The American Mind: In Defense of Stigma

This post from Alex Kaschuta at The American Mind, In Defense of Stigma, talks about degenerating mores in our society. Conservatism and progressivism in society are necessary, competing forces. Though not wholly unrelated, these terms are not synonymous with the political Conservatives and Progressives. Small c conservatives protect that which has shown that it works to protect and extend the existence of the society. Small p progressives test out new ways of doing things to see if they are better ways than the old ways. If the progressive elements find something that works better, then it gets integrated into the society and becomes something that the conservative elements should continue to defend going forward. Going to either extreme leads to societal downfall. Too conservative and the society stagnates and collapses. Too progressive and the society breaks apart and collapses. Stigma is a tool to protect the traditional way of doing things.

We are staring down the barrel of a world without social norms. This summer of riotous unrest has only exacerbated a trend that was hurtling forward to begin with: in the name of unfettered free choice and “destigmatization,” progressives of every stripe have demanded we not only abolish, but positively invert, every social norm.

To mark the conquest, as any victor does, the advocates of unfettered choice have found it necessary to parade the spoils. It is not enough to tear off our former cultural girdles: traditional social norms are not only being defeated, but inverted. Under the banner of diversity and inclusion, new transgressive duties are imposed to replace the old authoritative ones. Now, at a time when the initiation rituals of our culture are essentially “whatever may piss off your dad,” a discussion about what traditional norms mean (or meant) and what they could mean in the future is warranted.

Though collective norms change through the ages, there was never a time when an absence of norms was normative itself. Until now, that is: in the late hours of post-modernity, non-judgmentalism and tolerance are the highest order in our current culture. Arguably, rejecting order is the only true order. And to mark the occasion and make sure we don’t slip into old habits, the culture rallies around giving alternative lifestyles their time in the sun. We’ve replaced local norms—which, stipulated, were often stifling—with a very loose set of global commandments that, to meet the test of the global, need to overcome the parochial.

This drive for openness is understandable. We live in a globalized world where interactions between diverse people need to be smoothed out, to be standardized for global production and consumption. You are a member of the global village first, then, if there’s any local village left, you may be a member of that as well, but only within the bounds of your new supreme law. We need to be tolerant above all, just to make this thing work.

A contemporary stage for this conversation is the problem of sexual norms. Sex-positive feminism, the normalization of sex work, and a constellation of alternative sexual arrangements such as polyamory (polygamy?) have moved into the spotlight. The call is to destigmatize and normalize. The Left and libertarians alike make a powerful argument: “What’s it to you?”

Their point is compelling: people are different, and for some people, traditional arrangements in love and life may not be the best fit. Individual people have distinct personal preferences, and if they so desire, they should be able to exercise choice.

The problem arises at the collective level.

The Sex Worker Society

Societies and communities, if they are to mean anything, are a product of their culture. Culture, beyond its formal, visible artifacts like paintings, music, and corndogs, represents the invisible web of informal knowledge and rules that tie people to each other. These informal bonds are the stories and myths you share with others in your community. They inform you about the perspective on reality that other people have because they mirror your own. I know what you believe because I believe it too. From these myths, tales, and, importantly, taboos, we collectively generate norms.

A norm is not just what you know but also what’s expected of you from the other members of your collective. Norms encode essential information about what it means to be together.

A society is downstream from what its collective myths generate.

Our global and very vocal new collective myths around sexuality optimize for “shame minimization in the individual” and “tolerance of any lifestyle that is not directly a threat to others.” Even if these are noble goals on the level of the individual, on a collective level, this is not what myths are for. Myths, tales, and other memeplexes exist for group coordination.

For any culture, it makes sense for myths to exist to support behavior that focuses on selflessness and the next generation, propagating both its genes and its memes. Among other things, Christianity served as one such memeplex that embedded pro-social norms and, while it conferred sanctity to the individual, nevertheless always framed human life as a part of a collective.

