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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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…
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.”
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.
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.
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…
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.
henlo pals i am a frenly guy here to exposit a thing okay thanks
You ever think about like… clothes? Man, why do we even wear clothes? To cover our nudity? Man, that’s fucking stupid. This is a total grift, and, bro, bro, this is such a fucking racket! Let’s get in on it! That’s always my first instinct when I find a racket, as the good value transference parasite I am (Still the best, two millennia and counting, arguably three!)
So let’s talk about this racket. Why do people buy clothes? To cover themselves, obviously. But also, to express tribal identity, hence all the amusing novelty graphic tees. And what is the biggest racket in the market? You know what I’m going to say if you’re a regular reader of the blog, and I know there are literally dozen of you. Luxury. The attempt to signal wealth through clothing. So let’s talk about that.
Most people’s first instinct would be to aim upscale or ultra-upscale. At the highest heights, maybe you sell something for $100,000 – once. Once a year. That’s not much fodder for your business, and there is a shit load of variance. I saw a art piece that struck my fancy, but the low five figure price tag didn’t fit the budget. It’s still for sale, years later. Unless you’re one of the few that arbitrarily strikes a mood (and if you do, milk that hard), your prices can only rise so high, and your volume will be anemic. So maybe less upscale, less tailored, something more for the broad upper class. Let’s widen our market to centimillionaires and their cadet branches. There were 50,000 centimillionaires a few years back, probably quite a few more now, and there are associated families with those. We can reasonably eyeball our global upper class market as a few hundred thousand households. Now you’ve got a much larger customer base! Still, they can’t dig as deep into their pockets, right? But you can still charge them a couple hundred bucks. So you open up your store, call it Taul Spuart, and you sell 10,000 sport jackets for $300 each and make a snappy $3,000,000 and then sell 10,000 more shirts for $100 each and call it a day. Hey, that’s weird. By sliding down the class totem pole, we made more money.
Is there a pattern here? Let’s move down again. Let’s start selling to the upper middle class. Now our market is a whopping 5% of the population. Sure, maybe we have to cut the price per shirt to like, $40, but we are literally selling millions of shirts now. Profit goes up again. Incredible. But if we keep chopping prices, we’ll have no profit margin, right?
Well, that’s the magic of it. In 1980, a book came out called The Official Preppy Handbook. The retailer pimped, LL Bean, was a fairly standard retailer catering to upper middle class clientele. What happened to it? Now middle class shoppers were clamoring to buy their products. Obviously, prices had to drop to accommodate poorer customers, right? Wrong. Prices doubled, tripled, sometimes even quadrupled. A LL Bean shirt in 1980 was only twice the cost of a Sears shirt. Since then, the cost of a LL Bean shirt has far outpaced inflation. Profits went up an order of magnitude. Girbaud, an upscale jeans brand, was appropriated by blacks. Since that point, the price has doubled in inflation-adjusted terms. The pants were more expensive than commodity pants, but part of that is just the cost of materials and the cost of having a smaller market. The truth is that the upper middle class exists in an awkward valley where they are extremely stingy relative to other classes as a proportion of their income, and thus demand lower prices to buy anything. Hence, core UMC stores like Costco run on discount stores. The thrift store, when it was classy and not for bandwagon grifters, was a cheap way to pick up novelty clothing that smelled like urine, the urine smell adding a level of class by shocking prudish middle class assholes. When I shop at Amazon, I get special discounts on top of Prime thanks to Amazon’s Special Rates For Rich Assholes program. Credit card companies and banks induce their mass affluent/millionaire customers to spend more by enticing them with generous point and reward programs, while hitting the proles and middle class with intrusive credit score requirements and fees.
If you can market your product to the middle class, you take that opportunity. Now you’re selling $100 shirts again, but even more than before. And at the end of the day, it’s all the same plastic crap anyways. You’ve got plastic crap for the upper class, for the upper middle, for the middle, for the proles. The main difference is that the plastic of the very rich is made by slaves in Italy, not China. Still plastic crap. But what people buy is not the actual product, but the image of the product. Marketing, marketing, marketing. Middloids on Le Reddit insist Walmart shirts disintegrate into plastic goo within a year, when I’ve got hand-me-downs going strong for years now. For all intents and purposes, that’s perfect durability.
