Moderation Trolls

I’ve long been irritated by the ‘moderation’ trolls. This is seen in those who warn against too much democracy and anything else along these lines. Instead, they argue, we need moderation. Fuck that shit. What are they trying to moderate? And who declared them to be the moderators, the gatekeepers?

There is only democracy and authoritarianism, freedom and unfreedom. There is no moderation between the two. At no point in human existence, more recently or further back, has there ever been an excess of democracy, an out-of-control overabundance of popular will and self-governance. These same idiots are made uncomfortable by the ‘antifa’ and so scapegoat them. People who make these arguments can’t be that stupid and ignorant, can they? Antifa means anti-fascist. If you aren’t against fascism, you are for it. There is no other option, no third way.

They argue for some mythical center when in reality they are the extremists. I see this all the time among pseuod-liberal Democrats who claim to be the middle. But when you look at actual public opinion, these people are sometimes far on the political right. Going by their absurd claims, we’d have to conclude that the majority of Americans are radical left-wingers. And if that really is the case, then radical leftism is the norm and not the extreme. How is being ruled by an authoritarian elite, however paternalistic, supposed to be somehow moderate?

I see the same thing in the dietary world. Experts will say eat balanced meals. But this is in the context of a severely fucked up food system where the very concept of ‘balance’ has become imbalanced. In research, 40% of calories as carbs is often considered low-carb, even though 40% is the highest extreme typically seen among hunter-gatherers. That is not normal, by historical standards or evolutionary standards or biological standards.

Might this have something to do with why 88% of Americans are metabolically unfit, primarily caused by carbohydrates, at a time when we are being hit by one of the greatest health epidemics ever seen, just maybe? People die all the time from heavy carb consumption. Do we see the same extreme pattern of disease with those who eat lots of non-starchy vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and animal fat but without the carbs? No. So, what’s up with this moderation bullshit?

I’m not against moderation on principle. But the highly controlled narrative of public debate has become so disconnected from reality that the rhetoric of moderation has become meaningless and sometimes outright dangerous. Those promoting it often do so in defense of extremism. That is what reactionaries do. They co-opt language to deceive and manipulate.

When someone criticizes the demands for justice, public health, or whatever with rhetoric of ‘moderation’, immediately look at them with mistrust. Whether they are a direct threat or merely repeating the idiot talk of others, they are part of the problem. No one thinks moderation makes sense with drug addiction or sex slavery, lead toxicity or gang violence. We are living an era of extremism in corruption and disease. Do we really want to moderate into the middle of the problem? No, we don’t.

31 thoughts on “Moderation Trolls

  1. The great blob of the middle, the Borg assimilation system, the con job of “being reasonable” which is in truth a willingness to sacrifice you to keep ‘them” safe.
    “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

        • I had that exact same thought. It’s passive-aggressive. I have members of my family who are passive-aggressive and so I’m quite familiar with how it operates. It is an attempt to avoid conflict by controlling the entire situation. Anyone who steps out of line is dismissed out of hand, as being ‘extreme’ or worse. It is a highly effective tactic.

          • The dull conformity of language/thought is not an accident.

            A mass culture system aims to level out all expression into the lowest common denominators which in turn control – everything and are used in a passive aggressive way to exclude – until more blunt methods are required.

          • There is that. The lowest common denominator. To whack anything down that stands up. But what irritates me is that this is done in defense of deference to something else. Their own preferred ideology is held up high, even as they pretend otherwise. It’s a conformity of not questioning and so no one is even quite sure what we all are supposed to be conforming to other than conformity itself. The first rule of fight club, symbolic conflation, etc: Don’t talk about it.

          • absolutely.

            Currently at work on a piece about the “Deep State” filtered through the prism of Sci fi – and how the system reduces even the “debate” to a cipher of blob.

            And all of it is about enforcing a kind of silence in which there is a vast amount of noise.

    • I’ve written about this before. But previously my focus was on the political alone. In perusing social media, I noticed how similar is rhetoric as applied to an entirely different field of debate, that of diet and nutrition. And I realized it is the same kind of person who uses this ‘moderation’ rhetoric in both cases. I’m willing to bet that most people who argue for moderate, balanced diets also tend to be good liberals (presumably with good intentions) who vote for Clinton Democrats while fearing radical left-wingers like Sanders and antifa.

      It’s a particular mentality, but it can be applied to a wide variety of issues. The specific issue maybe is entirely irrelevant. It’s all about controlling the frame within which all issues are placed. It really has nothing to do with anything specific. And it isn’t always a case of ignorance. Some of the diet-related views I saw about ‘moderation’ were actually being argued by people who were familiar with low-carb diets. But their view represents a discomfort with anything that the ‘mainstream’ considers extreme (and what is perceived as ‘mainstream’ is itself highly controlled by the corporate media and corporatist politics).

      In those cases, it might be the equivalent of virtue signaling. They just want to make sure that, whether or not they admit to the benefits of low-carb, that they are still part of the Borg collective. They just want to be normal and that desire for group conformity indicates some tendency toward authoritarianism, even if in hidden or muted form. It’s this everyday authoritarianism of social norm enforcement that can be more dangerous than the overt authoritarianism of violent oppression. The normalizing of extremes as moderation, balance, and centrism is the first step in creating space for the overt authoritarians.

      For example, in attacking antifa as extremists, it creates a vulnerability for fascists then to portray themselves as not extremist. We see that in how white supremacists have intentionally sought to co-opt liberal respectability politics by dressing in suits and nice haircuts instead of boots and shaved heads. I heard a former neo-Nazi talk about how they had intentionally done this over the past few decades in order to appear less scary and so more acceptable. A friend of mine in Canada has talked about this dangerous phenomenon of hate groups, in this case, openly being invited to anti-hate rallies by ‘good liberals’.

