20130503

Universalism: the winning political formula

Universalism is the world's most successful – if you count success in millions dead – religious sect. What makes it so lethal to its enemies is that isn't just a religion but a political formula – that is, a moral basis for political power, in this case that of the US government, whose nucleus, the Cathedral, is made up of the press and universities. But that government was not always a neopuritan bureaucracy.

The first government of the United States – we'll call it the First Union – was formed in 1777 under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which established a “firm league of friendship” between thirteen sovereign States. The political formula, then, was the consent of the States. The Second Union, established twelve years later, had a stronger central power structure; for example, the office of President of the United States in Congress Assembled, a mostly ceremonial position which had been held from 1781 on, was reformed into that of chief magistrate. This government had popular sovereignty, more or less, as its political formula, as did its successor, the Third Union, which emerged from the War of Secession. This government augmented executive power and weakened federalism – as Mencken put it:
The American people, North and South, went into the War as citizens of their respective states, they came out as subjects . . . what they thus lost they have never got back.
The Third Union kept, however, the written constitution of the Second, as did the next government of the United States. This one was firmly established in 1933, but its defining features cologuing businessmen and intellectuals, military interventionism, and nascent Universalism - appear two decades earlier; it is under Wilson that the marks of the Fourth Union begin to creep in, a collectively sentient gangrene upon the limbs of older forms. Wilson establishes the precedent of ostensibly humanitarian foreign policy – whence the term Wilsonianism – and starts the Union upon the course of adopting Universalism as its political formula. Mencius Moldbug has written briefly on its history:
Universalism is the faith of our ruling caste, the Brahmins. It's best seen as the victory creed of World War II, and it's easy to connect to the various international institutions born in that victory, which Universalists still regard as sacred if occasionally stained by human frailty, much as an intelligent Catholic sees the Roman Church. (It is not a coincidence that "catholic" and "universal" are synonyms.)

Universalism is actually already the name of a Christian doctrine, the doctrine of universal salvation. This idea, that all dogs go to Heaven and there is no Hell, is best regarded as an extremist mutation of Calvinism, in which everyone is part of the elect. The modern idea of universal salvation comes to us from Unitarian thinkers such as Emerson, and forms the second half of UUism, whose devotees are, needless to say, Universalist to perfection. (It's an interesting exercise to compare the tenets of UUism to those of "political correctness.")

The Universalist synthesis united two American traditions that in the past had sometimes been at odds. One was the ecumenical mainline Protestant movement, exemplified by institutions such as the Federal Council of Churches, whose most daring theologians were moving toward humanism. The other was what might (with homage to Edward Bellamy) be called the Nationalist movement, a vast raft of secular pragmatists, socialists, anarchists, communists, and other reformers, who flocked to the German-inspired university system that developed in the late 19th century, becoming a sort of roach motel for bad ideas.

(One of the most sensible of the Nationalist philosophers, William James, seriously proposed paramilitary forced labor as the cure for all social ills - in 1906. Oh, Billy, if only you knew! And the utopia of Bellamy's enormously-influential Looking Backward (1888) is essentially the Soviet Union.)

While these groups had generally cooperated in the Progressive Era, there were some tensions - for example, over Prohibition, which the secular Nationalists found hard to swallow. These eased substantially in the New Deal, largely due to the brilliant coup in which Progressives captured the Democratic Party, their former opposition, and converted it into an extremist Progressive movement - while repealing Prohibition. FDR even had a book called Looking Forward printed under his name.

The various groups within the Nationalist movement, however – poor name, but Bellamy deserves the mention – were much less homogeneous than the ecumenicals were before the First World War, and Moldbug errs in calling them all reformers. These folks were often revolutionaries – reformers perhaps in the sense which includes Anabaptists. Many of them were anti-war but not generally opposed to violence, the anarchists in particular having a fondness for propaganda of the deed – that is, terror and blood for utopia. This nasty double tendency was an obvious blight upon the efforts of the more melonheaded among them – after all, they were heretics! No good progressive can oppose making the world safe for democracythat is, terror and blood for utopia (whoops). Their ability to fuel serious labor unrest was also a threat. They were to be swept under the semantic rug of Bolshevism and the rug burned.

