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Apocalypse Delayed

A problem distilled by admin:

“Extend-and-pretend” — or radically finite reality denial — is an engine of catastrophe. It enables negative consequences to be accumulated through postponement . . .

Yet the accumulation is a slow one, so perhaps there is no reason to expect a singular catastrophe recognizable as such. We’re not talking about volcanoes and meteorites but large-scale economic, social, and political phenomena. In the context of such phenomena, catastrophe, in Eliot’s words, may be a slow whimper until we run out of breath rather than a cataclysmic bang with an instantaneous reckoning.

Catastrophe—finally hitting the wall of reality—may in the end be local, diffuse, an ongoing yet controllable thing. The politics of the last decade might be read not as “extend and pretend” but as “scatter the negative consequences.” Shifting the metaphor, we should not ask “When does the pressure finally explode?” but “How do governments (and their functionaries) release steam at the margins?” Of course, we can also ask, “Where does the steam escape on its own, regardless of planned release?” The Cathedral is not stupid; perhaps it doesn’t let negative consequences accumulate so much as cook the books, fudge the ledgers, and move money between accounts (shifting metaphors again). State and federal policy as an endless series of maneuvers designed to keep the Good Ship Society afloat indefinitely, water flooding in through a thousand small holes but pumped out again through a thousand more poked by the shipbuilders.

Catastrophe is thus framed as a local event. Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt, the Fed prints more money. Another Detroit neighborhood loses electric power, another D.C. neighborhood gentrifies thanks to federal salaries. Or, in the social realm, a white Bosnian is killed in Ferguson, but now black Africans are “Christian terrorists.”

None of this is to say that a game of “scatter the negative consequences” can go on indefinitely, despite what its planners might think, anymore than a game of “extend and pretend” can go on indefinitely. But it is to say that the endgame exists, by design, on a much longer time scale than any of us realize.

Future Gnon Lulz

Funny future scenario:

Sometime near the year 2114. Third world immigration has flooded first world city centers across North America and Europe. Some cities are 70+% NAM. The welfare state’s tipping point has finally been reached; austerity policies are beginning to roll back welfare programs at unprecedented rates to avoid state and federal insolvency. Widespread protests. Greece on a massive scale. At the same time, global warming has finally happened, and coastal cities are beginning to lose neighborhoods. Not a big deal for the rich whites and East Asians, but not all coastal cities are Malibu. Every month, more and more poor NAMs find themselves untethered and homeless, both within first world countries but, more devastatingly, in third world shitholes.

Those NAMs who have found themselves ensconced (though not assimilated) in Western countries start getting panicked phone calls from their cousins and uncles and grandmothers. “We coming to you for staying. No more home here. Just water.”

Now, these Western NAM immigrants—fourth, fifth generation—aren’t stupid. They know that austerity is on the horizon. If they want to stop those welfare rollbacks, the worst thing that could happen is a massive influx of more people putting themselves on the government payrolls. This is not ten thousand here or ten thousand there. We’re talking millions of displaced persons flooding into barely-solvent jurisdictions every month. The local immigrants know this great movement of peoples is the final nail on the coffin of their state handouts and privileges. Each family accepts a few of their own personal relatives moving in but vehemently opposes more distant relations or neighbors’ families jumping onto this already-sinking life raft.

Anti-refugee groups form, manned entirely by indigenous immigrant NAMs. Fourth generation welfare-addicted citizens protesting the daily arrival of flooded-out illiterate halal peddlers. A caramel-coated Tea Party is regenerated. The image of Caesar Chavez is evoked as the indigenous defenders of dying welfare programs take to the deserts to defend the borders of their Western golden geese.

As Stephen King once said: “It always comes round to the same place again.”

Free Speech

China has no interest in your free speech nonsense:

China’s state news agency, Xinhua, ran a commentary by its Paris bureau chief in which he said: “Unfettered and unprincipled satire, humiliation and free speech are not acceptable.”

