“Why are you thinking about this?”

“Why are you thinking about this?”

That was the question my father recently asked me, in relation to thoughts I had about books I was reading. The moment I heard the question, I realized he had asked me that question many times before, when discussing other topics.

I’m a naturally curious person. It isn’t that I don’t think about the reasons for my curiosity, but I wouldn’t think about it in the way that my father’s question was intended. His question felt defensive, and I realized that I often sense that defensive quality whenever I bring up a new set of ideas to my father. I’m so used to it, though, that I don’t normally give it much consideration. It’s usually just in the background.

My father has been my intellectual sparring partner for my entire life. He taught me how to think more than anyone else. This is significant for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, he is a conservative and I a liberal. So, my own thinking has naturally fallen into the grooves of this ideological dialectic. I’m incapable of thinking of liberalism and conservatism as separate phenomena. My relationship to my father is the ground for my experience of liberalism’s relationship to conservatism. This obviously gives a slant to my views. My liberalism is forever the son’s challenge to the father and hence to all things patriarchal and paternalistic.

This relationship is well established between my father and I. We each know our roles. When he asks me for my reasons, he isn’t just being generally defensive, but specifically toward something. There is something, as I see it, that conservatives will seek to defend before all else. I’ve previously called it symbolic conflation (also, see here, here, and here). It is the linchpin of the social order.

When I go off on my questioning obsessions, I’m wiggling that linchpin. I know it and my father knows it.

I may pretend that isn’t what I’m doing, for sake of good relations, but the fact of the matter is that I find myself a disturber of the peace in the Hobbit’s Shire. Like Bilbo Baggins, I’m not intending to be a radical revolutionary, a mean-spirited malcontent, or a mischievous troublemaker. I resisted my fate, as best I could, but to no avail. A disturber of the peace becomes such for somewhere along the way his own peace was disturbed. My mind and soul is disturbed by forces I neither comprehend nor control (some would call it ‘depression’), and so I act accordingly. It is what it is.

No one chooses to see the linchpin. But once seen, it is hard to unsee, no matter how disturbing.

Researchers have even shown that people will sometimes go to great effort not to see something. A study was done on different patterns of eye focusing. There was some image that didn’t fit into a person’s worldview or else didn’t fit into what they deemed acceptable, and as I recall the researchers were specifically dividing people according to ideological categories.

What was found was that certain people would look all over the room while conspicuously not looking at the one place where that image was located. So, they weren’t looking at it, but at some level they had seen it in their peripheral vision and were unconsciously recognizing its presence by actively looking all around it. This is a cognitive blindspot, not a lack of physical ability to see, just a lack of conscious willingness and desire to perceive.

That is how I think conservatives deal with symbolic conflations (conservative-minded liberals deal with it in the same way). They spend immense energy defending what they will never directly acknowledge. That is why the structure of the psychological dynamic is so important, where the symbol is conflated with reality. The symbol, as such, represents and obscures. The conservative knows and doesn’t know what the symbol means. The conflation is so tricky that even most liberals have a hard time untangling the knot or even realizing there is a knot to be untangled, and that is the conflation’s primary purpose, to hide the soft underbelly from probing daggers.

The conservative’s task is much easier for the reason that most liberals don’t want to untangle the knot, to remove the linchpin. Still, that is what conservative’s fear, for they know liberals have that capacity, no matter how unlikely they are to act on it. This fear is real. The entire social order is dependent on overlapping symbolic conflations, each a link in a chain, and so each a point of vulnerability.

A symbolic conflation both represents and replaces what is unspoken, both distracts from and obscures what is hidden. It is a fluttering bird luring the predator away from the nest. My mind was brought back to these thoughts not just because of my father’s question, although the question helped focus my mind. Seeing the fluttering bird of his question, my attention was drawn to the trajectory from which it was fleeing.

What started all this was my reading about shame (along with guilt, honor, etc), the topic that elicited my father’s question. It so happens that conservatism and liberalism are key to my thoughts about shame, although I had not immediately stated so to him, but still he sensed the implications.

The issue of shame is a sore spot where conservatism and liberalism have, from their close proximity, rubbed each other raw. It is also a site of much symbolic conflation, the linchpin like a stake in the ground to which a couple of old warriors are tied in their ritual dance of combat and wounding, where both are so focused on one another that neither pays much attention to the stake that binds them together. In circling around, they wind themselves ever tighter and their tethers grow shorter.

Stepping away from that predictable struggle, I found myself wondering about what is outside the proscribed boundary of polarized consciousness. In my specific inquiry here, my mind slipped down a side path that runs parallel to well-tread ruts. Exploring shame caused me to wander afield, as the subject is new territory for me, and in wandering I found myself following this new trail of thought. As often happens, I discovered something of interest along the way.

I was led back to an author and a book with which I’m already familiar, but I was now able to see it in new light. The book in question is Trickster Makes the World by Lewis Hyde. I had forgotten how much the author discusses shame and I have to say it is one of the better books on the subject that I’ve so far read. Here is what caught my attention. A few sections I recognized as territory from my own maps of symbolic conflation. Hyde’s cartographic descriptions of this emotional terrain, however, uses trickster mythology (instead of ideological predispositions) for the map’s legend and scaling.

In the first passage that got me excited, Hyde shows the relationship between shame, the body, and the social order. He writes that (pp. 169-170),

“[A]n unalterable fact about the body is linked to a place in the social order, and in both cases, to accept the link is to be caught in a kind of trap.

“Before anyone can be snared in this trap, an equation must be made between the body and the world (my skin color is my place as a Hispanic; menstruation is my place as a woman). This substituting of one thing for another is called metonymy in rhetoric, one of the many figures of thought, a trope or verbal turn. The construction of the trap of shame begins with this metonymic trick, a kind of bait and switch in which one’s changeable social place is figured in terms of an unchangeable part of the body. Then by various means the trick is made to blend invisibly into the landscape. To begin with, there are always larger stories going on— about women or race or a snake in a garden. The enchantment of those regularly repeated fables, along with the rules of silence at their edges, and the assertion that they are intuitively true— all these things secure the borders of the narrative and make it difficult to see the contingency of its figures of thought. Once the verbal tricks are invisible, the artifice of the social order becomes invisible as well, and begins to seem natural. As menstruation and skin color and the genitals are natural facts, so the social and psychological orders become natural facts.

“In short, to make the trap of shame we inscribe the body as a sign of wider worlds, then erase the artifice of that signification so that the content of shame becomes simply the way things are, as any fool can see.

“If this is how the trap is made, then escaping it must involve reversing at least some of these elements. In what might be called the “heavy-bodied” escape, one senses that there’s something to be changed but ends up trying to change the body itself, mutilating it, or even committing suicide…”

I loved his explaining of this metonymy as a bait and switch. It is a brilliant analysis of how symbolic conflation operates. Hyde unpacks the confusion and in its place offers clarity.

The visceral language he uses is powerful. Symbolic conflation sounds too abstract. The actual experience really is to be snared in a trap. The body, as being spoken of here, isn’t a mere metaphor. What makes it so compelling is that the imagined gets identified with the body, with specific parts and specific functions of specific bodies. One feels this in one’s own body and so at the most basic level of one’s sense of identity and reality.

So much falls into place once this is understood. I’m forced to think more deeply about my own previous speculations and understandings. I sense how this touches upon the beating heart of symbolic conflation. A symbol is always rooted in the imagination with the taproot running deep into visceral experience, the body being the dark soil in which it grows. It is in our telling of stories that this visceral experience is brought to life and made personally real. A story is about meaning, but it is a meaning more of emotions than of ideas.

I’m also brought back to thoughts of reactionary conservatism. Is Hyde specifically pinning down the fluttering wings of the reactionary conservative? Has he devised his own snare to entrap the reactionary conservative in action, like a camera set up to snap a picture of a wary beast in the deep wilderness? If so, what is the precise relationship between reactionary conservatism and symbolic conflation that is captured here?

I’ll return to those questions, but first let me explore further into what Hyde has written about. In the next passage, he explores a historical context for one particular trickster mythology, Hermes of the ancient Greeks (pp. 206-207):

“[Norman O. Brown] therefore proposes this parallel: just as Hermes acquires a place alongside Apollo in the course of the Hymn, so in the course of the sixth century the “Athenian industrial and commercial classes achieved equality with the aristocracy.” That equality was not easily won; it required the resolution of a whole series of differences. In the aristocratic era, wealth came from herding and farming the soil; in Athenian democracy those sources of wealth still existed but were increasingly challenged by a craft economy and commercial exchange with strangers. Agrarian aristocracy was organized around hierarchical kinship ties; Athenian democracy retained such ties but added a new ethic of equality symbolized by the fact that many political positions in Athens were filled by a lottery in which all citizens could participate, regardless of family or status. Most important, the emerging cosmopolitan democracy brought with it a “new ethics of acquisitive individualism [that] conflicted with the traditional morality which the Greeks called Themis— the body of customs and laws inherited from the age of familial collectivism.” The older morality took any deviation from “the archaic form of commerce by mutual exchange of gifts” to be an immoral thieving (even what we would now call fair trade was taken to be robbery). In short, during the sixth century, a world organized through kin relationships and a collective ethic of gift exchange gave way to a world in which hierarchy could be periodically revised and social relations were increasingly articulated through the individualist (which is to say, thieving) ethic of the marketplace.

“As for those who were excluded or marginalized, we should remember that, in a society where the dominant values are kin ties and agrarian wealth, those whose identity is bound up with trade are typically consigned to a subordinate place in the order of things. They are, so to speak, “low caste” (as they have been historically in India, where merchants and artisans fall into the lower two of the four varnas). If, in the Greek case, such people hope to place themselves on an equal footing with the warriors and family farmers of ancient days, they will have to subvert that order and reshape it on their own terms. Such, Brown argues, is exactly what happened: the “regime of the landed aristocracy was overthrown, its agrarian economy yielding to a new economy based on trade and handicraft industry, its political oligarchy yielding to the politics of ancient democracy.” The Hymn reflects that change: “The theme of strife between Hermes and Apollo translates into mythical language the insurgence of the Greek lower classes and their demands for equality with the aristocracy.”

“Brown’s claims cover a lot of ground and his talk of class conflict gives off an air of retrospective Marxism, but the [Homeric] Hymn itself, however we fit it into actual Greek history, sets up a tension in accord with the one that Brown suggests. There is little doubt that in the classical period Hermes is associated with artisans, merchants, and thieves, and the poem itself makes it clear that some kind of “outsiderness” is at issue, and that Hermes hopes to change it.”

Right there! That is key. The described “outsiderness” brings us directly to the doorstep of the reactionary conservative, as understood by Corey Robin. Before I get to that, let me add the paragraph that immediately follows the above (p. 207):

“To effect that change he has, as I said earlier, a method by which the excluded can enter a group, change its structure, and give themselves a place at the table. A whole range of cunning tricks makes up this method, but its underlying structure is quite simple: no matter what he does, Hermes is either an enchanter or a disenchanter.”

I would note and emphasize that this touches upon the Burkean roots of reactionary conservatism.

Edmund Burke was one of those outsiders (in his case, raised a Catholic in Ireland) who sought “a place at the table” of the English ruling elite. He didn’t want to overturn the table and certainly not to take an axe to it. His attitude was that of the emerging middle class challenging the weakening traditionalism of the ancien régime. It was the same basic pattern that played out two millennia before in ancient Greece.

It is interesting to think of the reactionary conservative in his role as trickster. He is seeking to redefine his position and remake the social order, of course in his own image. The reactionary rhetoric being used is tricksy, for it generously borrows from the political left in order to undermine the political left. The reactionary conservative seeks to usurp the liberals role as challenger to the status quo and simultaneously to remove the teeth of radicalism, leaving the left without any real bite.

Enchanter and deceiver. The trickster may free you but at a cost of enslaving you to something else. He hypnotizes you with a story and makes you drowsy with a song, he puts you under the sway of an archetype and delivers you into the control of an unseen power.

This is what the reactionary conservative does with symbolic conflation, not to claim that this is how conservatives understand their own actions, as this process happens mostly within the unconscious, the territory of the imagination and the playground of the trickster. Reactionary conservatives end up deceiving both others and themselves, a mutually-afflicted magic spell of misdirection and mystification.

Edmund Burke the progressive reformer becomes Edmund Burke the reactionary conservative. Was there an actual change of character or was his real character revealed?

Is the reactionary mode of being the trickster lying in wait within the liberal mind? Do liberals simply fall prey to their own fears and dark thoughts? If Burke hadn’t felt shame in his outsider status that he tried to hide by gaining social position, might he have avoided falling into this reactionary stance of pulling up the ladder behind him? Why is it so often that the challenger to power who is the one most fearful of challenges to power and so most reactionary to any further unsettling of the status quo?

With this in mind, Hyde does offer further context, in which he describes two aspects of the trickster (pp. 208-209):

“Depending on which way he is moving across the threshold, I call him Hermes of the Dark or Hermes of the Light. Hermes of the Dark is the enchanter or hypnagoge who moves us into the underworld of sleep, dream, story, myth. This darkening motion is a precondition of belief; with it Hermes delivers you to one of the gods and puts you under his or her spell. He dissolves time in the river of forgetfulness, and once time has disappeared the eternals come forward. Hermes of the Dark is the weaver of dreams, the charmer who spins a compelling tale, the orator who speaks your mother tongue with fluid conviction.

“Hermes of the Light is the disenchanter or awakening angel who leads you out of the cave. There the bright light prepares the ground for doubt. There he kills and roasts the sacred cattle. He dissolves eternals in the river of time, and when they have disappeared, the world becomes contingent and accidental. Hermes of the Light translates dreams into analytic language; he rubs the charm from old stories until they seem hopelessly made up and mechanical. He walks you inland until you stop dreaming in your mother tongue.

“Hermes himself is neither one of these alone but both at once. He is neither the god of the door leading out nor the god of the door leading in— he is the god of the hinge. He is the mottled figure in the half-light, the amnigoge who simultaneously amazes and unmazes, whose wand both “bewitches the eyes of men to sleep and wakes the sleeping,” as Homer says in the Iliad. I sometimes wonder if all great creative minds do not participate in this double motion, humming a new and catchy theogony even as they demystify the gods their elders sang about. Pablo Picasso had that double motion, disturbing classical perspective while presenting a strange new way of seeing, one so hypnotic it shows up decades after his death on billboards and children’s printed pajamas. Sigmund Freud had that double motion, dragging slips of the tongue into the daylight, or “explaining” Moses, while simultaneously retelling the old story of Oedipus in a manner so compelling that, decades after his death, Ivy League literary critics can’t get it out of their heads. Or there is Vladimir Nabokov: if you think his deft language magic is serious, you’re wrong, and if you think it’s just a game, you’re wrong.”

Hermes of the Dark and Hermes of the Light. The latter might be thought of as the liberal mind in radical mode. The former would then be the liberal mind in reactionary mode, what is known more simply as conservatism, it likely being redundant calling a conservative reactionary.

Hermes isn’t one or the other. He is both the enchanter and the disenchanter.

This is how I see liberalism in this liberal age. I suspect that ultimately the radical and the reactionary are the two archetypal roles of the trickster, as they get expressed in post-Enlightenment modernity. Hermes the enchanter puts the linchpin in place and hides its location. Hermes the disenchanter is the liberating force that wiggles the linchpin or even pulls it out, but only to put it back in at another location. The trickster shifts, not destroys, the boundary.

The great minds of any age play both roles in an act of creative destruction. They learn from the problems and weaknesses of the old vision. They then replace it with an even more powerful reality tunnel, a cognitive trap that will be even harder to escape, whether or not that was their intended result.

This is how we must understand conservatives. The best conservative thinkers and leaders were able to accomplish this magic trick. They offered something new and convinced so many that it was always that way. Conservatives are first and foremost enthralling storytellers, drawing us into their narratives, sometimes even against our better judgment. They don’t just redefine conservatism, but the entire political framework and the entire historical foundation of thought. They proscribe the perceived reality of what was, what is, and what must be.

This obviously isn’t how conservatives think of themselves, and that is the entire point. What they do has so much power for the very reason that it doesn’t correspond to what they say. The closer you watch the more you will be thrown by the sleight-of-hand.

I’ll allow Corey Robin to explain this from his own perspective, as written in his book The Reactionary Mind (pp. 42-43):

“Whether in Europe or the United States, in this century or previous ones, conservatism has been a forward movement of restless and relentless change, partial to risk taking and ideological adventurism, militant in its posture and populist in its bearings, friendly to upstarts and insurgents, outsiders and newcomers alike. While the conservative theorist claims for his tradition the mantle of prudence and moderation, there is a not-so-subterranean strain of imprudence and immoderation running through that tradition— a strain that, however counterintuitive it seems, connects Sarah Palin to Edmund Burke.

“A consideration of this deeper strain of conservatism gives us a clearer sense of what conservatism is about. While conservatism is an ideology of reaction— originally against the French Revolution, more recently against the liberation movements of the sixties and seventies— that reaction has not been well understood. Far from yielding a knee-jerk defense of an unchanging old regime or a thoughtful traditionalism, the reactionary imperative presses conservatism in two rather different directions: first, to a critique and reconfiguration of the old regime; and second, to an absorption of the ideas and tactics of the very revolution or reform it opposes. What conservatism seeks to accomplish through that reconfiguration of the old and absorption of the new is to make privilege popular, to transform a tottering old regime into a dynamic, ideologically coherent movement of the masses. A new old regime, one could say, which brings the energy and dynamism of the street to the antique inequalities of a dilapidated estate.”

