"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Racial ‘Justice’ In America–Totems, Rituals, And Sacrificial Offerings

Like most Mesoamerican religious systems, the Zapotec religion was polytheistic.  Zapotecs tell that their ancestors emerged from the earth, from caves, or that they turned from trees or jaguars into people, while the elite that governed them believed that they descended from supernatural beings that lived among the clouds, and that upon death they would return to such status.

The Zapotecs lived in a world of natural, immanent power.  Spiritual forces were in the lightning and thunder, the violent storms, predatory animals, and in the rising and setting of the moon and sun.  They were brooding in the massive mountains or in the night sky.  They were everywhere, frighteningly real.  There was no distinction between human life, nature, and the gods.

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This religion was not a tame animism like that still found in India where a tree trunk might be painted red and garlanded with marigolds to honor the spirit who lived there;  a quiet presence to be revered and respected. In the Oaxaca valley under a powerful sun and surrounded by mountains, there was no escaping the temperamental and eruptive forces of Nature and the gods.

The Zapotecs also performed ritual human sacrifice; and as barbaric as the practice seems today, it was anything but in the early days of Mesoamerica.  Human sacrifice was the only way to appease the gods and forestall the savagery of their storms, earthquakes, and floods.  Life in the Oaxaca Valley, fertile and calm, was only borrowed from the gods who made their presence known every day.  Sunrise, sunset and the dark silhouettes of northern mountains reminded them of the immanence of the gods.  Even if they were not angry or retributive, their power was still felt.  The forces of nature and the forces of deity were one.

By comparison today religious ceremonies seem tepid.  The sacrifice of the Catholic Mass is evocative only of the physical torment and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  The transubstantiation – the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Savior – is at best divine allegory; and at its most mundane, a respectful ritual of myth.

Even Pentecostal revivals and the ecstatic discoveries of a personal Jesus cannot possibly compare with a ritual human sacrifice performed on an altar in the middle of a broad valley surrounded by mountains with the presence of the gods real, imminent, and intimidating.  The moment of sacrifice was more ecstatic for worshippers than for any Christian believer today.  There is nothing to compare the absolute sacrifice of a human being to visible, magnificent, real and powerful gods.

Despite the taming of spiritual ecstasy and the very temperate nature of personal expression today, everyone needs to believe in something; and the more ecstatic or passionate the expression of that belief, the more satisfying it is.  In fact, the expression of belief becomes more important than the belief itself.

Environmentalists profess a legitimate concern for the state of the world.  If no action is taken, global warming will accelerate and the earth as we know it will be no more.  Forests, jungles, and fertile plains will turn into deserts and Sahelian scrub.  Lakes will dry up, streams will stop flowing, the ice caps will melt, and coastal cities will be inundated and destroyed.  This vision is no a reasoned, secular one, but a profoundly spiritual one.  No less than Armageddon is in the near future.  The image of a fiery, charred, and blackened earth is an environmentalist icon.  It is as potent a symbol as the Cross.

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The environmental movement has both animistic and deeply Christian roots.  Human destruction of rainforests, pollution of air and water, and the wholesale ransacking of forests, woods, and natural preserves is morally wrong, an insult to the immanent spiritual forces residing in them. The Gaia movement postulates that the Earth is not a collection of random elements and forces, but a living, organic whole.  It is a sentient mega-being made up of network of interrelated bio-ecological neurons.  No hurt or physical insult goes unnoticed, and damage on one part will be felt throughout.  Although few environmentalists are true Gaia believer, the attachment they have to Nature is not simply practical.  There is a pervasive spirituality behind the movement.  The cutting down of a tree in Absaroka Mountains causes psychic hurt.

One environmentalist, a former Baptist preacher, warned against climate Armageddon as he did that of the Book of Revelations.   He, like many fundamentalist orators, was fixated on hell and damnation, and used his state-of-the-art audio-visual system to show pictures of destruction, desolation, and waste.  Crops burning under a fiery sun, plants reduced to stubble because of drought and blazing heat; rivers run dry, birds shaking and quivering on roadsides, deer fleeing raging forest fires.  All this was a result of God’s vengeful wrath.  His people had once again forsaken him, gone over to the Dark Side, consorted with the devil and followed his evil ways.

