The Leviathan in the Room

Despite the meme of the World entering a New Cold War is becoming every day more widespread, the question of who is who is just becoming intelligible. Communists and Capitalists of the last century enjoyed the clarity of formal alliances: NATO, on one side; and the Warsaw Pact on the other. And, to top it off, the starkness of the Berlin Wall: a concrete symbol (pun absolutely intended) the liquidity of our current state of affairs does not provide.

Russian adventurism in its near abroad during Putin’s stay in power has distracted the American Empire for two decades now. Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine, Syria… Western mandarins have failed to provide a coherent narrative for this activity: Nostalgic Revanchism? Duginistic Eurasian Manifest Destiny? The rapacious policy of a failing Mafia-State? There might (or might not) be a grain of truth in all of those, but none of these memetic frameworks has the potential to truly mobilize anybody.

And besides, Westerners of the “patriotic” kind won’t be easily persuaded to go die again in places like Afghanistan. If anything, flyover country, red-blooded Americans find it difficult to dislike Mr. Putin’s 007-esque antics. People who admire the likes of Chesty Puller or George S. Patton rarely care much for the values the US Armed Forces are trying to adopt lately.

For today’s news consumer, there’s a more marketable dichotomy between USA and China. The myth of two huge empires always on the brink of apocalyptic destruction resonates deeply in a generation longing for a transcendent conflict. Thucydidean narratives of falling and rising powers make for a clean, easy-to-understand story endlessly (and often mindlessly) repeated by pundits and politicos. It sounds original the first time you hear it and, as with Russia, there might be a grain of truth in it after all.

We love the stories of Athens and Sparta in this blog, too. And, although the movie 300 tried to claim Spartanity for America, it just could not work. Washington DC is just the Constantinople to London’s Rome, and England was always a nation of shopkeepers.

As the Soviet world before it, China has a marginally better claim to the Spartan myth: austere, disciplined, rigid, and proud. The men who fought in China’s 22-year-long civil war and endured Mao’s Long March probably fitted, at least somewhat, the soldier-peasant archetype that made Laconian warriors famous. Is this true for the modern Chinese citizen? Difficult to tell.

What remains true is that Sparta has always fascinated political thinkers, and that political tides have often tried to tap onto its memetic potential – modern China included. There’s something attractive about Sparta’s supposedly competent, trusty, and rigorous nature. And often, this attraction is not only felt by the warrior castes, but also by Brahmins. Love affairs between the intelligentsia and authoritarian regimes are an old tradition, Socrates’ support of Sparta itself being the trope codifier.

There’s something about the cleanliness of discipline, seriousness, and proficiency that appeals to the intellectual. Chinese reputation for meritocracy and for the qualities outlined above has made Sinophilia something of a high-status opinion. Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, as controversial as it appeared, reflected the longings of the American ruling class for a call to excellence.

American-style liberal democracy, with its values of individuality and self-expression, is seen by some as vulgar and complacent at best. At worst, it is perceived as leading to a tyranny of the masses, and a lowest-common-denominator mentality. That the offspring of accomplished, millionaire technolords study mandarin has already become a cliché. Faced with prevalent dysfunctionality, many capable people are ready to welcome their new Chinese Overlords.

Others still see value in the American dream of independence and self-reliance. They believe China’s sclerotic bureaucracy will eventually crumble under its own weight, and think it can’t keep growing without losing its tight grip on its population. In contrast, rugged individualism makes the American system chaotic and inefficient, but ultimately more resilient. Of course, there’s some truth in that, too.

But perhaps, everything is just more of the same. Maybe, just maybe, there’s no Athens and no Sparta anymore, and we are ruled by the same System: a dark accelerating force, pulling from the Future to usher the Age of the Bugman. After all, the Western CEO does not own the company he works in any more than the Chinese party bureaucrat owns his chair. Both survive by managing a small part of a mechanism much larger than themselves, only while certain conditions are met, and usually under an important surrender of personal freedom.

Are forced vaccinations and Facebook thought-police really that different from the Chinese Social Credit System? The joke goes that the Communist Party of China spies and brainwashes on its citizens, but at least they realize it. There was a time one could pretend the West was any different.

There is, as we can see, a kind of convergence between China and the West. We could even say this convergence is more pronounced in Western elites. Is it contempt or envy, what they feel for the Middle Kingdom? Its credentialist system of competent bureaucrats sounds like a New York Times wet dream. Its productive capacity marvels the world. And guess what, despite tariffs and covid, trade is booming.

The real nightmare is to realize we’re not in late Capitalism, but in its early stages. Zooming out, it is possible that we’re in fact seeing the early stages of a global system. The two apparent rivals are in fact two appàratuses of the same organism. A conflagration does not happen because of their mutual dependency, a phenomenon that is well described by everybody, but never explained. Here, we suggest it’s because they are two legs (fins?) of the same Leviathan in the room.

You better believe in Revelations because Salvation is not coming from either side of the Pacific.

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Plague and the City: of Rats and Men

Yersinia pestis is a Gram-negative, non-motile, stick-shaped bacterium. It enjoys vacationing in damp places, riding fleas, and unleashing God’s Wrath on Humanity. The disease it causes, plague, still holds a remarkable grip on culture as the archetypal deadly epidemic. This is partly due to its severity and spectacular symptoms, but also because during the course of History, it has been the cause of various pandemics, all of them originating in Central Asia and spreading fast to Africa and Europe. It is, thus, the quintessential disease of the Old World: a dark barbarian demon, unleashing periodic destruction over civilization like an inscrutable and violent god.

There have been, at least, three high-impact plague pandemics. The first was the Plague of Justinian, which hit the Byzantine Empire in 541 BC. The disease killed off a good 25% percent of the continent’s population, according to some estimates. It spread quickly through Europe, perhaps thanks to Justinian’s globalization efforts, the Renovatio imperii which sought to recover lost Western Roman territories for a unified Empire. Procopius of Caesarea offers in his Secret History some fascinating anecdotes indicating that epidemics, despotic rule, and a venal public life are nothing new under the sun. Rulers do not rise to the occasion, but sink to their natural state.

