Saturday, May 01, 2021

Why Is Everything Liberal?

Richard Hanania's newsletter at his substack carries his article "Why Is Everything Liberal?" I found the link over at Quillette where I was reading the review of When Men Behave Badly (also quite good.) I believe he is somewhat liberal himself, though I may be reading the tea leaves wrong.  He brings out interesting data about the greater energy that liberals bring to their causes, while conservatives tend to want to do other things with their lives.  I have noted something similar here before, and related it to raising children, and possibly to having jobs other than at non-profits.

People who have children at home invest less time in protests and other culture causes. Their legacy is right in front of them and they volunteer for blood donation, scouts, little league, soup kitchens, community clean-ups, unwed mothers, and schools, even after their own children are grown. Hugely more, nearly 80%. Liberals see their legacies in terms of changing the culture.

Conservatives, especially religious ones, give their money to actual charities rather than culture-influencing causes. (See Arthur C Brooks, Who Really cares?)

I confess that while I see that as an understandable imbalance and see why it works, I also see the difference in where one's time is going as an enormous contrast of adulthood and morality.

Petticoat Tyranny

I have said that the stage and literary humor of the domineering wife occurs mainly in Europe and its descendants, back through Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist (1838) when the unhappy spouse of a domineering wife is told in court that "...the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction", and he replies: "If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, "the law is a ass - a idiot". Or to Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle, who arising from sleep after twenty years finds he is now free of two tyrannical governments, King George and the "petticoat tyranny" of his now-deceased wife.  The joke goes back through the Taming of the Shrew, or the "Wife of Bath's Tale." I have wondered if this is from the influence of the Northern pagans, where women could own property and practice trades in some of the tribes.

Yet now I wonder if this is true at all, and I only think it is Western because that is the only tradition I know.  Is it more universal?  What do you know of yourselves?


We will be making a triangle trip to Houston, then Anchorage, then back to NH. We will be only a few days in each place, the goal being for my wife to meet the new daughter-in-law in person rather than text and zoom, and hold the newest granddaughter who is now almost 16 months old. Maybe I will sign on a lot and post, maybe I will just walk and walk and listen to podcasts and dictate little reminders to myself of possible posts.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Asleep In The Light

Very big among the Jesus people in the early 1980s. I initially had a negative impression of him, as I was already aware of how close "He has a prophetic gift" and "He likes yelling at other Christians" can be. But I grew to like him and used to play this first part for even young Sunday Schoolers. It is a simple but dramatic interpretation of the scripture.

"We just didn't feel led..."

Easter Song

Back to Back

I chose this version despite the weak video because Matthew Ward's harmonies are much more interesting here.


Lamb - Ode to Bethlehem

 More Jesus people music from the 70s.

India and Covid

The discussions over at the Brown Pundits posts are unnerving. They have been predicting a sharp surge in deaths for over a month, citing family and friends' reports in one region after another that seem to clearly be a Covid variant, and a particularly deadly and nasty one, that is underreported in the extreme.

The difficulty of not containing cases sharply has always been that you give the virus a billion opportunities to mutate. With India, we are talking about an eventual number of cases 4-10 times greater than anything America is going to show. For those to be largely a more virulent version is going to be ugly.

Growing Cynicism

 Over at Quillette When Will Activists (and the Media) Get Honest About Police Shootings? 

 I can't see how that would happen.  What advantage is there for honesty on this issue?


One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. Orwell, 1984.
Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 are often contrasted with Huxley's Brave New World from about 15 years before. Orwell's hard totalitarianism is contrasted with Huxley's soft one, with the modern observer more often concluding that Western Civilisation in the 21st C is more in danger of the latter, with our Amusing Ourselves To Death. Ingsoc used strict forbidding, even torture, while Huxley's world had classes of people who embraced their status and "a good time was had by all." 

Or almost all.  I don't think the difference is that entire when one looks at both works. In BNW babies have the affections, curiosity, and other worrisome characteristics driven out of them with electric shocks, and there are types of exile that are not pleasant. Nor is 1984 devoid of soft measures.  The proles are the bulk of the population and are kept entertained. The boot on the face is for the few.

