On the Memetic Success of Modernism

Modernism appears pretty consistently in minds as an amalgam of several philosophical notions: positivism, materialism, physicalism, nominalism, liberalism, moral and aesthetic relativism, and atheism. There may be others. If you come across a man who credits one of them, it is a pretty good bet that he credits all the others, too.

It is interesting that, on any one of those notions, there can be no such thing as moral culpability. Modernism then looks like a retreat from morality, and so from responsibility, on every philosophical front. Implicitly, modernism makes shame and guilt inapposite to reality. Shame and guilt are painful feelings, and it is pleasant to get out from under them, via the conviction that they simply don’t pertain to anything – particularly oneself, or one’s acts. That is why modernism is tempting; this might account for its memetic success.

Why Nationalism is Sometimes Evil and Sometimes Holy

“Towards the east they level their bayonets against nationality, towards the north they level them for nationality.” 

Carl Ferdinand Allen, On Nationality and Language (1848)

Carl Ferdinand Allen was a nationalist historian and a Dane, and in this line he exposes the opportunism of nineteenth-century German attitudes towards nationality.  When Slavs to the east resisted German expansion on the grounds that they were Slavs, the Germans said nationality was a dangerous delusion that must be destroyed; when Germans to the north, in in what was then the Danish duchy of Schleswig, invited German expansion on the grounds that they were Germans, the Germans of Germany said nationality was a sacred compact that must be preserved. Continue reading

Hegemons of the Bankrupt

During the Middle Ages in England, the poor had babies, but they mostly died. Neither did they have the income to feed a lot of them if they had tried to have large families. Children of the comparatively rich survived. Those higher in socioeconomic status are generally smarter and healthier. Since the poor were failing to reproduce at replacement levels, there was downward mobility as the children of the relatively smart and rich moved down the economic scale and took over jobs formerly done by the dumber and poorer. Thus, there was a eugenic effect on the whole of society. This trend culminated in the Industrial Revolution, an English phenomenon, creating more food than ever before due to advances in farming, and more wealth in general. Thanks to these developments, eventually leading to modern medicine, the population of the Earth went from one billion to around eight billion. This ability to feed the world on a mass scale and keep them alive with modern medicine were an exclusively European and Anglosphere phenomenon. Continue reading

“Thou Many-Headed Monster Thing” and the Madness of Crowds

“Ideas, sentiments, emotions, and beliefs possess in crowds a contagious power as intense as that of microbes.” 

Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1896)

Malcolm Pollack, who sometimes pays us a visit, has an excellent essay at American Greatness on the subject of “mass formation psychosis,” or what he prefers to call simply mass formation.*  The phenomenon of mass formation strikes me as very similar to what others have called the madness of crowds, and Malcolm uses it to throw welcome light on much of the madness we see around us today.  The microbial pandemic will almost certainly abate into insignificance, but the concurrent mental pandemic of mad “ideas, sentiments, emotions, and beliefs” is probably here to stay. Continue reading

IQ Determinism

iqOne of the main drivers of notions like systemic racism has been the ban on public discussions of IQ. A psychometrician, Arthur Jensen, published an article about race-based differences in intelligence in 1969* that caused an uproar in an early manifestation of cancel culture. He noted the failure of Head Start programs and suggested they would never succeed given the 0.8 inheritability of “g,” general factor of intelligence. Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein in The Bell Curve, published in 1994, point out that the connection between IQ and success or the lack of success is indisputable at this point, though, as Bruce Charlton points out, affirmative action for women and POC is diminishing the IQ/success connection. For this reason, The Bell Curve can be regarded as somewhat dated and this point should be born in mind through out this article. In the social sciences, there can be one study that suggests one thing, and another one that contradicts it. But, the effects of IQ on lifetime achievement is not like that. Despite the horror with which the results are greeted, psychometricians have continued publishing in more or less technical journals and the evidence all points in one direction. Continue reading

Chanting the Death-Wish: DIE, DIE, DIE

“If you allow a political catchword to go on and grow, you will awaken some day to find it standing over you, the arbiter of your destiny, against which you are powerless, as men are powerless against delusions.” 

William Graham Sumner, “War” (1903)

“It was Napoleon, I believe, who said that there is only one figure in rhetoric of serious importance, namely, repetition.  The thing affirmed comes by repetition to fix itself in the mind in such a way that it is accepted in the end as a demonstrated truth.”

Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1896)

It is a great mistake to suppose that political slogans are as ephemeral as advertising slogans, and that the catchwords “Diversity, Inclusion, Equity” will therefore one day go the way of “put a tiger in your tank” and “where the rubber meets the road.”  Consider, for instance, how Woodrow Wilson’s facile slogan about “making the world safe for democracy” has gone on and grown into “the arbiter of our destiny,” against which we are now as powerless as men under a delusion.  Consider how much happier we might be if some brave and learned Senator had interrupted President Wilson and observed that the United States Constitution was written to keep Americans safe from democracy. Continue reading

Politics after Clausewitz, By Which I Mean Politics Today

“A party, which . . . does not carry on systematic, all-embracing underground work . . . is a party of traitors and scoundrels.” 

Vladimir Illich Lenin, Problems of the Third International (1919)

When Lenin says “systematic, all-embracing underground work,” he means the work of a criminal conspiracy.   The work is hidden “underground” because it is illegal, and the work is a conspiracy because it is not only hidden, but because it is also “systematic,” and “all-embracing.” Lenin’s general proposition, therefore, is that every serious political party has an underground wing, and that every party that doesn’t have an underground wing is not a serious political party.

It is, rather, an unserious sham party of “traitors and scoundrels.” Continue reading

Strictures on Bibliomania

“Excessive reading is bad for thinking.  The most distinguished thinkers I have ever met have been just those of my learned acquaintances who have read the least.” 

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Reflections (1844)

At its most recent meeting, the Editorial Board of the Orthosphere decided to jointly publish an essay on the best books its members had read in 2021.  The resolution provoked in me, as similar resolutions had provoked in years past, a bashful consciousness that I had read very little in 2021, and that much of what I did read was trash.

I was at one time a tiger for reading, not to mention a sabre-tooth tiger of ambition to appear well-read.  But nowadays, when it comes to books, I am more like a puppy that sniffs, tentatively paws, yaps twice, and then lopes away in search of lunch. Continue reading