As the Alt Right struggles to find its new direction while other Right-wing movements fade away, some of us offer a radical piece of advice: it should face the grim fact that our downfall has come through our own bad decisions, which arose from a selfishness and desire for power that led us to deny the natural order of life, and so our solution lies in undoing these bad decisions by replacing them with healthier goals.
For us to do this, it makes sense to inspect in depth the mistakes of the past so that we can recognize in each a fundamental principle, and through that, avoid repeating that principle in a new form. Principles are invisible; they can only be found by understanding the structure of an idea. They repeat in entirely different-looking forms, and when we do not recognize them, they cause us to repeat the same mistakes.
What rankles the Alt Right begins with a typical Leftist behavior, namely the tendency to change thought by making certain methods or ideas taboo. When you cannot use the appropriate method or idea, any given task or issue becomes “inverted,” or comes to mean the exact opposite of its original meaning because the thought process required to understand it is prohibited but its inverse is not. Language shifts and soon, everything in society is upside-down, and nothing means what it should.
One of the prime methods for this in our present time is the issue against which the Alt Right stacks “free speech”: political correctness, or the habit of making certain topics, notions and words off-limits in order to invert the meaning of the issues to which they refer. One explanation of why this is destructive comes from a striking critique based in utility, not morality:
[I] agree with Peter Thiel that political correctness is important in sustaining the stagnation of the West. It’s not even the particular topics that can’t be discussed. It’s the cowardice and the getting in the habit of constantly watching what you are saying that leads to a suppression of intellectual daring and genuinely creative thought.
Early on here I was named by a man who made a living from wind energy as one of the top 10 climate deniers on Quora. A strange honour, I suppose, but also just a little sinister. One had the sense that there was a gunning for such people because one by one they were banned and suspended. Baiting people into saying something that could be considered a violation of the cult of nice, something easy to achieve when you are close to a moderator. Probably it would have happened to me too, except I mostly write about other topics and some people liked what I wrote. If I worked for a big company with a bureaucratic social media policy, possibly it would have been much more effective.
The context is people have proposed criminal sanctions against those with differing views about causation of fluctuations in climate and what if anything we should do about it. Combined with the social ganging up I described above, do you not think this is likely to have a chilling effect on peoples’ expressions of ideas in this domain, and perhaps also in others.
Most people are smart enough not to disagree with the consensus of the group. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down. Group think isn’t some esoteric mildly interesting phenomenon but is at work every day in human groups, large and small. If there had been more people like Michael Burry, the financial crisis wouldn’t have happened. But, as Peter Thiel says, what does it say about us as a society that it’s the mildly autistic and more that are able to go against group norms and those who are more neurorypical don’t do that. It wasn’t always like this, and it probably won’t be in future.
A healthy society needs to be able to tolerate dissent, even about painful or controversial topics. The way to regulate conversation is to replace bureaucracy with good manners, because those can be much more adapted to changing and heterogeneous situations and are less susceptible to being exploited by opportunistic players that game the system. See also Scott Welch’s response below, about which I make no further comment. Except to say that the language used in his answer and in the comments is a pretty nice illustration that Quora does not appear to be serious about creating a forum where people are expected to exhibit nice and respectful behaviour (let alone good manners). BNBR is used as a weapon to shut out dissenting views (see Solzhenitsyn below) – but there’s a lack of seriousness about it. It’s one instrument but one that’s wielded according to the belief systems – and, more problematically, values – of the people running Quora.
Solzhenitsyn at Harvard: Harvard Commencement Address (A World Split Apart):
Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no open violence such as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevent independent-minded people giving their contribution to public life. There is a dangerous tendency to flock together and shut off successful development. I have received letters in America from highly intelligent persons, maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but his country cannot hear him because the media are not interested in him. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, to blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era. There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of a petrified armor around people’s minds. Human voices from 17 countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it. It will only be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events.
