Francis penned an article this morning that bears some further questions. I encourage you to give it a read. As others have explained recently, including Ace, Kurt Schlichter, Tom Kratman, and many other luminaries on the Right, we are perched on the edge of a knife. Violence is simmering beneath the surface – perhaps even a full-blown Civil War. Francis explains:
There’s no reasoning with one who considers you evil. There’s certainly no compromising with him. He’s out to destroy you. He’ll take whatever opportunity you offer to slip the dirk between your fourth and fifth ribs and twist it. Nor is there any way for you to convince him that you’re not evil. He assumes a priori that everything you say is ultimately aimed at his destruction.
At that point it becomes war to the knife.
We haven’t yet seen violence with actual casualties. But we will.
So what gives? Why hasn’t it started yet? I was discussing this with a personal friend yesterday, a veteran, MMA fighter, and all-around guy you don’t want to fuck with. He is the sort of man that, were the war to start tomorrow, would be on the front lines. He expressed to me his fear, not for himself, but for his wife, his children, and the end of a relatively prosperous life. For even if he survived the conflict, he mused, life would never be the same.
Veterans are largely Rightists, and Leftists are largely pussies who have spent their lives avoiding any kind of real physical risk. So the Right has a much better sense for what a war within our borders would really look like. The Left, as Francis notes in the following quote, has no idea because they have not suffered consequences for this behavior up until now.
Bad behavior must be punished. The Left’s decision to use harassment and intimidation against conservatives and Republicans is about as bad as behavior gets without becoming legally actionable. Up to now, it’s met no significant degree of punishment. Therefore, as it’s getting its practitioners some of what they want (including a shameful degree of satisfaction), it will increase.
If it increases past a certain level, it will trigger lethal violence.
Rightists, like my friend, are rightly fearful of the consequences of this thing going bad. We have some idea of what this really means, and so we hold back earnestly hoping for another way. This, in turn (and sadly), emboldens the Leftists, most of whom have no Earthly idea what they are really agitating for, or the risks they are taking, because they have no experience with risks like these.
However, at some point Leftist derangement will exceed the Rightist’s reluctance to resort to violence. And when that Rubicon is crossed, there is no going back. Leftists are quicker to violence, but Rightists are far better at it. The consequences of this will be grave.
To top it off, nobody really knows exactly where the Rubicon is, in this political mess. Will it be gun control or confiscation? Will it be the next time a Democrat wins control over the federal government? Will they be hellbent on revenge and do something they shouldn’t? Will it be getting Rightists fired from their jobs, destroying their businesses and ability to earn, such that they have nothing to lose? Or will it be a cumulative ‘death from a thousand cuts’ situation, where all of these smaller, lesser attacks will, in aggregate, finally exceed the Rightist’s ability to tolerate?
I have no Earthly idea. But I do know that the Rubicon is somewhere, and that across its shore lies Civil War, or something approximating that. And so, in this, we are generally wiser (though not wise, see: Socrates) than our Leftist counterparts, who haven’t a clue about the hornet’s nest they’ve been poking.
If and when the Left crosses the Rubicon, they will certainly be surprised at what lies on the other side. One thing is certain, nobody is going to like it.
Today, I intend to be very plain with my readers. I tire of beating around the bush. And to be frank, that is what I have been doing for quite some time, though this was not my intention.
You see, I have fallen victim to describing in detail the symptoms, and how they might best be treated, with too little regard for the disease itself. This is a common affliction during the twilight of the West. Left and Right alike know that the West is dying; that it is deeply ill. The Right proposes to treat the symptoms, the Left prescribes euthanasia. For them, death is the only cure to any disease.
My ancestor is reputed to have said, when given the opportunity to inspect the ax that was to behead him, “this is sharp medicine; but it is a sure cure for all diseases.” Perhaps the Left has taken this too literally, or perhaps theirs is a cult that worships death. We can only speculate.