      It’s not only that these moderates get used by reactionaries and authoritarians. It demonstrates a tendency that leftists have observed in ‘liberals’ going back to earlier last century. The liberal dream, going back to the counterrevolution and Whiggish history, has long been mired in authoritarian impulses. And liberalism has yet to come to terms with this. When stressed, many seeming ‘liberals’ will support positions that are far right. Sometimes it doesn’t require much stress at all. I’ve often pointed out that groups like the Nazis may never have taken over Germany if not for the cooperation of liberals who feared the political left more than they did the political right.

      This is why the rhetoric of ‘moderation’ doesn’t only irritate me but worries me.

      • Keep this up people will accuse of being a Postmodernist or a post Structuralist;-)

        Of course control of the narrative in both content and style is another form of the mass culture system.

        The liberals are asspirational – theyh remember proverty and are terrified of falling back into it so they become increasingly reactionary to the left who aim their rhetorical guns at the system containing the liberals and the fascists – and the liberals then use the fascists to destroy the left while claiming the left are “unreasonable.”

        That repeats everywhere – diet, historiography, television, academia, “journalism” and so on.

        One of the hand puppets on Morning Joe let his mask slip last year and said on the air he’d vote for Trump before he would vote for a “socialist” and that of course is the classic liberal/reactionary voice.

        It creates a narrative in which everything they’re against is “unreasonable.”

        Victor Serge et al of course agree with you vis the liberals and the Nazis.

        It’s an uncomfortably long piece but check out the Churchill quote at the end of my post The Tragic Bordello – Churchill the great savior of the West (cue spielberg’s Greatest Generation mantra) was a public friend to Mussolini and fascism precisely because post 1917, the liberals, in both their conservative and less conservative iterations, were willing to use state terror to stop a revolution and preserve the status quo.

        We’re still very much inside that long shadow and the liberals of today are perfectly willing to use the same methods for the same reasons.

    • By the way, can you think of some other examples of this ‘moderation’ rhetoric. I’m sure it can be found in all kinds of areas. But none came to my mind this morning.

      I’d be curious to look at entirely different examples to compare how the same rhetoric gets used. It would make for a good study. It would be particularly useful to see historical examples of this. I’d presume that Germany liberals spoke of moderation when they feared communists and worked with Nazis.

      But there are probably many more subtle ways this has happened. That is why I pointed out diet and nutrition, as it doesn’t stand out as obvious, even though the language is so similar.

      • I’d also like to better understand the origin of this mindset, this way of talking. Liberalism proper didn’t arise until the Enlightenment and wasn’t specifically named until after the French Revolution. But one can hear the the first traces of balance/moderation ideology in the Axial Age.

        Still, that early evidence isn’t exactly what I’m talking about here. The pattern of thought, even if originated millennia ago, didn’t take its exaggerated form until much more recent history. I’m just not sure when it would have become a common rhetorical strategy for social normal enforcement.

      • Then again, I wouldn’t dismiss the Axial Age. Extremist rhetoric about ‘moderation’ probably was rare back then. But I was just thinking about Galenic theory of humors in its relationship to diet. People have been arguing for a balanced diet for a couple of millennia at this point. It might be useful to look more into Galenic philosophy and similar ancient thought.

        It actually makes sense, as I’ve argued, because that was a pivotal point in the human diet. Suddenly, in an evolutionary time frame, agriculture finally kicked into high gear. It was only then that more careful farming developed, as compared to the semi-wild mixed fields of earlier farming. Better controlled agriculture meant higher yields. It was the first time large populations could be supported on a higher carb diet based on grains.

        So the diet itself was more fully shifting toward an abnormal extreme. The diseases of civilization were becoming a bit more common, if no where near the epidemic levels we see today. Maybe those like Galen felt a need to point to balance for the very realization that something about civilization had fallen out of balance. And as I’ve noted, there was a realization that diet was closely related to behavior and so controlling diet was useful for social control.

        So food control, behavioral control, and social control goes back very far. It’s unsurprising that diet has been a focal point of this ‘balanced’ and ‘moderation’ rhetoric as a tactic in the struggle among ideological positions and worldviews. But it is interesting that there is so little meta-discussion about the rhetoric itself and so little knowledge about the historical background.

        • ‘balanced’ and ‘moderation’ rhetoric

          To the best of my knowledge, this is just another example of words and concepts that could do with a “revaluation of values,” in Nietzsche’s terms.

          If they’re being used in argu-mentation for or against some “synthesis,” chances are better than good that they’re being used in their debased or “deficient” forms. As so many others, however, they also happen to be standard English. It’s not the words themselves, imho, but how the words are being utilized or, in other words, the intent behind them.

          Balance, i.e. equanimity, and “moderation” (especially, alchemically, of emotion) — so as to avoid the state of Gebser’s “distantiation” from “the vital centre” or Yeat’s “falcon” being unable to “hear the falconer,” etc. — are perfectly valid meanings of these words. Employ them in conversation, however, and it’s automatically presumed that you advocate for “the mushy middle,” “Third Way,” or “synthesis” of any ideo-logical argument predominating the sociopolitical sphere.

          How stupid is that?

          I’m going to call out propaganda for such inane presumptions just as I’m going to call out propaganda for the egregious misuse of words such as these.

          In a way, we “know not what we do” as “mental-rational consciousness” is still the predominant “frame” of consciousness in our times. In fact, if we were to ask McGilchrist, et al, I wonder if they would think that’s why the vast majority of us are right-handed; so many artists left-handed; and so very few of us ambidextrous. : )

          Most will never understand this next of me, personally, but I honestly couldn’t care less. If I have any criticizing to do it will of what supposed or so-called “leadership” is up to. My precedent in this case is the example of Jesus of Nazareth, who (by all accounts) spent the vast majority of his time compassionately engaged with so-called “publicans and sinners” (which is to say, what today is dubiously termed “the masses”) and spared his wrath for the Sadducees and Pharisees.

