How Sweet the Uses of Conspiracy

Glenn Reynolds
writes:

When other groups decide that the way to get favorable press is to
use violence, those who have wimped out now will have no one to blame
but themselves. As a reader emailed me a while back, what use is a
free press if it doesn’t believe in free speech?

People talk about Eurabia, but what’s really happened is that
Europe has become Weimarized, with governments and institutions too
morally and intellectually weak to stand up for the principles they
pretend to embody. And we know what that led to last time . . . .

Glenn’s ellipsis points to the same future I’ve foreseen, one in
which true fascism re-emerges as an important ideology in the West.
If that’s the only reservoir of Western will to resist Islamism
remaining, may the gods help us all because we are going to hear
marching jackboots again. And what’s worse, we’re going to learn to
like that sound. To hear salvation in it, because the
alternative of surrender and creeping dhimmitude is worse.

This is why understanding the nature and scope of the Soviets’ meme
war against the West is important — because, whatever native
defects in Western political culture there may be, European elites did
not simply fall into a state of “morally and intellectually weak”.
They were pushed. Manipulated, memetically poisoned, seduced
by the agents of tyranny for more than sixty years.

Humans are a fractious lot, but we’re instinctively wired to
respond to external threats by standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
Exposing the Soviet meme war is more than just an exercise in
recovering the truth of history, it’s a way of re-framing our
intramural political conflicts that may allow us to purge suicidalist
thinking and find a collective backbone again without having to go
through a neo-fascist episode to get there.

I’ll go so far as to say that if no actual conspiracy to drag the
West into intellectual
nihilism and moral paralysis
had existed, it would be necessary at
this point in our history to invent one.

77 thoughts on “How Sweet the Uses of Conspiracy

  1. Eric — I think your analysis is simplistic.

    Europeans were profoundly influenced by the slaughter in the trenches in WWI, followed by more slaughter and devastation in WWII. Look at La Dolce Vita in the scene where at the dinner party the host reads a poem about “thunder, followed by silence” and it’s clear it’s about a nuclear exchange that destroys all life on earth. Later, the host murders his wife and two adorable little girls in a fit of despair, and the film pushes that act as well, sensible. Since they won’t die in a nuclear exchange.

    Much of Europe’s intellectual classes are just destroyed by despair, a sense of slaughter as inevitable, and a shrinking ability of the state or business to project much useful power. If your history started in 1914 and “once more over the top boys,” punctuated by a good dose of Wilfred Owen poems about gas attacks and the devastation of WWII (and the humiliation of having to be rescued by Americans) you’d be nihilistic too.

    For American intellectuals it was the certainty that the Soviet Union and the US were going to destroy each other and all life on the planet. Look at say, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns for this attitude, or Alan Moore’s Watchmen (yes I know Moore is a Brit but his Art Form is American). In the former Reagan is presented as a dangerous dolt determined to nuke the world into death; in the latter anything that prevents a nuclear war between the superpowers is justified (and again it speaks to a loss of power and influence by intellectuals and nations like Britain and France).

    Much of this despair is IMHO the hangover of history, and for Americans the idea that we would all die in a nuclear exchange. Leading to nihilism, short-term hedonism (the sexual revolution can only be understood in the context of marriage and children being futile in a future that ends in planetary death). With PC and Multiculturalism the “antidote” to conflict that was viewed as evil in itself because it led directly to the death of all life on Earth.

    What is happening now IMHO is a rise in identity politics of “white nationalism” throughout European countries. The elite still hold to Cold War attitudes while the populace has embraced the logical outcome of identity politics to various degrees. This might be a “gentle” form of identity politics ala Sakorzy, elements of the GOP coalition, Australia’s PM who unapologetically stands for “Australian values” or it might be extreme in the form of Le Pen. Nevertheless I think the hangover is ending; and history will mark an unsettling term that was predicted in 1991 by quite a few people with the end of the Soviet Union:

    *Many small states throwing about a Nuke or three with abandon.
    *A “clash of Civilizations” between the rational, secular, West (including Japan and China) and the atavistic tribalism of Islam and their allies.

    Yes I agree that intellectual nihilism and moral equivalency exist and is a large problem among the elite, but I disagree that it was some sort of Soviet propaganda effort exclusively (though it was part of it no doubt). The main cause I think was the simple weight of history which gave despair to an elite suddenly stripped of any significant hope of influencing events.

  2. >I disagree that it was some sort of Soviet propaganda effort exclusively

    Well, so do I. As I pointed out in my original essay on Suicidalism, the Soviets made adroit use of Christian premises about self-abnegation. Mark Brittingham about simultaneously pointed out the roots of transnational progressivism in Rousseau’s doctrine of the sovereign people.

    The fact remains: the intellectuals, today, who are doing the most to cripple the West’s response to Islamic terrorism are using the language and tropes bequethed to them by sixty years of Soviet agitprop and dezinformatsiya. Some of them are honestly unaware of this; most are dimly aware of the connection but have convinced themselves that the propaganda was truth so it doesn’t matter that the Soviets retailed it.

  3. Having done further thinking on the matter, I believe that demographics arising from the two world wars are probably the heart of the matter and may explain intellectual values as much as what I wrote above.

    I think it’s possibly the inevitable feminizing of Western societies following the killing off of the young males who would otherwise skew the public discourse and politics towards a more masculine set of policies. Accompanied of course by a population crash as women find no husbands and mostly don’t have children which IMHO further tends to re-inforce transnational progressivism and utopianism to protect the pitifully small stuff widows and spinsters have instead of expanding opportunity for young men looking for jobs and wives.

    In WWI Britain had something like 3 million casualties, France and Germany 5 million plus; Austria-Hungary around 5 million. Coupled with the casualty lists of WWII (Germany, 7 million plus; France close to a million; UK 400K; USA around 300K, Soviet Union 25 million) you have this HUGE demographic effect.

    Consider why the US is far less hospitable to the cult of trans-nationalism and “progressivism” than the UK, France, Germany etc. While part of it has to do with the relative power I referred to above, I think the explanation might be that we didn’t have as many men removed by being killed in War.

    It would be interesting to see how attitudes following the Thirty Years War where about a third of Germany was killed off match that of the current “lag” in WWI-II demographic collapses and the removal of millions of men. My own dim recollection of what I’ve read indicates a match in intellectual attitudes in that period but someone who knows more about German intellectual thought in the Seventeenth Century would be better suited to comment.

  4. As Eric says, the Soviets didn’t invent the ideology of despair…what they did was to throw enormous resources behind its propagation in the West. You see, the critics of Western culture *do* have a point: you cannot read deeply of the literature of the last century and a half and avoid coming to the reasonable conclusion that mankind is faced with an Existential crisis of the first magnitude and that the West’s foundations are the proximate cause of this crisis.

    As Jim observes, the First World War not only discredited core aspects of the Western experiment in many philosophers’ eyes, it also had a large demographic effect: transforming the remaining population in such a way as to make it ripe for fascist (or other) social manipulations that rejected traditional ways of organizing society. The stunningly ironic thing about all of this is that Romantic tradition philosophies – which were arguably the proximate cause for both the World Wars (the second more than the first, though) – were actually strengthened by the European philosophers’ penchant for characterizing the Wars as being due not to their failures but to that of the Anglo-American economic model. It took nearly twenty years for this conclusion to be drawn widely in America but it occurred nonetheless. In this they were surely aided by the rise of the Great Depression but it is infuriating nonetheless to see the egotism and self-serving of the likes of
    Heidigger succeed in avoiding the fury that should have rightly been directed his way.

    So where to locate new foundations? While it is certainly possible to square a reasoned Christianity with modern science, the vast majority of the intellectual elite simply has no interest in doing so. Human beings, however, simply cannot exist without a coherent social, political and epistemological framework (even the segment of the intellectual elite that boasts of its freedom from such designs). Weaving an alternative is not the problem: dozens have been created and propagated in a wild maelstrom of competitive philosophizing over the past two centuries. The problem is that this philosophical competition denies all entrants the one thing that satiates the hunger for transcendance: a reference or bedrock outside the human condition. In its worst manifestations (obviously French and materialistic) the world falls apart and we descend into Sartre’s nausea. America, with her stronger Christian traditions, ends up with a kind of Adam Smith meets Jesus mix: mega-churches, Christian rock bands and the endless, snorting derision of the feckless European elite.

    One final irony to note, Eric. It is certaintly true that the Soviets’ meme generator took full advantage of the philosophical quicksand. The Soviets not only funded the dissemination of their Marxist utopia but also tore into the fleshy underbelly of the West’s primary coping mechanisms: the substitution of material consumption for spiritual sustenance. The irony is that these memes ended up hurting the Soviets more than America: it took no great intellectual feat to see that the Soviet model lacked both spiritual and material sustenance (Czeslaw’s “Captive Mind” is brilliant in exposing this).

