GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

September 29, 2015

Social Knowledge

Filed under: GA — adam @ 2:10 pm

One of the sponsors on Glenn Beck’s radio show (a show filled with fascinating, idiosyncratic sponsors) is in the “food insurance” business. You can imagine what that is, and you can also grasp the absurdity of it—if we get to a point where food is not readily available through supermarkets, delis, diners, etc., where will the people insuring us against such an eventuality be getting their food? It’s akin to an attempt to sell “social collapse” insurance, or “money insurance,” as if the insurance company will survive the social collapse that leaves us all reliant on it, or the dollars with which our money insurer indemnifies us will not have suffered the same fate as the now worthless dollars we have in the bank. Nothing could be more human than to grasp at such absurdities, where we hope for a restoration in the imagination that is really just a way of figuring what we fear to lose in a manageable way. From where else could we stock our imaginations other than from our memories (in whatever composite and revised form), and what prompts our imagination more urgently than the present’s repudiation of those memories?

I suspect that most, if not all, of the political hopes of the present are not all that different than attempts to sell or buy “food insurance.” There is some part of the social order that one likes, and there are other parts one doesn’t like. The parts one likes are authentic, or progressive, grounded in something natural or in some law of history; the parts one doesn’t like are parasitic grafts on the whole implanted by some special interest at odds with the general interest. It’s not always or even, necessarily, often, wrong to speak in these terms: we can certainly distinguish between the core and peripheral, the healthy and the sick, in our institutions. What is almost always wrong is to assume the evils, the parasitic, the sick, can be excised in such a way as to leave the original body intact and restored to its natural form. Ultimately, parasites prey on some weakness in the host. I think the originary hypothesis is in agreement with the foundational deconstructive argument that what we designate as marginal, unnatural, evil, and so on is constitutive—or, rather, the act of designation itself is constitutive—of the center, the natural and the good. Imagining a restoration of the social order is always an attempt to forget the event of founding.

What are we citizens of the Western world made of these days? We really don’t know, and we can’t know—part of the structure of a civilized order is to occlude such knowledge. Part of the morbid fascination with exceptional regimes, in particular authoritarian and totalitarian ones, or even everyday emergencies, is that we find out who people “really are” behind the “façade”—which really isn’t a façade until it proves inadequate to circumstances. Ultimately what we want is some kind of fit between our signs and the world, but signs never quite fit the world so a primary moral decision is whether to expose the misfit and appear as an attempt to approximate fittingness, or to participate in illusions of an a priori fit. It is those who attempt the latter who are most severely disabled when signs can no longer be stuck on the world. So, let’s say the government of the US spends and inflates itself out of its currency, and the Medicare, social security and other entitlement checks stop coming; nor can infusions of cash created ex nihilo prop up the downwardly spiraling economy. Some people, I am certain, would apply themselves to the task of creating alternate economies, new systems of security, new commensurations between discipline and reward, and communities to go along with them. But how many? Your answer to that question will also be an answer to the question opening this paragraph.

Friedrich Hayek’s assertion of the superiority of free, open, decentered market societies when it comes to producing knowledge of social needs is, I think, irrefutable. And representative democracies, far less effectively, but perhaps more effectively than autocracies, provide knowledge of the range and relative power of social resentments. But economies bring needs and capabilities into alignment, while information provided by vote totals bears no similar relationship to political capabilities. Someone will ultimately get around to selling what lots of people want to buy, but there’s no reason to assume that some president will come along and “make America great again” no matter how many people want that. There’s not even any reason to assume that far more modest accomplishments will result from displays of majority, or even super-majority, public desires. And while buying a product can lead to unpleasant surprises, for the most part you get what you pay for; in politics, nobody really has any idea of whether getting what they now want will satisfy them when they actually get it. The unintended consequences are simply too consequential and diffuse. The discrepancies become wider as the democratic system is swallowed up by a new form of administrative state, run along victimocratic and therapeutic lines. How many people today really expect the policies they have voted for to be implemented? The more savvy work through the courts and bureaucracy. The Roman Senate remained until the end, didn’t it? So will our Congress, and the state governments.

