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Decadence

Did you know that Fare Forward is publishing again? In its newest issue, there’s an interview with Ross Douthat. [1]All of it is worth reading — Peter Blair asks good questions — but I want to focus on this part:

FF: Another idea that you’ve worked on is “decadence,” which refers to the state of repetition in which old concepts and ideas are recycled. How do you see America as decadent in this sense?

RD: Up until the last couple of years, my view was that not just America but the whole developed world was sustainably decadent, in a sense that we were likely to be stagnant at a high level of social and economic development for a substantial period of time without pitching into full-scale crisis or collapse. And that meant, I thought, that we were doomed to repeat and repeat hard to resolve arguments from the last really dynamic era in Western life, which was, for better or worse, the 1960s and 1970s.

But events of the last two years have called the sustainability of our decadence into question. I saw Donald Trump’s campaign as a kind of decadent response to decadence, that Trump himself is clearly a decadent figure in all kinds of ways but his campaign was premised on the idea that we need to escape stagnation and, as he said, make America great again. We need to get back to the America that goes into space and builds big buildings and so on.

change_me

And this had more appeal than I expected. It had enough appeal to win him the presidency. And you can see in different ways similar dynamics at work in Western Europe. You have the return of the extremes in politics in a way that nobody really expected five years ago. And then, from outside the West, you have at least hints of major world-historical movements of peoples, that, again, call into question the ability of the West to just keep on as it is. I think the scale of the migration crisis in Europe a couple of years ago was startling and suggested that the rest of the 21st century may put a lot more strain on European institutions than people were predicting ten years ago.

So both from inside the West and from outside—and, of course, the two are connected to each other—you can see hints of a return of history. But I’m honestly not sure how to read recent events. It’s possible that this is the beginning of a sustained crisis, that decadence is giving way to real chaos and turmoil and upheaval. It’s also possible that this a virtual 1930s, you might say, where people go online and pretend to be fascists and communists on Twitter, but they’re still too risk averse to leap to a more extreme politics in the real world.

FF: Do you see any moves towards a constructive approach to addressing decadence? Or is it increasingly looking like it’s just going to be alternatives of decadence and chaos?

RD: If you had to bet, you would bet on those alternatives. Not that something better couldn’t come out the other side of chaos, but I think it’s hard to turn a decadent civilization around without a period of crisis and disruption and general misery. This is one of the tensions of being anti-decadence. You may dislike decadence but it’s still immoral to wish for crisis in certain ways. You don’t want to say, “Oh, what we really need is to bring the 1930s back.”

That being said, the world is a big and complicated place. And I think you can certainly find places in Western society that offer examples of what a non-decadent future would look like. Within the general decline of religion there are revivals of monasticism, revivals of religious community, of religious life that look to both the past and the future in a constructive way, I think. Anyone who has a large family—and I say this as someone who only has three kids, so I’m not holding myself up as an example—is in a certain way working against decadence. Anyone who takes up a religious vocation is working against decadence.

Then in the secular realm, I think you can imagine out of the currents of right-wing populism in the West a more communitarian conservative politics that might get us out of the “Reagan versus McGovern” trap we’re stuck in. I’m pretty pessimistic about that coming to fruition, but it’s certainly not impossible. And the fact that people are willing to vote for Trump suggests that they are willing to consider very strange alternatives to the status quo. You have to find at least slivers of optimism in that.

Then on the technological front, my basic view is if Silicon Valley succeeds in extending our lifespans by twenty years and we spend those lifespans wearing a VR headset, then Silicon Valley is plunging us deeper into decadence. But if Elon Musk actually succeeds in kickstarting a transportation revolution or putting human beings on Mars, then Silicon Valley will have been the place that started us on the path out of decadence.

Read the whole thing.  [1] I had thought to write about Douthat’s complaint that Christians have not yet come up with a plausible post-liberal politics (which is true), but there’s so much in the interview that if I addressed everything that interested me, I would have cut-and-pasted the whole thing.

Now, about decadence. First, let’s talk about Silicon Valley. Emily Chang’s Vanity Fair piece on the culture of the place [2]has just been published (it’s an adaptation from her forthcoming book on Silicon Valley). Take a look at this excerpt:

About once a month, on a Friday or Saturday night, the Silicon Valley Technorati gather for a drug-heavy, sex-heavy party. Sometimes the venue is an epic mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights; sometimes it’s a lavish home in the foothills of Atherton or Hillsborough. On special occasions, the guests will travel north to someone’s château in Napa Valley or to a private beachfront property in Malibu or to a boat off the coast of Ibiza, and the bacchanal will last an entire weekend. The places change, but many of the players and the purpose remain the same.

The stories I’ve been told by nearly two dozen people who have attended these events or have intimate knowledge of them are remarkable in a number of ways. Many participants don’t seem the least bit embarrassed, much less ashamed. On the contrary, they speak proudly about how they’re overturning traditions and paradigms in their private lives, just as they do in the technology world they rule. Like Julian Assange denouncing the nation-state, industry hotshots speak of these activities in a tone that is at once self-congratulatory and dismissive of criticism. Their behavior at these high-end parties is an extension of the progressiveness and open-mindedness—the audacity, if you will—that make founders think they can change the world. And they believe that their entitlement to disrupt doesn’t stop at technology; it extends to society as well. Few participants, however, have been willing to describe these scenes to me without a guarantee of anonymity.

If this were just confined to personal lives it would be one thing. But what happens at these sex parties—and in open relationships—unfortunately, doesn’t stay there. The freewheeling sex lives pursued by men in tech—from the elite down to the rank and file—have consequences for how business gets done in Silicon Valley.

The piece is written from the point of view of how these sex parties — and they are all heterosexual parties — reinforce a sexist power dynamic in the Valley. The scenarios sound like like a nerd version of the Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut, which was itself based on an Arthur Schnitzler story from Vienna’s fin-de-siècle decadent period. It’s not all that surprising that an elite rolling in money and divorced from restraint would fall into the hog trough of hedonistic excess. What’s troubling is the idea that these people see themselves as the vanguard of social progress, and that these ideals are guiding their disruptive work. We have to hope that Douthat’s optimistic alternative for Silicon Valley and its contribution to our future is correct, but I’d bet that it will be remembered in history for taking us further inside our heads — mostly, but not exclusively, with hyperrealistic porn — and turning us into Huxleyan slaves.

But you knew I’d say that.

As it happens, reading Stefan Zweig, and Joseph Roth’s The Radetzky March, has gotten me interested in the Austrian period leading up to the Great War. I just started reading Robert Musil’s massive novel The Man Without Qualities, which is set in Vienna in that time period. I don’t have a lot of faith that I’ll stick with it, simply because I have a terrible track record with big novels. Still, this 1996 Roger Kimball essay on the novel [3] — considered to be one of the great works of fiction of the 20th century — goads me on. Here’s a quote from it, cited by Kimball:

In love as in business, in science as in the long jump, one has to believe before one can win and score, so how can it be otherwise for life as a whole? However well founded an order may be, it always rests in part on a voluntary faith in it, a faith that, in fact, always marks the spot where the new growth begins, as in a plant; once this unaccountable and uninsurable faith is used up, the collapse soon follows; epochs and empires crumble no differently from business concerns when they lose their credit.

