Statistics is what you use when you don’t know what’s really going on, so you’re reduced to see patterns in data. It is useful, but it’s not an ideal situation. Ideally you want to know exactly what mechanism is producing that data.
But of course data is in many cases infinitely divisible, and you can always go more micro in searching for causes. You want to know why society is changing so you do sociology, then you want to know the mental processes of the individuals so you do psychology, then you want to know what the neurons are doing so you do neuroscience, then you want to know what the neurons are all about so you do biochemistry, then you want to know how electrons move so you do physics, then you go into quantum physics, and then you realize that you still don’t understand why engineer schools have so few women. Must be evil spirits.
To avoid the reduction treadmill humans use labels, or what we call names. Most names are quite accurate, some cause more problems than what they tried to fix. Say the political labels, ‘left’ and ‘right’. We all know that they were just a convenient shorthand for the physical location of the different factions on the France National Assembly in 1789. The naming was very arbitrary, and nobody before the time had thought of studying politics through such a simplistic framework, yet it has become one of the most productive frameworks in the history of mankind. As it happens, in almost all human polities, before and after 1789, the struggle for power usually produces two big competing factions. The reason is that power is occupied by one faction, and contesters of that power naturally tend to group together to have a better shot of grabbing power for themselves.
And that is exactly what the Left and Right sides of the French Assemblée were, those in power, or at least supportive of the status quo, and those who were out of power and wanted power for themselves. It follows that the Right is for keeping things stable, and the Left is for stirring things up. That’s why the actual contents of the policies advocated by self styled leftists and rightists change in different times and places, Left and Right isn’t about what you stand for, they are merely references of position in the political spectrum.
But of course, as all things language, meanings are never that clear cut. While the common Left and Right today can be identified as those supporting the status quo vs those wanting to change things, the Far Right and Far Left aren’t those who really want to keep the status quo and those who really want to change things. Arguably the Far Right wants more change than the Far Left does. Far Left and Far Right aren’t positional labels, they stand for real political positions, i.e. the are the accelerationist version of their moderate namesakes. The Far Left wants more of whatever the contemporary Left wants, and the Far Right is the logical conclusion of whatever the Right stands for at the moment. It doesn’t really work like that today, what we call the Far Left and Far Right are fossilized labels of the actual extreme rightists and extreme leftists of the 1930s. In the 1930s the status quo was that of a strongly nationalist nation-states, and the left wanted more socialism and less nationalism. Back then the Far Right was just an extreme Right, they wanted to go all the way towards nationalism, i.e. fascism, and the Far Left were just extreme leftist, i.e. internationalist communists. Today the Right isn’t nationalist any more, but today fascists are still called Far Right. That’s the way propaganda and journalism mess with language.
This idea that the Right is for the status quo, and the Left is for change, has very important ramifications, one of which was Jim Donald’s theory of the Leftist singularity. If the Left is for change, and you have a political system in which change is not only not fought against, but actively facilitated, then people looking to grab power will always try to subvert the existing society with whatever positions they can think of, begetting an accelerating mess of chaos and insanity that can only end in a bloodbath and societal collapse. As Jim puts it:
The French Red Terror, the Soviet Great Terror, the Cambodian autogenocide, and many others were all examples of what I call left political singularities.
Left wing repression tends to make things lefter, which tends to worsen left wing repression, which makes things even lefter, which … The process only stops when the latest despot starts to realize he is not left enough, he is being outflanked on the left, is going to be overthrown by those even lefter than himself, and promptly executes everyone important who is even lefter than he is.
As it turns out, the optimal engine for leftism is egalitarianism. The physical properties of DNA itself mean that individuals from the same species can never be equal, so egalitarianism is necessarily unattainable. But millions of years of hunting in small bands mean half of the human brain is optimized for envy and hating those who attempt to be better than you. Actually is even worse than that, envy is hard wired deep in the brain since we were monkeys.
So egalitarianism is both appealing and impossible. There is always space further on the left. The perfect match for a subversive ideology.
As such, over time leftism came to be associated with egalitarianism, and rightly so. But that doesn’t mean that egalitarianism is the only way to subvert a political system. The leftist singularity is based on claiming higher status by being more egalitarian than anyone else. So you get a status arms race in which everyone tries to be more egalitarian than the others. That works because people (and monkeys) take equality to be a good thing. But it’s not the only good thing, and the singularity mechanism also works with other methods of assigning status.
