Sunday, 31 August 2008

Honor cultures vis-a-vis radical social change

On pages 90 and 91 of Culture of Honor, Nisbett and Cohen provide many very modern examples of violent urban "honor cultures". They show how in urban areas of the US, loss of manufacturing jobs (attributed by the right to unions and labour regulations making it expensive to hire workers) has lead to a violent culture owing to persistent job scarcity. All this agrees very much with what they say about the evolution of honour cultures from resource scarcity and portability in the absence of big government.

Nisbett and Cohen even liken these cultures to the messages of Public Enemy, which I find a little far-fetched because Public Enemy were always about radical social change rather than personal honor.

Most of these working class people, as the brilliant writer "janitor-x" used to say, value personal liberty and self-expression over everything else. Most members of violent urban gangs have a hatred for control by government and are suspicious of the possibilities of radical group-based social movements, which they fear will deny them their rights just as much as conservative religious bodies or tyrannical corporate executives. A tendency towards grave scepticism of any kind of idealism further entrenches the cynical worldview of the countercultures. The end result is a cult of individual self-reliance which, where people cannot gain enough money to even start saving, leads inevitably to pressure to steal money or gain it by countercultural pursuits like thrash metal or hardcore punk.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Assessing the term "feminazi"

It shocked me to hear "feminazi" from my former minder, despite his conservatism.

Though it is known that the Nazis opposed feminism, I have pointed out the similarity between radical feminists and Nazis in their undoubted hatred of femininity and "gentleness". However, their reasoning is completely different. In the case of Nazis, it relates to their believe in racial superiority and the right of violent conquest in order to achieve the purest possible racial profile. In the case of feminists, it relates to an extreme desire for emotional independence of women, which they see as protecting them from such problems as domestic violence.

It may be possible to link Nazism to radical feminism, but it would go back quite a while.

Those on the Right who desire a much less defeminized culture would do well to read Power In Eden: The Emergence of Gender Hierarchies in the Ancient World. It looks at how cultures evolved to explain the changes in sex roles from hunter/gatherers through to industrial society. However, whilst it has a very interesting study on honour codes and the degree of machismo in men with comments like:

- "Though it is fair to say the men in pastoral societies had more "machismo" than those in other societies, this does not necessarily mean that women were required or assumed to be nurturing, dependent, and soft." (page 49)
- and "men in some societies are more macho than men in other societies" (page 204)

Power in Eden fails to correspondingly compare the degree of marianismo in women between different cultures. The decline in marianismo in women has been the most striking result of industrialisation in Europe and presumably Asia. Scientists often argue that differences in degree of marianismo in women will be less than those of machismo in men, but I see this as contradicting the social changes observed from the Industrial Revolution.

I have considered since first reading the book how the following four factors might influence how feminine and nurturing a society's women are:
1) resource abundance and reliability
2) resource portability and possibility of theft
3) population density
4) size of government

I have failed to reach Bruce Lerro despite e-mailing him, but have felt high degrees of softness, dependence and nurturing qualities in women would be favoured by:
1) abundant and reliable resources
2) low resource portability and absence of theft risk
3) low population density
4) small government

As I see it, this explains the Marian cult in pre-industrial Europe with its extraordinarily rich soils and foods like dairy products which are highly perishable and thus not portable or likely to be fought over. The radical masculinisation of women in industrialised Europe also follows, since Europe has no major industrial metal ores (glaciers have wiped them out) and metal ores are a highly portable resource that can be moved very easily from place to place. I am not so sure as to whether this simple theory explains the extent to which women were expected to be dependent and nurturing (etc.) in more primitive cultures, but it is a very interesting theory for social scientists to actually test.

Who would laugh at it?

My former minder, an over-kind and very conservative man, said that "perhaps the feminazis have an agent at the post office" when his gift from me of a PIG failed to arrive. I had heard of the use of "feminazi" before. I rdicule it as senseless. Though I know both feminists and Nazis want to completely masculinise society, they do so in extremely different ways. The fact that a man of my RMIT minder's intelligence uses it made me want to see how often "feminazi" was used and it got 105,000 hits on Google.

After searching, I found a site called Wikiality. Obviously taken from Wikipedia, Wikiality claims to provide "all you need to know", but in fact it is so different even from other conservative sites like the ISI or Human Events that it makes me laugh. Whereas the ISI and Human Events give a good deal of evidence for their cases, Wikiality is just pure ranting mixed with utterly the most absurd name-calling I have ever read in my experience with the Internet.

Some examples are:

The Unchained Goddess as a reference to people who realise global warming is happenning
Mahmoud Ahmedi-Feminazi-nejad is a terrorist.
Mahmoud Ahmedi-Madonna Ciccone-nejad is a terrorist.

Knowing anything about Islam makes Wikiality so absurd that I can only laugh. Worst still, their links are to sites that don't even adore the extreme capitalism of PIGs and other similar books. What logic is that?

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Still have a long way to go

Last Thursday, when walking along Brunswick Street, I destroyed my mobile phone when I heard the government’s unfortunate desire to reduce fuel excise. (To be ecologically fair, Australia’s fuel tax would need to total no less than fifty percent of the total OECD fuel tax burden for a given volume in each country, as against its present figure of below one percent).

The way in which I smashed my mobile phone was bad. However, I did the sensible thing and went to the Vodafone store and, after finding it would cost more to repair the screen than to replace the phone, I got another one.

