Anarchy on the Old Right

About that empty chair …

Over at The American Conservative, the Old Right has expressed its smoldering dismay at the country’s political prospects through a fit of paralyzed dissensus.

The 29 members of the TAC symposium split fairly evenly between (Democrat) Barack Obama, (Republican) Mitt Romney, and (Libertarian) Gary Johnson. Each musters four definite commitments, with Andrew J. Bacevich, Leon Hadar, Scott McConnell, and Noah Millman for Obama; Marian Kester Coombs, James P. Pinkerton, Stephen B. Tippins Jr., and John Zmirak for Romney; and Doug Bandow, Peter Brimelow, Scott Galupo, and Bill Kauffman for Johnson.

Philip Giraldi epitomizes the spirit of anti-neoconservative obstreperousness with his declared electoral intentions, wavering between a vote for Johnson, a Ron Paul write-in, or a Romney-spavining Obama choice if the race is tight. James Bovard is also torn between Johnson and a Ron Paul write-in (but without mention of an anti-Romney Obama option). Like Johnson, Romney picks up two additional ‘maybes’ (from W. James Antle III, Bradley J. Birzer). The Constitution Party’s Virgil Goode musters just one solid supporter (Sean Scallon). There’s also a write-in for Rand Paul (Daniel McCarthy), and four indecipherables (Jeremy Beer, Rod Dreher, William S. Lind, and Steve Sailer).

Decisive winner among the TAC writers, however, is Nobody, supported by seven unambiguous abstentions (Michael Brendan Dougherty, David Gordon, Robert P. Murphy, Justin Raimondo, Sheldon Richman, and Gerald J. Russello), and probably an eighth (Paul Gottfried, poised at the democratically-abstemious edge of the indecipherables).

Perhaps questions like this are souring the mood.

Why not opt for the real deal?

[Tomb]

Lure of the Void (Part 3b)

Menace in the west

Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of lead-time, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share. … I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.
John F Kennedy

[James Anthony Froude’s] “The Bow of Ulysses” … endorses the old colonialism, nostalgically recalling the days when Britain was not an empire, but rather British colonialists were pirates and brigands, who robbed, conquered and eventually ruled, gradually making the transition from mobile banditry to stationary banditry without the British government paying much attention. In “The Bow of Ulysses” Froude condemns nineteenth century imperialism as unworkably left wing, and inevitably leading [to] the destruction of the British empire, and thus the ruin of the subjects of the British empire, all of which ensued as he envisaged … The imperialists, those advocating British Empire, were the left, and the colonialists were the right. And the colonialists correctly predicted that if this were to go on, we would get the left that we now have – one of the many strange facts one encounters if one reads old books.
James A Donald

The peculiarities of the ‘space race’ have yet to be fully unfolded. Through its extraordinary formality, reducing extraterrestrial ambitions to a binary, international competition to put the first man on the moon, it seems – retrospectively – to owe more to the culture and history of organized sports than to technological and economic accomplishments. There would, by definition, be a winner and a loser, which is to say a Boolean decision, conventional and indisputable. Then it would be over. Perhaps it was seen to be pointing at something further, but in fact the moon was a finishing line.

Within a broad geo-strategic context, the space race was a symptom of thermonuclear stand-off. A modern history of warfare that had descended inexorably from a restrained game of princes to unleashed total war, amongst ideologically-mobilized peoples, targeting their basic institutions, industrial infrastructures, and even demographic root-stocks, had consummated itself – virtually – in the MAD potential for swift, reciprocal extermination. Under these circumstances, a regressive sublimation was called for, relaying conflict through chivalric representatives – even Homeric heroes – who competed on behalf of the super-lethal populations they appeased. The flight of an astronaut symbolized antagonism, substituting for a nuclear strike. In this sense, victory in the space race was a thinly-disguised advance payment on the conclusion of the Cold War.

This sublimation is only half of the story, however, because a double displacement took place. Whilst the space race substituted a formal (chivalric) outcome for a military result, it also marginalized the long-envisaged prospect of informal space colonization, replacing it with a predominantly conventional (or socio-political) objective. The price of unambiguous symbolic triumph was a ‘triumph’ that relapsed into the real ambiguity of (mere) symbolism, with reality-denying, postmodernist, ‘moon hoax’ temptations already rising. When nothing is won except winning itself, it could scarcely be otherwise. A champion is not a settler, or anything close to one.

What is this real ambiguity? It begins on the frontier, with a series of questions that reaches beyond the meaning of the space race, and into the identity of America. As a country settled within the modern epoch, and thus exhaustively determined by the dynamics of colonialism, America has been condensed from a frontier.

In extended parenthesis, it is worth noting explicitly that the continent’s aboriginal population was not yet America, but something earlier, and other, encountered on the frontier. The idea of a ‘Native American’ is an exercise in historical misdirection, when it is not merely a thoughtless oxymoron. This is not to suggest that these populations were unable to become American, as many did, once America had begun in the modern period. By innovating distinctive modes of secession, they were even — in certain cases — able to become radically American. A reservation casino in institutional flight from the IRS is vastly more American than the Federal Reserve, in a sense that will (hopefully) become evident.

The foundation of America was a flight into the frontier, extending a trajectory of escape into a perpetually receding space, or open horizon — the future made geography, and only subsequently a political territory. This original, informal, and inherently obscure space project is as old as America itself – exactly as old. As Frederick Jackson Turner had already noted in 1893, for America an open frontier is an existential necessity, which is to say: the basic condition of American existence. Once the frontier closes, borders take over, exceptionality withers into insubstantial rhetoric (or worse, its neoconservative facsimile) and necrosis begins.

In this respect, America cannot be sustained as a state with a space program. It requires an open horizon, extended beyond the earth if necessary, sufficient to support a prolongation of its constitutive colonial process. Only on and out of this frontier does America have a future, although ‘the USA’ could (more) comfortably persist without it. That is why, beneath, alongside, and beyond the space race, the frontier ‘myth’ has been spontaneously extended to extraterrestrial vistas considered as an essentially American prospect. (NASA and its works are quite incidental to this, at best.)

Since this claim invites accusations of gratuitous controversy, it is worth re-visiting it, at a more languid pace. Even after re-emphasizing that America is not the same as – and is indeed almost the precise opposite of – the USA, obvious objections present themselves. Is not the Russian space program the world’s most economically plausible? Is not the upward curve of recent Chinese space activity vastly more exuberant? Hasn’t the United Nations claimed the heavens on behalf of a common humanity? What, other than cultural-historical accident, and the unwarranted arrogance stemming from it, could imaginably make ‘an essentially American prospect’ of outer space?

The counter-point to all of these objections is colonialism, understood through its radical, exceptional, American lineage. Colonialism of this ultimate variety consolidates itself from the frontier, and passes through revolutionary thresholds of a very specific type: wars of independence, or secession (rather than comprehensive regime changes) that are pro-colonial (rather than anti-colonial) in nature. The colony, as colony, breaks away, and in doing so creates a new society. Successful examples of such events are extremely rare – even singular, or exceptional. There is America, and then there are ‘lost causes’, with considerable (and increasing) overlap between them.

What has any of this to do with outer space, beyond impressionistic analogy? Gravity cements the connection. Dividing the surface of the earth and extraterrestrial space is an effective difference, or practical problem, that can be quite precisely quantified in technological terms (fuel to deliverable payload ratios), and summarized economically. For purposes of comparison, transporting freight across the Pacific costs US$4/kg (by air), or US$0.16/kg by ocean-bound container vessel (US$3,500 per TEU, or 21,600 kg). To lift 1 kg of cargo into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), in stark contrast, costs over US$4,000 (it was over US$10,000 by Space Shuttle). Call it the Rift: an immense structural re-supply problem, incentivizing economic self-sufficiency with overwhelming force. Each kilogram of extraterrestrial product has saved US$4,000 before further calculations get started. Out in space, the Rift is the bottom line: a cold, anti-umbilical reality.

Whatever the historic colonial impetus to the American way – separation and social re-foundation – is reinforced by orders of magnitude in LEO and beyond. This is an environment that might have been precision-engineered for revolutionary colonialism, as science fiction writers have long recognized. On the flip side lies a more obviously explanatory conclusion: Because developments beyond the Rift are inherently uncontrollable, there is no readily discernible motivation for terrestrial political-economic agencies to fund the emergence of off-planet societies that are on an irresistible conveyor-belt to independence, whilst voraciously consuming resources, opening an avenue of escape, and ultimately laying the void foundations for a competitor civilization of a radically unprecedented, and thus ominously unpredictable kind.

It follows clearly that the status quo politics of space colonization are almost fully expressed by space colonization not happening. When understood in relation to the eclipsed undercurrent of the frontier analogy — social fission through revolutionary colonialism or wars of independence — the ‘failure’ of large-scale space colonization projects to emerge begins to look like something else entirely: an eminently rational determination on the part of the world’s most powerful territorial states to inhibit the development of socio-technological potentials characterized by an ‘American’ (revolutionary colonial) tendency.

Of course, in a world that grown familiar with interchangeable anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist declarations, the terms of this (Froude / Moldbug / Donald) analysis are initially disconcerting. When detached from the confusions and conflations of a disturbed periphery, however, the pattern is compelling. Colonists are, by their very nature, in flight from the metropolis. It is less than a single step from this acknowledgement to the recognition that they tend to independence of action, social fission, and political disintegration, following trends that imperialists – with equal inevitability — seek to curtail. Since colonization, strictly understood, is cultural and demographic transplantation, it only acquires its sense of expansion when restrained under imperial auspices. Whilst colonial and rebellious are not even close to synonymous expressions, they are nevertheless mutually attracted, in near-direct proportion to the rift that separates colony from metropolis. A colonial venture is a rebellion of the most practical and productive kind, either re-routing a rebellion from time into space, or completing itself in a rebellion that transforms an expedition into an escape. Since the triumph of imperialism over colonialism beginning in the second half of the 19th century, it is only in (and as) America that this system of relations has persisted, tenuously, and in large measure occulted by the rise of an imperial state.

It is helpful, then, to differentiate in principle (with minimal moral excitability) between a colonial space project, oriented to extraterrestrial settlement, and an imperial space program, or policy, designed to ensure terrestrial control over off-planet development, maintain political integrity, and thus secure returns on investment across the Rift. From the perspective of the territorial state, an (imperial) space program that extracted economic value from beyond earth’s gravity well would be ideal, but this is an ambition unsupported by the vaguest flickerings of historical precedent (and obstructed by at least four orders of magnitude of yawning economic gulf). Second best, and quite satisfactory, is the simple prevention of colonial space projects, substituting political space theater as an expensive (but low-risk and affordable) alternative. The occasional man on the moon poses no great threat to the order of the world, so long as we “bring him safely back to earth.”

America was an escape from the Old World, and this definition suffices to describe what it still is – insofar as it still is – as well as what it can be, all that it can be, and what any escape from the new old world – if accurately named, would also be. When outlined by the shadows of dark enlightenment, America is the problem that the USA was designed to solve, the door that the USA closes, the proper name for a society born from flight.

As Nietzsche never exactly said: Am I understood? America against the stars and stripes …

[Tomb]

Lure of the Void (Part 3a)

There are two related questions posed by human exploration. First, is there anything economically useful to do out there, that pays your way? And second, can you live off the land, and use local resources to survive, or will we always be tied to support from earth? If the answer to both is yes, then you get space colonies, self-sustainable life off-planet. If the answer to both is no, then space is like Mt. Everest. Tourists might go to Mt. Everest, sherpas might make a living off of it, but no one really lives there.
If the answer is that you can live off the land, but it’s not economically useful, it’s like Antarctica. It was 40 years between the last time we were there, when Shackleton reached Antarctica, and when the U.S. Navy went back in 1912. There’s a similar lapse between going to the Moon the first time and, hopefully, when we’ll return. In that case, you can form an outpost and live there, but you’re sustained by constant funding, since engineering doesn’t pay for itself. If the answer is that there are economically useful things to do, such as mining Helium-3 on the Moon, but we’re always reliant on Earth for basic necessities, then space becomes a North Sea oil platform. You can make money there, but it will always be a hostile environment.
These are four very radically different human futures. And they’re all part of a larger question: Is there a human future beyond Earth? It’s a question ranks up there with whether there’s intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. We can search for life with probes and telescopes, but to determine the living range of humanity, we’re going to have to send humans into space.
Scott Pace

What should the payload be? It does not matter. That is the point. This is not about getting a useful payload into space: That is almost irrelevant. It is about guaranteeing a market for companies offering launch services to get things going. I mean this totally. If we could think of nothing better to launch, concrete blocks would be fine. My philosophy is:
Launching anything is good.  Paul Almond

The material base for a space-faring future is not only stranded in space, but also stranded in time. Not only are the gravitationally-unlocked resources from which it would assemble itself strewn across intimidating immensities of vacant distance, but the threshold where it all begins to come together – in an autocatalytic extraterrestrial economy – is separated from the world of present, practical incentives by dread gulfs of incalculable loss. In a variant of the old joke, if getting off-planet is the goal, a planet is the absolutely worst place to set out from. “I can tell you how to get there,” the local helpfully remarked. “But you shouldn’t start from here.”

Being out there could quickly start to make sense, as long as we were already there. Experimenting with this perspective-switch makes the animating impulse clearer. Most tellingly, it exposes how deeply planets suck, so that merely not being on one is worth almost anything. That’s the end game, the final strategy, ultimately arranging everything, with anti-gravity as the key.