Our first instinct as men, when accused of a crime, is to plead our innocence and to offer our proofs. With an impartial jury, this may work if the proofs are good. If the accuser is malicious, however, and merely intends harm regardless of innocence, the pleas will please him. The proofs will be laughed at. He will feel powerful, presented with your own weakness.
Right now, as I type this, debates are raging across social media, and many of them are loaded with accusations of moral violation. These do not even contain the pretense of an impartial jury, as a legal violation might, but the consequences can be just as dire. Your job, your business, your possessions, your relationships, and reputation are all on the line. Are you, perhaps, a racist? Do you hate the poor? Do you stand on a cliff ready to push granny to her doom?
Plead your innocence and your accuser will laugh. Fail to plead, and your guilt is established. It is a Catch-22, a Kafkatrap. The mind recoils from resultant feelings of guilt and shame. This weapon is the most powerful one in the enemy’s arsenal. We have survived by ignoring it, hiding from it, or dismissing it, depending on one’s inclination. Facing the guilt and shame head-on is a daunting task only a few are truly capable of.
How did it come to this? Why is the weapon so effective?
Deep down, many people in the West feel guilty. We live comfortable lives, we have plentiful wealth. Few in the history of man have possessed such plenty. I cannot speak for everyone, but at least for myself, there are times I look at what I have and think that I do not deserve it. Greater minds than I have done things for civilization that I could only dream of doing, and possessed far less.
Our problems are often laughable. Listen to any conversation where people are complaining about this and that. The complaints are small-minded. Perhaps someone is having trouble with love or sex, another complains that his car has broken down, or perhaps his toilet will not work. Another complains of crushing debt from his state-of-the-art smartphone, sitting in his brand-new vehicle. The Internet is slow today, or the air-conditioning unit has broken down again.
With the exception of love and sex, perpetual problems for the race of man, these are not problems in any historical sense of the word, not even for many of the poorest among us. Such things are small, and deep down most of us know that. Problems we face are preferable to the problems of our ancestors, for whom food was difficult to obtain, work was brutal, and life short and filled with pain.
For a time, the West prided itself in having banished many of the ills of our forebears. Indeed, we even traveled to the moon! Some wished, perhaps, to spread our plenty to the rest of the world. We could export our ways, our culture, and our way of thinking to others, so that they might enjoy the same rich rewards.
That did not last long. Before long, Marxist subversion had wormed its way into media, entertainment, and education. Fabian Socialism was the method of subverting the West, for revolutionary Socialism had already failed. For a time, this was probably a deliberate instrument of the Soviets. We won the Cold War in an economic sense, and probably in a military sense as well, though nuclear weapons assured that this was never put to the final test. In a sociological sense, both sides lost, though for us the loss was worse. If the Soviet Union was the head of the Marxist animal, it was lopped off effectively. Like the Hydra, however, the body did not die, and new heads eventually sprang from the seeming-corpse.
Many theories exist for where the weapon was first forged, and by whom. Saul Alinsky is frequently cited, as is the Frankfurt school. The Gramscian Long March may also have contributed. On this matter, let smarter men than I speculate and theorize. The weapon exists, and its effectiveness cannot be denied.
Concepts of Socialism go at least as far back as Aristophanes, yet the method of civilizational guilt as a means of forcing it upon the citizenry is unique and relatively new. Further, it exists only in the West. Chinese do not worry about colonizing Africa, nor do Mohammedans moralize about the Christians and Jews they have subjugated and enslaved. Conquest is rarely regretted on a moral level by anyone but a Westerner. For most, it is a matter of some pride.
When reading the works of Western ancients, this sort of civilizational self-loathing is conspicuously absent. Guilt, where it exists, tends to be personal, or spun as a vendetta of sorts. It is difficult to imagine the Romans, for instance, worrying overmuch about the opinions of the Gauls. So even in the West, this is new.
Why do Westerners hate themselves so? There is no other explanation that fits. The West, at a meta level, feels that it does not deserve what it has, and now questions whether or not it should even continue to exist at all. Survival, most powerful of all human instincts, has been completely subverted, and now inverted.
