- “Turkeys voting for Christmas”?
- Hushed up by the U.K. government?
- What to do about the “long hours culture”?
- Banks, economics, and epistemology
- Welfare policy, “social Darwinism,” etc.
- The mindlessness of pop culture
- Bad habits and the “corrupting influence” of American culture
- Human subject research and human rights
In a post titled Nature of the Beast, Julian brings up one of my biggest problems with LaVeyan Satanism:
Most Satanic thought is predicated on the creation of a vaguely right-wing state where people would prosper according to their abilities. Strangely most of the Satanists I have had contact with, or read about, have been creative, thoughtful and non-violent (unless pushed). They often have ‘alternative’ lifestyles and sexualities. A Satanic state, given human nature, would very quickly become a state run by those with the skills to make the most money, for the benefit of the same! I’ve met enough of that type of person (and their Philistine ways) to know that sensitive arty types, and sexual ‘deviants’ would be the first against the wall in such a state.
Are Satanists really turkeys voting for Christmas?
You’ve hit the nail on the head here, Julian. That being the case, why do you continue to equate “Satanism” itself with LaVey’s “vaguely right-wing” value system? Why do you continue to use the term “Satanic state” to refer to LaVey’s ideal society, or something very similar to that?
It seems to me that Satanists need to move away from advocacy of pure capitalism and “social Darwinism” and advocate, instead, an agenda which would actually benefit the “sensitive arty types and sexual ‘deviants'” who are, in fact, Satanism’s core constituencies.
What, then, is Satanism? See the What is Satanism? page on my Theistic Satanism site.
For an example of a form of Satanism I think is far better suited to Satanism’s core constituencies than LaVeyan Satanism, see Hekate and the Satanic School by Tim Maroney (circa 1990, edited 2002).
In another post, Julian talks about what he calls the Children of Leviathan: “creative, unworldly, given to interests in the occult and arcane aspects of life … attracted to the shadows rather than the light, delving into the hidden things and nature’s secret ways, rather than accepting the readily presented norms.”
That’s a pretty good description of what I think Satanism (or Satanisms) should be about, while at the same time encouraging practicality.
In Stratification – it’s here!, Julian wrote:
Oliver Curry, while working in London, has apparently been walking around his city with his eyes shut.
If he took a stroll around the crack-ridden streets of London, chanced a walk on the grim and violent streets of Nottingham, or surveyed the squalor, filth and incest of the Isle of Wight, he would see that half a century of socialist intervention in the UK has bred a frightful underclass, which is a significant minority within that country.
The first symptom is an aversion to work: there are children leaving school who will never have a job. Their parents have never had a job and their grandparents have never had a job. Welfare has made work an unecessary burden on their lives for 50 years.
How do you know the family history of all these people? This is not something that can be ascertained simply via a stroll around the neighborhood. Can you cite any studies?
This repulsive sub species conduct lives of Hogarthian squalor, they are mostly functionally illiterate, they aimlessly wander the streets looking for something to steal to buy drink or drugs – and a fact which has been consistently hushed up by the UK Government – the squalor and intimacy of the housing projects they live in have made them hotbeds of incest. The kinds of birth defects which once were the preserve of unfortunate rural districts, are now occuring regularly in the heart of the UK’s major cities.
How do you know this? What do you consider to be reliable sources of information on matters which have been “consistently hushed up by the UK Government”?
Also, on what basis do you say that information about this matter has been hushed up by the U.K. government, in the first place? (Note: In reply to this, please don’t cite an example of a government official being fired for insulting rhetoric. A prohibition on insulting rhetoric by government officials would not necessarily be the same thing as hushing up the information itself. I’m wondering about your basis for saying that the information has been hushed up, as distinct from insulting rhetoric.)
I’m not disputing your claims here. For all I know, your claims may be entirely correct. I’m just wondering what they are based on, with the expectation that your answer may lead to a discussion on how we decide what is to be considered reliable information in the social sciences.
Stratification is here, but it is not the kind we would wish.
Agreed that there is such a thing as an undesirable form of “stratification.” This is one of my problems with LaVey’s call for “stratification” in the first place. In my opinion, both stratification/elitism and egalitarianism/populism are desirable in some forms and in some contexts, but not desirable in others. LaVey seems to have been reacting, in an oversimplified way, against the excesses of the hippie movement.
