Between Barbarians and Fanatics

For most of human existence, the great conflict was between ordered civilization and chaotic barbarism. The Bronze Age societies had to contend with barbarians from the north. The Greeks and Romans had to deal with various barbarian tribes to their north and east. Medieval Europe had to deal with the Viking raiders and the Mongol invaders from the east. Then there were the Muslim invasions from the South that threatened Christendom. The story of the West has been the story of fighting barbarians.

By the time the West reached the Enlightenment, barbarian invasion was a thing of the past. In fact, it was inconceivable. The Nordic people were just as settled as the rest of Europe. Their days of raiding and pillaging were over. The idea of Asian tribes crossing through Russian into Europe was equally ridiculous. Of course, the Muslims had been beaten back and were no longer a threat. In fact, it was the West that was now heading south into the Middle East and Africa. The barbarians were no longer an issue.

Instead of organizing to keep the barbarians from coming over the horizon, it was the West sailing over the horizon to conquer the barbarians. The thing is though, all those years of organizing to defend civilization from the barbarians, however one wants to define the terms, meant a degree of internal vigilance. There could be no tolerance of internal actors and actions that weakened the social and political structures. Civilization was a near run thing so anything that weakened the West internally could not be tolerated.

The Catholic Church gets a bad rap for being intolerant of science during the Middle Ages, but that’s mostly left-wing nonsense. In an age when dissent could pull the support posts out from society, intolerance of troublemakers made a lot of sense. Of course, from the perspective of the secular rulers, a theological consistency, one that supported the order atop which they presided, was seen as essential. Anything that threatened the internal logic of the social order, even unintentionally, had to be treated very seriously.

That meant an extreme intolerance of religious fanatics. The post the other day about the Flagellants is a good example. The Church and secular rulers suppressed the movement because their fanaticism threatened order, by questioning the legitimacy of the Church. After all, if God was punishing people with the plague, that implied the Church was not on good terms with the Almighty. Throw in the fact the Flagellants were preaching about a coming age of bliss and it is easy to see why the Church suppressed them.

The point is, the West was good at policing the ranks for fanatics, because they had no choice. The very real threat from beyond the borders coupled with the fragility of the feudal order meant anyone coloring outside the lines was a mortal threat. As the alien threats receded, the need to impose a uniform intellectual order receded with it. While it resulted in a great intellectual flourishing in the West, it also let all the fanatics off their leash. The result is the West has been convulsed by fanaticism since the Enlightenment.

That’s how you have to look at radical ideologies like Marxism. These theories defy observable reality and imagine something that has never existed. There’s simply no way for a sober minded person to accept the idea of the worker’s paradise. Only a true believer is willing to commit their life to something that has never existed on earth. It is the same cognitive tool set that allows someone to think they can appeal directly to God or conjure miracles, simply because they believe. The fanatic is the fuel of radicalism.

In The Inequality of Man, the great natural scientist J. B. S. Haldane argued that fanaticism was a Judaic-Christian invention. That’s most certainly wrong, but he was not wrong to think it had been a feature of mankind for a long time. It is the fuel that drives a people to build a great culture. As we saw in the last century and now in our present age, it is also the fuel of great raging destruction. Other than allowing the rage of the fanatics to run its course, no one has yet to come up with a way to meet the challenge of the true believer.

That really is the challenge of this age. Lacking anything resembling a unified religion, our overabundance of fanatics are free to indulge in whatever is handy. One minute they are threatening order if gays are not allowed to marry. The next minute they are tearing down the borders, inviting in the barbarians our ancestors pushed over the horizon. It’s as if some strange mind virus is sweeping our societies, turning the afflicted into berserkers, beyond the reach of reason. As a result we edge closer and closer to collapse.

What’s happening in America, at least, is a replay of what happened in the Pennsylvania colony at the founding. The eastern part of the state was home to many fanatics, convinced they were part a project to immanentize the eschaton. To the west were the borderland people, living in the hills as pre-settled people. In between was where the civilized people lived, just looking to live peaceful, orderly lives. Eventually the middle aligned with the east to keep the hillbillies in the west from overrunning the middle.

To a great degree, this was true for the country as a whole. The emotional energy of the crazies, mostly located in the northeast, fueled the expansion across the continent. The Indians never stood a chance, not because of technology, but because the pale face was driven by a sense of destiny. It powered the northern conquest of the South and the expansion of America into a global power. It came with a price. Just as Pennsylvania is still dominated by Philadelphia, America remains captive to the Northern crazies.

That said, geography kept the crazies on their leash into the 20th century, with the exception of the Northern invasion of the South. As technology made it possible for the fanatics to extend their reach into every corner of the country, the threat of nuclear annihilation forced a degree of discipline on the elites. With that gone, the fanatics were free to run wild, pulling at every support beam and cable they can find. That’s where we find ourselves today. There are no barbarians at the walls, just our own fanatics.

If the West in general and American in particular, is going to survive this age, it will mean coming up with a way to control the fanatic. Perhaps it will mean finding a DNA test to look for the lunacy gene or simply change the culture to fear fanaticism. We were once willing to do what had to be done to ward off the barbarian.  Maybe we learn how to cull our herd in order to remove the crazies, no matter how unpleasant. Civilization lies between the barbarian and the fanatic. Both must be tamed if we are to survive.

