Scraps 3: Hoffer and Performance Art

What didn’t fit in the earlier post, in no particular order.

I

The old joke is that you’re a radical until you leave college. I assume this is something like Santa Claus for parents. Everyone knows it’s make-believe, but that believing makes Christmas: maybe this year Andrew will stop dumpster diving and calling himself “Skiv”. Of course, Skiv persists.

I admit that Andrew normally comes back, but it has nothing to do with growing up. He may retain some earlier politics, but even if he still Berns he’s got to admit that Kaine is kind of cute and [other liberals-get-the-wall-too things here]. Much like Christmas presents, the truth is a lot more banal.

Radicals tell themselves that this is because [White Collar] is now in the system and he’s protecting his privilege. On the other side, Andrew perceives this as resentment – Skiv never grew up, he’s a purist despite the trash, etc. Neither Skiv nor Andrew is wrong, and they’re both lying. Skiv’s frustration is real, but it’s not from the system; Andrew did renege but not ideologically, and what Skiv perceives as lip-service to [radical cause] really is that. More accurately: lip service to a movement. [Kulak] joined the system, but he isn’t “bought off” – he just got a job he cares about. Hoffer: It’s about doing something, anything, whatever fills the day with means-a-thing.

I’ll be damned if it’s r<0.5 for service job and Stalin memes, but that says nothing about service work itself. Sure, “a good job stops radicalization” is pretty obvious, but the import isn’t the kind of job. People doing things on the side is just as good. Take Gramsci-quoting art majors: the least radical artists I know are the ones actually fighting cultural hegemony, i.e. consistently making art. They might make coffee on the side, and they might draw Che in the foam, but they aren’t the core believers of any movement. This isn’t dissonance, it’s the same thing with writing about meaninglessness: it gives you meaning despite yourself.

Related, sure to piss someone off: who’s the most desperately radical person you know? The correct answer is “trust fund kid who doesn’t have to work.” That’s true of either side, left is just more popular right now. See also: tankie twitter.

Hoffer: people don’t become moderates (broadly interpreted) from socioeconomic status alone. It’s from working on something they care about. Turns out the Christmas Miracle is much like Santa Claus’s presents: it mostly comes from the daily grind.

That sounds obvious now that I’m writing it, but it’s a helpful reorientation. Still, Hoffer’s not a one-stop-shop, and I don’t mean this as some political supertheory. He gets you about 60% there. 10% is noise, and the last 30% is people navigating the channels to power. I believe the term to explain that is “comparative advantage”. Think about it.

II

Economic or familial instability (or both) can set a mass movement off. This advantages the left. Both sides may prey during the tumult, but only the left can easily cultivate the latter.

Right-wing movements have the “family” front and center. This means, of course, that they’re hopeless at obviously spreading familial discontent. The key word is “obviously”: they have to either bait the opposition into it or subsume the traditional family into a larger familial-like structure. The former happens all the time, but it’s not enough and most mass movements on the right fail to properly capitalize on it. The latter is both more successful, thankfully rarer, and terrifying.

It’s notable that successful right wing mass movements have been nationalist before all else, and all of them metonymically turn the nation into family. This maintains some vague adherence to their ideology while freeing them to actually destroy existing familial institutions. The priority of the nation is the critical motion: for most of those the family may be considered an enemy if it stands against the nation, in exactly the same way one can keep a family intact but disown any member that shames it. “Enemy of the nation” is so vague  – essentially meaning “not a member of this group” – as to allow for the destruction of previous units. The Hitler Youth are a striking example of this – anti-Nazi sentiment in the family was to be reported to superiors. Authority is distributed by the party for the nation.

I suspect there’s a similar dynamic with regard to fascist views of husband and wife. A heavy emphasis not merely on separation between men’s and women’s roles but on the inherent superiority of the man’s disturbs a previous dynamic. I’m not saying things weren’t patriarchal beforehand, I am saying that extreme-right movements exacerbate it and play on the tension.

For the love of God don’t confuse this warning for advice.

III

As they say, epistemic status: really fucking wild guess.

I’ll get into this more with Lasch, but I think this is an interesting explanation for why Marxists (and the left generally) have recently adopted Freudian and Neo-Freudian paradigms. We accept it now, but it’s somewhat bizarre: Freud is not generally known as an egalitarian thinker.

A common response is that this is part of the left’s insistence on a blank slate view of human consciousness. I admit that the left loves Slate, but: a) Marx did not have a blank slate view of human nature. If people could simply adapt to any economic situation without problems, he would’ve been fine with capitalism (much more on this in some later piece, don’t come at me with a vague reading of the Manifesto). b) Freud, whatever you want to say about him, was definitely not a blank slate thinker. He may have prioritized developmental stages, but you need some underlying structure, some inherent neurology, to assume they can be uniformly analyzed. Civilization and its discontents implies [do I need to point this out?].

However, adopt a certain Marxian view of social change. Internal contradictions of economic forces will push society to destroy itself. One of the primary forces you’re going to see throughout history is economic, but one if its signs will almost always be the decay of the family. If you squint real hard, and you view all of these as developmental forces, and it looks like a way to make Marx and Freud track.

More: you’re also going to see the right adopting a patriarchal family to maintain its power, and I bet you can [something something] Oedipal complex this, especially because you’ll watch it undermine itself with this (see above). It’s not perfect, but you can basically pattern match economic stages to familial ones to developmental ones and all of it will relate to real political events. It doesn’t really matter if it’s from Freud or not, nor if it has anything to do with psychological effects: pseudo-father-figures keep filling the void, and someone has to explain that to you.

IV

A general complaint about the left (often from the left) is a) that they aren’t very good at exciting the working class, and b) they aren’t very good at formulating actual goals. These are often connected, and it’s hard not notice that all of these are relatively popular positions: universal healthcare, unions, increased taxation, etc. I could go down the left shopping list, and almost all of them are above 50%. See also: this Jacobin article.

The only left goal that lacks popular support is cultural. For instance: free speech is hate speech, and/or violently eradicating all -isms, where “-ism” means “the entirety of pop culture depending on analysis, and most definitely everyone besides you and your friends”.

So, of course, that’s is what the left spends all of its energy on. No, not all the left – I mean the left’s mass-movement wing. Its social power.

This is no accident. Hoffer neatly resolves it: widespread frustration from the lack of politically feasible goals is precisely the point. It’s immaterial whether a movement is trying to achieve its goals. It’s not in competition with political forces – it’s in competition with other mass movements. And mass movements don’t grow from victory, they grow from frustration.

Related: critique as praxis, which becomes critique of critique-as-praxis, which becomes critique of critique-of-critique-as-praxis, which becomes…

V

Marina Abramović performed Rhythm 0 in 1974. NSFW, really. Abramović stood next to a table with 72 objects: roses, grapes, feathers (Abramović: things that cause pleasure), but also scissors, knives, a gun and ammo (things that cause pain). The 73rd object (her, according to her own account) stood still next to it. She would not move and she would not respond to questions or provocations. Until the end of the performance, the public could do as it wished.

You, reading this, know I chose this story for a reason. Here’s when someone finally loaded the gun:

rhythm01

This was a development. According to a present critic, whose quote I pulled from wikipedia because I’m not going to read a full book on this:

It began tamely. Someone turned her around. Someone thrust her arms into the air. Someone touched her somewhat intimately. The Neapolitan night began to heat up. In the third hour all her clothes were cut from her with razor blades. In the fourth hour the same blades began to explore her skin. Her throat was slashed so someone could suck her blood. Various minor sexual assaults were carried out on her body. She was so committed to the piece that she would not have resisted rape or murder. Faced with her abdication of will, with its implied collapse of human psychology, a protective group began to define itself in the audience. When a loaded gun was thrust to Marina’s head and her own finger was being worked around the trigger, a fight broke out between the audience factions.

The last piece of information: the moment Abramović finished (at 2am – she followed through to the conclusion), the audience fled. By her own account, they were terrified to look her in the eyes. Addressed as individuals, all former power vanished.

There’s probably enough data here for psychologists to spend years on. The most interesting thing to me is not “people are wild beasts”, which appears to be how most people take this. I’m ready for you, guy in the comment section: I know that this proves that democracy is bad, and also something with the word demolatry. You’re wrong. It’s the opposite.

