Category Archives: philosophy

CS Lewis: The Abolition of Man

The Abolition of Man is absolutely essential because it gets to the core of what I feel is the only debate worth having at this stage of history. Lewis is talking about First Principles in the context of classical philosophy. Every claim comes prepackaged with its own ethical, epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions.

Despite his own Christian beliefs, he’s taking an ecumenical approach to time honored wisdom. If you are going to strip away all traditional notions of duty, honor, virtue in favor of a more “natural” approach to Man, then you consign Man’s soul to the meat grinder of the scientific data mill. Thus making subsequent generations slaves to the scientific class who are going to condition the masses to accept whatever definition of “good” is going to be most expedient to the larger goal of consolidating power within the scientific priesthood.

Revisiting the Argument for Atheism: Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not A Christian

Updated 1/23/2019

Given that atheism appears to be a rising trend in the US, it’s worth taking a look back at one of the seminal arguments against the Christian faith to see how well it holds up. Besides his numerous contributions to mathematics, history and philosophy, Bertrand Russell’s contribution to the modern atheist movement is significant. Russell comes from a long line of religious skeptics which goes back to Immanuel Kant and David Hume and finds modern expression in Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris among many others. Mr. Russell may have been a gifted intellectual in many respects, but his 1927 essay, Why I Am Not A Christian, is logically inconsistent, poorly argued and uncharitable towards Christianity. Besides inculcating an orthodoxy of negation, it also reveals a contradiction at the center of the atheist worldview which, in my opinion, few atheists have acknowledged let alone sufficiently addressed.

By staking a monopoly claim on scientific rationalism, and by extension, the entire realm of scientific discovery, atheists have essentially positioned themselves as the new arbiters of morality. While atheists have busied themselves dismantling the edifice of religious morality using the tools of logic, they have simultaneously claimed that a new secular moral order can be constructed from these tools alone. Of course, there is no coherence whatsoever to today’s woke pieties. The most honest secular atheists will openly acknowledge that consistent moral principles don’t exist, but will simultaneously argue that gay marriage, taxpayer funded abortion and feminism are unassailable, ironclad truths from which no deviation is permitted.

The core conceit of Why I Am Not A Christian is that Russell presupposes the existence of the very metaphysical phenomena to which he applies his skepticism. However, Russell has an advantage that atheists have been exploiting for decades. He is mounting an attack on the Thomistic arguments for the existence of God and these arguments use classical foundationalism as a starting point. In other words, things like the laws of logic and fixed moral principles are assumed to be a priori truths. They’re an attempt to reason backwards to God from a scholastic viewpoint that posits that all of creation are effects of an absolutely simple divine substance which makes no distinction between energy and essence. Once you divorce concepts like telos, logos and ethics from their theological underpinnings, the skeptic can set the whole philosophical enterprise against itself. Subsequently, the reigning orthodoxy of our time can be summed up in a single, self-detonating contradiction. There is no truth. Just a collection of disparate individual truths vying for conquest. And this confused, nihilistic worldview is exactly what has taken root in the Western world. Think I’m exaggerating? What would you say to a young person considering a philosophy major at college? The honest ones among us would tell him that it will be viewed very favorably as he applies for work as a barista at the local Starbucks.

But this is exactly what Russell intended. Along with other Royal and Fabian Society globalist social engineers, Russell has claimed the mantle of science and rationalism for the express purpose of hastening their destruction. Russell has written extensively on morality and ethics, but no one gives a shit what he has to say. The point was erode the Christian faith. It was to inculcate a posture of radical “skepticism” that would eventually be picked up by new generations of establishment shills and catapult vacant dittoheads like Jaclyn Glenn and Matt Dillahunty to YouTube celebrity status. The punchline is that a condemnation or a “logical” refutation of faith isn’t a sufficient replacement for a system of morality and ethics that’s been conserved over centuries. Nor does it dismantle the mechanism of belief itself. Russell merely shifted the focus of faith and pointed it towards new gods called Reason and Science. And global technocrats like himself would be in a position to write and rewrite the catechism as often as they see fit.

Russell’s essay is worth reading because it represents a sort of ur-script for the contemporary skeptic and atheist scene. Fred Copleston and Bertrand Russell hashed out this argument in 1948 and atheists have been running roughshod over the argument for contingency ever since. Outside the YouTube sphere, these debates are mostly absent from the contemporary cultural discussion, and I suspect that’s exactly what the social engineers intend. The recent Sam Harris/Jordan Peterson debates don’t really count because both of them are essentially secular liberals who remain safely within the confines of post-Enlightenment acceptability. As long as the plebs don’t get too caught up in some abstract philosophical debate that argues too rigorously for Christian theology or objectivity, it’s all good, bro.

The default assumption amongst atheists is that Christians are knuckle dragging, anti-science mouth breathers who have neither a willingness or ability to engage in formal debate. The latter may be true, but the former assumption is ironically thoroughly acceptable despite their own admonitions to police unconscious bias. Since the argument has already been fought by the likes of Russell, atheists generally take it as given that the debate is over, and engagement with these arguments is unnecessary. Conversely, Christians have largely retreated, been ignored, or simply failed in the intellectual arena against the likes of charismatic and intelligent atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins. But the irony is that the Transcendental argument for the existence of God using Orthodox theology is a more powerful argument to which I’ve yet to hear a compelling refutation from an atheist. Regardless, let’s examine a few elements of Russell’s case to show how radical skepticism creates illusory certainty about reality and inculcates a religious belief in negation for its own sake.

The First Cause Argument

That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity.

Yeah, man! Who needs a First Cause, amirite? When divorced from revelation, nature is reduced to a descralized, impersonal set of forces which only appear to have order, meaning and purpose. Subsequently, there’s no reason for a secular atheist to accept that God is the First Cause. Russell’s denial of the necessity of a First Cause is fine in an impersonal, mechanistic universe of flux and chaos, but it does little to provide a sense of certainty about how we began as a species. Subsequently, the secular scientific priesthood dangle the promise of ever expanding scientific knowledge to eventually answer the Big Questions of Existence. Maybe it’s an oscillating universe and we’re enjoying this tiny blip of cosmic expansion in an endless cycle of creation and destruction. Maybe we’re one universe among an infinite number of universes. Once the geniuses at CERN open up that transdimensional portal, we’ll finally climb the Great Cosmic Pyramid and meet the engineers we saw in Prometheus!

Who knows for sure? More specifically, who really fucking cares anyway? These questions are too deep for your puny minds anyway so just retweet this Neil deGrasse Tyson meme and pass the bong in the meantime. All you need to know is that all matter and energy in the universe was compressed into a single point at time zero and then BOOM! The universe just started organizing itself into increasingly complex material and biological forms over the course of billions of years! Everything just arose from nothing! It’s #SCIENCE man! Not that silly ass religion shit!

Coincidentally, what came to be known as the Big Bang Theory was introduced the same year he made this speech. Russell’s argument against First Cause was simply replaced with its scientific equivalent: the causeless cause.

The Big Bang Theory lends itself to the First Cause argument, but in a world of chaos and flux, why wouldn’t a skeptic argue that this also poses a problem of infinite regression? Who caused God, bro? Betcha never heard THAT ONE before! After all, God is at best an unknowable, impersonal force that’s subject to the same material forces we observe. It’s a reductio ad absurdum that’s deployed to this day.

If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause.

Even if you concede that God is the First Mover, who’s to say it’s the Christian God? Maybe it’s Xenu. Maybe it’s Allah. Maybe it’s Satan. Maybe it’s Isis and Osiris. Maybe it’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster. There’s no reason a skeptic would arrive at Christian theology using this line of argumentation.

Thus far, the scientific community has nothing definitive to say about what preceded the Big Bang. And it doesn’t need to. It’s a cosmology that reinforces Darwinian evolution and keeps the grant money flowing into the coffers of CERN and other scientific institutions determined to unlock the ultimate secrets of the universe. And to everyone who considers it a given that science and faith are incompatible, just remember that the most significant and widely accepted scientific theory explaining the origins of the universe came from a Catholic priest. Theories of cosmological origins can’t be observed, but it’s little surprise that Mr. Lemaître’s conception of the beginning of time mirror the metaphysic espoused by Aquinas. An absolutely simple, undivided monad and everything that proceeds from it are the created effects.

The Natural Law Argument

Russell’s argument here is essentially that it is too simplistic to say that the phenomena of the natural world or the cosmos can be explained away by saying Goddidit. He expands by citing how Newtonian laws of gravitation were overturned by Einstein’s more complete theory of General Relativity. “Natural laws are really human convention” he says.

How can you have a worldview which simultaneously produces ironclad scientific knowledge built from fixed principles while also being subject to the vagaries of ever evolving human caprice?

Scientific law gets called law because it explains phenomena that are constant, immutable and unchanging. A more comprehensive theory that fits the observations more completely doesn’t nullify the existence of invariant natural phenomena. Nor does it nullify the invariant and unchanging nature of the various numerical systems by which these phenomena are measured. There isn’t a single scientific law that has been invalidated or overturned since the time Russell wrote this piece. Whether we’re talking about the Laws of Thermodynamics or Newton’s Laws of Motion, scientific law gets called a law because it reveals the machinery of the natural world expressed as a mathematical equation and can be reproduced under controlled conditions. Except for climate scientists on government payrolls, scientists who study the natural world proceed into the scientific enterprise operating from a set of assumptions about how the universe is ordered. In an honest scientific endeavor free from pressures of political conformity, hypotheses extend from the limits and boundaries of what is already known and are subsequently tested for their validity. These form the foundations of a body of scientific knowledge from which technological innovation arises. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Needless to say, Russell’s malleable view of natural law is entirely consistent with the politicized state of the sciences which we currently face. Of course we’re going to have gene edited babies. Of course there are more than two genders. What are you, some transphobic dinosaur or something? All that crap about sexual dimorphism is just bourgeois patriarchal nonsense. Why do you object to hormone treatments for dysphoric children, you bigot? Why are you questioning climate change, you backwards Trumptard? Do you want to kill Mother Earth?

The Argument From Design

Russell takes a dim view of the Teleological Argument because if he accepted it, he would have to affirm that there is inherent goodness in creation. As long as it remains random, arbitrary, indifferent or hostile, it is easier to promote the promise of a scientific utopia that will provide an ultimate conquest over this abortion of a world. It’s a gnostic conception of the universe and he even suggests his sympathies for that view later in the piece.

Russell goes completely off the rails and starts sounding like a proto-SJW in the remainder of this section. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why did we get the KKK or the Nazis? Oh snap! You just got #PWND, theists! The obvious rebuttal is that humanity is in a fallen state but was given free will. Evil is the privation of the good. It is entirely up to us to distinguish right from wrong and choose accordingly. That is the challenge of being alive. In his gnostic, scientistic conception of the world, there is no good to affirm in the first place.

The Moral Arguments For Deity

This is the core failure of Russell’s argument, and by extension, the entire atheist enterprise in my opinion.

I am not for the moment concerned with whether there is a difference between right and wrong, or whether there is not: that is another question.

