Culturalism · Economic History

The Positivity Church

Probably the most frequent dispute I’ve encountered on the internet dot com is that involving the positive mindset gurus vs. realist thinkers. At first glance, it might seem as though no such disagreement should exist; after all, can’t one be positive and also embrace a level-headed posture? Perhaps, but in our modern world of incessant ass-slapping and rah-rah boosting, the very suggestion of a dissenting view can prove devastating, whether to one’s reputation or the ability to hold a job. Ridiculous? Aye. Prone to disappearing anytime soon? Chance would be a fine thing.

For a long time I have held this skeptical view of rambunctious, motivational positivity culture. My recent run-through of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided only heightened the sentiment with its brutal takedown of the entire “be positive” regime. Throughout the text, Ehrenreich cuts at every idiotic trope in American culture, even crushing the numerous studies which purport to link health with positivity. I was especially touched by her section on back-slapping responses from people following a breast cancer diagnosis. Almost two decades ago I became exposed to the same insufferable foolishness when a soccer teammate underwent cancer treatment. Here was a young boy dealing with bouts of chemotherapy and the social stigma of losing his hair, and what was the nurse’s advice? Smile more. Even as a child the notion seemed nonsensical, darting to the heart of humanistic attempts to rationalize and empower people where solemn forthrightness would probably be better.

Other angles of the book are similarly uncompromising. She notes how the rise of life coaches and mindset experts is directly related to the economic decline of the United States since 1970, and its accompanying feelings of insecurity. People no longer have decent jobs and benefits, so they fixate on this happiness spirituality as a shield against reality. Unsurprisingly, corporate executives have aggressively pushed mindset development programs on employees, even as the same captains of industry cut firms down to the bare bones in order to help Wall Street profiteers. Stop being a victim! Just work harder and be happy! Is the ghost-like echo in our minds.

Such blind positiveness can of course lead to destructive outcomes. Ehrenreich suggests the happy-go-lucky attitude helped make intelligence officials complacent in the lead-up to 9/11, even as numerous warning signs lurked. Raising the alarm was not welcomed in an era of “the next century” and America’s seemingly invincible status with technology and the peace dividend. A similar scenario gripped Dick Fuld at the helm of Lehman Brothers, where he fired naysayers who warned of impending disaster, only to spend years contemplating what went wrong with his disastrous leadership.

Applied to the book I am writing, the positivity issue gains added steam. The immediate response of skeptics to a realist look on dating is to claim the perspective is “too negative” or even “nihilistic.” Neither of these labels actually change the underlying problem, of course. A guy who struggles with getting dates will generate meager returns from simply acting positive and repeating some contrived slogan about the power of pozzed thinking. Hope is obviously not a strategy, and often we are better served by brutally examining the facts and acting upon them, rather than floating towards Cloud Nine.

I hardly expect attitudes to change any time soon, and indeed it may be better they don’t. While the linkages between positive thoughts and healing are largely non-existent, I suppose if enough folks think they’re doing something good, at least a short-run benefit might be maximized. Longer-term however, stark fealty to the positive kingdom can easily lead to delusion and personal downfall. It’s all about reality vs. pleasant aspirations, and they don’t always match up.  

Culturalism · Economic History · Self-Improvement

The Trouble With Experts

About a week ago some cable network marionettes carted out a few professors to provide “robust analysis” on the new presidential rankings list. To nobody’s surprise, the top spots included figures like George Washington, Abe Lincoln, FDR, and Teddy Roosevelt. At the bottom (counting up), we have James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, and of course Donald Trump. Hilariously, William Henry Harrison, who occupied the White House for a few months before passing away, was ranked higher than Donald, along with Millard Fillmore and Warren G. Harding. The experts proceeded to note that Andrew Jackson lost ground in the rankings, speculating that this was on account of Trump being a fan of Old Hickory. Finally, the empowered and oppressed female professor expressed dismay that slave-holding presidents would still rank high on the list.

Leaving aside the amusing dynamics of FDR being in the top five immediately after the “Stop Asian hate” campaign, and Teddy Roosevelt, who complained about “race suicide,” I was struck by the shallowness of it all. These are after all learned individuals with countless papers, books, and at least one dissertation under their belts, yet the behavior is unchanged. Still we can expect the aggressive public shilling for mainstream narratives, regardless of their cost to history and truth. Anything to avoid getting targeted by a rage pill mob, I suppose.

