Friday, September 25, 2020

Angelo Codevilla's "Revolution 2020"

How can one begin to deal with the prophecies of Angelo Codevilla's "Revolution 2020" just out at American Mind?

Where he says that, whether they intended it or not, America's ruling class has declared the Deplorables beyond the pale and therefore ordained a totalitarian future in which nobody will be allowed to dissent from the orthodoxy, or hold an opinion at odds with the orthodoxy, or hold a job if they they are not orthodox.

The point is that Donald Trump represents an inchoate rebellion against the supremacy of the ruling oligarchy:

More and more, America’s ruling class, shaped and serviced by an increasingly uniform pretend-meritocratic educational system, claimed for itself monopoly access to truth and goodness, and made moral as well as technical-intellectual contempt for the rest of Americans into their identity’s chief element. That, along with administrative and material power, made our ruling class the gatekeeper to all manner of goods.

Because, of course, to oppose the oligarchy's "monopoly access to truth and goodness" is the very definition of Satanic evil. And it must be stamped out, in every detail of its satanic systemic racism.

And, of course, once you get the whip in your hand, there is no end to it.

Affirmation of one’s own superiority by punishing inferiors is an addictive pleasure. It requires ever stronger, purer doses of infliction, and is inherently beyond satisfaction.

Codevilla laughs at the pompous notion of the "resistance" to Trump's 2016 election by the ruling class. Yes, of course, the ruling class resisted; it is still resisting.

In fact, the election’s outcome had resulted from the general population’s resistance to the ruling class further solidifying its oligarchy.

And, let us be clear, this resistance of the general population is barely organized or led by anyone. It is inchoate, instinctive, organic.

The warrant for the ruling class oligarchy's power has always been its self-image as certified experts, as truth-telling scientists, its moral concern for "education, to well-being for the poor and disadvantaged, to a healthy natural environment, and to public health." And of course, it moral stand against racial and sexual oppression.

But each and all of these campaigns produced mostly the ostensible objectives’ opposites while increasing the numbers of the oligarchy’s members and their wealth and power[.]

In other words, the oligarchs have wrecked education, demolished the poor, used environmentalism to oppress ordinary people, and used oppression narratives to oppress the deplorables. No wonder the deplorables are rising up.

As with Crane Brinton's notion in An Anatomy of Revolution, the need for totalitarian domination arises from just this failure, of political action failing to achieve its promises -- even producing "the ostensible objetctives' opposites." When your revolution fails to create the Promised Land, that's when you have the choice to admit your failure or double down.

But the ruling class has a problem. The mostly peaceful protesters of the Summer of 2020 have inadvertently made it clear that their real enemy in not Donald Trump but the whole race of deplorable Commoners.

For the ruling class, the electoral problem is that the intersectional coalition’s actions and demands have made far too explicit that crushing Donald Trump is only incidentally its objective—that crushing the spirit of independence in America’s “deplorable” population is its essential objective. 

But, if Trump wins in 2020 and the Republicans maintain their position in Congress, what then?

The greatest benefit that would come from the Left’s defeat in the 2020 election is the possibility that it may become possible to convince the ruling class, if not the intersectionals, that such accommodation is the best deal they can get. But the intersectionals are violent enemies—who must be dealt with as such. Fortunately, there are more spoiled children among them than heroes.

So, the question is whether the oligarchy, the educated Gentry, decides on a truce with the deplorables, to let them go on being deplorable if they don't make too much trouble, or whether the oligarchy truckles to the "intersectional" extremists and goes for broke. Right now, I'd say that the Chucks and the Nancys are finding the AOCs and AntiFas a bit to hot to handle. So there is the temptation to loose them upon the American people as a whole.

And maybe it would work, for a while. But as I say, "there is no such thing as justice, only injustice." What prompts people to form a head of rebellion is perceived injustice.

Oh, and there is one other thing, that women expect to be protected. If you don't protect them, dear oligarchs, then they will look for another protector.