This was no random trial group but self-selected members of the elite, and specifically of the performance-art-elite. Who else goes to exclusive Abramović pieces? They weren’t brutes looking to mangle some great artist out of sheer barbarism. The audience didn’t bring in their own props, they used hers. These were people who wanted to be the art. More important: they were invited to.

“What I learned was that… if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you,” Abramović said, but she didn’t leave it to the audience. Like any good elite, I’ve personally watched the most boring, motionless art imaginable. While I admit to certain impulses, at no point did I act on them. Abramović explicitly made herself the object – with a sign that said, unsurprisingly, “I am the object” – and wrote “I take all responsibility” in the leaflet. That isn’t relinquishing power, that’s displaying it. She had to have to power to allow audience members to free themselves.

Better: everyone performed their role beautifully. Clint up there tried to make her shoot herself, and it’s hard to think of a better metaphor (despite it being somewhat obvious, good try but still a gauche B+). Add to this the fact that Abramović wasn’t an unknown quantity: she was already famous as an artist who endured and caused pain. Everyone going into the performance knew what she wanted to get out of it, what would make a successful performance, and helped her achieve that. Abramović’s take misunderstands her own art, bad, and she misunderstands her own power, terrible.

So why flee? Suddenly they were responsible. When the performance becomes recognized as such all illusions are dropped. Suddenly you’re identified as the individual you’ve been all along, you’re no longer allowed to dwell with the Olympians, to share their innocence. CF Hoffer and the role of giving your responsibility to the leader, as well as the resulting horror at the discovery that you were the one who did a thing. That’s not simply because people felt guilt. Note that the “protective group” fled as well – they weren’t protecting her, they were also part of the performance.

Hoffer is about a lot of things. I focused on frustration, but we should never forget power and responsibility (which are, duh, related). Real danger lies in relinquishing power, and/or not having it to begin with. She may not have known it, but Abramović was creating a perfect commentary on what leadership is in Hoffer. On what power is. Not the audience’s power, but her own.

But that guy has a gun! But that isn’t how power works.

VI

Related: Hoffer focuses on mass movements around fanatics. We normally just call these dictators, but they’re the only ones who really believe in the end goal. Hoffer notes that if you kill the dictator, a mass movement degenerates into an organization, in his lexicon: a beige governmental body trying to lobby for its cause and do other boring, wonky things.

I can think of something scarier. If a mass movement had no leaders because the leaders didn’t know that they were that. Any attempt to stop it top-down would be impossible, but that wouldn’t mean that “everyone has power”. It would mean no one recognizes their own, making it impossible to reorient. Powerful people who don’t recognize that are far more frightening than those who know that they have it.

Performance art is terrible, I’m not going to lie. Terrible things are important to show you who you are, as with court jesters.

VII

Still more related

Hoffer:

The total surrender of a distinct self is a prerequisite for the attainment of both unity and self-sacrifice; and there is probably no more direct way of realizing this surrender than by inculcating and extolling the habit of blind obedience. When Stalin forces scientists, writers and artists to crawl on their bellies and deny their individual intelligence, sense of beauty and moral sense, he is not indulging in a sadistic impulse but is solemnizing, in a most impressive way, the supreme virtue of blind obedience.
[…]
The disorder, bloodshed and destruction which mark the trail of a rising mass movement lead us to think of the followers of the mass movement as being by nature rowdy and lawless. Actually, mass ferocity is not always the sum of individual lawlessness. Personal truculence often militates against united action. It moves the individual to strike out for himself. It produces the pioneer, adventurer and bandit. The true believer, no matter how rowdy and violent his acts, is basically an obedient and submissive person.

VIII

There is a darker reading of Hoffer. I alluded to it but commented less, and it might be where Hoffer and I break. It slips out line by line (“The well adjusted make poor prophets. […] ‘It is often the fanatics, and not always the delicate spirits, that are found grasping the right thread of the solutions required by the future.'”), until receiving all of four final pages (“Useful Mass Movements”). It’s genuinely dangerous, although that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.

A decaying empire might need mass movements, if not simply to fight others. Hoffer closes with this line, and it forces one to reconsider the entire book:

J.B.S. Haldane counts fanaticism among the only four really important inventions made between 3000 BC and 1400 AD. It was a Judaic-Christian Inventoion. And it is strange to think that in receiving this malady of the soul the world also received a miraculous instrument for raising societies and nations from the dead – an instrument of resurrection.

Scott Alexander says this of liberalism, and it’s hard to believe that he hasn’t read Hoffer:

Liberalism is a technology for preventing civil war. It was forged in the fires of Hell – the horrors of the endless seventeenth century religious wars. For a hundred years, Europe tore itself apart in some of the most brutal ways imaginable – until finally, from the burning wreckage, we drew forth this amazing piece of alien machinery. A machine that, when tuned just right, let people live together peacefully without doing the “kill people for being Protestant” thing. Popular historical strategies for dealing with differences have included: brutally enforced conformity, brutally efficient genocide, and making sure to keep the alien machine tuned really really carefully.

I confess that I agree with Scott here. Hoffer might as well. We ought to notice the dates, with liberalism invented to combat the earlier social technology.

Still.

But even more still: Tread carefully with this line of thought. Really, really carefully.

Author: Lou Keep

samzdat.com

28 thoughts on “Scraps 3: Hoffer and Performance Art”

  1. Every time I read your stuff, I find that there is some insight that seems obvious in hindsight but I hadn’t gotten to on my own. For example: why are the youth so Leftist? Answer: extreme ideology always springs from discontent and the most common kind of discontent among the youth is familial, chafing at the authority figures in one’s family and life. There are almost certainly Evo-Psych 101 reasons for this, i.e. it’s largely biological, not cultural. You mention that the Left actually actively spreads familial discontent and the Right has a harder time doing so, but I think the even more important thing is that the Right actually cannot capitalize on it – if a young person tries to turn to the Right they find that the answer is that children should obey their parents and ok screw it I’m going out to buy a Che shirt.

    You then point out that the way the Right gets around this, when it does, is to go Nationalist and use that as a “super-family”. Now the child/teen/young adult can justify their rebellion against their parents by saying their parents are rebelling against the Nation. And then:

    For the love of God don’t confuse this warning for advice.

    Well, I am a Nationalist, so I presume this warning applies to me. The problem with this warning is twofold: (1) If the opponents of the Left can’t capitalize on familial discontent, how can we fight a movement which can and does? We could try to capitalize on the older generations’ discontent with their kids, and a lot of right-wing movements do. The results are clear: a slow loss to the Left, which is leading into censorship and social control – worse, censorship and social control that works directly against ingrained social and biological tendencies. Destroy the patriarchy, overthrow gender roles, replace the profit motive! (2) Suppose a pro-family socially conservative movement were actually, somehow, to win without recourse to Nationalism. What would that look like? See: Confucian China.

    China in 1937 got steamrolled by Japan, capping a century (or more, even) of decay and failure and humiliation; China in 1950 smashed the Allied army in Korea from its border all the way back to Seoul. What changed? For centuries, under the Confucian system, the family was paramount in China, and national feeling decayed dramatically. Hence, failure at the national level and the breakdown of national power, prestige, and the economy, and finally the domination by foreign powers. The Maoists killed tens of millions; but they instilled a sense of national duty and loyalty which allowed China afterwards to thrive. Deng Xiaoping could only happen after Mao Zedong.

    Was it worth the tens of millions? Possibly. Certainly the history of China post-1949 is preferable to the history of China pre-1945 (measuring from the First Opium War, let’s say). A continuation of China as it was like before Mao? No thank you! [And yes, I’m part-Chinese, and I have a small emotional stake in the success of China as a country]

    I don’t really think Mao was necessary though. The Kuomintang, given the chance, could probably have done the same without tens of millions murdered or starved and untold historical treasure destroyed during the Cultural Revolution; they certainly managed in Taiwan (though not without having a White Terror at the start). They were, after all, quite literally the “Nationalists”. The point, however, is that something, some innate loyalty to the national or social unit, is necessary to preserve the nation or the society, and this has to be instilled culturally. Restoring the family is not enough.

