GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

January 26, 2016

Immigration and Resentment of Jewish Firstness

Filed under: GA — adam @ 7:32 am

The only real fight against the victimary entails dismantling the entire “non-discrimination” regime put in place after World War 2—it means giving up on, and accepting the reversal of, the abolition of what Eric Gans refers to as “ascriptive differences”—which may not be restored in de jure form by the state, but will be restored in in sufficiently explicit de facto form so as to acquire state sanction (the state won’t discriminate, but it won’t stop anyone else from doing it). In the end, you can never really stop ascribing differences—every attempt just leaves more residue of those differences, and reassembles the resentments in new forms. We will have to learn to live in a world where people judge each other based on race, nationality, sexuality, religion and so on—that is, if we want a human world at all. There is nothing new in any of that to any one who reads my posts on this blog. Nor is there anything new in my claim, logically derived from the preceding, but also evident in those who actually challenge the SJWs and PC in sustained ways, that these developments will make expressions of resentment towards Jews respectable and common. Anti-antisemitism is the original PC, and cannot survive the overthrow of the victimocracy.

Against that background, I’d like to explore a bit further something I’ve mentioned a few times—the form this resentment towards Jews will most likely (is already starting to) take. The charge is as follows: Western, which is really to say, by now, American, Jews have established their identity through a constitutive hypocrisy: while defending ethnic homogeneity for Israel, they promote mass immigration and all manner of “diversity” initiatives at home. Pushed even further, we get the following formulation: the Jews are the only nationality whose national integrity and solidarity is dialectically tied up with their contribution to the dissolution of the national identities of others. But, as indictment unfolds, it turns out, given that the Jews have been pursuing this national interest (really, more of a kind of cultural, even biological, imperative) so successfully for so long that it is now their white, Western victims who live a marginalized, diasporic existence. And, as we follow the call to resistance against the spirit of Judaism to its logical conclusion, we find the marginalized whites resorting to the same disintegrative, “critical” strategies that worked so well for the Jews (dissecting texts for hidden motives, depth psychology, etc.). The logical conclusion doesn’t always come, but we can see parts of this argument all throughout the “alternative” or “dissident” right (while many writers of the alt-right do not pursue this logic at all). Perhaps the best (in the sense of most exemplary and most sophisticated) representative of this antisemitic resentment is Kevin MacDonald, whose writing is widely available on the internet, and persistently pursues this logic of the Jews are the opposite of what they say they are which is what we really are even though we let the Jews convince us that we really are what they really are.

The mimetic structure of this resentment is very obvious—the Jews are both model and rival, admired and hated. Equal energy is put into debunking Jewish claims to a higher morality and more universal ethics as to asserting a right to precisely the kind of particularist ethic that would enable us to see the Jews for who they are and act accordingly. Western civilization, in fact, has achieved the kind of objectivity and sympathy for others that Jews claim but have in fact always rejected; while unfortunately, this Western generosity has made whites easy prey for the Jews (which must mean that the only salvation for whites is to practice the same kind of hypocrisy of which the Jew stands accused: universalism in theory, unwavering ethnic solidarity in practice—with the false universalism serving the ethnic particularism). The symmetry is striking.

Now, part of the problem here is that some of this resentment is well-founded. The antisemitic analysis overlaps considerably with Yuri Slezkine’s distinction between the “Apollonian” European nations and the “Mercurian” Jews (of course, Slezkine himself has been accused of antisemitism—indeed, how far is Apollonian/Mercurian from Aryan/Jew?). Israel is, indeed, an ethnically based nation (even if the reality is more complex, insofar as Israeli Jews in fact are comprised of many ethnicities), which will not be letting in Muslim refugees, or allowing for mass (or pretty much any) immigration of non-Jews. And American Jews, in both their corporate forms (the major Jewish organizations) and public opinion has been vociferously pro-immigration, including immigration from the non-Western world, for many decades—and, much of the impulse for this agitation has, in fact, been resentment towards the white, European homogeneity of the American population, and the assumption that Jews would be safer (and more powerful?) in a more ethnically diverse society. This is true to this day, as I am reliably informed by the Jewish media that I consume that, of course, as a Jew, I must be enthusiastically in favor of a continual flow of Syrian refugees and find Donald Trump’s proposals to the contrary utterly reprehensible. Even conservative Jews barely dissent, while bleating about “vetting.” The days when one could silence discussion of this issue through accusations of antisemitism are rapidly coming to a close—the more slowing down (at the very least) immigration, and ending illegal immigration, comes to be seen as an existential issue by the American “core,” or the “historic American nation,” the more likely a reckoning, as the aware and enraged will want to know where everyone has stood on the question of the demographic warfare carried out by the globalist elite.