The broader problem of “listen to the experts” was highlighted by the U.S. experience with COVID-19. As we all know, the government’s response was a hodgepodge of finger-pointing, political hedging, and flat-out delusion. When lockdowns were first proposed, no one could agree with a broad strategy, leading to a patchwork quilt response by the so-called intellectual class. A most vivid instance of this disconnect came when health experts condemned protestors who opposed the lockdowns while shortly thereafter approving demonstrations against police practices. Were the eggheads really motivated by research, or a profound desire to not be tarred and feathered on social media for their consistency?

This raises a bigger question about who one can trust to give good advice. If doctors are “afraid of the backlash” caused by advising against say, the annual flu vaccine, then how can they be relied upon to make proper calls in other areas? As far as many of us know, the man in the white coat could be prescribing indirect poison simply to keep his public image intact. It’s a total minefield, yet even bringing up the issue smarts of being a heretic under the religious purges of olden times. Difference is, they didn’t have social media and Google reputations to worry about.

I suppose it renders my soapbox rather past expiration, but I have to stress the importance of performing due diligence in all aspects of life affecting your health, emotional well-being, and finances. I don’t care if the speaker has a PhD, or indeed rails against higher education every single day to get views. The moment you permit your mind to be outsourced is the start of a long (and potentially hazardous) decline. Steel your brains, and look past the welcoming glow. Experts or not, they’re only human.   


The Importance of Physical Books

After watching The Prudentialist’s take on memory and dystopias, I was struck by a certain realization: physical books really are essential. This feels difficult to accept when one is on the production side, as it is painful to work with the machinations of formatting and page design. For example, my most recent production involved a battle over how to keep chapter headings in place, and earlier offerings had problems related to subheadings flying across pages to leave white seas of blank in their wake. At times you want to simply bin the whole thing and capitulate to ebook hegemony.

Yet maybe that’s all part of the plan. While digital promotion offers the benefits of speed and relative affordability, the medium also denies readers certain unquestionable privileges. When we hold a book in our hands, it embodies a legacy inheritance of the author’s mind. The text remains continuously accessible as long as ownership does not lapse, and serves to safeguard that period of history and production. No one can say “that didn’t happen,” or at least not without facing the challenge of bound paper imprinted by dates, or, perhaps more importantly, the writer’s transmission at that time. Language style might give further clues to the temporal skeptics, along with any strong allegories from history.

In contrast, a digital file is easier to hide under the ghosting of propaganda.  It can be corrupted, lost based on a device’s failure, or drowned by internet search results. More distinctly, one might argue that an ebook is not really a book at all, particularly in the case of Amazon. While paperback books receive an ISBN and are traceable in the global database of written texts, ebooks that lack a paper cousin have no such advantage. Thus you are free to delete the digital title from Bezos-Chan’s website and it will properly disappear. A paperback on the other hand can be removed, but the profile remains in place because of its ISBN listing. Sure, Amazon could elect to withdraw a book from its website, but as long as the paper version exists there will be a record on the internet.

This is precisely what our elitist overlords do not want. Like the Green Lady from The Silver Chair, they insist any prior world and history is a dream, and in fact never existed. We are supposed to believe that America was founded on the principle of diversity, genders do not matter, and the make-believe “fascist establishment” is actually oppressing liberal partisans desiring progress. These can only be made true if individuals lose all contact with their past and come to think that the start of history was 2008. So far they have been remarkably successful, largely due to social media and the broader digital onslaught in our lives.

While they are only one aspect of the struggle, physical books provide an important measure to toss in the face of leftist propagandists. Build a collection for yourself, and consider it an inheritance to be passed on at some point. Value oral histories and traditions as well, for these are even more difficult to eradicate when they continue to be practiced. Keep a journal, and consider printing out photographs instead of storing them “in the cloud,” where someday things could just vanish. You don’t need to be a revolutionary, but simply avoid succumbing to this bland technical erasure.   


Taking Turns

Horror movies typically don’t quite do it for me. Their plots are contrived and predictable, the acting poor, and any deeper message often subsumed by pointless gore. At best, the ones mixing in humor are a bit more enjoyable because they refuse to take things so seriously.