The Seekers

The book, When Prophecy Fails, is a classic work of social psychology written in the 1950’s based on a study of a UFO cult called the Seekers. This group was led by a woman named Dorothy Martin, who claimed that aliens spoke through her to warn of a coming apocalypse. She employed something called “automatic writing” to channel the messages from the people of the planet Clarion. Through her, they were telling humanity that a great flood was coming and the world would end on December 21, 1954.

The study documented the believers and how they coped with the fact the word did not end on December 21, 1954. What they found is that instead of the group realizing they had been duped by a lunatic, they quickly developed an explanation for why the great event had not occurred and came to believe that with the same degree of intensity they had believed the original prophesy. In the case of the Seekers, within hours they were telling themselves and the world that their faith had convinced God to spare the world.

It is a useful thing to keep in mind while observing the actions of the America Left. Whatever it was, today it is a cult. We tend to assume cults have a charismatic figure at the top, but that’s not always the case. Hassidic Jews are not led by a charismatic leader, unless you consider the Rabbi a cult leader. In fact, that may not be a bad comparison, in that Rabbis come and go, temporarily holding the position of sect leader. Progressives swap out their chief lunatic as well. Look at their list of three initial heroes.

In the summer before the 2016 election, the Cult was sure Hillary Clinton would be anointed as their new cult leader. They were so sure of it there were people quitting their jobs so they could prepare to move to Washington and serve the new ruler. Then disaster struck and the prophecy failed. Like the Seekers, they waited all night for a miracle, but there was no miracle. Also like the Seekers, the cult has cooked up an elaborate explanation, rather than accept the result. Russian collusion is a coping mechanism.

It does not stop there with the Progressive cult. They have a new prophecy that they are sure will come true on the first Tuesday of this November. They believe the magical blue wave will cleanse the Imperial Capital of the sinners, who defend the evil Donald Trump, by concealing the Russian hacking scandal. It’s why fiction writer Bob Woodward released his book this week and why the NYTimes ran the fictional op-ed. These are intended to be evidence at the trial of Donald Trump, when he is impeached and removed.

It’s also why Elizabeth Warren was out demanding they invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump now. After all, if it is inevitable, why wait for the election? As far as she and the other hormonal crazies in the cult are concerned, the impeachment and removal of Trump is written in stone. True believers always succumb to the Tinker Bell Effect, because they believe so intensely, they inevitably begin to see everything as confirmation of their deeply held beliefs.  Fanatics see only that which confirms their fanaticism.

You’ll also note that these periods of extreme mania come and go. When Trump fired Comey, the Left was apoplectic for a week. Comey himself was out there casting himself in the role of martyr for the cause. Then it passed and no one talks about him anymore, outside of grand jury rooms. When Trump met with Putin, there was another week of fevered lunacy in the Progressive media. This week’s spasm of fervor from the cult coincided with the Kavanaugh hearings. Next week, all of this will be forgotten.

What’s happening is the cult is responding to disconfirmation in the same way the Seekers handled it. Rather than reevaluate their positions or beliefs in light of obvious reality, they escalate their intensity as a way to pull the faithful together. Firing Comey showed Trump was not about to resign, as the cult believed. When he met with Putin, it annulled their Boris and Natasha fantasy. Now that Kavanaugh is obviously going to be confirmed, it undermines their belief that his own party is about to abandon him.

Another aspect of the Seekers is relevant here. Dorothy Martin came out of the same cult that gave birth to Scientology. She later went on to reinvent herself as Sister Thedra and start a new cult called the Association of Sananda and Sanat Kumara. Progressives have similarly morphed into different things over the years. You’ll also note that spiritual cults tend to be led by women or have a lot of high profile females.  The same thing is happening with the Progressives. It is hormonal woman shepherding non-whites.

All of this is amusing, but imagine a country with a powerful army and nuclear weapons being run by nutters like Elizabeth Warren. Imagine a situation room that looks like the editorial board of the Huffington Post. There are no obvious remedies to having the ruling class succumb to mass insanity. The big challenge is accepting it. The public can accept that their rulers are corrupt or evil. It’s really hard to accept that they are insane. The proof of that probably comes too late as the loonies have already pulled the roof down us.

Not My President

There’s a long debate in Dissident Right circles about the political acumen and the integrity of President Trump. One side looks at all the zig-zagging and flip-flopping on DACA and concludes that Trump is just a liar, who has figured out how to con well-meaning white Boomers. The other side looks at the same issue and sees a strategy intended to move the ball forward on the immigration issue as a whole. His latest antics over the gun issue, however, suggest that is he’s just a stupid bullshitter who got very lucky.

The gun issue has always been the one thing in American politics where you can reveal both the integrity and the intelligence of someone. Gun grabbers are always very stupid or very dishonest. Sometimes they are both. The 2A people are often just reflexively opposed to gun grabbing, without having thought it through, but gun grabbers are never honest or informed. It is the main reason that the NRA has been so successful. They have been blessed with an enemy incapable of honesty and unwilling to learn the facts.

Now, that enemy includes President Trump.

