Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

On Deserving

Moldbug has a new post, where he says:

 when Maistre says that every nation gets the government it deserves, I believe him

Seriously?

‘Deserving’ must be the most useless and obfuscating word in the dictionary. It’s bad philosophy, bad morals and bad manners in general. It’s cheap fatalism, escapism from debate, intellectual sloth.

What does it mean anyway? Asian languages don’t have the concept, and sometimes doing translation it’s very hard to explain. In the end it must be derived from Christian catechesis. In videogame terms, the idea that humans through they daily behaviour earn moral points (let’s call them MP), according to which especial events (which happen often during the game) end up being advantageous or disadvantageous. When the self-perceived total MPs and the effect of a random event don’t match, we call this not deserving the outcome.

That’s a very common view, but it’s patently wrong. For one there’s no such thing as moral points, and the outcome of especial events has little relation with one’s moral character. It’s funny, because most people think of most life events as kinda random, but at the same time they think there’s a direct casual link between one’s MP level and the goodies one gets from life.

But it doesn’t work like that, although there’s a certain plausibility over individuals having MPs. But even if it were true at the individual level, and people did deserve or not deserve things, it’s certainly nonsense to apply the same logic to big groups of people.

It also happens very often though, but as I said, it’s intellectual sloth. It’s refusing to research the causes of events, and attributing them instead to a societal MP level. It’s an old conservative tradition, watch how Moldbug is channelling De Maistre. There’s another version of the same argument, made by Burke or A.J. Nock, that virtuous people precede virtuous country. Meaning of course that the causal arrow leads all to the MP of “the people”, who themselves are uncaused, uncreated, and just plain nasty.

How stupid is that? If good government comes from virtuous people, where does that virtue come from? Spontaneous generation, huh? So the Romans deserved Attila, the French deserved Robespierre, the Americans deserve Obama. What does that even mean?  It means that you are conservative, and as such, always the political loser. You are pissed, and want to know why you lost, why the culture you care about is dying. You have some ideas, but none is quite right, when you blame people they tend to get pissed, so you end up giving up and going abstract: it’s the people’s fault. Yeah, they got no virtue. Those fuckers.

As much as I hate the dismal science, there’s a profound truth behind it, one that comes from basic psychology: incentives matter. People’s behaviour isn’t free, it’s subject to many constraints, one of the biggest being societal pressure. Today that is done through media and government. Apply sufficient pressure and the people’s virtue can change a lot. Singapore was a nasty place full of opium smokers and communists. Today they are virtuous. They didn’t deserve Lee Kuan Yew, now they do. Americans used to shame homosexuals. Now they are cherished as the best of us.

Who deserves what? Any understanding of politics that doesn’t begin and end in who?whom? is idiocy. It’s enabling the forces of chaos.

 

Advertisements

26 responses to “On Deserving

  1. Handle November 8, 2012 at 10:45

    I’d agree that the Asian languages with which I’m barely familiar (all two of them) don’t have an exact, Christian-Justice or Hindu-Karma laden version of “deserve”, but I find there is something roughly equivalent in modern Japanese (to what extent modern-Western influenced, I cannot say), when it comes to quality modifiers when applied to individuals in the form of a verb. There is fusawashi and rippana (masu), which, I think from context, work similarly to “merit” in English. “He is a man of merit” vs. “He merits attention.” They don’t quite have the entitlement connotation of “deserve”, but come close to “is worthy of” with a distinct sense of “appropriateness” with a certain social-class implication vibe.

    The Singapore example isn’t a good one – Maistre’s line obviously refers to a democratic / populist political structure dependent on mass approval and where the attitudes of “the people” have some significant influence in the formation and conduct of the government. If anything, the history of Singapore has been the other way around, one of the government ameliorating the population in a paternalistic fashion.

    At any rate, I’m not trying to desperately salvage the quip – but I think there’s at least a little wisdom in it.

    • spandrell November 8, 2012 at 11:00

      That’s what I meant with Singapore: virtue isn’t endogenous. It’s a product of good organisation. It depends on effective authority. Not the other way around.