    There is a Confucian fable, which I was taught as a child: The Duke of She said to Master Kong [i.e., Confucius]: ‘In my native place, there is a man named Straight Body [or, Upright Gong]. When his father stole a sheep, he bore witness against him.’ Master Kong said: ‘In my native place, straight [or, upright] people are different from this man: Father conceals for son and son conceals for father. Straightness lies therein.

    “Straight” here means righteous, moral. This is classic Confucianism: loyalty to family above all.

    So China is a good example of what happens when loyalty to the family strangles all competing values, and particularly when loyalty to the nation devolves into loyalty to your family or clan. Zheng He’s voyages opposed by the Confucian scholar-bureaucratic faction, and were not repeated because they were un-Confucian; young people did not travel far from their homes, because that was tantamount to abandoning their parents; and as a result China became insular, lost its inventiveness, and, worse, became clannish and weak.

    On the other hand, what happens when national sentiment is devolved in favor of even larger groups, as we see in Europe? It doesn’t seem to be going well – people with a very strong group identity are entering Europe and a clash of cultures is taking place, and the European elites have taken the side of the entering group (see that infamous Mona Sahlin quote about “Midsummer’s Eve and such silly things”). This is because since WWII the European elite has been actively destroying any sense of cultural identity within themselves (or, really, replacing their national cultural identity with an internationalist cultural identity) and are now breaking it down in their co-nationals (Orwell famously made this observation about the intelligentsia all the way back in 1941 in “Wells, Hitler, and the World State”: For the last twenty years the main object of English left-wing intellectuals has been to break this [atavistic, patriotic] feeling down, and if they had succeeded, we might be watching the S.S. men patrolling the London streets at this moment).

    Yes, Nationalism can go very wrong, see that one example that literally caused Nationalism to die in Europe. I don’t think that it’s nearly as dangerous in this sense as Socialism is, but hey, there’s an argument to be had there (and I’m not anti-Socialist, there’s a right way to do Socialism as well), and I don’t think the reaction of eliminating and clamping down on Nationalism so hard that Marine Le Pen sounds like a fucking radical was the correct solution. My evidence is everything that’s happening in Europe.

    I do have comments on other parts of this article, in particular your invocation of Scott Alexander’s liberalism-as-alien-technology bit, but this comment is getting very long so I’ll make this short. Liberalism looks very much to me like “enforced conformity” (we can debate the “brutally” bit); it works not by allowing Protestants and Catholics to get along, but by making everybody Liberals (which it’s pretty good at, I’ll buy that it’s alien technology for that purpose). Papal Infallibility or the Divinity of Christ sound like a perfectly reasonable things to kill people over if you really believe in your religion, and we only refrain because we have moved to a post-Christian ideology/religion. When people actually have different cultural values, things start going off the rails – once again, see Europe today.

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    1. I suppose I should clear up a few things (I’d edit it rather than post a reply, but I don’t see how). (1) When I asked how we can fight a movement that capitalizes on familial discontent, I suppose an answer is that one should not make discontent a major part of the movement, i.e. most of the point of the last post, because this is a path to failure. In that case, it’s still hard to see how we can fight the Angry Identitarian Left, but also, I don’t see how it necessarily leads to failure. Lots of mass movements succeed, and yeah they stop being mass movements once they do, but I don’t follow how that implies they are designed to fail. (2) I am not advocating wielding Nationalism as a way of destroying families and making the State the primary object of devotion; I’m just saying that Nationalism is an important part of a healthy nation-state. If the warning was only about specifically destroying the family in favor of the State, then I can agree; if it was more generally about avoiding Nationalism, and to be more specific about avoiding “arbitrary” forms of Nationalism, e.g. “blood-and-soil-and-our-traditions”, i.e. the more traditional, family-analogous type of Nationalism, I disagree. I encounter a lot of American Idealist Nationalists – most Progressives can be described this way – whose loyalty to the United States is all about its ideals (allowing them to comfortably sneer at ‘backwards’ white Alabamans, and suggest that illegal immigrants are “better Americans”). I think this is a huge mistake, to worship the ideals and disdain the people and traditions; it calls to mind that Bertolt Brecht poem, “The Solution” — I heard a lot of comments to the effect that the people had failed the ideals of America, and I don’t think “dissolving the people and electing another” was buried deep underneath that sentiment. Thus, when I say Nationalism, I mean the more “arbitrary” forms.

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      1. Thanks.

        I was warning against this: “We’ll fight the left by making an equally shitty and alienating thing. That’ll show ’em!”

        I did mention that some mass movements can have a specific goal, which is important. I don’t find gigantic nationalist movements to be one of those. I dislike all identitarian mass movements that deprive the adherents of their power. Nationalism and nationalist governments (subbing in for the extreme forms that we’ve seen, not like Reagan or w/e) aren’t the same to me, any more than Christian community and theocracy are the same thing.

        I’m not in favor of totally universalizing things. I mean, even if I were to be in favor of that, I doubt it would be possible. I don’t really have a problem with nationalism. Sometimes I think it’s beneficial, inasmuch as it makes people act in favor of the other humans around them. Ideally that would include Alabamans. Normally I think it’s serving a different purpose, as an outlet for frustration. I don’t mean that for your politics, I mean more broadly. I do prefer smaller quanta of power, and Orwell was right there.

        I’ll discuss solutions another time. “Make people less frustrated” is one, and I prefer it to simply forming an opposition team. I admit that’s vague.

        Should note: I don’t think this is all that often a concerted leftist campaign. I think Hoffer might overstate that. Polanyi is probably a much better explanation for that.

        Edit, which apparently only I can do: at some point I saw a comment on something I wrote that talked about how the fertility decline and increasing age of parenthood in the West could contribute to this. I think that’s probably an important thing to note, and it seems right to me.

        Also: in some number of months I’m probably going to migrate this site to a more versatile one (it’ll have the same address and everything, just a different provider). I’ll try and hunt down a commenting plugin with editing powers for everyone.

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        1. Fair enough. Nevertheless, what you might find scary or “shitty and alienating” might not seem so to others.

          I don’t know if we can consider “shift American attitudes to be more Nationalist” a concrete goal, but that is a primary goal of mine. I’m not the biggest Trump fan out there, but I find his weird antics a small price to pay if he helps push the American culture in this direction. Of course, there’s always the possibility that he pushes the culture in the opposite direction by sheer vulgarity; but I consider this a very low risk compared to not even trying, by, say, electing Hillary.

          It’s hard for me to put my finger on what distinguishes a movement which “deprive[s] the adherents of their power”. Certainly a lot of identitarian Social Justice movements increase the power of many of their core adherents; it is quite a thing for a woman to be able to ruin a man’s career or education by a single accusation. Of course, there are blowback effects, e.g. if minority employees can destroy their employers by alleging bigotry they’ll naturally be considered very risky hires (what bigots the employers are!) No problem though, we’ll just regulate hiring practices even more – an unprecedented intrusion into economic life and gigantic expansion of state power! What could go wrong?

          In fact, I cannot name a single movement which uniformly deprives its adherents of power – the core members almost always gain power, and quite a lot of it. The white/male/cis/etc. members of the various New Left factions are often subjecting themselves to the social power of “repressed” groups; nevertheless, this allows them to wield this social power by proxy. There is some loss of power, but there is some gain too.

          [Aside: as an Asian-Jewish hybrid, I can feel only disgust and revulsion at the efforts of many fellow Asians and Jews to cynically use the New Left identitarian movement for their own ends. Asians and Jews, we repressed subjugated minorities, suffering from all those horrible microaggressions! One of my friends, a nice, naive Social-Justice type, once suggested that I was doubly repressed because of my ethnicity; and even though he meant it in a complimentary way, I felt the urge to vomit. And, oddly enough, there is a measure of discrimination – from Affirmative Action. Oops.]

          I’m still at the stage of thinking about the problem; aside from a few pieces of pro-Trump chalkboard graffiti, i.e. basically nothing, I’ve yet to take any concrete actions. Nevertheless, I think I can formulate a few key concrete goals: (1) reducing the funding of the universities by, say, 25% (forcing them to cut out the fat – credible research and education, or political hackery? pick one!); (2) shifting the educational curriculum in a more Nationalist direction; (3) massive rewriting of university speech codes and forbidding public institutions for clamping down on speech except in the case of concrete threats; (4) abolishment of all “diversity sensitivity” training and other political control tools. As ol’ Billy Ayers used to say, “La educacion es revolucion!”

