Possibly an Anarchist

Okay, Frankie T. has probably forgotten all about me after I got caught up with meatspace life and failed to deliver on my promise. Or maybe he’ll wander back over here to tell me how unsatisfactory and putrid I am no matter what I write.

I used to be very diligent about analyzing what people wrote, poring over every line like a tenth-grade English teacher and carefully responding to every point. I discovered that it is pointless to do that on other people’s blogs because either (a) they will treat me like a troll regardless, just because I am not stroking them hard enough and fast enough; or (b) they will complain that since I have not read all 10,000 posts they wrote over the last 15 years, I cannot possibly critique one particular post, and then they will treat me like a troll.

On this blog I tried to do the same careful analysis with a dimwit named Ed. He seemed so promising as a loyal adversary because he acted very sincere and knowledgeable, yet misguided. So I spent hours and weeks and months looking up all his citations, in print and on the web, through multiple library visits and Interlibrary Loan requests, only to discover that he was either brain-damaged or else alternately stupid and lying. I even boiled it down to a test case of a single claim from a single author, and he failed to pass The Atheist Test, that is, the standard test used by atheists to evaluate theists.

The Atheist Test is where I carefully consider your claim, and if I don’t think it is possible based on my personal gut feeling, I conclude that (a) whatever you claim to be true is false; (b) whatever you say is an attempt to manipulate and subjugate me; and (c) you are insane. So much for Ed.

I am not going to grant Frankie T. the free wash and wax like I implied, because I don’t actually care how misguided he is, or if he really is misguided at all. I’m just going to clarify what I wrote previously.

The main reason why I suspect that Frankie T. is wrong about Christian Anarchism is because he is in agreement with the majority of Christians. Any atheist who agrees with a majority of theists on a particular topic has some unexamined assumptions somewhere. It’s not my job to examine him if he can’t get his head out of his own assumptions.

On this page, I wrote an insufferably obsequious comment, which I will elaborate below.

Political hierarchy exists in this world to govern our behavior, perhaps even our thoughts, but it actually carries no metaphysical weight. It has no cosmic significance; it does not transcend human society in any way.

Therefore, all human political hierarchy is meaningless and will ultimately pass away; and I as a citizen of a transcendent kingdom am not subject to human political hierarchy at all.

The objection will be made by a Christian, although not by an atheist, that in fact God establishes authority on the earth to rule us, and we are to be subject to it so that we may enjoy peace and order while on earth.

I reply that I will suffer whatever consequences there may be for contravening authorities established on earth, since God has promised that I must.

However, I maintain that the law is for the lawless, whereas I have the law of Christ in my heart. I am not subject to the earthly principalities and powers; I am subject to the Lord alone. That, I maintain, is Christian Anarchism.

The Impossible Anarchist

Here is Tremblay thundering about the impossibility of Christian anarchism:

There is a system of thought called “Christian Anarchism,” which I have always tried to confront, despite a lot of reticence from other Anarchists to do so. It seems that they have some reverence for Christianity which prohibits them from realizing how absurd the idea of “Christian Anarchism” is. I put it in the same hole as “anarcho-capitalism”: just pure conceptual nonsense mascarading as a coherent ideology. . . .

It is impossible for the “Christian Anarchists” to come out of this dilemma without implicitly dropping either Christianity or Anarchism. Ideologically, it is a dead-end. It needs to be dropped and we must make clear that Anarchism is an ethical ideology with an ethical foundation which is diametrically opposite to that of Christianity.

Tremblay further clarifies the point here and here.

Of course, most Christians are in full agreement with Tremblay in saying that “Christian anarchism” is impossible. That is the main reason why I suspect the logic of his argument.

Cut Off

Between mutilation and fear there is an endless waiting — waiting to see when the next annealing will happen, waiting to find out what my true self knows. I don’t know what the heart knows, because that is hidden in the leaves, I think. There is no greater force of recognition than my hopelessness, that sense that change will never come because apparent changes are just different perceptions of the same thing, that underlying motive that never seems to fully express itself in the present yet is always obvious afterwards. I can’t find any essence, any real reason for obliquity — not even a natural indigence.

