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Culture War Roundup for the week of October 9, 2023

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On ruling well as a substitute for morality

Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif was an Alawite King of Morocco who ruled from 1672 to 1727. As a minor son of the first king of the Alawite dynasty and with his mother being a black slave, he only managed to ascend to power due to a fortuitous series of events where two of his higher ranking half brothers took the throne in succession, quarreling against each other until one of them was killed by forces of the other, and then the other died in a horse accident during a campaign a few years later. Even then, he only really got his hands on power because he managed to make it to Fez and proclaim himself Sultan before any of the other people who could conceivably lay a claim to the throne managed to do it.

As you would expect, his reign started out with a very divided Morocco. A rival claimant to the throne rushed to Marrakesh and had himself proclaimed Sultan. Moulay Ismail had to defeat him multiple times over many years because like a goblin, as soon as the Sultan’s forces went to a city to subdue his revolt he would disappear from there and reappear soon after in a different city where he would agitate the nobles there to rebel against the sultan.

Eventually Moulay Ismail managed to subjugate all the pretenders and unify Morocco as a single state under him as the undisputed king. This led to a period of relative stability where the median inhabitants of the empire could by and large go about their lives in peace. His army reforms also led to the creation of the first professional Moroccan Army, the Black Guards, who owed their loyalty directly to the Moroccan state (and by extension to Moulay Ismail) rather than being a collection of fighters from disparate tribes.

He also invested heavily in building structures, creating over 75 forts over his reign all over Morocco. Not only this, he was also a great lover of nature and created a multitude of gardens in the deserts of western north Africa. He basically built the city of Meknes as a new capital for Morocco, raising it from a few derelict villages to such a splendor that it is now recognised as one of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco. To this day his constructions are some of the most noteworthy landmarks any tourist could visit in the country.

And not just this, but what man can overlook his personal harem of over 500 women, through which he sired over 800 confirmed children, putting him as the second most prolific confirmed father throughout all of history, seconded only by Genghis Khan. He was also quite active in the diplomatic arena, sending letters and ambassadors as far as Great Britain to the court of James II, at one point extorting him to convert to Islam for his own spiritual benefit.

His reign is by and large seen as a golden age for Morocco. He brought order and security to the empire, and his reign was described by the historian Ahmad ibn Khalid al-Nasiri as:

“The evildoers and troublemakers no longer knew where to shelter, where to seek refuge: no land wanted to bear them, no sky would cover them.”

He was often compared to his contemporary, Louis XIV of France with whom he had an alliance and was considered to be the Moroccan Sun King (at one point he even tried to get married to one of the illegitimate daughters of Louis XIV). He had grown Morocco to its largest size ever and not only this, the empire’s economy was also doing well. His rule was a high water mark for Morocco: after his death his multitude of sons had another big power struggle which had the dubious distinction of having a single person, Moulay Abdallah, become Sultan on six separate occasions.

Regardless, it is clear that an ordinary citizen of Morocco would have had a far better life during the reign of Moulay Ismail than either the time before his Sultanate or after it. A comparison can be made here to the Three Kingdoms period of Imperial China between the Han and Jin dynasties when due to strife and extensive bloody competition between small warring polities China lost half of its population in merely 60 years. In many ways the reign of Moulay Ismail was the inverse of this, Morocco thrived and flourished during his almost 60 years on the throne.

One might wonder why such an accomplished king and ruler is so unknown these days, why the name of Moulay Ismail is not mentioned more widely in discourse. Even amongst the well read who know something about the history of Africa the name “Moulay Ismail” is not likely to raise too many eyebrows in recognition. This is because despite all the general prosperity and welfare generated by his half century rule over Morocco, his behavior in his personal life and dealings was very much the opposite, indeed Moulay Ismail is better known to people these days as Ismail the bloodthirsty.

His atrocities were myriad, his actions so extreme that even his contemporaries of the 17th century questioned them. A french captive described his appearance as thus:

He is a vigorous man, well-built, quite tall but rather slender... his face is a clear brown colour, rather long, and its features are all quite well-formed. He has a long beard that is slightly forked. His expression, which seems quite soft, is not a sign of his humanity - on the contrary, he is very cruel...

