, class, end of empire, try P.G. Wodehouse.
“if our class differences matter” …it’s just like the old days. We have slavery, human trafficking, mass-murder, violate Geneva and Nuremberg hourly, no one cares. They applaud Apple, Google, Nike, the U.N. and the politicians that support it. They’re like “What? Of COURSE we create slave goods on slave plantations that human traffic women in desperation!” They’re the very same as then, but only to look down their nose on the unique barbarity of THEIR time, instead of the far-higher, far more murderous inhuman barbarity of OUR time. ‘Cause then how would I be better than everyone? In the religious, church-lady sense? That’s religion, that’s Progress ™, the True Believer™
If you want to see slavery, genocide, torture, murder, and cannibalism, just look at the “primitive” cultures through history. The only relief was each tribe was smaller. Just so’s we don’t decry somebody better or worse, city or gatherers, whatever, here in a culture that legally and voluntarily outlawed both slavery and racism and thought it worthy to kill a % of ourselves to make it happen. Our bad. The West can stop doing that now if you like and go back to the good old days.
“it’s almost as though no one admits the existence of objective truth in anything.” Ah, the religion of Progress™ making life better.
I’ve been lucky to live in a place where the city buildings are still in tact and many from the neoclassical style. I also love the many Art Deco buildings in Cincinnati -such as the Carew Tower and the main post office building, and the Union Terminal with its bas relief mercury figures on either side of the entry. I think those buildings were still made with people in mind too, and people love being in them.
& speaking of education, its the local uni where all the terrible architecture exists. I didn’t go there, and don’t spend time there, but still shudder when I go past some of the buildings on campus. Such as the Frank Gehry building that is the U.C. center for molecular studies. ( http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/vontz/index.htm )
I do like that there will be things in place so we can go back to an older civic minded style of architecture. I suppose it will be left to future generations to create truly bioregional architectures in the U.S. (though I suppose I can think of some -adobe buildings & the “Earth Homes” of New Mexico. Most of the LEEDS type buildings that are supposedly sustainable are a bit too “mid-century modern” for my taste. (And while I love retro stuff… the trend for mid-century modern design isn’t always what I have in mind personally, as a person aiming towards a ’50s kind of lifestyle.) Frank Lloyd Wright on the other hand, I’m more interested in. His houses were very ‘dogmatic’ from what I understand, in their prescriptions to how a person was to live in them. I haven’t lived one, and don’t expect I will, so that experiment will be for others to follow up on.
I suppose when the time comes, the law Kennedy passed, that official government architecture should be of the time, can be reinstated if American’s come up with the kind of new living buildings that people would actually like to be in (based on principles of ecology & sacred geometry I would hope).
I’m curious JMG, of what your pal James Howard Kunstler would have anything to say on this… I’d love to hear you back on his podcast for a talk on this subject.
*** On music & architecture: notes from the German tradition ***
The phrase “Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music” is attributed to Goethe. The new architecture came in with the new music. But I like a lot of modernist music. I know its down to personal taste…but I’ve been listening to ever more Stockhausen, a true mystic and musical magician. It’s interesting that as he became ever more overt in putting themes of religion, spirituality, mysticism and magic into his music, the modernists who loved him before distanced themselves further. So here is a whole musical world rejected for the most part by casual music listeners because of its modernist trappings and rejected by many modernist / contemporary musical lovers because of his overt mysticism. I just think that is interesting. Like many niche areas though, there is a core dedicated following. His 29 hour opera cycle Licht built around the symbolism of the 7 days of the week and their correspondences, and also the three characters of Eve, Michael, & Lucifer is just too much for the most astute student of new music.
[Yet I find much in New Music (now older, but not old) that points to older traditions (Pauline Oliveros and her ‘deep listening’ and various strains of intuitive music come to mind). ]
It is also telling that one of the biggest / most influential of the industrial bands to come out of post-war Germany was/is “Einsturzende Neubauten” or “Strategies Against Archtiechture”. With all the concrete gray buildings put up after the place was bombed out, they had a lot of architecture to strategize against. They are touring North America this year, but the closest they are coming to me is Detroit. There is a lot of decaying architecture there they can strategize against there. By 2050 even more of it will be part of the “Midcentury Mildew” design school.
Let me offer a correction: Einsturzend Neubauten is translated as “Collapsing New Buildings”. I got that confused with the name of two collections of their music on CD called “Strategies Against Architecture”… Still I think my general comment on them applies!
I sometimes read Sarah Hoyt’s blogposts. She’s a science-fiction writer who was born and raised in Portugal (one of those families that can be traced back 100’s of years to when the priests showed up and started keeping records).
Her viewpoint on Europe?
Peace to genocide in sixty seconds.
I hope she’s wrong and you’re right!
Teresa from Hershey
RE: The tendencies of modeling magazines to portray rail-thin models as the ideal, never mind what’s seen around us.
While throughout most of history the curvaceous body has been the ideal body for a woman, that hasn’t always been the case. I can think of two cases where the girlish/boyish body was posited as the ideal:
1) Paintings from the Roman era showcase thin women binding their breasts up to force themselves to appear thinner. Other paintings from other times show a thin woman with an attractive face contrasted with a nursing woman with large, pendulous breasts and an unattractive face (not UGLY, mind you, but not a face made to draw the eye towards it).
2) Die Fledermaus, an operetta written in 1874, has a character named Adele who, in act 2, sings proudly about her flat chest amongst other signs of a girlish body.
The reason rail-thin women are posted as figures of beauty today is because we’re in a rare moment where it’s easy to gain weight and grow fat. Used to be it was harder to grow fat than to stay thin (Ever wonder why so many older religions have fast days and seasons? It made sense to take what was happening and add a spiritual boon to the necessity), hence the historical bias towards fatter, curvier women.
About hunter-gatherers, I guess I did not express clearly what I mean. Mine was a meta-comment. We basically still have the morality and mental adaptations of hunter-gatherers but we live in vastly different conditions. Hence the “fallen” idea.
The interesting question to me is what will happen in the future.
We can go the way Galton Darwin describes in The Next Million Years (https://www.amazon.com/Million-Years-Charles-Galton-Darwin/dp/0837168767) or we could end up closer to hunter-gatherers once the climate reverts to its usual unstable self.
The first option is comparable to the Chinese civilization – cycles of expansions and collapse but with the significant difference that our genome will change to adapt to that.
The second option would be a reverse to the mean because without fossil fuels or ability to grow grains, what are we left with?
Re: The Anti-Diet Community:
I’ve known about it since the mid-nineties when, in response to what turned out to be Lipedemia, a friend of mine started adding on weight to an already sizable body. Back then it was the fat pride community and had the usual stances of a community at war against the society at large (including a Playboy-like magazine whose “playmates” were all heavier than your average Playboy Playmate. One interesting article I read was a response to all the complaints the editor got for their pictoral of a 150 pound woman – lots of readers thought she was just TOO THIN). The book Fat! So? was out in 1998, if you want a sort-of measure of how long the fat movement has been around.
And while anti-diet has my support (whatever you grew up with is best for you), I do have one caveat – there IS such a thing as overweight. One experience I’ve had recently is walking around for two whole days without having to worry about where chairs were so that I could sit down and rest – something that, during much of the past decade, I couldn’t take for granted (we’re talking about walking for about one mile before my back started making itself known). The difference – ten pounds that I lost (and haven’t gained back – yes, I lost more pounds that have since come back) in 2016, from food reduction (same old SAD diet we all know and are addicted to, just fasting twice a week). And after a fifteen year period where I gained an average of eight pounds a year (steady gain, not a year of bloating thrown into years of stability), I figure that it’s better to keep an eye on my eating habits – if nothing else, to prevent what happened in the 2010s from happening again anytime soon.
Is Europe any more bleak than other parts of the world? I guess the North and West are but the vast stretches of land of Asia and elsewhere strike me as being more bleak. Europe is also fortunate enough to not be in the path of hurricanes, large tornadoes or large Earthquakes.
I read Trump’s executive order about the architecture of public buildings with some pleasure, and I am no fan of the Current Occupant.
I think of the post office building in a nearby West Coast city, which is indistiguishible from the county jail just down the street, versus the grand old post office building in the midwestern city where I grew up. I am sure we can all conjure local examples of the brutalist crap that has been pushed down the throats of many a community.
Still, to borrow a construct from JMG, the opposite of bad modernism is not necessarily classical architecture, it is good modernism. The problem, in my opinion, is that elitist, superstar architects are not required to — and likely don’t want to — engage with the common folk who will occupy their buildings, because that is an affront to their vaunted expertise. Nor are they required to engage with the larger community in order to ensure that their buildings fit into the built environment around them. In fact, I would imagine their peers are rather supportive when their superior artistry is perceived as a thumb in the eye of the philistines who live in the vicinity.
I recently spent a week in the small Wisconsin town of Cedarburg, a touristy community just north of Milwaukee. The town has preserved, with considerable effort, its graceful 19th and early 20th century buildings, and as a result a lot of people from the big cities to the south like to visit. It is a well-to-do town with a strong civic life. Instead of letting its only movie theater close, for example, the community raised the money to buy it and now runs it with volunteers, showing second-run and classic films the community wants to see. They have a new public library, which is modernist. But the library fits into the surrounding architecture gracefully. Inside, it is airy and full of natural light. Not surprisingly, the library employees I encountered were cheerful and helpful. I know nothing about the process by which the library was built, but the end result speaks to a process in which the town was involved and largely approved of the design, a quiet modernism that respects the vernacular of its community.
Finally, for the reading list, I want to echo NomadicBeer’s recommendation of Christopher Ryan’s Civilized to Death. I highly recommend also Michael Lind’s latest book, The New Class War, a very incisive analysis of the current forces at play in the US and Europe that could have sprung from the “pages” of Ecosophia.
Andrew Bacalakis & Kathy- I read these comments often and don’t usually see anyone from the upper Hudson valley, yet today I’ve seen two! I’m a resident of Troy myself. Andrew is spot on with his observation about the vibe of this city. It is very unique and I love living and working here, despite some its problems. If either of you would be interested in meeting up and talking about topics familiar to this blog, let me know. Suggested 1st meeting place: the main branch of the Troy public library.
To Kimberly Steele: I offer you a quote from one of my favorite books – a novel in the Star Trek (classic) universe, “My Enemy, My Ally,” (Diane Duane) :
“They have so much,” she thought. “No wonder they understand us so little, who are so poor. Perhaps they don’t even understand the anger that the hungry feel when the full go by, unthinking….”
I deeply value Mr. Greer’s blog, but I have a contrary opinion that I hope to voice (I’ll be brief!). I have no problem with the analysis of the current situation, but disagree with the prognostication. My main criticism is that too little consideration is given to the coming response of the “managerial class” and our “soi-disant betters”, which will be ferocious. The current elite won’t be the sad-sacs, moping off the stage, nor will they be dragged off kicking and screaming hysterically unable to deal with a new world. They will *do* something. Be ready for it.
In my view the current populist insurgency, very real as it is, is weaker than even the Reagan/Thatcher-era insurgency, which saw a version of conservative thought (essentially an intellectual counterculture, developed in backwaters between the late 30’s and late 60’s) come in to dominance, replacing the “dial-tuning” managerialism of the post-war era. Whatever you think of Reagan as a thinker, he was steeped in the National Review-style conservative counter-thought of the 1960s—–and that is at least *something*. Trump, by contrast, all keen but immediate instinctualness, has a mind seemingly unburdened by systematic thought of any kind.
This is what happened: A coalition (like the progressives) is supposed to last long enough for a common enemy to be defeated, before internal fault lines crack up that coalition. But, contrary to all reason and sane expectation, the left-wing coalition is apparently cracking up before victory.
This happened because the Democratic establishment and media lackeys tried to unleash a populist, energized leftism of their own (Identity politics, the screaming of “Fascism,” etc), and use that energy along with insider career apparatchiks in an attempted coup, to remove the hated Ogre. But this energy was so shockingly inchoate, emotional, undisciplined, and crazy, that not only did the effort fail, it became such a writhing unpredictable and absurd beast that it’s threatening to injure anyone who comes close to it—–allies especially.
But this will not be the last, nor the greatest effort, in my opinion.
We are all waiting for people to come to their senses. The problem is, there is not such thing as “coming to their senses.” There is only “coming to agreement with me,” or coming to a new consensus. But there is none of that on the horizon, anywhere. The roller coaster ride will continue.
(Aside: I think the West can only be justly compared to the Mongols if the Mongols, in addition to being brutal conquerors, also made stunning advances in mathematics, medicine, art, world literature, and religion, which the West has achieved but the Mongols did not. In addition to being brutal conquerors, the West also produced an endogenous high culture of world-historical significance. This will not be ignored by historians in 1000 years.)
@Booklover & JMG re war in Europe:
My guess is that a war involving more of Europe than its fringes is out of reach by at least 15 to 20 years. After that, we’ll see. At the fringes, there is a lot of military action happening involving European countries directly or indirectly – I am thinking of the situation in Ukraine, the fighting of the French in Mali (on which you hardly find any reports in the news considering the intensity of the conflict), the imminent war between Turkey and Syria. Still, for central Europe turning into a battlefield once more I think a lot more of isolation from the rest of the world and a few more rounds of elections with an unfortunate outcome in regard to willingness for violence and war have to happen. Yet rhetoric that seems to be more than inspired by Hitler and Goebbels is on the rise again, right wing terrorism is, too and the images of clashes between right- and left-wing protesters look quite similar to what you can see when you look back roughly 90 to 100 years… oh and have I mentioned a stunned and overstrained political class?
While you’re are most likely right, JMG, that individual propensities will find their way, it’s not defined in which way they have to show up. The way, post-war society was structured provided some protection, but it’s cumbling. Warnings have been expressed by many public figures over the last 30 years, that the way society, economy and the “European integration” are handled by the elites will lead to disaster their predictions have been very accurate so far, they have all been ignored…
Gee, if what Dot says is true, that is disheartening.
Also, I don’t know why people get seduced by the idea of ‘hate speech’ being outlawed. Either you have free speech or you don’t. There are no exceptions. I also don’t see why they aren’t afraid as it is obviously faddish, and could change. For example, my husband had an aunt who went to prison for 10 years for saying something against either Stalin or the regime and was ratted on by a neighbor. And what might Stalin’s objection to her remark be? It was hate speech, against himself. That is what lack of free speech usually amounts to – you can’t say the king is a rat fink and in modern parlance that is hate speech and the king doesn’t like it. The same people that are willing to have laws against hate speech engage in daily hate speech against Trump and the working class but they don’t see it as the same thing. Because fashion. Fad.
Drive-by posting to share what has a fair shot at being the ugliest church in America: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/saint-johns-abbey-church I remember the place being even darker and more ominous than it appears in the photos, if you can believe it!
If Sanders gets a plurality and is denied the nomination, that will be the deathknell of the Democratic Party. Certainly it will be dead to me. And Trump will have no trouble at all winning in that scenario.
Off topic, I do wonder if Trump will dump Pence once he formally has the nomination, and replace him with Ivanka to ensure his own immunity from prosecution after leaving office (assuming he does leave office). It seems the most prudent move, and a solid way to establish a dynasty.
With regards to architecture, I agree with you (and with Witold Rybczynski at
http://www.witoldrybczynski.com/). Architecture is a mature field; some innovation is to be expected when new materials or techniques are discovered, but mostly we should be refining the wisdom of past ages, not throwing it out for a high status shiny object that doesn’t work as an actual building.
I found Spengler challenging at first. Here’s what I did to mitigate it. Take this with a grain of salt, b/c I havent finished DotW.
1. To navigate the long Germanic sentences, I read it aloud and let the sound of the words guide me to knowing which clause was referring to which.
2. Read at my computer and look up every unfamiliar term.
3. Read at my computer and look up at least one example of any artist / composer / sculptor mentioned.
4. If he’s using an unfamiliar concept, and it hasn’t been defined yet, trust that it will be soon.
I read your article. Folks like you probably have no need for JP. I liked his bible lectures / maps of meaning material but paid almost no attention to his life advice / political opinions. I’ve always struggled with metaphor and symbolism and he opened up that part of my brain. I dont feel the need to share his interpretations but taking hand-wavvy evo-psych as an access point helped me get started.
I wanted to add I share your frustration with naive tradists. I dont follow anyone who wants to roll back the clock back to the 50’s. It’s usually something earlier. I find myself less interested in recreating some past thing than identifying those old things which will last and anchoring myself to them.
Boston City Hall is *even worse* on the inside.
Related to modernism… I like Bartok, Stravinsky, and Ives, and I hate Schoenburg and Babbit. I feel torn between the pulp rev writers who trash modern concert music without discussing specifics and living composers who make no attempt to hold themselves accountable to the public while living off of public money.
Aaron, Hagakure is anything but an unlikely source. It’s a very wise book, worth much more attention than it’s received in the west. Thank you for telling me about John — he’ll be missed, by me among many others.
Hapigreenman, I understand he has a book out on the same subject.
Ksim3000, until 2016 I was fairly sure that disunion was the most likely future for the US. At this point I think that’s less likely, though it’s still a possibility. I’m well aware that we’ve got some very rough sledding ahead — when the US dollar stops being a global reserve currency and we’ve got to live within our means, that’s going to be a huge economic jolt, and the all but inevitable default on the US debt that will follow will be another — but then Byzantium went through some very rough years, too, before it found its balance and settled down for the long run. As for Papus, good heavens, of course I’ve studied him — in fact I wrote the introduction for the English translation of his Elementary Treatise on Occult Science. He was right that in his time, there was still time for Europe. Now? Not so much…
Black Tuna, I’m impressed that anybody remembers Whittier these days. Yes, we’ll be talking at some length about things of this sort:
“Deep in the woods, where the small river slid
Snake-like in shade, the Helmstadt Mystic hid,
Weird as a wizard, over arts forbid…”
I’ve been looking at some of the links to ugly buildings… there really ought to be a contest, so many winners… and the DERP I mean DAAC (whatever) ones and the Frank Gehry ones make me physically sick to look at. I mean that quite literally. I used to be prone to motion sickness as a child and they bring back horrible memories of trying not to vomit during seemingly eternal car rides. I wouldn’t be upset if these “architects” ended up as electrical pole decorations at all, and I sense I’m not alone.
JMG, right, spot on quote! And Michelle, thanks for that Star Trek book reference, it offers much to think about. The funny thing is I used to think a friend I grew up with, who has gone almost completely insane with elitist Trump Derangement Syndrome, was poor until we were both around age twenty. His family lived in relative squalor compared to others from our middle class neighborhood. He has always been parsimonious, eager to chase freebies, and conveniently short $5 – $10 at cafés. The other friend has been poor at least once when married to an abusive, gambling husband, thankfully he’s now out of the picture. Neither of them seems to have the faintest clue that populism is what they are at odds with, not Trump. He’s the oogie-boogeyman to them and they never question why they are frightened or what he represents to their subconscious.
“the left-wing coalition is apparently cracking up before victory.” JMG – what were you saying about the strange collapse of morale in the face of the Nazi advances until Dion Fortune invoked the spirits of King Arthur et. al. and boosted British morale to a high peak of resolve? The cracking up of the left wing and the crumbling of France ….I sniff out a similarity. And heavens knows there are enough people of varying levels of competence and ethic out there doing magic. Including some bumbling idiots on their own side whose follies you have dissected in previous blog posts.
The point about architecture is very interesting. It’s pretty bad when the architecture at my local cemetery is more inviting than the architecture downtown!
I did find it curious, though, that so many people in the managerial class (including Hillary Clinton) expressed sadness over last year’s Notre Dame fire. It seems they only support beautiful works after they’ve been ruined, as a way to virtue signal. I can only imagine the pearl clutching that would actually take place if Trump or anyone else decided to erect such a building in metropolitan America.
Aaron, thanks for letting us know about John Roth (or, as Onething referred to him, our friend of the Michael Teachings). His presence will be missed.
Beekeeper in Vermont,
Oh yes, Hoosick street. My bank is unfortunately located on Hoosick street. Everytime I walk or ride my bike up there, I’m reminded why I left New Jersey! Just follow Hoosick street all the way down to the river (don’t take the ramp onto 7), and it will take you to River Street. Hang a left, that will take you south and into downtown Troy. The downtown is starting to gentrify with the usual fancy boutique shops, but the buildings there are simply gorgeous. It can be pleasant to spend a morning or afternoon there strolling around.
Back to Hoosick street. If you hang a right on River Street, you’ll head north. There are 2 city neighborhoods north of downtown- North Central and Lansingburgh. North Central is regarded as one of the worst areas in the city, which is rather ironic, as back in the day the wealthiest industrial magnates of the city lived there…the buildings show it too, its filled with brick row houses with all kinds of ornate facades. Of course, they are now rented out by absentee landlords who do just enough to keep code enforcement off their backs. Lansingburgh is north of North Central, and was actually was its own city before it went broke in the 1920s, and Troy gobbled it up. Same deal, amid poverty and economic decline, you have really beautiful masonry and timber-framed homes ranging from Greek Revival to Victorian.
Tree Keeper 518,
I would be down for that! Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we could coordinate that.
Jacurutu et al,
Hmm. There is blood in the water around Facebook, and Zuck in particular. The privileged left really, truly believe that Russian trolls (or bots or whatever) put Donald Trump in the White House by fooling the rubes out in flyover with “fake news” on Facebook. And they are NOT happy about it.
If Trump wins again, I doubt Facebook survives for long.
Funny you mention this. Long before I was thought of, my university experimented with the very “best” of brutalist forms in the 1960’s-70’s. Saliently, Mudd Hall (I’m not kidding; that was its actual name) was notoriously one of the ugliest law school buildings in the United States. Nonetheless, the sophistos in the administration insisted it was a new, modern innovative structure. There was one problem: the windows leaked like sieves no matter how many times the groundskeepers went over the sills with caulk. I forget what the specific problem was but it had something to do with the way the concrete put tensile pressure on the window panes. So, not only was it ugly, it didn’t even “work” as a shelter because, here in the midwest, we get intense downpours during the spring and summer. Blessedly it was torn down and ever since the university has staunchly maintained its collegiate Gothic character.
However, and this is something that might be related to your point, whenever I meet a colleague from the Ivy League-MIT/Stanford crowd they always mention how nice the facilities at my university are– but with this tone of voice to imply that we are all nouveau riche. As if we were somehow unsophisticated.
Jasper–on shooter drills and situations. My daughter worked at a university. The drill there was RUN if you can; if you can’t run, HIDE in most secure available space. if found and attacked FIGHT, look around you, what are the potential weapons, a stapler, a desk phone, books, laptop, anything you can throw or hit with. As far as the effect of the drill on kids–given the very low chances that a shooter situation will occur and the high probability of freaking children out–pointless in my estimation. When my oldest grandson was a sophomore his high school had a bomb threat and everyone was evacuated and marched out into the fenced grounds. He observed that they were sitting ducks if the bomb threat had just been a ruse to get them out of the buildings and into rifle range. You can’t plan for and anticipate every situation–and just because people are crazy doesn’t mean they are stupid.
As for showy buildings that fall apart and leak–this is malpractice on someone’s part. The victims should sue the architect, the engineer, the producers of the experimental materials. Why do these people still have a license–a physician with a similar record would lose their licence.
As several have mentioned JHK, but not his excellent books on the horrors of Uglicism-Modernism, I’d like to recommend them: “Geopraphy of Nowhere” and “Home from Nowhere”.
Also, if you ever need a good laugh, his Eyesore of the Month posts are priceless, especially the early ones. In one, he compared a Museum of Human Rights (accurately, imo) to a wad of Scotch tape. I will never be able to see it otherwise. Treasure trove of current and pending architectural horrors ahead: https://kunstler.com/writings/eyesore-of-the-month/
“But to be honest, the US was more of a continuation of the British Empire and the passing of the torch in the 1950s really was just a change of seat. America has to truly evolve into its own culture and you are correct, this will be centuries in the making.”
i think this is true. I often think of the British Empire and the American as like old Rome and Byzantium. The old collapsed in part because the new was unwilling to defend it. Of course, it took a few centuries for Byzantium to stop being “Roman” and use the local language and customs. It will be interesting to hear Spanish spoken day-to-day in the US Senate, if such a thing exists by then.
As a young historic preservation architect, I feel I must raise a weak voice from my “workstation,” where I eat my corporate-provided frozen dinner this evening, in a mild defense of the profession, at risk of getting brained by rotten produce. As a jaded insider of this particular cult of elitist Workism, now taking antidepressants so he can stay employed, I can point out 2 things:
1. Architects have little direct control over the vast majority of the disposable space that gets built in the world these days. Architects are by and large hired by “Owners” to convert space into money. Believing that the uglicist designs of starchitects speak for all of us is just falling for the con job marketing pushed by architecture schools, as handed down by the Bauhaus modernist tradition. But it’s all so much trash waiting to deteriorate and be torn down, post-1940 or so, +/-10 years. I know I should be leaving those “sustainable design” requirements in the specs that I just deleted, but doing the right thing gives contractors an excuse to raise the space-to-money conversion rate.
2. “Modernism” and “Post Modernism” are elaborate intellectual constructions created by architects attempting to post-rationalize the changes being forced on the building industry by technological advances and the loss of craftsmanship. Owners (including governments here in the deplorable Hinterlands) want space converted to money at the greatest return on investment, and so will demand modern building materials over more durable traditional ones. As much as I believe neoclassical is the right choice for public buildings, if it is mandated you will not get durable Richardsonian Romanesque limestone courthouses from 1906 that will last as long as there are masons to repair them, you will get steel and gyp board imitations with thin limestone veneers glued [Gods almighty!] to the walls.
(And without preservation architects, Owners looking for cheap repairs will do unspeakable things to those 1906 courthouses, things that can abruptly end their usefulness.)
But, due to its self-exploitative workaholic cult culture, the profession is by and large indefensible, viewed from the bottom. Or the top, for that matter. Louis Kahn died in a Penn station restroom and wasn’t identified for two days. Zaha Hadid died of a heart attack on top of pneumonia, after spending her career “creatively” high on caffeine and sleep deprivation. Architects today are living the worst version of “follow your dreams.” It really burns me that the history is written about the sordid lives of the famous ones, because I have trouble finding out if an average Great Plains architect in 1906 worked 50+ hours a week and made ends meet with donated overtime. I doubt it.
Whittier is a perpetual fountain of delight, and he knew a fair amount about the prevalence of magic and uncommon religions in old New England. Here is a teaser, from his “Snow-Bound.” (“Her” is Whittier’s mother; the poem is set in his childhood.)
“We stole with her a frightened look
At the gray wizard’s conjuring-book,
The fame whereof went far and wide
Through all the simple country side;”
Not too long ago I put up a PDF of Whittier’s thin monograph, “The Supernaturalism of New England” (1847), on http://www.archive.org There is more about the “grey wizard” in it. He was a real person, whom one can find in the early US census records.
Don’t be too hard on your Trump hating friends. My parents are both norther rural working class people. They would literally die for me but I can’t say any thing good about Trump or his policies. They would melt down. They and many other rural northern Democates (we have a lot of those in Minnesota) simply see Trump as a corrupt and cruel plutocrat who is just a tool of the rich. The way society and media is set up these days it is really hard to see what other people are going through. It is also hard to connect the dots about why those folks are going through what they are going through. Some of us here if we didn’t have our esteemed host’s advice would not ourselves be able to see through the smoke and mirrors.
