Culture, here and there
Universalism to the West, imperialism to the rest
Alone among civilizations the West has had a major and at times devastating impact on every other civilization. The relation between the power and culture of the West and the power and cultures of other civilizations is, as a result, the most pervasive characteristic of the world of civilizations. As the relative power of other civilizations increases, the appeal of Western culture fades and non-Western peoples have increasing confidence in and commitment to their indigenous cultures. The central problem in the relations between the West and the rest is, consequently, the discordance between the West’s—particularly America’s—efforts to promote a universal Western culture and its declining ability to do so. The collapse of communism exacerbated this discordance by reinforcing in the West the view that its ideology of democratic liberalism had triumphed globally and hence was universally valid. The West, and especially the United States, which has always been a missionary nation, believe that the non-Western peoples should commit themselves to the Western values of democracy, free markets, limited government, human rights, individualism, the rule of law, and should embody these values in their institutions. Minorities in other civilizations embrace and promote these values, but the dominant attitudes toward them in non-Western cultures range from widespread skepticism to intense opposition. What is universalism to the West is imperialism to the rest.
Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations (Kindle page 183)
Transnational capital and the progressive Left
This bears, and rewards, close reading:
Why would transnational capital be parrotting slogans drawn from a leftist framework which claims to be anti-capitalist? Why would the middle classes be further to the ‘left’ than the workers? If the left was what it claims to be – a bottom-up movement for popular justice – this would not be the case. If capitalism was what it is assumed to be – a rapacious, non-ideological engine of profit-maximisation – then this would not be the case either.
But what if both of them were something else? What if the ideology of the corporate world and the ideology of the ‘progressive’ left had not forged an inexplicable marriage of convenience, but had grown all along from the same rootstock? What if the left and global capitalism are, at base, the same thing: engines for destroying customary ways of living and replacing them with the new world of the Machine?
The post-modern left which has seized the heights of so much of Western culture is not some radical threat to the establishment: it is the establishment. Progressive leftism is market liberalism by other means. It enables the spread and growth of Machine society by launching an all-out war on any cultural norms that remain to us in the 2020s: norms which act as a brake on the spread of Machine values. The left and corporate capitalism now function like a pincer: one attacks the culture, deconstructing everything from history to ‘heteronormativity’ to national identities; the other moves in to monetise the resulting fragments.
Paul Kingsnorth, available at his Substack and now at Unherd (excerpted by Alan Jacobs).
Thinking outside a 50-year-old box
[T]he modern American anti-abortion movement that emerged by the late 1980s was an ecumenical joint with an evangelical id and a [narrow] sense of what it meant to be “pro-life.” In place of a broad societal vision, it had a highly specific legal goal: regulating the practice of abortion … Organizing, funding, and political activity all centered on this singular effort. Everything else was noise.
Thus, though American pro-life activists have had decades and plenty of encouragement to tackle the privations—poverty, poor housing options, and limited access to child care—that seem to precipitate many abortions, their attention has instead remained obdurately trained on regulating the practice of abortion itself …
Nevertheless, the triumphant post-Dobbs press releases had to say something, and most of them gestured at precisely the kind of legislation that the anti-abortion movement has adamantly ignored for the past 50 years …
A better tack: Rather than tee up an exhausting, decades-long legal battle over whether crisis pregnancy centers (the modern anti-abortion movement’s preferred delivery method for services, money, and goods for women in need) ought to receive state funds and under what conditions, agree that pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care should all be free, and demand that the federal government make it so.
This would require veteran pro-lifers to take on a trifecta of onerous tasks: moving on from a narrow fixation on regulating the practice of abortion itself; taking up welfare as a cause just as worthy of political agitation as abortion; and overcoming a veritable addiction to liberal tears, indisputably the highest goal of American politics at this point in time, and which militates against human flourishing in every case. It’s time the pro-life movement chose life.
I kinda like it.
Truth will out
In 1973, David Attenborough presented a BBC documentary that included an interview with one of the leading modern synthesists, Theodosius Dobzhansky. He was visibly distraught at the “non-Darwinian evolution” that some scientists were now proposing. “If this were so, evolution would have hardly any meaning, and would not be going anywhere in particular,” he said. “This is not simply a quibble among specialists. To a man looking for the meaning of his existence, evolution by natural selection makes sense.” Where once Christians had complained that Darwin’s theory made life meaningless, now Darwinists levelled the same complaint at scientists who contradicted Darwin.
