Neoreaction stands out among right-wing movements because it is essentially a toolkit of arguments to use against the vast flood of liberal propaganda in which we are immersed constantly. Liberalism has dominated the discourse for 226 years by generating a constant flood of “new” ideas which are picked up by compliant voices among intellectuals, media and the arts.
One of the best arguments to come from Neoreaction is the notion that liberalism operates mainly by “virtue signaling,” or allowing preening individual animals to show how good and moral they are by repeating the right dogma. I propose a more radical amendment: liberalism is virtue signaling in order to throw others off the scent of success, which is achieved by conservative methods.
In addition to explaining the somewhat schizophrenic nature of liberals, who tend to embrace realism when it concerns their own profits but publicly condemn realism and preach liberalism, this theory explains the utility of liberalism: it enhances success by allowing individuals to hide their actual motives behind flowery words, like politicians donating a few bucks to the poor and grafting millions behind the scenes.
Interesting, Tom Wolfe covered this years ago as part of his analysis of how competition for social status as a means of distinguishing the individual from others is the basis of all contrarianism, which is the essence of liberal thought. In other words, people hope to get ahead by loudly endorsing dogma that makes them seem different and unique from the rest of the herd:
Status groups, Weber contended, are the creators of all new styles of life. In his heyday, the turn of the 19th century, the most stylish new status sphere, no more than 30 years old, was known as la vie boheme, the bohemian life. The bohemians were artists plus the intellectuals and layabouts in their orbit. They did their best to stand bourgeois propriety on its head through rakish dishabille, louder music, more wine, great gouts of it, ostentatious cohabitation, and by flaunting their poverty as a virtue. And why? Because they all came from the bourgeoisie themselves originally and wanted nothing more desperately than to distinguish themselves from it. They seldom mentioned the upper class, Marx’s owners of “the means of production.” They seldom mentioned Marx’s working class, except in sentimental appreciation of the workers’ occasional show of rebelliousness. No, as the late Jean-Francois Revel said of mid-20th century French intellectuals, the bohemians’ sole object was to separate themselves from the mob, the rabble, which today is known as the middle class.
I thought bohemia had been brought to its apogee in the 1960s, before my very eyes, by the hippies, originally known as acid heads, in reference to the drug LSD, with their Rapunzel hair down to the shoulder blades among the males and great tangled thickets of hair in the armpits of the women, all living in communes. The communes inevitably turned religious thanks to the hallucinations hippies experienced while on LSD and a whole array of other hallucinogens whose names no one can remember. Some head–short for acid head–would end up in the middle of Broadway, one of San Francisco’s main drags, sitting cross-legged in the Lotus position, looking about, wide eyes glistening with beatification, shouting, “I’m in the pudding and I’ve met the manager! I’m in the pudding and I’ve met the manager!” Seldom had so many gone so far to feel aloof from the middle class.
While this seems like competitive behavior, it more resembles compensatory behavior of the form “If I can’t get to a good place, I’ll at least be a big fish in a small pond.” No one seriously doubts that the West is in decline any longer, although they will not admit it in public because that makes it look like they are complaining in order to excuse their own failures. There is no longer an expectation of a good life for people here other than materially (desirable zip code, fancy car, good money). They accept that, and then try to make themselves seem important. To such a person, posturing becomes the basis of all their acts, with it becoming important to demonstrate moral and social pretense that affirms their role. A status-seeking person will never complain about a bad meal, or a ding on their bumper, or someone slowing them down by moving slowly, because to demonstrate pretense they must show that they are masters of their time, that a few hundred dollars are “nothing” to them, and that they are altruistic, egalitarian and moral potlatch-givers who expect everyone else to screw up and in response just pat them on the head and say, “There, there, good little serf.”
This compensatory behavior consists of not going to war against the problems that make the West slide into oblivion, but trying to be the most important fish in the pond left by the collapse. Their pretense is such that they do not even bother to note the decline, but wave it off like an undercooked soufflé as if to say, “Well of course society is self-destructing my dear, it’s what these little monkeys do. In the meantime, I’m getting a promotion and a BMW that runs on used cooking oil.” Wolfe was followed by David Brooks who wrote one of the most important books of our time, BOBOS in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, showing how these new pretentious citizens replaced the old Western European order back in the 1960s by using the pretense of liberalism. What to know why today’s SJWs, hipsters, nouveau riche and status climbers all employ public and hyperbolic liberalism? Because it worked last time.
Wolfe again on compensatory behavior:
Even before I left graduate school I had come to the conclusion that virtually all people live by what I think of as a “fiction-absolute.” Each individual adopts a set of values which, if truly absolute in the world–so ordained by some almighty force–would make not that individual but his group . . . the best of all possible groups, the best of all inner circles. Politicians, the rich, the celebrated, become mere types. Does this apply to “the intellectuals” also? Oh, yes. . . perfectly, all too perfectly.
What he has described above is pretense. You set up values that benefit you and make you look like the center of the universe, and then act like these are universal truth, which allows you to retaliate against anyone who does not accept them as if they attacked you. It is both passive-aggressive behavior and the “Begging the Question” fallacy in behavioral form, and the more pretentious and unrealistic it is, the more you force others to recognize your importance and grant you social status.
This explains the combination of nanny-style Agony Aunt and Berkeley radical that defines today’s liberals. From Brooks:
Bobos turn out to be the parsons of the pubic region. Nearly gone are 1960s traces of Dionysian wantonness. Instead, “Play Safe” and “Play Responsibly” are the slogans that are repeated again and again in sophisticated sex literature. The practicioners talk so much about how healthy it all is you’d think they were doing jumping jacks…Today’s Marquis de Sades don’t want to create an immoral underground society. They’re not trying to subvert normalcy. They’re trying to join it. They want to win mainstream acceptance and so gain a respectable place in the middle-class world.
To them, ideology itself is a means to an end of raising their status, justifying their lifestyle as necessary, and showing higher pretense than others thus making them look appealing and powerful as people. It is no different than birds puffing up their feathers before a fight, or monkeys posturing before throwing feces at one another. It is one of the oldest animal processes and no amount of layers of business clothing, perfume, Marxist theory, or even hip club lingo can disguise the raw animality of it.
If we decode liberals in this way, we see them as not outsiders trying to take over our society, but insiders trying to hide their own middle class origins and rise above them with pretense and the social boost that having the right opinions gives in liberal circles. If you look through media, government, entertainment of much of business, you will see the reason that liberals like Masons or Toastmasters remain popular: liberals helping liberals get ahead by promoting fellow liberals above everyone else.
Looking at this psychology through other eyes, we come to the question of guilt, shame or pity culture — from a post over at Dividuals:
Basically, it is about prestige. When we argue we have a moral obligation to do X we are saying we should deduct prestige points from people who don’t do X…the West is a guilt culture, not a shame culture.
As shame is basically low social prestige, it is fairly obvious how shame cultures really work like this.
For a guilt culture, the simplest explanation is that guilt is internalized shame, and thus the idea of moral obligation is internalized shame, internalized prestige loss, you feel bad about yourself if you did something bad, thus basically reduce your own prestige points in your head even if nobody else did.
