June 13, 2019

Bernie surrenders to Biden's comparative advantage - fake Nazi hunting - against his class-first appeal

Way back in February 2016, before Super Tuesday, I correctly predicted the end of the Bernie campaign based on his shift from class-first socialism to identity politics and intersectionality as he went to South Carolina, where most Democrat primary voters are black. He did not go full libtard on phony racial issues, but he did begin talking more about the incarceration rate, police brutality, and other issues that especially affect blacks.

It was the attempt to "do both" -- socialism and identitarianism -- that scuttled his challenge to Hillary Clinton. Any mention whatsoever of identity groups plays directly into the hands of the Establishment neoliberals like Clinton, whose entire appeal is identity politics -- either alone, or mixed with left-ish economic promises (that never materialize, which is the whole point of distracting with id-pol).

Bernie's comparative advantage was class politics, not id-pol, and who knows how well he could've done with Southern blacks by focusing like a laser on how materially poorer they've gotten over the past 40 years, including under Obama.

And lest anyone doubt how much I had predicted that far in advance, go read that post and see that I correctly called Trump as the GOP nominee, Trump as winner of the general election, the main issues being economic populism and party realignment, Trump leaving aside GOP id-pol (which Cruz took up instead, and massively failed even with GOP primary voters), demoralized Sanders supporters not turning out for Hillary in the general, defection of Sandernistas to Trump (10-15% of Bernie voters ended up voting Trump), and the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin and Michigan being central to this upset victory.

It didn't take a genius to figure all of that out so far in advance -- it just took someone who wasn't a complete retard, and someone who has not been a braindead partisan masturbater their entire life. That's why the events that unfolded during that electoral season took the Very Serious Thinkers all by surprise -- most of them barely have 3-digit IQs, and the rest are emotionally crippled partisans who produce and consume punditry as a form of therapy.

So now it saddens me to see these events happening all over again leading up to 2020, arguably in a worse form than four years ago. Bernie himself, his political circle, and the Democrat electorate in general, have only further minimized the class politics of his 2016 campaign and ramped up the id-pol hysteria that only favors the status quo candidate, now Biden instead of Hillary.

A socialist like Bernie can only halfass id-pol and intersectionality -- if voters are primed to want that, they will go with the unadulterated real deal, the neoliberal Establishment. Nazi hunting benefits CIA liberals for whom that is their specialty -- Jake Tapper, Evan McMullin, and their political vehicles like Clinton and Biden. That is not anywhere close to Bernie's specialty, so such voters would never choose him over Biden.

In a way, Bernie has already entered the concession stage of the campaign, and moved beyond advancing his own distinctive brand of politics, to re-purposing that branding in the service of the themes that will dominate the Establishment's general campaign.

This shift was decisively signaled by Bernie's speech on democratic socialism this week, although the changes have been building for awhile. Back in 2017, Bernie's speeches would only deliver a throwaway line about Russia / Putin / Mueller, another throwaway line about bigotry, and still made sure to emphasize the need to reach out to and convert Trump voters, who were not Nazis but desperate people whom the neoliberal economy had utterly failed.

By now, those speeches are unrecognizable, and would get him instantly canceled by the entire Democrat base -- moderates, libs, leftoids, and anarcho-LARPers, all of whom are shrieking about Trump and his administration representing a sudden and uniquely fascistic threat to the very foundations of America as a nation and to the democratic form of government.

To cater to this demand from the emotionally broken voters themselves, Bernie's campaign has subordinated the class politics of socialism to the neoliberal goal of distraction by Nazi-hunting. In the dem-soc speech, the entire dramatic tension comes from the sudden, rising threat of far-right authoritarianism not only in the US but all over the world. That is the main faultline that separates good from evil, light from dark, Us from Them. It's just like it was in the 1930s. Will humanity save itself as it did back then, or will we lose the war and perish for good as democratic nations?

In this narrative, the whole populist economic appeal is merely a means to a Nazi-hunting end -- just as FDR implemented the New Deal and beat Germany in WWII, so too can we only rely on a New New Deal implemented by Bernie to defeat the worldwide neo-Nazi menace. The improvement to our material standard of living and social solidarity is just a pleasant side-effect of the far more existentially crucial battle against far-right authoritarianism. This is the antifa-cation of Bernie's message over the past several years.

First, the history is completely wrong. Nazi Germany was not a sudden out-of-the-blue threat -- Prussia had been an expansionist nation since it became a kingdom in 1700, after Central Europe had recovered from the Thirty Years War. In the 18th century, they were led by an Enlightened absolutist monarch (Frederick the Great), and had clearly reached major power status by 1870, when they quickly knocked out France in the Franco-Prussian War, and unified the formerly fragmented German states. After reaching their peak around the time of Bismarck, they lost WWI and suffered devastating punishment by the victors. The Nazis were just the last desperate attempt to salvage Prussia's former greatness, and they lost even more decisively than they had in WWI, and were now de-militarized and indefinitely occupied by the military of the main victor (the US).

That centuries-long geopolitical expansion is the whole reason that the Nazis were a threat to anyone outside of Germany. Nobody cared about right-wing authoritarians in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and the Slavic Balkans because none of those nations had been expanding for centuries. The only other source of fear at the time was the Empire of Japan -- another state that had been expanding geopolitically for centuries.

So in the early 21st century, where the hell are these expansionist empires who might actually threaten Americans or others, supposing that far-right authoritarians were to take over their government? Nowhere in Europe, nowhere in the Americas -- other than the US itself -- nowhere in Africa, nowhere in Central or Southern Asia, and nowhere in Eastern Asia. China has been ruled by the left, not the right, since the Communist era, and they are not expansionist -- and even if they were, that would only threaten mainland Asian nations, not America. Its economic miracle is entirely the gift of Western manufacturing cartels using it as a cheap labor colony for off-shoring, as they have de-industrialized their own economies.

The only expansionist nation that is run by religious and militarist right-wing authoritarians, and that continues to pose a threat not only to their neighbors but to the American people -- is Saudi Arabia, expanding since circa 1750, but clearly past their Mid-20th century peak (just like us). In fairness, Bernie's speech does mention Mohammad bin Salman as one of the far-right authoritarians who threaten the world, and who Trump has allied himself with (as has every American president since the Cold War).

But unlike Nazi Germany vs. Europe or the US, the Saudis are a client state of the Pentagon, so all we need to do with them is cut them off as part of the unwinding of the impotent American empire. Socialism is neither here nor there for countering the radical Islamic threat of the Arabians.

Nor was socialism integral to defeating Germany in WWII. It wasn't only the US that had a proto- or quasi-socialist government that arose during the Great Depression -- so did Britain and France, and yet they were powerless to stop Germany. Yugoslavia had an effective Communist-led resistance to Nazi occupation, but they were not crucial in defeating Germany outside of the Balkans. It was the Soviets who did the heavy lifting to defeat Germany. It was not their Communism that helped them defeat Germany, but the fact that they were a large-scale expanding state themselves, as were the Americans. It was geopolitical trends of expanding vs. contracting states, not their internal control by the socialist left or the conservative or fascist right, that determined the outcome.

And of course, the US mostly sat out WWII in Europe. Bernie's speech reinforces the Cold War-influenced Boomerism that America joined the Allies in WWII to defeat the Nazis on account of their being violent racists, and that we were mainly responsible for their defeat. Back on Planet Earth, we only joined WWII after Japan -- not Germany -- attacked one of our Pacific Island colonial outposts. Japan's expansion in the Pacific was on a collision course with our own westward expansion toward the Pacific.

We were not expanding into Europe, so the Germans posed us no imminent geopolitical threat -- and so we let the Europeans fight amongst themselves, swooping in to the power vacuum afterwards to make it a colony (NATO, Marshall Plan, supporting EU, etc.). We infamously turned back boats of Jews fleeing the Holocaust, sent our military very late during the rise of the Nazis, and played a minor role in the West compared to the Soviets' major role in the East. Right after the war ended, we helped install the right wing in power in Germany and Italy, since they were preferable to the social democrats who might be sympathetic to the Soviets.

With Germany out of the expansionist picture, it was only Russia who posed us any geopolitical threat as we expanded into occupying Europe. Just like that, we went from attacking Nazis to attacking the Nazi-attackers. It had nothing to do with right vs left, identity politics, or anything like that -- only cold hard geopolitical matters of who was expanding in a region in which we were also expanding, and who we would be on a collision course with.

Bernie's speech glorifies militarism and imperialism, keeping American Boomer brains ever focused on the one war where we played a decent role, and ignoring the other wars that America fought under the New Deal Democrats. Why doesn't Bernie hype up the Korean War, Vietnam War, support for the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, etc.? Not only because those wars all failed to bring the regions under the US sphere of influence -- and so would painfully remind Boomers that the US military is past its WWII peak -- but because they would discredit his speech's premise that we can somehow contain a "socialist militarism" to only the good wars. If we subordinate socialism to militarism, it will be utilized even where we are clearly the evil ones -- as the Great Society president did in Southeast Asia -- because militarism is amoral, looking only at geopolitical expansion and contraction, not what any of the state actors stand for.

By fundamentally miscasting the sources and results of the New Deal, Bernie's speech fails to re-ignite support for it with today's voters. The triggering event was the Great Depression, not the German invasion of Poland. The forces leading up to the triggering event were laissez-faire economics, not Prussian geopolitical expansion. The elites who ushered in those forces were the robber barons, not the Nazis. The main victory of the New Deal was a rising standard of living, increased solidarity, a more stable economic system and business cycle, and a more egalitarian distribution of wealth, not German military defeat and occupation. And the main losers were the industrialist elites, not former Nazis.

