IQ Shredders, Theory of Mind, and Vladimir Putin

Legionnaire’s Note: Read my old post: “From Russia with Love” for some background before diving into this one. It has become even more relevant than it was when I first wrote it.

Americans project their belief in the incompetence of their government onto the governments of other countries. This might be called for in some circumstances, but many nations cannot afford a government that makes the high-profile blunders that ours does.

On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes critics of the government commit a different fallacy and overestimate the capabilities of foreign leaders. Consider Vladimir Putin. He is clever, but he is not infallible, and reactionary hero-worship of him borders on idolatry.

Still, in the game of thrones that is international politics, I am more willing to believe that a former KGB agent is going to be a better player than a former community organizer. Given this, the thought of secret conspiracies and shadowy forces working behind the scenes to control US actions is oddly reassuring. People capable of that would no doubt be capable of dealing with Putin. The idea of conspiracy theories as a security blanket to avoid coming to grips with the chaos and uncertainty of our world is made viscerally comprehensible when one broaches this line of reasoning.

But I digress. Returning to my main point, I will also point out that part of the reason many in this country go into hysterics when thinking about foreign leaders like Putin is that most people in this country are fundamentally incapable of understanding them; Americans lack the theory of mind necessary to do so. Many actually expect foreigners to play by US rules and obey US standards of conduct and are genuinely surprised when they don’t.

It should not come as a surprise that countries that are not the US are guided by a different set of cultural values and norms than those we hold dear. When it comes to the way countries act on the international stage, we still find ourselves surprised, for we have forgotten a few basic truths. Following normative rules and guidelines serves to uphold the established context and reinforce the stability of the current order. Violating these precepts is logically a sign of discontentment with the status quo and a desire for a more favorable order. At the very least, it indicates some measure of non-normative priorities.

For some reason, however, most people seem incapable of even drawing this basic logical conclusion, instead resorting to the explanation that men like Putin must be either stupid or crazy. The idea that we might be the stupid, crazy ones who fail to properly engage with the world never seems to cross the mind of most people in this country.

I suggest that this reaction arises from the crude implications from a priori notions of universal ideals instead of properly applying a nuanced and refined theory of mind (off-topic but interesting to note: those who champion diversity are those with the least capacity to recognize it when they see it). It is this inability to compose a proper theory of mind that hinders our capacity to engage with the broader international community, especially when confronted with actors that refuse to render themselves subservient to Western European ideals and the declining, quixotic empire that champions them.

I have a powerful intuition that theory of mind is strongly linked to verbal IQ, which would imply that verbal intelligence is strongly linked to navigating social environments and the commensurate abilities that entails, such as being able to tell friend from foe and engage with people who are either of those things. If this is the case, perhaps it is not a good thing that IQ shredders might only be deleterious to verbal, and not mathematical or visuo-spatial intelligence.

(Side note, I do think the IQ shredder problem is somewhat attenuated by the tendency of most people to move out of the cities and start families in the suburbs when they desire children, to say nothing of the possibility that the concept merely reflects the already observed pattern of high-IQ individuals having low fertility rates.)

I also suspect that verbal IQ also be related to ones ability to navigate rules and social structures. I have no idea how this connection might work, yet I can’t help but suspect that there is a link here that is waiting to be uncovered. I will return to this subject if I manage to put together a plausible-sounding theory or otherwise find evidence to support or disprove this possibility.

Wrapping this up, I shall circle back to my opening idea and point out that every country eventually and inevitably finds itself with the government it deserves. If the population of the United States has truly become the blessed of Azathoth — the blind, idiot god — than what does that mean in regard to the Leviathan that sits on the throne of our empire?



The Land of Sand and Scripture

Given current events, I thought it might be prudent to bang out a brief write-up on the Israel/Palestine issue. This will not be any kind of #officialneoreactionaryposition, but rather, a few personal thoughts on the matter that deep down I hope are wrong.

The whole Israeli-Palestinian dynamic is perhaps best encapsulated by a plot element from the Harry Potter books: “Either must die at the hands of the other, for neither can live while the other survives”. There was perhaps once a chance for peace between the two sides. It is gone now. There is too much history and too much hatred on both sides for any meaningful reconciliation to occur (barring, of course, some kind of black swan event). The only way this ends now is with a river of blood. Peace will come only with genocide.

I think that deep down, both sides are aware of this. I think this knowledge is partly what drives the Palestinian group Hamas to keep fighting, but to the Israelis, this must serve as nothing less than creeping horror. Israel was established partly because of the belief that the Jews deserved reparations after having been the subject of a terrible genocide. Part of its legitimacy rests on being a safe haven from ethnic cleansing. It would be quite an irony indeed to admit that the peace and stability of the country is dependent on wiping out an entire ethnicity of people who have been living there for thousands of years.