As a result of the plague ravaging the countryside, agricultural workforce diminished and the price of grain rose astronomically. When confronted with the low tax revenue caused by the massive death toll, Justinian simply made the survivors liable for the part owed by their deceased neighbors. He also made himself inherit a lot of the victims’ property, a measure we commend Procopius for criticizing.

As plague spread around the Mediterranean basin, geopolitical balances were overturned; the Byzantines, who had been close to reuniting the Western and Eastern Roman Empires, were crippled in their restoration efforts. Although the Mediterranean’s Western shores were finally conquered in AD 554, the reunification did not last long. The Goths, who had been pushed back, regrouped and recovered forces. The New Normality of Germanic rule had been firmly established. The transition from Ancient to Medieval Europe was well underway, a Dark Ages version of the Great Reset.

However historically relevant, Justinian’s plague was superseded by a deadlier pandemic 800 hundred years later. This one is probably the most iconic, and was given a name with enormous memetic potential: the Black Death. It started in 1347 and killed off, according to some estimates, between 30 and 40% of Europe’s population.

It is generally agreed upon that the Black Death’s horrible impact was due, in part, to the urbanization process which characterizes this time period. Political, social and economic stability, coupled with improvements in agricultural technology, had led over the centuries to a rising population, and a blooming urban class that lived of trade and manufacture: the bourgeois. Epidemiologically, large interconnected nodes with many people living in them are a recipe for disaster, and this is exactly what happened. Obviously, crowded towns trading with each other caused the disease to spread faster than it would have in a low-density, poorly communicated wasteland.

According to the Progressive mythology, which apparently bases its knowledge of the Middle Ages on Game of Thrones and Monty Python sketches, the Medieval Period was indeed the Dark Ages™: an era of filth, poverty and religious obscurantism. People died of plague because they slept with rats, didn’t bathe, tried to pray away disease, et cetera. This belief neglects the fact that Medieval Europe inherited and developed Roman bathing culture, with soap being a burgeoning industry. Although truly effective sanitary practices were still far down the road, people were not exactly rolling in faeces either.

In fact, arrogant medical establishments are not a recent phenomenon. Rulers have always been corrupt, and academics have always tended to (wrongly) dismiss common-sense. It was the first generations of University-educated physicians who, in Early Modern times, advised against bathing. According to the scientific reasoning of the time, water opened up pores and allowed foul miasmas to enter the body and bring disease. A delicious irony; but we digress.

The thing is, the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages, of which the pandemic was a critical factor, signalled de implosion of a certain Medieval statu quo. It led to all kinds of strife: social, religious and economic. It changed production relations and political forms, and modified the demographic texture of Europe. People -and power- were transferred from a distributed network based on lord-vassal relations to centralized absolutist courts, located in a handful cities which remain power centers even today.

Although urban centers were hit the hardest by the pandemic in terms of mortality, it was the countryside where changes were felt the most. Lacking manpower, the feudal system entered an unstoppable downward spiral. Many belonging to this old agro-military elite, those who were clinging at the edge of the leisure class, simply disappeared, victims to war, famine, and poverty. The survivors reaped the leftovers, accumulating wealth. Titles of nobility became accessible to the bourgeois, who bought them and became rentiers. The City had finally become the center of power. Great Reset II: Renaissance edition was underway.

As a side note, it is a sobering fact to consider that more time passed between Justinian’s Plague and the Black Death, than between the latter and the Current Year™. History has its patterns: the Black Death most likely originated in China and spread to Europe through Italian ports. For a while, it was hypothesized that it might have been caused not by a bacteria but by a hemorrhagic fever-inducing virus, like Ebola. The theory seems to have been abandoned as of late, and there’s even some evidence suggesting that it may not have come from the Far East, after all.

In any case, the third great plague pandemic did originate in China in 1855, also spreading globally due to improved transoceanic communications. This time it caused more than 12 million deaths, a comparatively low number probably reflecting improved hygienic practices in Western cities. Better than those of the 1340s, that is; 19th century European cities were the nightmarish hellscapes that inspired the likes of Dickens or Dostoevsky, after all. How do they compare to the sanitary conditions of a modern slum in a Third World Mega-City? For now, we leave that as an exercise for the reader to ponder.

Due to the many unpleasantries of the 20th century, many of the effects of the social and political consequences of the Third Great Plague went unnoticed or have been mostly forgotten. The Great Reset (episode 3!) was subtle. It came by indirectly catalyzing the most important historical process of the past 100 years: decolonization. Due to widespread availability of Western medicine, governments worldwide, from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires and from Cape Town to Glasgow, had access to the same measures to combat the disease. The key was found to be not the isolation of infected human carriers, but the elimination of the rodent and flea vectors.

Despite similar approaches, the results accross the world were wildly different. Metropolitan administrations in Europe and the US succeeded. Most colonial enclaves, however, failed to convince indigenous populations to accept lockdowns and other Western practices. In many places, after early backlash, authorities quickly resigned to sit back and watch the epidemic burn itself out. This led to dismal loss of life in places like India or South Africa: the early cracks of the British Empire. The Crown could not protect its subjects, and another nail was hammered in the coffin of the White Man’s Burden.

The lopsided impact of the plague made evident, and perpetuated, the inequalities between the metropolis and its overseas territories. The World Health Organization declared the pandemic over by 1960. By then, new cases were only being declared in what soon would be called the Third World, a fact which has remained true until nowadays.

Plague has always spread to other continents by traveling in its preferred animal reserve: the rat. Actually, any rodent that lives in close proximity to humans will do, but the rat is so linked to Humanity’s vicissitudes, that it has become a symbol of disease, filth, and immorality. Its fast rate of reproduction and tendency to cannibalism and aggression made it a synonym of promiscuity and sin to medieval eyes, and this reputation has not changed much since then.

As ultimate urban survivors, rats have the connotations of a certain ethos attributed to crowded urban life: grey, dirty, anonymous, and corrupt. The connection between them, cities, and a degenerate existence is an ancient, perpetually evolving meme. Interesting iterations range from German folk tales about the Rattenkönig to 1984‘s iconic torture scene or neoreactionary musings on “IQ shredders” and the “rat race”.

