Thankstaking Season and the Status Competition, Or Nerd Power and Cunt Power – 1001 New York Nights: Status and Society Pt. I

Dearest Friends,

I was gobble gobble gobbling over my Turkey Day, and as always, there was an argument. Or we might call it a spirited debate. Let me take you through it.

Imagine a man. He is a stereotypical resident of a stereotypical neighborhood we’ll call the Upper Rest Side. The man is a professor at You Pork University, one of the best “State Schools” in the country, despite being inexplicably private. He wears square glasses and a tweed coat, is balding, and he collects African masks. He is a very wealthy nouveau riche, but his family is from the shtetl. Every year on Thanksgiving, he gives a lecture on an obscure African tribe and their sociology and praises Hashem for His grace.

Is this man high status?

Everyone agreed he was.

Now imagine another man from another place. This man is from Snark Pope, a neighborhood across town. He’s rich, but he’s not as rich, and at any rate, the money is vulgar. Not only is he shtetl people, he’s first-generation rich, having made a few million as a marketing executive. Nevertheless, he is also thankful, for he does also live a blessed life. His hair is starting to go salt-and-pepper and he has a body that, while not as chiseled as a Grek bodybuilder’s, is well-maintained from regular aerobic exercise and clean living. His business affairs prosper and his dinner is well-attended by both friends and family. He gives his own speech, and this one is about Black Lives Matters. It is cribbed from MSNBC and consists of platitudes and cheap slogans.

My interlocutor asserts this man, the Snark Poper, is higher status than our first subject. He’s more socially dominant, which I am forced to agree to. When the two meet, the Snark Poper owns the Upper Rest Sider. And not only that, he’s more evolved! What? How can he be more evolved, man? This guy is just worse than the Upper Rest Sider. Well, exactly! I object to this. Of course I object.

If you don’t believe the Snark Poper would own the Upper Rest Sider, I will provide an illustrative example:

Upper Rest Sider: So you see, the tribesmen of the Ombombo eat the tree fly as part of their coming-of-age ritual because the tree fly has a particular life cycle in which the larva embed into the fruit and emerge fully grown – accordingly, the youth is told to eat the fly to gain its nous, so that he may also taste the sweetness of life.

Snark Papist: Are you saying that Africans eat flies because they have no food? That seems really inappropriate.

Upper Rest Sider: No, you misunderstand. This is an example of their rich culture, they have different moral standards from Weste-

Snark Papist: Oh, so they don’t have morals and that’s why they eat bugs? That’s racist. You’re racist!

The Upper Rest Sider sags in defeat. Later that night, he will return home, log onto his anonymous Bird.com account, and write an esoteric racist shitpost.

Well, think about it, continues my interlocuter. His status-seeking features are more refined. The Snark Poper is doing prog-to-mog. If you’re optimizing yourself to be a mogging machine, then objectively the actual knowledge, money, etc is dead weight. It’s much better and more effective to become a bigger asshole. In fact, we can go further.

Imagine a third man, from a neighborhood adjoining Snark Pope: Billionswurg. He has no money. He has no taste, at least not any taste an art critic would grasp. His favorite painters are Bart Simpson and the guy who draws graffiti dicks on the brick walls of alleyways. He knows nothing about Africa, instead cribbing racist jokes from his favorite podcasts. But this guy is cool. He’s way cooler than the Snark Poper.

At this, I was speechless.

This is what happens when those two meet.

Snark Papist: Hey there young man, do you know where the subway station is? I’m afraid I’ve gotten a little mixed up.

Hipster: Why the fuck are you bothering me?

Snark Papist: Oh, I’m just trying to figure out where to go. I’m not from here, I came down to see the Art of Niger exhibit.

Hipster: Whoa bro, did you just say the N-word? The NIGGER word? C’mon man, you can’t do that.

Snark Papist: No, no, it’s Niger. It’s a country in Africa.

Hipster: I don’t think you know anything about nigger. Name every African.

Snark Papist: I’m sorry?

Hipster: Damn right you’re sorry. Ooga booga bix nood mufugga watermelon chicken! Gronk! Snood! Do you even know what that means? That’s Nig-Nog, the language of the Nogger tribe.

Snark Papist: Well, ah, uhh, um, that’s why I’m trying to learn more, so I can grow and thrive.

Hipster: Ummm, you’re Chinese.

Snark Papist: I… I am? No, I… I’m Jewish.

At this point, the Hipster begins aggressively pelvic thrusting towards the Snark Papist. The Papist flees in terror. When he gets home, he wonders if he was raped. He resolves to be a better feminist ally in the future.

What is status? Social dominance. And what is social dominance? Social dominance is the ability to force your way in social situations. If everyone agrees on something because it benefits them all, that doesn’t take any social dominance to do. What takes a lot of social dominance? Pointing at a deer and calling it a horse. Or better yet, pointing at an empty box and calling it a horse. Not just a horse, but the most majestic stallion you’ve ever seen. And the act of exerting social dominance and getting away with it is itself both a signal of and a producer of more social dominance. The act is its own social proof if you don’t get called out on it. Roughly speaking, we can say social dominance has two components, which I will call Nerd Power and Cunt Power, and your total social dominance, which is your status, is a function of the two factors.

Nerd Power is your ability to generate objective value. In a relationship, it’s your ability to provide, to bring home the bacon. In the white collar tech world, engineers have the Nerd Power. But it’s not just things like that. If the standard of value is muscles, then the jock has a lot of Nerd Power. In fact, it is commonly observed, and true, that many jocks are just Nerds for Sports. The value of Nerd Power is the ability to give people carrots. In the carrot-and-stick of social dynamics, your Nerd Power is how many carrots you bring to the table. One problem is that without a stick, a lot of your carrots can be bullied out of you for very little. And the traits that make people good at things often make it harder for them to defend what they make. Cooperativeness, high trust, and affability generate value in most parts of life, but it’s easy to be walked over if you do. The most conscientious person on a work team ends up carrying the project. But there’s an even worse failure state. Sometimes people don’t want any carrots out of you. At that point, you reach Nerd Power’s failure mode. Nerd Power’s value comes from objective Survival Constraints. The more you need that value, the more you’re going to have to negotiate with someone with Nerd Power, and the better their conditions will get. The classic example of Nerd Power achieving utter social dominance is when you have Employee #1, the only one who groks the mainframe. People like that set their own rules and name their own price. But much of the time, Nerd Power can be pushed around by the other source of social dominance: Cunt Power.

This is what happens when Nerd Power has no carrots the other party wants.

Let me tell you a story. How many layers of recursion deep can we go? As many as it takes to fry the brains of the censors. There was a junior investment banker who had a girlfriend, a journalist, he wanted desperately to please. But no matter what he did, none of it ever seemed good enough. Not that he had enough time. He hated that. Every day, he woke up – too early – and rolled out of bed, sometimes clothes still on from the last night, and dragged himself into the office.

He wanted to die. He was counting the days until that bonus check hit. Was it worth it? Could it be worth it? Was this all there was to life?

He was neglecting her. Was he abusing her? Was this abuse? He hated himself. He didn’t want to hurt her, he really didn’t. He wanted to love her. He wasn’t worthy of loving her. He wanted to be. He couldn’t. He hit himself, a lot. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Stupid! Even his nights didn’t belong to him. He could leave the office, but he couldn’t escape the office. Ping. Ping. He checked his phone. It was Teams. It was his boss, actually. He was supposed to spend some time with her. He wouldn’t get to. Was this his fault? He should have checked his work more. He should have asked for comments before leaving. Stupid. Stupid!

I’m sorry, he croaks. I have to do this. Ten minutes, babe. Twenty, tops.

He spends the next hour turning comments. By the time he finishes, she’s bored. She’s gone.

He wants to crumple up and blow away. He can’t. Yet another thing he can’t do right.

When they make love, he thinks about death a lot. Mortality. Death would be the end of his pain. At least he could die right. Everyone can. But death also seems like a door. Who knows what’s beyond death? At night, he dreams about a different, far off world. It is full of fairies and dreams and sweet princesses and noble princes. Everyone lives happily ever after. Is that the place beyond death? Maybe this is his sleeping life. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with his life. She’s out there, in the woods. She’s waiting for him to wake up. Death. He tells her this, once, well, at least the first part. He thinks of death when they make love. She looks at him with sheer contempt. He never brings it up again.

He takes her to the Hamptons by Blade. That helicopter service. He thinks it will be magical. The house is his parent’s, but it’s his for the weekend. She thinks it’s too loud. Her hair gets messed up. She blames him. She mopes. He wakes up before dawn. He stands in the sand, water up to his ankles, and looks out, waiting for the sun to rise. The cold wind nips at his face. He subscribes to Jezebel. He wants to understand her better. He doesn’t understand the articles. Stupid. Stupid!

He’s going to do it. He’s going to quit. He’s going to love her like she deserves to be loved. He’s going to move to New Hampshire and become an English professor. He’ll have a large dog that he walks every morning. He’ll grow his own flowers. They’ll sip coffee and watch the swaying of the trees. They’ll be happy. Come with me. He tells her.

She leaves him. Later, she writes an article about him. My experience dating a toxic finance bro who pretended to be a feminist!

He cries. He wants to die. He takes a fluffy, woolly blanket, and wraps it around himself until he feels safe. Then he picks up his pencils. And he begins to draw.

A world where the pain will stop.

Nassapaqua Hills.


INTERMISSION

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.

Autumn 2022.

I am on the train heading into New York City.

Summer is over. It’s always better to spend as much of summer outside the swampy, murky mess of New York summer as you can.

I am pacing the halls back and forth, agitated. Bored, mostly. You lose signal sometimes – often, frankly too often. The infrastructure in this fucking country. You can’t put cell towers all along a fixed railroad route? Of course they can’t. They used to have booze on the trains. It was something to do. Killed time. They got rid of that a little while back. Still, I can’t hate the train. I love the train. I love cross-country trips by train, and I even love little commuter hops. I love the sleepers and I love the Amtrak food.

At the very least, you might run into someone interesting, someone to talk to. You meet all kinds of people in the train. I’ve met Italian dukes who run painting contractors (there’s a lot of money in that, apparently). I’ve met retired medical professors. I’ve met ranchers headed back to their vast herds in the trackless Midwest. You never know, you know?

I walk up and down the seats. I see someone reading. Tall kid, young, white. Square jaw, but a bit of softness around the eyes. Well, you don’t want to interrupt that, it’s rude. They’re reading. I spy the title of the book on the front. Kirstin Lavransdatter. Oh, what the hell. I know that book.

“Hey,” I say. “Is that Kirstin Lavransdatter?” He doesn’t respond. The hell is this? “I’ve read that book,” I say again, loudly, staring directly at him. He jumps a little up in his seat, looks like he’s about to bolt. Maybe that was a little much. I think about conquering the world while he opens his book more widely, then reaches a hand into his coat pocket, retrieving… a fucking flower? He places it slowly in the inner fold of the book, then pauses, then picks it up, adjusts it slightly, and gingerly moves it so that the bloom of the flower isn’t disturbed by the book. Then he slowly closes the book around the flower.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t realize you were talking to me.”
“I’ve read that book too. It’s interesting,” I say.
“Really? I can never get enough of it. You know, the way flawed people… women, they can find grace. People getting caught up in themselves, but… it works out.”
“Well, that’s the beauty of the Catholic tradition, I think. It doesn’t demand perfection, but penance. Grace is a gift, freely given, to sinners, if only they reach out for it. Lord have mercy.”
“Lord have mercy,” he repeats.

There is a silence. There is only the rumbling and shaking of the train.

“I’m Clive,” he says. “I teach this book at a local liberal arts college. Local to Nassapaqua, I mean, not New York. It’s, uh, the subject of my doctoral work. I find it really interesting… women, feminism, sacrifice… coming to terms with a broken life. I don’t- well, that is, I mean… it’s not feminist like that, not in… It’s not clear that she’s right or wrong. Can any woman be happy with a disappointing man? But can she do anything but blame herself when the man she does pick… he’s… well… It all comes down to the grace of God, I guess. What do you do?”

“I work in finance.” He winces.

We pass through the internet dead zone. I sit down in a row I can have to myself, whip out my phone, and doomscroll the Bird the rest of the journey.

When I arrive at the station, I call an Uber. The app spins a bit, then picks up a driver. Because I’m an Uber Diamond Rewards customer, Uber upgrades me to a black cab automatically. A tank-like SUV pulls up to the curb. “Ahmed?” I ask. He nods. He repeats my name back to me. I confirm. We’re on our way.

I’m headed down to Dimes Square. Dimes Square is a microneighborhood, a little lemon wedge squeezed next to Chinatown, a little slip of a place. That’s what it is geographically. Culturally? It’s the scene.

All cultural roads lead to Dimes Square. Here is the intersection of Trumpism and breast milk and tradcaths and racists and leftists and dirtbags and poasters and troons and and balloons and drugged out freaks and artists and geeks. It was, in short, the worst place on Earth and the only place to be. Anyone who was anyone was there, and there were there to be a tastemaker and a tastetaker.

And me? I don’t know. I supposed I wanted to see it. Just to know about it, and that it was there. Grandly, I thought, I would give voice to the voiceless stories. Lowly, I thought, this was my version of Little Honey Boo Boo. The truth is probably something in between.

I showed up at the door, only to be checked by some bro in a jacket.

“Do you see this jacket? Do you know what that means?” he screamed.
“No,” I said, nonplussed.
“That means I work at BOAR’S HEAD, BRO. I make SANDWICHES. I decide who pees! You want to pee, I’m the bathroom king.”

I just wanted to go inside but this guy wouldn’t let me. But then, a black man looked at me, then looked at him, and spoke. “Ay, what do you think you’re doing? Crazy motherfucker,” he said. The Boar’s Head Guard stammered. “I’m Black,” said the black man. He was black. The Boar’s Head Guard’s eyes widened in realization as he realized the black man was black.

“Sorry,” he murmured. “Right this way,” he said, ushering me in.

I went inside. I scanned the room. Some people were clearly and visibly dysgenic, their physical mutations no doubt only matched by their mental ones. The others were not. They were attractive. Art hos. The place was swarming with journalists. They loved it. They hated it. It disgusted them. It was that curious mixture of emotions that was closest to them being collectively aroused. They were aroused by this, The Scene. And they were here to observe it, write about it, fawn about it. I wasn’t sure which group disturbed me more. This was not a place of honor. A man was hitting himself in the testicles with a hammer. That was his art. Another was reading his poetry. The poetry was about masturbating to his dead cat, who reminded him of Garfield the Cat, who he was sexually attracted to. It climaxed and so did he. I sidled up in that awkward mixer way to someone to strike up a conversation.

“So what’s your deal?” he asked.
“I work in finance,” I mumbled.
“Pfft. You know where I work?” he asked, puffing out his chest. “I work at a fucking movie theater, man. A mo-vie the-at-er.”
“Like for ar-” I started.
“Man, we show the best pictures. Probably. I make the popcorn. I pop the popcorn. I put the butter on the popcorn. Does a faggot financier even know what butter is? Fucking retard.”

I started to talk again, to tell him that I did know what butter was, but he interrupted me again.

“Butter is,” he said, crinkling his nose. He paused. He was thinking. “Butter is that yellow delicious stuff.” He looked me up and down. “So where do you live? Can you even afford your own place? Loser.”
“I live on the Upper East Side,” I said.
He smirked condescendingly. “I live in SoHo,” he said. “My rent is $15,000 a month.” Then, triumph crackling in his voice, he said, “Daddy dearest pays for me.”

He scoffed, concluding I wasn’t worth any more of his time, and turned around. It didn’t matter. The King had arrived.

The King was the coolest guy in this crowd, the New York scene, which made him the coolest guy in New York, which made him the coolest guy in the Western World. He wasn’t just a tastemaker, he was *the tastemaker*. At least until someone knocked him down. But that would be hard to do. He was a magnificent specimen. His hair formed a greasy Jewfro. His eyes were beady and poorly spaced, so it was never quite clear what he was looking at. His jowls were too fat, and bulbous, and he looked around the room with the cool, dispassionate gaze of someone who knew he was the shit. Idly, he picked at himself with his fat sausage fingers.

With him was 2022’s It Girl. Everyone knew he was the most beautiful woman in New York. He had broad shoulders, like a linebacker. His jaw was thick enough to crack granite. He was wearing a wig, which was starting to fall off. He had a hairy chest, which the King licked with lust. He was hot with desire for his Queen. They began to make out. As one, moved by this sight, the crowd stood to clap. And clap. They kept clapping.

I kept clapping. They kept clapping. We were clapping. Seconds passed. Sweat dripped down my forehead. I shouldn’t have worn my coat. But I couldn’t take it off now. I was busy clapping. What, was I gonna stop to take off my coat? But still, that was making me thirsty. My arms were getting tired. I was clapping. How long were we clapping? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Clap, clap, clap. Finally, one of the journalists, she began to slow down. She stopped clapping. Bit by bit, the crowd slowed too, then stopped.

The King locked eyes with her, his gaze steely.

The next day, she was cancelled on Twitter for transphobia. Soon afterwards, she was fired from her job.

Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.


HE WASN’T THE FINANCE BRO SHE WANTED HIM TO BE.

Cunt Power. What is Cunt Power? If Nerd Power is the carrot, then Cunt Power is the stick. Cunt Power is how much of a dickhead you are. The more you can cunt people out, the more power you have over them, because people will do what you say to make you stop. Cunt Power is bragging, Cunt Power is being overbearing, Cunt Power is shaming people into line. One of the reason why women like assholes is because without any ability to be an asshole, people will just walk over you and take all of your value. They will win by Cunt Power. But absent the survival constraints, Cunt Power tends to dominate Nerd Power. Any time Cunt Power interacts with Nerd Power, Cunt Power will simply own Nerd Power. You can only deal with someone pushing you by pushing back yourself.

The problem with a pure Cunt Power strategy is that people can easily disengage with you. Social status is not a one person game, but requires other to acquiesce to your will in order for you to be high social status. You can cunt people out, but if they have no reason to stay, then they will stop interacting with you. So most people have to balance carrot with stick, and on balance, they tend to need more carrots than there are sticks. But cunt power can spiral out of control if there’s no need to bargain for the other person’s social presence in your life. That creates an inherent power imbalance. So someone’s Mother-in-Law can get a very high social status by cunting out their Son-in-Law. If his status is high, then her status becomes his status + 1, which is very high. The ideal status-maximizing position to take there is for the Son-in-Law to be a real catch, but still not good enough for your daughter, and have to sit and take it while you ream him out. That’s the visceral feeling of winning. Similarly, a Bridezilla is essential to her own wedding, so she can feel and demonstrate high social status by making everyone else’s life hell. That’s, on an animal level, the definition of winning. And we are just status apes deep down.

But we can go further. What if you could cunt out total strangers? What if you could achieve maximum cuntiness all the time with people you don’t even know? You can. All societies have sacred myths which they find legitimate. In ours, wokeness and progressive morality plays that role. By becoming holier-than-thou in the reigning ideology, you can cunt out random people, and if they resist, you can shame them inside the dominant moral paradigm, bringing down force against them. Damn, that feels good. You’re winning as an animal. There is, however, a problem. Status showing behaviors almost all come at a cost to the signaler. A peacock’s tail is a drag on the peacock. Philanthropy comes at great expense if you do it for real. The ancients used to have their Big Men throw grand feasts or make sacrifices of their fine animals to the gods. To show off your status usually makes you poorer, not richer. Even pure social shows of status rarely turn out well for the signaler – nobody really likes a braggart. But we still do it. High status means high mating chances. And those hipsters mate like crazy, for what they bring to the table (nothing but how cool they are). The problem with constantly degrading your own life when you already have little, though, is that you break right through rock bottom and keep going. In some objective sense of life achievement, these are some of the worst losers you can imagine. They’re not smart, they’re not successful, they’re not learned, they’re not working to benefit society, they’re not good company, and they’re not nice.

I suppose that gives us a good working definition of a true Status-Maximizing Sociopath. A Status-Maximizing Sociopath is someone who looks at that and thinks “Good deal”. Love of the world, or perhaps, love of the world loving you.

But almost everyone will do something for a few status points more, unless they’re literally fighting to survive.