This is the disease. Rightists will endlessly prattle on that they are not guilty for slavery, or for various wars, conquests, and other events in world history, because they were not alive, nor would countenance such actions if they were. This treats only the symptoms. The disease continues. Deep down, even many Rightists feel the guilt and the shame, and Leftists continue to exploit them. I know this, for the weapon once worked on me, and I see it continually deployed against my fellows.
Something very deep has rooted itself in the West, a civilization-killing disease of the mind, for which no amount of charity, submission, or moralizing is sufficient to extirpate. At no point may a Westerner regard his moral duty as satisfied. No amount of charity is sufficient, no flood of government programs, nor burden of taxation or public penitence will extinguish the disease. Indeed, these only worsen the symptoms.
If the disease is to be named, I can think of no other more suitable than Civilizational Self-Loathing. Pride in the West’s accomplishments was reduced to guilt for the West’s success. And now the guilt has mutated into self-hate. Ceaselessly, we are bombarded with declarations of how evil we are, how our ancestors did terrible wrongs, and how we are responsible for righting the wrongs, for paying a weregild with the death of our own evil civilization. Anything less is a moral evil, we are told. Give up America. Give up existence. Crawl into a hole and die, and give up everything you own, and even then you are still guilty and hateful.
Such bombardment has continued since I was a child. And I suspect even the strongest among us are worn down at some level by it. Once, when speaking with my friend Sarah Hoyt, she explained that Marxist morality, such that it is, has infected all of us to some degree. Even those who display few or no symptoms are often carriers of the disease.
If there is any hope, it is that like any virus, a vaccination might be possible. I am no stranger to people using guilt as an emotional weapon against me. It has occurred for most of my life in greater or lesser fashion due to many personal experiences I have little desire to discuss. As I look back, I am thankful for this at some level. I do not possess the strength of character that some do, but I was vaccinated somewhat against the disease, and that has helped.
Perhaps the next generation will be better inoculated against the disease. The distinct schadenfreude of Donald Trump’s victory of 2016 demonstrates that a wave of “don’t give a fuck,” as we might put it in vulgar terms, has swept the country.
Is it enough to treat the disease, and not merely the symptoms? I cannot say, but I can hope. One thing we can all do, however, is to stop looking back at our history in shame. For every great tragedy in history, there is wondrous discovery. For each moral failing, there is bright accomplishment. We must appreciate the good, and remember the bad so as not to repeat it, and let neither be used as a weapon against us, to make us hate ourselves, or where we came from. America has no reason to feel shame for her history. For if any have tried earnestly to be a just and moral people, though at times failing as all humans do, it is us. And those doing the criticizing have records far worse. If anyone should feel shame and guilt, it is they.
For America, shame? No. Pride, perhaps. But never shame.
Francis explains for us a common SJW technique, one so ubiquitous over the past few decades, that almost every institution has been terminally infected by it:
When persons of that stripe manage to gain entry into an organization, they immediately start to work at politicizing it in their preferred direction. It doesn’t matter whether politics has any relevance to the purpose of the organization. The infector’s purpose is politics and nothing but politics, regardless of whatever pretense they used to gain access to it. Often their intentions are opposed to the organization’s goals; they actively seek to degrade it, even if that would mean the loss of their positions, salaries, and status.
It is important to understand the scope and purpose of the SJW’s actions. For them, there is no other purpose to life than the battle for control over other human beings. Folks, I know I’ve said this many times in the past, but people really need to take this to heart fully. It’s very hard for a mind not bent toward power to comprehend fully a mind that is bent that way.
They do not care about safety, or the children ™, or equality, or any other excuse. Racism does not matter to them, nor does sexism. Wealth inequality does not matter to them. What matters to them is power, and these things are seen as convenient vehicles for this power. Were SJWs alive in 1930s Germany, they would have blamed all their woes upon the Jews, as they blame straight white Christian men now. It would have been convenient for them.
