Quote note (#242)

Scott Alexander (who’s been reading Fischer) shares a glimpse at the lives of 18th century Massachusetts Puritans:

A typical Massachusetts week would begin in the church, which doubled as the town meeting hall. There were no decorations except a giant staring eye on the pulpit to remind churchgoers that God was watching them. Townspeople would stand up before their [fellows] and declare their shame and misdeeds, sometimes being forced to literally crawl before the other worshippers begging for forgiveness. T[h]en the minister would give two two-hour sermons back to back. The entire affair would take up to six hours, and the church was unheated (for some reason they stored all their gunpowder there, so no one was allowed to light a fire), and this was Massachusetts, and it was colder in those days than it is now, so that during winter some people would literally lose fingers to frostbite (Fischer: “It was a point of honor for the minister never to shorten a sermon merely because his audience was frozen”). Everyone would stand there with their guns (they were legally required to bring guns, in case Indians attacked during the sermon) and hear about how they were going to Hell, all while the giant staring eye looked at them.

(Unsoftened Calvinism was by far the best kind.)

ADDED: The fate of the Pennsyvania Quakers might trigger some anachronistic assocations (also from the SA piece) —

… by 1750, the Quakers were kind of on their way out; by 1750, they were a demographic minority in Pennsylvania, and by 1773 they were a minority in its legislature as well. In 1750 Quakerism was the third-largest religion in the US; by 1820 it was the ninth-largest, and by 1981 it was the sixty-sixth largest. What happened? The Quakers basically tolerated themselves out of existence. They were so welcoming to religious minorities and immigrants that all these groups took up shop in Pennsylvania and ended its status as a uniquely Quaker society. At the same time, the Quakers themselves became more “fanatical” and many dropped out of politics believing it to be too worldly a concern for them; this was obviously fatal to their political domination. The most famous Pennsylvanian statesman of the Revolutionary era, Benjamin Franklin, was not a Quaker at all but a first-generation immigrant from New England. Finally, Quakerism was naturally extra-susceptible to that thing where Christian denominations become indistinguishable from liberal modernity and fade into the secular background.

(XS provocative emphasis.)

SA later remarks upon “the suspiciously Quaker character of modern society”.

ADDED: One more text grab from the post —

The “iceberg model” of culture argues that apart from the surface cultural features we all recognize like language, clothing, and food, there are deeper levels of culture that determine the features and institutions of a people: whether they are progressive or traditional, peaceful or warlike, mercantile or self-contained. We grudgingly acknowledge these features when we admit that maybe making the Middle East exactly like America in every way is more of a long-term project than something that will happen as soon as we kick out the latest dictator and get treated as liberators. Part of us may still want to believe that pure reason is the universal solvent, that those Afghans will come around once they realize that being a secular liberal democracy is obviously great. But we keep having deep culture shoved in our face again and again, and we don’t know how to get rid of it. This has led to reasonable speculation that some aspects of it might even be genetic – something which would explain a lot, though not its ability to acculturate recent arrivals. […] This is a hard pill to swallow even when we’re talking about Afghanistan. But it becomes doubly unpleasant when we think about it in the sense of our neighbors and fellow citizens in a modern democracy. What, after all, is the point? A democracy made up of 49% extremely liberal Americans and 51% fundamentalist Taliban Afghans would be something very different from the democratic ideal; even if occasionally a super-charismatic American candidate could win over enough marginal Afghans to take power, there’s none of the give-and-take, none of the competition within the marketplace of ideas, that makes democracy so attractive. Just two groups competing to dominate one another, with the fact that the competition is peaceful being at best a consolation prize. […] If America is best explained as a Puritan-Quaker culture locked in a death-match with a Cavalier-Borderer culture, with all of the appeals to freedom and equality and order and justice being just so many epiphenomena – well, I’m not sure what to do with that information. Push it under the rug? Say “Well, my culture is better, so I intend to do as good a job dominating yours as possible?” Agree that We Are Very Different Yet In The End All The Same And So Must Seek Common Ground? Start researching genetic engineering? Maybe secede? …