In The New Dumb, Julian wrote:
It is sometimes staggering to hear the inanity spoken by many people, who by their education, position in society and job, really ought to be better informed, better read and better cultured. People who have degrees, but who have not read a book in years, or take part in any culture more taxing than the latest ‘reality’ TV show.
The brutal ‘long hours culture’ that many people are now a part of is surely a significant contribution to the New Dumbness.
Back in the day, the reason for most dumbness was that the working classes laboured in fields or in factories. When they got home they were too physically tired to read, take part in hobbies, interests or any other kind of cerebral activity. The harshness of their work made them as dumb as beasts – thinking was the preserve of the middle classes – who worked in clerical positions. They read books, they sometimes wrote them, and they took part in societies, hobbies and had interests in things other than work.
Now we all work in offices – frequently leading the lifestyle you yourself might recognise: rising before 6.00am for a two-hour commute to be at the office by 8am, working until 8pm then the long commute back, arriving home too physically or mentally tired to do anything but stuff a ‘peel and ping’ dinner down in front of Celebrity Big Brother.
The need to earn ever more to pay the mortgage on inflated property prices has made the educated as dumb as our forebears who worked in the fields.
I would say that what’s needed here is a law mandating a 40-hour-maximum work week – or, at the very least, that people be paid extra (say, double time) for overtime.
Many years ago, many labor unions won a 40-hour-maximum workweek. Evidently that victory has subsequently eroded. This is one of the reasons why labor unions are still needed, in my opinion. Of course, the mere existence of labor unions is not enough. They need to exercise their muscles in a way that will truly benefit the workers, including “middle class”/”white collar” workers.
Left to their own devices, most employers prefer to hire as few employees as possible and make them all work humongously long hours. An external force is needed to counteract that tendency.
If there were a mandated maximum 40-hour work week, then the market price of middle-class housing would have to fall, too, so most people would no longer need to work overtime just to afford housing.
In Moral Risk, Julian wrote:
Among the consequences of the sub-prime fiasco in America is the argument as to whether governments should bail out financial institutions which fail. A strong and compelling argument against this is what is called ‘Moral Risk’. That is, if the government put in measures to make it safer for financial institutions to take risks (such as underwriting losses to keep them afloat), then those institutions will take bigger risks.
Here’s an interesting relevant news story: Fed eyes Nordic-style nationalisation of US banks by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor, Telegraph (U.K.), 02/04/2008 (I’m not sure whether that’s February 4 or April 2).
Apparently, in Norway, Sweden and Finland, when a bank would fail, the central bank would nationalize it, seizing all its assets, and then stabilize it, and then sell it to a new set of stockholders. That way, the old stockholders lost everything, but the bank’s customers did not lose any money.
Seems fair to me, and a good way to avoid “moral hazard” while at the same time avoiding bank runs and avoiding a monetary collapes. Julian, what do you think of this idea?
Anyhow, Julian goes on to say:
It seems that economists have, with the theory of ‘moral risk’, found a way of describing what should be self-evident – that removing the consequences of actions makes people less likely to take responsibility for themselves.
In a complex system such as a modern economy, things that may seem “self-evident” to a layperson aren’t necessarily true. Sometimes what seems “obvious” actually is true, but by no means is this always the case. Some things are counterintuitive.
So, if one is going to make economic policy a major focus of one’s activism, then there is, in my opinion, no substitute for cracking open some standard academic textbooks in economics, sociology, and urban studies. Of course, the textbooks aren’t infallible either. However, if one is unwilling or unable to take the time to understand the current consensus and the scholarly arguments for it, then one may be denouncing the scholarly consensus out of ignorance.
Note: I don’t know what Julian’s academic background is on these matters, so my point here is not to accuse him, personally, of denouncing the scholarly consensus out of ignorance. I’m just making the more general point that one should not rely just on folklore and “common sense” about things that seem “self-evident.”