          Small wonder, if you know the guy.

          I have a lot of patience in this regard…with everyone but the presumptuous. That’s something I definitely need to work on. Even the presumptuous are no more “leaders” in this debacle as the rest of the vast majority of us. In fact, I suspect they’re just as inured to “the status quo” and have just as much difficulty imagining anything beyond the status quo as…well, the rest of us.

          • I’ll have to give your comment more thought. There is a lot packed in there. And so some unpacking is required. But I maybe get the gist of what you’re saying.

            I’m not as familiar with Nietzsche, other than at second hand. Still, I know enough about his ideas to see some connections. He was criticizing Christianity as being “hostile to life”. It didn’t occur to me before, but this is basically the point I’ve been making about Galenic theory as it was adopted by Christianity in the Middle Ages with conscious intent as social control. This ideology was used variously over time, such as how Protestants sometimes adapted it to other notions of balance, but in all cases where it was applied it was seen as being central to maintaining a moral social order.
            Later on, you see this come up with neurasthenia and the ‘spermatic economy’, one of the many modernizations of Galenic thought. Balance, in capitalist society, was seen as an economic strategy of saving and investing one’s psychic resources.

            The idea was that meat, especially red meat, built up blood (growth, vigor, vitality, animal spirits, sperm, libido, etc) that is wet and hot but excess meat could cause yellow bile that is dry and hot, the beneficial leading to the harmful because the humors were out of balance. Many vegetables and fruit, along with fish that was not considered meat, were categorized as phlegm in supposedly being cold and wet, but this was promoted by the Catholic Church authorities for fasting precisely because it was seen as weakening the body in order to free the soul from bodily sin and also to decrease rowdiness before major events such as Carnival. Too much life, as in too much ‘blood’, was considered a mortal danger, the attitude Nietzsche seemed to have been concerned about.

            It was out of this ideological milieu that modern plant-based diets took shape. Veganism arose quite late, but in an imbalanced way pushed Galenic thought to an extreme. Interestingly, in the modern era, it is precisely those pushing for more plant foods in the diet who have used ‘moderation’ and ‘balanced’ rhetoric the most. These are also the same forces, Adventists combined with Ancel Keys’, that are the main cause of our diet having gone so far out of a healthy balance. This happened because we lost traditional knowledge and wisdom, lost any living memory of what the diet used to be. It’s required immense research for the likes of Gary Taubes, Nina Teicholz, Sally Fallon Morrell, Nor Gedgaudas, etc to remind us what was once commonly understood and practiced. The modern diet, in being disconnected from human existence and earthly reality, is “hostile to life.” And we see the consequences in an epidemic of disease turning into a crisis.


            “It has become an overtly ideological fight, but maybe it always was. The politicization of diet goes back to the early formalized food laws that became widespread in the Axial Age and regained centrality in the Middle Ages, which for Europeans meant a revival of ancient Greek thought, specifically that of Galen. And it is utterly fascinating that pre-scientific Galenic dietary philosophy has since taken on scientific garb and gets peddled to this day, as a main current in conventional dietary thought (see Food and Faith in Christian Culture ed. by Ken Albala and Trudy Eden […]; I made this connection in realizing that Stephen Le, a biological anthropologist, was without awareness parroting Galenic thought in his book 100 Million Years of Food).”


            “Fear of promoting too much growth through protein is basically the old Galenic argument based on humoral physiology. The belief is that too much meat as a stimulating/nurturing substance built up the ‘blood’ with too much heat and dryness which would burn up the body and cause a shortened lifespan. This culturally inherited bias about meat has since been fancied up with scientific language. But ancient philosophy is not the best source for formulating modern scientific theory. Let me bring this back to insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance that appears to play the determining role. Insulin is a hormone and so we must understand this from an endicrinological approach, quite different than Galenic-style fears about meat that was filtered through the Christian theology of the Middle Ages.”


            “Rather than bread, the food that was most associated with the laboring class was fish, a food the wealthy avoided. Think about how lobster and clams used to be poverty foods. In Galenic theory of humoral physiology, fish is considered cold and wet, hard to digest and weakening. This same humoral category of food also included fruits and vegetables. This might be why, even to this day, many vegetarians and vegans will make an exception for fish, in seeing it as different than ‘meat’. This is an old ideological bias because ‘meat’ was believed to have the complete opposite effect of being hot and dry, easy to digest and invigorating. This is the reason for why meat but not fish was often banned during religious fasts and festivals.

            “These ideas have been inherited by us, even though the philosophical justifications no longer make sense to us. This is seen in the debate that continues over red meat in particular and meat in general, specifically in terms of the originally Galenic assertion of its heat and dryness building up the ‘blood’ (High vs Low Protein). It’s funny that dietary debates remain obsessed over red meat (along with the related issue of cows and their farts), even though actual consumption of red meat has declined over the past century. As with bread, the symbolic value of red meat has maybe even gained greater importance. Similarly, as I mentioned above, the uncertain categorization of fish remains hazy. I know a vegan who doesn’t eat ‘meat’ but does eat fish. When I noted how odd that was, a vegetarian I was talking to thought it made perfect sense. This is Galenic thought without the Galenic theory that at least made it a rational position, but the ideological bias remains in spite of those adhering to it being unable to explain why they hold that bias. It amuses me.”