What happens when people lose faith in the system? Is that underway here, now? How could we tell?

How can we tell the difference between progress and decadence? After all, the decline of the French aristocracy in the late 18th century was not necessarily the French peasantry’s idea of decadence. From the point of view of the last generations of Roman pagans, the new religion of Christianity was decadent. And to be fair, it certainly was, insofar as it taught and formed Romans in a way of life contrary to some of the core values of Roman tradition. Still, I think we can agree that Roman civilization in the West had grown decadent, for a number of reasons, opening the way for the growth of Christianity.

Who will deny that Christianity has grown decadent in the West today? Who can say with confidence that any other alternative on offer is better, in the sense that it can provide stability and a sense of purpose and meaning to an atomized, demoralized post-Christian populace?

Do you really believe the future the Silicon Valley clerisy has planned for us is more humane or sustainable than what 19th century Catholic bishops (for example), for all their faults, would have prescribed?

Is Donald Trump’s presidency a positive response to decadence — that is, a valid attempt to rescue the country from decadence — or a manifestation of decadence? I believe the latter, of course — what else can you call a president who plays a public game of “my wang is bigger than yours” with a nuclear-armed dictator? — but in fairness to him and his supporters, had Donald Trump never run for president, we would still be in a state of stagnation declining into decadence. What Douthat’s response indicates is the fragility and even combustibility of this moment in our history. Nobody seems to be able to anticipate what’s coming next, but most people seem to have a sense that We Cannot Go On Like This. A few years ago, Douthat thought yes, as a matter of fact, we can go on like this. Now he’s changing his mind.

Last April, Peter Beinart wrote an essay talking about how America’s receding Christianity is leading to nastier politics [4], in part because the universalism of Christianity provided common ground to unite the various American tribes. It’s not news to most engaged white Christians that the alt-right movement is turning away from orthodox Christianity towards either a hyper-nationalistic version, or resurrecting a race-oriented paganism. What I didn’t fully grasp until I read Beinart’s piece is the extent to which this falling away from Christianity has affected African-American politics. Excerpt:

The decline of traditional religious authority is contributing to a more revolutionary mood within black politics as well. Although African Americans remain more likely than whites to attend church, religious disengagement is growing in the black community. African Americans under the age of 30 are three times as likely to eschew a religious affiliation as African Americans over 50. This shift is crucial to understanding Black Lives Matter, a Millennial-led protest movement whose activists often take a jaundiced view of established African American religious leaders. Brittney Cooper, who teaches women’s and gender studies as well as Africana studies at Rutgers, writes [5] that the black Church “has been abandoned as the leadership model for this generation.” As Jamal Bryant, a minister at an AME church in Baltimore, told [6] The Atlantic’s Emma Green, “The difference between the Black Lives Matter movement and the civil-rights movement is that the civil-rights movement, by and large, was first out of the Church.” 

Black Lives Matter activists sometimes accuse the black Church [7] of sexism, homophobia, and complacency in the face of racial injustice. For instance, Patrisse Cullors [8], one of the movement’s founders, grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness but says she became alienated by the fact that the elders were “all men.” In a move that faintly echoes the way some in the alt-right have traded Christianity for religious traditions rooted in pagan Europe, Cullors has embraced the Nigerian religion of Ifa. To be sure, her motivations are diametrically opposed to the alt-right’s. Cullors wants a spiritual foundation on which to challenge white, male supremacy; the pagans of the alt-right are looking for a spiritual basis on which to fortify it. But both are seeking religions rooted in racial ancestry and disengaging from Christianity—which, although profoundly implicated in America’s apartheid history, has provided some common vocabulary across the color line.Critics say Black Lives Matter’s failure to employ Christian idiom undermines its ability to persuade white Americans. “The 1960s movement … had an innate respectability because our leaders often were heads of the black church,” Barbara Reynolds, a civil-rights activist and former journalist, wrote in The Washington Post [9]. “Unfortunately, church and spirituality are not high priorities for Black Lives Matter, and the ethics of love, forgiveness and reconciliation that empowered black leaders such as King and Nelson Mandela in their successful quests to win over their oppressors are missing from this movement.” As evidence of “the power of the spiritual approach,” she cited the way family members of the parishioners murdered at Charleston’s Emanuel AME church forgave Dylann Roof for the crime, and thus helped persuade local politicians to remove the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s Capitol grounds.
 Black Lives Matter’s defenders respond [10] that they are not interested in making themselves “respectable” to white America, whether by talking about Jesus or wearing ties. (Of course, not everyone in the civil-rights movement was interested in respectability either.) That’s understandable. Reformists focus on persuading and forgiving those in power. Revolutionaries don’t.

Black Lives Matter activists may be justified in spurning an insufficiently militant Church. But when you combine their post-Christian perspective with the post-Christian perspective growing inside the GOP, it’s easy to imagine American politics becoming more and more vicious.

Yes, that’s right. The old order is fast decaying; you can see it everywhere. One of the things that kept the center holding was a shared religious sense, however tenuous. It’s gone. What’s going to replace it? What are the pillars holding up the roof?

Remember Douthat:

I think it’s hard to turn a decadent civilization around without a period of crisis and disruption and general misery. This is one of the tensions of being anti-decadence. You may dislike decadence but it’s still immoral to wish for crisis in certain ways. You don’t want to say, “Oh, what we really need is to bring the 1930s back.”

No, you don’t want to say that. But you had better prepare for them. Things are at most times both getting better and getting worse, but if you think of cultural and civilizational decadence as a condition in which a society is losing touch with its moorings, moral and otherwise, and thus becoming unstable and unpredictable, then it seems to me that we are very clearly in a time of quickening decadence. Yes, it’s good that women and minorities are treated more justly today than in less decadent times, but how much does that matter in a culture that increasingly designates those who insist on the difference between male and female as hate criminals? How important is it in the sweep of history when you consider, for example, that within the next century, mass immigration from Africa stands to shake a Europe unwilling to defend itself to its foundations [11]?

Douthat says that the revival of monasticism is a sign of what a non-decadent future might look like. This is why I bang on about The Benedict Option [12]: it’s the only reasonable way I can think of that faithful orthodox Christians can ride out the decadence and chaos among us now, and yet to come, without being swamped. A future planned by elites in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Davos, and Washington is not one that I’m looking forward to, but that’s probably what we’re going to get. Or worse. As Musil wrote, “Epochs and empires crumble no differently from business concerns when they lose their credit.” It’s hard to see how we haven’t badly overdrawn our civilizational account.

(Sorry for light posting, gang. I seem to be fighting off the flu.)

92 Comments (Open | Close)

92 Comments To "Decadence"

#1 Comment By Just Another Bystander On January 3, 2018 @ 11:05 pm

This sort of thing doesn’t sound any different from the sort of thing you could find in a fraternity house at an SEC school or a bachelor party the weekend before a Southern Baptist wedding.

But I suppose it’s not okay in Silicon Valley because they vote for Democrats.

