Darwin is a jealous god

I finally thought of something to write about.

I could write a lot more, if I didn’t mind being more repetitive than I already am, and if having to make a living and stay in shape didn’t keep me from more hateposting. Any way, this story about Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan caught my eye.

How a couple’s dream trip ended in tragedy at the hands of Isis

Asked why they had quit their office jobs and set off on a biking journey around the world, the young American couple offered a simple explanation: they had grown tired of the meetings and teleconferences, of the time sheets and password changes.

“There’s magic out there, in this great big beautiful world,” wrote Jay Austin who, along with his partner, Lauren Geoghegan, gave his two weeks’ notice last year before shipping his bicycle to Africa.

They were often proved right.

On Day 319 of their journey, a Kazakh man stopped his truck, said hello and handed them ice cream bars. In a meadow where they had pitched their tent on Day 342, a family showed up with stringed instruments and treated them to an open air concert. And on Day 359, two pigtailed girls met them at the top of a pass in Kyrgyzstan with a bouquet of flowers.

bicycle-couple-58

That picture is misleading, since most of the time the couple were grimy, battling infections, alternatively too hot or too cold, and often wet. Still, there is no doubt they were having a grand adventure. It ended of course. All things end.

Then, at the end of last month, came Day 369, when the couple was biking in formation with a group of other tourists on a panoramic stretch of road in southwestern Tajikistan. It was there, on 29 July, that a carload of men who are believed to have recorded a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group spotted them.

A grainy mobile phone clip recorded by a driver shows what happened next: the men’s Daewoo sedan passes the cyclists and then makes a sharp U-turn. It doubles back and aims directly for the bikers, ramming into them and lurching over their fallen forms. In all, four people were killed: Austin, Geoghegan and cyclists from Switzerland and the Netherlands.

A tragic punctuation mark to end a trip where the pair believed they had discovered the milk of human kindness.

Still, by the time they reached that bend in the road in Tajikistan almost three weeks ago, they had embraced the notion that the world was overwhelmingly good, the dozens of annotated photographs and the thousands of words they left behind show.

“You read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place,” Austin wrote. “People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil.

“I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own … By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”

“No greater revelation has come from our journey than this,” he wrote.

For the most part, this young man was right. Most people just want to get on in their lives and raise their families. Most people are kind to others, particularly to young adults with little more than their backpacks who pose absolutely zero threat. But looking at pictures of Taijikistan, I wonder at the culture that such a landscape would generate.

tajk1    tajik3

The cities look pretty non-descript, sprawling horizontally like you’d expect of any city built on a flat part of tundra.

The capital, Dushanbe:

dushanbe

Khujand:

khujand

Tajiki offspring of the cognitive elite:

khujand upper class

Hoi polloi:

Khojand Penshanbe bazaar tour guide

Again, most people are non-violent and just want to get along and raise their families. Tajikis, like most everybody else, are enjoying mankind’s present and historically unprecedented level of affluence. They can take their children to outdoor markets or enter them in math competitions, and no longer have to rely on a bread-and-bean diet or raiding their neighbors.

Tajikistan is a traditional nation-state in a world where nation-states are breaking down under the New World Order. I wonder what the people of this historically harsh region really think about young, affluent Anglos and Europeans who use their surplus wealth to live in tents where past peoples starved or froze to death as a matter of course.

Here’s something fairly typical from an intrepid young man who does this all the time.

As we kept going along that narrow road, which followed the course of the Panj river, I could not stop looking at all the villages across the river,the reason being those timeless looking mud brick houses sit nowhere else, but in the country of Afghanistan.

We were eight people, all squeezed in a Lada from Soviet Union times and, as my head and half my body were hanging out of the window, I could not avoid continually calling, yelling and waving at the many Afghans who were on their donkeys and motorcycles on the other side of the river.

Eeeeeeh! Afghanistaaaan! Eeeeeeeh 

Occasionally, with a little bit of surprise from their side, they waved back at me; some of them with a tremendous euphoria, while others, just with half arm raised, as they didn’t really understand what was going on.

