western civilisation and the irrational

Astrology is apparently enjoying a bit of a revival. Which is depressing but not overly surprising.

It’s easy to assume that this kind of irrationality has its roots in the counter-culture of the late 60s and 70s when astrology and other kinds of occult and paranormal silliness were enormously popular. But if you go back to the years between the two world wars you’ll find that spiritualism was a very big thing and it was the heyday of scientific (or pseudoscientific) ghost-hunting and scientific investigations of extra-sensory perception.

If you go back a little further, to the late 19th century, it was a boom time for the occult and for ritual magick and it was also the period that marked the beginnings of neo-paganism and modern witchcraft.

Even in the seemingly very rational 18th century there was a huge vogue for things like Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.

And the 16th and 17th centuries were rife with all manner of occult beliefs such as alchemy and hermeticism.

In fact from the time of the Reformation onwards irrationality has been central to European civilisation.

Of course I’m inclined to see the Reformation as western civilisation’s first big mistake but it is difficult to deny that the fragmentation of western Christianity opened the door to a good deal of craziness. Not just crazy heresies but crazy stuff that went way beyond mere heresy. Organised religion became more irrational (witch-hunting only became an obsession after the Reformation) and seriously weird ideas that were totally outside the orbit of religion began to gain in popularity, particular among the intellectual elites.

It is perhaps a sobering thought that irrationality may be the western mainstream, while rationality is just a fringe thing.

Of course in the 20th century atheists started to convince themselves that they represented Reason while religion represented Superstition but I have to say that in my own personal experience atheists have never seemed to be significantly more rational than Christians. If anything atheists seem slightly more gullible.

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what the military is really for

It’s obvious that something strange is happening to the militaries of western nations. Combat efficiency is no longer considered to  be important. What matters is political correctness. What matters is diversity, and having equal representation for women, homosexuals and transgenders.

This seems odd at first. Surely it’s obvious that an army of women and homosexuals is not going to be the slightest bit of use against a real enemy? And in order to get women into combat units it’s going to be necessary to lower standards of physical fitness to such extreme degrees that even the men are going to be increasingly recruited from the less fit. So eventually your entire army is going to be of very poor quality.

It seems odd until you ask yourself the question – what is the military actually for? The West has no actual enemies in the sense of hostile nation states with formidable conventional military forces. The enemies that the media tries to get us worried about our illusory enemies. The Russians just want to be left alone. They have their own problems to deal with. The Chinese have no interest in anything outside their own backyard and their backyard is a long long way from any western nation. There are no other countries possessing military establishments that could possibly be a threat to the West.

The military and political establishments in the West are well aware of this. But there is one enemy that they are genuinely worried about. And that’s the enemy within. They are worried about the prospect of large-scale civil unrest as citizens increasingly lose enthusiasm for the globalist and social justice agendas. They are worried that civil unrest could escalate to riots, or even worse. The enemy they fear is their own people. They fear a repetition of 1968 in France, they fear the troubles that brought down the French Fourth Republic, they fear a repeat of the anti-Vietnam War protests, they fear a revival of anti-globalisation violence. They fear that their own people will, when pushed too far, turn against them.

That means they need a military that they can rely on absolutely. A military that is fiercely loyal to the regime. That means a military filled with women, minorities, homosexuals, trannies etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s a military of unfit overweight misfits, as long as those misfits can be relied upon to shoot down their own people if the government tells them to do so. An army of white heterosexual men might not obey such orders. The political and military establishment are confident that the new diverse army will obey such orders. An army of misfits will be loyal because they have no choice. They are entirely dependent on the government. They will pull the trigger on their own people.

There is another fear. What if civil unrest breaks out and elements within the military decide to throw in their lot with the dissidents and stage a coup? That’s a real possibility if you have a military with pride and esprit de corps, a military composed of men who believe in duty and sacrifice. The answer to that is to ensure that the entire officer corps is composed of reliable people. Female officers and homosexual officers – these people are of little use in the military but they’re even less useful in the real world. Their careers are all they have. They will be loyal.