          • There is another area where we can connect Nietzsche to Galen. Nietzsche praised Buddhism as offering an alternative way of relating to the world. It’s interesting that Nietzsche, like David Hume, held a Buddhist-like bundle theory of the mind. The bundle theory can be found in Axial Age thought, including traces of this awareness as late as Galen, although the bicameral mind had long been in retreat by then. According to Nietzsche, as with Julian Jaynes, this had everything to do with the use of language and the power it holds over us. And language is inseparable from ideological and cultural worldviews (linguistic relativity), and hence enmeshed in dietary systems as social control in being closely aligned with systems of power and authority.


            “Few convictions have proven to be as strong as the conviction of the existence of a fundamental subjectivity. For Nietzsche, it is an illusion, a bundle of drives loosely collected under the name of ‘subject’ —indeed, it is nothing but these drives, willing, and actions in themselves—and it cannot appear as anything else except through the seduction of language (and the fundamental errors of reason petrified in it), which understands and misunderstands all action as conditioned by something which causes actions, by a ‘Subject’ (GM I 13). Subjectivity is a form of linguistic reductionism, and when using language, ‘[w]e enter a realm of crude fetishism when we summon before consciousness the basic presuppositions of the metaphysics of language — in plain talk, the presuppositions of reason. Everywhere reason sees a doer and doing; it believes in will as the cause; it believes in the ego, in the ego as being, in the ego as substance, and it projects this faith in the ego-substance upon all things — only thereby does it first create the concept of ‘thing’ (TI, ‘Reason in Philosophy’ 5). As Nietzsche also states in WP 484, the habit of adding a doer to a deed is a Cartesian leftover that begs more questions than it solves. It is indeed nothing more than an inference according to habit: ‘There is activity, every activity requires an agent, consequently – (BGE, 17).”

            Click to access NietzscheCritique.pdf

            “We said above that Nietzsche criticizes past philosophers on two grounds. We have looked at the role of motivation; the second ground is the seduction of grammar. Nietzsche is concerned with the subject-predicate structure of language, and with it the notion of a ‘substance’ (picked out by the grammatical ‘subject’) to which we attribute ‘properties’ (identified by the predicate). This structure leads us into a mistaken metaphysics of ‘substances’. In particular, Nietzsche is concerned with the grammar of ‘I’. We tend to think that ‘I’ refers to some thing, e.g. the soul. Descartes makes this mistake in his cogito – ‘I think’, he argues, refers to a substance engaged in an activity. But Nietzsche repeats the old objection that this is an illegitimate inference (§16) that rests on many unproven assumptions – that I am thinking, that some thing is thinking, that thinking is an activity (the result of a cause, viz. I), that an ‘I’ exists, that we know what it is to think. So the simple sentence ‘I think’ is misleading. In fact, ‘a thought comes when ‘it’ wants to, and not when ‘I’ want it to’ (§17). Even ‘there is thinking’ isn’t right: ‘even this ‘there’ contains an interpretation of the process and is not part of the process itself. People are concluding here according to grammatical habit’. But our language does not allow us just to say ‘thinking’ – this is not a whole sentence. We have to say ‘there is thinking’; so grammar constrains our understanding. Furthermore, Kant shows that rather than the ‘I’ being the basis of thinking, thinking is the basis out of which the appearance of an ‘I’ is created (§54). Once we recognise that there is no soul in a traditional sense, no ‘substance’, something constant through change, something unitary and immortal, ‘the way is clear for new and refined versions of the hypothesis about the soul’ (§12), that it is mortal, that it is multiplicity rather than identical over time, even that it is a social construct and a society of drives. Nietzsche makes a similar argument about the will (§19). Because we have this one word ‘will’, we think that what it refers to must also be one thing. But the act of willing is highly complicated. First, there is an emotion of command, for willing is commanding oneself to do something, and with it a feeling of superiority over that which obeys. Second, there is the expectation that the mere commanding on its own is enough for the action to follow, which increases our sense of power. Third, there is obedience to the command, from which we also derive pleasure. But we ignore the feeling the compulsion, identifying the ‘I’ with the commanding ‘will’. Nietzsche links the seduction of language to the issue of motivation in §20, arguing that ‘the spell of certain grammatical functions is the spell of physiological value judgements’. So even the grammatical structure of language originates in our instincts, different grammars contributing to the creation of favourable conditions for different types of life. So what values are served by these notions of the ‘I’ and the ‘will’? The ‘I’ relates to the idea that we have a soul, which participates in a transcendent world. It functions in support of the ascetic ideal. The ‘will’, and in particular our inherited conception of ‘free will’, serves a particular moral aim”


            “I was reminded a while back of this social aspect when reading about Galen in the Roman Empire. Individualism is not the normal state or, one might argue, the healthy state of humanity. It is rather difficult to create individuals and, even then, our individuality is superficial and tenuous. Humans so quickly lump themselves into groups.”


            “there was an interesting passage on hysteria from a book on Galen, The Prince of Medicine by Susan P. Mattern. In bicameral fashion, the woman’s uterus (Greek hystera) literally had a mind of its own and was presumed to move around causing problems. ”


            The Prince of Medicine
            by Susan P. Mattern
            pp. 232-233

            “He mentions speaking with many women who described themselves as “hysterical,” that is, having an illness caused, as they believed, by a condition of the uterus (hystera in Greek) whose symptoms varied from muscle contractions to lethargy to nearly complete asphyxia (Loc. Affect. 6.5, 8.414K). Galen, very aware of Herophilus’s discovery of the broad ligaments anchoring the uterus to the pelvis, denied that the uterus wandered around the body like an animal wreaking havoc (the Hippocratics imagined a very actively mobile womb). But the uterus could, in his view, become withdrawn in some direction or inflamed; and in one passage he recommends the ancient practice of fumigating the vagina with sweet-smelling odors to attract the uterus, endowed in this view with senses and desires of its own, to its proper place; this technique is described in the Hippocratic Corpus but also evokes folk or shamanistic medicine.”

