Plug

Tired of the crap the kids are listening to? Do yourself a favor and buy this album, made by grownups.

Trust me on this; I know about these things.

Service Notice

A busy few days here. Back in a bit.

Cower Of London

Here’s Ed West, writing in the “Speccie”:

The reason we keep on hearing about ‘British values’ uniting our nation is precisely that they don’t; communities that genuinely do have a sense of group feeling don’t need to go on about a set of values that supposedly binds them. Why would they? This is not just about immigration; since the Second World War at least western societies have had a huge growth in values diversity, people being freer to chose their lifestyles; the internet has accelerated this. But these sort of values-diverse societies can only really run smoothly on the understanding that no one tries to blow the others up.

Yes, that no one tries to blow his neighbors up is a necessary condition for a happy and harmonious society, but it is hardly a sufficient one. It is, perhaps, sufficient for a well-functioning hotel, or parking facility — but not for a community, and certainly not for a nation.

Meanwhile, new vehicle-proof bulwarks have been installed on London’s bridges, as England’s descent into a wartime security state accelerates. (When you won’t build a wall around your country, you must build walls around everything inside your country.)

I’m glad that my father, who grew up in London and lived through the Blitz, didn’t live to see this. I’m sure he’d think it is far worse: what he saw in that hour was an ancient nation and people adamantly resolved to defend their home and culture, no matter the cost; what he would see today in the city of his birth is a deracinated and exhausted people adamantly resolved to do anything but.

Related content from Sphere

Western Man

 
 

Bon Débarras!

We note with satisfaction that President Trump pulled us out of that Paris-Agreement boondoggle yesterday. We never should have been in it in the first place: it was never put to Congress, and we signed up solely on the whim of Barack Obama, as a demonstration of sacerdotal virtue.

The “motte-and-bailey” style of the left’s arguments for remaining are amusing: on the one hand we hear that the contract was nothing to worry about, as it didn’t even bind us to anything, and on the other we’re told that our withdrawing from such a casual, non-binding agreement will, somehow, lead to the extinction of all life on Earth in the next few years.

If you haven’t read the thing, you can do so here. If you thought it must be a straightforward document having only to do with things like carbon sequestration, you’d be very much mistaken: it’s full of the usual religion about “gender equality”, “empowerment”, “intergenerational equity”, “Mother Earth”, and so on. It also imagines that we have the puissance to be able to clamp a 2° C lid on temperature increase, while at the same time it ignores all of the benefits — and there would be significant agricultural benefits — of a warmer climate and higher CO2 levels. (Carbon dioxide is plant food, and is currently at very low levels compared to earlier eras of Earth’s history.)

Mainly, though, it serves two holy purposes: to sluice money away from wealthy nations, and to “empower” a global priesthood of bureaucrats, busybodies and uplifters, guaranteeing them employment and enrichment as they lead us through the purifying process of salvation through atonement.

But I’ve said enough; I’ll turn things over to Lewis Amselem, a.k.a. Diplomad, who would like to add a few remarks of his own. Before you go, though, be sure to watch this brief message from one of the founders of Greenpeace.

Related content from Sphere

Render Unto Caesar

Our e-pal Bill Keezer has sent along an essay by Ian Hutchinson, a professor of nuclear science and engineering. Dr. Hutchinson is also a Christian, and his article is a riposte to people like Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins, who flatter themselves that the certainty of their atheism is grounded in truth, rather than their own scientistic faith. (I used to share this belief myself until quite recently, so I know how convincing it can be.)

Dr. Hutchinson presents three hypotheses about the Resurrection. Hypothesis #2 is a clear and concise critique of scientism, one of the best I’ve read.

The essay is not long. Read it here.

Related content from Sphere

Any Questions?

If you’re planning to major in political science at New York’s Hunter College, you can earn three points by taking a course called “Abolition of Whiteness“.

You may now be thinking something like this:

“Wow, that’s some pretty blatant racism there; it almost sounds like a call to genocide. Somebody should ask these people: what if it had been called ‘Abolishing Blackness’, or ‘Hey, Let’s Get Rid of the Jews’? Would that be OK?”

If so, what you are doing there is all wrong, and you need to “wise up”; you’re looking for principled consistency in the wrong place. There is a consistent principle here, but it isn’t the one you think it ought to be. As John Glanton has explained, it is, rather, a very simple one:

You have to admire the Left for its clarity of vision. It has identified its enemies, and it does what it can to drive them from the field. The recent fireworks in Indiana are a perfect illustration. Team blue knows that Christians are hateful homophobes, and so it goes to bat for the right of homosexuals to sue them over wedding cakes. The Right, with its characteristic acumen, mistakes this bushwhack for a principled stand. “Ah!” they say, “But if you support the right of a gay man to force a Christian to make a cake then you must support the right of the KKK to force a black baker to make a cake!” The average liberal couldn’t imagine a more irrelevant rejoinder. They aren’t making any such proposition at all. In their calculus, Christians (of the Not-fans-of-Pope-Francis type at least) are the bad guys and thus their interests are hateful and invalid and must be opposed. The KKK are bad guys and thus their actions are hateful and invalid and must be opposed. You attack bad guys. You don’t attack good guys. Whence the confusion?

The principle, then is as old as human affairs. It is nothing more or less than this:

We hate you, and we want you gone. Whatever that takes.

If you haven’t understood this yet, you haven’t understood anything.

Related content from Sphere

Domino Theory

Here’s a video clip that dramatically illustrates an interesting and counterintuitive fact: a small domino can knock over a domino up to 50% bigger than itself. This means that this knocking-over can very quickly “scale up”.

 
How is this possible? The first domino in this video can’t weigh more than a gram, while the last one weighs a hundred pounds. The answer is that the energy released is put into the system when you stand the dominos up, and because dominos are tall and thin, they are “tippy”. All that’s needed is for each domino to release enough energy to get the next domino’s center of gravity shifted far enough that it is no longer over the footprint of its base.

This is rich in metaphoric and isomorphic possibility. What else might be “tippy”?

Related content from Sphere

Eat A Peach

I’m saddened to note the death of yet another important musician of my generation: Gregg Allman, at the age of 69. They seem to be going faster and faster now.

Related content from Sphere

Introducing: The 2022 Cadillac Eris!

I predict:

Before too much longer, new cars will come with an autonomous, “self-driving” mode. In the beginning, at least, this will be an option that drivers can switch on or off.

There will be a great many married couples of “a certain age” in which the wife will want the husband to use the self-driving mode, and he won’t want to. In this way technology will bequeath to us a brand-new source of marital discord — pretty much the last thing anyone needs.