April 27, 2016admin 37 Comments »
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37 Responses to this entry

  • Quote note (#242) | Neoreactive Says:

    […] Quote note (#242) […]

    Posted on April 27th, 2016 at 12:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • Nathan Cook Says:

    The religious services having been concluded, the congregation dispersed and the members wended their way to their respective homes—returning as they had gone, on horseback and on foot, sometimes traveling midst howling wintry blasts through miles of unbroken forests, crossing swollen streams, trudging through deep and trackless snows, the man with rifle in hand and ear alert for savage foes, the mother hugging to her breast her babe; such was churchgoing in the times of our forefathers and such were the men and women who went to church!

    From one of MM’s recommendation on the Massachusetts Puritans, Puritan Republic by Daniel Wait Howe. Somewhat less lurid, what with being published in 1890 by someone clearly proud of his ancestors’ achievements, but it confirms everything Scott Alexander got out of Fischer, and then some.

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 27th, 2016 at 12:27 pm Reply | Quote
  • Ahote Says:

    Hm, Jean-Jacques Rousseau came from Calvinist background. The question is whether all neo-gnostic religions eventually evolve into progressive universalism after a period of initial fundamentalism? The transformation of Mohammedanism may have already begun.

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 27th, 2016 at 12:44 pm Reply | Quote
  • TheDividualist Says:

    I can’t put a finger on it exactly why, but I still don’t fully get how this sort of thing gives modern leftism.

    Let’s use the following analytical framework: world-accepting and world-rejecting religions, mostly in the sense of James C. Russel’s famous The Germanization Of Early Medieval Christianity. where world-accepting Paganism means the acceptance that humans want stuff like power, victory, wealth, concubines, so the monkey business. Gnon. World-rejecting Gnostic Christianity rejects it all. Germanized Catholics somewhere in-between. “World”, as in: the power drive, is to a significant extent reducible to testosterone, fight, fuck, boss people around like a tribal king etc.

    So. These guys seem on one hand world-accepting, manly men, with all these guns and defending against Indians. On the other hand, much of their attitudes seems world-rejecting. WTF.

    Modern leftism is a tendency towards the world-rejecting. Rejecting the power drive, with its logical extreme being the idea that all penis in vagina is rape – all normal human behavior has a power drive, and it all gets rejected.

    The confusing part is this. Despite all this world-rejecting, it is pretty clear leftism (and to an extent Gnostic Christianity as well) is playing the power game, just with different methods. Playing the power game through the explicit rejection of the power game itself?

    The second confusing part is how does a movement of tough guys, who are at some level necessarily world-accepting because tomahawks are real, mutate into a movement of pajamaboy gammas. Perhaps, the answer is that they were always world-rejecting but as long as there was danger like Injun attacks, they had to keep partially real, had to have some level of world-acceptance, but once they lived in safety they could give it up totally.

    I often think people need to be exposed to danger hardship in order to wake up. Mugged by Gnon. But it seems it matters only if the social status dynamic is already world-rejecting, so the social is opposed to the real, in that case some experience with the real helps. In world-affirming pagan culture, the social and the real dynamic is the same.

    Ugh, I think I got lost in this argument – was it even one – but I hope someone can make head or tails of it.

    [Reply]

    Marxist toady Reply:

    Wildly applying fixed schemas and abstract concepts (“world denying/affirming,” “power”) to very specific and complex historical developments will get you into this sort of muddle — a little nominalism is healthy for historical thought. You should synthesize and theorize like this only once you really know the material.

