Anti-Socialist Tendencies

Sunday, August 31, 2003

In the field of politics the equivalent of a theorem is a perfectly disciplined army; of a sonnet or picture, a police state under a dictatorship. The Marxist calls himself scientific and to this claim the Fascist adds another: he is the poet--the scientific poet--of a new mythology. Both are justified in their pretensions; for each applies to human situations the procedures which have proved effective in the laboratory and the ivory tower. They simplify, they abstract, they eliminate all that, for their purposes, is irrelevant and ignore whatever they choose to regard an inessential; they impose a style, they compel the facts to verify a favorite hypothesis, they consign to the waste paper basket all that, to their mind, falls short of perfection...the dream of Order begets tyranny, the dream of Beauty, monsters and violence.

--- Aldous Huxley, Ape and Essence

(Via Photon Courier)


Continuing a trend I've commented on previously, a widespread nostalgia in Germany for the communist-era East (Ostalgie, meaning "East-stalgia") has spawned a line of TV shows celebrating the happy side of living under the old regime. Not surprisingly, not everyone is amused:

A batch of films, TV shows and series is cashing in on a wave of popular sentiment for the East German Communist era, and nearly all have avoided painful subjects such as the infamous Berlin Wall.

The programme's uncritical stance has angered those who suffered under Communism. Former dissidents who have studied East German Stasi secret police files say the shows are an insult to the more than 1,000 East Germans shot dead trying to escape to the West.

Walter Momper, Berlin's mayor during the fall of the Wall 14 years ago, has derided the programmes for making the former East German regime appear harmless. Erich Loest, an eastern German writer, said the producers of one nostalgia show should be sacked for their uncritical portrayal of a totalitarian era.

As you can easily guess, I am angered by these shows too, especially since I have relatives and loved ones who suffered under the East German regime. However, knowing these people also helps me understand the following sentiments:

German television has leapt to the defence of its Ostalgie output. Hans-Hermann Tiedje, the producer of a nostalgia programme on ZDF television, said: "Almost everything has been said about the totalitarian nature of East Germany, its indescribable Communist regime and its crazy secret police system. People want to remember how the East Germans coped with everyday life. It wasn't all bad. In fact, it was quite the opposite."....

Eastern German intellectuals and politicians have vied to offer explanations for the Ostalgie boom. Stefan Liebich, an eastern German who is head of the reform Communist party for Democratic Socialism in Berlin, said: "Life in East Germany has been demonised and dramatised so much that the nostalgia wave appears an almost natural reaction."

Leander Haussmann, director of the Ostalgie film Sonnenalle, said: "The East German system was dreadful and I hated it. But people don't want to be permanently reminded of the bad things. When they die, they want to look back on a happy life. They look for the right life in what was essentially the wrong one."

It's easy to forget that a decent, if deprived and limited, life is possible under totalitarianism for ordinary people. Everyday life still goes on, and despite the system some humanity will always seep up through the cracks, even if it be little more than camaraderie in shared suffering. There is no fault in ordinary East Germans wanting to remember the good things rather than seeing the era as nothing but darkness, so long as the darkness that was present is not forgotten.


Pontifex Ex Machina explains why a total gun ban would not be feasible.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Q: What is the difference between a scientist and a socialist?

A: A scientist tries it out on mice first.


In the latest issue of Wired there's a short piece on a project to develop methods of forecasting where criminal activity is likely to occur. The researchers dumped a database of criminal activity into a Geographic Information System [1] and developed a predictive model similar to those used in market analysis by businesses. The system yielded predictions of future crime locations at the police beat level with 80% accuracy .

The system does have some limitations, however:

So when's the criminologist going to show up on your local newscast to give tomorrow's felony count? It may be a while - there are still a few kinks to work out. For starters, even the latest crime-prediction models are accurate only on a month-to-month basis, not day to day. Plus, they're relatively low-resolution, being correct only within a 100-square-block area. Finally, presaging crime is actually a lot harder than mapping rain showers, because crime forecasters - unlike meteorologists - must account for the effects of their own reports. Think about it: A forecast is made, action is taken, and wrongdoing is averted, along with the very trends and statistical indicators needed to make the predictions in the first place.

