The central contention advanced by part 1 in this series is that the basic trend manifested in the Middle East today – most evidently across its northern arc — is the disintegration of the modern state system (and with it all the questions of political progress that have been incrementally globalized since the Treaty of Westphalia in the mid-17th century). To continue to discuss this process in terms of ‘Lebanon’, ‘Syria’, and ‘Iraq’ is becoming increasingly quaint. Within this region, in particular, states no longer conform to contiguous territories, but rather to hubs, characterized by the inheritance of a comparatively organized security apparatus, a vestigial international status (also inherited, from the dissolving state system), and specifically a recognized Westphalian-era territorial sovereignty, stripped of domestic credibility. A realistic political geography of the emerging northern Middle East begins from this point.
Because the names of nation states can only suggest (Westphalian) contiguous jig-saw pieces, it is essential to understanding that we start elsewhere. The Crescent, stretching from western Iran, through Iraq, and Syria, to the Lebanese Levant, spilling – no doubt – into south-eastern Turkey to the north, and down into the northern Gulf states and Jordan to the south, can be considered an exaggerated Fertile Crescent, a (Sunni-paranoiac) Shia Crescent, a Crescent of Disintegration, it doesn’t matter. What is important is that the state apparatuses (and international political sovereigns) existing in this area occupy it in the manner of islands, populating or inhabiting it — among other collective bodies of strategic consequence — rather than dividing it effectively among themselves.
If the Crescent is maximally extended to the eastern borders of Iran (and perhaps further into the Hazara areas of Afghanistan, and Quetta in Pakistan), northwards into Azerbaijan and blurrily into the areas of Anatolian Alevi ethnicity, and south along the western Gulf coast, encompassing Bahrain (but stretched further along the Saudi Gulf coast and beyond, into Yemen), it incorporates the entirety of Shia Islam as a strategically potent entity. Beyond this area, the Shia exist only as pogrom-fodder among overwhelmingly dominant Sunni populations. Constituting something over 15% of Moslems worldwide, but over a third of those in the Middle East, the Shia either prevail in the Crescent, or go under. (For our purposes here Alawites / Alevi are Shia by strategic affiliation and adoption.)
When confronted by large-scale — and thus complex – historical events, it is inevitable that attempts at understanding will be dominated by analogy. Even among experts, with access to abstract models of generic processes (‘revolution’, modernization, escalation, phase-change …), it is only through reference to concrete historical episodes that such intellectual tools acquire the richness necessary for successful application to actual world events. Even the most conceptually-refined historiographical language is honed for analogical usage. There is no ‘idea’ of ‘revolution’ truly separable from the examples of revolution provided by the historical record, and even if there was, it could have no use. Since history is rhythmic, but never exactly repetitive, such analogies can be more or less relevant, but only ever roughly suggestive. They are, in any case, unavoidable.
During the years immediately following 9/11, Western perceptions of the new global reality were controlled by analogy with World War II, and even those who rejected this template were locked into a negative relationship with it. If 9/11 was not Pearl Harbor, or anything like it, it remained necessary to say so, repeatedly, and to little immediate effect. The term ‘Islamofascism’ was inherited from this period, and its fading currency is significant (as we shall see).
The Left has finally understood who’s to blame for the collapse of Detroit, and it’s quite obvious when you think about it — white racists did it with their super-powerful evil thoughts:
As payback for the worldwide revolution symbolized by hot jazz, Smokey Robinson dancin’ to keep from cryin’ and Eminem trading verses with Rihanna, New Orleans and Detroit had to be punished. Specifically, they had to be isolated, impoverished and almost literally destroyed, so they could be held up as examples of what happens when black people are allowed to govern themselves.
Hang on, you can stop composing that all-caps comment – I don’t actually believe that what happened to Detroit and New Orleans resulted from anyone’s conscious plan. Real history is much more complicated than that. I do, however, think [sic] that narrative has some validity on a psychological level …
(Apparently the psychic racist death rays were first tried out on New Orleans, where they were “goosed along a bit by rising carbon emissions and rising temperatures,” creating a massive atmospheric disturbance.)
Goodbye sanity, your day is done. Hail madness and gathering night …
Social organizations grow ever larger, and resist disintegration, due to economies of scale. There are disproportionate benefits to being large, sufficient to over-compensate for the associated disadvantages, to support expansion, and to fund the suppression of fission. Like every trend reinforced by positive nonlinearities, large-scale social formations accentuate the gradient of time, realizing a ratchet mechanism, through ‘network effects’. In this way, they contribute not only to the content of history, but also to its shape.
When the fundamental deformation of history was evidently attributable to scale economies, it was only natural to speak primarily of Leviathan — the seizure of historical time by the gigantic. It might therefore be considered a significant symptom — of something — that a substitute term now seems more persuasively applicable. Leviathan remains vast, and growing, but it is more exactly specified as the Cathedral, because its principal ratchet mechanism owes less to sheer magnitude than to a mastery of deceit.
