Cathedral Round-Up (ish) #21: Syria

Syrian Alawite Falconer, circa WWII

I got bored of reading my usual list of Cathedral publications (although Stanford Mag did have an interesting article recently about a woman discovering her father’s book he wrote while in a Japanese POW camp during WWII [he was eventually beaten to death by the Japanese]), and decided to see what various universities had to say about Trump’s decision to attack Syria.

From Harvard, we have:

The Gangs of Syria (Harvard Political Review, 2012); Opinion: Bashar al-Assad is Syria’s problem, not its solution (Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center, 2015); Germany and Saudi Arabia: Alliance in Counter-Terrorism (Report by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, Harvard Scholar, 2016); and A War Apart: Syrians at Harvard (The Harvard Crimson, 2017):

On the first day of shopping week this fall, Nisreen S. Shiban ’17 received a phone call from Syria. She immediately knew that something must be wrong.

It was one of her uncles. His voice panicked, he asked Shiban to get in touch with her father and make sure her mother was not within earshot. He had devastating news to deliver: Shiban’s maternal uncle Makarem, a former veterinarian who had practically raised her, had been killed by ISIS fighters in Aleppo. …

A College senior’s aunt and uncle were beheaded by rebel groups in Daraa.

An Arabic language preceptor often woke up in the middle of the night worrying about her brother and sister in Damascus.

A College freshman lost 13 relatives in the bloodshed. …

A junior volunteered at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan in an effort to do something to ease the pain of her fellow Syrians.

A surgeon in Harvard’s Scholar at Risk program helped set up makeshift infirmaries to provide care to a bleeding city.

I didn’t find anything that was both recent and analytical (ie, not a human interest story,) but the bombing did happen only a few days ago and stories take time to publish, so we may have to wait for more reactions.

I also read some relevant articles about the Alawites and Cochran’s still-relevant article, How to Cut the Syrian Knot (2013):

President Obama is asking for Congressional approval of an attack against the government of Syria, in response to that government’s apparent use of nerve gas in eastern Damascus. …

The problem is that this strike doesn’t seem likely to help the United States. At least, that’s a problem for me, and it might even be a problem for some of the players in Washington.

First, we could be wrong. It does seem that a nerve agent killed over a thousand people in eastern Damascus—but who did it? The Syrian government certainly has chemical weapons, but it is possible to imagine ways in which some group among the rebels could have obtained some. Sarin isn’t even that difficult to manufacture. A Japanese nut cult, Aum Shinrikyo, managed it by themselves it back in 1995, killing 13 people in the Tokyo subway. The main objection to the official scenario, where Assad’s people used the nerve gas, is that doing so would have been irrational. …

So the Alawites are kind of interesting. Maybe not as fascinating as the Yazidis (*waves to Yazidi followers,) but still worth learning about and potentially extremely relevant to the situation. You probably already knew this, but Assad and his regime are Alawites, an ethno-religious group that forms about 11% of the overall Syrian population.

According to Wikipedia:

Alawites have historically kept their beliefs secret from outsiders and non-initiated Alawites, so rumours about them have arisen. Arabic accounts of their beliefs tend to be partisan (either positively or negatively).[14] However, since the early 2000s, Western scholarship on the Alawite religion has made significant advances.[15] At the core of Alawite belief is a divine triad, comprising three aspects of the one God. These aspects or emanations appear cyclically in human form throughout history. The last emanations of the divine triad, according to Alawite belief, were as Ali, Muhammad and Salman the Persian. Alawites were historically persecuted for these beliefs by the Sunni Muslim rulers of the area.

So it looks like traditional Alawite religion might have been kind of a mix of Christianity and Islam. This makes sense, given that Christianity was prominent in the area for about 600 years before Islam showed up, and when you leave behind the modern political/ethnic animosities people hold toward each other, both Islam and Christianity are built on pretty much the same base (Muslims even regard Jesus as a prophet.) There are weirder things than regarding Mohammad as just yet another prophet in the long line of Jewish prophets–like Mormonism, which is polytheistic but still gets grudgingly classed as a branch of Christianity. Continuing:

Alawis are self-described Shia Muslims, and have been called Shia by other sources[68][69] including the highly influential Lebanese Shia cleric Musa al-Sadr of Lebanon,[68][70] and Iranian religious and political leader Ruhollah Khomeini.[71][72][73]

Alawite doctrine incorporates Gnostic, neo-Platonic, Islamic, Christian and other elements and has, therefore, been described as syncretic.[15][76]…

Their theology is based on a divine triad,[63][77][78] or trinity, which is the core of Alawite belief.[79] The triad comprises three emanations of the one God: the supreme aspect or entity called the “Essence”[79] or the “Meaning”[78] (both being translations of maʿnā), together with two lesser emanations known as his “Name” (ism), or “Veil” (ḥijāb), and his “Gate” (bāb).[77][78][79][80] These emanations have manifested themselves in different human forms over several cycles in history, the last cycle of which was as Ali (the Essence/Meaning), Muhammad (the Name) and Salman the Persian (the Gate).[77][79][80][81][82]

Other beliefs and practices include: the consecration of wine in a secret form of Mass only open to males; frequently being given Christian names; burying the dead in sarcophagi above ground; observing Nowruz, Epiphany, Christmas[84] and the feast days of John Chrysostom and Mary Magdalene;[85] the only religious structures they have are the shrines of tombs;[86] the alleged book Kitab al Majmu, which is supposedly a central source of Alawite doctrine; and the belief that women do not have souls.[87][88][89][90]

Alawites have historically been kind of isolated, often oppressed and poor, but somehow managed to get control of the country after independence.

Considering that the majority of Syrians are Muslims, as are the majority of people in neighboring countries, the Alawites have good reason to want to be perceived as Muslims. I get the impression that a hundred years ago, the Alawites may have thought of themselves as pretty different from their Islamic neighbors, but today they see themselves as more similar–the push to get others to accept them as good Muslims, plus increased interaction with their neighbors due to urbanization, cars, TV, etc., may have changed their own view of themselves. (This process happened a while ago with different Christian groups–a Methodist would hardly balk at marrying a Lutheran–and is hard at work in Reform Jews, who have pretty high out-marriage rates.)

But as Cochran notes, just because they want to be accepted as good Muslims, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are:

Traditionally, Alawites were considered non-Muslim and treated like dirt—worse than Christians or Jews. You can see how the Sunni majority might resent being ruled by them—indeed, it’s hard to imagine how that ever came to pass. …

So, while the Baath party took over in 1963, the Alawites took over in 1966—and they haven’t let go yet.

The thing is, when you ride the tiger, you can’t let go. Although they have made efforts to build support outside their sect, through nationalist and redistributionist policies, the Alawite government has always faced violent opposition. They’ve put down full-scale revolts, most notably in Hama, 1982, where they leveled the city with artillery, killing tens of thousands. All that official violence means that they can’t afford to lose. Once the Alawites were despised, but now they’re hated. At this point, Peter W. Galbraith, former ambassador to Croatia, says “The next genocide in the world will likely be against the Alawites in Syria.”

From A War Apart: Syrians at Harvard:

As the conflict worsened and alliances formed, the war took on sectarian dimensions. President Assad’s family is Alawite, a minority Muslim sect that comprises roughly 10 percent of the Syrian population but has ruled over the majority Sunni country since the 1960s. Prior to the Arab Spring, Syrians across ethnic backgrounds had coexisted in a fragile peace, despite undercurrents of tension.

Shiban—who was born in Syria, moved to Qatar, then settled in the United States when she was 12 years old—comes from an Alawite family. Her family had close Sunni friends in Aleppo before the war. Shiban remembers playing with their children as music floated over the balcony where the adults sat sipping a traditional Middle Eastern drink and smoking hookah.

But when predominantly Sunni rebel groups began fighting for Assad’s overthrow in 2011, they were challenging not only the regime but also long-secure Alawite control. Some used religious affiliation as a rallying cry to mobilize the population against what they considered an oppressive minority. Faced with the very real threat of a take-over by a hostile majority, the Assad regime invoked Alawites’ identity to intimidate them into allegiance.

Swayed by this rhetoric, Shiban’s cousin and uncle left for the front lines. Neither would return.