A commentary posted on the Xinhua website also warns that we now live in “a reality that demands basic respect and prudence be exercised in mass communication so as to reduce inter-culture and inter-religion misunderstanding and distrust, which can easily be exploited by terrorists.”

Good governance and peaceful domestic relations are two things neoreactionaries are supposed to value. So what is the neoreactionary theory of free speech?

It seems to me like a binary choice, at least in terms of sound policy. Either a society embraces free speech for all (as a principle) or it rejects free speech for all. Either might work. In contrast, a speech policy based on positionality rather than principle is bound to create more resentment than one in which anyone is allowed to say anything without legal or fiscal consequence. Unfortunately, this is precisely the policy in the West: whether or not something “can be said” depends on the positions of the people speaking and of the people being spoken about. Chris Hedges and others have pointed this out. In most of Europe, it is perfectly legal to mock Mohammed but illegal to deny the Holocaust or to write Nazi tracts. I would not lose my academic job for writing about high IQs in East Asia, but I could very well lose it for writing about low IQs in Africa.

There can be no denying that the Chinese are partially right. If, as a matter of free speech, one group of people is allowed to mock and humiliate another group of people, domestic relations are assured to be turbulent, perhaps even violent. If, on the other hand, no one is allowed to mock or humiliate anyone else, on pain of imprisonment, then people will keep their opinions behind closed doors and play nice in public, thereby ensuring general domestic tranquility.

Of course, any NRx theory of free speech must take into consideration the historical contingency of this Western, secular value. Expecting all non-Western immigrants to immediately and eagerly accept this value is an exercise in progressive retardation, and it is a lesson that, unfortunately, the French writers of Charlie Hebdo had to learn the hard way.

Volver, or Christianity and the Degenerative Ratchet

“Christianity is dead” is an extreme categorical statement with which one can quibble, but one cannot deny that Christianity has lost whatever power it once possessed to guide civilization. As a political force, it is non-existent. It is even less powerful than that ancient gathering of a few dissident Jews in Palestine. At least they had potential force.

Reactionaries who think they can “revive” the religion of their ancestors, who think they can “restore” their throne and altar, are forgetting the core neoreactionary insight: the degenerative ratchet. Once something embarks on leftward movement (as Christianity has done since, at least, the Reformation), there can be no stopping its leftward movement. One cannot go back along the same leftward path. The way out of the degenerative ratchet cannot be the way in.

Ultimately, those who use the language of  “return” or “regeneration” or “restoration” seek only one thing: to turn back the clock on Christianity. Back to the 1950s. Back to the 1850s. Back before that drunken German monk ruined everything. It doesn’t matter when. Volver. The idea is to move backward along the leftward path, to move rightward once again, to return, to go back to some point in the past before the leftward movement became so extreme. The idea is to get out the way we came in. Which is impossible. 

The only way to stop the leftward movement—the degenerative ratchet—of Christianity is  . . . catastrophe.

A degenerative ratchet can only progress, until it cannot go on, and it stops. What happens next is something else—it’s Outside. Moldbug calls it a reboot.  History can tell us to expect it, but not what we are to expect.

. . . This is why NRx is dark. The only way out of a degenerative ratchet is catastrophe.

Does the Bible itself not bear this out? God does not return His people peacefully to Eden. God reboots. God resets. Catastrophically. When He saw that all of mankind had fallen into utter degeneracy, he sent a world-destroying Flood, rebooted the earth, and began a completely new covenant with Noah. Whenever Israel misbehaves in the Bible, God scatters it. And what else is Jesus’ Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection but the complete turning-on-its-head of everything Israel had expected? What else is the Gospel but a complete reset of the “kingly” Messianic expectation? God does not return things to a golden age of the past. He lets things fester until He decides they can’t fester any longer, then He washes everything clean in a divine catastrophe.