A couple of responses, but I’m so far down the page, I’m not sure of the writers I’m responding to.
First, I keep to a pretty rigid anti-inflammation diet. When I don’t, I find it very hard to walk, and manage arthritic pain.
I’m not suggesting my diet would be useful for everyone, and sometime I’ll start reintroducing individual foods to see which of them are okay for me. If I ate what I felt like while out and about in the world (where there are multiple cues that interfere with messages from the body) my diet would be heaviest in the foods that cause me the most problems.
This is just me and I’m not suggesting there is a diet which suits the needs of all people. Just saying that my own hard won experience tells me the I need to not eat some kinds of foods that are fine for most people if I want to walk (and not itch like crazy and have to slather my skin with cortisol cream to relieve it).
Second, bullying. I get annoyed when I hear advice suggesting that target counter-aggression will end this behaviour. Bullies weaponize other people – bystanders, authority and confederates…. There is usually a lot more going on than the purported victim-mentality of the target. (Which is not to say that it is not important for everyone to identify and liberate themselves from such attitudes, or that being bullied can’t be a useful wake-up call to do so, for those able to recognise a need to do so).
School, workplace, family bullying etc is a kind of microcosm of the sorts of bullying or scapegoating that very few would consider okay – like genocide. By, definition bullies seek to push individuals or groups with less power, social prestige or resources further down in order to elevate themselves – leveraging power to gain more power at the expense of another individual or group. It might seem relatively harmless if it is not you with a jack-boot on your face.
Jim K, thanks for this.
E. Goldstein, Ellul’s always worth reading. I certainly hope that you’re right!
Booklover, by that measure, Europe’s in for a big one, since you haven’t had a war there (outside the Balkans) since 1945. The EU hasn’t erased the pressures that lead to wars, it’s just clamped down a lid on them and insisted that no one in the political class may talk about them. As for architecture, of course there are options other than the two I’ve been discussing; the executive order in question only applies to US federal government buildings, and those have traditionally been built in the Neoclassical style. There are plenty of other attractive historically rooted styles, too. Yes, then there’s Anthroposophical architecture, which is impressively weird:
Leveveg, that must have been entertaining; you may be amused to know that I had a pleasant note from Jim in the inbox this morning. The two of us have very similar opinions about modern uglitecture. (I don’t know if “uglitecture” was a word, but it is now — it means, of course, the art and craft of building ugly things.)
Tolkienguy, yep. I trust you’re planning on finding something else to do with your working hours.
Dot, thanks for this — good to hear from different sides of a small but politically very complex country.
Elodie, we’re going to have to do a lot of scrambling to get out ahead of the curve of decline. Still, as I mentioned at the end of last year, I’m feeling surprisingly hopeful about the near future these days.
Kim, thanks for this.
Iuval, to say that human beings have an aggressive streak doesn’t mean that we’re going to be aggressive all the time, and in fact there are ways to reduce our tendencies to aggression — that’s why, for example, the murder rate in modern urban societies is much lower than that in many tribal societies. My point is simply that — again, with a few exceptions in a few isolated corners of the planet — everyone’s committed atrocities against somebody at some point in the past, and it’s absurd to insist that one ethnic group is to be vilified because it committed atrocities while the parallel atrocities of every other ethnic group are given a free pass.
Patricia M, even a blind mouse can find a broken clock, or something like that.
David BTL, I wonder if this time they’ll actually get around to leaving the country. A lot of people insisted that they’d do that if he won the first time, and as far as I know, none of them actually did. Still, it must be wryly amusing to watch it slowly sink in that they really can lose.
Phil K, interesting. Thanks for this.
Justin, that center for molecular studies is priceless. It looks as though Gehry handed over the drafting table to a four-year-old who had been reading Dr. Seuss and had a pink crayon handy. I’m glad Cincinnati has plenty of good old architecture! As for music and architecture, I remember Einstürtzende Neubauten — my punk rocker girlfriend at college used to play it fairly often. I had no idea they were still around.
NomadicBeer, that strikes me as a far too narrow sense of the possibilities of the future. One of the things that history teaches us is that genuine novelty does happen from time to time, and while no such novelty changes everything or leads to Utopia, things do actually change. If you will, while history rhymes, it doesn’t do so in exactly the same words!
Devonlad, people from tropical and subtropical climates find it bleak. I used that bit of phrasing, though, as part of a deliberate evocation of tropes from fantasy fiction, more or less portraying Europeans as a sort of collective Conan-figure: “Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.” You have to admit it’s not the image of European expansion you get in the schools…
Frictionshift, of course the real problem is that architects have isolated themselves behind high walls of pseudo-esthetic snobbery and go out of their way to build ugly buildings, because the public revulsion just proves how far in advance of his time the architect is. It’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of heart attacks before that goes away; in the meantime, the executive order has already succeeded in getting people talking about why modern architecture sucks so much.
Golocyte, so noted; we’ll see who’s right. From my perspective, the managerial elite made the mistake that elites always make sooner or later, and let too much power slip out of their hands and into the hands of subordinates who do not share their views. They simply don’t control enough at this point to matter, and the usual process of elite replacement is under way. As for your comments about Europeans, fair enough; in that case a better equivalent would be the Arabs, who swept out of Arabia to conquer most of the known world in the 7th century and then made, among other things, major contributions to mathematics.
Nachtgurke, I hope you’re right. To my mind, if war breaks out in Europe before then it’ll be east of Germany, and it will require hard economic times to kickstart the process. If Germany can manage to stay out of the war, it may be localized; otherwise all bets are off.
Sister Crow, okay, that’s stunningly bad. It looks like a Cold War radar installation meant to detect nuclear missiles on their way from Siberia, complete with the overwhelming sense of imminent mass death.
Isaac, and if Sanders does get the nomination, a lot of moderate Democrats will refuse to vote for him because they’re not in favor of his socialist views (or because they find it hard to swallow a multimillionaire preaching socialism). So one way or another, the Democratic party is, as we used to say in my insufficiently misspent youth, screwed, blued, and tattooed. As for architecture, yes, precisely — every culture has a large if limited range of creative options in any art or craft, and once those have all been explored, the age of innovation is over and the age of performance begins.
Nothing Special, oh dear gods. It’s stunningly ugly on the outside! I feel very fortunate that while Boston is stuck with this…
…here in Providence, we have this…
…a nice piece of French Empire style architecture to look at downtown.
As for modern art music, I think the single best thing for music right now would be the abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts and all the other public slush funds that are used by Uglicist composers to avoid having to find honest work. I’d frankly rather have that share of my tax dollars go to fund good old-fashioned outright political corruption than pay for the ongoing debasement of music and the arts.
God speed, John Roth, and I hope you died without fear.
Some of the people at the clinic with me last summer have died. My oncologist is happy with me and I have just graduated from monthly visits to 3 months.
Yorkshire, indeed, the longer the time-frame envisioned, the more applicable JMG’s point about skills is.
And, energy spent on getting skills (incl. in reading social cues, and political tea leaves) quite figures to be better, than trying hard to build more financial wealth.
However, for shorter time-frames (years, maybe a few decades), hoarding gold or nickel coins, and fire extinguishers, are far better bets, than keeping one’s already-obtained savings in paper instruments, e.g. stocks, bonds, which could be hammered any time, in a crisis economy (e.g. from corona virus).
I wonder if those movies which stop abruptly without an ending are another manifestation of stupid ideas infecting art? I’m not interested in being told I can use my imagination to finish it the way I want to. I watch a story expecting the author to do just that: tell me a story.
How are you picturing the track in space? I’m seeing it as a bunch of people kinda rattling their way down a path, veering off to the left and right with little real control of where they’re going but staying on track to meet the inevitable fate of all people.
But I agree with your point that the violence done by the Europeans wasn’t really anything special. The current struggle for control over history misses a really big an important piece of the whole puzzle. It’s not that the Europeans were particularly more brilliant, savage, or enlightened that their opponents, but they were more just dumb lucky. European explorers seemed to end up in places at just the right point where a native empire was entering its decline or transitional phase. The Mugals, the Chinese, the Japanese, the various Arab empires, hell even the Aztecs were all at a crucial point in their life cycles. Along came the Europeans and the rest is history. Someone really ought to write a book about the history of dumb bloody luck.
Also interesting note, the struggle for control of the historical narrative is well under way in India. There is a significant challenge being mounted again the Aryan invasion theory and the age of the Indus valley civilization. Long story short, the nationalist camp of Indians are determined to disprove the whole Hinduism is foreign to the subcontinent theory. I’m pretty sure you can guess which side I’m on. 😉
JMG, After reading your post, I went to a couple of websites–Atlantic Monthly and Slate–to read their reactions to the architectural dictates. They are indeed confused–for one thing, one site chose a photo of the Lincoln Memorial at sunset, its graceful neoclassical lines amplified in a reflecting pool. This accompanied a very critical written takedown of the administration’s decision to continue the neoclassical theme, making me wonder if some sly editorial intern slipped in the beautiful photo. Both critics I read claimed that the decision was a deliberate attempt to wind culture back to the days when white males were at the helm, forgetting that the Constitution and Bill of Rights are from that era, too.
I want to mention one of the aesthetic marvels our country has been capable of, which I am lucky enough to live a two-hour drive away from: the Golden Gate Bridge. From the proportion of the towers to the bold, deep-red color, outlined against the blue bay, everything went right here, except that 10 people died in an accident in the mammoth effort to build it. It is very interesting to note, in light of the information you provided, that the bridge was built between 1929 and 1937, in the throes of the Great Depression, and without federal or state funds. The northern coastal counties stretching up to Oregon (I live in one of them) set up tax bases and helped pay for the construction, with the obvious motive of attracting motorists to their area. 200,000 people walked on the bridge when it opened in 1937, and every day, scores of people are walking over it still.
I know the Bay Area draws a great deal of critique these days, and for good reason: Every month, I run into a new acquaintance or old friend whose rent was doubled and who had to leave. My few friends who are still hanging on in the area bought their homes before the turn of the century. However, I regard the city as one of the world’s greatest open-air museums: for the price of $7, to cross the bridge, I get a view I never tire of, near-constant moderate weather, and a plethora of parks, beaches and marinas. Something went right when the Golden Gate Strait was spanned by this engineering marvel.
I do find your “Europeans as a sea-faring version of the Mongols” barbarian analogy interesting Mr. Greer, particularly since we now know from archaeological evidence that the first Europeans in the New World were the least literate and advanced, but most hardy and adventurous, Norsemen.
I’ve always been fascinated by what would have happened had the Norsemen succeeded in establishing a foothold in the New World (even if they assumed it was just another (more temperate) island). Have you Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” book, which describes the subject?
This weeks commentary has reminded me how much value history has, and how much I’ve learned about history from this and the previous blogs. A lot of memories come to mind, especially one within school which I may have mentioned before but which illustrates so well both how modern education imprisons us within a very strict narrative and doesn’t encourage critical thinking. It was an essay in which three events, all within the Civil Rights movement were picked out and we had to decide and support with arguments which one was the most important event in American history post-Civil War. It infuriated me then as it does now as an insult to my ability to make my own choices. Then, as oft I am to do now, I rebelled, and earned a failing grade which I wore as a badge.
There are innumerable important lessons in the history of the US. So many are forgotten, and even more are being disposed of as despicable. Even the Founding Fathers are often spoken of with contempt and derision because of their having kept slaves, to such a point that modern scholars want to smear them, and perhaps later to remove them from the pages of our US history.
As happened a lot while I was abroad, I learned to appreciate many things. Our great county was one of the things I took for granted the most until then. Another was spirituality. This past October I was reminded of the Festival of Tabernacles, an annual event occasioned by many practicing Jews and some Christians, which encourages at least a night and a day spent outdoors to help remind of the trek through the wilderness for 40 years. It’s a spiritual tradition which I think is great, both because of the spiritual aspect but also the commemoration of what brought the people together and what they endured.
It would be a thing of beauty if our tapestry here in the USA and to those who will follow in our footsteps were able to weave together both some traditions which were spiritual and educational in nature. I look forward to your continued efforts in helping remind us of the past which we have forgotten.
How would an honest artist/composer/writer/poet get funded by the National Endowment for the Arts?
Thank you for those. Christopher Buckley has seen a few very different sides of life by the sound of it. Will be interested to see his take on things.
Thanks. I stumbled across Nick Earls a couple weeks ago. Seems like he and Ben Elton (who probably shouldn’t count as he’s an import) are the only two Aussie writers doing comedic novels.
Thank you. Didn’t know that comedic fantasy was a thing. Will definitely check out Moore’s work.
Kimberly, I like the idea of DERP as an acronym for the Uglicist design process. Department of Extremely Repulsive Projects, maybe?
Patricia M, it’s entirely possible that something of the sort is happening. The Democratic Party seems to be doing everything in its power to guarantee a Trump landslide this year, and you’d think that if they were in their right minds, they’d notice.
Sam, dead on target. You know as well as I do that if the French government had announced that it was going to bulldoze Notre Dame de Paris and replace it with a big glass and steel government office building designed by Rem Koolhaas, everyone left of center would have cheered.
Anonymous, I just looked up Mudd Hall…
…and compared it with what they put in its place…
…I feel better about the future of architecture.
Chrysanthemum, no argument there. Jim’s blistering commentary on Uglicism is well worth reading.
Architrains, thanks for this! I certainly don’t blame working architects, especially those on the bottom of the pyramid, for the extreme ugliness of the buildings they’re forced to design. Clearly the change needs to start from outside the profession, by putting serious pressure on governments to build buildings worth having; I hope the executive order we’re discussing will help move the Overton Window a bit in that direction.
Robert, thanks for this! I’ll be downloading that.
SarahJ, for what it’s worth, I agree on both counts. The diet that keeps me healthy is not necessarily well suited to anybody else — and the overt encouragement of bullying in the public schools is one of the reasons I’d like those to be razed to the ground. I was bullied a great deal when I was in school, and it gets really tiring to be told that it’s your fault that your face was slammed repeatedly into the asphalt by a small-sized mob.
Onething, I’m delighted to hear that you’re doing well! As for those pointless movies, yes, that’s Uglicist cinema. “We can’t have a satisfying resolution to the film — ordinary people like those!”
Varun, it was partly that most other civilizations were hitting low points in their cycles just then, partly that the military innovations made in Europe were very good at messing with existing military systems, and partly that the pandemics that wiped out upwards of 95% of the population of the Americas and Australasia handed the European colonial powers a fantastic source of wealth, which they then used to build fleets, equip armies, and overrun most of the rest of the world. Again, it’s an old story — the chariot armies that swept out of the southwestern Asiatic steppes beginning around 4000 BCE, spreading Indo-European languages across a swath of Eurasia from Ireland to western China, benefited from the first and second factors. For what it’s worth, I suspect that both sides in the current Indian history wars have some facts on their side; until the coming of the Abrahamic religions, it was standard practice for an invading people to pick up large elements of the local indigenous religion from the people they conquered.
Roberta, I’m no fan of the Bay area, but I agree that a well-designed suspension bridge — and the Golden Gate is one of the high points there — is a thing of beauty. It’s one of the places where designers actually followed Louis Sullivan’s dictum and let form follow function — and “function” in this case was something other than the inflation of the architect’s ego.
Aidan, yes, I’ve read Diamond’s book, and quite a few other books on the Norse settlement of Greenland — not least because it plays a background role in my Cthulhu mythos novels. One really interesting alternate-history scenario I’ve come up with imagines that the Norse established a small colony in New England around 1050, which remained in contact with Europe; that smallpox and the other European diseases arrived one at a time through that colony, rather than all at once; and that ironworking, horses, and a few other things also spread out from the colony. Come 1492, other Europeans cross the ocean to find two continents chockfull of native people who are already resistant to European diseases, who have iron weapons and armor comparable to those from Europe, and whose history thereafter is much closer to that of India or China — that is to say, even if European colonial governments were established over some parts of the New World, there was no wholesale replacement of populations, and the end of European empires led to the reestablishment of native rule.
Prizm, yes, exactly. It’s time for a far broader and less rigidly ideological vision of American history to begin to take shape. I hope to contribute to that in a modest way.
Leo, good question. I don’t know if it’s ever happened.
When I was in college, Pratt Institute, back in the late 70s B.C. – Before Computers. That’s a designer joke – and I have a drafting table in the basement as a hedge against the eventual collaspe of the internet and digital universe that contemporary design is so dependent upon. But as a design major, I had a number of friends in the School of Arcitecture and some of them were already aware of the prevalence of Uglisism and its even less attractive sibling Neobrutralism. This architectural trend reached is highest expression in the inner-city public housing of the late 70s and early 80s. Apartment buildings that in every way more closely resembled prisons than anything else. Cinderblock and stainless steel and barred windows. Certainly more than the cozy brick tenements they genereally replaced. Of course the masses resisted and created neighborhoods anyway. There are few modern examples of the style as governments essentially stopped investing in public housing with the dawn of the neoliberal era in the Reagan administration.
What will keep likely Uglisim alive is that it is cheaper to build than stout Neo-classical buildings. That is certainly the case with modern housing developments, incredibly shoddy, unappealing, and inefficient housing, sold at prince’s ransoms to people who can’t afford the mortgages. During my decade sojourn in suburban purgatory, the subdivision containing the reasonably appealing classic hi-ranch house we occupied was built in the early 70s. Contrasting with 21st century development, where there were trees where there weren’t going to be houses, they left them alone. In modern developments, in the name of efficiency, 100 acres are scraped down to bare dirt, removing the entire ecosystem. Then replaced by sod, privet, and ornamental pines – despite the local climate, indistinguishable coast to coast, nearly universally hideous and costly badges of decaying empire.
Fast forward, the three things escalating in price far in excess of inflation and massively outstripping salaries and especially minimum wage has been Medical Care, Higher Education and… wait for it…. HOUSING. All of which adds to the rising rage of ordinary Americans so successfully tapped into by the Idiot Savant Trump, and driving the insurgency of Bernie Sanders. I do not believe that Trump is an evil genius, is a master of three dimensional chess, or that he gives a rat’s naked tail about people like us. But he does have an almost supernatural talent for manipulating the media, and prodding his enemies, well honed in the pointy elbowed trenches of the stiflingly corrupt NYC Real Estate scene. Being an exemplary fraud and con man, he can unerringly recognize the hypocrisy and b******t in his adversaries and critics – which is virtually the entire establishment poliitcal class and most of the corporate media.
As for the poor democrats, seeing both the party leadership and the corporate media fawn over the prospect of Mike Bloomberg as their savior creates indigestion in the informed observer. Trump is a wannabe oligarch, Mike Bloomberg is the REAL THING. But it is clear that both parties, the Far Right, and the Extreme Left are all nearly utterly intellectually, morally, and ethically bankrupt, and most citizens know it and are well aware that they have no meaningful representation in their governance.
Re: Funny books. Recommend Carl Hiaasen, a Florida patriot. Skink, a.k.a. The Governor, is his most (in)famous creation, a Florida patriot on steroids.
Having watched it, I think the movie has a subtler message. The rich family lives in a parasitic way off the poor, and both the rich and even the middle class family cultivate an extreme disdain towards the poor. The poor, in the fictive story, take their revenge by parasiting off the rich.
A few more points I should make about the macroeconomics of the building industry before I turn in for the night and take my “work pills:”
-I’m painfully aware of the plight of rural America and why Trump got elected. The Plains county with the 1906 courthouse was debating which roads it should continue to maintain or divest itself of, so restoring their historic wood windows instead of replacing them with vinyl from the local lumberyard was a hard sell. As Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns so eloquently continues to point out, we express our wealth today in asphalt, not monumental public buildings made to last.
-Starchitects don’t do work in America west of the Mississippi, north of the Red R., or east of Denver. That tells you money flows toward population. Kansas City, in violation of the geographic boundaries I just outlined, does have at least one starchitectural monstrosity in the form of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Tower cranes sprout like trees all over KC’s downtown.
-Meanwhile, in a depopulating rural Plains town, I find myself trapped in the middle of a frightening political situation. I led a public tour of their historic city hall where citizens showed up wearing body cams. I wish I was joking. I was asked every version of “shouldn’t we just tear it down” that could apply, and I stuttered when someone asked why they would want it to still “look like an old building“ when it was done, if they were spending all that money on it. The readers of this blog are obviously elitists, for liking the way old buildings look. Because I’m sure that’s what I sounded like. My memory of that day is a little hazy, but I’m pretty sure that’s when I decided I needed to see my doctor about medication.
-The construction & extraction industry is the occupational sector with the highest rate of male suicide in America, according to the CDC. I was afraid I was going to be contractually obligated to push a job superintendent around the bend last year, because their estimator had blown the bid and the Owner was holding them to lose roughly $1,000,000 on the project. I’m surprised what with the risk of a lawsuit or career-ending financial losses in every line and word architects put down on paper these days, more aren’t medicated like I am now. Although that same CDC study shows the largest increase for males 2012-2015 was in the “Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media group,” so I guess more designers should be. Either that or the Millennial generation is just going quietly into the night.
A cabin in the Yukon sounds nicer every day. The zombie mammoth hordes bubbling up out of the permafrost will be easier to deal with and understand than people.
Not for nothing, this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Courts_Building is an article about the civil courts building here (a misnomer because many criminal trials occur here). On the top floor is a splendid law library with commanding views of the city, rich (real) wood panneling, and *most importantly* minimal computer noise. A fine place to study the law and contemplate high minded ideals like fairness and equality. If we make more of these than, say, this monstrosity perhaps we might be able to keep our Republic.
Architecture aside, in term of the “Next America”, I think we’re in a late empire stage. We’re growing more complex and stressed in many arenas: race, politics, technology, energy, culture & economics. This push and pull will break us. At some point, we’ll relinquish our role as global hegemon. See: Joseph Tainter & Peter Zeihan.
If we’re smart, we’ll celebrate the moment and choose wisely to stay united, culturally and economically. We certainly have the natural resources, geography, ideology and independent character to thrive in splendid post imperial isolation, in the crazy contradictory quilt that is these United States.
If we don’t and start to pull apart, a number of regional trajectories are possible and a lot will have to do with local geography and culture. The West Coast city states could become a prosperous “Pacific League” or… a forever faded glory like Greece or Portugal. Nice place for a vacation, but… perhaps the pitch decks of Jobs and Bezos will be put alongside Seneca and Marcus Aurelius in the libraries of the future? 😉
Bottom line, for the most part, we can’t control the long cycles of human history, but we can attempt to create a life’s work that is timeless, even if it’s on a small scale. It’s hard to think of your life in those terms but that’s my goal. So far, through that lens, my life’s work has amounted to jack squat but I’m working on it!
“I have received my answer.” Thanks for this.
Sorry, the links were all bad because of quotes… If possible, could you please delete the first post, JMG? Here goes again.
I can’t help posting two pairs of images. One is the former salt deposit converted to student housing (at right) I lived in for a semester in the Roman city of Regensburg (Ratisbona) – and the 1960s university where I spent my days.
The other pair is the main building of the Quebec parliament and an annex right across the street.
On the other hand, it is possible to build beautiful, meaningful and functional modern buildings. I worked in this institute, the main façade of which dialogues with another public building right across a huge ellipse of grass and trees. I think the greatest saving grace of the institute is the luxuriant green inner courtyard. Likewise, Brasilia is considered by some to be a modernist nightmare. I find it tolerable wherever the buildings are integrated with trees and water.
Great post. You are a genius !
Your mention to the diseases brought to America by the Europeans, are more widely formulated in the book “Guns, Germs & Steel” wrote by Jared Diamond. I disagree with your affirmation about 90 % of the native population dead by epidemics, because it haven’t happened in all America that is not USA territory. In my opinion in the USA territory the native population have been exterminated.
If “the US was more of a continuation of the British Empire…” and “America has to truly evolve into its own culture…. will be centuries in the making..” then Canada arguably has an even less developed individual culture considering we had no revolution expelling the British and fought no civil war. Despite a few flash in the pan attempts like the Upper Canada Rebellion we have remained a relative backwater during the successive Anglo Saxon power blocks. It apperas our cultural identity is getting weaker and I would describe our current situation as a passive vassal state of America (or satellite) that weakly flails against the recent populist tide to the South and in Britain. We occupy similar status now in relation to America as we did with the British Empire. Our international clout amounts to ‘we are polite and good role models so maybe other countries should listen to us’. We are a resource based economy selling to whoever is buying…and mostly America is buying.
Without a strong culture we are floundering in terms of finding our place in the world in the shifting tides. I’m interested in your views on the next 20 years for Canada. If, in your opinion, the U.S becomes increasingly protectionist and populist and withdraws into itself do you see a situation developing here in Canada mirroring that process? At our best perhaps we could begin sharing power on the federal level with our indigenous nations and evolve our government structure… Which could possibly make for some interesting government building commissions.
“how the City of London is using “nice” lessons the British army perfected against IRA in northern Ireland to cull youngsters out of areas they don’t want gatherings in ”
Worth remembering, Alex, the “ultraviolent” juvenile antihero of A Clockwork Orange was a devotee of classical music.
You mentioned about the retirement in 60 or 70 years from now : “… eventually it’ll settle down into a new elitism, but if things follow the usual rhythm, children born this year will be getting ready for retirement before that happens “. How do you imagine this kind of retirement ? Would it still be something like people imagine nowadays : paid by the government using tax money ?
JMG, and Theresa, it is clear to me, that wars can break out relatively fast. But there is a time when things shift towardes war, without contemporaries necessarily seeing it coming. But years before the First World War, there was talk about an European war and there was desire to solve the conflicts betqween the colonial powers of Europe with military means. ANd in the case of Yugoslavia, in the 80s there was a prediction that Yugoslavia would fall apart in case of a Third World War – that was actually part of a Third World War scenario.
As for ugly buildings, today, not only buildings are often ugly, but many other things, too, don’t have beuatiful and functional styles anymore. On craftwork fairs, it was obvious that most of the things sold have a style thet is, while not ugly, rather overdesigned, and it tends to get in the way of usability of the item. Perhaps this is the stylistic equivalent of virtue signaling.
Hi John Michael,
It is not nice to be dictated at from folks who pursue an ideological agenda but at the same time have little actual experience with day to day realities. You may have noticed that we had bushfires down here a few weeks back that were on an extraordinary scale. The governments at all levels down here have taken on board the responsibility for forest management and held that with a vice grip for decades – and woe betide anyone who may have a difference of opinion. They get shouted down or are threatened with fines. And the facts of the recent bushfires speak for themselves: whatever they are doing is not working, and the climate is not good, but there have always been bad days for bushfires.
The huge death rate in the indigenous population after European settlement has been estimated to be around 90% of the population within a few years of settlement. And it is worthwhile mentioning that settlement here took place in this state in 1834, and the first epic scale bushfire took only 17 years of forest mismanagement to occur. In 1851 the Black Thursday bushfires bushfires burned fully one quarter of the state over a few days. And the state has the equivalent land mass of the entire UK. Bonkers, and we have learned little from all the large bushfires since then. And few people acknowledge that what the indigenous folks did worked. Mostly nobody wants to pay for such activities to take place.