Meanwhile, Shiban and her family noticed their Sunni friends sharing Facebook posts written by a Sunni religious leader promoting violence against Alawites. “We were very heartbroken. We were confused,” Shiban says. “When you hear about all of the infringements on human rights, constant censorship by the government… you can understand why a war like this would happen, but nobody could see people literally going against loved ones, friends, family.”

I am reminded here of similar accounts during the breakup of Yugoslavia–prior to the war, people spoke warmly of Yugoslavia as a multi-ethnic state in which people of different backgrounds lived in peace and harmony. Following the Fall of Communism and the Rise of Democracy, Yugoslavia degenerated into civil war and “ethnic cleansing,” a mild euphemism for genocide. Friends and neighbors turned on each other.

As frequent commentator SFC Ton notes, when countries collapse, they tend to do it on ethnic lines–and Syria is no exception.

In The Ever-Evolving Battle for Syria, (Yale Books Unbound, 2016,) Phillips writes:

David Cunningham, an expert on civil wars, has argued that the more external actors are involved, the longer civil wars last. With few hurting significantly as a result of their involvement, these actors rarely withdraw until their independent agendas are met; and the more agendas in play, the more difficult for any resolution to satisfy all players. If these agendas shift over time, resolution becomes even more difficult. Instead, the players act as “resolution blockers” prolonging the war. In Syria, feeding into the mixed agendas of the various domestic players, the six key external players have contributed six further agendas, none of which have remained static over the course of the conflict.

Though I admit that I admit very little about the situation, I am not in favor of US intervention against Assad. It’s not that I like Assad (I don’t know enough to have an opinion of the man;) I just think ISIS sounds much more frightening and have no confidence in America’s ability to make matters better. Remember that time we invaded Vietnam, and lots of people died and Vietnam still became a communist country? Or that time we supported the mujaheedin in Afghanistan and they turned into Al Qaeda and flew some planes into the NYC skyline? Or that time we invaded Iraq, deposed a dictator, installed democracy, and then got ISIS? Or that time we helped France and Britain instal a democracy in Germany, and the German people went and elected Hitler?

Our track record isn’t all bad–Japan is handling democracy just fine, though the Japanese idea of democracy seems to be re-electing the same party every time–it’s just mostly bad.

I started reading about Syria mostly because I found the media reaction to the bombing confusing: why were they so uniformly happy? Weren’t these the same people who were just telling us that Trump is a trigger-happy madman intent on hurting Muslims? Shouldn’t at least some of them be pointing out that Trump is now actually killing Muslims by bombing their country? Shouldn’t someone express concern that we don’t have good information about what’s actually happening in Syria, and so don’t know for sure that gas attack actually happened and was actually committed by Assad’s regime? I mean, “find out what actually happened before you act” is a moral taught in cartoons aimed at toddlers.

My confusion was compounded by the fact that most of the people I know expressed reservations about the bombing; many believe we should be supporting Assad against ISIS and that Assad is basically the “good guy” (or at least the “less bad guy”) in this whole mess.

And I don’t feel like I’m coming from a particularly partisan perspective, here. I don’t think your opinions about Obamacare or abortion or racism are really going to affect whether you think Assad used chemical weapons on his own people and now we should rain bombs on his people (because it is really bad when you die of chemical weapons but totally rainbows and kittens when you are blown to smithereens by a bomb.)

But then I remembered that democracy is America’s religion. Just as Muslims think non-Muslims should all convert to Islam, so Americans tend to think that non-democracies should all become democracies. Unfortunately, multi-culturalism seems to be one of democracies failure modes, as different ethnic groups start trying to vote themselves a larger share of the national pie.

Belgian refugee fleeing violence in the Congo following the end of colonial rule

Assad is a dictator, and in our simple heuristics, “dictator=bad.” The rebels are (or at least originally were) fighting for democracy, and “democracy=good.” Therefore people think Assad is a bad person (after all, if he were a good person, why would anyone rebel against him?) and needs to go. They’re not really thinking two steps down the line to, “If we take out Assad, the resulting power vacuum could allow someone even worse to come to power, like ISIS.”

There are many rebellions in the world. Go read the history of pretty much any African country and you’ll find a bunch. Few of these rebellions actually result in a real improvement in the lives of ordinary people, as the rebels often aren’t idealistic, moral young men who just want to make their country a wonderful place, but rival power factions that want to take the country’s wealth for themselves.

Even the Iranian Revolution began with many groups that wanted to oust the Shah so Iran could be a democracy–and the theocratic state they got in the end looks positively peachy next to ISIS.

A dictator might be bad, but it’s hard to be worse than civil war or ISIS.

South Carolina: The Land Democracy Forgot

While researching my post on migration and the Civil War, I came across a curious twist in American history: out of all the states in the union prior to 1860, one, South Carolina, never let its citizens vote for president. The popular vote did not come to South Carolina until after the Civil War, when democracy was imposed.

In America’s first election, (George Washington, 1789,) the country hadn’t really worked out how this whole “elections” thing worked. Three states didn’t even participate in the election; six states had no popular vote but let the legislature choose electors instead; three states held a popular vote for electors; and one state–Delaware–totally meant to let people vote, but forgot to get ballots.

Everything worked out, though, and Washington received 100% of the electoral votes.

By the election of 1800, 6 states had something resembling popular votes, and 10 did not.

In 1812, the country was evenly divided: 9 by popular vote, 9 by legislature.

In 1824, 18 states had popular votes and only 6 still used the legislature.

In 1828, only two states–South Carolina and Delaware–still had no popular vote, and by 1832, South Carolina was the only one left.

The citizens of South Carolina were not allowed to vote for president until the election of 1868, after the Civil War and the passage of various legislation related to reconstruction, black citizenship, and popular voting.

Strom Thurmond’s incredible 48 straight years as Senator from South Carolina makes me wonder, though, if democracy ever truly took hold in this final hold-out.

Cathedral Round-Up #19: You are the Hope of the World–The SJWs of 1917

Sometimes material for these posts falls serendipitously into my lap–such is today’s case: I have inherited from a great-grandparent in the Puritan line of the family a slim volume from 1917, Hermann Hagedorn’s You are the Hope of the World: An Appeal to the Boys and Girls of America, and oh boy, is it a doozy.

Since I’m dong a lot of quoting, I’ll be using “” instead of blockquotes for readability.

“YOU ARE THE HOPE OF THE WORLD! Girls and boys of America, you are the hope of the world! In Europe, boys of your age are dying daily by hundreds, by thousands! Millions lie dead or wounded; or, fam- ishing in prison camps, watch the slow wasting of body and mind. Millions! Can you imagine it? Five million! Ten million! God knows, how many million more! Twelve million. Fifteen million, perhaps. It is an impossible figure — so huge that it means nothing. …

“Europe does not know yet what she has lost. Europe has great scientists still, great poets, great tellers of tales, inventors, merchants, physicians, preachers. But they are old, or aging. They will pass away, and Europe will look around and cry: “My old heroes are passing. It is time for my young heroes to take the places of honor.” And Europe will call for her young heroes. Europe will call for new poets, new tellers of tales, new scientists, new inventors, new merchants, new physicians, new preachers. And no one will answer. No young heroes will appear. …

“over there across the ocean every twenty seconds, on an average, down goes a brave boy, and out goes another can- dle, and on one of you over here suddenly falls a new responsibility. You don’t feel it, but there it is. That French boy or that English or German or Russian boy, may leave his watch- fob to his brother and his watch to his best friend, but he leaves his chance in life to you. He might have been a great scientist and drawn some wizardry, yet unknown, out of the air; he might have been a great musician, a great engineer; he might have been the immortal leader men have been looking for, ages long, to lead the world to a better civilization. He’s gone, dead at nineteen. Young America, you are his heir! Don’t you feel his mantle on your shoulders? …

[Says the young American:]””It makes me sort of sorry for Europe. Why, when the old duffers die, they’ll holler for new men and —”

“”There won’t be any new men.”