    [Reply]

    TheDividualist Reply:

    The material is the human psyche, history is mostly the eternal recurrence of the same psychological patterns. What I called the power drive, in a bit of a Nietzschean way, or in the sense of Augustine’s libido dominandi, is largely the sociobiological account of how gaining both dominance-status and prestige-status is rewarded by a testosterone release (even in capuchin monkeys) which subjectively probably feels like a “power trip”, and that is helluva drug. Add to it the group dynamic, the tribalism, the factor that the power trip is not only felt when I defeat him but also when we defeat them, and that is a more or less predictive account of the darker motives that drive history – which gets called around these parts Gnon or monkey business. Or world-acceptance or Nietzschean life-affirmation or amor fati – it has many names. And its origin is probably in sexual selection, specifically males competing for females. It looks a lot like that is main reason for the evolution of human intelligence. In order to have a runaway process of evolution, like human intelligence, you need some factor that specifically helped the individual against other individuals, not just the group against nature or other groups, and in order for it to become runaway it has to have some negative aspect as well: it has to double-down, so to speak. Since human intelligence makes heads bigger hence childbirth more dangerous and thus babies prematurely born an thus female parental investment higher, thus male sexual competition for women ever more intense, that looks like a perfect storm for a runaway process – as humans get smarter, women’s job gets harder, which makes males ever more desperate to compete which puts more and more pressure on evolving intelligence in that competition. It’s ultimately pretty simple.

    The world-rejecting part is more difficult, because any group who turns away from the world as described above and tries to be holy, can easily return to it through holiness: fighting groups that are less holy, competing for status in the in-group through holiness and so on. This is the part I don’t understand well, the Christian slowly turned Leftist. I think the other part, the world-affirming part, the Pagan part I do understand.

    [Reply]

    Jesse M. Reply:

    “Add to it the group dynamic, the tribalism, the factor that the power trip is not only felt when I defeat him but also when we defeat them”

    If the power drive is fundamental to our psychology, that sort of tribalism may be one manifestation, but it needn’t be the only one. Other manifestations could be the desire to gain power over aspects of nature which limit people’s happiness or ability to achieve their desires (disease, limited resources, limitations on things like transportation speed or computational power, and even more abstract limitations like wanting to know things but not being able to find the answer), or power to change aspects of society that impose similar kinds of limitations on people (poverty, ignorance, prejudice, etc.). Both of these kinds of desires are prevalent among leftists, no? And a more individual manifestation of the will to power could be the desire to gain personal status by making visible contributions to these types of group efforts to gain power over natural/societal limitations (along with gaining status by making contributions to other societal ‘projects’ that could be seen as ways of sublimating the will to power, like the creation of art).

    If one wants to analyze the left/right division in terms of the will to power, I think the best approach would be to take a cue from this slatestarcodex post where Scott outlines his “thrive/survive” theory of the left/right division. One could make the generalization that the left tends to believe the desire for power can be channelled in a way that ultimately makes things better for everyone even as some individuals achieve more than others (with the ‘darker’ types of desire for power, the ones that require others to be visibly weak/subordinate in order to make you feel strong/dominant, channeled into games and fantasies where no one is really hurt). Whereas the right is more likely to see things in zero-sum terms where anyone who wants to help the “losers” in competitions for power is just exposing a weakness that, if widely adopted, would make things worse for everyone, including the societal “winners”. A post-scarcity mindset vs. a Malthusian one, basically.

    Anon. Reply:

    “What had the individual now become? A political Protestant, for he had come into immediate connection with his God, the State.”

    [Reply]

    Orthodox Reply:

    Modern leftists reject God and the world He created, but while they do not accept God’s reality, they are materialists who fully embrace this world. They wish to place themselves in God’s place and remake the world in their image.

    Puritans looked favorably on wealth and success because it was God showing favor upon the most holy. Puritans believed God’s Judgement was upon them always, Hell was one slip up away. Their descendants have kept some of the rituals, but removed God.

