On Names

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name! I have given you my soul; leave me my name!

— Arthur Miller, The Crucible

The sixth amendment to the Constitution guarantees an accused person the right to face their accuser. This is known as the “confrontation clause,” and in practice, it means that people at least have a right to know who is accusing them, even if they never end up facing them per se. But this concept enshrined in our national founding document was not invented on American soil. Indeed, it is possible the idea predates even the civilizations of Europe, extending back to the age of Mesopotamia.

The preservation of justice in a society is threatened by what is known as the “tragedy of the commons,” the tendency of individuals to free-ride on collective property because it is economically advantageous to do so. There are a number of ways that different societies attempt to deal with this, but among the most common and effective is to give members of that society a stake in the commons. That one’s children may inherit the use of collective property alone may be enough for some people to reject free-riding and abusing the commons for personal gain. What is critical, of course, is that the members of the society be made to have skin in the game.

Among the more important kinds of commons–in conjunction with infrastructure and the environment–is social trust. Defined by PEW as a “belief in the honesty, integrity, and reliability of others,” social trust is a critical, necessary building block for civilization. Civilization requires some stability, and if other people cannot be trusted to act in a predictable (just) manner, then why should you be a chump and let others take advantage of you?

The right to face one’s accuser is perhaps the most critical infusion of skin into the commons game, where social trust is concerned. It creates accountability and incentives which encourage moral behavior and punish immoral behavior.

Now we have the internet, and everything has become a lot more complicated.

The internet represents an intersection of three different rights: freedom of speech, facing one’s accuser, and being left alone. If our rights to privacy and to speak freely are respected, then other people’s right to face their accuser will be lost, should we choose to slander and malign them. If we are held accountable, then our right to be left alone is threatened, should anyone accuse us of slander, or even causing harm. Should restrictions to preempt such predicaments be put into place, then the freedom of speech is imperiled.

This intersection existed, of course, prior to the world-wide web. The general solution was that a degree of each of these freedoms was given up so as to preserve as much as possible of all three. We can say almost anything, can be mostly left alone, and will at least get the chance to know who our accuser is, even if we cannot interrogate them in court.

What the internet has done, however, is throw off the balance. It has introduced the real possibility of anonymity.

Historically, people could try to be anonymous by putting on a mask, by lying about their name and origin, or perhaps by using proxies and servants. But masks are clearly visible (you know you’re dealing with someone whose identity is hidden), lies can, in principle, be discovered and punctured, and servants can be traced back to their masters. Towns were small enough — even cities were small enough — that what went around did come back around.

Now true, real, powerful anonymity is possible. This anonymity has two sources: first, the  People can spread self-serving lies (“fake news”), even allegations, without having their reputational skin in the game.

Part of the use of anonymity is defensive in nature. The fact that these attacks are a possibility is reason enough not to put our own name out there for evaluation and possible attack without reprisal. Having your name known is, in most cases, an intimate and vulnerable state.

Our name can be known by many other people that we don’t know, of course–if we are famous. Even here, the widespread knowledge of our name represents fame or infamy. In a word, honor.

Having honor is caring about what others think of you, specifically of others within your honor group. Honor is, first and foremost, an enforcement mechanism against the tragedy of the commons (a man is not honorable if he takes advantage of his friends, and treason is the deepest depth of dishonor). But it is also something we can be proud of when we act honorably. To a great extent, we measure a man by how honorable he is. And when honorable men are admired, honor itself is reinforced.

This means that the prevalence of online anonymity is not just a threat to social trust and to our right to face our accuser, but to the very heart of what is valued in being men. Our name is a part of our identity, a linguistic association that has been gradually, symbiotically cultivated around our history and our nature. It would be overstating the case to say that the anonymity of the internet and the dishonorable behavior it encourages threatens our very identities as individuals, but it does threaten to erode something special and something important about who we are, which makes us respectable and admirable as individuals, and which makes civilization possible.