“”They’ll get into a scrape — perhaps another war like this — and they’ll holler for a Washington or a Lincoln, or even for a What’s-his-name? — Joffre — or a What’s-his- name — Lloyd George — to pull ’em out, and there won’t —”

“”There won’t be any Washington or Lincoln or Joffre or Lloyd George.”

“”Who’ll there be?”

“”Perhaps nobody — in Europe.”

You sit a minute, Young America, thinking that over. And then suddenly you rise to your feet, and throw away your cigarette, and frown, puzzled a bit. And then very slowly you say:

“”Why, it looks as though when that time comes — perhaps — it may — be — up to us.” Right you are, Young America!”

[EvX: Note that Hermann is predicting that in the event of another World War, Europe will not be able to produce for itself the likes of Churchill or Hitler.]

“Why, you say, are we the world’s hope? … You can’t evade it, Young America. The stars have conspired against you. Destiny, which made your country rich and gave her great leaders in time of need, and helped her to build a magnificent republic out of many races and many creeds; Destiny that brought you to the light under the Eagle and the Stars and Stripes; Destiny, that chose America to be the greatest laboratory, the greatest testing-ground of democracy in the world; Destiny, Fortune, God, whatever you want to call laid on you the privilege and the responsibility of being the hope of a world in tears. You can carry this responsibility and be glorious. You can throw it off, and be damned. But you cannot ignore it. …

“The world knows that in you, whether your ancestors came over in the Mayflower three hundred years ago, or in the steerage of a liner twenty years ago, lives the spirit of a great tradition. The world puts its hope in you, but not only in you. It puts its hope in the great ghosts that stand behind you, upholding your arms, whispering wisdom to you, patience, perseverance, courage, crying, “Go on, Young America! We back you up!” Washington, first of all! And around him, Putnam, Warren, Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Hamilton, Jeffer- son, Marshall, Greene, Stark!

[EvX: There follows a long enumeration of American heroes–let us note that at this time, Americans still had heroes and Yale’s students were not “angry, saddened and deeply frustrated” by the University’s decision to name a dormitory after Benjamin Franklin.]

“You remember what the British officer said of Marion’s band? “They go without pay, they go without clothes, living on roots and drinking water — all for liberty. What chance have we against such men?” …

“All Europe paid tribute to pirates in Barbary, and America paid tribute, because everybody was doing it; it seemed to be the style. But then some Bashaw in Tripoli or Tunis, seeing easy money, jacked up his price. And Europe said: “Oh, all right. If you’ll only keep quiet!” But the little U.S. cried: “No, you dirty pirate! We’re hanged if we’ll pay you another cent!” And the ships went over, gallant ships with all sails full, and there was no more tribute-paying after they came back! …

“Rogers and Clark are behind you, Fremont, Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, Sam Houston, Davy Crockett. You remember? “Thermopylae had its messengers of death, the Alamo had none.” The frontiersmen, the Indian fighters, the pioneers are behind you, dauntless of spirit; the colonists of Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, the New Netherlands, the Carolinas; the settlers in wild lands, pressing westward … the brave builders of the West are behind you, … John Brown of Osawatomie is there! And there, Sherman, Sheridan, Meade, Thomas, Farragut, Grant, silent, tenacious, magnanimous! Stonewall Jackson, Stuart, Lee! And in the midst of them, the greatest of all, Lincoln, with his hand on your shoulder, Young America, saying, “Sonny, I’m with you. Go on!” …

“[WWI] has to many of you, perhaps, seemed merely a brawl in the dark among thieves, or a midnight riot in a madhouse. The issues have been confused. … Because the Right was hard to catch and hold, we cried that there was no Right in it. That was the comfortable point of view. …

“As the months went by, one truth began to emerge with increasing clearness from the smoke and welter and confusion. We saw, dimly at first, then more and more clearly, that the War was not merely a war between competing traders, a war for a place in the sun on the one side, and economic supremacy on the other; but a war of conflicting fundamental ideas. We were slow to see this. It took a revolution in Russia to open our eyes; it took the joyous shout of the countless Siberian exiles, welcoming freedom, to open our ears. But we understand now. We know at last what the war is about. We see at last what the Allies have seen from the beginning, that this is a war between kings and free men. The nations that believe in kings and distrust the people have challenged, with intent to destroy, or incapacitate, the nations that believe in the people and won’t let the kings out in public without a license, a muzzle and a line. It is a war between autocracy and democracy, and beyond that, it is a struggle for the extirpation of war; a struggle between the powers who believe that there is profit in war and the powers who know that there is no profit in it; between the powers who are looking back to a sort of earnest cave-man as an ideal, and the powers who are looking forward to a reasoning, reasonable, law-abiding man with a ballot.

[EvX: Note the many ways in which this is an absurd lie. Did the Kaiser of Germany and the Czar of Russia pitch their armies against each other because one of them was an autocrat and the other a democrat? Did the Communist Revolution in Russia result in freedom, liberty, or democracy for the people there, or mass famines, secret police, and gulags?]

“Blacker and sharper every day, against the lurid glow of flaming villages and smouldering cities, looms the Peril of Kings, and louder and grimmer from millions of graves rumbles the Doom of Kings. If there is any validity in human evidence, and if the logical conclusions of clear minds from clear-cut evidence mean anything at all, this Great War was begun by kings and sons of kings. It will not be ended by kings. It will be ended by folks named Smith and Jones and Robinson; and the kings and sons of kings thereafter will eat their meals through wire baskets, and there will be number-plates on their collars. Foolish dudes and silly women will keep them as pets. Out of this agony of death is coming “a new birth of freedom.”

[EvX: Again he is wrong, for the Russian Czars were not kept as pets (what?) but cruelly murdered shortly after this volume appeared, even poor little Alexei who had certainly never done another human a single ounce of wrong.]

“Young America, if in these days there is one thought emerging like a green island out of the turbulent sea of conflicting opinions, it is that civilization demands the spread of the democratic idea. Kings take to war as Congressmen take to Appropriation Bills. There is no question about that. Nothing in history is surer. … When kings wanted glory, they went and took it out of their neighbors; when they wanted gold, they made war and got it; … And when their people rebelled, they went to war for no reason at all, but just to quiet them down. A good many men died and a good many women became destitute in the course of those adventures, but kings have romance on their side and they have always made believe that they had God on their side, too. The Kaiser isn’t the first king who has chattered about Me und Gott. He is merely the last of a long, sad line of self-deluded frauds. Kings gain by war, and cliques of nobles or plutocrats gain by war; the Lords of Special Privilege thrive and grow fat on aggression.

“But the people do not thrive on it. Smith and Jones and Robinson do not gain by aggression. Uncle Sam might annex Cuba, Mexico, Canada, and South America to-morrow, and Smith and Jones and Robinson would gain nothing from it all. They would lose. For public attention would be so fixed on the romantic glitter of conquest that, hi its shadow, corruption would thrive as never before. Progress within the nation would cease while we pursued the treacherous will-o’-the-wisp of imperialism into distant marshes. Smith and Jones and Robinson know this, and where they control the government, there is not much talk of colonies and the White Man’s Burden. The governments that are controlled by Smith and Jones and Robinson, which means the Common People, are called democracies; and in so far as they are true democracies they are a force for the abolition of war.

[EvX: Were Hermann correct, the US would have never expanded past the territories of the original 13 Colonies, would have never conquered Texas, Mexico, Cuba, etc., and we would be much the poorer for all of this land we had obtained. Likewise, the US would not have entered WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I, Gulf War II, etc., while those monarchies in the Middle East–like Saudi Arabia–would be out conquering their neighbors.

Of course, our author does protect his position with a “no true Scotsman” clause.]

“They have been called to die for their country, but you are called to live for your country. Those who die in the fight for democracy, die for more than their country; they die to build a lasting peace. You who live for the service of democracy, live for the service of more than your country. You live to build, out of the agony and the ashes, a better world than the sun has yet shone upon! …

“”Or put it another way. Somebody who tells you that everything isn’t all hunkydory with America is a bad American, eh?”

“”You bet. If Teacher tried to get off any knocks on Uncle Sam, I’d tell my father, and my father’d get her discharged.”