#2 Comment By Jen On January 3, 2018 @ 11:17 pm

So, this writer talked to 24 sources, in a metro area of some 7 million, and from that we’re supposed to extrapolate that this is the abiding culture in Silicon Valley? Rod, you have a background as a real journalist. I think you can do better than this.

#3 Comment By CMPT On January 3, 2018 @ 11:39 pm

Jonathan Davis: “[T]here’s a problem of media personalities getting outsized platforms to talk about things they just proved themselves terribly wrong about. And it becomes an echo chamber because as this very blog post exemplifies, other media personalities are disposed toward giving them a boost. At some point people like Douthat’s media presence is more built on continued momentum of career than rightness.”

+1000 to this!

#4 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 4, 2018 @ 12:01 am

When I was at a major Silicon Valley newspaper, I was told by directors about their own drug-fueled orgy parties – which seemed to have cemented entire careers.

By no means was heterosexuality exclusive.

#5 Comment By TA On January 4, 2018 @ 12:27 am

Yes, it’s good that women and minorities are treated more justly today than in less decadent times, but how much does that matter in a culture that increasingly designates those who insist on the difference between male and female as hate criminals?

Well, it matters quite a lot to the 70% or so of the US population that consists of minorities or women.

#6 Comment By Will Cash On January 4, 2018 @ 1:15 am

Anybody here who has not read the essay “The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival” by John Bagot Glubb should (you can find it online as a pdf) it contains an excellent survey of what the life and death of an empire looks like. The essay is not long, but I want to summarize a few important points here, and then discuss some of my thoughts on the essay as they relate to the The Benedict Option.


Glubb examines multiple historical empires, and draws comparisons between their respective life cycles and lifespans. In his analysis Glubb finds the following.

1.That empires go through a similar life cycle beginning with an initial rapid expansion and military conquest, followed by a period of increased economic activity and affluence, then a period of intellectualism, and finally a decadent decline.

2.The late empire decadence is a spiritual affliction that Glubb attributes to too long a period of wealth and power, and expresses itself through cynicism, pessimism, defensiveness, frivolity, and a weakening of religion.

3.Empires share a similar lifespan of approximately 250 years. This lifespan is not affected by technological developments.

This year the United States will celebrate its 242 birthday. John Glubb (writing in 1978) makes several references to the ways American history has conformed to the stages of the imperial life cycle. If the US has lived like other empires, we should not be surprised if it dies like other empires. I am not claiming that in 8 years the whole system will collapse overnight, but I am saying that the American empire is undergoing the natural death of a hegemonic system. In the best case scenario we have a couple of decades before the most violent death-throws begin, and at worst we have only a few years. Even if somebody like Trump is able to salvage part of the US the transition will likely be violent, and the newly emerged United States may take any of an unknowable number of final shapes. It is time to give up on propping up an old system that is destined to die.

After the fate of the American empire has been accepted we can begin working on our search for survival. Here is a natural segue to The Benedict Option. I see people talking about the Ben Op as a way to limp along while the rest of the world dies. Even Dreher often gives the impression that merely persisting is enough. After all “[The Benedict Option] is the only reasonable way [he] can think of that faithful orthodox Christians can ride out the decadence and chaos among us now, and yet to come, without being swamped.” This is a deeply flawed way of thinking. It reeks of two of Glubb’s listed symptoms of decadence, defensiveness and pessimism. I can’t understand how anybody could be moved to make the sacrifices necessary to build an intentional community to merely ride out the storm. If you go into such a monumental undertaking with a decadent attitude you are parting off a lump of the dying culture. While you may be able to use that stolen fire more efficiently you only buy yourself a little time before your endeavors perish like the culture as a whole. It’s not enough to free yourself from the practices of a decadent culture. You also have to free yourself from the decadent mindset. The Benedict Option should be our search for survival. Our quest to overcome the decadence, and decay that has gripped the world around us. It should not just be our way to get by, but our daily struggle to defeat death.

#7 Comment By Brendan On January 4, 2018 @ 1:37 am

Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften is frankly superb. It is unfortunate that you cannot read it in the original German, however — his way of writing in German is lovely in the same way that Proust’s way of writing in French is lovely. A translation may be a bit of a slog without that loveliness (although translations can themselves be lovely, as are some of the translations of Proust).

Even if you do not finish it, the novel is deeply rewarding. Well chosen, Rod.

#8 Comment By Jay On January 4, 2018 @ 3:58 am

So anecdotal evidence that the wealthy aristocracy of Silicon Valley is behaving in much the same way that wealthy aristocracies have behaved since the beginning of recorded history is proof of … something?

Yes, this.

This is different from how wall street investment bankers behave starting from the 1980s how? This is different from how business executives of the 1950s Mad Men and The Apartment behaved how? This is different from the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Long Island of the 1920s how?

#9 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On January 4, 2018 @ 9:09 am

It’s really hard to feel sorry for Europe, it’s a very grownup, mature continent, that can take care of itself, after pretty much ‘taking care’ of the rest of the world (conquered/colonized it, excepting only parts of Asia). The tide has turned, the invasions are seemingly headed Europe’s way now (wouldn’t be the first time either), but the dynamics that have set this turning tide in motion had their origins in Europe’s colonialist transformation/exploitation of the lands that lay outside the natural ethnological sphere of its courts of capitalist-imperial gestation and expansion.

As I’ve come to expect from the partisans of mass immigration, this is utter nonsense.

“Europe” didn’t indulge in colonialism. Western European nations did: Northern and Eastern Europeans didn’t to any meaningful extent. There are something like 40 countries in Europe today, of which seven participated in the Second Age of Empire. (Eight if you include Spain’s participation in the First Age of Empire).

Why should Denmark be accepting immigrants today, when the Danes never had a colonial empire (outside Greenland and a couple Caribbean islands with a combined population that wouldn’t make a dent in Denmark if they all decided to migrate?) Much less the Eastern Europeans? Far from colonizing anyone else, they were subjugated peoples until 1918: why should they be paying the price for English and French colonial guilt and German guilt for the Holocaust?

And that’s assuming that the ridiculous claim that “since Europeans settled the developing world, Africans and Asians should now be able to migrate to Europe” is true. Where’s the logic there? If Europeans colonizing Africa is a bad thing, and I’d certainly agree it was, then for very similar reasons Africans moving en masse to Europe is also a bad thing. I think Poles and Danes are entitled to the integrity of their nation states exactly the same way that the Hausa and Baganda are.

#10 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On January 4, 2018 @ 9:13 am

Hope you recover quickly from your illness, Rod!

#11 Comment By kgasmart On January 4, 2018 @ 9:14 am

Second, inasmuch as many of these Africans are Christian, does this trend bother you? Third, I’ve said it a million times and I will say it another million, migration has great benefits, economic and otherwise, for almost everyone. (Besides, it’s a manifestation of justice!)

Tell you what:

Where do you live? As in, your exact address. Because I and my family are going to move in with you – “migrate” to your home, so to speak.

And you have no choice in the matter but to accept us with open arms.

I’m sure we won’t take up too much space – perhaps you have an extra bedroom, or if not, we can just crowd into your existing bedrooms with the existing occupants. They may not like this, but perhaps they’re just bigots.

