GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

April 30, 2016

Israel as Model

Filed under: GA — adam @ 9:35 am

I’ve mentioned a couple of times before that one of the favorite tropes of the alt-right is the use of Israel, partly enviously, partly mocking, always with some degree of resentment, as a model for what the US should do but is not “allowed” to do. The rich argumentative possibilities of this trope make it worth returning to in more detail, while the trope itself serves as a kind of model for the comparative mode of discourse in which political discussions (maybe all discussions) seem to be trapped. Is it possible to argue, evaluate, distinguish, praise and condemn, without comparison? Maybe, but we hardly ever see it—on the left, the entire discourse of “equality” is, of course, one extended comparison: if you say men can do this, why can’t women do it; you say this about blacks, but what about when whites…; if one form of sexuality is natural, why not other forms, etc. Noam Chomsky’s entire method of political critique is based on juxtaposing a statement made endorsing some American action with a statement made by the same or similarly positioned (there’s a comparison right there, already) person and pointing out that the same values are “hypocritically” applied differently to the respective actors. “If a Soviet leader said this about the USSR’s relation to Hungary we would be disgusted,” etc. But the right, especially in fighting back against the left, has adopted the same kind of attack on “double standards” and “hypocrisy” (you call use racists but look at black communities under Democratic control; you say we wage war on women but you say nothing about Muslim misogyny, etc.), without realizing that it locks in the very discourse of equality and anti-discrimination that can, ultimately, only ratchet up one way. The arc of emergent margins of discrimination is infinite and points left.

My theorizations of discipline and civilization have been intended, in part, to forge a path out of these resentful thickets. For example, David Horowitz is currently sponsoring the display of posters on San Diego State University campus that highlight connections between BDS activists and Palestinian terrorism. I have no quarrel with that, of course—it’s a courageous and effective strategy, because it forces people who would prefer to represent themselves as human rights activists defending the powerless to explain their relation to organizations that strap explosives on desperate teenage girls and send them to self-detonate on busses filled with civilians. What I think ultimately limits the effectiveness of such moves is the use of terms like “racist” or “hate speech” or “hate group” to identify the enemy. This is a perfect example of a kind of political jiu jitsu that only flips oneself—the terms are simply not reversible. Even the charges of “antisemitism” are attempts to draw upon some latent social consensus that would automatically de-legitimate the other side. You can’t, on one side, hollow out the charges of “racism,” “hate speech,” and so one by holding up leftist abuses of these terms to obloquy and ridicule and then assume they retain their old power when using them oneself. It’s better to transform the discourse altogether. The problem with the war on Israel that BDS helps wage is not that it is racist, hateful, or antisemitic but that it is a war of barbarism and savagery against civilization, with all the lies and lowering of inhibitions such a war entails. A young person asked me a very good, and, in retrospect, very obvious question recently: is it racist if it’s true? Once one realizes that the categories of hate, racist, sexist, antisemitic, etc., are not necessarily co-extensive with the category of “false,” the entire victimary edifice collapses—what we really should be objecting to is lying, “dyscivic” categories and indiscipline. Now, much of this comes out in Horowitz’s polemics—I’m not really arguing against him in particular. My point is that any civilizational politics must be interested, above all, in a social order immune to the extent possible to the left, and recycling to exploit essentially leftist categories weakens the immune system. To put it another way, rather than competing over who has most thoroughly repudiated firstness, firstness is to be systematically promoted.

So, if my response to someone who thinks that the economy of North Carolina should be destroyed because they want to keep delusional men who think they’re women out of women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, and so on, is that you’re waging war on normal people who commonsensically and correctly believe in the irreducibility of sexual difference and that you’re doing so in the name of the principle that the abnormal should trump the normal and incontinent the self-controlled, I don’t have to worry about juxtaposing what the SJWs say about women there with what they say about women here. Indeed, since “anti-racist” politics has become little more than the defense of the right of blacks to spread violence, feminist politics little more than the defense of absolute sexual freedom for women and absolute sexual restriction for men, LGBT politics little more than the imperative to reverse every natural, biological category possible, Palestinian and, more broadly, anti-“Islamophobic” politics nothing more than a defense of the rights of jihadists to go about their business unscrutinized and unhindered, and pro-immigration politics the global entitlement of non-Western peoples to reside in and transform the US, my civilizational, disciplinary approach seems like the intuitively obvious one.

