Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Senior educated white male.

Senior educated white male.

Yuval Noah Harari debunks everything but himself

Yuval Noah Harari

 

 

Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian who has afflicted us with his know-it-all debunking, in three books: Sapiens, Homo Deus, and 21 Lessons for the 21st century.

I got fed up with Harari after reading Sapiens and my impatience with his doctrines has been clarified by a reading of 21 Lessons for the 21st century.

Basically Harari insists we do not have free will. More importantly, he asserts that all human stories – myths, religions, creeds – are wrong answers. He uses the words “wrong answers” in the same sense as someone who dials the wrong number, or answers “42” to the question, “what is the meaning of life?”.  Instead of political correctness, it is philosophical correctness.

Harari is a gay vegetarian who practices meditation for two hours a day. He is a Buddhist. In that sense, his views are the expression of  what I think is orthodox Buddhism.

The core of his argument is contained in the chapter ‘Meaning’ in 21 Lessons, at page 285.

“While a good story must give me a role and must extend beyond my horizons, it need not be true. A story can be pure fiction, yet provide me with an identity and make me feel that my life has meaning. To the nest of our scientific understanding, none of the thousands of stories different cultures religions, and tribes have invented throughout history is true. They are all just human inventions. If you ask for the true meaning of life and get a story in reply, you know this is the wrong answer. The exact details don’t really matter. Any story is wrong, simply for being a story. The universe just doesn’t work that way.”

Any Christian, Jew or Muslim will tell you, if they have thought about truth and story deeply enough, that the Story they live by is the criterion of truth, that meaning in the world is given by the story, not the story given the meaning by forces extraneous to it. They have different stories and hence constitute different religions, because they link back to different ideas of what story the adherents shall be guided by.

Each religion contains disparate elements, and thus allows for different stories to be told. Try reconciling the Gospel of John with those of Mathew, Mark and Luke, if you need evidence for differing elements in the sacred texts of a major world religion. Religions spring up as new stories are told: think of Islam, Mormonism, Communism, Christianity, and so forth, without end.

Truth is not therefore a proposition, such as 2+2=4, or e=mc², though both are truthful equations.

Harari also disputes the liberal version of storytelling, that it is I who gives meaning to the world. The world has no need of meaning, he says, following the Buddha.

We do not govern our brain, our feelings, or our reactions to our feelings, he says. With that I agree, but he nowhere seems able to get beyond a truly presumptuous arrogance that, because our “truths” are embedded in stories, there is no truth, no meaning, nor need to create a meaning. This may be orthodox Buddhism. I do not know enough about Buddhism to be sure.

If I have no control over my desires, or my urges, I see no way in which to educate myself, my feelings, or my behaviours. Nor can we expect anyone else to effectively influence my behaviours. This idea is immediately refuted by the experience of every child growing up under the influence of parents and educators.

Harari constantly emphasizes our inability to tell the difference between fiction and reality, as if “reality” were itself not a fiction we have invented. I have bad news for Harari: it is all fiction. We change by having new metaphors, and guiding ourselves by them. Reality does not exist outside of our fictions. Our sufferings take place inside our maps of meaning. Some people just have different maps of meaning, but no one, not even Harari, is without his fictions. He thinks his Buddhism has brought him to the place of no fictions. Suffering without a fiction to explain its meaning: that is his remedy for dependence on stories.

Just as you cannot pick up the gross national product with a set of tongs, because they belong to two different orders of being, so you cannot pick up meaning without having the metaphorical instrument by which to apprehend it, which is a story. That is all we have had so far, and even if the stories are illusory in some sense, they are also our proven ways of getting as far as we have, from wandering the Serengeti devouring dead food to running the planet.

He concludes his book with:

“So if you want to know the truth about the universe, about the meaning of life, and about your own identity, the best place to start is by observing suffering and exploring what it is. The answer isn’t a story”.

