Archives for category: Social Psychology

‪All my life the majority of smart, educated people have talked up the Left in such a way as to indicate that leftism is “cool.” I still hear it today.

Color me incredulous.img_5132

But I will admit that, long ago‬, this “Left Is Cool” mantra made a modicum of sense.

How?

The Right was moralistic and censorious, in the days of my childhood; the Left, less so, especially when engaging in the left’s sophomoric relativism — though leftists were, I do recall, prone to shouting and marching in “protests,” which they thought were cool but were, instead, cool’s opposite, hot. Right-wingers, on the other hand, paraded their offense-taking regarding sex, drugs, blasphemy and evolution while expressing outrage in moralistic high dudgeon, and always with an undercurrent of an itch to use government as censor, abrogating free speech rights as well as the freedom of the press.

Uncool, man; there is nothing “cool” about moralism and the suppression of free speech.

Now, this has been completely reversed. The Left is now utterly dominated by shrill, moralistic would-be censors, and the traditional leftist protest — all the shouting — has turned into mob-action shout-down brigades. Free speech as a political commitment has utterly evaporated left of center, with Yes But-ing everywhere:

We’re for free speech, yes . . . but hate speech isn’t free speech, and free speech isn’t freedom from the consequences of speech!

Not being complete morons, leftists elide the threat implicit in their idea of “legitimate” consequences (“you speak and we will get you fired, or worse”) and never acknowledge the sheer contemptuous hatred on their part when going off on each habitual iteration of a “hate speech” rap.

img_1711Why did the Left descend into moralism while the Right ascend to free speech advocacy?

Two words: cultural power.

Long ago the Left captured the commanding heights of the culture. And that, my friends, is power. And power, every schoolboy knows, corrupts.

Those who try to consolidate their power become censorious and moralistic. It is as natural as were their demands for freedom when they were out of power.

Similarly, the Right has been expelled from the key cultural positions. Out of power, right-wingers naturally swing to freedom.

It is the first law of political liberty: Out of power, people say they want freedom; in power, they try to secure more power, often in the cause of “security,” sometimes in the name of “justice” or “equality,” occasionally even taking “liberty” in vain . . . for those with power over others, liberty must run against the grain.

Now we see how “radicals” become “conservatives,” and conservatives radicalize. It depends on their relevant contexts, their situations. And the context that matters most? Power — propinquity to power; quantity of power; scope of power. The more you have, the less liberty means to you.

img_1174And why is that?

Because liberty is a sort of equilibrium of force. It is the condition where, by rule of law or custom, force is not initiated against others, each is free from initiated force. And coercive force is the most obvious form of power. When you lack it, the argument for liberty seems clear: let us share power equally. But when you possess it, giving it up to allow others to share? Well, that seems counter-intuitive at best.

We live in an interesting moment, because right now the Left is at apogee and is thus filled with the confidence that dominance provides.

Not radical any longer, leftists instead aim to conserve power (even if by overkill, pushing the envelope of their instinctive socialism). Thus they are now the conservatives. Further, their dominance being so well established, they have become hubristic. Add to this the recent multi-pronged attacks them, and no wonder they have become hysterical.

Pride goeth before a fall. Expect a legitimation cascade — an authority collapse —  soon. Or else tyranny. Or first the one, then the other.

twv

individualist

noun

1: the ultimate target of collectivists, thus a member of the one class of people that we know, a priori, to be victims.

2. a herd-minded poseur known to spread collectivism as an example of his or her daring resistance to some disvalued non-collectivist (or merely traditional) crowd, real or imaginary; a mob participant who wears a mask of eccentricity as a uniform, and thinks uniformly with others of a similar nature; an ideological changeling, a mass man tarted up as morally autonomous individual by recourse to a counter-cultural consumerism — opposite of definition 1.

The legit definition, courtesy Merriam-Webster:

IMG_4095

N.B. This post’s title is Finnish for “individual.”

 

IMG_4096

CNN article

This is the modern world: teen male suicides spiked to almost 15 per 100,000 in 2015, but the headline and point of the article is to focus on teen female suicides, which have also risen . . . but to a mere 5.1 per.

This is the truth, men and boys: you are expendable. The general tenor of the culture expresses concern far more for girls than for boys, women more men, and in this case the difference of concern can be expressed as a mathematical ratio.

And let us not pretend that we are witnessing some sort of outlier, here. This sort of unequal concern, by sex, is visible in courts as well as headlines, in taxpayer-funded programs as well as colleges, in legislation as well as lifeboats.

Nevertheless, I suppose we can quibble to whom, precisely, we should impute this specific case of unequal interest:

  • to the female author of the piece,
  • to the editors of the site (it was picked up elsewhere, too, verbatim),
  • to their expectation of reader preference, or
  • to the readers themselves.