So, why not toss the “Israel as model” approach as well? I’ve spoken before about how it works: American Jews supported unlimited immigration here and tightly controlled immigration into Israel; American Jews object to an ethnically based state elsewhere but support an unqualifiedly ethnic state in Israel; Israel builds a wall to keep out terrorists but any suggestion of a wall on the Southern border to stop illegal immigration (and drug and human trafficking—and, at some point, terrorism and other forms of violence) is deemed racist and fascist. It’s easy to counter-argue—well, what about the history of the Jews and the therefore special significance of Israel, isn’t Israel far more endangered than the US or other Western countries, what about the various, albeit more subtle ways Western states maintain a basic ethnic identity (apparently Germany, as I have learned from such arguments, has its own equivalent of Israel’s Law of Return, offering expedited citizenship to ethnic Germans who are citizens of other countries—presumably enacted to facilitate the repatriation of German “colonists” in Eastern Europe and Russia), etc. But this is all so tiresome and subjectivizing—who is to say how threatened by unlimited immigration Americans (let alone Europeans) should feel; who is to say that a white or Euro-American identity can’t be as authentic and worth preserving as a Jewish (or any other) one? If you accept the basic terms of the discourse and presuppose the argumentative unacceptability of “double standards” and “hypocrisy,” then you can’t endorse when it comes to Israel what you denounce when it comes to the US. What happens, though, if we reject those terms?

I think we best find that out by pursuing, not eschewing, the Israel as model trope. The very prevalence of this trope indicates that we are not, in fact, dealing with pure equivalences. Israel seems to be an untranscendable term in contemporary political logics. I’m never more pleased and grateful when I come across someone who is simply indifferent to Israel, because it seems so unlikely. Moreover, I think it is quite likely that the secular Jews who bore the main brunt, at least ideologically, of Nazi antisemitism, are fading into irrelevance and will hardly be worth worrying about within a few decades: they really only exist in any number in the US, where they are becoming fewer, more diffuse, less powerful, and less distinct from other Americans. Such transitions contain their own dangers, of course, but no one is, or will be, speaking of American Jews as a model to be either ironically resented or emulated. Only Israel will have that privilege. The victimary era opened with the racialization and extermination of the assimilating, subversive and vulnerable Jew and has come full circle with the Nazification of the self-differentiating, self-defending, traditional-modern Jew. As with any hermeneutic circle, it is a question of entering it the right way, and ultimately abolishing it by maximizing its presuppositions.

What Israel is most fundamentally a model of is the confrontation on the borderline between civilization and its others. As I have written before (without giving due credit to Lee Harris, who slipped out of my mind, as it had been years since I had read or, indeed, heard anything of him, but was still the one who got me thinking along these lines), constitutive of civilization is a dedicated forgetting of the emergence of civilization. No civilized person wants to think of the application of commercial and technological cunning to violence (to both other and self) that enables emergent civilizations to resist and subdue the often far more numerous barbarians and savages in the midst of whom the civilized first carve out a space. But this forgetting renders civilizations helpless against both external barbarians and savages and the barbarisms initiated internally by the various forms of decadence that are inevitable concomitants of civilization. Discipline is relaxed precisely when new modes and increments are needed. Israel was long ago identified by the Left as one of the “borderline” states (along with South Africa, Taiwan, South Korea, and a couple of others) in what it considered a conflict between the colonizers and the decolonized; that analysis can be embraced wholeheartedly with completely reversed valuations, along with the “pessoptimist” (I’m referencing an old novel by an Israeli Arab, Emile Habiby) assumption that this borderline is coming soon to a country near you.

I would suggest that in its politics, economic, culture, manners, attitudes, Israel is above all a country aware of the need to construct and defend civilization continuously. Violence is ever present, and one’s own violent men must be given free, but not too free, reign to suppress it. Sentimentalities like human rights and ever expanding equality are constant temptations, but never allowed to override brute realities. Ethnic cohesion is maintained, along with respect for more traditional religious forms, even when those forms are rejected and often disdained by the majority—there is an intuitive sense that such “reversions” provide a necessary ingredient of preparedness to act in concert in times of emergency. The Left, like some kind of chronic after-effect of a childhood disease, is always there, always painful and debilitating, but it can be pointed to as such, keeping the immune system working. The Supreme Court, the media, the academy and education systems in Israel are even further left and more arrogant than our own, and even the higher levels of the military and secret police are politically corrupted—the lure of international approval and even celebrity for exhibitionist dissidents is very hard to resist. But anyone following contemporary Israeli politics knows that empowered political actors attack this corruption, unapologetically and maybe eventually effectively, in tune with majority sentiment. The possible applications to the politics of other Western countries are fairly obvious.