The modern army does not have to be tough enough to take on professional battle-hardened troops. It just needs to be politically reliable to shoot Deplorables should that become necessary.

pop culture time capsules, The F.B.I. (1965)

I have a great fondness for the pop culture of the past. This includes vintage television which is in fact one of the great loves.

Once you become red-pilled though you find that vintage pop culture can be a little disturbing. For one thing, you can’t avoid noticing the propaganda. And the liberal propaganda was always there in television, going right back to the 50s.

At times watching old TV shows can also be an oddly melancholic experience. That’s what I’m finding at the moment with The F.B.I., or more specifically with the first season of that series. The F.B.I. was an immensely popular series which aired from 1965 to 1974. It’s the fact that the first season originated in 1965 that gives it a real poignancy. 1965 was a very very pivotal year. Everything was about to change. Pop culture can offer us a fascinating window into the past and can sometimes be more illuminating than official history.

The 1965 season of The F.B.I. shows us an America that is peaceful, prosperous, united and confident. What’s interesting is that this is a crime series, so it actually has an agenda to show us the darker side of society. Which it does. It makes no attempt to deny that problems exist. However the overwhelming feeling that the show conveys is that these problems are entirely manageable. They are challenges that can be, and will be, met and overcome.

There’s the challenge of organised crime but the Bureau is already giving that top priority. There’s communist subversion but in this series the communists are mostly paid agents of foreign governments and mostly they’re involved in sabotage. In those happy days of 1965 no-one had considered the possibility that society might be much more effectively undermined by subversives taking control of the education system and the media. Erskine, the older of the two F.B.I. agents featured in the series, actually wants his daughter to stay in college rather than get married. It’s difficult to think of a more wrong-headed notion but in 1965 college still seemed like a good idea.

Drugs are mentioned but are seen as purely a law enforcement problem and as another challenge that can be met. Vietnam gets mentioned in passing but there’s no sense that it’s going to prove to be an historical watershed. The horrors of feminism and militant LGBT activism weren’t even on the horizon. Pornography was seen as a threat but a threat that could be largely eliminated by vigorous law enforcement. The idea that within a few years a policy of complete surrender on this subject would be adopted and the country flooded with pornography would have been considered crazy talk in 1965.

There’s one episode in which a cab driver decides to become an F.B.I. informant. I don’t mean that he’s a reluctant witness who is persuaded to come forward. He volunteers to be an active informant, seeking out information to pass on to the Bureau. And he does this because he thinks it’s his duty as a citizen. Even two or three years later I don’t think such a decision could have been presented in such an unironic way. In fact that’s one of the notable things about the 1965 season of The F.B.I. – it is totally lacking in irony. Which I think is wonderful.

America in 1965 is not exactly portrayed as being complacent, merely very confident. Democracy seemed to be working. The political and economic system as a whole seemed to be delivering the goods. Technological progress appeared to be limitless and entirely a good thing.

By 1974, when this series ended its run, the society depicted in the first season had pretty much ceased to exist. And it was a disaster that, apparently, was entirely unexpected.

The series is politically incorrect, and often delightfully so, but in those innocent times no-one knew that political correctness was going to become a thing. The F.B.I. is extremely good but watching it  really is desperately sad at times.

Orwell reconsidered

I’ve been reading a collection of George Orwell’s essays and it’s been a slightly disturbing experience. If you’re accustomed to thinking of Orwell as a remarkably prescient and perceptive writer with a knack for penetrating to the heart of the matter it can even be a shocking experience.

The truth is that Orwell did not have quite the brilliant mind that w’ve been led to believe. He was quite good at pointing out the fallacies in other people’s thinking but he was prone to making exactly the same mistakes himself. He points out that most people believe atrocity stories when the atrocities are allegedly carried out by people of whom they disapprove, and tend to disbelieve atrocity stories when those atrocities are alleged to have been committed by people of whom they approve. This is true and it’s very important. And then in the same essay he assures us that we should believe all the stories of Fascist atrocities in the Spanish Civil War because, after all, the Fascists are bad people. They’re people of whom Orwell disapproves.

