Category Archives: culture

Unraveling

I won’t sugar-coat this – society is more polarized than a stack of Ray-Ban lenses and I’m getting heartily sick of it. But even worse are all the nauseating lies people tell about it.

When you are a single person, a small company, or a private forum, your exercise of the freedom of association doesn’t really cause any loss or inconvenience to anyone else. A person who can’t get a cake at my place can get it two blocks away. A person who can’t post on my blog can make their own.

But if an entire industry blackballs you? That’s a difference of kind – the choice to block someone else on Twitter is a lot different than Twitter itself banning a user. The one is idiosyncrasy, the other is policy; and both law and common understanding can recognize that a policy that is neither objective nor transparent is trouble.

Yet we’re told exactly the reverse: personal choices that must be controlled and enforced, while public policies are beyond reproach.

This inversion of term and meaning is the norm in other areas as well. If I express a different opinion it’s called violent, but if I’m punched in the head it’s called just an expression of opinion. If someone is provoked, they can’t fight back, but if they are attacked, it’s because they provoked it. Journalists openly alter, edit, and lie; those who merely report as is are called “not real journalists” who “distort the facts.” Misandry is called “feminism” and propaganda is called “education” and one’s sex is a matter of subjective declaration rather than biological fact.

This is the reason why I am often dispirited about the society my child is going to inherit. He is growing up in a world where terrible problems are growing worse and nobody can begin to solve them because the attempt to even talk about them is shouted down as “hate” and “bigotry.” It’s to the point where even the attempt to NOT talk about them, in favor of talking about just about anything else, is itself banned; and further, nobody who has disagreed about such things may be allowed to mingle. The common ground we used to have as a starting point has been seized by force.

This wonderful article makes this point (and more) about the recent decision of Ravelry’s founders to banish all pro-Trump users from their site. Note, this isn’t a decision to ban pro-Trump commentary, which would at least be arguable (if still ultimately unhealthy). It’s the people themselves, and anyone who protests the decision.

Those of us who are old enough to remember the 60s, 70s, and 80s remember the problems we faced far less than the ideals we faced them with, because we shared those ideals and faced the problems together. Such things were far bigger than any difference of opinion. We put unity into practice by setting aside differences to do things together – worship, watch the big game, listen to music, pursue hobbies, learn, explore, play – and we grew as people. We learned that many of those differences weren’t a matter of right and wrong, some very different people were actually pretty cool, our hearts were broadened and our minds were sharpened as we heard new ideas and explained our own.

A place like Revelry served as that common ground to grow together. Twitter, Google, YouTube, Amazon, Facebook – all the major players – grew into what they were precisely because at one time they WEREN’T “players.” They were the playing ground upon which the game was set.

One by one, all of them have become polarized, declared off-limits to the Wrong People by would-be kommisars. Now there are all these odious gatekeepers -who join these communities and assume control of them, then demand conformity of everyone else. They even dictate terms to anyone they’ve chased off. It’s more than just “We won’t read what you wrote, we won’t buy what you’ve knitted, we won’t listen when you sing,” it’s “You must never write, knit, and sing ever again. You will be punished for having done so by losing your job, even if you stop. You can lose your kids or be doxxed and attacked if we really feel like it, so you must not protest either.”

Worst of all is that this sort of anti-thought is now in government. People are winning office or lobbying the state or advocating in public to enshrine, in law, an official sanction against unapproved ideas. They have already begun a little ad-hoc private enforcement of same via their costumed mobs called Antifa.

They then claim that all of this is diversity, love, and inclusion. One might as well claim that arson, poison, and fasting are forms of good cooking.

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A familiar driver

If you spend a lot of time commuting, you have seen something just like this guy.

Maybe you’re trapped behind a semi and he’s the one zooming around you despite your blinker and your patient wait for passing room. Maybe you were already passing, in which case he’s riding your bumper like you hitched him up, eager to dart through a gap approximately six inches larger than his own car. Maybe you’re stopped altogether and he’s rolling the shoulder.

