Turning psychosocial discourse back toward the syncretistic, multicultural Jung

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

There are astounding parallels between Jordan Peterson’s work and Camille Paglia’s own, she says:

In its anti-ideological, trans-historical view of sex and nature, my first book, Sexual Personae (1990), can be viewed as a companion to Peterson’s first book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (1999). Peterson and I took different routes up the mountain — he via clinical psychology and I via literature and art — but we arrived at exactly the same place. Amazingly, over our decades of copious research, we were drawn to the same book by the same thinker — The Origins and History of Consciousness (1949), by the Jungian analyst Erich Neumann. (My 2005 lecture on Neumann at New York University is reprinted in Provocations.) Peterson’s immense international popularity demonstrates the hunger for meaning among young people today. Defrauded of a genuine humanistic education, they are recognizing the spiritual impoverishment of their crudely politicized culture, choked with jargon, propaganda, and lies.

I met Peterson and his wife Tammy a year ago when they flew to Philadelphia with a Toronto camera crew for our private dialogue at the University of the Arts. (The YouTube video has had to date over a million and a half views.) Peterson was incontrovertibly one of the most brilliant minds I have ever encountered, starting with the British philosopher Stuart Hampshire, whom I heard speak impromptu for a dazzling hour after a lecture in college. In turning psychosocial discourse back toward the syncretistic, multicultural Jung, Peterson is recovering and restoring a peak period in North American thought, when Canada was renowned for pioneering, speculative thinkers like the media analyst Marshall McLuhan and the myth critic Northrop Frye. I have yet to see a single profile of Peterson, even from sympathetic journalists, that accurately portrays the vast scope, tenor, and importance of his work.

Out with the false idols and in with the true!

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Secular humanism has been a disastrous failure, Camille Paglia argues:

As I repeatedly argue in Provocations, comparative religion is the true multiculturalism and should be installed as the core curriculum in every undergraduate program. From my perspective as an atheist as well as a career college teacher, secular humanism has been a disastrous failure. Too many young people raised in affluent liberal homes are arriving at elite colleges and universities with skittish, unformed personalities and shockingly narrow views of human existence, confined to inflammatory and divisive identity politics.

Interest in Hinduism and Buddhism was everywhere in the 1960s counterculture, but it gradually dissipated partly because those most drawn to ‘cosmic consciousness’ either disabled themselves by excess drug use or shunned the academic ladder of graduate school. I contend that every educated person should be conversant with the sacred texts, rituals, and symbol systems of the great world religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Judeo-Christianity, and Islam — and that true global understanding is impossible without such knowledge.

Not least, the juxtaposition of historically evolving spiritual codes tutors the young in ethical reasoning and the creation of meaning. Right now, the campus religion remains nihilist, meaning-destroying post-structuralism, whose pilfering god, the one-note Foucault, had near-zero scholarly knowledge of anything before or beyond the European Enlightenment. (His sparse writing on classical antiquity is risible.) Out with the false idols and in with the true!

Why Is American mass transit so bad?

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Why Is American mass transit so bad? It’s a long story:

One hundred years ago, the United States had a public transportation system that was the envy of the world. Today, outside a few major urban centers, it is barely on life support. Even in New York City, subway ridership is well below its 1946 peak. Annual per capita transit trips in the U.S. plummeted from 115.8 in 1950 to 36.1 in 1970, where they have roughly remained since, even as population has grown.

This has not happened in much of the rest of the world.

[...]

What happened? Over the past hundred years the clearest cause is this: Transit providers in the U.S. have continually cut basic local service in a vain effort to improve their finances. But they only succeeded in driving riders and revenue away. When the transit service that cities provide is not attractive, the demand from passengers that might “justify” its improvement will never materialize.

[...]

[The Age of Rail] was an era when transit could usually make money when combined with real-estate speculation on the newly accessible lands, at least in the short term. But then as now, it struggled to cover its costs over the long term, let alone turn a profit. By the 1920s, as the automobile became a fierce competitor, privately run transit struggled.

But public subsidy was politically challenging: There was a popular perception of transit as a business controlled by rapacious profiteers—as unpopular as cable companies and airlines are today. In 1920, the President’s Commission on Electric Railways described the entire industry as “virtually bankrupt,” thanks to rapid inflation in the World War I years and the nascent encroachment of the car.