Interestingly, this contempt is not made extensive to all rodent house pests. There’s plenty of heroic mice in fiction; rats, though, are almost universally bad news. Mice help trapped lions, rescue orphans, and generally save the day. They are adventurous, cute little creatures, willing to take risks despite their lowly status in the Animal Kingdom. Rats, in contrast, are dirty, brutal, often vicious gangsters. More powerful than their mousely brethren, they appear as a sort of jungian shadow on steroids: tough, cunning, and willing to survive by any means necessary.

Thus, while the Country Mouse is a trope as old as Aesop, rats exist in culture as cosmopolitan, rootless vermin. The Country Mouse highlights the simple virtues of rural life, whereas the Rat lacks any wholesome connections to the land. “City Rat” is not a clearly identifiable meme, but it doesn’t spark any particularly positive feelings. The closest term, Hood Rat, is mostly pejorative according to the Urban Dictionary, with racist connotations added as a bonus.

At the root of this divide, one can find echoes of a reactionary narratives of the Industrial Revolution: that of Ancien Règime farmers who left the countryside to become proletarian factory workers in the Industrial Revolution. The healthy, swarthy complexion of the peasant replaced with the black and the red of coal and tuberculosis. The transformation from farmer to worker was thus portrayed as a degradation, directly leading to the totalitarian devastations of the 20th century. The natural answer is, of course, to “Reject Modernity, Retvrn to Tradition”; Tradition being an ideal past decade somewhere between the 1490s (for hardcore radicals) and the 1980s (for normie redpillers).

These superposed counterpoints of Urban vs. Rural and Rat vs. Mouse, when approached as a dichotomy, remain a solid populist memeplex in societies where this division is stark, such as most Western ones. In 2016, Based Flyover Deplorables against Satanic Coastal Elites is the obvious American example, but there are undertones of this in other contexts, the French gilets jaunes uprising being a particularly notorious one.

More or less explicitly, populist sentiment in economic peripheries all accross the West exemplifies this phenomenon. The definition of “Periphery” being expanded to accomodate not only the heavily subsidized countryside, but (post)industrial wastelands aswell. Forming a newborn Center, supra-state Bureaucracies and multinational corporations have been sharing interests for a very long time. Woke Capitalism is just one of many current iterations, like Big Tech or the Military Industrial Complex.

The looming conflict was obvious to anyone paying attention even before the 2008 financial crisis. In this very prescient article we can see how European “Cosmopolitans” have been worrying for a while about “Nationals”. It was first published in 2000, which makes it older than the Iraq War (2003) and Facebook (2004).

Here at The Outpost, we have already explored some of the characteristics of this Capitalist – Communist vector. Reactionary Socialism and all its ressurrected forms have never been more than a temporary hindrance to this Revolution: a stabilizing force. From this standpoint, the Mouse vs. Rat dichotomy starts to feel a bit outdated. The current state of affairs lends itself better to dialectic models than to such a static comparison.

What would be the model rodent for the next phase in this paradigm? It certainly does not dwell in country cottages nor filthy city sewers. Perhaps it’s something like the Lewis Rat. Docile, crowd-tolerating, disease-prone and sterile. Far removed from its badass ancestors, it lives its life (happily?) in a controlled environment, looking for dopamine hits and unvoluntarily participating in occasional, sometimes deadly drug experiments. The mouse’s bold merit and the rat’s gritty struggle for survival are equally alien to it. Its existence is a simulation, and its fate is always a quickly forgotten death.

It makes sense, then, that in this age of deep fakes and simulacra, we should rely on ersatz-plague as motors for change. The real thing is just too much. SARS-CoV-2 is a relatively mild pathogen, when compared to the Yersinia pestis. The world, however, is now more labile than ever to such disturbances; Covid is an opponent worthy enough.

The Third Plague already had a globalized response when information was still running through telegraph lines. Today’s communications have made planet Earth ridiculously small. The effects of any released bioweapon lab leak wet market outbreak are felt accross the globe in real time. Thus, coronavirus has become the final ingredient for the engine of Revolution to reach positive acceleration again. It has become a line of flight for the assemblage of Western realities. Soon shifting to the next gear will be inescapable: a new Great Reset, this time named explicitly as such.

What is to be expected? Perhaps Bruce Sterling said it best when he summarized cyberpunk as this: “Anything that can be done to a rat can be done to a human being. And we can do most anything to rats.” Luckily, runaway rats do exist. After all, lab leaks seem to be all the rage this days.

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Neo Proletarian Technolords and Dei ex machina

In these times, it has become something of a cliché to criticize the notion of “Rule by Experts”. That is, the expectation that decisions should be taken by the technically prepared, with the Greater Good of the public in mind. The coronavirus pandemic brought this debate to very explicit terms, as policies came to be judged in regards to their relation to current scientific knowledge. The meme of the disconnected, smug elite started to converge with that of the myopic hyper-specialist, oblivious to realities outside his field and prisoner of his abstractions.

In any case, the now-questioned Rule by Experts seems a product of a previous era, in which it seemed that the Technosphere was a refuge of peace and neutrality, far from the stridencies of the National, the Religious or the Ideological. This perception of Technoptimism as a thing of the past is, however, artefactual.

Traditionally, technology is defined as whatever technical means Humans employ to solve a problem. Since solved problems don’t appear as problems anymore, the Technosphere always seems to be at the edge of the Present. We don’t perceive technologies designed to address past problems as technology, but as nondescript objects within our reality of abundance. Thus, primitive technologies such as the knife, the hearth or clothes become trivial in our world of wealth and security.

A pack of matches or a piece of rope lacks the aura of power projected by more advanced technologies with less obvious ways of functioning, such as the Internet or vaccines. Its true significance only becomes manifest in dire and rare circumstances of remoteness, solitude and lack of preparation, such as being stranded in a desert island. Only in the post-apocalypse will we think of subsistence farmers as the embodiment of Rule by Experts. Soothing notes of absolute, rational neutrality will suddenly become obvious in their voices. We’re not there yet, though.

The faith with which our epoch rewards technical solutions is only a particular case of the Technooptimistic phenomenon, in which we believe to have found in it a territory of ultimate neutrality. Everybody can be served by the existence of electricity or ink: compared to ideological or moral discussions, technical problems are marvelously clear and objective. The comfort they provide is understandably seen as a possible road to peace and understanding amongst all of Humanity.

