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Culture War Roundup for the week of November 14, 2022

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A couple minor anecdotes about schooling, and some related thoughts.

Earlier this year I blew off Back to School Night, because it is just a litany of teachers slowly reading notes that really ought to be just a syllabus handout. One downstream consequence of that is that I commit to attending Parent-Teacher conferences so as not to seem negligent. My children are excelling (by the standards of high-tier blue state public schools), so the conferences were also a series of boring conversations in which I strove to appear Interested while teachers recited figures and handed me print-outs of details I already knew from the online system that tracks grades. No, there are no social or behavioral issues. Perhaps a lingering artefact of my own issues with diligence, the one thing I pointedly ask every teacher to confirm is the apparent total lack of homework.

When I attended this particular middle school in the 90s, the school day consisted of many 40 minute classes, with 3-5 minutes of shifting between them, and then an average of 2-4 homework assignments per night. These assignments weren't difficult but keeping track and on top of all of them was something I struggled with, especially bigger projects with distant due dates. There were token efforts to help with this, like every student being given a record-keeping journal, and teachers insisting that we make note of each assignment, but we were mostly left to our own devices as far as getting it all done and handed in. My parents made some effort to help, but they are blue collar types, and this sort of thing wasn't quite their wheelhouse either. I spent those years blowing out the competition on the standardized tests, and then getting Bs and Cs because I just couldn't manage to remember that tasks had been assigned, or worse, I'd do them and then forget to hand them in.

In retrospect, it seems probable that the only reason I got into college at all was because a certain PMC-princess developed a crush on me in high school, and drug me into social circles where people socially kept on top of assignments. This is a massive, often unnoticed privilege; if you had it, take a moment to appreciate it. This carried me though the first half of college, and there is a painfully obvious demarcation where my ability to wrangle the administrative parts of college vanished when that social circle did.

My kids, OTOH, in the new, post-pandemic set-up, have 75 minute periods for their main classes (math, science, English, history), and then repeat one of them at the end of the day in a mildly structured study hall, where they are encouraged to finish assignments. As a first note, longer classes and less time wasted swapping to different classrooms seem like obvious optimizations for the school day. But that extra period of guided study hall at the end of the day seems really useful for instilling the kind of mindset that recalls, organizes, and accomplishes tasks. Most days they don't have any actual homework, which is an improvement since it's mostly busywork. But even when they have an assignment that does spill over into homework, between those extra skillsets and the integrated technology for assignment tracking they are so much more on top of things than I ever was. As an HBD-disclaimer, maybe that's their mother's Jewishness shining through, but there seems to be a qualitative improvement compared to pre-pandemic.

I'd picked up a lot of scorn and skepticism for academic pedagogy over the last decade, to the point where I think the entire field is borderline hokum. It feels important to acknowledge sensible organizational changes that have yielded noticeable improvements, instead of just maximizing administrative cowardice. Maybe it shouldn't have taken decades and a pandemic to figure it out, but progress isn't obvious, and it's certainly an improvement.

And on the topic of administrative cowardice, the other anecdote. My son is one of a few dozen boys who stay after school most days to play pickup games of basketball and football using the schoolyard facilities and fields. There is a nearby playground that usually has small children with parents, but these boys (ages range from 9-13) are mostly unsupervised... until now.

There is a boy in that cohort who is diagnosed as autistic, the sort where he probably wouldn't have been diagnosed with anything 20 years ago. At one of those recent pickup games, he was beaten up to some unknown degree, and his mother happened to see the whole thing from her car while stuck in traffic. The mother approached the administration, and was essentially told "This is unsanctioned, after-hours play, we have nothing to do with it and will do nothing for you." So, she went and filed a police report. That kickstarted some action, specifically a ban on kids playing in the yard after school without parental supervision.

Now obviously, I feel for the boy. I wish he hadn't gotten assaulted; I am sure that was a horrible experience. But I also wish that a few dozen other boys hadn't gotten effectively banned from convenient exercise, independence, and peer socializing. And I can't even really fault the administration; they're probably justifiably worried about lawsuits. Or... at least that's how other parents are interpreting it. Reading the email that was sent out about it, all that's really said is a reminder that students are "expected" to leave the premises if they don't have a sanctioned activity or parental supervision. It's not phrased as a hard requirement. It actually seems like a fine needle-threading that absolves the school of responsibility, without actually accepting responsibility for enforcing the ban, the exact sort of "take responsibility for your own choices" that I would have insisted they should do instead of some cowardly, heavy-handed ban.

So, for a second time, I feel that this organization I have heavily criticized deserves some praise for responsible decision-making. Credit where it is due. I'd send the principal a congratulatory email... but that seems like the sort of autistic idiocy that might force his hand.

One downstream consequence of that is that I commit to attending Parent-Teacher conferences so as not to seem negligent.

While we're confessing to pro-forma parental activities... my kid's difficult-to-get-into, otherwise lovely preschool had a parents workshop over the weekend recently about talking to your kids about racism. I felt obligated to go so that they wouldn't think I was some kind of person who merely believes in color blindness. I made sure to bring up a traumatic bigotry-related thing from my childhood that had to do with honor violence, with a vow to not let my kid grow up in a world like that. I even almost shed a tear.

I think I'm safe, for a little while.

I remember doing homework every day in high school.

Also I had years I got beat up everyday. Also had years where we can played outside everyday at the local field - football, basketball, baseball. I’ll take getting beat up everyday for the good times of playing games compared to modern kids.

Some reason made me think of metoo. Getting raped doesn’t sound that bad by some Hollywood exec versus getting beaten for a few months everyday in gym class. But that was probably far more common for boys.

I'm a teacher in Canada. I'm not sure lack of homework is either a good thing or the result of advances in pedagogy.

I teach high school, and can say with full confidence that it has been decades since kids have been educated as poorly as they are now (and this in in Canada, where I say with much less confidence that average performance is better than the US). Less and less is expected of kids every year, everything operates in what Zvi Mowshowitz calls easy mode (https://thezvi.wordpress.com/2017/08/26/play-in-easy-mode/), when most of it should happen in what he calls hard mode (https://thezvi.wordpress.com/2017/08/26/play-in-hard-mode/) and grade inflation is rampant. All of this is caused by institutional cowardice, since angry parents call all the time to complain about their kids' grades. Because homework was often a mark-depressor (as you note in your own case, and as it was in mine), it has become unfashionable largely because, if people send their kids to school for any nobler reason than "day care" it's to have the kid's intelligence certified ("He's an A student"), rather than to have the kid actually learn things. So cutting homework raises grades and reduces teacher workload- it certainly isn't cut because people are reading well-designed studies and changing their practice based on the findings. But cutting homework also removes a ton of practice from the kid's life, which means the kid is absolutely worse at the subject than he would have been. Maybe it's a good trade-off, maybe it's not that important to be good at school when you're a kid, maybe school should be nothing more than day care, but the kids definitely know less and have weaker skills than they used to. And your taxes are increasing to pay for it.

Note also that places like Kumon exist to SELL homework to families. Since this homework is not connected to the school, they get all the benefits of the practice without any of the risk of mark depression.

On the other hand, my father never got homework until grade eight, so maybe we are returning to how things used to be.

Note also that places like Kumon exist to SELL homework to families. Since this homework is not connected to the school, they get all the benefits of the practice without any of the risk of mark depression.

It seems like you can square this circle with the assumption that school-homework is mostly designed based on ass-pulled postulates and hence doesn't work to do anything but take up time, while kumon homework actually teaches because it's designed better.

This stuff convinces me that the ideologues are not true believers but wearers of luxury beliefs as jewelry.

When you believe you are on a mission to transform society towards utopia, you invest into education. The Soviet system was famously tough in drilling math for example. If you have a vision for building a better society, you would also be obsessed with improving competence. The enervated attitude towards education and talent programs in North America is proof that there is no large scale plan on a societal level. It's just drifting and skating and living on borrowed time, as long as the momentum propels you. Inflation of credentials is a serious danger, confusing on-paper educational outcomes like graduation rates and actual outcomes such as knowledge and skills transmitted and people guided to fitting career paths. It will come back to bite.

I think it’s a problem of weakness of the underlying dogmas under scrutiny. If you have a dogma that absolutely falls apart on contact with reality, it isn’t good to create a population that is able to think carefully about reality. In fact, you’d want a population almost exactly like our own, in which people are taught trades and given university degrees, but aren’t actually taught to observe or think and who are basically scientifically illiterate and unable to read and understand complex texts.

It’s not hard to get right, as high levels of scholarship were achieved quite often before the modern era. Teach kids how to learn, give them tools to observe and interpret their own data, to think carefully about ideas. It’s borderline criminal that we aren’t doing that: teaching logic and statistics and philosophy would create a generation of thinkers with the tools to question narratives.

We aren’t doing that, and judging by how things are, it’s being torn down on purpose as anything that actually produces a good outcome seems to end quickly because of accusations of racism.