But there is the rare exception. Last weekend I had a chance to view Wrong Turn, a re-imagining of the classic franchise which drew West Virginia’s ire for its portrayal of country people as inbred, violent cannibals. That earlier series is immensely bloody and pretty boring, even if the scenery looks nice enough. In the case of the newest Wrong Turn, we get a far more thoughtful and less gruesome commentary on the naïve stupidity of leftist young people, perhaps well-suited for the age of mass immigration and pandemics.

The story begins with a group of cosmopolitan creatures pulling into a rural town where they plan to spend the night before exploring the Appalachian Trail. We have the predictable array of offerings: the blonde Stacy with her diversity boyfriend, a progressive white guy who insults the country folk, his nerdy liberal companion, and both a Hispanic and Indian bringing up the rear – the two naturally being in a gay relationship. During the prelude to their hotel sex scene, Stacy’s boyfriend confesses that he works for a non-profit instead of Wall Street because he wants to be valued for what he can offer, not money or his race. This admission is important, because it foreshadows what will happen to them.

In the morning the motley crew sets off down the trail, but diversity guy wants to leave the beaten path, something the townsfolk warned against. One thing leads to another and a massive log rolls downhill, creating a threesome with the Indian character and another trunk. Many f-bombs follow as they debate abandoning the vacation and returning home. Eventually  the group gets lost and decides to bed down for the night, a classic movie mistake.

From that junction, the film proceeds through a collection of crises as characters fall into pits, get struck by booby traps, and are eventually captured by the Foundation, a group formed in 1859 to outlive the disaster of the coming civil war. Although the liberal detainees assume they have been taken by xenophobic rednecks, the mountain settlement is actually run by a non-racist mixture of whites and blacks who practice a form of anarcho-primitivism or communism, where everyone must contribute to the common cause without distractions of property, greed, or racial hatred.

Although it seems fantastic, the Foundation proceeds to execute progressive whitey for savagely killing one of their kind, and gouges out the eyes of the Hispanic guy. The only thing that saves Stacy and her boyfriend is their willingness to join the communal system. She offers her body to the tribal leader by appealing to her good genes for his future offspring, while her (now former) beau embraces becoming a warrior because there is no racism on the mountain. Ultimately, Stacy is forced to team up with her father, a very old Matthew Modine, to escape from the mountain stronghold. Her only means of being successful is to transform into a sadistic and violent killer who slaughters Foundations members with a large combat knife.

There is a wonderful subversive comedy in the film targeted at leftists. The boyfriend joins an isolationist cult to become more accepted, even with the progressivism of the mainstream world. His white friend treats the mountain people as subhuman, and murders one who was actually helping him get treated for injuries. Rural Trump supporters try to help the liberals survive, and end up getting killed by the mountain people. An empowered feminist has nothing to give except her womb as an exchange for her life. Every mainstream assumption of our universe is brutally smashed in a short spell of hours.

It makes you wonder what would happen if indeed the apocalyptic predictions play out. Will our liberal friends swiftly adapt and become like Stacy, or get extinguished like a match under the hailstorm? What shall they do without civil society and Twitter?

Hopefully we never have to learn the answer.

Culturalism · Economic History

Moving Soviets

When the initial previews for the show Snowpiercer materialized, I immediately assumed it would be little more than social justice nonsense. No element at the time filled me with motivation to actually view the forthcoming episodes, but I naively assumed the writing quality would be adequate to foment a respectable storyline. After all, producers likely spent millions to create their epic saga.

Yet I was horrendously wrong. Not only does the series feature some of the worst acting ever to grace the screen, most embodied by Daveed Diggs’ resting intersectional feminism voice, which scarcely ever rises to an octave pitch indicating intensity of emotion or drive. In fact, he spends most of the show looking on in bewilderment and irritation at what is occurring, while hardly appearing to care about what, if anything, happens.

Other characters are similarly demotivational. Jennifer Connelly plays the harsh but altogether confused head of public relations. Some buxom Irish chick is the evil Natzi woman, but she vacillates between meanness and grandmotherly affection. There’s an overweight baldcel security guard and his lesbian subordinate who can’t be bothered to pretend they have any solid character traits from one scene to the next. Then we have the biologist lady, who acts like an empowered muse to various female acquaintances, while also giving the cameramen something to write home about:

Laying aside the wooden acting, we have a storyline and political agenda that is similarly confused. For those unaware, Snowpiercer is about a post-apocalyptic world amid which the earth is covered by freezing ice and snow, with much of humanity cramped in an endless train that circles the earth and gives them the chance to survive. As Daveed Diggs ominously warns viewers in the first episode, “we tried to warn them,” about climate change, but the “deniers” wouldn’t hear it. At some point in recent history, a group of ragtag survivors managed to stowaway on the rear end of the vehicle, where they are now kept in absolute squalor as the rich party it up in fancier cars.

