"Universalism: postwar progressivism as a Christian sect"

Friday, 25 October, Year 5 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

This article is part of a larger effort to discuss a certain fashionable blog. The effort is introduced in Mencius Moldbug, adnotated. The original quoted here lives as Universalism: postwar progressivism as a Christian sect.

Apparently there once was a kind of obsolete proto-blog that was called a "book."

A "book" was like a blog except that the author saved up all his posts for a year or two, then dumped them all in one big printout. This product cost thousands of microcredits, and you had to apply to the Department of Facts if you wanted to write one. And even if Facts stamped your party card, you still had to convince Information to promote you, and those who excelled at this gloriously-opaque task tended to make Talleyrand look like Montaigne.

This is perfectly accurate, and to the author's credit predates my Cartile au murit. Then again to no one's credit it's pretty banal stuff, minus one crucial point : the presentation.

It's quite very important to present things in their correct arrangement, which is to say books as a subtype of blogs, and journalists as a subtype of bloggers, and dollars as a subtype of Bitcoin and so on, rather than the other way around. It's certainly not the case that a blog is the new book, it's simply that a book is a very old, very inconvenient and massively dysfunctional blog, inconvenient and dysfunctional to the degree that the various inconveniences and dysfunctions of blogs pale by comparison. And so, again to the author's credit, he presents things correctly.

While this sucked really just as much as it sounds, it did have certain advantages. One of them was that your readers were presented with a crisp and structured argument, rather than a great river of instant manure whose color and consistency can vary alarmingly. This was because the "book" could be "revised" and "edited," practices we now consider unethical.

There's really no link between the manure-like quality of most blogs and the circumstance of their being blogs. I read plenty of female adolescent scribblings purporting to one day be books, they shared into the same dubious color and problematic consistency. The happenstance that the very poor results of most other people's earnest effort and diligent application towards writing are widely visible on the web is not really a good excuse for the brighter and better to stop trying. We're not building socialism here, nobody cares how shitty Joe Bloe's blog is. If you can't write a blog that's better than any book, that's certainly not because of its being a blog.

There's also little link between the revising and editing of books and their quality in this sense. I have the very bad habit of publishing drafts, because I'm an undisciplined, arrogant lout that doesn't tend to substantially edit what he writes or even re-read iti, but nobody obliges one to take this path to perdition. In fact I know plenty of people who keep articles in draft state for months, mulling them over.

And rightly so, of course. We don't want to return to the past. No one wants that. However, if you write online and you want to speak with any kind of confidence, you have to be able to change your mind. Ideally this is not done by surreptitiously editing the archives, as if one were writing a "book."

If this is captatio, it sucks. Plenty of people do want to return to some version of the past. Those who don't aren't necessarily those who ignore the past. Moreover, while surreptitiouslyii changing archives is a horrible practice of digital blogs, it wasn't much of a practice of paper bound blogs.

As UR readers have been reminded ad nauseam, one of my many eccentric opinions is that the tradition to which most sophisticated Westerners of 2007 conform is best seen as a sect of Christianity. Since this tradition sees itself as a pure product of science and reason, neither sectarian nor Christian nor even traditional, my perspective is heretical in the strict sense of the word. We can't both be right.

The eccentric opinion is certainly correct. I am perhaps a little doubtful as to how eccentric it really is. Certainly a good case could be made for it being eccentric in English, such as for instance English-as-spoken-on-tv, or in rooms full of undergrads. Perhaps that is enough, depending how and where one spends his time, or what audience one has in mind.

Heresy however is an interesting choice of words. You see, etymologically it does stem from the Greek root for choice, however what it connotes is error within the church. So, should a monk opine that really Jesus is just the father's hand puppet, with no independent existence of his own, this'd be a heresy. Should a carpenter colleague of Jacob's opine that Mary's long story about how she got knocked up is damned funny this wouldn't really be heresy, it'd perhaps be apostasy, or blasphemy, or an entire host of other bad, devilish things (tm). That said, perhaps the implication is unintentional.

My argument is that though the tradition is theologically atrophied, its moral and political positions, and its personal and institutional patterns of transmission, identify it as the legitimate modern successor of mainline progressive Protestantism. Since this is only the most powerful branch of Christianity in the most powerful nation on the planet, swallowing its claims of dewy-eyed innocence is a little difficult for me.