There can be no “return” for Christianity. There can be no “restoration” of some imagined pagan past. The degenerative ratchet has done its work, and we can’t look behind us down that already-traveled road. Better to look forward to the generative catastrophe ahead.

A Monopoly on Violence

The tribal urban protests happening in American cities bring most forcefully to mind this simple question:

Who, if anyone, is to have a monopoly on violence?

—-

The Western provides the archetype:

A small town on the prairie, full of good, hardworking folk, is being terrorized by a roving band of horse and cattle thieves, or perhaps by a land baron forcing the community under threats of violence into selling their farms for well-below-market value. What are the good townspeople to do? They are not violent by nature, and even if one can find a few strong men to fight the good fight, everyone knows the dark truth: a defensive blow from their side would simply result in an even stronger blow from the cattle thieves or the land baron. Thus would be initiated an ever-escalating battle, with uncertain ends. Too much to lose.

In rides the Man With No Name. On horseback, six shooters at his side. He hails from nowhere and nothing. He takes up the cause of the townspeople. He rides out to confront the roving band of thieves or the land baron. Not only does he fight the enemy, he kills the enemy. He wins not only the one fight but all future fights, so that the town might live in peace even once he has gone.

And he must go. The Man With No Name must ride into the sunset. He cannot become part of the community he has saved; there is too much blood on his hands. He has saved the town through viciousness. He has saved it with bullets and with mortal wounds, the only way to save it, but luckily, The Man With No Name has saved the town not only from its physical threat but also from the moral threat of guilt. Thanks to the Man With No Name, the town did not have to summon its own monstrous viciousness to confront and defeat the monster. 

The Man With No Name is a sin-eater. He has a monopoly on the violence which is necessary to save the town, so that the town needn’t deal with the truth, that moral terror is necessary to combat moral terror.

One of the central questions confronting any society is how to deal with the threat of violent individuals or groups that exist within it. The answer has generally been to give the state or some other centralized power a complete monopoly on the violence necessary to ensure protection against internal threats to harmony. Generally speaking, this monopoly is to be Nameless, hailing from nowhere and nothing, which is why the horseman in the Western has No Name and why the executioner wears a mask when he beheads the criminal. The executioner, like the horseman, is a sin-eater. He combats terror with terror so that the community or the individuals victimized do not have to, that they might remain innocent.

The alternatives to monpolized violence slide quickly toward vigilantism or mob rule, scenarios in which any community or individual may be called upon to resort to violence in order to combat violence.

Neoreactionary law would be minimal, protecting negative rights. The only acts punishable in a neoreactionary society would be acts that materially harm or that intend to materially harm body or property.

What, then, does the neoreactionary society do with a Michael Brown, or even a Tamir Rice? (A neoreactionary society would not have bothered Eric Garner, because a neoreactionary society would not decree laws against the free trade of cigarettes.)

What does the neoreactionary society do with internal threats? It is not enough to answer “Exit” for every internal threat, for there is no escaping the problems of internal criminality and violence. We must address those internal threats. How do we address them?

Do we give some central power a monopoly on the violence necessary to combat internal violence?

Do we outsource the violence?

Do we distribute it?

Torture

According to ThinkProgress, which would surely paint the worst possible picture, the CIA held 119 individuals for torture. The Torture Report itself tells us that only 39 individuals were actually tortured. These individuals were tortured in the following way:

(1) the attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap, (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) waterboard, (10) use of diapers, (11) use of insects, and (12) mock burial.

With the exception of (9) and (12), there’s nothing in this list that doesn’t occur in military training or during fraternity hazing. And unlike the Japanese, who buried people alive for real, the mock burials conducted by the CIA did not result in actual burial. That leaves (9), waterboarding, as the only technique that could possibly be defined as “torture,” unless one is willing to apply the designation to military training and fraternity hazing.