So what we'll call the
upper Left – the pietists – needed to get rid of the rowdier elements of the lower Left, and the War was a perfect opportunity. Wilson conducted raids and had numerous anarchists, socialists, and pacifists deported – playing Nature for the evolution-by-selection of the new Brahmin species. Revolutionary socialism subsequently declined in popularity in the United States. And so Puritans won out over Quakers, the Union over the unions, and a new political formula was successfully being instilled. Many organs of the lower Left were in fact steadily made to converge with the nascent progressive mainstream, in a movement correlative to Brahmin generational development. For example, from a 1920 publication by New York City's Institute for Public Service:

The Nation and The New Republic, New York City, have printed many articles and editorials which pictured bolshevist theory and practice as less anarchistic than extreme critics have painted; and these magazines insist that they have been pro-fair-play not pro-bolshevist.
The Nation and The New Republic are now, of course, just another couple of stained glass panels in the Cathedral. Now compare an example from a family of our ruling caste: as well in 1920, Thomas W. Lamont was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Partner of J.P. Morgan & Co. from 1910, he unofficially advised Presidents Wilson and Hoover – why not Harding or Coolidge between them? I do wonder! – and helped formulate the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan. In 2006, his great-great-nephew ran for US Senate as a Democrat. Between their genes lies one Corliss Lamont, whose Wikipedia article is notably longer than that of his financier father and – a bit more notably - contains the following sentence:
As a part of his political activities he was the Chairman of National Council of American-Soviet Friendship starting from early 1940s.
It's worth lingering a moment upon the sight of this – ahem – progression. Foseti has done a bit of excavation on the elder Lamont:
Ron Chernow’s book, The House of Morgan, contains a couple of nuggets that we will need to finish our brief portrait:
In extreme cases in the 1930s, the House of Morgan would function as an unfettered government in its own right, conducting secret foreign policy at odds with that of Washington.
In less extreme cases, the House of Morgan would simply direct Washington’s foreign policy.
One more quote, if you’ll indulge me:
His son Corliss, a socialist and later a professor of philosophy at Columbia, saw his father’s foreign-policy views as spotless: "Although my father was a successful banker, and a Republican in politics, he was in essence a liberal, particularly on international affairs."
Following the death of JP Morgan, Lamont eventually emerged as the de facto head of JP Morgan bank. He also conducted US foreign policy, except for rare instances in which USG disagreed with him, in which case he conducted the foreign policy of his choosing anyway until USG changed its mind (sometimes it took a while for USG to catch up to Lamont). Lamont negotiated the agreements that ended WWI and the subsequent plans that dealt with the problem of German reparations. [. . .] He also went to Harvard, naturally.
His socialist son – don’t forget the "National Council of American-Soviet Friendship" – thought he had "spotless" foreign policy views . . . and Lamont was arguably running US foreign policy. Was this in your history book?
Even during the First Red Scare, there are hints in official and semi-official documents of an important element of applied Universalism, the principle of guided popular sovereignty – we might also call it paradoxical democracy – which presents the educated and refined, being superior purveyors of the faith, as the proper interpreters and editors of public opinion. In other words, too much democratic freedom might result in a dreaded loss of democratic freedom. From the same publication from 1920 cited earlier:
Opposition to radical ideas and radical spokesmen has gone farther than verbal criticism; meetings and parades have been prohibited; the public exhibition of the Red Flag which was adopted by the Russian and Hungarian bolshevists and the German extremists called Spartacides has been forbidden; men have been put in jail for speaking at meetings, and even for being present where pro-bolshevist views were expressed. Alien sympathizers have been deported. Unquestionably disorders in America have been inspired and aggravated by bolshevic propaganda. Popular resentment against this is in danger of going too far in curtailing individual liberty.
With that last sentence we see the paradox; popular resentment, though, had to be allowed to be thrown against some ideological enemy, and the progressives on the move into power in the 1910s did not enjoy the fortune of having fascism as an available scapegoat. Indeed, the Cathedral of the time – or what thus far existed of it – has itself a certain institutional, fascistic feel, with more official government presence where you'd today expect nominally private groups, such as – what a name! - non-government organizations. The press-university circuit was not so tethered in those days; the Committee on Public Information was formed in 1917 because the New York Times was not yet prepared to do its job. From the January 1918 edition of Boys' Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America:
Through specially prepared pamphlets, every citizen, indeed every boy, every girl, every man, every woman, and every child is to be kept informed about the war in such a way as to make all feel that they are in partnership with the Government at Washington. The Boy Scouts of America are going to have an opportunity of rendering real patriotic service in this program as aides to the Committee on Public Information under the slogan “Every Scout to Boost America as a Government Dispatch Bearer.” We are to help spread the facts about America and America's war. We are to fight lies with truths.
America's war – and with that the Third Union looked forward to certain demise. This was the kind of propaganda Edward Bernays salivated for. Bernays was the nephew of Sigmund Freud and helped popularize his uncle's ideas in the States. He worked for the Committee on Public Information and attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference at the invitation of Wilson himself. Bernays quite clearly explains the doctrine of guided popular sovereignty in his book Propaganda (1928):
No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.
With such minds on their side, the pietists and cartelists gradually absorbed more and more of the lower Left. Indeed, the American Student Union, a Communist group formed in 1935, voted in 1938 to move from pacifism to supporting FDR's foreign policy on collective security grounds. This generation of Brahmins were still divided between Stalinists and those of a less totalitarian persuasion reminiscent of the decades prior. The former, however, were the ones in charge, and they fought a war for Communism and won. Moldbug continues on the convergence of the pietists and the Nationalists:
After WWII, there was no longer any visible quarrel between these factions. Any views which contradicted Universalism became socially unacceptable in polite society. Progressive Christianity, through secular theologians such as Harvey Cox, abandoned the last shreds of Biblical theology and completed the long transformation into mere socialism. Nationalism also becomes an inappropriate term, as with the growth in American power it morphed into internationalism and, as most now call it, transnationalism.
The next Brahmin generation, who tended towards Mao over Stalin, spawned such groups as the Student League for Industrial Democracy, reformed from a group which had merged eleven years earlier with the American Student Union. This League changed its name in 1960 to the Students for a Democratic Society, to whom the 44th President of the United States is indirectly linked through Bill Ayers. Welcome to the desert of the Real.