But wait, why would the middle class pay so much for ordinary plastic clothing? Because they believe it conveys an image of being classier than they are. After all, they can afford “designer” now. But that puts you into a bind. In order to keep selling, you have to maintain the image of being upper class or at least upper middle class while simultaneously being far more accessible and downmarketed. That’s the dance of mass fashion. Ignore morons who talk about Burberry burning coats to keep them out of the hands of hobos. The amount of coats Burberry can burn can’t possibly put a dent in global supplies – shock, they destroyed millions in merchandise! What a terrible destruction of stock for a company that pulls in billions! It’s a fraction of a WHOLE PERCENT! You lose an order of magnitude more stock to shrinkage. What it can do, however, is reinforce a narrative of exclusivity and prestige. The intended audience, who falls for it hook, line, and sinker, is the middle class, which eagerly shlicks itself to the idea of buying merchandise that can’t possibly fall into the hands of those deplorable proles, while also being able to masturbate to the feeling of virtue signalling about designer clothing for hobos. The prestige dance can be helped along by actually having genuine upper middle class products or upper class products while producing a gaudier, more expensive version for the middle class. Bigger logo, anyone? To illustrate with another kind of example, a $125 tasting menu at some celebrity chef’s shitty 1 star Michelin restaurant is a genuine upper middle class experience, the counterfeit of spending $1000 for a gold-plated steak and a selfie with a celebrity of non-chef persuasion is middle class at best. But the latter is more expensive than the former.
Marketing is fake and bullshit, so what? You’re probably rolling your eyes at these observations you already made in grade school. Well, the act of marketing itself makes an image. And that image is not a true reflection of reality, but an exaggerated distortion. Just as Instagram creates unrealistic images of female appearance, marketing creates unrealistic images of tribal identities. Take my good friend, the Iraqistani Hebroid. When inebriated, one of his favorite rant topics is about the beautiful blond goys and their exclusive fucking country clubs and their Dartmouths and their boating. This is a very insane topic of conversation. The reason why it is insane is because half the people in his rich Jewland are blond, his family has been life members in a club since the 19th century, his relatives went to said white bro Dartmouth, and he is such a boater, he only knows how to boat and can’t drive. I fucking drive him. The conscious mind recognizes that this is unreasonable. But the unconscious mind does not. What the unconscious mind sees is a lifetime growing up on LL Bean and J Crew ads showing impossibly beautiful people on boats. The unconscious mind understands that the self is not an impossibly beautiful person on a boat, and thus nurses a resentment against an image that does not exist. In fact, the image is meant to depict a tribe which he is certifiably a member of, the Judeo-Puritan ruling elite, so that the masses might admire their Calvinism. But the image is so distorted that the Funhouse mirror reflection becomes a figure of superiority to taunt him. Rich people will do a lot to self-confirm their own membership in the tribe. In the past, striver New Money Americans would invent new genealogies tying them back to European noble titles, which is why genealogical documents and Ancestry websites today are totally trustworthy and true. In the more recent past of a few years ago, autism was a physical proof of bluebloodness, so grown ass men would pay to get fake diagnoses of autism to confirm their own superiority of blood. For my part, back in university, I would Banepost with my college roommate, another aristocrat, in real meatspace. The waiters were in awe of our Calvinism, or at least they were paid enough to pretend to be.
But what if the neuroticism of the rich doesn’t bother you? It should. Here’s the moneyshot. What is the figure that all people are compared to and found wanting? Fussell famously said that every American wants to live like the upper middle class, but I’d like to add my own addendum – but they’d like to look like the white middle class while doing so. It is a fact that middle class white people are the most beautiful people, which is why they are used as the pretty person when not diversity pandering. But the fact that white middle class people are used to model all these distorted identities means that all sorts of insane tribes are ascribed onto them subconsciously. They become the targets of every status resentment, and marketing works by creating status anxiety and status resentment. In short, unrestricted capitalism, even without the woke component, creates marketing, and marketing is all implicitly anti-white by aligning the resentments of all non-white middle class people (and, for that matter, white middle class people who resent the fake marketing images of wealth) against an imagined figure that looks like… the white middle class.
Ogilvy said that the best advertisement is infotainment. How foolishly the wisdom of elders has been ignored.