But American Jewish support for increased Muslim immigration is a sign of a Jewish genius for collective suicide, rather than domination or destruction—predictions are usually off, but what can be more certain than that a critical mass of Muslims in America will make life untenable for the Jews, just as has been the case in Europe? This interferes with the antisemitic narrative. Meanwhile, Israel is heading in a diametrically opposed direction to that of Europe and the US—towards greater ethnic solidarity, and lesser willingness to make concessions that put their citizens’ lives at risk. This allows us to respond to charges of Jewish hypocrisy with the following query: do you genuinely want to adopt Israel as a model to emulate (with the consequence that you’d be ready to endorse their approach to the Palestinians), or do you prefer to hold onto your (culture of) critique? In other words, let’s cut the Gordian Knot—what Israel is doing is right (and those, in fact increasingly few, American Jews supporting them unequivocally are also right), while American Jewish support for immigration is terribly wrong—the most generous reading is that it’s a kind of PTSD from presumed American indifference to Holocaust refugees, but in that case it is still pathological. If you are first and foremost an antisemite—if antisemitism is your passion, your addiction—then you want to keep the Gordian Knot tied up, and you will end up with ridiculous pseudo-alliances with the Iranians, the Palestinians, and a host of other anti-Western forces (and with the left, which is already in an odd alliance with the Islamists), and forced to ignore or explain away pretty much everything they say about you as well. If, on the other hand, it is really preserving the American nation that concerns you, and your resentment of the Jews derives from that concern, then you will prefer to split off the Zionists from the immigrationists—and, in that case, you might find some Jews willing to add their voices to that critique of “hypocrisy,” and support Israel precisely by encouraging the US to take it as a model. (This raises a whole new kind of question for American nationalism—can Jewish Americans care more about Israel than other countries—would that not give them an interest in encouraging an “entangling alliance”? Of course, it doesn’t end there—can Irish Americans care about Ireland, Ukrainian Americans about the Ukraine, etc.? The anomalies of American nationalism will have to be reckoned with—but are not the Jews the most anomalous ones of all?)

For Jews, meanwhile, this means engaging what seems to be the permanent (if usually non-violent) Jewish civil war (something else the antisemitic narrative misses). This civil war now takes the form of Zionism vs. secular universalism—the Israelis are culling their secular universalists (and, not coincidentally, realigning Israel’s national “core” around religious Zionism,), just as American Jewry is (more slowly and hesitantly) culling its Zionists. What will the goyim think? It’s a real question, and there is a long history of the denunciation and expulsion of Jewish “traitors” who betrayed, whether under duress, due to venality, or out of conviction the secrets of the “tribe” to a hostile world—with Spinoza being the most famous example. In the connected contemporary world, this is a regular phenomenon, with the latest example being the Israeli leftist group “Breaking the Silence” slandering the IDF, and the Israeli government now putting in place a law to expose the foreign funding of such groups (and undercover Israeli amateur journalists exposing these groups’ dirty secrets and American leftist Jewish publications complaining about all this…) It’s all a kind of hostage taking, but rendered non-violent and symbolic by being played out in front of the world. The tendency, as seems to be the case everywhere these days, is towards exposure and revelation, towards speaking your mind when others urge you to mind your speech. Towards apocalypse, in other words. Let’s create a mode of rivalry whereby we treat our opponents and enemies as models for how to expose them, and through them, us as well, for what we all really are. Eventually, we’ll have to settle things and arrive at a new dispensation, but for now there’s too much that’s volcanically active but still hidden by our anti-discrimination prohibitionist regime. We need to see what’s there. Whoever can find a way to shed light on the resentments while minimizing action on them will save the day.

The Jews are always the most anomalous of the many anomalies of the nation; as the poststructuralists have taught us, though, the anomalous is the other that is constitutive of the same. The anomalous is normal—or, to put it in simpler terms, any identity involves an exchange (with debts and unrequited gifts), which makes it at least a duodentity. If the Jews didn’t exist, they would invent themselves. The most important kind of civilizational discipline is resisting the urge to eliminate anomalies. It’s often necessary to bracket them, though, or distill them into oppositions—in order to reconstitute and embody them again. One reason to support a return to nationalism is that nationalism embodies an acceptance of plurality, imperfection and uncertainty, and a rejection of utopian efforts to unite the world and end conflict forever, whether through some universal free trade regime or a global human rights regime. But nationalism itself doesn’t necessarily know this, caught up as it is with managing the boundary between its internal rivalries and its own rivalries with other nations—indeed, the nationalist is likely to view any disruption of this boundary with suspicion, as if an internal rivalry has been skewed unfairly by the infiltration by someone beyond the border. The Jews have obviously always been best suited for this role, while anyone could be the Jew in this sense. The most important role for Jews today in sustaining and elevating civilizational discipline is not to harp on each and every offense (descrying and decrying antisemitism everywhere). Rather, by taking literally the alt-right’s half sarcastic insistence that the West take Israel as a model, Jews should use that model, dispassionately, to delineate and itemize in increasingly detailed ways all the fault and boundary lines separating and associating civilization and barbarism/savagery today. Everything the Israelis are coming to learn they must do to preserve their island of civilization in a sea of barbarism becoming savagery is what the rest of the West that is determined to remain the West will eventually learn they have to do. Then, whoever overly resents that Jewish firstness will be writing their own suicide note.