Even more important, neither the free market nor the democratic political system provides reliable knowledge of the second most important kind: the kind of knowledge that enables us to distinguish between friends and enemies. In fact, there’s good reason to believe that both systems, modernity as a whole in fact, makes such knowledge harder and harder to secure. In economics, an enemy is someone whose needs you haven’t properly framed yet; in democratic politics, the enemy is a constituency one hasn’t yet effectively reached out to. That the enemy simply doesn’t care about your flat screen TV or your jobs plan is  unintelligible. The only enemies you can really imagine vividly are those who insist on telling you such things about the enemy—they are war-mongers. Which means this penultimate knowledge may not be lost after all—it can be turned inward, towards the small differences inflaming your narcissistic feeling of being in the front line of the march of history. In this way you build a system of lies to protect your belief in food insurance. You will not, for example, publicize attacks committed by migrants from barbaric societies, much less stop the migration itself, because you don’t want to give “ammunition” to the opponents of migration. So, the one who denounces or tries to stop the rape of children becomes evil—they’re the real enemy.

Knowledge of friends and enemies can only be acquired through a social order in which loyalties are constantly formed and potential defenders of the community are given space for friendly competition testing courage, endurance, leadership, teamwork and fighting skill. Creating protected, virtual, spaces for such testing, and allowing for the free invention of such spaces so that we don’t have to periodically engage in mass slaughter to know what our young men are made of, is essential to civilization. If egalitarianism were deliberately created in order to destroy such spaces, it couldn’t do so any more effectively than it has been. And if you destroy this penultimate knowledge, you drive the ultimate knowledge, of how to bring signs into an approximate, shared relation with reality, into exile.

What I have been in recent posts calling “nationalism” is simply the most likely way of restoring these forms of “natural” knowledge. Only spontaneously formed loyalties, developed through shared experience and drawing upon a shared past, and then tested through confrontations with outsiders of one kind or another, can provide for these fundamental forms of social knowledge. Of course such knowledge is in a sense tribal, and nations are in a sense tribes, but they are civilized tribes, which allow for the formation of thinkers who can turn their loyalty to the tribe into disinterested anthropological and historical inquiries into the inevitable ironies and paradoxes that will beset that nation, and thereby form its “conscience.” But the constitution of the nation itself proceeds through a series of inclusions and exclusions (school vs. school, town vs country, region vs. region, ethnic group vs. ethnic group, religion vs. religion, the hostilities swirling around certain professions, like the law and finance, various articulations of majority-minority confrontations, etc.) that are ultimately but never completely transcended by the belief that the nation constitutes a form of civilization either co-equal with or at least marginally more civilized in at least some ways than one’s neighbors. (In this sense, every nation is a “proposition nation,” motivated by the belief that it has its own special “calling.”)

One of the more interesting things about the Trump phenomenon (which has been an amazing source of information on so many topics) is that Trump’s support of a heavily managed regime of international trade and for universal health care, in both cases flouting central points of conservative doctrine, doesn’t seem to be hurting him at all (yet). It seems that people object to managed international trade in the name of transnational goals, according to international law and through arcane negotiations—in that case, “free trade” is a powerful shibboleth. When it’s a question of managing trade nationalistically so as to no longer let the Asians and Mexicans get the better of us—that’s a different matter entirely, and protests in the name of free trade are muted. Even universal health insurance, an anathema to the right for many years now, seems acceptable if it is done in the name of American community and not vague progressive imperatives (although we do still need to see about this as, of course, about Trump’s candidacy as a whole). The hunger for straightforward, unapologetic nationalism is palpable, here and in Europe. Nationalism will never quite be what it wants, but, then, it doesn’t make claims about its meaningfulness within a historical process, so it doesn’t have to. (It’s also worth noting that while nationalism implies some degree of popular political participation and feedback, other than the fact that it tends to lean more “democratic” than “liberal,” it is compatible with a spectrum of regime forms from near autocratic plebiscitary to normal representative.) Certainly Jews and other minorities have good reason to be ambivalent about these developments, but it would be wrong and foolish to resist them—rather, potentially threatened minorities should go about the business of making as many friends and as few enemies in the nation as possible (as opposed to invoking “universal” principles so that you can represent your opponents as criminals). We may be on the receiving end of some unwelcome information as (if) nationalism displaces the victimary order and administrative state (its natural enemies), and it’s better to be prepared to make use of such information than to try and pre-empt those who would bring it.