...and in general this thing is being a little overhyped (as is sadly typical for a Wired piece). These types of software tools help to systematize analysis that otherwise would be only semiformal and partial as well as provide great visualization techniques, and to that extent are indeed useful, but it's very unlikely that they will ever provide something that's equivalent to precognition. The parallel to weather forecasting is quite appropriate: We can get very useful general predictions about crime this way -- ones that indeed help in our decisionmaking -- but will not be able to exactly and exhaustively pinpoint every individual instance over small increments of time.

[1] That's not what the author calls it, but it's obviously what they're using.


In recognition of the arrival of Friday, here are some entertaining sites for you. The Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness showcases various amusing oddities from product instruction manuals. Be sure to check out the translated-while-tripping-on-acid installation instructions for the Dragonball Z flyer! And for you pedantic spoilsports who love to ruin your friends' simple enjoyment of movies, there's Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics. I found the discussion of dragon physics pretty funny.


Some reminders of communists of yesterday surfaced on the Web this week. The diary of Georgi Dimitrov, first prime minister of communist Bulgaria, has recently been published. Before coming to power he was a close associate of Stalin, and the diary provides further insight into the world of nervous sycophants and toadies surrounding the notorious Soviet dictator.

Another article discusses the life and research of Nora Volkow, great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky. Unlike her famous ancestor, Volkow is not involved in politics, instead having a career as a medical researcher at the National Institute on Drug Abuse here in the US. In addition to covering her groundbreaking work on drug addiction, the article gives us a fascinating exploration of life in the Trotsky household in Mexico City after his assassination by a Soviet agent in 1940.

On a lighter note, check out the plaque on this Soviet statue of Lenin currently residing in Dallas, Texas. I find it strangely appealing that he is now surrounded by tacky roadside Americana!


OxBlog has an interesting post on actions by West Germany and Austria that helped bring down the East German government and by extension the rest of the Eastern Bloc. What were they? West German TV broadcasts, and Hungary opening its border with Austria.

I find this especially fascinating since it is exactly how someone very, very dear to me made it out of East Germany, even down to the preliminary detour through Czechoslovakia.

** For those of you too young to catch the silly reference, you can be enlightened here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I can happily report that the Norwegian Blogger has now returned from his extended blog holiday. Welcome back, Vegard! He picks up the keyboard once again to explain how predictions of Europe's imminent demise are overblown, both in terms of runaway socialism and the growth of the EU as well as Muslim immigration. There is also the latest adventure of Wally and the gang for your anti-idiotarian amusement.


A friend of mine passed along this cautionary article about the rapid deterioration of many brands of CD-recordable disks. It's definitely something to keep in mind if, like myself, you rely on them for archiving large datasets.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The CounterRevolutionary has discovered a Soviet Encyclopedic Dictionary from the 1950s and provides us with a translation of the entry on Israel. The parallels between it and today's anti-Israel attitudes are interesting to note.


Enjoy new Diet Catholicism®, a theological taste sensation for the Me Generation! Now 100% dogma-free!

Monday, August 25, 2003

They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect
That no one will need to be good.
But the man that is will shadow
The man that pretends to be.

--- T.S. Eliot, The Rock

Friday, August 22, 2003

Hey folks, just a quick entry to let you know I'm still alive. All my time has been getting sucked into georectifying some datasets that refuse to go into the correct projections. But I'm doing fine... or would be except for THOSE @#!$*% DATASETS! WHAT THE HELL IS WRO...

Uh, heh heh...

No, no, I'm fine. Really. Heh.