  5. Eric,
    “I’ll go so far as to say that if no actual conspiracy to drag the West into intellectual nihilism and moral paralysis had existed, it would be necessary at this point in our history to invent one.”

    Truthfully, I’d kind of assumed that was what you were doing.

    Wildmonk,
    “it is certainly possible to square a reasoned Christianity with modern science”

    I’m not so sure about that. Recall the recent flap with the Mormons and AmerIndian DNA.

    Spengler in Asia Times Online discusses this topic at length. Free inquiry leads to new sources of information. New information leads us to doubt previously Revealed Truth. Any divine revelation is going to have some logical implications about the physical world that probably won’t withstand scientific scrutiny. The Earth is not 5000 years old, AmerIndians are not related to Jews, and the Red Sea was never parted by a guy with a beard and a stick.

    Free inquiry is universally corrosive to faith-based narratives. In the current confrontation with Islam, for instance, the most effective weapon the West could use against the Mohammedans is Koranic scholarship. The Koran did not spring into the world, pristine in it’s current form, as dictated by Mohammed from the mouth of the angel Gabriel. There were previous versions. Copies survive to this day. Remember the “72 virgins are really 72 raisins” controversy? It’s just that we don’t want to talk about because it would be “Islamophobic.” And if you mean Islamodestructive, it would.

    The only way to make religion compatible with science is to make its tenants so damn vague as to be compatible with virtually any scientific finding. There are westerners who try to do this with Buddhism, but it just comes out sounding like self-congratulatory mystical mush.

    Granted, modern intellectuals are riding the Existentialist horse right off the cliff. But sadly, they didn’t make the horse.

  6. Please don’t take my previous post for scientific triumphalism. Reason isn’t everything.

    At the Battle of Cannae, the Romans lost 100,000 soldiers in a day. They had to recruit a new army to face Hanibal. “So, young man, would you like to volunteer to join the new army because the old army was slaughtered like cattle by an enemy that is still out there and stronger than ever?”

    Tens of thousands of Romans said Yes because they Believed. They believed in Rome’s destiny and the Will of the Gods. Reason doesn’t give you that kind of courage. And you can’t defeat and Hanibal/Hitler type serious threat without an iron heart and iron faith.

    On the other hand, if you want GPS guided bunker-buster bombs dropped on an enemy in the middle of nowhere at a precise coordinate set by a Special Forces guy on the ground from his laptop computer, you need science.

    And science cuts through any articulation of Transcendant faith like a hot knife through butter.

    To survive the threats we will surely face in the future, America and the West will require both Transcendant courage and level-headed scientific rationality. I don’t see a way to make them compatible in the long run. I truly hope we find one.

  7. #I’ll go so far as to say that if no actual conspiracy to drag the West into intellectual nihilism and moral paralysis had existed, it would be necessary at this point in our history to invent one.

    Sounds like the beginning of Minitrue.

    Dean: Probably what stands in the way of Western religion (read: Christianity) is the reluctance of its adherents to let the religion evolve. Perhaps this is characteristic of theist faiths? I make this supposition because deist/pantheist faiths like Hinduism evolve freely – Hinduism itself has produced seven schools of philosophy. I’m not very knowlegable about Christianity, so forgive me if I’m trolling.

  8. Dean,

    You are quite correct that any Christian commitment to yielding scientific ground to science – even in the face of conflict with a literal reading of the Bible – inevitably results in a Christianity that looks quite different from a pure, ‘revealed truth’ variant. But I think that you might be surprised at the extent to which some corners of Christianity have struggled with this problem (e.g. Arthur Peacock’s scholarship or the long-established Catholic engagement with science are good starting points).

    Furthermore, Christianity has a strong advantage over other faiths in its explicit recognition of the distinction between the world of faith and the world of man (“render unto Ceaser”). While this aspect of Christian tolerance is usually associated with keeping faith out of politics, it also provides a theologically defensible umbrella under which one can be both a committed Christian and a scientist advancing a theory that conflicts with a literal reading of the Bible.

    I recognize and accept your examples but I don’t really think they work against my point since I make no claim that all Christians are with the program. Indeed, it is clear from the periodic creationist flaps here in the U.S. that large portions of the Christian faithful simply aren’t looking for sophisticated ways to reconcile themselves to science. My point is three-fold: that it is possible to do so on a theoretical level, that there are some extremely bright people doing so, and that some influential churches (e.g. Catholics, Anglicans, significant portion of the Methodists) stand firmly behind these efforts.

    Your second post is absolutely spot-on. I would not be the first to observe that a purely scientific, evolution-based analysis of religion shows that it often confers a significant survival advantage on the population holding the faith. Indeed, the entire battle between Islamofascism and the West would be a walkover except for the fact that the radical Islam has galvanized huge numbers of fanatically committed warriors while the West remains paralyzed by its lack of belief in the value of its own customs and institutions.

  9. The West and Islam have reached an inflection point. American influence in the eastern hemisphere may be the main object of Islam’s wrath, but Europe (ex-UK) can no longer pretend to be a disinterested bystander. The three big issues are the perceived weakness of the West (by Islam and others), the steady draining of the Islamic world’s most precious resource, (oil), and the hateful presence of western persons and culture in the Islamic ummah.

    Your perceived weakness of Europe is also probably overestimated. The memory of the two world wars has made France and Germany hypersensitive about international quarreling, but they may not be able to stay on the sidelines much longer. With Britain, Italy, and Spain, they represent an economy and population base equal to America’s, with a formidable capacity to mobilize in an emergency, especially with air power.

    What has kept the big quarrel contained so far is the sheer geographical fact that most of the world’s oil comes out of this potential massively increased battleground (growing from just Iraq to cover Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc.). The US and Europe cannot risk the destruction of those wells, terminals, refineries, and pipelines, and none of the parties on the Islamic side are especially keen to trash all that stuff, either, since they have little besides figs and tangerines once the oil is “gone” (one way or the other).

    The current ‘scandal’ in the US wrt the Dubai-based company being contracted to run several US port facilities only underscores America’s weakness, our feckless pretense that there is no fundamental conflict between Islam and the West. Of course, some Americans may be wondering why we can’t find any American company to run American ports at the same or lower cost.

    Thusfar, the American press is too ignorant to even ask that question.

  10. The key missing fact in the esr analysis is that leftist Europeans do not recognise “The West” as a geo-political entity at all. They see themselves, and they see the US. Those are the main players in “global conflict”. There are various less significant players, such as Islamists and old-style Marxists.

    The Islamists get the traction they do from leftist Europe because they are anti-American. They are a threat to Europe also, but that threat can be tolerated because to eliminate it would mean eliminating a major enemy of America. It is worth putting up with a few bombs, a few riots, a few murders, for the sake of slowing down the growth of American hegemony. It’s a long shot, but it just might work, they think.

    It won’t.

  11. Wildmonk,
    I looked up Arthur Peacock on Wikipedia. So evolution is compatible with Christianity. Cool. But you know it’s not that simple.

    I grew up reading science fiction. A minor staple of the genre is the Machine That Lets You Look Back In Time. How? I don’t know…um, present day atoms retain cosmic vibrations they picked up in bygone days. Or whatever. The how doesn’t matter. The point is, imagine such a machine exists.

    So we stake out a Palestinian hill called Golgotha from 100 BC through 150 AD. And we observe not one carpenter turned itenerant preacher getting nailed to a tree for being King of the Jews. Apparently Matheuw, Mark, Luke and John (or whoever they were) made it up, just like Joseph Smith made up that stuff about the AmerIndians and the Jews.

    So we peer back a little farther in time and, you know, there was never a Moses. The Jews were never slaves in Egypt, they didn’t build the pyramids, they never wandered in the desert for 40 years. The Hebrew scholars and priests during the Babylonian captivity made it up.

    So we follow Judaism back to its origins and, sure enough, there was never an Abraham. Some forgotten soul made that up, too. No Noah. No ark. Just stories told by some Homer-type myth maker.

    How much of the literal truth of the Bible could you stand to part with and still remain a Christian? Without some doctrinal continuity with the Christians of the past, you are not really following the same religion. You are not BOUND to anything. Your faith would then amount to Richard Gere’s Buddhism. A mystical sensibility that enabled you to feel good about yourself but offered you no more real courage in adversity than a puff of smoke.

    Reconciling religion with science is not just a matter of being cool with evolution or any other specific scientific theory. It is about withstanding a series of niggling questions that NEVER ENDS. How can any doctrine do that?

  12. Or how about this. Consider those nutjobs who believe that human life on Earth was seeded by aliens from outer space. Surely they aren’t a threat to any religion.

    Suppose we find, while mapping the ocean floor, a crashed spaceship from say, 150,000 years ago. With the mummified remains of people on it. People like us. And they kept records. Records that, with a little effort, we can read.

    A religious doctrine has to stand for something, lest it fall for anything. And the One True Faith has to stand up to anything science will ever throw at it. Ever.

    This is not a challenge to be taken lightly.

