Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kingdom of Heaven

It's set in the years before the launch of the third crusade, culminating in the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187. The narrative contains plenty of historical errors, the most blatant being the antagonism between Sibylla and Guy, which is as backwards as it gets--she not only snubbed and scandalized all of the kingdom of Jerusalem, of which she was princess and then queen, with her incorrigible devotion to Guy, she even threw the Byzantine emperor Manuel for a loop by dropping her betrothal to his guy in favor of the Guy (pronounced "Gee", as in McGee, incidentally). Until the siege of Jerusalem near the end, the movie's primary protagonist, Balian, shares little more than a name with his eponym.

But so what? Having seen Commodus and one of the Gracchi brothers scheming against one another in Gladiator, you have no one to blame but yourself for expecting historical integrity from Ridley Scott. And there were some neat nods to what actually did happen--after Jerusalem is surrendered, Guy and Balian spar. Guy, who is portrayed about as one-dimensionally villainous as he can possibly be portrayed throughout the two-and-a-half hour film, is brought to his knees. Balian spares him, telling him to rise again, but this time to do so as a knight (chivalrous, honorable, etc). Well, ignoring the fact that he wasn't released by Saladin when Jerusalem fell, his next move was to initiate the siege of Acre, a desperate gamble that would eventually culminate in a highly improbable victory for what was left of the crusader states. Neat.

King of Heaven (KoH) contains plenty of the Brothers Karamazov-type lamentations over the putative existence of a God who would allow, and even sanction, such horror and brutality. It's stuff that enlightened western audiences love to eat up, and all of it is uttered by Latins with the exception of one ambivalent line from Saladin about Jerusalem being both nothing and everything. Some measure of balance, however, is provided in the depiction of "the Leper King", Baldwin IV (the only especially remarkable and memorable personality in the movie), a kingdom of the heart-and-mind kind of man who competently and judiciously holds power without being corrupted by it.

Kingdom of Heaven (KoH) was released in 2005, a year when anything encouraging a lessening of tensions between the nominally-Christian West and the Muslim world was understandably welcome. Christians--Latins and Byzantines both--and Muslims were more-or-less evenly matched in the 12th century. By the 21st, of course, there is no longer any contest (at least not militarily). Consequently, the Latins (for the sake of simplicity and presumably also for contemporary relevance, the movie is devoid of both Jews and Byzantines) take the fall over and over again for being zealous, bloodthirsty, hypocritical, and cynical. The cross is the vehicle used to deliver the moral of the story, that fighting over land in the name of religion is bad bad bad.

In an era when an absurdly fantastical movie like 300 elicits charges of anti-Islamic sentiments, it's expecting far too much for a big name like Scott to portray the crusader states in a neutral light, let alone a positive one.

That said, the movie deserves credit for not getting into the proto-colonialism nonsense. Crusading was extremely expensive. The first crusade was primarily funded privately, largely by those leading it. Godfrey of Bouillon, who would become the first ruler of the KoJ, sold the entire county of Verdun to the king of France and still had to mortgage Boullion itself to finance his expedition. It cost the typical crusader four to five years worth of income to set forth to the holy land. The poor, who comprised much of Peter the Hermit's following, were a constant drain on crusading efforts and were vociferously discouraged from taking part by the papacy itself. Subsequent crusades were financed in large part through taxation, first on the clergy and then on the general public.

Further, there had never been any prospect of the KoJ becoming a source of revenue for Europe. Over the course of its nearly two-hundred year existence, the kingdom was perpetually propped up by men, supplies, and massive financial transfers from Europe. If anything, Europe acted as a "colony" of the KoJ. The Templars, who rivaled the major Italian banking houses in their breadth, made money in Europe to spend sustaining their fortified castles, knights, sergeants, and squires in the holy land. In fact, likely the first ever income tax in the West was levied on those in England and France to finance the third crusade--now that's a genuinely ugly legacy of the crusading period! Returning from King Louis IX's second (and fatal) crusade, King Edward I of England would be the last person to lead a significant crusading effort from Europe. Twenty years later, with large scale support from the continent having dried up, the KoJ was, quite literally, driven into the sea by Muslim forces--the kingdom's last remnant was the Templar's island fortress at Arwad, a couple of miles off the Syrian coast.