This one’s nowhere near as dire as most of my predictions, I realize, but I make it with high confidence.

Related content from Sphere

The Church of Christ Without Christ

I’ve just run across a really excellent essay, from 2014, about our hegemonic modern religion — a religion that the author, Joseph Bottum, correctly identifies as deracinated Protestant Christianity.

The essay is long, but there is very little in it for me to disagree with. To the neoreactionary reader it will sound some very familiar Moldbuggian notes.

Read it here.

Related content from Sphere

It’s Turtles All The Way Down

From the Federalist: a reasoned response to a student’s claim that quiet, wood-paneled rooms at universities are a form of oppression.

The problem, of course, will be that the very idea of persuasion by “reasoned response” is itself an oppressive cultural artifact.

And so it is: it is how our culture oppresses unreason. Unfortunately, this creates a “disparate impact”. I’m afraid it will have to go.

Related content from Sphere

Stairway To Hell

Mark Steyn weighs in on Manchester, here. A longish excerpt:

A few months ago, I was in Toulouse, where Jewish life has vanished from public visibility and is conducted only behind the prison-like walls of a fortress schoolhouse and a centralized synagogue that requires 24/7 protection by French soldiers; I went to Amsterdam, which is markedly less gay than it used to be; I walked through Molenbeek after dark, where unaccompanied women dare not go. You can carry on, you can stagger on, but life is not exactly as it was before. Inch by inch, it’s smaller and more constrained.

And so it will prove for cafe life, and shopping malls, and pop concerts. Maybe Ariana Grande will be back in the UK – or maybe she will decide that discretion is the better part of a Dangerous Woman’s valor. But there will be fewer young girls in the audience – because no mum or dad wants to live for the rest of their lives with the great gaping hole in your heart opening up for dozens of English parents this grim morning. And one day the jihad will get lucky and the bomb will take with it one of these filthy infidel “shameless” pop whores cavorting on stage in her underwear. You can carry on exactly as before, but in a decade or two, just as there are fewer gay bars in Amsterdam and no more Jewish shops on the Chaussée de Gand, there will be less music in the air in western cities. Even the buskers, like the one in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens today serenading a shattered city with “All You Need Is Love”, will have moved on, having learned that it’s a bit more complicated than that.

I am currently reading Douglas Murray’s fine book, The Strange Death of Europe, which lays out, unsparingly, the central illusion of the last half-century – that you could demographically transform the composition of hitherto more or less homogeneous nation states on a scale no stable society has ever attempted, and that there would be no consequences except a more vibrant range of local restaurants.

Then this:

As I asked around Europe all last year: What’s the happy ending here? In a decade it will be worse, and in two decades worse still, and then in three decades people will barely recall how it used to be…

Mr. Steyn is exactly right. It is, sadly, the brevity of human lifespans that makes such decline so easy. The world is new, and therefore normal, to each generation; it is only the old who can see clearly the value of what has been, and is being, lost and forgotten. But they are old, and weary, and soon they die.

European civilization is old, too, and soon will do the same.

Related content from Sphere

Scoop!

From the Washington Post, a penetrating insight:

Some in Manchester, and beyond, see the attack as one that targeted women and girls

To read the whole story, go to the Post‘s online search-box and enter the keyword “DUH”. Or click here.

Related content from Sphere

Pet-Rock Democracy

Here‘s a good piece by Victor Davis Hanson on our current political hysteria. And while we’re at it, don’t miss Buchanan’s latest.

PS – just saw that our e-pal David Duff had linked the Hanson piece as well. It’s making the rounds.

Related content from Sphere

Bismillah

A jihadi blew himself up in Manchester, England last night, at a pop concert crowded with teenage girls. There will be the usual effusion of pious public responses, followed by some incremental increase in the hindrances, indignities and surveillance imposed on innocent Westerners in their homelands. There will then be a lull of indeterminate duration, another attack somewhere, further effusions, and another click of the ratchet.

The Twitter humorist Iowahawk had this to say:

As Steve Sailer once wrote: “Political correctness is a war on noticing”. Most dangerously it appears to keep us from noticing what I have called The Obvious Thing:

Allowing mass Muslim immigration is the stupidest and most irreversibly self-destructive thing that any Western nation can do.

If it is axiomatic, though, that diversity trumps civilization (or even, for unlucky citizens, survival), then it’s all beyond our control; you might as well shake your fist at the weather. London’s Muslim mayor, in good Oriental fashion, has advised us to take this fatalistic view: “these things” are just “part and parcel of living in a great, global city”, and we’d better be prepared to endure them. (We might point out that London, which has been a “great, global city” for many centuries, never had to worry at all about explosive Muslim martyrdom until Britain admitted millions of the Prophet’s followers, but that would be “noticing”.)

After the truck attack in Stockholm last year, former Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt noted that these things are the “price of an open society”. This generalizes well: for example, psychosis and early death are the price of a methamphetamine addiction.

So let’s all give a worldly shrug, post a hashtag or two, and and move along. After all, what can be done?

Related content from Sphere

Graecopithecus freybergi

Big news, if true: humans emerged in Europe, not Africa.

Facing Down The Witch-King

Following on our previous post, our reader and commenter “Whitewall” has sent along a link to a post by the professor of history at the University of Chicago who was, as it turns out, the object of Dr. Karl Seigfried’s fulminations.

The post, a brave and rational woman’s response to a darkening madness that seeks to engulf her (and all the rest of us), is at her blog Fencing Bear At Prayer. I will be visiting often.

The West is at war with a fell and implacable foe, and this embattled scholar is on the frontlines. May the righteousness of our cause give her strength, and may she keep her sword in hand.

Related content from Sphere

The Very Model Of A Modern Marxist Jabberwock

Our reader and commenter Robert, a.k.a. “Whitewall”, has sent along an item from the University of Chicago Divinity School’s newsletter Sightings. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the postmodern cult-Marx priesthood that haunts the halls of the 21st-century Cathedral. (That is to say, the ones who are responsible for the grooming and education of the pupae of our cultural and social elites.)

The author has an interesting bio:

Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried is an author, educator, and performer finishing his third graduate degree, an MA at the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is President of Interfaith Dialogue at the University of Chicago and the first practitioner of Ásatrú to enter one of the Divinity School’s graduate programs. His biography, publications, and contact information can be found at www.norsemyth.org.

The problem addressed in Dr. Siegfried’s essay is one that most of us wouldn’t find particularly clamant: the paucity of non-white academics specializing in medieval European history and literature, and how very little of that history and literature seems to focus — clearly because of bias and oppression — on medieval Europeans “of color”.