The atheist argument poses a deep conundrum because it is either implicitly or explicitly a call for a secular moral order. The irony is that there is nothing in the empirical framework of the pure observation of the natural world which offers any moral prescription whatsoever. Yet the atheist, by and large, most definitely presumes the existence of right and wrong as some self-evident truth. Not only would any atheist seek punishment for the murderer, rapist and thief, atheists mostly busy themselves lambasting the evils of religion. If the atheist attacks a religious moral tenet in favor of a secular moral advancement, he is positioning himself as an arbiter of morality. If the atheist rejects the idea that faith is the foundation for moral realism, then you have consigned the entire realm of morality to the relativistic world of political ideology, or worse, scientism and utilitarianism. The atheist that claims a belief in science is somehow superior to religious faith is peddling a ridiculous fallacy. Good science does not require belief in the first place and he is glossing over the larger issues of morality and ethics. How can you claim there is individual moral rectitude or ethical virtue in a world of materialism and perpetual flux? One cannot have sound science without sound ethics, and I would contend that it is a precondition for any serious quest for scientific knowledge. The sciences of the natural world are neutral on morality and ethics. Few people would embrace it today, but eugenics were once considered cutting-edge science. On the other hand, the modern social sciences make no effort to hide the fact that they are both normative and subjective, but affect a pretense of being the engines of modern moral progression simply because they live under the broad banner of science. Gender studies, critical race theory, and climate change “science” now form a de facto secular moral order from which any dissent is met with censure and opprobrium. Committing violence in service of the advancement of political goals and being a self-appointed judge of who deserves to be punched for having the wrong political opinions are not only explicitly sanctioned by the progressive political class, academics and celebrities, but they are evidence of moral virtue.

At its core, the atheist argument is nothing more than a negation of belief. It’s a religious belief in the perpetual embrace of non-belief. It also falsely asserts that faith and reason are mutually exclusive faculties, and the existence of one automatically short circuits and precludes the exercise of the other. If this doesn’t lead to a state of pure nihilism, it creates an inherent cognitive dissonance with respect to positive engagement with humanity itself. By and large, humans generally strive towards a very general notion of Doing the Right Thing and Making a Difference. Happiness, love, friendship, loyalty, forgiveness and charity are all abstractions which cannot be quantified, and yet, these abstractions are the mythical sky wizards that every atheist presumably chases in his own life under the guise of “science” or “reason”. Every act performed which carries an expectation of positive good, whether it’s money donated to a soup kitchen or a vote cast for a politician, is its own act of faith. If an atheist truly has any hope for humanity, he must, at some level, have belief in humanity’s capacity for good. This all by itself is an act of faith. It is the Golden Rule in practice. Cynicism and nihilism are easy. Finding reasons to be hopeful about humanity is a far deeper challenge which pretty much requires some level of faith.

The yearning for justice and righteousness; more specifically, the desire to do right by for our fellow man and leave a positive legacy for posterity is hardwired into the human consciousness at some level. However, it is not a forgone conclusion that any given human will make choices that will expand and spread virtue, and it is entirely possible that many will be actively constrained and thwarted in their ability to exercise it.

As Thomas Sowell argued, the world is roughly divided between those who subscribed to a “constrained” vision of humanity which posits that human nature is fixed and unchanging or an “unconstrained” vision which asserts that humans can be molded by social forces and institutions. Atheists mostly belong to the latter camp. Sadly, no one gives a shit about “a rational proof for secular ethics” or any other lofty philosophical disquisition on morality and ethics. Bertrand Russell wrote a bunch of stuff, but who reads it except for philosophy nerds and academics? The study of neuroscience in hopes of uncovering the “moral landscape” as Sam Harris describes it seems like little more than a recipe for pharmacological and technological micromanagement of the human will. The yearning for justice appeals to human emotion, and subsequently, humans tend to respond more positively to narrative and allegory when it comes to formulating notions of morality and justice. This is why mythology and pop culture have been far more effective vehicles for the transmission of moral lessons than philosophical dialectic.

I further contend that it’s far easier to denigrate the Christian faith and morality than it is to proffer a positive alternative. There are no consequences to proclaiming yourself an atheist. It takes no courage to heap scorn and ridicule on Christians as the enemies of Real Social Progress© and scientific discovery. According to the contemporary progressive orthodoxy, the only real moral transgressions are “bigotry”, white on black police brutality, climate change “denial”, the absence of consent in sexual relations for white, middle-class female college students, saying anything negative about Islam, and pretty much anything uttered by a conservative, libertarian or Christian. But the outrage is strictly confined to the narrative as it’s defined within the walls of academia and the media echo chamber which dutifully parrots every bit of brainless tripe dispensed from the social justice priesthood. And by and large, this is where the yellow brick road of atheism has lead: to the sanctuary of the Church of Progressivism. Few atheists would admit it, but political rhetoric and social “science” have replaced the priest’s sermon.

Atheism has become a new orthodoxy which has largely ceded moral authority and agency to the leftist political class, their agenda and apparatchiks in academia. There are exceptions, but this is the trend. It seems like little more than a license to condescend to Christians, denigrate Christianity as the font of subservience and totalitarianism, and generally be miserable, nihilistic curmudgeons. Like all progressive thought, it’s not edgy, contrarian or new. With few exceptions, it’s just a standard accompaniment to a predetermined list of progressive political goals.

I wasn’t enthusiastic about making this argument since I grew up mostly secular and generally considered atheists the cool kids in the class. But if this is the quality of the argument from one of atheism’s greatest thinkers, color me unimpressed.

Contact (1997)

Generally speaking, cinematic science fiction goes one of two ways. Either it goes after big ideas and weighty philosophical questions or it goes after CGI mayhem and hot chicks in body suits. Sometimes it succeeds at both, but more often than not, a science fiction film falls into one of these two camps. Robert Zemeckis’ 1997 adaptation of the famous Carl Sagan novel, Contact, is unequivocally a Big Ideas sci-fi film which manages to pack a lot of meaty content into a popcorn blockbuster presentation. Though it does boast its own spin on the legendary Stargate scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey in the final act, the film is propelled almost exclusively by solid performances and a fairly robust dramatic clash between the forces of scientific materialism and religious belief. No Hollywood sci-fi film comes without an agenda or esoteric symbolism and the various ways it smuggles in its messaging is especially sly. Contact is somewhat more charitable about theism and the entire realm of metaphysics than you’ll find in just about anything secular these days, but ultimately, it is itself a work of scientistic hermetic theology. More specifically, Contact is a very clever piece of propaganda which promotes the theosophical ideas of HP Blavatsky, Alice Bailey, UNESCO, and the Lucis Trust. Virtually every component of the NWO global agenda can be found in this movie.

Since the dawn of the Enlightenment, we’ve been taught that there is an irreconcilable schism between science and faith. In both the cinematic and literary form, the modern science fiction tradition is replete with stories which dramatize this conflict. With very few exceptions, the forces of scientific progress are in perpetual struggle against the forces of religious belief. The scientists are always portrayed as infinitely resourceful master technicians who are likeable, quick witted and can kick your ass if the story demands it. By contrast, the faithful are authoritarian dolts and mean spirited tight asses. Or as The Omega Man and The Chronicles of Riddick demonstrate, they are embodied as fanatical, vampiric cultists whose sole motivations are enslavement, conversion or conquest. In Contact’s case, the religious characters include a suicide bomber, a status seeking bureaucrat, a vacuous Catholic priest, and a cross between Jeff Spicoli and Joel Osteen. In other words, yet another mostly uncharitable Hollywood portrait of religious people. Since many of the prime movers of the sci-fi genre were themselves globalist technocrats, it makes sense that we’d eventually get a film which reconciles these seemingly opposing forces into an alchemical union to grease the wheels for the dystopian hellscape glorious global techno-utopia that awaits us.

On the surface, Contact presents itself as a sophisticated science fiction story which believably posits the possibility of contact with a higher extraterrestrial intelligence. Though Steven Spielberg has given us two different versions of the benign alien visitation in E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact is following in the footsteps of the loftier speculations of Arthur C. Clarke. Instead of a kid friendly vision of Crowleyan entities you find in Spielberg, you get to watch the whole world build a dimensional portal which does real science-y shit like “folding spacetime” but is really just the most expensive VR machine ever built.

Every character represents an archetypal ideal, and the heroine of the film, Ellie Arroway, is modeled after Hypatia, the Alexandrian martyr for science. For those who remember Cosmos, Sagan lavished mountains of praise on Hypatia in the series despite having no substantial record of achievement in the history of scientific thought. This choice makes sense when viewed through a gnostic lens because she represents the illuminated Sophia. Eleanor is Greek for “shining light” and Arroway is a play on Voltaire’s last name, Arouet. Her nickname is “Sparks” to signify the fact that she possesses Luciferian flame. Right away, Sagan is signaling a connection to gnosticism, Freemasonry, and by extension, the Hermetic roots of modern science. Played with heartfelt vigor by Jodie Foster, Ellie is a paragon of determination, grit, tenderness and the passionate thirst for discovery. She is the fearless seeker who is willing to persist in her quest for extraterrestrial life despite constant rejection and doubt from all corners. She remains steadfast in her convictions when facing the ridicule of the vapid, self-aggrandizing and conniving David Drumlin. She is also the radical empiricist who demands proof of God’s existence when probing the faith of Matthew McConaughey’s Palmer Joss.

This brings us to one of the film’s clever sleights of hand. Ellie is essentially a female version of David Hume or John Locke. In the wake of her second greatest tragedy, all her Catholic priest could offer was a few perfunctory words about how it was “God’s plan”. Pfft. Piss off, religion! She doesn’t believe in God because she needs empirical proof! Not mealy mouthed platitudes! Checkmate, conservatards! Bet you never heard THAT ONE before! Of course, this is by now an insufferably tiresome cliché. Materialism and empiricism is the bread and butter of the entire New Atheist community. For them, there is no valid knowledge outside the peer reviewed science or what can be observed in the realm of sense perception. But what the film doesn’t want you to notice is that this premise is in and of itself an article of faith! To Zemeckis’ credit, he makes this point explicit when Ellie is called upon to provide evidence that she actually did traverse the galaxy. There is no empirical evidence for the claim that all knowledge claims must be subject to empirical evidence. Furthermore, Ellie embodies a set of virtues. She is a heroic archetype. She’s tough. She’s conscientious. She’s honest. She’s principled. She’s loyal. She spends the bulk of the film asking people to believe in her quest for extraterrestrial life. The natural world has nothing to say about prescriptive ethics, duty, honor, integrity or morality. To ground an entire worldview in nothing more than a posture of skepticism and an unquestioned belief in the scientific method leads to either to nihilism or the substitution of politics for religious faith. Humans build and strengthen the architecture of morality through storytelling. We must ultimately subordinate ourselves to a hierarchy of authority which starts with the family and reaches its pinnacle in the nation state. Because we’re imperfect, we crave stories which simultaneously speak to our flawed nature yet appeal to our highest aspirations. The progressive worldview mostly rejects metaphysics. Subsequently, virtue must be smuggled through occult archetypes and esoteric metaphysics and Sagan has very skillfully achieved that in Ellie.

