Category Archives: Ethics

Narcissistic Personality Disorder In Therapy: A Pointless and Unpleasant Endeavor

Like everyone on Axis 2, the person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder thinks they are fine. Obviously the problem is everybody else. They will just go through their whole life blaming other people. That’s how they ride.

They rarely if ever show up for therapy, and when they do, it is often at the behest of others who are forcing them into therapy because the narcissists is driving these people insane and ruining their lives. Once in therapy, the narcissist plays games, engages in a boatload of manipulation, does no work on themselves because after all there is nothing to be done, and often engages in a lot of ego and narcissistic games with the therapist, including insulting the therapist, thinking he is better than the therapist and telling him so, deciding that the therapist is a lousy therapist, etc.

If you tell them they are narcissists, will generally either reject the diagnosis, ignore it, blow it off with some humorous blustery remark, decide that psychiatry is a pseudoscience, or say, “So what? I like being this way.”

They might take it as an insult, but they usually will not react aggressively. Instead you will see a spark of recognition and alarm in their eyes. The narcissist is not an idiot. Many are highly intelligent and in fact, sadly it goes with the territory. At some level, most if not all narcissists now what is going on. The problems is they don’t care, or they like to be this way.

If you keep reminding the narcissist of what he is, he will stop being flippant about it and start getting aggressive. Expect dirty fighting, devious and crafty manipulation, nasty insults, or walking out of the room. Keep it up, and the narcissist will just end the relationship. The narcissist is not going to sit there and let you call him a narcissist all day. He’s too good for such degrading treatment. If he cannot do that, at some point, he will probably create a nuclear explosion of a fight and try to terrorize you into not bringing up the subject again.

Generally speaking, they are a complete waste of time in the office, therapy with them is often quite unpleasant, and nothing gets done anyway. It’s not uncommon for the therapist to simply fire the narcissist as client, informing him that nothing is getting done. This a relief to the narcissist, as now he has an excuse to quit the degrading therapy. Technically this is client abandonment and an ethics violation, but the decision is always mutual, and nothing was getting done anyway, so why prolong the pointless endeavor?

Theoretically, the narcissist can be cured. Since lions cannot change into tigers, all we can do with personality disorders is turn the bad side of a basic personality type into the good side of that type. The good side of Narcissistic Personality is Confident Personality. These people can be a bit much too, but they are healthy enough that they can function quite well especially in a hyper-competitive capitalist society like ours. The goal of therapy with an NPD is to turn them into a Confident Personality. But good luck with that.

There is so much more to talk about with narcissism and NPD, but let’s leave that for another day.

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Filed under Ethics, Mental Illness, Narcissistic, Personality, Personality Disorders, Psychology, Psychopathology, Psychotherapy

“Hinduism Versus Confucianism: An Analysis and Comparison,” by Dota

Nice essay from Dota, former commenter here who now blogs at Occident Invicta with Bay Area Guy, another former commenter here.

The societies of India and China have been structured along feudal lines for much of recorded history. Despite both societies placing a premium on hierarchy and authoritarianism, their internal motivations and ethical paradigms are widely divergent. The Chinese mind has been shaped by Confucianism, whereas the Indian mind has been shaped by Hinduism.

Let’s begin by analyzing Confucianism.

Confucianism stresses social order and postulates that no society can attain political stability by precluding social stability. Confucianism views society as a massive collection of interdependent networks that are comprised of relationships on the atomic level.

The genius of the Confucian model is that it recognizes the inherently relative nature of power and how power is also a zero-sum resource. Those that possess power do so because others do not. An emperor may possess power over a subject, but that subject isn’t powerless, only merely so in relationship to his sovereign. This same subject may be a teacher and wield power over his students.

To ensure social stability, Confucius ordained that relationships be guided by the principle of ren or benevolence. This is Confucianism’s highest virtue and arguably the philosophy’s overarching universal ethic. A sovereign treats his subjects benevolently by ensuring that they are fed, protected, and generally want for nothing (materially speaking). The subjects then reciprocate with obedience and loyalty. Those in power must treat those without (in the context of their relationship) with benevolence, while the latter reciprocate with obedience and loyalty.

Benevolence is often strictly interpreted as each party honoring their respective obligations. It would be unjust for a wife to expect her husband’s kindness if she herself were disobedient. Conversely it would be unjust for a husband to demand his wife’s obedience if he himself failed in his husbandly duties. We see a glimmer of this idea even in Western tradition. Plato argued that interdependence was at the heart of justice, and that social order was maintained when members of social classes refrained form crossing lines.

Confucianism’s approach to social justice is not dissimilar to other Eastern philosophies. The primary aim here is to ensure the prevention of abuse rather than empowering the disenfranchised (a preoccupation of modern day social justice). Sumeria’s Ur-Nammu famously proclaimed that: “The orphan was not delivered up to the rich man; the widow was not delivered up to the mighty man; the man of one shekel was not delivered up to the man of one mina.” Not unlike other ancient societies, the Chinese also believed that class structures were an inherent feature of any civilized society, as men of greater talent would naturally rise above their peers. The ancients thus focused their energies on ensuring that men of ability did not use their powers unjustly against those lodged beneath them in the social order.

Before we move on to discussing Hinduism, a few comments are in order pertaining to the success of feudalism in China. It is my opinion that feudalism was wildly successful in China for the same reasons that the Catholic Church was successful in Europe. The Church absorbed some of the most talented men in society by giving them an avenue to express their talents. Such men could not ascend in a strictly feudal order despite their talents and thus gravitated towards the church.

The Chinese state implemented that very approach and absorbed men of resource into its ever growing bureaucracy. This also had another unexpected benefit – it prevented the formation of a class of dissidents that could prove to be a source of agitation. I believe the Communist Party of China absorbs talent in such a manner even today. Men who wish to ascend the rungs of power often choose the political route (via the party) as opposed to the riskier route of commerce.

Hindu society, like its Chinese counterpart, was similarly structured along feudal lines. There is, however, one key difference in their underlying composition – Confucianism stresses the interdependence of relationship networks, whereas the Hindu caste system is the world’s oldest pyramid scheme.

As we are well aware, a pyramid structure is one where every level attempts to profit (by exploitation) off the labor of the level below, and so it goes all the way down until one reaches the base – the most crucial level and also the most exploited. Pyramids are inherently unstable and one way to ensure their longevity is by means of force. Individuals must be coerced to remain at their stations so that the structure may endure. This method leaves the structure vulnerable to rebellions and a constant tension between the levels. This point is obvious from British history alone where Barons often clashed with the monarchy.

In order to allay this source of instability, some pyramids permit upward mobility. But this makes the crucial base unstable by putting it in a constant state of flux as individuals at the lower stations climb up and leave their former stations vacant. This problem is alleviated by constantly recruiting newer members into the base so that there is always a base available for exploitation.

The genius of the Hindu caste system is that it combines both the aforementioned approaches. Hinduism forbids caste mobility in the current life, thereby ensuring the perpetual hegemony of the upper castes. However, in order to prevent tension, Hinduism allows caste mobility but only through rebirth/reincarnation. This system ensures that the lower castes are given some hope of improving their station in the social order so long as they serve the interests of the upper castes in the current lifetime. It is karma, the cosmic recruiter, that ensures that the base will always remain staffed with compliant serfs.

The ultimate difference between Hinduism and Confucianism is that the former is an escapist religion whereas the latter is at its core an ethical philosophy. While many a Westerner would disagree with the ethical rules of Confucianism, it is impossible to deny the ethical focus of this philosophy. Ethics reside within the horizontal space between individuals. Any ideology or mode of thought that attempts to address this space is ethical in nature, even if we may disagree with the rules that regulate this space and by extension the human relationships bound to it.

By contrast, Hinduism addresses a very different space: the gap between man and the universe (cosmic order). The goal of Hinduism is to escape the world and become liberated from karma once and for all. Karma and Dharma are cosmic forces that to the best of my knowledge have no equivalent in Chinese philosophy; the focus of the latter being on social and ethical matters as opposed to metaphysics.

To illustrate this point, consider the life of an ascetic. Hinduism places a great degree of value on the ascetic lifestyle. But the man who renounces the world resides in (to quote Arthur Danto) a space “beyond good and evil.” In such an environment, an agent’s actions have no moral content. A hermit who lives outside society will always act in a morally neutral way. The closest analogy to this in Chinese philosophy is the Taoist wanderer, who is essentially a loner. But the wanderer is not seeking escape from the world, merely freedom from discomfort and anxiety that plague those that haven’t discovered the way (Tao).