It's shocking to observe just how widespread US jingoism is among US denizens, and to what degree it bathes, permeates and informs every nook and cranny of their thought process.

For one, the US is in no conceivable way a nation. In which manner is it a nation ? If the US is to be a nation on the grounds of some dialect of English being (mostly) spoken thereiii then Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Cuba are also a nation on the grounds of Spanish being spoken there. If the US is to be a nation on the grounds of a postal and fiscal union between the several states, then the EU is much more of a nation, and has been since about 1885. Europe however quite pointedly isn't a nation, and this quite because the several states composing it actually are nations. In other words, the fact that a poor girl doesn't have any dresses hanging in her closet does not give her license to start calling her closet a dress. Things just don't work that way.

Moreover, in which way is this failed state powerful ? Seems a remarkably tall order of delusion for a collection of people that have failed to win a war since Churchill was supervising operations. In general the power of nations is measured in their cultural output, and the US is null in that field quite in the manner Congo is null in that field. You'd have to be a particularly bored anthropologist to seriously attempt constructing meatloaf no wait, that's a German import, Liberty Fries no wait, those are French aren't they, remarkably bland processed cheese into some sort of cultural accomplishment.

What are the few centuries of US shelf life going to be remembered for, in the thousands of years of recorded cultural history ? Publish or perish, that reimplementation of female genital mutilation but for the other sexual organ ? And please don't start with pop-music, pop-psychology, pop-science, pop-culture, pop-everything-else, or with the sorriest, most dysfunctional implementation of democracy to date. These aren't cultural accomplishments, they're perhaps civilisational advances in the backward manner civilisation usually does advance. You'll be better served, if you wish to argue this tenuous "civilisation is culture" angle, by simply hiding behind Carnegie's US Steel, Rockefeller's Standard Oil, Morgan's bank and so on.

Unrelated to these massive holes, there's also a problem with the doey eyed innocence part. Specifically, consider the following thought experiment : suppose on a meadow somewhere there live in peace one doe and a number of ants. The doe is coffee colored and generally a doe by virtue of its genetic code ; the ants are black and generally ants by virtue of their genetic code. I should hope this is not particularly controversial a notion. Now, the doe is quite factually the most powerful entity living on that meadow. How does this affect its innocence ? Is it after all quite possible to have innocent supreme power then ?

And to actually have fun, consider that the doe ocasionally steps on an ant or two, and even on the anthill once in a blue moon. It happens. The ants will certainly extract their squish reparation out of the carcass of the doe once it dies, but what's that do for each party's innocence in the matter ?

Let's move on.

This heresy implies a substantial qualitative revision of reality as we know it. For example, Richard Dawkins considers himself a follower of something he calls "Einsteinian religion," which appears to differ not at all from the aforementioned tradition. From Dawkins' perspective, he is defending reason against superstition. From my perspective, he is prosecuting one Christian sect on behalf of another. Doh.

I am unable to distinguish this from simple name dropping, a benign if lucrative type of strawman. Are you ?

It's simply unrealistic to expect to be able to make this revision, or even evaluate it fairly, without adjusting the language we use to "frame" the problem. To this end I've field-tested some neologisms, such as ultracalvinism and cryptocalvinism, and also satisfied myself that existing names, such as liberalism, are just as useless and confusing as they seem.

Liberalism in particular has been redefined to death. I personally used to be a Liberal, and a card carrying member of the Romanian Liberal Party back in the days when this meant classical liberalism, something a shade or two right of the current US Tea Party. This has changed in the past few years towards a more "modern" understanding of liberalism as yet another label for socialismiv, and I sent them packing. But hey, the party is doing fine, who needs elites when you have popular support ?v

So yeah, I'd say coining a new term is a pretty good idea.

The problem with the neologisms is that they prejudge the argument. It's impossible to make them nonpejorative. Perhaps this tradition-to-be-named is a bolus of ancient, benighted lies, and perhaps its followers are either deluded zombies or unprincipled opportunists who need to be stopped. But the whole point of naming it is to synthesize a "red pill" that we can feed to the former, and no such pill has any reason to be bitter.

This is sense, and of the best quality at that.