And I suspect that our oligarchic rulers have no idea, literally No Idea, of the depth and breadth of the injustice they have loosed upon the land. Rulers seldom do, until the peasants with pitchforks show up at the door. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Science, Climate Change, Politics and Prophecy

California Governor and nephew of Nancy Pelosi Gavin Newsom just issued an executive order to ban the sale of fossil-fueled powered cars in California in 2035.

Because the science of climate change demands it.

Over at UnHerd.com they have an article suggesting that only by harnessing the power of Nationalism will the world be able to tackle climate change.

Because the disconnected politicking of left and right can't do the job. We need to act as if we were fighting the Nazis or the Commies.

Or take the wonderful City of Seattle Council that has overridden the veto of Mayor Jenny Durkan and made "a down payment" on defunding the police with a reduction of 100 officers in the upcoming fiscal year.

Because, as Marx wrote, history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second as farce. Just because Revolution, Baby, failed in the Sixties doesn't mean it won't succeed today!

What is going on? Why are these politicians doing all this stupid stuff?

Fear not. I have the answers right here.

First of all we must recognize the nasty bind in which today's politicians find themselves. Politics is all, and only, about rallying the men to fight against the foe -- external and internal enemies -- in the present emergency.

Or as I say it in my Maxims: "The only warrant for government power is an existential peril."

But, that was for the old days, the tribal days, when the men of the tribe had to be ready to foil the neighboring tribe's dawn raid. What do you do when the threat of invasion and conquest has diminished to a nothing?

You make it up. That is what climate change is all about. That is what systemic racism is about. Because if there weren't any climate change or systemic racism to worry about we wouldn't need our brave political leaders leading us into battle against the evil giants.

Yes, but what about the science?

OK. Here is where I am going to lose you. Science is nothing more than Prophecy. Oh, it is very good prophecy, much better than divination and the entrails of a goat. But science is still prophecy, meaning it makes predictions about how stuff in the world moves and shakes and changes from moment to moment and day to day and eon to eon.

But isn't science all about logic and reason? Yes indeed. But did you know that humans invented logic and reason to manage their social relationships, and especially their lies? Sorry, I forgot to save the link.

Actually, it was not that long ago that the philosophers descanted upon logic and reason and the mechanics made the clocks and the carts and the cathedrals and ne'er the twain would meet. Until they needed really accurate clocks for global navigation and the mind-guys got together with the clock-maker guys and the European adventurers conquered the world.

The only point of science is to help predict the future, which may be anything from predicting the flight of a cannonball to predicting whether a bridge will fall down. But if you are an engineer you will know that engineers always build in a "factor of safety" when designing a building or an airplane.

Now, this notion of science as prophecy is built into what I call the German Turn in modern knowledge. It begins with Kant saying that we can't know things-in-themselves but only appearances. He was responding to the canceled Hume's dictum that there is no such thing in human knowledge as cause and effect, but only correlation. Just because a building fell down right after a raven flew across the face of the moon doesn't mean that the raven caused the building to fall down.

The German Turn reaches its peak with Jung saying that, for all our conscious knowledge, we are still mostly programmed by unknown "archetypes" in our unconscious, the primordial instincts that kept us as a human species alive for millions of years, and other living species for hundred of millions of years.

What does a living thing need, most of all? It needs to have some glimpse of what happens next, so that it can react in time to make a kill of a mega-fauna or dodge the spear or the bullet. And then whatabout next week? Whatabout next year?

That is what Prophecy is all about. Generally, once a prophetic tradition gets a hold of human minds it becomes an orthodoxy, enforced by the powerful and their priests. Notice that a prophetic tradition does not necessarily have to have a track record, just that influential people support it and enforce its doctrine.

This even extends to science. That's what Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was all about. A new scientific theory doesn't just come along and everybody agrees with it. The new theory -- or "paradigm" -- is not just a harmless idea; it proposes to humiliate the supporters of the old theory. It threatens jobs and reputations in academia. So it really doesn't succeed until the old generation dies off. Best of all, the new theory should make a prophetic prediction: like the prediction of General Relativity that light is bent as is comes close to a very massive object like our Sun.

You can see why climate change and the COVID-19 epidemic are like catnip to politicians. The politician really has nothing to do unless there is an existential peril requiring bold action. The world is coming to an end and we will all die! Unless we act now! There is a new plague and we will all die! Unless we all act now. And this is not just the politician acting up. He is activating Jungian "archetypes" deep in our unconcious.