Understand, our ways – our customs – may be radically different from your own. My children tend to be very rambunctious. Oh and I have two cats and a dog who periodically wets the carpet – I’m sure you won’t mind.

Our religion may differ significantly from your own; or perhaps you’re non-religious and we are fundamentalist, or vice versa.

Whatever the differences, and no matter how challenging you might find it to accommodate those differences within your four walls – you will do so. Because morally, you have no choice.

You may think you should make the rules in your own home. But should those rules infringe upon my family’s customs and traditions and beliefs – should they make us feel unwelcome or excluded – well, surely you’ll see fit to relax your standards, because failure to do so would be discriminatory.

In short, you’ll share what you have, you will consent to the very nature of your home changing, perhaps drastically – because to do otherwise would be uncharitable and, again, discriminatory.

Dibs on the shower.

#12 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On January 4, 2018 @ 9:25 am

I don’t think liberal civilization is going to last in Europe, but when it falls it’s much more likely to give way to ethnic separatism and ethnic identity politics than it is to be replaced by Christian traditionalism. Some place like the Czech Republic- one of the least religious countries in Europe, one of the most economically egalitarian, extremely liberal on sex and drug issues, and one of the most ethnically exclusive and mistrustful of outsiders- is probably the future of Europe. Being secular doesn’t make you liberal, and I expect that when people no longer find their identity in orthodox religiosity they’ll find it in ethnicity. Not sure that’s entirely a bad thing either.

Bad Religion,

What does the fact that Steve Sailer, or anyone else, is a racist have to do with the merits of his arguments?

As for you and your arguments:

1) Allowing people to move wherever they want, including to societies that don’t want them, is the very opposite of justice. A just world requires healthy and functioning peoples and societies. A community that can’t decide to exclude whoever it wants isn’t a society in any meaningful sense. If justice means anything it means addressing and fulfilling deeply felt human needs, and one of those human needs is that people- most normal people that its, not deracinated WEIRDOes- care about the survival of their tribe, not just the survival of themselves or their family.

Moreover, even at the base level of economic justice, it’s impossible to impose a just economic order if people are free to move. You should pay more attention to the fact that the most economically successful communist state in history- I know, Trotsky-lovers like yourself probably call the GDR ‘state capitalist’- was an economic success story partly because they forbade people from leaving on pain of death. (If successful people can take their talents and money elsewhere, good luck trying to get them to abid by socialist morality). That’s the only workable model for a noncapitalist society that I can see.

You can repeat that ‘immigration has benefits’ all you want, but repeating something doesn’t actually make it more true. The fact is that immigration is an incredibly inefficient way of making life better for Africans or Asians- foreign aid is about ten times more efficient because of the lower cost of living. And of course, man doesn’t live by bread alone. The cost of mass immigration, in breaking down ethnic and cultural identities and divisions, and corroding the boundaries that define distinct peoples, are much greater than any supposed economic benefits.

#13 Comment By Brian Villanueva On January 4, 2018 @ 9:32 am

Substituting identity politics for faith saws off 1 of the major supports of Western civilization. Think of your dining room table; now break off 2 legs. Replace one with a tall stack of dishes and the other with a German Shepherd. With a tablecloth on top it still looks great, but don’t bet on it to survive the meal.

#14 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On January 4, 2018 @ 9:37 am

Regarding Silicon Valley sex parties, I saw some libertarian-minded woman commenter (forget who) make the best possible response to it yesterday, “I’m puzzled by exactly what it is here we’re supposed to find objectionable.”

The women attending these parties are doing so, consensually, either because they like promiscuous sex or because they want to use sex to gain status. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with either one. It’s probably true as the scholar Emily Chang quotes, that the sex-for-status trade is sort of ‘borderline prostitution’, but the correct answer to that is to re-evaluate our moral criticisms of prostitution, not to criticize other kinds of sexual relationships because they ‘look like prostitution’. Trading sex for material goods is literally older than humanity, it happens in penguins, it’s the basis of what marriage is, at least to some degree, and fighting against it is like fighting against human nature.

The complaints by the women that Emily Chang interviews seem to boil down to, as they say, intra-sexual competition. Some women don’t like the fact that the men that they’d like to date or marry see no need to be sexually faithful, since they have lots of other options. Or alternatively, they don’t like the fact that these men are choosing women to sleep with based on criteria other than their intelligence or professional accomplishments. I’m sorry, but these are not problems which it’s society’s business to solve.

#15 Comment By Youknowho On January 4, 2018 @ 11:07 am

You’d think that Silicon Valley invented that kind of thing.

Because there were no such things as brothels back in the good old days…

The difference is that now it has been seen that women who have sex outside of marriage are still worthy of respect, instead of a convenient receptacle for men to get rid of their excess sperm.

#16 Comment By Youknowho On January 4, 2018 @ 11:12 am

Yes, women and minorities are treated more justly today.

For you, it is a factor.

For women and minorities it is a HUGE deal. And they might not be willing to compromise it for any other percieved good.

Ask the relatives of those who were lynched. Ask the women who had their life stolen at the Magdalene laundries for the crime of being raped. Ask the battered wife whom the priest condemned for wanting to leave her husband.

What social good could you offer them to justify their pain?

#17 Comment By Hound of Ulster On January 4, 2018 @ 11:16 am

Spoiled rich people acting out in immoral ways? So what else is new.

Forget Georgian England, the court of the Byzantine emperors will throw in a free blinding with your mistresses and sexual antics. St. Nikephoros Phokas and St. Theophano were saints because they didn’t partake of the usual money/booze/booty trifecta of Byzantine high life. But they were a rarity to say the least.

Again, as Lord Acton said ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’

#18 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On January 4, 2018 @ 11:23 am

Like Julian Assange denouncing the nation-state, industry hotshots speak of these activities in a tone that is at once self-congratulatory and dismissive of criticism. Their behavior at these high-end parties is an extension of the progressiveness and open-mindedness—the audacity, if you will—that make founders think they can change the world.

Silicon Valley is in fact posing some real threats to human nature and what makes human life worth living. Undermining the nation state is one. The drive to replace more and more human labour by robots is an even bigger threat.

I just don’t think sex parties and undermining marital monogamy are among them. (I can imagine a well functioning world without sexual monogamy or marriage: I can’t imagine one without people finding mental and physical labour and employment to occupy their time). It would be nice if we could focus on what I think are the real threats to human flourishing posed by technology instead of getting bogged down by “omg sex!”

Interestingly, Razib Khan was saying the other day that an increasing number of innovative thinkers are moving out of Silicon Valley (to other US cities, or to China), because the singleminded atmosphere of political correctness is stifling certain kinds of innovation. Genetic engineering for example is probably going to face fewer obstacles in China than it is here, precisely because the Chinese don’t share our discomfort with the idea that so much of what we value is driven by hereditary variation.

#19 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On January 4, 2018 @ 11:27 am

Women who make a foolish decisions, such as allowing their bodies to be used for acts of sex then tossed aside like a Kleenex tissue or a blow up doll, will never be respected or taken seriously.

Sorry, no. Everyone deserves respect, whether or not they live by your supposed moral standards. If you don’t respect sexually promiscuous women, that says more about your character than about theirs, and not in a good way.

