August 31, 2021

Pashtun (and Afghan) ethnogenesis, forged between Iranian and Indian empires; And regional variation in Pashtun cultural leadership

I really want to get to the discovery that the Pashtuns and the Pashto language are yet another case study for my model outlined in this post about ethnogenesis and the evolution of a standard dialect, in the context of imperial dynamics. But before that, I have to review the relevant history, since it is poorly known compared to the Romans, British, Russians, and so on. This review will look at two scales — the overall group subject to external pressures, who unite their countrymen against expanding outsiders; and which sub-group among them are the leaders (rather than followers) in the formation of a new culture.

We'll start with the most recent set of long-term external expansions against what is today Afghanistan. This excludes the Soviet and American imperial occupations, neither of which lasted more than a few decades, and whose occupiers returned to the other side of the world afterward, rather than remain nearby as a looming, lurking menace. These occupations have been strong enough to unite Afghans around the Taliban, but I don't see it going further to an expansionist Afghan empire.

But not so long ago, there were two separate expanding empires on either side of what's now Afghanistan: the Safavid Empire from the west in Iran, and the Mughal Empire from the east in India. Iran occupied parts of western Afghanistan, and India occupied parts of eastern Afghanistan. Those empires' life-spans were nearly identical, lasting from roughly 1500 to 1750. However, pressure from the east was stronger than from the west. Safavid Iran was primarily occupied with their north and west — the Russian Empire, the Caucasus, and the Ottoman Empire — not so much their south and east (tribal Afghanistan).

The Mughals in India were more determined to expand to their north and west, into Afghanistan and northern Pakistan (both homelands of the Pashtuns). In addition to the Mughals, the Marathas and the Sikhs were expanding to the northwest in South Asia. And when the British Empire took over India, they drove more heavily to the north and west than to the east, fighting three Anglo-Afghan Wars.

Aside from the more intense pressure from India, that region was also more of a meta-ethnic frontier. Although the Mughals were Muslim, the Marathas were Hindu, the Sikhs were Sikh, and the British were Christian. Safavid Iran and its successors were entirely Muslim. Linguistically, Pashto is closer to Persian / Farsi than to the Indo-Aryan languages of India like Hindi / Urdu, and for awhile a dialect of Persian (Dari) was the elite courtly language of the Pashtuns. Outside of the Pashtuns, other Afghan ethnic groups closer to Iran and Tajikistan also speak Persian or the closely related Tajik, not a language closer to Hindi / Uru.

This heightened cultural divide on the eastern part of Afghanistan is matched by a heightened geographical divide, the Hindu Kush range of the Himalayas. "Hindu Kush" means "Hindu-killer," which shows who the Afghans have been more preoccupied with among their neighbors. The geography of western Afghanistan goes seamlessly into eastern Iran, and there is no morbid nickname for the border like "Persian-killer".

Right through today, Afghanistan and its people still see their main regional antagonists coming from India rather than Iran.

The founders of the Durrani Empire hailed from a region squeezed between the Safavid and Mughal empires, but which had remained free of either's invasion — Kandahar, which lies in the south of Afghanistan, not very far east or west, and lies in the southwest region of the Pashtun lands (which extend south and east into Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, but not very far west or north along the border with Iran or Central Asia).

Just before the empire, the Hotak dynasty arose within the Kandahar region in the early 1700s, and expanded westward to the Iranian capital at Isfahan. However, this dynasty did not even last 30 years, and did not unite the surrounding peoples behind it. This is another example of the Iranians being more of a distraction in the eyes of Pashtuns and Afghans — the Hotaks did not get endless loyalty for taking on Iran, when they should have taken on India.

Although the founder of the Afghan Empire, Ahmad Shah Durrani, kept the capital at Kandahar in the mid-1700s, his son moved it to the north and east to Kabul, with the winter capital being Peshawar (today in Pakistan) further to the east. This represented a reconquest of eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, as the Mughals had occupied it during their northwestward push out of India.

Kabul remained the capital of the Empire, the reduced Emirate that replaced it, and the Kingdom that followed. Even today we see a repeat of this pattern, where the Taliban originated in Kandahar, and have steadily advanced toward Kabul, where they will administer the nation.

To summarize, the intense Mughal pressure from the south and east made the Pashtuns the group whose rising asabiya would unite the nation (and later expand into an empire). Their homeland is right along that border, whereas the other ethnicities (Hazara, Uzbek, Tajik, etc.) lie further to the north and west, and their homelands were not so heavily threatened by the Mughal expansion. But even within the Pashtun homeland, the greatest threat came from the east, as the Mughals invaded through the Hindu Kush in order to occupy Kabul.

Unlike some empires, the Durrani founders did not make their home city the capital of the unified nation / empire. The Romans stayed in Rome while they united the Italian peninsula against the Celtic and Carthaginian incursions. The Durrani leaders moving from Kandahar to Kabul is like if the Romans relocated their capital permanently northward in the Po Valley, which the Celts had already occupied for awhile. Or as though the Castilians, after driving southward to reconquer Iberia from the Moors, had relocated their capital from Madrid further south in Seville, which the Moors had been occupying for centuries.

So, when looking at Pashtun or broader Afghan ethnogenesis, it's not so much about where the leaders came from originally, since they did not remain there more than a generation. Rather, it's about where they were residing for most of the time — where all of the ethnogenetic action was going on, along the meta-ethnic frontier with the Mughals, Marathas, Sikhs, and British. That is, in eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan (i.e., the northeastern region of Pashtun lands, far from Kandahar in the southwest of the Pashtun lands).

Through today, Kabul is not only the political capital but also the cultural capital of Afghanistan — not Kandahar, where the founding tribe of the modern nation hailed from before relocating. Kabul and the nearby Pakistani city of Peshawar are the cultural centers for music, literature, and cinema in the Pashto language. Lying on the intense meta-ethnic frontier with various expanding states from India, the residents of northeastern Pashtunistan — regardless of where their ancestors came from — have had the most intense asabiya. It is their cultural identity that sets the standard for the rest of the Pashtuns.

In the next post, we'll see how this has changed the evolution of the Pashto language, which fits into a broader project of mine about how the rise of a standard dialect reflects which sub-group has been the leader of the overall group's rising asabiya and ethnogenesis.

August 28, 2021

"Sub-cultures" now are just isolated individuals; their breakdown due to collapse in trust and in political order

I would've had no idea that college students had returned to campus over the past week, except for the fact that I suddenly started seeing a lot of alt-girls at the thrift stores again for the first time in awhile. That was confirmed going down the main drag through campus, where I hardly saw any such types over the summer.

This goes to show how fragmented society has become, when the most popular "sub-culture" cannot even sustain itself throughout the year, even in an urban environment. It crucially depends on a large group of student transplants piling in during the university school year.

This is the first time for such fragmentation, and is the complete opposite of earlier bona fide sub-cultures like punks, goths, '90s alternative, and scene kids. They were so ubiquitous they had names like "mall goth," and their music labeled "pop" punk -- they and their culture were unavoidable.

It's not just a youth thing, that's part of all sub-cultures. Why are they only visible during the university school year, as if there aren't tons of 18-22 year-olds in the city during the summer?

And why is it only that college-student age range? All earlier sub-cultures had high school members, and they don't go away during the summer. Yet I haven't seen high-school alt-girls for most of the year, and the ones I saw earlier may have actually been freshmen in college.

Ditto for the 20-somethings who are older than college kids. As if there were no 24 year-olds in the punk, goth, grunge, or scene scenes? They don't go away during the summer. Yet you don't see them taking part in sub-cultures either.

What's different about college students is that they're drawn from all over, and concentrated in one place. So all of these alt-girls who suddenly appeared as though they were a cohesive crowd, are actually just lone individuals from their small towns or more likely suburbs.

They're the one girl in the whole area code who's holding onto the practice of sub-cultural behavior. They have no one else in their organic, rooted environments to take part in the scene with, so they rely on moving to a college town to find others like them.

However, even there it doesn't take root as a community, since that would entail a sub-cultural presence in the post-college-kid demographic. But these things just don't exist outside of the college student population. So although they can find some like-minded individuals to hang out with during their college years, they realize that it isn't a real community, and they give up on it during their mid-to-late 20s. This is not merely "aging out" of a scene, which in all bona fide sub-cultures never happened until at least someone's 30s, and was mainly due to trying to get married and raise children.

Rather, the current pattern is due to a collapse in trust, where no one wants to join a collective anymore. You can dabble in being an alt-girl for a few years, but you don't grow close-knit to the other ones, so there's very little holding you all together once the college years are over. It has no social glue, and quickly falls apart. Also, there are no boys in the scene, so it does not support dating, courtship, and eventually pairing off. There can be no community without both sexes.