That would be bad enough all by itself, but what truly makes makes this a full-blown crisis for Western civilization is that certain groups of people have dared to claim this heritage as their own, and to celebrate it, not without some pride, as distinctly European. Shockingly, the story doesn’t end there: the people doing this seem overwhelmingly to be white.

Given that this poses a threat to human survival on a par with the Toba bottleneck, something must be done. The problem, however, is that those who actually take even the slightest interest in medieval European history tend overwhelmingly, for some reason, to be people of pallor (such as Dr. Seigfried himself).

Clearly, then, drastic action is needed:

The clearest way forward is one that even many progressive scholars don’t want to hear about: affirmative action in academic hiring. This is the clearest answer, not the simplest or the quickest. We need a coherent system designed and put into place by individual departments with support from their parent institutions, and we need it now.

Commitment to hiring members of underrepresented communities as tenure-track appointments will not work out without a wide pool of postgraduates in the given field. Wide pools of postgraduates will not exist without diversity within undergraduate programs. Diversity within undergraduate programs cannot happen without robust recruiting at the secondary education level. There must be simultaneous commitment at all levels for any real change to happen.

All good, of course, but I’m not sure that Dr. Seigfried’s plan of attack is sufficiently comprehensive. We should consider some sort of intervention in utero.

This is not to say, though, that Dr. Seigfried isn’t taking the crisis seriously. He continues, with admirable boldness (my emphasis):

Departmental hiring committees have to move beyond tired claims of objectivity that regularly lead to the whitest candidate being the one hired and instead declare, for example, that the next five hires must be made from underrepresented communities.

There is simply no more time to waste on idle chit-chat, people. As Dr. Seigfried explains:

When neo-Nazis are literally marching in the streets looking to assault anyone who denounces their beliefs, we need to stop the endless parsing and take action.

I had rather thought it was the other guys doing most of the marching and assaulting, but obviously I’m out of touch. To the ramparts! There isn’t a moment to lose.

Read the rest here.

Related content from Sphere

Peccavi

Recently I quoted Col. Jeff Cooper. Our e-pal Bill Keezer passed along the quotation to Bill Vallicella, who reposted it on his blog.

Bill did, however, notice that I had offered no source, and remarked that he doesn’t like unsourced quotations. He looked for a source, and couldn’t find one. I can’t either. I have amended the post.

Bill’s right: this was an oversight. I have no reliable way of knowing that Jeff Cooper actually said or wrote this, and I should have made that clear. Not to do so is indifference to the propagation of error. (That’s not to say that the attribution is in fact erroneous — but it might be, and I posted it with indifference to whether it is or isn’t.)

Caveat lector: as Abraham Lincoln once said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”

Related content from Sphere

Of Machines and Monkeys

In a response to our Jeff Cooper quote a couple of posts ago, commenter Uriel Fiori linked to a post from 2013 by Nick Land. That post, at his blog Outside in, is called “Monkey Business”, and it discusses a tension in neoreactionary thinking about something called “orthogonalism”.

Simply put, “orthogonalism” is a way of thinking about telos, and the question of means and ends. The orthogonalist assumes the existence of ends that transcend any means available to them. We must eat, but not for the sake of eating; we eat to preserve life. The provision of food is not, therefore, an end in itself. This can be generalized to economics as a whole; the purpose of capitalism, for example, is not the maximization of resources per se, but is rather to increase the availability of resources that are necessary preconditions for the satisfactions of other, more human ends, such as the mitigation of poverty and hunger, and the increase of degrees of human freedom that results from the elimination of high-priority requirements that must be satisfied before other uses of our time and attention can become possible. In other words, there is a sort of triage that necessarily occurs in human life, with something, not always clearly defined, at the apex of the hierarchy of purpose.

This implies, for example, that when capitalistic maximization of resources becomes an end in itself, and other human values are subverted or subordinated to that aim, it is a “means-end-reversal” that will be pointed out and resisted by orthogonalists, who believe that the ultimate end is indeed, and will remain, transcendent. The question for the orthogonalist then becomes: what is at the apex of the hierarchy of goals, and why?

Read More »

Related content from Sphere

Coming Apart

I’ve mentioned Charles Murray rather a lot recently; this is because he is often in the news lately, and has been right on the frontlines of the culture war. The pillorying and excommunication of this meticulous and mild-mannered scholar also shows the extent to which ideological and cryptoreligious loyalties and prejudices have contaminated science as well as culture. The only upside to any of this is that his plight, as miserable as it must certainly been for him, has shocked a lot of other academics into a fresh realization of how bad things have gotten. (E.O. Wilson was subject to the same treatment back in the late 70’s, but I think that many might have imagined that things had got somewhat better since then. They haven’t, and I imagine Dr. Murray is, at this point, about three-quarters of the way to becoming a full-blown reactionary. We’ll be very proud to welcome him to the fold.)

Recently the young-adult website Vox posted a “debunking” of Dr. Murray’s work, here. It not only attacked Dr. Murray himself, but Sam Harris for being taken in by it all in his recent podcast with Dr. Murray (which we linked to here).

Here’s a response.

Related content from Sphere

No One Sings Like You Anymore

I note with great sadness the death of Chris Cornell. He was a musician of exceptional gifts; in particular, I consider him one of the greatest vocalists in the history of rock music. He will be deeply missed.

Related content from Sphere

One Thing Leads To Another

“If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.”

– Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

Related content from Sphere

Power Tools

“Weapons are the tools of power. In the hands of the state, they can be the tools of decency or the tools of oppression, depending on the righteousness that state. In the hands of criminals, they are the tools of evil. In the hands of the free and decent citizen, they should be the tools of liberty. Weapons compound man’s power to achieve whatever purpose he may have. They amplify the capabilities of both the good man and the bad, and to exactly the same degree, having no will of their own. Thus, we must regard them as servants, not masters–and good servants of good men. Without them, man is diminished, and his opportunities to fulfill his destiny are lessened. An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it.”

— Attributed to Col. Jeff Cooper

Related content from Sphere

Emmanuel Goldstein Murray

Recently the social-sciences scholar Charles Murray was assailed by a hate-filled audience at Middlebury College. It happened again today in a Congressional committee room.

Watch the video here.

Tank Slapper

I haven’t written much about the ongoing siege of the Trump presidency; I haven’t frankly, had much to add. But I should say something, I suppose.