That sounds like people in most places, going on with their lives, reacting with bemused friendliness to young foreigners temporarily enjoying the same bare-bones lifestyle as they are, except the tourists don’t have to answer to a boss or customer for the food on their plates. And for all their basic good intentions and Golden Retriever-levels of amiability, these tourists are children without children in a grown-up world. Occasionally, they wander in over their heads into tough places with tough people. And yes, I’ve written about this before.

One of Lauren’s friends had some concern about their coping skills.

The day Geoghegan and Kerrigan said goodbye, the two friends hugged outside Geoghegan’s apartment.

“The minute your instinct tells you something is wrong – leave,” Kerrigan told her. She was concerned for her friend, in part because of how big-hearted she was and in part because she feared that Austin had a higher tolerance for danger than Geoghegan did.

Indeed.

In a post about why he chose to cycle – as opposed to, say, drive around the world – Austin spoke about the vulnerability of being on a bike. “With that vulnerability comes immense generosity: good folks who will recognise your helplessness and recognise that you need assistance in one form or another and offer it in spades,” he wrote.

And what, the World responded, do you vulnerable, helpless, childless, rootless bicyclists offer us?

Update: Tyler was just kidding

Apparently. But I’ll leave this up any way:

Marginal Revolution will be leaving the blogroll, as Tyler and Alex have turned the site’s comments off. I’ll try to replace it with another econ site but I’m not optimistic. Practically all non-Marxist economists seem converged around the same bundle of neo-liberal tenets at this point. Economists generate exquisite papers demonstrating why immigration results in sidewalks paved with trillion dollar bills, but the age-old riddle of why white neighbors cost so much remains shrouded in mystery. Maybe they should ask their wives.

Similarly, I’m still looking for a good news aggregator to link on the site that’s not blatantly the product of a class of liberal, Democratic partisans.

The debate on MR was robust and a good place to sharpen your arguments against generally more intelligent opposition. Over time though it’s become obvious that the Left, including the classical liberals, do not have many arrows left in the quiver. Here for example is Alex, who otherwise works as a gimlet-eyed atheist economist coolly analyzing the minimum wage, moonlighting over in the Philosophy department on the Kantian imperative of immigration. After years of having their posts flayed alive and left to fester in the comment threads, I’m not surprised at the authors’ decision.

This rhetorical impotence is not restricted to the Left. As I’ve pointed out too often, what passes for the Right in the US finds itself perplexed over the failure of fiscal conservatism and exquisitely originalist Constitutional jurisprudence to resonate with the American public. (Answer: because everybody knows we just print all the money we need and the Constitution is whatever five judges say it is. You’re welcome.)

In like fashion, the rhetoric over President Donald Trump is impotent and childishly overwrought:

  • Drumpf is stupid!
  • Drumpf is a Russian puppet!
  • Drumpf is literally Hitler!

I’m still puzzling over how this allegedly low-IQ moron beat the entire Media, Academic, Business, and Political establishments in his first-ever run for elected office, why the Russian Federation wants to halt Central American and Muslim immigration into the US, and when the Jews neo-conservatives will be shipped off to the camps.

Reality–in the form of several million whites deciding to go to the polls in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania rather than staying home like they did in 2008 and 2012–seems to be inducing a lot of inability to cope these days.

Here’s a few other bubble-bursting bits of reality out there for all sides on the political spectrum:

  • If you still believe that evolution only occurs from the jaw down and humans are born tabula rasa, you are not going to like the future.
  • Socialism still doesn’t work.
  • We know what doesn’t happen when the central government disappears in Libya or Syria classical, Western notions of ordered liberty–that’s what doesn’t happen.

I could go on. Worldviews hatched and nurtured in the creche of a culturally and racially homogenous, triumphantly post-WW2/Cold War United States are being subjected to robust, democratic critique via the Internet. Consequently, the ideological custodians are trying to limit debate to its formerly comfy bounds. This is serious stuff indeed. One of the top 150 media influencers in the 2016 election was the pseudonymous @ricky_vaughn99. The social media executives are horrified. They let the genie out of the lamp, actually helping to elect Donald Trump, and now they are desperately attempting to stuff it back in.