Kudos, too, for (sort of) voicing the "we were here first" Christian polemic that played so well back in Europe. And play well it should have, since Christianity claimed Jerusalem as its holiest city several hundred of years before Muhammad was born and Islam claimed it as its third most holy. Booms Balian, "the Muslim holy places lie over your's[, Christians]".

Fortunately, the most historically egregious scene didn't make it past the director's cut:

When the first "knights of Christ" ("crusader" being a term invented long after the events they now refer to had come and gone) pushed through to Jerusalem, the city was defended by the Fatimids, a Shia dynasty centered in Egypt. The same Fatimids that Saladin--a Kurdish Sunni--would help conquer in the name of the Zengids, a Sunni dynasty based in Syria. Saladin would do so years before his military conflicts with the Latins (or, as the Arabs referred to them, the Franje). In other words, Saladin's army was full of men who'd spilled plenty of Fatimid blood of their own. It's doubtful many of them had a soft spot in their hearts for the great grandparents of their sacrilegious, recently vanquished rivals.

As far as the Muslims never forgetting goes, the first Arab history of the crusades wasn't written until the turn of the 20th century, so the Hospitaller wasn't as prescient as he thought he was--the Muslim world experienced 600 years of collective amnesia. That the KoJ is a minor detail in the histories of the Islamic world isn't surprising. The Latins never threatened Mecca or Medina and, save for the geographically limited conquests of the first crusade, were on the defensive for most of the kingdom's two centuries of precarious existence. The Franje were only one relatively minor group among many fighting for a stake in what has since come to be referred to as the Middle East. The 11th and 12th centuries are largely the story of expanding Turkish power in the Arab world and the competition between Damascus, Cairo, and Baghdad to become and remain the cultural center of the Islamic world. Jerusalem wasn't that important, and the other coastal cities even less so, especially since control of the seas was dominated by Byzantium throughout the crusading period.

Most people of European descent have heard of the Goths and the Mongols. They sacked Rome and Kiev, after all. The Marcomanni, though? Oh yeah, they caused a bit of trouble for the meditations guy when they crossed the Danube, right? Is that going to be on the test?

When Balian and Saladin meet just outside of Jerusalem to negotiate terms for the city's surrender, Balian is surprised by Saladin's offer to let the city's inhabitants take their things and leave without harm (in actuality, the historical Saladin allowed some of the inhabitants to be ransomed and the others sold into slavery; he didn't simply set them free).

Yes, that he is Saladin is why he, Saladin, did what he did. Tautology aside, he was financially strapped and was having expected difficulties holding together disparate groups of soldiers who had all been roped together under the budding Ayyubid dynasty. The siege of Jerusalem ninety years prior had been a much bloodier affair. In the context of the times, however, Balian would've expected the lives of the inhabitants to be spared since he was surrendering the city. His threat to Saladin was that if he didn't, a lot of Muslims would die.

It's highly probable that the Jewish and Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem would've been spared in 1099 if the city had surrendered. It didn't, of course, and the ensuing siege caused massive crusader casualties that Jerusalem's capitulation would've avoided. Additionally, the first crusaders faced the prospect of being trapped and annihilated by a Fatimid army on the way from Egypt. Jerusalem's refusal to open its gates to them meant they had little choice but to break in or be left to slaughtered.

The primary reason the crusades have become a rallying call across the contemporary Muslim world is because of the geographical overlap between the KoJ's ancient borders and those of modern day Israel. Maybe when Texas secedes from the US and then, instead of reinstating the Lone Star Republic, petitions to become Mexico's northernmost state, whites in San Antonio will start vociferously reminding the world of the Alamo.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dystopian diversity

From Pew:

The Cathedral interprets this as reflecting perceived (if necessarily nebulous, since it's seemingly impossible to ever isolate, pinpoint, and verify) irrational discrimination based on race. The assumption, at least among non-whites, is that the problems a group perceives between themselves and members of another group is the result of the latter group's hostilities towards the former group. Blacks feel more tension between blacks and whites than whites do. Ergo, whites are more irrationally racist against blacks than blacks are against whites.

