Essential Knowledge: Part XI

The last post in this series left off with English literature through the Victorian period, with a little overlap here and there, along with a few references to American literature. In retrospect, I probably should have done the literature posts a bit different. Instead of breaking it up into eras, it would have been better to break it into three or four categories, based on the significance or importance of the writer. Getting into this, I did not have a plan for covering literature so things got a little sideways.

The truth is, there’s probably only 100 books and writers that have a claim to being essential to the English canon. If you asked a bunch of well read people to list the 25 books they would take to a deserted island, they would have no trouble cutting down their list. There would be lots of overlap between them, but in the end, there are probably a hundred or so books that truly qualify as essential to an English reader. The rest fall into categories like “important to their genre” or “emblematic of a certain period.”

Anyway, in order to put some structure on this topic, let’s finish off English literature through the early 20th century. The first recommendation here is Samuel Beckett. The reason for this is he is a good example of something that changed in English letters around this time. Writers were no longer appealing to the educated classes. Writing in the 20th century was a social movement and often a political act. Beckett was probably as famous for his influence as he was for his writing. Writers were now pop stars.

You can, if you are a masochist, buy something like the Complete Dramatic Works of Samuel Beckett and start plowing through it, but that’s not going to be fun. My recommendation is to come at it from a different angle. Instead, read a good biography of him like Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. It’s probably better to learn about the man and then sample some of his work. Since he was primarily a dramatist, maybe take in a play or rent a movie adaptation of Waiting for Godot.

Another important figure is William Butler Yeats. Like Beckett, Yeats is probably more important for his shadow than his work. If you are into folk literature and traditionalism, then you will enjoy reading Yeats, even if you don’t care for poetry. This is a biography I read a few years ago and I enjoyed it. Again, it is a great introduction to the man and you can use it as a jumping off point for selected readings. I’ll also note that Yeats was a nationalist and traditionalist, something all of us should rediscover.

This naturally leads into the dreaded discussion of poetry, but luckily there is Rudyard Kipling. Like a lot of great literature, Kipling can he had for a song, especially of you don’t mind the ebook format. His poetry is available on-line. Like so many men of his era, his influence extends beyond literature so reading a biography of the man is a good way to understand his impact on the culture. I read this one a dozen years ago, but there may be better ones. It was interesting, despite the writer’s best efforts.

As far as poetry, well, I’m not a big fan of the genre, but others will disagree. The big names are T. S. EliotW. H. Auden and Dylan Thomas. Yeats is the giant, but we covered him. I never really cared for Eliot, but I liked Thomas enough to have memorized a few of his poems. In all candor, I did it because quoting Dylan Thomas worked well on the ladies back in the day. They thought I was deep and sensitive. My guess is this still works, if there are any younger guys reading this. Poets used to be lady’s men for a reason.

Another giant is James Joyce. I think Dubliners is one of the best collections of short stories ever written. I’ve read it a dozen times and will probably read it a dozen more before I die. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is also good. I strongly recommend against reading Ulysses, as it is the most dangerous book ever written. Like some others listed here, Joyce really is a giant, despite his relatively modest output. Knowing about him is important. That said, Finnegan’s Wake is just nonsense.

Obviously, Orwell and Huxley are must reads. Both writers get talked about to death by people on the Dissident Right, so there is no need for additional commentary. For Orwell, 1984 and Animal Farm are must reads. I’m much more fond of the latter than the former, on aesthetic grounds. Brave New World is a great book. I’ve made this point a gorillion times, but Huxley was much more realistic about the future than Orwell. I’d also argue that he wrote a better book. 1984 is ugly, like Wagner, while Huxley’s book is beautiful.

Finally, the man who invented fantasy literature is J. R. R. Tolkien. My guess is most literate man got the taste for reading through Tolkien. I still remember the puzzled look on my mother’s face as I spent a full summer Saturday on the couch engrossed in The Hobbit. Even as an adult, you can still enjoy The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but they are probably best read as young adults and then re-read later in life. Classic science fiction works this way too, but that is a topic for another post.

Like so many great writers of the late Victorian and early modern period – yes, I know, you have a different definition of this time period – Tolkien was a fascinating guy. He fought in the Great War and hung around some of the most important men of letters in his day. In fact, his war experiences are what inspired his darker imagery in his work. Here is a pretty good biography of him from 20 years ago There may be newer biographies out now, given the popularity of the movies, but his life is a fun read.

Like, Should and Will

People who enjoy quantitative analysis of current events and social policy tend to get irritated by the fact that most people don’t know what “average” means. In fact, most people don’t know the difference between the words “some”, “all” and “many”, treating them as if they are synonyms. The easiest way to activate the nearest outrage machine is to say something like “Some women….” and you can be sure a local gal will clutch her pearls and tell you she is nothing like whatever you described. It’s madness.

Something similar happens to people when discussing social policy or describing a cultural phenomenon. What is good for society, may not always be good for each member of society. Similarly, what you like may not scale up very well. Open borders fanatics fall into this trap. They look at the quaint ethnic eateries around their college campus and think, “This is how it should be everywhere!” They never stop to think if it should be something we attempt and they never think about what actually will happen.

It’s not just liberals and libertarians that get confused by this. Lots of people say they want America to return to its constitutional founding, never stopping to think if we should actually try to do it. If we tried to roll back the 19th Amendment, there would be endless protests, even if every state promised women the franchise. Rolling back the Reconstruction Amendments would launch a civil war. You may like the idea of going back to the original, but we shouldn’t attempt it, which is why we will never try it.

