Greer

Anyone who isn’t yet reading The Archdruid Report really ought to be. John Michael Greer is quite simply one of the most brilliant writers in existence, and even when he’s wrong, he’s importantly wrong. His perspective is coherent, learned, and uncaged by the assumptions of progressivism. Above all, his understanding of what it means to find history informative is unsurpassed. (Over at the Other Place, there’s an unfinished Greer series that badly requires attention, with the first three installments here, here, and here.)

When escalated to the extreme, the progressive conclusion is that history can teach us nothing. Innovation is by its very nature unprecedented, and insofar as it manifests improvement, it humbles its precursors. The past is the rude domicile of ignorant barbarity. Insofar as the present still bears its traces, as shameful stigmata, they are mere remains that still have to be overcome. At the limit, the concept of Singularity — a horizon at which all anticipatory knowledge is annulled — seals the progressive intuition.

In its abstract theoretical core, at least, Greer’s Druidic counter-history is radically reactionary (far more unambiguously so than NRx). Its model of time is entirely cyclical, such that past and future are perfectly neutral between ascent and decline. Every attempt to install a gradient of improvement in the dimension of historical time is broken upon the great wheels, which balance every rise with a fall, dissolving innovation in precedent. Novelty is hubristic illusion (an exaggerated correction, in the opinion of this blog).

In his most recent post Greer introduces an intriguing complication:

Arnold Toynbee, whose magisterial writings on history have been a recurring source of inspiration for this blog, has pointed out an intriguing difference between the way civilizations rise and the way they fall. On the way up, he noted, each civilization tends to diverge not merely from its neighbors but from all other civilizations throughout history. […] Once the peak is past and the long road down begins, though, that pattern of divergence shifts into reverse, slowly at first, and then with increasing speed. A curious sort of homogenization takes place: distinctive features are lost, and common patterns emerge in their place. That doesn’t happen all at once, and different cultural forms lose their distinctive outlines at different rates, but the further down the trajectory of decline and fall a civilization proceeds, the more it resembles every other civilization in decline.

The dissymmetry calls out for philosophical investigation, since it suggests a line of synthetic diagonalization between precedent and innovation, cyclicity and escape (which is to say, the NRx or cybergothic line). It would be to stray too far from Greer to follow that now.

Straightforwardly, the claim being made is that forecasting strengthens on the down-slope of civilization. The more a social order fails, the more it sheds its originality, and thus the more accessible it becomes to accurate diagnosis on the basis of historical example. As collapse deepens, it converges with a template, bound ever tighter to a model by its morbidity. Across the peak, an age of prophecy begins — or returns.

The dark irony is delicious almost beyond endurance. The Universal, long proclaimed as the capstone of progress, is realized only as a nadir. The equality of all civilizations is asserted, in reality, as a direct measure of their proximity to death. Among the spreading ruins, the mad echoes of similarity resound deafeningly, as the blasted Cathedral plummets towards its Idea — eternal return of the same.

July 10, 2014admin 36 Comments »
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36 Responses to this entry

  • redoubt Says:

    “The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day.” -blood meridian

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    Posted on July 10th, 2014 at 5:27 pm Reply | Quote
  • Baron Ludwig von Nichts Says:

    Are there really useful historical precedents for our civilization? To take one factor Greer mentioned in his latest post, population size; was there ever a situation like we have today, where the wealthiest, most powerful nations experienced plummeting birthrates near the peak of their prosperity? Surely there are some new technological and cultural factors at work that we need to consider?

    What about problems on a more geological scale – mass extinctions and climate change, say; do Toynbee or Spengler have much to teach us about things that haven’t occurred since long before civilization was invented?

    Greer is a brilliant propagandist and word wizard, with romantic fantasies about returning to some kind of Tolkienesque, druidic dark age world. But try engaging him in a rational debate on his blog some time; it’s impossible. He’s an ingenious sophist who selectively ignores your points, uses his own writings as evidence, calls arguments he can’t refute “thoughtstoppers” and simply bans you. The guy is basically a black magician with asperger’s, but a very interesting one.

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    admin Reply:

    I’ve no reason to disagree — I have huge areas of disagreement with him, so fundamental, in fact, that it’s never occurred to me to argue with him directly about them. He puts across a very particular case extremely well — with something approaching genius actually — so it would be a shame to correct him. If I thought he was right, I’d become a Druid (which isn’t going to happen).

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    Lesser Bull Reply:

    **was there ever a situation like we have today, where the wealthiest, most powerful nations experienced plummeting birthrates near the peak of their prosperity? **

    Historical demographics are notoriously difficult, but there are some indications that Rome and Greece both had population declines among their elites when they were going strong. I don’t think low birthrates among decadent elites is an unknown thing historically.