Confucianism on the other hand, by its very essence, rejects the ascetic lifestyle. Man’s place is rooted firmly in society, for as Confucius put it: “One cannot herd with the beasts or flock with the birds. If I am not to be a man among men, then what am I to be?” It is this space that Hinduism ultimately seeks release from. Consider the following illustration from India’s Bhakti tradition:

In the basic story, Tiruppan grows up as part of an ‘untouchable’ panar caste of bards and minstrels in a town near the temple of Srirangam, arguably the most revered of all Vaisnava pilgrimage sites and indisputably the single most important temple for Srivaisnava devotees. From the moment he is able to speak, Tiruppan sings beautiful songs praising the qualities of Rangi (or Ranganatha), the form of Visnu worshiped in the temple of Srirangam just across the river from his home town.

Every day he travels to the south bank of the river and sings from a distance to his beloved Rangi. Tiruppan yearns to see the image of his beloved but is unable to enter the temple due to his ‘untouchable’ status. Eventually, the beauty of his songs and the intensity of his devotion awake the compassion of Rangi, who comes in a dream to the Brahmin priest of Srirangam and tells him to bring Tiruppan into the temple on his shoulders.

The priest goes to get Tiruppan, but he refuses to come, saying, “How could you do such a thing with me, your slave, who belongs to the class of untouchables?” In another version, he states, “How can I step with my feet on to the holy temple of Ranga?” And the Brahmin replies, “Never mind! You can go [sitting] on my shoulders.” In yet another version, Tiruppan is so insistent that he cannot come to the temple because of his low birth and sinful life that the priest must physically force him onto his shoulders.

Eventually, Tiruppan enters the temple riding on the shoulders of the Brahmin priest, and gazing at Rangi in devotional ecstasy, he sings ten verses of praise describing the God from foot to head. These are the very verses that are still remembered and recited today in the Srivaisnava community. The story concludes with Tiruppan miraculously uniting with and disappearing into the image of his beloved Rangi.

This story illustrates how a man can close the gap between himself and the divine (Tiruppan and Rangi) whereas leaving the glaring gap between individuals (Tiruppan and the Brahmin priests) unaddressed.

This brings me to the final point of this essay. What is Hinduism’s overarching ethic? Western civilization’s universal ethic is moral universalism, and Confucianism’s is Ren (benevolence). It is my view that Indian civilization is unique precisely because it failed to do something which other advanced civilizations have done: produce a universal ethic. This view was shared by three individuals whom I have listed here in chronological order:

  1. St Francis Xavier
  2. Max Weber
  3. Dr Ambedkar

Francis Xavier, the Spanish missionary, made a series of observations about Indians that are quite illuminating. It is obvious that he did not think too highly of Hinduism, but it is one particular interaction that I wish to draw your attention to – a conversation between Xavier and a group of Brahmins:

When Xavier asked a group of Brahmins to summarize what Hinduism stood for, he was told that their gods “required two duties of those who desired to go to them hereafter, one of which was to abstain from killing cows because under that form the gods were adored; the other was to show kindness to the Brahmins, who were the worshipers of the gods.”

Max Weber arrived at a similar conclusion when he stated:

“There is no universal ethic but only a status and professionally differentiated dharma according to caste”

The Religion of India the Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism

Dr Ambedkar’s observations in his book The Riddles in Hinduism were identical to Weber’s. The very first chapter, The Difficulty in Knowing Who Is a Hindu, is centered around an attempt to define some common ethic or even creed that binds Hindus together. Ambedkar arrived at the conclusion that one is a Hindu precisely because one is born into the faith and not due to any universal ethic that binds individuals together under a set of agreed-upon moral rules.

Just as it is impossible to practice larceny in a culture that has no concept of private property, similarly it is impossible to practice intolerance in a culture that believes in nothing. I suspect this is the secret of Indian ‘tolerance.’ Tolerance can only be measured in opposition to what one cannot tolerate. The act of enduring what one cannot tolerate is in effect practicing tolerance. It is only in this context that tolerance acquires a moral quality. One however cannot practice tolerance when one subscribes to no real beliefs whose limits can be tested. The Indian approaches the world with extreme apathy and conflates his indifference for tolerance.

In conclusion, the difference between Confucianism and Hinduism can be observed in their differing worldviews despite some overlap in social conventions. Hinduism’s focus is on mystical objectives, as it dismisses reality as we understand it as illusionary. Confucianism’s focus is squarely on this world, and its chief emphasis is social and political harmony.

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Filed under Asia, Catholicism, China, Christianity, Culture, Ethics, Guest Posts, Hinduism, India, Jurisprudence, Left, Maoism, Marxism, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Political Science, Regional, Religion, Sociology, South Asia

Richard Spencer Addressing the National Policy Institute

Jared Taylor’s organization sponsored their annual confab, and I must say this was one of the worst ones yet. Wait, it was the worst one yet. The NPI has now gone full Nazi. I wonder what Mr. Taylor’s wife thinks about that? Jared watered these strange little plants for years no doubt knowing full well what sort of a nasty garden he was cultivating, and now that the crop is ready to harvest, is he surprised at what bloomed? Right what it said on the seed package, right?

The white sheets are coming off these guys in a big way. I recognized a few of the people there. Harlem Venison was there. I know why he went there, but I say he made a big mistake. Sometimes you just walk in the wrong party, you know? In that case, you say, sorry, wrong address. Do you stay for a drink? Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. But with some accidental parties, you’re glad you wrote the address down once you take a good look a the revelers. Parties are usually good fun, but some folks are so seedy you don’t even want to have a beer with them, you know? And some parties are not all good fun. Some wild parties are downright dangerous, and it’s smarter to just stay home alone. Case in point.

Harlem says he’s not a White nationalist, and I agree with that. So what’s he doing here? Bad choice. He only wants to take down antiracism as a dogma. Which sort of makes sense considering what sort of weeds have sprung up in that once well-tended community garden. But really, in life you have to choose your enemies. Either antiracist dogma is the enemy that needs to be fought, and doing so by making alliance with these jugend is the right thing to do in terms of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, or it’s the other way around. And yeah, that’s a moral question all right. Not such a simple one either.

The antis hate me as much as they ever did, but that’s too bad because much as the feelings are mutual on my end, I would very much prefer to ally with the Cultural Left against this NPI malignancy than the other way around.

You pick your “enemies” in life. And so with your “friends.” Half of your enemies are really frenemies, and it’s even worse than that with your friends. First you brutally sort them into two calculatingly amoral piles. If you have any sense, you do so strategically. Sometimes allying with the bad guys against the worst guys is not only cynical realpolitik and situation ethics but also moral high reason if not moral righteousness of the highest order.

If you sit around waiting for the good guys versus bad guys war, you’ll sit out every fight because there are no good guys in war. And in so doing, you will allow your world to be potentially overrun by the worst Orcs of your nightmares all because the good guys couldn’t pass your petty purity test.

Virginity tests went out a long time ago in the West. In a world where we all sullied, they never made sense anyway. There are crystalline whores singing in the lofty crags and black-eyes virgins grunting in the boiling mud. A hymen’s a piece of flesh, not an honor badge. It’s about as meaningful as a hangnail. There’s a reason prigs are so hated. They demand purity and chastity in in a world where few humans measure up, not that anyone should anyway. Priggism is a con, a lie, a scam, a shield for projecting sinners with weighted hearts.

In real life, you get your hands dirty, you don’t always get to wash up right away, and the stains don’t always wash out. Cloisters are for nuns, and they have earned the privilege of residence. The rest of us don’t have that luxury. We have to wrestle in the mud like everyone else. A man chooses his battles wisely, and almost almost no one wears black or white in war anymore. Every army is a shade of one or the other or both or neither, and that’s when the colors are discernible at all. Roll them unfiltered,  drink it straight, and die with your boots on. Dead is dead, but at least you went down fighting.

Pick your poison and head to the front. Some wars can’t be sat out.