So I've decided I like the name Universalism, with a capital U. Most Universalists would accept this name as an improper noun, because after all they consider their beliefs universal. That is, they think everyone should share them, and eventually everyone will. So all they have to swallow is the capital letter. It goes down easily with a sip of water, dissolves quickly in any hot beverage, can be crushed and mixed with applesauce, etc.

I like it, to be honest.

Universalism is the faith of our ruling caste, the Brahmins. It's best seen as the victory creed of World War II, and it's easy to connect to the various international institutions born in that victory, which Universalists still regard as sacred if occasionally stained by human frailty, much as an intelligent Catholic sees the Roman Church. (It is not a coincidence that "catholic" and "universal" are synonyms.)

While generally one shouldn't pick too much out of a short paragraph, I will point out that the link between the Universalists of today and the victors of WW2 is very tenuous at best. To put the problem in easily digested terms, it could perhaps be said that Peter Steele was a later continuator of Elvis Presley. Nevertheless...

I wouldn't hold this gloss against the author, any serious attempt at retracing the knot of WW2 into contemporaneity would be impractical for the venue. Any venue. Moreover, I like people who know the etymologies of everyday words. It's the first step towards using language as a cultural agent.

Universalism is actually already the name of a Christian doctrine, the doctrine of universal salvation. This idea, that all dogs go to Heaven and there is no Hell, is best regarded as an extremist mutation of Calvinism, in which everyone is part of the elect. The modern idea of universal salvation comes to us from Unitarian thinkers such as Emerson, and forms the second half of Unitarian Universalism, whose devotees are, needless to say, Universalist to perfection. (It's an interesting exercise to compare the tenets of UUism to those of "political correctness.")

I'm not really much of an expert on the intellectually obscure, theologically... crude, shall we say, and epistemologically simplistic notions and concoctions of the various protestant and neoprotestant sects. In any discussion of christianity they're a footnote, Henry's successors' efforts notwithstanding. Nevertheless, vaguely informed as I find myself, it still seems to me that the first proposition quoted is perhaps unable to stand on its two legs, and perhaps the second fares no better (but that's an extremely lengthy discussion for little practical benefit). If anyone knee deep in that mire feels inclined to throw together a discussion of the topic I'd read it.

The Universalist synthesis united two American traditions that in the past had sometimes been at odds. One was the ecumenical mainline Protestant movement, exemplified by institutions such as the Federal Council of Churches, whose most daring theologians were moving toward humanism. The other was what might (with homage to Edward Bellamy) be called the Nationalist movement, a vast raft of secular pragmatists, socialists, anarchists, communists, and other reformers, who flocked to the German-inspired university system that developed in the late 19th century, becoming a sort of roach motel for bad ideas.

This could be nitpicked perhaps, but overall I'd say it's a decent summary of an otherwise amorphous mess. The amorphousness of which is an important mention, because the principal fashion in which sophistry manifests on the Internet is through narrative building, taking advantage of the low literacy and poor intellectual capacity of the (average) readership. This is not significantly different from the process through which ruthlessly oppressed Russian peasantry nevertheless believed staunchly in a divine, supremely good Tsar (whose divine, supremely good intentions were, of course, occasionally stained by human frailty). This is ultimately the purpose of that great innovation (for its time), the Bible : creating a narrative out of a phenomenological mess is the cheapest way to buy truth.

(One of the most sensible of the Nationalist philosophers, William James, seriously proposed paramilitary forced labor as the cure for all social ills - in 1906. Oh, Billy, if only you knew! And the utopia of Bellamy's enormously-influential Looking Backward (1888) is essentially the Soviet Union.)

Forced labour is not particularly a novel concept, and so its constant resurfacing is scarcely worth much consideration. It's a point of fact that education of the individual requires outside pressure, and that will always settle into some sort of forced labour or other. What are teenagers doing in highschools all over the world right now, forced orgasms ? Clearly it's labour.

