Tuesday, January 28, 2020

complementary agendas and motivations and the culture war

When you look at the social and cultural disintegration of the West, especially things like the promotion within our schools of aberrant sexual lifestyles, it is tempting to look for a single explanation and a single villain (or rather a single set of villains).

In fact it’s likely that there are multiple agendas at work, or it might be more accurate to say there are multiple motivations that lead people to support such agendas. None of these agendas or motivations has any connection with Marxism or Cultural Marxism or the Frankfurt School or some sinister Jewish conspiracy. These are the explanations favoured by the Right, and especially by the Dissident Right, but they’re ludicrously off base.

There’s no question that there’s an agenda being pushed by the elites, by very rich and powerful individuals and corporations and by very high-level members of the managerial class. The objective is to keep people distracted with relentless attacks on the cultural front so that they don’t notice how much power and wealth has been concentrated in the hands of the elites. For the elites the culture war matters very much but it is not an end in itself, merely a means to an end.

But the elites have a number of allies willing to assist them in their culture war. There are the wannabe elites, people who are actually middle-class and in some cases even lower middle-class but who are desperate to identify themselves with the elites. For schoolteachers, social workers, low-level bureaucratic functionaries, freelance journalists, non-tenured academics and others the culture war is a way to gain status. For these people virtue-signalling appears to be the one certain means of gaining status.

There are also the marginal elites, the people on the fringes of the elites. Media types, academics, middle-ranking bureaucrats, middle management types, IT professionals. For these people fighting the culture war is a means of demonstrating their loyalty to the elites. They have no real power and no real security so unquestioning loyalty to those in power is a matter of survival.

Of course there are also the special interest groups themselves. There are groups which seek to normalise abnormal sexual behaviours because it’s in their interests to do so. There are groups which benefit directly from policies like open borders (not just immigration lawyers but small armies of people whose livelihoods depend on being part of the immigration industry). There are libertarian zealots. There are virtue-signalling Christians. These are fairly small groups however and could achieve little without the support they gain from the marginal elites and the wannabe elites.

It is the elites, and more especially it is Woke Capital, providing the money that fuels the culture war and setting the primary agenda but they need foot soldiers and those foot soldiers have varying motivations. There is no necessity to invoke conspiracy theories. Conspiracies are difficult to organise and involve high risks. Why bother with them when all you need is a knowledge of normal human motivations - the desire to advance selfish personal interests, the desire to grovel to authority, the desire to gain status.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

A.J.P. Taylor quotes

“History is not another name for the past, as many people imply. It is the name for stories about the past.” - A.J.P. Taylor

“Though the object of being a Great Power is to be able to fight a Great War, the only way of remaining a Great Power is not to fight one.” - A.J.P. Taylor

“In 1917 European history, in the old sense, came to an end. World history began. It was the year of Lenin and Woodrow Wilson, both of whom repudiated the traditional standards of political behaviour. Both preached Utopia, Heaven on Earth. It was the moment of birth for our contemporary world.” - A.J.P. Taylor

“The present enables us to understand the past, not the other way round.” - A.J.P. Taylor

“In my opinion we learn nothing from history except the infinite variety of men's behaviour. We study it, as we listen to music or read poetry, for pleasure, not for instruction.” - A.J.P. Taylor

“The crusade against Communism was even more imaginary than the specter of Communism.” - A.J.P. Taylor

“It is always tempting when you have political discontent in your own country to say it is the fault of some other country and not of your own government.” - A.J.P. Taylor

Monday, January 20, 2020

some quotes from Lord Salisbury

Some quotes from Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, British Prime Minister for a total of thirteen years between 1885 and 1902.

“Parliament is a potent engine, and its enactments must always do something, but they very seldom do what the originators of these enactments meant.”

"In men of genius, as a rule, the imagination or the passions are too strongly developed to suffer them to reach the highest standard of practical statesmanship. They follow some poetical ideal, they are under the spell of some fascinating chapter of past history, they are the slaves of some talismanic phrase which their generation has taken up, or they have made for themselves a system to which all men and all systems must be bent..... When great men get drunk with a theory it is the little men who have the headache.”

On democracy: “Wherever it has had free play in the ancient world or in the modern, in the old hemisphere or the new, a thirst for empire, and a readiness for aggressive war, has always marked it.”

“English policy is to float lazily downstream, occasionally putting out a diplomatic boat-hook to avoid collisions.”

“Whatever happens will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible.”

Friday, January 17, 2020

loyalty, identity and the nation state

It’s an article of faith on the Right, or at least on the Dissident Right, that nationalism is a good thing. But how good a thing is it really?