Do not underestimate how vital and powerful these archetypes are. Writing in 1936 Jung said in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious:

There is no lunacy people under the domination of an archetype will not fall prey to. If thirty years ago anyone had dared to predict that our psychological development was tending towards a revival of the medieval persecutions of the Jews, that Europe would again tremble before the Roman fasces and the tramp of legions, that people would once more give the Roman salute, as two thousand years ago, and that instead of the Christian Cross an archaic swastika would lure onwards millions of warriors ready for death -- why, that man would have been hooted at as a mystical fool. (p.48)

So it is not surprising that politicians lurch towards any existential peril as a warrant for political power; that well-born young men and women throng the streets in mostly peaceful protest, that scientists go with the program and advocate for the hot thing that gets the grants, and that nice liberal ladies throng to the meetings of the latest prophet. 

The thing is to jump off the prophetic train before it transports us to disaster. But how?

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Hamnet and "A More Feminine Sensibility"

As I keep writing, I read, years ago, the German sociologist Georg Simmel who wrote that while the public square -- Öffentlichkeit in German -- was invented by men for men, the emergence of women into the public square starting in the 19th century meant that women would start to change the public square to suit "a more feminine sensibility."

I pondered that for a few years but have since come to believe that women don't relate to the public square, not at all. The public square is a relic of the duel, the fight between two men for dominance, only conducted today with words rather than fists. That is not how women live, or interact. As I say, women communicate one-on-one over coffee and in that conversation they do not disagree with each other, not at all. They talk about other women, as in "I can't believe she said/did that." The public square is not just a thing invented by men for men. It is inaccessible to women because they are women and their brains are wired differently.

So whenever I read a woman author I am thinking about her world-building: how does she present her women characters? Are they presented as just like men only better, like Mulan or a thousand martial-arts female heroes in the movies of the last two decades? Or are they handmaid victims in The Handmaid's Tale? Or what?

Recently a friend gave me a copy of Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague by Maggie O'Farrell, an Irish-born writer that seems to have worked her way up in the Brit world as a journalist. The book is about the death of Shakespeare's son Hamnet, as experienced by Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway, of the well-known cottage.

Hathaway -- called Agnes in the book -- is not your regular feminist kick-ass heroine. Instead the whole book is about her feelings and emotions: what it was like when she first had sex with our Will, what it was like to be left behind in Stratford with the in-laws when Will went to London. And above all what it was like when her beloved son Hamnet dies of the plague and our Will heads back to London after a couple of days: things to do, people to see. And what it was like when Will wrote and produced a play called Hamlet.

Considering that Maggie O'Farrell lives and works in the liberal and woke environment of Brit journalism -- being at one point "deputy literary editor of the Independent on Sunday" -- it is remarkable that she writes a book so free of feminist cant and orthodoxy. And it makes me feel that the worm is turning, and that high-status educated women are starting to get beyond the fantasy of competing mano-a-mano as "independent women" with men in the public square. Instead these high-status women are realizing that the life of a woman just isn't anything to do with strutting your macho stuff on the public stage. It is about who you love, who you hate, who you look after, who you mourn, and what you feel about the day-to-day events of life -- oh, and, of course, the kind of people you invite to dinner.

Now, of course we know, with Curtis Yarvin, that for people in the educated Gentry life is all about "ambition, honor, and vanity." So well-born women are still going to be all about that, only of course, in the feminine sense of ambition, honor, and vanity. And don't forget from Honor: a History by James Bowman that honor among men is the reputation for courage, and honor among women is the reputation for chastity -- or as they say over at Washington Examiner, "Am I a good person?"

Nobody should doubt the emotional wear and tear that come from living a life in a male skin suit, doing that male swagger and male hierarchy thing while still being a woman inside that instinctively is programmed to life a completely different life.