The Depression crushed most transit companies, and the handful of major projects that moved forward in the 1930s were bankrolled by the New-Deal-era federal government: See the State and Milwaukee-Dearborn subways in Chicago, the South Broad Street subway in Philadelphia, and the Sixth Avenue subway in New York. But federal infrastructure investment would soon shift almost entirely to highways.

[...]

It is not a coincidence that, while almost every interurban and streetcar line in the U.S. failed, nearly every grade-separated subway or elevated system survived. Transit agencies continued to provide frequent service on these lines so they remained viable, and when trains did not have to share the road and stop at intersections, they could also be time competitive with the car. The subways and els of Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston are all still around, while the vast streetcar and interurban networks of Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Detroit, and many others are long gone. Only when transit didn’t need to share the road with the car, and frequent service continued, was it able to survive.

[...]

All of these [systems introduced in the 1970s] featured fast, partially automated trains running deep into the suburbs, often in the median of expressways. With their plush seating and futuristic design, they were designed to attract people who could afford to drive.

But these high-tech systems were a skeleton without a body, unable to provide access to most of the urban area without an effective connecting bus network. The bus lines that could have fed passengers to the stations had long atrophied, or they never existed at all. In many cases, the new rapid transit systems weren’t even operated by the same agency as the local buses, meaning double fares and little coordination. With no connecting bus services and few people within walking distance in low-density suburbs, the only way to get people to stations was to provide vast lots for parking. But even huge garages can’t fit enough people to fill a subway. Most people without cars were left little better off than they had been before the projects, and many people with cars chose to drive the whole way rather than parking at the station and getting on the train.

[...]

Service drives demand. When riders started to switch to the car in the early postwar years, American transit systems almost universally cut service to restore their financial viability. But this drove more people away, producing a vicious cycle until just about everybody who could drive, drove. In the fastest-growing areas, little or no transit was provided at all, because it was deemed to be not economically viable. Therefore, new suburbs had to be entirely auto-oriented.

A principle of periodic reduction of bureaucracy should be built into every social organism

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

The deep state is no myth, Camille Paglia says, “but a sodden, intertwined mass of bloated, self-replicating bureaucracy that constitutes the real power in Washington and that stubbornly outlasts every administration”:

As government programs have incrementally multiplied, so has their regulatory apparatus, with its intrusive byzantine minutiae. Recently tagged as a source of anti-Trump conspiracy among embedded Democrats, the deep state is probably equally populated by Republicans and apolitical functionaries of Bartleby the Scrivener blandness. Its spreading sclerotic mass is wasteful, redundant, and ultimately tyrannical.

I have been trying for decades to get my fellow Democrats to realize how unchecked bureaucracy, in government or academe, is inherently authoritarian and illiberal. A persistent characteristic of civilizations in decline throughout history has been their self-strangling by slow, swollen, and stupid bureaucracies. The current atrocity of crippling student debt in the US is a direct product of an unholy alliance between college administrations and federal bureaucrats — a scandal that ballooned over two decades with barely a word of protest from our putative academic leftists, lost in their post-structuralist fantasies. Political correctness was not created by administrators, but it is ever-expanding campus bureaucracies that have constructed and currently enforce the oppressively rule-ridden regime of college life.

In the modern world, so wondrously but perilously interconnected, a principle of periodic reduction of bureaucracy should be built into every social organism. Freedom cannot survive otherwise.

(Hat tip to Neovictorian.)

Outsiders apart from conventional society and untroubled by its disapproval

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

While thinking about where hippies come from, I revisited Bohemianism, which seems like an odd name for a similar phenomenon:

Literary “Bohemians” were associated in the French imagination with roving Romani people (called Bohémiens because they were believed to have arrived from Bohemia), outsiders apart from conventional society and untroubled by its disapproval. The term carries a connotation of arcane enlightenment (the opposite of Philistines), and carries a less frequently intended, pejorative connotation of carelessness about personal hygiene and marital fidelity.