However, the very fact that I had to contact both my mother and brother is quite alarming to myself. I know very well I am by nature a violent and self-centred person, and am clearly aware that I could nto avoid these violent episodes without help. Since my mother and brother will not always help me, I feel I still have many problems with my violent temper.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Maybe he's right??

Today I discovered a list titled Top Ten Worst Albums Ever To Go Diamond.

The albums on it were:

#1: Matchbox 20 - Yourself or Someone Like You
#2: Ace of Base - The Sign
#3: Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet
#4: Creed - Human Clay
#5: MC Hammer - Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em
#6: Linkin Park: - Hybrid Theory
#7: Hootie & The Blowfish - Cracked Rear View
#8: Kid Rock - Devil Without a Cause
#9: Soundtrack - Titanic (Music From The Motion Picture)

and there was no tenth album!!

Nevertheless, the list, based on my experience, is far from bad. The albums by MC Hammer and Linkin Park in particular are something I have always hated, and Hootie came out at the time I was giving up on commercial contemporary music as I had listened to right up until the FOX became a classic rock station in the early 1990s. (In that era, I recall the FOX "rockblocking the Stones" and my recording of the session becoming my staple listening during the early 1990s, during which I though Mick Jagger sang "Rap! Sugar/How come you're den's so dirty/Rap! Sugar/Just like a younger chook" and "Yeah/Yeah/Just like a pack of chooks"!)

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Can one have an "objective" best-albums list??

In an e-mail I received today, one keen music observer was shocked to see a top-20 albums list without Nirvana's Nevermind at number one. I cannot deny that for many years Nevermind served to limit my musical exploration because

1) I detested it when I first heard it on the radio and still do, as the linked review will show
2) it made me assume that anything not classified as mainstream pop was basically extremely loud thrash like Silverchair

The alternative list provided claims to be an objective list of the greatest albums ever in terms of both critical and popular acclaim, using a precise system of scoring to judge albums.

However, as the cerebral critic Joe S. Harrington showed over half a decade ago, there are two problems with this list. One is that - and I know from my own experience listening - that music is extremely mood-oriented so that something that is objectively good may not be perceived as such. Second, that fact that if one digs deep one can see roots of so many modern artists in albums that are simply unknown to not only the immense majority of even devoted music listeners, but also to most critics. It is the ability to unearth so much that drew me to Harrington and keeps me recommending his list as essential reading for all music fans. The complete absence of Nevermind from this and many other best-albums lists I have read makes the claim noted at the beginning of that album's omniprescence false.

All in all, making objective judgments about what the best albums may be remotely possible, but the perspective required is so incredibly hard to achieve that there is no likelihood of it ever really occurring.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Detecting an error on a shop computer

On Thursday in Camberwell Borders, I found one of the most remarkable mistakes in the shop's catalogue - and then found it was due to a problem they could not solve through lack of computer memory!

Looking as I often do in Borders for Politically Incorrect Guides (they can be both funny and soothing even though they truly are dubious) I found one title called The Politically Incorrect Guide to California. As soon as I saw that title, I knew instinctively and from checking Regnery that there is no Politically Incorrect Guide to California and asked if I could show the staff at Borders the error. Because the author and section listed told me the title had to be the Guide to Capitalism by Robert P. Murphy, I asked if I could show the staff that their The Politically Incorrect Guide to California did not exist and that the title was The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism.

I had no trouble showing the staff the book I knew was in error, but you wouldn't believe that when they showed the book on their computer it actually said The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ca, which the computer naturally assumed to be an abbreviation for "California". The amazing thing is that Borders had no space at all on their computer for more letters to define the book's title correctly: thus my attempt at a simple correction did not work! I really do find it so amazing that a large book chain could possibly run out of memory in such a way that it mis-catalogs even one title!

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Refuting a still-believed myth once and for all

The few who have any idea about the radical climate changes occurring in Australia now, even if they realise global warming is looming as a terrible catastrophe, still seem stuck with a number of myths.

A longtime friend and associate of my mothers who is well aware of the declines in rainfall over southwestern Australia – and who is an expert in marine science – still said recently to me that the present increase in central-western Australian rainfall is a result of the region’s vegetation recovering from the damage done by gold mining in the 1890s. Although it is true that in the goldfields proper there were no rain gauges before gold was found – the gauge at at Coolgardie dates back to 1893 – the adjacent Eucla district where rainfall has increased equally greatly since the 1960s has gauges at Eucla dating back to 1876 and Eyre (further west on the coast) dating back to 1885.

Both the Eucla and the
less-complete Eyre rainfall data sets demonstrate that the clearing of vegetation, even if one does imagine it had major effects on so fragile an ecology, did not lower the region’s rainfall at all. The tables show no difference between the pre-clearing (black) and post-clearing (red) rainfall totals.

In fact, the driest years in the Eucla since 1885 were during the 1950s, the very decade most noted for abundant rainfall in currently-drying areas of southeastern Australia. At Eucla the driest year on records was 1957, with rainfall around four-fifths of the lowest recorded up to 1925. (The drought caused the worst dust-storms ever to hit Perth during November 1957). The former records broken at Eyre in 2000 and Eucla in 2006 were set precisely when the impact of land clearing should have been greatest and rainfall lowest.

Its time popular myths of land clearing driving declines in rainfall over arid Australia are demolished forever. The record rainfalls over the interior in the 1970s and arid WA since 1997 are entirely anthropogenic in causation and are in themselves enough reason to call for a radical wake-up to fight the car and coal companies.