“”You’re off, sonny. And your father’s off. All you spread-eagle people, who think that the only way to be loyal to Uncle Sam is to pretend that he’s perfect as a cottonwool peach, are off. Your Uncle Sam isn’t perfect, sonny. In fact, he’s just about a hundred thousand miles from perfect.” …

“But the only way our U.S.A. ever will be good and great is for us all to look at ourselves, to look at our nation squarely and without blinking, and keep our minds alert lest we get into bad company and do things that George and Abraham might not like. But Teacher says, in effect: “No! Don’t look at your own faults. Look at the faults of others and forget your own. You’ll be much happier that way!” … Young America, there are times when I should like to see Teacher shot at sunrise in that empty lot down the block. For that sort of jabber is, in the first place, a lie. And in the second place, it’s a damned lie. And in the third place, it’s treason, for it makes you think there’s nothing for you to do. And that’s like putting a bomb under the Capitol. Young America, I know you don’t like to have me say that democracy isn’t a success. It sounds disloyal somehow. But it isn’t disloyal. It’s just trying to look at things squarely, and without blinking, … Democracy is n’t a success — yet. Government of the people, by the people, for the people, is n’t achieved — yet. Do you think it is? You remember what the Grand Old Fellows said in the Declaration: Men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . . Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Look about you. Does it seem to you that the slums in your own city afford life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to the men and women and children, freezing and starving in winter, sweltering and starving in summer? Does it seem to you that the factories where children work eight, ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day help those children achieve those unalienable rights? …

“It is a mystery to me, Young America, why the great men, whose lives and heroic deeds make up the history of this Republic, should have permitted us, the nieces and nephews of Uncle Sam, to take democracy, to take the principle of popular government, as lightly, as carelessly, as we have taken it. Perhaps they lacked imagination to see what a republic, based as firmly as ours, might accomplish with an alert and conscientious citizenry; perhaps, like Lincoln, they were too busy with enormous problems, concrete and immediate, to do more than point out the direction of progress; perhaps they were just optimistic, trusting blissfully in the old convenient notion that, by means of some piece of divine jugglery, some light- fingered shifting of omelets under a hat, the voices of five, ten, fifteen mil- ion farmers, factory-hands, brokers, lawyers, clerks, longshoremen, saloon- keepers, Tammany Hall heelers, murderers, repeaters and Congressmen, became the Voice of God.

“Our great men have been loyal to the principle of democracy. … But few, if any, have hammered into our heads the simple truth that democracy is like religion… what definite thing do we ever do to keep alive that little sprig of democracy which is native in the heart of every American girl and boy? What do we do to feed it and tend it and water it? America depends for its life, its liberty, its happiness, on a wide-awake and conscientious citizen- ship; but what do we ever do to build up such a citizenship? …

“What school or college that you ever heard of has in its curriculum emphasized the prime importance of citizenship? I suppose they teach you some civics in your school, and I’ll bet you a dollar it’s drier than algebra. Perhaps they give you a dab at current events — mostly events, and mighty little, I’ll swear, about the current on which they float. For history, I suppose they give you the same accumulation of pleasant legends they gave me when I was fifteen or thereabouts. All about the glory, and nothing about the shame, the stupidity, the greed! As though you were a fool who did n’t know that no man and no country can be all good or all bad; but that both are a mixture of good and bad, and will be loved by their children even if they do make mistakes! …

“Every American boy becomes a hand in the great Factory of Public Welfare we call the United States, the day he is twenty-one. He knows he is going into that factory, and his elders know he is going into it, and they all know that his happiness and their own happiness may depend on his loyalty to the interests of that factory and his understanding of the machinery of that factory. You’d think they’d tell him some- thing beforehand about machinery in general, wouldn’t you? You’d think they’d prepare him a bit to be a good mechanic when his time came. The machinery is so fine and delicate, you’d think the Directors would insist on reducing to a minimum the risk of smashing it up.

“But they don’t…. These Directors go from school to school, and instead of scolding the school-teachers for failing to give you training in government-mechanics, they pat you on the back, Young America, and tell you to be good factory hands, nice factory hands, loyal factory hands; and that the Factory is the grandest factory in the world, and you ought to be glad that you belong to that particular factory, because it is a free factory, where every one can do exactly as he pleases. The Directors say a great many uplifting things, but do they take you to the machine and explain it to you, and stand over you until you know what makes it go? Oh, no! Nothing like that! They tell you that you are the greatest little mechanic in the world and then leave you to wreck the machine as thoroughly as your native common sense will permit. As for freedom — for the ignorant and the untrained there is no such thing as freedom. The ignorant and the untrained are slaves to their own inefficiency. Those only are free who know. Young America, girls and boys can be trained to the work of citizenship even as greenhorns can be trained to the use of machinery; trained in the home, trained in school, trained in college. And we must be trained, Young America, if this country is ever going to be the wise, the just, the humane force for progress in the world that we want it to be. …

I have gone about like Diogenes with a lantern, trying to find a man or boy who has seen or even heard of a school or college that tried deliberately, fearlessly, and thoroughly to train its girls and boys to be intelligent citizens. Colleges teach government and history, but the courses are optional. Nothing in their catalogues suggests that a patriotic citizen will apply himself to these subjects. Physics may be compulsory and Latin or German or French may be compulsory, for those constitute Culture; but never by any chance the subjects that constitute the background for good citizenship. … Do [teachers] bend over you with a blessing or a club and say: You’ll be a decent citizen, my son, or I’ll know the reason why!” — do they? You would think your school- masters had never heard of such a thing as citizenship.

[EvX: Note the contradiction between our author’s certainty that democracy must be explicitly taught in order to succeed, and his complaint that in the past 140 or so years of this country, no one has bothered to teach it, and yet we had not descended into autocracy.]

“You may be too young to die for democ- racy; but no girl or boy is ever too young to live for democracy! Your country is at war. You can- not go to the front. But, in the high- est sense, you are the true Home Guard. Are you going to do your part? In your nation’s critical hour, girls and boys of America, what are you going to do?…

“Unlike the college boy who prefers to stay away from baseball games, the citizen who prefers to stay away from the polls does not lose caste. No one has been taught to see him for the contemptible shirker that he is. For there is no tradition of public service. Young America, it is your opportunity and your obligation to create that tradition; … set forth and gather a friend or two friends or three friends about you and… determine that henceforth you will think about the needs of America, and argue about the needs of America, and give your hands and your hearts to serve the needs of America; and consider any man or woman, boy or girl, who does otherwise, a traitor to the United States and a traitor to the principle of democracy!…

“You must not only run ahead of your parsons and your schoolmasters, you must yourselves awake your parsons and your schoolmasters! Some of them are heavy sleepers, as you know. Bang on the door and drag them out of bed. Not too ceremoniously! Riot, if need be! There are too few riots in American schools and colleges against the cramping conservatism of the elder generation. …

“If your elders in school and college will not volunteer to lead you, lead yourselves, and demand their support! Speak gently to Teacher, speak persuasively to Teacher, but if words don’t wake him, RIOT, girls and boys of America! Do you call yourselves really Americans? Then jump to your feet, resolved that this great nation shall no longer waste its opportunities!

“Think what the republican hearts hidden behind the gray khaki of Germany would give for the democratic institutions you possess! Their lives would seem to them payment ridiculously inadequate. And you possess these institutions and shrug your shoulders and say, in effect, that you should worry what happens to them. Do you say that, you who read these lines? If you do, you are base, and deserve to die as Benedict Arnold died, in a garret in a foreign land, cursing the day that he betrayed his country! Does that sound harsh and violent to you, girls and boys of America? I tell you, the time has passed when we could afford to chatter lightly over the teacups concerning the needs and the shortcomings of our country. Smash the cups, Young America, and come out and fight, that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth. Fight! …

Your elder brothers will have to fight with guns; many of them will have to die here or with their fellows-in-democracy in France and Flanders. … To you, girls and boys of ten, twelve, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, is given a work every bit as grand as dying for your country; and that is, living for the highest interests of your country! Those interests are the interests of democracy. If, therefore, you live for the highest interests of America, you live at the same time for the highest interests of the world. In that struggle, the goal is neither nationalism nor internationalism. It is democracy. It is a lasting peace among nations; and, as far as it is humanly possible, amity among men. Go to it! Go to it, girls and boys of America! You are the hope of the world.”