Additionally, much of the social cachet the Jews have in modern times — especially their position as a protected class — is due to their status as “Holocaust victims”. How much of that social cachet goes away if the Jews are deemed guilty of perpetuating genocide themselves? Pretty much all of it. I suspect half the reason that there are so many Jews that are opposed to Israel is because they are keenly aware of these consequences.

It used to be that western media would never say anything remotely bad about the Israelis and would blame the Palestinians for everything that occurred. This is still mostly the case, but the pendulum is starting to swing slightly in this regard. I suspect that this shift will continue as time goes on, due to the general left-leaning tendencies of most media folk. The ease with which one can stumble across pictures online of dead Palestinian children will probably be a contributing factor here as well.

The Israelis are thus left with an interesting conundrum. Allow themselves to be subjected to rocket attacks (and possibly worse), or ensure peace by compromising their implicit principles?

(Let us also note for a moment that their de facto principles are not at all undermined in this case. We should not be surprised if a militant ethno-nationalist state takes military action against people of a different ethnicity.)

Middle Eastern Jews have a long history of war and conflict (at least, according to the Old Testament). In a way, it is almost fitting that they should return to their roots and face the same trials today. Still, when given the choice between war and peace, all sensible people choose peace (barring skinny high-schoolers who read Nietzsche and fancy themselves the incarnation of the ubermensch). In the end, the Israelis are going to prefer peace to conflict, but the road to peace is littered with bodies. Is it better that more should die so that peace may be achieved, or that more should live but endure a life of conflict and suffering? There is not an easy answer here, and I do not envy the Israelis for having to face this crossroads.

Finally, there is an underlying phenomenon here that I feel must be pointed out for the sake of intellectual honesty. Neoreaction holds that massively asymmetrical power differentials are the key to ensuring peace and stability. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict stands as a massive counter-example to this line of thinking. Israel has one of the most powerful and technologically advanced militaries on the planet, and that still isn’t enough to dissuade a bunch of malnourished, poverty-stricken Arabs with cheap (and often home-made) weapons from fighting back. Power dynamics do not operate in a vacuum, it would seem. This is a point of study that bears further Neoreactionary analysis.



Born on the 4th of July…

I’ve talked before about how society is based on myth, so here’s a myth for you: The United States declared independence from Great Britain on July 4th, 1776. The newly formed United States actually declared independence from Great Britain on July 2nd, 1776, with the adoption of the Lee Resolution. Of course, the Lee Resolution was soon forgotten, as the official Declaration of Independence was approved two days later. It was this date and this document that would go down in history as the apocryphal founding of the United States of America.

238 years later, here we are. The United States has been through a lot since then. We’ve fought countless wars, taken over an enormous expanse of the North American continent, and innovated and manufactured our way to the most productive economy in the world. Not bad for something that started off as a tiny bunch of hardy English settlers and Dutch religious puritans.

I’m not usually so patriotic. Do I enjoy living in America? Absolutely. I am happy with my life? Completely. I have no personal complaints with the way the country is going, only intellectual ones. Still, those are more than sufficient to sour me on most things American almost all of the time.

In all fairness, it’s very easy to complain about this country. Hell, I make a hobby out of inveighing against the Progressive States of Amerika. For some reason though, when you’re sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the warm summer sun on your back and a bottle of San Pellegrino in your hand it becomes exceedingly difficult not to appreciate this country and even admire it a little.

I won’t go so far as to say that experiences like that give you perspective, but they serve as a powerful reminder that you can always find something to enjoy, just as you can always find something to lambast. The lesson here is not to let your feelings influence your judgement; always rely on your thoughts and your reasoning. They will lead you astray far less than the superficial emotions of the moment.

For all its problems, the USA is still one of the most developed, advanced, prosperous, and powerful nations in the world. It had a great run while it was at it, and thought it’ll never accomplish the same things it once did, it isn’t done yet. Like the British Empire before it, it will slowly fade away while still retaining an inordinate amount of influence over world affairs. One might argue against the constitution as the basis for a system of government, but one cannot argue that the US is not going to leave its mark on the world forever.

It will not explode. It will not combust. There will not be civil war. Barring some extremely dramatic and unlikely event, the Happening won’t be happening. Like a body riddled with cancer, it slowly weaken and fade away. This is the way the United States as we know it ends; not with a bang but a whimper.

European civilization is dead and gone. All that is left is the epilogue. The time has come to begin anew, build anew, create anew. It can even be argued that this is our duty as citizens of this day and age.

