The Forest hidden amongst the Trees

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFYPlNsTS8Y

The above scene was perhaps one of my favorites in the recent Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises”, mostly for it’s clear and direct use of camera angles and body language to emphasize the sheer overwhelming dominance of the villain Bane.  It’s straightforward, succinct, and eloquent.  The heavy hand on the shoulder is a particularly poetic move.

Why am I discussing body language?  Just an observation of the way in which physicality is used so bluntly to demonstrate who is really in charge.  Is this important? In itself, it is not.  It is merely a demonstration of the fact that power expresses itself in a variety of ways, but it always finds a way to show its face.  This can be through overt shows of dominance and strength, or in a more subtle fashion.  We can always recognize power wherever it may reside, as long as we know where to look and how to identify it.

Watch this scene again.  Take a look at how the characters are dressed.  One is wearing a tailored suit, showcasing financial resources.  The other is clad in paramilitary ensemble, highlighting his capability for violence.  If we stood those two men next to each other, with no context, it would be hard to tell who is more powerful in that scenario.  For the purposes of the film, the party with the upper hand (figuratively and literally) is pointed out, but if we did not have that shoved in our face, how might we tell who is the more powerful of the two men (judged upon which of their powers is more relevant and thus “wins out” in this situation)?

We would have to rely on more than just camera angles.  Body language is a key factor here.  Facial expressions will also be of note. Watching the interplay between the two would reveal signs that we might pick up on.  If all we had to go on was a still image, we might even have to go on the look in each character’s eyes at that given moment, but we would still manage to find contextual clues that underlie the dynamic at work.

As with power, reality always finds an outlet to reveal itself.  However, while it is fairly easy to pick up on power dynamics and such things, reality is a far more nuanced thing to seek, and there is no end to the difficulty of teasing it out from the signs of its nature.

What do I mean by reality?  I use the term to refer to the underlying principles behind which the world operates.  I won’t get into vague metaphysical quibbling (it always was my least favorite branch of philosophy) so I shall merely state that for my purposes here that is the definition I shall be operating from.

So how might we tease out reality?  A good first step might be to step outside and observe it,  What is to be done once this is accomplished, though?  Observations mean nothing in and of themselves.  We must interpret and analyze the results in order for them to have any meaning to us.  Watch an apple fall from a tree a few times, and you can perhaps reason that if you drop an apple and it will fall.  Take some measurements and apply some calculation and you can derive the gravitational constant, however.

The tricky bit is that it is incredibly easy to create differing interpretations for some phenomenon.  My car might refuse to start because it is frozen from staying out in the cold all night, because my neighbors have sabotaged my engine, or because I might have offended a particularly unruly deity of some sort.

In cases in which we must pit two interpretations of the world against each other, oftentimes there is no discernible way at first to identify which one may be more in concert with reality.  Religion offers us boundless examples of this.  Is Theravada or Mahayana the correct school of Buddhism?  Which style of paganism is more correct, Hellenistic or Norse?  Who goes to heaven, Catholics or Protestants?

(Though my Catholic friends all assure me that only Catholics go to Heaven, I shall consider this question unresolved)

It seems logical to assume that any interpretation that offers a more consistent and correct explanation of reality is a superior one, but how can we assess that?  Setting asides the problem of emotional influences and cognitive biases warping our interpretations and even our very perceptions, the other big issue we often run across in forming our schema to explain reality is that we simply don’t have all the information needed to make a precise judgement.

When it comes to relatively mundane occurrences, unexpected consequences might be slim (I might take a new route to class one day and run into an old friend I haven’t seen in a while).  When it comes to weighing cultural and societal values, systems of government, or economic systems, however, all of a sudden the potential for drastic consequences increases greatly.  Any deviation from the underlying principles of reality when it comes to making decisions like these is inevitably going to have unpleasant effects.  The USSR adopted policies that were not 100% solid on the incentives that drive human behavior and it collapsed in less than a lifetime.  The US ignored that Afghanistan is where large and powerful forces go to be defeated and found itself entangled in a quagmire.  An improper interpretation of reality is not merely a harmless mistake, but a very dangerous one indeed.