This is probably a good thing, at some level. Installing a prestige policeman in everybody’s head.
The distinction between guilt and shame cultures strikes me as nothing more than a gap between pre-emptive mental process filtering and post hoc behavioral filtering. In guilt cultures, people use compliance as a means to get ahead, as if in a free market; in a shame culture, the only consideration is getting caught. If you look at shame cultures worldwide, whatever their average IQ, they have less of a strong middle and upper echelon level of intelligence than we do (still) in the West. These are cultures where it is acceptable to destroy certain individuals when they are caught doing wrong because they become token sacrifices and scapegoats.
THE MANAGER of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!” Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment’s thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?
I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life “in harmony with society,” as they say.
Obviously the greengrocer is indifferent to the semantic content of the slogan on exhibit; he does not put the slogan in his window from any personal desire to acquaint the public with the ideal it expresses. This, of course, does not mean that his action has no motive or significance at all, or that the slogan communicates nothing to anyone. The slogan is really a sign, and as such it contains a subliminal but very definite message. Verbally, it might be expressed this way: “I, the greengrocer XY, live here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.” This message, of course, has an addressee: it is directed above, to the greengrocer’s superior, and at the same time it is a shield that protects the greengrocer from potential informers. The slogan’s real meaning, therefore, is rooted firmly in the greengrocer’s existence. It reflects his vital interests. But what are those vital interests?
Let us take note: if the greengrocer had been instructed to display the slogan “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient,” he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth. The greengrocer would be embarrassed and ashamed to put such an unequivocal statement of his own degradation in the shop window, and quite naturally so, for he is a human being and thus has a sense of his own dignity. To overcome this complication, his expression of loyalty must take the form of a sign which, at least on its textual surface, indicates a level of disinterested conviction. It must allow the greengrocer to say, “What’s wrong with the workers of the world uniting?” Thus the sign helps the greengrocer to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. It hides them behind the facade of something high. And that something is ideology.
Guilt cultures control everyone. We all want to rise, so like Havel’s grocer, we clearly signal our obedience to the dominant paradigm of liberalism. Our modern SJWs for example form a shame culture as a means to guilt culture; SJWs gain personal prestige for shaming others. Thus we see that the guilt-shame distinction really gets in the way of seeing what is actually happening here: whether by consuming others (shame) or censoring themselves (guilt) modern people are raising status, and raising job prospects, through liberalism. That is all it is: a giant street gang where the secret handshake involves repeating something you read in The New York Times or Salon. When you join the gang, the gang will help you out and defend you, and you can gain power in the gang by doing audacious stuff. The kids of a century ago who lit firecrackers under police horses and became legends on their blocks are the kids of today who go on Twitter and Tumblr to demand that people stop using gendered pronouns.
Now for the “Success for me, but not for thee” part: at the same time these people are using liberalism to advance themselves and push down others, they are also using it to conceal their greatest secret. If they are succeeding, it is with conservative methods and principles, but they must hide these because they are unpopular, so like the politician kissing babies they make a big public show of liberalism, and then in private, act as conservative as possible. As a mainstream source notes:
Greg Gutfeld says conservative principles are more common than you think in professions sometimes identified with liberals—music, exercise, and cooking. “If liberals applied their no-score, no-winner, no-loser belief system to their hobbies and professions, they would fail miserably,” says Gutfeld, author of “How to Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct.”
The best thing about liberalism is that it is old. Ancient, even. 1789 was its first real formulation, but the disease had been festering for some time. People like me argue that liberalism came about because the West overpopulated itself with idiots after sacrificing too many of its good people to fight off Mongols at the same time it became diverse from too much trade, but the gory truth is that every society faces this high noon. If you do not purge the idiots, outsiders, perverts, fetishists, neurotic intellectuals, criminals and grifters among you, they eventually gang up on you and win out by superior number.
Luckily the situation is easily changed — from Dividuals again:
Thus the only potential for true change is to change how prestige is assigned. I mean, prestige is assigned by e.g. socially valued achievements, but also by moral arguments, such as “we have a moral obligation to do X”, thus doing X is high-prestige and not doing Y is low-prestige.
When a civilization shifts from an individual-based model to a culture-based model, these guilt/shame/blame/pity feelings get redirected into a singular question: “Did you uphold the culture?” Since culture takes the form of values, honor, pride, behaviors, aesthetics, customs, and includes in itself things such as civilizational goals, this serves as a non-intrusive control mechanism that harnesses these weird animal impulses and directs them toward a positive end. With individualism, we get animals competing for pretense; with culture-based societies, as known in Nationalism, we have individuals competing to achieve things that benefit all people in past, present and future of that society.
Wolfe himself affirms this with a nod to the rising prevalance of Nationalism in societies where people are not divided against themselves by competing for status:
More recently, I returned to Washington and Lee for a conference on the subject of Latin American writing in the United States. The conference soon became a general and much hotter discussion of the current immigration dispute. I had arrived believing that, for example, Mexicans who had gone to the trouble of coming to the United States legally, going through all the prescribed steps, would resent the fact that millions of Mexicans were now coming into the United States illegally across the desert border. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. I discovered that everyone who thought of himself as Latin, even people who had been in this country for two and three generations, were wholeheartedly in favor of immediate amnesty and immediate citizenship for all Mexicans who happened now to be in the United States. And this feeling had nothing to do with immigration policy itself, nothing to do with law, nothing to do with politics, for that matter. To them, this was not a debate about immigration. The very existence of the debate itself was to them a besmirching of their fiction-absolute, of their conception of themselves as Latins. Somehow the debate, simply as a debate, cast an aspersion upon all Latins, implying doubt about their fitness to be within the border of such a superior nation.
In other words, identity works not just because it is a motivator, but because it motivates people to act in their own interests. Who cares what’s fair? Get more of us here!
As modern society crumbles from within, not only Nationalism but every form of “birds of a feather flock together” is rising. People are grouping together by ancestry, values, caste and moral system as they anticipate the acceleration of decline.
This shows the importance of Nationalism as the vital cornerstone of a successful society. With Nationalism, people work toward values; without it, they become chaotic beings competing with each other to see who looks coolest according to an unrealistic and delusional ideology. Others argue that we need conveniently one-step fixes like a restoration of religion, and a return to pure capitalism, and while we need those also, they will get nowhere without a return to rigid nationalism. Only the group with an unbroken identity can construct for itself a society that does not tear itself apart from within.
What we see with modern liberalism is merely more of the tearing-apart: people who have given up hope on a future, trying to make themselves more important now, so they can justify their inaction in the face of obvious problems. As history shows us, most great empires go out that way, not so much in flames but falling from the pages of history and resurfacing centuries later as third-world ruins.
“Man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world—and defines himself afterwards.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
Commentators and thinkers in the Alternative Right often like to compare the accelerating decline of Anglo-Saxon civilization to Ray Kurzweil’s “Singularity” event, but substituting equality for artificial intelligence. This “Left-Singularity”, or the point at which leftism explodes into full nihilism, while a useful concept, misses much about our current cultural overlords. “Equality”, though a very important ideological concept of the left, is losing ground to, and will eventually be consumed by, pure French existentialism.