Also in Moral Risk, Julian then goes on his usual spiel about welfare policy, a topic I myself admittedly haven’t studied in-depth, although I do know just enough about it to know that at least some of the common right-wing middle-class folklore about welfare isn’t necessarily accurate, at least here in the U.S.A. Then again, economic policy isn’t a major focus of activism for me. Here on this blog, I generally bring up that topic only when I have occusion to converse with others who do make it a major focus.
One comment, offhand: It seems to me that, without welfare, there would be even more crime by poor and unemployed people, who would have no choice but to turn to crime. This, in turn, would likely mean even more people in prison than we have now, which means more money spent on prisons, including salaries of prison guards, which cost more than welfare payments. Alternatively, it could mean even more police corruption than we have now, with more and bigger gangs to pay off the cops. I wonder whether those who advocate the elimination of welfare have researched the history of crime. American cities in the late 1800’s, when we had a system closer to pure capitalism than we have now, were not a pretty sight at all.
An extreme right winger might respond to the above by advocating that we go back to having a death penalty for thieves. But that hardly seems like a fair punishment for a poor person with no means of survival other than crime of some sort, given the built-in inevitability of at least some unemployment in a modern economy.
Perhaps the U.K. ought to consider some kinds of welfare reform, if the U.K. has not already implemented them, such as requiring able-bodied people on welfare either to attend school or to work 20 hours per week in some government-sponsored public works program. This is the policy here in the U.S.A., last I heard. I think this is much better than the idea of eliminating welfare altogether.
By the way, I don’t know how common Julian’s views on welfare are in the U.K. Here in the U.S.A., such views are very common among white middle-class and working-class folks. Indeed it’s the view I personally was brought up with.
Julian also quotes Herbert Spencer.
Looking around for some well-informed debates about Herbert Spencer and his ideas, I didn’t find much offhand, just the following in the JREF forum so far:
- A thread titled Social Darwinism
- Another thread titled Social Darwinism
- Yet another thread titled Social Darwinism
- All men are created equal… right?
- A good post about Ayn Rand by someone who appreciates her work, and a thoughtful reply
Nothing really new or in-depth here, although most of the discussion is at least literate and rational, and it encompasses a wide variety of points of view. Julian might find these debates interesting if, outside of Satanist circles, he has never encountered any responses to his ideas other than an incoherent “Ewww! Like Hitler?!”
I also found what appears to be a reasonably objective, non-ideological overview of Herbert Spencer’s Contributions to Behavior Analysis by Julian C Leslie at the University of Ulster. This appears to be a peer-reviewed paper published in a scholarly journal. And here’s the article about Herbert Spencer in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a reputable academic source. However, neither of these articles concern themselves much with presenting arguments for and against Spencer’s “social Darwinism.” The focus is more on other aspects of Spencer’s work, which may be helpful in putting his “social Darwinism” into context.
Anyhow, one big problem I have both with eugenics and with the more laissez-faire version of “social Darwinism” is that, thanks to modern technology, we inevitably live in a world which, no matter how it’s organized, is radicially different from the environments in which most of human evolution has taken place. Not only that, but technology keeps changing, so that traits that are desirable in one era cease to be desirable in the next.
A bit of social history, to put this in perspective: In primitive Europe, the kinds of people we would now call “bums” once served a valuable social function, as a means of (slow) communication between villages. In at least some parts of ancient Europe, traveling vagabonds were allowed to stay in any given village for three days, during which time they were given free food, shelter, and various gifts, after which they had to move on to the next village. While staying in any given village, vagabonds and other travelers would inform people about what was going on in other villages. Thus, in an era before modern transportation and communication, they served as a valuable source of news. For this reason, hospitality codes were common in ancient societies. In some places, such as ancient Greece, it was even believed that the gods came to Earth disguised as vagabonds, so you better be nice to them for that reason too.
It has been a while since I last read about this. Looking around on the Internet, the only detailed articles I’ve found so far on ancient hospitality codes are the Wikipedia articles on hospitality and Xenia (Greek). There are lots of other articles on the web that briefly reference ancient hospitality codes.
Anyhow, I think nearly all geneticists would agree that human survival is best ensured by having a diverse gene pool, rather than by drastic, cattle-breeding-style efforts to weed out undesirable traits. Only with a diverse gene pool can we ensure that the human race as a whole can continue to adapt to many different environments.