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Filed under Anti-Racism, Conservatism, Ethics, Fascism, Nazism, Philosophy, Political Science, Racism, White Nationalism

Hindu Proves That Racism Is a Core Value of India and Hinduism

KsytriaKhalsa is a rightwing Hindu Nationalist fanatic who posts in the Comments a lot. Apparently he is a Sikh, which makes even less sense. Here he is discussing racism:

Why is racism bad? You can’t come up with a coherent answer except muh equality.. A core western value. No material benefit.

Why is racism bad on a spiritual (moral) level? No answer except muh equality.. A core Christian value. No spiritual benefit.

ਜੈਸ਼ਿ੍ਰੀਰਾਮ।।

Apparently he is saying that racism is tied in with equality which is a Christian Western concept apparently alien to not only the Hindu religion but possibly to India itself. Which of course jibes perfectly with everything we know about Hinduism, India and Indian people.

Apparently racism is a core Indian value as they reject antiracism as a Christian alien concept imported from the West.

Surely racism is a core Hindu value as this is reiterated endlessly in their scripture and the very religion itself. So Hinduism is about all sorts of different things, but one of those things is racism, which is apparently a core Hindu value.

There you go folks. Straight from the horse’s mouth. What you’ve always suspected or known about India and Hindusim – that they are both at core extremely racist entities.

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Filed under Asia, Christianity, Culture, Ethics, Hinduism, India, Nationalism, Philosophy, Political Science, Racism, Regional, Religion, South Asia, Ultranationalism

Stealing to Survive – A Grave Sin in Conservatism

I knew a man who was homeless for a while. Of course he needed food, so he told me that he would go into corner markets, grab a sandwich or whatever and walk out the door, announcing to the stunned clerk, “Hi, I am homeless and really hungry. I am going to steal this, ok? Bye.” He said almost all the shopkeepers just let him steal the item, and in some places, he did it over and over, and the clerks never cared. Surely a conservative thinks this man belongs in jail.

I know another man who became disabled and unable to work. He applied for disability but was waiting to get on. In the meantime, he had no income. He had a bunch of credit cards, and he started running them all up just enough every month to survive. At the same time, he stopped making payments on his cards. He was able to do this for a while somehow, and I think he borrowed $3-4,000 this way. He kept transferring money from one card to another and then running up the new card.

After a while, they all cut him off and started demanding payment. He told them that he was not working and had no money. They got mad, but he blew them off. Then they sent him to collections agencies, and those pestered him for many months.

Finally he filed for bankruptcy to wipe out $13,000, mostly in credit card debt. He told one bankruptcy attorney what he had done and the man excoriated him in the lawyer’s office.

“You stole money! You are a thief! I cannot work with you. Bye.”

Never mind the absurdity of an attorney criticizing anyone on moral grounds. This attorney probably made $150,000/year, if not a lot more. Here was a man making $150,000/year excoriating a man for stealing so he could survive. I certainly do not begrudge a man who steals so he can survive, especially from a large bank, which probably deserves to get ripped off anyway. At any rate, they can afford the lost money more than the man running up the card.

And there is conservatism. You have no right to steal, even to survive. However, when it comes to business, to conservatives, business = theft. That’s called “the free market.” The biggest and best thieves of all are praised for their “ruthlessness” at stealing money with a pen.

After all, a man can steal a lot more money with a pen than with a knife.

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Filed under Capitalism, Conservatism, Economics, Ethics, Philosophy, Political Science

Was Joseph Conrad a Neoliberal? Are We? A Contemporary Reading of Victory

I participated in a session with this fellow on Academia.edu. I believe the author is a professor at a university somewhere in the UK. I really liked this paper a lot. It’s a bit hard to understand, but if you concentrate, you should be able to understand. If I can understand it, at least some of you guys can too. It is an excellent overview of what exactly neoliberalism is and the effects it has on all of us all the way down to the anthropological, sociological and psychological.

Was Joseph Conrad a Neoliberal? Are We? A Contemporary Reading of Victory

by Simon During

Over the past decade or so “neoliberalism” has become a word to conjure with. It is easy to have reservations about its popularity since it seems to name both a general object — roughly, capitalist governmentality as we know it today — and a particular set of ideas that now have a well-researched intellectual history.

It also implies a judgment: few use the term except pejoratively. I myself do not share these worries however, since I think that using the word performs sterling analytic work on its own account even as it probably accentuates its concept’s rather blob-like qualities. Nonetheless in this talk I want somewhat to accede to those who resist neoliberalism’s analytic appeal by thinking about it quite narrowly — that is to say, in literary and intellectual historical terms.

I begin from the position, first, that neoliberalism is an offshoot of liberalism thought more generally; and second, that we in the academic humanities are ourselves inhabited by an occluded or displaced neoliberalism to which we need critically to adjust.1 Thus, writing as a
literary critic in particular, I want to follow one of my own discipline’s original protocols, namely to be sensitive to the ways in which the literary “tradition” changes as the present changes, in this case, as it is reshaped under that neoliberalism which abuts and inhabits us.2

To this end I want to present a reading of Joseph Conrad’s Victory (1916). To do this is not just to help preserve the received literary canon, and as such is, I like to think, a tiny act of resistance to neoliberalism on the grounds that neoliberalism is diminishing our capacity to affirm a canon at all. By maintaining a canon in the act of locating neoliberalism where it is not usually found, I’m trying to operate both inside and outside capitalism’s latest form.

***

1 Daniel Stedman-Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2014, p. 17.
2 This argument is made of course in T.S. Eliot’s seminal essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1921).
Let me begin with a brief and sweeping overview of liberalism’s longue durée.3 For our purposes we can fix on liberalism by noting that it has two central struts, one theoretical, the other historical. As generations of theorists have noted, the first strut is methodological individualism: liberal analysis begins with, and is addressed to, the autonomous individual rather than communities or histories.4

Methodological individualism of this kind is, for instance, what allowed Leo Strauss and J.P Macpherson to call even Thomas Hobbes a founder of liberalism.5 Liberalism’s second strut is the emphasis on freedom as the right to express and enact private beliefs with a minimum of state intervention. This view of freedom emerged in the seventeenth century among those who recommended that the sovereign state “tolerate” religious differences.

It marked a conceptual break in freedom’s history since freedom was now conceived of as an individual possession and right rather than as a condition proper to “civil associations” and bound to obligations.6 We need to remember, however, that methodological individualism does not imply liberal freedom, or vice versa. Indeed neoliberalism exposes the weakness of that association.

Early in the nineteenth century, liberalism became a progressivist political movement linked to enlightened values. But after about 1850, non-progressive or conservative liberalisms also appeared. Thus, as Jeffrey Church has argued, Arthur Schopenhauer, the post-Kantian
philosopher who arguably broke most spectacularly with enlightened humanist progressivism,

3 Among the library of works on liberalism’s history I have found two to be particularly useful for my purposes here: Domenico Losurdo’s Liberalism: a Counter-History, trans. Gregory Elliot. London: Verso 2014, and Amanda Anderson’s forthcoming Bleak Liberalism, Chicago, University of Chicago Press 2016.
4 Milan Zafirovski, Liberal Modernity and Its Adversaries: Freedom, Liberalism and Anti-Liberalism in the 21st Century, Amsterdam: Brill 2007, p. 116.
5 Van Mobley, “Two Liberalisms: the Contrasting Visions of Hobbes and Locke,” Humanitas, IX 1997: 6-34.
6 Quentin Skinner, Liberty before Liberalism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998, p. 23.

can be associated with liberalism.7

Likewise Schopenhauer’s sometime disciple, Friedrich Nietzsche, no progressivist, was, as Hugo Drochon has recently argued, also an antistatist who prophesied that in the future “private companies” will take over state business so as to protect private persons from one another.8 Liberalism’s conservative turn was, however, largely a result of socialism’s emergence as a political force after 1848, which enabled some left liberal fractions to dilute their individualism by accepting that “a thoroughly consistent individualism can work in harmony with socialism,” as Leonard Hobhouse put it.9

Conrad himself belonged to this moment. As a young man, for instance, he was appalled by the results of the 1885 election, the first in which both the British working class and the socialists participated.10 That election was contested not just by the Marxist Socialist Democratic Federation, but by radical Liberals who had allied themselves to the emergent socialist movement (not least Joseph Chamberlain who, as mayor of Birmingham, was developing so-called “municipal socialism” and who haunts Conrad’s work).11

The election went well for the Liberals who prevented the Tories from securing a clear Parliamentary majority. After learning this, Conrad, himself the son of a famous Polish liberal revolutionary, wrote to a friend, “the International Socialist Association are triumphant, and every
disreputable ragamuffin in Europe, feels that the day of universal brotherhood, despoliation and disorder is coming apace…Socialism must inevitably end in Caesarism.”12 That prophecy will resonate politically for the next century, splitting liberalism in two. As I say: on the one side, a

7 Jeffrey Church, Nietzsche’s Culture of Humanity: Beyond Aristocracy and Democracy in the Early Period, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2015, p. 226.
8 Hugo Drochon, Nietzsche’s Great Politics, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2016, p. 9.
9 L. T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, London: Williams and Norgate, 1911, p. 99.
10 It was at this point that one of neoliberalism’s almost forgotten ur-texts was written,Herbert Spencer’s Man against the State (1884).
11 For instance, he plays an important role in Conrad and Ford Madox Ford’s The Inheritors.
12 Joseph Conrad, The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad, vol 1., ed. Frederick Karl and Laurence Davis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1983, p. 16.

