GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

December 26, 2015

Some Hidden Infrastructures of Civilization

Filed under: GA — adam @ 1:25 pm

Almost all political discussion today focuses on the official categories of liberal democracy—freedom, equality, consent— and, in particular, violations of these principles, which makes all such discussion all but worthless. We have completely forgotten that such political categories never have been and never could be anything more than surface modifications of more fundamental, ultimately more primitive and barbaric relations. Civilization is never anything more than veneer. This assertion doesn’t downplay the importance of civilization; quite to the contrary: the veneer keeps all kinds of human potentialities at bay. But it also allows us to turn away from what lies beneath.

For example, from a recent blog post from John Derbyshire (dumped by Conservative Inc.’s flagship journal National Review for the crime of peppering his articles [in other journals] with all manner of “hatefacts”):

A lot of people still think of “Left” and “Right” as some kind of difference over economics. There are still some traces of that, but when we talk about “Left” and “Right” nowadays, the real divide is between nationalism and demographic stability on one side, globalism and multiculturalism on the other.
In all Western countries, well-nigh everyone wants a welfare state, and well-nigh everyone wants a thriving capitalist economy. Those things aren’t controversial. What’s controversial is the idea of a nation as being the home of some one particular people of mostly common ancestry and common culture. The great divide today is between nationalism and demographic stability on the one hand, globalism and mass immigration on the other.
It used to be, a hundred years ago, even fifty years ago, you could get a quick rough gauge of how much you were likely to agree or disagree with someone by finding out how much he hated rich people. Note that the person whose temperature you were taking might himself be rich; the expression “limousine liberal” has been around for a while.
But nowadays, if you want to take someone’s political temperature, you get a much more accurate reading by figuring out how much he hates white people. Again, there is no bar to he himself being white: the word “ethnomasochist” hasn’t been around as long as “limousine liberal,” but I did once trace it as far back as 1981.

Derbyshire is speaking of victimary thinking and politics, something he understands very well (having realized, for example, that for white Americans, or at least what he calls the “goodwhites,” Blacks are sacred objects), while framing it somewhat more starkly than we are used to. Or, perhaps, he just frames it in reverse, by adopting the standpoint of the targeted victim of the victimary: the main political issue, for Derbyshire, is whether white countries can remain white. Donald Trump’s success proves that Derbyshire, and his colleagues (comrades?) on the “alternative” or “dissident” right are far from alone. The question is not being posed so bluntly by Trump himself, who gives no evidence of thinking in such terms at all—but those in hysterics over Trump’s candidacy certainly have started posing the question this bluntly, even if as an accusation that they assume will never answered with a righteous affirmation rather than admission of guilt—how far are we from supporters of Trump, or whoever comes after Trump, saying something like “yes, we want a predominantly white, Christian country—so what?” This emergence of tribal barbarism results from civilization being turned against what it previously covered, softened and intermixed with the specifically modern disciplines. Once the government decides its job is to fight discrimination, it goes to war against part of the population it supposedly represents, and with ever more precision and comprehensiveness. You cannot help but induce that part of the population to find itself at war with the government, and also against the beneficiaries of government patronage. Whether whites are really, in some ethnic or racial sense, an “identity” or “collectivity,” is irrelevant—it is much more important that they are a target of a bio-political war of subjugation, which could easily at some point, given present demographic tendencies, become one of extermination.

Here’s something far more amusing, but maybe just as interesting in its own way—a clip of Trump having read to him, by talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, a children’s book in the Dr. Seuss style, composed by Kimmel’s writers in Trump’s name:

The “book” is extremely well done, capturing Trump’s idioms and patterns of speech (along with some deft allusions to events in Trump’s campaign), while finding a point where public caricatures of Trump and Trump’s own self-image seem to converge (if Trump felt he was being satirized rather than celebrated—or that there was any meaningful distinction between the two—he certainly didn’t show it). More interesting, for my purposes here, is how unthinkable the tautology of the title is—yes, by definition, winners aren’t losers, but how many today could allow themselves to use a terms like “winners” and “losers” without finding some way to assert that the “winners” are really oppressors (and therefore, at least in the long term historical and moral sense, ultimately losers themselves) and the losers really victims? This is certainly part of Trump’s appeal, that he uses terms like “achievement,” “accomplishment,” “success,” “victory,” etc. unapologetically and without irony. Some people are superior, others (axiomatically) inferior, some are stupid, make “bad deals,” are to be “pitied,” etc. Like white Christians liking their country being white and Christian, this idiom of self-assertion, competition, and ranking is something that the founders of civilization (and the founders of liberal democracy more specifically) simply took for granted (while many of them, no doubt, were disgusted by the barbarism, the disguised warfare and systematic humiliation implicit in what we might call “top-doggism”) while hoping to at least prevent it from being institutionalized—and that the contemporary usurpers of civilized institution have declared outright war against.