I wouldn't call Bellamy's stuff "enormously" influential. For one thing, cursory analysis would show it was perhaps marginally less influential than say Harry Potter. Sure, the Rowling pulp broke sales records and even spawned dress-up clubs, which held out for a few years and in some pockets significantly longer. So ? Moreover, all sci-fi utopian junk at the time looked roughly the same, and the USSR wasn't really one narrowly defined, clean cut thing. So basically any work of utopian fiction from about 1880 to maybe 1940 could be said to have been "essentially" the Soviet Union. The contemporary reader is familiar with this phenomenon in observing that most "evil empire" fictions from about 1950 to maybe 2010 could be said to be "essentially" the United States. The complex reality and ample variance of what "United States" means in practice quite visibly makes that a light bet. It wasn't particularly different with the Soviet Union fifty years ago, even if the nooks and crannies are mostly outside living memory by now.

While these groups had generally cooperated in the Progressive Era, there were some tensions - for example, over Prohibition, which the secular Nationalists found hard to swallow. These eased substantially in the New Deal, largely due to the brilliant coup in which Progressives captured the Democratic Party, their former opposition, and converted it into an extremist Progressive movement - while repealing Prohibition. FDR even had a book called Looking Forward printed under his name.

I don't think the reintepretation of prohibition proposed holds much value. The prohibition was an out-and-out attempt by the church lobby to break up the tavern lobby (depicted, of course, as "evil" and "corrupt"). On top of being a rehash of social dynamics going back as far as Byzantium and perhaps earlier, this is a natural and rather common form of the male/female struggle for political dominance, the balance of which favours the female side while at peace. Consequently, claiming the prohibition was "a decade long debate between old biddies and young men to establish who shall wear the trousers in the US" migth wash, claiming the prohibition was some sort of tension between nationalists and ecumenists or whatever is a little like a "fried elephant" consisting of a fried elephant ear.

More displeasing, the very poor form of the argument, structured as a wild claim followed by wild anecdote. "Mencius Moldbug is struggling with his repressed homosexual urges, look, he even used M for Male as his chosen initials!" sort of nonsense. I suppose at this rate if Hillary Clinton had written a coffee table book (about saxophones) titled "Looking Sideways" she'd have become a party to all this ?

(Interestingly, both the mainline Protestant and secular Nationalist movements have deep links to the evil John Calvin, ayatollah of Geneva. Mainline Protestantism descends from Calvinism through, of course, the Puritans. The Nationalists were strongly influenced by this tradition as well, in its later Unitarian and Transcendentalist forms, but many also studied in the Prussian university system, where they learned the secular versions of Calvin's divine State propounded by the Genevan Rousseau, and later by Hegel. Death is a master from Germany.)

This is again the above mentioned narrative process. Any half-literate peon can create this type of prose to suit any needs starting from any arbitrary set of factual data. In fact, it's an exercise given in more upscale environments to the youths aspiring to the republic of letters.

After WWII, there was no longer any visible quarrel between these factions. Any views which contradicted Universalism became socially unacceptable in polite society. Progressive Christianity, through secular theologians such as Harvey Cox, abandoned the last shreds of Biblical theology and completed the long transformation into mere socialism. Nationalism also becomes an inappropriate term, as with the growth in American power it morphed into internationalism and, as most now call it, transnationalism. Instead of sacralized regional governments, transnationalists want to build a sacralized planetary government - on the principle that, as Albert Jay Nock put it, "if a spoonful of prussic acid will kill you, a bottleful is just what you need to do you a great deal of good."

It's dubious to what degree these factions, crediting for the sake of following this argument that indeed that's what we're dealing with, actually survived much past WW2. That aside, the NCC for instance mostly dissolved over their ardent rejection of involvement in Vietnam (something which the putative "nationalist" faction probably on the balance supported), which would seem to qualify as a visible quarrel.

In any case, it is exceedingly difficult to falsify, or for that matter even seriously consider the points presented, on account of their vague hollowness. This problem could not readily be resolved by drenching the text in "facts", because of the problems of selection bias. This problem could also not readily be resolved by "improving the definitions", because they don't seem to fundamentally be capable of bearing improvement.

Basically the only intellectually coherent use of this text is in terms of metaphor, recognising that the factuality of the elements upon which it is constructed is not only questionable, but quite squarely out of the question. Humour works in a similar manner, as it's particular bad form to ask to see identification papers once someone starts telling a joke about one John Smith. The counterbalance of this, of course, is that one's well advised to not attempt a point-for-point mapping of metaphor to reality, but merely try to extract some sort of heuristic from it. The only alternative to this approach is dismissing the entire thing out of hand at this point as just as much tinfoil poppycock.