Why is having promiscuous / no strings sex a ‘foolish decision’, anyway? Lots of people (men and women) disagree with you and find this sort of activity very fulfilling.

#20 Comment By Rob G On January 4, 2018 @ 11:30 am

Sex will always, always get a pass provided the magical shibboleth of “consent” is mouthed.

If tonight the “Aristocrats” joke were acted out live on network TV you’d no doubt have people on this blog still saying that things are fine and we’re not in decline, and that people who complained about it were overreacting.

#21 Comment By Alex Curbelo On January 4, 2018 @ 1:22 pm

In reference to the ritualistic Satanic orgy, the Sydney Pollack character in Eyes Wide Shut memorably said if “I told you who attended these parties, you wouldn’t sleep very well.” Vigilant Citizen did a good job summarizing what Kubrick was trying to tell us about our times.

Stanley Kubrick’s works are never strictly about love or relationships. The meticulous symbolism and the imagery of all of his works often communicate another dimension of meaning–one that transcends the personal to become a commentary on our epoch and civilization. And, in this transitional period between the end of 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, Kubrick told the story of a confused man who wanders around, desperately looking for a way to satisfy his primal urges. Kubrick told the story of a society that is completely debased and corrupted by hidden forces, where humanity’s most primal urge–procreation–has been cheapened, fetishized, perverted and exploited to a point that it has lost all of its beauty. At the top of this world is a secret society that revels in this context, and thrives on it. Kubrick’s outlook on the issue was definitely not idealistic nor very optimistic.

#22 Comment By Anne On January 4, 2018 @ 1:23 pm

“the universalism of Christianity provided common ground to unite the various American tribes.”

In what fictionalized version of American history did that happen? Beinart must be thinking of a relatively brief period during the 20th century after World War II when Americans were in nesting mode, flocking to the suburbs and joining churches with Sunday schools to accommodate the baby boom that ensued. For one brief shining moment, the ecumenical movement exercised enough power to keep the peace among a handful of mainstream Protestant denominations, but none of it meant the vast majority of American Christians put unity above the many differences that divided them, or that Protestants accepted outsiders such as Catholics or Mormons as Christians at all. “Universalism” is hardly the word for the religious realities that prevailed from this country’s earliest history on. Let’s just say few neutral observers would have remarked on how Christians of all “the various tribes” loved one another.

When those various tribes first decided to come to North America, Protestants and Catholics and one group of Protestants versus another had been killing each other all over Europe, after all. And they didn’t get along that well here either, preferring to wall themselves off from one another with laws and muskets until the English king became a bigger problem than the Christian group in control of the colony across the way. If anything, it was our founding fathers’ enlightened idea to keep church and state separate by law and the principle of religious liberty enshrined in a constitution that allowed the various American tribes to live in peace and cooperate on the secular undertaking of nation building. Secularism was a good thing before certain Christians made it the biggest bad thing around by blaming it for whatever losses they began to feel in the aftermath of what was actually a surge in religiosity that accompanied America’s unprecedented properity in the 20th century.

Christian churchgoing in America fluctuated between 17 and 30 percent in the 200 to 300 years white people, mostly Christian, inhabited this area of the world before the 20th century. After the first, then second world wars, that percentage grew from roughly 33% in 1918 to 65% in 1965 (61% in 1980 when the Moral Majority was blaming “secular humanism” for the supposed drop in American religiosity and rise of godless decadence). According to the same statistics gatherer (the US Census), in 2015, regular churchgoers made up only 38% of the total population, but that’s still 5 percentage points higher than it was 100 years ago.

As others have noted, decadence and orgies have long plagued a certain group of humans — the rich. Right now, America just happens to have more of these than ever before, but the crazy truth is they also just happen to make up a much smaller percentage of the whole (1/2 to 1 percent of all Americans) than ever before…by far. And in this information age, we hear all about their exploits, in detail. What could be more demoralizing to the masses? A demoralization made worse by the fact that no moral authority is addressing the actual cause. Instead of focusing on the economics that led to such a discrepancy between rich and everybody else, not to mention all the ensuing problems that such situations bring with them (unemployment, job insecurity, family disintegration, drug addiction, political instability, etc.), America’s Christians are blaming symptoms, from divorce and drug use to the loss of faith itself, which is too easily pinned on the very secularism of the secular democracy that sustained our peace for going on 250 years now. We can do better than this. We have to.

#23 Comment By RealAlan On January 4, 2018 @ 4:06 pm

I don’t *think* that the, let us say, organizers and participants of Hollywood sex parties pre-Sexual Revolution viewed themselves as leading an upward evolution in human behaviour by “overturning traditions and paradigms in their private lives”. On the contrary, they hid their proceedings, and people who got caught at such things suffered specific social penalties and stigma. (It is said that, mention you were at one of Cecil B. DeMille’s parties and you were dead to him.)

That is the “new decadence” aspect of the Silicon Valley goings-on.

#24 Comment By JonF On January 4, 2018 @ 4:39 pm

Re: “Europe” didn’t indulge in colonialism. Western European nations did: Northern and Eastern Europeans didn’t to any meaningful extent.

Well, the vast Russian conquests east of the Urals, and the settlement of Russians just about anywhere that marginally was habitable in that region, was a form of colonialism, or at least old fashioned imperialism, too.

#25 Comment By Free Quark On January 4, 2018 @ 7:17 pm

Hector St Clare;

Promiscuity spreads infection and is the cause of way too many fatherless children. It is specious to imply that the hump-and-dump lifestyle is not foolish. In fact, there are many negative consequences.

Indeed, promiscuous men who have children with promiscuous women, who are then abandoned to the welfare system, don’t deserve any respect whatsover.

#26 Comment By BadReligion On January 4, 2018 @ 7:47 pm

kgasmart- That’s ridiculous. Migration is not the same as bodily moving into an occupied domicile. It’s not even a useful analogy. Migrants live in their own dwellings, thus employing those who build and maintain (and, less positively, own such places), and also helping the economy with their own labor. Not only that, their remittances provide a substantial boost to their home countries.

The empirical evidence is on my side. This isn’t even controversial among economists.

[13]

[14]

As for those conflicts you mention, didn’t this very blog just feature an article about the effects living in the US is having on Muslims?

This isn’t even getting into the matter of responsibility, i.e. it’s more than a little hypocritical to try and bar entry to people fleeing from the consequences of our own governments’ actions, past and present.

Hector: If you look at how I phrased what I wrote about Steve Sailer, I pointed out that it’s just the sort of thing one ought to mention when citing someone, lest it appear that one approves of that for which said source is best known.

Anyway, no, justice does not mean accepting fears and prejudices. I’ve already covered the empirical economic realities above, and I note that you didn’t consider the impact of remittances.

I’m not a Trotskyist! I’m known locally for my contempt for such cultists. I’m an anarchist. No Bosses, No Borders! The most successful communist state was not the GDR, it was the economically decentralized Yugoslavia. It looked like Yugoslavia might get back on its feet while the Warsaw Pact states (plus Albania) were collapsing, even with all the dreadful conditions imposed by the IMF. As demonstrated by historians such as David Gibbs, this was intolerable to the Western powers, thus, they started meddling. All the local *ethnic chauvinists* (like those populating this blog’s comments sections!) began running amuck/amok, and you know what happened next.