January 21, 2016

Immigration (and then some other things)

Filed under: GA — adam @ 4:55 pm

Is there a single political theory, ancient or modern, that has anything useful to say about immigration? Probably, but I don’t know of it. I suppose it’s because the United States (and then the other Anglo settler colonies) was the first social order in which immigration plays such an important role. Surely there were arguments in the 1840s about (then mostly Irish and German) immigration; and, again, from 1880-1910 regarding the far larger (Italian, Jewish, Slavic) immigration; surely, someone has gathered the records of these debates, someone has written a scholarly monograph on the arguments made for and against over these periods—again, though, if so, I’ve never heard of it. This historical forgetting (and I don’t think it’s just me, otherwise we’d see both pro and anti-immigration arguments invoking the various so-and-sos who said x, y or z in 1885, or 1905, etc.) shows in the pathetic state of the ongoing debate over immigration. But it is at least easy enough to grasp a kind of intuitive, common sense anti-immigration argument: immigrants will work cheaper, undercutting wages, they will be from unfamiliar cultures, perhaps lacking the respect for rights, freedom and individual autonomy we value, they may become more like us but, then again, they may not. From a sheer risk assessment or immunological standpoint, it seems prudent to just keep immigration to a minimum.

But what is the pro-immigration argument? I’m going to construct one here, but I have to confess I can’t remember ever seeing one—the pro-immigrationists seem to have nothing to offer but platitudes about the US being an “immigrant” nation and some of the franker libertarians will assert that we benefit at least from adult immigrants since some other country has paid for their education, from which we get the benefit. But that’s not much—the pro-immigration position seems to rely completely on two things: first, a continual demonization of those skeptical of or opposed to immigration; second, a weird kind of emotional blackmail that goes something like this: if you, the immigration restrictionist, had had your preferred policies enacted in the year xxxx, when your (great) (great) grandfather and mother were preparing to come here, you’d be stuck in some God-forsaken hellhole right now. Now, you don’t want to leave yourself there, do you? For anyone other than a descendant of pre-Revolutionary Americans, there’s something convincing in this argument (if we could call it that)—it’s a call to keep faith with the past, to “pay it forward” by having the kind of faith in future immigrants that someone else must have had in your ancestors. But, insofar as keeping that faith comes into conflict with keeping faith with your own descendants, and leaving them a country at least as good as the one left to you, the latter faith must prevail. Which brings us back to the need for some argument in favor of immigration.

The arguments from the standpoint of business are clear enough—a vast reservoir of cheap labor enables, under some economic conditions, economic growth far greater than would otherwise be possible, and this, in turn, again, under certain conditions, benefits the native population, who can move up to less labor intensive jobs and benefit from cheap and readily available consumer goods. The 19th and early 20th century waves of immigration may have met these conditions (although I have to say I don’t really know—has anyone argued that the American economy would have grown faster or “better” in some sense without all that immigration?), and the cultural differences brought by the Eastern and Southern European immigrants may not have been that disruptive to American traditions (although here, as well, there is probably a good argument to be made to effect that these immigrants brought enough socialism and anarchism with them to tilt the US to the gargantuan state we now have—who voted for FDR, after all?). But today’s (mostly Mexican but also, increasingly, Muslim) immigrants aren’t rushing into major growth industries that will enhance our position as an economic superpower, are they?

There is one more argument in favor of immigration that I can think of, one that I don’t remember having seen made, but that must have been in people’s minds, especially around the turn of the 20th century. This is an imperial argument—if you, a second rank power who wants to play in the big game at a time when that game is getting very big indeed, and is drawing in other powers that were second rank not too long ago (Germany and Japan), wouldn’t a good way of doing so be to increase your own population far more rapidly than could be done through natural increase? And, at the same time, you poach from your competitors some of their most energetic and future oriented people. It may be the case that the US could never have won WWII (much less become the post-War leader of the “Free World”) without those tens of millions of immigrants (but perhaps they wouldn’t have had to fight it?—that is, we’d have to imagine an alternative history to assess these hypotheses). But it’s interesting that all of these pro-immigrant arguments come from the standpoint of the elites—the tycoons, the corporations, the politicians (and their academic and journalistic hanger-ons) who want a globe-spanning empire. (Has there ever been a majority of the American people in favor of immigration? We probably can’t answer that question but there are good reasons to doubt it—the restrictionist arguments all seem to come from the middle class.)

