The Confluence

Everyone likes to think they live in interesting times, but it is really hard to know as you can only really know your age. You can read about the past, but you really can’t know what it was like to be alive in a prior age. What we come to think of us great eras or important periods are usually when one period ends and another begins. That means the violent end of some portion of the established order and the noisy birth of its replacement. The French Revolution is an obvious example.

A decade ago, no one would have thought the West was entering an important moment. Most experts were still talking about the end of history and how the whole world was headed for that central collection point of democratic capitalism. No one talks like that now for obvious reasons. What we call capitalism is just global feudalism and democracy seems to be on the run, in one fashion or another, just about everywhere. Maybe it is temporary and unimportant, but it does feel like something important is happening.

In America, one thing that does appear to be true is the old ruling order is beginning to crumble. After the Civil War, the established order was that the nation would be ruled by the Yankee north or at least by people who accepted that world view. This made sense as the South was in ruins and the industrializing North was not only victorious, but prosperous. At the founding, the South and Tidewater dominated the new country. After the Civil War, it was the North that dominated the nation.

This arrangement probably should have faded away by the early 20th century, but the Industrial Revolution kept the South relatively backward. Instead, the two great industrial wars and then the Cold War locked things in place. The South slowly modernized, but the political culture of the country remained as it had been for a century. It is not an accident that the only Southerners to have success in national politics have been liberals or people who embraced Progressive causes.

That appears to be changing. Progressivism, the civic religion of the North, has degraded into a lunatic cult and marginalized itself. The leaders still control the high ground, but they are under assault. Buckley conservatism, which has served as the ideological enforcers for the Left, is imploding. These people may not be packing their bags, preparing for exile, but the 2016 election map makes clear that the old Yankee hegemony is coming to an end. The sensibilities of the rest of the country will have to be included in the political culture.

Now, it is possible that Progressivism is on its death bed. Unlike Europe, the American Left has never been about economic equality. It was always about spiritual equality. The radicals on the Continent were always obsessed with busting up the class structure. The radicals in American have always been focused on saving the immortal soul of the nation. Economic equality was never anything more than a a political tool for the reformers to use as a way to get control of the culture in order to impose their moral vision on the nation.

In order for this to work, the Left has always needed victims and oppressors, saints and sinners. In the 20th century, they could champion black civil rights and women’s issues. Then it was onto gays and now foreigners. The trouble is, they are running out of victims to champion. Black guys getting pushed around by rednecks at the polling booth make for sympathetic victims. Mentally unstable men in sundresses wanting access to the girl’s toilet are not good victims. They are ridiculous and championing them makes the champions look ridiculous.

There’s also a noticeable lack of villains. Donald Trump is supposed to be the 12th invisible Hitler, returning to impose a dictatorship on America. The trouble is, Trump sounds like a Jewish guy from Queens and his kids converted to Judaism when they got married. So far, his most enthusiastic supporter among world leaders is the Prime Minister of Israel. They ain’t making Hitlers like they used to. This comes after the nation twice elected a black guy president. The unhinged hatred of white people that has carried the Left for generations has descended into madness.

Something else that is working against the Yankee hegemony is the collapse of the blank slate. Progressivism rests on the assertion that people come into the world as an amorphous blob that can be shaped and trained to be anything. That means a just society has virtuous people at the top to make sure the citizens are properly shaped and trained. This imperative has always been the source of authority for the American Left and now it is unraveling as science unlocks the human genome.

It is impossible to overestimate the impact of genetics on moral philosophy as everything about Western culture depends on free will. Democracy assumes that all people are equally capable of participating in the civic life of a people. While most people have always sensed that this is not true, scientific proof that it is not true changes everything. You cannot have egalitarianism and multiculturalism without assuming humans come into the world as a blank slate. If people are not endlessly malleable, there’s no point in trying to mold them.

Long term trends like these do not change overnight so this great confluence of events may play out over generations. It could turn out that the natural order is for the North to dominate the political life of the nation. Genetics could find the “free will” gene and validate everything Progressives have claimed for generations. It is impossible to know, but it is not the way things are heading. Right now it feels like three great trends in American cultural life are coming to a conclusion at roughly the same point.

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Horace Pinker
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I’m reminded of a very good essay that I read recently: “As a new species of religious functionary, the Left is anatomically ill-formed and physiologically unsound, and pathologically so. It is a functional equivalent to the Church that isn’t quite up to the task; at once enough like the priesthood to try to fill the latter’s shoes, and enough unlike it to fail comically. The Progressive religion-surrogate shares, with traditional religion, eschatological hope for the eventual redemption of Man and a life in which there is no longer any discrepancy between essence and existence, ought and is, right and fact.… Read more »
Christopher S. Johns
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A good article there, but a point perhaps overlooked is that it was Christianity itself that rendered the early impulses of the Progressive movement both sensible and serious, and that the Progressive movement has become more extreme and more absurd the further it has drifted from its grounding in American Protestantism. Progressives have cut themselves adrift deliberately, because they have come to believe in the Marxist dogma that Christianity is an instrument of global oppression, but they have done untold damage to themselves in the process without realizing what they have done. Though the Christian virtues as understood by the… Read more »
alzaebo
Guest

I for one have had enough Soaring Oratory for a lifetime. Give me a Trump, give me a Zman, but god bless save me from the windbags.