          • “If they’re being used in argu-mentation for or against some “synthesis,” chances are better than good that they’re being used in their debased or “deficient” forms. As so many others, however, they also happen to be standard English. It’s not the words themselves, imho, but how the words are being utilized or, in other words, the intent behind them.”

            Of course, it’s not the words per se, although with linguistic relativity I don’t dismiss the power words have over us. I’m not saying that, in this case, I know what power these particular words possess in influencing how we think, perceive, and act. But I suspect if we used entirely different kinds of words, specifically in a different language, we would not see the same end results as the society we live in. The words possess an intention of sorts without any requirement of our own conscious intention. We see the world filtered.

            “Balance, i.e. equanimity, and “moderation” (especially, alchemically, of emotion) — so as to avoid the state of Gebser’s “distantiation” from “the vital centre” or Yeat’s “falcon” being unable to “hear the falconer,” etc. — are perfectly valid meanings of these words. Employ them in conversation, however, and it’s automatically presumed that you advocate for “the mushy middle,” “Third Way,” or “synthesis” of any ideo-logical argument predominating the sociopolitical sphere. How stupid is that?”

            I’m not necessarily arguing against the words, in all possible uses. I pointed out that I’m not against any of this on principle. But I’m questioning what exactly we are dealing with and, though not overtly stated, this involves self-questioning as I’m a part of this same society and linguistic system. My mind is shaped as much as anyone else’s. I’m feeling skeptical and wary toward these particular words in the powerful role they’ve taken. I don’t consider that stupid for I’m not taking the polar opposite position either. My thoughts here are a judgment but also an inquiry. Certainly, I’m not arguing nor have I ever argued against a genuine middle ground, a common truth and understanding. I hope you understand that about me. If not, I’ve severely failed in communicating over the years of my blogging. But maybe your comment wasn’t directed at me.

            “In a way, we “know not what we do” as “mental-rational consciousness” is still the predominant “frame” of consciousness in our times. In fact, if we were to ask McGilchrist, et al, I wonder if they would think that’s why the vast majority of us are right-handed; so many artists left-handed; and so very few of us ambidextrous. : )”

            That is the kind of thought that interests me the most. What does moderation and balance mean, in terms of McGilchrist’s view, when our very humanity is so far out of kilter? It would be nice to hear McGilchrist talk about this.

            “Most will never understand this next of me, personally, but I honestly couldn’t care less. If I have any criticizing to do it will of what supposed or so-called “leadership” is up to. My precedent in this case is the example of Jesus of Nazareth, who (by all accounts) spent the vast majority of his time compassionately engaged with so-called “publicans and sinners” (which is to say, what today is dubiously termed “the masses”) and spared his wrath for the Sadducees and Pharisees.”

            Then we have that in common. It may not have been clear in what I wrote, but that primarily is what this post is about. Those most often arguing for ‘moderation’, ‘balance’, and centrism are people who are varying degrees comfortable, privileged, and in power — I had in mind politicians, government officials, liberal class activists, doctors, dietary authority figures, etc. At the lower end, there are the (mostly upper) middle class professionals. And at the higher end, there are the ruling elite. But in both cases, they are disconnected with reality on the ground that most people experience.

            “I have a lot of patience in this regard…with everyone but the presumptuous. That’s something I definitely need to work on. Even the presumptuous are no more “leaders” in this debacle as the rest of the vast majority of us. In fact, I suspect they’re just as inured to “the status quo” and have just as much difficulty imagining anything beyond the status quo as…well, the rest of us.”

            I have a lot of patience as well, up to a point. But in recent years, it seems I reach that point much more quickly. Tolerance of what is causing mass suffering is no kindness, that is the conclusion I’ve come to. But in the end, I always come back to a certain kind of compassion. I constantly irritate liberals demanding ‘moderation’, ‘balance’, and ‘centrism’ because I’m too generous with my compassion in that I seek to understand with the obvious “bad guys” such as poor whites — how dare I! I don’t even really blame the likes of Trump because he is so lost in mental illness or early onset dementia that it just seems sad (and sadly symbolic of the total state of our society).

          • But maybe your comment wasn’t directed at me.

            It wasn’t.

            they are disconnected with reality on the ground that most people experience.

            Completely. How is it not surprising to us but “they” are shocked when their “market-based solutions” to all our ills don’t work? Some may commiserate, but few empathize.

            On a similar note, you may have noticed the recent focus on our “empathy deficit.” Unfortunately, empathy is being thought of all but exclusively as an emotion, which I don’t believe it is. Often accompanied by emotion, but not an emotion itself.

            Lot of good thoughts to follow up on here. Thanks.

          • There is the basic distinction between affective empathy and cognitive empathy. Psychopaths are deficient on the former but can be developed on the latter. And autistics are the other way around.

            It’s complex. But the takeaway point is that we live in a society ruled by psycopaths and sociopaths, the rate among CEOs being the same as seen in the prison population.

          • About language, how do we interrogate or explore the power of language in this case? It’s never neutral, whether according to linguistic relativity or philology, metaphorical framing or Jaynesian consciousness. And language always falls under the rule that the medium is the message, that is to say the structure of expression determines what we express and hence structures our minds and our society.

            So, what would a careful study of ‘moderation’, ‘balance’, and ‘centrism’ show us? I really don’t know. I’ve barely given this any thought. But I have a sense there is something deeper going on than misuse of otherwise innocent words. My sense could be off. Even coming to that conclusion would be useful, if it came from careful exegesis of the rhetoric. I’m throwing out speculations here.