I've been appreciating this more and more from reading Jung and his notion of the battle between the unconscious mind and the conscious mind. When you remember that almost the whole animal world lives only by the instinct and stimulus and image-making from the unconscious mind -- or whatever it is that prompts ants to ant and swallows to swallow -- it helps you appreciate that we humans, that have distinguished ourselves from all other animals by our conscious mind, are still complete beginners in the consciousness game. And, to use Jung's emphasis on the importance of dream analysis in understanding the operation of the unconscious, every time we fall asleep the unconscious mind rears its head and rushes forth from the shadows on to center stage and performs a little playlet, starring the archetypes.

So, I would say that the worm is starting to turn on the women-in-the-public-square front. But don't get your hopes up. Not yet. Not for a while. But it is a start.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

"We Get to Play-act on Your Dime"

I was exchanging emails with a friend about Colorado's Governor Jared Polis, who is putting a vegan on the state board that regulates livestock.

Polis is gay, and he and his "husband" have two children, who go to private school.

Up until now, I have proposed that one of the main aspects of the left's Great Reaction, its lurch back to the primitive, is the Activism Culture, that I say amounts to "play-acting revolution."

But now I am inclined to think that the whole culture of the left, from LGBT to climate change, is all about play-acting.

The idea is that the children of the educated Gentry get to play-act, with sex, with culture, with the environment. On our dime. And if any particular play results in negative results -- even disaster -- well too bad.

Notice how this goes against the notion advanced by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his Skin in the Game. He says:

What should I do? I want to help mankind. His suggestion:

1) Never engage in virtue-signaling;
2) Never engage in rent-seeking;
3) You must start a business. Put yourself on the line, start a business.

In other words, don't do anything unless you have Skin in the Game, so that if your idea to help mankind turns out to be a dud -- and most such ideas are -- then you are the one that suffers the losses, not the rest of mankind.

See what I mean? Everything our liberal friends do is at other peoples' expense. If they are professors advocating for the Green New Deal, then it's all gravy for them. Government grants for now, and maybe Green Czar jobs down the line. But if the whole thing wrecks the economy? Hey. don't blame me; I only work here.

Oh no! A pandemic! Shut the economy down, because even one life lost is too much! But whatabout the millions of young people and semi-skilled that get furloughed and fired, while gubmint employees skate for a year and the bureaucrats that set the rules are entirely unaccountable for their mistakes? (And everyone makes mistakes).

If it is the Great Society, to give money to unmarried mothers, and results in 70 percent of children in the black community being born outside marriage? Hey, what's your problem, racist?

If it is gay marriage, suggesting to suggestible youngsters that it is kinda cool to experiment with your gender, well whatabout the kids? An American philosopher once told me that all children want a mother and a father: their mother and their father. I wonder what the social-science research says about children raised by gays and/or lesbians? Or is that even allowed?

If it is "affordable housing" and brilliant academic economists propose low-down-payment loans and liar loans, and the whole thing ends up in a generational financial panic where millions lose their jobs and millions more their life savings, where are the ones responsible? The academics with the brilliant ideas? The activists that sold the idea as a matter of justice? The politicians that bought votes with promises of home-ownership?

If it is electric cars, then electric car manufacturers get subsidies, electric car buyers get subsidies, Elon Musk makes a fortune, and German car manufacturers promise to stop making diesel-powered cars. What happens if renewable energy wind-turbines and solar cells can't deliver the power? Who takes the losses? The greenie activists? The rent-seeking billionaires? The ordinary consumers suffering power outages? The politicians that told us we had 12 years to save the planet?

There are literally dozens, if not hundreds of "issues" for which professors want research money, activists want to virtue-signal, special interests want to rent-seek, and politicians want to buy votes. But none of them have Skin in the Game. None of them will go bankrupt and lose everything they have if their brilliant idea turns out to be a dud. They are, in effect, play-acting on the public dime, kids playing on the jungle gym at the local park.

And what happens if all these grand plans all come crashing to Earth at the same time?

Hey kid. Grow up and stop with the play-acting. Learn what it means to have Skin in the Game and get a life!

Monday, September 21, 2020

It's Not a Good Idea for the Supreme Court to Legislate Morality

So here we are, with another Supreme Court nomination fight on our hands.