Once gravity is perceived as the natural archetype of imprisonment, keeping you somewhere, whether you want to be there or not, the terrestrial-economic motivations for off-planet expansion are revealed in their fundamental spuriousness. The reason to be in space is to be in space, freed from planetary suckitude, and any benefits to Earth-dwellers that accrue on the way are mere stepping stones. Off-planet resources diverted to the surface of the Earth are, in the ultimate spacer scheme, wasted, or at least strategically sacrificed (since such wastage is almost certainly required in the interim). In the final analysis, the value of anything whatsoever is degraded in direct proportion to the gravitational influences brought to bear upon it, and descent from the heavens is a fall.

A wider cosmo-developmental view sharpens resolution (although this requires that Smart’s invaluable insights are strictly set aside, and black holes avoided with maximum prejudice). Smear into fast-forward until the process of extraterrestrial escape has been substantially accomplished, then freeze the screens. Fleeing gravity can now be seen as no more than the first step in a more thorough, antagonistic contestation with gravity and its works. Asteroids and comets are being pulverized, quarried, or bored into sponges, leaving moons, planets, and the sun itself as the local problems of interest. Such bodies are ‘problems’ because they deform space with gravity wells, which trap resources, but their status as development obstacles can be abstracted further. These worlds, at least partially isolated from the emerging deep-space commercium by their own mass, have been shaped by gravity into approximate spheres, which is to say – from the developmental perspective – into the very worst shapes that are mathematically possible, since they minimize the ratio of (reactive) surface to volume, and thus restrict resource accessibility to the greatest conceivable extent. Way out there, in deep space and the deep future, the gathering developmental impulse is to go full Vogon, and demolish them completely.

When seen from outside, planets are burial sites, where precious minerals are interred. By digging through the earth’s mantle, for instance, all the way down to its interior end, 3,000km beneath the surface, one reaches a high-pressure iron-nickel deposit over 6,500km in diameter – a planet-vaulted metal globe roughly 160,000,000,000 cubic kilometers in size, doped by enough gold and platinum to coat the entire surface of the earth to a depth of half a meter. To a moderately advanced off-world civilization, pondering the practicalities of its first planet-scale demolition, leaving this buried resource trove in place has a robotic-industrial opportunity cost that can be conservatively estimated in the region of 1.6 x 10^23 human-level intelligences, a mineral stockpile sufficient to manufacture a trillion sentient self-replicating probes for every star in the galaxy. (Even ardent conservationists have to recognize how tasty this morsel will look.)

Lift-off, then, is merely a precursor to the first serious plateau of anti-gravity technology, which is oriented towards the more profoundly productive task of pulling things apart, in order to convert comparatively inert mass-spheres into volatile clouds of cultural substance. Assuming a fusion-phase energy infrastructure, this initial stage of off-world development culminates in the dismantling of the sun, terminating the absurdly wasteful main-sequence nuclear process, salvaging its fuel reserves, and thus making the awakened solar-system’s contribution to the techno-industrial darkening of the galaxy. (Quit squandering hydrogen, and the lights dim.)

Focus for a few seconds on the economic irritability that arises at the sight of an oil-well flaring off natural gas, through sheer mindless incompetence, then glance at the sun. ‘Unsustainable’ doesn’t begin to capture it. Clearly, this energy machinery is utterly demented, amounting to an Azathothic orgy of spilled photons. The entire apparatus needs to be taken apart, through extreme solar surgery. Since this project has yet to receive sustained consideration, however, the specific engineering details can be safely bracketed for now.

The inexorable logic of techno-industrial efficiency, on its anti-gravity vector, means that the only consistent motivation for leaving the earth is to dismantle the sun (along with the rest of the solar-system), but that doesn’t play well in Peoria. Unsurprisingly, therefore, those sensitized to political realities, media perceptions, and public relations are inclined to emphasize other things, depicting the earth as a destination for cosmic bounty or — even more immediately — for juicy tax-funded pork, rather than as a tricky but highly-rewarding demolition problem.

Conspicuously missing from the public space debate, therefore, is any frank admission that, “(let’s face it folks) — planets are misallocations of matter which don’t really work. No one wants to tell you that, but it’s true. You know that we deeply respect the green movement, but when we get out there onto the main highway of solar-system redevelopment, and certain very rigid, very extreme environmentalist attitudes – Gaian survivalism, terrestrial holism, planetary preservationism, that sort of thing — are blocking the way forward, well, let me be very clear about this, that means jobs not being created, businesses not being built, factories closing down in the asteroid belt, growth foregone. Keeping the earth together means dollars down the drain – a lot of dollars, your dollars. There are people, sincere people, good people, who strongly oppose our plans to deliberately disintegrate the earth. I understand that, really I do, you know – honestly – I used to feel that way myself, not so long ago. I, too, wanted to believe that it was possible to leave this world in one piece, just as it has been for four billion years now. I, too, thought the old ways were probably best, that this planet was the place we belonged, that we should – and could — still find some alternative to pulling it apart. I remember those dreams, really I do, and I still hold them close to my heart. But, people, they were just dreams, old and noble dreams, but dreams, and today I’m here to tell you that we have to wake up. Planets aren’t our friends. They’re speed-bumps on the road to the future, and we simply can’t afford them anymore. Let’s back them up digitally, with respect, yes, even with love, and then let’s get to work…” [Thunderous applause]

Since, during the present stage of extraterrestrial ambition, pandering to the partisans of cosmic disintegrationism cannot reasonably be conceived as a sure-fire election winner, it is only to be expected that rhetoric of this kind has been muted. Yet, in the absence of some such vision, or consistently extrapolated alignment with anti-gravity, the off-planet impulse is condemned to arbitrariness, insubstantiality, and insincerity of expression. Absent an uncompromised sense of something else, why not stick to this? The result has been, perhaps predictably, a reign of near-silence on the topic of extraterrestrial projects, even in regard to its most limited, immediate, and practically unobjectionable varieties.

If escaping the earth – and gravitational confinement in general — is not an intelligible end, but only a means, what provides the motivation? It is into this cramped, awkwardly-deformed crevice of aspiration that NewSpace must insinuate itself. To speak of ‘insincerity’ might seem unduly harsh – since there is no reason to suspect conscious deception, or even carefully-calibrated reservation, when NewSpace advocates outline their plans. An enveloping structure of implausibility nevertheless announces itself in every project that is advanced, manifested through the incommensurability between the scale of the undertaking and the rewards that supposedly incentivize it. Space tourism, asteroid mining, micro-gravity experimentation and manufacturing… really? Is it genuinely imaginable that these paltry goals finally or sufficiently motivate a prolonged struggle against the terrestrial gravity-trap, rather than serving as fragile pretexts or rationalizations for the pursuit of far more compelling, yet hazy, unarticulated, or even completely unsuspected objectives?

When this question is extended backwards, and outwards, it gathers force. Stretch it back to the moon, and out to Mars, and the inference becomes increasingly irresistible. None of these ‘missions’ made, or make, any sense whatsoever, except insofar as they abbreviate some wider, undisclosed impulse. Space activity is not the means to a targeted end, but the end to be advanced by a sequence of missions, whose specific content is therefore derivative, and devoid of intrinsic significance. Once the inarticulate outward momentum decays, leaving nothing but an arbitrary extraterrestrial destination to represent it, the naked absurdity that is exposed rapidly extinguishes the last, flickering embers of popular motivation. Four decades of explicit lunar nihilism attest abundantly to that.

Whilst the partial privatization of space activity (‘NewSpace’) creatively displaces the problem of purpose, it does not radically dispel it. To some degree, NewSpace substitutes the economic motivations of disparate private operators for the political justification of a concentrated public bureaucracy, and by doing so it relieves the pressure to maintain coherent, communicable, and consensual objectives. Space ambitions are freed to enter the fragmented, competitive terrain of idiosyncrasy, variety, experimentation, and even personally-financed frivolity. It might even be thought that seriousness becomes optional.

When examined more doggedly, however, it is clear that the basic problem persists. The terrestrial gravity-well produces a split between the surface of the earth, and ‘orbit’ (or beyond), and private capital is no less severely divided by this schism than Rocket-State ‘public’ hardware. Whilst convertible temporarily into forms of inert, stored value, capital is an essentially modern phenomenon, born in industrial revolution, and typically defined by the diversion of immediate consumption into ‘roundabout’ production, which is to say: machinery. It is reproduced, or accumulated, by circulating through machines, or apparatus, and it is upon this that the gravity-well compels a decision: is NewSpace capital to be invested, unambiguously, in space?

A serious space program is, fundamentally and irreducibly, a process or terrestrial evacuation. It requires the consistent relocation (or de-location) of enterprise, resources, and productive capabilities from the earth into space, at least until the threshold of extraterrestrial autocatalysis is reached, at which point a break has been achieved, and an autonomous off-planet economy established. Whatever the opportunities for obfuscation (which are probably considerable), the basic decision remains unaffected. The accumulation of a terrestrial fortune is not at all the same, and is in fact almost certainly economically inconsistent, with the sustained investment in an off-planet industrial infrastructure. Either stuff is being shifted into space, irrevocably, or not.

[moon cake break]

[Tomb]

Lure of the Void (Part 2)

The right stuff in the rough

… it’s important to understand what Apollo was, and wasn’t. It was a victory in the Cold War over the Soviets, but because we were at war, we waged it with a state socialist enterprise. What it was not was the first step of opening up the frontier to humanity, and it was in fact a false start that has created a template for NASA and a groove in which we’ve been stuck for over four decades now, with many billions spent and little useful progress.
Rand Simberg

The opening of the American west in the first decades of the 19th century and the opening of the space frontier in these first decades of the 21st century are very similar.
Mike Snead

Fascism makes our heads spin, which is unfortunate, because an inability to gaze unwaveringly into the dominant ‘third way’ model of political economy (corporate nationalism) makes the history of the last century unintelligible. For amateur space historians, dropping in briefly on the Moon Nazis is simply unavoidable.

SS Sturmbannführer Wernher von Braun, Deputy Associate Administrator for Planning at NASA Headquarters, Washington DC (1970-2), helps with the introduction. Technical director of the Nazi rocket program at Peenemünde, which culminated in the creation of the A-4 (V-2) ballistic missile, von Braun was brought to America in 1945 as the top prize of Operation Paperclip. His contribution to US rocket development, through Redstone to Apollo (and the moon), was central and indispensable. NASA Socialism was born on the Dark Side of the Moon. (This probably isn’t the right time to wander too deeply into Pynchon territory, but, roughly speaking, that’s where we are.)

If fascism sounds unduly harsh, more comfortable terminology lies within easy reach. ‘Technocracy’ will do fine. The name is less important than the essentials, which were already clearly formulated in the work of a previous German immigrant to the United States, Friedrich List, who devoted an influential book to outlining The National System of Political Economy (1841). According to List, the ‘cosmopolitanism’ of mainstream (Smithean) political economy was insufficiently attentive to the collective national interest. Industrial development was too important to be surrendered to the interplay of private economic agents, and should instead be considered a strategic imperative, within the context of international competition. Only by leveraging the power of the state to regulate trade, foster modern industries, and drive the development of critical infrastructure, could a country hope to advance its interests in the international arena. Development was war by other means, and sometimes the same ones.

When eagerly embraced by Henry Clay, who connected List’s ideas with the founding tradition from Alexander Hamilton, these ideas became the basis of the American System. Economic nationalism was to be pursued along the threefold path of managed trade (tariffs), state-controlled finance (central banking), and state-directed infrastructure development (especially transportation systems). Such policies were already ‘progressive’ or fascist technocratic in that they subordinated private-cosmopolitan economic interests to national purposes, but this took place flexibly, without the more recent encrustations of anti-business class warfare, large-scale entitlement spending, or Cathedralist cultural policing. Capitalism was to be steered, and even promoted, rather than milked, deliberately ruined, or replaced. Due to its patriotic direction, elitism, and affinity with militarization, this technocratic progressivism could easily be understood as a phenomenon of ‘the right’, or at least (in Walter Russell Mead’s words) the “Bipartisan Establishment.”

Apollo perfectly exemplified American technocratic progressivism in the teutonized, neo-Hamiltonian tradition. A small step for a man, and a substantial leap for mankind, it was a colossal high-jump for the US Leviathan, marking an unambiguous triumph in the structured competition with its principal geo-strategic and ideological rival. The Apollo program wasn’t exactly part of the ballistic missile arms race with the Soviet Union, but it was close enough to contribute to its symbolic, mass-psychological, and deterrent purpose. Landing a man on the moon was a type of overkill, relative to landing a nuke on Moscow, and it expressed a super-abundant payload-delivery capability that had won a war of messages.

In an article originally published in The American Spectator (November 10, 2010), Iain Murray and Rand Simberg describe the moon race as Big Government’s Final Frontier, remarking that:

There’s something about space policy that makes conservatives forget their principles. Just one mention of NASA, and conservatives are quite happy to check their small-government instincts at the door and vote in favor of massive government programs and harsh regulations that stifle private enterprise.

They conclude:

It is time for conservatives to recognize that Apollo is over. We must recognize that Apollo was a centrally planned monopolistic government program for a few government employees, in the service of Cold War propaganda and was therefore itself an affront to American values. If we want to seriously explore, and potentially exploit space, we need to harness private enterprise, and push the technologies really needed to do so.

Whilst it would be pointlessly upsetting to translate this into a call for the denazification of outer space, it would be equally misleading to read it as nothing of the kind. Progressive technocracy, in a range of national flavors, is the only effective space politics the world has ever seen, and it is still far more likely — in the near-term — to be modernized than radically supplanted. Space development poses such an immense collective challenge that it sucks even liberty-oriented conservatives such as Simberg towards accommodation with the activist, catalytic, neo-Hamiltonian state. At least initially, there’s simply no other place where the clanking machinery of Leviathan is more at home.

