Whoever it was that said religion in America and the West is dying had no idea what they were talking about. The past week has made this abundantly clear. Far from Western and American modernity taking an atheistic colour, it has become increasing obvious to even casual observers that the religious impulse is still very much alive and well, even if it is no longer anything resembling traditional Christianity.
Now, if one takes the Kulturen view, one can see elements of Spengler’s analysis of the late decline of a civilisation (as he defined it) taking place before us. Since the end of World War II, the Western world has formed a civilisation with pretensions to global universalism (Spengler’s universal state), that war having formed the final act of the West’s “time of troubles” that began in the late 19th century with the breakdown of Europe’s post-Napoleonic “long peace” as European powers began an increasingly frenetic effort to carve up the remaining uncolonised world for their own national aggrandisement. As he also observed, every universal state needs a universal religion to complement its secular foundation. Hence, Spengler’s “second religiousness,” the resacralisation of the world, but along lines that might very well prove to be foreign to the old time religion of earlier days.
Certainly that’s what we’re now seeing. The outpouring of religious devotion to George Floyd, erstwhile meth head turned secular saint, is of such a level as to make any spiritual promoter, from pope to cult guru, green with envy. His body lies in state, wreathed in a golden coffin, travelling from city to city like the relics of a beloved martyr whose mere presence may heal the infirmed. Saint George of the Holy Fentanyl, Patron Saint of Manufactured Narratives, intercede for us!
Over the past week, Americans have been treated to the spectacle of rioting and looting that has engulfed dozens of our major cities. One thing that many of them didn’t recognise until this started, however, is the widely spread regimen of anarchotyranny that accompanies, and will continue to accompany, the response on the parts of the elites in power to these riots. Many have criticised Democratic mayors and governours for weakness in the face of the rioting, but that actually miscomprehends what it taking place. Rather, these politicians have purposefully been softpedaling their responses to the crises in their cities because they are using the rioting as a form of anarchotyranny to advance the progressive agenda in ways which the traditional legislative process had been failing to do and which they hope will quell any opposition to the imposition of that agenda. Indeed, in less overt ways, progressives have been doing this for years prior to the death of Fentanyl Floyd and the riots being given in his memory.
So what exactly is “anarchotyranny”? To give a succinct definition, anarchotyranny is the unequal enforcement of laws that serves a systematic ideological strategy, but which is not openly presented as such to those who endure it, hence, giving them a false impression of equal treatment until they find out the hard way. As such, it differs from the sort of kafkaesque system in which a person is punished in an impenetrable maze of arbitrarily and unequally enforced rules, but the reasons for which are byzantine and impenetrable. Likewise, anarchotyranny is not the sort of situation, such as Jim Crow in the American South, in which inequality is systematically present, but which is widely known and understood by all involved. Instead, anarchotyranny involves subtle (yet sometimes rapid) shifts in the way laws are enforced and involves a good deal of manipulation of procedural outcomes from those who are doing the shifting. Indeed, the process is often associated with literally revolutionary changes in a society, during which one ideological regime is being replaced by another, and adherents to the former regime are punished for trying to operate under the old rules by those who are instituting the new.
At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I’d like to take a few moments to address the current state of the commentary surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, I am thoroughly unsurprised by the absolute hash that the American government has managed to make of its response to the virus. Indeed, in light of what I said earlier, we shouldn’t be astonished that this happened. The virus would have been fairly easy to deal with in a socially cohesive society that was interested in actually trying to solve the problem, as you had in many East Asian countries, for example. In a society on the verge of social disintegration as American society is, and one in which literally everything becomes a lightning rod for political polarisation, a unified response to the crisis was almost impossible.
As someone who has tried to make a genuine, good faith effort since early December to set aside factionalism and actually let science and data (rather than SCIENCE!) guide my thinking about this virus, seeing the clown show into which the response to it has devolved has grown increasingly galling. And again, at the peril of seeming like a sorehead, I think that both “sides” of the virus, ahem, discussion are off-base. Both the progressive Left with its chicken-little-lockdowns-for-ten-years-it’s-all-Trump’s-fault-wear-your-mask-or-you’re-a-murderer karenmongering and the libertarian it’s-just-the-flu-the-virus-is-just-a-secret-plot-to-take-your-freedoms caterwauling are guilty of flooding the internet with bad takes. A lot of us who have been following the development of the virus ever since it was a wee little twinkle in the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s eye know this, however. What’s not so universally known is why nearly everybody who’s been commenting is wrong.
What it all comes down to is the terminal lack of understanding about complex systems on the part of America’s (and the world’s, for that matter) commentariat.