I was to dinner with the liberal neighbors last night and they were all sighing over the death of Supreme Court Justice and liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They had seen the documentary of her life, RBG, and were full of scenes like the moment in law school when the professor publicly made fun of her taking a place away from a guy.

For me, Ginsburg was a problem, because as a Good Little Girl of her feminist generation she thought that the job of the Supreme Court was and is to legislate liberal morality.

Of course, liberals high and low are horrified by the idea that Donald Trump might nominate a conservative Christian woman like Amy Coney Barrett. The Noive!

All I have to say, liberals, is that this is the wages of your strategy of legislating from the Supreme Court.

That is not what the law is all about. In the end, you will rue the day that you decided to start legislating your agenda through the administrative state and the law courts, but that time is not yet.

Now, some years ago I read The Story of Law by John Maxcy Zane. And the big takeaway for me was how much that the story of law has been about inheritance and commerce. In other words, when things go wrong with inheritance and with trade, that's when you have to call in the lawyers. It's amazing how complicated things can get. Why is this? Zane writes:

Nothing is more silly than to say that the law made private property. The fact is the exact opposite. Private property came to exist and it made the law.

In other words, once humans began to treat some or all property as private, attached to an individual, then humans needed law to sort out conflicting claims about private property. 

That has made me skeptical, ever since, of the usefulness of law when it comes to morality.

Let us ventilate three ideas.

Politics and government are all about force. On what grounds can the state apply force to people? Because of violence? Because the state needs the money to pay for its wars?

Law is all about private property. What do you do when the heirs to railroad magnate -- and notorious robber baron -- Jay Gould start fighting over his $30 million fortune?

Religion is all about morality. What do you do about behavior you regard as immoral?

May I say that I regard this separation of powers as one of the most amazing achievements of humankind?

Let us investigate the question of abortion in this light of this separation of powers.

What do you do, for instance, about a woman who aborts her fetus? Immediately after conception? After the first trimester? Just before normal birth? Right after birth?

Now, I would say that a man that tells a woman carrying his child to "get rid of it" at any point is a cad. I take the moral position that if you have sex with a woman then your act is a commitment that says you would like her to have your child. Don't like my morality? Fine. I ain't forcing it on you.

But whatabout a woman who decides to abort her fetus?

In the first trimester? I'd call her flighty and foolish.

In the second trimester? I would call her very flighty and very foolish.

In the third trimester? I would call that flat out immoral.

At or immediately after birth? I would call that a crime.

See, I believe there is a difference between an immoral act, where all good women agree to name and shame and shun the immoral wench in question, and a criminal act, which implies an act of force, where police and criminal courts and hanging judges and gaolers are needed to take care of things.

But there is always a temptation, especially if you are a fervent believer or an ambitious elitist, to legislate morality, to treat questions of morality using the state institutions for dealing with human-on-human violence.

And that is the Big Problem of our times. Our liberal educated Gentry have abused their position as cultural arbiters, as what Curtis Yarvin calls the "Cathedral," to impose their morality on the rest of humanity.

See, even though I think that a woman that gets an abortion is flighty and foolish, and a man that encourages his partner to "get rid of it" is a cad, I still don't think that it should be a question of criminal procedure.

However, when a woman encompasses the death of her newborn baby, as George Eliot dramatizes in Adam Bede, where the abandoned mother Hetty Sorrel abandons her baby in a pile of leaves, well, that is something that requires the state to intervene. George Eliot makes it perfectly clear that Hetty Sorrel is both flighty and foolish. But she saves her from the gallows and sends her off to Australia. George Eliot was a sweetie.

Back in the day it seemed like a good idea to liberals to legislate Roe v. Wade from the bench and bring the US into the 20th century and legalize abortion like all modern societies in Europe. But did you know that the "modern societies in Europe" all pretty well ban abortions after the first trimester? Whereas in the US liberals are toying with OKing abortion "after birth?"

Then, of course, liberals legislated Affirmative Action and gay marriage and I know not what from the Supreme Court.

Problem is that what yesterday's Supreme Court decides last year can be reversed next year. So all your liberal Supreme Court decisions rest on a knife-edge, the partisan composition of the nine justices. So that is why all liberals go crazy whenever there is a vacancy on the court that takes place when a Republican is president. Because suddenly everything is at risk!