This circles back to the topic of internet commerce. Lots of people like the convenience of ordering on-line and having their goods delivered to them. Some people like the fact they can buy on-line from cheaper foreign sources, thus saving some money. That’s perfectly understandable, but that does not mean we should, as a society, let Amazon monopolize the retail marketplace. There may be ugly trade-offs. Even if we can figure it out, that does not mean we will act accordingly. Instead, we will plow ahead and learn the hard way.

The easy thing to get right is what you like. The old maxim about being conservative about what you know best applies here. All the people screaming at me for questioning the wisdom of letting Amazon own the marketplace are doing so because they know how much they like shopping on-line. They don’t want any discussion of changing it. They know their tastes and habits better than anyone so they are the most conservative about those things. As a result, they instinctively recoil at any criticism of the internet economy.

To be clear, we all do this to some degree. I reject any and all efforts to impose regulations on gun ownership. I know the gun laws better than most and I know the gun statistics better than most. The only changes I favor are repeals of existing laws, but any mention of “gun laws” or “gun crimes” puts me in a defensive crouch. The most conservative position is to resists any discussion of changing gun laws so that is my default position. As a result, I probably have a few things wrong about the gun debate.

Where things always get squirrely is when the topic moves into what we should do as a society. Libertarians, of course, leave the room at this point because they think “should” means “must” and they are against coercion. This is one of the reasons I have so little patience with libertarians. Politics is about what will be done and that results from the debate over what should be done. The libertarian impulse to retreat into proselytizing about their principles makes them worse than useless in the war with the Left.

Liberals claim to hold the moral high ground so all of their proclamations about what should be done are invested with moral authority. It is why they frame every debate in moral terms. That way, they avoid the granular analysis of what they are doing, so the focus shifts to the morality of their intentions. It is often assumed that this is a deliberate tactic, but it is instinctual. Progressivism is a religion. The adherents naturally frame everything in terms of their faith, in the same way Muslims rely on the Koran for their authority.

Buckley conservatives abandoned public morality long ago, so they are reduced to turning everything into a math problem. This appeals to many libertarian-ish people which is why you see so many of them hanging around the Official Right™. It would be nice if public policy could be decided, at least to some degree, by mathematics, but there’s no history of that ever happening, which means it will most likely never happen. It’s why the Buckley Right has lost every fight over the last 25 years. You don’t beat morality with math.

Of course, no matter what your conception of what should happen is, the odds that it will happen are fairly low. Even the most modest plans have unintended consequences and most of us are easily deluded by our sense of righteousness. It is why Progressivism has devolved into a madhouse of lunacy. They stand on their soapboxes sermonizing about what should happen, only to see the opposite happen. The recent string of elections has them thinking the gods have abandoned them, which is why they are so distraught.

This is not a post with some great important point to make so I’ll wrap it up. The one take away here is that when I write about some public phenomenon, I’m usually looking at it from the various angles of the “should” position. Is this something we should embrace? Is this something we should tolerate? That sort of thing. You may like midget porn, for example, but we should not have it on television. On the other hand, you may hate paying your taxes, but we should enforce tax laws, even the terrible ones.

The Dead End

Most of the issue that plague our modern societies stem from the unwillingness of our policy makers to consider the obvious solutions. In the 80’s, we had a bum crisis due to the states being forced to fling open the doors to their nervous hospitals. The former patients had no one willing to care for them and no ability to care for themselves, so they ended up on the streets as bums. The obvious answer was to put them back into the asylums, but that was ruled off limits and we still have a bum problem to this day.

The solution to the bum problem was to ignore it and build up a big new bureaucracy for dealing with the bums, while not actually getting them off the streets. That meant a proliferation of not-for-profit organizations that dealt with the bums, using grants from the city, state and federal government. The result is we now have a special interest that works to thwart any effort to get the bums off the streets. Bum maintenance has become an industry with lobbyists and political power. And we still have bums.

The thing is, the Cloud People do not have a bum problem. They “solved” the “homeless” problem by agreeing to use their tax dollars to build flop houses in your neighborhood and they also make sure the bum services industry is located in your neighborhood. You will never see a homeless shelter next to a Starbucks. The cops in Cloud Country are adept at putting the stray bum on a bus and sending him to Dirt Country, where the shelters are located. After all, they are public servants and that is the humane thing to do.

For a minor annoyance like the bum problem, this is not an untenable situation. Even in the ghetto, the crazy guy screaming at cars as they pass by is just local color. For bigger issues, like the black underclass, this approach is unworkable. For fifty years white liberals have been playing a weird game of Old Maid, in which they find new ways to dump blacks from their neighborhoods into the normie middle-class. The normies respond by moving away, but Lefty keeps finding ways to inflict the problem on them.

The primary source of racial conflict in modern America is the Cloud People habit of blaming typical white people for the bad behavior of blacks. Whites don’t care if Ray-Ray guns down Trayvon over a sneaker beef, but they do care when they are told they are responsible for it. Instead of addressing the issue of ghetto violence, we have a whole industry built around race hustling. The dysfunctional black under-class is the source of income for thousands of people with an interest in never solving it.

The Exploding Mohamed is looking like a problem for which the Cloud People have no way to ignore, but they are working hard to find a way to turn this problem into a weapon against the Dirt People. Take a look at this Spectator piece after the most recent incident. It reads like a meditation on how to avoid facing reality. The proposed suggestions, they don’t qualify as solutions, are laughably pointless. You could be forgiven for thinking the writer started by eliminating what will work and then came up with his list of solutions.