For such things though, we cannot gather all necessary information to determine if they align with reality or not simply by taking a snapshot in time.  Unfortunate as it may seem, the only real way to know how such value judgements like democracy or feminism will play out is to observe how their effects play out over decades, and even centuries.  Changes in societal norms often take generations to fully manifest, and the architects of social policy rarely live to see the full consequences of their alterations play out.  An analysis that critiques any ideology, whether it be reactionary or revolutionary, progressive or conservative, is thus going to have to examine a broad time frame in order to even have a chance at saying anything meaningful.

Reality rarely comes screaming at us brandishing harsh truths with which to whack us over the head.  While those moments are valuable, and perhaps the most enlightening of all our experiences, it is during the quiet journey through the less exciting moments of our lives that the overwhelming majority of the quest for truth plays out.  It is through these times that we develop our abilities to know and comprehend the world, and so come closer to the truth of reality.

It is this quest for truth that ultimately drives many of us in the Reactosphere.  I suspect this is also why many of us happen to have some background in philosophical training (including Bryce Laliberte, Amos & Gromar, and myself), as the quest for truth is, at its core, a philosophical one.

The signs that point to the ultimate truth of things are subtle and nuanced, and the possible interpretations of them are endless.  Truth rarely comes out and presents itself in the open.  It needs it little unearthing first.  But the signs are out there, and every once in a while, we somehow seem to figure out where and how to dig.  If a finding comes up that doesn’t seem right (like say, the Anti-Reactionary FAQ),  that is no excuse to shut your eyes or condemn it outright, but to dig deeper, because even in interpretations of reality that are off-base, there are still kernels of truth that can be found.  The tricky bit is finding them, and seeing in where the alternate interpretation of them went wrong.  There is no other proper response for those who wish to work within the confines of reality.

SPQR

r/K Selection, Master-Slave Morality, and the future of the West

“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees; but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks of roses under my cypresses.”

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

To some, he was a powerfully insightful thinker, seeing deeper and farther than any man who came before him or since.  To others, he was a raving, syphilitic, madman whose thoughts provided the ideological basis for National Socialism.  Love him, revile him, or ignore him though, it is hard to deny that he was one of the truly influential thinkers of our age.

This October 15th marked the 169th birthday of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.  I personally feel that Nietzsche goes under-appreciated by most reactionaries.  Our love affair with men like Burke, Evola, and Carlyle has left little room for this philosophical giant, yet I see plenty of room in the reactionary fold to incorporate some of the ideas of this great German philologist.

(As a quick aside: Nietzsche was perhaps my first step towards reaction, now that I think about it.  One of my university courses had me read The Genealogy of Morals, my first introduction to his writings, which was a key step in my transition away from more liberal, progressive ideas and toward a more traditional, reactionary mindset)

The most obvious example I can think of is that of master morality versus slave morality.  To quote Wikipedia here: “Slave morality values things like kindness, humility and sympathy, while master morality values pride, strength, and nobility.”  Obviously, that misses a lot of the nuance, but the general idea is sufficient for our purposes here.

Slave morality is not about cultivating the strength within oneself to ultimately become the master, it is about subverting the master so that everyone is on the same level.  To be superior is to necessarily be evil somehow, and it must have been accomplished through trickery, oppression, or some other unearned means.  Anyone familiar with Anonymous Conservative should be seeing the traits of the r-types right now (and by extension, liberal-leaning folk).

To highlight a recent example, someone who tends toward master morality will prefer being fit, strong, and athletic over being fat and weak, and is likely to shame others into keeping themselves in a state that they perceive to be “better”, while someone who tends toward slave morality will seek to convince others that there is no appreciable difference between being fat and being fit and that both should be accepted and respected.  Something like fat-shaming is anathema to the r-types, who react viscerally and emotionally when confronted with k-type fat-shamers.