September 18, 2015

Nationalist Cybernetics

Filed under: GA — adam @ 6:09 pm

A large part of the problem with victimary thinking is that it, like any tyranny, prevents the system from receiving the feedback it needs. The more things that can’t be said, the more things people are thinking but hardly anyone knows they are thinking—but they go on thinking it and when they act on it, everyone is surprised—and the response is usually to clamp down more forcefully on that mode of expression. At the same time, there are always things that shouldn’t be said, things that, if said, create alienation and thereby generate a new kind of silence and blocking of information channels. A good way of distinguishing among political systems might be in terms of which provide, or can be designed so as to provide, sufficient feedback from the margins. Liberal democracy no longer seems to do that, perhaps because it is neither very liberal nor very democratic.


This is in large part because liberal democracy has anathematized nationalism. There is certainly a spectrum of nations, from those forged artificially out of diverse ethnicities subjected to a single regime to more natural nations that really are more like a collection of interrelated tribes. In any case, a nation defines itself by its external others—allies, enemies, would-be subjugators—and its internal others (often defined in conjunction with the establishment of external others)—those of a minority ethnicity, religion, ties to other countries, etc. Nationalism cannot be defined other than by othering, which is why it so horrifies the victimocracy; indeed, nationalism is perhaps the original sin against which the victimary defines itself. If 20 million people in widely dispersed and overlapping communities come to view themselves as like each other and loyal to each other in a way they aren’t like and loyal to anyone else, it is inevitable that those likenesses and loyalties will be more densely concentrated amongst and across some communities and sub-communities than others. In other words, some will be more genuinely representative of the nation than others.


Nations, in their modern form, began as national markets and to a great extent remain that, despite the vast globalization of markets—at the very least, most of our daily exchanges are with our fellow countrymen. They also, even in autocracies, presuppose at least some form of equality among citizens. In other words, they embody universal principles in exclusionary ways, modeled, especially in their promise of eternity and redemption, on the Israelite national community portrayed in the Bible (an argument I owe to David Goldman, aka “Spengler”). The exclusionary structure penetrates the nation itself, as I have just suggested, while the universality of exchange and citizenship moderates that structure. Insofar as a nation considers itself more civilized than its neighbors, it must put its exclusionary, or discriminatory, practices before the interest in spreading the principles of the market and citizenship. If it doesn’t, outsiders claiming to belong in the national community will exploit those principles while sapping them of substance, which is the “quantum” of civilizational discipline constitutive of the nation. The more a civilized nation dwells among other civilized nations, the more markets can be freed of exclusionary practices, and the more the rigors of citizenship can be relaxed.


Nationalism is highly unpredictable and therefore risky and therefore particularly frightening in a world comprised of delicate balancing acts between widely disparate international forces and crisis prone economic systems. But for this very reason it is superior to any other political form in generating information and feedback regarding the relations between center and margins. Nationalism certainly disallows identification with another nation, and the boundaries between explicit and implicit identification can never be drawn once and for all, but the insistent repetition of phrases like “for the good of the nation” “my nation above all” channels discourse into the oscillation between the civilizing tendencies of exchange and citizenship and the more barbaric, because belligerent, distinction between self and other.


The real problem with nationalism today is that it is ugly, according to contemporary political esthetics. It includes by excluding, even if the exclusions need not be violent. The exclusions based on the principle that the other is not me is, in fact, more limited and less violent than exclusions based on the other’s being on the wrong side of some putatively universal principle, but it deprives us of that quintessentially modern promise of final reconciliation. Nationalism works according to stereotypes: the representative national character (expressed through propaganda but also through consumption patterns and mass entertainment) is a stereotype, and the various margins are stereotyped, sometimes viciously. This is unbearable for those raised in a “victimhood” culture—indeed, even those committed to a “dignity” culture tend to flinch when presented with overt stereotypes. The question, then, is whether stereotyped minorities can bring themselves to resist the temptation to parade their dishonor before the all embracing post-dignity government and demand reparations. (I think that big government is a post-nationalist phenomenon, because relations between a dominant majority and minorities capable of leveraging their own sources of power are self-regulating; it is the attempt to stifle such processes that requires the heavy hand of government.) The alternative is to turn the stereotypes, which, of course, always misfit or mis-take their object, into sources of information by flouting the expectations and double binds they establish. This, no doubt, puts an added burden on the minorities, but it is now possible to see that even greater burdens might result from insisting upon an untrammeled minoritarian culture. And there are pleasures in marginality—the pleasure of being able to lapse into a certain kind of spectatorship before some political battles; the pleasure of, through solidarity and the insights of what W.E.B. called “double consciousness” and Hannah Arendt called, in relation to Jewish marginality, the “conscious pariah,” cultivating fields of culture left fallow by members of the majority; among others. We can perhaps learn enough from history to resist some of the virulent—racialized, imperialist, ideological—forms of nationalism while there can, of course, be no guarantees. Indeed, accepting the primacy of nationalism as a principle of social organization involves surrendering the fantasies of institutional guarantees providing by the transnationalisms based on universal rights and international institutions.