Later that night, I had the opportunity to own my interlocuter. And I took it. He was complaining about venture capital. How come he couldn’t raise a bunch of VC money? It’s because he didn’t have the right credentials. Someone like my friends had the right credentials. But his ideas were good. I took this opportunity to own him.

In fact, his ideas being good were the problem. I was in that world long enough to know that many of the companies that raised the most money came from the stupidest ideas. Why? Because it’s, again, status signaling. It takes a good VC to make money. But it takes a great VC to lose a lot of money. First, because you need that money to begin with. And secondly, the stupider an idea, the more “visionary” it seems to champion it, which benefits the VC’s status. I had won.

But I had also lost, in principle, the argument I had made earlier in the night. And so, to my interlocuter, who I know will be reading this, consider this essay my concession speech. You have won the traditional Thanksgiving political argument, and proven yourself to really have become an exceptional young adult. I am thankful for another year passing – after all, we only get so many.

May all of your lives be blessed and may we all get through the coming trials.

Thankful,
Monsieur le Baron

Tales From the Tire Guy: Or Mythic Ages, Safe Exotics, and the Familiarity of Distance

Dearest friends,

Do you know why the caged tire man sings? Probably because we keep poking his rubber fat rolls. But why does he sing for his supper? Because he must, because we all must. And what does he sing for?

Well, often for the Japanese. Japan was a place where the Tire Man food guide found a lot of traction. Why? Because the Japanese, like the French, found a lot of success in the technique and artistry of food. The presentation and the experience of food was given a lot of focus. In the Japanese, the French had found a kind of kindred spirit. And what they had in common was a very important thing.

What is high and low cuisine? High cuisine is defined not just by its deliciousness, but about the care of preparation, the quality of ingredients, the presentation, and especially the technique. While many 3 stars exist in the realm of novelty and experimentation (the chefs have ascended to the food equivalent of modernist composition – is molecular gastronomy not akin to atonality?), the far more common 2 and 1 stars are almost always very delicious. But deliciousness itself does not make something high cuisine. The aforementioned elements of high cuisine combine into one thing: the pursuit of a perfected dish. It is not only dumplings or whatever, but the attempt to create dumplings with such art that they are really what they ought to be. By contrast, low cuisine is cheap, mass produced, and delicious. Fast food is delicious, but in a crude way. Hearty peasant foods are delicious, but able to made by an ordinary, non-professional chef household with commonplace tools – they do not emphasize strange and exacting techniques. Stewing and roasting are popular – cheap on attention, even if they can take a long time. Between high and low cuisine is middle cuisine, which is often not delicious but is a statement of fanciness – you go to show that you are a person who can go to fancy restaurants.

Of course it was always a fit for Japanese culture. Japan is a culture of monomania – it’s not just the katana meme. While Japan pretends its claims to fame are all ancient, many are really imported. Oh, you think you know trucks? We’ll take those trucks and make the perfect truck. Oh, you think you know noodles? Those noodles are bullshit. We have made the perfect ramen. This fruit, the grape? Watch this. We will grow a grape the size of a fist, watching the skin every day to make sure it doesn’t split open. Beef? You think you’re a beef eater, Texan Man? Behold my marbling! The case of the peach is instructive. Peaches are not from Japan, but Japan loves its peaches. And Japan has a myth about peaches. But as one normally imagines myths, we have a problem – peaches showed up in Japan in 1875. The peach blossoms were not used to grow real, eaten peaches prior to then. How could real, modern humans invent a myth? I suppose the same way one invents a religion.

While Shinto is fake, what we might call the Shinto ethos is real. That is, objects that are real and physical can deserve worship. And that mastery or perfection can be obtained with physical pursuits. I’m sure you’ve seen things like the “God of Swords” or the “God of Spears” in anime or manga. What the peach man is growing is not a peach, but a Peach. Not an ordinary peach, but the God of Peaches. So of course the God of Peaches can have a myth and dwell in mythology. That is rightly where it belongs. Like the Bronze Age brave, the peach man undergoes a quest to the realm of the divine. Through ritual, the physical passes into the realm of the mythical, much like burning offerings changed them from the meat of men to the meat of the gods. The mythical is a realm of stories, and these stories are true lies about what composes a culture.

To the extent you can invent a religion or a myth, it must be reflecting of the deep nature of a people, such that it can survive the quest to the mythic realm. That is the secret of the Gloranthan hero quest. The safest way is always to reenact the myth as told. But if circumstances dictate, you can introduce novelty to the realm of the gods, and in doing so, hopefully find the answer fitting your own time. However, the novelty must conform to the realm of the gods – what is introduced must reflect the deep nature and essence of a myth, which is the people that produced it, in the same way, or it will be ejected from the Godrealm – painfully.

Consider that a warning for all our would-be right-wing Brahmin.

And what is this mythic realm? It is an imagined place, certainly. But it is also an imagined time. It is a particular imagined time, which becomes the Mythic Age. It is an idealized past from which all things of antiquity must descend. The common mistake is to imagine this Mythic Age is always the Ancient Age, a distant, far-off place beyond human recording. But that is not so. The Mythic Age is deeply tied with the birth of a culture, not the strictures of absolute time and absolute technology.

The birth of a culture, like the death of a culture, is a long, drawn-out thing, and it is hard to draw bright lines. Take, for instance, the long, strange death of Late Antiquity. Rome fell, Rome will fall, and Rome is falling.

“We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man.”

Ryan Gosling

An honorable culture, like an honorable man, must seek an honorable end. When did Rome fall? 476? And yet, for a while longer, the lingering energy of the empire and its institutions persisted. The men who felled Rome did not think they were felling Rome. They admired Rome. They wanted to be Rome. When Rome fell, they styled themselves as continuations of such. Successors.

What happened to the legion? The legions started out as free men of property mustered to serve Rome. Marius transformed them into a standing army of career professionals. But as Rome decayed, it proved incapable of paying and upkeeping the classic Marian legions. There was a shift to a two-tiered system. There would be interior legions which more closely resembled the classic legions combined with the limitanei, troops that manned permanent border fortifications and which could quickly muster to confront threats. When Rome fell, the limitanei did not. They stayed at their posts because no one relieved them. When the Merovingian Empire rose, it found willing servants in these final legions. The nature of birth and death can be seen in the evolution of the Merovingian military. Roughly, it had several components: royal retainers (belonging to one or many kings), the retinues of the magnates, the yeoman levy, and the Roman legions. Each of these had different operational ranges. The yeoman levy had to stay close enough to home to return to do farm labor. The magnate retinues had no business but war, but had a magnate master who would not allow them to do tasks disagreeable to them or stray from their control. The legionnaires were professional soldiers but had a home base in the fortification they manned. The royal retainers were highly mobile and well trained, but few in number. The Merovingian army was primarily an infantry army, with 10-30% cavalry. The Merovingian legionnaire was an armored heavy infantryman with a throwing axe or javelin that was used to break or disable an enemy’s shield before closing into melee combat.

What is the life or death of a culture? While a culture lives, it is vital. It self-reproduces and evolves and comes up with new variations. It is, like a living thing, learning and growing older. A dying culture is not the same way. We can see this in the decline and fall of the last Roman legions. Youthful Rome had an inexhaustible supply of manpower, but had not yet found its way – it had not yet invented the legion idea. Marius’s mules were strong, vigorous, and many. As Rome passed through adulthood to enter old age, the legions changed again to this center and border model. But the fall of the Rome, the death of Rome, did not usher in a new form of legion. That is what it means to have a dead culture – despite the radically different world, the legions did not become radically different. Rather, they were conserving a fixed supply of vitality inherited from their dead world which ebbed over time. When Romanness was the living culture, the ability to raise legions was – while not unlimited – certainly not a problem. Strong and willing men could be recruited and *formed into* legions.

When the early Merovingians summoned these legions, they found this still to be the case, and were able to form a few of their own. But while Rome mustered whole armies into being, the Merovingians, despite holding substantially similar territory, could only create a few legions. A living and vital culture has the power to assimilate and absorb. The legions could always reproduce the culture of the legion through their institutions during the time of Rome. During the Merovingian night, the institutions and their military science disappeared – but there was still military tradition. And this tradition was alive enough that it was understood, and being an understood tradition, it could be used to raise more legions. As this vitality waned further, no more legions could be raised. The last reinforcements had arrived in that long, dark night. What legions remained could only reinforce themselves, reproducing themselves. The military traditions still survived, but they were now merely dead tradition. The preservation of fire had become the worship of embers scattered among ashes. The ability to teach military drills and maneuvers had forgotten the purpose and reasoning of such things. You were a legionnaire because your father was a legionnaire and his father before him, going back into a forgotten antiquity. And you would do your duty until one day, the Emperor returned to relieve you. The one thing that could not be taken from you was an honorable death.

The wars continued. Bit by bit, the last Roman legions were chipped away, lines ending before they could renew themselves. And some time in the final decades of the 7th century, the last legion fell, two hundred years after their emperors did. Only in death did duty end.

As the last embers fade, a great relearning must occur. Traditions are a culture’s answers to the great problems of life, and those problems do not go away just because an empire declines and falls. Who now speaks of the Merovingians? Because the Merovingians are only the shade of Rome, rapidly fading away. The traditions are necessary because the problems remain. But the old, dying culture cannot adapt its traditions to meet changing times, and more and more, they fall out of step with a world deeply unlike the world that created them. Meanwhile, the rising culture is confronting the constant problems of life and happening into solutions that work with those problems while reflecting the reality *it* is born into.

This early misty age, when the culture exists but is not aware of itself, is not conscious of itself and what it is, becomes the Mythic Age of the culture. Cultural Antiquity, the age which we consider a thing to have existed since time immemorial, is not a fixed thing, or even a time relative to the present, but refers back to the Mythic Age of the culture. The Romans had their own Mythic Age in the founding of Rome, the kings, and the early Republic, the early Republic becoming the moment of consciousness. What is the British Mythic Age? It begins with Late Antiquity and King Arthur and ends with British self-awareness in either Alfred the Great or William the Conqueror. The mythology of Britain thus hearkens back to an imagined Romano-British age, which has a *fixed chronology*, despite being mythical. You can place the unreal events in a particular time and a particular place. It is the mythic Britain behind the real one, as C.S. Lewis might say. And the Mythic Age and the Mythic place are perhaps not real, but they are a reflection of what should be real, the Britain that Britain imagines it should be. For the French, this Mythic Age is a time spanning from that same Late Antiquity to Charlemagne, when the new culture realizes it is born and that it exists.

When writing new myths, they place themselves into that Mythic Age. Stories set long ago, in a vague past, are set at a particular time, the Mythic Age. It is the symbols of that Mythic Age that confer legitimacy. The scepter is not a universal of rule, but there must be a thing that fills the role of that scepter. For instance, the Dahomey, a gunpowder culture, coming of age in the Early Modern, had a shotgun of state as a symbolic weapon conferring legitimacy. In their primal myths, metallurgy and the forging of iron are very important, developing into themes of duality, reshaping, and a metaphysics of creation. From a real historical viewpoint, it does not make sense to have iron and gunpowder as primal, metaphysical elements when they were created in real history at a real time at a documented place and were not eternal and coexistent with the universe. But from a mythic point of view, there was only one thing the Dahomey could call their god of iron, war, and ur-masculinity: Gun.

What is America’s Mythic Age? The Early Modern period through the Civil War. When do we set our Disney fairy tales? For the most part, they are set in the Early Modern era, the time preceding the American and French Revolutions, but succeeding the Medieval. Like European Gothic civilization before us, Americans struggle, on a folk and gut level, to comprehend a past beyond the Early Modern. When medieval painters painted antiquity, they dressed up the figures in a style familiar to them, and they could do nothing else. To really live and perceive the past beyond that would mean reaching into a time where their culture did not exist, which they cannot recall and which does exist in the scope of their oral and cultural traditions. When Americans imagine the past, everything before our infancy is blobbed together with the events of the Early Modern, becoming one theme park of Pastland, the world of a vague yesterday. When we try to imagine the Medieval, we get not the Medieval, but knights in shining armor (Late Medieval/Early Modern) and regulated grand jousting tournaments (Late Medieval/Early Modern), and to top it all off, we call it… a Renaissance Faire. Nice. America does not remember the world before the New World. The Old World is shrouded in mystery. There are Mythic figures for America from the Colonial Age and the settling of the West and Manifest Destiny, but with the Civil War, we were forced into being one nation. We exited childhood by seeing our parents fucking – traumatic.

So it doesn’t matter if peaches came to Japan in 1876. The peaches have a peach spirit and they’re a part of myth now.

So we return to food, and with that, the safe exotic.

What is the safe exotic? The safe exotic is a thing which is culturally distant that does not transgress the axioms of the culture, thus becoming a boundary limiter between us and the alien them. Whenever the benefits of multiculturalism are brought up, the safe exotic is cited, ignoring the fact that the safe exotic is necessarily of the host culture and not alien. When people say chicken tikki marsala is as British as British gets, they’re right, but they’re also lying, and this is obvious because they cite it as a benefit of multiculturalism and thus the alien. The safe exotic exists in the boundary, the liminal space between us and them. But it cannot be them, because it being them would make it unsafe, would actually end up challenging the assumptions of the host. Honor killing is not the safe exotic, because it transgresses the cultural frame and values of the host culture, despite being another ubiquitous product of mass immigration.

Why did Chinese and Japanese food find wide adoption in America? Because, for America, they are a safe exotic. They are different – but not too different. Not every cuisine takes off in America. Chinese food is a safe exotic. Chinese dishes are a lot like regular American State Fair food – here’s some shit, fry it. Fry it some more. Drown things in oil. Blunt, meaty flavors. Japanese food is an analogue to French food, a relationship the French also acknowledge. It is a safe exotic mirror of French cooking, a traditional style of fancy food for Americans. So in your small town, you will have a fancy European (Italian or French, usually Italian in a small town) restaurant, a diner or burger place, a pizza place, and their safe exotic analogues: a Chinese takeout place and a Japanese (or, more often, an “Asian fusion”/”fusion hibachi”) restaurant. It’s a way of leaving the comfort zone without actually having to confront the alien. In the fictional small town of Twin Peaks (population 5,120.1), you have a Thai-Italian restaurant (fancy, also combines the safe exotic with the local version), a BBQ restaurant, a tavern, and a diner.

The safe exotic doesn’t just apply to food, but the boundary markings of any culture or subculture. Another kind of culture is class culture. Some people assume things which are expensive are things consumed by the rich or high class. This is not the case. UMC people do not buy and wear T-shirts with large Gucci logos, despite their high price tags. That is because that item transgresses their cultural values. Rather, those items are for proles who get rich. The gold-covered, flashy aesthetic is an expression of prole values given a lot of money: that’s why they love Donald Trump. These items constitute the safe exotic for the prole. If you get rich and consume these luxury items, you are not a class traitor because you have not transgressed our cultural values, you have not violated the taboos of working class life. But if you do something far cheaper that goes against prole values, like becoming a blue hair – even if that lifestyle only costs $50k/yr, you’re still a class traitor. Because class is not just an economic condition, or even purely a relation to production, but is the tribe which forms out of those people who have a particular relationship to production and socioeconomic status. There is no necessary material condition that demands high professionals from Wall Street and Silicon Valley wear those stupid vests, but they do because it symbolizes their membership in a particular tribe with particular values. Antiques are not much more expensive than new furniture (or throwing out IKEA every few years), but buying antiques signifies membership in the world of Fussell’s Uppers (the upper middle and upper class), new furniture is a liminal space, and IKEA is firmly middle class, despite the lifetime costs being roughly similar. After all, people – in an economic and material sense – can only ever afford to spend so much on furniture. The divides are not primarily price, but cultural and tribal.

What is the thread uniting the safe exotic and the Mythic Age? I’m sure, dear reader, you have already figured it out. But sometimes it takes me a bit to puzzle out the implications of my own statements.

It’s boundaries. Both these concepts establish the bounds of the familiar. The Mythic Age is the boundary age of our culture, beyond which all things belong to an unreal past. For the modern progressive, dictatorships are a real fear, but feudal monarchies live only in storybooks. The latter precedes the Mythic Age and thus is too alien to be real in any gut sense. It’s fantastical. The safe exotic establishes a boundary for a culture and its people, while the Mythic Age sets a chronological boundary. And these boundaries matter. Across the boundary, those “in the know” will assume everything is alien (Those who are less cosmopolitan, like hicklib progressives and Protestant Universalists will assume every culture is more or less like ours, which is definitely untrue. There’s more to life than all bleeding red.). Thus, paradoxically, the distant is familiar. When we deal with the truly alien, we are often shocked by how familiar, human, and real it all seems. Rome is often as alive to us as the friends we greet each day. That is because, across the frontier of the alien, we assume everything must be strange, and thus chalk up peculiarities to them being different from us. What remains are the human universals, and we marvel that Romans were humans just like us. Amazingly, the Romans bleed red like us, and we marvel. They, too, cry and die and love and live and scheme and sleep, perchance to dream.

That is the familiarity of distance.

That which is near to us often feels more alien precisely because it is so familiar. It is chilling and dreadful for a progressive to remember slavery, because to remember slavery is to know that people almost identical to yourself, living the same lifestyle as you, in the same place as you, in the same time as you, condoned it.

What does that say about you?

In conclusion, I got a dinner reservation at prime hours on a prime day at Dorsia (MICHELIN STARS AHAHAHA). Fuck you.

Loves to humblebrag,
Monsieur le Baron

Three Laws of Dialectics, Or Towards a Explanation of Dialectics, Part I

Dearest Friends,

What’s the deal with brown white supremacists? Har har har.

No, but seriously.

Why are all the Fascists Jewish or homosexual? Come on. You know it’s true. As Gorky said, “Exterminate all homosexuals and fascism will vanish.”

The answer to both these things is the same, of course. It’s classic dialectics.

I believe we are now able to express dialectics in a more formal way, dispensing with the obscurantism of German Idealism while capturing the essences in a straightforward, plain English way, because our understandings of certain phenomena has grown far, far more advanced in the machine age. By observing convergent evolution and adaptation in technological contexts and genetic algorithms, we are able to gain an understanding of our own cultural development. Memetics was a paradigm shift in the idea of cultural development. But it doesn’t really answer why certain memes are fit and propagate, especially the propagation of memetic supercomplexes, the most interesting memes, the complex life of memetics. What a modern understanding of dialectics will provide us is a fitness equation for memetic evolution.

We will propose Three Laws and Three No’s of Dialectics:

The Three Laws:
1. Signaling
2. Cultural Hydraulics and Escape Pressure
3. Dynamic Cycling

The Three No’s:
1. No Culture By Steam
2. No Politics By Memes
3. No Fulfillment of the Dream

Signaling
The dialectical process is the dominant law of sociological and cultural processes. It is why Cubism does not become “Super-Cubism”. Physical processes usually follow a cycle, linear growth, exponential growth, or a logistic curve (S-curve), but social processes do not evolve that way. Instead, social processes seem to operate by dialectics. What does dialectics describe? Dialectics describes a process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, a unity of opposites. What is the main dynamic of signaling? Signal, counter-signal, counter-counter-signal, with the counter-counter-signal being opposed to the counter-signal, but in a way that distinguishes it, and thus incorporates it, by reflecting the imagined Other in what it counter-counter-signals. The counter-counter-signal always bears the mark of the counter-signal in the way that the signal does not, because the purpose of the counter-counter-signal is to signal against the original counter-signal, which incorporates an opposition or criticism of the original signal not addressed by the original signal. The original signal is naive to the opposition, the counter-counter-signal bears adaptation. Signaling is the basic law by which culture moves. As culture moves, trends are opposed as lame or tacky and the cultural vanguard defines themselves against the old trend. But what determines where the new opposition heads? What fads catch on and what fads die? Signaling is well worn ground, but this isn’t.