It is not enough for civil rights activists today to encourage legislative and judicial reform as their forbears did in the 60s.  Theirs is a more inchoate protest, one focused on those who perpetrate racism not on the mechanisms of power that can mitigate it. ‘Racist!’, if yelled angrily enough, often, and inclusively enough will shame, marginalize, and neuter those who persist in their retrograde white supremacism.  Of course it is not, and this universal reverse racism will inevitably create an equally angry counter-reaction. There is nothing that will drive moderate, temperate, reasonable middle-of-the-road white Americans into the radical conservative camp quicker than intemperate accusations of racism.

Yet without ‘Racist!’, the multiculturalist movement would have no rallying cry, no potent, loaded symbol of their struggle.  ‘Racist!’ is a totem, shouted in unison an anthem and prosecuted as sacrificial as paganism in Mesoamerica.  The white man must be sacrificed in order for the secular gods to be appeased.  Nothing less than his blood and his spirit must be spilled.

Both environmentalists and ‘social justice warriors’ (SJW) share another pagan, prehistoric human trait – universal, collective belief.  The special passion and ecstasy of Zapotec sacrifice was derived from the absolute belief of all worshippers.  Each individual had no doubt that human sacrifice would appease the angry gods, and that only the power of collective worship could keep them at bay. 

Today’s civil rights activists share much with the Zapotecs – sacrificial offering (the white man), collective identity, and totems.  The Aztecs dressed up as wild animals to be invested with their savagery, and for the most committed SJW the possession of a black spirit – one of a black, oppressed, brutalized, demonized slave – is a vengeful enabler.

The SJW movement is in its Baroque, final phases.  When it becomes prehistoric and pagan and relies only on anthems, totems, and sacrifice, it loses currency, saliency, and meaning.  The movement becomes a caricature of itself.  Periods of excess are always followed by simpler, more reasoned ones. Neoclassicists sought to revert to the simpler art of the Renaissance out of their distaste for the grandeur of Baroque and Rococo styles.  The next period of social justice will focus on facts – the persistent, perennial, seemingly intractable problems of social dysfunction, ineducability, moral disarray, economic stagnation, and cultural disharmony – and will address them.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Toxic Whiteness–The Final Act Of The Failed Farce Of Race-Gender-Ethnicity

Louis XIV of France, the Sun King, social reformer, patron of the arts and culture, supported Molière, Racine, Pierre Mignard, Antoine Coysevox and Hyacinthe Rigaud, making their works famous throughout Europe. He founded the Académie Royale de Danse in 1661 and the Académie d'Opéra in 1669.  Thanks to Louis France was able to establish colonies in the Americas, Asia, and Africa during his reign, and by the 1680s, France was a major power not just in Europe, but in the whole world.

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The great kings of England from Henry II to Henry VIII established English sovereignty, reclaimed foreign land, and ruled over an increasingly united kingdom.  The kings and queens of Holland and Spain, the Holy Roman Emperor, and centuries of powerful and influential popes consolidated and expanded European Influence and culture throughout their empires.  The era of Spanish, Portuguese, English, and French exploration opened new lands to Western civilization, language, culture, and religion. 

The campaigns to derogate whites and to raise non-whites to higher cultural significance are attempts to right a listing cultural ship.  The contribution of white people to Western culture, say progressive activists, has been carried out on the backs of the poor, the enslaved, and the marginalized.  Notre Dame, Chartres, Salisbury, the Coliseum, and the temples of Persepolis cannot be counted as positive investments in human development, but examples of exploitation, plunder, and abusive power.  In other words, there can be nothing white worth noting, since all white achievements are tainted.   The entire white race from its earliest beginnings to its sad and sorry end has been corrupt, pernicious, and dangerous.

Not only are the accomplishments of white civilization questionable, but the legacy of the white rule, empire, and political hegemony is like original sin - an innate corruption passed on from generation to generation ad perpetuam. It is about time to reject white history once and for all and to restore racial equilibrium, say social justice advocates.

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Yet history is not so easily erased.  The facts of empire cannot be expunged simply because they are looked at through a different lens.  History is the story of empire, wealth, and high civilization.  America is the beneficiary of European civilization, founded by Jefferson and his colleagues on its intellectual and moral principles.