In the ham-fisted attempt to stitch together these two entirely separate narratives, the speech does mention the latter-day robber barons (oligarchs) who dominate our 21st-century society, but casts them as villains primarily for allying with the supposed far-right authoritarians who are on the rise across the world, and only secondarily for their policies of bailouts for the rich, austerity for everyone else. In the speech, it is the far-right authoritarians, not the oligarchs, who represent the imminent apocalyptic threat -- so the robber barons are reduced to the role of fascism-enablers. Hardly the ringing endorsement that the neoliberals would give to the Jeff Bezoses and Walton families of the world, but still minimizing their role and obfuscating about who and what are the real threats to the common good in 2019.

At the big-picture level, Bernie's speech was hardly different from Hillary's speech about the Alt-Right and right-wing authoritarians led by Putin, which was a reliable sign of her demise at the polls a few months later. Bernie's speech only differs on the proposed solution to the threat, not what the major threat is. And again, if he portrays far-right authoritarianism as the major threat and campaign theme, voters will rush right into Joe Biden's creepy embrace. Being the global policeman for liberal values is the Establishment's specialty, not Bernie's.

Normal people understand that there are no far-right authoritarians in power anywhere, other than perhaps Saudi Arabia, that no such movement is even afoot in the US, and that a handful of right-wingers posting anti-Jewish memes on Twitter doesn't matter. Even the occasional mass shooting of a synagogue is not enough to make normal people assess the threat as equivalent to radical Islam, responsible for orders of magnitude more deaths in recent memory (9/11). Mass shootings in general get attention, but there are too many to keep track of, and most do not involve identitarian motives.

With the antifa-cation of his message, Bernie's campaign has boxed itself into advocating for the 1% rather than the 99% -- the 1% of the population who are deranged libtards that binge-consume Rachel Maddow (if Boomers) or blue-check Twitter (if Gen X or Millennial). And by casting Trump as a far-right authoritarian, and by casting socialism as a prophylactic against far-right extremism, he's implicitly condemning a big chunk of Trump voters as fascist enablers. No different from Hillary's "basket of deplorables" speech about what voting for Trump amounted to, whatever their motives may have been.

You cannot run on such a polarizing message and fight for the great majority. Instead, the main source of divisiveness has come from the insane liberals and leftoids. Trump united a large coalition thought to be impossible for a Republican to unite by 2016, whereas the Democrats were then, and sadly still are now, railing against any end to the pointless culture war.

Most of Trump's crucial voters (distinct from kneejerk GOP voters) are ready to defect, in the wake of his utter inability to get anything done in office (indeed, everything has gotten worse that he promised to make better). The only candidates who Tucker Carlson is even remotely excited about are Bernie, Tulsi, Yang, and Warren -- all Democrats, and those whose economic values are left rather than right.

But they aren't going to go through all the costs of yet another seismic campaign unless it's at least as good as the last one they joined. And one that subordinates economic populism to global-scale Nazi goose-chasing is not that campaign. I'm still sticking with Bernie, because he's still the best choice in 2020, but he's not going to get the same level of sympathy from Independents and Republicans that he did in 2016, if he keeps up this antifa-cation bullshit. Nothing short of a total overhaul on these issues will improve his campaign's already dim prospects.

The Bernie movement's goal always had to be sidelining the hysterical freaks and converting Trump sympathizers -- conservative GOP-ers looking to abandon the sinking ship of Reaganism, as well as Independents who hate both parties -- and signing up and organizing those who normally just sit out the primary or general election. Otherwise, the same ol' Democrat voters would nominate the same ol' neoliberal candidate like Clinton or Biden.

They have chosen partisanship and left purity above getting contaminated by ritually unclean Trump voters or disaffected non-voters, and they are getting shellacked by the Establishment because of it. Bernie struggles to crack 20% in polls, while Biden does not fall below 30%, and that gap has only gotten worse since Bernie rolled out his campaign in February. Their realignment will not happen until at least 2024, and if they continue to refuse alliances with those necessary to win, they can forget about '24 too.

The only glimmer of hope is that the upcoming recession will be a Great Depression-level catastrophe, so painful that it forces the libtards to stop masturbating to their Nazi-hunting fantasies, and train their sights squarely on the real-world threats of laissez-faire, oligarchy per se, and inequality, uniting the great majority of the country in that fight to bring back order after decades of teetering neoliberal chaos.

Their fantasies are luxuries that can only be afforded during comfortable times, and so far the current economic bubble has yet to fully burst. If they were working-class, they would have been mired in hard times for awhile now, but they are all professional-class strivers who have benefited massively from Obama's re-inflation of the info-economy bubble.

Once the global central banks are no longer running the printing presses, the venture capitalists who fund their online media outlet will cut them off, and they will have to move back in with their parents in flyover country, bye-bye Brooklyn. Only when they are materially forced to re-join the human race will they be able to pursue a humanizing political project like socialism.

June 5, 2019

Brexit requires Corbyn - Le Pen (and Salvini) alliance of realigners to defeat status quo Germany

Britain's decision to leave the EU has so far turned out to be as successful as America's decision to build a wall on the southern border, exit Afghanistan, and narrow the trade deficit.

That's because the intended vehicle for these changes was the very party that started the mess in the first place -- the Conservatives in Britain under May and the GOP in America under Trump, each the disjunctive descendant of neoliberal pioneers Thatcher and Reagan. Like bloody hell a systemic realignment would come from the party that has benefited the most from the status quo, by founding and sustaining it all along.

These regime dynamics are what's missing in the recent discussion of Brexit on the What's Left podcast. Aimee Terese and Benjamin Studebaker correctly point out how Britain is in no position to take on the entire rest of the EU -- they're a far larger bloc than even a major member like Britain. So no matter who is sent to negotiate on behalf of the Brexiteers, they will never receive favorable terms from the EU.

The Conservatives, or any Brexit party that amounts to a spin-off of the Conservatives, is guaranteed to fail because their own party has benefited the most from neoliberalism, including EU integration. Labour, once realigned under someone like Corbyn (a Eurosceptic from the left), would face less headwinds from their own party's elite sectors.

But the point remains that Britain cannot take on the big bad EU all by itself. However, this assumes that the EU is monolithic and without its own tensions, especially the potential or actual realignments among its major members, all of which are pointing toward disintegrating the EU and trying to salvage economic nationalism (proto-socialism) from the Mid-20th century.

Italy is already on its way toward such a realignment. The dominant coalition during the neoliberal era there -- and elsewhere in the Mediterranean, including France -- has been the left, whereas the dominant coalition during the more egalitarian Midcentury was the right. (In Italy, it was more centrist, but when the opposition is the Communists, the centrist coalition is the relatively more right-wing of the two.)

Salvini hails from the right, but has struck a deal with the left on the welfare state -- agreeing to a wealth transfer from the prosperous North to the poorer South, in the form of a "citizen's income," in return for pursuing a more nationalist program on immigration and EU membership.

Most would dismiss Italy as a partner in an anti-EU coalition along with a Labour-led Brexit movement, because it is so heavily indebted and not in a strong position to dictate terms. Still, its GDP is 4th among Europe (after Germany, Britain, and France), and its population is also 4th behind those countries. It is not a minor country, but its debt levels leave it more at the mercy of its peers, especially the German banks. But Corbyn should still pursue an alliance with Salvini, even if it will not by itself deal the fatal blow to the EU.

That would require pitting the two other major, not-so-indebted countries against each other -- France and Germany. There is currently almost no Eurosceptic political movement in Germany, and it's not surprising since that country has benefited more than any other from the EU system. Why radically alter what has been working so well for you? They are a distinct 1st place by GDP in Europe, and much of that is real productive output -- industrial-scale manufacturing, not only financial services. That massive weight and ability to make its own real stuff gives it an outsized advantage over the other countries.

So, that leaves France as the nation to partner with for the Brexiteers. Studebaker mentions this possibility, but doesn't pursue it to the logical conclusion -- that Corbyn must form an alliance with Le Pen. As a Mediterranean country, France has been led by the left during the neoliberal era, in contrast to being led by the right during the proto-socialist Midcentury. That points to the right being the coalition that will realign the system away from the current regime, and clearly that will be the National Rally led by Le Pen, which unlike the other right-wing parties of this era, has decided to defend and expand the welfare state, in return for a more nationalist approach to immigration and EU membership.

There is a national election in France due for early 2022, and already the opinion polls show that Le Pen has closed the gap with Macron by 20 points compared to the last election in 2017. Back then, the status quo left candidate Macron won by 66 to 34, while recent polling shows him only winning 56 to 44. There is a major recession or even depression that will strike in the early 2020s, so we can expect those numbers to flip in favor of Le Pen by election day.

Even if the central bank of the US holds off on triggering the recession until after the 2020 US election (far from a certainty), that still leaves over a year for it to impact the 2022 national elections in France, Britain, and Germany.

In Britain, that would mean the end of the Conservative dominance during the neoliberal era. Already opinion polls show Labour + Brexit at about a 50% majority outright. The major trend there is the Brexiteers splitting off from the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats splitting off from Labour. If Corbyn can get those who have left the Conservatives over the single issue of Brexit, then the realignment will be a done deal.

They will need some reassurance, though, and partnering with Le Pen and Salvini will convince them that he's not just a partisan do-nothing, but serious about transforming the system with bipartisan support. Such an alliance would also convince voters that Corbyn could actually deliver the goods on Brexit, unlike the Conservatives, who would not be caught dead partnering with Le Pen or Salvini (UK Conservatives are the status quo party, not the realignment party).

Only by partnering with like-minded leaders in France -- and Italy for good measure -- could Corbyn pull off a Brexit deal with favorable terms, since his delegation would not be facing a monolithic EU delegation, but one fragmented into Germany on one side and Britain, France, and Italy on the other.

"Like-minded" leaders in France and Italy will not be from the left, who are the dominant status quo party in the Mediterranean. In the southern countries, Corbyn must partner with Eurosceptic populists from the right -- the only option to choose from in that region. He might like it if realignment were coming from the left in France, but it is not. Quite the opposite, the left is the source of the disjunctive defense of the status quo, namely Macron.