            My suspicion is this. I doubt we’d find this kind of language in Bronze Age texts or hear it in the languages still spoken among isolated hunter-gatherers. When Galen thought of hysteria as a part of the body having a mind of its own, it was a sense of the bicameral mind still in the process of breaking down. I’m with Jaynes in sensing that the bicameral mind is still there in the ‘unconscious’.

            To seek ‘balance’ is to presume something out of balance, in how only a society lacking sincerity could argue for integrity. It’s because we are so splintered that we can imagine and aspire to, often desperately and deficiently, something else. Scott Preston’s favorite etymology of ‘sincerity’ is “sin+caries” meaning “without decay” or “against decay”.

            This maybe is a trace of something like the bicameral mind, the archaic authorization of the living and heard voice that ‘hails’ (commands) from the gods, spirits, and ancestors. One way or another, it invokes authorization in some form and archaic authorization underlies all forms. So, sincerity as the loss of integrity of the ancient mind, is an expression of that longing for the voices of archaic authorization gone silent. Integrity, in this sense, was a wholistic worldview.

            In responding to Scott, I brought up an ancient Greek word: “Arete means full commitment. John Beebe brings in an interesting perspective in discussing integrity. To put it in the context of your writings, maybe Beebean integrity has to do with the Gebserian mythological, something that can’t fully be understood by the modern rational mind. Once the mythological falls under the rational gaze, it loses its integrity as a lived mindset, worldview, and social reality. This is why, as Frankfurt concludes, sincerity is bullshit. That is to say, sincerity is a mere shadow of integrity — indicating something lost while obscuring that loss. So, we become obsessed with decay and purity.”

            I realize that integrity of the mythological is not the same as the integral we speak of now. That is because we are speaking from the other side of an age of fracture. This shapes our view of everything, including balance and the rest. Anyway, here are my speculations about integrity in the ancient sense:


            “That is how authority operated long ago, by what an individual embodied and represented. Both Jaynes and Kelly see ancient authority as having originally been less hierarchical or else based on different forms of power, such as voices and knowledge. What makes knowledge into power isn’t just that it is information controlled by the few but because it is knowledge given form and voice through the force of personal presence. Ancient knowledge systems were visceral, not abstract, although incipient forms of abstraction had emerged, such as how physical mnemonics once learned could be accessed in the mind without the external triggers.

            “In these societies, the individual is so fully enmeshed within the world that the world is exists within the individual. These aren’t just systems of memory and knowledge. They are entire lived and embodied worldviews. The person is inseparble from the place. Everything would be integrated in such a community: tradition, knowledge, language, culture, ritual, religion, worldview, environment, etc. […]

            “There is often the assumption that people in other societies are basically like us with the differences being mostly superficial. So, for example, behaviors and motivations are interpreted according to modern Western experience. But we know from research, that WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic) subjects are among the least representative populations in the world, which is problematic as they are the most commonly used in scientific studies.

            “Related to this is when Lynne Kelly discusses the power held by those who control knowledge in indigenous societies, It occurs to me that this is very much a WEIRD way of understanding human nature. That is projecting an intention onto others that she cannot possibly know. She is arguing, so it seems, that they lack sincerity in performing their ritual. But maybe sincerity and insincerity is not a standard framework for the oral cultures of indigenous tribes.

            “John Beebe defines sincerity as the aspiration toward integrity, by which he means that you can only aspire toward what you lack. In that case, sincerity and hence insincerity can only exist among those who have lost the ancient inheritance of an integrated worldview (i.e., integrity). This would make sense, if indigenous mnemonics actually is an inseparable structure to a cultural experience of reality, rather than being a mere memory technique. That is what the Australian Aborigines appear to be claiming when they state that they sing the world into existence.

            “This is not to romanticize tribal people, but it is a serious consideration of the possibility that we modern Westerners would not recognize full integrity if we saw it. If anything, this is to counter the romanticized ideal of integrity that sincerity evokes, as differentiated from the lived experience of integrity. A number of thinkers have seen an opposition between cultures of ritual and cultures of sincerity, sometimes used to contrast Catholicism and Protestantism but maybe it goes much deeper when considering societies where ritual is entirely dominant. It’s just something to keep in mind as a possible point of misunderstanding.

            “This leads to a stumbling block for many in imagining the bicameral mind that Julian Jaynes describes. From the modern Western experience, such a mindset seems absurd or impossible. But it might be more plausible within a worldview of ritual and integrity.

            “If songlines originally were an expression of bicameralism or else something similar, each song would be a distinct voice (or set of voices). These songs would express the voices of gods, spirits, and ancestors as passed down by the song teachers across the generations. The songs would invoke not just landscapes but also narratized worlds with specific worldviews, mindsets, personalities, and histories. This internalized public space would be the precursor for the post-bicameral interiorizing of private space, both being metaphorical but the former connecting the individual to the concrete and the latter freeing the individual through increasing abstraction.

            “In building structures in the world, what if early humans were building structures in their minds? Creating a radically different mindset might have offered greater survival value than even building a permanent house to live in. An entire world would have been formed where new possibilities were made available. Maybe humans had to change their way of thinking before they could imagine civilization into existence.”

          • To be honest with you, I can’t make any claims on mastery. I get the point you’re making. But I’m no master to speak of mastery. That isn’t to say I haven’t thought about it, on a regular basis for decades.

            All I know for certain is the systems of control I see all around me, in my limited understanding. I’d like to think there is another way.

          • Well, as you say, the entire “structure” of our global civilization is comprised of systems of control — control of Nature (yeah, right), control of others, control (even) of ourselves. Certainly no one can ever accuse mankind of losing his mastery of anything because he hasn’t achieved mastery, especially of himself.

            Which would we be rather be aiming for? Self-control or self-mastery?

      • Well our old friend Foucault in the Archeology of kbowledge traces it back to the 17th century – the creation of systems of meaning.

