07 January 2021

The centre cannot hold

I really don't understand why anyone is surprised about the Capitol mob or the general tenor of insurrection.

White supremacy is a construction of virtue.  And, apparently, much as a lot of white supremacists just assume everyone else really is utterly reflexively racist and pretends not to be out of a sort of point-scoring public hypocrisy, a lot of people assume white supremacists know their axioms are wrong, and just keep going out of sheer meanness.

That's not an accurate understanding.

Somewhere between five and eight thousand years ago, you start seeing this bottleneck in Y chromosomes in human populations.  This is correlated with the rise of patriarchal forms of social organisation, but of course we don't really know what happened.  We can see the results of the selection event, but not details. (Five thousand years, given twenty-five year generations, is two hundred generations.  Twenty generations is more than sufficient to domesticate foxes.  OF COURSE selection happened, and probably quite a lot of it.  Can we tell what?  No we can't.  We haven't got the start state.)

So; humans are subject to selection.  Some of it's obviously genetic -- you can see that Y-chromosone bottleneck in the data! -- and you can tell what it is (a really small proportion of male lineages are siring almost all the kids, and this is generational; a successful sire's sons are frequently themselves successful sires) but you can't tell _why_ it is.  There's no way to distinguish between strongman harem systems and "only a very small proportion of men were calm and peaceful enough to live in the fixed settlements that arose with agriculture". (It could be both.)

Somewhere around five hundred years ago -- twenty generations, still enough to domesticate foxes; can't hardly bet that isn't enough to alter humans in the brains -- the pirate kingdom starts; you get this maritime marcher state building on the loot-sharing customs of longbow armies, and virtue becomes _obtaining_ loot.  (As distinct from the holding or the earning of land, and it's not much of a jump, considering how either of those happened during the transition from feudalism to god-king autocracy.)

There are a couple-three things to note about this.

One, it works.  Look at where people speak English today.  Look at the British Museum or the Smithsonian.  Look at the two solid centuries of thalassocracy.  Look at what didn't happen to that mob in the US Capitol.

Two, status is part of the loot.  And in a very basic way, that's _primate_ status; I can hit who I want and fuck who I want, status.  It's not nice-gold-watch-at-retirement status, or respect-of-your-peers status.

Three, white supremacy is a highly derived loot-sharing agreement.  It's much more complicated than counting out the cattle in the herds you stole or the gold doubloons from the Spanish Main.

The modern white-supremacist coalition has three main threads.

There's mammonites, who sincerely believe money is the material love of god and that they, personally, should have all of it.  This is the party of loot, very broadly defined; they won't tolerate any limits on theft. It's important to remember that their beliefs about money are entirely false to fact and that most of them have a niggling awareness that if they stop lying so fast about money some finance minister somewhere might notice.  And generally they're the sort of person who can loot a billion dollars and feel broke; their insecurity is boundless.

There's the active supremacists; generally people who have little else.  They're useless, they know they're useless, and it makes them extremely insecure about status.  This is (by far) the most numerous group, and it won't tolerate any limits on violence.  (Their insecurity management is directly contrary to their best interest; prosperity arises in cosmopolitan cities.  No amount of wanting status will allow them to tolerate those, though, so there's this feedback loop that prevents them from having any other source of status.)

There's the aristos; this is the group who are certain they should be in charge.  It's not that far off the born-to-wealth-and-power version of the xenophobes, only it's not that they can't stand seeing people who don't look like them, it's that they can't stand people who do not reflexively obey them, ideally out of such fear and deference that they put a lot of effort into figuring out what the aristo wants and delivering that without the aristo having to do anything so lower class as to say what they want. They inherited money; they have inherited connections, status, and power.  The important thing is still having people do what they say because they said it, because their own ability is certainly not sufficient to accumulate the money or create the connections, status, or power.  They won't tolerate any limits to their authority, and it's mostly structural authority, so they're opposed to change unless it makes things better for them, and better for them is worse for everyone else.