The whole thing makes me grumpy.
Talking of historic narratives that have been suppressed in the popular imagination, I’m currently concerned some of the lessons we as a species could have learnt from the 1918 pandemic are not being observed – I attach a paper looking at the care of the sick from that period at one US establishment and compare it to what I see in the Far East at the moment. Talking of which – has your concern level risen at all with the current CoVid situation? The death rate looks north of 5% and it’s already reportedly knocked down China’s CO2 emissions by an estimated 25%. It is also likely to seriously affect antibiotic availability as more than 90% are now directly or indirectly produced in China. And that’s before any viral infection movement between countries.
I think I have found your alternate reality
Dear David BTL and JMG,
My husband and I emigrated to Europe in the wake of the 2016 election. I personally hope to stay here permanently and if all goes well, I will pursue citizenship. My husband has family he misses in the US, so we’ll see in the coming years where we end up.
Our quality of life drastically improved upon moving here. We can pay our rent. Our groceries got way cheaper, including organic. Sure, we made more in the US, but we bled it everywhere, in privatized transportation to work, parking fees, car maintenance, expensive yet terrible food, exorbitant rent on a tiny place with thin walls that was far away from everything, and heaven forbid we needed a doctor or a dentist, or my husband an update to his eyeglasses prescription.
Urban planning is actually reasonable here. Our new society is actually healthy and sane. There are no TVs with the sound up in public, insisting you listen to garbage.
In my last city in the US, you had to be at least mildly suicidal just to get to work. There was technically a bus, but I was lucky if it arrived within 45 minutes of its stated time, and it just got me further from work, so I had to bike. Yet biking in a city full of cars means you take your life into your own hands. Everyone in the US is texting and driving. They know they can kill you or hurt you and not go to jail for it. The car is the only murder weapon where you get off free. Plus people were really hateful about it. I regularly got screamed at for biking on the streets (no sidewalks, of course).
I’m sure with climate change we’ll all have to start victory gardens or we’ll starve, but that decline seems to be delayed here in Europe. We have a very decent quality of life on a low budget. My taxes got lower on my self-employed small business when I moved here. In the US, I owed 25-30% of everything I made, and a yearly fee of $500. I have yet to pay taxes on my small business here, because they don’t start until I make 5000 euros in profit, and I have yet to achieve that after my expense write-offs.
And yeah, if our country swings hard to the right and kicks all the foreigners out or something, I guess we’ll go back to the US and try to forget this dream ever happened. But until then, I’m enjoying public transit that costs one euro per day on the annual pass, and the bizarre reality of being a pedestrian and not worrying whether I’ll get hit by a car. I wish America the best, but I’m glad to be out and hope to stay out.
@Skyrider: Glad to see another Cincinnatian in the comments section. Somehow I missed your comments the first time I read through them. I’ve been inside the DAAP building, and boy is it disorienting. It’s cool you live in one of those Sears kit houses. Those are neat. My wife and I live in a two-story “painted lady” type house from the 1890’s & it still has some tiles in the fireplaces from Rookwood pottery. Yup, the older architecture here is grand. We have a great arts culture here, and the cost of living is good too. Plus there is the really old architecture: Fort Ancient, Serpent Mound, Shawnee Lookout, and all the Indian Mounds strewn throughout this area. I love my home town!
P.S.: It’s cold out today, and it’s got me hankering for a five-way!
@ JMG – welcome back, and thsnks for these last few posts signalling chsnges in the wind…
While you were away we had one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” election seasons in Ireland, and I spent three weeks non stop canvassing for our local independent candidate, who won, I’m glad to say. Now we wait and wait while a delicate dance of offers and counter offers forms our next government.
However, there are some interesting scents on the wind, which is clearly changing.
1) our twin ruling parties have been unable to secure a majority of seats BETWEEN them – an unprecedented development.. The challenging party (which gained by far the largest working class vote in this election) is striding unapologetically into the arena, in command of a block of seats about the same size as each of the ruling parties, and many other flavours of ANYTHING BUT THE RULING PARTIES also took large numbers of seats. It promises to be interesting!
2) As to the general topic of the built environment, a challenge in the Irish High Court, taken by the Dublin County Council in defence of its own democratic processes for establishing zoning restrictions, against a planning decision that would have allowed a developer (who, incidentally was bailed out by taxpayers and protected from business losses in the aftermath of 2008) to flout those processes, succeeded. Here in Ireland, where as recently as ten or twelve years ago, if regulators threatened to derail your development with some petty fire safety requirement or similar, you took yourself to the real powers that be in the “Galway Tent” and found a sympathetic hand which would accept your brown envelope and grease your path. Apparently, this kind of roughshod steamrolling of people by profiteers may not be as easily facilitated.
Helpful search term for those interested in background research: “Galway Tent”
Why the focus on the managerial class when the ruling elite are a so much juicer target. It’s clear the oligarchs control the media and have undue influence over both political parties via monetary contributions and academia via endowments. They’re the ones driving the bus. The managerial class are just following marching orders.
Aidan Barrett – a possible Norse New England has been the subject of mach science fiction. If Poul Anderson didn’t tackle it, other writers assuredly have. No names come to mind at present.
Re talk of politically-motivated emigration
I think a fair amount of that talk is par for the course. I remember back with the first presidential in which I voted (1992), there were people talking about how they’d be moving to Canada if Bush/Clinton/Perot won. On the other hand, TDS is an attitude that seems categorically different from that standard kind of opposition and I wonder if there aren’t people who would truly see Trump 2.0 as the end of (their) world.
Re the Democratic nomination and election prospects
I think the Dems have put themselves in a real bind that may not have a solution at all. In part, this is due to an unwillingness on their part to understand who and what Trump is, and in another part due to Trump’s uncanny ability to spin his opponents up into a tizzy and keep them off balance.
In the nomination, the party is in a catch-22. Sanders is very likely to have a strong plurality of delegates going into the convention. If the balance of the field remains fractured–and it isn’t going to consolidate prior to Super Tuesday–then things really blow wide open. If Bernie doesn’t take the nom on the first ballot, he isn’t going to get it; between the super-delegates and #2 and #3 cutting a deal to “save the party” (or a “white knight” being brought in), he’s going to get passed by. And here’s the catch 22, as I see it: if Sanders is the nominee, then the Democrats lose the suburban Republican soccer moms they’ve been courting and Trump get s re-elected; if Bernie gets passed up (which is what I think is going to happen), then perhaps half of his 30-ish percent of the Democratic electorate will be pissed off enough to stay home (or even to vote for Trump) and Trump gets re-elected. The Democrats are in a full-blown civil war right now.
Re the future of the US
I am hopeful that a renewed federalism and over-all reduction of the size/scope/power of the federal government will keep most of this nation together as our empire falls away in these next decades (the stress of which, I feel, is still going to hit the American psyche very hard). However, I’m thinking that to work, any effective “hold on loosely” approach will need to include a high-pressure safety valve in the form of a legal pathway for secession and I think that there will be regions/states that will make the decision that they are better off on their own. So I guess what I see is limited fragmentation, but the majority of the territory remaining part of a looser, more decentralized federation of semi-autonomous states.
While the initial moves to reduce federal control may be implemented by one like Trump, eventually the shift in power will need to be codified, most likely by amendment, and federal power (congressional power) explicitly circumscribed. My hope for a convention (at some point) remains!
“As for modern art music, I think the single best thing for music right now would be the abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts and all the other public slush funds that are used by Uglicist composers to avoid having to find honest work.”
Wholeheartedly agree and I’ve been saying this for years. I think grants on the county level are about right, with stringent residency requirements – maybe state level for sparsely populated areas like Wyoming.
As long as I’ve lived arts funding has never been a campaign issue.
“Candidate Sanders, what’s your position on Total Serialism and should it be funded at the federal level?”
“President Trump, some people feel uncomfortable about your recent remarks concerning French Spectralists. Would you like to clarify them for the American people?”
“Candidate Warren, what can we do to promote more female-identifying death metal vocalists?”
“Mr. Bloomberg, there has been a lot of discussion lately about street busking and your mandatory stop-and-clap policy as mayor. Do you plan to implement it at the federal level?”
Until that happens, every musicians’ real job, even the ones who never take a dime of federal money (as competition is fungible), is to promote big government in general even if they disagree with most 90% of big government policies in specific. This has massive downstream effects on musical culture, owing to Upton Sinclair’s observation about salaries.
@Ksim3000 & @JMG It sounds like you are wrestling with the same ideas about America’s future makeup etc that I am. I’d highly recommend reading Colin Woodward’s American Nations. It is a summation of a much larger dryer scholarly work called Albion’s Seed. The basic premise is that the original European settler cultures of each geographic area of America still hundreds of years later shape the culture of that area. Although the originally settlers no longer demographically represent the majority in these areas their culture is still adhered to by the newer immigrant populations now inhabiting the area. The understanding of the cultural currents underlying each portion of America has help me in formulating my concepts of the future course of the nation.
The Yankeedom culture of New England detailed in the book is where a lot of the managerial class ideals seem to come from. Having its roots in the Puritan’s vision of a perfect society ran by the ‘right’ people “the city on the hill”. A culture which pushes its morality and culture onto other cultures. In contrast to Yankeedom culture, which has held sway in America for a while, there is the Greater Appalachian Culture. This is where I see a lot of the populist sentiment coming from. The descendants of the rough and tumble ‘lawless’ Scotch-Irish who value freedom and don’t like being told what to do by those who supposedly know better. I believe the conflict between these two cultural traditions in what is really occurring now in America. As far as the other regional cultures, some have firmly aligned themselves which a side in the Yankeedom Vs. Appalachia conflict. The Deep South, Texas and Far West have aligned with Appalachia side. The Left Coast and New Netherlands has aligned with the Yankeedom. The other cultures the Midlands (representing the Quaker influence from east coast into the Midwest) and the Tidewater (in Virginia) are in situations where they are split between which side to join. This is a trend evidenced in that these Midwest states are swing states in recent elections. The populations of these areas are still sorting out which side of the conflict they’re on.
Now how that influences the future I can’t say for sure. But at the least I know that the cultures we’ve inherited from the original European settlers of America will influence the future and deep future of those areas.
Would I be terribly wrong in guessing that you’re familiar with Christopher Alexander and Nikos Salingaros’ contributions to the theory of architecture? In any case, what you say corresponds closely with their critique of Uglicism.
Alexander’s lifetime work has consisted of studying and attempting to, in a sense, quantify what makes a building or built-up environment feel alive, and thereby pleasant, inspiring and comforting. Unsurprisingly, architecture after the modernist insurgency breaks virtually all the principles Alexander has discovered, often quite deliberately, with terrible consequences for the environment most of us are forced to inhabit.
In Finland, where I live, large parts of the country have been rendered dystopian, especially small rural towns, whose centers have been torn down and rebuilt from the 60’s onwards. I guess it doesn’t help that the modernist Finnish architect Alvar Aalto is a national icon, literally beyond critique. (To his credit his modernism is not if the worst kind.)
I like to frame the issue like this: how is it that an industrial area from the late 19th century is quite generally an environment much, much better suited for human beings than a residential area of today?
A fascinating subject, and I look forward to hearing more of your views on it!
Apologies, my roommate informs me I forgot the “best” part of the St. John’s Abbey Church, which is the Rotted Zombie St. John the Baptist statue. One of her young friends actually screamed when she encountered it: https://www.flickr.com/photos/clairity/41740394905 or here: http://www.stpaulseattle.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/St.-John-Baptist-Sculpture-Minnesota.jpg
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the funniest book I ever read. It’s British humor, though, which I love, but some other people don’t.
Roberta and all,
” Both critics I read claimed that the decision was a deliberate attempt to wind culture back to the days when white males were at the helm,”
I guess I will keep hammering away to make my point over and over again. I am aghast to see open racism and vilification is now acceptable – so long as it is done against whites. Which is the way it always works, of course. A group is uniquely evil or stupid, and thus we can prepare to do (whatever) to them. It is crucial that people see that this is just the same old, same old.
Just imagine if such words as above were spoken about any other ethnicity or race. We cannot even promote any arts or other accouterments of this group because they were so awful. Imagine if it was said against blacks or against the Chinese. No Chinese art or music because…they’re communists!
These people seem to think they have awoken to something new, but they have awakened something old and repetitive. Why such things are tolerated in America I cannot fathom. It is utterly antiAmerican.
Oh, yeah, and about the males being at the helm. Please tell me which nation or religion of say, 100 years ago, did not have the males at the helm?
Here’s an essay about black ownership of slaves in America:
Here’s an excerpt:
In a fascinating essay reviewing this controversy, R. Halliburton shows that free black people have owned slaves “in each of the thirteen original states and later in every state that countenanced slavery,” at least since Anthony Johnson and his wife Mary went to court in Virginia in 1654 to obtain the services of their indentured servant, a black man, John Castor, for life.
And for a time, free black people could even “own” the services of white indentured servants in Virginia as well. Free blacks owned slaves in Boston by 1724 and in Connecticut by 1783; by 1790, 48 black people in Maryland owned 143 slaves. One particularly notorious black Maryland farmer named Nat Butler “regularly purchased and sold Negroes for the Southern trade,” Halliburton wrote.
Always thought-provoking. I think perhaps we need to look at who the managerial elites/elected officials are in different places. Where I grew up (Northeast), many of that class are as described, and labor under an ideology of relentless, counterproductive purity tests and identity politics (ie, “SJWs”). Here in Missouri, where I live now, managerial elites/elected officials generally labor under an ideology of harshness, stinginess, and intolerance toward “others”—whoever those others might be (ie, “MAGAs”). These classes have a lot of influence in their respective regions, and many people not in the social class go along with their views. When someone in a region doesn’t go along with the prevailing ideology, it’s often not to think independently, but to borrow the other side’s ideology.
The uniting feature is ideology, which manifests here as an unyielding commitment to abstract principles regardless of the practicality of such a commitment in real-life cases. That’s why you get “NO bakers should ever make a wedding cake for same sex marriages” and “ALL bakers should make a wedding cake for same sex marriages” instead of, “this baker won’t make the cake for a same sex wedding, but many in our city will make the cake in such a case, so maybe try them.” That’s why a friend of mine recently argued that failing a female student was “sexist” even though she got Fs on papers and wasn’t showing up to class. That’s why a 14 year old incest victim faces brutal threats when she goes for an abortion at 7 weeks.
Ideology is the order of the day, and it’s hurting us. It’s the enemy of common sense, and the friend of civil strife. JMG, I know you are a fan and Edmund Burke, and his work on revolutions and their dangers is very apt here, as a warning to all those willing to cling to ideology to the point of verbal and even physical violence. I would also add that America’s own philosophical tradition, pragmatism, counsels a focus on practical outcomes, rather than fastness to principle, as the measure of the value of view. Finally, let’s go all the way back to Aristotle and Confucius, to the Doctrine of the Mean, which sets the virtuous act, thought, or emotion NOT as adherence to a principle, but rather as an act, thought, or emotion that is 1) the point of moderation between extremes and 2) dependent upon both the situation and the person or people in the situation.
I firmly believe that all the laws, policy papers, and new candidates in the world won’t heal us until we can back away from the ledge of ideology.
Oh, one more philosopher who could help us—Ben Franklin, “Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
@Will Oberton re your parents’ feelings toward Trump – my mother’s parents feel much the same way. They are white, working class lifelong Democrats living in the rust belt; my grandfather works as a machinist and has seen the industry gutted during his lifetime. Some members of their Democraphic crossed the aisle to vote for Trump, but they’re not even close. They think he’s a vile plutocrat above and beyond even other Republicans. Even though I myself am a Trump voter I like to bring up their example on forums like this to remind people that reducing the situation to “Trump loves the working class and the working class loves Trump” is way too simplistic.
@Everyone talking war in Europe:
I think an interesting question to think about here is ‘what would it take to get Britain, France, or Germany to bring back the draft?’
Right now the only wars these countries are even capable if fighting are small wars, far away from the homeland, where you have a big enough technological advantage to fight mainly with volunteer-professionals and not run out of bodies. A bona-fide European war on the level of World Wars I and II will require conscripts. How are you going to get those conscripts? I very much doubt that Western Europe is culturally and mentally capable of mustering up masses of soldiers right now, so how much trauma would it take to get them to the point where they are?
Mention of flat roofs reminds me of a time I worked for civil engineering consultants on the seventh floor of an office building. I noticed my boss kept looking out the window down onto the roof of the building opposite with a worried look on his face.
It was a flat-roofed office block. The roof had been coated with tar or bitumen, and concrete paving slabs had been laid on top to protect the tar from the sun (this was in Namibia where the sun is really fierce). What concerned my boss was that workmen were lifting the concrete slabs and placing them in one big pile, presumably so they could apply a new layer of tar.
That afternoon I asked my boss what the problem was.
“I’ve been watching the pile grow,” he answered. “I wonder if the architect allowed for such a concentrated load at that point. I’d better contact him.”
This was in Windhoek where everyone knew everyone, and he was soon explaining his concerns to the architect.
Next morning the workmen were back, taking the concrete slabs off the big pile and spreading them around. I don’t know what happened next because I was sent out into the field, but presumably it all worked out for the best.
Sorry, a bit off-topic, but one of the lesser-known hazards of flat roofs.
There is also L. Sprague Du Camp’s “The Wheels of If” from 1940 about an independent “Vinland” founded by Norse settlers who believed in Celtic Christianity.
A proper study of history is far more than a memorization of events and dates; it is an analysis of the causal relationships between events in the context of behaviors and their consequences, to the intent of imparting to the student a wisdom that will aid in future decisions. Those seeking to re-write the story are at best missing this point entirely, at worst exploiting its power for dominance over society.
That being said, here is the logic behind how architectural forms became the way they are in the post-war world:
1. At the time, WWI was advertised as the “War To End All Wars”. It did not end up being that. Not only did it not prevent any further wars, it did not even resolve any of the conflicts that created it. In fact, the only reason the fighting ended was that the belligerents had to stop shooting each other because they were running out of bullets.
2. The cause of WWII was the unresolved conflicts of WWI; and again, nothing was resolved – those conflicts still exist today. The main reason the fighting stopped was the invention of a little gadget known as the Thermonuclear Warhead, which to this day acts as a doomsday-machine deterrent to keep the developed nations from fighting one another in open combat. (It doesn’t deter wars entirely, just those between developed nations, all of whom now have the bomb: Vietnam and Afganistan are proof of that – but that’s another story entirely.)
3. The ever-present threat of getting nuked in retaliation is successfully preventing any of the developed nations from engaging in warfare on each other’s soil. With no wars at home, the rampant destruction associated with war does not happen at home. With no rampant destruction of property, anything built to last forever stands a darn good chance of doing so.
4. With everything built to last forever actually doing so, those employed in the building thereof will soon enough work themselves out of a job – thus destroying the economy.
5. To help keep the economy going, the architectural profession (along with the entire manufacturing industry) has embraced the Doctrine Of Planned Obsolesence, wherein everything they design is designed such that it cannot under any circumstance survive beyond a certain length of time. It’s not just a matter of getting stuff done on the cheap (though that helps, so to speak), it’s a matter of doing it such that it will never work quite right and will soon have to be done over again. And again. And again.
6. Wow! Problem solved! Now we can get paid again and again and again for rebuilding stuff that’s been destroyed, and we can do it without blowing ourselves to Kingdom Come! Hooray! (Yeah, right. A certain power plant just north of Kiev comes to mind here…)
Re emigration from the US
Understood! Certainly, one can make the choice to emigrate to another country, even to become a citizen elsewhere, and there are many, many good reasons for doing so, depending on one’s circumstances. It sounds like you and your husband found a place that suits you far better than where you were. (If you don’t mind me asking, what country did you settle in?)
As for nightmare metro congestion and the like, such as what you described, I cannot disagree. Things like that are why I find my adopted home here in small-town Wisconsin, upon which I stumbled rather by accident, so uplifting. Our small city definitely has its challenges–being on city council for the past three years has given me an eyeful in that regard–but it has a strong core of community and identity which I hope will endure.
JMG, I was wondering if you’ve been to Toronto lately.
This is the carbuncle they stuck on the Royal Ontario Museum:
This is one of the University of Toronto’s architectural calamities:
And if you think that’s bad, this is U of T’s Robarts Library which predates the previous:
Plus they’ve managed to ruin the city with stupendously ugly condo buildings. The one consolation is that they’ve done the impossible, something on a par with Democrats nominating a worse candidate than the Republicans for the 2016 election; they managed to make post-war strip plazas – ie along Eglinton Ave – look positively charming:
If you think that the situation is such that things cannot possibly get worse, think again.
Since you’re in the profession… have you any suggestions for how a regular Jane might best go about finding an architect who’d work with her to draw up a …modest, retro sort of house? It’s a project some years in the future, but I’ve poked around before, trying to find out if there are any architects who *do* that anymore, and if so how much it’d cost… and can’t turn up anything at all. Nobody advertises on their website: “Let us design the cracker cabin of your dreams!” (but I’d be knocking on their door if they did!) Are there code words to look for? Secret handshakes?
CS2, your comment is interesting, because I figured out the difference between the USA and Europe to be as you described, from what I have read about the USA here and as accounts from travellers, which were cited on one of JMG’s blogs. There is indeed a mounting pressure toward right wing populism, but enmity against foreigners focus rather on unregulated immigration of people from the Near East. I hope you can stay at a good place!
From architecture to the grand scope of human history…reminds my why I read your blog.
It seems a unifying factor is the need of humans to oversimplify their world in order to comprehend it with their very limited mental, emotional, and social toolset.
One shouldn’t underestimate the degree to which modern architecture exists because it allows architects to design and builders to construct structures with managers making the decisions when they don’t know a lot of the details and still pass their high priced managing off to poorly paid workers who can partially succeed in building the structure. Beautiful human centered designs have construction and aesthetic details deeply integrated with overall design so that an iterative process is needed which requires practitioners to do the design work rather than distant artist/manager/technocrats.
About the wish to suppress history: many people desperately want to avoid looking into the abyss and facing the fragility of the moral and economic order in which we live. I guess you are saying that is a unifying feature of the unreasonable left and the unreasonable right in our era.
Recently we discussed Japanese knotweed:
This is a serious subject, let’s have a laugh break. Behold candy hearts written by a computer:
Ants can stay! Japanese knotweed must go! 😄
Some modern music is analogous to featureless concrete cubes. It’s just repetitive computer blips, on and on and on. Who on earth listens to this stuff?
I’ve been struggling with the inherited guilt concept Andrew001 and Grampa Greer brought up. As the proverbial straight white guy, I don’t vibe with inherited guilt either on an emotional or logical level. And yet…
And yet, I do vibe with the idea of inherited trauma, that seems very real to me. And it’s tough to productively approach – or even be around – a sort of egregoir-level PTSD when you’re a person who sets it off. Not sure if anyone’s found a good solution to that, I’d certainly welcome any input from that angle of it.
Samurai, if you’re the type who learns better audially than visually, I highly recommend this fellow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yzwfs3DjSJg&list=PLA7E2840B724C6695
I find his kind of discussion much easier to follow than audiobooks, I’ll often put on something like that and just doodle. Keeps all the senses engaged and occasionally produces some pretty artwork too!
Well yes, but doesn’t the discovery of the western hemisphere count as dumb luck? A good axiom to guide the study of man history might be “the majority of events are 2/3 luck and 1/3 skill.”
The debate in India is considerably larger than that I’m afraid. The very idea of an invasion is being challenged by one faction. They’re building up a fairly significant portfolio of evidence that calls into question everything from the commonly accepted dates of events to social constructs such as the caste system.
I’m on the fence about a lot of the ideas proposed by the revisionst camp, but they are bringing up some very valid points.
@ David by the lake: I can still remember the mother of a friend swearing she would leave the country if Nixon was re-elected in 1972. She had the means: they owned a second (third?) house in Bermuda. Needless to say, she didn’t leave permanently.
@aNanyMouse: I have an excellent example of the fallibility of keeping wealth in paper: My great grandfather gave his daughter (my grandmother) gilt edged investments. I still have the coupons for the Russian Imperial Railroad bonds from mid 1917 on, as well as the bonds….
On all the architecture chatter: I am also an architect (Hello Architrains!). The architecture building at Yale, designed by Paul Rudolph*, famously caught fire some 6-8 years after opening, allegedly lit by a student.
I have been amused by the vast amount of pushback from many of my colleagues on the draft order on Federal Design. My general response on the Faceplant has been to suggest they read the order. None can take the time to do so, but are in a big hurry to sign online petitions to denounce this impingement on the freedom of the profession. A friend who graduated with me is all for signing the AIA petition. He works in historic restoration of lovely old buildings. If he has his way, a hundred years hence, there will be no work restoring lovely old buildings, but he doesn’t see the disconnect.
There’s a lot of screaming by the profession that this will result in Fascist Architecture being shoved down our throats. They seem to have forgotten that Mussolini actually tore down a lot of historic fabric of Rome to impose grandiose boulevards, and the new “New Rome” he had built at EUR featured early iterations of Modern Architecture which we were all taught to revere in Architecture History class.
One of the pre-eminent triumphs of recent blobitecture is the San Francisco Federal Building by Morphosis, opened 12 ½ years ago. It was hailed as a great triumph of “green” building, the first Federal building to be LEED certified, and an exemplar of the results of the ‘62 Federal Guiding Principles. Several years after opening, all of it’s ballyhooed “green” systems were studied. The result? The New Green triumph of Modern architecture uses 47,000 BTU per Gross Square Foot per year. The nearby Federal office building at 50 UN Plaza, a typical Neo Classical building from the ‘30s, uses 28,000 BTU per GSF.
James Howard Kunstler’s latest podcast is a discussion of current architecture and urbanism with Nir Buras.
*”And where the offense is, let the great axe fall”. W’m. Shakespeare
Worried about COVID-19 here, in the forefront of my brain. Going to stock up over the weekend on OTC meds and everyday necessities. Whenever it is that someone in the US dies of this first, it’s going to be chaos. It’s been demonstrated that world governments are massaging the info and news to keep people calm. China only told half the story to begin with. Beijing is about to go into Wuhan-style lock down. All over China people are being forced to stay inside and given limited passes to go out. South Korea and Japan are dealing with rapid rises in infected numbers. Now we find out you can get reinfected with this thing after getting clear from it in the first place.
Thinking macro, Central Banks can’t use any form of money growth or stimulus to cure a virus. Or restart seized supply chains due to this. Politics, meet physical reality.
Absolutely. Love British humour. Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett are two of my favourites and PG Wodehouse would be my all time favourite comedy writer.
Here are two more examples of how the Professional Managerial Class is trying to erase history and cultural memory:
Classics Suicide At Oxford?
Yale Blinds Itself
I’m afraid I agree with Golocyte on this one. The fact is, that the wokester SJW Left has 100 percent of ALL the institutional power in the United States. As Golocyte suggests, they will not go down without a fight to the death. I think that they will use their institutional power to impose a totalitarian regime on the U.S. One Soviet emigre, who is now a college professor, says that her current crop of students believe this stuff with all the murderous fanaticism of the Bolsheviks ca. 1917-1934.
Postcard From Pre-Totalitarian America
Clarissa’s Soviet Story
I just hope that this totalitarian spasm doesn’t last as long as its Soviet counterpart.