Were they around in during the Russian revolution, the Romanovs and the filthy capitalists would have been the excuse. Wealth inequality, mistreatment of the peasantry, whatever…
In this you find the most insidious component of SJW subversion: there is a degree of truth to the excuses. Americans know blacks got a raw deal in our history, as did Indians. We all know about segregation. We all know that America – like any nation in history – has sins buried in her history. To the SJW, this is the leverage, the crowbar, use to move us, so that he can gain power over us.
All these things are tools to the cynically-minded, gender-confused sociopath. And they care not for the nature of the tool they wield. Today it is white men. Tomorrow they may return to Jew-hatred – we’ve long seen strains of anti-Semitism among extreme black nationalists. Or perhaps it will be something different, who can say?
The tools morph and change with the culture. Today it is one tool, tomorrow it is another. The tool may be seemingly-innocuous, like a helmet law or a speed limit. Or it can be death camps and gulags. It can be forceful, with extreme physical violence, or it can leverage guilt and weaponized empathy.
The purpose is always power.
I shall repeat: the purpose is always power.
SJWs, like busybody tyrants throughout history, are extremely cynical and calculating about these things. This is how they can claim they are about peace, love, and diversity one moment, and shout “kill whitey” the next. Whatever works in that particular moment, that is what they will use.
This is why so many prominent SJW feminists have been outed as sexual creeps, rapists, cheaters, and otherwise. Feminism is a tool for them – they don’t really believe any of it. It is merely a crowbar to open a door to more power.
If they contribute anything to your organization, be assured that is merely another pry bar, another wedge, to gain power and convert your institution over to their service. They will do just enough to gain entrance and cover. It is only about power. Subversion is their way of avoiding triggering active resistance before they are ready to fully take over. Once they do, their power over the organization is already at critical levels. Infestations must be rooted out quickly, and early… or not at all.
In simple terms: good-natured people are too gullible. We think it is possible that they aren’t what they seem to be. And that indecision, that hesitation, is likewise another tool in the SJW arsenal.
For a casino to make money, it does not need to win every round. That would be counter-productive. It would scare away the gullible losers. Rather, the house merely needs a small advantage that, over time, adds up to complete and total victory. 51/49 odds played out over a long enough time results in the casino making wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.
For SJWs, politics is likewise. Their subversion does not need to avoid triggering resistance in everybody. Some will not be gullible. Some will not fall for it. They merely need a slight advantage, played out over decades. It’s the Fabian approach to tyranny.
If there is any hope for us, it is that awareness of this calculating approach to power is spreading, and that the would-be tyrants began moving too quickly. They thought victory was finally at hand, and all that was left was a mopping up of active resistance. Their impatience may be our salvation.
But regardless of all that, never let go of a central truth: it’s always about power. Always. All else is a lie.
Popularity and the desire to be liked are at the center of our contemporary political disasters. One of the general rules of rhetoric I’ve observed is a tendency for the nicest opinion to be preferred to the not-nice, all other things being equal. If, for instance, I were to say that most poor people in America are poor due to bad choices, and another were to say that most people in America were poor due to no fault of their own, the latter is more palatable. It is nicer. And since it is nicer, it is generally preferred by popular opinion irrespective of whether or not it is actually correct.
Socially, it is easier to lay blame on “the system” or some other non-entity than to lay blame on specific individuals. It’s not your fault, it’s the patriarchy! It’s the racists, the sexists, the privileged, the heteronormative system of oppression. Whatever. The specific ephemeral system is not important. What is important is that it is easier to lay blame there, than on the person, especially if the individual in question is yourself.
For example, it is easier to blame white racism for the problems of the black community than to blame the black community itself, irrespective of which explanation (if either) is true. So when a debate breaks out, those who want to stick white racism with the blame have the home field advantage, so to speak. An opponent will have to win by enough to outweigh the rhetorical preference for nice.