First of all, though, let’s see how many people can learn how not to flinch at the ugliness.

September 13, 2015

Meritocracy, yes, but…

Filed under: GA — adam @ 12:37 pm

without the sparkling clean conscience. I certainly agree with Eric Gans’s latest Chronicle that the emergent post-victimary tendencies, indeed, any post-victimary tendency, would have to re-privilege “performative criteria” over “ascriptive” ones. Indeed, that is the point of Vox Day’s, in my view irrefutable, axiom: “The more an institution converges towards the highest abstract standard of social and distributive justice, the less it is able to perform its primary function.” But what I am seeing, and what I think we must expect to see, is quite a bit rougher, and more raw, than the hopefulness with which Martin Luther King Jr. asked for us all to be judged on the “content of our character.”

For those urging the meritocracy in the emergent post-WW II American order, the argument for meritocracy was completely consistent with the argument against using ascriptive categories to judge people. It was possible to believe (bliss it was to be alive in that dawn, but to be young was very heaven!) that once all the legal restrictions and inherited prejudices were eliminated, everyone would, indeed, be judged on the content of their character and—most importantly—everyone would be happy with the results. Good intentions seemed perfectly aligned with good outcomes—and with historical “momentum.”

We can no longer hold to such naïve Enlightenment blank slatism. We know to a logical certainty, that even in a completely free system, with no external restrictions on anyone’s mobility, we will not have an equal mixture of all ethnic and sex groups in all occupations. Some ethnicities will be more heavily represented in brain surgery, others in street cleaning, still others in organized crime. And we already have a pretty good empirical sense of how the proportions fall out. It matters very little whether the asymmetries are the result of biological or cultural differences, as cultural differences are equally beyond the power of government to transform. We can even say that the more free the social order, the more those differences will increase the asymmetrical outcomes of different groups. Even more: these differences will be transmitted from generation to generation: on average, it will be easier for a child of a doctor to become a doctor than it will be for the child of a janitor, no matter how many medical school scholarships we set up for children of janitors.

Now, if we add to all this the greater comfort people have with others of the same group, and their greater ability to notice merit in those more similar and familiar to themselves, and, finally, add in the inevitable nepotism that would ensure that certain professions are, if not dominated by, weighted heavily in favor of, some groups over others, we can conclude that two things. First, that a free society is a highly stratified one; second, it is impossible to prove that a society is really free. The very disproportions that must emerge provide prima facie evidence for the belief (and it will be a very comforting belief for many) that the “so-called” meritocracy in fact veils the domination of society by privileged minorities. Even more: disproportion in the professions in a modern society means more than some groups benefiting more than others, or at the expense of others—it gives the appearance (irrefutable, even if false) of disproportionate influence, control and domination by those groups over others. And, of course, this means more in some areas than others. Can anyone really believe that a particular minority could represent, say, 60% of the teaching profession and professoriate, the entertainment industry, and the financial sector, without distorting those institutions so as to serve their own interests?

I repeat: when someone comes along and does the math (and livens it up with a vivid collection of anecdotes and stereotypes) and accuses groups a, b, and c of using their controlling share of crucial institutions to screw over, economically, culturally and even spiritually, groups x, y and z, there will be no way of proving them wrong—not to the satisfaction of an objective observer, much less to the satisfaction of members of groups x, y, and z. And the same will be true of members of groups a, b, and c telling the others to stop whining, get off their fat posteriors, and engage in some self-reliance—or speculating on the bad habits, cultural backwardness or deficient gene pools of x, y, and z. The greatest attractive force holding people within the gravitational sphere of the victimocracy is precisely the intuition that this stratification and the consequent acrimony would be the result of its abolition, and we can’t be sure that things won’t be much worse.

