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Archive for January 2019

Paul Ingrassia at The American Conservative has published a polemic entitled “The Religious Fanaticism of Silicon Valley Elites.” It should be noted that Ingrassia is himself Catholic, so he has no beef with religion per se. Just as the zealous Proud Boys find their greatest rival in a different type of zealot, namely Antifa, the biggest detractors of X often share many of the same qualities as X. In Ingrassia’s case, his Catholicism is perhaps leading him to mistake Silicon Valley for a rival religion. He writes:

While Silicon Valley types delay giving their own children screens, knowing full well their deleterious effects on cognitive and social development (not to mention their addictive qualities), they hardly bat an eye when handing these gadgets to our middle class. 

This is untrue. Or at the very least, there’s far from enough evidence to conclude this. Psychologist Amy Orben at Cambridge has researched the effects of digital technology on youth has shown that wearing glasses has greater negative effects on youth than does screen time with smart phones, which she correctly points out can include everything form perusing Kim Kardashian’s Instragram account to chatting with friends.

Ingrassia continues:

Their political views seem to become more radical by the day. They as a class represent the junction of meritocracy and the soft nihilism that has infiltrated almost every major institution in contemporary society. 

Silicon Valley gets more radical by the day? Eh. Updating Facebook Messenger’s user interface or introducing a chatbot into a banking app isn’t radical, and they’re the kinds of things that comprise the mundane bulk of what Silicon Valley is up to. But where Silicon Valley is radical, it contradicts the notion that it’s nihilistic. More interesting developments such as synthetic meat, 3-D printed prosthetics, and crypto-currency are expressions of idealism, not throwing one’s hands up. Scott Alexander has a good rundown here of the suprisingly, er, down to earth nature of what Silicon Valley occupies itself with. VR porn or drones for extreme sports enthusiasts isn’t on the top of the list.

Our elites hope to spare themselves from incurring any moral responsibility for the costs of their social engineering. And “social engineering” is not a farfetched term to use. A portion of the Times article interrogates the premise of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian 1932 novel Brave New World, which tells the story of a totalitarian regime that has anesthetized a docile underclass into blind submission.

Hyperbole, all the way down.

Say, what is the Godwin’s Law equivalent of invoking either 1984 or Brave New World? There must be something like that. If not, it’s just a matter of time before Silicon Valley invents it…

Ingrassia spills alot of digital ink bashing Silicon Valley “guru” and “maharishi” Yuval Levin for supposedly celebrating the demise of work and the creation of a “useless” class of citizens. But Ingrassia’s linked New York Times article describes Levin as a purveyor of the idea that “Silicon Valley is an engine of dystopian ruin,” and describes him as worried that “by creating powerful influence machines to control billions of minds, the big tech companies are destroying the idea of a sovereign individual with free will.”

It sounds like Levin is in agreement with Ingrassia, if anything.

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Jan/19

9

Chesus

It does not take much detective work to understand that Marxism is, in many respects, another branch of the Judeo-Christian tree, most notably in its millenarian fantasies, but also in, one way or another, its sanctification of poverty.

Many religions, of course, have saints and in this intriguing piece for Quillette, partly based on his father’s own acquaintance with Guevara, George Schifini looks at the cult of Che. There’s so much in this article about the transformation of an almost certainly psychotic killer into a saint that it’s hard to know where to begin.

One aspect of the piece that is perhaps worth highlighting is how quickly Che’s transformation into something with a touch of the divine about him began:


“The cult of Che began within hours of Guevara’s execution by a Bolivian army sergeant. After his body was placed in the Vallegrande, Bolivia, hospital laundry room, hospital nuns, the nurse who washed his body, as well as several women of the town, had the impression that the dead Argentine resembled Jesus Christ and clipped snippets of his hair to keep for good luck. “

And that cult has endured. Helped, doubtless, by that iconic photograph of Guevara taken by Alberto Korda, it has been shown, to use a wonderful phrase of Schifini’s, to have “the wattage to light up the religious circuits of the human mind for the long haul.” Put another way, the circumstances of Guevara’s life and death and the iconography (including some of the photographs of his corpse) that came with it have offered enough for the ‘God gene’ to work with.


“In the village of Vallegrande… some of the locals pray and attribute miracles to San Ernesto. A nurse who washed Guevara’s body said, “None dies as long as he is remembered. He is very miraculous”…. In Cuba, the Afro-Cuban faith Santeria has incorporated Guevara (as a black man) as a divine entity that can, for the supplicant, intercede with God…. But it’s the secular world that keeps the Che cult from withering.”

That’s not so surprising. The secular world has the technology and the money to keep a cult going, and it has, for many of its inhabitants, a spiritual gap to fill. The God gene does not switch off in what are nominally secular societies. It merely finds a different outlet. It didn’t hurt, of course, that what Guevara was preaching was merely a variant of a long-established template.

And this also helped:


Ernesto Guevara was born, raised, and died in the Latin American milieu of Christianity. The Bolivian women who tended to the corpse of Guevara reported that he resembled Jesus Christ, and not, unsurprisingly, Osiris, Zoroaster, Krishna, or Buddha. As we have seen, many analyses by secular intellectuals of Che instinctively draw on analogues with Christianity and its eponymous divinity. In Latin America, and arguably Western society, the “mythic lore” of Jesus Christ is one the “filaments of myth that are everywhere in the air” acting as magnets to “the great and little heroes of the world” (Campbell, 1964). Guevara’s narrative, in particular his death—the whereabouts of Che’s body was unknown for decades—contains a strong field of mythic magnetism to attach itself to the Christ myth…

…When Campbell wrote of the filaments of myths that floated in the “air,” he argued that myth did its heavy lifting in the human mind. He defined a “functioning mythology” as a “corpus of culturally maintained sign stimuli” that catalyze a release of energy. Myth functions as a sign, stimuli triggering an innate releasing mechanism, terms borrowed from ethology, the science of animal behavior.

Schifini’s father had asked what could keep the cult of Che from becoming a religion.

After all:

The Ernesto “Che” Guevara narrative, now more mythology than primary source history, and the Korda photo contain an abundance of “sign stimuli.”

To Schifini’s father, the way that religions began was that “a messianic man kills and is killed and decades, perhaps centuries later, is worshiped as a deity”:

Schifini’s father was astonished that his path had crossed, however briefly, with such a man:

“My father didn’t believe in religion…He probably didn’t believe in a god or gods, although I can’t be sure because we never explicitly discussed the topic. I wish he were still around to talk of all these things. “

We should be grateful that the son still is.

Read the whole thing….

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