When I first read this book, Robin’s theory was disconcerting. I had previously been taken in by all of the confusing rhetoric. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of any of it. I couldn’t figure out what conservatism even meant or was supposed to represent. Like most Americans, the obfuscation was a powerful force in obstructing clear thought. But what if, as Robin suggests, conservatism is in some sense the complete opposite of what it pretends to be? That is a truly radical possibility.

The one part of his theory that is most intriguing is something I already pointed out. According to Robin, conservatism is and always has been driven by outsiders. That is what gives it such a dynamic quality, as opposed to its proclamations of traditionalism. In speaking about “populist currents,” he states that they “can help us make sense of a final element of conservatism.” As he elaborates (pp. 57-58):

“From the beginning, conservatism has appealed to and relied upon outsiders. Maistre was from Savoy, Burke from Ireland. Alexander Hamilton was born out of wedlock in Nevis and rumored to be part black. Disraeli was a Jew, as are many of the neoconservatives who helped transform the Republican Party from a cocktail party in Darien into the party of Scalia, d’Souza, Gonzalez, and Yoo. (It was Irving Kristol who first identified “the historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism” as the conversion of “the Republican Party, and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy.”) 41 Allan Bloom was a Jew and a homosexual. And as she never tired of reminding us during the 2008 campaign, Sarah Palin is a woman in a world of men, an Alaskan who said no to Washington (though she really didn’t), a maverick who rode shotgun to another maverick.”

This outsider element is key to probing beneath appearances. It gets down to the visceral feeling behind conservatism, the gut-level pull of its language and imagery. “Conservatism,” he continues (p. 58),

“has not only depended upon outsiders; it also has seen itself as the voice of the outsider. From Burke’s cry that “the gallery is in the place of the house” to Buckley’s complaint that the modern conservative is “out of place,” the conservative has served as a tribune for the displaced, his movement a conveyance of their grievances. 42 Far from being an invention of the politically correct, victimhood has been a talking point of the right ever since Burke decried the mob’s treatment of Marie Antoinette. The conservative, to be sure, speaks for a special type of victim: one who has lost something of value, as opposed to the wretched of the earth, whose chief complaint is that they never had anything to lose. His constituency is the contingently dispossessed— William Graham Sumner’s “forgotten man”— rather than the preternaturally oppressed. Far from diminishing his appeal, this brand of victim-hood endows the conservative complaint with a more universal significance. It connects his disinheritance to an experience we all share— namely, loss— and threads the strands of that experience into an ideology promising that that loss, or at least some portion of it, can be made whole.”

This brings me around to the original issue. Loss is a powerful emotion and so it is a site of symbolic conflation, where the trickster can play his tricks. Loss speaks to everyone and it is a truly amazing trick to make loss symbolic of power itself, of position and privilege (pp. 58-59):

People on the left often fail to realize this, but conservatism really does speak to and for people who have lost something. It may be a landed estate or the privileges of white skin, the unquestioned authority of a husband or the untrammeled rights of a factory owner. The loss may be as material as money or as ethereal as a sense of standing. It may be a loss of something that was never legitimately owned in the first place; it may, when compared with what the conservative retains, be small. Even so, it is a loss, and nothing is ever so cherished as that which we no longer possess. It used to be one of the great virtues of the left that it alone understood the often zero-sum nature of politics, where the gains of one class necessarily entail the losses of another. But as that sense of conflict diminishes on the left, it has fallen to the right to remind voters that there really are losers in politics and that it is they— and only they— who speak for them. “All conservatism begins with loss,” Andrew Sullivan rightly notes, which makes conservatism not the Party of Order, as Mill and others have claimed, but the party of the loser.”

But what is loss? It is primarily a feeling. Once elicited, many stories can be woven around it, both hopeful and disempowering, both beneficial and malign. Loss by itself, however, has no inherent meaning.

Loss is a wound, an opening and an openness to meaning. In portraying the listener as the wounded, the rhetorician and storyteller puts the listener in the position of vulnerability and fear. If one is wounded, someone must have done the wounding and so there must be an attacker toward which requires a defense or a counter-attack. The loss points an accusing finger to a thief and a criminal, someone undeserving and dangerous, a taker rather than a maker, a destroyer rather than a creator.

The trickster is as much about what isn’t there, silence as much as sound, which is why loss resonates so deeply here. Loss signifies something and yet refuses to settle on a single significance. It makes us uncomfortable, to sit too long alone in that throbbing ache. We seek to fill the emptiness with meaning or yet more emotion, anger or shame, hatred or longing, or else fill the silence with the sound of speaking, our own voice or that of another.

Loss is elusive, always shifting, hence its trickster quality and reactionary persuasion. We are willing to be deceived by anyone who will tell us what our loss means, who will give us a story to help us forget, if only temporarily.

Lewis Hyde also touches upon this theme of loss in Trickster Makes This World (pp. 287-288):

“Like the heap of stones over a grave, the symbol that stands for a thing that has been lost (not “Krishna” but “Krishna-gone”) belongs to an odd class of symbols. We cannot “read through it” to its sense, because what it stands for is missing. It operates not as a point of entry into meaning but paradoxically as a breeder of multiple meanings. That is to say, when we try to find the sense of one of these “symbols of loss,” we discover only senses that we ourselves bring to it, and we can easily bring new ones each time we approach. (A famous example is Thoreau’s remark in Walden: “I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle dove, and am still on their trail.” A hundred and fifty years after this line was written, what one notices is not that its readers have slowly settled on its true meaning but that meanings have proliferated each time someone looks at it.) Symbols of absent things draw interpretive minds the way the flute music draws the gopis. If multiple meanings are what you want, a lost hound is a better breeder than any real Fido. Krishna erases the mundane, then erases himself, and these removals— precisely because they do not declare— open the field for human beings to spin out endlessly their sense of what has happened.”

A symbolic conflation always points elsewhere, assuming it points anywhere at all. It is an empty signifier, for it can never mean what it claims, can never be as it seems. It sends one’s mind in circles, chasing what is not there, a shadow cast from somewhere else, and like a shadow it is defined by a lack of substance. It is the shape of an empty space, a sense of an absence. It is an aporia in the narrative, an elision between meaning and the meaningless.

I’m always enticed by what is missing, unspoken, ignored. My father’s question attracted my attention not because of some answer it was pointing toward, but because it seemed to point away from something else, maybe another question. That is the same basic reason that has obsessed my mind about symbolic conflation. It feels like there is no end to insights to be mined, for the trickster multiplies meaning. The trickster can always disenchant. Our minds can be freed of the binds that tie us down and tangle up our every thought.

Still, taken at face value, my father’s question is a serious question. Why do I focus on what I do? I ultimately don’t know.

It reminds me of my habit of always looking down as I walk. My father, on the other hand, never looks down and has a habit of stepping on things. It is only by looking down that we can see what is underneath our feet, what we stand on or are stepping toward. Foundation and fundament are always below eye level. Even in my thinking, I’m forever looking down, to what is beneath everyday awareness and oft-repeated words. Just to look down, such a simple and yet radical act.

Looking down is also a sign of shame or else humility, the distinction maybe being less relevant to those who avoid looking down. To humble means to bring low, to the level of the ground, the soil, humus. To be further down the ladder of respectability, to be low caste or low class, is to have a unique vantage point. One can see more clearly and more widely when one has grown accustomed to looking down, for then one can see the origins of things, the roots of the world, where experience meets the ground of being.

This is also of the trickster. One can learn a lot about people by looking at their shit and sifting through their garbage, all that is metaphorically and literally rejected and repressed, tossed away and thrown aside. The greatest of insights are gleaned this way. Those who know shame are given the opportunity to know what gets lost and hidden in the muck of shame. Toiling in the dirt and grime, they can dig up what was buried, now decaying, and in the hole dug they can plant seeds to grow.

Where sun and earth meet is the liminal space of the fertile.

As Hyde explains (pp. 179-180):

“In this world, in trickster’s world, life and death are one thing, not two, and therefore no one gets rid of death without getting rid of life as well. You get no seeds at all if the sunlight is too pure ever to mingle with the muck of the rice paddies. You get no seeds if shit never enters the New Palace. And because there is always a hunger seeking for those seeds, whenever humans or gods move to purify life by excluding death, or to protect order completely from the dirt that is its by-product, trickster will upset their plans. When purity approaches sterility, he will tear a hole in the sacred enclosure and drop a dead pony on the virgin weavers, or strew his feces under the Sun Goddess’s throne. In the Legba story we saw that trickster can create the boundary between heaven and earth, threatening the gods with dirt until they retreat into the distant sky; here we see that once such a boundary exists trickster can abrogate it, importing dirt into the exalted halls until some of heaven’s wealth is loosened and the earth is fertilized, the sun reborn.

“I am, of course, reading this Japanese story rather literally. While it is a nature myth for an agrarian culture (those seeds are actually seeds, and that pile of shit should properly be called manure), the images resonate at other levels as well. If dirt is “matter out of place,” if it is what we exclude when we are creating order, then this and other stories about tricksters and dirt must also speak to the sterility that hides in most all human system and design. The models we devise to account for the world and the shapes we create to make ourselves at home in it are all too often inadequate to the complexity of things, and end up deadened by their own exclusions.”

That is why the world needs skeptics and contrarians. Those who don’t just ask why but also why not. Sometimes the windows need to be opened to let the musty air out and the sunshine in, circulation and merging of the elements. A balancing, a coming to equilibrium.

To play this role, however, is difficult. For the outsider to succeed in forcing change to what is inside is likely to find himself then being on the inside. A window being opened, the opportunity of entry beckons and, with entry, comes promises of inclusion. This is how the trickster transmutes shit into gold, a turtle of the earth into a lyre for a god. And in this is found the secret link between the trickster and the cultural hero, between the bastard child and the prodigal son.

The trickster often finds himself having become domesticated and respectable. The trick of change is as much a trick played on himself as on others. “Such may be the frequent fate of radical change-agents,” states Hyde (pp. 224-225), “to be coopted, outflanked, and contained by the larger culture, to be brought up short of a full apocalyptic reallotment.” He continues,

“But what exactly are the options? A remark by Claude Lévi-Strauss offers a way to imagine the possible fates of those who threaten a group with fundamental change. Lévi-Strauss contrasts two types of societies: “those which practice cannibalism— that is, which regard the absorption of certain individuals possessing dangerous powers as the only means of neutralizing these powers and even of turning them to advantage— and those which, like our own … adopt what might be called the practice of anthropemy (from the Greek emein, to vomit).” The latter eject dangerous individuals; they leave them in the woods, or build special jails to cut them off from the group and keep them isolated. In short, groups can either expel or ingest their troublemakers. The most successful change-agent avoids either fate and manages to stay on the threshold, neither in nor out, but short of that difficult balance the next best fate may be to be eaten, to be incorporated into the local myth.

“Let us say, then, that the Homeric Hymn to Hermes records an incorporation; it is an after-the-fact record of a disruption that has been contained and re-presented as something Zeus “had in mind all along,” not an apocalypse. Trickster’s disruptions are always potentially apocalyptic, but in this case they are converted into manageable mischief. For apocalyptic action, one needs turn to Monkey disrupting the Taoist immortals or to the medieval Loki after whose disruptions the Norse gods are not reborn in Scandinavia but supplanted by Christianity.

“The Hymn is not so apocalyptic and that may be the more common case. It is what might be expected when an outsider penetrates the group: at some point there must be an understanding, a series of compromises that formalize the move, a negotiated living together. In this case the terms are to a large degree set by Hermes, but they do not upset the entire order of things; the order adapts to contain the introject, the foreign thing it has swallowed, and at that point we should divide the “domestication” plot into two forms. It is one thing to submit to an old set of house rules, quite another to enter a house that you yourself have helped to build.”

The reactionary conservative gets assimilated. This is how each generation of conservatives inexorably shifts ever leftward. Over a long enough period, conservatives becomes more liberal than even the liberals of the past.

The ultimate secret of all symbolic conflations contrived by the conservative mind is simple, that there never has been a conservative tradition. The voice of conservatism is but an echo of the liberalism that came before. A reactionary can only rearrange, never create anything new. Yet, in rearranging, the next stage of radicalism is made possible.

The reactionary asking the radical why merely provokes the radical to ask their own questions. These further questions the reactionary cannot answer.

* * * *

By the way, I’m not clearly speaking of absolutely distinct categories. I probably could have explained that better.

I don’t see any reason why a person couldn’t be a radical liberal at one point and a reactionary liberal at another. My speaking of both as liberal was my way of speaking to that possibility. Maybe everyone has the potential for each, and understanding that is our only defense against the extremes.

These are roles more than they are fundamental identities. I wanted to state this more overtly so as to not allow for any confusion.

In talking about my father, the context is a relationship. These roles always exist in particular relationships. As such, I’m only a radical to the extent that I’m relating to someone playing the role of a reactionary, my father in this case. Ditto for what I perceive as my father being a reactionary, a role he is playing in relation to me. These are situational and hence contingent roles, although people have a way of trying to make such roles permanent.

Anyway, it is irrelevant how an individual self-identifies. Labels can be misleading. What is important isn’t that my father prefers the label conservative and that I’ve tended toward the liberal label. There is nothing inherently reactionary or radical in a label.

None of this involves judgement of character. Neither role is morally inferior or superior. These are social realities and must be understood on those terms. They exist only in relationship and only as a singular inseparable dynamic. For me, this isn’t just a dynamic in my relationship with my father, but a dynamic of ideas in my head, what can feel like an internal division and conflict that gets processed by way of an external relationship.

In short, I can’t blame my father for how I experience my father. My response to his question remains my response. My purpose isn’t to objectively prove intentions and motivations. I’m limited to my own intuitive abilities to suss out meaning, an endless process.

These are thoughts I’m playing around with. When the personal is involved, it can make it easier to ground one’s thoughts, but it also can mire one in other kinds of confusions. That is what I was trying to indicate near the beginning of this post, when I spoke of the dynamic between my father and I. It truly has shaped my view of politics. Through this, I gain certain insights, but those insights no doubt have many biases and constraints.

This is the reason I find value in connecting my personal insights to the writings of others, to give me perspective. I’ve been developing these kinds of ideas for many years now. This represents some of my most original thought. My initial understanding arose out of my experience. My later readings have helped to give shape to this understanding.

As my understanding has developed, I’ve come to a more nuanced view of ideology and labels. This post represents one further step in the development of these ideas and insights.

* * * *

As a side note, I mentioned directly above that this is some of my most original thought.

I’m speaking of symbolic conflation. I came to that insight entirely on my own. In fact, I coined the phrasing of ‘symbolic conflation’, as I hadn’t seen it described by anyone else. Lewis Hyde comes close in his use of metonymy, but that doesn’t fully capture my meaning.

The insight slowly emerged from years upon years of discussions with my parents. So much of my political understanding goes back to my family relationships. The original inspiration was a single observation.

A highly emotional and divisive issue of politics is abortion. It has in some ways been the most central theme of the culture wars, connecting together so many other threads in a way that is hard to disentangle.

I presented my parents with the data that countries that ban abortions don’t decrease and, in some cases, increase the rate of abortions. This is to say that on average banning abortions does increase the abortion rate.

This undermines the entire rationalization of the socially conservative position. But my parents were unfazed by this challenge to the heart of their ideological system. I experienced similar refusal to confront these basic facts from other conservatives as well.

By their own logic, social conservatives shouldn’t support banning abortions. Doing so, according to their way of thinking, increases the killing of babies. The only way to protect life is by not making it an issue of shame and fear, by giving women many choices and resources. All of this prevents unwanted pregnancies in the first place and hence prevents most women from even needing to consider abortion.

This is common sense. Yet I’ve never met a conservative who is able and willing to morally and rationally confront this challenge. It hits too close to a nerve. Pull on that thread and the whole thing might unravel.

This is how I came to my original thoughts on symbolic conflation.

Now, having read Lewis Hyde, I realize that it was no accident that I first came to this understanding because of an issue like abortion. It is a highly emotional issue that take the body as an ideological battlefield. An ideology, as some see it, isn’t just about political opinions, but an entire worldview. When ideology is grounded in bodily experience, this creates the possibility of what I observed and what Hyde describes.

Lakoff sees the family as a fundamental metaphor for politics. That seems to be the case, but maybe that is because family relations are so personal and visceral. A mother gives birth to and breastfeeds the child. Parents hold, caress, and at times punish the child. Families live in and share the same physical space.

Hyde points in this direction with some of his examples, such as a mother telling her daughter a story of shame when her first menstration came. As Hyde explains, this is about creating and enforcing social boundaries. The first boundary ever created is the bond with the mother.

In future writings, i’d like to explore the relationship between shame and symbolic conflation.

I’ve recently come to realize how important shame is to so many aspects of human experience and society. I sense that shame might be core to every symbolic conflation. Both shame and symbolic conflation are about wanting to keep something hidden. Or rather shame is the experience of the failure to keep something hidden or the fear that such failure is likely, and that fear will never go away as long as the symbolic conflation is in place.

