Sunday, May 21, 2017

Foundational Myths and the Cult of Science

Every society has its Foundational Myths. I’m not talking about myths in the sense of mythology - gods and monsters and superhuman heroes and such things. I’m talking about the quasi-historical myths that define a society’s sense of itself.

For the Greeks it was the Trojan War. For the Romans it was Romulus and Remus and the founding of the city but the Romans elaborated their Foundational Myth by extending Roman history back to the exploits of the Trojan prince Aeneas after the fall of Troy. For French republicans it’s the Revolution. For Americans it’s the Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary War.

For modern secularists the Foundational Myth is the Rise of Science. Until around the 17th century there was an age of ignorance and superstition then along came Science! and everything was light. Science! ushered in a blessed age of reason and enlightenment.

Foundational Myths can be entirely mythical, or they can be semi-mythical or even mostly historical. The Trojan War might well have happened although the actual events were probably much more small-scale and much more tawdry than the version promoted by the Greek poets.

The Rise of Science is at least partly historical. There has been a great deal of scientific progress in the past 500 years. The benefits are more questionable.

A Foundational Myth should be inspiring. It should give people a sense of cultural identity but more than that it should give a society some sense of purpose or destiny.

Has the Rise of Science done that? In some ways, perhaps. Although it’s worth pointing out that a great deal of human progress in modern times has owed more to practical engineers than to scientists. The engineers who were responsible for providing Europeans cities with sewerage and clean water contributed more to human happiness and prosperity than any scientists.

The problem with Science! is that it has given us a worldview that is bleak and nihilistic. The followers of the Cult of Science! have rarely taken this into account. Did the acceptance of the heliocentric view of the solar system actually make the world a better place? Did the acceptance of the Darwin-Wallace theory of evolution by natural selection make us happier? Was there great popular rejoicing when the Big Bang Theory displaced the Steady State Theory of the universe? These things made liberal secularists happier because they provided them with ammunition with which to pursue their war on Christianity. Did it make society as a whole better? Are we better off now that we generally believe that the universe is entirely without purpose and meaning and that our ancestors were ape-like creatures?

Of course Science! may well be right much of the time. Nobody today disputes the heliocentric view of the solar system. The question is not whether the scientific view is often correct, it is whether that view of the world has actually represented genuine progress. Progress is after all always a good thing, or so we’re told. But what if the scientific worldview has actually left us without any purpose or meaning in our own lives?

There’s also another very great danger to the cult of Science! Even the craziest ideas can gain credence if they can be labeled as scientific. Marx claimed that his wacky and misguided theories had to be correct because they were scientific. Freud’s even nuttier ideas were sold as science. In the 20th century we were even told there was such a thing as social science, an oxymoron if ever there was one. Straight-out political propaganda can be promoted as science - the global warming hysteria being a fine example.

Rather than eliminating superstition the Cult of Science! has provided us with a whole grab-bag of new superstitions. Rather than ushering in an age of reason what we actually ended up with was a mixture of emptiness, despair and superstition. Some Foundational Myths seem to work better than others.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

lies, damned lies and thruthiness

We have always taken it for granted that there are certain groups for whom lying is natural and habitual. No sane person has ever expected politicians, lawyers or journalists to tell the truth.

Today we have a situation in which many groups that we used to regard as being relatively trustworthy are now also habitual liars. Scientists, school teachers, historians, clergymen, even doctors are now quite likely to lie to us. Not all the time of course, but often enough to represent an enormous sea change in western society. If half the scientists lie to us half the time then that means that we have to assume that scientists are people who cannot be trusted.

There is of course a difference between outright conscious lying and merely repeating falsehoods. In some cases the people repeating falsehoods actually believe their own lies. Sometimes they know that what they’re saying is untrue but they’re too scared not to go along with the lies. I don’t think that many doctors deliberately lie but I am sure that they’re aware that there are certain things that it’s better for them not to question - it’s best to stick to the party line so you don’t get into trouble. I think that very few clergymen deliberately lie - I really think most of them believe it when they tell us that diversity is good for us and that homosexuality is A-OK. In the case of historians and other academics I think it’s a mixture - some believe their own nonsense and some are lying trough their teeth to protect their nice comfy positions in academia.

It doesn’t make much difference in practice. It still means that we now live in a world in which the safe assumption is that we’re probably being lied to most of the time.

We don’t just have fake news. We have fake science. We have fake medicine. We have fake religion. We have fake history. If everything is fake where do we find truth? Does it even exist? Or do we just settle for truthiness?

This is of course an ideal situation for the elites. It doesn’t matter too much to them if we don’t really believe the Narrative that they push. If lies are everywhere and truth cannot be distinguished from lies then we have little choice but to believe the Narrative. Or maybe not believe, but accept it even while knowing that that it is false. Anyone who has read his Orwell knows that from the point of view of the elites being able to force us to believe something that we know is a lie is even better than having us actually believe. It demoralises us even further.

blog makeover

James at Nourishing Obscurity has suggested that maybe this blog needs a makeover. I think he’s probably right. So before I adopt a new look that you might all hate I should ask for some input.