Matthias Gralle’s university building looks like the parking structure. Is it?
The David by the Lake – yes, there are real people who actually do see Trump as the end of their world and who are NOT salary-class. One of them is a close friend; another is a friend of long standing where I used to live.
@Mike from Jersey,
I’d wager money that the ring-road “feature” of that stadium was sold (or demanded, depending on whose idea it was) on the basis of making it possible to drive first responder vehicles (such as ambulances or vans full of SWAT teams) as close to all the entrances as possible. Given the multi-level access ramps needed inside any stadium, pedestrian overpasses to a higher entrance level would have been possible and obvious. But that would make it harder to cordon off the place.
I have watched some documentaries which are rethinking the population of South America. They now think there were far more people before the 1500’s and including in the Amazon. Meanwhile, in the USA there was never an extermination campaign to match the incredilbe killing that the Spanish engaged in, especially on the islands.
“That’s why a friend of mine recently argued that failing a female student was “sexist” even though she got Fs on papers and wasn’t showing up to class.”
Actually, NOT failing her is sexist.
How does a society turn from having a reasonable amount of common sense to having a lot of people spout utter nonsense with passionate intensity? Is it just a matter of the squeaky wheels getting the press? But I think it is more than that. There must be a vulnerable percentage who go where the wind blows, and when the ideology gets loudly proclaimed, they fall in line with it. I had a neighbor, a really nice and congenial person, say something that shocked me, about eliminating people, (deplorables basically). This sort of crap is in the air these days.
SamuraiArtGuy, the endless inflation of housing prices is easy to understand if you notice who benefits from it and who loses. It’ll be interesting to see if anything gets done about the government policies that keep that bubble expanding.
Architrains, have you considered going somewhere else and doing something else? Life is too short to stay in a condition of misery.
Anonymous, the Civil Courts Building looks very attractive — thanks for this.
Brian, of course. Have you read Spengler? He might be well worth factoring in to the others you’ve named.
Matthias, okay, you earn this evening’s gold star for “former salt deposit converted to student housing.” That was a fine tea-on-the-keyboard moment!
Anselmo, where did you get that bit of misinformation? It simply isn’t true that the New World dieoff only took place in the US. Here’s an article on the population collapse in Latin America, and here’s a good survey of the overall dieoff in the Americas from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. I can provide you with many more sources if you like.
Foxhands, I find that very unlikely. As Yogi Berra said, it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future, but my working guess is that retirement in 2080 or so will be about what it was in 1880: you make sure there’s someone who can take you in and you plan on helping out as much as you can.
Booklover, my concern is that by suppressing talk of war, current European elites aren’t preventing the same pressures from building up — they’re just depriving themselves of the warning signal that people had before, say, 1914.
Chris, one of these days we’re going to realize that experts can be just as clueless as anybody else…
Jay, I’m watching the Wuhan flu carefully, of course. I note that the death rate outside China remains extremely low; the difference between what’s being reported in China and what’s being reported out here is really quite odd. Until we get a clearer idea of the actual death rate, via uncontrolled media, there’s no way to figure out how dangerous it actually is.
Aidan, that’s pretty close, yes. It’s a fairly obvious point of divergence!
CS2, I’m glad to hear that you had the courage of your convictions and actually left the US; so many of the people who insisted they were going to do that if Trump won did nothing of the kind. I’d like to thank you also, because you’ve done what you can to raise wages and bring down rents over here (the fewer people over here, after all, the more demand for labor and the less demand for housing). If you can encourage more people to do the same thing, I suspect a lot of Americans will be grateful.
Scotlyn, thanks for this! A three-way split in the Dail has got to make for intricate politics…
James, the managerial class has been desperately trying to get everyone to blame the very rich for years now — it’s great camouflage for the managerial class’s own abusive behavior. “No, no, don’t blame me for what I’m doing, blame the rich guy over there!” I’ll pass.
David BTL, a friend of mine attended the event here in Rhode Island where the GOP got together the necessary signatures to get Trump on the ballot. (Every candidate of every party has to do that here.) He mentioned that around half the people who were at the event were African-American. I don’t think the Democratic Party has any clue what’s about to hit them.
Nothing Special, I suspect that if the National Endowment for the Arts gets defunded it’ll be done at least overtly for financial reasons, not for aesthetic ones.
GP, I’ve already read it, and yes, it’s interesting stuff.
Tommy, A Pattern Language was published in 1977. The fact that we still see so consistent a disregard for the obvious points it raised tells me that Uglicism isn’t accidental — it’s a deliberate hostility toward human beings and their needs.
Sister Crow, okay, so not only do you have a church that looks like a Cold War missile radar, you’ve got sculpture that looks like someone about to drop dead of severe burns and radiation poisoning. Got it…
Dana, I ain’t arguing. Politics needs to return to its proper role as the art of compromise and making do.
Wesley, I give it five years at the outside before conscription — doubtless defined at first as “national service” — starts to be advocated in Europe again. Watch the media for the first tentative moves in that direction once trade talks between Britain and the EU break down definitively.
Martin, thanks for this!
Steve, you know, that makes more sense of our current passion for really bad architecture than any other explanation I’ve come across…
Roger, the Royal Ontario Museum looks as though the old building rammed a skyscraper in the side and knocked it over. To call it or any of your examples butt-ugly is an insult to butts.
Ganv, exactly. Human beings are nowhere near as smart as they like to think, and since our current ideology of rationalist triumphalism is founded on a denial of this simple truth, most of our ideologies are attempts to insist that the cosmos is simple enough that we can understand it. Bad idea…
Your Kittenship, the tone of manic terror in that article is really quite charming, in its own way. As for the hearts, all I can say is “Horse loop!”
Martin, nobody listens to it. When I was doing research into chamber operas for my recent novel The Nyogtha Variations, I ran into one brand new chamber opera after another that was performed once, in a nearly empty auditorium, so the composer could claim that it had been performed. Even the people who spoke enthusiastically about these productions admitted that they were basically unlistenable.
Greencoat, inherited trauma is one thing; cultivating the habit of perpetual victimhood is quite another…
Varun, the fact that the New World was discovered when and how it was, that was chance; once Europeans got effective long-range deepwater sailing ships, though, it was going to be discovered sooner or later. As for the invasion, interesting — how do they explain the Indo-European language family?
DT, well, we’ll see, won’t we?
Michael, I don’t recommend holding your breath. Institutional power is a far more complex thing than it seems from outside; my take is that the soon-to-be-former elite class has already lost control of crucial elements of the system and will be losing others very shortly. Stay tuned..
@ Patricia Mathews
Re Trump and TEOTWAWKI
I can understand that. Ten years ago, I’d likely have been one of those people.
@ James Gamer,
“Why the focus on the managerial class when the ruling elite are a so much juicer target. It’s clear the oligarchs control the media and have undue influence over both political parties via monetary contributions and academia via endowments. They’re the ones driving the bus. The managerial class are just following marching orders.”
“Why focus on the archers on the walls, when the King in the keep is the one in charge?”
Last summer, while hiking in northern Vermont at about 2000 feet elevation, I found a corner of a stand of knotweed that looked spotted and sickly. It was one of thousands of similar stands I’d seen that day in that area, not in any special place where it should have had any trouble thriving or where anyone would have put chemicals on it. It was the first I’ve ever seen that looked that way. A welcome reminder that nature has her ways.
In the meantime, for the knotweed on my own riverbank, my plan for this coming season is to harvest the new shoots promptly and gratefully as soon as they appear (and re-appear, etc.). With any luck I’ll develop a taste for it. (Last year it had too much of a head start before I learned what it was!)
(Apologies if I’ve mentioned either or both of these things before. I can’t remember whether or not they came up in the last knotweed discussion.)
Re: Your comment on registration in Rhode Island
Do you think it will be another Nixon ’72?
I hope so because a certain candidate from Vermont has gone from a protest candidate, which is good for democracy, to a messianic figure for many, which is bad.
As you stated back in the Archdruid Report in 2015:
“The second point, and to my mind the more interesting of the two, is the way that Sanders’ campaign has rekindled the same messianic fantasies that clustered around Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in their first presidential runs. I remember rather too clearly the vehement proclamations by diehard liberals in 1992 that putting Clinton in office would surely undo all the wrongs of the Reagan and Bush I eras; I hope none of my readers have forgotten the identical fantasies that gathered around Barack Obama in 2008. We can apparently expect another helping of them this time around, with Sanders as the beneficiary, and no doubt those of us who respond to them with anything short of blind enthusiasm will be denounced just as heatedly this time, too.
It bears remembering that despite those fantasies, Bill Clinton spent eight years in the White House following Ronald Reagan’s playbook nearly to the letter, and Barack Obama has so far spent his two terms doing a really inspired imitation of the third and fourth terms of George W. Bush. If by some combination of sheer luck and hard campaigning, Bernie Sanders becomes the next president of the United States, it’s a safe bet that the starry-eyed leftists who helped put him into office will once again get to spend four or eight years trying to pretend that their candidate isn’t busy betraying all of the overheated expectations that helped put him into office. As Karl Marx suggested in one of his essays, if history repeats itself, the first time is tragedy but the second is generally farce; he didn’t mention what the third time around was like, but we may just get to find out.”
If that Senator becomes president in 2021, the next President may be Fred Halliot!
The big variable with the Wuhan flu is “How dangerous is it if you get an ICU bed and a doctor personally attending you vs how dangerous it is if you get a cot in a quarantine facility and some food”. The medical systems of the wealthier Asian countries as well as all Western countries are high performance but brittle – faced with a low number of cases they will surely produce low death rates and quick recoveries. But can they scale those low death rates?
Is there a historical parallel for a conquering people like the Mongols or Europeans allowing their territories and homelands to be so vigorously colonized by people from the colonies? Here in Canada, in a country which has the highest per capita immigration rates in the Western world, my apartment building has gone from 80% white to 10% white in six years. The new neighbors are fine to live around, but the rate of demographic change is shocking.
All – Consider the three components of the economy which are rising in cost most rapidly: health care, education, and housing. They all have a couple of things in common.
First, they’re inherently personal – they can’t be performed by far-off robots or cheap Asian labor (or slaves, but I repeat myself). The work has to be done where we are.
Second, they’re all funded through financial intermediaries. You’ll get emergency care even if you can’t pay for it (but somebody’s going to pay for it, in the form of higher charges against the insurance plans of those who have them). Student loans are private when you can pay them off, but backstopped by the government when you can’t. Who’s really supporting the schools? Homes are purchased on 30-year mortgages at historically low interest rates, which are only low because lenders can borrow from central banks at rates which are so low as to appear negative in some cases. Which is all to say, the money flows and pools in dark, mysterious ways.
Finally, the consumer has very little bargaining power against the health care, education, and housing industries. If I’m not happy with fashion, I can sew my own. If I’m not happy with restaurants, I can cook my own. But if I need a gilt-edged certificate to apply for a comfortable job, I may be able to educate but I can’t credential myself. I can make all the best lifestyle choices to improve my odds, but can’t set the bones and sew up the cuts if some idiot crashes into me.
When all this complexity comes crashing down, some prices will rise, and some will fall, but I don’t think it’s going to make life any easier for us… unless a significant number simply do not survive. Take 10% off the population, and it’ll be a real “buyer’s market” for real-estate, and employers might learn to look past the credential to assess ability.
Aidan, the 2020 election resembles 1972 down to the fine details. You’ve got a GOP incumbent that’s hated by the chattering classes but has a lot of support from the general public, and has a huge reelection fund; you’ve got a very broad field of Democratic candidates, none of whom is particularly impressive; you have a brutal internecine struggle between the Democratic candidates, which leaves the eventual nominee fatally wounded; and the result was total defeat for the Democrats, with Nixon taking 49 states and 520 out of 538 electoral votes. I don’t think Trump will manage that — my current guess is that he’ll take around 38 states and something like 310 electoral votes, plus a comfortable majority of the popular vote.
Justin, one of my other readers suggested a couple of weeks ago that the high death rates in China may be a consequence of the severe air pollution common there — if you’ve got damaged lungs, a flu-like respiratory infection is a much more serious matter. As for demographic replacement, good heavens, yes — the Mongol capital of Karakorum was full of non-Mongols well before Genghis Khan died.
Lathechuck, nicely put. Thank you.
Not sure yet, still reading up on the whole thing. Either way, the challenge itself is uncovering some pretty interesting evidence that was missed in previous research, including the location of the river Saraswati and a possible date for the beginning of the kurukshetra war.
Whether the the revisionist camp is right or wrong, they’re shedding light on previously unexplored avenues of the subcontinents history.
That’s the nice thing about these control of history contests, we get to learn to so much stuff that one side refuses to acknowledge or buries.
Kimberly (offlist), no, it wasn’t just you. Every so often a troll slips through as I scroll down the inbox, and I have to send the result back to its bridge a little later on when I’m going through the comments in more detail. This one was sufficiently classic trollery that I’m pretty sure it was a paid shill; one way or another, though, my pet black hole Fido got to chew on him.
Well, 2016 certainly resembled 1968. Foreign crises abroad. Rising black radicalism and bizarre campus protests at home. Working class alienation. A coronation attempt of the Democratic nominee that fell to a chaotic legitimacy crisis because of cheating over a protest candidate.
The difference is the 2010s aren’t nearly as fun as the 1960s (certainly the young people are not).
I have a theory that culture follows cycles of two generations that track trends in violence. It is based partially off of the observations of futurist Faith Popcorn on the notion that there are periods of cultural outgoing and cultural cocooning. My conceptual addition is that in periods of rising crime, the culture is counter-intuitively more fun and outgoing due to the need to pay attention (and let your guard down) all times. This can be seen in the Romantic-Gothic Era (early 19th Century), Jazz Age (1900-33), and New Wave Era (1959-92) all of which had memorable culture and waves of violence. By contrast, falling-crime times make people retreat into social shells so they are more autistic and uptight. See the Victorian Era, mid-Twentieth Century “Age of Conformity”, and post-1993 “Demolition Man” atmosphere!
Back to the subject of the election, I could see Trump giving a “Morning in America” style ad on the reduction of jihadism and improved economy at home followed by, “Why would we want to go back to where we were just a few short years ago?”
Yeah, I’ve read Spengler. The point I was trying to make is maybe all this hand wringing about where we are in the cycle is moot. Other than “late in the game”, we don’t know exactly and it kind of doesn’t matter. In fact, it may be helpful to plead ignorance.
For example, some of the greatest advancements in Islamic mathematics and engineering happened when the caliphate was on its deathbed and after Baghdad fell. What if those men had thought, well, it’s all going to hell, so time to bug out to the mountains and grow chickpeas. Or worse, what if those men had thought, well, will you look what time it is? Time for the Second Religiousness. No use even trying to push the boundaries of human knowledge. Let’s just pump out some minarets and be done with it.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t call out the corpse that is post-modernism. Or (shudder) the contemporary Art World. But Greco-Roman temples? Come on. Is that the best we’ve got? The handsome husk of a dead civilization? Nothing indigenous to draw up on after all these years since 1776?
I won’t argue that there’s timeless architectural principles but just imagine all the naysayers in 126 AD that said the Pantheon could never be done. That dome’s too big! I guess I’m not conservative by nature. I want to see crazy new ideas and crazy failures. Out of the wreckage there’s always some new first principle discovered, which timid souls can then put in a ideological shrine and argue about.
Peter Van Erp, those bonds were bought back in 1996!
Lady Cutekitten and WaltF, you might want to learn to tincture that Japanese Knotweed and fast: among its apparently many uses, it seems to be particularly good at inhibiting IL-1β that is one of the proteins responsible for the negative effects of a “cytokine storm” – and as we’re learning, that’s one of the things coronaviruses generate. Some explanation is found in Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Herbal Antivirals.
JMG, is your pet black hole more or less scary than your first drafts? 😳😄
Shortly before Trump’s order on architecture dropped, I had an experience that, in hindsight, should have warned me what was coming.
I very much agree with you on the subject of Uglicism. So much of the modern living environment ranges from horrible to bland, that I’ve long been interested in traditional architecture and car-free urban planning. So I was happy to find a popular Twitter account that focusses on these things. The guy who runs it knows a lot about vernacular building from sustainable local materials, and posts new photos every day.
It took me a little while to notice that the replies to his posts include the most vile racism and anti-Semitism that I have ever seen. Nearly every post showing an ugly modern building will draw replies blaming it on Jews. A photo of a nice walkable street will evoke the comment that the presence of Muslims makes such streets unusable. Immigrants are assumed to lower the IQ of anywhere they move to.
So it turns out that some Internet sites about classical art and architecture have become gathering points for neo-Nazis and white supremacists. They use Neoclassical architecture as a sign of the supposed superiority of white people, and unpleasant modern buildings as a symbol of the need to fight back against the evil interloper.
This is very sad to me, because it means that although good architecture has nothing racist about it, there are racists trying to use it that way.
And I don’t know what motivated the people in the Trump administration to make this rule, but since it doesn’t seem to be lacking in white supremacists, I suspect that architectural taste is not the underlying idea.
Well to begin with, I would like to slightly criticise the idea that Europe will have another big war of the nation states in the near future. The truth of the matter is that Europeans of today are unwilling to go and die for their own countries like they were in the past. Even the various nation states that make up Europe have no reason to fight a war.
What is a more likely phenomenon however for another European great war would be a religious and demographic clash. Europeans on the right are more concerned with Islamic and African immigration then they are with national concerns. It’s interesting to note that European rightists themselves have started to view other European states as brothers compared to 100 years ago. I guess in a quintessential twist of fate, mass immigration has helped to bring Europeans more together then oppose each other.
Who knows what the future holds for Europe but I do think that down the line a restructuring of European civilisation will be in order and it will end up drawing in Russia.
Now John, just to reiterate what Papus said, he was actively involved in Russia and when he did say it was still time for Europe, he also said something else. “Africa is too old, so is Asia. America is too young and it’s not there time yet. It’s still time for Europe but they have to grow up first.”
Which takes me back to the end of Faustian civilisation and the birth of Sobornost. I think that the European civilisation of the future is going to be more conservative and less likely ready for change. It will stabilise, grow, do some pretty cool things but eventually go into a sort of China and India mode where things start to stagnate and stay the same albeit with no major civilisational collapse. Hence Europeans will have “grown up”. I think taking about Sobornost is something for another day of course but I see it all around me in Russia and I could quite easily see this mindset becoming the norm in Europe in the coming centuries.
Now as for America being the Byzantine, it is possible with Trump but no one here is paying attention to the 2024 election and the biggest problem in America being too many people and not enough jobs and resources to go around in the long term. See, Trump himself is a last hurrah but what had he been able to truly accomplish? Very little. The leftist culture remains stronger then ever and whatever Trump has tried to do, the overall managerial elite have tried to stop him and with success at most levels.
Fast forward to 2024. The current Dem selection is old people. They are no trying. Why? Because they do not want to win this election. Instead it’s better to let trump win and instead go for 2024. Who is most likely to run and win in 2024? A member of the squad, most likely AOC. Young, female, Hispanic. In the current leftist paradigm she ticks all the boxes.
Once she wins, the first thing she will do is open the borders and grant mass amnesty. In effect, this will even incentisive more people to come and it leaves once big problem. It will heavily upset the now staunch but declining Republican nation.
Expect the country to become a very segregated place with even more crime and problems. It could very easily start to compete with even Columbia or South Africa. Too many guns, too many ghettos and yeah lots of gated communities.
The inevitable result would be a peaceful secession of Trump land because it would interfere too much in safety and quality of life.
That said, if somehow the US can survive this huge transition and still be maintained, I would be surprised. It’s entirely possible but I just do not see theoretically speaking how it could be. Maybe my AOC doomsday scenario does not play out and more rational heads save the day. It is a possibility. But looking at the opposition and the addiction to more of the same, I just cannot see how the order there can be maintained in its present form.
Overall nobody knows what is going to happen but one thing I will say. Russians are more optimistic for the future and Europeans/Americans are pessimistic. The attitude in Russia is more of a 1960s/1970s time warp where the future is fun and shiny. Compared to westerners who expect the apocalypse. So take that all what you will.
Regarding future European wars, this is precisely the kind of thing that can turn much more sour than people expect:
Here where I live in Belfast, Northern Ireland, we have a fine fruit salad of buildings. These range from neoclassical pomp (city hall and assorted other civic structures from the mid-19th C textile boom heyday) to modernist art deco (mainly banks and cinemas) to a veritable glut of post modernist monstrosities. Mid-20thC public housing policy left us with brutalist tower blocks and sprawling ‘housing estates’ constructed by the state to accommodate the urban poor. Some structures are even a combination of the above, like the Ulster Museum which blends brutalism and neoclassical quite well in my opinion, making for a very beautiful and unique building. The postmodern element is interesting, as many centrally located buildings of this character were built to withstand the blasts of huge IRA bombs. ‘Security’ concerns have been a major factor in the construction of public infrastructure here from the 1970s to the 1990s, and this has also been a key element in the development of large public housing schemes – where access is restricted and easily controllable, making raids by security forces and control of seditious occupants by the state more manageable. It’s interesting to read opinions here of these styles and what they represent, because from a contemporary Belfast perspective, the aesthetics are secondary to the functional purpose of architecture. In fact, I would say that I’ve been conditioned through exposure to postmodern styles to find a certain beauty in the austere concrete and straight lines. I even appreciate the mid west mega church posted above in its ridiculous and ambitious ‘ugliness’, with no consideration for its setting. Here in Belfast, neoclassical columns and triangles somehow represent pompous British imperial haughtiness and vast wealth accumulated from exploiting cheap resources and labour, which could afford quarried stone and skilled craftsmanship to design and mould with no expense spared. Another factor in the contemporary constructions that are being raised in this city seems to be materials available – no longer can we expect dressed stone and fine craftsmanship to adorn our public buildings. All materials are now produced by machines and placed by machines with minimal human input and the more ‘economically viable’ and unendurable, the better, it seems. Designs and construction go out to tender from the state to the private sector, and those that can produce plans and raise them to fit the overall remit of function over form within budgets and planning restrictions, win. A walk around the city centre is a thing of wonder. The ‘hodge podge’ of different styles tells the story of a singular place with a unique recent history. If you look carefully you can even see the remnants of a ring of security barriers that for 20 years effectively locked off the city centre from the 20th century’s most successful European insurgency – the IRA bombing campaign. Some of those involved in directing this campaign now lead the remarkable surge of Sinn Féin.
Thanks, that is a useful distinction! And come to think of it, the people whose inherited trauma seemed genuine never made it personal – useful to remember going forward.
Kimberly, one tack I’ve had success with when talking with TDS-sufferers is pointing out that Trump’s policies don’t have to benefit the country, that so long as more of the wealth that’s destroyed is at the top, his base will see inequality falling and feel better about their future. And given the law of averages…
It goes down smooth, because Trump can stay a Shakespear villain. From there, class warfare and whether GDP is actually a good target are natural next questions.
Watching videos of people playing Weedcraft Inc sparked my curiosity and led me to something that looks very interesting; the subject of political small businesses and activist entrepreneurs – https://cup.columbia.edu/book/from-head-shops-to-whole-foods/9780231171588. Another example also jumped to mind – http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/. It seems there may be a lot more potential there than the cliche anarchist bookshop cafe. 🙂
It just occurred to me how simply things boil down to the lifestyle we choose to live and how that effects the lives of those around us. The statement of how architecture was designed to communicate that governments were made up of men and woman, all congregating around each other made such a light bulb moment go off. Our modernist architecture simply communicates humankind flipping the bird not only to the environment within which we exist, but all peoples of different lifestyles and classes out there.
It got me to thinking of a girl I had an intense internet romance with some 25 years ago. We’ve not really kept in touch but through pictures and brief comments read on Facebook, I’ve been able to watch as she enjoyed a jet set kind of life, working in the London banks, spending weekends skiing in the French Alps, and when the season wasn’t conducive to that, then hopping around from one concert or big event around Europe to the next. When Brexit started becoming a reality, the chomping and gnashing began, with the realization that those privileges were going to be lost, or perhaps not as easy. What I don’t think people in those positions realize is how with their hopping from one place to the next, each moment seeking one thrill after another totally disconnects them with the people from those places they are going. They aren’t aware of the hardships those people are enduring. There’s a huge lack of communication.
Instead of spending those extra hours on weekends communicating with those around, learning to understand their positions, their every day lives understanding is lost. From the perspective of the modern well-to-do, life is good. “How could someone want to stop this enjoyment?” they think as they float from one sterile paper-thin fortress to the next, as their eyes may glimpse the crumbling brick here, or the little girl wearing torn from wear sweater whose parents work two or three jobs just to keep a roof over their heads there.. the bumps from hitting pot holes in the streets jar the brain a moment. Having to take the long way to work because the bridge hasn’t been maintained provides an excuse to stop at the latest Starbucks to pick up sickening sweet latte. The brief glimpses into the life of those who are voting against your lifestyle are washed away with before the last drops are consumed. The latest news about how blind the populist movements are deafens the ears. Before understanding can register in the brain, another day in the office begins.
Currently I live in a suburb, it’s one of the older types of suburbs and I can even remember in my youth that it was a much more pleasant place to live. Over the past 25 years or so it has been systematically destroyed by a huge amount of horrifically ugly and horrifically overpriced houses.
For this reason I can think it’s logical that people freak out over Trump’s executive order. The suburbs resemble the Warren of the Shining Wire in many respects, and mostly in the sense of intensity of taboo. The suburbs prove to combine the worst aspects of urban and rural life, as Kunstler trenchantly noted, and, furthermore, many of them are horrifically overpriced. What happens as the decaying elite loses their power and institutional control? Will the places that combine the worst aspects of urban and rural life, that are cut off from public transportation, that are filled with wretchedly ugly houses and people who don’t know the first things about community, what happens when There is An Alternative to this arrangement? What do you think will happen then?
Well, I can see it clear as day:
1) new houses won’t sell, and one occupied will lose most of their artificially inflated value.
2) people in the suburbs will over some course of time lose the equity that they had cherished.
3) many people will die remarkably quickly as they lose their life’s earnings and have no other sort meaning.
4) the suburbs will turn into slums filled with rotting houses, salvager, squatters, outlaws hiding out from the city, families who still live there after losing their equity, ravaging ghosts, etc.
5) young folks will increasingly leave via a process of “brain drain” the best and brightest will move to places that make some sort of sense — like Troy, New York.
6) Folks left in the suburbs will slowly reorganize their lives to the only thing that really makes sense in many of these towns — agriculture. I expect for the old inhabitants to die out and leave to the extent of their capacity over the next generation and spunky young farmers mostly from elsewhere to replace them.
Basically, if there is an alternative, than the suburbs will soon become bad places you don’t want to be and Trump by talking about architecture has made mention of the Shining Wire in a place where people have already lost their equity but simply haven’t admitted it to themselves yet. When I ride my bike around town I see it’s immediate future as a dismal slum and truck gardens clear as day. Perhaps the project of uglification and the intense desire for it is as a method to make suburbs seem more attractive so as to maintain their equity in the face of all reason.
Re: the chance of European ships sailing to North America. Bayo doesn’t think it is chance, and noting how Coyote and even XALS behave, he might be on to something 😉.