Really the only commonality among the alt-girls is outward presentation (clothing, hair, etc.). This gets the sub-cultural formation backwards -- the outward badges are supposed to come after an existing social bond has been formed, and it signals who belongs to that group. Now they form a group purely based on common fashion, but that does not require any social bond to exist. They're simply all fans of the same pop culture signals -- Doc Martens, Twin Peaks, center-parted hair, and so on.

If the alt-girls themselves are invisible outside of college towns during the school year, then their broader cultural presence is even more of a void. For bona fide sub-cultures, there were not only the mall goth people, but mall goth music, mall goth movies, and the like. Whether you knew it by name or not, you heard pop-punk and emo music all throughout the 2000s, including outside of the mall environments where they congregated.

In 2021, what music immediately comes to mind when you spot the rare alt-girl IRL? Oh, she must have posters of... who, exactly, on her wall? And she must listen to... what's-her-name? on a loop. Niche artists do not define a sub-culture, singly or collectively. Those are just copes for try-hards who belong to no sub-culture.

You didn't have to be a punk to have heard the Clash in the '70s, a goth to have heard the Cure in the '80s, a grunger to have heard Nirvana (or worn the signature flannel shirt) in the '90s, or a scene kid to have heard Fall Out Boy in the 2000s.

* * *

Looking back, it seems like the 2010s were already a period of stagnation for sub-cultures, likely caused by the fraying of trust in a stable society in the wake of the 2008 recession that most people never recovered from (unless you had a line of credit with the central bank, i.e. QE). The economy being blown up for good cannot have had any other outcome on trust in the system.

Still, there was the embryonic form of the alt-girl / e-girl / art ho by the late 2010s, who you could identify by the revival of baggy clothes, center-parted hair, sad-girl vibes, and Billie Eilish fandom (the last example of a sub-culture's icon who was widely known outside of the sub-culture itself, although throw in Benee's break-out hit "Supalonely" as well).

That stagnation carried over into 2020, when I remember seeing alt-girls all over the place, and viral videos from TikTok made by and about them. That took a nose-dive after the Democrats stole the 2020 election and installed Biden by late January. It's not due per se to whether the Democrats or Republicans hold office, but the deeper annihilation of trust that it caused. It was not an obscure political event either -- it began unfolding on election night itself, with the whole world paying attention, and continued for months until inauguration.

Belonging to a sub-culture requires a minimal amount of interpersonal trust and societal stability -- when it switches to anarchic naked power struggles, and every man for himself, then collectiveness is over, whether sub-cultural or normie.

The cold take is that sub-cultures require a strong political order because they need an authoritarian Other against which to rebel, a worthy fuckin' adversary in an anti-Establishment war. But you can rebel against The Man as an isolated individual, so this view does not explain the collective aspect of sub-cultures. And besides, several major sub-cultures were not against society writ large, as part of a politicized or anti-authoritarian counter-culture. Beatniks were more of a dropout sub-culture, not one that was confrontational to the centers of power. Ditto for metalheads, grunge, and emo / scene kids. They were instead defined against other cultural groups, i.e. normies.

They need a strong cohesive trusting society because in an anarchic individualist society, no collectives are possible, whether sub-cultural or normie. Actual sub-cultures knew this, overtly or intuitively, and did not try to blow up society -- they just wanted to assert their independence from or superiority over other cultural, not political, groups (the normies).

Now that the Democrats have blown up trust and cohesion at the highest levels by stealing elections in broad daylight, with no consequences afterward, that basic requirement for sub-cultures has evaporated rapidly since Biden took office.

That is just as visible -- or rather, invisible -- in the production of pop culture, which ground to a halt after inauguration. There's no new pop music in 2021, other than Olivia Rodrigo (and "Driver's License" came out while Trump was still president). The radio, retail stores, etc., refuse to play what little new music might be getting made, and will be stuck in the 2010s forever.

The breakdown of cultural production affects the would-be sub-cultures in another way -- since they define themselves against the normies, they have nothing to define themselves against when the normies themselves have no clear culture. It's not just sub-cultures that are breaking down, but cultural cohesion in general, including mainstream / normie culture.

So there's another pathway from the stolen election to collapsed sub-cultures: the destruction of institutional trust made it impossible to make new mainstream culture, which has deprived the would-be sub-cultures of the Other to define themselves against. From "no new pop music" to "no new sub-cultural music". Especially at the collective level -- I don't care if someone somewhere is making new music, if it isn't leading to the formation of new scenes, crowds, and collectives.

There is no way out of this downward spiral. The economy was blown up for good back in 2008, and the political order was destroyed in 2020. We're in for disintegration for most of this century, and that means the conditions for a strong, healthy, cohesive culture among normies are out the window -- and with that, the formation of sub-cultures as well. Every part of the culture is going to melt down into individual tastes consumed in isolation, perhaps re-branded and glorified as "kinks" in a coping attempt to sound sub-cultural.

The most we can do now to connect with others about culture is to try to preserve what has already been made, before the anarchy arrived, so that it can survive for distant future generations when the anarchy has receded. The Roman Dark Age was caused by a breakdown in their political order, and so will ours. Any cultural rebirth will likely take place outside the crumbling American Empire, in a newly expanding empire (none of which are on the horizon).

August 25, 2021

"Smooth Apu-rator" (Sade parody, Aimee Terese collab)

I had been working on this parody, which for a change is not a tribute to Aimee Terese, but about the Apu frog meme culture. I'd planned to add an image with Apu all dressed up for nightlife, to match the jazzy sophisticated tone. But because we often arrive, unplanned and unannounced, at the same place at the same time, she made exactly this meme on her own:

Although this is not about Aimee herself, I could imagine it being sung in her melodious voice, since it's a 3rd-person narration from a woman familiar with his lifestyle. Original lyrics here. I only did the first half, but it's a through-composed song, so that still gives a lot of variety.

* * *

Cyber vibes
Froggy boy
He rules the race, he's maximum based
And minimum soy

Of meme delights
The dudes all 'mire, makes grils perspire
On siiigh-er sites

No space for the cringers or SJ-dubtards
He's detonating cozy bombs
No space for the jannies, it's all no-holds-barred

No need to @

He's a smooth Apu-rator
Smooth Apu-rator
Smooth Apu-rator
Smooth Apu-rator

Post to post, on main and on alt goes
Lifting veils
From Twitter to Twitch, from Stacys to art hoes
Snail trails

August 22, 2021

Foreign disaster makes domestic chaos feel even more apocalyptic (Afghanistan, Vietnam, etc.)

I've been trying to understand why the reactions to the failure to defeat Afghanistan have been so much more doom-and-gloom, compared to every other failure to control foreign nations after WWII. It's puzzling since we've been out-of-control in Afghanistan for the entire duration of the invasion, 20 years. It's not like it's a revelation that we were never going to absorb Afghanistan into our sphere of influence. What's so special about the current climate?

First we need to review the history of failures that did not provoke an apocalyptic response in the American public's psyche. And after WWII, all we've done is fail.

Yet nobody remembers the failure to control North Korea in the late '40s and '50s as a monumental disaster, even though we leveled their entire country and still lost so badly that Eisenhower won on GTFO the war. We lost the Philippines at the same time, and no one recalls that as a dark milestone along the way of American imperial decline, even though it clearly was that.

Nobody remembers the repeated failures to control Central America during the '80s and '90s, when all of the leftist groups we had tried to suppress ended up in control of their national governments. Ditto for the failure to coup Chavez out of office in Venezuela in the 2000s.

Nobody remembers our failed attempt to take over the leading state of the former Yugoslavia as it was breaking up -- Serbia -- in the '90s.

Everyone does remember the failure to win Iraq, however it's not recalled in the same funereal tone as the ongoing reactions to the loss in Afghanistan. Awful mistake, what were we thinking, etc., but not as a sign of the apocalypse. Nobody remembers the failure to absorb Libya in the early 2010s, or the rest of the Arab Spring color revolutions of the time.

Nobody remembers in dark tones the Islamic Revolution in Iran from the late '70s. They do have bad memories of the hostages taken at the US embassy, the botched rescue mission, and how long it was drawn out. But that is a distinct event from the toppling of the US-backed Shah, who we had installed via coup in 1954, and the irrevocable loss of Iran as a member of the American imperial sphere of influence. If the new government had not taken American hostages, we would not remember that geopolitical death knell at all.

The only one of the never-ending string of failures post-WWII that has left indelible scars on the American psyche is the loss in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, in the late '60s and early '70s. Everyone knows the reference, countless works of popular culture have been made about it, it will never leave the public's awareness, and it will always carry a negative doomer connotation.