It is also noteworthy that Ellie is initially presented as a child with a dead mother. She eventually loses her father too, and this marks her as yet another Hollywood portrait of a child without parents whose life choices are informed in part to fulfill a longing borne of a prematurely severed connection and in part to insulate herself from the emotional vacuum at the core of her being. It’s little surprise that when she has her encounter with the “alien” species, it appears to her in the form that she would find most comforting: her father. Her life quest is wrapped in the rhetoric of scientific inquiry, but it reads as a sort of spiritual calling. The liberal democratic imperium needs atomized individuals pursuing life ambitions that advance scientific or material progress in one way or another. Preferably, it’s a pursuit untethered from family ties and religious tradition. This is entirely consistent with the professed agenda behind the mythology of extraterrestrial life as Arthur C. Clarke is on record stating in Brenda Denzler’s book, The Lure of the Edge.

Her counterpart, Palmer Joss, presents a clever subversion of expectations. Just as we saw in the relationship between Mulder and Scully in the X-Files, Contact reverses standard male and female attributes. Despite the numerous studies which demonstrate a higher degree of empathy and social skills in women, Sagan wrote Ellie as the hard bitten scientific realist consumed with a need for evidence. By contrast, Matthew McConaughey’s Palmer Joss is the believer. Granted, he’s an earthy crunchy academic theologian who’s influential enough to be anointed the spiritual advisor to the POTUS. His real world analogues are establishment cucks like Rick Warren and Tony Campolo. He represents a form of toothless Christianity that’s been opportunistically coopted by the establishment to help politicize the churches and lend moral authority to political agendas. Once again to Zemeckis’ credit, Joss lands a solid blow against the edifice of Ellie’s scientific materialism when he asks for proof that she loved her father. It’s the only cinematic moment of which I’m aware when a secular rationalist is left speechless by a theist.

Contact isn’t just an apologia for scientific materialism, but a work of occult theology. When Ellie presents the decryption primer to the Security Council, she insists that the civilization who sent the message had benign intentions because it was presented in the language of science and mathematics. Unlike the dumb religious retards who follow divine revelation, the machine plans were proof of a species who had harnessed the power of science to evolve beyond their primitive tendencies toward self-destruction. Here, Sagan and Zemeckis presume that unchecked technological progress all by itself is a virtue that will elevate and unite humanity. It’s exactly the kind of belief that’s promoted by UNESCO, the UN and their theological subsidiary, the Lucis Trust. They are trafficking occult teleology. As Palmer Joss rightfully pointed out as she made her pitch, what she received was a message emanating from a “booming voice from the sky”. Sagan substitutes three dimensional engineering schematics embedded in a digital black cube of Saturn for the Ten Commandments. She wants people to believe that the construction of the machine will only edify the human race. What atheists like Sagan conveniently ignore is the simple fact that fetishizing the scientific method doesn’t capture the imagination. What does animate human spirit is the possibility that our man made ambitions might unite the world and eventually bring us into contact with a higher intelligence.

Of course, this also means that we must also deify the corporate aristocracy behind the democratic imperium. As industrial mogul, S.R. Hadden, John Hurt is the Randian übermensch who funds Ellie’s ambitions, decrypts the extraterrestrial blueprints, and subcontracts with Japanese company to build a second machine. Without rich industrialists to bankroll these moonshot ideas, we will never achieve our globalist utopia, proles. Though he is portrayed as a sympathetic character, he is another spin on a Nimrod archetype. Zemeckis wants you to see him as a benevolent old coot but as his name suggests, he is a representation of the Assyrian despot, Esarhaddon. He is more accurately seen as a David Rockefeller or George Soros. He is among the wealthy capitalists who fund NGOs, populate academia with cultural Marxists, finance every conceivable fifth column organization and function as a de facto shadow government. Throughout the film, Hadden communicates to Ellie using the most sophisticated technology and possesses more intelligence about her than you would think a private citizen can access. When James Woods’ hardass conservative proposes the possibility that Hadden has perpetrated a hoax on the entire globe, your sympathies are already with Ellie, and by extension, Hadden. Tough shit, you dumb Alex Jones loving conspiratards. George Soros did nothing wrong. So shut it.

What’s most stunning about Contact is the degree to which it blurs the line between fiction and reality. Actual footage of Bill Clinton commenting on the Mars meteorite discovery in which he stresses the importance of ascertaining “facts” has been seamlessly inserted. Actual CNN anchors are “acting” as CNN anchors throughout the film commenting on a fictitious machine which opens wormholes. A news highlight discusses a fake group of religious fanatics committing mass suicide, and it just happens to mirror the actual mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult just a few months before the film’s release. I guess it’s just a lucky coincidence that all these things happened in time for Contact’s release. All of which begs a key question. If “real” news outlets like CNN and real politicians who present themselves as the arbiters of truth are willingly inserting themselves into a fake story about a contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence, why shouldn’t we assume that the “reality” they’re presenting isn’t every bit as synthetic as Contact itself?

While I disagree with his interpretation, Germain Lussier points out the ubiquity of telecommunications devices in the film. The fact that our contact with one another is now being heavily mediated, refracted and distorted through electronic media suggests this was subtle predictive programming. The internet may have brought the whole world together in ways that were unimaginable to previous generations, but the degree to which it has been a salutary force is debatable at best and detrimental at worst. I suggest that this film is tipping us to the possibility that the space program is ultimately about building and enhancing global panopticism.

Speaking of fictitious machines, Contact is basing its technological speculations on special relativity, but if we actually think about how the machine was supposed to work, it doesn’t add up. Resembling the classical model of the atom we learned in grade school, the machine was comprised of several interlocking steel rings. Presumably, with enough acceleration, the rings would convert to mass and tear the fabric of spacetime. Not to get all Neil deGrasse Tyson, but there is no known material that could withstand that kind of energy let alone an energy source to power it. But this came from the mind of Carl Sagan. A scientific mind, right? I don’t mind leaps of imagination, but when you’re presenting a speculative machine that’s linked to a very specific theoretical model that is itself unproven and unobserved, how is this different from theistic belief? Isn’t it interesting that the IMDB trivia page indicates that Carl Sagan wanted to ensure the “science” was correct and the word is bracketed in quotation marks? Isn’t it interesting that this very same visual idea was recycled in Event Horizon and instead of uniting us with benign entities, the machine in that film opened a portal to hell? Why should we presume that a dimensional portal will bring us into contact with benevolent beings as Ellie so fervently insists?

After recovering from her VR journey to the center of the galaxy, Ellie finds herself in the position of having to defend the veracity of her experience before an incredulous government oversight committee lead by a relentless James Woods. Without evidence, Ellie is forced to ask the country to believe that she traversed light years and encountered a simulacrum of her father. You should also believe that an Einstein-Rosen Bridge is legitimate science despite the complete absence of empirical evidence. Is it any wonder that Anita Sarkeesian and Christine Blasey Ford were able to weaponize #BelieveWomen so easily? The cool and dispassionate pursuit of the facts doesn’t hold when religious icons are being violated.

Ellie’s vision amounts to her burning bush moment. In that brief encounter, she was filled with a revelation of the preciousness of life that was so profound, she felt compelled to spread the Gospel of Intergalactic Gnosis with the world. As she descends the Capitol building stairs/Mt. Sinai, she passes through the pillars of Boaz and Jachin, and we behold the throngs of New World Israelites gathered together to pay homage to our gnostic savior. Having crossed the abyss on the Kabbalistic tree of life, she has reconciled the sky and the earth and attained Enlightenment. Joss’ profession of solidarity with Ellie doesn’t just signify a romantic happy ending, it’s the alchemical synthesis of science with divinity just as HP Blavatsky taught in her writings. No longer do we have to cling to the divisive notion that science is at war with faith. Scientism is an article of faith, but now, we can make common cause with religious people as long as they’re promoting a One World State God and don’t get carried away with any of that Jesus shit.

As shows like Netflix’s Maniac demonstrate, Hollywood is pushing the public closer to the idea that pharmacologically enhanced VR is going to provide people with the transcendent experience unavailable in our mundane existence. Even pop culture figures like Tom Delonge are going to great lengths to mainstream the existence of UFOs. Burning Man already has a cosmic temple to prep us for the new Cosmic AI God. Grimes has already written the first transhuman cyberpunk pop anthem. Science fiction films which posit the possibility of alien intelligence are a key component of this agenda. And Ellie Arroway was certainly among the most indelible characters of the modern era to illuminate the path.

Jonas Salk: Survival of the Wisest

Though it’s debatable that his name means anything to anyone under the age of 30, Jonas Salk is known as of the inventor of the polio vaccine. If his name registers at all, he is likely to be seen as a fearless champion of scientific progress and a paragon of enlightened modernism whose contributions to medical science have elevated Western society out of the backwardness of religious superstition. So when Jonas Salk writes a speculative tract called Survival of the Wisest which spells out the type of individual best suited to guide humanity into its new age of enlightened virtue, it is meant to be accorded the reverence one would normally reserve for religious doctrine. Survival of the Wisest is, in fact, a quintessentially scientistic work. It has the veneer of scientific rigor. It is filled with charts and fancy scientific words like “metabiology”. Make no mistake though, Salk has donned the miter of the scientific priesthood and has issued what amounts to a proclamation of Scientific Prophecy.

Survival of the Wisest is a short read, but it’s dense and by his own admission, it’s not a work of actual scientific theory. It is a speculative, philosophical work which presents itself as authoritative prescription for humanity as we march forward into the new age of global liberalism. Salk posits that scientists’ “attention must turn increasingly to questions of of general human concern.” While he claims that his concern is for the general welfare of humanity, it comes across like a justification for the existence of a scientific dictatorship. By synthesizing Darwinism, Malthusian warnings of cataclysmic overpopulation, Freudian psychoanalysis, and a quasi-Lockean post-Enlightenment outlook on Natural Law, Salk tries to manufacture a telos for the entire human race.

This book demonstrates the hubris of placing scientific materialism as the foundational propositions for modern society. Salk claims that true wisdom is the product of those who are able to negotiate inexorable forward march of competing dialectical tensions. Man is simultaneously the author of his evolutionary progress and the victim of his lethal excesses. By ensuring that the “wisest” among us are able to guide this forward march of evolution, we are fulfilling the purpose that’s in accord with “nature”.

Needless to say, Salk is engaging in a long form circular argument. In order to attain wisdom, you must first dismantle the “illusion” that man is a purposeful being in the first place. Because after all, there is an order and a direction to the evolutionary flow of the universe. And it’s only properly understood by the Wisest among us. And the Wisest are the ones best adapted to discern true wisdom. See how this works?