  13. The West and Islam have reached an inflection point.

    Does Kunstler know you’re helping yourself to his prose?

  14. Dean – you are almost there but keep following the thought through. The question isn’t whether you or I can convince ourselves that the bulk of evidence discredits Christianity. Obviously, there are plenty of people who have already decided that. The question is how a serious Christian can engage with a world in which reason delivers knowledge with far greater precision and accuracy than stories from the Bible.

    On to some of your points and I’ll return to that thought. First and most obviously, we don’t have a time machine that could be used to test the literal truth of the life and resurrection of Christ. In its absence, it simply isn’t possible to produce enough hard evidence to dispute the central story of the life and the Passion of Christ. Indeed, atheists and competitor religions have been looking to historical artifacts and logical inconsistancies to poke holes at Christianity since it was just a startup and the faithful have always just shrugged it off.

    Second, I would argue that your entire premise that Christianity (or any ‘One True Faith’) has to stand up to anything science will throw at it isn’t correct at all. People have an amazing ability to live with contradictions, paradoxes and even outright falsehoods. Even if you had a wayback machine, plenty of people would just pass it off any findings as just another atheist plot. Moreover, you cannot propose hypothetical findings (i.e. your crashed spaceship) and demand that faith be flexible enough to handle it. It is hard enough just handling facts that are *actually* verifiable and no theologian would accept the responsibility to handle not only the world but your imagination as well.

    Finally, the New Testament isn’t principally a book of history and certainly isn’t a book of science. It is a work of spiritual, moral and ethical instruction and these are not amenable to falsification. One may be tempted to argue, say, from Evolutionary Biology that this or that value should have a different focus or may be evolutionarily disadvantageous but I doubt that such obscure arguments would have the force necessary to cause an abandonment of faith (or that logic would even demand such an abandonment).

    Thus, to answer your question, Christian faith requires very little in the way of literal truth in the Bible. I’d argue that, except for the Passion and the Resurrection (and, for Catholics, the Virgin Birth), the rest could be shown to be mere apocrypha without really undermining the faith. Even the Sermon on the Mount isn’t important for its historical literalism. It is a work of ethics, theology and practical discipleship but not, in any important sense, a work of history. I imagine that you’ll agree that the fact or falsity of the Passion and the Resurrection simply isn’t amenable to material proof given that the events occurred nearly 2000 years ago. Ergo, Christianity will not and cannot be ‘falsified’ and will thus not die out under the weight of scientific progress. Given this fact – and the equally obvious fact that science is too valuable a tool to itself be abandoned – we’ll be living with efforts to reconcile the two for a very long time.

    While it seems that we’ve strayed far from Eric’s original points, I don’t think we really have. You see, Eric is making the point that, for the West to survive, it may well descend into fascism and oppression of its Muslim minorities. While this *may* happen – especially in Europe – I think it also possible that both European and American demographics may shift to the point where, in essence, far older cultural patterns begin to reassert themselves. This is discussed at length in an amazingly illuminating piece that appeared in Foreign Policy entitled “The Return of Patriarchy” (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3376). It argues that the demographic trends that are depopulating Europe, Japan and China won’t just result in fewer people, it will also result in populations with a different set of values that those that dominate these lands today; different because they are the descendents of those conservative enough to still practice the old values of family, country and church. In a nutshell: when liberals stop having children, the world will be left with conservatives.

    I would argue that a much softer landing than Eric’s resurgent fascism would be an emergent Christian consciousness that not only manages to reconcile itself to the modern world as I’ve described but that also provides the energy to resist the onslaught of Islamic fundamentalism. I’m not necessarily predicting this so much as pointing out that post-Enlightenment Christianity would prove to be a far more benign force than a secular fasist state (please, don’t answer by pointing to Torquemada or some-such). A resurgence of faith in humanity and its future, the restoration of an ideal of “common sense” that supports individual freedom rather than statist intervention, and a model of cultural dialog that stresses the “family of man” rather than the group-identity politics of Po-Mo multiculturalism: all these things would energize the West to rise to the defense of its most precious values while minimizing the chance that these values would be trampled in a fascist orgy of blood.

    Mark Brittingham

  15. Wildmonk,
    As for the admissibility of the crashed spaceship, you may have a point ;-)

    And you are correct that the demography of the future will be a function of who is having babies today.

    One question I have is: How do you feel about abortion?

    Given that secularists are more likely to abort pregancies than religionists are, the decline of Progressive, Secular America is (at least partially) a function of the Pro-Choicers getting what they wished for. Do you think that they should continue to get it?

    If abortion were banned tomorrow, one result is that in 20 years there would be more Democrats. Given what I infer to be your politics, would you regard this as an acceptable trade-off?

  16. The religion is only occupation for richest (as tool of power), or poorest (as last chance to survive). I don’t believe they’re really war between islamic world and christian world. Some people wants this to hae more power, but there is no foundamental reason, as they have the same roots (judaism). In fact their is a book about a plan for war followed by Bush that speaks of that…

    US and Europe governements have good relation with some islamic dictatorship as Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Pakistan, or some other countries in middle asia coming from former URSS. They want war against laic Syria and muslim Iran more about oil resources than about religious reason.

    About the next planed wars (against Syria and Iran, it’s good to recall a bit of history as visibly US school don’t give this, and Europe give less and less) :

    The Iran Shah was US backed and Khomeny was probably France backed (even if revolution against Shah was from the whole country). I believe than in the new iranian president, the reason of reject for Europe is more about Iran independance than any another thing.

    There is no terrorism coming from Iran, only a war (that sure is always the more violent form of terrorism) against laic Irak from Hussein.
    Syria and Irak gain independance respectively from France and UK only half-century ago with Baas laic party. There was a coup probably backed by CIA getting Hussein to power in Irak. Hussein weaponery come from US, Europe and former URSS.

    China, India and Russia are defending Iran (as they was opposed to US-Irak war), because of same geopolitical reason, they want oil too and know more about them than US/Western Europe, are they are in Neighborhood. Iran (as India) culture and education is far better than Europe and US as the whole culture in Europe and US is originated from this two countries (language (english as the same root than persian(Iran language) or Hindi(speaked in North India), art, religion…) but these too countries keep it in place and continue to develop this during more than 4000 years. Originaly Iran islam is like European christianism a syncretism between Indo-european religion and semitic originated religion, as for example in both semitic religion, representation of god or prophet is totaly forbidden, but in persian are there are a lot of Mohamed portrait as in catholicism there are lot of Jesus-Christ portrait. In catholism most Saint are deïty integrated from Celtic religions (near the same gods than in hindouist religion) mostly in France under Charlemagne (imperialist king) that spread christianism in Europe (less than 1% before more than 99% after, be christian or be dead…).

    The war between Palestin and Israel is only for Israel and Sharon governement, army and Palestin resistance army. Simplest people have good relation. Lot of jews fight for peace between countries and against Israel gvt. Some describe paradoxaly muslim and military Hamas as a solution for the peace, next national election in Israel will be the secondary key for that, there are chance to

    International terrorism is only in countries invading other countries with religious part (North Irland catholic against UK imperialism, Saudian islamism against US and UK imperialism, in past algerian islamism against France imperialism) or without religion (Corse, Basque country in France/spania against imperialism or inequality), or sometimes from countries for pure political power reason (France gvt against Greenpeace boat in pacific or US against Cuban civilian plane In Venezuela).

  17. >the substitution of material consumption for spiritual sustenance.

    OK, WildMonk, you’ve pushed one of my buttons here. I think phrases like the above are a sign of an intellectual error that is just as dangerous as Marxism. I’ll have to blog about this sometime soon.

  18. Religions are points of view. The Christian hypothesis requires optimism, self-esteem and the ability to accept uncertainty. These characteristics produced capitalism, modern science and medicine and the new concept of individual freedom. Now men have realized they may not have to hew to the old illusions that a God and a Christ exist in any real way in order to maintain the point of view that allows and tends to happiness. So religion can drop by the wayside and bothersome concepts like original sin and the afterlife can go with it.

  19. Robert Speirs,
    Unfortunately, that is just nonsense.

    Religion does not solve all problems but it does solve one problem very well. It gives you a reason not to kill yourself during one of those unfortunately unavoidable moments when your life well and truly sucks ass.

    The best attempt anyone has ever made to develop a universal moral principle apart from Transcendant Revalation was Immanuel Kant’s universal moral imperative. Kant’s idea is: ‘What if everybody did it?’

    For instance, you should not rob banks because if everyone robbed banks the global financial system would collapse and we would all be reduced to abject poverty. So you should never do anything that you wouldn’t want to see everyone in your position do. And you should do all things that you would want to see other people do if they were in your shoes.

    The obvious problem here is suicide. If you want to kill yourself, there is no reason you should have a problem with everyone else doing the same. The thing is, you don’t have to kill yourself with a gun to the head. You can simply commit suicide by ommision, as it were. In other words, don’t get married, don’t have any kids. Pursue a life of (issueless) sex, drugs and rock and roll. Party hearty as you slide into oblivion and take as your motto: Apres moi, le deluge (After me, the flood). In other words, be a European!