That’s why another faith will have to replace the cult of the victim. There’s no way to predict the details of this faith—most likely, it will be a convergence of several, old and new—much less “produce” it. But of one thing we can certain: for this faith to be genuinely post-victimary, it must be centered on a belief in the possibility of what I have elsewhere called the “third person,” i.e., the person who can set aside his own interests and decide impartially between contending positions. Regardless of how we see the reality, a large majority would have to believe that it is possible for a boss to promote the best person, for a university to hire the most promising researcher, for a Hollywood studio to “green light” the best movie, etc. In other words, that all these figures are capable of acting in the best interests of the institutions they are responsible for. I think this faith has declined dramatically in the West, so much so that it has become impossible to say what the “best” is, or that there is a “best.” Still, anyone who is good at anything must have such a faith, otherwise how could they practice and hone their skills? But the victimocracy has successfully squeezed this faith out of the public arena. As with any faith, there is always counter-evidence for the faithless to draw upon in the indictment they draw up.

If we are to be avatars of such a faith, we must be prepared to make a case for the “better,” if not the “best.” But I don’t think we can rely on inherited judgments here—it’s not a question of defending the classics, because if it was, there would still be better and worse defenses of the classics, and most of those defenses that take received cultural hierarchies for granted are pretty feeble. Even if Shakespeare is the best, the one injecting Shakespeare into the cultural bloodstream has to be better than the one doing the same for Jay-Z. In the sciences and technological fields, hierarchies of value are still preserved, if for no other reason than that poor countries like China and India are in such a rush to exploit them. But in the moral, esthetic and political spheres, the ability to reason is in free fall (try sometime to get a 20-something “marriage equality” fanatic to explain why there should be an institution like marriage in the first place and you’ll see what I mean), and those arguments (through environmentalism, in particular) impinge directly and disastrously upon the science and technological institutions.

This is where I think originary thinking can make an unparalleled contribution to human flourishing. Originary thinkers are the only ones who can know that what is really the “better” is whatever defers the most immediate threat of violence (or violence indicating disruption) while preserving and enhancing our capacity for deferring potentially greater violence in the future. Appeasing those who threaten violence now may work, for now, but makes things worse by depleting our “stock” of discipline; retreating into the certainty of “eternal” principles may preserve a cultural heritage but only until the violence overwhelms the few who still remember it. Deferring violence now while/by enhancing disciplinary reserves is the source of cultural creativity and civilization. There’s no formula for doing this, but thinking of how to do it is what will actualize our commitment to and manifest our faith in the better.

September 11, 2015

Up from Victimhood

Filed under: GA — adam @ 4:03 pm

From the Reason website (

Over at the Righteous Mind blog, New York University moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt is signposting a fascinating article, “Microaggression and Moral Cultures,” by two sociologists in the journal Comparative Sociology. The argument in the article is that U.S. society is in the midst of a large-scale moral change in which we are experiencing the emergence of a victimhood culture that is distinct from the honor cultures and dignity cultures of the past. If true, this bodes really bad for future social and political peace.
In honor cultures, people (men) maintained their honor by responding to insults, slights, violations of rights by self-help violence. Generally honor cultures exist where the rule of law is weak. In honor cultures, people protected themselves, their families, and property through having a reputation for swift violence. During the 19th century, most Western societies began the moral transition toward dignity cultures in which all citizens were legally endowed with equal rights. In such societies, persons, property, and rights are defended by recourse to third parties, usually courts, police, and so forth, that, if necessary, wield violence on their behalf. Dignity cultures practice tolerance and are much more peaceful than honor cultures.
Sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning are arguing that the U.S. is now transitioning to a victimhood culture that combines both the honor culture’s quickness to take offense with the dignity culture’s use of third parties to police and punish transgressions. The result is people are encouraged to think of themselves as weak, marginalized, and oppressed. This is nothing less than demoralizing and polarizing as everybody seeks to become a “victim.”