Trump knows even less about the gun issue than he does about marital fidelity, so no one on the 2A side figured he would be our champion. The assumption, to this point, was that he knew enough about politics to just avoid the topic and not get in bed with the gun grabbers. On an issue like guns, doing nothing is usually the best course. Most states are sensible on guns, so letting the states handle it is good for us. Instead, it turns out that Trump is making the classic Republican error of taking advice from his enemies.

It would be one thing if Trump did the DACA rope-a-dope, promising to sign a bill that everyone knows has no chance of becoming reality. His moves on DACA are pure politics and done with an eye on an eventual Supreme Court hearing. This gun grabbing lunacy he is spouting is damaging to the cause of gun owners and it reveals Trump to be a mendacious blockhead, with no idea why he is in the White House. It is no longer possible to argue that his maneuverings are 4-D chess. Trump is simply an unreliable liar.

What’s most offensive to the 2A community about what Trump is doing is that he is legitimizing options our side has worked for generations to de-legitimize. One is the option of using non-democratic methods to get around the people and impose gun control. His determination to ban bump-stocks by fiat is dangerous lunacy on its face. Worse yet, his endorsement of extra-judicial confiscation of guns on mental health grounds, elevates a crackpot scheme of the Left to something worthy of public debate.

Put another way, this jackass has undone generations of hard work by the very people who put him in office. Not even that feckless nitwit George Bush did something this egregiously stupid. Even Barak Obama was unwilling to go this far. This idiocy is right up there with Poppy Bush breaking his tax promise in order to get the Democrats in Washington to like him. It worked. They loved him, which was why he was a one term president. Trump is now setting himself up to follow Bush into the void of stupidity.

Now, the counter argument you will hear is that Trump is just playing more 4-D chess and this will amount to nothing. Well, a smart politician would know enough to not do that with this issue. This is not a parlor game. The pro-gun voter has no sense of humor on this stuff and they have zero tolerance for limp-wristed politicians too afraid of the girls to do the right thing. Speaking only for myself, I’d vote for a gay black Muslim over Trump right now. That’s right. I’d vote for Obama over Trump, just to send the 2A message.

I think everyone who voted for Trump understood they were getting a guy who would be long on bullshit and short on tangible accomplishments. The point of voting for him was to send a message, but also legitimize populist issues. Trump was the guy who would flip over the tables and discredit the status quo, opening the door for ambitious politicians to run on patriotic issues like immigration reform. Trump would build his wall, end some of the egregious immigration abuses, but the real work would be up to those who come next.

So far, Trump is looking like he is not going to deliver anything other than blowing his own horn every day and maybe dodging prison in the Mueller probe. Worse yet, the trade-off for his vanity will be the undermining of the one cause that truly defines what’s left of old stock America. By legitimizing gun-grabbing and executive fiat, he has just made it possible for the next President Obama to DACA the gun issue, by issuing new gun laws via executive order. Trump is proving to be one step forward and ten steps backward.

The one lesson of the Trump era is to not put too much stock in what Trump says. He is, after all, a bullshitter. He’s also a guy who will wheel on a dime if he senses he is on the wrong side. He is rather shameless in that regard. Still, the damage he has done to the cause of gun rights is incalculable and it will not be forgotten. Unless he eventually signs off on some bold pro-gun laws, lots of his voters will choose to spend the election day at the range come 2020, rather than cast a vote for a duplicitous gun grabber.

The Tan Man’s Burden

When I was a young man I had a job washing cars for a car rental place. Mostly the job was two or three guys vacuuming up the inside, shooting it with the deodorizer and then hosing it off. It was part-time work so there was a gang of part-timers working in shifts. For a young honky in the big city, it was an interesting experience because most of my colleagues were from the third world. There were a few other honkies and some American blacks, but most were immigrants from the third world.

One lesson I learned was that outside of America, the world is not black and white. In the States, race was always about blacks and whites. In the rest of the world, there are a lot of shades in between. There’s also a fair bit of tribalism too. The African guys had a low opinion of American blacks. One guy from Ghana used to tell me that only the stupid were caught by slave traders and shipped to the new world. The smart Africans stayed in Africa. West Indians also had a tough time with American blacks. They put a great deal of effort into separating from them.

The one guy I always remembered was a guy named Maurice, who was from the Caribbean and of mixed race. He was obsessed with his mixed race too. He never stopped talking about it. If he did not tell you he was mixed race, you would have assumed he was Spanish or maybe Cajun. In parts of the South like Louisiana you run into guys who are white, but they have some Indian mixed in, or maybe even a black or two way back in the family tree. They used to tick the white box, but now they tick the black box.

The thing about Maurice was he talked about his mixed race all the time because he was a man without a race. The blacks did not accept him as black and he just assumed the whites did not accept him as white. In all likelihood, no one cared. I know I did not care, but he cared very much. At the time, I just thought he was a guy with hangups, but looking back, I see now that being a mulatto is a strange curse. While it has no real social drawbacks in the modern age, especially for women, for whom it is an asset, the person of mixed race imagines it is a huge burden.

It may be a burden too. This story about Rodney Harrison calling out Colin Kaepernick for not being authentically black is a good example. Until this controversy, my guess is exactly no one cared that Kaepernick was half black, except Kaepernick, who appears to obsess over it. So much so he went overboard trying to prove he belonged in the black world, by affecting everything we would associate with black culture. His wigger act really is over the top and most likely the result of feeling like he has to be extra black in order to pass for black. He is a tanned and tatted Vanilla Ice.