[This essay is long and dense as philosophers will do, but he hits a lot of impotent points about history and ecology – and recommend for the person grappling with concepts of inherited trauma and being a white guy, read his much shorter Dear White People (when your SJW friends will go silent because their only reaction is to want to denounce an African man for not getting social justice, it must be good).]
“I have often thought of the trickster God of the Yoruba people and diasporic communities in the Americas, Èsù, and stories that are told about ‘him’ and his relations with history. First of all, he is said to be the Dark Man of the “Crossroads” – the point at which forward movement is queered. Where bodies meet other bodies in strange intra-actions, and become diffracted. Stories abound about how he travelled with the slaves from the old Slave Coast in the Middle Passage towards the New World. Because of the duplicitous nature of the trickster, and his role as an instigator of new kinds of bodies and worlds, I believe that Èsù not only travelled on the slave ships, but also guided them to African shores in the first place. The world ended for millions of African communities who lost their kin to the transatlantic slave trade. But for Èsù, an experimental apparatus was being stitched; he was making creolized bodies, disturbing the purity of identities and opening up other places of power.”
For those interested in Trump’s (inadvertant?) move toward pulling the empire back to its core, here’s some good news: https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Trump-says-he-doesn-t-mind-if-Philippines-ends-US-troop-pact
Re: COVID-19 outcomes. Not only is the population of China exposed to high levels of air pollution, but they also smoke a lot of tobacco, and we might discount the quality of their medical care. But then we read about medical professionals at the peak of their careers dying, and I’d expect them to have all the benefits of healthy habits, early recognition, best quality of care, and it’s not enough.
Then you have the leader of a church in South Korea asserting:
“This disease outbreak is the work of the devil, which is hellbent on stopping the rapid growth of the Shincheonji,” he said in a message to his followers.”
I don’t see how that’s going to help them control the epidemic.
Chris Martenson recently pointed out that the US CDC does not recommend testing patients with respiratory illness for COVID-19 unless they’ve either been to China recently, or had sustained close contact with someone who did. Which is to say, they’re self-blinded to community transmission, and confidently assert that there is no evidence of it happening in the US.
In the late 80’s and 90’s the dominant style for new public buildings in Canada was a sort of retro-futuristic fusion of Victorian and Bauhaus. Nice to look at IMO though admittedly a bit weird.
Mississauga City Hall:
North York Centre:
Whitby GO station:
An entirely unintentional Gold Star!
When I was a young civil engineer one of my housemates was a young architect. One day I noticed him sitting in the garden staring dreamily at the stem of a dandelion he was holding.
I sat down next to him and asked him what was so fascinating about the dandelion.
“Look at this plant, It is so pure, so slender, so beautiful. You engineers, your structures are so heavy, so squat, so ugly. Why can’t you design something as slender and elegant as this dandelion?”
“We could,” I answered, “But then our buildings would sway in the wind like that dandelion and the people inside wouldn’t like it.”
I think it’s the only time I ever won a point off an architect. Ordinarily, they are a law unto themselves.
@Brian, JMG, if I may:
I think Spengler’s scheme works quite well for the first 1000 years of a culture, but it simply isn’t true in all cases that after those first 1000 years nothing important happens anymore. In the last books of Toynbee’s Study of History (which are not excerpted into the abridged version), Toynbee modifies and amplifies his own scheme to allow for cultures like the Chinese that rise and fall in wave after wave. For example, the greatest works (and the most classic styles) of Chinese poetry, calligraphy and painting (as far as I can tell, I am no expert in Chinese culture) were created under the Tang dynasty, 600 years after the Chinese culture should have been dead, according to Spengler’s and also to Toynbee’s original scheme. It is more natural to propose a long-term continuation of the Chinese culture than a succession of a “Sinic” and an “East Asian” culture as in Toynbee’s original scheme.
I also find Toynbee’s final metaphor of a Classical-Aramaic (and Egyptian, and Mesopotamian) “cultural compost” most appropriate for the area from Spain to Iran in the first millennium AD (or CE, if you prefer). From this fertile compost then arose several different daughter cultures (Latin, Orthodox, Islamic and other less successful ones), but the compost itself was fertile all the time – Pantheon, spherical trigonometry, Neoplatonism, John Philoponos’ hypothesis of inertia and momentum, Hagia Sophia, algebra etc.
I suppose the question is if we are entering such a period of fertile composting or if the Western culture is simply drying up. When I was younger, I believed in Spengler’s prediction that it was useless to try and create anything new at this point. Now I am less sure.
Lathechuck and JMG,
I can’t see how this virus is anything but a global game changer. Italy has only 50 official cases and 2 dead already. Both in their 70s but from a European developed country with good air. Think the polluted air idea is one to forget – not so sure North America and Europe have ‘hardier’ populations in a pandemic. Can you work some magic JMG and maybe slip an idea out on what’s going on?
Eric in Hiroshima,
“And I don’t know what motivated the people in the Trump administration to make this rule, but since it doesn’t seem to be lacking in white supremacists, ”
So you’re saying the Trump administration is full of white supremacists? Could you please help me out here? Where can I find corroboration of this?
@JMG, et ali.
Re the 2020 slugfest
Russophobia has kicked up another notch. Bernie’s now a Putin puppet.
His detractors seem to be leveraging this for all it’s worth. (Tactically, yes, this makes sense. Strategically, not so much.) As the Teacher says: All is vanity.
In related news, popcorn futures continue to perform well.
Can you point me to a good general history of the Indian subcontinent? I’d be interested in getting a better understanding of its background.
Re Trump, the Philippines, and retreat from empire
He stumbles and bumbles, slipshod and sideways, yet somehow manages to move us in something that resembles the general direction we desperately need to go. And the fact that he nonetheless outperforms practically every Democrat in this regard is a testament to the utter failure of that party to understand where we are in the trajectory of our empire and the nature of the challenges that lay before us as a nation.
For the guy who mentioned Canada,
Sorry for the late reply, I missed it. Anyway in regards to Canada I do see two quite likely possibilities.
The first is that with the rise of Brexit and concerns about American populism, there could be an attempt to revive the Commonwealth into something more along EU lines. That is a close union between the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The links are already there in terms of military cooperation (all swear loyalty to the Queen) and with the rise of protectionism, closer economic links could be forged.
I think that unlike Europe that sort of wants to retire, the UK still has some fight left in her so this could be a very realistic scenario for the future.
The second is that this does not come into being, American power sort of collapses and Canada becomes more of a Tahamous nation of the north. This would of course have Canada breaking links with the UK which I think is not on the cards as Canada would have to rewrite it’s entire constitution, creating a giant mess in terms of law making decisions in the future.
I’m leaning more towards option 1
Also just to comment once again on people’s speculation about a future European war but I would like to ask people an honest question – how are you going to persuade Europeans to fight against each other in today’s day and age? Not even Russia bothers Europeans that much.
Mentioned in another discussion prompted by the Trump architecture policy, I give you the National Fisheries Development Board India.
This is a real building. Someone has a sense of humour.
Coronavirus sure makes me feel the lack of credible news. I’d like to know what’s happening. There’s plenty of honest news on the Internet, but since I’m not a doctor and know nothing about China, how can I find it? There was a time when Walter Cronkite or one of his ilk would explain all this to viewers, relatively honestly.
One thing I can be sure of—this is probably the end of “outsourcing.”
All – Consider the three components of the economy which are rising in cost most rapidly: health care, education, and housing. They all have a couple of things in common.
You missed the biggest one: heavy government involvement. If you look at historical charts you’ll note they all went dramatically up in cost (and, for the latter two, down in quality) in lockstep with DC interference.
More likely Europe suffers some major civil conflicts. Gilet Jaunes isn’t going away, neither are the Catalonians, and unrest is rising in plenty of places elsewhere. Throw in the coming recession/depression plus increasing resource scarcity and Europe could burn all over again.
Unlike JMG & JHK most people’s future economic & political scenarios are colored by the assumption of continued growth and urban concentration. Evidence suggest both megatrends are peaking, and the current turmoil is likely the earliest symptoms of such a profound change.
Those political maps showing heavy blue (i.e., Dem) urban concentration? Voters that manage to get out alive will find their left-leaning tendencies fading as they reacquaint themselves with ancestral values.
A current example of the ‘bemoan and bury history’ school of thought is taking place in San Francisco CA involving a mural in a school. The school, George Washington High School, features a series of murals painted by the WPA in the 30s. The artist, Victor Arnautoff, was a communist who did not hesitate to portray Washington as a slave-owner and killer of Indians. Recently plans were made to paint over the mural on the grounds that passing them daily was bad for the self esteem of Native American and African American students. Battle was joined between concerned parents, the school board, defenders of art, defenders of history. Counter proposals included a curtain to cover the murals, a wall to conceal them or painting them over but preserving them in digital form. Latest development was a Native American protest by several tribes advocating that the mural be left in place as testimony to the ill treatment of their people.
Somewhat related to this week’s subject of architecture: this morning’s Weekend Edition Saturday program on NPR ran a fascinating story from reporter Sam Harnett about two scholars recreating the sound of an early Christian choir inside Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia while it was still a church by using acoustic studies to recreate the effect of the interior building space on music performed there. The sound is intensely spiritual. How in the world anyone could endure a guitar Mass after hearing this lush, holy, music is beyond me.
I’ve never been to Belfast, but in the ’70s I worked briefly for consultants designing extensions to Belfast airport. At the time they were figuring out how many bomb-proof search bays could they squeeze into a limited area, given the blast radius of a car bomb, height and width of blast walls and fencing, need for rapid evacuation, etc.
I take your point about security concerns and public buildings. In the ’70s and ’80s in South Africa as civil unrest threatened to destabilize the country, public buildings took on a more fortress-like appearance, with bigger areas of concrete and granite facing slabs, and smaller glass areas.
That said, what does the Royal Ontario Museum that Roger posted a link to tell us? It is easily the most horrendous example of modern architecture I’ve ever seen. For one thing, it overhangs the pavement. I’d be afraid to walk under it for fear it topples onto me. Form follows function. It’s formed like a discarded piece of crumpled-up cellophane. My interpretation therefore is: be afraid of us, for we will squander the wealth of your community like old cellophane packets littering the street, and you will just have to take it.
Re your comment about your friend’s observation at the Republican signature-gathering event
Is there a significant shift coming with respect to the previously-collective treatment of minority voting blocks? Your comment, pus previous discussions on this topic (with re to African-American voters), seems to parallel some of the commentary I’m seeing in the PW threads on the Nevada caucuses and Bernie’s apparent strong support among Hispanics. More than one anti-Sanders commenter has said things like “Don’t they know he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in [your choice of netherworld here] of becoming President? Don’t they know they’re throwing away our chance of retaking the Senate and holding the House?” Perhaps I’m over-interpreting, but there seems to be a good bit of “these people need to do what we tell them to do” going on here. And “these people” appear to be listening to those directives less and less.
If Trump shows significant gains in minority support in November, what are the Democrats going to do? How would they explain such a thing within the context of their world-view? Doubling down on that shift to woo moderate suburban Republicans really does seem to be the direction they’re going.
@temporaryreality, that’s good advice, thank you! I’d read about resveratol in knotweed, which might be in a form medicinally superior to other sources. But I didn’t think about the possible application to COVID-19. Fresh edible shoots will start appearing in a few weeks, and they continue through mid autumn, but tincturing some for next winter (likely timing for a second “wave” of coronavirus pandemic, not to mention the main killer by cytokine storm, influenza) sounds very prudent.
Varun, oh, granted. It’s like the great quarrel between the Neptunists and Vulcanists in 18th century geology — it turned out they both were right, because some rocks are laid down as sediments in water and others are the product of volcanic action, but the knock-down, drag-out fight between the two camps did an enormous amount to advance the science of geology by forcing everyone to confront the evidence for both sides.
Aidan, it strikes me that the arrow of causation goes the other way. When people are more outgoing and let their guard down, criminals have a field day in response; when people stop being so outgoing and raise their guard, crime decreases. That said, it’s not at all an implausible cycle.
Brian, and there speaks the cult of progress — the insistence that we can’t benefit from the lessons and achievements of the past, but have to go charging blindly ahead to make lots of “crazy failures” when our society is already chockfull of them. and could use some sane successes instead. Do you recall the adage that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a good working definition of insanity? That’s what you’re doing here. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to give the fetishistic pursuit of newness for its own sake a rest for a little while, and pay attention to what works, so we can salvage something out of the mess.
Your Kittenship, Fido’s a very well-behaved black hole. He sits there inside his event horizon, wagging a quantum-indeterminate tail, and only starts barking excitedly when I dangle a nice tasty troll over him.
Eric, one of the reasons that I find it necessary to moderate my comments page is precisely that hateful people from both ends of the political spectrum love to barge into other people’s conversations and try to get an audience. When people try to post things here ranting about the Jews, I delete them; when people try to post things here shrieking that some person is literally Hitler, I delete them too. I’m sorry that the architecture sites you’ve mentioned don’t have the common sense to do that.
Ksim3000, au contraire, a lot of people are already planning for our 2024 election. Tulsi Gabbard is very clearly (and cleverly) setting herself up as the inevitable Democratic candidate for that election; several Trumpist figures have begun to lay the groundwork for a GOP run. Trump has shifted the Overton window decisively, and the scenario you’ve sketched out strikes me as extremely unlikely — rather, I expect the next successful Democratic president to do what Democrats have been doing since the 1980s, and run against the Republicans but adopt all their policies once in office.
America’s problem with too many people and too few jobs is going away as the US backs out of the global economy via tariffs, immigration control, and the pruning of excessive regulation. We still face massive problems, like every other nation in the world, but we’ve finally started adopting policies that might enable us to deal with some of them. As for pessimism — well, that depends on which Americans you talk to. The political class and the managerial elites are very pessimistic, and quite reasonably so, but down on the street things are finally beginning to look up.
Phil K, exactly. Give it a decade or so, watch the EU fall apart the way the League of Nations did, and away we go.
James, fascinating. Thanks for this.
Greencoat, you’re welcome — and yes, I’ve seen the same distinction.
Yorkshire, I hope so!
Prizm, yes, exactly — and very evocatively put. Thank you.
Violet, that future’s already coming into being in some regions. The suburban south Seattle neighborhood I grew up in has become a slum, though agriculture’s still a little ways off. Did you ever read the fine old Pohl and Kornbluth science fiction novel Gladiator-at-Law, which has Belle Reve, a suburb of an unnamed city, becoming the vast fetid slum district of Belly Rave?
Sara, thanks for this! Clearly somebody I need to read at some length.
Temporaryreality, I saw that. Yes, it’s very good news.
Lathechuck, it’s quite common for medical professionals to have a sharply higher death rate in epidemic conditions — long hours of exhausting work involving constant exposure to sick people will do that. More generally, though, no argument — at this point it looks like roughly even odds that the Wuhan flu will go global, in which case we’re going to lose a fair number of old people — and probably some doctors, too.
Glinwq, interesting. Thanks for this.
Matthias, but a well-deserved one nonetheless.
Martin, thanks for this! That’s a great story.
Matthias, yes, that’s one of the major flaws in Spengler; he was sufficiently a man of his own Faustian culture that he could only see the coming of Civilization as a matter of fossilization and decay. To an ancient Egyptian, by contrast, the arrival of Civilization marked the coming of maturity: all the bugs had been worked out and now people could settle down and live the right way.
As for his insistence that it’s useless to create new things at this point, here again, he was a man of his own time and place. I’d argue that we’re past the point that the notion of progress makes any more sense, but there’s a lot that can still be done within the notional space of Faustian culture as already established. That was one of the points of my novel Retrotopia, and in another sense of The Shoggoth Concerto and The Nyogtha Variations — we’ve passed out of the era of innovation and into the era of performance, but there are still plenty of brilliant novels, paintings, concertos, et al. that are waiting to be born.
Jay, so many people are so very eager to find a game changer these days. I suppose we’ll have to wait longer for them to realize that they game will change when they change it.
David BTL, when I read that yesterday I couldn’t suppress a giggle. “Russians! They’re everywhere! Trump’s a Russian! Bernie’s a Russian! The clerk at the corner grocery is a Russian! Aaaaaaaugh!” Florid paranoid psychosis, here we come…
Ksim3000, people said exactly the same thing about Europeans in 1900 or so.
Andy, thanks for this. Somehow that seems almost quintessentially Indian!
Your Kittenship, what I’ve been able to gather suggests that it’s very infectious, but that the death rate is very much a function of age and health — children seem to be practically immune to it, while 80-year-olds in bad health are in real trouble. Crude death rate estimates vary but nobody’s proposed anything like the 10% death rate of the 1918-1919 Spanish flu — the most credible estimates I’ve seen cluster around 1%. But we’ll see.
Rita, yeah, that sounds like San Fran…
Beekeeper, thanks for this!
David BTL, my sense is that minority communities in the US have realized that being treated as captive constituencies of the Democratic Party is no longer in their best interests, and they’re beginning to explore their options. It may take the Democrats a while to figure out how to deal with that, because the current party leadership seems to be caught up in an almost schizoid detachment from events, and is circling back to gimmicks that have already failed — shrieking about Russiance comes to mind — rather than grappling with a changing political reality.
Royal Ontario Museum and it’s annex – I passed the picture on to a friend of mine and she commented “So *that’s* where the Mother Ship crashed!”
@Lady Cutekitten – re: Coronavirus
Here is the latest post by Rod Dreher about this. He posts correspondence from a doctor with a Chinese wife, who stays in close touch with what is happening in China. Granted that this is strictly anecdotal, but given the fact that those in the know either aren’t talking or aren’t giving straight answers, this may be the best we can go on.
The China Apocalypse
Here is a highly relevant quote:
“And as a physician, the first instances of medication shortages are now happening in earnest. A memo from the hospital’s pharmacy committee arrived yesterday. It specifically named the following drugs – IV antibiotics such as gentamicin, tobramycin and streptomycin – IV drips from the ICU dobutamine, dopamine, and norepinephrine – and the following pill medications – diltiazem, verapamil, amlodipine, losartan, valsartan and irbesartan. Also mentioned were all of the usual narcotic opioids used for pain – morphine, dilaudid, hydrocodone and fentanyl among others. The memo stated that while there was stock in the hospital on all of these at this moment — the intermediate suppliers had sent warnings that supplies were quickly diminishing — and that further supplies from the manufacturer were not going to be reliable into the foreseeable future. Therefore, we were strongly urged to immediately begin making sure that every prescription was appropriate — and to replace it with something else if possible.
“Well, some of these things are not replaceable. Some of them are — but with much more dangerous alternatives. And just try doing surgery without morphine — I dare you. All I can say is you have been warned. This is here — this is now and this is real and very likely to get much worse. Shipping all your critical drug manufacturing to another very unreliable country is so dumb that only the elites could have thought of it. And all you snowflakes thinking that we can just magically build factories here immediately — well you are oh so wrong. First of all — manufacturing drugs on a large scale takes immense engineering, and will not be done on a whim. Secondly, when we exported all our manufacturing away, all the jobs went away as well. There is a human know-how that is critical to this kind of enterprise, and that went away when the factories went to China. And it takes years — maybe decades — to get that back. MY FELLOW AMERICANS — YOU HAVE BEEN FAILED AND BETRAYED BY THE ELITES IN BOTH PARTIES – PLEASE KEEP THAT IN MIND IN THE COMING MONTHS.”
Yes, I think this is indeed the end of globalization.
In any case Mr. Greer, those who grow up in a falling-crime cocooning time have reputations as killjoys relative to their elders. With regard to “iGen”, those born from 1995 onward (knowing only cocooning and falling crime), this is shown in everything from free speech attitudes (not just regarding PC topics) to sexual activity
For the first article, note how iGen attitudes towards free speech of undesirables match those born from 1933 to 1946, the previous period of falling-crime cocooning. In the fifties, I imagine the older generations contrasted the free-spirited Lost Generation with the killjoys of what would be called the Silent Generation.
I hope the 2020s will be as much a neo-Sixties as much as the 2010s was a neo-Fifties in these regards.
P.S. I was born in 1995. 🙁
“Golocyte, so noted; we’ll see who’s right.” Humbly, I shall await along with you—-predicting is hard, as they say, especially about the future. At the moment I think especially so, since so many of the players seem to be acting so irrationally.
Agreed that the Arab conquests of the 7th-9th centuries and ensuing cultural achievements make a better analogy to the modern West.
@ Michael Martin
I agree that the intersectional and Antifa types are best analogized by the Bolsheviks. Where I disagree is in whether they have the competence, depth of thought, or personal hardness to actually create the revolution they want. Unlike Antifa, the Bolsheviks were no fools—they studied history long and hard, were capable of learning lessons, and were deeply serious people. They were willing to sacrifice their own lives and the lives of others. Their revolution occurred against the backdrop of almost unimaginable war, privation, and the utter dissolution of the social systems around them. History repeats, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
But there is a lot more to the institutional left than their outrageous fringe. So far the fringe has been tolerated because they were a useful ideological vanguard. Now that they are harmful, I suspect attempts will be made to reign them in.
How do you tincture?
I have a hard time imagining us Anglos being remembered the same way as the Mongols and the Huns. It seems to me that the only parallel that makes sense is the Roman Empire: even centuries after it was gone its technology and institutional forms were still being used by the distant descendants of the people it had ruled over. (In our case, I suppose, the technologies that last will be things like railroads and radio that don’t require more energy than can be had from renewable sources – life in Africa, for instance, will still be very different than before colonization).
Then there is the fact that even countries that have long become independent from the West still imitate our governmental forms: pretty much every third-world Republic has a President who’s elected in a nationwide contest that’s the biggest news event of the year, a representative legislature which is supposed to be the strongest branch of government but usually isn’t, and a Supreme Court which makes a show of enforcing the constitution but really just enforces the ideology of the ruling elite.
And nearly every third-world country also makes a policy of putting all its kids through 12 years of formal schooling, even when they can’t really afford it and the schooling is bad and most people would have been better off stopping at the eighth grade just like the majority of us Americans and Europeans did back when our civilization was strong and vibrant.
Or just think about the fact that, as one of many, many examples, after Namibia gained its independence in 1990, the new government established a “Ministry of Gender Equality.” Is having a ministry of gender equality a part of traditional African culture? No it is not, but they’ve got one.
Even the Chinese, who have plenty of reasons to see themselves as our superiors right now, still dress like Westerners. Even if the common Chinese can be excused for wearing trousers as work clothes because of their practical benefits over whatever they wore before, there just isn’t any good reason for people like Xi Jinping to don suits and ties instead of the ornate gowns that Chinese officials wore before their country was nearly colonized. Why would they do this, unless they have a deep-seated inferiority complex and can’t think of any model of history that doesn’t involve everybody becoming more like Europe?
The Anglo-American pseudomorphosis lays very deeply over the whole world. My expectation is that, a thousand years hence, the world will be full of people who dress like Europeans, use technologies like the railroad and the radio that Europeans brought, and think they are following a (dimly remembered) version of one of Europe’s political philosophies. About a third of them will speak languages descended from vulgarized dialects of English mixed with lots of local loanwords, and every country’s elites will learn Classical English as a language of commerce, science, and diplomacy.
Hi John Michael,
Yes, it is an unfortunate affliction for those folks! 😉
Hey, I’ll tell you a strange thing that I encounter so often that it makes little sense to me, and I’d be very curious as to your thoughts because it pertains to this topic.
Anyway, my wife and I hand built this house here undertaking most of the work. It is a traditional looking farmhouse based on the propotions of an early Victorian era farmhouse. It seemed like the right thing to do. Although I might add that it is a bit of a wolf in sheeps clothing because I had to adhere to the highest standards of fire resistance. The house has some bonkers systems in it, but another school of thought suggests there is resilience in there.
That was not what I was going to ask you about, it was merely background to the question.
So my question is: When I tell people that I hand built the house they always ask me whether it is of a mud brick construction.
It is such a weird question because, and for a start I respect mud brick houses, but don’t much like them due to their thermal properties: i.e. they are cold in winter. But I have long suspected that people believe that if a person constructs their own dwelling that this is the only option they can conceive.
Back in the Victorian era, and especially in rural areas, it was not uncommon for folks to construct their own house.
What do you reckon is going on there?
Re: elites gone mad
In case no one saw this, an article on Bloomberg suggesting that the best way that Jeff Bezos could spend his $10B effort on climate change would be to subvert the democratic process to make sure the “right” people get in to power.
It’s unclear whether this was intended to apply globally, or just within the US. The US media sometimes gives the impression that it doesn’t understand there is a difference between the two.
Signs of the times: That real old-time Girl Scouting, or, message found on a cookie box.
G.I.R.L spelled out in the colors, respectively, of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth …”Go-getter/ Innovator/Risk-taker/Leader.
Along the side. the symbol of an atom, STEM: Giving girls the know-how to invent the future.
The symbol of a compass:
The symbol of an arrow hitting a target in the bull’s-eye: Life Skills: Setting girls up with the skills they need to succeed in life.
Symbol of a lit light bulb: Entrepreneurship: Preparing girls with business smarts to take on the world.
5 essential skills:
Goal Setting, Decision Making, Money Management, People Skills …find their voice and gain confidence through customer interactions; and Business Ethics.
Oh, and the backs of their vests are covered with large tourist patches to show the attractions they’ve visited.
Who is being trained for what? (But then, programs for girls have always focused on the role current society dictates. The 1925 GS Manual was all about Home Ec, or as they may have been calling even then, Domestic Science. Today, BTW, where it still exists, it’s called Consumers Science.)
Vladimir Putin! Is there anything he can’t do?😄
I wonder if anyone outside the ruling class believes this stuff?
Unfortunately, I’m distancing my TDS-sufferer friends out of self preservation. Like Rod Dreher’s creepy university-dwellers with feverish, bright eyes who salivate like Pavlov’s dogs whenever someone whispers “fascism” and commenters on this very blog who almost transparently desire victimhood imposed by white supremacists, they operate as if they are under an evil spell. They will imagine oppressions where none exist in order to justify their Stalinesque, I’m-telling-Daddy! reactions of censorship and punishment. I’m tired of walking on eggshells with these people. They’re not well. Being around them is toxic. I end up feeling drained afterward. My life is too short for that; I’m a busy lady and my recreation time is precious. They’re legitimately insane, and after the 2020 election, they may end up worse.
On the subject of Uglicism in music: I know a few musicians who spend their time vacuuming up endowment funds having their chamber orchestra pieces played at nearly vacant prestige venues. Personally, I was anxious to graduate college with “only” a Bachelor’s because of my desperation to escape that scene and its adherents. Many of these symphonists are talented, but who can tell when your piece is an hour long sequence of random, only occasionally pleasant noise? But hey, if that sort of music is your thing, you do you.
Meanwhile, I recorded another one of my versions of the Orphic Hymns.
That theory sounds very familiar to me. Are you by any chance the guy who runs the Dusk in Autumn blog?
Japanese Knotweed is a potent herbal remedy, specific for treating Lyme Disease, https://www.sophiahi.com/%E2%80%A8the-herbs-of-quintessence-part-1-japanese-knotweed-by-dr-sarah-carnes/
And if you can get a hold of a copy of Stephen Harrod Buhner’s “Herbal Anti-Virals” book, it is used as part of an intergrated treatment for SARS…
Nature knows what we need before we do.
