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Nihilism: The Complex and the Caliphate
The world is run by sociopaths who serve Moloch and there's little we can do about it. Maybe one day humanity will figure out how to escape this game-theoretical trap. Till then, nihilism?
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Fear is, I believe, a most effective tool in destroying the soul of an individual—and the soul of a people.
Every time Americans are ready to walk away from the duties of “American leadership,” something happens. The Lindsay Grahams and the Victoria Nulands of the world storm the corridors of a crumbling empire with cloven hooves.
A coterie of opportunists awaits, ready to do business.
Hamas terrorists promise no end to the rape and bloodshed. Their medieval worldview compels them to sacrifice the children of three Abrahamic faiths, which includes their own. Meanwhile, powerful interests find new justifications, both at home and abroad. But this too requires child sacrifice.
Where are we going to get the money? It’s all gone, but the money printers know who’s boss.
None of this maps neatly onto Red or Blue. In fact, we are witnessing a crosswise cleaving.
President Biden has promised to “stand with Israel,” but The New York Times is happy to call Hamas terrorists “militants,” infected as they have long been with the mind virus of social justice. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that in most major cities, the only way to tell the difference between a democratic socialist and a national socialist is that the former are quick to call ordinary people Nazis.
[T]he social justice crowd offers explanations for the massacre—a massacre that, in part, targeted a group of progressive Israelis at a music festival. Terrorists came to that festival on paragliders carrying machine guns to start their slaughter. They raped women there next to the dead bodies of their friends.
The raped and the dead were the Oppressors, so this is how they were taught to check their privilege. Grieving Jewish-American college students get no safe spaces at all, having been excised from the intersectional victim hierarchy.
When narratives of Oppressor and Oppressed sear too deeply into one’s brain, she becomes unable to distinguish between Civilization and Barbarity or Coercion and Freedom. (HT tofor this.) Those self-same activists, screaming “Trans women are women!” would, of course, be burned alive in Gaza. Yet rainbow-bedizened, this is what they are happy to cheer on:
The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’
—1988 Covenant of Hamas
Of course, the Israelis believe them.
If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.
But Team Red is being torn apart, too.
Some will play Lee Greenwood while returning to their GWOT roots after 9/11. Others will double down on America-First isolationism, sticking their fingers in their ears and closing their eyes, going lalala, which might be the only sane option. But #neverforget about the Richard Spencers and alt-righters with the very same bees in their bonnets as the SJWs, dreaming of lands free of Jews.
Trump himself, if he is not in prison, would have to choose among MAGA apathy, institutional sociopathy, or foreign-policy incoherence—though between Deep-State authorities and the DNC, he will not likely get to make that choice.
As Israel accepts our tax dollars to re-arm its citizens, Team Blue is planning for the day it can use our tax dollars to confiscate our guns. After all, rowdy, unarmed protestors in tractor hats, goaded by FBI proxies, are “domestic terrorists” and “insurrectionists,” according to the DHS and DNC. (Pardon the redundancy.) Thankfully, America’s disinformation experts are there to remind us that there is effectively no difference between the Qanon Shaman and a lieutenant of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. At Harvard, 30+ student groups think the latter is morally superior!
Despite some recent stirrings of non-intervention, Team Red doesn’t know how to do Code Pink very well. Till Election Day, they’ll rattle off their own distorted talking points so the gullible have something to parrot. They’ll blame Team Blue for getting it all wrong, and on that point, they’ll mostly be right. But they don’t know what to do, either. If they get back into power, they might reacquaint with Teddy Roosevelt’s Big Stick, or worse, foment WWIII like Nicky Haley.
If the Trump Administration did anything good in foreign policy, it was probably the Abraham Accords. Make no mistake: Hamas wants to derail the Abraham Accords and will probably succeed. But so do the ghouls Eisenhower warned us about. If you ask Team Red what measures they’ll take regarding Israel/Palestine, some will howl with bellicosity; others will stutter, stammer, and dither until eventually, shadowy figures in black SUVs pull them into Langley buildings or K Street brothels to make them an offer they can’t refuse. (The same can be said for Team Blue.)
Who would deny Moloch?!?
The timid herds of the world—you, me, ordinary people in Palestine and Israel, even young people in Iran—want peace. But the extremists of the Complex and the Caliphate serve Moloch. The Complex feasts on debt and despair and dupes. The Caliphate feeds on rewards in heaven and promises of dominion over the earth. Whenever that perverse transaction between profits and prophecy is threatened, anyone bleating about peace will be ignored or taken to slaughter.
The cycle seems inescapable.