It is time to move away from this distinction. It had good use during the Cold War and retains some value even now.  But Huxley wrote in an age where the full evil of the Soviet Union was not yet manifest, and many of his circle considered the enticements of capitalism, leading to the worldwide* Great Depression to be just as dangerous, and more so.  Orwell had seen a different world, disillusioned about the gentleness of the left in Spain while observing the very harsh totalitarianism of Germany, Japan, Russia and allied countries, and the rise of violent communism in China. Were the two of them to sit down in London today, having read up on the events of the late 20th C together, there might be no distance between them.

They would likely both be alarmed and discouraged. Both would likely nod with deep approval at Bradbury's Fahrenheit 4-5-1, and squirm like bugs on a pin to escape the uncomfortable accuracy of Lewis's prophetic That Hideous Strength and its philosophical underpinning The Abolition of Man, because nothing Christian or even theistic should be creeping in to their discussion. Yet they were largely honest men intellectually, and the vacuity of Keith Roberts's Pavane , as if 20th C Britain were in some danger of being ruled by the Catholic Church, would not go unnoticed.

All this as a set-up for my conclusion related to my posts about motives for believing the untrue, and I sincerely apologise if you feel tricked by my circling back to this.  But I reiterate my position that the current racial conflict is not much about African-Americans. Kendi is a token shoved onto the stage.  The deep "anti-racists"  I have known personally and can listen in on in online discussions never bring him up. Ta-Nehisi Coates is nearly that, though at a more popular level.  In fact, he may be more respectfully regarded by conservatives who see him as an infuriating figure who at least hits some solid points fearlessly, however misguided he may be in general. Go to the comments sections of the big liberal sites and see how often anyone mentions him.

I don't know about the less-educated blacks and what motivates them.  I don't know them.  Half the black people I know are actually from Africa or the Caribbean, different in a dozen ways from African-Americans. But among the more educated African-Americans, they very much accept the statistics offered to them by the upper-class media, the same as other liberals do.  Few have the least ability to subject a statistic to scrutiny and ask themselves the necessary skeptical questions.  #1.They have personally experienced some prejudice in their lives. #2. Goodwhites playing with numbers tell them that their people are systematically oppressed. Those two ideas converge and they just accept what they are told. I suppose it is actually a mark of having risen in the world that they can be fooled in exactly the same way that white arts-and-humanities students can be. 

“Why you fool, it's the educated reader who CAN be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they're all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the high-brow weeklies, don't need reconditioning. They're all right already. They'll believe anything.” CS Lewis That Hideous Strength 1945
I should depressingly note at this point that I see no realistic solution to all this.  Save for the genetic interventions that might arise and become standard in the next two generations, the best I can see is that we muddle along angrily, getting richer and occasionally perceiving the the Chinese are the more serious problem and reality the actual playing field.

More Motives on Untrue Things

First post on Believing Untrue Things is here. I suppose I am just being a follower myself, focusing on the bad information that is widely believed about race because it is in the news. But the problem is general, affecting many issues of the day: environmental concerns; trade, tariffs, and taxation; education results; medical safety and public health. However, I am not even discussing race in general. I started with the example of police practices and the supposed targeting of blacks, and I will continue with that.  It is broad enough all by itself, I don't need to drag in other things.  As before, you are free to use other examples of people not understanding or relying on math, being reluctant to give up what might be a foundational bit of ideology, or any of the further motives I will discuss here. Don't feel constrained by my constraint.