We face two spirals: one downward, and one upward.

The former is a path of safety, achieved through hiddenness, anonymity, dishonorable conduct, and a win-lose world of dyscivic cat-fighting. This world is dystopian in its pettiness; a world where it is a casually accepted, grimly amusing fact that someone can have their lives and reputations destroyed for “racism” or “sexual harassment,” arising from anonymous sources, and where real victims are increasingly, cynically, disbelieved. It is a ghost-world, where nothing is solid, no one is “real,” and the experience of attempting to make friends is a global extension of the “Seattle freeze” (by necessity).

The second path is a path of openness, of sincerity, and of honesty — of honor. This path will encourage others to emulate you, because people cannot help but admire courageous, authentic people. But this path does take courage, because it incurs real risk. People do lose their jobs, their livelihoods, their families, and even their lives, for the sake of their name.

In the end, we’re all going to die, and our names will likely be forgotten anyways. Still, it should not be thought of as an easy choice: name or life; honor or security. Our culture has defaulted to security, arising from the all-encompassing logic of liability (cover your ass). But this is not a sustainable path if civilization is to be preserved. The only way that will happen is if we begin to care more about our honor than our safety.

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Hatred and the YouTube Shooting

In the aftermath of the YouTube shooting, I decided to tune in to Stefan Molyneux for the first time in a few months, and I felt like I was having bits of In Defense of Hatred read back to me:

In scrolling through the website, you can see… I hate to say obsession because the mistreatment of animals is a horrifying thing to see, but people people people: manage and control your exposure to horrors. Look, you can spend all day scrolling through the internet and finding the most appalling and horrifying behavior against whatever you treasure, whatever you hold dear, everything will be insulted, and violated, and tortured, in video after video, if you want to pursue it.

You have to, have to, have to manage your exposure to horrors in this world. As Nietzsche said, if you look too long into the abyss, remember, the abyss also looks into you. Do not chase monsters to the point where you become a monster. Do not overexpose yourself to horror, it will mess up — in my opinion — it will mess your mind. You have to manage it, you have to control, you have to manage your exposure.

We want to oppose evil because virtue and goodness are so beautiful. You understand? We want to fix ugliness because we love beauty, but if all you do is stare at ugliness you lose sight of the beauty that’s actually the motivating force behind what it is that you do.

From the book:

You only have so much time to give attention to things, and you can only love, cherish, improve, and protect that at which you direct your attention. If hating something draws away all your attention, you will functionally cease to love anything. It is in this manner that hatred, while at once an expression of love, can also overtake and override the very love that drives it.

Like Achilles, we can spend all our energy justifying our rage, only to find that we haven’t spent any energy enjoying and building anything that we love. Fruitless hatred, and hate that ignores love, can ultimately become as soul-killing and self-defeating as an unwillingness to hate.

I suppose it is now time to reveal one of my ulterior motives for writing In Defense of Hatred, one which I have shared with a few friends, but which I have generally kept hidden.

Ultra-nationalism is on the rise, in Europe and in the United States, especially within “Generation Z,” affectionately referred to as “Generation Zyklon” by those in far-right circles. And there is a lot of hate in this surging tidal wave. SJWs who think they are opposing fascism have no idea what’s coming, or how they themselves helped create this wave of nationalism.

I myself am a nationalist, but the ultra-nationalist strain of consciousness that puts the nation above family, above God, and above the individual, truly is a pathological and dangerous idea, and one that genuinely scares me. The catch is that the would-be ultra-nationalists are right to oppose the forces we are dealing with: a modern iteration of Marxist progressivism, a kind of soulless capitalism derived from a materialistic, scientific, worldview which seeks to commodify and commercialize everything, and of course, militant Islam.