It just seems like one thing happened, and then another thing happened, and so on. Each event was carefully considered, and it seemed right at the time to do a particular action, but afterwards everything seemed absurd. I did find a pattern, though. The pattern is idiopathic, a circular obversity that leaves me constantly rationalizing according to other-directedness. That’s because my own tautism leads me to expect externalized epistemes, regardless of the insanity or mere weakness causing the vision. The pattern is not dependent on natural affinity, but rather on perceived infinity, on the apparently regressive irrationality of cyclic reductions. There is no necessary conclusion.

I don’t know where the center is. I thought I found it when I realized that I wasn’t there, and that not being there meant that nothing could possibly result happily. But even though that was comfortably without care, it left nothing to habit. Everything that could have been was already gone, pushed down and crushed and wickedly molested. The time was lost and would never come back. More wasted years without regret.

Now, there is something supposedly important to be done, but it has no necessary efficacy, no possible actuality that can matter. Maybe it matters, but I can’t really expect it to matter. If it mattered, it would mean that something mattered before and will matter again, but I don’t think it mattered before. It was just some kind of solipsistic solecism, a self-canceling soundproof lopsided backwards series of mistakes. One mistake after another — no learning, no correction, no discovery, no understanding.

I think right now I’m afraid that something will matter, when it should not. I don’t know why else anything would instill fear. It’s because I want it to have significance, but it cannot have significance. If it had significance, then I would have to admit that it would be the only significant event.

I want to have the minimum. That’s all I want, but I can’t have it. The minimum is too much. It’s just a mistake to think that there is a minimum, that anything can be achieved through effort. Nothing accumulates, nothing leverages, nothing overcomes. More waste.

Hating the Haters

Responding to Readers on ‘The Data of Hate’ – NYTimes.com

I have received a lot of great questions and comments about my article, “The Data of Hate,” which analyzed the makeup of the membership of America’s largest hate site, Stormfront.

In the comment section of the article, some readers asked about the role of religion. There is definitely a large contingent of the religious right on Stormfront. There are complaints that Jews are driving an increased secularization in society. But a not-trivial number of members say they are atheists. As I went through the profiles, this was quite striking. The Stormfront members who say they are atheists sometimes quote Nietzsche and express an interest in social Darwinism. Some posts on Stormfront hypothesize that white people have superior genes and, if they play their cards right, will win a Darwinian struggle against other races. Both Darwin and Nietzsche’s ideas were also distorted and used by the Nazis.

This observation, that a lot of racist bigots are atheists who love Nietzsche and Darwin, is only counterintuitive to someone who believes the post-World War II progressive liberal story about how atheism cleansed the minds and purified the hearts of the formerly narrow-minded and ignorant religious nuts in America. That postwar romanticism posits an ahistorical understanding of modern culture, in which unfettered rationalism and moral clarity sprung full-born from the heads of Marx, Darwin, and Freud, and were then gradually adopted as truth by the unwashed masses.

The rhetoric of “hate” and “phobia” further reinforce the implication that there is something terribly insane about anyone who doesn’t accept the sublime enlightenment of progressive liberalism. This is part of the bizarre, unempirical, anti-humanist perspective of the dimwitted left-wing political animal.

I hold many “liberal” viewpoints concurrently with many “conservative” viewpoints. My head doesn’t explode from the instability and dissonance of this fact, since I am a person, not a fake ideological robot. I have conflicting priorities and allegiances. My adversaries, if I can be pretentious enough to imagine that I have any, are not those with particular political labels. My adversaries are the fake ideological robots. Whether or not they are maliciously lying, they are still fake. They are robots that unburden themselves of their humanity in order to subscribe to an ideological algorithm dictated by a charismatic personality, an inchoate social entity, or a shiny little idea. They are human first, but they despise their humanity and deny it in order to have the comfort and transcendent gnosis of a rigid ideology.

The ideology doesn’t cause errors in thinking or immoral behavior. That is a popular theme among all kinds of political animals in criticizing their adversaries. The ideology is chosen by the individual because it suits their needs in rationalizing cruelty, hatred, political oppression, forced indoctrination, murder, torture, rape, and other infelicities. The ideology is a sign of corruption, not a cause.