A second effect is that over time, these constructed images and reality yaw farther and farther apart. The image of rich people that most people have is some kind of indifferent white Republican with boomercon views. That’s been outdated since the 1920s. They think rich people are conservative, when conservatism is indisputably low rent. I express my conservative leanings among my peers by identifying as a fucking Marxist-Leninist. That’s how you signal family values and support for Trump without getting cancelled. My image of factories is a conglomeration of media images of British satanic mills, and I worked as an engineer in a fucking modern factory. Just like with LL Bean, the image overrides the truth. People simp for tradwheats in sundresses when those thots have a high body count than Hiroshima. What kind of a woman dresses up as a tradwheat? A woman who wants to drown in male attention – a whore, in short.
The key problem is that most of us aren’t wired to handle signals and tribal outfits changing so fast. They change so fast because free societies permit cheap signals to be appropriated quickly, but any large tribe necessarily must have relatively cheap signals. Tradwheat quickly becomes a thot sign, because the form and the function are not inherently aligned. We’re looking for the old stereotypes, but the stereotypes are constantly changing in real life, helped along by marketing departments manipulating them to drive up profits. Autism is high status before, but is it high status now that low rent moms use it to excuse the behavior of their shitty children? That’s just a few years of change. Nothing sticks long enough to form coherent cultural narratives. We exist in a constant state of agitation and status anxiety, and Uncle Capital has the answer for only 20 payments of $29.99.
The most status insecure of all, the downwardly mobile middle class white, thus becomes the archetypal consoomer, filling the identity void with infinite amounts of expensive plastic crap. His race is devalued, his class is in trouble – what’s a man to do but watch MARVEL CAPESHIT KABOOM?
So what did ye olden people do? It’s like there was a problem like this in China, where names and realities went out of sync. It required a sort of rectification of names. A formal designation of things, so to speak. A formalism. That’ll work. Let’s call these sumptuary laws, dictating exactly what people of a specific caste can look like. Perfect!
One problem is that people will do what they can to circumvent those laws so they can signal higher status than they have. The second problem – how do you decide who is a noble, who is a burgher, etc? In Ancien France, they self-identified during the census. Yes, sir, I am most def a noble, pinky swear. But we can do better, right? What if we created some kind of institution of autists that screened other autists for the proper autism, and if they could successfully defend a statement of autism, then a panel of King Autists would give them the vaunted designation of PotatoHead Douchebag, and Emperor von Hipsburg could send them a letter of baronhood in the mail. Surely they would never devalue the prestige of their own name by issuing far too many degrees for short-term monetary gains, since they are institutions with centuries of history and a long and unalienable connection with noble culture. Old problems demand new solutions.
Consider the burrito. It is a tortilla wrapped around a delicious filling. Now, we can derive another idea from this core burrito concept – the sushirito. A sushirito, or sushi burrito, is a burrito with rice instead of tortilla and raw fish as the filling. Imagine a world where the burrito suddenly ceased to be, but the sushirito would remain. Over time, the name and idea of burrito would come to be associated with the sushirito, since only the sushirito remains as a reminder of the burrito past. The sushirito would be the burrito. And then no one would know the burrito, only the sushirito.
There are only so many narratives that exist. We appropriate from the past.
People want to fill their egg role.
The HR person is not just the HR person. Some of what they do comes from economic or practical necessity. But much of it is simply passed down, unquestioned tradition. People act in a certain way because that’s Just The Way Things Are. An HR person is the vessel of the clerisy long dead.
Much is made of pivotal shifts in economic conditions, but so long as the cultural identity survives, these can be adapted to. It is not the way of life that defines the man, but the man who makes a way of life amenable to himself.
So long as an identity survives, the people can change. To propose the reverse is fundamentally wrongheaded. Economics is merely how a people sustain themselves. But it does not constitute what *values* they have. Compare the Plains Indians to the Cossacks. Both were people of wild, horsed steppes, fundamentally nomadic. But the Indians are a dying people and the Cossacks are not. It is not a story of economic obsolescence. The Cossacks no longer sustain themselves with the old ways. The world has changed to a world of steel and factories. But the essential character remains. On a steel horse, he rides. It is the spirit of a people that endures. When economic conditions change, so long as the identity lives, people find a way to adapt their mores to their circumstances.