Granite Dad - we had dinner together last night - tells me he had a comment that got eaten, and I have encouraged him to repost it. (Update:  He has.) He raised two important points which I will quickly summarise. The lack of perspective induced by nationwide news contributes to the lack of statistical understanding.  When a new event of the police shooting an unarmed black person hits the news, people's first reaction is something like "What? Again? This crap is happening all the time, and it's got to stop!" But we are a nation of 330,000,000 people - I intentionally kept the zeroes instead of abbreviating. In 2020 there were 34 killed*, about one every 11 days. That would be a lot if they were all in New Hampshire, or even in all of New England, which is less than 5% of the country, 2% of the black population. We might perhaps rightfully feel something were deeply amiss if it were concentrated on us like that.  But it's not. It just feels like it, because in contrast to my childhood, we know about crime in Colorado or South Carolina and think it's part of us. Nobody knew or cared what the hell happened in Montana in the 60s, and they sure didn't care about New Hampshire, either.

Secondly, there were bad policing practices in Ferguson, especially relying on fines to fund the department. While that is not a racial policy and is used in many locales, it does contribute to unrest and distrust of the police.  Libertarians focus on this, and it is not unfair. It may have been relevant to the rioting per se. Yet I regard it as largely irrelevant to this discussion, because no one mentions it anymore. It's all about feeding the race narrative now.

Other Motives:

People whose jobs and incomes directly depend on strained racial relations have an obvious motive for keeping the controversy alive. Aromatherapists believe much can be solved by more aromatherapy, harmonica players think your band needs a harmonica to improve. When what you have is a hammer...

In the general case, this is not necessarily an evil motive. People work for environmental causes or train as physical therapists because they believe those are good things to do, not just because they can make money at them.  Over time, idealism and sometimes even good motive wanes while self-interest increases, but we needn't think that everyone in a profession is even half-corrupt. However, humans is humans, and self-interest has some effect on all of us. 

There is an indirect self-interest as well, in which keeping your job depends on professing the correct views. Professors, denominational pastors, government employees, and increasingly, employees of large woke corporations are subjected to this. My views on transsexuals would have eventually gotten me fired as a social worker.  Late in my career, I didn't much care, but had that been the case in my 40s I don't know what accommodations I would have swallowed. I do know from observation that people slowly adopt the ideas of their peer group. This ties in to the last part of this post.

Except for those of us who enter the room determined to give voice to what is unnoticed or unsaid, because we consider the momentum of ideas potentially dangerous. But there are many quiet compromises even among us...

A stray motive is just wanting to stir up trouble. Those sparks are very dangerous, but only when surrounded by tinder. I am not sure they can be removed from effect on any issue. I believe there are few wholly taken by this motive, but I think it is present at some level in all of us. It is likely useful for societies that there's always some of that about, even if it can be catastrophic when the intellectuals and artists decide the culture needs to be purified of Jews, Slavs, and Gypsies.  There are always some hanging about who just want to bust some heads for any excuse.

Commonly Noticed Motives

Commonly noticed among my tribe, anyway.

I do think the temptations are worse in political, religious, or cultural issues where the focus naturally goes to fixing other people, or at least getting them to act differently. The attractions of thinking well of oneself, or even thinking oneself rather special are obvious. It also flows naturally into the belief that those other people are wrong, and then quickly that there is something wrong with them. Well, they are obvious in the abstract, and we see them pretty clearly in other people. Everyone knows this temptation is real, but few even engage in even pro forma self-examination. Suspecting even one's good motives is one of the great themes of CS Lewis's writing, dominating his fiction especially. It's one of the reasons I say that reading more CS Lewis is the answer to everything.

I see this motive in what I read everywhere, I see it live and in person, powerful enough to affect me physically and make me cringe. That is likely because I have a peculiar sensitivity to this sin and have developed warning systems for my own language and actions that just go off on a hair-trigger when I see it in others. It is like living in a world where you can't turn the volume down. This is the motive I began the first essay in order to hit hard and having been aiming toward throughout.  Sorry to drag you through hundreds of words looking for alternatives and escapes. There will be one more dark motive after this one, related and perhaps more important.  But this motive, the secret joy of self-righteousness and the more-secret joy of hating persons has been a fifteen-year theme of this blog.  Unsurprising, perhaps, for a Lewis fan.