So, Israel is a model for us insofar as it is one or two steps ahead of where we need to be very shortly, more, perhaps, as an object of study than one of emulation (but a bit of emulation may be warranted, as well), as test case of the problematics of defending against external threats and rehabilitating from internal disorders of civilization at the same time. The model can be turned, in very different ways, toward both left and alt-right—it would be a fascinating paradox if Israel were to become the first genuinely alt-right (i.e., post-victimary) country. There would be no need to insist upon an Israeli “exceptionalism”—one could hope for the end of Israel as model once what it is modeling becomes more widely distributed, while doubting the likelihood that such dissolution is imminent. But we would have moved beyond the resentful comparative discourses of double standards and hypocrisy insofar as we proceed to do (and learn from others) what the defense of civilization requires, rather than continually asking permission from some phantom authority to do what we fantasize some privileged other is allowed to do.

April 18, 2016

Nationalism, Globalism, Empire

Filed under: GA — adam @ 7:59 pm

The alt-right is, as much as it is anything, a call to arms in defense of nationalism against globalism—or, more specifically, the “global elite,” the network of corporate executives, media owners, bankers, politicians, and others who form consensus and strategize through Davos and other formal and informal global institutions. The globalists seek to reduce the world to a single economic and political unit, and whatever their own country of origin, citizenship or residency, refuse to privilege the interests of one nation over any other. If this is indeed the aim and outlook of the global elites, it’s easy to see that, barring a rather extraordinary, even miraculous, success in creating a harmonic convergence of some very divergent interests, such a project dooms the elite to, in the end, become the enemy of all nations. A very formidable enemy, to be sure.

A degree of commitment to supra-national order is inevitable once there are enduring international relations and institutions. One could easily imagine that the diplomatic corps of the absolutist monarchs of early modern Europe felt a kind of comradely solidarity with one another regarding the peaceful relations they sought to construct and, even more, felt they had a broader and more insightful view of the demands of keeping the peace than those whose viewpoint was constrained by their narrow, national perspective. And they would certainly have been right, to some extent. The same is undoubtedly true of those scientists and scholars who forge international connections within a “republic of letters,” a tenuous construct continually under threat from the irrational passions of national publics and politicians. Businesses and corporations that do business in China, India, Ghana and Chile must take an interest in the internal politics within those sometimes unstable polities; and, insofar as these businesses and corporations are fortunate enough to originate in countries powerful enough to take an interest as well, they will endeavor to ensure that that is the case. It is easy to see why the President and Congress of the United States might take a greater interest in the domestic stability of some faraway country than in the suffering of some relatively marginal domestic constituency. And it is also easy to see how easily they will convince themselves that this set of priorities will ultimately benefit those domestic constituencies as well. And sometimes, according to some measures, they will be right.

Just as any nation has a kind of “core,” a particular group or set of groups with which the national impetus originated and which still holds most tightly to strictly national loyalties and values, any nation will have a kind of “epidermis,” an outer layer mediating its relations to the rest of the world. In a nationalist order, this outer layer is rooted in the nation through the perpetual competition among the most talented of the nation to enter the intellectual and political elites, and through the national pride invested in the triumphs of those elites on the global stage. The globalized outer layer of the nation will certainly have attenuated loyalties compared to the core, but something else seems necessary for a genuine global elite, at odds with the nation, to emerge. That something else is imperial responsibility for a global order, which the US undertook following World War II. A kind of national pride can be sustained in such imperial projects insofar as the imperial reach seems necessary to combat some clearly dangerous foe, such as the USSR, derives from military victories over despised enemies, or provides new outlets for domestic energies and constituencies. In the case of the Cold War, which itself resulted from American inheritance of a world broken by two world wars, symmetrical rivalry silenced questions regarding what was essentially US governance of Western Europe and much of East Asia. Nor is there any point to condemning imperialism as such—in any case, the question would have to be whether there was a better viable alternative to imperial rule.

Once the Soviet Union fell, though, the imperial architecture became pointless. The U.S. should really have dissolved NATO, withdrawn all troops from Europe and Southeast Asia, and renormalized itself as a nation. But what national leadership could possibly give up all that power and influence, especially given all the private interests invested in the global U.S. protectorate, and the linking of the U.S. economy to the advantages accruing to the role of the dollar as global currency? Only a crisis could precipitate such a change of course. In the meantime, profits for US multinationals, cheap goods for U.S. consumers, and cheap labor for domestic American employers are intertwined with the gradual liberalization of China and maintaining the stability of Mexico as purposes of U.S. policy. The crisis of the world today is the crisis of the informal U.S. empire, whose fall would have devastating, if also liberating, but above all incalculable effects throughout the world. If we want to grasp the terror of U.S. elites at the rise of Donald Trump, it may very well lie in the possibility that he will bring this crisis to a head, and make clear what has already been the case for some time: that the global elites organized under the increasingly pathetic leadership of the U.S. has completely lost control of developments.