I know it’s fashionable in Neoreactionary circles to claim that the United States was a mistake from the beginning. Perhaps this is correct. However, if the United States was fundamentally wrong from the beginning, is that not proof that it did many things right along the way? How else could something so innately flawed have seen such indisputable success in its 238-year run?. It would be a hard argument to make to suggest US success was an inevitable result of good human capital and a near-boundless frontier (though those were significant contributing factors, mind you). At some point, you have to consider the role of agency and choice on a societal level. We’re neoreactionaries, not progressives, after all.

Neoreaction prides itself on being a pragmatic and realistic analysis of society, human nature, and everything those two subjects entail. It is a violation of our very ideals not to be pragmatic and realistic about the things the United States has done, both right and wrong. If we’re going to be intellectually honest in this regard, we have to consider both.

Yet for today, I am willing to put that sort of analysis on pause. For better or for worse, I’m willing to get drunk. I’m willing to watch fireworks. I’m willing to sing and cheer and be a patriot for this country. For one day, I’m willing to dispense with the meta, and be a nationalist instead of just supporting nationalism, to be a patriot instead of just supporting patriotism. For one day, I can love a country I work so hard to critique, a country that does so little that I approve of, and does so much that I despise.

For most of the year, I am a Neoreactionary. For today, I am willing to just be an American.

Happy 4th of July.


The Modern Progressive and the Myth of Tantalus

There are some things in life that, though they may seem intuitively obvious, are apparently just too difficult for most people to grasp. It seems one of these things is the origin of social norms. A great many (arguably all) social norms arise out of factors rooted in human biology. These norms may manifest themselves differently in response to social contexts, but they still arise for definitive reasons. Because social norms do not arise without reason, it is shamelessly ridiculous to assume that one can simply declare new social norms on a whim.

Consider female attractiveness. It’s a fool’s errand to argue that cultural factors do not influence perceptions of attraction, yet it takes an even bigger fool to think that biological imperatives in no way dictate what we are generally find attractive. Everyone not in denial is well aware that cues of fertility and general health are the most significant factors underlying sexual attraction, but intellectual honesty compels us to also consider the role that status cues play in dictating attractiveness.

It is in the area of status cues that social norms really get room to work their influence. When being pale was a sign of wealth and luxury, paleness played a role in influencing attractiveness. People generally want high-status mates, and so markers of high status in society usually contribute to a person’s overall attractiveness.

Now, it has come to my attention that there is a “Fat Acceptance” movement that seeks to educate people that one can be heavily overweight or worse and still be a beautiful, attractive human being (among other things, of course, but this is the facet I wish to examine here). Given that obesity is neither a marker of health nor fertility (indeed, it generally signals the opposite of those things), the Fat Acceptance movement can only make any headway, albeit a limited headway, if it can make the case that a preponderance of adiposity is a marker of high societal status.

Is it? Not in this day and age. Wealth (a solid marker of societal status) is negatively correlated with obesity. This is but one fly in the ointment of the Fat Acceptance movement. When we also take into account the biological factors that dictate attraction also lead normal humans to seek lean and defined mates, it quickly becomes clear that the Fat Acceptance movement is a self-defeating ideology that will rail against the principles governing reality until it exhausts itself and withers away, like the apocryphal Big Bad Wolf from the classic fairy tale.

So why waste time and energy discussing the Fat Acceptance movement? What worries me isn’t its existence per se, but the implications that said existence implies. The type of people likely to support Fat Acceptance are the type of people willing to believe that social norms of beauty are arbitrarily decided upon. If those people extrapolate that type of thinking to social norms in general (and many of them do), all of a sudden you have a thede that assumes that you can take social norms for granted and alter them without consequence.

Society doesn’t work if you mess around with its norms indiscriminately, the same way a computer program malfunctions if you delete random lines of code. Changes to the societal fabric are not immune from the potential for negative consequences. This does not mean that societal norms cannot be improved and refined to the benefit of society at large, but it does mean that one faces repercussions which can be either good or bad when one attempts to change underlying societal principles.

tantalusThose who fail to grasp this implication can see an effect and assume there is no cause. This critique can be made of many of the progressives who support ideologies like Fat Acceptance. Oftentimes they would better reflect their thought processes if instead of using words like “racism”, “sexism”, or “structural inequality” to lambast the world, they would use a far older and far more meaningful term: “magic”.

Of course, just as magic failed to bring about the development of better scientific technology and material wealth, so too has progressivism failed to bring about better forms of social technology with which to drive society. Progress, it would seem, has thus not truly been made, for while the superficial trappings of societal innovation may seem to be more developed, the underlying drivers of true progress are not. Progress is thus an illusion; smoke and mirrors to hide the lack of positive change underneath.

Discussion of the Fat Acceptance movement thus  merely helps us to see the great irony that underlies the religion of progressivism: when you subscribes to its tenets, you forever doom yourself to have that which you desire to be forever out of your grasp.