Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Castes of the United State," and "The BDH-OV Conflict:" Highlighting Moldbug

Since these two articles are so closely related to each other I thought I would highlight them together. As usual, the link to the original Moldbug article is in the title and this is not my work, only a highlighting of his work for fast reading purposes.

Castes of the United States

It's always fun to rethink the world by redefining our terminology. But the brain can only stand so much of this. The cerebrum boils, releasing green gas. The cortex starts to blacken and fray. A shocking, foreign pain arises between the ears. It will not go away.

So it's a relief when there's a backup word, which already has exactly the right meaning, but is disused and carries no (or at least few) political and emotional associations. This word is "caste." The word it replaces is so encrusted in historical nonsense that I won't even say it.

Of course the word "caste" is generally associated with India. The US is not India. So if we meant "caste" in the precise Hindu sense of the word (varna), there are no castes in the US, except perhaps among some Indian immigrants.

Some redefinition, therefore, is necessary. Let's define a "caste" as a social group with its own internal status system. All hominids crave status and will exchange almost anything for it, but different castes assign status in very different ways - as we'll see.

Here's my taxonomy of American castes. I've picked names from various historical cultures, hopefully without strong emotional associations for modern readers, for these castes. The implicit analogies these names create should be roughly accurate, but certainly not precise. I have ordered them alphabetically to avoid any implicit ranking.

In the Brahmin caste, status among both men and women is defined by scholarly achievement, success in an intellectual profession, or position of civic responsibility. The highest-status Brahmins are artists and scientists, but Brahmins can also be doctors or lawyers, although it is much better to be a doctor than a lawyer, and much better to be a lawyer than a dentist (a trade which was perhaps once Brahmin, but is now definitely Vaisya). Ideally, as a Brahmin, if you are a doctor you should be primarily concerned with caring for the poor; if you are a lawyer, your practice should focus on civil liberties and social justice - cardiology and corporate law are slightly de trop. An increasing number of young Brahmins consider themselves "activists" and work for "nonprofits" or "NGOs," lending some credence to the theory that the Brahmins are our ruling or governing caste. Entry into the Brahmin caste is conferred almost entirely by first-tier university admissions, although getting into Harvard doesn't mean you don't still need to make something of yourself.

In the Dalit caste, status among men is defined by power, wealth and sexual success, among women by attractiveness and popularity. The favored occupation of Dalit men is crime, preferably of the organized variety. However, Dalit criminals are not generally psychopathic; they perceive crime as guerrilla warfare against an unjust society. Dalit women may support themselves by crime, welfare (which they consider a right), or payments from men. Both male and female Dalits may occasionally support themselves by conventional employment, but this is usually in jobs that other castes (except Helots) would consider demeaning, and Dalits share this association. The Dalit caste is not monolithic; it is divided into a number of ethnic subcastes, such as African-American, Mexican, etc. A few white Dalits exist, notably in the Appalachians. There is little or no solidarity between the various Dalit ethnicities.

The Helot caste is an imported peasant caste, originating primarily in rural Central America. Status among Helot men is conferred primarily by hard work, money and power. Status among Helot women is conferred by attractiveness, motherhood, and association with successful men. The Helot value system does not seem to be sustainable in the US, and the children of Helots tend to grow up as Dalits. New Helots, however, can always be imported to replace them.

The Optimate caste has to be mentioned, because it was until quite recently the US's ruling caste. It is not clear, however, that the Optimate value system still exists in any meaningful sense, and if it does it is decaying rapidly, with most young Optimates becoming Brahmins. However, status among any men and women who do still follow the Optimate way is conferred by birth, breeding and personal character, with wealth serving as a prerequisite but not a mark of actual distinction. The Bible of the Optimate caste is, of course, the Social Register.

The Vaisya caste is the most difficult to define. It's tempting to say that a Vaisya is anyone who is not a Brahmin, Dalit, Helot or Optimate. Status among Vaisya men is conferred by productive employment, generally defined in monetary terms; by a successful family life; and by participation in church or other formal social groups. Status among Vaisya women is conferred by attractiveness, motherhood, and social participation, with an increasing number of Vaisya women entering the labor force, typically in unintellectual white-collar jobs.