Ultimately it doesn’t really matter if the most pro-PC people accept these arguments or not, because the world is already changing. People increasingly value an unpolished authenticity, and I don’t think anything is going to stop this new trend from developing now it has gotten started.
This is a basic utility argument: when some ideas are taboo, it prevents them from being discussed at all, and this is enforced by decentralized totalitarianism where the majority of people refuse to engage with these ideas from fear of ostracism and retribution, so they simply fall into a memory hole and disappear entirely from public consciousness.
Equality itself gives rise to this phenomenon. When all people are equal, all viewpoints must be tolerated, but this quickly comes into conflict with the noticing of natural inequalities — mostly between social classes, but also including sex, ethnic group, race and sexual preference — which means that some of the equal people will feel marginalized.
Compound this with the fundamental method of equality, which is to “make” people equal by Robin Hood style actions involving taking from the more-successful and giving to the less-successful, or in other words, defending the underdog as a categorical practice. Whenever someone more-successful is in conflict with someone less-successful, the more-successful person is attacked.
Aha. This gives us the root of political correctness, which is that if one of the equal citizens finds himself being observed to be unequal, the right way to fix this is to penalize the person who notices the inequality. Given the power of the Dunning-Kruger effect, this means that only those with the brains to observe reality semi-correctly are censored, and idiocy is given center stage in the ultimate inversion.
Naturally, this leads to domination of the less-successful — who are most likely lower in caste, intelligence, wealth, power, class and competence — over the success. The weak eat the strong because the Crowd enables the weak. Witness this in action in an otherwise advanced legal system where noticing caste differences is a crime:
Calling a Dalit by his caste with a view to insulting him or her is an offence under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), the Supreme Court has ruled, upholding the conviction of two persons in Tamil Nadu.
…”The word ‘pallan’ no doubt denotes a specific caste, but it is also a word used in a derogatory sense to insult someone (just as in North India the word chamar denotes a specific caste but it is also used in a derogatory sense to insult someone).
…”In our opinion, uses of the words ‘pallan’, ‘pallapayal’ ‘parayan’ or ‘paraparayan’ with intent to insult is highly objectionable and is also an offence under the Scheduled Cast/ Scheduled Tribe Act. It is just unacceptable in the modern age, just as the words ‘Nigger’ or ‘Negro’ are unacceptable for African-Americans today ,” the bench said.
Equality always goes this way. Diversity just makes it easy because it enables the herd to analogize caste to race, and in our modern egalitarian agenda, racial discrimination is the worst sin ever. This may go back to the days when Americans allied with China and had non-whites serving in its military, and so had to ban discrimination as it threatened loyalty to the State.
Egalitarianism itself mandates diversity. If all people are equal, all races are equal. And nothing seems more discriminatory and inegalitarian than singling someone out for something he cannot control, namely a condition he was born with such as race or caste. Equality must be achieved, and to do that, all differences between people must be eliminated or hidden, in this case by social taboo.
What this means is that in our minds, the idea of equality becomes a runaway train that rolls right over every aspect of life. This egalitarian outlook leads to a type of inward focus that becomes a paralyzing narcissism:
The cause of our narcissism is equality. Not equality before the law, where everyone is bound by the same legal code. That is a fundamental right and necessary for justice, freedom, and happiness in a democracy. I’m referring to equality of conditions—our economic well-being and social status, the material aspects of equality Europeans experienced when they broke from the caste system of their homeland, shedding aristocracy and an impenetrable class structure that denied them access to material wealth and limitless possibilities.
…But equality, like freedom, has its dark side. Just as too much freedom leads to libertinism, anarchy, and destruction, equality (or the expectation of equality) leads to entitlement, self-centeredness, isolation, idealism of human perfectibility and progress, autonomous individualism, materialism, and ultimately despotism.
As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “One must recognize that equality, which introduces great goods into the world, nevertheless suggests to men very dangerous instincts…it tends to isolate them from one another and to bring each of them to be occupied with himself alone. It opens their souls excessively to the love of material enjoyments.” It makes him a narcissist.