That is as unprovable an assertion as that God manifested himself in Jesus, and it is, inevitably, just another story that Harari is peddling. Truth is found in fictions, it is such stuff as we are made of. I doubt we can do better than to try to live in better fictions and, as I have already related, our fictions are often the criteria by which we are obliged to judge the fictions, the world and its inhabitants.  We need fictions by which to live as birds need feathers to fly. Some of those fictions we hold to be true, and others we hold to be self evident, even as they are the results of previous iterations of our governing  fictions. If this seems circular, it is, in part, but there is a crack in everything, and that is how the light gets in. As that is yet another story, I rest my case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truth said in public is always un-PC

Ross Douthat is predictably being pilloried for saying the obvious about George Herbert Walk Bush and the WASP upper class:

 

I think you can usefully combine these takes, and describe Bush nostalgia as a longing for something America used to have and doesn’t really any more — a ruling class that was widely (not universally, but more widely than today) deemed legitimate, and that inspired various kinds of trust (intergenerational, institutional) conspicuously absent in our society today.

Put simply, Americans miss Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well….

So if some of the elder Bush’s mourners wish we still had a WASP establishment, their desire probably reflects a belated realization that certain of the old establishment’s vices were inherent to any elite, that meritocracy creates its own forms of exclusion — and that the WASPs had virtues that their successors have failed to inherit or revive.

And somehow the combination of pious obligation joined to cosmopolitanism gave the old establishment a distinctive competence and effectiveness in statesmanship — one that from the late-19th century through the middle of the 1960s was arguably unmatched among the various imperial elites with whom our establishment contended, and that certainly hasn’t been matched by our feckless leaders in the years since George H.W. Bush went down to political defeat.

So as an American in the old dispensation, you didn’t have to like the establishment — and certainly its members were often eminently hateable — to prefer their leadership to many of the possible alternatives. And as an American today, you don’t have to miss everything about the WASPs, or particularly like their remaining heirs, to feel nostalgic for their competence.

 

There is a wonderful moment in a movie that deals with the WASP Establishment and its intelligence agencies in the 1950s. Matt Damon plays a senior US spook on a visit to pre-communist Cuba, talking to an Italian mobster. The mobster asks what “you people” – the WASPs -get out of the deal.

 

The over-rated sex (part1)

New rules for new days: avoid women in business at all cost. What cannot go on, will not go on. If women can destroy a career with one joke that goes amiss, women will be avoided, first and not hired second.

The same thing happens in sport. Now that people believe sex is a social construction rather than a biological fact, transgendered men are entering competition as women and beating real women. The women contestants who object are taken to pieces for having the wrong attitudes.

The enormous over-valuation of women as such, not individual women, but women by the mere fact of their sex, is one of the most prominent features of our age. It is leading to under-performance of young males, dropping out of education, and deliberate suppression of the employment opportunities for men as such, for the sake of their sex.

If you do not like over-valuation of women, try contempt and under-valuation of men.

Two perspectives on the women thing, one from Janice Fiamengo, the other from Heather McDonald. I cannot saya enough for these women.

 

And this from Heather McDonald on the me-too thing or as she calls it “delusional victimology”.

These new rules are making women weak, not strong.

We know that “diversity” is just a cover for an anti-male, anti-white and anti-Christian ideology.

Quebec history books skewed. Who cares?

National-socialist history is easy to write. Everything that our tribe does or did is glorious and justified. Everyone else’s tribe is not important. Their contributions are not contributions, and their existence among us in a vexing provocation. Take Quebec history books for example.

 

A recent report commissioned by historians from the English language school board said:

MONTREAL — Quebec high school history textbooks are “fundamentally flawed” and should be removed from all schools across Quebec, an expert committee formed by the province’s largest English school board has concluded.

Students in the Grade 9 and 10 Canadian and Quebec history classes are being taught a “skewed, one-sided view of the past that distorts the historical record,” according to the committee report, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

The report is the result of work by three historians commissioned by the English Montreal School Board last June to review the controversial history program, which has been criticized by Quebec‘s Indigenous, anglophone and other cultural communities.

The program, compulsory in all high schools across the province since September 2017, “focuses narrowly on the experience of and events pertaining to the ethnic/linguistic/cultural group of French Quebecois from contact until present day,” the report says.