There’s nothing all that new here for GAnicks, even though it’s good to see such discussions become more “mainstream.” We can add to and clarify the above in a few ways (perhaps Campbell and Manning do so in their essay). First of all, there is such a thing as “honor” for women, which involves preserving their chastity (and all external “signs” of chastity) until marriage (and fidelity to husband thereafter). More importantly, we can clarify the continuity, and not just breaks, between honor, dignity and victimhood cultures that the final paragraph seems to presuppose. “Dignity” is a reciprocal granting of presumptive honor, or a universalization of the right to be free of insults and to have offenses against oneself avenged. The dignity culture delegates the responsibility of avenging insults to a third party, endowed with “impartiality” (something unthinkable in honor cultures, but ultimately predicated on something like the honor of God and a state stronger than the contending Big Men). So, the dignity culture is really an objectified or formalized form of the honor culture, with the new ingredient being the crucial but inherently vague notion of “impartiality” or “justice.” But the transition from dignity to victimhood is most interesting for us. To prove that one has indeed been offended before an impartial arbiter is to be compelled to construct a convincing case that one is a victim. Participating in the dignity culture is, then, already sustained training in victimhood—you learn to present yourself as having been helpless in the face of some malicious attack, which ultimately involves really becoming helpless. All this, so that, like in an honor culture, the offense to one can be unmistakable, and can be given unqualified recognition. (It’s interesting that representatives of honor cultures, like the Greek heroes in the Illiad, always seem to be moaning and whining about the pettiest slights, just like today’s victims, even if they are prepared to commit violence in their name.) We can see the Holocaust as the trigger for the rapid acceleration of the development of the victimhood culture, and as providing its particularly melodramatic and hysterical forms, but the dignity culture (which is to say, civilization) is just a way station to victimhood. All that has to happen to tip the dignity culture over into victimhood is for “impartiality” and “justice” to be debunked as disguised forms of victimization—this is not that hard, as the standards of judgment necessarily rely upon common sense notions of “reasonableness” which support those closer to the normative center. The excerpts from the article included at the link suggest that the “benefits” of victimhood include “raising their moral status”, but we can flesh that out as well: victimhood generates a therapeutic culture in which we are all victims of repressive social norms (even the oppressors, ultimately), and within a therapeutic culture, victimhood is redemptive insofar as naming your victimization is the first step towards reclaiming whatever in one’s identity has been dishonored. One can thereby present oneself publicly as (in another Holocaust reference) a “survivor.”

Of course, civilization may be a way station to cultural forms other than victimhood. Or, at least, we must assume, if civilization is to have a future (and if we don’t assume that, there’s no point to writing this post, or doing much of what any of us does). But that’s the question, and simply tearing down victimary thinking and institutions (the focus of my last two posts), however necessary, won’t supply an answer. The centrality of nationalism to the post-victimary discourses I have been looking at is suggestive, though. Nationalism emerges within the nation-state form, first of all under the absolutist monarchies (and then in rebellion against the monarchies, in which the “true” nation threw off the shackles of their own representative of a continent-wide ruling elite). It is therefore post-tribal (the monarchs broke up the great families, i.e., tribes, of Europe) and post-honor. But the nation defends its honor on the international stage, so even while extirpating the honor culture within its own borders it must promote the values that add to national strength, such as wealth creation, martial valor and physical vigor, fertility and scientific and technological prowess. The lessons of the phantasmal character of nationalism will presumably have to be learned again—the nation, as that which is denied by today’s transnational elites, national minorities and victimhood culture, is one thing; the nation as a real actor with a determinate ethnic content is something else entirely. Nations are always defined by their external and internal others who are always imagined others—none of which means that nations and nationalisms aren’t real, just that they’re constituted by fantasies in a variable relation to the reality principle. In particular, the dangerous mimetic modeling that leads to international antagonisms is difficult to control without some shared sacrality (like “Christendom”)—for a while, the nationalisms of the anti-immigrant European parties and a possible American variant would be united in their shared resistance to the global “ruling class,” but what if they win? And any American white nationalism will be even more phantasmal—where is the cut off date for real Americans: the 1960s, when Mexicans started to come? The early 1900s when Jews and Italians were arriving? Why not the 1840s, with the Irish? When were “whites” ever a “nation” in the first place, if not through resentment towards some minority aggression? What about all the people with mixed heritage? Etc. White nationalism might provide a focal point of resentments that need expression and resolution, without necessarily providing a program for that resolution.