Existentialism is a postmodern philosophy that posits that human existence is prior to everything, and places an individual squarely at the center of the universe. Existence — the mere fact of your being, Heidegger’s Dasein — precedes every other concept or category. Existentialism then goes on to posit, as a logical corollary of its central statement that meaning is individual, unique, and relative, and can be constructed solely by the individual. This means, essentially, that the only two concepts that really fundamentally matters in the existentialist worldview are Authenticity, the unique meaning that the individual gives to himself, and Will, the self-direction that a man uses to propel himself towards authenticity and meaning. We are simply self-directed Wills, floating along through the endless dark of the void-sea, in search of our own authentic experience.
Such a plastic view of existence has many implications, and it should not come as a shock that the later French existentialists were almost all hard leftists. Atheism is also an inevitable byproduct of existentialism.
At some point after the Second World War, existentialism began to seep into leftist thinking, or perhaps its seed had always been there. Nevertheless, instead of the inevitable, cold historicity of Marx, therapeutic self-direction emerged. Anyone who has gone to school in the United States can recall being repulsed by ridiculous slogans about “being yourself” or “everyone is special” – both of which are profoundly Existentialist statements.
The result of this focus is that the two primary goods that leftism sees in the world are increasingly becoming will, self- meaning and authenticity. Any force that suppresses the will’s attempt to will itself towards meaning and authenticity is Bad And Oppressive, like the fact that skirts are sold in the women’s department of a store, or that people make fun of you for wearing a My Little Pony T-shirt. Meaning and authenticity are self-created- each person is a special snowflake who is the only entity capable of determining what the good is. There is no Good, True and Beautiful, only meaning and authenticity limited to each individual.
These concepts have been oozing into mainstream cultural leftism and are beginning to dominate over older narratives about equality. The gushing comments over a YouTube video of a child opening his first package of powerful estrogen hormones in order to “transition” are illustrative of this. The presumptions of the “wow so brave” crowd are:
A person’s existence is prior and a person is just self-directed will seeking meaning;
Your will seeks out authenticity on its own inherently, and it has perfect knowledge of this authentic meaning, and attempts to disrupt the will from this path are bad;
All people, including children have such a will;
Unfortunately for those of us who still have an attachment to the Good, True and Beautiful, the above argument is essentially an argument for drug use, vice-as-lifestyle and ultimately, pedophilia. Who are we to prevent people, even children, from living their “best life”, shitlord?
The motto of the assassins in Bartol’s novel Alamut was “Nothing is an absolute reality, all is permitted.” Anything that restricts or even makes the will feel bad about its radical “self-actualization” will be attacked and torn down. True authenticity, however, is never something one can discover through egoistic attachment to the physical, but through spiritual experience and transcendence.
And that is the cruel irony of the new Existentialist movement, be it trans-sexualism or pedophile-acceptance- is that they will never feel complete, never feel truly authentic. Meaning will ring hollow to them. And so the quest will accelerate, and this will get far worse before it gets better.
We may not be in Existentialist hell yet, but we are approaching it.
The city wakes. People pass in their work clothes. Others show that they do not need to go to work. A retired man spends an hour at the car wash, detailing his car. He wants to give the finger to everyone going to jobs like he did for years, feeling a sense that something has been taken from him but unable to see what it is. During the last month, his answering machine has recorded exactly three messages and two were sales calls. He and his wife spend their days watching television. The boat he bought with half of their savings back when he was forty-five sits in the backyard, rusting.
A rich man attends to his car dealership, specifying every detail of his upcoming repair twice. He has nothing to do and the unease that he might be missing an opportunity creeps up on him. He whips out his cell phone and feigns receiving a call, then dashes out to spend an unsatisfying afternoon poring over stock prices. A thin man, obviously homeless, lights a cigarette twice, it having gone out as his hands shook. He puffs aggressively as he ambles down the road. Behind him, two joggers plan strategy for evading him without the inevitable touch for change or possibly, a brush with someone who might well have 31 varieties of hepatitis. Both the heroin addict and the joggers are thin, and both for the same reason. They want to feel good. One is addicted to opiates, the other to public opinion.
Coming from a liberal society entirely in the grips of Leftist ideology, few of us understand the nature of capitalism. Most of us confuse it with “business” or “commerce,” not realizing that those are actors within capitalism, not the thing itself.
Let me simplify capitalism: economic Darwinism. Profit is regulated by income, which is a factor of costs against price of goods and services, which are in turn regulated by supply and demand. That which provides a better product, price, convenience or otherwise eliminates costs for the purchaser will rise above the rest, much like in nature the more efficient animals gradually predominate. This carries both great benefits and great risks: it allows the best to rise, but if the environment is narrowed into easy stability, it rewards the merely efficient and the result is rats, pigeons and cockroaches.
Commerce opposes capitalism because of its competitive factor. What commerce wants is — as the image above says — “keep on keepin’ on” or “keep on truckin’,” which are generally-accepted bourgeois values that serve to narrow the environment. A narrow environment makes the situation easier for all involved, as they can keep on truckin’ — keep on doing whatever they have been doing, the money will keep flowing in, and they will get fat and happy as they pay off their home notes. People tend toward entropy in this way.
People hate risk. Any time risk is taken, they are both tested as to their own abilities to understand the situation and estimate its responses, and also subject to a roll of the dice. That great new business idea may turn out to be built on a mound of toxic waste. Risk is scary. It can also, in highly social — too much, many of us would say — societies like our own, pose a greater concern which is the threat of loss of self-esteem. Who wants to be known as the guy who built the best business ever on a toxic waste dump?
Capitalism on the other hand loves risk because much like the law of supply and demand, there is a balance between risk and reward. Greater risk means greater reward. Low risk means, well, what do we pay you for anyway? Like nature, capitalism rewards the wily creature who finds a quicker or better way of getting what it needs. This has no morality in itself, like all other mathematical systems, so it implies a need for two things: quality leadership and cultural standards to guide creators of products and services away from bad things and toward improving already good things.
What complicates this is economies of scale. The more you make of something, the cheaper it gets; this also applies to technologies, which over time become easier because a library of knowledge and techniques exists. Over time, margins — the juicy slice of profit between cost and sale price — narrow. This means that volume becomes more important and that fewer companies can be active in that particular niche. This means that over time products become cheaper, which prompts companies to cut costs including sometimes quality, at the same time the market reduces to just a few forces. Like rats, companies become opportunists for small rewards and repeat that process many times, where in the early stages of the market they were like eagles, taking high risk for aggressive and daring acts of conquest.
Commerce inevitably reaches this point because it increases the number of dependents. If you wonder why large corporations seem to do such a poor job, it is this: they eliminate internal risk as they get larger because of the difficulty of replacing key personnel, the greater power to fail given each of those people, and the need for redundancy. As products get cheaper and the market concentrates, costs also increase as size of the companies involved increases, which further reduces quality. When Microsoft screws up the latest version of a product, it is probably not because they are doing it cheaper, but because it is more expensive but also coordinated over many thousands of people. Commerce self-destructs through entropy, just like any species that makes it too easy on itself turns into an adaptive generalist like rats.