Christianity, like other religions, is a self-propagating myth—this is not to pass judgment on the truths of its history one way or another. It is simply to point out that Christian teaching gives its adherents a way of understanding themselves, and their progeny, as more than merely interchangeable automatons. It tells them a story about who they are, what they must strive for, and why.

Arguably, a hollowed-out shell of Christian principles still acts as a brittle coordination mechanism in the West. How long the scaffolding will hold, even at the current level of rust, is not clear. Its successor, the “choose your own adventure” meme of the late 20th and early 21st century, isn’t a self-propagating myth because it can’t account for the collective. The adventure is, by definition, solo.

The Choiceless Choices of Infinite Freedom

Traditional norms have incorporated millennia of wisdom that an 18-year-old, though technically adult, can’t begin to fathom, both at the collective and individual level. The unguided young adult, born into a world that has been thoroughly de-normed and destigmatized, isn’t a perfect choice machine. The lack of supportive mythology limits her ability to choose her own adventure because it eliminates the wisdom encoded in tradition.

The thing about humans is, where there is more than one person, there are always norms. If societies do not proactively shape them, they will arise from our most base and short-term desires, whose fulfillment becomes a norm in itself. So, in the absence of guiding morality, the young adult will gravitate toward the norms set by her similarly confused peer group, who are still LARP-ing rebellion against 1950s father figures they’ve usually only seen in movies. Tradition was (allegedly) the cage of our ancestors, and the new anti-norms will finally make us, the individuals, free to choose and overcome arbitrary conventions.

So, for the young adult, born into normative normlessness, what does life look like? She (the ideal young adult today is female) is a magpie, gravitating toward every shiny new thing, doing experiments in living, always customizing her experience through ever more varied, but ultimately superficial, choices. She optimizes for individual preferences also because she interfaces first and foremost with the global market—a market that, beyond its admittedly magical powers of wish-fulfillment, can’t see her as a member of a community. She is a producer/consumer with desires that grow ever more sophisticated at the speed at which the market can satiate and then create them anew.

A lack of local norms works well in the global market because the price of admission is agreeing to leave your roots behind, to play well with others, to consume the global goods. The fact that there were no roots to begin with saves the system a few steps.

Every additional step in crushing stuffy tradition is another step toward expanding choice, but only in the narrowest sense. Choice is emergent from the world we live in, from the culture and communities we are a part of, often with millennia of embedded wisdom that doesn’t come with your firmware at 18 years of age. We choose what kind of life to live against a backdrop of what kind of life most people live, and what kind of life our ancestors valued. That’s the only context in which choice has any meaning at all—if there are no norms, choice is all but infinite—and meaningless.

In the strictest sense, the un-civilized and un-cultured individual is limited to choices led by his impulses. He is trapped in the short term because he is deprived of the wisdom that there is a sacredness in the long term, a sacredness in selflessness.

Norms, taboos, reputation, and shame are how societies coordinate informally around collective goals like cohesion, understanding, and, ultimately, survival. If a society not only allows for the destigmatization of its taboos but actively encourages it, or simply doesn’t frown on defectors, that society cannot sustain itself for long. Myths that help coordinate groups of people, religious or secular, are almost indistinguishable from the stigma they entail.

Stigma has no positive connotations today. It is merely a synonym of the dreaded intolerance that needs to be left at the door of the global village. But for norms to mean anything, something must happen when they are violated. In that sense, the stigma is the pro-social meme because it is the enforcer of it. A norm that is 100% carrot, 0% stick is not a norm, especially one that requires tradeoffs for the long-term because it lacks skin in the game.

Paying the Cost

The truth is that stigma can be traumatic for the individual. It can hurt and alienate in myriad ways. But that doesn’t mean that it is disposable at the collective level. The stigma ensures the norms of the world that our 18-year-old wakes up in are guiding her into a direction that makes sense for both her and the group she is embedded in.

The sex-positive world of ubiquitous cam girls and normalized sex work is one that maximizes short-term material gain for the individual. Few will deny this. Yet at the same time, few have romantic notions about aging in the industry and flourishing beyond a few good years without having to veer off into the tricky world of increasingly baroque fetish porn.