At this point things get complicated. The show’s producers obviously desired to create some low-IQ narrative about inequality and the Trumpian “1 percent,” yet they never explain what’s wrong with the existing model, which is already a form of communism. The train’s leadership could have simply liquidated the baggage at their rear, but instead chose to keep them alive on small rations. If the endies cause trouble, they have a limb stuck out the window and frozen off by the intense cold.  Some however get selected for jobs further up the car line, or indeed trade and technology education classes.

According to Diggs and Co., the system is unjust, because the rich enjoy themselves more than the poor. Of course once they stage a rebellion and take control of the train, everyone seems confused. Yes, some rebels trash the rich girl’s apartment and take her niceties, but nobody appears to have any concept of what should be done. Diggs weakly declares that “Snowpiercer is yours!” before returning to his state of perpetual irritation and microaggression. The security guards mill about as well, wondering what comes next. Sons of Anarchy’s Galen attempts to get some love from the Irish Natzi. No progress is made. Chaos rules.

Could Snowpiercer be a dress rehearsal for what an AntiFa takeover would look like?


The Dehumanization Chamber

Occasionally when I’m out and about I’ll observe a bored and dreary-eyed employee or gym goer changing the channel from some commercial-infested information program to the likes of MTV’S Ridiculousness. Simply put, the show is about a white skateboarder and his obnoxious friends watching videos of people undergoing tremendous humiliation or pain while the audience guffaws like first class circus monkeys. The worst aspect by far is co-viewer Chanel West Coast’s repugnant hyena cackle in reaction to almost anything, as though ordered by computer code. The show’s popularity has advanced so much as to spawn a knockoff in the form of the Misery Index, only this one replaces white skateboard dude with an empowered diversity pantsuit.   

Some of you will quickly dismiss the programs by blaming viewers, yet I consider that to be a convenient moral cop-out. Why precisely would the entertainment industry, which loves aligning itself with feel-good propaganda and assorted emotional meandering, give platforms to these spectacles? Is there really any value to taking pleasure at the silly misfortunes of others, who in many cases will end up suffering from significant pain or physical disabilities as a result of the stunts they pulled? We must remember that context is always left out of these clippings, so if a kid was encouraged to take a risk by friends or irresponsible adults, no one will know. All that truth is drowned in audience jeers, along with general exclamations of Daaaamn.

I think the shows are put out for a more deliberate reason: they help train the public to stand by as others undergo difficulties or torturous ordeals. Since the perpetrators can be blamed for their own condition, it is easy to mock them absent hesitation. Over time of course, similar pain inflicted by the State will seem like second nature to the seal-clapping viewers and cacklers. It has already been shown without any doubt how ready average people are to scorch their fellow citizens based on nothing more than political differences. How far we are from similar types nodding in smiling approval as their opponents get done away with?

Not long off, by my estimation. The power of crowds, and indeed the shrill cries of “unity” or giggling scream queens, signal how easy it is for folks to abandon all logic and embrace the pathological determination to destroy. One merely needs to create a caricature or jester of the opposing side, and suddenly their broader humanity vanishes. What’s more, invalidating the target’s individual worth becomes a practice approved by the supreme and intellectual.

This is why we must resist the urge to oversimplify. It is grand to hold a particular political opinion, yet make an effort to speak with the other person. The internet, and safe viewing from eons away, provides a secure pod from which individuals can strip away the dignity of others without consequence. Reach past that void and remember they are a person, one party to hopes and dreams just like yourself. And think before you cackle.


Please Laugh

The other day, a clip popped up on television advertising the Daily Show With Trevor Noah. Like most programs of the same ilk, it features a suit-wearing announcer who drops corny, unconvincing lines and weak attempts at 24k comedy. Nevertheless, people always seem to applaud and laugh without fail, almost like an example for the rest of us. Time to respond. Don’t be rude. This is hilarious.