Estimates vary, but point to him having killed or ordered the deaths of over 50,000 people during his reign (not including losses in battle). He was exceptionally cruel to his personal slaves. One of his favorite pastimes when out riding was to pull out his sword as he was climbing his horse and decapitate the slave who was holding the stirrup. Why? Because he could. Ismail the bloodthirsty needed no other reason.

He was also extremely jealous in guarding the women of his harem. Each of them had their own eunuch to guard her from straying. For a man, merely looking at one of his concubines carried the death penalty and it was common for men to throw themselves face first upon the ground with their eyes down to prevent any accusations from the king, which he was very liberal in brandishing, truth be damned. Once he had one of his viziers executed because a storm hit his traveling army and caused large losses, even though the vizier had zero control over it.

It wasn’t like he behaved any better towards the women of his harem either. Any one even suspected of being unfaithful to him was sentenced to, you guessed it, death. In this case the Sultan himself would strangle the unfortunate woman, or if he wanted to be extra cruel, first cut off the breasts and remove the teeth of his victim. And his method of acquiring these women in the first place was not particularly nice either, one of his conditions to make peace with a tribe he had defeated was that he would be given a daughter of the tribe’s chief for himself.

Even blood kinship did not limit his personal depravity. He had multiple of his own sons killed, perhaps most famously Moulay Mohammed al-Alim who was once the Sultan’s favourite son, but was convinced by another one of his wives to revolt as she wanted her own son to be heir to the throne. When Moulay Mohammed was captured his father ordered one of his executioners to cut an arm and a leg off in punishment. The executioner refused to spill royal blood and Moulay Ismail had to get a backup executioner to do the deed. Moulay Mohammed died of his injuries two days later.

Afterwards Moulay Ismail had both of the executioners killed as well, the first one for refusing to obey the Sultan’s orders, and the second one for spilling royal blood… I needn’t go on with further examples of Moulay Ismail’s personal depravity, although there is a lot I’m leaving out (the reason his proposed marriage with the daughter of Louis XIV did not work out was because the French feared for how she would be treated by him if she went to Morocco).

The point of the matter is, despite how immoral and nasty a person or group may be themselves, it is still possible for them to be a net good for the world on a consequential level, and this possibility only goes up the more power they have. A nasty but competent weak person will not influence wider society at all, all they will do is make life worse for those close to them. A nasty but competent powerful person has the ability to enforce order and stability throughout society, and the positive knock on effects of this can very easily outweigh all the bad stuff they get up to In their personal life.

The nastiness doesn’t have to be restricted to your personal life either, Moulay Ismail treated his Christian slaves extremely cruelly, but as long as the damage your nastiness causes is less than the benefits you provide through your competence, and there is no believable alternative that would be plausibly better, it is best for the world if you are the person/group in charge.

Note the necessity of the plausibility of the alternatives being better. The multitude of different factions competing for the Sultanship before/after Moulay Ismail all believed that they would be better for the country than any one else, but because none of them were able to convince enough nobles etc. enough to consolidate power, there was a lot of strife and the country as a whole suffered. It could even very well be true that a certain claimant to the throne after Moulay Ismail would have been a better ruler had he been given the chance, but because he could not convince wider society of this, the end result was that people were worse off.

There was a comment here a few weeks ago which mentioned that on societal scales, there is no difference between stupid and evil. I think that not only is this true, but even more, you can be so much more competent compared to the alternative (as Moulay Ismail was compared to the lawlessness that was prevalent either side of his reign) that from a consequentialist point of view it is far better for you to be running things than the alternative, your outbursts of evil notwithstanding.

Connecting this to more topical matters: Israel is obviously a morally questionable but technologically/socially superior power compared to the Arabs of the middle east. Even when they aren’t busy killing each other in internecine conflicts (see Saudi Arabia vs Yemen etc.), the are hardly able to create technologically advanced societies where humanity can flourish unless they were blessed by nature with huge oil wealth right under their feet. You can compare e.g. the UAE vs Tunisia, both are similar sized states with very similar cultures, the only big difference is that the former has oil and the latter doesn’t.