I’d also like to connect this to my thoughts on race and racism, along with some similar issues related to our collective past of colonialism, slavery, and genocide. Specifically, I’d like to connect this to my thoughts on the perplexing issue of simultaneously knowing and not knowing. The study of ignorance, agnotology, would also be the study of what is hidden, both to public and private awareness. All of this connects to ideas I first came across in the writings of Derrick Jensen, ideas about the victimization cycle, silencing, dissociation, splitting, doubling, etc.

Shame is the one of the most primal defense mechanisms. When I see shame in operation, I know something of the greatest of importance is being protected. People will kill and die for shame.

In thinking along these lines, Hydes book reminds me that with shame we touch upon the sacred. This is at the heart of what it means to be human. It isn’t just about conservatives and the conservative moral order. I wish to tread lightly, for we are all implicated.

254 thoughts on ““Why are you thinking about this?”

  1. The last point I made sits most heavily on my mind.

    Shame isn’t just about conservatism and the conservative moral order. I’d add that symbolic conflation also isn’t just about conservatism and the conservative social order. As conservatism is inseparable from liberalism, both ideologically and psychologically, these issues also speak to liberals.

    What does that mean for liberals and for the liberal-minded of any ideology? None of us are free from these influences.

    I still don’t think I’ve fully captured the relationship of the liberal to symbolic conflation. This is significant in connection to shame, as many identify liberalism with a guilt ethic. Guilt and shame are, at least in part, built on class issues and a class social order.

    I’m in the process of writing a post or maybe a series of posts about shame, guilt, etc. I’ll have to see if I can dig deeper into all of this.

    • My mom says I used to walk to school alone starting when I was in kindergarten. I kept walking to school throughout all of my grade school education.

      No one batted an eye back then to see a small child walking around alone. That was just what kids used to do.

      We had free range of the neighborhood. The school was several blocks away. There were also woods and creeks we played in.

      My parents never worried about us being kidnapped, getting hurt, drowning, or anything else. They figured if we needed help we’d either be able to solve our own problems or we’d go get help.

      None of my friends parents worried about such things either, despite violence and crime rates being higher back then. No kid in any school I went to ever was kidnapped or whatever. Parents back then were more realistic about the actual risks, and those risks are extremely low.

      Why have we become so paranoid? The safer the world becomes the more fearful we act. It’s bizarre. Our society is suffering from collective psychosis.

        • I used to play outside as a kid until I watched too much CNN. Then I started panicking whenever I was hanging out with the neighbourhood friends and they’d all think I’m weird.

          So… media. I’m not even sure if it’s as much a conspiracy as much as the fact that technology is much more ubiquitous now.

      • “I’m glad he isn’t my dad.”

        What an odd person. His wife must be tolerant and forgiving. Or maybe she is equally fucked in the head, maybe would have to be living with that guy.

        “I used to play outside as a kid until I watched too much CNN.”

        What was on CNN when you were a kid? I didn’t watch news as a child. In fact, I had little interest in news at all until my 30s. I still don’t like most news.

        “So… media. I’m not even sure if it’s as much a conspiracy as much as the fact that technology is much more ubiquitous now.”

        Yeah, there is that. I’ve often wondered about the changes in technology. The bigger change isn’t precisely technology, though. At some point, cable switched to 24/7 news reporting. I just looked it up. Beginning in 1980, CNN was the first 24-hour tv news.

        I grew up without cable until high school and so that wasn’t even an issue anyhow. The network channels used to stop playing everything at a particular time, and this is all you’d see on the tv:

        • Kidnappings. I lived in California then, as well. We were kidnapping central. (Samantha runnion, Danielle van dam, etc etc.)

          I’ve always been interested in the world around me, so there’s that. I think that’s normal though, but our society has changed that a bit. Kids seem to be curious about adult stuff.

        • I came across some interesting info.


          “From 1993 to 1994, public perception of crime as the most important problem in the U.S. jumped from a 9% endorsement to a 37% endorsement that remained considerably high for several years. The increase in perception may be due, at least in part, to the way in which crime news is delivered to the public; whereas perception of crime as a major problem rose, the actual crime rates did not (Lowry, Nio, & Leitner, 2003).”

          That is a massive jump. Public perception of violence was increasing at the exact moment actual violence was decreasing. Violence had begun to go down in the early 1990s and continued to go down, but something was causing Americans to think it was going up.

          1993 and 1994 were the last two years of my high school education. I do remember the shift that happened. It corresponded to the rise of right-wing media, especially talk radio, although right-wing wouldn’t show its full power until Fox News began in 1996.

          I listened to some of the right-wing talk radio back then, some combination of boredom and curiosity, for the same reason I’d occasionally listen to fire-and-brimstone Southern Evangelical preachers. I particularly recall listening to Laura Schlessinger, whose show was nationally syndicated in 1994. One time a caller complained about personal problems and Schlessinger’s advice was that the young lady should either take care of her problems or kill herself. I was shocked that any radio host would be that irresponsible, but that was common for right-wing talk radio.

          That was also when the Republican Party began its heavy-handed partisanship, because of the election of Bill Clinton. It was all being fueled by the culture wars. The greatest battle of the culture wars was the impeachment of Clinton for his getting a blowjob. In the past, a politicians private sexual acts were considered of no relevance to their public office. Many presidents before Clinton had extramarital affairs, but the mainstream media rarely reported on it and the opposing party certainly wouldn’t have turned it into a circus.

          Here is another kind of thing that always gets me thinking.


          “In fact, children are in far more danger of being abused, kidnapped or killed by their parents than any stranger on the street. University of Southern California sociology professor Barry Glassner wrote about missing children in his book The Culture of Fear: “In national surveys conducted in recent years 3 out of 4 parents say they fear that their child will be kidnapped by a stranger. They harbor this anxiety, no doubt, because they keep hearing frightening statistics and stories about perverts snatching children off the street. What the public doesn’t hear often or clearly enough is that the majority of missing children are runaways fleeing from physically or emotionally abusive parents.””

          If parents are afraid for their child’s life, they should look for the danger in a mirror. Most children who are missing are choosing to be missing because it is better than the alternative of living with their parents.

    • Shots fired

      “We are keeping kids safer from the odd serial killer, but making them more vulnerable during their lifetimes to the most common killers – heart disease and cancer. On top of that, we know that these CPS standards tend to affect poor parents more, because those parents need to work, have more trouble affording child care and have far less ability to pay for extra-curricular activities.”

  2. Perhaps the media and the elite want people to be fearful.

    Certainly their approach to terrorism suggests so. Fear makes it possible to control people and do things that they are not willing to do normally.

    It is a twisted logic, but what the oligarchs want.

    • I’m sure it is no accident that fear gets endlessly promoted.

      The only thing that is as useful for social control as fear would be shame, which is what I’m presently trying to better understand. Fear is a simple emotion. Shame, at the moment, seems more elusive… but maybe that is just because I’ve previously given it less thought.

      Now that I think of it, Corey Robin also has a book about fear and politics. I looked in it. There aren’t many references to shame. Also, there aren’t any references to shame at all in his book about reactionary politics. That is too bad. I’d be interested to know his views on shame.

      There is definitely a connection between fear and shame. Giving it some thought, I wonder if fear is the more fundamental of the two. I noticed that Robin, in the fear book, thinks that is the case.

    • Corey Robin has an interesting take on fear. He sees it as being more than merely about social control. In his view, fear gives meaning and purpose to reactionary conservatives.

      To a liberal, fear and what it entails seems like a bad thing. It’s hard to understand how fear can be seen as an inspiring experience.

      The reactionary conservative attitude obviously comes from a perspective of privilege. Few people living in desperate poverty in violent communities would look to fear as a positive thing.

  3. “It is seldom noted, but fear is the first emotion experienced by a character in the Bible. Not desire, not shame, but fear. Adam eats from the tree, discovers he is naked, and hides from God, confessing, “I was afraid, because I was naked.” Before this admission, God creates and sees that his creations are good. He sees that Adam is without a mate, which is not good. Eve sees that the tree of knowledge is “pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise.” But these are reports of antiseptic perception, with no warming murmur of appreciation or aversion. Everyone looks, everyone sees. Does anyone feel? Not until they eat the forbidden fruit do we hear of felt experience. ence. And when we do, it is fear. Why fear? Perhaps it is because, for the authors thors of the Bible, fear is the most electric of emotions. Prior to being afraid, Adam and Eve exist and act in the world, but without any palpable experience of it. Afraid, they are awash in experience, with God promising even more-for for Eve the pain of childbirth, for Adam the duress of work, for both the dread knowledge of death. Unafraid, Adam and Eve have only the laziest appreciation tion of the good and haziest apprehension of the bad. Their dim cognizance of evil makes them spectators to their own lives, semiconscious actors at best. Adam names, Eve succumbs, but neither really knows what it is that they do. Afraid, they know. Shallow temptation gives way to dramatic choice, inertial motion to elected action. Their story-our story-is ready to begin.’

    “After September 11, 2001, writers tell us, an altogether different kind of fear drove a similar passage from passivity to feeling and action. Before 9/11, Americans were supposed to be in Eden, idling in a warm bath of social autism. According to David Brooks, the ethos of the day was to cultivate our “private paradises,” to bask, in the words of Don DeLillo, in “the utopian glow of cyber-capital.” At the time bliss seemed the glorious flower of peace and prosperity. In fact, many claim, it was the rotting fruit of decadence and decay. Suffering no difficulties, feeling no loss, we let our sense of the world go dim, our muscles atrophy. Holding up a mirror to our impoverished appetite petite for experience, Brooks notes that the most celebrated sitcom of the age was Seinfeld, “a show about nothing.” But 9/II, writes Frank Rich, was a “nightmare,” awakening us from a “frivolous if not decadent decadelong dream.” The fear it provoked, adds Brooks, was a morning “cleanser, washing ing away a lot of the self-indulgence” of the nineties. According to George Packer, it brought us “alertness, grief, resolve, even love”-experience itself. Packer cites, approvingly, the comments of an investment banker fleeing the World Trade Center on the day of the attack: “I’m not in shock. I like this state. I’ve never been more cognizant in my life.” Fear restored to us the clarifying ifying knowledge that evil exists, making moral, deliberate action possible once again. What was to be dreaded was not a repeat of 9/II but, according to Packer, a “return to the normality” that preceded it, for that would mean “instead stead of public memorials, private consumption; instead of lines to give blood, restaurant lines,” instead of civic attention, personal dissolution. 9/II was not the end of the story. Like the saving fear of Adam and Eve, it was just the beginning.2

    “This book is about fear, particularly as it pertains to modern politics. By political litical fear, I mean a people’s felt apprehension of some harm to their collective tive well-being-the fear of terrorism, panic over crime, anxiety about moral decay-or the intimidation wielded over men and women by governments or groups. What makes both types of fears political rather than personal is that they emanate from society or have consequences for society. Private fears like my fear of flying or your fear of spiders are artifacts of our own psychologies and experiences, and have little impact beyond ourselves. Political fear, by contrast, arises from conflicts within and between societies. An American’s fear of terrorism, for example, is a response to the attacks of 9/11 and the struggle between the United States and radical Islam. The fear among black Americans of the police-or, once upon a time, among Soviet dissidents of their government and among South African anti-apartheid activists of theirs-is sparked by friction in the civic world. Political fear can also have widespread repercussions. It may dictate public policy, bring new groups to power and keep others out, create laws and overturn them. The fear of communism munism during the early years of the Cold War, for example, helped roll back the New Deal. Black fears of white rule and white fears of black revolt underwrote wrote a century of legal segregation. Political fear is often associated with government ernment acts, but it need not be, at least not overtly. Take the fear a woman has of her abusive husband, or the worker of her unkind employer. To the casual sual observer, these fears are personal, the product of an unfortunate but entirely tirely private derangement of power. In actual fact, they are political. They spring from pervasive social inequities, and help sustain long traditions of rule over women and workers. These inequities and traditions are often reinforced, however indirectly, and created, however remotely, by government policies. Behind the husband’s abuse of his wife lie centuries of laws and doctrines trines awarding him authority over her; behind the employer’s cruelty are statutes, past and present, granting him coercive power over his employees.

    “I make here three claims about political fear. The first concerns how we think of it; the second, how and why we have come to think of it in this way; the third, how we might think of it instead. What these arguments add up to is this: Though fear has a politics, we often ignore or misconstrue it, making it difficult to understand how and why fear is used. Convinced that we lack moral or political principles to bind us together, we savor the experience of being afraid, as many writers did after 9/II, for only fear, we believe, can turn us from isolated men and women into a united people. Looking to political fear as the ground of our public life, we refuse to see the grievances and controversies that underlie it. We blind ourselves to the real-world conflicts that make fear an instrument of political rule and advance, deny ourselves the tools that might mitigate those conflicts, and ultimately ensure that we stay in thrall to fear. Perhaps that is what some in our society seek: to be in thrall, perpetually, to fear. But since fear seldom yields, over the long term, the unity and energy so many hope to obtain from it, we should probably look for those goods elsewhere, and approach fear for what it is-a symptom of pervasive conflict and political unhappiness-rather than for what it is not.”

    Corey Robin. Fear: The History of a Political Idea (Kindle Locations 31-70). Kindle Edition.

    • One of my friends is from the next town over from newtown, CT, and she talks about how Sandy Hook really fucked things up in terms of innocence and such. It’s a small-ass place where nothing happens, full of families where some adults might commute to NYC but they live their for that ”shit dosen’t happen here.” style.

      I was like 7 during 9/11, but I remember not thinking much of watching the places hit the towers. I remember thinking “Those bad people broke into the cockpit and killed the pilots because they wanted to kill people. Why didn’t the pilots lock the door? I hope that airports now check our stuff and pilots lock their doors. I’m really glad I wasn’t on that plane. I don’t want to take another plane until I know the pilots are gonna lock their doors and the police people check all our stuff.”

      That’s literally what I was thinking. It was all egocentric, not-very-distraught other than egocentric fear.

        • 9/11 didn’t surprise or not-surprise me. It just was. I do wonder if that has to do with me not yet internalizing the political rhetoric of the times, the American identity, etc. I didn’t feel the “American loss of innocence.” I just felt the personal “I hope they lock the pilot door from now on!” schtick. Even now I’m not surprised. American borders aren’t immune to fucked up shit either. Especially since America isn’t exactly the equivalent of bumblefuck nowhere that no one cares about.

          Though I suppose that ties into how the newtown people felt. Newtown was bumblefuck nowhere yet shit still happened. I say so since when I live in my hometown which is bumblefuck no name, my parents taught me that it was safer there because terrorists and other bad people didn’t care about those places, they cared about the big prominent places like NYC and DC.

          Well I don’t like the NYPD but they seem to be doing a decent job at thwarting terrorism so far. We’ve had several planned attacks that were caught. But as a petite asian lady I suppose I’m not exactly prime target for police power tripping either.

          Yeah. Kids aren’t fragile naive flowers as much as American adults see them as.

      • I’m not sure when things really began to change.

        There was a shift that happened over the 1990s. It was the decade of the rise of right-wing media. Also, there was a violent crack epidemic that the media was fear-mongering about, even though the violence was mostly isolated in poor minority ghettoes. There were also some school shooting incidents back then that began the media obsession, even though violence rates overall were on the decline.

        Then again, once can go back further. The entire drug war and Cold War was a time of paranoia. Much of that was directed toward kids. There was a period of time during my childhood when the media was fear-mongering about cults, witchcraft, and child sacrifice. It was part of the culture wars with its demented fundamentalist worldview.

        Really, the entire 20th century involved a strange obsession with childhood. Going back to the Lost Generation, there was a fear for and about kids. It was a violent time earlier last century and, with the quickly growing urbanization, there was all of a sudden a bunch of street kids and youth gangs. The Boy Scouts and universal public education was created in response to all of that, because it was thought that children having too much time on their hands was a bad thing.

        That led into the violence of the Prohibition era. But following that there was a period of greater peace. There was the post-WWII era that a booming economy and low immigration. It was possibly the most stable moment in our country’s entire history. Some people who grew up during that time falsely came to believe that was normal.

        Blacks back then saw the situation a bit differently, though, since Jim Crow was still in force. It was an oppressive era, especially as the Cold War began to go into full gear.

        When I was a kid, the world was plenty violent, relative to today. It is odd that parents did worry so little. The 1970s and 1980s were an odd time. No one worried about the kids because no one cared. It was a time when adults were more focused on adult things and kids just had to fend for themselves. Maybe in the last years of the Cold War Americans were simply too exhausted from the decades of fear-mongering and so fear lost some of its potency for a time.

  4. “Our troubled approach to fear in the United States has much to do with the schizophrenic qualities of American liberalism. Political fear has been both the doing and undoing of American liberalism, but few of our writers seem willing to acknowledge this fact. Drawing on Montesquieu and Tocqueville, American intellectuals possess a liberal diagnosis of political fear and a liberal prescription for its cure. Political fear, they argue, is caused by a centralized, lawless state pulverizing civil society into atomized dust, to which the Constitution is supposed to provide the perfect antidote: separation of powers, federalism, and the rule of law. Though neither the free market nor a pluralist civil society is mentioned in the Constitution, they too are often invoked as prescriptions against fear, reflecting the vision, formulated by Madison, of a complex freedom growing between the cracks of a richly textured society. If political fear does arise in the United States, claim leading writers, it cannot be the result, or even the unanticipated side effect, of these liberal remedies. It must emerge from outside the fragmented state or from some forgotten outpost of civil society.

