Friday, July 3, 2015

Values Inside Out

Spoilers abound in the first section, pertaining to Pixar's newest film "Inside Out."

Critics hail the unique view on the mindscape, specifically the role of Sadness as a healing emotion. America is a go-getter, happy, optimistic culture, even if the actual citizenry chokes down more Prozac every passing year. Inside Out shows the unique role of Sadness in allowing a person to stop, reflect, think, and feel, which allows the Mind to shut a nightmare orchestra of Disgust, Fear, and Anger.

Letting those three emotions rule the roost turned the protagonist's mind into putty. Over the course of the movie, a child's personality slowly falls apart. Pixar shows this descent into madness by depicting the child's core personality traits as floating islands, each tumbling from the sky when a sufficient Breaking Point is reached.

Only a few days separate a child playing floor hockey with parents, cheering, smiling, and laughing, to a child running away in sheer terror. A sheer blitzkrieg of hate from her inner Fear, Anger, and Digust burns out her electrical circuits entirely. Remarkable is the utter lack of real trauma in this girls' past: Riley, the child, has almost no uniqueness to her. She is bland vanilla pudding thrown onto a movie screen, then stomped into its constituent, lifeless atoms.

Real usually acts on pre-existing factors, but if you are one of the unlucky ones susceptible to full-blown depression, your life can also fall apart in stunningly short order.

What applies to single person applies to the collective mass. No where is the most apparent than the current Greek saga. Despite years of negotiation, reform, and minor debt relief, the Greek crisis has come to full steam. After debt talks broke down, a full-blown bank run gripped Greece. Greece shut down the nation's financial system, and has proposed a referendum on the EU fiscal reforms, set for July 5th.

GREXIT, or Greece's departure from the EUROzone, now seems an immediate possibility, rather than the scare-tactic of political pundits.

Doubt's long shadow has been cast over the European project. The Euro, the EU's crowning achievement, is no more permanent a union than a Vegas marriage. Given Britian's possible referendums on leaving entirely, Switzerland's rebuke at the ballot box, and Russia's rebuke with the ammo box, the EU has been hobbled.

That's a huge change from the continuing history of progress. European unity has been an increasing phenomenon since the end of World War II. This begins with De Gaulle: seeing the strength of the USSR and the US, he makes the historic decision NOT to butcher Germany. This is at odds with France's historical enmity with Germany. After WWI, for instance, France created Saarland out of Germany. Germany responded by ordering a strike in the region, and paid its workers by inflating its currency, which tanked the German currency, which....well, you know the rest of history.

Instead, France and Germany created the European Coal and Steel Community, which began the long progress of European cooperation, which has, thus far, prevented any additional European wars from breaking out.

Seems simple enough, but the overreach of European unity resulted in a 7 year depression for Greece, which is resulting in the breakdown of the union.

Things can go to crap quite quickly.

Here's where I bring back my favorite Scott Alexander piece:

I propose that the best way for leftists to get themselves in a rightist frame of mind is to imagine there is a zombie apocalypse tomorrow. It is a very big zombie apocalypse and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be one of those ones where a plucky band just has to keep themselves alive until the cavalry ride in and restore order. This is going to be one of your long-term zombie apocalypses. What are you going to want?
People on the modern Left really, really, REALLY think we have arrived at some sort of economy and social point where full disintegration is no longer possible. Because of this, they turn themselves towards dismantling social and economic injustice. They don't care about whether this might weaken the economy and society enough to collapse, because that's no longer a concern of theirs.

The US collapsing? Are you insane? We have the world's largest army. We have the world's largest economy. We have the world's best technology. We are the third most populous nation on the planet, and the only ones ahead of us are third-world hellholes.

It's true that we probably won't collapse tomorrow. But what can happen is serious dislocation and temporary harm. Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy, for instance. Or the 2008 economic collapse. Or the nearly 10 year depression Greece and Puerto Rico have been in.

One day, everything's fine, the next, BOOM! chaos.

Historically this happened quite frequently. One day the Aztecs are minding their own business, and then BOOM! Spanish army. The Aztecs are dead in a few decades.

The scariest problems, though, are the ones built into the system, that we don't see. The current Euro-crisis was a foreseeable event. The overfarming of the Midwest, which caused the Dust Bowl, is another excellent example. Europe's foreign policy post-WWI resulted in Hitler. Internal contradictions in the Soviet system doomed that society. Antebellum America's numerous slavery compromises ultimately proved unsustainable.


Our society, like every society before, bears internal contradictions that will collapse our society if improperly managed. These go beyond traditional leftist causes like Climate Change or Civil Rights reform and into economic policy. On the Right, we believe that permissive sexual norms are contributing to the breakdown of marriage, which will water down other social compacts, and over time will hobble our society. Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy become unmanagable when the large majority of men Go Ghost, as in the black community today.

That does not even go to into other, external, existential risks. Pandemic. MERS has now spread to South Korea and can be spread by human-to-human contact. Asteroid impact. Foreign invasion. All things that might press our society hard enough to break.

You know who isn't afraid of asteroid impacts, pandemic, foreign invasions, or anything else?
 Social conservatives. 

Society itself is a safety net that functions even when government or business collapses. On a micro-scale, this means, if I lose my job, my family can take care of me. Or my sister-in-law can care for my sister's kids. Or my parents can live with me when they get old.

On a macro-scale, even Roman persecution couldn't kill the Catholic Church. Even when civilization collapsed, the Monasteries preserved social knowledge and literacy. Throughout the early Middle Ages, the church's abbots produced much of Christendom's staples, which is why the Investiture crisis became such a big deal: Kings wanted to appoint local bishops.

It's also why appropriation of church lands has long tempted national leaders. One of the French Revolution's enduring legacies was to confiscate church land and return it to the Third Estate.

Social conservatism, with an emphasis on instilling common community values and enforcing community norms, will function even when the government breaks down. Societies which emphasize individual rights and hedonism are going down, down, down, down, faster than the defunct personality islands in Inside Out, faster than the Greek banking system, and a LOT harder.

This should even make sense from an evolutionary perspective. Our major separation from the other animals is our ability to speak. Language affords us the ability to cooperate, and create complex social structures. This, more than anything else, allows humans to rule over other societies. Other species which may be stronger or more intelligent (and Neanderthals were probably both) lack any advantages against a collective society.

Bring on the Apocalypse, it won't harm the Church.

Are we ever going to reach Leftist utopia?

Well, no.

There's a lot of talk about post-scarcity society, but at the moment, there's no reason to suspect we are close to it. The United States has not only eliminated famine, we have an obesity epidemic. We have eliminated the most common forms of death (preventable disease) and are going after harder disease like cancer and heart disease. Books, once the world's most precious possession, are obsolete in a world where we generate a petabyte of data every single year.

Shoes? Hell, most Middle Age people couldn't afford a single pair. We have entire stores dedicated to shoes: I have FOUR pairs of dress shoes!

If a post-scarcity society is possible, this should be it, and we're still arguing over how to divide the economic pie, and our economy is still vulnerable to massive financial shocks that make everyone feel peasant poor.

There's never going to be a real time for the kind of super-liberal free-love values that the Left cherishes. The Right will always need to be around, and social conservatism will always need to be around, always providing an additional safety net and always providing a sense of common identity for a national foundation.

The alternative is national suicide.

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