I want to see the end of the kinds of arbitrary cultures/tribes/ethnic groups that you accurately describe as boundaries. There’s no reason that they have to exist, and all they do is divide people. As much as I condemn religious violence as being about nothing, I completely acknowledge that, say, ethnic conflict is much more common. That’s the point, actually- it’s also about nothing more than the background in which someone happens, by complete accident, to have been born into.

There’s nothing intrinsic about all of these divides and boundaries. I want people to be able to choose their own lives’ characteristics, free from what their families and broader communities impose upon them. I bristle at stories of people’s struggles to break free of such pressures, i.e. the classic immigrant story.

In a short while, I’m going to order some Thai food, from a restaurant staffed by a mix of Thais (possibly representing the country’s different ethnic groups) and Latin Americans. Last night, I talked to my housemate whose parents came from India, regarding her upcoming sabbatical.

Do you have a problem with any of that?

#27 Comment By No Comment On January 4, 2018 @ 7:52 pm

Why is having promiscuous / no strings sex a ‘foolish decision’, anyway? Lots of people (men and women) disagree with you and find this sort of activity very fulfilling.

Sure; that’s why, reportedly, the young women consume drugs and alcohol before disrobing and transforming into some billionaire’s Kleenex or blow up doll for the weekend. Because they’re happy and fulfilled.

#28 Comment By MichaelGC On January 4, 2018 @ 11:22 pm

Hector_St_Clare says on January 4, 2018 at 11:23 am:

Silicon Valley is in fact posing some real threats to human nature and what makes human life worth living. Undermining the nation state is one. The drive to replace more and more human labour by robots is an even bigger threat.

Even more than that, Silicon Valley engineers see human mortality as just another problem waiting to be solved, and they think that they can solve it. Once computers are about a million times as powerful as they are today (about 2068, if Moore’s law continues to hold that computing power doubles every two years) they will theoretically have the capacity to hold the structure of the human brain, with its billions of neurons and trillions of connections.

Then, rather than running a simulation of global weather patterns, the computer will be sophisticated enough to run a simulation of you with all your memories, feelings, and perceptions. You can upload your consciousness to an indestructible new platform, residing in a supercomputer of the future like an app in your smart phone.

As I understand, this trans-human/post-human vision is like a religion with the tech elites. I can’t help but think of Icarus and the Tower of Babel.

#29 Comment By kgasmart On January 5, 2018 @ 7:35 am

kgasmart- That’s ridiculous. Migration is not the same as bodily moving into an occupied domicile. It’s not even a useful analogy. Migrants live in their own dwellings, thus employing those who build and maintain (and, less positively, own such places), and also helping the economy with their own labor. Not only that, their remittances provide a substantial boost to their home countries.

Sure it is. Migrants move into a country with its own history, its own customs, its own way of life – and then the bleeding hearts insist that the country, rather than the migrants, must change.

You may have lived in a little German town all your life and like it just the way it is, the way it has been for generations. Once or if it becomes a magnet for migrants, the very nature of the town may change.

And you, the long-time resident – the owner of the home, so to speak – are told you have no choice but to accept it or you’re a hater.

You must change your ways, your way of thinking. Because, besides, it’s an economic shot in the arm, unless some good percentage of the migrants aren’t actually working and portions of your town turn into “no go” zones, where the police have to tweet in Arabic about how grabbing women is a no-no.

And again, anyone who says a word about this is a racist.

So my offer stands. If in fact necessary charity requires countries, towns to fling open their gates to anyone and everyone, certainly that applies to individuals as well. Certainly there’s little difference between acquiescing to the remaking of one’s town and the remaking of one’s home.

We like to eat at 6 p.m., by the way, so surely you won’t serve dinner either before or after that, because only a “hater” would fail to accommodate our every need.

#30 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On January 5, 2018 @ 8:24 am

I’m not a Trotskyist! I’m known locally for my contempt for such cultists. I’m an anarchist.

Great, you’re even worse than the Trotskyists. Anarchists want to dismantle even more of what gives our live meaning and structure than the trots do.

I’m not a Trotskyist! I’m known locally for my contempt for such cultists. I’m an anarchist.

In the 1960s. Not in the 1980s. The GDR was both much richer than Yugoslavia (and probably for that matter Hungary) and also showed more ability to sustain high GDP growth into the 1980s.

I want to see the end of the kinds of arbitrary cultures/tribes/ethnic groups that you accurately describe as boundaries. There’s no reason that they have to exist, and all they do is divide people. As much as I condemn religious violence as being about nothing, I completely acknowledge that, say, ethnic conflict is much more common. That’s the point, actually- it’s also about nothing more than the background in which someone happens, by complete accident, to have been born into.

I’m well aware of what you ‘want’, what I’m not aware of is why you should be allowed to ‘get’ what you want. Lots of kids want to eat a steady diet of junk food, that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to do it. The fact that you ‘want’ something doesn’t make it a good idea, and in fact your vision of the perfect world- one with no states, no tribal or ethnic identities, no borders, etc.- strikes me as a nightmare which I’m resolved to resist in any way possible. I want a world of strong, distinct and mostly separate tribes, kind of like (not accidentally) the hunter-gatherer world in which we evolved.

As for ethnic conflict, it’s precisely proximity (at least in the short term) that leads to ethnic conflict, and strong borders that deter it. This is why ethnic conflict is such a common factor in multi-ethnic societies.

Do you have a problem with any of that?

Wow, you really are like a parody of multiculturalist arguments, aren’t you? “I want my cool, ‘diverse’ Thai food, so borders and tribal divisions have to go!” Does it ever occur to you that there are more important things here at stake than culinary preferences?

I don’t care if you want to live like a deracinated WEIRDO (and in reality I think, on balance, that for America right now the benefits of a more liberal immigration policy probably outweight the costs), but yes, I absolutely do have a problem with almost everything you’ve said in this thread. Most of all I have a problem with your wanting to impose deracinated WEIRDO values on people who, for very good reason, don’t want any of them.

#31 Comment By Franklin Evans On January 5, 2018 @ 9:00 am

BadReligion: The most successful communist state was not the GDR, it was the economically decentralized Yugoslavia. It looked like Yugoslavia might get back on its feet while the Warsaw Pact states (plus Albania) were collapsing, even with all the dreadful conditions imposed by the IMF. As demonstrated by historians such as David Gibbs, this was intolerable to the Western powers, thus, they started meddling. All the local *ethnic chauvinists* (like those populating this blog’s comments sections!) began running amuck/amok, and you know what happened next.

I label myself a social anarchist. Only very small and at least partially isolated communities can subsist under economic anarchism. I’m also a big fan of Robert Anton Wilson, so maybe my bias (and my Paganism) is off your beaten track.

I’m not sure what you are claiming about Yugoslavia. My parents were of the generation during which Josip Broz made himself the ruler of Yugoslavia. My father was an officer in the army which his partisans defeated in that phase of their civil war. It seems to me that you fail to acknowledge, or see at all, that Tito was responsible for keeping the “local ethnic chauvinists” in check, generally by summary execution during the early years, and later because he succeeded in linking their personal and group economic health to their ability to keep their violent paws off their neighbors. If nothing else, Tito’s death simply removed those controls, and the ethnic chauvinists (starting with Milosevic) had their opportunities for revenge.