 

EvX: After completing the book (it is a short read and you may finish it yourself if you wish before continuing with this post,) I looked up the author’s biography on Wikipedia and managed to actually surprise myself by how thoroughly Cathedral Hagedorn was:

Hermann Hagedorn (18 July 1882 – 27 July 1964) was an American author, poet and biographer.

He was born in New York City and educated at Harvard University, where he was awarded the George B. Sohier Prize for literature, the University of Berlin, and Columbia University. From 1909 to 1911, he was an instructor in English at Harvard.

Hagedorn was a friend and biographer of Theodore Roosevelt. He also served as Secretary and Director of the Theodore Roosevelt Association from 1919 to 1957. Drawing upon his friendship with Roosevelt, Hagedorn was able to elicite the support of Roosevelt’s friends and associates’ personal recollections in his biography of TR which was first published in 1918 and then updated in 1922 and which is oriented toward children.

(Funny how Teddy Roosevelt has been nearly completely forgotten these days, compared to his fame back when Mount Rushmore was carved.)

On the Measures of Meaning

This post was inspired primarily by a liberal acquaintance–we’ll call her Juliet.

picture-6Since the election, Juliet has been suicidal. I don’t mean she’s actually tried to commit suicide; (suicidal women very rarely actually commit suicide, unlike suicidal men.) I just mean she’s posted a lot of angst-ridden things on the internet about how she wants to die because Trump is going to destroy everything in a giant fireball, and literally the only thing she has left to live for are her 3 dogs and 10 cats.

Juliet is one of those people who thinks that we are one heavy bootstep away from Holocaust 2.0 (despite such a thing never having happened in all of American history,) and that the US was an oppressive, horrible, quasi-genocidal place up until 4-8 years ago. (She’s the same age as me, so she has no youth excuse for not knowing what life was like 10 years ago.)

I think this is a side effect of really buying into the BLM narrative that the police have just been slaughtering black children in the streets and we are finally doing something about it, and the perception that gay people are a much larger % of the population than they actually are and assumption that forbidding gay marriage inconvenienced people far more than it actually did. (Buying the BLM narrative is understandable, I guess, if you aren’t familiar with crime stats.)

Poem by "ECC" http://ecc-poetry.tumblr.com/tagged/edited-to-reflect-my-latina-status
Poem by “ECC

Now, I have lived through elections that didn’t go my way. My side has lost, and I have felt quite unhappy. But I have never rioted, set things on fire, or decided that my life is meaningless and begun envying the dead.

So I got thinking: What gives people meaning? Why do many people feel like their lives are meaningless?

Meaning can come from many sources, but (I suspect) we derive it from three main sources:

1. Worthwhile work

2. Family

3. Religion

1. Worthwhile work is work that is valuable and inherently satisfying. Farmers, for example, do worthwhile work. Worthwhile work creates a direct relationship between a person’s efforts and the food on their table and their physical well-being, where working harder results in a better life for oneself and potentially one’s friends, family, and community.

Marx (who was not entirely wrong about everything) wrote about how modern industrial factories disassociate the worker from the product of his labor. No individual worker creates a single product, and the individual working harder than expected creates no appreciable effect on the end results. Workers have no control over factories, cannot (typically) implement creative ideas that would improve products or production methods, and basically live at the whims of the factory owners and broad economic trends rather than their own efforts.

(There’s a great irony that Marxism, as actually implemented, just scaled all of the problems of the factory up to the level of the whole society, making entire nations miserable.)

From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that people desire to do things that result in eating and don’t really want to obey others in huge, impersonal systems where their actions don’t have any obvious impact on their personal well-being.

Due to technological changes, most of us have far nicer, healthier, well-fed lives than our ancestors, while simultaneously our jobs have become far less instinctually fulfilling, because we simply don’t need that many people producing food or hand-making clothes and furniture anymore. So few of us–my acquaintance included–are likely to have actually fulfilling work.

2. People live–literally–for their families. Throughout the entirety of human history, almost 100% of people who survived infancy and lived long enough to reproduce and continue the human line were people whose families cared about them and took care of them.

Yes, women post inordinately about their children and grandparents babble on about their “grandbabies,” but this is exactly as it should be; from an evolutionary perspective, your descendents are the most important thing in the world to you. All of our efforts are ultimately aimed at the well-being and survival of our children; indeed, many people would sacrifice their own lives to save their kids.

To give a personal example: having kids (well, one at a time, so kid) was probably the single most significant event in my life. Not just because of the predictable changes (less sleep, more diaper changes,) but also because of the not-subtle at all but somewhat difficult to describe complete and utter re-orienting of my entire “self.”

In real life, I am a very shy, retiring person. A few weeks into kiddo’s life, I became concerned that something was wrong, and at that moment, I knew that nothing and nobody would stop me from getting my child to the doctor. My normally shy, fearful personality was dust before the needs of my child.

People talk about “female empowerment.” This was empowerment.

(Luckily, everything turned out fine–colic is a very common problem and in many cases can be treated, btw.)

Perhaps not surprising, all of the people I know who are distressed because their lives lack meaning also do not have children. Indeed, the person I know who went the furthest down this road was a father whose wife left him and whose small child died, leaving him utterly alone. Without any purpose in his life, he stopped working, stopped interacting with the world, and became homeless: a kind of living death.

The devastation of loneliness is horrible.

And yet, despite living in the richest society in pretty much all of human history, we’ve decided en masse to cut the number of children we have. Gone are the days when children had 7 siblings and 40 cousins who all lived nearby and played together. Gone are the neighborhoods full of happy children who can just walk outside and find a playmate. We moderns are far more likely than our ancestors to have no children, no siblings, no spouse, and to live 3,000 miles away from our own parents.

Juliet, as you may have guessed, does not have any children. (Hence the cats.)

3. The power of religion to bring meaning to people’s lives almost needs no explanation. Religious people are happier, more fulfilled, and live longer, on average, than atheists, despite atheists’ strong concentration among society’s richest and smartest. I’ve even heard that priests/ministers have some of the highest work satisfaction levels–their work is meaningful and pleasant.

In times of suffering, religion provides comfort and soothes distress. It provides the promise that even horrible things are actually part of some grand plan that we don’t understand and that everything will be all right in the end. The idea that death is not permanent, your sins can be forgiven, or that you can influence divine powers to make the world a better place all make people happier.

Now, I am not saying this because I am a religious person who wants you to follow my religion. Like Juliet, I don’t believe in God (though I do believe, metaphorically, in GNON, which does let me attribute some “purpose” to the grand variety I see around me. Things do not always go my way, but unlike Juliet, I live in a world that at least makes sense.)

 

Work, scaled up, is the business of taming the land, building homes and cities and ultimately a country. Family, scaled up, is the tribe, the clan, and the nation. And religion itself is highly grounded in both land and family.

Juliet, being a very smart, sensible person, (who does not believe in sexist nonsense like evolutionary psychology,) looks at all of the things that give meaning to people’s lives and dismisses them as absurd. Religion is obviously delusional; having children is an inconvenience; and while she’d love a meaningful job if she could get one, these are hard to come by. Having rejected or been denied all of the things that normally give people meaning, she finds that life is meaningless.

We do have one source of meaning left: politics. As Moldbug famously noted, liberalism is neo-Puritanism is the religion of America, simply shorn of that Constitutionally inconvenient “God” business.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

cara-delevingne-support-the-bring-back-our-girlsWith nothing else to provide meaning to their lives, not even the mild nationalism of thinking their own country/society a generally nice place, lonely atheists with empty jobs have turned to politics to fill the void. If they can save the whales, or the refugees, or the gay people, then they will have achieved meaning. In reality, this dedication is often quite shallow, a fly-by-night concern with the lives of strangers that lasts until the next pressing hashtag pops up.

It’s as though the desire to care for one’s family does not dissipate simply because one is barren, but instead gets transferred to strangers (or animals) who are unlikely to return the favor.