The “dungeon” in which these “tortures” occurred was not a 5 star hotel, according to ThinkProgress, and this is cause for alarm:

Detainees at the COBALT detention facility were kept in complete darkness and constantly shackled in isolated cells with loud noise or music and only a bucket to use for human waste.

According to the Washington Post, however, such interrogation never lasted longer than 2 weeks. According to the Report itself, only 39 individuals went through these interrogations.

- – – -

I’m of the opinion that enhanced interrogation, torture, or whatever you want to call it is probably ineffective 90% of the time, which may or may not mean that it is worth doing for the sake of the 10% of the time that it produces valuable intelligence.

I am not going to defend the CIA because the CIA is an arm of the Cathedral, and its psychotic operatives, who follow whatever commands trickle down from the White House and the Pentagon, would just as soon waterboard a dissident blogger as a jihadist. However, because the majority of the 119 “tortured” individuals were enemies of my country, men who would kill me if they had the chance and who were involved in a movement to kill Americans, I see no reason to be angry that the CIA roughed these men up. I’m not even angry that one of them died of hypothermia, although I do think someone should have been dishonorably discharged over that fuck up.

There is an appropriate level of moral distaste that one might feel upon reading the Torture Report. War is a dirty affair, the men who volunteer for it may not be the best of men, and whatever occurred during these enhanced interrogations is certainly not a war story about which the soldiers and operatives can be proud. However, those on the Left who are rending their garments over this report have shown themselves, again, to possess moral compasses that are broken beyond repair. Consider it: here are a mere 119 men, degraded, surely, but who are alive today and did not receive any permanent injuries at the hands of their captors. If Abu Zubaydah is any indication, most of these men have been high ranking members of para-military groups involved in para-military action against the U.S. and her allies—in other words, they have attempted, successfully or otherwise, to blow things up and take American lives. And yet roughing them up, keeping them in dark rooms, pouring water over their faces, these are actions for which America is to be deeply troubled and ashamed. These are actions which show us to be, indeed, the Great Satan that the jihadists (rightly) believe we are.

Of course, very few people rending their garments over the fact that 119 jiahdists had to shit in buckets for a few weeks have ever made a show of rending their garments over the many atrocities that occur across the world on a daily basis, atrocities that leave headless children, limbless men, and deflowered women in their wake. Sandra Fluke has piped up to say she is “horrified by the torture report,” but spend time scrolling down her Twitter feed to find how many times she has commented on horror at anything but the gender pay gap. You will be scrolling quite a while. ISIS beheads four children, but 39 jihadists getting water poured over their faces is “the horror! the horror!”

We are familiar with the motivation on display here. There is one standard of behavior for white Westerners and another standard of behavior for everyone else. Abu Zubaydah commits his life to jihad, helps plan the 9/11 attacks, all par for the course, can we really blame him, but here now, you pour water on his face and make him piss his pants, it’s time for the European Court of Human Rights to step in and award him 30,000 Euros for being submitted to such horrors. We have to show these Arabs who are their moral betters.

The only other possible motivation for rending one’s garment over 39 jihadists shitting in buckets for a few weeks (while not rending one’s garments over dead American soldiers) is that one sides with the jihadists. Such a motivation has precedence in the history of the Left. 

A Letter to Dr. Michael White

There are debates in linguistics about how to categorize languages and dialects; Nicholas Wade has reignited the debate over how to categorize human populations.

Michael White’s recent article is titled  “Why Your Race Isn’t Genetic,” although at the end of his essay, he writes, “Without natural genetic boundaries to guide us, human racial categories remain a product of our choices. Those choices are not totally arbitrary, biologically meaningless, or without utility.” So, perhaps a better title would have been “Why Your Race Isn’t Only Genetic.”

I recommend you read the article before reading the following letter.