The concept of ‘toxic whiteness’, an attempt to blame historical white rule for society’s current ills and to assume an innate moral corruption of whites because of their heritage, is the last, most desperate accusation of a political movement which has little intellectual foundation except the vague notion of ‘multiculturalism’, an ascribed value without the philosophical underpinnings.

Multiculturalists are not for anything but only against something.  The French Revolution for all its excesses was based on principle – a democratic republic of universally applicable laws, rights, and privileges.  After The Terror, France restored the aristocracy within a newly-constituted context.  The aristocracy was still an important element in France’s historical primacy.  Without the kings, queens, and courtiers of France, it would never have been la fille ainee de l’Eglise, the country that defeated the Saracens and saved Europe from Islamic rule, and the country whose art, literature, and thought would be models for the rest of Europe. 

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American multiculturalists would like to consider themselves latter-day French revolutionaries, but they have little of the Europeans’ cultural imperative.  They have no substantive vision of a true structural reform, but only one of vague aspirations.  They have never demonstrated or proven the inherent value of a culturally inclusive plurality.  The original American ideal of democratic heterogeneity – all newcomers are welcome if they subscribe to the Founding Fathers’ notions of enterprise, discipline, family, God, and country – was based on the lessons of history and the philosophical principles of Greece and Rome and adopted by the Enlightenment.  Contrary to progressive idealists, not only is there no higher value to a society based on racial heterogeneity per se – i.e. without subscription and adherence to universal norms and a Judeo-Christian ethos – but that peculiarly narrow understanding of foundational democracy is debilitating.

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What does blackness, homosexuality, or gender have to do with higher moral enterprise? Such attributes are superficial characteristics only, and have nothing to do with foundational moral principles.  Cato the Elder, a Roman educator, taught the future leaders of the empire not only the practical elements of leadership – strategy, management, organization, rhetoric, and policy – but the moral ones.  Rome would never survive without a grounding in the moral principles of honesty, courage, discipline, compassion, respect, and honor.  These principles were most important for Rome’s leadership, but essential for all.  Modern China is still based on Confucian moral principles – an ethos, a philosophical foundation on which the society can be governed and prosper.

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It is respect for and adherence to these fundamental principles which should guide America.  Traits of gender, race, and ethnicity are superficial, secondary, and insignificant relative to them.

The idea of whiteness as an evil in and of itself is an outgrowth of this myopic focus on multiculturalism.  It is not surprising that those who have raised ‘inclusivity’ to a higher moral order by fiat alone – that is without philosophical or historical grounding – are now vilifying those who are assumed to be its enemies.  It is not enough to demand a just, fair, and equal society as Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin did; but to play a perverse zero sum game of racial politics.  Only if white people are marginalized, dismissed, and removed from cultural importance can minorities thrive.

Modern progressives have cast society in absolute terms.  There can be no historical subtlety or room for interpretation.  Only the lens of race-gender-ethnicity has a clear focus.  Only cultural relativism has philosophical value.  Deconstructionism insists that there is no qualitative difference between slave journals and the works of Shakespeare.  Both are no more than expressions of society and its cultural antecedents and are only simple records of the times in which they were written.  They are absent of genius, creativity, or insight.  Similarly all cultures are equal.  Differences in development, achievement, or empire are irrelevant with no inherent value.   With but an incidental twist of history, an African empire might have become preeminent.  

Since white European civilization’s glory is nothing more than shadows on Plato’s cave wall, its legacy means nothing.  Pride in ancestry is nothing more than a fading desire to retain supremacy.

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Yet dismissing white European civilization as nothing more than an incidental, valueless bit of history denies its foundational values.  It is no coincidence that all great cultures, both East and West, share the same principles.  Cato the Elder and Confucius are only two examples.  Respect for the past does not imply a vain hope for a resurgence of white supremacy in an age of threatening multiculturalism, but a validation for historical values.

While the American white population may be far removed from Ancient Greece, the Enlightenment, or Rome, it is still proud of its European heritage; and most resent the implication that legacy means nothing and that history is only fiction.  The demonization of whites, toxic whiteness, and the political devaluation of European achievement, power, and importance can only be divisive, destructive, and dangerous.