    I’ve wondered,though, if there might be an explanation other than decadence involved. Replacement elites are usually drawn from the peripheries and from rural areas. The usual explanation is asabiyah and lack of decadence. But what if its really epidemiology? If Cochran is right, then there are lots of low-level diseases that we don’t know about that affect us. Those are also much more likely to be transmitted in dense, highly populated environments, and the more global and trade contacts the dense, highly populated environments have, the more such diseases there may be. Elite replacement may just be that the elites contract sufficient diseases that they are off their peak. (An alternative explanation would be mutational load. The elite have more offspring survive, so their average quality drops. The richer the elite, the longer/bigger the drop.)

    Both the epidemiology explanation and the mutational load explanation could account for falling birth rates over time if they make it either more difficult to get pregnant and have kids, or if they induce mental and behavioral changes that make marriage and family less likely. Widespread drops in birth rates now would mean that in terms of wealth and survival we are all elites.

    Of course, the changes in birth rates have been too abrupt to be from something like this (even a covert epidemic seems unlikely, since different nations have been fairly variable from each other). But if you see it as just an underlying “pull,” that interacts with other factors, it makes sense. An underlying pull means that you don’t have to posit that the Amish and the Mormons and hispanic immigrants are immune, just that they have other pulls in other directions. Though you could argue that immigrants from rural Latin America just hadn’t been infected yet (Cochran seems to think that childhood infection is more likely for significant behavior alteration), or that religiosity is just the human mental baseline, so being religious isn’t a counterfactor so much as a sign that you probably are uninfected.

    The idea of covert epidemics of mind-altering, undetectable diseases is really chilling. One year there’s a cold going around, just like every other year. The next year you wake up and, shrug, we think differently now.

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    Alrenous Reply:

    Moldbug doesn’t like the word ‘meme’ and I don’t either. But it’s hard to find a good replacement for ‘memetic plague.’ I’m a big believer in memetic plagues. Turns out ideas are dangerous. Turns out, the modern brain is so riddled with them it’s incurable in most cases and perfectly zombifies the patient.

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    Zerg Reply:

    Didn’t the Romans experience “plummeting birthrates near the peak of their prosperity,” hence the Augustan laws that Jim mentioned in a very recent post?
    I have a related question about the “hypergamy” explanation of low fertility as due to the effect of the higher status that women think they’re given by their schooling — the idea, as I understand it (maybe I misunderstand it), is that women look for mates that are higher-status than they are, so that the higher a women feels her own status to be, the smaller the pool of males from which she’ll be willing to choose mates. But wouldn’t women have traditionally attributed their own fathers’ status to themselves? So a woman with a 50th percentile father would still have ruled out 50 or 51 percent of men as not good enough for mating purposes. Similarly, today a woman at a 50th percentile schooling-achievement level is going to rule out the 50 percent of men who haven’t gotten to that level of schooling-achievement. The same would be true of a woman at a 50th percentile carerr-achievement level, if that’s what’s supposed to count. Almost 50 percent of men are still available to her, just as before. I just don’t see how hypergamy+schooling explains low fertility. A looser, super-hypergamy, shoot-for-the-status-moon status-gambling explanation might work, though: a woman who is able to survive without belonging to a man will hold off on mating as long as possible in order to keep alive the possibility of a super-high-status-mate. Women do in fact seem to me to think this way, although I wonder what the natural-selective explanation for this high-risk approach would be. (Is that for tens of thousands of years attractive women who avoided being mated early on to the first suitors could count on being added to the harems of super-alphas?) Spandrell has also suggested a plausible alternate non-evolutionary-psychological explanation: women who are raised to be public workers interchangeable with men simply think of themselves in that way, and aren’t attuned to the role of motherhood. A final hypergamy-related suggestion: women naturally think of themselves as being awesome sex-mother-earth-magic goddesses, and this super-high self-esteem was traditionally sustained in the safe context of motherhood and associated female functions, but now it’s carried out into the public realm so that a woman with a low-level corporate job attributes to herself the status of the CEO of a global corporate empire, so that her mating pool is miniscule.

