I want to thank everybody once again who emailed me in response to my previous post, and to all who commented. I had begun to have very serious doubts about whether I was really doing anything useful or helpful here, or just shouting up a drainpipe, and the many responses I received were enormously encouraging. Although I hate to single anyone out, the very first comment — a link to this essay by Albert Jay Nock — affected me deeply, and I thank the commenter (whose name refers to a strange and creepy idea known as “Roko’s Basilisk“) very much for posting it.
I do want to make some changes, though. I’ll still pound away, perhaps a little less exclusively, about political, social, and related issues. I will try to make the tone a little less polemic, though, which will mostly mean pruning some normative adjectives. (I certainly won’t shy away from, for example, pointing out that various extremely powerful parties have deep antipathies to American or Western traditions, that others are running what amounts to an international criminal syndicate masquerading as a charitable foundation, or that so-and-so is in fact a person of doubtful character, and so on — but I will try to rant a little less and explain a little more.)
I also intend to adjust the balance of topics so as to pay more attention to the things I used to write about, and new things besides. Yes, our civilization is still on a runaway train to the edge of a very nasty cliff, but the scenery is still attractive, and it is worth trying to enjoy the ride just a bit more.
The comment-policy needs improving. I realize threads can wander off-topic, though I will ask commenters to try not to; what I really need to eliminate, though, are insulting comments that do nothing to advance the discussion at hand. I am going to delete those. (I am not innocent of this myself, especially lately, and have been pretty short-tempered at times too, so I share this burden.) What I don’t want to have, on political or related threads, and will no longer allow, is mere name-calling and poo-flinging.
In order to have any productive discussion at all, however, there must be sufficient common ground. People with incommensurable axioms, or who use words to mean entirely different things, or whose disdain for the Other Side is so visceral as to make them think in purely moralistic (or as I see it, crypto-religious) terms about opposing views, simply cannot engage productively, and when I see that happening I’m going to shut it down, because it’s a waste of our time. In particular, it is a waste of my time to respond at tedious length to thousand-word comments based on a system of beliefs with which my own worldview, my own set of axioms, has little or no congruence. (An example of such incompatibility lies at the very heart of most “conservative/liberal” differences; it is, as a great many observers have explained, a difference about the malleability and the limits of human nature.) Often such comments pose — and often convincingly so to sympathetic or less-astute readers — as litanies of “facts”, but “facts” require context, and often require a great deal of unpacking before they reveal underlying assumptions, methodological vaguenesses, selection biases, and other hidden variables and liabilities. Facts are nothing without theories to connect them.
In short, if I am writing about political or social matters, I am doing so from my own viewpoint, which is, for the most part, traditionally conservative (or, perhaps more accurately, “reactionary”). I am skeptical about many things that most people, especially what I sometimes call “goodthinkful” people, hold as axioms. These include such intensely polarized topics as: so-called “social justice”; the relative values of various political systems and political enfranchisements; human biological variation; what to do about climate change; the value of tradition and traditional roles; the differences between the sexes; the value of hierarchies; and, I’m sure, many others that I don’t need to enumerate here. If the very fact that I would question any of the “progress” we have made in these areas irritates you, or strikes you as a sign of moral weakness, then you don’t belong here, and I’m going to tell you so. I will tell you also that my aim in examining all of this — even if you find it hard to believe — is simply to understand what makes for happy, harmonious, safe, fecund and prosperous societies. (Furthermore, I will add that the solution to that problem, in my opinion, varies a great deal for different human populations, and that a naive universalism about this is at the root of many of the woes of the modern world. If that irritates you, or strikes you as a sign of moral weakness, then you probably don’t belong here either, and I’m telling you so now. Stick around only if you think I might persuade you — and I ask you to be honest with yourself about that.)
That’s really all I have to say about all of this. I’ll probably excerpt some of what I’ve written above and stick it to the main page someplace.
Again I must thank all of you, as always, for reading this blog. It’s been nearly eleven years now, and this is post number four thousand forty-seven. I hope to keep at it for many years to come.