In the end, the ultra-nationalists may be necessary, as they are in many cases the only people who seem sufficiently cognizant of what is at stake. Nevertheless, they pose an enormous danger in their own right, to the survival of others and to ourselves. The Roman king after Romulus, Numa Pompilius, had to go to extraordinary roundabout lengths to distract his new population from warring themselves to death, and the ultra-nationalist tendency to expand and conquer as an expression of vitality (really, an attempt to conjure desired vitality) holds the same danger.

It is what defeated Hitler, after all.

In Defense of Hatred is first and foremost a justification of hatred, but it is also a constraint around hatred. I hope that to the degree that it resonates with ultra-nationalists — or with rabid animal-rights activist vegan bodybuilders — it also checks the pathologies that can arise from excess hatred, which are extremely likely when the proverbial pendulum is on the back-swing from the multicultural day-dreams that have dominated our collective moral consciousness for the last several decades.

Guns and Secrets

The fearless activism of the curiously well-covered David Hogg, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, has resulted in exactly what he wanted. The school is taking action, and will be requiring all students to have clear backpacks.

Hogg, however, didn’t realize that this was, in fact, precisely what he’d asked for.

One of the other important things to realize is many students want their privacy. There are many, for example, females in our school that when they go through their menstrual cycle, they don’t want people to see their tampons and stuff. It’s unnecessary, it’s embarrassing for a lot of the students and it makes them feel isolated and separated from the rest of American school culture where they’re having essentially their First Amendment rights infringed upon because they can’t freely wear whatever backpack they want regardless of what it is. It has to be a clear backpack. What we should have is just more policies that make sure that these students are feeling safe and secure in their schools and not like they’re being fought against like it’s a prison.

Why on earth would we want to have a “right” to privacy? After all, you’ve got nothing to fear if you’ve got nothing to hide, right?

Having nothing to hide is a nice way of putting people’s minds at ease, but in fact, we all should have things that we hide. Having nothing to hide only makes sense in a world where we can trust everyone, and there are a lot of people who we should not trust, most of all the government.

Consider why you lock your doors. If you have security cameras and door codes, why would you be okay with everyone knowing where and what they were?

Information is power, and the more information I have about you, the more power I have over you. If I know where you live, and what your number is, I can blackmail you to pay me money, or else I can send that information to religious or political radicals and tell them that you’re an enemy. If I know where your security cameras are, I can break into your house without being identified. We keep secrets as security from and a check against untrustworthy people in the world. A friend of mine even suggested that perhaps it would be right to treat being observed as an act of aggression, if the observation is persistent. It certainly coincides with the way we react to the act of stalking (the word itself invokes a predatory purpose).

Guns function in the exact same manner. They are power, and something to hide. They are a protection and a final resort against would-be predators, and the fact that guns can also be used by predators could also be said of secrets: predators keep their very nature a secret. Predators, above all others, are exactly the sort you’d expect to quietly, thoughtfully, suggest that perhaps you’ve got nothing to fear if you’ve got nothing to hide…

David Hogg’s quixotic crusade against guns and the NRA may give him some surprising results. It turns out that when you put safety above rights, the right you wanted the state to violate may not be the only one that gets violated. In any case, there is no principled difference between a right to privacy and a right to be armed. In both cases, it is about protecting ourselves when we are most vulnerable. I think Hogg may be in for another surprise when he finds out that his activism actually will threaten the second amendment, no matter what he himself thinks.

“Common sense gun-control,” what they say they’re asking for, should always be placed in quotation marks, in the way that the media loves to bracket conservative values as if they aren’t being sincere when they talk about “free speech” or “immigration reform,” both of which are implied to be euphemisms for defending harassment and racism. As used by progressives, “common sense gun-control” does seem to be a euphemism for ratcheting back the second amendment. This seems likely because most of their stated interpretations (background checks, restrictions for the mentally ill, etc) are already laws on the books. But even if it is not intended as a euphemism, the phrase deserves quotation marks for its vagueness. It does not at all seem like common sense to me to ban guns from schools, and yet we have done exactly that, or attempted to do that… using–of all things–the commerce clause. United States vs. Lopez established that in fact, the commerce clause is not a blank check for restricting anything and everything for any reason, including banning weapons from school zones. That hasn’t stopped schools from pretending otherwise, of course.