But experience allows me to make a generalization: this fits with the actual (rather than professed) aim of feminism, which is to promote women over men and girls over boys. Feminism has not been about sexual equality. It is a particularist, not a universalist ideology.

If this still astounds you, consider: doctrines of equality do not get named by merely one of the two things said to be equal.

Do not think, however, that I am especially incensed about this radical sexual inegalitarianism in favor of what used to be called “the fairer sex.” The preference is not new. It is biological, really, and boils down to the economy of scarce eggs and abundant sperm. I am subject to the bias myself.

But it does give us a cause for several distinct reactions:

  1. To doubt patriarchy theory;
  2. To conclude that feminism is a form of sexism; and
  3. To chortle.

Popular modern moral crusades (such as feminism) are risible, and their pretensions to lofty idealism cannot be believed by honest inquirers.

Young men: learn to laugh. Your enemies are many, but they are indeed ridiculous.

twv

CNN’s article was ably mocked this weekend by Sargon of Akkad, who noted that the gist of the piece (which he said drove him “nuts”) gives some cause to acknowledge the claims of Men’s Rights activists.

As I was dissecting the unfortunate intellectual snobbery of a major libertarian economist, a few years ago, the truth dawned upon me. I knew at last the great purpose of the Libertarian Party:

The most important social function that the Libertarian Party has served has been to find a home in the libertarian movement for not very bright people.

The libertarian movement has been heavily intellectual in one dimension or another for a long time. Think tanks, policy houses, ideological societies — the whole gamut — all sport fairly high intellectual pretensions.

But liberty is for everyone, as Murray Rothbard used to say, and that includes people of normal and below-normal intelligence.

The Libertarian Party has provided a nest for a great many very smart people, of course, but it has also made room and accepted as leaders folks who ring the Liberty Bell, but not the right side of the Murray-Herrnstein IQ bell.

When I was young, and active in the party for a brief time, I sometimes met truly dull-witted people there. One man, who used to be a sailor, brought up the same story every time I talked to him. It took me a while to realize that this retiree was literally on the opposite end of the spectrum from me, and that most of his fellow activists rolled their eyes at him. And yet . . . I came to like him. He was loyal, and he remembered people’s personal histories far better than the nerd-brained, MENSA-types that over-stuffed the ranks of the organization.

Indeed, when I learned that this man had died, some years ago, I was genuinely saddened in a way I probably would not have been saddened by at least half of the others I knew.

One of the important functions provided by Christian churches has been the bridging of social castes and classes. The Catholic Church is especially good at this. A professor will sit next to a person whose janitorial work provides an intellectual struggle. Dealing with people of different abilities in a social way, with respect, is something not fostered much in our increasingly IQ-sorted society. There is, as Murray and Herrnstein argued, a growing division based on a certain kind of measurable intelligence. And the libertarian movement is filled with institutions that do nothing to dissolve those divisions.

Except for a very, very few, the LP being the most prominent.

What if, contra to an intellectual conceit, we won’t have a free society until the non-intellectuals, even the simpletons, come on board? It is not as if they, too, do not have cause to resent the cognitive elites. Arguably, they have the most cause, for the modern state has been designed to serve those elites the best, throwing crumbs at the rest.

Is the Mises Institute, or Reason, or Cato going to encourage this “rest” of humanity?

Too bad that the Libertarian Party is stuck on political non-starters. For it may be one of the few libertarian groups that actually does something absolutely necessary for the future of freedom.

But it will be the libertarian intellectuals, of course, who see exactly what this means: that the Libertarian Party’s most important role is an unintended consequence of its founders’ and activists’ keenest conscious plans.

Once again, the Invisible Hand strikes back.

twv

oldmastersexpainting

Yesterday I liberated from the overgrown jungle of Facebook a brief and characteristic-of-the-age Q&A, placing it here. But that short burst of re-iterations — restatements of my basic set of objections to modish (postmodern?) sexuality/social construction theory and intersectionalist politics — is obviously not enough. Some day I must make a definitive statement. But even before that time, there is something else I must do.

Some time back I made a more lengthy and rhetorically loaded against the theory — “I do not care about your ‘gender’” — which was itself a reiteration of points I’d made earlier. And Daniel Kian Mc Kiernan challenged me on my post, in the comments section.

That challenge deserves a reply more extensive than the one I gave initially. Or, at least I should take on points not initially handled. So here goes.

The Œconomist Mac Kiernan wonders about my attitude, which I will not directly address, since it can be read in all that follows. More interestingly, he states that he does indeed recognize that “the people who speak and write most vociferously about gender theory themselves confuse the distinction between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’” — a point I often make. I often draw from it the conclusion that the innovation of “gender” is thereby likely a mistake. But I could very well be wrong, at least to make this inference. He goes on to insist that this need not be the norm: “some of those of us who write less vociferously are also consistently careful to recognize the difference between physiological states and rôles that have been associated with those states by psychological factors, some idiosyncratic and some involving interaction with other persons.”

