I’d like to share with all of you what I regard as a keen and valuable insight of Nydwracu’s which he was generous enough to relate to several of us at a recent meeting in my home. I think this particular observation helps to explain a lot about the psychology of modern progressivism and the origin of its tenacious spread in recent history which continues in our own time.
I also believe that this idea occurred most obviously to Nydwracu in part due to his youth and his recent experiences with the social maze that defined the modern university (even high school) environment. In any current, it’s easiest for a fish to swim with the rest of the school, and if you don’t, you’re liable to find yourself forever alone.
At least in a physical sense. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; we’ll climb this ladder one rung at a time. And we begin, naturally, with Aristotle’s Politics:
Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.
Even introverts and ‘Sigma-Males’ like having some friends. Marx would use the word Gattungswesen to complement those of the post title which mean “community” and “society” to explain that the need for certain patterns of social interaction – and even ‘belongingness’ – is an integral part of our human nature, and that estrangement (Entfremdung) from these sorts of social experiences through the inherent mass depersonalization of the industrial revolutions produces profound angst and anxiety. You could try to ‘explain’ this by putting a Robin Hanson Forager-Farmer Evo-Psych spin on it at all, but the conclusion remains the same as Aristotle’s.
Marx also wrote most about his alienation concept (popular with German denkers at the time) as a younger man, and I think his age was important factor in his sensitivity to the experience of isolation and atomization (or at least an imagined empathy for the proletariat actually experiencing the phenomenon in the early industrial era).
I’m a family man now, and consider myself social and outgoing and extroverted, but I find I enjoy my solitude much more than I used to, and I am certainly not as eager for constant company as I once was.
Why is this emphasis on age important? Because we are most sensitive to alienation at the same age we start to settle on our ideological leaning and dispositions. And we end up killing both birds with one stone. Indeed, as Peter A. Taylor (via neoneocon, via Milan Kundera) has remarked, part of the difficulty of changing one’s philosophical orientation is like resigning membership in a club or divorcing a set of close friends, because everyone has a natural urge to want to ‘dance in a ring’.
Now, I am not much of a dancer, it doesn’t get me high like it does some people,, and having danced in many actual rings my judgment is that ring-dancing is silly and awkward. But even I’ll admit it’s better than not dancing at all. Especially after the fourth Scotch.
But not getting to dance together is a large part of the modern condition. We stratify and segregate our populations by age (in schools) geographically (in suburbs, and with zoned urban planning heavily dependent on the automobile) and certainly by race and socioeconomic status.
Marx said it was money and mass production that acted as universal intermediary and separated man from man. Bertrand Russel would say something in a similar vein a century later:
Television allows thousands of people to laugh at the same joke and still remain alone.
You wonder what they would make of the internet. Yes, the internet and ‘social media’ is supposed to mean no one is ever alone. But we’re also all alone in our own mental world as we’re constantly being not-alone ‘connecting’ with each other instead of ‘being’ with each other, in actual close physical proximity, face-to-face. Sometimes even when we are face to face. I’ve heard part of the beta-male explosion is that with texts and facebooks, guys don’t actually have to engage in much in-person, real-time conversation with girls, which disrupts the normal social-interaction development necessary for interpersonal success later in life.
Filling the gap created by the loss of the routine habit of organic peasant communities, alienated individuals sought their Gemeinschaft emotional-attachments fix elsewhere, and I think both religion (with its emphasis on actual frequent social congregation) and ethno-nationalism and revolutionary movements rushed into the fertile vacuum.
Now fast forward 200 years to the 21st Century. Traditional Religion and Ethno-nationalism are all but illegal (if you don’t keep your mouth shut) in many Western Countries. But the human creature is just as desperate for the primitive intimacy of his forager Dunbar group, an experience nearly incompatible with, or infeasible to replicate in, our late-stage postmodern society.
Or, at least, lots of the kids aren’t getting their fix. Especially the smarter ones, who prefer their fix of community spiked with a heavy dose of ideas. Not just belonging and ideology, of course, but the whole quest for meaning and purpose and depth and significance and status won by heroic contribution towards the holy struggle. The portrait of the intellectual as a young man is a picture of a storm of oscillating confusions and fog-like uncertainties combined with loneliness and self-doubt.
And then there’s college. Young people plucked out of one kind of warm egg, often ‘sheltered’ and hurled into another full of social possibilities and, at least once upon a time, a lot of BS’ing about ideas and politics.
And that’s the genius of Nydwracu – genius in the sense of discovering something beautiful and true that you never thought of before, but which seems completely obvious the minute you hear it. And the mechanisms by which Progressivism solves the emotional-attachment social-alienation estrangement problem in our modern world are indeed obvious once you think about it – most kids don’t have any other way to feel the things they need to feel.
