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Culture War Roundup for the week of February 26, 2024

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Here's a thought experiment.

Imagine a world where communities from all over choose to send their best and brightest to global centers of higher learning, where they would get exposure to the most recent and best medical treatments, and physics knowledge, and mathematical discoveries, and engineering techniques. And then they would return back to their local communities, and use that knowledge to improve the lives of the people in their home communities, while also finding ways to integrate that knowledge with their existing values and traditions and all the various particularities that make up a specific, rooted real community with its own memories and allegiances.

And then imagine that those centers of higher learning were very careful to balance how many learners from different communities there were, to make sure that all these different communities got access to that knowledge and were then able to integrate it locally in their own particular way.

Would that be a bad, or facial objectionable world?

You might think I'm trying to make something like a pro-affirmative action case here, but at least for the current world we live in, I see this thought experiment as exactly the opposite. IF different groups maintained healthy boundaries around their own communities, and there was no public rhetoric about particular communities having any moral culpability for the outcomes of other groups (because having healthy boundaries means rejecting appeals to some shared, universalist morality can not exist under meaningful pluralism), THEN different groups having representatives who came to centers of higher learning (however their groups chose those representatives) to bring that knowledge and expertise back to their own communities would kind of be their own business, or so it seems to me. And I think (assuming you were not offended by the existence of groups and group cohesion in the first place) most people could see the resulting world being better off for the entire process. I can appreciate, say, some local Nigerian community wanting access to knowledge about medical instrument sterilization without needing to trot out an SAT to see if they deserve that knowledge.

Now, obviously, what I'm describing is a theoretical story about how Universities could function, but it is not at all how they actually function. What I hope this thought experiment suggests is that you really need universities extracting talented people from the provinces, socially re-engineering them to identify with and then merge into the global ruling class and have contempt for the values and traditions of their home cultures, and then segregating them into communities of the winners who have massive powers over the losers back home, to arrive at a point where race (or group) based affirmative action is going to generate massive amounts of totally predictable moral agitation, especially in a democracy. Or at least that's my own instinct.

Which is to say, from this perspective, affirmative action is a red herring and rhetorical distraction. The real problem is the old progressive impulse towards erasing local distinctions, massively centralizing power, flattening all differences and allegiances in the name of "universalism", and going all in on social engineering. The line between "integration" and "cultural genocide" is, it seems to me, a very who/whom distinction.

And if I had to hazard a guess, I suspect there's no shortage of black Americans who would be sympathetic to the argument here... but of course, that has never been the point.

I think this is a significant enough point that we ought to consider why this doesn't seem to be happening. Notably, pretty much everybody who manages to make it into the PMC Elite one way or another seems to abandon whatever community they had previously been a part of and show loyalty only towards that PMC Elite. They only respect the support and advancement of other more junior members of that community and seem to act only to maintain and increase the power of that community.

The stereotypical MAGA Appalachian coal miner, if they manage to make it into the elite, will pretty much always adopt their values and consider their former neighbors to be unredeemable racist hicks to be sneered at and driven into the dirt.

The black person, whether or not they actually grew up in "the projects" will also adopt elite values and won't ever do anything to actually improve the life and culture of those communities. They'll spout the usual platitudes about "institutional racism", but won't do anything about it except more entitlement programs that only create dependency and more affirmative action style reforms that prioritize racism supremacy and entitlement over actually improving yourself.

Every other "community" that I can think of repeats the same points. I think the Amish are one of the few types of communities that retain strong loyalty to their own community, but they don't seek positions in the PMC Elite. There are also some super-religious Jewish and Christian communities that I think do similarly, but people of those religions who make it into the Elite also show no loyalty to any such tight-knit communities of the same or similar religion.

You hit the nail on the head here, and highlighted something that isn’t often discussed but is absolutely crucial to the dominance of modernistic liberal culture. Hyper mobility of location and the willingness to abandon your birth culture is completely baked into the current ruling class. In order to pass the crucible and become an elite, you absolutely must be willing to throw your previous, place-rooted culture under the bus. It’s not even hidden or very subtle.

Part of this culture is the criticism or doubt in almost everything. New York WASPs are out of touch and bad because they’re rich. Deep South folks are out of touch and bad because they love white people and hate black people. Californians are okay but there are still plenty of bad apples there that need to be eradicated.

Overall the modern elite liberal culture demands total obedience to the demands of their ideology. While it’s not explicitly written in a declaration of loyalty like previous political ideologies have created, the social reality is undeniable. And the lack of an explicitly written down creed which denounces one’s culture of birth, while simultaneously demanding this denunciation socially, is in my opinion modern progressivism’s most impressive and almost unique strength.

Strip a man of the ideals and culture he grew up with, and he will have no recourse but to toe the party line and double down on the latest progressive ideology.

I think a more parsimonious explanation is that people naturally become friends with, care more about, and adopt the beliefs of the people they spend time around and believe in the same things as. So when someone leaves their old community behind to join a new one - especially one whose people are in general smarter, more capable, generally better to be around - they just are going to care about their new community more. And then different groups of people generally find reasons to dislike other groups. Deep South folks also dislike liberal elites, it does just happen in general.

Modern elite liberal culture actually demands less obedience to its ideology than most other ideologies. For instance, it doesn't literally demand obedience. Which, you'd think that's a low bar, but not one that most historical ideologies meet! Christianity, for instance, does actually have divine commands that you must follow, a holy book that's indisputably correct, heresies, and so on.

This is because it's incentivized.

It's beneficial for business that capital, and labor, is fungible anywhere. Something something give me control of a something something money supply, and I care not who makes the laws, to that effect.

Place-rooted culture is a competitive weakness in a post Bretton Woods international order. Over time, of course the elite of this order would have no loyalty to place. They can move and spend their money anywhere they want.

And it's not incentivized by 'capitalism' or 'globalism', it's incentivized by ... nature, causation itself. It's just useful for very capable people to be around very capable people. It's more fun, but mostly it's just vastly more productive - Einstein in a hunter gatherer village is a town priest, or a very good trapper. Einstein in a major city is Einstein. And we all benefit from Einstein and the (at least) hundred thousand other very smart people whose work our complicated society rests on.

It’s incentivized by ‘nature’ in the same way Big Macs are incentivized by nature. Sure it is great in the short term, but there’s a reason cultured and place rootedness evolved. I’d imagine this hyper mobility would begin to lead to anomie, loss of community, general unrest… oh wait….

Having supersonic aircraft and computers and industrial agriculture is more incentivized by nature than 'not atomizing communities' is disincentivized. And taking all the smartest people and putting them in the same social circles is very useful for that. It's much easier for a smart elite group to somehow get an above-replacement fertility rate, or develop agi, than for small rooted communities to evolve computers and nukes, so the former seems more fit in the long run i think. A lot of stable equilibria in nature look locally like 'unrest', e.g. groups of related animals fighting over territory. Big Macs are basically pure negative in a way that 'having all the most capable people in the world develop technology together' isn't.

Having supersonic aircraft and computers and industrial agriculture is more incentivized by nature than 'not atomizing communities' is disincentivized.

In the absence of predation, deer are incentivized by nature to reproduce much more than they're incentivized to balance their population against the food sources... right up until they overgraze and overpopulate, and have a mass die-off.

Feedback systems are complex and discontinuous. Maybe "not atomized communities" is more incentivized than you think, and the incentive just lags a bit.

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Strip a man of the ideals and culture he grew up with, and he will have no recourse but to toe the party line and double down on the latest progressive ideology.

Somehow I feel Orwell must have written something like this.

There are maga and conservative Christian and Jewish elites that show substantial loyalty to the communities they come from, though.