It has been noted that Obama’s closest advisers are mixed race people who identify as black. Obama, of course, is of mixed race. He also has the added burden of having been raised abroad. His connection to the black American experience is theoretical, at best. Yet, he puts a lot of effort into being not white and one could be forgiven for thinking that maybe he nurses a grudge against whites. He did dedicate a book to his delinquent father, but has never had much to say about his white mother and white grandparents who raised him, other than a disparaging remark about them.

Being black in America has its own unique challenges. Being white in America is no guarantee of happiness either, but black people have some special challenges that are made easier on an individual basis by black solidarity. Talk to black professionals and one of the things they lament is the lack of black middle class institutions. The cookout with Ned Flanders is nice, but they want to be around other black people who share their outlook. It’s why the black middle class has struggled to cut off the black underclass. Racial solidarity is powerful stuff.

Mulatto man does not have anything like that as the mixed race people are roughly 3% of the population. The black-white portion of that is less than a third so the number of people with a black parent and white parent is very small. There’s never been an identity group for mulattoes so there’s no history or shared experience around which to build a racial identity. The result, at least for now, is a class of people with no tribe to call their own. They are not authentically black and they don’t believe they are accepted as white. That disengagement probably feels like a great burden to the person carrying it.

Blacktopia

A while back, there was a post on Unz about creating a black homeland. The piece was not very well done so there is no point in linking it. It was about how efforts to make race relations work had failed so a two-state solution was the only option. The plan was to turn a few states in the South into the new black homeland. Again, itt was not very well done so the particulars are not important.

What is striking about the idea of a black homeland, is it is an idea you never hear mentioned, even by racists. Lincoln wanted to send the freed slaves to Haiti or other Caribbean islands, but that’s forbidden knowledge these days. Yankee abolitionists would never have gone along with that as they wanted the freed slaves to riot and murder the bad whites in the defeated South. A dream they still nurse.

The American Colonization Society tried to create a black homeland for freed slaves, which eventually became Liberia. This probably would have worked if the demand for cotton had not made slavery so wildly profitable in the American South. By the end of the 18th century, Southern elites saw slavery as a dismal and dying institution, but the spike in the demand cotton changed those attitudes and killed any hope of ridding the nation of slaves and slavery through peaceful means.

The 20th century had some black nationalist movements that wanted to bring the former slaves back to Africa. Marcus Garvey is probably the most notable, but those efforts never went anywhere. The Nation of Islam guys are essentially black separatists arguing for blacks to withdraw from white society whenever and wherever possible, but they stop short of decamping for another land.

It’s not a crazy idea, if you think that blacks and whites can never truly live peaceably in a color blind society. If you’re black and assume the white majority will always have you under their thumb, a separate homeland should be attractive, as long as it does not mean going to Africa or the Caribbean. Those places are terrible and unfixable. A black homeland could only work if it is a part of the Anglosphere.

Some Basic Principles of Blacktopia

If you’re going to set up a black homeland, you have to start from some basic principles. The whole point of the endeavor to arrange things so that blacks can run their own shop and avoid the pernicious racism they must contend with in modern America. It is a form of reparations, just with a more logical end. The trouble with the TN Coates brand of reparations is it is really just a childish tantrum so that a middle-aged man-boy can pay his rent. Real reparations repair the damage and closes the books.

With that in mind, the first rule of Blacktopia is it has to have the promise of making black lives better. No one can know the future so the results of Blacktopia cannot be known in advance. All we can reasonably achieve is an arrangement where blacks are given every chance to succeed, and the results are in their hands. That means the land carved out for the new nation has to have all the natural resources you need for a successful country. It also has to have enough existing capital to provide for a strong start.

Carving out a new nation and moving millions of people into it is no small endeavor. It has to involve the least amount of harm in order to work. Money has to be allocated so the new citizens of Blacktopia can start their new lives with the least amount of hardship. Similarly, the people already living in Blacktopia need to be compensated where necessary. It’s not going to be cheap, but this is about trade-offs and the trade-offs need to be a consideration when creating this new nation.

Finally, it has to be sustainable and by that, I mean it has to settle the issue of race in the long term. Whites from Yankeedom have been making war on the bad whites over race for centuries. The point of Blacktopia is not just to provide closure for black victims of white racism. It has to close out the cold civil war between Yankeedom and the rest of America. That means the final configuration of this new nation has to be such that Yankeedom can no longer complain about the racism of whites.

Location

Finding a habitable spot that can support roughly 40 million people is not so obvious. The temptation is to find the least populated states and use those or maybe carve out part of Canada, but Blacktopia is not going to survive in a tundra or desert. Again, the first principle here is it has to have a chance to thrive. At the minimum, that means a decent climate, access to the sea and usable land.

The most obvious choice is California and maybe Oregon and Washington. Despite the massive flow of Mexicans into the state, California still has a low population density of 246 per square mile. New Jersey, by comparison, is 1210 per square mile. Washington state is 105 and Oregon just 41 souls per square mile. Without moving anyone out and just relocating black people to those states, the population density climbs to 311, which somewhere between Pennsylvania and Florida.