I am convinced that the conflict has little to do with black people. It is about the Goodwhites against the Badwhites. The Goodwhites define the boundaries, some stark, some gradual, some shifting. They then try to fix the other bad people in various ways.  Some see themselves as winsome and kind, attempting to persuade, inspire, and teach. Others concentrate on politically neutralising the Badwhites, some by fair means, others not so scrupulous. Others see it as a battle, with dragons to be slain, not negotiated with, and enemies to be crushed. Though few in number, they naturally get themselves out to the front with high drama. These can seldom be reasoned with or appealed to, as Reason or Niceness are merely instruments to them. They can use these disguises with enormous skill, as the Un-Man did in Perelandra. Wolves hide in sheep's clothing, not in wolf's, for obvious reasons, which is why I consider Minnesota Nice to be one of the great dangers to the church. That group is pretty well infiltrated by hatred at this point, but cannot see themselves as motivated by anything other than desire for good.

 (In the Three Dog Night version, they seem to get the message exactly backwards.  Plus, Cheryl Barnes has magnificent pipes.)

The Unforgivable Sin is against the Holy Spirit, which I take to mean that which we have long known to be evil but have convinced ourselves is good. It was the self-righteousness of the Pharisees more than any individual act that Jesus told them put them in especial danger.  What we can no longer see as sin we cannot confess and repent of, and hence, cannot be forgiven.

The last motive will be Power, which I have suggested in this last section but not discussed.  Others have said far wiser things than I about it, as it does not interest me.  The damnation of the individuals under self-righteousness is a deeper concern, and power important only in its contribution to that destruction.  Yet I will have a go at it anyway, hopefully soon.

*I will note again that those numbers were not worse during the Trump years, but about half what they were in the Obama years.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Right Field

One of my favorites. James mentioned it asking about songs for other sports.  If you think of any, go over and tell him about it. It's hard to imagine what a track-and-field song would even be.

My sons tended to be right fielders.  But I shouldn't be too harsh, as I seldom played at all.  Touch football, some swimming, both kinds of skiing. I suppose there are songs about hiking, mostly European in origin.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

London During WWII

The captions describing the scene will disappear after a few seconds and you will have to move the mouse again.

I noticed that there were more men than women out on the street, which is hardly surprising in these business sections of London. But I also noticed there were few older people, fewer children, and few still overweight people.

Post 7800 - Believing Untrue Things

The first section is mostly boilerplate.  I think it is entertainingly-written boilerplate that contains useful information, but those in a hurry might skip straight to "Motives."

It is widely believed that the police unfairly target black people. It is demonstrably untrue, has been untrue for a few decades, and that information has not been kept secret. The general outlines are easily known, and I am told that for a person willing to put in the work, there is data available precinct by precinct and even officer by officer with no special permissions on the internet. I decided yesterday morning to post on this topic, and before nightfall there was a new article about this very thing, by Rick Lowry over at National Review: "The Cops Shoot People of Different Races for the Same Reasons." That article links to the Washington Post Database on fatal shootings over the last few years. You will note that The WaPo is not generally regarded as an alt-right publication. 

The Post does what it can to misrepresent the data in the service of its preferred narrative, such as noting that proportionately, blacks are shot twice as often as whites. It leaves out the fact that the black violent crime rate is 4-16x higher, so having only twice as many shootings is evidence of the opposite possibility - that blacks are less targeted, or that the police are ultra-cautious about shooting them. (Note: people claim that one can lie with statistics, but I continue to maintain that statistics tell the truth if you grab them by the collar, shove them up against the wall, and make them tell you who their associates are. As above. The violent crime breakdown is an associate of the original claim.) Once one knows the underlying data, the evasions by the House Organ of the Federal Government fairly leap out at one. Something similar happened in the investigation into the police practices in Ferguson, MO. Eric Holder and Barack Obama both announced that the department was racist before the investigation was even commissioned, and after the report came out those two worthies claimed that their predictions had been borne out. Arrests of blacks were six times higher. 