If you have a vision for building a better society, you would also be obsessed with improving competence.

This just begs the questions "better in what ways" and "more competent in what?" If the ideologues really do think that, e.g., racism, prejudice, and just plain old meanness are the cause of all society's ills, why wouldn't it make sense for them to honestly invest in educational systems that try to be more competent at not being mean to kids, and similarly try to be more competent in teaching kids to not be mean themselves?

I agree with you that technical skill and competence is quite important, and that modern education is not geared towards fostering it. In fact, I think that modern education is quite prepared to suppress competence when it tends to produce outcomes which do not appeal to modern progressive aesthetic or moral sensibilities, and that this tendency is extremely bad. However, I don't think that your criticism shows hypocrisy - to the contrary, it shows the dangerousness of the earnest belief in bad ideas.

Depending upon what you need people to accept for the first part, I’m not sure that you can do both. If I want kids to accept an ideology that says the earth is flat, then competent understanding of physics would work against that.

Most of the true believers were poorly-educated themselves, and usually have no extracurricular skills, so they have no frame of reference for what excellence would actually look like (except high marks in school). Therefore, they can believe truly without having any idea of what to actually do to achieve their goals.

I was actually in a similar situation about 20 years ago. We used to stay in the schoolyard after school to play sports or games. When I was 12, I was there with my friends preparing for a snowball fight as we usually did in the winter, when some older kids (about 13 or 14) from another school showed up and one them attacked me because I threw a snowball at him after he asked me to.

His friends pulled him off me, but not before I got a few kicks to his face and he got a few punches to mine, so when I got home, I had a few minor bruises. This led to my parents contacting the school and the vice principal pulling me out of class the next day to ask what happened.

Nothing came of it. I only knew the kid's first name. The rule that said we could do what we wanted on school property after 4:00 PM remained in place. It never would have occurred to me to think that incident meant we needed adult supervision. I was already embarrassed that the adults felt they needed to anything about it. I felt like we kids handled things pretty well.

There was another incident where some roughhousing with friends led a neighbour to call the school which led to another talking to with the vice principal. Again, I just felt embarrassment and I was confused about why the adults were overeacting and wondered, as I often did, if they didn't remember what it was like to be a kid.

Again, I just felt embarrassment and I was confused about why the adults were overeacting and wondered, as I often did, if they didn't remember what it was like to be a kid.

I definitely remember thinking it was weird when at some point as a kid I realized that assault was illegal for adults but utterly ignored for kids.

I have a sort-of inverse experience where in I as a 17 year-old got in a fist fight with an adult and found myself in the awkward position of trying convince the cops not to arrest him.

Schools are ill-equipped to administer justice or to investigate. They will just do some stupid ass-covering if you corner them into taking on responsibilities that should not be theirs. If the beating is serious enough, report it to the police. If not, just let people/kids sort it out among themselves.

See also, campus rape tribunals.

With the one caveat that residential colleges - particularly ones with affiliated hospitals - should be serious about providing the kind of medical support which can lead to, e.g., timely-taken and well-preserved rape kits for evidentiary purposes, and/or treatment of wounds. As the providers of both supervised residential services and healthcare, they're uniquely positioned to be able to connect the two.

In case you spent the day under a rock, Trump has been reinstated on Twitter after winning a poll by Elon Musk. Not kidding.

I'd like to keep this open & not push the discussion in any direction, so I'll keep this short.

Predictions? What does this mean for Twitter? Elon? Trump? Social media? The country? The world?

He hasn’t tweeted again yet, he’s still Truthing. But it does act as a historical repository of his tweets, including his “stay peaceful” tweets from 1/6. I believe it’s a good thing to have him unsilenced and ready to tweet.

I spent the day under a rock.

But I did have a moment yesterday when I realized that the Twitter situation is close to a no-lose scenario for me. Granted, I haven't been tuned into the finer details of what's going on at Twitter, so maybe I don't really know exactly what's going on. But I consider Twitter and most social media to be actively harmful to humanity. So coming out of this situation, either Twitter dies because Musk drives it into the ground the way the Blue tribe insists he will, or else he ends up instituting a lot of free speech reform. Either way, I'm happy!

Predictions? What does this mean for Twitter? Elon? Trump? Social media? The country? The world?

Same as I said before: more engagement, more ad views/clicks, more anger and division online, Elon's investment gains value

Meh. And I am what you can consider as Trumpist. Right now the meltdown over Musk is more entertaining. And if his approach of fire 95% and it still works - there will be lean times for the tech progressive strongholds

Would you accept "Trumpet" as a slightly mocking nonymn given in the spirit of good faith jest instead of "Trumpist"?

I really dislike Trump. That said, I don't understand...

Compare the amount of media coverage given to Musk to the amount given to FTX and SBF. Hell, NYT recently put out a puff piece about SBF... Why would I take any of these journalists seriously at this point.

is that a surprise. A $50 billion company folded in 2 days. Not exactly a common occurrence, and the company was one of the most hyped over the past year whereas trump has disappeared mostly ,

A $50 billion company folded in 2 days.

Huh? Are you saying twitter folded? You seem to be counting chickens.

Also, one of the biggest frauds in the past decade with A LOT of political grants/donations. You think it's proper to sleep on this?

That is the whole point. You don't take them seriously.

I used to take them seriously...

Various betting markets currently have "will Trump tweet" at 70-80%.

Interesting.

I'd put it above 99%. Unless Trump dies or Twitter disappeared, it's a near certainty.

From where I sit, the media has been boycotting Trump since he lost the election. I rarely hear anything about him, other than about indictments and charges I don't think will ever come to fruition.

Now that he's running for POTUS in 2024, his return to Twitter will force the same non-stop media coverage shitstorm that happened in 2016-2020. He feeds on that, as a person and as a candidate, and I don't know how he turns it down.

I actually Elon will be the big winner here. The traffic will be off the charts & I'm skeptical advertisers will stay away for long.

Agreed, but the odds are whether he'll tweet before 2023 (except the 80% one, which is by March 2023). I think these are pretty reasonable numbers for the next month and a half.

he will negotiate some sort of exit from truth social well before the election, resume tweeting again

Various betting markets currently have "will Trump tweet" at 70-80%.

This is one of those sentences that would confuse the hell out of people if it was sent back in time to the year 2005 through a timewarp.

Or 2020.

This will likely accelerate the Left's attempts to move to a more pro-censorship platform. They also might pressure advertisers to boycott Twitter.

they, the left, will fail. twitter thrived in 2016-2020 despite trump having the most popular account. Some advertisers will quit, but either they will quietly come back after the virtue signaling wears off, and or new advertisers will replace them. Also, Elon will find plenty of other ways to monetize the userbase, without advertisers.

I've seen the left going gaga over Mastodon in response to Musk helming Twitter. Suppose it's a good time to be that company.

I definitely see the people I follow on Twitter talking about trying to migrate to Mastodon. But I can't say any of them have much confidence in it as a platform. I've also seen a lot of "yeah, no idea where the next place is, here's my permanent personal website that will always point to my socials".

Mastodon isn't really a company. It's more like one instance inside a federated network of tweets (the "Fediverse"), similar to how you can start your own email server with your own domain but anyone can send and receive emails from you.

For all the posturing from everyone about how they're fleeing to the Fediverse because of big bad Elon firing the mods and Twitter will soon stop working, the reality is that Mastodon is basically worse in every other way. Almost by definition, Mastodon is comprised of people who are so outcast they either don't like Twitter, or were banned from Twitter (many here recognize this as the "seven zillion witches and approximately three principled civil libertarians" problem). So already you have selection effects for a population of users that are worse than Twitter users.

Then there's the fact that moderation is harder, because while you can ban someone from your own instance, you cannot ban someone from another instance. However what you can do is defederate the instance - in effect, banning the entire instance because it's full of witches or whatever. But even this isn't a panacea, because spinning up an instance is so easy (after all, that's the point of the Fediverse) that people can just evade the defed anyway. Most people will just want a Twitter, a centralized platform that can simply ban the offending persons and be done with it. They don't want moderation taken into their own hands, they want someone else to do it.

Lastly there's also the simple fact that Mastodon and the Fediverse were simply never built to accommodate the huge influx of users from the Twitter exodus. For all the doomerism that Musk firing half the employees will result in the site simply failing to stay up, along with claims that this will happen during the World Cup (no similar claims have been made about Meta who did a huge round of layoffs shortly after Elon did), Mastodon keeps dying under user loads that are a fraction of the users Twitter has. Even other exodus destinations like Cohost haven't stayed up as well. Meanwhile I've never seen Twitter go down at any point. Sure there were sometimes a couple glitches here and there but nothing major.

I haven't used Mastodon (well, or Twitter except for following people manually / via RSS), but it sounds like the moderation support is pretty bad. It's really weird that they have decentralized hosting of accounts/feeds but not decentralized moderation. I understand individual instances may want to ban users, but it seems like there's no moderation mechanism for posts on other instances more fine-grained than banning an entire instance that won't moderate in a way you like. Which seems like it defeats a large part of the purpose of having separate instances if they effectively need to clump into groups that agree on moderation policies.