What lessons could capitalism teach us here? First, that commerce is a counter-weight to competition and improvement, and second that market divisions are highly useful. When all companies are competing on the level of “worldwide,” the tendency is for them to get bigger and bigger and less efficient. When a company limits its business to, say, the Allegheny Valley, it also limits its size. However, that is counteracted by the rise of large cities, which force companies to expand in order to meet competition as the technology ripens, and also produce labor forces which encourage people to leave jobs. That forces companies to make each job simpler and more separable, like an interchangeable part, and to have redundancy. If you wonder why cubicle jobs are soul-sucking hell of tedium alternated with incompetence and panic, this is the reason.
A society composed of many widely-separated small cities is more efficient in this way than having huge cities. Each one maintains its own industry, the labor market is relatively stable, and the need for growth is removed. This allows companies to continue to have relatively high margins and avoid completing the death-cycle of expanding too fast. It also means that each worker has a job with wider variety and more responsibility, thus more power to exercise choice, which makes jobs inherently less miserable. Coincidentally, this model proves better for the environment as it requires less transportation, keeps population from growing with commerce, and enables higher competition to improve the abilities of that population.
Commerce cannot stop itself from pursuing entropy because commerce is composed of individuals who want to maximize their own profit. Without good leaders and strong culture, it will drive itself into low-margin status and then find ways to broaden the audience for its product, which always means dumbing it down or finding a more prurient, ironic or trendy interest. All of those things are blight to societies and individuals. Left alone, commerce will create the overpopulation conditions of yeast left in sugar, where the number of individuals expands with supply of food until it is all consumed and they must eat each other (when you see yuppies, this process is underway).
Some businesses bring great benefit from their expanded state. Wal-mart, for example, has made low cost products available to many people who previously had no access. National car manufacturers are probably more efficient and accountable than Joe’s East Texas Motors. Most of these large businesses self-destruct however from failure of leadership. They become known sources of profit and attract people who use these businesses for the person’s own needs at the expense of the business and society, a process known as externalizing risk. Then the business begins to fail and eventually becomes a source of dwindling but constant cash while its previous customers, who keep buying whatever worked for them, fail to receive the information that they are now buying lower-quality products.
A good leader can restart a dying corporation or keep a growing one from expanding faster than its likely food supply. Like eagles, good businesses are hard on themselves, and do not take on more people than they need. They also pursue difficult food sources, which means keeping technology advancing rather than stagnating, instead of becoming indiscriminate. Good leaders of this sort are opposed by commerce, which sees them as cutting out profits or as they like to call it “creating losses,” by not jumping after “opportunities” that lead to reduction in quality and bloating of the staff roll. Public opinion agrees with commerce because it wants more easy jobs where there is low risk and high reward. Commerce and public opinion oppose actual capitalism on this issue, which — by virtue of the mathematical nature of economics — sees companies trying to avoid monopoly, bloat and entropy.
Politicians exploit public opinion in this way and create rules to favor commerce over capitalism. The more rules they make, the easier it gets to keep on keepin’ on, and the harder it gets to take risks. Everyone becomes bloated and actual value declines. The politicians know this, so they tend to make their money and invest it in foreign companies who are out-performing the domestic ones. Take the money and run. The public sees quality declining and as a result of value declining, its own salaries becoming less effective at purchasing goods and services, so it demands more rules. The cycle of entropy continues.
In this way, commerce like most human ventures becomes self-destructive as it succeeds. By doing what the eagles would not, which is gaining dominance over its environment entirely and making it easy like rats eating out of dumpsters, commerce hobbles capitalism — which represents risk — and makes itself ineffectual. Entropy wins and everyone suffers, having never understood any of the principles behind capitalism which might have saved them from human self-delusion in the form of commerce, public opinion and politics.
In 1981, the German pop group Kraftwerk released the album Computer World in which the song “Computer Love” featured prominently. A lonely, haunting, wistful and solitary melody pervades the song, underscoring the somewhat PTSD lyrics:
Another lonely night
Stare at the TV screen
I don’t know what to do
I need a rendezvous
They speak to the anomie, which Random House defines as “a state or condition of individuals or society characterized by a breakdown or absence of social norms and values, as in the case of uprooted people,” with Greek and French origins as if tracing the path of democracy, of the modern time. People are isolated because there is no longer something shared in which we participate.
In former times, we had culture and under its wing, religion. Certain festivals marked the passage of the year, rites delineated the progress of lives, and regular events joined people together. At least there was one place where everyone met, at church, and communication was not so wordy because people shared similar points of reference, intent, and methods.
What defines the modern society is democracy, which starts — like a tear in silk — as the simple idea of one person, one vote. This expands because it needs to justify itself, both explaining how such an obviously silly idea could work, and to argue that it is good. Anyone with moderate experience knows that most people have trouble making decisions in the simpler parts of their lives, and that in groups, even smart people start to behave like a panicked flock. The mathematics of a crowd favors the ideas that transmit clearly and reflect a social safety, meaning that they offend No One, over complex ideas including those that challenge the status quo or its conventions.
Democracy justifies itself by arguing that these one-person-one-vote individuals are in fact each equally capable of making decisions. This was the basis of modern democracy which emerged from The Enlightenment™. As time goes on and it becomes clear that for many individuals, their “equal” decisions end in unequal or outright bad results, the hue and cry rises for a welfare state. Call it socialism, or socialism lite, the welfare state separates people from the consequences of their decision, much like voting in a herd bloc absolves every individual voter of accountability.
As part of this justification, all opinions must become personal. If you hold an idea, and it contradicts what someone else believes, that pokes through the curtain of justification that makes them seem equal. Like the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz, the inherent and omnipresent inequality of people must be hidden, and to reveal the Emperor’s lack of clothing is to, in their view, assault them personally. An attack on an idea is perceived as an attack on that person and, since equality works by declaring all opinions are equally valid, it is seen as an attack on the validity of that person. Since “validity” is the insincere term we use to mean socially approval, or accepted into the peer group, invalidating them by accident functions as a sort of exile, and they respond by trying to destroy the critic (and they never, ever address the validity of his points).
This leads me to some observations on blogging. I will admit that this is a field in which I can never succeed because I lack the personal flair for drama and simplification that makes a popular blogger able to project a vivid world that is nonetheless easy because it has been distilled to a few elements. People do not like bloggers for their great variety of opinions but the lack of it: popular bloggers take a complex world, boil it down to a few tangible and appealing things, and then generate personal drama that makes repetition seem novel and unique. This dramaticism carries a high cost: early bloggers like Justin Hall and Jorn Barger both went through tough times, struggling both with collapsing lives and personal instability, as a result of their time in the spotlight. Perhaps converting a personal life into a public tableau — like reality television or what a stripper does on stage — is not the best idea after all.
In my view, the problem lies in the conversion of ideas into personal events. Much as democracy makes all ideas into personal validations and thus personal attacks when contradicted, making a personal life into a public spectacle means that failure to approve of that spectacle is seen as a personal attack, when really it is a criticism of the idea suggested by that personal drama. In this way, bloggers serve the democratic agenda of removing any focus on the bigger picture and shoehorning each of us into small atomized and isolated worlds where we do not affect each other, and thus nothing is ever decided beyond the realm of the personal where it does not threaten the power structure. Democracy neuters people by convincing them to take important ideas and make them into hobbies, collages, or personal rants, which removes those ideas from the public space. This means that the Narrative can “keep on keepin’ on” and is safe from criticism, mostly because if you criticize it, millions of people who feel suddenly invalidated will turn on you like a crowd of attacking monkeys.