If someone can explain how restricting weapons from school to protect interstate commerce is common sense, I’m all ears.

That self-defense, and the tools necessary for self-defense, are an essential right–on and off of campus–seems like a much more self-evident kind of “common sense” to me. But if you live in certain areas, you apparently lose that right if you happen to smoke pot, for medical or recreational reasons.

The fifth amendment seems to have been gone since the NSA formed, and American Universities are laying the foundation to ratchet away the first amendment. In Europe, freedom of expression is already under fire., using arguments identical to those gaining traction in our own educational system.

But don’t worry. I’m sure they’re not coming for your second amendment rights. They only want “common sense gun control.” If you’re a law-abiding citizen with no secrets, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Here’s a counter-proposal: not only should all uppity progressive students be required to wear transparent back-packs, but all politicians and media pundits cynically using children for their own purposes should be required to wear transparent clothing. How else are we to know what they’ve got hidden up their sleeve?

I’m sure they have nothing big to hide.

Dankula’s Downfall

Markus “Count Dankula” Meechan has just been convicted of “grossly offensive” hate speech, for the crime of teaching his girlfriend’s dog to respond excitedly to “gas the jews,” and to attempt a little roman salute in response to “seig heil.”

Sargon of Akkad already did a comprehensive video of about the details of the case and the fallout for Britain. I encourage everyone to watch it.

But Sargon was concerned primarily about the United Kingdom. What many Americans do not know is that the path has already been laid for a similar state of affairs in the United States, something I have been following and writing about (at Universities in particular) since 2012.

Meechan’s video begins with the following statement:

“My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is, and so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing that I could think of, which is a Nazi.”

If that weren’t enough, Meechan’s tattoos indicate that he is unlikely to be a far-right agitator.

Dank 1

The communist star: a popular Nazi insignia

That this video could be deemed to be “grossly offensive” hate speech, on grounds of anti-semitism, is akin to saying that Orwell’s 1984 advocated totalitarianism, or that Swift’s Modest Proposal was a work of pro-cannibalism literature. Even at 22, I understood the lunacy of granting judges the right to determine the “real” intent and meaning of literature, but that is precisely where we are going, and it is what public schools and universities have been teaching students for the last two to three decades.

Think the first amendment protects Americans from this kind of thing?

How has the fourth amendment held up against NSA mass-surveillance?

Pay attention and be ready to take whatever action you can to reverse, stop, or at least slow down the erosion of free speech, while you still have the right to make noise about it. There isn’t a whole lot of time left before we’re in Britain’s position. And once we are, the imprisoning of comedians will be the least of our concerns.

The Problem with Marxism

People who dismiss Marxism in absolute terms do so at their own risk. As a philosophy, it would not have attracted the fanatical devotion of millions of people were there not truths within it that made it compelling. Addressing these criticisms of the status quo might even have prevented the communist revolutions in many places, like addressing the concerns of conservative American voters prior to 2015 might have prevented Trump’s successful campaign for president. Because these concerns were ignored, sufficient popular support managed to win a conflict, rather than a conversation, for the power of the state to act upon these ideas.

As a refresher, here are just a few of the things that Marxists have gotten right:

  1. Inequality – The evidence is pretty firm on the Gini coefficient, which predicts crime, as well as a host of other factors. Within the social sciences, the only thing more scientifically valid than the GC is the Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Marx was right that the increasing levels of inequality would be destabilizing and would create conflict.
  2. Business Cycles – Marx wrote extensively about this relatively recent theory in Theories of Surplus and Value. Although not first advanced by him (that honor goes to the French historian Sismondi, in 1819), Marx’s theory of inevitable communist revolution was predicated on increasingly severe business cycles. Whereas previous economists thought that these cycles were caused by external affairs (like war), Marx realized that business cycles were caused by the functioning of the system itself.
  3. Capitalism – The separation of the laborer from the products of his labor is a serious psychological problem. The efficiency pursued by industrialists led to the breaking down (dumbing down) of tasks in order to optimize consistency, and this in turn made laborers unskilled, and disposable. Beyond the decrease in their value, these increases in systematic efficiency of production also reduced the possibilities for improvement, and the achievement of mastery in a craft or trade for the laborer. Marx noticed this, and it served as one of his heavier criticisms of capitalism.
  4. Religion – Marx is often cited as crassly referring to religion as the “opiate of the people.” To dispel the presumption intoned in this crass half-lie, it is worth reading the quote in full:

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

— Marx, Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

The quote is neither crass nor dismissive, nor is it unserious in its psychological analysis of the motivations behind religious belief. One cannot honestly even say it is wrong. The best one could say–and which I will say–is that it is incomplete in its exploration of alternatives, or in its grasp of the totality of the motives which bring people to religion.

The importance of addressing this subject became clear to me after reading about the possibility of an upcoming debate between the traditionalist (if not entirely conservative) Dr. Jordan Peterson and the Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Peterson challenged Zizek to a debate after Zizek wrote about Peterson in the press. It wasn’t a particularly good article, as it fundamentally misunderstood Peterson’s individualism (“clean your room!”) and projected a Capitalist straw man that blames outsiders for his own problems onto Peterson. Perhaps in addition to the “hysteric,” who lies in the expression of a truth, and the “obsessive neurotic,” who tells the truth in the service of a lie, we could add the “lazy,” who lies without realization because he hasn’t done his homework.

Nevertheless, Zizek’s article captures something unique to the Marxist mind, which mirrors one of the left’s own longstanding critique of conservativism.

In his piece on Peterson, Zizek references Jacques Lacan, a French psychoanalyst:

…if what a jealous husband claims about his wife (that she sleeps around with other men) is all true, his jealousy is still pathological: the pathological element is the husband’s need for jealousy as the only way to retain his dignity, identity even.

This statement is interesting because it tries to drive a wedge between cause (infidelity) and effect (jealousy) and criticize the effect without noticing the cause.

The claim that jealousy is needed for his dignity and identity frames the matter pathologically from the get-go. We could imagine a situation in which a man is being chased by a hungry bear: isn’t there something pathological about a man’s need to run? What, does he think he will lose his dignity, his identity even, if he does not run from the bear? As a matter of fact, yes, if the bear eats him, his identity as a living being will be greatly threatened, and with it, any posibility of dignity.

In a similar vein, why should a man not feel jealous if his wife is unfaithful? What is pathological about that particular negative thought in that instance? His identity as a loved spouse has been destroyed, and with it, his dignity — his ability to discern truth having been exposed as false.

This is the form of argument which my book addressed on another subject, reuniting the wedged-apart emotions of love and hatred. Love without the possibility of hatred sounds idyllic, but we were not constructed to live in that way.

Jealousy and hatred are not the only blots upon the untrammeled ecstatic happiness of the human experience: fear, disgust, resentment, lethargy, boredom, suspicion, sadness, pain, and despair all haunt our lives from the periphery. Whatever we may think of these emotions in the moment, they exist for a reason, and we ignore them and reject them in all cases as “pathological” at our own peril. Even resentment–an emotion brimming with potential for genuine pathology–can sometimes be a motivator for positive action. In any case, what good is telling someone that the emotion they are experiencing is wrong? They are products of facts and values, and cannot be done away with without one of their causes being changed or done away with.

The Marxist project is all about the pursuit of an unsustainable emotional ideal. Like Lacan and his inhumanly stoic husband, Marxism — and the creative bent of leftists generally — pursue impossible states of equality, stability, purpose, and happiness. They identify problems, and rather than adapting to them, and learning to live within them, seek out their own kinds of final solutions.