Either-Or Profiling

Racism among the underprivileged | okepi

Shouldn’t I, as someone in a position of relative socioeconomic security, speak up on behalf of those who cannot? Yet how do I do that in a way that doesn’t seem arrogant or condescending – and how do I do it in a situation that can quickly devolve into harassment?

I’m not in a racial minority group where I live and work, but I am in an economic minority group. I have always lived in a high-income area although I was low-income, and I have usually worked among low-income people who knew that I lived in a high-income area and assumed that I was high-status. Eventually I dealt with these discrepancies by getting more education and a different kind of job, so that I could appear to be high-status even though I was not high-income.

By dressing the part and speaking like an educated person, I let everyone assume I am high-status, because then low-income and high-income people usually treat me better. After years of playing the part of a low-income person, I decided it didn’t gain me anything except disregard from everyone. It had never made low-income people more comfortable around me, because as soon as I opened my mouth, they got befuddled by my two-bit words and my indifference to sports. It’s been better for me to manage people’s expectations on the high end, since most interactions are superficial and transitory, and I naturally project high-status disdain.

Also, with age comes an inducement to either play up to the dignity associated with respected elders, or else to descend to the status of the drooling, self-defecating, babbling, senile, homeless old coot. That type of binary association on the part of others is present in youth as well, but I think there is a tendency to downplay it as mere prejudice, as though everyone in the world did not make split-second decisions about how to classify everyone around them, and then go on to live the rest of their lives with reified conceptualizations. Youth has a tendency to impart a certain optimism about gaining knowledge and overcoming obstacles, a certain kind of disdain for social categorization. I don’t mean to lump together all youth as optimistic or as meliorist; rather, I suggest that they think those dynamics of self-improvement and achievement are significant. They react to extant social forces according to their conditioning, and so differentiate themselves, but they accept a certain kind of social paradigm as self-evident. In the social paradigm of youth, things will change for better or worse, but things will change, and they will somehow be a part of the change.

The social paradigm in old age changes because in US society, all the cultural gravitas is concentrated with the 40-year-olds who obsess over 20-year-olds. I am not referring specifically to sociosexual hierarchy, however. I am taking the old trope of US “youth culture”, which centers on the desires and needs of 20-year-olds, and noting that it is filtered and mediated by 40-year-olds. Given that fact, the 40-year-old view of those 50 and up is dictated by the older person’s increasing conformity with one of two stereotypes, either “helpful parent figure” or “useless piece of trash.”

To the point of the original posting, however, I suggest a similar view of racism. People make ignorant assumptions all the time. Most superficial prejudices are applied in a binary fashion: up or down. If you don’t like stupid racist jokes, then you need to project a clear racist stereotype, so that people will be afraid to make racist jokes. If they assume you are stereotypically high-status, they will likely be too awed to make a racist joke. If they do, you would of course respond with a stereotypically condescending manner, if not complete indifference to their existence. If they assume you are stereotypically low-status, they will likely be too afraid to make a racist joke. If they do, you would of course respond with effusive profanity, or flashing a weapon, or even a little physical aggression. In either case, just treat them as if they were an idiot, and deal with the consequences.

The situation would be different with people who know you better, or who are technically peers. Those cases also require playing to type, but with more nuance. But most interactions that are problematic probably happen on the superficial level, where it is better to manage expectations by leveraging binary stereotyping.

This is pretty much what happens in most of the publicized cases of police brutality, where the victim is often too stupid to realize that playing the low stereotype (not necessarily on a transactional level, but in overall characteristics) means that the officially appointed dispensers of violence will, in fact, dispense violence on them, then justify it as a defense of peace and order, and then get away with it. Cops are hired and trained for the purpose of identifying troublemakers within a couple of seconds and acting swiftly to eliminate any threat, on the principle that anyone who they identify as a troublemaker is a de facto criminal, a challenge to every principle of goodness and virtue, someone who must be immediately crushed until the police-person no longer feels a sense of imminent personal danger. That’s what happens when someone embodies the will of the people as the authorized dispenser of violent action. That is not an “American” problem or a “White” problem, nor even a “middle-class” problem. It is written into the definition of what the police are for. It is not necessary for “law enforcement”, but it is necessary in order to justify a standing police force. And a standing police force is necessary in order to make the middle classes feel like they live in a good society, a place where they are willing to buy property, pay taxes, vote for the prescribed parties, and send their children to school.