 

progressivist, collectivist liberalism. On the other, an individualist liberalism of which neoliberalism is a continuation.

By around 1900, liberalism’s fusion with socialism was often (although not quite accurately) associated with Bismark’s Germany, which gave anti-socialist liberalism a geographical inflection. Against this, individualistic liberalism was associated with Britain. But this received British liberalism looked back less to Locke’s religiously tolerant Britain than to Richard Cobden’s Britain of maritime/imperial dominance and free trade.

Which is to say that liberalism’s fusion with socialism pushed socialism’s liberal enemies increasingly to think of freedom economically rather than politically — as in Ludwig von Mises influential 1922 book on socialism, which can be understood as a neoliberal urtext.13 By that point, too, individuals were already being positioned to become what Foucault calls “consumers of freedom.” 14

They were now less understood less as possessing a fundamental claim to freedom than as creating and participating in those institutions which enabled freedom in practice. Crucially after the first world war, in the work of von Mises and the so-called “Austrian school”, freedom was increasingly assigned to individual relations with an efficient market as equilibrium theory viewed markets. This turn to the market as freedom’s basis marked another significant historical departure: it is the condition of contemporary neoliberalism’s emergence.

Neoliberalism organized itself internationally as a movement only after world war two, and did so against both Keynesian economics and the welfare state. 15 It was still mainly ideologically motivated by a refusal to discriminate between welfarism and totalitarianism — a line of thought already apparent in Conrad’s equation of socialism with Caesarism of course. As
13 See Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: an Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane. New Haven: Yale University Press 1951.
14 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 63. One key sign of this spread of this new freedom is Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous appeal to the “free trade in ideas” in his 1919 dissent in Abrams v. the US, a judgment which joins together the market, intellectual expression and the juridical.
15 See Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe (eds.), The Road from Mont Pèlerin, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2009.

 

Friedrich Hayek urged: once states begin to intervene on free markets totalitarianism looms because the people’s psychological character changes: they become dependent.16 For thirty years (in part as confined by this argument), neoliberalism remained a minority movement, but
in the 1970s it began its quick ascent to ideological and economic dominance.

Cutting across a complex and unsettled debate, let me suggest that neoliberalism became powerful then because it provided implementable policy settings for Keynesianism’s (perceived) impasse in view the stagnation and instability of post-war, first-world welfarist, full-employment economies after 1) the Vietnam War, 2) the collapse of the Bretton Woods agreement; 3) OPEC’s cartelization, and 4) the postcolonial or “globalizing” opening up of world markets on the back of new transportation and computing technologies.17

In the global north neoliberalism was first implemented governmentally by parties on the left, led by James Callaghan in the UK, Jimmy Carter in the US, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in Australia, and leading the way, David Lange and Roger Douglas in New Zealand.18 At this time, at the level of policy, it was urged more by economists than by ideologues insofar as these can be separated (and Hayek and Mises were both of course).

As we know, neoliberals then introduced policies to implement competition, deregulation, monetarism, privatization, tax reduction, a relative high level of unemployment, the winding back of the state’s participation in the economy and so on. This agenda quickly became captured by private

 

16 Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, p. 48.
17 This history is open to lively differences of opinion. The major books in the literature are: Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-1979, London: Picador 2010; Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown, London: Verso 2014; Stedman-Jones, Masters of the Universe; Joseph Vogl, The Spectre of Capital, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2014; David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007. My own understanding of this moment is informed by Stedman-Jones’s account in particular.
18 It is worth noting in this context that the left had itself long been a hatchery of neoliberal economic ideas just because liberalism’s absorption of socialism was matched by socialism’s absorption of liberalism. See Johanna Brockman, Markets in the name of Socialism: the Left-wing Origins of Neoliberalism, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2011 on the intellectual-historical side of this connection.

6
interests, and from the eighties on, it was woven into new, highly surveilled and privatized, computing and media ecologies, indeed into what some optimists today call “cognitive capitalism”.19

In this situation, more or less unintended consequences proliferated, most obviously a rapid increase in economic inequality and the enforced insertion of internal markets and corporate structures in non-commercial institutions from hospitals to universities. Indeed, in winding back the welfare state, renouncing Keynesian and redistributionist economic policies, it lost its classical liberal flavor and was firmly absorbed into conservatism — a transformation which had been prepared for by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.20

But two more concrete conceptual shifts also helped animate this particular fusion of conservatism and liberalism. First, postwar neoliberalism was aimed more at the enterprise than at the individual.21

Largely on the basis of van Mises’s Human Action (1940) as popularized by Gary Becker, the free, independent individual was refigured as “human capital” and thereby exposed instead to management and “leadership.” At the same time, via Peter Drucker’s concept of “knowledge worker,” which emphasized the importance of conceptual and communication skills to
economic production, postsecular management theories for which corporations were hierarchical but organic communities also gained entry into many neoliberal mindsets.22 At that

 

19 Yann Moulier Boutang, Cognitive Capitalism, trans. Ed Emery. Cambridge: Polity Press 2012.
20 Nietzsche and Schopenhauer’s influence is no doubt part of why neoliberalism emerged in Austria. Indeed the Austrian context in which contemporary neoliberalism emerged is worth understanding in more detail. In their early work, Hayek and Mises in particular were responding to “red Vienna” not just in relation to Otto Bauer’s Austromarxism but also in relation to its version of guild socialism associated with Hungarians like Karl Polanyi, with whom both Hayek and Mises entered into debate. See Lee Congdon, “The Sovereignty of Society: Karl Polanyi in Vienna,” in The Life and Work of Karl Polanyi, ed. Kari Polanyi-Levitt. Montreal: Black Rose Books 1990, 78-85.
21 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 225.
22 Drucker was another Austrian refugee who turned to capitalism against totalitarianism in the late thirties and his profoundly influential work on corporate management shadows neoliberal theory up until the 1970s.

 

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point, neoliberalism also became a quest to reshape as many institutions as possible as corporations.

At this point too Foucault’s consumers of freedom were becoming consumers full stop. To state this more carefully: at the level of ideology, to be free was now first and foremost deemed to be capable of enacting one’s preferences in consumer and labour markets. It would seem that preferences of this kind increasingly determined social status too, and, more invasively, they now increasingly shaped personalities just because practices of self were bound less and less to filiations and affiliations than to acts of choice.

This helped the market to subsume older gradated social and cultural structures of identity-formation, class difference and cultural capital. At this juncture, we encounter another significant unexpected consequence
within liberalism’s longue durée: i.e. the sixties cultural revolution’s reinforcement of neoliberalism.

This is a complex and controversial topic so let me just say here that, from the late seventies, neoliberal subjects who were individualized via their entrepreneurial disposition and economic and labour choices, encounters the subject of post-68 identity politics who had been emancipated from received social hierarchies and prejudices, and was now attached to a particular ethnicity, gender or sexuality as chosen or embraced by themselves as individuals. These two subject formations animated each other to the degree that both had, in their different ways, sloughed off older communal forms, hierarchies and values.

Governing this ménage of hedonism, productivity, insecurity and corporatization, neoliberalism today seems to have become insurmountable, and is, as I say, blob-like, merging out into institutions and practices generally, including those of our discipline. And it has done
this as a turn within liberal modernity’s longer political, intellectual and social genealogies and structures rather than as a break from them.

