Welcome to this yet to be named newsletter.
Thanks for trusting me not to sell your email to dark foreign powers, allowing me to occasionally spam you with my ravings, and maybe spending the occasional lunch break or highly unauthorized personal email check on company time with me.
This newsletter has been a long time coming, but I couldn’t attend to this obligation. You see, I have been possessed.
I had a long-standing intuition about the charms and chains of this particular demon, and it was all confirmed after I started dabbling in Twitter in late August. It promptly claimed its pound of flesh as my mind has never gotten such a profoundly stimulating beating in its life. Twitter is the most direct answer to: “What would Alex rather be doing in dreary autumn during a pandemic?” and I answered again and again with furious excitement.
As I’m now starting to thaw from this paralysis, I find myself with a lot more people to talk to and you are very likely one of them. It’s a blessing and I’m very grateful you’re here.
So, on to the meat.
What can you expect from this newsletter? A lot. Or something.
The preliminary plan is to keep my essays free on my site and wherever other people deem to publish them, my outbursts on Twitter, and keep this newsletter as a mix of diary and roundup of the heavenly and the demonic, the based and the cringe.
Let’s try this.
One of the best essays I’ve read recently is @edwest’s review of Joel Kotkin’s The Coming of Neo-Feudalism - Welcome to the new Middle Ages. It’s almost apocalyptically bleak but lays out a compelling narrative tying together the phenomena of rising inequality, cratering social mobility, the de-facto caste system, involuntary celibacy, and the simultaneous underplaying of the importance of class vs the importance of tribe. Medieval institutions and constant, churning religious wars, as depressing as this sounds, seem to be a human equilibrium.
The word “medieval” is almost always pejorative but the post-printing early modern period was the golden age of religious hatred and torture; the major witch hunts occurred in an age of rising literacy, because what people wanted to read about was a lot of the time complete garbage. Likewise, with the internet, and in particular the iPhone, which has unleashed the fires of faith again, helping spread half-truths and creating a new caste of firebrand preachers (or, as they used to be called, journalists).
Books I’ve been reading (all old, not coincidentally):
“The Story of Eye” by Georges Bataille - a bit of a jump into the deep end of the Bataille pool, as he wrote this as a psychoanalytical experiment to plumb the depths of his sexual subconscious. It accomplishes this. Will leave it at that.
“The Moral Basis of a Backward Society” by Edward C. Banfield. I’m Romanian, so one of my minor obsessions has been to decipher what exactly it is that sets societies apart in their development. Each society is an equilibrium between collaborators (people contributing to the commons) and defectors (people not contributing or just taking from the commons), and it is the rare society (see N/W Europe & its offshoots) that has been able to make collaboration the norm. Banfield went to study a village in southern Italy in the 50s and found a society in which collaboration was most definitely not the norm. He called the equilibrium he found there “amoral familism” and it’s strikingly similar (in many ways, not in all) to what you would find in rural Romania even now.
Banfield concluded that Montegrano's plight was rooted in the distrust, envy, and suspicion displayed by its inhabitants' relations with one another. Fellow citizens would refuse to help one another unless their own personal material gain was at stake. Many attempted to hinder their neighbors from attaining success, believing that others' good fortune would inevitably harm their own interests. Montegrano's citizens viewed their village life as little more than a battleground. Consequently, there prevailed social isolation and poverty and an inability to work together to solve common social problems or even to pool common resources and talents to build infrastructure or common economic concerns.
“Sexual Personae” by Camille Paglia. Paglia is a combo between a 60s (50s, even) radical feminist, a classical scholar, and a raving prophet, very entertaining if you try reading the book in her manic voice. Sexual Personae is her magnum opus on the decadence of Western art, seen through the lens of sexuality and the different personae, or archetypes, that fueled its rise and fall. She sees the major tension in this decadence as being between the Apollonian (reason, symmetry, order) and Dionysian (chaos, nature, disorder). The book oozes based takes, redpilled metaphors, and daemonic prophecies, so take your time with it.
New Alex material.
I have a few essays in the works, including one about the social value of sexual stigma, but this one is out at the moment: The Heavy Chains of Liberalism
You can find links to podcasts and my other essays on my Linktree.