In reality, however, the amount of perceived discord should be seen as a measure of hostility, bitterness, and acrimony members of one group feel towards members of another group. For ease of comprehension, the harmonious sentiments scores for non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics, computed by taking the percentages of respondents who responded "very well", adding 10 to that number to reduce the potentially bemusing high number of negatives, and subtracting from it the percentages who responded "not too well" or "not at all well" follow. The higher the score, the warmer and more affectionate the feelings of the group being examined towards members of the other two groups:

Whites' sentiments towards blacks: 6
Whites' sentiments towards Hispanics: 4

Blacks' sentiments towards whites: 1
Blacks' sentiments towards Hispanics: 13

Hispanics' sentiments towards whites: 5
Hispanics' sentiments towards blacks: -11

In sum, whites and Hispanics feel about the same about one another. Blacks have more issues with whites than whites do with blacks. That's the successful result decades of agitprop--blacks perpetrate a lot more harm against whites than whites do against blacks, but whites are persistently encouraged and coerced into feeling as though they owe something to blacks.

Finally, Hispanics are a lot colder towards blacks than blacks are towards Hispanics, by far the relationship with the least parity among the two groups concerned. In Central and South America, being black isn't something to be proud of and Hispanics don't try to associate with blackness. Many blacks may see Hispanics as potential anti-white allies, but Hispanics aren't that interested in sharing anything with blacks. As the number of Hispanics continues to grow and they become the clear senior partner in the minority coalition, blacks are going to find themselves increasingly forced into taking a backseat (heh) in the perpetual game of shaking out white concessions to non-white minorities. It will be interesting, if depressing, to see whether or not blacks take it sitting down.

Parenthetically, these are measures more of the sentiments of people on the ground, not among self-appointed NAM leaders and leading white ethno-masochists, who for self-interested reasons want to do everything in their power to see the non-white minority stay united against its white oppressors as it grows in size and shifts in composition.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cultural Marxism, gay-style

The Chickadee has been hunting for left wing authoritarianism. She accepts that WEIRD societies aren't the ones to look for it in. It depends on how said authoritarianism is defined. Support for and government action in the name of disparate impact--heck, for the very existence of the EEOC--seems to argue that it's right in front of our noses. The second dictionary definition of authoritarianism:
of or pertaining to a governmental or political system, principle, or practice in which individual freedom is held as completely subordinate to the power or authority of the state, centered either in one person or a small group that is not constitutionally accountable to the people.
Okay, I suppose as a federal department it is accountable to the executive and funded by the legislative, both of which are accountable to the electorate, but there's at least an authoritarian streak present here, as there is with so much else that western governments do, some of which is supported by the right and increasingly more (most?) of which is supported by the left. A particular bugaboo of mine is hardly the only government example--nearly everything the Libertarian party opposes is authoritarian by this metric. "Authoritarian" need not necessarily be a derogatory term (immigration enforcement from my own perspective, for example), although it is usually employed as such.

The visceral opposition to a bill recently passed by the Kansas House (only to be killed by the state Senate) is quite authoritarian. The bill begins by saying that "no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender", and then proceeds to codify as much with all the necessary accompanying legalese.

Yes, it is an attempt to protect the right for private institutions (and, far more problematically in my view, also a right for government employees to exempt themselves from job duties they have moral issues with performing) to refuse service to same-sex couples. It's discriminatory, so of course it's the most evil thing in the history of the world, but it's still a bill that restricts the ability of the state to coerce the behaviors of private citizens engaged in private activities. It's anti-authoritarian. To imply that support for it makes shows one to be fascistic or bigoted is exactly backwards, yet the social media feeds are full of exactly those accusations. It's understandable, though. Freedom of association has been outlawed for longer than members of the facebook generation have been alive--it's all they know.

Digging up the dead horse to beat it yet again, the comparisons to pedophilia and bestiality work here. Yes, there are presumably only fringe constituencies that support legal protections for these things, but less than a generation ago support for same-sex marriage was itself quite marginal.

This is a hobby horse not due to personal feelings on the specific issues surrounding homosexuality, but because of the arrogant self-righteousness of an idiotic generation--mine--that can boast of accomplishing roughly nothing, self-assuredly overturning millenia of moral and religious teachings while viciously steamrolling anyone who is apprehensive about so thoughtlessly dismissing what forever took to find.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I like Ike-Abdullah-bin-Abdulaziz-Al-Saud

Saudi Arabia has deported 250,000 illegal immigrants in the last several months (via the chickadee). The "Saudization" campaign has prodded over one million more to leave of their own volition, with that number expected to have doubled by year's end to two million. For every one illegal immigrant forcibly removed, another eight or so are voluntarily removing themselves.