    God commands you to be fruitful and multiply. God insists that you not only worship Him, but that you have children who you bring up to also worship Him. God commands you to fight for Rightiousness even when the situation appears hopeless. God tells you that Despair Is A Sin. Reason commands NONE of these things.

    Healthy nations believe in their greater destiny, as guaranteed by their Gods. Nations that lose faith in their Gods lose faith in their future. And if the future appears bleak and pointless, how could you be so cruel as to bring children into this hopeless world?

    Western religion did not just produce Western science and freedom. Western religion is vitally necessary to maintain them. The problem is that (in my opinion) Science is a baby that destined to eat its Mother.

  20. Science is a baby that IS destined to eat its Mother. Proofread before posting :-)

  21. Have you ever thought about how much it must suck to be a European? You used to rule the world back in your grandfather’s day. You used to produce all the art worth viewing, all the literature worth reading, all the technology worth using, the only medicine that was statistically better than just sitting around and hoping to get well.

    Now you are a washed up has-been, destined to spend the rest of the Millennium playing second fiddle to the God-damned Yanks. Why live? Nietzsche told you God is dead. Why should you not join Him?

    What hope is there for a future you can be proud of?

  22. To a lesser extent you see the same problem with American progressive liberals. Oh, what a glorious thing it must have been to be a Liberal in the 1930′s. Back then, Liberal meant George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell and George Orwell (among many others). Today it means Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter.

    In Russia today, 7 out of 10 pregnancies end in abortion. American liberals aren’t that eager for oblivion, but you don’t see lefty chicks with 14 kids, either.

    With nobody (outside of academia) taking Marxism seriously anymore, what does the Progressive hope to make Progress toward? When the Berlin Wall fell, it crushed Social Justice like the Taliban crushed homosexuals.

    How can Progressives carve out a glorious future for themselves? What hope have they for a world they could be PROUD to call their own?

    And so, to a lesser extent, American Progressives follow the same anti-natal policies as the Europeans with whom they identify.

  23. One of the reasons why Europeans and American leftists aren’t reproducing at replacement levels is that in the progressives’ glorious future, the Earth has far fewer people in it than it does now. There is a Malthusian component to modern leftism. I’m not certain yet whether there’s anything to this or whether, in the absence of a credible Soviet adversary, the holdouts of the left are pinning all their hopes on a great secular apocalypse. On a related note:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_Guidestones

    “Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.”

  24. Have you ever thought about how much it must suck to be a European? You used to rule the world back in your grandfather’s day. You used to produce all the art worth viewing, all the literature worth reading, all the technology worth using, the only medicine that was statistically better than just sitting around and hoping to get well.

    I dunno – I didn’t actually produce all those things myself. I mean, Shakespeare, Newton and Darwin were English, but for me to ponce around the place patting myself on the back because I am too seems like a serious category error. Similarly, if you’ve taken part in Nobel-prize-winning work you have every right to be proud of it, whereas if you just happen to live near some guys who did, well…

    Now you are a washed up has-been, destined to spend the rest of the Millennium playing second fiddle to the God-damned Yanks. Why live? Nietzsche told you God is dead. Why should you not join Him?

    Hubris and nemesis, it’s one of those things you just have to *watch*, even if you’re seriously strung out on expresso, Gauloises, ennui and existential malaise, you know?

  25. “The only way to make religion compatible with science is to make its tenants so damn vague as to be compatible with virtually any scientific finding. There are westerners who try to do this with Buddhism, but it just comes out sounding like self-congratulatory mystical mush.”

    There is a lot of difference between religions of faith and religions of experience. Religions of experience sprang from an experimental investigation much alike to the scientific process, with the only difference being that the scope of investigation was directed towards the subjective experience of reality instead of categorizing the objective facts of reality. Therefore they are inherent compatible with science, and actually fill the gaps of current science quite nicely.

    Of course there are watered-down “New Age” versions, but I think this just unavoidable – relativity theory, quantum physics etc. also have “popular” versions, but has nothing to do with the genuine version being valid or not.

  26. “To survive the threats we will surely face in the future, America and the West will require both Transcendant courage and level-headed scientific rationality. I don’t see a way to make them compatible in the long run.”

    I think it is not particularly hard to have two opposing ideas and believe one of the rationally and the other emotionally. See, f.e. higly motivated corporate suits believe in the company’s “mission” and “culture” emotionally and in making profits at all costs and getting raises & up the ladder rationally.

    However, you don NOT need Transcendence to make people understand why noble values and generally human quality are important. All you need is a simple, rational psychological explanation that we humans are subjective beings and there how we feel and how we emotionally react to the things happening with us is a lot more important factor to our happyness than what actually happens to us. “Good blokes are happier” – the new ideology could be as simple as this.

  27. “I would not be the first to observe that a purely scientific, evolution-based analysis of religion shows that it often confers a significant survival advantage on the population holding the faith.”

    Excellent point. The Bible, especially the Old Testament is nothing but the Handbook of Community Survival – it’s a howto to create a system that can keep a group closely together despite all the storms of history. It is the main reason of the survival of Jews as a group throughout the history despite all the odds. And this exactly the reason why I don’t like the three Abrahamic religions – survival usually needs sacrifices, with rational thinking and personal freedom as the first ones. Despite that, it was useful and it might be useful in the future too.

  28. “Have you ever thought about how much it must suck to be a European? You used to rule the world back in your grandfather’s day.”

    No. People generally think that the will to rule the world directly led to WW2. So the general mindset is rather a “we were the bad guys, sorry” kind of guilt. This is one of the reasons why it is hard for Europeans to understand the danger of Islam – there is too much bad conscience about poor opressed natives of the colonial past. (Of course, a few people who know history understand that what colonial powers did to natives was generally nicer than what the natives did to each other, but that’s just a minority.)

  29. “Have you ever thought about how much it must suck to be a European? You used to rule the world back in your grandfather’s day.”

    And actually the classical mistake is again here – Europe does not only consist of the UK, France and Germany. Europe is everything between Ireland and the Ural mountains. And the majority there you know were never even close to ruling anything.

  30. Of course, a few people who know history understand that what colonial powers did to natives was generally nicer than what the natives did to each other, but that’s just a minority.

    Exactly. They should have been *grateful* to be colonised? But were they? Oh no.

  31. Of course not, that would be hard on their pride, but you know when African politicans wear suits instead of traditional tribal clothing… I assume people imitate only what they like or admire in some way.

  32. >There is a lot of difference between religions of faith and religions of experience.

    Indeed there is. Which is why I’m a Wiccan with some ties to nontheistic Buddhism, rather than practicing the Catholicism I was born to. To an experimental mystic, ‘faith’ is both toxic and unnecessary.

  33. Eric,
    You like Lazarus Long quotes. Me too. One of his best is: ‘Beliefs get in the way of the facts.’

    A belief system is a fact-proof shield between you and reality, reality being the world of experience. And what facts might you want to be shielded from?

    Fact #1: Whether you are good or bad, wise or foolish, in no more than a few decades you’re gonna be dead.
    Fact #2: No matter how glorious your accomplishments in life, in time you will be forgotten. Our race’s past is filled with many a hero who did deeds so great he would be remembered for centuries. A thousand years later he has been forgotten for centuries. And so it goes.
    Fact #3: When you look at the cosmic scale of the universe, you are not really that important even now. You are a temporarily animated bag of wet meat, flopping about on the surface of a wet rock in an ordinary solar system, in a nondescript galaxy, in an unremarkable section of the universe. And soon you will stop flopping.

    The Facts are the source of Existential ennui. People embrace religion because it helps them avoid thinking about the Facts, and thus helps them be happy. Faith may occasionally be toxic, to be sure. But most people do NOT find it unnecessary.

  34. #Fact #2: No matter how glorious your accomplishments in life, in time you will be forgotten. Our race’s past is filled with many a hero who did deeds so great he would be remembered for centuries. A thousand years later he has been forgotten for centuries. And so it goes.

    Dean: Can you give an example? If you can, it proves your hero is not forgotten. If you can’t, what proof can you offer of his existence?

  35. Harrumph. Seeing as I’m the closest thing to a practicing Christian reading the blog* I’ll throw a couple things into the discussion.

    First, Christianity is either compatible with a modern, scientific, and individualistic West or lots and lots of Americans lie on surveys. Libertarians may be as secular as the left but the fact that their only friends can be found on the right implies that Christianity is not The Big Problem.

    Secondly I’ll echo ESR’s justification of his Paganism. He follows it because it most accurately depicts his view of the nature of man, and how man should address man (apologies, but I think that is about right). Christianity preaches that man is fallen, that he should strive for virtue but will always fall short. For me that spells B-I-N-G-O. It shouldn’t be surprising that democracy has thrived in Christian countries because democracy requires its citizens to struggle for virtue outside the boundaries of politics to prevent its collapse. Islam doesn’t make a distinction between the individual and the state. Atheism spurs the pursuit of heaven on earth (which doesn’t exempt Libertarians, for that reason too many are strict libertines).