However, American progressivism is in its Baroque period – a period of flourish, rhetorical excess, and overwrought ideas.  Any culture which evolves to similar points where excess is the only value is doomed to eventual dismantling.  A return to sanity, reflection, and reason cannot be far off.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Hollywood, Bollywood, And Why We Love The Movies–Fact And Truth Mean Nothing

Hobbes exaggerated only slightly when he said that ‘the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’.  Most people feel this way even though they may have risen above 19th century penurious misery.  Tolstoy perhaps said it best when Konstantin Levin reflects on the cruel irony of a God who created Man with wit, humor, intelligence, insight, and creativity; granted him a few score years on Earth, then consigned him for all eternity beneath the cold, hard ground of the steppes.  No man, regardless of his physical satisfactions or wants, can ignore the fact that such a short, ironic, and meaningless life is indeed nasty and brutish.  It is our fate to live in a vaporless world for a few years, then die and be absolutely and completely forgotten.

How, given these sobering thoughts, can anyone be happy?

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Another Tolstoy hero, Ivan Ilyich, a man dismissive of anything sobering and intent on simply creating a simple, trouble-free life, finds in his dying moments that perhaps he was wrong to be so cavalier.  Perhaps those irritating elements of his life – people especially – were indeed important; and perhaps he should meditate on his indifference.

The moment, however, passed.  Life was what it was; and death, a far more important event which had nothing whatsoever to do with the past (‘We all die alone’) was imminent.  Better to reflect on the eternal void than on the inconsequential events of his life. Yet there was nothing to reflect on or consider since death was and always would be the great unknown.  What to do?

Taking his last breaths he thought

"And death...where is it?"

He sought his former accustomed fear of death and did not find it. "Where is it? What death?"

There was no fear because there was no death. In place of death there was light.

"So that's what it is!" he suddenly exclaimed aloud. "What joy!"

To him all this happened in a single instant, and the meaning of that instant did not change. For those present his agony continued for another two hours. Something rattled in his throat, his emaciated body twitched, then the gasping and rattle became less and less frequent.

"It is finished!" said someone near him.

He heard these words and repeated them in his soul.

"Death is finished," he said to himself. "It is no more!"

He drew in a breath, stopped in the midst of a sigh, stretched out, and died.

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Death wasn’t so bad after all.  It was the fear of death that was the problem, not death itself.

Tolstoy was famous for his epiphanic scenes – those of Ivan Ilych, Count Andrei, Pierre, and Levin – and through these climactic experiences was able to express his own views of being, nothingness, and spirituality.  He continued to write after Ivan Ilyich, mostly religious monographs. In his last novel, Resurrection, he writes of a man’s life gone wrong and his attempts to atone for if not rectify his mistakes. Travelling through the miseries of Russian prisons, he concludes with the following:

All this comes," Tolstoy says, "from the fact that all these people — governors, inspectors, police officers, and policemen — consider that there are circumstances when human relations are not necessary between human beings. ... If once we admit — be it only for an hour or in some exceptional case — that anything can be more important than a feeling of love for our fellows, then there is no crime which we may not commit with easy minds. ... Men think there are circumstances when one may deal with human beings without love. But there are no such circumstances…

If you feel no love, sit still. Occupy yourself with things, with yourself, with anything you like, only not with men. ... Only let yourself deal with a man without love ... and there are no limits to the suffering you will bring on yourself.

Of course few people sober up to reality except when they are approaching the final accounting.  Best to put off the inevitable for as long as possible.  Yet how to keep those niggling thoughts of mortality at bay? To keep the wolf away from the door?

That’s why Hollywood and Bollywood are there.  Except for la nouvelle vague and the Japanese, Russian, and Scandinavian art movies of the Fifties and Sixties, movies were all about life at its most exuberant, youthful, and invulnerable.  Watching The Cranes are Flying, Last Year at Marienbad, The Sign of the Seven Seals, or Hiroshima Mon Amour was meaningful then, painful now.  These movies seem academic, contrived, and impossibly boring.  After fifty years we have shed our European pretentions and gotten over any artistic intellectualism and returned to our roots – romance, shoot-‘em-ups, sex, glamour, and adventure.

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Bollywood never went through such a purposeful cleansing.  From the 40s to the present, Bombay films have been melodramatic and romantic with better Hollywood endings than Hollywood itself could ever have imagined; and have served their public well.  Indian audiences after four hours watching the same, routine, formulaic movies can barely pull themselves up and out of their seats.  The experience – so beautiful, so unlike anything in their Hobbesian lives, and so hopeful and emotionally fulfilling – is inimitable and unforgettable.  Bollywood has made billions off of the same, predictable scenarios.  Perhaps the American European art house interregnum was a good thing.  We now know better who we are, what we want, and especially what our fantasies are.