First, I should say that Donald Trump is proving to be everything that all of us knew or feared he would be: a vain, impulsive, unlettered vulgarian bigmouth, ignorant, undisciplined, and unreflective. I’ll say also that he’s been, just in terms of keeping his campaign promises, a disappointment to many millions of voters who supported him not just to stop Hillary Clinton, but in the hope of aggressive and effective reversal of decades of managerial-state growth, suicidal immigration policy, and race-baiting “social-justice” warfare against the traditional American nation.

That said, it should be obvious to all that a bloodthirsty coalition of the media and members of the United States Government (especially, in the latter category, members of the judiciary and the intelligence community) are waging a bitter, take-no-prisoners campaign against this sitting President, using everything they can lay a hand on. From the start there has been a torrent of leaks, obviously coming from people with privileged access (and therefore also, obviously in many cases felonious), and the press has, in every news cycle, done everything in its power to damage and destabilize Mr. Trump’s administration. Every day is another barrage of unsourced accusations, and (in particular) charges of treasonous collusion with Russia for which no evidence is ever given.

There is not the least attempt at coherence or consistency. Things that were defended (or, at least, ignored) when Democrats did them — like sharing anti-terror intelligence with Russia, or alleged carelessness with classified material, or believing James Comey shouldn’t be the FBI director — are front-page scandals for Mr. Trump. (What this shows is simply that looking for such consistency, is naive, as we’ve pointed out before.)

Now Ross Douthat of the New York Times is calling for the removal of Mr. Trump using the mechanism outlined in Section IV of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment: the Vice-President and Cabinet declare him “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” — and should the President disagree, a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress chucks him out anyway.

I doubt that this could happen, but you never know. I do know that if it does happen, it will be seen by scores of millions of Americans as a forcible usurpation of the man they sent to Washington to “drain the swamp” — by the very snakes, leeches and reptiles they sent him there to do battle with. It will ratchet the nation another step closer to dissolution (or worse).

I’ve said for a while that politics in America are divided beyond all hope of healing, and that the civic and social cohesion that is absolutely essential for the central governance of such a vast and diverse nation is irreparably destroyed. It has seemed inevitable to me for at least five years that the United States, as presently constituted, will not exist very much longer. One metaphor I’ve used for the state of our politics is the way a car goes off the road: the driver sees, almost too late, that he’s drifted out of his lane, steers wildly back to center, overcorrects, yanks the wheel even more frantically back the other way, and after a few iterations of this ends up losing control altogether, with disastrous consequences.

With that metaphor in mind: if you’re wondering about the title of this post, here’s a video that should make it clear. I think the term deserves wider currency.

Related content from Sphere

The Future, By The Numbers

Making the rounds is a video by Mark Steyn in which he discusses the demographics of Europe and Africa, and Steve Sailer’s “Most Important Graph In The World“.

Take particular note starting at 9:55, if you’ve been wondering why Europe’s leaders don’t seem to give a damn about the future.

Related content from Sphere

Stuff To Read

I’m busy in the obvious ways this Mothers Day (Mother’s Day? Mothers’ Day?), so I’ll just pass along two articles that are worth your time: Angelo Codevilla on our cold civil war, and Erik Kuehnelt-Leddihn on three ways that democracies become tyrannies (the Tocquevillean model, quoted here just recently, is number three).

Related content from Sphere

Word Of The Day

Two, actually: baizuo, and shengmu. They’ll come in handy.

Learn more here.

Update: I was remiss not to give a hat-tip to Nick Land for this.

You May Say That I’m A Dreamer…

If I may, readers, I beg you to allow me a momentary departure from our customary rigor and gimlet-eyed realism:

Conjure this up in your mind’s eye: a nickel-iron meteorite, ten or twenty meters in diameter, plows into the National Mall at high velocity on a busy autumn weekday. In stroke, it’s all gone — Congress, the White House, Treasury, Foggy Bottom, Justice, EPA, IRS, K Street, the pundits, the whole enchilada. Just gone. Just a big smoking crater where it all used to be, with, after a little while, a lot of curious Americans peering over the rim…

Just a fantasy, of course, and needless to say the chaos that would follow would be spectacularly awful (not to mention the tragic deaths of all the innocent Washingtonians — of whom, I understand, there may be as many as several dozen — who would perish in the initial impact). But as I read the news day after day, it’s hard not to think about how splendid it would be if we could just, somehow, make it all go away, and give the whole thing another try.

For most of the nation’s history, the Federal government played an almost unnoticeable role in most Americans’ lives.

Imagine!

Related content from Sphere

Ship Of Fools

When I linked to Andrew Sullivan’s New York article about neoreaction last week, I hadn’t realized that it was just one piece of a much larger Festschrift the magazine had thrown together for its April 30th edition. I’ve just had a look at the rest of it.

The collection is, like the modern West itself, large and weak; it is really nothing more than an extended “point-‘n’-splutter”, with scarcely an attempt at rebuttal. The editors clearly think that the core tenets of reactionary thought — e.g., that the West is in serious trouble, and that central aspects of modernity such as democracy, secularism, universalism (and the doctrine if human uniformity that universalism entails), and radical skepsis regarding every tradition and natural category, are at the root of the problem — are so obviously absurd that mere mention of them suffices to discredit the movement. The shallowness, and smug confidence, on display here are impressive; that an editor of a major publication could, for example, completely dismiss the profoundly cultured and erudite Julius Evola with the sentence fragment “Quasi-fascist esoteric weirdo who pretended to be a baron and sported a monocle” betrays a blithe and unreflective ignorance so stupendous that it startles even me.

Imagine, readers, that the West is the Titanic. On the one hand, you have a group of passengers who felt a heavy impact in the night, and have noticed the deck beginning to tilt. They have realized that the situation is dire, and are trying to wake the others.

Among these vigilantes are sailors and engineers with expertise in both the ship’s design and the particularities of the local waters. While calling for the lifeboats, they have also arrived at some well-informed opinions about how this slow-moving disaster happened, and how such things might be avoided in future. They will point out that this part of the North Atlantic is full of icebergs in April, and that the ship had been moving too fast to be able to see its way ahead. They will also point out issues with the design of the ship (below-decks compartments that can fill with water like an ice-tray), and with insufficient caution on the part of the captain and crew (leaving watertight doors open that ought to have been sealed). Those who survive will also remark upon the overweening confidence of the ship’s designers, and of the owners of the White Star Line, in the vessel’s “unsinkability”. As we all know now, the Titanic was very sinkable indeed.

On the other hand, you have the editors of New York magazine, munching hors d’oeuvres and enjoying the band. Their comments are here, if you’re inclined to bother.