I mean, take another look at that poem, which I’ve seen about a dozen SJWs post. How many of these women are going to have even one child, much less an army of them (mixed race or not)? How many of these women are already married and are effectively declaring that they intend to betray their own husbands? How many of them could, after having babies with a dozen different men, afford to raise and care for them by themselves, without depending on the horrible, Trump-run white-supremecist state for help? (Suing men for child support is depending on the state.)

No. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people posting the poem have no intention of acting on it. Someone else can do the actual work of making babies and raising the next generation of social warriors.

Juliet’s suicidality stems from the fact that she cannot achieve meaningful political change (or even just attach herself symbolically to it) because she lives in a democracy where the majority of people can just vote to do something else. Everything she has worked for, her entire identity as a “good person,” everything that provides meaning in her life has been destroyed just because some guys in Ohio are concerned about feeding their families.

 

This post is over, but I want to add a post script: Juliet is not even remotely Jewish. Her family is not Jewish; she has no Jewish ancestors; she has no connection to Israel. People blame a lot of stuff on Jews that I see Gentile women also doing, while plenty of religious Jews are perfectly sane people. The meaning deficit affects people of every religions/ethnic background.

Happy 500 posts! (We’re having a party) Open Thread

tjnsqlmNot counting a couple of guest posts, nor a few regularly scheduled posts that I haven’t written yet but will go up between the writing and the reading of this post, I believe I have just finished my 500th post!

(That means we are halfway to 1,000 posts!)

Since this blog would be a much duller place without my great readers and commentators, tell me about yourselves:

Where did you come from? (How did you find my blog?)

Which posts here do you like best? Like least?

What would you like to read more of?

Do you read any similar blogs (if so, which?)

Tell me something else about yourself!

In interesting links from around the web, we have:

The Oldest, most Complete Bible on Earth is in Ethiopia:

The world’s earliest known illustrated copy of the Gospels, the Garima Gospels, has been saved for centuries in a remote Ethiopian monastery.

Experts believe the Garima Gospels are also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages.

Experts believe the Garima Gospels are also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages. …

Legend says he copied the Gospels in just one day because God delayed the sun from setting so the monk could finish his work. The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery, near Adwa, in northern Ethiopia at 7,000 feet.

Incidentally, Ethiopia also claims to have the Ark of the Covenant.

c2tuujzxeaamu3jMapping the Spread of Mounted Warfare, by Turchin et al.

Look at their map! Isn’t it great? Yes!

Does selection for short sleep duration explain human vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease?

Compared with other primates, humans sleep less and have a much higher prevalence of Alzheimer ’s disease (AD) pathology. This article reviews evidence relevant to the hypothesis that natural selection for shorter sleep time in humans has compromised the efficacy of physiological mechanisms that protect against AD during sleep. In particular, the glymphatic system drains interstitial fluid from the brain, removing extra-cellular amyloid beta (eAβ) twice as fast during sleep. In addition, melatonin – a peptide hormone that increases markedly during sleep – is an effective antioxidant that inhibits the polymerization of soluble eAβ into insoluble amyloid fibrils that are associated with AD. Sleep deprivation increases plaque formation and AD, which itself disrupts sleep, potentially creating a positive feedback cycle. …

unicorn sheep
unicorn sheep

And A Meta-Analysis of the Self-Control-Deviance Link:

Results

A random effects mean correlation between self-control and deviance was Mr = 0.415 for cross-sectional studies and Mr = 0.345 for longitudinal ones; this effect did not significantly differ by study design. Studies with more male participants, studies based on older or US-based populations, and self-report studies found weaker effects.

Conclusions

Substantial empirical support was found for the main argument of self-control theory and on the transdisciplinary link between self-control and measures of crime and deviance. In contrast to Pratt and Cullen, but consistent with theory, the effect from cross-sectional versus longitudinal studies did not significantly differ. There was no evidence of publication bias.

c17gyrmuoaallvaOn to Comments of the Week! (Gosh, this is hard, because you guys have left some excellent comments this week!)

August Hurtel in Democracy is America’s Religion:

But I also think it is a true observation. Democracy is damaging to Christianity. it does function like an idol.

I would have trouble with a response to ‘convert me’ too, though. Much of evangelism you see I think is caused by democracy and a sense of free resources. This idea that a sudden revival would be great- meanwhile, the average local church doesn’t have enough of an economy to handle it’s own children. Kids need to grow up and see a productive path forward, get married, and continue the church in time. Modern Christians don’t understand this, for some reason. Churches shut down due to lack of ability to think inter-generationally. Of course, this is a problem for much of secular America too. …

imnobody00 in the same thread:

Very close, but false. Democracy is not our religion. Our religion is the Enlightenment religion, which is a polytheistic religion.

The main god of this religion is the Self. The highest good is doing what the Self wants to do (instead of doing what God wants, what tradition states, what the community wants). The next god is Pleasure (derived from Self).

There are a row of second-tier gods: liberty, equality, relativism…

I also liked the other comments in this thread, but that’s enough quoting.

Over in Creationism, Evolutionism, and Categories, August Hurtel notes:

If we pay attention to the history of science, we would see that it includes a huge chunk of time wherein in Christians said ‘God did it’ and then they went about trying to figure out how God did it.

This really wasn’t much of an problem until the 1800s as the revolutions supplanted what was left of the nobility, and we became stuck with bureaucrats at the apex of our societies. Now, suddenly, what you believe or don’t believe is so ridiculously important. …

and Anon opines:

I think the “race is a social construct” people are 100% right, but for the wrong reasons. Unless you’re an essentialist (which is basically a type of creationism), categories do not exist in a mind-independent way. In other words, they are socially constructed. You may cleave at the joints, but you’re still cleaving. The issue isn’t social construction, it’s whether a the construct is arbitrary or based on reality.

You say the Answers in Genesis approach to species is unobjectionable. And it is. But this just highlights the socially constructed nature of the scheme. It’s easy to think of other approaches that yield different results and are also unobjectionable. A chihuahua and a great dane can’t breed (in vivo), but it’s not due to incompatible gametes..what do we do in that case? Depending on the situation, we may wish to group dogs and wolves together, or split each into their own group, or treat dog breeds separately. …

Democracy is America’s Religion

So I was thinking the other day–Why are Westerners (particularly Americans) so introverted about their religious beliefs? I have on occasion posted “Convert Me” open threads in which I invite people to give me their best arguments for following their religion, and gotten very few enthusiastic responses. Even the Jehovah’s Witness who visited my thread only made a half-effort just to humor me, not because she actually wanted to convert me.

(I can already hear you asking: Why would I post such a thread? To which I reply, Why not? I enjoy discussing religion. If the religious are correct and I am convinced to join them, then I gain something good. If I am not convinced, then I lose nothing, for I am already an atheist. I have no reason to fear discussion with a theist.)

Mormon missionaries occasionally ring my bell. I always make an effort to be polite and listen, and even they really just want to hand me a pamphlet and hurry on to the next house.

The only people who have ever really, seriously tried to convert me are Muslims (and I must note that they did so in an entirely friendly manner.) Where the Christians ask, “Why would you want us to convert you?” and the Mormons say, “Well, I think there are lots of religions because God gave each group of people their own religion best suited to themselves,” (actual quote from a Mormon missionary, I am serious) the Muslims will happily pester you with a whole slew of websites about why Islam is correct, how the Qu’ran is full of good science, how lovely the Qu’ranic poetry is, etc.

(Of course, you’re not going to get a Jew to try to convert you unless you tell him your mother was a Jew and you really wan to return to your Jewish roots.)

Frankly, I think Americans find the whole idea of being devoutly religious–much less discussing religion with the non-devout–vaguely embarrassing. Sure, maybe that elderly lady down the block who hands out Chick Tracts instead of Halloween candy would like to talk about Jesus with you, but can’t the rest of us please just talk about football?

This blog was practically kicked off with the observation that devout Christianity is low class, while a kind of vague, multi-faith “spirituality” is the religion–if you must have one–of the upper class. A quick look at some demographic data makes the picture:

From Pew Research Center, http://www.pewforum.org/2009/01/30/income-distribution-within-us-religious-groups/
From Pew Research Center

Not a whole lot of surprises, though I will note that it does matter how you break down the groups, and I think I’ve seen different numbers elsewhere for Muslim-Americans.