This disease has infested our thinking to such a great degree that pacifism is generally accounted as morally superior to self-defense. It is better to die yourself, than to harm the criminal, because harming the criminal would not be nice.
Whether we consciously know it or not, this thinking is everywhere, and at some level all people are aware of it. Watch almost any political debate and you will notice the person espousing a “not-nice” opinion will invariably be apologetic; after all, he is quite sorry that his opinion isn’t as nice as his opponent’s. He doesn’t want the spectators (the real arbiters of debate) to think he’s a big meanie.
Note also that the debate opponent with the “nicer” opinion will generally be quite ruthless and cruel to the not-nice debater. After all, since his opinion is not nice, it is permissible to treat him like shit in order to change his opinion into the nice. Furthermore, it exposes his not-niceness for the spectators to see, this winning the debate for the nice. This shows us that this form of rhetorical niceness is conditional. Do not harm the criminal who breaks into your house, but feel free to punch Rightists, because their not-niceness proves they are all Nazis.
This ties into Weaponized Empathy; the notion that your own good nature and desire to be seen as righteous can be turned against you with one sad picture, with one sob story. What, you don’t want to push granny off a cliff, right?
There’s a fallacy buried in all this. Good is not necessarily nice. What is moral may not appear nice, and what appears nice may, in fact, be quite evil. Niceness has little – if any – correlation with goodness. It is good to defend your family from a murderer. It is not nice to the murderer, obviously. This is one of the reasons modern pacifism is rooted in moral cowardice disguising itself as moral superiority.
Social Justice elevates niceness above goodness, and tries to claim the moral high ground in any debate as a result. They are taking advantage of a cheap rhetorical trick. Fortunately, there is an easy defense. Invariably, SJWs will get ugly. Their not-niceness will be exposed. If they sling it at you, you are permitted to sling it right back. Quid pro quo may be the most effective means of combating SJWs. Any tactic they use is now on the table for our use, regardless of how nice it is. Intellectual courage demands it, actually. After all, if a nation lobs a nuke at you, you are not only permitted to nuke them in turn, but morally demanded to do so – else others might get it into their heads that they can lob nukes around without consequence.
The world is not nice. Reality doesn’t care. They are hard lessons that SJWs have failed to learn because many of us have restrained ourselves out of politeness. They will continue until we stop them.
Once upon a time, it was quite rare to see Leftism naked; laid bare for all to see. Soviets once cloaked themselves in moral supremacy and the imperative to spread the workers’ paradise to the world. Democrats explained that poverty must be eliminated, healthcare given freely to all, and bigotry of all forms erased from the Earth. Leftism prided itself upon its perceived moral beauty. Always they progressed to the utopia, the heaven on Earth viewed as their due, since the divine was quite silly and could not possibly exist.
Leftists could not bring themselves to admit their real end goal, not publicly, and perhaps not even consciously. For some, defense of Socialism was so deep, so ardent and passionate, that one could scarcely disbelieve their sincerity. Yet even the most sincere may lie to himself.
Recently, the mask has slipped. Curled around the edges, it falls away. Beauty, fairness, diversity, and morality… these fade away, revealing the ugliness beneath. We’ve seen it often enough in their resistance to Donald Trump. On social media, we have seen the hatred, the disgust, the dismissive disdain in which they hold us. Censors run amok, removing us from any platform where they have sufficient control. We are disinvited, our accounts are banned or deleted, our employers harassed, and our names tarnished.
Today, however, the mask slips a little further. The title lays it out, though we must fisk this mess too: You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to.
Let the weight of this statement sink in. For the unspoken, but obvious, corollary is that since you do not have a right to belief, you can be compelled by force to exchange your belief for that of another. And who is to do the forcing? That’s the eternal question. Certainly the author does not imply that any Rightist will have a say in this.
Do we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe? This supposed right is often claimed as the last resort of the wilfully ignorant, the person who is cornered by evidence and mounting opinion: ‘I believe climate change is a hoax whatever anyone else says, and I have a right to believe it!’ But is there such a right?