Jim recently wrote that in an ideal reactionary polity, the official religion would make envy a capital sin. Ironically, this is how things work presently in China. The recent economic boom under the crony capitalist system has made China an outrageously unequal society, in which Ferrari’s sharing roads with rusted bicycles is a daily occurrence. Obviously the common people are extremely envious, green with envy, or maybe red, their social networks are full on all kind of hate of those rich, which are universally regarded as the root of all evil. If you go to China and want to make friends with the common folk, just complain about nouveau riche and corrupt officials. It’s easily 80% of all people talk about.
But of course the Chinese government, as the target of all this resentment, tries to deflect it with all their (quite substantial) means, so officially it is taught that envy is not a good thing. People are exhorted not to fall into 仇富 (hostility to wealth), and have a positive attitude towards money and entrepreneurship, that with effort and conscientiousness anyone can become gloriously rich. Of course the people aren’t stupid, so the government does pay lip service to their concerns, and occasionally crack down on the most egregious examples of cronyism, but going the way to show your commitment to human equality in China is not a good way to gain power and status. You might get followers on Weibo, but go too far and you’ll get sent to reeducation camp, and have your dang’an soiled for life.
So how do you get status in China then? Well the idea of course is that you should join the Communist Party, but there’s 80 million people there already, and once there it’s just a bureaucratic mess of clans and factions, where success depends in decades of very fine politicking. The Party is effectively isolated from society, and the internal status system has no effect on the wider society. So what are the masses to do? People crave status the same way the crave food and sex, it is a basic human need. A human right if there was ever one. If people don’t have access to the political system, and they can’t really make much money, how are they to cope with their need for status? The Chinese government, in their heavenly wisdom, knows that the people need a release mechanism, some means of attaining status so they can impress their neighbors and feel good with themselves. As I said above, most of the world uses egalitarianism. Actually China used to play that game too, but it produced the Cultural Revolution. Something else will have to do.
The Chinese not being known for their innovativeness, have settled for a European import. Nationalism. Ever since the Leftist Singularity showed it’s fangs yet again in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the Communist Party leadership decided that enough was enough, and cracked down on envy-based religion. Communist ideology was de-emphasized, and the (very substantial) propaganda apparatus was redesigned to focus on making the people proud of the glorious Chinese nation. Chinese nation which had been bullied since 1840 by evil foreigners, and especially by Japan. Yes, Evil Japan. Half the history curriculum in schools was made on the Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945), the “8-year resistance” against the evil neighbor. For 20 years the people have been instructed to work hard to attain the glorious Renaissance of the Chinese Nation (there’s a government department in charge of calculating how far China is from achieving the objective, currently at 62%), and 60% of soap operas on TV (which make 70% of all TV shows on air) are about brave Chinese soldiers fighting evil Japan during WW2. Of course after 20 years, the poor show producers have run out of plausible stories to write, and have increasingly being making hilariously over the top anti-Japanese shows. Here’s a clip on a show where a hot female Chinese Communist beats the evil Japanese with her mad archery skillz:
The official backing of nationalism and anti-Japanese-ism gives ambitious people a good way to earn status. Just hate Japan! Or the Philippines, or Vietnam, or India, or whatever country ever that has any conflict with China. But hating Japan gives you extra points, as seen in the periodical anti-Japanese riots that happen in Chinese cities whenever China runs out of diplomatic cards. Not that the people really give a shit about Japan, but they have sensed that being anti-Japanese gives you status points, so status-conscious people smell the cues and act accordingly. That’s why you have people going ballistic over the Senkaku islets dispute. See this illuminating exchange at a Chinese forum:
A bunch of stupid pigs, what do the Diaoyu Islands have to do with you? Aren’t Hong Kong and Macau China’s now? But what does it have to do with you? Every year Macau gives money, and you? If the Diaoyu Islands were to return, would you and your entire family move there? Keep dreaming! Why not go curse the Russians? The Kuril Islands are so large, Taiwan is just 1/3 of their size, were they not China’s before? A bunch of fools. What more, Japan may even be the descendents of Chinese people, the language is almost the same. Whoever it is given to is the same. Of course, if everyone can split it, then go ahead. Stupid cunts, going crazy over what politicians do.
aptx2161608 [网易中国手机网友]： (responding to above)
If you don’t know history, then don’t talk, you garbage. You’re just begging people to laugh at you.
网易山西省手机网友： (responding to above)
Fuck you Fuzhou City netizen [网易福建省福州市手机网友]. I’ll keep it short, you’re just fucking human scum. Your family’s women better be careful of being raped, and the men better be careful of being run over, motherfucker.
ig0226 [网易广东省深圳市网友]： (responding to above)
Although I hate the current government, and hate it to my bones, but for the territorial integrity of a nation, I must say that the Diaoyu Islands belong to us.