I’m right with you on tribalism and boundary setting and defense. I would just add that religion manages to both cross those boundaries and reshape them. My personal history is rife with ethnic tensions being set aside for religious solidarity — the Orthodox Serbs, Greeks and Macedonians (and some Bulgarians) against the Muslim Ottoman Turks. I can’t speak for the others, but Serbs will fight alongside the Devil and all his minions if it means taking down their religious enemies.

#32 Comment By Hound of Ulster On January 5, 2018 @ 1:05 pm

@Anne

Word.

@kgsmart

‘Nations’ are language groups with a flag, army, navy, and a soccer team. They rise, and fall, all the time. ‘Culture’ is not genetic, and for a group of people who routinely decry the idea of ‘magic dirt’ conferring citizenship, you sure love the idea of ‘magic blood’ capable of conferring culture. The Balkans prove how stupid your ideas of culture and nationality actually are. Serbs and Croats speak the same language (the alphabets can be changed out like for like), eat almost the same foods, live in roughly the same areas of the world, regularly inter-marry, are genetically indistinguishable from each other, and belong to the same general South-Eastern European Slavic culture, but have hated each other with genocidal fury for the last hundred+ years. They see themselves as separate ‘nations’ purely because of abstractions like religion (which can and do change) and historical accidents. It seems that ‘nationhood’ is more of a convenient excuse for the exercise of power than actual concrete reality.

Folks like you need to read more Benedict Anderson and less Samuel Huntington.

#33 Comment By Youknowho On January 5, 2018 @ 2:45 pm

The Spaniards had a simple solution to a multiethnic state: intermarriage. For example when the Spanish king heard that the conquistadors were taking native concubines, he sent an order for them to marry those concubines and regularize their situation. Nowadays in Latin America, the majority of the population is mestizo (mixture). Alas, they also suffer from oligarchic rule, but that is another story.

In fact, the Primo de Riveras, who included the 1920s dictator, Michael, and his son, the founder of the Falange, Jose Antonio, were descended from a guarani Indian, a fact that they did not conceal in any way.

#34 Comment By BadReligion On January 5, 2018 @ 2:57 pm

Hector, speak for yourself about what gives our lives meaning. As for Yugoslavia and the GDR, there are more measures of well-being than just GDP.

” The fact that you ‘want’ something doesn’t make it a good idea, and in fact your vision of the perfect world- one with no states, no tribal or ethnic identities, no borders, etc.- strikes me as a nightmare which I’m resolved to resist in any way possible. I want a world of strong, distinct and mostly separate tribes, kind of like (not accidentally) the hunter-gatherer world in which we evolved.”

How come?

“As for ethnic conflict, it’s precisely proximity (at least in the short term) that leads to ethnic conflict, and strong borders that deter it. This is why ethnic conflict is such a common factor in multi-ethnic societies.”

Sikhs saved Italy’s dairy industry. Their children consider themselves Italian, which they are. Then, of course, there’s this (NSFW, purely for language, once!): [15]

“Most of all I have a problem with your wanting to impose deracinated WEIRDO values on people who, for very good reason, don’t want any of them.”

What is it you just wrote about what one wants not necessarily being right? You know what they say about what’s right and what’s popular, don’t you?

And yes, I know it’s about more than food.

Franklin Evans- I know about the impacts of Tito’s death, it’s just that there’s a lot more to the story than what we’re usually told.

kgasmart- What Hound of Ulster said, except the “genocidal fury” hasn’t been the desire of the majority, but some hotheads unfortunately punch way above their weight. By the way, I’ve read that the “Serbian” forces actually contained a good number of Slovaks, Hungarians, (assimilated) Roma, Jews, Gorani, etc. They didn’t want the Union to be dismembered by ethnic chauvinists. This should be familiar to Americans.

#35 Comment By Alex Brown On January 5, 2018 @ 3:13 pm

@ BadReligion
The empirical evidence is on my side. This isn’t even controversial among economists.

No, the evidence is not on your side. (And this is coming from an immigrant). The evidence is mixed, at best. It is media that is one sided. Noah Smith of Bloomberg:
‘For example, on immigration, there isn’t even an appearance of expert consensus. University of California-Berkeley’s David Card and Harvard’s George Borjas, two of the most prominent and widely cited immigration researchers, are on opposite sides of the issue. Meta-analyses of immigration, like the recent and frequently cited report by the National Academy of Sciences, make sure to include results by economists from both sides of the dispute. Even if it turns out that some individual immigration researchers are dishonest, there is clearly not a firm consensus in the expert community, which laypeople can easily see for themselves.…Behind closed doors, however, economists tended to take a much more nuanced attitude.’
[16]

#36 Comment By BadReligion On January 6, 2018 @ 9:58 am

@Alex Brown

Do you have any peer-reviewed, empirical, scientific articles in credible journals to cite?

#37 Comment By kgasmart On January 6, 2018 @ 10:49 am

‘Nations’ are language groups with a flag, army, navy, and a soccer team. They rise, and fall, all the time. ‘Culture’ is not genetic, and for a group of people who routinely decry the idea of ‘magic dirt’ conferring citizenship, you sure love the idea of ‘magic blood’ capable of conferring culture. The Balkans prove how stupid your ideas of culture and nationality actually are.

But some nations are more homogenous than others – or were, before mass migration. See Germany, France, Hungary, etc. etc.

In the U.S., you’ll certainly get balkanization, probably along racial lines. That’s probably baked into the cake at this point. So it goes both ways.

#38 Comment By Alex Brown On January 6, 2018 @ 4:12 pm

@BadReligion

The evidence you prefer not to see is in the reference cited.
Harvard’s George Borjas, for a start? And ‘Meta-analyses of immigration, like the recent and frequently cited report by the National Academy of Sciences, make sure to include results by economists from both sides of the dispute. Even if it turns out that some individual immigration researchers are dishonest, there is clearly not a firm consensus in the expert community’.

BTW, cited Noah Smith is a proponent of large scale immigration.

And don’t forget automation and outsourcing (BTW, Smith also makes clear that there’s NO consensus on trade, either).

Again, I am an immigrant. There’re clearly pros and cons, and I believe there more and more cons of a large scale, uneducated migration.

#39 Comment By BadReligion On January 7, 2018 @ 12:12 pm

@Alex Brown

Yes, I read the article. I’m contrasting it with all of the peer-reviewed, empirical studies that would seem to outweigh it. Also, even if you were correct about all of that, there are some crucial stances of general principle, *besides* the hope that, if I became a refugee, others would help me:

[17]

[18]

@kgasmart Speaking of France, Germany, Hungary, refugees, and immigrants:
[19]

[20]

[21]

#40 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 7, 2018 @ 10:39 pm

Yes, Tito did suppress the more militant ethnic nationalists, Serb as well as other (Tito himself was a Croat), and that was a good thing. I recall a cartoon in the early 1990s showing a woman and two children huddled in rags in a cold wind while a man firing a machine gun at an unseen enemy paused to tell her “Communism was very bad. If it wasn’t for communism we could have been doing this years ago.”