Yes. There is. You may believe in the good and the silly, the smart and the stupid. You may believe in the true and the false. Belief is a choice, and if you do not have choice of belief, you do not have freedom. You must instead believe whatever those in power say you should believe, at the point of a gun, whether true or false.
Beliefs are factive: to believe is to take to be true. It would be absurd, as the analytic philosopher G E Moore observed in the 1940s, to say: ‘It is raining, but I don’t believe that it is raining.’ Beliefs aspire to truth – but they do not entail it. Beliefs can be false, unwarranted by evidence or reasoned consideration. They can also be morally repugnant. Among likely candidates: beliefs that are sexist, racist or homophobic; the belief that proper upbringing of a child requires ‘breaking the will’ and severe corporal punishment; the belief that the elderly should routinely be euthanised; the belief that ‘ethnic cleansing’ is a political solution, and so on. If we find these morally wrong, we condemn not only the potential acts that spring from such beliefs, but the content of the belief itself, the act of believing it, and thus the believer.
Who is the “we” in this? Anyway, yes, a man may condemn a belief, and condemn even the believer. This does not mean the believer cannot be permitted his belief. Only when belief becomes action must we consider doing something about it. And then, we limit this to a violation of natural rights. You don’t have the right to murder me. You may wish to murder me all day. You may even believe it to be right, which most of us would find ‘repugnant.’ But until you attempt to act on this belief, that is a matter between you and God.
This is a core difference between Leftism and Rightism. Leftism believes thought must be regulated, controlled. It believes that man may be perfected by the State, by the combined ‘wisdom’ of the mob, concentrated in the hands of the very powerful. It’s profoundly sickening. And though, as I have said, every man may be permitted his belief, if there is any belief I would wish to see destroyed, it is that one. A common aphorism is that more men have been killed in the name of God than any other reason. That is a fallacy. Such that God has been used as a ‘reason’ for murder, it is most often only an excuse, a flimsy rationale for something else the murderer really wants.
And most often, that desire is for power. The power to shape belief is among the greatest.
In any complex society, one has to rely on the testimony of reliable sources, expert judgment and the best available evidence.
Who is to do the judging? The experts? The author naturally believes that his beliefs are correct, and thus he is permitted to impose them on others. Remember that Tom Nichols often makes similar claims, that because an expert is judged by his peers to be an expert, and the hoi polloi are by nature dumber and/or less experienced than said expert, they must accept the expert’s word without making a fuss or challenging him. We are not permitted to question the expert’s honesty, or competency, or his pronouncements because he is judged better than us. Stay in your place.
In exploring the varieties of religious experience, James would remind us that the ‘right to believe’ can establish a climate of religious tolerance. Those religions that define themselves by required beliefs (creeds) have engaged in repression, torture and countless wars against non-believers that can cease only with recognition of a mutual ‘right to believe’. Yet, even in this context, extremely intolerant beliefs cannot be tolerated. Rights have limits and carry responsibilities.
Tolerance of intolerance cannot be permitted? Well then, this entire article is, in effect, a form of intolerance toward beliefs deemed unfit by the author and his peers. In effect, it is naked intolerance. Should we then be forced to tolerate it? This is all circular reasoning and mental masturbation. The essence of human experience can, in my belief, be distilled down to a measure of quid pro quo. If you are willing to tolerate me, and respect my rights, I am likewise willing to do the same with you. On the other hand, if you insist that I have no right to my belief and should be forced to give it up, why should I concede your rights to your own?
Unfortunately, many people today seem to take great licence with the right to believe, flouting their responsibility. The wilful ignorance and false knowledge that are commonly defended by the assertion ‘I have a right to my belief’ do not meet James’s requirements. Consider those who believe that the lunar landings or the Sandy Hook school shooting were unreal, government-created dramas; that Barack Obama is Muslim; that the Earth is flat; or that climate change is a hoax. In such cases, the right to believe is proclaimed as a negative right; that is, its intent is to foreclose dialogue, to deflect all challenges; to enjoin others from interfering with one’s belief-commitment. The mind is closed, not open for learning. They might be ‘true believers’, but they are not believers in the truth.