The aristocratic identity is alive and well, despite the obsoletion of living off land rents. The traditional form of sustenance died out. But the idea of living above labor survived into the concept of the rentier, a repackaging of the idea of shunning labor. When that also ceased to be viable, the aristocrat took on the form of the professional, an adaptation of the idea of the noblesse de robe. They arbitrarily carved a certain kind of labor as “intellectual” and “professional” and therefore not work. The similarities were used to bridge the gap. A modern person of the upper middle class has almost nothing in common with an old style aristocrat – except for cultural continuity. They are much less chop, much more suey. And this is the way things go. But if you crush a people’s spirit, it’s over. Culture changes as a Ship of Theseus, but when it sinks, it sinks.
And then you’re drowning.
Cultural identities aren’t useless. They’re life scripts. They help you navigate life. They structure its trials and travails. They overcome decision paralysis. They give meaning. They say – this is what life is, this is what life’s about. They tell you how to butter your toast.
You butter it wrong, by the way. Blasted knave.
And… cultures provide customary restraints. Rules. Laws. Taboos. They mark some things as off the table. Many sins can be thus avoided. Some taboos are obsoleted by time. But many taboos have to do with people, and people never change. Human nature remains what it was. In forgetting traditional culture, we forget everything we knew about what people were.
This all started when Babs shitposted a question at me: What’s with the Asians that act like… disadvantaged Negroes?
The truth is a little deeper than that. Ghetto culture is not black culture. As Sowell points out, much of it is taken from white cracker culture. What Asians take from Black culture removes one more layer of cultural veneer off the underlying thing. What is the thing that chavs, ghetto blacks, white trash, and chiggers share in common? It’s the essence underlying all of those cultures. Ghetto culture is deracinated prolishness. It is prole nature without any guidance or restraints to channel those energies and desires somewhere productive. It is prole culture without any of the taboos against the worst poisons. That’s how it can be so similar across time and space. What all of them are practicing is the emergent behavior of people on the bottom without identity-behaviors to constrain it. It is pure class tendency, raw and harsh. When medieval peasants… misbehave, it is not in imitation of blacks centuries in the future. But their unique cultures provide answers to the problems posed by these class tendencies. Memes adapt to their memetic niches. The solidarity and clannishness of the holler protects against the corrosion of dumb shit. The humble white man remains upright because of a cultural narrative prizing work. Without these little stories, you collapse back into deracinated prolishness. Why *should* you work when all your efforts will amount to nothing anyways? Even the hardiest and most diligent laborer earns a pittance for their troubles. But a culture that thought that way would go extinct. It is only when the layers of culture are removed that the ugly question rears its head once more.
So what is globohomo? Globohomo is deracinated aristocracy. It is the tendency of the elite to move left, subverting the existing order, combined with its international and cosmopolitan outlook. By nature, elites of all countries have more in common with each other than their people. But being connected to your people is necessary to maintain asabiya, and peoples that lacked asabiya were relegated to the dustbin of history. Within a culture, there will be adaptations to draw the people and the elite closer. Noblesse oblige. Shared rituals. A common cult. But these adaptations are not cross cultural. Prussia had its soldier kings and warrior junkers eating beans and sleeping alongside foot sloggers, and while this fulfills the same cultural niche as, say, WASPs taking townies under their wing, ala Our Kids, they are not the *same behavior*. It’s just convergent evolution. A mixing of all elites does not result in the practice of all of these rites, but the practice of none of them. Globohomo unleashed.
And when globohomo is unleashed, elite power knows no checks and limits. Just as a wolf pack let loose soon kills off all its deer, so too do the elites salt their own soil. For the elite do not feed themselves, but rely on value extracted from the proles. Starvation ensues.
A friend of mine is literally dismantling history. No, it’s not an overwrought metaphor for the collapse of Western civilization and its traditions. It’s an old building that the local government is unwilling to pony up the cash to maintain. So down it goes, as do all unloved relics. What matters about this old building is that it is a lodge of a secret society. In short, I am considering buying up one of the old murals so that an all-seeing Illuminati eye can watch me masturbate while I wear a funny hat. Glorious.
Now, most blogging about the occult talks about… well, the occult practices. I’m not going to do that. For one, others do it far better than me. For two, I don’t believe the actual occult practices do a damn thing. If Satan-magic worked, why’d Hillary get her ass beat so badly?
No, I’m going to talk about the occult as power mechanism.
In most organizations, you have the distinction between formal and informal power. Formal power is the power of process, meetings, procedure, and regulations. Informal power is the power of connections, backroom deals, and quid pro quos sealed by handshake. These processes are different. And the informal? The informal is where the real power lies. Anyone who has worked in a corporate workplace knows there is a formal process to getting a promotion, usually involving plodding forward giving your best work and putting in the time. People don’t get promoted this way.