    “That is the theory. The practice, as we have seen, is altogether different, for Fear, American Style has been both the fulfillment and the betrayal of liberalism, in ways that few liberals-indeed, few intellectuals of any political stripe-realize. Beyond its commitments to a limited state and a pluralist society, American liberalism is a philosophy that proclaims the inviolability and dignity of the individual and the equality of all men and women. But while freedom and equality may run through our political bedrock, they have been far more volcanic, and far less common, forces than many of liberalism’s critics or defenders are willing to admit.’ Liberal notions of freedom and equality have hurled men and women, sometimes violently, against the ramparts parts of privilege. Liberal principles enlisted men, black and white, in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of other men, mostly white, in order to remove chattel slavery from the land. Liberalism has summoned men and women of all colors to march and sometimes give their lives for racial and gender equality, and has inspired men and women to scale the high walls of class authority, to take apart, brick by brick, the edifices of inequality and unfreedom freedom in this country. These struggles for liberalism in the United States have been titanic. But they have also been rare. So rare they bring to mind Gandhi’s famous response to the question of what he thought of western civilization: “I think it would be a good idea.” What has prevented freedom and equality from becoming a reality in the United States? The politics of fear, and the liberal web of political institutions, laws, ideologies, elites, civic structures, and private associations that support that politics. Underwritten by our constitutional arrangements, political fear is a friend of American liberalism; undermining our great national efforts on behalf of freedom and equality, it is its foe. And it is our liberal commitment to a limited state and a pluralist civil society that prevents us from seeing both sides of this ambivalent bivalent relationship.

    “While liberal mechanisms and contrivances have been mobilized on behalf half of fear, what has fear done for liberalism? It has often curtailed it, or at least significantly stemmed liberalism’s advancing tide. Whether in the contemporary temporary workplace or during the Cold War or today’s war on terrorism, fear has undermined liberal commitments to freedom and equality, empowering ering some of the most revanchist, conservative forces in American life. From white racists during Jim Crow, who used fear to keep civil rights out of the South, to congressional conservatives and J. Edgar Hoover during the McCarthy years, to union busters over the last fifty to one hundred years.”

    Corey Robin. Fear: The History of a Political Idea (Kindle Locations 3593-3614). Kindle Edition.

  5. Here is something that relates directly to this post. He discusses the relationship of fear, guilt, and the sense of loss:

    “It is not only the powerful who wield fear and the powerless who are afraid. People with power are themselves often seized by a fear of those without out it, either the fear aroused by guilt for having committed injustice, or, more commonly, the fear that the powerless will one day rise up and dispossess them. Again, King understood this elite fear all too well. Jim Crow, he wrote, was “buttressed by such irrational fears as loss of preferred economic privilege, altered social status, intermarriage, and adjustment to new situations.” The “guilt-ridden white minority” feared that “if the Negro attains power, he will without restraint or pity act to revenge the accumulated injustices and brutality of the years.” Whites, King added, were like the proverbial parent “who has continually mistreated his son” and “suddenly realizes that he is now taller than the parent. Will the son use his new physical power to repay for all of the blows of the past?””

    Corey Robin. Fear: The History of a Political Idea (Kindle Locations 322-327). Kindle Edition.

  6. “Burke, again, is more subtle but cuts more deeply. Great power, he suggests in The Sublime and the Beautiful, should never aspire to be— and can never actually be— beautiful. What great power needs is sublimity. The sublime is the sensation we experience in the face of extreme pain, danger, or terror. It is something like awe but tinged with fear and dread. Burke calls it “delightful horror.” Great power should aspire to sublimity rather than beauty because sublimity produces “the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.” It is an arresting yet invigorating emotion, which has the simultaneous but contradictory effect of diminishing and magnifying us. We feel annihilated by great power; at the same time, our sense of self “swell[ s]” when “we are conversant with terrible objects.” Great power achieves sublimity when it is, among other things, obscure and mysterious, and when it is extreme. “In all things,” writes Burke, the sublime “abhors mediocrity.” 18

    “In the Reflections, Burke suggests that the problem in France is that the old regime is beautiful while the revolution is sublime. The landed interest, the cornerstone of the old regime, is “sluggish, inert, and timid.” It cannot defend itself “from the invasions of ability,” with ability standing in here for the new men of power that the revolution brings forth. Elsewhere in the Reflections, Burke says that the moneyed interest, which is allied with the revolution, is stronger than the aristocratic interest because it is “more ready for any adventure” and “more disposed to new enterprises of any kind.” The old regime, in other words, is beautiful, static, and weak; the revolution is ugly, dynamic, and strong. And in the horrors that the revolution perpetrates— the rabble rushing into the bedchamber of the queen, dragging her half-naked into the street, and marching her and her family to Paris— the revolution achieves a kind of sublimity: “We are alarmed into reflexion,” writes Burke of the revolutionaries’ actions. “Our minds … are purified by terror and pity; our weak unthinking pride is humbled, under the dispensations of a mysterious wisdom.””

    Robin, Corey (2011-09-29). The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (pp. 48-49). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

  7. “Whatever the relationship between theory and practice in the conservative tradition, it is clear from The Sublime and the Beautiful that if the self is to survive and flourish it must be aroused by an experience more vital and bracing than pleasure or enjoyment. Pleasure and enjoyment act like beauty, “relaxing the solids of the whole system.” 18 That system, however, must be made taut and tense. The mind must be quickened, the body exerted. Otherwise, the system will soften and atrophy, and ultimately die.

    “What most arouses this heightened state of being is the confrontation with non-being. Life and health are pleasurable and enjoyable, and that is what is wrong with them: “they make no such impression” on the self because “we were not made to acquiesce in life and health.”

    “Pain and danger, by contrast, are “emissaries” of death, the “king of terrors.” They are sources of the sublime, “the strongest”— most powerful, most affecting—“ emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.” 19 Pain and danger, in other words, are generative experiences of the self. Pain and danger are generative because they have the contradictory effect of minimizing and maximizing our sense of self. When sensing pain or danger, our mind “is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other.” The “motions” of our soul “are suspended,” as harm and the fears it arouses “rush in upon the mind.” In the face of these fears, “the mind is hurried out of itself.” When we experience the sublime, we feel ourselves evacuated, overwhelmed by an external object of tremendous power and threat. Everything that gave us a sense of internal being and vitality ceases to exist. The external is all, we are nothing. God is a good example, and the ultimate expression, of the sublime: “Whilst we contemplate so vast an object, under the arm, as it were, of almighty power, and invested upon every side with omnipresence, we shrink into the minuteness of our own nature, and are, in a manner, annihilated before him.” 20

    “Paradoxically, we also feel our existence to an extent we never have felt it before. Seized by terror, our “attention” is roused and our “faculties” are “driven forward, as it were, on their guard.” We are pulled out of ourselves. We are cognizant of the immediate terrain and our presence upon it. Before, we barely noticed ourselves or our surroundings. Now we spill out of ourselves, inhabiting not only our bodies and minds but the space around us. We feel “a sort of swelling”— a sense that we are greater, our perimeter extends further— that “is extremely grateful to the human mind.” But this “swelling,” Burke reminds us, “is never more perceived, nor operates with more force, than when without danger we are conversant with terrible objects.” 21

    “In the face of the sublime, the self is annihilated, occupied, crushed, overwhelmed; in the face of the sublime, the self is heightened, aggrandized, magnified. Whether the self can truly occupy such opposing, almost irreconcilable, poles of experience at the same time— it is this contradiction, the oscillation between wild extremes, that generates a strong and strenuous sense of self. As Burke writes elsewhere, intense light resembles intense darkness not only because it blinds the eye and thus approximates darkness, but also because both are extremes. And extremes, particularly opposing extremes, are sublime because sublimity “in all things abhors mediocrity.” 22 The extremity of opposing sensations, the savage swing from being to nothingness, makes for the most intense experience of self hood.

    “The question for us, which Burke neither poses nor answers, here nor in his other work, is: What kind of political form entails this simultaneity of— or oscillation between— self-aggrandizement and self-annihilation? One possibility would be hierarchy, with its twin requirements of submission and domination; the other is violence, particularly warfare, with its rigid injunction to kill or be killed. Perhaps not coincidentally, both are of great significance to conservatism as a theoretical tradition and a historical practice.”

    Robin, Corey (2011-09-29). The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (pp. 223-225). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

  8. “On the other hand, Hobbes thinks that if freedom is unimpeded motion, it stands to reason that we are a lot freer under a monarch, even an absolute monarch, than the royalist and the republican realize (or care to admit). 25 First and most simply, even when we act out of fear, we are acting freely. “Feare, and Liberty are consistent,” says Hobbes, because fear expresses our negative inclinations; these inclinations may be negative, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they are our inclinations. So long as we are not impeded from acting upon them, we are free. Even when we are most terrified of the King’s punishments, we are free: “all actions which men doe in Common-wealths, for feare of the law, are actions, which the doers had liberty to omit.””

    Robin, Corey (2011-09-29). The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (pp. 72-73). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

    • I agree. Preciocious is much better. Along with what you said, I would add it is also more accurate and clear in meaning. Gifted as a label has strange connotations that are ambiguous, implying assumptions its advocates don’t want to admit to or explain.

  9. “Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
    – Hermann Göring

    You know the person who did the interviewing insisted that the American people would never fall to this.

    History proved him wrong.

    • I know people can easily manipulated. But there are things that make manipulation easier or more difficult.

      When people live in a closed authoritarian society like North Korea, they have no connection to a larger reality. That is true to a lesser degree in China, as people living there have highly filtered and censored access to internet and other media, although more freedom to travel. Such people are easier control by using simple, blunt forms of power.

      In the US, the population requires much more effort be put into propaganda because the society is more open. But because it requires so much effort, there is a greater possibility for the social control to fail or not to lead to the desired results.

      That was the problem the British Empire had with the colonies. An open society had formed. The government tried to keep the media under control. But a more open system is hard to fully control, even when you have the wealth and might of an empire at your disposal.

      The internet is a wild card. No one knows the long term results of the changing media environment. Also, people traveling and moving around more, from country to country, is another wild card. An increasing number of people have multiple citizenships, especially in the most powerful developed countries. On top of all that, American society is more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before with an emerging minority-majority. Plus, countries are more intertwined than in the past, economically and otherwise.

      There is an interesting social experiment going on right now. The social dynamic of conflicts in the future will be far different. Yet some forms of social control will always remain basically the same.

  10. You could call this “market failure” or a “perverse incentive”.

    An example – I once joked with someone – the world’s richest soils (in places like the Midwest and the Prairies), rather than being used to grow healthy food, solve problems like world hunger, or poverty, are being used to make people fat as a result of the incentives the corn refining, soft drink, snack foods, and other junk foods industries have. That’s market failure.

    The very wealthy feel that controlling people and transferring wealth upwards is the solution to the problems of society.

    Against this, technology in many ways works against them, although it depends on how its used. Technology of course also brings drones, surveillance tools, and other bad stuff.

    • In my opinion, more money should be spent on all education.

      I know a fair amount of money already gets spent, but little of that is directly going to students and teachers. Most of it is probably going to costs of bureaucracy, standardized testing, sports, etc. I’m sure some of those costs are unavoidable. Still, if most of the money isn’t going directly to the student’s education (classroom costs and teacher pay), then we have a major problem.

      Also, if we are to complain that more money goes to special education, shouldn’t we also complain that most of the money goes to educate the wealthiest kids? The reason public schools have so many special ed kids to teach is because the private schools usually won’t take them. Public schools end up getting the hardest to teach children, while the private schools and charters skim off the rest.

      Maybe we should improve education for all kids, not just one group of kids.

    • I’m tired of people who think they can win an argument about offensiveness by simply substituting “African American” or some other racial group for the group they are defending. Black people and individuals with Down Syndrome cannot be equated. The first is a group of human beings subjected to irrational prejudice for centuries,the second is a group who are abnormal. JohnB’s comment was blunt. While not mine, his is, however, a defensible view.

      • This article is entitled “The Truth About Down’s Syndrome” but in point of fact, it has very little to do with truth.

        As a special ed teacher, I’ve worked with adults with Down’s That’s right, despite this article’s focus on children, it is a truth that children grow into adults.

        I’m afraid I do not have the take-away that these adults were cheerful folk whose primary function was to teach me happiness or to save other peoples’ marriages.

        First of all, they are human beings. As Shylock says, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh?”

        People with Down’s feel slights & injuries & frustrations every bit as much as any human being. Perhaps as children they present as happier. But as adults, they develop into, well, adulthood. Many of the adults I worked with were not happy. Many saw what others did & were deeply frustrated by what they couldn’t do b/c of their limitations.

        For example, some were extremely frustrated sexually. One young man desperately wanted to date someone without Down’s, but didn’t understand the social rules, & finally had to be fired from his job for sexual harassment. He was miserable & ashamed.

        Many were frustrated by our gov’t rules which restrict earnings. One woman’s only wish was to work in a book store full time.She couldn’t because she’d earn too much for social security. She was upset.

        The examples are endless.

        Other human beings should not be viewed by what lessons they have for us. That is grotesque.

    • I find it sad when the anti-choice arguments are brought into the debate.

      First, they ignore the fact abortion bans on average increase the abortion rate. They refuse to talk about the real issues. They don’t actually give a shit about life. If they did, they would be against police brutality, capital punishment, war, etc… but most social conservatives support these forms of violence that kill more people than abortions.

      Second, they ignore the reasons why pregnancies are unwanted in the first place. Children cost a lot of money, and special needs children cost even more, and many people simply can’t afford these costs in our social darwinian capitalist society. These are the same people who are against a welfare state to take care of all the problems associated with poverty, unwanted pregnancies, special needs children, etc.

      They want to bame people instead of taking responsibility themselves for the problems in our society. Also, they refuse to create the conditions that would offer better choices and opportunities to those struggling with difficult decisions, such as whether they can economically afford and realistically handle a special needs child.

  11. The Facebook comments are rather alarming. You usually see a higher quality of comment when someone posts their real name, but not always.

    This is why I think at times society is simply too apathetic for democracy to work. That and the too dumb for democracy article. Or at least one huge proportion of the population.

    Particularly in the case of the political right, there seems to be a lot of willfully ignorant people. I do not know if it is anti-intellectualism, Calvinist beliefs, or right-wing authoritarianism, but willfully ignorant people has become the bane of society.

    • As some commenters pointed out, it used to be good for the US as well.

      Will Harper:
      “Sorry! But this or something like it was very common in America just a few decades ago. EVERY entry level worker was seen as an apprentice, learning the skills by hands on training. In many cases, the only thing limiting your rise in the company was your attitude and commitment. That was the springboard of the middle class and its expansion in America, along with organized labor, regular raises and general appreciation for a job well done. America loved its workforce as much as its military. Not anymore.”

      Adam Smith:
      “American companies essentially did away with this kind of training and instead outsourced this part of our industry to low-wage countries where they could pay for the training cheaper–the problem is it wasn’t much cheaper. It didn’t save American companies much money.

      “Now that the jobs are gone, the customers who purchased those companies products are also gone (because when a whole society does this you don’t just outsource your labor, you also eventually outsource your customers too).

      “Henry Ford didn’t understand everything, but he did understand a few things–and one of those things was that he wanted the workers in his factories to be able to afford to buy his cars. He paid them enough so they could do that. He understood that his workers weren’t just his employees, they were also his customers.

      “Henry Ford understood you can’t deposit your waste where you consume your food. You can’t short-change your workers if you plan on having them (or their families) as consumers of your goods. You can’t have it both ways. American business would do well to remember this lesson. This lesson was understood by the “greatest generation” and the “silent generation” knew this. It was the selfish “baby boomer” generation that blew this notion apart–and created a lot of headache doing it.”