There is a lot to unpack here, and I am probably not the one to do the unpacking. But while gender is said to be the social aspect built on the biological foundation of sex, no matter the extent to which gender is an individually chosen role, an assigned role, a socially promoted role, a socially tolerated role, a socially deprecated role — even perhaps taboo — it does seem to me about roles. That has been my reading of the concept, anyway. So I wonder about this:

While gender is plainly associated with sex, I don’t know that gender can be reduced to a sex rôle, in-so-far as there may be more than one gender associated with a sex, and I believe that there may me more than one sex associated with a gender. We now see the latter, at least as a sub-cultural phenomenon, in our own nation.

Of course there may be more than one gender associated with a sex. That was the original idea. Non-problematic from the original theorists’ point of view. And, yes, both men and women (adult male and female humans) can play a single role (that of, say, subservient homemaker, or breadwinner, or what-have-you). I am not sure what is the big deal here. Indeed, I do not see why we need “gender” to explain this. People choose different functions in social groups, and that is to be expected, since there is a division not only of labor in society, but of leisure, also.

Indeed, what is gained by talking about gender over role and social functionality? The very word is derived from a classificatory scheme.* But people are individuals first, and classified role-players second. Instantiations of roles are almost infinite, because each individual is different, at least to some degree. That socially recognized role functions get promoted in society is of course a big deal, but so is individual choice. But the idea that individuals must create newly named social role functions in order to become the people they wish to become strikes me as nipples on a bull’s belly: not necessary. Individuals may simply diverge as they choose, and, in an open society, decide not to conform to standards A, B, and C, but perhaps to D or E, even if such standards are not socially prevalent, normed.

A lot of the angst behind gender theory is the angst of people making identities for themselves in terms of closed society norms while creating and participating in increasingly open societies. But instead of embracing the evolving openness as an individualist option, they are insisting that every role choice be socially defined and accepted, and any resistance to it a sign of oppression.

This all strikes me as the anxieties of the Last Man. (The Last Man being a Feminist, or a Mangina.) These are all examples of Sartre’s “bad faith.” My objections to gender theory are partially on this existentialist-individualist line. Gender obsessions among postmoderns (Last Men) are evasions of responsibility by trying to construe the freedom of an open society as an embattled group-interest cultural war in closed-society terms.

Whatever we may conclude about gender, there are plainly people who are intersexed, having more traits of the male sex and of the female sex in combination than we find in “textbook” models. These people were once simply concluded to be in some way defective, but defects only exist relative to purposes of some sorts. It seems to me that if these people are content as they are, then there is no defect to be corrected. And if the only source of discontent associated with their physical states is that society treats them as defective, then they have a prima facie case for social change. If we pity them, it should be as we pity anyone treated badly by society. Likewise for those born sexless.

Well, yes. But of course there is a “purpose.” It is the one set by evolution. If you are born with your heart out of your chest, you are born defective. If you are born without the genitals associated with either the male or the female, you are a defective.

I was born with several disorders at birth, which showed up as infantile glaucoma and, later in life, a substernal goiter. I am a defective. I know it. I have always known it. That’s just the truth.

This is not a difficult concept. The question is not whether there are defectives, but how to treat them. As civilization has progressed, we learn that we more and more physical and mental defectives can be socially useful and socially tolerable. Indeed, we discover that our bad treatment of defectives hurts our society almost as much as it hurts them.

Thus I see one problem with gender theory as not properly dealing with defects. Indeed, I regard this as the modern goody-two-shoes vice: lying about reality because reality seems harsh. We have options to ameliorate reality. They can include honesty.

But somehow rarely do.

This is not to say that what is defective under one perspective cannot serve as an advantage under another. My lack of stereoscopic vision saved me from any enticement in sports, which I tend to regard as a great social nuisance. But that does not mean that my poor eyesight (and, growing up, slight frame) should not be seen as defective. Nicely, conveniently for me, other talents and abilities more than made up for my physical shortfalls.

Perhaps my attitude to gender theory derives in no small part from my attitude towards my own defects, growing up. I developed my own sense of self, and had no models ready at hand. I rejected many messages coming at me. Sure, I was not good at sports. But, I realized fairly quickly that I did not care (and had not ever really cared) about such socially normed activity. I turned my attention elsewhere. Had I been one of those more normal boys who had always wanted to be a baseball pitcher or some such waste of time, I would have had greater difficulty. Sure. But the lesson is still valuable: accentuate the positive; do not bother yourself with what is too expensive to fix; prepare for the best and avoid the worst. Give up on impossible dreams.

What one should do if one dislikes one’s own body more than I did — if one cannot stand one’s own genitals, for instance — I am probably not the best to advise. But I do have some perspective on the situation, and I take that perspective in my many criticisms of what I regard as leftist lunacy regarding sexual matters.