Orwell had a knack for being wrong, or at least for being partly right but mostly wrong. He believed that the first year of the war had conclusively demonstrated the failure of capitalism. Britain could not hope to survive unless it adopted full-scale socialism. Without socialism Orwell was convinced that defeat was inevitable. He was of course partly correct. Britain (and the United States) did adopt a form of War Socialism, and it is quite likely that victory would have been impossible otherwise. What Orwell failed to anticipate was that once the war was won the ruling class would reinstate capitalism. He also failed to anticipate the way in which the working class would be bought off with the expansion of the welfare state which eliminated any desire on the part of the working class for the kind of full-scale socialism that Orwell craved.

Let’s be quite clear about this. For all his opposition to national socialism and Soviet communism Orwell was most certainly not a moderate leftist. He was a hardcore socialist. Orwell’s vision of the ideal future was pretty much full-on communism. On the other hand Orwell seemed to disapprove of all the established leftist groupings. He despised the Labour Party. He despised the English communists. He particularly loathed what he called the pansy left. He talks about a kind of democratic socialism which really is pure fantasy. The kind of socialism that Orwell wanted was never going to be brought about by the ballot box. Orwell’s beliefs were doubtless since but hopelessly unrealistic.

Orwell also suffered from a crippling case of colonial guilt. He had been, briefly, a colonial policeman in Burma. It was a career for which he was ludicrously unsuited and it turned him into a rabid but somewhat irrational anti-imperialist. He was convinced that Britain’s prosperity was based entirely on the exploitation of the huddled masses of India and Britain’s other colonial outposts.

All of this of course just shows that Orwell was human and was as much a prey to intellectual prejudices and emotional misjudgments as anyone else. His belief in socialism doesn’t bother me but it does seem to me that his ideas as to how it could be implemented were hopelessly naïve. His dislike of imperialism also doesn’t bother me although he does take it to an unrealistic extreme. The European colonial empires may have been a disastrous mistake but to see them as having not even the slightest positive element is I think going too far.

Orwell had a somewhat unique perspective. Intellectual circles in Britain in the 30s and 40s were fairly overwhelmingly dominated by leftism but Orwell was a kind of contrarian communist who managed to remain entirely independent of all the established leftist groupings. For this reason alone his essays are worth reading.

The First World War and the death of empires

It is now exactly a hundred years since the guns stopped firing in the First World War. I don’t propose to discuss the rights and wrongs of the war since there is little to be said on that subject that hasn’t already been said.

I do want to take about one of the most evil of all the evil results of the war.

The war destroyed four great empires – the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. I’m sure that none of those empires could have been described as perfect but they were all significantly better than what replaced them.

The destruction of the German Empire led to the chaos of the Weimar Republic and then to Hitler.

The destruction of the Russian Empire paved the way for the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917. The Russian Empire was autocratic and authoritarian certainly but it was not especially brutal. It was also an empire that was booming. Contrary to popularly held views the collapse of the Tsarist empire was by no means inevitable. In fact in 1914 there was every reason to think that it had a bright future in front of it. The war brought Lenin to power. Without the war Lenin would have lived out his days as just another failed revolutionary in exile. He would hardly have qualified even as a footnote to history.

The destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire led to some extraordinarily ill-advised territorial reorganisations which were always going to end up leading to further war.

And most of the horrors that have been visited upon the Middle East in the last century can be said to be due to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The First World War changed everything and remarkably it changed almost everything in extraordinarily disastrous ways. It’s difficult to think of a single good thing that came out of that war.

That’s the trouble with wars. They set in motion events that are entirely unpredictable and are often the exact opposite of the result that had been hoped for. What they destroy can never be rebuilt. They kindle a fatal desire for political and social experimentation. They encourage the entirely pernicious desire to change things.

Most wars would have been better not fought. That applies particularly strongly to the First World War.

conservatives and history

It is a curious fact that conservatives (I mean mainstream political conservatives rather than social conservatives) have never conserved anything and have never seriously tried to do so. The explanation is of course that mainstream conservatives are in fact liberals. Their entire worldview is liberal to the core. But how is it that these conservatives have never been troubled by the contradictions inherent in being liberals who call themselves conservatives?