Popular culture has picked up on this well. Among the many reasons for the ecstatic reception to Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) was appreciation for its ‘realistic’ tonal portrait of practical space activity. Science and commerce played their parts, but the leading edge was dominated by quasi-military heavy metal, funded by massive budgets based on gravely obscure strategic objectives, directed and crewed by hard, obedient, buzz-cut types who did whatever it took to get things done. Weapons research trumped all other considerations. Breaking out into the deep frontier required a rigid, armored-bulkhead seriousness that civilians would never quite understand.

When suddenly stripped of its Cold War context, the proxy warfaring of the rocket-state lost coherent motivation, and immediately veered off course into increasingly ludicrous pseudo-objectives. By the closing years of the 20th century, all pretense of a big push outwards had been dissipated amongst commoditized LEO satellite maintenance, unconvincing zero-gravity science projects, ritualistic space-station diplomacy, multicultural astronaut PR, and even cynical make-work schemes for dangerously competent ex-Soviet technicians. Clever science continued, based on robot probes and space telescopes, but none of that even hinted at an impetus towards space settlement, or even manned spacecraft, and typically advised explicitly against it. Despite all the very real ‘right stuff’ heroism, putting people in space was a circus act, and perhaps it always had been.

Whatever else outer space may be, it’s a place where the right goes schizoid, and the more that it’s thought about, the more jagged the split. The seemingly straightforward, dynamic-traditional, and extremely stimulating ‘image’ of the frontier illuminates the point. The frontier is a space of attenuated formal authority, where entrepreneurial, ‘bottom-up’ processes of social formation and economic endeavor are cultivated amongst archetypal ‘rugged individualists’, its affinity with libertarian impulses so tight that it establishes the (‘homesteading’) model of natural property rights, and yet, equally undeniably, it is a zone of savage, informal warfare, broken open as a policy decision, pacified through the unremitting application of force, and developed as a strategic imperative, in the interest of territorial-political integration. By fleeing the state, in the direction of the frontier, the settler or colonist extends the reach of the state towards the frontier, drawing it outwards, and enhancing its ferocity, or roughening it. The path of anti-governmental flight confuses itself with a corresponding expansion, hardening, and re-feralization of the state, as the cavalry learn from the Indians, in a place without rules. Then the railroad comes. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress meets Starship Troopers.

“A strategy for achieving economic benefit from space must involve both government and industry, as did the development of the American West,” argues Martin Elvis, and no one seriously disagrees. Whenever realism is prioritized on the extraterrestrial horizon, some variant of rough-and-dirty technocratic progressivism always waits on the launch-pad, ready to piggy-back business off-planet on patriotic, Leviathan-funded, first-stage boosters. Over-hasty denazification is strictly for earth-bound softies The neo-Hamiltonian jump-leads work too well to drop. As usual, Simberg expresses this best:

The United States should become a spacefaring nation, and the leader of a spacefaring civilization.

That means that access to space should be almost as routine (if not quite as affordable) as access to the oceans, and with similar laws and regulations. It means thousands, or millions, of people in space — and not just handpicked government employees, but private citizens spending their own money for their own purposes. It means that we should have the capability to detect an asteroid or comet heading for Earth and to deflect it in a timely manner. Similarly it means we should be able to mine asteroids or comets for their resources, for use in space or on Earth, potentially opening up new wealth for the planet. It means that we should explore the solar system the way we did the West: not by sending off small teams of government explorers — Lewis and Clark were the extreme exception, not the rule — but by having lots of people wandering around and peering over the next rill in search of adventure or profit.

We should have massively parallel exploration — and not just exploration, but development, as it has worked on every previous frontier.

Which brings us to ‘NewSpace’…

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Lure of the Void (Part 1)

The Frontier of Disillusionment

…the idea that we are no longer able to accomplish feats we once could do (like travel to the Moon) clashes with the prevailing narrative that we march forever forward. Not only can’t we get to the Moon at present, but the U.S. no longer has a space shuttle program — originally envisioned to make space travel as routine as air travel. And for that matter, I no longer have the option to purchase a ticket to fly trans-Atlantic at supersonic speeds on the Concorde. Narratives can break.
Tom Murphy(bolding in original)

Shanghai’s 2010 World Expo included an entire pavilion dedicated to urban futures. Among the exhibits was a looping video on a large screen, depicting varieties of futuristic city-types as speculative animations, light-heartedly, and with obvious orientation to youngsters. Since children are the denizens of the future, it makes sense to treat them as the target audience for a vision of tomorrow’s world, but the effect was also disconcerting, as if parenthesizing what was shown in a form of deniable, non-abrasive irony. This is what the future used to look like. Does it still? On this point, a subtle reserve concealed itself as a concession to childish credibility, or even inconsequential fantasy.

One of the four future cities on display had been constructed off-planet, in earth-orbit. It was populated by happy humans (or, at least, humanoids). No date was predicted. Untethered from firm futuristic commitment, it intersected adult perception as a fragment of cross-cultural memory.

Imagine a city in space, as a child might. Given the strategic obscurity of this statement, when encountered at a carefully-crafted international event, in a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, global, Chinese city, in 2010, it is tempting to approach it through analogy. Half a century ago, when Western children were encouraged to imagine such things, during the twilight decades of modernity (1.0), was a sincere promise being made to them that they would inherit the solar system? If so, is such a promise now being humorously referenced, or is it being re-directed, and re-made?

The 2010 Expo had a Space Pavilion, too, which only deepened the perplexity. Given the opportunity to re-activate Expo traditions of techno-industrial grandiosity, it was a spectacular miss-launch, containing almost nothing in the way of monumental hardware. The content fell into two broad categories: video-based immersive special effects (highly-appreciated by kids), and vanilla-domestic applications of space technology, on the approximate model of NASA’s lamentable “we’re the guys who brought you the non-stick frying-pan” PR campaign. Anybody hoping for soul-crushing cyclopean military-analog launch vehicles and the acrid stink of rocket fuel had clearly wandered into the wrong century. Contemporary international etiquette prevailed, and according to that, the business of blazing into orbit is far too crude – even primitive — to be vigorously publicized.

So even in China, at least in its 2010 window to the world, off-planet aspirations were stirred together indissolubly with childhood fantasy. The unmistakable insinuation, harmonized with the commanding heights of world opinion, was that such hard SF dreams had been outgrown. Rather than staring through a window into the spark-torched clangorous workshop of China’s emerging national space program, Western visitors found their gazes bounced from mirrored glass, into a ‘postmodern’ vacuum of collapsed expectations, amongst the eroded ruins of Apollo. Four decades of Occidental space failure smiled politely back. You lost it, didn’t you? (A quick trip across the Huangpu to the drearily mundane USA Pavilion sufficed for unambiguous confirmation.)

The dismissal of a human off-planet future as a childish dream has plenty to build upon. The world’s publishers and book shops have long accommodated their classification systems to the sleazy ambiguity of the ‘science fiction / fantasy genre’, in which futurism smears into oneirism, and the vestiges of hard SF programs (telecommunication satellites, moon bases, space elevators…) are scattered amongst fantastic elves-in-space mythologies (from Star Wars to Avatar). Competitive prophecies decay into polemical allegories, making statements about anything and everything except the shape of the future.

Of all the cultural ripples from the truncation of the Apollo-era space trajectory, none is more telling than the rising popularity of ‘Moon Hoax’ conspiracy theorizing. Not satisfied with the prospective evacuation of the heavens, the moon hoaxers began systematically editing space-travelers out of the past, beginning with the lunar landings. Whilst clearly maddening to space technologists, American patriots, NASA supporters, and sensible types in general, this form of ‘denialism’ is not only historically comprehensible, but even inevitable. If nobody seriously contests the fact that Columbus reached the New World, it is at least in part because what was then started kept happening. Something began, and continued. Nothing comparable can be said about the process of lunar colonization, and that, in itself, is a provocative oddity. When forecasts are remembered, abandoned outcomes can be expected to mess up memories.

Old-school space enthusiast Sylvia Engdahl finds the whole situation pathological, and subjects it to a kind of jerry-built psychoanalysis. With defiant optimism, she attributes “the present hiatus in space travel” to xenophobic trauma:

Much is said about the positive effect of the photos of Earth obtained by Apollo 8, which for the first time showed our planet as a globe, a fragile refuge amid barren surroundings, and thereby launched the environmental movement. The concomitant negative impact — the spread of gut-level knowledge that space is an actual place containing little that’s familiar to us and perhaps much that we’d rather not meet — is not spoken of. But it may be no less significant. Could this be one of the reasons why interest in space died so soon after the first Moon landing, resulting in the cancellation of the last few planned Apollo missions?

She elaborates:

Most people do not want to contemplate the significance of an open universe. They do not let uneasiness about it into their minds, but underneath, as the collective unconscious of humankind absorbs the knowledge, they grasp it, and react with dismay disguised as apathy. It does not occur to them that they might be disturbed by the prospect of space exploration. Rather, they believe that although in theory they want humankind to reach new worlds, it’s of low priority compared to the problems of here and now. … [T]he widespread conviction that the public no longer cares about space may also be a rationalization.

Engdahl hints at a modern variant of the Orpheus myth, and captures something of arresting significance. We were told not to look back from orbit, but of course, we did, and what we saw pulled us back down. The damnation of our extraterrestrial out-leap gave birth to a lucid environmentalist vision — the earth seen from space. That is why Tom Murphy turns to the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, John Michael Greer, to transmute elegiac disillusionment into acceptance:

The orbiters are silent now, waiting for the last awkward journey that will take them to the museums that will warehouse the grandest of our civilization’s failed dreams. There will be no countdown, no pillar of flame to punch them through the atmosphere and send them whipping around the planet at orbital speeds. All of that is over. …In the final analysis, space travel was simply the furthest and most characteristic offshoot of industrial civilization, and depended — as all of industrial civilization depends — on vast quantities of cheap, highly concentrated, readily accessible energy. That basic condition is coming to an end around us right now.

Disillusionment is simply awakening from childish things, the druids tell us. This is a point Murphy is keen to endorse: “space fantasies can prevent us from tackling mundane problems.” Intriguingly, his initial step towards acceptance involves a rectification of false memory, through a (sane) analog of ‘Moon Hoax’ denial. Surveying his students on their understanding of recent space history (“since 1980 or so”), he discovered that no less than 52% thought humans had departed the earth as far as the moon in that time (385,000 km distant). Only 11% correctly understood that no manned expedition had escaped Low Earth Orbit (LEO) since the end of the Apollo program (600 km out). Recent human space activity, at least in the way it was imagined, had not taken place. It was predominantly a collective hallucination.

Murphy’s highly-developed style of numerate druidism represents the null hypothesis in the space settlement debate: perhaps we’re not out there because there’s no convincing reason to expect anything else. Extraterrestrial space isn’t a frontier, even a tough one, but rather an implacably hostile desolation that promises nothing except grief and waste. There’s some scientific data to be gleaned, and also (although Murphy doesn’t emphasize this) opportunities for political theatrics. Other than that, however, there’s nothing beyond LEO worth reaching for.

The neo-druidic starting point is unapologetically down to earth. It begins with energy physics, and the remorseless fact that doing just about anything heats things up. According to Murphy’s calculations, a modest 2.3% global economic growth rate suffices to bring the planetary surface to the boiling point of water within four centuries, even in the complete absence of (positive) greenhouse effects. Economic growth is essentially exponential, and that guarantees that we’re cooked, due to elementary thermodynamic principles, efficiency limits, and the geophysics of heat dissipation. Within this big picture, conventional ‘energy crisis’ concerns are no more than complicating details, although Murphy engages them thoroughly. (He provides a neat summary of his argument, with internal links, here.)

From the neo-druidic perspective, the space ‘frontier’ is a horizon of sheer escapism, attracting those who stubbornly deny the necessity of limitation (pestilential growth-addicts):

…relying on space to provide an infinite resource base into which we grow/expand forever is misguided. Not only is it much harder than many people appreciate, but it represents a distraction to the message that growth cannot continue on Earth and we should get busy planning a transition to a non-growth-based, truly sustainable existence.

Since plenty of irrepressible growth-mongers seriously want to get out there, Murphy trowels on the discouragement in thick, viscous layers. Most of the deterrent factors are relatively familiar, but none of them are frivolous, or easily dismissed. The principal problem is the most qualitative (and druidic): human adaptation to terrestrial conditions. This is strikingly illuminated by a consideration of terrestrial ‘frontier’ environments that remain almost entirely unexploited, despite environmental features that are overwhelmingly more benign than anything to be found off-planet. When compared to any conceivable space station, asteroid mining camp, lunar base, or Mars colony, even the most ‘difficult’ places on earth — the seabed, for instance, or the Antarctic — are characterized by extreme hospitability, with ready access to breathable air, nutrients, fuels, and other essential resources, a moderate temperature range, protection from cosmic radiation, and proximity to existing human settlements. This is to be contrasted with typical extraterrestrial conditions of hard vacuum, utter exposure, complete absence of bio-compatible chemistry, and mind-jarring distances.

Murphy touched upon these distances in his survey of student space ignorance. If earth is represented by a “standard” 30-centimeter globe, LEO is 1.5 centimeters from the surface, and the moon a full 9 meters further out. For intuitive purchase upon more expansive space visions, however, a re-calibration is required.