All the media in China are controlled by the Communist Party Propaganda Department, which gives and takes licenses for newspapers and website operators. And while every week they send top-down cues to all media companies in the country about what news are to be talked about and what to avoid, their leash is not as tight as it once was. For one, it’s not like they’re sovereign, the Propaganda Department also has to report to the Politburo and other higher committees. And once Pandora’s box has been opened, it’s hard to close it again. After all there are 80 million party members with an official right to seek power, and a huge, oversized academic establishment that also seeks upward mobility by seeking fame and status points.
So how do you get status points today in China? Easiest way is to screw with Japan. And soon enough, people are coming up with ways to screw with Japan. Since last month, China is buzzing with talk about how Okinawa doesn’t really belong to Japan. We’re not talking about some rocks in the middle of the sea, we’re talking about a whole province of millions which has been controlled by Japan for 400 years. Okinawa was a small island in the middle of nowhere, which emerged out of barbarism around the 14th century, and started trading with China and Japan. China wouldn’t let you trade if you didn’t kowtow in front of the emperor and send him tokens of your infinite inferiority (“tribute”), and so they did. Japan back then was in the heyday of Samurai culture, and once they found there was some small island in the south seas that was making good money trading with China, they sent an expedition, invaded and took over the place. Of course they didn’t want to disturb the lucrative Chinese trade, but as Japan and China didn’t have the best of relationships (has to do with centuries of piracy and a full scale invasion that kinda helped kill the Ming dynasty), the Samurai overlords kept a low profile and went on sending tribute and kowtowing messengers.
It doesn’t make any sense to argue that Okinawa isn’t Japanese territory because they used to send shipments of Bananas once a decade into Beijing, and any sane person in China is more than aware of it. But it’s not about sanity or historical truth, this is about politics, and as long as Japan is a convenient enemy to rally the populace with, anti-Japanese rhetoric will be profitable in China. And of course like all profitable things, everyone wants to get into it and get a part of the pie. 20 years ago people started talking about the Nanjing massacre in 1937. At first it was 30,000 dead, then it was 50k, then 100k, then some academic said he had proof for 200k, and recently the number has been hiked to 300k. One wonders if any of the city inhabitants was able to escape. Not that it really matters, the evil of killing 100,000 civilians and killing 200,000 civilians doesn’t register as different in most people’s brains. But of course the more dead you can make up, the worse Japan looks, and as making Japan look bad is a good thing, the incentive is to come up with ever more outlandish claims about Chinese victimization. Ditto of the surprisingly round numbers for Korean comfort women.
Jim wrote that the essential difference between the Left and the Right meant that while the Left was prone to always spiral out of control into a murderous leftist singularity, the Right only cares about order and stability, so a Right singularity is impossible. That makes some sense, but it is simplistic, because it doesn’t take into account that the mechanism of the leftist singularity is by no means exclusive to the Left. Egalitarianism, being based in the universal envy instinct, can easily spiral out of control into a murderous Reign of Terror, but nationalism, which is based in the also universal human trait of tribalism, can also easily spiral out of control into irredentist warmongering. What was Nazism if not a Right Singularity, where? Saner voices were shut down and ignored, while supporting ever insaner schemes for the eternal glory of the Aryan Nation, no matter how stupid, would always get you higher status. That was Hitler’s genius, he unleashed the Right singularity in his own persona.
Right now China has a strong enough government to control the nationalism singularity from spiraling out of control, and even if some random academic or army general comes out every month saying that China should just go to war and teach those barbaric neighbors a lesson (or just pushing for nuclear war against the US), the government is usually able to have sanity prevail and control the limits of public discourse. Of course the same could be said of USG, that as much as leftism is the supreme religious principle of the country, and ever more outlandish leftist schemes are the easiest way of upward status mobility for most people, USG has been able to stop leftism from spiraling out of control, leading to outright communism and other steps of the leftist singularity. But that doesn’t mean that slowly, step by step, leftism aka envy keeps pushing the West leftward, and perhaps in some point in the future, the powers that be lose control of the situation and the singularity unleashes its destructive force. In the same way, rightistm aka tribalism, even if contained by China as of now, may in some point in the future overwhelm the government’s control, and unleash an irredentist total war, aka the rightist singularity.
I do think that the leftist singularity today is more powerful, because at the end of the day, envy is stronger than tribalism, for obvious evolutionary reasons. But not by much.