The problem is that most humans are not
intellectually superior or morally superior
to others. Most humans are—sing it with me—
average. That’s why we call it average.
by Sarah A. Hoyt
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
And so at last we must speak of the wealthiest nation in the world having people proposing infanticide “for the health of the mother.” Including mental health of course, and the fact that she wants to avenge herself on the father, or something.
I have more to say about that, and will in a PJM column. Some of it has been said before, some has not. Possibly the crucial part has not.
But that’s not the point here.
Infanticide has been performed throughout history. Usually by mothers who couldn’t afford to support the baby. Sometimes by mothers who wanted to hide that the baby looked uncommonly like a slave or servant. (That mental health thing.) Sometimes at the mandate of the state. Sometimes at the mandate of the father who wanted a baby of a different sex. In a memoir I read from the Chinese Cultural revolution, she related, in rural districts, where people were starving anyway, seeing girl babies drowned in the slops bucket or fed boiling chicken soup to kill them. In Africa, it’s not unusual to kill one of each pair of twins.
Note I’m not saying this makes infanticide all right. I’m saying it happens. I’m not one the moral imbeciles who says that because a great number of pregnancies self-aborts abortion should be all right. That’s like saying because a large number of people over 70 die naturally, it should be open season on them.
Infanticide is an horrendous act, one from which every adult human being should recoil. The societies that performed it en masse — say Phoenicians or Aztecs — have been justly reviled and viewed with horror by civilized humanity.
And yet, in the most prosperous nation in the world, a nation with such an infertility problem that we scour the other nations of the world for children to adopt, a man with medical training can sit calmly before cameras and talk about how the mother and the doctor can take a little time and discuss infanticide.
It seems like a curious kind of madness, and it is.
But you don’t get to this kind of madness all of a sudden.
You don’t get all at once to the insanity that children pre-puberty, children whom we’d not allow to choose, say, whom to marry or to sell their property or even what medicine they should take, are in some areas allowed (and the parents forced to accept it) to take puberty-delaying drugs or to choose to self-mutilate because they say they are the other sex, really.
You don’t get all at once to the crazy epistemological confusion of “anything we do as a society” with “socialism” either. Because societies have been doing good and bad things for a long time before anyone got the idea that economies should be planned and that everything we do should be controlled by a powerful central government. (Which had been tried, before, with absolute monarchies, and caused mass revolts against despots. Ah, but this time it would be the right people. Educated people. Stop me when it sounds familiar.)
You can say all this has its origins in Rosseau’s d*mned noble savage and Marx’s economic “but I should be given more stuff!” theories. And you wouldn’t precisely be wrong.
But those have their origin in turn in what we’ll call “a defect in human make up” or if you prefer “the fact we’re still mostly apes.”
Apes need—crave—hierarchy. Throw an ape in a zoo with a bunch of strange apes and they immediately establish where they belong in the hierarchy. All studies done of apes in the wild show hierarchy and a climb in the hierarchy.
Humans are apes. We want to know where we stand. And mostly we want to stand on top.
We crave “titles of nobility” so we can peacock it over our equals. We crave showing ourselves superior to others.
In a way the modern era, with its fluid hierarchies, its loose bonds, drives people insane. They need to know they’re on top, special, better. Physical aggression being frowned upon and these days what used to work like it for women—vamping it up—being looked at as unenlightened, all that remains is to show your intellectual superiority and your moral superiority over others.
The problem is that most humans are not intellectually superior or morally superior to others. Most humans are—sing it with me— average. That’s why we call it average.
And when your social signaling must be done by displaying “intelligence” how can an average person display their special gifts of thought?
Most of us realize when we find smarter people that they often have ideas that seem weird to the rest of the world. This is enshrined in history—of sciences, of art—with the idea of the lone genius who comes along and sees that this despised thing is NOW the real best thing in the world, and thus makes a new order.
Keep in mind, having known a lot of very smart people, I know that a lot of their ideas amount to “and the bridge will be completely carved out of soap.” But few people have had much exposure to true bonafide geniuses.
So how do the average or slightly above average signal they’re “so smart.”