Of course it does. Who else matters?

In the newspaper report, it is significant that the authors dare not even mention the contributions of the two most important non-French groups to the growth of Quebec: the English and the Scotch. Streets named McGill, McTavish, Simpson, Sherbrooke, Argyle, Aberdeen, Carleton and so forth, bespeak an English and Scottish presence that changed Montreal from a collection of fur warehouses by the waterfront into Canada’s metropolis for most of the 20th century.

“The texts largely ignore the contributions of Irish, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Haitian and other immigrants while offering “no indication these groups helped to transform the city of Montreal,” it continues.
Black history is virtually ignored, the report says, “and women are relegated to a few sidebars or disconnected paragraphs in both textbooks.”
The report concludes the textbooks “are fundamentally flawed and must be withdrawn from all high schools.”

Today it was reported

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge has no intention of removing controversial history textbooks from Quebec’s schools.

Despite critics saying the books are “fundamentally flawed” and portray a distorted view of history, especially when it comes to minorities, Roberge said other experts believe the books are just fine.

It’s all a matter of opinion, the minister said, downplaying the issue.
“The current history books were written and approved by a lot of history experts, so I don’t think I will take back the books,” Roberge told reporters Friday at the National Assembly.

Case closed. That was easy!

____________________

Two post scripts:

“D’après l’étude exhaustive effectué par le Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH) de l’Université de Montréal, les immigrants fondateurs du Canada français comptent 8 527 personnes, dont 7 656 (90 %) sont originaires de France. Les autres viennent de Belgique, d’Allemagne, de Suisse, d’Italie et même d’Irlande.
Durant la période de 1730 à 1750, on note une diversification des immigrants. On compte des colons du sud de la France, 500 huguenots, quelque 1 000 fugitifs de la Nouvelle-Angleterre et 300 esclaves noirs.”

I do not think that the thousand or so from New England were “fugitifs”; they were prisoners captured by Indians on raids and rescued from slavery by French Canadians. See Francis Parkman for more details on this.

In any case, the French population of Canada is derived from a very small settler group, until more recent immigration after World War 2 began in earnest.

 

Why nationalism is necessary for being liberal

George Friedman of Stratfor lays out the arguments for nationalism. Liberalism begins with the right of national self-determination. Unless you have a nation in which you have can exercise civil liberties, you do not have civil liberties, you only have empires. Nationalism is not the opposition to liberalism, it is the expression of liberalism. If you do not believe in nationalism, you do not believe in liberalism.

I observe that Friedman is now saying what Bannon is saying. Nations are fighting for their existence and relevance against worldly technocratic elites. If you take away the consent of the governed, you take away liberalism. Nationalism is liberalism.

The contrary view leads to pan-national empires, which are an older way of organizing societies without the consent of the governed. This doctrine used to be peddled by Joe Clark, the former Canadian conservative leader, in the following form:  Canada was a “community of communities”, and not a nation. Such societies could only be governed by panels of technocratic experts.

 

Support David Warren

David Warren, former journalist, and now inspired  blogger, has pissed off more people than me, way more. He is also a brilliant writer and thinker and a staunch Romanist and self-avowed reactionary. I once read a paean of his to Pharaonic rule, where he lauded the fact that there had been absolutely no progress or change in Egypt for three thousand years. Here at Barrelstrength, we hold to views that are more moderate, meliorist, and, dare I say, progressive.  The influences of Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and David Hume fight it out for supremacy here. Barrelstrengthians are ever so slightly better adapted to modernity, and we have, in the main, accepted the legitimacy of the House of Hanover (Windsor) to the British throne, instead of those feckless Stuarts. We have held jobs and not lost them to personal piques and quarrels, nor have we gone over to Rome in despair at the state of the Anglican Church, because once you go to Rome, expecting to at last be received into true religion, you end up in a worse place.

I once heard a Liberal consultant swear he had cancelled his subscription to the Ottawa Citizen three times because of editorials Warren had written when he was there. What more recommendation of Warren can I offer?