The way to see whether Israel is good or bad for the Arabs is not to compare the quality of life led by your average Israeli Jew vs your average Israeli Arab, but to compare the quality of life of an Israeli Arab vs a non-Israeli Arab. Sure, Israel treats it’s Arab citizens as second class citizens compared to the Jews, but this absolutely does not necessarily mean that the Arabs of Israel are worse off than they would be in the counterfactual.

There was an observation made by Scott on one of his old posts that the best place to be an Arab in the Middle East outside of the oil rich states was Israel. Regardless of the lack of rights afforded to Israeli Arabs compared to their Jewish counterparts, the level of ambient prosperity in Israel is so so high compared to non Oil-Rich Arab states that the quality of life enjoyed by as Israeli Arab is higher than the Arabs unfortunate enough to be born elsewhere in the middle east.

Note that is argument is general, it doesn’t apply to just the neighbours of Israel (for which you can claim that the consequences of Israeli actions have damaged those states so much that their citizens now live a much worse life not due to any faults of their own, but rather those of Israel), but to all of the non Oil-Rich Middle East. It is certainly better to be an Israeli Arab compared to a Tunisian Arab and you can’t say that the current situation of Tunisia can largely be blamed onto Israel.

Now someone may counter by saying that it doesn’t matter how much material prosperity you may have if you don’t have political rights and “freedom”, defined in some nebulous way that aligns with how westerners think of it. Except that empirically, people behave in the complete opposite way, gladly sacrificing those things for higher prosperity.

For instance, you can make a strong argument that the average hetero man back in my home country has a lot more “freedom” than if he were to go to, say the UK (freedom to own and shoot guns, freedom to drive without having to follow a huge amount of safety regulations and low speed limits, freedom to develop his property as he wishes, freedom from an onerous tax burden, freedom to buy most medicines by just showing up at the pharmacy and asking for them instead of needing to waste a GP’s and his own time, freedom to hire servants at a mutually agreeable wage instead of minimum wage regulations getting in your way etc.). I feel this personally too, when I go back home to visit my extended family compared to the life I live in the UK. However the difference in the sheer amount of “stuff” a person can buy in the UK vs back home is big enough to create a pool of millions of people who would love nothing more than to give up all this freedom just so they can go and live in the west and be able to buy more things, while there is minimal demand for my co-ethnics in the west to go back home and enjoy all this extra freedom.

You also see this on the other end of the spectrum. Amongst business professionals expat postings that come with higher salaries/fringe benefits in exchange for being sent to a different country where you have zero political rights and are always at the risk of being expelled from the land because your visa renewal was refused are generally highly prized rather than being seen as a trap to avoid. If “political representation” and “right to choose those who lead you” were really all that valuable these professionals wouldn’t be jumping over each other to get these postings where you get paid 75% more and are given two return tickets back home each year to leave your homeland in live amongst foreigners who probably don’t even speak the same language as you.

Another demonstration of the low value of a representative vote to choose what the future will look like vs getting more material prosperity can be seen in the share prices of public companies that issue multiple classes of stock. Often there is a B class of shares that are exactly the same as the standard A class of shares when it comes to dividends and portion of ownership of the company’s assets, except that the B class shares don’t get a vote. The value of a vote can then be computed by comparing the price difference between the two classes of shares.

Yesterday the Alphabet Class A share (which gets voting rights) closed at 138.06, while the Class C share (which is equivalent to the class A share but does not get voting rights) closed at 139.20 . So actually the share with voting rights was selling for ~1% less than the share without voting rights (this is a quirk of the system caused by a short term supply/demand imbalance, normally the shares are within a few cents of each other). This goes to show how much a vote is actually worth, namely very very little compared to using the extra money in buying cheaper shares to buy more of them and get a better return on your capital (in Google’s case the founders have a majority of voting power so you can sort of explain why a vote you can buy isn’t worth anything, but even for companies where this is not the case, voting stock tends to be valued within a few cents of the equivalent non-voting stock).