It makes sense to model the earth as a small apple (8.5 cm in diameter), because then an astronomical unit (AU, the mean earth-sun distance of roughly 150 million kilometers, 93 million miles, or 500 light seconds) shrinks to a kilometer, with the sun represented by a sphere a little over 10 meters in diameter. The moon now lies less than 2.7 meters out from our toy earth, but Mars is never less than 400 meters away, the nearest asteroids a kilometer away. The distance to the edge of the planetary solar system (Neptune) is at least 29 kilometers, and within this spatial volume (a sphere of roughly 113,400 AU³), less than one part in 27 billion is anything other than desolate vacuum, with almost all the rest being solar furnace. On the toy scale, the outer edge of the solar system, and the Oort cloud, lies 50,000 kilometers from the earth. The distance from our shriveled apple to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is 277,600 toy kilometers (or 41.5 trillion real ones).

If space colonization is being construed as an escape from terrestrial resource constraints, then a pattern of activity needs to be knitted across these distances, producing — at a minimum — an energy surplus. In a non-frictional kinetic system, governed almost purely by (macroscopic) conservation of momentum, the basic currency of space activity is ‘delta-v’, or the transformation of velocity. Delta-v is broadly proportional to energy expenditure on “small burns”, when fuel consumption makes a negligible difference to total propelled mass, but when complete flights or “large burns” are calculated, the math becomes nonlinear, since the reduction of fuel payload becomes a critical factor in the equation (subtracting inertial resistance as it adds motive force). In practical terms, the prospective off-planet (‘space-faring’) energy economy consists of the consumption of propellant to move propellant about, with non-fuel vehicle mass contributing little more than a rounding error in the calculations.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, it is possible to get the rocket moving faster than the exhaust velocity once the fuel mass exceeds 63% of the total initial mass. In order to get delta-v values in the 20 km/s range when the exhaust velocity is less than 5 km/s requires almost nothing but fuel. …[T]he large delta-v’s required to get around the solar system require a lot of fuel…

This double-registry of fuel within the nonlinear equations of “rocket math” – as payload and propellant – is the key to Murphy’s deep skepticism about the viability of off-planet energy economics. The fuel resources strewn within the inner solar system – even assuming their absolute abundance – cannot be moved around usefully for less energy than they provide. Jupiter offers the most tantalizing example. This methane-rich gas giant might be superficially apprehended as an immense cosmic fuel depot, but even the most generous calculations of delta-v requirements for a Jupiter ‘tanker-run’ imply energy expenditures at least an order of magnitude higher than energy obtained – from the ‘scooping’ operation alone. The inner solar-system is abundant in “stranded resources” that cannot conceivably be extracted at a cost lower than their value. That, at least, is the coherent neo-druidic perspective.

…and yet, in the yawning void, where the space settlements were meant to have been, the stirrings have not ceased. There even seems to be, unmistakably, a quickening of pace. Chinese ‘Taikonauts’, private (American) ‘NewSpace’ businesses, and ever more advanced robots are venturing out beyond the wreckage of dead dreams. Are they heading anywhere that works, or that even makes sense?

[Next…]

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The Dark Enlightenment (Part 4f(inal))

Approaching the Bionic Horizon

It’s time to bring this long digression to a conclusion, by reaching out impatiently towards the end. The basic theme has been mind control, or thought-suppression, as demonstrated by the Media-Academic complex that dominates contemporary Western societies, and which Mencius Moldbug names the Cathedral. When things are squashed they rarely disappear. Instead, they are displaced, fleeing into sheltering shadows, and sometimes turning into monsters. Today, as the suppressive orthodoxy of the Cathedral comes unstrung, in various ways, and numerous senses, a time of monsters is approaching.

The central dogma of the Cathedral has been formalized as the Standard Social Scientific Model (SSSM) or ‘blank slate theory’. It is the belief, completed in its essentials by the anthropology of Franz Boas, that every legitimate question about mankind is restricted to the sphere of culture. Nature permits that ‘man’ is, but never determines what man is. Questions directed towards natural characteristics and variations between humans are themselves properly understood as cultural peculiarities, or even pathologies. Failures of ‘nurture’ are the only thing we are allowed to see.

Because the Cathedral has a consistent ideological orientation, and sifts its enemies accordingly, comparatively detached scientific appraisal of the SSSM easily veers into raw antagonism. As Simon Blackburn remarks (in a thoughtful review of Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate), “The dichotomy between nature and nurture rapidly acquires political and emotional implications. To put it crudely, the right likes genes and the left likes culture …”

At the limit of reciprocal loathing, hereditarian determinism confronts social constructivism, with each committed to a radically pared-back model of causality. Either nature expresses itself as culture, or culture expresses itself in its images (‘constructions’) of nature. Both of these positions are trapped at opposite sides of an incomplete circuit, structurally blinded to the culture of practical naturalism, which is to say: the techno-scientific / industrial manipulation of the world.

Acquiring knowledge and using tools is a single dynamic circuit, producing techno-science as an integral system, without real divisibility into theoretical and practical aspects. Science develops in loops, through experimental technique and the production of ever more sophisticated instrumentation, whilst embedded within a broader industrial process. Its advance is the improvement of a machine. This intrinsically technological character of (modern) science demonstrates the efficiency of culture as a complex natural force. It neither expresses a pre-existing natural circumstance, nor does it merely construct social representations. Instead, nature and culture compose a dynamic circuit, at the edge of nature, where fate is decided.

According to the self-reinforcing presupposition of modernization, to be understood is to be modifiable. It is to be expected, therefore, that biology and medicine co-evolve. The same historical dynamic that comprehensively subverts the SSSM through inundating waves of scientific discovery simultaneously volatilizes human biological identity through biotechnology. There is no essential difference between learning what we really are and re-defining ourselves as technological contingencies, or technoplastic beings, susceptible to precise, scientifically-informed transformations. ‘Humanity’ becomes intelligible as it is subsumed into the technosphere, where information processing of the genome – for instance — brings reading and editing into perfect coincidence.

To describe this circuit, as it consumes the human species, is to define our bionic horizon: the threshold of conclusive nature-culture fusion at which a population becomes indistinguishable from its technology. This is neither hereditarian determinism, nor social constructivism, but it is what both would have referred to, had they indicated anything real. It is a syndrome vividly anticipated by Octavia Butler, whose Xenogenesis trilogy is devoted to the examination of a population beyond the bionic horizon. Her Oankali ‘gene traders’ have no identity separable from the biotechnological program that they perpetually implement upon themselves, as they commercially acquire, industrially produce, and sexually reproduce their population within a single, integral process. Between what the Oankali are, and the way they live, or behave, there is no firm difference. Because they make themselves, their nature is their culture and (of course) reciprocally. What they are is exactly what they do.

Religious traditionalists of the Western Orthosphere are right to identify the looming bionic horizon with a (negative) theological event. Techno-scientific auto-production specifically supplants the fixed and sacralized essence of man as a created being, amidst the greatest upheaval in the natural order since the emergence of eukaryotic life, half a billion years ago. It is not merely an evolutionary event, but the threshold of a new evolutionary phase. John H. Campbell heralds the emergence of Homo autocatalyticus, whilst arguing: “In point of fact, it is hard to imagine how a system of inheritance could be more ideal for engineering than ours is.”

John H. Campbell? – a prophet of monstrosity, and the perfect excuse for a monster quote:

“Biologists suspect that new forms evolve rapidly from very tiny outgroups of individuals (perhaps even a single fertilized female, Mayr, 1942) at the fringe of an existing species. There the stress of an all but uninhabitable environment, forced inbreeding among isolated family members, “introgression” of foreign genes from neighboring species, lack of other members of the species to compete against or whatever, promotes a major reorganization of the genomic program, possibly from modest change in gene structure. Nearly all of these transmogrified fragments of species die out, but an occasional one is fortunate enough to fit a new viable niche. It prospers and expands into a new species. Its conversion into a statistically constrained gene pool then stabilizes the species from further evolutionary change. Established species are far more notable for their stasis than change. Even throwing off a new daughter species does not seem to change an existing species. No one denies that species can gradually transform and do so to various extents, but this so-called “anagenesis” is relatively unimportant compared to geologically-sudden major saltation in the generation of novelty.

Three implications are important.

1. Most evolutionary change is associated with the origin of new species.

2. Several modes of evolution may operate simultaneously. In this case the most effective dominates the process.

3. Tiny minorities of individuals do most of the evolving instead of the species as a whole.

A second important characteristic of evolution is self-reference (Campbell, 1982). The Cartesian cartoon of an autonomous external “environment” dictating the form of a species like a cookie cutter cutting stencils from sheets of dough is dead, dead wrong. The species molds its environment as profoundly as the environment “evolves” the species. In particular, the organisms cause the limiting conditions of the environment over which they compete. Therefore the genes play two roles in evolution. They are the targets of natural selection and they also ultimately induce and determine the selection pressures that act upon them. This circular causality overwhelms the mechanical character of evolution. Evolution is dominated by feedback of the evolved activities of organisms on their evolution.

The third seminal realization is that evolution extends past the change in organisms as products of evolution to change in the process itself. Evolution evolves (Jantsch, 1976; Balsh, 1989; Dawkins, 1989; Campbell, 1993). Evolutionists know this fact but have never accorded the fact the importance that it deserves because it is incommensurate with Darwinism. Darwinists, and especially modern neodarwinists, equate evolution to the operation of a simple logical principle, one that is prior to biology: Evolution is merely the Darwinian principle of natural selection in action, and this is what the science of evolution is about. Since principles cannot change with time or circumstances, evolution must be fundamentally static.

Of course, biological evolution is not like this at all. It is an actual complex process, not a principle. The way that it takes place can, and indisputably does, change with time. This is of utmost importance because the process of evolution advances as it proceeds (Campbell, 1986). Preliving matter in the earth’s primordial soup was able to evolve only by subdarwinian “chemical” mechanisms. Once these puny processes created gene molecules with information for their self-replication then evolution was able to engage natural selection. Evolution then wrapped the self-replicating genomes within self-replicating organisms to control the way that life would respond to the winds of selection from the environment. Later, by creating multicellular organisms, evolution gained access to morphological change as an alternative to slower and less versatile biochemical evolution. Changes in the instructions in developmental programs replaced changes in enzyme catalysts. Nervous systems opened the way for still faster and more potent behavioral, social and cultural evolution. Finally, these higher modes produced the prerequisite organization for rational, purposeful evolution, guided and propelled by goal-directed minds. Each of these steps represented a new emergent level of evolutionary capability.

Thus, there are two distinct, but interwoven, evolutionary processes. I call them “adaptive evolution” and “generative evolution.” The former is familiar Darwinian modification of organisms to enhance their survival and reproductive success. Generative evolution is entirely different. It is the change in a process instead of structure. Moreover, that process is ontological. Evolution literally means “to unfold” and what is unfolding is the capacity to evolve. Higher animals have become increasingly adept at evolving. In contrast, they are not the least bit fitter than their ancestors or the lowest form of microbe. Every species today has had exactly the same track record of survival; on average, every higher organism alive today still will leave only two offspring, as was the case a hundred million years ago, and modern species are as likely to go extinct as were those in the past. Species cannot become fitter and fitter because reproductive success is not a cumulative parameter.

For racial nationalists, concerned that their grandchildren should look like them, Campbell is the abyss. Miscegenation doesn’t get close to the issue. Think face tentacles.

Campbell is also a secessionist, although entirely undistracted by the concerns of identity politics (racial purity) or traditional cognitive elitism (eugenics). Approaching the bionic horizon, secessionism takes on an altogether wilder and more monstrous bearing – towards speciation. The folks at euvolution capture the scenario well:

Reasoning that the majority of humankind will not voluntarily accept qualitative population-management policies, Campbell points out that any attempt to raise the IQ of the whole human race would be tediously slow. He further points out that the general thrust of early eugenics was not so much species improvement as the prevention of decline. Campbell’s eugenics, therefore, advocates the abandonment of Homo sapiens as a ‘relic’ or ‘living fossil’ and the application of genetic technologies to intrude upon the genome, probably writing novel genes from scratch using a DNA synthesizer. Such eugenics would be practiced by elite groups, whose achievements would so quickly and radically outdistance the usual tempo of evolution that within ten generation the new groups will have advanced beyond our current form to the same degree that we transcend apes.

When seen from the bionic horizon, whatever emerges from the dialectics of racial terror remains trapped in trivialities. It’s time to move on.

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The Dark Enlightenment (Part 4e)

Cross-coded history

Democracy is the opposite of freedom, almost inherent to the democratic process is that it tends towards less liberty instead of more, and democracy is not something to be fixed. Democracy is inherently broken, just like socialism. The only way to fix it is to break it up. Frank Karsten

Historian (mainly of science) Doug Fosnow called for the USA’s “red” counties to secede from the “blue” ones, forming a new federation. This was greeted with much skepticism by the audience, who noted that the “red” federation would get practically no seacoast. Did Doug really think such a secession was likely to happen? No, he admitted cheerfully, but anything would be better than the race war he does think is likely to happen, and it is intellectuals’ duty to come up with less horrific possibilities.John Derbyshire

Thus, rather than by means of a top-down reform, under the current conditions, one’s strategy must be one of a bottom-up revolution. At first, the realization of this insight would seem to make the task of a liberal-libertarian social revolution impossible, for does this not imply that one would have to persuade a majority of the public to vote for the abolition of democracy and an end to all taxes and legislation? And is this not sheer fantasy, given that the masses are always dull and indolent, and even more so given that democracy, as explained above, promotes moral and intellectual degeneration? How in the world can anyone expect that a majority of an increasingly degenerate people accustomed to the “right” to vote should ever voluntarily renounce the opportunity of looting other people’s property? Put this way, one must admit that the prospect of a social revolution must indeed be regarded as virtually nil. Rather, it is only on second thought, upon regarding secession as an integral part of any bottom-up strategy, that the task of a liberal-libertarian revolution appears less than impossible, even if it still remains a daunting one. – Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Conceived generically, modernity is a social condition defined by an integral trend, summarized as sustained economic growth rates that exceed population increases, and thus mark an escape from normal history, caged within the Malthusian trap. When, in the interest of dispassionate appraisal, analysis is restricted to the terms of this basic quantitative pattern, it supports sub-division into the (growth) positive and negative components of the trend: techno-industrial (scientific and commercial) contributions to accelerating development on the one hand, and socio-political counter-tendencies towards the capture of economic product by democratically empowered rent-seeking special interests on the other (demosclerosis). What classical liberalism gives (industrial revolution) mature liberalism takes away (via the cancerous entitlement state). In abstract geometry, it describes an S-curve of self-limiting runaway. As a drama of liberation, it is a broken promise.

