Saturday, May 25, 2013

Latest Ban ~ Dark Ages

Dark Ages America found High Arka too hot to handle in this thread, so after only reading three essays and commenting twice, this one was delete-banned.

Symptoms Present

In a later comment, the host Berman explained the preferred dittohead-derived term for his followers:
3. Wafer: these are the best people on the planet. Name is derived from WAF, the acronym for "Why America Failed," my most recent bk. Wafers are WAF enthusiasts, people who understand that the US is going down the drain and that nothing can be done abt it. [sic, sic, sic]

Tribalism is obvious. This example merits attention because of the stage at which we view the progression of the disease. Many groups use the bandwagon approach to recruit and reinforce, so that does not make Berman's clan unique.

Living in a bandwagon provides the reassurance of watching others fall off, but leads to the inevitable inner worry, "What if that happens to me?" A group which does not take care of its weaker or disliked members as a matter of policy (such as America, or one of its corporations) leaves all of its members, no matter how temporarily successful, feeling hunted and afraid. We all know that, if the group is willing to cut off the displeasing, we ourselves could later become displeasing, and would find no mercy. Ergo the climb for success never ends.

In the desperate search to reinforce the mores that have sustained them as a successful member of the tribe--so far!--members look for symbols to display loyalty and belonging. An inner desire for community and kinship, and the necessary bandwagon posturing of being too busy and/or important to fully use the language of "outsiders," leads to the desperate habit of demonstrating affiliation through dictional symbolism. Dialects are slowly born, reassuring long-time members that they have a leg-up on outsiders, who (necessarily) cannot know all the group's shared anecdotes, habits, and jargon.

Amidst a climate of fear, however mild, it's difficult to get to know people as well as under freedom, ergo dialects serve a twofold purpose: they comfort the speaker that she or he knows more than outsiders, and is better-equipped to remain a member of the group; moreover, they allow group members to more easily identify one another as friendlies. When any form of Big Brother (again, however laughably mild a form) is watching, it is dangerous to expose too much of your inner thoughts, unless someone else has said them first and not been punished. So, you're left mostly with congratulating each other on the shared wisdom of being upon the bandwagon, which makes it difficult to really get to know anyone else as anything more than "member." The more repression we see in any system, the more difficult people begin to find the concept of "relationships," which is why we see so many westerners uncertain as to how to go about "meeting someone." In faceless modern armies, shaven-headed, blank-eyed soldiers identify one another through uniforms and jargons, where hundreds of years ago, men fought at the side of their neighbors and kin, and needed no such peacockery.

Nothing Can Be Done Abt* It

The surface symptoms of that particular group make for a cute exercise. More important by far is the subject of Berman's article. His original post, Immoderate Greatness, takes the name of a book by someone he admires--William Ophuls, a leftist academic who makes a living, like Berman, crying that the sky is falling. Berman's article quotes large chunks of Ophuls' text without specific citation (their boss won't mind which of their vessels the message goes through, as long as it's getting out there), and it is, essentially, the "hedonistic civilization self-destructs" argument.

...which does, of course, make much of it accurate. There is no shortage of intelligent, accurate observations that can be made about how stupid Americans are. If you're smarter than average, you eventually figure out that most people are uninformed and unintelligent. You are then tempted: you can turn aside from humanity, and from yourself, and spend the bulk of your time detailing the different ways that people suck. You may academically despair their horrid fate (Berman); you may cleverly represent, and garishly snicker at, their foibles (young IOZ); you may bitterly scorn every excruciating detail of the things you already knew they were going to do anyway (Silber); you may archly condescend to their unwashed state and congratulate others who share a history of mocking them (responsible, mature, inheriting IOZ).

Where all of these terrible (or prepaid) choices lead is the same place they began: the hopelessness that created the very same stupid, self-destructive behavior of the Americans being mocked. It is the fatalistic despair of the philosophers (and operatives) that creates the sensation, among the masses, that there is nothing that can be done. The vengeful return of Christ; the unseen presence of dark-matter demons with red pajamas and pitchforks, lurking under the mountains; the Big Crunch; the 99.9% chance of failure by extinction; the everdeath and eternal separation of a non-cycling world; the temporally limited abuse of statistics to prove that things have never been worse--these are among the most powerful intellectual tools of evil.