Aside from the sudden collapse of the American attempt to control Afghanistan, there was a similarly doom-and-gloom reaction by the elites to the American failure to oust Assad in Syria after their government invited Russia to turn the tide against the jihadists. All of those apocalyptic news cycles about the "Fall of Aleppo" (to the anti-jihadists), the horrors of the Syrian refugee crisis, and the like, during the late 2010s.

Also, the "what world are we living in?" feeling when Trump met with Kim Jong-un, became the first sitting US president to set foot on North Korean soil, and in general struck up a friendly tone with the North Korean leader (after the "fire and fury" outburst of 2017).

If China feels confident after witnessing our collapse in Afghanistan, and takes over Taiwan in the early 2020s, that will also provoke an apocalyptic response (both pro and anti).

So what's in common between Vietnam and Afghanistan? The domestic climate, namely one of civil breakdown, riots, and other forms of collective unrest. This climate runs in a cycle that peaks every 50 years, as modeled by Peter Turchin well ahead of the 2020 peak that he predicted a decade in advance.

Most recently was the Wokeness / Black Lives Matter / Antifa chaos of the late 2010s and early 2020s. Before that, the peak in the late '60s and early '70s (known afterward as The Sixties (TM)), centered on a radicalized Civil Rights movement, anti-Vietnam War activism, and student / youth rebellion.

Every failure of the American empire in between those peaks -- and they did nothing but lose -- was felt as a disappointment, a pressing concern at the time, and so on. But they did not have the apocalyptic feeling of the failed wars circa 1970 and circa 2020.

Ditto for the failures after WWII but before Vietnam, crucially the Korean War. At worst people remember the dark prospect of nuclear war surrounding the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba in the early '60s, but they don't react that way to the overall loss of Cuba in the late '50s and afterward.

According to this view, we would have felt a similar apocalyptic reaction to our failed wars around 1920, but we were still an expansionist empire back then and never lost. Not to mention WWI was not fought on our soil, and we didn't enter until the end. Our other attempts to control countries through force succeeded, e.g. the occupation of Haiti from 1915-'34.

Over in Europe, however, there was absolutely a climate of apocalyptic reaction to the disasters of the late '10s and early '20s. Their empires had all been born in the early modern period and were at the end of their life-cycles. Nobody was going to win big over the others, since no one was still in an expansionist phase, all stagnating for decades at the time. So, their domestic civil unrest was amplified by a foreign policy loss, whereas our civil breakdown of the same time was not coupled with a lost war.

That may also explain why the South still feels such a bitter sting over losing the Civil War and getting Reconstruction imposed on them. That was somewhat of a "foreign policy" loss, given that they had seceded from the Union, but losing a big war no matter whether you consider it foreign or only quasi-foreign. That took place amidst a broader backdrop of civil unrest, riots, and the like, circa 1870, in line with the 50-year cycle.

If hypothetically, the North and South had fought a war around 1900, when there was no broader climate of civil unrest and state breakdown, it might not have left such a bitter taste in the mouth of the Southerners. No one likes losing, but they'll get over it eventually (Korea, Nicaragua, Serbia, Iraq, etc.). When it's coupled with, and amplified by, a climate of domestic unrest, it takes on a whole different meaning.

Why? Well, the foreign catastrophe would seem to only be further evidence that, domestically, things are going to hell in a handbasket. That it's the literal end of the world as we know it. And it is only going to make people undergoing domestic breakdown all the more worried if they get defeated in war at the same time, because the victors of that war could invade and control us, while we're bitterly torn apart internally. And typically a foreign invader isn't going to have our best interests at heart, so that will only accelerate the end of the world as we know it.

That's more or less what happened when the South lost the Civil War and then got occupied by the Union Army during Reconstruction. Luckily we're not surrounded by mighty empires right now, or we would really be going nuts. What if we didn't just fail to absorb Afghanistan, but it or one of its allies were a powerful or at least nascent empire, that decided to pounce on our foreign disaster and domestic breakdown, by invading and occupying us?

As our empire enters its death spiral, after decades of stagnation, that will only become more likely. Thankfully, though, we're not surrounded by powerful armies, and those that do exist would rather just kick us out of their sphere of influence (e.g., China kicking us out of Taiwan, or Russia kicking us out of the Middle East).

In the meantime, it does seem like "Afghanistan" is going to be the next "Vietnam" in the public's awareness. It is far from the only time when the supposedly strongest military in the world had to suddenly GTFO of some supposedly backwards shithole country after failing to absorb it into our sphere of influence. But it is the first failure since Vietnam to unfold during a climate of domestic breakdown, only adding to the sense of chaos and disintegration that we've felt in our daily local lives over the past few years.

August 19, 2021

Every empire is woke on ethnicity, including Muslim ones from Afghanistan

Time for another major correction of very popular delusions about Afghanistan, i.e. that it's an ungovernable black hole of hyper-tribalistic chaos. The implication is that no one could have overcome its tribal schisms in order to unify the country. Ethno-political pluralism simply could not ever take root there.

But this is just a face-saving cope for those who failed to conquer it, most recently the American Empire, and previously the Soviet and British Empires. In this view, it's no proof of their impotence that they failed to accomplish the impossible. In the most negative interpretation, it's a sign of the empire's hubris and overweening ambition; in the most favorable view, it's a sign of how difficult it is for noble civilizing missions to succeed. In either case, the empire was attempting the impossible, so don't read too much into its failure.

Even if history were not an interest of yours, wouldn't you at least skim the Wikipedia entry on a country before concluding that it's an ungovernable perma-fractured shithole? No, because the goal of talking heads on TV and reacting avis on social media is to rationalize the plans of power-wielding elites, and to soothe the egos of the other elites who were not in charge of that particular domain of failure.

Back on Planet Earth, though, Afghanistan did in fact set aside tribal feuding enough to unify not only into a cohesive nation, but an international empire, as recently as the 18th-19th centuries — the Durrani Empire. That's not ancient history. Nor was its success merely due to the absence of competitors. It triumphed over two of the most powerful empires of the early modern era, which had been squeezing it from both sides — Safavid Persia from the west, and Mughal India from the east.

Granted, those rivals were in a declining stage of their imperial life-cycle (they had begun circa 1500), but then that's true for every nascent empire. New empires are forged in the presence of powerful empires nearby, to withstand their incursions, a la War and Peace and War by Turchin. When the formerly dominant neighbors begin to decline internally, that opens up room for the newly forged empire to take their place, to some extent if not full geographic replacement.

No empire unifies by a leading group dominating and excluding from power the other groups within their inchoate coalition. Although one group may be the leader, the other groups must have a seat at the table to prevent internal schisms.

Even when the nation begins expanding into an empire, the elites of its newly conquered subjects are incorporated in the same fashion, and for the same reasons. The whole point of conquest is to bring those people under your control and administration, so after defeating them in battle, it's time to make peace with them as your subjects.

This makes ethnic pluralism and cultural tolerance a defining feature of all empires — if you continued to view and treat your new subjects as though they were inferior sub-humans requiring your domestication, they would not integrate well, but would become unruly, and be a perpetual thorn stuck in the side of your attempts to control them. At the same time, it shows how far such pluralism will be extended — only to those who have been conquered by the empire, not those lying outside its control.

The view and treatment of foreigners as sub-humans needing to be conquered is only a structurally functional ideology when they have not yet been conquered, and the empire's expanders need motivation and justification to conquer new peoples. Once they have been conquered, it's time to welcome them into the imperial fold, and suddenly the previous views and treatments become backward and out-of-touch.

This is why, for example, "racism" was useful to the American elites during their expansionist phase, but why it became discarded as backward and counter-productive once its territorial growth had reached its maximum after the victories of WWII. Then it became necessary to integrate all of its conquered subjects, and "anti-racism" became the imperial ideology.

I expanded on these views in an earlier post about wokeness being a form of polytheism, and successor ideologies being a kind of monotheism that transcends ethnic, national, and imperial borders. The main example is the polytheism of the Roman Empire, which did not mean everybody worshiped the same large number of gods — it meant that each little group within the empire was allowed to keep worshiping its distinctive local gods, as long as they also worshiped the Roman Emperor's cult as supreme.

Once their empire fell into terminal decline during the Crisis of the Third Century, a successor religion took its place, transcending even the borders of the empire — Christianity, which said that there is only one god that everyone will worship. It was not treating everyone's local gods as valid and seen, to hold together an ethnically diverse political unit.

But woke imperialism is not just a Western thing. The major example from the Muslim East is the millet system of the Ottoman Empire, which guaranteed the elites of the various conquered groups a seat at the table. In the wake of Ottoman collapse, their trans-imperial ideology has become the Muslim Brotherhood strain of Islamism. Iran has always protected the non-Persian elites, and that remains true even today, where certain ethno-religious groups have a guaranteed number of seats in the parliament.