Note some of the comparisons the author makes here. He places “Obama is Muslim” in the same category as denying the lunar landings took place. He places climate change skepticism in the same category as flat Earthers. That is a rhetorical sleight of hand. False equivalency. Furthermore, the point of deriding climate change ‘deniers’ is to deflect challenge, the very practice the author claims to loathe. He does not enjoy having his beliefs challenged, and he projects this dislike upon his ideological opponents.
Believing, like willing, seems fundamental to autonomy, the ultimate ground of one’s freedom. But, as Clifford also remarked: ‘No one man’s belief is in any case a private matter which concerns himself alone.’ Beliefs shape attitudes and motives, guide choices and actions. Believing and knowing are formed within an epistemic community, which also bears their effects. There is an ethic of believing, of acquiring, sustaining, and relinquishing beliefs – and that ethic both generates and limits our right to believe. If some beliefs are false, or morally repugnant, or irresponsible, some beliefs are also dangerous. And to those, we have no right.
Ah, who decides truth of belief? An aggressive Atheist might say that I have no right to believe in God. A radical Muslim might say I have no right but to believe in Allah. Both might find the alternatives morally repugnant. Who is granted authority to determine which beliefs I might have a right to? The quote about no man’s belief being a private matter is also revealing. This is the rationale behind Orwellian surveillance schemes. The government must determine what your beliefs are, and then must punish you if they are deemed incorrect. Or, rather, deemed in opposition to whatever those in power desire.
And those beliefs are the ones that are most dangerous… to people like the author, anyway.
The mask has slipped a little more today. The salivating drive toward complete tyranny lies naked beneath.
In a debate elsewhere, a Lefty was explaining to me how we need Universal Basic Income, because automation will come along, take all of our jobs (or at least enough of them), and we will need this so people can survive. Or, perhaps, another Leftist explained… we can delay or stop additional automation so the burger flippers agitating for $15/hour can keep their jobs. Maybe we could even add some government make-work for them.
People have been spouting variations of this nonsense since the Industrial Revolution began. It was bullshit then. It’s still bullshit. Automation changes the jobs; pushes the horizon. Old jobs fall away – few are still farmers, for instance. New jobs become needed. Who needed programmers before the computer? So it will be until post-scarcity, if such a thing is even possible.
Automation hasn’t reduced overall employment yet – certainly not in any meaningful way. There is no reason to believe the next round of automation is magically going to be different and suddenly tomorrow we have post-scarcity. But some folks may have to learn to do something else.
But let’s drop the pretense, shall we? Something I noticed in the debate over this matter is that my opponents weren’t really debating the facts, or the concepts, even. The real dispute was, and always has been, universalism. Leftists want guarantees. Everybody should have X standard of living – regardless of what they do or the decisions they make, or the direction the economy or culture takes. So to a Leftist, even the possible risk (however large or small it may be) that automation could reduce employment levels significantly means taking radical steps to guarantee equal standard of living.
It’s essentially dreaming of Communism (as opposed to State Capitalism/Socialism); the magical stateless, post-scarcity utopia that somehow guarantees standard of living via redistribution without an ounce of force. Leftists think it’s coming; that it is inevitable; that Marx’s historical dialectic inevitably must lead to it.
I say no. I used to say that Marx was a fool, but I’ve learned better. Marx was a visionary. He convinced slaves that they were really employees; free agents, as it were. And furthermore he convinced these slaves that they could actually overthrow their masters and be free of their slavery. This, of course, installed Marxist leaders as the new masters. The slaves stayed slaves, as slaves usually do. Brilliantly Machiavellian, really.
We could be living in space, or living in mudhuts, and still be having the same debate with Leftists. This is about feelings; about moral imperatives. This is partially hidden by pseudo-dialectical conversation.