In any scenario the common denominator is that you are In His Way, much like one of these unfathomable stacks of pixel and polygon:

Same concept, really. Jack Baruth quotes the Last Psychiatrist’s definition of narcissism, that the narcissist is the star of his own movie. Even that, I think, might sell it short, unless the movie is an epic in a Cinematic Universe and he’s the only one with standalone films. But watching that fool in the race video slaloming around all the other drivers put me much more in mind of a video game player. After all, in a movie there may be one major star but the other characters are, at least, characters… in a video game a person might be the only actual human player, and everyone else around him is by definition obstacles to surmount: some enemy to dispatch, or someone whose sole purpose to exist is to give him the geegaw that completes a quest or lets him defeat the level boss. Or worst of all, just something that is stupidly, pointlessly blocking his way when he has Important Him Stuff to be done.

Well, eff you for being In His Way.

I will admit that I haven’t read the comments there yet, so I don’t know if one of those folks has made either of these connections. I was away for a week and missed the column at the time. Still worth bringing up here not only for the video game player angle, but also because it was the first thing I noticed when I was watching the embed at Riverside Green… this guy didn’t notice that suddenly he was torching a track full of cars? Even from the camera I could see the flags he tore past, but more to the point, I also saw that very few, if any, of the other drivers were trying to block him or – and this is key – pass each other. Sure, he’s dusting them so in his mind, haha, they can’t catch me… but they would also be trying to move up all around him. Even in a racing game the CPU drivers are jockeying with each other for position.

So in one way, this guy is worse than a video game player because even that detail misses his notice. But beyond this, I brought up commuting because anyone with even passing familiarity with highway driving recognizes the signs of a whole roadway slowing down, even in mid-pass: it means the State Patrol is waiting on the shoulder, harvesting the ignorant. So even if this gentleman was just a dabbler in his very first road race, he should have picked up on this. It takes no skill. All you need to do is not be obsessed with what’s going on in your own imagination.

(As an added wrinkle – I was on an out-of-state trip to visit with family when I missed Jack’s post. It’s a substantial, all-day-in-the-car affair to make the trip, more apt a comparison to an endurance race like the one shown than is a daily commute, even a lengthy one. You have to keep aware at all times. If the trip’s 12 hours, it’s not good enough to be crash-free for 11:58 and then tell everyone “Eh, what can you do, right?” while they airflight out the family in the minivan you crushed. You are the jockey, not the horse, and cannot drive with blinders on.)

A quick talk about cancelled talk

Ho-hum, another day, another disinvited speaker.

Something about the account (excerpted below) stuck in my craw, and I’ll get to why in a minute. But first, let’s catch up with the facts.

Middlebury College has canceled a campus speech by conservative Polish Catholic philosopher Ryszard Legutko in response to planned protests by liberal activists.

A professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University and a member of the European Parliament, Legutko was scheduled to speak Wednesday at the Vermont college’s Alexander Hamilton Forum, delivering a lecture entitled “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies.” A member of the anti-Communist Polish resistance during the Cold War, Legutko warns that western democracy is also susceptible to creep towards totalitarianism.

Why? Well, he doesn’t pay much respect to the proper current pieites, of course. It’s all too common a story today – an institution allegedly devoted to free thought and higher learning refusing to let its students learn something new and think for themselves. The excuse they use will be familiar as well to anyone who follows current affairs and is familiar with the Orwellian inversion of words and reality:

“Inquiry, equity, and agency cannot be fostered in the same space that accepts and even elevates homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic discourse,” they demand. “Bigotry of any kind should not be considered a form of inquiry.”

I don’t know about any of that, and neither do the would-be protesters to Prof. Legutko’s presentation, since he was never permitted to give it. What I do know is that stopping other people’s ears to anything that doesn’t come from one’s own mouth is actual bigotry, and it seems much more likely that such would-be tyrants have, shall we say, ulterior motives for shutting down a speech about how tyranny might arise in the West.

In fact, at first the college held firm, until, mere hours before the event, word came from on high, citing the normal problems with “ensuring the safety of students, faculty, staff, and community members.”

“This decision was not taken lightly. It was based on an assessment of our ability to respond effectively to potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response.”