Generation after generation, an error of elders has been to despair at their juniors. When nuclear power was developed; when the Black Plague came; when printing presses replaced handwritten screeds--how many times must the sky be absolutely certain to fall before we start fixing things? The more time we spend looking up, the longer we make improvement take. Like taverns or firesides for millenniums, the internet is rife with the bitter old complaining that the world will die. As it feels its own body age, selfishness causes the isolated individual to believe that the world is going down, also. When you've learned to identify value only in the temporal experiences you have here, and to fear death, then yes, aging is a terrible, fearful thing, and with you goes the world. The cranky elder is largely a modern creation, resulting from the technological arrogance of tools: as the trinkets got bigger and bigger, the selfish began to believe they were not part of nature. Only in their age did they realize what a problem that would be. No more spirits means that all the trinket-related excitement during life was meaningless. The cranky elders replaced the wise elders, and began insulting, instead of guiding, the next generation.

* shudder

The Hope of the Little Girl and the Window

Here is Berman commenting on the next generation:
They're probably beyond help. There was a cartoon in the New Yorker a few mos. ago showing a toddler pressing on a living rm window, and the mother saying to the father, "She thinks it's a touch screen." I'm telling you, this neurological/intellectual inability angle is the one thing that 'progressives' overlook, and that is also omitted from accounts of why civs collapse. Nobody wants to say it: The people just went brain-dead. [sic, sic, sic]

Actually, many, many people want to say it--and love saying it, hearing it, and reading it. Detached fatalists find a form of comfort in discussing how it is worthless to try to help people (think "savages") because they lack the raw capability of improvement (think "savages" again, and also think "Christopher Columbus"). Sadly, criticizing infants for not yet knowing how to toilet, clean, walk, speak, read, and do linear algebra is something arrogant older people have been doing for a very long time.

Those people are wrong as well as selfish. It is intelligent of toddlers to search for similarities between things they already understand and things they do not understand. It is intelligent, as well as courageous, for young girls to test things out firsthand, rather than waiting to be told what something is by an authority figure (Berman's attitude is the chilling, hidden version of deference to authority often seen in self-avowed radicals/progressives).

If you're on an alien ship, and you figure out that pressing the blue button makes the ship go forward, you may press a blue button on a different alien ship the next time you're trying to escape back to Earth. Recognizing the similarity in an artificial representation of a two-dimensional plane--in the form of a window or an iPad--is something creative and new for the child. It is vulgar, disgusting, arrogant, and ignorant for an elder to say otherwise.

Indeed, the elder has betrayed himself: an elder from several generations ago could express disgust at someone who thinks a "living rm window" is a window, instead of recognizing it as a beautiful mirror; a rare, clear piece of lightning-struck glass; a shelter wall that needs reinforcement. To think of the window as a "window," and to then scorn the idea of a child discovering that it is not a touchscreen, requires such self-absorption as to forget that your idea of what "window" was, and what it should be, was formed situationally.

(In fact, Berman's idea of "window" was probably formed when he was a toddler. If he heard an interesting sound coming from the radio, and upon going to inspect it, was slapped away by a cruel elder who thought that interest in a newfangled, godless radio meant Berman would never play a real musical instrument, toddler-Berman would have been greatly wronged. If he endured experiences like that, he might have grown up to believe that there was no hope in the world, and employed his knowledge to criticize, rather than help, others in the learning process.)

As the toddler grows, she will learn--quite swiftly--that glass windows are not touchscreen computers. Perhaps she will develop really cool toys, like house windows that are touchscreen computers. Or, since someone already did, perhaps she'll figure out a way to to produce them cheaply enough that they're on every dwelling.

More importantly, perhaps she will gain the wisdom, when she is an old woman herself, to smile, not sneer, at a little boy who thinks that a microwave is a dessert synthesizer.


  1. When I get deleted from someone's blog my reaction tends toward 'what did I say that was so wrong? I don't think what I said was all that bad.'

    You're right; these blogs can be cliquey. And some authors can be thin-skinned. But screw 'em. I'm going to say what's necessary in spite of their cliques and thin skin. I regard it as my civic duty.

    I suppose that if we weren't getting deleted from time to time, we wouldn't be saying anything provocative of thought.

    Wafers indeed. Hey, do you think it's a good idea to start addressing my readers as "Pie-ers" or perhaps "Cow-ers?"