(Update: please see the comment by "smb," whose perspective of the present-day Optimate caste is much sharper and clearer than my definition - which on reflection is too antiquated.)

The BDH-OV Conflict

Yesterday I posted a taxonomy of the conflicting social castes in the US. I outlined five groups (Brahmin, Dalit, Helot, Optimate, Vaisya) in language that was neutral to slightly negative, using a bit of anthro-speak to focus on personal, rather than political, values.

However, it's pretty obvious where the political divisions lie. The Democrats are the party of the Brahmins, Dalits and Helots. The Republicans are the party of the Optimates and Vaisyas. Thus, instead of the red-state / blue-state conflict, which uses meaningless colors and averages geographically in a way that blurs information, we can speak of the "BDH-OV conflict."

The exceptions to the definition of "blue-state" as BDH, and "red-state" as OV, are in many ways the best illustrations of this principle. For example, not all African-Americans and Hispanics are BDH - many are Vaisyas, with careers and value systems very similar to those of the stereotypical "Middle American" (the German Mittelstand, in the 1930s sense of the word, is an even better match). But these voters of course vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats - in other words, they vote by race rather than caste. As Steve Sailer points out, Republican attempts to capture them have been futile and are probably a waste of time.

There is a lot of linguistic delicacy surrounding the BDH-OV conflict. As in any political contest, each side can succeed only by crushing the other - capturing its institutions and converting its followers. But keeping this conflict and its predecessors within the bounds of democratic politics, and preventing any degeneration into actual combat, has been a central concern of American intellectuals for the last 200 years. Obviously they haven't always succeeded, which makes the concern all the more intense.

Therefore, we tend to think in terms of euphemisms that conceal the total and existential nature of this nasty and pointless struggle, which I despise with every particle in my body. One of the main reasons I started this blog is that I don't see how the BDH-OV conflict can end until a lot more people are willing to speak frankly about what's actually going on. Wringing our hands in a vain expression of "unity" will not do the job - especially because some of the most interesting tropes of the conflict are issues on which, in my opinion, both sides are profoundly detached from reality.

In my opinion this euphemistic approach to what pretends to be a conflict of ideas and ideals, but is in fact an ordinary and rather tawdry case of communal violence, is inseparable from the disaster of democracy. As Clausewitz observed, war and politics are a continuum. Representative democracy is a limited civil war in which the armies show up, get counted, but don't actually fight. The BDH and OV factions refrain - mostly - from inciting or participating in outright warfare, for one reason: it is not in either's interest. If this ever changes, they'll be at each others' throats like Hutus and Tutsis.

Democracy, like all conventions of limited war, is fragile. It's hard to establish and easy to destroy. One of my main concerns is that I think the principal check that keeps the US from degenerating into actual violence is the 75-year-old informational dominance of "responsible" broadcast and newspaper journalism. This system is dying. It is being replaced by people like Amanda Marcotte and Michelle Malkin. And their followers, if not them personally, seem to have enough pure, 24-karat hate stored up for ten or fifteen really juicy civil wars.

So when people talk about abandoning democracy, they can mean one of two things. They can mean "screw it, let's go to the mattresses," or they can mean abolishing the conflict itself, and designing a system which is based on the rule of law rather than political triumph and defeat. Democratic politics is the middle ground between these options, and I follow Hazlitt (William, not Henry, though they both rock) in refusing to split the difference between right and wrong. This is why I oppose democracy, even though there are many worse alternatives.

Except under circumstances which everyone reading this would consider disastrous, the BDH-OV conflict cannot end in the victory of either side. This should be reason enough for anyone to avoid taking up cudgels on behalf of either. However, because the conflict is at bottom an emotional one, not a matter of facts and figures, I should explain my own emotional response to it.

The hate expressed by BDH or blue-state intellectuals, from Noam Chomsky to Al Sharpton, has a peculiarly smug and contemptuous tone which is instantly familiar to any student of the 20th century, and it leads me - despite my Brahmin upbringing - to side instinctively with the OV faction. I am simply aghast at the hatred of Middle America I see so often in San Francisco. It is pure poison. It is right up there with Streicher in his prime. If it fails to generate actual mayhem, this is a consequence not of tolerance but of sheeplike docility.