And yet, the counter-attack never solves the nagging doubt. Our society exists as a public Narrative which is designed to conceal reality, but details keep peeking through the façade and illuminating how little that narrative actually describes reality. When we say all people are equal, and then someone obviously more equal or radically less equal staggers across the stage, the camera averts its eye because that event has debunked the leading narrative. Similarly when someone points out that an idea is foolish, and this provokes ruffled feathers and angry counter-attacks, no one feels really complete about the issue. The bogeyman has been shouted down, the scapegoat banished, the talismans erected and the cargo cult prayers uttered, but the situation still feels unstable.
We can see this in progress with the recent train wreck between mommyblogger Elizabeth Harrell and her associated critics. She lives her life as if in a glass cube, she assures us, but she has a carefully-crafted Narrative of her own which only selectively admits the parts of her world that support her vision of herself. This became revealed when her marriage collapsed, her career took a dive and she moved to New York to marry a Mr. Nathoo and re-start herself. The positive, pro-self propaganda never stopped. Then trolls attacked, but they were attacking her as a means to attack the ideas that justified her decisions, because they saw those ideas as undermining society.
She fired back:
But since the divorce it’s turned into a different kind of trolling. It’s been far more personal. These trolls have an agenda. Just this weekend it happened again.
The general consensus among most of us bloggers is, “Ignore it. Don’t feed the trolls.” And that’s what I’ve done. This past year I’ve hit the delete button on all those “anonymous” comments coming from IP addresses in Houston (although don’t they know by now there’s no such thing as anonymity on the internet). Not only is what they say hateful, it’s misguided and misinformed, they don’t know me. They’re people operating off hearsay, a mob-bullying flying-monkey mentality, with an excessive amount of time to navel gaze, and some deep personal anger that would drive them to take the time to read the blog of someone they dislike for the simple joy of leaving jagged barbs behind their wake.
As an aside these jagged barbed comments usually contain terrible grammar. This always makes me smile.
Her response is 100% bog-standard mainstream media response to trolls, itself part of the Narrative: “Those are just dissatisfied people, losers if you will. They are angry because their life is not as refulgent with interest as yours. If they were happier, they would not post such things.”
Like all great lies this one has a grain of truth: on the internet, there are many angry people. Their lives seem to be miserable and consist of Ramen in the basement and dingy, sweaty pornography from distant shores. They will tear down anyone who they see is happy or successful, much like the crowds during the French Revolution executed aristocrats and Bolsheviks shot intellectuals over open mass graves. But it is too convenient to invalidate all of their criticism on this basis, or insist they are all the same type. Even more, no individual is uniform in behavior, so someone who is lashing out angrily in one moment may be saving orphans or designing nuclear reactors in another.
The problem here is that the streams are crossed: the idea that it is a sane lifestyle to abandon a marriage, move across the country to marry a man from a different background, religion and heritage and then self-praise about it is confused with the person who has done this. In the classic style of democracy, the personal becomes the political. That functions to make the political “off limits” to criticism.
This post does not exist to attack Elizabeth Harrell. Her struggles, and their origins in modern neurosis, will be familiar to readers here, who will be sympathetic. This is a message to the trolls: you are doing it wrong.
Attack the ideas, not the person.
An assault on the person plays into the Narrative by appearing to be a classic Simian behavior in which one monkey grows resentful of the other, and uses seemingly unrelated criticism to achieve social dominance over that other monkey. The assault also nicely fits into the backscatter of angry people furiously typing attacks on one another through the internet. It misses the point. Hit the ideas, and the point is made.
For example, our mystery troll could have typed the following:
This may seem old-fashioned, but in my experience, human nature has not changed one whit over the years. In fact, people are making the same mistakes in the same ways they did several thousand years ago, but now we have better cover-ups. Specifically people like to claim that their errors are victories, and then attack anyone who criticizes the thought process which led to the error as an attack on the person himself or herself.
It seems to me that if a marriage fails, it is because one or both people decided to make a bigger commitment to themselves than the marriage. It also seems to me that if you marry outside of your heritage, you have opted for an easier solution because you lack the confidence to find someone on your level. It also seems to me that children should not be made into reality television, personal lives should stay offline or at least separate from ideas so the person does not get touchy at criticism, and that we should be able to discuss these topics without someone being personally “offended” that I and others did not accept their bad behavior as equal and validate it with our approval.
Yes, no one will read through all that; I already said I am a failure at blogging, which apparently consists of Very. Simple. Sentences that feature a lot of huff and puff but focus on minimal concepts. I specialize in analysis, and hope to build wisdom, instead of trying to be interesting at the cost of all else, which is what most successful bloggers do. Where bloggers take complex ideas and reduce them to simple images, I pull apart simple images, reveal the complexity of the ideas behind it and then try to associate it with a number of core concepts necessary for human survival. The advantage of my approach is that it is not personal, nor does it fit within the Narrative and thus validate that narrative. While it will never be popular, is harder to read, and less spicy as a cognitive experience, it may provide a basis for understanding human civilization and how to live it.
But in a time of trolls, and when even the people counter-attacking the trolls use the same techniques as the trolls (the link is from Harrell’s post), it is important we regain basic civility. The personal is not the political; the political is the political, and if that overlaps with the personal, perhaps the personal should take advantage of that knowledge and quit hiding its head in the sand. Even more, just like it is cuck to attack a racial group when you want to attack diversity, and ultra-cuck to scapegoat an ethnic group when the real villain is liberal democracy, it is foolish to troll by attacking the person. Attack the ideas and win the debate, because not only is that the sensible behavior, but it leaves the personal-is-political types no option left but to angrily smash keyboards in return, appearing to most as merely discontented trolls and not intelligent, relevant social critics.
The selective woman presents a challenge to the male ego: she will demand that he win her, then lead in sexual activity, and may not be so welcoming that the sex act is easy. He will have to keep his erection through his own stimulus alone and pay more attention to her.
A slut — a promiscuous woman — on the other hand offers little resistance. She takes little to win, whether a night of feminist theory lectures or a few drinks at a bar, and then is an equal participant in the sexual act. As he is lunging for her, she is lunging at him, like an opposite version of male. If his erection fades, she will be an active participant in stroking it to life.
Conventional analysis (which is usually political or at least panders to popular imagination, and is therefore wrong) holds that sluts present more of a challenge to the man because of their greater experience. The opposite is true: their greater experience means they are less likely to notice differences in a series of experiences that blur together in memory. Having committed themselves to the act, they see only their own gratification, and so will help him along instead of wondering at the mediocrity. Their need, like that of an addict, is great and therefore they work around little lapses because their own satiation depends on it, where a more selective woman is considering the broader context of the event and will find failure to signal a larger disconnect.