The trouble is Hispanics are not very friendly to blacks. Compton, which was made famous by the hip-hop group NWA, has slowly turned Hispanic, pushing out the blacks in a slow motion ethnic cleansing. This is a pattern seen all over America, one that liberals are fond of using to gentrify their strongholds. Washington DC imported Salvadorans, for example, as a way to freshen up the city.

That’s going to be a problem in the other lightly populated coastal area, the American South. Geographically, it is about perfect. You have mild climate, great agricultural areas, access to the sea and many good ports. There’s also the long history of blacks in the South, good and bad. In many respects, turning the South into Blacktopia would close the books on the Civil War. After all, the Abolitionists hoped the freed slaves would murder all of the white Southerners.

But, there’s a big problem. Southern whites have always been awful to blacks and there’s no reason to think that will change. Blacktopia would quickly look like South Africa circa 1975. One of the rules here is to make sure the new nation can survive. In theory the blacks could overwhelm the whites, but it is not a given and history says it is not the way to bet. The whites from Yankeedom would never tolerate it so this would lead to another civil war. Therefore, this option fails the basic principles outlined above.

That leaves New England. The population density of the six New England states is around 200 so there’s room for a lot more people. If you throw in New York, you have loads of room. The population of those seven states is roughly 35 million. Add in 40 million new people and you have a population density of Pennsylvania. Given that there are big cities like Boston and New York City, the density in the hinterlands would be quite low.

This region also is blessed with two world class cities and several smaller vibrant cities like Providence and Hartford. The current population is educated and productive. Most important, they have been lecturing the rest of us about race for 300 years. They fought a bloody war to help black people and fought a legal war to end segregation. Today, no people on earth fret over racism like the old Yankees of New England. They love black people!

Logistics

Now that we have the perfect location for Blacktopia, there are a few things that will need to be done. One is the current population of these states, and anyone born in these states are automatically citizens of the new nation. If you were born in New Hampshire, but now live in California, you are immediately a citizen of Blacktopia, but will be issued a visa for one year so you can decide to move back to your new country.

The reason for this is the new nation needs more than natural resources. The indigenous population is educated, rich and resourceful. They have built out the social organizations that a new nation will need in order to thrive. There’s also the goal of separating the old Yankees from everyone else as that has been a source of problems for 300 years. By keeping the current population in Blacktopia, we satisfy the core goals of the project.

Now, moving 35 million people to New England is no easy trick. The way to do this is to pay these folks $50,000 per head for relocation expenses. That’s well more than necessary, but there’s a hassle factor involved. The cost of that will be roughly $2 trillion, but in a big economy like ours that’s very manageable. There are trade-offs to everything and continued racial strife has costs well above this figure, I’m guessing.

The one last bit here is what to do with the people now living in New England and New York who were born elsewhere and wish to remain Americans. They would be allowed a year to move back to their home state. You can’t let this go on forever, so after a year, they either become a citizen of Blacktopia or they remain in the new nation. This solves the long term problem of people claiming rights in America, despite not having lived in America for decades. No more anchor babies either.

Conclusion

This little exercise has turned out better than I imagined. My instinct was to assume it was economically and logistically impossible, but once you think it through, it is very workable. Not only does it solve the problem of black people being treated poorly by whites, but it also solves the problem of whites warring on each other over the issue of race. The good whites are separated from the bad whites and that long running feud can be ended.

Inside Out

Human beings evolved over a very long time in small groups of related people. They hunted together, foraged together, ate together, slept together, and did all the other things one does, in front of everyone else in their group. In all probability, all of the things we consider to be private were public for most of human existence. It’s only when you can live behind walls, away from the sight of others, that you can have privacy.

Did privacy evolve with settlement? Did the need for privacy influence settlement? Was it both, like language and religion. For as long as we know, settled humans have maintained some degree of privacy. Northern cultures seem to maintain a greater divide between public and private, but every settled society had the concept of privacy. Romans may have used communal toilets in the open air, but they did not have sex in the streets or discuss their family matters in the open.

Privacy is the key to one’s identity. It’s why militaries march recruits around naked so much in their initial training. Criminal gangs, like some motorcycle clubs, will do the same thing to prospective members. Take away a person’s privacy and they can no longer stand apart from the rest. It’s hard to hold yourself distinct from others when they know even the most intimate things about you.

Today, the big challenge is keeping your financial life and medical life out of the hands of crooks and ne’er do wells. Unlike 50 years ago or 100 years or 500 years ago, a man on the other side of the globe can now peer into your life and learn things about you that you prefer to keep private. The people who signed up for Ashley Madison are now discovering that those privacy notices are not the safeguard they were promised.

It’s getting much worse than that. If you get a Google thermostat for the house, Google can now data mine your environment and they will. Your phone, your car, your TV, and your PC are all reporting on your behavior. We have gone from passively guarding our private lives to having to aggressively protecting our privacy. It’s a losing fight.

What happens when it is no longer possible to keep any of your life private? What if anyone with a curiosity can go on-line and find out whatever they like about you? It’s not just going to change how you think of others, but it is going to change how you think of yourself. Imagine a world where everyone has the circumspection of a B-list TV personality, always whoring for attention.

That’s one possible outcome. Another possible outcome is a bandit existence where on-line pirates rob people by first stealing their secrets. The Ashley Madison hack is a good example of how a small number of dirt-bags can take down a business. Granted, the business in question caters to dirt-bags, but that’s just a coincidence. The next time it could be a clinic that holds sensitive patient data.