It has also been argued that emigration to the US served as a kind of safety-valve for revolution-fearing European states and ruling classes—but that wouldn’t have been America’s problem. Perhaps you need a large immigrant population to settle a new continent—but why? The West was pretty much settled by 1890, and, anyway, without the immigrants, Americans would have surely gotten around, perhaps a bit later, to building up California, Arizona, Nevada, etc. But the difficulty in sorting all this out reveals a basic assumption of modern political theories and assumptions about the nation-state—they all assume a static population. How would, say, social contract theory, need to be reformulated to include the assumption of a steady flow of immigration? But something else of great importance—something that, of course, we all know, but never seems to make it into political thinking—is revealed: modernity essentially shuts down the world. What I mean by that is that the migration of peoples is a basic fact of human history—people were always on the move, replacing, displacing and mixing with other peoples. No government until modern times had sufficient control over its territory to prevent this. All the causes of migration still exist—war, famine, drought, etc.—but people can today only migrate either with the permission of some state, or illegally and surreptitiously. We still have no solution to the inevitable problem of stateless populations, over whom some government must have control but for which no government wants responsibility. All we know how to do its try and make it someone else’s problem.

The American response to immigration during the first half of the 20th century is probably the only one with any chance at all of succeeding. This approach involved forced cultural assimilation, which means treating the immigrant as a kind of colonial subject who must learn the language and adhere to the norms of the dominant society. That also means there must be something to assimilate to—and something that can be assimilated to (unlike, say, ethnic homogeneity). The culture to which the immigrants assimilate must be esthetic and moral, not ethnic or religious. This may also require (at least in the US case it seems to have required) a (specifically political) founding event, reverence for which is assiduously inculcated. This combination of cultural elements will necessarily be very rare, and hard to sustain, as the resentment toward “Americanization” that it became safe to express from the 1960s on demonstrates. The ethnic origins and religious faith of the founders may turn out to be more intrinsic to the founding event than assimilationists would like to believe, which means that even apparently successful waves of assimilation may turn out to be less successful than assumed—and, certainly the more distant from those ethnic and religious conditions the successive waves of immigrants, more unrealistic expectations of reverence for them becomes. No one even seems to want to try anymore—the unspoken hope is that a shared social media, celebrity, pop music and video game culture will accomplish what censorious schoolteachers, a homogenous media and wartime solidarity and propaganda once did.

The Trump phenomenon has raised the question of whether the conventional left/right, liberal/conservative mapping of American politics is ultimately all wrong, or, at least, is less significant than an elite/people, ruling class/country class, globalist/nationalist, victimocracy/normal mapping. From the standpoint of an American nationalism, it’s remarkable to note that of all the items on the conservative checklist (small government, limited powers, free markets, anti-abortion, traditional morality, even gun rights and hawkish foreign policy), none of them intrinsically, necessarily, make the conservation of the American nation a priority. Who, though, does make the conservation of the American nation a priority? It may be only, or almost only, those workers in direct competition with the current wave of immigrants—those whom the blogger ArchDruid, in a a very interesting post John Gay just forwarded to the GaList, calls the “wage earning” class. The argument is that of the four economic classes in contemporary America (the “investor,” “salary,” “wage” and “welfare” classes), the investor and welfare classes are left pretty much the same by globalization and mass immigration, while the salaried class benefits (through lower priced consumer goods) and the wage class is devastated. That certainly brings things into focus, as the salary class includes government workers, academics, the media (i.e., the major components of the victimocracy) and, probably, most Republican “moderates” (who work alongside of and socialize with leftists). The wage class, meanwhile, are those Eric Gans has referred to several times in some recent Chronicles, drawing upon Charles Murray’s study of the economic polarization of what was once a more cohesive, less abrasive, series of gradations up the economic ladder, as the major “problem” for any contemporary politics that hopes to move beyond the victimary.

ArchDruid doesn’t give us numbers, so I can only guess at how many members of each class there are. That guess would be around 10% at the extremes, the welfare and investor class (maybe a bit lower for the latter); and perhaps around 35/45% for the salaried and waged. That would make the wage class a plurality, but not a majority—a coalition of the other 3 classes could always deny them power or, given the sharp conflicts of interest, any remedy or hope whatsoever. But that 45% could certainly make quite a commotion. It seems to be the core of the American nation (and probably, I would imagine, the source of most of our military and police). It seems likely that the only thing that would satisfy this American core is a cessation of immigration, and the expulsion of a very substantial number of the illegals. (They would also probably like victories in some trade wars—tariffs on China, etc.—but that’s more complicated, and the immigration moratorium would probably have enough of an effect to bring about some cross class solidarity.)