If that ratio sounds eerily familiar to you, you're probably a crimethinker. More than half a century ago during Operation Wetback, within the San Antonio district of the repatriation program, INS apprehended 80,000 illegal aliens for deportation. Between 500,000-700,000 fled the US for Mexico on their own. Taking the middle of that range, for every one illegal immigrant forcibly removed, another seven or eight voluntarily removed themselves.

No, we can't deport the 12 million-plus illegals residing inside the US. Not unless we give them the Templar treatment, anyway. If we ever actually start to look like we're serious about enforcing our immigration laws and maintaining our national sovereignty, the vast majority will find the door long before we're able to show it to them.

Abstinence until adulthood!

Understanding that opposition to bestiality or pederasty is scarcely any more logically defensible than opposition to homosexuality is a worthy exercise in comprehending how human morality expresses itself. Many of the moral positions people hold are a natural outgrowth of their innate personalities. A commenter named Stephen asserted otherwise, writing:
Pederasty is wrong because a child doesn't have the mental faculties to give consent to sex. It's a huge fucking difference between that and something that takes place between consenting adults. I happen to find it disgusting as well, but that is irrelevant. What is relevant is the harm done to children. I thought you were better than bringing that into the mix.
Just as logically consistent opposition to bestiality necessitates vegetarianism (and arguably veganism), so should opposition to pederasty necessitate opposition to underage sex, even among two willing young people. If a teenage youth does not have the mental faculties to consent to sex, then it's difficult to argue that two young teenagers--neither of whom putatively have said necessarily mental faculties--should be permitted to confirm their lust.

What if the two stripling lovers are especially precocious? What if the adult in an adult-child relationship is emotionally stunted? There should presumably be lots of exceptions. There are 12 year-olds who have more mental maturity and emotional stability than people twice their age do.

I'm stating neither a political nor a moral position on homosexuality, bestiality, or pederasty here. To reiterate, the point of this post and previous ones in a similar vein is to show how many moral positions are 'merely' personal preferences rooted in personality differences. They are no more correct or incorrect than extroversion or introversion are.

I am directing the thrust of these posts at the contemporary left, though, since it is they who often insinuate moral superiority in the positions they hold, the corollary often being that those who disagree with them are parochial, bigoted, evil, etc.

Indeed, the idea of relative morality is more generally associated with the progressive left than it is with conservatives or traditionalists. Rightly so, as the Establishment left's greater personal emphasis on abortion rights than on opposition to pedophilia demonstrates. Jack Cashill has done a ton of reporting on as much. And I'm not just talking about circling the wagons to protect their own a la Roman Polanski.

The current head of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, was propelled forward into national politics largely on the financial backing of the abortion industry within my home state of Kansas. Her office resisted former Kansas AG Phil Kline at every turn as he exposed two abortion clinics in the state for refusing to report multiple instances of active pedophilia the resulted in pregnancies and the subsequent terminations of those pregnancies. The story got a bit of national play on Fox News and other mainstream right outlets, but the Cathedral's national media organs ignored it almost entirely while local leftist media viciously savaged Kline and his supporters, who were eventually defeated when Kline was replaced and subsequent state AGs chose not to continue the prosecutorial pushing Kline had started and let the issue die.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Presidents, of all people, shouldn't notice things

Writes some Cathedral clone (via Steve Sailer):
[Nixon] was racist in the sense that he subscribed to an actual taxonomy and hierarchy of race—the idea that different groups possess inherent qualities. Asians are smart and industrious. Jews are crafty but lack moral fiber, and so on.
SAT math scores, by race:

From the GSS, average wordsum score by religious affiliation and the percentage of respondents from each affiliation who find it either "not wrong" or only "a bit wrong" for a person to hide some of his income in order to avoid paying income taxes on it:


Additionally, 'ethnic' Jews are more likely than others to self-identify as not having any religious affiliation than people raised in families of other religious persuasions are.

Nixon was racist in the sense that he subscribed to his own lying eyes told him.

GSS variables used: RELIG(1)(2)(3)(4)(5-13), WORDSUM, TAXCHEAT(1-2)(3-4)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Michael Sam

Homer: That little Timmy is a real hero.
Lisa: What makes him a hero dad?
Homer: Well he fell down the well and ... can't get out.
Lisa: How does that make him a hero?
Homer: Well, it's more than you did!