Nonetheless, three core, somewhat technical, propositions distinguish neoliberalism from liberalism more generally:

  1. First the claim, which belongs to the sociology of knowledge, that no individual or group can know the true value of anything at all.23 For neoliberals, that value — true or not — can only be assessed, where it can be assessed at all, under particular conditions: namely when it is available in a competitive and free market open to all individuals in a society based on private property. This is an argument against all elite and expert claims to superior knowledge and judgment: without prices, all assessments of value are mere opinion. In that way, market justice (i.e. the effects of competing in the market) can trump social justice. And in that way, for instance, neoliberalism finds an echo not just in negations of cultural authority and canonicity but in the idea that literary and aesthetic judgments are matters of private choice and opinion. In short, neoliberalism inhabits cultural democracy and vice versa. By the same stroke, it posits an absence — a mere structure of exchange—at society’s normative center.
  2. There is a direct relationship between the competitive market and freedom. Any attempt to limit free markets reduces freedom because it imposes upon all individuals a partial opinion about what is valuable. This particular understanding of freedom rests on the notion of the market as a spontaneous order — its being resistant to control and planning, its being embedded in a society which “no individual can completely survey” as Hayek put it.24 Not that this notion is itself original to neoliberalism: Foucault’s historiography of liberalism shows that, in the mid eighteenth century, this property of markets was thought of as “natural” and therefore needed to be protected
    from sovereign authority’s interference.25 But as Foucault and others have argued, neoliberalism emerges after World War 2 when the spontaneous market conditions of freedom are no longer viewed as natural (even if they remain immanently lawbound) but as governmentally produced.26
  3. Neoliberalism has specific ethical dimensions too. While it generally insists that individuals should be free to “follow their own values and preferences” (as Hayek put it) at least within the limits set by those rules and institutions which secure market stability, in fact individuals’ independence as well as their relation to market risk, provides the necessary condition for specific virtues and capacities. Most notably, in Hayek’s formulation, a neoliberal regime secures individuals’ self-sufficiency, honor and dignity and does so by the willingness of some to accept “material sacrifice,” or to “live dangerously” as Foucault put it, in a phrase he declared to be liberalism’s “motto”.27 This mix of risk-seeking existentialism and civic republicanism not only rebukes and prevents the kind of de-individualization supposedly associated with socialisms of the left and right, it is where neoliberalism and an older “Nietzschean” liberalism meet—with Michael Oakeshott’s work bearing special weight in this context.28 But as soon as neoliberalism itself becomes hegemonic in part by fusing with the spirit of 1968, this original ascetic, masculinist neoliberal ethic of freedom and risk comes to be supplemented and displaced by one based more on creativity, consumerist hedonism and entrepreneurialism aimed at augmenting choice.29

***

23 See Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis, p. 55.
24 Friedrich von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom: Texts and Documents. The Definitive Edition, ed. Bruce Caldwell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 212.

25 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 19.
26 This is argued in Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval’s The New Way of the World: on Neoliberal Society, London: Verso 2014. For the immanent lawboundedness in Hayek, see Miguel Vatter, The Republic of the Living: Biopolitics and the Critique of Civil Society, New York: Fordham University Press 2014: pps. 195-220. Vatter’s chapter “Free Markets and Republican
Constitutions in Hayek and Foucault” is excellent on how law is treated in neoliberal thought.
27 Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, p. 130. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 66.
28 See Andrew Norris’s forthcoming essay in Political Theory, “Michael Oakeshott’s Postulates of Individuality” for this. We might recall, too, that Foucault argues for similarities between the Frankfurt school and the early neoliberals on the grounds of their resistance to standardization, spectacle and so on. See The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 105.

 

I have indicated that Conrad belongs to the moment when socialist parties first contested democratic elections and which thus split liberalism, allowing one, then beleaguered, liberal fraction to begin to attach to conservatism. In this way then, he belongs to neoliberalism’s deep past (which is not to say, of course, that he should be understand as a proto-neoliberal himself). Let us now think about his novel Victory in this light.

The novel is set in late nineteenth-century Indonesia mainly among European settlers and entrepreneurs. Indonesia was then a Dutch colony itself undergoing a formal economic deregulation program, which would increase not just Dutch imperial profits but, among indigenous peoples, also trigger what was arguably human history’s most explosive population growth to date.30

Victory belongs to this world where imperialism encountered vibrant commercial activity driven by entrepreneurial interests, competition and risk. Thus, for instance, its central character, the nomadic, cosmopolitan, aristocratic Swedish intellectual, Axel Heyst, establishes a business— a coal mine — along with a ship-owning partner, while other characters manage hotels, orchestras and trading vessels. Victory is a novel about enterprises as well as about individuals.

But Conrad’s Indonesia is other to Europe as a realm of freedom. Importantly, however, its freedom is not quite liberal or neoliberal: it is also the freedom of a particular space. More precisely, it is the freedom of the sea: here, in effect Indonesia is oceanic. This formulation draws on Carl Schmitt’s post-war work on international law, which was implicitly

 

29 The history of that displacement is explored in Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello’s The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso 2005.
30 Bram Peper, “Population Growth in Java in the 19th Century”, Population Studies, 24/1 (1970): 71-84.

 

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positioned against liberal and neoliberal theory. In his monograph The Nomos of the Earth (1950), Schmitt drew attention to the sea as a space of freedom just because national sovereignties and laws did not hold there.

But Schmitt’s implicit point was that liberal freedom needs to be thought about not just in terms of tolerance, recognition, rights or markets, but
geographically and historically inside the long history of violent sovereign appropriation of the globe’s land masses so that elemental freedom was enacted on the oceans where law and sovereignty had no reach. From this perspective, piracy, for instance, plays an important role in freedom’s history. And from this perspective the claim to reconcile radical freedom to the lawbound state is false: such freedom exists only where laws do not.

The sea, thought Schmitt’s way, is key to Conrad’s work. But, for him, the sea is also the home of economic liberalism, free-trade and the merchant marines by whom he had, of course, once been employed, and whose values he admired.31 Victory is a maritime tale set on waters which harbor such free trade at the same time as they form a Schmittean realm of freedom — and violence and risk — which effectively remains beyond the reach of sovereign law.

Let me step back at this point to sketch the novel’s plot. Victory’s central character Heyst is the son of an intellectual who late in life was converted from progressivism to a mode of weak Schopenhauerianism or what was then call pessimism.32 Heyst lives his father’s pessimism out: he is a disabused conservative liberal: “he claimed for mankind that right to
absolute moral and intellectual liberty of which he no longer believed them worthy.”33

Believing this, Heyst leaves Europe to “drift”— circulating through Burma, New Guinea, Timor and the Indonesian archipelagoes, simply gathering facts and observing. But, on an

 

31 For Conrad and trade in this region, see Andrew Francis, Culture and Commerce in Conrad’s Asian Fiction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2015. For Conrad’s affiliations to free trade proper see my unpublished paper, “Democracy, Empire and the Politics of the Future in
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”. This is available on this url.
32 Joseph Conrad, Victory, London: Methuen 1916, p. 197.
33 Conrad, Victory, pps. 92-93

 

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impulse, while drifting through Timor he rescues a shipowner, Morrison, whose ship has been impounded by unscrupulous Portuguese authorities, and through that act of spontaneous generosity, becomes obligated to Morrison.

The two men end up establishing a coalmine in the remote Indonesian island of Samburan, backed by local Chinese as well as by European capital. The company soon collapses. Morison dies. And, living out his Schopenhauerian renunciation of the world, Heyst, the detached man, decides to stay on at the island alone except for one Chinese servant.

He does, however, sometimes visit the nearest Indonesian town, Surabaya, and it is while staying there in a hotel owned by Schomberg, a malicious, gossipy German, that he makes another spontaneous rescue. This time he saves a young woman, Lena, a member of a traveling “ladies orchestra,” who is being bullied by her bosses and in danger of abduction by Schomberg himself.

Heyst and Lena secretly escape back to his island, causing Schomberg to harbor a venomous resentment against Heyst. At this point Schomberg’s hotel is visited by a trio of sinister criminals: Jones, Ricardo and their servant Pedro. Taking advantage of Schomberg’s rage, they establish an illegal casino in his hotel. To rid himself of this risky enterprise, Schomberg advises them to go after Heyst in his island, falsely telling them that Heyst has hidden a fortune there. Jones and his gang take Schomberg’s advice but disaster awaits them.