The most obvious solution to the exploding and stabbing Mohameds is to stop importing Mohameds. If BMW’s exploded at this rate, Britain would ban the importation of BMW’s and demand the manufacturer recall those in the country. Volkswagen is facing billions in fines for violating trivial emissions regulations. Yet, no one dares say, “there’s a problem with these Mohameds. Let’s put the brakes on importing more of them until will can figure out what’s going on with them.” Nope. It is a mad dash to import more of them.

The trouble is they can’t ignore it, like the bum problem, or even blame the honkies, like they do with black crime. This one is all on the Cloud People, but they can’t bring themselves to face the cause of the problem. Instead, they build out the police state, install more cameras and turn the country into a game preserve. Cynics say this is deliberate, but that assumes facts not in evidence. These people are not that clever. It’s that their multicultural religion forbids them from considering the right answer to the problem.

It is the aspect of anarcho-tyranny that most people don’t get right away. It’s not that the authorities are lazy or disinterested. It’s that they are afraid of their own bizarre religion of multiculturalism. When you rule out the reality of human nature from the tool set, you’re left with solutions that are contrary to human nature. The thing that allows them to rule like tyrants over their own kind, prevents them from raising a finger against strangers and aliens. It is as if a form of Toxoplasma gondii has infected the brains of the ruling elites.

This is not a terrible way to think of it. The typical person in the managerial elite has never had to face the hard decisions most of us take for granted. Theirs has been a life without accountability in a world stripped of the harsher aspects of the human condition. If you have spent your life in the dream world of the academy and the government campus, you can be forgiven for not wanting to question the underlying orthodoxy. As Tucker Carlson pointed out in this speech, it is a great life and no one would choose to leave it.

The trouble is, once you eliminate the axiomatic, you inevitably end in a logical dead end, with no real options other than retracing your steps. Since questioning the one true faith is off limits, the Cloud People spend their days dreaming up fantasy solutions to real problems that just keep getting worse. For something like bum control, nature tends to step in and solve the problem. For a Muslim invasion, the problem will not resolve itself, at least not in a tolerable way, until the fever breaks or the system collapses.

This will not end well.

Essential Knowledge: Part X

Note: I’ve taken a bit of break on these posts because they take a bit longer than a normal post and I’ve been busy on other projects. A normal post is maybe a half hour of writing and another half hour of re-writing. If I feel like proofreading it, then maybe another fifteen minutes. These Essential Knowledge posts require a little more thought and they require me finding the relevant links. The demands on my time meant a short hiatus, but I’ll try to get back to doing one every two weeks at the minimum.

We left off the literature portion of this series at the Romantic period. I’ve never been a big fan of this period in English literature. I think I can make the case that William Blake is history’s greatest monster. There are some writers worth knowing about and some works that a modern reader can enjoy. Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, especially for Rush fans, are easy reading and the sort of thing an educated man can sprinkle into a conversation to impress the ladies down at the rest home.

The Romantics were big into poetry so the big names are mostly poets. If you feel you must, then pick an anthology and sample the names that seem familiar, like Lord Byron, Wordsworth and Keats. These things are a matter of taste and maybe you are the sort that enjoys this type of literature. My view on literature is that you should aim to be a specialist on what you enjoy, but a generalist on everything else. That means having some anthologies around to poke through when you are looking for something to read.

There is some good stuff in the Romantic period. Jane Austen is not terrible and you should read at least one of her novels. Pride and Prejudice would be my recommendation, but you can download her complete works for a dollar, so take your pick. Robinson Crusoe by Defoe is a good read. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding is not bad. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the most famous work from this period. My favorite from this era is Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. It’s a fun read, even if you hate Romantics.

The Victorian¹ period is an embarrassment of riches, in terms of English literature. This was also when Americans really started to contribute to the English canon. Even better, the great talents of the era tended toward prose, so you don’t have to suffer through a lot of poetry. The big names on the poetry side are Browning, Carlyle, Wordsworth, Swinburne and Tennyson, but the way to go is with a decent anthology. Of course, you can just read your kids, or grandkids, Jabberwocky and leave it at that.

The prose side of the house is where things get fun. This was a prolific period in English prose and some of the giants of our culture wrote in this era. For the ladies, and the men with a desire to get in touch with their feminine side, you have the Bronte sisters. Jane Eyre is considered one of the top-20 novels of all time, but I’ve always been partial to Wuthering Heights. You can get the collected works of the Bronte sisters for a song. If you still need that feminine touch, then read Middlemarch by George Elliot.

Now the good stuff. I don’t think you can be a literate man without having read Charles Dickens. The Pickwick Papers is great, even if you are not comfortable reading hard fiction. Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities are also on the list of must read books. You can get all of Dickens for a buck on kindle. The same is true of the collected works of Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland is a great read even if you have seen all of the Hollywood treatments.

I think Oscar Wilde is an overrated degenerate, but The Picture of Dorian Gray is a great book. It’s also a great movie, as long as you stick with the 1945 version. This period was not just the great flowering of the novel. The short story was mastered in this era. The two names most associated with the development of the form are O. Henry and W. Somerset Maugham. I’m more of a fan of the latter, than the former, but that’s a matter of taste. As an aside, I’ve always thought the short story is the perfect format for modern audiences.

This is also the age when fantasy literature and science fiction came into existence as serious literary forms. Dracula is a great book, even if you have seen a million movie versions of it. You should get the complete works of Robert Louis Stevenson so you can read Treasure Island and Jekyll and Hyde, if you did not read them as kids. I recently re-read Treasure Island and it still works for me. Then, of course, is H. G. Wells. I’ve read Time Machine half a dozen times in my life and it just gets better each time.