Warren and and the cheerful loons of Barrelstrength each would be derided as fascist racist sexist classist reactionaries.  However we have jobs and pensions while Warren does not. Hence my appeal to go on his site and send him some money.

He needs it, and we don’t.

His is a great talent, and his voluntary poverty should be alleviated periodically.

 

David Warren

Chinese geneticist claims to have gene-edited babies

Image result for fetus at 20 weeks

 

Amidst the usual moral posturing and condemnation, it appears that somewhere in China some scientist – who is a graduate of top US universities – engaged in “washing” the sperm of some HIV infected fathers in order to spare their children HIV infection. The Guardian reports, through a lot of huffing and puffing, the following:

The researcher, He Jiankui of Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, said he altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatments, with one pregnancy resulting so far. He said his goal was not to cure or prevent an inherited disease, but to try to bestow a trait that few people naturally have: an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV.

He said the parents involved declined to be identified or interviewed, and he would not say where they lived or where the work was done. There is no independent confirmation of He’s claim, and it has not been published in a journal, where it would be vetted by other experts.

He revealed it on Monday in Hong Kong to one of the organisers of an international conference on gene editing that is due to begin on Tuesday, and earlier in interviews with the Associated Press.

“I feel a strong responsibility that it’s not just to make a first, but also make it an example,” He said. “Society will decide what to do next” in terms of allowing or forbidding such science….

He Jiankui studied at Rice and Stanford universities in the US before returning to his homeland to open a lab at Southern University of Science and Technology of China in Shenzhen, where he also has two genetics companies.

He said he practised editing mice, monkey and human embryos in the lab for several years and has applied for patents on his methods. He said he chose embryo gene editing for HIV because these infections are a major problem in China. He sought to disable a gene called CCR5 that forms a protein doorway that allows HIV, the virus that causes Aids, to enter a cell.

All of the men in the project had HIV and all of the women did not, but the gene editing was not aimed at preventing the small risk of transmission, he said. The fathers had their infections deeply suppressed by standard HIV medicines and there are simple ways to keep them from infecting offspring that do not involve altering genes. Instead, the appeal was to offer couples affected by HIV a chance to have a child that might be protected from a similar fate.

He said the gene editing occurred during in vitro fertilisation. First, sperm was “washed” to separate it from semen, in which HIV can lurk. A single sperm was placed into a single egg to create an embryo. Then the gene-editing tool was added. When the embryos were three to five days old, a few cells were removed and checked for editing. Couples could choose whether to use edited or unedited embryos for pregnancy attempts. In all, 16 of 22 embryos were edited, and 11 embryos were used in six implant attempts before the twin pregnancy was achieved, He said.

Tests suggest that one twin had both copies of the intended gene altered and the other twin had just one altered, with no immediate evidence of harm to other genes, He said. People with one copy of the gene can still get HIV.

Musunuru said that even if editing worked perfectly, people without normal CCR5 genes faced higher risks of contracting certain other viruses, such as West Nile, and of dying from flu. Since there are many ways to prevent HIV infection and it is treatable if it occurs, those other medical risks are a concern.

Thus, sexual selection, and disease, which is the normal way humans and all sexual species have been gene-edited, body by body, phenotype by phenotype, for the last billions of years, that is okay. But getting into the molecular level  and splicing and cutting genes is bad. Go figure.

I can hear the Christians calling me a Dr. Mengele, that the genome is sacred, and I hear that that the bioethicists have “concerns”. [Can you imagine that some people are paid to be “bio-ethicists”?]

I can hear the sound of the Asians flocking to new technologies to make their babies smarter, healthier, more disease resistant, and stronger.

New forms of competition will come to the human species, and it will be genetic, though the practices associated with gene-editing will be tolerated or encouraged by certain races and cultures ahead of some others. Attitudes against gene editing will soon be seen as the equivalent of not allowing the pasteurization of milk. Nothing  can be done to oppose it, except voluntary non-participation. Those cultures or religions that do not participate will eventually be considered to be like those sects that do not allow blood transfusions.