The novel ends with Jones, Ricardo, Heyst, Lena all dead on Heyst’s island.
The novel, which hovers between commercial adventure romance and experimental modernism, is bound to neoliberalism’s trajectory in two main ways. First, it adheres to neoliberalism’s sociology of knowledge: here too there is no knowing center, no hierarchy of expertise, no possibility of detached holistic survey and calculation through which truth might command action. Heyst’s drifting, inconsequential fact-gathering, itself appears to illustrate that absence. As do the gossip and rumors which circulate in the place of informed knowledge, and which lead to disaster. Individuals and enterprises are, as it were, on their
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own, beyond any centralized and delimited social body that might secure stability and grounded understandings. They are bound, rather, to self-interest and spontaneity.

This matters formally not simply because, in an approximately Jamesian mode, the narrative involves a series of points of view in which various characters’ perceptions, moods and interests intersect, but because the narration itself is told in a first person voice without being enunciated by a diegetical character.

That first person, then, functions as the shadow representative of a decentered community, largely focused on money, that is barely able to confer identity at all, a community, too, without known geographical or ideological limits just because the narrator, its implicit representative, has no location or substance. This narratorial indeterminacy can be understood as an index of liberalism at this globalizing historical juncture: a liberalism divesting itself of its own progressive histories, emancipatory hopes and institutions. A bare liberalism about to become neoliberalism, as we can proleptically say.

More importantly, the novel speaks to contemporary neoliberalism because it is about freedom. As we have begun to see, Heyst is committed to a freedom which is both the freedom of the sea, and a metaphysical condition which has detached itself, as far as is possible, from connections, obligations, determinations. This structures the remarkable formal
relationship around which the novel turns — i.e. Heyst’s being positioned as Jones’s double.

The generous Schopenhauerian is not just the demonic criminal’s opposite: he is also his twin. Both men are wandering, residual “gentlemen” detached from the European order, and thrown into, or committed to, a radical freedom which, on the one side, is a function of free trade, on the other, a condition of life lived beyond the legal and political institutions that order European societies, but also, importantly, are philosophical and ethical — a renunciation of the established ideological order for independence, courage and nomadism.

To put this rather differently: Heyst and Jones’s efforts to live in freedom — to comport themselves as free individuals — combines economic freedom — a freedom of exchange, competition and

 

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entrepreneurial possibilities— with a state of nature as a line of flight (or emancipation) from received continental laws, values and social structures. Freedom, that is, which combines that which Carl Schmitt and the early neoliberals imagined, each in their own way.

The novel’s main point is that there is, in fact, nothing in this freedom to sustain true ethical substance. It is as if Schmittean freedom has smashed both liberal freedom and pessimistic asceticism, along with their ethical groundings. Or to come at the novel’s basic point from another direction: it is as if the absence at the heart of a free society has transmigrated into these characters’ selves. It is at that level that individual freedom cannot be separated from violence and risk and good from evil.

Without an instituted social structure, Heyst cannot stay true to himself: his commitment to freedom and renunciation is compromised because of his spontaneous acts of generosity and sympathy which lead to his and Lena’s death. On the other side, Jones, a homosexual shunned by respectable society, is afflicted by those key nineteenth-century affects, resentment and boredom as well as a quasi-Nietzschean contempt for “tameness”, which drive him towards living outside of society, at contigency’s mercy, and towards reckless, malevolent violence.

Heyst and Jones die together almost by accident, in deaths that reveal them not just as entangled with one another at existence’s threshold, but as both attuned to death, even in life. It now look as if while they lived they wanted to die. In that way, the novel makes it clear that the risk, disorder and emptiness which inhabit their striving for a radically liberal practice of life corrode distinctions not just between violence and renunciation, not just between good and evil, but also between life and death.

We can put it like this: the freedom that these characters claim and the risks that it entails and which bind them together are inclined more towards death than towards life, just on account of freedom’s own conditions of possibility, namely radical autonomy, absence of sovereign power, and maximum choice.

***

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As I say, this is a reading of the novel which, at least in principle, helps to canonize Victory just because it claims that its form, plot and characters address versions of our current neoliberal social condition, and does so in metaphysically ambitious terms. Victory is a critique of freedom, I think.

Conrad is insisting that even in a liberal society devoted to free trade,
enterprises and markets, the law — and the sovereign state — comes first. It is, if one likes, beginning the work of detaching liberalism from freedom. To say this, however, is to ignore the most pressing question that this reading raises: to what degree should we today actually accede to Conrad’s ambivalent, pessimistic and conservative imagination of radical freedom?

How to judge that freedom’s renunciation of established hierarchies, collectivities and values whether for adventure, risk and spontaneity or for violence and death? It is a condition of the discipline’s neoliberal state that the only answer we can give to that question is that we can, each of us, answer that question any way that we choose.

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Gedalia Braun’s Piece on Africans

Sam: A possible explanation for Black behavior.

“…common understanding among blacks of what morality is: not something internalized but something others enforce from the outside…”

https://whitelocust.wordpress.com/morality-and-abstract-thinking-how-africans-may-differ-from-westerners/

Tulio: Interesting article. But I’d like to examine multiple perspectives on this topic before I draw any conclusions. I’ve never been to Africa to observe her findings first hand, and given that the author writes for Amren, this individual has an obvious predisposition.

For example she speaks of cruelty and torture in Africa, but that has existed among whites as well. I’ve seen some of the torture devices used during Europe’s middle period. Even looking at them was unbearable. Even in this country witches were burned at the stake. Blacks were hung from trees on false accusations while whites stood around and cheered.

I don’t like her conclusion that blacks have some inherent flaw that makes them incapable of being moral or having any abstract thoughts. Google a list of African proverbs and they contradict everything she just said.

First of all, Gedalia Braun is a man, not a woman. No idea what that first name is all about.

I actually think he is onto something, especially as he lived in various African countries for many years. That was always one of my favorite articles on Amren. The odd thing about that article is that while is not real flattering towards Africans, the author doesn’t seem to hate Africans at all. In fact, it seems that he is rather fond of them despite it all.

I don’t think just writing for Amren should disqualify you as biased. One of the truly disturbing things about Amren that I learned from hanging out there a very long time is that so much of what those articles say is flat out true. That is hard to swallow. However, the site is dishonest and biased as it only reports the downside to Blacks and never says anything good about them, while I know some of you will be amazed, but there are actually quite a few good things you can say about US Blacks if you are looking to write good things about them.

The Black love of cruelty and sadism does seem to be a part of the race. Yes any culture can become extremely cruel and sadistic, even the “highest” races of all which can become downright genocidal under the right conditions of Organized Violence.  Not long ago, two of the “highest” races of all, the Germans and Japanese, engaged in some spectacular cruelty, sadism, out and out evil and even horrific genocide. And yes, European White did use to be quite sadistic and cruel as the torture devices indicate. However, under normal peacetime conditions, most European Whites in Europe and the West demonstrate remarkably little sadism and cruelty, while with Blacks, even US Blacks, it just seems to go on unabated.

I should note that cruelty and sadism are not Black traits. They are human traits! Humans are naturally cruel, sadistic and downright evil, at least at times. Most human societies and most humans have it in them to be sadistic and cruel. I was a pretty vicious little boy, but all my friends were too, so I just figure that boys are just naturally rather evil. But you grow out of it. I still have cruelty and sadism in me of course, but I try to keep it locked up in a cage inside of me and hope it never comes out. My argument is going to be that Blacks are more susceptible to the normal human tendencies than say Whites or Northeast Asians are, not that Blacks are evil and sadistic and White people are real nice. Screw that.

Some of those things may not be race-dependent. For instance, even if Blacks are bad at abstract thinking as a race, if you push their IQ up, their capacity for abstract thinking ought to grow quite a bit. African Americans appear to be dramatically more intelligent that Africans for whatever reason. One standard deviation is nothing to shake your finger at. Hence, even if US Blacks are have some inherent issue with abstract thinking, pushing that IQ up to one SD is going to make US Blacks a Hell of a lot more abstract than Africans.

I should also note that a number of the other downsides to Africans that he writes about – childlikeness, love of cruelty and sadism, needing morality imposed from the outside rather than from within

A lot of that has been said before. Albert Schweitzer wrote much the same things after working for years as a do-gooder in Africa. The fact that he was such a do-gooder makes his remarks particularly potent, as I do not see how a man with that much of a kind heart would deliberately make up a bunch of evil things about Blacks. In fact, if you study so called racist literature down through the years, you will find many of these things that Braun talks about repeated many times. Much early anthropological writings on Blacks are now called racist because they were pretty blunt about the race, whereas now the field is very PC.