An increasingly common object of discussion on this blog has been that of demographic-structural theory (DST) and secular cycles in general. Essentially, this theory is a variant of several historically relevant models which posit that large, agrarian pre-industrial states and empires were subject to periodic cycles of population growth and contraction, coupled with concomitant cycles in second-order effects such as wage growth/contraction, political stability, and the like. While the foundations for this theory go as far back as ibn Khaldun and Thomas Malthus, the modern expression of DST as the application of political demography to the history of revolutions in various historical states was made by Jack Goldstone. Expanding upon Goldstone’s theories, Peter Turchin and his coworkers have added the element of elite contribution to political instability during secular cycles.
A brief overview of DST from Turchin may be found here. Essentially, Turchin’s theory proposes that social elites play an enhanced role in affecting political stability during a cycle because of their outsized ability to appropriate state and private resources to themselves. As a result, the normal cyclical effects of increasing population leading to lowered wages, increased rents, and greater economic pressure on the lower classes is exacerbated by elite competition for resources as those resources become more relatively scarce (due to a relative increase in elite population). This intensified competition between elites leads to greater political and social instability, factionalism, and (sometimes successful) revolutionism. Turchin notes that DST (as with other cyclical demographic theories) is able to model structural pressures that generally affect states and societies over decades or even centuries; specific triggering events that may spark a release of social tension are unpredictable, but able to serve as that spark precisely because of the underlying buildup of structural instabilities.
Typically, DST and other theories have been applied to pre-industrial agrarian states, mainly because those polities are the most susceptible to population pressures caused by access to arable land (population growth is tied to the availability of excess food above the subsistence level) and wage/rent dynamics on cultivated land. Their application to industrial and post-industrial polities has been called into question. However, I believe that DST, in modified form, can be applied to other entities besides agrarian states. For instance, I would apply a form of it to the growth and contraction of religions, and see that it could also apply to so-called “world systems” involving multistate core-periphery arrangements that can bind together the fortunes of states at opposite ends of continents.
Over the past several years, many on the Right, whether dissident or mainstream, have begun to wake up as to the true nature of the Left. While it has taken longer than it really should have, an increasing number of normiecons are starting to figure out some things, such as that people on the Left aren’t interested in “fair play” or “following the rules.” It’s taken so long because most conservatives, especially older ones, were habituated to a previously prevailing political climate in which there was at least an idealised public consensus that these traits were how you “did politics right.” You were supposed to play fair, rationally debate policy proposals, and then have an open and honest vote on them. The failure to do so was what most charges of public corruption revolved around. The ideal may not have always been realised, but at least it was there.
However, the last decade or so have seen a sea change in the way politics in the United States have been conducted (I can’t personally speak for other nations, but given what I’ll be saying below, I think I can safely say that they’ve also seen the same trends). This roughly coincided with the formal political ascendancy of a new guard of progressive politicians and “thought leaders” epitomised by Barack Obama, even though he was actually fairly moderate compared to many of them. This generation of progressive was forged in the second wave of cultural Marxist radicalism that came to dominate American universities in the 1980s and 1990s, thus allowing progressive academics to poison a generation of American students. After an incubation period lasting a couple of decades while these former students worked their ways up through their organisational hierarchies, the new progressivism burst on the scene. No longer interested in at least pretending to “play fair,” this new breed fully grasped that power is something to be taken and used, not restrained through sentimentality. And taking it and using it has been what they’ve done since, despite the complaints and the huffinpuffery of staid old conservatives used to the old order.
Many people were surprised because they weren’t paying attention to the trends around them, trends which were apparent to the discerning observer even while these new progressives were being crafted in the devilish forges of a subverted academia. For those of us who interacted with them even while they were still students, there were clear indicators as to what these people were going to be like, if you could only observe them in an environment similar to the one they were being groomed for.
We’ve been hearing a lot of talk recently about reparations, the idea that certain demographic groups in Western countries (but especially the USA) “owe” other demographic groups because of past injustices, whether real or imagined. Typically this talk is cast in racial tones – whites owe racial minorities for oppression, despite whites taking the historically unprecedented steps of abolishing formal slavery, granting minorities “civil rights,” and allowing minorities the opportunity to participate fully in their societies – something that virtually no other group of people in history have done. There has been a low level of background noise along this line for decades in academia. However, other groups in the intersectionality alliance are also trying to get in on the action as well. Gays demand that they be given redress for past intolerance of their perversions. Immigrants demand that western societies atone for the past “sins” of colonisation, in many cases where this colonisation was extremely beneficial to them, and even in cases where this colonisation never actually occurred. Pretty much everybody with a perceived axe to grind is trying to hop on board this gravy train.
Now, some internet wags might presume that decades of crime, welfare abuse, and massive amounts of immigrant labour undercutting Americans workers would be enough “reparation” to last us for centuries. However, this argument, even if made in jest, rather misses the actual point of what reparations are really all about. The fundamental assumption here is that reparations are about money, and that if enough money was transferred (this one last time!) from straight, white Americans to the various malcontents, then the issues would be resolved and everyone could quiet down about the whole thing. But that’s not what is at issue at all.