This has been a rambling post (and it’s not the first time in the last couple of months I’ve tried to write something on immigration) but I’m publishing it anyway, because I think I’ve arrived at a useful conclusion: any community, and society, has a core, which might be a substantial minority or an overwhelming majority. What makes them the core is that they resist inter-social merging—either the integration of their society into a larger one (they would be the basis of an anti-colonial revolt), or the integration of members of other communities into their own. There will be cultural and economic reasons for this resistance, or “allergy.” What brings about dangerous social imbalances are social and economic trends that undermine the position of the core, and/or put its interests at odds with the more peripheral (although perhaps more powerful) social elements. What gives cause for despair of the American polity is the difficulty of seeing why any of the other classes would be inclined to concede anything to the waged—indeed, from the perspective outlined here, we could say that the victimocracy is essentially a war by a large chunk of the salaried against the waged, a war in which the welfare class is used as shock troops and for psyops, with threatening gestures toward the investors serving as an ongoing distraction. It’s a war with an economic basis, backed by deeply laid cultural hostilities (by now unconcealed hatred), and a war the aggressors most likely think they are winning (or can even pretend they aren’t fighting). Trump, at last, gives the aggressed against a general—if he doesn’t lead them to some victories, someone else will rise from the ranks. Whatever that might look like, it’s preferable to the continuing destruction of the American core, because that way lies societal suicide.

A final word: it seems to me that a way of supporting the American core (the waged), beyond the absolutely necessary immigration moratorium, is to support the kind of labor that in its very nature cannot be outsourced and, moreover, can only very moderately be transformed technologically. House painters, plumbers, contractors, landscapers, electricians, mechanics and so on—all well paying jobs that require skills and discipline, but not 1300 SAT scores or the piling up of 100,000$ in student loans. All jobs that we will always need—any homeowner can learn to do a lot of these things, but most won’t, because of the law of comparative advantage, and because they won’t get as good at them as someone who does them professionally. All dignified jobs, which allow for independence and mobility—your life won’t be destroyed if the plant closes up or moves to the Philippines. I don’t know how many of the waged class are in, or could move into such occupations—but whatever can be done, e.g., through tax policies, the elimination of licensing requirements, the loosening of safety and other regulations, should be done to make these occupations viable. This seems far simpler than trying to change our trade balance with China. It would at least be a gesture of good will, if the salaried can accept paying a bit more for some of their amenities.

January 7, 2016

The Offspring of the Progenitor of Lies

Filed under: GA — adam @ 9:10 am

SJWs always lie. Why? Because they have decided to denounce the differences in civilized capacities (and their fruits) produced by differential discipline as unjust expropriations. It’s not immediately obvious why this is necessary in order to attack “privilege”—after all, there is far from a one-to-one correlation between self-discipline and “success,” by any measure—plenty of hardworking, talented, intelligent people fail through no fault of their own; even more obviously and egregiously, plenty of people seem to get rich, famous and powerful despite not being particularly brilliant or determined or worthy in any discernable way. If we wanted to, we might all have some interesting discussions on how to make the match between discipline and wealth and power tighter. But that discussion wouldn’t satisfy the SJWs because it would still leave the central point untouched: self-discipline is better than indiscipline, in any field of endeavor, and discipline must be inculcated, accepted and internalized. And if that’s the case, the first advice you would still want to give to anyone, no matter how unfair their circumstances, is to study and master your impulses, appetites and resentments; which further means you would judge their actions by how fully they display that mastery. And the insistence on demanding open-ended reparations would always, self-evidently, be understood to be subversive of such study and mastery. Victimary thinking is, most fundamentally, resentment towards civilization—a resentment only possible for the civilized, or those in close proximity to them. Rejecting the primacy of discipline and deferral (which, as originary thinkers know, is not just the source of personal success, or even of civilization, but of meaning itself) requires systematic lying. Every story, statistic or benefit demonstrating the link between discipline and world appropriation must be denied. All success must be at the expense of others, all failure must be due to injustice. Now, there are some strict rules regarding the application of this principle, and plenty of exceptions. There are big Others and little others, generating a hierarchy of oppression radiating out from the center of Western male whiteness (the description of civilization stripped of everything that makes it civilization), which allows, say, for mistreatment of black women by black men to be blamed on the Big Other of White Patriarchal Racism. And billionaires who benefit the cause are not really exceptions—rather, they are granted exemptions, putting their ill-acquired wealth to a good purpose. White male American soldiers can become victims of the American war machine. Etc. What matters is reducing civilization to a kind of negative image of your own identity politics, and you must say whatever you have to preserve that image.