A final, and related, example. There are now quite a few websites devoted to what Alpha Game, a blog run by Vox Day, calls the “socio-sexual hierarchy”:

Here, we have a blatant re-assertion of “Big Man” type hierarchies, explored in great detail and familiar, perhaps painfully so, to anyone with vivid memories of their days on the playground, or high school. As you can see, such analyses can become fairly detailed and sophisticated—and why not, given that these kinds of rivalries have been around for a very long time, are very evident in all kinds of everyday relationships, and, indeed, can only go unseen with the investment of considerable energy into avoidance. Thanks once again to Trump, whom bloggers such as Vox Day have marked as a kind of “super-Alpha,” such discourse is also only just below the surface of contemporary politics (note, too, the recurring meme of contrasting Vladimir Putin’s manliness to Barack Obama’s more “Gamma” persona). (I am not familiar with any similar analyses of female hierarchies, other than the fairly widespread recognition of female hypergamy, but I assume they exist—at any rate, part of the enduring appeal of the 2004 film “Mean Girls” is that it at least gave us a glimpse of such hierarchies.) These kinds of hierarchies were a given in earlier versions of civilized life, which tried to incorporate them into a more benign domestic monogamous patriarchal order, governed by notions of chastity, chivalry and fidelity. But, of course all this is unspeakable as well—one of the fascinating things about contemporary democracy is all of the things so many people are terrified of saying, even, at this point, in the privacy of their own homes. So, at a certain point, democracy becomes contingent on people not even thinking such things, not even when they are right in front of their faces—which also means that democracy becomes dependent on persistent vituperation against those who do notice them. But what if people keep noticing them nevertheless? (We are also, I’ll briefly add, on the verge [the gift of Trump keeps giving] of discussing openly the possible incompatibility of Islam with the rule of law—which is to say, of undermining the assumption of the equivalence of all religions, which is the only thing keeping the 1st amendment workable in its modern interpretations.)

Open and sustained conflict between these hidden infrastructures and the victimocracy is, I think, almost upon us. Of course, the complete victory of either side, along with various possible compromises, is not incompatible with our continuing to staff our governmental institutions through elections, so that’s not really the issue. (Not necessarily, at least—either side might find a suspension, elimination or severe dilution of democratic or liberal institutions essential to waging war.) But the liberal democratic consensus of the post-War West (economic and intellectual freedom, some loose cultural constraints, some redistribution, and an ethos of non-discrimination) is in tatters, and not available as a resolution. The victimocracy has repudiated intellectual freedom and cultural constraints while chafing at economic freedom; the new right, meanwhile, repudiates non-discrimination, seeing it as a battering ram aimed at demolishing the rest of the civilized order. (Both sides seem to accept the idea of redistribution, i.e., soaking the rich—which means they share one particularly destructive position, hardly a firm basis for reconciliation.)

Any reader of my posts knows that I don’t consider anything more destructive than the victimocracy—perhaps, under duress, I could consider the possibility that other political movements could be as destructive. And all the alternative right wants to do is return us to some longstanding historical norms, deeply rooted in civilized human nature—even if, inevitably, there will be some “extremists,” in response to whom, following the precedent set by Obama and Clinton, we should say: 1) they have nothing to do with the millions of peace loving civilization restorationists and, 2) we should be very careful of offending those guardians of civilization, so as not to unwittingly recruit more “extremists.” The hardest thing, even for those who are firmly on the right (or at least the anti-left), will be the willingness to sacrifice one’s anti-discrimination bone fides. Here is where no moderation is possible—however you want to run your own business or household, you must renounce any social or state project of enforcing non-discrimination norms, because that is the Trojan Horse containing the SJWs who will destroy the city. It is this question that will really decide which side each and every one of us is on.

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