Yes, one of the largest instances just defederated entirely to shed load.

I can't remember what it was, but back when I was figuring out how mastodon worked there was something about content serving that made me think "boy, that wouldn't scale well at all if a post goes viral across multiple instances."

I think it's just a "I'll run away from home and live under a bridge where I can go to all the parties I want, mom" moment. The main utility of Mastodon continues being telling your Twitter audience how to uh are going to leave for it. It's easy to threaten to pack up your toys and leave, but actually do it and after a night or two you're cold, dirty and hungry (for attention, in the case of Mastodon) and probably already were beaten up and robbed by some ruffians and probably will have little will to fight back if a patrol car picks you up and takes you back to your parents.

If Mastodon superceded Twitter as the global town square, would that offer Prog Inc. more or less narrative control?

More and less in different ways.

There's no way to actually stop someone from speaking (including "dangerous" speech), but they can choose to be on instances that are not federated with instances that tolerate this speech (more power within their fiefdom).

So there would probably emerge one (or a cluster of) highly censored, high-status Mastodon instances where all the journalists, celebrities and "normie" users are, and a bunch of isolated instances? That is, uh, much worse.

Apparently it's currently going a different direction - as Mastodon had an existing critical mass of too-left-for-Twitter refugees, the influx of centrists, normies and media bluechecks is being met with widespread condemnation & bans/defederation.

Source:

https://twitter.com/ajaromano/status/1594432548222152705

I imagine this is a temporary phenomenon, the masses are just following their the bluechecks & the latter has IRL status & isn't going to stand for being bullied by a bunch of left-radicals who just happened to get there first. If the structure of Mastodon makes the natives too difficult to dislodge, the bluechecks will find somewhere else, (probably Twitter) wrestling in the mud out in the political fringes is the last place these folks want to be.

Definitely a no-lose scenario for me, as another user quipped.

Seems like exactly how twitter was before the Elon takeover, except you can't get kicked out of the entire network, you might just have to make an account on a different instance.

Though I doubt you could get a small number of instances. That would require a lot of computing power, and mastodon is hard to monetize.

That last bit is the real reason I don't see mastodon taking over. No ads means you'd have to charge up front, or a subscription, or something. Normies seem willing to endure leftist signaling, but we've never seen them chomping at the bit to pay for it.

I suppose someone could fork the client and change the protocol, but it's not really a mastodon instance at the at point.

Seems like exactly how twitter was before the Elon takeover, except you can't get kicked out of the entire network, you might just have to make an account on a different instance.

But the kicking out would probably be much more zealous. I am imagining reddit-style jannies at the helm of most of these instances with a personal commitment to keeping the instance clean that Joss freckin' Wheadon is on.

I am imagining reddit-style jannies

Then you lack imagination. There will presumably be some with much stricter mods.

But they'll end up splintering in a series of inevitable purity spirals as these things are wont to do.

Normies would probably end up on whichever one the most celebrities end up on (or their particular favorite if they have one).

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The circular firing squads have already started there

Mastadon isnt' a company. https://github.com/mastodon/mastodon

Do not forget that Musk’s businesses such as Tesla and SpaceX wouldn’t survive a day without US government help (yes Tesla too). Musk isn’t anti-establishment, he is a part of the establishment.

The establishment has decided to let Trump back on Twitter, despite the fact that a lot of people (probably half the country) will be enraged by this.

Why they did it is an open question. My guess is they're just throwing the right a bone to cool the tides a little. They're too busy "celebrating" a minor victory while the larger and more important battles of the culture war, i.e. entertainment media, journalism and education, will remain their provinces.

China and Russia would love to pay for SpaceX launches at market rates, and would spend a lot on technology too.

Musk isn’t anti-establishment, he is a part of the establishment.

I'd say he's an expert at exploiting the establishment to do things he wanted to do anyway.

Electric car subsidies were going to exist anyway, why not get rich off them and kickstart the industry? [late edit, I just realized how ironic it is to use the term 'kickstart' in the context of electric cars.]

The U.S. needs tons of launch capacity and will (over)pay for it. Why not get rich off it, Kickstart the industry, and maybe colonize Mars?

Nothing in this equation implies being pro-establishment.

What do you honestly think the counterfactual world in which Musk does not exist looks like?

The Democratic Party would lose popularity if they ordered NASA to cut ties with SpaceX. It is possible to take money from the government without being beholden to the government if your companies are beloved by voters. I think SpaceX and Tesla are beloved enough that the government is stuck with them regardless of what Elon Musk says or does.

The Democratic Party would lose popularity if they ordered NASA to cut ties with SpaceX.

I would be willing to bet $100 that no statement the Democratic Party could make in its platform regarding NASA and SpaceX would move popular support for the party more than 2%. Most people just don't care.

2% is enormous.

Yeah, I'm a coward...the original draft of the comment said 1%, but I chickened out.

I don't endorse the conspiratorial view, but if it were to happen, I'd expect something more like the EPA (and maybe NHSTA) adding a million miles of paperwork to every single thing every single business related to Musk tries to do, instead of an explicit order. It costs a lot less political capital to not pay SpaceX for services not rendered because their launch sites are limited to one launch a year.

a lot of people (probably half the country) will be enraged by this

There are a lot of things that half the country was enraged by that happened over the last five years. A precedent has been set. This is not enough to stop any sort of political action any more.

“Musk needs government subsidies for his companies” is not sufficient to assume “the establishment has direct control over Musk’s adventures in twitter”. This strikes me as conspiratorial thinking. There are plenty of ways that the Musk-establishment relationship could be coloured without him being an enthusiastic and willing member, or otherwise a directly and forcibly controlled party.

This strikes me as conspiratorial thinking.

Sure, but I am yet to hear a good argument against conspiratorial thinking.

It leads to incorrect predictions if it makes predictions at all. It's usually used to explain rather than make useful predictions. It's model involves people smarter, more cooperative, and more disciplined than they really are. It promotes either inaction or ineffectual flailing.

It leads to incorrect predictions if it makes predictions at all. It's usually used to explain rather than make useful predictions.

Not compared any of the alternatives. Same applies to Hanlon's Razor, or various forms of "skeptical", "assume good faith from the system, or any other "respectable" type of thinking I see contrasted with conspiratorial thinking.

It promotes either inaction or ineffectual flailing.

Again, same, except other types of thinking promote shrugging things off, and pretending nothing happened.

It's model involves people smarter, more cooperative, and more disciplined than they really are.

That's just flat out untrue. Conspiratorial thinking does not involve levels of intelligence, cooperation, or discipline beyond what we've already seen from human behavior.

You seem to be contrasting conspiratorial thinking with blind trust in authority. I don't think that's the only alternative. I think the default assumption is that any given individual or group is foolish and treading water and build your hypothesis up from there.

No, like I said, I'm comparing to a typical skeptical framework, commonly used to dismiss conspiracy theories. I see how "assume good faith" could lead to a misunderstanding, but I specifically brought up Hanlon's Razor to take "any individual group is foolish and trading water" into account as well.

Notice how that approach also explains rather than predicts, and promotes inaction.

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Conservatives will celebrate it as a huge victory even though nothing tangible will come out of it, and progressives will fake-cry so they can use it as an excuse to come back even harder?

I think this is largely true, though the celebration of it will be tempered a bit by the growing awareness of the very dynamic you describe.

Moving this to a top-level comment, since the point seems generally applicable.

Previously, a conversation about "Cultural Marxism" vs "Marxism".

@Eetan

Not similar at all. Aim of Marxism is indeed radical social change, while aim of wokeism is preserving society as it is, only with more rainbow flags and transgender toilets.

There's a point of view from which the point of Scientology is to allow someone to rid themselves of the Thetans that cling to them, becoming "clear" and unlocking the supernatural powers that are every human's true birthright. There's another sense in which the point of Scientology is to scam people into placing everything they have and are at the mercy of a vast, highly scalable scam so systemized that it outlived its creator and arguably now runs itself. Both of these could be, potentially, valuable ways to understand and discuss Scientology, but it's important to understand the distinction between them.

When talking about groups and how they relate to each other, I think it's not terribly useful to argue over whether two groups are, in their immutable essence, related or not related to each other. I think it's much more useful to lay out one's own understanding of the salient connection or separation between the groupings under discussion. It seems evident to me that you believe Marxism and Wokeism share no relation, because Wokeism has discarded too much of Marxism's theory and practice. I can readily concede that this is a coherent view to hold, if one thinks that the specific elements of theory and practice are the core of Marxism, rather than the periphery.

On the other hand, it is not obvious to me that wokism is any less aimed at producing radical social change than Marxism is. Certainly it seems to me that it has succeeded in changing society quite radically in the short time it's existed as the current, coherent, legible ideology. Certainly the Woke themselves would not agree with your description, so why should we presume it on your say-so?