But the OVs, the red-staters, have no intellectual institutions worth a damn, since the formerly Optimate universities have all been captured by Brahmins. The Optimate caste is disappearing, and the OV faction is becoming simply V. Since Brahmins tend to be both smarter and better-informed than Vaisyas, there is a tendency - increasing rather than decreasing - for OV perspectives to celebrate ignorance and superstition. You can take the boy out of the library but you can't take the library out of the boy: at heart, I am still a Brahmin.

Also, I believe the actual political tactics pursued by the OV party - that is, the Republicans - have been spectacularly unsuccessful to the point of self-inflicted disaster. I cannot imagine any possible future in which the Republicans actually do recapture Washington - as opposed to the largely-symbolic White House - and if such a thing were to actually happen, I think the results would be so appalling that I'm not sure I could continue to live in the US.

Because we know exactly what a 20th-century OV regime looks like. It looks like Hitler. It also looks like Pinochet, Franco, Salazar, Dollfuss, Verwoerd, Batista, Ian Smith, etc, etc. Hitler ruined it with me when he murdered the Jews, but I do think these other figures of the 20th-century OV "right" have much worse reputations than they deserve. However, I would not describe their regimes as either desirable or successful. Politically they are a dead end.

This definition of "left" as "BDH" and right as "OV" explains a few things. One of them is the strangely disparate treatment meted out to Nazis and Communists. If the US ever started to persecute neo-Communists the way the SPLC hunts for neo-Nazis, it would make McCarthy look like Nelson Rockefeller. If neo-Nazis were as influential as neo-Communists, San Francisco would have an Albert-Speer-Strasse. But the actual human rights violations committed by 20th-century Communists were if anything greater than those committed by all the Fascist parties together, so the doctrine of human rights cannot explain this conundrum.

The answer is that, supposedly, the Communists were "well-intentioned," while the Nazis were simply straight-out evil. This bit of nonsensical sophistry cannot be defended for a minute. The Nazis, for example, won 90% of the vote in the 1935 Saarland plebiscite, which was administered not by them but by the French. It is generally agreed by historians that National Socialism was overwhelmingly supported by the vast majority of Germans from at least 1934 through 1938. The idea that the burghers who lined up to cheer for Hitler were cackling like Dr. Evil is as ahistorical as any ever advanced.

The real cause of the Nazi-Communist conundrum is just that today's ruling class is Brahmin, it writes the history books as winners always have, and the Nazi regime was OV to the core. Whereas Communism is best understood as a sort of deformed, Russian offshoot of the BDH coalition. Of course, it is simply human nature that people are more likely to be appalled by the crimes of their enemies, and excuse or ignore the crimes of their allies.

The current structure of the BDH-OV conflict dates back to the '60s, when Vaisyas started to catch on that the New Deal was not, in fact, all about them. FDR's machine, which of course rules us to this day, was built to a substantial extent on inner-city Irish-Italian-Jewish political machines and their agrarian counterparts. That is, it was built on the votes of Vaisyas who loved the idea of a government that was on their side. But the New Deal in practice was a Brahmin operation from top to bottom, as were its New Frontier and Great Society successors. When this started to become apparent, Nixon's "silent majority," the "Reagan Democrats," etc, etc - in other words, the Vaisya whites - left the party their ancestors had supported for generations. They were replaced by the burgeoning Dalit and Helot castes, and by Optimates whose children were reeducated as Brahmins (in universities captured by BDH violence), creating the present shape of the conflict.

But the word "Brahmin" has of course been applied to the New England elite for quite some time now. Ultimately I think the BDH-OV conflict is best seen as the contemporary incarnation of the same volcanic hotspot in Anglo-American culture which gave us the English Civil War, the Jacobite Wars, and the American Civil War. In other words, the Brahmins are the modern Roundheads, whereas the Optimates are the modern Cavaliers. The other castes, poor schmucks, tend to get the shaft no matter who is in power or what line they preach.

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