The title character in Carmen (1876), a French opera set in the Spanish city of Seville, is referred to as a “bohémienne” in Meilhac and Halévy’s libretto. Her signature aria declares love itself to be a “gypsy child” (enfant de Bohême), going where it pleases and obeying no laws.

Where did hippies come from?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Where did hippies come from?

Were they a totally novel development, as they were portrayed at the time?

In 1948, jazz crooner Nat King Cole was on Top of the Pops for eight straight weeks with the single “Nature Boy.” The song became a standard and was recorded by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Peggy Lee. (Much later, director Baz Luhrmann had a haggard Ewan McGregor type out the chorus at the end of his 2001 film Moulin Rouge.)

The record set off a brief journalistic frenzy in 1948 over its hitherto unknown lyricist eden ahbez, who had long hair and a beard, dressed in a robe and sandals, ate only fruits and nuts, had given himself a Book of Genesis first name and cosmic A-to-Z last name, and lived in a tent under the first “L” in the “Hollywood” sign.

In other words, years before the word was coined in the 1960s, this guy was a hippie. He and the dozen or so other robe-wearing proto-hippies who hung around a German couple’s health-food store in Laurel Canyon called themselves “Nature Boys.” Hence the song’s odd title.

Trying to figure out the story behind this weird anomaly led me to a 2003 article entitled “Hippie Roots & The Perennial Subculture” by Gordon Kennedy and Kody Ryan. They make the case for the origins of the hippie phenomenon in late-19th-century Germany: nudism, hiking (Wandervogel), health food, and the whole back to nature “life reform” business. It’s all more or less German.

This helps explain an odd phenomenon I noticed while hiking with my father in the Hollywood Hills above Laurel Canyon in the 1960s-1980s: About one out of four people we’d pass on the trails would reply to “Good day” with “Guten tag” or a Nordic equivalent. (Then during the early 1990s recession, hiking became fashionable in LA and the Teutonic flavor was quickly swamped.)

I’m a bit surprised the Sailer’s surprised by this. German Romanticism led to both hippies and Nazis. Many New Age ideas go back to Rudolph Steiner and the Theosophists — including pursuit of the almighty Vril.

Mass society fragmented and thereby stabilized

Monday, December 10th, 2018

In high school, Steve Sailer and his classmates were assigned Alvin Toffler’s 1970 bestseller Future Shock, about how the ever-accelerating waves of change would soon overwhelm us — but it didn’t happen:

Instead, mass society fragmented and thereby stabilized. My cousin, for example, remains a hippie, and he’s recently talked his mother into wanting to go to Burning Man. Today, nobody much cares: Burning Man seems less shocking than funny.

Yet when I was a small boy, virtually every male in America, except perhaps violin soloists, had short hair.

It’s difficult to make clear just how big a deal hair length was in the 1960s. When I was six in 1965, my family went to England. We were sitting around at Heathrow waiting for our flight back to the US when a young man with collar-length hair walked into the waiting room. “It’s a Beatle!” screamed a girl. The excited crowd surged toward John, Paul, George, or, possibly, Ringo. I dispatched my mother to get the Beatle’s autograph. She returned bearing the signature “Peter Noone,” the lead singer of Herman’s Hermits.

The point of this anecdote is that in 1965 so few males had hair covering two-thirds of their ears that transatlantic travelers assumed that anybody who did must be a rock star. (And we were right.)

“Perhaps Ecclesiastes got it right.”

I can pin down when rock fans started to let their hair grow. Buffalo Springfield’s remarkable single “For What It’s Worth” (“Stop, children, what’s that sound?”) is usually thought of as an early Vietnam War protest song, but it was actually inspired by the Sunset Strip curfew riots over the planned demolition of the Pandora’s Box nightclub. Even in November 1966, however, a mob of protesting Los Angeles rock fans looked clean-cut.

That must have been the last time they got their hair cut. In the summer of 1967, some visitors wanted to “go see the hippies,” so my parents drove us over Laurel Canyon to Sunset. The Strip was jammed with us tourists agog over the longhairs.

After a while, though, you got used to odd new social phenomena like this sweeping the world. In fact, soon everybody expected it. A decade after 1967’s Summer of Love, for instance, the media were all primed for punks to take over. After all, an entire ten years had gone by! (That was 35 years ago.) In 1979, everybody was told to dress in 2 Tone black-and-white clothes and listen to ska, but diminishing returns were visibly encroaching.