When Marxists get their way, billionaires are expropriated. When wokeists get their way, billionaires are richer and more secure than ever before.

When Wokeists get their way, Billionaires and the corporations they control throw their unquestioning support behind Wokeism, providing a great deal of social, political, and economic power behind, for example, large-scale lawless political violence. The fact that CHAZ enjoyed de facto corporate sponsorship did not make its actions any less radical. The capitalists can, in fact, sell Revolutionaries the rope to hang them with, and can even help them tie the nooses. Nor is cooperation between Billionaires and radical leftists a novel development; rich people have attempted to cooperate and support radical socialist utopianism many times before. Some of them actually moved to the USSR.

When Marxists got their way in one situation, which itself contradicted Marx in numerous ways, some billionaires got expropriated. That does not prove that one attempt to implement some elements of Marxism while discarding others is fundamentally different from another attempt that implements and discards a different selection of elements. What we actually have, as with Scientology above, is an open question of which elements of Marxism are core, and which are periphery. You and I can have differing opinions on the answer to that question.

In my view, Marx's theories are of roughly equivalent value to Scientology's theories about Thetans. Labor theory of value, scientific materialism, class analysis and so on are more or less fiction, and are not load-bearing to Marxism as an effective ideology. Ideologies, I think, are best considered not by their stated aims, but by what they actually produce. Marxism is quite bad at producing Materialist Utopia, but it's fantastic at generating and prosecuting class warfare, thereby accumulating power to Marxists themselves. It's a system for building an army unconstrained by the humanizing effects of tradition and civilization, and putting oneself at the head of it. It does this by telling people a lie about their lives, that the misfortunes and tragedies that beset all humans are not simply the nature of human existence, but are instead are intentional harms inflicted by bad people on good people, and that if the good people band together and remove the bad people from power and possibly from existence, all their problems can and will be resolved.

Marx's theories about the identity and characteristics of the good people and bad people, how to remove them, what to do once they're removed and so on do not, in my view, actually matter. Marx was not a scientist in any meaningful sense of the term. His factual claims about what his ideology was supposed to achieve have either been falsified or proven themselves unfalsifiable. What makes Marxism relevant is not its blueprint for building a better world, but rather its blueprint for burning down the existing one, and it is from this perspective that its similarities to Wokeism emerge. Wokeism adapts Marxism's core lie to a wildly different cultural context, where its original claims would be laughably irrelevant. The proletariat never actually mattered, which is why Marxist revolutions were executed in countries with no proletariat to speak of. Categorizing society into oppressors and oppressed and relentlessly framing all social issues according to these categories, on the other hand, is actually how both the Marxist and Wokeist systems work.

Perhaps the model I describe above is wrong, and some doctrinaire Marxist model is correct; that's at least potentially a productive conversation to have. What's necessary, though, is an understanding that the groupings are something we're generating as a tool, not a brute fact of the universe. I draw connections between Marxism and Wokeism and progressivism not because people did one and then the other, but because I believe there's actually important parts of the ideology that the later has drawn and continues to draw from the former.

Actually existing Indians well understood differences between European colonialists and played them for their advantage as they could.

Sure. So what's the relevant differences between Marxists and Wokeists that I'm missing here, and how should people like me play them to our advantage?

I do not get why boomer conservatives insist on pushing "Marxist" straightjacket on everything, why they insist calling "Marxist" people who know nothing about Marx and never claimed to be Marxist.

I observe that the Wokeists do in fact claim to be Marxists quite frequently, claim to know quite a bit about Marx, and often frame their critiques in terms of Marx's ideas. So right off the bat, we have a factual disagreement.

I observe that, doctrinal disputes aside, Marxism remains eminently relevant to the whole of Progressivism. As long as they keep quoting and teaching him, and as long as they keep building their ideology around the scaffolding he provided, I think it's reasonable to take them at their word that he's relevant to them, and hence to those who oppose them.

If you disagree with my understanding of the facts, we could go look at some actual evidence, of which I'm confident that there's no shortage. If you concede the above, I'm not sure how your critique makes sense.

If you asked woke activists about Marx, 90% would answer "What is Marx?" and 10% would say "Fuck this white racist colonizer".

This has not been my experience. Can you provide some examples?

Is it their childhood programming that taught them that Marxism is the worst thing in the world, and all bad things must be Marxist?

I certainly don't think what I've written above can be summarized in such a way. Have I provided you with a fresh perspective?

@aaa here

They don't, communism appealed very much to the working class.

It appealed very much to intellectuals, academics, journalists, and other elites, and I'd argue appealed to such people much more consistently than it did to the lower classes.

You may not see this because communism was basically illegal in the US, but where it did exist the parties were staffed by working class people and that's where they received votes.

Communism was not basically illegal in the US. It was suppressed to a limited and ineffectual extent for brief periods that manifestly failed to eradicate it from elite strongpoints, academia among them. I've no doubt that formal structures for organizing working-class people were predominantly staffed by working class people; I would be surprised if it were otherwise. On the other hand, Communist penetration of multiple Western governments didn't happen at the behest of steelworkers and teamsters. Stalin was an academic before turning to revolution full-time. So was Lenin. So was Marx.

What would that be?

Heirarchy, tradition, law, economics, justice, ethics, morals, etc. Ideas along the lines of "Social justice" or the cultivation of a "revolutionary conscience" recur with monotonous regularity, because the fundamental logic of Progressive Materialist revolution demand such innovations.

All strong ideologies "attack the family" to some degree:

Your examples seem fairly bimodal to me, in a way that is quite telling. I observe a significant difference between honoring God above one's father and mother, and honoring the state or one's auditor above one's father and mother. Neither Christianity nor Judaism seem to encourage this.

Sure. So what's the relevant differences between Marxists and Wokeists that I'm missing here, and how should people like me play them to our advantage?

For example: immigration depresses the cost of labor to the detriment of workers, a diverse workforce makes unionization efforts harder to achieve, the push of careerism on women is the capitalist sistem seeking to exploit them further. On the other direction: the lower classes are often the most bigoted (more homophobic, transphobic, sexist, etc).

What would that be?

Heirarchy, tradition, law, economics, justice, ethics, morals, etc. Ideas along the lines of "Social justice" or the cultivation of a "revolutionary conscience" recur with monotonous regularity, because the fundamental logic of Progressive Materialist revolution demand such innovations.

Any strong ideology will seek to change hierarchies, the law and ethics to match its own. Also I don't think SJW can be considered materialist.

Your examples seem fairly bimodal to me, in a way that is quite telling. I observe a significant difference between honoring God above one's father and mother, and honoring the state or one's auditor above one's father and mother.

For there to be a difference god would have to actually exist and participate in human affairs, but it doesn't so in practice it's just a stand in for a human institution.

Neither Christianity nor Judaism seem to encourage this.

Isn't the story of Abraham and Isaac similar enough?

It's a mistake to think that in Marxist theories(which to be clear, are bullshit, they're just not self-contradictory on this specific reason) "the working class" or "the proletariat" have the same meaning they do in conventional english- they both basically mean "anyone who is employed rather than being idle rich or a business owner or a charity case or a professional criminal". So lots of managers, teachers, professors, consultants, etc are all working class and lots of quite poor people are not proletariat because they do not support themselves through employment.

It's true that Marxism is very unpopular among actual blue collar workers. It's also true that its support is, by its own definitions, overwhelmingly working class and proletariat because academics and hr managers and activists working for NGO's are all employed by someone.

My understanding is that Marx himself argued that the industrialized society of his own place and time was a necessary precondition for the emergence of the Revolution. Industrializing societies like Russia shouldn't have been developed enough to pull it off, much less agrarian societies like China, Vietnam or Cambodia. But this is my whole point: much of the theory was was not load-bearing in any meaningful sense. It could be and was discarded whenever it got in the way. That later Marxists have given themselves license to discard any part of the theory they find inconvenient is my entire point.

Beautiful rhetoric. Still: no, «wokeness» is substantially different from «Marxism», The Thing you oppose and which had been partially incarnated in their shapes predates both, and it is far from obvious that you will accomplish anything of worth with this line of argument.

You are approaching this instrumentally, starting from your own intents and purposes rather than essences of things. Wokes are «similar people», they are posing danger to your values that's of a nature similar to the Marxist menace, and their own chosen labels are not nearly as toxic as «Marxism» or «Communism», so you do what they do with Fascism and every right-wing movement and idea they want to see dead, spreading the reputation-killing poison wide – and thin. It may work to an extent, with audiences already receptive to overarching critique of left-wing ideologies; but really this is a tactic for the side that has the higher ground and can dictate terms of engagement.