So when I look at the world with open eyes, I despair. I see the recent butchery in Israel, and I must look away. That could be my daughter (now a Jewish toddler) going off to do her right-of-return trip or dancing carefree in the sun. Yet I can also imagine my older kids (goyim) perishing in some “precision” airstrike because they were at the wrong place, at the wrong time, beside the wrong person in Gaza. It’s all ugly.
Every barbaric act is bait. Every retaliatory strike kills kids and feeds both fundamentalism and empire. Every action and reaction taps into our tribal-evolutionary programming, which includes a stew of pathos, mythos, and ethos but not much logos. How will the rest of us ever slake Molloch’s thirst? Only robots can declare both moral equivalence and detached neutrality.
Of course, the media are evil and selective. We don’t see as much of the carnage in Ukraine now. And we know why. We see even less of the carnage in Yemen, Azerbaijan, or Sudan. And we know why.
Ukraine too will fail.
Yet the neocons are back singing Bomb, bomb, bomb—bomb bomb Iran.
The empire grows top-heavy, and America is weaker for it. Cue more Fed injections to feed Uncle Sam’s roid rage.
As the Middle East bathes in blood, the barbarians are at the gates in the West, and we are all drowning in an ocean of red ink. Only Allah knows who has come across the border. Yet we, the timid herds, have a deep submission instinct. When “Israel’s 9/11” portends more of the same on US shores, it’s nauseating to turn for security to a vast protection racket—one that censors us, surveils us, imprisons us, and puts its K-Street dinners on our expense account.
Why did Moussad and the IDF fail so utterly to see this coming?
Swamp creatures gather to replace the dodderer. Biden’s politburo is chock full of people who hurl accusations of fascism at everyone while busily fusing corporation and state. Soon, they’ll get the Stazi-style GovCorp they always wanted, perhaps under the secure protection of martial law. Hilary smiles. Meanwhile, that rabid Christian Zionist and millenarian Baptist, Lindsay Graham, might well get his war with the Mullahs.
It’s all unsustainable.
Words no longer have meaning. The teams we’re obliged to pick will further fracture—and fracture us—even more. Around what can we unify? One of a hundred splinter factions? Nihilism seems reasonable because we are living in a game-theoretical doom loop.
Hear the growling belly of our one true god!
When it comes to perennial conflicts like Israel/Palestine, there are deep human forces that push us to take sides in intractable cycles of incommensurable worldviews, histories, and asymmetries clashing:
I’m willing to sacrifice my life and my people and slaughter your innocents to glorify God, though you are reticent, and this weakens you, which offers me strength in endless Bronze Age acts of mayhem and martyrdom.
I am technologically and militarily superior, and I will retaliate where you cannot, grasping for restraint (in the dark), an impossible balance between leaving our people vulnerable and becoming a monster and creating more emnity among our neighbors. (Pyramid-to-Sun)
For all my talk of moral practice, reason, and circumspection, I’m no different in this regard, that is, in choosing sides sometimes. Perhaps I’m fallen as the Christians say, or perhaps fallen from the noumenal realm where Kant reasoned, forgetting the safe, cottony intellectual cloisters of Prussian Königsberg.
A good friend of mine, writing on social media, argued that it is always impermissible to kill children, even inadvertently, in war. I responded:
This shows me that, for you, the blanket application of a moral principle is rather like playing an ethics video game in space. There are no real consequences for you to play this game. It is vapor. Contextless. Moral reasoning can never be disconnected from moral practice [and practice from the world and our pathetic paleolithic hearts]. And moral practice in certain contexts is extremely difficult. Obviously, I'm not arguing that killing children is good or that mitigating innocent loss of life isn't important. But I do know that the very next act—such as failing to defend/retaliate—could also be an immoral act, as more innocents die. Once we have competition among moral perspectives, competing from moment to moment in dangerous, unideal contexts—perspective-free, context-free abstractions sort of fly out the window like so much vapor.
Would that it were so that everyone on earth could reason so clearly and so morally at all places and all times as my dear friend. We would have world peace.
But here on the ground, we’re left with destructive, disgusting, dehumanizing tradeoffs. And I hate that fact like I hate the existence of malarial mosquitos and enormous meteors headed for Earth.
Realistic idealists like me still dream of humanity ascending to play the Infinite Game. Yet too much of the rest of the world is caught between the cold logic of tit for tat and the blazing fire of ideology and vengeance… Including me.
And Moloch is always hungry.
But we must never give up searching for a way out of the ultimate zero-sum game.
Remember, Victor Frankl survived the holocaust to write:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
And 800 years before that, the Muslim mystic, Ibn Arabi, wrote,
My heart can take on any form: a meadow for gazelles, a cloister for monks. For the idols, sacred ground, Ka'ba for the circling pilgrim, the tables of the Torah, the scrolls of the Quran. I profess the religion of love; wherever its caravan turns along the way, that is the belief, the faith I keep.