A classic leftist critique of conservativism is that of nostalgia: there is no going back, even if the past was idyllic in some ways.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last paragraphs of The Great Gatsby are often quoted in this vein:

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes — a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Yet the leftists are not different in kind than the conservatives they criticize. They are only different in the direction they are looking: utopia lies in the future!

When the leftists point out that problems and evils also existed in the past, and that it was perhaps not as “golden” as conservatives imagine, they are right. But when conservatives point out that the future will also be full of danger and evil and pathology, they are also right.

In other words, what’s right about Marxism is inextricably bound up in what is wrong with Marxism, because their compulsion to point out the problems of modernity stem from their desire to escape from problems absolutely. What is communism, where no one can own anything, if not a proposed final solution to the problem of inequality? What is the end to personal ownership if not a permanent solution to the uncertainty that emerges in capitalist business cycles — the “end of history?” What is Marxism if not the attempt to refasten the laborer to the fruits of his labor, regardless of what that labor might be? And what is Marxist atheism, if not an attempted great and fatal blow to all comfortable lies that protect states of emptiness, sadness, and oppression?

The Marxist does not see value in the progress of overcoming an obstacle, only negative value in the obstacle’s presence. This is why they tend to make arguments about the pathologies of “unhealthy ideals” when they believe the achievements of such ideals are impossible. In fact, this argument itself was first presented to me by Zizek himself.

A point that Dr. Peterson has been clear on in his lectures is that the world is a chaotic place: we do not know what the problems will be tomorrow, nor is it necessarily true that the solutions we have for the problems of today will continue working tomorrow. In such a world, the ideal solution is not to solve all of the problems once and for all, so that we do not have to worry about them, as Marxists work towards. This is both futile and undesirable. Rather, the answer to the chaotic world is to become the sort of person who can solve problems. On a broader, social level, this means giving people the tools to deal with problems, rather than physically or psychologically removing all of their problems.

The Strong Case for Censorship

Here’s a puzzle: what’s wrong with Slavoj Zizek’s argument for censorship?

I like censorship, but what kind of censorship? Not ‘the office, you get imprisoned,’ but censorship which is a measure of cultural standards. What do I mean by this? For example, I wouldn’t like to live in a society where you argue against rape. You know, this reminds me of Ronald Reagan, you remember one of his legendary stories is that once he said when he was accused of tolerating holocaust denial, he said: “No, it’s not true! Whenever, at my dinner table, there are people who deny the holocaust, I strongly oppose them.” Well, the question being, ‘what kind of friends, yes?’ Yes, all the time oppose them!

But my point is that it’s the same with… you know, I like to live in a society where you don’t have to argue why rape is prohibited; why rape shouldn’t be allowed. I would like to live in a society where when somebody, in any way, tolerates rape, it’s simply—how would you put this—disqualifies himself, is perceived as either dangerous or ridiculous. This is what I mean by censorship, that it’s inadmissible, and we shouldn’t be afraid of it. And the sad thing is that in Europe, the standards for what is publicly admissible are falling lower, and lower, and lower. Things at the level of racism and so on, which 20, 30 years ago simply were not possible, are today tolerated and accepted.

The answer is only this: he’s on the wrong side.

Conservatives outnumber liberals in the United States, meaning that cultural norms for censorship (which are always democratic in nature) will be firmly against anything that smacks of Marxism or Communism. In extreme cases, they will oppose even things which seem too intellectual, because to the layman, they appear untrustworthy.

Even if immigration eventually makes democrats outnumber republicans, the essential psychological breakdown will not have changed, because immigrants side with the democrats for personal benefits, not out of ideological loyalty. Hispanic Catholics and Muslim Africans may be fiscally liberal, but are socially conservative. Perhaps more importantly, they are functionally low in verbal intelligence as a group, due to language barriers, and this correlates with supporting political censorship.