Creedal declarations of Universalism are not hard to find. I am fond of the Humanist Manifestos (version 1, version 2, version 3), which pretty much say it all. The UN Declaration of Human Rights is good as well. No mainline Protestant will find anything morally objectionable in any of these documents.

It strikes me as a particularly strange notion that a mainline anything, protestant or electrician, would be expected to find something morally objectionable in the declaration of human rights. Not only because the text is deliberately constructed specifically to avoid the morally objectionable, in the most general form, but also because it's the eventual product of a lengthy cultural process of redefining both morals and objections into some sort of coherence. Basically this reduces to observing that "no carpenter could find anything technically objectionable in the hammer standard". How would they ? That's what they used in carpenter school, a hammer made by those standards.

Should this be suspicious, then ? Wouldn't it put us roughly in the position of the jealous husband that asks his wife to cook him a chicken soup and then suspects it's probably poisoned on the grounds that she picked chicken specifically ?

In a probably-vain attempt to boil down all this cant, I've defined the four principal Ideals of the creed as Social Justice, Peace, Equality and Community. As we've already seen, Social Justice means political violence, and Peace means victory. We'll get to Equality and Community shortly.

I suppose if time permits and interest lasts I'll be looking at those then, as well as a couple other items linked above.

The latest chapter in this sad and savage story was written in the 1960s, when the first postwar generation came of age. These young men and women had been educated by the Universalist "Establishment" which won the war, and were quite unaware that any serious and intelligent person could disagree with the Universalist consensus. The result was a sort of creeping Talibanization in which the doctrines of Universalism became constantly more extreme, a process that continues to this day.

This is true, if banal. Let's re-write it for the sake of deconstructivism.

    The latest chapter in this sad and savage story was written in the 1960s, when the first postwar generation came of age. These young men and women had been educated by the medical "Establishment", and were quite unaware that any serious and intelligent person could disagree with the medical consensus. The result was a sort of creeping Talibanization in which the doctrines of medicine became constantly more extreme, a process that continues to this day.

This is factually true, for instance hygiene standards have been getting more exacting to the point of edge ridiculousness since Pasteur. Replace medicine with silicon lithography and you have the same situation, we've talibanized from an inch per transistor to 22nm process. Sure, the mean bad words like "establishment" and "talibanization" convey pathos, but the effect is overall bathetic.

Today, perhaps the simplest definition of Universalism is that it's the belief system taught in American universities (at least, Federally funded universities). But, again, it is fundamentally a Christian sect, and its moral and political tenets will find echoes in Massachusetts and upstate New York at any time since the 1830s. Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance, for example, is a satire of hippies - written in 1852. All that's missing is the patchouli.

This is conveniently short and sweet. The problem is that we've lost continuity, for should I agree indeed Universalism is "the belief system taught in US universities"vi then here's what it'd functionally break down as :

  • That the relation between individual and achievement is neither work nor - horrible dictu - ability, but a third mystical phlogiston perhaps called "privilege" ;
  • That diversity is important and valuable, and in its pursuit people are well advised to avoid travelling outside of The Country or learning foreign languages ;
  • That the government is at its core the primary care provider for adults, and that the normal, healthy evolution of the psychologically well developed individual is from the house of his parents into some sort of bureaucracy. The alternatives belie specific mental distortions strictly due to environment factors that may be cured through liberal application of a certain brand of a very pedestrian form of psychoterapy, in practice mostly indistinguishable from blather.
  • That while childbearing is the greatest, best, most sugar-spicy and wonderful thing, it is also undignified and improper for good neotenic "adults", even perhaps a sufficient reason for the fall from grace and thus best avoided.
  • That truth is the most important thing to seek, bearing in mind it has no existence outside of the agreement of college students and their caretakers.

The list could continue, but it is already sufficiently variant from what one'd conceivably have construed Universalism to mean up to this point. So to revisit the earlier branch, indeed a new word with a new definition would be useful. That notwithstanding, a new word without a definition, and especially a new label to be used as a rug under which randomness may be randomly shoved is not useful.