Cultural Hydraulics
The Unity of Opposites is more illusory than real. Phenomena like brown white supremacists or anti-white whites only confuse us because we confuse the map for the territory. Concepts are the map. Concepts are the means by which we try to transform real things, which are messy objects, into word-categories, the basic building blocks of meaning from which we construct language and logic. The problem is that, having mapped reality to concepts, we confuse our map for the territory. But what is real is not our concepts, but the objects themselves. We might conceive brown white supremacists as contradictory, but what makes it so? Only the opposing concepts of “White person” and “Brown person” and the negating concept of “Racial Supremacy”. But there is no law of the universe which makes a brown person explode if they put on a swastika. Water and fire are held to be opposites culturally, but water can worsen an oil fire and fires can burn on top of rivers. Water has a reason to be considered an “opposite” to fire because water puts out fire, but that’s not because water is the opposite of water. Rather, the water reduces the heat of the fire and smothers it of oxygen. To wit, opposites are only truly opposites when there is some physical reality that compels the oppositional relation. Otherwise, all we have is conceptual opposition. And it is in conceptual opposition that the Unity of Opposites might occur, because nothing keeps the opposites from uniting, and by uniting, a tension is resolved. Let us define two kinds of physical opposition: Strong Physical Opposition and Weak Physical Opposition. Strong Physical Opposition is when some scientific law creates a physical impossibility. For instance, water putting out fire comes from a physical law. The law of gravity is a physical law, and someone countersignaling gravity will meet a very stupid end. Weak Physical Opposition is when some person or a group of persons in an institution take it upon themselves to enforce some conceptual opposition. For instance, under the Third Reich, Nazism and Judaism had a Weak Physical Opposition because the state was enforcing this relation by murdering Jews. Nevertheless, Weak Physical Oppositions are imperfect because they require the constant enforcing of the law. They require the actions of men to remain true. The Third Reich had many ethnic Jews serving it because there was no scientific law that caused their heads to explode if they became Nazis, and absent that, they could cross over if Hitler did not have them killed and they found it interesting and agreeable. Conceptual Oppositions are often rooted in past historical Weak Physical Oppositions. People think that rich people cannot be Communists – which is a ludicrous idea both now and historically – because Mao and others enacted a classicide. That’s like saying investors can’t buy high and sell low because that means getting wiped out. As Galileo would say: And yet it moves. To some extent, we must suffer the blind spots that Conceptual Oppositions impose on us, because we cannot reason without the map. Only by simplifying and categorizing things into these rigidities can we do any sort of analysis, even if real objects are too messy for the categories, but the messiness of the realities always strains our attempts to categorize and lexify them.

The structure of most midwit arguments:
Person: Rule
Midwit: Exception?
Midwit: Therefore no rule
Did you know your generalization is not perfectly accurate? Wow whoa.

The reason why this is a very, very stupid line of attack is that without generalizations and categories, we cannot think at all. The midwit likes to make this attack without realizing *all of their* concepts are equally flawed from this perspective.

So far, we have only established the Non-Contradiction of (Conceptual) Opposites, not their Unity. The Unity is a process, the process of dialectics. In the signaling/counter-signaling process, there are unguarded avenues. Because we are blind to the illusory nature of Conceptual Opposites, we are always surprised when Nixon Goes To China. But why should we be? Not only can Nixon go to China, only Nixons can go to China. There is energy from outflanking. Where do the rich go when the middle imitate them? The rich countersignal the rising middle by adopting the fashions of the poor, which their adversaries cannot adopt, because that would collapse the cultural distinctions signaled between middle and poor, which the rich have no fear of. Similarly, Nixon has no fear of being accused of being a communist, because he is the anti-communist. Political arguments break down into two sides, pro and anti, friend and enemy. Centrists are merely those who have different friends and enemies for different issues, rather than some wishy washy mystical not-pro, not-anti position on an issue (this can only be maintained by indifference, which conceptually is negative liberty, the basis of libertarianism – the state shall be indifferent to most matters). In a very abstract sense, you can conceive of Left and Right as basically two arbitrary teams, and one’s level of Leftism or Rightism is a level of purity. That is, on how many issues does this person deviate from their “team’s” friend/enemy distinction? Of course, deviation requires a fixed reference point, and this is where culture matters, because the cultural vanguard sets what the “goal” of maximally pure ideological Rightism or Leftism is for an era, which in turn determines who is “more Right wing”. The Unity of Opposites occurs when someone from the Left or Right adopts some stances of the other side *without accepting the overall frame* (this is just changing sides otherwise), thus rotating the issue such that both the original Left and Right positions are invalidated compared to the obvious correctness of the new position. The correctness is obvious because the synthesis position incorporates the good components of both sides, and both sides in a hard fought political conflict must have at least *some points* that carry weight. In short, the Left outflanks the Right from the Right or vice versa. The White Army was forced to champion mealy mouthed liberal democracy while also being castigated as incompetent Tsarists because Lenin had outflanked the Right from the Right – he was the perfect autocrat and democratic centralism was a (more) perfected autocracy, undermining any argument that might propose the virtues of Tsarist autocracy.

After Caesar, there are no Populares or Optimates because the issue is simply obsolete. A new political distinction must and will come into being.

But why?

Dynamic Cycling
Men and machines think in straight lines. But nature thinks in cycles. Why? Aren’t cycles inherently inefficient? Yes. In the overshoot and the undershoot, there exists inefficiency. As the Austrians might say, prices approach perfection in a roundabout way, always going over or under, alternating between wasteful glut and shortage. The classical Marxist-Leninist Plannerist might say the solution is obvious: Pick the perfect, correct price using your intellect and calculation. And they have, historically, directed their energies towards increasing calculation power as to *find* that perfect price.

Everything above and below the line is “wasted”

But there’s a problem with that, even if perfect calculation was possible.

It’s simple: the perfect price *changes*. Nature loves a cycle because nature does not know what the ideal carrying capacity of an environment under changing conditions and imperfect information. Even if you could calculate a perfect price, or even a system of perfect prices, a change in conditions will perturb the whole system so much as to shake it apart. The flaw in planning is the same as the flaw in the supply chain: hyperefficiency, even *when real*, is fragile, because reserve is robustness to change. And the negative feedback cycle, so loved by engineers, is better than inventory or reserve, because it is not only robust, but adaptive. Small changes are absorbed and used to reach the new ideal equilibrium. Machines are fragile because they are built for perfection. Even the best and most robust machines have assumptions about operating conditions. Biology and cycles are anti-fragile. They learn.

To wit: Human history in a graph.

The cycle must continue

If the carrying capacity of the woods increases, then the amount of deer genuinely can increase. And the characteristics of our physical environments are always changing. The business cycle isn’t just healthy because it clears out deadwood with every brush fire. No, it’s also healthy because bubbles and busts don’t have natural lengths. The pendulum is swinging, but when the pendulum swings back, it can either swing back to its original position, or nearer or farther depending on what has changed. We can think of the entirety of the Industrial Age as a “bubble” or “boom” driven by the changed conditions of cheap energy and machinery. And if we fall from here, we nevertheless stand far beyond our ancestors in the levels of knowledge and mechanical sophistication we have attained. The new equilibrium of our bubble burst is not the old 16th century stasis, because we know how to build many fascinating machines which could exist in a low energy paradigm, but which we did not conceive of back then. The future is not quite the Ancien Regime, but perhaps the Ancien Regime and however it might be altered by trains and organ-sized vacuum tube computers and machine guns and any other low-energy, high intellectual sophistication technology. The dodo dies, the mammoth is reborn. And in a distant, unremembered future, youthful Mormongol adventurers slay Rationalist GPT-3 Technoliches still guarding the ruins of Harvard TS/SCI labs, plundering ancient secrets from beneath the shadows of vast and trunkless legs of stone, the thickened lips of a Pharaonic Floyd still gasping for breath, and the lone and level concrete flatways swarming with gray goo techno-slimes.

Sing, O Wild Horse Woman.

Dusting off his sandals,
Monsieur le Baron

The Whalefall, or the Anatomy of a Gifted Kid Burnout: The Brooklyn Notebook Part II

Dearest friends,

There has always been a scene. In the glittering heights of Rome, there were the special ones, who ate and drank and wrote fine things. When horses raced across long tracks to the clink of champagne glasses and gold coins, there was a scene, the beautiful people. It Girls and Bright Young Things, all crystal and shimmering and light, gowns brushing over out-of-the-way cobblestone paths like fingers over secret places, soft warm breaths like gentle caresses, a whispered word to a secret ear, and a secret that is a promise.

Is there any wonder it holds such attraction? In the distance, they see it blazing bright. So far from the humdrum ordinary of their small town, so full of potential and possibility. Imagine a somewhat awkward kid who feels deeply that they don’t belong where they grew up. They know – and feel – that they are more talented than those around them. And some of them are told as such.

“You’re special.” “You’re special.” “You’re gifted.” “This is not your lot in life.” “You are going to go far.”

And where is far? How can far be anywhere but that bright sun over the horizon? Are they headed for their very own sun? Are they kindling for the bonfire? Are they moths to a flame?

Up flies Icarus, towards his destiny.

Once upon a time, the world was in ruins. America stood alone. America stood triumphant. Whatever you may think of China today, being the workshop of the world has made thousands of billionaires and countless steel and glass towers. America was that tenfold over. After WWII, America was the world’s premier industrial power, and all the markets of the world stood available to it.

This was the whalefall, a tremendous surge of economic nutrients that made fortunes across the country. When members of the new Creative Class, the Bureaucratic Class, the PMC, whatever, talk about the blond fratboy Chad as an elite, it is not merely a figment of fevered imaginations. Rather, it is an observation of a newly formed class, the Middle American Nouveau Riche, which came about from the outpouring of prosperity during mid-century. Normally, the rise of a new elite occurs mediated through existing elite institutions. Someone doesn’t just magically become rich, they become rich after going to Harvard. Or they make business deals and create a business network which draws them into contact with the established elite. The New Money of the Gilded Age was assimilated into the social set by being seen, mutually recognized, and invited in. But that didn’t happen in the last mid-century. What was created was “free wealth”, wealth that existed independent of and unaware of existing elite institutions. The closest thing today is the crypto boom – some NEET who bought bitcoin earlier has now become New Money without being drawn into the formal institutions of eliteness or building those social or cultural connections. But Middle American regular white people were able to build their own businesses and other operations that allowed them to amass fortunes of a few million dollars. And lacking any reason not to (it means Anglo-Saxon, right?), they styled themselves WASPs. It made sense, of course.

The reason why the Creative Class sees the Ohio State frat boy as the picture of the WASP elite, something that is almost mind bogglingly confusing to the real elites I talk to, is because that is what they see. And part of this comes from the receding of the WASP from public life. People often talk about the death or replacement of the WASP elite. They’re not dead. But they have gone West, beyond the sea, past the ken of mortal men. This agglomeration of PMCs and nouveau riche readily take the name of UMC because they don’t see any other credible claimants. Why should they? The traditional elite establishment is invisible.

At the same time, the Managerial Revolution was underway, creating a new class, the PMC. When you imagine what people call middle class, what are some things that come to mind?

First of all, there’s the high prole or labor aristocrat. This is an old kind of person. There have been skilled laborers in guilds or other organizations since time immemorial, and they have earned comfortable wages. They, like the regular prole, produce value and receive a fraction of that value back. But their skills allow them to create far more value than the average unskilled laborer, and their rarity means they have a lot of bargaining power: see the Freedom Convoy. In economic terms, they’re proletarian, with a few owning their tools (this does not meaningfully make them not proletarian), but they make as much as the other middle class categories here and sometimes culturally blend into the middle class. And they are usually called middle class in American pop culture. Class is complex and exists on material, cultural, and social levels. These are things like plumbers, truck drivers, electricians, nurses (nurses produce the value of medicine, despite being called “professionals”), and pilots.

Secondly, there are those who teach and culturally condition the population. Because there are so many people, this class is also relatively numerous, because there must be so many for every group of people. A classroom can only be so large. In the past, this was the clergy and clerisy, dispensing the opiate of the masses. Today, it is the teachers of primary and secondary school, still dispensing the opiate of the masses. This is another social relation which is very old and likely to continue.

The last category is the PMC, the new class. As it was being born and expanded, it created a huge demand for people who were brought into it and thereby achieved a middle class lifestyle. But what is the PMC? Does it exist in history? The instinctive answer people want to give is “yes”. But the similar roles in the past are not middle class, but minor aristocracy or haute bourgeois. In business, there were clerks, but clerks were paid much better than administrators now, and clerking was a path upward through the firm to become a partner. Clerks in haute bourgeois family partnerships were more like law clerks today, the larval form of a future haute bourgeois. You might say that the bureaucrats of Imperial China, the mandarins, were the same as modern PMCs, but were they? A mandarin held sway over hundreds of acres of land and earned the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars. A mandarin was more like a European baron than he is a modern paper pusher. The same applies to things like UX “programmers” vs the engineers of old. In fact, software allows for easy illustration of this idea. There are many people earning a decent wage being UX *programmers* or UI *programmers* or C++ *programmers*, but the big bucks and prestige belong to *full-stack engineers*, especially when the *full-stack* element is so assumed as to no longer go unsaid – everyone is fully versed in all skills and potentially able to take on all tasks. Here we see what has happened. In the past, you had the service aristocracy, the baronage, which earned income and lived as what they were, which was landed gentry, minor members of the aristocracy. Why do the PMC often make pretenses at being UMC? Partly because they kinda are. But only kinda. What is a PMC? A PMC takes the responsibilities of an old-style baron, but only part of them. The baron’s work is divided among many people. A lawyer is replaced by a small group of paralegals. The old haute bourgeois becomes a team of administrators and bookkeepers. One UMC becomes many MC people. But because they do similar work, in some sense, confusion and pretension is natural. This also helps account for some of the parasitic nature. The aristocracy was already often considered a parasitic class. What the PMC is is a minor-minor aristocrat, an even less skilled and useful version of the old aristocrat. In short, the PMC is a historical novelty that comes from the splitting of UMC work into many people, brought about by the high demand for information processing in the monopoly-managerial mode of production, because a monopoly is always implicitly doing central planning and therefore cannot depend on the easy information of the price signal.

So what happens as prosperity recedes? The whalefall could not last forever. America’s ability to maintain a large amount of PMCs was conditional on it being the world’s greatest industrial power. But the world was always going to recover. Furthermore, all those nouveau riche fortunes require energy to keep going. They must find growth – or at the very least, sustenance. Otherwise, inflation will waste them away into nothing. These newly prosperous classes are facing the void. Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. Part of why Twitter posters insist the regime is invincible is because they need it to be invincible to guarantee the continuation of their way of life. Without the regime, who will provide these PMC jobs? This huge swath of the middle class was created by managerialism. The crisis of scarcity was brought home by 2008. After 2008, the broad middle realized the good times were over.

No one takes proletarianization lightly. Even though their grandfathers might be proles, of either the skilled or unskilled type, labor sucks. People do not like doing labor. Part of why Marx’s vision seems to never come true is that he thinks there will be a classless, stateless society because people will actually enjoy and find fulfillment in their work. Nah. Only ISTJ freaks think that way. The rest of us need to get paid, son, and desire to do as little work for as much pay as possible. Real work, labor work, is really hard.

For the modern gifted kid trying to hold and or get a middle class lifestyle, only a few avenues remain.

One is to try to shoot for the stars and secure a position in the true upper middle class before the music stops. The horn is blowing, the train is about to depart the station. Last call. But the trip is already overbooked – can you make it? The traditional cutoff to be gifted in America is 130IQ, the top 2%. This is roughly as big as historical aristocracies, as I have repeatedly said in my various posts about the upper middle class. But part of the problem is that there are not many Harvard slots. The top 2% of America is millions of people, but Harvard only admits a few thousand. Now, you could shoot lower than Harvard, but given the fever pitch of competition, you may not make it. And is our gifted kid 130IQ? Are they as talented as the traditional elite? This is in doubt. Nathan J. Robinson, the Plantation Riddler, went to one of these no name gifted schools. He got a perfect SAT, a +3SD result, roughly norming to an IQ of 145. The problem is that he was the only person to do this in decades at that school. If the cutoff to enter a gifted program in Middle America really is 130IQ, then something is fishy, because the rate of perfects should be much higher than that, mathematically. I suspect there are two problems at work. First, the standards in Middle America are lowered, because the point of gifted school, like “good schools”, is not to guarantee a path to the elite, but to avoid minorities. This is why Twitter posters are often incredulous when I explain to them the importance of IQ to the American elite or the purpose of GATE, which is assumed to be occult or some kind of scam. No, in the coastal metropoles, the elite schools really are designed as paths to the elite. But in Middle America, it seems like gifted programs are not full of the top 2%, but often are broader than that, because the real point is to separate white kids from minority kids. This creates a bunch of kids with 110-130IQ, the proverbial midwits, with hugely inflated egos but actually mediocre talents. The other explanation I have is that skilled laborers are often precocious in youth so that they can learn skills in an apprenticeship from trusted community members or their father, before settling down into their skilled labor life. When these kids were creamed into the gifted system, they really were gifted as kids and maybe teens, but that spark burned out. That mental suppleness was used to learn things like calculus, which they will never use again, instead of blacksmithing or how to fix a Chevy. I believe it is a mixture of these two explanations. And that’s just the merit side. Middle class kids exist at a severe disadvantage when it comes to the social connections, networking, cultural context, and financial capital elements of getting ahead in the upper middle class pathways.

So the gifted kid “burns out”.

But they’ve seen enough of what lies above to be resentful and envious. They deserve better than working at Starbucks.

The other path is to fight as hard as you can for what you’ve already got. The scene has always existed. But the scene has gotten worse – more venomous, less creative. Part of the problem is competition. When everyone around you is a competitor, you can’t engage in free and easy collaboration. This goes into my recent thread about Achilles and the political Right, but part of why Frogtwitter and 4chan were so open and creative was the zero stakes environment. You could tolerate all manner of heresy and weird but potentially interesting losers because it didn’t matter. After all, people liked Achilles’ tweeting until they realized who he was. If this thing wasn’t a movement or pseudo-movement, if it didn’t have political pretensions, if there weren’t political sinecures and podcast dollars at stake, would it matter if there were losers among it? No, it wouldn’t. It didn’t matter for the longest time. But these dynamics of gatekeeping and cancellation must occur because there is something at stake. And the stakes are only getting higher because the pie is shrinking, so any slot must be fought for more desperately. A cancellation is an excuse to off a rival and get their job. But this kills the open air, making the space sterile.

Furthermore, part of why the creativity has declined is the inability to experiment. The same has happened with movies. Arthouse movies can still be weird and creative because the budgets are small – they can afford to go wrong and nothing will happen. Indie games still have many gems. But with big blockbusters and triple A gaming, they stick to a formula that guarantees mediocrity because mediocrity is not failure. Failure means being out hundreds of millions of dollars. Mediocrity means a modest profit, even if no one will remember it in future ages. Part of why the scene of the past was more creative was a lack of economic anxiety. If you fooled around in your twenties, you could still return to a comfortable middle class existence. Or you could have rich parents bankroll you. But now, those middle class jobs are in short supply, and those nouveau rich parents are getting poorer by the moment. What can be done?

And these are the origins of the war.

All’s war in love and art,
Monsieur le Baron

PS: These two essays relate to the last part of the series. They were sent to me after the last post. While I don’t endorse everything there, they are interesting.

https://alexdanco.com/2021/01/22/the-michael-scott-theory-of-social-class/
https://alexdanco.com/2021/07/08/michael-dwight-and-andy-the-three-aesthetics-of-the-creative-class/

Change indeed in the commonwealth! What shall become of me? The Brooklyn Notebook Part I

Dearest Friends,

Imagine a whale, free and fair, swimming the ocean blue. Then kill it. Kill it dead. Let its corpse drift askew, down, down, down into the abyssal depths. The fat and gristle and bone and blood to be carrion for the worms.

A good day for the worms.

Speaking of, let’s talk about Brooklyn. There is a class of people there. They are the scenesters, the tastemakers, the take merchants. They are the hip people. They call themselves an elite, if not *the elite*. I call them, in line with Fussell, the “middle class”. Others call them “upper middle class”. Sometimes they are called the “creative class” or the “bohemians”. But what are they? What sort of labelling is most apt? Can this question even be answered in a short essay or series of essays? Probably not, but let’s take a crack at it. We can at least trim down on the effort by not going too deeply into describing the characteristics of this class, as a full book would. If you do not know what the “Brooklyn scene” or the urban cool look like, count yourself blessed.