    [Reply]

    Alan J. Perrick Reply:

    In Your Opinion

    [Reply]

    AureliusMoner Reply:

    Your problem is accepting the dichotomy of “world affirming”/”world rejecting” religion as the key to the Left/Right divide. Also, Christianity has long been noted for its tendency to straddle this divide, so you’re going to find both elements present in the degenerate, Leftist apostasy and in the authentic, Traditional Christianity. The balance is most perfectly preserved in the traditional forms of Christianity (i.e., Catholicism/Orthodoxy), where the monastic impulse, the valuation of celibacy in the clergy, the emphasis on ascesis and mortification as integral to Christian life, etc., coexists with an affirmation of the good of the natural order, principled defenses of marriage, family life, the good of the well-ordered state and an healthy appreciation of merriment, good cheer and good food on the many great Feasts of the Church. The Puritans had certainly done immense damage to this balance, but even still, their “world-rejecting” eschatological impulses existed alongside their (at least emotional) commitment to the natural law and its world-affirming elements.

    A better principle for differentiating the Left/Right divide would be to acknowledge that the Right upholds Truth and the ordered application of authority through the hierarchy that flows therefrom; the Left is an incoherent movement that imagines itself as fighting unjust authority and dogmatism, and as levelling hierarchy in favor of egalitarian ideals, for the sake of empowering the individual to exist “free” from the interference of unwelcome authority. But in reality they are just replacing principled authority and ordered hierarchy with arbitrary totalitarianism and demagoguery, and rendering the individual vicious and stupid. When you look at it this way, it is easy to understand how somebody can be a “tough guy with a gun,” and still stand for Leftist dissolution and dissent. The Puritans and Quakers were rabidly anti-throne, anti-altar and anti-Truth (despite claiming to adhere to Truth, they believed there was no higher authority than private persons in deciding the matter – which is just a sad and deluded way of rejecting Truth while retaining all the white-hot feeling of truthiness). They were the first Leftists, and they would not be the last Leftists to bear arms.

    Also, you err in thinking that “world-rejecting” is incompatible with power-seeking. On the contrary, Leftism has perfected this in its utopianism, which requires immense power. Utopianism is essentially world-rejecting, even if it is trying to “make the world a better place,” because essentially what it is saying is “the world as it actually is and always will be is not good enough, and we will change it.” It is a pitiable state, of rejecting the world while believing there is nothing but the world – hence, we will remake the world. They are more world-rejecting than any monk, for the monk is not so much rejecting the world as he is affirming the world’s good by seeking to disentangle himself from whatever has marred its beauty, which he reveres for the sake of the Maker. But the Left has always been violent, marring what is good in the world for the sake of their “perfect” ideal, which is not and cannot ever be realized. The Reign of Terror was not “less Leftist” or “more Rightist” because it was violent and tough and obsessed with power-seeking; rather, it was all the more Leftist and all the less Rightist for being all the more utopian, opposed to Truth and anti-hierarchical.

    [Reply]

    michael Reply:

    i think its more the left thinks they are reforming a decadent corrupt authority which is what jesus thinks hes doing and martin luther thinks, its not so much anti dogmatism but correct dogmatism, but yeah once you start questioning dogma and authority kattie bar the door left ratchet but your right about leftist utopianism being secular acetism

    [Reply]

    Jesse M. Reply:

    “the Left is an incoherent movement that imagines itself as fighting unjust authority and dogmatism, and as levelling hierarchy in favor of egalitarian ideals, for the sake of empowering the individual to exist “free” from the interference of unwelcome authority.”

