November Thoughts on the JQ

Update, 11/30: two new thoughts, brought to you by the letters E and F.

A. Razib Khan once argued that Americans misunderstand the nature of Judaism because they see Reform Judaism, which from a global perspective is a rare mutant varietal, as the typical form of the religion.  I would go further: not only is Reform Judaism a very recent development, it appears to be the result of a kind of Baldwinian evolution, attempting to reverse engineer Christianity by elevating a tiny number of passages in the Old Testament to a central position (like mimicking the extra chromosome of a different organism by upregulating a few existing genes epigenetically).

B. Catholicism is, I have come to believe, Christianity in its stage of warfare against a barbaric society. (Hopefully I will be able to explicate that point of view more fully elsewhere.)  Part of that warfare was persecution of dissenters and eccentrics; and this fierce persecution creates resistance in the form of underground heresies, which I now take to be characteristic of papism.  This is clearest with marranos and conversos, but can also be seen with witchcraft, which was in effect pagan animism and polytheism in an organized, underground form (sometimes actually clandestine cells/“covens”, sometimes taboo customs, sometimes elements successfully forced into religious culture).  Part of the mission of the Evangelicals was to purge Christian society of these underground organizations. — Here we also see Catholicism is, in some way, a less extreme, less blind version of the organizational force behind Islam: the Muslim world also became a patchwork of shadowy esoteric heresies and revelations.

C. One valuable trait in a group is the ability to encourage suicidal altruism in other groups while encouraging clannishness in one’s own in-group.  But how can you encourage two contradictory principles at the same time?  Obviously, for a strategy of promoting both altruism and clannishness to work, it is important that the suicidal altruism rub off on one’s own in-group less than the clannishness rubs off on the out-group.  One way to accomplish this is bivocality; for example, never to let the in-group hear the suicidal altruism, or the out-group hear the clannishness; or, equally likely, allow one group to hear both messages, but persuade them that only one of them is serious, and the other is cynical propaganda.  A second strategy for bivocality is to use the same message to inspire both suicidal altruism and clannishness, but ensure that the in-group and out-group understand the same message in different ways.  A third strategy is to use different sets of propagandists, who will appeal differently to the two groups, to get the message out.

D.  Five possible hypotheses about the clannish/universalist doublethink characterizing Judaism:

1/ The unconscious hypocrisy hypothesis. (They are sincere in all of their values, but due to motivated beliefs or complex ideologies do not experience cognitive dissonance from using them in incompatible ways.)

2/ The conspiracy hypothesis. (They are only sincere in clannishness, but consciously plan to use the universalist values in ways that damage their neighbors, without being ostentatiously dishonest.)

3/ The “immune response” hypothesis. (The universalism is latent and merely symbolic in most carriers, but when an apostate converts to another clan, the universalism goes into overdrive, poisoning the other clan.)

4/ The unconscious division of labor approach.  (The ideologues who emphasize clannishness and those who emphasize universalism genuinely disagree with, and even hate one another, but the latter end up forming the perspectives of the majority of the clan, while the latter primarily form the perspectives of outsiders.)

5/ The unconscious situational hypocrisy hypothesis.  (Individual members of the clan, or even generations of the clan, feel like they genuinely accept one tenet and reject another, but only so long as that is the most important tenet for the clan; by accepting one and rejecting another, they tack back and forth, accomplishing what needs to be done without feeling any dishonesty or dissonance; at worst, they accuse themselves of having been mistaken previously).