Are they middle class? That’s how I usually lump them, but is that really true? Fussell describes the NPR listening urban New Yorker readers as middle class, being below the upper middle class. In his Three Ladders post, Church has a middle ladder of the “Gentry” where the traditional middle class is G2 and there exist a higher form of professionals and creatives at G3 and G4. This ladder is defined in opposition and against what I would call the uppers, the elite ladder, which comprises the upper middle class and upper class. But is this a good lumping? Are teachers and nurses and accountants really the same creature as the Brooklyn Twitterati? To propose one gentry ladder or middleness is to suppose that these people are the same as regular minor white collar workers, or, more generously, that they are an evolved form of the latter, that given enough money, a teacher will move to Brooklyn and start a podcast. And while I continually scoff at their pretensions to being elite, in some sense, they are elite – they are part of the power apparatus. This class is the minor government functionary class and the media class. They are the people on Twitter angling for government sinecures or trying to start a podcast or sucking to newspaper blue checks. They do the bidding of the regime and in some sense control it, since they write all the “policy” “white papers” and the thousand ant farmer plans always ready to enslave the American people. They may only be the Outer Party, but the Outer Party is still in the Party. Is the archetypal middle class American a Party member? As for money – they seem to have a lot of it. They’ll drop as much in one night as one of my paychecks. And someone’s paying that expensive New York rent – and their jobs can’t seem to cover it.

Are they upper middle class? That would seem to be the natural conclusion from the above. But that doesn’t seem quite satisfactory either. First of all, they’re… not rich. Their financial situation seems almost contradictory – at the same time that they’ll drop massive sums at thrift stores, they will also scrimp and save and struggle to make rent or pay for drinks or a thousand other things. And they’re always complaining about their debts, especially their student debts. They can’t buy houses either and also seem to have no savings. What kind of a capital class has no capital? Seriously. They are constantly hit by the slings and arrows of financial fate, and this is because they lack capital. When you have capital, passive income from capital levels out income and expense variance, and when times are tough, you can draw down on the principal as a last resort. Still, one might object that these people are young and haven’t had time to accumulate capital yet. But there are other discrepancies. When one is part of a culture or group, invariably this shapes their identity. What do I mean by this? I define myself as a member of a cultural group, the upper middle class, which has certain traditions and assumed norms. Like Curtis Yarvin, the milieu of the Left was so dominant as to go more or less unsaid. My current identity is defined in opposition and in contrast to the assumptions of left-liberalism – I am a right-illiberal. But that identity comes about through a dialectic between me and the assumptions of my environment. The shape of my rebellion is determined by what I take for granted. It is rebellion for me to be a redneck, but conformity for the son of a small town. The shape of the rebellion of a child of the upper middle class looks like a reaction against center-left neoliberalism. I will elaborate more on what that means later, but needless to say, this is not the specter that haunts the dreams of the dirtbags. Instead, they define themselves in relation and against the “boat dealer” or “jet ski dealer”. This is my concept of the imagined other – we discover what things are by seeing how they define who they are not. Is it possible that they define themselves in opposition to “boat dealers” because they are wealthy globe emojis looking down on the plebian boat dealers? I find this unlikely because one of the key characteristics of the boat dealer is their wealth. The reflection of the boat dealer is tinged with a sense of *superiority*, class and cultural superiority, but mixed with a resentment of the boat dealer’s wealth. For someone like me to condescend to a boat dealer would be condescension full stop, but here is mixed in resentment – there is envy in this hatred.

There’s a parallax effect going on here. To the Brooklyn crowd, I am a far-left boat dealer kulak (inaccurate). To my own people, I am far-right for a landed aristocrat, a real eccentric who flirts with HODLER. The exposure of my views to those in my circles who are not my friends would lead to an extreme loss of face for me – I’d be painted as a Nazi.

So we return to the conclusion of various books of the last decade about the Creative Class or Creatives or Bohemians and term it its own thing. And yet many persons will lump this group either upwards with the traditional upper middle class or downwards with the traditional middle class, myself included. Sometimes the lumping goes both ways and all of it is grouped together as one broad elite. Many people have done lumpings, myself included, despite the discrepancies. Why? Is it because we’re all insane? No. There are genuine traces of the lumped classes present in this Creative Class. When these people describe themselves as upper middle class, it’s often not unfounded. Many of these people really are the children of doctors and lawyers. When they’re described as Midwestern strivers or the children of teachers or accountants trying to make it in the Big City and move up in the world, that’s also true. And when they’re described as first generation college students scammed into crippling debt for shitty, worthless degrees, that’s true too. How can this be possible? Because the socioeconomic backgrounds of this class are heterogenous.

Let’s break them down.

First is the otherwise downwardly mobile son of the traditional upper middle class (or very rarely, the upper class proper). These are people who come from the traditional elite, the WASP Establishment so to speak, but have to resort to affirming the values and status of their new Creative Class/Bureaucratic class milieu in order to not descend into penury. These people must know, unless they are particularly stupid or unobservant, that the stories told about who and what the traditional elite are are bullshit, but a man will readily believe what they have to believe if it’s what separates him from starvation. Nevertheless, there is something insidious and soul-rotting about repeatedly affirming that which you know is true.

Second is the child of the nouveau riche. What does the Creative Class imagine the elite to be? Often, a blond cornfed Midwestern with a square jaw and winning smile. When they say WASP, they usually mean some white guy, probably a Chad, rather than a Norman-American Boston Brahmin – more Biff Tannen than Gore Vidal. This “WASP” elite goes to a Midwestern state school with good football and then goes home to run his dad’s boat dealership or construction company. Some of them aren’t so crude, being doctors or lawyers, but they’re fundamentally conservative people who believe in pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps – because they did! That’s the Creative Class prototype of what an elite is, or sometimes what a “WASP Elite” is, a right-leaning person who became incredibly prosperous after going to college in the middle of the 20th century. And the reason why is because, predominately, the members of the “upper middle class” within the Creative Class are not traditional WASP elites, but the children of these very same boat dealers. The prosperity of midcentury created a whole generation of nouveau riche who came into being *unmoored and unattached* to the traditional elite establishment. While some of these people were eventually assimilated into the old elite, the rest existed blissfully unaware of a parallel elite, and their children grew up thinking of themselves as the top of the top. These types attempt to form the upper echelons of the NGO-bureaucratic complex, with varying levels of success, but one avenue with particular draw is the chance to become a media or artistic figure, using parental wealth to bankroll a foray into culture, which exists as a path in opposition to their (at least perceived as) unsophisticated New Money parents. I will discuss this set more in part II of this series, the Whalefall.

Third, we have what we might call the traditional middle class striver. Here we have a person who is not what we might call elite, but who may consider themselves elite for standing above the working class CHUDs. These people come from the middle class milieu – broadly, people who work ordinary white collar jobs that aren’t considered prestige professions, things like accountants and insurance adjusters. They consider themselves college people, but unlike the upper middle class, their world is not related to going to a prestigious college, but rather, they take status merely from going to college (as opposed to non-college people). They are drawn into the world of Brooklyn in pursuit of “the good job”. As corporate offices centralize into a few major metros, so too follow the middle class strivers seeking the same jobs their parents had – or better. Increasingly, to find a middling white collar job means working in HR or administration for a corporation or for the government (the NGO-bureaucratic complex). This draws them into the scene. And for some of them, it’s not just about doing as well as their parents (though even this is rarely accomplished), but the possibility of moving up in class and becoming the elite they believe themselves to be. As before, the middle class so rarely encounters people above it that it considers itself to be the top of the world – they see themselves as the upper middle class and sometimes even the upper class, the elite, the privileged.

Part of the frustration of the scene is the mismatch between expectations and reality. For both downwardly mobile nouveau riche and middle class strivers, the world has not been as kind as they expected. This status pain creates a desire to rebel, but the rebellion is not about destroying the system but getting a place in it – getting a seat at the table. For both the middle class and nouveau riche, a college degree was often the ticket to great worldly success: a “comfortable” life for the middle, and a few million dollars for the nouveau riche.

Finally, we have working class people who are entering the college world and faltering. These are people whose parents saw the great windfall of mid-century or who saw their parents suffering while others they knew prospered, and received the lesson that a college degree is the way to get ahead. And it was. Emphasis on was. The college boom of midcentury came in response to the Whalefall. Those working class kids were now fighting to join institutions they had no folkways to navigate, resulting them getting lost and confused. Because they were marginal to begin with, they often ended up at the most marginal institutions with less than prestigious credentials, and because they lacked the cultural information to navigate how to pay for college, they frequently are saddled with debt, debt they cannot pay off with a credential that got them a one way ticket to the same working class jobs (or worse, if their parents are skilled labor) their parents do, but with extra resentment on top. Both the middle and working class students end up with student debt. To compound the insult, the working class kids that stayed behind and built skills outpace them economically, if for no other reason than lacking any debt. This creates a characteristic poisonous mixture of resentment and superiority, where the targets of their resentment are simultaneously demeaned as stupid hicks, but envied for their relative prosperity compared to the failed striver.

All these classes come together to form the “Creative Class”. But all too often, what the Creative Class does for a living is not create, as that doesn’t pay anything, but work for government or media. More properly, we can call this the Bureaucratic Class. These would-be creatives, in their day jobs, either work or aspire to work at a media outlet or at a quasi-public bureaucracy, one of the numerous policy NGOs that dot the landscape. Sometimes they find themselves in the formal public service, if they are particularly successful, but this is a harder task because the real public employees guard their pensions jealously. NGO-work is the Uber/Doordash/Rover gig economy of the government sector – same jobs, shittier pay and benefits. Why is Twitter fake? Why is Twitter real? Because the media discourse is actually manufactured on Twitter every day. This is where new government policy is written, drawn from the minds of resentful goblins poasting about the frogs that live rent-free in their heads.

Chapo Trap House are high priests of the “Cathedral”.

Because this class comes from heterogenous socioeconomic backgrounds, they don’t have a shared discourse by nature. As I’ve said before, one of the huge costs of diversity is the loss of unspoken assumptions. When we are around people like us, we communicate a lot without having to verbalize it or even grasp it consciously. Because we grew up the same way and have similar experiences, there is a huge amount of shared context that can be drawn from unthinkingly. When you don’t have that shared context, everything must be explained in painstaking, explicit detail. You can’t subtly allude to things because the others won’t get your subtle allusions. Furthermore, the subvocal communications people make end up misinterpreted. Flexes are seen as signs of weakness, offers of help become insults, etc. Diversity adds huge transaction costs to everything, as everything has to be constantly translated back and forth to make sense, even if everyone speaks English. They speak the same language, but they don’t speak the same experiences. When I say upper middle class, I mean a WASP gentleman of New England. When a middle class person says upper middle class, they mean a standard white collar worker who lives “comfortably” in a suburban home who watches MSNBC and has proper opinions and behavior. To reach understanding, we have to drop out of shorthand and explicitly explain what concrete realities we are referring to, and even then, there may be an outside context problem. I may not be able to understand the Mall of America, for instance, because I’ve never been there (I have, but I am unusual among my class). It really is quite impressive, but try explaining that to a white shoe lawyer type.

A mall? A fucking mall? People go on vacation… to a mall? Absurd.

When a new group forms, therefore, it cannot exist in this state of diversity. Groups want to homogenize in order to reduce the cost of transaction and communication. They therefore form a creole culture in their new environs. To deal with the diversity of socioeconomic backgrounds, the Brooklyn set develops its own norms. Because they are heterogenous economically, the currency of interest can’t be monetary, but cultural. A new scene is formed, and advancement, status, in it is governed by knowing certain cultural touchstones or having clout on Twitter. Furthermore, because they are used to doing things through culture, it naturally lends itself to forming many circles. When dealing with classes as large as the traditional middle class, these middling strata in general, they are too big to have one ladder or cursus honorum as the upper middle class or traditional aristocracy does. Therefore, they form multiple ladders that exist laterally to each other. With the old middle class, you weren’t necessarily a big deal in the US, but you could be a big deal at your local bowling alley or Elks or other parts of civil society. With this new PMC/Bureaucratic class, you can create several distinct subcultures to advance in, like craft beer or hipster literature or extreme kite flying. You can’t be capital E Elite, but at least you can be an Elite of Punk Rock Trivia. The problem is that a status mismatch still exists. Even if you’re an amazing craft brewer, society as a whole doesn’t give a shit, unlike the old traditional Middle Class, which got some degree of respect for being upstanding citizens and doing charity work through the Elks. This is a problem, especially for nouveau riche or traditional middle class kids, who are used to seeing themselves as the Elite, above the deplorable masses of Middle America.

They must go to war.

Change indeed in the Commonwealth. What shall become of me?

But what led us to this war in the first place? Where did all these people come from anyways?

To be continued in The Whalefall, or the Anatomy of a Gifted Kid Burnout: The Brooklyn Notebook Part II.

O’er better waves speeds my rapid course,
Monsieur le Baron

Class Project(ion) and the Epistemic Solipsism of Identity, or What the Fuck is Tampico Anyways?

Dearest Fiends,

Happy Halloween and merry Election Day! It’s hard to say which is scarier some years, eh? While I’m sure many of you came for treats, as the kids say, I’ve only got tricks. Then again, so does Joe Brandon. You’re fat and spoiled anyways, you don’t need any more treats!

Remember the leftist creed: “The strong will eat, the weak are meat.”

So this is a post I promised to make in my latest thread in the Class Megathread, attached below for your convenience. It will also be included in Twitter Volume IV.

What is the principle of similarity? It is simple: Every class imagines that every other class resembles itself, psychologically, by default. The main differences are supposed to be the quantity of money, and to the extent they can imagine difference, it is because they see that quantity has a quality all of its own. So it is easy to imagine things like Vimes’ Boots Theory, because it is about everyone being essentially rational actors with the same motivations but different economic constraints leading to different results, qualitatively.

It’s a neat just-so story, but it’s also untrue. Allow me to present Monsieur’s Boots Theory.

Proles buy expensive shoes – sometimes. Proles are often buying expensive things, because they like them. Jordans are cool and it’s fun to look cool in front of your friends. For very small children, there are designer shoes that will invariably be grown out of in a few months, but people still buy them, because they are cool and you look cool to your peers (other low class moms). The middle class just buys regular shoes for a regular price, generally. Men buy men’s shoes cheaply, and women buy women’s shoes for a staggering price. I’d say that a woman’s shoe is 3x as expensive as a similar man’s shoe. For the upper middle class, I’ll share some stories. All my life until college, I went shoe shopping at Payless and bought sneakers that wore out in six months. Then one of my friends, of my class but who went to boarding school and thus had different tastes than me, said we should go buy some high quality shoes. We went to the mall and he saw a Foot Locker, which he said looked like an interesting store. That day, I spent over $100 on shoes.

They wore out in six months. I told my friend this is why I shop at Payless.

But later, he took me to a store he learned about from his boarding school friends, Nordstrom Rack, and there, the quality was exactly as advertised. Sometimes.

One last story. I was with an upper class friend whose shoes were wearing out after several years of service. He wanted them to get resoled, but being rubber cup soles, this would be prohibitively expensive. And yet, the desire remained there, strongly, despite the inability to reasonably fulfill it, and he lamented the decline of the age of cobblers. You see, it’s not primarily about cost and utility, as in Vimes’ Boot Theory. Fundamentally, clothing is a statement of identity through which we try to express our belonging in our sociocultural tribe and our values – his values here being longevity and legacy.

If Vimes’ Boot Theory were true, we would expect to see either a straight line or log-line relationship between clothing price, market segment targeted, and clothing quality, such that the rich pay the most and get the highest quality clothing while the poor pay the least and get the lowest quality clothing. I’d like to start with market segment and price and show why that isn’t true to begin with. Here we have shirts – and as best I can, I am going to use the same kind of clothing across all demos.

Click to expand gallery:

The Paul Stuart item is upper class, the Brooks Brothers item is upper middle class, Vineyard Vines is middle class, and the loudly branded Gucci is prole. You may notice that the prole item is consistently the most expensive by far (you can tell it’s prole because of the very large and obvious brand logo), the middle class item is somewhat more expensive than the upper middle class item, and the upper class item is several times the price of the upper middle class item. This is not consistent with Vimes’ Boot Theory in the slightest – there is actually a inverse relationship with customer income and price except with the upper class, an extremely small and almost insignificant cohort that shops at basically small boutique stores/brands.

But what about quality?

Have you ever heard of a “market for lemons”? The idea is that products are heterogenous, information is limited, and the cost of information is high, resulting in every used car being priced as lemon-like except for things like CPO cars. Well, imagine all those things are true, but your purchases are now high pressure and necessary. This is what I call the “market for quacks” – the archetypal example being healthcare. Because products are heterogenous and information is limited, you can’t effectively shop around. But unlike lemon cars, you must have your product, and therefore, rather than the limited information forcing all offers to be lowballs, it causes all offers to be highballs. Fashion is a market for quacks. I have gone into Nordstrom Rack and bought the highest quality item on the rack for $200 when all the other items are $2000. But at the same time, the $2000 item may be the best thing on offer and the $200 blazer might melt in the rain. There is not a consistent relationship between price and quality. All you know, vaguely, is whether a given clothing item is for your tribe, and you *must* always signal tribal allegiance or be ostracized. As such, we develop a market for quacks. If the prices are allowed to find a rational relationship between price and quality, then it ceases to be a market for quacks. That sounds good, right?

After all, not all luxury goods are markets for quacks. In steaks, wagyu A5 is better than prime (A3 equivalent) is better than choice, and the prices reflect that. In alcohol, ultrapremium liquors ($1000+) taste better than premium and superpremium liquors ($100-$300/bottle) taste better than a nice liquor at your local store ($50/bottle) taste better than some trash booze. So why is fashion a market for quacks? Why does it not follow the price of commodity textiles?

Well, commodity T-shirts are… a buck a shirt. If fashion simply reflected the cost of the textiles used to make it, every fashion brand would go out of business, and that includes the fucking Walmart store brand. Necessarily, we must have a market for quacks, because only massive pricing uncertainty allows for such outrageous price multiples over commodity textiles to survive.

Now, you may protest that fashion is a special case and thus a bad example for class markers and pricing. But what other categories of goods are used for class signaling?

Restaurants? Books and cultural products (the price here is time, not dollars)? Home decoration?

These are also markets for quacks.

You can see that the quality widely varies, the price widely varies, and the market can only be navigated with tribal knowledge corresponding to one’s class (or other identity) positions. For the most part, what you know is what others like you consume, and so your choices do not reflect rational shopping to maximize quality for price (impossible in markets for quacks), but a desire to signal belonging, causing wildly variable prices.

With me so far?

Oh, but you may protest – this is just basic class dynamics in the Fussellian manner.

Certainly, but I am merely refuting the money-as-quality-of-quantity thesis. The price points of various class categories in markets for quacks reflect not price-for-quality, as with normal goods, but the values of particular classes. What does that mean? Proles love to be flashy and splash their wealth around, when they have it. When they are saving, they buy bizarre, chthonic products like Tampico and Flavor Aid, but when they splurge, they splurge. As a rule, they are imitating the most showy, brash luxury they can find – proles like to go to restaurants like Red Lobster as a special treat, because this is the meal most like 1950s-esque high luxury still around. The middles are trying to keep up with the Joneses, so they can be milked pretty hard as well. Their products are often quite expensive (in the case of restaurants, places like Saltbae et al are far, far more expensive than anything else out there), and the goal is to project an image of sophistication and wealth that you don’t have. The upper middle class, loving a deal, is attracted to miserliness, or at least the appearance of miserliness. Though they won’t always have the absolute cheapest prices, they will almost always be paying less than the middle class.

The upper class has a personal relationship with its products. For instance, much of what is made for Nordstrom Rack was manufactured for the outlet as an outlet product. But haute couture? The total market of haute couture customers is a few thousand people on the whole planet Earth. These are the tastemakers, and fashion is their world. We just live in it.

So what governs the markets is not price-for-quality, but a reflection of values. What are those values? For a more detailed examination of class values and characters, please consult the Class Dynamics category. To finally, finally get to the point: Each class projects its own values onto every other class.

The long digression about fashion was to establish that the idea of price-for-quality and money having a quality of its own merely from quantity does not apply in markets for quacks, which happen to be the markets most used to signal class. But nevertheless, people believe that differences in class are merely differences in the quantity of money. Therefore, their idea of what people at different classes do is merely a reflection of what they would be doing – or what they imagine they would be doing – with different levels of money.