Putting it all together it’s quite clear, both from the high level outside view, as well as the empirical evidence of where people choose to go if they are allowed to, that even though the rulers of a society may not be deontologically acting in particularly nice ways, and that there is a subgroup which is doing worse than they would otherwise be doing if the rulers would “just change their behavior” and allow them more say in how the place is run, the choice in reality is often not “nasty” rulers vs “nice” rulers, but rather “nasty” rulers vs even nastier alternative, and in that case the net change in sum total welfare of those “oppressed” by these rulers may well be more positive than every other plausible world, and so the “nasty” rulers are good for humanity as a whole and should be seen as such.

The way to see whether Israel is good or bad for the Arabs is not to compare the quality of life led by your average Israeli Jew vs your average Israeli Arab, but to compare the quality of life of an Israeli Arab vs a non-Israeli Arab. Sure, Israel treats it’s Arab citizens as second class citizens compared to the Jews, but this absolutely does not necessarily mean that the Arabs of Israel are worse off than they would be in the counterfactual.

This argument has been deployed in the past to justify chattel slavery and segregation, also with a large element of truth. I am sympathetic to this argument, by the way, but the problem is we were supposed to have "learned our lessons" and reformed society to reject these arguments that justified structures of alleged racial oppression. The United States emancipated the slaves, racially integrated public spaces and has essentially outlawed segregation even in private spaces, and granted equal rights to racial minorities all in a rejection of this argument you have presented. Immigration has been liberalized so much that demographic change is inevitable, and opposing demographic change makes you an evil Nazi. Accepting masses of refugees and illegal immigrants with open arms is supposed to be downstream of these lessons we have learned, lessons which were brought to us from the 20th century mythos- a mythos in which Jews played a central role.

Hoffmeister recently suggested that the Zionists tossing aside 20th century moralizing to solve this problem may awaken something in Europeans. But Carl Schmitt wrote "Sovereign is he who decides on the state of exception", and Zionism has declared a state of exception to these 20th century moral lessons that the rest of us are forced to live under, and are forced to accept all the radical consequences thereof. I don't really support Palestine, but I reject Zionism declaring the state of exception because I reject its sovereignty, not because I think your argument is wrong. I'm not going to give Zionism a pass because experience has proven beyond doubt that White people supporting Zionism earns -zero- reciprocity, supporting their declaration of the state of exception is not going grant one iota of benefit in my opposition to this moral paradigm. It's not even going to undermine the moral paradigm, as the sovereign declaring a state of exception solidifies the status of the sovereign and the underlying paradigm.

If Israel were to follow the post-war moral paradigm which has been forced upon Europe and the Western World, it would have long ago advocated a single-state solution with full equal political rights afforded to the Palestinians, right of return, outlawed ethnic segregation, pushed Affirmative Action for Palestinians in University and Government, accepted large-scale immigration from its Arab neighbors, and socially and legally repressed every Jewish Israeli who had anything bad to say about their emancipated Arab compatriots.

I'm not going to give Zionism a pass because experience has proven beyond doubt that White people supporting Zionism earns -zero- reciprocity

Israel was pretty famously one of the last countries in the world backing and arming the white minority governments of South Africa and Rhodesia, and the current government has always preferred and advocated for conservative, anti-immigration parties in the US.

There are plenty of Jews who support or supported that kind of thing, or who (like George Soros) supported NGOs that worked to undermine Israeli policy on African mass immigration, the treatment of Arabs, etc. But most have been radicalized by reality.

One thing you forget is that no European terror attack has been as visceral or even 1/10th as large (as a percentage of the total population) as this in terms of casualty count. Islamist attacks in Europe are still rare, there has still not been, 20 years later, an attack even close to the size of 9/11 against a Westen country, and while one is probably inevitable it hasn’t yet materialized. Additional secondary consequences of mass immigration like Rotherham primarily involved underclass victims and unfolded over a long period of time with limited public photographic or video evidence for obvious reasons, and higher crime rates are both hard to quantify and in most of Europe rates are still down on the 90s or early 00s peak.

If what had happened to Israel in the weekend had happened in Germany (with the victims German civilians) I think your insinuation that policy toward Islamism and mass immigration wouldn’t change is wrong. It really doesn’t take much to radicalize Europeans, and ironically the far right often buys into the “culture is totally supreme over biology” leftist blank statism when it comes to the supposed effect of 20th century progressive ideas on Western publics far more than it ought to.