In such a world, you will be forced to employ a combination of deceptions to build a zone of privacy around your life. Most people already have dummy e-mail accounts for signing up to websites. People use proxy services to surf the web. Imagine a world where everyone lies about everything in order to make it impossible to assemble the mosaic of their life. A world in which no one can trust anything about anybody is not one that can have much in the way of social cohesion.

I think we are seeing a case where technology has outpaced our ability to evolve the corresponding cultural and psychological traits. For a few thousand generations we have maintained some degree of privacy and now we may be suddenly thrust into a world of none. Similarly, we evolved in a world where communication was slow and personal. Now we are swimming in an ether of mass media.

Maybe the end is that of John the Savage.

 

Post-Christian West

On this day 1374 years ago, give or take, A Northumbrian army assembled on a field in the West Midlands, which is on the west (left) side of England. North Umbria was in the northern most territory of England, bordering Scotland. Their leader was a man named Oswald and he was the king of Bernicia. He was the most powerful king on the island, the Bretwalda, and the man often credited with the Christianizing the north of England.

On the other side was King Penda of Mercia, one of the other kings of the heptarchy. Mercia covered the area that is now called the Midlands, which is conveniently located in the middle of England. Penda was a pagan, the last pagan king of England. Mercia was not very powerful, but they stood in the way of Oswald dominating the south, so they were a natural target for the Northumbrians.

On the day of the battle, Oswald, no doubt, stood before his men and prayed to the new God for victory over their pagan enemies. The custom of the age was to promise gifts to the Church and maybe a daughter or son to the Church in exchange for victory. This was one of the many pagan habits the Church tolerated in order to bring the people slowly into the Church.

On the other side, Penda most certainly made offerings to the old gods, along with promises of additional sacrifices if they were victorious. The origins of King Penda are a bit murky, but we do know he was a pagan, and the pagan faith of Britain was Wodenism. It most likely came over with the Saxons and there’s some evidence that Penda was a Saxon.

The Battle of Maserfield probably lasted just a short while. The “armies” of the day were warbands under the command of an Althing or head chief. No one really knows, but the consensus is that armies were at most a few thousand men and probably numbered in the hundreds. In the end, Penda was victorious. Bede describes the outcome as a field made white with the bones of the saints. Oswald, when the battle was lost, is claimed to have knelt and prayed for the souls of his soldiers. Penda had him chopped into pieces and displayed on stakes.

If you were alive at the time, particularly if you were a Mercian, you probably thought Christianity was on the run and the old gods were reasserting their dominion. Certainly, Christians had their doubts. But, a dozen years later Oswald’s brother killed Penda at the Battle of Winwaed and a dozen years after that Oswiu presided over the Synod of Whitby where the secular and Christian authorities codified Christianity for the whole of England, including Mercia.

The point of this blast from the past is to illustrate how the culture can seem to shift very quickly. Even in the slow moving medieval period, a nation could switch religions within a generation. One day you’re helping your father burn the Christian missionary, the next day your son is packing wood under your pagan feet at the behest of the local priest. In a world where the religion of the king is the religion of the people, things can change quickly.

A little closer to our time is the matter of homosexual marriage. In the US, as is usually the case, the rulers impose their fads on the people through the mockery of the court system. That makes it easier for the people to pretend they are a conservative people with a liberal government. The reality is Christianity is dead in America so the people in charge know they will face no resistance.

In Ireland, a place to played up by Hollywood as an austere Catholic country, the people rushed to the polls to vote for homosexual marriage. It’s not that they really cared about the gays or that they were smiting the Church. They simply stopped being Catholic. In 1990, 80% of the people went to church each week. Today it is half that number so voting for homosexual marriage was just what the cool kids were doing.

The point here is that what you see happening today is a lot like what happened with the spread of Christianity through Europe. It was slow and proceeded in fits and starts. Early Christianity in Britain, for example, was hilarious due to the heavy drinking and fornicating of the priests. The commoners could hardly be held to account by such men, at least on moral issues. Over time, a critical mass of true believers gained the upper hand and Christianity became a defining force in English life.

That’s what we’re seeing with the New Religion. It’s not ready to wipe Christianity out completely. It’s simply too ridiculous to be taken seriously by enough people. But it is making steady progress. If you look at this post from a blogger with a name that is too hard to spell, what you see is the steady erosion of Christianity in America. A third of people under 30 have “no religious affiliation” which means they are not Christian.

About half the country does not attend church at all. In New England, the home of liberal fanaticism, church attendance has collapsed, now resembling Europe. The number of church closings in America suggests that self-reporting of church attendance is wildly inflated. Even in the South, which has always been the most religious part of the country, there’s been a decline in church attendance.

The Battle of Maserfield seemed to stall or even possible signal a rollback of Christianity, but it was just a blip. Similarly, the eradication of Christianity by people of the New Religion has stalled from time to time, but it is winning and will win in time. Today Christians are stripped of their property for disobeying homosexuals. In a generation they will be banned from public. Like Wodenism, Christianity will be a weird part of the past for future generations.