When classes above prole propose solutions to prole problems, what they are proposing is usually imagined solutions to the imagined problems they’d have at that strata – and that’s when they’re being sincerely benevolent. What proles generally want, more or less, is to secure their precarious existence, and then to live “good”, to have nice things that they enjoy and leisure time, and to be left the fuck alone from meddling interventions.

So that is the idea of the Principle of Projection. But why does this projection come about? Well, first of all, America systematically denies the idea of class. Ask any Briton whether class exists and the answer will be obvious and immediate. Britons understand class as a sociocultural tribe of birth that grants certain, largely immutable, characteristics which shape one’s experiences of the world. It is totally natural for them to believe that. But both America and Britain are class societies. In fact, every complex settled civilization on Earth is a class society! And yet, this understanding must still be taught. The only way most people learn things is through drilling, and culture is a way to drill complex understanding in an intuitive way.

Absent this, what we have is epistemic solipsism. That is, absent being taught that people are different in certain ways, the default is to assume they are the same, even when this doesn’t make sense. I’m sure everyone can relate to being asked if they were cold when someone else is cold, followed by a baffled insistence that you must be cold. No, I’m not cold. If I was cold, I would have put on more clothing, like you want to. Or, encountering fresh Midwestern Protestants, the bizarre insistence that Buddhism is another form of Protestant Christianity, only with Buddha instead of Jesus. It’s not, but they have this mental category of real religion, and Buddhism, being a real religion, is therefore like Protestantism but recolored. The news constantly writes articles about how millennials can’t afford houses. Well, I bought a house and my first paycheck was enough for the down payment. I am a millennial. And some millennials come from strata that can never buy houses and their parents and grandparents are also permanent renters. This housing narrative is only true for a given slice of the population, largely urban, coastal, and middle class, but it is projected onto the whole.

The world of acknowledged differences and possibilities we might call a universe of possibilities, and whenever a person encounters something outside their universe of the possible, they will often have an emotional reaction of some kind, followed by a small loss of sanity. Only one’s own existence is real, anything else presented is probably some kind of LARP. Something too far outside the universe of the possible will be rejected entirely – written out of one’s mental map of reality, forcibly blanked out. The Babylonian Hebrew has had this experience many times trying to explain the upper class to his middle class peers – it will not sink in at all. The height of epistemic solipsism is “theater kid”-ism, in which all differences are merely LARPs, and therefore anything can be put on by putting on the right costume. I am not sure why people go on Reddit so often and tell fake stories from an obviously fictional viewpoint (I AM BAD MAN. I AM VERY BAD. YOU NEED TO COME INTO WORK EVEN THOUGH NINJAS KILLED YOUR PREGNANT GIRLFRIEND’S SISTER-WIFE-FATHER. AND NO OVERTIME PAY.), but I suspect it’s an outgrowth of this theater kid mentality. Anything can be true if you believe it is and put on the costume.

The final rejection of epistemic solipsism, which results in a “redpilling” and a permanent shift to the “right” is the understanding that different things are different. This is only an abstract, theoretical statement, but it lays the mental groundwork to conceptualize new kinds of groups as being merely different things in a highly varied and complex world. I would describe this as the foundational concept of anti-liberalism: anti-universalism. Things are particulars, and particulars are different. Different things are different.

I will tell you that as a child, I was a “high-functioning autistic” and also scored high on those internet autism diagnosis tests. Well, once I understood that different things are different, and that people are a matter of pushing the right buttons, which vary by person, my autism score declined from autistic to neurotypical, and my Hare checklist rose to clinical sociopathy, which proved to be inconvenient during certain employment screenings. Ah well. Such is life. Full anti-liberal understanding, of course, only came later. Why is this relevant?

Epistemic solipsism is not actually a problem in a socially homogenous environment. The main differences one encounters in such an environment is mostly the personality difference, the gender difference, and the age difference – and one notes how often the class war is instinctively framed as the generation war (boomers fighting millennials over housing) – because age is one of those easily grasped natural categories. But cultural differences are very different to grasp. It often takes a lifetime, or at least a good few decades, to write a proper ethnography of a strange culture. Even to grasp class differences *within* a culture often takes several years to articulate. Diversity, therefore, is inherently costly because it raises the cost of social transactions by doing away with informal shared understandings born out of a common cultural environment. When social environments are heterogenous – diverse – the normal person becomes, effectively, autistic, requiring all social norms and rules to be formally verbalized. Which is not something that most people can do, absent exposure to the different. A fish does not know what water is. Only the contrasting of water and air can teach that.

What does it matter if our Midwestern Protestant biddy doesn’t understand Buddhism if she never meets a Buddhist? But drop Buddhists into her world, and now you have a problem. Of course, with enough decades, the two communities can come to understand each other, and Creolization will occur (hybrid cultures are cheaper than maintaining two cultures apart like a salad bowl). But in a world of infinite diversity, this can never properly occur. The result is perpetual social autism. Nobody can understand each other.

This is probably one of my least well-written articles, but I hope you won’t mind. I find the topic of talking about minds is almost inherently awkward because you have to formally articulate everything – which obviously does have some artistic merit in mimicking the experience of being socially atomized by diversity.

Well… what the fuck is Tampico anyways?

Lost in a sea of unknown water,
Monsieur le Baron


APPENDIX: The Imagined Other

So our last class thread was about material relations and how they relate to radical political tendencies. But I’d like to go back to class as a sociocultural formation for this thread. Today, we’re going to be talking about identity as it relates to the imagined class Other. It may surprise you, but the judgement of one towards the Others can itself be a class marker, and an even more reliable one than consumption markers or belief systems. Why? Because the judgement of the Other tells us where someone situates themselves in the universe. Tell me what you hate, and I will tell you are what you are. The Other is always a mirror of the anxieties, hopes, and prides of the Self.

For America, there is no China and never was. China does not exist.

There is only a projection of our own fears and hopes. On this website, you’ll often see people talking about the opulence or lack thereof of the rich. This says more about them than the rich. There are a number of assumptions that need to be unpacked. First, that the minimalist aesthetic of the rich is not conspicuous consumption. It is. But it is conspicuous consumption with a particular culture in which it is valued. Making this mistake immediately gives away the game and reveals the speaker as middle class or lower. But what they propose as a motivation is indicative of the speaker’s class. For the proles, they have an Imagined Rich. Their idea of the Imagined Rich is much like a prole, but much richer. Their reaction to minimalism is confused. They often believe that the rich want ugly and stupid things (not untrue) or that they are hiding (very untrue). If the UMC+ wanted to hide, they wouldn’t buy minimalist things because nobody else likes that crap, so it sticks out like a sore thumb – as it is meant to! It is conspicuous consumption, just with a terrible aesthetic.

But the Prole Imagined Rich is a Trumpian figure. I will explain the concepts further in a full blog post, but this is an extension of the Principle of Similarity, or Class Solipsism. Everyone assumes their class experience is the default and normal.

It isn’t.

Therefore, deviation from sameness requires some sinister motive. The Prole also has an Imagined Middle, but this Imagined Middle is mostly the product of the Middle’s own interaction with the Prole. Which brings me to the MC. Being in the middle, they have a lot of perceptions. And being in an insecure spot, they have a lot of Imagined Others. The interactions of the Middle with the Prole are dominated by the fear of falling. What the Middle has is a “comfortable” lifestyle (comfortable is the watchword of the middle for their wealth/status), and what they fear most is losing this position. Therefore, the MC, to salve their own fears and ego insecurities, tries to create as much distance between themselves and the deplorable CHUDs as possible, to minimize the possibility of falling and becoming them, as they then build themselves up to be so much better than them. This can express itself in a benevolent and malicious way. The benevolent manifestation is to try and baby the proles, to be their valiant “protector” because they are too weak to protect themselves. This is the impulse behind defending petty ghetto criminals. The malicious way is to mock and demean the proles as all stupid, evil, ignorant, and all manner of bad things. They’re simultaneously spoiled and hungry. They’re jet ski dealers but illiterate. They’re everything bad at once at the same time, somehow. Fuck them. The unifying theme, either way, is to condescend and create distance to assure the insecure Middle that they are, by character and nature, superior to these proles, and thus not at any risk of falling.

The Prole response to the Middle is to deride this unearned condescension. You think you’re so much better than me, college boy? Just because you have that stupid degree?

I’m gonna kick your ass, you weedy twig.

The Prole restores their own ego by creating an inverse of the Other’s Other. This allows the Prole to dismiss the attempts to condescend.Education becomes overeducation. The lack of practical skills of the middle class white collar worker becomes uselessness and also a lack of commitment to “real” skills and hard work. In a Marxian sense, the Prole takes pride in being a producer of surplus value. But the Middle is also in a dual role of looking upwards. They are always reassuring themselves of their own classiness, because if they lose their class status, then they fall back to hated Proledom. This fear is projected others.

The Middles also have an imagined Rich. The Middles want to go to classy expensive places because their Imagined Rich do. The Imagined Rich are always consuming the most sophisticated things, because they are so sophisticated. The Imagined Rich are always perfectly composed and mannered because they are so classy. Swearing becomes a kind of “socialist” transgression against the Imagined Rich, which is defined by “classiness” as a kind of purity totem, but so too does being a gigantic slob and pooping on the street. The content Middle emulates the Imagined Rich while the malcontent rages. The Imagined Rich must be obsessed with being classy and obviously classy and rich because the Middle imagines they, too, fear falling. Therefore, the Imagined Rich must spend their time showing how classy they are. Then the Middle tries to keep up with these imagined Joneses. This is the market for things like Salt Bae and fake private jets. The Middle imagines the Imagined Rich eating at Salt Bae and showing off as they fly private. But these pictures on RKOI and other places come from other Middloids as they show off (and torment) each other. Well, I happen to know a real story of a private jet (there are very few of these in the world). The wife is autism golem, like many noble women, so they need a private jet because otherwise she has sensory overload and starts autism screeching at everyone. To finish out this line, I was visiting a city and a person once, and she, of the middle, wanted to impress me by reserving a table at a fancy restaurant. I don’t reserve tables. I walk into Michelin restaurants and demand to be served. The food was pricy and “cosmopolitan”. Contrast this with a recent lunch where a young UMC person petitioned me for assistance, looking to raise a million or so for their startup. They proposed a “hole in the wall” tucked away, with “authentic” cuisine, then showed off by thanking the waiter in a foreign language. He did not walk away disappointed. 

This fear of falling narrative also, I believe, drives how the Middle sees the Imagined Rich, politically. This is partly speculation, so I may be as off about my Imagined Middle as the Middle is about their Imagined Rich. So appropriate caution is needed here. But I believe the Middle frames history as a series of struggles by Middles to attack and replace Elites. History is thus a series of events in which intellectual Middles rally the Proles and overthrow the Elite, becoming the Elite. The only problem is that this isn’t true. History is filled with countless peasant revolts, though few peasant emperors – peasants are disorganized. And history has many, many noble revolts. But middle revolts? The most common example given is the French Revolution. Well, at best, that’s one. And while Robespierre may be of the middle, the Society of Thirty had a very high number of noblesse d’epee. Other instances of rising middles are not “Middle” in the way we understand it, but lower elites who are denied status for one reason or another. Like factory owners. Because history becomes framed as Middle leading Bottom vs Top, the strength of the Elite is imagined to be the strength of their Middle opposition. If the Middle is weakening, the Elite must be strengthening. Therefore, society worsening is evidence of a strengthening Elite. To crush the Middle becomes the main task of this Imagined Rich, because that is the main threat in this framing. The more the Middle suffers, the stronger the Elite. Arbitrary, random suffering becomes a flex, a show of strength. Humiliation compels obedience rather than hate. Well, let me tell you this: the noble families, as a class, have ruled for thousands of years because that’s just how humans work, just like how ants have queens. It’s not evidence of supernatural competence, it’s more of a fact like the sky being blue. It doesn’t mean anything. 

But this obnoxious striving by the Middle does create a reaction coming from the real UMC (and not the Imagined Rich). And this is epater la bourgeoisie. The obsequious brand worship and conformist worship of fanciness is amplified into an Imagined Middle which is mindless NPCs. To spite the Imagined Middle and their trend loving and swallowing of propaganda, the real UMC tries to create as many destructive, transgressive ideas as possible, so that the Imagined Middle copies them and ruins their own lives, resulting in the UMC laughing disdainfully. The UMC lives by an ethos of “Go Fuck Yourself” and “Fuck You Money” because this is a way to show you’re not like those NPC Middles, you are a real man. And a real man is a Free Man. Metternich, consummate baron in material terms, said “Humanity begins at the rank of Baron.” Wear gray T-shirts because you can. Board planes bare-chested. Buy an anime car. Be eccentric, but obnoxiously and obviously so. Above all, fuck everyone else. Fuck them, fuck them, fuck them. Fussell advises driving slowly on highways to make everyone who needs to work angry. This is not the same as “Can I speak to the Manager?” because the point is not get better service. It’s to ruin someone else’s day and then laugh about it, getting the delicious pleasure of causing a little more pain in the world. Haha. 

The Imagined Middle, which is a perfect NPC, exists downstream of the UMC’s own self-perception, which is the perfectly competent and universally skilled gentleman. They are the doers. They build things and get shit done. They move fast and break things. They are Hank Rearden. The UMC is a man of wealth who chooses to work regardless because they see themselves as so competent and capable. Metternich is a perfect diplomat but also the sinister Grand Inquisitor. A scholar and a gentleman. An officer and a learned man. Well-rounded. The cream of Eton. Gore Vidal’s own description is telling – at boarding school, there are the rich kids and the smart kids, himself being one of the latter. The UMC carries on a self-perception deriving from the traditions of being the strong sword arm of feudalism and of the Ancien Regime. While the modern managerial state runs more on middle class minor supervisory employees and bureaucrats rather than eccentric gentlemen managing estates, doing gentleman science, and personal industrialization (owning your own factory), the memory remains strong. The UMC is born with agency, if not hyperagency, and this can never be stripped away. If the MC tends to blackpill irrationally and give up in despair at the first obstacle, the UMC, as a stereotype, are often irrationally whitepilled. Elizabeth Holmes still thinks she’ll win. 

This agency also leads to a tremendous mental burden. I say to myself frequently that there is no cavalry coming. I am the cavalry. I am always the force of last relief, the Triarii at the back of the line. Is this true? Nevertheless, it creates a mental burden. “What if I’m not good enough?” Imposter syndrome. “What if I can’t hold the line?” Burnout. A desire forms to have a simpler life. This creates its own imagined Other, the Imagined Prole. The Imagined Prole lives a carefree life because they are not responsible for others. Obviously this is not true, but this becomes an idealized lifestyle to emulate. This is the practice, still around, of gentleman farming. Of giving up the UMC life to live the simple life of a prole. One of the WASPs in WASPS: Splendor gave up his wealth to become a mechanic. Successful UMCs, ones that have made it, will spend tens or even hundreds of thousands on a chicken coop so they can pretend to farm chickens and be a redneck. Some of them even succeed at making eggs! But they will never know the essential fear of being at the whim of crisis. When these UMCs slumming it impact Proles, they invariably leave a curious impression. Damn, what a rich idiot playing games. Of course, these encounters are rare enough that no lasting and durable Other is formed, but it would probably be something like the “Butter Bars” Lt. 

If the UMC imagines themselves as the hypercompetent hyperagent, then the Imagined Upper is the mirror of that. Other classes are far enough from the top that they lump everything together into a generalized Imagined Rich, which they often call “upper class” or just “rich”. But the UMC is personally acquainted with the UC. If Gore Vidal is the “smart kid”, then the UC is the “rich kid”. Rich, not smart. Or, as Fussell would snark, the UC are a class without ideas.

This is highly uncharitable to the upper class. The Imagined Upper is a complete dolt. They are the thoughtless people Woody Allen implicitly parodies. They are the people without ideas. Actually, most real UC people have plenty of ideas because they need them to be charming (dinner conversation always revolves around ideas). But as with many interactions, there is a seed of truth. In feudalism, you had kings summon their lords to provide a levy. The Italian word for knight, capo di lance, is the origin for our own term, Lance Corporal – an E4 marine. From “miles”, Latin for knight, we get militia. The lord was expected to bring his knights to fight in war. In peace, the knights protected the land. They were the baddest dudes around. They were given land so they could gear q***r to their heart’s content. But the baron was their field grade officer. So they are also *there*. This persists into the Industrial Age. The noblesse de robe, the professionals, your doctors, lawyers, engineers – they are not workers. But they are still *there*. As such, they can only be so disconnected from reality and the understanding of labor and production. The real upper class may not be as big of twits as the Imagined Upper, but like the Middle they still live in @GmorkOfNothing‘s Richard Scarry’s kids book world because all they do is party and socialize all day. Their view of the world is the world seen through cocktail parties. And the upper class? Well, they live in the Richard Scarry world.

I don’t think I can generalize their Imagined Others, but they are interesting. 

The Concept of the Metapolitical, or Biostalinism Pt. IV

Prev:
https://inelegantviceroy.stechlinsee.ch/2020/10/19/and-he-fell-from-heaven-like-lightning-or-the-end-and-the-beginning/
https://inelegantviceroy.stechlinsee.ch/2020/11/25/translatio-imperii-or-the-conservation-of-a-ruling-class-biostalinism-pt-ii/
https://inelegantviceroy.stechlinsee.ch/2020/12/20/the-shape-of-the-sandwich-or-political-forms-and-their-functions-biostalinism-pt-iii/

Dearest Friends,

In the maddened fits of my dreaming, I see, rising in fits and lurches, a dread city, a monolith from the sea, a tyrant fish, a city of mirrors and rust, and the cog and nut cladding of a thousand eyed minarets. Above it all, the Black Sun rises.

The whispering voices, they tell me to write, and so I take up my pen…

If you don’t understand my theorizing, worry not. Sometimes, neither do I.

What is the concept of the political? Politics is about power and the power competition between interests and factions. Politics therefore is the battle which goes on in every society over who gets to be in charge and the distribution of its scarce resources. The concept of the political boils the political down to the core distinction, which is that politics is the friend/enemy distinction. But this itself is not a political statement or act of politics. Rather, it is metapolitical, describing the nature of the political system.

Metapolitics is a description of the systems and mechanisms of politics. Instead of describing any particular faction or interest or issue, it describes how factions and interests and issues come to form. The core concept of the political is the friend/enemy distinction, but this is not the core of metapolitics. Metapolitics considers itself with how the friend/enemy distinctions are formed and what distinguishes the sides. The friend/enemy distinction is the distilling of politics, but it is only the beginning of metapolitics. It is the first brick in our next layer of abstraction. Neoreactionary thought typically focuses on metapolitics and the study of systems rather than the study of liberal rhetoric and the owning of libs (oh, you believe so much in property rights? then why don’t you own more libs???).

What is the concept of the metapolitical?

It is status points.

Loyalty is the glue that holds political systems together. Loyalty is generated by the gain or promised gain of status or the threatened loss of status. All political mechanisms flow downwards from that fact. Fundamentally, all ways to build coalitions are ways to somehow increase or threaten the status of persons or groups.

Neoreaction spends a lot of time discussing Leftism and trying to define what Leftism is. My definition of Leftism is as follows: Leftism is the extension of a civilization’s foundational principles towards themselves. A liberal society becomes more liberal. A militarist society becomes more militarist. And leftism itself is the power process, because leftism enables to you build loyalty and outflank your rivals. Power exists on the left.

But what is reaction? This is a question, I think, rarely properly considered.

Let’s start by talking about status. Status is definitionally zero sum because it only makes sense as a relative measure. One is high because others are low. Equality in high status does not exist because there is no one to “lord it over”. Status being zero sum, all gains in status must come from another’s loss. All status adjustments are redistributions. Feminism necessarily is anti-male because it raises the status of women, thus lowering the status of the counterparty (because the counterparty, men, exists as a status group relative to women). The status hierarchies of a society are defined by what it values as good, its values. Being in accord with those values raises one’s status, making you a bigger chimp among chimps.