Master morality, with its emphasis on strength and capability, is that which revels in hierarchical systems in which one can prove themselves.  Master morality is that which believes only in the good and the bad, the judgement of which mostly depends on what is helpful towards one goals.  Courage, truthfulness, and open-mindedness are also important facets of Master morality.  It is a morality that is frequently found within (and not often found outside of) the Natural Aristocracy.

So is Master Morality necessarily an ideal to strive for?  While I certainly believe it to be superior to slave morality, I don’t think that’s the correct takeaway here.  Master morality can fall too easily into ruthless Machiavellianism and “anything-goes” tactics, simply by virtue of how “good” is considered to be whatever is of benefit.  It’s not hard to rationalize pursuing a course of action that benefits you, no matter how destructive the consequences may be to others.  The world of “Game of Thrones” is filled to the brim with Master morality, and while it is not difficult to run across individuals who would much prefer to live in that fantasy world as opposed to this one, there is not exactly an overwhelming horde of people who would consider Westeros to be the best of all possible worlds.

Additionally, in a society in which the individual is the ultimate ideal (one in which, as Nietzsche out it so well, “God is dead” and man elevates himself into the role of God), master morality can easily be sublimated into pursuing selfish ends.  One who is successful in achieving material goods and pleasures of the flesh manifests Master morality, but is that really all we are meant to strive for in life?  I don’t fault people who seek to achieve their own ends, but I don’t believe it is optimal to pursue nothing further than the gratification of primal urges.

I propose that an ideal society is not one in which there is an abundance of either Master or Slave morality, but on in which both types achieve some sort of optimal balance.  Nowadays, we appear to have an excess of slave morality, directing resources and effort into achieving an equality of sex and race that deep down we know can never be achieved.  An invigorating dose of master morality would collectively do our society some good, but too much and the medicine becomes a poison.

Perhaps this will occur naturally, however.  Master morality tends to thrive in times of uncertainty, while slave morality is most comfortable in times of security and plenty (again, we see the r/K selection connection expressing itself here). Given how it seems likely that in the future, we will begin a descent into more turbulent times, we might very well see a recurrence of Master morality to deal with the societal perturbations.  Perhaps the growth of the Neoreactionary community is a symptom of this paradigm shift…

So how should this resurgence of Master morality be channeled?  The first step will be to form small societies and communities capable of weathering whatever lies ahead for the West.  The second will be to begin patching up the damage of putting into place new societal structures and superstructures to ensure that our descendants will have a civilization of their own to eventually destroy (I jest…somewhat).  Changing demographics, the inability of the US government to pay back its debts, and progressive ideologies all stand foreboding on the horizon, threatening to undermine the future of Western Civilization.

Potential hang-ups aside, we need ideologies that bow to the ideals of Master morality.  We need strength, cunning, and resourcefulness if we are to ensure our survival in the coming times.  When building a society, careful attention must be paid to ensuring the proper and delicate balance between the strength and nobility of Master morality and the charitability and humility of slave morality.  However in times of trouble, Master morality offers a more optimal set of principles for weathering the storm of uncertainty.

Strength. Courage. Nobility.  Masculinity.  These traits will be sorely needed in the coming future.  But how to cultivate them within oneself?

This is the question I began this blog to answer, and one that I shall begin the process of tackling within the coming months.

SPQR

The Legionnaire’s Perspective on Fat-Shaming

Thanks to an initiative by the fellows over at Return of Kings, Fat Shaming Week has officially been declared. and as a result now we have a new hashtag rising in popularity on Twitter, #FatShamingWeek.  It is whimsically delightful to read some of the tweets that clever people have come up with. I must admit I’ve taken perhaps a bit too much enjoyment in partaking in the fun, but we all have our foibles.