And, really: are there “plenty of people” who are intersexed? There are a very few people, by population. (It is also worth noting that these people are not primarily suffering from “gender” problems but sexual/somatic disorders.)

And let me restate more clearly: there are many defectives. Ugly people, fat people, stupid people, weak people. Indeed, there are so many defectives and so many valid perspectives under which we can be defined as in some way defective that we can say that we are, nearly all of us, defectives — only in different ways. This recognition of limitations is the beginning of wisdom. It is the beginning of folly to pretend that defects are not defects.

It’s baldly true that what is called “sexual reässignment surgery” cannot turn men into women nor women into men; at present, surgery cannot even give a genuine new breast to a woman who has lost one! But that doesn’t established that sexual reässignment surgery is always a bad idea. Surgery can be used to counterfeit various sorts of changes, to good effect — for example, a counterfeit breast for the aforementioned woman. It seems to me that sexual reässignment surgery may be in the same category.

I am not saying that sex changes are not a good idea (though the evidence is far more indicative of its perils than its benefits); what I was saying, I thought, was that such manipulations are not “gender” reässignment. Sex change surgery is, instead, a somatic alteration. Sure, you may do what you want. But note what is happening when a person who suffers from a sexual identity crisis has surgery to change his or her body into her or his body: it switches a so-called (perceived; constructed) gender problem into a somatic problem. Basically, a psychological and moral problem into a problem for medical technicians. But since the sexual reässignment surgeries are still quite primitive — have you seen what passes for a penis at the end of such procedures? I’d prefer a vagina and make do! (vice versa for constructed vaginas) — the results are often gruesome. And extremely inconvenient. Quite a lot of bother.

Once again, as far as I’m concerned, normally-bodied folks may (should be allowed to) alter themselves to become freaks, or freaks may try to become less freakish (I may sometimes advise it),  but that is not my issue. My issue is lying about what is being done.

Or even creating moral fictions to smooth over the bumps of the inconveniences of nature and circumstance.

I am very interested in moral fictions, but I try not tp engage in many, myself. Indeed, when somebody catches me in one, I enjoy (after picking at a psychological scab or two) exploring another element of fiction in everyday life. Fiction is extremely important in the course of civilization, for individual persons as well as at meso- and macro-level society. But to be a philosopher is to be able to distinguish fact from fiction, truth from lies — and speculate where the lines should be drawn when they can be drawn competently. (My theory of rights incorporates a theory of moral and legal fiction.)

I don’t think that anyone born of one sex can somehow know by introspection that he or she has the brain of another sex. We’re not telepaths; even those of us who are content with our birth sexes know others of our sex only through the lens of gender! But if someone can be made significantly more comfortable as a counterfeited male or as a counterfeited female, taking hormones for the rest of his or her life, this seems to me to be fundamentally analogous to someone with, say, a face transplant, taking anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his or her life. I don’t see a reason to avoid the person, nor to smirk at the choice.

I am fine with most of this. But my smirk comes from the desperation to be something one is not and cannot be. What one cannot change one may be advised not to try. Those who insist on trying, and failing miserably, are the subject of comedy. That is what comedy is about, exactly such failures.

Of course, that is what tragedy is about, too.

I say this as a somewhat comic figure myself. As indicated above, I grew up knowing myself to be physically defective. And I now know (am made daily aware) that I am in physical decline. I am aging; death is nearer at hand every day. And though that may seem tragic from my perspective, it cannot be so for everyone else: they have their own lives to live until they can no longer muster the resources. I have no social and moral standing to make others pity me overmuch. Indeed, that is the lesson of Tolstoy’s “Death of Ivan Ilyich.” Let us not lie as we die. Nor should we lie as we primp and preen.

Desperation to put off the inevitable is understandable, but the more desperate the less admirable. I am more inclined to the Stoic and Epicurean disciplines: accept one’s limitations. Make do. Don’t fret.

I advise individuals not to adapt themselves according to a cookie-cutter “gender construct,” but define themselves as persons first and foremost.

If one sees little to offer in a standard model of sexual behavior, fine; embrace your inner eccentric. I have done that. I have never formed a long-term pair bond, and have never produced children, much less raised children to maturity. But I have never lied to myself about the cost of my choices. Or, at least I have tried not to lie.

When eccentrics prescribe for the centric we enter the realm of the problematic. Surely bachelors, spinster, openly homosexual, et al. must realize that they cannot be models for the common run of mankind. And it seems obvious . . . what must be considered the central story of any species is its sexual reproductive story. Individuals who do not participate in this activity directly must expect to incur costs of not doing so. To choose to live tangentially or orthogonally to the central story of life means one cannot directly participate in its benefits. And we should expect that this central story remain central. To not continue to place it at the center is to choose decay — by which I mean death of the social group, even death of the species.