,An Architect worth mentioning here:
I see progress as (re) discovering laws of nature. Nature is hard for us to grasp as the relationships are complex and ever changing. We don’t really understand much, but we think we do. Thus we create rigid rules (religion, government, etc) about one particular state of Earth. Other rules are created on top of those rules, mixing with the particular quirks of our species in unpredictable ways. Finally, when conditions change, it all breaks and seems so obvious in hindsight. Rinse, repeat.
So I see life kind of like a garden. A time to weed and a time to seed. There’s also a time to question authority, make new discoveries and sail the ocean blue. The problem is not this impulse in of itself. It’s that the season for this impulse has passed and we’re left with newness for newness’ sake. But the time will come again. In certain fields pf human endeavor or for certain people, the time may be now. We just have to trust our hearts on that one.
Re: the fatality rate of COVID-19. If you take the published number of fatalities (2460) divided by the total number of cases (78630), you get 3.1%. You might discount this rate by hypothesizing a large number of undiagnosed minor illnesses, but that may be balanced by a large number of undiagnosed fatalities.
On the other hand, we can also suppose that 3% is an under-estimate, because it doesn’t count the number of confirmed and seriously ill who just haven’t died yet. When the rate of infection is high, there will be a large number of recently infected. So, you might divide today’s dead by the confirmed cases of a week ago (4%), or two weeks ago (7%). You could also plausibly take the number of fatalities divided by the number of (dead + recovered = 25548) = 10%, and assume that the other 53082 will die at the same rate.
It seems so long ago that COVID-19 was being compared ominously to SARS, which in the end killed less than a third of the current fatality number over the span of almost two years.
Re: 1918 flu, there’s a paragraph in the Wikipedia article claiming that part of the death toll was due to aspirin poisoning, since its side-effects were not well understood at that time. Don’t let the treatment be worse than the disease.
How about using your great imagination to give us a short story about life in the USA after the fall of the dollar. When the world will no longer lend us money and government spending will need to match tax revenue. I think it will be ugly.
Dear Mr. Greer – Our old Carnegie library (built in 1910), finally bit the dust in 2007. Due to two major earthquakes and spring water problems from the hillside. I was a floating clerical, and, frequently worked in that branch. I told the head librarian that I envisioned a little temple on the hillside. All I’d get was a tight smile.
Every time I worked in that branch, I’d get on line, find a nice little Greek or Roman temple, xerox the photo, and leave it on her desk. Finally, the architects plans came out. And here it is, in all it’s neo-classical splendor, the Venetta Smith, Chehalis Timberland Library. That’s in Washington State.
The 2-D picture, really doesn’t do it justice. Those windows are coved. The interior matches the exterior, in neo-classical splendor. Coffered ceiling, similar to the Parthenon.
Of course, not being a licensed librarian, I got no credit for the concept. Just that tight little smile. Oh, well. It’s my local branch, now. Every time I walk through it’s doors, it gives me a small warm feeling of accomplishment. Lew
in a nutshell, you take a certain amount of a pulverized or macerated herb (leaves, bark, roots, twigs, or flowers depending on what you’re looking for) and soak it for an extended time in an alcohol & water solution. The alcohol and water both extract certain chemical constituents. Shake periodically to get it all good and combined. Then you pour off the resulting tincture, squeeze as much of it out of the glop as you can, bottle it all and consume as needed. There are guidelines and proportions depending on what herb you’re working with that can be found in reputable herb books. Violet of course can point you to many. I like Buhner because he works with plants in both spiritual and physical ways. His Herbal Antiviral and Herbal Antibiotic books are well-researched – lots of journal articles written by people outside the US who know that plants are our future make up his sources, as does his own experience as an herbalist.
Mostly I make an elderberry elixir (so, not a true tincture, my liquid is rum and honey, the herbs are elderberries, ginger, and rosehips), and dandelion tincture (and a few other things). Most of the plants discussed in the above two books don’t grow near me and so I’ve not built up any sort of home-grown apothecary.
“Americans don’t need Russia’s polarizing influence operations. They are plenty good enough at dividing themselves,” writes the Atlantic’s national security reporter, arguing that “the new face of Russian propaganda” is just a carefully-curated selection of inflammatory content made by Americans themselves.
I could swear I read this general plot line in a book somewhere, in the second part right after a war was lost due to an over-extended empire. Life following art again?
After that Berkeley professor called rural people bad, and Bloomberg’s crack about farmers not being very bright, a Constitutional Convention is starting to look less improbable. Eastern Oregon wants to join Idaho, Eastern Washington wants to separate from Seattle, and part of Virginia wants to join West Virginia, all because the “liberals” in the cities aren’t willing to tolerate a little diversity in opinion.
Regarding the Royal Ontario Museum “Crystal” wing: does anyone else remember an old black and white SF B-movie called The Monolith Monsters (1957)? Glassy stone crystals from a meteor threaten the earth. In the climactic scenes when the “monsters” really get going, gigantic 200-foot-tall crystals start thrusting up from the ground at angles, smashing through everything. As they grow tall enough they topple and shatter, the shards then rapidly growing into more crystals. (Here’s a frame.) Anyhow, the museum looks like that process was frozen in mid-upthrust.
About a mile from me, construction of my town’s new elementary school will be starting in the spring. The design, fortunately, isn’t awful. It’s on the postmodern side of bland, with a few genuine nods to local textures and shapes, mixed in with details straight out of the McMansion catalog (that second peak above the portico…). The proportions and spacing of the columns along the facade are off somehow (oh, I just figured it out… past the portico there’s no weight above the columns for them to be holding up, just a thin strip of flat roof, making the columns a decorative joke akin to those invisible-dog leashes). But the entrance does seem to convey a space that should be respected without being forbidding (and at least the columns aren’t just painted steel I-beams like in some of my old schools). Best of all, it has actual windows (which obviously won’t open, but you can’t expect miracles). The main facade in the right half of the picture faces north, so those really big windows should be appropriately distracting for the kiddies during our nor’easters. Anyhow. compared to some of the concrete kid-prisons I’ve viewed online since this topic came up, it’s the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Amidst all the debates on the meaning and language and politics of architecture, how much of what drives modernistic styles is the simple fact that compared to either turning out a bland pastiche of a popular style, or going off the rails and disregarding aesthetics altogether, actually working in a popular style and using it as a framework in which to create something excellent—you know, doing architecture—is just really hard to do? And not just in architecture, but in music and art and fiction and poetry and other creative fields as well? Attributing characteristics of “modern” styles to laziness or inadequate basic skills is a cliché as old as modern art itself (“my five-year-old kid could do better…”) but maybe there’s a grain or more of truth in it in today’s era of declining competence across the board.
One more thing, from my own experiences in some of those creative endeavors I named. When you’re using “open” unaesthetic forms without rules, the work is both stressful and boring. You’re making one difficult creative decision after another with nothing to provide any feedback about which decisions are working and which aren’t. It’s like taking one exam after another, but they’re never graded. “There are no wrong answers” means there are no right ones either. (Why am I reminded of chaos magic?) I lost interest in writing free verse poetry for good when I realized even the best of my teachers, for whom I had a lot of respect, couldn’t tell when I was turning in total garbage.
I thought the ultimate insult was arch-liberal Grinnell College literally encasing its beautiful old brick humanities building in spaceship-age glass and white metal to form a gross behemoth called the “Humanities and Social Science Center” (or HSSC—already getting pronounced, apparently, as “the Husk”):
But that Royal Ontario Museum might even outdo Grinnell.
Some more interesting comments to respond to. Not had this much fun commenting on a message board in along time. Takes me back to the 2000s lol.
Anyway John, I think you have a good point about the U.S. If America follows this road, then it is entirely possible the country could revive itself. From my own esoteric research into the matter, I can see that Neoliberalism will collapse in the 2020s at the very least in both the U.S and Europe with the seeds of revival starting to sprout around the 2030s.
Now as for Europe, I agree with the other guy. Any future conflict in Europe will be civil and not nation state based. I do not deny conflict in Europe, I’m just a sceptic of people dying for the flag like yesteryear.
I forsee a great many economic problems for Europe, the collapse of the welfare state in these countries and mass problems. However this itself will enable Europe to revive sufficiently in the long run. The reasons are as follows:
1) The mass immigration to Europe will stop and actually we will see many migrants leaving and going back to their countries of origin due to lack of free money. This will allow Europe to basically return to more homogenous origins and only those who truly love Europe will stay. I see Europe returning to say 95 percent native in the long run.
Ah interesting fact is that I’m now meeting people who descend from immigrant backgrounds say three generations ago who do not like the mass immigration into Europe and feel it is threatening their way of life. I know with Brexit quite a large number of black British or mixed race people voted for Brexit because they shared the same concerns as the white Brits. So already this effect is starting to take place.
2) The collapse of Europe will lead to a different political structure. I see Europe following the path of Russia and Belarus by electing their very own strongmen. These leaders will keep with democracy but the people will keep voting them in due to memories of turmoil and instability.
I could quite easily see Salvini in Italy, Le Pen in France and others quite easily becoming the next Putin’s and Lukashenkos. Europe needs the strong leader now to put them back on the right path and this I think is the trend of Europe’s next few decades.
Do not think of it as a Slavic phenomenon either as Portugal successfully went down this road in the 20th century with Antonio Salazar and his Estado Novo movement.
3) The economy of Europe will revive into a more greener economy for the 2040s where farming, delivery jobs and other related spheres will become the dominant form of economy for Europe’s working classes rather then free government money. This of course has the benefit of not only dealing with Europe’s food deficit and helping the climate but also helping raise the fertility rate of European countries to a more sustainable level. Without the need for expensive higher education, couples will start to have children in their 20s once again and probably go for the 3 kid family due to the nature of the economy.
The planets I do feel impact the fertility of nations and I feel that they are aligning so that European nations will start to replenish themselves. It is all about the balance of course.
4) Russia and Europe. As I said before, if America leaves Europe, expect Europe and Russia to quickly become friends. Already Macron has a policy of talking to Putin first rather then Trump due to political differences so I think in the next 30-40 years a European-Russian alliance is on the cards. Without an America there to keep the division going, the two will naturally seek cooperation. No one ever believes me when I say it will happen but I foresee it as clear as day.
So yes these are my predictions. A rough 2020s-2030s for Europe followed by a revival and hope for the continent. Maybe I am being waaaay too optimistic and it is all doom ahead but that is from my own research what I am seeing.
As for America, all I see is division but if John is right and he’s been doing this alot longer then me, there is a chance America can revive itself, particularly with the green Revolution in 2 decades.
Given that us older folk are headed for an early extinction thanks to the Wuhan Coronavirus, I suggest that a more appropriate name than Covid-19 is “Boomer Doomer”.
Indeed, the absence of harmony and living structure is quite deliberate.
Regarding pattern languages: someone, I think Salingaros, has compared them to the metabolism of an organism, whereas the form language corresponds to the reproductive system.
”Successful”, non-Uglicist architecture has a form language that is intimately entangled with an underlying pattern language. Modern architecture, by and large, is all form and no pattern.
Now, what kind if organism lacks metabolism, but reproduces very successfully? A virus!
What do you think of Anselm Kiefer’s Art? I get the impression that he succeeded to be very successful in the art world, and popular at the same time – IMHO his work does communicate a lot, without being too obvious.
I love Andrew Gould’s work! In an alternate timeline, I will convince my parish to hire him for our church’s next building…
In the more practical realm, I like Marianne Cusato’s designs for disaster-relief housing:
Some of them look like the old crackerbox houses that used to line our main thoroughfare, painted a rainbow of bright colors, that were all torn down in the “urban renewal” project that followed. They’re far more climate appropriate here than most of what goes up in the suburbs, and they look like *houses*. So many things in the suburbs these days just look like a collection of unrelated architectural elements thrown together in a heap.
Ross – Even if the US Treasury could not sell debt to foreign investors, it could still borrow money from its citizens. Every retirement fund that’s invested in “zero risk” Treasury bills is supporting the national debt. Every insurance company that has “cash” reserves with which to pay future claims is supporting the national debt. I think of it as a massive pool that I can put money into now, when I’m earning more than I’m spending, which I’ll be able to draw from when I need it. I’m fully aware that the purchasing power of that money may be disappointing, but at least those assets are not susceptible to a catastrophic raid by violent thieves (as literal cash/gold under the mattress would be).
@Shewhoholdstensions, Walt F and Lady Cutekitten, I am very appreciative of your discussion of Japanese knotweed as an antiviral, and will try to get hold of Buhner’s book. “Itadori” in Japanese–I was introduced to it as a spring herb by a hang glider pilot here who showed me how to select a young stalk, peel it and enjoy. Pleasantly tart. That will be coming up soon, and just in time too, because here comes COVID-19, ready or not, to Japan.
My husband and I are wondering if we might have already had it, as a matter of fact. Indonesia, oddly, has yet to detect it on its own soil (the last I checked). That is despite having just as many Chinese tourists as anywhere else in Asia where it’s turning up, and I saw a news item from Jakarta a few days ago saying a Chinese guy apparently contracted it in Bali. They’d tested something like 12 people in Bali for it, and all were negative.
Anyway, we were there at roughly that time and something or other was going around with a nasty cough and various other features similar to what they’re warning us to watch out for. My husband, who got it 10 days after I did, back in Japan thought he had pneumonia. This was just before we started hearing all the gruesome news out of China. I got him some fresh garlic and told him to bite off bits and chew them slowly. That’s my antiviral of choice with respiratory bugs. I got him some vitamin D too. He was fine in a few hours.
Indonesia has good air and decent sunshine. That may be why it is not hitting them in a notable way. Detecting it would probably hurt their economy, so they may not be motivated to look very hard for it, and until recently, I don’t think they even had the test for it.
My protocol was low-EMF bed rest, 1 hr./day sunbathing, vitamin C megadosing, good nutrition (including local herbal remedies) and chawin’ on garlic. “Smell this? You’re too close!”
I’m sure that everybody here who has ever dabbled in herbal medicine has his or her favorite book, mine is Richo Cech’s “Making Plant Medicine”. He is quite exacting in his directions for tinctures so if the thought of doing all that math makes you as apprehensive as it does me, you could use the method I learned two decades ago at a Susun Weed weekend: fill a clean glass jar with the herb (the form to use is detailed in the book), pack it down tight as you can and cover with 100 proof vodka (buy the cheap stuff), which is half alcohol and half water. Store appropriately (this information is also included in Cech’s book), check every so often to top up the vodka as needed and decant after the appropriate amount of time. This method is somewhat less precise, but it’s always worked for me.
Do not dis Home Ec! 😉 The stuff I learned in elementary and high school Home Ec classes are the most useful skills I have. I only wish I used what I learned in my expensive-but-not-nearly-as-pricey-as-today college classes as much as I rely on what Mrs. Bates taught us in Home Ec a few decades ago.
Chris at Fernglade:
In my humble opinion, it’s that the majority of people in First World countries nowadays have as little experience with genuinely useful hands-on work as they do with growing their own food in useful quantities. By ‘genuinely useful’ I am excluding arts and crafts type hands-on, which is perfectly wonderful but not always especially useful.
I second your recommendation for Rod Dreher’s articles. He’s done several recently about the coronavirus and a lot of the reader comments are as interesting as the articles themselves. Regarding the ramping-up of American manufacturing of drugs and medical supplies, one commenter wrote:
“A week ago I listened to an BBC interview (on NPR) with a Texas manufacturer of surgical masks. His company back in the 90’s supplied 90% of US. Now it is more like 5% because of outsourcing to China. He is very reluctant to increase his business because 10 years ago during the swine flu pandemic he did that because mask dropped critically low. However after the crisis passed hospitals returned to Chinese sources and he almost went bankrupt and had to let go lots of workers. He has been warning about this for years. Will he be heeded this time?”
“Not just build the factories, but they’ll need to train workers. Manufacturing processes rely on skill and knowledge of the workers too. When off shoring occurred there was often a transfer of knowledge from the US to overseas. As those workers retired from closing US factories, that knowledge was lost to the US. That knowledge won’t flow back from China to the US, so there would be a need to relearn from first principles as well as train.
Take something simple like Aspirin or Tylenol. The precursor chemical used to make both is aniline. But guess what, a factory that made this stuff in the US for 125 years closed in 2000 after China got into the WTO! My father worked there from the 50’s to the late 90’s, but at 88 he won’t be retraining any workers anytime soon.
The exact chain of chemistry is aniline -> acetanilide -> phenacetin -> acetaminophen or aniline -> acetanilide -> aspirin. But either way I doubt there are many people in the US who know how to do this chemistry on an industrial scale now.
tl;dr off shoring was idiocy.”
These comments were posted for this article: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/american-china-coronavirus-medical-supplies-drugs-stock-up-now/
I’m not a member, so I can’t see the post, but the headline is certainly popcorn-worthy 🙂
Lots and lots (and lots) of hand-wringing going on in other threads and venues, however. If the non-Sanders candidates can collectively hold him to a plurality of delegates, we may see some interesting machinations at the convention, in smoke-filled backrooms or otherwise…
I’m very curious to see what the landscape looks like after the dust settles from Super Tuesday, at which point some 40% (IIRC) of the delegates will have been allocated.
I do wonder sometimes how future historians will comment on this period of our (US) history as we tumble down the slope of decline. They, of course, will be interpreting events with the benefit of a hindsight not available to us.
Just read this over at the Free Beacon regarding the presidential smack-down:
“Now the nation faces the prospect of eight months of septuagenarian New Yorkers yelling at each other.”
That’s pretty much it.
Somebody here said we should go long on popcorn futures. Time to stock up.
@Eric in Hiroshima (and to all other well-meaning left-of-center humans)
Please be careful. You mean well in warning against racists and classical architecture, but there is a very small semantic step between what you said and the WaPo/CBC/BBC/etc headline “Classical Architecture is Racist”– which is dangerous.
Because of how often you tell me I’m a Nazi! A headline that tells me being against porn is anti-semetic is how I learned that Jewish-Americans dominate the smut industry. A headline that tells me being anti-globalist is antisemitic wakes me up to just how many of the global billionaire class are of that extraction. I could go on, but the point is that I do not want to know these things.
They don’t make me feel kindly towards the sons of Abraham. Honestly, this antisemitism seems like a kind of confused class hatred by those who see far more Semites in the class they hate than the one they’re in.
And yet. Every time I’m told something I support, enjoy or actually am (ie, white) is RAAAYYYCIST– I get a little bit less tolerant of dealing with the Other. (and I’m not the only one.)
Honestly, I’ve had to cut our Canadian state-run media (who are apparently being sued for anti-white hate speech) because if I had to keep hearing all that bollox I’d be calling for an Ethnostate right now.
You are creating the enemy you fear.
There was a discussion of ANTIFA and bolsheviks above– and I would remind everyone that ANTIFA had nothing to do with the October Revolution. ANTIFA was the paramilitary wing of the Communist Party in Wiemar Germany… and that they started political violence before the brownshirts came out to play. Again, creating the enemy they feared. It makes me think of Marx: ‘once as tragedy, and once as farce’.
The statement “X is racist” or “Y is Nazi” carries its emotional tone in the first word– if X or Y is a “warm fuzzy” then it takes away the “cold prickly” of “racism” or “Nazism”. Repeat that enough and they become warm fuzzies, too. You don’t want us getting a warm, fuzzy feeling about Nazis… I think.
I’d also like to throw in a recommendation for Colin Woodward’s American Nations to anyone who hasn’t read it. That book definitely helped me understand American History better.
I would disagree with part of GP’s comment though,
“Although the originally settlers no longer demographically represent the majority in these areas their culture is still adhered to by the newer immigrant populations now inhabiting the area.”
Neither point here is true.
First, the descendants of those original settlers DO make up the bulk of the population in each region. Check out this excellent post tracking the genetics of these populations:
Second, these regional cultures are NOT adhered to by the newer immigrant groups. That’s true if you’re talking about yankee transplants living in the south or white southerners living in Minnesota, and it’s certainly true about new comers from outside of America.
Different peoples are different, and cultures come from people. If the people change the culture will change as well. Woodward’s regional cultures will exist as long as the regions still have those same people in the majority, when it’s someone else living there the culture will become something else.
I’ve enjoyed the squealing of the architecture profession against “mandating” an official style, as if one (Uglicism) isn’t mandated already.
As an architecture school graduate, I can’t overstate enough how corrupt and feckless the profession is. It thoroughly deserves every bit of opprobrium thrown at it.
In this year of the blockbuster 1917 movie, suffice it to say that architecture has been lost ever since WWI, and it’s only now the rest of progressivism is catching up with it’s madness and anomie. The sorry state the Left is now in architecture had already stumbled into a century ago.
To the discussion on architecture, I invite all who are curious to go to Google Streetview, and drop the little orange guy down on the intersection of Bay St and Queen St West in Toronto, Ontario, (43°39′6″N 79°22′57″W) and turn him to face north. (one may have to move around to get the best image).
On the North East corner of this intersection, behold “old city hall” (now the courthouse), built in the 1890’s in the neo-romanesque style, with ornate stone carvings, a classical proportions, elegant front and cut-stone facade which provides a sense of texture, made of different bands of stone. Inside (through the metal detectors) is faced with marble stairs, marble pillars, and scrollwork iron for the hand-rails. The back gate is a huge, ornate iron grille giving access to the courtyard. There is no part of this building that isn’t built to look at, not even the back door.
On the North West corner, behold the award-winning 1960 design of modernist architect Viljo Revell, completed in 1965 The, uh, toilet bowl in the centre is, appropriately enough, city council chambers, famous now throughout the world thanks to the comic antics of our previous mayor, who was a precursor of the current occupant of the White House. (I’m not kidding: I was on vacation in France and he was an item on the national TV news.)
If one moves around, note the skating rink/fountain pool with the pointless concrete arches over it: that was added later because the original plan with huge empty plaza turned out to be perpetually devoid of people and despised, so now it has a useful purpose. The featureless elevated walkway that, as far as I can tell is unused because there is nothing worth looking at from up there and nowhere to sit, leads to an equally unused (but now blocked off for “security” concerns) “plaza” around the council chambers. there are only a couple of emergency exit doors to this area. The iconic curved towers don’t have enough glass to cause focal-ray issues from the sun, but there is only glass on the inside of the wind-funnel, none on the outside. The only view from inside the building, which houses civic offices and bureaucrats is of the other bureaucrats, but almost nothing of the city they run.
Re: The Chehalis Timberland Library: Credit where credit is due. The Architect is named Norm Pfaff. Not too much about him, on the internet. I think he’s retired. But, he seems to be a fairly well connected local.
I couldn’t find many other buildings, designed by him. Several Laser Institutes (eye surgery) scattered around the western states. He also did a sensitive restoration of our local old court house, another neo classical building. I really don’t know what was “restored”, but, it’s very comfortable, inside, and very in keeping with it’s time period, the early 20th century. Lew
RE: Ross RE: story about life in the USA after the fall of the dollar
Twilight’s Last Gleaming by John Michael Greer
Thank you for replying much appreciated! Between the two options you presented I agree option 1 is more likely. To become autonomous and stay prosperous here we would need to have a stronger central identity or major fracturing around provincial lines could occur.. Alberta getting serious about joining the U.S comes to mind. And yes there is the constitution as well. I see more of a focus on Commonwealth alliances as well. However some stronger alliances with Northern and Eastern European countries would also I think help Canada in terms of identity. To be part of a ‘Northern Alliance’, in the words of a friend, would be a concrete step towards forming something solid for the future. Likely wishful thinking though. Trudeau and the Liberals are weak and if we get a strong candidate in the Conservative Party next election cycle I see a power shift in that direction and a mirroring of the sentiment seen in America, not a rejection of it. Trump in his ‘mythological changer archetype’ as JMG described some years ago heavily effects our population as well.
Aside from that..on to the contrast of Uglicism and 19ths century architecture in school buidlings in Canada
Above is J Douglas Hodgson Elementary School in Haliburton county Ontario. Built in the 1980s under the principle that classrooms should only have one window tucked in the corners so as to not distract the students. It felt a little like going to a prison everyday from a 10 year old’s perspective
On the other hand..
There are some great examples of beautiful 19th century architecture in Quebec. Below is McGreer Hall. Part of Bishop’s University, in the Anglophone town of Lennoxville, Quebec. Built in 1846 in some kind of high Anglican style I’m guessing. Refurbished and named for Arthur Huffman McGreer, a principal that initiated the teaching of experimental sciences there.. kind looks a bit like a Wizard School with the central tower..
Pertaining to my previous post, would you also happen to know a good overview text of Indian philosophy? I’d like to expand my horizons beyond the Western tradition.
Likewise, would anyone happen to know good overview texts for African history and philosophy? Another region of whose traditions I know very little.
Thanks in advance!
Knowledgeable people, comment please.
I’m not so much interested in comments on Rod’s views—seems like a nice guy, but he’s a bit of a Chicken Little—as in comments on the views of those he quoted.
“how much of what drives modernistic styles is the simple fact that compared to either turning out a bland pastiche of a popular style, or going off the rails and disregarding aesthetics altogether, actually working in a popular style and using it as a framework in which to create something excellent—you know, doing architecture—is just really hard to do? And not just in architecture, but in music and art and fiction and poetry and other creative fields as well?”
I think you may be onto something. Is it easier to write poetry that rhymes or that doesn’t rhyme? Is it easier to make a painting that a five-year-old couldn’t do or harder? Is it easier to leave a movie with no ending or struggle to find the right ending?
About music – I am not so sure. Had an interesting experience with that. About a year ago I got the chance here, which is the middle of nowhere, to listen to a New York quality pianist. My county does not contain a stoplight. But the hippie implants here mostly got their kids sent to ivy league schools and they mostly don’t come home. A local son who I believe has a graduate degree in music brought a young woman who was a pianist to play some of his compositions. I think they live in New York, but anyway she has played at the New York Met. I sat in the front row just to watch her hands.
I didn’t read the program. The first piece transported me and I thought wow, this is going to be great. The next couple of pieces were painful. But she played with skill! They then did some strange audience interaction thingie that involved her playing a part of the Moonlight sonata. Again, transported, and I have never heard it played better. They finished up with another painful, tedious and jarring conception. Somewhere at that point in time I read the program. The first piece was by a famous composer. The others were the native son. But my impression is that he is very talented. I don’t think making those ugly pieces came from lack of compositional talent, but from the culture of his schooling that discourages beauty as being trite. What a waste. I would never sit through those pieces again.
@ David, BTL: I was the one who went to Republican event, a Trump signature party and city Committee meeting. (I was there to get signatures to get Tulsi Gabbard on the ballot, and about half the people in the room signed. I sat through the meeting, which got through the business in about 45 minutes.) My observation of the room: the older attendees were all white, mostly male, and the younger were predominantly African American. and more evenly split between the sexes.
This is in Rhode Island, the most “Democratic” state. The Democrats have so dominated power here for so long that any ambitious politician becomes a Democrat. Statewide, 9 of the 75 House members are Republican, and all 15 Providence City Councilors are D. In consequence, the Speaker of the House, the most powerful elected official in the state, is pro-life and A rated by the NRA. My takeaway from this is that these younger ambitious African Americans, despairing of ever being treated as anything other than reliable votes by the Democrats, decided to try their lot with the Republicans despite their lack of any power either city- or state-wide. (I thought they were going to try and recruit me to run for the House….).