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    Lesser Bull Reply:

    ** But wouldn’t women have traditionally attributed their own fathers’ status to themselves? So a woman with a 50th percentile father would still have ruled out 50 or 51 percent of men as not good enough for mating purposes. Similarly, today a woman at a 50th percentile schooling-achievement level is going to rule out the 50 percent of men who haven’t gotten to that level of schooling-achievement. The same would be true of a woman at a 50th percentile carerr-achievement level, if that’s what’s supposed to count. **

    Under your first system, where the woman takes on her father’s status, there would be a pretty close link between the distribution of female statuses and male statuses (probably true even in the case of high-status males having multiple mates through polygamy/mistresses/infidelity, because the second wives, mistresses, and bastard kids always had lower status). With education, that need not be the case, and in fact more women than men go to college.

    But I think the real argument is different then you make it. The argument is that women want to marry up and up isn’t fine-grained, where a 50th percentile chick would be fine with a 51st percentile jack. The way this was managed traditionally was that a woman did NOT have her father’s status, because she was a woman. An upper-class woman would be superior to middle class or lower class men in some ways, but also inferior to them in some ways, and definitely inferior to other upperclass men. When education and career are the status markers, that system breaks down when women can get educated and work in equal numbers.

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    Zerg Reply:

    Thanks. I wonder whether some kind of arithmetical curve could be devised — for a woman at 50th percentile acceptable mates start at 60th, for a woman at 60th acceptable mates start at 75th, etc.

    Aeroguy Reply:

    Speaking as a Millennial, when I got my masters degree it had a more immediate beneficial effect on my dating situation than my career situation. This was probably accentuated by my reliance on online dating where educational achievement is more obvious. Significant numbers of, if not most women with an undergrad will not date men without an undergrad, ditto for masters. It was surprising for me how much stock so many women put in educational achievement. There’s also the other thing I’ve noticed. I have a fetish for exceptionally smart women (which in my experience has only a weak correlation with educational achievement) and they almost universally refuse to ever have kids. Current gf has said that she would “rip it out of my uterus myself if I had to”.

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    Zerg Reply:

    Your girlfriend’s hypergamy isn’t limiting her fertility, then, since she’s got her high-status mate but still doesn’t want to have kids. Or is that you’re the “bad boy” adventure-boyfriend still without high enough objective social status for provider-security fertile mating?

    Steve Johnson Reply:

    No offense meant to Aeroguy but what he’s describing is a woman who’s not attracted to him.

    Women are notorious for having “the checklist” and having a totally different set of attributes they’re attracted to.

    She finds a guy who meets “the checklist” but is secretly repulsed by him because she hopes to still get a guy who she’s attracted to who also meets the items off the checklist.

    The implicit item in the checklist is “I wish I had a man who I find super sexy who has these traits”. Not “I find guys who meet the items off my checklist super sexy”.

    Aeroguy Reply:

    @Zerg and Steve Johnson
    Technology has divorced childbearing from a woman’s hypergamous instincts, instead it follows social cues. Sex and mating used to be one and the same, hypergamous instincts still control sex, but other cues determine if sex is allowed to become mating. The first half of hypergamy, demand for security, has been provided for through either welfare, alimony/betabux, or expanded career options, depending on the taste and preference of the woman (thus why providing security to modern women is a sucker’s game). Having chldren is a winning security strategy for women going the welfare and alimony routes, however for career oriented women children are a liability, thus a women entirely invested in this strategy will have her hypergamous instincts working against her remaining native instincts to have children. If she doesn’t perceive increased status from having children, all the more reason not to have them. It’s no wonder China is trying to discourage career women, but so long as intelligent women are free to pursue careers and derive perceived status from success in those careers they won’t stop.

    The other half of a woman’s hypergamy is all about bedding the sexiest man possible and is the subject of countless blogs in the manosphere. These men don’t necessary provide security and due to the sexiness of caddishness, thus cultivating dread and the perception of easily losing a man’s interest is a proven and very potent aphrodisiac. Due to the inherent insecurity this strategy entails it works best on career oriented women in the long term provided of course that you don’t give them too much anxiety. I’m a big fan of Rollo’s principle of building genuine desire rather than transactional reciprocation, and the above Roissy inspired strategy works quite well in doing that for me.

    Steve Johnson Reply:

    Two parts you’re missing:

    1) Women go for the highest status they can manage (however they manage status – which is much more child-like than the way men do – women have no concept of “con artist”) – not any guy who is sufficient.
    2) Physical comfort is really important to women.

    The way this works isn’t that 50th percentile woman meets 51st percentile man and is happy. 50th percentile woman gets asked out on hundreds of dates and only goes out with 85th+ percentile man. All of the 85th+ percentile men are dating at least half a dozen women.

    Woman than reevaluates her status up to 85th percentile because she’s getting dick from an 85th percentile guy. This is how women think – when women apply this reasoning to men PUAs call it “social proof”. They also apply it to women.