      Rippa-na means good, praiseworthy. Fusawashii means appropriate, suitable.
      Of course all languages have a concept of worth, inasmuch as all humans have a concept of good and bad.
      There is some overlap, but it’s very seldom used in the same constructions as in European languages. Fusawashii is the most common translation, but it lacks the moral baggage of “deserve”. It just means that it fits into a preconceived notion of what something should be.

      What Japanese does have is a word for karma, Buddhists that they are. But they use it seldom. People laugh when I do.

      • Handle November 9, 2012 at 00:32

        It’s took bad I’m leaving East Asia in a few months, I’d have very much enjoyed meeting you in person.

      • Candide III November 9, 2012 at 13:04

        In Japanese they do say ‘Jigou-jitoku’ to mean something like “you got what you deserved (by doing something bad)”. Of course, gou is the character used for ‘karma’. I don’t think anyone will laugh at this phrase.

        • spandrell November 9, 2012 at 14:47

          They laugh when you say 因果応報, which has a more moral meaning than jigou jitoku, which can also mean you were stupid and had it coming.

          Glad u made it to Tokyo, I’ll send an email if I go by.

          • Handle November 11, 2012 at 04:33

            Perhaps it would be helpful to ask the question from a more personal instead of cosmic viewpoint, and I’ll submit in my ignorance to your competence.

            Let’s say someone is feeling charitable or altruistic or social-minded (say, in the aftermath of an emergency which has created considerable suffering but from which they have been spared.) But our fellow has limited resources and must choose whom to help.

            Now, assume some “moral worthiness” contribution to the multivariate metric by which this man makes his choice. Isolated, that partial consideration in English could be, “A deserves my help more than B”.

            How would various East Asians express that idea?

  2. fnn November 8, 2012 at 14:32

    This post brings to mind some stuff that Yockey wrote in 1948.
    http://www.counter-currents.com/2010/09/a-contemporary-evaluation-of-francis-parker-yockey-part-2/

    Yockey had a similar understanding of the workings of soft totalitarianism. In The Proclamation of London, he writes:

    The degradation of social life did not merely happen, it was planned, deliberately fostered and spread, and the systematic undermining of the entire life of the West continues today.

    The instruments of this assault and the weapons of propaganda, press, radio, cinema, stage, education. These weapons are controlled at this moment in Europe almost entirely by the forces of Culture-disease and social degeneration.

    The “chief fount” is Hollywood, which “spews forth an endless series of perverted films to debase and degenerate the youth of Europe” after having successfully destroyed the youth of America.[7]

    Concomitantly “a vicious literature” promotes the “destruction of healthy individual instincts, of normal familial and sexual life, of disintegration of the social organism into a heap of wandering, colliding, grains of human sand.”

    The message of Hollywood is the total, significance of the isolated individual, stateless and rootless, outside of society and family, whose life is the pursuit of money and erotic pleasure. It is not the normal and healthy love of man and wife bound together by many children that Hollywood preaches, but a diseased erotic-for-its-own sake, the sexual love of two grains of human sand, superficial and impermanent. Before this highest of all Hollywood’s values everything else must stand aside: marriage, honor, duty, patriotism, sternness dedication to self to a higher aim. This ghastly distortion of sexual life has created the erotomaia that obsesses millions of victims in America, and which has now been brought to the Mother-soil of Europe by the American invasion.[8]

  3. Christopher November 8, 2012 at 15:57

    “How many mainstream conservatives have converted to the alt-right?”

    I know of several, including myself: I was reading Derbyshire in NR, decided I’d like some of what he was smoking, and one thing led to another.

    I’ll grant that as a percentage of mainstream conservatives the number is likely very low. But taken as a percentage of the alt-right, I’m guessing that it is non-trivial.

    • spandrell November 8, 2012 at 16:04

      Derbyshire himself is not your typical mainstream conservative. I know him from Sailer.

      How many evolved from watching O’Reilly and listening to Rush Limbaugh to reading Moldbug? From Ann Coulter? From evangelical churches? Those are the conservative masses.