Those who subvert the nation from above will do it from below, as well. There are good reasons, beyond a fear of bad publicity, why most major corporations participate vigorously in victimary politics. It’s easy to think of victimary politics in very local terms, but ultimately victimary politics is, in Carl Schmitt’s terms, “planetary”: international human rights, rules for a global social justice convergence, demolish democracy, privacy, property and all forms of local autonomy. Failure to convincingly repudiate your whiteness makes you an enemy of humanity, anytime, anywhere: the very model of the unprotected class, or what Agamben calls homo sacer, upon whom it is always open season. It is a levying of the mob for imperial ends, and a very effective way of creating a terrorized, and therefore pliable, workforce. Even more than the rapidly accumulating economic and safety regulations, “anti-discrimination” (i.e., victimary) rules make it extremely difficult for small businesses and individual contractors to survive on the market: a single lawsuit can destroy years of work. All this means that anti-victimary and anti-imperial politics are one and the same now.

The Journal of American Greatness, an online journal dedicated to developing the parameters of what we might call a kind of ideal Trumpism, capable of surviving Trump’s candidacy, has drawn upon James Burnham’s notion of the “managerial class” in order to account for specifically globalized interests. The managerial class would coincide with what, drawing upon the blogger “Archdruid,” I called the “salaried” class in an earlier post. Of course, the global ruling class would draw primarily upon the upper layers of the salaried, but making the point that global power derives from knowledge and expertise, in navigating the terms of global power if nothing else, makes the question an especially difficult one (as the writers at JAG are aware). Such power can’t simply be seized like land or other “means of production.” The only way to break up the global managerial class and repatriate its various national sections would be to break up the empire. So, how to do that?

Well, first of all direct opposition at all the international organizations—fire away indiscriminately at NATO, the UN, the EU, SEATO, the World Bank, the IMF, plus a half a dozen others that must be out there that I know nothing about. Oppose, unconditionally, all trade agreements, which are nothing more than a slicing up of the world for the benefits of the corporations. It would be better to just have tariffs tied directly to the tariffs other countries set for us. Start with 10% tariffs for all, and if a country sets a 15% tariff for us, raise it for them; if a country sets its tariff at 5%, lower it. At least everything will be transparent that way, which at this point is more important than efficiencies (not that I concede that the current approach maximizes efficiencies). If all these institutions and arrangements are abolished, tens of thousands of ruling class managers will have no choice but to find some gainful employment in their home countries. Oppose all military interventions that don’t explicitly have victory (i.e., surrender of the enemy, along with reparations for any injuries suffered in whatever violation led us to go to war in the first place—and if we can’t clearly state such an injury, perhaps we shouldn’t be at war) as its one and only goal. Start developing a discourse of resistance and disobedience to all interpretations of anti-discrimination law aside from the most commonsensical (i.e., I’m not hiring you because you’re black, give me oral sex for a promotion, etc.). Point out that these, by now insane, laws serve no purpose but to divide us a hundred different ways.

The truest resistance, though, is “spiritual,” or self-disciplining—or, to put it in grammatical terms, imperative, located in the sphere of habits. To be a true American (or Canadian, or Brit, etc.) to demonstrate what it means to be an American (or…) in the workplace, in family life, in addressing friends and enemies in the world, and so on. To embody and project national honor, in short. Both the Tea Party and Trump supporters have exhibited such a sense of honor, however limitedly (in different ways, for different reasons, in each case). Maybe that smarmy piety, “who we are,” can be retrieved: we are slow to start wars, but quick to finish them; we treat all nations fairly, exactly as they treat us; we look out for common interests and enterprises, but for ourselves and each other first of all; the more you respect our borders and sovereignty, the more welcome you will be. Etc. For Americans this will really be “nation building,” as it has been a long time since we have just been a nation among others, with our own borders, our own currency, our own classes, our own universities, and so on—not to serve the world, not to convert the world, just to co-exist with them like everyone else.

It might be helpful to keep in mind that the empire is collapsing anyway—US reliability was already questionable, going back to Vietnam, but Obama’s presidency has thoroughly demolished it. Simply ask yourself: as a leader of another country, would you trust any commitments made by the leaders of a nation capable of electing and re-electing Barack Obama? I can’t believe many will answer yes (and those who would answer yes may be too stupid or irresponsible to make agreements with).

