I have hardly edited the following for content, much less style.
(edit – august 31st, 2009 – adding some hyperlinks, making a few edits)
HL Mencken Club, 1st Annual Meeting
“The Egalitarian Temptation”
(see announcement by Richard Spencer for it)
Sitting beside Paul Gottfried, behind Peter Brimelow (for a short bit) in a few seats over from John Derbyshire and Jared Taylor, I set in a room filled with largely older white men feeling quite the odd duck. I was not the only attendee in his early 30s, but I was on the low end of the age spectrum. I wasn’t able to join a kickoff ceremony tonight before, so I arrived early on Saturday in hopes that tickets would still be available for the days series of panels and lectures, they were.
One of the two women registering attendees identified herself as Paul Gottfried’s wife, and I guess I thought that was a bit strange, because the one photo of Paul Gottfried I’d seen, he looked like a black man. Seeing him in person, rectified that… he is an old white guy. Go to TakiMag.com for yourself and tell me if you’d think he was black or white from that head-shot.
I am not a political junkie, and it’s obvious to anybody reading this blog, or knowing me personally. I’m an idea junkie, I’m a truth seeker, if you will, though that phrase just sounds too smarmy. I would never tell somebody “hey, I’m a truth seeker”. I would more quickly say, “I’m a skeptic.” But the word skeptic, much like the word atheist, just tells people how you respond to something. It’s not a positive assertion, like Christian or pedophile, or Christian pedophile.
For me, it’s all best wrapped up by saying “I’m a Satanist“, though it rarely clarifies my position to anyone else – quite the opposite in most cases.
The day was broken down into three main panel discussions and two meals with speakers. The first panel was probably the least interesting to me personally. And it was on the Habsburg Empire and World War I in the fall of the Western civilization. I think a point made in the next panel was quite appropriate here, as I was educated in public school in the 1980s, and we didn’t learn about the Habsburg Empire. But we did learn about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. Which is more important to world history in Western civilization? I think an argument could easily be made for the former, in fact… I don’t think any argument needs to be made, just look at the events, and then looked up at how much time is given to teaching one versus the other in our classrooms
I wasn’t disinterested in the topic. Indeed, I was interested, I understood the importance of it, but I eagerly awaited the panels on education and egalitarianism, followed by a panel on “Mencken, Nietzsche, and their American Disciples”
My pathetic knowledge of history allowed me to be quite lost during a significant amount of this first panel. James Kurth, political science professor at Swarthmore College, had a wonderful voice and read almost verbatim from an article of his published in the Journal Modern Age, from the fall of 2007. He had photocopies available, so I read along with him. T. Hunt Tooley, a professor of history at Austin College in Texas did me the favor of mentioning two names I am quite familiar with, Otto Dix and Machiavelli, in the first few minutes of his lecture “The Cost of the Great War.”
Tooley ended his speech by quoting some liberal who said something and upon reflection I’m not exactly sure what it was. Ultimately it was something to the effect of “war being the greatest ally of democracy”. To be clear he was not endorsing this quote, but using it to illustrate how war can be integral to a democratic ideology, since it is most commonly attributed to the right. It was later in the night that I asked him about the quote, so I actually had a second time to help me remember it, and it was in that discussion but I told him about the first person to really affect the way I view war in a significant way. That was Francis Galton, when he pointed out how dysgenic war was. It had never been framed in that light before, and I had never considered the fact that ultimately war killed off giant numbers of the best men in our society, and left alive to reproduce some of the worst. It is the sick, the deformed, the stupid, and the cowardly that get out of military service. Although I’m sure a the best of the best will survive the war, I would imagine that disproportionately it is the cowards hiding and foxholes that make it out alive. I do not have any great coherent body of thought on the subject, just a few fragmented ideas, but I think there’s something significant here that I haven’t seen explored… but this could easily be because I haven’t looked for it explicitly. I see an obvious tension in the idea that we will encourage those men who would be best at war to reproduce, and at the same time not actually send them to war to aid in the selection process… whether that selection process is a natural selection, or a more formalized eugenic policy.