          Of course, this is a hard thing to embark on: almost all the relevant institutions and positions, especially permanent ones, are in the hands of people who oppose this agenda, and they seem to feel no compunction to the use of illiberal tactics (shutting down speeches, administrative punishment, even physical violence); worse even than this is the practice of professionally attacking those with “problematic” political views (not hiring them, etc.), a fact of academic life which has been established time and again in studies, and which carries a totalitarian flavor. It’s indeed a sorry state of affairs when a flagship like UC Berkeley is less open-minded and tolerant than Liberty U. Does your proposal to “make people feel less frustrated” work in the face of all of this pro-frustration agitation and political control?

          Sometimes I wonder if physical action is necessary, if there needs to be a counterweight to the Antifa going around and protecting conservatives at protests on campus, physically defending conservative speakers, etc. (I know this sounds just terrible, but from what I’ve seen of those pissants, it doesn’t need to be very fearsome). Previously, I’d have counted on the university administrations to provide the requisite protections; but incident after incident shows that they simply cannot be counted on to fulfill this basic function anymore. What measures can be taken? Somewhere in Hell, Ernst Rohm is laughing.

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        2. “Sometimes I wonder if physical action is necessary, if there needs to be a counterweight to the…”

          Jesus Christ, dude, where have you been?

          God bless if you’ve managed to avoid memes, but I think I mentioned in the comments how recently a bunch of dudes showed up in Portland, many of whom are specifically famous for brawling with lefties.

          I mean, seriously, how do you think antifa started? It started with a bunch of dudes saying “Sometimes I wonder if physical action is necessary, if there needs to be a counterweight to the…”

          They just put another word after the ellipsis. Look at the road they’re going down. You think the fact that you’re choosing a really scary enemy means your militia will have more discretion? Antifa’s enemies are fucking Nazis and they still manage to fuck everything up.

          For fuck’s sake. I mean, just… Christ. All my lefty friends are talking about how YOU are incredibly powerful, confident, willing to destroy lives on a whim and clearly unwilling to compromise.

          Yeah, I know, they’re deluded, disingenuous, won’t acknowledge the obvious power they weild. I know you’re thinking that because that’s what they’re saying about you.

          Step back from the brink, dude. Seriously. I am so serious. Someone has to.

          I think that the major, major difficulty for any form of Nationalist sentiment are the closed borders. I am a United States citizen through no fault or virtue of my own. I was born here and emigration would be difficult, that’s all. How can I be invested in something that I didn’t choose, that is so impersonal?

          Recreational pot is legal at the state level in Oregon. Most everyone I know smokes pot. My neighbor got a topical to try to help with her arthritis pain. We can’t simply seceede, right? We’re going to be bound by federal law, which says my neighbor is a criminal. These laws were made by people I’ve never met and never will meet, based on decision making processes that have nothing to do with my life at all.

          How are you going to get me to be more loyal to those distant strangers over and above my literal next door neighbor whose nine year old kid we babysit?

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        3. I totally understand your reaction to my comment; and I probably didn’t help matters when with my macabre language, particularly that last sentence of mine. Of course, I still think you’re wrong.

          [By the way, I should clarify: (1) I haven’t yet done anything; this is only a rhetorical exercise for now. (2) I don’t want to go parading about with uniforms and flags, which I hope puts me in a different category from the SA, or the Antifas for that matter. (3) I certainly don’t want to attack liberal events or people, only defend conservative ones. And 9 times out of 10, the conservative events won’t need to be defended. Ideally I’d like organized watchdog groups on campuses which physically defend against physical violence, and against mere unreasonable disruption would simply film it and share on social media. This does already happen in an unorganized fashion, of course, I just think it should be done in an organized and disciplined way.]

          If I had to sum up the problem with your view (which, right or wrong, is an honorable one) in one sentence: It does no good for one side to “step back from the brink”; all sides have to step back from the brink. The original Antifaschistische Aktion, Iron Front, etc. were reasonable groups – if they had “stepped back from the brink”, it would only have allowed the Nazis to take control that much faster. But today’s Antifas do not have an SA to fight; so they make do with pepper-spraying girls in MAGA hats and punching dorks with frog pins on their lapels.

          If they will not step back from the brink, how are we to deal with them?

          Of course, there are radicals in every society; violent fascist radicals even exist in America, but they are very, very few (note that Richard Spencer was punched in the face on TV, and there was no entourage around to beat up his attacker – something that would be unthinkable for a classic fascist). In general we trust in the proper civil authorities to deal with them so that the rest of us can settle differences in a peaceful and reasonable manner. My chief complaint is that the relevant authorities – the university administrations – have shirked this function and have allowed the lefty side free rein to use violent intimidation and have even begun supporting them by issuing administrative penalties for what are effectively thoughtcrimes. [My relevant experience: noting the political discourse on campus here at my university (there have been basically no conservative events to speak of), and I have family in Berkeley.]

          So, given that this has happened, and that certain ever-more-influential elements of the left side are ratcheting up the tension, what can we do about it? Passivity does have its own honorable logic; I just don’t think it will work. The postmodern “social justice” understanding of the world is busily being enshrined in institutional policies, and, increasingly, the law, pushed by this violent, ugly faction. Whatever needs to be done, it needs to be done fast.

          I understand very well what the lefty types are saying about me, especially that it resembles what I say about them. (1) They have been saying this for a long time, starting much before I came to my present line of thought. (2) It’s not terribly helpful to simply note that “he-said-she-said”. There aren’t any shortcuts to the truth; you have to look at the specific claims and see if they add up. Which side is physically and administratively prevented from speaking its mind, and which is free to hold event after event? Which side is overrepresented in academics (I’m focused on academics as ideas flow outwards from there and into society) and which is underrepresented? What kinds of speech can get you punished on campus?

          [I know a lot of people who will immediately point out that geo-centricity is “underrepresented” and heliocentricity is “overrepresented” on campuses; that the correct views are the ones that get representation on campus. My answer is (1) that this is usually true in the hard sciences, but in politically-tainted fields it breaks down – many sociologists are openly Marxist, and Marxism is anything but vindicated by history; and (2) note that geo-centricity will get you weird looks but not get you punished – because, while wrong, it’s not political, and censorship is conducted by right-vs.-left, not by right-vs.-wrong.]

          Finally, I’m not sure I understand your last points about Nationalism. I will admit that a huge danger of Nationalism is that loyalty to the state could be promoted over loyalty to the people or society. Indeed, a state-encouraged Nationalism is especially prone to such a thing. My conception of Nationalism is very much in the lines of G.K. Chesterton’s “The Flag of the World” – a loyalty to America is not necessarily a loyalty to all the decisions of its government, indeed you should oppose those decisions you think are wrong. But what is fatal is placing the ideals above the people – or, worse, actively despising the people and their “backwards” traditions, which is an attitude I see all too much of. After the election I heard, over and over, people talking along the lines of “America has failed”, “the scum of America have spoken” (an actual quote), etc. Hence my thought connecting this to Bertolt Brecht.

          The point is that the most influential sub-culture of America – the academic literati – actively sympathizes more with many foreigners (illegal immigrants, foreign intelligentsia, etc.) than most Americans and is also promoting sub-group identity and resentment via “social justice”. This is not a stable state of affairs. Often, their claims go straight against scientific findings – I had the interesting experience of talking to someone who supported “Ban-the-Box” despite its track record of making things worse for black job-seekers. When I pointed out that a black applicant with an unknown criminal record is a bigger risk than a white applicant with an unknown criminal record – which is why Ban-the-Box hurts black job-seekers – he responded that the facts themselves were racist and therefore could not be facts and that we should solve it by having a government agency which uses machine-learning to audit hiring practices and ensure they are “rational”. Is it any wonder that I take a pessimist’s view?

          PS. You mention the lefties simply replace the word “Antifa” to justify their violent actions. But you don’t tell me what they replace it with. Don’t leave me in suspense about this! Is it “Nazis”? “KKK”? “Racists”? I can’t think of a replacement that isn’t objectively ludicrous, for the simple reason that there is no real right-wing equivalent of the Antifa, i.e. an organized, violent right-wing group routinely disrupting left-wing events (and certainly none on university campuses). Is that ‘Based Stickman’ guy part of an organized group? If so, was it formed in response to the Antifa?