A final word. The end of empire would mean the end of political universalism. Universalism is really the imagining of the world under a single empire—not necessarily under the rule of a single individual or institution (but maybe that as well), but certainly all subject to the same regime of rights and their enforcement. To contend for universalism is to make war on the particulars—that is, everyone less universal than you take yourself to be. There can be no value or, as I would prefer, imperative, that can be equally urgent, legitimate and viable for all people at the same time. To be a universalist is simply to insist that others determine urgency, legitimacy and viability as you have. Instead of the tiresome debate over “universalism vs. particularism” we could speak of various degrees and modalities of civilization. We could speak more simply about what makes any social order a model others might emulate or from which others might recoil. The civilizing forces within an order are those who defend those shared habits worthy of emulation, or constructed out of emulation of another order, and look for new habits worthy of emulation; at the same time, those civilizing forces will look suspiciously and even hostilely at those orders containing little or nothing worthy of emulation—nothing we would have to elevate ourselves in order to adopt. All of these judgments are, of course, debatable, and a civilized order is one in which they are freely debated and acted upon.

April 12, 2016

Search Term

Filed under: GA — adam @ 3:59 pm

Are there differences between human groups? A moment’s reflection leads to the conclusion that the question can never be definitively answered in the negative: even if contemporary research showed there to be no differences (assuming it could really show that if we kept adding—so to speak—more decimals), we couldn’t exclude the possibility that some differences would be uncovered by future research. The same is true if we add “genetic” or “biological” to the sentence, to modify “differences,” as it will never be possible to show that whatever differences we do find, and however many cultural and historical causes we can supply for them, there is absolutely nothing irreducible to those causes and that must therefore be deemed of biological or genetic origin. The intrinsic openness of the question confronts us with a choice: either insist that no one inquire into such differences, or that no one discuss or draw conclusions from them if some are imprudent enough to inquire, on the one hand; or, find ways to incorporate the findings into our ongoing social dialogues. For about 70 years we in the West have chosen the first option, for understandable social and ethical reasons, but ultimately at great cognitive cost. And even the social and ethical reasons have been exhausted: if the purpose of suppressing discussions of human bio-diversity (from now on HBD, as one now finds it in the blogosphere) is to prevent genocidal designs of some people on others, we can now see that the conflicts engendered by the need to suppress discussions of HBD might have equally explosive outcomes—outcomes which, at this point, are far more real than the merely speculative ones imagined on the Nazi model.

Of course, a more mundane purpose for suppressing HBD inquires (and open discussions thereof) is to smooth out the daily interactions in a diverse social order. In so many cases we need to treat each other in terms of our behavior in specific settings, making the necessary generous assumptions, and coming to social interactions filled with awareness of differences regarding average IQ scores, or propensity to violence, or disinclination to control appetitive or sexual desires, or paranoid fear of persecution, or any number of things we are likely to discover about one group or another, can only make such disinterested openness to the other more difficult. It would certainly be unpleasant to work and socialize with people who you know think that the ethnic, religious, or racial group they take you to belong to represents a net minus in terms of their social utility, even if they treat you with perfect civility. But is it really better to imagine that others are approaching you with all kinds of invidious assumptions but are simply afraid to state them? If inquiries into HBD continue and expand, and the results become more broadly known, but prohibitions on public discussions of these results remain in place, that will surely be the situation we face. The pressure will build either to have the discussions, or to suppress even the inquiries. If we are to live with each other, eventually we will have to do so with the growing knowledge of all that we are.

Maybe we will find that the differences between social groups are not great—much less, maybe, than differences within groups. Maybe we will find that most of the differences are cultural and historical, and hence can be eliminated (although that “hence” may be a leap of faith), rather than biological and permanent. Maybe we will find that the differences are not very significant, entail no real conflicts of interest, and pose no real obstacle to living together as citizens within a modern state. But we can’t count on any of this, and for the reason I gave above, we could never simply arrive at such conclusions once and for all. We will, eventually, need to find some way of speaking openly about HBD, wherever such discussions lead. Whether we can have such discussions without tearing apart the fabric of civil society will be a test of our moral, ethical and cognitive maturity.

The most important sign of such maturity would be an ability to think probabilistically. If we are frank, we will admit that the real reason for the prohibition on “generalizations” regarding groups is that we assume (not without reason!) that most people are too stupid to refrain from applying generalizations directly to each individual. Real probability theory is advanced mathematics, beyond most of our comprehension, and it’s mathematics, so not directly translatable into language or ethics. But we all work continually with tacit algorithms that do probability calculations in real time in everyday situations: it is practice in this that needs to be encouraged, and the best practice is non-acrimonious discussions of various probabilities. No one is always and everywhere afraid of all members of a particular group; or finds it necessary to mistrust every member of a particular group; or excludes a priori a particular group from everything. One fears, mistrusts and excludes, more or less justifiably, under specific conditions. More obvious markers, like those of race, matter, but so do dress, manner of speech, time of day, etc. If we are not to destroy each other, we must be capable of exploring these boundaries, where due to reasonable causes fear and mistrust spike, openly. The discussions will not always be pleasant, but it’s worth keeping in mind that if we don’t know the proportion played by culture and individual discipline in determining habits, we can at least be sure that it’s more than zero, and so efforts to transform oneself and reassure others are not necessarily in vain.