The second panel was, for me, the best of the day. Really though, there is no reason for it to be. The three speakers discussed education, and I have no practical reason for being interested in education, in any formal sense. In my sophomore year of high school, when all of my peers went on summer vacation, I enrolled in an adult high school program offered by the local community college. What aspect of high school I didn’t hate, I was ambivalent about. I was an outsider, with few friends, and little respect for the piece of paper that would’ve been handed over to me for enduring one more year of subpar education among subhuman people. This was not a GED program, you took individual classes to gain individual class credits for high school diploma. Since it was on a college campus, I had the added bonus of being able to smoke on without fear of being pounced upon by an assistant principal hiding in a dormant school bus (as did happen). The people who attended the school was a mix of juvenile delinquents and empty nest house wives going back to get their diploma. All of them seemed to be of below average intelligence. This is my compromise though, I had no respect for high school diploma, and I wasn’t planning on attending a university, but at the same time this allowed me to not technically be a high school dropout. Most of the delinquents stopped showing up out after the first couple of weeks anyway (being delinquents, doing what comes naturally), so the environment was a far cry from being an institute of learning, but certainly the same metaphorical distance from being the environment of a public high school.
Let me modify that with the phrase “government school”. Marshall DeRosa, a speaker on the second panel, use that term instead of the phrase public school. I think it’s much better descriptive, as it is more evocative of going to the DMV, and thus more reflective of the experience I had.
The second main reason why I should have no interest in education, in a formal setting, is that I don’t have children… or at least none I kept. I haven’t ruled out the option of having children, but even disregarding the economic concerns of raising a child, I haven’t yet decided if bringing a child in the world at all in this day and age constitutes child abuse. The only internal response to this that I have come up with, that has any merit, is to remind myself that there was no golden age, there will probably be no golden age, so any disadvantages to raising a child now are just a trade off from the disadvantages of the past.
Charles Murray‘s talk during this panel was titled “Nurture vs. Nature”. I had just recently listened to a lecture that he had given to the Cato Institute regarding his most recent book on education. Learning is probably best known for his book the Bell curve that he co-authored with Richard Herrnstein, but I also have his book “Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950“. When I first heard about the book I thought “how Galtonian”, and pretty early on in the book he makes reference to “Hereditary Genius“, appropriately enough. I am pleased to say that my copy is now signed, and takes its place in my library would sign books from G. Gordon Liddy, John Waters, Peter H. Gilmore and others. I had also brought along Jared Taylor’s “Paved with Good Intentions“, and was pleased to have it signed as well.
When Murray was signing my book, he was in a rush to leave. His son was there, and had just arrived in town. I could not fault the man for wanting to spend time with him over any of us, and I have to thank his son for speaking up to say “I think that man wants his book signed”. Out of respect I did not want to take up more of his time than was needed for the signing, so I kept my comments to the line “I’ve very much enjoyed the work you’ve done, but must admit I’m glad to see your most recent book is much thinner.” His “Human Accomplishment” is over 600 pages, the Bell Curve was 900 pages, but “Real Education” is just 224.
Murray’s discussion was basically “we are not equal in ability, and it ain’t because of mean people”. The mass hallucination that all inequality of outcome is the effect of social forces instead of a combination of genetic and environmental factors not only promotes hostility, but wastes millions and millions of dollars and man-hours on what is effectively a snipe hunt.
There’s a commercial that bugs me, I haven’t seen them run recently, but I’m sure some variation will pop up soon enough, they’re a series of public service ads that encouraged parents to eat breakfast with their children. The commercial states that there is a strong correlation between children’s eating breakfast with their parents and their academic performance, implying that there is some sort of causation. This is absurd, aside from the fact that children should probably eat some food. It seems obvious to me that it is not the mere fact that a parent sitting next to their child of a consumed breakfast that makes the child do better in school. Even ignoring Judith Rich Harris‘ theory that parents have very little power to shape their children’s intellectual or behavioral ability, I would imagine that it is more likely that when a parent is inclined to prepare breakfast for the child they are also more inclined to make sure their child is doing their homework, feed them regularly and other meals, care for them, etc. etc. it is indicative of somebody who is investing time and attention and their child to a much larger extent. A stupid child who is given breakfast will still be a stupid child when he arrives at school. The stupid child who is given love and attention, intellectual and emotional encouragement and support, new computers filled with educational software, and the most gifted tutors, will still be a stupid child and grow up to be a stupid adult. The best testing has shown that adjusting the environmental factors has at best only a temporary boost in IQ.