Anyway, Chicago Boyz has a list of insightful quotes from Edmund Burke, who is probably my favorite political philosopher. Also, long-time favorite The CounterRevolutionary is back to regular blogging after his summer break, so definitely drop in and pay him a visit.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Though few can countenance a consideration of eugenics in today's post-Holocaust world, for many "progressives" in the first half of the 20th century eugenics was part and parcel of their ideology. This eugenics movement grew out of several interrelated streams of thought: overt racism/elitism, a fetish for "rationalizing" every aspect of society, and the desire to hasten the arrival of socialist utopia. The first stream consisted of those wishing to reduce the population of "undesirable peoples," whether they be non-white races or despised groups within society, in order to protect and foster either the white race as a whole or the elites of the Western nations. Falling into this category were such still-vaunted figures as birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger, who drew up ambitious plans for the sterilization and segregation of undesirables.

The social engineering spirit of Sanger's "Plan For Peace" also embodies the second stream feeding into the eugenics movement, those wishing to "rationalize" more and more aspects of society along "scientific" principles, including the reproduction of the population. Dissecting Leftism points out Bertrand Russell as an exemplar of this group. The combination of a rage for order with a boundless faith in the capabilities of Science led Russell and his ilk to dream of a "scientifically" based program to increased desired stocks in the population. [1] No longer would humanity be subject to the chaos of wild breeding -- the Scientist would step in and guide the process, nurturing here and pruning there, refining each generation more and more into the desired ideal.

Talk of a New Man and the broad-scale "scientific" management of society brings us to the third stream feeding into the eugenics movement, socialism. As Fightin' with Grabes documents, long before the rise of Fascism socialist thought included a good share of racism. This perhaps grew out of the application to racial categories of the historical-materialist conception of a progressive vanguard versus surrounding retrograde forces, with the European peoples' advanced state proving that they were history's chosen. [2] The "less-developed" races getting an upper hand would therefore be a setback for the socialist dream and must be prevented. Eugenics provided the tool for this, and fit in nicely given the frequent conflation of socialism and "science" in the minds of Western intellectuals. They soon discovered, however, that the gun and the gas chamber in their crude efficiency are a little more handy for utopians in a hurry.

[1] Since the would-be controllers just happened to have the superior genes and would therefore have to engage in their widespread, uh, dissemination, one has to wonder whether this was really all about juvenile fantasies of nerdy stud farms!

[2] If true, it's interesting to note that this is a reverse image of contemporary Marxism's take on the First versus Third World, embodied most blatantly in international Maoism, in which now the Third World is the vanguard.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Conservative Commentary brings together and adds to discussion of Pinochet's coup in Chile. It's a nice little addition to last month's Allende discussions initiated by Val's masterful post.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.

--- G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, 6-3-22

Do not enjoy yourself. Enjoy dances and theaters and joy-rides and champagne and oysters; enjoy jazz and cocktails and night-clubs if you can enjoy nothing better; enjoy bigamy and burglary and any crime in the calendar, in preference to the other alternative; but never learn to enjoy yourself.

--- G. K. Chesterton, The Common Man

Friday, August 08, 2003

Among the many developing nations of the world plagued by communist insurgencies is the mountain kingdom of Nepal. Since 1996 the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has been fighting to overthrow the nation's fledgling constitutional monarchy, with the support of various international communist groups. The conflict seems to not be registering very strongly on international radar screens, but as Steven C. Baker reports, that needs to change:

The insurgency may seem inconsequential in light of other world events, but its significance is noteworthy. As Richard Fisher, Asian Security Studies Fellow at the Center for Security Policy told me recently, "The larger context for the U.S. is the ongoing contest for pre-eminence in the Eurasian land mass. Events from NE Asia, SE Asia, South Asia to the Middle East will be determined by who is the prime power in Central Asia. Nepal is one of many sideshows." The real contest is between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and India. Should Nepal become a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist state led by the ignoble Comrade Prachanda, it is likely to result in two things:

First, Prachanda himself declared during a May 2001 interview that he hoped that Nepal could be used "as a base area of world revolution, internationalist in content and national in form".... Consequently, a win for the Maoists would place Nepal in the pro-PRC camp and offer a proxy through which like-minded governments and individuals may influence events in the region and affect the balance of power internationally....