It won’t work of course. It never does, and all the people freaking out about the end of politics as we know it just need to calm down and read my blog instead.

The wrong kind of social life

We’ve apparently seen this all coming for a long time. Farenheit 451 was first published in 1953.

Again and Again

mcallister_porch

“No front porches. My uncle says there used to be front porches. And people sat there sometimes at night, talking when they wanted to talk, rocking, and not talking when they didn’t want to talk. Sometimes they just sat there and thought about things, turned things over. My uncle says the architects got rid of the front porces because they didn’t look well. But my uncle says that was merely rationalizing it; the real reason, hidden underneath, might be they didn’t want people sitting like that, doing nothing, rocking, talking; that was the wrong kind of social life. People talked too much. And they had time to think. So they ran off with the porches. And the gardens, too. Not many gardens anymore to sit around in. And look at the furniture. No rocking chairs anymore. They’re too comfortable. Get people up and running around….”

Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451

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Women and men

Feminism teaches a Marxist dialectic of women and men as antagonistic social classes. In a time of incredible material prosperity and individual choice, we are warned that we are just a few Electoral College votes away from young, fertile women being rounded up by wealthy, white patriarchs and forced to carry their infant children to term.

HMT-TA (1)

Other men, it is assumed, would not flirt with the women and try to convince them they would make better lovers and providers but would instead ally with the wealthy patriarchs, arresting women at their behest. Of course, that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

First, women are, in fact, the “weaker sex.” Women’s political clout depends on having enough men agreeing with them to enforce their policy preferences. If the men don’t buy in to the program, say, the criminalization of rape, then nothing gets enforced. The laws don’t get passed, the wars don’t get fought, the bad men don’t get arrested. An all-female military or police force would just get laughed at. The physically fit men would leave, taking their wives who like masculine men with them, and the remaining masculine females would be reduced to bullying geriatric and disabled men and calling each other bitch. Women are neither physically equipped nor mentally wired to be violent enforcers of a social order.  Again, if the men don’t have a buy-in, they won’t enforce anything. Marriage and parenting give men a stake in female safety and bodily integrity.

Second, this whole Battle-of-the-Sexes strategy never works because too many of the soldiers will run off and sleep with the enemy. The notion that women can just threaten to shut off the vajayjay and get the men to do whatever they want doesn’t work because women like sex at least as much as men do. The perception that women are the wet blankets on sex arises from the fact that they have to be more cautious about their sexual partner being a violent psycho or impregnating them with less-than-fatherhood-material sperm. Women also like their stuff and their families a lot more than other  peoples’ stuff and other peoples’ families, so don’t be surprised when a large number of women don’t join the crusade for “free” OB-GYN care for women.

Note that this runs in the male direction as well. Young men are not going to support policies that restrict access to women and dole them out among a few well-connected men. This is why young men are leaving Islamic societies. It’s also why the Mormons dropped polygamy.

Third, where did feminists get the notion that a man wants a dependent child to show up every time he has an orgasm? Birth control is not going anywhere because men have a strong buy-in: they get to have sex with a woman they find attractive and not end up with a kid who will cost $300,000 over a middle-class lifetime.

The premise of women and men as mutually antagonistic social classes is kind of weak, given our sexually dimorphic reproduction. That’s why the TV series The Handmaid’s Tale has to introduce a venereal disease epidemic and environmental catastrophe to be at all plausible. Polygamy in civilized society is at least as insane as slavery, so only a society under pathological stress or delusion would have it.

The original novel never really got around that basic sociology, so the TV writers are helping out author Margaret Atwood there. Otherwise, it’s just a lurid Gothic fantasy about sexually desirable women being ravaged by powerful, wealthy white men.

Here’s a song from more innocent times:

The other takeaway is that liberal arguments are increasingly unmoored from reality. The future will belong to cultures that don’t put women and men in head-to-head social and economic competition with each other.