Still, I wouldn’t necessarily oppose relatively mild, noncoercive eugenic measures such as tax incentives to encourage the most productive citizens to have at least two or three kids. Of course there would inevitably be some haggling over who these most productive citizens are. And any such measure should be accompanied by improvements to the educational system, including improvements to school discipline.
Today’s medical genetics and infertility treatments already involve consensual eugenics. For example, if I’m not mistaken, sperm donors and egg donors are typically required to be healthy, good-looking, high-achieving students at elite colleges. I see nothing wrong with that.
I agree with Julian that the state of the human gene pool shouldn’t be a taboo topic. But this issue needs to be considered carefully, from a variety of angles.
In Garbage out…. More Garbage out…., Julian wrote:
I realised that it was no small wonder that most people are so stupid… if they pay their $12 to go see a movie and then talk all the way through it, then what chance does literature, or any other of the ‘difficult’ arts stand in permeating their consciousness. I recently read that some school teachers had given up getting their charges to take their I-pods off completely while they are teaching and settle for just one ear being left free. These are no doubt the same students who will later sue for not getting the grades they need.
When music has become an unrelenting background noise of tunes, what chance does ‘difficult’ music stand? How can people grapple with Proust’s interminable sentences against a background blather of TV, friend’s chatter, SMS messages and instant messages?
Great work demands your whole concentration. The long, quiet spaces between conversations, between work and sleep are the vacuums which the work of great minds can rush in.
Agreed totally, so far. But then:
The endless pap of ‘reality TV’, celebrity gossip and bland pop are just ways society has of filling up your time so that you don’t think too long and too hard about anything.
It doesn’t seem likely to me that anyone deliberately decided, “Let’s create all this nonsense just to fill up people’s time so they stop thinking.” I think it’s more likely that most of pop culture exists merely for the purpose of making money, and, to that end, needs to grab people’s attention. And it has, alas, succeeded in grabbing people’s attention to the point where silence is now very scarce.
Given Julian’s dislike of mindless chit chat, he might enjoy the article Caring for Your Introvert by Jonathan Rauch (The Atlantic Monthly, March 2003 ), if he hasn’t seen it already.
Julian’s post Howl 2007 is a brief rant about the mindlessness of popular culture. For the most part I share his annoyance. I don’t own a TV set, and I don’t miss it.
However, I was startled by the comment thread beneath this post.
The first message, by an American named “Jonathan,” denounces “America’s obscene culture” for having “corrupted Britain, Europe, and much of the rest of the world.” Jonathan then says, “I believe that only Afghanistan’s Taliban fully understood the extent of America’s corrupting influence on foreign peoples; and America invaded and stomped all over Afghanistan, installing America’s god and goddess, Democracy and Freedom. The result of this is that Afghans are now free to watch America’s idiotic television and movies, and to listen to America’s extremely idiotic music, and to follow Americans right down the toilet.”
The latter claim does not appear to be accurate. See Afghanistan: TV Stations Ordered To Stop Broadcasting ‘Un-Islamic’ Content, Tuesday, April 22, 2008. And the controversy in Afghanistan seems to have been mainly about soap operas from India, not the U.S.A. (although, of course, the very idea of a soap opera was invented in the U.S.A. as far as I am aware), As I’ve discussed elsewhere on this blog, the new government of Afghanistan is another Islamist theocracy, just a tamer one than the Taliban was. Regarding music, see also Afghan TV ‘stars’ don’t shine for all, Los Angeles Times, March 13, 2008.
Factual issues aside, it seems very odd to me to see a Satanist, of all people, advocating heavy-duty censorship of the mass media. After all, under any reasonably likely form of such censorship, one of the first things to be banned would be, well, any favorable mention of anything calling itself “Satanism.” Another thing high on any likely to-be-banned list would be horror movies, of which many Satanists are fond. (Julian’s blog, for example, contains some reviews of horror movies.)
Julian’s response to Jonathan is a bit unclear. In a comment below Jonathan’ comment, Julian writes:
Truly, America is going through a very dark part in its history. with the country’s dangerous flirtation with Christian fundamentalism being a major part of this tragic sickness. The lessons of Vietnam and indeed the Prohibition experiment have not been learned.