Beyond the potential mental health consequences for those pursuing such a course, the adverse effects for the group are immense and cumulative. Yet if the short-term, material benefits of engaging in sex work are high, and they are, then in the absence of a strong moral framework there is no reason this destructive porn spiral can’t become the new normal. The incentives are aligned: potential consumption is maximized, GDP is booming, and, to sweeten the deal for your average global citizen, this is also what would piss off the guiding 1950s dad avatar.

Those who advocate normalizing everything (but what dad says) also often claim that though people may get hurt if we take away our social guard rails, not everyone does—in fact, some people are freed to express their true selves in ways they couldn’t in more traditional societies. There is a caste of the enlightened among us, people rational enough to partake in taboo delights. Why shouldn’t they be able to, if they so choose?

But if that’s the case, isn’t that what the rebels have always done? Haven’t the chosen people always bent rules that were only bendable because they were rules? If there are no such rules, what is even the meaning of those formerly taboo acts? And as long as there’s room for rebels to brave a little social stigma and act how they want, what’s the argument for tearing down our entire civilization just so those few can do things they would already have done?

Normalization is the opposite of bending the rules. It is the demand that we abolish them to comfort those that would rather not be seen as defectors. So, to solve the problem of shame, we make everyone a defector. The stark truth here is that the vast majority of people cannot take it. They are better off sticking with the program, having a guiding light, waking up to a world of useful norms that protect them and the society they live in. Ridding our communities of moral taboos that the enlightened can do without will hurt these people most, as it has already if we look at the desperation left in the wake of the sexual revolution.

So, even if some custom arrangements may be better for some, killing the memes that are best for most is terrible for everyone.

The Trumpet: The Death and Rebirth of America’s Cities

A looter carrying boxes of shoes runs past National Guard soldiers and bystanders in Hollywood on June 1. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images Our celebrated cities are succumbing to decay and violence. But an inspiring resurrection awaits.

From The Trumpet, The Death and Rebirth of America’s Cities

t has been a rough year for America’s cities. Their residents have been locked in their apartments for fear of coronavirus. Their attractions, offices, restaurants and stores have been evacuated. Their wealth has bled out because of ailing economic life, lost jobs and dwindling tax revenue.

Worse, their streets have choked with violent mobs vandalizing monuments, smashing storefronts, looting businesses, burning public buildings. Their law enforcement has been bridled by politicians more sympathetic to criminals than to law-keepers. Their protectors are being disrespected, disparaged and defunded, giving their enemies more license, more space to destroy. Their people are suffering rising rates of violent crime, including murder.

Yet these troubling recent events only aggravated a trend that has been wounding the nation’s crowning cities for years, even decades.

Legacy cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Louis and Buffalo have fallen from glittering heights of America’s industrial power. Shifts in the nation’s economy have cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and a loss of wealth. This has been exacerbated by race problems, “white flight,” cutbacks in law enforcement, and escalating crime. These factors have hollowed out many an American metropolis, leaving impoverished slums, empty buildings and decaying infrastructure.

In more recent years, failed welfare policies and lax law enforcement have turned cities into sanctuaries for homelessness, makeshift tent cities, drugs on the streets, garbage and filth, illegal immigration and criminality. Investigative reports have detailed how these problems are afflicting San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and other celebrated cities. Citizens are disgusted with their beloved cities being overtaken by trash, overpopulated by wastrels living off government largess, and overwhelmed by problems caused by bad governance.

All these crises have intensified this year. Animated by the twin specters of pandemic and race revolution, they are overtaking more and more of the nation’s urban landscape.

The effects of these trends will be far-reaching and disturbing, affecting not just city-dwellers, but every American.