Actually, reparations are about the acquisition and use of power – more specifically, power to be exercised by Blue Cathedral against Red Cathedral. When understood in this sense reparations, far from being nonsensical, are actually quite explicable within the framework of demographic-structural theory because we can understand them as a form of intraelite competition that occurs within secular cycles as complex societies begin the downward portion of a cycle.
If you’ve been around dissident Right circles for any length of time, you’re probably seen the term “clown world” used to describe the modern Western world. If you’ve paid any attention at all to the state of the world around us, you know just how apt of a description that term really is. Modernity as it is expressed today transcends the types of degeneracy and corruption that have been seen in previous decadent periods and has plumbed to nadirs of human depravity that previous generations would have literally found unspeakable because they would not have had the vocabulary to even describe them. To any rational adult observer of any previous age, no matter how dissolute, today’s western social, political, and moral situation would seem completely clownish and unserious.
That this would be the case is practically inevitable given the type of people involved within the plethora of left-wing causes and intersectionality factions. As a general rule, the political and cultural Left are very childish, not just in their behaviour, but also in their worldview, demeanor, and mindset. Any normal person who has ever dealt with them on social media (or the real world, if you’ve had the misfortune) can abundantly testify to this. Now, I’m not really talking about the “boss lefties,” the people who really run the show concerning left-wing activism. Rather, I’m describing the rank-and-file lefties who fill out the echelons of “ground level” activism – ranging from the antifa street drek to the college students whining about microaggressions to the HR representatives in multinational corporations.
I sincerely believe that to understand the psychology of those on the Left, one must approach the issue from the standpoint of juvenile behaviourism. Observing how and why children – as in actual children – act as they do will shed light on why those on the Left are the way they are. I want to emphasise that what I’m saying here isn’t meant to be the usual derogation that people on opposite sides of the political divide routinely throw at each other. I am literally saying that, for whatever reason, the stunting of the emotional and rational growth of the minds of those who are drawn to the hard core of the Left results in similarities in psyche and behaviour between the two groups.
The graphic above was recently posted onto Twitter, billed as a hierarchy for argumentation that would allow us to learn how better to constructively and rationally disagree with each other so as to arrive at a common understanding. Certainly, most all of us can agree that rational disagreement and common understanding are better than sullen or violent disagreement leading to strife at every level from the personal to the international. This is especially the case for our modern Western nations where we see public discourse increasingly riven with a seemingly impassable gulf between two broad ideological groups. Can’t we all just learn to get along?
It’s certainly wonderful to think that “all we need to do is find ways to constructively disagree with each other,” and think that this would solve most, if not all, of our problems. But there’s a tremendous difficulty with applying this to the modern ideological divide between Right and Left, the “reactionary” (true or otherwise) and the progressive. The difficulties lie in that this line of thinking implies that there are two sides which actually want rational discussion and a settling of differences rationally. Yet, there are not.
Many readers have probably observed something odd (but not entirely unexpected) about two recent high profile cases where the Left tried to game the narrative, it blew up in their faces, and there now seems to be the possibility that the bad actors in question might possibly face real consequences for their actions. These are the Jussie Smollett fake hate crime and the Covington kids fake racism hoaxes. In the one, Smollett is now facing felony charges (including, possibly, federal charges). In the other, several of those who libeled the Covington Kids, such as Nathan Phillips and the Washington Post, face hefty lawsuits.
One thing many have probably noticed, as well, is how absolutely freaked out many progressives have been because of this. It seems odd to us that they would be disturbed by people receiving the just reward for their bad behaviour. This is because we on the broad Right naturally tend to assume that if someone does something bad, they’ll eventually have to face the music. That’s the way the Right’s sense of justice assumes it should work.
Yet, anyone who pays attention knows that this is nearly always NOT how it works. How many left-wing hate crime hoaxes have gone unpunished? How many times have lefties gotten to destroy someone’s life or reputation with no repercussions? The Left is allowed to behave horribly with basically no accountability. Why is this?
[Editor’s note: This post is the first entry by the Times’ newest contributor and friend of the blog Halifax Shadow! I’m sure that all of our readers will join me in welcoming him aboard!]
“Why are the cattle on a common so puny and stunted? Why is the common itself so bare-worn, and cropped so differently from the adjoining enclosures?” – William Lloyd Forster, in 1832
I’m sure that most readers are familiar with the “tragedy of the commons.” This concept is a simple one that describes a situation in which a resource that is to be used for profit and is un-owned tends to be overused, potentially to a breaking point. Furthermore, the resource will be under-invested, as any improvements made to it will provide returns for the common good and not for the specific individual(s) making the investment.
As an example of this, we’ve recently heard serious allegations regarding the complicity of Purdue Pharmaceuticals and the Sackler family in aggressively pushing opioid prescriptions – up to and including knowingly encouraging doctors and pharmacies who were moving irregular amounts of the product (likely to addicted people) to move even more. This opioid epidemic – which claimed 130 American lives per day in 2017 – is the greatest drug crisis America has ever seen.