          And the Antifa and Black Bloc are only the worst of the left-wing groups. There are also the ordinary “protestors”, like those in that recent Evergreen State College thing, or the ones who disrupted Jordan Peterson’s talk at McMaster, or the ones involved in that Yale Halloween thing, etc. I find no right-wing equivalent of those either, and anyone who tried would be quickly punished.

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        4. “Which side is physically and administratively prevented from speaking its mind, and which is free to hold event after event? Which side is overrepresented in academics (I’m focused on academics as ideas flow outwards from there and into society) and which is underrepresented? What kinds of speech can get you punished on campus?”

          Which side controls all three branches of government? Which side is tear gassed and pepper sprayed every time they hold a protest outside of a college campus? Which side is over-represented in the ranks of CEOs (this is a trick question)? What kind of speech gets you punished off campus?

          Steve Bannon has the ear of the President of the United States. Andrew Breitbart himself had enough influence with the Obama administration to get Shirley Sherrod fired, speaking of punishing speech. What about Milo Yiannopolous trying to hound Leslie Jones off twitter?

          A sort of mass psychology is gripping Americans right now, a narrative in your head that goes “My side is so powerless right now that we have to focus on self-defense at all costs. Unless we immediately and drastically reduce the power of the opposition we will never be able to get anything done. This has to take priority over all other concerns, and particularly there is no time for self-restraint, because this will only serve the enemy.”

          The left can feel this way despite having near hegemonic control over pop culture and academics. The right can feel this way despite the fact that one of the most anti-SJW dudes you can imagine literally tells the President what to do.

          You start by thinking about your own power, in these terms. Yeah, your college buddy might think all Trump voters are deplorables, but that didn’t win the election, did it? Who’s going to be on the Supreme Court for the next several years?

          As to nationalism, you can talk about how we should oppose policies that we dislike, but that’s no solution, because the question of who is part of the nation is a policy decision on the part of the people running the nation. I have some Mexican friends at work. As far as I know, they are here legally (It’s not like I’m demanding their papers, though). Suppose Trump changes the law to have them deported. Do I support that as a way of protecting the nation? Support Trump administration functionaries I’ve never met, will never meet, and who made the decision based on factors that have nothing to do with me, or support my friends? Suppose I learn I’m wrong, and one of them is here illegally. What do I do then? Does it matter what the legal issue is?

          The idea of shared culture is also no help, because, again, I am talking about co-workers. We speak the same language, work at the same job, live in the same city, like the same TV shows, like the same authors, and have the same hobbies. You can tell me I shouldn’t think of shared culture in those terms, but… why not?

          Who is more part of my “culture”, my Mexican coworker or a London stranger?

          I don’t think the question is even coherent.

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        5. As for the PS, have you seen those videos of Trump guys seig heil-ing? Portland was recently rocked by some murders on public transit. A very angry man was shouting abuse at a black girl and a girl in a head scarf, When several passengers got up to tell him to stop and move away, he stabbed them in the neck, killing two.

          I think it’s very strange to go, “Murderous racists aren’t a big deal, they don’t have the systemic power of a Berkely student with a BA in women’s studies!” I also think it’s strange and irresponsible when my left-wing friends go “Come on, massive organized protests aren’t a big deal, not compared to the power of one guy with a knife on a train.”

          People have different amounts of power in different situations and contexts. Racists and Nazis can, to my mind, just as easily metastasize into a major problem as left-wing orthodoxies. Both have certainly caused ruinous damage in the recent past.

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        6. @ Christopher Hazell:
          Which side controls all three branches of government? Which side is tear gassed and pepper sprayed every time they hold a protest outside of a college campus? Which side is over-represented in the ranks of CEOs (this is a trick question)? What kind of speech gets you punished off campus?

          Steve Bannon has the ear of the President of the United States. Andrew Breitbart himself had enough influence with the Obama administration to get Shirley Sherrod fired, speaking of punishing speech. What about Milo Yiannopolous trying to hound Leslie Jones off twitter?

          First, if you’re wondering who has more power – the collective educational institutions of America and legions of the brightest young people we have, or a motley collection of angry violent crazy people – the question should answer itself. The violent rightists receive a just condemnation, and are sentenced. How many will end up in positions of power and authority and respect, like Billy Ayers did?

          Second, Bannon as I understand it has been sidelined in favor of Kushner. He still has some influence over the loud, gesticulating POTUS, but much less than “literally telling him what to do” (which you refer to later).

          Third, the universities did not win the 2016 election; they won all possible elections. Recall that the whole point isn’t whether the current occupant of the Oval Office wears a red or blue tie; it’s where the culture of the country is and where it is going. By the standards of the 1980s and 1990s, is Donald Trump on the Left or Right? By the standards of the 1960s? What “conservative” from even a decade past would proudly wave a pride flag at a rally?

          Fourth, you must be kidding when you ask “What kind of speech gets you punished off campus?” It’s right-wing speech (or more generally, speech which displeases the Left). Duh! Was Donald Sterling on campus? What about Travis Kalanick? What about Brendan Eich? What about Dave McClure? And so on. Read any description of the McCarthyist purges and replace “communist” with “racist” or “fascist” and you can see what we are dealing with here – only on a much larger scale, for a much longer time, etc. etc.

          Fifth, what Milo Yiannopoulos did, trying to “hound” Leslie Jones, is much more prevalent on the Left. That SlateStarCodex article about “Living by the Sword” is a monument to that tactic as employed on the Left side. That Milo, who even conservatives are wary towards, also tried to wield it, does not much affect my evaluation of which side likes to whip up the internet mobs.

          Sixth, show me a violent right-wing protest and I’ll show you a right-wing protest that got tear-gassed, etc. The Black Bloc, Antifa, random looters, etc. are all very present at left-wing protests. BLM in particular is notorious for the ease with which their protests can turn violent. Meanwhile, the Tea Party doesn’t even litter.

          Regarding my points about an “Anti-Antifa” or whatever you’d like to call it: Can we at least agree that (a) non-left viewpoints are suppressed on campuses, and (b) that campuses are extremely important because ideas and norms flow out of them? In this case, a visible student organization standing against this censorship is a reasonable proposal. To some extent, free speech protection clubs are filling this role. If you can find an important institution dominated by right-wing censorship (and what would this be? even the churches have become leftist!), then by all means, try to form a group within it to fight this.

          As for your questions about Nationalism and your co-workers, and the following:

          The idea of shared culture is also no help, because, again, I am talking about co-workers. We speak the same language, work at the same job, live in the same city, like the same TV shows, like the same authors, and have the same hobbies. You can tell me I shouldn’t think of shared culture in those terms, but… why not?

          First, nobody is telling you that a stranger from Birmingham, AL should be more dear to you than your possibly-illegally-immigrated friend that you actually know. Once again, consider the analogy to family. Who do I care more for, my friends here at university or my distant cousins who live on the other side of the planet and who I’ve met maybe once? My friends, duh. I’m saying one should have a stronger bond with a stranger who happens to be American than a stranger who happens to be [other country]; if you don’t feel this way, I blame the anti-nationalist angle that much of our educational system takes. This is the whole point – this nationalist feeling holds the country together. To replace it with on the one hand a burning and resentful loyalty to one’s sub-group (identity politics) and on the other a loyalty to a vague notion of “humanity” (transnationalism) is to destroy the country.

          Second, only an “arbitrary” definition of culture can be the basis of a nation. If you like the same TV shows as others, great! etc. etc. But if we are to construct communities based on “meaningful” things – as the university system is doing globally by creating an international culture of intellectuals (who are marinated in this progressive ideology) – this is a recipe for disaster. As I mentioned earlier, a country with a democratic government should have a nationalist ethos; else, the people will either identify with sub-groups or super-groups (or groups which are neither), which brings its own variety of attendant ills. A “meaningful” community cannot become a nation, because you cannot have a nation of only intellectuals, or only gun-nut survivalists, etc. Therefore, we have to accept the “arbitrary” bonds as the best solution.