Those too secure in this promise, however, are victims of magic thinking when they expect from technology any capacity for human and moral progress. The I Fucking Love Science™ types, as their previous historical iterations did, naively believe that technology will only be used “in a sociological sense”, to paraphrase Carl Schmitt’s reflections on The Concept of the Political. Precisely, 15th century transoceanic navigation technologies were seen by Spanish missionaries with the same optimism that shined in the eyes of English capitalists when beholding James Watt’s myriad applications for the steam engine. It’s the hopeful spirit that took over the hearts of early nuclear physicists when they learned they could harness the energy of the atom. We all know how these stories end, and it’s not Universal Salvation.

For every “vulgar mass religion” (Schmitt’s words again) expecting paradise come from the Technosphere, an opposite cult often arises. It’s a cult based around the fear of a new Class; of Mass emerging from technological acceleratio, with Revolution in its womb. The Proletariat was born out of the cultural nothingness and void of Capitalist exploitation: a debt owed by Communist revolutionaries to Capitalists, according to Marx himself. Proletarians brought with them total disdain for old sociological and political forms, their answer to total technification.

And what was radio broadcasting for the world if not a more recent iteration of this meme? From the nothingness of World War I emerged the totalitarian radicals of Right or Left persuasion who would set the globe on fire in the 1930s. The fear engendered by these strange, frightening figures, so particular of their time, is nothing but a lack of faith in Humanity’s capacity to use the enormous potential of Technology. It’s exactly the fear expressed by cyberpunk: that “the street will find its own uses for things”. That nothing will work as expected and no Deus ex Machina is just out of frame, waiting to save us.

Once again, here we are. At the edge, in the crisp rim of a new Total Technological Revolution. What are the supposed techlords of Silicon Valley? No lords at all, but a New Proletariat. This generation’s faceless, uprooted Mass, incessantly produced by the world’s STEM programs. The derisive talk of “bugmen” and “yeast life”, with which they are scorned by those who fear them, is not casual. It’s just perfect for the youngest scions of Technoeconomic Acceleration.

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“Christianity is gay”: a short note on evolutionary memetics

Today’s memetic environment is steeped in questions of sex and gender; specifically, the female ones. The protagonism of biopolitics already is a key feature of 21st century culture. It will be even more so as soon as the demographic crisis looming hits, especially if we keep focusing in technical solutions for it. Science and technology have a tendency for creating at least as many new problems as they solve: this is what makes them an accelerationist force. Advances in assisted (artificial?) reproduction will only make sex, and biology in general, increasingly more relevant in the coming years, both in public and in private life (as William Gibson says, “the street finds its own uses for things“.

Christianity has often been condemned by feminism as a force inimical to women. Specifically, Roman Catholicism is seen as a particularly oppressive religion, a fact evidenced by its doctrinal opposition to abortion, the pill, and gender ideology. It is interesting to note, however, that Christianity has also suffered strong criticism for its feminine nature, a point made both from the so-called “Left” and the “Right”.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, various proposals to allow women’s suffrage were introduced in Spanish politics. First, a Conservative Party motion in 1877 (restricted to widows and heads of the household); later in 1907 and 1918, both times by Conservative Party congressmen and with the propagandistic support of the Church. Conservative dictator General Primo de Rivera finally made women’s entrance into political and public life a reality in 1924. All of this was of course not unmotivated: women were notoriously more religious and prone to Conservative tendencies, or so was believed. The Leftist and most Progressive factions, consequently, were opposed to women voting because of the perceived clout the Church had over the female mind.

According to American author Leon J. Podles, the Church does indeed belong to an anti-masculine bloc. In his book The Church Impotent: the Feminization of Christianity, he presents the anti-Catholic violence present in successive Spanish revolutions as a rebellion of males against a matriarchal force. The often abject brutality of these revolutions, in which nuns and priests were raped, lynched, or both, was not based on religious or political issues. On the contrary, they were manifestations of masculine rage, a display of macho fury against effeminate clergymen and their castrating influence over women, cast through words whispered accross the confessional’s grid.

The derisive term “cuckservative”, which was so prevalent in alt-right circles a few years ago, seems to respond to this same perception of a link between Conservatism and anti-masculinity. The related and far less prevalent term “Cucktianity” specifically pointed in the Church’s direction, criticizing Christianity as an enemy of males in general and white men in particular. Christianity is interpreted as a vehicle for matriarchal social impulses, of which multiculturalism is only a particularly pernicious one.

The prefix “cuck” is a reference to the word “cuckold”, the husband of an adulterous wife who invests his resources in raising somebody else’s offspring. In different contexts, males are seen as being cuckolded figuratively (and sometimes literally) by the Church, the Welfare State, immigrant minorities… Adding insult to injury, porn streaming platforms, through opaque algorithms, seem to be pushing cuckoldry into the mainstream as a socially acceptable fetish, a fact interpreted as just another humiliation campaign by the Globalist propaganda machine.

In any case, the “Church impotent” meme seems to be a rapidly-replicating isolate of Evolian ideas, themselves a bastardized variety of Nietzsche’s. It is a memetic strain optimized for insertion in the mind of young males thirsting for rites of passage, adventure and rebellion; in other words, normal young males. That this meme is shared by 2010s American alt-righters and 1930s Spanish Reds suggests the evolutionary link between both cultural memeplexes.

This article is part of a series. You can find the following installment here.

The friendzoning of the West

The Gross Domestic Product of the People’s Republic of China was worth 14,342.90 billion USD in 2019, according to official data from the World Bank and projections from Trading Economics: almost the 12% share of the world’s total economy. This makes it the number 1 economic power of the global capitalist world. Such impressive results are not obviously not only due to the adventurousness and ingenuity of its Capitalist entrepreneurs: the country has been carefully and methodically run since 1949 by the Communist Party of China (CPC). With an iron fist, the CPC has been preparing its people for 70 years, leading them out of post-war poverty and devastation. It has acted so that they could catch up to the United States and Western Europe, and in this way join them in fulfilling the Revolution: just as the authors of the Communist Manifesto conceived.