But who actually believes that? I can harken back to Jon Stewart, a creature with great popular following for his regular antics of creating literal “fake news,” or making exaggerated facial expressions to address the realer variety. His audience (or at least the producers) always replied with epic guffaws and clapping, even as rational people wait and wonder: is this guy actually funny? The preloaded response says so, much as with David Letterman, Colbert, and the orange coconut guy. Sheer hilarity, even if we miss the punchline.

Perhaps it is all intended, however. The presence of laugh tracks and seal-clappers conveys an image of quality and wisdom, particularly with how these talking heads are increasingly shills for a single political party. I’m looking at you, Samantha Bee. In any case, the practice smarts of a corporations trying to inflate their quarterly returns by inventing customers, or buying “likes” to keep a message in their hands. As if they lack the creativity or draw to provide content anyone desires, and thus are forced to stage a set piece reality, hoping we continue to believe.

Seems like the plot is working, at least on certain swaths of the public. These shows still appear to generate a respectable number of viewers, and have yet to be canceled. Then again, is anyone sure those impressions are real? If they are willing to give instructions on how individuals are expected to react, simply creating fans out of thing air would hardly be a mountain to climb over. In fact, it feels altogether expected, like breathing or commuting to work. No conspiracy there.

The lingering query surrounds whether these methods will continue delivering in the future. Are Zoomers happily plugged in and willing to serve, or gradually slinking away to embrace clarity? I suppose time will tell, but at the same juncture, can we be sure of clocks or watches?

By God I hope so. Otherwise those alarms at 3:45 AM would be such a bloody waste.  

Culturalism · Economic History

Ending History

As a young and idealistic college student, I was introduced to the ideas of Francis Fukuyama, whose “End of History” thesis was meant to build in some part on the “Clash of Civilizations” perspective pushed by his late advisor, Samuel Huntington. Fukuyama’s work was interpreted by many to imply a rather inevitable conclusion wherein liberal democracy and capitalism would triumph over traditionalist radicalism or authoritarianism.  With the resurgence of certain illiberal movements, along with rising religious extremism, some moved to pompously to assume the End of History argument had been well and fully debunked.

According to Fukuyama, they simply got it wrong. Writing in his recent book on the politics of identity, he describes the “end” as more of a target than some final destination, meaning that there will not forcibly be a linear path to one outcome. Central to the failure of this perfect assumption is the role of thymos, a Greek word referring to the part of our soul craving recognition or dignity, independent of desire and reason. The idea helps explain why some people uplift the national concept or may even endorse economic policies which are detrimental to the free market. It is not a question of them “not knowing” that liberal economies are efficient, but instead electing for a position of self-respect ahead the churning alienation of consumerist capitalism.

Complementing the term is megalothymia, referencing here the desire to be seen as superior. In this case again, Fukuyama explains that public pursuit of a deeper notion will counterman mainline economic theories concerning material gain because that goal is inadequate to the people’s vision. We also have isothymia, or the drive to be seen as equally good to others. Of course a problem can be generated by promoting too much equality:

“Recognition of everyone’s equal worth means a failure to recognize the worth of people who are actually superior in some way.”

The development of capitalism presents an issue along these very lines. While governments wish to promote growth, changing models can lead to alienation from the family or village community, as I similarly discussed in Socialism of The Right. With the disproportionate benefits and wealth going to higher-educated elites of the meritocracy, the working class (in this case whites) feel resentful, because they are neither privileged nor permitted to play the victimhood card like minorities do. Hence they turn towards figures pledging to arrest the decline and perhaps improve poor conditions.

Fascinating as the text is, Fukuyama becomes a prisoner of liberalism’s own contradictions. On the one hand, he concedes that the Founding Fathers often had a strictly racial view of what the American project entailed. This history is diminished by his writing in favor of Ben Sasse’s “creedal” viewpoint, comprised of some generalized “freedom” patriotism and civic nationalism, or precisely what the GOP et al had promoted until Trump’s rise. Strangely enough for a freedom and democracy defender, Fukuyama says people who don’t accept equality can be excluded from this national concept.

It remains to be seen what role clashing identities shall play in the political field to come. What I find so interesting about figures like Fukuyama is that they can’t escape such uncomfortable facts. Twenty years ago, hearing a scholar discuss these ideas was almost unheard of, but now the threat posed by various populist and nationalist movements has become an overpowering storm. Therefore we are likely to see an aggressive Sasseian campaign to purge the ranks of dissenting rightist viewpoints and restore free speech so the Left (and Islamofascism) and be defeated.

Victory awaits, I guess.