Of course the flipside of Muslims being really keen on spreading their religion is that sometimes things go quite badly and violently.

And if you’re an American (or French, or Swedish, or German, or whatever,) this feels awfully unfair, because after all, when have we ever blown anything up in Mecca in the name of Jesus?

But then I got to thinking: obviously we have bombed Muslim countries. We dropped quite a few on Iraq–and for what? For Freedom? For Democracy?

We didn’t want to convert Iraq to Christianity (not the vast majority of us, anyway.) We wanted to convert Iraq to democracy.

You know, we destroyed a perfectly innocent country–killed thousands of people–and we barely feel a pang of remorse. Why? Because we did it to help them? We though they’d be happier if they just lived in a democracy, just like your office mate with the Chick Tracts thinks you’ll be happier if you just accept Jesus as your savior and Muslims think you’ll be happier if you become a Muslim.

Christianity and Islam (or certain branches of Islam) are not at war. They can’t be at war because Christianity isn’t fighting. Not in the West, anyway. Maybe in the Philippines or South America or somewhere, but certainly not in the West.

Now here I should stop to note that several Islamic countries are democracies, more or less, and many Muslims also believe in Democracy. So this is a conflict within Islam as well as without. But this post isn’t about Islam–I am not an Islamic expert and don’t feel comfortable writing about Islamic issues.

However, this is a post about the West, and how Democracy has become our chief religion, taking the place Christianity once occupied.

(I am sure my readers are split between “Well that is nothing new; Moldbug said that ages ago,” and “What a stupid idea. Democracy can’t be a religion.”)

Trump has re-forged the old Democratic alliance of FDR, and he’s done it in the ruins of the Republican party

Those of you who remember history may recall that the South used to vote solidly Democrat. FDR and his ilk represented an alliance of poor southern farmers and norther factory workers against rich capitalists. This was the triumph of American socialism, the proletariat united against the bourgeois.

This worked until LBJ, with the Civil Rights act and Immigration Act. After LBJ, southern whites began voting Republican. Democrats haven’t gotten a majority of the white vote since LBJ. Republicans became an alliance of rural, poor, morally-oriented Christians and rich, war-mongering assholes like George W. Bush. Dems have often questioned this coalition.

Dems have been an alliance of working-class unions, college-educated, and minorities.

Trump captured the Dem’s working-class whites, who have felt increasingly alienated in a party that has been focusing on “white privilege” to the exclusion of “poor people’s economic problems.”

Whites are a steadily decreasing % of the population, and they’ll be a minority first in the Democratic party. Traditional white union concerns, exemplified by Sanders, lost out to racial politics, exemplified by Hillary’s “If we took down the banks, it still wouldn’t end systemic racism,” speech.

Trump didn’t capture a significantly larger share of the white vote than Romney did, and Romeny lost. He did snag disaffected white-collar voters in swing states who had previously voted for Obama. He simultaneously lost well-off whites, like the entire neocon establishment.

Hillary couldn’t drive turnout the way Obama did because she isn’t black or POC, and her party’s strength is now dependent on getting out the non-white vote. The Dems are increasingly, like South Africa, a party where the leaders are an ethnic minority with little legitimacy in the eyes of their base. Dems need candidates who energize their base to get the turnout they need.

(Funny that when Christian whites vote in favor of Christianity and we end up destroying Iraq, that’s sort of okay, but when poor whites vote in favor of their economic interests, that’s suddenly “racist” and people are protesting in the streets.)

Hillary lost twice now (to Obama in ’08 and Trump in ’16,) not because Americans are sexist, but because she is white.

Trump has re-forged the old Democratic alliance of FDR, and he’s done it in the ruins of the Republican party.

I’m Bloody Tired of the Classism Inherent in the Election

Is the darn thing over yet?

No?

Damn.

American politics are deeply, fundamentally classist.

Those who want to sound high-class (or are) adopt the rhetoric of the liberals. The working class go Republican.

You know what? Screw it, I don’t even want to pull up data on this. If you don’t believe me, go stick your head back in the sand and believe whatever you want. Tell yourself that you despise conservatives because they are Bad People and not because they are Low Class and not Good People Like You. And conservatives can tell themselves that they hate liberals because liberals are Bad People who Hate Americans.

In reality, of course, most people are good people (except for the one who work in HR, who should all be shot–NAHRALT, of course.)

When people hear that I write about “politics” they tend to assume that this means that I enjoy reading/debating about electoral politics. The truth is that I basically hate electoral politics.

Most of what passes for “political debate” is really just tribal signalling. Tribal signaling need not be wise, thoughtful, or factually correct; it need only signal “my tribe is better than your tribe.” I might be able to stand this kind of inanity if I felt comfortably a member of one of the big tribes and basically hated (or had no friends in) the other tribe. Of course, I have to have friends from across the economic system.

Working class and prole whites are convinced that elite whites hate them. Elite whites are convinced that prole whites hate just about everyone. And blacks, Muslims, etc., are probably pretty concerned about proles hating them, too. Family members are voting for the people they think are on their side against those bad people on the other side. Friends are voting for different people whom they think are on their side against those bad people on the other side.

Almost no one I’ve talked to is voting for a particular side because they’ve undertaken a careful study of the particular issues under discussion and decided that one of the candidates has the best policies. How many Democratic voters agree with Hillary’s stance on the Iraq War? How many Republicans agree with Trump’s opinion on the same?

The most vocal Trump supporter I know was talking about how we need to do more for immigrant children coming from Latin America just last year, and has told me that they don’t actually want to see anyone deported. They just hate liberals, and they are voting for Trump to stick it to the liberals.

No matter how I vote, someone gets fucked.

America: Unraveling at the Seams

It’s hard to concentrate on genetics when you feel like your own society is coming apart at the seams. I am very glad today that I am not in Dallas; I can only imagine what the people there (police and civilians,) must be feeling, but it can’t be good. Likewise, having seen the video of Philando Castile’s death, I am sure the African American community is likewise distressed.

From BLM to Donald Trump, racial tensions are on the rise and whites are usually blamed:

Picture 21

(This was tweeted the day after 9 police officers were shot, 5 killed, in Dallas.)

Or, more subtlely:

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This post is not an exhaustive look at the dynamics of race and violence in America (I haven’t the time or resources,) but here are some links on the subject if you want them:

Slate Star Codex: Race and Justice: Much more than you wanted to know, (a review of just about everything on the subject Scott could find;) The Color of Crime, (2016 revised edition;) the Bureau of Justice crime stats website; and from the NY Times: Surprising New evidence shows bias in police use of force but not in shootings. And more, Study: BLM is wrong about police.

CnCpWS5VIAAvFuSRather, this is a quick look at the demographic reality vs the narrative:

Alton Sterling, a black man, was recently shot by police officer Howie Lake (white) and Blane Salamoni (medium-hued Italian.)

Philando Castile, (black) was recently shot by police officer Jeronimo Yanez, (Hispanic.)

George Zimmerman, (Hispanic) shot Trayvon Martin (black.)

The recent spree-killing at an Oregon college that killed (IIRC,) 7 people, was committed by a black man.

The Fort Hood Army Base shooting was committed by a Muslim man. The San Bernardino Christmas Party shooting, which IIRC killed 14 people, was committed by a Muslim couple.

CmBL4F7XEAAt_GcThe Orlando shooting, which left 49 people dead, was committed by a Muslim man; most of his victims were black and Hispanic. Most likely all of his victims were gay, (but apparently the shooter himself wasn’t. I am not totally convinced, though.)

6 police officers were involved in the death of Freddie Gray, black. Half of those officers were black, half white. The entire chain of command, from the Baltimore City police force to the Attorney General to the President himself is, of course, heavily black.

Cm8-vNWVMAA3uuEPolice officer Peter Liang, Asian, killed Akai Gurley, black. The judge who threw out Liang’s guilty verdict, Danny Chun, is also Asian.

Mike Brown, black, was shot by a white cop.

Eric Gardner, black guy, strangled by white cops

Spree killer Eliot Roger was half Asian/half white.

The Virginia Tech shooter was Asian.