Again, not just any ol' groups outside of the leading group — only those who have been conquered and need to be absorbed into that particular nation, e.g. Armenians in Iran, not Mexicans in Iran. That's why the American Empire has set-asides for African-Americans, but not Russians, Iranians, or North Koreans, whom we have never conquered (and who indeed are our geopolitical rivals).

Most of the left and right in America look at Putin's Russia as anti-woke, based on non-ethnic matters like gayness. But wokeness is primarily an ethnic affair. And Russia, now and under the Soviets, has always promoted and protected the elites from non-Russian and non-Slavic ethnicities, whom they have conquered in the past. That is especially true of the peoples of the Caucasus (Stalin was a Georgian, and Anna Khachiyan's professor mathematician father was Armenian). But it also goes for the various Turko-Mongolian groups they have conquered in Central Asia, e.g. the Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu being half-Tuvan and born in Tuva.

Returning finally to Afghanistan, the same model applied to the Durrani Empire, whose founder Ahmad Shah Abdali was from the Pashtun majority, but who governed with a council of leaders from the non-Pashtun groups within his territory (Uzbek, Hazara, etc.). If all of the different groups wanted to avoid becoming permanent vassals of the Safavid or Mughal Empires, they had to set aside their tribal distinctions enough to form a single polity.

Although their imperial heyday has passed, they retained enough cohesion to resist the British Empire's attempt to conquer them during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Britain ultimately lost because its own heyday was passed, and they had to surrender to the Afghans during the WWI cataclysm that killed off all of the early modern empires.

But when Britain first tried to conquer Afghanistan circa 1840, that was still when the British Empire was cohesive and strong. The fact that they were humiliatingly driven out proves how united the Afghans still were. A nation that is bitterly divided among itself is easily conquered by a united outsider, so the Afghans of 1840 were not a black hole of tribalistic anarchy.

Now, when the Soviets tried to conquer them during the 1980s, the invading empire was well past its peak. And when the Americans tried to conquer them during the 21st century, the invaders were again far past their peak of expansion (WWII). The fact that the Afghans have repelled the Soviets and Americans does not prove they are incredibly cohesive, only that they have been more unified than the Soviets or the Americans.

The Taliban is now unifying the country again, in the same way as always. They come from the Pashtun majority in the south and east of the country, and their main antagonist several decades ago was the Northern Alliance of non-Pashtun ethnicities (Uzbek, Hazara, etc.). But now, having been forged into a cohesive unit by the occupation of a global superpower, the Afghans will set aside their regional differences enough to form a single nation.

The Taliban are not turning vindictive against the non-Pashtun groups, to settle scores from recent decades. They are burying the hatchet in the interest of national unity, incorporating the elites of those minority groups into the national leadership. And so, the Taliban — like every other ruling group of a diverse polity — are becoming woke on ethnicity, if not on other cultural matters like gender, gayness, etc.

At the same time, I don't think the outside pressures from the Soviet and American occupations have lasted long enough to forge Afghanistan into a nascent empire. There has only been a powerful meta-ethnic frontier there for 40 years (roughly 1980 to 2020), and it's rapidly evaporating as the Americans GTFO. It usually takes centuries of pressures from the other side of a meta-ethnic frontier to galvanize the target peoples into an expansionist empire.

And so far, Iran, Pakistan, and China don't seem interested in conquering Afghanistan (they have greater priorities). India may wage an unsuccessful proxy war, at most, but will otherwise not be like the Mughals were several centuries ago.

As the memories of the Soviet and American occupations fade, it's possible that tribal feuds will re-emerge within Afghanistan. But the idea that it's an inherently tribalistic black hole is a ridiculous cope from failed wannabe conquerers. There will never be a shortage of expanding states in that part of the world to exert pressure on Afghanistan, so it could transform into a new empire in the centuries to come.

If they have done it before — whether the Durrani Empire of modern times, or the Ghaznavid Empire of the Middle Ages — they can do it again, if the forces that gave birth to the earlier empires come back into being.

August 18, 2021

"Mass Vaccination" (Joan Jett / Avril Lavigne parody, Aimee Terese tribute)

Aside from her regular duties as princess of the anti-woke left, Aimee Terese has been at the forefront of "lefties against lockdowns". She's anti-mask and anti-vaxx, in the COVID context. Currently she and the rest of her super-race of shitposters are under lockdown, Down Under. Going stir-crazy while also having ADHD has given her energy levels unheard of before, and she's just about ready to explode.

To harness and channel that anti-COVID hysteria energy, I've set new lyrics to "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett (original lyrics here). It's the perfect anthem for a defiant, uppity broad who is sick of all the bullshit and is setting off on the warpath. I'm using the Avril Lavigne cover version of the tune, since she's more like Aimee than Joan Jett is (both being sweethearted five-foot firecrackers, whereas Joan Jett is the too-cool-for-school 5'5 butch lesbian).

I think the original reflects Aimee's posting style rather well, combining a punchy & punky manic bluntness, with a polysyllabic $10 word to signal that there's a higher point being made in the midst of what might otherwise seem like shitposting.

I also chose a punk song because leftoids claim to respect that genre, while crying over tweets from babes with actual punk energy like Aimee or Cassandra Fairbanks. In reality, leftoid nerds are more in love with indie, not punk, since too much energy and attitude would overload their spergy senses. (No clapping, and no aggressive scents allowed in the DSA convention!)

* * *

I don't give a damn 'bout the vaccination
You're living in the pod, we don't need this isolation
The masks didn't do what they said they'd do
So why would the rest be true?

And I don't give a damn 'bout the mass vaccination

Mad hoes (ho ho ho ho ho hoes)
Go seethe (see see see see see seethe)

I don't give a damn 'bout the vaccination
Independent mind? That's a contraindication
They lied when they said "It's one-and-done"
Now I'll be taking none

And I don't give a damn 'bout the mass vaccination

Mad hoes (ho ho ho ho ho hoes)
Go seethe (see see see see see seethe)

I don't give a damn 'bout the vaccination
You're following a cult, gimme excommunication
And I don't really care if it sounds deranged
My health'll stay unchanged

And I'm never gonna care 'bout the mass vaccination

Mad hoes (ho ho ho ho ho hoes)
Go seethe (see see see see see seethe)

I don't give a damn 'bout the vaccination
They're giving carte blanche to the pharma corporations
They'll make the data say what they wanna say
It's all so fake and gay

So why should I care about the mass vaccination, anyway?

Mad hoes (ho ho ho ho ho hoes)
Go seethe (see see see see see seethe)

I don't give a damn 'bout the vaccination
Over-optimizing is the real contamination
They sing their own praise for their galaxy brains
While they all just circle the drain

And I don't give a damn 'bout the mass vaccination

Mad hoes (ho ho ho ho ho hoes)
Go seethe (see see see see see seethe)

August 17, 2021

Defeat is not victory: the anti-war brand requires picture of all-powerful state to maintain its raison d'etre

Let's continue on the theme of our imperial authority collapsing, despite the fevered delusions of libertarians (99% of the left and right) who still think there is an authoritarian, totalitarian, invincible war-machine-state as their enemy. This time, looking at international rather than domestic impotence (e.g., the failure of the authorities to impose their COVID dystopia medium-to-long-term outside of pushing-an-open-door super-libtard cities).

The attempt to incorporate Afghanistan into the American empire's sphere of influence has always been destined to fail, since no empire has done so that did not originate in Persia or Central / South Asia. The closest case is the ancient Greeks who split off from Alexander the Great's Empire (Seleucid, Bactrian, etc.), but they only reliably controlled the northern part of today's Afghanistan — not the Pashtun core in the east and south, where Kabul, Ghazni, and Kandahar are located. If you don't control those cities, or the Hindu Kush mountains, you do not control Afghanistan.

In fairness, to show I'm not putting forth an unfalsifiable claim, how could America have hypothetically controlled Afghanistan? Nothing to do with technology, funding, or any of that other technocratic bullshit — cohesion wins, and disunity loses. We had soaring asabiya (potential for large-scale collective action) right up through WWII. So if we had invaded Afghanistan, rather than Mexico, in the 1840s, we would have stood a good shot at incorporating it into our empire. Maybe if we had done so during their civil war circa 1930.

But anytime after WWII? No chance. America has repeatedly and catastrophically failed to incorporate any new territory into its sphere of influence by force after WWII. We failed to get North Korea in the late '40s and '50s, failed to get Vietnam and Southeast Asia in the '60s and '70s, failed to keep leftist parties from controlling Central America during the '80s and '90s, failed to absorb Serbia and nearby Bosnian Serbs into NATO after the bombing campaigns of the '90s, failed to eject the Chavez / Maduro governments in Venezuela in the 2000s and 2010s, failed to control literally everywhere we've bombed or occupied in the MENA region (most disastrously in Iraq), and last but not least, failed to get Afghanistan.