I reject Zionism declaring the state of exception because I reject its sovereignty

Why do you reject its sovereignty?

One thing you forget is that no European terror attack has been as visceral or even 1/10th as large (as a percentage of the total population) as this in terms of casualty count.

The Madrid bombings were. Spain responded by capitulating.

(never mind, I though the 1/10th as large referred to 9/11, which you mentioned later. 9/11 was 9 deaths per million, Madrid was 4)

The Madrid bombings were an order of magnitude less destructive than the Hamas raid on Israel, in a country an order of magnitude larger. They also didn't involve sexual humiliation of Spanish women.

It probably doesn't matter, but any attempt to unite the country was blown by the Aznar government telling the ridiculously obvious lie that the bombings had been carried out by ETA.

Spain has 50 million people and 200 died. I don’t know that that’s comparable. But yeah, that whole episode is often forgotten in the whole ‘terrorism doesn’t work’ discourse.

Why do you reject its sovereignty?

Yeah that's unclear, I mean the sovereignty of International Zionism writ large, its sovereignty over me. The sovereignty of Zionist Jews to tell me I'm the most evil person in the world and have no right to have any sort of ethnic identity or advocate for my ethnic interests, and then they turn around and say they are the exception to the 20th century moral lessons and can basically do anything necessary to secure their ethno-state. They haven't recently been "radicalized", they've always been radicalized, their hostility towards White ethnic identity and interests combined with their hyper-ethno nationalism has always been radical, it's just that they can no longer even pretend to care about following the same rules they enforce on the rest of us.

The fact they are able to basically toss out the rule book with the support of the Western world is proof of their undue sovereignty over the international community. Europeans are thrown in jail for saying mean things about immigrants, while Israel just lives in an entirely different moral universe. It's proof of their centrality to the moral paradigm we live under, that they are above and beyond it and can declare a state of exception in their own conquests. But this isn't going to weaken or fracture the underlying moral paradigm, it's literally just "you have to follow the rules and we don't, we decide when and where the rules apply and we decide the rules don't apply to us here, there's nothing you can do about it", it's an exercise in sovereignty.

So what’s your view on Israelis in Israel and what they ought, in your moral framework, to do?

My view is that Zionism exerts undue and harmful influence over my own civilization. They have exerted influence in all areas of economic and cultural life to browbeat white gentiles with "moral lessons" that have disarmed them from essential and necessary ethnic self-regard, with irreversible consequences (Rep. Israel is now talking about the "least heinous option" when defending Israel by the way). They view white identity and ethnocentrism as intrinsically hostile to their self-interest, a belief which you share, so they work to suppress it while extracting financial, military, and political benefit from the Western world toward their own ethno-nationalist project.

You are correct that the anti-Zionism from the DR isn't going to change demographics or even the short-term migrant trends in the United States and Europe. But pointing out that the Zionists are poised to engage in an ethnic cleansing with the support of the US State Department goes a long way in discrediting the notion of Jews as the moral light unto the world. It is very strong evidence for the DR argument that Jewish moralizing towards white gentiles is their mode of engaging in conflict with perceived ethnic rivals and is motivated by ethnic self-interest rather than universal morality.

My moral framework relies on dispelling the pathologizing of white identity. Supporting the Zionists does nothing for that, except it reinforces their status as being above and beyond the standards that are imposed on us.

As far as what they should do, of course ethnic cleansing is the most practical solution here, but my moral framework would suggest I hold Zionists accountable to the moral framework that has been imposed on the West. I gain nothing by supporting their own ethnonationalism while knowing for a fact they will continue to work against white ethnonationalism.

So in effect you admit that, were you a Jew, you’d do exactly what they’re doing?

If I were a Jewish Zionist in all likelihood I would support what they are planning to do, but that doesn't undermine any of my reasons for opposing it as a non-Jew. I certainly wouldn't want the standards that Rep. Israel is advocating for whites to be applied to myself, either (and neither does Rep. Israel!).

But yeah, if I were a Jewish Zionist I would be unlikely to have a problem with the "rules for thee but not for me" state of affairs. I would like to think I have more intellectual honesty than that but empirically the chances of that being true don't look great.

that has been opposed on the West

I think you meant "imposed" here.