Conceived particularly, as a singularity, or real thing, modernity has ethno-geographical characteristics that complicate and qualify its mathematical purity. It came from somewhere, imposed itself more widely, and brought the world’s various peoples into an extraordinary range of novel relations. These relations were characteristically ‘modern’ if they involved an overflowing of previous Malthusian limits, enabling capital accumulation, and initiating new demographic trends, but they conjoined concrete groups rather than abstract economic functions. At least in appearance, therefore, modernity was something done by people of a certain kind with, and not uncommonly to (or even against), other people, who were conspicuously unlike them. By the time it was faltering on the fading slope of the S-curve, in the early 20th century, resistance to its generic features (‘capitalistic alienation’) had become almost entirely indistinguishable from opposition to its particularity (‘European imperialism’ and ‘white supremacy’). As an inevitable consequence, the modernistic self-consciousness of the system’s ethno-geographical core slid towards racial panic, in a process that was only arrested by the rise and immolation of the Third Reich.

Given modernity’s inherent trend to degeneration or self-cancellation, three broad prospects open. These are not strictly exclusive, and are therefore not true alternatives, but for schematic purposes it is helpful to present them as such.

(1) Modernity 2.0. Global modernization is re-invigorated from a new ethno-geographical core, liberated from the degenerate structures of its Eurocentric predecessor, but no doubt confronting long range trends of an equally mortuary character. This is by far the most encouraging and plausible scenario (from a pro-modernist perspective), and if China remains even approximately on its current track it will be assuredly realized. (India, sadly, seems to be too far gone in its native version of demosclerosis to seriously compete.)

(2) Postmodernity. Amounting essentially to a new dark age, in which Malthusian limits brutally re-impose themselves, this scenario assumes that Modernity 1.0 has so radically globalized its own morbidity that the entire future of the world collapses around it. If the Cathedral ‘wins’ this is what we have coming.

(3) Western Renaissance. To be reborn it is first necessary to die, so the harder the ‘hard reboot’ the better. Comprehensive crisis and disintegration offers the best odds (most realistically as a sub-theme of option #1).

Because competition is good, a pinch of Western Renaissance would spice things up, even if – as is overwhelmingly probable — Modernity 2.0 is the world’s principal highway to the future. That depends upon the West stopping and reversing pretty much everything it has been doing for over a century, excepting only scientific, technological, and business innovation. It is advisable to maintain rhetorical discipline within a strictly hypothetical mode, because the possibility of any of these things is deeply colored by incredibility:

(1) Replacement of representational democracy by constitutional republicanism (or still more extreme anti-political governmental mechanisms).

(2) Massive downsizing of government and its rigorous confinement to core functions (at most).

(3) Restoration of hard money (precious metal coins and bullion deposit notes) and abolition of central banking.

(4) Dismantling of state monetary and fiscal discretion, thus abolishing practical macroeconomics and liberating the autonomous (or ‘catallactic’) economy. (This point is redundant, since it follows rigorously from 2 & 3 above, but it’s the real prize, so worth emphasizing.)

There’s more – which is to say, less politics – but it’s already absolutely clear that none of this is going to happen short of an existential civilizational cataclysm. Asking politicians to limit their own powers is a non-starter, but nothing less heads even remotely in the right direction. This, however, isn’t even the widest or deepest problem.

Democracy might begin as a defensible procedural mechanism for limiting government power, but it quickly and inexorably develops into something quite different: a culture of systematic thievery. As soon as politicians have learnt to buy political support from the ‘public purse’, and conditioned electorates to embrace looting and bribery, the democratic process reduces itself to the formation of (Mancur Olson’s) ‘distributional coalitions’ – electoral majorities mortared together by common interest in a collectively advantageous pattern of theft. Worse still, since people are, on average, not very bright, the scale of depredation available to the political establishment far exceeds even the demented sacking that is open to public scrutiny. Looting the future, through currency debauchment, debt accumulation, growth destruction, and techno-industrial retardation is especially easy to conceal, and thus reliably popular. Democracy is essentially tragic because it provides the populace with a weapon to destroy itself, one that is always eagerly seized, and used. Nobody ever says ‘no’ to free stuff. Scarcely anybody even sees that there is no free stuff. Utter cultural ruination is the necessary conclusion.

Within the final phase of Modernity 1.0, American history becomes the master narrative of the world. It is there that the great Abrahamic cultural conveyor culminates in the secularized neo-puritanism of the Cathedral, as it establishes the New Jerusalem in Washington DC. The apparatus of Messianic-revolutionary purpose is consolidated in the evangelical state, which is authorized by any means necessary to install a new world order of universal fraternity, in the name of equality, human rights, social justice, and – above all – democracy. The absolute moral confidence of the Cathedral underwrites the enthusiastic pursuit of unrestrained centralized power, optimally unlimited in its intensive penetration and its extensive scope.

With an irony altogether hidden from the witch-burners’ spawn themselves, the ascent of this squinting cohort of grim moral fanatics to previously unscaled heights of global power coincides with the descent of mass-democracy to previously unimagined depths of gluttonous corruption. Every five years America steals itself from itself again, and fences itself back in exchange for political support. This democracy thing is easy – you just vote for the guy who promises you the most stuff. An idiot could do it. Actually, it likes idiots, treats them with apparent kindness, and does everything it can to manufacture more of them.

Democracy’s relentless trend to degeneration presents an implicit case for reaction. Since every major threshold of socio-political ‘progress’ has ratcheted Western civilization towards comprehensive ruin, a retracing of its steps suggests a reversion from the society of pillage to an older order of self-reliance, honest industry and exchange, pre-propagandistic learning, and civic self-organization. The attractions of this reactionary vision are evidenced by the vogue for 18th century attire, symbols, and constitutional documents among the substantial (Tea Party) minority who clearly see the disastrous course of American political history.

Has the ‘race’ alarm sounded in your head yet? It would be amazing if it hadn’t. Stagger back in imagination before 2008, and the fraught whisper of conscience is already questioning your prejudices against Kenyan revolutionaries and black Marxist professors. Remain in reverse until the Great Society / Civil Rights era and the warnings reach hysterical pitch. It’s perfectly obvious by this point that American political history has progressed along twin, interlocking tracks, corresponding to the capacity and the legitimation of the state. To cast doubt upon its scale and scope is to simultaneously dispute the sanctity of its purpose, and the moral-spiritual necessity that it command whatever resources, and impose whatever legal restraints, may be required to effectively fulfill it. More specifically, to recoil from the magnitude of Leviathan is to demonstrate insensitivity to the immensity – indeed, near infinity – of inherited racial guilt, and the sole surviving categorical imperative of senescent modernity – government needs to do more. The possibility, indeed near certainty, that the pathological consequences of chronic government activism have long ago supplanted the problems they originally targeted, is a contention so utterly maladapted to the epoch of democratic religion that its practical insignificance is assured.

Even on the left, it would be extraordinary to find many who genuinely believe, after sustained reflection, that the primary driver of government expansion and centralization has been the burning desire to do good (not that intentions matter). Yet, as the twin tracks cross, such is the electric jolt of moral drama, leaping the gap from racial Golgotha to intrusive Leviathan, that skepticism is suspended, and the great progressive myth installed. The alternative to more government, doing ever more, was to stand there, negligently, whilst they lynched another Negro. This proposition contains the entire essential content of American progressive education.

The twin historical tracks of state capability and purpose can be conceived as a translation protocol, enabling any recommended restraint upon government power to be ‘decoded’ as malign obstruction of racial justice. This system of substitutions functions so smoothly that it provides an entire vocabulary of (bipartisan) ‘code-words’ or ‘dog-whistles’ – ‘welfare’, ‘freedom of association’, ‘states rights’ – ensuring that any intelligible utterance on the Principal (left-right) Political Dimension occupies a double registry, semi-saturated by racial evocations. Reactionary regression smells of strange fruit.

… and that is before backing out of the calamitous 20th century. It was not the Civil Rights Era, but the ‘American Civil War’ (in the terms of the victors) or ‘War between the States’ (in those of the vanquished) that first indissolubly cross-coded the practical question of Leviathan with (black/white) racial dialectics, laying down the central junction yard of subsequent political antagonism and rhetoric. The indispensable primary step in comprehending this fatality snakes along an awkward diagonal between mainstream statist and revisionist accounts, because the conflagration that consumed the American nation in the early 1860s was wholly but non-exclusively about emancipation from slavery and about states rights, with neither ‘cause’ reducible to the other, or sufficient to suppress the war’s enduring ambiguities. Whilst there are any number of ‘liberals’ happy to celebrate the consolidation of centralized government power in the triumphant Union, and, symmetrically, a (far smaller) number of neo-confederate apologists for the institution of chattel slavery in the southern states, neither of these unconflicted stances capture the dynamic cultural legacy of a war across the codes.

The war is a knot. By practically dissociating liberty into emancipation and independence, then hurling each against the other in a half-decade of carnage, blue against gray, it was settled that freedom would be broken on the battlefield, whatever the outcome of the conflict. Union victory determined that the emancipatory sense of liberty would prevail, not only in America, but throughout the world, and the eventual reign of the Cathedral was assured. Nevertheless, the crushing of American’s second war of secession made a mockery of the first. If the institution of slavery de-legitimated a war of independence, what survived of 1776? The moral coherence of the Union cause required that the founders were reconceived as politically illegitimate white patriarchal slave-owners, and American history combusted in progressive education and the culture wars.

If independence is the ideology of slave-holders, emancipation requires the programmatic destruction of independence. Within a cross-coded history, the realization of freedom is indistinguishable from its abolition.

[Tomb]

The Dark Enlightenment (Part 4d)

Odd Marriages

The origins of the word ‘cracker’ as a term of ethnic derision are distant and obscure. It seems to have already circulated, as a slur targeting poor southern whites of predominantly Celtic ancestry, in the mid-18th century, derived perhaps from ‘corn-cracker’ or the Scots-Irish ‘crack’ (banter). The rich semantic complexion of the term, inextricable from the identification of elaborate racial, cultural, and class characteristics, is comparable to that of its unmentionable dusky cousin – “the ‘N-word” – and draws from the same well of generally recognized but forbidden truths. In particular, and emphatically, it testifies to the illicit truism that people are more excited and animated by their differences than by their commonalities, ‘clinging bitterly’ – or at least tenaciously – to their non-uniformity, and obstinately resisting the universal categories of enlightened population management. Crackers are grit in the clockwork of progress.

The most delectable features of the slur, however, are entirely fortuitous (or Qabbalistic). ‘Crackers’ break codes, safes, organic chemicals – sealed or bonded systems of all kinds – with eventual geopolitical implication. They anticipate a crack-up, schism or secession, confirming their association with the anathematized disintegrative undercurrent of Anglophone history. No surprise, then – despite the linguistic jumps and glitching – that the figure of the recalcitrant cracker evokes a still-unpacified South, insubordinate to the manifest destiny of Union. This returns it, by short-circuit, to the most problematic depths of its meaning.

Contradictions demand resolution, but cracks can continue to widen, deepen, and spread. According to the cracker ethos, when things can fall apart – it’s OK. There’s no need to reach agreement, when it’s possible to split. This cussedness, pursued to its limit, tends to a hill-billy stereotype set in a shack or rusting trailer at the end of an Appalachian mountain path, where all economic transactions are conducted in cash (or moonshine), interactions with government agents are conducted across the barrel of a loaded shotgun, and timeless anti-political wisdom is summed in the don’t-tread-on-me reflex: “Get off my porch.” Naturally, this disdain for integrative debate (dialectics) is coded within the mainstream of Anglocentric global history – which is to say, Yankee evangelical Puritanism – as a deficiency not only of cultural sophistication, but also of basic intelligence, and even the most scrupulous adherent of social constructivist righteousness immediately reverts to hard-hereditarian psychometrics when confronted by cracker obstreperousness. To those for whom a broad trend of socio-political progress seems like a simple, incontestable fact, the refusal to recognize anything of the kind is perceived as clear evidence of retardation.

Since stereotypes generally have high statistical truth-value, it’s more than possible that crackers are clustered heavily on the left of the white IQ bell-curve, concentrated there by generations of dysgenic pressure. If, as Charles Murray argues, the efficiency of meritocratic selection within American society has steadily risen and conspired with assortative mating to transform class differences into genetic castes, it would be passing strange if the cracker stratum were to be characterized by conspicuous cognitive elevation. Yet some awkwardly intriguing questions intervene at this point, as long as one diligently pursues the stereotype. Assortative mating? How can that work, when crackers marry their cousins? Oh yes, there’s that. Drawing on population groups beyond the north-western Hajnal Line, traditional cracker kinship patterns are notably atypical of the exogamous Anglo (WASP) norm.