Leftism is vast; one doesn't have to be a «doctrinaire Marxist» to appreciate this fact. It's more of an intellectual ecosystem than a doctrine, or an entire class, like «Mammalia» (I wonder: if reptiles had class consciousness, would they assume that foxes and hares are on the same side?) and most elements of the ecosystem are more concerned with internecine sectarian conflicts than with an organized front against aliens. Leftists are aware of having even more irreconcilable external enemies, of course, and constantly seek to form a united front, with varying success. Sometimes, the combination of those drives causes the entire system to evolve and reinvent itself. When they deprioritize Marxism, it is natural to suspect this to be a tactically expedient, insincere rebranding. But when your allies scream that Marxism is dead and this new Thing is not it – you'd do well to check if you aren't tilting at windmills, while the giant, having shed its skin, is safely plundering the town behind your back.

The Thing has always had two morphs – the more populist and the more esoteric, Wycliffe's brand of proto-socialism and Cathars, Conjuration des Égaux and mainline Jacobinism. In the last century Marxism, too, had explicitly diverged into two very distinct schools, loosely speaking, Lenininst (Bolshevik, Stalinist, Maoist, whatever) and Trotskyist (the real structure is far more complex, with the Anarchist tradition, Western clubs etc. participating in the horizontal meme transfer). The former has seized much of the globe (and a sliver of its wealth) though the combination of brutally enforced party discipline centered around personalist leadership, severe political-military fusion, appeal to the lower classes and unlimited opportunism. Its last significant bastion is the People's Republic of China. The latter has spread, rhyzome-like, through the intellectual classes of the developed world. They are so different as to make the common moniker of Marxism inapt; and all evidence one needs to see this is the fact that America with its violent immune reaction to Communism proved to be a fertile soil for rapidly speciating Ivory Tower doctrinaires. Wokeness is a product of their unholy aggregation on the basis of American identity politics and race issues; and while obnoxious, it's an inherently crumbly substance – little in common with the steel edifice of Bolshevism that proved to be the apex predator in the competitive world of 20th century totalitarian systems.

Crucially, though, I think you are wrong about the potential of wokeness. It is a diminished strain, not in some moral sense but in the sense of its motive power. It promises no salvation and doesn't have alluring intellectual content. It's a slightly more respectable elaboration of anarkiddies: shock troops and unwitting expendables of The Thing. Like an inactivated vaccine, it is unlikely to kill the host by itself, and indeed may inoculate the body politic instead. It's a historical tangent, a red herring.

The problem with attacking Wokeness as Marxism is that not only is Marxism dead in the West, but Wokeness may be discarded just as well, and the Thing, ever protean, will again reform behind your back, even appropriating convenient parts of your rhetoric and sounds of your voice.

This is why I think more people should read Shafarevich's Socialist Phenomenon and learn to see The Thing as such.


In a more conspiratorial/whimsical mood, 2 years ago [revisited]:

[…] This doctrine bore different names, but in its deepest essence it is singular. The supreme Trilobitism, the real Lizardism, the Genoine Cromagnonism, the authentic Atlanteanism, the Sacred Faith of Babylon and Carthage, Living Ethics, Pure Islam, The Truth of Revolution, Authentic Socialism, Scientific Communism, Intersectional Feminism, European Social Democracy, Active Humanism, the Great Animation –

– these are just some of its most glorious names,

behind all of which stands the One Order,

the holy

thidivine

sevenfold

billion and trillion unfathomable immeasurable

beyond vast immensely hundredravenously

GREAT

DOCTRINE OF COMMON TASK

– The pointing finger of Progress.

And only the obscuration of creatures, their ossified nature, their unbelief, and self-interest of reactionary forces, made the Teaching warped in its implementation, leaving smouldering ruins and mountains of corpses after a yet another attempt. All this is trifling compared to the fact that the Brotherhood has always survived. And always, after a little regrouping, it guided the world back to the fulfillment of the Great Dream.

There is no doubt that sooner or later it will succeed, even if at the cost of the Universe's existence. Since – let the world perish, let every quantum of radiation, all leptons and baryons be devoured by the abyss of vacuum, let it happen! Let it be! - but may the precepts of the Brotherhood be fulfilled! When the countenance of the Light-bearing Lord shines over the stunned existence!

One day I should translate the whole piece, and do it well.

Beautiful rhetoric. Still: no, «wokeness» is substantially different from «Marxism», The Thing you oppose and which had been partially incarnated in their shapes predates both, and it is far from obvious that you will accomplish anything of worth with this line of argument.

I think that Wokeism and Marxism are both branches of Progressivism, which is the ideology of the Enlightenment. I maintain that as long as Progressives are still explicitly basing their worldview on Marx, it's silly to pretend that they're not doing so. Whether pointing this out will accomplish anything... well, let's see, shall we? If Wokes insist on loudly associating themselves with one of the worst ideologies the world has ever seen, why not hammer them for it?

You are approaching this instrumentally, starting from your own intents and purposes rather than essences of things.

Am I?

The Enlightenment: "Through reason, we know how to solve all our problems. Therefore, unsolved or imperfectly-solved problems are the fault of specific people with names and addresses."

Marxism: additional detail about who the specific bad people are, how to identify them, organizational tactics for overthrowing them.

Wokeism: As Marx, with some of the specific detail about classes swapped around.

It may work to an extent, with audiences already receptive to overarching critique of left-wing ideologies; but really this is a tactic for the side that has the higher ground and can dictate terms of engagement.

...For now, and less every day, I think. But that leads into disagreements in how the two of us assess the current situation and the likely trajectory of the future. If I've understood you correctly, you think an anglo Globohomo singleton is the likely outcome, while I think the West abruptly deconstructing itself is more likely. Much of that disagreement comes down to questions of the sources and nature of social fragility that are probably not appropriate here. "Cheer up, Judgement Day is closer than you think," to put it flippantly.

When they deprioritize Marxism, it is natural to suspect this to be a tactically expedient, insincere rebranding.

To be clear, I don't think that, say, their abandonment of the Proletariat is a tactical, temporary move. They really have ditched large sections of Marxist theory for good. What they haven't ditched are the parts that reliably produce huge mountains of skulls in the specific way Marxism does: year-zero revolution, the tyranny of "reason", its inevitable breeding of corruption and finally the desperate, inevitable search for "wreckers".

But when your allies scream that Marxism is dead and this new Thing is not it – you'd do well to check if you aren't tilting at windmills, while the giant, having shed its skin, is safely plundering the town behind your back.

This is good advice, but are these specific people even my allies? The "Right" has no shortage of thralls to the Enlightenment, adherents to Reaganism, tax hawks, those deeply concerned about the deficit or the Dow-Jones to the exclusion of all else, to gesture at one loose axis. The Right likewise is an ecosystem, and one of the current challenges is what one's values and priorities should be, and how one organizes an effective coalition around them. What's the Giant, and what's the city? What must be fought, and what can be sacrificed? The economic model is the primary difference between Marxism and Wokism, and economics is, to me, one of the least interesting and important issues in play.

Wokeness is a product of their unholy aggregation on the basis of American identity politics and race issues; and while obnoxious, it's an inherently crumbly substance – little in common with the steel edifice of Bolshevism that proved to be the apex predator in the competitive world of 20th century totalitarian systems.

...How much of this difference is simply down to the nature of a pre-revolutionary mass? Is this terribly different from what Bolshevism's precursors looked like, in the years well before open warfare forged the movement into what it became? You've posted excerpts talking about how the early anarchic murderers were greeted with open, sympathetic arms by the Russian elites at the time, how their "critique" of Russian society was swallowed whole by the educated and the thoughtful. Suppose some variance in actual leadership; had the Russian government embraced the moderate end of the revolutionaries and zealously attempted to reshape society according to their dictates, how might things have gone?

The latter has spread, rhyzome-like, through the intellectual classes of the developed world. They are so different as to make the common moniker of Marxism inapt...

If Trotsky had purged Stalin, do you think things would have gone significantly differently?

People used to think swarming locusts were a different species from normal grasshoppers. Then we discovered that they're the same critter, and environmental conditions trigger a complete behavioral and even physical transformation.

If I'm understanding your taxonomy correctly, western intellectuals like, say, Chomsky would be examples of what you label the "Troskyist" branch. Only, Chomsky and his set did in fact carry water for multiple contemporaneous Leninist implementations, Cambodia and Vietnam among them, well past the point where such support was a source of acute embarrassment. This same class was backing Chavez in Venezuela as recently as the late 2000s. It seems that we've got a group that's willing to shoot people in their own country, and a group that's willing to support shooting people in a different country until it looks so obviously bad that it starts threatening their good name in their own country, where such shooting is obviously impractical. It's not obvious to me that these people are actually different in any important way. And sure, such people are very unlikely to actually implement the shooting in their own country, or to long survive such shooting. But they observably maintain cordial relations with what appear to me to be the actual proto-lenins and -stalins. Who's to say they aren't simply the Bukharins of a later age?

Crucially, though, I think you are wrong about the potential of wokeness. It is a diminished strain, not in some moral sense but in the sense of its motive power.