          Third, you mention your nation as an “impersonal” thing. Again, I cite a failure of our educational institutions. Nation should be personal, deeply personal. Your family could also theoretically be impersonal, but it isn’t because of how you were raised. What connection do you have to a cousin you’ve never met? Nothing, only that they are family. They share a family history with you. Similarly, what connection do I have to some guy from Lincoln, NE? Nothing, except for a national history, and a national culture (read “England, your England” by Orwell for a much better description of what I’m talking about). My parents are not even from the United States; but because I am, I feel that I have taken on American history as well. Does an adopted child share in the history of their adoptive family? Yes.

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      2. One thing I’m stuck on here: If you’re looking for “ingrained social and biological tendencies” I think “loyalty to family above loyalty to other groups” is a very, very strong candidate. I’d argue much stronger than “gender roles” or, heaven help us, “the profit motive.”

        Nationalism also kind of begs the question, in that in order to have nationalism, you have to have nations. Yeah, I know, but I guess my point is something like, look at Mainland China and Taiwan. Are those two separate nations? Or one that has been divided. Suppose they were to unify, would that be a proper expression of nationalism, or would it be an invalid attempt to rope people into supporting something too large and too diverse to be a nation?

        Or, in an alternate history, could, say, the US, Canada, Australia and the UK all have been one enormous mega-nation? What allows “China” to be a viable nation, but “Europe” or even “Western Europe” is properly divided into several nations?

        If we’re talking about “blood and soil and tradition” than here in Portland, OR, we share a number of differences from, say, those things as they are experienced in Phoenix, AR or New York, NY. Why does it makes sense to expand our understanding of blood, soil and tradition exactly far enough to include those two cities, but NOT, say, London or Montreal or Sydney? Or Mexico City or Tokyo?

        Like, there are a number of legal distinctions that make the EU function differently than the USA, but you seem to be talking about psychological health here. What makes the nation a better object of devotion than the family, the town, the fraternal organization, the neighborhood, religion, race, or the many other larger and smaller groups we could identify with?

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        1. On the first thing: (1) Do you really not think “the profit motive” is an ingrained tendency? (2) I’m not proposing nation above family; I’m proposing co-opting the family-identification module of the brain to promote national loyalty, as Western nations have been doing for hundreds of years. I feel much more strongly about my parents than my cousins; similarly, people can feel their co-nationals to be like distant family, without losing their loyalty to their immediate family. [However, I still side with the Duke in the Confucius story, because there is also loyalty to the truth, Kantian considerations, etc.]

          I also mentioned that my Nationalism is “arbitrary”; that is, split the nations how you want, but in the end each should have its own patriotic feeling. I favor an American Nationalism for reasons of history and culture; but if the United States were to split into its states and each have its own “Nationalism”, this wouldn’t be too contrary to my ideas. Your family is somewhat arbitrary too, don’t forget. Sure you have your immediate family; but how far from you do your relations have to get before they are not “family”? Same thing whether you feel only a “Phoenix Nationalism” or extend that to the whole United States or extend that to the whole Anglosphere.

          In the end, “Nationalist” sentiment should be directed at a group sharing a common government; if we are to have a Californian Nationalism and a Texan Nationalism, etc. then let California and Texas be independent states; if we are to have a European Nationalism, then let Europe be a country as well. [But at least let there be a European Nationalism! The European elites are not even pro-European, they are more globalist than this (again, Mona Sahlin gives the best example)!] This is especially crucial in democracies. If the sentiment is aimed at sub-groups, (as the Identitarian Left is trying to bring about in the US), we get political warfare on the national level, as different sub-groups primarily fight rather than cooperate (which is not a stable solution and will almost inevitably end in tyranny of one group over another). If the sentiment is aimed at a super-group, or “humanity”, etc. the way a lot of American elites are transnationalists, we get the policy of the nation subverted to the interests of non-citizens (see: those nuts who want fully open borders), also not a stable solution.

          [Indeed, the New Left is attacking Nationalism from both sides, playing up sub-group identity and resisting the idea of integration, complaining of “cultural appropriation”, etc. while at the same time also pushing the US government to adopt highly internationalist policies, open borders, etc.]

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        2. @CH
          “Are those two separate nations? ”

          No. Taiwan helped Red China fight a propaganda war against separatists from NW China (the Muslim region). Working together even if it isn’t in your immediate interest because it is in the long term interests of the Chinese people makes it clear they are the same people.

          “Or, in an alternate history, could, say, the US, Canada, Australia and the UK all have been one enormous mega-nation?”

          If we ignore the non-English ethnic groups yes, if we include them, no.

          “What allows “China” to be a viable nation, but “Europe” or even “Western Europe” is properly divided into several nations?”

          At the heart of it is probably degree of genetic relation. The actual medium is history, language and culture.

          “Why does it makes sense to expand our understanding of blood, soil and tradition exactly far enough to include those two cities, but NOT, say, London or Montreal or Sydney? Or Mexico City or Tokyo?”

          Read Albion’s seed. England is made up of a host of ethnicities that hate each others guts.

          “What makes the nation a better object of devotion than the family, the town, the fraternal organization, the neighborhood, religion, race, or the many other larger and smaller groups we could identify with?”

          There are groups that do that. Jews have the object of devotion be the religion with Israel being a state for all Jews. Hence it has received a large influx of ‘Jews’ from Russia. So religion doesn’t work because people can convert who do not share the idea that religion should be the object of devotion.

          Race doesn’t work; look at how Christendom was previously ‘all European white people’. Admitting you are all children of God is one thing, but that doesn’t stop the French, British and Germans from killing each other.

          The other examples are historically what people identified with. The nation replaced them. Shared history, language, culture and ancestry has been the foundation of all those other examples and the nation is the largest political organization that has that.

          @AP
          ” Do you really not think “the profit motive” is an ingrained tendency? ”

          No. People desire status. In societies where wealth gains you status there will be a profit motive.

          “Your family is somewhat arbitrary too, don’t forget. ”

          That isn’t arbitrary. It is me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin and all of us against the world.

          ” If the sentiment is aimed at sub-groups, (as the Identitarian Left is trying to bring about in the US),”

          No, identity politics exists in every country that has multiple different ethnic groups. The left is harnessing it, they are not bringing it about.

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        3. @ Samuel Skinner

          First, “the profit motive” is, in advanced societies, always an ingrained tendency. People do like status, and this is deep down the core of the profit motive. In advanced societies – not just capitalist ones – money can always buy status. Republican Rome can hardly be called “capitalist”, and yet what was Crassus? England existed for centuries on a class system; but rich people could always buy their way into a higher class. Etc.

          Second, what the hell are you talking about with your ethnic definition of “nation”? Ethnicities and nations are never clearly defined; they are always fuzzy around the edges. Per Albion’s Seed, England is made of different sub-groups; and yet together they produced the Empire. One can continue fracturing groups into sub-groups and sub-sub-groups, etc. until you’re just left with everyone, alone. When do you stop? It’s totally arbitrary (which in my opinion is totally fine, that’s rather the point of my Nationalist outlook).

          China does not share one language; but because we have a proper Nationalist government in China, we have a cohesive nation. Europe could, in time, become one nation; the United States certainly did not start out as a cohesive nation but as a collection of different colonies that eyed each other with suspicion. My beef with the European Union is not based on the idea that Europe is fundamentally unsuited to be a nation; it could easily be a nation, the way China is. My critique rests on the fact that the elites pushing for the European Union are not European Nationalists at all (who could theoretically succeed), but globalists (see: refugee crisis, the way the Rotherham child-abuse case was handled, the trashing of European culture by the elite, etc.)

          Third, your family is in fact arbitrary. “You, your brother, and your cousin against the world”. Really? Surely you have friends who are closer to you than your distant family. Everyone does. How many degrees of blood separation have to occur before you consider the person as basically just a stranger? How many degrees of blood separation need there be before your relative is less important to you than your best friend? Etc. etc. etc.

          Fourth, there are effectively no “identity politics” within “white America”, which is why it’s called “white America”. Irishmen and Germans and Russians and old-school Cavaliers are all simply “white”. How did this happen? It can hardly be a matter of blood relations, because an Irishman and a Russian have basically no blood in common. It’s a matter of them all deciding that they are “Americans”.