Let me tell you a story. Back in 1984 in Washington State, the religious right put Initiative 471 on the ballot to ban public funding of abortions. It went down, 53%-47%. And that decided the question of abortion in Washington State. Basically, we haven't  had a peep from the religious right since.

Do you see the difference of deciding this by a vote of the people and a vote of the educated elite? When the people decide, that is final. When the elite decides they end up having to enforce their decision with cancel culture. Why? Because they didn't take the trouble to persuade people. They just used their power as the educated elite to change the rules, and don't you dare object, peasant.

I don't know when our liberal friends will see the error of their ways. I would guess not for decades, not until there is a permanent Republican majority on the Court and a permanent Republican majority in the Congress.

What? Is that even conceivable? Well, it does according to my reductive Three Peoples theory. The evolving Republican Party under Donald Trump is a party of the ordinary middle class Responsibles, the Commoners. And our liberal friends have no idea, No Idea, that Commoners have a different view of the meaning of life, and have a right to have the government and its laws take account of that.

But, the bigger question would be for the government to get its cotton-picking hands off morality and let ordinary religious communities take care of the question of naming, shaming, and shunning the members of their community that violate their unwritten moral values.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Why the Age of Revolution is Over

Starting with an oped at The American Thinker on September 1, I have been tossing around the notion that "the Age of Revolution is over."

What I mean by that is that, once the old feudal hierarchy and its bastard child, the absolute monarchy, had submitted to the rise of the non-noble bourgeoisie there was no more work for revolution to do.

What is revolution? Good question. At the very least it is a Singularity between two oil-and-water regimes that seem unable to mix.

Or at least, you have to have a ancien régime that cannot get its head into the idea of discussing questions of power and precedence with those people, darling.

Thus Charles I of England and Scotland. It just seemed unthinkable to deal with those Roundhead Puritans. So coarse, old chap. So the Brits had a Civil War.

Thus also the American Revolution. Just shut up, peasants, and pay your taxes to pay for the French and Indian War that benefited you! So we got the shot heard around the world.

But when we get to the French Revolution, I'd say that Louis XVI had already kinda inhaled the new ideas. He couldn't bring himself to bring the hammer down on the lawyers and activists that were brewing revolution in the cafés of the Palais-Royal. So he went to the guillotine, but not from a civil war.

Thus also the Russian Revolution. The Czar Nicholas was already less than the pure autocrat of Czarist ideology. So he got pushed aside by a bourgeois revolution that only later got beheaded by the cunning Bolsheviks.

I want to set this up, because when we come to the Sixties and Revolution Baby, we are not talking about revolution. Why not? Because the Sixties Kidz were tolerated, even encouraged by their parents and their professors. Liberal Parents, Radical Children wrote Midge Decter. Liberal parents were already the upper social class that dictated what other people thought and said. The Sixties Revolution was not an old ruling class being replaced in a Singularity by a new elite. It was more of a changing of the guard of one sector of the ruling class -- call it the old WASP elite -- by another, the liberal educated elite.

Incidentally, the ordinary all-American middle class didn't like the Sixties, not one bit. But, as they say, we are all living the Sixties culture now, letting it all hang out unless strictly forbidden by the cancel culture.

But here we are again, with the Kidz in the streets enacting their kabuki dance of "mostly peaceful protest." Is this the Revolution, baby? No, it ain't. This is the street theater of the ruling class, by the ruling class, and for the ruling class.

And what is it all about? It is rehearsing what seemed to work back in the Obama era when President Obama and the ruling class decided to make a big deal about the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of a "white Hispanic," George Zimmerman in early 2012, the year in which President Obama was running for reelection after a less than stellar first term. What do you do to rally your supporters before an election or before a war? You get them to think that the enemy is coming to get them. And that is the point of the Trayvon Martin / Michael Brown / George Floyd phenomenon. To get African Americans to think that, once again, the white racists are coming to get them.

I wonder if the real story is that the monolithic Black vote is in danger of breaking up, is breaking up, unless the ruling class whips it into shape with a racist panic?