The problem is that the victimhood culture prevents us from discussing the most basic and urgent issues of civic and political life: immigration, crime, war and terrorism, to name a few. We are completely paralyzed in these areas, so the victimary position becomes the default one. To talk about crime is to talk about blacks; to talk about immigration is to talk about Mexicans; to talk about war and terrorism is to talk about Muslims; and once we start talking about blacks, Mexicans and Muslims you can be sure that we will end up talking about Jews. This is necessarily the case because the advocates of victimhood culture will give us no choice by demonizing open discussions on crime, war and terrorism, and immigration as racist. The demonization works, because everyone is terrified by even tiptoeing up to the line of violating deeply embedded norms against racism. We will only start speaking out once the alternative, our current paralysis and delusion, becomes even scarier to more people.

In other words, the method of keeping peace in the modern, post-World War II, rights based nation-state has been for the Lilliputian minorities to tie up the majority Gullivers in a pre-emptive manner. Certainly, in a post-victimary order, the actual power differentials among groups would have to be expressed and negotiated openly (what those power differentials are, and even which groups might emerge, may very well surprise us). Doing so peacefully and even productively would have to involve prioritizing neither honor nor dignity, although both motivations will surely continue to be important. We need a political thought and practice aimed at institution preservation over individual rights—as Vox Day says, “The more an institution converges towards the highest abstract standard of social and distributive justice, the less it is able to perform its primary function.” We need to recommit to “primary functions”—but what modern political theory comes anywhere near doing so—other, perhaps, than Foucauldians, negatively? It’s remarkable how uninteresting the question of the construction of massive institutions of health, education, policing, the military, etc., has been to political theorists of the 19th and 20th centuries, who have focused mostly on petty questions of satisfying increasingly implausible grievances. What must be more important than the fragility of the individual and her grievances must be discipline, the ability and readiness to place yet another mediation between one’s desire and its realization. This also means the consecration of desire, and the building of a world in time—a kind of temporal canopy, we might say. A culture of discipline would defend the honor of “impartiality,” but without the support of God or State, by introducing mediations based on the study of the relative danger of different resentments. But there must be some truth in the name of which one defers, some possible ostensive—otherwise, one ends up like the officer in Kafka’s “The Penal Colony.” Let’s not make things easy by imagining the deus ex machina of a Christian revival. The civilizing process must be seen to lead back to, to be a gift from, an origin, an origin that is further revealed in disciplinary increments. In pointing to what one is not appropriating, one points to the possibility of a shared non-appropriation, a possibility that is a source of dialogue. Even a nihilist or psychopath cannot deny desires that have been deferred, and so this is something we can all talk about at any time. Cultural practices that foreground such discipline, that enact, maneuver us into, mimic, even mock, novel acts of non-appropriation, would be the acts of faith a post-victimary order needs. In the past, discipline cultures relied on traditional faiths and modern, scientistic assumptions about progress. Today, I think it would entail a more demanding faith in one’s unseen future fellow sign users—a faith that, while the signs anyone puts forth will unfold in ways that could not have been foreseen, and therefore cannot be controlled, at least some of those successor signs will register the peace giving intentions of their originator. The increased margin of discipline one signifies is a needed gift, even if you can’t know what the gift actually is, who will receive it, or what use they will make of it. Faith, in the end, must involve sharing in the immortality of the sign.

September 6, 2015

Dismantling the Victimocracy 2

Filed under: GA — adam @ 7:23 pm

In my previous post, I discussed two forms of rebellion against the victimocracy: the anti-SJW strategy of the blog Vox Populi (by Vox Day) and American white nationalists. I thought afterward that I might be giving the impression, without intending to, that Vox Day was himself a white nationalist. So, then I got curious—aside from his asymmetrical anti-SJW warfare, what does Vox Day think of nationalism, white nationalism, and, of course (where all such questions lead), the Jews?