Gender theory is, as near as I can make out, consistently, and with maddening repetition, anti-heteronormative. And heteronormativity strikes me as not merely an understandable cultural adaptation to biological and economic reality, it is necessary. We must define as decadent those practices that oppose the continuation of the species, or even the social group. Gender theory, at least in its usual pair bond with postmodernist intersectionalism, is decadence through and through.

Of course, just as there is a lot of ruin in a nation, there is always decadence in a society. And as a de facto member of a quasi-decadent social category — the “confirmed bachelor,” now known as MGTOW — I believe it to be my duty not to universalize my choice, much less undermine the social capital (heteronormativity being one) that allows society to survive and progress. Honesty demands this.

I believe gender theorists to be dishonest and decadent in the worst possible sense. They oppose the basic and necessary institutions of a society. They wish to remake the world to serve and valorize those who do not directly contribute to the continuation of civilization. What a perversity that is.

It is one thing to make room for the oddballs. It is another to redo all social arrangements to put the oddballs at the center of consideration, overthrowing normal sexually reproductive life strategies.

Family values, even. Indeed, one of the mainstays of current feminism and its embrace of “gender” theory is its utter reliance upon the State to replace the family institutions that existed prior to postmodernity. Fatherhood has been relegated to sperm donorship and forced child support payments. Motherhood is now, for increasing numbers of people, a government affair, a de facto marriage of women with the State. The norming of this allows the norming of anti-heteronormativity. The relations between the sexes have become attenuated, and all this gender talk exists within the context of the welfare state. The attenuation of social functions, like the bonds between mothers and fathers, runs parallel to the attenuation between producers and consumers, turning most folk into consumers only.

No wonder conservatives are appalled at the modern (post-modern) world. But they are completely in over their heads, because they helped create this monster.

And it is a statist monster.

If one is (as I am) skeptical of the State and its intrusive role in contemporary society, accepting gender theoretics is just another back-door meme serving to undermine an honest and subtle view of society. Gender talk serves as a lever to corrupt folks, apparently in service to the creation of a New Socialist Man, a world of Last Men where individual personhood is subsumed to State coercion at every social contact.

It is no accident that most gender theorists are out-and-out socialists. Their dream is to utterly upend society and purge all its members of individual responsibility. Directing our attention away from our own choices and towards conformity to new normed “genders” is vital, essential to their program.

And it is not a new program. Socialism, as Yves Guyot insisted years ago, only plausibly works under conditions of sexual separation and economic subsidy. This was clear in The Republic and it is clearer now, long after the death of Plato.

twv

* Late Middle English: from Old French gendre (modern genre), based on Latin genus ‘birth, family, nation’. The earliest meanings were ‘kind, sort, genus’ and ‘type or class of noun, etc.’ (which was also a sense of Latin genus).


The current Trump Resistance strikes me as politically dangerous in ways we have not seen since at least the Sixties and early Seventies. Hatred and violence have escalated. The idea seems to be that, if Republicans contemplate withdrawing a few pennies for “the poor,” then those who oppose these cuts can feel justified in engaging in violence, because withholding benefits is, uh, itself violence.

Though anyone honest about the nature of such institutions — any thinker studiously attempting transactional clarity — can see that ceasing to give a benefit differs from inflicting a harm.

After the congressional baseball shooting event, I saw immediate blaming of the violence on . . . Republicans. No kidding. The would-be assassins was a Democrat, and he selected Republican legislators as targets, but it was the Republicans whom Democrats blamed. Even the usually not-an-airhead Juan Williams (Fox News contributor) attributed the start of all this to “the right’s” reaction to Bill Clinton. I guess it is always thus with feuds. Every provocation is taken as an occasion to escalate, and the source of the problem is always the enemy, never one’s own side.

Indeed, the logic of escalation rests on a simple idea: Force is never initiated. It is always retaliation. And thus excusable. Justified.

Examples of this abound. Multiple “parades” with threats of violence in Portland, Oregon, caught my attention because close by to me, just upriver. Both leftists’ and rightists’ weapons were confiscated by police, but public reports consistently called the confiscated makeshift weapons of the anti-left as designed to be offensive, with no mention of possible (and plausible) self-defense uses. (After all, the “anarchists” have been engaging in violence within the context of anti-Trump and anti-conservative speakers for several months now. Berkeley is a horrorshow, complete with violent attacks by BAMN and Antifa insurrectionists. Reasons for self-defense abound. The threats are in the open.)

My real worry? The very meme, “not my president,” serves as a repudiation of “the deal” that is a democratic republic. Protesting before the president-elect did anything was disreputable. Giving no time for the new president to prove his true stripes? A radical break from the past. The whole “pussy hat” parading was worse than silly, and the talk of violence by Madonna and other celebrities were examples of madness.

I could go on and on. But hey: maybe it is time for a splitting up of the federal republic. Maybe it is time for the blood to run in the streets. Every excuse made for BAMN, Antifa and Black Lives Matter is a declaration of rebellion, and perhaps I should make the most of it. Perhaps the United States is an atavism.