Sovereignty

I think about sovereignty a lot. I wish I had it, and it’s one of those weird, abstract concepts that underlies pretty much everything. Lion prides, babies, bureaucrats, all want to be sovereign. Everybody wants to be the decider, not the decidee. Sovereignty is especially pertinent to immigration, because then we’re deciding who gets to be here and be sovereign with us. Half the country really likes the idea of having a lot of neo-Americans coming ashore and joining their team to overwhelm the other half of the country, who are just as enthusiastically opposed to losing their political and socio-economic clout. Again, nobody likes being the decidee.

Debating immigration, I am inevitably asked, in a tone betraying belief that the question is a solid and unanswerable coup de grace, “What about the American Indians?”

The argument being, one assumes, that We

sodhouse

don’t even belong here, so how dare We say who else does and doesn’t get in.

First, I’m not sure why this isn’t cautionary instead: Open Borders don’t work out for the native stock. But I understand the specious appeal of the argument. The English and European descended should relinquish the stolen goods and let the First Nations decide what to do with the Africans, Arabs, Jews, Chinese, Hindu, Hispanics, and others, and how many more of them will be let in. Or something like that.

Of course, any adult in the room understands the impossibility of this ethic. The farmers have been chasing off the hunter-gatherers since the Neolithic; the hunter-gatherers frequently killed each other over breeding females and territory; and the farmers often ended up massacred by the pastoralists, who took the farmers’ women and settled down in their stead.

Human history, one might say, is one wave after another, taking over. Even if we decided that everybody owes everybody for all such grievances, it’s impossible to net everything out and restore a theoretical pristine state where every haplogroup occupies an original patch of ground. So practically therefore, nobody owes anybody. We–everybody on the planet–are who we are, we got here, and that’s that. If you don’t keep and hold, somebody else will take.

Second, what-about-the-Indians overlooks that these events happen on the sovereign plane. If Britain invades the Americas and the Americans can’t keep them out, then the Americans are no longer sovereign. If the New Americans decide that they don’t want to be British, and the British don’t have enough rifles to keep them that way, then New America is the new sovereign. There’s no Court of Status Quo Ante where “Britain” can sue “America” to keep it Britain. Same with the First Nations.

Another characteristic of sovereignty is that only meta-entities like nations and states can be sovereign. Individuals who aren’t kings of desert islands can’t be sovereign, because there are too many other individuals with their own will to power for any one individual to be sovereign. Thus, the anarchists are wrong–there’s no such thing as a sovereign individual–and the other term, libertarianism, is not a stand-alone philosophy. “Libertarian” is a descriptor for the degree of individual autonomy allowed in a civic order, like its opposite-side tail on the spectrum, “authoritarian.”

The order governing relations between the Iroquois Federation and the British Empire is anarchic; the order governing relations between two Iroquois or two Brits is civic. This isn’t all decreed in a book somewhere; it’s just how things work out. And that’s why talk about theft of territory from the nominal First Nations is meaningless. There can be no “theft” of territory held by sovereign force. Property rights and property crimes don’t show up until the farmers arrive and kick the hunter-gatherers off and stake out the property lines and the bills of sale. Applying civic principles like property rights to the anarchic order of sovereigns doesn’t work.

This popped into my head and out on the page because I stumbled on a debate about Ukraine on unz.com:

Felix Keverich says:
July 7, 2018 at 11:35 am GMT • 100 Words
@El Dato
Does Russia desire territorial gains west of the Dnjepr?
In theory – no. Realistically, every part of the Ukraine that we fail to occupy will get pumped by NATO weapons, advisers and used as a platform to wage hybrid war against Russia, so either we’ll need a strategy to deal with this threat or we could just occupy, which will be cheaper and easier, than trying to contain NATO-funded Banderostan.
IMO destroying and ethnically cleansing Galicia would bring a decisive resolution to this conflict.
More on the subject of Ukrainian dysfunction: the country is facing clean water rationing after its Soviet era chlorine-producing plant shut down.
https://vz.ru/world/2018/7/7/609286.html
You don’t normally see this problem anywhere outside of Africa and the Middle East. Now it’s a problem in the Ukraine.