  12. The middle aged and old run society. They make up the bulk of senior executives and the bulk of powerful politicians.
    The men and women who lived through the Great Depression always planned for the future. They built power plants which produced more power than needed, bridges which could handle more traffic, water purification plants which produced more water. They made sure infrastructure would last for decades, and then built it so well it outlasted even their specifications.
    Their heirs, the Silents and the Boomers, thought this was absurd. Why not party now, and let the future take care of itself?
    Call this the “death bet”. In it’s pure form, the death bet is just that, a bet that when the bill comes due, you’ll be dead. If you live a good life and die owing millions, well, what do you care?
    But someone will pay that bill. Maybe it will be your creditors, who might even go out of business, unable to collect what they are owed. Perhaps it will be your heirs, if the millions adhere to property. Perhaps it will be someone you don’t even know.
    But someone will pay. The good life, bought by debt, is always paid for.
    The death bet is why we are not dealing with climate change, even though we know that it is coming and we know it will kill hundreds of millions and might even destroy our entire society. The death bet is why our governments make huge tax cuts today knowing that either taxes will have to be increased in the future or spending will have to be drastically cut. But in the meantime the government can borrow, or print money, so who cares? The politicians who make the tax cuts won’t be in power, and many of the people who receive the cuts will be dead, so what do they care?
    The death bet is why America had a 2.4 trillion dollar infrastructure deficit as of 2009. It is why Californians voted in 1978 to disallow property tax increases of more than 2% per year. And it is why tuition rates have increased by hundreds of percentage points more than inflation in many countries.
    A death bet always come due. It just isn’t always paid by those who made it. The GI generation who voted Reagan in are mostly dead, they won the death bet. Most of the Silents will win as well.
    Only about half of Boomers are going to win the bet, though, and if you’re a Gen-X’er or below, unless you die young, you might want to stop taking death bets.
    No society will remain prosperous if the time horizon is only so far as our grasp. rather than so far as we can see. The future always arrives, and the bill we’ve put off is always paid by someone.
    Character is formed by genetics and environment in concert. A generation which has one set of experiences is different from a generation which has another set of experiences. The average personality of Boomers is different from the GI Generation, the Silents, Xers or the Lost Generation. They grew up in affluence, expected smooth sailing, grew up in a world which worked and in which their youthful experience was a bend toward justice. This is very different than the Xer or Millenial experience of growing up in an economy which was growing worse than that their parents had lived in; and of the Millenial experience of a world where civil liberties beyond identity rights were actually constricting as they grew up.
    To argue that generational differences don’t exist is to argue that nurture doesn’t matter, or to argue that there are no significant differences in the experiences of different generations in the 20th and 21st centuries. I will be frank: anyone who believes either of those thing is wrong.
    Likewise Generations make different decisions at different points in their life cycle. The choice of the GIs, Silents and Boomers of 1980 to abandon the Democratic party either because they were racist southerners responding to the southern strategy (and yes, that was a racist strategy, and the people who created have said so); or who voted for Reagan in northern Suburbs because they wanted those suburbs to stay white, and fuck the black people, made choices. White flight was a very real phenomenon: it is what those Boomers, GIs and Silents did.
    This does not mean all Boomers/Silents/GI Generation types made those choices, but enough did to make the Reagan revolution possible. Being racist or keeping their suburban housing prices up was more important to them than anything else, and they voted those values. They voted repeatedly for tax cuts: again and again. You could not run except on tax cuts and expect to win. That was what they wanted, that was what they voted for, that was their character.

  13. Today, young adults are faced with a job market that is hyper-saturated by graduate level degrees and short on decent paying jobs. It is common for a millennial to apply for an entry level position in which a master’s degree is required and thousands upon thousands of applications are received. And when the lucky ones do find work, they are often underemployed and underpaid.
    Millennials must then attempt to be financially independent under the weight of the tremendous student debt they took on to get their desperately needed (in this job market) education. With all the financial instability, it is no wonder more and more millennials are moving back in with Mom and Dad. It appears that the great migration home is frequently not a failure of the millennials, but a failure of the economy, which can be traced directly back to the consumption and policies of the baby boomers. So when your 26-year-old moves back home, don’t get angry with him or her for not finding high-paying work; rather, look in the mirror and have some words with the person looking back.

  14. People are ignorant and don’t want to think that bad things can still happen to them despite their best efforts. All bad things in life come from character flaws in others and they deserve what they get, is the general attitude.
    When all your neighbors lose their job, one by one, it affects you. Even if you don’t have any relationship with them. All of a sudden the foreclosures surrounding your house start impacting your home value and the general safety of the neighborhood. Same goes with the labor force. Once a lot of people start losing jobs, worker-employer relations go out the window and treatment of workers deteriorates. This spills over into even the “in demand” fields when employers find ways to minimize costs of “in demand” workers (such as lobbying for foreign worker visas or “free trade” bills which allow them to move overseas and reimport their goods and services).

      • Why do you think people don’t want to acknowledge this? Especially older Americans. My generation seems to acknowledge this, as well as gen X, more readily.

        It’s weird how things taken for granted in other nations cause such a stir in America. ”That’s communism! My freedoms! Bootstraps!”

      • Many older people had easy lives, especially easy childhoods.

        The economy was booming, wealth was being spread wide, the middle class was growing, poverty was lessening, education was cheap, good jobs were available, companies provided free training for their employees, unions were strong, civil rights protections were increasing, technology was advancing, infrastructure was being built, and America was on top of the world.

        They took it for granted. When the good times began to wind down they looked for scapegoats to punish while they defended their own interests and benefits.

        As I’ve said many times before, Americans experience an extreme form of propaganda and it really hit the Cold War generations the hardest. It was before the internet and alternative news sources weren’t as easily found. The older generations were victims of one of the most successful propaganda systems in history.

        Younger generations had a different experience. GenXers came of age as the Cold War was winding down and the internet age was beginning. The generations following never experienced the Cold War at all or the world before internet. It’s a different world now.

        I think part of the reason there is so much conflict an negativity right now is because there is such a clash between the old propaganda model and the newer media models, and this clash has a generational divide. The older generations are clinging to their propaganda because it is the only thing they’ve ever known. As for younger generations, it is hard for them to understand what it was like to live under Cold War oppression with the constant threat of global nuclear apocalypse. Even the War On Terror with its intelligence state can’t compare.

  15. America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register…
    Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves

    • That relates to what I’ve been thinking about lately. Shame is powerful, and in America that power is used destructively and for purposes of an oppressive social order. The shame of being poor in America is excruciating. It isn’t just a supposed failure of choices, but an entire failure of your character and value. You are deemed worthless, a loser, and hence useless and disposable.

  16. Increasingly I get the impression that the Tea Party is the party of useful idiots, who are suffering in many ways, but at the same time, they cannot empathize.

    I know it’s politically convenient to do that but when they’re funded by interests such as the Koch brothers, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion.

    The economy when they grew up was called the Golden Age of capitalism for a reason. The current reality is far different, far more harsh.

    • Lack of empathy is maybe a side effect of how divided people are, both divided within the larger public and divided within individuals, the dissociation and disconnection, the ignorance and disinfo.

      Useful idiots are those who live in a fog and unable to see their way out. This makes them easy to control and manipulate, but this is true to varying degrees for most of the population.

      Public perception and understanding always lags behind reality. It takes a while for new experience and info to spread throughout a society and be processed in a way to form a new narrative, a new meaning.

      But those in power too often are several steps ahead. They have all the advantages and they use them. It is never a fair fight.

    • So does she want to create a separate society of people with down syndrome? Are they to be a protected minority? Should we have a down syndrome culture celebration month? Since they have their own culture, does that mean they get to develop their own language and religion? Are they going to be self-governed or are we going to paternalistically put them on a reservation for the protection of their distinct culture? Also, will all other genetic abnormalities be labeled as separate cultures that need protection?

    • I find myself unable to care about a rigged election process. Those who control both parties and the corporate media aren’t going to allow a genuinely progressive to be elected president, much less become a viable candidate. Anyone far enough to the left to make a difference will be entirely shut out of the political machine.

  17. I don’t want Eurasian kids, especially Eurasian males, for the precise reasons in that subreddit. Asian, and any other Asian/non-asian mix is okay, but I just feel the dynamic between Asians/whites is too toxic right now.

  18. At this point, it is a matter of decline fast or decline slow.

    Clinton will likely be like her husband, only much more pro-war. She will likely get the US into some needless wars and confrontations. Domestically, she will serve the corporate world.

    As far as the right, it will be a very rapid decline indeed. The US will begin to look like the worst of the South.

    • “‘As far as the right, it will be a very rapid decline indeed. The US will begin to look like the worst of the South.”


    • The US as a whole will look more and more like the poverty and inequality of the Deep South, Appalachia, and the like.

      Indeed I would argue it’s already begun.

  19. @Женщина,

    Yeah I did not want to go to a place dominated by Chinese (and Asian) Canadians as well, although I did end up going. It can get very competitive with each other.

    There doesn’t seem to be that tension where I live in Canada right now.

    I generally prefer mixed neighborhoods.

    • I think it’s because I generally do my own thing anyway, so I don’t really care. I like UC Santa Cruz (don’t go there though) over UCLA or Berkeley due to the more laid back ness. Didn’t even think about the racial demographics, lol. There’s competitive places but you don’t always have to play the game. But that could be because I’m not at a super competitive place either. And I don’t care for it.

      • Why compete with all these classmates in dirty LA or Bezerkeley when you can just bike on the Santa Cruz arboretum and walk through the redwoods on your way to class? Lol.

        I kid. Sort of.

    • Another problem in our society is that we stigmatize selfishness. Or, we stigmatize people being openly selfish. If you act selfish but dress it in unselfish reasons we accept it. We just can’t bear to hear straight up selfis words and thoughts though.

      • I get Piepmeier’s point and I think she makes okay points, but I still think some of the abortions reasons are “selfish.” It’s not about having a perfect kid. DS is just an undesirable trait no matter how you spin it. There are no guarantees in life, no, but we play by probability. Probability wise a kid like that is a basically a life sentence that not everyone wants to deal with even if they had better support systems. I know if I were pregnant I’d want a kid with a probability of playing in the park on weekends rather than a guaranteed outcome of constant dragging to therapies, surgeries, etc. this can happen for any kid, but for things like DS and other disabilities it’s guaranteed.

        There is nothing wrong with wanting to alleviate suffering and wanting a sense of control over your own life. We as a culture need to stop fetishizing suffering. (What dosent kill you makes you stronger.) it’s BS a lot of the time. Sometimes things keep yu technically alive but basically destroy you.

        Anyway I support more finding for treating DS and even curing it.

        • The comments section is good. Even looking at Academic, he’s aged horribly. he looks like a fat old man these days, a real contrast to even photos of him a few years ago. And he is one of the privileged ones!

          When a person with a child with Down’s who is high functioning writes a letter like this she gives false hope to others with children with Down’s. Most function at a level far far below that this woman’s daughter. I would say at least 98% do. What I see are parents who look very old beyond their years with a grown up child with Down’s. They have sacrificed their lives and those of the siblings for a life of extreme difficulties. The burden becomes that of the rest of the community when the parents die. Many will say the siblings learn patience and compassion by being saddled with a sibling with Down’s. What they learn is not to bring their friends home so they don’t have to constantly deal with a sibling with inappropriate behaviors. Yes, they are lovable children but they become adults with behavior problems. If a woman has a fetus diagnosed with Down’s wants to abort that should be encouraged. Many years ago I read an article in which a mother with a child with Down’s complained that abortion was wiping out her kind. What was she defending? When genetic testing was discovered for diagnosing Tay-Sachs, the incidence plummeted in a single generation. While Down’s is not passed on the same way, those who can find out should do what needs to be done to decrease the incidence of this disease. People who are carries of the CF gene should also follow suit instead of making the expensive treatments, like lung transplants, a burden on our health care system.

        • Wanting a perfect child is a far cry from wanting a child who is not born with an incurable disability which would require you to spend the rest of your life in a perpetual state of parenting a young child.

      • Anyway, maybe it’s because I’m not emotionally invested, but I don’t find anything horrifying in the comments sections there or in any of the nytimes articles I’ve shared. Some state things that are a little taboo, but I find nothing “horrifying.” People will think things they don’t admit to. In public we may act like academic or piepmeier, but statistically over 90% of these kids are aborted, showing we for necessarily practice what we preach in public. It’s like a NIMBY complex almost.

    • The hypocracy in this U.S of A. is incredible. Let’s take away abortion from teenage girls with no resources and then complain that they are on the dole. Let’s outlaw children with Down’s or other disabilities and fail to provide the support, education and resources that will be necessary for their well being. We cannot have it both ways. We can’t keep the elderly alive for months on life support and than scream that that population is using too many of the countries resources. Then we get in idiotic issues like death panels. You cannot insist someone behave in a certain fashion and than not provide the necessary resources

  20. Okay I’m sorry, but if you are going or use disabled people who are happy with it to justify your view, you need to acknowledge that the many other disabled people who don’t share your rosy view of disability have views just as valid. People like piepmeier and academic and use stories of happy families to prove their point, but there are thousands of unhappy families and people too. The “just ask a person wit a disability!” Thing is absurd considering they will have the same diversity of opinions as anyone.

    Also, I am not a neoreactiony, but even I think the following is over-the-top in terms of PC-ness. I’m sorry, but you’re disabled. It’s not “just different.” It’s disabled. It’s not “chromosomal diversity.” It’s a genetic fuck-up.

    “I’d like to suggest that there’s NOT a qualitative difference between physical and intellectual disabilities. People with physical disabilities are affected by the stigmas and the structures of the world they live in; they often need various kinds of support; and the challenges they face very often result from the broader cultural norms. The easy example is that using a wheelchair is simply another kind of mobility in a society designed with curb cuts, accessible doors, elevators, ramps, etc. It’s not a “defect”–it’s just a difference. We can see this with intellectual disabilities, too. Folks in the autism community have invented the term “neurodiversity” to show that different ways of thinking can be seen as diversity rather than defects.”

    • That is one of the worst aspects of conservative religion. It’s not just Christians. A similar type of belief is found in many forms of fundamentalism. Saying that suffering is a gift isn’t any better than saying it is a punishment.

      • I volunteer with relatively high functioning people, and even for them I just get sadder and sadder. I thought it would make me more like academic or something but instead it’s gone from neutral to “hell no. What a fuckijg tragedy.”

        They are high functioning, and even then. They are kind, sweet, non-judgmental people. Great people. But they don’t exist to make me feel good about myself, you know. They don’t exist to entertain me with their kindness and fun and child-like mentality. Bottom like is these are 20 year olds who need people to supervise them and walk them to the food court. It’s a fucking tragedy.

        “I could not agree with you more. I worked in a facility for children who had IQ’s of 50 and below. An IQ at this level was called gross motor deficiencies, meaning that the retardation was so severe it affected gross motor skills. It required us to teach the children skills such as swallowing and sucking. Most of them needed to be fed by gastric feeding tube. None of them were toilet trained nor could speak. Only one of the children was able to walk and only with the support of a chair. All of the children were ten years of age and older.

        This was truly sad work and it affected me deeply. Years later, I still think of it with incredible sadness. When I became pregnant with my own child, I had the full range of genetic testing. My husband and my doctor knew that in the event of any abnormalities, the fetus would be aborted. Perhaps there are some among us who can lovingly care for these children and enjoy the experience but I knew I was not one of them.

        For individuals who judge those who want to abort a fetus with disabilities, I would urge them to work in one of these facilities for the mentally handicapped. It is an eye opening experience and one not likely to be forgotten.”

        • The continued sadism of the Religious Right in this country never ceases to astonish me. While cooing over the “innocent babies,” as always, they seem to forget that almost every Down’s child will NOT be able to live independently as an adult. They never show the crosseyed drooling adults in diapers, or the worn-down parents dreading their own deaths, knowing that the adult infants that they have cared for will go straight into institutional care.

          And please, don’t go on about “Down’s culture” like it was some kind of privilege that needs to be preserved, like an endangered species in a zoo. You’re talking about deliberately bringing people with painful medical conditions and zero chance of a full meaningful adult place in society into the world, and then dumping them on the taxpayers when you’re dead. Harsh, but that’s how it is.
          April 1, 2013 at 3:34 p.m.
          Recommend (211)
          Ralph BraskettLakewood, NJ
          Right On Jen!! Better than I could have written
          April 1, 2013 at 10:44 p.m.
          Recommend (5)
          Jen in AstoriaAstoria, NY
          Wow, so many folks wishing harm on me because they can’t tell the difference between helping out disabled folks WHO ARE ALREADY HERE and preventing more pain and suffering from the getgo.

          You know where I got my information from? I’ve been in pediatric neurological wards. I’ve been in head trauma recovery centers, and special ed classes, and “rehabilitation” service centers for children and adults who suffered head injuries, strokes, etc as well as rehab for people with various levels and sorts of retardation, including Down’s. The general public only sees a tiny fraction of the most damaged cases. The misery on the faces of parents who know that their child will never have much of a future is heartbreaking.

          I know about the diapered droolers because among other things I grew up near a girl who had one for an uncle. His parents spent their entire lives until they died trying to take care of him, and when the mother died he went to an institution where he died after a few agonizing years. He was something like 40.

          To all the anti-choicers and anti-testers: If they developed a shot, administered at birth, that cured Down’s, would you allow public insurance to cover it or would you say it’s a matter of “personal responsibility?”

          Funny how fundamentalists of all stripes always seem to LOVE the idea of maximizing misery–if you don’t have enough poor/starving/disabled people in your midst to thank your Imaginary Friend that you are not, your faith collapses.
          April 1, 2013 at 10:52 p.m.
          Recommend (26)
          JulesHalifax, NS
          It is incredibly selfish to want to have a kid with DS JUST to preserve “DS culture” or to ensure that services will be provided for your kid with DS in perpetuity.

          I have a nephew with autism and my dearest wish is for someone to find a cure/preventative treatment/etc as soon as possible. LESS autism would be a cause for celebration.

    • There does seem to be something rather disturbing about this – they view suffering as a sort of purity, and revenge as a good idea.

      Along with the idea that people should not think, it’s the worst aspect of religion.

  21. There seems to be a view of property as sacrosanct and a fierce belief of the “just world” fallacy.

    It’s the legacy of Calvanism today.