For instance, the thing about Blacks being “childlike.” Childlike is not the same thing as childish. Childlike is not a bad thing really. I would love to be childlike in some ways and I hope I am, actually.

Early American writings including I think Thomas Jefferson noted the same thing: they also said that Blacks were childlike.

The morality thing sort of makes sense. In situations where brute force enforces morality, Blacks do pretty well. I heard they do pretty well under Communism. Supposedly you could walk from one end to the other of Maputo in the middle of the night and no one would bother you. Maputo is the capital of Mozambique.

That was under the Communist like government of Samora Machel, who is actually one of my heroes. Havana is the safest large city in the Americas and it is very Black. Blacks also do well under Islam. Reporters have gone to the parts of West Africa that are under Islam and they say that things are a lot smoother, less chaotic and far less crime ridden than in the non-Muslim countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia to the south.

I hear there are also many Blacks in Yemen, maybe up to 40%. They are light-skinned, but there is a lot of discrimination against them. Racially they look like Ethiopians, which is maybe what they are. They commit almost zero crime, even property crime.

Under both Islam and Communism, morality is for sure imposed from the outside in a pretty heavy handed way. It was similar in the typical African village or villages that was ruled by a king. I have heard that pre-1960, Nigeria was mostly a country of small rural villages. There was almost no crime in these villages.

Not only was law enforcement pretty brutal, there was also a heavy shame factor involved similar to what we see with the Northeast Asians, who do not want to commit crimes or even do bad things in general because it will bring shame unto their families. Amazingly rural Africa was able to operate under the same shame-based morality as the Northeast Asians, yet the NE Asians are usually thought to be a “higher” race than Africans. So it looks like some of those things that make these “higher” races higher can actually be imported and be used by the “lower” races, which seems counterintuitive but is also hopeful.

The notion that Black genes make societies inherently unstable is belied by the fact that North Africa (13% Black by genes) and the Gulf (17-21% Black by genes) are remarkable stable places under normal peacetime conditions.

Also Ancient Egypt was 13% Black by genes and it was one of the greatest countries in the history of the world. So Caucasians having a certain amount of Black genes is not the end of the world.

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What Is Antinatalism?

Anti-Natalism is a very odd movement which is made up of folks who, like many of us, wish they were never born. But the anti-natalists wish to make this a trend or a movement.

Their philosophical view is that life is horrible torture. We come into the world, shine bright for what seems like forever but is really just a the blink of an eye. And the whole time we are wishing we lived forever (As if 70 year of torture was not enough!) and living in daily terror of our looming annihilation, which is colloquially known as our death.

We know we are going to die, this is the ultimate terror, and these facts make most of us at least a bit nuts, which is why things like dope, porn and therapists exist at all. A human comes into the world, is shown a glimpse of heavenly forever in a fleeting flame of existence, and then cruelly snuffed him out with utmost cruelly just when he thinks it’s barely even gotten started.

It’s awful. Life is torture.

They give you a glimpse of eternity and then snatch it away just as you are beginning to adjust your eyes. How cruel can you get? We salve ourselves with religion and lies and dope and sex to try to make this truth go away, but none of it really works, and deep inside we all know we are just fooling ourselves.

This thing called life is cruel and evil precisely because we die and we know it, and this tortures us into some degree of insanity with every day we march forward in footfalls of doom towards the ultimate in sheer, raving horror. Death is the ultimate fear, the granddaddy of all of the rest, and the others all have death as first base.

No compassionate human being would ever bring a child into this torture chamber called life to saddle it with the charnel house as coda always barely visible at the end of that long, seemingly eternal tunnel always in the foreground at least a bit no matter how we try not to see it. Death is the shadow that stalks us through life. We keep saying we won’t turn around and see it, but it’s no matter because it falls in front us as much as behind us. We can run but we can’t hide. Every time we turn this way or that, there’s another reaper. There’s literally no escape.

Bringing a poor innocent child into this horror called life is such a cruel and evil act that anti-natalists say we should all just stop doing it. Quit having kids. Stop bringing new humans into this Hell. It’s the only moral choice. Making babies can be nothing other than immoral or even evil. In order to be good, we must not breed.

Why is life such a horrorshow? Not so much because we die but because we know we are going to. As far as we know, most other animals are not even sure that they exist, and they don’t seem to know that they are going to die. So life is a pleasant illusion in a sense for a lower mammal.

If we humans somehow had no idea we were going to die, then our deaths would hardly be painful at all. We would be stumbling right along, assuming we were going to live forever, and then one day, death would take us away, but since we don’t know what it is or if it will even happen, it’s not a problem. We could go through our lives barely worrying about death for a second.

On the other hand, we might take all sorts of crazy risks all through life because we knew that no matter what, we could probably get away with it.

The threat of injury can be sobering, but it ain’t got nothing on death. Hurt and sick can’t begin to compare to buying it. It would be nice if they did, but they just don’t. That’s mostly because we humans persist in the delusion of sure recovery from injury and illness.

The only reason we are much cautious at all is because we are afraid that if we let down our guard or slip up, we will die. So most folks tend to watch their step through their lives, which is actually good for our species.

Obviously anti-natalists acknowledge that the movement would drive humans extinct, but anti-natalists either don’t care or think this would be a good thing. I have no idea what to say about that except that there sure would be lots of cockroaches running around our planet.

I do not support anti-natalism, and I think it is a bit of an absurd movement, but it is one of the cleverest movements I have heard of. I will give them that. For some reason, I doubt it will catch on.

Ann is also quite a misanthrope and pessimist, but I guess most of these anti-natalists are, and the former two would seem to flow naturally form the latter. So she spends a lot of time making misanthropic posts on Facebook which are pretty funny.

Schopenhauer (and even Nietzsche) are probably right after all. And so was Twain at the end. I realize that pessimism (and even nihilism) are rational. And so is misanthropy. I just think they are a drag. These notions are not wrong because they are false. They are wrong because they are no fun.

I suppose my argument would be, “Well, of course the world blows and life sucks, but so what?” And, “Well, sure most other humans are moronic and contemptible, but so what?” The purpose of life is not to wallow in these damnable truths. The purpose of life is the Endless Party we all need to engage in so we don’t have to think about those things. We are here to pretend, escape and forget. That’s the meaning of life. That’s it. There’s nothing else.

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“Western Moral Decline or Capitalist Decadence?,” by John Kovas

This is a good piece. You can find it at Kofas’ website, or I got it off of Academia.edu. Looking at his website, it appears that the rest of his stuff is pretty good too. I need to read this guy more.

I actually think he is onto something here, and you need to be hip to this argument because the Right is always trotting out this “moral decline” argument that I think needs to be countered.

Western Moral Decline or Capitalist Decadence?

by John Kofas

Historically, during periods of economic contraction, the intelligentsia, politicians, business, academic, community and church leaders invariably try to steer the debate away from what has gone wrong with the political economy to the subject of values.

This was certainly the case during the 19th century when the depressions of the 1840’s, 1870’s and 1890’s took place. Well-meaning individuals as well as opportunistic propagandists questioned society’s values, despite the fact that structural causes in the political economy accounted for the economic contraction and social ills.

A somewhat similar situation existed during the Great Depression of the 1930’s when novelists, philosophers, politicians and others decried the values of the 1920’s. There are similarities between those historical periods and the economic contraction and diminishing of the Western middle class that started during the Reagan-Thatcher era and continues to the present.

The universal topic of values served its purpose when the Industrial Revolution was causing socioeconomic problems, and it serves its purpose today when Western Civilization is captive to banks and corporate capital that are concentrating capital while weakening the social fabric and democratic institutions.

The very elites suggesting to the masses redirection toward reexamination of values are the same ones that:

1. do not practice the values that they preach;

2. are responsible for the widening socioeconomic gap and sociopolitical instability that ensues;

3. benefit by deflecting the focus of the masses from the essential problem in the systemic flaws of the political economy to values.

Naturally, there is the salient question of the vast differences in value systems between societies and individuals; differences between religious and secular values within a pluralistic society, or the differences/nuances of values within a community whether it is predominantly religious or secular.