...So you think that Wokeism is a small tentacle of the Thing, and I think it's something more approaching a head or an arm. How much of this disagreement is over definitions? BLM is pretty obviously spent as a movement, but I think we'd agree that the Thing is more dominant than it was a few years ago, despite BLM's precipitous decline. So what is the core of the Thing, in your view? What is its essential form and nature, from which the morphs spring? Mine is the description of the Enlightenment delivered above. I think Enlightenment ideology requires a social gradient to operate, with class conflict being its method of operation. Do you see that description as sheddable skin?

I hold that we cannot solve all our problems, that some misfortunes must be accepted, even embraced. I do not think this is a voice that the Thing can productively mimic, not as a tradeoff made with other peoples' lives, but as a tradeoff made in my own life. ...Perhaps this description is not sufficient, but I remain confident that for those that understand it, differences are evident almost immediately.

One day I should translate the whole piece, and do it well.

Soon, one hopes.

That utopia can be achieved, on earth, by human hands.

If this is the end state, immanentizing the eschaton, etc. Nothing is off the table. Most disagreements seem to be on the method.

The Thing that can be told is not the eternal Thing.

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

The nameless is the beginning of the Great Dream.

The named is the mother of ten thousand doctrines.

Isn't this overly broad? The sentiment from that picture (workers produce, elites eat and party "for them") is surely quite old. Weren't peasant revolutions similar? How about the romantic nationalist-liberal revolutions of 1848 that ended serfdom in many countries and thereby feudalism in some sense as well? Indeed there could be a connection to Marxism, at least the Marxists thought so, for example in Hungary, the communist regime named a lot of stuff after Dózsa, a 16th century leader of a peasant rebellion and they also tried to frame the 1848 revolutionaries as early "socialists".

Class conflict wasn't invented by Marx nor can we allow Marxists to appropriate the whole mental territory of "dissatisfaction with elites ruling over you".

Heirarchy, tradition, law, economics, justice, ethics, morals, etc.

Social structures are under constant attack ever since we started creating them by banding together as apes in Africa. The threat of a rebellion from the more numerous lower class forces the upper class to keep vigilant and extend some fairness and shoulder some responsibility. If they become too safe in their spot, too convinced that they can get away with everything, their heads may roll after they blink twice. When the alpha chimp is too tyrannical and unfair, the lower status males join together and kill him in his sleep one night. Of course in humans, the powerful will put palace walls, armies, institutional and media-based walls around them to prevent this from being too easy. The message of revolutions resonates when there is too much abuse of power. Appeal to "traditional hierarchy" is ineffective in that case, it's traditional enough to fight tradition itself. In fact, many consider Christianity to be "traditional" even though in the Christian narrative, tradition is symbolized by Judaism, and Jesus turns a lot of that upside down, it's hard to not see it as radical and revolutionary - going from tribal law to a religion of universal humanity wherein "random Africans" are indeed just as valuable in God's eye as your relatives.

So overall class dissatisfaction has been with us for a long time. But the whole construct had an assumption at its core, namely that upper classes need the lower classes. Initially mostly for food production, now both for blue and white collar labor. But as AI gets more advanced, even these very fu damental dynamics may change and elite culture and memeplexes may develop towards seeing the lower classes as worthless, probably a proto-example of that is the "deplorables" label - they will be framed as being backward and bigoted. When the threat of strikes disappears, when consent of the governed need not be manufactured anymore, shit will turn bleak fast. The scramble to higher positions in this time of relative social mobility is therefore well-motivated.

I'm open to different names, but Marxism is by far the most common recent feature of an ideological thread that perhaps can most precisely be called "oikophobia" in the West. What (if anything) binds the left-anarchists, the liberals, the progressives, the communists, the gender-freaks, the black nationalists, the identity politics etc. together? In my view, it is one and only one simple idea, that one's own culture is "the bad guy". All the rest of the theory is just window dressing, call your own people "running dogs of capitalism" or "shitlord colonizer ciswhites", the story is still "US/Europe/Western Civ = bad".

One one hand, it's a necessary part of any healthy society, to critique itself and try to improve. On the other, it's hard to take advice from people who hate you.

It appealed very much to intellectuals, academics, journalists, and other elites, and I'd argue appealed to such people much more consistently than it did to the lower classes.

This didn't really apply to countries where Marxist-Leninist parties were actually mass movements. The anglo countries where Marxism remained fairly fringe, perhaps, but in France/Italy/Finland where Communist parties regularly polled 20%+ their support came in great numbers from the working class, as can be seen, for instance, when looking at electoral numbers at ward level (corresponding specifically to working-class districts in cities etc.) Once M-L parties got established, their leadership tended to come from the working class as well, as I recounted here.

At least for the Finnish party, about which I've read a fair bit, up until the 60s the party had remarcably low currency among the intellectuals, academics and journalists, and what "gentleman Marxists" there were were often targets of suspicion for revisionism. Until there was a turn towards the New Left in the 60s one didn't see university-educated people in the Communist Party in great numbers, and this New Left turn ended up launching a process that led to the party essentially dropping Marxism-Leninism, first de facto and de jure. (A part of this New Left class later turned towards orthodox Marxism-Leninism but that's another story.)

The whole debate about whether wokeness is Marxist or anti-Marxist or whatever is basically impossible until we have a firmer definition of wokeness than what we currently do. As far as I've seen, most definition of wokeness are essentially "progressivism expect too much for me" or "progressivism expect authoritarian". The first one is always necessarily subjective, and authoritarian progressivism is hardly something invented by Marx, as evinced most famously by the process of the French Revolution.

It's a system for building an army unconstrained by the humanizing effects of tradition and civilization

It's difficult to argue that the armies of historical civilizations, with deep traditions - pick any, mongols, romans, etc - were humanized? Peace and kindness and love over war and hierarchy and conquest isn't trad - it's the creed of progressives, albeit often poorly followed.

Peace and kindness and love over war and hierarchy and conquest isn't trad - it's the creed of progressives

It's neither. No-one except the most radical ever espoused universal peace and kindness and love. Even Jesus, the lamb, drove the moneychangers out of the temple with scourges, and "came not to bring peace, but a sword." The question where the parties differ is who gets the peace-and-love, and who is consigned to the war-and-death. And as for hierarchy, that's sort of an orthogonal third quality that can come with either peace (as in leveller/quaker/anarchist dreams) or violence (the cossack/cowboy/yeoman tradition)

No-one except the most radical ever espoused universal peace and kindness and love

Huh? This is a universal belief today. It's mocked in the 'duude hippie universal love' sense - but 'fundamentally, we should be kind and good to everyone' is, like, a moral tenet most agree on. If I asked random people around me IRL if that's a good thing, they'd say "yes". The more conservative might add "but that's very difficult, and we can't go too far", and the more leftist might say "except for the NAZIS" (who are, of course, bad for breaking that premise, tolerate intolerance, w/e), but most agree on it in a significant sense. It relates to everything from antiracism to global development aid to christianity to why those hippies thought 'whoa love everyone' when they took acid (indigenous acid-doers have visions of their idiosyncratic practices when they do psychedelics), to one's day-to-day life where the economy, school, welfare, are justified by 'benefitting everyone'.

This is a universal belief today.

Peace and love to ISIS? To Putin? To Boko Haram? To "January Sixthers"? To Transphobes? To Pedophiles? To Conversion Therapists?

You don't have to scratch the surface too hard to find people who even baked-out old hippies don't extend "universal peace kindness and love" to. The question is, where do you draw the line?

Universal in an approximate sense, sure, but it's present

It's difficult to argue that the armies of historical civilizations, with deep traditions - pick any, mongols, romans, etc - were humanized?

I disagree. Read their writings, their poetry, their histories, examine the events of their time. They understood good and evil, virtue, honor, malice, human weakness. They were often concerned with the good life and how to secure it, and their execution was by no means the worst humans have done.

Peace and kindness and love over war and hierarchy and conquest isn't trad - it's the creed of progressives, albeit often poorly followed.

This is certainly the Progressive claim. And then there's the actual history, where Progressive attempts to implement the purest form of their vision have consistently resulted in some of the most concentrated evil and human misery the world has ever seen. Properly freed from tradition and hierarchy, truly Progressive societies have not demonstrated a solution to war, nor to hierarchy either, and it is not clear to me that attempting to eliminate hierarchy in particular is even possible, much less desirable.

This is not to claim that Marxism or Progressivism are Pure Evil, because they are not. Humans generally are not good producing anything pure. The fact remains that straight tabula-rasa year-zero Progressivism has a considerably worse record than any ideology currently in play, and judged by a balance of outcomes versus remaining influence versus length of influence, it's by far the most extreme outlier I'm aware of.

it is not clear to me that attempting to eliminate hierarchy in particular is even possible, much less desirable.

It is more or less necessary depending on circumstances. Cossacks and cowboys had very little hierarchy. Some versions of yeoman farmers didn't have much more.