Stephen Buranyi, Do we need a new theory of evolution? (emphasis added).
I’ve paid so little attention to supposed faith/science controversies in the last decade or more that this story kind of blindsided me. Suffice that any need for an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis is not an argument for young-earth creationism.
Meanwhile, the slip of the tongue — that natural selection fills an existential need for meaning in the lives of some scientists — was interesting and blindsided me only by its candor.
I learned many women, especially lesbians, have experienced periods of wanting to be men in intense and visceral ways, ways that met the diagnostic criteria for GID or gender dysphoria, but were eventually really glad that they had instead made peace with themselves as one type or another of unconventional women.
I am grateful for the perspective transition has given me on how the medical-industrial complex fails women and girls in pain.
I understand why someone would feel transition saved their life. Do others understand that transition can also do profound harm?”
From Ryan T. Anderson, When Harry Became Sally, Kindle pages 1203-31.
Saying such things today qualifies as "transphobia" and will get your book censored by our corporate overlords at Amazon. (See above on "Transnational capital" and Anthony Esolen, below.)
Envying the Brits
For an American liberal … the schadenfreude brought by [Boris] Johnson’s collapse is mixed with envy. We are watching a still-functioning democracy dispatch its bombastic populist leader because his amorality and narcissistic dishonesty were simply too much … Mired as I am in the demoralizing squalor of American politics, I’m jealous of the relative quaintness of the scandal that finally brought Johnson down: lying about someone else’s sexual misconduct! … Imagine having final straws!
Michelle Goldberg, The Delightful Implosion of Boris Johnson
Thinking outside the duopoly
I was reading in the New York Times this morning that the Democrats are looking at the four major planks of their new policy to see if they are going to have to take anything out when it comes to family benefits. They were looking at the child tax credit, paid medical leave, universal pre-K, and—I can’t remember the fourth one. All of the people they polled said, “Hey, we think universal pre-K is best.” And here I’m thinking, well, it doesn’t surprise me that the state thinks that’s the best way to handle the situation, because at the end of day, they want to directly control what the family looks like. They specifically say, we want everyone to be in the workforce.
I’m all for women working in the workforce. But if the family is the basic structure of society and of economic policy, then we want to be creating policy for the benefit of the family. Does the family benefit by us putting three-year-olds in school all day long and paying for it so mom can go out and work? That’s problematic because it doesn’t respect the nature of the family—not, as many people have said, like the child credit, which gives the family the opportunity to do what they think is best for their family with the funds they get. That might be daycare so mom can work. It might be so that mom or dad can stay home and be with the family.
Neither side respects the family. On the right, they only respect the corporation, and on the left, they only respect the state. And they’ll do whatever they can to squeeze the benefits out of us until there’s nothing left.
Alan Mickle, of the American Solidarity Party, which I’m pleased to learn is (at least by some measures) America’s fastest-growing third party.
Great Replacement Theory 101
The right wing version is that immigrants, especially immigrants of color, outbreed people who were born in the country, so that descendants of the former will “replace” descendants of the latter. This is supposed to be bad.
The left wing version is that immigrants, especially immigrants of color, trend more to the left than people who were born in the country, so that leftists will “replace” conservatives. This is supposed to be good.
Both versions of the theory are nuts.
As to the former version: If the country becomes browner in a few generations, so be it. People who are too selfish to have children deserve to be “replaced” by people who love them.
As to the latter version: Immigrants who are acquainted with the politics of the country are often quite conservative; they don’t want to lose what they’ve worked and suffered to attain. So if left-wingers think immigration will lead to the “replacement” of conservatives by liberals, they may have it backwards.
The fallacy of Boromir
When people justify their voting choice by its outcome, I always think of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien emphasizes repeatedly that we cannot make decisions based on the hoped-for result. We can only control the means. If we validate our choice of voting for someone that may not be a good person in the hopes that he or she will use his power to our advantage, we succumb to the fallacy of Boromir, who assumed he too would use the Ring of Power for good. Power cannot be controlled; it enslaves you. To act freely is to acknowledge your limits, to see the journey as a long road that includes dozens of future elections, and to fight against the temptation for power.
Jessica Hooten Wilson, What ‘The Lord of the Rings’ can teach us about U.S. politics, Christianity and power.
If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.
Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes
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