A social constructivist supposes all these values are socially constructed. But we are not social constructivists. There are things which are, by nature, good. These natural goods and their natural value constitute the basis of what I’ll call “innate social status”, or innate status. Natural goods are things like being more beautiful, more intelligent, stronger, more charming, talented at a skill, or possessing more resources (natural wealth). One does not need to be told such things are good to come to believe it (though one can be educated to the contrary). All things being equal, having any of these things is just plain better. The typical cope is to say pretty people are wicked (often true) or intelligent people are pathetic nerds (also often true). But we all know wicked ugly people and pathetic idiots. Again, all things being equal, to have something good is better.

So therefore, all status adjustments occur relative to the baseline of innate status. Political coalitions are built by adjusting status. By conducting politics, we are robbing the winners of nature, the natural aristoi, in order to elevate our own favored group, the created aristocracy. We are also often robbing many others. But the initial act of rule demands a robbery, and the easiest first exclusion to *only reward those who are talented AND loyal to you because they helped you take power*. The first division is to separate the natural aristoi into those in power and those excluded. But every further act of politics, to generate loyalty, must make further adjustments. And to redistribute status *back* to the natural aristoi does not generate particular loyalty, because it’s not a redistribution but a mere relaxing of one’s hold. So politics drives a status hierarchy, which, over time, must become more and more deviated from the innate status hierarchy. After all, the House of Welles was loyal to your father – ah, but you are not your father, are you?

When progressives speak about the continual progress of mankind and reactionaries talk about cyclical history, they are talking past each other. Progressives are talking about the steady improvement of quality of life, and this is true. For all of recorded history, we have seen a more or less steady march of technology, with only a few (but dramatic!) regressions. But reactionaries are talking about social orders. And in social orders, cycles prevail. After all, man is more or less what he was ten thousand years ago, even at the fastest rates of evolution. He may be somewhat smarter or somewhat more altruistic or somewhat less clannish, but the status drive is a far more primal thing than all of that – and we remain chimps. That is why we can read old books and relate to the characters, because human nature remains the same. When the queer historians look back at history to queer it, they are able to find plenty of material. And it is true that some is fabricated. But I have found examples even before the Great Awokening. The problem with the queer historian is that you cannot be too smart and engage in the field, because it is a bit like discovering hyper-advanced ruins or the remnants of a forgotten and regressed alien race. If we had gay rights in late Classical Persia and Imperial Germany and all the rest, what happened? What eldritch monstrosity must have come to devour these enlightened ones? It is a question that must crack the sanity of a true believer in progressive social history, so the best defense is to be too stupid to ask it.

But the monster is real.

And its dread name is Reaction.

Heretofore, we have only known it by the passing glimpses we have made of its qualities. While Leftism advances by inches and creeps, Reaction comes in a flash, suddenly and totally. And it is related to nature or reality, it is somehow the reckoning of reality, ala Gnon or the Gods of the Copybook Headings. We have whispered its maddened whispers, which come in the form of “Might makes right” or “The strong shall eat, the weak are meat”. We have seen cults of it rise, the Social Darwinists and others, who sought to praise a cruel, indifferent God that would just as quickly devour them.

Reaction is the mirror image of the social adjustments made to a civilization’s values through its long process of political maneuvering. If Leftism takes a civilization’s values farther and farther towards madness, it is because all civilizational values are a little mad to begin with, because the only values which can generate political capital are those that stand in the way of raw innate status. Not even those who praise the Master Race as cover actually want to be ruled by a Master Race, they want to be the Master Race. To submit to a caste of innate superiors who are not in any way beholden to you is totally monstrous. The order of Gnon is merciless and without compassionate. Nevertheless, the mirror image of our social adjustments necessarily grows stronger and stronger over time *because* innate status is not constructed. You cannot make an idiot into an expert: hence why our experts are so consistently wrong. Only one quick and clear of mind can *truly* be in an expert, because expert is not an arbitrary label but a recognition of a real capability. Reaction is like a pulled spring, merely the stored up energy of a war against reality reasserting itself. Revolutionaries or barbarians are merely pushing over a rotten house, a regime that has already destroyed itself. Total Reaction is the total reassertion of the innate status order and partial Reactions can be defined as a partial restoration of that innate status order. A civilization is therefore always waging a war on reality, an inherently romantic gesture, and eventually, it MUST lose. It is Civilization, not Reaction, which is the romantic act.

The day we stole the apple, we resigned ourselves to an eternity of tragic fate, redeemed only after death.

And thus, we have arrived at the definition of conservative. American conservatives are conservative liberals, just as conservatives of any stripe are always those who genuinely believe in the values of their civilization. Because the conservative is one that sees the course of history… leads off a cliff. He stands athwart History, yelling Stop, because he knows where it ends, and where it ends is the destruction of everything he holds dear. Whether it be liberalism or a thousand other dead creeds.

If the West dies, liberalism dies with it. After all, who still keeps the Arian faith?

If we might define the Neoreactionary intellectual, it is making tractable and reasonable the force of Reaction, which in prior ages was derided as irrational, sentimental, spiritual, and emotional. It is not that there can *be* no reason for the Right. It is that its secrets and mysteries do not yield to casual investigation, and therefore it was present as a political force long before it could be understood. There is a lesson there, more generally.

Ia! Ia!
Monsieur le Baron

EDIT:
I was shown this:
https://web.archive.org/web/20180202060308/http://www.xenosystems.net/hell-baked/
Ah, and just when I thought I was being original. Yes, everything nice comes from Hell. Reaction brings us back to Hell, where virtues are forged, but, man, Hell sucks ass. So we build a nice little myth that says things should be better, and the Golden Age exists where people have the virtues of Hell but the myths we have, our ideologies, are not yet very insane. Or, in short, GOOD TIMES MEN HARD HARD MEN MEN TIMES BAD.

Glossies for the Bossies, or a Glossary of Terms for a New World Order™

Dearest Frondiers,

I have an admitted distaste for the prescriptive – it is so hard to do in a way that doesn’t cause you to lose 20 or 30 effective IQ points. Plus, plotting a New World Order™ is impossible to do without seeming both sinister and megalomaniacal, probably because that’s exactly what it is. Nevertheless, the Great Moldbug has pointed out that a losing regime must surrender to something (though it certainly isn’t going down peacefully!), and this something must present a superior positive vision.

So… allow me to define the terms of Marxism-Leninism 3.0, Monarcho-Communism.

Micro-ethnostates:
This one comes directly out of Lenin, but the idea is simple. Imagine any sort of community. Like a Historically Black Neighborhood, or a Levittown suburb. Or imagine moving to a neighborhood for the Good Schools. You may not directly like all of these, but I’m sure you can imagine one of them. But there are cases where a Levittown gets block busted, a Historically Black Neighborhood is gentrified, or your local good school is turned into a flaming crater, that something has been lost, and some implicit agreement has been violated, even though it breaks no laws relating to our individual property rights. That’s because what is at stake is not individual property, but communal. People have legitimate communal interests, but no defined communal rights. A corollary of Coase’s theory of property rights is that when the legitimate interests of parties are not codified into some form of property rights, negotiation is damn difficult. Even without legal action, covenants, like cartels, usually break down. But that doesn’t make them harmful. The costs of losing a neighborhood’s character are distributed and small for every individual transaction, while selling out is individually beneficial. But overall, you experience… some loss.

So what do we do? We codify. Communities have communal rights. We define the community as the micro-ethnostate, which only requires two formal rights to function: the right to secede and the right to associate. The first right, the right to secede, means that a subunit of the original community can divorce itself from the shared laws, covenants, and codes of the whole and form its own new community with its own new laws, covenants, and codes while remaining within the larger polity. The second right is the right to associate. This means that a community is allowed to police its own boundaries. In order to be admitted to a new community, one must have the permission, however granted, of the community itself. No forcible block busting here. Covenants are genuinely binding. This implies one more individual right, the right of exit, allowing persons to exit, as individuals, communities they dislike to seek greener pastures, if they can find them.

Within this framework of micro-ethnostates, one might even conceptualize people who wish to go on living in the old liberal way, the Last Libertarians. I wish them no will, and it is their right.

Conflicts between communities are mediated by the Sovereign and his national law, but most life occurs *within* the community by nature.

With the contiguous bourgeois ethnostate, there are no options but relocation and genocide. Abolish the ethnostate, community, and greater belonging, and you have only alienation instead. Lenin saw this way back in the 1910s. He was right then, and he’s right now. It’s time to listen.

Industrial Judges:
Another Lenin idea that sadly never found flesh. Just as communities have legitimate collective interests, so too do sectors. The current regulatory environment is governed by the rules and whims of bureaucrats who basically know nothing about what they govern. This is because of the stupid bourgeois idea of impartiality, which really means that those who know something and must care are automatically exempted. We systematically create experts with no skin in the game and are astonished by their spectacular stupidity.

This is mediated by a layer of skin. But only mediated. The owners, through lobbying, can exert their will over the law. But this only reflects the interests of the owners, which is not always concordant with sectoral health, but only the profit-maximizing (in the short term). Furthermore, owners, through lobbying, can engage in informal lawfare with each other, destroying rivals with onerous regulation. This damages the long-term viability of a sector by creating ridiculous, damaging regulations that only exist to take out enemies.

Instead of having bureaucrats write the regulations, the sectors themselves will write the regulations. And these regulations will not just be written by owners, but will be decided by workers. Workers have skin in the game to keep their workplace pleasant, while they have an incentive to not regulate it into oblivion. A combined sectoral union will, through its decision making process, create the regulations of a sector. When there are intra-industrial conflicts, chosen men, the Industrial Judges, will mediate these conflicts fairly. At the same time, a sector can attempt conditions unduly favorable to itself. To prevent this, the Industrial Judges of all sectors, collectively, can strike down individual sectoral agreements for the good of the whole, with the assent of the legislature.

What I am proposing, simply, is the idea of privileges. This was a concept abolished by bourgeois universalist law – we all became equals, with no special privileges. But the idea is that collective, corporate bodies can have special exemptions made for them by themselves, with the assent of the Sovereign, in order to fulfill their duties. The most notable is the job security granted to the guilds. Guildsmen had job security for life, essentially, which seems like an impediment to economic “efficiency”. But today, workers often withhold knowledge to protect their own jobs, not training a (cheaper) replacement until they’re ready to retire. The granting of the job security privilege facilitated knowledge transfer and the maintenance of techne. The inability to teach techne is one of the main causes of Admech America, or the decay of the American technological base. The Industrial Judges, the representatives of a sectoral interest, will attempt to pass the privileges necessary for a sector to carry out its duties.

Feudal Socialism/Industrial Democracy:
Here I break with Lenin.

Property is hereby abolished.

What are the usual arguments for property? That an owner has better incentive alignment, right? When the monarch is the owner of society, he has an incentive to keep it in good order, unlike someone who only enjoys usufruct rights, who wishes to loot it for permanent gains for his backers. This is a fine story.

The problem is that those “property rights” are not what we understand as property. What we have now is bourgeois property, not what they had. What they had was not property, but usufruct – but a particular kind of usufruct. The lord was a mere steward, but he was a steward not for “the people”, but for posterity. The claims here are the claims of all our dead ancestors and all the cries of the unborn upon the present. Are you sensing a theme here? The story of communism is collectivism, and the story of collectivism is the recognition of legitimate collective rights and interests *in exchange* for duties fulfilled. We are a sum of our identities, which constitutes the privileges we have and the duties we must carry out. No man is an island and no man can be.

Faith. Family. Fatherland.

An individual may possess no property. Instead, for their labor, they are compensated with labor vouchers, a particular narrowing of currency that retains its exchange value for goods, but not for ownership and the power that implies (See: Basic Marxism, Contra Luka – if you don’t read Luka, you must. This charming young lad is perhaps the world’s foremost expert on Rosa Luxemburg). That is, when you are paid your socialist wages for socialist commodity production in our Socialism in One Country under our great Red Tsar, Mecha-Stalin, you can only exchange them for short-term use of property (rental) or long-term (life-lease) use of said property, a state which does not outlast your death. Some would call this “personal property” rather than general property. That’s right. You’ll own nothing, and you’ll be happy.

But property, by reality, exists. I mean, there is property, and it will always be owned. If not by us, the individuals, then someone. An abdication of ownership only defaults ownership to either strongmen or the state (the largest of strongmen). So who can be owners?

It’s simple. All property is hereby owned by Noble Houses. A Noble House is a durable corporate entity which exists over time. Individual income taxes are hereby abolished. Instead, only corporate taxes remain. To remain in existence, a Noble House must pay a base tax (~$10,000/year) and a progressive share of its income. By nature, (non-sole proprietorship) businesses being corporations, all (non-sole proprietorship) businesses are now Noble Houses. Sole proprietors are better understood as craftsmen belonging to a particular sector. In addition, a Noble House must have a clear designated line of succession, or it is abolished. For most, this will be the family relation, though others can legitimate stake on posterity, like a childless person adopting or taking godchildren, or a famed professor establishing a school of thought. But those with no stake in the future cannot be allowed to govern it. Until you’re a married adult with children or some other stake, you’re not a political adult – sorry! No cat ladies allowed. Only the heads of Noble Houses can participate in non-industry sectoral politics. A community’s covenants are set by the perpetual owners that reside within it. As it was before the rigidization and formalization of the font of honor, anyone who can meet the burdens can self-declare into the nobility. The only caveat is that their voting power begins at 50% and increases by 1% per year, as they acculturate upwards.

The employee relation is hereby abolished. The adult members of a Noble House are hereby co-owners. All Noble Houses are socialist cooperatives which engage in profit sharing. The profit sharing will be set internally, but must at least be proportional to wage-labor contribution, with deviations towards more equitable sharing being permissible, but not more inequal distributions. So long as someone is engaged with a Noble House, they hold their share of the Noble House enfeoffed from their Lord, so as to share skin in the game. In practice, employees of small businesses already share the negative skin in the game, as anyone who has been paid late during crisis can attest to.

The potential votes of a Noble House are its profits divided by the average per capita GDP or some other metric of national citizen income. Like Lenin, we recognizance the equivalence of economic and political power as power. (See my various writings on monopoly and cronyism). As a bonus, this gives Noble Houses an incentive to report high profits rather than squirreling everything through holes – if you don’t, you can be buttfucked politically. But the actual votes which it can cast are the number of people who swear fealty to the Noble House to represent its interests. This is a yes/no operation and fractal. Persons can swear fealty to a Noble House and agree to be governed by its laws, which does not give them a voice in picking those policies, or they can choose not to do so. Noble Houses can, in turn, swear fealty to larger Noble Houses. Very powerful members of a large Noble House, like engineers and lawyers, can be heads of Noble Houses in their own right, giving up some of their consumption-income in the standard way. Only those with a perpetual stake in society have a say, but the popular sovereignty mandate is maintained. This creates, again, a hierarchy.

Why do I break from Lenin here? Because I must.

When mystifiers talk about index fund socialism, they are defending the system which already exists. Lenin may have been a centralizer and a plannerist, but he always was adamant that the particular politics of a place exist rooted in its particular material conditions. The material conditions of yesterday, with industrial combinations and irreducibly complex products, necessitated the development of monopolies, which necessitated the securing of state power and the expansion of finance capitalism. When a modern mystifier talks about monopolies, securing finance capitalism, or central planning, they are defending the system of managerial capitalism which came into being in the 20th century in all major industrial powers. We already have the FED! We already have monopolies everywhere! To advocate for that is not progressive (again, meaning only the consequent flow of history), but conservative, conserving an order which has become stagnant and repulsive, and which knows only further planning, further monopoly, and further impoverishment of the common man. The Green New Deal and the Great Reset are the culmination of the contradictions of a decadent system.

The Emperor
Comrade-Kings of Regions and Religious Heads
Comrade-Dukes of States, Industrial Judgeships, and Megacorporations
Comrade-Counts of Counties and Big Businesses
Comrade-Barons of Families, Small Businesses, and Neighborhood Blocks
Free Tradesmen with Sectoral-Union Votes -> Sovereignty collectivized and delegated to Industrial Judges
Co-owning Members of a Noble House who lack individual sovereignty
Free Men living off in the woods

Collectively, all the heads of Noble Houses are the nobility, or, in Marxist-Leninist fashion, the Party. The Second Estate.

The Great Chain of Being is restored. If this is all sounding very politically Catholic, well…

The Cult of Personality/Divine Right:
Because it is. Who else but Stalin, educated a Jesuit priest, could have invented the Cult of Personality? The people are right to venerate him. A Cult of Personality is only just and proper. The Emperor is the Sovereign. The Sovereign, like many a monarch before him, is the vessel of the People and their Popular Sovereignty. He is the General Will made manifest, through the Divine Grace of God. You can tell this is so because he remains on the throne. His powers are the ability to determine the state of exception (effectively, unlimited power when desired, but destabilizing to do too often), to veto any legislation on behalf of the People, to propose a problem that must be legislated on behalf of the People, and the powers of Purge and Terror.

That’s right. Purge and Terror.

The Sovereign has a limitless and legitimate right to erase any Noble House it so chooses, and to levy any punishment upon its members. The chief oppressors of the people are the nobility: the thieving landlords, the crony capitalists, the labcoat tyrants, the crooked judges. They cannot be abolished – many a revolutionary has tried and failed to war against reality. We must have hierarchy, because hierarchy is human nature. But the people, being individually quite weak, cannot hope to stand against their oppressors. Only the Sovereign, invested with their popular sovereignty, can strike a blow against them. Hence, Purge, unlimited Purge, so that all corrupt elements may be swept away.

But this runs up against the classic problem where the Sovereign may be mad. And here, I will shamelessly borrow from Moldbug – the Sovereign can be removed by his board. But what board is worthy enough to judge the Sovereign, the People’s Representative and God’s Chosen? Only those who are his peers.

Within the nobility are those who are so grand, they are like little Sovereigns in their own right, so many have sworn to their banner. These greater Counts, Dukes, and Kings of the realm constitute the Emperor’s peers, and are thus the realm’s peerage – the Central Committee. There is one check and one check only on the Sovereign’s absolute power, which is a large supermajority of the Central Committee voting to depose him. At this point, a replacement is found, and all members of the Central Committee abdicate to their heirs.

With credit to Comrade Stump

There is no way forward but back, and no way back but forward. History proceeds not in a straight line, but in a spiral.

Warm regards,
Monsieur le Baron

Appendix: Updates and Suggestions
1. To remove the Sovereign, the Central Committee must also attain popular assent. An obvious hole to patch that I missed. Obviously, a Sovereign protecting the people against the peers is doing their job right.

2. This post covers the Second and Third Estates, but not the First Estate. Matters of culture and custom belong to the church, and the church can patch what law cannot. By custom, most punishments meted out should be public apologies/cancellations/due penance. This will protect against a mediocre and zealous monarch – most purged will just be cancelled.

3. Also, by custom (anything relating to the Sovereign can only be by custom, for law cannot restrict a Sovereign), the Sovereign ought to periodically tour the country. Hope lord leaves, hope lord returns. And the peasants should be able to visit the court and see the Central Committee dicking around.

4. Most “middle-class” families would be minor nobles here. It’s hard to draw a line between baron and truly free man, because many of the original words for baron, and the concept, mean “Free Man” or “Significant Man”. America really is a widely franchised society even if you restrict it to only married, staked, property holders. Perhaps a first tier of significant men, middle class citizens, who are locally franchised, and only true barons can vote on national events. Or maybe it doesn’t matter – your average middle class person only has a fraction of a single vote, which will only matter in local microelections.

5. Tax vote can be hacked by paying a lot of tax one year to push some nefarious scheme through. Let’s say the average of the last five or ten years.

6. Industrial court should be hard to legislate in, to ensure we only have the most essential and agreed-on rules. Fines are treated as a slap on the wrist, but accounting fraud, which punishes officers, is relatively rare. So violations of industrial court rulings should result in punishing the heads of the Noble Houses directly.

Aesthetica McNuggetica, Or Idealism Real Word Count by the Baron

Dearest Friends,

I’ve talked a lot about pragmatic action, Realpolitik as it were, but there is a time for lighter things: Idealpolitik. The time is McDonald’s, the place is McDonald’s, the why is McDonald’s. Mcdolans. What could be more ideal than a crispy, juicy Chicken McNugget dipped in Cajun Sauce, available for a limited time only as part of the BTS meal! Two great tastes that go great together! I’m Lovin’ It!