    * I am C&E C of E. Christmas and Easter, Church of England.

    [first time poster. And Eric, we had a near miss at the Moz launch party back in ye old 90s. I was at the Boathouse, or Foxbarn, or whatever it was called back then]

  36. Shenpen,
    >Europe is everything between Ireland and the Ural mountains. And the majority there you know were never even close to ruling anything.

    That is true but it does not exempt them. In his autobiography, Frederick Douglas describes how slaves from different plantations would argue, and sometimes even come to blows, over whose master was the more socially important man.

    It is a terrible thing to be a slave, but even more terrible to be the chattel of a poor man. Even the secondary Europeans feel the loss of self esteem as Europe declines in importance. A Welshman or a Slav might tell you: ‘If you’ve got to be somebody’s bitch, you want it to be the Big Man, not a side man.’

  37. Even the secondary Europeans feel the loss of self esteem as Europe declines in importance.

    They just get their self-esteem from other things, often more to do with themselves.

  38. This is a good discussion because there is no apparent explanation for why large segments of Western society are acting irrationaly.

    Given the low birth rate of indigenous Europeans and the high birth rate of the culturally aggressive Islamic immigrant population you would expect that the issue would be more important to most Europeans than Icelandic fishing quotas. Maybe it is in the cafe but it certainly does not appear to be among the policymakers. Inexplicable when the eventual outcome is the extinction of Western civilization across a large swath of “old” Europe.

    The situation in the United States is entirely different. Although here too there is a group who would prefer the plausible European outcome the meaningful debate in the USA is heading towards whether it’s better to wall off the country or turn the kind-of war into something more ambitious. The probability of any part of the USA coming under Sharia is zero, regardless of which party controls Congress or the WH. Why the difference?

    The pathway from Soviet cultural agitprop through Sartre and Derrida to postmodernism is logical if not compelling. The bullet list of Soviet objectives from the “suicidalism” article looks like the Postmodernism for Dummies table of contents. It’s probably not that simple. WildMonk’s interjection of Rousseau helped to add understanding. But isn’t the bigger question if Western Progressives, who are calling the shots in Europe, will hang on to an inhrently destructive ideology regardless of the costs? And if they will not what will replace it?

    Where postmodernism goes from here is the front line of the culture war. The West has overwhelming power and ability to deal with Islamism and all its implications any way we please. This advantage may not last forever so let’s get on with it.

  39. “Even the secondary Europeans feel the loss of self esteem as Europe declines in importance.”

    In a (post-(post))modern world self esteem is rarely tied to GDP figures or army headcounts. As long as people (mostly) prosper and are free, they usualy tie their self esteem to their individual accomplishments. National pride is something of the past, where people did not have the Internet to form communities with those whom they have common interests and hobbies and other common traits with, and therefore had to form communities with those who were physically close. Another barrier was the language, which also seems to dissolve – I am planning to move to the Netherlands and everybody I spoke with told me to don’t bother to start learning Dutch, it’s unnecessary today.

  40. Peter – good post. I’m not sure that postmodernism really represents the front line of the culture war any more, though. It seems to me that it is really becoming more of a reactionary force (in the classic sense, not in the sense of “against the progressives” as “against the prevailing direction of the culture”).

    Let me describe this just a bit more and then show how this modifies one of Eric’s central ideas of “memetic poisoning.”

    It appears that huge swaths of the elite are firmly attached to a worldview that is fundamentally maladaptive for the culture but *not* necessarily for them. The essence, if I could simplify grossly, is that they understand Democratic Capitalism (either or both) to be so awful that any alternative has to be better (as I said, a gross simplification). Take, for example, the Colorado teacher put on leave this week. If you read through his assertions they not only are laughably ignorant but ominously common. It seems that no matter how many millions of people are ground under the boot of oppressive foreign governments, America is always worse.

    For example, his description of Capitalism is mind-numbingly stupid. Reducing Capitalism to “profit” and contrasting it to “social justice” is Marxist drivel. But it is depressingly common and widely accepted drivel. While agents in a Capitalist system seek profit in order to assure their survival, they are constrained in a variety of ways from predatory practices: the need to attract a market of buyers, the penalties of law, the desire to establish reputation via branding, and even the idealism of the people who freely start companies to meet a need they perceive. While academia and the hard left Socialists may sneer, think about the alternative. Any state-sponsored system, for all the talk of “social justice,” either ignores the need to produce anything – thus plunging into material misery – or it expands without any of the external constraints under which Capitalist organizations must operate. Capitalism succeeds because the first constraint – meeting market need – is a form of information-seeking that seeks to maximize adaptation to a changing or ambiguous environment. Is Capitalism nasty, selfish and cut-throat? You bet (and I say this as an entrepreneur). That is because people are that way. Capitalism’s advantage, from a purely humanistic point of view is the same advantage crafted into the American political system: criss-crossing lines of restraint the frustrate any one actor’s attempts to gain absolute advantage. Take such restraints away and the economic “winners” in the first age will act to seize all powers to themselves and implement a regime of absolute, permanent power. Put in a mere gloss of “social justice” and you have Communism. Gloss it with “divine right” and you have theocracy or medievalism. Ignore all pretense and you have something between barbarism and 18th century mercantilism. IN ALL CASES, you have a system where the intellectual and political elite control far more of the culture’s resources than they do under Capitalism (in theocracies, of course, the priest-class serves as the intellectual elite).

    Which version of Hell do you think that this teacher would prefer? All are maladaptive for the culture as a whole.

    Similar logic attaches to Republican forms of Democracy. Work to remove the great mass of citizens from the decision making process and you end up with a system the suffocates from lack of information. Into this breach, oppression ultimately steps.

    Nonetheless, I don’t see a resurgent interest in self-rule and precious few defenses of Capitalism. Instead, I see ever widening meme-wars directed at denigrating the individual and his powers of self-rule. This is where I would at least slightly modify Eric’s conclusion that:

    “European elites did not simply fall into a state of ‘morally and intellectually weak.’ They were pushed. Manipulated, memetically poisoned, seduced by the agents of tyranny for more than sixty years.”

    I think that the elite fall into lockstep with the memes you present because they recognize that the memes help them to co-opt, via ideology, the drive for personal autonomy. That is, these memes not only undermine the culture; they also work to convince the broad populace that (other) people haven’t the sense to be entrusted with their own care. In turn, this builds in an expectation that only the elite have the resources to assure progress. Thus, I think the calculation turns more on the advantages that these memes offer the elite regardless of the cost to the society as a whole than it does on any sort of ‘poisoning.’ Of course the result, in the end, is the same: the culture is poisoned and paralyzed in the face of challenges to its cultural integrity.

    One last note: this is very different from the use of cultural integrity as wielded by Kings of times past. The elite are now looking for ways to reassert powers now lost – not preserve powers already attained.

  41. Wildmonk,
    Amen. The trouble with the whole “It’s a conspiracy of the Stalinists” meme is that:
    1) It makes us sound like the John Birch Society and
    2) It is (as you point out) not entirely accurate.

    Yea, the Commies sought to do us in. But there are other issues.

  42. >Yea, the Commies sought to do us in. But there are other issues.

    Of course there are. But that conspiracy really did exist, and pointing out that it existed has the useful effect of discrediting the related line of elite thinking WildMonk describes.

  43. The trouble with conspiracy theories is that they posit something we instinctively know to be untrue. That gods live among us.

    We read in Ecclesiastes that “The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happen to them all.” Do you know a single person whose life has turned out just as they planned? Of course not. We each propose and then the universe disposes.

    But conspiracy theorists propose that there is some class of human beings whose plans do work out the way they are supposed to. Namely, the Conspiracists. The international cabal of Jewish bankers (or whatever) are supernatural beings who, unlike the rest of us, never get bitten in the ass by any unintended consequences of their actions.

    This is what makes the Conspiracists so dangerous. They are exempt from the Murphy-type laws that ensnare the rest of us and therefore they will surely rule the world if drastic action is not taken NOW! People who talk like that are tiresome, not to mention generally wrong.

    I realize that Eric does not propose that the Soviets were exempt from Murphy’s law, but I don’t believe that we help America’s cause by pushing the ‘lefties are Stalinist memebots’ meme. Stalin’s meme wars against the US, while undoubtably real, were like the icing on the cake. To focus on them as the exclusive cause of all that ails us is to ignore the Existential and class-based (intellectuals VS everyone else) foundations of our difficulties. The ‘root causes,’ as it were. :-)

    What’s nice about blaming it all on Stalin is that he’s an enemy we know we can beat. Our Existential and class woes may not have solutions. And even if there are solutions, they are bound to be messy. It is easier to push the ‘Stalin did it’ meme because it makes our problem simple to explain and simple to fix.