And could it happen that One Fine Day, the black vote will not rally to the usual racist Police Brutality canard?

Anyway, whatever the current mostly peaceful protests may be, they are not Revolution, because they are not in any way threatening the ruling class of educated Gentry.

Unless, of course, the mostly peaceful protests provoke the voters to reelect Donald Trump in a landslide.

Here's how we get to Revolution. We get there if the current ruling class of educated Gentry continues to refuse to consider the grievances of the Commoners of America when presented to them politely from a peaceable assembly.

See, that's how Charles I lost his crown and how George III lost his American colonies. They and their advisers just could not get their heads around the idea that their critics belonged in the same room with them.

And that is the message that President Obama sent with his "bitter clingers" remark and that Hillary Clinton sent with her "basket of deplorables" remark.

So, if the Age of Revolution is not in fact over, the reason will be that our liberal friends in the ruling class have No Idea that their current rule is starting to give the ordinary American Commoner no option except to raise a head of rebellion that will, without doubt, force him to pledge his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor to a less than peaceful protest against injustice.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Thoughts on the Lefty "Successor Ideology"

The term "successor ideology" was coined by Wesley Yang to describe a "melange of academic radicalism now seeking hegemony throughout American institutions." That's how Reihan Salam at the Manhattan Institute describes it while leading off a discussion on "The Successor Ideology" with Ross Douthat, Coleman Hughes and Wesley Yang.

But what are we to think?

I had several takeaways from the discussion. First of all, if you are a minority, especially if you are black, it is really rough trying to make it in the educated culture of the academy, the corporation, and the bureaucracy. It explains the mania about "microaggressions." Wesley Yang:

There's a process that people go through when they enter into... new social settings where they don't know what fork to use at the dinner table, so on and so forth.

In other words, the climb from being a middle-class "anybody" into an upper social class "somebody" is fraught with embarrassment and setback, because you are learning the culture as you go. In fact, the chaps that were "to the manor born" are going to sneer at you. Back in Britland, this sneering is encapsulated in the putdown: "not quite out of the top drawer, old chap." 

So, you can react to difficulty by steeling yourself for the struggle, or you can complain about the meany-jellybeanie white supremacists that are laughing and sneering at you. Guess what: if you want to rise in the world, it is hard! Get used to it.

But, on the other hand, according to Ross Douthat, there is among ordinary white people in the upper social class "a sense of exhaustion with the culture of meritocracy." Or, to put it another way, there are a lot more people competing for the glittering prizes than there were a while ago, and the problem is that there are only a limited number of glittering prizes.

There was this period that coincided with the kind of Fukuyama and end of history, where meritocracy really believed in itself, I think, and there is this sense that you could just run this system of high SAT scores and plucking people from all over and putting them into elite institutions and making them experts and it would all work out pretty well.

So, even white people from good families can get on the successor ideology bandwagon because it gives them an excuse to fail.

Then there is the need for sin. In the old Christian dispensation original sin was a personal thing. But what to do if you no longer believe in the Christian concept of sin? Perfectly simple: you can believe in the collective sin of "enslaving black people" and fill your "original sin shaped hole in the human psyche" with the sin of slavery.

Then there is the baby-boomers-owning-the-world problem. If you are a millennial, and especially a non-white millennial, it seems like the white baby boomers have got the whole world cornered. No fair!

Then there is the class aspect. Black Coleman Young says:

When I go to my family reunion, which is just middle class black people from Ohio, some college educated, some not, there's not a hint of [woke]. There's a lot of center left politics, but not a single hint of the vocabulary of the successor ideology could be found, and it would be alarming if it were there.

Meanwhile, I'm at Columbia and I can't find anything. I can't even find the person using the language of Christianity. It's just intersectionality all the way down in the culture.

In other words, this successor ideology is a thing of the upper social class, the educated Gentry. Commoners need not apply.

Coleman Young then relates how he got to go to a "People of Color Conference" that was led by "this extremely charismatic gay black man... the type that... could be selling books on the road and be drawing audiences to get his self help stuff." Er, no, Coleman. We are talking about a revival meeting and the sawdust trail. Good to know that the good old tent revival meeting is not yet lost to history, thanks to our lefty friends. And remember back in the day when revival meetings were just eeeuw!