Mass-murderer Dylan Roof: white guy, black victims

Batman theater shooter: white guy, many victims

Cm798o-WgAAnLIOThat guy who shot up a kindergarten was white. Victims weren’t chosen by race.

Violence by protestors (Hispanic, black, and white?) against Trump supporters (mostly white.)

In the recent anti-cop violence:

The five police officers recently shot by a black guy in Dallas included 4 whites and one Hispanic (Zamarripa.)

An Asian guy ambushed a police officer (I don’t know the victim’s race.)

A black guy ambushed two police offices (victims’ race unknown.)

Black guy attacked police officer’s home, officer’s race unknown.

Three police-related people + one civilian shot at a Michigan courthouse; 2 dead.

CnGf0lvUEAAZimHWhy do people who think that whites are racist against minorities simultaneously try to increase immigration from non-white countries, instead of recommending that non-whites stay very far away? It doesn’t seem like Asians and Hispanics are refraining from shooting blacks, even if whites are the ones who get blamed for it.

Note that these are just the cases that have been prominent in the media/I have heard of/that come immediately to mind. The data, as you are probably aware, shows that most crime is of the far more conventional variety of black on black and white on white, but see all of the links above if you want real crime stats. Also, I have refrained from opining on guilt.

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Forgive me; I forgot where this came from. Please let me know f you recognize it so I can properly credit it.

Elections and counter-tribal signaling

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It’s no secret that politicians make a lot of campaign promises that they don’t keep. Bush Senior promised not to raise taxes; Bush Junior promised not to engage in nation building; Bill Clinton promised to give everyone health care; Ronald Reagan promised to abolish the Department of Education and not to deal with terrorists–like Nicaraguan Contras.

(Reagan apparently also once stated that “Trees cause more pollution than cars,” which makes me seriously concerned about the judgment of the American people.)

And Obama made promises like, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what,” and “I don’t want to pit Red America against Blue America. I want to be the president
 of the United States of America.”

Obviously there are many reasons campaign promises get broken, from outright lying to naive overconfidence in the president’s powers.

But I was thinking today about campaign promises–and arguments–that people voting for the candidate outright treat as false. For example, when Bush Jr. promised not to engage in nation building, Republicans did not rear that he would actually refrain from invading other countries. To the extent that anyone thought much about this promise at all, it was probably taken more as a claim to dislike the way Bill Clinton went about intervening in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. (Interesting that in all three of these cases, Clinton intervened on behalf of Muslims,) rather than the entire idea of invading other countries.

Anyone who seriously believed that Al Gore would have been a country-invading hawk and Bush Jr. an isolationist dove based on “the legacy of Clintonian nation-building” vs. Bush’s campaign promises must have been sorely disappointed–but I have never met anyone who claims to have held such views.

More recently, I’ve seen Democrats arguing that Hillary Clinton is a “conservative hawk” for her support of the Iraq War and other military interventions in the Middle East, and “a Republican” for her speech on “super predators” during the ’90s crime wave, her support for anti-crime policies that lead to the mass incarceration of African-Americans, and ’90s support of DOMA,

Meanwhile, the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, claims to have been against the Iraq war.

As I mentioned two posts ago, you can construct all sorts of “liberal” arguments in favor of Trump. “SJWs have been suppressing freedom of speech by suing bakers for refusing to bake gay marriage cakes, so Trump will restore free speech.” “Population growth => environmental destruction, and American population growth is being driven almost entirely by immigration. Therefore, if you care about Global Warming, we must Build the Wall.” “Racist, exploitative employers would rather hire illegal immigrants whom they can force to work at less than minimum wage without any benefits or safety precautions than hire blacks, whom they hate. Immigration has destroyed jobs and wages for America’s poorest and most discriminated against minorities so the 1% can get richer. Build the Wall!” “Jeb Bush wants to get into WWIII with Russia. Hillary Clinton supports the Iraq War. Only Trump will save us from nuclear armageddon!” “Amnesty for illegal immigrants punishes all of the legal immigrants for obeying the law.” “Muslims tend to favor very conservative stances on free speech, abortion, gay marriage, women, etc., so Trump’s plan to halt Muslim immigration is really in defense of liberalism.”

Of course, no one actually buys these arguments; certainly Trump’s supporters have no fear that he is secretly a raging SJW whose true concerns are the environment and African Americans. Likewise, no one on the liberal side is really afraid that Hillary Clinton will actually act like a Republican, launch Iraq 3 and promote an anti-gay and anti-black agenda. No one was really afraid that Bush Jr. would be a dove or that Obama wouldn’t help his fellow blacks. Come election day, Bernie Bros will turn out for Hillary, and Ted Cruz’s supporters will line up for Trump.

Why this disparity between what candidates say (or what people say about them) and what we actually believe?

I propose that the answer is fairly simple: tribalism. Once a candidate has established their tribalist credentials (or has the tribe securely arrayed behind them,) nothing they can say will convince members of the other tribe to vote for them, even if they are actually saying things that are explicitly meant to.

Die-hard Democrats aren’t going to vote for an evil Republican just because he happens to spout a few transparently glib platitudes on liberal values, nor will die-hard Republicans vote for an evil Democrat for the same reason.

But moderates can be swayed.

During the primaries, a candidate has to convince members of their own party to vote for them. At this stage, we should expect debates over who is the “true” liberal or “true conservative” as candidates try to outdo each other in a bid for their party’s dedicated, die-hard voters.

By the general election, candidates assume the support of their own party; they are now fighting for the nation’s moderates.

So Bush Jr. downplays his conservatism (branding himself a “compassionate conservative” and promising to eschew nation building,) in order to sound more like a moderate. The Gore campaign did similarly, leading Ralph Nader to loudly assert that there was no real difference between the two. Of course there was; in retrospect, it is almost unimaginable that a Gore presidency would have turned out identical to Bush’s.

Obama also campaigned as a moderate–he did not need to explicitly vow to pursue a pro-black agenda to get 99% of the black vote. Blacks already knew he was on their side; only moderates needed convincing.

Trump can take a position that is significantly more dovish than both the other major Republican primary candidates and Hillary Clinton and pundits still act like they think he is the most likely candidate to get into a major war, just because his personality yells “I will bomb my enemies back to the stone age.” (Meanwhile, no one takes seriously the other Republican primary candidates’ promises to get into WW3 with Russia–everyone assumes they are just lying to shore up support from their own side.)

Trump is not playing the primaries; as the front-runner, he is playing the election.

This brings us to the interesting dynamics of the Clinton/Sanders race. At the beginning of the primaries, Clinton likely believed, quite reasonably, that she was a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination. So Clinton has been playing her endgame for some time, trying to build up a record and reputation as a moderate–even a hawk–who can appeal to moderate conservatives.

Then came Sanders, who suddenly made her actually fight for the nomination. Sanders positioned himself as the “true liberal”–even a socialist–against Hillary’s supposed “conservatism.” The tactic has worked well for him; since Hillary can’t out-socialism Bernie, she has been forced to become more explicitly SJW as a result:

“If we broke up the big banks tomorrow — and I will, if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will — would that end racism?”
“No!” shouted her audience.
“Would that end sexism?”
“No!”
“Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community?”
“No!”
“Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”
“No!”
“Would that solve our problem with voting rights, and Republicans who are trying to strip them away from people of color, the elderly, and the young?”
“No!”

This isn’t Hillary claiming not to favor socialism so much as claiming to be even liberaler than Sanders.

Likewise, the Republican party establishment, before Trump entered the race, assumed that one of their front-runners would get the nomination, and so put their money behind three candidates with Hispanic credentials (Cruz and Rubio are actual Hispanics; Jeb is married to one and speaks Spanish,) in order to play the general election endgame and try to win the Hispanic vote away from the Democrats. This failed, however, to inspire Republican voters, who are rather crucial for wining the primaries.

Thus the eternal debate between candidates who appeal to their bases, and candidates who appeal to moderates. The more explicitly tribalist (Red Tribe or Blue Tribe) candidates motivate their base to turn out; the moderates attract more mainstream and cross-aisle votes.

Has anyone done a study on whether candidates with stronger support in the primaries (folks like Dean or Sanders, had they gotten the nomination,) do better or worse in the general election?