If you say that people should save a bit of their money against hard times, you’re not showing you’re smart. You’re just saying what everyone knows. If you say an adult human being should control him or herself so that they don’t go around being controlled by their emotions and whims and so they can attain long time goals. Again, you’re just saying what everyone knows. You risk being thought… average.
So to counter that, average people say the counter intuitive, the shocking. Quite literally they live their lives Pour Epater Les Bourgeois.
The person who doesn’t save is right,and is living life to the fullest and the state should provide for them. Human beings should live for the now, because that’s the unsullied life of the noble savage. And on and on.
It’s all around. It’s in every story, every news report, every art form.
“I will show I’m brilliant by taking something everyone knows is bad, and proving it’s actually wonderful.”
This led to nostalgie the la boue which was responsible for some really bad books well before the middle of the twentieth century. But then the middle of the twentieth century was “blessed” with mass communication, which is to say mass-means of transmitting story.
Unfortunately by then “shocking” had become confused with “good.” So with the idea of the people they were shocking frozen circa 1950—which is to say a good 30 years earlier, when the creators of the 1950s were forming THEIR ideas of the world—the new mass communicators set about showing how smart they were.
As a result, we’ve gotten countless stories with bad businessmen (they used to once be considered models to look up to, particularly since some sects of protestantism viewed wealth as a sign of being blessed.) Virtuous communists/anarchists/rebels. Virtuous homeless people. Children who know more than their parents. Women who are stronger than men. People who totally deserve to be supported by the government and not have to work for a living because they’re geniuses. Artists whose art makes no sense to anyone, and who are therefore geniuses.
And each of those is a bite into the fabric of what creates civilization. They’re “countercultural” in the basest sense. Believing in this destroys the culture. Any culture that exposes itself to them.
Believing that you signal you’re superior to the people around you by destroying the foundations of what leads to a good and prosperous life leads to generations growing up thinking this is the way to attain status. And to their struggle for status destroying more of the culture that created the prosperity that allows them to be countercultural.
As a child growing up in the mid sixties, I think I was six before I came across the story of the virtuous and brilliant hippie-philosopher who died because he couldn’t make money lecturing people about random stuff, and how this was an injustice.
Fortunately in the mid sixties there were still grandparents around that said things we thought were cringingly embarrassing and low class. You know, the basic things: clean your room, study hard, work towards what you want. The fact that Peterson saying this now is a daring revolt tells you how much it’s been lost.
All human beings are born with the need to signal status. We’ve learned that just telling everyone they’re special and “gifted” doesn’t help anything. It actually hurts.
What we need to do is change the signaling from things that destroy society to things that build society.
Look, as Peterson has shown, we’re now at that point where saying the common sense things our great grandparents knew is countercultural. Daring.
We face a media and artistic establishment indoctrinated into the idea that the rest of the world still lives by 1920s morals.
They’re getting a little desperate. When knitting with yarn you keep in your vagina or rolling yourself in feces only give you limited internet notoriety, you must do something more.
The same with the left. Having come out in favor of socialism, having recruited people who think “you must belong to something so why not the state.” What do they do for an encore? Having established a mother’s right to have an abortion for no reason at all at any time in many places till the third trimester (check) with partial birth abortions disguising the obvious killing of a viable infant, what do you do for an encore? How do you shock the squares?
Infanticide. It’s the next logical step. And it must be good, because look how it shocks the common people.
If we allow this to continue, their attempts to shock us are going to get really creative.
How creative? What comes after infanticide? Do you really want to know? Perhaps we’ll be building pyramids to the sun and sacrificing hundreds of thousands of people in a day? Perhaps the right to cannibalism. The one thing we know is that this “movement” taking bites out of culture doesn’t like humans much. Perhaps because liking your own species is so much of a given, so mundane, so bourgeois.
And then there’s the counter push. If there weren’t, Peterson would have no purchase. And he does.
But the opposition is entrenched and has billions of dollars on its side.
The cart stands poised. If we allow them do continue pushing, we’re going to go off the cliff. At the bottom there’s mass dying and lives that are worse than dying.
Or we can push the other way, push that which builds society.
The tide is turning. Time is on our side. But nothing is free. A civilization if you can keep it.
Put your shoulder to the wheel in whatever way you can— blogs, comments, stories, art, teaching—and push. Push with all your might.
The future of humanity depends on it.
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