        For a more recent excavation try and get a copy of Six memos for the Next Millennium by Italo Calvino and especially the essay, Exactitude.

        Last year there was a minor spat over “politeness” – as in the establishment saying it’s rude/unreasonable to yell at x or y.

        Of course this is similar systemically to sham debates about foreign policy – is it a “surgical strike” or is it “state sponsored terrorism” – is the minister of x a ‘mass murderer” or a ‘statesman?”

        The German liberals were a odd group in a psychological sense because there really wasn’t much daylight between a Stalinist gangsterocracy and a Hitlerarian one but the Russians were Slavs so…

        But they all agreed the German left had to be crushed.

        Diet and food make perfect sense as examples because everything is subsumbed by the main system of profit/loss sales/marketing.

        That includes the language that’s defined as resonable/unreasonable in which the “debate” is conducted.

        Attempts to engage with that system are then dismissed as unreasonable, fraudulent, absurd, elitist, “foreign” and so on.

        • I am in the middle of reading Foucault right now. Just not that particular work. But I’ll get to it next. I’ll also check out your Calvino recommendation. Like you, I do see a link to respectability politics. It’s the idea that, for example, Hillary Clinton deserved to be president because she is ‘respectable’ in the mainstream sense. She says the right thing to the right crowd, changing her message depending on who she is talking to. Her harshest criticism was in speaking of a “basket of deplorables” that was taken out of context. But ignoring that, it’s part of the same respectability politics, part of the gatekeeping of who is respectable (allowed) and who is not.

          I don’t know the German left. So I don’t know to what extent they were connected to Stalinism. Then again, Stalinism was violently opposed the Russian left: social democrats, democratic socialists, Marxists, anarchosyndicalists, feminists, libertines, free speech advocates, etc. It seems like everyone, even the supposed ‘left’ was opposed to the actual radical left, especially social liberals. Most of the left was too ‘extreme’ for all of the ruling elite and aspiring ruling elite, and that perception or rather projection of extremism was used to justify their own extremism or their support for those who truly were dangerously extreme.

          Diet is a strange one. I keep repeatedly arguing that our present diet is extreme. And that those pushing certain dietary ideologies are extreme. I see vegans as the main example, as their is the only modern diet that literally was formed as religious belief system delivered in a vision of God (The Seventh Day Adventists, Ellen G. White, John Harvey Kellogg, etc). By the way, Dr. Kellogg promoted grains and invented cereal in order to control sexuality and masturbation. He was also a eugenicist and so his desire for social control was not subtle. Through his writings and sanitarium, he ended up being one of the most influential men of his lifetime and of the past century. More than any other single figure besides Ancel Keys, he helped shape modern diet and nutrition. Keep that in mind when someone talks about ‘moderation’ and ‘balance’ in terms of a plant-based diet.

          • Looking forward to your take on MF.

            To be more nuanced vis the German left – vs my previous broad brush – it had all the usual splits and factions.

            The Spartacus League headed by Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebnicht was at odds with Lenin over how much to participate in elections and with the more “moderate’ factions. (and the form of their arguments repeated the form of the arguments between Marx and everyone else)

            Of course by the time of the Stalin-Hitler pact the German right had destroyed the German left and then destroyed the left of the German Right in the Night of the Long Knives.

            Again in tragic Bordello I spent a lot of time deconstructing contemporary American Left efforts to paint the Nazi left as truly distinct from the Nazi Right – and what comes up again is the language – “moderate” and “conservative” become gaslight tools stripped of authentic meaning in an effort to control the narrative.

            Your HRC example is on point. Same thing happened when Obama in campaign mode attacked the “centrists” as “clinging bitterly to god and guns” and had to “apologize.”

            What he had done was to expose the “center” as being radical.

            The long term effect of this control of language is both control/erosion of the commons and an Orwellian atmosphere where the words mean nothing but have a terminal authority and in a classic Kafka-esque sense power is a question of who speaks last vs a question of being true.

            Again Trump emerges as a symptom rather than as the disease. granted he’s an accute fever but all this blather about how he is a threat to “democracy” requires collective amnesia about all the previous threats which then become “reasonable” policy decisions and not “radical.”

            The establishment media (and the “alternative media”) both insist Trump’s corruption is unique.

            A cursory excavation of the record proves otherwise but an honest discussion would involve things like looking at the sins of the media.

            This dreary paint by numbers “Kabuki” is the same in sham discussions about everything else from WW2 (which get’s the Saving Pvt. Ryan treatment) to Ken Burns recent whitewash of Vietnam (his documentary regurgitated old anti-left dogma and just happened to have been funded by the Koch Bros) to diet.

            But again an authentic discussion requires time and that chews up space for advertising which then sets the public agenda and dictates what get’s discussed and for how long and dictates “right” and “wrong” “reasonable” and “unreasonable” etc.

            Of course the mostly French PoMo gang were all over the use of language and the style of the attacks against them all sound exactly like classic neo-fascist dogma.

            Among the more amusing is Camille Paglia denouncing Foucault for not denouncing the Nazis and the Occupation.

            Except that the French state archives on the Occupation were closed until 1997 and even when opened requests for records had to be reviewed by the government which maintained the right to block use of names, and facts due to “national security.”

            And of course by 1997 Foucault had been dead for nearly a decade.

            Of course Paglia is somehow still taken seriously (in some circles) but the mistake is both blatant and an example of the systemic gaslighting.

            Basic facts and basic ideas of research vanish in the klieg lights and clickbait machinery and are replaced by vox populi and ad hominem and currently “cancel culture” which is a kind of high-tech show trial system enforcing the corruption of the fakery.

            Diet is indeed a key vector.