So, you could say it is a middle-class problem, except that the problem is endemic to all of US society. I suspect it is very similar in other modern democratic societies, especially those with similar cultural heritage in the pre-20th-century British or European traditions.

Considering the Audience

I recently attended a kind of mini-seminar on one of my favorite authors, someone who crosses the lines between rhetoric, philosophy, literary criticism, sociology, history, and politics. Everybody was talking in terms of rhetorical analysis and social critique, which was refreshing. They were also trying to gain historical perspective, which is fine, but I could not understand their approach, since I haven’t read the same books. Their expressed political positions were progressive and sympathetic with socialism or neo-Marxism, which was a little annoying, but typical. They were patriarchal and male chauvinist, yet gay-sensitive, which was funny to me, and also typical.

The attempt to grapple with issues using rhetorical analysis reminded me that I naturally think that way, and that it is possible to be around other people who think that way, rather than associating with people who think that rhetorical analysis is pointless because they think “rhetoric” is stupid, shallow, or deceptive, like everything else in the World Wide Pig-Wallow.

Why Do Americans Hate the Freedom of the Arab Patriarchs?

Real-life patriarchy:

What the Garbageman Knows

Sayyid’s conversations revolve around the three fundamental forces in his world, which are women, money, and garbage. Often these things are closely connected. In the beginning, it was Sayyid’s father’s unquenchable passion for women that led to his son becoming a zabal. Sayyid’s father worked as a watchman on the outskirts of Cairo, where he embarked on a rapid series of marriages and divorces. All told, he went through nine wives, or ten if you count the Christian woman he married briefly before Sayyid’s mother. Nobody seems to know how many children he fathered, but it was too many to support, and he died when Sayyid was six. As a boy, Sayyid never attended a single day of school, and by the age of eleven he was working full time as an assistant to zabaleen.

Despite this difficult childhood, Sayyid speaks fondly of his parents. And in his ancestral village in Upper Egypt residents remember his father in almost mythical terms. They say that at heart he was a true Arab, a Bedouin, a man of the Sahara; and thus he was fated to restlessness. The villagers also make it clear that they don’t count the Christian wife.

. . .

Sometimes he mentioned the possibility of divorce, which has little stigma for male Muslims in Egypt. One of Sayyid’s older brothers had recently divorced for the second time and now was searching for a third wife. “You keep one for a while and then you change,” the brother had told me, when we met at the sebou. “It’s like changing a tire on a car.”

. . .

In Sayyid’s extended family, most women wear the niqab, but the reason seems to be more cultural than strictly religious. It’s a point of pride and possession for the men—Sayyid says that his wife wears it because she’s beautiful, and if she shows her face in the street she’ll be coveted by strangers and harassed. And other traditions serve to control women in more explicit ways. One evening, Sayyid and I were watching my twin daughters play in the garden, and he asked casually if I planned to have them circumcised. I looked at the girls—they were all of three years old—and said no, this wasn’t something we intended to do. The majority of Egyptian women have undergone the surgery, which opponents describe as genital mutilation. Since 2008, it’s been illegal, but many people continue to have it performed on daughters, usually when they’re between the ages of nine and twelve. In Egypt, Islamists are the biggest supporters of the procedure, which, among other effects, makes intercourse less pleasurable for a woman. But in fact this tradition is not mentioned in the Koran, and Muslims in most parts of the world don’t practice it. Originally, it was a tribal custom native to many parts of Africa.

I asked Sayyid if he planned to have the surgery performed on his daughter, and he nodded. “Otherwise, women are crazy for dakar,” he said, using a word that means “male.” “They’ll be running around outside the house, chasing men.”

For traditionally minded Egyptians, this is a common view: desire should be limited to males, who do what they can to heighten it. All those sex drugs in the garbage of Zamalek aren’t an anomaly—in Egypt, I’ve had a number of casual conversations in which the topic turns to sex, and a man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pill, to show that he’s prepared.

. . .

Finally, a neighbor in Ard al-Liwa organized a traditional reconciliation session involving members of Sayyid’s and Wahiba’s families. At the session, the neighbor gave Sayyid a piece of advice. “If your wife asks for a penny,” he said, “give her two.”