Then Ross Douthat blames it all on Donald Trump whose "approach to racial issues, to put it mildly, is inflammatory and ineffective" and who has accelerated the leftward move in US institutions and driven a lot of suburban white Americans -- and white female suburban white Americans -- away from conservatism.

Yeah. Except that as far as I can see, Trump is running a full-court press for blacks and Hispanics to think of themselves as regular Americans. He is saying: come on in and join the party, because you belong as ordinary Commoner Americans.

Then there is the curious fact, introduced by Wesley Yang, that the current move away from entry to university on the basis of test results happens to coincide with a period in which a huge wave of Asians are outperforming whites in the test department. And these Asians come from a culture that determined "the life chances of their young people on the basis of a single high stakes examination for more than a thousand years." I mean. If you are exhausted with the competition of more and more people competing for the same glittering prizes...

I have a modest connection with this. Back when I was a kid in Britland as a baby boomer, I was conscious that I was the first generation of public-school boys that were not going to get into Oxbridge without extraordinary effort and brilliance. Oh well; I was not really that interested in competing for the glittering prizes anyway. But suppose I had wanted to dance with the girl who danced with the Prince of Wales? Then I might have been bitter for the rest of my life.

Oh, and I had my share of "microaggressions," like the prof at university that told me that I was taking a place away from a deserving working-class boy; or the managing partner at work that asked "where did this guy come from" when I made a mild remonstrance against something in a cultural sensitivity training session. But you know what? That is life. You don't let other people get you down. After all, they are knaves and fools!

My takeaway?

Yep. Life is rough right now for the scions of the upper middle class, the children of people that, without particular standout talent, rose to professorships and deputy assistant directorships. And life is rough for the young folks, particularly blacks, trying to make it in the upper social class of education, corporation, and bureaucracy, because you are learning a new culture, and that is hard.

But here's the thing. If you want to be a "somebody" then a career in the educated bureaucracies, whether in the university, media, coporations, or government or activism is actually fake. You will not make yourself into a "somebody;" it will all be let's pretend. 

You wanna be a "somebody?" Well, then try to be an Elon Musk. Or a Steve Jobs. Dive into high tech for a season and then try your own startup. I know a young man that dropped out of university to get into a blockchain startup. One thing  led to another and he's sold his company for a tidy sum to an outfit doing 401(k)s and IRAs. That is what I call real achievement; that is the real arc of getting from "anybody" to "somebody." 

But if you are just checking the boxes in the existing upper-class hierarchy? Well, Charles Dickens had you figured out nearly 200 years ago when he wrote in Little Dorrit about the Barnacles and Stiltstockings at the Circumlocution Office.

If you fancy a career in the bureaucracy, which are you? Are you a Barnacle, just hanging on to your job until you get the pension? Or are you a Stiltstocking, strutting and fretting your hour upon the stage with the illusion that your dull post in the hierarchy will make you into a "somebody?"

Here's what I think. I think that this whole successor ideology or leftist reign of terror is a reflection of a cultural crisis in the educated elite, a failure of meaning.

The fact is that going through the chairs in the administrative elite is a life without meaning. You can see this in the parade of swamp creatures we have seen in the War on Trump. They are anybodies pretending to be somebodies. But the scions of the elite have always expected to jump the queue, to get a nice plum job without having to brave the dangers of the time. 

And when they get frustrated they need to blame someone. They can't blame the minorities trying to come up through the system. They cannot blame themselves -- heavens no! -- so they blame the Trump deplorables.

Yeah, no kidding! Life is hard, even in these times when everyone in the world except way out in the country has a smartphone. Life is no longer a struggle to survive, to get the next meal on the table. But it is still a struggle for status, for being the equal or the superior of your fellows. People are still jockeying for position in the hierarchy. Indeed, according to the modern notion of the hierarchy of needs, once you have food on the table then your whole life turns around the next stage in the hierarchy. And there is no end to this.

The experts at the Manhattan Institute think that the successor ideology still has ten years to run before it runs out of steam.

Very good. But then what? What will succeed the successor ideology?