(Even though they make some decent points, lost in the blowing gale)

alzaebo
Guest

Allow me to retract or delete my unkind comment, and I apologize to Horace Pinker.
Good points with good intentions, I am in error.

Horace Pinker
Guest

No apology is necessary. The author is a neoractionary and they can be tedious to read much of the time. Your first comment is sort of how I feel about Nick Land.

Member

Thanks for that link! Subscribed to Thermidor and bookmarked the blog.

Member

“That means a just society has virtuous people at the top to make sure the citizens are properly shaped and trained. This imperative has always been the source of authority for the American Left and now it is unraveling as science unlocks the human genome.”

What?

I’m confused. Power and money cause evil to come out in the open and this has what to do with ‘science’? Everything after these two sentences makes no sense. Evil is real.

Zorost
Guest
The previous sentence puts it into context (my underscore) “Progressivism rests on the assertion that people come into the world as an _amorphous blob_ that can be shaped and trained to be anything.” Science has disproven this theory of the ‘blank slate.’ Check out the Minnesota transracial adoption study. Black kids raised by white parents still have a lower IQ on average than white kids raised by black parents, for example. Google “MAOA gene”, sometimes called the warrior gene. Blacks have a much higher incidence of the variant of this gene that is highly correlated with violent behavior. The reason… Read more »
Member
It’s not only that the progs set out to save the Nation’s soul. They’ve been on a quest to save the world’s soul too. Hence all the military adventurism, nation building, and the bizarre assumption that simply moving savages into democratic nations will magically civilize them. I saw a report recently where one of the French candidates in the upcoming elections apologized for French colonialism, and the damage it wreaked on places like Africa. Well, if colonialism is bad, destroys the culture, and leaves the natives in ruins, why the hell are they allowing themselves to be colonized? Guilt, I… Read more »
Dutch
Guest

Many “victims” of the French colonialism in North-West Africa think well of the French, and appreciate the country’s ongoing efforts to help where they can. (This from my indigenous relatives living in Mali). They do scratch their heads about the uncontrolled immigration. People everywhere have a sense of right and wrong, whether or not they choose to abide by it in their own lives.

Member

That’s what makes the French candidate’s “apology” even sillier. It’s all just moral preening / virtue signalling. He probably doesn’t believe a word of it.

Drake
Guest
Times always get interesting. I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve pretty much for the hell of it in 1989. On my last full day of boot camp, one of my Drill Instructors guaranteed that some of us would be in combat during our first enlistments. I didn’t necessarily disagree, but I was damn sure it wouldn’t be me unless the Soviets started WWIII. The Marine Reserve had not been deployed since Korea. Fast forward a year-and-a-half – I’m sitting on the Saudi-Kuwaiti border with a rifle and a radio during the battle of Kafji. The whole time I was… Read more »
Janet
Guest

I joined the Army Reserve the summer of 1989, too. During the 8 weeks I was in Basic, the Berlin Wall came down, Tianamen square happened, and the Ayatollah died.

They told us NOTHING about it. It was like I was in Brigadoon rather than Ft. Jackson. I went in there with one world, came out with another.

Member
I don’t know that I agree with your statement on genetic biodiversity. It’s kind of an underground, disreputable thing that you only see among the redpilled. It does firm up the convictions of such, myself included. The biggest problem the blank slate is having isn’t biodiversity IMO, but simple observation. The world just isn’t living up to what the progressives claim it to be. Nonwhite people aren’t the same as everybody else, and white people arent the source of all evil. People look out at the world and their own eyes tell them the truth the narrative tries so desperately… Read more »
Horace Pinker
Guest
Nicholas Wade is bestselling author and former staff writer for the science section of the New York Times. In 2014 he published a book titled ‘A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History’ while he was still employed by the Times. They ran negative reviews of the book and published a letter that was signed by over 100 population geneticists, some of whose work was cited in the book, condemning Wade for misrepresenting their field. One of their gripes was that Wade suggested that national differences in IQ scores are a big driver of global inequality. The thing is, Wade… Read more »
Member

I don’t dispute the science. Quite the opposite in fact. The argument I was trying to make is that because of the left’s megaphone, it’s not the science that is undermining the left but instead people observing that reality isn’t living up to the narrative, because science. The science is right, but it’s the cognitive dissonance of the narrative that is causing the narrative to self-destruct, not the science itself.