    Attacking our Existential woes will require tremendous courage and endurance. Finding a philosophical solution to the issues that vexed Plato and Aristotle will be, in Don Rumsfeld’s words, “a long hard slog.”

    But if we want to survive, we must face the world as it is. We must deal with the problems that confront us, not the ones we’d like to have.

  44. It’s possible that somebody reading this comment section might be curious as to what are these Existential problems I keep harping on. If you are that person, read on. Otherwise skip it.

    Consider the Problem of Concepts.

    The Pythagorian Theorem has to do with the relationship between the various sides of a right triangle. Have you ever seen a right triangle? Of course not. You know what one is, but we live in an imperfect material world wherein no line is perfectly straight and there is no perfect right angle.

    So what does the Pythagorian Theorem refer to? It is valid with regard to the imperfect illustrations of right triangles that we see in the world around us, depending on how close to perfect they are. But the ideal right triangle doesn’t exist in reality. So where does it exist?

    Britney Spears’ “Oops, I did it again” exists exclusively in the mind. If we were to all agree to it, the words and tune of that song (or any other) could be changed. I remember reading somewhere that, back in the Seventies, an Illinois state legislator proposed a law making Pie equal to three. He was laughed at. Should he have been?

    Pie is either something that exists in the mind, like a song, or else it exists independently of us. If so, where? Plato proposed that there is a perfect World of Forms, existing above our reality, wherein all Higher Truths exist, in their perfect form.

    He further proposed that those best able to know the things in this higher world, through philosophical reflection, should have the most influence in a society which seeks to embody truth. He proposed an intellectual ruling class, led by a Philosopher King.

    The problem is that the intervening centuries have shown that Philosophers make terrible Kings. The Soviet Union (among other states) had a ruling party elite, selected mainly for intellectual ability, as well as loyalty to the system, ruling over impoverised and enslaved masses.

    As a class, people like us (those reading this blog) are in love with the sound of our own words. We’d rather be clever than right. And so when we are given power, to the degree that our power is absolute, things quit working. You flip the switch, light does not come on; you turn the tap, clean water does not come out.

    The only thing that does work well in the Intellectual State is the secret police. They are the very model of efficiency in a land where you have to wait in line for hours to get a loaf of bread. Children are encouraged to inform on their parents. The dissident parents are executed and the informing child becomes a Hero of the state.

    People like us are the worst ruling class of all human types. And yet there is no logical alternative to putting us in charge if Pie is a real thing that was discovered, not invented. For Higher Truth can only be known through philosophical appreciation of the World of Forms, and some of us are much better at philosophizing than others.

    But suppose Pie is just a made up thing, like the Star Spangled Banner. Then it can be changed by the state at will. Then the ideal state is something out of George Orwell’s 1984.

    There is no such thing as Truth, because whoever has sufficient influence over the popular mind can make 2+2 come out 5. Whatever the state says is true is true, because there is no universal principle by which it is wrong to have people’s faces eaten off by rats unless they love Big Brother. All so-called Truth is just made up, you see.

    Whichever way we turn at this fork in the road leads to a nightmare. And I don’t know of a third alternative. Do you?

    The cliche is that stupid people are happy and smart people are depressed. I think this cliche is over rated, but it is not without some truth. As we peer deeper into the mysteries of the universe we often find paradoxes and conundrums which have no apparent solution. They do not yield to the intellect. At least not at first glance.

    If your intellect is the best thing you’ve got going for you and it doesn’t seem to be helping you out, how do you avoid despair?

  45. >People like us are the worst ruling class of all human types.

    So, what human types are there? Generally speaking, those capable of becoming a ruling class are the Merchant, the Soldier, the Priest and the Scholar.

    The merchant hasn’t ruled in very many places, or for very long. Capitalism is inherently destabalizing and the merchant-master is soon either devoured by his own creation or must morph into some other type of elite.

    The soldier can easily crush all violent opposition, but he is helpless against Ghandi. For if the soldier kills non-violent resistors, he loses his honor, ceases to be a soldier, and becomes a thug. And the people shoot him down like a mad dog.

    The soldier can command on a day-to-day basis if he gives ultimate authority over to the priest. The priest is a terrible master, almost the worst. But there are limitations even to his terrible cruelty. Say what you will about the Spanish Inquisition, it lasted 100 years and killed 30,000 people. For Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or any of those guys (including Hitler, who made his name by writing a book, you know) 30,000 people is an afternoon activity with time left over for tea.

    And then we come to the scholar, the secular intellectual. He is a master eager to use force in a completely novel manner. The conventional tyrant threatens death to compel obedience and lets it go at that. The scribe-master seeks to force you to BELIEVE in his patent double-talking nonsense, by means of terror. If the priest will burn you at stake, the intellectual will staple your eyelids to your forehead so as to make you watch while your children are raped to death in front of you.

    Not so long ago, it seemed plausible that you could get good results if you took power and influence away from the acquisitive and gave it over to the cultivated. Part of the crisis of our age is that we have been forced to confront the horrible reality that this is false.

    So what are we to believe in now?

  46. The whole point of America is that there is not supposed to be a ruling class, intellectual or otherwise. Yes, it is easier for someone from the Bush family, with its old money and New England connections to get onto the Presidential ticket, but that’s not a ruling class.

    A ruling class is a tribe of bosses who can fuck everything up and never be called to account. However badly they rule, they remain the rulers.

    America has succeed like no nation ever has because nobody gets to screw up and yet remain in charge in perpituity. Do our elites make mistakes? To be sure. Sometimes bad ones. But in the end there is a reckoning. And that make America virtually unique. In most nations, you don’t criticize the Big Man, because if you do you will suffer, even if you are right.

    No one who has ambitions to be the Big Man, uncriticizable, can stand America. We are hated as no nation (except Israel) has ever been hated. Literally, the most influential citizens of all nations hate our living guts. And always will.

    To many, we are the monster that has to be destroyed before anything can ever be good again.

  47. By the way, the problem with the Islamo-fascist is that he combines the metaphysical plausibility of the priest (you can’t prove there’s no God) with the mind-boggling capacity for cruelty of the intellectual. His intellectual properties render the Western Left incapable of standing up to him. And the American Right is quite reluctant to criticize him in his capacity as a priest.

    Observe that W clings to the whole ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ meme like a life raft. Even he has no stomach for the horrors that await if he should abandon it. And yet there is considerable evidence that Islam is a religion of the sword, and will never be anything else.

    What to do?

  48. So why do we share our most-hated-nation status with Israel? Because Jews are still here.

    Most nations ultimately lose faith in their Gods and soon die out. The devout Jew believes that the Lord God of Hosts came to Abraham and said: ‘Stick with me, buddy, and your seed will never die.’

    Or more precisely, God said: ‘As long as you, Abraham (and your nepots) worship me, God, and keep my commandments, I will guarantee that your sons and daughters will be found living on this Earth until the End of time. You personally will die, of course, but your family will live on forever and ever.’

    But so what? Lots of people think God loves them for special. What’s different about the Jews? Of all the peoples we read about from biblical times, only the Jews remain. Yes, there is still a land called Egypt. But the people there are not the people of King Tut. They don’t speak the same language, listen to the same music, wear the same clothes, eat the same food or worship the same Gods as the ancient Egyptians.

    Only the Jews have evidence of their specialness to God. And this is a crime for which many believe they deserve the death penalty.

    Well, one other nation besides Israel has some evidence. Less than 250 years ago, The US of A was founded. A backwater nowhere, dissmissed by all right-thinking people. But the Founders believed (based on no evidence at all) that God wanted people to be free. And that if they created a nation dedicated to individual Liberty, that God would bless that nation above all others. This was an utterly ridiculous proposition. And it came true.

    Bismarck famously observed that God looks after drunks, little children and the United States of America. And so He has. Less than a quarter-millennium after our founding we are the most militarily powerful, economically wealthy, and culturally infuential nation the world has ever seen. The Romans would stand in awe of our power.

    Do we deserve it? Arguably not. We’re just a bunch of riff-raff. As Bill Murray put it in Stripes: “Our ancestors were kicked out of some of the finest nations on Earth.” But deserving or not, we have success as has been granted onto no other people. And we are envied.

    Further, we are Israel’s only friend in this world. Why? Because we alone have no reason to envy and hate the Jews. So what if God loves them for special? Does He not also love us, just as much? He has given them Time. But he has also given us Majesty. What do we need to hate the Jews for? Other than old, what are they that we are not?

    Of course, if we ever lose our sense of specialness, we’ll probably kill every last one of those fucking Jews on general principles. Pray God we never do.