Les rebelles seront punis / Groupons-nous et demain / Les États-Unis / Seront le genre humain


That pamphlet from the Institute for Public Service in New York contains at the back an adorable diagram comparing the Soviet government with that of the United States:




Note the dotted line on the Russian side - if this chart were fully accurate, the American side, for 1920 and for today, would include a good number of such dotted lines; in the latter case, it would be almost entirely made up of them. That's progress.

20120702

Language-games

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."
Language is interaction. Context is more than important - it is prerequisite for any meaning to be there at all, because all meaning is social, and a language is a collection of names. There can be no language in a sociological vacuum; there is no such thing as non-interactive language.

Language is thus unbound to reality. It is limited only by the ability of humans to conceptualize and interact. Sloppy language means sloppy thinking, for context is function. Meaning is use.

Ludwig Wittgenstein had the idea of language-games - small sections of a whole language, which are woven into some activity or experience. Whenever we discuss anything, we are making use of one or more language-games. Any and every language is simply a set of overlapping language-games. Wittgenstein explains a simple example, a "builders' language":
The language is meant to serve for communication between a builder A and an assistant B. A is building with building-stones: there are blocks, pillars, slabs and beams. B has to pass the stones, in the order in which A needs them. For this purpose they use a language consisting of the words "block", "pillar" "slab", "beam". A calls them out; — B brings the stone which he has learnt to bring at such-and-such a call.
 - Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations
See how the words "block", and so on, are given meaning within the specific context of building. In another setting, the words may mean something different, or not be used at all. This is the nature of all language: it is contextual and inconstant. The terminology and grammatical structures I'm using right now, as you read this, are part of their own language-game - my language-game, the one I use this blog to build up and sharpen.

Like the people who use them, language-games are variable: in complexity, in abstraction, and in scope; in short, they are unequal. The more intelligent people are, the more esoteric their preferred language-games tend to be. Common language is understood commonly by common people.

The linguistic forms used by the average person thus tend to evolve more rapidly in pronunciation and in lexicon than more prestigious forms, which are so stable as to appear static at first glance; for languages are social organisms, and they respond to selective pressures. The pressures upon street slang are different from those upon philosophical vocabularies, and thus in more abstract language-games, shifts and adjustments largely occur in the realm of Forms, of signification. But in one way or another, and ultimately in all ways: language, like the rest of the universe, is in constant flux.

This flux (in the context of society) can be explained, analysed, and even changed, by means of - you guessed it - language. It's important to understand, now that we've explained this language-game concept, that Enlightenment, liberalism, is a set of corrupt language-games.

Let that sink in for a second. The forces of the Left, which began bubbling up centuries ago and which culminate in postmodernity, further themselves through nothing other than language.
Language is the weapon of cultural war. This is why our goal here at graaaaaagh dot com -  developing a set of reactionary language-games - is so important: "the limits of my language mean the limits of my world."

Thus, when you describe a language-game, you expand it. This is how a compounding effect emerges: postmodernism - the most advanced of any left-wing language-game - seeks to dismantle binary distinctions, and by describing itself can blur even the distinction between distinction and non-distinction; in other words, it becomes evermore destructive, to the point of self-obliteration - conceptual entropy.

This expansion through description works as well in the opposite direction, of course - no language-game is necessarily primed for its own collapse.
I contend that a language-game can be made consistent enough to constrain our knowledge to what is real, as well as to what is transcendent, eliminating or greatly reducing vaguery and incoherence.

From here I will describe some notable aspects of the dominant language-game (or group thereof) of our soon-to-end Dark Age (not just postmodernism):

One very striking trick of language we see from the Left (and thus, from society in general, especially over the last century) is the distortion of the related words "freedom" and "rights". Properly understood (as per my language-game), freedom is simply a lack of limits: formlessness (this, of course, must be qualified, for absolute lack of constraint simply does not exist). Similarly, rights are non-limits, or exemptions from limits; they are, descriptively, social permissions.

This has been tainted over time, so that "freedom", "rights", and their friend "liberty" have come to refer to autonomy, to power, to privilege - that is, to a positive rather than a negative. Thus "equal rights" means, and must mean, "equal ability". Freedom, that is, an excess of rights, is not a pleasant condition for anyone but the savage; most people are miserable because they are free. Thus new "freedoms", new "rights", must be invented to keep the liberal paradigm going. So we degrade from emancipation to "civil rights" to "affirmative action". Whatever means are seen as empowering to someone who naturally lacks power, we call "rights". This is slave morality taken to its furthest degree.

Perhaps even more remarkable is
that liberal forces simultaneously run a euphemism treadmill as well as one of dysphemisms. On the one hand, we see the sterilization of language: nature becomes "the environment"; shell shock becomes a "combat stress reaction"; murder becomes "homicide"; the crippled become "the disabled" or even "people with disabilities"; colored people become "people of color" (that one's always amused me); young Black delinquents become mere "youths" or "juveniles"; expropriation becomes "redistribution" or "sharing" or "spreading the wealth"; &c.