[Shudder.]

So, this is my challenge to the Not My President crowd. If you won’t accept a constitutional accession to office, why should I approve of or accept any of the policies that you no doubt espouse that I would find abhorrent? I cannot think of one. If the deal is off, the deal is off.

See why I worry? I may want less government, but I really do not want mob violence, social chaos, and a breakdown of civilization. I want a rule of law. The current lack of acceptance of the results of a democratic-republican election strikes me as inviting a civilizational breakdown.

Open rebellion is a dangerous path to a better state. It sets the path to anarchy, by which I mean: It is the way of Chaos.

Which is the usual excuse for tyranny.

twv

turkey-hagia-sophia

I slam Islam — often. But why? It is not because I hate the color of most Muslims’ skins; I do not hate Buddhism or Hinduism or Zoroastrianism or Yazidist “devil worship,” despite the darker skins of most of these religions’ proponents. It is the color, you might say, of the ideas in the religion. Those notions strike me as morally dark and socially dangerous and super-excessively narrow- and bloody-minded, the ultimate in-group/out-group malignancy.

While individual Muslims may be fine people, Islam itself is not a respectable ideology. And, really, my attitude towards any Muslim is: you have a moral obligation to throw off your nasty religion. But what do we say of Muslims in general, or do about the threat that many, many in their midst present? Well, here it gets tricky.

So, to make my main point, I post, once again, from F. Marion Crawford’s 1887 novel Paul Patoff, regarding the nature of Islam as perceived by two Russian brothers watching group prayer in the Hagia Sofia:

Alexander Patoff stood by his brother’s side, watching the ceremony with intense interest. He hated the Turks and despised their faith, but what he now saw appealed to the Orientalism of his nature. Himself capable of the most distant extremes of feeling, sensitive, passionate, and accustomed to delight in strong impressions, he could not fail to be moved by the profound solemnity of the scene and by the indescribable wildness of the Imam’s chant. Paul, too, was silent, and, though far less able to feel such emotions than his elder brother, the sight of such unanimous and heart-felt devotion called up strange trains of thought in his mind, and forced him to speculate upon the qualities and the character which still survived in these hereditary enemies of his nation. It was not possible, he said to himself, that such men could ever be really conquered. They might be driven from the capital of the East by overwhelming force, but they would soon rally in greater numbers on the Asian shore. They might be crushed for a moment, but they could never be kept under, nor really dominated. Their religion might be oppressed and condemned by the oppressor, but it was of the sort to gain new strength at every fresh persecution. To slay such men was to sow dragon’s teeth and to reap a harvest of still more furious fanatics, who, in their turn being destroyed, would multiply as the heads of the Hydra beneath the blows of Heracles. The even rise and fall of those long lines of stalwart Mussulmans seemed like the irrepressible tide of an ocean, which if restrained, would soon break every barrier raised to obstruct it. Paul sickened at the thought that these men were bowing themselves upon the pavement from which their forefathers had washed the dust of Christian feet in the blood of twenty thousand Christians, and the sullen longing for vengeance rankled in his heart. At that moment he wished he were a soldier, like his brother; he wished he could feel a soldier’s pride in the strong fellowship of the ranks, and a soldier’s hope of retaliation. He almost shuddered when he reflected that he and his brother stood alone, two hated Russians, with that mighty, rhythmically surging mass of enemies below. The bravest man might feel his nerves a little shaken in such a place, at such an hour.

My point is: if an American author of the 19th century could see the nature of Islam and its adherents, and prophesy the dire consequences of interfering in their lands and religion, why have our leaders been unable to accept this not-incomprehensible wisdom?

Are they morons, as we often said of George W. Bush? Are they secret communists, as some say Obama was, hoping to undermine the West? Or are they fools, like most people say Trump is, clueless about the ways of the world?

Whether moronism, subversion, or folly — or some strange hubris — American foreign policy in the Mid-East has exacerbated tendencies in the affected populations of Muslims, and we now find ourselves facing a growing number of Hydra heads, bent on mass murder at the very least.

Why would some Muslims want this? Well, there is no mystery. It is not as if we lack testimony from the jihadists themselves. Repeatedly, Muslim radicals have offered rationales for their actions. Excuses, at the very least. Courtesy of the British rag Mirror, there is even, now, a handy low-brow listicle, “ISIS reveal 6 reasons why they despise Westerners as terrorist’s sister claims he wanted revenge for US airstrikes in Syria.” Here is my synopsis of those points:

1. The West is predominantly non-Muslim; we are “disbelievers.”
2. The West is liberal-tolerant. The same principles that suggest to us that we not discriminate against Muslims migrating to our countries is the reason ardent jihadists hate us!
3. The West has a few atheists — and doesn’t persecute them!
4. For our “crimes against Islam,” unspecified in this accounting, but one would think these [alleged] crimes are somehow distinct from the reasons above and below.
5. For our governments’ “crimes against Muslims,” including drone strikes, bombs, embargoes, etc.
6. For “invading their lands.” This is obviously something different from #5, above. This is surely an idea of territorial sanctity, an idea that conservatives might understand instinctively, but of which (I suspect) progressives possess no clue.