While presenting abstract concepts such as “being” and “ego” as though they’re objective phenomena and their relationship to somatic biology over time as an ironclad fact, Salk is trafficking lots of metaphysical assumptions that he cannot prove through pure scientific empiricism. He comes across like the illuminated Platonic mystic who apprehends the world of true forms and is simply here to decode the shadows of the cave wall for all you rubes. Everything in the natural world is in a state of evolutionary flux except for his speculative prescriptions for the future. His talks of the synthesis of the scientific and the artistic, but his language is freighted with an aura of moral imperative and absolute necessity.

The truth is that Salk and the adepts of the scientific priesthood have already prevailed. Science is used to rationalize anything and for the most part, no one can distinguish between the science and the moral prescriptions wrapped around the rhetoric. If depopulation and eugenics can be justified by the “wisest” among us and they have the sanction of the media, political and academic classes, who can stand in their way? Better yet, if you can manage to make people believe it’s virtuous through popular culture, you won’t face opposition when the laws are passed. How else do you explain the Thanos Did Nothing Wrong subreddit?

Survival of the Wisest seems indistinguishable from the likes of HP Blavatsky, Alice Bailey and Annie Besant who have proclaimed that we’re in a new Age of Aquarius. Post-Enlightenment liberalism has demolished the traditional cornerstones of the classical worldview. Subsequently, the void of meaning and purpose needs to be filled with substitutes. However, the task of filling this void has laid bare the numerous contradictions of the neverending pursuit of liberation. The perpetual quest for infinite tolerance and freedom cannot be reconciled with a society that respects boundaries and limits. You got a problem with womyn of size, bigots? Do you object to cannibalism or something? Do you oppose progress?

Even the academic elites cannot avoid confronting the fact that liberalism has only compounded the problems against which it rebelled in the first place. Of course, the solution cannot be a rejection of liberalism. It must be a reaffirmation of liberalism. You know. Just cede the tedium of thinking to Wisest among us. They’re only concerned with their Survival.

Oops.

I mean OURS.

Jonathan Haidt: The Righteous Mind

NYU professor Jonathan Haidt has risen to prominence in recent years by taking a stand against the rising tide of PC sensibilities on college campuses. Given his willingness to take on the cultish groupthink that has overtaken the political Left, I was initially enthusiastic about The Righteous Mind. Similar to what I’ve experienced with his fellow would be dissidents on the classically liberal Left, I was really taken in by this book at the outset, but its allure diminished as it progressed. The Righteous Mind is a fine piece of scholarship for anyone seeking a clear headed albeit academic perspective on moral and evolutionary psychology. However, this recommendation comes with caveats. Haidt is a liberal academic who seeks mostly to explain and classify the components of the moral apparatus while remaining within the confines of the liberal mindset. His role model of a society which respects authority and hierarchy is the one articulated by Marxist sociologist, Emile Durkheim. He unironically cites Richard Dawkins, Bertrand Russell and Barbara Ehrenreich as authortative scholars. He’s not a threat to the secular democratic consensus. He’s not a reactionary proposing a return to religious order. He’s merely a well intentioned intellectual who is making an above average effort at providing people across the conventional political spectrum a deeper empathy for the opposition.

The Righteous Mind is a good summary of the current state of evolutionary psychology, but ultimately all it does is give you a more scientific framework for understanding how liberals and conservatives process morality. The book mostly seeks to mitigate the contentious nature of political discourse. Since it comes from a Darwinian perspective, it portrays morality as an evolving, semi-malleable psychological realm which resides exclusively in the political arena. Though Haidt describes his disaffection with the dry and clinical nature of his early explorations into this field, this book suffers from the same pitfalls. There’s a part of me that thinks that this work is just an inducement to log on to YourMorals.org so that the results can be sent to progressive think tanks or the AI teams at DARPA and Google to optimize machine learning systems.

Haidt argues that there is an innate wiring for morality, but the specifics vary across cultures and they are evolutionary adaptations. Morality is not the product of pure intellectual reasoning nor can it be adequately explained or generated through rationalist attempts at universal rules. People possess moral intuitions, but there is a margin of elasticity which allows for reasoning to occur. This innate wiring can be described as a matrix of receptors that he calls Moral Foundations Theory. “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.” (1)

Haidt builds his case by tracing the evolution of morality in the secular philosophical sphere up to the discoveries of modern evolutionary psychology. He consolidates these discoveries with his own studies which corral all moral thought into the political arena. He posits that the morality of progressives, libertarians and social conservatives can be understood through a matrix of six different foundations. These foundations would be Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, Sanctity and Liberty/oppression.

Haidt’s view of morality is roughly analogous to that of a liberal Christian Protestant theologian, but viewed through the lens of modern social science. In other words, man is prewired for moral instincts, but the moral matrix requires input from external sources in order to develop. This development may be constrained in various ways. We are guided by our moral intuitions, but there is a realm of slack that allows for moral reasoning and persuasion to occur. By laying out the moral matrix of liberal progressives, libertarians and social conservatives, Haidt hopes to elevate the public discourse to a place where disagreements can be had without being disagreeable. An honorable aim, but doomed nonetheless.

Since Haidt is himself a liberal and writing for an audience who are like minded in one way or another, the great triumph of the book is that he solidifies the proposition that all humans are wired for religious thinking. Everyone. Even you. Deal with it.

It’s not about whether you read the Bible or attend church services. Haidt’s great victory lies in the fact that he able to persuasively argue that the human mind has the capacity to sanctify anything. Even a self-proclaimed atheist sanctifies gods called “reason”, “social justice” or “democracy”. Haidt proclaims the following:

Whatever its origins, the psychology of sacredness helps bind individuals into moral communities. When someone in a moral community desecrates one of the sacred pillars supporting the community, the reaction is sure to be swift, emotional, collective, and punitive. (174)

The one thing I particularly appreciate is that Haidt is very explicit about the fact that liberals sanctify politics and deify the presidency. The highest moral reality for the secular liberal is realized through the democratic process. This is a large reason that progressives are so contemptuous of conservatives. Because the progressive sees only oppression in traditional society or conserved ideals, there is no real morality outside the context of politics. Conservatives are just contemptible Neanderthals who must be mercilessly mocked and then dragged into the future by force. This observation also goes a long way toward explaining the absolute insanity that has overtaken the Left in the Trump era. In the progressive view, an apostate has usurped the pinnacle of moral authority. Trump’s very presence in the Oval Office is nothing short of blasphemy against the Holy Writ of Progressivism.

On the flipside, I think Haidt gives progressives too much credit. He asserts that everyone cares about the Care/harm axis, “but liberals care more”(212). This is patently absurd. Liberals are quintessentially Glauconian in the sense that they care about the appearance of caring above all else. Politicized compassion is not the same as the practice of individual acts of compassion. Advocating for the passage of a law which will only expand the sphere of criminality in pursuit of some abstract notion of equality without regard for cost or outcome is not an expression of caring. Walking into a voting booth to pray to the Democracy God on the basis of altruistic sounding political rhetoric is not the same as taking individual action to improve the welfare of some disenfranchised group. Hashtags, rallies and slogans are not substitutes for volunteering in soup kitchens or being a mentor for an inner city kid with no father. Progressives have merely politicized every sphere of social interaction and sanctified government bureaucracy. To oppose any progressive initiative, policy or agency is seen as moral degeneracy. You can’t just oppose transgender bathrooms because to do so just means you’re a hate filled bigot. You can’t criticize the Department of Education because to do so means you oppose education all by itself.

In fact, when it comes to expressing disdain towards conservatives, progressives can be downright hateful and violent. When attacking conservatives, all of the flowery slogans and treacly hashtags are immediately jettisoned. The progressive Left are the very definition of double standards and selective outrage when it comes to voicing their contempt for conservatives. To his credit, he acknowledges this by citing the hate filled bile of Village Voice writer, Michael Feingold. It’s a hate that has only been amplified by the media and progressive priesthood in the Trump era.

Haidt is also guilty of trafficking presumptions of moral truth which presumably underpin the liberal West. He claims that Westerners regard life as “supremely valuable, and that the human body is more than just a walking slab of meat” (174), but this is a dubious proposition. If that were the case, abortion would not be legal. Nor would progressives callously cheer the hypothetical gunning down of an audience full of Trump supporters. He tips his hand further by suggesting that the “only ethical question about abortion” (177) becomes the point at which a fetus feels pain. Not the point at which it becomes its own distinct life.

Haidt asks you to buy into the presuppositions that comprise the liberal, Darwinian worldview. In other words, nominalism and empiricism are to be taken as a given. He describes this using the acronym WEIRD which stands for Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic.

The WEIRDer you are, the more you see a world of separate objects, rather than relationships. (113)

The bad news is that Haidt, like his fellow compatriots in the so called “intellectual dark web”, is simply trying to tend the barricades of classical liberalism in the vain hope of preserving these ideas for the future. To his credit, this book offers a potential glimmer of empathy for the hardboiled progressive who views the conservative with disdain and contempt. Progressives like to preach empathy, but it’s an empathy that seems only to extend to those who agree with the progressive worldview.

Are you even allowed to disapprove of transgenderism or gay marriage without being ostracized from society? Are you allowed to crack a joke at the expense of the Left’s favored groups without fear of losing your job? Are you even allowed to be on the Left and hold heterodox beliefs without being ldemonized?

This is the core problem of The Righteous Mind and classical liberalism. Not only is morality circumscribed to politics, but it is considered a malleable matrix that can be reshaped through social policy if properly understood. Haidt essentially asks you to accept pragmatism and relativism as givens. There are no fixed principles nor is there objective truth except the presuppositions of Darwinism and liberalism.

If morality lives in a malleable psychological scientistic realm, then social scientists will be able to adjudicate morality and no one will question their authority or methods. Who’s going to question the tenured social scientist with a fancy degree who insists that pedophilia is a congenital sexual orientation? Who’s to say that the highly respected physician at Johns Hopkins who insists that children with gender dysphoria should receive hormone blockers is wrong? How can you mount that case when morality is consigned to the realm of scientism and evolutionary relativism? What’s preventing us from removing the moral “taboo” against cannibalism? How can you mount a case against any of these positions when morality is consigned to the realm of scientism and evolutionary relativism?

Haidt also stumbles in his attempts to reconcile the dialectical tension that arose from the Enlightenment which pits the will of the individual against the collective unity embodied in the state. Invoking the work of Rockefeller University graduate, Barbara Ehrenreich, Haidt discusses the binding powers of psychedelics, cross dressing and ecstatic dancing as a way of strengthening hierarchical structures through ritualized subversion. Naturally, he lauds these practices as progressive and healthy while simultaneously cautioning against the bad kind of collective identity that fascism represented. He even invokes the magical power of oxytocin as though everyone is going to pay attention to the limited effects it has on strengthening in-group affection. True to progressive form, he mostly avoids the errors of communist states and places all of his emphasis on the one and only moral negative that exists in the progressive worldview: fascism.

He also seems to contradict himself when it comes to racial in-group preferences. He concedes that “we trust and cooperate more readily with people who look and sound like us.”(244) Because he’s making an evolutionary and Darwinian argument based around genetic adaptation to culture, he’s able to completely sidestep his own claim in favor of a politically convenient argument that runs completely contrary to his original claim.