    • Calvinism does pay a part. I have a book on Calvinism’s role in American society, but I haven’t read it yet. It probably would offer some insights. Calvinism is an interesting form of Christianity. Its ideas have great power, at least for the American mind.

    • I am somewhat familiar with Greer. I think I first heard him on Art Bell’s old radio show, Coast To Coast AM. I think he still is a guest on the show with the new host.

      What he presents in that article is one possibility. I sometimes wonder, though, if authoritarianism will so far different now that we won’t be able to recognize it by past examples. Maybe the new authoritarianism could make itself appear as democracy, albeit dysfunctional, and it could maybe do so indefinitely without ever turning toward overt oppression and violence.

      Then again, the old model of authoritarianism could work, if the rhetorical force of populism was behind it. I’m just not sure that old school populism is even necessary anymore for that kind of power to dominate.

  22. Hard to say.

    All the rich want is money right now. But they may see the far right as useful idiots and try in their greed to do something like install a fascist type regime.

    • I liked the comment that compared the mentality to a cargo cult. That is an interesting way to think about it. Many ‘traditions’ are that way. People forget why they ever started. They continue simply because they’ve always been that way and often are nostalgically connected back to a better time. Even oppressive social orders such as colonialism can become the object of nostalgia.

  23. I think it is also the colonial legacy. For decades, we have been living as 2nd class citizens in HK. Every British person was simply more privileged by their birth right. The media was heavily controlled by white british elites. Of course, nothing bad can be said about them.
    So naturally people growing up in this environment associates as white=best, and their children inherits this.
    There is a cause and effect to everything. No need to trash on us for being a victim to this. If more of us know, naturally we can get rid of this ugly mentality.

    • Anyone who simplistically and literally interprets percentages of genetic and environmental influences is utterly clueless. The percentages are an artifact of the way of measuring, collecting, and analyzing the data.

      It says nothing and can say nothing directly about genetics and environment, because in reality it is impossible to separate them. There is no way to control for either to study one or the other in isolation.

      I’m not sure why that simple concept is so hard for HBDers and other race realists to understand. It’s basic scientific knowledge.

  24. How does being inbred make yu more clannish genetically though? I can see why it might make you culturally more clannish but I don’t see how being inbred makes you genetically more tribal. You’re at a greater risk of getting various recessive diseases yes, but genetic tribalism?

    Also I’ve never seen Northern Europeans as being inherently less tribal. Look at their infighting. Northern European recent history dosent suggest that they aren’t tribal. It was still frowned upon a hundred years ago in France to marry a guy the next town over.


    • HBD is more a political ideology than a scientific hypothesis to be tested. If we were to look for the most plausible explanation, one of the last places we’d look would be HBD.

      Often HBDers are trying to explain things that don’t necessarily even exist, such as a distinctly non-tribal Northern Europe. But even for genuine differences between populations, there are often many simpler or more direct explanations available. Convoluted theories about imagined causes aren’t necessary.

      Sure, study genetics with an open mind. But we shouldn’t project our fantasies and bigotry onto genetics and then pretend it’s science.

    • How can any intelligent and well informed person discuss the problems of the Middle East without discussing a century of constant military, political, and economic meddling by Western countries, many of which were previously colonial empires?

  25. Yes.

    Jen in AstoriaAstoria, NY
    Also, let me add that I still very strongly advocate social support and services for people with disabilities and their families, as well as enforcement of laws like wheelchair accessibility and proper salting/sanding programs in the winter that humanize the city for everyone. Working to both improve the lives of the handicapped while also working to eliminate those handicaps are NOT mutually incompatible goals.
    July 31, 2011 at 12:56 p.m.
    Recommend (39)
    Jen in AstoriaAstoria, NY
    A few points, in no particular order:

    1) Let us not forget that for every feel-good story about DS children–ones that are high-functioning, and growing up in households that have the financial and human resources to maximize their existence–there are hundreds if not thousands of severely retarded children whose families are on the brink of financial and emotional collapse due to lack of support or options or both.

    2) Genetic testing should NEVER be taken off the table for potential parents. Not everyone is cut out to be the parent of a disabled child, and even if someone waved a magic wand and suddenly made unlimited medical and professional help available to families including disabled children (BTW, Hell will freeze over first in the U S of A), parents should still have a choice.

    3) One thing that always bothers me is the complete lack of consideration as to what disabled children themselves are feeling. There seems to be this cognitive dissonance that says that mentally and physically disabled children don’t feel any pain from the host of medical disorders that they may have, and don’t realize that they are mentally behind most of the rest of the world and/or physically behind.

    4) On top of all that, any and all social care available after the parents are dead and gone will never, ever be as caring as home. How would a mentally disabled child feel after living at home for 40 years, to suddenly go into an institutional system? What kindness is there in that?

    5) Please fire the PC-police RE “differently abled” vs disabled. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I am somewhat mobility-impaired, and believe me, not being able to easily navigate some stairs, elevators, uneven pavement, and icy/snowy sidewalks is not some kind of Super Secret Mutant Power Blessing Disguised as a Deficit but…a disability. Would I change it if I can? You bet.

    • It is good to see people are seriously discussing these issues. I’m all in favor of public debate about all kinds of issues. We need more of it. The internet has been useful to that end, giving more people a voice to be heard.

      • Look, having downs sucks. Deciding to terminate is hard despite all of the good reasons:
        Have to deal with a child with Downs (or any other early detectable disability), children are expensive even when they don’t have disabilities.
        Have a child that will go through all of the internal difficulty inherent with Downs.
        Have a child that will go through all of the external bullshit that is not inherent with Downs (i.e. bullying).
        The problem is that a minority of society is judging her for it. The only way to cope with the judging assholes is to go on the offensive against Downs to make the overwhelming argument that she did the right thing. It is easy for people to say, “I would never abort a baby, I would love it no matter what,” but the truth is that once in that position, people suddenly realize they don’t have to carry that burden, so they choose not to.
        This leads to a backlash from the community of people that have Downs (and people that have family/friends/lovers with Downs) who protest new tests. They protest because of the perception that if their parents had this testing technology, they would have been aborted/terminated, therefore the new test is a commentary of the desire to terminate them.
        So we have these two groups that are too large to actually have a dialogue that resort to just shouting at each other.
        The problem is that the entire argument is derailed because it ignores (1) that there is no way to change the past (so people with Downs alive today aren’t going to be retroactively aborted and erased from history) and (2) no one influential in America has advocated killing off people with Downs in a really long time.
        Everyone with a disability wishes they could get a treatment to take it away. Even those that say things like, “I am not broken,” really mean, “Don’t treat me like I am broken,” and, “Don’t validate all the assholes that isolated and tormented me.”
        Personal story: I have a disability (it isn’t very serious). I have discussed with my mother, who told me that if I had tested positive for any screening tests available at the time, she would have aborted the fetus. I understand that she doesn’t mean she would undo me but the fetus she had at the time 30 years ago. I am not sure I want to have a biological child since my disability has been painful for me.

  26. I have been wondering why people have been so apathetic to the world around them, especially in the US.

    Sometimes I think that the time constraints are the issue. But other times, I am not sure. People have time for example to fight for what sports teams they feel is best or some other distraction.

    The consequences of apathy are huge. The middle class is in danger of decline. Yet people do not seem to care. It is worse in the US thab in the rest of the Western world, but it happens everywhere.

    • Time is a factor for many Americans. Quite a few Americans are overworked, those who are lucky enough to be employed.

      Either way, I think much about life these days is psychologically stressful to a greater degree than in the past. Besides the economy, it’s everything from the 24/7 news to an increasingly intrusive federal government, along with the propaganda and fear-mongering that goes with both of them. It seems to me that many people live in a permanent state of low grade anxiety, which creates a state of feeling overwhelmed, helpless, and apathetic.

      All of this largely happens unconsciously. It has become the new norm and people don’t even realize what is being done to them. They just psychologically shut down, drink beer or smoke pot while watching the distractions of the new media blitz.

  27. Well if that’s eugenics then I guess I’m a eugenicist or something. I think the start-up sounds amazing. I guess I am immoral.

    Yes there’s no guarantee, but Everything’s is a probability game. I’d sure love if I could alter my own DNA so I didn’t inherit my mum’s depression/anxiety, and I’d love to be able to edit that out of my ow offspring. Yes, anyone can get depressed, but if you’re genetically inclined you’re more likely to all else being equal. I don’t see why doing from our current lottery crapshoot to being able to control our destiny is something to scream at. People like him are just modern day Luddites.

    Also, genetic diversity and Down syndrome? Considering Down syndrome people are infertile at above average levels and generally don’t reproduce I fail to see how they contribute to genetic diversity, or something.


    • Commenter lydy’s message is useless unless we can have an honest conversation on what we value. People like her talk of diversity, but it is insincere if we don’t talk of valuing those traits themselves. Creepily enough, lydy’s ideas remind me of a caste system, and it will stay a caste system unless we value all “castes” aka ranges like she said equally, which we don’t. Maybe to her we need smart and dumb people, short and tall people. Dosent change the fact that we collectively value smart above dumb, though. We may want the “range” of people even though most people prefer a much smaller range for themselves, hence, jealousy.

        • Okay, perhaps I am being think-boundaried. But I officially think that academic is a fucking idiot.

          *sort of. I understand where he is coming from and he makes some interesting points. But he’s still a fucking idiot.

        • I don’t care what is normal, no matter how it is defined. Even if something is normal, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is justified from a moral perspective. Suffering is normal, but I still think we should lessen it.

          Considering how many people take anti-depressants, it appears that depression is relatively ‘normal’. Does that make me feel better about being depressed? No.

          Broadening our conception of the normal to be more inclusive won’t solve the real problems we face as a society. I can’t stand such simpleminded thinking.

    • This also means that governments and terrorist groups will now be able to quickly, easily, and cheaply create designer diseases to target specific people and populations, either to kill them immediately or to create horrific suffering that would overwhelm the hospitals. Warfare in the future might get really ugly.

      Of course, people will simultaneously be creating new cures for every new disease, but the moment one cure is created the next new disease has maybe already been introduced. Also, once released, these new genetics could mutate and jump species.

      It will be interesting times.

    • There are more factors contributing to who we become than we could ever imagine. None of us actually knows why we are the way we are. Most of life is pure random chance. That may not be a comforting thought, but it is reality.

    • That guy sounds like a pathetic and annoying drunk. One suspects his drunken behavior just shows his true attitudes.

      As for the rat utopia experiments, I’d point out that they are different than the rat park experiments. The rat park experiments were about actually creating the most optimal conditions for rats. The supposedly utopia experiments were instead dystopian, because they created conditions that were obviously far from optimal.

      The experiment proved that bad conditions create bad behaviors, a hardly surprising result. There is more to a good community, rat or humans, than a lack of predation and some food to eat.

    • I’ve made that kind of argument before. I didn’t even need to point to women developing countries as in Africa. I merely had to use the example of poor people here in the US, who are much harder working and often more enterprising than the upper classes.

  28. “I was reading three things. Sorry if this is garbled but I was just thinking our nationwide problems with weight are linked to a larger problem with our cultural mindset.
    First, there is some startling statistic that said the vast majority of Americans do not save for retirement. Even older Americans are not prepared whatsoever. Different sources will give a higher or lower number but it was something like 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck REGARDLESS of their income. So upper middle class people are burning through their money and not saving either. (In contrast, Japanese people had one of the highest household savings rate in the world).
    Second, I was reading about the confused parenting culture of middle class Americans. Aside from the hand-wringing over helicopter parenting or complaining about the extended childhood of millennials, there is a very clear cultural shift that took place over the last 50 years in how we understand childhood. The middle class wants their child to academically succeed with a high self esteem; independence, free play, after school jobs, etc are all declining goals.Jennifer Senior wrote this book that tracks a cultural shift in our mindset on what entails good parenting. The best example was that we used to call women housewives (because their priority was the general household work). Now we call them Stay at home moms because the priority is “motherhood,” which has become catering to your child’s every whim and cry and perceived need. More than half of my peers self identify as “Attachment Parenting” advocates, which is sort of grounded in psychology and childhood development but has been taken to a hippy extreme by some to mean your physically never put your baby down and never let them cry. Ever.
    Finally, I was reading a woman’s blog on her history of alcohol addiction. She was giving insights into the addict’s mind and how self inflicted pain (from drugs to food to even mindless internet browsing) is essentially about avoiding discomfort.
    I couldn’t help but draw an analogy to weight — especially the ballooning childhood obesity epidemic. We have a culture of indulgence and excess that is confused as love, support, and living for the day. When things are uncomfortable, they are bad and unnatural instead of learning opportunities. If it is hard to save, then I won’t because what kind of life is that? If my child cries, I will give him a cookie and ask for an A+ for effort because, that is my role as a nurturing mother. If I feel uncomfortable working out, then my body is probably not meant to sweat. There is no delayed gratification. No culture of responding healthily to disappointment or hard work. Frankly, it is super disturbing.”

      • The people from the subreddit can be annoying and out there maybe. On r/fatlogic many are “recovering” fat people and such. Some I suspect have eating disorders. Many certainly appear to have have weird body image disorders. What I mean is I think fat acceptance is BS too but many of those people literally idolize models and are obsessed with the “correct” body. There was a thread where the people were looking at a fit female athlete and pointing out her flaws and everything (she was too short and her waist wasn’t defined enough)

    • I had the same thought while reading it as was expressed in the conclusion. There is a gender shift happening, both in education and careers. This will alter the gender economic gap and hence social position, since the gender hierarchy (like the racial hierarchy) has been built on an economic class hierarchy. Similarly, the social order will be challenged as more minorities enter the middle-to-upper class.

      The data at the beginning was about what I expected. Much of conservative common sense has been proven to be utter bullshit. When I’ve told my conservative parents that banning abortions causes the abortion rate on average to increase, they said that goes against common sense.

      It never occurs to them that their common sense might not make much sense, according to reality. All unquestioned dogmatic beliefs seem like common sense, because that is how the human mind operates, and that is why we should learn to question ourselves and seek info that challenges our assumptions, which conservatives hate to do.

      Having challenged my parents’ beliefs, my mom’s response was to pull out the morality card. She said that maybe people need to be more moral and then they wouldn’t need abortions. The data in the article, however, shows that conservative position to be yet more bullshit.

      Promiscuity has nothing to do with abortions. It is lack of sex education and birth control that causes unwanted pregnancies, even among married people. The idea that only sluts have unwanted pregnancies is a conservative fantasy.

      • Well, and this is known fact, but comservative areas have higher teen pregnancy rates on average. Anecdotally, one girl I know went through highly conservative abstinence only sex ed where women having sex was compared to being a box of chocolates giving her chocolates away: she loses everything she has to offer. Her town has a very high teen pregnancy rate ironically.

  29. I was thinking this since I am in the Mecca of driven ambition, and some of my friends are engaged. I’m so naive I was surprised when parties I went to were filled with Columbia kids. You know, elite kids. Lol.

    I never felt the elite kids were smarter than me, but they were more driven in these areas. Though at my school there are a few type A’s perfectionists and they generally annoy others in group projects :/ depends on the culture I guess. I could never be the type to participate in that competitive culture.

    ” Even in the hookup culture described here I see a Puritan paradigm at work. Do these bright Penn students really think their only relationship options in college are meaningless hookups or MARRIAGE FOREVER? ”


      • I don’t think the issue here is the idea of “hooking up” during those college years. Some of my best learning experiences were gotten through experimenting with sex outside of a relationship, and figuring out what exactly I wanted, not just with sex, but with a partner in general. It helps to get as many different interactions as you can, in a safe manner, to figure out what exactly YOU need. You’re not going to get that just by sticking to the confines of traditional, long-term relationships geared towards marriage.

        The biggest issue here is the environment (alcohol, party-type situations), combined with the lingering sexual roles and issues with consent (it’s still largely assumed that consent doesn’t mean getting a “yes”, just that you don’t get a definite “no”). When you have women and men that aren’t just “hooking up” (as in having a sexual encounter outside of an established relationship), but putting themselves in potentially degrading situations where the men have been encouraged by society to see their partners as “expendable” when in those types of situations, you have a recipe for disaster, every time, because consent is something that flies right out the window.

        The issue isn’t “hooking up”; the issue is the lingering issues society has with sex and relationships, and how the women are trying to come to terms with the two.

  30. I think this sums up with some of my discomfort with the article. I know the feeling of being in a “go go go busy busy busy” culture. Maybe it works for some but not for me. And if you aren’t into it you’re a loser :/

    Even those it “works” for, I just look at how they’ve aged and I go, “nope.”

    ” think the most distressing thing about this article is that all the talented women sounded like Mitt Romney. I don’t think any of them were humanities majors, or talked about their majors or experiences in a humanistic fashion”

    • Anyway, I think this can be an interesting view, IF it is applied to both genders.

      “If you look at a list of regrets that people have on their death beds, at the top of the hit parade is not having a family.

      I think that these young people are incredibly selfish and shallow. The take home message is “The end justifies the means.”

      And, I can see their point of view because they are only 19 years old.

      The bottom line? The old fashioned values were the best. People courted. Got to know one another. And, then if the circumstances were right, they got married and raised a family.

      As you get older, the brass ring is not all that it’s cracked up to be. The money and the career mean nothing without a decent spouse and a decent family.