"Left" and "right" are only minor variations on the theme of the zeitgeist. Neoliberalism has been implemented equally by the right (in the Anglo countries) and the left (in the Mediterranean). Before that, proto-socialism was implemented equally by the right (in the Med) and the left (Anglos). As we transform the system, realignment will come equally from the right (Med) and the left (Anglos).

That is what the task at hand is -- major realignment of the system, not just switching from one variation to another within the same regime. The Corbynites' job is to find other Eurosceptics who will be the ones in charge of the new regime in their countries over the course of the 2020s, whether they are on the left (the Bernie people in America) or the right (in the Med).

I've already predicted that realignment in the US will have to wait until 2024, since the Democrats are not ready to surrender their braindead partisanship and pick off the populist Trump voters (ewww, disgusting contamination from ritually unclean scum). That is true for both the Democrat elites as well as the common voters, both of whom are poised to pick Biden over Bernie during the primary. This is like the two terms of disjunctive rule that preceded our Civil War, the only other time in our nation's history when polarization has been this intense.

I'm sure polarization is also bad and rising in Europe, but it cannot be as awful as it is here. The proof is that Italy has already kicked off its realignment -- and Italians can rarely agree on anything, especially regarding wealth redistribution from the North to the South. The Yellow Vests protests in France have been bipartisan or nonpartisan, and the original Brexit campaign was similarly bi/non-partisan. If they can forge the alliance by the 2022 elections, that will allow a cascade of realignments to be set off in Europe ahead of our election in 2024, which ought to be when we realign under a Bernie-style Democrat party.

Partisan self-indulgence will not only derail any attempt to become the new dominant coalition in one's own country, it will also prevent the international alliances necessary to wield enough collective leverage against the status quo.

June 1, 2019

Made-to-order robo-gf archetype appears as guys retreat during vulnerable phase of cultural excitement cycle

Recent posts on the archetypes of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and the supportive sex worker have looked at what types of women appeal to men during the restless warm-up phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, as they feel like coming out of their shells and may need a little coaxing from those types of women.

But what types appeal to them while they are still in a social-emotional refractory state during the vulnerable phase? Rather than want to be drawn out, they want to hunker down and escape from their social world. This leads them to prefer make-believe women, blank slates customized to their tastes, so that they don't have to deal with the messy real world and all the social sensory overload that would entail, while still enjoying at least a simulation of a girlfriend.

The focus here is not on all kinds of female robots, but only those who are playing the social role of a girlfriend. They may or may not be physically intimate with the male character.

Why a customized, blank-slate robot instead of a real person with a fully formed personality? Because a woman with her own personality cannot be altered, and the man must adapt his own fully formed personality to hers, and she to his. Unable to change each other, they have to figure out how to work together despite not fitting each other precisely like puzzle pieces. The initial work done in a relationship is learning who the other person is, what makes them tick, and so on. All of this social-emotional effort is too much for someone in a refractory state. A blank slate that is customized to his tastes obviates all of that effort, and makes the relationship feel tolerable.

I'm only counting examples from mainstream or popular works, since I'm sure there are nerds who are portraying such types in paperbacks, b-movies, and animes all the time. Sci-fi and fantasy genres aren't the most popular genres, so movies featuring these types are not too common in any period. But when they do show up, they are clustered in the vulnerable phase.

During the current vulnerable phase of the late 2010s, there was Ex Machina, the Westworld TV series, and Blade Runner 2049 (unlike the female replicants in this one and the original, Joi is a blank slate, made-to-order girlfriend).

During the early 2000s, there was Simone and a re-make of The Stepford Wives.

During the late '80s, there was Weird Science and Mannequin.

During the early '70s, there was the original Westworld movie and the original Stepford Wives movie. Technically, The Stepford Wives came out in early 1975, though the novel it was based on came out in 1972. You can either count that story as from the first half of the '70s, or as the smallest of deviations from the pattern (off by 44 days, compared to the phase length of 5 years).

During the late '50s, The Twilight Zone was the only mainstream sci-fi / fantasy outlet (for movies, these genres didn't get big until the '60s). And sure enough, there was an episode from 1959, "The Lonely," whose central plot device is a robo-gf.

I couldn't easily find any examples from the early '40s, though again the genres were not that popular back then, and there was no TV. Perhaps there was a hit radio program like The Twilight Zone that had one, I don't know.

But from the late '20s, there was the first and most iconic example -- the robot from Metropolis.

There are two possible exceptions -- like the original Stepford Wives, not much of a deviation, though, missing the cut by one year.

In early 1990, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation ("Hollow Pursuits") revolves around a crew member withdrawing to the make-believe world of the Holodeck where he re-programs the personalities of female characters who look like his attractive colleagues, so that they fall for him.

Also in 1990, the protagonist's butt-kicking babe sidekick in Total Recall is supposedly programmed as part of his fantasy vacation. I'm not sure this fits the category of a make-believe entity, though. The company messes with your brain to implant a false memory of your fantasy, similar to programming your dreams. It's not an actual thing he's interacting with in the real world. It's akin to specifying what kind of call girl he wants to show up to his hotel room, only in a dream-world. Also, the movie is ambiguous about whether or not the protagonist really goes through with the memory-altering procedure, so this woman may be a real person after all.

I'm excluding Her from 2013's manic phase, since the female-voiced operating system that the protag develops feelings for is not a blank slate that he customizes to fulfill his fantasies. She has her own personality, goals, and willfulness, and he has to learn to adapt himself to her as much as she must adapt to him. This is more of an "odd couple" pairing, specifically the fish out of water type, which showed up in another fantasy movie from an earlier manic phase -- Splash from 1984. But that may be the topic for another post.

May 27, 2019

Denmark leads the way on left realignment toward immigration restriction and anti-globalization

Denmark's political regime cycles are similar to our own in America, as well as Canada and the UK (though not our Anglo cousins of the South Pacific). These regime cycles are the opposite of those in the Mediterranean (including France), which have seen the same overall outcomes unfolding, but with the dominant vs. opposition status of the left-wing and right-wing coalitions switched around.

In Denmark, the neoliberal era since circa 1980 has been led by the more right-wing of the two coalitions, beginning with Prime Minister Schluter in 1982. The left coalition led the government during the 1990s (Poul Rasmussen) and the early 2010s (Thorning-Schmidt), but they did not overturn the basic neoliberal order begun by the dominant right-wing side -- similar to Clinton and Obama during our Reaganite era.

Before this era, it was the left who was the dominant coalition, going back to Stauning's rule in the late 1920s. He was like FDR here, and also won one election after another during the Great Depression. We can call these regimes proto-socialism. In Denmark, that order ground to a stagnating halt during the 1970s, just like it did everywhere else. The end of that era was presided over by an ineffectual would-be reformer of the dominant coalition, Jorgensen, who was like our Jimmy Carter.

Toward the end of the current neoliberal era, a populist attempt to radically reform the system from the right appeared from seemingly out of nowhere -- the Danish People's Party, which enjoyed major success not only in Danish parliamentary elections, but also in their European Parliament elections, in the middle of this decade. They supported the incumbent Establishment right-wing government, similar to how the supposed Trumpian populists have generally bent the knee for the Establishment GOP after Trump took office.

The DPP has collapsed, just like the "Trump movement" has here, with some going back to the Establishment right, and others back to the mainstream left -- like what the Obama-Trump voters will be doing in either the 2020 or 2024 election. We just saw the DPP get wiped out in the European Parliament election, and they are poised to do poorly in the upcoming Danish general election in about a week. Imagine if Steve Bannon or Stephen Miller tried to run for office right now, instead of in 2016. They'd go nowhere.

However, those who flocked to the DPP because they were dissatisfied with the status quo have only returned to the mainstream left party, the Social Democrats, because they have realigned their positions on the economy -- greater social democracy -- and on immigration -- heavy restriction of legal immigration, all but ending asylum, and forcing cultural integration among those who do get in.

They have linked the two parts ideologically by saying it's about protecting the vulnerable in society that the Danish government has jurisdiction over, responsibility to, and influence over -- namely the working and middle classes of Denmark, not foreigners and not the rent-seeking elites who want cheap labor immigration. It is a classic Social Democrat position, not a contradiction.

This is not the same party from 5-10 years ago, when it was more like the Democrats under Obama. But that is because the regime dynamics have changed -- they are no longer in the consensus phase, since the attempted populist changes of the DPP have dealt a fatal blow to the popular mandate of the dominant coalition and their continuing of the nearly 40-year neoliberal agenda.

The mainstream left can no longer win by simply promising neoliberalism with progressive values -- they have to go where the voters are, and they want to reclaim the egalitarianism that has been eroded by neoliberalism, and they want Denmark for the Danes. That is not to say, bombing the hell out of foreign peoples, but just keeping their society homogeneous so that it can continue to operate smoothly, instead of becoming fragmented into atomized and alienated individuals by immigration of drastically different foreigners.

The left has stolen the major issue for dissatisfied voters from the right-wing party -- immigration and inequality, which always go together. (See our own Gilded Age inequality linked to Ellis Island immigration, then our New Deal egalitarianism and closed-border immigration policies, and then our return to Gilded Age / Ellis Island outcomes since the Reagan Revolution.)

As a result, they stand ready to clobber the weak and ineffectual right-wing coalition in the upcoming general election, and the figure responsible for forcing this realignment on immigration, Mette Frederiksen, will become the Prime Minister (the youngest ever, a late Gen X-er, and a woman). The closest figure in the US would be Tulsi Gabbard, although Tulsi focuses less on the immigration aspect of anti-globalization and more on the anti-imperialism aspect (a more pressing concern for a declining major global empire like America, and unlike Denmark).

Bernie has a far greater chance of winning than she does, of course -- I mean that the situation in Denmark is as though Tulsi were poised to win her party's nomination and the general election in a landslide. I keep saying our disjunctive phase is going to last at least two terms, so this outcome will have to wait until 2024 in the US.