In 1927 China was in the middle of an internal struggle between different factions of the Kuomintang (KMT), the Chinese republican party who had led the overthrowing of the Qing Dinasty in 1911. Chiang Kai-shek, head of the Nationalist-Socialist faction, succeeded in taking over the party against its most Internationalist/Communist wing, and spent much of the following decade fighting his numerous rivals and political opponents. These included warlords such as steppe bandit Zhang Zuolin, favored (and later murdered) by the Japanese; filo-Fascistic KMT Commander Li Zongren, of the Guangxi Clique; and Secretary General of the CPC Mao Zedong. By 1937, Chiang was almost in full control of China, with most of his enemies dead or in exile, and the CPC was divided and in disarray, barely surviving in some small rural pockets. Unfortunately for him, however, the Japanese launched a land invasion in Manchuria and a tight naval blockade. The KMT endured most of the fighting, and quickly saw itself go bankrupt. Meanwhile, the war allowed the CPC enough breathing room to recover and grow strong among the peasantry.

When the Japanese were kicked out of China, at the end of World War Two, the victorious Truman administration tried to make the KMT and the now recovered CPC forget past grievances, make peace and build a unified government. The US hoped to achieve this by threatening to withhold UN humanitarian aid and controlling weapons’ sales, which the KMT needed direly. For geopolitical reasons, neither the USA nor the Soviet Union were interested in a strong government in China, whatever its color; a weak KMT meant favorable trade deals for the Americans, and a safe buffer zone in the USSR’s southern flank full of economic opportunities in Manchuria and Xinjiang. Furthermore, China had managed to secure a place as a permanent member of the UN Security Council: an ideologically divided regime shared by the KMT and the CPC was easier to influence towards one side or the other, and the Cold War was looming in the horizon.

Soviet and American authorities soon realized their plans were backfiring spectacularly when the CPC started scoring victories against KMT-aligned forces, around 1946-1947. They had hoped for an easy to manipulate Republic of China under perpetual threat of the Communists, but Mao had grown too dangerous and uncontrollable. Both powers increased their involvement in the region, trying to force a “two-state solution” with a Southern KMT-China and a Northern CPC-China. Chiang Kai-shek agreed to this plan, but Mao did not, which says a lot about Communist ambitions. By 1950, Stalin had to unleash Kim Il-Sung to start the Korean War, while at the same time denying him military aid; this forced Mao to step in, diverting his attention and preventing him from obliterating the last KMT stronghold of Taiwan. Technically, the Chinese Civil War is still going on partly due to this fact; currently, nonetheless, it’s the Americans who are carrying the weight of Taiwan’s defense. In spite of Taiwan’s resistance, one thing is clear: the communists were from 1949 onwards in control of mainland China, and in the position to start their revolution.

Upon reflection, and in light of the Chinese communists’ epic history of success, reffering to the Russian Revolution of October 1917 as The Communist Revolution is at least disputable. Nonetheless, Mao Zedong’s takeover of 1949 does not fit the bill either; it was only the start of a long and painful development. For a real, Manifesto-approved Communist Revolution, the world had to wait for a few decades. A different leadership from Mao was necessary, and it would come from a foreign-educated professional revolutionary out of rural Sichuan: Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997).

The man who would be later known as “The Architect of Modern China” became involved in Marxist-Leninist circles as a young student in France, where he had been sent to study and work at the age of 15. By 1926, as one of the foremost leaders of Chinese Communism in Europe, he went to Moscow’s Sun Yat-sen University to receive further ideological education, with the intent of applying it in his home country. The school was a Comintern training camp for Chinese revolutionaries; interestingly, he was classmates there with Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek who would go on to become the President of Taiwan in 1978.

Deng returned to China in 1927, just in time for the KMT purging of its Communist elements and the breakout of the Chinese Civil War, summarized above. He participated in all of its most notorious episodes, including the early military campaigns in Guangxi, Mao’s epic Long March in 1934, and the Hundred Regiments Offensive of 1940 against the Imperial Japanese Army. His military prestige allowed him to rise in politics under the shadow of Chairman Mao. His reformist policies, however, made him an easy target in the cutthroat world of Communist Party bureaucracy. During the Cultural Revolution, Deng suffered a smear campaign from which he only recovered after Mao’s death in 1976, when he became the de facto leader of China. The time had come at last.

In order to fulfill the prophecy Marx and Engels formulated in 1848, the Communist Revolution had to include the capitalists: as the first piece of the dialectic process, they could not be done without. Deng knew this, and managed to embed his ideas into the CPC’s constitution. Deng Xiaping Theory boiled down to the idea that capitalism is the primary stage of communism, and that state socialism and state planning are not by definition communist, and that market mechanisms are class neutral. The consequence of this approach was a pragmatic policy of “seeking truth from facts”; that is, applying only policies that yield results, adapting ideology to them – in jargon, accelerating the process of ideological evolution by subordinating it to material conditions. If the means of production had to be taken over to achieve Communism, the more developed was the Chinese industrial fabric, the better.

This realism needed a conversation partner up to the task, and for such a role no one could be better than Henry Kissinger. Thanks to his so-called Ping-Pong Diplomacy (1971), the US embargo on China was lifted, starting the still ongoing trade relations between America and China – or more specifically, between America and the CPC, which to this day is still in charge of the economy. The agreement opened up China to the rest of the world and successfully drove a wedge between the USSR and the CPC, setting them on different paths and confirming the latter as the true harbingers of Revolution. The USSR would become progressively more ossified, clinging to an ideological dogmatism no one truly believed in anymore. Deng Xiaoping, meanwhile, made visits to Singapore and praised Lee Kuan Yew, paving the way for China to become the “factory of the world” it is today.

So, what has been the West’s role in this story? Well, it’s only necessary to look at the numbers. In the year 2019, the 90 million card-carrying members of the CCP made $400 billion from US capitalists, all under the concept of trade surplus. Marx and Engels, after all, were not mistaken: the cost of implementing Communism was always going to be paid out of the Capitalists’ pocket. Those who finance global revolution are many things, but they are certainly not naive. So rest assured: if Capital is paying for the drinks, it’s because it does not plan to remain in the friend zone for too long.

Veblen, the leisure class, techno-conspirators and the leftovers

As an interpretation somewhat removed from mainstream Marxism, the natural synergies between Communism and Capitalism are a favorite topic of this blog. This trait was best recognized by no other than an American, organic anti-capitalist Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). Veblen had been a keen student of Marx’s ideas, and he was not at all convinced. He considered that Marxism, while critical of some tenets of Liberalism, in the end stood firmly within the latter’s premises. This is due to their shared origin in both Hedonism and the doctrine of Natural Rights, the basis of English Liberal thought and the foundation of Marxist ideas of property, economic development and social evolution.