The Leverage Candidate

Like a lot of people on the fringe, I’ve been enjoying the Donald Trump show. Watching the panda-men of Conservative Inc. gasp and faint over the latest Trump statement is great theater. As Nate Silver from 538 puts it, The Donald is the world’s greatest troll. I get the sense Nate must read my blog as I made similar points two weeks ago. Maybe the shadow of this blog is longer than I think.

Anyway, I was thinking about Trump the other day when he lit up Caitlyn Graham and Rick Perry. That stunt with the phone number was pure gold. It both amused the crowd and shamed Graham for being a hypocrite. The line about Perry now wearing glasses was close to genius. When you can shift the focus from yourself to your critics in an amusing way, the critics get scared and usually pipe down.

Trump is our first leverage candidate. For two decades now we have seen loads of leverage companies and leverage financial institutions. The crash of 2008 was brought about by a leverage industry toppling over and taking the economy with it. The entertainment businesses, especially sports, are all levitating on warm gusts of leverage carrying them into the heavens.

The real estate business has always been about leverage. In normal times, someone with equity in a rental property could borrow against it to buy another rental property. The rule of thumb was that 80% of rental income had to cover 100% of the debt service. In simple terms, if the property generated $10,000 a month in rents at its peak, the mortgage could not be greater than $8,000 a month.

Clever real estate men like Trump would figure out how to push up rents to increase cash flow, which in turn drove up their asset base, allowing for more borrowing which they used to buy more properties. As principle was paid and the asset value increased, the difference in asset value and leverage could be turned into a tax free windfall. In Trump’s case, he would often liquidate properties he had made famous thus cashing out at their peak.

The way to think of it for the purpose of understanding Trump’s campaign is this. The savvy real estate man is always looking for a way to leverage his assets so he can jump on the next opportunity before the next guy. If you look at Trump’s career, you see he has moved from one project to the next, very often leaving suckers holding the bag as he walked away with a profit. Trump’s not a builder. He’s an opportunist.

That’s what’s happening in his campaign. He took stock of his assets. He’s famous and he is rich. He’s also nearing the end so he can afford to piss off other famous rich people, unlike regular candidates that have to suck up to the rich. Trump also has a way of connecting with the common people. He’s been doing improvisational television for a long time and he is good at it.

Those are the assets he has to leverage. The opportunities he is exploiting are immigration, the media culture, discontent with the Republican establishment and widespread angst about the culture and economy. My guess is he never had strong views on any of these things. He may not even have had opinions about them until now. He’s just a guy who is good at seeing and exploiting opportunities.

I think this is why the GOP is looking so silly trying to swat away Trump. They are used to dealing with people who fear nothing more than separation from the heard. Trump is not knocking on their door asking to join the club. He’s out on the lawn throwing rocks through the window because that’s where the opportunity lies. John McCain leaning out the window in his nightshirt and cap, yelling at Trump to get off his lawn is what Trump wants. It plays to his advantage.

Similarly, Trump is not builder. He does a deal and moves on. His whole life up to this point has been geared to winning the moment. That makes him uncommonly good at moving past a problem, a gaff or a misstep. He takes the loss and moves onto the next item. To be successful in his line of work, you have to have the conscience of a burglar. You can be sure Trump remembers every win and not a single loss.

That makes the conventional political attack ineffective because he is so good as brushing it off and re-focusing on his next opportunity. When he gets grief for being mean to McCain, he brushes it off and takes a shot at Caitlyn Graham. When the press howls about that, he points out that Rick Perry has a two-digit IQ.

As with everything, there is a limit to leverage and you eventually have to settle up and show a profit. Trump has made a lot of people a lot of money which is why people do business with him. But, he ruined more than a few too. It remains to be see how his presidential run will end, but the insiders are betting/hoping he is unable to deliver more than pithy lines criticizing his opponents.

That said, he is a smart guy and he likes winning. What started out as a vanity candidacy is looking more like a real campaign. Beppe Grillo started out as a gag too. Most people, especially the smart people, thought it was ridiculous to think a divorced actor could be president. Similarly, no one picked a degenerate from the Ozarks as a s serious candidate at this stage of the 1992 election.

For now, it is a good show.

Death of Europe

The other day I made the point that the the Greek drama was about erasing countries from the map of Europe. Everyone is going to pretend for a while that Greece is a real country, but eventually even the dumbest Greek will figure out that their national government is meaningless. The real power lies much further north and they are not all that interested in what the Greek voters have to say about anything. You don’t have citizens without countries.

The question is how exactly society is going to hold together without the glue of national sovereignty. You can be loyal to your family, your tribe and your countrymen because you share a history, biology and destiny. Loyalty to a committee of technocrats in a glass and steel office complex in another country seems implausible.

The dreariness of that last paragraph made me think about something else. That is the fertility rates in Europe. Men have children because they want someone to remember them and carry on their name and their ways. I can’t imagine anyone thinking that about the global technocracy. Looking at the Total Fertility Rates of the Euro nations, I see I’m not alone.