But on the other hand, we see an upshoot in vulgarity: public swearing is less and less stigmatized (meaning that the language-game of the "man on the street" has been made even more profane);
the very mention of the number 69 evokes the sex act named for it, especially in the language of adolescents; pornographic terms are widely used; there are such phrases as "that's what she said" which serve to sexualize everyday remarks; and so on. Phrases like "meat is murder" and "I love junk food", as well as "anti-woman" to describe opponents of abortion, also show an embrace of dysphemism.
My above analysis has not even touched the issue of connotation: certain words evoke certain feelings, and this is essential to our understanding of how language-games work - for the human mind attaches concepts to emotions, and the links therebetween are the foundation of meaning. Again, context is function, and meaning is use.

...the word has been reduced to the level of interjection.
An example: the word "racism". It can be said to have three uses, and thus three meanings:
a. a preference for one's own race over others
b. an understanding that racial differences matter; discrimination
c. a hatred of other races
But notice that the first two, which may be reasonably understood as positive or neutral, are given a name that unifies them with something already understood to be negative. With insufficient context, the concepts are blended in the mind. This means that when someone refers to something as "racist", it may transcend the three denotational meanings and simply express an emotion - that is, the word has been reduced to the level of interjection. Words and phrases like this, that are ostensibly declarative but in fact function as interjections to dismiss dissent, may be called magic words, or as Robert Jay Lifton so aptly terms them, thought-terminating clichés. They are characteristic of the language-game of liberalism and totalitarianism.

Some other such magic words, positive and negative, are: "hate speech", "social justice", "(in)tolerance", "prejudice", "bigotry", "judgemental", "fairness", "equality", "it's my choice", "it's my life", "you can't tell me what to do", "we all bleed red", "no place for hate", "sexism", "homophobia", "transphobia", "ageism", and "speciesism"; and the list goes on. Notice that most of these words and phrases are incapable of being used now in a perfectly benign context unless they are qualified, that is, recontextualized for a non-destructive purpose. Those last five words, as well as "racism", are in fact quite new to the English language.


Notice also that they are selectively - that is, inconsistently - used. Leftists hate it when "racism" is used to refer to hatred of White people, or when "sexism" is used to refer to misandry, and so on, even though commoners often do use them that way. In other words, denotation is used to defy connotation - another example of postmodernism's self-implosion. Again, they are not coherent terms, worthy of use; they simply disguise feelings as statements.

All of this is a trickling down from the esoteric language-games of leftist intellectuals to the common language-game of the average person. Again, language is the weapon of cultural war, and it has been used to destroy aristocracy. It follows, then, that we may use language to build it back up. We might say that our fundamental task is the reconstruction - or rather, rediscovery - of those binary oppositions that the postmodern seeks to destroy:

Nietzsche explained how all moral systems can be boiled down to a basic dichotomy: that of master morality (sacrifice for the sake of honor) and slave morality (honor for the sake of sacrifice). A like distillation can be made of just about anything, to reveal a distinction so fundamental that its expressions in nature and in human society are endless:

Strength and weakness; boldness and humility; the heroic and the cowardly; the Roman and the Judaic; the Tory and the Whig; Slave Society and Free Society; the nobility/peasants and the bourgeoisie/proletariat, loyalty and treason; the reactionary and the radical; fear and greed; respect and contempt; cruelty and mercy; indifference and passion; quality and quantity; clarity and obscurity; truth and falsehood; indignation and humiliation; light and shadow; white and black; blue and red; superior and inferior; wisdom and folly; order and chaos; life and death; flowering and decay; Tradition and trend; authoritarian government and democratic; aristocracy and kakistocracy; the warrior and the priest; male and female; yang and yin.

Everything is either of the former type or the latter, or if it is something between, then some of its aspects are of the former and the rest are of the latter. What Wittgenstein calls family resemblances are everywhere.

A good reactionary language-game, then, should have be clear enough, precise enough, bold enough, to dissect and distinguish those overlays of dichotomy, to qualify those family resemblances, and to set in motion a revolution from above.