The tireless ‘hbdchick’ is the crucial resource on this topic. Over the course of a truly monumental series of blog posts, she employs Hamiltonian conceptual tools to investigate the borderland where nature and culture intersect, comprising kinship structures, the differentiations they require in the calculus of inclusive fitness, and the distinctive ethnic profiles in the evolutionary psychology of altruism that result. In particular, she directs attention to the abnormality of (North-West) European history, where obligatory exogamy – through rigorous proscription of cousin marriage – has prevailed for 1,600 years. This distinctive orientation towards outbreeding, she suggests, plausibly accounts for a variety of bio-cultural peculiarities, the most historically significant of which is a unique pre-eminence of reciprocal (over familial) altruism, as indicated by emphatic individualism, nuclear families, an affinity with ‘corporate’ (kinship-free) institutions, highly-developed contractual relationships among strangers, relatively low levels of nepotism / corruption, and robust forms of social cohesion independent of tribal bonds.

Inbreeding, in contrast, creates a selective environment favoring tribal collectivism, extended systems of family loyalty and honor, distrust of non-relatives and impersonal institutions, and – in general – those ‘clannish’ traits which mesh uncomfortably with the leading values of (Eurocentric) modernity, and are thus denounced for their primitive ‘xenophobia’ and ‘corruption’. Clannish values, of course, are bred in clans, such as those populating Britain’s Celtic fringe and borderlands, where cousin marriage persisted, along with its associated socio-economic and cultural forms, especially herding (rather than farming), and a disposition towards extreme, vendetta-style violence.

This analysis introduces the central paradox of ‘white identity’, since the specifically European ethnic traits that have structured the moral order of modernity, slanting it away from tribalism and towards reciprocal altruism, are inseparable from a unique heritage of outbreeding that is intrinsically corrosive of ethnocentric solidarity. In other words: it is almost exactly weak ethnic groupishness that makes a group ethnically modernistic, competent at ‘corporate’ (non-familial) institution building, and thus objectively privileged / advantaged within the dynamic of modernity.

This paradox is most fully expressed in the radical forms of European ethnocentric revivalism exemplified by paleo- and neo-Nazism, confounding its proponents and antagonists alike. When exceptionally advanced ‘race-treachery’ is your quintessential racial feature, the opportunity for viable ethno-supremacist politics disappears into a logical abyss – even if occasions for large-scale trouble-making no doubt remain. Admittedly, a Nazi, by definition, is willing (and eager) to sacrifice modernity upon the altar of racial purity, but this is either not to understand, or to tragically affirm, the inevitable consequence – which is to be out-modernized (and thus defeated). Identity politics is for losers, inherently and unalterably, due to an essentially parasitical character that only works from the left. Because inbreeding systematically contra-indicates for modern power, racial Übermenschen make no real sense.

In any case, however endlessly fascinating Nazis may be, they are not any kind of reliable key to the history or direction of cracker culture, beyond setting a logical limit to the programmatic construction and usage of white identity politics. Tattooing swastikas on their foreheads does nothing to change that. (Hatfields vs McCoys is more Pushtun than Teuton.)

The conjunction taking place in the Cracker Factory is quite different, and far more perplexing, entangling the urbane, cosmopolitan advocates of hyper-contractarian marketization with romantic traditionalists, ethno-particularists, and nostalgics of the ‘Lost Cause’. It is first necessary to understand this entanglement in its full, mind-melting weirdness, before exploring its lessons. For that, some semi-random stripped-down data-points might be helpful:

* The Mises Institute was founded in Auburn, Alabama.

* Ron Paul newsletters from the 1980s contain remarks of a decidedly Derbyshirean hue.

* Derbyshire hearts Ron Paul.

* Murray Rothbard has written in defense of HBD.

* lewrockwell.com contributors include Thomas J. DiLorenzo and Thomas Woods

* Tom Palmer doesn’t heart Lew Rockwell or Hans-Hermann Hoppe because “Together They Have Opened the Gates of Hell and Welcomed the Most Extreme Right-Wing Racists, Nationalists, and Assorted Cranks”

* Libertarians / constitutionalists account for 20% of the SPLC ‘Radical Right’ watch list (Chuck Baldwin, Michael Boldin, Tom DeWeese, Alex Jones, Cliff Kincaid, and Elmer Stewart Rhodes)

… perhaps that’s enough to be going on with (although there’s plenty more within easy reach). These points have been selected, questionably, crudely, and prejudicially, to lend impressionistic support to a single basic thesis: fundamental socio-historical forces are crackerizing libertarianism.

If the tentative research conclusions drawn by hbdchick are accepted as a frame, the oddity of this marriage between libertarian and neo-confederate themes is immediately apparent. When positioned on a bio-cultural axis, defined by degrees of outbreeding, the absence of overlap – or even proximity – is dramatically exposed. One pole is occupied by a radically individualistic doctrine, focused near-exclusively upon mutable networks of voluntary interchange of an economic type (and notoriously insensitive to the very existence of non-negotiable social bonds). Close to the other pole lies a rich culture of local attachment, extended family, honor, contempt for commercial values, and distrust of strangers. The distilled rationality of fluid capitalism is juxtaposed to traditional hierarchy and non-alienable value. The absolute prioritization of exit is jumbled amongst folkways from which no exit is even imaginable.

Stapling the two together, however, is a simple, ever more irresistible conclusion: liberty has no future in the Anglophone world outside the prospect of secession. The coming crack-up is the only way out.

[Tomb]

The Dark Enlightenment (Part 4c)

The Cracker Factory

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

Conservatism … is a white people’s movement, a scattering of outliers notwithstanding.
Always has been, always will be. I have attended at least a hundred conservative gatherings, conferences, cruises, and jamborees: let me tell you, there ain’t too many raisins in that bun. I was in and out of the National Review offices for twelve years, and the only black person I saw there, other than when Herman Cain came calling, was Alex, the guy who runs the mail room. (Hey, Alex!)
This isn’t because conservatism is hostile to blacks and mestizos. Very much the contrary, especially in the case of Conservatism Inc. They fawn over the occasional nonwhite with a puppyish deference that fairly fogs the air with embarrassment. (Q: What do you call the one black guy at a gathering of 1,000 Republicans? A: “Mr. Chairman.”)
It’s just that conservative ideals like self-sufficiency and minimal dependence on government have no appeal to underperforming minorities — groups who, in the statistical generality, are short of the attributes that make for group success in a modern commercial nation.
Of what use would it be to them to embrace such ideals? They would end up even more decisively pooled at the bottom of society than they are currently.
A much better strategy for them is to ally with as many disaffected white and Asian subgroups as they can (homosexuals, feminists, dead-end labor unions), attain electoral majorities, and institute big redistributionist governments to give them make-work jobs and transfer wealth to them from successful groups.
Which is what, very rationally and sensibly, they do.
John Derbyshire

Neo-secessionists are all around us… and free speech gives them a cozy blanket of protection. Rick Perry insinuating Texas could secede rather than adhere to the federal healthcare law, Todd Palin belonging to a political association advocating Alaskan secession, and Sharron Angle talking about ‘second amendment remedies’ to handle disputes with federal authorities are all examples of dangerous secessionist rhetoric permeating through modern discourse. The media focuses our attention at Civil War reenactors and pick-up trucks with Confederate flags flying on them. But public figures are influenced as well, by academics who struggle to perpetuate a most dangerous brand of revisionism.
Practically Historical

African-Americans are the conscience of our country.
— commenter ‘surfed’ at Walter Russell Mead’s blog (edited for spelling)

 

America’s racial ‘original sin’ was foundational, dating back before the birth of the United States to the clearing of aboriginal peoples by European settlers, and – still more saliently – to the institution of chattel slavery. This is the Old Testament history of American black-white relations, set down in a providential narrative of escape from bondage, in which factual documentation and moral exhortation are indissolubly fused. The combination of prolonged and intense social abuse in a pattern set by the Torah, recapitulating the primordial moral-political myth of the Western tradition, has installed the story of slavery and emancipation as the unsurpassable frame of the American historical experience: let my people go.

‘Practically Historical’ (cited above), quotes Lincoln on the Civil War:

Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

The New Testament of race in America was written in the 1960s, revising and specifying the template. The combination of the Civil Rights Movement, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, and the Republican Southern Strategy (appealing to disaffected whites in the states of the old Confederacy) forged a partisan identification between Blacks and the Democratic Party that amounted to a liberal-progressive rebirth, setting the terms for partisan racial polarization that have endured – and even strengthened – over subsequent decades. For a progressive movement compromised by a history of systematic eugenicist racism, and a Democratic Party traditionally aligned with white southern obduracy and the Ku Klux Klan, the civil rights era presented an opportunity for atonement, ritual purification, and redemption.
Reciprocally, for American conservatism (and its increasingly directionless Republican Party vehicle), this progression spelt protracted death, for reasons that continue to elude it. The Idea of America was now inextricable from a vehement renunciation of the past, and even of the present, insofar as the past still shaped it. Only an ‘ever more perfect union’ could conform to it. At the most superficial level, the broad partisan implications of the new order were unmistakable in a country that was becoming ever more democratic, and ever less republican, with effective sovereignty nationally concentrated in the executive, and the moral urgency of activist government installed as a principle of faith. For what had already become the ‘Old Right’ there was no way out, or back, because the path backwards crossed the event horizon of the civil rights movement, into tracts of political impossibility whose ultimate meaning was slavery.

The left thrives on dialectics, the right perishes through them. Insofar as there is a pure logic of politics, it is that. One immediate consequence (repeatedly emphasized by Mencius Moldbug) is that progressivism has no enemies to the left. It recognizes only idealists, whose time has not yet come. Factional conflicts on the left are politically dynamic, celebrated for their motive potential. Conservatism, in contrast, is caught between a rock and a hard place: bludgeoned from the left by the juggernaut of post-constitutional statism, and agitated from ‘the right’ by inchoate tendencies which are both unassimilable (to the mainstream) and often mutually incompatible, ranging from extreme (Austro-libertarian) varieties of laissez-faire capitalist advocacy to strains of obstinate, theologically-grounded social traditionalism, ultra-nationalism, or white identity politics.

‘The right’ has no unity, actual or prospective, and thus has no definition symmetrical to that of the left. It is for this reason that political dialectics (a tautology) ratchets only in one direction, predictably, towards state expansion and an increasingly coercive substantial-egalitarian ideal. The right moves to the center, and the center moves to the left.

Regardless of mainstream conservative fantasies, liberal-progressive mastery of American providence has become uncontestable, dominated by a racial dialectic that absorbs unlimited contradiction, whilst positioning the Afro-American underclass as the incarnate critique of the existing social order, the criterion of emancipation, and the sole path to collective salvation. No alternative structure of historical intelligibility is politically tolerable, or even – strictly speaking – imaginable, since resistance to the narrative is un-American, anti-social, and (of course) racist, serving only to confirm the existence of systematic racial oppression through the symbolic violence manifested in its negation. To argue against it is already to prove it correct, by concretely demonstrating the same benighted forces of social retardation that are being verbally denied. By resisting the demand for orchestrated social re-education, knuckle-dragging ‘bitter clingers’ only show how much there still is to do.

At its most abstract and all-encompassing, the liberal-progressive racial dialectic abolishes its outside, along with any possibility of principled consistency. It asserts — at one and the same time — that race does not exist, and that its socially-constructed pseudo-existence is an instrument of inter-racial violence. Racial recognition is both mandatory, and forbidden. Racial identities are meticulously catalogued for purposes of social remedy, hate crime detection, and disparate impact studies, targeting groups for ‘positive discrimination’, ‘affirmative action’, or ‘diversity promotion’ (to list these terms in their rough order of historical substitution), even as they are denounced as meaningless (by the United Nations, no less), and dismissed as malicious stereotypes, corresponding to nothing real. Extreme racial sensitivity and absolute racial desensitization are demanded simultaneously. Race is everything and nothing. There is no way out.

Conservatism is dialectically incompetent by definition, and so abjectly clueless that it imagines itself being able to exploit these contradictions, or – in its deluded formulation – liberal cognitive dissonance. The conservatives who triumphantly point out such inconsistencies seem never to have skimmed the output of a contemporary humanities program, in which thick rafts of internally conflicted victimage are lovingly woven out of incompatible grievances, in order to exult in the radical progressive promise of their discordant lamentations. Inconsistency is fuel for the Cathedral, demanding activist argumentation, and ever heightened realizations of unity. Integrative public debate always moves things to the left — that might not seem an especially difficult point to grasp, but to understand it is to expose the fundamental futility of mainstream conservatism, and that is in almost nobody’s interest, so it will not be understood.

Conservatism is incapable of working dialectics, or simultaneous contradiction, but that does not prevent it from serving progress (on the contrary). Rather than celebrating the power of inconsistency, it stumbles through contradictions, decompressed, in succession, in the manner of a fossil exhibition, and a foil. After “standing athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’” during the Civil Rights Era, and thus banishing itself eternally to racial damnation, the conservative (and Republican) mainstream reversed course, seizing upon Martin Luther King Jr. as an integral part of its canon, and seeking to harmonize itself with “a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Captivated by King’s appeal to constitutional and biblical traditionalism, by his rejection of political violence, and by his uninhibited paeans to freedom, American conservatism gradually came to identify with his dream of racial reconciliation and race blindness, and to accept it as the true, providential meaning of its own most sacred documents. At least, this became the mainstream, public, conservative orthodoxy, even though it was consolidated far too late to neutralize suspicions of insincerity, failed almost entirely to convince the black demographic itself, and would remain open to escalating derision from the left for its empty formalism.