Related content from Sphere

The Edacity Of Hope

According to the Express, Barack Obama is going to be paid $2.5 million dollars for a speech he’s giving in Milan today. This follows on a $400,000 speech he gave on Wall Street a while back, and a $65-million advance he and his wife were given for books they (or someone) will be writing.

Mind you, as far as I’m concerned he’s welcome to get what he can for his road-show. If that desiccated harpy Madonna can go on tour and pull in $300 million, why shouldn’t Barack Obama put his snout in the trough? (I almost said “more power to him”, but I think we’ve had quite enough of that for a while, thank you.) I will, though, just remind Him that He once told us “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” (In fairness, I suppose we should keep in mind that he never said what that “certain point” actually is.)

So: why am I bringing this up? Not, I assure you, to try to enforce some sort of ethical consistency on the part of a Machiavellian left-wing ideologue and preening, unshameable narcissist; I might as well holler up a drainpipe. I’m simply presenting it as evidence that such consistency is nowhere to be found, that those who tell you otherwise are at best fools, and more often liars, and that those who take the moral high ground to lecture us about civic virtue are usually found, on closer inspection, to be standing atop a large and growing pile of dollars.

Related content from Sphere

A Bit More Optimistic?

I just paid a visit to Bill Vallicella’s website — I hadn’t stopped by in a couple of days — and saw that he had mentioned me in a recent post. Bill quoted a remark he had made in a comment-thread back in 2015:

We need a broad coalition of the sane which would include many libertarians, the few liberals who haven’t lost their minds, and most conservatives, with each subgroup tempering its own tendency toward extremism.

I had replied:

I used to hope for this, and believe it was possible, but now, to my sorrow, I just can’t see how it is ever going to happen. With every passing day, and every tick of the demographic clock, we move faster and faster in the opposite direction, and I can see in America today nothing even remotely resembling a coherent political opposition on the Right. As I wrote in my letter to you, I think we have slipped past the ‘event horizon’, and all future timelines now must pass through the singularity. What form that will take, and what will come after, I can barely imagine — but I don’t think it will be pleasant for anyone.

In his post of two days ago, Bill asks whether I am “a bit more optimistic” now that Donald Trump has been elected. It’s a good question. I’d certainly like to be, but to know if such optimism is warranted it’s important to be clear about what our problems are, and whether they are more likely to be solved now that Trump’s in office. Here are a few:

1) The collapse of the culture. Just today Bill posted a piece by Victor Davis Hanson about the near-total victory of the radical Left in our academies. Given that universities are upstream from the ideological future, and that these are where the next generation of ruling elites are likely to come from, it’s hard to see much call for optimism there. I note also the relentless erosion and corrosion of all civilized norms and mores, and the relentless vulgarization of language and discourse. The level of gratuitous obscenity that is routine in public media today would have been unthinkable when I was younger; for a very recent example there is Stephen Colbert’s referring to Donald Trump’s mouth as “Vladimir Putin’s cock holster” on network television. We have fallen very, very far indeed — and as is usual for falling things, the velocity is increasing.

2) Disintegrating social cohesion. As Bill has said himself, many times, “there is no comity without commonality” — and in contrast to the America of our youth, where there was near-universal commonality of basic cultural, historical, ethical, and social axioms, there is almost nothing that is culturally universal anymore. On the “progressive” left, the only solid principles (and they are not even mutually consistent) seem to be (a) that one must make up one’s axioms as one goes along, even as regards the most fundamental and categorical truths of the external world, and (b) that those axioms must fall within very narrowly circumscribed ideological guidelines, which include, first and foremost, the awarding of status according to a towering hierarchy of “oppression” — with the natural and traditional principles that have always provided the scaffolding of civilization sitting at the apex of that pyramid. (Bill himself has posted, just today, an enumeration of just a few of these incommensurable social and ethical postulates.)

Moreover, an essential element of social cohesion has always been a culture’s sense of extension in time, of the present as a link in a chain between past and future, and of living generations being duty-bound to good stewardship of the labors and heritage of the past for generations yet unborn. This “transmission belt”, essential for the survival of any society, is now broken: where the past is not simply forgotten, it is remembered only to be despised. In 2013 I described this problem, and lamented that “we are cut off from both past and future, imprisoned in the present as no generation of people has ever been before.” This pernicious presentism has only gotten worse in the four years since, and the society that I described back then as “this tottering, gibbering thing, this fly-blown, stitched-together corpse of a “culture””, has only advanced in its decomposition. So: optimism? I think not.

3) Demographic change. The crumbling of social cohesion is accelerated by the pernicious ideologies of universalism, postmodernism, and multiculturalism. They work in destructive combination — and deny, respectively, the existence of persistent and innate differences between human populations, the foundation of objective truth upon which any possible evaluation of such differences might be made, and the importance of commonality for social cohesion (and by extension, social survival). Under this unholy trinity of principles, the West has been flooded for decades now with profoundly alien and unassimilable immigrants, and has willfully blinded itself to the consequences. It may be that the West is slowly arousing itself from its postwar stupor, and awakening to its peril — but I’m afraid it is too little, and too late. (The defeat of Marine Le Pen in today’s elections in France is sad confirmation of this: that she did as well as she did is testament to the awakening, while her resounding defeat by the Eloi cuckold Macron is tragic evidence that it is indeed too little, and too late.)

4) The deepening underclass, and the stratification and encapsulation of the well-off. As I’ve written before, societies that offer high social mobility are subject to a “boiling off” of superior qualities from the lower classes; those who can move up and out, taking their genes with them. Charles Murray’s most recent book Coming Apart looks at this problem in depressing detail, and points out also that people, having risen to higher socioeconomic strata, tend, now more than ever, to find spouses who have similar innate and acquired advantages. This concentrates talent in the upper strata, and concentrates dysfunction below. The effect of this is a widening gap between upper and lower classes, a gap that is deeply resistant to social amelioration because it is due, at bottom, to innate differences in cognitive potential and behavioral traits.

Moreover, there is a strongly correlated difference in birth-rates; members of elite social and cognitive strata have fewer children, and so there is a tendency for every high civilization to produce an ever-diminishing number of offspring having the qualities, both innate and acculturated, that are necessary to carry forward the culture’s store of knowledge, art, and literature, even as that burden grows larger and heavier with every generation. This problem is not going to get better: as far as I can tell, the lesson of history is that it never does.