In other words, these jokers learned exactly the lesson they were meant to learn from the incident involving Charles Murray’s talk there two years prior. The hecklers didn’t even need to veto this one. And the next time, things will go down even smoother… until the day when things suddenly go down very hard indeed, and everyone wonders how and why such a thing could happen – and then comes to the exact wrong answers because of all the times they’ve been ignoring people like Prof. Legutko.

In any case, a story like this is so common that anyone hearing it is likely to shrug and move on… which gets us to the thing I noticed, that bothered me so, and that I’m going to share with you. See if you can spot the difference in comparison to the lead quote up top:

Middlebury College has canceled a campus speech by Polish philosopher Ryszard Legutko in response to planned protests by activists.

If it were written that way, would people still be upset? Would they bemoan that an institution of higher learning would let its pursuit of knowledge and debate be thwarted by mere foot-stamping… or would they absolutely need to know first more about the viewpoints of the professor and the foot-stampers before they decided if it was good or bad?

THAT’S what sticks in my craw right now. Not just the intellectual ghetto and the last-minute cancellation (done of course so that no alternative venue could be arranged), but that even in the reporting of it, it must be specified that the speaker was conservative and the activists liberals. The point isn’t just that such things only run one way – it’s that they should not run at all, regardless of which nouns get what adjectives.

Eventually you’d have to get around to saying what the talk was about and why the activists were in a snit, of course… but I think that pointing out the specifics in the lead sentence just accepts an unhealthy premise: namely that it’s wrong based on the identities of the parties involved. That just gets our side – remember, the side that’s supposed to stand for personal and intellectual freedom and the marketplace of ideas – to subconsciously think in the other side’s terms of Good Group vs. Bad Group. Without those details, you encourage the reader to actually try to think about WHY this is wrong, and thus have more of an informed opinion, instead of relying on pre-digested conclusions based on labels. Its wrongness doesn’t depend on the point of view of the speaker or the protesters.

Doctor New

And there it is.

Like many current events, the reaction to “the backlash” far outweighs the backlash itself: nowadays the revolution will be televised, but nobody will tune in. Revolution is clean out of style. And in this sense, the BBC is way late to the party: they sex-swapped the Doctor’s venerable enemy, the Master, and pretty much nobody cared. And that follows years of other substantial changes to beloved characters the world over, none of which really have done much – either they’ve gone back to the old status quo ante, or else the changes killed the story – and after enough of that, well, the law of diminishing returns sets in. As a means of drumming up some welcome controversy to goose flagging viewership numbers, the Lady Doctor thus fails on two counts: it’s not all that controversial, and it entirely misses the reason why viewers have been falling away. And that reason can really be summed in three words:

STORY IS KING.

So, as for this change? Well, if it serves the story, sure, it could work, and Jodie Whittaker has a fine reputation in her field. But increasingly, it serves merely as the punchline to a joke nobody is telling. I doubt that THIS is the time we’ll all finally laugh. And on those terms alone, this is probably something the BBC should not have done.

But of course, they didn’t do it for story reasons, and that’s another substantial objection…

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If it is “go time,” where do we go?

Severian, Morgan, and a few of the emigos had a good email exchange in reply to the attempted assassinations of some Republican congressmen by a violent Leftist. Or – to be more precise – the email chain wasn’t so much about the assassination itself, but of the open and unrestrained celebration of the attempt by a non-trivial portion of the country.* We’re not talking mere fringe kooks, either, but plenty of persons gainfully employed in media and entertainment, who hold themselves out as respectable and conduct themselves as if they, and not their critics, are the reasonable ones.

Naturally, the critics might also be unreasonable, but as CS Lewis pointed out, Hell sends its errors into the world in pairs of opposites, hoping that you will fight the one by turning into the other: fighting sloth with wrath, or cowardice with recklessness. The true solution is to insist on the true thing, with the certain knowledge that it is stronger than any of the twisted copies. Courage is stronger than recklessness and beats it at its own game… but the trick is to be really courageous and to stick with it even at the moment where it seems that wild abandon is about to triumph.

I’m not seeing much of that in society today. That’s to be expected; the pendulum never swings to the middle and then stops there, and we also have to deal with the human propensity to revel in finally getting one’s own back. Given that we’ve been living for decades in a society where courtesy, restraint, and principle have been taking it on the chin, it’s even less surprising that those who have thus suffered find much less use for those things.