The economic analysis of sluts flatters no promiscuous woman. The law of supply and demand states that products and services of greater abundance are worth less than those which are rare, and conversely, that those things facing less demand are valued less. The slut values herself little, but she values her pleasure more, so she is willing to move lower on the demand curve both in terms of attraction to her and her own standards. A slut has in effect said, “I have an over-abundance of this commodity, and will give it away for less,” signaling her own need as greater than her self-esteem.
Men love sluts — or think they do — because the challenges of a low cost venture are lesser than those of a higher cost undertaking which carries with it the need to have greater quality of the act. Slut sex is easy, not just to acquire, but to have. It is expected to be low-investment and low-satisfaction, which is why it is valued lower and more of it is demanded. This is easier on the man, so if he is low self-esteem, it presents itself as a less dangerous undertaking than challenging his rare commodity, which is self-image.
Most pick-up artist lore consists of making sluts feel comfortable making slutty decisions by bestowing on them small tokens of self-esteem. If they are challenged, that is a signal of investment in their value, as if they were actually difficult conquests. The man still controls the token of their self-esteem, which induces a cult-like slave mentality. If they are flattered — which works less — this serves also like a cult thought process to convince them temporarily that sluttiness, while less valuable, is an “empowering” choice because they are in control. This control is also in the control of the man, who must continue the stream of complimentary behavior or risk losing his attachment.
None of these things were unknown to our ancestors. They saw that injured or weak animals were less selective in mates, and instinctively made the metaphorical comparison to human beings. Only arrogance and presumption could make humans assume that we are above the rules of nature, economics and the mathematics underlying it. It has taken a century of flattery and false self-esteem to wear this down, but only in the easily swayed. The people who achieve not just “success” but whole, full lives tend to still play by these rules, because in order to succeed at life common sense — and not excuses, compensation and flattery — is required.
A small, lifeless body washes up on shore. The cameras are there as if they anticipated it. No one knows its actual origin, but the assumption is waiting, primed by news stories in the days before. That assumption fits within the Narrative that describes how we see ourselves and the world. Now the usual process begins. Our frustration needs an outlet, and we choose our vanity. When someone brings out an injured child, woman or kitten then the monkeys of the tribe will rage and fling feces, and then, as if by magic, a decision will be made.
This is how “we” — and risks are safest taken in groups — make choices. Our glorious Simian ancestry has us behaving no differently than the monkey-tribes of the jungle; when enough monkeys howl together, a decision must be made. This is the process of democracy, but it plays into a much older and darker part of our psyche. We are afraid to make decisions alone. We fear that the tribe will start shrieking at flinging feces at us if our decision is — well, not wrong, but looks like it is not right, or not from around here, not compliant with the Narrative. We have our ways and outsiders are not welcome.
Let us be honest and talk about the human tendency to herd. We form a herd when threatened; the entire troop circles up and readies itself to act as one. But when criticism becomes as threatening to us as predators are, mainly because we rely on others and their approval for our survival through the magic of specialized labor, we start to fall back on the panic response for everything. The problem is that a troop of monkeys howling is not substantially different from a committee of humans. And so committee-logic wins: each person says something different to appear unique and important, this amplifies complexity and distracts from mission, then the group shrugs and finds a compromise, using an emotional component to enforce unity and trigger action.
That dead little boy on the coast — who knows what he died of? the media frenzy will be over and forgotten by the time an autopsy comes in, if the medical examiner is not outright bribed — serves as that type of emotional trigger. The tribe will not start shrieking and howling and throwing you-know-what until the trigger appears. But now, we know how this process goes, and like a familiar dance, we must follow the steps. First, posturing; then, impossibility; finally, an easy emotionally-satisfying solution! The ethic of convenience wins the day as it always does. Whatever is easiest not as an act, but for our minds to grasp will take home the prize. This is why cat photos rule the internet, junk food dominates the landscape, and people vote every time for whatever spends other people’s money to make the voters feel good about themselves.
It’s a knee-jerk reaction: see dead child, feel bad, vote with money. The politicians depend on it. They know how human groups work. The few people thinking about the issue will be drowned out by a giant crowd full of individuals hoping to express themselves. To them, the reality of the situation — its origins and consequences — do not matter. What matters is their own feelings and sense of having done something important. When it comes time to make decisions, they always choose the mentally easier idea as long as it flatters them. In their minds, the world is a giant shopping mall, and politicians are selling them a product which they can return and complain about if it does not work. But the merchants here are crafty. They have created such a flood of products that very few people remember any one, and those immediately get shouted down by the rest of the herd trying to express themselves.
If you wonder why our politicians are so bad, stop wondering: you elected them. Not you personally, but you, by supporting the system of democracy which exists solely on the level of an ethic of convenience. When you endorse democracy by voting, you are giving your howl and feces-fling of approval to the idea that decisions should be made by whatever is easiest for the most people to emote about in a group. People usually laugh nervously at this point and say, “Well, when you put it that way — ” but no matter which way we put it, the underlying reality is the same. I can describe democracy as tomatoes or Superman, but what democracy is does not change. Only the thoughts in our head change, and by changing those thoughts, we can influence each other in denial of plain fact and circumstance. This is how democracy achieves consensus: all the monkeys howl together, and then they have an emotion, and they associate the howling with the emotion and approve a plan they do not understand nor intend to supervise.
After all, people view life personally. They are looking for what they can defend against the criticism of others while simultaneously using it to make themselves appear different, ironic, unique and iconoclastic. They want to stand out at first, but then go with the flow. That way they get all of the glory — look at me! I’m not like the rest! — and none of the accountability. In fact, that is the best thing about an election. The monkeys howl together, then the machines count the flung coproliths and everyone goes home disappointed. “The good guys lost this time, next year we’ll kick their asses. Good game, everyone.” They treat it like a baseball game, or a raffle at church, or how they will play bingo in the old age home when they win a stuffed donkey for making nine in a row diagonal. The game is not related to them. They can win or lose and still feel good about themselves. Afterwards they can go home and they have something to talk about for the next few weeks, either Our team was robbed! or Told you so! but never a criticism of the game itself. No one is to blame; it is just how the chips fell, like a lottery or roulette table. No one must change anything about what they are doing to fix the situation. This enables the solipsism of thinking exclusively about oneself, and as if the world rotated around oneself, especially when the issue is someone or something else.
That is what defines the ethic of convenience itself: do not expand your mind to reach the new thoughts, let the new thoughts come to you by putting themselves in familiar form. Of course, that limits what you can think — like forcing all music to be in the pentatonic scale — but it also eliminates risk, challenge, effort and responsibility for having to understand it correctly. It is pre-chewed cud. It is the harmonious sound of the other monkeys screaming alongside you. You fit in. And because it is so mentally easy, you do not take any risk within yourself either. You simply go through the motions, pretend to care, and then go back to thinking about yourself (my Christian readers will note that, through the lens of Milton especially, this defines Satan: self becomes more important than God, a hubris which requires rejecting reality itself; better to reign in hell than serve in heaven, and hell is people). The ethic of convenience means that you never step past where you are comfortable, and never do anything that will threaten your self-image and how you explain yourself to others. “See, I’m not like the rest because I’m the kinda guy who…” — all of it reduces to being simply marketing. Just of the personal kind.