Euro Member TFR Euro Member TFR
Austria 1.43 Latvia 1.35
Belgium 1.65 Lithuania 1.29
Cyprus 1.46 Luxembourg 1.77
Estonia 1.46 Malta 1.54
Finland 1.73 Netherlands 1.78
France 2.08 Portugal 1.52
Germany 1.43 Slovakia 1.39
Greece 1.41 Slovenia 1.33
Ireland 2.00 Spain 1.48
Italy 1.42

To put those numbers into perspective, the populations to the south in Africa and to the east in the Muslim world have TFR’s double the typical European country. In some case it is four times higher. Demographers put the replacement rate at 2.1 so France is the only country planning to stick around for a few more generations. But, those numbers are inflated by immigrants so the TFR’s are probably lower across the board.

The odds of those numbers turning around are low because of this:

Euro Member Median Age Euro Member Median Age
Austria 44.3 Latvia 40.4
Belgium 43.1 Lithuania 39.7
Cyprus 34.5 Luxembourg 39.3
Estonia 40.2 Malta 39.7
Finland 43.2 Netherlands 40.8
France 39.7 Portugal 39.7
Germany 46.1 Slovakia 37.3
Greece 43.5 Slovenia 43.5
Ireland 35.4 Spain 41.6
Italy 44.5

Again, Africa and the Middle East have median ages half that of Europe. The demographic collapse that is looming over Europe is not going to be arrested by men wielding spreadsheets. It can only be arrested by men wielding something else, but the men of Europe are too old to wield much of anything these days. That and they don’t seem all that interested in it anyway.

This old Greek proverb comes to mind. “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Europe is at peace and is as prosperous as ever. It’s growing weak because their old men look around and wonder if it would have been better if they had never been born. Given the massive wave of migrants hitting Europe, it’s fair to wonder if the Europeans are just giving up.

Techno-Feudalism

Since the dawn of human settlement, being rich has been a process, not an end point. In order to accumulate capital, you need to figure out a way to organize people in such a way that their extra becomes your extra. Ideally, you leave a little for them so they think helping you grow rich is to their benefit. But, 1,000 years of feudalism proves it is not a requirement. With the right system, you can grow rich and powerful at the expense of others.

That’s the other part of the process though. To keep the peasants, slaves, servants, workers and associates from revolting, you either invest some of your extra back into them or you invest it in men with weapons who will keep the order. Recently the former has been the preferred method, but the only proven way to keep order is the latter. That’s why gun laws are enforced by men with guns.

This is not how most Americans look at economics. I’m sure a few reading this are thinking I have been reading too much Marx. But, that’s the thing. Marx was not wrong about everything. He made some excellent observations. His recommended solutions were insane, but many of his observations were spot on and hold up well even today.

Marx observed that capitalism, as he defined it, destroys and reconfigures previous economic orders, but also that it must ceaselessly devalue existing wealth. We see this today with Uber. The old order of state run cab companies is under assault from the new order of distributed contractors linked by a public information network paid for by people who don’t use it.

Joseph Schumpeter argued that this process was not pure destruction as Marxist claimed, but a reordering that eventually added value to the old stock of capital. The automobile did not entirely obliterate the horse and buggy industry. The carriage makers moved to the car business. The property employed in keeping and raising horses did not go away. It was re-purposed for car maintenance. While some value was lost from the end of horse travel, much of it was retained and a whole new layer of value was added onto it.

Both men were working from the perspective of rapid material progress. Events seem like they favor Schumpeter as opposed to Marx as we have seen whole industries grow up in one generation, displacing an old industry from our parents’ generation. The example I love using is the fax machine. In my lifetime, I saw it created, dominate and then replaced with something different. My parents could not imagine it and the kids today have never heard of it.

When I see stories like this one, I wonder if rapid material progress has reached an end or at least a lull. This looks like techno-feudalism to me. Amazon is trying to arrange things such that they can get writers to work for the benefit of Amazon, rather than their own benefit. Amazon gets the benefit of being the world’s largest bookstore, without incurring any risk. Get halfway through some book and decide you don’t like it? No problem. The author will refund you the difference! Amazon looks like a hero and the writer is looking for food in neighborhood dumpsters.

Amazon is not the only billionaire operation running these scams. Apple is trying to screw performers out of royalties. They backed off this time, but you can see where they are headed with this. These new “rental” services are about locking up the pipeline between the creator and the customer. Once they gain that edge, they will stop paying royalties. The next step will be that small acts get nothing but the benefit of “advertising” themselves on Apple or Amazon. It’s classic rentier behavior.

These are two recent examples, but the entire financial system is nothing but feudalism these days. Banks charge people for savings accounts. That forces everyone to put their savings into equities where smart people charge fees on investment funds. This arrangement means that when the economy is strong, everyone gets richer, but the rich get very rich. When the economy falls, everyone gets poorer, except for the rich, they keep getting richer. It is heads they win tails you lose.

The reason for wondering if these are symptoms of systemic stagnation is that when the pie is expanding, the rich guys are rushing to get the lion’s share of the new pie. When the pie is not growing, they look to expand their share of the pie at the expense of the weak. The new business from expansion is always the most profitable. Cannibalizing the existing market is low margin. When big players like Apple and Amazon are slumming this way, it suggests they have nowhere else to turn for profit.

It’s what appears to be at the heart of the massive new trade bill that just passed. The point of it is not to expand the US market, letting a rising tide lift all boats. No one believes that anymore. This bill is about making it easier for global players to loot the American middle class. William the Conqueror imposed feudalism in the English speaking world after the Battle of Hastings. Silicon Valley and Wall Street are imposing it on America a millennium later.