Now, much of the focus of Fat Shaming Week is targeted toward reminding overweight women that they are less attractive than thin and fit women.  Amusing as that may be, I’m going to take a more broad approach here in regards to my stance on the issue.

As outlined in books like Manthropology (corny title aside, it is a fascinating work and one I highly recommend), our ancestors were in almost every way stronger, tougher, and more physically capable than the soft, weak people we are now.  To put it bluntly, we are descended from hardcore motherfuckers who did whatever it took to survive and could easily go toe-toe with modern special forces soldiers and more often than not come out on top.  They hiked 50 miles a day wearing 100 lbs of armor.  They killed lions with spears with no help from friends or tribe members.  They invented, explored, and conquered the world.

What would your ancestors think of you if they met you?  Would they be impressed by you and respect you for your capabilities?  Forgive me if I choose not to believe that.  I’m apt to think that your physical condition would be a disgrace to your forefathers, even if you happen to be fit and athletic, and doubly so if your resemblance is more akin to a land whale and not a functional human being.  How do you feel about being the weakest link in the chain of descent?

These were people with your genes, your grandfathers and their grandfathers and their grandfathers and their grandfathers and so on.  They had more or less the same DNA in all of their cells that you possess now.  Don’t blame your genes for making you the way they are.  It’s not their fault. It’s yours.

Now, some might say that is someone’s own business if they are fat, and no one else has a right to judge them or say anything about it.  This is an incredibly naive view, and not just because it lacks nuance.  Like it or not, every action you take has far reaching implications.  You may believe that your habit of scarfing down cupcakes when you think no one is watching harms only yourself (if you’re still being that intellectually honest with yourself), but this isn’t quite the case.

See, allowing yourself to become fat and overweight opens you up to a much higher risk of health problems like diabetes and heart disease.  Treating those chronic issues requires an enormous investment of both material resources and manpower.  Now, because of how society is set up, not only are you taking money from young, healthy people who will now be paying more for health insurance they will never use (due to the Affordable Care Act), but you are also diverting resources away from people who have real medical issues that they didn’t invite upon themselves.  I ask all obese people who may be reading this, how do you feel about the fact that your inability to watch what you eat is stealing precious resources away from dying children and people who have actual medical conditions that weren’t a direct result of their actions?

But perhaps that doesn’t convince you.  Taking this appeal to emotion further, consider your family or other loved ones.  How do they feel about your growing physical deformity?  They no doubt are aware of the health risks correlated with a life of processed foods and little physical exertion.  What do you think they must be going through, knowing what harm you are doing to yourself but unwilling to make you uncomfortable enough to do something about it?  By letting yourself go, you are forcing upon your loved ones an unenviable burden, casting them between a rock and a hard place.

And that’s how they feel now!  What do you think they’ll be going through when you have your first heart attack, or a stroke, or any of the other maladies that arise more frequently in the heavy? I can’t imagine how sociopathic one would have to be to knowingly, willingly, and purposefully put the people whom they care for most in life through such an emotionally-troubling gauntlet.  It’s just mind-boggling.

Now, it is true that much of the obesity epidemic can be chalked up to the vast discrepancy between the environment that our genes are engineered to be able to handle and the environment that is presented to us as a result of living in the Western World.  With federal corn subsidies, the dominance of agribusiness and “food product” companies, and the pseudoscience that passes for nutritional advice nowadays, it rather unsurprising obesity rates are what they are.  That in mind, this does not excuse you from working to achieve a body worthy of a human being.