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        4. “First, “the profit motive” is, in advanced societies, always an ingrained tendency. People do like status, and this is deep down the core of the profit motive. In advanced societies – not just capitalist ones – money can always buy status. Republican Rome can hardly be called “capitalist”, and yet what was Crassus?”

          Crassus had to go on a military expedition in order to achieve the status that he wanted. You can buy a commission in aristocratic regimes, but you actually have to be in combat in order to get status.

          Think of it this way- how much money do you need to have before you have more status then Wellington, Nelson or the monarch? The answer is no amount of money can make you higher status then them.

          “England existed for centuries on a class system; but rich people could always buy their way into a higher class. Etc.”

          No, they couldn’t. You are thinking of more recent times. The traditional method is that you have money and your children marry into a higher class. Or you have your children study the classics and take the examination to become higher class. Or your provide service to the crown and get ennobled and placed in a higher class.

          “Second, what the hell are you talking about with your ethnic definition of “nation”? ”

          That is the historical definition. When people laid down their lives for the Rodina, the Fatherland or the Patre, that is what they where referring to.

          “Ethnicities and nations are never clearly defined; they are always fuzzy around the edges.”

          The same is true for colors and yet we can distinguish them.

          “One can continue fracturing groups into sub-groups and sub-sub-groups, etc. until you’re just left with everyone, alone. When do you stop? It’s totally arbitrary ”

          Genetic co-relation. It is an empirical question that we will eventually have the data on.

          “China does not share one language; but because we have a proper Nationalist government in China, we have a cohesive nation.”

          About 90% of the Chinese population are Han. You have a cohesive nation because everyone belongs to the same ethnic group. Yes, there are internal differences between Han- the same is true with the French.

          “Europe could, in time, become one nation; ”

          No, it can’t. Right now it has secessionist movements in Northern Italy and Spain who wish to form their own countries.

          “the United States certainly did not start out as a cohesive nation but as a collection of different colonies that eyed each other with suspicion. ”

          They were all ethnically British. The empire long divided must unite.

          “Third, your family is in fact arbitrary. “You, your brother, and your cousin against the world”. Really? Surely you have friends who are closer to you than your distant family. Everyone does. How many degrees of blood separation have to occur before you consider the person as basically just a stranger? How many degrees of blood separation need there be before your relative is less important to you than your best friend? Etc. etc. etc.”

          In times of plenty, competition decreases and ethnocentrism declines. In times of want, competition increases and ethnocentrism increases. In the parts of the world that are poor and filled with conflict, family ties predominate over all else. As we become more like them, why should we be any different?

          “Fourth, there are effectively no “identity politics” within “white America”, which is why it’s called “white America”.”

          Only if you ignore Jews, organized crime and white ethnic organizations. We still have ethnic newspapers (Vaba Eesti Sõna for example).

          “It can hardly be a matter of blood relations, because an Irishman and a Russian have basically no blood in common. It’s a matter of them all deciding that they are “Americans”.”

          They are more closely related to each other then they are to blacks or Hispanics. Me, my brother and my cousin against the world.

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        5. “That’s the historical definition” according to whom? Helpfully, Sumeria – notable early civilization(s) – defined itself. It did so by the me, civilizational markers that must be maintained or else the system will fall. There’s a list of them, and “Sumerian descent” is not on them. That’s for good reason: the Fertile Crescent was always multiethnic, and language and cultural practice was vastly more important.

          Greek Barbaros was also a linguistic category. Later it became ethnic, and then was reapplied to surrounding Greek states. Only after Persia did Greeks view themselves as an ethnically distinct people, and even then that was much more fluid than you mean (see the history of Greek colonies). Even then, Plato’s suggestion that the Greeks were maybe one people was radical at the time. This tension eventually meant that barbaros fell back into being a linguistic category by the time of Paul.

          In India, Arya was a religious signification. Earlier Dravidian populations had the word applied to them according to how they conducted the rites. You also know this because there are Dravidian Brahmins.

          In North America, many Plains Tribes practiced ritual kidnapping and adoption into the tribe. It depended on age, and if the children were young enough to be properly raised as a member, then they were treated exactly as a member. See: the Comanche and their leaders during the time of the Comanche wars. In other words: not a time of plenty.

          Nation and ethnicity in the modern sense are very recent creations.

          People have pointed this out, you refuse to hear it, whatever. No one is saying that genetics are arbitrary – we’re saying that they are not the arbitrators you want them to be. You’re constructing a narrative to make the world make sense without having to do anything. The easy response is “racism is bad (morally)”, but that would glide right off you and that’s why no one is saying it. What we’re saying is using race as the sorting mechanism is bad factually, it’s a stupid argument that fails to explain why France had Cagots, or why Serbians despise Bosniaks, or (on the other side) how France comes to incorporate Brittany and the Britons now accept it. If it were strictly genetic, then why does it break down culturally, why are genocides nearly always of people with near-identical genetics but cultural distinctions?

          “They were all ethnically British” – but what is that supposed to mean? Does that help your argument? They were all ethnically British, hated each other, and eventually decided to blow the country up in a war. If your argument is “ethnic ties preserve the nation”, which is what it appears to be, then how is Albion’s Seed helpful? All I see is you frantically shifting the goal post, as in: you started with faux crime stats that people exploded immediately, and so shifted to bizarre macro assumptions about history and “human nature”.

          I’m not going to ban you for disagreement, nor for saying stupid things. Some of them I agree with: you’re right about status and British class. But serious question: how does commenting here about this whole race obsession help your [whatever] at all? You’re not going to convince anyone, clearly. Even the people on the Right you’re responding to think that racial identitarianism is for lazy plebs. How much of this is identity preservation, not racial but you specifically, and why do you need that?

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        6. ““That’s the historical definition” according to whom? ”

          The one in the dictionary.

          “Helpfully, Sumeria – notable early civilization(s) – defined itself. It did so by the me, civilizational markers that must be maintained or else the system will fall. There’s a list of them, and “Sumerian descent” is not on them. That’s for good reason: the Fertile Crescent was always multiethnic, and language and cultural practice was vastly more important.”

          Sumeria was a cluster of independent cities, not a nation.

          “Greek Barbaros was also a linguistic category.”

          I’m not claiming nation is eternal- the Greek nation could be forged by common experience out of many independent sub-groups. Exactly what happened in England, France and Germany.

          “In India, Arya was a religious signification. Earlier Dravidian populations had the word applied to them according to how they conducted the rites. You also know this because there are Dravidian Brahmins.”

          This has no context so I have no idea what you are claiming.

          “In North America, many Plains Tribes practiced ritual kidnapping and adoption into the tribe.”

          With their neighbors? Who they repeatedly interacted with? And were thus related to? Or is your point that they didn’t update their customs while they were being bulldozed out of existence?

          “Nation and ethnicity in the modern sense are very recent creations.”

          The terms are modern. However in the past people didn’t have DNA tests and lived near groups that were relatively closely related so they used cultural markers to determine closeness. They cared just as much about heredity as everyone else.

          “What we’re saying is using race as the sorting mechanism is bad factually, it’s a stupid argument that fails to explain why France had Cagots, or why Serbians despise Bosniaks, or (on the other side) how France comes to incorporate Brittany and the Britons now accept it.”

          That is a perfect example of what I am talking about. The French are inside the Hagnal Line; high degree of outmarriage which means low levels of clannishness. Serbs are the opposite. So relatively related groups the French can incorporate while relatively related groups the Serbs fight against the Bosniaks.

          “If it were strictly genetic, then why does it break down culturally,”

          Because since personality is 50% hereditary, culture is a good proxy for genetics.

          “why are genocides nearly always of people with near-identical genetics but cultural distinctions?”

          The same reason people rob banks- that is where the money is. Not alot of opportunities to genocide people who you can’t get to.

          “Does that help your argument? They were all ethnically British, hated each other, and eventually decided to blow the country up in a war.”

          Because no matter how much they disliked each other, they were opposed to outsiders more. How many times must I repeat “me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin, me, my brother and my cousin against the world”?

          “If your argument is “ethnic ties preserve the nation”, which is what it appears to be, then how is Albion’s Seed helpful? ”

          That isn’t my argument. Ethnic ties determine if states break up in the long run or stick together.