But the amount of violent crime by blacks was ten times higher, maybe twelve. So six times the arrests is actually evidence that more were going uncaught. This is a nationwide pattern, largely because people in the neighborhood are petrified to testify. Not as bad as in Mexico, but like that. The extremely high black-white rate comes from the particular demographics of the city. It used to be white decades ago, but black people moved in. Therefore, the white people were older, the black people younger, reflecting another known crime statistic: violence is for the young. When those black people are old, their crime rate will be low as well. In fact the crime rate for elderly blacks is not that different than elderly whites - only about double. 

The New York Times, the New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, HuffPo, NPR - just about everyone, really - has run similar hard-data reports. This can only be spun so much. One can go to the FBI website or other government or data-collecting agencies and see for yourself. There are books, podcasts, print magazines that will point out the base difference in violent crime rates, which is enormous. That is always the background against which the arrest rates must be photographed. Everyone in America has heard this, or has had decent opportunity to, even if they don't have a conservative relative sending them angry emails all year. 

Yet most revert to believing the opposite. What other possible reason could there be for going out to a George Floyd protest, except that one believes that there is something deeply wrong with police practices WRT African-Americans, and wants to take a stand against this sort of government behavior.? Quick Note: The view offered by many, particularly on the libertarian or left-right extremes, that the police have generally bad behavior with all citizens, whether by attitude or training, looks promising for national unity but goes nowhere. The libertarians were the first to explode on the internet about what the hell city police forces were doing with that sort of military hardware in Missouri, but that is 99.9% forgotten now. Wrong narrative.


Why is this?

Why do intelligent, well-meaning people keep doing this? It makes no logical sense, but it happens so much more than its opposite that it must have some meaning. 


More boilerplate: I don't think it is valid to guess at the motives of individuals. We are complicated, we have mixed motives, we have pieces to our story that others cannot see. However, I do think it is fair to guess at the weight of motives in groups. For any given position, out of a hundred people, 30 might be making some money off the deal and that might be 10% -90% of their motive. 20 (perhaps overlapping) might have been raised to a particular value and feel a loyalty that is 3%-30% of their motive. 50 might believe that the Good People hold the position and want to be counted among them, accounting for 25-75% each of their motive. We can only make estimates, but we can hear what people say, read what they tweet, watch who they insult, or look at their long-term actions such as where they work or where they spend their money.

It is an evil thing to accuse the individuals are acting from bad motive without clear evidence, but it is not evil to set out the data and ask each individual to judge themselves - and for us to judge the group's actions.

With that in mind...

Some people do not believe statistics.  I keep forgetting that wide swaths of the population do not like numbers and think of statistics as a word meaning "tricky ways people disguise the truth." Caution is laudable, yet they seem to really not understand that a statistic about 400 police shootings and fatalities means 400 actual dead people, who had families that went to funerals where the aunties cried and the schoolmates looked stricken. Therefore, they have a reflexive response to statement about research, graphs, or statistics that says "You must be lying or you wouldn't be hiding behind numbers like that. I will believe my story instead."  While I find this to be almost universal among people of low intelligence, even those who agree with me and willingly vote the way I'd like, it is true of a frightening number of intelligent folk as well.  Yet many of those are high SATV low SATM, which I also forget - among psychologists, social workers, journalists, pastors, and a dozen other professions - but even that isn't all of it. Even a few of the engineers and doctors, just reject things out of hand.

This is not where I intended to go with this post, but the longer I looked at it, the more I saw it was pertinent.  The people at your church rely on the CNN/NBC/NPR narrative about police shootings as if it is still 1957?  The first explanation may be that they can't do math, and the second may be that they won't do math because it makes their ears buzz. 