When you put a group of these monkeys together, a certain type of decision emerges. It is a combination of the worst of conservatism, the “don’t rock the boat” and “keep the money flowing” habits that made generations of American girls hate their fathers, and the worst of liberalism, which insists that every person deserves fifteen minutes of fame funded by taxing the rich and consequently gutting the economy. The decision can go right or left, but it will be a variation of the same basic decision which we might call “The Democracy Pattern” or even the ethic of convenience itself. Groups choose whatever flatters them the most with the least risk to them individually, even if the group is put at risk. The group becomes understood as the self. Each person votes for what they think they can explain to their social group and make themselves look benevolent, and beyond that, they simply do not consider consequences. That is inconvenient. That threatens their egos, their carefully-constructed social personas, and because they have externalized their sense of values, their self-esteem. Fragile, they depend on this image to carry them through when things go wrong. Where previous generations depended on knowledge of what was right, God and trust in nature, people now depend on the I. And when the I fails them, they rationalize and justify and concoct excuses and find a way to argue that their losses were in fact their gains. This is the essence of both cuck and the self-promoting egomania of the yuppie or the reality television show contestant. It is the human disease.
At best, what you can hope to do is inch the system forward and give your team a win for this year. That is, unless you turned on the system itself. If any significant chunk of the population, say, 20%, started voting only for a candidate who went in to office not to win but to subvert, destroy and transition to another type of system, we could have a future. Without it, we have none. Until your vote is a vote against the system itself, you are signing your name to more of the same. And every time a sad child feels discriminated against, or an ethnic of convenience appears in time to justify the latest media agenda, you will find that everyone votes for idiocy. Europe accepts refugees, America accepts immigrants, or other travesties occur, but these are business as usual, and just one variant of the slow process of decline caused by democracy. You will not want to vote against democracy because democracy flatters you. “Yes, your vote counts!” — except that it does not, unless you are voting for stupid things like everyone else. The enemy is not the bankers, the rich, the poor, the Blacks, the Whites, the Jews™, or even the Other. Democracy is our enemy; the enemy is inside the gates, and has been here the whole time. Democracy converts normal people into a gushing, raging, sighing and emotional herd which cannot agree on anything except the simplest and most dramatic of gestures. The ethic of convenience wins out every goddamn time. Democracy is defeat.
It is time to demand an end to voting. With voting, every time an ethnic of convenience washes up on shore, the herd will gush and preen and the politicians will pounce like the parasites they are. Only removing the legitimacy of the herd defeats them. Crowds are not the way to make choices; they enable the manipulative, parasitic, criminal and corrupt class of politicians who have bungled the environment, immigration, economy, infrastructure, defense and every other issue. There is no escape until we can escape the manipulative system of democracy itself. This election, and every election, the only relevant question is Where do I vote to end democracy? Until we start thinking along those lines, we are just monkeys howling with the rest, hoping that our clod of feces will somehow change the vast inertia of solipsism welling up around us.
The man behind the counter leaned forward so he could look directly at the customer. “You need to stay in the store, ma’am, when you have items on call. I’ve been calling you several times.”
She made the right murmured apology but he still fixed her with an angry stare. His time had been wasted, he felt. Even though he could have put the item back on the shelf and waited, he had called. These people — customers — are the worst on earth. They are the reason this job is so bad, he thought. And in the back of his mind a little voice spoke up and said: and they need to respect your authority, whatever little it is, because this job is horrible and they owe it to you.
What made this ironic, in the hip boutique that fronted the main drag of the mall, was that the counterman was wearing a t-shirt from the band Discharge that was part of the iconic anti-authoritarian hardcore punk movement. Here he was, a low-echelon worker with pro-freedom sentiments, and he was berating her exactly like the fascist leaders and corporate overlords he doubtless felt were ruining the world.
In other words, the oppressed had become the oppressor.
We see this pattern happen every time democracy is tried. In fact, it seems to arise anywhere humans are together. When given power, most people enforce it for their personal convenience. Philip Zimbardo conducted the classic Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971 by assigning students as guards and prisoners in a test environment. He found that some of the guards become strictly authoritarian, and some of the students became reckless rebels. But the undercurrent he discovered evoked the experiments of Dr. Stanley Milgram, who tested the willingness of average people to administer shocks to others in the guise of enforcing the scientific authority of a test. He found that 65% of participants were willing to push those signals into the lethal range, in theory “killing” the test subject in their experiment while being a test subject in Milgram’s experiment.
Echoing sentiments like “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” these tests seemed to suggest that people are tyrants waiting to happen. But this interpretation runs shallow. More likely, it suggests that most people do not have a moral compass because they are accustomed to deferring to authority, possibly because they are threatened by authority in a mental state similar to the Stockholm Syndrome, where captives bond with their terrorist jailkeepers and even defend them years later. People depend on authority. For this reason, they defer to it unless they are given a chance to enforce it, thinking that by doing its bidding they are gaining its favor. Milgram, Zimbardo and Stockholm were misunderstood: they do not imply that authority is a problem, but that free societies create tyranny, much as Plato argued years ago.
The Crowd has authority over us. We become accustomed to having that authority do our thinking for us, and to avoid offending it. When our turn comes for power, we are filled with pent-up rage and wish to subjugate others in turn, but at the same time we see an opportunity to — like all the others we have seen succeed around us — implement the orthodoxy that supports the authority and by doing so, demonstrate our worthiness to the powers that be. The justification for exercise of power is what makes this possible. The man behind the counter sees a moment where he is behaving by the rules and someone else is not, so uses this as a chance to subjugate them and make them subordinate to his will in order to make himself feel better about this dead-end job in a go-nowhere-do-nothing mall. He derives a personal satisfaction from, for once, being in charge, and having an excuse to feel righteous about it.
We see this pattern repeated time and again in liberal revolutions. Once they believe they are the defenders of the poor, any amount of gulags or guillotines are not only acceptable but necessary. They are acting out revenge because they see this revenge as justified. They have rationalized their own low position by scapegoating another, and now the other must die. It does not matter if they were formerly oppressed; they will oppress, and take it to the next extreme, because their rage and instability is so great.
Traditional society offers an option to this perpetual power dynamic. It constrains the lust for power through roles, and measures success by goals and morals instead of how well rules are applied. This means that the petty tyrants and kings for a day of the world see themselves as working together toward a shared end, and they never have a position of absolute authority but are channeled through the context of a role. In the Milgram experiment, random college students were given absolute authority. In a traditional society, they would never reach this position because traditional societies recognized that power could be wielded by only a few who have overcome our glorious simian heritage and the emotional instability, scapegoating, rage and resentment inherent within it.
All of us live in a time without context now. We are all independent actors, living in worlds of ourselves, and so any act that displeases us is a personal insult which can only be matched with an insane acceleration of authority to the point of cruelty. Paradoxically, to our minds, this situation originates in freedom. With freedom, context (role) is removed and all authority is absolute, but as a result, no single person controls the Crowd and it is never accountable. This creates shell-shocked zombies, staggering out of the ugly cities, feeling intense fear of the authority imposed on them and desperate for some excuse to exert it on someone else with maximal cruelty in the hope that this will fill the void in their souls.
