Sunday, June 7, 2015

You Can't Go Home Again


Progress marches onward. There's no turning back the clock now. We have full rights for huge and ever-growing swathes of the population. Every day marks another huge roll-back of the social injustice perpetuated by the dark spectre of our past, whether assuring equal access to the disabled, punishing cat-calling, our recognizing true courage in its most noble form:

We're told there's no going back now. We hear loud proclamations of permanent victory in the Manosphere part of the web. A lot of Social Justice Warriors, falsely assuming all men want to force women back into the kitchen, gloat that advanced rights for women can not be reversed, that their advanced position in society remains untouchable, a cultural foundation deep enough it may as well run to the Earth's Core.

They've come a long way in such short time. In the 1800s, women protested for quite basic rights. So called First-Wave Feminism (an early movement roughly concurrent with the extreme abolitionists and the collapse of America's slavery compromises) focused on relatively straight-forward issues, like allowing women to refuse sex with their husbands, allowing women to inherit property, allowing women shared custody of children (used to be husbands got kids in the divorce), allowing women the right to retain earnings in the labor force, etc.

They've come so far since then, haven't they? First-Wave Feminists struggled with issues of universal franchise: not all women believed women should have the right to vote. These days not only is it obvious women should have the right to vote, many nations consider "obvious" women should be allotted minimum number of seats in government. 

If you want a patriarchal society? Tough. There's no going home again.

Have you ever read The Diamond Age? Neal Stephenson pens fantastic Cyber-Punk works. He weaves together a lot of optismtic technological trends, warps society to an unrecognizable format, and shows broad chains of events that change the course of future history.

The Diamond Age is set in a futuristic Shanghai, based loosely on the colonial Shanghai of the 1800s. Small city-states have emerged to dominate the landscape, much like colonial powers America and Britain divied up Shanghai between them in the 1800s.

Oh, did you not know we had a colony in China? Why do you think the Chinese feel so humiliated by their recent history?

As an aside, there's a constant back-drop of barbarians from the Chinese inland throughout the book. These neo city-states possess matter replicators and nano-machines, that make their city-states practically impenetrable. The inland barbarians constantly harrass the settlements, only to have their hordes beaten aside.

That is, until the end of the book. They figure out how to disrupt the Feed, a sort of resource super-highway that supplies the colonial city-states. This throws the entire society into chaos, and the barbarians take over the Shanghai settlements.

Then society....regresses? Progresses? I guess that depends on your point of view.

Fantastic story, right? A group of primitive dwellers overthrowing technological superpowers. Impossible in the real world, right?

This, however, is an actual story of Chinese history. The backdrop draws heavily from the Boxer Rebellion,  when Chinese peasants and local leaders did rebel against imperial rule. The imperials, of course, won, not in the small part due to the deployment of American soldiers at the critical battle of Peking.

Wait, you didn't know that Americans shot Chinese peasants? Who taught you history again?


Here's the long story. The Chinese peasants won. Eventually. The Chinese peasants radicalized more and more over the coming decades, until a little guy named Mao led them to drive out the Nationalists (themselves no friends of the imperialist overlords).

Mao led China to such grand cultural achievements as the The Hundred Flower campaign and the Great Leap Forward.

See, history went "backward." By which I mean, history evolved in a way that eroded the civil liberties of the average person, in stark contrast to the cultural narrative of ever-expanding rights.

This isn't exactly uncommon, or unique to the Third World. We remember Nazi Germany because, at the time, Germany was a cultural and technological envy of the world. Germany (including Austra) produced Einstien, Beethoven, Mozart, etc. Germany produced the world's first universal education system. It's first pension system. It's...

Well, Germany was a lot of firsts.

It was also the world's first total fascist dictatorship, more complete than even Mussolini's the South. Nazi Germany wiped away the political "advancement" of Germany, and its "achievement" of multi-party democracy (an end state according to Fukuyama), in a few short years, before waging the world's most destructive war.

The Soviet Union is much the same story. Russia since the time Peter the Great strove to modernize, to include itself in the Western tradition. Alexander II's emancipation of the serfs mirrors almost exactly Lincoln's emancipation of the slaves

The Tsars slowly allowed more democratic government, not unlike Britain's slow concessions to Parliament or Germany's steady march towards parliamentary democracy. Didn't matter. Lenin rose to power, abolished the legislative branch with great elan, ensured equal rights for women to boot, and installed the world's greatest police state.

History gets rolled back all the time. 

Here's the part where I jump into economics and my own personal life for a moment.

It's no secret that I've bought my first house. That means recently I've watched a lot of these guys:

This twin brother team features one real estate expert and one independent contractor. They take couples around to beat-up homes and fix them up to a modern a feel.

Pretty interesting showing, I would recommend a watch on a Sunday morning while getting ready for Mass. Makes interesting lunch conversation after Mass as well, definitely better than going over the week's Homily.

Anyways, one of the most popular homes for first time buyers is the so-called Crafstman-style home. At first, I had no idea what they meant, anymore than I knew the difference between a bungalow and a ranch and a split-level.

 By the way, those homes each sport their own unique style and feel.

Craftsman style homes are in demand because of their unique blends of material and hand-crafted. Crafstman homes grew out of the Arts and Craft Movement of the late 1800s. People of the time carried no love for the cheap manufactured products flooding the market, and higher class folk demanded more "honest" and "authentic" work created by individual artisans.

Obviously that meant homes with a lot of hand-crafted pieces, unique designs, elaborate construction, etc.

That was the predominant design thought process in the Gilded Age.

But how did we get from Crafstman homes to this?

Economics, of course. Hand-crafted homes require a lot of work, and a lot of work requires a lot of money. After World War II, America homeowners demanded cheap housing, and builders churned out entire neighborhoods full of Type A/Type B/Type C split levels.

These days, of course, we are trying to become more "authentic," but this supposedly new-found authenticity was in fact an entire movement, long before most of us drew breath.

In the end, economics tends to win. Societies operate through a process of Darwinian selection, where certain people and movements accumulate more power. The traits that yield power always tend to become more prevalent. Economics reflects the basest incentives and thus the most important power levers revolve around who controls money and commerce in the economy. This is why Marx could found an entire theory on the "means of production," and suggesting all of society was structured on the same fundamental struggle, played out through the millenia.

What does Jenner really bring to the table? I can see why bringing women to the table helps power-brokers: the Democratic Party would have ceased to exist without their votes, and many businesses might shutter without their labor flooding the market. I can see why emancipation and inclusion of blacks would help: more soldiers for the army, more workers in the factories, more tax dollars flowing into the public treasury.

Societies which encourage inclusion of women and minorities might have significant advantages over those that do not. You might roll back any of these changes without severely impacting your national economy, national government, national military, national education, and national health.

You really can't go back to the 1950s, then.

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