It is unclear to me whether Julian’s references to Christian fundamentalism and Prohibition are Julian’s way of gently chiding Jonathan for his praise for the Taliban and for his advocacy of censorship. That would seem to be the obvious intepretation of Julian’s remarks at first glance, but the larger context casts doubt on that interpretation. Perhaps Julian could clarify by explaining what he thinks are “the lessons of … the Prohibition experiment.”
In any case, Julian seems to sympathize with Jonathan’s overall concerns, saying:
However, it is worth pointing out that it was the UK that gave America Big Brother and the concept of the ‘reality’ TV show. For which I can’t apologise enough. As if American television was short of garbage! Although America may be at the wheel, the UK and other countries are not just terrified passengers in the demise of western civilisation, we are passing the driver the hip flask and urging him to go faster.
I’m not nearly as pessimistic as either Julian or Jonathan is about the imminent “demise of western civilization.” Conservatives have been wailing about this sort of thing for at least two centuries now, and probably longer. Yes, Western civilization does face some severe problems today, but we’ve faced worse problems before.
Anyhow, Jonathan responds to Julian with a rant about American culture encouraging self-destructive behavior such as smoking, and about people the world over being hooked on American-style culture because of their “emotionality, which causes neurosis.” Jonathan then says:
The answer to the question “Why do people do that?'” is simply, “People are crazy.” They do it because they’re crazy. Humans are crazy.
No, that’s not an answer to the question of “Why.” It begs the question: Why are people so “crazy”?
Julian proposes the following answer:
People tend to be crazy because, compared to the lot of their ancestors even 100 years ago, they have an incredible amount of choices. Social mobility has never been greater and the rags to riches potential of becoming a ‘celebrity’ has never been either more attainable (once you had to be beautiful or talented), neither has it been more omnipresent.
With this feeling of potential, comes the inevitable feeling of failure in that vast majority who do not attain it. These dual feeling of having the opportunity to achieve anything, but still being a loser, drives many people crazy. They drink too much, do drugs they can’t handle and spend money they haven’t earned. In the ghetto, the ‘get rich quick or die trying’ attitude results in a lot of young people taking the latter option.
I don’t think that that’s the answer. People with frustrated ambitions are far from the only ones who do drugs or who have other self-destructive habits.
I think the answer is that evolution is messy. Humans are among the most highly adaptable creatures on Earth, capable of adapting to many different environments, but never perfectly adapted to any of them. The exact same traits that are self-destructive in one environment may confer as survival advantage in another environment. For example, consider “over-eating.” If you happen to live in a poor country, a propensity to get fat will help you survive famines. On the other hand, if you happen to be well-off, it just makes you more prone to heart attacks.
I can’t think of a good solution to the problem of human self-destructive tendencies, beyond the further development of today’s patchwork of self-help programs and other treatment programs, plus better discipline in schools and in after-school programs. Also I would suggest better anti-drug and anti-smoking propaganda aimed at teens. (For example, instead of telling them that smoking is going to kill them, tell them it will ruin their complexion.)
Some extremists might say that the solution is for civilization to vanish and for us all to return to the Stone Ages, i.e. to the world in which humans evolved and to which, therefore, we are genetically better adapted. But not very many people would want that. Not very many of us would want, for example, to return to a world in which women routinely died in childbirth, or in which parents routinely faced the heartbreak of having half their children die before reaching adulthood.
Julian proposes the following solution:
A proper stratification in society based on ability and achievement would relieve these, as you say, pitiable people of the burden of failing to achieve a lifestyle they will never attain.
I don’t think that “a proper stratification in society based on ability and achievement” would solve such problems as drug addiction. But I would be interested to hear Julian’s ideas on how he thinks such stratification should be achieved.
Julian also says:
The more careful control of those who do not have the strength and will to determine their own fates will result in a more stable society, and ultimately, longer, happier and more fulfilling lives for those who are at the bottom.
Julian, exactly what kinds of “control” do you favor?
I’ll now respond to another post of Julian’s that attracted some comments: Human Sacrifice… Or Animals, Which is best?
Recent news about animal rights activists and a counter movement to promote the use of animals in medical experiments has shown how the debate over whether animals should be made to suffer for the advancement of humanity has been unecessarily dichotomised.