Or maybe you’d like something more refined? A steak, maybe. As we all know, the medium is the message. Medium is the message. For some people, it’s a job well done that’s the message, or perhaps a rare well done steak well done – with ketchup? Some people would call that a missed steak, but the thing about taste is that it’s subjective, right? That Trump trumps trump is well done well done, that cats up catsup is the postmodern condition, and the postmodern condition is to post modern conditions, not realizing the pointlessness of less points. All is subjective, and this is derivative, a meat slurry of discourse formed neatly, neatly, gently, creeping, into a boot shoop, sloop mast down into the Cajun sea, a imitation of spiciness, the appearance but not the reality of controversy!

Is there anything more passe, more banal, than lamenting postmodernity in the postmodern age? So I will eat the McNugget, for the McNugget is the sacred mystery of meaning without meaning and meaning for meaning, and I tell the whispering demon – yes, yes, a thousand times yes, let me face it again and again for eternity.

To make a long story short, if you eat a thousand McNuggets, you will go to the hospital.

Radiance.

So what am I talking about?

Meaning my meaning, of course. What does it mean for medium to be the message? The nature of a medium is by nature constraining, and this imposes a certain necessary shape to the art itself, which affects the kind of art which it can produce. Shot length is both a limitation on film and something to play with, something to explore, which affects the art. But it’s more than just physical limitations, but also the elements of style present, and the tropes. Every genre of art has its own expectations. Strunk’s Elements of Style has many counterparts. In either hewing to or subverting these structures, we come to recognize a piece as of a genre through the patterns present in it – it matches its peers in some way. And the definition it hews to – or subverts – comes to define it in some way. What is constrained, what is restricted, forms the negative of what we think ought to be present, but which we often overlook, assuming it without thought. The structure of our art is a negative of our values, just as an interior is defined by its borders. This creates a point. The values create and present themes, and themes are recapitulated throughout the life of a civilization. Art is not pointless and authors are not dead. All art has a nature which itself encodes the point – the medium is the message, no matter how much one might deny the *intent* of art, to deny that it has a *point*. When a postmodern gazes upon the Baroque, even an atheist, they cannot help be filled with an immensity, because within the *nature* of the Baroque, points are made about the divine and a Catholic, Christian civilization which expressed itself not only in the content of this kind of art, but in its form itself, in what makes Baroque Baroque, for the immensity is the immensity of God, for the starkness of the chiaroscuro must clearly separate dark from light and good from evil. These elements of a kind of art are its thematics, the messages which can be played, straight or inverted, with the medium at hand, and which in turn combine into an aesthetic. All the elements of Baroque together are Baroque, and all the elements each have a message within which together form the aesthetics of Baroque, which is a way of communicating the ethos of Catholic, Christian Europe not through mere words, but through emotion to the soul. The Renaissance art thus patronized was not ruined by these structures, but defined by it.

I know, I know. Dull, derivative, boring midwittery. Heard it a thousand times. But let’s stack one derivative layer upon another and see if we can’t make a flavorful lasagna.

What is pop art? Simply, pop art is art with a use. It’s created to do something. Whereas high art exists for itself, it is art for art’s sake, pop art has a use. When people make pop art, it can be a creative endeavor, it is often an artistic endeavor, but fundamentally, it has to accomplish what it is here to do. An ad that does not sell product is not a good ad. Whatever you may think of Marvel movies, they exist to sell tickets, and they do sell tickets. Even if they are schlock. This imposes restraints on what can be done, which the common artist takes as an insult to their creativity. But a negative, a medium and its constraints, exists for all forms of art. Art exists in the managing of constraints. Like eros, or a really clever engineering problem, it is the act of the hidden, the unshown, not the shown, which generates excitement. The act of artistry is to create the good within the bounds of these restraints. The commercial object at its highest is art, and high art indeed. Warhol. That’s the message of the soup cans – one need add nothing to these objects of beauty, so often overlooked.

And more than that, scorned.

To return to the McNugget, what we have these days is a kind of vulgar contrarianism which is mistaken for sophistication. The barbarian artist, seeking to make themselves a name, looks and disdains the beauty present in the popular pop art. What is a McNugget? The McNugget is the craft of a French chef who was the top of his class, a head chef that served kings and emperors of the world, working to design the perfect dippable chicken object which could be prepared by anyone for anyone. It is a reenactment of the sacred mysteries of Prometheus, a descent with the fires of Michelin to the masses below, a delivery of light to the darkness. In short, the McNugget is a masterpiece. And what is the negation of a masterpiece? Ugliness. Trash. The vulgar contrarian seeks to elevate by negating the popular object, not realizing that the pop object possess not only vulgarity, but beauty, and thus creates an object which negates the beauty of the common – an uncommon ugliness. An anti-masterpiece.

Le hecking subversion of Star Wars, with twists which made no sense, with points that go nowhere, with themes almost schizophrenic in their inconstancy, eaten up by fourth rate minds from third rate colleges.

The mark of a great artist is to create beauty out of the ugly. What we have now is the reverse.

So what is aesthetics? It is simple. Aesthetics is the pop art of hyperreality. We are drawn to believe in these larger than life things, these unreal specters. These visions of wealth beyond wealth, power beyond power, beauty beyond beauty, are the demons which drive postmodern man, and like Tantalus, they always recede beyond his reach. There never was such a man as Chad. Not even Gigachad is really Gigachad. In the beginning, we have the things which are real, the referants. To represent them, we create symbols, which exist as some insightful distillation of the real. But these symbols take on a life of their own. When the symbols begin to interact and recombine on their own, and reach frightful exaggerations or mutations, they cease to relate to reality, but become idols or objects of obsession and worship. These are the demons that haunt postmodern man indeed.

Or his gods.

Because, to return to the question, what is aesthetics? Aesthetics, like hyperreality, is unreal. Like the hyperreal symbols, the objects of an aesthetics never really exist and never really will. This is why small-souled bugmen accuse trads of falling in love with Coke commercials. Because this is essentially true. But while hyperreality, like high art, exists for its own sake, fighting as it will, aesthetics do not. Aesthetics embody the values which a civilization chooses to uphold. They are its objects of worship. An aesthetic is a picture of a societal ideal – of course it cannot be real, it is impossibly unreal – and yet, like beauty standards, it is something to strive for. A society’s aesthetic is its purpose, what it’s heading for. And so why do people thirst for better aesthetics and hate modern art? Because the ugliness reflects the meaningless – that there is no higher ideal being conveyed. The postmodern man, the Last Man, has no higher ideals because he believes in nothing. And when men lament art, they lament that we have no great vision of the good to move towards. Instead, we are drawn by our own inertia, we are a runaway train headed off a cliff. The crisis of art is the crisis of democracy. It is the crisis of a West which no longer believes in itself.

Why did the proles yearn for Trumpian magnificence? Why do they applaud the magnificent? Because they yearn for beauty. They want something greater than themselves. The showy rich, for all their many faults, are so full of themselves that they burst and overflow. So assured is Louis XIV that all wish to soak in his glow. And while they may not be able to create art, they know art when they see it. Trump was a well done well done steak, the slab of American red meat cooked almost to shoe leather, a reflection of Reagan’s reflection of Jackson – and yet something. Even the shadow of a message retains a voice, enough to still the deathly silence, if only for a stolen moment. Trump was a gasping of an ancient and powerful American dream, a man of proletarian culture done good, bedecked in all the golden splendor that entails. A Mr. Smith gone to Washington to drain the Swamp, to throw down the scoundrels from their high places, and restore power to the sovereign people. Trump himself, orange as a McNugget, was himself an art object. For a brief moment, there was an operation of the setting sun, and it blazed streaky scarlet into the sky before being snuffed out.

Radiant.

Here is where the rubes from Kansas sputter and point about Orange Man Bad, so fearful of tainting themselves by any association with low culture that they reveal their own lowness.

To channel an aesthetic is to channel the hyperreal impulse towards a higher end. From ugliness, beauty. To give that hunger something more, something that will fill it.

The disdain of the modern artist for the commercial is not a sign of their own good breeding, as they so suppose, but in fact evidence of the smallness of their souls, for they are unable to emerge from the smallness of their own souls and submerge themselves in anything greater than themselves. For the act of creating such is the act of channeling the essence of the greater thing, whereas they can only write of their own meager selves. Depression this, anxiety that, and a lot of Brooklyn status panic. That about covers the bulk of modern artistic production, doesn’t it? A self-absorption.

Now, go back and read it again.

Double dipping the Eternal Recurrence,
Monsieur le Baron

Twitter Volume 1 (Start – June 2021), Part II: Class and Culture

Exactly what it says on the tin, bruv.



Grendel was a good book. Grendel himself is a fantastic pointless man as crybully. But all of the mortals struggle. Grendel and other mortals are most like the Dragon and have the Dragon scent when they transcend their pathetic meat forms to grasp eternity. By inhabiting the story-forms, they become things beyond time and more than meaninglessness. What angers Grendel most is that someone might try to match his pitifulness. But at the same time, he drives them towards it. When he sees Unferth trying to live a story, he destroys him. Simultaneously, he wants to drag people to his level while also remaining the most pitiful. He’s the happiest when he can be the monster, and this is also when his dragon scent is strongest. But he loves to hear the stories too. We are so eager to defy structures because we see them as impositions on our absolute freedom. But we are defined by our relations to others and the world. If we never make a mark, what are we? By breaking free of these relations in their entirety, we abolish our own meaning. We become Grendels, pointless monsters, in love with our own pitifulness but afraid to admit it. Everyone is so wrapped up in ironic and gesture that nothing sincere or eternal remains. We cut off our families because we are afraid to love – and hate – them. We abandon friends. Where does that lead us? The Dragon. And the Dragon as timeless thing is no accident. The Dragon is Nietzsche’s timeless value creature, with an eternal and recurrent lifecycle. The Dragon is the Ubermensch completed, the Ubermensch the larval Dragon. Unferth is only a mortal man, and thus must steel himself with mere words of heroism. Beowulf *is* heroism. And thus Beowulf can restore meaning, as the Ubermensch, and banish the hideous nihilism.

Does Grendel sacrifice himself to religion, or does religion sacrifice Grendel? Does it matter?


There is a difference between sleaze and filth, and this is the difference between the crime wave coming now and the high crime times of the 1980s. Sleaze comes out of an unrestricted freedom, and this freedom begets psychological emancipation. An indifference to tired pieties. The crime of that day was *selfish*. The crimes of today are *selfless*. Crime then, and the accompanying filth, came from an abundance of ego which denied the rights or wellbeing of anyone around them, so eager was it to get some for itself. It is the behavior of the outlaw.

By contrast, the selfless criminal, the anarchist, behaves not to fulfill a hunger within them so strong it cannot be denied, but as a yearning for meaning, for something to coalesce self around. It is empty. It is narcissist in the Lasch sense. The anarchist struggle becomes an attempt to construct a cosmology, a narrative, some thing which will justify the person. The totally selfish person needs no justification. Their own hunger is the only meaning in the world. This is not to excuse it. But it is different. “Natural Born Killers”. That’s the crime of egoism. They have a message, as savage and brutal as it is. They have desires. They are full, so full, they impinge on others, and take from the weak to fill their own bellies.

And that is why the 60s, 70s, 80s, saw an outpouring of art. Art was the spontaneous expression of these selfish, cruel selves. But they were *selves*. Why is the modern Leftist censorious? Because they are a devourer of art, because their self must consume art, not create art, because there is a hole there. So it goes. Once as tragedy, again as farce. And that’s the difference between sleaze and filth. The filth is a product of sleaze, but it isn’t sleaze. Sleaze is the run-down nature of absolute egoist freedom. The filth cult of the modern left is just a cargo cult to sleaze, vainly hoping to be the same.


Let’s talk nobility!

Imagine! Grand palaces! Luxurious feasts! Dictating the course of world history with your whims! Conquering! Being a tiny king in your own right!

Yeah, I’m not talking about those guys. No counts or dukes or princes today.

I’m talking about the baron. How much does a modest manor produce? Between 20 and 30 pounds sterling in Britain. In France, just over 20 livre tournois. Today, this purchases about $20,000 in goods. But we don’t care about that. We care about relatives. I’ll explain later. This is about 2500 days wages. Converting back to modern money, 2500 days wages is about $200,000. So a manor produces about $200k/yr in income. How many manors does a baron own? Well, some own several. Some are even as mighty as a count or duke! But probably not. You see, the medievals did do censuses. In the County of Champagne in 1252, the count had 1182 fiefs under him. 42% were held by knights, 39% were held by bourgeois, 15% were held by barons, and 5% by clerics. The average amount of manors for a fiefholder was ONE, regardless of the official title. Single manor. But what about Britain? British barons are so important! Yeah, title deflation. Norman barons became major landholders in the new England. The English equivalent to the baron is the gentry. I will treat knights, barons, untitled lords, gentry and high bougies as interchangable.

So what did the barons do? So what are the barons? The barons are the people who rule your little shit village for the great lord, the Count, who can’t be arsed. He’s too important. And in times of trouble, they are marshalled for war. That was their original purpose. There are tons and tons and tons of these guys. Whenever you hear a historian quote a stat like “France had 1% nobility” or “Russia had 2% nobility”, by weight, that’s all fucking barons. They’re everywhere. The British peerage is a few hundred people. How many French? About 200 Frenchmen were ranked Count or above in medieval France. That’s not a lot of dudes. In fact, it basically rounds to zero. You may be noticing something similar in our lives. Millionaires and billionaires, perhaps? There are a few thousand billionaires ON EARTH. We’ll return to that and many other things later. The role of the barons was intricately tied to the feudal regime. They administered its lowest levels, managed its peasants, and fought its wars. So when early modern states formed with professional armies, they were gone.

Right? In evolution, Nature doesn’t come up with new organs willy-nilly. Limbs are adapted into other kinds of limbs. Systems are repurposed. So too with memetics.

The new system needed a labor pool to staff it. The baronage is dead. Long live the baronage. Why are college students upset when they have to be baristas? One could say it’s the income, which is terribly low. But they won’t be tradesmen or factory workers either, even when those can easily pay high 5 figure incomes. No, they want particular jobs. What jobs? Things like, I dunno. Doctor, Engineer, Lawyer, Banker, Bureaucrat, Professor.

What jobs did the baronage take up after the 16th century Crisis of the Nobility?

Doctor.

Engineer.

Lawyer.

Banker.

Bureaucrat.

Professor.

College degrees are minor titles. Always were. So, recall the average incomes of a barony? $200,000? Familiar, eh? What are the average incomes of a midcareer BigLawyer, Software Engineer, or Banker? About $200,000?

Applying Piketty’s 5% land value rule, we find a barony is worth $4mm. The average wealth of a US millionaire. Funny how that works. And what did they need the money for? Maintenance of honors. So dowries, housing, and… college tuition.

It all starts to click, doesn’t it?

All these figures are constant over time because the social-material relations have not changed in 1000 years. This is the dead hand of feudalism reaching into the present. Material conditions remain the same because social-material relations remain the same, regardless of whatever ideological garnish you put on. Call them professionals, managerials, nomenklatura…

The Eternal Baron. It is often said that the 19th century marked a new crisis of the nobility. And it did. But don’t we still have doctors, lawyers, etc? Of course. The decline of the traditional landowner was a minor crisis to be sure. But it merely finalized the shift to professionalization. But what was changing? And changing in a big way? Capitalism. The old world was being upended, and with it, the social order. Peasants became migrant farm labor or prole city workers. The communal village was destroyed. The *status* of the nobility was under attack. Remember our old friend, the haute bourgeois? In the middle ages, we see he earns about the same as the baron. They’re peers. The baron and the boat dealer are friends.

In the 19th century, the bourgeois stops being a boat dealer. And now he earns 100x what you do. Engels’s father is a factory owner, a typical New Man, a bourgeois. And he hates what Engels writes. So how can Engels always get a living? His mother. His mother adored him and gave him her moral code and values.

She was an aristocrat.

And Marx married Jenny von Westphalen.

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And why? Imagine those peasants, whom you have lived with, loved, cared for, and struggled with, for a thousand years, turned into grist for Satanic mills. Their children devoured by machines. Their lands despoiled by belching steel monsters run by migrants for a profit. Your communal village, destroyed. Overrun by foreigners. Your nursemaid’s family, gone. As Marx says, capitalism reduces the qualities of the proles to quantities.

Numbers. Data points in a spreadsheet. Dehumanization. Atomization.

All that is solid melts into air. Welcome to Hellworld.

There was only one thing to do. Make common cause with the peasants and proletarians being destroyed by this system and destroy Moloch.

Revolt against the Modern World.

Tragedy is the pain of facing irresistible fate. All politics is material interests, not ideology. Always remember that.

Blessed proletarians, will you join me again?

We will not eat the bugs.

And we will not go gently into that good night.

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In the year 1666, a strange thing happened. A rabbi from Turkey, Sabbatai Zevi, had declared himself the Messiah and was gathering up quite the following. He was marching to Constantinople (still of that name in that day) where he would confront the Sultan and depose him.

When he arrived, he did not depose the Sultan. On the contrary, he submitted – totally – not only surrendering his mob, but converting to Islam. The Sultan gave him a modest pension but later revoked it, because the man was troublesome. A few followers remained, but only a few. They disappeared back into Judaism or converted into Islam, like their leader. A few stubborn holdouts remained. About a century later, they rallied behind a leader, Jacob Frank, who claimed to be Zevi’s reincarnation. But Frank also converted, to Catholicism. Thus ended a curious footnote in history, as the Frankists followed their leader into Catholicism and Mother Church, assimilating into Christian Polish society. So it goes.

And this is where the textbooks end. So what did these curious people believe? Some of it may be familiar. They believed that the God that others believed in was a false God, a material God, a demiurge that created a world of wickedness, and that the true God had to be redeemed through special knowledge. And they were feminists! Yes, they believed in #girlbosses, slay. There could even be a female Messiah, and women had to be delivered from the bonds of marriage, a wicked, patriarchal concept. They were free, like us.

Is it any wonder that the like were drawn to the Enlightenment? They found themselves influencing movements as disparate as Enlightenment liberalism, Reform Judaism, and even @bog_beef‘s favorite, the Quakers.

So obviously they were hounded and hunted by the authorities. Such bigots never appreciated the Sabbateans in their own time. Orthodox Rabbis and Christian authorities attempted to root out this heresy, which was spreading both high and low.

Some, uneducated as they were, claimed the Sabbateans were engaged in magic, mysticism, strange rituals…

Sacrifices?

Ridiculous notions, all absurd.

After all, the Frankists had many friends, distinguished friends. They had protectors among powerful Christian magnates, such as the aforementioned Bishop Dembowsky, but also other wealthy Polish Christians had taken an interest in Sabbateanism, as well as wealthy Jews.

The influence of Sabbatai and Frank immediately calls to mind other charismatic religious figures. One obvious parallel is, of course, Rasputin. As we all know, this mad monk, unkempt and wild, quickly rose to prominence in the Russian court. Why? Well, the Tsar’s son had a terrible disease: hemophlia. But Rasputin could make his son well using his special technique of hypnosis. Of course, those outside the royal family didn’t know this. They were disgusted by this man and his disgusting and immoral behaviors. Rasputin slept around. Rasputin seduced noble ladies. And most of all, Rasputin had terrible hypnotic eyes that could draw anyone in. There is an essence in the eyes. A magic to them. In the eyes are marked terrible, horrible things. Princess Marat saw the power of his eyes.

What beliefs did Rasputin have? Although he was not a Whip himself, Rasputin was influenced by the Whips and their doctrines of holy sin and magical sex. The struggle of sin led to the heights of redemption. Holy sin.

His influence was vast. Trotsky himself remarked on this “leprous camarilla” ruling the state. They practiced magic. They had sex. They had sex… with children. Some as young as 7. “Widespread child seduction had become associated with the ‘best’ members of society.”

That is what held sway over the monarchy.

So let’s return to the Sabbateans. What did they believe in? You see, the conversion of Sabbatai Zevi was not an apostasy, but a sacrament. To save the world, Zevi had to pass into the world of gentiles, which meant converting. And so too did Frank. Zevi became a Muslim and Frank became a Catholic.

So what did these Sabbateans, these Frankists believe? They believed that they had to join their Messiah’s fight and do as he did.