The trouble with the Victorian era is it is big and not everyone agrees on the exact start and end points. This is especially true of the late Victorians and the American writers that were influenced by their English cousins, but had their own style. I’m going to cover American literature in a separate post so that makes the cutoff a little easier. Even so, there’s a lot of summers at the beach worth of reading just in that 60 year span. It’s fair to say that it was the peak of the English Empire and probably the peak of English culture.

¹I’m lumping some eras together here for the sake of brevity. Read “Victorian” as “post-Romantic up to the 20th century.”

Iceland

Iceland is one of the weirdest places on earth. In fact, it may be the weirdest, at least that is what many Icelanders will tell you. Some of their weirdness is made up for the tourists, but some of it is made up for their own entertainment. The belief in elves and “hidden people” seems to be mostly for local amusement. The Icelandic Phallological Museum, on the other hand, is harder, so to speak, to explain. But, when you live on a volcanic rock in the North Atlantic, indulging in weirdness is probably to be expected.

The little island republic came to world attention back in the financial collapse when they went bankrupt. Iceland had managed to become a hedge fund with a fishing village attached to it. Michael Lewis wrote a fascinating and humorous piece on them back in 2009. When I was over there last summer, I mentioned this to locals a few times and they had never heard of it. When I mentioned some of the colorful anecdotes from it, they laughed at me like I was an idiot, so Lewis may have been liberal with the truth.

In addition to the Dungeons & Dragons vibe to the place, Iceland is interesting for biological reasons. It is a small and extremely homogeneous population located on an isolated island. That means it makes for a good place to tease out things about the human genome. The genetics company deCode is located in Reykjavik and has been doing a lot of interesting work for decades. The willingness of the population to participate in this research makes it a great laboratory for this type of work.

Another topic of interest is how the people have organized themselves over the last 1,000 years since settlement. Unlike most places on earth, human settlement on the island is very recent and it has been written down. We can only guess about the waves of humans that settled in the Ruhr Valley or along the Thames, but we have written records about who settled Iceland and how they developed their society. It is, in this regard, an interesting anthropological study.

A Norwegian chieftain named Ingólfur Arnarson is usually considered to have been the first permanent settler in Iceland. His legend says he threw two carved pillars overboard as he neared the island, vowing to settle wherever they landed. He then sailed along the coast until the pillars were found. There he settled with his family around 874 and named the place Reykjavík, which means “Bay of Smokes” due to the geothermal steam rising from the earth. As is always the case, historians are not sure if this entirely true.

Eventually, Ingólfur was followed by other Norse chieftains, who brought their families and slaves, settling all the inhabitable areas of the island in the next decades. The Chieftains were Norwegian, while their slaves were Irish and Scottish, according to the Icelandic sagas and Landnámabók, which is a written history of the settlement. This tracks with the findings of modern genetics. That’s what makes Iceland so useful, We have written records and archaeological findings, that are validated by genetic data.

There are two theories for why the Norse fled Norway and settled on a volcanic rock in the middle of the North Atlantic. Legend says it was due to people fleeing the harsh rule of the Norwegian king Harald the Fair-haired. Norway was undergoing a consolidation of power under one powerful family and the losers were heading off for new lands. It is also possible that the western fjords of Norway were simply overcrowded in this period. The general theory for the rise of the Vikings is simple over population.

Once there was enough people to farm the land and create an economy, they set about organizing themselves. In 930, the ruling chiefs established an assembly called the Alþingi that convened each summer. The representative chieftains made laws, settled disputes and appointed juries to judge lawsuits. Because writing down laws could lead to the use of force to interfere with an individual or individual’s property, the laws were instead memorized by an elected Lawspeaker until the next assembly.

Since there was no central executive power, it meant the laws were enforced by the people on an ad hoc basis. A land dispute, for example, would require hiring some third party to act as the judge. Violence against people or property would require the people temporarily banding together to address the problem. This is the sort of arrangement that results in blood-feuds. Consequently,  the writers of the Icelanders´ sagas had plenty of material. Trial by combat was a real thing when it came to disputes.

Iceland did pretty well into the 13th century when the growing power of a few families led to a break down in the system. Rather than adjudicate disputes the old fashioned way, for example, it was easier to go to the head of one of the powerful families for relief. Inevitably, the ruling families began to resolved things, like land disputes, in a way that benefited them over other rival families. This led to other powerful families doing the same in order to check the power of their rivals and soon Iceland was dominated by a few chieftains.

The start of the 13th century known by the very cool name Sturlungaöld, which means “The Age of the Sturlungs.” Sturla Þórðarson and his sons were one of two clans waging war for domination of the the island. This clan eventually won the support of the king of Norway who was looking to exploit the conflict. Sturla Sighvatsson became a vassal of Haakon IV of Norway in 1235, thus allowing the Norwegian king to exercise authority over the island, by backing the Sturlungs against their rivals.

In 1262 Iceland signed the Old Covenant establishing a union with the Norwegian monarchy. It was a nice run as a transactional society, but they ran into the problem of how to deal with inequality once their society was able to amass excess wealth. The rich were not satisfied with being rich, they also wanted power, which means authority over others. It is the natural human impulse and the ad hoc system of governance was unable to respond to this internal challenge. The result was domination by a few.

Of course, they also had the problem of how to deal with powerful neighbors looking to dominate the island. Norway could use a combination of force and political meddling to create the sort of conditions they could exploit. An iron law of the human condition, and of nature, is that the strong come to dominate the weak. In the case of Iceland, Norway was the strong neighbor determined to dominate the island. They were not going to be talked out of it so Iceland eventually fell under her dominion.

What’s The Point?

