Thursday, July 19, 2018

On the Rightist Side of History

Israel makes it official
Israel passed early Thursday a controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and asserts that "the realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people," sparking outrage from Israel's Arab community and provoking concern from the international community.
Elsewhere in the same pages of Ha'aretz you'll find denunciations of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cordial relations with Hungarian nationalist hero Victor Orban.

The old notion of a natural affinity of democratic states still issues from neoconservative circles, where it's used in bad faith to prompt wars ultimately on behalf of Israel, and is still bought-into by the great gullible center of respectable American punditry and politicians, but has never been particularly true. The real motive force behind democracy promotion has always been opening up of markets controlled by states resisting globalization. Let the multinationals and waves of migrants into your country, give Israel no trouble and a gloss of "democracy" will do fine.

Conversely, nationalism, being opposed to migrants and the exploitation of foreign companies--but not democracy, the way by which it is most often arrived at--is a problem in and of itself. Even a gloss of nationalism as phony as that of democracy in most places is a problem for the global order, in that it legitimizes this barrier to global capital and demographic molding.

There is a new global affinity, not promoted from above by leaders with questionable motives but emerging from popular will, toward nationalism. Eastern Europe, Israel, Russia, Trump's America, all have a natural, if limited, affinity that has more legitimacy and urgency.

Israel even codified its own form of manifest destiny
The nation-state law also includes clauses stating that a "united Jerusalem" is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the country's official language. Another says that "the state sees the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation."
 The problem with the fallacy of a natural alliance of global democracies is that national interest isn't changed by voting--on the contrary. Voters may occasionally be stupid, but they never would vote so clearly against their interests--for instance in the case of Angela Merkel's disastrous opening up of Germany to hordes of Muslim future voters.

Nationalism simply makes frank and clear the interests of a nation and thus allows it to pursue them. In a global community of nations forced to be (somewhat more) honest and upfront about their intentions we would probably have less war and less exploitation of weaker nations. The sort of thing democracy promotion was supposed to provide.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Love Letters

Actors reading the emails between Peter Stryk and Lisa Page. This should be adapted into a play.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Chord, Summer Remix

We gather in shadows
Before screens of light
Beneath arcs of rhythm
Where stories dog-fight

Where nothing is warm
But all is just right
Energy generated, energy spent
And no end in sight

The sky overhead
Boundless, indifferent
Draws it in to no effect
As the sea swallows the shipwreck

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Fundamentalist Christians will save Science

In Britain
A doctor has been “sacked” as a medical assessor for a government department after refusing to renounce his Christian belief that gender is determined at birth, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal. 
Dr David Mackereth has worked for 26 years as an NHS doctor but was told he could not be employed as a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) disability assessor if he refused to identify patients as being of a sex that they did not see themselves as. 
The 55-year-old father of four believes sex is genetic and biological, so established at birth.
 Perhaps it was inevitable. Feminism, anti-racism, gay rights all proceed from the same failed assumptions about biology. So far, Christianity hasn't conflicted with them. One might even say it operates from the same failed assumptions (I don't).

But with transgenderism's insistence we disbelieve our very eyes (and genitals), the progressive movement demands a level of delusion no faith asks. The left has managed to place itself on the other side of religion from science. Advanced religion may be hostile to scientific theory that threatens or offends, but it doesn't demand you believe nonsense about physical reality on the ground. It wants you to believe fantastic things that are safely remote from real life. Progressivism wants you to believe fantastic things about real life. Even things that could get you killed--or kill your civilization, maybe.

Of course, it's not a "Christian" belief that gender is determined at birth any more than the theory of gravity is a Christian belief.