Veblen had his own class theory, which was rooted in neither of these three elements. In his book “Theory of the Leisure Class”, he identified the dominant class in Capitalism as an “idle” sector of society, made up of individuals who held as a common characteristic not being industrialists nor carrying out productive work: the leisure class. This sector of society is derived from the social customs of primitive societies, and can be traced to the origins of the division of labor. Said division was established mainly between productive and non-productive work. The former was characterized by efficiency, industriousness, and a greater capacity to supply the tribe of material goods; the latter was more prestigious, and implied depredation on another living being, animal or human, usually as a display of prowess. Archetypal examples of both activities are agriculture and manufacture, on the one side, and hunting and combat on the other.

Sexual division of labor was embedded within this distinction, males being the dominant, leisurely class; practices such as wife kidnapping and slavery are derived from this culture, and thus were central to social organization. Thus, the leisure class grouped together men who did not engage in any materially productive activity. On the contrary, they dedicated themselves to spending and, especially, superfluous spending, while taking on unproductive tasks related to government, the military, religion, and sports. Their ability to spend was revealed by the accumulation of riches, slaves, servants and wives, all of which had to be mantained.

As shown above, the violent acquisition of goods and their display was a direct indicator of prowess and thus awarded prestige to the owner. As irrational beings, instinctively Humans will look for ways to increase their social status, even to the detriment of their material well-being. The original leisure class demonstrated their superiority not by producing more, but by their increased capacity for wasting resources. Thus, as a demonstration of power and social position, a culture emerged in which conspicuous consumption was a sign of prestige and honorability.  To be able to maintain servants exclusively dedicated to minor, ritualized and/or non-essential tasks (such as music playing, or help in dressing up) represented an enormous pecuniary power, a symbol of prowess. The subsequent refinement in form and manners and progressive stratification of social hierarchies was the prime characteristic of barbaric feudalism, eventually leading to civilized society.

According to Veblen, in the peace awarded by this blossoming civilization, the predatory instincts of the barbarian and feudal eras became more and more absorbed by economic institutions. Archaic practices such as concubinage and the violent capture of slaves were not repressed, but transformed. Bourgeois capitalists, who had earned a measure of respect from the authors of the Communist Manifesto, were in the American economist’s judgment a bunch of greedy simpletons, with the mentality of lower class criminals. Lacking an outlet in tribal warfare, their rapacious instincts had been reconfigured under the guise of corporate fraud. Capitalism isn’t built on owners and proletarians, as Marx thought, but on two types of men: those who create value through industry and those who feed on money itself. Society asks of the former to be diligent, effective, and cooperative; of the latter, to be aggressive, to exert power, and to live off the others.

The exercise of power is not a simple enjoyment for members of the leisure class: it represents their only means of life, and it depends completely on social status and credibility. Enjoying a luxurious lifestyle is a serious matter, requiring considerable effort and dedication. Social obligations are called obligations for a reason. Hierarchies are upheld by displays of pecuniary strength through a form of specialized spending: acquisition of luxury items for oneself and one’s dependants. Veblen explicitly cites women’s clothing as an industry capitalizing on this impulse, this being the quintessential example of conspicuous consumption of women and, especially, their men. Yachts are another example of this, their upkeep being enormous and their use being almost purely social.

Economic life is just an arena where individuals fight for power. There are is no social classes, no nations and no states in Veblen’s theory. In the same way, neither do politics have the function of managing the economy and responding to social demands. On the contrary: politics is just a vehicle of Man’s desire for power. Statesmen are not there to monitor compliance with supposed laws of balance and justice, nor to protect the ideal of the common good. Politics is a business. And as in any business, the goal is to make the most profit possible, with the least expenses (or, even better, with others paying the price). Politics is the fight in which, in order for one to win, the other has to lose: the ultimate social zero-sum game.

This system, of course, is not designed to select the cream of the crop. Its effect is as simple as can be: to eliminate those individuals who cannot keep up. Veblen speaks without reservation in this context of the physical elimination of human material. This is the real mechanism of Darwinian Capitalism, and the real reason why crafty commerce and unscrupulous state administration perpetuate themselves, only serving the purposes of their masters. In direct opposition to Marx, Veblen knows that Capitalism is not there to produce better, but to discard human material; this is the root of its accelerationist effect. It has to be noted that in Veblen’s time, these statements about human selection were not controversial in the slightest. They were seen as a feature and not a bug of the system, and were fully in consonance with the expectations of the American Capitalist elite. The capitalist “shock therapy” introduced in Eastern Europe and Russia after the fall of real socialism is a magnificent example of this mechanism.

The leisure class is made up of the men of the upper classes, although what is decisive about them is not their economic situation but their disposition to adapt to continuous change. If individuals from the lower classes are eliminated, says Veblen, it is not because of their material hardship, but because they do not have the capacity to evolve at the rate of change promoted by the leisure class. Furthermore, they are more easily purged when they commit the recklessness of emulating the conduct of the upper classes without belonging to them.

Like individuals, institutions are also subject to the selection process. Only the best can survive, the working definition of “best” being those which themselves contribute to further selection of the most convenient mental habits. Veblen sees in Capitalism an unproductive organism in service of financial power: a tool against the productive class. Unlike Marx, Veblen thought that the pure monetary, “unearned” profit obtained by financial capitalists was not the surplus value created by the workers’ exploitation. It was the result of a network of three institutions: price, property and contract; magic formulas of power and engines of spending to which everyone submits, some with pleasure, and others despite themselves.

The role of these institutions is to stimulate and ensure continuous spending, especially of the conspicuous variety. A required rate of consumption unattainable for those in the bottom is essential for the leisure class to maintain power. This is especially true in industrial societies with traumatic erasures of the past, like America or some East Asian countries. The ante-bellum South had a traditional, martial leisure class similar to those found in European or Japanese barbarian culture. Those elites who could afford slaves, the ultimate status sign, were a small minority and enjoyed an idle way of life rich in ritual and social etiquette; their conflict with the industrial, productive North was thus unavoidable. The former could not keep up with the weapons of the latter: the price system, artificial scarcity and planned obsolescence.