The North Koreans launched another missile from her east coast. It is the ninth launch this year. The news says it was a scud missile that went about 300 miles before crashing into the ocean. This is supposed to mean something, so the people who claim to know about these things are consulted to tell us what they mean. In this case, it means that whatever it is the South Koreans are doing is not working. Maybe it means whatever the US is doing is not working. Whatever it is, everyone seems to think it is a big deal

According to Google, North Korea is a little more than 4,000 miles from Hawaii. The coast of the United States, San Francisco to be exact, is 5,500 miles from North Korea. If the Koreans are flying missiles 300 miles into the ocean, they have a long way to go before they are a serious threat to launch nukes against the US. Even assuming these are just tests as proof of concept, it is a huge step from what they are doing now to being able to deliver a nuke from one continent to another.

There may be more to it, but no sane person could think the Koreans are a serious threat to launch a nuke at the US now or in the near future. In fact, they are probably a generation away from being able to deliver a nuke with any degree of stealth and accuracy. Even if they could get one off, the result would be certain death for them. The US would respond with a nuke attack from the air and sea that would eliminate North Korea as an ongoing concern for a few thousand years.

Maybe the North Koreans are suicidal, but there are quicker ways to bring the roof down on themselves. The obvious answer is they are up to something else, something more practical. What that could be is never discussed. The US is willing to give them whatever they want to end their nuke program. The South Koreans would kick in whatever is needed and so would Japan. All the Kim family has to do is name their price and the check is in the mail. Yet, this ridiculous missile dance continues to no obvious purpose.

The other side of this is just as pointless. Trump made a big deal out of cutting a deal with the Chinese to put pressure on the Koreans. He then sent a carrier group to the South China Sea. The point was to let the chubby little dictator know that we mean business. He launched his missiles anyway and nothing happened. At last count, there are three carrier groups in the region, along with some unknown number of ballistic missile submarines, armed with nuclear missiles. That’s a lot of firepower, but nothing changes.

The thing that everyone seems to know, except maybe Trump, is that there is zero chance the US launches an attack on the North. The result of a war on the peninsula would be catastrophic for the South Koreans. There’s a pretty good chance the Japanese would take a lot of damage. Then there is the chance of a conflict with China. No one, including the North Koreans, wants a war. That brings us back to the question, what is the point of all of this? What’s the end game all sides are aiming for?

The answer may be that there is not point to all of it, just a way for all sides to fill up their days, pretending to be leaders of a world that no longer needs leaders. Would the average Japanese notice if his rulers stopped showing up for work? Is the average South Korean concerned in the least about what his rulers are doing? The only reason to care is the prospect that they will do something stupid and set off a pointless war with the North Koreans. Otherwise, the ruling class is a burden, not an asset.

That may explain why the leadership in the West appears to be going mad. Trump was in Europe to meet with the provincial governors and their biggest concern was some new scheme to make Gaia happy.The Western media gets upset at Trump for seeming to question the point of NATO, but when the chief concern of Europe is the weather, a military alliance does seem a bit pointless. Does anyone really think the Russians are going to roll tanks into the heart of Europe? Not even Bill Kristol thinks that’s possible.

Maybe that’s why the Europeans are inviting the Muslim world to invade their cities and create havoc among the native populations. Everyone in charge is bored. They wake up each morning wondering, what’s the point? Being in charge of Germany is rather pointless if you can’t invade the Sudetenland or defend the fatherland against a barbarian invasion from the east. The nations of Europe hardly qualify as countries anymore. All of the important stuff is done by the US or supranational organizations.

In The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama argued that the end of the Cold War meant that humanity was moving into the final stage of social and political evolution. The great ideological struggles were over and the world was moving toward a great social democratic super-state. Stuff would still happen and conflicts would arise, but the die was cast. The end point of mankind was a world governed by social democracy and a global administrative state. The world would stop being fun.

Maybe that’s what we’re seeing. The Asian powers are just displaying muscle memory, from a time when being in charge mattered. They go through the motions up to the point when they realize there is no point. The European leaders are doing something similar with the Muslim invasion. It’s Munchausen syndrome by proxy, but the victim is the population of Europe. The ruling class is charged with taking care of their people, but their people are fine, so they are poisoning their people, so rulers have something to do.

This Blog: Stardate 47634.44

Site Update

It has been a while since I did an update on where things are with the site and other miscellaneous things related to the blog. Since we are heading into the long holiday weekend, it feels like a good time for one of these catch up posts. There’s also the fact that most of my posts the last few weeks have been on more serious topics so a little break from the doom and gloom is a good idea. I’m not into the happy warrior stuff, but life is for living and you should not spend all of your time on the dark side of the gloom.

As far as traffic, the average is right around 100,000 unique non-robot visitors per month and 1.5 million page views. The strange thing I’ve noticed is traffic will slow for a while and then tick back up, like the tide coming in and going out. I’m not really sure why that is. I know my habit is to visit a site daily until I find something else for a while. I then drift back to the regular rotation of sites again. Maybe that’s true of most people and that’s what I’m seeing in my traffic. Perhaps the lunar cycle has something to do with it.

The refresh of the site is still on the drawing board. I’ve done some of the prep work, but real life has sidelined this project recently. The plan is to implement a drop down menu for links, post collections and so forth. I’m also going to roll out donations, as that is something you’re supposed to do. I’m told that alternative media needs to foster the donation culture, since we don’t have billionaire grifters on our team. I’m a bit skeptical about it, but if it covers the cost of running the site that’s a good thing.