            Advertising, “experts” fads, and social engineering agendas and the politics of food industry lobbying, the medical/pharmaceutical industrial complex all are involved.

            “Beef, it’s what america eats” or “pork, the other white meat” or “milk, it does a body good” regardless of truth or other issues are all part of a system designed to ultimately coerce.

            In some cases, people should eat more of x vs y but that doesn’t mean there isn’t bs in the mix like “Mad cow” or other disasters.

        • We’ve talked about the rise of visual culture. Marshall McLuhan discusses that to a great extent. This made me think about certain words like ‘balance’ that have more of a visual than aural connotation. So, maybe it was the rise of writing in general and print culture in particular that created the conditions for this idea of balance.

          One can see this with the obsession with lenses and the mechanical universe, a visual sense of a world that was idealized as in balance. That is what made the modern revolutions so revolutionary. A revolution no longer meant a return and linear time took over. We’ve been longing for balance ever since and hence the reactionary rhetoric this post is about. There is no balance in constant progress of creative destruction.

          As always, just some thoughts.

          • As ‘balance’ seems more of a word of visual culture, ‘harmony’ is the nearest equivalent in oral culture, the latter being an acoustical space of ‘resonance’. Obviously, they have very different meanings and represent competing worldviews. As in a scale, it is separate things that are balanced. That is probably what Galenic humoral theory was trying to solve, how to manipulate the fractured parts back into a semblance of wholeness. But the mental can’t achieve this for the potential for integral must come from somewhere else.

            The act of reading, especially when done silently with phonetic alphabet, splits the world and forces a schism — a distance, disconnection, and dualism between body and mind-soul, inner and outer, self and other. This is the age of fracture of schizoid modernity. Sound is much more intimate, not allowing cognitive distance needed for seeking ‘balance’. In Harnessed, Mark Changizi theorizes that oral language originated from environmental sounds, the world that early humans were wholly immersed in.

            This might be why sound plays such an important role in religion, from mantras to organ music. It is sound that has the ability to overwhelm the thick, rigid boundaries that has formed into the scab of egoic consciousness. There has been some interesting research done on choral singing. There is something powerful about ‘harmony’. There is no ‘balance’ between individuals singing together. The individual sensibility seems to dissolve in the ‘resonance’ of the group.

            For us to (re)gain some sense of the integral, we might have to somehow (re)create an oral society where the written word no longer rules the mind. Even so, as I’d argue, we will never achieve ‘balance’ — rather, imbalance will simply go away or become irrelevant, since we’ll stop speaking and thinking, perceiving and acting according to the divisive eye.


            McLUHAN: “Before the invention of the phonetic alphabet, man lived in a world where all the senses were balanced and simultaneous, a closed world of tribal depth and resonance, an oral culture structured by a dominant auditory sense of life. The ear, as opposed to the cool and neutral eye, is sensitive, hyperaesthetic and all-inclusive, and contributes to the seamless web of tribal kinship and interdependence in which all members of the group existed in harmony. The primary medium of communication was speech, and thus no man knew appreciably more or less than any other – which meant that there was little individualism and specialization, the hallmarks of “civilized” Western man. Tribal cultures even today simply cannot comprehend the concept of the individual or of the separate and independent citizen. Oral cultures act and react simultaneously, whereas the capacity to act without reacting, without involvement, is the special gift of “detached” literate man. Another basic characteristic distinguishing tribal man from his literate successors is that he lived in a world of acoustic space, which gave him a radically different concept of time-space relationships.”

            PLAYBOY: “What do you mean by “acoustic space”?”

            McLUHAN: “I mean space that has no center and no margin, unlike strictly visual space, which is an extension and intensification of the eye. Acoustic space is organic and integral, perceived through the simultaneous interplay of all the senses; whereas “rational” or pictorial space is uniform, sequential and continuous and creates a closed world with none of the rich resonance of the tribal echoland. Our own Western time-space concepts derive from the environment created by the discovery of phonetic writing, as does our entire concept of Western civilization. The man of the tribal world led a complex, kaleidoscopic life precisely because the ear, unlike the eye, cannot be focused and is synaesthetic rather than analytical and linear. Speech is an utterance, or more precisely, an outering, of all our senses at once; the auditory field is simultaneous, the visual successive. The models of life of nonliterate people were implicit, simultaneous and discontinuous, and also far richer than those of literate man. By their dependence on the spoken word for information, people were drawn together into a tribal mesh; and since the spoken word is more emotionally laden than the written – conveying by intonation such rich emotions as anger, joy, sorrow, fear – tribal man was more spontaneous and passionately volatile. Audile-tactile tribal man partook of the collective unconscious, lived in a magical integral world patterned by myth and ritual, its values divine and unchallenged, whereas literate or visual man creates an environment that is strongly fragmented, individualistic, explicit, logical, specialized and detached.”

          • A “balanced approach” is certainly contextualized by the rise of print and the cult of science/reason.

            It’s easy 9or easier0 now to aim scron at certain aspects of the Enlightnment but for the most part “they” meant well/to counter tribalism.

            But like anything else the law of unintended consequences applies.

            We’re not in (and have been for some time) an era often grotesquely skewed towards a null state of “balance” that is of course not balanced at all.

            The rise of precision lens looms large.

            One part is down to the sheer mind-blowing revelation of what the then new glass/lens showed.

            That overturned an entire cultural system – religious, political, social.

            I’ve been wrestling with another (very) long piece on Velasquez and mirrors and your comment makes me want to tackle getting it done.

            I think you’re on point vis the change in the meaning of “revolution.”

            It was changed into an idea of progress and linear movement vs a cycle of return.

            The key idea in Modernism was a return to the concept of return but no one discusses that because of course it undermines all that capitalist dogma about faith in the future and progress etc.

            Who knows;-)

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