- – – – – -

Dr. White,

In your article, you cite Templeton’s “Biological races in humans,” where Templeton argues that all humans share a common lineage and that races are not sub-species because the five major ‘races’ of humans account for only 4.3% of cross-population human genetic variation—well below the 25% threshold set for sub-species categorization. But, later, Templeton himself writes that “this finding does not mean that all human populations are genetically identical. Past founder events, isolation-by-distance, and other restrictions on gene flow ensure that human populations are genetically differentiated from one another, and local adaptation ensures that some of these differences reflect adaptive evolution to the environmental heterogeneity that our globally distributed species experiences” (9).

So, there are genetic differences between human populations, but the argument offered by you and Templeton is that those differences don’t meet the standard for classifying different human populations as sub-species. I accept this argument completely insofar as “sub-species” is given an objective cut-off point, but it still doesn’t tell us how to classify (or whether we should classify) the differences that do exist between human populations. With that point in mind, here’s my first extended question:

I mentioned dog breeds on Twitter, and it seems that variation across breeds is near 27%, while human genetic variation has been found to be somewhere on the range of 5-10% (Parker et al. 2004), though, as just noted, Templeton puts it at 4.3%.

However, all of these numbers take large swaths of humanity (or dog breed-dom) into consideration. Ostrander and Wayne 2005 note (Figure 2) that within certain clusters of breeds, there is considerably less variation between one breed and the next. Two other papers (Erdogan et al. 2013 and Ye et al. 2009) have shown that cross-breed genetic variation drops well below 25% in certain contexts. Genetic variation between labs and springer spaniels, for example, is set at 0.09.

That dog breeds are the results of artificial breeding is inconsequential for this discussion about categorization. We know a priori that the notion of “breed” in dogs is a valuable classification system. So, if it’s true that among certain breeds, cross-breed variation drops well below 25%, then why isn’t it possible to have such a classification system to describe variation among human populations, which likewise drops below the 25% threshold for sub-species categorization?

My next extended question is related to this idea of variable genetic distance:

You make much of the fact that human populations are fuzzy and not distinct; the reticulating nature of our human family tree makes any kind of intra-human categorization moot:

. . . . But as it turns out, our species’ family history is not so arboreal. Geneticists have methods for measuring the “treeness” of genetic relationships between populations. Templeton found that the genetic relationships between human populations don’t have a very tree-like structure, while chimpanzee populations do. Rather than a family tree with distinct racial branches, humans have a family trellis that lacks clear genetic boundaries between different groups.

But doesn’t the truth of this statement wax and wane depending on which parts of the human family tree you’re talking about? I could be wrong here, so it’s an honest question. There can be fuzzy boundaries in Northern Europe and fuzzy boundaries in Southwestern Africa, but does that mean that the boundary between populations in Northern Europe and populations in Southwestern Africa is equally fuzzy as when comparing within those geographic boundaries? Isn’t this the point of Figure 2 in Templeton’s paper?

There’s a lot of fuzziness between dialectical boundaries in English and dialectical boundaries in Ojibwe, but not nearly as much fuzziness between English and Ojibwe. If boundaries are as universally unclear as you imply here, what’s the use of FST scores, and how is it that scientists manage to know a person’s ancestry down to a small geographic area?

Templeton argues for an isolation-by-distance model of human genetic variation, and I don’t disagree at all. But isolation-by-distance plus small but not negligible amounts of allele frequency variation between populations . . . . sounds a bit like allopatric speciation to me, at least when you’re comparing the far ends of that isolation cline?  But then, I’m a linguist, not a biologist, so I’m willing to be corrected.

Final question:

We can all agree, I think, that there is variation in allele frequencies between human populations, and that geography is a decent proxy for the occurrence of those frequencies. (This is all that I, and most people, mean by “race.”)  Where we disagree is on whether or not that variation is worth codifying with a classification system. Some people think it is; you think otherwise.

Not all human populations are genetically identical, and insofar as some of us think the study of genetic differences in human populations is interesting, we need a word for those differences. If you want to abandon “race,” fine, but what word would you use? Or would you not use any word because you don’t think these differences are meaningful or worth studying?

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