The Civil War, however, did not eliminate the leisure class, but only its most traditional and outdated exponent. The death warrant of Southern slave-owning gentry wasn’t signed due to its low productiveness, but of its lagging capacity to compete in spending with the emerging northern capitalists, the America of holds and robber barons. The trend of traditional, “barbarian” leisure classes being substituted by a capitalist and globalist working class accelerated throughout the end of the 19th century, as pecuniary power became progressively disengaged from war spoils and every day more connected to predatory capitalism. Conflicts with a similar root followed the American Civil War all around the world, such as the Meiji Restoration in Japan and to some extent the First World War, which ended most European monarchies and empires in one sweep (with President Woodrow Wilson’s explicit intent to do so). The new elites would take on occupations according to their rank: politics, the military, religion and sports.

Veblen can be described as an anti-Marxist militant throughout his life. This anti-Marxism is what made him an enthusiastic supporter of the Russian Revolution. A few months prior to his death, he said that he had set great hopes on Communism. The revolutionaries he had in mind, though, were not the same communists the authorities were thinking of when they opened an investigation against Veblen in response to the complaint of a Russian-born emigrant, who accused him of being “a traitor for hire who wishes for America what Lenin and Trotsky have done in Russia”. However, Veblen was no Trotskyist, but a Stalin devotee, in the sense he favored Stalinist emphasis on the material development of the USSR and not Trotsky’s theory of worldwide revolution.

In an essay with the title “Bolshevism is a threat – to whom?” he wrote that the Bolsheviks posed a threat to the establishment, but not because they could take over the United States. As happens with all revolutions, the threat was memetic in nature. Veblen explained it in a series of papers published together in 1921 under the title “The Engineers and the Price System”. It was his most subversive book; in it he encouraged engineers to create a “Soviet of Technicians” to attack the bankers, who were simply saboteurs unscrupulously hindering production to obtain better prices. The American leisure class was not endangered by the diverse soviets of workers, soldiers and peasants that Lenin had designed. The enemy it feared was a conspiracy of engineers and scientists revolting against their rule and way of life. Thus, any hint of utopian technocracy is to be coopted or destroyed.

The current crisis of Capitalism is both the manifestation of individualistic, internal competition within the leisure class, and the unavoidable result of its accelerationist, meat grinder-like nature. European Union mandarins, Blackrock finance druids, Silicon Valley technolords and Open Society spooks are all representative types of the contemporary leisure class; the same can be said of Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Kanye West. Their common enemy has not changed either: it is the productive class, now incarnated in the Chinese industrial juggernaut, itself a body infested by voracious and parasytical financiers and CCP bureaucrats. Meanwhile, ghetto thugs, BLM activists, lone-wolf jihadis, resentful incels and impoverished woke millenials go down the drain, leftover from pecuniary emulation of the leisure class and marked for physical elimination by way of death, prison or childlessness. The Dramatis personae for 21st century drama grows everyday more extensive.

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At the edge of the abyss: looking for a katechon in 2020

I recently wrote a guest post for possibilities broker Sonya Mann, whose blog boasts the coveted Seal of Approval of The Outpost. You can find it here.

The Fool archetype as an agent of evolution: an introduction to Internet meme ecology

In the last post we introduced the idea of conceptual and sensual memes. In general, sensual memes are more infectious than those based on concepts. This idea (this meme!) is nothing new: an image is worth a thousand words, they say. This is because sensual stimulation appeals to a more primitive part of the brain, which requires less processing. It is energetically cheaper: sensual reactions do not need to pull scarce mental resources for the abstraction that language and rational discourse necessitate. Due to their advantages in this regard, it is a common strategy in marketing, propaganda and other forms of memetic warfare to employ sensual memes to attack conceptual memes. If you want proof, just look at tobacco: strong scientific against smoking still has huge trouble with the inherent coolness of the act.

Satire is the most effective way of destroying an aesthetic. It usually implies subverting the original meme by tweaking it so that it can become an object of ridicule. For satire to succeed, the tweaked meme has to be more infectious than the original: either by appealing to an even more primal instinct, or by being more prevalent and having better transmission channels. This process can be engineered, by analyzing the meme to be attacked and identifying its weaknesses. Usually, though, satire emerges spontaneously when enough people are exposed to a meme. Some individuals develop very early in their lives a naturally corrosive sense of humor. This sense of humor can be defined as a certain kind of intuition which allows the individual to see potential ridiculousness in any idea; a socially rewarded ability, which explains the magnetic influence of the Fool archetype. The Fool usually sits alongside the King or the Hero, sharing the same dangers they do. He escapes them not by struggle, but through his cleverness. He has a certain inmunity to the spell of earthly power: he can speak the truth because no one takes him seriously. Conversely, he does not need to take others seriously. He has the special power of debunking myths.

In real life, every time an aesthetic is ridiculed, the sensual memes in which it is based are killed: the myth is debunked. Human physical communities are usually small enough for the subverted, satirized meme to reach everyone who had seen the original version. A recurrent character in prison movies is that of the shot caller, a tough convict who is known and feared by all the others. A plot point is usually made of the hero humiliating the shot caller on everybody’s sight: the myth is fallen, and the hero earns everybody’s respect. This is because the image of the shot caller as a dangerous man is fully substituted in the convicts’ collective inconscious by that of his defeat. In other words, ridicule is meme substitution.

The Internet, however, is different from real life. It allows sensual memes, especially visual ones, to reach practically all corners of the globe. If a meme is sufficiently shared, it will sooner or later find its way to the mind of a Fool, who will instinctively probe it for weaknesses. It thus increases the probability of somebody attempting to debunk the myth. However, once this happens, the ridiculed version of the meme has to be shared again from scratch, and is now competing against the original meme, which has been shared worldwide. Consequently, the Internet allows for the original and the satirized meme to coexist in the vastness of the Web. The echo chamber concept is related to this phenomenon: people are simply not aware of the ways their political ideas can sound comical to other people. In Internet memetic ecology, this means that ideas which in real life would be wholly ridiculed and destroyed can always find a niche in some community and survive. It is well known that the Internet has been instrumental to the thriving of all kinds of bizarre and fringe aesthetic subcultures.