Moreover, we began losing former gains by the late 1940s, when the Philippines declared independence and we did nothing to keep them under control as a US territory. Cuba revolted in the late '50s, and despite decades of pressure ever since then, we have failed to reconquer it. Those were both prizes from our victory over the moribund Spanish Empire in 1898; we only have Puerto Rico left from that war. Our coup against Iran in 1954 put in a puppet regime that lasted one generation, provoking the Islamic Revolution in the late '70s that has removed that nation as a possibility of American control forever.

Peaceful alliances with states who have shared interests are just diplomacy, not imperialism. Getting the former Warsaw Pact nations on our side post-USSR is not conquest, as they were always chafing under Russian hegemony and willing to throw in their lot with Russia's main antagonist. Ditto for the non-Serbian Balkan nations joining NATO after the Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia broke up. Ditto for Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, including later Israel. We have a military footprint in these places because they are our partners with shared geopolitical interests, not because we beat them in battle (contrast with Germany, Italy, and Japan — and the whole of the American core, where we defeated the Native Americans and Mexicans).

It's sad to have to recap this history of neverending defeats after WWII, and to reiterate that diplomacy among partners is not conquest by enemies. But that's thanks to the consensus on both the pro-war and anti-war sides that America only keeps on winning, aside from the occasional setback or embarrassment, that the empire is only getting stronger and more consolidated, and that American global hegemony is on auto-pilot. Both sides agree on this picture of the world, and only disagree on whether it is good, wise, affordable, and so on.

There's nothing surprising about the pro-war side always portraying the American military as the strongest in the world, issuing threats to behave or we'll bomb the shit out of you, etc. They want their threats to other nations to be credible, and that would be defanged by openly admitting to their losing streak of 70 years and running. Domestically, they want their bottomless pit of free money to stay bottomless and free — and how can that sale be pitched to the domestic elites who control the purse strings, if they admit that they can't win anymore?

It's the anti-war side that is disturbing in its blind stubborn insistence that America just keeps on winning, keeps on consolidating more nations into its sphere through conquest. But then, their whole raison d'etre is being anti-war — for moral points in a status contest, for building an audience, for the small amount of anti-war funding that exists, or for whatever other reason. If they are not up against a big bad enemy — a putatively invincible war machine — then why worry?

Sure, it may take a little while, and waste lives and money in the meantime, but there's no way a weak and fragmenting empire is going to conquer and administer any foreign nations, whether you think that would be desirable or not. At this point, citizens can only let the military get their asses handed to them, and come home in defeat. No amount of anti-war activism, knowledge dissemination, consciousness-raising, etc., has done anything to speed up or slow down the process of imperial disintegration. The military only responds to crushing, humiliating defeat at the hands of the foreigners they're trying to conquer — they don't give a damn what any of us think back home.

Still, the anti-war side always tries to shore up the reputation of the war machine by re-branding its defeat as a victory, ackshually, if you change the meaning of words and look at it from an irrelevant perspective. For example, America ackshually won in Southeast Asia because of all the death and destruction we left in our wake. That was easy — just change the meaning of "winning the war" to be causing destruction, rather than the true meaning of bringing the other nation under your control and administration.

Or, look at how the military-industrial complex profited handsomely from our presence in Vietnam, Iraq, or wherever. They got exactly what they wanted — a shitload of free money. This lies about who is fighting a war, and who can claim victory or defeat. In reality, it's not the weapons manufacturers, but the military itself that is a party to the war. Bomb-makers don't win or lose, since they aren't on the battlefield.

This is like saying that no matter how humiliatingly, and how reliably, our football team loses to the other football teams on the football field — ackshually it's a victory for the manufacturers of the clothing, shoes, and equipment that the team uses during the game and in training. I'll bet the owners of the stadium raked in a lot of money in tickets to the game, too, not to mention the media companies who broadcast the game. And yet, Nike, Wilson, and ESPN never set foot onto the field, so they can neither win nor lose. It's the football team that wins or loses. And there's no way to spin constant crushing defeats as signs of that team's greatness.

Ordinary people who are not deeply invested in the outcomes of our wars do not fall for these attempts at spin. If you get driven out of the territory, you lost, plain and simple. Just because the enemy had to take their lumps while driving you out, doesn't mean they lost. Or wow, what a victory that some contractor made money from our defeat — nobody identifies with the contractors or weapons manufacturers, any more than sports fans identify with the corporate profits of Nike, Wilson, and ESPN. They identify with the football team itself.

If the MIC "win" by getting paid big-time, we do not vicariously enjoy their success. Whereas we do identify with the military — the actual party to the actual war. If the military loses, we vicariously feel stinging humiliation (or exuberant triumph, if we had won). Our national pride and shame do not respond at all to the fortunes of the military-related supply chains.

This is not a call for Anti-War (TM) people to admit defeat, as it were, since they are bound to keep spinning history and current events as evidence for continued and perhaps even rising American imperial hegemony (only differing from the hawks by lamenting rather than celebrating the picture). Their cause requires them to do this.

But for those who do not make anti-war a core concept of their brand (and anyone in the media, including social media, is a brand these days), try to keep things in perspective. American imperial power peaked in WWII, has been waning ever since, and will only grow weaker and more embarrassing in the future. Do not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by portraying defeat as victory.

August 15, 2021

"A Horseshoe World" (Aladdin parody, Aimee Terese tribute)

The princess of the anti-woke left, Aimee Terese, could use some company to cheer her up, having to suffer under a pointlessly isolating lockdown. Why not do double duty and serenade her below her prison-tower window?

That also gives her a plausible cover story about needing to leave the house -- "I mean, look at the guy, going to all that trouble -- and those predictions of a lockdown baby boom aren't just going to fulfill themselves! See ya later, mass-surveiller..."

I'm still on a Disney renaissance kick, so like "Australian Nights", this one is to a tune from Aladdin. After the prologue has set the tone, now we find Ag-laddin of Blograbah courting Princess Jaspie (her lyrics in italics). Original lyrics here.

I chose the theme to be the left-right realignment that she pioneered, since it naturally mirrors a kind of adolescent infatuation with a group you never really liked all that much before, but somehow suddenly find yourself hopelessly drawn towards.

Achieving realignment would be like a marriage across two clans. Societal reconstruction and harmony via matchmaking the hot kids from two (formerly) feuding tribes. In that way, it is a whole new world, but not where I'm the guide to a naive girl -- rather, we're both guiding the rest of the skeptical society into a new era.

Right now it's a fragment, but I may revisit it later as I come back to the Disney tunes. Below is the adult contempo single version of the song, for reference, not the literally-gay theater-kid version from the movie.

* * *

I behold a new girl
SWERF-y socialist spectre
Tell me, Princess
Now when did we last marry left and right?

I propose we join sides
Split the consensus asunder
Honeymooning Down Under
For the groyper groom and bride

A horseshoe world
Our realigning points of view
No one to flag our posts
No lines to toe
We'll show we're not just memeing

A horseshoe world
The nazbol paradox's truth
Here in the Tulsi-sphere
We're shifting gears
And now I'm in a horseshoe world with you

Now I'm in a horseshoe world with you

August 13, 2021

Central authorities continue unraveling: navigating a weak fragmented society

In an earlier post I showed how the weakness and instability of the elite position in the US today can be seen by comparing the attempted COVID-related coercion to the attempts of the 9/11-related measures by the Bush admin in the 2000s.

There was utter uniformity in the responses back then — not a single airport manager said, "Yeah, we're not gonna bother with that fake security theater shit, you can keep your shoes on and have your family and friends with you at the gate". And everyone followed those rules on the commoners' side as well.

Moreover, there was a high degree of conformity in the set of beliefs people had — did Saddam have WMD, did he pose a big threat to Americans, did he have anything to do with 9/11, etc. — and the types of responses they thought we ought to take — bomb to send a message, occupy with troops, etc.

Twenty years later, all of that former cohesion has gone out the window. The leaders and commoners of some of the most populous states defied the COVID hysteria consensus last year, and much of the others have joined them this year.

Shutdowns only continue where Democrats monopolize the sector, as in public education (while still, of course, drawing an income and benefits from the taxpayers). Masks lasted less than a year (and no, the fearmongering about the Delta variant has not caused normies to put them back on, nor have flyover state governors re-imposed a mask mandate). A small share of the "vaccine hesitant" actually gave in and got the jab, and there are no teams of NGO flunkies or the Army roaming around door-to-door giving the jab against the wishes of the hesitant. Vaccine passports are not happening, and will only be rolled out, if at all, in super-libtard cities like New York and San Francisco.