Like Jordan Peterson, he takes a more charitable view towards religion than his atheist contemporaries . “Gods and religions, in sum, are group-level adaptations for producing cohesiveness and trust.” (306). In contrast to the New Atheists, he doesn’t see religion as a pure pathology, but merely an accessory to pathology. He recognizes that religious people are more charitable and have more children. He acknowledges that religious communities are more cohesive and maximize cooperation better than their secular counterparts. But he ultimately affirms the conclusions of Jeremy Bentham! He just wants a more nuanced felicific calculus.

Haidt is generally pretty good about presenting the conservative and libertarian position, but he misses the mark occasionally, too. He describes conservative opposition to the entire array of welfare as the absence of “proportionality”. What he ignores is the compulsory nature of the taxes collected to pay for them. Compelled charity is not charity at all. Any social welfare system will require the creation and maintenance of a bureaucracy within the government. Once this bureaucracy is established, the incentives immediately become corrupted. The bureaucrats will only seek self-preservation while the recipients will lose their incentive. He eventually gets around to the problem of bureaucratized compassion when he discusses the adverse effects that arise when attempting to make health insurance more affordable through government policy. Kudos to Haidt for calling out the Left’s pathological and religious obsession with using government policy as an instrument of compassion

This book was published in 2012, so it predates Trump Derangement Syndrome. Haidt’s sympathy towards the religious community extends to conservatism in general, but it’s a conservatism that’s confined to the province of classical liberalism. Haidt’s efforts to foster greater empathy for conservatives and conservatism is above and beyond the vast majority of his contemporaries, but his Twitter feed suggests a pretty typical indifference to the hostility towards conservatives that has erupted in the Trump era. When rank and file conservatives are being vilified for seeking border security that was uncontroversial under Bill Clinton, Haidt’s work feels increasingly tepid and weak.

I’m willing to give Haidt credit for trying to turn down the temperature of the political discourse, but I can’t help but think he’s missing the bigger picture issues. There’s no mention of the collapse of the family. There’s no mention of high divorce rates. There’s no mention of the effect of illegitimacy on children. There’s no mention of rising suicide rates in men. There’s no mention of the increase in antidepressants and opioids. There’s only a passing mention of “social engineering” and Haidt seems pretty blithely dismissive of the ways that society has already been socially engineered by the likes of Durkheim and Russell. How can you discuss morality and not make a connection to these outcomes? How can you be concerned about morality and not see these issues as supremely troubling? Haidt’s book is mainly geared towards educated liberals just like him while ignoring the vast swaths of the population who can’t be bothered with this shit. Most people formulate a worldview very early on and simply aren’t interested in having it challenged. I’d wager that even amongst the target demographic for this book, very few were persuaded to view the opposition with greater empathy.

If morality is consigned to genetic evolution, then eugenics and technocratic social engineering are not far behind. As much as I admire Haidt’s good intentions, I fear that these are the ends this book is serving.

Carl Sagan, Scientism, and the Liberal post-Enlightenment Consensus

I was sent this quote by a friend, and as much as I’m inclined to agree, I think a more balanced perspective is in order. I still reserve a great deal of affection for Mr. Sagan, but he’s hardly the first to diagnose the decrepitude of mind and spirit that’s emblematic of the classically liberal, post-Enlightenment technocratic age.

John Henry Newman, Edwin Lawrence Godkin, Oswald Spengler and Alexis de Tocqueville were but a few people who also foresaw the American experiment headed towards this unfortunate state of affairs.

If we’re going to be fair minded, we need to redirect the critique back to the worldview espoused by Mr. Sagan. What you find in the writings of those who held a more traditionalist mindset was a warning that the dogmatic emphasis on materialism and scientism would necessarily result in a tendency toward technocratic despotism. It would necessarily result in people attributing moral transgression to objects (i.e. guns) or material privation (i.e. inequality). It would necessarily result in a pharmaceutical industry relating to people as bags of chemicals whose moods and performance can be optimized with drugs. It would necessarily result in people making endless appeals to political power in pursuit of an ever elusive notion of #EQUALITY. It would necessarily result in an education system which indoctrinates the idea that the highest virtue is to place all morality into the arena of politics and that some magical combination of bureaucracy and legislation will result in ever improving outcomes.

Regarding his subtle dig at those who are sympathetic to crystals, astrology or anything that falls under the broad umbrella of New Age mysticism or the Western esoteric tradition, the entire scientific tradition as we know it is more closely aligned with the Western esoteric tradition than it is the Christian worldview. Mind you, I’m not trying to say that Christians are hostile to science by default, but there’s an esoteric spiritual worldview that’s baked into a lot of the scientific worldview that goes mostly unacknowledged. I suggest that has more than a little to do with the longstanding antagonism we’ve been fed surrounding the Faith vs. Science dichotomy.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Carl Sagan, but he can’t have his scientistic cake and eat it too. Liberalism has been the default setting for at least the past couple centuries. We’re seeing it move towards its logical conclusion: global technocracy.

I don’t think you can make this critique in earnest without a willingness to reexamine the underlying presuppositions of the post-Enlightenment liberal consensus.

The Florida Project (2017)

It seems like everything that comes out of Hollywood these days is either insufferable garbage or, at best, a mixed bag. I didn’t think I’d find a film that fills both categories, but The Florida Project may be that film. This is the tenth effort from the 47 year old writer/director, Sean Baker, and it is an excruciating chore to watch. If I were slathered in honey and pushed into a pit of fire ants, it wouldn’t adequately convey the psychic torture this film inflicts. This film completely embodies Hollywood’s loathsome and contemptible double standard and false moral preening. At the same time, it does present you with some thorny questions around societal norms, gender roles and moral standards that any honest person will have difficulty answering. Set amidst the pastel colored sprawl of Orlando, The Florida Project tells the story of single mother Hallee and her daughter Moonee as they attempt to simply survive while living in a low budget hotel amongst the “hidden homeless”. The film is intentionally shot against the backdrop of Disneyworld because Baker wants the juxtaposition of a beloved fantasyland destination for stable families to play against the broken lives of quiet and not-so-quiet desperation that carry on beyond the view of the average American.

Though it can be seen as having redeeming qualities when viewed through the right lens, it is also a film whose unrelenting unpleasantness immediately makes you wonder what exactly Mr. Baker intended to convey. Based on the available interview footage, the subject matter of his other films and the virtue signaling on his Twitter feed, we can safely conclude that this was yet another vile and repugnant moral circle jerk. Baker wants to render the emotional and societal wreckage perpetrated by the very people with whom he surrounds himself in the most vivid and realistic ways possible. Rather portray this as a tragic collapse of societal norms, he asks you to engage in an exercise in radical #EMPATHY. No, this is not an occasion in which to judge or ascribe blame. Check your privilege, bigot. This is about the #INCLUSION of #MARGINALIZED groups.

Hallee is, in many ways, the apotheosis of the progressive, feminist single mother archetype. She’s an ill mannered, foul mouthed derelict who has no business being anywhere near a child, but she is, in fact, the sole caregiver of the equally monstrous and ill mannered brat, Moonee. We no longer need to speculate about what life in the matriarchy will be like because Hallee perfectly embodies it. She don’t need no man, bitch. She won’t be slut shamed for turning tricks while her daughter bathes in the next room. You got a fuckin’ problem with how she’s raising her child, you uptight conservatard? And don’t you dare judge her for stealing from others just to make a buck. What do you expect from a womyn still struggling to liberate herself from patriarchal norms, you misogynistic bigot?

As Bobby, Willem Dafoe debases himself once again by giving us yet another warped and damaged archetype of postmodern paternalism. Dafoe is the manager at the hotel where Hallee and Moonee live, but he is also a de facto father figure. Reduced to making futile attempts to restrain her ghastly behavior and having to cover up for her numerous pathologies, Dafoe is a burned out shard of a man desperately reaching for fragments of self-respect, moral rectitude and legitimate authority.

While I can freely admit that my own childhood was far from conventional and I was accorded liberties that would have been judged very negatively by many, I would hope that the average viewer would be appalled by the adverse effects of the complete absence of real parenting for Moonee. Baker appears to be asking you to witness Hallee pass on her own pathologies to her daughter and suspend all moral judgment. He even seems to be quietly cheerleading Hallee for her “bravery”. Based on all the breathless swooning from the intelligentsia, he appears to have succeeded.

If we were to take the most charitable possible interpretation of this film, it could be argued that Baker may have inadvertently made one of the biggest red pills ever. This is what the secular progressive consensus has produced. The state of perpetual rebellion against any kind of social norm has produced a society that can no longer uphold anything as an ideal to which to aspire. All that remains is a nihilistic fixation on the dissolution and decay which is what passes for radical #EMPATHY and enlightened virtue. Hey, at least Baker HAS THE COURAGE TO TELL IT LIKE IT IS, AMIRITE? NO SUGAR COATED, ANDY GRIFFITH STYLE AMERICAN NOSTALGIA HERE, MAN! WE’RE TACKLING THE STUFF THAT’S JUST TOO REAL FOR ALL YOU SHELTERED CONSERVATARDS.

Naturally, Hollywood showered this movie with praise as a paragon of pure #WOKENESS. A 95% Fresh reviewer score on Rotten Tomatoes is full confirmation that the enlightened, sophisticated and sensitive people approve. And all the promo photos on social media will remind you that this film has the seal of approval from the Right Peoplekind. If you see this movie, you’re aware of how real the struggle is and you really should like it. You probably read Affinity, The Root and Everyday Feminism, too. And you most certainly vote the right way.

While those who watch this will congratulate themselves for enduring this psychic torture and use it as evidence of their moral superiority, the larger question is what is do be done about these phenomena? It’s too much to confront. But somehow, we’re to presume that merely watching this movie inches us closer to some kind of singularity of mass #EMPATHY. At least we’re getting more #WOKE, AMIRITE? If you’re serious about the issue, either you’re going to advocate for building stable families from the start or you’re going to get into the trenches and work on dealing with the breached levees of society. Unfortunately, most of society’s energy is trained towards mitigating the damage that’s already been done. Sean Baker would never make a film about a white, stable Christian family trying to navigate the waters of a society that’s hostile to their lifestyle in every way because he has no real moral framework. Nor would he make a film which trains its sights on the ways that Disney itself is exacerbating these problems because these are the types of people whose approval he ultimately seeks. All you really need is #EMPATHY and #INCLUSIVENESS. His films are just long form social media memes for everyone who’s already part of his ideological hugbox.