The Harvard grads are completely self-assured in their wrongness

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

Harvard Medical School dean George Daley has come out in favor of editing genes, and Steve Sailer notes that no child will be left behind without the Harvard grad glibness & self-confidence gene, as he shares this excerpt from A Private Universe:

Definitely watch the video.

(I’ll wait.)

Sailer’s point:

Both sets of people come up with the same wrong answer — because the earth’s orbit isn’t perfectly circular and so we are further from the sun in winter — but the townies are obviously ashamed that that’s the best answer they can come up with, while the Harvard grads are completely self-assured in their wrongness.

I’m sure there were some Harvard grads who gave the right answer and ended up on the cutting room floor, but they will probably end up working for the Harvard grads who were technically wrong but winningly self-confident.

The video actually has some interesting comments on Y

The one about the rabbits is one of the classics of fantasy

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

The new Watership Down trailer doesn’t look good, I’m afraid:

The book — yes, the one about the rabbits — is one of the classics of fantasy.

Richard Adams passed away two years ago, but a couple years before that he did an ask-me-anything, where he explained that Hazel was based on someone he knew in real life:

Yes! I had the good luck to get accepted for service in airborne forces during world war 2. Not everybody who put their name forward was accepted for it. I felt tremendously proud. I went as an officer to 250 light company RASC airborne. The commanding officer was a Major called John Gifford. I admired him tremendously. He was very quiet — in fact one of the quietest I’ve ever known. Regardless all of his commanding officers respected him and obeyed him without question. All his officers were parachutists whether they were commanders or not. My point is that everyone in 250 light company respected and admired him, and he certainly influenced Hazel. He was so sensible. Not all commanders are sensible! I would even say his officers loved him.

Should we be encouraging this?

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

I’m beginning to think men’s gymnastics should revolve athletes daring each other to do ever-crazier stunts:

It is the end of an era

Friday, December 7th, 2018

In 1975, Christopher Tolkien left his fellowship at New College, Oxford, to edit his late father’s massive legendarium:

The prospect was daunting. The 50-year-old medievalist found himself confronted with 70 boxes of unpublished work. Thousands of pages of notes and fragments and poems, some dating back more than six decades, were stuffed haphazardly into the boxes. Handwritten texts were hurriedly scrawled in pencil and annotated with a jumble of notes and corrections. One early story was drafted in a high school exercise book.

A large portion of the archive concerned the history of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional world, Middle-earth. The notes contained a broader picture of a universe only hinted at in Tolkien’s two bestselling novels, The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55). Tolkien had intended to bring that picture to light in a lengthy, solemn history going back to creation itself, but he died before completing a final, coherent version.

Christopher took it upon himself to edit that book, which was published in 1977 as The Silmarillion. He then turned to another project drawn from his father’s papers, then another—ultimately publishing poetry, academic works, fiction, and a 12-volume history of the creation of Middle-earth. The Fall of Gondolin, published in August, is the 25th posthumous book Christopher Tolkien has produced from his father’s archives.

Now, after more than 40 years, at the age of 94, Christopher Tolkien has laid down his editor’s pen, having completed a great labor of quiet, scholastic commitment to his father’s vision. It is the concluding public act of a gentleman and scholar, the last member of a club that became a pivotal part of 20th-century literature: the Inklings.

[...]

The Inklings (and such of their forebears as Chesterton) sought to explain that there was nothing absurd in the secular and the sacred living cheek by jowl. In fact, it’s quite likely that one may find oneself, in Woolf’s phrase, “sitting by the fire” alongside a wizard who witnessed the singing of creation into being — as indeed Bilbo Baggins does.

This is not to say that the Inklings simply fled into a nostalgic past. They rather sought to apply its lessons to a violent and difficult present. If the Bagginses resemble throwback Victorian gentlemen and the other hobbits suggest plain English country folk of ages past, much else in The Lord of the Rings, from Saruman’s terrible machines to the mangled bodies on the Pelennor Fields, resembles the 20th century. The story ends with the Shire, which Tolkien described as “more or less a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee,” ravaged by war. Frodo, experiencing a sort of spiritual shell shock, can find no peace even when the war is long over.

