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Toxicity & The Yuppie Apocalypse
You cannot truly call yourself peaceful unless you are capable of great violence. If you aren’t capable of violence, you aren’t peaceful you’re harmless. — Anon.
So one of the things I am doing in my ridiculous life is trying to rethink and consequently redesign and remodel social media. Fat chance, I know. But I have been thinking about it a long time and I keep updating my thinking. Also it’s my profession, and although I have no paying customers I believe that when I build it, they will come. That’s because everybody who is considerate and really wants to use the interwebz for gaining knowledge is troubled by fake news, spam, trolls and a host of other dysfunctions I lay at the feet of poor design, unintended consequences and monopoly power. I’ve been a blogger since day one, I even met Dave Winer.
As a technoid who used to play cello, I’m also interested in the arts and in particular the effect that creative writers have on the world. So I’ve spent a lot of time looking for and ingratiating myself with the Chatting Class of the internet. But I also am the oldest of four boys whose father is USMC. So I know something about a spectrum of violence. Furthermore I was pretty good at speech and debate and I grew up in Los Angeles, the capital of multicultural America.
You may have paused when I mentioned the spectrum of violence, and your pause, my pedigree chums is why we are talking today. What do some of us know about violence that most of us do not?
Now let us call the yuppies a white collar class of Americans who make their living, and therefore have their social standing maintained, though something other than manual labor. Here in California I’ve been using a term called ‘Reebokism’ as the set of concepts organized around what the purpose of a body is. Why do you use muscles? For the Reebokist, muscles are something you grow in your spare time at the gym done for the purposes of attracting sexual partners and showing off. The purpose of your clothing is thus to show off your muscles, etc. If you are Labor, as in someone for whom eye-hand coordination is used for something other than videogames, your muscles and physique are built and maintained by your work. It’s not yoga that makes you flexible and strong, it’s bending over and pushing lawnmowers on to the bed of your pickup truck. It’s gently turning unconscious bodies on a stretcher. It’s pulling 200 feet of firehose off of the pumper and holding it steady when the stream hits 400psi. You get the picture. In the moral dimension, you’re either a “My body helps me.” or a “My body helps others.” Although there is certainly a case of extreme narcissism in which you think your body helps others. Hulk Hogan may be forgiven.
There’s a viral video I caught some time ago which describes some knuckle-dragging antics of the sort I expect most Americans to find both salacious and depraved. 15 million views as of today. There’s a very interesting story behind it aside from the one tangential lesson I wish to convey. That lesson is confidently explained by the Gracie brothers whose HQ is about 15 minutes from my home. You don’t have to watch this entire video, but go ahead if you must.
The bottom line is that a capacity for violence, a studied intelligence for making your body do specific work, is something that Reebokists don’t understand. Not in a practical way outside of the realm of sex appeal. Not only Reebokists, but a lot of yuppies in our yuppie dominated culture. That ignorance goes a long way in explaining American fetishes for violence, in the same way incels must certainly consume porn. The same way many ferocious activists say they would never touch a firearm in a million years. They simply do not possess the intelligence, and perhaps they fear it. Of course they doubt anyone truly possesses such intelligence that leads to consistent sound judgement. Reebokists buy calendars of beefcake firefighters. Incels say all Chads are pickup artists. The gun control crowd calls gun owners ‘nuts’. Project much?
I asked earlier what are our bodies for? It is a question that was central to my own Martial Education, but also because we live in a society where the various dimensions of that open-ended question are not often addressed. One might say that outside of the various entertainments we are provided, the question only goes skin deep. Those of us who are fascinated and confounded by simulation and Matrix-style questions are marked in my playbook as lacking in that kind of intelligence. It’s not only about self-defense, police work and combat sports. If you overcome your fear of the high dive, you know you’re not in a simulation. If you reckon with the complexities of scuba diving you know this. If you appreciate the dynamics of moving your motorcycle through the apex on an off-camber curve with a decreasing radius, it matters that your stomach muscles are smart, not that they are ripped.
Now I certainly recognize that many American men, after many years of suffering through the diatribes of a watered-down and vulgar fake feminism have begun to rebel. Some of the rebellion is stupid, some of it vapid. I have certainly noticed the commercial sphere in which throwing axes, Damascus steel knives and sophisticated appliances for shaving man parts has blossomed. I happen to like Duke Cannon soap after years of using body wash. Some of this rebellion is well-considered. I tend to intellectually underwrite those rebels who subscribe to exemplify manly virtues, first and foremost of which I take to be physical courage. But courage and integrity in general, I rank highly. This is why Antigone is one of my all-time heroes.