Horace Pinker
Guest

Somehow I missed this sentence: “It does firm up the convictions of such, myself included.” I’d like to blame my poor reading comprehension on a cranky toddler who kept me up last night, but the truth is probably that I was born this way.

Member

I think that genetics, aka DNA, determine the individual’s potential, and then environment and nurture determine how much of that potential is achieved. And almost none of us ever achieve anywhere near all of our predetermined potential. Most don’t ever get close. With no amount of training could I ever manage to run the two-minute mile. Some others can manage a five or six minute , or even that 4.5 minute mile. I suspect my capabilities would be running the nine-minute heart attack.

Member
If people are not endlessly malleable, there’s no point in trying to mold them. If people are to any degree malleable, then there is a point of molding them. (Of course, if they are only malleable a tiny amount then molding them may be prohibitively costly.) However, the scientific truth is darker than you suggest. People are not malleable at all, at least on the few things that we can characterize well enough to have scientific evidence about. In particular IQ. IQ is about 75+% genetic with the remaining <25% being non-shared environment. It is 0% shared environment: schooling, etc.… Read more »
Ivar
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An awareness of biological reality on some level may partially explain the progs’ mania for multiculturalism, extreme individualism, and ethnic blending./race mixing of every variety. “Multiculturalism” is a code word for one-world monoculture. The prog dream ultimately requires such a monoculture, a one-world government, and a one-world blended people, a “light tan Everyman.” The mere existence of Europeans is an affront to the dream.

Dr. Dre
Guest
I read somewhere that Project Head Start, i.e. pre-school for low income youngsters, an attempt to bring them up to speed intellectually before they start elementary school, pretty much has nothing to show for the effort with these children a few years later. Another poor use of tax dollars attempting to improve our failing multi-cultural impasse! I am beginning to think that removing children from their deplorable “homes” and putting them into boarding school-like situations with regular hours and meals, exposure to good music and religious training, and kind adults, properly supervised, might be an answer. Right now kids from… Read more »
Member

Yeah, it seems Head Start was full of theory, but in reality, it’s just government supplied child care, and the sad thing is, even though it’s not providing the “head start”, it has turned into a better place for too many young kids who would otherwise be in a unstructured environment at many homes. Sticky situation.

ShadowDweller
Guest
This leads directly to a question that few people want to contemplate. If we acknowledge the biological differences in inherent capability how do you construct a nation or state of free and equal citizens unless it is mono-ethnic? In any multi-ethnic nation of state where the ethnicity’s have a difference in inherent capacity you will have a structural driver for one group to game the system over another group simply due to competition between the different ethnicity’s core capacities. This would suggest as a very simple level that to have a truly free and equal citizenry that is stable at… Read more »
Member

Also, at some point, the progressive left (d)evolved from the holy building a better tomorrow to holiness being an end in and of itself. The progressive left no longer cares about real world results anymore, and nobody is in charge of or responsible for anything. It’s anti-hierarchical and moral relativist, where the overall mob of believers both produce and enforce doctrine. The goal is to spread itself, not to build or create anything in the real world.

Member

1989 was a really bad year for the lefty-progs in the U.S.

Member

I think the normals accepted the rulers pushing the blank slate as long as they saw it tinkering around the edges and more or less well-intentioned. Then it went too far. What’s so well-intended about fining a baker for not wanting to violate his religious beliefs, or forcing girls to use the same bathroom as perverts? The Cult went wild under Obama and the result is Trump, who, though he may seem a little erratic, is normal like the rest of us. Biology and human nature are stubborn things. They are not going away any time soon.

SamlAdams
Guest
There was a great collection of stories about African big game hunting by Robert Ruark, titled “Use Enough Gun”. One of the great annoyances to guides was the novice “Great White Hunter” who wanted to demonstrate his prowess by using less than the recommended caliber. Too often the result was a wounded and now infinitely more dangerous animal. It feels like we’ve reaching this stage with the Left. Yes, they are wounded. Yes, they are on the run in most electoral districts. But what I’ve seen coming from otherwise educated and sane left leaning individuals (“you are literally HItler if… Read more »
Drake
Guest

The problem is that you have to use enough gun to replace 80% of the Republicans in Congress. It’s already obvious that they aren’t going to make any meaningful reforms.

Member

Criminal prosecutions, RICO Act. Let thee be penalties when they egregiously overstep. Give them the same mercy as they give us or anyone else.

Member

I’ll take ’em wounded and dangerous vs large and in charge, any day. The left are suffering a mental breakdown as everything they just knew was true is not. A majority of them will red pill and wake up. We’ll be left with minority that thrashes and screeches but as soon as their money systems are gone after, they’ll wither. The key is the NGO’s, Foundations and Soros, who are funding the rage right now.