The Inklings weren’t escapists. They were, Flieger writes, “a response to a response, and thus a continuation of the dialogue…. If the period surrounding the Great War gave birth to modernism, it also engendered the reaction against it, the effort to ensure that ‘before’ was not wholly lost in ‘after.’”

The fashion industry was crucial to the election of Donald Trump?

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

I find it fascinating that this is framed as “Cambridge Analytica weaponised the fashion industry“:

According to the data obtained (the majority of which came from US users), certain fans of American denim brands such as Wrangler, Hollister and Lee Jeans could be more closely linked to low levels of openness and mistrust — and therefore more likely to engage with pro-Trump messaging. This data also showed more esoteric fashion labels such as Kenzo or Alexander McQueen tended towards a more open and imaginative fanbase, which Wylie said leant more towards typical democratic voters.

Who could’ve guessed that a populist right-wing candidate would appeal to fans of Wrangler jeans?

How to resolve the so-called “paradoxes” of quantum mechanics?

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Neovictorian reviews The Brave and the Bold, Volume 3 of The Hidden Truth, which I also enjoyed, but this quick aside is what most caught my eye:

Meanwhile, I understand that Dr. Schantz is working on a popular physics book with some ideas about how to resolve the so-called “paradoxes” of quantum mechanics.

Yes, please.

Yes, please, indeed.

Libya has gone full circle

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

Some compare militia-dominated Tripoli with Al Capone’s Chicago, but the comparison is false, because Al Capone didn’t have artillery:

Seven years after Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in the Arab spring revolution, Libya has gone full circle from dictatorship through revolution, democracy, chaos and back to a new kind of tyranny. Except this time there is not one dictator but dozens, in the form of the very militias who defeated him.

[...]

Driving through this city means navigating a political fog as you try to work out who among the rag-tag gunmen in assorted uniforms and battered pickup trucks are gangsters, and who constitute the official security forces of the United Nations-backed government. After a while you realise they are the same. One unit is freshly kitted out in smart blue uniforms of the interior ministry, but it remains a militia, as violent and threatening as before. Tensions are high after the body of one warlord was dumped by rivals outside a city hospital in the latest tit-for-tat killing.

[...]

Tripoli’s warlords are on the state payroll, through the simple expedient of gunmen threatening the bankers with kidnapping or worse. Similar pressure resulted in the government handing its all-important intelligence and surveillance portfolio to an Islamist militia. Even as militias fight each other in the capital, they also fight the army of the nationalist warlord Khalifa Haftar, a brooding presence far to the east.

Meanwhile, the citizens suffer: there are shortages of petrol, electricity, water and banknotes. Libya is rich, with £50bn of foreign reserves and booming oil production. But only a handful of banks — those controlled by militias — are permitted to dispense cash. Citizens form kilometre-long queues to collect it.

Bush was a prodigy of all-aroundness

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

Steve Sailer looks back at George H.W. Bush‘s life:

A massive but usually overlooked theme in George H.W. Bush’s career was his goal of reversing 1938 and opening Mexico up to American business interests (in return for which America took some of Mexico’s surplus population off its hands).

[...]

WWII: Bush joined in the Navy in 1942 upon graduating from prep school. When he finished his training and was commissioned in June 1943, he was the youngest aviator in the Navy at age 18. He flew 58 combat missions in the TBM Avenger torpedo bomber, which was much improved over the TBD Devastator torpedo bomber that was wiped out at Midway. Still, any torpedo bomber was a big, slow target, and Bush got shot down by anti-aircraft fire once. He parachuted into the Pacific and was rescued by a sub after 4 hours.

In general, Bush was a prodigy of all-aroundness: e.g., after the war he graduated from Yale in 2.5 years while being captain of the baseball team and making it to the College World Series final twice. Bush was married at 20 and a father at 22. Overall, Bush was a superior individual without being supreme in any one aspect, rather like previous GOP previous Gerald Ford, whose record as the longest lived President he recently exceeded. (Jimmy Carter will likely break Bush’s age record early next year.)