Is hierarchy measured by number of layers, or by the influence the layers exert? I would bet most Cowboys and Cassocks who lived and worked together had a "boss", and I'd bet that "boss" had a whole lot of say on how things went. I'd bet, depending on the size of the group, there was even a fair amount of hierarchy below the boss. If your whole life revolves around working together, and that work is done under more or less explicit chain of command, I'd say you have "a lot" of hierarchy even if the hierarchy is only a few or even one level tall.

Yes, but at the same time if "exit" is easy (or at least not significantly harder than non-exit, b/c let's be real cossack life in any circumstance wasn't a picnic), and if the hierarchy is in many respects directly-answerable to the group (e.g., the election and deposition of Cossack "hetmans") or a function of ill-defined "prestige" or respect, then that hierarchy may sit comparatively lightly on one's shoulders.

Of course all this is theoretical, and I'm not a cossack or cowboy so if I'm blowing wind feel free to disregard.

I'm not conflating good and humanized here. Ancient civilizations both had deep and profound traditions, and also slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people for no conceivable progressive reason, for glory and conquest and just mere power. But marxism is less violent, in both ideology and implementation, than - easiest demonstration - the mongols, or some of the wars of ancient china.

truly Progressive societies have not demonstrated a solution to war

Post-WW2 society does seem to have less war than ancient societies (... althouhg that's a weak claim, "post ww2", ww2 was recent!) - which is perhaps related to 'the glory of conquest and war' being a value modern progressives despise, which was not true in the past.

I'm not conflating good and humanized here. Ancient civilizations both had deep and profound traditions, and also slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people for no conceivable progressive reason, for glory and conquest and just mere power.

Why must the reasons be "conceivably progressive"? Romans believed that their sociopolitical system was the best, and the more of the world it ruled the better everything would be. Progressive polities likewise believed that their sociopolitical system was the best, and the more of the world it ruled the better everything would be. Sure, the "everything" that "would be better" was based on different values, but why should we concede that International Socialism was a more worthy goal than "Rome Eternal"? The Romans appear to have been self-aware of the Pax Romana; I'm not aware of an equivalent Pax Sovieta or Pax Franca. The Enlightenment did not derive the blessings of peace and prosperity or The Good Life from first principles, and they manifestly sucked at actually securing them.

Post-WW2 society does seem to have less war than ancient societies (... althouhg that's a weak claim, "post ww2", ww2 was recent!) - which is perhaps related to 'the glory of conquest and war' being a value modern progressives despise, which was not true in the past.

What justifies this choice of dates? Progressivism's first real play was the French Revolution, which resulted in some of the largest wars the world had ever seen. Progressivism's next real play was the Russian Revolution, which was pure hell on earth and helped sow the seeds of WWII itself. Further plays resulted in multiple genocide-analogues post-WWII. The Soviets were no strangers to Glorious War and Conquest. Neither were the Chinese, or the Vietnamese, nor the Cambodians, nor Che and Castro, nor many others besides.

The first poem from your link:

Damn the ruins! Damn you!

Stop dwelling on the past again.

Damn you, stop all this talk – you

won’t ever get the sweet times back.

At al-Faruq we shielded our women,

trampled the locusts underfoot

when the armies collided.

“No retreat!” we swore.

“Our spears are from Rudaynah,

hard iron to make you whine

like dogs at the sight of vipers!”

You bolted, rumps in the air

like old camels sniffing a corpse.

Couldn’t you see-

our spears protect us?

You’re not going to drool

over our

soft-necked gazelles.

Still, Time

takes us all.

Death appeared.

I said to my men

“Whose up for a wager?

Who’ll face Death with me?

Turn your horses

the raiders are here.

Don’t let them win

the prize.” They met

warriors, not slaves

at al-Faruq.

We drive our horses

hard, their manes

matted like lice-ridden hair.

Come back for more

now that you know-

Time damns us all.

...To be clear, your argument is that such sentiments have no analog from, say, The Great Patriotic War? Such a claim seems entirely unsupportable, but perhaps you'd like examples?

We're talking past each other tbh, and it's probably my fault - I don't really know how this is a response to my point, or where exactly we disagree. I was arguing you seemed to be claiming progressivism was somehow more violent or brutal in a way 'untethered by tradition', and my response is just that 'both progressivism and traditional societies have been quite violent, and violence = bad seems somewhat progressive'. I'm not saying progressivism is better, or that WWII didn't involve patriotism. And I did note that the 'actually reduced war' claim was a weak one - the stronger claim is the progressive claims 'war is bad and there should be less of it', even if he follows through on it poorly, while many trad societies do not claim that, and indeed had violent wars. This isn't saying that progressives are better ... just that your argument has a bit of progressive in it.

I believe the perspective FC is coming from is one in which it is understood that the basest level of human interaction is, as nature, red in tooth and claw. "Might makes right" isn't a moral precept, it's a factual description of the most primitive level of homo sapiens social organization. Government began the first time the strongest, quickest guy in the social unit said "Do what I say or I'll fucking kill you."

There's a fantastic scene in Wildbow's current serial Pale, in which a red-tribe-y combat sorcerer finds himself trapped in a realm in which, as a fundamental Law, violence is not permitted.

Anthem drew a knife.

“Anthem, I don’t advise this,” Miss called out.

“Of course you don’t.”

“It’s Law.”

“It’s your Law. I draw my power from older Law, closer to the Seal. It stands as a basic principle, of competition, violence, and duels. Dig deep enough in most bodies of law and Law, there is always a right to trial by combat. It supercedes.”

Violence is always an option. And as an option, it often sucks, even when you win. Much of hierarchy, and tradition and civilization is just scaffolding to reduce how often we actually resort to direct violence to resolve disputes. "Peace, kindness and love" are nice ideals, but they don't actually offer a useful alternative method of dispute resolution. This issue is made stark when we talk about ideologies like Marxism, whose action plan is essentially:

  1. Tear down all existing social order, traditions, civilization and mores.

  2. ???? (Something magic happens).

  3. Utopia.

When we tear down all that scaffolding, we don't unleash the World Spirit/Planet Ghost/Friendship is Magic. We actually just revert to the oldest, default paradigm, violence. Will to power. Trial by combat. And so Marxists always end up with Stalins and Pol Pots and Raz Simones (notice how it took him less than 24 hours to reinvent the first human civic tech, Monopoly on Violence?)

To the extent that it's a revolutionary ideology, Woke will have the same problems. To the extent that it's not a revolutionary ideology, but just window dressing on liberalism, progressivism can dodge that same problem.

When we tear down all that scaffolding, we don't unleash the World Spirit/Planet Ghost/Friendship is Magic. We actually just revert to the oldest, default paradigm, violence.

Marx and his disciples very explicitly embraced violence as their mechanism for ushering in the new world. Genocide-analogs were not a failure mode, but very much an explicit part of Marxism, and a part carefully retained when even supposedly-"core" ideas like the Proletariat were discarded. It's difficult to determine which current leftists are lying to themselves about this fact, and which are merely lying to everyone else; the persistant refusal to simply abandon the old blood-soaked monster leaves me deeply skeptical of the existence of a third variety. Marx offers an excuse for lining people you don't like up against a wall. If that's not what you're interested in, why is he still relevant?

Marx offers an excuse for lining people you don't like up against a wall.

He really is not all that unique in this. Hell, you don't even need a fancy theoretical justification for doing this - people in the 20th century got the ol' blindfold-and-cigarette treatment all the time just for insulting whoever happened to be in power in their country.

Marx offers intellectuals a justification they can accept in place of base human will-to-power (which they think themselves to have transcended). Same reason Christian theologians twisted themselves into knots justifying war against the infidel; they had both a desire (or need, depending on where one stands) to wage war, a desire/need to not believing themselves to be in violation of moral precepts/self-conceptions which would normally deem such acts as evil.

The ability to do violence is the only truly inalienable right.

What does that even mean? How is it inalienable? If you're an evil asshole who is a pain in the ass of the community, you can claim to have whatever inalienable rights you want, your ass will be thrown in prison or on the gallow's pole. So what then?

Ultimately everyone relies on surrounding society for his life. You can have whatever philosophy of natural rights, that's not a cheat code, just like it isn't for sovereign citizens.

What does that even mean?

It means that violence is intrinsic to the human experience, ineradicable (and thus inalienable). All practical rights rely for enforcement on the assumption that the people can enforce them with violence if necessary. It is this principle that underwrites "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another". The basic rights, of self-defense, of self-determination arise from this ancient right. All others are based on it, at some abstracted distance. A right is a principle that is morally correct to defend with violence. What is "revolution", but an appeal to the most ancient and basic of all rights? The Last Argument of Kings is the last argument of every man.

It’s inalienable in the sense that you can’t take it away from someone. As long as I have arms, legs, teeth, I can use violence.

Those aren't worth much when you are put in handcuffs or ostracized. At the end of the day social embeddedness is much more decisive. Do you have people who will have your back and how effective are they?

It's not about that. The point is, your right to do violence is the only truly inalienable right you have. No one can take it from you except by killing you.