“Why should I give her two pennies?” Sayyid asked.

“Because the man with three pennies is standing outside your house.”

Afterward, Sayyid was optimistic. When I asked how his sister and Wahiba had got along at the meeting, Sayyid seemed surprised by the question. “They weren’t there,” he said. “Women aren’t allowed at a reconciliation.” He explained that it’s impossible to control them in such a situation. “They have long tongues, and they insult people,” he said. “There would be a fight.”

. . .

He explained that by law Wahiba needed her husband’s permission to work, because the papers described her as a housewife. “In Islamic Sharia, the woman is like an egg,” he said. “Let’s say you have ten eggs. Where would you put them? Would you just leave them lying around? No, you’d put them in the proper place, in the refrigerator. Women belong at home. They can go out of the house with their husband’s permission, but that’s it.”

. . .

I had always liked talking with Sayyid, because of his eye for detail in Zamalek, but I noticed that he rarely said anything specific about his wife. She was crazy, he often told me, and her mind was a lock—a phrase that describes ignorance and stubbornness. But sometimes I wondered if she was almost as mysterious to him as she was to me. In his description, the woman was completely blank, as faceless as a figure in a shroud. And all the skill that Sayyid showed in Zamalek—his insight and flexibility, his ability to interact and negotiate with so many different people—seemed to evaporate when he was dealing with his wife. She was, quite simply, terrifying. And from the male perspective this seemed true of Egyptian women in general, whether they were starting fights, or chasing dakar, or intimidating Azhar judges.

I never knew why Wahiba became so angry. Sayyid blamed money, which seemed unlikely. A couple of his neighbors told me the real problem was that Sayyid spent too much time in Zamalek, cultivating his relationships, while Wahiba was stuck with three small kids in the ashwa’iyat. But it was impossible to know for certain, just as it was impossible to know why she suddenly dropped her cases. After all the lawyers and statements, and all the threatening messages, at the last moment Wahiba backed out. She decided not to file for divorce, and she quit her factory job, and Sayyid went home to Ard al-Liwa as if nothing had happened.

. . .

Still, they survived. The circle kept turning. The garbage vanished from the fire escape every morning. At night, Sayyid periodically stopped by my apartment to drink beer and chat. After he was gone, Leslie sometimes asked, “Is it really possible that they’re together again?” But he looked so much healthier and happier than he had during the winter. And he was back to taking tramadol on Thursday nights, which had to mean something.

In this story, the things feared by a real man in a truly patriarchal society include:

  • too much sexual desire by his daughters
  • too much sexual desire by his wife
  • his own lack of sexual desire
  • his wife being raped by other men because of her beauty
  • his wife being lured away by other men with more money
  • his wife working outside the home
  • women’s emotions
  • women talking too much
  • having to read and comprehend stuff not related to his work experience
  • having to deal with laws and courts

In other words, Arab patriarchs have pretty much the same concerns as patriarchs anywhere, including those in all societies steeped in “honor culture”, such as the American South. They are not admirable, just, or ethically representative of Christianity.*

The patriarchal model, AKA the “culture of honor”, is unusually susceptible to corruption and depredation due to everyone’s dependence on patronage for survival and the prevalence of sexual dominance as the form for the ideal relationship. This leads to a fundamentally feudalistic socioeconomic structure, including the institution of control systems such as vassalage, chattel slavery, villeinage, serfdom, divine rights of lordship, pederasty, and child marriage. Such systems arise as methods to ensure the maintenance of patriarchal authority, since it eventually breaks down under the burden of worthless and dissipative, yet perpetually entitled, scumbag “alphas”.

The exaltation of biological masculinity as forming an inherently logical and righteous state of mind leads to the development of a mythology in which the imperatives of the male sociosexual hierarchy (especially in its manifestation of vassal politics) trump any abstract notion of “morality”. Yet, since men are not inherently righteous or even capable of maintaining self-control, much less social order, eventually the leaders have to turn to legal justifications for brutality in order to keep the peace.

*Sure, I know that Christianity has taken many forms throughout history, including some long-lasting patriarchal forms. I am applying here my own subjective judgment about “Christianity” based on my perspective in a middle-class, White-dominated, suburban, post-communist, secularized, 21st-century, Midwestern United States culture.