Now, of those six reasons, the fifth is the one we can do the most about. Western nations do not need to attempt to settle every violent dispute in the Mid-East. Indeed, I find this fifth reason utterly compelling. Were America bombed and high-hatted by Muslims the way Americans high-hat and bomb Muslim populations abroad, I know good and well there would be plenty of bloodlust acted upon from here to overseas. I know my fellow Americans. They would seek revenge, and would keep a tally, demanding overkill, not mere tit for tat.

Reasons 1 and 3 are very similar, as are 4, 5 and 6. This indicates, I suspect, the general tenor of the complaints. And certainly the first three reasons are all integral to Islam in a fundamental way. The religion is not known for its tolerance of differing opinions. The Quran itself, in its later, Medina-based portions, is quite clear: the infidels must be killed, enslaved, or at least treated as second- or third-class citizens. Dhimmitude. Slavery. Mass murder. These three are characteristic of Islam-based societies. Look to the long, almost genocidal history of Islam in India, or the recent descent of Lebanon into chaos. Rising European jihadist terrorism does not seem so inexplicable, does it?

But, in the West, it is common for good, peaceful folks to pontificate about how Islam is “just like other religions,” or is “really” a “religion of peace,” or “Christians commit terrorism too.” That latter is especially nincompoopish, as this video argues successfully:

What I’ve been trying to argue since at least 9/12/2001 is this: with Islam such a dangerous memeplex, it is sheer witlessness and folly to stir the hornets’ nest by trying to rule people who have commitments to that meme system. They will resent it. And retaliate. And, grounded upon their own sacred texts, will seek to subvert, conquer, destroy.

Islam spread, initially, by the sword. The Messenger, Mr. M. himself, is said to have died not long after this admonishment: “Muslims should fight all men until they say, ‘there is no god but God.’”*

That is quite a challenge for accepting Western liberalism. Perhaps it will prove to be a bigger challenge than Communism has been so far. We will see.

But first, admit the truth. Do not meddle in their internecine affairs if you can at all avoid it. And perhaps cordon off the Islamic peoples. Not for idiotic market-protectionist reasons, but for reasons of our own survival, to protect our way of life. For Islam is not a loving religion, aiming for peace. It demands conquest. And the more Muslims that congregate in an area, the more pressured and emboldened they become to adopt the entelechy at the heart of Islam: “confident submission.” To Allah. To “God.” And to their interpretation of what this Deity supposedly demands.

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* As quoted in Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1991), p. 19.


Virginia author James Branch Cabell (1879-1958) wrote comic romances (a term perhaps less confusing than “romantic comedies”) on a set of themes. One of these themes is expressed in the idea that there exist women too beautiful for many men safely to look at.

In The High Place: A Comedy of Disenchantment, young Florian espies the sleeping Melior (ensorcelled in a castle ensconced upon a High Place) and it unsettled his life, sending him into a flagrantly immoral life of lust, murder, and (in the end) world-shaking cataclysm.

In Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice, the title character — having been given a temporary visage of youth — finds himself with the opportunity to remove a sleeping Helen of Troy’s blanket, but cautiously refrains. This restraint allowed him to return to his normal life as a pawnbroker, and bargain with Koschei the Deathless for the retrieval of his wife from distant realms, to take up her former position as his nagging partner.

Mere fantasy? The peculiar obsession of a perverse mind?

I doubt it.

Sexual selection is powered, in great part, by enticement based on beauty. Flowers are beautiful, the peacock’s feathers are beautiful, and so can be women (to varying degrees). The more beautiful the more likely to attract the bee or the mate, and thus the greater the beauty the more likely they are to procreate, thus spreading the world with more beautiful beings. In some species it is the male that displays the more elaborate enticements to mate, the peacock and peahen being a prime example. In Homo sapiens, it is the woman who attracts chiefly by physical beauty — and the men more moved by that beauty. But, admittedly, among humans the variety of sexual attractions and sexual strategies makes everything vastly more complicated than a themed story.*

But this is a major force in life and its evolution, not a mere technical display, an acquired habit of culture, as so many of today’s trendy people pretend to believe. Lust for — and enchantment with —  sexual beauty is built into our psyches, well, most male psyches, anyway, as amply demonstrated in science and literature. And it rules, often with the whip hand. Beauty suffuses nature, and the lust for beauty spurs life to continue. Further, because it runs so deep, it can be as (or more) powerful than the drive for mysticism, for the numinous.