They may realize their errors later, but getting them to leave their ring-dance is harder than you’d imagine. At the very least, an alternative had better be competitive and therefore capable of providing the satisfactions of community and relief from the anxieties of absolutist-individualism in just as potent a manner as Progressivism does for its adherents.
Now, what’s all that got to do with PC and Free Speech and Popehat’s “Social Consequences“?
I think a normal individual craves a set of colleagues and/or friends with whom they can socialize. Friendship and teamwork, especially for men, emerges from the same kind of mental patterns and social dynamics associated with close relations in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness. In other words, it’s genuinely ‘fraternal’ in nature, and men working together in a friendly way on a challenging project or in harsh conditions do indeed become something like a ‘band of brothers’.
There are millions of people in the the US with security clearances. When you have to run a background investigation on someone, you usually have to contact their friends who are not under your jurisdiction and scattered all over the country. The higher the access, the more extensive the investigation, and the more friends you have to find and talk to.
Except for some groups, for example, Navy Seals. You’ve got about 2,000 guys who will have very high-level clearances and you’ve got to investigate them very thoroughly which means finding all their friends who are … fortunately also all among those 2,000 guys. It’s a very ‘tight knit community’. A band of brothers. Did you ever feel you wanted to be in a band of brothers? That you might like it? You would. They like it a lot. But it isn’t exactly on offer for most folks these days, is it?
Part of what makes that experience enjoyable, even essential to happiness and healthy mental functioning, is the ability to speak one’s mind, express one’s honest sentiments, crack a few jokes, talk explicitly about one’s most recent sexual escapade, and so on without fear of anyone being seriously offended or of certain ‘social consequences’. The main consequences I have in mind are exclusion from the group, violation of confidence and publication to a wider audience, reporting to higher authority for disciplinary action, loss of employment; things like that.
Say what you like, anything you want without fear, you’re amongst your buddies. That’s real friendship, and trust, and community. Those who have tasted of it, as I have had the privilege of doing, can never be the same again, and can never stop wanting it again. You think the reason people who leave the military or prison, get a little taste of ordinary civilian life, and try to get back in is because they’ve been ‘institutionalized’? Think again. No one has more freedom of speech than a prisoner.
There’s a lot of talk about ‘total compensation’ these days. You can’t just look at salary. You’ve got to look at the health plan, the benefits, the pension, the job security, and the perquisites of employment, all of which can make up for a low salary, intense regulation of personal behavior, and a high level of personal risk and hardship. A gender-homogenous workforce is part of total compensation – believe it. For many men, an environment where they can work closely only with other men is worth half their salary. Half of that is because men like to talk about women, and it’s not wise to talk about women around women, because their complaints can destroy you, and you can never know if you can trust them forever.
PC is a mere annoyance for the courtier class of folks, who can adapt to whatever diplomatic rules of etiquette control discourse in his day. But it is a genuine cognitive burden and frustrating anxiety for an ordinary man to have to constantly bite his tongue and trip over his own words because he cannot master the system and has to fear the consequences of being himself. The law and the culture now prevents this market from clearing, but I think we know what the actual preference cascade would reveal.
The ultimate alienation is the estrangement of your publicly presented persona and your inner self; a schizophrenic violation of one’s integrity that is required of you at every social moment. But beyond being untrue to yourself, if you cannot be true with those around you, where else are you to go?
Well, for us, thank God, and for the time being there’s still the internet. But it’s not a real substitute, or a satisfying path for most young people. Progressivism continues the social process that began with industrialization – expanding alienation to heretofore unseen levels by ‘chilling’ (prohibiting through intimidation) the kinds socialization need to alleviate the feeling of estrangement, and therefore aggravating a sense isolation. At the same time, it offers itself as the only path out – to salvation – to getting to dance in a ring. If you come to believe in progressivism, you get your free speech license restored – not only do you get to say whatever you want, you get to police what the enemy says, or muzzle them if you have to.
If you’re going to take on that kind of phenomenon, then you’re going to need some very heavy artillery aimed at just the right age group. “We don’t do taboo” is just the beginning of providing an alternative. Community is essential.
As an example, do you know who’s got the very embryo of that kind of community? A place where folks can come together, experience brotherhood, share tips and secrets to achieving ordinary life-success, talk about their favorite subjects openly without fear of violating taboos, and so on? It’s already happening at the game blogs. And game continues to spread. It’s a start. Watch, learn, practice, and then surfer, ride that wave.
Further discussion in the comments is, as usual, highly encouraged.