NB: The commenter is obviously Russian.

Ukraine is supposed to be a Big Deal right now because PUTIN. Here’s fairly typical commentary from the Brookings Institution.

Now, it’s probably a good idea for sovereign rulers like Putin not to invade Ukraine just because they can since other sovereigns get nervous and we could all end up in a war. But at the end of the day there’s nothing anybody can do about it except assert competing sovereignty. And the Russians have their own perspective on the situation, namely, that Ukraine is a permanent failed state who will invite in NATO to encroach on Russian sovereignty and make life difficult for their fellow Russians in Ukraine.

I don’t really care who rules Ukraine because 1) I’m not Ukrainian, and 2) I don’t see any particularly resonant principle at stake unlike, say, brutal, rotten-rich Saudi Arabia bombing pathetic, poor Yemen. Ukraine would probably be better off under comparatively more competent Russian rule, and the history and genetics of the place are muddled thanks to European imperial history and the Soviets. I do care about influential think tanks like the Brookings Institution saying I should care, because that often means we end up spending national treasure on some faraway, complicated dispute.

Here’s a question I have about nominal sovereignty: why are so many countries deemed sovereign? Haiti, for example, is sovereign. It would be declared a Violation of International Law, numerous talking heads would wet their pants if, say, the United States just swooped in and took over Haiti. But Haiti can’t feed itself, can’t run a municipal water system or sewage treatment plant, and is so freaking poor the people eat dirt. No, really.

haitian mud cookie

Haiti offloads thousands of its citizens to the US which makes impoverished Haitians our problem instead of Haiti’s problem. So why does Haiti’s sovereignty merit any respect? Sell Haiti to the Bill Gates family and let them figure out what to do with it. Same for Honduras, Guatemala, Liberia, and every other place in the world that is, as usual, failing.

Here’s another area where sovereignty, and the Ukraine, pop up:

Ukraine moves to split church from Russia as elections approach

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s Orthodox church could become independent of Moscow under the terms of a presidential initiative lawmakers approved on Thursday, a move that President Petro Poroshenko said would make it harder for Russia to meddle in Ukrainian affairs…

Poroshenko met Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, in Istanbul last week, to seek support for giving autocephalous status – effectively, making it independent – to the Ukrainian church…

A spokesman at Patriarch Bartholomew’s office declined comment. Poroshenko has previously suggested he has the Patriarch’s support for an independent church but could not divulge many details about their meeting.

The Moscow Patriarchate sees itself as the only legitimate Orthodox church in Ukraine. It vies for influence with the Kiev Patriarchate, a branch of the Orthodox Church that broke away from Moscow in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union, and other Orthodox and Catholic denominations.

This arcane fight has been going on for some time and, of course, Reuters garbles it a good deal. There are three competing jurisdictions in Ukraine with one in canonical order, ruled by Metropolitan Onuphry under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate. The thinking by the Ukrainians is the Ecumenical Patriarch, the erstwhile Orthodox “Pope,” will grant a tomos of autocephaly to Ukraine, uniting the three factions in a new, autocephalous Church and giving Russia the heave-ho. It would be a radical move so it probably won’t happen, but there’s a lot of friction between the Patriarchs of Moscow and Constantinople, and they don’t much like each other outside their Sacramental roles as brothers and successors to the Apostles. In fact, I’ve been told by reliable people that bishops everywhere don’t much like each other outside their Sacramental roles as brothers and successors to the Apostles. All of which is simply to say that sovereignty–whether of Nations, States, or Patriarchates–is serious business.

I know a number of non-Orthodox who are perplexed, even repulsed, by these ecclesiological fights. But I find them salutary in addition to interesting. The more time our bishops have to spend defending their sovereignty, the less time they have to mess with doctrine and lecturing us about how many millions of immigrants we should be accepting.