On the one side there are people who hold animals to have the same rights as humans and that they should not be subjected to suffering in medical experiments.
Most people are of the opposing view that man has dominion over animals and that their suffering, while regrettable is necessary to prevent the suffering of people. Animals must be sacrificed to the great god Science so that new medicines can be developed and human illnesses prevented.
The Opus Diaboli approach, unsurprisingly, looks at this in a third way.
Are our jails not simply crammed with people who by their actions and crimes against society, have made themselves much more worthy of being sacrificed on the altar of scientific advancement?
Julian writes about this as if he thinks it’s a new idea. Has he looked into the history of human subject research, in prisons and elsewhere?
Below are some pages I looked up, just now, on the history of human subject research involving prisoners here in the U.S.A.:
- They were cheap and available: prisoners as research subjects in twentieth century America by Allen M Hornblum, instructor, Department of Urban Studies, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, published in BMJ (British Medical Journal), 1997.
- The Establishment of Institutional Review Boards in the U.S. by William H. Schneider, History Department, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
- Timeline of Laws Related to the Protection of Human Subjects compiled by Joel Sparks, June 2002, Office of NIH History, National Institutes of Health
And here are some pages on current policies:
- History of Research Ethics, Office for the Protection of Research Subjects, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (Despite its title, this page contains more about current policies than about the history.)
- OHRP Guidance on the Involvement of Prisoners in Research, Office for Human Research Protections, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Research Ethics Course: Prisoners as Human Subjects, University of Texas Medical Branch
- Human Subject Research on Prisoners, Georgetown Law Faculty Blog, September 12, 2006
I also came across a page titled Secret Medical Experiments, Science Friday, October 22, 1999, which includes mention of some books on the history of human subject research. Another book is Research on Human Subjects: Ethics, Law and Social Policy by D.N. Weisstub. (I have not yet read any of these.)
Anyhow, Julian writes:
Is it not eminently more sensible, and indeed moral, to experiment on those humans who have put themselves beyond the pale by murder, rape, and other inhuman acts? These criminals have a debt to pay to society and therefore deserve to suffer much more than an animal which has done nothing to harm anyone.
We should consider testing shampoo by dropping it into the eyes of rabbits when and only when the jails have been emptied.
The above seems to be typical of LaVeyans, who generally tend to favor harsh punishments.
The English Bill of Rights (1689) prohibits “Cruel and unusual punishment,” as does the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
LaVeyans apparently would like to suspend this, or at least to expand the range of acceptable punishments. Julian, exactly how far do you want to go in that direction?
Whatever your opinion on this matter, have you factored in the risk of wrongful convictions? Yes, that is a real risk, especially for poor people who can’t afford a lawyer, but also for other people as well. Have you studied the history of the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare, for example?
Personally, I don’t think it’s in the best interests of controversial oddballs of any kind – such as unpopular religious minorities, “sensitive arty types,” “sexual deviants,” and “children of Leviathan” – to call for any significant rollback of the human rights gains that have been won by political reformers over the past several centuries. Such an agenda is another example of “Turkeys voting for Christmas.”
Of course, violent crime is a serious problem. But there are other things that can be done to reduce crime, without resort to barbaric punishments.
When I was little, New York City was a notoriously dangerous place to live. Nearly everyone I knew had gotten robbed at least once. Things were bad enough here to inspire a Hollywood movie, “Escape from New York,” about a hypothetical future world in which the entire city had been turned into one big maximum security prison.
However, during my lifetime, New York has become a much safer city, on the whole, although some neighborhoods are still crime-ridden. Perhaps there are some lessons that London could learn from New York?
So, if one is going to make crime and punishment a major focus of one’s activism, one should first research the history of crime, law enforcement, and crime prevention.
Anyhow, back to the original topic of human subject research involving prison inmates. Such research need not be “cruel,” depending on various particulars of how it’s done. If he has not done so already, Julian might want to look into what the exact rules are in the U.K. and compare them with the rules here in the U.S.A. Perhaps the rules in the U.K. are unnecessarily strict in some way? (I don’t know what the rules in the U.K. are. The pages I found today all deal with the U.S.A., not the U.K.)