Aside from the failures on the material policy side, they haven't even managed to win the psychological war. A large share of the population thinks the whole thing is overblown, and will never think / feel / act as though it were a grave threat personally or collectively. People have less faith in "the experts" than ever, and as a result the capacity of institutions to use fearmongering to manipulate has evaporated. Psyops thrown together by the flunkies at the intel agencies have never been more impotent and embarrassing.

It is entirely irrelevant that some minority of the population has wholeheartedly adopted the suite of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors that the experts have urged everyone to adopt. They are mindless midwit bootlickers, so it requires nothing from the authorities to make them get with the plan. Pushing an open door is no test of your strength — try pushing a door that is being steadfastly pushed from the other side, then the spectators will see how strong you really are.

Worse than merely being weak, our authorities are devoted to proving it over and over again, lest any doubt remain. They don't understand a simple law of transitivity — that if you fail at something easy, you will fail at something hard, so don't bother and find something better to do. And yet, having failed at getting everyone to wear masks indefinitely, they take on the even harder project of getting everyone vaccinated — and then having failed at that, they take on the still harder project of implementing vaccine passports nationwide.

And rather than these repeated failures representing bad luck or incompetence, they came from a far more unsettling source — defiance from those who they were presuming to coerce. They got their bluff called, and they couldn't do jackshit about it. Now everybody knows that the authorities have little to no power in coercing either the elites or the commoners into their harebrained scheme du jour.

Now they have revealed that they rely entirely on their targets already forming a diehard super-fandom for the Establishment — otherwise compliance will be spotty at best, since the elites and their institutions have torched their credibility for good-faith and benefit-of-the-doubt trust from the general public, or from their fellow elites for that matter (e.g. the governors of Florida and Texas).

In short, we live in the polar opposite of the authoritarian / totalitarian dystopia that both the left and right still believe is a looming menace. A state with strong authority is a dystopia to libertarians, and that's what 99% of the elites still are, and have been since the libertarian revolution of the late 1970s and the Reagan era that cemented it in the '80s.

But while that may have been a relevant stance from which to oppose the 9/11-related coercion under Bush, it is irrelevant and out-of-touch today, when national and international cohesion among the elites has collapsed. We have no strong state to fear, since it has never been weaker, as proven by the failures above on both the material and ideological levels. And make no mistake, that is where they have invested all of their efforts over the past year and a half — it's not some minor throwaway project that they fucked up on, but their drop-everything-else majorest of major priorities.

The trend for the near-to-medium term is societal disintegration from the top down. Imperial stagnation and now fragmenting outside our national borders has already begun. There will be no national authority, but there could be authority at the state level. Still, it will be more of a city-state, where authority applies more in the core city and not so much elsewhere. But some city-states will go one way, and others another way.

Even within a city, there will be smaller fiefdoms that go one way or another, with weak authority from the city government (let alone the state or national govs trying to enforce local outcomes). The Walmart fiefdom will allow you in without a vaccine passport (their greeters don't want to get killed in an angry stampede of Walmart shoppers), while the Whole Foods fiefdom will put more obstacles in the way (knowing their shoppers are more eager to comply). The restaurants in some neighborhoods will flout the city regulations about COVID, while others will try to enforce them.

It will make life more annoying at first, having to understand where you can and cannot go, given your preferences. But we'll get used to it. Even if one place switches sides, we'll react no more annoyed than if they had adopted a new type of background music ("I remember when this place used to be cool..."). It will be a total joke of a society compared to a decade or so ago, but that won't make the trends reverse, and we'll learn to adapt to a shittier way of life.

These days, the dystopia is libertarian. We don't have to plan for a way around an authoritarian society — we have to plan how to prevent or punish crimes on our own, since the police will be another institution to collapse in power (already under way, with soaring crime rates in the past year or so). We have to preserve culture ourselves, since the libraries, schools, and museums are busy emptying or outright destroying what they were entrusted with. And we'll have to figure out which specific places or fiefdoms will be favorable to us and those close to us, since uniformity is gone. Perhaps none will be favorable, and more will have to be done in-house, as it were.

The seemingly related trends of the 2010s will actually be of minimal help here, since those were all still very much in the rugged individualist framework of the Reagan revolution. How to eat right, lift right, fix a flat tire, prepare meals in a crockpot, and so on and so forth. That was all self-improvement and self-reliance, and as such it relied on a relatively stable set of institutions at the societal level.

Rugged individualism in an environment of collapsed authorities means the law of the jungle, and a quick death. With no large-scale institutions, the major task now is to build best-we-can-do replacements. And that takes social networks for recommendations and warnings, whether neighborhoods, communities, families, etc.

Paradoxically, and similar to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, indulging the self is only possible in a cohesive society, although such egotism wears away at the communal foundation that supports it. Self-improvement and actualization was for the Boomers who grew up during the full flower of the New Deal, which they progressively eroded during the Reagan era. Now that the institutions barely exist anymore, the post-Boomer generations cannot indulge in the self-improvement framework. I don't mean that (only) in a normative sense — just descriptively and mechanistically speaking, they are incapable of doing so even if they wanted to.

It's time to get better connected, or go under. Find out which fiefdoms are most favorable to you, now that central authority has collapsed.

August 9, 2021

The role of the Lion King in the kiddie-fication of movies overall, and of children's movies themselves (after watching for 1st time at 40)

After enjoying watching Aladdin for the first time probably since I saw it in the theater in 1992, I figured I'd catch up on the whole Disney Renaissance period. The target audience was born a bit after me, so I never felt compelled to see them when they were out, nor since. But it's supposedly a revival of a once-great studio, so let's see what it's all about.

I'd seen 45 minutes of Beauty and the Beast during a "teacher shows movie instead of teaching day" in 6th grade. And I actually was taken — against my will — to the theater for The Little Mermaid in 1989, but I was so angry at the babysitter for over-ruling my protest about going to a little girl's movie, that I glared straight ahead and dissociated for the entire movie. Seriously, I did not remember anything I saw on that big screen.

But after Aladdin, I figured those two would be natural ones to see next, and they do form a trilogy. In the music, Howard Ashman & Alan Menken are reviving the Broadway musical genre for the whole family — meaning, some aspects are solely for the kids (slapstick humor, fairytale tone), and other aspects are solely for the grown-ups (SAT words, wordplay, allusions to grown-up culture). In other words, a variety of several things for several audiences — not a single package of the least-common-denominator that involves every audience at every moment.

In the plot and characterization, there are strong-willed Gen-X teenage girls struggling to grow up socially outside their domestic sphere, Gen-X teenage guys leading a life of charming mischief (similar to Bart Simpson on the small screen), and the parents accepting that their kids' lives are at some point beyond their own control and letting things take their course (whether in bittersweet acceptance, or joyful encouragement).

I found each of those three more or less equally as enjoyable as one another.

Then I chose two I hadn't seen even pieces of over the years — Pocahontas and the Lion King. That's right: never saw the Lion King, along with most of the blockbusters from 1994-'95 onward (Independence Day, Men in Black, Titanic, etc.).

Pocahontas tries to continue the trilogy above, but falls flat in the execution outside of the visual area. In the plot and characterization, there was no fantastic or magical element, unlike what you want from a Disney movie, and was too historical. They should have simply done a legend or myth from some Native American group's culture. In the music, it adhered too closely to the classic Broadway show-tunes approach, which sounds too out-of-time and out-of-place. It should have gone New Age and world music to match the Pure Moods visual style and pre-colonial Native American setting. In fairness, the single version of "Colors of the Wind" by Vanessa Williams strikes this tone perfectly — the whole soundtrack should've been arranged that way.

The Lion King was something else entirely, however, and it was being developed at the same time as Pocahontas, but clearly on a different overall path.

First, on the pleasant side, it solved the problem of "reviving the musical format" while being set in an exotic pre-civilized location, where standard show-tunes would sound out of place. Its style went full Paul Simon's Graceland / New Age / world music, dovetailing seamlessly with the '90s multicultural setting and tone. That is, let's learn from and enjoy each other's distinct cultures, maybe even fashion an interesting combination from them.

(As a reminder that childhood influences are not too enduring, the Millennials who were raised in that culturally pluralist '90s climate grew up to destroy it in hysterical accusations of cultural appropriation, etc. As a result, the dominant music in movies today is lowest-common-denominator, zero-risk, decades-old, all-American dad rock. Only the cozy groypers are keeping alive their '90s multicultural new-age environmentalist childhood, for which they have been branded bigots by their woketard "get with the 2010s program already" generation-mates.)

