Free Speech used to be the very right
that people on college campuses would
start riots to defend. Now they start
riots to prevent it from being exercised.
Is That A Ship On Your Head?
by Sarah A. Hoyt
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Humans aren’t rational. This is something that’s really hard for me to accept. I mean, I know it’s true. Is there anyone who doesn’t? But I don’t like it.
I mean, we’re not totally irrational. We can chivvy ourselves along towards more rationality too. But if I were wholly rational, I’d be doing a novel a week. I can write that fast, the problem is getting myself to sit down and persuading myself to produce instead of either going into brain lock or leaving in search of more interesting things to do or, if I prevent myself from leaving the office/desk, taking off mentally on chains of thought that have nothing to do with anything I’m doing, and emerging two hours later going “Uh, what? That much time?”
One of the most enlightening things was reading Pratchett’s book (I THINK “Once more with Ceiling.” in which he talked about his process, and finding out it wasn’t very different from mine. His writing process included what I call “Chasing myself around to make myself write.” His, because that essay was written long ago, included “Clean typewriter keys.” Eventually at the end of the day there was “sit down and write” and then of course “Write till early morning.”
This made me feel much better, as I’d thought I was weird.
I also confess to laughing with sick delight (and recognition) at Peterson’s recommendation that if you’re bad at bribing yourself to produce (I AM) you’re a bad boss and a worse employee (to yourself) and should fire yourself and find someone else to be you. There have been times I’ve started to write a want ad.
All this to say, humans in groups have this exacerbated. No matter how much you try to be rational, you are still a social ape. And you will feel collective uncertainty and anxiety run through your surroundings, be they personal or professional, and you will respond. Your response will often be what your colleagues and neighbors are doing. And you won’t pause to wonder if it’s productive, because, well, you know, there’s safety in numbers. That is, if a lot of people are having the same response to a stress factor, you disappear in the crowd, and the crowd bolsters you. All you need in times of stress is to be fighting your own band mates, right? And they will fight you or shun you, unless you accommodate and fit in, because social apes.
On the other hand, if you exacerbate whatever the group has chosen to appease its stress with, you will probably end up being a leader, or at least looked at approvingly.
Which is how you get things like the massive and bizarre hairstyles of the nobility (and to be fair the rich bourgeois, but that’s because they aped the nobility) in France just before the French revolution.
As the industrial revolution and various other shifts (including truly disastrous harvests) robbed those whose income came from hereditary landholding of their ancient riches and prominence, even while the court demanded a complex set of “dancing attendance” for royal favor (A policy started and encouraged by Louis XIV in part to rob the nobility of wealth and prominence, not to mention keeping their minds off rebellion) the nobility felt insecure. The fact that its ranks were being penetrated by people come from the bourgeoisie, who married their children or “simply” franked the nobility’s lavish lifestyles, made the nobles feel they were losing control. Even though rank remained a thing of birth, they were in fact, in the real world, losing rank.
The response were fashions so extravagant that they make us go “Wait, what?” and must have given people headaches.
You can see where wigs came from and were fashionable, in a society without running water and/or decent shampoos. It was easier to keep your hair ridiculously short and wear wigs, which is why they’ve been part of human fashion since ever.
But it took the French revolution to come up with wigs on armatures (or hair extensions, ditto) and hairstyles that incorporated ships and, at one point, bird cages with live, singing birds.
To look at drawings or read descriptions is to go “uh, what? who ever thought that was attractive?” and also “Boy their heads must have hurt.”
Yet the competition for the most elaborate and showy hairstyle, no matter how insane, did not stop until those heads fell to Madame Guillotine thereby stilling forever their status anxiety.
I was going to write this blog about something completely different, but I had to hit FB to message someone, and the posts…
It clicked with something.
See, noblemen in France (in the rest of Europe too, but France’s old kingdom was special for how wide the disparity was) were used to being by far the richest in their surroundings. And they were used to the peasants being less than dirt under their feet. Or their chariot wheels.
And then that changed, in what, is a cultural eye-blink. Forget the crazy slogan. Humans don’t like change. Particularly they hate change that challenges their status. Unable to actually increase their net worth (within the prescribed realms in which noblemen could do such) or stop spending, the nobility instead went for displays of wealth. Big and extravagant ones. And the wigs were of those and… quite, quite insane.
So what does that have to do with facebook?
For a few generations, since the left captured the academia, entertainment and the industrial-news complex, aka, the opinion makers, to be a leftist has been synonymous with being smart.
And being smart, since the renaissance, but definitely since the world wars has been the greatest social “good” there is.
No, I’m not saying the left was smart. Increasingly, most of them weren’t, because as it became a matter of social display, the easily led started imitating it.
No, I’m saying that to parrot leftist ideas was to be considered smart. Partly because of the left’s conceit that Marxism was “scientific” there has always been, attached to the modern left the idea that to believe as they do is “rational” and “smart” and that their opponents are stupid.
Not only did they hold onto this while their ideas were proven wrong by reality over and over again, but having captured academia, they pushed leftist ideas as synonymous with being educated. I mean, if you’d attended an elite school, you received these ideas, and the way to signal you’ve attended the school is to parrot it. Thus leftism became the old school tie (mostly around the neck of our economy, but never mind.)
While they had full control of the media, be it entertainment or informational, they could reinforce the message, as well as revile anyone who challenged them as stupid, wrong and illiterate, and GET AWAY WITH IT.
With intelligence being the highest status-good in our society, the left had secure status. Forever they thought.
The change has been very rapid. The fall of the USSR and talk radio were the beginning, and since the internet took off, they’ve been trying to hold on to the tail of the comet, as it streaks away from them.
I’ve said it before and I maintain it. If Mr. Obama had been president in a country where the information tech was the same as in the 30s, all his failures would have been hidden, and people would believe him a staggering genius, instead of the little man who wasn’t there. Because that’s how the industrial-media complex presented him.
And then… And then they went all in for Hillary! They were “With her” 300%.
Unbelievably, it didn’t work.
I think they’d suspected, before, that things had changed. But they could still tell themselves stories, dismiss the opposition, preen on having all the power. And then… it failed.
Since then they’ve been running scared with social insecurity. They display their “brilliance” for all the world, and it didn’t work? Oh. Must signal louder, larger, crazier.
All the “Wokeness” over everything possible (and mostly imaginary) in the last few years? That’s social signaling by a social group losing power and trying to regain it.
The less it works, the more extravagant it will get. I am in premonitory awe over what will happen should Trump beat the margin of fraud in 2020. You thought the Democratic Socialist meeting was funny? You ain’t seen nothing yet. They won’t be able to open their mouths without announcing “point of personal privilege” and their pronouns, and interrupting each other with every finer intersectional victimhood.
If you think having a woman who won an SF award malign the person the award is named after with a bunch of ahistorical nonsense, and seeing the institution cave within days was peak wokeness, you’re deluding yourself.
Soon and very soon the “Wokeness”displays will be the equivalent of having live birds in your hair.
Because in their subconscious, if they just signal loud enough they’ll regain their status as “smart” and “educated.”
Meanwhile, we’ll be buying popcorn stocks and saying “Is that a ship on your head, or are you that insecure?”
Reprinted from According to Hoyt for August 29, 2019.
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