Almost all human arguments consist of excuses. In a social setting, almost all of them are intended to use that excuse to gain sympathy with the group, winning through numbers — influenced by emotion and appearance — over logic.
The most common way to win these arguments is to style yourself as the underdog or victim. Social groups hate bullies, cruelty and the thought that someone is right in contradiction to what each of them wants to believe is true. Passive aggression works by provoking the opposition into taking an argument which seems to be place the arguer in a position of victimhood.
The passive-aggressive behavior is a variation of the “Begging the Question” fallacy, itself of this form:
“If shooting hipsters were moral, it would not be illegal.”
These are themselves a variation on the classic circular argument: A validates B, but if you doubt A, look to B which also validates A. Passive-aggression creates an implicit begging of the question by engaging in a questionable behavior and then defending it on the basis of individual choice as evidenced by the victimhood of the arguer.
Person 1: I believe in living to shoot heroin.
Person 2: That’s going to have all kinds of negative consequences.
Person 1: Why are you trying to limit my freedom? This is my life quest and passion, and you’re a big burly fascist trying to censor me and control me.
In all liberal actions, the attack begins through the most innocuous provocateur violating some rule of the target. When the target responds, this person is styled as an innocent victim and it is argued, therefore, that this exception invalidates the rule, missing the point that obvious exceptions are taken into account with most rules. All that matters is appearance, and styling the situation — “spinning” it — into a David versus Goliath tale in which Goliath is the big, stupid and cruel enemy. That wins over a crowd.
When people retaliate against passive aggression, they are accused of being mean-spirited. Some of this comes about because people realize when they have been trapped by a cheap trick, and also realize that others around them are oblivious and thoughtless and will not notice, and are indignant, rightfully so. The rest comes out because the passive-aggressive suggestion is obviously stupid and a waste of time, and the accusation of victimization is obviously spurious, which is in itself defamatory and offensive. The accusation of “mean-spirited” however counts for most people as victimization, which hilariously serves as proof of the correctness of the argument for the original passive-aggressively offered act. For this reason, passive-aggression is itself mean spirited, as it is a concealed attack without logic on its side, and its goal is destruction of that which could not be attacked by legitimate means.
Every sheep secretly thinks he is a lion. For that reason, we overstate our contributions and under-estimate how much we depend on those around us. This mentality is similar to that of scapegoating, in which we assume that our intent was right and any failure must have come from external forces.
The Individualist Fallacy falls into the same pocket. Specifically, it holds that the individual is or does not need civilization, while living within civilization. This can be seen in the rebellious types who want “anarchy with grocery stores,” libertarians, and many conservative Christians and conservatives, including fairly underground types.
There are three main areas of the Individualist Fallacy:
That the individual can do what is right, and associate with others like him, and this solves the problem of civilization downfall.
This version of the fallacy mainly affects mainstream conservatives. Their idea is, based in part in Christianity and in equal part in economic liberalism, that society is comprised of individuals and that each individual has responsibility to do what is right, and then things will end for the best. This makes sense at first because it parallels Social Darwinism, with the idea that the most adapted — raising happy families, maintaining wealth and health and moral standards — will outproduce the rest. It fails to take into account however that the others will reproduce more thanks to the efforts of society and, that in civilization, other factors exist than for isolated families in the wild. The responsible will end up paying for the rest and the rest will use their greater power in numbers to parasitize and eventually destroy the responsible. This version of the fallacy is most frequently heard from baby boomers who just want to die before their children inherit the utter ruin the boomers made of the West.
On the left, this version of the fallacy mutates into the idea that everyone is good and we will all survive together and somehow, magically, the choices that exist for you today — or back in 1965 when the boomers were young — will be there for you in the future. One would have to be blind to the current state of Brazil, the history of the French Revolution or Soviet Union, and human nature to believe this. Choices and opportunities change as society does, and whatever is tolerated proliferates, so that those people who are doing bad things eventually outnumber the rest. Again, this type of reasoning serves as an excuse and justification — backward-looking, inverted thinking — than forward-looking, planning-type analysis. People just want an easy answer that allows them to “keep on truckin'” without having to “rock the boat.”
That rules which affect society at large do not affect the individual, and therefore that the individual has no right to object to rights or privileges granted others.
Mostly on the left, this version of the fallacy goes like this: how dare you oppose someone else doing what they want, such as gay marriage or legal marijuana, because it is an individual choice and affects only them? Any sensible and experienced person will interject here with the observation that nothing affects only the individual. Gay marriage for example sets a new lower boundary for permissiveness in society and changes the nature of marriage from “mature, get married and have a family” to “date recklessly, and when your current significant other needs health care, go perform a trivial civil ceremony.” The children after gay marriage have lost the sanctity and purpose of marriage. Similarly with legal marijuana, a social value is changed — and a market is created. Now children will be surrounded with the paraphernalia, behavior and lifestyle behavior of those who are using drugs. With one drug legal, others become acceptable. Even more, society embraces a type of thinking that it has firm reasons to oppose. Every individual “right” in turn forces the normalization of that right on others, and deprives those others of their right to a society of their choice. The liberal will fire back that they can have that at home, which is fine if they and their families never leave that home and will not be interfered with there. In reality, it means that they are attacked passive-aggressively by society — passive aggression is a form of the “begging the question” fallacy where one party assumes as behavior is right in order to challenge others with it, then play the victim when they are not approving — and forced to either submit to the new order which goes against their conscience and wisdom, or become targeted as a potential pariah for ostracism.
That collectivism is formed of a collective, and not individualist impulse, rather than being a collective enterprise to demand individualism.
This version of the fallacy has found popularity with the Internet-style Libertarians who believe that, since they exist only in their apartments and jobs, everyone else should do the same. In their view, the enemy is Statists who are collectivists, which means they believe all money should be pooled and used to support all people. They are correct in recognizing that this is insanity, but incorrect in that they forget that society itself is a collective enterprise. In it, we all do things which do not benefit ourselves directly but because they benefit everyone, serve to increase the value and utility of life in that society. This denies the leftist impulse which is to create “equality” by penalizing the successful to subsidize the unsuccessful — zero historical counter-examples exist — which involves paying benefits to specific groups which are smaller than the whole or even the majority, thus “minorities.” The problem with this version of the fallacy is that it denies the simple formula collectivism = individualism. Collectivism is individualism in a group context where individuals join together to form a large group that uses the superior numbers of that group to demand that individualism — no higher purpose than self-gratification — to become the law of the land. This irrevocably changes society. While a libertarian system seems to oppose this, what it really does is create a society based on individualism which will inevitably turn toward “collectivism” as a plurality of people emerge who, exhausted of no purpose except self-interest, will support it.
Hope you enjoyed our brief tour of one of the most common fallacies today and its three common variants. You will see these regularly and expressed fervently, but like almost all of human thought, they are signals, distractions and rationalizations to allow that individual to both (a) continue to live life as they have been, for individual comfort a.k.a. “bourgeois values” and (b) feel justified and in fact morally good about doing so. Illusion is an easier sell than reality.