As I understand it, the Alt-Right has a pretty simple flowchart: they see that the Left has, without scruple or pity, slowly but surely ratcheted the culture and the law ever-further to their ultimate goal. They see an opponent who has been utterly contemptuous of the many warnings against dismantling the Western traditions and underpinnings of civilization: <i>”When the Devil turns round on you, where will you hide, the laws all being flat? Will you be able to stand upright in the winds that would then blow?”</i> As a result, it’s time to reap the whirlwind, and the Alt-Right plans to be the sickle and thresher… and they’re in no mood for “cucks” and “betas” who insist that the above warnings apply to us as well.

The flaw should be obvious. Just as the Left will not always be in power, neither shall the Right… so ultimately the sickle and thresher will pass to the next party, and they in turn will be in no mood to say, well, now we’ve learned our lesson and we must all play friendly. They’re the ones who would stick at nothing before all this happened – what are the odds that they will suddenly find their conscience while smarting from their fresh wounds? For the Alt-Right’s plans to “work” they basically have to remain in power forever, and the only way to do that is to become in practice the very thing they’re in such reaction against, only without even the pretense of the forms of justice. There’s a reason why totalitarian regimes still have sham elections and show trials; would the Alt-Right bother with that, or simply dispense with the pretenses in favor of a muscular honesty?

I’m reminded of the Justice League episode where the heroes are dragged into an alternate dimension where their counterparts have imposed just such an order. No crime, but also no freedom; the Justice Lords (as they are now called) rule. And what the show could not address (but it would have been fascinating)… what happens when the Lords themselves grow old and die? All of them eventually would, perhaps excepting Wonder Woman. Without the godlike power required to maintain such a regime, it would collapse in devastation and ruin.

And yet… well, practicing restraint when your opponent offers none has gotten us in quite a mess indeed. The Alt-Right have correctly diagnosed the situation of the moment, which is that the rules are only ever used in one direction. And they also correctly recognize that merely wringing our hands and bemoaning the state of affairs doesn’t actually correct them. I’ve written it before: “It can’t happen here” is a fiction. Every other place it’s happened, has been one of those places it could never happen – many individual civilizations have collapsed in ruin, conquered from without or decayed from within, with all the misery and decades to rebuild. Those who’ve gone quisling in the face of a spiteful foe have earned every ounce of the contempt shown them.

So it is necessary to fight back, and not merely complain or mourn – and the question remains, how do we fight?

It should be plain that to simply ignore the rules ourselves is not going to suddenly spawn a newfound respect for rules, either among the vanquished or the conquering. A vaccine only works because it contains a dead or weakened form of the disease your body must learn to fight – if you injected the real illness you would kill everybody.  We are faced with the rise of those who think that lining everyone up for the full dosage will result in robust health all around… or else those who have gone past the point of caring, and want it all torn down.

On the one hand, we have the tyrannical foe… and on the other, we are faced with either becoming their slaves, or their replacements. One way or another, that leaves us holding one end of a chain that binds.

I have no desire to live as an insect in a hive, beholden to the all-powerful State; neither do I wish to live in a kill-or-be-killed post-apocalypse wasteland. It is no good fighting Oceania with Bartertown. Like it or not, if civilization is to endure at all, it has to remain civilized. If there is to be a revolution, it has to be one of law and virtue against mere force. And that takes a conscious effort. One doesn’t drift away from virtue and default to a more primitive, yet still healthy, sense of honor. That state of affairs was itself a long, hard-fought victory against the true default of savagery and horror. We have a society that turns its nose up against the work required to do even that much and yet expects that the results of all that work will survive.

To echo John C Wright in his post here… may heaven preserve us from such folly.

*We have also to deal with their allies who, while not celebrating such things, lay down cover for them in the form of moral equivocations. (“Liberal-conservative vitriol” indeed.) But that is a topic deserving its own post.

Talk about crazy

This “quick random observation” of Severian’s …

Anyway, back in grad school I observed that it’s the girls who are almost kinda sorta halfway cute, or who would be almost kinda sorta halfway cute if they exerted some effort, who were the craziest.