Second, the Lion King avoided Pocahontas' mismatch between visual style and plot / characters by making the visuals more naturalistic than fantastic, and instead indulged in fantasy by making all the characters non-anthropomorphic animals (like Bambi). Combined with the different approach to music, this gives the Lion King a much more coherent and integrated tone throughout the movie, compared to the discordant and disjointed Pocahontas.

And yet the Lion King marked the beginning of a long-term trend toward the kiddie-fication of movies — not just of Disney movies for kids themselves, but the entire output of Hollywood. Before it, as discussed earlier, there were separate things for separate audiences, along with some elements for all. In the Lion King, however, the fare became the lowest-common-denominator to all audiences.

It's not that Tim Rice and Elton John's songs are dumbed-down from the Ashman & Menken approach. It's that they do not have certain things for the kids, certain things for teenagers, and certain things for the grown-ups. Caustic wit, wordplay, enjambment, allusions at the high-school level or above, have gone out the window. Some of the slapstick, gross-out, and anarchic spirit is still there, but that's all aimed at the kiddie audience, and adults can only appreciate it vicariously through their children's enjoyment.

That's not a problem for helicopter parents, who love to live through their kids, treat their kids as their best friends, and so on. But it was unnecessary when the children were the latchkey kid generation, whose parents left them unsupervised and allowed them to enjoy and create their own culture. That was reflected in the wider variety of fare in family movies, with something distinct for everyone, not the least-common-denominator.

As for characters, the main hero Simba comes off as a 5 year-old child for most of the movie, and perhaps an 11 year-old when he supposedly grows up by the final act. That includes his voice actors, who never sound like they reached the teenage let alone young adult stage. If it's a coming-of-age story, it's about reaching the threshold of puberty and adolescence, not young adulthood and grown-up life. The lead characters in the earlier trilogy were all well into adolescence, ready to emerge out the other side into (young) adulthood.

Simba is so contrary to the strong-willed characters of the earlier trilogy, that he stops trying to venture out on his own after a single stern lecture from his father, who had warned him not to go to the dangerous elephants' graveyard. He does go there with a friend, almost gets hurt, and is rescued by his helicopter parent father. Rather than find ways to still venture out on his own, against the wishes of his over-protective father, he's so stricken by his father's disappointment over the act of disobedience, that he decides to never disobey again. It's like playing in the street once, nearly getting hit by a car, then being locked indoors for the rest of your life.

His kiddie nature makes it impossible for him to have real narrative goals, face obstacles, and overcome them — he's just a little kid! It's not believable that he would replace James Earl Jones / Mufasa on the throne, until he was going through the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

As it's related in the song "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," his succession is treated more like something that will happen effortlessly and without challenge. Gee whiz, yay! It's a form of grade inflation and Everybody Gets a Trophy Day, right in line with trends of helicopter parents changing how their Millennial kids were to be treated by the community institutions. Becoming king is not a plausible goal for him, so there are no plausible obstacles in its way — just reminders that he's not meant to be king.

In fact, when he leaves in exile after his father is murdered by his usurping uncle Scar, he decides to enjoy a carefree easy life with two screwball characters, which is celebrated in the song "Hakuna Matata". Not exactly plotting revenge like a would-be king. But even if he were to resign himself to not taking on the usurper, wouldn't he at least want to push himself, face challenges, and grow and mature as a result? Maybe start a training sequence, a la Rocky, to prepare for his eventual face-off with his nemesis, who may come looking for him despite his best efforts to keep hiding out? Nope: he wants to pursue a Peter Pan lifestyle of never growing up.

But that, too, is in line with helicopter parents' wishes for their kids to stay socially and emotionally stunted until they hit 25 or 30, and then they can think about reaching life's next milestones like courtship, marriage, and children. Until then, it's no time to take risks or be a hero. However, insulating oneself from real-life challenges only makes it more difficult to do so later — there's a sensitive developmental window that they end up wasting, as though they had to learn a new language at 25.

Also, being a Peter Pan type means not developing feelings for the opposite sex, as the first step along the path toward raising a family. So unlike the earlier trilogy, where love interests abound, there is no romantic sub-plot in the Lion King. Nala, his female friend from toddlerhood, visits him when they are "grown up" (again, resembling 11 year-olds), and they flirtatiously rough-house for a bit. But that's it — they're barely starting puberty, so their relationship cannot possibly go any further. And so, unlike in the earlier trilogy, there are no same-sex rivals vying for the same person, nor are there disapproving parents, in the romantic plot, which form their own set of obstacles for the main character to overcome.

That's a two-fer in the minds of helicopter parents — if your kid stays barely pubescent forever, not only will they never get distracted by the opposite sex, you will never have to play an active role in their love life, whether expressing disapproval, learning to accept their choice that you don't agree with, seeing them elope, or whatever else. Way too stressful of a role for the "friends of their children" parents to contemplate. If they stay 11 forever, no such problems!

This all leads to the main flaw of the movie, which is that dramatically speaking, Simba is not the protagonist, yet his story takes up the overwhelming majority of the runtime.

The true protagonist is his uncle Scar, whose (believable) goal is to become king, and who is driven by overweening ambition. There are two major obstacles in his way. First, his brother the incumbent, which obstacle he overcomes by murdering him. And second, his kiddie nephew, the next-in-line, who he guilt-trips into leaving the community and orders some hyena minions to murder him for good measure. His actions are what drives the narrative forward. Simba is at best an antagonist, although he isn't much of a willful obstacle to Scar's actions for most of the movie.

Scar does not act alone, but forges alliances with the hyenas, reaching dictatorial status. But over time his misrule leads to famine and stagnation, stirring his allies to question their continued loyalty, and throwing up another obstacle to his rule — attempting to placate unruly subjects and allies, through duplicity and threats.

He grows suspicious and superstitious, snapping at anyone who utters the name of his brother the former king. This is the start of a descent into madness, when he becomes undone by his own fatal flaws of pride, ambition, and disloyalty. Ultimately, when Simba returns to confront him, he does not even finish off the usurper himself — it's Scar's erstwhile allies the hyenas who end up tearing him apart, after hearing of his betrayal.

For all the risible talk about this movie resembling Hamlet, which it does not at all, it actually resembles Macbeth. However, unlike the Shakespearean play, the villainous protagonist in the Lion King gets hardly any time before the audience, which is a real wasted opportunity since it's rare to find protagonists who are unsympathetic villains.

Here, yet again, we see the aesthetically corrupting influence of the namby-pamby helicopter parent audience. This could have been a fascinating "Macbeth for kids," set primarily in the dark Gothic elephants' graveyard and the post-apocalyptic Pride Rock, rather than the serene grasslands and the bright luscious jungle. But that would have given too much screentime to the bad guy, and hardly any at all to the plucky underdog good guy.

Helicopter parents are convinced that kids imitate whatever they see in pop culture, in proportion to the length of time it is presented to them, as though their brains were totally passive imprinting tablets. Lots of screentime for the bad guy = improper assignment of role models! In reality, the human brain, even an immature one, looks at roles structurally to see whether they're good or bad, to be imitated or avoided. But paranoid helicopter parents really think their kids can't tell that the murderous usurper who is undone by his own fatal flaws, is the bad guy, and not to be imitated.

By 1994, the window had closed on the genre of dark children's movies, whose heyday was the second half of the 1980s, but whose Gen-X influence still trickled into the early '90s, including Beauty and the Beast. As the Disney Renaissance progressed, though, it quickly shifted to helicopter parents and their eternally bubble-wrapped Millennial children as the target audience. I still have to go through the movies after Pocahontas, but I can already tell it'll be more of the same.

They couldn't recapture the magic of those first three key movies again. At the superficial level, it may have been the loss of Howard Ashman to AIDS part-way through the making of Aladdin. But how was he given such central creative roles in the first place? And why was no successor found? It was due to a change in the zeitgeist, which had been warm to someone like him in the '80s and early '90s, but gradually shifted toward a more lowest-common-denominator, helicopter parent-approved model afterward.

August 5, 2021

The "total demolition of healthy structures" stage of imperial implosion

A recurring take among the overproduced elite aspirant midwits who Aimee Terese rails against on Twitter, is that demolishing "old buildings" is good actually. There's nothing wrong with them whatsoever on a material level, they just have to be erased because they're from a period of our history that we're past, and we want no tangible record left of it at all.

There may be one or another of the usual BS rationalizations about "greening" architecture, or wokely canceling problematic things, but more often than not the insecure midwit class just does it without any narrative at all. Only in high-profile cases does a narrative need to be furbished by the media sector, e.g. taking down statues of Confederate figures. Otherwise, just bulldoze the sucker and get on with it.