Who is de Tocqueville restating here? He is channeling Plato, who famously said:
The State demands the strong wine of freedom, and unless her rulers give her a plentiful draught, punishes and insults them; equality and fraternity of governors and governed is the approved principle. Anarchy is the law, not of the State only, but of private houses, and extends even to the animals.
Father and son, citizen and foreigner, teacher and pupil, old and young, are all on a level; fathers and teachers fear their sons and pupils, and the wisdom of the young man is a match for the elder, and the old imitate the jaunty manners of the young because they are afraid of being thought morose. Slaves are on a level with their masters and mistresses, and there is no difference between men and women.
At last the citizens become so sensitive that they cannot endure the yoke of laws, written or unwritten; they would have no man call himself their master.
With these two views of the same thing, we see the problem with equality: without focus on something outside of the self, people become obsessed by the self like a golden calf or the One True Ring, and pursue it with a mania like addiction, because like all good dependencies it provides brief relief from noticing drab reality, and then as the situation settles back into normalcy, requires more of the drug.
Diversity serves this pressure for inward focus by enacting a pincer strategy on civilization: one claw of the pincer is increased alienation and atomization, and the other is a need for self-validation in order to keep the addiction going. People simultaneously flee the public sphere and cling zombie-like to ideology.
All of this arises from the need to “create” equality through banning negative but true observations about the lower castes. Diversity happens in parallel with the maniacal, Soviet need to enforce equality for other groups — women, homosexuals, transgenders, odd religions, the retarded — because both originate from the same root in egalitarianism, and naturally and inevitably develop into these special interest “identity” politics.
This identity in turn reflects a lack of actual identity, because egalitarianism has eaten that right up, and instead a need to find some reason why one is special and hopefully a victim, because that way the individual deserves to be made more-equal through wealth and power transfer from the more successful. This is the crisis of identity:
But the truly notable thing about today is not so much the obsession with identity – it’s the instability of identity. Humans have been hunting for identity for centuries. The instinct to define ourselves, to project ourselves into the world, is strong. And there’s nothing wrong with it. What’s new today is that identity has become an incredibly subjective phenomenon. ‘I identify as…’ Where once an individual’s identity was informed, or shaped, by experience and belief, through an engagement in the public sphere or with a party or association, today identities are self-consciously and often defensively constructed. The NYT, in its description of 2015 as the year of identity, asked: ‘How do you identify? [W]hat trait or aspect of your being is central to your idea of yourself, and your relationship to the world?’ The keyword here is your. The NYT doesn’t ask ‘What are you?’ or ‘Who are you?’, which would speak to a strong sense of being something; it asks what ‘aspect of your being’ is most important to ‘your idea of yourself’. ‘Being’ is treated almost as something external to the individual, a thing to be mined for ‘traits’ we might identify with. Identity is not something we are or we experience; it is a technically cultivated category, built from ‘traits’ and ‘aspects’ to give ‘an idea of yourself’.
What the NYT and many others describe as new era of identity politics is in fact an era in which the historical, traditional underpinnings of identity have been ruptured, or even destroyed, unleashing an often desperate search for new identities, a rush for self-identification, for shallow identity construction. The subjectivity of human identity in the 21st century is striking, and alarming. Today, to feel something is to be something.
Arising from the nature of equality itself, identity politics speaks to a need for self-validation, which is the second claw of the pincer. There is no identity outside of the self, so people look for a group to join, but since this is not related to any actual membership, it becomes entirely symbolic. The individual wants a position from which they are able to justify their narcissism.
Not only that, but any existing identity that is actual threatens their ability to choose any identity they want, which in turn limits them to being what they are, which violates equality. The manic, all-devouring instinct of Leftism toward culture, religion, heritage, race, ethnic group, customs, calendar, cuisine and even symbols comes from this need to be the determiner of their own identity.