We also see how useless the Greens have been in Denmark. They have higher numbers than earlier in the century, but they are still a small minority, and they have fought against the new immigration restrictions proposed and implemented by their fellow left-wingers in the now realigned Social Democrats. They are trying to push for the "New" Left positions of 1968, which heralded the downfall of the working-class paradise of the Midcentury, the rise of libertarianism during the '70s, and the neoliberal hegemony of the '80s and afterward. As long as they get concessions on cultural laissez-faire, they are content to take more economic laissez-faire.

The closest thing we have to the Greens here is the DSA, whose representatives in government -- AOC, Tlaib, and Omar -- are only capable of pursuing neoliberalism with progressive values, rather than stealing the anti-globalization issues away from the failed Trump movement (i.e., anti-imperialism, anti-immigration, and re-industrialization).

Bernie is distinct from them in being a moderate on social-cultural issues (most notably on gun rights) and for having been on the record opposing open borders as a libertarian oligarch's policy, not one for the working class. If he and his people could push even harder for the immigration positions of the Danish Social Democrats -- the Scandinavian model for what he supposedly thinks socialism should look like -- they would wipe out the stagnant GOP in the coming years, stealing the disaffected populist voters who chose Trump over Clinton.

If they're not going to call for a shut-down of immigration, they at least need to call for a shut-down of the American empire. And a return of off-shored manufacturing to American soil. The longer they punt on these major issues, the longer they delay the realignment and prolong this stagnating disjunctive phase. Ignore the affluent rad-libs of the DSA in Brooklyn and the Bay Area, and focus on the working class of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee. Legions of Trump voters are willing and eager to defect, but only to a realigned Democrat party -- not the one of Obama or Clinton.

May 24, 2019

Deep cut Friday: "Crazy in the Night" by Kim Carnes


May 22, 2019

Supportive sex worker archetype shows up during warm-up phase of excitement cycle

Related to the post below on the rise of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl during the restless warm-up phase of the cultural excitement cycle, this phase also sees the appearance of the emotionally and socially supportive sex worker (usually a prostitute, sometimes a stripper).

This is a distinct sub-type of the "hooker with a heart of gold" archetype. The general category includes examples that are simply non-stigmatizing or humanizing portrayals of prostitutes -- perhaps they are savvy businesswomen, sources of excitement for the ho-hum world the movie is set in, maternal or sisterly figures to other female characters, etc.

My focus here excludes these merely sex-positive portrayals (such as Ophelia in Trading Places or Lana from Risky Business), which seem linked more to the manic phase and its sex-positive flavor of feminism. See this review post on how feminism changes according to the phases of the excitement cycle.

The type here is one who helps the male character come out of some negative social-emotional state, akin to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl who serves as a nurse to a sick patient. She is a stabilizing rather than anarchic force for him.

He tends to help her rise out of a sunken state as well, typically by getting her to leave her emotionally degrading and socially isolating line of work. This rules out cases where they enable each other's negative tendencies, to their mutual ruin (Leaving Las Vegas).

As a more taboo character, this type does not appear as frequently as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but the timing is still the same.

During the early '60s, there was Irma la Douce, which shows most clearly the congruence between the two female character types -- it was a re-uniting of Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and director Billy Wilder, who had collaborated on Manic Pixie Dream Girl movie The Apartment just a few years earlier.

During the late '70s, there was Taxi Driver, whose prostitute character is not the typical hooker with a heart of gold, but that just goes to show that it is not her internal motivation or personality that fit her for the role -- but rather how she interacts with the male character, and re-directs the course of the plot and his character development.

She initiates the redemption arc for the protagonist. Up until they meet, his breakdown had been heading in increasingly anti-social directions -- vigilante violence against robbers, nearly assassinating a political candidate. She gives him a more pro-social outlet for his anger, as he sets free an underage hooker from her pimp and brothel, allowing her to return home to her family in a wholesome, non-shithole part of the country. And unlike his doomed date with the adult Betsy, whom he cluelessly takes to a porno theater, his relationship with 12 year-old Iris takes a paternal form, and he struggles to protect her from, rather than expose her to, degeneracy.

During the early '90s, there was Pretty Woman, the most well known of this type, that needs no further comment.

During the late 2000s, there was The Wrestler, whose sex worker was a stripper rather than a prostitute, and who does not actually have sex with the male character. She does try to help the protagonist turn his life around, although to mixed success -- she does get him to reconnect with his estranged daughter, but he ultimately goes back into his dangerous line of work and chooses to do himself in.

Just before the warm-up phase began in 2005, there was a less successful movie with this type in 2004, The Girl Next Door. There was also a less successful form of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl movie from 2004, Garden State. But we don't see this in other final years of the vulnerable phase ('89, '74, '59, or at least so far in 2019). They just got the itch for those character types slightly early in 2004.

To wrap up, what connections do the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and emotionally helpful hooker have in common as individuals, aside from their role in nursing the protagonist back to health? Both are socially marginal -- dorky, awkward, and quirky, or earning a living in a taboo line of work. And they are utterly unknown to the protagonist at the beginning of the story -- she's not a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or a non-blood family member. She seems to come out of nowhere, as though from some alternate reality, making him feel like she's been sent like a guardian angel.

Such a background is necessary in the context of the excitement cycle phases, since he has been in the vulnerable refractory phase for several years now, and still associates his own world with unwanted contact, and from which he is withdrawing to avoid further pain. Then only a person who comes from outside of his own world, which has made him sick, can be treated as safe enough to enter into social and emotional contact with him. If she comes from opposite land, then she will have a light enough touch, and an airy enough presence, to not weigh him down and make him feel over-stimulated like the women of his own land.

This is the central source of irony in the two character types -- if anyone would be likely to physically and even sexually over-stimulate a man, and to have an earthy and physical rather than ethereal presence, you'd figure it would be a hooker. And if anyone would be likely to over-stimulate his social emotions, you'd figure it would be a manic pixie type rather than a boring quiet wallflower type.

But again we can resolve this paradox by looking into the context of the excitement cycle phases -- if he, and just about everybody else, are still in the refractory / emo phase, then someone who comes from a more sexual background, or who has a more cheerful disposition, will appear to be from a different phase of the cycle (namely, the manic phase). Coming from a different phase of the excitement cycle might as well be like coming from a different society altogether, especially opposite phases like the manic and vulnerable phases.

If she's from an opposite phase, she's from an opposite world, and therefore unlike the women of this world, who cause him enough stress that he's retiring from them, and so contact with her would not be painful or over-the-top. These marginal types from opposite land are the only ones who can coax him out of his shell as the refractory phase bridges into the warm-up phase of normal energy levels.

May 21, 2019

Manic Pixie Dream Girl arises in warm-up phase of excitement cycle, to coax guys out of their vulnerable-phase cocoons

As the vulnerable phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle winds down this year, and we enter the restless warm-up phase in 2020, I think we'll see the return of an archetype that we haven't gotten to hang out with since the last warm-up phase, during the late 2000s -- the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

I'm using that term to refer only to those who play a kind of nursing-back-to-health role for the male character. Just being quirky is not sufficient, and neither is being a free-spirited foil to a buttoned-up stiff. The point of that term was originally to highlight male characters who were in some way sick, down in the dumps, in a funk, or otherwise not normal. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl served to bring them back to a normal, healthy, positive, lively state. She is a stabilizing force.

This is distinct from the archetypal woman in a screwball comedy, whose wacky antics are more of a destabilizing force to the orderly life of the male character. Can he handle being dragged so far out of his comfort zone? Can the odd couple manage to find something in common? These questions depend on the theme of a normal person being thrown for a loop -- not an unhealthy person restored to health.

And for the male to merely be sober, buttoned-up, etc., that is not a form of sickness -- he must be in a real funk, clearly not his usual self. It could be an acute sickness, or a chronic sickness -- something that is curable by a nurse. It cannot be an inborn and immutable personality trait of being drab, risk-averse, and so on.

Looking over the iconic Manic Pixie Dream Girls, they almost all cluster in the warm-up phase of the excitement cycle: the early '60s (The Apartment, Breakfast at Tiffany's), the late '70s (Annie Hall), the early '90s (L.A. Story, Joe Versus the Volcano), and the late 2000s (Elizabethtown, The Last Kiss, Yes Man).

In their social context, these characters are helping guys to make the transition out of the previous vulnerable phase, when they're in a refractory state and would feel social contact to be painfully over-stimulating, and into the warm-up phase, when their excitement levels get back to a normal baseline. (Not yet taking off into a spike of invincibility, which takes places during the following manic phase.)

Social relations during the warm-up phase have a kind of caricatured, ritualistic quality -- they're like doing simplified warm-up exercises before taking on a real sport activity, or doing simplified dances with easy-to-follow rules, before being spontaneous on the dance floor. The point is not to fully reach the mature form of the social relation, but simply to drag the person out of their overly sensitive refractory state, and get accustomed to relating to others all over again. Once they're comfortable with that, then they can do the real thing during the manic phase, when their energy levels can really take off.

That's why it doesn't matter that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl has a flat, hollow, or caricatured personality -- she's not the final girl that he's going to get into a long-term relationship with. She's more of a training-wheels girlfriend for guys who haven't ridden a bike in awhile, so she does not need to be fully realistic and possessing an in-depth personality, set of goals of her own, etc.

Her childlike qualities are similarly disarming, designed to convince a guy who's over-sensitive and in an emo phase, that she couldn't possibly hurt him or demand too much contact from him. It's an adolescent form of attraction, but that's only because during the refractory state, the sexes regress back into a juvenile state where they are put off by the icky, annoying, even dangerous opposite sex. First they need to work their way toward adolescence, during the warm-up phase, and then they can go for a more mature kind of relationship during the manic phase.