      It’s my impression that moldbuggites are overwhelmingly evolved libertarians.
      Did you like the rest of NR? Hanson? Goldberg? If you did, and ended up here, kudos to you. It was a long way.

      • bathcat November 11, 2012 at 18:01

        i got here from heartiste. my gateway drug to far right politics. i used to be a hard left liberal

      • Zimriel November 20, 2012 at 06:18

        I used to be a neocon. I did read a little Sailer and Derb, but I didn’t inhale. Somehow in ’07 or maybe earliest ’08 I got into Moldbug, which experience is something like snorting mescaline from Catechism of the Council of Trent in its original Latin.

        I did, to my shame, vote in 2008 but I kicked that debilitating habit this year.

        • Lemniscate November 20, 2012 at 13:18

          How’s about this transition: raised Marxist-Leninist -> social democrat (UK Lib Dem/Conservative) -> neo-con (Victor Davis Hanson variety) -> libertarian (Milton Friedman variety) -> HBD reactionary. I never swallowed the race/gender equality pill, however, so there was probably always something wrong with me. Either that, or I understood evolution and genetics too well.

  4. B November 8, 2012 at 23:45

    >What does it mean anyway?

    It means there’s a moral dimension to human endeavor, and that embracing falsity and evil is maladaptive in the long run. Hence, the Spaniards destroy the evil Latin American empires, with their mass human sacrifice and pyramids, because the Spaniards are more good and their beliefs about the nature of this world are more true.

    >Asian languages don’t have the concept, and sometimes doing translation it’s very hard to explain.

    I don’t know about the Japanese and Koreans, but reading classical Chinese literature in translation, it’s always struck me as alien, how profoundly amoral everyone was. Very depressing, watching all those shitheads consuming each other. Do these languages have words for kindness and mercy?

    >In the end it must be derived from Christian catechesis.

    No, try again. There are very few foundational ideas in Christianity that are original.

    >But it doesn’t work like that, although there’s a certain plausibility over individuals having MPs

    Says who that it doesn’t work like that? Pretty much all of Abrahamic thought on how history works says that this is exactly how things happen on the historical scale. How else do global, unassailable empires fall but through moral rot? We are witnessing Europe fail to reproduce despite historically unprecedented wealth and resources, and for not other reason than that described by Nietzsche, i.e., having rejected G-d and turned into the Last Men.

    >If good government comes from virtuous people, where does that virtue come from?

    If you think of virtue as a direction on an axis in history-space (I swear I didn’t come up with that by myself-it’s from Sefer Hayetzirah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sefer_Yetzirah))-then it comes from the same source as the other dimensions-G-d. Virtuous people are the ones that perceive and recognize it, and move their actions in this direction.

    >They didn’t deserve Lee Kuan Yew, now they do.

    Au contraire-G-d, in his mercy, sent them Lee Kuan Yew, and they showed themselves deserving by not rebelling against him, and were thus rewarded by living in modern Singapore. The question of whether they will merit to continue to reap these benefits, or will follow demagogues into democracy, remains to be answered.

    >Americans used to shame homosexuals. Now they are cherished as the best of us.

    Uh-huh. Let’s see how well that goes.

    • spandrell November 9, 2012 at 03:24

      Damn it must be so fun to think like you.

      What’d you read? You’d like Mozi, he sounds like a modern jewish radical. Translations are pretty bad, though, Classical grammar is very criptic and it’s hard to respect it while writing proper english.

      >unassailable empires fall but through moral rot?

      They fail through bad management. The Ottoman empire was incredibly evil during its formation and heyday. By its end it was a rather pleasant place. The same applies to the Mongols. Empire *formation* is distinctively a very evil process.

      >”Virtuous people are the ones that perceive and recognize it, and move their actions in this direction.”
      And that powers of perception are uncaused and uncreated, I guess.
      Doesn’t watching CNN alter the ability to perceive and recognise God? So it must follow that a determined government can effectively stop you from being virtuous.

      >Au contraire-G-d, in his mercy, sent them Lee Kuan Yew,
      And they answered by refusing to have children.

      How many kids do you have?