    The part about “fighting unjust authority and dogmatism” seems accurate to me, but as for the second part about “levelling hierarchy in favor of egalitarian ideals”, it seems like you’re just describing the anarchist wing of leftism, not leftists in general (and of course the right also has its anarcho-capitalists who want a pretty strong form of freedom from any kind of authority). Most leftists do recognize the value of authority, just different authority figures than those which those on the right would especially admire, typically authority which is ‘earned’ in some more meritocratic way rather than assigned by tradition, heredity, religion etc. For example, Slavoj Zizek says in this piece that ‘The large majority – me included – wants to be passive and rely on an efficient state apparatus to guarantee the smooth running of the entire social edifice, so that I can pursue my work in peace. Walter Lippmann wrote in his Public Opinion (1922) that the herd of citizens must be governed by “a specialised class whose interests reach beyond the locality” – this elite class is to act as a machinery of knowledge that circumvents the primary defect of democracy, the impossible ideal of the “omni-competent citizen”.’ And here’s Isaac Asimov on assigning higher value to the opinions of the highly-informed (on reasonably ‘objective’ matters like scientific questions, presumably): “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’. Wouldn’t you have been able to guess that these statements were more likely to come from speakers with strongly left-wing views as opposed to strongly right-wing views, despite their anti-egalitarian tone, even if I hadn’t told you their sources?

    [Reply]

    Ryan Reply:

    Demanding power for the sake of power is evil.

    Getting power while screaming out you’re weak is very confusing.

    [Reply]

    michael Reply:

    if you were irish catholic you would get it no problem, think stoic.Think lifes a bitch then i marry one then i die but ill be damned if i let them see me so much as wince. But once these guys start getting a head of the game the women start up they go around the husband to the faggot priest the politicians etc and start weaving

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 27th, 2016 at 1:22 pm Reply | Quote
  • Brett Stevens Says:

    Other than the frostbite, it seems like a reasonable way to keep a community together.

    Sort of reminds me of political rallies of the mid-20th century however, especially the all-seeing eye.

    [Reply]

    TheDividualist Reply:

    Of Sauron.

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 27th, 2016 at 1:30 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alan J. Perrick Says:

    Great! Love to learn about U.S. colonial history, somehow better before the Constitution was written…

    A.J.P.

    [Reply]

    Alan J. Perrick Reply:

    Getting tired of seeing all of my comments getting deleted when I point out the detrimental effects that the ethnic religious are having on the whites of North America. Yes, it sounds terribly interesting and novel when somebody is oh-so-inclusive in getting lots of different types on board, very clubby… But the point is that having soft, universalist sympathy for the poor ethnics who have been wronged is not really traditionally religious at all, but rather many more steps toward a secular, non-specific society, palatable to the nebulous, and open-minded modernist “content farmer” types.

    Yes, not only here, but at S.M. my comment pointing out how the United States’ intended new idea was to become Latin America, and that the Vatican-Romans were to thank for it got me banned.

    Here, rebuking the uppity outsider with a “novel” take on the United States, gets a comment deleted, when to be honest, anyone who wouldn’t reply in such a way is indeed, very dishonourable!

    A.J.P.

    [Reply]

    SVErshov Reply:

    when it comes to US you can take many different positions and all of it will be in some way distorted and delusional. because there is no such single thing as ‘US’, there are many centers of power, who plays same songs very differently. but if you stick to the facts (even very negative ones) non of your posts will be deleted here. based on my experience.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    I deleted one rude, vacuous comment (which insulted another guest here, while contributing nothing). I will do the same again, without hesitation.

    [Reply]

    Alan J. Perrick Reply:

    Maybe one day you’ll ban like the others…

    Posted on April 27th, 2016 at 1:30 pm Reply | Quote
  • cyborg_nomade Says:

    secede, for sure.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Encouraging indications that might be the equilibrium solution.

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 27th, 2016 at 4:14 pm Reply | Quote
  • JS123 Says:

    I wonder if reading this will finally get him to understand Moldbug.

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    I assume Scott “I’m not a neoreactionary guys I swear” Alexander understands pretty much everything he sees.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Neoreactionary of the intellect, left-libertarian of the will.

    [Reply]

    TheDividualist Reply:

    And cautious of the precarious position doctors who haven’t finished their residency requirements yet are in.

