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.