Universalists, as descendants of Calvin's postmillennial eschatology, are in the business of building God's kingdom on Earth. (The original postmillennialists believed that once this kingdom was built, Christ would return - a theological spandrel long since discarded.) The city-on-a-hill vision is a continuous tradition from John Winthrop to Barack Obama. In Britain, the closely-related Evangelical movement used the term "New Jerusalem," which I'm afraid never really made it across the pond, but expresses the vision perhaps best of all. I always picture the New Jerusalem ("in England's green and pleasant land") as involving a lot of enormous concrete tower blocks, with the Clash's "Guns of Brixton" playing somewhere on someone's ghetto-blaster, and a forty-year-old grandmother screaming at her junkie daughter, but I'm not sure this is how they saw it in the 1890s.

I would dare say this is no distinguishing feature of Calvinists. For that matter, the Romans, both in Republic and Empire, were in the business of building God(s)' kingdom on Earth. So were the Greeks. So were the Parthians. So were the Chinese, and as best we can determine the Iroquois. So is everyone, why and how is this a big deal ?

And yes it always ended up with good portions of sweat, blood and urine decaying under a thin dusting of dry sand. Of course. Should this be a shocking realisation of some sort, somehow ? Five year olds really shouldn't be reading random blogspots. Who else is in target ?

What's really impressive about Universalism is the way in which this messianic teenage fantasy power-trip has attracted, and continues to attract, so many people who don't believe at all in the spirit world, only smoke weed on the weekends, and think of themselves as sensible and down-to-earth. Of course, the belief that all Universalist ideals can be justified by reason alone is a necessary condition. But Christian apologists have been deriving Christianity from pure reason since St. Augustine. You'd think these supposedly-skeptical thinkers would be a little more skeptical.

I suspect this is a property of thought strictly derived from natural language. We have well established that word definitions are fundamentally circular, and yet nevertheless meaning manages to (allegedly) be conveyed through their use (although granted, from human to human, but not from human to Turing machine). So yes, every icon in the mind is derived through "pure reason", which is to say, workings of the mind, from another icon in the mind or two or three. What's one to do ? Not exactly like we have a spare mind to check the first mind with, and the tests that allow discovering slides are so complicated to even comprehend and so complex to at all administer that lo and behold, even the article's author has had significant trouble sliding every which way all through this discussion. What of it now ? It's the fate of man, whose mind not even the Devil doth know.

As a non-Universalist, I can't help but admire the success of this particular replicator. It is brilliantly designed, like the smallpox virus. The fact that no one actually designed it, any more than someone designed the smallpox virus, that it is simply the result of adaptive selection in a highly competitive environment, heightens rather than detracts from my awe.

It may be perhaps the case that its perfect replication results from its vague definition. In fact, should someone manage to confuse the definition for "escherichia coli" to the degree that any energetic interraction can be arguably brought under it, then that one would discover much to his surprise the incredible replicative ability of this strain of bacterium, that finds itself bumping off protons in the bubble chamber even under the most doubtlessly sterile conditions.

The coolest thing about Universalism is that it has the perfect opposition. If a Christian who believes his or her faith is justified by universal reason is a Universalist, a Christian who believes his or her faith is justified by divine revelation - in other words, a "Christian" as the word is commonly used today - might be called a Revelationist.

Suppose you have two faiths. Both claim to be absolutely and undebatably true. Faith A tells you it is an ineluctable consequence of reason. Faith B tells you it is the literal word of God. Which is more likely to be accurate?

The answer is that you have no information at all. Perhaps faith B is the literal word of God, but you have no way to distinguish it from something that someone just made up. Perhaps faith A can be derived from pure reason, but you have no way to know if the derivation is accurate unless you work through it yourself. In which case, why do you need faith A?

Not that the line of questioning isn't sound, which it is, but perhaps you need faith A for the same reason you need a blog ? Which is to say, you don't really need it.

In fact, of the two, faith A is almost certainly more powerful and dangerous. As anyone who's majored in Marxist-Leninist Studies knows, it's very easy to construct an edifice of pseudo-reason so vast and daunting that working through it is quite impractical. And this edifice is much more free to contradict common sense - in fact, it has an incentive to do so, because nonsensical results are especially subtle and hard to follow.

This is certainly a correct observation. Note that it took the better half of a decade for anyone to even bother.