So compelling was King’s restatement of the American Creed that, retrospectively, its triumph over the political mainstream seems simply inevitable. The further American conservatism departed from the Masonic rationalism of the founders, in the direction of biblical religiosity, the more indistinguishable its faith became from a Black American experience, mythically articulated through Exodus, in which the basic framework of history was an escape from bondage, borne towards a future in which “all of God’s children — black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics — will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

The genius of King’s message lay in its extraordinary power of integration. The flight of the Hebrews from Egypt, the American War of Independence, the abolition of chattel slavery in the wake of the American Civil War, and the aspirations of the civil rights era were mythically compressed into a single archetypal episode, perfectly consonant with the American Creed, and driven forwards not only by irresistible moral force, but even by divine decree. The measure of this integrative genius, however, is the complexity it masters. A century after the “joyous daybreak” of emancipation from slavery, King declares, “the Negro still is not free.”

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

The story of Exodus is exit, the War of Independence is exit, and the emancipation from slavery is exit, especially when this is exemplified by the Underground Railroad and the model of self-liberation, escape, or flight. To be ‘manacled’ by segregation, ‘chained’ by discrimination, trapped on a ‘lonely island of poverty’, or ‘exiled’ in one’s ‘own land’, in contrast, has no relation to exit whatsoever, beyond that which spell-binding metaphor can achieve. There is no exit into social integration and acceptance, equitably distributed prosperity, public participation, or assimilation, but only an aspiration, or a dream, hostage to fact and fortune. As the left and the reactionary right were equally quick to notice, insofar as this dream ventures significantly beyond a right to formal equality and into the realm of substantial political remedy, it is one that the right has no right to.

In the immediate wake of the John Derbyshire affair, Jessica Valenti at The Nation blog makes the point clearly:

… this isn’t just about who has written what — it’s about the intensely racist policies that are par for the conservative course. Some people would like to believe that racism is just the explicit, said-out-loud discrimination and hatred that is easily identifiable. It’s not — it’s also pushing xenophobic policies and supporting systemic inequality. After all, what’s more impactful — a singular racist like Derbyshire or Arizona’s immigration law? A column or voter suppression? Getting rid of one racist from one publication doesn’t change the fact that the conservative agenda is one that disproportionately punishes and discriminates against people of color. So, I’m sorry, folks — you don’t get to support structural inequality and then give yourself a pat on the back for not being overtly racist.

The ‘conservative agenda’ cannot ever be dreamy (hopeful and inconsistent) enough to escape accusations of racism – that’s intrinsic to the way the racial dialectic works. Policies broadly compatible with capitalistic development, oriented to the rewarding of low time-preference, and thus punishing impulsivity, will reliably have a disparate impact upon the least economically functional social groups. Of course, the dialectic demands that the racial aspect of this disparate impact can and must be strongly emphasized (for the purpose of condemning incentives to human capital formation as racist), and at the same time forcefully denied (in order to denounce exactly the same observation as racist stereotyping). Anyone who expects conservatives to navigate this double-bind with political agility and grace must somehow have missed the late 20th century. For instance, the doomed loser idiots conservatives at the Washington Examiner, noticing with alarm that:

House Democrats received training this week on how to address the issue of race to defend government programs … The prepared content of a Tuesday presentation to the House Democratic Caucus and staff indicates that Democrats will seek to portray apparently neutral free-market rhetoric as being charged with racial bias, conscious or unconscious.

There are no alternative versions of an ever more perfect union, because union is the alternative to alternatives. Searching for where the alternatives might once have been found, where liberty still meant exit, and where dialectics were dissolved in space, leads into a clown-house of horrors, fabricated as the shadow, or significant other, of the Cathedral. Since the right never had a unity of its own, it was given one. Call it the Cracker Factory.

When James C. Bennett, in The Anglosphere Challenge, sought to identify the principal cultural characteristics of the English-speaking world, the resulting list was generally familiar. It included, besides the language itself, common law traditions, individualism, comparatively high-levels of economic and technological openness, and distinctively emphatic reservations about centralized political power. Perhaps the most striking feature, however, was a marked cultural tendency to settle disagreements in space, rather than time, opting for territorial schism, separatism, independence, and flight, in place of revolutionary transformation within an integrated territory. When Anglophones disagree, they have often sought to dissociate in space. Instead of an integral resolution (regime change), they pursue a plural irresolution (through regime division), proliferating polities, localizing power, and diversifying systems of government. Even in its present, highly attenuated form, this anti-dialectical, de-synthesizing predisposition to social disaggregation finds expression in a stubborn, sussurous hostility to globalist political projects, and in a vestigial attraction to federalism (in its fissional sense).

Splitting, or fleeing, is all exit, and (non-recuperable) anti-dialectics. It is the basic well-spring of liberty within the Anglophone tradition. If the function of a Cracker Factory is to block off all the exits, there’s only one place to build it – right here.

Like Hell, or Auschwitz, the Cracker Factory has a simple slogan inscribed upon its gate: Escape is racist. That is why the expression ‘white flight’ – which says exactly the same thing – has never been denounced for its political incorrectness, despite the fact that it draws upon an ethnic statistical generalization of the kind that would, in any other case, provoke paroxysms of outrage. ‘White flight’ is no more ‘white’ than low time-preference is, but this broad-brush insensitivity is deemed acceptable, because it structurally supports the Cracker Factory, and the indispensable confusion of ancient (or negative) liberty with original (racial) sin.

You absolutely, definitely, mustn’t go there … so, of course, we will … [next]

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The Dark Enlightenment (Part 4b)

Obnoxious observations

Although black families and parents of boys aren’t the only ones who worry about the safety of adolescents, Tillman, Brown and other parents say raising black boys is perhaps the most stressful aspect of parenting because they’re dealing with a society that is fearful and hostile toward them, simply because of the color of their skin.

“Don’t believe it? Walk a day in my shoes,” Brown said.

Brown said that at 14, his son is at that critical age when he’s always worried about his safety because of profiling.

“I don’t want to scare him or have him paint people with a broad brush, but, historically, we black males have been stigmatized as the purveyors of crime and wherever we are, we’re suspect,” Brown said.

Black parents who don’t make that fact clear, he and others said, do it at their sons’ peril.

“Any African-American parent not having that conversation is being irresponsible,” Brown said. “I see this whole thing as an opportunity for us to speak frankly, openly and honestly about race relations.”
— Gracie Bonds Staples (Star-Telegram)

When communities resist an influx of Section 8 housing-voucher holders from the inner city, say, they are reacting overwhelmingly to behavior. Skin color is a proxy for that behavior. If inner-city blacks behaved like Asians — cramming as much knowledge into their kids as they can possibly fit into their skulls — the lingering wariness towards lower-income blacks that many Americans unquestionably harbor would disappear. Are there irredeemable racists among Americans? To be sure. They come in all colors, and we should deplore all of them. But the issue of race in the United States is more complex than polite company is usually allowed to express.
— Heather Mac Donald (City Journal)

“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I’m black, OK” the woman said, declining to be identified because she anticipated backlash due to her race. She leaned in to look a reporter directly in the eyes. “There were black boys robbing houses in this neighborhood,” she said. “That’s why George was suspicious of Trayvon Martin.”
— Chris Francescani (Reuters)

“In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics,” Lenin notes, “but it requires explanations and development.” That is to say: further discussion.

The sublimation (Aufhebung) of Marxism into Leninism is an eventuality that is best grasped crudely. By forging a revolutionary communist politics of broad application, almost entirely divorced from the mature material conditions or advanced social contradictions that had been previously anticipated, Lenin demonstrated that dialectical tension coincided, exhaustively, with its politicization (and that all reference to a ‘dialectics of nature’ is no more than retrospective subordination of the scientific domain to a political model). Dialectics are as real as they are made to be.

The dialectic begins with political agitation, and extends no further than its practical, antagonistic, factional and coalitional ‘logic’. It is the ‘superstructure’ for itself, or against natural limitation, practically appropriating the political sphere in its broadest graspable extension as a platform for social domination. Everywhere that there is argument, there is an unresolved opportunity to rule.

The Cathedral incarnates these lessons. It has no need to espouse Leninism, or operational communist dialectics, because it recognizes nothing else. There is scarcely a fragment of the social ‘superstructure’ that has escaped dialectical reconstruction, through articulate antagonism, polarization, binary structuring, and reversal. Within the academy, the media, even the fine arts, political super-saturation has prevailed, identifying even the most minuscule elements of apprehension with conflictual ‘social critique’ and egalitarian teleology. Communism is the universal implication.

More dialectics is more politics, and more politics means ‘progress’ – or social migration to the left. The production of public agreement only leads in one direction, and within public disagreement, such impetus already exists in embryo. It is only in the absence of agreement and of publicly articulated disagreement, which is to say, in non-dialectics, non-argument, sub-political diversity, or politically uncoordinated initiative, that the ‘right-wing’ refuge of ‘the economy’ (and civil society more widely) is to be found.

When no agreement is necessary, or coercively demanded, negative (or ‘libertarian’) liberty is still possible, and this non-argumentative ‘other’ of dialectics is easily formulated (even if, in a free society, it doesn’t need to be): Do your own thing. Quite clearly, this irresponsible and negligent imperative is politically intolerable. It coincides exactly with leftist depression, retrogression, or depoliticization. Nothing cries out more urgently to be argued against.

At the opposite extreme lies the dialectical ecstasy of theatrical justice, in which the argumentative structure of legal proceedings is coupled with publicization through the media. Dialectical enthusiasm finds its definitive expression in a courtroom drama that combines lawyers, journalists, community activists, and other agents of the revolutionary superstructure in the production of a show trial. Social contradictions are staged, antagonistic cases articulated, and resolution institutionally expected. This is Hegel for prime-time television (and now for the Internet). It is the way that the Cathedral shares its message with the people.

Sometimes, in its impatient passion for progress, this message can trip over itself, because even though the agents of the Cathedral are infinitely reasonable, they are ever less sensible, often strikingly incompetent, and prone to making mistakes. This is to be expected on theological grounds. As the state becomes God, it degenerates into imbecility, on the model of the holy fool. The media-politics of the Trayvon Martin spectacle provides a pertinent example.

In the United States, as in any other large country, lots of things happen every day, exhibiting innumerable patterns of varying obscurity. For instance, on an average day, there are roughly 3,400 violent crimes, including 40 murders, 230 rapes, 1,000 robberies, and 2,100 aggravated assaults, alongside 25,000 non-violent property crimes (burglaries and thefts). Very few of these will be widely publicized, or seized upon as educational, exemplary, and representative. Even were the media not inclined towards a narrative-based selection of ‘good stories’, the sheer volume of incidents would compel something of the kind. Given this situation, it is all but inevitable that people will ask: Why are they telling us this?

Almost everything about the death of Trayvon Martin is controversial, except for media motivation. On that topic there is near unanimity. The meaning or intended message of the story of the case could scarcely have been more transparent: White racist paranoia makes America dangerous for black people. It would thus rehearse the dialectic of racial terror (your fear is scary), designed – as always — to convert America’s reciprocal social nightmare into a unilateral morality play, allocating legitimate dread exclusively to one side of the country’s principal racial divide. It seemed perfect. A malignantly deluded white vigilante guns down an innocent black child, justifying black fear (‘the talk’) whilst exposing white panic as a murderous psychosis. This is a story of such archetypal progressive meaning that it cannot be told too many times. In fact, it was just too good to be true.

It soon became evident, however, that media selection – even when reinforced by the celebrity / ‘community activist’ rage-machine – hadn’t sufficed to keep the story on script, and both of the main actors were drifting from their assigned roles. If progressively-endorsed stereotypes were to be even remotely preserved, vigorous editing would be required. This was especially necessary because certain evil, racist, bigoted readers of the Miami Herald were beginning to forge a narrative-wrecking mental connection between ‘Trayvon Martin’ and ‘burglary tool’.

As for the killer, George Zimmerman, the name said it all. He was clearly going to be a hulking, pasty-faced, storm-trooper look-alike, hopefully some kind of Christian gun-nut, and maybe – if they really hit pay-dirt – a militia movement type with a history of homophobia and anti-abortion activism. He started off ‘white’ – for no obvious reason beyond media incompetence and narrative programming – then found himself transformed into a ‘white Hispanic’ (a category that seems to have been rapidly innovated on the spot), before gradually shifted through a series of ever more reality-compliant ethnic complications, culminating in the discovery of his Afro-Peruvian great grandfather.

In the heart of the Cathedral it was well into head-scratching time. Here was the great Amerikkkan defendant being prepped for his show trial, the President had pitched in emotionally on behalf of the sacred victim, and the coordinated ground game had been advanced to the simmering brink of race riots, when the message began falling apart, to such an extent that it now threatened to decay into an annoyingly irrelevant case of black-on-black violence. It was not only that George Zimmerman had black ancestry – making him simply ‘black’ by the left’s own social constructivist standards – he had also grown up amicably among black people, with two African-American girls as “part of the household for years,” had entered into joint business venture with a black partner, he was a registered Democrat, and even some kind of ‘community organizer’ …

So why did Martin die? Was it for carrying iced tea and a bag of Skittles while black (the media and community activist approved, ‘son Obama might have had’ version), for scoping out burglary targets (the Kluxer racial profiling version), or for breaking Zimmerman’s nose, knocking him over, sitting on top of him, and smashing his head repeatedly against the sidewalk (to be decided in court)? Was he a martyr to racial injustice, a low-level social predator, or a human symptom of American urban crisis? The only thing that was really clear when legal proceedings began, beyond the squalid sadness of the episode, was that it was not resolving anything.