What is most ironic about this support for cultural censorship is how conservative it is in its psychology. The leftist mind is open to experience, while the conservative mind is characterized by conscientiousness. Thus censorship–which establishes the stability in a society that Zizek alludes to, in which we do not have to constantly answer for established principles–will always work to the benefit of conservatives, and at the cost of liberals.

Perhaps more accurately, censorship solidifies a paradigm, while free speech opens the paradigm to criticism. Even if this criticism is answered, the energy and effort of answering it is a burden that detracts from the defenders’ ability to focus on other tasks in their society. Rather than focusing on the finer details of, say, property law, within the confines of an established legal paradigm, we have to yet again go over whether or not the very concept of property is legitimate.

Or whether or not rape is okay.

If such challenges are taken remotely seriously, then the entire structure of society rocks back and forth in an ongoing, low-grade earthquake. How high can it be built? How long can it even stand?

The only reason that free speech is plausibly defensible is that it can, sometimes, be used to identify flaws in the structure itself–not to exploit for demolition, but to strengthen the structure. The argument presumes that the harm that can be prevented through this speech is greater than the harm imposed by its existence. It also presumes a kind of socio-cultural coherence which Zizek alludes to. This coherence, Zizek and other leftists attack, as “racism” and “xenophobia,” despite being a necessary condition for the sort of society Zizek desires to live in.

What, then, should be done? Logically, the thing to do would be to establish support for free speech as a cultural metric for censorship: if you oppose free speech, then you are “dangerous or ridiculous.”

Whether or not this itself constitutes a paradox, I leave to the contemplation of the leftists advocating for repressive tolerance 2.0, as “cultural censorship.” Indeed, they would escape the seeming contradiction by advocating against free speech, rather than for it. I think, however, that they know as well as we do how that would turn out for them, were it accepted by everyone at the same time. They have the cities and the universities in their ideological grasp, but that is not nearly enough of a lead to win the censorship war that they are hell-bent on sparking.

For my part, I am this close to throwing up my hands and putting my redactor’s warpaint on. It seems as though protecting the value of free speech may require tightening the restrictions on the speech of those who do not share that value. Whether this is the more slippery slope to step on than allowing the left to maintain the reigns of cultural censorship, I do not know.

It certainly looks like a shallower angle though.

Love, Hate, and Christianity

In In Defense of Hatred, I asserted that ἀγάπη (agape) is a form of love which is compatible with hatred, despite being incompatible with dehumanization:

Translated literally, it means “affection,” with a universal connotation, as in greeting strangers with affection. It also describes the respect and love shown to the dead. It is, then, a command to recognize the humanity and the “divine spark” in others, even in our enemies, because the English word “love”–which is much closer to the Greek philia than agape–cannot apply to the dead as dead, and is self-destructive if it applies to the stranger in the same way that it applies to our family and friends. It is an injunction to universal respect of the other as being like us, because they too are human.

As we often use the term today, “respect” means veneration and love. It means we “like” something. But respect used to mean that we recognized quality in something, whether it is a friend or an enemy. “Respect your enemy” meant to not underestimate them. “Respect nature” meant to be wary of storms and wildlife, and to understand the vastness of its power and unpredictability. In light of the original meaning of these words, “love your enemy” means you must see the humanity–the power, intelligence, memory, and in Christian theology, the divine nature–in your enemies.

Such a command is practical, spiritually powerful, and aligns with a theory of hatred which is justified in understanding one’s enemy, rather than willfully misunderstanding them. Your enemy is human. To call him a “cockroach,” a “rat,” or a “cancer” may feel empowering, but it commits the sin of misunderstanding the nature of your enemy, and precludes the possibility of either justifying your hatred or seeing that he is not, in fact, your enemy, whichever the case may be.

This recognition of likeness runs somewhat contrary to the ordinary understanding of the word ἀγάπη, which is generally understood to be both the highest form of love, and also the love of man for God, and of God for man. I feel that I did not go into adequate depth in justifying this claim in the book, so I will attempt to expand upon the concept here.