5) Democracy itself, the universal franchise, and the short-term interests of politicians. I believe that we are seeing in the West the late-stage pathology of the inherent liabilities of democracy — a system that, at the time of America’s founding, had always been well understood to lead, in a few short steps, to tyranny. The Founders were rightly appalled by the prospect of democracy, knowing where it must lead, and so they did what they could to prevent its natural progression in America. But “rust never sleeps”, and so all of the safeguards against democracy that they put in place — subsidiarianism, a limited franchise, restriction of popular elections to one-half of one-third of the branches of government, and so on — have, little by little, rusted away, even as the founding culture and shared sense of heritage that were so clearly understood to be the real foundation of civic durability in America have been deliberately and irreversibly dismantled.

What we see in America now is a perfect socio-political storm: the enormous power now vested in the federal Leviathan makes control of it a glittering, and existentially important, prize; the stakes have never been so high. Meanwhile, this vast expansion of the size, power, and reach of government comes at a time when all of the horizontal ligatures, organic hierarchy, and embedding in past and future time that give a culture health, harmony and order are being deliberately and patiently destroyed. Finally, as I have written extensively elsewhere, the communication revolution of the past decade brings everything into immediate contact with everything else; just as chemical reactions proceed more rapidly under conditions of heat and pressure, social reactions that in earlier times might have taken years or decades to develop now flare and accelerate explosively — far too quickly for any measured or reflective response.

As I said above, these are only a few of the difficulties we face. (As you’ve probably guessed, I could go on at some length about all of this.) So, to answer Bill’s question: am I “a bit more optimistic” in the springtime of the Trump era than I was in June of 2015?

No. Donald Trump’s victory was gratifying, of course, mostly in that it drove a stake through the heart of Hillary Clinton’s political career — but rather than a genuine and lasting course correction, I think it was more like the way a car goes off the road: the driver sees, almost too late, that he’s drifted out of his lane, steers wildly back to center, overcorrects, yanks the wheel even more frantically back the other way, and after a few iterations of this ends up losing control altogether, with disastrous consequences. (The fact that this election came down to Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton is itself evidence of serious and advanced pathology.)

Yes, Trump & Co. are in power now — but do things in America, and the rest of the world, seem in 2017 to be getting more orderly and civilized, or sharply less so?

Do you have the feeling that a fever has passed, and that mutual respect, good sense, and civic health are returning to American society?

Right. Neither do I.

Related content from Sphere

Reacting To Reaction

Here’s a remarkably frank look at neoreaction, from the increasingly red-pilled Andrew Sullivan. I’m too busy at the moment to comment — other than to say that Mr. Sullivan still has too much universalism and Progressive optimism in him to grasp the nettle just yet — but it’s encouraging to see the “progress” our side is making. What was, just a few years ago, an obscure intellectual eddy that made not a ripple in the American mainstream is now beginning to have a noticeable effect on ideological navigation.

I hope to have more to say about Mr. Sullivan’s essay shortly.

Related content from Sphere

Service Notice

After much wrangling with Bluehost, I believe the server-side caching problems we’ve been having with the site are now fixed. Please leave a comment if you see any more odd behavior.

Related content from Sphere

Nye’s Quadrant

For today, some climate heresies:

In a post at her blog, Actual Climate Scientist Judith Curry discusses a diagram that divides scientific work into four quadrants. The corners of the diagram represent high vs. low priorities on two different axes: the pursuit of some kind of practical utility (X), and the pursuit of basic understanding (Y). In the upper-left corner — pursuit of basic understanding, with low concern for practical application — we have someone like Niels Bohr, or Isaac Newton. In the opposite corner — application above all, with just enough understanding to make a thing work — there’s Thomas Edison. The upper-right corner, where understanding and utility combine in equal measure, is occupied by people like Louis Pasteur.

Who gets the bottom left? In Dr. Curry’s post, we find it occupied by the skeletal scaremonger and cult-Marx cult-hero Bill Nye. Have a look here, and be sure to visit the many links.

We also have some remarks from a recent lecture by another anathematized Actual Climate Scientist, Richard Lindzen. In it he continues in his role as vox clamantis in deserto; all he has ever tried to do is patiently to explain that there are many good reasons for any critical thinker to approach the subject of climate change with wariness and circumspection, and to make clear that the Science is far less “settled” than we are led to believe.

Drs. Curry and Lindzen are not cranks or shills; they are highly credentialed experts who simply will not mute themselves and get in line. For this they are shunned and reviled with all the viciousness that a great and powerful religious establishment can bring to bear.

From the closing paragraph of Dr. Lindzen’s presentation:

[T]here is one thing that should spark skepticism in any intelligent reader. The system we are looking at consists in two turbulent fluids interacting with each other. They are on a rotating planet that is differentially heated by the sun. A vital constituent of the atmospheric component is water in the liquid, solid and vapor phases, and the changes in phase have vast energetic ramifications. The energy budget of this system involves the absorption and reemission of about 200 watts per square meter. Doubling CO2 involves a 2% perturbation to this budget. So do minor changes in clouds and other features, and such changes are common. In this complex multifactor system, what is the likelihood of the climate (which, itself, consists in many variables and not just globally averaged temperature anomaly) is controlled by this 2% perturbation in a single variable? Believing this is pretty close to believing in magic. Instead, you are told that it is believing in ‘science.’ Such a claim should be a tip-off that something is amiss. After all, science is a mode of inquiry rather than a belief structure.

Read the whole thing here.

Coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef has been in the news lately. It can only be due to global warming, right? Well, no: it may very well be the result of falling sea levels in the region, due to El Niño. (Have you heard any mention of this coherent and persuasive explication in the mainstream media? Of course not.) Learn more, in considerable detail, here.

Finally, see also this comprehensive takedown, from 2014, of the (apparently) unkillable “97% consensus” myth.

Related content from Sphere

Harris And Dennett, Again, On Free Will

After posting the Sam Harris interview with Charles Murray last week, I browsed through some of Dr. Harris’s other podcasts. Among them I found a conversation with Daniel Dennett on a topic about which the two of them have had a public spat: free will.

Both of these men are, obviously, uncommonly intelligent and articulate, and while each has made arguments on important matters that I find unpersuasive — Harris on the existence of an objective foundation for morality, Dennett on the illusory nature of consciousness, and both of them on what they consider to be the fatuity and obsolescence of religion — I’ve admired both of them for their curiosity, diligence, and willingness to take unpopular positions.