I certainly can follow the argument that ties of loyalty are a good thing. And that a love of one’s homeland is a good thing. But that’s not quite the same as nationalism, or at least it’s not the way most people understand nationalism.

Love of homeland, to me, is an extension of narrower loves and loyalties. There’s a series of concentric circles of loyalty. At the centre is immediate family - one’s children and one’s spouse. Given the times we live in I should qualify the latter. This can be a husband or a wife or a member of the opposite sex to whom one has made the  sort of commitment that used to be formalised by marriage.

The next circle is wider family - one’s parents, siblings and perhaps a few other close family members. While these ties are very important I think it can be taken for granted that loyalty to one’s children and one’s spouse takes precedence.

Other circles (depending on whether you live in a functional society or not) may include friends and a local community. Further out there may be regional loyalties. There are also ties of religion and class and there are loyalties to ideologies.

Loyalty to a nation state is a long way out.

These ties are what I would call organic ties. You’re either born into them or they involve a level of commitment that you can’t just walk away from. The closer to the centre the circle is, the stronger the ties. Loyalties to a circle towards the centre will always trump loyalties to a circle further out. This is the way I see it anyway. Others may have different views. If presented with a choice between loyalty to a woman I loved and loyalty to the nation I hope I would unhesitatingly choose the former. I also think that it would be perfectly right and natural to prefer loyalty to a religion over loyalty to a nation state (this of course is heresy to many nationalists). It’s not that I don’t feel loyalty to my country, it’s just that there are other ties of loyalty that for me would have to take precedence.

Loyalties beyond the nation are so weak and so vague as to be in most cases hardly relevant at all. To me they’re scarcely comprehensible.

And there is the problem that modern nation states are in many cases essentially artificial rather than organic. Loyalty to a nation state that has a strong cultural identity makes sense to me. Loyalty to a nation state with no genuine cultural identity makes no sense at all to me.

Over the past century or so the organic ties of identity have been weakened (in some cases deliberately) while new fake identities have been created. A fake identity is one that you can pick and later discard at will. Today you might identify as a polyamorous genderqueer but tomorrow you might decide you’re a genderfluid asexual and by the day after tomorrow you might have invented an entirely new identity of which you are the sole representative.

Racial identities are an odd case and would require an entire post on their own (and I’m not sure if I’m masochistic enough to make the attempt). What really matters is cultural identity. And modern nation states have been to a considerable degree engines for destroying cultural identities. What is left of Cornish identity? Or Breton identity? Nation states destroy organic identities and replace them with what is very often a fake national identity. We lose our organic ties and we’re left with membership of something like Team Australia which is about as emotionally satisfying as membership of a tennis club.

Given that nation states have been so destructive of a genuine organic sense of identity, where does that leave nationalism?

And that’s quite apart from the unfortunate habit of nationalism transforming itself into jingoism.

If I was put in a situation of having to choose between Australia’s national interests and Canada’s then being Australian I’d naturally pick Australia’s interests. But I not sure I’d be happy to send young men off to kill and die in order to advance our interests over Canada’s.

You might well decide from all this that I’m not a real nationalist. You may be right. I’m not sure that anyone who is a social conservative and who values culture and tradition can be a real nationalist. But you might disagree. I just feel that it’s something that requires some thinking about.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

does demographic collapse matter?

My previous post asked whether demographic collapse can be avoided. Perhaps an even more vital question is whether it actually matters. Is demographic collapse necessarily a bad thing?

There are several arguments for demographic collapse being disastrous. To summarise:

Firstly there’s the capitalist argument. Capitalism must have ever-increasing markets and wages must be kept as low as possible.

Secondly, demographic collapse leads to a rapidly ageing population in which there won’t be enough young productive people to support the ever-increasing numbers of old people.

Thirdly, the argument that there’s something inherently unhealthy about a society with very few children and lots of old people. A related argument is that low birth rates mean many women not having any children at all which may not be good for their long-term psychological health.

There are however counter-arguments. The counter-argument to the first point is that there seems to be no logical reason why capitalism can’t sell more and better stuff to the existing market rather than selling lots of junk to ever-increasing markets.

As for point two, automation is likely to make a large workforce of young productive people both unnecessary and irrelevant.

As for the third point, it may be motivated mostly by a dislike for old people. A society with virtually no children would clearly be unhealthy, but maybe a society with fewer children isn’t necessarily a catastrophe.