John Bohannon on a civilization doomed by dishonesty:
“People [in the West] don’t like to talk about IQ, because it undermines their notion of equality,” [Douglas] Detterman says. “We think every person is equal to every other, and we like to take credit for our own accomplishments. You are where you are because you worked hard.” … Even if we accept that intelligence is heritable, any effort to improve or even understand the inheritance process strikes us as distasteful, even ghoulish, suggesting the rise of designer superbabies. And given the fallout that sometimes results when academics talk about intelligence as a quantifiable concept … IQ research is not a popular subject these days at Western universities.
But in his lab at BGI, 21-year-old Zhao [Bowen] has no such squeamishness. He waves it away as “irrational,” making a comparison with height: “Some people are tall and some are short,” he says. Three years into the project, a team of four geneticists is crunching an initial batch of 2,000 DNA samples from high-IQ subjects, searching for where their genomes differ from the norm. Soon Zhao plans to get thousands more through Renmin—his former high school—as well as from other sources around the world. He believes that intelligence has a genetic recipe and that given enough samples—and enough time—his team will find it.
There’s nothing really new for those who’ve been following the story, but it’s well done (and the Satanism angle adds color). World War as a global crusade against hate facts is just about the only Cathedral play left at this point.
At The Brussels Journal, radical traditionalist Thomas F. Bertonneau — a reactionary’s reactionary — has posted an absorbing study of René Guénon and Eric Voegelin on the Degeneration of Right Order. The final paragraph summarizes some general conclusions:
The Gnostic rebellion against reality denies limitations, but it is, of course, subject to them because it is subject to reality; the rebellion is moreover radically maladapted to reality (denying logic and repudiating knowledge are bad bets in the Darwinian game) and it will eventually have to pay its penalty to Anaximander’s “Unlimited.” Or, we might say, to God. When the rebellion will reach its limit, however, only God knows.
An approximate English translation of Anaximander’s sole, cryptic fragment reads:
Whence things have their origin,
Thence also their destruction happens,
According to necessity;
For they give to each other justice and recompense
For their injustice
In conformity with the ordinance of Time.
Glenn Reynolds suspects that this story will confirm some PUA
stereotypes settled pattern recognition.
I used hang with a guy who would go to Saskatchewan and sell drugs all the time. He was ballin’. He made tons of money. On our first date, he spent well over a G. He was just throwing it out like it was nothing. He was buying me anything I wanted. We rode around in a limo… It was crazy. We would go out to all these fancy-ass restaurants and all the white people would stare at us like, “Who let these hood rats in?” That was fun. He’s never really in town though, so I only get to see him a few times a year. I think if I ever decide to just settle down and be a housewife, I’ll marry him.
There’s not much in the story for religious traditionalists to latch onto with any sense of consolation. Still, as far as genetic selection for entrepreneurial traits is concerned, it has to be possible to do worse.
ADDED: Another sex psychology story (also via). If you think about the archaic genetics of warfare the answer to the question is obvious. For males losing matters absolutely. For females, not so much.
In the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer notes:
It doesn’t take a genius to see what happens when the entitlement state outgrows the economy upon which it rests. The time of Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, the rest of insolvent social-democratic Europe — and now Detroit — is the time for conservatives to raise the banner of Stein’s Law and yell, “Stop.” You can kick the can down the road, but at some point it disappears over a cliff.
Yes, yes, yes … but. Despite its perfect common sense, the monotony of this message is becoming utterly unbearable. The end isn’t arriving tomorrow. This dreary horror show could last for decades. How many roughly-identical, absolutely obvious, sensible Op Ed columns is it possible to endure? (I’m already way into overtime.)
Sean Thomas at The Telegraph:
From The Sopranos and The West Wing (the first great TV series of the new era) the Americans went on to make The Wire, Breaking Bad, House, Dexter, Grays, Walking Dead, Battlestar, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, etc etc etc; then the revolution spread to Scandinavia, with the Killing (a stupendously brilliant murder drama), Borgen, The Bridge; now the French are in on the act, with Spiral and The Returned, which you may be watching right now. […] It is, as I say, a cultural revolution: with precedents. In the way that TV drama is taking over from movies, as the most important arena of audiovisual art, it reminds me of the way the novel replaced the poem, as the primary literary form in the mid 19th century.
In broad outline, this thesis strikes me as irresistible. (I’d add Deadwood.)
Walter Russell Mead sinks to musty exhortation:
Time and money are running out before economic conditions for ordinary Egyptians lurch even further downward. Egypt’s new, government absolutely must find some way to restore stability and rebuild confidence, or things will get much, much uglier.