Carl Gustav Jung suggested that organized religion exists to curb the unsettling power of mystical experiences. By formalizing the Divine, and limiting it to certain rites, places, times, it allows for mundane life to continue.

Traditional marriage and family life did something similar. The mundane curbs the sheer transcendent power of Beauty. To prevent destruction.

Nowadays, the most beautiful of women are plucked from obscurity, farded to perfection, and paraded about for all to see. This alone — with instantiations from modeling, to acting, to pornography (which some would say and was once widely believed were all allied arts) — may be a major factor in modern culture . . . to the unsettling nature of family and community life.

If Cabell were right, this modern development leads to disaster for some men, and perhaps a problem for many men as well as most women. The disaster might be a bit more humdrum than the one perpetrated by Florian.

Behind all the romance, irony, symbols, and elegant prose, Cabell’s philosophic argument was that the natural curb for this aspect of sexual bedazzlement is marriage: one woman to one man, quickly followed by motherhood and fatherhood, thereby speeding up the process known to all: nature’s universal answer to all enchantments, including life itself. Decline and Death. Mother Sereda bleaching all. That suffices to dull the beauty in life.

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* Of course there are anomalies, outliers to life’s main story. Gay men and lesbian women look on the world of beauty and sexuality rather differently, each. And certainly confirmed bachelors like me have a different perspective on the story than do married men and, of course, women. But the central story will always be the one that directly carries on the regeneration of life. We outliers must recognize our place. And when society bends to the outlier, to make their stories central, as it seems to be doing now, we can expect cataclysms. Brave New World was not Utopia.

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The first rule of politics, one would think, must be: Do not turn your opponents more set against you; do not make them your diabolical opposite, your nemesis.

Democrats are doing that with Donald Trump: making him their enemy. Making him more extreme.

They would have found him at least somewhat pliable, I bet, had they not roundly condemned him as Hitler — before and especially after his election. Trump was, after all, a Democrat himself until a few years ago.

I do not think I have ever witnessed such massive stupidity … at least since the united government under Bush pushed massive spending.

But let me take a step back from my utter incredulity: It is not as if Democrats had not made similar miscalculations before, in dropping their anti-war activism, anathematizing the Tea Party, idolizing Obama and granting him one Get Out of Jail FREE card after another.

Indeed, the style obsession that became paramount under Obama — “isn’t he just the coolest, the dreamiest?” — is part of the reason for the current over-reaction against Trump. Superficiality, bewitched passion, trumps . . . reason.

Democratic partisans as well as leftists at large are now forcing Trump’s hand, mobbing him to move further away from their side. And if he succeeds, they could lose big.

Astounding, the stupidity of it. But it cannot be just their superficiality, their tribal othering, their commitment to symbolic action and the rhetoric of intention over follow-through.

Perhaps, thinking themselves outsiders, their “rules for radicals” approach did not prepare them for what the reality of their position was: defense of their status as insiders. They needed a more Machiavellian text.

Sorry, post-Alinskians! Now, the only true radicals left are the La Boéttiens!

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The amusing thing about having a fabulist as President is that it gives us all something to talk about while he pushes through as much of his promised agenda as he can.

Fake out!

imageYeah, I’ve been tricked by Trump’s Twitter feed, too. But, to repeat something I said last month, there is a method to his madness. He is spinning the media. I do believe this is according to a plan. He is a magician. Or, maybe, Iago + troll.

I was just watching the Egregious Hack, George Stephanopoulis, go into high moral dudgeon about the utter implausibility that the White House was spouting in defense of the Trump Tower Wiretap Tweet. The Hack seemed to think he was on to something. It was as if he thought that by exposing this one lie, the whole Trump movement would crumble.

Fool!

Yes, he should know better. It was he, after all, who was present at the creation of the Post-Truth society. His beloved Clintons mastered stonewalling and sheer cussed persistence long after after a lie had been found out.

The Clintons had learned that being caught in a lie is very much like Death — for everybody else. The lied-to go through stages: denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance. As long as the caught liar refuses to deal with the truth and the meaning of is and whatnot, those he has lied to deal with the awful fact as best they can. If the liar is resolute, in the end the lied-to merely accepts that something happened not to their liking, and carry on as if truth were not a thing.

And, in politics, it needn’t be. And has not been for a long time.

Trump is merely playing the game by his standards, now, not the media’s.

We could be witnessing the End Times ushered in the side door, or the greatest political rescue mission negotiated out the back. I don’t know.

But it is hysterically funny.

It is great fun, anyway, watching the Egregious Hack and his cohorts twist in the wind, as Trump plays them.

Just remember to laugh. (Sometimes one forgets to breathe.) We are witnessing the complete erosion of the establishment’s patina, a wiping away of all surface luster. We shall soon be witnessing nothing other than naked power.

Yes. You can then call it the Apocalypse. For much will then be revealed.

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