The real problem with racialized thinking is that it is intrinsically totalitarian—Hannah Arendt was right, in this regard, about the parallel between “race” and “class” as governing concepts of political order. Just as the Bolshevik must always distinguish between the true revolutionary and those who are in some way compromised by or implicated in the class enemy, so the racialist must always find a distinction between the more and less racially pure, and seek to expel or destroy the latter. If we take “white” as a racial category, we will find those who are more and those who are less white—with no real way of settling the question other than war. But this very fact makes HBD more worth engaging—the answer to invidious distinctions along race lines is to introduce another search term, to generate a new “sample” to measure against a new “whole.” White vs. black IQ—alright, that’s interesting; what about French vs. Russian? Spanish vs. Lithuanian? English vs. Welsh? No field of inquiry can be restricted to the most immediate and hotly contested political issues. Is IQ the only issue worth inquiring into? Or body size and shape? What is measurable and what is not? What differences between the relative contributions of genes and environment will we find in the various fields of human endeavor? Of course, none of this means that certain prevalent distinctions (like white/black) won’t have a rough accuracy to them, or be more salient to more people in more situations—the point is how to incorporate these distinctions into social dialogue once their mention can no longer be punished.

Charles Sanders Peirce considered genuine knowledge the knowledge of the relation between proportions within a sample and proportions within the whole. He took the simple example of a bucket filled with white balls and black balls. Let’s say I take 10 balls out of the bucket. There are 7 white and 3 black. The proportion in the bucket as a whole is either different or the same (probably at least slightly different). How can I tell? (Let’s say the bucket has too many balls in it to simply count them all.) I keep taking more samples and I start averaging them out. I start considering factors that might bias the samples, and compensate for them (perhaps, for reasons I don’t or can’t know, the black balls tend to cluster to one side of the bucket). Things are obviously far more complex in social matters: there can always be different ways of identifying a “whole” and different ways of selecting “samples.” We could say that all of our arguments are about what we consider relevant sample/whole relations—in which case, it would be good if they were more explicitly about this. When we present ourselves to each other, we always present ourselves as a “sample” of some implicit whole to be construed by other participants on the scene. Several samples, of several (overlapping) wholes, in fact. The way to counter stereotyping (the insistence that samples are identical in their proportions to the whole) is to be a sample that differentiates itself in some way from expectations of the whole. In this way, HBD inquiries become more productive than frightening.

The sample/whole relation translates into the rhetorical trope of synecdoche: taking a part for the whole. This is actually the normal mode of human engagement, where we take a particular statement, gesture, or aspect of the person’s appearance as a proxy for the person as a whole, at least for the purposes of that engagement. If the engagement or person is important enough, we keep selecting different proxies until we imaginatively reconstruct a more complex, fairer “profile” of that individual. What we always do tacitly we may have to do more explicitly, insofar as HBD inquiry will increasingly become central to anthropological understandings—and, as I have argued, that development is the only alternative to the perpetual cultural terrorism of the SJWs. What it means in practical terms is people moving past what I think is the default modern desire to be judged “as an individual,” to an awareness that, in ways we like and in ways we don’t, we are each of us an assemblage of “samplings,” which we manipulate within limits. (It might be that leftist identity politics has helped paved the way towards this mode of social being.) The pervasiveness of social media, which label us and force us to label ourselves in myriad ways and, of course, is central to the emergent algorithmic culture, will probably make such self-understandings matter of fact. Making us all conscious participants in and subjects of the ongoing HBD inquiries that will comprise any post-victimary social order. If we’re going to have biopolitics, it might as well be explicit and informed biopolitics.

April 8, 2016

What is Happening

Filed under: GA — adam @ 3:54 am

First, a bit of a review of the alt-right, not in terms of beliefs, ideas or opinions, but as a product of the political field generated by the rise of the victimary. Victimary activists discovered a very neat trick: since we have all agreed that human equality is the fundamental presupposition of a modern political order, pretty much anything actually existing can be denounced as a reactionary violation of fundamental political principles. Income inequality—the rich are stealing from the poor, with the help of bribed politicians. Racial differences in academic success and crime rates—educational institutions incapable of recognizing any forms of intelligence or accomplishment other than familiar, “white” ones; suspicious white citizens and racist police inclined to see blacks as criminals (whether higher rates of black crime are fraudulent rationalizations of racism or products of it is a secondary question). Women are more vulnerable physically and more likely to suffer consequences from sexual carelessness—a patriarchal system bent on exploiting women. Etc. Since reality will always generate these and other differences, these denunciations can go on forever (that’s what makes it such a neat trick).