For a sense of just how disconcertingly the approved lesson had disintegrated by the time Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder, it is only necessary to read this post by HBD-blogger oneSTDV, describing the dialectical derangements of the race-warrior right:

Despite the disturbing nature of the “charges” against Zimmerman, many in the alt-right refuse to grant Zimmerman any sympathy or to even view this as a seminal moment in modern leftism’s anarcho-tyrannical reign. According to these individuals, the Spanish-speaking, registered Democrat mestizo got what was coming to him — the ire of the black mob and the elite left indirectly buttressed by Zimmerman himself. Due to his voting record, multicultural background, and mentoring of minority youth, they see Zimmerman as emblematic of the left’s assault on white America, a sort of ground soldier in the campaign against American whiteness. [Bolding in original]

The pop PC police were ready to move on. With the great show trial collapsing into narrative disorder, it was time to refocus on the Message, facts be damned (and double damned). ‘Jezebel’ best exemplifies the hectoring, vaguely hysterical tone:

You know how you can tell that black people are still oppressed? Because black people are still oppressed. If you claim that you are not a racist person (or, at least, that you’re committed to working your ass off not to be one — which is really the best that any of us can promise), then you must believe that people are fundamentally born equal. So if that’s true, then in a vacuum, factors like skin color should have no effect on anyone’s success. Right? And therefore, if you really believe that all people are created equal, then when you see that drastic racial inequalities exist in the real world, the only thing that you could possibly conclude is that some external force is holding certain people back. Like…racism. Right? So congratulations! You believe in racism! Unless you don’t actually think that people are born equal. And if you don’t believe that people are born equal, then you’re a f*****g racist.

Does anyone “really believe that people are born equal,” in the way it is understood here? Believe, that is, not only that a formal expectation of equal treatment is a prerequisite for civilized interaction, but that any revealed deviation from substantial equality of outcome is an obvious, unambiguous indication of oppression? That’s “the only thing you could possibly conclude”?

At the very least, Jezebel should be congratulated for expressing the progressive faith in its purest form, entirely uncontaminated by sensitivity to evidence or uncertainty of any kind, casually contemptuous of any relevant research – whether existent or merely conceivable – and supremely confident about its own moral invincibility. If the facts are morally wrong, so much worse for the facts – that’s the only position that could possibly be adopted, even if it’s based upon a mixture of wishful thinking, deliberate ignorance, and insultingly childish lies.

To call the belief in substantial human equality a superstition is to insult superstition. It might be unwarranted to believe in leprechauns, but at least the person who holds to such a belief isn’t watching them not exist, for every waking hour of the day. Human inequality, in contrast, and in all of its abundant multiplicity, is constantly on display, as people exhibit their variations in gender, ethnicity, physical attractiveness, size and shape, strength, health, agility, charm, humor, wit, industriousness, and sociability, among countless other features, traits, abilities, and aspects of their personality, some immediately and conspicuously, some only slowly, over time. To absorb even the slightest fraction of all this and to conclude, in the only way possible, that it is either nothing at all, or a ‘social construct’ and index of oppression, is sheer Gnostic delirium: a commitment beyond all evidence to the existence of a true and good world veiled by appearances. People are not equal, they do not develop equally, their goals and achievements are not equal, and nothing can make them equal. Substantial equality has no relation to reality, except as its systematic negation. Violence on a genocidal scale is required to even approximate to a practical egalitarian program, and if anything less ambitious is attempted, people get around it (some more competently than others).

To take only the most obvious example, anybody with more than one child knows that nobody is born equal (monozygotic twins and clones perhaps excepted). In fact, everybody is born different, in innumerable ways. Even when – as is normally the case – the implications of these differences for life outcomes are difficult to confidently predict, their existence is undeniable, or at least: sincerely undeniable. Of course sincerity, or even minimal cognitive coherence, is not remotely the issue here. Jezebel’s position, whilst impeccable in its political correctness, is not only factually dubious, but rather laughably absurd, and actually – strictly speaking — insane. It dogmatizes a denial of reality so extreme that nobody could genuinely maintain, or even entertain it, let alone plausible explain or defend it. It is a tenet of faith that cannot be understood, but only asserted, or submitted to, as madness made law, or authoritarian religion.

The political commandment of this religion is transparent: Accept progressive social policy as the only possible solution to the sin problem of inequality. This commandment is a ‘categorical imperative’ – no possible fact could ever undermine, complicate, or revise it. If progressive social policy actually results in an exacerbation of the problem, ‘fallen’ reality is to blame, since the social malady is obviously worse than had been originally envisaged, and only redoubled efforts in the same direction can hope to remedy it. There can be nothing to learn in matters of faith. Eventually, systematic social collapse teaches the lesson that chronic failure and incremental deterioration could not communicate. (That’s macro-scale social Darwinism for dummies, and it’s the way that civilizations end.)

Due to it’s exceptional correlation with substantial variation in social outcomes in modern societies, by far the most troublesome dimension of human bio-diversity is intelligence or general problem solving ability, quantified as IQ (measuring Spearman’s ‘g’). When ‘statistical common sense’ or profiling is applied to the proponents of Human Bio-Diversity, however, another significant trait is rapidly exposed: a remarkably consistent deficit of agreeableness. Indeed, it is widely accepted within the accursed ‘community’ itself that most of those stubborn and awkward enough to educate themselves on the topic of human biological variation are significantly ‘socially retarded’, with low verbal inhibition, low empathy, and low social integration, resulting in chronic maladaptation to group expectations. The typical EQs of this group can be extracted as the approximate square-root of their IQs. Mild autism is typical, sufficient to approach their fellow beings in a spirit of detached, natural-scientific curiosity, but not so advanced as to compel total cosmic disengagement. These traits, which they themselves consider – on the basis of copious technical information — to be substantially heritable, have manifest social consequences, reducing employment opportunities, incomes, and even reproductive potential. Despite all the free therapeutic advice available in the progressive environment, this obnoxiousness shows no sign of diminishing, and might even be intensifying. As Jezebel shows so clearly, this can only possibly be a sign of structural oppression. Why can’t obnoxious people get a break?

The history is damning. ‘Sociables’ have always had it in for the obnoxious, often declining to marry or do business with them, excluding them from group activities and political office, labeling them with slurs, ostracizing and avoiding them. ‘Obnoxiousness’ has been stigmatized and stereotyped in extremely negative terms, to such an extent that many of the obnoxious have sought out more sensitive labels, such as ‘socially-challenged’, or ‘differently socially abled’. Not uncommonly, people have been verbally or even physically assaulted for no other reason than their radical obnoxiousness. Most tragically of all, due to their complete inability to get on with one another, the obnoxious have never been able to politically mobilize against the structural social oppression they face, or to enter into coalitions with their natural allies, such as cynics, debunkers, contrarians, and Tourette Syndrome sufferers. Obnoxiousness has yet to be liberated, although it’s probable that the Internet will ‘help’ …

Consider John Derbyshire’s essay in infamy The Talk: Nonblack Version, focusing initially on its relentless obnoxiousness, and attentive to the negative correlation between sociability and objective reason. As Derbyshire notes elsewhere, people are generally incapable of differentiating themselves from group identities, or properly applying statistical generalizations about groups to individual cases, including their own. A rationally indefensible, but socially inevitable, reification of group profiles is psychologically normal – even ‘human’ – with the result that noisy, non-specific, statistical information is erroneously accepted as a contribution to self-understanding, even when specific information is available.

From the perspective of socially autistic, low-EQ, rational analysis, this is simply mistaken. If an individual has certain characteristics, the fact of belonging to a group that has similar or dissimilar average characteristics is of no relevance whatsoever. Direct and determinate information about the individual is not to any degree enriched by indirect and indeterminate (probabilistic) information about the groups to which the individual belongs. If an individual’s test results are known, for instance, no additional insight is provided by statistical inferences about the test results that might have been expected based on group profiling. An Ashkenazi Jewish moron is no less moronic because he is an Ashkenazi Jew. Elderly Chinese nuns are unlikely to be murderers, but a murderer who happens to be an elderly Chinese nun is neither more nor less murderous than one who is not. This is all extremely obvious, to obnoxious people.

To normal people, however, it is not obvious at all. In part this is because rational intelligence is scarce and abnormal among humans, and in part because social ‘intelligence’ works with what everyone else is thinking, which is to say, with irrational groupish sentiment, meager information, prejudices, stereotypes, and heuristics. Since (almost) everybody else is taking short-cuts, or ‘economizing’ on reason, it is only rational to react defensively to generalizations that are likely to be reified or inappropriately applied — over-riding or substituting for specific perceptions. Anybody who anticipates being pre-defined through a group identity has an expanded ego-investment in that group and the way it is perceived. A generic assessment, however objectively arrived at, will immediately become personal, under (even quite remotely) normal conditions.

Obnoxious reason can stubbornly insist that anything average cannot be about you, but the message will not be generally received. Human social ‘intelligence’ is not built that way. Even supposedly sophisticated commentators blunder repeatedly into the most jarring exhibitions of basic statistical incomprehension without the slightest embarrassment, because embarrassment was designed for something else (and for almost exactly the opposite). The failure to understand stereotypes in their scientific, or probabilistic application, is a functional prerequisite of sociability, since the sole alternative to idiocy in this respect is obnoxiousness.

Derbyshire’s article is noteworthy because it succeeds in being definitively obnoxious, and has been recognized as such, despite the spluttering incoherence of most rejoinders. Among the things that ‘the talk’ and ‘the counter-talk’ share is a theatrical structure of pseudo-private conversation designed to be overheard. In both cases, a message that parents are compelled to deliver to their children is staged as the vehicle for a wider social lesson, aimed at those who, through action or inaction, have created a world that is intolerably hazardous to them.

This form is intrinsically manipulative, making even the ‘original’ talk a tempting target of parody. In the original, however, a tone of anguished sincerity is engineered through a deliberate performance of innocence (or ignorance). Listen son, I know this will be difficult to understand … (Oh why, oh why are they doing this to us?). The counter-talk, in stark contrast, melds its micro-social drama with the clinically non-sociable discourse of “methodical inquiries in the human sciences” – treating populations as fuzzy bio-geographical units with quantifiable characteristics, rather than as legal-political subjects in communication. It derides innocence, and – by implication – the criterion of sociability itself. Agreement, agreeableness, count for nothing. The rigorously and redundantly compiled statistics say what they say, and if we cannot live with that, so much the worse for us.

Yet even to a reasonably sympathetic, or scrupulously obnoxious, reading, Derbyshire’s article provides grounds for criticism. For instance, and from the beginning, it is notable that the racial reciprocal of “nonblack Americans” is ‘black Americans’, not “American blacks” (the term Derbyshire selects). This reversal of word order, switching nouns and adjectives, quickly settles into a pattern. Does it matter that Derbyshire requests the extension of civility to any “individual black” (rather than to ‘black individuals’)? It certainly makes a difference. To say that someone is ‘black’ is to say something about them, but to say that someone is ‘a black’ is to say who they are. The effect is subtly, yet distinctly, menacing, and Derbyshire is too well-trained, algebraically, to be excused from noticing it. After all, ‘John Derbyshire is a white’ sounds equally off, as does any analogous formulation, submerging the individual in the genus, to be retrieved as a mere instance, or example.

The more intellectually substantive aspect of this over-reach into gratuitous incivility have been examined by William Saletan and Noah Millman, who make very similar points, from the two sides of the liberal/conservative divide. Both writers identify a fissure or methodical incongruity in Derbyshire’s article, stemming from its commitment to the micro-social application of macro-social statistical generalizations. Stereotypes, however rigorously confirmed, are essentially inferior to specific knowledge in any concrete social situation, because nobody ever encounters a population.

As a liberal of problematic standing, Saletan has no choice but to recoil melodramatically from Derbyshire’s “stomach-turning conclusions,” but his reasons for doing so are not consumed by his gastro-emotional crisis. “But what exactly is a statistical truth?” he asks. “It’s a probability estimate you might fall back on if you know nothing about [a particular individual]. It’s an ignorant person’s weak substitute for knowledge.” Derbyshire, with his Aspergery attention to the absence of black Fields Medal winners, is “…a math nerd who substitutes statistical intelligence for social intelligence. He recommends group calculations instead of taking the trouble to learn about the person standing in front of you.”

Millman emphasizes the ironic reversal that switches (obnoxious) social scientific knowledge into imperative ignorance:

The “race realists” like to say that they are the ones who are curious about the world, and the “politically correct” types are the ones who prefer to ignore ugly reality. But the advice Derbyshire gives to his children encourages them not to be too curious about the world around them, for fear of getting hurt. And, as a general rule, that’s terrible advice for kids – and not the advice that Derbyshire has followed in his own life.

Millman’s conclusion is also instructive:

So why am I arguing with Derb at all? Well, because he’s a friend. And because even lazy, socially-irresponsible talk deserves to be refuted, not merely denounced. Is Derbyshire’s piece racist? Of course it’s racist. His whole point is that it is both rational and morally right for his children to treat black people significantly differently from white people, and to fear them. But “racist” is a descriptive term, not a moral one. The “race realist” crowd is strongly convinced of the accuracy of Derbyshire’s major premises, and they are not going to be argued out of that conviction by the assertion such conviction is “racist” – nor, honestly, should they be. For that reason, I feel it’s important to argue that Derbyshire’s conclusions do not follow simply from those premises, and are, in fact, morally incorrect even if those premises are granted for the sake of argument.

[Brief intermission …]

 

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