An important corollary of this need to lie systematically is the imperative to attack avatars of the truth. Or anyone inclined to sympathize with bearers of the truth. Or anyone considering taking those truthful claims seriously. Or anyone insufficiently ferocious in denouncing those who tell or bear witness to the forbidden truth or “hate facts.” George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson have been confined to a kind of social limbo precisely because their accounts of the events that covered them in infamy turned out to be true. Only on the very margins of the nationalist right do I see anyone daring to say a good word about either of them. Talk of impeaching Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia started up when he mentioned in the midst of oral arguments the “mismatch theory,” that claims that Affirmative Action policies can hurt their intended beneficiaries by placing them in academic settings they are unprepared for—even though the “mismatch theory” is only basic common sense, unless one wants to argue that admission standards for universities fail to measure academic potential, i.e., are meaningless—in which case, why have them? Ayaan Hirsi Ali, meanwhile, who simply explains what Islam has to say about infidels, women and violence, is persona non grata at universities, and no doubt most other public arenas in the US. European journalists are losing their jobs for asking whether importing millions of Middle Eastern Muslims is a good idea. Democratic politicians are looking into suing oil companies and others for disagreeing with the ruling doctrine on the “climate change” formerly know as global warming. The list goes on. These truths—or, even, reasonable claims that might be proven more or less true—must be denounced as a priori thought crimes, and anyone referring to them other than to anathematize them must be vilified and, in general turned into what Giorgio Agamben calls the “Homo Sacer,” who can be killed by anybody but not sacrificed (Agamben, I assume, would apply the concept rather differently.). So, if SJWs always lie, they also always attack those who tell the truth or those who, even implicitly or indirectly, bear witness to the truth. But, also, then, those who don’t distance themselves sufficiently from those who are tinged by the truth. Those who would be kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind because if the kind are allowed to draw too much attention to their the treatment at the hands of the cruel kindness to the cruel would appear as indecent and untenable as it actually is.


Here, then, is where the apocalyptic politics I proposed in my previous post has its site of emergence—in being told, in sensing, that one “can’t say that,” in seeing others being censored, intimidated and punished for saying something that has at least some truth to it. Because in experiencing that violent concealment, in internalizing that imperative, one feels one’s own powers of expression and articulation being snuffed out. It’s a matter of simple intellectual and moral self-defense (or hygiene) that leads you to speak your mind (and the SJW’s customary virulence results from the violence one must first do to oneself to eliminate the temptation to listen to the truth). The analyses, inquiries, and rhetorical and political strategies follow: what, exactly, is that truth, or even that stray observation or remark that might lead one there? For whom would it be devastating to have it heard, and why? What does someone (who?) want to say that would be crowded out by that truth? If you are doing it right, you simply disclose, meticulously, what the discourse of the other has concealed, reading the obverse, so to speak—moral beliefs and political actions will follow and you will exemplify them. I believe that at the end of this line of inquiry you will always find someone who wants to defend or protect evil because punishing or fighting evil conceals the fraudulence of those who claim to be good. In other words, a defense of someone who has given in to indiscipline because those struggling with the limitations and paradoxes of deferral are really just as undisciplined themselves underneath it all, and they’re even worse for pretending otherwise. The founding imaginary of the victimary would then be a collective exposure of indiscipline, which would mean peace because only those who insist on discipline out of shame for their real feelings would interfere with this idyllic scene. A peace maintained by unanimous and feral antagonism towards those with pretensions of discipline. The endorsement of discipline is the highest hypocrisy. But, I must conclude by insisting that this theology derives from a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the doctrine of universal human equality, because if we are not equal to the extent that we have all recognized the demands of deferral, we can only be equal before we have done anything, before we have been tempted or tested—which is to say, we are equal in indiscipline, in our desires, fears, resentments, and sheer vulnerability to violence. The primacy of the victim (whose discipline or indiscipline can be “bracketed”) in doctrines of human equality is posited in order to conceal this blind spot. A fanatic of human equality (one who demands moves towards its instantiation immediately and denounces its every qualification) must in the end become an SJW.

January 4, 2016

A Kind of Apocalyptic Politics

Filed under: GA — adam @ 11:40 am

To replace victimary politics, without attempting to resuscitate liberal politics, I would propose a kind of apocalyptic politics. “Apocalypse,” after all, just means “revelation,” which would mean that an apocalyptic politics aims at revealing everything. This is a continual process, since every revelation conceals something else, so there is no “once and for all” revelation, just an ethics of revelation. Reveal what? The only thing worth revealing: the center. Not some object, but whatever some act of naming conceals while disclosing and drawing power from. This mode of engagement holds for allies as well as enemies: it is not intrinsically a hostile gesture.