E.  Psychologists distinguish between organic retardation and familial retardation.  In organic retardation, cognitive function suffers due to brain damage caused by a disease or injury; the retard is markedly stupider than his family in general, and usually has a variety of other psychological and neurological problems connected to his brain damage.  When the damage is due to a congenital syndrome, the retard has symptoms across multiple organ systems and at every stage in development. (The victims of genetic syndromes are often referred to collectively as “FLKs”, funny-looking kids, because even at a glance it’s clear that their bodies aren’t put together right.)  In familial retardation, on the other hand, the patient has the same low level of mental functioning which would lead us to classify a case of brain-damage as “retardation”, but his IQ clusters with the IQs of other members of his family; if he is a bit stupider than they are, it is within the same range of variation you see in any family.  This family is stupid not because of any damage but because, across many thousands of genes linked to general intelligence, they have a huge number of the “dumb” variants.  Thus the slow family’s slower members are quite slow indeed, but nonetheless they may be socially adept, coordinated, “well-adjusted” with respect to personality traits, and robustly physically healthy in all non-cognitive senses as well.  The familial retard comes by it honestly; his cognitive deficits are entirely explained by his family’s presence at the extreme end of the normal distribution of a human trait, and so we have no further reason to expect any underlying problem which would cause deficits in other systems, as well.  — The biology underlying the organic/familial distinction can be applied to many other extreme traits (although I don’t think the terms organic and familial are used in such cases).  Height?  Some very short people are born to somewhat short parents, and they are healthy in every single way.  Others are markedly shorter than their parents, and have additional symptoms ranging from abnormally large heads and malformed hearts to polydactyly and (you guessed it!) retardation.  Either patient could be described as a “midget”, as “superlatively short”, but the causes are different so the results are different.  — The analogy is not perfect, but I wonder if there might not also be organic sociopaths and familial sociopaths.  Lying without any tells, betraying others without any feelings of guilt or shame, enduring punishment (even to the point of humiliation!) without any show of emotion, feigning and dissimulating emotions, adopting new “beliefs” and “principles” at will without any cognitive dissonance: these are roughly what we have in mind.  Sociopathic behaviors are sometimes described as predatory but parasitic would be more accurate.  Sociopathic mutations override the social instincts which herd animals develop.  However, the organic sociopath is someone whose social instincts have been eviscerated or disfigured (what metaphor could do justice to the maiming of the soul?) at some very fundamental level.  As a result, not only the inconvenient social instincts but also very basic reactions like smiling and laughing have been damaged.  Sociopaths are creepy not because of an abstract fear of future betrayal (that would be bad enough) but because there is something physically eerie about their presence.  Their systematic inability to enter into the minds of others and to make the tactic mutual adjustments which social convention demands is deeply unsettling to the mind of a herd animal.  But what if there were familial sociopaths?  What if there were, in the broad range of human variation in various pro-social and anti-social traits, some sub-populations that simply had fewer of the genes for cognitive dissonance, fewer of the genes for shame.  These people wouldn’t seem creepy or inhuman.  “If you tickle me, do I not laugh?”  Their self-serving cognitive biases might be striking or even bizarre, but in the end it would only make the familial sociopath seem kind of crazy, kind of goofy.  The familial sociopath may not even lack all of the genes for every form of reciprocity.  He might have an authentic, clannish love of his family, for instance.  Familial sufferers are unusual with respect to the traits for which they have unusual gene frequencies, and not with respect to other traits; and those unusual frequencies are driven by the bony fingers of Gnon.  Why would Gnon create a villain out of a horror movie when all he needs is a parasite that thrives and multiplies in anonymous, low-trust urban environments?

F.  Recent immigrants tend to be clannish.  Even if they aren’t coming from a clannish agricultural society into the industrialized West, they feel at sea in an alien environment.  Even if they didn’t prefer the company of their own kind, they’d be forced to keep coming back to them just for someone whose language they can understand, someone whose motives they can detect.  A bunker mentality breeds more clannishness: with so much intra-ethnic cooperation going on, the new immigrants are inclined to treat each other well and keep a good reputation for the sake of more cooperation in the future.  (Of course, a “good reputation” means a reputation for treating other members of the in-group fairly!  Brilliant frauds, if committed against outsiders, are a source of pride.)  Over time, as the starveling immigrants make good, their community begins to accumulate wealth, begins to acquire social capital and cultural know-how, and of course their children or grandchildren grow up speaking English fluently.  As conforming communities trade the characteristic weaknesses of immigrants for the strengths of the natives, their common life starts to suffer.  First, they don’t need one another quite so much; second, they can’t spend quite as much time walled up in Little Italy or whatever; third, there are too many of them, too broadly scattered for a guy to feel like everyone knows his name.  So they start to defect from their clannish ethnic networks (related) and the benefits of being a clannish immigrant disappear as quickly as the benefits of conformity materialize.  Or at least, this is the typical pattern!  Are jews an exception?  Among many discussions of jewish traits, jewish behavior, jewish antipathies, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anyone defend the position that what is abnormal about jews it not an unusually high level of ethnic nepotism, but rather that among jews the typical level of ethnic nepotism for a foreign subculture has persisted for an unusually long time, and well past the point where the jews had acclimated and shed all immigrant handicaps.  — Because of the taboo on the JQ, the topic as a whole is terribly neglected.  There are thousands, tens of thousands of propositions about jews which it is simply forbidden to consider, whether to confirm or to deny.  But of course, most of these forbidden propositions are pointless, petty, trivial, microscopic, insignificant.  The feeling of glee which comes from breaking a taboo is not at all proportional to the conceptual significance of the wicked statement.  This glee (and other exciting emotions which are the iconoclast’s arsenal against the society which hates him) drives people to treat all sorts of banal observations on taboo subjects as pregnant with weighty and sinister implications.  So it’s important to always guide your mind back from new curiosities to your most carefully documented, most broadly significant theories.  Never invoke a judeo-masonic cabal to explain what can be explained by The Myth of American Meritocracy.  Likewise for what can be explained by an unusual (and unusually persistent) degree of a trait that is common among ethnic subcultures.

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