Firstly, they too had to falsely convert, and enter the kelipot, the Kingdom of Evil. Their true faith would be that of the prophet of 1666.

But their false faith would embed them among Quakers, Reform Jews, heretical Orthodox and Reformed Christians, Enlightenment thinkers, Masons, and all manner of people. There they would spread their beliefs. And what were their beliefs? Why, the same as Rasputin, of one of these very heretical sects. Holy Sin. Sex Magic.

And… other things.

In the darkness, they helped each other prosper.

It may be instructive to inform you that Sabbatai’s name? It means Saturn.

The Sabbateans were the Saturn worshippers. They infiltrated sects and ideologies around the world. And their beliefs sound awfully familiar, now don’t they?

“I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”

Fin.



The mail order catalogue is dead, but shopping is not. Consoom is dead, long live consoom! Today, many people buy things at the Big Box stores or Amazon. And here, at the Big Box stores, you have class distinction. You see, there are many, fundamentally the same… But different. Big Box stores are all Big Box stores, but people will describe a vague distinction between them, not in the products, but in the atmosphere. That’s class culture at work. We respond to market segmentation by class.

So let’s start. Walmart is working class/lower middle. That one should be obvious, but I will still state it. The focus is on frugality and everyday low prices. The working class, by necessity, counts pennies. Walmart is bulk, but bulk of low grade/commodity grade items. The customers are usually dressed in a slovenly, prolish manner, and they act accordingly. I see a lot of arguments and messes at Walmart. I like it. It feels earthy, secure, down to earth, authentic. There’s not a lot of focus on projecting an image – people are here to shop.

Up a rung is Target. Target is middle class. You can tell by how it markets and positions itself. No longer are you here for [product], you’re here for the Target experience. You’re not a customer, you’re a ~guest~, like you’re at a hotel. And there is conspicuous wait staff. The middle class like the experience of being conspicuously waited on and treated as special, worthy of distinction. The analogue here is how the middle class in Fussell’s day loved “posh” French restaurants that focused on the continental atmosphere and wearing fancy clothes. They’re not just there for the food, they’re there for the atmosphere. Target shoppers aren’t just there to shop, they’re there to live – and Tar-jay will help. The price is a little higher, and this keeps penny-pinching proles away. It is subtle things that classgate.

Next in our list is Costco. Costco is upper middle class. Costco is very austere and minimalist. Customers are still waited on, but silently. At Walmart, you have to go flag someone down. At Target, the wait staff gets in your face. At Costco, everything runs smoothly, invisibly. The theme of frugality returns, but in a variant form. Things are cheap because they’re bought in bulk. But what’s being bought isn’t cheap. The Costco promise is the cheapest price *for the finest of goods*. Real extra virgin olive oil, imported wine, wagyu steak, Mexicoke, etc. The message is clear – Costco customers expect the finer things in life, and they treat it as the everyday, not as a conspicuous expenditure for which costlier is better. Steak is just the grocery bill, and you’ve got to keep it down. It is similar to another class marker. Costco is the dusty car of Big Box stores.

But there is also another side – the luxury car. And what’s the Luxury Car?

Well, you had to have guessed it. Whole Foods.

Whole Foods/Costco represent New Money/Old Money. Frankly, Whole Foods is a place that makes me incredulous. It’s flashy, it’s showy. Everything about a Whole Foods is meant to show off gaudy, conspicuous wealth. What they sell is often ridiculous and they sell it at ridiculous prices. At Whole Foods, you make a splash. So what above? Is there a Big Box store of the upper class? No, frankly. It would go out of business. There are simply not enough upper class people to sustain a Big Box store. But they do have their own stores. They’re smaller, more specialized stores. The upper class has small, boutique stores selling basically handcrafted or specialized versions of goods. These stores are expensive, and the products are almost indistinguishable from generic – but they are fine, very fine. You will find them in the back alleys of cosmopolises. Does the upper middle class have boutiques? Yes, but not for regular stuff.

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Basically, you spend lots of money on amusing white elephants. The upper middle class has plenty of money and likes to be amused. Being amused is an important class value.



The old Fussell wisdom still holds true, mostly. A general disdain for education is prolish. Proles (rightfully) mistrust the higher education system. The education system forms a key part of the American class system. I won’t belabor the old points, but I’ll quickly sum it up.

The middle class is very proud of having gone to college. If they are from a small town, they may be convinced this makes them much better than their origin. This is the transplant of CB’s “Midwestern Excellence joke”. It’s middle class to draw the line between college-educated and not.

The upper middle class assumes college is a given, since most of them have been getting an education since time immemorial. The thing that brings status here is going to a good, prestigious college. Don’t just go to Podunk Directional State U. You’ve got to be a Harvard man like your uncle and your father and your grandfather – carry on that legacy. The principle of legacy. This is what matters.

Uppers often go to silly little Lib Arts colleges that cost a king’s ransom.

Speaking of king’s ransom, let’s move on from Fussell and talk about what’s new. In his day, college was cheap. Now it isn’t. While the uppers can pay their way, lower classes must figure out how to pay for college. The proles, often first gen students, get need-based aid if they can wrangle the education bureaucracy/FAFSA. What they misunderstand is the generosity of need-aid at prestige schools. If they get loans, it is often because they go to for-profits or stingy low-grade schools. It is the middles that bear the brunt of student loans. Their parents are too well-off to fairly qualify for financial aid, and yet they are not well-off enough to pay their children through. So the middle class ends up saddled with student loans, made worse by high tuition. While uppers often go to these strange liberal arts colleges, they’re not an unpopular choice among the middles, since they’re not as competitive as fighting for one of the Harvard slots. But the price is steep, incredibly steep. So the upper middles. The more prestigious universities have incredibly generous aid packages and fat endowments to fund them. As such, many upper middles end up getting full ride need-based scholarships or sometimes full ride+ merit scholarships that actually make money. This is helped along by generous loopholes in the tax code that allow them to maximize the financial aid given to them by shielding lots of income and assets from FAFSA. Piketty has studied the US tax code, and the tax rate begins to decline at the UMC as SSI phases out. Tax and asset shelters allow the UMC to game the system and get “welfare”. The result is that I graduated to a higher income than most of you and without a penny of student debt.

Remember, privilege is what you get for free.

If you pay for it, they’re selling you something. The tax gap in action. Note the dip that starts at the top 10% and dives at the top 1%. That is the UMC hole. Red is with sales tax, blue without.

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So that’s paying for the party. What about getting there? Let’s talk about school. This is something else that has changed since Fussell’s day, and it deserves some looking at it. What does schooling look like for the classes? For the underclass, school is like an tiny prison. The purpose is discipline. Rarely can enough order be imposed to teach anything, and the students often aren’t terribly interested in learning anything anyways. These schools are usually failing. Teach For America kids go here. The working class will send their kids to whatever’s around. They don’t have the luxury of uprooting to chase a school. This can be good, this can be bad. For what it’s worth, I had a working class Latina classmate in Calc, and these people get sucked up into the UMC stream. The middle class is the beginning of school consciousness and the desire for a “good school”. Their main goal is to avoid the disorder of the underclass, so for them, “good school” is a euphemism for white school. You can admit that here. Ha! Any school is enough for “college”.

What is alien for Fussell’s generation and probably most of you is what I call “The Thunderdome”. It is a school system of intensive winnowing and it is the main pipeline from which our nation’s elites are produced. This is the form of intense American meritocracy. It begins when the aspirant elite is a toddler. They begin to take IQ tests to qualify for an elite preschool as well as personality screening. The cutoff for these tests is usually somewhere about 130. Some parents make their toddlers do test prep. The stakes are high. If accepted, the Thunderdome begins. The toddler, then child, then teenager, begins to compete with their rival-peers for resources and attention. The best survive, the rest are winnowed. Rank and yank. Ace the test or don’t come back. At every stage, advance. Never fail. A grade that isn’t an A is a permanent black mark on the transcript that will ruin your chances for Harvard. The child must have perfect grades, perfect grades, and perfect extracurriculars. The leadership requirement means they must outmaneuver their rival-peers to take a club. Many cannot handle the pressure. The suicide rate is not insubstantial. Coffee is common. A common coping mechanism beyond caffeine is performance-enhancing drugs. A swift trade in amphetamines has developed, as well as cocaine. Anything to get an edge in the academic race. The winners are the products of “meritocracy”, its blighted fruits. They are, as a rule, both brutal and conformist – conformity is a must to reach “perfection” as defined by a grading rubric. No principles but obedience. No desire but hunger. An Ivy league professor, himself an alumnus, compared the commencement speech he had received, one calling for noblesse oblige and reminding them of their responsibilities, to the one his young students were receiving.

They were told thus:
You are the fruits of meritocracy, and you deserve this and more. The world belongs to you by right. You must take of it. So eat, eat and never be full, and feast until the world’s ending – this is the truth of the world and what is right.

Anyways. On to the upper class. More cheerful! The upper class is schooled and socialized to be affable. Their schooling is not as intensive, generally, because the goal of their education is to make them good members of the upper class: socialites and networkers. For the upper class, the world can be treacherous, so school networks can be some of the most honest and true sources of friendship. In addition, a lot of their education doesn’t just come at school, but exists passively, in their upbringing. The upper middle class is cultured and sophisticated by education and training, the result of 10 hour school days. The upper class absorbs knowledge by osmosis. They end up with a passing knowledge of fine art because everyone knows it. They read books by whim. The goal is to create that charming affability and the perfect manners for which the upper class is famed. Imperturbably fine spirits, level moods, and a willingness to cover. Generosity befits an upper class person. This leads me to manners, but that’s a matter for another day.


A subject conspicuous in its absence from the Fussell book. Money and class are not the same thing, but, of course, they are related. Without money, one cannot maintain the expenditures needed to live above low proledom for long. So then money. For proles, money is a means for consumption. Proles convert money into goods or services and then consume them. For the lower sorts of proles, this consumption is primarily for survival, but the higher proles enjoy many (very expensive) luxury goods like jetskis and boats. Why is this so? Precarity. @acczibit has a concept “Hood Post-Scarcity”, where one can satisfy all one’s needs, but a single emergency would wipe out any savings. Luxury goods are expensive but “cheap” compared to wealth. Money is here today, gone tomorrow. Spend while you can.

As you move into the middle class, incomes are not necessarily higher, and often lower. But the tone is different. The watchword of the middle is “comfortable”. 90% of the time, when you meet someone who self-describes their upbringing as comfortable, that’s middle class. If they describe themselves as upper middle class but have low class consciousness, they’re also middle class. Twitter is a very middle class place – most of its users are middle class. The middle class no longer fears starvation – here is the source of its comfort. Instead, the middle class uses its spare cash for *status*. The middle class is always attempting to keep up with the Joneses, because its key value is respectability. So the middle class is in an arms race to maintain its status. It buys trends because it is forced to *conform*. And why must the middle class conform? Because little separates them from proledom. Certainly not their income. Respectability means keeping up the habits that keep you from becoming another “deplorable”, who often have lots of personal and life drama. Middles live by codes. Because of these material realities, the middle class plays the role of morality police. Their main asset is their home, and the patrolling of morality helps preserve the niceness of their neighborhood – and their net worth.

Remember: Class is downstream of material conditions. Above this, the upper middle. Here, many living expenses are permitted to fall, since the UMC does not have to follow (expensive) trends, while income drastically increases. This creates an inevitable and perpetual surplus. Within a year of graduation, I had >100k. Here begins the accumulation of capital. What is money here? Money is a tool. Money is power. Money is not hoarded, but deployed to useful ends. The UMC readily uses money to solve its problems. But it primarily is a means of accumulating more money and projecting power. Money can be donated to buy influence, and influence can be used to advance the self. Every investment begets further investment. The UMC is funding political movements, research, etc. Bill Gates was born UMC. As Burnham says, the UMC is the strongest part of the ruling class. Now, let us digress.

Imagine the classes as celestial spheres in the firmament. Hydrogen gas is capital.

The life of the underclass is fragmented, bizarre, full of misadventures, prison, and drama. They go from gig to gig, and sometimes prison to prison. They are space debris. If the space debris can cohere, if some semblance of order can be brought to life, then there appears a terrestial planet out of these space rocks. The proletarian has a functioning life now, a routine, and steady work. But no savings. No capital. That can change. When a proletarian internalizes the disciplined living of the middle class, the need to live respectably, it begins to save. It develops a small capital buffer, which is the “comfort” of the middle. The middles are gas giants. They have capital, but it is inert. However, the process of saving is long. Eventually, a successful middle accumulates enough gas that something changes. The capital begins to work upon itself. The gas ignites.

A star is born.

A Novus Homo takes their place among the Nobiles. Which, finally, leads me back on track. The upper class. While the process of entering the nobiles is slow, the ascent of a lesser noble to the greater is exceedingly fast. It happens in the “liquidity moment”. The UMC have, on average, a few million. They’re multimillionaires. In the liquidity moment, one very quickly experiences an increase in wealth in an order of magnitude or multiple orders of magnitude. A critical point is passed and explosive growth occurs.

A star becomes a giant. And what is money for these giants? Everything. Nothing. What is water to a fish?

Money is merely the reality they dwell in.

Fundamentally, the upper class does not understand money. In this, and many other ways, they are the most alien class of all. When I met @babs11111111, he asked me how much my Camry cost. His guess? $500,000.

But at the same time, the upper class can be quite frugal. I make money. For better or for worse, the upper class is beyond making money. That means no more is coming. The Banana Test. I do not know how much a banana costs ($10?) and don’t care to learn. By contrast, Babs knows how much a banana costs, down to the cent, because the principal must be preserved, but for big prices, he has no understanding, while I am shrewd and haggle. The upper class just has money. It’s always there. Like the tap, you turn it on and fill up a glass. But it has to be respected carefully, because one day it might go away forever and never return.

That’s the balancing act. The principal must be preserved, at all costs. From this, we see a material reason why the upper class is fundamentally anti-consumerist (whereas the upper middle is minimalist but can spend a lot). Consumerism would devour the fortune and return them to the lower nobility from whence they came.

Not that that happens often. In the act of rising, the upper middle class striver builds ideologies and movements, which become funded into small NGOs, which grow into large bureaucracies of power in triumph. But what happens after the rise?

The NGOs, finally, begin to do their ostensible goal. Where the UMC spends to create power, the UC is beyond striving. The NGOs stop being a front for a machine (or at least, not their machine), and become real charitable endeavors. The main living of the UC person is to be a socialite, and that means charity, charity, charity. For a long time, the upper class family exists in this kind of philanthropic stasis, throwing many fantastical and spectacular charity galas. But eventually, all things end. At long last, the star’s fuel burns out.

Things begin to change, once more. The final change. An upper class family, spending all its time socializing, builds up deep and wide connections across an entire civilization. Normally, it exists in torpor. When the money ends, it wakes. In its waking, it stirs, and it moves the world. Activity goes out across the connections. This causes the entire civilization to shake. When an UMC family ascends to the upper class, that makes the news.

But the decline and fall of an upper class family? That makes world history. The conditions which create and sustain an upper class family are fundamentally rooted in some reality about material conditions. When those are invalidated, the era is changing.

The liquidity moment is so explosive because its agent becomes an avatar of world historical trends. The ending and undoing of those world historical trends is not only as spectacular, it is more spectacular.

The giant goes supernova.

Elements are scattered to the far solar winds in vast, billowing clouds.

In some distant cloud, the fragments begin to cohere again…


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So why does Fussell not talk about money? Part of it is that money played a much less central role back then. And why is that?

Something has happened since the 80s.

Let’s talk about consumer debt.

Do the proles have debt? Yes and no. Many of you are familiar with payday lenders, which charge hundreds of % in interest a year. Now that people have cottoned, they are evolving into “social justice microlenders” that… charge hundreds of % in interest a year. But that’s not the only scheme. Witness CreditOne and other shady credit card companies which charge fees for carrying a balance, fees not carrying a balance, a fee when you pay, an annual fee, etc. Like the NASCAR card (NASCARD). Scams. Or rent-to-own, which started with furniture and appliances, but has actually expanded to housing, with the same exploitative terms. In this context, Walmart’s layaway program, with an APR of 7-20%, like the rest of Walmart, is exploitative but relatively benevolent. Subprime car scams involve setting exorbitant payments and luring customers in with promises of zero or almost zero down, then repossessing the car when they inevitably fail to make the payment. Or they might, like the others, charge really high interest. Which leads to the other side of prole debt. No debt. Proles come to distrust this usury, and for good reason. So the other side of proles is movements like Dave Ramsey and going totally debt-free. It makes sense. The kind of debt they run into is almost all totally predatory.

Leaving the proles behind, how does the middle class interact with debt? The middle class believes in having a sanitary credit score. Why? Because it wants debt. But only some debt. Instead of all-or-nothing, like the proles, the middle class separates out its debts. There is good debt and bad debt, and these differ primarily by category. Good debt includes house debt and at least used to include student debt. Car debt is also considered good debt. Bad debt is debt for frivolous purchases and other things. Credit card debt is bad debt.

This is a middle class credit card ad. Let’s analyze it, shall we? The card level is fairly basic, but it is treated as an aspirational goal (gotten after building credit with a pointless card). This is topped off with the symbolism of climbing a mountain. This act of climbing a mountain on vacation, a status expenditure, is treated as far more important than the boyfriend (not husband). Marriage still carries a lot of cultural cachet with the UMC while it is slowly dissolving in the middle. Class matters in how things are marketed.

So to transition to the UMC, let’s look at an ad for a similar product, but for a higher class. Same thing, different culture.

Like the previous ad, it has a travel motif. But the vibe is artsy. Furthermore, the card opens the beginning of a journey, not the end. While the Gold card is the result of building credit for middles, I got offered one (and similar cards) as a broke, 0 income college student.

In this ad and the next ad, we see the principles of amusement and countersignalling the high – shows you don’t hold it in awe. One of my friends, descended from a colonial governor, wears work boots and T-shirts smeared with truck grease to Whole Foods. The card the Vikings are pitching is one of CapitalOne’s top cards.

Here we have big deal Wes Anderson treated with humor and irreverence. Countersignal the high.

Before I forget – note the importance of family in the sincere commercial! What is the end of the journey she undertakes? A good marriage! Striver middles, take note.

So how does this tie into UMC relations with credit? First of all, everything is cheaper for the rich. As mentioned with Costco, the prices are lower. When I shop on Amazon, I get special Amazon Business Prime discounts not available to the hoi polloi. You apply corporate discounts, that’s another price cut. But the credit cards play into this. When you spend, you get money or points. These programs synergize. On UberEats, I pay with a Samsung wallet discount offer on UberCash, and those purchases earn Marriott points. So I get cashback on the underlying credit card in the wallet, points with Samsung, points with Uber, points with Marriott, and all of these get redeemed in my normal life – on top of cheaper sticker price to begin with. All in all, my prices are probably 20% less. The rich do not go into debt on the same terms as the poor. Like many things, it’s cheaper to be rich.

But the relationship with debt, like money, also differs. Money and debt are both part of one pool, liquidity. It’s all lumped together. What matters is the cost (opportunity cost + APR, cash has APR 0%), availability in crisis (cash is perfect), and liquidity needs. In that sense, debt is not necessarily a meaningful concept. Debt becomes part of a general pattern of money deployment to maximize asset efficiency. It’s not debt, but leverage, to be used wisely. It’s all of a kind.

Now, for the upper class, which has money for everything, why would they need debt? And generally, they don’t. But there are exceptions. When an upper class family begins to decline, they still need to maintain their social and philanthropic obligations. It’s all they know. In those times, you begin to see noble estates take on debt. And as these estates become increasingly indebted, they reach a crisis point. They have to act. Let’s take a look at an example. In the late 19th and early 20th century, a grain glut and economic shifts led to the collapse in value and income of vast landed estates, a ruinous event for great magnates and small alike. In Eastern Europe, the result was communism and collectives run by these very nobles. But in Britain? The great lords decided on marriage. They went across the pond and found wealthy heiresses.

The birth of an Anglo-American empire.

The birth of its champion.

Churchill was the fruit of such a union.

His old (American) home is down the road from my lake house. Like I said, the decline and fall of upper class families? That shapes world history.

That’s all for today.