We in the politically correct West will be talking about the non-existence or social construction of racial differences, which simultaneously exists and does not exist, depending on the argument being engaged in. Meanwhile, other cultures or races will be busily experimenting with genetic engineering.

Hitler in Hell

I get over-Hitlered. I have read too much about the man and I resist, in vain, yet another tome on the subject of this revolutionary modernist mass annihilator. I know that Stalin makes Hitler look like a piker when it comes to mass murder, but Stalin is fundamentally a communist, and Communism is stupid, dumb, mechanical, and eliminatory.  In Communism we find the modern university, obsessed with false explanations for inequality, but with death quotas and actual mass murder.

“Fascism”, as Fran Leibowitz said, “is too exciting, communism, too boring”. So it was with some trepidation that I ordered Martin Van Creveld’s pseudo-autobiography “Hitler in Hell”. Hitler writes from a sort of air-conditioned featureless, shadowless world where the demons take his tray and keep him fed, but he faces an eternity of nothingness as a punishment for his sins and crimes.

Martin van Creveld is a military historian, an Israeli Jew of Dutch origin. He has written plenty of serious important books on warfare, logistics, and strategy.

His Hitler in Hell is a hoot. It is a way of telling Hitler’s story in an amusing way while Creveld (alias Hitler) gets to take a few shots at Joachim Fest, David Irving, Allan Bullock, John Toland and Ian Kershaw, Hitler’s historians, and, in his fictional voice,  the German generals whom Hitler thinks betrayed him.

It presents Hitler in straightforward terms as acting rationally to defend and avenge Germany in the wake of World War 1, as long as you can accept the absolutely demented notion that the Jews are the world’s parasites. Van Creveld presents Hitler as sane, save only that he was obsessed with the Jews, obsessed, and ready to murder them the way you take insect spray to a hornet’s nest.

Just as Stalin was a pure communist, and sought to eliminate all capitalist-market relations in the Soviet Union, even at the price of destroying his farmers and peasantry, so Hitler was a pure anti-Semite, and sought to eliminate all Jews wherever he could get his hands on them.

All the rest of his behaviour was sincerely anti-democratic, expansionary, war-mongering, cruel, and suited for the obloquy of man, but it was rational if you accept the premises of German cultural and racial supremacy, and hatred of everything Jewish.

One other book that comes close to capturing Hitler’s mindset is the most outrageous book I have ever read, Norman Spinrad‘s “The Iron Dream”, which purports to be a book authored by one Adolf Hitler, who emigrated to the United States in 1919 and illustrated science fiction books, and who eventually turned his hand to writing science fiction. You know, with titles like “Lords of the Swastika”. I recommend it if you can find it as a book, or go to the Intertubes and find it as a pdf.

There was yet another book about Hitler in which a team of Israeli commandos find him in the jungles of Paraguay. They cannot get him out for some reason so they put him on trial before a jury of one Guarani Indian. It was The Portage to San Cristobal of AH, by George Steiner. In his self defence, Hitler is allowed to speak. The Indian juror does not understand a word of the oration, but understands his meaning perfectly. The Guarani Indian decides that Hitler is a shaman. As such he could not be guilty, since he is a magician. In his defence, Steiner’s Hitler defends master race ideology  as nothing more than what the Jews believe about themselves, and claims to be the real founder of Israel. You can imagine the controversy that Steiner got himself into.

It is curious that, in reading van Creveld’s commentary on writing Hitler in Hell, found at the back end of the book and George Steiner’s comments on writing the Portage to San Cristobal  of AH, they each admit that once they got the idea, the books practically wrote themselves.

Steiner, Van Creveld, and Spinrad – all Jews – are a lot quicker and less ponderous to read than Joachim Fest and Ian Kershaw. Of the three of them, Spinrad captures the anti-semitism of Hitler as no one else ever has. I repeat my warning that Spinrad’s book is outrageous. Frankly I think only a Jew could get to the core of anti-semitism as well.  Van Creveld’s take on Hitler will convey more facts and accurate chronology. If you want to read about the Third Reich for a rapid and insightful overview, van Creveld is greatly recommended.