Free will is, of course, a difficult topic that has vexed philosophers and laymen alike for a very long time. I’ve written about it myself at some length. (See the post category here, or the linked series of posts beginning here.) I find Dennett’s position — a carefully threaded form of “compatibilism”, as laid out in his books Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves — persuasive. Sam Harris doesn’t, and wrote a short book of his own to say so. In a review, Dennett called the book a “museum of mistakes”, and there was some tense back-and-forth in print between the two of them. (See the links below.)

Last summer Harris and Dennett both attended a conference in Banff, and during a break in the action sat down in a bar to talk about it all. The result is this podcast, in which they examine their disagreements with refreshingly civilized collegiality. My impression is still that Dennett’s position comes much closer to getting at what is true and important about free will than Harris’s — so much so, in fact, that it rises to the level of what is sometimes called “pwnage”. But you should make up your own minds. It’s an interesting and penetrating discussion.

Have a listen here.

Related content from Sphere

Put Some Cant In Your Rant

If, like me, you often have trouble finding just the right word, perhaps these will help: A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, published in 1811, and the Dictionary of Cant and English Slang, A Collection of the Canting Words and Terms, both ancient and modern, used by Beggars, Gypsies, Cheats, House-Breakers, Shop-Lifters, Foot-Pads, Highway-Men, &c; from 1737.

I’ve lifted these from the excellent blog From Old Books. I think that makes me a “heaver“.

Related content from Sphere

The Science Guy

Once you have listened to the podcast offered in our previous post — a thoughtful and informative discussion of complex topics by two thoroughly civilized adults — I invite you, for perspective, to watch this video by the latest champion of our dying society’s hegemonic cryptoreligion. I refer to that grimacing ectomorph, Bill Nye, who seems suddenly to be everywhere — and who presumes, along with the equally insufferable mediocrity Neil DeGrasse Tyson, to lecture the rest of us about “science” (lectures that seem always to be more like what used, in my day, to be called “propaganda”, or sometimes just “rubbish”).

Look at this astonishing video, which consists of a bulky middle-aged woman warbling about her enthusiasm for every imaginable variety of sexual perversion, while squatting and waddling about the stage in a leotard. Read the song’s lyrics, helpfully captioned for the hearing-impaired. (I understand that they are by Mr. Nye himself.) Learn all about this graceless woman’s insatiable vagina, and about the cultural and spiritual importance of “butt stuff”.

Watch it all, if you can. Reflect on the fact that in the eyes of the mandarins who shape our popular culture, this man — this gangling scarecrow from Hell — is a suitable choice for the instruction and moral guidance of our children, while men like Charles Murray are reviled in our nation’s press and the halls of our academies, and are physically assaulted when they dare to speak in public.

Watch this video and ask yourself how on earth any high culture could possibly have sunk so low in such short years. Think of all that we have squandered and lost. Think of what it means for your children, and theirs.

And yes, by all means, please feel free to burn with rage.

Related content from Sphere

Sam Harris Interviews Charles Murray

Here’s something to listen to: a roving two-hour conversation between Sam Harris and Charles Murray. Of particular value is their discussion of the hard reality of intelligence, and of its measurability, its heritability, and the cross-cultural reliability of intelligence tests.

Also: the word that changed the history of the world.

Related content from Sphere

Service Notice

There’s been some odd behavior here – strange lags between publishing and items appearing, and comments appearing under the wrong author’s name. I don’t know what’s going wrong, but I do recall there being a recent WordPress update.

I’ll try to sort it out. I invite affected commenters to leave a comment on this post to see if the problem is limited to the previous one. One thing I have noticed: forcing a browser-cache refresh (Ctrl + F5 on Windows) seems to help.

Update: the problem persists. I have contacted Bluehost, but so far have not had much help. For now, please be sure to force a cache refresh (CTRL + F5) when reading or commenting. If the blog vanishes, this is why; I will either be making repairs or finding a new hosting company. (If comments fail altogether, readers can email me using the address in the “About” page.)

Further Update: Deleting cookies for malcolmpollack.com in my Chrome browser may have fixed the problem. Please try this; instructions are here.

Related content from Sphere

The Serpent

Here’s an excerpt from a column by Ulrich Baer – a “vice-provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity” at NYU — in yesterday’s New York Times:

The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community. Free-speech protections — not only but especially in universities, which aim to educate students in how to belong to various communities — should not mean that someone’s humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents, can be freely attacked, demeaned or questioned.

That’s quite a mouthful. Let’s examine it before swallowing.

The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks.

This may be true in private life — an employee certainly can’t expect to be able say anything he thinks in a business meeting, or a child in her parents’ home, without consequences. But if we are talking about the law, and therefore about public institutions, then the matter is clear: with the exception of a few extremely narrow and clearly defined exceptions, the freedom to say “anything anybody thinks” is explicitly enshrined in the First Amendment. This applies with particular relevance to exactly the sort of speech that is coming into question in recent years, namely opinions about political, social, and scientific controversies.

It means balancing the inherent value of a given view…

The “inherent value”? According to whom? It’s our differing valuations of ideas and viewpoints, descriptions and prescriptions, that makes the airing of opinions and arguments so vitally important in the first place, and that makes their suppression so dangerous. If everyone agrees about a thing, what is there to discuss? If there’s no dissent, why have a First Amendment at all?

…with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community.

Yes, of course — but the answer to that is simple and obvious: don’t suppress speech.

Free-speech protections — not only but especially in universities, which aim to educate students in how to belong to various communities — should not mean that someone’s humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents…

Is it not precisely the “right to participate in political speech as political agents” that the author of this essay proposes to limit? Is that not what recently happened, for example, to Charles Murray and Christina Hoff Sommers, presumably with Provost Baer’s approval?

…can be freely attacked, demeaned or questioned.

Let’s leave aside “attacked” and “demeaned”, which in this context simply mean “disagreed with”, or “disapproved of”. But “questioned”? This is the darkest and most revealing word in Mr. Baer’s essay. His position, just to make it clear, is that there are questions we must not be permitted to ask.

Excuse me, Mr. Baer, but: permitted by whom? The Left is fond of railing at inequalities of power. Who, then, shall wield the power to decide what others may question?

Forgive me for asking.

Related content from Sphere

Breather

I’ve been too busy over the past few days to put pen to paper (or pixels to page). The world seems more frantic than ever, and it’s hard to keep up.

So, here’s a pause, a musical interlude, for you; let it be a little five-minute fermata. The music is by the lavishly gifted composer and arranger Vince Mendoza, and it was recorded and mixed by your humble correspondent, way back in 1990.

Related content from Sphere

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

We still have music. And dogs. And musical dogs.