  49. ESR:

    “Which is why I’m a Wiccan with some ties to nontheistic Buddhism,”

    It sounds as if theistic Buddhism ever existed, which did not. The most important sentence in the Tibetan Book of The Dead is “… but don’t be afraid, this all is but an illusion created by your own mind”

  50. I just realized that in that earlier post I misspelled Pi. I meant 3.14159 et cetera, not pie as in apple or cherry or pumpkin. Mmmm, pumpkin. ;-)

  51. Why is it so hard for a nation to maintain faith in its Gods? I keep coming back to new sources of information. If a people could be kept pristine, in some isolated corner of the world, ignorant of all that has been learned or is yet to be learned, then Faith could be kept intact.

    All religious ideas start out revolutionary and eventually become dogma. Dogma becomes the property of a learned elite, who refine it in ever more exhaustive detail, making it more perfect and more brittle. The reason Galileo’s discoveries were a threat to the Catholic church was that the church had worked out an entire, rigorous cosmology consistent with their vision of Biblical revalation. They perceived that an attack on any part of that structure could bring the whole thing tumbling down.

    To attack the Earth-centered universe was to attack Jesus, though superficially they were unrelated. As the cloth of Christian belief was woven ever more tightly by hard-working theologians, the day when the ship would hit an iceberg became that much more inevitable. (Mixing metaphors like mad, aren’t I?)

    The Protestant Christian model trys to avoid this problem by maintaining democratic flexibility in its doctrines, thereby avoiding dogmatic rigidity. But Darwinian evolution sticks in the craw of even the most populist denomination. And if they ever manage to get past it, I’m confident that something else will come along to hit them just as hard.

    New information is all around us. Nations die when their Faith hits an iceberg it just can’t sail around. Russia has no future because Communism failed and they have no replacement for it. In a world that seems bleak, they have few children. Their old people continue to die, of course, and soon they will lose the ability to man their borders.

    Then other races will live in the land where Russians now dwell. Those other races will know nothing of the Russians, nor will they care to.

  52. >Whichever way we turn at this fork in the road leads to a nightmare. And I don’t know of a third alternative. Do you?

    I think so. It’s “No ruling class”. No rulers.

    Shenpen, there are (alas) theistic varieties of Buddhism in the Mahayana tradition.

  53. But Eric, how can you justify having no ruling class when either there is no truth or there is and some of us are MUCH better at accessing it than others? This is where politics meets metaphysics.

  54. By the way, why are the Jews still here? Because they did something normal humans can’t.

    The Romans beat the Jews like a red-headed stepchild. The Jews’ capital city was sacked, their Temple looted and burned, their armies slaughtered, and themselves scattered to the four winds. And STILL they believed in their one and only god, whose one and only people they were.

    Suppose you’re at a party. And you see some pretty girl across the room and walk over toward her. Then some loose bit of carpet trips you up and you fall on your ass. If you can get up, dust yourself off, smile and keep walking toward that pretty girl, you’re a better man than most.

    Most of us react to humiliation by seeking to retreat from the world. The Jews have chosen to stay in the world despite suffering more humiliation, pain and death than almost any people in history. Every generation, they just keep on getting married, keep on having babies, raising them up to be the next generation of Jews, no matter what happens. And they’ve been doin’ it for 3,000 years.

    Are there Jews who are fools or cowards? Are there Jews who give up in despair? Of course there are. But the Jews’ average performance is considerably superior to any other human tribe. Ever. They just keep on keeping on.

    I don’t know if there is a God or not, but the Jews really are the Chosen People.

  55. America has succeed like no nation ever has because nobody gets to screw up and yet remain in charge in perpituity.

    While that’s surely helped, there are a few other things that sometimes get glossed over, such as an enormous resource base, a whole hemisphere with no serious rivals, and as a result the opportunity to fight two world wars on its own terms and on other people’s territory. People deride the Russians for losing the Cold War, but I’m amazed they managed what they did in the light of where they had to start from. And no, before some rube pipes up, that doesn’t mean I admire their methods.

  56. But conspiracy theorists propose that there is some class of human beings whose plans do work out the way they are supposed to.

    I think most of them have graduated from “some class of human beings” to “corporations”. Say what you will, the corps are browsing pretty high on the food chain these days. Through their lobbying, they tend to be able to define the options that are later presented to the electorate for ‘democratic’ choice – for instance, most Americans seem to want a national health care system when polled, but no one thinks it very likely to happen. Moreover, corps are immortal (and can own other corps, in a system with a few interesting parallels to slavery). They may be “made of” people – some have drawn parallels to the organelles of eukaryotic cells – but they can be much, much greater than the sum of their parts. I know you’ll probably say market discipline can be relied upon to keep them in line, but some are going to see other factors in play despite the hearty certainities being peddled here.

  57. Eric says:

    “Of course there are. But that conspiracy really did exist, and pointing out that it existed has the useful effect of discrediting the related line of elite thinking WildMonk describes. ”

    Quite true! The other thing is that the adoption of ideas is often a matter of *style* more than substance. Those Che t-shirts…hey, so cool, ya know? Who the hell bothers with the details. What Eric is trying to do, in part, is to undercut the ‘stylishness’ of the lefty slogans. I forget your exact term, Eric, but the one about “memebots mouthing slogans of dead dictators” (or something like that) is an instant classic. Get it into widespread circulation and every time a Michael Moore wanna-be opens his mouth there’ll be that little nagging doubt that he’s just acting the part of a memebot. It won’t stop ‘em, but it’ll slow them down a bit.

  58. For a comparison to put the Jews achievement into context, for those of you who are Americans, imagine it was us.

    Imagine some foreign army rampaging across our territory, crushing all opposition. Imagine our soldiers chewed up like hamburger, the pitiful survivors forced to flee the field, humiliated. In New York, they detonate the Statue of Liberty like the Taliban did those Buddha statues. In Washington they piss on the Lincoln Memorial. They tear the Constitution from the National Archives and burn it on the Mall. They make us watch. Our lands are seized to be resettled by others and ourselves forced to live as temporary residents of other nations. Everywhere we are scorned and despised, mocked and humiliated. Sometimes we are evicted from the lands in which we have settled; other times we are lynched by the hundreds for no reason at all. In many countries we are forced to pay a special tax just for being Americans. In all nations we are barred from owning land and restricted from entering most professions. We are forced to do the work that others despise. We live in segregated sections of the city, alongside the whores and untouchables. We are not allowed to walk the streets at night and often we are not safe doing so in daylight. It is common practice in most places for adults to spit on us and children to throw rocks at us. This goes on not for a year or a decade but for nearly two thousand years.

    Would you still believe in “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and of these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?”

    Do you think we could do what the Jews did? Do you think we could survive?

  59. Dean,

    I understand what you are saying about “where is truth” and pointing out abstract concepts like Pi and right triangles, but I think that you go a bit far. Indeed, I’d say you are a bit too influenced by the Positivists.

    Thumbnail sketch: the Positivists tried limiting ‘truth’ only to concrete exemplars. The rest of our ideas were reduced to the status of ‘values’ (ok, the pinky-nail sketch). But, like the PoMos, they ultimately failed because their philosophy just took them “out of the world.” Philosophers are not immune to the giggle factor, after all. That is, they recognize when they simply aren’t delivering the goods (a philosophy of any functional value) and look like mere fools.

    A somewhat obscure philosopher, David Kelley had some very good thoughts on the matter in his best-known work “The Evidence of the Senses.” Unfortunately, his loose association with Ayn Rand kind of dampened his influence. In the end, I mostly buy Kelley’s argument. Another good thinker in this regard (although a bit long-winded on the easy stuff) is Simon Blackburn. Check out “Truth: A Guide” and “Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy.”

    More importantly, it doesn’t matter whether we can point to a perfect right triangle. It matters whether our ability to predict and manipulate the material world results in the outcomes we predict. If the arrogant philosopher scoffs at the bridge that carries the traffic then, well, screw ‘im. After all, it’s not as if he’s doing anything useful with his time or talent like the engineer is (I feel so American when I say that).

    BTW – I really prefer “Pie” anyway .

  60. adrian10,
    You are right that I’m likely to be pretty skeptical of anti-corporate paranoia. See what I said above about the merchant-master. Of course, corporations have done some majorly bad shit. I’ve heard that in some of the oil-rich African countries the global oil companies just buy up the politicians and treat the locals like crap.

    But if you’ve ever read Dilbert (or been him) you know that corporations are not gods. Most of them are run with marginal efficiency by leaders chosen for their ‘executive style hair.’

    A little more than a century ago there were shipping companies that hacked off big blocks of ice from the North Pole and shipped it down to Georgia so people could have cold lemonade in July. Then somebody invented electric refrigeration. Not a single one of the ice-shipping companies survived. Their ships and warehouses were sold at auction to other firms that did other things and all of their employees had to get new jobs. They were not able to ‘define the options’ in the sense that you mean.

    A good sign that anti-corporate paranoia has some validity to it will be on the day when you can find international corporations, based in the first world, trafficking in human slaves. I don’t mean the occasional off-the-books coyote using the odd shipping container. I mean open-air slave markets run by IBM and Wal-Mart, with nobody doing a God-damned thing about it.

    Until that day, I’d say that the we have a lot more control over the corporations than they have over us.