No, you have to work the mechanisms of informal power. To get ahead, you have to do something sociologists would call reproducing the symbols and habitus of the dominant class. You have to find the dominant in-group, and make like how they do. We all know where the real loci of power lie.
What is the most basic meaning of occult?
The occult is the hidden. Informal power is occult power. The occult rulers are the hidden rulers. This isn’t just a language game I’m playing. In order to gate the informal, it must have memes to gatekeep it. It must operate memetically because it lacks the formal gatekeeping mechanisms of formal power.
Male societies are fundamentally LARPs. A LARP allows a man to propose a transcendent ideal to strive to, and because it is human, it can only be role-played, not truly lived. It is in reaching towards the transcendent we ground our moral codes. The Soros boys are a LARP of Star Wars, the Mafia and Yakuza LARP feudal chivalry, and the Triads ape the Taoist divine. One creates mysteries to serve as informal markers of authority – those who keep a certain level of mystery have a certain level of implied authority. Mysteries cannot be faked by the regime’s mens or aspirants. The older the society, the more complex the LARP. Since the idea is to remain hidden, each layer must become more obscure than the last. A LARP that fails to continually increase in complexity has all its layers probed and exposed by outsiders.
What happens when a secret society takes over? Well, r/the_donald is more or less a /pol/ony. You will see flashes of the controller memes pass by unheeded. Thus, one sees occult imagery all the time. Suppose I became rich and powerful (alas, alas, I am but a small fry right now). I’d commission a big statue of Leviathan. Secret Clintonians would start to network with me. It’s a powerful signal. But nothing about it is actually supernatural. Nor is the base signal, the statue, actually hidden. Much like a Secret Police, it cannot be truly secret, or it would fail to serve as an invitation to other members of the sect. People wonder why Satanic symbols are everywhere – wouldn’t effective worship demand it all remain hidden? Sure, but it’s a coordinating mechanism. It’s not actually mygikal power. Suppose 4chan took over the world. Kekkian frog magic would not be the cause! These memes serve as keys to govern a self-managing cell-based secret society. In fact, the base level memes of many an occult society are probably shitty jokes or half-remembered profundities like many 4chan memes. The genius of literary analysis is the ability to backfill and deepen complexities. The occult structure is inherently extremely resilient, at the price of rarely being able to mobilize its full force. Thus, we naturally see secret societies form across the world.
And occult memes do not necessarily have to correspond with any agenda. They might. But first and foremost, they serve as keys. The Triads captured such luminaries as Chang Kai-Shek and Sun Yat-Sen. If China was the imperial Republic of China, I have no doubt it would be littered with Taoist symbology, with the common Chinese puzzling over the sinister symbols of a Taoist mystery religion behind the professed Christianity of the rulers. But that wouldn’t be the agenda. The agenda of Triads was imperial restoration (of a sort), not any Taoist occult purification of man.
Or maybe I’m covering for masked and hooded brothers with a suitably materialist explanation. Who knows?
Crushed between Boaz and Jachin,
Monsieur le Baron
It is clear to me that when a man waits in line for his breakfast, he must contemplate the spiritual. After all, to look at a menu is a deeply transcendental experience, as a man confronting a multitude of meal choices must also confront the multitude of choices we, as free individuals, must face every day in a modern technological society. The menu, with its dizzying variety, is a reflection of society in miniature.
It is easy to get lost in choice. When people are forced to make their own choices, they often find themselves making choices that they later come to regret, but have no way of reversing. And then they’re stuck. The world is littered with the detritus of shattered lives. People, lacking guidance, bury themselves in debt to chase dreams that they don’t really have, but that they think they should have. One way to mediate the problem of choice is to provide a life script. You establish certain rites of passage and markers of adulthood such that the transition is guided by respected authority figures and possesses a clear checklist of things to do. It structures life. And, based on my surveys of the great prole wilderness, I do believe the average American is in need of structure.
This sort of thing requires a lot of cultural infrastructure. A lifescript has to have buy-in at every stage of life to retain a sense of weight and resonance. It must have the weight of legitimacy. Tradition. Things must be done this way because this is the way things are done (lifescripts being essentially arbitrary things).