Now, if you as, broadly speaking, a “conservative,” wish to defend the institutions generating (and “legitimating”) these unequal results, you can respond in a few different ways. You can insist that the institutions themselves are neutral, and will, over time, include more and more of the excluded, thereby smoothing out, gradually, the inequalities. In this case, you accept the premises of the victimary, along with its ultimate goal, and even make sure to define worthwhile institutions in terms of their promotion of fairness. But, of course, your projections might be wrong. Or, you can denounce the same inequalities, but blame the victimary movement itself, for “entitling” and thereby disabling women, blacks, and others from participating in modern institutions. This argument, to the extent that it is sincere, and not opportunistically seized upon for its polemical advantages relative to the first approach, asks the victimary subject to abandon the political representation that addresses its demands in visible ways for a vague faith that genuine fairness can replace privileged treatment and, even more importantly, that one will be just as likely to succeed under a “fair” order. These are the approaches, respectively, of the “mainstream” and the more “militant” conservative (National Review on the one hand, and Breitbart and Frontpage on the other—although Breitbart has been more than dipping its toe in the alt-right stream lately).

The alt-right has emerged as a result of the realization that there is another possible response. This response is that, however necessary formal equality is for certain purposes, substantive claims of equality are, at the very least, unproven, and observable differences are more likely than not real. There is room for debate here: one might be certain about the relevant differences across groups or one might consider it an open question pending much more research; one might consider those differences biological or cultural and historical. Either way, one’s response to the left can now be based, not on a different wrinkle in the modern ideology of non-discrimination, but in an unrestrained immersion in the busting of lies and the fearless exploration and publication of the truth. From this perspective, the left can be treated, not as overly idealistic, or even as a racket, but as at war with knowledge, reason, truth and the civilizational discipline required to promote all of the above. Their complaints are nothing more than pleadings on behalf of those who find more advantage in parasitizing upon civilization than competing within and contributing to it. No concessions need be made here—indeed, what would be concessions granted by the other approach here become weapons in the counter-attack (isn’t suggesting that such and such a group acts as it does out of mistrust and fear due to historical oppression tantamount to disqualifying members of that group as rational citizens capable of engaging in the search for truth and agreement?) The liberatory effect of adopting these premises is palpable: if one makes a claim regarding differences between men and women, blacks and whites, gentiles and Jews, first world and third world, one can respond to the rote charge of “sexism,” “racism,” “anti-semitism,” and “ethnocentrism” with a request that one’s claim, instead, be disproven, if possible. Needless to say, this very civil response to virulent denunciation (why not consider the possibility of human biodiversity?) has its own deeply polemical and polarizing consequences, simply because of the shape of the field it is entering. But it is fundamentally civil, asking for shared discursive terms rather than reactive denunciations of “hate speech.”

Now, where does this all lead: what happens if speaking openly about human differences (how fascinating it is that the alt-right simply realizes the slogan—difference!—that was all the rage in the leftist academy in the 1980s), along with the freedom to act on the conclusions (always provisionally) drawn regarding them becomes the norm. My previous post, “Playing the Odds,” was an attempt to begin speculating along these lines. A decisive alt-right victory would require an essentially revolutionary overthrow of today’s global elites (what Walter Russell Mead has called the “Davoisie”), and that’s difficult to get a complete picture of, but we can think in terms of the ascendancy of alt-right tendencies. The alt-right would act on probabilities, which is normal (by definition) but radical in a social order dedicated to denying them and denouncing those who mention them. This tendency would manifest itself in various forms of secession, which only needs to overcome taboos dating back to the Civil War to become legitimate. Already, states have tried to take control of immigration policy (Arizona on one side, “sanctuary cities” on the other), and have and are essentially boycotting states that try to defend themselves against the latest from of cultural warfare (Minnesota, New York and Connecticut banning state funded travel to states with “religious freedom” or, more bizarrely, sex-specific bathroom laws). Such outbursts should be encouraged, as they habituate us to the notion that we are really different countries, and perhaps should start exploring ways to arrange for an amicable separation. What we will see more of, whenever and to the extent that it becomes possible (which is to say, to the extent that one doesn’t find oneself in the cross-hairs of one or another federal agency), is people building neighborhoods and founding schools that prefer one type of person over others. To draw upon a very interesting discussion from Nick Land’s monumental “Dark Enlightenment” essay (which I, astonishingly, only came across very recently), this would be an extension of and fight for the right to “white flight.” (A right the Obama administration, through HUD, the Justice Department and Department of Education, is currently seeking to abrogate.)