          ” you started with faux crime stats that people exploded immediately, ”

          Since I never provided any crime stats, I remain eager to see what you are talking about.

          “Even the people on the Right you’re responding to think that racial identitarianism is for lazy plebs. ”

          If they think they can get people to stop caring about hereditary ties, they are leftists, not rightists. The right is about how human nature cannot be changed and one of the essential building blocks of that is family and blood ties.

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        7. Re: stats
          Looking it up you are presumably referring to:

          Lou Keep
          “The crime wave was for a whole lot of reasons, probably the most significant being that there was a larger share of young people in the populace (the baby boom, duh). You know when murder rates were as high as the 60’s? The 30’s, which is not generally known as a time of racial egalitarianism in the United States.”

          Lets look at what I said, shall we?

          Sam

          “The existence of national borders. You even see the same effects; the dismantling of the racial system in the 1960s was followed by a massive crime wave and the importation of foreigners from the Islamic world is currently creating a massive crime wave.”

          “Because it is wrong for people to enact policies that would prevent them from being murdered by outsiders.”

          “You declared it was necessary to intervene to eliminate Jim Crow, which the consequent effect that the amount of white people being murdered and raped by blacks went up.”

          How odd. The two arguments don’t appear to intersect at all.

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    2. Your Confucian tale reminds me of Socrates and Euthyphro debating the definition of piety on the courthouse steps. Euthyprho insists it is pious to prosecute his own father for murder. Socrates reveals his definition of piety to be riddled with contradiction and appeals to convention. We never discover what piety really means (neither does Socrates, he is convicted of impiety mere moments later).

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  2. But has the left failed to win policy victories on universal health care, unions, and taxing the rich because victory would undermine their mass movement, or is it because of a concerted decades-long effort by the ownership class to smash unions, to lower taxes on the rich, and to take money out of public welfare programs? The forces aligned against the legalization of same-sex marriage were a bunch of crusty old christians with bad arguments; the forces aligned against redistribution of wealth and expansion of the welfare state are the richest and most powerful segments of society.

    I think sometimes of the corporate boycott of North Carolina over their discriminatory transgender bill. All the big corporations rushed to be on the right side of progress on that one. Whereas the very inconceivability of a corporate boycott over a state failing to expand Medicaid, or impose a living wage, or environmental protections, or votings rights, is pretty telling.

    (I love that allegorical use of Abramovic and Rhythm, by the way. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms – either her piece or the political parallel…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks.

      I wasn’t really discussing policy failure/victory. I think that’s a separate question. I meant what the face of the mass movement is, or at least as it’s been since around the 60s, 70s. The New Left is, I suppose, the phrase, although it’s not a perfect one.

      I’m not really sure what the forces allied against [thing] are, so I won’t comment on that. More than corporations, it’s telling that not even left sources tend to react to economic problems (structural, whatever, you know) with the same outrage as identity driven grievances. NC banned counties from expanding the minimum wage within their jurisdictions at the same time as the bathroom bill, and I barely remember a peep about that.

      Related: even if the rich are the primary antagonists to you, you should wonder why it’s so hard to score economic victories now. I think it’s too easy to suggest that the left’s economic goals are opposed by a uniquely malevolent economic power. The left won unions by fighting pinkertons, so who let them smash unions ten years ago? There was no massacre. If the worldview is: the left vs. the rich, and the rich smashed unions, then that seems like it should be expected. You should be wondering why no one fought for them even though the odds were much better than the first fight.

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      1. Some good points there. But then in the context of your thesis, how did the labor movement succeed in the first place? Or were those successes the very undoing of the left as a mass movement (or its conversion into the culturally-focused new left or whatever)?

        But also it’s not like the unions were going along just fine until 10 years ago. Union membership has been falling since the 50s. Wages have stagnated since the 70s. Inequality started lurching up around 1980. One pretty conventional narrative would be: there were big gains during the New Deal/WWII era, and then the post-war period of broad growing prosperity in which two things happened. 1) A critical mass of the masses left the working class as their interests (home-owning, stockholding) became aligned with the rich folk. 2) The latter set about determinedly clawing back their share of national wealth. (I think this more or less jibes with Picketty, from what I’ve gathered, though I haven’t read him.) I suppose the same factors could also account for the left becoming a “bourgeois” movement, oriented around cultural rather than class consciousness… I don’t know if I’m entirely convinced by this story (or convinced that this is the entirety of the story, at least), but I don’t know that I find it less convinging than the Hoffer-y idea either. At any rate, it’s a nice cud to chew on.

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        1. It so happens that yesterday I read Paul Grahams fascinating essay “The Refragmentation,” which pretty much says that the capitalist class won their long-running battle with labor unions when they did because of impersonal market forces unleashed by technological advances. It also purports to explain growth in income inequality in those terms.

          I can only recall ever hearing one other explanation of the setbacks to the modern American left that you’re pointing out, which is similar to your explanation, but the idea isn’t that the working class abandoned unionism because they became too bourgeois, but rather that when the mainstream left (belatedly) embraced the Civil Rights movement and other left-wing identity politics causes, it caused too many white people, particularly in the South, to switch their political allegiance from the pro-labor (and civil rights) party to the anti-civil-rights (and pro-capitalist) party. This version of events seems to be something like conventional wisdom among American liberals. It’s sort of what Thomas Frank was saying in What’s the Matter with Kansas, for instance.

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        2. What I would argue is that this whole narrative being built here isn’t so much an explanation of why labor unions or (insert left-wing cause here) lost, but an explanation of why you don’t know what to do about it, despite being immersed in left-wing theory and surrounded by left-wing think pieces.

          For instance, let me project some of my personal experiences onto you: Do you know who you would talk to about unionizing the work-force where you work? Not just, like, who would tell you it was a good idea, but who would say “Here’s some info about how it’s been done in the past, here’s some union guys to talk to, etc.”? Do you know who you’d go to on the left to organize economic aid if your unionizing efforts lost you your job?

          Now, suppose Trump or Gavin McInnes or Charles Murray or who the fuck ever else is going to be giving a speech in your town, do you know who to go to to organize the protest? Who would point you to more places to spread the word, share what you’re likely to encounter from the police, etc?

          You can guess what my answers to those questions are, I’m sure.

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        3. ” it caused too many white people, particularly in the South, to switch their political allegiance from the pro-labor (and civil rights) party to the anti-civil-rights (and pro-capitalist) party.”

          Richard Nixon is responsible for affirmative action in the Federal government.

          As for the South
          1968 D Texas, Wallace 5 states
          1972 landslide
          1976 all South goes Democrat
          1980 landslide
          1984 landslide
          1988 landslide
          1992 split; half R/D
          1996 split; half R/D
          2000 South goes solid Republican

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    2. “But has the left failed to win policy victories on universal health care, unions, and taxing the rich because victory would undermine their mass movement, ”

      The American left didn’t get those. The European left did to varying degrees. The US did look like it was heading down that path with FDR onward; civil rights is probably the diverter.

      ” The forces aligned against the legalization of same-sex marriage were a bunch of crusty old christians with bad arguments;”

      You mean ‘gays don’t view marriage the same way straight people do’? That one is true; look up how many gays believe marriage means monogamy. You mean ‘it will have no effect on straight people’? Since I believe culture exists I’m going to give this to the Christians. You mean the slippery slope? Colombia legalized polygamous gay marriage so again, they got it right.

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  3. Terry Eagleton (who is both a Freudian and a Marxist) makes the case that what is compelling about Freudianism is it presents a lapsarian narrative outside the constraints of Christianity. The Death Drive, much like Original Sin, perverts our most altruistic ambitions and collective endeavors to tragedy. I don’t buy it, but as a literary metaphor for why you should be skeptical about High Modernist claims, its a pretty good one.

    Like

    1. John Michael Greer, of the Archdruid Report, has written at length about how many of the “civil religions” that flowered in the 20th century were essentially search-and-replace jobs on the Christian cosmological narrative. Marxism is a favorite example: Edenic primitive communism ruined by agriculture, the fallen world of industrial capitalism, the saving remnant of the revolutionary avant-garde, the glory of the World to Come after the revolution, etc.

      Like

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