She is willing to spend all this energy coaxing him out of his shell because she, too, has left behind the vulnerable phase and is ready to start mixing it up with the guys again. Their women's intuition tells them that, after five years of being taken for granted at best and ghosted or maligned at worst, guys are going to need a little playful encouragement to reassure them that it's safe to come out and interact with the girls once again.

No point in apologizing, casting blame, or otherwise wallowing in what went on during the vulnerable phase. That was then, this is now, so come out of your shell already, I promise we're harmless and fun-loving.

When viewed in its longer context, the archetype doesn't seem so bad. It's not immature, stunted, etc. -- it's not being held up as the ideal, it's only a temporary practice girlfriend, between the two otherwise unbridgeable states of a social refractory period and a fully developed mature relationship.

And she's not temporary because he's just using her to kill time before he finds someone more three-dimensional -- it's because she's playing the role of nursing him back to health, and that recuperation only takes a certain period of time, not forever. Once that role of hers has been completed, there she goes, and he can find someone real to get into a mature relationship with.

These archetypes spring up right at the outset of the warm-up phase, to act as a bridge, rather than at the very end of the phase, so I expect to see another crop of Manic Pixie Dream Girls no later than next year or the year after. The #MeToo attitude has already started to run out of steam, which means they'll have to start picking up the pieces from what they've wrecked over the past five years. They will no longer view all romantic interactions with men as "emotional labor," but will enjoy getting to know them again.

I'll end this survey with a deep cut from a pop star who would go on to specialize in the decadent disco themes that emerge during the warm-up phase, and then really turn up the energy levels during the next manic phase (before more or less disappearing during the current vulnerable phase). At the opening of the last warm-up phase, before Zooey Deschanel had popularized adorkableness, here's a 20 year-old waif-like form of the singer of "I Kissed a Girl" and "Roar".

"Simple" by Katy Perry (2005):



May 13, 2019

Incrementalist Democrat voters more risk-averse with GOP incumbent, less inclined to take a chance on Bernie than in 2016

Not everyone who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary was a committed Democratic Socialist. A decent share may favor such policies and stick with him through thick and thin. But another decent share may bail on him this time around -- not because they've had a change of heart on what a better vision for America looks like, but because they believe that such change can only take place in single steps, with no leap-frogging allowed.

In 2016, the context was eight years of Obama, and the signature identity politics victory -- gay marriage -- made Democrats, and Republicans, believe that the progressive trend would only continue. No Republican would ever be elected president after the disaster of the W. Bush years.

Having eliminated the right-wing threat, the only question was how far and how quickly the progressives would push the inevitable trend. Maybe now they could finally get some action on economic populist issues, not just cultural and social issues.

A good share of Bernie's 2016 voters felt comfortable enough in what Obama had accomplished for the center-left of the party. Now it was time to take it to the next level.

But after the Trump admin has derailed those plans, these incrementalist voters feel like they've been sent back to square one. Obama's achievements have been erased, as an evil Republican is back in the White House genociding the gays, blacks, Muslims, and immigrants all over again. (Fact check: Trump is letting in legions more illegals than Obama).

If you believe that change can only proceed one major step at a time, then the next major step made by Democrats will be used up on simply getting back to where they believe society was under Obama, now that they're in hell under Trump. Only then can their next major step be another Bernie-style movement to pursue populism, rather than just having the central bank inflate another tech bubble, and re-shuffling the soldiers in Iraq over into Afghanistan.

Going from Trump to Bernie will feel like too great of a change to attempt in just one step. They are thinking in conventional left-right terms, where Trump is on the right, Obama or Biden are in the center, and Bernie is on the left.

If they thought about it in terms of populist vs. elitist, or realignment vs. status quo, then the Trump admin should be bringing them one step closer to Bernie, not setting them back. Trump campaigned on realignment, on material rather than culture war issues, and flipped states that should not have been possible.

He has delivered very little on those campaign themes, though, so that leaves the door wide open for a populist realigner like Bernie to swoop in and steal those issues for the Democrats. That door would not have been left open if Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio had won the 2016 election.

But if you're an incrementalist, you don't see the history of realignments where a massive change happened swiftly, a la the Reagan Revolution, the New Deal, the Lincolnian Civil War era, the Jacksonian takeover, or the Jeffersonian triumph. They take the big picture to be settled, so that the only open question is left vs. right within the governing paradigm.

To them, Trump is not a would-be populist realigner whose logical successor would be Bernie, after failure to deliver -- he's just another right-winger in the Reagan era. Taking the neoliberal Reaganite paradigm as fait accompli, the goal is only to shift from right to center to left within that paradigm. And since Trump is on the right, that means the next step must be the center -- boom, Biden's your uncle. Perhaps after a term or two of Biden, then we can talk about another Bernie-style challenger to move from the center to the left.

The relative lack of enthusiasm for Bernie among the very people who supported him just four years ago, gives me flashbacks to the first W. Bush term. The Nader campaign was seen as an acceptable risk to take after two terms of Clinton -- after all, Gore was going to win, not that idiot from Texas, so what's the harm in indulging in a little lefty activism for Nader? But after Bush won, a fair number of Nader's prominent supporters not only refused to do so again in 2004, they outright begged him not to run again, like Michael Moore.

In 2000, you would have been going from the center (two terms of Clinton) to the left (Nader). But after Bush interrupted those plans, suddenly the society was set back to the right. In 2004, the only possible move was to the center, with Kerry, and not two major steps to land over on the left with Nader or Dean. Nader did far worse in '04 than in '00, and yet this centrist strategy still failed to get their guy into the White House.

Frightened risk-averse incrementalists will account for Bernie doing worse in the 2020 primaries than in 2016, although with a crowded field he could still end up in first place, despite having a smaller share than before. But if the incrementalists who backed Bernie in '16 concentrate on Biden rather than split up among a variety of other non-candidates like Beto or Buttigieg, Bernie's run will be over.

The split-up outcome is still possible. The latest Emerson College poll shows that among Bernie's 2016 primary voters, one-quarter have abandoned him for either Beto or Buttigieg -- both of whom would satisfy an incrementalist's desire to have a centrist for 2020, just not the centrist who's a zillion years old. By contrast, only about one-tenth of his 2016 voters have defected outright to Biden. This poll was biased more towards younger generations, so it's more revealing of Bernie's core support base of post-Boomer generations.

The main point is to not assume that Bernie's supporters in 2016 were all die-hard populists who will mount an equal or even stronger onslaught against the status quo, after an entire term of a right-wing Republican president. A big-enough chunk of them are going to want a centrist, to move one step at a time, and the biggest unknown is whether they'll split up their votes among a variety of centrists -- almost everybody but Bernie -- or converge on Biden specifically.

If you're trying to convince people to vote for Bernie, but you sense they're an incrementalist, they might not be persuaded to stick with Bernie. In that case, agree with them, and direct them toward any of the multiple other centrists aside from Biden, joking about how there are still centrists who aren't a zillion years old, which will resonate with Gen X and Millennial Bernie voters from 2016 who are getting nervous about him for 2020.

May 12, 2019

DSA: Democrat SJWs of Astoria

Feel free to pass this phrase around without attribution.

For those who are not following the frustrated realignment on the Left, you might think the sudden surge in membership of the Democratic Socialists of America reflects a trend toward socialism.

But their biggest bump was not during the 2016 primary season, owing to Bernie's campaign, but after Mother Hillary got her ass whooped by the mean old bad man. They are mostly reactionaries against the (also frustrated) realignment that Trump tried to usher in on the Right.

They couldn't care less about de-industrialization, which is why they were still deeply asleep while both Bernie and Trump were savaging NAFTA during the primary stage, but then shit the bed and sounded the alarm when the anti-NAFTA candidate defeated the pro-NAFTA candidate in the general election. Even those who did slam NAFTA during the primary, like Rashida Tlaib back when she was helping out the Bernie campaign with the UAW in Detroit, have shut their mouths about it now that they've taken office in the Congress.

Ditto for the anti-interventionist candidate defeating the pro-interventionist candidate (not that those goals have actually materialized). They don't care. Only Islamophobes think Al-Qaeda is a serious threat to anyone -- they're just a boogeyman and scapegoat that right-wingers use to get cheap votes. So making a big deal about breaking off the Pentagon and CIA's support for the jihadists threatening to take over secular Syria -- yikes, sounds kinda problematic.

To them, the explanations and the areas of focus are the same tired old identity politics of the neoliberal era: everyone I don't agree with is a racist, Nazi, white supremacist, white nationalist, literally Hitler. Trump is an out-of-control authoritarian, not some impotent fool cockblocked by his own party and the federal institutions. And of course, he could only have won if a big enough chunk of the American electorate were also white nationalist authoritarians.

The DSA style themselves as radicals outside the two-party system -- they are die-hard Democrat partisans.

They style themselves as promoting socialism -- they are promoting SJW-ism.

They style themselves as representing the broad working class -- they represent (perhaps downwardly mobile) professional-class elites in gentrified neighborhoods of the richest cities on Earth (AOC's constituency).

If any form of socialism is to succeed, these re-branded SJWs must be mocked, ridiculed, and driven out of the political arena.

Bernie-supporting populists will have to hammer out an economics-first creed -- or economics-only -- that anyone must adhere to if they want to join the movement. Normies would not be repulsed by that -- they hate identity politics! But it would do a hell of a lot to keep out those who not only distract from the root causes of our problems but in an ethnically polarizing way.

May 8, 2019

Monotheistic socialism will replace polytheistic identity politics and American imperial cult

This is a broad and intricate topic, so I'll be writing about it in more digestible pieces. I'm also just making these connections, based on some recent readings, so these ideas are all still inchoate, and I can't write down the entire thing all in one go.

Here's the basic outline, though.

America is not just an expansionist state but a transnational empire, so we look to earlier empires for clues about how things will go after ours enters its first major crisis or disintegrative stage.