One, fairly obvious and moderate, form of secession or exodus will inspire others. New means of protecting property and assets from oversight and taxation (hiding things on the “dark net”; bitcoin, barter, black markets, etc.); new means of evading governmental regulations (perhaps through open bribery as government systems become more corrupt); new means of protecting local determinations of security protocols from federal (or even state) interference (perhaps by coopting sympathetic members of the official security forces); legal strategies for overwhelming the state with lawsuits and practical strategies for draining the resources of government bureaucracies . A secessionist alt-right is capable of realizing and showing others that the victimary politicization of all that exists can cut both ways: every difference, including differences within the government agencies, can be capitalized upon. In the process there is no need to assume we will see anything nearly as crude and brutal as Jim Crow-style segregation—but no doubt members of readily identifiable groups will be welcomed in varying degrees and subject to varying degrees of scrutiny. At the very least, one can assume such affiliations will be taken as markers of how much loyalty and compatibility can be expected from an aspirant member of some community, albeit in mostly informal, tacit ways. It is important to keep in mind that under the polarized conditions I am assuming, high barriers to entry will be essential to maintaining freedom and openness within these secessionist communities. If you don’t look like you belong, you will have to prove that you do—but I see no reason to assume that individuals won’t be given that opportunity.

I do think that some degree of white racial solidarity will be an intrinsic component of alt-right tendencies, and not only because a natural, nativist response to the virulent and frenzied anti-white hatred of the victimary left is the smoothest path to alt-right sentiments. Even more, as I have described it above, the alt-right trends elitist: it would be an assertion of the rights of the “winners” to not be dragged down by the “losers.” Of course, we can define “winners” broadly: it can comprise 70% of the population: we’re not talking about a few Nietzschean supermen or John Galts, simply people who make it over the hurdles life places before us. But it will have to be made as inclusive as possible: 50%, for example, might not be enough. If the alt-right cannot include the deindustrialized and demoralized white working class so central to the Trump campaign (many of whom, by most objective measures, are “losers”), which is to say, more mainstream, populist alt-rightism, then its struggle will be much more uphill than it already is. Whatever inclusion might result from enhanced economic productivity by a more ruthless alt-right corporatism, at least some of this inclusion (at least some of the definition of “winning”) will have to be on shared racial grounds. Even more, if the new secessionists are going to be able to resist state encroachments upon whatever space they acquire, or even just keep the state as much off its back as possible, it will need to have sympathizers within the states apparatuses of coercion, and the most likely ground of solidarity for the lower-to middle class whites who largely staff those apparatuses will be racial. Non-whites and non-Christians (and certainly non-white non-Christians) will have to consider whether they will be more comfortable or, even more fundamentally, more likely to thrive and even survive, in an openly White/Christian society than in a majority minority one. Of course, if you believe that the advent of a majority minority society will not alter liberal democratic institutions (such as they are) in any significant way, you can defer posing the choice in these terms. If the alt-right is right, you will not be able to defer it for long.

If the alt-right finds coherence by insisting upon a strictly probabilistic reading of reality, i.e., a full acceptance of “human biodiversity,” then it might turn into the incarnation of the fully algorithmic social order that digital civilization points towards. As more and more safety features and feedback mechanisms are automated, the world will come to “read” each of us as a particular aggregate of probabilities, not only when it comes to insurance, health care and policing, but employment, investment decisions, environmental policies, perhaps even the selection of political representatives and judges can be left to finely tuned algorithms—and perhaps, as biotech advances, sophisticated algorithms will enable some form of eugenics. The management of violence will be in much better hands, as violent potentialities will be detected and countered (also in automated ways) well before violent intentions can be brought to fruition. It’s hard to tell what we humans will be doing in this world (which we are already well on the way towards), but one thing many of us will be doing is trying to prove the algorithms wrong in our particular case and thereby revise them. Members of groups marked as relatively dangerous or untrustworthy will have to double their efforts to persuade the algorithm, far more discerning and coldbloodedly neutral than even the most aspergery human—that will be their moral obligation, and the moral obligation of the rest will be question the terms of the algorithm when it contradicts their own sense of a particular individual. Phenotype can resist genotype, exception norm: rule by algorithm might generate more striving, rivalry and psychological complexity than the traditional liberal order. The transition to such an order, for many on the alt-right, will be fairly seamless.

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