He is a realist on all such questions—nationalism is on the rise, which means that multiculturalism is a failure, which further means the Jews, who were the first beneficiaries of the loosening of the insistence upon ethnic homogeneity in European cultures, and then (a disproportionate number, acting explicitly as Jews) agents advancing an ever more thorough loosening, will have no place in national communities that will with good reason blame them for undermining their national cohesion and culture (and will, furthermore, be filled with brand new minorities who hate the Jews far more than, at least in America and the UK, the Anglo majority ever did—minorities whose immigration, once again, Jewish political activism was instrumental in accelerating). This process is well underway in Europe, where it is already widely conceded that the Jews have no future, but Vox thinks it is happening more slowly in the US as well. Vox declares himself pro-Jew and pro-Israel, and by his lights (and my own) I grant that—he is telling Jews the truth, including the truth that demonizing all critical comments about Jews and Israel as “antisemitic” long ago entered the time of diminishing returns. He admires Israel, its self-reliance and unapologetic self-defense, and strongly encourages Jews to move there. He is a libertarian, which also means that his discussion of social groups is generally qualified phrases like “a large majority of Americans will reasonably, if not completely accurately, see…”—that is, he tends to speak through large scale probabilities and decisions made through mimetic contagion in the heat of events, rather than of Jews, Europeans, Muslims, or anyone else as “objective” groups with “essences.” His discourse is, as one would expect, cleansed of victimary hand-wringing—if you (a Jew or anyone else) don’t like what people say about you here, then leave—it’s insane to think you can regulate the speech and thought of others. That will just make them hate you more (people have a right to hate, and to say they hate, whomever they like). He’s no Holocaust denier, but he also gives the Holocaust no weight in considering ethical questions of contemporary politics. He assumes it is obvious that people would prefer to live amongst people who look, believe, speak, and act more or less like themselves, and can be expected to be welcoming to others only under very limited conditions. (I should also say he doesn’t pay any particular attention to Jews—I had to do a search on the blog to gather together his scattered posts discussing Jews, Israel and antisemitism.) I suspect he would qualify as a white nationalist, but I don’t recall him adopting the label—at the very least, he must accept them as fellow fighters against the SJWs.

All this confirms my conclusions in the previous post: this is what genuinely post-victimary discourse looks like. If you don’t like it, you’re better off making your peace with the victimary. I like it, so it presents no difficulties for me. It is a language that draws upon evolutionary thought, von Mises’s “praxeology” (simplistically put, the application of free market principles to all human activity), game theory and military strategy. The abstract principles of liberalism and democracy and Judeo-Christian morality barely figure at all. Of course all this misses something, including the reason why Western society has installed the incredibly dysfunctional victimary software in the first place. (It’s not because of the diabolical cleverness of the Jews.) Mainstream Western society has lived in terror of antisemitism for 70 years because antisemitism was projected back to the origin of a war of such cataclysmic dimensions that we would not (so we assume) survive another like it. Of course, this means that the fear of antisemitism, and victimary thinking far more so, is essentially a cargo cult. We really have no reason to believe that more frank discussions of racial differences and hostilities, or freer expression of preferences for one group over others, would lead to some terrible global catastrophe. But human culture as a whole is a bit of a cargo cult—the communal destruction envisaged in the mimetic crisis we hypothesize at the origin of humanity wasn’t going to happen either. But some cargo cults are better than others—more generative of lasting peace (perhaps the crisis they imagine is more plausible). Vox Day refers regularly to (and prides himself on his mastery of) “logic” and “dialectic,” which seem to be foundations for him—a guarantee of social order. He would include, I assume, the libertarian insistence on reciprocal respect for private property. Of course, such things are part of any civilized order, but by themselves they generate hierarchies that the less logical and less or unpropertied will feel no obligation to respect. Nor are they much of a basis for the nationalism that Vox seems to consider intrinsic to human nature. It may be less multiculturalism than democracy and popular rule that must deemed a failure.

There’s no need to pronounce or speculate on any of that, or to expect this or that pioneer into the thickets of the post-victimary to have all the answers. Insofar as we (that is, myself, and anyone else who wants to join in) consider the victimocracy a suicidal cargo cult, we must roll the dice. We can’t imagine that the post-victimary will be a restoration. We can’t yet imagine what open discussion of inter- and intra-group differences will look like, with all the biological, anthropological and historical knowledge now in, and with all the interventionist political and therapeutic technologies coming into, our possession. But I, at least, prefer finding out to the alternative.

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