      Further, given today’s society and the prevalence of all kinds of diseases who in their right mind would indescriminately sleep with someone or perform fellatio on them?

      These young women need to get their values and priorities straight.

      Friends with benefits are not all they are craced up to be. And, then when they are 40 they will be frantically trying to have a baby and regretting their lack of values when they were younger.”

      • Anyway as a college kid this article is a little exaggerated and overstated.

        “Although the style and complaints are slightly different, you can go read articles similar to this one from the 50s and 60s. Apparently, romance has been dead for generations. Yet, strangely, most people I know have gone on dates and dated people.

        It’s almost as if these provocative stories were paining a false picture in order to sell newspapers.

  31. Anyway, gender wise what I get from the article is that these women are coming of age in a society where women have oppertunities and a voice like never before, yet is also deeply attached to its Puritan and Victorian ideas of sex and general societal misogyny. A world where as a young women it can feel like you have all the opportunity in the world, yet, perhaps more subtlety than in yesteryear, is one where men still call the shots and is deeply misogynist. Women of my age grow up in a culture that is hyper sexualized yet deeply Puritan. A culture in which women have lots of opportunity to succeed, get is deeply male dominated. We grow up in a hookup culture that simultaneously still shames (frmale) sexuality, and a culture where women are both slut shames and virgin shamed

    • There is also the difference between perception and reality. As I recall, young adults these days are actually having less sex than young aduts in the past. The difference is that young adults are now more likely to speak openly about sex, which makes it seem like they must be having sex all the time. As always, older generations are projecting their own issues onto younger generations.

      I truly doubt much has changed with people having sex, as it is a perfectly natural activity. In early America, most marriages followed an unplanned pregnancy, which means there was plenty of premarital sex going on. The difference was that people lacked access to birth control and safe abortions, and also once pregnant being a single mother was unacceptable, but it didn’t stop them from having premarital sex.

      What has changed isn’t so much sex as the consequences of sex. Those changes have increasingly changed the power dynamic and relationship dynamic between the genders.

  32. We live in a culture that despite the last 50 years still has remnants of a culture that expects selflessness and sacrifice more of women than of men. Even now, women are more pressured and conditioned to sacrifice for others and out others before herself, and these women are unconsciously trying to deal with this. They take for granted unconsciously that a relationship is sacrifice because that is what traditionally goes for women, more so than for men.

    “Why do young people think that it’s more advantageous to tackle life’s professional challenges alone rather than with a loving and supportive partner? My wife and I couldn’t imagine navigating our successful careers these past 20 years without each others’ constant encouragement, questioning, and love. These students seem to assume that a good relationship is purely sacrificial, when in fact it’s reciprocal; supporting another provides many “selfish” rewards in work, life, and love.”

    • That does seem to be the case. When you have gender relationship patterns that have existed for centuries or even millennia, they don’t tend to change quickly. Still, these kinds of things are changing faster than one would normally expect. Modern society has thrown a monkey wrench into the works. Traditional relationships could become so rare as to be nearly non-existent in a few more generations.

  33. Brought back memories of one particularly troubled semester. I remember staring out my seventh floor dorm window, I think it was raining. The buildings blocked all the views. The windows were suicide proofed. I would imagine myself falling. I worried people. I was very brainwashed by white nationalism then. I felt suicide was a selfless thing for me to do and it would be selfish for me to live, and I felt that way because I wasn’t white. I didn’t even hate my asian identity on its own. I was just so brainwashed by white nationalist rhetoric and the (obvious) cognitive dissonance was unbearably painful. I got forced to go to the student health center.


    • The article doesn’t surprise me. Few people would go into such a field unless they had a personal interest, which likely means either they or loved one likely has or had a mental illness. I went to a psychiatrist once who seemed severely depressed, and I must admit that didn’t feel encouraging as he was treating me for depression.

  34. Blame the poor!

    Also, lol at mcd being a great place. Mcd tastes like dog shit.

    “It’s because the labor costs are too high. It’s time to start eliminating these ungrateful McDonald’s workers once and for all. High tech advancement can produce much better burgers that are more consistent, have less hairs (and other human errors), and taste better.

    For those who complain that it’s not fair – Don’t forget, these people also get food stamps, free health care, subsidized housing, subsidized heat/ac, and the food handed out at school for their kids and from food banks. That is why they stay poor. Why work?

    On the other hand, tax paying citizens (like myself), for example, have costs that look like this – 33% of income to uncle sam, $300/month to pay off student loans, $25/month auto insurance (from Insurance Panda), $150/month for gas, $350/month for health insurance (from BC/BS), etc. etc. So don’t feel bad for McDonald’s workers, they get enough government aid to live on after they get fire.

    My advice? Keep the good employees, fire the undesirables, return McDonald’s to its glory days.

    McDonald’s is an American tradition and a great real estate holder. And it tastes good. The golden arches make me proud to be an American.”

    • I worked at McDonald’s in high school. That was the early 90s. Back then the mcmuffins weren’t in sealed plastic. I had to cook it all and put it together.

      That is an annoying comment. One guy who worked with me at McDonald’s was going to college. It takes someone truly out of touch not to realize normal people work working class jobs.

      Once upon a time, a working class job was respectable and a person could raise a family on it. My grandfather only had a third grade education and yet was able to raise three kids, buy a car every year, and take at least one major vacation every year.

    • It’s sad story. You know it is typical. The really sad thing is so many people don’t the fact that there are tons of poor kids like this who fall through the cracks. Many of them are brilliant, but no one will ever know. It is wasted talent and wasted lives.

      • Just a small thing, but it is weird I appreciate he called it the “advanced program” rather than the “gifted program?” I liked the story, it was very touching. I hope E’s doing well.

  35. Okay, I just re-read this and it’s not as “it’s better” as it was before. The “let me give you some” perspective part just further reinforces Joyce’s point, and also implicitly admits to a hierarchy of trait desirabiliy, ex: mentally retarded<normal<gifted." I don't see how these people can't understand why someone like Joyce would feel the way they do. Complain about how hard the gifted kid is but at the end of the day your kid has a trait that is a highly desirable quality, a shared value.


  36. So, this is weird, but sometimes a non-white will write an Amren article, yet when I google their name, they have no internet footprint except for Amren. There’s no record of them existing on the internet which is weird.

    I can’t believe I used to be dumb enough to fall for this rhetoric. The “only whites are (insert liberal idea here)” is BS.

    I don’t see whites a monolith being victimized by the brown hordes, as well.


    • I hadn’t thought about that before. I’d seen those kinds of articles, but I rarely read them and especially not closely. Those two examples you linked do seem odd. The writing does seem fake. If so, that is extremely pathetic.

  37. Very powerful stuff. It’s too bad most of the population is too stupid and uncaring to ever think deeply about these sorts of things. The part about watching platoon at the cinema and hearing the crowd in attendance cheer at the sight of Americans killing Vietnamese soldiers pretty much sums up the average Joe in a society that fetishizes violence and is prone to blind nationalism.
    What happened then is happening now in the Middle East. What is happening now in the Middle East will most probably happen in Africa in the near future.
    permalinksavereportgive goldreply
    [–]PeanutButterOctopus 4 points 13 hours ago
    I’ve mentioned some of the things the US has done in Vietnam around my boyfriend before, but he gets very mad about the topic because his grandfather is a Vietnam vet. But, his grandfather himself has criticizedt the US involvement in that war and even talks badly about what the Navy Seals did over there.
    People think when someone criticizes the bad involved in any war the US has been in, you’re being unpatriotic, anti-American, soldier bashing etc…
    The blind nationalism is just odd to me, but maybe it’s because I’m a minority and not exactly viewed as an American by the majority… So I don’t feel nearly as much pride as most White Americans feel about the US.
    permalinksaveparentreportgive goldreply

    • Where did the comment come from? I went to the linked article, but there was no comments section. As the country becomes a minority-majority population, stories like this will become more commonly heard in the MSM.

      BTW what do you think of the new blog look? I was forced to change the layout because the old one had been retired some years ago. It was no longer being updated and became dysfunctional. Should I keep this layout or try another?

      • I’ve only seen in on mobile so I’m not going it comment in web. For for the mobile it makes it harder to add comments since I have to scroll down to post rather than post up top for mobile versions

      • I think I’ll try out some other theme formats. I’m not sure when I’ll get around to it, though. When I do change it, I’d appreciate any observations and opinions you might have. It will appear differently on different devices. This theme seems fine on the devices I use, but apparently not as nice on the devices others use.

    • I responded to Teodor thusly:

      The problem many HBDers face was that HBD theory was originally developed to disprove race realism. Not all HBD theorizing is about race realism, though. If HBDers want to be taken seriously, there only option is to get rid of the race realism. That would free them up to more honestly deal with some of the interesting population data. Sadly, too often dogmatic ideology gets in the way of nuanced thought for HBDers.

  38. Lol, this comment http://www.quora.com/How-do-Asian-guys-feel-about-Asian-women-dating-white-guys/answer/Kai-Peter-Chang

    Anyway a google scholar search suggests that Asian men don’t have lower testosterone, actually. Though some studies suggest lower sensitivity to testosterone.

    As an asexual personally my feelings towards some Asian men aren’t to do with their physicality or even the stuff this guy highlights, but the fact that so many Asian men are sailer types. That’s what turns me off. Guys like peter and max loh. Maybe I’m “PC” but I can’t stand Asian NRs. I have a special place in my heart against Asian NR’s.

    Anyway my unflattering stereotypes would be: misogynist, insecure in masculinity, white worshipping, racist, NR. That’s what turns me off.

    All these guys complaining that asian female-white male is more common don’t even look at other races of women. They’re obsessed with white women. They’re fucking hypocrites. They’re just as white-worshipping as the asian women they accuse of being white worshipping

        • So, if asian and black women are naturally genetically undesirable then why did the media need to embark on aggressive campaigns to denigrate the two as attractive? And why aren’t the trends universal and static?

          • What inspired your question for today?

            I’m not entirely sure why the MSM does anything it does. The MSM both reflects and responds to public opinion, both reports on and shapes mainstream society. I couldn’t say how much blame should be apportioned to the MSM.

            The campaign to denigrate minorities as attractive is centuries old. Then again, the MSM is also centuries old, beginning with the mass audience created through movable type printing presses.

            Your second question probably requires the larger historical context. Many racial and ethnic groups have been perceived differently at different times. To the English and Anglo-Americans, a variety of people have been portrayed as ugly and brutish, from Scottish to Irish, from Germans to Italians, from Hispanics to Africans.

            In mainstream Anglo-American culture, to be beautiful is to be white or an honorary caucasian (such as light-skinned Cubans, Indians, and Asians). Nearly every group in American history, blacks excluded for obvious reasons, has sought to be accepted as ‘white’. As you’ve noted, even many Asians are attempting to be accepted into the club.

            More important than being white is not being black, the ultimate minority that all other minorities wish to avoid being compared to. The further away from black one gets, the more mainstream culture portrays one as desirable and generally worthy.

            This is why the MSM tends to ignore poor whites, because they don’t fit the racial social order. Poor whites can’t quite be rejected in the same way as poor blacks, but neither can they be fully acknowledged.

          • Just the stuff I posted yesterday, the quora and sailer stuff and all.

            I’m closer to Asian scene so I feel fimiliar with the sort of stockholm syndrome, white worship within the community. Also, I can’t stand asian NR’s, LOL.

            Notice that peter blames the Asian problems solely on the Asian side of things. If it’s not biology, it’s because asian cultures and habits are so fucking lame for getting dates :/ Not a lot of blame on the power dynamics and such

    • Even the younger neoreactionaries are different from old generation of reactionaries. Charles Murray is a Cold War culture warrior. That mentality is becoming less meaningful as we get further away from the Cold War era.

      • What is the appeal of NR to Asian men? I get the NR is a white guy club generally, but there’s literally no one else in the NR club other than white dudes, besides Asian men. Why?

        • Funny. I remember someone accusing J of being self-hating and he posted a pictures of his hand with his wife’s, saying he’s indeed quite black and proud. Lol

          So why do u get that impression of J?

        • I would put it into context.

          As I see it, self-hatred is rather common in our society. We have a social darwinian faux-meritocracy. Individuals and entire groups get blamed for their fates. It is because of low character, bad choices, inherent laziness, inferior genetics, poor culture, etc.

          We all internalize these prejudices in various ways. In American society, everyone envies those above them in the social order (racially, economically, or whatever). This is why Asian-Americans will suck up to European-Americans. This is also why poor-to-middle class Americans so often suck up to the upper classes, whether businessmen or media stars.

          JayMan can claim all kinds of things. Still, in the American social order, he is just another black guy. I’m not sure about his skin color and shade. I don’t know if he is lighter skinned than the average African-American, but that was my suspicion. Anyway, I don’t doubt he is darker skinned than a white person.

          Shade of skin does make a difference, but it isn’t the only thing. An Italian-American might be darker skinned than an African-American, but it doesn’t matter as far as the racial order goes. The former is still white and the latter still black. Shade of skin makes more of a difference within a given race or ethnicity, such as between two African-Americans.

          JayMan is just an example of a black neoreactionary. I don’t know him all that well. I doubt even JayMan has much self-awareness about his own motivations. He is just another confused American, trying to move up the ladder of the social order.

          • It’s not unique to only America. But it isn’t found to the same degree in all societies. America is unique in its hierarchical social order based on a mix of and often conflation between class and race along with other things such as ethnicity, religion, etc. Many societies don’t have these high levels of stratification and segregation. Such differences alter how people perceive social value and compare themselves to others.

      • There are also those like JayMan. Many light-skinned blacks whose ancestry is only recently American don’t identify with the history, culture, and plight of African-Americans. It’s different for other minorities. It’s much harder for even a light-skinned black to become an honorary white, no matter how much JayMan might like to try.

        It certainly is much easier for Asians to be accepted, as long as they agree to fit into the proper stereotype of a socially worthy hard-working, well-educated Asian, but at the same time many Asians can feel like they have to struggle to culturally fit into Western societies, which maybe is what turns some of them to the dark side of neoreactionary.

        Most blacks, unlike JayMan, just accept their fate. There is little attraction to neoreactionary politics.

        I’m not sure about Hispanics. There are plenty of Hispanics who both are prejudiced toward blacks and want to be accepted as white. Hispanics are the largest minority group and growing the fastest. I wonder if we won’t see more neoreactionary Hispanics in the future. However, there large numbers and independent culture may protect them from that fate. They don’t need to assimilate to WASP culture, as they have their own established communities.

        What makes Asians unique is that they are the minority group that is simultaneously most perceived as outsiders and yet most acceptable among non-white immigrants. They are the defining contrast to all of Western Civilization, and so their perceived separateness makes them less of a threat. Neoreactionaries aren’t going to try to win over other minority groups because they are more threatening. Asians are useful merely as a defense against all other minorities.

        It is sad, though, that so many Asians and Asian-Americans are willing to play this role. I guess they feel a need to prove themselves in this society. Hispanics and African-Americans have been in North America longer than most white Americans, and so they don’t need to prove that they belong.

        Asians are maybe in a similar position to Germans during the two world wars. China is a threat to the US and the Western world, as Germany used to be. Germans had to prove their loyalty and so they went to great lengths to assimilate, including adopting the racial attitudes of WASP culture. With China a rising foreign power, even non-Chinese Asian-Americans may feel the pressure of demonstrating their loyalty to Western society.

        None of that, however, would explain neoreactionary Asians who live in Asia.

        On a side note, I have come across quite a few neoreactionary African-Americans. It’s just that they exist entirely separate from neoreactionary European-Americans and Asian-Americans. But it still is neoreactionary, even if not sucking up to the dominant WASP culture.

        • White worship is a thing in Asia too.

          Ahhh, perhaps I need to clarify. I was thinking about how Asians seem to suck up to whites more than other groups in America :/

          Even the prejudiced Asians, the ones that don’t want their kids marrying white will be Way worse to blacks or Latinos or any darker group

        • I think at least part of what I said applies.

          Asian-Americans are perceived by dominant American society as the most foreign of all minorities. Asia is considerd to be the one area of the world that is the most polar opposite of Europe and America.

          Africa has old colonial links to Europe with many European languages spoken there and Christianity a major religion. It is entirely different in Asia that has remained more separate from Western global power and more distinct from Western culture. The world has been ruled by Westerners in recent history, and Asia has remained a place apart, unlike Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South America.

          Asians have no obvious place in the Western racial social order, especially not in the US. Hispanics and African-Americans know their places because they’ve been established populations and communities for centuries. Not so for Asian-Americanss.

          The tension between the US and China exacerbates that.

          I think this dynamic applies to all Asians, whether in the East or the West, whether white-loving or white-hating.

      • JayMan’s skin doesn’t look that dark. The photograph was taken purposely to contrast their colors by placing his hand more in the shadow and hers more in the light, but you still get a basic idea of what his skin looks like. Many African-Americans have darker skin than that.

        Going by that picture, I would call him a fairly light-skinned black. Not so light-skinned that he is going to be mistaken for white, but still definitely not dark-skinned, especially when one thinks of how dark-skinned many Africans can be. I’m sure JayMan has quite a bit of European ancestry. I’m sure he thinks of his genetics as making him different than Africans and other African-Americans.