    Aeroguy Reply:

    The thing is, he’s the same as the church goers with frostbitten fingers. The line between this is insane and this is proof of my virtue/devotion is hard to parse when so much of yourself is invested. It’s a real dilemma, imagine if one of those church goers had a revelation and realized this was madness, they wouldn’t just be able to stop going to that church, if they wanted to stop they would have to extract themselves entirely from the community and family that they’ve known their whole lives to live with people who may as well be foreigners. The potential loss is a powerful thought stopper.

    From a purely Darwinian standpoint the human mind has very good reason is to be inflexible and not probe truth too hard, rather to align close enough to the group. Though still smart enough to pickup on subtle truths others may not see. Those of us who are based enough to pursue truth without reservation are rare for a reason. There is a twist, being based works wonders if you have power, otherwise it’s generally a liability.

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    Posted on April 27th, 2016 at 6:02 pm Reply | Quote
  • SanguineEmpiricist Says:

    does anyone have a list of all menciian book recommendations?

    [Reply]

    TheDividualist Reply:

    I just want to say MM recommending Google Books is an ingenious kind of torture, many are up on archive.org as well, with Kindle and epub and suchlike formats that can be read without pulling your hair out. De Jouvenel: https://archive.org/details/onpoweritsnature00injouv Mosca: https://archive.org/details/rulingclass031748mbp Froude: https://archive.org/details/theenglishinthew32728gut

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    Posted on April 27th, 2016 at 11:24 pm Reply | Quote
  • morkyz Says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5fZu-1bt6Y

    bad omen? cthulhu is trying to eat gnon again

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 28th, 2016 at 12:56 am Reply | Quote
  • Alan J. Perrick Says:

    Most people don’t understand rhetoric. But rhetoric is a tool, and indispensible in the art and duty of defense. Even offense.

    Often people look for a logical reason, but recognising rhetoric for what it is provides a picture and since a picture is worth a thousand words, there is lots of logic within a picture that is properly interpreted. Some people still want a logical reason, but refusing to legitimise some-one else’s argument is too valuable a technique to put down for any reason at all.

    A.J.P.

    [Reply]

    SVErshov Reply:

    good point, rethorics is performative, always a head of time. only tool which still available when nothing esle will do. cause even presence of rethorics itself in sytuation already affecting it Trump seem understand it quite well. there is good related theoretical resources on modern activism based on it. like Austin and others (not so female) who created indespesable strategies. only question if NRx activists can see that and willing to use. much better compared to perverted version of passivism.

    [Reply]

    Alan J. Perrick Reply:

    Yes, it’s true. Rhetoric is completely indispensible, and it’s really become a lost art for Rightists, while the Left uses it almost exclusively. Some people say that the “Left vs Right” dialectic is a prog, or progressive thing. Well, if that’s true, shouldn’t an ideology that gets rid of prog’ism be able to pick a little from both of what’s known today as Left and also Right, in order to synthise for the future and take what’s best of the past? I think so.

    I don’t really know what Passivism is, maybe an agreement not to do street rallies. I agree that talent should rather be spent on new perspectives or propaganda, and staying motivated on that. There weren’t street rallies in the U.S.S.R., but the regime fell, all the same. Apparently, there was a good amount of samizdat… propaganda used to point out the unnecessary suffering. Something similar could be done. After all, the penalties for facing the Cathedral and U.S.S.R.’s gov’t organs are similar, too.

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    Posted on April 28th, 2016 at 6:47 am Reply | Quote
  • vxxc2014 Says:

    Adapting to “new arrivals” is the core of Afghanistan culture.

    “This has led to reasonable speculation that some aspects of it might even be genetic – something which would explain a lot, though not its ability to acculturate recent arrivals. ”

    Adapting=Meaning destroy, repel or submit.

    Interesting he’s talking about secession. If they can’t genetically engineer us all to be progs that is…

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 28th, 2016 at 3:22 pm Reply | Quote
  • Nick B. Steves Says:

    Quakers tolerated themselves out of existence by becoming an essential symbiot in the reproductive systems of virtually every other Western religion.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 2nd, 2016 at 1:57 pm Reply | Quote

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