Responding to the Alt-Right

After replying to an alt-right tweet this morning, I somehow fell through an interdimensional hyperlink and found myself reading Atlantic Centurion’s blog. Here’s his post explaining the 7 pillars of the alt-right. He elaborates on each of the seven here.

I felt like offering a few reactions to each of them, which I’ll write in blue below (I’ll paste AC’s pillars in red).

  1. Understanding human difference, e.g. race, sex, ethnicity, intelligence, abilities, genetics, moral foundations, etc. As someone who often finds himself defending both ontological and political pluralism, I can’t help but agree here that human difference, like all difference, is real and must be acknowledged as such. This acknowledgement has social, cultural, and political consequences.  The point is that we must attend to one another’s differences in a just and responsible way. But our difference doesn’t mean we aren’t all still human, and even more foundationally, that we aren’t all still earthlings. The evolutionary history of this planet is a geostory of relationship and symbiogenesis, not a war of each against all. Difference is inescapable, but individual and clade differences always arise in concert with one another as part of a single earthbound (earthbound but not impermeable to astronomical intrusion) evolutionary process. In other words, organisms always evolve ecologically. As Martin Luther King, Jr. put it: “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All [people] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.” Or, as Whitehead puts it, “We find ourselves in a buzzing world, amid a democracy of fellow creatures.”  So while I agree even a free and just society cannot promise equal outcomes to everyone, I must add that, to qualify as a freedom and justice loving society, it must at least strive to provide equal opportunity to all. Otherwise it is a tyranny or a state of war, not a society.
  2. Recognizing the reality of tribe, that there is no universal man but a world of rooted identities.
    That humans have tribal tendencies cannot be denied. But I for one am not willing to artificially delimit the possible breadth and depth of a human being’s cosmic and moral identity. We are not simply selfishly driven skin-encapsulated egos. Yes, we are born to parents in particular locations and enculturated in unique ways. We are rooted, but behind our merely human identities, we are also rooted in the Earth, an expression of its multibillion year symbiogenetic geostorical adventure. Unless humans begin to take our earthbound nature seriously very soon, we will drive ourselves into extinction. The task of forming a planetary identity so that we can act to address our collective ecological problems has never been more urgent. This needn’t mean annihilating our personal, familial, and more local identities. It’s a both/and thing.Human history itself at least appears to display something like an evolutionary trajectory, even if it is not a simple progression. Spiral Dynamics captures this well enough (though things get knotted up once you reach the “integral” stage, imo).  sprialdynamics-aqal-large7
    Tribalism is a simpler, primal form of human organization, a form long since advanced upon. When the civil order decays, there is always a chance humans will slide back into tribalism. But thankfully, tribalism is not the only social reality humans are capable of constructing. 
  3. Rejecting anti-Whiteness, the belief that Whites are exceptionally wrong and should not be allowed to have collective interests as a people.
    If we are to compose a society together based on the values of freedom and justice (and this willingness to compose a common world together cannot be assumed in advance, though the only alternative I know of on this crowded planet is war), then we must do so on the basis of a shared identity deeper than the shade of our skin. This doesn’t mean we pretend our differences don’t exist, or that we ignore racism by pretending we are colorblind; it means that for the purposes of democratic politics, we play our proper part as citizens of the cosmos, not as parochial bigots. White identity politics leads nowhere. Human evolution is convergent. 
  4. Gender roles matter, men and women are similar in many ways but complementary rather than “equal.”
    Sure they matter. But who says gender—and sex, for that matter—haven’t always been transforming over the course of natural and cultural evolution? Nature is composed of relational processes, not static essences. Nature is way queerer than the alt-right imagines. Gender, in our and most species, is a fluid spectrum. Sexual desire can never be fully domesticated by cultural norms. Get over it. 
  5. Responsibility over freedom, unchecked freedom and individualism lead to social harms.
    This is why the role of childcare and education is so important in democratic societies. The values of freedom and justice have to be cultivated collectively via rituals of mutual recognition. We are not simply born free individuals. Individuality is in large part a gift from the communities that raise us. Only if we are cared for in this way by our society will we grow up to express and realize our freedom responsibly, passing these values on to the next generation through social reproduction.
  6. Limited franchise, not everyone is qualified to decide the fate of nations by pulling a lever, sorry.
    Oh, I see AC is not interested in a democratic society. Perhaps this is a waste of time…
  7. The Jewish Question, recognizing that elite overseas Israelis promote policies which are in the net harmful to their White hosts.
    Yep, hopeless. 

Latour building on Whitehead’s critique of substance

In Latour’s words, Whitehead replaced the concept of substance with that of subsistence. I appreciate Latour’s insistence on the need for the creation of institutions that encourage and sustain themselves through transformation. Question is, what would such institutions look like?

The Democratization of Initiation at Burning Man

As religious scholar Lee Gilmore argues in her book Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man, the annual Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, NV provides that growing sector of the population who identify as “spiritual but not religious” with an opportunity to cultivate the communal ethos and participate in the ritualistic catharsis normally associated with traditional forms of religion. Some theologians have criticized so-called SBNRs for being “self-centered” and warn that the growth of such an identity has more to do with the degeneration of culture by consumerism than with any genuine flowering of spirituality. The continual growth of Burning Man (the festival sold out for the first time in 2011), defined by its rejection of advertising and commodification, suggests that there is more to the story.

Gilmore argues that this annual pilgrimage to the desert, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is forcing academics to

“reconsider the concepts of ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’ as defined less by matters of institution, doctrine, and belief and more by questions of ritual, practice, and experience” (Burning Man Blog).

After returning from my second journey to Black Rock City earlier this week, I can say with some degree of certainty that Burning Man represents the emergence of new, prototypically American religious movement. Its ethos strives to find the sacred balance between individual expression and collective participation. Its peculiar form of religiosity weds art and science into a carnivalesque celebration of bodily beauty and soulful intelligence. Its gift economy encourages the kind of authentic encounter between strangers no longer permitted in the hustle and bustle of the “default world.” Its “leave no trace” policy fosters the kind of ecological awareness that is necessary if our species is to survive the environmental crises of the coming century.

2011 marked the first year in the festival’s history that the temporary wooden temple structure reached higher into the sky than the ritually burned effigy known as “The Man.” To my mind, this is a symbolic change, representing Burning Man’s transition into a new phase of existence. No longer simply about burning the Man to revel in the destruction of the shackles of the patriarchal status quo, its participants are beginning to explicitly recognize the vibrant spiritual culture they have constructed to replace it. 2011 also marks the birth of The Burning Man Project, a non-profit organization committed to renewing urban centers with the power of radical participation and artistic expression. More than 20 years after the young festival was kicked off Baker Beach for being perceived as a public nuisance, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee recently welcomed the BMP back to the city of the movement’s birth.

Despite its encouraging expansion back into the default world, the lifeblood of the Burning Man experiment remains the weeklong ritual in the desert of northern Nevada. It is there that a new way of being human is being born, that the traditional boundaries between the sacred and the profane are being redrawn or perhaps erased all together. Viewed as a collective phenomenon, it seems to me that the individuals involved in the movement are only just beginning to understand the full meaning of the world they are bringing forth together. It is as if the massive gathering of hippies, freaks, engineers, healers, artists, witches, jedis, and weirdos is being unconsciously lured to the desert by higher powers to provide a landing pad or interdimensional portal for a new kind of intelligence to incarnate upon the earth. Just as the Judeo-Christian religions of our collective past were generated by the profound transformations of desert-dwelling prophets, the planetary spirituality of our collective future is being generated by a now more democratic form of initiation.