    Woman feels no urgency to do anything other than be maximally available to the 85th+ percentile man because her bills are paid and she’s got plenty of money for shoes and iced coffee.

    Woman turns 30 and can’t even get dick from an 85th+ percentile guy. Too late to reproduce.

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    Posted on July 10th, 2014 at 5:28 pm Reply | Quote
  • R. Says:

    What he says on nuclear energy (the blithe dismissal and disingenuous lies) makes me doubt anything that comes out of his mouth. Also the way he casually predicts say, US running out of cheap energy sometime soon-ish.

    Guy completely ignoring the fact that they have about 50-100 years more worth of fossil fuels in coal, which can be converted to liquids. Sure, setting up the infrastructure will be costly, but when, or if fracking and/or shale oil is proven to be a bubble, the economy is going to go seek it’s next fix. Coal to liquids is completely unspeculative and perfectly mature technology.

    Gell-Mann amnesia effect is a bitch.

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    admin Reply:

    It’s best just to bracket all the concrete green-politics stuff (Peak Oil, AGW …) — you might be surprised how little difference that makes to the message.

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    Alrenous Reply:

    This;

    I have huge areas of disagreement with him, so fundamental, in fact, that it’s never occurred to me to argue with him directly about them. He puts across a very particular case extremely well — with something approaching genius actually — so it would be a shame to correct him.

    is obviously a good habit/principle/virtue I can only aspire to.

    Instead I have my properly-functioning sacrality/profanity sensor, which sensitively detects the fumes of falsehood, every time. It kinda sucks, unless you have to have one I don’t recommend it. That I’m aware his message doesn’t need them merely also offends my sense of taste – “It is perfect when there’s nothing left to take away.” I wish this too were otherwise.

    Like, his good stuff is good enough that’s it’s still usually worth it? I don’t agree with BLVN that he’s a sophist, at least not in the main post. (Blogspot comments are limited for communication anyway, in practice.) It’s just that the ill effects mean there’s a ‘too much’ level, so he needs to be read sparingly regardless of how good the good stuff is.

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    R. Reply:

    Peak oil is not exactly politics, just an observation regarding the rate of extraction of a finite resource.

    It’s not good news -that is why the apocalypse cheerleaders like it.

    A bit of a problem is nimbyism. Mitigating the impact of oil shortfalls takes a lot of preparation, meanwhile resources are being squandered on stupid renewable subsidies..

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    Lesser Bull Reply:

    The way we handle nuclear waste and nuclear power is one of the clearest signs that our society is insane.

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    Posted on July 10th, 2014 at 5:55 pm Reply | Quote
  • Greer | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on July 10th, 2014 at 6:58 pm Reply | Quote
  • drethelin Says:

    The clear implication of this is that the United States should expect to be invaded by badass Canadian barbarians riding down from the north. I don’t know about you but my guns are pointed northward, ready for the Maple Mongols

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    Alrenous Reply:

    +1

    Though obviously I’m joining the Maple Mongols. Fire is indeed cool.

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    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    I, for one, welcome our new hockey stick-wielding overlords.

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    Posted on July 10th, 2014 at 7:59 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:

    With my usual shameless self-promotion, I declare that Greer’s fascism and the future series was representative. You can see the other two (more critical) parts in the archive sidebar.

    I suspect the respect for the Universal was accidentally stolen from philosophy and mis-applied.

    So, principles that apply universally, whether to rocks or humans, are more useful than particularist principles. They are just about as big, often smaller, and pay rent, as it were, more often.

    As a philosopher in good standing (wrt philosophy per se) I believe a universal theory of government leadership is possible. However, it would have to be flexible and sensitive to local conditions, that is, it’s not nearly as useful as most universal principles. (As ancap a neon hillist, I believe the principle is property uber alles.)

    The problem with bringing democracy to the world isn’t that the Universal is bad, the problem is democracy is a shitty, shitty principle that doesn’t work universally any more than Aristotle’s physics works universally.

    Basically I’m saying don’t let valid gut-level opposition to sophistry cripple your ability to think.

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    Posted on July 10th, 2014 at 8:05 pm Reply | Quote
  • Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » T-shirt slogans (#13) Says:

    […] Greer […]

    Posted on July 11th, 2014 at 5:00 pm Reply | Quote
  • Wade McKenzie Says:

    I went over to Mr. Greer’s website and had a quick look around. I just couldn’t over the fact that he is the “Archdruid” of the “Ancient Order of Druids” or whatever–something about as silly as being a transvestite and itself a perfect example of civilizational decadence.