Whereas when the word of God contradicts common sense, the idea that it might not actually be the word of God isn't too hard to come by. In other words, if faith A contains any fallacies, they are effectively camouflaged, whereas the "and God says" steps in faith B's syllogisms are clearly marked and brightly colored, and faith B pays a price in skepticism if God's opinion is obviously at variance with physical reality.

So a reasonable observer might guess that, in fact, the tenets of faith B are more likely to be true, simply because it is more difficult for them to get away with being false. But in reality, these derivations tell us nothing. Probably faith A is right about some things, and faith B is right about some others.

This is practically true, even if a lot turns on the audience considered. Not even five centuries ago the idea that the word of God isn't really the word of God at all was quite difficult to come by, while the scholastic ability to pierce through "good camouflage" is not matched today.

However, in the struggle between Universalism and Revelationism, the former always wins. Because the Universalists control the mainstream educational and information system, this is really not at all surprising. But since, as we've seen, it is not rational for a reasonable observer to choose justification by reason over justification by revelation, a political system in which the Universalists are the Globetrotters and the Revelationists are the Generals is almost certain to be one which systematically propagates lies.

This is a difficult proposition to consider, absent a criteria of winning. What's "wins" mean ? To this day millions of people hold the patently absurd notion that there exists some sort of god. What winning is this ? In spite of all that vaunted control of the educational and information system, these Universalists have failed for the past two hundred years! to get the unwashed hordes to come to terms with the simple scientific fact that they're closer to monkeys than they are to me.

And speaking of informational control... what control ? It's a pipe dream, things are completely out of control information wise.

We've already seen a few of these lies, and we'll see quite a few more. However, I think the dynamics of the struggle are better illustrated by questions in which, by whatever coincidence, the Universalists are right and the Revelationists are wrong.

For example, because my zip code is 94114, although I am straight as an iron spear, I happen to see nothing at all wrong with "gay marriage." In fact I am completely sympathetic to the Universalist view, in which the fact that couples have to be of opposite sexes is a sort of bizarre holdover from the Middle Ages, like the ducking-stool or trial by fire. It's not clear to me why homosexuality, which obviously has some extremely concrete biological cause, is so common in modern Western populations, but it is what it is.

This is mind boggling. Hold over from the middle ages ? What is the meaning of the word "what", then, not just as much a hold over from the same period ? Why shouldn't "what" be redefined to include both intensions of the previous "how" and "what", together ? Some languages have always done it that way, so why not ?

For that matter, why not call the shirts men wear maillots ? Why not call bikinis briefs ? Why should sneakers not be used to describe red lacquered shoes with 9 inch steel heels, and while we're at it why wouldn't "building" work for vehicles too ? Why can't "government" also mean "store" and "paper" also mean "electricity" and in the end why not just say Ingh for everything and be done with it ?

Gay marriage isn't marriage any more than water polo is polo, or table tennis is tennis. I don't have a problem with either sport, but I very much like to be able to know aforehand what exact event I'm buying tickets for.

The impression of homosexuality being somehow common on the grounds that it's currently fashionable in the post-Victorian (and in that, pre-modern) space is squarely the result of a similar sort of confusion, explained in my older Tipologiile homosexualitatii, a Romanian piece unfortunately (anyone feel like translating ?).

However, because I am straight etc, and also because I'm not a Universalist, I happen to think the issue is not really one of the most pressing concerns facing humanity. And so it occurs to wonder to me how exactly gay marriage became an "issue," when no one twenty years ago even thought of it as a possibility. Whatever the force is that brought this about, I find it hard to imagine anyone describing it as "democratic" with a straight face.

This "straight etc" business is starting to smack of the lady doth protest too much. But be that as it may, gay marriage has become a major issue because the US government has been in the business of changing definitions of terms in the most bureaucratic fashion, replacing the dollar of last year with a lesser dollar of this year each year, replacing inflation with a bizarre joke, redefining homelessness over a dozen times to the point more people are de-homelessified through applications of word magic than through finding of homes, redefining "racial nondiscrimination" to mean "racial discrimination against whites" and on and on and on to the point that when "global warming" becomes "climate change" and two men holding hands "a marriage" people are starting to throw their hands in the air and reject the entire system.