Another sign in the wind: Trump ran two ads during the Super Bowl. In the first ad, an older African American woman spoke how she had been imprisoned for many years for a drug crime, was able to finally hug her family in freedom, and attributed her release to Donald John Trump. Of course, Trump “approve(d) this message”.
In the latest local installation of DDS (Design Derangement Syndrome): the Providence Public Library is coming to end of a major remodel. In an article on the renovation, the Executive Director of the Library is quoted: “The library was basically built to be a giant book depository in 1953. …. The building is unusable.” In the words of the article: Soon the library will be a destination, – not just for borrowing books, but for socializing, entertainment, refreshment, hands on education, and just spending hours downtown. I can hardly wait. They’ve already booted the DC Somervill abridgement of Toynbee, I’m sure all that other old stuff will be soon to follow.
I made the mistake of responding when a friend at coffee hour after church said that he couldn’t believe what had happened now. I got a 20 minute attack of TDS, with a lot of finger pointing at my chest. He definitely thinks that nothing any other President did can possibly compare the great Orange Menace. His solution is Biden or Bloomberg….
I also have some doubt about Europe engaging in wars in the near future because families are so small. With one or two children being the norm, I think there will be great resistance to risking them. Most of the wars are stupid anyway, and I think people have gotten that message to a small degree. That probably won’t last, though.
About Canada having a weak cultural identity: I see it differently. I’m the child of immigrants and what I saw growing up and still see is a ruthlessly assimilationist machine (having gone through it), the school-yard being an important part of that mechanism, the work-place another, a place and people that collectively abide by the language, customs and norms of the mother country, but to say it plainly, the English language, English language literature, Christian values, common law, to name a few things. I also hear the complaint that Canadian culture isn’t “distinct”. Distinct? People borrow ideas all the time, it’s how we got musical forms and other artistic expression moving from an Italian place of origin and being adopted elsewhere ie opera, ballet, classical music. If Canadians are worried about being confused with Americans, then maybe Americans ought to be worried about being confused with the British, having adopted the English language and British forms of government ie a house of commons, house of lords but with the innovation of an elected king. But maybe the perception of Canadians about their culture is like the problem of the fish not knowing it’s wet having spent all its life in the water.
Many thanks for your post
In my opinion we are entering a process of accelerating change, and may be we have some “black-swans” starting to take-off:
a) For example de COVID-19 is spreading very quickly outside China, and like in 1348, the first European country hit by the epidemic is Italy (I am close, in Spain). It seems that the lethality is low, but if it affects a big percentage of the population the numbers could be high; but what could be devastating is the effects on a global economy very coupled, with global supply chains (even for food and others first needs) and a debt load in unsustainable levels all around the world waiting for a crisis to crash the economy much more profoundly than in 2009.
On the other hand in the internet people are asking tough questions about this article written in 2015 by Shi Zhengli top researcher of the Wuhan BSL-4, where he, and others researchers said:
“Using the SARS-CoV reverse genetics system2, we generated and characterized a chimeric virus expressing the spike of bat coronavirus SHC014 in a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV backbone. The results indicate that group 2b viruses encoding the SHC014 spike in a wild-type backbone can efficiently use multiple orthologs of the SARS receptor human angiotensin converting enzyme II (ACE2), replicate efficiently in primary human airway cells and achieve in vitro titers equivalent to epidemic strains of SARS-CoV. Additionally, in vivo experiments demonstrate replication of the chimeric virus in mouse lung with notable pathogenesis”
The link to the article = https://www.nature.com/articles/nm.3985
So this new trend, using CPRISPR/Cas9 and other DIY genetics tool to tinker with the genes I think is not a good long term sustainable strategy. Taking account that you can find some CRISPR/Cas9 tools in internet for “garage genomics” what can go wrong?
So may be this new pandemic is a consequence of “Progress”, we have “progressed” to this epidemic. Our Faustian civilization cannot avoid opening Pandoras’ Boxes
b) The situation in the ME after the US murder of Qassem Soleimani is far from over. I do not know for sure what happens in the retaliatory strike against the Al-Assad US air base but IMHO was much worse than Trump said, and this de-escalation cover-up was the right thing to do after for me huge mistake to kill Soleimani; because in fact the situation is heating-up in Iraq and Iran:
b.1) In Iraq the minister of defense has appointed Abu Fadaq as new chief of the PMU (shia militias) after the murder of Muhandes in the same attack that killed Soleimani. Abu Fadaq is a famous Kattaib Hezbollah hard line commander that was planting road bombs against the US army convoys after the 2003 invasion, with the idea that “if you want to get rid of ISIS you need to get rid of the US”, and that the only language that US understand are body bags. In fact Muhandes was a moderate that cooperate with the Americans in the battle against ISIS, Abu Fadaq is the opposite, but after the murder of Muhandes the hard line is winning (as expected). The PMU have around 150.000 men that have been amassing ammo recently after the attack of their bases by the USAF and the killing of Muhandes and Soleimani, they seems to be ready to fight the US garrison in Iraq if they do not leave soon (as requested by the Iraqi parliament).
b.2) In Iran the conservatives (hard line) have won a landslide victory in the elections, this reinforce the hard line in the government and the IRGC, that are pressing for confrontations with the US all around the ME.
So may be we can see something similar to your TLG in Iran and/or Iraq soon
c) In Syria the confrontation between Turkey and Russia/Syria is also very dangerous, with turkish soldiers trying to shot-down russian planes, and the russians planes hiting turkish observation post and convoys:
Many turkish soldiers seem to have being killed as consequence of the russian attacks; but Turkey is a NATO country…
Interesting times, no doubt
Oh, I’m not dissing Home Economics as a valuable part of anyone’s skill set. What I was criticizing was when it becomes the main and nearly only focus of a handbook meant to be about needed skills.
Aidan, well, we’ll see. I was born in 1962, and am feeling that rather acutely just at the moment.
Golocyte, no doubt the Arabs make the better example, but I’ve found that it tends to shake up all sides of the current culture wars by portraying Europeans as virile northern barbarians doing the Conan routine! 😉
Wesley, the Anglo-American pseudomorphosis lays heavily over the world because Anglo-American hegemony is still the dominant political force globally, though it’s fading fast. Once our hegemony is over and done with, our cultural forms will bre junked or mutated into unrecognizable forms in a generation or two over much of the world.
Chris, that’s got to be an Australian thing. Here, if somebody constructs a house out of mud brick — that’s spelled “adobe” in our Southwest — it’s got a good chance of making the local news, and I don’t think it would ever occur to anyone to assume that.
Graeme, the fact that this is being said right out there in public shows how panicked the defenders of the status quo have become. Notice also that this guy is still hoping for some outside force to come in and change things for him. Basic rule of strategy #1: if you approach any challenge with that mindset, you lose. Success comes from setting out to change things yourself.
Patricia M, that is to say, they’re being trained to be good little corporate flacks. Oh well…
Your Kittenship, I’m sure not even they believe it. The fascinating thing is that they’re just recycling tactics that have already failed. That’s a pretty standard sign that total defeat will arrive in 3, 2, 1…
Kimberly, the more I watch what’s happening, the more I think you’re right and that Trump’s opponents are under some kind of spell. The question in my mind at this point is purely whether it’s something some other group of people is doing to them, whether it’s blowback from the Magic Resistance and all those impressively incompetent magical workings aimed at cursing Trump, whether it’s something archetypal working through them, or just possibly whether all three are involved.
JimofOlym, thank you for this. That guy actually knows how to design a building.
Brian, I see the entire concept of “laws of nature” as a usually unrecognized hangover from medieval Christianity — laws, after all, imply a lawgiver — and I see modern science, like other bodies of human knowledge, very much as Thomas Kuhn did: largely self-referential structures of thought whose believers and practitioners love to talk about the places where they happen to match human experience (more or less) and get very evasive about the places where the fit isn’t so good. That doesn’t make them wrong or bad, but it doesn’t justify the belief at the center of the cult of progress — the notion that humanity is heading in some one linear direction of march, relative to which all movements can be measured and judged. If individuals want to try to innovate, good for them; but we have an entire society set up to glorify innovation even when the result is yet another crazy (or more often dreary) failure, while insisting that going back to what worked better is unthinkable. That latter set of attitudes is what I want to challenge.
Lathechuck, yes, I know. First, the percentage of undisclosed minor cases is going to be a lot higher than the percentage of undisclosed fatalities, because ignoring a sniffle is a lot less difficult than ignoring a corpse. Second, as I’ve noted here already, the fatality rate outside China seems to be drastically lower than the fatality rate inside China, and within China, the fatality rate in Hubei province seems to be anomalously high. Until we see death rates spike to Hubei levels outside China, it seems much more likely to me that there’s a confounding variable in there somewhere.
Ross, I’ve already done that several times. You might like this one.
Lew, good heavens. It’s not an eyesore! Thank you for helping to make that happen. (BTW, my paternal grandmother was the town librarian in Cosmopolis for many years, and ended up as an employee of the Timberland Library System once that was established, so that was even more of a blast from the past.)
PVguy, I was thinking much the same thing. I’m beginning to wonder if I should have put something in Twilight’s Last Gleaming saying “This is a cautionary tale, not an instruction manual.”
Walt, okay, that gets you this afternoon’s gold star. Yes, I watched The Monolith Monsters one Saturday afternoon in my insufficiently misspent youth, and it occurs to me that “monolith monsters” would be a good thing to start calling Uglicist buildings.
As for your suggested cause of Uglicism, yes, I think that’s a lot of it. The art that I know best, fiction prose writing, is a good example; writing a story so that the reader finds it satisfying is really hard work. Passages have to be revised, rewritten, thrown out entirely and replaced; details have to be changed and changed again; every word has to be weighed at least once. Just puking prose onto a screen and insisting that it’s the reader’s job to make some kind of sense out of it is much, much easier.
Chuck, these are the times when I’m glad that modern architecture is so shoddily made that fifty years from now, the wreckage of the Husk will be hauled away to a landfill somewhere.
Ksim3000, I think you’re quite correct that neoliberalism will not survive this decade. It’s already been fatally wounded by the demonstration, courtesy of our Orange Julius, that the critics of neoliberalism were right all along: globalism, open borders, and metastatic government regulation were responsible for driving down wages and benefits to below subsistence levels, and if you abandon those policies, wages and benefits rise again. It’s not accidental that Johnson in the UK is pursuing similar policies; smart politicians all over the industrial world will be doing the same thing shortly. As for Europe, we’ll see; a great deal depends on whether the populist strongmen who take power there as the EU implodes turn, as their equivalents in the 1930s turned, to militarism as a way of resolving domestic political issues. How many people in 1929 would have believed that the Germans of the Weimar Republic, who were at least as uninterested in war as any European today, would be marching into Poland ten years later?
Martin, it’s a possibility!
Tommy, that seems like a workable analysis to me…
Admin, I’m not a great fan of his, but his work is certainly less opaque than many.
David BTL, I think it’s finally sinking in that nobody but the elites is willing to tolerate the status quo any longer. Get another pan of popcorn going — it’s gonna be colorful…
Beekeeper, nice! Yeah, that’s about it.
Marc, I wonder what it’s going to take to get to the point that we can have beautiful, functional buildings again…
Renaissance, thanks for this. The toilet bowl is a nice touch, in its own deranged way — do you think the architect might have done that deliberately?
Roger, I wasn’t the one who said that Canada has a weak cultural identity — I haven’t spent enough time up there to have an opinion on the matter.
Dear JMG and Kimberley,
If I may, in response to the whole issue of the leftist spell:
I believe that this has more to do with the problems of bad spiritual practices encourages, and mandatory, in leftist spaces. What are the three main types of Leftist Postmodern Religioisity:
1) ‘mindfulness’ and guided meditations
2) Americanized hatha yoga classes
In these worlds of the well to do I cannot emphasize how much watered down mindfulness meditation and yoga classes have become, in the minds of many who devote themselves to these practices, the convergence point of all religions. They believe earnestly that all religions simply strive towards mind-emptying exercises and guided stretching.
Furthermore, these practices are specifically designed to a) stop all thinking and b) turn over one’s will to the meditation guide or the yoga teacher. Symbolically one gives one mind to the meditation teacher and one bends one’s body to the yoga teacher’s command.
Guided meditation and yoga classes have popped up in all of the liberal religious spaces, too. Basically, liberal churches and synagogues have — apparently — acquiesced to the idea that guided meditation, mind-emptying and yoga really are the end of the road of religions. Amongst the well to do there is a pervasive attitude is that these spiritual practices what all humanity has been striving towards all along, lost in seas of ignorance and superstition, always striving towards Eckhart Tolle and hot yoga. The folks I used to hang out with who now got the TDS all acted apologetic when mindfulness meditation and yoga came up — they *knew* they were *supposed* to do it and they felt guilty that they didn’t. Indeed, the sort of guilt response struck me as identical as to how folks talk about dieting. They treated these practices as the absolute default spiritual practices, and this attitude has been extremely common for at least the past 15 years.
Given the ways that these practices teach one to become thoughtless and have easily controlled wills, I don’t find it so hard to believe that so many folks act as if they are under a spell. They are under at least one spell — their own. There are people I used to consider good friends who got deep into these practices and basically stopped being people, rather becoming something more like inconsiderate human shades. Some of the people I’m thinking of here were not political when I knew them, but they seemed under a very analogous spell as the TDS crowd.
When you use forms without rules, the resulting work is unintelligible.
It’s an interesting fact of human psychology that when we are confronted with something that is unintelligible, we tend to blame ourselves. We think it is a failure of our intellect.
Thus, modern works of art have the effect of making their audience feel stupid in a very literal sense. The average person looks on and sighs, wishing they were smart enough to understand but being thankful that at least the ‘experts’ know what they are doing. And maybe if they can send their kids to the right school their kids will be able to understand one day.
That state of affairs can continue for a long time. But if the audience gets the sense that the gatekeepers are the ones who don’t know what they are doing, that the whole thing was a sham, you get exactly to where we are with modern public discourse. Fake everything.
I think JMG’s onto something about addiction to anger. The nutroots like Warren’s policies but LOVE her anger; to everyone else, she’s like your salary-class ex or your husband’s salary-class ex. (And what does she have to be so angry about, anyway? As a member of the investment class, she’s sitting pretty.)
It has to be the right kind of anger, though. The nutroots don’t like Trump although he frequently tweets in anger. But he’s a happy warrior; he’s having fun.
“Tweets in anger” got me laughing for some reason. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Last week I sent out 1,027 tweets in anger.”
“Say 3 Our Fathers—say them, don’t tweet them—and don’t use your smartphone for a week.”
“👀. A week?!?!! Can’t I have an easier penance, like a barefoot pilgrimage to Rome?”
Dear Nothing Special,
Thank you for your response to my essay! Yeah, I really liked him for a little while since I was so sick of the whole pronoun business and I admired how he stood up to the gender bullies. He’s certainly a charismatic speaker, and he inspired me to read some more Jung for what it’s worth. That said, yeah, we’re in the same boat — the traditions in the western world are so incredibly rich and when someone talks about The Lion King rather than Hamlet and Pinnochio rather than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn I simply cannot take them seriously as standing up for what I might consider a meaningful tradition.
Dear Lady Cutekitten,
Regarding tinctures if I may: they are extremely easy to make. Simply purchase a bottle of vodka, put some herbs into a mason jar (or other jar with a lid — I’ve even used a beer bottle to tincture before and just put screwed cap on the top of it), pour the vodka over the herbs, but a lid on the mason jar, label the date you made it, and put it on a shelf. Let it sit for between about a week and forever and then strain it in a colander and put it into little tincture bottles, or any old bottle where you can pour yourself a teaspoon’s worth easily and also has a lid that will stay on.
Many folks advocate shaking it, but I’ve found that is not necessary. Many folks advocate working with the moon, but I’ve found that unnecessary, other people have other hang ups about the proportions of herbs to booze. I’ve used all sorts of different proportions, and found them all workable. Other people say you have to keep the tincture out of the sun — that too is an ideal not a necessity. All you need is a jar, herbs and some vodka (or brandy, or whiskey or tequila or rum or moonshine — anything 80 proof or higher will work just fine and I wouldn’t use anything with nasty flavors added, but that’s probably just a personal hang up on my part) and a place to put the jar when it’s full, and you’re good to go.
An ounce of tincture sold in commerce usually costs about $15. An ounce of tincture made in the way I described costs maybe 20 cents.
I’m not surprised that the slummification is already here. It is certainly the European model of poverty, and it seems that the poor will have to live with the abandoned suburbs. A pity that agriculture hasn’t taken off yet, but I guess all in good time. I’ve not read that book, but will check it out as circumstances permit.
That makes sense. I think the whole arrangement is on the way out and in a few years the conversations that folks were having in 2014 about “microagressions” will be largely incoherent to nearly everyone, even those who lived during those times!
It originated in the blog of “akinokure”‘s Face to Face blog.
I was the poster who said Canada has a weak cultural identity so I will respond.
I dont see how being extremely English is a strength. Is retaining colonial behavior and values strength?
From what i can see in my city of Hamilton and the GTA and reading the CBC, rolling back colonialism is in hyperdrive. Although i’m sure in places like Saskatchewan this is not the case… But with ongoing immigration, the resurgent strength of indigenous bands, and the rolling back of English cultural attitudes there is a massive gap to be filled that in large part has to do with collective identity. I really don’t see it being filled in by doubling down on British culture.. and demographics are changing anyway.
Correct me if I’m wrong but there is also a province in Canada where people don’t speak English that presently and historically wants more or less out of the British system which again points to unresolved identity issues and a need for new structures to be formed. Not to mention the basis for the identity issue – that we are only 150 years old and have have never done much at all to shed the garments of European colonization. In this way we are very ‘distinct’ from the Americans and perhaps not in an entirely good way. We are also losing respect internationally.. ect ect..
Not interested in minimizing your experiences but I would point to your assertions and describe them as associated with the past weakness of Canadian culture. That is the basis of my opinion however it is only an opinion – that said some of your fellow Canadians may be more well travelled and open minded then you perceive.
@JMG, @Peter, et al.
Re the “African-American vote”
It will be interesting to see how this little maneuver plays out:
No blowback possible, nosiree…
And Peter, your observations from that event are, quite frankly, mind-blowing. Times they are a-changin’.
If I may:
While not one of JMG’s excellent pieces of fiction, I highly recommend Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novella _No One Writes to the Colonel_ to help imagining what that sort of world might look like. It’s an absolutely harrowing story, one of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read, and extremely applicable to the shape of the future of the United States as the nation learns to live within her means.
“But my impression is that he is very talented. I don’t think making those ugly pieces came from lack of compositional talent, but from the culture of his schooling that discourages beauty as being trite. What a waste. I would never sit through those pieces again.”
If he’s talented and driven, then lack of talent or artistic ambition on his part isn’t a motivation for him to choose unaesthetic styles. But were the people who impressed that culture upon him comparably talented or hardworking? If not, that could be part of their motivation for doing so. Consider the advantages to an artistic “establishment” of being able to parcel out success as it pleases, because the work is culturally curtailed to forms that cannot be judged on fundamental merit or popular acclaim.
JMG & Varun: regarding the Indo-European language thing, the pro-subcontinent-culture contingent has a wing which takes the Hindu scriptures very literally (i.e., fundamentalists): they have a very simple explanation. Many of the stories in the Shrimad Bhagavatam (scripture) relates stories of kings who “ruled the 7 islands” (i.e., all the continents of the Earth) and since India was the centre of the global empire, languages, culture, religious iconography, etc., naturally spread from India abroad. They have quite a bit of archaeological evidence to support their claim (though I suspect there is a fair bit of cherry-picking and biased interpretation of evidence, if not outright falsification). This is not to tar the pro-Hindu view of history as entirely idiotic (as there are some serious scholars among them as well), but this is an important component of the debate and is a view held by some remarkably intelligent individuals whom I happen to know personally.
@JMG said: “The Anglo-American pseudomorphosis lays heavily over the world because Anglo-American hegemony is still the dominant political force globally, though it’s fading fast. Once our hegemony is over and done with, our cultural forms will bre junked or mutated into unrecognizable forms in a generation or two over much of the world.”
I sure hope so. But I still can’t shake the feeling that something more lasting is going on when even China – the strongest present-day rival to the western imperial system – still has its leaders dress like Europeans rather than Chinese. Don’t get me wrong – I’m an Anglo-American myself who will always feel most dignified in trousers and a double-breasted suit, because that’s my heritage. But it isn’t everybody else’s heritage, and it does make me kind of sad to see the whole world turning into a dreary and monotonous place as far as formal dress is concerned.
Is there anyone else on this forum who can’t help being struck by the irony of all these countries making a big deal about their struggle for independence from the West and yet still dressing like their erstwhile overlords? Or am I just making too big of a deal about a minor and transient detail of life that will be swept away in the normal course of events; i.e. it isn’t as if the way people dress changes every few decades anyway.
My thanks for all the tincture advice!
I suppose we should be kind enough to give the Uglicists the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure my church architect didn’t INTEND to build the ugliest church in the diocese. He probably went by what he himself liked, as most of us do. What needs done, I think, is to try to steer such persons away from the visual arts (which seems to be the idea behind the new U.S. architecture policy 👍)
I have an open question for all on this comment board.
I know that JMG has the full 12-volume set of Toynbee’s Study of History and it seems that some others here also have it.
I checked with Oxford Press, and they no longer publish the 12-volume set. Can anyone tell me where I might look to get that set, or will I have to scrounge around on eBay and Amazon, etc. and cobble it together somehow?
Any guidance will be appreciated. Thanks!
Dear Mr. Greer – Timberland hasn’t done too bad with their new construction. Westport is a good example. A nice building that very much “feels” like a coastal structure. I think, maybe, they get nice buildings because it’s the local Friends of the Library (whichever branch) that drives most design decisions.
I thought that Timberland maybe had some problems with too heavy middle management. A few years ago, they stripped out a whole layer. What screaming and gnashing of teeth! A recent look at their organizational chart, there doesn’t seem to be much “fat.”
But, there was a recent hoop-la over, possibly, closing some rural branches. Not going to happen. A lot of decisions still come from management, that are put in action without feedback from those in the trenches.
I’ve been thinking a lot about middle management, and have worked out a couple of theories. From a lifetime of observation. Next time that’s the topic of conversation, I’ll trot them out. Lew
@Lady Cute Kitten
What I see on the ground in Oz seems to match the linked article by the Australian virologist (Iain McKay). The ‘connected’ people and many health professionals are quietly stocking up while our official government and health care system’s response seems to be ‘say whatever the US does’ – ie as little as possible and three days behind the major news outlets at best. I’m guessing this is an attempt to avoid panicking the horses/financial markets. However, in the context of a fast moving virus this is not going to end well.
Things I already know, no matter what the actual mortality stats are:
1) a wide range of Chinese made pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and pharmaceutical ingredients are running short. India has already reacted by banning the export of some important medications as their Chinese supplied ingredients run short. I know from a friend who is a nurse that our local tertiary hospital is already husbanding some medications (while still asserting the ‘nothing but a bad flu’ message. My sister, a remote nurse and type 1 diabetic, has already accumulated an eight month’s stock of diabetic supplies (the longest she can keep insulin). In these circumstances it seems only sensible for people with important medication needs to stock up a bit.
2) Oz defence bases are being opened with provision to extend accommodation via tent hospitals if necessary. We only officially have a few cases in Oz at the moment so obviously the federal government is expecting potentially a lot more, even if it is not communicating that message publicly.
3) About 1/40 customers at Costco last weekend were stocking up large amounts of basic non-perishable supplies like large bags of rice, toilet paper and hand sanitiser. Many of these people were having to join as members first and most of them were whitebread upper public servant types. The tradies and immigrant families who are the normal customers were doing their more random shopping for bulk specialty items and bulk fresh foods. I think the ‘connected’ people are stocking up, just in case.
4) Every time a virus hotspot pops up so far, governments have quickly imposed quarantines – Italy went from a few cases to 115 and a quarantine in a few days. This is not enough time for everyone to get in enough stores of food and medication to last through a significant quarantine – therefore there is likely to be panicked hoarding at some unpredictable time once it gets to my area.
5) Even without actual shortages or virus in an area, if people become panicked by rumours in an atmosphere of low trust and poor official information, then panic buying has the potential to create severe ongoing artificial shortages. As Iain MacKay’s article discusses, governments could be doing a lot more to address this issue of artificial complacency. Of course that would totally kill our financial markets.
Anyway, given the above, at least a little bit of stocking up and preparedness discussions with my local ‘community’ seemed wise.
Re. School attack response plans: My daughter’s favorite teacher, an eccentric Canadian-born lady of a certain age, has her own classroom safety plan, quite separate from the administration’s. (Run, Hide, Fight must be the trademark of whatever corporation schools are hiring to design these things nowadays, because as someone else mentioned above, that’s the official action plan at this high school too.) Mrs. K has arranged her classroom with a very large file cabinet next to the doorway and posters covering the large windows that face into the corridor. (The file cabinet is her own, not school issued, and the posters are not sanctioned because the school’s plan requires visibility into all the rooms on an ordinary basis, but the administration doesn’t seem to bother Mrs. K about them as long as she removes them before safety inspections.) In her desk drawer, she has a hammer and a fire-escape ladder; every one of her students knows exactly which drawer. The active attacker plan, which Mrs. K describes to her students’ rapt attention, is that the four largest students will push the file cabinet in front of the door. Everyone else gets busy flipping the tables on their sides to form a series of barricades backing away from the door (not hiding underneath them, as per the official plan). Students then gather, crouched behind the farthest barrier, everyone with their school-issued laptop in hand. Meanwhile, anyone in the class is empowered to use the hammer to break the window (no, of course it doesn’t open) to the outside of the building and hook on the escape ladder so students can start climbing out. Mrs. K specifically tells them they do not have to wait for her to take this step. Once outside, they are to “run like hell” and not to gather anywhere in the open. If the intruder somehow makes it past the filing cabinet and into the room, student are to throw their laptops at him, aiming for the head. Best use of a Chromebook ever.
In case you hadn’t guessed, the students love Mrs. K.
—Heather in CA
Re popcorn futures
You know folks are panicking when they’re openly hoping for an epidemic and a stock market crash. Very sad.
David BTL, I have a book entitled “A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy” edited by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore. I’m not sure how it compares to other works on the subject, but hopefully it’s at least a place to start.
Dear JMG and all,
I´d like to bring to your attention the Hungarian organic architect Imre Makovecz:
Yes, when it comes to Canada, I feel that it’s future does lie with the Commonwealth and not with the U.S. Like I said before, unlike the rest of Europe, the UK is still a country that has what I would term “adventurous ambitions” and I can quite clearly see that it would want to have another run at being a global power again. Canada and Australia also have certain ambitions and it would make sense that all of these countries join together in the near future.
The only issue I see here is the case of mass immigration into Canada which could sway feelings away from closeness to Britain. Unlike Australia that is maintaining its population more closely to the founding population, Canada is rapidly changing. Therefore future leadership by not be as fond to remain close to London.