Equality makes people into crazed individuals, gazing inward and finding nothing, thus trying on different identities as a means of being special enough and marginalized enough to have power in a society that is constantly pushing people downward in order to enforce equality. The root of this churn lies in the nature of Leftism itself:
It is Liberalism that believes in the Autonomous Individual, it is Liberalism that always hides its real beliefs, it is Liberalism that has turned us from Nations into mere economies.
…Lying is the only way they can gain support so they do. They never talk about the Autonomous Individual instead they talk about freedom, about freedom of choice and other such nonsense. Why?
Because the Autonomous Individual has no need of a country, or a family, or a God, or anything. It is a life of hopelessness and pointlessness and they know it. They don’t talk about it because they see a perfect world and the Autonomous Individual lives in that perfect world. But if they went to the next election talking about people getting to live in a perfect world people would reject them and they know that. They never talk about where their philosophy leads because to any sane person it holds absolutely no appeal. Who wants to live a life were they have no family, no roots, no history and no future, only today repeated endlessly until death?
Political correctness is the vanguard of Leftism. Like the outer shell of a virus, it merges with the wall of a cell, making it think that the virus is part of itself. Then, the virus enters and reprograms that cell with its own DNA, so that the cell propagates the virus, sacrificing itself in the effort.
Pair that with “Keeping Up With The Joneses,” which in this case is symbolic, and people begin excluding dangerous ideas while repeating obvious lies, just so that they stay relevant and are part of the in-group that gets all the wealth and power. They will eventually adopt a victimhood pose through the identity Olympics, and act out increasingly extreme versions of egalitarian idealism.
Enter another cliché: “The Customer is Always Right.” This is the basis of mercantile middle class ethics and explains how societies are taken over by bad ideas. Bad ideas are always popular because they are simpler, and therefore make the person considering the idea feel more powerful for having this simple, clear and absolute bottom line. No merchant will refuse a customer the right to purchase an illusion. For this reason, business and law follow public opinion, and when enough people are keeping up with the Joneses by being politically correct, the governments and corporations follow suit.
From this, all of the evils of civilization decline flow, and the society goes out like Rome, anesthetized to its own decline because the way that individuals succeed is by jumping on the bandwagon. What is right, is wrong. All values have been inverted. And so the people of that society play follow the leader all the way to their eventual doom.
Our only hope of avoiding this is not to fight political correctness, but to orient our civilization toward a different direction entirely, one in which what is true, right, sensible, logical and leads to the good is more important than our selves and our individualism. This requires a breakaway group who will rise above the rest, who seek authenticity so thoroughly that they aspire to a society of virtue:
In the succeeding generation rulers will be appointed who have lost the guardian power of testing the metal of your different races, which, like Hesiod’s, are of gold and silver and brass and iron. And so iron will be mingled with silver, and brass with gold, and hence there will arise dissimilarity and inequality and irregularity, which always and in all places are causes of hatred and war. This the Muses affirm to be the stock from which discord has sprung, wherever arising; and this is their answer to us.
The primary idea of virtue is that we, as individuals, are less important than the patterns of reality that show us how to adapt to our world. The inversion of this idea, individualism, arises from the Renaissance™ and Enlightenment™ and holds that the human individual is the new order that replaces nature, and therefore we can ignore both the physical aspects of nature that our wealth and technology have conquered, as well as the pattern-order of nature that determines what thrives and what dies in the long term.
Virtue commands that we eschew individualism in favor of purpose, and that this purpose must be like that of nature, which is an aristocratic and relentlessly aggressive drive toward constant improvement. Our society beat back the wolves and starvation, but it cannot beat the cycles of time and the logical way in which nature works. Virtue is the ultimate realism.
Right now, our civilization has fallen, which was formalized in the World Wars. All of our decisions leading up to those were based on individualism. If we want to rise again, and at the core of the Alt Right is a desire that we do, we will need to rediscover our virtue and discard the individualism that leads to political correctness and eventually, downfall.