Changing City Demography

covid-19 has made population density a bad word. In areas where protests have turned destructive, a cascade of aftereffects are pummeling city-dwellers: jobs lost; stores destroyed and shut down; business costs skyrocketing as insurance premiums soar. And in far too many places, mayors and governors are encouraging these curses. They are shuttering companies in the name of public safety. They are permitting, even applauding, marches and mayhem. And in the vacuum left by their failed leadership, revolutionaries are growing more bold, brazen, aggressive and ambitious.

“Urban dwellers are resilient, but these simultaneous events have forced people to face a hard reality,” wrote Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal. “In just three months it has become clear that modern urban progressivism is politically incompetent and intellectually incoherent. … The message being sent is that progressive governance is, at best, ambivalent about maintaining civil order. The net result the past three months has been a sense in many cities of irresolvable chaos, stress and threat.”

At the same time that city life is becoming more unpleasant, virus restrictions are forcing much of life online. Schools nationwide are shifting to distance learning, and businesses are asking people to work from home. Social distancing restrictions and reduced foot traffic mean that costly big-city office space or storefront makes less and less economic sense. Consumers were already buying more and more online; this accelerates the trend. And many analysts are convinced some decentralization in the workforce is likely permanent.

The cost-benefit analysis is convincing many city folk to make a move. If you’re working remotely anyway, why pay big-city rent? And social distancing is far easier in suburbia, or in the country.

In San Francisco and Manhattan, when covid hit, many people left. Vacancies rose; home prices and rental rates dropped. Home sales in the suburbs around New York City soared, with many well-off city residents buying properties sight unseen based off Internet ads. The New York Times reported a 44 percent increase in home sales in nearby suburban counties in July compared to the previous year; 73 percent in a county just over the state line into Connecticut; 112 percent in Westchester, just north of the city. Meanwhile, the number of properties sold in Manhattan plunged 56 percent.

Nationwide, home mortgage applications are up 33 percent compared to last year, and are still rising. credits this to more Americans working remotely, and more families doing school from home and thus needing more space.

The people escaping the cities are people of means. Thus the concentration of impoverished people with no other options is growing. This at the same time that jobs are drying up, businesses are vacating, properties are being destroyed, law enforcement is pulling back, and crime is rising.

This is casting a pall over the future of America’s cities. And illuminating some of the most chilling end-time prophecies of the Bible.

The Bible foretells scenarios about America’s cities so nightmarish, some are difficult to conceive. But these recent destructive trends definitely make these prophecies far easier to imagine.

The Prophesied Fate of Cities

Many of the prophecies in the book of Isaiah are for our day, this period concluding man’s rule on Earth. Of the modern nations descended from ancient Israel—most prominently America—Isaiah foretells this: “[Y]e will revolt more and more …. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores …. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers” (Isaiah 1:5-7).

America has witnessed the ghastly fulfillment of this prophecy, scenes of cities burning terribly at the hand of lawless people who seek to dismantle the American system. Crowds of protesters have chanted “Death to America”—echoing Islamists on the streets of Iran!

But this is only the outer edges of the destruction to come. Several prophecies describe a coming time of “great tribulation” worse than any in history (Matthew 24:21). This is God’s terrible punishment for modern-day Israel’s rebellion.

Like Isaiah 1:7, these prophecies describing the coming tribulation place unusual emphasis on what happens in the cities. They show that cities will be hit first—and in some ways hit hardest. And a great many of the problems will be curses we bring on ourselves. This lamentable reality is foreshadowed in the way we are behaving and treating each other in our cities even today…(continues)

WA Examiner: Fox News Silences Gingrinch on District Attorneys Funded by Soros

From Washington Examiner, Fox News panel reprimands Newt Gingrich for mentioning George Soros in discussion about BLM riots

A Fox News panel scolded and cut away from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich after he linked liberal billionaire George Soros to the violent riots that have caused damage across the country over the last few months.

“The No. 1 problem in almost all the cities is George Soros-elected, left-wing, anti-police, pro-criminal district attorneys who refuse to keep people locked up,” Gingrich said to a panel on Fox News’s Outnumbered on Wednesday. “Both Harris and Biden have talked very proudly about what they call progressive district attorneys. Progressive district attorneys are anti-police, pro-criminal, and overwhelmingly elected with George Soros’s money. And they are a major cause of the violence we are seeing because they keep putting the violent criminals back on the street.”