In the Event

Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff recalls a paid speaking engagement in Medium:
After I arrived, I was ushered into what I thought was the green room. But instead of being wired with a microphone or taken to a stage, I just sat there at a plain round table as my audience was brought to me: five super-wealthy guys — yes, all men — from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world. After a bit of small talk, I realized they had no interest in the information I had prepared about the future of technology. They had come with questions of their own. 
They started out innocuously enough. Ethereum or bitcoin? Is quantum computing a real thing? Slowly but surely, however, they edged into their real topics of concern. 
Which region will be less impacted by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?
Shock collars are suggested as a solution for that problem.
The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes everything down. ”  
 This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival. Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers — if that technology could be developed in time.
Or maybe robots to guard the workers and keep them in line. Whatever it takes.
The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes everything down.
The one percent behave as if they have less and less faith in the system they dominate and celebrate. Those who appear to be in control behave as if they know no one is in control. Absent national sovereignty, representative government and a coherent culture the system itself is in control. Rushkoff, who appears to be a liberal who once believed in the democratizing and liberating power of technology, experiences a revelation:
That’s when it hit me: At least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology. Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the aging process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: escape.
 The recurring joke on the HBO show Silicon Valley is every new project will "make the world a better place". Looks like they've given up on the world. Is there a better indicator of the corruption of a system that those most benefiting from it have no real faith in it?


 Z Man is our guest today on Luke Ford.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Reinventing Ourselves Out of Existence

It's a hoary old tradition on the progressive left to use Independence Day to hold forth on what America "is", invariably defining it in ways that would have made the Founders appeal to King George to be readmitted to the empire if they saw it coming.

More often than not it revolves around black grievance and historical resentment. Black American failure reinterpreted as American failure has been the means by which they've attempted, and largely succeeded, in redefining America as existing entirely to atone for slavery--which, as our cardinal sin, cannot be atoned for.

Exhaustion at such nonsense, and recognition of the damage it's still doing, feeds the growing white American nationalist identity, whether it's the "alt right" or a relatively apolitical Trump voter. Rhetorically, the Overton Window has shifted to allow a more vigorous defense of America (which really means, to both sides, white America) and critique of these critiques. Some have even gone as far as to point out the ethnic self-interest of progressive Jews, without whom the leftist narrative would gain little traction outside of those groups it flatters with demagogy, such as blacks.

A good narrative adapts. People are tiring of defining America by the well-being of its least virtuous, its least liberal, its least American (sorry blacks, that's you) people. These critiques have grown cruder and more rigid in pace with their dissipating influence on normal intelligent people who aren't compromised by their reliance on this system of white guilt cultivation.

For the left black failure is like a nuclear fuel rod, producing demagogic energy in perpetuity. It does not dissipate in recognizable time. As the goal of equal representation isn't possible without massive discrimination and distortions (the necessity of competence keeps getting in the way of, say, equal representation in the sciences). Destruction of the myth of white racism is the only way to avoid an eventual meltdown.

For the left the idea blacks aren't up to the demands of modern life and western standards of behavior is either incomprehensible or the Truth That Must Not Be Known. So they drive further into radical interpretations of America, its institutions and founding. What would have been laughable or terrifying to even their own liberal forbears becomes convention.

In an opinion piece in New York Times Roger Cohen says America is kind of like Madonna, adopting a whole new persona for every tour:
This magical capacity for reinvention lies at the root of American greatness. Other nations fetishize the past, rewrite it in blood; America’s genius is the facilitation of forgetfulness. To be unburdened of history, for many immigrants, enables the pursuit of happiness.
I wonder of Mr. Cohen would view Judaism, or any other group's natural inclination for cultural and ethnic preservation, as fetishizing the past.

But the reality is the nation has only reinvented itself once, in the postwar period culminating in the sixties' split with the past definition. The people, that is the actual nation, were not consulted. They acquiesced; it  all sounded good. Who would deny another man his rights out of bigotry?