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    admin Reply:

    If you let that get in the way, you’re missing out.

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    Posted on July 11th, 2014 at 7:04 pm Reply | Quote
  • Wade McKenzie Says:

    Anyone who is the “Archdruid” of the “Ancient Order of Druids” just isn’t a serious person, but another poseur who embodies the decline of the West. My cursory glance at his most recent post suggested that he was preoccupied with “anthropogenetic global warming” (are there still such precious souls among us?). So he’s a “neopagan” and an “environmentalist”–two of the most decadent types of modern Western inanity.

    I suppose it’s possible that he might have something interesting to say in spite of the fact that he’s indulging some contemptible Dungeons and Dragons fantasy lifestyle–just as a transsexual might conceivably (however impossibly unlikely) have something interesting to say about the contemporary Western predicament. But the fact that a man openly broadcasts what an unserious fellow he is, ordinarily prevents me from giving him a fair hearing. I’m just getting too old to be treating drag queens and wiccans with anything other than contempt.

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    fotrkd Reply:

    I’m just getting too old to be treating drag queens and wiccans with anything other than contempt.

    Is it equally possible you’re just too hung up on the seriousness of nouns..?

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    Wade McKenzie Reply:

    Look, we have a grown man–Mr. Greer–who is pretending to be a high-level member of a D & D character class. Surely that ought to influence the reception we accord his thought. After all, if I had a blog to which you had been commended and the first thing you notice upon arriving there is that I style myself (in all seriousness) “The Grandfather of Assassins” of the Assassins’ Guild of America, or perhaps “The Grand Master of Flowers” of the Ancient Order of Monks, wouldn’t that give you pause and tempt you to think that you were dealing with a bit of a kook?

    I thought the whole point of something like “neoreaction” was to “react” against the deeply unserious basket case that is modern liberal democratic Western society. Pretending to be a druid, let alone an “archdruid”, is in no way to depart from contemporary inanity but rather to further it. Perhaps you disagree with me that neopaganism and environmentalism are among the surest signs of Western decadence and intellectual irrelevance, but surely that’s an honest disagreement and not a squabble over mere semantics.

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    an inanimate aluminum tube Reply:

    One could make the case that a fundamentally serious person would associate druids with something like The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar, rather than Dungeons and Dragons.

    That said, it is difficult for writers who ignore HBD to really conjure up a suitably depressing future. Collapse of industrial civilization + mass die off? Optimistic compared the Kevin C. future.

    Steve Johnson Reply:

    Hey, more realistic than a eunuch with lipstick and a wig demanding to be called a woman.

    Far far less deluded than a man who isn’t even a eunuch with lipstick and a wig demanding to be called a woman.

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Greer isn’t being offered as a model to emulate. He’s being offered as a thinker who has gone so far outside the box that he has hit on some serious truths. Which I think he has. Pointing out that his affectations are grotesque doesn’t really change that.

    Baron Ludwig von Nichts Reply:

    Maybe you should take more than a quick look around? What’s unserious about paganism and druidry exactly? How do you distinguish between pretending to be a druid and pretending to be, say, a Catholic priest? Wasn’t there a “cleric” class in D & D? ;)

    I think you’ve misread the guy. The Archdruid rarely talks about global warming and he’s no Wiccan. I’d guess he’s read more pre-20th century Western philosophy and history than anyone here. His agenda is basically to overthrow the Enlightenment cult and put a new pagan priesthood in charge — what could be more reactionary than that?

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    Wade McKenzie Reply:

    “How do you distinguish between pretending to be a druid and pretending to be, say, a Catholic priest? Wasn’t there a “cleric” class in D & D?”

    Ha ha! Very clever…

    “His agenda is basically to overthrow the Enlightenment cult and put a new pagan priesthood in charge — what could be more reactionary than that?”

    The problem is that role-playing–be it of the “Grand Archdruid” sort or the transsexual variety, etc.–is one of the primary inheritances of the Enlightenment. Men who are so immersed in the Enlightenment way of life that they don’t even realize it aren’t likely to lead us to the promised land.

    Having said that, I was having a bit of serious fun at Mr. Greer’s expense. He probably does have some interesting things to say, in spite of what Lesser Bull terms his “grotesque affectations”.

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    Posted on July 11th, 2014 at 8:28 pm Reply | Quote
  • Lightning Round – 2014/07/16 | Free Northerner Says:

    […] welfare state: a sign of civilizational decline. Related: Rising civilizations are different; declining the same. Related: Salon headlines. Related: Women, pop music, and the Arab decline. Related: American Pie: […]

    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 5:00 am Reply | Quote

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