Comments have ticked up steadily and you can see a community forming in the comment section. I think this is a good thing as the hate community needs places for like minded haters to congregate without be harried by screeching harpies from the Cult. Just as important, there has to be a place for the right side of the curve to debate with one another without the sort of mindless hooting you see in the Breitbart comments or on twitter. I frequently hear that the best part of the blog is the comments and I take some pride in it.

Questions

Someone asked me the other day if I would ever consider doing an “Ask Me Anything” sort of thing. I’m generally open to anything, but I don’t really get Reddit or Voat so I have no idea if it is something I’d like. I do get questions via the miracle of e-mail most days and I try to answer them. I get some of the same questions every week, so I thought putting them and the answers into a post may be useful. I’ll give it a test run now and maybe make a feature out of it going forward. That way I don’t have to learn about Reddit.

Q: Why don’t you write about Israel? Do you support Israel?

Me: I get this every week from someone. Judging from the e-mails, my guess is it is mostly Zionists. I’ve never had a sane conversation with an Israeli or Arab about Israeli or Arab-Israeli relations. As a result, I think it is an unanswerable riddle so there is no point in me thinking much about it. Israel is a civilized country, so I wish her and her people the best. Otherwise, I have no opinions on Israel or Arab-Israeli drama.

Q: Why do you hate libertarians? Why don’t you learn something about libertarianism before commenting?

Me: I don’t hate libertarians and I learned all about libertarianism in the 80’s. That’s the thing. I’m not a 30-something. I’m a 50-something. The young guys in the hate community will tell you that they came to the dark side through the Ron Paul campaigns when they were in the 20’s. For Gen-X types, our path was most often from the Left. My people were all conservative Democrats who held populist opinions on economics, but conservative opinions on social issues. We were the so-called Reagan Democrats of the 80’s.

As young guys, my generation flirted with libertarian ideas because they are easy and appeal to young people, but also because they were one leg of the Reagan coalition. Young people tend not to appreciate social conservatism so libertarian economics, particularly its anti-communist rhetoric, was appealing. The collapse of the Buckley Right and the Reagan coalition in the 90’s taught a lot of us that you don’t win a culture war with pie charts about tax policy. Libertarianism is mostly worthless in this fight.

Given the choice, I’d choose to live in the libertarian paradise over most any other form of social arrangement, but that’s never going to be on the table. The only way to get anywhere near close to it, means getting the culture right and that means getting the demographics right. It also means accepting all sorts of compromises on the economic and political front. If a commie is my ally in the demographic fight, so be it. If a libertarian chooses to be my enemy in the culture war, then I will be his enemy.

Q: Why don’t you do other sorts of media?

Me: After I did Grace & Steel, I got asked this a few times. I don’t have anything against doing these things. I have turned down two interview requests from liberal outlets claiming to be doing pieces on the alt-right. I believe in supporting the media that supports me and doing everything I can to destroy the media that hates me. As a result, I’ll gladly help those on our side where I can. I’m not trying to build a media career so I’m not putting any effort into getting on other platforms. I’ll help if asked.

Q: Why do you hide behind a pseudonym?

Me: I’ve had this domain for roughly 20 years so when I started the blog, I just put it here out of convenience. The story behind this is that in the early days of the internet, ISP’s would assign you a user name. I always got assigned some variation of “zman” and it was a bit of a joke with friends. As a gag, I registered the domain and started using it for an e-mail address. Everyone I know, knows me by this domain and as a result, they know about and read this blog. If I were hiding, I’d have registered a new domain.

Someone who knows about interwebs marketing and branding told me that it was a good idea to stick with it, as it makes it easy for people to find the site. Put “z blog” in a google machine and I’m right at the top. Given the amount of traffic that comes via web searches, I think they were right so I’m sticking with the concept. David Goldman did a similar thing when he wrote for years under the pen name “Spengler” for the Asia Times. It has turned out to be a good gimmick that I landed on by accident so I’ll keep it going.

TV Off The Grid

When I had a TV subscription, my viewing habits were fairly simple. In the evening, I would put on the television and try to find a sporting event. If nothing of interest was on, then I would flip around the channels until I found something, but more often than not, I’d settle for a re-run of some show like Seinfeld. I never had the patience for channel surfing, so much of it went unnoticed and unwatched. Most of the time, the television was just background noise while I did something else like screw around on-line.

When you cut the cord, television watching becomes something different than the ever present background noise. If you want to watch something, you have to think about what you want to watch. Then you have to figure out the source. I’m an Amazon Prime customer so I have their library of movies and TV shows. I also have access to the dark underworld of pirate sources. The Kodi app for the Amazon Fire gives me access to television channels from all over the world. I’m spoiled for choice.

Anyway, since I have never been much of a TV watcher, I ask people for recommendations and then find a source for them. Someone I know has been binge watching a program called The Walking Dead. He told me it was OK. I had some vague recollections about it from a few years ago. A bunch of people started writing about the best tactics for dealing with a zombie attacks. There was probably a National Review article on the conservative case for surrendering to the rage zombies.

I downloaded the first season and I can see why people like it. You can’t think about the zombies as they make no sense. The claim is a virus turns the dead into walking attack corpses, but that’s silly. The human body starts to decay at death, so in a few weeks, the zombies would have fallen to pieces. A supernatural explanation, like the war skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts gets around that problem, but I’m not the target audience for this stuff. Maybe the writers don’t want to spend time on the science of zombies.

The funny thing about that though is the novel that kicked off the whole end times plague genre had a simple solution that would probably make the story better. I Am Legend used a disease that turned people into something like vampires. They were still alive, but they just liked killing people and eating them. The cause of the vampire-ness was a blood disease. There was also an evolutionary angle as not all of the infected became murderous ghouls. Some retained their humanity and their faculties.