Perhaps part of the explanation is the Whig view of history which has reigned unchallenged (particularly in the Anglosphere) for centuries. The Whig view of history is that the whole of history is an inevitable progression towards the Promised Land in which society will be organised entirely upon pure liberal lines. Its only challenger has been Marxist history but the Marxist approach to history is merely a variation on the Whig approach. To Marxist historians the endpoint of history is a society organised upon pure Marxist lines but the process is identical. History is inevitable, history is progressive, the trend is always towards a better and more virtuous world, change is good because change is always for the better (because old things and old ways are always bad), the good guys (the liberals) always triumph in the end.

In other times and places quite different views of history have prevailed. Cyclical views of history seemed to have predominated in the ancient world and in the East. The Christian view of history, that it is the unfolding of God’s plan, was at one time immensely influential. For the past couple of hundred years cyclical views of history have been very much on the fringe whilst the Christian view of history is now held only by extremist Christian heretics such as dispensationalists. Mainstream Christians accept the fundamentally anti-Christian Whig view of history.

It’s inherent in the Whig view that everything that happens in history will always turn out in the long run to be liberal and progressive and good and in accordance with Whig principles, because it’s in the very nature of history that liberalism must be the winning side. Liberalism is on the right side of history.

So naturally the outcome of historical conflicts, whether military or political, must tend to contribute to the defeat of those on the Wrong Side Of History. This means that the winners of any military or political conflict must be the good guys. Conservatives tend to believe this, and in fact most of us believe it because for several centuries we have been thoroughly indoctrinated in the Whig approach to history. It’s interesting that this even applies to obviously disastrous wars like the First World War. No matter how appalled we may be by that exercise in butchery most of us still feel that somehow the Germans must have been the bad guys, simply because they lost.  The fact that they lost is enough to prove that they were in the wrong.

This is an attitude that is unconsciously adhered to by most people in the Anglosphere. Victory in war is proof that one is on the Right Side of History. Mainstream conservatives do not question this because to do so would be to question the rightness and the inevitable triumph of liberalism.

This also applies to victory in political struggles. While it may seem obvious that the Sexual Revolution that began in the 60s was a catastrophe in every way and is something that needs to be undone if society is to survive very very few mainstream conservatives would dare to think such a thing, much less say it. It’s the same with the triumphs of feminism and the homosexual lobby. Mainstream conservatives are unwilling to adopt a radically critical stance towards such matters because the very fact that those who pushed the Sexual Revolution and feminism and the homosexual agenda succeeded proves that they were on the Right Side of History. Clearly those cataclysmic social changes were Meant To Be.

The irony is that conservatives end up being totally opposed to the idea of conserving anything because the only way to be on the Right Side of History is to be favour of constant change.

nations in decline

There’s an interesting debate at A Political Refugee From the Global Village on the subject of Britain’s decline.

Decline is a tricky concept. A nation can be declining absolutely or relatively. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was extremely healthy in 1914 but it was perhaps declining relative to the other great powers.

Nations can be declining in certain areas and booming in other areas.

Australia today is unquestionably in material terms a lot more prosperous than it was when I was growing up. Just as unquestionably it is now a much less pleasant country in which to live. The cities are much more crowded and they are dirtier. There’s a subtle atmosphere of suspicion and hostility that wasn’t there in the past.

People are much less relaxed. People feel less secure.

Half a century ago we had little in the way of an actual Australian culture. Today we have even less. Culturally we are entirely an American colony. We even celebrate Halloween, a purely American festival that was unknown in Australia even a couple of decades ago. We copy every aspect of American pop culture. We have become a much more crass much more trashy society.

This is all subjective, but it’s the subjective things that matter to people.

Australia’s position in the world has not really changed. Half a century ago we were a U.S. vassal state. Militarily and politically that hasn’t changed. Psychologically that hasn’t changed. We think of ourselves as having no right to an independent foreign policy.

We might be doing well economically but psychologically and spiritually we’re in deep trouble. We’re not happy but we can’t figure out that we’re not happy because material wealth does not bring happiness.