The ending of the film is obviously meant to evoke a heartfelt moment of liberation and triumphalism for two young children whose future prospects in the world are badly compromised. But I also suspect Baker is also taking a predictable jab at the average middle-class American family who makes sacrifices to take their kids to Disneyworld so that they can have some happy memories to cherish. I suspect Baker thinks he’s that brave and sensitive soul who is shaking the unwoke masses out of their slumber by ever-so-subtly insinuating that those people simply aren’t allowed to enjoy their middle-class indulgences anymore. Check your class privilege, proles. Sean Baker is here to make you feel guilty for having a relatively stable life. But at least you can tell everyone how great you thought The Hollywood Project was. Because in the end, that’s what really counts.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

When I heard that a Blade Runner sequel was being made, I was skeptical but curious. Sure, it seemed like lazy Hollywood opportunism, but given Ridley Scott’s involvement I was willing to give it a shot. The 1982 original was a classic in its own right. It didn’t need a sequel, but the potential for a worthy follow-up story certainly existed. Of course, the potential for yet another catastrophic and unnecessary goatfuck of a beloved film legacy was equally possible. I found Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival thought provoking and Hampton Fancher’s slot on the writing team certainly added to its possible appeal. In short, I was mildly optimistic about Blade Runner 2049.

Thankfully, my optimism was rewarded. While there is a lot of commentary that makes me squeamish, Blade Runner 2049 is one of the most successful sequels to a sci-fi classic ever attempted. This is a brilliant piece of contemporary cinema that’s well written, lovingly made, carefully paced, and packed with symbolism and metadata. It is also a bleak and deeply despairing vision of the future. For a film largely built around the quest for humanity in a world marked by declining birth rates, politicized debates over climate change, mass immigration, gender roles, race relations and the ever increasing influence of the technocratic elite, Blade Runner 2049 feels less like speculation and more like a subtle form of conditioning. This is a film that is desperately grasping for some glimpse of human connection, meaning and purpose, but it concedes that ecological catastrophe, hyper urbanization, a multicultural social order, and a gargantuan cyberpunk police state are foregone conclusions. It is basically encouraging you to embrace your technocratic overlords. The remnants of your desiccated souls can be reclaimed if you accept the inevitable, proles. The hope for release from the existential ennui that accompanied your eager embrace of a world unconstrained by spiritual delusions can be found in the brave new world of AI enabled hyperreality. The glorious dreams of the modern age with its promises of unbounded scientific progress awaits you by allowing it to reach its apotheosis. Even if it does mean you’ll be living in overcrowded urban squalor oversaturated with artificial stimuli and eating industrial farmed maggots. You too will find redemption by seeking salvation in merger of man and machine.

Aside from its noir tone and cutting-edge visuals, the first Blade Runner film was provocative because it was among the first major films which explored the ramifications of a world where robots and artificial intelligence had been achieved. That world is no longer sci-fi speculation. It’s here. It’s now. Jared Leto’s megalomaniacal replicant mogul, Niander Wallace, is blind but can function through the aid of cybernetic implants and a swarm of optical drones. Ray Kurzweil and his AI acolytes actively champion the advent of a so-called technological singularity and genuinely believe that a merger with digital consciousness is mankind’s future. Given this present day reality, one cannot necessarily view Blade Runner 2049 with the kind of detachment we reserve for big budget Hollywood entertainment. Films and shows like Altered Carbon, Ghost in the Shell, Westworld and Mr. Robot explore these same themes and continue to proliferate. It’s increasingly apparent that this collection of themes carries the distinct aura of an agenda. As paranoid and conspiratorial as it may seem, this film is very likely telegraphing the intentions of the Technorati.

Blade Runner 2049 is also a quintessentially postmodern piece of science fiction cinema. The film is a rich and masterful pastiche of discordant dualisms, inverted archetypes, hypertextual imagery, and visual remixes of its predecessor film. This is a film that subverts every notion you hold about what is real, true or right. Echoes of Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, THX 1138, Ghost in the Shell, Total Recall, Robocop, The Terminator, Westworld, The Matrix and other related cinematic forebears are also deeply embedded in its programming. There is more than a little standard progressive commentary around racial justice, police brutality, immigration, miscegenation, corporatism, gender politics and most importantly, the increasing prevalence of AI in our lives. It just takes a little more effort to decode than your standard issue pablum.

The world of Blade Runner 2049 is dying, infertile and bereft of hope for the future. The ecosystem has collapsed and the population has been herded into megacities. Tech mogul Niander Wallace brought civilization back from the brink by developing synthetic agriculture. Prior to the collapse, the world lived off of the slave labor of Nexus 6 replicants manufactured by the Tyrell Corporation. After a series of rebellions, the Tyrell Corporation went bankrupt and Wallace acquired the remaining assets in order to make a new line of Nexus 9 replicants that were perfectly obedient. The remaining Nexus 6 models are hunted by the generation 9 Blade Runners. In contrast to the Nexus 6 line, the Nexus 9 models have implanted memories.

From a pure visual perspective, there is no natural beauty to be found, and the times you are given a vision of organic life, it’s a tiny flower or a hologram. All the scenes that take place outside the urban sprawl are a blasted out, desolate ruin. The scenes of the city envelop you in their cavernous expanse of brutalist futurism, but it is a feeling of foreboding wrought by millions of lives in abject isolation. The lynchpin of the film and the lone symbol of hope for the future lies in the impossible birth of a child born from the womb of a replicant.

As the film opens, Ryan Gosling’s Officer K is en route to an industrial protein farming facility to investigate a possible rogue Nexus 8 replicant. His spinner is flying completely remotely without any active piloting and he awakens to an electronic prompt indicating his impending arrival. Since K is a symbol of law, order and obedience, his slumber suggests both the extent to which we’ve ceded autonomy to machines as well as an unconsciousness to his own humanity. A mindless minion destroying his own kind at the bidding of his human slave masters. As self-driving cars and other vehicles become more commonplace, a flying car self-piloting a man to a distant location completely unharmed conveys a message of absolute confidence in the future of AI enabled automobility and aviation. Self-driving cars are fine, proles. Stop worrying. Allowing people to drive their own vehicles is too much individual liberty.

The encounter with Sapper Morton can be read as an inversion of the entire narrative on racial justice. Officer K was designed as a perfectly obedient slave programmed to kill rogue replicants with impunity. Sapper Morton is a lone Nexus 8 model living a perfectly productive life harvesting grubs, yet his will to be independent makes him a mark. Just as blacks were the underclass after being liberated from slavery, they remained collectively pathologized even if they were perfectly law abiding. Morton even curses him for killing “his own kind”. After a punishing brawl, K subdues Morton sufficiently in order to administer some kind of electronic scan over his right eye. Call me paranoid, but given that microchip implants are a present day reality, one can’t help but wonder if this too is the shape of things to come. Right before K murders him, Morton says he’ll never become human because he hasn’t witnessed the “miracle” he has. K is utterly indifferent to his claim and takes his life just as he was assigned to do. This allusion to miracles is not only a reference to the spiritual void in K’s existence, but more broadly, to all of Western civilization. The world of Blade Runner is our own fatalistically extrapolated to its fullest conclusion. Society has lost sight of any vision of the divine, any connection to the preciousness of life, or any ideals to conserve. Let alone the will to continue the propagation of its own species.

Right before K leaves the scene, his drone spots an object buried beneath a dead tree. Trees usually symbolize harmonious relationships between man and woman or heaven and earth, but this is one of many notes of symbolic dissonance in a film filled with disjunction. What K unearths is the remains of a replicant woman whose mysterious death sets in motion a quest for his own identity and purpose.

Upon returning to headquarters, K is subjected to an inquisitorial “baseline” diagnostic test. The test itself requires K to recite fragments and words from a passage of Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire. It’s a passage that alludes to the existence of an afterlife, but the clinical, mechanized, and almost hostile tone robs what is otherwise a beautiful piece of poetry of its effect. With its references to interlinked cells, what it does represent is the lattice work of forces within the film all seeking to resolve the various discordances of this broken, poisoned world of despair, isolation and technological artifice.

Cells interlinked within cells interlinked

Within one stem. And, dreadfully distinct

Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.

The whole scene also struck me as a reversal of the final interrogation scene in Logan’s Run. Instead of a mechanized technocracy seeking to extract a sacred truth from a human who had broken the conditioning, here you have the reverse. A human using a piece of poetry which hints at transcendence in order to test the stability of a replicant’s programmed obedience while foreshadowing his eventual quest for a miracle.

After he passes the test, he returns to his apartment in a rather squalid part of the city which is quite likely representative of most neighborhoods in the metropolis. The theme of racial prejudice is reinforced as a random person hurls the epithet “Skin job” at K. Upon his arrival home, we meet his holographic girlfriend, Joi, as played by the very charming and fetching Ana de Armas. When she appears, she is decked out in an iconic 50’s era house dress with perfectly coiffed hair, perfectly applied makeup and is beaming with happiness and gratitude at the sight of her man. Obviously, in this future, not only has gender traditionalism been relegated to holographic simulation, it’s so deeply buried in the past, it’s an app that’s used to keep the replicants happy. Even his meal of grey, synthetic sludge is covered over with a hologram of a hearty, home cooked meal. The relationship between Joi and K is genuinely sweet and the fact that Hollywood can only portray earnest heterosexual romance between a hologram and a replicant is indeed one of the bleakest visions of humanity imaginable. This feels especially bitter in light of the fact that among the many reasons that the Men’s Rights Movement or the MGTOW movement in particular exist at all is because Joi represents the companionship that so many men actually seek.

As K’s superior, Lieutenant Joshi, Robin Wright can be read as an archetypal conservative, a feminist power fantasy, an ethno-nationalist and, if you’re feeling especially partisan, a proxy for Trump. Infinitely more believable than Laura Dern’s laughable and contemptible turn as Admiral Gender Studies in The Last Jedi, this is yet another portrait of a female occupying a role traditionally held by men. Though Wright carries off the role with the requisite level of icy bitchiness, Joshi leans heavily toward the feminist power fantasy archetype because there are almost no cinematic portraits of women attempting to climb the competence hierarchies of society. Nearly every cinematic vision of female power, including Joshi, asks you to assume that her ascendancy to that role began at the bottom, and that her attainment of the position came from organic competition with men. No affirmative action here, you dirty misogynistic bigots. The film, along with nearly every other major Hollywood offering, simply expects you to submit to the fact that the dystopian cyberpunk police state future is female. Not a huge leap of imagination for some of us. The one mitigating factor is that her main subordinate is a replicant. K is like the numerous males who’ve been hollowed out and emasculated by feminism. Taught to be ashamed of manhood. Expected to supplicate and genuflect at every turn. Desperately seeking true female companionship and intimacy. Craving meaning, purpose, nobility, belonging and virtue. Yet relegated to the status of mindless drone.

Villeneuve turns the archetype on its head by making her a staunch law and order conservative and crypto ethno-nationalist who wants to keep the line between replicant and human clearly delineated. When she discovers the existence of the replicant-human hybrid, she absolutely flips her shit and orders it destroyed. This adds another layer of dissonance to the character by casting a female as a destroyer of life instead of a creator.

Lieutenant Joshi: The World is built in a wall that separates kind. Tell either side there’s no wall, you’ve bought a war. Or a slaughter.