Stop eating processed foods. Avoid sugar like the plague (considering how obesity can be though of as an epidemic, I think the cliche might actually be justified here).  Eat your vegetables.  Go Paleo.  Get some exercise, whether that be swimming, running, weight-lifting, martial arts, or whatever else you find stimulating and enjoyable.  It takes time and effort to put pounds onto your body, and it will take time and effort to take them off, but all you really need to do is reverse those habits that brought you such girth in the first place.  Take care of the little things, and big results will follow,

There is one final point I’d like to convey.  I’m a big believer in the idea that personal virtue can be cultivated by developing within yourself the Four Cardinal Virtues.  I don’t plan on explaining these virtues personally at this time (perhaps in future posts, though).  You can go read that Wikipedia article if you don’t know what I’m referring to.  I promise I’ll still be here when you get back.

Now, you’ll notice that two of the virtues are Prudence and Temperance.  The wisdom to make good decisions and the discipline and self-control not to give yourself over to temptations are half of what constitutes virtue.  To fail to exercise either is a transgression that potentially borders on the unethical.

Being fat isn’t just a blatant dishonoring of your body, your genetic code, and your heritage, it is also a fundamentally immoral act facilitated by a lack of virtue.

Happy Fat-Shaming Week.

SPQR

A Review of “What is Neoreaction”

“Ideology, Socio-Historical evolution, and the Phenomena of Civilization”

or

“What is Neoreaction”

So begins Bryce Laliberte’s new work, “What is Neoreaction”?  As someone who had been given occasional glimpses at the piece as it unfolded over time, I must admit that I was anticipating this release a little more than I was letting on, so seeing the news break early this week was very pleasing to me.

I was first introduced to Bryce by way of his Taxonomy of the Reactosphere.  I suppose it is only fitting that in time he would move from classifying the people of reaction to analyzing the fundamental ideas underlying it, as well as throwing out some more High-Theory to go with it.

Bryce seems rather modest about the overall effect this will have.  I have a bit more optimism on my part, but we shall see what happens.

Now for the actual review.

Bryce has a very academic style which belies his study of philosophy.  This is probably going to be the biggest turn-off for most people, but it’s fairly evident that if you’re the type of person who lets that ruin your experience of this work, you’re not the type of person to whom this book is geared towards.  Make no mistake, this is an academic work, and you will be doing a certain degree of intellectual heavy lifting.

Without spoiling too much of what Bryce says in his work, I will let slip that the section he has on the nature of ideology is exceedingly important and should be read closely, and several times.

Bryce manages to hit many of the major points of reaction (the need for hierarchy, religion, race, sex…etc) as well as a few other interesting and relevant ideas (such as the need for time-preference in a civilization).  The main focus though, is on religion, specifically Catholicism.  This shouldn’t be too surprising.  We are talking about a man who writes under the name of Anarcho-Papist, after all.  Catholicism is a heavy influence on Bryce and his worldview, and this shows in his work.  Much emphasis is placed on the role that religion (specifically, the Catholic Church) plays in developing and implementing societal superstructures.

As such, many of the big ideas Bryce presents tie in the role of religion.  Those of a more secular bent won’t be as emotionally invested in this bit, but it doesn’t take much thought to realize that religion has played an important and beneficial role in ordering human civilization throughout history,and Bryce provides an interesting analysis of some of the specifics.  This bit is worth going over a few times, especially, if, like me, you don’t tend toward religiosity personally but recognize the role it will play in the reaction and beyond.

Bryce also touches briefly on a few other reactionary topics, such as sex differences and ethno-nationalism, that may be of interest based on personal preferences, but as they are only tangentially related to his main focus here, they do not receive more attention than is necessary.  Even though such things are interesting, too heavy an analysis of them here would be a distraction.  If you wish to read about such things, you’d best look elsewhere in the Reactosphere.

In summary, I’d have to say that this is an enjoyable work.  It is not meant to be an introductory piece to reaction, but a philosophical analysis for those who have graduated from Moldbug and want something more academic to sink their teeth into.  I even daresay it has notes of the aristocratic.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading through this piece, and I believe at the end of the day this could be a fairly important piece of work.  It has a fair amount of potential, and I think those people who dig in and get though it all will see that.  I give it my blessing, and I recommend that you go pick up a copy.

SPQR