There are many ways for culturally and ethnically disparate people to merge, dominate, rebel (successfully or unsuccessfully), disperse into a larger whole… many precedents for preferring this or that. Most existing ethnically homogeneous states are overlays on a population that wasn’t always so homogeneous. JonF has provided information many times on how the population of England has a majority of Celtic genes, and the population of Scotland are almost entirely descended from one village in Norway. I might add that up to the 17th or even early 18th century, France was far from homogeneous, being a mixed bag of rival enthnicities that hated each other and could barely understand each other’s “French.”

I think where there is a functional nation and culture which people are reasonably happy with, the notion that they have a duty to import millions of people, whether guest workers, refugees, or whatever, strains credulity. We should all try to help out — there was some tension about resident of New Orleans relocating in large numbers to Texas and Utah, and there were some real crime wavelets associated with that population movement, but it was still the right thing to do.

But when there is any notion of bringing and incorporating new people, there needs to be some serious thought about where will they live, how will they support themselves, how will we incorporate them into our lives, CAN we incorporate them, etc. etc. etc. These are not exercises in idealism, they involve precision with logistics, and a lot of social planning. Do not leave it to the free market.

Some years ago, I was doing some tutoring, and was assigned to a Karen family (one of the minority ethnicities of southern Burma that didn’t care to be dominated by the Burmese majority). Many had been displaced to refugee camps in Thailand. Then they were offered transport to the USA. They ended up living in one of the worst inner city neighborhoods, in some of the worst old duplexes available, while father supported the family by spending weeks at deunionized meat packing plants in South Dakota, then coming home to check on the family. And there were complaints about black students beating up on the children, except someone who works closely with the Karen Baptist Church (most Karen were converted by British missionaries in the 19th century) told me the fights are because the older male students hadn’t paid for their drugs.

So I can easily believe that scattering Syrian refugees in Germany, who speak no German, and have no appreciable work skills, and expecting the neighbors and the general environment to somehow socialize them, would have really bad results for all concerned. I wouldn’t draw a general bright line rule for How To Respond to Refugees and Migrants from that. But I would draw some conclusions about how NOT to do it.

I can well believe there is not expert consensus, and in the absence of one, people with a strong preference will naturally site the research that reinforces their own expectations. For every Ph.D there is an equal and opposite Ph.D.

A better world is seldom constructed to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

#41 Comment By Franklin Evans On January 8, 2018 @ 8:20 am

Alex and BadReligion:

I’m the child of immigrants. They came to the US from eastern Europe. I’ll skip their backstories because they are not relevant to my point.

The US State Department published language aids for nearly every language represented by immigrants after WWII. My parents didn’t refer to theirs very much, but they did use it. I obviously can’t speak for the broader immigrant experience of that era, but I can offer a confident speculation: immigrants came here to become citizens quite as much as they left their homes to avoid whatever it was they were faced with. My mother was a Jew. My father was an in absentia convicted war criminal (Tito’s first push to consolidate his power).

The waves of immigrants since then fall into two categories. One was a less intense motivation (compared to my parents) to find better lives than they knew they could possibly have. The other was of similar motivation, fleeing violence (Central America) or persecution (Vietnam, etc.).

I suggest examining the more recent waves in that light. The migratory workers are very much a different category, and deserve closer scrutiny than many will deign to give. There is, anecdotal to me, a trend among “off-shore” workers deciding to emigrate here, marrying, staying and in some cases becoming citizens. It’s clearly a much more complex situation than that with which I grew up, but there are some common factors, chief among them is the desire to settle and raise families.

#42 Comment By Pavlos On January 8, 2018 @ 10:49 am

These are but more examples of how myopic analysis (singing to the choir of self, misidentifying the problem) is incapable of finding solution, capable only of going on and on and getting nowhere – but, hey that keeps the royalties and paychecks rolling in.

FALSE THESIS: America’s receding Christianity is leading to nastier politics, in part because the universalism of Christianity provided common ground to unite the various American tribes.

Alasdair McIntyre knew better and would never waste time on this bunny trail, so if a BO is going to be spun out from one tiny statement of McIntyre’s, there ought to be more attention paid to the greater substance of what he actually said.
Christianity (including its unviversalism) only provided common ground in the days before pre-schism Rome, and less common ground with the rise of heterodoxy -Roman Catholicism and Protestantism- and even less common ground with the rise of Pietism, Social Gospel, and biblical literary criticism.
Per McIntyre, Christianity provided no common ground after the rise of industrialism and urbanism, which resulted in the rise of secularism and loss of moral compass.
In America, Christianity never provided any common ground, except on the basis of being the superficial kernal at the core of American Civil Religion.
The split of American christianity such (heterodoxy, both RC & P) into conservative (evangelical) and liberal camps occurred after the rise of industrialism, and is nothing but a smokescreen that makes it harder to see that the real problem of christianity in America is that there is no Real Christianity in America, just a bunch of sentimental mythological god talk.

FALSE THESIS: One of the things that kept the center holding was a shared religious sense, however tenuous.

As McIntyre stated, secularism and loss of moral compass was not caused by a “receding Christianity”, but by the rise of industrialism and urbanism.
The “center” in America has always been the middle class, which is not inherently religious or christian.
The nasty politics that we see today is the product of a shrinking of the middle class, and huge growth spurts in income inequality. When there was less income equality in America, there was more consensus, and American Civil Religion was able to keep the masses attention focused with “we’re all in this together” (rah, rah, rah – mom, apple pie, baseball, ice cream, sports sports sports, spectacle, celebrities, money money money)

FALSE THESIS: Decadence like in Silicon Valley is primarily sexual.

It is so typically conservative christian to think of decadence in primarily if not exclusively sexual moral terms, as evident in how conservative christians are continually moralizing about everyone else’s sexuality instead of picking the beams out of their own groins.
Silicon Valley has been extremely decadent for decades, and long before the development of these latest reported sexual trysts.
SV’s decadence from the get go exhibited in its devotion to Ayn Rand, the Goddess of Greed, and anything money can buy. As a result, real estate prices in SV are off the charts, amid rocketing homelessness. Yachts, golden shower curtains and golden parachutes are but tips of the SV Decadent Iceberg.
The latest sexual shenanigans are just the current icing on the cake. When you narcissisticaly think the whole world revolves around you and needs you because without you and your business acumen, the world will fall apart, well then are the monetary or sexual excesses any wonder?
After being raised in The American Way and bombarded with business “commercials” day in and day out, is it really any wonder that money and sex go hand in hand? Duh?

If anything is causing or will cause an anti-christian backlash in America it is just the sort of moralizing that conservative christians have dished out for decades. No one sees any difference (shades of grey) in conservative christians, and sees them all as types of Pat Robertsons.
There is no humble witness reflected in such behavior, no call to repentance, and nothing enticing anyone to repent, so all it does is cause more divisiveness, more collapse of center.
All falls on deaf ears. Conservative christians just dismiss any criticism off hand, brush it aside. They know what’s “right”, that’s why they consider themselves the right.
So now there’s a new distraction – it’s called the Benedict Option.