The most well known example for general audiences is the Roman Empire. For the historical summary, I'm drawing on The Triumph of Christianity by Bart Ehrman. The structural-functional roles played by religion are my own views, though they're straightforward and must be mainstream enough in the sociology of religion (not being an expert there, I don't know the names of whom to cite).

As the Roman state expanded into a transnational empire during the first two centuries AD, it incorporated the gods of the peoples and nations that it subjugated. That made it easier for the imperial center to administer the periphery -- it's easier to extract whatever you want from it on a material level (tax revenue, food, minerals, babes) if you let them continue with autonomy on the non-material levels (language, religion).

At the same time, the subject peoples must also worship the civic gods of the imperial center, such as the Emperor himself. This does not conflict with worship of local gods -- it's an addition, not a substitution, just to make sure the subjects prove their loyalty to the empire, and not only loyalty to their own local group.

This polytheism did not mean everyone worshiped the same large number of gods -- it was mix-and-match, based on who you were loyal to at various levels of societal complexity. There were gods of the family or household, neighborhood, city or town, region, nation, and ultimately empire. And there were various gods who oversaw good fortune in various domains of life -- harvest, childbearing, war, travel, and so on. If your material subsistence was more dependent on travel, you focused more on the patron gods of travelers than other people did.

While this religious pluralism, headed by the imperial cult, served as a glue that held together the expanding empire for its first two centuries, that reversed during the Crisis of the Third Century. That's when Christianity starts to make major strides among Roman subjects, and it culminates in the 4th C., when the Emperor Constantine converted and later the Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the official state religion of the empire. At the same time, the 3rd C. saw the only period of intense state persecution of Christianity, unlike the earlier practice of tolerance and pluralism.

Unlike the pluralist approach during the rise of the empire, Christianity, which took off during the empire's decline, was monotheistic and exclusivist -- you could only worship one god, and the other so-called gods did not even really exist. You could not be both a Christian and a devotee of the imperial cult, or of the polytheistic array of sub-imperial gods. That disloyalty made it a direct threat to the imperial powers, leading them to crack down on it, especially during the desperate climate of fragmentation during the 3rd C.

But no empire holds together forever, and the decline of the Roman Empire allowed for the flourishing of Christianity.

This seems to be a general feature: inclusive and pluralist during the rise of a transnational empire, to glue together the subjects of a newly united political-economic power, and then exclusivist and not tolerant during the empire's break-up. It allows for some kind of continuity during the disintegration at the material level -- we will still all be following the same exclusivist religion, despite belonging to now separate and smaller nations. Then sometime after that stage, the unity of the religion begins to fragment itself, and regional camps with their own idiosyncrasies evolve, bringing back a kind of pluralism, albeit not under the umbrella of a single polity as before (e.g., Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic).

There's a parallel from the Ottoman Empire, which was religiously tolerant and pluralist during its rise (the millet system), and then saw the seeds of Islamism begin to grow during the empire's declining stage of the 19th C. Once the empire broke up circa 1920, exclusivist transnational Islamism took off in its former colonies (e.g., the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and by 1980 in Turkey itself), but not in places that the Ottomans failed to conquer (Iran, where a pluralist Shia council is in control, or Saudi Arabia, where the militant Salafi jihadism took root, rather than the peaceful political infiltration model of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are their bitter rivals).

Other examples from Muslim history include the pluralism of Al-Andalus during the rise of the Emirate of Cordoba (the Umayyad dynasty's branch that ruled Iberia), which gave way to intolerant and exclusivist waves during the decline (the non-Umayyad Almohads on the Muslim side, and the Catholic Kings on the Christian side). Then there was the pluralism of the Fatimid Caliphate, whose decline and replacement by foreign mercenaries (the Mamluks) saw the emergence of bitterly exclusivist schools of Islam led by, e.g., Ibn Taymiyyah (from the Hanbali school, and inspiration to today's exclusivists and fundamentalists within Islam). In fact, the founders of the Hanbali school themselves flourished during the declining stage of the Abbasid Caliphate, which during its golden age had been pluralist (to incorporate the newly subjugated Persian bureaucrats and administrators).

With that historical and sociological background, let's look at the current situation.

America has been an expansionist empire since its independence, and it began the unification of the 13 Colonies by upholding religious liberty, where various forms of intolerance of certain sects was permitted before. During our rise, an imperial cult grew up -- sometimes called the American civil religion. We worship our Constitution, flag, and supposedly temporal leaders as though they were partly or fully divine, unlike the other advanced nations.

Crucially, this is a distinct religion -- not Christian. We have never said, "In Jesus we trust," or "One nation under Jesus," our flag and other sacred national symbols do not feature a cross, and none of Jesus' or Paul's messages have been at the forefront of the attempt to "put religion back in society" (at best, it's the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament). When we say "God," we're using a weasel-word generic label, "god," but to refer to the patron god of our nation / empire, who provides for and protects us, his chosen people.

He only influences the lives of other people on Earth to the extent that we Americans bring our political-economic rule to them (whether we go over there or they come over here). By implication, other peoples have their own patron gods, who are not as badass as ours is, if they lose to us -- or who rely on tricks and cheating to block our patron god from helping us win, as we deserve to.

That is not the God-the-Father-of-Jesus from the New Testament -- or else there would be some connection to Jesus -- it is not Jesus Christ, and it is not the Holy Spirit. It's a standard patron god of a nation from any old polytheistic society.

The people we subjugate must worship our civil religion, whatever else they do or don't do in religious affairs. Muslim, Christian, Hindu, who cares? As long as you pay material tribute to the imperial center, and pay your symbolic respects to its patron god and imperial cult, our leaders don't give a damn what religious beliefs and behaviors you have. That's equally true for people we occupy and for immigrants here.

Conversely, if you refuse to submit materially to the empire, or if you blaspheme against its patron god and civil religion, you will get persecution and punishment, to coerce you into subject status.

Aside from our imperial cult, there's a wide variety of religious beliefs and practices that fall under the term "identity politics". Some of it is local patron gods for various ethnic groups under our control, some of it is gods who influence our fortunes in the different domains of life (love, sex, marriage, food, child-rearing, etc.). These come in left-wing and right-wing forms, but the polytheistic strand is strongest on the left.

There is a never-ending competition to add more and more gods to worship -- first it was just the pro-black god, then it was the pro-Hispanic god, perhaps generalized into an anti-racist god. Then it was the feminist god, and the gay god, and the tranny god, the vegan god, the environmental god. This is just like the inclusive, pluralist polytheism of the Roman Empire -- worshiping one does not preclude you from worshiping any combination of the others. In fact, most people do worship several of these divine forces.

They worship them to stay on their good side and receive good luck in their personal lives -- and to smite their enemies in their personal lives. These are like the capricious amoral gods of a pre-monotheist society, who can either act for good or for evil, and it just depends on how fervently you worship them, whether you'll be the recipient of their favor or the target of their destruction.

What is the fate of the American imperial cult and idpol-ytheism?

Our empire has been breaking up since our peak during WWII, after which we lost the Philippines and Cuba in short order (both of which we had won by conquest during the Spanish-American War), and we have lost our ability to control "our own backyard" of Central America (none of the right-wing death squads won during the 1980s, and the economic nationalists took over instead, not to mention our repeated failures right now to topple Maduro further south in Venezuela). Aside from losing what we used to have, we have failed at our endless attempts to gain new spheres of influence, all on mainland Asia (North Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, etc.).

As our empire declines and fragments on the political-economic level, the tolerant and pluralist tendency will go up in a puff of smoke. It will be replaced by an intolerant and exclusivist moral order -- one whose practitioners cannot worship any of the other gods that are around currently. That could take the form of a resurgence in Christianity, but that religion has been on the long-term decline since the Industrial Revolution.

Rather, the monotheistic replacement will be "socialism" -- in quotes because, like early Christianity, it encompasses several strains and is not a mature ideology or program for structuring society. But unlike all of the forms of identity politics, it makes an exclusivist demand on its adherents -- notwithstanding the fleeting heresy of "intersectionality," everyone understands that socialism is "class-first" (technically henotheist, worshiping one god above other gods) or "class only" and "economic reductionist" (strict monotheism). Marx and other materialists hold material conditions to be the base, and social-cultural features to be the superstructure that stems therefrom.

Again, there will be some diversity of opinion, as with any new religion, but it's clear to see that socialism is not tolerant of elevating other gods to equal status with its own, if it even holds those other gods to exist in the first place. That is unlike all the other leftist, or rightist, forms of identity politics -- being an antiracist allows you to be a feminist, a pro-gay, and a pro-tranny activist. They all have equal standing. Even when identity politics elevates one over the others (henotheism), it does not deny the existence of the others, let alone try to stamp them out, blaspheme against them, and so on.

Socialism makes everything in the moral ordering of society about material conditions, primarily economics. And now, beyond denying equal status to the other gods, it blasphemes them as false gods altogether -- tools of the ruling class to perpetuate the elite material dominance over the masses. This insight of the socialists became especially clear when presidential candidate Hillary Clinton barked back at the class warriors: What is breaking up the big banks going to do to end racism, sexism, and homophobia?

Identity politics serves as a glue to hold together an overly complex empire, which has already begun to come apart. You can't glue it back together, so going forward fewer and fewer people will see any point in trying to enforce identity politics. Nations and ethnic groups under the empire's rule will fragment, and identitarians will be out of business.

As socialism delivers a superior result for people's everyday lives (likely beginning with universal free healthcare), relative to antiracism, feminism, etc., people will start to ignore those impotent gods and only worship the one true socialist god. The one who alone can deliver the goods.

But that also means that socialism is an existential threat to the imperial cult and to idpol-ytheism. Socialists do not revere the patron god of the American empire, and they deny the power or existence of the identitarian gods. So, just as the establishment severely cracked down on Christians during the Crisis of the Third Century, so will ours crack down on socialists as the seams of the empire really start to come apart. There were occasional persecutions of Christians during the rise of the empire, just as there was an occasional Red Scare here during our rise (circa 1920 big-time, and less so during the McCarthyite 1950s). But they will really ramp up during the next pronounced stage of imperial collapse.