It was Kopff who very briefly discussed the Trivium and Quadrivum, in his lecture about the need to reinstate a classical education. I was totally unaware of these two words, much less concepts behind them, until recently reading some of the Deep Satanism articles by James Sass. These are two educational systems, originally found in medieval universities. The former is constituted of the three subjects of logic grammar and rhetoric. The trivium was preparation for the quadrivium, and as you might expect, the latter consists of four subjects. These subjects are arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. After learning about these two educational methods, I immediately became depressed. In the 12 years I attended school, I don’t remember a single instance where a teacher explicitly discussed logic or rhetoric, much less said about teaching us principles of those two. It is ironic that it was only after rejecting Christianity explicitly, I began to look into these two subjects. It is ironic because the trivium and quadrivium were developed when education in the Western world was exclusively controlled by Christians. In doing some research it seems that the “classical education movement” is dominated still by Christians.
Though a monumental undertaking, it is my sincere hope that James Sass’s Project Faust will come to fruition and be one of the most important contributions of Satanic thought regarding children, though I would encourage everyone to take the basic concepts and do with it what they can. Though there is a significant brouhaha about neural plasticity, I’m inclined to believe that there is a prime aged between 14 and 20 (roughly) where we humans become pretty set in their ways as far as intellectual habits go.
In fact, once this Project Faust is completed, I would encourage him to whitewash it and look for a publisher to release it to the homeschooling market as a secular alternative.
I spoke with Robert Weissberg a bit after the lectures, as I was intrigued that he’d emphatically endorsed home schooling during the Q&A period.
The theme of the entire event was supposed to be “The Egalitarian Temptation.” I was very excited about that topic, and all the more vexed when I realized a significant number of attendees were Christian, and specifically Catholic. John Derbyshire was asked to sit in on the Mencken panel, because one of the speakers didn’t show up. When it was his turn to talk, he mentioned that he was a bit confused by the fact that the inaugural dinner the night before had started with a prayer. I was taken aback by this, as I was not there, and I would’ve seen it is quite incongruous as well. Derbyshire made the comment that he felt like he was back at his grandmother’s house.
John Zmirak is a Catholic, in fact, every single thing he said, or at least 9/10 things he said, had to do with Catholicism. He was really hung up on it. He’s a writer at Taki Mag and wasn’t a speaker, but he frequently got up to the microphone for a question or comment during the Q&A sessions. The one line that I felt I needed to congratulate him on was when he said flat out, “you must be ready to fight whenever you hear the words social justice.” I told him afterward, but it was brilliant just hearing somebody say that in a room of 80 people and not one of them getting upset. The catchphrase is never used sincerely, it is always used for people jockeying for social power, to gain privileges… not equality, but privileges above and beyond others.
Paul Gottfried’s lecture on Mencken and Nietzsche was good, but a bit dull in presentation. I think I would’ve gotten more out of reading it online or in a book.
It’s strange that the Mencken panel was the least populated, and not the most engaging. There was some talk by Richard Spencer, the managing editor of TakiMag, of how to reclaim Mencken and Nietzsche as symbols of the right. At the end of the discussion, it seemed that he had at least partially come to the conclusion that Mencken could not fully be reclaimed. I was largely left with the impression that Mencken was a symbol of convenience, a sort of codeword. I saw no great love of the iconoclasm that Mencken embodied. The not infrequent attacks on neoconservatives did not seem radical as much as it seemed obvious and necessary. Just as obvious and necessary as attacks on liberals. My dreams of finding in the HL Mencken club a secular, atheist, conservative think tank were dashed. Spencer did end his speech by stating that he believed that he thought the group should be considered radicals, the statement was met with no enthusiasm, no applause. I think this is partially due to his poor delivery of the line, however sincere.