It shouldn’t have taken a European counterpoint to make all this clear.  After all, Louis B Mayer and the studios had been turning out one glorious Hollywood movie after another since the early days of the talkies.  The cult of film stardom was fully established from the very beginning of film.  Romance, beauty, glamour, adventure, and anything that parted company with the America of the Depression and War years was bound to be a success.  The movies were not only an expression of our fanciful and unrequited dreams, but a celebration of celebrity and image.  Once the movies had taken hold, facts, reality, and ‘the truth’ played second fiddle.  Gradually, seduced by Hollywood and its seductive dream machine, we have come to care less and less for the reality behind the image.  The images are plenty good enough for us.

Of course Hollywood movies were never just fanciful stories.  The films of the Thirties and Forties had hard-hitting themes of honesty, courage, valor, and righteousness; but these wrapped in recognizable humanity.  Selznick and Mayer were not interested in teaching morality, but demonstrating it in a Hollywood way – heroes and heroines, victims, and villains.  Good would always prevail in Hollywood because it did not anywhere else; and that was worth watching.  Today’s films are zeitgeist-friendly.  Stories of racial, gender, and ethnic tensions are common; but they all end in the same way, happily, unlike real life.  The cult of identity has helped Hollywood to translate social issues into good storytelling.  Black people are very black, gay very gay, Latino very Latino; but within Hollywood boundaries.  There can be gang bangers, ghetto bling, and playground trash talk; but in the end goodness prevails.  Our negative images of minorities have been confirmed, but given a positive middle class twist.  There may be something white behind all the trash talk after all.

Image result for images movie they drive by night

The point is that reality in Hollywood matters as little today as it did in the first kinescopes.  Whether America has influenced Hollywood or the other way around is a moot point – they have always been mutually dependent; but that interdependency has created the perfect moral storm.  Whoever or whatever is responsible, image matters far more than facts, truth, or objectivity.

It is no accident that Donald Trump is in the White House.  He is more than anything a man of image.  Only Upper West Side liberals take and parse his every word for meaning and accuracy while the rest of the country, like good Derrida wannabes, deconstruct what he says for meaning.  The Wall is not a wall but a metaphor for rationalizing an increasingly dangerous immigration problem.  His politically incorrect tweets and asides are not the insensitive salvos against defenseless minorities the Left makes them out to be but shots over the bow of political correctness.  His sabre-rattling with Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea is nothing but the familiar posturing of Presidents.  He is, avowedly and proudly a vaudevillian in the spirit of Dostoevsky’s Devil who says 

Now I only prize the reputation of being a gentlemanly person and live as I can, trying to make myself agreeable. I love men genuinely, I've been greatly calumniated! Here when I stay with you from time to time, my life gains a kind of reality and that's what I like most of all. You see, like you, I suffer from the fantastic and so I love the realism of earth. Here, with you, everything is circumscribed, here all is formulated and geometrical, while we have nothing but indeterminate equations! I wander about here dreaming. I like dreaming. Besides, on earth I become superstitious. Please don't laugh, that's just what I like, to become superstitious. I adopt all your habits here: I've grown fond of going to the public baths, would you believe it? and I go and steam myself with merchants and priests. What I dream of is becoming incarnate once for all and irrevocably in the form of some merchant's wife weighing eighteen stone, and of believing all she believes.

In other words, as the Devil tells Ivan, without him life would be nothing but churches, masses, and goodness – insufferably boring.

A little blonde Norman girl of twenty—a buxom, unsophisticated beauty that would make your mouth water—comes to an old priest. She bends down and whispers her sin into the grating. ‘Why, my daughter, have you fallen again already?’ cries the priest. ‘O Sancta Maria, what do I hear! Not the same man this time, how long is this going on? Aren't you ashamed!’ ‘Ah, mon père,’ answers the sinner with tears of penitence, ‘ça lui fait tant de plaisir, et à moi si peu de peine!’ Fancy, such an answer!

The word on the street is ‘Lighten Up’ – we have had enough hectoring and moralizing to last a lifetime.  Go to a movie.  Enjoy yourself.