Christians could not persecute pagans during the Roman Empire, and socialists cannot persecute the civil religionists or the identity politics people today. Antiracists, feminists, etc., are mainstream and dominant, though not for a whole lot longer. But for now, it's clear who can get their lives ruined -- those who blaspheme the identity gods, not those who blaspheme the materialist / class / economics god.

After we get through the collapse of the American empire, and its former constituent nations and/or regions of the US gain political-economic autonomy, there will be a flourishing of exclusivist socialism. You didn't need to belong to the Roman Empire to be a Christian, and you don't need to be a subject of the American empire to be a socialist and enjoy its superior benefits. Maybe then the socialists will persecute the identity politics heretics, but that's way off in the distance for now.

And after the initial wave of united socialist zeal, it will eventually fragment into regionally appropriate camps, much like the regional camps of Christianity. "Socialism in one country".

And of course, there will be left-wing and right-wing forms of socialism, depending on which coalition is the dominant or opposition for its phase in the regime cycle. During the proto-socialist Mid-20th C., some nations were left-wing socialist (UK, US) while others were right-wing socialist (the Mediterranean). At a bird's-eye-view, they were the same -- populist economic nationalists, only with the military more in control for the right-wing version, and the finance sector in control of the left-wing version.

Left-wingers will have to accept that de Gaulle's France was not a fascist Nazi nightmare, nor was Christian Democrat Italy, both nations whose left-wing party (the Communists) were in the opposition status. They were (proto-)socialist, just run by conservative military types rather than liberal financier types as in the US and UK.

That is the major project for the short-to-medium term -- reach out to normies and right-wingers to unite around monotheistic socialism. Downplay the American civil religion, at least in its imperial cult form, and banish identity politics as false gods preserving the empire. Christianity, Islam, and other major exclusivist religions were missionary and evangelist, converting most of their members from outside the original group. Socialism will never materialize if it is restricted to left-wingers, even those who reject identity politics. As in the New Deal, it needs support from normies and conservatives (the American South consistently voted for New Deal liberal presidents). Socialist mayors did not preside over entire cities during the Progressive Era by only turning out left-wingers on election day.

The monotheist appeal of socialism allows it to transcend all other ideological barriers, unlike antiracism, feminism, etc. It is the only moral vision to unite enough of a society around it to transform it for the better.

May 3, 2019

Tucker still only major outlet against war / coup in Venezuela

A few months ago, during the last failed coup attempt in Venezuela, I reviewed the many right-wingers against intervention in that third-world socialist country.

That contradicts the puritanical and incestuous part of the Left, exemplified by the Media Roots Radio podcast (Abby and Robbie Martin), who insist that there's no commonality between the Left and Right on the matter of American imperialism.

For the puritanical Left, real-world outcomes do not matter -- only internal motivations, which reveal how pure or corrupted an individual's soul is. If Tucker Carlson wants to stop the Pentagon and CIA from carrying out a coup in Venezuela for different reasons than Bay Area leftists want, they will reject the alliance.

Only if he sincerely and convincingly converts at the emotional, motivational level -- wanting to stop the coup for the same reasons as the leftists -- will Carlson find support from the puritanical Left. Otherwise, his dirty soul will corrupt their clean souls, and they will feel icky.

This leads to the brutal status quo humming right along, but that is not the primary concern for most leftoids these days. Their project is not improving material conditions for third-world people, but exposing how evil people are in the first world, and perhaps converting or purifying these corrupted souls into being good people. Only when and if that conversion takes place, will leftists feel comfortable unwinding the American empire. Until then, their main mode of "activism" is just impotently calling out people for being evil.

Several months later, and the Right is still the only source of mainstream media resistance to the coup in Venezuela. This week, Tucker continued his anti-coup campaign by hosting Anya Parampil, an anti-imperial leftist who used to work on-air for RT America. She got several minutes of uninterrupted speech against the coup and the sanctions. At the end, both she and Tucker agree that Trump is breaking campaign promises about "draining the swamp" by filling up his national security team with neo-con retreads from the George W. Bush years, like John Bolton.

Liberal mainstream media would not let her on for more than a few seconds, and would subject her to a hostile cross-examination instead.

Now that she has appeared on Tucker's show, will Parampil be labeled an enabler of white nationalism, or some other hysterical crap, by her friend and former RT colleague Abby Martin? According to her podcast, there can be no alliance with evil racists, and yet Parampil sits for an in-studio interview with the supposedly most dangerous of white nationalist media brainwashers.

Parampil seems to fit into the category of leftists who are "normies of color" -- those who are focused on improving material conditions for non-white people around the world, especially those targeted by first-world powers (economically or militarily). She's like her friend Rania Khalek in that way. The politician of this category is Tulsi Gabbard, who's also been on Tucker's show to speak against imperialism and Trump's broken promises to not intervene on behalf of jihadists in Syria. They do not come from some weird sub-cultural background, and have no interest in making the Left an inward-looking sub-culture for weirdos.

It's true that they do not come from the majority culture, so they drift toward the Left coalition, which includes all who are outside the majority culture for any reason. But normies of color come from their own normal culture -- one that is normal somewhere on Earth, i.e. whatever country their ancestors came from -- whereas most leftists come from and promote abnormal sub-cultural norms -- those that are not the norm anywhere on Earth.

Normies of color want the Western war-and-debt-slavery machines out of their ancestral countries so that the non-white people of those countries can just live out their normie lives in peace. In their view, the Pentagon, World Bank, etc. are forces of destabilization that warp normal conditions, and their goal is to remove these forces in order to give the world more stability and normality.

Sub-cultural leftists, on the other hand, view the Pentagon and World Bank as forces that promote normality and order and discipline -- they're the authoritarian father to whom the spoiled activist constantly wants to shout "Fuck you!" These leftists oppose imperialism because they want to promote anti-authoritarian chaos and anarchy.

This opens up a natural rift within the Left -- normies of color want nothing to do with sowing chaos and anarchy, just the opposite.

But then it also opens up a natural alliance with a part of the Right -- normies of paleness, like Tucker, who see the attempt to prop up our crumbling bloated empire as a dire threat to normal life here in the core nation of the empire. It depletes the treasury funded by normie tax payers, it drives up the debt that will have to be paid for by future normies (or normies will suffer when their country can no longer borrow money, if the debt is defaulted on), it sends normie men into a pointless meat grinder, and it kills the normie desire to feel national pride -- damn near impossible when all we do is lose one pointless war after another, decade after decade. And when our elites destabilize a foreign nation, its citizens will come scrambling over here, which threatens the economic prospects and the cultural cohesion of normies here in America.

These two camps of normies have far more in common with each other on the issue of imperialism, than either one does with those on their side for whom politics is just an incestuous sub-culture. That includes left-wing sub-cultures and right-wing sub-cultures.

Fortunately, the normies are a lot more numerous than the weirdos. Unfortunately, weirdos have disproportionate influence on the direction of their parties, and are more concerned with "solidifying the Left" or "uniting the Right" in airhead partisan fashion. As social-cultural rejects, they come to politics looking for communal belonging, even with people who oppose their material well-being, as opposed to forming alliances to improve material conditions, even with people who don't belong to the same (sub-)culture as you.

This polarization accomplishes nothing for normies -- the current polarization began during the neoliberal transition, when normie liberals and normie conservatives have gotten raped to death on their pet issues, while the elites of both sides have benefited from their blind partisan allegiance. Before then, during the New Deal era, both sides worked together and accomplished a lot for normal people, whereas the elites did not have carte blanche while in power because their voters were not blind followers.

We are many decades away from re-establishing those kinds of relations again, but in the meantime the normal people have to take whatever measures they can to form pragmatic alliances based on shared outcomes, and speak against the puritanical drive to focus on shared motivations.

April 27, 2019

"Sweet but Psycho" marks end of vulnerable phase of excitement cycle, next wave of disco during early 2020s (plus earlier historical examples of phase changes)

An interesting topic in studying the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, consisting of three five-year phases, is how some element of the final year of one phase prefigures the overall tone of the following phase. It's ahead of its time by a little bit, and stands out against the norm of its phase, but you can feel it heralding a new direction, which becomes even clearer in retrospect.

A recent post looked at the changes to dance music during the vulnerable phase of the cultural excitement cycle, where the upbeat and bouncy tunes of the previous manic phase give way to a more dissonant and spastic type.

Somehow that must transition into the following phase, the restless, warm-up phase, which is characterized by conscious dance crazes that are meant to get people's bodies back into the groove after slumbering for so long during the refractory state of the vulnerable phase.

There's always one song from the final year of the vulnerable phase that departs from the dissonant, spastic norm and points the way forward to a renewed atmosphere of restlessness, wanting the body to do warm-ups rather than sleep in bed any longer.

And since the refractory period is starting to wear off, dance music no longer has to go into rhythmic overdrive to over-compensate for the drained energy levels of the audience. Once their energy levels are back to baseline, during the warm-up phase, they don't need the over-the-top spastic rhythms to pick them up -- a simple, even minimal, catchy beat will suffice. With normal energy levels restored, they can dance more effortlessly, rather than having to force themselves into it rhythmically.

Still, these harbinger songs are not entirely free from their zeitgeist, and do tend to have passages of near silence, especially during the bridge, when the rhythm nearly grinds to a halt. That allows the audience to feel comfortably familiar with them, as most dance songs of the vulnerable phase have this off-and-on rhythm. But in these new songs, there's only one instance of this halted rhythm, rather than punctuating the entire song.

And there is somewhat of a downer or melancholy tinge to the emotional delivery, making it familiar to emo-accustomed audiences. But overall, the tone is brighter than the norm of its time. These new-direction songs all use the major key tonality, whereas the dissonant norm is to use the minor key.