  5. B November 9, 2012 at 09:34

    >Damn it must be so fun to think like you.

    Eh, sometimes.

    >What’d you read?

    Anything I could get my hands on.

    >You’d like Mozi, he sounds like a modern jewish radical.

    I am not a big fan of modern Jewish radicals and have my hands full with Rambam and Rav Kook these days.

    >They fail through bad management.

    This is kind of a vague definition, but insofar as they do, I’d say that bad management is caused by group goodthink, willful misperception of reality and a positive feedback loop of bad results caused by bad predictions caused by goodthink propagated to explain away bad results.

    >The Ottoman empire was incredibly evil during its formation and heyday.

    I don’t have that feeling. Compared to its competition, the Ottoman Empire did well in providing stable, predictable governance.

    >By its end it was a rather pleasant place.

    If you don’t count the Armenian terrorism and the floods of refugees dispossessed by the British anti-Ottoman policy (very much a proto-decolonisation.)

    >The same applies to the Mongols. Empire *formation* is distinctively a very evil process.

    Much less so than imperial collapse or regular war without end like in today’s Africa.

    >Doesn’t watching CNN alter the ability to perceive and recognise God? So it must follow that a determined government can effectively stop you from being virtuous.

    Of course, a wicked and determined government can turn most of its citizens from virtue to evil-see, e.g., the USSR, Nazi Germany or Rambam’s letter to the Yemeni Jews. There will always be a remnant who remain virtuous, as promised in the Bible and borne out in scripture.

    >And they answered by refusing to have children.

    Not right away. Of course, ingratitude always brings retribution if not repented for.

    Singapore is very much Bladerunner’s Los Angeles, and there weren’t many kids in Bladerunner. It is difficult to want to have children in such an environment. I would bet that if you did a study of Singapore’s population, the strongest predictor of having children would be a strong commitment to an Abrahamic faith.

    >How many kids do you have?

    None, but 1) I was brought up atheistic in New York, 2) I have only recently become religious, 3) it is a priority towards which I am working by (among other things) placing myself in a religious environment where it is expected that you have children, the more the better. So I hope, with G-d’s help, to have a bunch.

  6. Candide III November 9, 2012 at 12:55

    > ‘Deserving’ must be the most useless and obfuscating word in the dictionary. It’s bad philosophy, bad morals and bad manners in general. It’s cheap fatalism, escapism from debate, intellectual sloth.

    It’s not even particularly Christian, actually. From a Christian point of view, did the world’s sinners deserve that Jesus became a man, suffered and died for them? The very notion is preposterous.

    By the way, I am in Tokyo till further notice. Do you still visit the place?

  7. asdf November 11, 2012 at 02:35

    Good institutions aid in the rise of virtue, but all virtue comes from the individual. Many countries go from having bad institutions to good ones. Why? Under you determinism framework bad institutions should make virtue impossible. And yet brave individuals like Lee Kuan Yew arise anyway through sheer force of will. Honestly, I think the man should be granted sainthood.

    You’ve got one thing right. People don’t necessarily get what they deserve on this earth. Salvation is about the next world. If you’re obsessed with this world you will inevitably destroy it.

  8. spandrell November 11, 2012 at 12:19

    >Handle
    ““He deserves a good tip” or “He doesn’t deserve a good tip.””
    That’s an easier way of putting it.
    An East Asian would say “Should we give him a tip?”
    Which as you know, they never do in their countries. Unless you’re in a Chinese brothel.

  9. nydwracu November 11, 2012 at 19:24

    FWIW, I didn’t read it as anything about morality, just that you reap what you sow. Think of it this way–there are two aspects to the results you get: luck and what you’ve done before. If you act badly (in the sense of bad governance, not moral evil), you’ll get bad results unless you’re lucky. I read Moldbug as saying that America has been very, very lucky, and “every nation gets the government it deserves” means that luck is negligible in the limit–eventually it will run out, and the facts of the matter, the wise or unwise nature of the previous actions, will shine through. So America’s screwed.

  10. Pingback: What We Deserve | Old Nick

Please comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s