There are other arguments in favour declining population sizes. Problems of urban overcrowding, suburban sprawl, traffic congestion, environmental degradation would be eased. In theory, wages would rise (bad for capitalists but good for everyone else). Housing prices should fall. Back in the 70s people used to be concerned about “quality of life” but nobody talks about it any more because it has anti-immigration overtones.

We should perhaps return to the third point, the supposed unhealthiness of a society with fewer children. We have to be somewhat realistic. We are not going to go back to being a society in which large families are the norm. For a variety of reasons (alluded to in my previous post) married couples no longer desire three or four, or more, children. Most want children, but most are content with one child or at the most two. It would require a radical change in the nature of our society to reverse this trend.

We also perhaps need to accept that there has been a fundamental change in people’s attitude towards marriage (and towards long-term relationships). Marriage is no longer seen as being essentially a framework for the raising of children. It is now seen as an arrangement by which a man and a woman seek emotional and sexual fulfilment, with the raising of one or two children being merely a part of the deal rather than being absolutely central. We may deplore this but I don’t think we can change it. We also need to accept that we are never going to return to a society in which sex is seen as being solely for the purpose of procreation. There are Puritan factions within the dissident right who particularly deplore this change but it is irreversible. And perhaps we need to ask if it’s really so terrible that people should want to put personal happiness ahead of some vague duty to a society that seems to have little regard for them.

Of course when it comes to population decline we do have a real life example in front of us, that example being Japan. They have already reached the point of actual population decline, and they have so far resisted the temptation to boost their population artificially through immigration. Thus far there is no sign that Japanese society is on the point of eminent collapse. As to whether Japanese women, and Japanese men, are less happy than they were in the past I must confess I have no idea since I don’t live there. It would certainly be interesting to see some relevant statistics. If the Japanese can survive population decline then presumably other nations can as well.

A great deal obviously depends on whether, without immigration, populations will eventually stabilise. A Japan with 60 million people might be a very pleasant country. But what about a Japan with 20 million people? Could they sustain a modern industrialised economy? Is there any reason to think that populations would stabilise, and at what level?

I don’t have any strong opinion on this matter because I honestly don’t know if demographic collapse is really an inevitable disaster or not but there does seem to be at least a possibility that it is survivable. And it may even be a net positive. In any case it seems likely that we’re stuck with it so perhaps we will simply have to learn to deal with it.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

can we avoid demographic collapse?

I’ve just been reading yet another article about how we’re all doomed because of demographic collapse. Unlike most of the things that people worry about demographic collapse really is happening. Fertility rates have plummeted globally. Most of the world faces the prospect not just of declining populations, but fairly rapidly declining populations. It’s not that people are unaware that this is happening but the exact nature of the problem is widely misunderstood. Several things need to be understood.

Firstly, this is happening absolutely everywhere outside of sub-Saharan Africa and it will almost certainly happen there as well in another generation or two. Throughout Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Asia birth rates are in free fall. This is not a problem confined to the West (although the problem may have originated with us and been spread by us throughout the rest of the world).

Secondly, immigration isn’t going to make any difference. If birth rates fall catastrophically everywhere there just isn’t going to be a supply of new people to make up the shortfalls. Also, cutting immigration isn’t going to help. In countries with high immigration rates birth rates are disastrously low. In countries with very low immigration rates, birth rates are disastrously low.

Thirdly, the problem isn’t going to be fixed by a Christian revival. However desirable a a Christian revival might be there is absolutely no sign of such a thing happening. It might happen in the long term in the wake of complete economic and social collapse but that’s not much consolation for anybody who’d like to see civilisation survive. And other religions are unlikely to help either - fertility rates are plummeting in the Islamic world as well.

Fourthly, economic incentives are not going to work. They might be part of a solution but on their own they have very little effect.

The only workable solution, in my view, must also include a restoration of a sense of of national purpose, or at least a sense of communal purpose. People have to believe in something outside their own lives or even their own families. The problem is that the entire globe is now dominated by two ideologies, capitalism and liberalism, that have the opposite effect. Capitalism and liberalism can be very good at giving people a sense of individual purpose, but that sense of individual purpose had led us to disaster. These are ideologies that just cannot provide a sense of communal purpose. We need to find ideologies that can provide that sense of communal purpose.

Of course given the nature of western civilisation it’s unrealistic to expect an abandonment of individualism. What is needed is more of a balance between individualism and communalism.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

the strange history of feminism

Following on from my recent post on the TERF wars, I’ve recently been involved in several discussions elsewhere on the subject of feminism and I’ve been surprised just how little most people know about the odd but fascinating history of this ideology.