Here’s a question to start with: why does God love us?

Intuitively, we can suppose this to be the case because he created us. But he did not merely create us in the way that he created the plants and the animals and everything else; he created us in his own image.

Theology aside for a moment, it is common for us to have an attraction to people who look like us. And of course, we like things that we make, especially if we have made them well. The fact that this may sound like projection is, in fact, perfectly in line with the assertion that we are image-bearers of God: God creates us in his image, and we love things that look like ourselves. Why would God not love us because of our similarity with him?

A deeper, but relevant, question might be the following: in what sense do we resemble him?

This is difficult to pin down, and perhaps beyond our knowledge, but my guess would be that we share some part of our inward nature with him, and it is only this recognition between kinds that renders God knowable to us at all. Perhaps it has something to do with an underlying desire for the act of creation, or perhaps it has something to do with consciousness. It may have to do with something else entirely.

In any case, the love which God has for mankind appears to be related to our likeness to him, and this mirrors the love which we extend to each other in proportion to our likeness (that we love our family more than strangers, that we love members of our own race more than people from other nations, that we love humans generally more than primates, that we love mammals like cats and dogs more than we love trees, etc).

This means that my definition of  ἀγάπη as a “recognition of likeness” is not at all incompatible with the more generally held meaning, but is in fact a more precise explanation of its underlying nature. “The love of man for God, and the love of God for man” is as it is because of the likeness we behold in each other, and if we look closely, we can see this image in others too.

A cursory glance through the Old Testament–and through the history of Christianity more broadly–is enough to clear up any confusion about this interpretation requiring pacifism. But how can we hate someone if they bear the image of goodness itself? Outside the realm of theology, such questions are easily dismissed: a murderer is not only a murderer, and if he happens to work and sleep and take care of his mother, we do not condemn those aspects of him when we execute him for his crime. So too is the divine nature not the sole component of an individual. Indeed, one of the central questions of Christianity seems to be “why do any of us deserve to live at all?”

Needless to say, it is not our place to condemn anyone as completely good or evil, or even “mostly good” or “mostly evil,” since no one has final knowledge of what anyone’s life (including their own) amounts to. Nevertheless, this caution does not in any way prevent us from condemning evil as it exists in the moment. Indeed, the Bible repeatedly enjoins us to hate evil. Anyone who says that Christianity is against hate is either lying or does not know what they are talking about.

What about “love the sinner, hate the sin?”

This attitude tacitly accepts a bias in favor of the goodness of man, which is not theologically warranted as far as I can tell. I think if we were to accept this honestly, we would be equally obliged to say “love the spirit, hate the flesh.” The injunction to hate the sin apart from the sinner separates agency from the actor, and finds responsibility for the sin elsewhere. Goodness comes from God, so if people must not be hated on account of the source of their sin, neither can they be loved on account of their virtue.

Was Jesus acting out of love when he attacked the money-changers in the Temple? If so, then by all means hate with love, but the grammar seems unnecessarily tortured.

Better, I think, to simply judge in the moment; to love what is good, and to hate what is evil, and always be willing to reconcile or re-evaluate. To do so requires us to really put ourselves in the shoes of others, and to see ourselves in them. We may love what we see, or we may hate it, but the act of truly looking at the other is what is asked of us when we are called upon to love–ἀγάπη–one another.

In sophistication, in the potential for intimacy and connection, there is no higher love than truly seeing another: not eros (erotic), nor stergein (familial), nor phileos (brotherly). To truly see someone, and to see yourself and to see the image God, does not render void the injunctions to hate what is evil, nor is it incompatible with a person being evil. So the theological injunction to “love” one another is not opposed to hating, but perfectly compatible.

And of course, any stergeineros, or phileos love is not worth anything if it does not hold within it the strength of potential hatred.