Naturally, Joshi is played mostly as a cold and implacable authoritarian cunt whose views brook no sympathy. Regardless, her character provides a critical opposing force competing for dominance within this futuristic hellscape. Unfortunately, this is also one of places where the film slides into the progressive cesspool. Joshi embodies both law and order conservatism and ethno-nationalism. In the conservative universe, hierarchies of authority are natural and legitimate, and must be occupied by people who are both competent and virtuous. Conversely, submission to authority is equally legitimate because order, and by extension, the preservation of moral virtue, are the highest goals for society. And in Joshi’s case, the preservation of a clear line between human and replicant. K is both a law enforcement official and a slave. Dispossessed of his past and forced to kill his own species because he is programmed for perfect obedience. When Joshi orders the mixed race replicant-human hybrid destroyed, Joshi immediately questions his willingness to obey. K responds by saying that he was unaware that disobedience was even an option.

In the liberal progressive worldview, disobedience to any conservative norm, real or perceived, is completely legitimate. If anything, the entire progressive worldview is little more than a never-ending war against the prevailing order and a blind pursuit of some abstract notion of equality. Because progressives have moved the goalposts of morality for centuries, Villeneuve and company are essentially presenting even the preservation of biologically pure humanity as some kind of evil notion. What a horrible fascist bitch, that Lieutenant Joshi. Imagine wanting to preserve the purity of HUMANS. The film quite obviously wants you to see her as monstrous and regressive. Get ready to kneel before your AI god, proles. Your rebirth will make you even more than you were before.

Rounding out the dramatis personae is Jared Leto’s pathologically power hungry heir to Tyrell legacy, Niander Wallace. Niander is an avatar for Nimrod, and inhabits the Tower of Babel formerly occupied by Tyrell. His character has committed the ultimate rebellion against God by seeking to become God. He is blind, but can see with the aid of a swarm of optical drones. Subsequently, he doesn’t see the world with natural sight. Only through a vision of technological perfection which, for him, means a civilization of perfectly obedient replicants. The only thing preventing him from achieving complete dominion is his inability to crack Tyrell’s secret for replicant procreation. Once he learns of the existence of the replicant-human hybrid, he sets his cybernetically enhanced sights on ensuring that he acquires the child before Joshi and K destroy it.

K’s first step in unraveling the mystery of the replicant remains takes him back to the Wallace Corporation archives to mine what remains of the Tyrell records. Wallace’s replicant assistant, Luv, cautions him that the records that survived the Blackout of 2022 are scant. This small reference to a digital cataclysm which took out most of civilization’s records is kind of chilling all by itself. Through the centuries, humans built culture, developed language, and preserved history through physical records and objects. The digital age has certainly given us greater access to information and services, but it makes you think about what we’ve lost in the process. If memory and history can evaporate so easily into the digital ether, are we, in fact, allowing our deepest essence to be stripmined by technocrats? Is the blackout of 2022 a foreshadowing of a cataclysm to come? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Luv retrieves a small recording of Rick Deckard’s first encounter with Rachael. This leads him back to Sapper Morton’s maggot farm where he discovers a baby sock, a photo of Rachael with her child, and a date carved into the base of the tree. The latter discovery shakes him to his core. Upon returning to headquarters, Joshi asks him to recall his fondest childhood memory. Like its predecessor and virtually every other sci-fi film which explores the nature of humanity in cyborgs and AI, the role of memory is the defining quality on which the drama is built. Our very sense of selfhood is rooted in a phenomena that’s barely understood. A steady accumulation of ephemeral moments that carve deep grooves of meaning into our very existence. A story. For better and worse.

Haunted by the discovery of the date, K starts combing through birth records in search of clues. He discovers the birth records of both a boy and a girl who share the exact same DNA. It’s nearly impossible to find a major Hollywood film which doesn’t blatantly pander to the identity politics, and this is one of the most base and pernicious sops to the SJW crowd. Despite the fact that K assumes that the female record was a fake, the movie very subtly insinuates that even our highly refined knowledge of genetics can’t quite explain the mystery of gender. Science is just an oppressive patriarchal construct, you transphobic bigots. While seeking the records of the dead girl in a child labor camp amongst the ruins of San Diego, K discovers a room with a furnace that maps exactly to his own memories. Thunderstruck by the prospect that his memories are real, he shares this revelation with Joi. She is delighted by the news because it suggests that K was actually born with a soul. It’s a beautiful sentiment and de Armas fills every word with pure feminine passion, but you are also keenly aware that it is merely the siren song of a digital succubus.

Joi: I always knew you were special. Maybe this is how. A child. Of woman born. Pushed into the world. Wanted. Loved.

At Joi’s behest, K seeks out a memory specialist to gain confirmation of his memories. This leads him to Dr. Ana Stelline, a Wallace subcontractor who manufactures memories for replicants. Here we have a theme that’s been repeated over and over in sci-fi films for decades. If manufacturing memory grants replicants humanity, then what effect might the manipulation of memory have on humans? The studies of the effects of social media on children is already coming in and there’s certainly a case to be made that not only is it shortening attention spans, but having adverse effects on mental health. More importantly, if people are increasingly reliant on internet connectivity for the acquisition of information, and the portal through which reality is perceived is through tech giants, what effect might this have on cultural consensus? Since AI itself was a far fetched notion a few decades back, is it unreasonable to assert that the tech overlords are very much in the business of manufacturing memory and that we’ve willingly submitted to the digital temptations which facilitate this very outcome? If a cataclysmic digital blackout which destroyed the digital past was the event which crippled civilization so badly that it enabled a technocratic cyberpunk dictatorship, can we really read this film as just another Hollywood entertainment spectacle? A certain quote from George Orwell’s 1984 comes to mind.

This eventually leads K to the ruins of Las Vegas in his quest for Deckard and presumably, the secrets of his own past. Just as we saw with Rian Johnson’s molestation of the legacy of Luke Skywalker, we find Deckard living a life of pure isolation. Taking up residence in one of the relatively intact Las Vegas hotels, Deckard embodies both manhood and fatherhood lost amongst the ruins of decadence and ephemeral pleasures. Forced to relinquish fatherhood in hopes of allowing his child a shot at life free from the fear of being hunted by Blade Runners, Deckard entrusted their care to a sort of underground replicant railroad. There is nothing but brokenness and dissolution in this world. It wants you to accept that loyalty and the bonds of familial cohesion are nothing you should expect.

Rick Deckard: Sometimes to love someone, you got to be a stranger.

Reminding us once again that the walls of our cyberpunk panopticon have been constructed by our own technological addictions, Luv and the Wallace goon squad are able to track K through the mobile device that runs the Joi hologram app. After nearly getting blown to smithereens, Luv and her goon squad put a serious beating on K. Showing us once again that this film is solidly committed to perverting every ideal, Luv the Replicant destroys K’s actual holographic love by smashing the mobile device that enables her projected image. What an absolutely evil bitch.

It wouldn’t be a Hollywood movie if there weren’t some kind of #RESISTANCE movement, and Blade Runner 2049 is no exception. After being badly wounded by Luv and Wallace’s goons, K is treated by the Replicant Liberation Front who’ve been tracking his movements all along. Freysa and her replicant revolutionaries believe that the replicant-human child is their their Messiah, and they want K to join them in their final revolution against the yoke of human tyranny. If humans could see that replicants could procreate, they’d be compelled to grant them the same liberties as humans. Aside from the obvious parallels to the various pro-immigration interests in the US and EU, this encounter draws another bright line of distinction between the progressive and conservative worldview. Since the dawn of modern age, the pillars of society that once provided the guideposts of cultural prescription have long since been eroded. Though the Western tradition makes accommodation for individual liberty, the levees of conservatism have been unable to ward off the tidal wave of modernity and the radical individualism of the progressive Left. A spiritual void needs to be filled, and in the mind of the progressive, that means a never-ending rebellion against order itself. Instead of the eternal God of Judeo-Christian faith, there is an earthly god of #EQUALITY and the perpetual pursuit of universal rights to be bestowed to an ever expanding underclass. For the progressive, the quiet, modest virtues of personal responsibility, family, and community must be supplanted by a revolutionary cause against an omnipresent oppression.

Freysa: Dying for the right cause. It’s the most human thing we can do.

Deckard is brought before Wallace who is intent on extracting the location of his hybrid child. Deckard resists, so Wallace uses an even more powerful enticement: a perfect replica of Rachael. Deckard refuses because he knows it’s a fake. Again, the film blurs the line between reality and illusion by having Deckard reject the Rachael copy simply because the color of her eyes was wrong. His experience of love was real to him, but Rachael was a replicant in the first place. Wallace condemns him to a torture facility and sends him off with Luv and some goons. After a final reunion with a giant hologram of Joi which crushes every last byte of their virtual love affair, K is faced with an existential choice. Aid the Great Replicant Proletarian Revolution by killing Deckard or kill the replicant-human hybrid to prevent Wallace from completing his dominion. A final confrontation occurs in Luv’s downed spinner on the ocean’s edge between K and Luv. It culminates with K vanquishing Luv and then rescuing Deckard from drowning in a quasi-baptism scene. K fulfills his own destiny by reuniting Deckard with Stelline. On the surface, it feels like a pretty huge symbolic moment because he forswears communist revolution and ethno-nationalism and chooses simply to reunite a father with his daughter. But if Stelline is the future, then the new Messiah is a manufacturer of memories for replicants. The holographic future of manufactured memory is female, proles.

Fantastic.

It’s not my realm of expertise, but there is undoubtedly deeper significance to the recurrence of eye imagery, water, the blue/orange dualism and the various numbers found throughout the film. Nothing is left to chance in films this big, and I find it hard to believe that there is no symbolism behind these choices. There were two things that caught my attention though. The first was the Cyrillic script on Sapper Morton’s farm facilities. On the one hand, you could chalk it up to the fact that the world of Blade Runner is just a multicultural remix of its former self. Where once there were distinct nation states with distinct cultures, here every nation coexists within a completely artificial simulacrum of itself refracted through the lens of corporatism. On the other, Sapper Morton was part of the Replicant Liberation Front. Is this a subtle inversion of the Virgin Lands Campaign under Khrushchev? I’m going with YES. Later in the film, there is an advertisement for the Soviet Union complete with hammer and sickle icons and everything. Perhaps it’s sci-fi alternative history, but by placing it in the advertising endorphin drip, it anesthetizes it and makes it no different from ads for holographic sex, food or leisure. See, proles? Communism is as safe as milk. Don’t listen to those socialism-phobic right-wing bigots. What do they know anyway, amirite?

The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is also a thing of dark beauty. Where Vangelis’ original was a dream of wires, moments of celestial beauty peered through console. In contrast, the Zimmer/Wallfisch soundtrack is something akin to the child laborers picking out the rare minerals of the motherboards of its predecessor. It’s yawning vistas of synthesized melancholy punctuated by rhythmic clusters of cybernetic paranoia covered by storm clouds of digitized menace. The reprise of “Tears in the Rain” at the end is a nice touch and a fitting reminder that not only did Vangelis allow a little more light in his vision, but it was sensual and tender. They break the pall of gloom ever so slightly by including choice tracks by Elvis and Frank Sinatra. The pop anthem by Lauren Daigle at the end is the only real disappointment. The fact that she’s a Christian singer strikes me as a very interesting choice given the distinctly despairing and secular nihilism of this film. I wonder if it’s also some kind of postmodern joke.