The first interesting thing is the enormous gulf between first wave feminism in Britain and the United States. In Britain feminism emerged in the late 18th century (the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792 is usually considered to be the starting point). It emerged from the same soil as early pre-Marxist socialism, liberalism and militant atheism, in other words it was a product of the Enlightenment.

American feminism was an outgrowth of Puritan religious zealotry. It emerged directly from the Temperance Movement. Early American feminise wanted to ban alcohol, and in fact they were rather keen on the idea of banning stuff in general. Stuff like prostitution. They had high moral standards which they fully intended to impose, forcibly, on everyone else. Of course their high moral standards mostly amounted to extreme disapproval of the pleasures of the flesh. They had the typical Puritan attitude that if it feels good it’s wicked. And they were sure that anything that men enjoyed was wicked.

The disaster of Prohibition pretty thoroughly discredited feminism. When feminism re-emerged in the US in the early 60s it didn’t take long for it to split into bitterly opposing factions. There was considerable tension between the lesbians and the heterosexual feminists. There was also tension between the more liberal feminism who thought feminism was all about choice and the Puritans who thought feminism was all about banning things. Only enough the lesbians tended to line up with the Puritans, a tendency that reached its apogee with Andrea Dworkin’s pronouncement that all heterosexual sex was rape. This conflict culminated in the Feminist Sex Wars, which ended in victory for the so-called sex-positive feminists.

Another odd thing is that the Puritan feminists were overwhelmingly atheists. Their Puritanism was a kind of distinctly American cultural Puritanism.

Modern-day TERFs are largely composed of the remnants of Second Wave feminism, and to a large extent they’re the remnants of the Puritan wing. This has led some on the dissident right to see them as possible allies, especially since TERFs are very strongly committed to the idea that biological differences between men and women are real. Some have speculated that the TERFs will gradually drift towards the Right.

An interesting further factor to consider is that the dissident right also has a strong Puritan  faction, and their Puritanism is almost as extreme as that of some of the Second Wave feminists. An alliance with the TERFs though would be awkward. Both groups seem to share a belief that sexual pleasure is wicked but the dissident right Puritans want women to breed lots and lots of babies (to serve as soldiers in the civil war for which they hope). They think sex is OK as long as you don’t enjoy it, while the TERFs think sex is OK as long as men don’t enjoy it. But the TERFs are not very keen on babies.

The bitter internal conflicts within feminism may seem to be the factor most likely to cause the Coalition of the Fringes to split, but bitter internal conflicts have been part and parcel of feminism for sixty years. Feminism is a mixture of mutually contradictory and in fact mutually incompatible ideologies - liberalism, Marxism and Puritanism - with a seasoning of pure craziness. Their internal bloodlettings will continue indefinitely and it’s an inherently unpredictable movement.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

strength in disunity

I’m always amused by discussions on freedom of speech. The reality is that nobody believes in freedom of speech. If you meet someone who claims to be a freedom of speech absolutist and you question them closely you’ll discover that they believe in freedom of speech, except for x and y and z.

Since everybody believes in limits to freedom of speech the issue that matters is - who gets to set the limits? In practice no amount of legal or constitutional guarantees will make any difference. It’s all a matter of power. The ideal is for no one group to have enough power to set those limits on its pwn without challenge. In our present situation the Economic Right and the Cultural Left have close to total power. They control political debate. No-one can seriously challenge their power.

The reason why the 1950s and 1960s seem in retrospect to have been freer is simply that at that time power was more evenly divided. There was a powerful Economic Right but there was a powerful Economic Left as well. There was a Cultural Left (we just called them social liberals in those days) but there were other groups with sufficient power and influence to challenge the liberal agenda. There were social conservatives (in those days we called them normal people). Christianity was a minority religion but it still had some political clout. Feminists existed but you could disagree with them without having your life destroyed. Homosexual activists existed but you could disagree with them too without kissing your career and your livelihood goodbye. All of these groups could influence politics but no single group could control the political debate.

It was an unstable and even slightly chaotic situation but there’s a lot to be said for not having any one group calling all the shots.

While I intensely dislike both the Economic Right and the Cultural Left I’m not sure I’d really like to see the Economic Left and the Cultural Right holding the same degree of power. I think the collapse of Christianity has been disastrous but I wouldn’t want to live in a Christian theocracy.

What I would like to see is more of a balance of power, so that both sides end up having to compromise a bit. But I have no idea how that can be achieved. Woke Capital’s power is pretty much absolute and they have no intention of allowing a resurgence of either the Economic Left or the Cultural Right.