It Ain’t Necessarily So

I’ve said from the beginning that the prevailing narrative about the chemical-weapons attack in Syria — in brief, that Assad did it — makes no sense. I’ll say this, too: not only does it make no sense, but it so obviously makes no sense that any sensible person should doubt it in the absence of overwhelming evidence.

Yet two days later President Trump launched a cruise-missile attack on Syria on the basis of this narrative, which could hardly have been confirmed so quickly even if it were true. In doing so he may have achieved some ulterior goals — to impress Xi Jinping, perhaps, and to weaken the mainstream media’s relentless Trump-is Putin’s-puppet narrative — but it was a terribly impulsive move, and has done serious damage to any hope of better relations with Russia. I was shocked when it happened, and deeply disappointed.

After the Tomahawk salvo, the Trump administration put out a report arguing that Assad was indeed behind the gas attack. This week an eminent academic, Theodore Postol (who is a professor emeritus of science, technology, and national-security policy at M.I.T., and a former high-level Pentagon adviser) has published a detailed analysis of the administration’s report and the available evidence. He has concluded that it is, not to put too fine a point on it, rubbish. The evidence, says Dr. Postol, shows that the sarin container was not dropped from the sky, but positioned in the middle of a road and smashed open by a bomb mounted directly on top of it.

Dr. Postol’s report is moderately technical. You can read it here. You can also read an excellent summary of the reasons to doubt the Trump Administration’s account of the attack, here.

For all of this I owe a hat-tip to John Batchelor and Stephen Cohen, who discussed these matters on Tuesday evening. You can listen to their conversation here.

Related content from Sphere

A Progressive Cassandra

A few years back I re-read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which I had first read as a teenager, far too young to appreciate it. Upon re-reading it I realized that it was among the most accurately prescient works of speculative fiction ever written, and when I saw a reference to it online just now I went back to look for the post I was sure I had written at the time, but apparently never got around to writing. I’ll remedy that, briefly, here.

What makes BNW so spectacularly farsighted? Three things, at least:

First, and least, is that it foresaw the enormous expansion of the managerial state, and the reduction of human life to a closely supervised pursuit of pleasure, stripped of all higher purpose or any sense of the transcendent.

Second, it predicted, decades before the mechanism of inheritance was understood, that we would soon achieve technical mastery of genetic engineering.

Most important of all, though, is that it foresaw the radically entropic dissolution, for social and ideological ends, of what is, in human terms, the primary natural category — namely the distinction between male and female. Furthermore, Huxley clearly understood that this could only happen if reproduction was completely decoupled from sexual activity, and indeed from all human experience. Only technology could make this possible.

In this era of entropic postmodernism regarding every aspect of human nature and experience, Huxley’s vision is the only logical way to sustain the march of atomizing, deracinating, and dehumanizing “progress” that has overtaken Western civilization. That Aldous Huxley saw this all so clearly in 1931 is, to put it mildly, remarkable.

Related content from Sphere

Altar-ed State

Mencius Moldbug:

…in many ways nonsense is a more effective organizing tool than the truth. Anyone can believe in the truth. To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable demonstration of loyalty. It serves as a political uniform. And if you have a uniform, you have an army.

With that in mind, here’s a good item from Hanson today, on the demands a certain religion makes on its adherents.

Related content from Sphere

What Can I Say?

At the moment I must confess to being almost utterly exhausted, for some reason, by news and events. It’s not for lack of material to comment on: the Western polity is disintegrating, our nuclear fleet is steaming toward North Korea, there’s a mad killer on the loose, and that’s just the stuff above the fold — but none of it seems surprising, or even terribly interesting anymore. Frankly I’m having a hard time thinking of anything to say about it that I haven’t already said, or that hasn’t been said many times over by others. What’s happening is simply what anyone who’s been paying attention will have expected to happen, for explicable (and, by now, well-explicated) reasons.

What we can count on from this point forward is acceleration. I’ve written before about the similarities between the human world-system and the behavior of gas particles in a shrinking container: as the average distance between particles decreases, the pressure and temperature go up. That distance, in the human world, is now falling toward zero, and reactions that would have happened very slowly, if at all, in a cooler and more spacious world are now happening faster than we can comprehend, or adjust to. (The pace of this change has been increasing for centuries, but the acceleration was slow at first. It is slow no longer.)

As I wrote in 2013:

As the temperature and pressure continue to increase, what will happen? It seems likely that there will be increasing chaos in the human world, as systems and structures designed for a larger, cooler, slower world can no longer keep up with the pace of change. In universities, students majoring in technical fields find that much of what they’ve been taught is out of date even before they graduate. Governments struggle to control and regulate technology that is already obsolete by the time new laws come into effect. Centralized, detailed governance at the scale of large nation-states is too large, too inertial to keep up with the rate of change; we may soon see such political entities breaking apart under the increasing heat and pressure…

In short, the smaller and hotter the world is — in other words, the more likely it becomes that any two “particles” will impinge on each other in a given time — the more volatile, reactive, unstable, and “twitchy” it becomes. As volatility and the rate of change increase, it becomes more and more difficult for systems and institutions that operate at a constant pace — the legislative processes of large democracies, for example — to respond effectively to innovations and crises.

So! – here we are. (And if you think things are moving fast now, just wait a little.)

I’ll add this:

As the accelerating impingement of the horizontal present becomes overwhelming in human lives, it becomes harder and harder for any ordinary person to think about anything else. The past seems too irrelevant, the future too unstable and unpredictable, to give much thought to either. The effect of this narrowing presentism is that faith in institutions and traditions erodes, as these essential structures, which till now have been the framework and scaffolding of every culture and society, lose their necessary foundation: the reassuring solidity of extension in time. And as stabilizing structures crumble, chaos increases.

What has happened so far was predictable — but what will happen after a few more years of this acceleration is not. It is probably right to say, as many have said, that we are very rapidly approaching some sort of Singularity, with conditions so novel that the laws that have channeled history to this point may well no longer apply. One thing to keep in mind also is that linear extrapolations at any point of an exponentially rising curve will always underestimate the future Y value of the function. Things are going to come faster than you think.

So: with all this in mind, I find myself with less and less to say about the kaleidoscopic details, about the news of the week, about the gathering whirlwind of social debris flying past my window. I am more inclined simply to stand, as best I can, well back.

The focus may be a little different here, and posts perhaps less frequent, for a bit.

Related content from Sphere

“Maintaining A Thesis At All Costs”

Daniel Dennett has a new book – From Bacteria To Bach And Back. I haven’t read it, though I likely will.

Thomas Nagel reviews it, here.