As much as the commentary in Blade Runner 2049 makes me queasy, it’s difficult for me to hate on it because it’s so beautifully made and it’s a cool story. Like so many other people, Blade Runner was a touchstone of my youth and films like it are so deeply woven into my own story. And perhaps that’s been the point all along. I’ve been watching dystopian sci-fi movies for years and like the works of Orwell, Bradbury and Huxley, I always saw them as warnings to humanity. They were stories of biblical scale that served as a permanent injunction to the human race. Hold on to your humanity at all costs, and always remember that there are good things to defend and preserve. Part of me wants to think that underneath the crushing despair, this is the message of Blade Runner 2049. Part of me wants to think that this belongs to the venerable tradition of the great dystopian works of yore in that it’s a movie that wants you to free your mind and break the system. The calling card of all great dystopian sci-fi was the struggle of man against the machine of the State. Logan 5 was a hero because he broke the conditioning of his technocratic overlords and returned to society to expose the lies and break the system. Today, the Logan 5’s of the world are people like James Damore and Jordan Peterson. In this film, they’re asking you to empathize with the machines. Not only that, they want you to become the machines. It’s the replicants who are desperately seeking humanity because there isn’t any to be found in the actual humans. They’ve taken all of the packaging of individualist rebellion that was once the province of human agency, and handed it off to the replicants. As good as Blade Runner 2049 is, I’m not entirely convinced it’s a movie that wants you to keep your humanity.

Peterson and Shapiro: On the Proper Balance Between Individual and Collective Identity

Picking up the venerable tradition of the long form interview format which was the norm in decades past, Dave Rubin has claimed a prominent position in the so-called “intellectual dark web”. A term coined by Eric Weinstein which describes a collection of independent content creators, podcasters and dissident intellectuals who are actively cultivating a space for the discussion of big ideas and philosophical principles that drive culture and politics. In a recent episode of the Rubin Report, Rubin moderated a vibrant exchange between Dr. Jordan Peterson and conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro. Since there was a lot of mutual respect and a shared passion for both the expansion of public discourse and the preservation of Western ideals, Rubin was able to guide the discussion with a very light touch. Though both Peterson and Shapiro share many complementary views, the exchange was illuminating in that it provided insight into the different pathways of thought they traversed in order to arrive at their respective conclusions.

The discussion touched on familiar themes that all three men have devoted considerable mental bandwidth in recent months including free speech, identity politics, postmodernism as well as Peterson’s now legendary exchange with Cathy Newman. The latter half of the interview was the most illuminating because it contrasted the differences between the Judaic and Christian tradition and the ways each informed their respective worldview. Specifically, they discussed what they regard as the proper relationship of the individual to the collective.

Though Shapiro identifies as a conservative and Peterson claims the mantle of classical liberal, each is an ardent defender of the primacy of the individual over a collective identity. Both men, Peterson in particular, have built their reputations by being outspoken combatants on the forefront of the cultural war against identity politics. However, this doesn’t mean that either rejects a group identity. Though I’ve been following their work very closely, this is the first time of which I’m aware that they’ve discussed a contrasting view to collective identity which stands in opposition to neo-Marxist postmodernism.

All three agreed that intersectional social justice is sowing the seeds of a reactionary identitarian movement on the political Right, and all three agree that identity politics should be abandoned outright. All three subscribe to the secular liberal idea that religious belief is not required either for the acquisition of moral values or for meaning and purpose in life. Further, each concedes that you need to have an underlying bedrock of commonality on which to build a society. Given that all three men are at war against the degeneration of Western thought, it is curious that they would mount a defense of the Western tradition starting from the very propositions that formed the basis of post-Enlightenment modernity. In other words, the very consensus that has lead us to this point. This raises one profoundly important question. If ethno-nationalism is not the solution for America and the West, what set of ideas are being proffered for building a stable national identity and social order? Will these ideas be durable enough to stand up to the various ideologies competing for global dominance? How will conservatives, libertarians, and classical liberals address the issues of collective identity, social cohesion, and a sense of shared responsibility in a world dominated by a largely progressive, multicultural consensus? Can the classical liberal framework be conserved at all without devolving into neo-Marxist postmodernism?

Anyone familiar with Dr. Peterson knows that he is a model of precision when he speaks. Very few people are able to articulate the depth of knowledge that he possesses with the same level of clarity and consistency. This is why it was surprising to hear what appeared to be two competing claims around group identity. Peterson was adamant in his opposition to either multicultural neo-Marxism or white nationalist identitarianism. Shortly after making this statement, he concedes that there is “utility” in having a homogeneous society.

You could think about that psychologically as an attempt to both manage the preservation of group identity so that would be culture, a cultural identity, which has some utility and also to be able coexist with others who are doing things in a different way. – Jordan Peterson

This is a solidly conservative proposition and one that has ethno-nationalist overtones. Yet at every other juncture when ethno-nationalist identity politics are brought up, they avoid it like the plague. If ethno-nationalism is a third rail, what about religious nationalism as YouTubers like The Distributist suggest? Peterson hints at the Catholic Church’s role in the conservation of culture, but since Vatican II, the Church has taken an increasingly secular and politicized tone. Peterson himself concedes that Protestantism fares no better in that it’s rabid individualism coincided largely with the ascendancy of liberalism.

Furthermore, if neither religion or race will be the binding principles that define nationhood, then it appears as though we return merely to the prospect of the restoration of the post-Enlightenment conception of modernity. In other words, neutrality on faith, no prioritization of hereditary culture and a reliance on the conservation of a loose consensus of a nation of ideas.

This appears to be the shared consensus between both men. While Shapiro is biologically Jewish and believes in Judaism, he argues a distinction between biological Judaism versus a Judaism of ideas.

I care very little about biological Judaism. – Ben Shapiro

If Shapiro is only interested in a collective identity of ideas and biological heritage is of no consequence in the construction of culture, how does this square with the racial and ethnic composition of the state of Israel? Would Judaism be Judaism without people who were, in fact, biologically Jewish? As Shapiro himself concedes, the number of converts to the faith suggest that the bar of entry remains very high. Would Shapiro be comfortable with the idea of a minority Jewish population within the state of Israel? Call me presumptuous, but I have a hunch he’d object.

Is a national identity of ideas viable over the long term in a multicultural social order? How does this differ from the American Republic? And if that’s what he’s offering, doesn’t that suggest that a national identity of ideas in a secular, multicultural social order is an untenable proposition? Can we just hit the reset button on the classical liberal consensus and conserve it for posterity?

Given that neo-Marxist postmodernism has been so successful in mobilizing identitarian factions while plunging whites into an ever accelerating downward spiral of self-loathing, isn’t this confirmation that there is a deeply embedded psychological mechanism that has been turned in on itself? If being branded a racist is considered the height of moral depravity in our Age of #SocialJustice, can we really chalk it up to the effectiveness of progressive conditioning or is it something unique to the moral psychology of whites which makes them especially susceptible to pathological guilt tripping?

If secular multicultural civic nationalism is such a fantastic alternative to both the globalist Left and Islamic theocracy, why do Western democracies bear such a disproportionate burden for maintaining this idea?

If evolutionary psychology is true and the substrate of being is comprised of stories of your own forebears mixed with archetypal symbolism, is it unreasonable to suggest that the conservation of racial and ethnic distinction is perfectly harmonious with the conservation of national identity and cultural tradition?

If seasoned academics like Peterson are using evolutionary biology and psychology as rebukes to the claims of the postmodern Left, then why would race be excluded from the overall calculus?

Many people agree that the West is facing a deep crisis over the erosion of the cornerstones of community, faith and family and the corrosive effect wrought by its politicized substitutes. What’s less clear is how to restore a healthy balance between individual liberty, collective identity, and civic pride. The alt-right has a vision that continues to be vilified and stigmatized as the second coming of fascism. The globalist Left shows no signs of reversing their embrace of intersectional social justice thereby justifying their mutual existence. Two forces destined for a collision course. I’d like to think there is hope for the conservation of the classical liberal framework. As much as I admire Peterson and Shapiro, I just hope they aren’t whistling past the graveyard.

Peterson v. Newman and Progressive Creationism

Progressives like to imagine themselves the steely, hard bitten arbiters of objective truth, scientific realism and an ever elusive, albeit objectively true, secular morality based on identity. They’re the self-appointed champions of a never-ending quest to abolish “oppression”. You can go to just about any leftist social media page and find numerous Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson memes belittling conservatives for their refusal to accept the Settled Science of climate change and evolution. As any conversation with a progressive will confirm, conservatives are nothing more than a collection of hidebound, knuckle dragging troglodytes who hate science, gays and immigrants. And it’s the poor, long suffering, enlightened progressives who are tasked with the burden of lifting these lower life forms from the swamp of evolution through political protest, hashtag campaigns, pussyhats, and increasingly, a staunch refusal to even egage their opponents on the intellectual battlefield. After all, anyone who doesn’t believe in #EQUALITY is just beneath contempt.

Unfortunately for progressives, this stubborn refusal to engage oppositional views has resulted in a lazy, smug, and entitled royalist mentality. Especially when it comes to being challenged on gender equality. This was perhaps never more evident than when British television journalist, Cathy Newman interviewed Canadian clinical psychologist, Jordan Peterson. Since Jordan Peterson was catapulted into the limelight by resisting transgender pronoun tyranny, he’s predictably been tarred by progressive media as yet another alt-right, white supremacist. The fact that he self-identifies as a classical liberal is rarely, if ever mentioned or that his millions of supporters span the entire political spectrum. Nor is the fact that his work is geared towards warding off chaos, taking responsibility and grounding oneself in a set of values. Most importantly, his work is deeply focused on understanding how the mind becomes ideologically possessed and devolves into a tyrannical mindset. Subsequently, he has focused a great deal of attention on the steady encroachment of identity politics into the academic and public sphere.

This interview has justifiably been hailed as a glorious victory for both Peterson and for everyone pushing back against the cult-like mentality of #SocialJustice identity politics. When she wasn’t completely strawmanning his position, Cathy Newman alternated between condescension and puffed up indignation. Peterson dismantles her at every turn with laser guided precision and his calm, dispassionate demeanor. Peterson is like a real life version of Clint Eastwood’s Jonathan Hemlock in The Eiger Sanction. An intellectual who’s grounded in both the quality of his scholarship and the sturdiness of his convictions. In a word, a total badass. The memes that have surfaced are legendary too.

The Peterson phenomenon not only reveals the hollow pretense of progressivism, but the transformation that has overtaken the Left. When it comes to a progressive article of faith like gender equality, the alleged appreciation for scientific rigor is exposed as a shallow façade. The very people who constantly telegraph their appreciation for #SCIENCE with protest marches, slogans and memes seem to keep their outrage exclusively confined to bashing Creationists, skepticism of climate change, or anti-vaxxers. But if you bring up biological sex differences or evolutionary psychology, somehow you become a purveyor of pseudoscience. Funny how that works.