Imagine a rich man meets a poor man on the street. Neither knows the other in any way or has any involvement in the other’s life. Does the rich man owe the poor man anything?
Leftist would say yes. Rightist would say no. Rightist says that if there is no connection, there are no obligations owed by either. The rich man may choose to give something, but he’s under no obligation to. The Leftist would say the wealth itself confers obligation to help; the differential between one and the other must be addressed.
This is attempting to make an argument in a social vacuum. Two individuals in that one moment are highly unequal in one metric (wealth). All other facts of life are omitted – treated as if they don’t exist. Work ethic? Motivation? Intelligence? Personal life choices? Any one of a thousand factors that contributed to why one is rich and the other is poor… all ignored.
The rich man may indeed be a dick. Or perhaps not. Insufficient information. The poor man may indeed be a victim of circumstance; bad luck; shitty people. Or he may be a victim of his own shitty choices. Insufficient information.
This is all ignored behind a facade of “I care for poor people!” The virtue signal, the religious credo of the More Caring People. “I’m better than you because I adhere to the religion of equality!”
That’s all it’s ever been. Whether they are right or wrong on individual incidentals is bordering on irrelevant. The point is to establish moral superiority; to feel good about one’s self. This is almost always done by rooting for the underdog in any situation, regardless of all else involved, because it’s just easier rhetorically.
The test is simple. Say these words “I’m really pulling for that poor guy to be more successful!” Feels good, right? Say these words “I’m really pulling for that rich guy to be more successful!” Any guilt there? Bad feelings?
What if I told you the poor guy was a murderer and a drug dealer, and the rich guy was curing cancer?
Virtue signalling is the only point. It’s so bad, some Leftists would defend the murderer. “Oh, he suffered discrimination from racists, so it was understandable that he would kill someone.” And the rich guy curing cancer could be decried as “he’s pretty sexist!” As if, even were the charge of sexism proven true, that somehow undoes curing cancer. This gross oversimplification underlies almost all Leftist thinking – and I am being generous referring to it as thinking at all.
Think my example is a little extreme? Consider the man who landed a spacecraft on a comet getting criticized as a sexist because his shirt offended somebody.
Pseudo-dialectic can mask this behavior. The Leftist will send you links to some rag like The Atlantic, blathering on about how it’s proven that wealth inequality is increasing, or that jobs aren’t there, or that up is down and left is right. The Earth is warming, the Earth is cooling. Guns are evil. Only the government should have guns. As the character Winston pointed out in 1984, you can rationalize just about anything. But this is only pseudo-dialectic. Rhetoric masking itself as logic. Orwell explained this phenomenon well enough:
His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre.
Contradictions don’t matter. Facts don’t matter. Logic doesn’t matter. Nothing matters except feeling superior; morally, intellectually, physically… by whatever metric a man cares to measure himself, the Leftist wants to feel superior, more powerful. This has led to a bizarre, seeming-contradiction: competitive humility. Competitive charity. I’m a better person than you because I advocate for more redistribution. Look at me, look at how humble I am! That these are effectively oxymorons makes no difference to the Leftist because of the feelings they give him.
And as for automation, the debate that inspired this tirade? I’m glad I don’t have to be a farmer. That’s largely thanks to automation.
But if automation has an Achilles Heel, it is its occasional soul-sucking properties. Automation can have a soul-destroying effect. A consumerist/commodification of everything. Things that were once inspiring are merely $5.99 on a Wal Mart shelf someplace, assembled by the hard-working slaves of some distant third world toilet. Fight Club (both the movie and the book) describes the soul-destroying effect quite well. The endless pursuit of useless consumer goods; the obsession with things that don’t matter, to such extent that people bury themselves in debt for just a little bit more. That is an extreme cultural sickness. But Universal Basic Income doesn’t do a thing to help with that, and probably makes it worse. And Leftists are, among other things, gross materialists anyway. Deep down, they are just envious they don’t have more consumer crap than their neighbors. After all, their mission is to feel superior…