This has never happened in our nation's history, and is a clear sign of imperial implosion after a few centuries of imperial expansion. Or more to the point in this case, collapsing asabiya after centuries of rising asabiya (the potential for collective action and cooperation at a large scale). "Capitalism" doesn't explain it, since we've been capitalist in various forms since our founding.

All of the buildings that got demolished during the New Deal were privately owned, and had been allowed by their owners to fall into disrepair and negligence. For example, a Victorian mansion used as a residence, or a picture palace from the Roaring Twenties.

This got bad enough, and our nation's elites still had enough public civic spirit, that they used the government to appropriate these neglected buildings and renovate them, remaining as faithful to the original as possible. That was the birth of the contemporary "historical preservation" movement -- right at the height / end of the New Deal in the 1960s and '70s.

The new widespread demolition trend has nothing to do with dilapidated structures that are falling in on themselves due to the negligence of private owners. There is nothing wrong structurally with them at all, and a decent share are publicly owned and operated, like schools and parks.

The goal is simply to erase all signs of what was good and valuable from our past, because we're past the imperial growth and rising asabiya stage of our nation's history. We can never attain that again, so why not destroy all reminders of how good we used to have it, to alleviate cognitive dissonance about how much shit our society sucks in the 2020s and forever after.

I occasionally visit the town I grew up in during elementary school, which started out middle class but has become steadily more upper-middle class in the past 30 years since I left. It's in a decently large metro area of a flyover state, so not insanely woke, but also not conservative either. It's a useful bellwether.

The town library was due for something new toward the end of the '80s, but they left the old one from the Midcentury intact, and built a huge addition onto it (many times the size of the original, which you would now think was a little add-on, if not for signs of which materials and styles are newer).

By the late '90s, the neoliberal Reaganite climate had gotten worse, and there was talk of a total demolition of one of the middle schools, dating back to the '30s and very impressive, whether for a middle school or any other purpose. Fortunately there was still enough civic spirit that the parents and other community members banded together to block that plan, which would have been incredibly expensive, on top of sacrilegious. Instead they just renovated the HVAC system, and left everything else alone. Total demolition is always far more expensive than renovation, which contradicts the BS about "efficiency" from the neolibs and woketards.

I don't know too much about what happened during the 2000s and early 2010s, since I was at college, Barcelona, and grad school. But by the second half of the 2010s, the climate had worsened further. Now there was talk of "renovating" one of the major parks -- to include cutting down almost all of the numerous, large, mature trees to make way for whatever yuppie bullshit they wanted to impress themselves with. This one just narrowly got nixed, and the new yuppie structures were confined to the parking lot area adjacent to the park, leaving the park itself intact.

However, now that we've crossed a political historical threshold during 2020 and this year, all bets are off. If they burned down major cities for "progress," why would they stop just because the election's been stolen in the meantime? True, there are no riots this summer because there's no voters to whip into a panic.

But the riots of 2020 were just the beginning of the long-term Democrat project to demolish our environment, in all years going forward, with or without some BS woke rationalization narrative to accompany it.

This year, the town's civic spirit finally dipped below a critical level, and the demolishers got their way for the first time ever. There was a large iconic local building from the early '60s, pleasing to look at and explore inside, that had been a fixture of the community since it was first erected. It got closed and put into limbo during the retail apocalypse of the late 2010s, and now the debate was over whether or not its new use would at least preserve the structure?

Sensing the seismic shift in our imperial implosion, the new owners razed the entire building to the ground this year. Strike while the zeitgeist iron is hot, since in the late 2010s it still felt like we had a country, albeit one fraying apart. The local government did not stop it ahead of time when it was in limbo. No woke witch-hunt to demonize it ahead of demolition, no #MeToo against former owners, or anything propagandistic like that. Just wreck it and be done with it.

Whatever ugly, pointless, rootless, cheaply-constructed striver distraction mecca they put in its place, the character of the town is gone forever. Not just because a single iconic building was erased from existence, but because of what the climate that allowed that to happen portends about the future. It's all going to come down, and the only question is when, not if.

It all happened so suddenly I had to do a double-take when I drove by. It had remained idle and closed down for years, then without warning -- BOOM. All gone. I paced up and down the fences blocking off the demolition site, and scrounged up from the dirt and rubble a few pieces of that distinctive colorful glazed brick exterior, which I will hold onto to preserve the memory.

At this point, I don't even trust images on the internet to last -- either the site as a whole will fall into negligence, and all pictures hosted there will get vaporized (like MySpace), or the same people who are demolishing buildings will turn to erasing online images of the former site as well. Total memory-hole operation. But no one is going to take away my brick shards, which I can show to others to remind them and keep things alive to some extent.

I don't think I'd trust the local historical society with them either. They are not run by civic-minded Boomers anymore (whether lib or con), but going forward by sacrilegious Millennials. These are the people who, as librarians, are dedicated to censorship and gatekeeping. Why would they do anything other than literally trash the objects I donated to them from the community's history? Their whole goal was to erase it, not preserve it.

The overproduced elites of our imperial implosion cannot stand the physical sight of material things that remind them how much more competent, accomplished, and magnanimous their counterparts were 50 or more years ago. The older generations did not have to provide such awesome buildings -- they did it because they were filled with civic spirit, and they were cooperative enough to execute the plan.

With plummeting levels of asabiya, today's elites are nothing more than parasites and decomposers in our shithole ecosystem. They can't stand being held accountable, so their manifest failures and pathetic nature must be hidden by erasing the accomplishments of former elites, which set the bar for the present. Lower the bar for the present by demolishing the past. And magically, you don't have to put up with such palpable reminders of what an abject, pathetic failure you are and always will be, as an entire class.

Where does the past get the nerve, to annoy the parasites of the present? We'll just put them in their insolent place, six feet underground, with no trial or appeal. Bulldoze first and refuse to answer questions later.

I'm tempted to say, at least our really monumental-scale structures will survive, akin to the Roman civil engineering marvels that were all built during their imperial expansion, and were not purposefully totally demolished once their imperial implosion began during the Crisis of the Third Century. Allowed to fall into neglect, and decay into ruins? Perhaps. But not systematically demolished by leaders of the in-group that had built them in the first place.

However, we are unique in being a young, new nation -- not just one that had been a nation for a long time, and only recently began expanding. We weren't even here before a few hundred years ago, so the taboo against sacrilege of the environment, based on rootedness, conservation, and stewardship, is going to be far weaker here than in a long-settled place. We haven't been stewards here very long, compared to Romans in the 3rd century Italian peninsula. Appealing to norms that transcend imperial timelines is not going to resonate as deeply here.

There really does seem to be a growing hysteria among the elites to just burn it all down, however they rationalize their civilizational death-drive. We're really in uncharted waters here, with seemingly no historical case studies to compare ourselves with in that respect (failed empires, yes, but not ones that had only existed as nations of new settlers just five seconds before the empire began expanding). We just don't have the extra centuries or millennia of rootedness that other imperial nations around the world do today, or former empires did in the past.

August 2, 2021

"Australian Nights" (Aladdin parody, Aimee Terese tribute)

I recently picked up Aladdin on DVD and watched it for the first time since the '90s. Naturally the MENA baddie princess and it being a musical made me think of setting new lyrics to some of the songs, in tribute to the muse Aimee Terese.

I'm not sure how many of these I'll do from the same movie, but here's the first one, to the tune of the prologue song "Arabian Nights" (original lyrics). The point is to lure the audience into an exotic, dangerous, exciting place, where the plot is set.

I think it translates well to Australia because of the wild desert Outback, and their famously being a super-race of shitposters and descendants of convicts -- and even there, more of the petty criminal type, charming and brave enough to escape their confines, rather than violent psycho felons. Most of the allusions are to Australia and its people, whether online or IRL, with only one reference to Aimee herself. But the point of the prologue is to establish the environment that produced her, what she is adapted to, and what to expect from the plot in which she is a character.

The meter is anapestic (da-da-DA), with some beats silent in syncopation, and others drawn out into two beats (e.g., the last syllable in "Thunder" is drawn out for another beat, just like "camels" in the original). For "criminally," the schwa vowel "a" is elided altogether in speech. And the split rhyme in the second verse is to rhyme "fest" with "west" in the original lyrics, not with another word in the new lyrics.

* * *

This unknown southern land of the vast cyberspace
It's a shitposting Thunderdome
Where we lack in pretense, take the piss, no offense
We are criminally quite at home

When the mods are asleep we'll have fun as our fest-
-ival reaches the gates of the site
So log on and subscribe, come and troll with our tribe
On another Australian night

Australian nights
Like Australian days
Well-rested or not, we'll be stirring the pot
In a Red Bull-fueled craze

Australian nights
With Australian goons
A noob or a tard will get rekt and rekt hard
In our online saloon