…got me thinking a bit about his conclusion:

I’m tempted to argue that you can sum up all of pop-feminism with “we think we’re cuter than we actually are, and we’re going to get the government to force you to agree.”

Is it that they think they’re cuter than they are, or is it that they realize they’re not cute enough to get by on cute  alone, so they are determined AT ANY COST to make “looks” a dirty word – or even a punishable offense? We’re talking about lasses who could work their way into the 5-6 range, right? Well, that means that, in college, their absolute best efforts would leave them behind at the quarter pole of life, though with diligence they could be in that second wave of ladies who settle down (emphasis on “settle” in their minds) in their late 20s or early 30s with guys whom they would have considered beneath them in school, but who are also the only ones left once all the good catches are made.

(Full disclosure – I married just short of age 35. Pretty sure it’s the single eyebrow.)

Like Sev said, there are absolute hellbeasts who truly don’t care, but then there’s this large set of ladies whom, it seems, care quite a lot – the old cisheteronormative drive to “compete for a mate and a home” is normative for a reason – and so their smartest strategy is to play up “looks aren’t everything” to gain some sort of a counter-edge against the ladies with more obvious advantages. If they do it right, then they can beat the curve, so to speak … find someone better, earlier, and share a happy life.

This is a time-honored pursuit, of course. There’s a cottage industry of popular music with lyrics like this, and that, in its own way, is a reflection of the truth. It’s kind of bizarre to a younger guy: who praises his beloved by saying “Nature didn’t give you such a beautiful face”? But baby, you got what it takes… and the older fellow that I’ve become understands it. Looks alone aren’t really “what it takes.” I’m reminded of when I was a younger guy, going out for a post-game meal with the guys, watching the 30-ish ladies “who still got it!” trawling the bar. Someone asked an older teammate why he wasn’t over there chatting one of them up, she was actually pretty hot… and he shook his head and said, “Somewhere out there is a string of guys my age who are all sick of her shit.”

Point taken. Sooner or later you’ve seen all there is to look at.

So what to make of those who ain’t a beauty, but hey, they’re all right? They should have a big advantage over ladies with looks who also turn out to be bananapants loony. For a long time, in fact, they did. But what they didn’t have was an edge on ladies with looks who also realized that after the looking was over, they had to have something to talk about. They worked on making themselves a complete package, and routed the field.

When feminists of my mother’s generation faced this problem they were fond of deriding such ladies with putdowns like “She only went to school for her MRS degree.” And that is the first hint I can see of the problem – the all-too-human impulse to refuse to admit one’s real place in the scheme of things. If you can turn that around and make it so that the scheme itself is the problem, then you A) can succeed in ways that were never possible before, and B) never have to change. That’s a terrible siren song to try to resist, and they weren’t up to it. They went ahead and amplified it instead, and convinced generations of their daughters that they were in it for themselves, just like the guys, and if the boys didn’t like it, that was their own fault.

They thought that they were doing this to get back at the boys, but it really looks more like they were doing it to get back at the other girls. Feminism isn’t really about “girl power” at all, it’s about “me power.” Wonder no more why feminists will straight-out savage women who are happy wives and mothers, and who praise their lives. If they were themselves happy with their choices they would have no need for this… they only betray their resentment that they don’t have those lives for themselves.

That brings us, in roundabout way, back to the Filipovics, Valentis, and Marcottes.

Over the years, they have both submitted to and in turn exerted a good deal of pressure on other women to not do what has come naturally to humanity for millennia, to “not play their game.” This has been the cause of a lot of misery over the years. They are unwilling (or perhaps incapable) of following the sensible advice of mothers since time immemorial, that you have to have something more substantial to keep the fella interested and happy – how bourgeois! Neither can they stand to see others of their own peer group follow that advice and succeed. So they flatter themselves that they’re above all that. They make themselves dumber, shriller, self-absorbed, and unpleasant. A guy like, say, 32-year-old me, won’t say “You know, she’s really fun to be with, has a great sense of humor, and can really hold a conversation… I’m interested.” I’m gone, if I have half a brain – and not because I’m being shallow, but because they are. They aren’t giving anyone a reason to take a second look. They are repulsive rather than interesting, for reasons that go far beyond appearance.