On a side note, these musical changes are also happening at the same time as broader changes in the cultural zeitgeist, as the end of the vulnerable phase spells the end of sex-negative feminism, female victimhood, and related feelings of "all social contact is too painful to bear". See this post on how the phases of feminism track the phases of the excitement cycle. For now, the point is that the new-direction dance songs herald the end of an emo phase of feminism, as Me Too bottoms out on bottoming out.

To contrast the following examples of new-direction dance songs against their background, go through the post on dissonant dance songs, which has many examples from each vulnerable phase going back to the late '80s. These songs ascend the Billboard charts during the first half of the final year -- they are not borderline cases from the end of the final year, but are truly just-ahead of their time. They were all #1 Dance Club hits, for as long as that chart has existed, or were major hits (especially in dance clubs) before that chart began in 1975.

In the current vulnerable phase of the second half of the 2010s, the backdrop is the soft emo mainstream, and dance music in the mold of Clean Bandit. All of a sudden comes a dance hit that uses the major key and a simple beat that gets only a little more complex to build some tension before the chorus. The only halting moment is the bridge. The assertive and clingy lyrics are the opposite of the victimized and avoidant Me Too feeling.

Everyone compares it to early Lady Gaga, but those songs were way higher in energy and danceability. They were from the final year of the last restless warm-up phase, 2009, and were the pinnacle of the decadent disco climate of the late 2000s. They shade into the following manic phase (but that's the topic for another post about final years of the other two phases). This one is just getting the ball rolling again, and we won't hear another string of early Gaga-type dance hits until 2024. But this is clearly where dance music will be heading over the next five years (neo-neo-neo-disco).

"Sweet but Psycho" by Ava Max (2019):



During the last vulnerable phase of the early 2000s, the backdrop was the soft emo mainstream, and dance music in the mold of electroclash. Even Top 40 dance songs with a simpler rhythm, like "Toxic," had a severely dissonant minor key (especially the strings), and in retrospect they don't sound like what was to come in the late 2000s. The new-direction song here has a more subdued vocal than the others, but is otherwise similar: major key, stripped-down beat, lyrics about connecting with rather than mistrusting the opposite sex, and paving the way for the next five years (neo-neo-disco of the late 2000s).

"Slow" by Kylie Minogue (2004):



During the vulnerable phase of the late '80s, the backdrop was soft rock, emo power ballads, and dance music of the Hi-NRG and freestyle type. The next song broke with the minor key trend, kept the rhythm simple, used a minimal-yet-catchy hook during the chorus, and paved the way for the rap-inflected neo-disco of the early '90s warm-up phase (Technotronic, C&C Music Factory, Deee-Lite, etc.).

"Buffalo Stance" by Neneh Cherry (1989):



During the vulnerable phase of the early '70s, the backdrop was plaintive singer-songwriter ballads, and no real dance music to speak of. "Electronic rhythmic music" was prog rock. From out of nowhere, the first disco hit emerges with a major key, simple rhythm (the opposite of prog), cheerful lyrics about a couple sticking together, and paving the way for original disco. This is the only example without a moment of halted rhythm during the whole song.

"Rock the Boat" by the Hues Corporation (1974):



Finally, during the vulnerable phase of the late '50s, the backdrop was moody doo-wop and lovelorn teenager pop. Use the major key, keep the rhythm simple yet engaging, pepper it with some sexual vocalizations to signal you're no longer in a refractory state -- and you've got the birth of proto-disco, or soul music, which would really take off during the following dance-crazy warm-up phase of the early '60s.

"What'd I Say" by Ray Charles (1959):



April 18, 2019

Resilience songs help audiences spring back after vulnerable phase of cultural excitement cycle

As people transition from the vulnerable phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, when their energy levels have collapsed into a refractory state, and into the restless, warm-up phase, when those levels are restored to a baseline state, they need some motivation to pull themselves out of their emo funk and get back into the swing of things. Before they can transition into the next manic phase, they must first get over their sense that social stimulation is too painful to bear.

When pop culture responds to this transition of phases, it does not have to comment on it directly. Music simply becomes less emo, without drawing attention to that change on a meta-level. But there are a handful of songs that hit more directly on the themes of overcoming adversity, toughing out a painful situation until you feel better, and not letting antagonistic forces keep you down. They're not going to let you wallow any longer -- it's time to start feeling normal again.

Reinforcing these lyrical themes, the music itself is uplifting and moving, although not uniformly so, as it might be during the manic phase. It also has a melancholy passage or overall tinge to it, as a reminder of what a downer their recent emotional state has been. But it isn't uniformly moody either -- it tends to contrast a vulnerable verse with a more confident, even defiant chorus.

The following survey is from songs that made the year-end Billboard Hot 100 charts.

The first warm-up phase of the modern era, the first half of the 1960s, does not have too many explicit examples. Back then, almost all songs were strictly about dating, romance, marriage, etc. They did not comment on more general themes. Still, within this domain of romantic songs, there were some about looking forward to finally finding someone after a spell of loneliness ("Blue Moon" and "Where the Boys Are"), lovers persisting through a temporary separation ("Sealed with a Kiss"), and toughing out whatever adversity comes their way ("Stand by Me").

These songs counteract the emo tendencies of the late '50s.

"Blue Moon" has an interesting history, since its first recording was in the early '30s, then again in the late '40s, and the one we know best from the early '60s. These five-year periods are all 15 years apart, suggesting that they were in fact the same phase of the cycle.

At any rate, here is the exception from this period, a hit song that addressed the general theme of persisting through tough or painful situations, because somehow (here, by God) they'll get better. Pop songs were allowed to not be about romance, as long as they were narrative or allusions to history, religion, etc.

"Wings of a Dove" by Ferlin Husky (1961):



The next warm-up phase, during the late '70s, was counteracting the emo state of the early '70s. "Stayin' Alive" is not a relevant example here, since it's about getting through everyday obstacles, rather than transitioning from one enduring phase into another. "Good Times" is more to the point, emphasizing that emotional states are changing from the recent past.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" is probably the greatest example from the period, although the themes are addressed somewhat more indirectly than in Queen's other major entry in this genre. And sure enough, during the next warm-up phase of the early '90s, "Bohemian Rhapsody" was revived on the charts thanks to being included in the soundtrack for Wayne's World. If the late '70s had not matched the early '90s in its emotional state, these songs would not have resonated so powerfully. It was released again in 2018 for the movie of the same name, but it did not do well enough to land on the year-end Hot 100 at all (only on the rock chart), since general audiences today are in the vulnerable phase and want to wallow there, not be shaken out of it and act defiantly.

Here are the most direct examples from the late '70s.

"We Are the Champions" by Queen (1977):



"Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" by McFadden & Whitehead (1979):



During the next warm-up phase of the early '90s, they had listened to one too many soft rock and power ballad songs from the emo late '80s. "Something to Believe In" by Poison dwells a little too heavily on the downer side of things, but it is still looking for a way to be pulled up out of that state. "Tears in Heaven" is also a real downer, but rather than wallow, it emphasizes needing to be strong enough to get through a terrible event.

Of the entire Billboard history, the song that most directly tackles these themes is "Hold On," which I can easily see coming back into style in the next few years, now that Me Too is winding down and women will want to hear music that grabs them by the shoulders and tells them to just snap out of it already. "Under the Bridge" is the most personal and intimate of those surveyed here. A lot of wild, heavy shit had happened during the outgoing, rising-crime period of the early '60s through the early '90s, and there was a lot to reflect on from one's own life, not just historical or literary figures.

"Hold On" by Wilson Phillips (1990):



"Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991):



The most recent warm-up phase was the late 2000s, counteracting the emo phase of the early 2000s. Perhaps the most annoying song ever written, and shockingly the #1 song for the entire year of 2006, is "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter. There's a throwaway line about singing a sad song "just to turn it around," but overall the tone is wallowing in how crappy your day has been, not springing back from it. And anyway, how would singing a sad song turn it around -- shouldn't you be trying to sing something more uplifting? Just another aspect of how terrible that song is. As it turns out, though, it was written and recorded in the emo early 2000s, and its hit status in 2006 was part of the continuation of the emo mood into the late 2000s.

Remember, during the warm-up phase, there's a mix of the two sentiments, a downer and an upper, since energy levels are just at a normal baseline. They can be low-energy or high-energy, but not uniformly one or the other, as in a refractory collapse or manic spike.

The three major examples are all from artists who had contributed to the mellow, emo mood of the early 2000s, and their songs from the late 2000s represent the broader shift in themes and tone. After moping about absent boyfriends, Avril Lavigne released a more uplifting "Keep Holding on".

The John Mayer song followed the winding down of the various political moral panics from the first half of the 2000s, and shows that these songs don't have to be about definitively having reached a better state yet, but at least trusting that they will improve sooner rather than later, and no longer dwelling constantly on how screwed up the world is.

I expect that to find a new life in the early 2020s, after the Republican likely wins again in 2020. Just like how the activism of the early 2000s died off in the later half, all this bullshit about "Trump = Nazi / Putin," "This Is Not Normal," etc. is going to melt away. Not for political reasons of things improving -- the GOP won again in 2004, and likely will in 2020 -- but for emotional reasons. You can only stay in the vulnerable emo phase for around five years, and this is the last of those years for the current phase.

The My Chemical Romance song could not be more of a shift from their earlier downer material, which like the rest of early 2000s emo, was mopey or impotently aggro. The mood in this one is more uplifting, confident, and determined to persist. If "Under the Bridge" was the "Bohemian Rhapsody" of the early '90s, in the late 2000s it was "Welcome to the Black Parade". I expect one of the current downer bands to shift tone in the same way during the early 2020s, but have no idea who it will be -- just as no one predicted such a major change coming from the most stereotypically emo band of the early 2000s.

"Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer (2006):



"Welcome to the Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance (2006):