Sometimes people lie for narrow, self-interested reasons; but the more interesting, more “noble” lies are attempts to defer some conflict that the speaker intuits will be accelerated or aggravated by the truth. When such lies work, they become established and sacred—they may even, in a way, become true. The claim that we defeated our enemies through self-sacrifice and the setting aside of petty resentments might be a lie, but might also inspire later generations to just such acts of heroism. But for the lie to become the truth in that way, it must eventually be over-written by some truthful embodiment of the narrative providing a template for the lie—otherwise, the lie becomes a short term solution that generates more long term problems. This is the case because the lie points to an absent center (some other time when people were brave and selfless), a center embedded in other practices and embodied in other events, all iterable; which is to say, a center sustained by some genuine deferral and discipline, which the lie was disseminated precisely in order to avoid attempting.

But disclosure and concealment are not just about truth and falsehood. A series of truthful statements can be just as obfuscatory as a series of lies. Language is performative, not propositional. On the originary scene, every participant “truthfully” converts his grasping movement into a gesture that “refers” to an actual object; but this “truth” is “communicated” only because each participant exposes himself to the possible violence of others—the gesture “stretches” and “spreads” the one giving the sign; a defensive crouch would not be “meaningful.” One might “translate” the gesture as follows: “I am desisting from what I might have done, and leave myself open to what you might do because what I might have done would have been done to prevent precisely that: what will you now do?” Perhaps nine out of ten times the other will now do what he can do; it is that one out of ten, or out of a hundred or thousand, that has given us language. The odds are not so different for each new act of disclosure, and correct and accurate uses of the sign after the danger has passed will always be suspect. This is the point of Philip Rieff’s notion of “charisma”: the magnetic effect of a display of deferral and discipline beyond the capacity of the onlooker, in which one oscillates between exploiting the “leader”’s vulnerability and taking him as a model for engaging one’s own inner scene (an inner scene revealed for the first time through the example of the charismatic).

As soon as I experience an ascension to a level of self-discipline that enables me to see that the other is taking a short-cut (perhaps perceiving the short-cut, and feeling the shame of wanting to follow, induces the ascension), inviting us to use the sign in a way requiring only a minimal show of faith, I want to propose the mode of self-discipline as a model by pointing out that the short-cut is really, from an angle of vision I can now access, a dead end. I want to suggest that the dominant strain of the Jewish and Christian civilizational spiritual machinery took such a short-cut, while recognizing the prodigious civilizational work accomplished as a result of the Jewish and Christian revelations. Of course, modern liberal democratic civilization has taken a much shorter cut: the gamble on institutionalizing and simplifying those revelations by encouraging the masses of liberated people to accept material abundance, safety, peace and a freer expression of resentments in lieu of deepening the civilizing process that made all this possible in the first place was the shortest of all short cuts. Compared to that, the centuries long work of converting barbarians to Christianity, the long moral plowing and sowing from, say 800 to 1500 CE, was a very patient and meticulous process.

But the roots of the victimary lie in the centrality of the victim to both prophetic Judaism and Christianity. Certainly, the sacrifice of Israel, victim of imperial conquest and exile; and the sacrifice of Jesus, contain a critical ingredient modern victimary thinking has dispensed with. In both cases, the victimization is subordinated to the disclosure: in the case of the Jews, what Eric Gans has called “narrative monotheism” disclosed history as what today we might call a “learning process,” in which redemption follows from one’s articulation of one’s failure to live one’s own disclosure; in the case of Jesus, what is disclosed is the consequence of disclosing, without compromise, the truth of universal moral reciprocity. A complementary disclosure accompanies the sacrifice of Socrates.

In both cases, the discrediting of the scapegoat mechanism implies the need to defend the victim of mimetic crisis. But how does one defend the victim of mimetic crisis? There are some material ways of doing so, such as physically confronting the attacker, or hiding the likely victim. But these direct defenses can only delay the unfolding of the crisis. The only real defense is to expose the lie that is the source of the crisis—that the Jews poisoned the wells, or whatever. If there is no lie, then we don’t really have a mimetic crisis, or a “victim” in the proper sense—we have an injustice to which a just response is necessary, even if that just response introduces new injustices. In that case, the point is not really the victim. And all the injunctions to care for the poor, the widow, the alien, etc., who are also not necessarily victims of scapegoating, will not address the crisis either. Let’s not forget, as well, that the powerful, in particular, the king, is most likely to be the target of scapegoating (even if he is better equipped to defend himself)—if our real concern is with controlling violence by arresting mimetic rivalry before it enters crisis state, the wealth and power of the victim shouldn’t matter; only the dispositions leading to the assault.