We are waking, belatedly, to the con. The stubbornness of the elite suggest they believe the same con they push. Nothing makes a better liar than someone deluded into believing his lie. Delusional people turn from immediate reality to find harbor in, among other things, the past:
I began my July 4 by reading the words of a black poet, Langston Hughes, written in 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression. This, today, is not a good American moment. Truth is under attack. The law is under attack. The press is under attack. Moral depravity seeps from on high in a viscous torrent that infects everything and is hard to cleanse from the skin. It cloys. The White House stands for white males, above all, not 325 million Americans of every creed and color. I wanted to remind myself, again, of America’s spirit.
It's notable how much the proponents of progress turn to the past, to a, say, fetishized version of it, as they rail against any historical awareness of real meaning in real people. So it's inevitable. Mr Cohen, dipping his bucket in the kitsch well and citing the authority of Langston Hughes, has decided America does not exist at all, and only will after blacks have (are we even sure any more what exactly we want for them?). It was inevitable that, absent the impossible but non-negotiable goal of peaceful multi-ethnic equality they would seek to define the nation away all together, so as to start over.
In his poem, “Let America Be America Again,” Hughes writes: Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free. (America never was America to me.) The parenthesis punctures the myth. The American idea is a journey toward a receding destination, driven by the pursuit of perfectibility. The nation was not born of a piece with the Constitution. Its contours were outlined, with sufficient clarity and flexibility to endure, for future generations to usher closer to an ideal of liberty and justice for all. That is why for a black man, Hughes, writing 83 years ago, “America was never America.”
This is basically stating what has been policy and cultural convention since the civil rights movement. America only exists to create "equality" for Africans, and an ever-growing list of similarly aggrieved. An impossibility--without a totalitarian system of redistribution that would destroy the very civil liberties these people cite when they demand it. We won't get there, in other words, before we've destroyed ourselves, because it isn't possible and there's a whole world out there that doesn't share our delusions or interests.

I think it's time for the likes of Cohen to "reinvent" themselves. Indeed, they do not exist until they've realized their own potential for perfection. But the piece wouldn't be complete without another old cliche:
Nowhere else is becoming somebody else so easy. There is space, still, to be free. Sure there is. The divisions between those who came first and those who came later are fungible.
Fungible divisions is a cool story bro, for a misconception. If the last few decades have shown us anything it is the durability of divisions, which grow with diversity, provided you have enough people on each side of the divide to create dissension, and the political consensus represented by Cohen: you don't even exist, white America.

Individual reinvention doesn't really happen. Group or national reinvention (leaving out the remarkable history of the Jews, which can be seen as one of serial reinvention while maintaining the core element of identity, which Cohen sees as pure evil in white gentiles) likewise doesn't happen--unless it's forced on you from without. Reinvention is imposed from without in defeat by the victorious. Cohen is one of the victorious elite that imagines themselves as designing a new way for a defeated country, like General MacArthur in Japan.

Sadly, they may have pushed things so far along reinvention may be our only option.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Fourth of Nostalgia

Fourth of July about fifteen years ago, flying out of LA as the sun went down. I'm at the window seat watching the fireworks displays light up the landscape here and there. Only the prescient few know what's coming. I'm not one of them.

Nearby they illuminate the cities below: football fields, lakefronts, suburban grids. Farther out on the horizon they're bursts of neon and sparks sprouting from the forming crust of a new planet. They obey some foreign physics as they blossom and fade, crowding in on each other in striving profusion.

I'm reminded of another flight, out of Okinawa at night. I caught a ride on a medical airplane, a DC-9 with the seats facing the rear--for some reason--where patients were transported, bed and all. The pitch black was randomly interrupted by thick ropes of lightning that lit up the ocean surface, revealing little silver worlds of lonely uninhabited islands. These were the things of a boy's dreams, mine at least, somewhere along the way I lost them, lost the desire to get lost. I remembered something I'd read, I'm still not sure it's true, that lightning actually travels up from the ground, to the sky. I'm seized by the image of the mass of dense, churning clouds as a living thing, feeding, drawing the energy out of the earth below, seething, serving some mysterious purpose, indifferent in its greatness.

The road exhausts and disconnects us from the thread of routine. We can't help but become reflective, and sometimes slip into the maudlin. I've had moments--in the hills of northern California, where nothing is so lonely--that I won't detail, that surely qualify; it's embarrassing. It's okay; you get a pass. I've made the drive to LA and back, some twenty-plus hours, a handful of times. It's madness, an absurd thing to do when you can fly. But it does clear the head, somehow. 

I was going home alone on that Fourth of July flight, surrounded by a gaggle of teenagers on some group trip. The kid next to me--I'm leaning back in my seat so he can watch the fireworks--is poring over one of those giant CD cases. I have one too. The fireworks are little acidic nightmares springing out of a great, churning consciousness, a giant brain-planet like in the film Solaris, their patterns a language too complex to understand. The land is sick, it calls out. It admonishes. I watch the lights like a fascinated ape. He knows he doesn't know, at least.

I want my memories to mean something. That is, I want the Fourth of July to be here, forever, if for no other reason than it's mine. Ours.

Happy Independence Day.


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