And unfortunately, there are no rites and rituals for picking a delicious breakfast. So that wouldn’t help me with my particular predicament.
But such a problem does make me think of something. Kashrut laws. The Jews who keep kosher have significantly reduced the size of their decision space. Is it true that they may have sealed off some tasty foods? Sure. But at least the mental energy needed to make a food decision is reduced. In fact, any such food tradition can serve this goal. If you always eat Chinese food on Christmas, you don’t need to use any mental energy thinking about it. Your life has been simplified.
It all comes down to the question of “Why do the Goyim X?”
“Why do the Goyim X?” Which does remind me of something. Goyim. Usually, people think of inviting refugees and other unsorted undesirable immigrants as an act of xenophilia. But if that were the case, why are elite communities free of them? The normal answer is hypocrisy. I don’t think that’s a complete explanation. I think that it’s an act of xenophobia. Elite communities are beautiful ethnic (ethnicity: Aristocrat) and cultural (culture: Aristocratic) monocultures, and they like it that way. But outside is a vast reservoir of filthy, unwashed, impoverished foreigners, who, terrifyingly enough, even kinda look like you. How do we stop their incursion? Undermine their shitty little communities, because, conveniently, we rule them. I’m a xenophile – I’m open to class mixing and making gross half-breed babies and listening to the weird ideas of the unwashed.
But that’s a thought for another day.
Why do the Goyim X? In that case, it was “why do people care so much about arbitrary rules and taboos over moral principles?” Reform Judaism nixed a lot of the rules such that Reform Jews are basically Episcopalians in funny hats, but it’s dying. The churches that thrive have an abundance of arbitrary rules and rites. People seem to need to crave them. And when it comes to everybody’s favorite prole church, Evangelicalism, a big unifying moral factor for their base seems to be abortion. And this, of course, seems absurd. Abortion is only necessary because these proles are already living lives of grievous sin. If you’re convinced otherwise, go spend some time in a typical American small town. It’s basically Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s not some sort of moral principle they’re upholding, because they don’t uphold moral principles. It’s a holiness signal. And the fact that not aborting ruins their life (what little there is to ruin) is all the better – the more you sacrifice to show your conspicuous holiness, the more holy you appear. At least prole virtue signaling only leads to self-destruction, unlike elite virtue signaling. To paraphrase Mr. Card, only one man actually asked us to be holy, and so we killed him for it.
This leaves us with the question of why the Goyim are so in love with moral rites. One could bring up that previous example of pro-life as virtue signaling, but you can just as easily virtue signal with moral principles. Why is “Why do the Goyim X” such a fertile question? And it is a fertile question, because otherwise it wouldn’t keep being brought up in my circle as conversation fodder. It’s such a fertile question because the commonsense practices of the goys often have some underlying logic governing them. But, goys being goys, they are unaware of what is. So you know there’s some reason why the memes exist in the way they do, but you are free to disentangle what is. And when you do, you look very clever and gain a lot of social status.
So why the fixation on moral rites? I thought about it, which is rather a pain, since my mental capabilities are rather limited and therefore I try to stay away from thinking, and I came up with a few categories of moral regulation.
This one is pretty straightforward. You have a big moral idea, like egalitarianism, and what is holy is that which advances the cause of egalitarianism. Being a principle, it is easily extensible to novel problems, which is pretty good. And it doesn’t ask for any wasted use of effort. You’re not holy if you burn meat on a firepit, you’re holy if you advance egalitarianism. Seems pretty good, right? Well. No, not really. The problem with principle is that it’s very vulnerable to leftism. If leftism is the extension of societal principles towards their natural (but stupid) conclusions for the sake of power and social status, then any principle is totally open to it. It’s also easy to subvert, since any fuck can make a plausible sounding argument that your shoes need to be his shoes because equality.
Let’s move one level down. Moral law! Holiness lies in following the law. This is basically what Jews do. Thou shalt not eat unclean foods. Thou shalt not get abortions (I do assume there is some kind of moral principle behind this, but given that it’s a belief held by proles, it’s damned hard to figure out what it might be). They have a whole bunch of moral laws. By inscribing the law and not the principle, you basically shift the burden of leftism. Now, any attempt to move leftwards must first involve moral lawyers using various legal tricks to make a good argument that what the law really means is something else. This requires a lot of g, which screens off the attempts of any random prole. But aristocrats will still be able to manage, and moreover, they have a strong incentive to do so. Still, it at least puts one gate, even if it’s just a child-safe gate (Personal experience: these fuckers can be hard to open. Get a child gate, keeps kids in and landlords out.) And it provides a natural defense against leftism – you’re trying to twist the law to serve your own ends. If an aristocrat was so inclined, and they had allies, they could mount a credible defense of a moral law. And in the future, a moral law provides a natural Schelling point for reaction. Let’s just return to the letter of the law. Done deal. But we can get even more rigid than this.