Those dispositions are revealed in the balance between disclosure and concealment in the “indictment.” If the accusations made against the king of betrayal or dispossession are carefully itemized and documented, made by those who renounce any benefit from the prosecution of those crimes, within the framework of a proposed process allowing for either reparation or orderly transition of power—well, then, disclosure likely outweighs concealment. The opposite is the case if the crimes adduced are implausible or unobserved, if the indictment is filled with projected fears of the accuser. Anyone can tell the difference if they really want to, even if specific cases can be tough to judge. The same is true of accusations made against the poor or marginalized. The rich will never be prosecuted for sleeping under the bridge and will never need to pick a pocket, but there are plenty of crimes that only the rich or powerful can commit—a mark of self-discipline is that you are willing to point out the crimes committed by either. The charismatic seeks out, or is drawn to those events where concealment crowds out disclosure, regardless of who is victimized, or how historically “important” the event, because it is the act of disclosure in such events that provides the most opportunity for increments of self-discipline as a public actor.

A politics or pedagogy of disclosure will attend to depredations and perversions of the rich and famous as much as to the pandering to the mob’s indiscipline. Even in the latter case, though, there are usually some rich and famous who are pandering to the mob. Victimary politics can very easily, and very truthfully, be seen as a kind of cold intra-white civil war, in which (to use john Derbyshire’s terms) the “goodwhites” struggle to distinguish themselves from the “badwhites” using POC as props—with both groups filled with fairly “privileged” individuals, while far from being wholly comprised of them. It is the goodwhites who are desperate to lie about, for example, Islam and black crime—Muslim spokesmen themselves hardly bother, and I suspect that a brief conversation with some inner-city blacks, whether criminals or those trying to survive them, would yield far more truth and display far more honesty than a host of sociological analyses of race, provided it be conducted far away from the cameras.

The goodwhites tend to be very disciplined themselves, while encouraging and excusing indiscipline in others—in particular, those worse off. It is right to insist that self-discipline start from the top, but easy to forget that those born into conditions created by generations of self-disciplining find self-discipline far easier, more natural and therefore easier to contemn than those who have never had self-discipline modeled for them, or understood its productivity. In this way, the private self-discipline of the goodwhites issues in a public indiscipline—a refusal to be charismatic, to present that self-discipline as a model, and embed it institutionally. This public indiscipline leads them into a pit of lies, as they must continually blame the conditions of the less successful on something other than insufficient discipline. The reason for this, though, is less softness regarding the underprivileged than fear of the cycles of competition set in motion by a culture of self-discipline. Interestingly, the main charge brought by the goodwhites against the badwhites concern the latter’s lack of discipline—their racism, sexism, warmongering, indifference to the environment, etc., are all results of insufficient inhibitions regarding appetites, pride and vainglory. Indeed, the badwhites tend to be those who want to see the immediate effects of discipline, being capable of further increments only once they have reaped some of those benefits. But they are capable of waiting, often quite patiently, to see—while being insufficiently confident in themselves as models, or having insufficient leisure, or feeling to resentful towards the less disciplined, to overtly “charismize.” Here, then, is where the contemporary conversions of politics into pedagogy must be undertaken—on the ways anyone with even a tiny increment of self-discipline more than another might model and frame that self-discipline as a self-evident good and as possible but difficult to attain. And this requires the self-discipline to exemplify humbly and implicitly—mostly by pointing out all the ways that, whatever injustices you may have suffered, more self-discipline must always be better (even in resisting injustice) than less.

Steadfast, unwavering charismatic disclosure is the hardest thing today. (Maybe always.) Without it, humans would never have made an inch of moral progress. Charismatic disclosure is therefore “apocalyptic” in the more common sense, insofar as it is always combustible, always raises hackles and induces shrieks. The angry response to disclosure must be used for further disclosure, to further undo the diffusion of concealment. That is extremely difficult. You need to be able to say something like: “I can see that you are very angry. Let me begin by saying I don’t care.” And then continue on, simply reading that anger back for your interlocutor, proposing the discussion that the anger seeks to preempt. Of course, there is also a righteous anger that pursues disclosure; of course, you have to be ready to have your own concealments exposed. That may be the most difficult part. The test, in the end, is grammatical: can you keep incorporating the other’s sentences into your own sentences in such a way as to account for the proportion between disclosure and concealment in every word? The words that go unaddressed in this manner represent fertile sites for further disclosure.

The center is what makes any mutual understanding (any joint attention) possible, so disclosure is aimed at interrupting concealment of the conditions of such understanding. The intuitive starting point must be what the other (or oneself) doesn’t want to say or hear, but that must be said or heard in order to sustain a center that is more than collaboration in concealment. In choosing to sustain the center, you make yourself vulnerable to the process of unconcealment as well. This really just involves following the presuppositions—one thing that you say is true, therefore something you have left unsaid must be true as well, and if that’s true… Ultimately, you all get to the center, and the conditions of sustaining attention to (“faith” in) it. The center, and those conditions are not a “final” presupposition but, rather, speech acts that frame possible speech acts in response—if the center is not disclosed in this way, then what gets disclosed is the absence of any center among the interlocutors, which is very useful information, while often being the most frightening discovery.

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