I have festered in the illusions of the present. This is the falseness of the political order, in which the machinations of consensus opinion push toward inevitable conclusions. No one overcomes the machine in which he moves. This is the first rule of the anarchistic philosophy of the recalcitrant transcendentalist.
Man’s being an unfinished, defective animal has been the root of his uniqueness and creativeness. He is the only animal not satisfied with being what he is. His ideal was a combination of the perfections he saw in the animals around him. His art, dances, songs, rituals and inventions were born of his groping to compensate himself for what he lacked as an animal. His spirituality had its inception not in a craving to overcome his animality but in a striving to become a superior animal.
–Eric Hoffer, First Things, Last Things (1971), p. 11
This view is historical and anthropological, but is totally contrary to the notion of spirituality developed in the Axial Age, for example in Christianity. Assuming a basic animality and seeking to transcend it is the contrary notion. Transcending a natural animality would be absurd, however, without the idea that the animalistic condition were due to some kind of mistake.
So, the origin of our animalistic nature has to be in a historical event, a confluence of circumstance and autonomous will, which a Christian theologian would call “The Fall.” That leaves room for a pre-existing ideal instantiation of human existence, when circumstances were unpolluted and will was trusted. Spirituality then becomes not a path to more animalistic powers, the expression of will to control circumstance, but rather a path to transcend circumstance and will.*
If a human could have an essentially animal nature, then he would actually be an animal, and have no desire to be other than what he is. Even becoming more than what he is at the moment would be simply a fuller expression of what he could be, which would still be the same animal, but better. To the extent that he might seem to be a different animal, that would be a superficial difference, a matter of morphology or behavior.
Another possibility would be that the progeny of an individual human animal could become a different kind of human animal; that is, it could “evolve.” That doesn’t concern the particular individual in question, though, unless the individual in question has some abstract notion of humanity which extends beyond his own existence. Having such an notion would mean that individual is not an animal, which has no desire to be other than what he is, and so does not imagine himself being part of an abstract taxonomy or progression. That individual is instead a human which, having no notion of magically acquiring new powers in itself, imagines a spiritual connection to other individuals which might have different powers.
*”Circumstance” means everything given, including environment and the body. “Spirituality” means any desire to be other than what we seem to be. “Will” means the individual intent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.