    1. You could always draw inspiration from the crass gentleman you spoke with yesterday, and call them, simply, "Patties." ;-)

  2. The cliques do not understand that humanity has moved close to a point where labor and general ability are quickly becoming an abstraction that's also practically 'true'. I.e. as our technology and memesphere render individual skill and ideas less and less significant, it is not surprising that many will fight for their own significance by any means possible, in futile attempt to retain jurisdiction/property over something that inevitably will be a cumulative human accomplishment/pathology.

    1. If you have a really good idea, it can be frightening, because you contemplate that it can be stolen (by someone else having the same idea, or having already had it a thousand years ago). If you react that way, you spend as much time as necessary propertizing your idea--preventing anyone else from using it, and claiming that it was not inspired by anything.

      When you do that, it's a phenomenal waste of energy, and makes it incredibly difficult for you to ever have new ideas again (if ever). It also tends to make you blind to the latter, which is why the people most interested in intellectual property tend to be the least original.

      There are always new variations that are "different enough" that they can be called "new" in the sense that we use that word, and there are inspirations that are original enough to one person and/or group that they can be legitimately said to have come from "that person," but most people are trained to find new things are unpleasant and difficult, so success almost always (or simply "always"?) indicates a lack of originality.

      All content (c) 2013, High Arka Funworks, Inc.

  3. Yes, and it also cannot be stressed enough that often marginal differences or improvements congeal into important breakthroughs, and 'propertization' definitely impedes this process.

    The 'greatest scientists of all time' (Newton) made such a breakthrough precisely because he was able to pick, choose, and synthesize what Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Descartes had done before him - they had all hit on essential building blocks.

    Ironically, Newton was also a known asshole, who resisted publishing his works on optics precisely so he wouldn't have to be bogged down defending them, and he also made the 3rd part of Principia Mathematica deliberately convoluted and difficult to understand, so he could fight Hooke's claims for having made some of the same discoveries.

    Maybe the claim to priority is indipspensable to stimulate inquiry, but then again, the history of science is littered with instances of simultaneous discovery. "when the book of nature opens, it opens before all of us"; or "when spring arrives, all flowers bloom"

    (I don't remember where any of these quotes come from, could be me)

  4. Hi, High Arka. I think you're missing the political aspect of Morris Berman's contempt for American society. I'd compare him to Chris Hedges. Both are frustrated because the American left has been so thoroughly defeated. It may look otherwise, since Obama won and the changing demographics are favouring the Democrats, but the Democrats lose even when they hold office, because they don't and indeed can't fight for liberal principles. The defeat has happened at the level of myths, of how issues are framed in the plutocratic US. Conservative myths are more popular than liberal ones there, and I think that's because postmodernism has been disastrous for liberalism in general.

    1. You said that "the Democrats lose," which implies that the Democratic Party, its major politicians, or its voters actually want some kind of "liberal agenda." The Democratic Party, however, is the oldest political machine on the planet, and has been the driving force of modern American politics.

      The Democratic Party is the Party of African-American slavery; of the Native American genocide; of World War I, World War II, and the use of the atomic bomb; it is the Party of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Agent Orange; it is the Party of Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, welfare "reform," the irradiation of Serbia, and the starvation of Iraq; it is the Party of austerity, corporate welfare, elite tax breaks, regressive payroll taxing, and mandatory purchases from corrupt insurance monopolies. It is the Party of warrantless murder lists; the Pakistani genocide, the Somali genocide, and the Congolese genocide; the Party of random drone bombings; the war on Libya, and the butchering of Afghan wedding guests.

      For more than a century, the Democratic Party has been the worst single organization on the planet. It has poisoned the environment, spurred the most disastrous conflicts known to human history, and it has done it all in the name of American liberalism.

      Best of all, thanks to the media it has purchased, American Democrats have convinced many foreigners that these comic-book-style supervillains known as "Republicans" are somehow responsible for all of the atrocities the Democrats have committed.

    2. That's quite the list you assembled. I don't think liberals have done all those bad things in the name of liberalism, though. At least, Berman and Hedges would say American liberals tend to betray their principles (although not when they pushed through the New Deal). Of course, this raises the question of what those principles are. They'd be the modern humanistic ones of freedom, reason, and equality. But in my view, these principles changed as the modern world became postmodern. Now it's Republicans who talk more about freedom, Democrats are stuck with the elitist and self-defeating ideal of rationality, and equality is off the table, thanks to the collapse of the socialist utopias in the last century.

      Anyway, I think this is some of the background of why Berman and Hedges resent American liberals. They see many of them as traitors, especially the Democratic politicians.