First off, do you prefer reading a dark text on a white or near-white background, or something like the present scheme with light text on a dark background?

Is there anything about the present layout of the blog that you really hate?

Is there anything that I should consider adding? Any more widget-thingies?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

blasphemy laws and why we may be stuck with them

I wasn’t going to mention the Stephen Fry blasphemy case but now Richard Dawkins has jumped in on the issue. Dawkins of course wants the blasphemy law repealed.

My position on this is a bit complex. I believe that if you have a mono-cultural mono-religion society then you don’t need blasphemy laws. The reality is that we don’t have that type of society any longer. We now have a multi-cultural multi-faith society. In such a society blasphemy laws are an unfortunate necessity. Minority views do need to be protected. If they’re not protected you’re going to have trouble. That’s just reality. We have something even more difficult to deal with - a society divided not only on cultural racial and religious lines but even more bitterly divided on ideological lines. A multi-cultural multi-faith multi-ideology society is a society in which conflict is going to be continuous and bitter. 

We already have a society in which Christianity is under never-ending and vicious attack. Now increasingly we have each of a variety of religions, including atheism, in a state of permanent low-level war. We also have a society in which atheists like Dawkins are permitted to attack religion without limits. If there are no limits to the viciousness of the attacks it’s all going to end very very badly. Unfortunately I do think some limits are needed on the extent of the viciousness of the attacks. Did Stephen Fry cross the line? That would be for a court to decide.

Of course in an ideal world we would never have allowed our society to become a multi-cultural multi-religion war zone. But we did allow that to happen and one of the unfortunate consequences is that blasphemy laws may be required in order to dampen down the conflicts.

This is the world that liberals (like Stephen Fry) wanted. Now they have to live with it. If you want diversity you end up needing all sorts of intrusive and unpleasant laws, such as blasphemy laws. A diverse society will either destroy itself or it will become a police state. You can have freedom or you can have diversity. You can’t have both. We chose diversity.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World.

My current reading is Julius Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World. It’s heavy going, especially if you limited tolerance for the wilder shores of mysticism, esotericism, magic and the occult. If you persist with it though there are plenty of profound and important insights into the sorry state in which our civilisation has landed itself. The second half of the book in particular is filled with key insights.

Evola’s idea of a revolt against the modern world is breathtakingly radical. In his view things started to go wrong a very very long time ago, and they went wrong in very fundamental ways. And his ideas on tradition are not exactly conventional.

There’s a lot of material to plough through in this book and I remain sceptical of much of it. I really wouldn’t feel in the least bit qualified even to attempt to review this book. There are however a few things that happened to catch my interest as they connect to other things I’ve been reading recently.

The first is his spirited championing of caste systems. Given that egalitarianism has proven to be a dangerous chimaera and that hierarchies are almost certainly both inevitable and necessary in a healthy society, and given that class divisions produce endless futile conflict, a caste system does seem to have its attractions.

The second point that struck me in this book is Evola’s enthusiasm for the ideal of chivalry. This is a little surprising at first in view of Evola’s disdain for Christianity. He argues however that the medieval ideal of chivalry was not entirely Christian in inspiration and that it avoids many of what he sees as the flaws and decadent features of Christianity. Of course it could be objected that chivalry was an ideal that was in all probability seldom practised, at least in a pure form. That doesn’t really matter. The fact that the idea of chivalry existed and that it struck such a powerful chord in the medieval imagination is what’s important.

My own reservations about Christianity are centred on its passive and excessively feminised nature and its unfortunate tendency to encourage the cult of victimology. These regrettable tendencies seemed to be much less evident in medieval Christianity, and the ideal of chivalry did seem to be a way of minimising those negative factors.

Medieval Christianity was a masculine religion that respected women. Such a thing is possible.

There seems to be no question that Christianity has lost its way and that this has been a gradual process that has taken centuries. The Middle Ages was the high water mark for the Christian faith. It’s been all downhill since then.

Friday, May 12, 2017

nationalism and the myth of nation states

I spoke about nationalism in my previous post. I want to say a bit more on the subject. What I have to say is unpalatable but it needs to be said.

Nationalism is no longer a viable proposition because generally speaking nation states as they existed between the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and 1945 no longer exist.

A nation state is a political entity that is capable of asserting its independence. This requires both the military capacity and the political willingness to do so. According to this criterion the only independent nation states that exist in today’s world are the United States, Russia, China and (possibly) India.

The idea that any other country has this capability is pure fantasy. 

Let us assume that Italy, or Japan, or Brazil, or France or Britain decided that as a matter of national survival they needed to wage war against some other state. Could they do so? The answer of course is that they could not. They would need to ask the United States for permission to do so. It is unthinkable that any of these countries could fight a war, even a war for national survival, without first seeking Washington’s approval and then seeking US aid. In other words not one of these countries is a true nation state. They are mere vassal states.