  61. Wildmonk,
    David Kelley’s association with Ayn Rand doesn’t throw me. I used to be a big fan myself. I had forgotten about him though. Thank you for reminding me. When I have some time, I will look him up.

  62. >But Eric, how can you justify having no ruling class when either there is no truth or there is and some of us are MUCH better at accessing it than others? This is where politics meets metaphysics.

    I don’t accept your premises. “Truth” is easy; C.S. Peirce solved that problem a little over a century ago. The truth value of a hypothesis is measured by its ability to predict observables.

  63. >What Eric is trying to do, in part, is to undercut the ’stylishness’ of the lefty slogans. I forget your exact term, Eric, but the one about “memebots mouthing slogans of dead dictators” (or something like that) is an instant classic.

    “Pathetic memebots running the program of a dead tyrant.” And yes, you’re right, I consciously crafted that one to be a counter-meme likely to stick in peoples’ brains.

  64. Then somebody invented electric refrigeration. Not a single one of the ice-shipping companies survived. Their ships and warehouses were sold at auction to other firms that did other things and all of their employees had to get new jobs. They were not able to ‘define the options’ in the sense that you mean.

    I never said they all managed to do it every time. But very often they’re writing the legislation that gets voted on. I presume you know the Heinlein quote from “Life-line” – “There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit.”

    Sounds good in theory, but stuff like the Sonny Bono act (or the blocking of a national health care scheme) makes it look to me as if some of them have the ability, whether or not they have the right.

    But if you’ve ever read Dilbert (or been him) you know that corporations are not gods. Most of them are run with marginal efficiency by leaders chosen for their ‘executive style hair.’

    Dilbert is humour, and bureaucracy is the same everywhere. I’m not worried that they’re gods. But they do look to be capable of Lamarckian evolution, at least.

    A good sign that anti-corporate paranoia has some validity to it will be on the day when you can find international corporations, based in the first world, trafficking in human slaves. I don’t mean the occasional off-the-books coyote using the odd shipping container. I mean open-air slave markets run by IBM and Wal-Mart, with nobody doing a God-damned thing about it.

    I can’t imagine why they would even want to. Slavery was tolerated before the industrial revolution because it was the only way to get certain types of things done. The potential profits aren’t worth the downsides any more.

  65. adrian10,
    >The potential profits aren’t worth the downsides any more.

    But that’s precisely the point. We buy and sell corporations, they don’t buy and sell us. If they were to try, the costs would be so terrible as to be prohibitive. It seems to me that either we or the corporations are the master race here, and it don’t look like its them.

    If they are capable of evolution, so are we. And their evolution is Darwinian, to be sure. Lamarck is a non-starter in any context. Their understanding of what is possible grows and develops and so does ours. Yes, they do occasionally write the legislation that gets voted on, but we are the ones who get to vote.

    When they fail to adapt to our preferences, they die. Matter of fact, when we fail to adapt to their preferences, they die. I’m not saying that they never exploit us, but in the main, they are our bitch. We are not theirs.

    And as for Dilbert, the humor lies in the essential truth being revealed. If people didn’t recognize themselves in the situations Adams portrays, there would be no humor.

  66. One more thing, corporation-wise. If the corporations were to find themselves in a world where we did not exist, they would be dead (no employees, no customers). If we were transported to a world where they did not exisd, we’d be hurtin’ but we wouldn’t die.

    So who needs who more here? Because as any marriage counselor will tell you, whoever needs the relationship the least is top bitch.

  67. adrian10,
    About popular American support for sociaized medicine. It amounts to free shit. Everyone everywhere is in favor of free shit. Until they find out it’s not entirely free.

    I’m sure you could get a solid majority to poll in favor of a national health care plan in America tomorrow, provided you didn’t talk too much about the details. Just tell people that all their doctor visits and prescriptions will be provided free of charge by the government. They’ll say: ‘Where do I sign up?’

    But in between the time you take the poll and the time the finalized program comes up for a vote, some details are bound to leak out. For instance:
    1. The government will only pay so much to treat a given disease. If it costs more to treat you, you don’t get the full treatment. And that’s just tough.
    2. Cheap, easy to perform treatments will be subject to a waiting room stay of several hours until the doctor can see you. Expensive, difficult to perform treatments (brain surgery, and the like) will be subject to a waiting list of several months, to a couple of years. And if you die before receiving treatment, that’s just tough.
    3. The government cannot afford to spend upteen thousands of dollars on cancer treatment for old people who don’t have that long to live anyway. The’ll just have to go home and die. And that’s tough.
    4. While technically, under the national health plan, you can choose any doctor you want, in practice there are complications. Most doctors (at least the really good ones) don’t want to be slaves of the state. They want to make their own choices, which is not possible under the new system. So you, the patient, will be stuck with the mediocre quacks as the competent doctors go off to become the private physicians of rich people.
    5. Depending on the nature of the national health plan, more details will follow. None of them will be good.

    As details become available, support for the socialized medicine scheme will fall precipitously. Don’t believe me? Ask Hillary Clinton.

  68. If they are capable of evolution, so are we. And their evolution is Darwinian, to be sure. Lamarck is a non-starter in any context.

    Except memetic evolution.

    Yes, they do occasionally write the legislation that gets voted on, but we are the ones who get to vote.

    A ritual that can be rendered pretty meaningless if the range of options to vote on has been constrained by maneuvering elsewhere. I mean, Bush/Kerry ffs. Two Skull and Bones members both committed to staying in Iraq to choose between, that must mean…I’m holding the steering wheel of the vehicle!

    Sure you are.

  69. adrian10,
    I write this in the assumption that you are a European. The reason you people all have socialized medicine is that you let your politicians put it over on you before you realized how much those details were gonna suck ass.

    Of course, you wouldn’t give it up now, because it’s still free shit and nobody’s ever given back free shit. But if you could somehow travel into a parallel universe where you had top quality private health care, I don’t think you’d be eager to come back to this universe where the clerk at your doctor’s office acts just like the ones at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

    No offence.

  70. adrian10
    >Bush/Kerry ffs. Two Skull and Bones members both committed to staying in Iraq

    There was all the difference in the world between Bush and Kerry. And everyone who voted for each knew exactly what they were getting. Bush is a former drunk from old money who found Jesus, turned his life around, and became a serious if not overly intellectual guy.

    Kerry is a guy who like so cruise, on yachts paid for with Other People’s Money. He famously ‘served in Vietnam.’ Then he came back, denounced his fellow soldiers as war criminals, threw SOMEBODY ELSE’S medals over the White House fence, married money and ran for office.

    W is not too bright but he means what he says. Kerry believes that you aren’t too bright and means nothing he says. He makes pro-war speeches in front of pro-war audiences and anti-war speeches in front of anti-war audiences. He says he’s opposed to gay marriage. But the gays who want to get married all support him because they know he doesn’t mean it.

    He says he’s a Catholic and opposed to abortion. But he would never let his ‘deeply held religious beliefs’ interfere with his governance (or his campaign).

    Americans did not become the most politically powerful people on Earth by being stupid. Believe me (again, assuming you are a European), we have more control over our government than you have over yours.

    We are not the idiots you like to pretend we are. Of course, you are free to believe otherwise.

  71. As details become available, support for the socialized medicine scheme will fall precipitously.

    Well, I realise suggesting a Krugman article to someone like you is probably akin to an invitation to share a hot tub with Michael Moore, but I’d be interested to know where you think he’s wrong – particularly about things like the economies of scale in drug purchasing that a national system could negotiate. I can guess what you think about his comments on “free-market ideology”.

    I write this in the assumption that you are a European.

    British, but based in Japan ATM.

    The reason you people all have socialized medicine is that you let your politicians put it over on you before you realized how much those details were gonna suck ass.

    IIRC the Brits voted themselves a welfare state as a reward for getting through the war, and they didn’t cost it out in great detail at the time, no. The French and German systems are AFAIK quite a bit more generous.

    Of course, you wouldn’t give it up now, because it’s still free shit and nobody’s ever given back free shit. But if you could somehow travel into a parallel universe where you had top quality private health care, I don’t think you’d be eager to come back to this universe where the clerk at your doctor’s office acts just like the ones at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

    They didn’t, when I was last in the UK. I’m pretty healthy myself and tend to regard having to visit the doctor as a moral failure, but my wife had our son there in 2005 (by home birth) and we thought the support we received (midwives etc) was first-rate.

    No offence.

    Oh, none taken.

  72. Congratulations on the birth of your son. I’ll look into the Krugman article directly.

  73. >Is that a rip-off of a Voltaire quote or something, Eric?

    Shakespeare. “As You Like It”: “How sweet the uses of adversity”.

  74. Well, considering the muslim outrage due to 12 innocent cartoons, there is no doubt people will choose fascism if it is the only protection agains islam. Personally I believe Denmark will be the last to fall. We defend freedom even when USA won’t ;)

  75. Pingback: Viagra

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>