My father used to write letters with the subtitle ‘biased and informative’ and I liked that. Another of my heroes is H.L. Mencken. Not only him but Samuel L. Jackson and Samuel L. Clemens. I enjoy a bit of verbal judo of the sort that I believe demonstrates a bit of rough intelligence. I’ll even endorse the actually angry part of George Carlin and of course all manner of coarse comedians. There’s real intelligence working behind their vulgarities. Standup comedians especially are capable of ripping a new one in hecklers. They’re not harmless, they’re peaceful.
Without prejudice to those who would have us algorithmically moderated in all social media, I wonder exactly what kind of speech is considered to be ‘toxic’ by the builders of such things as Perspective. This I take to be the cutting edge of the technology. So here’s the bottom line.
Is toxic speech coercive?
I think it is not. And yet I do think that political speech is fundamentally coercive as it is tied to legislation and policy and therefore law enforcement. That loop may not be very tight, but it does ratchet. Once the law is passed, it is not often rescinded. So we’re stuck with the problem of speech that passes our mainstream media toxicity detection filters, the gist of which results in the incitement of Congress. It’s a very complicated speech problem that we are punting off to bots.
For one thing, we have the issue of prior restraint. It’s not as if the toxic tongues get unlimited free passes. Parler is dead. 8kun is blackballed. One of the classic racialists I am aware of, Steve Sailer continues unabated in his rhetoric. So the wrecking balls are not as subtle real editors, writers and critics. The work we do is irreplaceable because we have the human context, which may be subjective, but then again it needs to be. We have developed, we writers the kind of intelligence that makes our pen as mighty as the sword even as we are capable of great vehemence, most aim to remain peaceful.
But here I want to make what I think is the salient point about discipline over time. It is not the existence of toxic speech that makes it coercive, it is the active seeking out of it and the desire of the hearer to make it real. It is the aim to defend peace that defines the warrior’s violence. It is the aim to suppress liberty that defines the censors impropriety. The mere existence of a violent act or a vile word does not circumscribe its weight and meaning.
We understand that the demand and concession of an apology can be given at any moment. Can that excuse a lifetime of behavior? Are we truly impressed when the Atheist quotes the Bible? The disciplined individual who builds up their intelligence requires that there be a philosophy. Or at the very least a continuing chorus of the same rote words they attend on a regular basis such that it is branded into their minds.
This is what we must grapple with. What are civil rights? Your’s end where my nose begins. Whatever you say, it’s not assault. My ability to handle your toxic speech has to do with my own anti-fragility. My own anti-fragility requires a continuing ability not only to survive the toxic moment, but to grow strong in deflecting and disarming. It is like Black Panther’s armor that makes him more powerful the more blows he receives.
I think about this whenever I think about what legitimate complaints some Sufi muslim might have against our salacious and depraved entertainments. I’m asked all the time why Americans are so shallow and fat and whatever else we lack. Lots of people think I should be triggered by rednecks. I’m not. But a punch in the nose is a punch in the nose. It’s not some Matrix-like offense. Toxic speech does not trigger me. It does not coerce me. It doesn’t flummox or taunt me into reactionary behavior. Stoicism, remember? I’m not immune, I’m just in a bit more control. There’s that intelligence again. The kind that understands not to make a fetish of that which you cannot believe to be intelligent. In the way we are intelligent consumers of dreck, we are not threatened by Lindsay Lohan. This century we will not be threatened by jerkwad Presidents. We’ll route around them and disempower them by not being coerced by their toxic madness. It’s this rough intelligence that will refused to be bullied. We will have gotten rid of the pearls to be clutched. Our vulnerabilities defended, peacefully.
If there is a yuppie apocalypse, it will come like COVID and like 9/11. The chorus will remain in the same key of OMG WTF? They will forget that in society, rights are gifts of the strong. Peace is the space carved up by intelligence capable of matching threat for threat. It is created by minds unafraid to contemplate the unthinkable because they know enough of humanity that prepares for it. It won’t be toxic speech that points the way to the bad guys. Only those who can communicate the very specific ways the body creates or evades destruction have the intelligence to perceive the imbalance.
All of us need to remember and embrace the rough intelligence we are capable of. We will always have the weak among us, the young, the sick, the elderly feeble. In the absence of those disabilities we cannot slip into yuppie complacence. The world cannot be paved over and made safe for urban ignorance.