John Derbyshire was the last man to talk, and that was after the dinner. He immediately engage my full attention by starting off his discussion, titled “Equality: the Elusive Ideal” (full text at link), by describing how he organized his books and his office. His desk is situated in the middle of the room, and all four walls are filled with books. He organizes them in a clockwise fashion, from the most concrete in fact the least. Starting with reference books immediately behind him, next comes the mathematics (his specialty) on his left, then Earth sciences etc., flowing into sociology philosophy and finally ending in a few poetry books at the furthest point on the right-hand wall.
He discussed a few of the problems that any of us who have a significant amount of books come across were not using a formalized system of shelving, such as the Dewey decimal system. He stated he kept the biographies of mathematicians in with his section on math books, though the rest of his biographies are in a section to themselves. This echoes my own resolution of keeping George Lincoln Rockwell‘s biographies along with his other books, though my biographies of Havelock Ellis, Larry Flynt, and Russ Meyer are not with my sexology and nonfiction dirty books, but with the rest of my biographies. I do however keep Nile Southern’s book The Candy Men sitting next to Venus Bound, a book on Olympia Press in with my dirty books even though they are significantly biographical.
To digress, yet again, it is because I am the type of person I would have biographies on these two disparate areas that exclude me from being a good candidate for representing any organization outside of the Church of Satan. I will admit I’m a little self-conscious about my outsider status, and the inevitable tension that would arise from largely normal people knowing that I have such an affinity for such figures as Yukio Mishima and Jim Tully, Anton LaVey and Savirtri Devi, Francis Galton and Tod Browning. I certainly have no love for the politics of James Watson, and I find GL Rockwell’s views on homosexuality to be deplorable.
Derbyshire was floating the word “culturalist” to refer to the folks that believe that environment is a single causal factor in developing intelligence and IQ. The terms used in this area of of obvious interest to anyone with a dog in the fight. The left will easily just call anyone who has a view that genes inform IQ and behavior, at least in part, as racists. They have their word, and it works for them. The right, out of a mixed need to a) not be called a racist and b) not be seen as forming epithets to describe their opponents, have had a hard time coming to agree on a single term for either themselves or those who hold opposite views.
Richard Lynn, in his book “The Science of Human Diversity” uses Henry E. Garrett‘s term “equalitarian” coined in 1961, and I’ll quote Garret by way of Lynn:
“The weight of the evidence favors the proposition that racial differences in mental ability (and perhaps in personality and character) are innate and genetic. The evidence is not all in, and further inquiry is needed… at best, the equalitarian dogma represents a sincere if misguided effort to help the Negro by ignoring or even suppressing evidence of his mental and social immaturity. At worst, equalitarianism is the scientific hoax of the century.”
Some writers in this field have used the term environmentalist in place of equalitarian or culturalist, and the word itself is in greater accord with the views, but culturally the word is owned by people who care about trees, rare owls, and littering. There is no possible way that hereditarians will be able to redefine that word in the minds of the majority of Americans.
In an unfinished essay of my own, I set about the problem of terminology and proposed my own set of classifications:
Racist: Someone who believes in races as either a biological reality or a social construct and wants to foster or maintain a hierarchical division between them. A collectivist view relating to their own race is usually implicit.
Racial Hereditarian: Someone who believes in the biological reality of race, but does not necessarily believe in an implicit hierarchy based on racial divisions. Collectivist beliefs are not implicit in Racial Hereditarianism.
Racial Equalitarian: Someone who believes that race is not a valid biological concept, and that it is socially constructed division. Collectivist beliefs are not implicit in Racial Environmentalism.
Anti-Racist: Someone who may believe that race is either a biological reality or a social construction, but will either ignore or promote the dissolution of those divisions through social, economic, legal or biological (miscegenation) means. They usually have collectivist beliefs.
Derbyshire is an atheist, and his talk had the most meat and the most laughs. He referenced the findings neuroscience, the work of Cochran, Hardy and Harpending that I discussed when hosting the podcast episode of Satanism Today (11-08-2007), Stephen Pinker, etc. After his talk I approached him to thank him for the lecture, and jokingly said “You’re going to have to tell me something terrible about yourself, because for every lecture today I’ve found at least one thing that’s made me bristle a bit, except for yours. I found nothing to object to at all.” He responded, jokingly “I’m a Wiccan that attends Black Masses and Sacrifices babies”… I could only simply respond, “I’m a member of the Church of Satan, so you’ll have to do better than that.”