In 1982 Britain was only with great difficulty able to defeat a Third World nation, Argentina. It was a near run thing and Britain won because from Argentina’s point of view it was not a war for survival and it was therefore not worth making it a fight to the finish. If Britain faced the same situation today she would have to abandon the Falklands. Britain also no longer has its own nuclear deterrent. Britain’s Trident missiles belong to the United States. The recent controversy over whether Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister would or would not use nuclear weapons was irrelevant, No British prime minister could use nuclear weapons without Washington’s permission. The Trident missiles allow Britain to indulge in the fantasy that Britain is a great power. In fact Britain is not even a proper nation state, merely an American vassal.

The Second World War marked the end of the nation state system. It marked the end of European nation states. Western Europe became part of the American Empire. The EU is merely a means by which that empire can be controlled more easily and more conveniently.

The problem of nationalism today is how can you have nationalism without nation states that are in control of their own destinies?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

nationalism, internationalism and globalism

If you’ve ever spent more than five minutes in the dissident right corner of the internet you’ve heard the phrase, “The real political divide today is not between left and right but between nationalism and globalism.” I’ve said it myself.

Are things quite as simple as that? Is nationalism really more organic, more traditional, more healthy, than globalism?

Nationalism is a fairly recent phenomenon. It did not exist in the ancient world, nor in the medieval world. In fact it did not really exist until the mid-17th century. The Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 which ended the Thirty Years War marked the formal recognition that nation states were now the effective political units of Europe. And nationalism did not take deep root in the European psyche until the end of the 18th century.

Prior to that there were of course strong local sentiments based on shared language, culture and religion but these had little bearing on the actual political arrangements of Europe. The political unit was the dynastic unit. Insofar as people had political loyalties those loyalties were owed to the local lord and ultimately to the king, or in central Europe they were owed to the local lord, to the prince and ultimately to the emperor. A kingdom could comprise a variety of ethnic groups and cultures and languages and even religions. The boundaries of kingdoms shifted constantly as dynastic marriages split existing political units or caused larger units to coalesce.

You might not speak the same language as your king, you might not belong to the same ethnic group, you might not share his culture or his religion but that did not affect your loyalty.

Prior to the Reformation most (but by no means all) of Europe belonged to a single entity known as Christendom but this was not a political unit. The head of Christendom was the Pope. His spiritual authority existed side by side with the political authority of kings.

Europe functioned perfectly well without nationalism. Multi-ethnic multi-faith multi-cultural political entities such as the empire of the Habsburgs were extremely successful. No modern nation state has lasted as long as the empire of the Habsburgs.

The Europe of the dynastic system and of Christendom had nothing in common with modern nationalism, but at the same time it also had nothing in common with modern globalism. It represents a third option and it is an option that is usually ignored, partly because it most people don’t understand it and partly because it didn’t suit modern political agendas.

It’s also worth pointing out that internationalism as such is by no means identical with globalism. Take for example the European Union. The EU is evil not because it’s internationalist. The idea of European political unity is not inherently evil. The idea of Europe has much to recommend it. The Second World War demonstrated with brutal clarity that European nation states were defenceless against the power and wealth of the United States. If Europe was going to avoid becoming an American colony then some degree of political and economic unity was essential. 

The problem with the EU is not that it’s corrupt and undemocratic (although it is corrupt and undemocratic). The problem is that it’s run by people who hate Europeans, hate European culture and are ashamed of themselves for being European. It is run by people who are fundamentally hostile to European civilisation. It is run by people whose loyalty is to bankers.

This is the problem with almost all internationalist organisations today. They are run by bankers for bankers.

It is extremely unlikely that organisations like the EU can be reformed. The EU will never serve the interests of Europeans. The idea of Europe on the other hand still has some validity. The question is whether it will ever be possible to bring about a European unity that will serve the interests of Europeans.

The idea of regional internationalism is also not inherently evil. Countries like Australia cannot exist in the modern world as viable independent nation states. They simply do not have the economic, military and political muscle to be anything other than satellites of great powers. Countries like Australia (and Canada and Britain) are, in political terms, merely American vassal states. In the long term their only hope of avoiding such vassalage is by being part of regional power groupings.

It is also clear that, in the absence of such regional power groupings, the entire world is going to end up being divided into two gigantic spheres of influence, one dominated by the United States and one dominated by China. This is why the idea of resurrecting the caliphate is so attractive to many Muslims. Independent Islamic nations are merely pawns in the game of power politics played by great powers. A caliphate uniting a large part of the Islamic world would have some chance of political independence. It is their only chance of preserving their culture and their religion and it ids therefore going to be increasingly seen as not only desirable but essential.

Nationalism is certainly preferable to globalism. It is however doubtful whether in the modern world nationalism can defeat globalism. While I’ve been quite sceptical of ideas like white nationalism I can understand why such ideas seem attractive. If nationalism is a spent force then perhaps other options for fighting globalism need to be considered.