Host Melissa Francis pushed back immediately, telling Gingrich, “I’m not sure we need to bring George Soros into this.”

“He paid for it,” Gingrich responded, prompting host Marie Harf to defend Francis.

“No he didn’t,” Harf claimed. “I agree with Melissa, George Soros doesn’t need to be part of this conversation.”

“OK?” a puzzled Gingrich said after an awkward silence. “So it’s verboten?”

A longer silent pause then ensued before host Harris Faulkner ended the segment.

“OK, we’re going to move on.”

Soros, a Hungarian-born billionaire and philanthropist, has long been financially tied to both groups and politicians with the same social justice mission as the Black Lives Matter movement. “If we’re going to say ‘black lives matter,’ we need to say ‘black organizations and structures matter,’” Patrick Gaspard, the president of the Soros funded Open Society Foundations said.

In addition to political lobbying, which Soros reportedly spent at least $48 million on in 2019 alone, the 90-year-old with a net worth of roughly $8 billion, has poured tens of millions into political campaigns across the country, specifically in races for district attorney.

Soros supported the campaign of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who released arrested rioters and looters back onto the streets citing lack of evidence in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd on May 25.

Gardner was also involved in the decision to charge a white St. Louis couple with a felony for standing outside their property holding a rifle while Black Lives Matter protesters stormed through a gate and antagonized them.

Soros donated over $100,000 to a super PAC supporting Gardner in July.

“Why are some in the left so afraid of our mentioning George Soros’ name that they scream anti-semitic?” Gingrich tweeted earlier this month. “It IS his name. He IS funding pro-criminal,anti police district attorneys. Why is the left afraid of the facts?”

See also SHTFPlan ALL Of MSM Is In On It! Fox News Host Stops Gingrich From Talking About Soros-Elected DAs

And more on the topic from ZeroHedge “Not Ideal” – Fox Offers Non-Apology To Newt Gingrich After Awkward George Soros Rebuke

And some words from Newt Gingrich himself at The American Mind, The Soros Cover-Up

Sultan Knish: Portland is Killing Itself

Daniel Greenfield at Sultan Knish blog has an article up describing how Portland’s progressive policies are destroying a once beautiful city – Escape from Portland. I used to love a trip to Portland — visit awesome bookstore Powell’s, visit one of the many good restaurants like Ox or maybe some of their nice food trucks — but it hasn’t been the same the last few years.

Officials say that although their “no-turn-away shelter strategy” failed spectacularly, they want it to be adopted state-wide and nationally.

It was a big year in Portland where the murder rate rose 18.6%. That was the perfect time for Portland’s progressive politburo to spend over $1 million on unarmed cops armed only with pepper spray.

There was a little bit of excitement when it was learned that their 200 hours of training would include “Taser Orientation” suggesting that they might be allowed to carry tasers. But Mayor Wheeler’s office explained that the weaponless cops weren’t being trained to use tasers, but “how to avoid being tased”…

Homeless crime has become both routine and terrifying. One Portlander described being threatened with a machete on a children’s playground, and it’s taken the city’s crime problem to new levels.

15% of Portland’s violent deaths in 2018 involved the homeless in some way.

Portland property crimes rose 15% in 2017. Its property crime rates easily outpace Boston and Denver, and put it on a par with dangerous cities like Atlanta. Its homeless blight has put Portland on the same path as San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. Portland’s Downtown Clean and Safe had picked up less than 9,897 used needles in 2015. This year it’s 39,000. Garbage and biohazards have also increased.

Car thefts are up 45% in two years. In Mayor Wheeler’s State of the City address this year, he mentioned a “97 percent increase in stolen vehicle calls” in 5 years. There was also a “64 percent increase in unwanted persons calls and a 32 percent increase in disorder calls”…

Click here to read the entire article at Sultan Knish.