(Season 3, episode 13: "Radio Bart")

Saturday, February 08, 2014

I planned how I'd use the wood from the apple tree weeks ago

Via Razib, my results from a Big Five personality traits test (executive branch edition):

Given that I reference words from his famous farewell address more than those of any other president, this seems fitting enough. I didn't delve into the methodology employed at the site, but some of the accompanying verbiage asserts that this personality profile tends to refer to a person "more likely to favor military intervention as a means of solving foreign policy problems". Sounds a little strange to describe a putatively close match with George Washington in such a way, but alas.

One can only wonder about Razib's--who is paired with Theodore Roosevelt--propensity for war-making. I suppose Razib's willingness to get intellectually pugilistic, and his approach towards the deployment and utilization of cutting edge genomics technologies could, figuratively, be seen as analagous to Teddy's approach to Cuba and the Philippines!

Every couple of years I like to indulge in one of these profile tests. Over the course of my adult life, four of the five facets have remained quite stable. The only trait that has moved much for me is agreeableness. It has declined, I suspect in no small part as a consequence of swallowing the red pill, spending so much time sifting through hatefacts, engaging in crimethink, and virtually hanging out in Dark Enlightenment circles.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Nothing new under the sol invictus

Amy Chua and Jeb Rubenfeld (she kept her own surname and enjoys the prominent first mention, yikes) write:
Strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.
I'm reading a biography on one of the most fascinating characters in Western history. While sailing to Greece in his late teens, ostensibly for educational purposes but more probably to get away from Sulla's faction in Rome, Julius Caesar was captured by Cilician pirates. As a patrician from a well-pedigreed family, he commanded a non-negligible ransom. But when the pirates agreed to one, Caesar scoffed. He was worth more than that. He demanded they up their request. They did. The ransom was met. Before being released, Caesar let his captors know that he was going to have them all crucified for having taken him hostage. They allegedly took it as a joke and let him go on his way. Without the auctoritas he'd accrue later in life or any legal authority to do so, he raised a militia on little more than charisma and patriotism. With that militia, Caesar hunted down the pirates who'd captured him and had them crucified just as he said he would. He slit their throats before they were strung up, though. The guy knew the value of clemency.

I bring up ancient Rome because one could be mistaken for thinking that Chua's description of successful groups was referring not to disparate groups in 21st century America, but to the Roman upper echelons in first century BC. In the atriums of many accomplished senatorial and equite households were ancestor rooms (imagines maiorum) where busts of clan ancestors were somberly displayed. They served to simultaneously remind those ancestors' living descendants of their clan's historical greatness and as an impetus to motivate said living members of the clan that they had a lot to live up to. It took patience and dedication to climb the cursus honorum, and time spent dawdling was time spent disgracefully.

In many ways these tribes sound similar in nature to the "groups" Chua focuses on in her newest book. They might be thought of as extended families with some level of inbreeding present. Where have we read about that before?

Saturday, February 01, 2014

My what a foxy fox that is

Distinguishing homosexuality from bestiality on an argument based on consent fails in its moral consistency unless the one putting forward such an argument is a strict vegetarian. Many of the people reading this will have just sat down to a dinner comprised in part by the flesh of a creature that was stuck in a holding cell living on cheap corn byproduct for all of its short, miserable existence before finally being relieved of its perpetual suffering by having its spine severed, killing it instantly if it's lucky. No consent, there, either. Gentle sex would, presumably, be the less objectionable of the two if the animal had any say in the matter. Further--and I'm speculating here, but reasonably, I think--there are probably pets out there, such as dogs whose reason for being is to make their owners happy, who might actually enjoy it.

The point is, opposition to bestiality, at least in the contemporary Western world, rests almost exclusively on the ick factor--probably to a greater extent, in fact, than opposition to homosexuality does.

For honest progressives who genuinely want to try empathizing with conservatives who find homosexuality disgusting and consequently morally appalling, here's a worthy thought experiment: There's a big national push to legalize and normalize sexual relations between humans and other non-human animals. Many of the animals that will become sex pets if bestiality is federally protected will be bought by bestials from slaughterhouses, thus saving their new charges from the aforementioned miserable experiences described above. Instead, the creatures will live with affectionate owners through the duration of their natural lives. Are you on board with the campaign? Would you feel some resentment if support for such normalization was all over popular entertainment and in the press, persistently insinuating that you're an evil, bigoted troglodyte if you oppose as much?

We are deeply in Haidt territory here.