It used to be true 60-160 years ago and is still presented as true in movies, news sources, on TV and the entirety of upper-class media. In some sense it is a cultural universal that is deeply embedded in the American understanding of ourselves. To give it up would not only involve thinking hard now, it would involve giving up a foundational belief and once that happens, who knows what other once-sure beliefs might suddenly come into question? There is a liberal conservatism that has held certain beliefs since the 1960s and never seriously questioned them.  While this is stronger in my own generation for the obvious reason that we were there, it was also effectively passed down somewhat to subsequent generations I have known  liberals 10-30 years younger than me who have openly said they were sad that they missed being there for the 60s, meaning not only the music, the changes, and the excitement, but being part of the birth of Woodstock Nation. My younger brother has mentioned to me a few times how proud he is to be part of the first generation that got it right, and sees no reason to abandon any of the beliefs he held when he was 16.  In Massachusetts. These are part of who he is.  His very identity is tied up with these things.  Where he has changed, it is entirely along the lines of doubling down.  The fall of the Iron Curtain and what we learned is long since gone from his consciousness.

I have not yet even gotten to the motives that occurred to me on my walks yesterday and today, the sort of insight that is more common in current analysis online. But I think it is worth temporarily stopping here, for folks who are used to these speculations to step back and fit these two in. I will pick up on the other ideas tomorrow, but try these two on and estimate what percentage of folks who just don't or won't get it are involved nationwide. They can't do math, and they fear giving up a key piece of traditional liberal ideology. That may be more of the explanation than we have heretofore credited.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Ruby Tuesday

Not quite what we came to expect from the Stone in later years, is it?  Very pop music, no bad boy overtones. Piano, double bass, recorder, harmony, nice melody.  The only thing familiar is that characteristic twisted hold on the microphone by Jagger.

Nate Silver

Well, yes.  As expected if we remember Scott Siskind's Toxoplasma of Rage, which I have commented on many times over the last few years. I have called it the best essay of the 21st C, but I think even he has exceeded it a few times since then.

But back to Silver.  Even though I am off all political media except what I run into at my small circle of friends (I am still reading the headlines and sometimes reading your comments, even if I do not click the links), I have the same sense myself.  The people who were originally nervous that we might be underestimating the danger of Covid moved to insisting on every possible lockdown and precaution, and are now furious that you people who have stopped wearing masks are literally killing people. Even the vaccinated ones, apparently. I wear a mask often because stores require it, and I think it is simply polite not to make other people nervous when they don't know my level of safety.  But I'm wearing it less and less, and find no guilt in this. People are entirely safe around me and I am simply treating their anxiety now. I get it that teachers are conditioned by decades of personal experience that "students are disease farms" - which is true - and have not been able to get over that in terms of schools reopenings.  And that includes those who would have less work with everything open, but still somehow can't feel safe. (That goes back to a lack of science and math training for educators in general, but that's another story.) But the others are just pearl-clutching. We know more than we did a year ago, and school opening is not dangerous.

On the other hand we see people doubling down that masks and distancing were never useful, and we should have been open all along, and it's all just a dry run for further ordering the sheeple into pens. Data doesn't seem to affect these people much either.  I have some here, and if you think you have any tendency toward those thoughts, go over to worldometers and look at the graphs state-by-state, and you will see we were heading toward zero, but as individual states opened up, the number of cases stopped decreasing and sometimes even went back up. This, even with vaccinations well under weigh. So the graphs you see right before your eyes will tell you that (gulp) gee, masks and distancing do have some effect, don't they?  Because what else is there to explain those numbers? That doesn't stop sites from cherry-picking data that "NEW STUDY SAYS MASKS ARE USELESS."  Which the studies don't but you can squint really hard, or pretend that government requirements = real mask use. 

Advocating that we should have just "lived with" the deaths and opened up last April anyway is a different discussion.  But pretending we would have not had many more deaths - hey, maybe even that 2 million that the skeptics have been sneering at the "so-called experts" for predicting, now that we are over 600K - has no basis in fact. But it still has a basis on the internet of people not only insisting they were right all along, but even that they didn't go far enough. They seem to have forgotten that the rest of us have been here all along, reading them over the last fifteen months. We know what you wrote, and we know the general reliability of the sources you quoted then and now. A reminder: Advocacy sites are suspicious.  Not necessarily wrong or without value, but suspicious.

Now people are quadrupling and octuplying down that the those who have been vaccinated are carrying some dread disease to the noble ones who refused this "experimental government vaccination." A further level of insanity. Hopefully that one just peters out soon.