But on the other hand, the new immigrants might develop close ties with the Canadian culture that is largely tied to the UK and what with the UK being a multiracial society, the two may continue to go hand in glove. We will see what the future holds.
You do present some very interesting points. When it comes to America, I think that overall it all depends on how America is going to pull itself out of the current crisis. If the American economy crashes there eventually and with stricter migration controls, it may lead to a huge outflow of people, allowing America to take a huge breather and go about building a better America in the long run.
Now as for Europe, this is a very interesting subject and whilst I do appreciate your views on the matter, I think you are looking at Europe through the lenses of 1914 – 1945 and not taking into account the different political and social trends that have since emerged in the continent since then.
What we have to remember is that during the 1914, the whole perception of war was that it was a great adventure and it was glorious to die for your country. The continent still had a romantic view of war due to the lack of a big conflict since Napoleon. Everyone wanted it and actually celebrated when it was announced war had begun. Nowadays no one in Europe would celebrate having a war and would be actually protesting against it heavily as war isn’t seen as something magical anymore.
As for 1939, the truth is only Germany and Italy actually wanted war. Germany always wanted to get revenge for the first world war and Italy wanted to be a big power once again. They never truly recovered from 1914 and wanted another round to settle old scores. Plus you had the ideology of both Hitler and Mussolini that dreamed of being empires that would go in to dominate the world. Very Faustian of course but you can see the point.
Fast forward to 2020 and all of those ideas are pretty much dead in the water. Europe has become simply too individualistic since then to actually motivate the people to go and die on a battlefield in the greater glory of the fatherland. The mindset is simply not there anymore. Plus all of the European millennials have simply been indoctrinated with the concept that Europe is their homeland and not say France or Germany…
Even with the Populist mindset, there is no desires for a greater Italy or a greater France. Instead the mindset is one of national sovereignty, stopping mass immigration and putting more money into the people. Very Populist demands of course but nothing at all with imperial ambitions.
However, like you, I do see the flames of war circling Europe again but this time under very different circumstances. You are right, when the populists get into power, and they will, they will need a quick fix to keep their populations subdued and focused on something.
They won’t be able to get away with attacking a fellow European state however due to those pan-european feelings. The people would kick them out if they did. Instead though they will focus their attentions on the growing Islamic and migrant populations growing throughout Europe.
And this is what will be the theme of the next European war. Not nation states clashing for old school supremacy but something very close to Yugoslavia. I could quite easily see European states fracturing and fighting with different populations and even break away regions like Catalonia getting into the mix.
That said, I expect that it’ll be mini conflicts as when the European economy crashes, most of those refugees and established migrant communities are going to leave. But so will some of the natives. Plus I think that without America there to keep the peace, Russia will quickly jump in and establish themselves as the policeman of Europe, this ushering in a new period of European history.
So I would say overall no big war, no trenches, no mass land battles, just mini conflicts and lots of problems with a Europe that eventually reforms itself into something else entirely.
Great post, John.
What do you think of art deco? Is it also part of the Uglicisim wave in your opinion? I’ve always admired it and hoped more Americans nowadays kept and revived this style.
Looking forward to your history posts.
@JasonP “First, the descendants of those original settlers DO make up the bulk of the population in each region. Check out this excellent post tracking the genetics of these populations”
In my comment about the replacement of the original settler population I can see that I was focusing solely on a perspective of the area where I live. In the majority of places in the US you are correct that original settler population is still dominant.
In New Jersey though it is not the case at all but I believe that current population still adheres to the general cultural ideas of the original settlers that Woodward outlined. Dutch ancestry and English ancestry which were the originally settlers of North and South Jersey respectively are no longer dominate ancestries. Later immigrants waves of Italians, Irish and Germans makes up 50% of the ancestries of New Jersey. English ancestry is only 6% of the population in NJ and NY. Right around 8% in English Quaker founded PA. In English Puritan founded New England the English ancestry hovers in the 10-20% range.
Woodward describes the New Amsterdam (Dutch culture) and Midland (Quaker English culture) as both somewhat tolerant cultures with an acceptance of diversity and focus on economic progress. The somewhat tolerant settler culture attitudes I believe are what resulted in the diverse multi ethnic population of the area today. The business economic focus has helped the Northeast maintain its position at the center of the global economy. The immigrants from Ireland and Italy in this area didn’t form their own separate isolated communities reflecting there predominantly peasant heritage. Instead they joined into the global trade focused and urban economies that existed at their times of immigration. Of course they culturally had enormous impact on the Northeast but they fit themselves into the preexisting settler culture emphasizing hard work economic gain, “materialism” and tolerance of diversity.
I just read an article in the Feb 17 and 24 issue of New Yorker magazine about changes in agriculture in England. Apparently EU regulations encouraged the type of industrial agriculture that chews up ecosystems and with Brexit having taken place there is scope for a return to less damaging, traditional methods. Some very large landowners are involve, so a hopeful sign indeed.
Violet-I had to read _No one Writes to the Colonel_ for a graduate seminar in short fiction. The professor was one of those who forces most stories into one critical mode, in his case, Christ imagery. I thought it fortunate that I did not draw that story for my final paper, as the temptation to analyse the fighting cock on which the family is pinning their hopes as the Christ figure would have been very strong and possibly fatal to my grade. In some ways, tales of aristocrats or upper manager types fallen on hard times are more depressing than poor people struggling to stay alive. Staying alive has an innate purpose, but trying to maintain status when that status has lost meaning is more pathetic than noble.
@ Simon S:
Funny you should ask…
I’m currently rereading one of my favorite comic fiction series, the Spellman books by Lisa Lutz. Charming and breezy. I’m also a fan of Jasper Fforde. His Thursday Next and Nursery Crime books are quirky, amusing, and quite literary.
Can definitely second the recommendations of Carl Hiassen and Christopher Moore. Tim Dorsey is supposed to be very similar to Hiassen, but I’ve never gotten around to him.
For fantasy with a comic edge, try David Wong (John Dies at the End, etc), or of course Kurt Vonnegut.
I’m soon going to try out an Ozarks writer I recently learned about, Charles Portis. His novels are described as picaresque in style.
Also, if you’re open to poetry: I love the old Archy & Mehitabel poems by Don Marquis. Picaresques in verse.
You’re dead right about the difficulty of finding good comic fiction. I’m deeply grateful for these writers, and reread them often.
@ JMG’s remark – SamuraiArtGuy, the endless inflation of housing prices is easy to understand if you notice who benefits from it and who loses. It’ll be interesting to see if anything gets done about the government policies that keep that bubble expanding.
Too Tru’ That. It’s become yet another mechanism for the bankers and the financiers, and their Real Estate Broker lackeys to hoover the wealth of the nation from ordinary people, and a similar mechanism absolutely applies to Higher Education, for an arguably even less valuable investment. But I can’t imagine that my Pratt degree which cost my family and I about 20K in 1980, is over ten times more valuable at $380,000 for the class of 2023. (Given I entered the workforce at about double the prevailing minimum wage in 1980, and design grads are likely to be Unpaid Interns, something rather the contrary appears to be the trend.) But there does remain some pragmatic utility to having a roof over one’s head.
But no, it surely does not benefit the people who inhabit those houses, apartments and condoMINIMUMS. The only reason my wife and I are reasonably comfortably housed at all in the mountain hamlet of Berkeley Springs west of the Shenandoah valley is that we bailed out of that part of that predatory system. As a self-employed person, I no longer had access to mortgages post-2018, so we endured three months of tented gypsy homelessness to buy a modest place outright with the proceeds of selling our former suburban lodging to a more willing participant in the American Imperial Myth.
One tries to surf decline gracefully at our ages. (b. 1958 – talkin’ ’bout mah g-g-g-generation)
Michel Martin, you could try Abebooks. I don’t know what else to suggest.
To JMG and Mr Duncombe, a few points on this issue of Canadian culture
1) JMG, I knew you didn’t make the point about Canada’s allegedly weak cultural identity, and I should have addressed my comment to both yourself and the original commenter. (Mr Duncombe)
2) The notion that Canada has a weak identity is very common especially among Canadian intellectuals and opinion leaders. In my view this is a figment of the Anglophone Canadian imagination as is the Canadian inferiority complex as is this notion of multi-culturalism.
3) Being English in language and culture is simply a fact of history. Take this from one who has seen non-English cultures up close and personal – including the one I was born into and also that of my wife – Canada’s English culture IS a strength, a culture which made the country a magnet to people from around the world, not least my wife (who immigrated from Asia) and my parents and my relatives (who came from Europe).
4) Quebec has long had an adversarial relationship with Canada. By any reasonable measure they are a separate nationality who should have their own country. You may also reasonably ask whether using the French language serves Quebecers’ interests or whether it’s the other way around. And the other question is why use the language of a country that abandoned Quebec and from which Quebecers have hardly heard a peep since 1759.
And lastly, maybe the most important cultural question has nothing to do with songs and stories and other such frivolities, but rather whether Canadian men beat their wives. Such a thing is highly illegal here. But much of the world is a wife-beating world, and worse.
And thank you JMG for your tolerance of this digression.
Re China, pseudomorphosis, and the last hurrah of the industrial age
I do find it interesting that the locus of power is likely to shift eastward with the fall of the US empire (not unlike from Rome to Byzantium, in that regard) and that previously western-colonized but old and venerable non-western cultures (e.g. China, India) will be most prominent candidates to serve as the “last imperial powers” of this era we call industrial civilization (circa 500 – circa 2200 CE). I wonder how this might color the lens through which future historians on the other side of the dark age to come (circa 2200 – circa 2500) will view “the West.” To some extent, I suppose, it will depend on the manner in which the power transfers and how the cultures of the rising imperia make themselves felt across their respective spheres of influence. Oh, to be a future student of history!
Re sources on Indian philosophy
@GP and @JasonP
I think there are also first- vs. subsequent-generation matters at hand. Areas undergoing ACTIVE immigration, be it internal or external, may not see much assimilation among the actual immigrants (as true in 2020 as it was in 1920 or 1850); their children and (especially) grandchildren seem to be more assimilated… it may simply be a matter of not having gotten to that point in terms of the newest batch.
“Is there anyone else on this forum who can’t help being struck by the irony of all these countries making a big deal about their struggle for independence from the West and yet still dressing like their erstwhile overlords?”
Regarding the situation in Europe, I recently came across this delightful quote attributed to Colman McCarthy “Everyone’s a pacifist between wars. It’s like being a vegetarian between meals”
Data point re that book cited above as a good intro to Indian philosophy: “A Sourcebook of Indian Philosophy” – the author was not just a scholar and philosopher, he later became President of India (Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan).
My family comes from the same part of India and my grandparents knew him quite well. As his accomplishments would suggest, he’s supposed to have been a remarkable man.
Hi JMG & Roger,
I wanted to add the OCAD building to the Toronto pile. It’s less ugly than some in the comments, but it actually makes me quite nervous to be around this thing. I suppose that is due to some amount of expert doubt but it has always seemed so unsafe.
It’s looking increasingly likely the CoronaVirus outbreak has occurred after experiments in the Wuhan virology clinic accidentally infected a lab worker with a ‘jigged around with to make it transmittable’ bat virus. Likely host to develop it was ferrets used in experiments. Ironically, this was most likely to supposedly find a vaccine or cure to this kind of disease.
Humans got rid of smallpox, had a window of far fewer killer diseases for a few decades and then introduced this little beauty into the wild. Thoughts on this ‘theory’ JMG?
Evidence supporting this with these two links:
@ Jay Pine
There have also been rumors floating around some of the military/national security blogs I follow that the Wuhan virus was a biological weapon that accidentally got loose, like the 1979 Sverdlovsk incident in the USSR, but much, much worse. It’s been reported that there are at least two laboratories in Wuhan that are connected with the PLA’s bioweapons program.
For me the line “Everyone else is supposed to shut up, grit their teeth” says it all – the stripping away of the agency and sovereignty of people and communities.
I would also like to add that I am somewhat of a sceptic in the concept that industrial civilisation will collapse like the Roman Empire of old.
The big key is if someone invents a new source of energy that can power up civilisation in the future. Usually it takes a unique genius to pull it off that comes once in a generation but if someone can actually say make thorium work or replace fuel successfully, all bets are off.
However if no breakthrough is made, the most likely result is going to be a new population boom starting in the 22nd century, declining living standards and what will be a return to more feudalistic times.
If that happens, expect IQ levels to drop, more wars to be fought and the usual canopy of events to continue. Quite amazing the more I think of it that human civilisation at the present era lies in the random hands of one lucky genius or two.
So I’d say about 50/50 but that’s just my thoughts.
Violet, that’s an excellent point. Combine the pervasive practice of dumbed-down yoga and mindlessness meditation with constant shrill propaganda from the media and the blowback from the failed magic of the Magic Resistance, and that might well explain it.
(Question for those of my readers who know Sanskrit. If classical raja yoga according to Patanjali is ashtanga yoga, i.e., has eight limbs, what would the the Sanskrit for the phrase “limbless yoga”?)
Your Kittenship, after so many years of oppressive mandatory niceness in the elite class — “How dare you express a negative emotion?!!” — expressing anger in public is as obsessively fascinating to the overprivileged as nudity was in Victorian England. Warren is figuring out how to tap that, though I don’t think it’ll save her campaign.
Violet, give it a little while. Once food imports start running afoul of trade barriers and the price of produce goes up, I expect truck farms to spring up like weeds.
David BTL, oh, that’s going to work wonders for the Dems. 😉
Ron, thanks for this. I’d be amused to see what happens when they collide with the various Japanese counterculture scholars who insist that Japan was the center of that ancient worldwide empire…
Wesley, when you point out that people don’t change the way they dress every decade, you’ve just pointed to the reason that European-style dress is still standard among governments elsewhere in the world. European clothing became standard during the age of European empire, when most of the people on earth were ruled from a European capital; and as I noted earlier, it’s going to take a few generations for that to break down. If I had to guess, I’d say that as Confucian studies and other traditional Chinese cultural themes become more and more prevalent in China, we’re going to see a campaign to revive a modified version of traditional Chinese dress — stripped of the class signals, to be sure, but recognizably Chinese and thus red-bloodedly patriotic, etc., etc. India’s made a point of keeping its traditional clothing already, as have many parts of the Muslim world; when China does the same thing, I’d expect the suit, necktie, etc. to go rapidly out of fashion everywhere outside Europe and the European diaspora.
Michael, I got mine via the used book trade; it’s not at all uncommon to find complete sets, though they’re not cheap. It occurs to me that a small publisher using POD publishing technology could see about acquiring the rights — Toynbee’s works will still be in copyright until 2045 — and bring out a new edition.
Lew, I’m delighted to hear about the Westport library! I spent a lot of summers there and in Grayland when I was a kid.
David BTL, as I’ve noted before, when people start betting that an apocalypse will change the world so that they don’t have to change their own lives, they’re already beaten.
Pamouna, thanks for this! That’s a real breath of fresh air.
Ksim3000, obviously I disagree, but we’ll just have to wait for events to show which of us is closer to the truth.
Abdulaziz, art deco was the last attractive, meaningful style we had here in America before the rise of Uglicism. While it’s not my favorite by any means, it’s so much better than what came after it that if it was revived in a big way, I’d cheer.
Rita, I’m not at all surprised that EU regulations favored corporate farming; the dirty secret of the EU is that it’s a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.
Samurai, of course. Rising real estate prices benefit those who already own real estate; rising rents benefit landlords; and the whole system is gimmicked thirteen to a dozen and six ways from Sunday to benefit the banks and the finance industry generally. I’m about four years younger than you, btw, and one of the reasons Sara and I are in Rhode Island right now is that the rents are pretty reasonable.
David BTL, oh, granted. I’d give much for a nice detailed textbook of world history published in the year 3020!
Jo, thanks for this! Do you recall W.H. Auden’s poem “The Unknown Citizen”?
“Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.”
Johnny, and think about what this says. “We’re completely over your head, you peasant!”
Jay, neither you nor I nor anyone outside of the better national intelligence services and the heads of state they serve will ever know for a fact whether that’s true or not. Still, claims such as this serve a useful emotional function — they allow people to pretend that everything that happens is caused by human beings, and by doing so, make it easier to avoid dealing with the fact that the universe does what it chooses irrespective of our species’ overinflated sense of entitlement.
I am personally dubious of the claims the coronavirus was engineered. Bug labs tend to work with high mortality viruses like smallpox or bacteria like anthrax. The low mortality of around 2 percent (or in other words 97 to 98 percent survive) suggests this is simply a virus taking advantage of a new host living in overcrowded and high mobility conditions much as the Spanish flu did a century ago.
Still that’s small comfort to anyone who feels like they are in the crosshairs. I am watching with concern as I have two older brothers both in poor health, the first a stroke victim who has already had two bouts of pneumonia and the second with multiply myeloma who is on chemo. These are the people most at risk from this thing.
Too funny! What I find so frightening about that story is that it is so good — Marquez has a way with incidental details and the organic flow of events — and that it is so clear that it could “happen here.”
Hi Jay Pine,
I knew someone would break the wrong test tube. Been saying it for 40 years. I’m just glad it wasn’t smallpox. The Russians and Americans had agreed they’d each destroy their stocks of smallpox, then decided they just couldn’t give up such a nifty weapon.
Sooner or later, someone will drop and break one of THOSE test tubes…
JMG, you ask, “what would the the Sanskrit for the phrase ‘limbless yoga’?”
That would be niranga, “devoid of/lacking limbs.” 🙂
Great post as always.
In the UK there was a big backlash against Ugly/brutalist architecture and thankfully the worm has largely turned on that one.
Interestingly, Prince Charles of the royal family led that cause for many years and became a hate figure by our techocratic establishment. Now, of course, his “wacky” views have become largely mainstream.
In regard to your comments about Europe returning to war, that really interested me.
This FT article popped up a day after I saw your comment:
“A recent opinion poll for the Pew Research Center reveals that startling numbers of Europeans are not satisfied with their nation’s borders. Asked whether there are “parts of neighbouring countries that really belong to us”, 67 per cent of Hungarians replied in the affirmative, as did 60 per cent of Greeks, 58 per cent of both Bulgarians and Turks, 53 per cent of Russians and 48 per cent of Poles. Such sentiments even lurk in western Europe — 37 per cent of Spaniards, 36 per cent of Italians and 30 per cent of Germans also agree with the statement.”
Now, I have a few thoughts on this:
– the demographics within Europe are bad. Birth rates are collapsing and millions of young people have emigrated from a depopulating central/eastern Europe. Is it realistic to think that an increasingly elderly population will start fighting each other? Usually its a surplus of young men that triggers wars.
– the growing divide, at least in western Europe, will surely more likely be between the Islamist minded Muslim population and the remaining nativist population (France and Belgium are prime examples). Isn’t that a likelier source of future conflict than between national states?
– climate change and water scarcity (let alone peak oil) is likely to trigger further mass migrations from the Global South into Europe in the coming decades, Again, facing this threat, isn’t it more likely that a scared Europe will stick together rather than fight each other?
Interested in your thoughts.
Thanks JMG – guess it was going to happen one way or another. Holding on tight
Speaking of magic and the POTUS, I think that this is one of the reasons why he is so well protected.
For those that don’t watch videos it is an Indian Trump super-fan worshiping life-sized POTUS statue in Talangana village. including mantras, offering ablutions…
I agree with your observations about effects of unintelligible art. (One personal example: during the early eighties, when I was into independent comics, many independent comic books dissolved into artistic abstraction before reaching the end, leaving me at a loss. Even though I enjoy figuring out such things as convoluted self-referential John Barth stories where you end up with something strange like dialog that’s inside seven layers of quotation marks (all grammatically correct), where there really is something there to figure out. But too many comic writer/artists would just throw black ink on the last few pages or have the main character turn into a bird and fly away for no reason, and hope it looked dramatic and profound. At one point, after one of those too many, I resolved: “These are comic books, and I’m pretty good at figuring things out. So if I end up unable to understand what was going on, it’s the book’s fault, not mine!”
I don’t think the effect you describe is as universal as you make it sound, though. Most people I know, in all classes, seem quite capable of evaluating to their own satisfaction the relative merit of different styles of art, and of different artists and of individual works. They appreciate favorites they find have merit, as well as dismiss the trash. (One could easily argue that those meritorious favorites are those that do have coherency at some level.) They don’t feel stupid when trash is lauded, they feel disgusted at the relevant critical or academic or bureaucratic “authorities” doing the lauding. They don’t despair of comprehending the supposed deep meaning behind a toilet mounted on a wall; they say, “it’s a ******* toilet on a wall.” Perhaps this is a recent development, but it’s not very recent; I’d say it’s been the case for about 40 years now.
There are plenty of other things that are deliberately designed to make people feel stupid, or might has well have been. Laws and regulations; a lot of primary “educational” materials; a lot of computer software; pretty much everything medical from the instructions on the pills to the cryptic codes on the bills. Incoherent art is on that list, but maybe not very high up.
JMG – I believe that the Sanskrit for the phrase “limbless yoga” would be “niranga yoga” (“nir” meaning “without”).
@JMG ‘If I had to guess, I’d say that as Confucian studies and other traditional Chinese cultural themes become more and more prevalent in China, we’re going to see a campaign to revive a modified version of traditional Chinese dress — stripped of the class signals, to be sure, but recognizably Chinese and thus red-bloodedly patriotic, etc., etc. “
Greetings from Beijing! I came back, for many reasons. You’re touching on some complicated topics there. China has never stopped being confucian with a small ‘c’. The Party is encouraging certain themes from Confucian thought, they’ll never emphasize it over Mao thought. (I could expand on this, but won’t, for reasons that I hope are obvious).
Regarding clothing: Western-style clothing has represented modernity and ‘being developed’ since Sun Yat-Sen and the revolutionary movement against the Qing Dynasty, well pre-dating the Communist party in China. To some extent, that’s still true for the older generations; their mindset is still reacting not just against the Western imperialism of the unfair treaties and foreign concession towns, but also against the dominance of the Han by the corrupt and also ‘foreign’ Manchu Qing, who were responsible for China being so weak in the face of the West.
Younger people, who are no less nationalistic than their elders or, indeed, those Americans who chant ‘USA! USA!’ at sports matches are, in general terms, thoroughly materialistic (again, no more or less so than most of their Western peers). Thoroughly exposed to internet culture, they are looking to their past for something to define themselves. For some years now, there as been a ‘Hanfu Movement’, with young people on weekends wearing clothing styled on the Han Dynasty. I often see them on the Beijing subway, or in historic parks and palaces, taking photos of each other for social media. Whether this is a fad, or will endure, I don’t know. Some students wear it to lectures; no-one wears it to work (yet). Most likely it won’t, because I’m often told that it’s not ‘convenient’ (‘convenience’ being a fairly ubiquitous requirement these days for the youth).
Limbless Yoga can be called Hinanga (pronounced Hee-naan-ga /hi-nɒn-ɡʌ/). It literally means “short of organs/limbs”, but in general practice, this means “mutilated”, which fits the modern yoga as it is peddled.
2 points about Ashtanga Yoga:
The second limb, Niyama (duties or observances) was generally understood in traditional circles as doing the traditional rituals prescribed in the scriptures, invoking various deities and propitiating them in many ways. The logic was that you had to pay off your karmic debt accumulated from the previous lives first, before attempting to transcend the universe and become immortal. The first two limbs were understood to be the most important to practice for ordinary people. Once you are free of karmic burden, the rest will come naturally.
Pranayama is traditionally done at the start of a ritual. This is immediately followed by an appeal to the deity to come and occupy the persons mind for the duration of the ritual. Its function is to concentrate and draw out the presence of the deity to the person. In modern yoga, if all you are doing is pranayama and leave it at it, then the door is wide open for whatever being is roaming around to come in:)
In a more general sense, Yoga was meant to be practiced in context of orthodox Hindu rituals. Take them out of their context, and the results can be unpredictable.
However if no breakthrough is made, the most likely result is going to be a new population boom starting in the 22nd century, declining living standards and what will be a return to more feudalistic times.
Can’t have both. World population is highly correlated with relative energy availability, so lacking a new renewable energy source the world population eventually goes back to pre-industrial levels. IMHO it isn’t likely a gradual change either, and would get underway well before we get to the next century.
The Sanskrit word for “limbless” can be either “nisanga” or “ananga”.
I do not know of any other civilization that has deliberately ugly architecture except for our civilization.
As if there is a hatred of goodness itself that it sets itself against the manifestation of goodness in beauty.
Its a diseased soul that would set forth such architecture a mind twisted beyond health and orientated towards death and evil that may be made possible by industrialization.
As architecture is material music and music is sound architecture. It is in the material sense discordant ugly music that tears at the eardrums.
Our modernist/brutalist architecture and post-modernist international style are truest expressions of Mordor. I think even the dark buildings of Mordor portrayed in LOTR is too pretty to be truly dwellings of evil.
Since reading your post I have really opened my eyes to my surroundings and paid attention to the architecture. I’ve always disliked the look of cities and preferred small towns due to, among other things, their looks. Now I have a better idea why.
The first public mention I have heard on this subject was this morning on my drive in to work. NPR mentioned how certain architects are writing to the White House on not infringing on the cultural aspect of architecture.
Here in the US during earlier floods of immigrants, there was a good deal of societal pressure to Americanize, to learn English, to dress like other Americans. Even as recently as the 1960’s, parents were warned not to speak their native language in the home so as not to confuse their children and make them bilingual. Despite this, in the 19th century there were significant pockets of foreign language-speaking areas in the US with the newspapers, clubs, and churches that they created. Nonetheless it was true that the second and third generations were indistinguishable from their peers.
For whatever reason, this assimilation mechanism is not working as well as it once did. The Guardian published an article nearly 10 years ago describing the failure of integration in France. From the article:
‘Another leaked report for the prime minister’s office warned of a “ghetto effect” in some schools where integration had failed and children were identifying more with religion and immigrant roots than being French. Paradoxically these second- and third-generation French children, raised and schooled in the republican tradition, were less integrated than their often semi-literate immigrant grandparents who came from north and sub-Saharan Africa, Asia or southern Europe to work on building sites after the second world war.’
“Most of the kids in this neighbourhood are the fourth generation of their family in France,” said Mohamed Mechmeche, 44, a youth worker in Clichy-sous-Bois who after the riots founded the community pressure group Aclefeu. “They’re born here, they’re French, they don’t even know Algeria. To now be harking back to their parents’ roots is proof that French society isn’t working: integration and assimilation have failed.’
I hear the same thing from my husband’s family in England, my friends in Denmark and Sweden, and my family in Germany; France is not alone in this. In my humble opinion, it would seem that the multiculturalism and identity politics so beloved by many (but not all) on the Left are undermining efforts to draw in the children and grandchildren of migrants and in doing so are perpetuating their sense of ‘otherness’.
There is no America; there are many Americas. There will be no one future America; there will be many. Mongrel is as mongrel does.
In the UK there was a big backlash against Ugly/brutalist architecture and thankfully the worm has largely turned on that one.
Interestingly, Prince Charles of the royal family led that cause for many years and became a hate figure by our techocratic establishment. Now, of course, his “wacky” views have become largely mainstream.
In regard to your comments about Europe returning to war, that really interested me.
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