On iPhones as a status symbol--

Quick preamble: Not sure if there is a formal name for the phenomenon whereby someone supposedly intelligent and/or scientific declares certain human behavior to be illogical or irrational, often with an undercurrent of smugness or contempt, when said behavior can fairly obviously be explained away in logical/rational terms. For example, I've read in more than one pop psychology/economics book that consumers are irrational when they pay attention to celebrity endorsements, because a move star has no professional expertise in whether say a particular make or model of car is any good. Yet celebrities have personal brands to protect, and rationally one expects the most famous ones to have teams perform some level of due diligence on what they are endorsing. Furthermore, expensive endorsement deals signal a basic level of liquidity and financial strength in the brand, which in turn means it's less likely for what it sells to be crap, given that will in turn dilute the brand value, etc. You don't typically pump and dump by signing multi-year branding deals. Then there is the reality that fans of a particular celebrity tend to align with them in tribal identification and values/preferences in general, so there is reason to believe that say a machismo star will like the same type of cars as a machismo fan, etc.

So when I encounter a behavior that doesn't seem rational, I generally assume I'm missing something under the surface rather than conclude that people are simply stupid. Well, here's a behavior that doesn't seem rational, and I'd like to understand what I'm missing:

iPhones are seen as minor status symbols--they're not Rolexes or Porsches, but still have what I consider to be outsized gatekeeping power relative to their cost. In particular, at least here in the US, younger people make a big deal out of blue/green bubbles, as the latter signals someone who does not have an iPhone. Beyond cosmetics, iPhone intentionally makes communication with Androids more difficult by refusing to integrate with RCS, which does complicate communicating with non-iPhones, but this complication is more a problem for the Android user than the iPhone user (e.g., picture Android sends iPhone is fine, but the reverse is low-res), since the lack of integration is largely unidirectional.

But the problem is iPhones really aren't a very useful signal in terms of conspicuous consumption, because they have a huge price range. For anyone looking, Walmart is about to sell the SE for $99, and the 11 for $199. Of course, plenty of Androids can be bought for even cheaper, but plenty are also premium phones costing the same as any iPhone, in particular the Samsung Galaxies and Google Pixels. Phones also look more or less identical in recent years, especially when you wrap a cover around it, so it takes effort to tell whether you have the latest Pro Max or the standard from a couple of years back. And to be honest, among women I know (who literally ALL have iPhones), at least half own ones that are 2 or more years old, and like a quarter have cracked screens. This doesn't exactly scream affluence.

Signals are useful when they are harder to fake. It's hard to fake being tall, so height (in real life) is often used as a proxy for a man's worth. Many also often anchor on Ivy League degrees for the same reason. When signals are easier to fake, people tend to place less value on them--you automatically assume the inbound message featuring a beautiful woman to be a bot, that people will look worse than they do in their Instagram. A Rolex (might be counterfeit) is less trustworthy than a Porsche (might be leased), which in turn is less trustworthy than a penthouse apartment or a mansion in SF.

So why do people seem to rely upon iPhones and blue bubbles so much, when it's so cheap and trivial to "fake"? Obviously all the Reddit/Twitter posts about women rejecting men when they find out their numbers are green bubbles are not representative of all, but it's prevalent enough to be part of the culture, and at some point the masses consciously or subconsciously adhere to that default.

The only thing I can think of is that buying iPhone is less about whether you have money, and more about whether you conform to the norm. When you own one, you signal that you accept that is what you are supposed to get, and that can be helpful in filtering out weirdos who post thousands-word essays on the internet about how buying one is so irrational.

When you own one, you signal that you accept that is what you are supposed to get, and that can be helpful in filtering out weirdos

To me this smells of a forced meme, a product of Apple's marketing department. It reminds me of a recent meme about 'black air force energy', referencing Nike shoes that have somehow become a signal of a madman that should not be trifled with.

sigh

You know some people actually like iPhones, right? Personally, I think they're a better product. You're welcome to disagree; please let's not rehash that argument all over again.

As to why some people think they're a status symbol? Well, in my experience, people who prefer iPhones tend to like aesthetics, ease-of-use; people who prefer Androids tend to like customisability, value-for-money.

So to certain people, buying Android signals "poor or nerdy", and iPhone signals "money and taste". To be clear, that's not my reason for buying one - I actually like the phones - but you asked where the signalling comes from, so there you go.

@vpn isn't complaining that iPhones are worse, he's complaining that they're treated as status symbols (e.g. my brother's gf suggested I'd have better luck dating if I bought an iPhone) which doesn't make a whole lot of sense from a "costly signal" perspective.

Personally, I think they're a better product.

Here we go. Let me list all the reasons why I disagree.

You're welcome to disagree; please let's not rehash that argument all over again.

Okay. Nevermind. Good day sir. Enjoy your phone.

I prefer iPhones because I don’t use my phone for anything other than calling, basic web browsing and 2fa. I need a phone that works, has repair facilities everywhere, has infrastructure everywhere, is extensively documented, has broad accessory support and has consistent quality control. When I buy a used iPhone I know exactly what I’m supposed to be getting. Any problems I encounter are guaranteed to be solved or at least documented.

Also iMessage is dominant in the US. I ain’t no green bubble loser.

Furthermore I hate Google more than Apple.

I think it’s stupid how some nerds act like there are absolutely no benefits to choosing iPhone over android. I use FOSS and Linux daily at home and I still use an iPhone because the specifics of what CIA tracking device I use when I go outside doesn’t concern me.

For anyone looking, Walmart is about to sell the SE for $99

Tangential to your post, but it appears this deal is only for a model locked to Straight Talk Wireless (a prepaid contract-less Verizon subsidiary). I haven't been paying very close attention lately, but I thought carrier-locked phones were practically extinct in the US at this point?

I have no idea what Straight Talk's unlock policy is (maybe they'll unlock it if you ask nicely), but annoying regardless.

Don't quote me, but I believe all the carriers basically auto unlock after 60 days now. Think the locked piece is more for antitheft than to reduce customer churn.

However, you have to activate it with them first (that starts the timer); you can't just call them and try to get it unlocked.

So they're subsidizing it to a degree, knowing you'll be paying for their service for a couple of months.

This can be a hassle when buying new-old stock on eBay; fortunately, "phone sold as unlocked in the listing isn't" will get you a refund.

Signals are useful when they are harder to fake. It's hard to fake being tall, so height (in real life) is often used as a proxy for a man's worth. Many also often anchor on Ivy League degrees for the same reason. When signals are easier to fake, people tend to place less value on them--you automatically assume the inbound message featuring a beautiful woman to be a bot, that people will look worse than they do in their Instagram. A Rolex (might be counterfeit) is less trustworthy than a Porsche (might be leased), which in turn is less trustworthy than a penthouse apartment or a mansion in SF.

I wonder where wokeness fits in this paradigm. Anyone can parrot woke beliefs but it still confers some benefit career-wise and socially. Maybe we're near peak saturation

It's extremely difficult to stay on the knife edge of "social progress" though, which is where the real signal is: "this person is so socially plugged in that she knows why the acronym we adopted last week is now problematic, has a trendier one ready, and is savvy enough not to impose it on her coworkers until it's on the cusp of going mainstream." That's not just chanting shibboleths, it's an unfakable signal of social power.

Asking when woke will be saturated is like asking when fashion or court politics will be saturated. They all just get progressively more surreal and byzantine until history overtakes the arena of that status competition, via a fashionable city losing economic power, dynasty collapse, revolution, etc.

The only thing I can think of is that buying iPhone is less about whether you have money, and more about whether you conform to the norm.

I think this is it. Apple is the ultimate acceptable woketech company. They're the perfect encapsulation of the principle desire of the current Cathedralist zeitgeist: man locked in a walled-garden of feminine rounded corner bubble quadrilaterals for his own "safety" and "protection", disallowed from deciding fully for himself what software he will install (on his phone, but they would obviously love for this to apply to your brain too), constantly surveilled, tracked, and analyzed, his very soul residing in "the cloud".

I mean obviously your average feminine enforcer of this status quo has no idea about the details of the above, but they clearly get the hint about what their masters prefer. The only issues one could take with Apple (its wokeness, its effeteness and emphasis on (feminine) aesthetics over function, its censoriousness, its enervating maternalism, etc.) are fundamental paradigms of the current orthodox weltanschauung of power. Those who oppose Apple are thus dangerous, because if they can oppose Apple on those grounds, then they can easily reject the whole system. Thus they must be stigmatized.

The Blackberry used to be a status symbol, and same for the Razr and those taco-shaped smartphone. The iPhone succeeded because it was the most aesthetically appealing, and it had other benefits such as the app store and good product reliably. In my opinion mac product are overpriced, unusable, walled-garden toys and would only use if no other choice, but the stock has done great though. The success of apple does to some degree baffle me considering how bad the user experience is compared to alternatives for anything beyond just basic web browsing . The iPhone integrated with the iTunes store, too, so you didn't need an mp3 and a cellphone. This was in 2008-2012, before wokeness was a thing.