And when I say the entire system, I mean it : it's not just US citizenship that may irrecoverably sink as a result of the exquisitely inept handling of affairs by elected, democratic US governments since the war. It's quite conceivable American English as it stands may get scrapped entirely. Who knows, maybe the cvasi-nation "most powerful in the world" manages its impotence better in Spanish.

If anyone can come up with an example of a way in which American public opinion has changed in this way, but the change has gone against the Universalists and in favor of the Revelationists, I would certainly be interested to hear it. I think there are a few exceptions - notably in the domain of economics - but they all seem to involve an extremely dramatic intrusion of reality, a force which rarely has any direct impact on American opinion.

Again it's difficult to construct effectual examples because of the poor quality of definitions. Nevertheless, it would seem to me that the recent resurgence of creationist nonsense is a good example, or at least contains a good example of the kind.

  1. Before publishing, that is. After publishing I re-read my stuff dozens of times, in sheer glee over how great it is. I'm just nuts like that. []
  2. Did I mention I like the correct spelling visible throughout ? I didn't. I do. []
  3. American English is simply a dialect of English, and not a particularly accomplished one at that. It lacks things such as, to quote a hint,

    A translation worthy of the name is as much the product of a literary epoch as it is of the brain and labor of a scholar; and Melmouth's version of the letters of Pliny the Younger, made, as it was, at a period when the art of English letter writing had attained its highest excellence, may well be the despair of our twentieth century apostles of specialization.

    There never was a time of American English letter writing excellence, and there aren't even good equivalents for Cockney* slang. In short, American English is about as much a language in the learned sense of that term as Polari. They both serve well very peculiar technical needs of the ethnically diverse, culturally unhomogenous speakers and nothing else.

    * In case you're curious, Cockney is called that because at some point a few centuries back, a Londoner visiting friends in the country saw a horse neigh, and observed in amazement that the horse is laughing. Which was, to the eyes of an urban dweller completely separated from reality (as urban dwellers have been since at least 9`000 years ago), quite a startling realisation. Maybe horses are human in other ways too ?! His gracious hosts observed that the horse isn't laughing, but neighing, which is something horses on occasion do and while superficially alarming it really doesn't warrant a second thought.

    In the morning, after a night of merriment, the visitor was awakened by a rooster singing in the roostery fashion, and wanting to impress his hosts with his ready ability to learn (as urban dwellers have been trying to do, for about 9`000 years) he exclaimed "Listen to that cock neigh!".

    Which, of course, is very funny, in about the same manner Obama's "urbanized, racially diverse supporters" are a very funny notion. The striking difference between the English language as spoken cca 1600 and the American English dialect as spoken cca 2000 being, of course, the latter's complete inability to deal with topics of profound cultural relevance such as humour.

    PS. This is the post scriptum to a footnote of a footnote. It's not that English can't, it's that USites don't have what with. []

  4. It's strange how many labels socialism needs, almost as the countless pairs of socks and underwear necessary to the man who doesn't wash. []
  5. They're about to be elbowed out of their tenuous alliance with the out-and-out socialist and communist-continuator Red party, and dissapear into the footnotes exactly in the way Romania's other "historical" ie pre-war/pre-Russian party did. Jean Moscopol predicted this cca 1945. []
  6. Isn't it strange the author capitalises every other word but not University ? What sort of German is this ?! []
Category: Meta psihoza
Comments feed : RSS 2.0. Leave your own comment below, or send a trackback.

5 Responses

  1. I'm not sure what sort of German would do that? Does he also refer to anyone at the front of a lecture hall as Herr Professor.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 25 October 2013

    When I say "What sort of German is this ?" I mean German language. Seems to me the classes of words getting the capital initial keep expanding.

  1. [...] In which I discuss things I have no idea about “Universalism: postwar progressivism as a Christian sect” [...]

  2. [...] “Universalism: postwar progressivism as a Christian sect” pe Trilema - Un blog de Mircea... (via Pingback) Vineri, 25 Octombrie [...]

  3. [...] you had to, then you can't) he actually finds himself. Funny how that goes. [↩]Yes, yes, this exists. Comes from bathos. [↩]nothing*, where *=pretty much anything. Water similarly "will stop at [...]

Add your cents! »
    If this is your first comment, it will wait to be approved. This usually takes a few hours. Subsequent comments are not delayed.