Member

Yeah, but it’s all bluster. It really is. I understand how really nasty that stuff sounds, but when push comes to shove that NY Bar admitted, middle aged, attorney will do PRECISELY NOTHING. Yeah, he’ll vote (D), but he already did that, and it didn’t matter. He’ll blog about it, maybe say some mean things, but in terms of action? Nothing.

SamlAdams
Guest
That is certainly my hope. Just a fever that eventually breaks. From a demographic view, this is simply behavior that has traditionally been confined at the college student level. But here, behind enemy lines, the demographic difference is marked. And the lawyer (female BTW–who also proudly posted a video of herself shouting “Never Trump” when she ran into Bill Clinton at a ski resort out West recently). Or another consultant with a well known firm putting profile pictures with Trump superimposed over a swastika. It goes on. At least the 60s protesters had an “ask”. Get out of the Vietnam… Read more »
kokor hekkus
Guest

JayMan has a bunch of articles about the genetics of the different American Nations, though we also need to remember that Americans move around more than any nation on Earth….In any event, we swim in the seas of our times….while the seas of the past and future are mostly unimaginable to the living.

james wilson
Guest

Democratic Socialism is the natural state of a democracy, unfortunately. That is a hard pill to swallow for a “conservative”, but my mind is no longer open at both ends. What accelerates the decay in democracy is universal suffrage. But the most lethal snake in that grass is woman. That is not to disparage women, but to understand democracy. There are many styles of living that bring out the best, or the worst, in individuals and in groups. The best and most indispensable of the unique qualities of women become lethal in herds of policy.

Dutch
Guest

The woman’s point of view is lethal when it is applied in a world dominated by Alpha men. So the plan was to eliminate the Alpha male. Trump just monkey-wrenched that strategy.

Member

And democratic socialism in one country is……?

Member
The irony, of which I am loving, daily, is: Obama said and ran on fundamental change of the U.S. I think it’s fair to say he kicked some dents in here and there, but largely failed. I ponder to think what the landscape of the body politic and everything we have been forced to think as the new normal, will have been eviscerated by the end of Trump’s first term. We are on a ride, that few get to take. We are watching a country reshaped like nothing since Wilson. ( no offense to 1980 and Regan)
alzaebo
Guest

Breathtaking. Nobody sees our times more broadly or explains it more clearly than the Zman.

We are indeed most fortunate to have him.
May his wisdom last a thousand years!

Member

Everyone likes to think they live in interesting times

Interesting times are led by interesting people. Society has become so vanilla and milquetoast, and our “leaders” so devoid of personality, that opinion leaders have all the excitement (at least publicly) of elevator music. Without interesting people how can you have interesting times?

Anonymous White Male
Guest
“This arrangement probably should have faded away by the early 20th century, but the Industrial Revolution kept the South relatively backward”. According to Richard Kelly Hoskins in “War Cycles Peace Cycles”, Virginia did not have the debts from the costs of Reconstruction and debt that the negro legislature acquired when the Federal Government disenfranchised the White Citizenry paid off until the 1960’s. Considering that they also had Confederate War Debts, had property stolen from them (land and slaves), plus other Northern debt instruments as well, the poverty in the Southern States was deliberately induced so that the South would remain… Read more »
Jak Black
Guest
“If people are not endlessly malleable, there’s no point in trying to mold them.” I wish this were true. Back when I was trying to absorb all things conservative, I read Albert J. Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man and recall a point he made. The gist of it was that in discussion with a “conservative” the fellow was of the opinion that since man could never be perfected (Original Sin and all that) there was really no point in trying to change man at all. But Nock disagreed (if I recall, in a footnote), and said that even though… Read more »
LetsPlay
Member

Zman, nice job connecting the dots.

However, I must ask, did you mean to say “invalidate” in your last paragraph?

“Genetics could find the “free will” gene and validate everything Progressives have claimed for generations.

Free will goes against the Liberal strain. They want to kill it.

Member
Still catching up. I’ve been storing Zman posts in my head all week. I especially like the introductory frame of this one. even those with strong historical backgrounds and some vague sense of the scale of time, the flow of events, etc., can only see their own times in front of them and conversely these are the times we most struggle to give some kind of name, structure, or meaning to. For my part, I’m not sure that the old order I see crumbling is not still the last remnants of western civilization, the traditional social/sexual/moral orders, the state/nation/ethnic group… Read more »
Member
I admit I’m loathe to give up free will myself. I grew up with that version of conservatism that stressed personal accountability and resisted progressive attempts to always blame other factors. I realize they mainly meant environmental factors, but digging in on personal responsibility to resist that leaves me a bit unable to yield ground to genetics. I’d like to think there’s a couple of levels of analysis. We may all be wired in certain ways and to operate within certain limits, but most of us certainly seem to have some capacity to use executive function to weigh costs and… Read more »
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