This accelerative process to which sensual memes are subject does not affect conceptual memes so much. The reason is simple: conceptual memes usually require the host to read or otherwise make some intellectual effort. The life cycle of conceptual memes has not changed that much since the pre-Internet era, because the time required for reading and reflection imposes a bottleneck in their infection rate. Conceptual memes are like creatures of the deep sea abyss: they are not affected by superficial and temporary changes, evolving slowly and robustly in the dark. The geographic reach of written memes, though, has still grown thanks to the Web, so the result is an equally extensive but slower diffusion of the meme, compared to their sensual counterparts. In our analogy, it would be as if the ocean had become bigger.

The better-paced expansion of conceptual memes allows for a more gradual exposition of them to the attacks of Fools. This makes the meme more resilient, as it has the chance to adapt to counter-arguments, mutating bit by bit. In the end, concept-based memes which have survived for a long time tend to have an impressive discursive arsenal. Comparatively, sensual memes have an explosive virality which helps them grow quickly. Even if they are subject to satire, since they are so rapidly shared, they always find a refuge in one community or another. Being easy to swallow, they always find spaces within the vastness of the Internet in which to proliferate. The Web is such a rich environment that it allows for their survival. Statistically, there will always be somebody’s mind ripe for the taking.

There is a practical example which more or less fits this model: the competitive relation between hardcore porn and the NoFap movement. Hardcore porn has only become developed and refined thanks to the Web. Many bizarre fetishes and extreme practices would have never become so widespread via VHS or print-magazine vectors of transmission. Paradoxically, this makes them vulnerable to conceptually robust rival memeplexes such as the NoFap movement. NoFap, as a memeplex, has built very strong arguments against porn through years of being exposed to an adversarial climate; drinking from both secular, scientific and religious sources, its adherents have found a way to counter the deep, sensual pull of porn through conceptual machinery. Hardcore porn has gone soft (pun very much intended).

In summary: for sensual memes the Internet means an increased ease of reproduction and transmissibility. This easy survival makes them become “soft” and vulnerable to the Fools’ attacks. Conceptual memes, on the other hand, do not gain much in terms of reproduction and transmissibility compared to what they already had in printed media. Nonetheless, the Internet does allow them to be subject to more interactions which “train” them against counter-concepts (they harden). All in all, different evolutionary survival strategies.

As a final word, it has to be kept in mind that the meme categories described above are not absolute nor mutually exclusive: a memeplex can have both sensual and conceptual components. Extremely successful supermemeplexes, like Christianity or Communism, generally are built on both.

The Anti-Socialist Load

In the last article published here at The Outpost, we discussed a critical assertion implied by the Communist Manifesto’s: that capitalism and communism are two sides of the same coin. They are two forces of the same cult of Material Progress, taking part in the same process of Acceleration. Two phases of a two-stroke engine bringing History forward.

With the end of Cold War polarization, this has only become more apparent. The Race against the Machine was tentatively introduced into US public discourse by Andrew Yang, and suddenly UBI experiments seem to be popping up everywhere. The lights of our porn and glucose syrup-fueled welfare dystopia must not go dark, so America will now take care of her forgotten children. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Ocean seems to be getting wider these days. After all, NATO was meant to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” America’s foreign policy of decoupling from its many foreign engagements makes it every day more unpredictable and unreliable for its allies overseas, and there is no more Soviet Union to fear. The US always had a cultural soft-spot for those boorish Russians. They may not be that bad, after all. Look at them sort out our Middle East headaches, and how admirably they comply with WHO Covid-19 recommendations! Let Europe deal with them. The Big American Game has already been on the Pacific for a while, anyway. The trade war pushes China to outsource its production to poor countries, and with it comes a way of life. After all, everybody enjoys some of that good consumerist alienation. It’s the Future.

This whole situation leaves the EU sitting on the fence: once again pushed to the edge by an existential security crisis, it looks into the abyss of full political consolidation. A Brussels’ bureaucrat wet dream of technologically-enhanced European solidarity with green, deculturalized, borderless markets, and a high-speed railroad from Lisbon to Beijing. The freight trains finally making the trip back to China fully loaded, for a change. Or, on the contrary, perhaps coronavirus will succeed where Jihadist terrorism did not, as the Schengen space collapses and disintegrates. The result is the same: either sell to the Chinese, or let the Chinese buy what’s left of your remains. The barbarians must pay tribute to the Middle Kingdom once more. And this is also the Future.

So, the landscape is evidently changing, one way or another. The World as we know it is being digested by the powerful revolutionary enzymes of technoeconomic Progress. Some kind of Brave New World, Fully Automated Luxury Communism looms over the horizon. The technology is coming nonetheless, so we might as well adapt. But what are those clouds gathering in the horizon? What dark forces dare to oppose this New Dawn?

Obviously, Socialism has always been an adversary of Capitalism. An often overlooked aspect of the Communist Manifesto, however, is how many of its few pages are dedicated to attacking Socialism. Communist animosity against socialists has its origin in the fact that socialists, as a force, opposes the forces of historical development, of Progress. The Progress which, as we were saying, can only be brought forth by Capitalism. Socialism means deceleration. Engels made it clear in the 1890 German edition of the Manifesto, when justifying its title: at the time of its first publication in 1848, the word “socialism” referred to a bourgeois movement, and “communism” to a workers’ movement. Socialism was quite respectable in the bourgeois milieu; communism was the complete opposite, an ideology for the great unwashed. And the great unwashed are the Future, too. Thus there was no choice but to describe the ultimate revolutionary ideology as Communist, in explicit rejection of Socialism.

Due to this rivalry, Chapter III of the Manifesto is basically a treatise on socialist taxonomy, comprising about 3,200 words, and distinguishing three main schools of thought: (1) Reactionary Socialism; (2) Bourgeois or conservative Socialism; and (3) Critical-Utopian Communism. All of them can be collectively described as aberrant variants of the proletarian movement, unfit for the responsibility of carrying forth the Revolution, which is a historical necessity.

The next few chapters of this series will focus on the different brands of Socialism, as understood by Marx and Engels, along with commentary on their memetic history, their associations, and their current versions.

This article is part of a series centered around the Communist Manifesto. The following installment is available here. You can read the previous article here.

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