        Anyway, besides skin shade, there are other aspects of appearance that matter for how people treat you, in terms of race. It would make a big difference whether JayMan’s facial features are more European or African.

      • BTW in the article about his blackness, he admits to identifying as mixed race. One commenter pointed out that JayMan’s skin was the same shade as many Southern Europeans and Middle Easterners. That same commenter said he was of Middle Eastern ancestry with skin of a similar shade and that he identifies as white.

        • I feel like J only says he’s black when he is arguing for hdd, to make it seem more credible if you mean. Like, in a ”see? This black guy agrees!” kind of way. It’s slightly related to the ”im not racist, my friend is black” argument only it’s ”even this black guy agrees with this ideology that seems really unflattering to black people”

          Otherwise, he dosen’t seem to identify as black, much. Certainly not with african-american 😛

        • JayMan does get to use the “I’m not racist, my friend is black” argument. It’s just he gets to claim he is his own black friend. He says he isn’t self-hating, which is to say he likes himself. I wish I could be my own black friend.

    • This is what caught my attention:

      “Nevertheless, it often feels like I am doing double duty not just counteracting the standard PC dogma, but addressing the right-wing crazy that rails against it (who are emboldened by the wrongness of the PC liberals to believe that all of their fanciful musing is correct).”

      He wants to portray himself as the moderate middle. That is bullshit. Sure, JayMan is less dogmatic than the most closedminded right-winger and most idiotic neoreactionary, but that isn’t saying much. He still is rather dogmatic and generally lacking in nuance.

      I’m not saying he is stupid. I think he actually is fairly smart. It’s more just that he can be a lazy and careless thinker. Plus, he constantly puts his beliefs before the evidence. The one thing he has going for him, similar to hbdchick, is that he has a fair amount of intellectual curiosity. That is what initially drew me into discussions with him. He reads some of the same kind of books that I like. He is fairly well read and certainly no ignoramus.

      It just comes down to his having a rigid ideology he seeks to defend because he has become personally identified with it. It is too narrow of a worldview to be useful in dealing with all of the info that is available. He thinks of himself as being less dogmatic than the PC police, but it doesn’t seem that way to me. He is just dogmatic in a different kind of way. Besides, I can think of plenty of people who he’d consider too PC and yet are less dogmatic than he is.

      There is a reason the above statement by JayMan caught my attention. I said a similar thing in a different kind of discussion:


      I was debating a couple of anarcho-primitivists, which is sort of like a left-wing version of a neoreactionary or something like that, although of course quite a bit different kind of ideological creature. Here is some of what I wrote to one of the anarcho-primitivists:

      “That seems like a strong opinion for so little available evidence. There is even evidence that points in the opposite direction or at least doesn’t portray as simplistic of a picture as you’d prefer.

      “But, as always, it is hard to interpret such skimpy evidence and even harder to base conclusions upon it. The wise conclusion is to humbly admit that we do not know.”

      I’ve said almost these exact words to HBDers. I’ve probably made similar statements on numerous occasions to JayMan himself. My criticism of JayMan isn’t that he is too lacking in self-certainty. JayMan is a typical HBDer and my complaints about him are typical of my views of HBDers in general.

      In continuing my comment to the anarcho-primitivist, I made explicit the comparison to HBDers:

      “I see you as making the same mistake as many human biodiversity advocates, but in the other direction. You are claiming to know what you could not possibly know. You are claiming more certainty than the evidence allows for.”

      I’ll give you an example of JayMan’s dogmatism and lack of nuance. In the post you linked to, there are bunch of comments. One topic discussed is a favorite of his and, actually, of mine as well. It has to do with what influences children, specifically whether parents do or do not have much influence.

      JayMan argues that parents have no influence on their children. He seems to state it in no uncertain term. His deterministic philosophy seems absolute. He references the writings of Judith Rich Harris to support his position. That is an author I’ve also read. Of course, she isn’t arguing for determinism. She merely is stating that there are stronger influences in our society than parents (i.e., peers).

      I have no argument against that when its taken in context. The problem is that JayMan ignores context and hence his conclusion lacks nuance. As always, there is other research that HBDers ignore. In this case, studies have found that parenting in general matter greatly in certain societies and communities. As I explained in a comment to one of my posts:


      “For those who do want to understand, there are two books that I think would be helpful, specfically when paired together. One is The Invisible History of the Human Race by Christine Kenneally. I talk about it a bit in the following post:

      “She presents some of the most fascinating data I’ve come across in a long time. She digs deep into how social/cultural patterns persist. She explores all possible pathways of transmission, including family.

      “She does find family in some cases can be a powerful force across generations, but there are some limits to this. It only shows its strongest influence in traditional communities or where immigrants of the same ethnicity all settled together. The family is only a strong influence to the degree it is part of a larger community culture that reinforces its influence.

      “This brings me to the second book. I already quoted from it. It’s The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris. She wasn’t looking at the longer historical trends. Instead, she was focusing more narrowly on what is impacting the child. After spending a career writing psychology textbooks, she came to the conclusion that there really wasn’t any good data about parents having immense influence on their children, as was assumed. Instead, she found peers had more influence than parents.

      “This doesn’t contradict the powerful influence families can have in traditional communities. She was looking at research that probably had largely been done in the US where there isn’t much traditional community, except in pockets such as the Amish. In a traditional community, a child’s peers would be raised by parents of the same culture as the child’s parents and it would all be part of a tightly-knit community where there was much shared experience (same church, same extended families, etc).”

  39. Ta-Nehisi Coates KILLED it with his article yesterday on the Baltimore riots. Baltimore has been plagued with police corruption for years with the public remaining callous and the government sitting inert. Over and over black voices have spoken about this and it’s all fallen on deaf years.
    Then when all this rage finally explodes into riots, everyone is shocked. The same people who are making hollow calls for “peaceful protest” are probably the same people who watched The Wire and didn’t learn a damn thing.
    Yes, riots are bad. Yes, mobs are evil, despicable entities, and that is because mobs are made up of human beings, not black people. If you want an example of the most heinous American riot ever, I’d point you to Tulsa. White mobs burned Tulsa down to the ground because they didn’t like black people making money. Not police brutality, not “white” oppression, but black success.
    An appeal was made for the federal government to compensate the Tulsa victims. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal. No individual white rioters were charged of any wrongdoing.
    Riots are always a symptom of some sort of sickness. In this case, it’s not the rioters that are sick, but rather the system that they live in. When people are barred from discourse, when peaceful protests achieve nothing, they will grow desperate and turn to violence.
    Everyone is asking the same question: “Why are they rioting?” The problem lies in the presupposition. White America’s answer is, “Because they are savages.” Black America’s answer is, “Because the savages refuse to listen to us.”

    • There is the interesting example of black gangs calling a truce. They have been joined by some other black groups as well. Their purpose, so some of them claim, is to maintain order and not to incite violence.

      They want their message to be heard. Good luck with that. The MSM doesn’t typically do in-depth reporting. But maybe we are getting to a point like during the Civil Rights movement when more (white) people finally started to listen.

  40. [–]sportsteambfan [score hidden] 6 hours ago
    Obviously I don’t support rioting and looting. I don’t think looting is endemic to black people like some racists are trying to portray it. All races and cultures have streaks of violence. It’s wrong then and wrong now. What sucks is this takes away the discussion from how badly we need police reform
    permalinksavereportgive goldreply
    [–]chinglishese [score hidden] 6 hours ago
    It’s disheartening to see people buying into that narrative even here. It’s so obvious that the media wants to portray the worst parts of the protest just to divide minorities. Divide and conquer has never seemed like a more viable strategy now that outright slurs can’t be used anymore. We’re not just a model minority, don’t lose sight of that. Tell the white establishment covering these riots to go away just like that Indian store owner in Ferguson.
    permalinksaveparentreportgive goldreply
    [–]sportsteambfan [score hidden] 6 hours ago
    The violence sells and gets the networks the ratings they crave. Unfortunately, long lasting reform is a slow and boring process.
    permalinksaveparentreportgive goldreply

  41. Personally, I think it just has to do with middle class liberalism’s detachment from reality, something that alot of well-off Asian Americans can fall susceptible to. Elsewhere in this thread another poster basically called the destruction of Asian and other businesses, “a few businesses getting caught up in a riot,” and while it horrified me, it also shed light on the fact that alot of middle class people, Asian Americans included, have virtually no understanding of how most businesses in the United States operate, and how destructive and devastating a riot or any attack can really be: not just in terms of short term clean up and inventory losses, but long term tenability. Insurance rarely covers rioting, so if a business was just making operating targets, things far less severe than a riot can completely bankrupt them.
    To middle class Asian Americans, they see a few small businesses being burned down, and they just see it as a natural extension of some nebulous, intangible political expression. To them, a riot isn’t the physical destruction of things people actually need and rely on, both owners and customers, but instead some kind of grand political gesture. They see a Subway sandwich store burning down and they see it as a strike against a well-off corporation that deserves no sympathy. They don’t see that it was probably a franchise and not only the lifeblood of some Indian family, but also their workplace, a loose community gathering area, and the way a pair of parents were going to pay for their childrens’ education.
    It’s just shocking but not surprising that there are some Asian Americans out there who are entirely willing to fall into lockstep with white liberal intellectual detachment and create sympathy for rioters when our community is literally and deliberately being attacked.
    permalinksaveparentreportgive goldreply
    [–]PopePaulFarmerperpetual foreigner [score hidden] 17 minutes ago
    is anybody here supporting the rioters? I’m pretty sure that while there are people who are able to rationalize the actions of the riots, very few actually condone their actions. I might sympathize with an individual soldier caught up in a war but that doesn’t meant that I’m a supporter of the just war theorem.
    as far as I can tell, the shittiest part about this whole fucking thing is that the media only covers the rioting, not the tens of thousands gathering in protest peacefully, not the mom slapping the shit out of her kid for rioting (which is both hilarious and uncomfortable from a child abuse angle, btw), nor have they focused at all on Freddie Gray. if you google Baltimore, all you’re gonna see are rioters and states of emergencies and etc. it takes a lot of scrolling to get to a piece that points out that this is a mostly peaceful protest about a black man dying under police custody.
    I mean, you get to choose what part of the story you want to focus on. ain’t a person here dumb enough to believe your earnestness when all you’re focusing on are the few dozen rioters amidst the thousands of peaceful protesters. keep your crocodile tears to yourself, buddy
    permalinksaveparentreportgive goldreply
    [–]redditors_are_racist [score hidden] an hour ago
    You’re not asking the critical question here: Who is shutting these people out of the legitimate economy so they end up owning shitty stores in the ghetto to make ends meet?

  42. I was thinking, but remember when I linked you to that profoundly gifted kid whose education would need to consit of ”learning to suffer fools” and basically patience because he’ll be in a world where most people are dumber? Well, I was thinking, smart people are not more likely to be right or be good thinkers, though. Maybe a high iq person would rationalize their thoughts more fancily, but high iq does not make someone a better thinker or more ”correct”


    • I would agree with that.

      Also, if learning has come easy for someone, as it does for many high IQ and gifted kids, they might never feel challenged to develop more innovative thinking skills. They find they can get by with little effort and little original thought.

      I would point out that the world is full of smart people doing dumb things. Just look at politicians, who tend to be above average in both IQ and education.

  43. Those tests decrease in reliability after 140 or so. But in any case, a 180+ score is rare enough that you could probably fill a single classroom with all of the kids with those scores in the nation. If you open ”gifted” programs for only those kids most of them will sit empty. Even that special school in reno for the ”profoundly gifted” has a 140 cutoff or so.

    That’d be a quote, if it weren’t for the fact that high iq people seem no less prone to foolishness 😛

    “‘ Hollingworth, in her landmark work on children of IQ 180+, warned that extremely gifted children must learn to accept that the majority of people they will encounter in life are very different from themselves. “The highly intelligent child must learn to suffer fools gladly-not sneeringly, not angrily, not despairingly, not weepingly-but gladly if personal development is to proceed successfully in the world as it is”

  44. Prevent a Baltimoe type of future by giving us money!!! $$$$$$

    I love this guy. He walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but denies he’s a duck. Duck meaning whte nationalist :/ “immigrant” dog-whistle even though he just pounces on any minority immigrant or not. And he’s a fuckijg immigrant himself :p


  45. Some stuff J retweeted. I don’t think he identifies with Tje AA experience much…

    Also, it’s interesting. He lives in Maine, one of the whitest states, married to a white new englander. The same state as the blackgirlinmaine lady, who is very different from J. I wonder if J would ever go to a minority supper meeting tht happens in Maine sometimes lol. The few minorities get together basically.



    • He’s what I call a conservative(-minded) liberal. A classical liberal is one variant of this kind of liberal. There are also many relatively conservative liberals found in the upper classes, where the person tends to be more conservative about such things as class issues and anything that typically gets mixed up with class, such as race. Conservative liberals are fairly common, and some of them simply identify as conservative. Very few Americans entirely lack liberal elements, because the US is founded on liberalism and so it’s the dominant frame of our society.

      • Anyway J mentions growing up in NYC, so. He seems to have grown up a little like me, an american-born poc to immigrant parents. Only he grew up in the big city. I wonder why he is so interested in hdd, and whether his expereicnes mde him so obsessed with it

  46. #14
    Joshua White

    June 19, 2014
    I’m actually a bit disappointed that they deleted that long comment full of irrational conclusions by the guy defending Wade’s work. I’ve been practicing responding to those arguments and by the time I finished, it was gone. Oh well.
    Greg Laden

    June 19, 2014
    Joshua, I didn’t see that comment! Oh well.
    Joshua White

    June 19, 2014
    It was some person named JayMan.
    It was full of appeals to authorities with badly reasoned opinions and characterizations, references to articles that did not actually support either their point, or contradict points you were making, selective use of only some relevant scientific concepts (with the exclusion of others that did not support their case), conflations of systems that will have have very different selection as if they are the same, no awareness for the idea of neutral mutations accumulating in populations but having no fitness effects, conflation of genetics and heredity, and much much more.
    It’s fascinating the way these people use the same forms of creationism while pretending to be scientific.
    Greg Laden

    June 19, 2014
    JayMan has commented on this blog, ie, on this post: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2014/03/07/is-human-behavior-genetic-or-learned/
    He contacted me by twitter over the last couple of days asking why his comment was not posted, and assuming he was talking about this post (the one you are reading) at scienceblogs, I tried to hunt down the problem. But now I realize he was probably talking about the American Scientist site. I have no control over comments there, it is not my site. He’s welcome to post his missive here on this page if he wants.

  47. Pretty fringe guy. Has a phd but works only freelancing really. Maybe PC academia was oppressing him?


  48. I came across a couple of things that relate to this post. One thing comes from a previous post that I happened to be looking at. Here is the link and the relevant part of a quote from it:


    “He brilliantly and repeatedly shows the ‘fallacy of misplaced concreteness’– that is the dubious use of logical abstractions which supposedly lead to good conclusions. NOT! In logic, it is similar to ‘the undistributed middle’– or in laymen’s terms — there is yet far too much we simply don’t know to conclude ‘this’.”

    It’s just a brief comment that is referring to something else entirely than what I discuss above, but it is interesting in how it could be applied here. The relationship of imagination to the body seems to be connected to this ‘fallacy of misplaced concreteness’. It is a logical fallacy. My mind focuses in another direction, however. I’m interested in the psychological mechanicms behind it and the purpose it serves. Simply pointing out that it is a fallacy doesn’t get us very far.

    The other thing is got me thinking even more. It is from Corey Robin, in his quoting William Hazlitt:



    “The language of poetry naturally falls in with the language of power. The imagination is an exaggerating and exclusive faculty: it takes from one thing to add to another: it accumulates circumstances together to give the greatest possible effect to a favourite object.”

    I sense a resonance here, but I’ll need to give it more thought. There is power to the right-wing imagination because it idealizes and serves power. There is a relation between power of imagination and power in the world, and there is a blunt force in how those on the political right use this power.

  49. I came across your article while reading Hyde’s book ‘Trickster makes this world’, and by looking up the word ‘amnigoge’. I have ‘rush read’ your article in order to absorb the essence, but in doing so have probably missed most of it! The danger of speed reading and the curse of so much available knowledge. Anyway thank you for what you wrote. Categories always have limitations and fuzzy boundaries, though the human mind always seeks clarity by pretending that they don’t.

    • Welcome to my blog. I would enjoy seeing you elaborate on your comment in the last sentence. I’m all about boundaries. They are fascinating things. You hint at an interesting perspective with that brief commentary and I could imagine many directions you could take it in. I realize, though, you might not return to further elucidate your thoughts. That is fine.

      I don’t mind that you just skimmed my piece. I won’t hold it against you. I just have these long tangled webs of thoughts that I feel compelled to write down. As my dad asked, why do I think about such things? Well, because I can’t help myself. At least, I amuse myself, whether or not I amuse anyone else. That is more than some people accomplish in life.

      By the way, if you like stuff like this, I have plenty more along these lines. Some are equally doozies while others are more succinct and to the point. This is territory, Hyde and similar thinkers, that I’ve covered many times over the years. But my curiosity leads me all over the place. I hope you return again some time, even if just to drop in with a short comment. It’s nice to hear from readers.

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