Are these three groups using each other?  Absolutely.  Do they want the same things?  Not at all; the xenophobes would certainly like money, and the mammonites want all of it.  (There's probably a name for the idea that god loves only you, but I don't know what it is.)  Are they a cohesive, evolving response to keeping a loot sharing agreement working in a world that's run out of loot?  Absolutely.  Do they think they're doing what is mete, right, and their bounden duty?  Also absolutely.  They're generally upset that they have to; the people lower down in the hierarchy should know their place, after all, and the government should know that it exists to make it easier for them to do whatever they want.

(Consider the dreary list of destructive acts in national parks during the most recent government shutdown.  Consider the blithe indifference to death in response to a pandemic, as long as it's someone else's death.  There's a clear worldview and strong expectations involved, along with the complete disdain of facts or society.)

All of what we've seen with Trump is the expected continuation of a long-term "I shall have loot as it was in grandfather's day" political movement. It's a mutant white supremacy which was itself a mutant patriarchy, and it never has made any material, factual sense.  ("I'm easily sunburned so I am obviously so morally superior I can declare anyone or anything mine" is the kind of thing you're severely disappointed when a five year old comes up with it.  It's abject nonsense.  This has never mattered, and does not matter now.)

How do you keep that cohesive system from copying itself into the future?

There are three traditional approaches.

You make adhering to the belief system fatal.  (This is why you've never met a Cathar.)

Ethnogenesis; something like the rise of Islam produces a new definition of who people are and new relationships among them.  (If you want to get rid of the idea of whiteness, this is the minimum ante.)

Outside context problem.  Bronze Age collapse, pretty much every civilisation in the Americas and then alien diseases showed up in the Columbian interchange, water empires when the rainfall moves; lots of examples.  (if you think climate change isn't an outside context problem you need to go read some of the science.)

So, no, "status quo ante" isn't going to work.

Saying "we will all be Americans", without the outside context problem, didn't work last time, but it won't hurt much.

Saying "we will all be Americans and no one can be all that rich" (because money is agency and most of the problem is a small number of extremely rich people determined to rearrange society to minimise their insecurities rather than doing the work themselves) would be a start; it might be enough to get people up in favour of it.  (Liberal democracy is stone dead; the time and context (and planet to loot) necessary to its existence have passed, and are with us no more.  We're picking the least-bad alternative future.)

Saying "we will all be good neighbours to everyone who will be good neighbours to us, no one can be rich, and open-loot extractive capitalism ends; we will live here forever, and must care for what we have borrowed from our descent" didn't work last time, either, but there weren't all that many people trying the first time.

But! don't think the work can be avoided.  Reconstruction didn't happen.  (Truth and Reconciliation didn't happen in the Canadian example.)  If we want to keep anaesthetised dentistry (and we so do), we've got to pull of ethnogenesis during an outside context problem, and we've got to create a different industrial civilisation to do it, AND we've got to win the fight with the mammonite white supremacists while we're doing it, because they're complete against. Death before responsibility; death before they give up the right to loot.

This is a hard task; this is the kind of excessively difficult task that makes it so much easier to descend into moral dithering, pointless moral taxonomies, and claims that everyone would be fine if....

People aren't going to be fine.  This is probably the decade agriculture fails.  And all these would-be heroes are managing to care that people fear them, because then they feel better.  There is no possibility of doing actual work; any real striving is an opportunity to fail, and they've already failed.  That's what they're fleeing; there's no more loot, the world is worse than it was, and they made it that way.  They can at least club together and pretend that nothing important can, has, or will ever change.


Anonymous said...

The interesting part of this is that your arguments and terminology is just like Moldbug

Graydon said...

+Anonymnous Curtis Guy Yarvin, aka Mencius Moldbug, darling of the far right, marginal monarchist, and definite authoritarian? Who makes arguments from efficiency without specifying what's to be optimised?

Given that I'm in favour of uniform justice, hard egalitarianism (it's enforced, it's not just an aspirational ideal), an effective right of refusal (which means not only voting but trying to arrange for voting to meaningfully reflect the populace), and getting some real systems theory into the structure of public life, there has to be a difference somewhere.

Could just be down to the axioms; it helps a lot to realise that you're neither smart nor special, that it isn't useful to want to be, and that you have to make decisions based on what you know now, not what someone in the future (or magically provided with all the information) might think. Call it materialist humility; there could stand to be more of that going around.