Increasing polarisation in both language and in assertions.  The Toxoplasma of Rage.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Cities of the Dead

Just a fun update in trying to picture the development of ancient civilisations.  In Mexico and South America; in Egypt, Turkey, and Kyrgyzstan; in several places in China, cities of the dead were built long before cities for the living.  These were places of ceremony, annual temporary gathering, and deposition of a culture's greatest art. It seems that few or none lived at Stonehenge or Newgrange, yet they were architectural and religious centerpieces.

We think of clans settling villages, villages growing into market centers, market centers becoming metropolises.  Not so much. While that was somewhat the case in the well-studied Middle-East, it seems not to be the model for other places. Mobile bands moved across the landscape in mixed foraging, proto-farming, and herding economies which could flexibly* leave one stop off the yearly rotation and add another as conditions changed. Yet most had some form of ancestor worship and created places to return to every year.

*"Flexibly," in this case meaning "only 2-10 generations starved to near extinction," which looks like a short period of time, hardly worth mentioning, to us.


Thomas Jefferson once said that all men are created equal, a phrase that the Yankees and the distaff side of the Executive branch in Washington are fond of hurling at us. There is a tendency in this year of grace, 1935, for certain people to use this phrase of context, to satisfy all conditions. The most ridiculous example I can think of is that people who run public education promote the stupid and idle along with the industrious—because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority. We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe—some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cake than others—some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of men. 

“But there is one way in this country which all men are created equal—there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man equal of an Einstein, and an ignorant man equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honourable court which you serve. Our courts have their faults, as does any human constitution, but in this country our courts are the great levellers, and in our courts all men are created equal. (Atticus Finch, closing speech to the jury in To Kill A Mockingbird.)

Or this from Calvin Coolidge, in his autobiography.  You might contrast this with the sentiments of recent presidents, including their own autobiographies.

It is a great advantage to a president and a major source of safety to the country for him to know that he is not a great man. When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions.

Proverbs 32

 It is better to hum in the company of the saints than to sing lustily alone.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

On the Make

At Brown Pundits, there is an interesting consensus that the US is certainly not the civilisation of the future, and may not even be the civilisation of the present.  They are divided whether China is the present and much of the future, some saying this is inevitable because of numbers, force, and technology, others claiming that its internal contradictions are so great, and its abuse of its neighbors and supposed allies so thorough that it is not sustainable. They are mostly positive that India is a player in the future, though painfully slowly. They do hedge, noting that America remains quite different in many ways and may find a dozen small ways to reinvent itself even if it cannot manage the large overall reinvention that futures require.

They mention Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia as countries that are still generally poor but very much on the make and rising.  They are quite certain those places are part of whatever future comes. The Middle East is occasionally mentioned, South America not at all, and Africa only as a possible distant future.

Europe is seen as the civilisation of the past, with America and Japan going down that road.  They do not seem to think this downfall will be at all quick, and point to Europe as an example of a region that has been going downhill for a century but is still very powerful. This is what they expect of the US, that even as it declines, it will still be a giant in 2100 and maybe 2200. They also expect Europe to be varied in its survival. There was a fun exchange in which it was noted that Italy has had 500 years of decline and is unlikely to make a comeback at this point, but Northern Europe should rally a half-dozen times before the end. They did not comment on American regions, but I would be interested. The City-state model - Singapore, Shanghai, London, New York - should have influence even through long collapse, but is it still stable?

I don't know if they are smarter and more objective than Western observers, but it is true that Europe has been dying for a long time, yet still looks fairly prosperous and livable. On the empirical approach to anthropology that something that has lasted until today is likely to be here tomorrow because it works somehow, that isn't shocking.

Relatedly, there is this article on How the West (mostly the global left) Lost the Culture Wars in India.

Reverse Privilege

Having a few things to overcome in your life is good for you. While it is true that obstacles can mount up in a life until only a few could hope to get past them (and those usually have some encourager or rescuer to get them over the worst of it), it is likely bad for you not to have any.