Second, it does not require a leap of faith to imagine an anti-American regime such as Prachanda’s working with its internationalist brethren in the United States and abroad to attack U.S. interests worldwide. It is also conceivable that the totalitarian nature of a Prachanda regime will eventually find common cause with virulently anti-U.S. elements in the Islamic world.

Read the full article for the complete analysis, as well as more background on the CPN(M) and its ties to international communism.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

In my previous post on the reformability of Islam, I asked readers for their guesses as to why Imad A. Ahmad seems to blame "the establishment of Athanasian Christianity" for the Dark Ages. William Luse of Apologia writes in to say:

It may simply be his religious and cultural prejudice showing forth. The Arian heresy was Eastern in origin, and its tenets required the de-divinization of Christ. I think Westerners underestimate the degree of offense the Holy Trinity presents to most Muslims. It used to be that our theologians had the courage to call Mohammed what he was - a false prophet - and to remind us that the essence of his mission was to claim that Christ was no more than that, a prophet, and less of one than he. Athanasius' victory, because it took so long to accomplish, was eventually seen as a triumph of the West, of Europe, over the East, an enmity continued through the Crusades. The Dark Ages were enforced upon the West by the onslaughts of barbarians and later of Islam itself. The truth is the opposite of Ahmad's claim: Athanasius saved the West (and, to a lesser degree, the East). You may be right that Islam is capable of reform and of reviving a once sophisticated culture. I don't know. We just need to remember that they acquired the leisure to do so over the bodies of many Christians.

Thanks for expanding the picture a bit, Bill. I was thinking of Athanasius' offense to Islam as simply the issue of Trinity versus Unity, but of course that carries with it the issue of the nature of Christ. Basically we're seeing here the Muslim idea that Christianity began as at least a proto-Islam -- if not full Islam -- until its original message was distorted along the way. Apparently Ahmad would fix this turning point with Athanasius, which makes sense since his defeat of Arianism spelled the end of views of Christ as non-divine having any sort of significance in Christianity.

Looking over Ahmad's statement once more, I find it interesting that he seems to equate modernity and Islam:

Protestantism was part of the transition out of the Dark Ages and into modernity. It was Islam itself that had the same effect on the Arab world, which had been in an age of ignorance.

... implying that something's "modernity" is a function of its "Islamicity." If that's true, I'd be interested to know what he makes of the fact that the West has pulled ahead politically and technologically despite the Ummah's 800-year lead in coming out of a state of apparently equal backwardness.

"Seven American Nights"

Thinking about this has reminded me about a neat little science-fiction novella by Gene Wolfe entitled "Seven American Nights", which can be found in his anthology The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories. It takes place in a future America where our country has collapsed due to some sort of technologically-induced ecological catastrophe, making it a global backwater and apparently pulling the rest of the West down with it. Left untouched due to its lesser development has been the Muslim world, which fills the vacuum and leaps into a second Golden Age. The story follows the journey of a visitor from this resurrected Caliphate through our strange and barbarous land. What makes the story so memorable is Wolfe's skill at capturing the feel of a medieval travel journal -- it's the sort of thing one can easily imagine coming from a figure like Ibn Battuta. Well worth checking out.

Speaking of The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories, an online review of it caught my eye, which starts off with this:

Gene Wolfe is not an author for the meek. If he drives like he writes, he probably waits until he gets up to highway speed and then boots his passengers out the door. Mr. Wolfe seems to think his readers are getting some sort of existential experience here; in actuality, he's having the experience and his readers are winding up in body casts.

If a passage like that doesn't pique your curiosity, I don't know what will!