There’s a set of things to do, and you better fucking do them. If kashrut law did away with clean and unclean and just said that you better not eat pork because God will rape your butt if you do, then that would be a rite. If you are to stack boxes in the northeast corner every morning and unstack them every evening, that’s a rite. There’s no logic beyond “God said so, now shut up”. And that’s the brilliance of it. You can’t push it through leftism because there’s nothing to extend. There’s no principle or logic to it. Holiness lies in not eating pork, full stop. You can’t holiness spiral. A holiness spiral here consists in perfect adherence to the rite, and you can’t get more holy than that. You can keep kosher perfectly, but you can’t keep superkosher.
So we’ve defeated leftism. What’s the problem?
Leftism is death, sure. But leftism is also life. Leftism is mutation. The drive to gain more status drives new arguments, and these arguments allow society to change. Unfortunately for society, most mutations are bad. And eventually a society implodes under the weight of its own memetic load. But what’s the alternative? Stagnation and death. The modern leftism we know so well is rooted in WASP and Christian ideals. It’s an ultra-Calvinism. Why do Jews have such a strong rabbinical tradition, such a strong mutation engine? Because the rigidity of only having so many moral laws and needing to get on in a novel and hostile world demanded a significant rate of mutation. It demanded the ability to come up with novel moral solutions to novel moral problems. And what of China? Confucius dwelled heavily on the subject of rites. Human rites brought out an essential humanness. And I think that this vindicates his views, because a focus on rites allows for memetic stability. But China itself had significant memetic stagnation. The practices of the elite remained largely intact over the course of millennia, from Han to Qing. And one day, some big nosed people in a boat came and knocked it all over.
But wait, you say. You’re forgetting something. And indeed I am. There’s another possibility out there. The charismatic. The spiritual. Morality rooted in feels. If it feels holy, it is holy. This tends to be a creature of the lower classes, and for good reason. It has all the downsides of moral principle, because it can be perfectly pushed and subverted. I can push leftier than you because I’m even more of a sobbing, blubbering vagina of a concerned mom. Hooray! But it has none of the upsides. Because there’s nothing there but feels, it can’t give rise to new arguments, newly mutated memes. It can corrode, but it can’t build up. So the charismatic Christianities, the Evangelicals, these are prole. And deeply prole. When they are adapted by non-proles, they begin to shed the prole characteristics and to accrue theology in their place.
And what happens when you shear Evangelicals of even the fig leaf of moral structure bequeathed to it by Christianity? You get the Spiritual but Not Religious, which tend to be converts from prole Christianity. And boy are they prole. Spiritual but Not Religious is basically all the feel good holiness without any of the possible judgment by an angry Sky Daddy (Proles being proles, their conception of God is often just an angry Dad in the sky. Now, he is the Heavenly Father, but that doesn’t make him literally your dad.). It’s pretty easy to suss out a bravetheist of prole origins, because they rail against God-as-sky-daddy, which tends to earn them bemused smirks in the company of their betters. Higher class bravetheists have better arguments. I don’t agree with them, obviously, but I can find merit in some of what they say. Now, people who want to feel good but don’t want to be judged, even if those judgments are trying to steer them in the right direction are probably low FTO and low rationality. And people who can’t be arsed to do the rituals of church are probably low conscientiousness too. So this is already a population selected from the left tail of Evangelicals. But I suspect that the loss of moral structure also plays a role in making them even worse than what they would normally be. It’s a double whammy of adverse selection and adverse effects. The result? A predominately white ethno-religious group that performs about as economically well as the National Baptist Convention or the Church of God in Christ, aka black Protestant churches. That’s like an accomplishment, but in the opposite direction. It’s an un-achievement.
Or maybe this is all bullshit, and I’m upset I didn’t get the lox bagel instead. See, that’s a problem that kashrut fixes. C’est la vie!
Suffering a case of moral indigestion,
Monsieur le Baron