That scholars, politicians, businesspeople, priests, and the laity have been concerned about western civilization’s decline is a story as old as Oswald Spengler who wrote about the topic after the German Empire lost the First World War, and Europe as the world’s global power center began to give ground to the US and USSR.

But are the values of Bismarck and his generation of imperialist politicians and business titans the ones that Spengler’s generation lamented against the background of the Bolshevik Revolution and its global impact? Is it the Western values of imperialism, nationalism and militarism that led to global war in 1914 that were lost along with the decline of Western Europe?

Spengler focused on Western decadence, but the question is one of the underlying assumptions of what constituted decadence and what constituted ascendancy, the degree to which humane and communitarian principles rested behind assumptions. Was it dreadful that imperialist Europe of the old elites began to decline as a result of militarist confrontation, or was it tragic that millions of people died, injured, displaced, impoverished as a result? If one values power, then one laments the decline of Europe’s power. But what if the value system is human-centered, instead of power-based?

When the Great Depression erupted to cripple societies across most of the planet, why was there a sharp turn to a discussion of values, whether by US President Roosevelt who favored a quasi-communitarian orientation that mirrored the New Deal or ultra-nationalist one that Hitler advocated who was interested in ethnic cleansing as a means of restoring the purity of the mythological Aryan race as Alfred Rosenberg conceived it and the NAZI party practiced it.

In a very strange way, the NAZI regime’s populist ethnic collectivist approach intended to achieve the same goal as that of FDR and for that matter Josef Stalin who advocated superimposed collectivism.

The Third Reich manufactured a value system that a large percentage of Germans and Austrians, accepted and lived under with the hope that it would propel them to greatness as the NAZI party defined the concept. Why did millions of people accept an utterly barbaric and inhumane and racist value system under Hitler, and why did they not retain humane principles based on the wider philosophical framework of the Enlightenment that revolutionized European culture in the 18th century?

Is it merely a question of brainwashing – no matter how good German propaganda was – or one that a large segment of the population actually embraced values because they perceived benefits accruing to them – everything from keeping their jobs to feeling great that the ruling party told them they were ‘superior’ to other races.

From the end of World War II that marked the end of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and militarist-imperial Japan until the end of the Vietnam War, Western and non-Western (Communist regime) societies operated on broader values – in theory and certainly not in practice – of communitarian principles as part of an ideological mix.

Certainly in Western societies, led by the US, the value system of individualism, business progress, consumerism, commercialism of culture, and hedonism were prevalent, but the existence of the welfare state entailed tangible evidence that communitarian values mattered. The beginning of the breakdown of that value system comes when the US and the West in general begin to gradually eliminate the communitarian aspect in the societal mix because it interferes with finance capitalism and the neoliberal model of capital accumulation.

More than political trends, material conditions influence evolving value systems, something that is evident in the consumerist values (to which we must add hedonist and atomistic) of much of the world in the last fifty years. After all, values too are class-based. The relative decline of compassion for humanity, and a rise of alienation which many try to cure by going to therapy and with legal and illegal drugs, has been sharply on the increase in the last half century to the degree that we now have a Western culture of therapism thriving.

Ethical ambiguity naturally translates into ambiguity of values, thus reflecting cultural relativism. In a recent public opinion poll, the vast majority of the people in Finland agreed that if their close friend committed murder, they would notify the authorities. In the same poll, the vast majority of Greeks agreed they would not turn in their friend. Not surprisingly, Greek elites, including academics, praised the virtue of honoring friendship, while the people of Finland stressed the virtue of social conscience.

What accounts for the absence of convergence in the values of the two societies? History, tradition, religion, culture, etc., and what does this example teach us about the values of ambiguity? How could any human being with an once of moral fiber not report a case of murder? How could someone betray their friend, even in case of murder?

Beyond values of ambiguity, there is a much clearer case regarding basic values that are time-tested and transcend time and place.

1. Lying is clearly immoral. Not the kind of lying involving little lies that cause no harm but big lies that bring about great harm to a great many people. Yet, lying is at the core of both business and politics, but it is passed on as public relations. Lying to an entire nation about the reason for going to war is acceptable because it is a matter of national security. Lying to consumers about a product is acceptable because it is in the name of peddling a product or service.

2. Stealing is clearly immoral. I was hardly surprised to read stories about people across southern Europe actually stealing food because of the current hard times. However, stealing in the framework of institutionalized ‘appropriation’ of government subsidies to make banks stronger, is morally acceptable. Yet this is a process that forces people to steal food. Are we back in the era of Victor Hugo’s Jean Val Jean?

3. Killing is clearly immoral. However, mass killings of collateral damage victims in time of war is just fine. Why do human beings categorically reject the individual who kills her husband that abuses her but accept mass killings in wars? What does this tell us about our values and how they are molded?

How does a politician, a journalist, an academic, or much less a leading businessperson tell the masses to reexamine their values against the background of austerity economics that benefit those preaching reexamination of values?

For more than half a century, the same elites now preaching reexamination of values were advocating consumerism, commercialization of culture, hedonism, and atomistic proclivities, all in the name of an open society when in reality the only interest was the thriving of the market economy.

Having conditioned citizens as consumers steeped in that frame of mind and value system, how do elites now try to tell them that embracing everything from nature to God, everything from family values to community values, filter down, and even if it did, what exactly does that do for the high structural unemployment and underemployment, low wage structure, lack of opportunities for college graduates, and lack of job security?

When Ronald Reagan was beginning to dismantle the welfare state and strengthen the corporate welfare state, his administration, various think tanks, journalists, academics, clergy and business leaders began to speak of values, namely ‘family values’.

One odd thing about many of the people advocating ‘family values’ is that they themselves were not practicing them. Another odd thing was that these values advocates were interested in pushing society in the direction of conformity to the changing status quo, so value discussion was one tool they used.

Of course, there was a contradiction between ‘family values’ rhetoric and policies – government and business – that were contributing to undermining the family by forcing both parents to work, in some cases at second jobs to make ends meet.

At the same time, reorientation to values discussion did not mean that workers must stop shopping, given that the population remained under the spell of increasingly intrusive advertising that helped shape consumerist and atomistic values. Are we witnessing a Western moral decline or merely a decline of the capitalist system and its apologists trying desperately to distract the masses by shifting the focus to values?

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The Rule of the Masters of the World: “Anything Goes to Get What We Want”

Obama’s early foreign policy advisors were people called foreign policy realists. They’re terrible, but they are lot saner than neocons, which admittedly isn’t saying much. But I will say that the background of their view of the world is at least reality-based. What they want is still sleazy,

Foreign policy realists live in reality, and they see the world as it really is, not as Politics dictates it to be or as Neocons create it to be. Their world view is the opposite of the self-created and -creating fantasy worlds of the neocons, who view reality and changeable and see reality as whatever they want it to be or more accurately what they are going to turn it into.

These folks see themselves as actually in charge or reality or better yet History. They think they are Gods. Reality and surely History is whatever they are going to create it to be. If the truth does not match up to their self-created reality, then the truth is wrong, and the fantasy is what is real. This is the crazy world in which the neocons and people like Bush operate.

Bush’s domestic policy was similar. To these people, there was no objective reality – there was only Politics. Reality was simply whatever Politics dictated that it should be. If truth conflicted with Politics, then truth was wrong.

Their moral philosophy is:

Truth: Whatever is good for or justifies our Politics or ideology.

False: Whatever is bad for or rejects our Politics or ideology.

The neocons of course operate in a similar way. We say the neocons are crazy, but they are not cray at all. Crazy like a fox? Sure. But nuts? No way. They’re more evil than nuts.

We also say that they are idiots, but they are not stupid at all. Instead they are very dangerous and reckless people. We see their danger and recklessness, and we say that they are foolish or stupid, but they are really not either. They’re about as stupid or foolish as Hitler or Stalin.

They’re out to get what they want, and they will do just about anything to get it. If they have to tell a million lies to get what they want, they will do it. If they have to kill people, arrest people, frame people, beat people up, torture people, ruin economies, give people diseases, blow up, ruin or damage perfectly good infrastructure, destroy whole industries, stage military coups, cause violent riots in the streets, assassinate people, they will do it. It’s pretty much anything goes to get what we want.

This is the philosophy of most of the powerful people in the world today: Anything goes to get what we want.

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