Doing some research on-line, I learned that the show is very popular and has a devoted following, even after seven seasons. I’m only through one season, but I can see why people like it. Most of our video entertainments are just poorly disguised lectures about how white people suck and men are terrible. This show is just a good drama for adults to enjoy with their kids. The men are men and the women are women. More important, the writers seem to respect the male and female characters by writing them properly.

For some reason, the show reminded me of the series Justified that was popular half a dozen years ago. That was another show that  was just good old fashioned drama aimed at adults looking to be entertained. The fact that Hollywood is able to make these sorts of programs means they make the PC crap on purpose. It’s not that they are just a bunch of moonbats making what they like. It’s that they really want to make lectures so they do it as often as they can. These normal programs are happy accidents that pay the bills.

That last part is probably a huge driver for Hollywood. One of the things you learn when you go off the grid for your TV is that there is a lot of crap produced every year. I have an app that let’s me scan through all movies released by year. I bet most people have not heard of 90% of them. Anyone heard of Lazer Team, released last year? How about Doris, staring Sally Field, who I was sure was dead. How is that people allegedly good at making movies cannot see that these are terrible movie ideas? How do they get made?

The most likely answer is the business works on the theory that if they can get financing for a project, they make it, even if it is hilariously stupid. It’s like the venture capital business. The winners pay for the many losers. As a result, even dumb ideas like a King Arthur movie with black guys as the knights gets made. Of course, the fanatics who want to make lectures are driven to get the financing so they can deliver their lecture. That’s why so much of what is made looks like a deliberate insult to the intended audience.

That’s the other strange thing about all the terrible shows is that Hollywood has a massive amount of data on audiences. They use this to market test all sorts of things about movie and TV projects. Big budget movies are now written by committees, that include marketing people and data analysts. It seems like the obvious step is to use the data to determine what is worth financing. There can be no model that says a movie like Catfight has a chance to earn enough to pay for the camera rentals.

Maybe that’s what’s over the next hill as people cut the cord and the business model begins to unravel. The music business had to adapt when digital technology broke up their oligopoly. Maybe a similar thing will happen with video. We’ll get fewer shows, but they will be driven by market research, rather than the whims of studios. Or, maybe they just pay everyone less and keep pumping out crap movies like the Brothers Grimsby. As long as there are suckers with money, Hollywood will be happy to take their money.

One final thought on this topic. For those thinking of going off the grid for television, be prepared for your viewing habits to radically change. I found I watch less sportsball than when I had a sub. Even the limited effort to find a sports stream is enough to have me looking for other things to do in the evening. On the other hand, you will binge watch a series, which means spending a rainy weekend on the couch watching a full season of a TV show. You watch less, but more, if that makes sense.

Essential Knowledge: Part IX

A liberal education has always meant a deep knowledge of cultural history, which inevitably meant art and literature. Sadly, the humanities have taken a beating from the Cult-Marx crusaders in the last half century. Critical Theory and its various off-shoots have, as one would expect from the Germans, reduced art and literature to rubble. Just look at the state of poetry. It has been reduced to displays of childish vanity at scream sessions. You find more culturally enriching rhymes on a rest room wall.

The good news is it is easy to bypass the lunatics and go right to the primary texts, which are often available for a song as ebooks. The literary canon is enormous so we’ll focus on the English portion for now. A modern educated man in the English speaking world has to have a broad knowledge of English (and American) literature, but he should also be familiar with the great works of the West in general. There are good translations of the classics from every Western language so you can read Tolstoy without knowing Russian.

Working forward from the deep dark past, the first “great works” of the English literature are Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The language is a little difficult for the modern reader, but not impenetrable. Something more difficult, and often overlooked as a result, is William Langland’s Piers Plowman. The challenge here is threefold. One is the language and the other is the Christianity. It’s also a social satire so you need to know a little about the times, but that should be a motivation.

Then we come to Shakespeare The good news here is all of his works are free as the family no longer has the copyright. There are some smart people who think The Bard is a waste of time. The important themes from the important plays are so baked into the culture that there’s no point in reading them in the original. There’s some truth to that, but the people who say this usually had a first class education. It’s not like you’re going to lose IQ points by taking the time to read some of the great works of English literature.

That said, Shakespeare had some clunkers too. From the comedies, I’d recommend The Merchant of Venice, especially for the alt-right reader, A Midsummer Night’s DreamTaming of the Shrew and Winter’s Tale. From the histories, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VIII and Richard III should be enough. Then read all of the tragedies. You can probably skip Titus Andronicus and Timon of Athens. All, of these are available on video and it is a good idea to see an actual production, even if it is on video.

This is a good time to talk about poetry. Shakespeare’s sonnets are worth reading as an excellent introduction of English verse. And no, reading poetry will not make you gay or Mexican. Similarly, John Donne is one of the giants of English poetry, but I never found his work all that interesting. Instead, I’d read Samuel Johnson’s discussion of Donne and other prominent poets. Finally, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene is a must read and it is pretty good. If you like Game of Thrones you’ll like this.

In a previous one of these posts, I recommended Utopia by Thomas Moore. Another classic from this period is New Atlantis by Francis Bacon. I won’t say it is good, but it is short. There’s also The Isle of Pines, which is similar and considered the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. You can get all three in one book! Something better from this period is Morte D’Arthur by Thomas Malory. This was one of my favorites as a kid. The quest for the grail is one of the most influential themes in English literature.