And though it’s impossible to quantify, I think there’s something to the thought that such behavior eventually does have an effect on the looks as well – sane, smart, happy people look better than crazy, priggish, humorless people. The happy people go from 6 to 7, and keep that 7 longer… the loons drop to 5 or 4 and decline rapidly.

The resulting accusation would be that “Guys think it’s all about them all the time,” and “How shallow! I’m living for myself, not for some man, maaaaan!” Those sound suspiciously like self-serving deceptions to rationalize being an awful person. Nor should they be taken in by the praise of fellow-travelers in this carny sideshow of crazy: that, too, is self-serving, because loons needs other loons around them to make themselves appear sane – that’s the only remaining strategy for landing some poor unfortunate chap who’s essentially got no other choice if he wants some constant company.

Because, you see, men aren’t the builders of this game, contrary to insane assumptions – we’re just fellow players. Just as there are plenty of women who can never land a Mr. Darcy, there are plenty of guys with no prayer of securing a Ms. Bennett. We all face this realization about our own status in life. I mean, do you think all men are equally handsome, equally ambitious, equally smart, equally accomplished? Plenty of us had to take stock while the top catches had their pick of our peer group, and quickly figure out what else could capture and hold someone’s interest. (Or, not so quickly. I was pretty much 35 years old when I got married – I’m not exactly Dr. Genius McQuarterback over here.)

Call them betas or gammas or whatever term is current… since we’re talking tradition here, I’m going with the traditional term: losers. And as a group, losers have few prospects, and have to work harder to cultivate them. It’s easier to take the lazy way and just scoff at the whole traditional idea – to be as equally-scornful of guys who get the girl, who are “only interested in one thing,” who are actually “awful, dumb, superficial jerks” and “why do women love morons?” That is just as anti-human as the reverse, and thus just as unappealing – not only to the fairer sex, but also to other guys. These losers are creeps whom nobody trusts and nobody likes.

The result is that their only shot at marrying (or at least bedding) someone, anyone, is among the distaff side of their cohort. It all becomes a cruel self-fulfilling irony – they “refuse to play the game” and lose by default, getting stuck with exactly the sorts of people they accuse everyone else of being: they play white-knight to the damsels, who hate them for that and demand to be thought of as strong, confident, and capable; in turn they crumble at the least hint of disapproval; smarmy “backrub boys” (the delightful epithet of Sheila O’Malley) and wearying harridans.

You can be a loser all your life or you can at least try to win a little. It is, believe it or not, possible to rise from this rank – the first and perhaps hardest step is to admit that you are, in fact, rank. Cleaning up and getting respectable starts with looking for the soap and water, to have at least that much respect for yourself and those around you. The effort may reveal hidden qualities you never bothered to look for, and just the effort involved is bound to develop whatever qualities you do have to their best.

The Amendment Story

People of my generation will be very familiar with this brilliancy from the writers of the Simpsons:

It would benefit the sitters-in of Congress to take a look, perhaps – no doubt they can lounge back on their pillows, watching on their smartphones while munching all the goodies provided them. For those few of us already here, however, it might help to take a look at the actual Bill of Rights all over again, to see why these principles are too important to trample over in a rush.

At this point, we’ll get an important retort out of the way – “Where were you when this was about the Patriot Act, huh?” The short answer is, I wasn’t blogging yet; I didn’t open Hive 1.0 until late September of 2004. (Post One, for what it’s worth.) The longer answer is, I was in favor of it at the time, though I opposed the Department of Homeland Security and TSA – feeling that those were needless duplications of functions better-handled by the Department of Defense – but as it turns out, the warnings about it look like they’re coming true. I also note, ruefully, that the very people so convinced then of the dangers of such surveillance and infringement are precisely the same people guilty of expanding those abuses; perhaps they knew they wouldn’t be able to control themselves if given such power? And perhaps that explains why they think no legal gun owner can be likewise trusted to his own defense?

To sum up – either you were wrong about PATRIOT, in which case you shouldn’t support this nonsense, or you were right about it, in which case this is exactly what you were warning us about. Now back to our story, below the fold…

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