The first work of fiction to be considered a novel is The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. It is a Christian allegory, which probably sounds awful, but the fact that it has never been out of print since the 17th century means it is worth reading. Also in the realm of Christian literature is Paradise Lost by John Milton. Everyone has their list of essential books that an educated man should read. Every one of those lists contains Milton, because it arguably defined the English speaking world’s relationship to Christianity.

Finally, to sew up this post on literature, and yes there will be several more, I’m going to suggest something a bit odd. Integral to the English speaking world’s culture is a relationship with nature. It turns up throughout English literature and in American classics like Huckleberry Finn. The Complete Angler by Isaac Walton is a book about fishing that holds up today, but it is also a book about the peaceful enjoyment of nature. Even if you are afraid of the outdoors, an appreciation of man’s relationship to nature is essential.

Bring Back Smoking

Are we getting stupider?

This is hard to know as we don’t have IQ exams from further back than last century. We have some ways to approximate IQ going back into the mists of time, but those will always get bogged down by debates over methods.Then you have the flat earth types who argue that IQ is not a real thing or that there are multiple forms of intelligence. Just sticking with the good data we have for the last 100 years or so, it does appear that the West is getting dumber. By how much and and how fast is the debate.

Why this could be happening is not much of a debate. There are three reasons related to biology. One is the Idiocracy example. The stupid are breeding like bunnies while the smart are reproducing at less than replacement levels. The high achieving man marries late and marries a high achieving women with a head full of feminist nonsense. They put off childbearing until she can only produce one child. Meanwhile, the guys that cut their grass are knocking up their girlfriends in high school and producing five kids.

Another reason is that stupid people are migrating into Western countries. This is an easy one as we just have to look at the news. The migrants flowing in from south of the equator into Western countries are bringing a mean IQ in the 80’s and sometimes, in the case of Somalis, the 70’s. They also breed like rabbits. A country full of 95-IQ white people that becomes 90% white and 10% Somali will lose almost ten IQ points. This is just an accelerated version of the above answer. It turns out that Magic Dirt is not real.

Finally, the hardest one to grasp is that something has happened to change the evolutionary pressure on the population that is now changing the rewards and punishments. Traits that in the past were punished, thus resulting in fewer children by those with those traits, are now neutral or maybe even slightly favored. We know smart people tend to live longer, so reducing the risk of death by misadventure or even death from common maladies could be lowering the over all IQ of Western populations.

If you want to read a bunch of smart people debating this, this post by Greg Cochran has a lively comment section. What you’ll note is that people focused on genetics tend not to consider environmental factors. In fact, they often veer into a form of genetic determinism that sounds a lot like astrology. The fault dear mortal is not in our stars, but in our genes, that we are just moist robots. People who tend to this sort of thinking are usually unfamiliar with 4GL programming languages or write JavaScript for a living.

That’s not to say free will is a real thing. Humans are not free to rewrite their personalities anymore than they can make themselves taller. We are the result of our wiring, plus some environmental factors like the community in which we were born, climate and serendipity. Someone born to the Amish will be raised to develop pro-Amish traits and ignore traits that are no useful to the Amish way. Environmental factors may play a small role over all, but they do play some role in what we are as people.

In specific cases, it could have an enormous role. Greg Cochran’s Gay Germ idea is a great example. Homosexuality is most certainly not genetic. Nature works against low-fitness. Males with a trait that sharply reduces their ability (or willingness) to mate will have far fewer offspring and therefore pass on this trait in low numbers. In just a few generations, the trait would die out. In the case of homosexuality, we know there were gay Roman emperors and Elton John is still with us, so this trait cannot be genetic.

Alternatively, homosexuality is either taught or the result of psychological damage done at a young by something like molestation. This is a popular idea on the Right, but it does not explain most cases. Lots of homosexuals grew up fairly normal lives and were simply attracted to the same sex once they hit sexual maturity. That’s where Cochran’s gay germ comes in. Instead of a trauma, it is a virus or parasite that triggers changes in brain chemistry, resulting homosexual behavior. That would provide an answer that fits the data.

Bringing this back to IQ, what if something like this is at work with Western IQ? Maybe not a germ, but environmental factors that are having a cascading effect on mean IQ. For example, such an idea has been posited to explain the spike in black crime. Many on the Left think the Tragic Dirt is contaminated with lead, leading to low-IQ and increased violence for the people living on the Tragic Dirt. It’s not a crazy idea, but like the Gay Germ, it is not proven idea. It’s more of a thought experiment at this stage.

Here’s soemthing else. Smoking rates began to decline in the middle of the last century, with the Baby Boomer interest in health. Nicotine is known to increase focus and increase your cognitive abilities. It’s why writers and computer programmers were all smokers. In fact, STEM fields in the 20th century were dominated by men who chain smoked at their desks. Anyone who has had to sit for hours working a math problem knows how exhausting it can be. Even a small boost in focus has enormous results.

What if the apparent uptick in Western IQ was accelerated by smoking? Tobacco was introduced to the West in the 16th century and its use increased steadily. By the 18th century, the use of tobacco was common. By the 19th century, smoking cigarettes was ubiquitous. Everyone smoked. It also corresponds with the Industrial Revolution. Once tobacco use became universal, Western technological progress took off like a rocket, culminating in a rocket literally taking off and putting men on the moon.

Once the anti-smoking crusades got a purchase in the 60’s and smoking rates declined, it does appear that the West began to decline. Perhaps that small boost to our cognitive ability had a huge impact on our intellectual achievements. Now that the crutch is gone, we’re doing idiotic things like putting minorities in charge and inviting in low-IQ barbarians from the fringes of civilization. Perhaps the lunacy that has gripped the West is simply the withdraw symptoms of kicking the habit.

Maybe we need to start smoking again.